I made it an unofficial goal to blog every day of this month, since October is pretty much my favorite month of the year. But, well, life…and besides life, Surpass, and GoDaddy. I’ll go into more detail about Surpass later, once I’ve ensured that everything is safely off of their server and with Host4Geeks and backed up onto my computer. As for GoDaddy, well, I’ve made no secret over the past few days of the frustration I’ve encountered with them. Since when does it take four days to change the IPs of two custom nameservers and add a third custom nameserver? Well, if you’re with GoDaddy, four days is apparently the norm. Bonus fail: a repeatedly-updated support ticket that has gone unanswered since I first opened it on Sunday morning (yet they’re very quick to communicate on social media – methinks that the social media person should be put in charge of tech support).
Argh. Frustration, I HAZ ALL OF IT.
And pain, I have that too. I have an endoscopy scheduled for October 16th, and it is my most fervent wish that this time around, assuming that my two ulcers are just as bad or perhaps worse than before, the doctor will fix them if he’s able to. I’ve lost three pounds from skipping out on eating more than a couple of bites of something, simply because eating hurts a lot of the time. But a lot of the time so does just being conscious, or even unconscious, as evidenced by the other night when the pain woke me out of a sound sleep. I’m popping Levsin and Tylenol like Tic-Tacs, and am looking forward to getting my hands on something stronger. Or, at this rate, having one or both of the damn ulcers perforate so I can just get them fixed and be done with it all.
Bonus fail: yesterday I drank a ton of water before driving an hour down to Maryland to pick up free chicken (40 lbs of boneless, skinless chicken breasts fresh from the processor? Yes please!), and I only made it 45 minutes into my journey before my bladder felt like it was going to explode. I didn’t find a bathroom until 40ish minutes later, and by that point, ohhhh the pain. Between the ulcer pain and the pain of my bladder pressing on recently operated on bits…yikes. I came home, took some medicine, and then took a nap (and left Dan to package up all of the chicken for freezing – sorry sweetie!).
Now that the server and nameserver issues are finally ironed out, I’m off to play catch-up.
Exactly one year and one day ago, Felix graced us with his presence. Our next door neighbor made us aware of his “plight” – older, outdoor stray who was a total sweetheart, but wouldn’t stand up for himself against a couple of other outside cats, including her indoor/outdoor cat, Teddy. She tried taking Felix in herself, but it just didn’t work out. So, Alyssa and I set out to catch him. It wasn’t hard, actually: we put some food out on our front patio and wooed him in two short days. On October 4th, 2012, I opened our front door, and he literally walked in.
The initial adjustment period was hard on him. He escaped twice: the first time I tracked him down two days later, where I found him wet, dirty, and cowering under another neighbor’s back porch. All I had to do was call his name and he came right to me. The second time he got out, a shake of a bowl of kibbles in his general direction (under the front porch of another neighbor’s house) was all it took to get him back. We stepped up our game and monitored our back door at all times (it’s opened frequently to take Leah out and bring her in, and to take trash out), and within another month, Felix lost all but a passing interest in trying to go outside. As of this past summer, he couldn’t give two shits about trying to get out: what’s an open door to the unpredictable outdoors compared to 24/7 availability of climate control, food, water, and humans who love him?
Felix had a lot of anxiety that we had to deal with for the first couple of months. He was sweet and friendly to us, and would purr when we petted him, and he was very “clingy” in that he couldn’t just sit near you – he had to have as much of his body touching yours. That’s still true to this day. But he was anxious about the other cats, and loud noises. For several months he wouldn’t venture beyond our bedroom and the adjacent master bathroom, so we had to put a second litter box in there for him. And for the first couple of weeks, we had to physically drag him out from under the bed several times a day to take him to the litter box in the bathroom, and then to the food and water in the kitchen. We jokingly called him “Paraplegic Kitty”, because he would go completely limp when we’d pull him out from under the bed. When we would bring him out into the kitchen or living room, he had to be held in order to calm down, and that wasn’t always successful: he had two anxiety-induced bladder incidents on Dan, and one on me (hilarious aside: the second time he peed all over Dan’s lap, he had the presence of mind to try and “cover” his mess).
I had Felix neutered and vaccinated in March of 2013, shortly after Alcide died, and I also asked the vet to test Felix for FIV. He called me prior to vaccinating and neutering Felix to let me know that he was indeed FIV-positive, and to ask if I wanted to proceed with the vaccinations and neutering, or if he should euthanize him. I talked to Jason about it — he knew how grief-stricken I still was over Alcide’s death, which was due to complications from FIV; and he too really liked Felix — and he talked me into giving Felix a chance. After all, some cats can live for many very healthy, quality years with FIV, even though Alcide, who was estimated to be two or three years of age, wasn’t so lucky. Even though the vet also let me know that he estimated Felix to be five or six years of age, a semi-advanced age for an FIV cat, I said yes to the vaccinations and neutering, and no to euthanasia.
I’m so glad I did (I’m also glad that I didn’t take him to the local shelter for testing, shots, and neutering – their policy is to immediately euthanize an FIV-positive cat). Seven months later, Felix is still going strong. He has blossomed — figuratively and literally — in our household. He is the most content indoor cat I have ever encountered. He is still a little anxious at times, though fortunately we haven’t had any loss-of-bladder-control incidents since last winter. He is a little more assertive around the other cats, but if challenged, will back down — which is particularly hilarious when the challenger is Fritzy, who is about the size of Felix’s pre-neutering head, which at that point was huge and wide due to the testosterone-induced jowls he had.
It took Felix several months to come around, but now, in addition to no longer having bad bouts of anxiety, he makes himself at home all over the house. On occasion he’ll still hiss and/or swat if startled, so I always try to let him know I’m there before touching him, similar to how you wouldn’t want to spook a cow or a horse by sneaking up behind them. He’s learned to give affection, to head-butt and rub, and to play. He loves laps, whether they’re ours or they belong to family members or friends who come over. He also enjoys being held and snuggled, and having his head and neck nuzzled and kissed. Ha, he’s ridiculous in his love for affection. His favorite spot is still our bedroom, and if we shut him out at night, he’ll meow, scratch at, and body-slam our door in order to get in (sometimes I give in) and sleep in bed with us — sometimes at our feet, sometimes squished in between Dan and I.
Indoor life has definitely agreed with Felix. His coat is shiny and healthy, his eyes aren’t as runny as they used to be, his initial flea infestation and ear infection cleared up with medicine not long after we took him in, and he’s gained weight. When we brought him in, he was 14 pounds, which sounds like a lot for a cat but he is also a big cat — tall, long, wide, large bone structure, etc. Now he’s up to 21 lbs, which I do realize is a little much – he’s got a slight waddle to his walk now. My theory is that his previous outdoor instincts are kicking in and thus he’s fattening up for winter. Fortunately for him, he doesn’t have to worry about surviving outdoors, so the hope is that he’ll slim down a bit. And if not, well, he’s fat and happy, so I’m not going to stress about it too much, so long as he doesn’t get any bigger.
Obviously we’re very aware, after Alcide’s illness and death, that Felix’s years are numbered, and that a common cold or routine stomach bug will most likely be a death sentence. But until that happens, we’re going to continue to give him a great life with us. ♥
This morning, after waiting with Alyssa and Ryan at the bus stop, I came back home and had just enough time to eat some Greek yogurt and write two articles before heading out to make the one hour drive to my bariatric surgeon’s office. There, we discussed my ongoing ulcer pain. It’s presumed that my two “active” ulcers are the same as, or possibly worse, than before. She’s setting up an endoscopy to check for sure. Because I tested positive for H Pylori, the bacteria that can lead to ulcer formation and resistance to healing, I’ll always be predisposed to them. My diet (no coffee, tea, soda, orange juice, acidic/spicy foods other than the occasional bit of tomato sauce or taco, no NSAIDs or other stomach-irritating meds, etc.) isn’t the problem, and many medical professionals are on the fence about whether or not stress can lead to or aggravate ulcers. My bariatric surgeon is one who does believe that stress can certainly lead to the development or aggravation of ulcers, and I’m kind of leaning towards that, too. Without getting into details, life has been heaping on the stress in increasing amounts since mid-2011. 2012 was a really crappy year, and 2013 may wind up taking the top spot by the time the end of December gets here. I first had ulcer symptoms (painomgpain) last December, and then in February, boom, bowel perforation.
When I had my last endoscopy, in July, not only were two active ulcers confirmed and some random bits of loose suture removed, the doctor who did the test increased my Protonix to 40mg twice per day, and also prescribed liquid Carafate to take four times per day. The Protonix is affordable. The liquid Carafate? At over $300 per month, not even close. So I’ve been taking the Protonix, but not the Carafate… and unfortunately there isn’t really an equal alternative to that. However, Carafate does come in tablet form, so my bariatric surgeon prescribed that, and advised me to crush the tablets and mix them with milk or yogurt, in order to get the full benefit of each dose. And for the pain, a prescription I have for Levsin, given back when I was having the twisting intestines issue, does okay at taking the edge off of the worst of the pain. Not eating is also helpful…right now, for instance, I’m in pain just from having a few bites of a bland, potato-based soup.
After meeting with my surgeon, I headed down the road to one of the outpatient clinics, in order to have my first of two post-op appointments with the surgeon who took care of my hysterectomy. He confirmed that there was a decent amount of Endometriosis present on my uterus, cervix, appendix, and in surrounding tissues, and that he did his best to scrape it all out. My uterus and cervix were removed, and while my uterus tested fine, my cervix tested…abnormal. Pre-cancerous. Whew. Talk about dodging a bullet there. :/ My great-grandmother had cervical cancer, and while she didn’t die from it, I am still very relieved to know that I have eliminated that risk. And, I’m so glad I asked my surgeon to remove my appendix, even if it visually looked fine: as it turned out, not only did it not look fine, but it was showing signs of early appendicitis. Given my history of random organs misbehaving (gallbladder enlarging and folding over on itself, intestines twisting, bowel exploding open), I’m not entirely surprised.
So! No cervical cancer or appendicitis for Jenn. I have my six week post-op appointment scheduled for the 24th, during which I will have my lovely cuff inspected, and then hopefully given the all-clear for resuming sex and not being restricted from lifting and such. Dan and I have tried sex twice… weirdly, this second time around hurt more. I’ve agreed that the surgeon knows best, ha. No more sex (well, penetrative sex) for the next three weeks! My girly bits were not happy last night, even though the rest of me quite enjoyed the experience. ♥
Now I just need to focus on getting these damn ulcers to heal. I wouldn’t mind losing a few pounds courtesy of the Don’t Eat Because It Hurts To diet, but what I’d like more is to not have to worry about another ulcer perforation, and not have to continue dealing with random, debilitating bouts of abdominal pain.
Yesterday I took Ryan for his bi-annual re-evaluation with his psychologist, whom he has faithfully seen twice a year since 2008. She keeps up with his progress and the somewhat changing aspects of his autism via notes and documented observations from both his TSS and his BSC. While she observed him, spoke with him, and spoke with me regarding behaviors and issues we’ve seen at home and at school, she suggested something she had been thinking for a while: that Ryan’s official diagnosis is Asperger’s Syndrome. An individual with Asperger’s essentially has high-functioning autism. There are a few key differences between autism and Asperger’s, so the distinction between the two isn’t as blurry as I once thought it was:
- Average, but usually above average, IQ and intelligence (whereas many autistic individuals have average or below average IQs and intelligence)
- Average to above average verbal skills, but difficulty with expression, and difficulty comprehending facial expressions, voice tones, and non-literal speech (whereas many autistic individuals may have average to below average verbal skills, though they too have difficulty with expressions, tones, and non-literal speech)
- Rigid mannerisms and quirks (this is sort of a gray area, as most autistic individuals have this, too – and both often display these quirks via stimming)
- The inability to fit in socially, but the desire, at least some of the time, to do so (whereas many autistic individuals have little to no desire to fit in socially, so it doesn’t matter if they do or not)
- Somewhat of an understanding of difficulty with fitting in, and resulting anxiety and/or depression (we are already seeing some of this, and the resulting conversations are probably the saddest ones I’ve had with Ryan – how do you answer, “What’s wrong with me?”)
So many of these fit Ryan. He is very smart (he’s in second grade but tests at a fourth grade level for math; he loves to read science, weather, and astronomy books, and he has been in the school district’s gifted program, along with Alyssa, since last year). He has average verbal skills, but definitely has difficulty with expressing and understanding things sometimes, especially if we don’t give literal instructions or speak frankly – no word play or expressions or tones work with Ryan; he takes things at face value. He has had various mannerisms and quirks since he was about ten months old. Socially he lags behind by at least a year or two, but there are times when he wants to fit in, but of course struggles because he doesn’t know how to communicate, engage, and interact like a neurotypical seven year old child does.
I know this sounds lame, but changing Ryan’s diagnosis from “just” autistic to Asperger’s is almost like a fresh diagnosis all over again, even though he’s still on the autistic spectrum since all Asperger’s really “is”, is a form of high-functioning autism. In mid-2007, when I suspected autism and sought evaluations and set up services to help Ryan (speech therapy, occupational therapy; and later, when it was time for him to try preschool, a TSS), it was hard to deal with the knowledge that something was wrong. The confirmation — the official diagnosis of autism after six months of services — was also hard to come to terms with, even though the diagnosis didn’t come as a surprise, and I logically knew that it explained everything.
But now it’s like we have to re-adjust all over again. True, we have always worked hard to do our best for Ryan, integrate him as much as possible, and ease the burdens caused by his autism and resulting special needs as best as we could. But whereas an autistic child may be content with how he is and how he’s different from others (my fifteen year old brother, for example, is a very classic autistic in that manner – he’s perfectly content with no friends, no social interaction, and being behind academically – none of it phases him so long as he can retreat to his room with his toys and his games and his solitude), a child with Asperger’s most likely will not be, because they know they’re different, and because they want to fit in, they’ll have a continual, life-long struggle with the subsequent feelings of anxiety and depression due to feeling and knowing that they’re different, that they’re not the norm, that they’re “wrong”.
So with all that said… we’re adjusting his official paperwork and whatnot to reflect the Asperger’s diagnosis, his TSS has changed up her hours at school so that she comes in at the end of lunch instead of in the middle, in order to be with him the entire school day and see him onto the bus at the end of the day. As for Dan and I… reading, more reading, and just taking things one day at a time, and each repeat or new challenge as it comes.
And above all else, each day we make sure to tell Ryan that we love him, and when the subject comes up, we let him know that he isn’t “wrong” – his brain is just wired differently from most other peoples’ brains, and all that means is that he needs some help with different things, such as feelings, words (he has an autism support specialist and a speech teacher at school who work with him one-on-one several times per week), and interacting with people. But the real emphasis is always on the love we have for him, because there is plenty of that to go around, and then some.
Today is our ninth wedding anniversary. I’m trying to take that in – almost ten years of marriage. Of course, we’ve been together for over thirteen years now, but still, it’s pretty damn awesome to be able to say that you’ve been married for almost a decade. I love you Daniel! ♥
We honestly don’t have big plans for our anniversary. We’ve kept things low-key for the last several years, and we’re fine with that. The kids are craving pizza, and Dan likes pizza, so I suggested a local pizza buffet for tonight’s anniversary meal – romantic, right?
Ryan is lucky enough to have an early day today. He has a 1:00pm autism re-evaluation, so I’ll be picking him up at 12:15. Since the appointment will last about an hour, and it would take us about 45 minutes to get back to the school, I’m just going to bring him home afterward. He’s a little upset about missing one of his favorite afternoon classes, but is looking forward to a short school day. I don’t mind the yearly re-evaluations, even though I kind of laugh at them: once autistic, always autistic. It doesn’t just magically go away. Autism is something you manage, not cure (thus far, anyway). But still, these evaluations are important, because not only does the insurance company require it to continue paying for his services, but it gives me a chance to talk with his psychologist, whom he’s been evaluated by every year since 2008, and keep her up to date on his needs and quirks and such. Anxiety has been a real issue with him this past year, so I definitely want to let her know about that.
And, I need to find out why his TSS wasn’t notified of his PICA. That’s a pretty important thing to be aware of, right? Children don’t normally chew on and eat pencil erasers, paper, stickers, threads, dry wall dug out of cracks, etc. It wasn’t until last week, when Ryan was exhibiting more chewing/mouthing symptoms than usual, that I found out that his TSS wasn’t allowing him to use his Chewy Tube at school, because she was concerned about germs, and what other students would think of him. Firstly, the Chewy Tube is kept in his backpack, and we have more than one, so we rotate them in order to keep them all clean (I just toss them into the dishwasher). Secondly, he’s autistic. I get wanting to integrate him and “normalize” him as much as possible, but sometimes, you just have to acknowledge that there are issues that can’t always be done away with. His PICA and need for oral stimulation as a calming tool are two things that, so far, haven’t gone away — these issues date back to 2007, when he alternated between carrying around a toothbrush or a DVD case to chew on. Mouth-safe sensory object > paper, threads, drywall, even Wii remote covers, paper plates and french fry containers.
Whew. I didn’t mean to go into a slight rant there, but, well, you know… when it’s your child, you tend to be a little over-zealous at times. I’ve kept my cool and have been nothing but nice to his TSS – and I do really like her. I just wasn’t happy that she wasn’t notified of the PICA diagnosis and his oral sensory issues, which is what led her to decide that Ryan couldn’t have a sensory/calming tool that sometimes he really does need.
With that said, Ryan’s shortened school day = a shortened work day for me, so I’m off to the races!
P.S. Happy October!