Wednesday, February 27, 2008


I have now lived in Asheville longer than I've ever lived anywhere else in my life. I moved here at the end of February, 2000 so that puts me at 8 years now in the "Land of the Sky". Eight years seems like a long time to be in one place for me, but I know people who have lived in the same area their entire lives so like everything else, it's all relative.

Stevenson, Alabama: 6 years
Maumee, Ohio: 4 years
George Hildebran, North Carolina: 8 years
Raleigh, North Carolina: 7 years
Boone, North Carolina: 5 years
Asheville, North Carolina: 8 years and counting

I like it here and don't particularly want to go anywhere else but I've never stayed in one place longer than this and I'm feeling a bit trapped. My life so far has been one move after another; settling into a place for a while but eventually packing everything up and moving on to the next place.

Is it time for me to stop and try to build a life here, or do I do the gypsy thing and start over again somewhere else?

Monday, February 25, 2008

Run Away!

I've been thinking about my current medical stuff quite a bit, and there's a part of me that wants to run away from it all. I feel like buying a carton of cigarettes and lighting up again, living off the saltiest, fat-filled foods I can find, and washing everything down with remarkably obscene amounts of Mountain Dew & alcohol. Forget about taking meds and altering my diet and exercise habits to be healthy, I want to be young and stupid again.

I'm not going to do any of that of course. It's time to "be an adult", "eat responsibly", "take care of myself", etc. All the cliché bullshit you hear from everyone else who has been forced to grow up, get old, and eat food that's good for you.

Granted I'm only in week three of my old age, but it hasn't really been that bad so far. The low-sodium, low-fat, no caffeine diet isn't as flavorless and boring as I'd been anticipating. Plus when I do allow myself to eat something bad, it feels like even more of a treat now than it used to be.

Monday, February 18, 2008


That's the amount of the bill I received in the mail on Friday for my 2-night stay in the hospital the week before. Almost $1,000 of that was for drugs alone. Thankfully everything was billed directly to insurance so the hospital isn't expecting a payment from me. Hopefully the insurance company will be polite and helpful about it and not dispute any of the charges. I was actually expecting the bill to be bigger, but then the tests they performed weren't itemized on the bill so I may be receiving the charges for those later.

I've been looking for a new career path; maybe I should consider something in health care. Apart from the money factor, it might make me feel good and give me a confidence boost by helping people. Something to mull over.


Shelbster's blood test on Thursday came back and her glucose levels were closer to normal, so we're sticking at this new insulin dosage for a bit. Her increased water intake is most likely a result of the Cushing's making her think she's thirsty all the time. The vet compared it to having cotton-mouth or a dry throat almost constantly. She isn't dehydrated and doesn't need all the water she's drinking, her mind just thinks she does. So I'm cutting back on the amount of water I leave out for her when I'm not there. I hate the thought of her sitting there thinking she's thirsty all the time, but that's better for her than drinking and outputting almost 2 gallons of water a day and giving her a bladder infection.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Out of Character

I did some things completely out of character for myself today. Nothing big or anything, just a series of small things. They weren't anything that I planned to do either.

I started a conversation with someone at work that I hadn't really talked to before, completely at random. We kept the conversation alive for quite a while, and I was truly interested in it and the person. And I learned some cool things about them on a personal level that I otherwise wouldn't know.

Even though I did find myself getting a touch upset with the driving habits of some of the dumb ass mutha... friendly drivers around me at times, I calmed my anger immediately and kept it in check. I even listened to music instead of having the radio turned off like usual.

I used a cart at the grocery store and took my time, instead of rushing mindlessly through the store with a handheld basket. Then instead of the self-checkout line like usual (so I don't have to talk to anyone), I went through a normal line and chatted with the clerk while I bagged my own groceries so she wouldn't have to.

I also smiled a lot and was in a fairly good mood all day. I even talked to the neighbor's kid for a bit as I was bringing groceries inside. He looks to be around 12 or 13 and gave me a thoughtful look before going inside and said "You know, you're kinda cool." (I've received this reaction from my nephews as well and I think it's because I find it easy to talk to kids. I try to speak to them like adults instead of children and it takes them by surprise at times.)


Haven't really been doing much the last few days beyond working and lying around the house trying to take it easy. Everything's going fine, just dull and boring while I try to get through the week of healing after the cath thing. I can't lift more than a few pounds or be very domestic since I'm not supposed to bend or put undue stress on my hip, so no sweeping, vacuuming, taking out the trash, etc. Pity, that.

Shelbster's still drinking a lot more than she should be so the increase in insulin doesn't seem to be helping her much. I'm taking her to the vet tomorrow afternoon to check her glucose levels; maybe the doc will know more then and be able to get things as much under control as we're able at this point.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Hospital Time

As predicted, the cardiologist appointment on Thursday went a bit worse than the urologist visit. They noticed some irregularities in my EKG and blood flow sounds, and given my history with Takayasu's, they decided I needed some more in-depth testing. And boy howdy, do I mean in-depth. I was taken by ambulance (prone and strapped down on the gurney, with the oxygen thing in my nose and everything) directly from the cardiologist's office to the hospital. They didn't want to cause more stress on my heart by letting me drive.

They did a CAT scan later that afternoon and found out that my aorta was enlarged and calcified. In the words of the cardiac surgeon I "have the aorta of an 80-year old man", which is never something you really want to hear, unless of course you're 90 or older. They're worried about the aorta continuing to enlarge but think the calification may actually help in that it'll keep it from getting much bigger. It's a concern, but since there is still decent blood flow through it, it isn't something to worry about immediately. I'm scheduled for follow up visits so they can keep an eye on it and see if it gets any worse. If it does my only course of action would be to replace the vessel. Fun, fun.

But it doesn't end there. They also did a cardiac catheterization the following day to check the blood flow in the arteries feeding my heart. It involves inserting a catheter into an artery in the leg and feeding it up through the body until it gets to the heart, then injecting dye and watching how the blood flows. The good news is they didn't find anything wrong with them whatsoever, they termed them "pristine". The bad news is that blood flow to my left kidney is 90% blocked. They checked the kidneys on their way since I'd had problems with them as a child and the catheter went right by the renal arteries as they were feeding it up my body. They're not very concerned about it for the moment but I'll be following up with a renal specialist to discuss possible angioplasty and inserting a stent to open up the artery. Which can all be done on an outpatient basis somehow. Medicine's come a long way in the last 20 years.

I was finally able to leave the hospital on Saturday and come home. They've started me on some beta-blockers for my blood pressure and heart rate and I have several follow-up visits to schedule over the next few months.

Overall I feel pretty good about the situation, considering everything that happened and that will need to happen in the future. It was a bit scary being wheeled out on a stretcher in an ambulance, and then all the waiting for the tests to be done and results to come back was a little unnerving as well. But having my parents and sister come up to keep me company, and knowing that The Shelbster was safe and well cared for by Greg helped keep me from getting too stressed out about it all.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

One Down

Well the urologist confirmed that it's "only" a hydrocele. As long as it's not causing any pain or isn't too uncomfortable then my best course of action is to do nothing and it will more than likely go away on its own. 'Course if it gets worse then surgery may be needed, but I choose not to dwell on that right now.

I have a feeling that the cardiologist appointment tomorrow won't go quite as smoothly. A blood pressure reading of 191/101 is usually a sign that something is amiss.

Monday, February 4, 2008


A bit of history...I spent a large majority of my junior high school years (7th, 8th, and 9th grades) being shuffled between doctors and hospitals. I was eventually diagnosed with Takayasu's Arteritis (or Takayasu's Disease) and placed on several medications for it and the other problems that cropped up because of it. As the condition causes a narrowing of the arteries, the worst thing that happened was having to have two renal angioplasties performed on my kidneys. That's where they go into the blood vessel with a balloon and inflate the part that is narrower than it should be. I was fortunate enough to have the first of those performed by none other than Dr. Andreas Grüntzig, the doctor who originally invented the procedure (he died in a tragic plane crash a few years later in 1985). I have one of the classic symptoms of the condition in my left arm, termed “pulselessness” because the artery in that arm has narrowed to the point of virtual non-existence, causing me not to have a pulse in my left wrist. It's smaller & quite a bit weaker than my right arm, and tires easily because of the reduced blood flow.

When I started college 5-6 years later, the condition was under control and had gone into an “inactive” state. By this point I was extremely tired of taking drugs every day and dealing with their side effects. I had spent my entire teenage life taking medications & seeing doctors, watching my diet closely (low sodium diet from high blood pressure), and not being able to do anything remotely akin to the level of physical activity enjoyed by my peers ("no prolonged aerobic or anaerobic activity" was the official proclamation from my cardiologist...i.e. no running, playing, hiking, or sports of any kind for fear of a heart attack, stroke, or worse).

I was barely 20 years old but felt like I was an old man; taking a gamut of drugs every morning and having some long-term side effects starting to creep up, especially from the prednisone. So I took myself off medication and decided to let things play out however they would. If the condition came back and things started to get worse, then I'd be old and hopefully be ready to live a medicated, highly structured life by then. Above all I wanted to experience a life without all that worry and stress.

And for the last 20 years I've done it. I've lived the way I wanted to live: free from doctors and thoughts of thickening arteries, free from the routine of daily medications, free from as much responsibility as I could possibly muster. I've drank. I've smoked. I've lived with no regard to my health whatsoever. And it's been glorious. I got to be "normal" for a while and not worry about rare diseases and drug interactions.

But I'm afraid it may be about time to pay the piper. I've been having pretty steady chest pains for the last couple of weeks. It's not a stabbing type of pain but more like a squeezing or pressure in the left side of my chest. I've also developed what may or may not be a hydrocele. So for the first time in two decades, I went to see a doctor last week. Three ultrasounds later, I'm scheduled to see a urologist tomorrow to rule out testicular cancer and a cardiologist on Thursday for an echocardiogram and a more in-depth cardiovascular exam.

And I'm cool with everything. I knew this was coming and I'd have to face it again if I survived off meds long enough. I'm ready to be that "old man" that I thought I was becoming back then. And I wouldn't change the last 20 years for anything. I made the right decision for me then, and I'd do it again given the chance.