zen.org Communal Weblog

March 31, 2011

Knitting Is Fun—Yes, Even For A Guy

Filed under: — brendan @ 19:20 IST

Today, my second day trying, I think I’ve got the basic part of it .  The knitting part, anyway; the “cast on” part, which is the first step in doing a project, is still difficult and I’ve got to get more lessons from Elana The Teacher(tm). Even though I mess up some little thing every other row, give or take, I got into the rhythm.  Now it’s just a question of practicing.  I find it an incredibly soothing thing to do, and in particular my eyes didn’t feel any real strain, in contrast to reading my book or typing on the laptop, both of which are limited in how long I can do them before I start feeling a bit of a headache or tired eyes.

Eggs for dinner ?!

Tonight I had scrambled eggs with toast for dinner.  Yeah, I know, I’m so Irish, born here, now lived here as an adult for 12 years, and yet there are still habits of this culture which surprise me.  On the hospital ward’s list for possible choices for dinner, every day, they always include Scrambled Eggs.  They tasted good, the toast was great, and the tea accompanying it was fine.  One nurse said it’s a change from the norm.  She has no idea.

Being rolled through a doughnut

This morning I was told I had to go for a CT scan.  Ironically, this was fine with me because it meant I was going to some other part of the hospital, and not staying in the same place. 🙂  In contrast to when I went for my eye exam at the beginning of the week, this time wearing the mask (a filtering half-mask, which apparently everyone calls a “duck mask“) felt fine.  Well, a little weird still, but no upset tummy.

I think the scan is used, in my case, to check the state of the inside of my chest to see if there’s much/any infection still there.  To do it, I lay down flat on a long (comfortable) board, with my head resting on a separate cushion.  A huge doughnut-shaped device with a big gap (like three feet?), there’s a part inside it which spins quickly.  I have to reach my arms above my head, and a recorded voice says, “Please breathe deeply and hold your breath.”  (Yes, ma’m.)  Then it slowly rolls through down the length of my chest, and the same voice then tells me, “Please breathe normally.”  (Thank you, ma’am.)  It’s less than ten seconds, and is reasonably comfortable—except for my out-of-shape shoulders which get really tired stretching my arms like that.

A tracing dye was injected through my Hickman central line, after they tried and failed to find a usable vein in either of my arms.  I’m not dehydrated, so they were just being unhelpful, I guess.  The dye makes it easier for them to identify everything, as was explained to me at some point recently. 😉

The Hickman central line went in on the second day I was in the hospital, since they need to do daily blood draws, used it for one of the chemo treatments, etc.  It’s an alternative to incessant needles in the arms and hands.  It’s a little intense, thinking about what the central line is actually doing (basically direct access to the heart through the Superior vena cava.  It takes almost no time for them to get blood out for tests, in particular.  Apparently it can (and will, in my case) stay in place for many months.  Patrick, in his first visit, asked about the incision which he saw on my neck, so I showed him the central line and explained it’s how they can get samples from me and give me medicine in a really easy, painless way.  I bet he’s long since forgotten about it.  But I think it’s equal odds I’m underestimating his remarkable memory—and how the minds of children work.

Skype just plain rocks

Had a great chat this evening with the boys, with Elana, and got to talk to our good friend Magda for the first time in more than a month.  Even got to say a nice hi to our neighbor Grace and talk about how today went well.  It’s all a really wonderful way to let my mind travel out of this place, even for a little while, and interact with people in another place.

Don’t forget your emotional side

A couple of people came on the first of what will be regular weekly visits to talk with me about the emotional/psychological side of all of this.  I get the impression it’s part of a new study or service, since I’ve been here for more than three weeks and you’d figure such a thing would make sense to do earlier than now. 😉  Anyway, they’re part of a division focusing on psycho-oncology services to help people cope with cancer before, during, and after treatment.

I’m not sure what to expect from that part of it, but it’s nice to know there are further resources there.  They had a sheet asking me to rate from 0 (none/low) to 10 (severe/high) my state emotionally, related to anxiety, and other stuff.

Each time I see “oncology” on a nurse’s ID badge, or having heard the same word this morning, my TV-laden mind thinks immediately of Robert Sean Leonard’s character on the TV show House. 😀  (I’ll watch anything which includes his acting.)  There are better ways to understand a word, I know, but at least that more difficult one has a really interesting twist to it (interesting to me, at least).

How to relax

Elana got a high-backed chair so we could both sit in chairs while I ate my lunch today, instead of eating it while “sitting” in bed.  It was a real treat, and I’m growing fond of using the chair.  (I’m typing this while sitting in it now.)  This afternoon, I did a Sudoku puzzle while listening to music on the iPod loaned to me by a good friend Nic.  Mentioned before, the music is a cool mix of a lot of stuff I’ve never heard before, and then other stuff mixed in which I recognize.  I want to see if I can make this something of a daily routine, at the very least to get my butt out the bed and sit normally.  It felt wonderful; sitting in a normal chair, doing a puzzle, and listening to music made me feel almost human.  I could see myself doing the same in a library or in the park near our home.  A nice subconscious change of setting.

New word: Neutropenic

In my blog posts, I’ve been talking about my white cell count going up.  That’s apparently the easy generic way to describe it.  The nurses and doctors regularly say I’m neutropenic, meaning a specific type of white blood cell, the neutrophil, is low.  This is the count they’re watching.

One interesting part of all of this has to do with what I’m able to eat.  I’m currently on a neutropenic diet, which essentially means I can’t eat anything which might carry any sort of bacteria or exposure to illness.  So no soft cheeses (bye bye feta) and really only packaged cheese—fine by me, since Ireland seems obsessed with cheddar cheese :), no uncooked anything, no salads, no fruit I can’t peel (like grapes), etc etc etc.  I can’t wait—can’t wait—til my diet is back to normal and I can eat some salad.  Lettuce, tomatoes, goat cheese, artichoke hearts, the list could go on for pages.

Stop counting cups

I’ve been set free from having to keep track of exactly what I drink!  I can use the toilet to pee again (instead of their containers to keep track of volume), and I don’t have to write down that I had orange juice with breakfast or exactly how many cups of water I’ve been drinking.  Woo hoo!  Despite how much I seem to enjoy living life by lists, it’s cool to know I’ve got at least one routine further removed from my hospital experience.

Too many commercials

At home, I set up a small PC running
MythTV to record TV shows for us, similar to commercial products like the TiVo or the Sky Plus box.  One (very positive) side to using it is that we never watch TV commercials.  Like, never.  We just jump over them.

In the hospital, I don’t have the same luxury.  Actually, I barely watch any TV here anyway—if I do, it’s usually to watch an Irish football (soccer) match (game).  Instead, I usually choose to do other things (read, Sudoku puzzles, listen to the radio, play cards alone or with Elana, write this stuff).

Anyway, the other two patients who are in the same area as my bed watch a lot more than me.  There’s a TV for each bed mounted from the ceiling; sound comes out of each, but it’s possible to use headphones instead.  Neither of those other patients use them, though.

I think I’ve now heard more TV ads in three weeks than I’ve actually watched or heard in more than a year.  Maybe two.  And I’ve still no interest in buying the soup, or watching the TV shows, or traveling to the places they’re selling.  I know—commercials are how television is able to exist.  Same with radio.  But once you’ve had a taste (or lived for years) with little exposure to them, going back to “normal” TV is quite a shift.  The same thing happens when we’re in the US and watch the news—actually, in America there are far more ads in comparison to broadcast television here in Ireland.  And we’re not interested in buying the stuff in the US, either.  I’m so the wrong target market.

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