Sunday, May 22, 2016

What About Bob?

photo by Kara Hartz 2016
I haven't written about Bob in awhile. He is trucking along just fine. We adopted Bob in October of 1998, and at the time his doctor thought he was about a year old, which would give him a birthday in 1997. I think it is probably more likely he was a spring kitten, and closer to only 7 or 8 month old when we adopted him since he did grow a little after we got him. Still that would make him 'only' 18 years old instead of 19 right now. He's an old dude - no getting around that.

His bathroom habits have deteriorated over the past year or so, and I am now manually helping him empty his bladder 1 to 2 times a day. I'd noticed him going from one litter box to another but not producing much, and seeming restless. At first he didn't appreciate my help, but now he will go to my bathroom (I use the toilet when I empty him instead of a cat box) and meow at me. I take that as his request to be emptied.

A couple months ago I thought we might be near the end because he was eating very poorly and getting thinner and thinner. Then suddenly, he was eating great for about a week and just as my hopes were up, he stopped eating again. Belatedly, I put it together that the week he ate well, I had run out of his regular food and was feeding Fancy Feast, or whatever was on sale at the grocery store. As an experiment, I picked up some Fancy Feast, and sure enough, he are every bite. Since this revelation, he has been slowly putting weight back on and isn't looking so frail.

There no stopping the Bob.
Not yet.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

The Ileostomy Life

While I've only had my ileostomy for about six weeks now, so am far from being an expert, it really hasn't been as bad as I imagined. Originally, the ostomy was presented to me as a worst-case scenario if my surgery went poorly. So when surgical complications piled up and I did need the ileostomy after all, that's how I saw it. Worst-case. Clearly, there could have been many worse surgical outcomes than this. My intestines could have been beyond saving at all and I may have needed a permanent ostomy. I could have died. That would be worse. All in all, having this bag isn't all that bad.

Admittedly, the first week home was rough. I was changing the bag just like I was taught in the hospital, but I was getting leaks in the middle of the night. So while moving around was still painful and difficult I'd be up but groggy in the middle of the night trying to put on a new bag and cleaning up all the poop that I leaked out in the bed and the floor on the way to the bathroom. I'll be honest - there were many tears.

In retrospect I should have called the ostomy nurse when I started having problems, but I had a recheck appointment scheduled later in the week, so I just suffered until then. My advice if you are a new ostomate - don't just suffer. These nurses who specialize in ostomy care are great. They have solutions. Go get their help.

After my surgical recheck I explained my leaking problems and they got me in to see an ostomy nurse right then. She didn't have enough of a schedule opening to do a lot of teaching with me, but she looked at my bag (the seal of which was just on the border of leaking right then despite it being a new bag I'd put on the night before) so she could see my problem clearly. She got me a different kind of bag the had a more rigid and curved area where it attaches. I apologize that I don't have all the terminology and lingo down yet. It might be what I've seen referred to as a convex bag? She also wiped on some sort of sticky skin protecting liquid and added an additional sort of jelly barrier ring and sent me home with supplies to do the same. I haven't had a leak since. Even though it's been more than four weeks leak-free, I still have some paranoia about it and still sleep on a towel - just in case.

A week later, I got even more refined help with my scheduled ostomy checkup - including a support belt/corset thing that holds the bag tight against me and makes longer walks much more comfortable. Walks have helped me start to regain my strength so this has been wonderful. And I wouldn't have known about any of these options without those great nurses.

While I certainly won't miss my ileostomy bag after I have my reversal surgery, after that rough first week home, it hasn't been bad. Some things have been interesting - seeing how my innards work in a new way.

Somewhat off topic - I have thought to myself, as all these crazy bathroom laws show up around the country, how happy I am to live in California. Sometimes, if a toilet isn't very big, I have difficulty emptying the bag sitting down and I have to stand up. I wonder what would happen to me if someone saw my feet under a stall pointed the wrong way as I emptied my bag (it's mainly liquid and sounds that way). There are so many reasons not to judge or make assumptions about others.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

No More Elephants at Ringling Bros. Circus

The news yesterday about Ringling Bros. phasing out the use of elephants in their shows has made me very happy. There may be animals that can enjoy the traveling show lifestyle, but I think over the years it has become clear that elephants are not one of those. I hope this is a move toward other similar shows rejecting elephant performers as well. Then maybe we can hope they will give the same respect to the big cats and other animals who are mentally and physically damaged in these shows.
A gal can hope, right?

I've not yet found so far in my reading thought, what they plan to do with all the elephants they have. Elephants love a long time. If anyone knows, fill me in please!

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Eye of the Beholder Short Story Collection Free for 2 days

I have 2 days of free promotion left in this Kindle select enrollment period. So Eye of the Beholder and other stories, is free on Kindle today and tomorrow.

Friday, April 8, 2016

TMI Post - Intestinal Surgery

This is maybe not the best topic for a blog post, but I am fortunate to have a large cheering squad of friends and acquaintances who have been supporting me through all this. Some of them I may not get to see in person for awhile, yet I know they are interested in an update.

There isn't a great, non-gross way to discuss colon surgery, so that's what you're getting into if you keep reading. Also, I'll say upfront that I'm not looking for sympathy here. I'm going to be okay. This post is to help me have this story in one place for folks who ask, and so I don't have to type it over and over.

Historical summery: In November 2015 I thought I had a stomach flu, but after several days of the pain seeming too strong and the fevers too high I went to the doctor and through a series of tests discovered I had diverticulitis. Diverticulitis is fairly common, but I'd passed that into what they call 'complicated diverticulitis' wherein the diverticuli had perforated and abscessed in my abdomen. I was hospitalized for several days and the abscess was drained.
I had a surgical consult because apparently once the colon is severely damaged by complicated diverticulitis it usually does not heal well, and further complication are very likely. Surgery was set for 2 to 3 months later to allow as much healing as possible. I got a second infection so surgery was postponed.

Well, at last my surgery came a couple weeks ago. The plan was to have robotic assisted laparoscopic surgery to remove the damaged portion of the colon, and reconnect the rest of the colon. Surgery was estimated to take 3 to 4 hours and I'd be in the hospital 4 or so day, and recovering over the next several weeks.

Unfortunately, things didn't go to plan. I was in surgery for over 7 hours because when the robot attempted to place staples to hold the remaining ends of colon together, they would rip apart. After a couple tries the surgeon had to open me further to stitch the intestines and test them by hand, and that help up. However, because of how fragile they seemed from tearing so easily she decided it was not safe to let that repaired area try to function right away.

She created an iliostomy, an opening in the ilium to the outside of my abdomen to let waste exit there into a ostomy bag so the colon can spend some time healing better. In 6 to 8 weeks, I will get a second surgery to close the stoma and let waste once again through to the colon which will hopefully be healed and ready.

I was naturally alarmed to wake up with a bag. However, my surgeon did an excellent job of preparing me for that possibility, so I wasn't as blindsided as I might have been. At every appointment she would explain plan A, but every time, she also warned that things can always go wrong, and I should be ready. I think that went a long way to keeping me from panic as I woke up. I'm fortunately not a squeamish person, so dealing with the bag hasn't been too awful.

So - onto recovery. The first few days (or so, I don't have a clear memory of time passing as was was on a lot of drugs) went fine. Then I starting feeling sick. I was running a fever. I was nauseous and didn't want to eat. None of these are expected or positive signs.

They put me back into the CT scanner to make sure the intestines were not coming apart again. They were fine, but there was a fluid pocket forming below the drain I had already, so it was too low to drain properly. They hoped the fluid would eventually make it into the drain, but started me on antibiotics and kept a close eye on me. Over the next few days I just got more sick. I was constantly nauseous. I started throwing up. The sweet, and caring nursing staff kept searching for other anti-nausea medication to try on me because nothing helped. 

They sent me for yet another CT scan. hoping they could place a second drain and wouldn't have to open me back up to clean me out. The fluid pocket had turned into a full blown abscess. The new drain worked though. After about a day, my nausea was gone and I was able to eat small amounts.

It was a pretty miserable experience, and I was in the hospital a week longer than expected, but my doctors were great and things could have been worse. I'm full of drains, but I'm home at last today and ready to start serious recovery. Until the next surgery. Ug.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Disappointing #Amazon Giveaway


I didn't know what to expect with my Amazon Giveaway experiment. I read a few blogs on the topic and most recommended setting tougher odds to gain a lot of Twitter or Amazon followers. While that might be nice and all, I just wanted to give some books away to new readers, so I picked what the experts seemed to think was easy odds of 1 in 100 to win. I got about 200 entries, which is exciting to think of 200 people interested in my book, but it also means only 2 copies were won. So I have 3 copies left.

There are a couple options for what to do with these last 3 copies - I've already purchased them, so it's just a matter of giving them away. I can run a new Amazon Giveaway for them and choose the option to just give them to the first 3 people who enter, or I can give them away on my own and send people a gift code to use on Amazon.

I'm going to try that second method. This blog does not get many readers, so maybe this won't work either but here's what I'm going to try:
To get a free copy of Eye of the Beholder and other stories leave a comment asking for one. The first three get a Amazon code for a free ebook. (If more people want one, I'll probably go ahead and give outmore) Ta Da! If, after a few days I still have copies left, I'll run another Amazon Giveaway to find homes for them. That's my plan.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Couch to 5k is my Fitness NaNoWriMo

I participate in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month for the theoretical person out there who doesn't know) every year, even when I know I don't have the time or the energy to win. I just like to play. Mostly, I don't hit my word goal.

Couch to 5K (or C25K since we all like to use the lingo, right?) is a running program that takes someone from not being a runner, to being able to run a 5K. I completed the program years ago and was so proud of myself. Then I hurt my foot and stopped running. Last year, when I was fed up with feeling crappy all the time I decided to start up again.

Things were much tougher for me then. I was very overweight and out of shape. After the first couple weeks of the program I had difficulty progressing, so I did each week twice before I felt strong enough to move one. I ran super slow. Most people could probably walk at the pace I was 'running'. But I was still proud of myself.

Then I got lazy, and we went on vacation, and I generally neglected my running. Still, I wanted to do it, so I started over. That time I did better and got really close to finishing the program. . . and then I thought I had the flu, but actually had a perforated colon and got to spend some time in the hospital. It took longer than I expected to gain any strength back, but when I did, I started C25K all over again. My colon responded by acting back up again. Stupid colon.

Now I'm on the week 3 runs - for the fourth time in the past year, even though this time I knew going in that I would not be able to finish the program. That trouble-making colon is coming out in a couple weeks so I won't be running for a bit as I recover.

So why bother restarting the training? The same reason I can't not do NaNoWriMo. It makes me feel good. I'm proud of myself when I do it. Even though my efforts and results are not exciting compared to what I see others doing, they are pretty great for me. So after surgery, when my doctor says it's safe - I'll be starting my fifth attempt to get through the Couch to 5K program. Hopefully that will be the one I finish.

Oh - and, I'm signed up for Camp NaNoWriMo 2016 in April. I'm 'karabu' over there. Camp NaNoWriMo is similar to the November event, except you set your own word goal, and it doesn't have to be all on one novel; any project is fine. Stop by and say Hi if you're writing too!

Thursday, March 3, 2016

"Eye of the Beholder" eBook Giveaway

I'm playing/ experimenting with all the promotion thingamabobers over on Amazon as I learn about this whole ebook publishing gig.

So, I've made an Amazon giveaway for my ebook, "Eye of the Beholder and other stories". This is a little different than the free book promotion I ran when I first published the collection. In that case, Amazon let me set the price to free for a limited period, and anyone who wanted it could download it without cost.

The giveaway has a limited number of copies available. Five copies in this case, and I paid for them. Anyone who wants one enters and has a 1 in 100 chance to win. So, more of a lottery situation. Sounds fun, and worth a go, so here we are. If it goes well, I'll run another giveaway next week for "Love Thy Enemy/ The Way Home".

Here is the link to enter the giveaway for "Eye of the Beholder and other stories".