Friday, April 4, 2014

Falling apart -- and lessons from a goat from years past

The first three months of 2014 have flown past, and I don't mean that they have flown past in the usual way. It seems that all of us constantly talk about how time flies, but the last three months have been a blur of one doctor's office after another, one test after another, and an emotional roller coaster. I've been diagnosed with five different conditions and told that I might have cancer (twice now), and I flip flop back and forth between wanting to throw in the towel and move to the burbs and then gathering up the strength to keep pushing myself forward -- because seriously, what would I do in a condo in the burbs?

I can't believe it's been almost a month since my last post. We have a lot of catching up to do! Two Sundays ago I was in San Francisco at a publishing conference and I had a few hours before my plane would be leaving, so I decided to take a walk around Fisherman's Wharf. After a delicious breakfast at an organic cafe, I was two blocks into my walk, and for some crazy reason I decided to run across the street, didn't look down, and tripped over the curb. I hit my head and shoulder on a brick wall, skinned the palm of my right hand and my right forearm, sprained the thumb on my left hand, and really smashed my knee. Having far too many problems with my knees in my life, I knew I needed to head back to the hotel and spend the next two hours with ice, which I did. I also bandaged up the skinned areas. Twelve days later (ER, primary care doc, ortho doc + x-ray, ultrasound, and MRI), my knee is still swollen and painful, but I only have a massive hematoma in the bursa. The bad news is that I also have grade four arthritis in the knee. Who knew they grade arthritis? And four is the worst grade. (I've never received the worst grade on anything in my life!) A quick online search tells you that grade four is when they start talking about knee replacement.

The latest cancer scare came when they x-rayed my knee. The morning after I was in the ER, I got a phone call from the hospital, and the woman said that a radiologist had looked at my x-rays, and although he did not see any breaks, he did see a "lesion" on my tibia. He said that I needed to have an MRI to rule out bone cancer. I had a good cry after I hung up the phone. Seriously, how many people are told they might have cancer twice in two months. The thyroid biopsy came back benign in February, and thankfully the knee MRI did not reveal a cancerous lesion. They concluded that it was either a benign fibroma or an old injury. And after the ortho doctor saw me, he said that it was caused by the knee surgery I had as a teen.

But wait, that's not all! The day before I left for San Francisco, I visited my primary care doc, because the gastroenterologist said he didn't think my swollen throat, cough, and hoarseness were caused by gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), although he was willing to do an endoscopy to rule it out. Rather than wanting to wait for those results, I took my little self right back to my primary care doc's office the next day.

While I was there, I had a coughing fit, which she said sounded like a bronchospasm. She had me blow into a peak flow meter, and 300 was the best I could do, which is low for someone of my age and height. So, I did a breathing treatment with a nebulizer and my peak flow went up to 350, which is still low but improved, so she said I probably have asthma. She gave me a prescription for an inhaler, as well as another prescription for an oral asthma med. I quickly discovered that the pain in my chest was from my bronchial tubes getting inflamed and that using the inhaler helped tremendously. Initially I was using it about four times a day, but now that I've been taking the oral meds, I've only had that tightening in my chest about every other day. I've also purchased an air purifier for our bedroom. It stinks to know that I have asthma, but it is far less severe than some of the stories I've heard, so I'm grateful for that and for knowing what causes the pain in my chest.

So, between January and today, I've been diagnosed with Hashimoto's disease, GERD, asthma, a mold allergy, and grade four arthritis in my knee. In addition to my primary care doc, I've also seen an endocrinologist, a general surgeon, an orthopedic surgeon, a gastroenterologist, and I've been referred to an ENT and an allergist but have not seen them yet. I've had a thyroid biopsy, a leg ultrasound, x-rays, an MRI, and more blood tests than I can remember. I have an endoscopy scheduled for the end of April but may skip it if this swollen feeling in my throat goes away.

So! What next?

As you might imagine, I have had a lot going through my head in the last three months and especially in the past twelve days as I've been laid up in bed! I've had way too much time to think, and I've had tons of time to research these various ailments, as well as hang out on Facebook. I saw someone complaining on a goat group about buying goats from an older man who was selling off his herd because he could no longer care for them, and the person who posted was not very charitable in her assessment of the living condition of the goats. All I could think was that I never want to be the crazy old goat lady who held on to her goats longer than they could be properly cared for, but I seriously expected that time would come when I was 70-something, not 51!

In January, we incorporated the farm as Antiquity Oaks LLC because I wanted to focus on our goal of creating a learning farm for future homesteaders and farmers. I was going to formalize and expand our classes and internship program. We had so many plans -- more than I want to share at this point -- because it has all come to a screeching halt for the past three months. My goals and enthusiasm waver from day to day and sometimes moment to moment, depending upon what is happening. Sometimes I feel like this is the end! I'm washed up and done and should just move to a condo in south Texas. Other days I'm positive I can still make my dreams come true -- helping to educate people about growing, preparing, and eating good food. I am still as passionate as ever when it comes to my desire to help people live better lives. Besides that, I was just about ready to lose my mind after a few days in bed!

It was much easier, however, to talk about healthy living when I had not had a cold in five years. It has been hard for me to accept myself now that I'm not the perfect picture of health. I can't help but feel like I have failed in some way, even though none of my ailments are specifically related to food or diet. Having been adopted, I don't know my complete family medical history, so the cards could really be stacked against me genetically. One reason I have tried to maintain such a healthy lifestyle is because I could not look at my ancestors and see that they lived long, happy lives.

Even though I have had some days when I thought about calling it quits, I do still find myself thinking about this year's doelings growing up and becoming productive milkers. I consider including meat and eggs in our new CSA instead of only providing vegetables to members. I ponder the effectiveness of adding ducks to our garden for insect and weed control and then selling their eggs. I search online for pond plants that might help to naturally control algae. I think about building a cabin where interns can live. Whenever I think about the future, I am here. Antiquity Oaks seems to have become a part of my identity and my very being. Although I might be able to leave for a short vacation, I don't think I could really give up this lifestyle.

Years ago we had a doe named Rosewood that was suddenly paralyzed from a spinal cord injury. For the first half hour or so, she was furious. She was screaming and struggling wildly to stand. And then she calmed down and accepted her new reality. I knew she had taught me a priceless lesson. I could not imagine any human being so quickly accepting such a fate. Rosewood eventually learned to walk on her front legs alone, balancing her body and her limp hind legs in the air. I have been thinking of her lately and am thankful that I do not have anything nearly as devastating to deal with. If she could learn to walk on her front legs, then surely I can deal with the challenges that have come my way.


Acid Reflux Remedies said...
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Tracey Koch said...

I am so sorry you are having to deal with all this. I can't imagine what the last few months must have been like! I hope the future brings you much better health (a fewer doctor appointments :-)

Anonymous said...

So sorry to hear about your trials. More hands make light work. The cabin for the interns sounds like a great idea and would be a great help to you.

Nancy K said...

Something to don't have to give it all up and move to a codo! Perhaps just cutting back would make the load more bearable and still allow you to live your life where your heart is. I had no choice but to give up my animals (except my dogs!) when an injury left me unable to perform the work necessary to care for them and maintain my property. Because my children are all grown and on their own and I live alone, there was no one else to help pick up the slack. So now, I live in a townhouse, in a small city. I love being close to everything. I love seeing my children more often and I LOVE getting food delivered! But I miss the beauty, the peace and the quiet of living in the country. I miss the privacy. I miss owning my own home where I can plant what I want to plant and nobody can tell me I have too many bird feeders. But most of all, I miss my sheep. My heart has a huge hole in it and a constant ache. I am so blessed for having had the opportunity to share my life with sheep ( and chickens!) and I have to admit to feeling a bit lost and adrift, not really knowing what I "am" anymore...

You are in my thoughts and prayers.
Nancy Krohn

Lori said...

you have so been put through the wringer, deborah! i have been there with the scary medical diagnoses, too, so i know how it feels. <3 just know that i am sending all my prayers and good thoughts into the universe for you! xoxoxo


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