Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Valentine Update

I'm combining this month's update with last week's goal report, both of which are late. Saturday and Sunday the snow kept me housebound: there was a lot of it, and it wasn't cleared enough for me to walk on without too great a risk to limbs, ass, and dignity. Not that I give much of a damn about my dignity any more. 

Monday, I thought it would be clear enough to go all of two blocks to pick up yet more drugs from Rite Aid. This thought was a mistaken one. The two blocks there and back were so wretched in the rain with uncleared sidewalks, half-block detours, near calamity and general precipitation induced misery that I gave up on the whole day and wrote it off. So three days of playing XCOM ensued. Not a complete loss, though, because I have discovered that console games improve my right hand's dexterity and sensitivity. Good thing, too, since XCOM is so damned good. 

Today, Tuesday, I was back at the gym, and stronger, if unsteadier. Before I went, I could hear the start of that siren call to indolence, but quashed it easily. I did wonder if that was how the depressive slump could start though: obsessive interest in something distracting, initially with a good reason, but soon disregarding the flimsy pretext for being sedentary. 

To the update:

Vision hasn't changed noticeably, but my left eye is coming closer to closing. There are signs of life in the lower lid, which seems to be closing at night. It doesn't blink so well, and it's a son of a bitch to get moving, but I'm certain it's attributable to acupuncture. No change in the oscillopsia yet, nor obvious change in the diplopia, but I'm seeing an ophthalmologist soon, so who knows what that may bring. It turns out the video of my one-and-a-half syndrome is still on tape on the neuro-ophthalmologist's desk, but when it's digitized, expect a link!

My left facial palsy is gradually lifting, again thanks to acupuncture. It's a bit weird having all those needles shoved in my face, but it's working. I still only smile with the right side of my mouth, but I'm confident that the left will join in soon.

Toiling away in the gym and pool has been improving my strength and endurance, but the right side weakness still exists. It's really noticeable doing something like a dumbbell chest press, where my left hand lifts the weight smoothly and cleanly, but the right hand wobbles and the arm begins to struggle sooner.

Balance has definitely improved, most clearly visibly at the gym, again, where I can now actually do standing dumbbell calf raises without falling over (mostly). I seem to be swaying backwards and forwards, though, even when I have a steadying point under my hand. This swaying explains a lot of the apparently random pitching forward and stepping back that I've been doing, but I'm currently at a loss to correct it. 

The period of the sway does not match the period of the tremor, which I think is improving, again thanks to acupuncture. One of the needles in particular hurt like hell in time with the impulse to twitch, so maybe the needles are reconditioning my arm not to move in a bad way. Who knows? I still slept for two hours solidly, pain or no pain, so the needles were doing something!

The exciting new discovery is that I'm slightly deaf in my left ear. Not enough for me to have noticed before now, but my snoozing alarm increases in volume, and I realized that I could hear it first through my right ear, even when it was closer to my left. It's not a huge deal, so I'm not worried about it, but it is consistent with the theory that I have some left side vestibular damage.

All in all, not too bad, considering that a year ago I was just starting to add some weight machines into my gym routine, and leaving my stick behind in the gym was pretty scary.

I should thank the anonymous benefactors who got me hand grip strengtheners and a pull-up bar from my Amazon wish list; I have used both and they are doing me good! I haven't figured out how to find out who was that kind from the interface, so they are anonymous pro tem.. 

Finally, here's the week's progress report. Three days off mean a big fail on most of the goals, but snowpocalypse and I saved humanity from an alien invasion, so I think I'm allowed.

Weight Goal: 170lb. Last week: 198lb, this week: 197lb.

Exercise Goal: gym 3-4x, swim 2-3x - This week: M:swim, T: day off!, W: Swim, Th: Upper, F: Swim, Sat/Sun: snow

Meditation: M, T, W, Th, F

Tai Chi: M, T, W, Th, F

Stretching Goal: after every gym - Th,

Writing Goal: write at least one word a day on Project #1: M: 42, T: 0, W: 68, Th: 46, F: 117

Friday, February 8, 2013

Boobs, Balls and Lumps

Last night, after acupuncture, I went to some friends' new place ostensibly to play board games, but more accurately to celebrate the successful removal of a cancerous lump from Bitsy's boob. She wrote about how she saved her own life with a good tit-grope in the shower, and continues to write amusing and engaging things about something that is scary.

Bitsy's medical fun-ride took just under three weeks; mine has taken just under sixteen months, but we found something we have in common that people don't really get: it never ends. There are questions that simply cannot be answered accurately, or even approximately. Humans do not like this truth. Western medicine hates to have to admit it, also. This is more evident, perhaps, with neurology, but it's just as true with oncology.

When will my brain learn to use my right side? No idea.
Are you going to need chemotherapy? Dunno. Ask later.
Will you have double vision for ever? SCIENCE says probably, but not certainly.
The lump is out and you caught it early, so you're all clear, right? SCIENCE says probably, but not certainly.

The lack of a finite endpoint could be disheartening, and I think it is to many, but I like being a rational person, I like to understand things, and I like logic. I will get better if (and only if) I work hard. I don't know when I'll get better, but it will happen. So I work hard. There's no point worrying about unknowns, when the known path is right there, and clear.

What's your next step? Take that. Don't worry about the chasm down the road, you can build that bridge if you have to, but unless you take the next step, you'll never find out if there's already a way across.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Dreaming of Walking, Act II

Monday night I dreamt I could walk again. Last time I dreamt of walking so vividly, I was still being assisted with every step, and the independence I have now was distant.

This time, it was part-way into the dream that someone noticed that I had left my stick behind, but I was walking anyway. The dream was a hodge-podge of Sherborne Boys' gym, and walking (interminably) to see my sister at Sherborne Girls' but the context doesn't matter: I was walking!

At some level, I remember how it feels to walk casually, although my daily experience is of the effort it takes to walk at all, and to analyze which muscles on the right side are not working right, or enough, or at all.

The dream had a cruel irony: on Sunday night, I was too physically tired to walk the 25 minutes it takes to get to a friend's house, and I definitely couldn't have made it back. It was a shame, because playing D&D instead of watching the Superbowl would have been extra-fun. The tiredness was because, on top of doing a lower body workout in the morning, I had labored through the snow to brunch and back.

Lest I give the wrong impression, it has not snowed very much yet in New York; but the little there was made walking treacherous for me, and nearly doubled how long it took me to get to brunch. It was also exhausting. So, no D&D for me on Sunday. Worse still, although I went swimming on Monday morning, I was still bone weary by Monday night, and only just able to function.

It was clear that I needed a day off, and that I need to rethink my schedule to rebalance the exercise that steadily makes me better with the activities that enrich my life. Like seeing friends, playing games, and eating brunch. So I took Tuesday off almost completely, and I'm switching my upper and lower body workouts, so that I'm more likely to be able to walk far enough when I most want to.

Unlike last time, there's no upbeat coda; I'm seeing steady progress, but no great leaps forward. It was a good dream, though.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Sleep, perception and reality

When I was in the rehab facility in the UK, I began to get annoyed at how often my sleep was being disturbed. At the time, I was a falling risk, which included the possibility that I might fall out of bed and be unable to get up off the floor. Never mind that I hadn't fallen out of bed for over thirty years, or that I knew how to get up, with great difficulty, but I could do it; I was a falling risk, so a carer came and checked on me every hour.

Normally, this wouldn't have been a problem, since they would open the door quietly, check that I was still snoozing, and begone. My left eye, however, didn't close properly, and still doesn't: the lower lid doesn't work yet. So the carer could be as quiet as you like, but the room would suddenly brighten for a moment. My brain would perceive the light, and wake me up, just as the carer closed the door and went on their merry way, oblivious to having woken me up.

Eventually, I managed to get them to leave me alone, and then moved down to Dorset where my room was quiet and dark all night, but I discovered that I was sleeping less than I had before the stroke. This is sufficiently unusual post-stroke that I was surprised, and initially skeptical but it seemed that, independently of how tired I got, I actually slept less.

I suspected that how grumpy I felt after a 'bad' night's sleep did not necessarily correlate with the actual quality of rest, or whether I slept enough. Being a fan of science (or a giant nerd, take your pick), I decided to test this using "Sleep as Android" to provide a third party opinion on how soundly I slumbered. The app had the added benefit of recording any noise made, so I would also find out if losing weight meant that I snored less, and whether I talked in my sleep, which would be an exciting new brain damage development.

The data demonstrate, to my satisfaction, that it's possible to get a good night's sleep, but have such a strong memory of being awake, that I feel as though I slept poorly, and am grouchy. The converse is not true: I never think that I slept well, when I did not. Also, the snoring and accompanying apnoea are gone (yay!), and I am not a chatty napper (boo?).

At the same time as I formulated my hypothesis, the notion of a "second sleep" was doing the rounds. For all I know, it's been debunked, but it coincided with my discovery that I tend to zonk out completely for 3-4 hours, wake up for a bit, then go back to sleep more or less soundly. If I try to sleep more when I wake up, it doesn't work, and I end up sleeping less on balance. If, instead, I get up, go to the bathroom, read a bit, check email, and go back to bed, all within about half an hour, no more than an hour, then I sleep well for my second sleep.

TL;DR: My sleep patterns are weird, but not as weird as mischaracterizing sleep that was good as being bad on the basis of short-term memory. If you're grouchy from bad sleep, make sure you're actually sleeping poorly with a cunning machine. Also, I don't snore, boys.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Superbowl Goals (Week 2)

So the stretching (which I didn't manage at all) last week, has been pretty lame. I need to get back to my regular routine. I deleted everything I wrote on Tuesday, and started again on Wednesday, and that's clearly visible in the numbers. But I had to do the frustrating experiment on Tuesday to find the clearer path for the rest of the week... and then I got XCOM, and Friday and Saturday went to hell, and Sunday is always a busy day. In fairness, what I am writing right now is very hard but at least I got my head down and did some.

Speaking of having my head down, it looks like my nose was well in the trough this week, making my weight goal the only one I failed. Eh, whatever. I gained muscle mass, and the weight will come off eventually. Stretching on Saturday was pretty perfunctory, but I did it. These goals will do for another week: If I can keep them up and play XCOM as well, I'll be in good shape.

Weight Goal: 170lb. Last week: 196lb, this week: 198lb.

Exercise Goal: gym 3-4x, swim 2-3x - This week: M:swim, T:Upper, W:swim, Th: Lower F: swim, Sat: upper, Sun:lower

Meditation: M, T, W, Th, F, Sat, Sun

Tai Chi: M,T,W,Th, F, Sat, Sun

Stretching Goal: after every gym - T, Th, Sat, Sun

Writing Goal: write at least one word a day on Project #1 - M: 377, T 83, W: 329, Th: some, F: 32, Sat: 34, Sun: 42. Total: 897+some.