Sunday, August 28, 2011

Hurricane Irene

Today, the Boston area is in the middle of some nasty weather from Hurricane/Tropical Storm Irene, which started to hit yesterday afternoon.  I actually slept through what I think was the worst of the Boston-area weather, at least according to the radar at Weather Underground.  Right now, it looks a little rainy and pretty windy out.  I haven't lost power, although I had some flickers about an hour ago.*

Right now, I think the most annoying thing about this storm is the "OMG SO OVERHYPED" reaction.  I don't just find it annoying because of the political implications; I find it obnoxious because I'm really not entirely sure how the storm was overhyped.

Let's think about the Boston area, how much hype there was, and what's actually going on right now.

The MBTA decided to shut down today, after 8am.  People were advised to stay indoors and not drive, unless leaving/driving was necessary.  Coastal and low-lying areas were warned about flooding and advised to prepare for it.  Folks planned in advance in case they lost power, or if they lost power and clean running water.

And what's going on?  Trees are falling, lots of people have lost power, and there has been flooding in various areas.  It is extremely wet, dark, and windy outside.

So, how was this overhyped?  Yes, the storm weakened before it reached us (from a cat 1 hurricane to a tropical storm).  But it's still here.  And this isn't just a bad thunderstorm.  And naturally, most of the people complaining online about the hype still have power.  You're not hearing a lot from the people who've lost power; even if you have mobile internet, you're probably not going to want to waste the batteries when you're not sure when your power will be back on.

In NYC, the "omg overhyped!" reaction is even more unacceptable.  Entire blocks in the city flooded.  People died.  That's not overhype.

And then onwards to the political implications.  Because this isn't just that people crying "overhyped!" are fucking wrong.  This is about the responsibility that government has to protect citizens.

No one knows exactly what will happen when bad weather hits.  We don't know which houses will flood, or exactly which trees will fall.  But it was obvious that the east coast was going to be hit with a major storm, and people needed to be protected.  Governments made the right call and took steps to protect people.**  If they hadn't, it would have been worse.

This is an example of government working, not an example of how government is useless or shouldn't bother itself with things like hurricanes.  An example of when government does not work to protect people?  Katrina.  When Katrina hit six years ago, people were unprepared.  Government was unprepared.  And the death and destruction was absolutely devastating, not just because it happened, but because it could have been prevented or minimized.

So, the bottom line?  If you got through H/TS Irene without losing power or having your life interrupted in any way, that doesn't mean in any way that the storm was overhyped.  The storm wasn't overhyped, and because governments and people took the storm as seriously as they did, the storm isn't causing as much death and destruction as it could be.

* Had three more flickers just as I finished writing this post, around 1:45pm.  GAH.

** An exception needs to be noted: there is no evacuation plan for prisoners in Rikers in NYC.  Not just "there was no plan for this hurricane."  There is no plan, period.  While I believe that many people in that prison are in there for good reasons, that does not mean that it would be totes okay if a hurricane flooded the facilities.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Two miles omg

I went out to dinner tonight with a friend of mine; we went to Burtons Grill and got the Restaurant Week menu.  It.  Was.  AWESOME.

To get there, I walked about a half mile to the bus, and took the most almost all the way to the restaurant.  On the way home, I still wanted to chat with my friend, who had decided to walk home.  She agreed to walk with me if I chose to walk home, too, even though it was a bit out of the way for her.  So I walked home, no bus.  I didn't realize it, but it was a mile and a half walk home, not just a mile.

So I walked two miles today.  And now I am absolutely exhausted!  I've gone months without running and been able to get back on the horse fairly easily, but I've never gone this long without walking on a regular basis.  Normally, I walk at least a mile every weekday, to get too and from work.  So I guess I shouldn't be so surprised at how tired I am now.  I could totally fall asleep right now.  Yikes.

I won't, though; Loki is having too much fun running up and down my legs right now, having conversations with my big toenails.  Not joking.  It's very weird because he keeps walking over the part of my leg that's still numb.  He takes great care to avoid the incisions; he's afraid of the left interior one, with the blister.

Oh, bird.  But whatever.  'Cause I walked two miles today, suckahs!

Monday, August 22, 2011


I've been thinking a lot about embodiment lately.  Growing up in a culture that teaches women, from a young age, that they must work on their bodies endlessly, I came of age believing that I consisted of two separate entities.  I was me, Stephanie, and I had this body that Stephanie was in.  It's definitely a weird disconnect.  It's not that my body was somehow unfamiliar to me.  It was always that my body was a thing that belonged to me.  It wasn't actually me.

I think a lot of messages women receive about beauty and appearance reinforce this disconnect.  We're encouraged (in a heteronormative society) to want a man to love us for our brains, not our bodies.  Some of us feel like "a thin girl trapped in a fat girl's body."  Many of us look in the mirror and feel depressed that our external appearance isn't "correct," that it is not an accurate representation of who we truly are.

I struggled for years with these issues, and they linger in some ways.  For example, as a diehard contact lens wearer, I'm sometimes surprised when I look in the mirror while wearing glasses, or if there are pictures of me in frames.  Then again, as a diehard contact lens wearer, I'm quite unused to seeing myself in glasses.  But spending years looking in the mirror and feeling surprised that I looked so much bigger than I felt--that was a problem.

I don't have a recipe for fixing embodiment issues, just a smattering of things that helped me.  An avid doodler, I stopped drawing "myself" as slim.  I started to check out online shopping sites that used plus sized models, even if I wasn't buying anything.  I mentally checked myself any time I worried about looking "too fat."  I would go sleeveless and remind myself mentally, several times throughout the day, that no one cared but me.  I would wear clothing that made me feel awesome, instead of clothing that I thought would hide all of my horrible, terrible, unacceptable flaws.  I started working on hair and make-up for fun, which switched my focus from "hiding and changing" to "decorating and enhancing."

I don't know if I'll ever completely destroy the disconnect, but it's a relief to lessen it significantly.  I'm so much happier with myself and my life without the disconnect looming over me.  And the funny thing is, as the disconnect lessens, as I take care of ME instead of MY BODY, I get more compliments on my fashion sense.  Go figure.

So far, though, I've found two ways to erase the disconnect, at least temporarily.  The first isn't that shocking--it's sexual activity.  No matter how much my body weighs, or how large or small it is, no matter how insecure or not I've been feeling, sexual activity lets me be me, not just a mind and a body.  The effect lasts for about as long as the encounter, usually going over slightly until I get distracted from thinking about it.  I never feel "one" during sexual activity with a partner, and that's never my goal.  I just love that I feel one with myself.

The second way to erase the disconnect is running.  I guess running is similar to sexual activity in a lot of ways, and it's not surprising to me that both methods of erasing the disconnect are physical activities that make people feel good.  But somehow, when I'm running, it's just me.  Compartment syndrome didn't even bring the disconnect back; even though I knew the problem was with my calves specifically, it was still me, not my body.

I've been very ambivalent about my post-pill weight loss, and I've written as much on multiple occasions.  I spent years trying not to obsess over my weight; obsessing over it only increased the disconnect.  But now, like it or not, I'm losing weight, and I have no idea how much I'm going to lose before it stops, and what life will be like from now on.  I like knowing how I function; I know that if I eat ice cream and don't take a lactase pill, I will feel like crap.  So, what are the new rules for my weight?  The old rules were easy: weight will go up about 5lbs a year forever, no matter what you eat, HAVE FUN.

As I've written about before, losing weight has benefits, even if I was happy and healthy before.  This is a culture that treats fat people, especially fat women, like shit.  So yes, I will be happy to not have as many people treat me like shit.  But I don't like that my mom keeps obsessing over how "skinny" I look now.  Yeah, I'm totally healthy, but she was excited when I lost weight from ulcerative colitis, and upset when I didn't lose weight while I had mono.  It's not her fault; again, this is a culture that doesn't care about health as much as it does about fat vs skinny.

But the biggest downside is that the disconnect is returning.  I look in the mirror and the person looking back isn't really me anymore.  I look at my stomach, and it's not my stomach.  My thighs aren't my thighs.  My face isn't my face.  My arms are still mine, only because they haven't changed.  My calves have changed, but not from weight loss; I'll have to get used to my calves being floppy.  But that's different; that's change I made intentionally, for reasons other than a disconnect.

The disconnect appears even when I'm not looking in a mirror.  A lot of my clothing, especially jeans, fit differently now.  Going to the grocery store today was so strange; the fabric of my clothes moved across my body so much differently than usual.  My body, not me.  There's the disconnect.  Because after finally minimizing it, looking in the mirror and seeing me, moving around and feeling me, things changed, and right now, this isn't my body.

Embodiment is a tricky subject, but hopefully this resonates with some people.  My goal is to see how far this weight loss is going to go, hit that plateau and maintain it, and get back to work erasing the disconnect as best I can.  I don't want to be going through life trapped in my body.  I just want to go through life as me.

Slowly but surely recovering ...

I had my stitches out on the 12th.  The appointment ended up kind of sucking.  The fellow who did the follow up had zero sense of humor, and she also had no real advice for what to do with the huge blister that was intersecting with my interior left incision.  She did feel some swelling that felt strange, so she sent me to have an ultrasound done to make sure it wasn't a clot.  (It wasn't.)

The next evening, I had a great time at a friend's housewarming party.  First time I was really out and about (and drinking) since surgery; we hung out and played Rock Band all night.  Badass :D  By the time I got home, though, three of my incisions were leaking, my calves, feet, and ankles had swollen pretty seriously, and I was in some pain.  One evening of elevation fixed the swelling, though.

Since then, there's been a general pattern with my legs and incisions.  My right leg looks pretty damn great; one incision looks amazing, and the other is 50% amazing, 50% a little sad looking, nothing serious.  My right leg stopped discharging first, and I can shower and put antibiotic cream on it without either one getting pissed the fuck off.

My left leg hasn't been as happy.  The left exterior incision was the leakiest when I had my stitches out, although it got its act together after three days or so.  It looks a bit angrier than my right incisions, but it'll be okay.  The interior left incision is a mess, though.

The blister intersected with the bottom of the incision, which has left that spot looking horrible.  The skin doesn't look evenly sewn together near the top.  A week after my stitches are out, the incision has discharge every time I shower or put antibiotic cream on it.  The discharge isn't pus, at least it doesn't look like it.  It's more like serum-y with a tinge of blood.

The most disconcerting thing, though, is the blister.  Most of it did dry out; most of the top skin has already dried and broken off.  The splotch where it was is light pink (not from infection, but just an exposed underlayer of skin), and it'll probably scar, but it's fine.  It's just the center that's the problem.  There's a little knot of scab material in the center, and then a weird yellow squiggle shape.  The squiggle is not liquid or abscess; it's solid.  My friend believes it's devitalized tissue, which is essentially dead cells and ECM.  If that's what it is, I'll have to have it removed.  The squiggle is not getting bigger or uglier, and so I'm going to wait till my next follow up to have it examined.  My immune system is famously overreactive, so I'm hoping very much that it gets its ass into gear to heal my legs faster.

I also can walk easily now, without getting tired, and without any pain.  I still take stairs carefully, but I put less and less thought into it each time.  Unfortunately, my legs, ankles, and feet swell when I leave my legs unelevated for long periods of time, but it's easily fixed.  My first PT appointment is in two days, yay!

Meanwhile, the unintentional weight loss saga continues.  I've lost a total of 21 lbs, and I've lost about 5 or 6 lbs since I had surgery (Well, more like I was down 19 lbs two weeks after surgery, and it took my body another week to get down the last lb to -20).  I've had a couple of people express some concern that I'm losing weight while lying in bed all day, but I'm actually not confused about it.

1) Now that I'm off the pill, I seem to be losing weight no matter how unhealthy I am anyway.  I think the general gist of it was that while I was on the pill, lifestyle changes that should have led to weight loss did not.  But the thing is, I STILL maintain those lifestyle changes; they're only kicking into effect now.

2) Healing takes energy.  That sounds new-agey, so many I should add that when I say that, I'm imagining my ATP synthases spinning wildly.*  My body is more active right now than it was pre-surgery while I sit around and do nothing (except fuck around online all day).

3) I am not sitting around eating candy and chips all day, although I admit that I HAVE had some candy and chips this month.**  For two weeks, my mom bought my groceries, so they were almost completely healthy foods, and then last week, I was trying to make the most of what I had so I didn't have to go to the grocery store--canned fruit, cream of wheat, frozen vegetables, etc.  As much as I'd love to eat nothing except homemade mac and cheese all day, every day, I haven't been doing that.

4) I am such a lazy person.  That's why people are surprised that I love running (and that I'd actually have surgery just so I can run again).  I am so lazy that I'll often not eat because the kitchen is too far away.  With my legs the way they are, this laziness has been seriously augmented.  I also only went to the grocery store for the first time today.  It's hard to eat like crap when you're too lazy to go out and actually BUY crap.

5) Now that my stitches are out, I have been a bit more active.  I've already been doing arm exercises since my surgery, but now I'm walking around the apartment more, making short trips to Walgreens (not just for candy--mostly for more gauze and bandages), cleaning, and going out with friends.

In summary, I am definitely not starving myself in an attempt to say, "HA!  Losers!  I lost weight while lying in bed all day!  It's easy!"  Because, to be frank, it bothers me that I'm still losing weight while lying in bed all day.  I hate not knowing exactly how this weight loss is going to work.  How long should I wait to buy jeans that fit?  Can my dresses be altered no matter how much weight I lose, or will it be impossible to take them in enough if I lose too much weight?  Will I gain everything back if I start carb loading for running?  ARG?!!


** I am in my mid-twenties.  You bet your ass I will sometimes have candy for breakfast.  Two days ago, I made brownie batter from scratch as a snack.  What's the fun of being an adult if you can't do any of the things you dreamt about as a kid?

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Slightly improving

Life's been much of the same, leg-wise, all weekend.  I had a friend in town, and I let her crash with me, which was pretty fun.  It definitely broke up a lot of the monotony I've been dealing with for the past week!  But alas, she's gone home.  My mom visited me again today, bringing lots of groceries with her, but she won't be back till Wednesday (we're going to try to get me over to her apartment--sans Loki--then).

The good news is that I seem to finally be improving.  I still have the world's saddest limp, but ankle pumps are getting easier, my limp is less pronounced, and I have much less pain.  I'm starting to hurt myself from walking, though.  My left knee is constantly getting hyper-extended from the position it's in when I limp, and I have definitely twisted my right leg twice.  The latter wouldn't be so bad, but since my leg is far from healed, it's pretty painful and I'm sure it just adds more inflammation.

I also haven't had a fever since Friday evening, for the first time since the weekend right after surgery.  It's definitely nice, only because fevers make me feel really shitty (not because a fever after surgery is necessarily a bad thing).

But I'm definitely ready to stop being stuck in my bed.  My back (both my shoulders and my lower back) are stressed from being in bed all day, every day, I'm sick of my apartment, I'm tired of not seeing my friends who haven't offered to visit (this is not a hint; there really isn't anything to DO here, trust me).  I want to take a real shower VERY badly, and I would wear something other than a tank top and sweat shorts, but that's really the best thing to wear when I'm stuck in bed all day with bandaged calves.  I have the immense pleasure of having my period right now, which is a lot more obnoxious when I'm stuck in bed and can't take a real shower.

As much as I love Loki, and I know he's thrilled to have me (and other people) around a lot, I really need some time away from him.  It's good that he can fly around, since I can't really get up a lot to deal with him, but that means he refuses to spend a lot of time in his cage.  Right now, it's almost midnight, and he's sitting on top of his cage, SCREAMING for no reason (and by "no reason," I mean, "because I won't let him sit on the plastic tumbler full of water that's on my nightstand, since he has totally knocked it over in the past, and I can't deal with that right now, Loki, OKAY?").

I am so, so ready to move on and start physical therapy, because I am so bored and tired of being stuck in bed with these legs.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

And they're finally off!

Last night was a bit rough.  My fever came back and went up to 100.8, which still isn't an emergency, but was extremely uncomfortable.  I took some Tylenol and monitored my temperature as it slowly went down.  It was a bit gross being awake for my fever breaking, since I got all gross and sweaty.  But I felt better afterwards.  Walking had been just as difficult.

Today has been one week since surgery, which meant it was time to take off the original dressings.  Eeee!  My mom came over, and we slowly peeled away the ace bandages.  I knew that there had been a lot of layers, but I still wasn't prepared for how small my calves would look when I got them all off.  There were so many layers of bandage and gauze, I couldn't believe I could feel the ice packs through all of that.  I also understood why they had no problem sending me home with fresh incisions.  There was no way anything was getting through all of those layers.

First, we did my right leg.  The first incision we uncovered looked fine, and we didn't even notice that much additional bruising.  The second one was similar, but there was some old blood on the gauze that was directly over the incision.

My left leg was worse, as expected.  Both incisions had some dried blood on the gauze, but what was worse was that directly below one of the incisions (below as in closer to the ankle, not deeper in the skin underneath the incision) was a HUGE dark red blotch, with an even darker center.  We immediately panicked and called.  In the meantime, we wrapped the leg up anyway.  We didn't notice anything else weird, just the scary blotch.

Without the old bandages, my legs look so much smaller.  The discoloration isn't that bad, not as bad as we were expecting.  The compression from the bandages must have been ridiculous because even right now, a couple hours later, my (swollen) ankles look huge against my strangely regular-sized calves.  The compression also has left my legs very, very numb.  When I called and left a message for my surgeon with his assistant, the assistant asked me if the blood-colored patch hurt.  I admitted to her that my whole leg was kind of numb, and she replied, "Oh, yeah," indicating that numbness is completely normal.  Besides, I would be shocked if it weren't; I did everything right this week, so if it's because the wraps were too tight, that's they're fault.  But compression is good; it improves circulation.  So I think the tightness was intentional, and the feeling is slowly returning to my calves.

Walking isn't easier.  While the light bandages are much easier to walk with, the numbness is fading enough that the pain is worse.  Arg.  Most of the pain is in the deeper part of my calves, which is unsurprising, but unpleasant.  I can't wait for it to fade; I miss being able to walk!

I am one (figurative) step closer to being able to run!  Next week (on Friday), my stitches come out, and I can start physical therapy.  One week down, 5-11 weeks to go!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

More of the same

Today isn't much different from yesterday, minus the AWESOME THUNDER STORMS.  Say what you will about New England weather, but it really never gets old.

I woke up around 6am with lots of stiffness and pain.  And by lots, I really don't mean lots, I just mean that it's not as great as my first couple of days.  I left Loki uncovered, so he woke up when I did.  I got up to pee and start my ice pack usage for the day, and Loki moved to follow me.  He was a complete brat about it, shrieking and flying and being annoying.  While I was getting my ice packs ready, he decided to fly back to my room, but I had closed the door to keep the cool air inside.  So he sat on the floor in the hallway, crying, waiting for me to get him.

I share that little hallway with one roommate, and let's remember that it's 6:15 in the morning on a weekday.  Loki wouldn't shut up, so I leaned down a bit to get him to jump on my finger, and my right calf didn't appreciate it.  It felt as if my stitches were being pulled out of the exterior-side incision.  Fuck.  After discussing things with a medically-inclined friend, I figure that my incision oozed a bit and got stuck to the gauze, which isn't an emergency.  It just hurts like a motherfucker.  My left leg is much the same, still worse than the right leg.  My left ankle is in rough shape, too, very swollen.  No fever yet today.

I covered Loki up, but couldn't fall back asleep for the rest of the morning.  I finally uncovered Loki and changed my ice packs around 10, which is around when I did finally fall asleep, until about 2.  since then, I've been mostly awake, taking very quick naps here and there.  I had dinner about an hour ago, but I'll probably nap again as soon as I bring my dish back to the kitchen and switch ice packs again.

Two more days till the dressings come off!  It's going to be gross.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Slogging along

Today continued in the same vein as yesterday did.  Definitely feeling drained, partially because I'm just lying in bed all day, and partially because my body is still a bit shocked from surgery.  My legs are starting to get very uncomfortable.  I keep readjusting my pillows so my knees aren't locked, but I keep getting the sensation that they're locking anyway.

The pain and swelling in my right leg is significantly decreasing.  The only pain I get right now feels like it's from stitches catching onto my bandages, although it's hard to tell.  It's an unpleasant pain, but I try to avoid it.  The swelling is down considerably, or at least that's what it looks like to me.  It's hard to tell with all the bandaging!

My left leg is not doing as well.  It feels worse in general, and the pain makes it hard to walk somewhat normally.  Because my right leg is so much better, I walk with a limp, and because of how bad my left leg is, I just sort of slowly shuffle towards my destination.  The swelling isn't any better, and even though (again) it's hard to tell what's going on, it looks bigger than my right calf does.

Last night, I felt some twinging pain in my left calf and called the on-call doctor.  He reassured me and explained that if I had a blood clot, I wouldn't really know about it or be able to do much about the clot on its own.  Instead, he told me to look out for a racing pulse and shortness of breath.  I asked about the trouble urinating, and he said that was normal on oxy.  I didn't mention bruising or fever, like my mom wanted, because I know both things are normal.  My fever was a bit high (for me) last night, around 100.6, but it broke overnight again.

I slept most of the day, waking up to pee at 6:30 and 10am.  I noticed some numbness in my left pinky and ring finger, but after talking with a few people, I know it's nothing serious, probably just from lying down since Thursday.  My fever hasn't come back yet, but I also took more Tylenol this morning.  We'll see if it comes back tonight or not.

I slept more, from 10ish to almost 1, and then I napped again before my mom came over around 2:30.  I fell asleep again around 6 and woke up about 20 minutes ago.  I mean, I know part of it is because I'm bored, but wow, I'm tired.

I hate my dreams on oxycodone.  They're worrisome, even when they shouldn't be, and I end up waking up a lot and being confused.  I actually woke up from this nap thinking that my lip was swelling up, and that one of my roommates had come into my room multiple times to lecture me on my Netflix usage in very condescending and inappropriate ways.  Best part?  The guy in my dream was just some made-up guy, not even one of my roommates.

I will NOT miss these dreams!