Making tough decisions…

So last week I had to make a tough decision. I had intended to drive to Sudbury on Friday morning to attend Northern Constellations. This is a 2 day conference for faculty and staff who work at the Northern Ontario School of Medicine (NOSM).

I have two stipendiary positions with NOSM. The first of which I have held for a number of years now which is as a committee member of the Theme 2 Committee which ensures that professionalism is integrated throughout the NOSM curriculum and education. This committee usually meets in person during the conference whereas we use video conference to facilitate our meetings for the rest of the year.

My second appointment is new this year as the Family Medicine Research Tutor for Sault Ste Marie.

So as NOSM faculty I was really looking forward to the event and meeting my colleagues in person. However, the closer the event came the more my anxiety increased. Finally, after not feeling well for a couple of days I checked my blood pressure and found it to be very high. So I started to consider not going.

Unfortunately I was then booked to stay in a different hotel to the one that the conference was in. So this meant that I’d have two hotels to manage my allergies in. Two lots of open areas and two bars and restaurants. That was the final straw. With much regret I cancelled my attendance in person and set up to join the Theme 2 meeting by video conference instead.

Within a couple of days my blood pressure dropped back down to normal and the general sense of illness went away. So I knew it was the right decision.

However, it was a really tough decision to make. Not so much missing the specific event but rather having to accept the restriction on my life. However, given that my citrus allergy appears to still be extremely sensitive it was the safe decision.

Will I ever be able to stay in a hotel again? Maybe. But I need to break it down into smaller pieces rather than trying to attempt a full conference. Perhaps a night in a local hotel using room service rather than eating in the restaurant and checking that they don’t provide a breakfast buffet, with fresh oranges, in their lobby area.

It might be possible. Maybe by next year’s conference, which will be in Thunder Bay, I’ll feel that the risk is out weighed by the benefits. Though having to fly up there adds another environment to manage.

Some days are tougher than others. Some decisions are extremely tough to make but all I can do is the best that I can and look out for my own safety. It would be a lot easier if all my health issues would just get in line rather than my having to work them all out together!

Chronic pain… bring on the warmer weather please!

For the past few weeks our weather can’t seem to decide which season it is. Just as we thought spring was really here we got more snow again. Thankfully, it didn’t hit us as hard here in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario as it did in other parts of Canada.

Regardless, for those of us who suffer chronic pain it was a bitter setback. Many people with chronic pain are adversely impacted by the cold and damp. So having had a few days of warn sunshine our bodies were starting to feel a little less painful. Just a touch, but enough to really relish it.

Today the sun is shining, and the sky is blue. The temperature is 5C and a light jacket or heavy sweater is all that’s necessary. (Even if Kevin is wearing the heavy winter jacket he bought here in Canada, back home in Australia where it’s the same temperature but Winter for them!)

Unfortunately the warmer weather doesn’t completely take away the chronic pain, it just alleviates it. It maybe gives us an extra spoon or two to work with. So please remember to be understanding of your friends and family members who suffer with it.

They would love to wake up one morning and no longer be in pain. As that’s extremely unlikely to happen we carry on the best that we can. But oh so thankful that the warmer weather may finally be here to stay for a while!

Velvet boy is home….

Kai went to the groomers today. He usually goes about every 6 weeks. However, for a number of reasons it was closer to 2 months between clips this time. I dropped off a scruffy, dirty dog and got back a velvet boy very happy to be home.

I keep Kai in what’s called a ‘kennel’ or ‘puppy’ clip. It’s very short and as a result when he’s first clipped he feels like crushed velvet. When his coat is longer it’s more like the curly wool of a sheep as he has hair rather than fur. That’s why standard poodles are considered hypoallergenic by many.

He has his face and paws clipped even tighter which helps keep him clean and also helps me with his working gear. He wears a halti when he’s working and often has to wear boots either because of the hot sidewalks in summer, or the snow, ice and salt in winter.

While he was being groomed I took the opportunity to take Molly for a walk on her own. We met up with a friend and had a short walk in the drizzle along the boardwalk. Molly enjoyed the morning without Kai.

Right now she’s been pushed down the couch so that Kai can get back in next to me. She’s very tolerant of him as he’s very insistent on being next to me. She loved bedtime though when there’s space for both of them to be next to me! It’s a good job I’m single as I’m not quite sure where we’d fit another person in with the three of us and I have a king-size bed!!

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p style=”text-align: justify;”>Thankfully it was a quiet day for me. I try to plan Kai’s grooming days for such time as I find it very hard to manage without him. I forget how much I rely on him, until days like today when he’s just not there. I even had to pick my own cell phone up when I dropped it this morning!

Welcome home, Kai!

Some days recovery is so much slower than I’d like…

So today I decided to start clearing up some of that dog poop. I got myself well prepared with rain boots, heavy-duty plastic waste bags and dozens on bags for picking it up.

It was gross!!

However, the weather was probably perfect for it as I could dig my fingers in the snow around the poop and pick it up often in one slushy piece.

I got all of the side area to the deck done and started on the garden itself.

However, what I didn’t take into account was how hard all that bending down would be physically. I managed about 10 minutes before I was too out of breath to ignore it any more. So I packed up for the day and came in.

Flashback to a repeat of what my life was like for months last year…. It took a good hour for me to recover my breath again. Even after that I couldn’t eat and breath at the same time for a few more hours.

I’m sure it was a combination of the type of exercise, the scents from being outside (though the poop itself hasn’t got to the point of smelling yet – it’s still too frozen) and just doing too much.

It was scary though!

So now,  I’m inside resting and working out how long it will take me to finish off the yard if I just do 5 minutes a day. At least my dogs don’t walk it in. Somehow they pick their way round it!

I’m also looking up different poop scoop devices to see if there’s something that might be easier for me to manage once I’m finished with what’s left in the snow and I’m dealing with the bog that is the majority of my yard currently. If anybody has any recommendations, please let me know!

My apologies for the gross subject matter but hey, this blog is about my life and this was my life today! Dog poop and extreme shortness of breath once more.

The good news is that I did recover and I can breathe again and eat, and talk (to my dogs anyway!). So I am improving but the space between how sick I was and how well I am is much closer than I thought 🙁

 

Mothering Sunday

Some of you are probably wondering why I’m writing about Mothering Sunday in March. Well, simply I was born and raised in England where Mothering Sunday is celebrated on the fourth Sunday of Lent. Although it’s often called Mothers’ Day it has no connection with the American/Canadian festival of that name. Traditionally, it was a day when children, mainly daughters, who had gone to work as domestic servants were given a day off to visit their mother and family.

Being English, when I adopted my daughter at nearly 8 years of age we opted to celebrate the English Mothering Sunday for me and keep the Canadian Mother’s Day in May for her birth mom. However, it has been a few years since my daughter has celebrated either date with me.

Likewise, I am now estranged from my own mother and this will be the first Mothering Sunday since that happened.

So today in a moment of reflection I wanted to recognise all those other women out there who are not with their children today, whatever the reason.

Sometimes you know why, and the situation is irrevocable, like it is between me and my mother. For those of you for whom that applies I hope that today brings you peace.

For others, the situation is confusing and doesn’t make any sense. For those of you for whom that applies  I hope that you remember that you did the absolute best that you could, that nobody is perfect and that not being with your child on this day doesn’t take away all the good mothering that you did do when you were able to.

Take a moment in either, or both situation(s) and simply choose today to remember the good moments.

May this Mothering Sunday be the best it can be for you!

On my own today….

Kai is getting a well deserved rest today and going to the doggy spa for a bath, groom and to have his feet and teeth cleaned. He usually loves going. However, at his last groom they must have used dull clippers and he came home some what unevenly cut with razor burn in a number of places. I was not at all happy!

The problem is that Kai likely never reacted to being hurt. Part of his Service Dog training is to stay calm while being trodden on, pinched and pulled at. Much as I watch out for him so that these things shouldn’t happen, sometimes they do and he has to react calmly. So he’s unlikely to have let the groomer know how much he was being hurt.

Today, he goes to a new groomer. Who will have very explicit instructions to use new blades on him and to check him closely so that he doesn’t get hurt again. She’ll also be warned that he loves toothpaste so don’t leave it in his reach if she wants any left!

Lastly while he’s virtually grown out of his excited peeing, his last bastion is to not pee when he sees me after our being apart. So I’ll be warning them to expect the flood, Much as the mess isn’t that much fun to deal with; there is something kind of sweet about somebody being so excited to see you that they can’t control their bodily functions 😉

My vet thinks that this will be the last element of the excited peeing to go but that he still needs to mature some more for us to see it happen. Interestingly, even when his excited peeing was at his worse he has never, ever peed when working except when commanded to do so.

Anyway, so today I have to get by without my other half for part of the day. I have extra anxiety medications to take to help curb the panic attacks at being out without him. He’s my safety backup in so many ways. Even at rehab. I’ll have to remember to stand closer to hand rails and walls as he won’t be there to provide counter balance for me. I’ll need to monitor my own breathing and the staff will be monitoring my Blood Pressure and heart rate more frequently than normal, just to be on the safe side.

Service dogs provide such great independence that sometimes we forget just how much they do for us. Until a day like today comes along and you have to manage without them. Then we are harshly reminded how much harder life is without having them along to mitigate our disabilities. The chances are that I will fall, bruise and have at least one asthma attack while he is away at the groomers. All of which are issues he would have prevented. Likewise I’m sure that I’ll offend somebody talking to me as I won’t have Kai’s cue that they’re speaking to me

It’s going to be a tough day but one that Kai and I will be better for. He’ll be nice and clean and have had a complete break from working for a few hours and I’ll get by. Though even now I’m counting down the hours until I can pick him up again and he hasn’t even been dropped off yet!

I spoke a little too soon…..

While lung rehabilitation is certainly helping I was a little too optimistic two days ago on just how well I was doing. While I was able to shop much more effectively the downside was the amount of recovery time needed. I napped Saturday afternoon and thought that that would be enough to help me recover. In fact I played several games of scrabble with a friend that evening as I thought I was doing so well.

Then Sunday hit! I ran out of spoons!

It was like moving through treacle all day. I was exhausted. I’d obviously done too much too soon. So this week I need to step back a bit and remember that after 10 months of doing nothing, rehab two days a week and working one day a week is a BIG change and takes a lot of spoons. I need to make these my priority so that I can increase to working two days a week in three weeks time, as planned.

Lesson learned. Slow down and enjoy the recovery time. It took a long time to get this out of shape, it’s not going to get better overnight but I do seem to have turned the corner physically.

Now if only my respiratory system would decide to stop being so hypersensitive and allergic things really would be looking up!

However, I have been spending time researching options that might help me out there so more to follow soon as I get more information on whether the concepts will work for me or not.

In the mean time, as it’s the first day of Spring today, my lesson is to slow down and not try to recover all at once! Stop and smell the flowers as we start to see them appear as the snow hopefully melts for the last time !