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The Funnel
07 September 2015 @ 12:02 pm

Young girl holding a Siamese kittenWhen I was kid growing up with JRA, I had a best friend who wasn't human. Her name was Sugar, and she was my Siamese cat. I lost Sugar to kidney failure in 2008 and suddenly found myself full of love and time and no one to spend it on. It was then that I started volunteering with Chesapeake Cats and Dogs, a local non-profit no-kill animal rescue.

In honor of Sugar's memory, I am fundraising for CCAD at this year's Best Friend's Strut Your Mutt, and I hope you will support me or join CCAD's team by clicking here:

Person holding a black cat who is nuzzling nir affectionatelySnicker and I both came to Chesapeake Cats and Dogs in the summer of 2009: Snicker as a tiny black kitten, and I, as a person who loved cats. As a kitten, Snicker was a bit shy and hesitant, and his more gregarious brother Doodle was adopted right away. Over the years, Snicker and I have become friends, and I've watched him consistently get over-looked for younger or more out-going cats. He has not, to my knowledge, ever had anyone even apply to adopt him.Read more...Collapse )

And we need YOUR help to become Tree of Life Pet Sanctuary and to continue operations as Chesapeake Cats and Dogs while we grow.

Snicker and I both thank you for your support.

Current Mood: hopefulhopeful
The Funnel
29 August 2015 @ 08:06 pm

Let's talk about identity for a minute. I identify as disabled, and this is why.

I don't identify as "differently-abled" because I don't have different abilities. My body has several diseases that cause irreversible damage. The diseases don't cause different abilities; they cause me to lose abilities.

And the problem I have with the challenged language is that it reduces my health issues to trials to overcome when there's more to it than that. (For one thing, some trials can't be overcome and don't have an end.)

There's pain. There's suffering. There's loss of abilities.

This is my life. My body is disabled. I am disabled.

And I am okay with that. I accept that.

Disabled is me owning the truth about who I am. I feel like the other terms are ways of sugar-coating my existence.

Current Mood: determineddetermined
The Funnel
20 March 2015 @ 04:32 pm
THIS. I'm disabled. You can call me a "person with a disability" if you want, but that's not how I identify.

"But at the same time, there’s no way to see the person without the disability. A person is not a blank canvas that other things are added onto. From the moment we’re born, perhaps even from the moment we’re conceived, our experiences shape us and make us who we are. My disability, among many other things, is integrated into who I am. There is no way to separate me from my disability. It’s not as if “person” is a standard action figure, while “disability” comes in the accessory pack designed to make you spend more money. That’s the image that comes to mind when I hear person with a disability.

Though person-first language is designed to promote respect, the concept is based on the idea that disability is something negative, something that you shouldn’t want to see. After all, no one tells me that I should call myself a person with femaleness or a person with Jewishness. I’m a Jewish woman. No one questions that. Yet when I dare to call myself a disabled person, it seems the whole world turns upside down. That’s because gender and religion are seen as neutral, if not positive, characteristics. The idea of separating the disability from the person stems from the idea that disability is something you should want to have separated from you, like a rotten tooth that needs to be pulled out."

From here.
Current Mood: contentcontent
The Funnel
04 March 2015 @ 11:58 am
2014 was a hard year for my joints. I wasn't even sure I'd be able to do the Arthritis Walk this year. Last year, I did most of the walk in a wheelchair. My right ankle, after years and years of being a problem, finally succumbed to the joint damage and was no longer functional. I had it replaced in August. It was a long recovery, one that still continues. But I am able to walk, drive, and belly dance again.

2015 marks my 10th year doing the Arthritis Walk. When I started the walk, I intended to walk one year for each year I attended Arthritis Camp as a kid, which was 10 years. With this year, I will have fulfilled my intention to attempt to repay the Arthritis Foundation for that enormous gift.

This is the link to my personal page. I hope you'll consider sponsoring me. Thank you: T's Arthritis Walk Page.

This is my background, if you'd like to send this to others who may not know me:
I've had juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis for all of my life minus 7 months. The first 10 years, my jRA was treated only with aspirin, not due to doctor's neglect, but because that was IT for treatments back then. My jRA ravaged my joints for 16 years. Everything changed for me when Enbrel came out in 1998.

As an adult with jRA, my jRA is now in remission, thanks to drugs the Arthritis Foundation has helped develop through funding research. But because of those first 12 years of uncontrolled jRA, I am legally disabled and have had many joint surgeries. Last year, I had my right thumb joint and right ankle replaced. In 2011, my right hip; in 2008, my left wrist; in 2000, my first joint surgery at age 18, right wrist fusion.

As a kid with jRA, the Arthritis Foundation was absolutely essential to my well-being. They ran an Arthritis Camp I attended for 10 years.

This is my 10th year walking, in gratitude to the Arthritis Foundation for helping me so much throughout my life.

I hope you'll consider joining my team and walking with me if you're local; and sponsoring me if you can.

Thanks as always for all your support. I'm walking this year because I *can* and hope to do the walk without using a wheelchair for the first time in 2 years.
Current Mood: determineddetermined
The Funnel
01 October 2014 @ 03:29 pm
I'm still $100 short of reaching my $500 goal for "Strut Your Mutt", to raise money for Chesapeake Cats and Dogs, the rescue that's become my calling. Please, if you can sponsor me, the deadline is October 11th. We really need donations. I haven't been able to go to the adoption center since my surgery on 8/27, and I miss those cats unbearably.

You can sponsor my "Strut Your Mutt" page by clicking here, or you can donate directly to Chesapeake Cats and Dogs on their website here.

Thank you.
Current Mood: hopefulhopeful
The Funnel
21 August 2014 @ 01:47 pm

I thought I knew what was going to kill Kosette. It was going to be kidney failure. After all, she'd had kidney disease for over a year, and her kidneys were going to crash. Or it was going to be that the arthritis in her hind legs would progress to such a point that she'd no longer leave her bed, not even to use the litter box.

Neither of those are what happened.

10551018_10153071487346996_1106730566408520648_nBut first, let me tell you the story of how Kosette came to be Kosette. When I was a freshman in high school, I had two cats: Oatmeal and Sugar. As was common at the time, both were indoor-outdoor cats. Oatmeal was ill (he died in 2003) throughout his life and tended not to eat as well when Sugar was around. So, one night, I decided to keep Sugar outside so that Oatmeal could eat better. (We had a shed with a cat door and bed available for her to sleep in that night.) The next morning, Sugar wasn't there. 4 months later, Sugar was returned to me... but that's Sugar's story. Two months after Sugar went missing, my mom posted a sob story ad in the Classifieds about Sugar. We got a phone call from a young adult who didn't have Sugar, but did have a kitten she needed to find a new home for.

A kitten named "Kissy", who I promptly renamed Kosette (from Cosette in Les Miserables). Kosette made up for her lack of intelligence with a passion for cuddling and playing. She had a penchant for making me laugh and smile, even at times when I didn't feel like doing either.

So, nearly 18 years later, Kosette was slowly dying of kidney disease. Until the last two weeks of July, when I noticed her behavior change. She seemed more confused than normal and didn't want to cuddle as much. On August 1st, I noticed her eyes were unevenly dilated. I contacted my vet, who's become a friend, who warned me that in a cat Kosette's age, that was often caused by a brain tumor.

We made an appointment for her on August 6th--18 days before her 18th birthday--hoping that it wouldn't be a brain tumor. The night before the appointment, she screamed whenever she was awake and alone... but didn't want to cuddle. She just wanted us around. On the way to the vet, where she had previously been quite comfortable, she screamed the entire way. At the vet, she tried to hide, and again didn't want to cuddle.

The vet looked at her eyes with a flashlight, and there was a tumor. We chose to put her down, to prevent her confusion and fear from increasing.

P2211131aSomewhat surprisingly, my grief after her death hasn't been as bad as I expected. I think I did a lot of grieving while she was still alive, when I realized she wasn't herself anymore. The first few days were hard, but since then, I've really been okay. Kosette is buried at Rob's parents, joining Sugar and Min.

9 days later, we adopted Ethel, my primary lap buddy from Chesapeake Cats and Dogs, who had been waiting for a home for over 3 years. Who is currently on my lap as I type this.

The Funnel
25 July 2014 @ 05:11 pm

145aWhen I was kid growing up with JRA, I had a best friend who wasn't human. Her name was Sugar, and she was my Siamese cat. I lost Sugar to kidney failure in 2008 and suddenly found myself full of love and time and no one to spend it on. It was then that I started volunteering with Chesapeake Cats and Dogs, a local non-profit no-kill animal rescue.

There's a misconception about being involved with an animal rescue that I'd like to dismiss. This misconception is that it's hard. Working with homeless animals, seeing the constant influx of pets who were once loved and now abandoned, always searching for the perfect home for an animal that might be—let's be honest—less than perfect. This sounds hard, doesn't it?

I'll admit that there are days when it's hard. Days when we lose an animal or have one returned from what we thought was its perfect home. Days when we wonder how we're even going to continue, how we can find the money necessary to give these animals what they need to find the homes they deserve.

But you know what would be harder, for me? Doing nothing.

1238980_10152423352416996_761220809_n​Because these cats at the adoption center at Chesapeake Cats and Dogs are unbelievably wonderful. They make me feel like a rock star when I walk into the adoption center. They let me know each and every time I visit how much what I'm doing—even when it seems like it's so little!—matters to them. And when I happen to not be able to visit for a week or two? Wow do they let me know they missed me! And I miss them, too!

I wish everyone could come to know these cats like I do. If everyone who walked into our adoption center could see these cats the way I do, no one would ever leave without filling out an adoption application or volunteer form.

These cats make it easy for me to do whatever I can for them. Being involved in the lives of these cats has given me far more joy than heartache. Because my love for these cats is boundless, it gives me all the energy I need to make it through the hard times.

I know I'm needed. I know I'm loved. I know I'm where I'm supposed to be.

And that's why I'm supporting Chesapeake Cats and Dogs at this year's Best Friends "Strut Your Mutt". I can't exaggerate how important CCAD is to me. And CCAD needs your help to continue. Please consider
sponsoring me for "Strut Your Mutt"
. I'd really appreciate it!

Thank you!

Current Mood: determineddetermined
The Funnel
01 January 2014 @ 02:00 pm
Let's not do a "2013 in review". It's over.

For 2014, I resolve:

MORE: foods (I've been sticking to a pretty consistent diet for the last year and I want to try more of a variety this year, GI-system allowing), communicating with family members—especially via phone and/or Skype, sitting meditation (dream goal to meditate every day in 2014).

LESS: impulse spending (yes, donations count!).

I'd also like 2014 to be the year I finally return to regular belly dancing, learn Arabic and Armenian, and finish "Unnatural Wizardry", but these are rather lofty dreams.
Current Mood: optimisticoptimistic
The Funnel
25 October 2013 @ 01:56 pm
Hey, help me choose which picture of Skit to use for Chesapeake Cats and Dogs's November Cat of the Month flyer. Here are the 2 I'm choosing between:


Image 2 edited to reduce wash-outCollapse )
Current Mood: thoughtfulthoughtful
The Funnel
16 October 2013 @ 04:04 pm
So... I decided to try to sell some of my cat photography on Etsy. If any of you happen to be interested, here's the link:

Current Mood: productiveproductive
The Funnel
28 August 2013 @ 07:26 pm
Hey everyone, I have a favor to ask. The feline rescue I work with, Chesapeake Cats and Dogs, is having financial difficulties. The truth is that it costs a lot of money to care for 50+ cats and a dozen or so dogs, never-mind the rent we pay for our adoption center building.

If you can spare even $5, I would really, really appreciate it. I'm already doing all that I can, but I want to do so much more:

Donate here.
Current Mood: indescribableindescribable
The Funnel
10 August 2013 @ 01:55 pm
For many years, I've been participating in the Arthritis Walk to raise money for the Arthritis Foundation. You all know about my Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis and the many reasons that I do that walk. This year, I'm also participating in a walk to raise money for the Crohn's and Colitis Foundation of America.

Last October after battling a stomach bug for a week, I developed Crohn's disease. I was lucky in that one of my arthritis medications, Cimzia, happens to treat Crohn's disease as well. Even with already being on Cimzia, that first flare was horrible. I ended up going several weeks without being able to eat solid food, surviving on 5-6 Ensures a day. In January, I was also diagnosed with Autoimmune Pancreatitis and I began taking the drug Imuran. The combination of Imuran and Cimzia has gotten my Crohn's and AP under control.

It's hard to explain how much this disease takes over your life. Everything is different now. Even with the Crohn's disease now "under control", I still have to be careful about what I eat. My intestines are hyper-sensitive. Eating has become an activity I no longer take for granted. Being able to eat solid food for every meal is an absolute joy after subsisting on Ensure for more than half of my daily calories for several weeks.

I'm a member of a support group online and what strikes me the most isn't how many adults also have Crohn's, but how many kids. Growing up with Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis was hard; I can't even imagine how hard it would be to be a kid with Crohn's disease or Ulcerative colitis. Can you imagine what it would be like to have a feeding tube at age 12? What about having an accident in high school?

So, I'm walking for me, but I'm also walking for them. Because kids with IBD have guts!

To sponsor me or join my team, please click here: . Thank you for your support!

PS: Please feel free to forward this on to others who may be interested in sponsoring me. Thanks!
Current Mood: hopefulhopeful
The Funnel
12 June 2013 @ 04:23 pm
emily1 This may well be my last post on Emily until the day I'm finally able to take her home.

When I first started working with her, I had a set of goals I wanted her to reach, that started with being able to touch her and ended with her climbing on my lap. I was never very certain she'd reach that final goal. Not all cats are lap cats, and that final goal was so far from where she started.

Two weeks ago, I watched Emily jump onto the bench beside me... and then climb onto my lap. I was so overwhelmed with joy that I actually started to cry. She's gone from being literally untouchable to a lap cat. It's now become usual for her to spend up to half an hour sitting on my lap. It's taken about 3 years, but she's there. She's ready for me to take her home.

And I wish I could, but we can't right now. At least she's happy in the adoption center. Still, it is hard leaving her there.
Current Mood: accomplishedaccomplished
The Funnel
17 April 2013 @ 01:05 pm
As I do every year, I am participating in the Arthritis Walk, which raises money for the Arthritis Foundation. I've been very fortunate that this year I'll be doing the walk with only one bionic hip. Because of the kinds of research the Arthritis Foundation supports, I was able to get my right hip replaced in 2011. Having a functional right hip has allowed me to be able to postpone surgery on my left hip... because now I can limp when I need to!

When I was a child with arthritis, going to Arthritis Camp was the highlight of my year. My camp fees were paid for by the Arthritis Foundation for 10 years. I'm doing the Arthritis Walk until I've paid the Arthritis Foundation back... and then some!

If you're able and willing to sponsor me, that would be fantastic! If you're not able to sponsor me but are local and would like to join my team, that would also be fantastic! And if you're not able to do either of those things, but feel moved to share this with others, also fantastic!

My personal page, to sponsor or join my team (and if this link doesn't work, search under participants for first name Tatiana and last name Hamboyan Harrison)
The Funnel
04 March 2013 @ 11:33 am
So, on Mondays when I leave the house, I have to carry 3 bags: my purse, a bag with a change of clothes (I get a massage, so I just change out of my center clothes after), and my bag of stuff I use at Chesapeake Cats and Dogs. I had a brilliant idea to leave my purse in the car last night, so I'd only have to carry 2 bags out to the car today instead of 3.

Except guess what's in my purse. My car keys.


So I'm not going anywhere today.
Current Mood: embarrassedembarrassed
The Funnel
It’s very ironic, and somewhat sad, that in my entire post about my “center”—the feline rescue I volunteer at—I forgot to mention one thing, the most important thing about my time there.


And it’s appropriate to focus on this during Lent, even though as a Quaker I’m not “supposed” to celebrate Lent. But I do, because I was raised Catholic, and because Lent is a season to remind me to challenge myself spiritually. Am I truly living up to Jesus’s example? How could I be doing more? Or do I need to be doing less?

More here.
Current Mood: pensivepensive
The Funnel
I wrote a blog post on "Light & Lotus". You should read it. Well, I'd like you to read it, anyways. Here are two excerpts from it:

My Immune System is an Over-Achiever:

It was the 1st week of January. I had just finished recovering from the flu and was finishing a preventative course of antibiotics when I began having diarrhea again. This time, the diarrhea was different and came with a very high level of urgency. I couldn't leave the house. Lomotil was completely ineffective. I immediately switched back to an all-liquid diet, but it had no effect. The GI doctor on call over the weekend put me on Flagyl (in case the antibiotics had given me the infamous C-difficile bacterial infection) and told me to increase my Prednisone dose to 20mg a day. These measures helped moderately, but not enough. I switched to all-liquids, but it seemed like even the Ensure was causing the pain to increase. By the end of the 2nd week of January, I was beginning to have a lot of pain right below my right rib cage. By Sunday, January 13th, the pain was severe enough that I was regularly screaming out in pain.

I am not the kind of person to scream at pain. I have a very high pain tolerance. But this pain was unlike any I’d ever experienced. It throbbed on the pain scale at a 9 and then the spasms would make that 9 seem insignificant. Concerned, my husband contacted my GI, who told me that it was likely my Crohn’s responding to a new trigger food and to take some of my left-over hip replacement surgery pain medications.

That Monday, January 14th, I woke up to the same level of pain. I struggled to care for our 5 cats, but gave up in the middle of their breakfast. I just couldn't continue on like this any longer. I contacted my husband and told him he had to come home. Now. Thankfully, he did. Once he arrived home, we planned on taking me to the emergency room. As I was getting ready to go, I began feeling very nauseated. I ran to the bathroom, swallowed the vomit… and had to shout for my husband to help me down to the floor.

“I can’t do this any more. Call an ambulance.”

One ambulance ride, 12 hours waiting for a room on a stretcher in the hallway of the emergency room triage area (luckily right next to a bathroom), several tests later, I was finally given a diagnosis:


Usually caused by severe alcoholism or gallstones. Neither of which were applicable to me.

I spent 3 days NPO—nothing by mouth but ice chips—and was started on IV fluids, pain killers, and 15mg of IV steroids every 6 hours. By Tuesday afternoon, I was feeling much better. The pain was still very much present, but it wasn't at all comparable to the pain I’d been in.

And being in the hospital began to have an unintended effect on me: because I wasn't feeling up to doing anything and was constantly being interrupted, I spent most of my time sitting and waiting. Just sitting, just waiting. Mindfully. I've always wanted to attend a Buddhist retreat and been unable to because of my health challenges, and now it felt like my health had finally allowed me to go on the retreat I’d always wanted to attend.

Thursday morning, I was allowed clear fluids: apple juice, chicken broth, jello. I’m normally not a fan of apple juice, and I’d have enough chicken broth in November to last me a life-time, but after 3 days of ice chips? They. were. fantastic.

Two days later, I was released from the hospital, with a tentative diagnosis of Autoimmune Pancreatitis (because my immune system is one hell of an over-achiever!)...

Mindful, Thankful, *Wonder-full* Eating:

For years, I tried to lose weight and find a way to eat more mindfully. I wouldn't have chosen to lose the weight this way or to learn how to eat mindfully by losing the ability to eat for several days, but I’m grateful to my body for this gift.

Eating—having the ability to eat, having access to food—is a gift. It’s a precious gift, one too many people in this world don’t have.

When I eat now, it’s with a sense of wonder. May I never forget.
Current Mood: gratefulgrateful
The Funnel
08 February 2013 @ 12:51 pm
There is a false divide in the American health care system (and our culture as well) between mental and physical health. Mental health care services are less funded, less available, and less covered by insurance (both private and federal). There is an added stigma to mental illness. The phrase "it's all in your head" is taken to mean that the one suffering is making the choice somehow to suffer, that if the one suffering was merely strong enough, he or she could just magically overcome his or her mental illness.

This divide is not real. The mind is part of the body. Mental illness, like physical illness, deserves to be accepted as real and those with mental illnesses deserve the same kind of medical coverage, benefits, and respect from the general public and the medical community as those with physical illnesses.

If you're on facebook, please like this page and share it with your friends. It's time we end the stigma on mental illness.
Current Mood: okayokay
The Funnel
01 February 2013 @ 05:31 pm
I keep meaning to post The Whole Story ™ of what happened with my pancreas, but in the meantime, here's a quick update.

I'm now able to eat protein, sugar, and up to 1g of saturated fat per meal. I'm eating 4 300-350 calorie meals per day, which is going to be my new normal. I'm no longer losing weight. I'm hoping to gain some of the weight I lost back. My new normal lunch is canned chicken breast with hummus on bread, to which I'm going to start adding baby spinach (intestines allowing...) and either peppers or granny smith apples. It's fantastic. I'm so excited about eating.

I see my GI doctor on the 12th, at which point, pending a test result, I'm expecting to be put on Imuran and starting a very slow taper off the Prednisone.

Life is good. I'm feeling much better, I'm able to eat, and I'm starting to feel healthier. The new method of eating smaller meals more frequently is not only helping my pancreas, but making my stomach and intestines much happier too. (I'm having normal bowel movements for the first time since... well, since the Crohn's started back in October. It is fantastic. And I won't go into any more details about that on here.)

I'm returning to my normal schedule at Chesapeake Cats and Dogs next week. I do have a lot of doctor's appointments over the next month (GI, and PCP for follow-up for vitamin D and iron deficiency), but am also planning on getting some paying website work done as well.
Current Mood: hungryhungry
The Funnel
26 January 2013 @ 07:52 pm
Unusually relevant questions from The Friday Five, given that I was hospitalized for pancreatitis last week and couldn't eat or drink anything for 3 days and am still very limited in what I can eat and drink!

  1. What is your favorite beverage?
    I enjoy a good cup of tea, a smoky glass of shiraz or chianti, and a sweet glass of orange juice.

  2. If you had to go without liquid for an entire day, would you drink water or your favorite beverage when liquids were available again?
    I did have to go without liquids for more than a day. My first drink available was apple juice. But if I'd had the choice, I think orange juice would have been nice.

  3. What is your favorite food?
    Pizza, chicken, kafta, shawarma, sharp cheeses like cheddar or feta, chocolate...

  4. If you had to go without food for an entire day, what would be the first food you'd eat when food was available again?
    I did. The first food I was offered was Saltines and a piece of white toast. They were fantastic (anything's better than ice chips!). If I'd been able to eat anything, though, it would have probably been pizza. (Unfortunately, that's a while away yet...)

  5. How would you react if both your favorite food and your favorite beverage were available to the public but were somehow unattainable to you?
    ... Yeah, I can relate to this at the moment. Two of my favorite foods, as noted above, are kafta and shawarma. Both are traditionally made with red meat. Because of my new chronic pancreatitis issue, red meat is pretty much going to be a food I'll have to avoid indefinitely. Another favorite food I have to avoid is chocolate, which is apparently a trigger for my Crohn's disease (and not good for pancreatitis, either). And, of course, alcohol is very dangerous for pancreatitis, so drinking a glass of wine isn't in my future (I've been told one or two sips very rarely should be okay...). But what's most important, honestly, is being able to eat at all. Right now, I'm so limited in what I can eat that I cannot actually eat enough calories per day to avoid losing weight. I'm very much looking forward to when I can eat enough solid foods per day to meet a minimum caloric intake.
Current Mood: okayokay
The Funnel
26 January 2013 @ 12:51 pm
Just copying from an email I sent to a Friend, because I'm feeling lazy but want to give you guys an update:

I'm home. I was released last Saturday.

The "retreat" [hospital stay] was good. I got into the practice of just sitting and waiting a lot, as constant interruptions discouraged me from wanting to start anything that could later be interrupted (I don't know about you, but I don't like being interrupted in the middle of reading a good book, for example). Plus, most of the time, I wasn't feeling up to really doing anything but sitting and waiting.

Getting into that habit has encouraged me to resume my daily sitting practice, which I started on Monday. It's been nice. :)

As for my pancreas, things seem to be slowly improving... I'm still not able to eat enough to prevent losing weight, which is slightly discouraging, but I need to let my pancreas dictate how much solid food I eat right now. I'm currently eating 1 cup of bland cereal (Cheerios, etc.) for breakfast with an 8 ounce glass of skim milk and 1 cup of pasta with olive oil, oregano, and garlic salt with skim milk for dinner. The rest of the day, I'm sticking to clear liquids. I overdid it earlier this week and really paid for it with a lot of pain, so I'm slowing things down for a few days.

The good news is that I'm on a LOT of prednisone (40mg/day), which is making me feel FANTASTIC energy-wise and all the little aches and swellings that had been normal for my JRA are gone. Eventually, I'm going to be going off the prednisone and switching to another immune suppressant drug (imuran), as the pancreatitis is autoimmune and thus chronic and will need to be controlled. Luckily, imuran also treats Crohn's disease and JRA and I've somehow never been on it before. So things should be improving over the next few months.

In the meantime, I'm eating as I'm able and slowly easing back into "normal" life. I hope to make it to Meeting for Worship soon; I feel up to attending tomorrow, but Rob wants to sleep in. I can't blame him; I think he's still recovering from me being in the hospital.
Current Mood: okayokay
The Funnel
19 January 2013 @ 01:19 pm

I'm being released today! Diagnosis is Autoimmune Pancreatitis, so this is a new chronic condition I'll need to learn how to manage. I've been told the pain should continue to decrease over the next few days. New medications and serious dietary changes are in my future.

Posted via LiveJournal app for iPhone.

Current Location: US, Maryland, Parole
Current Mood: okay
The Funnel
18 January 2013 @ 12:23 pm

Originally was supposed to go home today, but after one day of clear liquid diet, the pancreatic pain has returned. I'm back NPO today. Slightly discouraged, but trying to be patient.

ETA at 2PM: My pancreatic blood levels continue to drop back towards normal. The doctor I just saw thinks the pain is from the rawness inside my pancreas from the damage that was done and not from more inflammation. Going to try some more clear fluids today and see how it goes. Chance I'll go home tomorrow.

Posted via LiveJournal app for iPhone.

Current Location: US, Maryland, Parole
The Funnel
16 January 2013 @ 03:22 pm

Only diagnosis that hasn't been ruled out is autoimmune pancreatitis. Plan is to take meds by mouth today and start clear fluids tomorrow, with hopeful release Friday afternoonish.

Lipase level on Monday was 900; today it's 100, with the normal level going up to 70.

So things clinically are definitely improving rapidly... And I was really really sick on Monday!

Posted via LiveJournal app for iPhone.

Current Location: AAMC
The Funnel
16 January 2013 @ 04:18 am

This hospital stay for pancreatitis is feeling more and more like a retreat. I've been doing a lot of walking gratitude/mindfulness meditation to aid my rheumatic knees and a lot of breath and mantra meditation. I've never been able to attend a formal retreat because of my health; I am full of gratitude that my health has given me this opportunity.

In physical news, some causes have been ruled out, the most important one being gallstones. If they can get blood from me later this morning, some more tests will be done. I'm hoping to start on liquids today.

Posted via LiveJournal app for iPhone.

Current Location: US, Maryland, Parole
Current Mood: good
The Funnel
15 January 2013 @ 05:15 pm

Ended up taking an ambulance to the ER yesterday, my first ambulance ride. I was in extreme pain and was woozy, faint, and running a low fever. Long story short, I have pancreatitis (no obvious cause yet, though I've had lots of tests done) and will be staying in the hospital until it gets resolved. Nothing by mouth except ice for now, but the ice isn't causing pain today. I'm feeling much better today overall.

I also woke up yesterday with knee swelling and stiffness. That is getting better today too.

Also need to mention that I'm getting 60mg of IV Prednisone. Never been on a dose this high, so be warned and don't take any moodiness personally.

Also my vet sent me balloons! You know you go to the vet too much when... ;)

Posted via LiveJournal app for iPhone.

Current Location: US, Maryland, Parole
Current Mood: okay
The Funnel
FiguroYesterday was a very bittersweet day for me at Chesapeake Cats and Dogs, though more sweet than bitter. First I started the day with the news that Figuro, who'd been at Chesapeake Cats and Dogs for 4 years—the entire time I've been volunteering there, was going to be adopted today. FINALLY. I was so happy when I heard the news that I choked up. But saying goodbye to my feline friend was really hard. Truth is, as happy as I am that she finally has a home of her own, I am really going to miss her. She was one of my favorites there...

Which brings me to another piece of good news. Emily, Figuro's sister who I fully intend on adopting when Kosette dies (which hopefully won't happen for another couple of years) and if Emily is still available (which she probably will be, as she still runs from most visitors to the adoption center), made another break-through yesterday! (In case you don't know who Emily is, click here.)

The past few weeks, Emily has been inching towards a break-through. There are two benches in the front room at Chesapeake Cats and Dogs; I often sit on one of them shortly after I arrive, to allow the most kitties access to cuddles. Emily has been coming out to greet me shortly after I arrive recently and had jumped on the opposing bench. She'd look at me and I'd call her and she'd walk over to the next closest piece of furniture, but then she'd stop. I'd reach over and pet her, and she'd purr, but she wasn't ready to take that next step.

Until yesterday. Yesterday, I watched her jump onto the opposing bench, look at me when I called her, jump down onto the floor... and then she jumped up right next to me. She was even rubbing her head against my leg while purring loudly and happily.

I wonder how long it will take her to take that next step and climb onto my lap? :)
Current Mood: accomplishedaccomplished
The Funnel
01 January 2013 @ 01:53 pm
The most notable parts of 2012 weren't good ones. What this means, though, is that my life is mostly good overall and that when something bad happens, it's unusual enough to be notable.

Here are the normal good things about my life (note that I will certainly miss a few of them, as I'm very lucky and I'm certain to take some things for granted that I shouldn't): happy marriage, wonderful kitties, supportive family, good health insurance, paying work I find interesting, volunteer work that fulfills me and makes me happy, true friends, stable home situation, a home, caring in-laws, competent and compassionate doctors, modern medicine (especially the biologic Cimzia)...

I could continue on. As I said, I'm very lucky!

Here are the notable bad things about this year: Snowcrash's urinary travesty, which progressed from idiopathic cystitis to crystals and blockages, but is now under control with meds (Amitriptyline and Prednisone) and a 90% canned-food diet; and my developing Crohn's Disease. October was a really crappy month for us, full of feline and human bodily fluids.

But October is long gone, and it's now January. I think back to October and November, to remind myself of how much better I am now. I was beyond lucky that I was already on Cimzia, which is a biologic that treats both JRA and Crohn's Disease, when I had my first Crohn's flare. I am beyond lucky that I have health insurance that not only pays for the $1600/month Cimzia, but now also pays for the $950/month Pentasa (which is an anti-inflammatory that is released only in the small intestine).

How far have I come? In the beginning of November, I stopped eating solid foods altogether to limit my diarrhea. I was relying on 5-6 cans of Ensure a day for my calories and eating broth with 3 teaspoons or fewer of crushed angel hair pasta for dinners. This change in diet did significantly help reduce my diarrhea, but it didn't stop it. Being prescribed lomotil was the first step, but lomotil did nothing for the pain, so I was still very limited in what I could eat. Everything changed when I started the Pentasa, the day before Thanksgiving. I was able to actually eat, albeit a very small amount, on Thanksgiving, and it was wonderful.

I'm now down to 1 can of Ensure a day and am eating solid foods for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I'm still introducing solids back to my diet, but it's going well, overall. I even have a theory that my main trigger is a specific kind of saturated fat called palmitic acid. So far, only foods high in this kind of saturated fat have been triggering. I have no problems with gluten, dairy, seeds, nuts, peels. It's like I'm learning how to eat again for the first time: everything's new. I'm rediscovering foods I love, like granny smith apples with hummus, turkey, pizza, cheese...

In 2013, there are things I wish for—to be able to eat even more normally, to not have any surgeries, for the cats at Chesapeake Cats and Dogs to get adopted (well, except for Emily and Snicker, who I plan on bringing home some day...), for my friends and family to be well and happy—but I'm only going to make one resolution this year. Because there is one* activity that I haven't been able to do for months (*okay, maybe two) and that is such a part of me.

My 2013 New Year's Resolution: to start belly dancing again.
Current Mood: goodgood
The Funnel
17 December 2012 @ 11:57 am

Just got a call from my GI's office. My C-Reactive Protein value has dropped from 8.9 in early November to 1.5!

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Current Location: US, Maryland, Grasonville
The Funnel
28 November 2012 @ 01:07 pm
With the diagnosis of Crohn's came a prescription for Pentasa. Pentasa is an interesting drug. It's an anti-inflammatory that specifically reduces inflammation only in the intestines. (For those curious, this brings the total number of anti-inflammatory medications I take per day to 3: I also take 2 for my JRA.) And it works really fast. This drug is the reason I was able to actually enjoy Thanksgiving dinner instead of sipping an Ensure, watching every one else eat turkey. It's also a really expensive drug, about $950 out of pocket. Luckily, my insurance is covering it. I'm going to be in and out of the coverage gap next year faster than a The Office fan can say "That's what she said".

The Pentasa isn't perfect, though. I'm still having some intestinal pain, especially if I eat solid foods for more than one meal a day. Tomato sauces cause more pain than olive oil, though still a tolerable amount. I'm still trying to slowly reintroduce foods into my diet to see what's a trigger and what's safe.

As well as the Pentasa is working, I'm concerned it's only treating the symptoms and not the disease itself. My C-Reactive Protein level on October 23rd was 8.9—the highest it's been since right before my hip surgery last year; and my sed rate was 45. Pentasa isn't going to lower those numbers, and obviously the Cimzia isn't doing enough to reduce intestinal inflammation. (Granted I've heard of people with Crohn's having CRP and sed rate levels MUCH higher than these, so maybe these numbers aren't as bad as they seem?)

I see the GI doctor again on December 11th. This is going to be my main focus with him: how do we start controlling the disease? Intestines aren't replaceable like joints are. I want to prevent damage from being done.

But in the meantime, I'm actually eating again, and it's wonderful. To top it off, I've gained back 2 of the 8 pounds I lost, which means I'm actually absorbing nutrition from the solids I'm eating as well.

Now, to drink my first cup of tea in over a month and prepare to take Cinnamon to the vet for her shots...
Current Mood: okayokay
The Funnel
27 November 2012 @ 09:42 pm

This is Thomas, an older kitten currently available for adoption at Chesapeake Cats and Dogs:

And this is Fred, who was our resident senior diabetic and who passed away over a year ago:

Current Mood: contemplativecontemplative
The Funnel
21 November 2012 @ 09:42 am

Just got the official diagnosis.

I have Crohn's disease.

Posted via LiveJournal app for iPhone.

Current Location: US, Maryland, Grasonville
The Funnel
09 November 2012 @ 04:12 pm
Food pictures in my
facebook friends news feed while I
slowly sip Ensure.
Current Mood: hungryhungry
The Funnel
07 November 2012 @ 03:29 pm
I apparently jumped the gun with my "I have a diagnosis" post. I saw the GI doctor yesterday and he doesn't want to give me a diagnosis until after I have a colonoscopy done, which is scheduled for next Wednesday. That being said, Crohn's disease is on the relatively-short list of possibilities (what is the plural for diagnosis?); the other possibilities are various forms of colitis, some of which are rare in someone my age (but when has that ever stopped my body?), and other less common inflammatory issues.

We do know it's an inflammatory issue, though. My C-Reactive Protein level is 8.3 (normal is under 1.0). If my JRA were causing that high a level, I would know. (To compare, my CRP level before my hip replacement was 9.7 and I was in a LOT of pain. I'm not having any noticeable joint pain or stiffness.)

The good news, though, is that he wrote me a prescription for Lomotil to slow down the diarrhea until I have a solid diagnosis. And the Lomotil is working. Really working. It's been 24 hours now since I've had a bm, which is good, because I didn't eat enough yet to need one. And it's so freeing to not be spending so much time on the toilet. The only drawback to the Lomotil is that it's not doing much for the pain, but pain I can tolerate.

I'm going to try eating some Arabic bread for lunch soon and am planning on pasta in beef broth for dinner tonight. If all goes well, I'll try introducing no-fat turkey breast tomorrow and maybe onions.
Current Mood: okayokay
The Funnel
03 November 2012 @ 04:20 pm

Here's the (very short) list of what I can "eat". Technically, I can eat whatever I want, but this is the list of what I can ingest that don't make my symptoms worse. You'll see why I've been putting quotes around the word eat when you read the list...

  1. Ensure nutrition shakes (vanilla and butter pecan): These have been absolutely essential to me. Before the idea came to me, I was so weak that I was starting to have trouble walking. I wasn't absorbing anything from solid foods, or, at least, nowhere near enough. Drinking these have literally revitalized me. I depend on them now for getting calories and nutrition. Everything else is just to make my stomach feel full and less hungry.
  2. Instant oatmeal with sugar and cinnamon (no milk) ETA Sunday: no longer safe
  3. Chicken broth with small pasta pieces
  4. Jello
    And that's the list. Some items I've tried that are not on the list because of the negative effects they caused: saltine crackers, white rice, eggs, butternut squash, and chocolate Ensure (which apparently has real chocolate in it).

    I do miss eating real food, but the price is currently way too high. At least by sticking to this diet, I'm not spending all day in the bathroom, my legs don't feel cold and feeble all the time, and I have real energy. It's worth it.</b></b>

Posted via LiveJournal app for iPhone.

Current Location: US, Maryland, Grasonville
Current Mood: okayokay
The Funnel
31 October 2012 @ 01:53 pm
Test results are in.

I have Crohn's disease.
Current Mood: crappycrappy
The Funnel
30 October 2012 @ 01:35 pm
It was pretty non-eventful for us. We were very lucky. Here's a list of the notable events at our house:

  • Power flickers around 1PM, leading me to panic that we're going to lose it soon and urge Rob to come home RIGHT NOW.

  • Hearing the wind gust thwapping our house, I again urge Rob to come home from his office 10 minutes away at 1:30.

  • Rob finally comes home around 2PM.

  • Apparently everyone's watching Neflix and NBC News via XBOX Live and hogging all teh internets, because they are too slow to watch.

  • Two big tree branches fall. A shingle is found in our back yard, but it did not come from our roof.

  • Rob is mean and eats two hamburgers with pickles in front of me. (Just kidding. He had to eat his dinner and it wasn't his fault that my dinner was 2 cans of Boost.)

  • More wind gusts thwapping. Water begins accumulating on our street and puddling in our yard. But Netflix starts streaming.

  • We go to bed.

  • At 9:15AM this morning, we lose power for about an hour.

The End.
Current Mood: okayokay
The Funnel
26 October 2012 @ 04:19 pm

Feeling a bit better today, both emotionally and physically. Thanks to everyone who commiserated with me yesterday and/or tried to cheer me up.

ETA: spoke too soon. The fever is back.

Posted via LiveJournal app for iPhone.

Current Location: US, Maryland, Grasonville
Current Mood: calmbetter
The Funnel
13 October 2012 @ 01:14 pm
For those of you who'd like to follow my Chesapeake Cats blog without actually having to go to the link, I've created a syndicated account: chesapeake_cats.
Current Mood: contemplativecontemplative
The Funnel
07 October 2012 @ 06:16 am

Je viens de découvert deux choses formidable que mon iPod peut faire--le premier: je peux changer le "keyboard" (comment dit-on "keyboard" en français?) de mon iPod à français; et la deuxième: que quand je change le "keyboard", la dictionnaire change aussi. C'est formidable!

[English translation: i just discovered two great things about my iPod--the first: that I can change the keyboard to French; the second: that when I change the keyboard to French, the dictionary also changes. It's fantastic!]

Posted via LiveJournal app for iPhone.

Current Location: US, Maryland, Grasonville