Saturday, May 25, 2019

Navigating a Chronic disease diagnosis: 5 things I wish I would have known when I was diagnosed

I can't believe how many people I know have been diagnosed with a chronic illness - young, seemingly healthy friends who have been handed a diagnosis of psoriatic arthritis, crohn's disease, endometriosis - the list goes on and on. I was diagnosed with a chronic disease at the age of 34 - about 6 years ago. However, it didn't really occur to me that my disease was chronic until just a few years ago when I realized that I was suffering from something that was persisting and reoccurring - hence; chronic.

My diagnosis is quite rare - 1 in 100,000 to be exact, so I don't know anyone personally who also suffers from Osteochrondritis dissecans (OCD - not to be confused with the compulsion disorder). This disease affects the cartilage in my joints (presently both knees and an elbow), and has required 11 surgeries over the past 6 years just to keep me mobile. I am a member of a facebook "support" group (more on that later) who share my diagnosis, so I do frequent that site from time to time. Just a few days ago as a read a new post on the site I felt myself shaking my head and cringing. A 25 year old woman explained that she had recently been diagnosed with OCD in both knees. She was a marathon runner. She expressed her determination to "fight the disease" and continue to compete in marathons, despite her diagnosis and her Orthopedic surgeon's recommendations. The reason that I shook my head and cringed was because that was me. Ok...I wasn't a competitive marathon runner but I fought my diagnosis with determination for at least a solid year...and you know what? I did not do myself any favors.

I understand that my chronic disease is much different than most of the diseases that my friends are facing. OCD specifically affects my mobility. It is a visible disease in that people can see when I am suffering, unlike diseases like crohn's or diabetes where there are no overt signs to signal "Hey! I feel like shit today!" On the other hand, I think that anyone who has been diagnosed with a disease that seemingly has no cure will share similiar experiences and feelings. Although I'm still navigating life with a chronic illness, I have learned a lot over the past 6 years. Therefore, I've compiled a list of 5 things I wish someone would have told me when I was first diagnosed with a chronic disease:

1) You and your body are on the same team

Like the 25 year old woman on the online support group, I immediately went into fight mode when I received my diagnosis. I vividly recall sitting in my Ortho's office, listening (but not "hearing")  his shpiel on life changes associated with OCD, and thinking "F#$% you. You have no idea who you are talking to. I will fight this. I will win." Each time I achieved something that I was told I should no longer do (i.e. jumping), I quietly kept score - Kirstie 1: Knee 0. I recall posting a surfing video of myself and captioning it, "Take that, knee!" I was quickly humbled when I stared at an MRI that indicated that my activities had resulted in significant cartilage damage. Eventually I came to the realization that keeping score implies that my knee and I are on different teams, which is ridiculous. My knee is part of my body and instead of fighting against it, I've learned to keep it happy. You know the saying, "The happier the knee, the happier you will be," No? Okay, I made that up, but you get the point. Follow your Doctor's recommendations, cheer on your body when it is performing well and pamper it when it is struggling. Stop fighting against it.

2) Find a balance between seeking knowledge and living life

With all knowledge available with the click of a mouse, it can be empowering to read, research, and seek out others who share your diagnosis. My online support group has provided me with many useful tips on medication, knee braces, as well as support when I am feeling low.  On the other hand, spending your days studying your disease and interacting with others who share your diagnosis can throw you into a black hole of despair where you become consumed by your disease. If you find yourself searching for the "thing," that magical "thing" that will cure you, it is, unfortunately, likely not going to be found on some online support group. The fact is, people who are consistently posting on your support forum are typically the people who are not doing so well. Think about it, if you are feeling pretty good and positive about your health, you are not spending your days posting on support forums. Therefore, the information that you are getting from your support group can be negative and bleak. Trust me, I've been that person who is laying listless and depressed on the couch and posting daily - misery loves company.  If you find yourself perusing the internet for hours, and feel increasingly hopeless, it's time to get off the computer and get outside of your disease for a few hours.

3) You will experience the grief cycle MANY times and it's Ok. 

Grief is a natural reaction to receiving a diagnosis of a chronic disease. You are essentially grieving your old self. Your life will change. You will never be the same. It's freaking sad. You will experience denial ("Not me. I will fight this!"), anger ("Why is this happening to me? I've always taken care of my body. This is not fair!),  depression ("I can't face the world today"), bargaining ("If I could just run again I swear that I will be a better person"), and acceptance ("I can't run anymore, but I can swim"). I would also add a new and exciting stage to this cycle: Fear/Uncertainty ("Sure my disease is dormant today, but what's going to happen tomorrow?").

I would estimate that since my diagnosis 6 years ago, I have cycled through anger, depression, fear, and acceptance at least 300 times! What's shocking is that I often don't recognize this and am suddenly dismayed that I feel an intense emotion! Just last week as I was recovering from surgery #11 I was out at a social event with my friends, my knee gave out, and I fell on a table. Initially I was mortified, but that was quickly followed by intense anger. Once I returned home, I threw my purse against the wall and screamed. And then I cried.  For about 60 minutes I felt betrayed by my body, I felt sad that I have this stupid disease, and eventually I came to the conclusion that my knee is still recovering, it wasn't a super huge deal, and my friends don't think any less of me. A few years ago that incident would have preoccupied my thoughts for days. I will say that now that I am able to identify why I'm feeling a particular emotion, and allow myself to feel that way, I am able to move through the grief cycle much faster.

4) Help your friends help you

I think that it's really important to educate your friends and family about your disease. Don't beat them over the head with it, but provide them with the basic knowledge and how this disease is affecting you so that they can help. I spent a good few years telling everyone that I was "fine." Like a robot, I generated key phrases like, "Coming along," "Feeling fine," or "Getting there." This was sufficient information for acquaintances, but my friends and family became frustrated by the distance that I was creating between us with my nondescript response. I didn't realize that my friends felt powerless too! They, too, were mourning the loss of their old vibrant and healthy buddy. I eventually divulged that I felt sad, hopeless, and depressed. I'm not going to lie - some friends responded with radio silence. Those peeps were surface friends, and I soon realized that they were my "feel good" friends - those buds with whom you party, but not necessarily the friends who you count on. My close buds, on the other hand, responded with an outpouring of support. Although I struggled to answer the age-old question, "What can I do to help?" (I honestly didn't know!), my friends stepped up by simply being there - sending me a funny text, stopping by with a tea, and making me laugh (there were times when I thought that I would never laugh again!). Let your friends help you.

Although it's important to educate your friends and family, don't assume that they are always aware or conscious of your disease. I remember feeling pissed off when my buds chose a venue with stairs for a social event. "Why wouldn't they realize that these stairs are going to be difficult for me? How selfish!" The fact is, your friends aren't thinking about your disease/disability every second of the day because they don't see you as your disease. And that, my friends, is a good thing!

Disclaimer: If you are feeling depressed to the point where you are thinking about harming yourself and/or you can't see a way out of the black hole, please seek professional help. I worked with a pain psychologist who was instrumental in arming me with the strategies that I needed to keep my head above water during challenging times.

5) Life does, in fact, go on

Ahhh...easier said than done. There were so many times where I really didn't believe that life would go on. I likened myself to my little white dog, sitting at the window and watching the world pass by without me. It's been 6 years since my diagnosis and realizing that life does go on has been the most difficult concept for me to grasp, and there are still days where I feel just the opposite. And you know what? - sometimes we are just not ready to hear that life will go on, and that's fine too. But looking back at the past 6 years I can see that this sucky disease has actually opened up opportunities for me - I was forced to adapt and make changes, changes that have opened up my eyes to a whole new world. For example, the cold weather in Canada was wreaking havoc on my joints, and that was the push I needed to pursue a life in a warmer climate. And here I am - loving life in Grand Cayman! In addition, although receiving this diagnosis initially challenged our marriage,  I know that my husband and I are much stronger as a couple having navigated this disease together. We are a better team because of my OCD. Your disease might prevent you from continuing with your  job or partaking in physical activities that you love. You are allowed to grieve that, but also see it as an opportunity to try something different. Often people become stagnant, locked into the lifestyle they believe they are supposed to live and are scared to veer in a different direction. Sometimes a diagnosis creates the push that you need to make those changes and, essentially,  live a happier life.

Friday, May 3, 2019

Philly trip: Cheesesteaks, baseball....and a little surgery

Hey friends,

Well I can't believe surgery #11 has already come and gone and I'm back on our little island, recovering quite nicely.

I hate to brag, but let me tell ya, after enduring all these freakin' knee surgeries (11 to be exact), I'm pretty damn good at surgery. Is that something to brag about? Despite my fabulous surgery skills (it sounds like I perform my own surgeries πŸ˜‚),  there has always been some type of complication - whether it's pain control or nausea and puking, there has consistently been an issue post surgery. Hence, I'm typically prepared for the worst - compiling pain management strategies and meditation techniques to combat nerves. Surgery #11, however, entailed no preparation whatsoever. None. Zero. I literally wolfed down a ball park hotdog at Citizens Bank Park,  and cheered on a 5-1 Phillies victory without a care in the world a mere 10 hours before I limped into Penn Hospital for my surgery at 5am on Monday morning. Whatevs. Dr. Carey, take the wheel! She's all yours!

Surgery, what surgery? Go Phillies!

My awesome Team!

Any nerves that I did feel dissipated as soon as I ran into all my Penn Med "friends." It was nice to be greeted by the same Nurses, Anesthesiologist, and of course my Surgeon and his fabulous PA, who all remembered me and were keen to see how I was doing while prepping me for surgery. I think one of the most important things to me during the last  6+ years of dealing with this disease is to form personal connections with the medical staff who is caring for me. It's paramount to me that my care providers see me as a real person - plus I'm a social person and it calms my nerves to learn more about the people who are helping me as well! So it was nice to hear that Nurse Tom's daughter is loving 3rd grade and that Dr. Sabrina just had a well deserved spa weekend. I felt a bit like a Penn Med celeb as I overheard another patient in pre-op brag about his "4th knee surgery," to which I heard my Nurse quickly respond, "That's nothing! My patient lives in the Cayman Islands and this is her 11th knee surgery!" haha. Trump that one random knee dude in Preop #8. Funny aside: I overheard random knee dude explain that he was a lawyer. When the Anesthesiologist asked what type of lawyer he was, he responded, "a good one." hehe. Touche. Anyway, by the time I was done catching up with my buds,  I was being wheeled into the operating room. I met a new OR Nurse, Charlie, and just as I was chatting to him about the Phillies win on Sunday, I was out cold.  I woke up a few hours later, and other than the foul taste of anesthetic in my mouth, I felt pretty darn good. On my typical post surgery high, I listened to other patients in recovery moaning in pain, sat up wide eyed in bed and exclaimed, "Ok, I'm ready to get out of here!" (I always feel like I don't belong with the sick people after surgeryπŸ˜‚!!) Once back in my room, I bragged to Mom and Evan about how I awesome I felt and showed my Nurses how talented I was on crutches as they realized I did not require assistance to the bathroom. I was a cocky little shit! know what? It felt good! 

Anyone seen my knee? Anyone? Anyone?

Usually my cockiness fades as the anesthetic wears off, but this time the pain was minimal and I was able to go back to our apartment that day. It's always important to me to stop taking narcotics as quickly as possible, given my history of dependence, and the yucky way that they make me feel. I was quickly able to transition from Dilaudid to Tylenol, and although I felt a little queasy, there was no puke, which was a welcome surprise. Overall, I'd say it was my most successful surgery yet - it only took 11 to find the sweet spot. Whoot whoot.

The results of the surgery were fairly positive. Unfortunately, I've now had a few complications from the big transplant surgery that took place 2 years ago. Dr. Carey explained that the chances of any complications are less than 5% and I've now had 3 complications - which makes me...rare? One of which is that my cartilage overgrew. But is that really a complication? I would say that's overachieving cartilage, no? Anyway, that overgrown cartilage was catching so he gave it a little haircut. In addition, I had a tear in the new meniscus transplant that I was equipped  with 2 years ago. Dr. Carey had to trim that I'm now I'm only left with 75% of my newly acquired meniscus, but I had 0% meniscus for many many years, so 75% seems like a decent number. The meniscus acts as a "first defence" to my cartilage transplants, so it is important, at this point, that it's there in some aspect. I think the daunting information is that my other knee, the right knee, is continuing to deteriorate with the disease.  Luckily, despite these complications in the left, Dr. Carey is optimistic that my prognosis is good, and I am still a candidate to receive the transplant surgery in my right knee. However, I have to be prepared for the fact that my right knee will likely have the same complications as the left knee.  After an informative discussion with my Surgeon (have I mentioned how much he LOVES cartilage?), my goal is to put off the transplant surgery in the right knee for a few more years. I need to continue to strengthen both knees, and just live my life (with no running or jumping, of course). The upcoming transplant surgeries will be intense, and likely require multiple surgeries, but that's a "future Kirstie" problem. I am cautiously optimistic that I can get back, participating in all the activities that I was partaking in last summer, quite quickly. Dr. Carey admitted that he has a successful surgery patient file, which presently contains a picture of me surfing. The type A perfectionist in me really wants to maintain my "success" status. 😜

I am rare like the exquisite rare pink dolphin! πŸ˜‚

I'm already back in Cayman with my Mom and Ev. Philly has become a bit of a second home these past few years, and although I find the people to be really friendly and the food to be delicious, it is sooo nice to be back in the tropical sunshine! Mom is staying to help out for as long as I need it (thank you MOM!), but I'm hopeful that my recovery will be fairly quick this time around. I need to remember that I did just have surgery, and although it's important to get back into physio and regular activity, it's also important to just chill and take a break. So I'm tabling the cocky attitude and taking it easy. My body deserves that.

I really appreciate all of the messages that I've received from each and every one of you. It means a lot knowing that I have an awesome group of friends and family supporting and cheering me on. I've learned from experience that recovery can be lonely, so it's super helpful to surround myself with people who lift me up. Thanks guys! Cheers to you and cheers to the medical researchers who think cartilage is cool.

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

40 - feeling comfortable in your own skin and swimming with pigs

Hey Friends!

It's been another exciting month - a joint boat birthday party with my buddy Barrett, getting rear-ended in the new (to us) vehicle, and actually turning the big 4-Oh on a boat in the Bahamas!

My buddy Barrett turned 40 a few weeks before me, so we decided upon a joint birthday party, given that we share the same set of incredible friends. My island bestie, Andrea, planned it for us and it was a super fun day! One of my favourite things about the party was that my sister was on island. I love having Kayla here and it was so special that she could be here for my birthday party! The other favourite part of the party was the giant "40" board that Andrea created using my and Barrett's pics from our childhoods. Barrett and I could have been brother and sister, given our dorky blonde bowl cuts and similar frame. We had a fabulous day with super fun peeps, swimming with the famous Cayman stingrays (I kissed one for good luck), drinking champagne in a floating pineapple, and jumping from the top deck of our boat. I even danced on my shitty knees, and although they protested the next day, it was well worth it! At one point, a giant yacht pulled up next to our little rental and I peered over to observe what looked like the Biggy and Puff "Hypnotize" video (I am totally aging myself here!) There were beautiful big bootied girls posing on the helm while large dudes in thick gold chains cooly observed their harem. The back "hatch" of the yacht opened to reveal a fleet of jet skis. It looked pretty incredible. I glanced back at our group who were devouring Doritos and Popeyes chicken whilst shooting Patron from a bottle, and laughing hysterically on an oversized pineapple floaty and thought, "These are my people!" Haha. What a great feeling to celebrate in a beautiful place with people who "get" you. Cheers to being comfortable in your own skin. I think that's what 40 is all about!

It took me a few days week to recover from the birthday festivities and just as I was starting to feel like the party fog had lifted, I got rear-ended at work one day. I was stopped, signalling to turn right and a young kid barrelled into me at rocket speed. Luckily our vehicle is a big mother, and only sustained a large dent, while the kid's vehicle was smoking and leaking, and unable to drive away. I thought that I was fine, but I must have sustained a little whiplash because my head and neck hurt for the next few days, which was unfortunate because Ev and I had planned a long weekend to the Bahamas to celebrate my "real" 40th.

The trip to the Bahamas is pretty easy from Cayman. There is a direct flight that stops in Nassau on it's way to London, so we were able to reach Nassau in about an hour. From there, we caught a small plane to Great Exuma Island - you know, where the Fyre Festival didn't happen? We arrived on Exuma on the morning of Good Friday. I was a cranky. My head was pounding and my neck hurt, and I honestly just wanted to sip a pina colada under a palm tree; however, we were immediately greeted by signage all over Great Exuma stating that Good Friday was a "dry" day until 6pm. Now I'm not saying that you need booze to have a good time. In fact, I  have a pretty strict rule on Cayman - I only drink alcohol on the weekends. It's a slippery slope people, especially on a tropical island where everyday can feel like a Saturday! But...I was on holidays. We had 3 days to celebrate our vacay, and I knew that with another surgery looming in the near future, I would be out of commission for about a month. I wanted to thoroughly enjoy my holiday, dammit! We tried sweet talking the bartender, searching for suspicious looking locals who might bootleg us booze, but no luck. This 6pm thing was legit. Needless to say, by 5:58pm Ev and I were saddled up to the bar, waiting for our first holiday cocktail!

I can see for miles and miles...and not a pina colada in sight!

The Bahamas are beautiful islands - comprised of over 700 islands. The water is the most impressive combo of turquoise and aquamarine blues you have ever seen! The Exumas are home to the famous swimming pigs, and although our tour was initially cancelled due to weather, we were able to get out at the end of the day and hang with the piggies. The pigs are very cool - a combination of a giant dog and a bear, the largest ones were huge - weighing more than 300 pounds. Like little puppies, when your boat pulls up to their island, they lumber into the water, and place their giant hooves on your boat deck, begging for some snacks. There were more than 20 baby piglets as well and the massive sow wasn't bothered if you picked up her babies and gave them a snuggle. I loved this island, laughing nervously the entire time, and placing my empty hands in the air when the pigs chased me for more food.

There were a few others people on our tour. Although, I wouldn't really say that they were "on" our tour, due to the fact that they spent the majority of their time trying to capture the perfect selfie, snapchat, or insta story. I'm guilty of posting on social media - probably over-posting at times - but this was next level! It was apparent that the goal of their "tour" was to capture the perfect pic/vid and then immediately get back to the boat to wait for the next photo op stop on the trip. There was NO participation in the tour. I understand politely asking someone to take a picture of you, but they were requesting snapchat videos and 20+poses! Yes, I took a few videos and pictures, but I did put down my phone and  hung out with the pigs for about an hour without actually documenting it (gasp!). Ev and I couldn't believe that our fellow tourists were so obsessed with their devices that they were missing the experience. Shame! Shame! (again, aging myself!)

Even the pig thinks this is hilarious!

The last day of our Bahamas experience was perfect. It was my actual birthday and the sun was back out, the water crystal clear. Ev and I rented a little 17 foot boat to island hop on our own. We packed a cooler and spent the day exploring our own private islands, cruising amongst beautiful yachts and catamarans, and stopping in at little island bars where we met some really interesting people who spend their days sailing the world. We did misjudge low tide just a bit and ran into a sandbar, but Ev got out in the ankle high water and pulled our boat  into deeper waters. Haha! oops. Overall, it was an incredible day!

found a conch shell

beauty day with my bud!

Now that we're back in Cayman, it's suddenly dawned on me that I undergo my 11th knee surgery in less than a week. We fly out to Philly today, and although I think Philadelphia is a really great city, it definitely reminds of pain and puking - two things that I am not looking forward to at all! Typically I try to prepare for surgery, meditating more and strategizing how I will cope with the pain, but I kinda said "eff it" this time around. My plan is to show up and let my trusty surgeon take over. I'm hopeful that my cartilage man can determine why my knee is locking. I'm crossing my fingers that it's an easy fix, and not an indication that my cartilage implants are failing. My trusty Mom and my buddy Ev will be there to support me, which always helps. I go again!

Cheers friends!

Monday, March 11, 2019

The art of padding bad news

Hey friends! It's been a great month filled with a music festival, a girls' trip including a P!nk concert, and a Brac getaway - so many good times! It's also been a month of MRI's and discussions with my Ortho surgeon regarding the state of the knees.

Let's get the shitty news out of the way first...

Firstly, as a Speech-Language Pathologist for the past (gasp!) 15 years, I have mastered the art of padding bad news within an assessment report. There is a distinct formula: positive news, followed by bad news, followed by solution. For example, "Treshawn is a fun-loving and outgoing child (positive). Treshawn presents with profoundly delayed language skills (bad). Treshawn qualifies for services and will receive weekly speech and language therapy (solution). See? Everyone is happy! Radiologists, on the other hand, have obviously not been trained in the art of padding reports. When I received my MRI report of both knees all I saw was bad bad bad! "X is torn." "Total loss in y." "Z is absolute shit" (ok, it didn't exactly say that, but you get the gist). Nowhere in that report was any mention of how still I was able to sit for over an hour, or how positive my attitude is - WTF? Once I spoke with my Cartilage Guru in Philadelphia, I realized that it wasn't ALL bad. Two years ago I had 2 cartilage transplants and a meniscus transplant in the left knee. It looks like 1 of my implants is frayed and my meniscus transplant is torn. But....1 of my implants looks good. You hear that? GOOD.  Very OKAY, thank you. Let's not even go into the right knee - it's still awaiting transplants and is deteriorating rapidly, but back to the GOOD implant in the left knee. Anyway,  I need another surgery (scope) to clean things up and determine exactly why my knee is catching daily. We will also have a better idea if the big surgery two years ago was successful enough to proceed with the right knee. This will be surgery #11 (not that I'm counting), and I will receive another FREE set of crutches to add to my collection.

Interestingly, my reaction to this news is much different than my usual reaction, which is generally self pity. I do feel bummed, don't get me wrong. The pain does get me down. However, I feel the need to soften the blow to friends and family, padding this news with positive statements like, "It's just a scope," "I'm super strong right now," "I've had an incredible year," etc. A part of me feels like I've let my team of supporters down. I don't want anyone to feel sorry for me, and I loathe that look of pity when others see me limping or struggling to unlock my knee in awkward positions. I know this news upsets my family and friends, and I thank you so much for caring so much, but honestly, I know it will be OK. Even if my surgeon discovers that this shitty disease (Osteochondritis Dissecans) is progressing, I will deal it with, and have incredible people around me who will support me.

Anyway, moving on...

Have you seen the Netflix documentary on the Fyre Festival? The Fyre Music Festival took place in the Bahamas over year ago and was a complete disaster. There was absolutely no preparation or organization and thousands of people were left stranded in the Bahamas with no food, water, or live music, for that matter. When we found at that the first ever music festival in the Caribbean was taking place in Cayman this year, I couldn't help but worry that it might be a Fyre Festival Part deux. Thankfully, it was the complete opposite. Kaaboo is a music festival that has successfully operated in Del Mar, California over the past 3 years. It is specifically created for adults and includes music, comedy, art, and culinary experiences. We watched them prepare the venue for over a year, just down the road from our house. To be honest, initially I thought that there was no way that this space could accommodate 10,000 people. Boy was I wrong! Kaaboo was an incredible experience for us and for all of Cayman. Highlights for me included: no lines (it took us 6 minutes to get from our house into the festival), flushable toilets (yes!), partying with all of my favourite people, and incredible acts, including Flo Rida, Shaggy, Chainsmokers, Blondie, Jason Derulo, Live, Duran Duran, Counting Crows, Sean Paul, Brian Adams, Salt 'n Pepa, and Zed. Everyone at the festival was so happy! There was no pushing or shoving - thousands of people happily co-existed and had an incredible time.  It was a very positive human experience - we need more of those in the world today.  I can't express how awesome it was to hear Ed's smooth voice from the band,  'Live' crooning "Lightning Crashes" as the sun set over the Caribbean ocean. Arm in arm with my island buds, I really felt like life couldn't get much better!

To continue with the live music theme, a group of us girls from the island hopped on a direct flight to Tampa to see P!nk perform live. I'm not a big "girls' trip" kinda girl, and my opinion of girls' trips has been negatively affected by exposure to multiple Real Housewives episodes, where girls' trips generally include hair pulling and hard core manipulation. Thankfully, our girls' trip was nothing like that. Everyone got along. Everyone was chill. Everyone was on a mission to have fun. Perfect! P!nk was definitely the highlight to the weekend. She is an incredible entertainer! Have you ever been to a concert where you desperately had to pee, but couldn't bear to take your eyes off the stage...for even a minute? This was one of those concerts! I was super impressed with her ability to maintain her powerful voice whilst dangling upside down from a trapeze. She IS the real deal. And I really did enjoy the company - we hail from all over the world, and I had a lot of fun with this group of smart, fun, interesting, and witty women.

Funny side note: I got ID'd at the concert and did not have my ID with me (I'm almost 40 for cryin' out loud!). My island buds bought my drinks for me but ran into difficulties when the staff would not accept our Cayman Islands Drivers Licenses, as it wasn't a United States identification.  Luckily one of the girls was quick on her feet and explained that Cayman was one of the US Virgin Islands (LIE!), and embarrassed by her poor geography knowledge, the staff happily served us. Oh dear. Time to step up the American social studies curriculum.

I took a hot minute to recover from my Girls' trip and process the knee news and then hopped on another flight to one of sister islands, Cayman Brac (notice how I keep using the word "hop"?? We all know that I can't hop. It must be my subconscious willing the knees to greatness). I digress...
This trip was much different than the girls' trip, as I was the only female amongst three boys for a few days. I must say... boys and girls are very very different. Shocker! I thoroughly enjoy spending time with both sexes; however, the activities and conversations that males partake in are much different than those of females. For example, where the girls' trip consisted of shopping, gossiping over wine, and some discussions involving feelings, the boys' trip consisted of physical activity, such as throwing rocks at a sign ("What do you win if you hit the sign?" "You!"), and competitive drinking games. Come to think of it, there was some talk about feelings as I distinctly remember Monty being disappointed with a dice outcome and yelling, "Hey Dickhead! drink your shot!" Overall, I really enjoyed our Brac getaway. Despite the knee issues, I was still able to enjoy two beautiful dives and an entertaining road trip across the 12 mile Long Island with some awesome guys. A change of scenery is always a good distractor.

So as you can see, I'm either doing a pretty decent job of padding some bad news within my day-to-day life or I'm experiencing some denial. The jury is still out. As the surgery date looms closer, I suspect that I will have some "moments." But...our fantastic friends, Lindsey and Brad, are arriving on island next week for their first ever visit to Cayman. I'm looking forward to introducing them to our little slice of paradise.


Tuesday, February 12, 2019

I took CATivan once. It was CATastrophic.

So the knees are acting up. Both of them. At the same time. But let's not panic, people. I'm scheduled for an MRI next week and then I will know more.

In the meantime, I've decided to share a rather entertaining MRI tale (or "tail," as you will soon find out) about this one time when I took a cat pill for MRI anxiety. That's not a typo...I legit took a pill prescribed to my cat in a moment of complete desperation. Stay with me...

Anyone who has followed any of my blogs knows that I have a pretty intense fear of the MRI. I'm not sure why. I don't consider myself claustrophobic, nor do I fear loud noises. In fact, before my very first MRI, I reassured the Techs that I was more than fine with remaining motionless for a 45 minute scan. It was in the 10th minute of that MRI that I had a kinda traumatizing panic attack and swore that I would never do another MRI without the assistance of some anti-anxiety meds. Ativan is a beautiful thing, my friends, and was created especially for times like this.

Within our first year of living in Cayman, I found myself in predicament in which I have been so many times in the last seven years - one of my knees was sucking the big one and I required an MRI for a full diagnosis. Given that it can easily take 8 months to get an MRI in Saskatchewan, I figured that I had plenty of time to get a prescription for Ativan before I entered the tunnel of terror. That's why, when the hospital contacted me a mere 3 days after my referral was submitted, I was completely taken off guard when they requested that I come in that very day for my MRI. Shocked by the efficiency of what I had expected to be an inefficient system, I gratefully accepted and then realized that I had 3 hours to get some Ativan.

I did not have time to see my Doctor. In desperation, I began contacting island friends (new friends, given that I had only been on the island for a few months), begging for Ativan like a crack whore. Surely someone on this island suffers from anxiety? I had taken Ativan multiple times, so I knew that I responded well, and I knew the dosage that I required (Disclaimer: I do not condone taking medication without a prescription). I finally received a response from a good non-judgemental buddy who thought that she could get me an Ativan within the next few hours. She promised to message me as soon as soon as she had the medication and would meet me at the hospital so that I could take the anti-anxiety pill before my MRI.

When I hadn't yet heard from her an hour before my scheduled appointment, panic set in. I began rooting through drawers in hopes that I had an old prescription somewhere! Anywhere! Suddenly I came upon a clear pill bottle, containing little blue pills,  which donned the name of my cat, Biloxi Lindsay. I recalled this prescription from 3 years ago when Biloxi had been accidentally locked out of his litter box room by the furnace repairman for 3 days. It had caused my poor little furry friend so much anxiety that he began pulling his fur out in clumps. The little blue pill succeeded in calming down the cat and terminating the undesirable behaviour. That's right - this was an anti-anxiety medication for my cat, and at this point, it was good enough for me too. I quickly googled the pill and discovering that it was safe for humans, I swallowed it down in one quick gulp.

As Evan drove me to the hospital for my appointment, I noticed that I was not calming down. My heart rate was increasing with the thought of enduring an MRI, and I was convinced that the cat pill was having absolutely no effect. Thankfully, my buddy messaged me, "I have an Ativan for you. Meet you there." Once at the hospital, I took the Ativan and breathed a huge sigh of relief as I sat in the waiting room. I would be just fine. The Tech greeted me and apologized that they were running late and I would likely have to wait for another 30 minutes. No problem. I was chill, man. Every little thing was gonna be alright. I was feline fine!

Thirty minutes later I awoke to the Tech shaking me awake, "It's time for your MRI," she exclaimed cheerfully. Right meow? I wiped the drool off my chin and followed her to my tunnel of terror. However, this time, it was the tunnel of tranquility.

For 45 minutes, I was pawsitively catatonic while the magnetic field caused my protons to spin (or whatever the hell the MRI does?). I was almost disappointed when the thumping and loud sirens came to a halt. That's it? "That was pawsome!" I told the Tech enthusiastically.

After I managed to dress myself and head back into the waiting room, I was greeted by Evan, who litter-ally took one look at me and became wide-eyed and open-mouthed. Apparently I looked a mess.  It is possible that the combination of the cat pill and Ativan resulted in the purrferred effect - you know, times ten. There are reports that I was purring, purrhaps grooming myself with the back of my paw hand. I may have been rubbing my face on Evan's leg and sniffing the air for's all speculation, but definitely pawsible.

Moral of the pills are for cats, you dummy! Don't take Cativan.

Cheers Friends - I will post once I know more about status of the knees.

Monday, January 21, 2019

From begging for mercy to throwing rocks at your neighbours - the 5 stages of the FLU

So I got rocked by the "which end??" flu this weekend. If you don't know that specific type of flu, I will spare you the grotesque details, other than to paint a lovely little scenario. Picture this: your body is telling you that something terrible is about to happen so you rush to the bathroom only to be greeted by the smug porcelain grin of the toilet, "Well hello there,  Ms. Lindsay! Nice of you to join us at such an hour! Will you be sitting or kneeling this morning?" You realize that you have mere seconds to make a very. important. decision. No one should ever ever be faced with this decision! This is the "which end?" flu, and it is one of the rudest thing that your body can do to you.

As I endured about 54 hours of sick (yes, I counted every. single. hour.), it occurred to me that I was on a journey through 5 predictable stages on the flu timeline. Allow me explain the 5 stages of the flu, to which I am sure you can all relate:

1) Survival
The survival stage of the flu is the initial violent entry into flu-ville. As horrific things are happening to your body, you initially wonder whether this is, in fact, how it all ends. You question whether major organs have been ejected from your body and if a 9-1-1 call is even feasible at this point in time. You tightly grasp the toilet seat/bathtub/cat's tail, quietly beg for mercy, and hang on for the ride.

2) Denial
Once the violent phase of the flu appears to be diminishing, you begin to reflect on what caused the sudden and shocking sick. You secretly hope for food poisoning, which is a temporary hell, and begin messaging all of the friends with whom you've recently dined, "Anyone get sick from that sushi last night?" You begin to panic as your friends reply with, "Sorry bud.  Feeling fine (sad-faced emoji, green sick face emoji)."  Dammit. The horribly selfish part of you was secretly hoping that you could lament over falling asleep on the toilet with your face in a garbage can with someone...anyone? This is also the stage when mass exodus occurs within your home - loved ones gingerly slide you Tylenol under the door and flee the country.

Evan fled to Austin. Biloxi, fearing that I would die without feeding him first, snuck into Evan's carry-on.

3) Acceptance
Once the fever and chills settle in, you begin to accept your reality. You do, in fact, have a flu. Your friend just messaged you that she's heard it's a 48 hour bug, so you set your alarm and settle in for 40 more hours. No worries. You create a lovely little bed out of towels on your bathroom floor,  at the end of your porcelain lifeline.  Who knew that your bathroom floor could be so cozy? And those cool floor tiles feel heavenly on your fevered face. You begin celebrating small successes, "I haven't puked in about an hour so maybe the worst is over?" You've been meaning to cut back calories this week, and today you've managed to eliminate...well about 1500 calories from your day. Wow, think about how great you will look in your bikini next week!

4) Anger
Once the situation has calmed down a bit and you are no longer making split second kneeling/sitting decisions, the anger begins to build within you. Who did this to you? You rack your brain, imagining each and every asshole person that you have contacted within the last 24 hours. "I bet it was that student in year 2....he looked a little green and he sneezed during my therapy session." You may even begin turning on your friends, "I bet it was Stacey. He took a sip of my margarita. He's shady like that." You realize that is now hour 51 so you angrily message your friend, "You said this was a 48 hour flu. You liar!! You lied to me!" You look out the window and realize that it is a perfect tropical island day - children are playing in the pool, tourists are sipping their cocktails on the beach. F#$% EM! F#$% them all! Your FOMO is at an all time high. It is so unfair that you are sick on the weekend! You worked so hard all week, dammit. You earned this weekend! You secretly pray for rain and snuggle back on your bathroom floor bed of despair.

5) Triumph
You successfully digest a bowl of rice and message everyone you know, "I ate rice! I ate rice!" You remain upright for more than 15 minutes and nothing falls out! You open up the blinds and let the sunshine flood into your room. You throw your sheets into the washer and properly wash your face - it's time to rid all evidence of the sick. Sure you're a little worse for wear. You will need to make an appointment with the chiropractor to get that rib back in conquered the which end flu! You are a survivor. You have successfully defeated the enemy. Rejoice!

Cheers to surviving the flu!

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Awkward first date with L.R

I haven't been on a first date in a really really long time - 23 years in February, to be exact, but I remember that first date like it was yesterday. Evan Lindsay had asked me to a movie - the original Star Wars was being resurrected to the big screen. Although I was never super keen on Star Wars, I was super keen on Evan Lindsay and so, without too much overt enthusiasm, I nonchalantly agreed to accompany him on our first date. In actuality, I was dying inside. I was going on a date with THE Evan Lindsay!!!! I liked this guy. A lot.

First dates, regardless of how well they go, are awkward as hell - especially when you are an already self-conscious floundering  teenager. Is he going to pay for the movie? Is he going to try and hold my hand? What if my throat makes that weird noise during the super quiet scenes? What do I do if our fingers touch in the tub of popcorn? Should I eat the popcorn or pretend that I don't eat? And of the he going to kiss me goodnight?

My first date with Evan, in my 1997 mind, went exceptionally well. He picked me up at my house and came to the door to retrieve me (some boys just honk - rude!) He took charge in line and paid before I even had the chance to offer. He ordered popcorn and insisted that I share it with him. As far as I knew, there were no strange noises or smells emitted from either of us. And... there was a really awesome, yet respectful, goodnight kiss at my house when he dropped me off.

The reality of our first date, however, was that it was far from perfect, but I didn't really realize until after the fact, that it indeed, was awkward as hell.

Firstly, despite the fact that it was -40 degrees Celsius that evening, Evan insisted on rolling (manually rolling) down the car window on the way to the theatre. Although I thought it was a bit odd, I assumed that he was just hot. The reality, which I discovered years later, was that Evan was trying to mask the smell of a first date jitters fart on the drive to the movie theatre. During the movie, unbeknownst to me,  Evan apparently attempted to hold my hand at least 30 times. He later admitted that just as as he built up the courage to creep his hand within inches of mine, he quickly retreated in a state of panic. The build-up to our first kiss was also...well, a bit weird, really. Evan stood at the front door, staring blankly at me until I finally broke the silence with, "Well...I would like to kiss you." to which he responded, "Yes. Me too." Haha. Smooth. Overall, in retrospect...awkward as hell, but decent outcome.

How it all began....

The reason I am reminiscing about our awkward first date is that I had a very similar experience today...oddly enough, with our new vehicle.

Our vehicle, a gently used Land Rover (L.R), finally arrived last week off of the slowest boat that's ever sailed across the ocean from Singapore. Some rough seas delayed it in Jamaica, and a dead battery and poor communication with our broker delayed it in the port here in Cayman. Anyway, it was a character-building lesson in fortitude, but Ev and I finally received L.R on Saturday. We were immediately quite happy with her. Not only did she have very low mileage, but she appeared to be in decent shape. Our first observation was that all of the windows rolled down and there were no zip ties holding anything together #adultinghard.  The combination of  forest green exterior and light leather interior result in a look that I refer to as "rugged luxury." And...the icing on the cake? Multiple cup holders and 2 sun-roofs so that Ev can tan his head en route!

The issue with L.R. is that we don't quite "know" each other yet. We are still in the process of feeling each other out. I sense that there's a future for us - I don't want to jump the gun, but this feels "long-term" to me (teenage girl squeal!!!)

When I settled down on the soft cream leather seat this morning, I hastily inserted the key fob and pushed the "start/stop" button. To my dismay, nothing happened. Thinking that I had used too much force, I repeated the steps - gently - and L.R happily purred away. Obviously, L.R prefers a gentle touch. Got it.

I turned on Bob FM - my favorite 80's and 90's station, and began my trek to the office to the tune of "Semi-Charmed Kind of Life." So far, so good. As I indicated my left-hand turn, I was alarmed by the obnoxious thumping of both the front and rear windshield wipers. Unlike every other right-hand drive on island, L.R's windshield wiper lever was located on the right hand side of the steering wheel! It was apparent, already, that L.R was a bit of a quirky bird, who obviously sends mixed signals (See what I did there? Haha).  I must have been a sight, driving through morning traffic, on a sunny 80 degree morning with my windshield wipers on full speed! I recovered and signaled my turn, quickly turning off the windshield wipers. I was back in business. Suddenly something  caught my attention in the rearview mirror - the rear windshield wiper was still on. As I attempted to find the correct combination of lever clicks and turns, it was apparent that I was not operating L.R to her satisfaction, and the rear window wiper persisted for the entire 45 minute drive to work. Me and L.R were just not feeling it.

Once I arrived at work, I pushed the start/stop button and removed the key fob. Despite removing the key, L.R continued to run. Not only did L.R continue to run, but she began an obnoxious "beep...beep...beep" sound that typically indicates one is reversing. "What now?!  Babe. Talk to me. What do you want? Stop? Go? What do you want me to do?" L.R had spun me into a whirlwind of confusion and frustration. "I don't know how to push your buttons yet!" Eventually, it occurred to me that the beeping was a result of another driver who was in the process of parking much too close to L.R (she needs her space, people!). I put the key fob back in the ignition and removed it, ever so gently, while quietly stroking her steering wheel and singing the Chainsmokers, "Baby pull me closer in the backseat of your Rover..." Like pure magic, L.R complied, and turned off. Complicated and high maintenance. Got it.

I've decided to persist with L.R. It was a bit of a rocky start, but I believe someone of her caliber is worth the extra effort. Given that she is from Singapore, I'm anticipating some cultural differences, but I believe that with time and patience, there is a wonderful future in store for us.

Cheers to awkward first dates ;)

caress gently and speak softly

L.R likes long walks on the beach...

...and sunsets. NOT try to hold her hand - she needs her space!