Category Archives: health

Jeepers, My Peepers

Song Lyric of the Day:

I can see clearly now, the rain is gone / I can see all obstacles in my way / Gone are the dark clouds that had me blind

Johnny Nash / “I Can See Clearly Now

I’ve had to wear glasses for decades now, since I was a teenager (I’ll be 74 in a few decades). The past few years, if I wasn’t wearing my glasses or contacts, I could only see things within about 8 or 10 inches in front of me. Everything beyond that was a blur if I wasn’t wearing my glasses or lenses. The past few years, I also noticed how quickly my prescriptions were changing. Read: my eyes were getting worse every few months. If I got a new contact lens prescription in January, it would be outdated by April. Ditto new glasses. When vision insurance only covers so much, it gets expensive going to the eye doctor multiple times a year for new prescriptions.

After years of being frustrated by how blind I was without glasses or contacts and my eyes consistently getting worse, I made the big leap and decided to get LASIK, which I’ve thought about doing for years. I’m actually writing this post without glasses on or lenses in, because I don’t need them anymore: I got LASIK last Monday at Woolfson Eye Institute‘s Knoxville office (they also have one in Atlanta). (My work husband recommended Woolfson to me months ago when he got LASIK, and a couple other friends also recommended them via Facebook.)

I was jittery the day of the procedure because it’s a LASER BEAM CUTTING INTO YOUR EYE. The staff was great, explaining everything in detail before the procedure, as well as what post-op care would entail (resting the first couple of days and so. many. eyedrops.). I was actually in the waiting room with a few fellow LASIK candidates and one PRK patient for much longer than I was in the OR, because that’s how much detail they went into with us about what everything entailed. Once it was my turn to go in the OR, everyone put me at ease before I was even in the chair, which was fully reclined so you’re flat on your back. Dr. Woolfson talked me through things as they were happening, from the speculum being placed to hold my eye open (OMG) to what the laser beam was doing to what he was then doing. I started out staring into a laser beam, which I didn’t really feel doing anything to my eye other than slight pressure. It wasn’t until Dr. Woolfson did his part that I felt noticeable pressure, but nothing painful. It was like looking through a frosted lens. He talked me through the part where you briefly lose vision, which I can only describe as experiencing an eclipse inside my eye; the loss of vision lasted not more than 10 seconds, which was a short time, but was still a weird and freaky experience for me. I think the doctor then used a soft brush to smooth out my cornea once he was done; all I could see was a small white object moving across my eye in the same direction a few times. Then it was on to my right eye to repeat the process. At some point during the procedure I noticed a nurse patting my hands, which I had crossed on my stomach. All told, I was in the OR maybe 12 minutes. After surgery, I was given wraparound sunglasses to wear the rest of the day and the two following days to keep my eyes as protected as possible. You don’t realize how much you touch, scratch, or rub your eyes every day until you’re specifically told to stop doing that. I also had clear eye shields to tape over my eyes to sleep in. Other patients weren’t kidding when they said that was one of the worst complications post-LASIK — that surgical tape really hurts when you peel it off the next morning. Feeling like I was losing a layer of skin was the most painful part of all of this.

Post-procedure you’re told to take it easy, including trying to avoid screens and even reading; when you are watching TV, on your computer/phone/tablet, or reading, you blink less. Blinking is good after LASIK as it helps keep your eye lubricated. So I followed their advice and tried napping (with my eye shields on) as soon as I got home. After my sort-of nap I managed to listen to some TV and text quick group messages to my family to let them know how I was doing. I was in hell not being able to read because my book had gotten really good (I highly recommend Abandon by Blake Crouch). By bedtime Monday night, my right eye was driving me crazy, because it felt like something was stuck in it. Of course there wasn’t, but I tend to fixate on things like that, and it felt 100 percent better when I woke up Tuesday morning. I drove myself to my first follow-up last Tuesday morning and was told I’m now at 20/20 vision. I have another follow-up today that I expect to go just as well.

All told, I’m really happy with how my vision turned out. Being able to SEE again is an adjustment in itself. I don’t have to run to the TV now to read the forecast, because I can see it from across the room. Everything isn’t blurry when I wake up in the morning, although I look forward to being told I can rub my eyes again — the Prednisone eyedrops leave a lovely white gunk behind. My biggest adjustment is reminding myself to not reach for eyeglasses that are no longer on my nightstand. They’re now packed away to be donated down the road, because I don’t need them anymore.

My Glasses

I took this when I put my glasses in the case for the last time, right before I went into the OR.

Leave a Comment

Filed under health, medical, personal

Getting Therapized



Song Lyric of the Day:

Oh, hard to hold this fire inside me / All I know, sometimes it’s frightening / Hard to hold this fire inside me / Oh, oh oh, it’s not really like me to lash out / I gotta let it out / I wanna lash out

Alice Merton / “Lash Out

I mentioned recently that life had gotten a little overwhelming of late. A lot of that has had to do with countless therapy appointments, a result of the car accident we were in at the end of March. Both Rich and I have been in physical therapy because of neck and back pain. I recently wrapped up six weeks’ worth of twice-weekly physical therapy sessions, and Rich just wrapped up his therapy. I now miss my wonderful therapist because I totally imprinted on her. I’m hopeful that continuing to do the home exercises she gave me will help keep my neck and back feeling good. There were days where it was hard to simply hold up my head because my neck was so sore, so I’m grateful therapy helped with that.

As I was behind the wheel during the accident, I now have severe driving anxiety. I went back to my regular therapist, a psychologist, to try to help with that. She’s had me do EMDR therapy to really focus on the accident. That means I’ve had to relive the accident several times, multiple times each therapy session. I didn’t realize until my doctor pointed it out, but the only time I would cry when recounting the accident to her is when I would describe hearing Coraline and Sebastian screaming and not knowing if they were OK. EMDR has been as fun and emotionally draining as you imagine it would be.

This anxiety has pretty much ruined driving for me. Driving, once such a simple pleasure in my life, is now something that scares me, especially if the weather is bad as we were rear-ended on a rainy day. If the weather is bad or just looking like it might turn, I’ll do my best to avoid going anywhere. I have to fight to not look in the rearview mirror once I’ve come to a stop, because I tense up watching the car behind me approach. It might look like it’s going too fast to stop in time, or — lord help me — if it’s rainy out, I’m terrified they’ll lose traction and slam into me like the driver in our wreck did. As anyone knows, tensing up is the worst thing you can do if you might get hit, so I have to continually remind myself to NOT LOOK IN THE MIRROR.

I do breathing exercises when I start my van first thing in the morning, and I usually end up doing them at stoplights and stop signs to calm myself down if something scared me into thinking I was going to get hit again. Coraline knows I’m seeing a therapist for this, and, luckily, she doesn’t hear my internal monologue when I’m freaking out as outwardly I manage to keep it together. I’m grateful that not only were both my kids physically unharmed in the wreck, but they both avoided developing any anxiety like I now have about being in the van.

We recently drove to Columbus, Ohio, to visit close friends, and at one point during the 6-hour drive there, I started to feel as close to a panic attack as I’ve ever been. I was in the front passenger seat and had to fight to not ask Rich to pull over, because I just didn’t want to be driving anywhere anymore. The best comparison I have is that it felt like when you get on a scary thrill ride and immediately want to get off, but you can’t. You have no choice but to see it through. All the other cars on the highway felt like threats to me — they were driving too fast or too close or had distracted drivers or were right on our tail. They felt like threats to me, anyway. I managed to talk myself down by reminding myself that Rich is a careful driver and would never intentionally put me or (especially) the kids in any danger. Clearly, I still have a ways to go with therapy for my driving anxiety.

As if the anxiety alone isn’t enough to deal with, my van is still not completely fixed. The body shop (DO NOT use Abra) we unfortunately chose did a crappy job of “fixing” things. As in, it turns out they left out the entire radio harness that should be in the liftgate that communicates with the 20+ computers my van has. We ended up having the Chrysler dealership fix that as I don’t want Abra touching my van ever again, lifetime work warranty be damned. So what’s the problem with my van now? The blind spot detector works maybe 5 minutes a day whenever I’m driving. Which means the entire rest of the time I’m driving it’s constantly dinging — it dings to let me know BLIND SPOT DETECTION UNAVAILABLE and to SERVICE BLIND SPOT SYSTEM. All those dings are fantastic for my anxiety, especially when they happen at the same moment I make a turn or change lanes and it scares the hell out of me. The dealership ran a computer diagnostic on the blind spot system which came back all clear, so after some Googling, I think the problem is in the bumper/wire connections somewhere. Given that the body shop screwed up the liftgate repair, it wouldn’t surprise me in the least if they messed up repairing bumper connections, too.  I have an appointment on the books to take my van back to the dealership so they can try to figure this issue out, and I’ll have to get another rental van which — you guessed it — increases my anxiety as I am then in an unfamiliar-to-me vehicle.

Almost every day after March 24 has been like this for me. It’s been a vicious cycle, one which I hope, no, NEED therapy to help me out of.

Two words.


*You have no idea how much Googling it took to find these clips. It’s one of my favorite quotes from So I Married an Axe Murderer, and I couldn’t find a full video clip anywhere. Alas, a website called Yarn saved the day.


Filed under health, mental health, personal


Song Lyric of the Day:

When the going gets tough / And the stomach acids flow

Primus / “Seas of Cheese

As long as I can remember, I’ve had what was simply called a sensitive stomach. It wasn’t until about five years ago that I officially got the diagnosis of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Irritable is an appropriate word for it, since it’s beyond irritating not knowing how something I eat is going to affect me. I can eat a certain meal Monday at lunch and be fine. I can have that exact same meal the next day or two days later and end up feeling like I might die. IBS is pretty much a really awful game of chance, with your stomach as the perpetual loser. I try to manage it — I know any food with high-fructose corn syrup is a huge trigger — but it’s not always easy to do so. I’ve learned to live with it, though. Combined with my wonky taste buds, it’s made me a (frustrated) picky eater out of necessity. I try to avoid trigger foods, but some I refuse to give up. I mean, spaghetti sauce? Yes, it’s acidic, but it’s also delicious and worth whatever I might have to deal with for indulging. I’ll go to my grave a bloated, stomach-cramped pasta-lover.

While I’m used to my IBS-related issues, last summer I noticed I was feeling really horrible pretty much around the clock. I at first thought maybe it was just my IBS being worse than usual, but decided to go see my gastroenterologist just in case. After discussing my symptoms, frequency, etc., my doc decided I should get an upper GI endoscopy. The day of the test came, and my friend Tamara drove me so Rich could get the kids to school and to Mom’s. Come scope time, I passed out as expected and woke up in a recovery room some time later. My doctor stopped by to let me know that I had significant scarring in my esophagus from acid reflux and that I had gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). I was validated in that I wasn’t imagining my IBS had run amok, but I was shocked to hear about the scarring as I’d never felt acid reflux symptoms before — no burning, no pain, nothing. That is, until I was put on medication to treat it. I became aware of and felt every instance of acid reflux within days of starting Pantoprazole, and good grief, did it hurt. It took weeks to stabilize to the point where I was no longer feeling that pain. The really fun part is that a side effect of Pantroprazole happens to be the worst of my IBS symptoms. I am now on two additional medications to treat the reflux and GERD, and still trying to avoid trigger foods, although I’m a stress-eater, so lately I haven’t done as well as I should have. I’ve told the spouse on multiple occasions that I was much happier when I didn’t know all this was going on. Ignorance truly was bliss when it was just me and my IBS.

I’m never going to be the ideal IBS/GERD patient. I know that. Honestly, I just don’t have that kind of willpower. (Also: See above remark about stress-eating.) As it is, I’m currently part Samoa as Girl Scout Cookie season just ended and I have my dealer living in my house. My skin even has a nice, faint toasted-coconut scent to it now. I am, however, doing my best to moderate what I eat as well as add a bit more variety. It’s not easy, but it’s something I know I’ll have to work at and keep an eye on the rest of my life.

Fried Deviled Eggs

The fried deviled eggs at Scrambled Jake’s: so delicious and something I can only eat as a rare treat. (Photo taken by me)


Leave a Comment

Filed under health, medical, personal

Do You Hear What I Hear?

Song Lyric of the Day:

The sweet surrender of silence forces me to live alone / Locked and loaded, where the hell is peace of mind? / I wait on you inside the bottom of the deep blue sea

MISSIO / “Bottom of the Deep Blue Sea“*

For almost as long as I’ve been with Rich, he’s teased me about my hearing. I’d complain about how loudly our cat Buster would suck on the hem of my bathrobe; it would wake me up out of a dead sleep. Rich would ask, “How the hell can you hear that?” to which I’d answer, “How can you not?” While trying to fall asleep at night, tucked in our bed, I could hear our cats walking on the carpet in the living room, which was down the hall from our bedroom. Rich clipping his toenails pretty much anywhere in the house sounds like tiny bombs going off as the clippings hit the floor. He took to teasing me about my “bat hearing,” saying that I could probably hear the grass growing. Noises that no one else seemed to notice would bother me because they were just so obvious and loud to me.

A couple of years ago I finally went and got physical therapy for my vertigo. As part of my treatment, my ENT had me undergo a hearing test, during which I could hear almost everything going on in the soundproof booth where the audiologist was stationed. Afterward, when going over the results, both my ENT and the audiologist who administered the test told me that I could hear things most people can’t. Not that most people don’t, that most people can’t. Finally it was confirmed: I really can hear like a bat.

Having super hearing is … different. Once the hearing test confirmed it, I became even more aware of noises. I could isolate the one loud filament in a lightbulb in a noisy room. I can pick out notes in music that my family and friends never notice, even when I call attention to them. I can hear when Coraline and Sebastian so much as sigh in their sleep when I’m rooms away and watching TV or washing dishes. Hearing like this is more of a curse than a blessing, though, particularly when Rich travels for work. Because all it takes is for me to hear one tiny noise outside the house for my imagination to run wild. I’ll start out telling myself it’s a raccoon or a possum. Then that turns into someone trying to break into the house. That person then becomes a zombie trying to break into the house, because why not? It’s around this point that I curse myself for the umpteenth time for thinking that I could handle watching a movie like You’re Next or The Strangers right before bedtime when the spouse is away. Stupid, stupid Pattie.

I can also isolate noises a la Nick on Grimm. For my sanity, though, I’ve trained myself to better tune out sounds so I don’t obsess over them. Or, you know, imagine it’s a thieving zombie who’s come to rob my home and/or possibly eat my brain (their mistake) and then I end up not sleeping all night. I work to protect my hearing, using sound mufflers when I vacuum, use power lawn equipment, or use my paper shredder. I even started wearing them when taking glass to the recycling center since depositing the glass in the bins is painfully loud, although I imagine it is for most people. I also wear earplugs during movies (so does Rich) because the volume is almost always set to 11, and most of the movies we see in theaters are event movies with lots of action and explosions — you know, noisy.

I’ve made my peace with my bat hearing, though. I use it when I need it, whether it’s to ignore noisy electronics and lightbulbs so I can enjoy some peace and quiet, to figure out what the kids or pets are up to, or to eavesdrop (it’s amazing what people will talk about in public). I just choose to use my “power” for good more than for evil. Usually.

“I hear it, too, Pattie. The grass growing is SO. LOUD.”
*GIF courtesy of a Google search that led me to Black Nerd Problems

*If you haven’t heard this song before, click the song title link above and go watch the video right now. The music and video are absolutely beautiful. You’re welcome.

Leave a Comment

Filed under health, personal

Fun With Gestational Diabetes

Song Lyric of the Day:

I want candy / I want candy

Bow Wow Wow / “I Want Candy

I had gestational diabetes when I was pregnant with Coraline. Apparently age and ethnicity play into the likelihood of developing it during pregnancy. And while one of my OBs tried to be optimistic about me not having it this time around, he was wrong. I failed the one-hour glucose test so spectacularly — I got 203 when the highest they wanted was 130 — that I didn’t even have to take the three-hour test like I did with Coraline. It was straight from failing the one-hour test to the high-risk OB. Do not pass go.

While pregnant with Coraline, it was easy-peasy to manage my gestational diabetes. I took Metformin. That was it. Well, I also didn’t overeat or go crazy with carb- and sugar-heavy foods, because once the doctors explained that a lot of those giant babies who make the news were the result of moms who let their gestational diabetes get out of control, I vowed to be good. But one magic pill and everything was under control. For that pregnancy, anyway.

Unfortunately, this time around thanks to my super-high score on my one-hour glucose test, the docs could tell my body was not producing/managing insulin the way it was supposed to. Which meant no magic Metformin. This time around I have to take Glyburide at bedtime and — the horror — inject myself twice a day with insulin, once before lunch and again before dinner. So managing gestational diabetes has been as fun this time around as it sounds. The Glyburide was causing me to have scary-low fasting blood sugar levels when I woke up and to have fogged vision every morning, which would last anywhere from a couple of hours to up to about six hours one day, so I was told to cut the already tiny 2.5 mg pill in half. I was still having fogged vision even with the lower dose, but — knock on wood — my body seems to have finally decided to play nice with the Glyburide.

The insulin … oofta. That was a problem from the get-go. I was originally prescribed 10ccs per shot. That turned out to be way too much. I was told to go down to 8ccs per shot. That was still to much, so I had to go down to 6ccs. That seemed to almost still be too much, so I tried 4ccs, which ended up not being enough. I am now back up to 6ccs and that also seems to have stabilized. But at the wrong (higher) doses, my blood sugar levels were way too low. I was getting shaky and woozy, which, after having fogged vision to deal with, was not making me a very happy camper. Not to mention I was worried what that might be doing to Little Dude. Fingers crossed that at my next high-risk OB appointment they’ll be happy with the numbers I have had since sticking with the 6cc shots.

This is where I should mention that I hate needles. HATE. THEM. I can’t even watch injections or blood draws on TV shows and in movies. So being told I had to inject myself twice a day was not something I wanted to hear. Thankfully, the needle is teeny tiny on the preloaded insulin pen. And since I have to inject it straight into my belly, I usually don’t feel the shot. Now, having to draw blood to test my glucose levels four times a day — that hurts. Some days my fingertips won’t stop bleeding right away; I’ve gone through a ton of Band-Aids these last few weeks. Other days I forget which hand I was taking blood from and end up with bruised fingertips when I double-draw from them. Good times.


The perfect accessories for the woman with gestational diabetes: a testing kit, insulin pen, and blood-sugar log.

So while gestational diabetes has been a royal pain in my ass this time around, I’m happy to take a tiny pill and inject myself with insulin to keep my little boy healthy (and non-gigantic). Still, I would kill to be able to have a second helping of pasta now and then. God, I miss carbs. And candy.

Leave a Comment

Filed under health, personal, pregnancy

The Hot Flash Queen of East Tennessee Celebrates Fall

Song Lyric of the Day:

I’m too hot (hot damn) / Called a police and a fireman / I’m too hot (hot damn) / Make a dragon wanna retire man / I’m too hot (hot damn)

Mark Ronson (featuring Bruno Mars) / “Uptown Funk

In case you were wondering who the Hot Flash Queen of East Tennessee is, that would be yours truly. Going back at least eight years, I’ve had problems with overheating. An episode of the show The Closer made me paranoid that I had early-onset menopause, which freaked out both me and Rich. That turned out not to be the case, but those blessed (ahem) hot flashes continue to this day.

My general practitioner worked really hard researching different things — and ruling out others — to figure out why I was sweating when it was 30 degrees out. He definitively ruled out some things and referred me to a cardiologist friend who “likes medical mysteries.” All Dr. Heart figured out was (1) my heart was in great shape (yay!) and (2) my internal thermostat was out of whack. He had me take and record my temperature when I felt fine, and then when I felt like I was overheating to compare; on average, my temperature rose about 3 degrees. So it wasn’t just me feeling like I was getting hotter. I then ended up getting referred to an endocrinologist.

Dr. Thyroid, like my GP, definitively ruled out a lot of things and couldn’t precisely diagnose me either. It wasn’t until I had a routine checkup with Dr. Ladyparts that I got some semblance of a diagnosis: Did you know that you could get hot flashes up to 10 years (!!!) before menopause kicks in? When she told me that, all I could think was, well, isn’t that just kick-you-in-the-crotch, spit-on-your-neck fantastic? The course of treatment: Deal with it. And build a yurt/fortress in the backyard Rich and Coraline can retreat to for their own safety once I actually do hit menopause. Which will very likely be earlier than expected. Go figure — I put the “pro” in procrastinate, so of course my body is all, “Surprise! I’m trying to get you into menopause ASAP!”

So after yet another summer spent primarily indoors or running for the cover of shade like when I had to be outdoors — thanks to any day with a temperature above 75 degrees, which was most of them — I’ve been giddy over the cooler temperatures fall has ushered in. GIDDY. We attended a close friend’s wedding in Colorado at the end of August — an outdoor wedding — and I can’t tell you how worried I was that I’d just pass out and/or die of heatstroke that day. Fortunately there were plenty of shady spots on that farm (and endless mojitos), enough to tide me over until the sun started to set. And there was much rejoicing.

I’ll keep enjoying the mild fall temperatures until it gets ridiculously cold this winter, which I will not complain about as much as you’d expect, because it means I won’t be so hot I’ll feel like I’m going to faint. I’ll complain some, but not a lot.

I do mean it, though, about Rich and Coraline having a safe place/panic room to which they can escape when I hit menopause someday (knocking on wood that’s still many years away). Because I’m pretty sure I’m going to turn into one of those women in that Saturday Night Live Annuale commercial. Rich and Coraline are going to need one really big hat to hold the eff onto.

Leave a Comment

Filed under health, personal