Diary of a Hysterectomy – The Hospital

Day 0. “Eviction Day”

I’m a wreck. No other way to put it. The enormity of what’s happened over the past 18 months (marriage separation and uprooting my life, illness, the death of my aunt, etc), and now this has proven to be too much to handle today. I’m tired and anxious and can’t stop crying.

Anything and everything is setting me off and I am so, so cold. I’m taken to what will be my room and, thank you private health insurance, my room is a delightfully vintage single with an outlook onto the leafy street below. Single and bloody cold. What is it with hospitals and having the temperature set to a max of 12 degrees?! Anyway, M and I wait for the nurses to come in, check my files and issue me with the appropriate wrist bands. Thus begins the constant repetitive questions:


“What is your name and date of birth?”
“What are you here for today?”
“Do you have any allergies?”

The theatre nurse comes in and introduces herself and I lose the plot entirely, much to her shock. I’m sheepish through my tears and assure her that it’s nothing personal.

Catlyn Tears
Can’t. Stop. Crying.

I change into my gown (less clothes, even colder now) and pressure socks and with a last smooch from M, I’m wheeled out, still bawling, to surgery where I meet one of the other theatre nurses who gives me one of those wonderful heated air blankets. OMG SO WARM! I nestle under it and ignore the urge to put my head under the covers and hide.

My anaesthetist arrives and he sees that I am one big snotty mess. He gently tells me what’s going to happen, how I am going to feel, that he’s there to make sure I stay asleep (a bloody good thing if you ask me) and bring me out of it again when all is said and done. His voice is very soothing and I am more inclined to believe that I’m not going to die this day.

Finally I get wheeled into theatre and there’s my surgeon to greet me. She grabs my hand, holds it tight and gives me a pat before going through the official process of starting the procedure. They take away my heated airbag and I instantly start shivering and crying again.

The surgeon hovers above me while the anaesthetist does his thing. I squeeze her hand as the needle goes in and the cold heat of the happy sleepy-time medicine shoots up my arm.

I only vaguely remember asking for another shot of whatever that was before I surrendered to the darkness.

That lovely fuzzy feeling.
More glorious, numbing medicine…

Waking up again seconds – though it might have been hours – later, I realise that I’m already back in my room. If I woke up in recovery, I don’t remember it.

I don’t remember much of anything for the rest of that day.

The one thing I do remember before drifting off again was that it was FUCKING FREEZING in that room.

Day 1 – First day Post-Op

Happy sleepy-time drugs finally wore off and reality set in. I was down one uterus but up one very annoying catheter. Not in a whole lot of pain, but then I hadn’t tried to move, so “yay, catheter!” I guess.

Thoroughly entertained by the fact that my entire stomach is numb from mid-rib to my girl bits. I spend much time poking at it. My stomach, that is. I poke my stomach. Not my girl bits.

Nurses (both student and fully qualified varieties) are lovely and checking on me every couple of hours around the clock. Lovely, but it means I can’t sleep. The pressure cuff around my arm keeps waking me and they keep asking me my name and date of birth and if I have any allergies.

I discover the Food Network on television.

I’m still cold.

I keep confirming my name and date of birth every two hours.

Every. Two. Hours.

Day 2.

Given my first Clexane in the wee hours of the morning. For such a tiny needle, that shit hurts like hell.

Still being asked who I am as if the answer will be a surprise.

Still cold. Starting to think the coldness is a sterile environment thing. It has to be cold so bacteria doesn’t grow. At least, that’s what I am telling myself to justify why I can’t feel my fingers and toes.

Nurse comes in with a tray of Stuff and Things™. Interesting.

“We’re taking the catheter out today!”

Oh. Yay…?

YEOUCH. That is the most unpleasant sensation.

“You feel like getting up and having a shower now?”

What the what, now?!

“Not really…”

“It’s best if you start moving around, it helps speed up healing.”

Nurse-speak for, “You stink. You need a shower and we need to change the sheets.”

I slowly – so slowly – manage to manoeuvre myself out of bed.

Oh, wow. Wow. With a side of OW. You know that sensation, like you’ve been sliced open and your guts are falling out? No? Well, use your imagination.

Hysterectomy Hack and Slash
Exactly like this.

I am honestly frightened everything is going to fall out.

I feel vaguely sorry for the poor student nurse who has to stand in the shower and help wash me but I am feeling mostly extremely aware that I am naked, sore, and not alone in the shower. The hot water is a small comfort but I would much prefer it alone.

By the time I’m out, dried and dressed in my own PJs, my bed has been remade and I have to admit I feel better for the shower. I finally beg for a couple more blankets as I just can’t deal with the cold anymore.

Extra blankets are brought and I am happy as a bug missing a uterus in a rug.

Warmth and food and sheer exhaustion from just moving between the bed and the shower means that I crash out hard for a couple of hours. When I wake up the nurse comes in and says that I was completely out and she didn’t want to disturb me so she just checked my temp while I was sleeping and left me alone.

I really like that nurse.

Day 3.

Given Clexane again. Nasty little fucker of a needle, that. Not a great way to wake up.

I really want to go home now. Third night in on very little real sleep apart from cat-naps that are interrupted by changing of the guard at the nurse’s station or pain keeping me awake means that I am very quickly losing the plot. I’m tired and bored and I miss my mum and my cats and my boyfriend and I am seriously starting to regret having the operation because of the sheer amount of discomfort I’m in. Moving hurts, the bed hurts, my neck hurts, every muscle not used to being employed for the simple act of walking is screaming at me. I’m on a cocktail of Endone, Ibuprofen, Paracetamol and something that might have been slow release morphine…

The nurses ask me how I’m feeling once or twice and I just start crying again. They do their best to soothe me and explain that even though it might not seem like it, I’m actually doing quite well.

I don’t believe them.

I want to go home, I tell them.

I can go home when I can manage to go to the toilet on my own, they tell me.

OH REALLY?

CHALLENGE. FUCKING. ACCEPTED.

Thus begins the Quest to Poop.

The Mission to Void the Bowels.

The Goal to Drop Anchor in Port.

You get it.

I can’t go home before they see that my poop shoot is shooting the poop unimpeded.

In hospital, you poop…. or you die.

With the catheter gone I’m peeing like a champ on my own. Still can’t feel much down there so it’s only when my bladder is absolutely aching that I realise I need to go. I can never really tell when my bladder is empty either, which is slightly disconcerting. It’s a weird sensation of stuff being there but not quite as there as it was pre-op.

I decide that since I am up and able to shuffle around by myself without help, I may as well have a shower. In the meantime, someone comes in and changes my bed again.

THEY STEAL MY BLANKETS.

Major whining ensues until I get them back again.

Missing everyone. With the exception of M, no one has come in to visit me. I don’t mind it so much but I honestly had not expected to be in hospital for so long and the lack of sleep mixed with pain mixed with medication is making me constantly weepy and I just want a friendly face that isn’t attached to an arm with a hand that’s weilding a needle…

End of the day, still no poop. Worrying because I have hideous, painful gas. My stomach is bloated beyond ridiculousness.

Day 4. This day has been officially renamed to  Waiting to Poop Day

The nurses still can’t remember my name or date of birth. It’s starting to get old.

Able to walk around a little bit more so I’m wandering slowly around the ward. I’m doing well, so they tell me. I don’t care, I tell them back. I want to go home.

“But you need to…”

“Poo. Yes, I KNOW.”

Peppermint water is supplied to help settle my bloated tummy but all that does is make me gag. I’m given some laxatives but after a few hours there’s still no joy.

Suppository time.

Yes, it’s that glamorous but I no longer care.

I WILL TAKE THINGS BEING SHOVED UP MY BUTT TO GET OUT OF THIS COLD, COLD HOSPITAL.

And like everything else in this hell hole, the nurses fingers were freezing too.

Suppository works in the vaguest sense of working. The colt from Old Regret didn’t exactly get away but the gate was left open. I no longer feel so stopped up. Small blessings.

“Can I leave now?”

“Yes, you can go home…”

“YAY!”

“…tomorrow.”

“OH FUCK YOU.”

Day 5.

I’m going home today! I’m going home today!  The nurses come in and ask me my name and date of birth again, but this time I get a new question…

“Who is coming to pick you up?”

I shower. I pack. I watch more Food Network.

I repeat my name and date of birth at least four more times before M arrives in the early afternoon to rescue me. But we’re still stuck there for a while as we wait for my discharge and to be given all the wonderful drugs which stop me from feeling the fact that I have a rather large hole in my abdomen.

The trip home is an interesting experience. G-force and abdominal surgery are not happy bedfellows. Every time the car breaks, I feel my entire lower half lurch. Fortunately I have a towel and wrap it around my belly for support – I could kiss whoever it was that suggested that little trick.

Essure update. AKA “Now I need a hysterectomy to fix this shit!”

I figured it was about time to update the situation with my Essure implants now that they’ve been in for a few months. Nothing has improved and as you can see from the title of this post, I am having a hysterectomy to have the things removed.

Why do I need such a serious surgery to get rid of something so small?

Let me explain…

While a lot of the constant pain immediately following the procedure eventually died away, I noticed a gradual, itchy, throbbing pain starting probably about one or one and a half weeks into my regular cycle.  This pain would increase in intensity until I started spotting a week later. I was (and am) still using the BC pill so you can imagine how frustrating it is.

My period pain itself went from uncomfortable but manageable to horrific “GIVE ME ALL YOUR MERSYNDOL NOW!” levels.  I’ve never experienced anything like it.  I was hoping the first time would be a once off but every period since has been exactly the same. Excruciating.

I knew I needed to get them out. I wasn’t going to be like some women I have since met who have dealt with similar symptoms, and much worse, for years.

This time I’d done my reading before going to see my surgeon again. After much investigating, I realised that I was not a candidate for a salpingectomy (just having tubes removed) as one of my implants is protruding into my uterus by about 7 or 8 coils. This means that if just the tubes were taken out, they would have to leave part of the implant in my body.

Can I get a HELL NO!?

So I decided it was a full hysterectomy for me.

Armed with this information, I went back to my doctor who, predictably, was dubious about my reasons for being there. The expected questions were asked. I am fairly certain she thought I had changed my mind about wanting children.

I know I got a little hysterical during that appointment. I wanted to be believed that everything I was experiencing was directly related to the Essure and I didn’t want to argue with her about getting them out. In the end my doctor agreed to do the surgery for me without much fuss.

So now I’m having a hysterectomy.

I am frustrated and angry that it has come to this. I’m upset that I am literally being forced to decide to have my uterus taken out or just suffer.

I am pissed as hell that women have fewer and fewer rights with regards to bearing children (or the decision not to) and yet we are used a guinea pigs. The fact of the matter remains that Bayer have not had these things properly tested. The risks outweigh ALL of the benefits.

If you, dear reader, are also suffering after having tubal occlusion done with Essure implants (or any coil or mesh implant), please lodge a report with the Theraputic Goods Administraion on their page. The TGA needs to know that this device is causing more harm than good.

Essure Implants – A Testimonial

Warning – This post talks about female reproductive organs and contraception. If you don’t like reading about that stuff, go away.

I’m taking the opportunity to write about my experience with the (somewhat infamous) Essure implants.

If you’ve found your way here after googling Essure either before or after you’ve had the operation, firstly, don’t panic.

DO NOT PANIC. It’s the worst thing you can do. I know there is a crap-tonne of information out there and just about all of it bad, and my own story isn’t that great either.  That being said, I wanted to relate my experience because all I could personally find were horror stories.

Preface

Like many gynecologist’s have done, my doctor suggested tubal occlusion, aka an Essure implant, because it was a quick and simple procedure and something that I could have done while I was getting another medical issue seen to.

On the face of it, Essure implants sounded awesome. No requirement to put me under a general anaesthetic, I didn’t need to go to hospital to get it done as there was no need to open me up surgically, recovery time was two days at most as opposed to a couple of weeks for a tubal ligation. Because I am fat (my doctor had the good grace to call me “cuddly”) she said that it would be the easiest option for us both. I couldn’t disagree – being overweight does come with it’s own complications when it comes to medical procedures. But it all still sounded great.

That was pretty much all that was told to me about the procedure and the implants. I got a brochure detailing how the implants worked and was sent on my merry way.

An Explanation

For those not in the know, a tubal occlusion is where two tiny spring coils are fed into the fallopian tubes. This causes a natural reaction within the body and the irritation from the coils causes scar tissue to form around the coils, thus providing a natural block in the fallopian tubes that stops the egg delivery process from the ovaries. The name of these coils are called Essure and they are made by Bayer.

My Procedure

When I went back almost a year later, my doctor was still happily recommending the implants but she did tell me that there was some sort of action against them in the United States. She then explained that she used to just do an x-ray at the three month mark but since there had been questions about it’s effectiveness, I would need a different procedure that involves being turkey-basted with dye to be sure that the fallopian tubes were blocked.  So I just thought it had something to do with their effectiveness.

Sounds good, right? Here’s where it went pear-shaped for me.

My situation deviated from the norm in this regard as I had to get another small procedure called a LLETZ or large loop excision, which did involve being admitted to hospital as a day patient. My doctor did both procedures during the same admission so I was put under a general anaesthetic rather than just being done in the chair. All went well on the day, and I was out of hospital within five hours – most of which was actually spent waiting for my turn and recovery afterwards.

After going home from the hospital I was a little exhausted and a little bit sore, though I am certain that was from having way too much going on up in my privates for one day, so it wasn’t entirely unexpected.

Two days after the procedure I actually felt worse that I did when I came home from the hospital. Yes, it hurt but it wasn’t so much an “ouch” as it was a constant, intense ache in my lower abdomen. Every now and then there would be a horrible pinching that I could feel somewhere from within and it was extremely disconcerting that I couldn’t reach the area to rub it better. It was the weirdest, most unpleasant sensation I can ever remember experiencing. This feeling increased to a weird pulling-like sensation and that’s when I started to realise I could feel these things inside me. The mental damage that did was almost as horrific as the pain I was in.

My Recovery After Essure

I was told that I would be down for a couple days at most.

Here’s what actually happened.

Day 1 (after procedure): A little spotting, nothing serious. Moderate discomfort but nothing a regular headache tablet couldn’t dampen. Was more tired from my usual crappy reaction to the anaesthetic.

Day 2: More discomfort, pain in my lower back and still experiencing spotty/gritty discharge though this was from the LLETZ loop, not the Essure implants. Looked up “essure” on Google and proceeded to have a meltdown.

Day 3: Increasing discomfort.  Not spotting but lots of watery discharge. Again, this was most likely my reaction to the loop, not the Essure implants. Still very upset by what I found online.

Day 4: Post op pain diminished and back pain gone but I was still feeling uncomfortable and sore. Noticed a weird smell at that point and took myself to the doctors and was prescribed a general antibiotic.

Day 5:  Back at work, however sitting for long periods of time became uncomfortable. The horrible pulling sensation starts. Emotional/mental distress increases a thousand fold as I had read even more what Google had to say about these fucking implants.

Day 6: Mild spotting starts.  Discomfort remains high and steady. Had to go home from work early. AGAIN.

Day 7: It still hurts to sit for long periods of time and the weird pinch/pull sensation increases when I move around too much.

Day 8 to Week 2:  Bleeding increases. Pain still as it was.  Constant, tiring. Starting to become a little despondent and, frankly, frightened as hell at what I had allowed to be done to my body.

Week 3: Bleeding seems to be on the rise.  We’ve gone from spotting to proper bleeds but at the end of the day.  This makes sense, as it could be from increased activity, but it is very concerning as I shouldn’t be bleeding at this point at all. (Still on the active contraceptive pill, too.)

Week 4: Ok, I might have had sex a couple days before I should have (I had to wait for my cervix to heal completely which was horrible, particularly when you quite like your boyfriend) but I was more toey than a Roman sandal and needed physical reassurance that I was still desirable and that my bits still worked. Answer; I am and they do. I was happy. But the day after I still had the bleeds. And the hurting was still very much happening if I walked around for too long… or coughed.  This prompted a call to the gyno for a follow up appointment.

At that appointment I was told that my cervix looked awesome (yay, I suppose) but that it smelled like I had an infection.  I also explained about the bleeding too and was given medication for both.  As I was still in pain, she referred me on to have an x-ray to make that the implants were where they needed to be and also have a blood test to see if anything serious needed addressing.  The results from both of those were clear.

Week 5:  Round one of medication taken and the infection seemed to clear up.  The pain had definitely improved too so I get the impression that it might have had something to do with the Essures at this point.  STILL bleeding heavily though.

Week 6:  Started taking the non-active contraceptive pills and let nature take its course just in case it was my period breaking through as the gyno suggested.  HOLY SHITBALLS, the cramps…  That was new.  I sometimes get horrible cramps but this was something else.

Week 7:  Period finally finishes but still spotting. ARGH! It stopped towards the end of that week.

Week 8 to present:  NO BLEEDING. NO PAIN!

Yes, it took eight. fucking. weeks to recover from this procedure and I still have to go back sometime soon to get that final examination done.

What I Found On Google About Essure

I won’t repeat what I found but very little of it is good.  The only positive testimonials to be found are on the Essure website itself which, frankly, I find dodgy as fuck.  I discovered that I had been sold on something that is swiftly proving to be dangerous.

What is most frightening was the sheer number of women who have come forward to say that they are or were unwell and in pain and needed full or partial hysterectomies to get rid of both the implants and the pain they caused.

Hell, even Erin Brockovich is in on it – she’s running the class action.

Am I angry at my doctor for not having told me these things?  YES.  Yes, I am.  Very much so.

Am I upset that I didn’t turn to Google first to do my own investigations before getting the procedure done?  Yes, I am. If I had seen this information beforehand, I would have simply opted for tubal ligation and just dealt with the recovery process.  Buyer very much beware.

Would I recommend this to anyone?  No. No, I wouldn’t.  Certainly not based on my experience.  Eight weeks is a lot of time to be in pain and to be bleeding. Now I have the added stress of wondering what is going on inside my body at any given time, if these things are going to move or break, if I am bound for a lifetime of recurring infections, if I will be in pain again if I start a serious regime of exercise, IF I WILL GET PREGNANT – WTF?!

Let me just reiterate that I got these things put in because I didn’t want to get pregnant and wanted a hormone-free method of long-term contraception.

So far, these things have not made my life any easier. I am yet to see if they are going to make it horribly difficult.

 

Simplest and Best Cauliflower Soup EVER

Is there anything better than cauliflower soup?

Well, there’s chocolate, I guess.

And doughnuts.

And apple crumble doused liberally in extremely vanilla-y custard.

But I digress.

Cauliflower soup is the bees knees of soups and has been a favourite since forever and best of all it is piss-easy to make.

Ingredients:

  1. 1 Large head of cauliflower (Or as much as you want, really.)
  2. 1 ltr chicken/vegetable stock (For the lazibums around, just buy a carton. For the cooking aficionados, spend a day making stock from scratch and laud it over the rest of us.)
  3. 1 TBSP caraway seeds (Even if you hate caraway seeds, like I do, they need to go in this soup as they do something to the flavour of the cauliflower that is magical.)
  4. Salt and pepper to taste (A good, big sized pinch for a big pot.)
  5. Optional: Milk, evaporated milk, cream, cheese, etc. (Will discuss later.)

Method:

  • Roughly chop up your cauliflower and throw it in the pot. Give it a bit of a rinse if you’re one of those annoying “I only buy organic” people and your cauliflower is still liberally sprinkled with the poo of fairies and unicorns.
  • Pour in your stock until it just covers the cauliflower. If needed, you can top up with water or more stock.
  • Throw in your caraway seeds.
  • Turn the stove onto a medium-high heat and cook the shit out of it until the cauliflower is easily mushable with a spoon. MUSH! You can leave it rustic like I do with most bits still intact or you can get your stick blender our and make it smooth. That all depends on your visual taste.
  • Check your seasoning at this point. Chuck in some salt if you think you need it.

Now, the soup is entirely edible at this point and if a quick, tasty meal was what you were after then this with a couple slices of buttered toast is delightful.

If you want to beef it up a little you can do the following:

  • Make a rue (white sauce) with cheese and cook it into the soup or;
  • Throw in a bottle of cream and call it “Cream of Cauliflower Soup” (this is both decadent and tasty) or;
  • Pour in some evaporated milk (low fat, regular, dairy-free, whatever you like) for that gentle balance between broth and cream. This is my personal favourite.

All of the above additions work really well if you want to go a bit fancy and blend the soup smooth.  This is a great starter or just a comfort dish on it’s own. Try dipping garlic bread into it.

OMFG-YUM.

Just a side note, this particular recipe makes a very light, liquid soup; it’s not meant to be thick. It’s the “broke student” version of several recipes you can find online.  If you’ve only got a couple dollars, this makes a BIG pot that can keep you going for a while.  If you want something a little more sumptuous, add in some starchy potato, onion, garlic and butter for richness.

 

I like big ‘buts’ and I cannot lie.

(Yes, I’m back. For now.)

So after a rather successful first week back into it… I lost 1.6kg.

YAY!

Didn’t really do much except not eat ALL THE THINGS.

Not even any exercise. That’s a nice ease back into the new routine.

I was like, “Sh-t?! REALLY?! Not eating ALL THE THINGS works?”

“Yes,” said Scales, “Not eating ALL THE THINGS works.”

But…

You knew there was a ‘but’ coming. Go on. Look at that ‘but’.

LOOK AT IT.

My out-laws arrived for a five-day stay.

And they believe in things like happy hour and entrees and nibbles and big dinners…

THEY ARE TINY PEOPLE! HOW ARE THEY SO TINY?!

So I ate.

I ate ALL THE THINGS.

And Scales snickered and asked in that low, smirky kind of way, “You ate ALL THE THINGS again, didn’t you?”

And I answered “Fuck off, Scales.”

But Scales was not done yet.

“Look at that,” Scales flashed with barely suppressed, unmitigated evil glee. “LOOK. You gained 3kg. IN FIVE DAYS.”

And, a little more quietly, guiltily, I said, “Fuck off, Scales.”

Actually, it was the Tuesday night (when we went out to a Greek restaurant in Williamstown and I would eat a MOUTAIN of well-cooked flesh) that I had hit a new low-high. My size 16s don’t fit anymore. My size 18s (the things I recently bought to be my interim “fat pants”) are wearable but way too tight.

I reached up into the top of the wardrobe and pulled down a pair of size 20s.

20

I never wanted to see that fucking number again, but there it was.

I put them on and they were snug but comfy and I cried with a mixture of regret, heartache and relief.

Regret that I had not had more self control this past 12 months when everything seemed to go pear-shaped health-wise, heartache because I never wanted to be at this place again and yet, here I was, and finally relief; because without pants I would have been going to dinner naked and ain’t nobody should have to deal with that.

So this weekend I took stock, ate a little more (and enjoyed it), weighed myself again, put in all the numbers and climbed back on that fat-arse horse.

Seriously, bugger the wagon. I can scare the horse into submission by threatening to eat it.

I mean beat it.

Nah, ‘eat’ sounds better.

I am tracking everything again too – my phone reminds me to make sure I track. I was actually really guilty that I didn’t track this weekend and I kept getting beeped by my phone saying, “Helloooooo.. have you tracked today? I know you haven’t tracked today otherwise you wouldn’t be getting this notification! Helloooooo! YOU NEVER CALL! I only spent SEVENTEEN days in labour trying to give birth to you! NOBODY LOVES ME!!*”

Yeup. That WW app does guilt like the Jewish mother I never had.

*True story. I was 17 days late. Shut up. I was comfy.

Radioactive Iodine Treatment for Hyperthyroidism in Cats

Renlish.com - Radioactive Iodine Treatment for Hyperthyroidism in CatsDo you have a cat who is starting to look a little thinner, a little greyer, a little unkempt? Is he or she starting to demand food constantly – not in that annoying “I’m a cat” way but in a weird, desperate sort of way? Is he or she drinking a lot? Throwing up for seemingly no reason? Chances are your cat may be suffering from Hyperthyroidism.

Hyperthyroidism in cats is not unlike that in humans. It is the increased production of thyroid hormones in the thyroid glands and sadly, it’s becoming increasingly common in our moggies, particularly as they get older. Thyroid hormones, among other things, causes a cat’s metabolic rate to go into overdrive and burn energy way too quickly resulting in often dramatic weight loss, even if you give in to your cat’s complaints and feed it more. As I found out, it can also make your cat extremely ill in other ways.

I knew something was up with Bindi initially when, a few years ago, she started throwing up. Now I am used to both of my cats’ regular upchucking. Dugite and Bindi do it with aplomb but this wasn’t right.

For Bindi not to be hungry, there had to be something wrong. And as she wasn’t hungry, she wasn’t eating much and so she was throwing up nothing but clear bile. This carried on for a couple of days, steadily getting worse until she was refusing to eat and drink at all.

Renlish.com - Radioactive Iodine Treatment for Hyperthyroidism in Cats
“Nope.”
We monitored her for about 24 hours once we realised we actually had a problem that wasn’t just the regular “cat’s a bit crook” thing before I took her to the vets. She was in a bad way. Severely dehydrated and exhausted, her little body was suffering. She was immediately put on a drip and kept overnight for observation. Clearly there was something wrong with her stomach (or so we thought) but we couldn’t tell what it was.

Several appointments and dollars later we ended up having an ultrasound and a small biopsy done. The results were inconclusive. She may be suffering from an infection or she may have have had an obstruction or she may have stomach cancer. Ugh. The only way to check was to do a full depth biopsy. That meant opening my little kitten up. That was simply a no-go. I wasn’t about to put my frail little puss-puss through that.

While the stomach issue was still a mystery at this point, after the multitude of blood tests and examinations we put her through it was determined that Bindi was also extremely hyperthyroid and was given medication to treat it.

Renlish.com - Radioactive Iodine Treatment for Hyperthyroidism in Cats
At the vet. Again.

There are a few ways of treating the condition. Methimazole in tablet and gel form are the two most common ways of treating hyperthyroidism in cats, but this medication needs to be given multiple times a day for the rest of their lives which is understandably a huge commitment to take on.

Unfortunately neither of these sorts of medications agreed with Bindi because she threw the tablets up due to the sensitive stomach and the gel, while it initially worked, started to lose it’s effectiveness and the dose needed to be increased – and there’s only so much gel you can rub into a cat’s ears!

When my vet initially suggested the radioactive iodine treatment for Bindi, I was horrified – both at the cost and the idea of the procedure. It sounded full-on and a thousand or so dollars is not small change for most people, I totally get that. But given how much money we were spending on regular blood tests and medication and vet appointments, that’s pretty much a year’s worth of medical bills for a single cat right there.

While Bindi was an ideal candidate for the treatment, there is another thing you need to consider when investigating this as an option for your cat.

Renlish.com - Radioactive Iodine Treatment for Hyperthyroidism in Cats
And again.

Hyperthyroidism can often mask other issues in older cats, in particular kidney disease. Their systems are working so fast to keep up with the thyroid production that all the organs are affected. Once the thyroid is treated, the system slows down again to a normal rate and as such, the kidneys also slow down. Sometimes this return to a more normal pace causes problems if the kidneys are no longer working well on their own anyway. Your vet will arrange a full set of bloods to check that your cat is otherwise in good health prior to treatment.

The radioactive iodine treatment itself is very simple. As it involves radioactive material, it needs to be done in a specialist centre (your vet can refer you onto a specialist) that has the proper facilities in which to carry out the procedure.

In most cases, the specialist will sedate the cat and induce it to swallow a capsule. In some cases, the iodine is injected directly under the skin.

As the thyroid is the only organ in the body that needs iodine, nature is allowed to take it’s course and the radioactive iodine targets the thyroid, thus killing the cells producing the thyroid hormone. No other organs or glands are affected.

That’s it.

Renlish.com - Radioactive Iodine Treatment for Hyperthyroidism in Cats
“Mum? Mum? MUM?!”

The only thing now is to wait for the all-clear from the vet that your cat is safe to bring home. Any treatment requiring radiation means that there are significant dangers of radiation poisoning to people as well. That means your cat has to stay in isolation until they are no longer radioactive. In my case, Bindi was in isolation for seven full days until she was safe to bring home again and even then I was only allowed limited contact with her for a further week.

(Bindi put paid to this idea very quickly. My future hypothetical children may very well be mutants.)

Since having this done it’s like we’ve returned to the Bindi of five or six years ago. Fat, happy and slightly (ok, very) neurotic instead of skinny, bloated, stressed, sick and… yes… still neurotic. Would I do it again if my other cat fell ill? In a heartbeat. And as it turned out, the horrendous vomiting turned out to be part of the hyperthyroidism and we haven’t had a chuck in months apart from a hairball or three.

I have NEVER been so happy to clean up hairballs in my life.

Renlish.com - Radioactive Iodine Treatment for Hyperthyroidism in Cats
Cuddles with a much healthier Bindi

I seriously cannot thank Animal Accident & Emergency enough for the way that they looked after my Bindi-boo this time around and all the other times over the years that I’ve rushed to them with my sick kitten.  I was kept up to date from start to finish. Dr Abraham is a fantastic, knowledgeable and personable specialist and is a real “cat person” too. I was very comfortable leaving Bindi to her care and that of the awesome nurses at the centre.

Radioactive Iodine Pros & Cons

Cons:

  • It’s expensive.
  • It’s not without the usual risks that come with sedating  animals.
  • It can result in the opposite condition. (Hypothyroidism)
  • In younger cats, the condition may reappear after about 5-7 years and the procedure may have to be done again.
  • It may not completely work the first time around.
  • It may unmask other issues such as kidney disease.

Pros:

  • Successful results are mostly permanent for older cats.
  • One time cost pays for itself over the remaining life of the animal if it is in good health.
  • Benefits and improvement in quality of life are almost immediate (from my experience).
  • No daily medications to remember!
  • No added stress (for you or your cat) of blood tests every few months.
  • No ongoing specialist bills!

DISCLAIMER: I am not a vet. I am an animal lover and I am very attached to my pets. This post is based on my own experiences and the information I was given and researched. ALWAYS consult your vet if you think something is wrong with your pet.

No I won’t “suck it up”.

You see me whine on Facebook about being sore and tired. You sit there and smile knowingly or roll your eyes because you’re a gym-goer too. Or a runner. Or a crossfitter. Or an otherwise Tough Mudderfucker, but you’re not me. You know all about muscle soreness and recovery and optimal heart rates and that fabled exercise high.

You think you can say certain things to me that I will react positively to – because we’re friends.

Backstory.

I’ve just started back at the gym and back into regular exercise after watching my weight change eight kilograms in the wrong direction. For someone who was already around 102kg and has fought tooth and nail to get down from 152kg, that’s a scary number to see again. So I’m back at the gym. I’d love to go back to my personal trainer but even at $20 for a session (and I feel I need at least three sessions a week to be worth anything to me health-wise), I can’t afford it. So I do it on my own and try to do a good, honest job of pushing myself.

But you know what? This shit’s hard.

So, yeah, I complain.

Occasionally, like today, I write a mildly amusing-to-me comment on Facebook expressing my current hatred of whoever invented gyms and that I was sore and that I was going to make myself sorer by subjecting my body to yet another session of physical torture known as working out.

What I got in response, among other things, was being told to “harden up, princess” and “suck it up, cupcake”.

Ha ha, right? Really funny. Ren’s just whinging again. Let’s poke fun at her. She won’t mind.

She does mind.

OH BOY, she does.

Yes, she is whinging again but she just needs a little support. Sometimes she needs to be coddled because, heaven forbid, she’s feeling more than a little fucking delicate at that moment. She might actually need for someone to remind her why she am doing this when she hurts from repeated sessions of “sucking it up” and to keep going when tears of actual physical pain are mixing with sweat.

I do “suck it up”.

I am “hard”.

And you will hear/see/read me complain because that’s what I do when I’m feeling bad. Because, fuck you, I want someone to tell me that this IS WORTH IT.

What you don’t see or hear about is the way my hip joints grind so painfully the day after a particularly hard session of squats and treadmill work that I can feel the sensation of it in my back teeth. What you don’t see or hear about is the way my lower back throbs for days because I was stupid and just so happy to be moving that I forgot the “Ren can’t run or jump” rule but did burpees, star jumps and jogged in place on solid concrete for ten minutes.

So DON’T tell me to harden up. I do this shit in SPITE of how much I suffer for it in the days following.

I have to balance what I do in order to be able to walk the next day (if not the next hour) because I’ve got other shit I need to “suck it up” for and get done.

I love my friends but sometimes I really want to smack them up the back of the head.

With a shovel.

Renlish.com
Words to live by.

Finally getting some Hair Help.

So last week I decided to do the brave thing and look into getting some hair help, or rather, “helper hair” as so beautifully put by a couple of hair folks I follow online.  My loss has been such a slow, emotionally painful process that I am really the only one who notices on a daily basis unless folks actually take the time to look at me properly. Then they realise, “Holy shit, Ren! You’ve lost your hair!”  It’s been a massive blow to my confidence and self esteem to say the least and has been the catalyst for some major depression and significant weight gain.

Well, no, the emotional eating due to the depression has been the catalyst to the weight gain. But the hair thing hasn’t helped at all with that.

Anyway, after spending ages looking and websites that sold wigs and toppers (in Australia), I settled on easiwigs.com.au.  I had contacted a couple of other sites in regards to help but never received a response. Seriously, NOTHING turns me off a site that supposedly “helps” people when they don’t respond to a simple query, particularly when they invite people to contact them for help.

Whatevs.

While I didn’t bother to pre-contact easiwigs, I did find that they were the only hair folks that offered a colour ring loan scheme where you could purchase and return one and the money you spent on the ring is used as a store credit off a hair piece.  Works for me.  I have been having such a difficult time trying to choose colours that I realise that I really did need to see things up close and actually compare the shades available to what’s left on my own noggin. See, I am technically blonde, but I am literally the darkest shade of blonde before you could call me light brown. And I’m an ashy blonde at that. And you know what? That ashy-too-dark-to-be-blonde-too-light-to-be-brown colour is hard to find! ARGH!

So I was stoked when I got the colour ring in the post and rushed home to take a squizzy at the samples. I was actually really pleased to see these in person rather than rely on the computer screen. If I had, I would have made TOTALLY the wrong decision in colours. What I thought was a match clearly wasn’t.

Renlish.com - Jon Renau Synthetic Color Ring
Jon Renau colour ring for synthetic hair.

Of course I had a Moment™ when I saw the hair. This was happening. This shit’s real. Cue tears. Again.

I don’t have to get hair. I really don’t. I just look like a person with thin hair. But I’ve always had a head full of the stuff (fine textured as it may have been) and to lose a third, possibly more, of it in the last year after having been through various effluviums over the past few years has been hard to come to terms with. Seeing the balding patch at the front of my hairline and my widening parting has been more than a little upsetting to me.

Fortunately I don’t need a full wig yet – I honestly have no idea if I will ever get to that point. I suppose that’s the lucky thing about having androgynous alopecia. I am not losing big patches of hair and ending up with bald spots. It’s diffuse and constant all over. So I really only need what is called a “topper” (a hair piece that clips in on top of ones crown) at this point just to add a little more coverage and volume.

There are a couple of Jon Renau toppers floating around that I quite like – the med-length layered look is my typical style and there are some pretty ones in the synthetic hair so it made sense to go and take a look at the JN colour ring.

My perfect match – absolutely perfect – is #14 on the blonde collection (the darkest blonde). At a stretch I can do #12 on the brown collection (the lightest brown).

But do you reckon the toppers I like come in those shades?

BWAHAHAHA!

No.

I can see that this little endeavour of mine will take a little more patience and perhaps some compromise, particularly since I have to stick to the synthetic hair for the time being. The human hair toppers, while easy to be customised to my desired colour and style are more than a little out of my price range.

I’m trying to see the fun in it. I can go crazy colours. I can dye my bio hair to match. This can be a fun adventure instead of a trial. The positives can outweigh the negatives.

I’m not dying – and I can finally be a red head.

Aldactone (Spironolactone) for Hair Loss

My experience with Aldactone (otherwise known as Spironolactone) has been interesting.

Please be aware that everything in this post is based on information I was given from my own doctor and should not be seen as medical advice! This is based on my experiences only. Please consult your doctor before starting any new medication.

Renlish.com - Aldactone for Hair Loss

 

My Story:

In July 2014 my hair started to fall out again. This would be the fourth time in a period of about 18 years. My GP ran the usual plethora of blood tests to see what might have been the cause. Unfortunately those results told the doctor and I very little about why it might be happening. Apart from being dangerously low in B12 and D vitamins and having a very high bilirubin reading, there really is no real medical reason my GP could find. I had not recently been pregnant/given birth so I couldn’t attribute the loss to those sorts of hormones either. So he sent me off to a well-regarded dermatologist who is somewhat of a specialist in hair loss.

The specialist examined me and told me what I already knew; I was experiencing an effluvium and he proceeded to tell me all about Telogen Effluvium. I will write another post about that later, though my response to his explanation was that I already knew I was going through that sort of effluvium. I needed know WHY so I could perhaps treat the cause and not the symptom. He then had a good, up-close look at my hair and reported that there was fairly extensive signs of follicle shrinkage.

In other words, Androgynous Alopecia, better known as female pattern baldness.

Women, like men, can lose their hair. Unlike men, for most women it’s a case of a diffuse loss all over the scalp though concentrated at the hairline and crown.

Sounds delightful, eh? No, not really.  This was not my specific diagnosis but the specialist did consider it a major contributing factor. There is no way to reverse the damage of the alopecia. The shrinkage* is permanent. However, the plan was to stop or slow the hair fall. This is where spironolactone comes in.

*Follicle shrinkage means that the hairs grow back finer and finer until they do not grow back at all.

What is Spironolactone / Aldactone?

Spironolactone, more commonly prescribed as the medication, Aldactone, is actually a diuretic that is given to people who are suffering from specific illnesses which cause fluid retention and high blood pressure.  Unlike regular “water pills” that you can get over the counter at your pharmacy, spironolactone is a potassium-sparing diuretic. As such, it can only be used to treat certain illnesses or symptoms and needs to be prescribed by your doctor and usage must be regularly monitored via blood tests.Taken without monitoring, it can raise the potassium in your system to dangerous levels, causing other disorders and illnesses.

That being said, of the handy side-effects of the drug is that is it also an anti-androgen which inhibits the body’s natural production of dihydrotesterone, the hormone responsible for hair loss.  At the same time it can also help with hirsutism and acne.  It is this anti-androgen which makes it an ideal medical treatment for hair loss, in theory.

I say in theory as it’s commonly thought that Aldactone can help regenerate hair follicles and make new hair grow – unfortunately this is not the case. It has not been proven to do so.

My Experience with Aldactone 100mg:

When I initially took the drug, I was advised to take half doses for a week as it may cause some dizziness.  That was good advice to get. My head spun after the first few doses but then things settled down.

I actually haven’t had any other bad side effects that I can think of.  Aldactone can make a mess of your menstrual cycle (as if it’s not messy enough! AMIRITE?!) however being on the contraceptive pill makes that a non-issue for me.

One GOOD side effect of the drug for me has been that my hair is nowhere near as oily as it used to be.  I was a 2nd-day washer.  My hair became very oily very quickly before I started on Aldactane, however I noticed within a few weeks of taking it I didn’t need to wash my hair nearly as often.  In fact, I can now get away with washing it once a week. The only time I really need to wash it is if I’ve been sweating or I want to style it nicely or I want to condition it because it’s looking a bit dry.  Otherwise it stays fluffy and pretty much “just washed” – which helps with the illusion of fuller hair, anyway.

I will admit that the lack of oily hair actually freaked me out a bit, so much so that I had to email my new hair loss guru, Lauren from Corner of Hope & Mane to see if it was normal. She was happy to report that it was.  Lauren’s blog is a great resource for people suffering from hair loss and a site that I found quite comforting when I was at my lowest while dealing with this problem.  I think I can attribute my feeling “ok” with things getting worse (if they do) to her.  So thanks, Lauren!

Another really good side effect is that the pimples on my face have all but vanished. Yes, I’m 36.  I should not be getting pimples, but I do and I’m a picker so I am grateful that the spots are gone.

One of the widely reported side effects of Aldactone is that it can cause what is reported as “the dread shed”, where there is a massive shedding of hair a few weeks or a couple of months into taking the drug. I will admit I have not had this yet.  Considering I have been taking the drug for four months consistently, I don’t think I am likely to experience it now but I will certainly update if that changes.

Has Aldactone worked?
Renlish.com - Selfie
Christmas 2014 – very thin hair.

Yes.  And no.

Maybe?

I don’t know!

I have been taking the medication at the same time as trying many other things.  I also suffer from pompholyx so I am constantly on the look-out for skin products that won’t bring me out in an itchy, blistery mess.  I changed brands of shampoo and conditioner twice (I’m now using Dermaveen shower gel as well as the shampoo and conditioner), I’ve changed brands of oral contraceptive, I’ve started taking B12, Flaxseed oil, Vit D, Biotin and a mega multivitamin to help with my deficiencies. I’ve even been using laser light therapy on my hair semi-regularly for about eight weeks. Any or all of these, together with the Aldactone may be helping.

The hair loss has been lessened, this much I am sure of.

Has it stopped?  Sadly, no.  At this point in time, unless it does stop fairly soon, I am seriously considering investing in some “helper hair” to see me through.

 

 

 

 

 

Broken Brains & Lumosity.

So, I have this Thing. It’s a Thing that causes me lots of trouble. It’s a Brain Thing.

And this will probably be the first time in my blogging history that I have admitted this “out loud” at all in any serious way.

Sometimes this Thing apparently makes my brain not want to work properly.

It started with a slight stutter that began in high school. Don’t ask me why it started then. It was early on, probably in Year 7 (that’s junior year of high school, I guess, for those of you who may not understand the Australian grading system). I was sad, lonely, friendless, depressed, being bullied by a particular girl who made my life a living misery for twelve solid months. I wagged almost a full term of my first year. How I passed I really don’t know. I think I was also overcompensating for a mouth full of metal – metal which I had for SEVEN. FUCKING. YEARS. For all the good it did me. I didn’t want to talk, I still couldn’t get my lips to move around the braces properly but then I would get so stressed about it that even when I could speak, the wrong words came out.

It was something which became more noticeable to me as I got older and as a result I simply got quieter.

It’s something that continued to the present day.

It was a few years ago now that I was hit with a scenario that will probably stay with me forever – because it made me realise that this wasn’t just a little inconvenience. This was an actual, serious Thing. I was stuck at home because my car – my lovely old 1978 Datsun 120Y Coupe (mustard yellow, if you please, with all leather interior) wouldn’t start. The battery was fine (because I’d only bought a new one the month before) so it wasn’t just an issue of jump-starting it and heading off. In my despair, I called the RACV for help.

I mean, seriously. This how ridiculous it gets – and I can laugh now but when it happened it was painfully embarrassing.

I was reciting my registration number and I said “G for Dad”.

G for Dad.

There was a brief yet intensely uncomfortable pause and then a snortgiggle at the other end of the line. I joined in, even though I was cringing and then said I was having a right shit of a morning and I was late for work and I really needed someone to come out and get my car started for me SO STOP LAUGHING AND PLEASE HELP.

So there’s that.

And now there’s the memory thing. I have been having trouble remembering things. Short term, long term, it doesn’t matter. There have been days where I have arrived at work and I don’t remember certain parts of my journey. For a twenty-minute ride, that’s impressive. A little bit scary. I have trouble remembering things at work that I should be remembering after 18 months being there. The list continues.

And numbers. Seriously, I hate it when someone calls with a problem with their account. It takes me forever to work it out – if I can even work it out. I don’t see numbers right. I cannot work things out in my head. I would be in serious trouble without a calculator.

I’m not smart. I would really like to consider myself intelligent but I know that I am not. I have a basic knowledge of many things so I can carry on a conversation well enough. But I am not smart. I have many friends who may disagree with me on this and while it would be sweet of them to say so, I know that what they perceive as intelligence may just very well be the fact that I am more perceptive than intelligent – when you spend a lot of time not talking because you can’t physically and mentally form the right words, you tend to observe and take in a fuckload of information. But at age 35 (almost 36) I would expect my brain to be working at it’s peak, not heading in the opposite direction. Intelligence I can improve on with practice but ye olde grey matter needs to be in working order for that to happen.

So with that in mind, I joined up with Lumosity. I’ve been doing some brain training which, if nothing else, makes me a little more alert afterwards. It’s basically playing a set number of games each day to improve brain function. Activities include things like memory, speed, reaction time, complex recognition, spatial memory and all that fun stuff. There’s a whole lot of science-y stuff around it but I figure that anything which will help my poor little neurons to pick up their game a bit is a good thing. I’ve also got mum and the manbeast into it as well seeing as how a family subscription was only $30 more than a single.

I guess I’ll report back in a few weeks and let you know if there’s been any marked improvement.