six weeks

26 February 2012

At the six week mark, a little over a week ago, I had a follow up CT scan for my neurosurgeon. Even though I never had surgery, the only person who treated me in the hospital was a neurosurgeon, so that’s who I was seeing. She is the most normal and friendly of all my doctors. In fact, I want to be friends with her but she already has my number and hasn’t called. I told her that my experience has been that the smarter and more specialized my doctors get, the weirder they are, so she was an anomaly. She said “So you’re saying I’m dumb?” And I said, “No, you’re an anomaly.” Also, I was tired of not being the one using complex words at these appointments.

CT scans with contrast dye are so.much.fun. For example, I learned that I am “a hard stick” and have very small veins. You would think that after all the poking and prodding I’ve had done lately that someone would have been so kind as to compliment me in that way. This explains why 50% of the time people have problems putting a needle in me. The cool thing is that the needle used for contrast dye is about 20 times bigger than a regular needle. The radiologist shoved it in there and I was in instant pain, flailing and writhing, and this continued even after the needle was out. I believe there was still a plastic thing in there? Once that came out, it was better. She called “Terry” the vein magician. Terry got it in my other arm with no pain, aside from the usual pinch. Ahhh. The whole scan takes only about 10-15 minutes and they shoot you up with the contrast dye at the end. When the dye goes in, you feel hot inside your body. Like your eyeballs are hot too. And you feel like you have wet your pants. It is the most strange, uncomfortable feeling. Then it ends and you develop a migraine because you have been fasting for four hours and the whole thing is just too much to deal with.

My CT scan showed that my artery is “not worse” which is good. It will never be what it was before, so it’s hard to say that it’s getting better. It will remodel itself and probably be more narrow than it was but that’s fine because the majority of my blood supply is coming from the left vertebral artery.

My neurosurgeon, Dr. W, disagreed with the medication regime that my neurologist, Dr. C, had me on. In her opinion, if I am only going to take one medicine, it should be aspirin and not Plavix. Aspirin has been around a long time, is very well documented, is safer, and is cheaper. She said she was going to call him to discuss it. I said “Great! He doesn’t know that I am seeing you today. He told me not to go to you anymore or have scans done for you but since you saw me while I was hospitalized and I like you best, I came anyway. He’s really going to enjoy hearing from you.” So they spoke and now I have switched to taking one adult aspirin a day.

I am still on track to be done with medication and frequent scans at the six month mark. Maybe a new tattoo will be in order? Or bowling? Dr. W also told me to live my life. I don’t have to give up caffeine and I can drink a healthy amount of alcohol (which is 2-3 drinks a week, FYI). I just have to be careful to not injure my neck so I am not really doing any type of exercise, which sucks because I just got a vintage Schwinn that needs to be rode/ridden/rided (all of those options are grammatically fun).

Around six weeks I finally started feeling like my energy was back. I can now get through the day without taking a nap or going to bed at 9:00pm with the seniors and teachers.  I am not getting headaches from looking at my screen at work and I don’t notice any vision problems so maybe that has totally resolved. I feel so lucky.

Anyone not interested in reading about periods and endometriosis can skip this paragraph but you’ll be missing out on blood. So, menstruation happened and I was expecting a “volcanic explosion of blood” as I read about in another stroke victim’s story, but that’s what I am used to so it really wasn’t any different. And actually, my cramps were less deathly. Maybe the blood thinner is helping move things along instead of my cells building up and forming disgusting road blocks. It was actually the easiest period that I’ve had in a year so we’ll see what happens next month. I was able to go to work and function, which does not usually happen.

All in all, I feel a lot better. And like I want to make a lot of changes in my life because life is short. I try not to get angry when I see people I love smoking cigarettes, doing drugs or making horrible food choices. I know everyone has a right to do whatever they want but your body can only handle so much. You can’t abuse it forever and expect it to be fine. It’s just a matter of time. It’s not worth the risk. I know what happened to me could happen to anyone, regardless of their health status, but it is the recovery process and severity that could be drastically different. I think my recovery has gone a lot better because I am so healthy. Sorry for preaching; it’s Sunday morning and I skipped church so I am preaching to instead of being preached at.

And thanks to everyone who continues to check on me and pray for me. I feel like I am at 90% with the 5% being that I still have problems processing things sometimes and spelling, which makes me very angry, and the other 5% being that I can’t exercise.

-brooke

update

31 January 2012

Mama and Babe

I am getting better and better with each week. My appetite is back and I have eased into a full-time schedule at work. I started with a couple of hours a day, then four, then six, and now eight. My job has been very accommodating, so I am fortunate.

I have had two recurrences of blurry vision but thanks to my cousin Sarah, who is a genius physical therapist, I learned that this happens when I hold my head in a certain position for an extended period of time. Specifically, looking to the left and up, as it puts pressure on the right artery. When the blurriness happens, it starts as a small ring of blur and then gradually grows into a large ring so everything inside is clear. Eventually, it gets so big that it fades out and I can see this whether my eye is open or shut (it is only the left eye). I only figured this out because Sarah advised that I pay attention to how I was maneuvering my head before the blurriness set in.  Now I finally feel a sense of control and not fear that at any moment, my vision may be blighted.

I have also figured out some compensation tactics for work that have eliminated the headaches I was getting. I am only using one monitor and keeping the windows that I use on that monitor smaller than normal so that I can take in more information without having to move my eyes around.

Last week, I went to see an optometrist to discuss vision therapy. While I was there he did the same tests that I had done two weeks before by the ophthalmologist (that is the first time I have spelled that word correctly) and when I saw the results of my field test it was clear that my peripheral vision has improved immensely. He said that I had the best vision he had ever seen from a stroke victim but I am also very young. He did not say that I was the sexiest stroke victim he had ever seen but I think that was assumed. We talked about therapy, which would be 30 minutes a week in-office, complemented by software I could buy to use at home. Unfortunately, this program is expensive and my insurance does not pay for it. I decided that since my vision seems to be doing so well on its own that I would skip the therapy.

I am processing information, both visual and auditory, much better now. I can handle going to Target and looking at the overwhelming shelves of products. I can go to meetings at work and absorb what everyone is saying. I thought I could handle all of that the first week I was home and now I realize that I could not.

Aside from minor vision deficits, my only other issue is tiredness. I have been taking naps every day but now that I am working full-time, that’s not an option. I guess I need to start going to bed before midnight but that’s hard. I hope to only be on the blood thinners for another five months and then I should get my energy back. So I can do important activities like read everything on the internet.

Last week I had an MRI and two MRAs (or maybe two MRIs and one MRA). That was one hour and forty-five minutes of so.much.fun. I was supposed to see my neurologist two weeks later but he called me the next morning at work, which was not a good sign. The MRI showed that I had bleeding in the brain and that was not evident on the first MRI I did, the day of the stroke. He had another specialist review my imaging and they determined that the bleed looked old, so it most likely happened right after I’d had the first MRI. He advised me to go off the baby aspirin and stick with the blood thinner. So now the trick is to keep my blood thin enough to not clot but thick enough that I don’t bleed. Which is why I switched to drinking Clausthaler beer, the thinking man’s O’Doul’s. A beer snob even when there is no alcohol.

The whole MRI/bleed thing brought me down a little. I was doing so much better with my anxiety and relaxing about every twitch being the start of another stroke. Now I have a NEW thing to worry about. Every twitch could be internal bleeding instead! Each day gets better, as I wake up and thank God that I am still here to experience a dead roach on the floor or my spawn telling me she likes my mom better than me.

I will try to keep this blog updated as I recover…it’s just not as fun as Little Wakka. I have so many great friends and family that have offered encouragement, meals, prayers, flowers, nail polish, money, childcare, hugs, advice, contacts to others; thank you so much. It has made this much easier.

In the meantime, I get to enjoy things like rolling my eyes anytime Oscar complains about anything, using phrases like “before I had the stroke” or “ever since the stroke” when I need to get out of something, and making stroke jokes that make everyone else uncomfortable. That last one is really my specialty. The person who created A Stroke is NOT a Joke on Facebook would not be happy. I did get back into my hygiene routine, which is a bummer.

stroke

17 January 2012

Hospital Family

I guess having a stroke at 31 is a good enough reason to revive a defunct blog. I spend all my blogging time on Little Wakka so I just left this puppy out to rust. People keep asking me about the details of the stroke and it’s too hard for me to spend a lot of time typing or talking so I am putting the details here, as I remember them and have translated them into everyday terminology. It has taken a week to write this and it is looooong.

[Preface: one day before the stroke, I have the following conversation with myself.]

What if I have a stroke? Well, dad had one at 42 so I have at least 10 years. But, I take care of myself so that’s not going to happen to me. 

-Monday, January 2-

It was a holiday Monday so I was out running errands with Beau (my two-year-old daughter). As we drove to the playground, my vision suddenly got blurry in my left eye, in a very localized, concentric way. My head and neck started hurting as well, on the backside, in the lower right area. I made it to the playground and when I got out of the car, my right hand was tingling and going numb. This spread up my right arm and through the right side of my face. A toddler and mom that happen to know Beau and Oscar (my husband) from the playground walked up to me and introduced themselves. I told the mom, Kate, that I thought something was wrong with me and that I may need her to watch Beau (we only have one car so it would be a 45 minute walk for Oscar to come help). I am making a very classy first impression. “Hi, I’m Brooke. I know I look young and awesome but I think I’m having a stroke. Can you watch my kid while I call 911? Thanks.” I sat down at a picnic table and the tingling/numbness did not get any better and I just knew something was wrong. I watched my dad have a stroke when I was 13 so I am very aware of the symptoms. I called 911 and sat in the ambulance while Kate watched Beau (what a blessing to have someone there I can trust, by chance).

The whole time the paramedics were evaluating me I was lucid and could answer all of their questions. I passed all of the stroke tests (smiling without my mouth drooping on one side, raising my arms, knowing the president, etc) and my blood pressure was not abnormally high. I was also hooked up to an EKG and those results were normal. So the paramedics told me that there was no reason to think that I’d had a stroke. I am 31, don’t smoke, not overweight; I most likely have a pinched nerve or a million other things. They offered to take me to the hospital for more tests or they said that I was fine to go home, if there was someone there to watch me. So, I had Kate drive Beau and me home because I knew Oscar wanted nothing more than to wait on me, hand and foot, and I didn’t want to go to the hospital if I didn’t have to.

After a couple of hours my head still hurt, my vision was still blurry, and I knew something was wrong. I’ve had headaches for years but never with blurred vision. I called a nurse hotline offered by my insurance and the nurse asked me a series of questions. She told me to seek care immediately, so Oscar drove me to the ER.

At the ER, I told them that I thought I was having a stroke. I still waited two hours before being admitted. I initially had symptoms around 12:30. By the time I was admitted to the ER, it was 6:00. The first few hours of a stroke are the most important and well, I have missed that window.

In the ER, I had a CT scan and they found nothing. Then I had an MRI and they saw that I’d had a stroke, in the lower right (back) part of my brain. I had two clots. At this point it’s about 10:30, ten hours after the stroke. They gave me medication for my headache and took a bunch of blood from me to test if I had any blood disorders or if there was something going on to cause my blood to coagulate. They thought the reason that I had the stroke was birth control. I had been taking a low-hormone (progesterone only) pill for about four months to treat endometriosis. Clotting is a known side-effect of the pill but that is typically associated with pills that have estrogen in them.

-Tuesday, January 3-

They did an MRA (MRI of the arteries) of my neck and found that there was a dissection in the right vertebral artery in the back of my neck*. It is next to the carotid artery and you have two of them, one on the left and one on the right. The right is the non-dominant vertebral artery. Mine has a tear in it. The platelets are designed to recognize an injury and clot around it. So my blood did just that but some of the clots got through to my brain. They told me that I was going to be transferred to ORMC, a large hospital in downtown Orlando, and that I would be having surgery on my neck. They just had to wait for two neurosurgeons and a vascular surgeon to be available.

[*I injured my neck a month before the stroke. I had bronchitis at the end of November/early December and I coughed so hard that I experienced whiplash symptoms. I would wake up in the middle of the night by my head jerking up in a coughing fit. I couldn’t turn my head for about 2 weeks. I had to turn my torso in order to see something behind me–my friends and I joked around about me needing a neck brace. During this time, I went to Disney World and rode Space Mountain, along with other neck-jerking rides. So I am convinced that that is when I injured this artery. My neck was sore for weeks but I didn’t think it was anything that I should have checked out.]

Until this point, I had held it together pretty well, aside from crying every time Beau left me. But when “surgery” was mentioned, I lost it. My biggest fear for Beau has always been her growing up without me and now I felt like I was being faced with that. I was telling Oscar things like “well, good thing we got that life insurance policy” or “you know I don’t want to be on life support, right?”

Around midnight I finally got transferred to an ICU unit for neurology patients at ORMC. From the moment I got there, the doctors who visited me told me that I most likely would NOT need surgery but they would decide that the next day after I do an angiography. That procedure was done the next morning and it was determined that I would not need surgery; just baby aspirin and blood thinners. Thank you, God. I spent another day/night in the hospital to be observed and then got released on January 5th.

-January 5-

My sister drove me home from the hospital and I was terrified. We were on I-4 at 5:00 on a Friday and all I could think of was that any of the drivers could ram into us and I could have another stroke. Being outside of the hospital is petrifying. With every muscle spasm, twitch, or new sensation I fear that I am having another stroke. I don’t want to leave the house and I don’t want Oscar going anywhere either.

-January 6-15-

Each day gets a little better. I have a lot of anxiety. I don’t want to take any medication for that, so I just deal with it or hug it out. I have had one instance where the blurry vision returned and I freaked out. I was at work and my coworker had to call Oscar to come and get me.

I returned to work this week, for just 2-3 hours a day. I have no restrictions on my diet or activities so I am easing back into things, although as the only person working (well, bringing in income–Oscar works at child raising), there is more pressure for me to get back to 100%.

The lingering issues that I have now are that I tire easily (and need daily naps) and with my peripheral vision. I have deficits in the upper left quadrant for both eyes but since my left can compensate for the right in that area, it is my left eye that suffers more. I can see everything in that area but I can’t process it. Does that make sense? I used to rely on that part of my vision for reading or processing information on a computer screen but now that I can’t, I have to readjust my focal point a lot when I read and this strain causes me to get headaches. Friday, the 13th, was the first 24 hours that I went with no headache. I don’t have problems watching TV because that does not take concentration and focus. I also don’t have issues with the iPhone because the screen is so small that I don’t need my peripheral vision. I used to use two monitors at work (I am a photo librarian) but now I only use one and I keep my windows small to help reduce the strain.

I see a neurologist Monday, so maybe he can give me more advice. The ophthalmologist told me that my eyeballs are fine, my vision is still 20/20, and that the damage is to the nerves. He can’t predict whether I will recover my peripheral vision or not. The fact that my vision has improved daily and that I am young work in my favor. I will continue to have scans and blood work over the next months/year to ensure that my artery is healing and the blood is not clotting.

I now have the problem of treating my endometriosis, since there is no consensus on whether or not it’s safe for me to be on a low-hormone pill. The general physicians tell me “no” but my GYN and neurosurgeon say they think it’s fine since my stroke was caused by an injury in the artery. I cannot have surgery for that while I am on blood thinners, so I am stuck dealing with a whole mess of pain that renders me non-functional for a few days every month.

**********

One of the things that bothers me about this whole freak stroke is that I constantly have to fight for people to take me seriously. The EMTs did not believe I was having a stroke (I told the 911 operator that I needed help because I was having a stroke) and as soon as they saw me, they called off the other help that was waiting. I know that I passed the tests they gave me, that I am young and healthy, and that they are not doctors, but I experienced all of the symptoms of stroke at the same time. When I called a nurse hotline, that nurse couldn’t even see me or evaluate me and she said that my symptoms did not sound like a pinched nerve and she thought it was more serious. The first 2-3 hours of a stroke are VITAL. I am so lucky that I do not have more lasting effects. My stroke had nothing to do with my family history and could happen to anyone, so guard your neck!

Additionally, the non-neuro doctors that I have seen (my PCP, the doctors on the floor/in ER at both hospitals, GYN, and eye doctor) do not believe that I injured my artery from coughing. But when I talk to a doctor in the neuro field, they agree and tell me that this is rare but can happen from things like turning your neck too quickly, doing a yoga pose the wrong way, getting a massage, etc. This is also referenced in the “Vertebral Artery Dissection” page on Wikipedia, which I realize is not a medical journal. I am tired of people in the medical field arguing with me or making me feel dumb when I tell them that my neck was injured for weeks because of my cough. I want to scream at them that I am not over-reacting and that I know my body. I do not go to the doctor unless I am dying and I have never been to the ER before this. I am not overly dramatic or an exaggerator. Most doctors do agree that it could be from the rides I rode at Disney, so I leave it at that. I will never ride another roller coaster and I will always keep a prescription cough suppressant on hand.

Lastly, I just want to document one other experience. While I was having the stroke and for the next few hours afterward, when I was attempting to relax at home, I kept having flashbacks of dreams that I’d had for the past two weeks. I had been dreaming of having the stroke but I did not remember when I woke up. It wasn’t until I experienced it that these memories came back to me. They weren’t identical, as in, I didn’t dream I was at a park with my child, but it was more like scenes of me driving and not being able to see, not being able to feel my arm, etc. As if my body knew this was going to happen. Weird.

I know that my situation could have been so much worse and I am so grateful for all of the prayers and thoughts from everyone. It is clear to me that I was in God’s care the whole time and that even going back six months, He guided me toward decisions that affect how the stroke impacted my life. I have only lived in this town for six months and I do not know many people and Oscar knows literally less than ten people here. One of those people happened to be at the park that day. O has been looking for work for six months and found nothing…while we were in the hospital the Magic called him and booked five games of work. If he were working, he would not be able to be with me all day, take care of Beau, drive me around, and do all of the housework. When I took this job six months ago, I was offered another job the same week and had to choose between the two. I am confident that the job I chose has better health insurance and disability benefits than the other one, although that was not a factor in my decision. And as my mother-in-law reminds me, I am fortunate to have had this happen early and have the opportunity to treat it.

***********

On a positive note, I now I have fun conversations like this..

Me: So, I am going to take a shower. Just listen out.

Oscar: Listen for what? If you drop the soap?

Me: No, if I drop my body.

……….

Me: So, did you cry at all last week?

Oscar: No. I knew you’d be fine. Why, you want me to cry?

Me: Geez. I am just trying to get on the level with your mom and our daughter. WHY WON’T YOU CRY OVER ME?!?

……….

Oscar: What’s in your hair?

Me: Nothing. I just need to wash it.

Oscar: It’s dead skin cells. Gross.

……….

Me: I can’t multitask anymore. What if I am simple now?

Aimee: Your sarcasm is still on so I don’t think you need to worry about that.

Me: I don’t want to be simple.

………

Me: Are my neurons firing?

Oscar: What?

Me: Danielle told me about neurons firing. Do I look like me? Like I still have a spark?

Oscar: You look the same.

less meat

8 February 2011

Not difficult, not scary, and not bland. Since the return of my mom’s lung cancer and the subsequent onset of colds and bronchitis, I am trying to do all I can to keep her healthy. (According to her doctor, lung cancer is the fastest growing cancer and it is attacking non-smoking, hot women, like my mom.) I have been going with her to doctor appointments and treatments for over a year and never once has diet, exercise, emotional well-being, or spirituality been addressed or questioned by a doctor. Like her illness is on an island inside her chest, completely isolated from the rest of her being.

So, I convinced her to eat, pray, love as a vegetarian for the month of January and it isn’t as easy as I thought it would be to find recipes so I am sharing some here. I don’t think meat is intrinsically bad but I do think the way the average American consumes meat is bad. Too much, too big, and too modified. It is a myth, a mind-game, that your body needs meat at every meal, or every day, or in order to feel full. I am not a vegetarian but I do try to limit my meat in-take to a few times a week. Here are some reasons why…

-Meat is mainly vitamin deficient, higher in fat, higher in cholesterol, and lacks carbohydrates (yes, your body needs them).

-You don’t know how many drugs or hormones the animal was exposed to and on top of that, what type of modified food product or pesticide-coated vegetables that animal was fed.

-Meat has been linked to a variety of diseases and acne.

-If meat is over-cooked, well done, or charred, it produces carcinogens.

-Cheaper date at a restaurant.

-The environment. Raising, preparing, and transporting meat for consumption requires more fossil fuels, land, and water. Cows produce more atmosphere-damaging emissions than cars do.

-You can get all of the nutrients and proteins your body needs through a plant-based diet.

You get the idea. If you are buying less meat, you can afford to buy organic, grass-fed, or local meat. Our experiment went well and surprisingly, my dad only complained once. He didn’t seem to notice that we weren’t eating steak with a side of goat bladder every night. Now we are back to eating bits o’meat here and there. There is a whole movement devoted to this, Meatless Mondays, and its website is a great resource for freeing yourself from meat just one day a week . I also suggest joining an organic veggie co-op (even my podunk town has one). When you spend $50 every other week on something, you make sure you use it before it goes bad. It enables you to try new foods you wouldn’t typically buy at the store (hello, celery root).

Here are the recipes/ideas/tips that I suggest for your meat-free days. Oh, and I am including a few fish recipes here as well. Oh oh, and I did use chicken broth in some of these, because that’s what I had on hand. Oh oh oh, I haven’t tried all of these because some of mine came from books or magazines, so these are similar or substitutes.

Greek Pizza Pockets

-Broccoli and Cheese Stromboli

Meatless Jambalaya

Broccoli Soup (dairy free, can use veggie broth)

Potato and Corn Tacos

Spinach Enchiladas (I add sauteed onion, garlic, mushroom, and beans to mine)

Lentil Soup

-Southern Sides (I just make some of my favorite side dishes, like macaroni and cheese, collard greens, sweet potatoes, and cornbread)

Sweet Potato Burritos

Crockpot Barley Casserole

-Smoothies (I blend plain yogurt, honey, frozen/fresh strawberries, blueberries, banana, flax seed, and kale or spinach)

Vegetable Lasagna

-Set up a make-your-own omelette buffet

Black Bean Burgers

Greek Salad Pitas

-Veggie Pot Pie (I just follow a chicken pot pie recipe but I use cooked fresh veggies and no chicken)

Fish Tacos

Vegetarian Chili

Eggplant Curry

Teriyaki Salmon

-Add more beans, quinoa, bulgar, greek yogurt, and lentils to your diet

Photo from letouj via flickr

Clean

8 November 2010

Since my job loss last month, I have been scheming ways to make money without sitting in an office or classroom all day. So I listed all of my skills, and it turned out to be a not long list that doesn’t point to any specific career path. My in-demand skill list is: stain removing, internet researching (any topic, people), Facebook picture caption writing, baby clothes buying, blog reading, half apron sewing, sleeping until noon (we alternate days waking with Beau), teaching/training/helping (but I don’t want to teach or be a customer service representative), and dancing (very subjective).

Then, today, I was accused of hoarding cleaning secrets, so I decided that since it is apparently a skill not everyone has, I would share some cleaning tips. Go ahead and close out this tab if you are already bored. I try and make most of my cleaning products or use things that are natural. If you are using chemicals and cleaning with the windows closed, you are inhaling those fumes. I don’t think that’s why my mom got lung cancer (non-smoker, non-genetic) but I don’t want to take any chances. So pictured here is my crew.

-Vinegar. I pour white vinegar into a spray bottle that I got from Publix for $1 and use this for almost everything. You can dilute it with water but I use it full strength. Yes, vinegar is not the most pleasant smell but it dissipates, along with other odors. I use it to clean mirrors, windows, toilets, sinks, floors (we have an electric mop like a Swiffer but by a different company that lets you fill it with whatever you want), counters, and basically anything you would use a spray cleaner on. I have also used it to stain treat, as bleach, fabric softener, cat urine smell remover, hair rinse, car carpet deodorizer, to treat jellyfish stings, and to clean out the coffee maker.

-Lemon juice. If I get a stain on clothing, especially white clothing, or if I find something old from a thrift store, I use this to treat it. I just squeeze lemon juice on it and hang it out in the sun for a few hours. Then I wash it and repeat the lemon juice/sun cycle, if necessary. So easy and it works really well.

-Dawn. Old-school Dawn, not newfangled super concentrated Dawn. This stuff is my general stain remover for clothing. It gets out grease, oil, blood, food, and dirt. Depending on the stain, like a general food stain, I just squeeze some on and throw it in the hamper. Then I wash as usual. If it’s something major, I squeeze it on and rub it in with an old toothbrush. If I can’t get a stain out with lemon juice, I go to Dawn. I have used this to get stains out of hand-me-downs that were there for a couple of years.

-Borax. I use this when I want a paste or a scrub, like when I clean the tub. I also use this for laundry stains, if lemon juice or plain Dawn didn’t do the trick. I once washed a white tank top with pink jeans and the tank top got a huge pink stain on it. I instantly treated it with borax and a toothbrush and got the stain out. It is really hard to remove clothing dye stains, so I probably rewarded myself after that with an episode of the Real Housewives of Atlanta.

-Mr. Clean Magic Eraser. So far, I only use this for the tub because I couldn’t get a ring off with anything else. I hear you can use it for other things, like marker on a wall. It is my last resort, since it is the least natural.

-Hairspray. This is the only thing that gets ink out. I will be using it tonight; thank you, Beau. You could probably use rubbing alcohol, if you don’t have Aqua Net around. I prefer to use a traditional spray over the aerosol but they both work. Just spray the stain, let it set, blot with a rag, and repeat.

-Specialty items (not pictured). When something crazy happens, like your husband spills a glass of red wine on your white couch, I refer to the internet. I removed a huge red wine stain with a combination of baking soda and hydrogen peroxide, which was awesome, but the cleaning solution left a big water mark, which was sad. You can wad up newspaper and throw it in the fridge to remove odors (like fish). I use Goo Gone to get the sticker residue off of things. I wish there were a Poo Gone I could use for cloth diapers. For light laundry stains, I use the Ecover stain stick and that works well.

Wasn’t that enthralling? If you’re still reading, you’re probably a nerd.

This post is not for the faint of heart. It is about a blood bank for your cervix. Consider yourself warned. I have crossed over into the world of menstrual cup, a land unknown to many. It is a silicone cup that you insert during your period to collect blood, in lieu of a tampon or pad. This month was my first round with it, so I am still learning.

Here’s how it works: you order it online (unless you have a great hippie pediatrician), sanitize it in boiling water, figure out which insertion technique works best, and leave it in up to 12 hours (officially, or longer, unofficially). Then remove, rinse, and replace. You can sleep, work all day, and be physically active without removing it. Don’t go camping; bears smell blood. Is it messy? A little. You have to pour out your blood/lining/unused eggs into the toilet, which I find interesting but many find gross. You also get blood on your fingers when inserting, but that happens sometimes anyway. It’s not like now I have to wash my hands, which I never did before. There are different brands and after much research, I went with Fleurcup. Bottom line: I want something French inside me. Or; it’s French, that’s how you know it’s good. I haven’t tried any others but this one is working for me.  There are many brands and the popular American brand is Diva Cup. People also like the Lunette but it is a little smaller than I wanted. There are typically two different sizes and they are simply based on your age and whether or not you have given birth. Pretty simple. See below for resources.

Think this is gross? I really don’t care. I think everything period-related is equally gross. It’s your body, it’s natural, deal with it.

Benefits:

-Save money. A menstrual cup costs about $20-$30 and can last up to 20 years. I spend about $10 a month on disposable products, so in two months I have recouped the investment. In ten years, I have saved over $1000.

-It loves the environment. I am not throwing out dirty paper products that have been bleached with chemicals and scented with fragrance.

-More productivity (maybe your boss will foot the bill). You don’t have to go to the bathroom every hour on heavy days (is that just me? I fear I have shared too much).

-No dry scraping if you remove it too early. It is not absorbing everything.

-No string hanging out. Which also means you can wear it with lingerie, but why sexy nightwear when 1994 made such awesome sweat pants?

-You don’t feel anything.

-They have not been associated with TSS.

-You get to pick your own color. I don’t know why that matters, but it does.

-They have been around since the 1930s and are popular in Europe. They are more advanced than we are in a hygiene area?

Awkward:

-You see your blood and lining.

-Your fingers get messy.

-There is a 2-3 cycle learning curve and it can be tricky figuring out how to insert/remove.

Tips:

-Squirt bottle. If you have given birth, they give you these free squirt bottles that probably have a medical name. They are a great help for rinsing out fluids.

-You should not feel the cup. If you do, trim the stem. I trimmed the stem completely off.

-Don’t put it in and out too often. Just trust that it’s in there, doing its job.

-If you do need to empty it when you’re out, just keep some toilet wipes or a water bottle with you. Or use the handicap stall.

Next up: reusable pads?

Resources:

A blog dedicated to menstrual cups

Size comparison chart, by brand

Overall comparison chart, based on one person’s experience

Another comparison chart

Fleurcup Review

Menstrual Cups on Amazon

Vaccinate This

2 September 2010

I’ve gotten a number of emails/calls in the past two weeks regarding my vaccination choices for Beau, so I thought it’d be easiest to put them on web paper. I chose to vaccinate my baby on a selective/delayed schedule, based on the one offered by Dr. Sears in The Vaccine Book (my main resource), although I did read other books. The reasons I chose for her to not have all vaccines and not get too many at once are: she was breastfed; not in daycare; vaccines do not grant you lifetime immunity and many adults do not get boosters; some of the ailments we vaccinate against are not that severe (99% of the time); there are aborted fetal cells in some vaccines; the FDA has not set a recommended aluminum content for infants and many vaccines contain way more than the limit for adults; not all strains are covered in a vaccine so you can still get the disease; and some of the diseases are not infant illnesses. Here’s Beau’s schedule, for the first 12 months:

2,4,6 months: DTaP (Daptacel brand)
3,5,7 months: HIB (actHIB) and PC (Prevnar)
12 months: Polio

I chose the first three because they are the most detrimental to infants under 2. I asked my pediatrician which brands she carried and of course she did not know. The brand they carried for DTaP had the largest AL content. I told her I didn’t want to use that brand because of the AL and she replied “Yeah, but there’s no mercury.” Uhm, yes, I know that. She did not know why they chose that brand (I am sure that pharmaceutical company gave out sweet vacations and lots of candy). I told her I wanted to use the Daptacel brand (less AL and no animal tissue) and they actually carried that in-stock because that is what Medicaid patients get. So, she set that aside for me. Otherwise, they were not going to order it. HIB and PC do not contain animal tissue. I am not opposed to the animal tissue vaccines entirely, but I try to limit them. I wish the DTaP was just P (Pertussis) but you have to get all things at once (diphtheria and tetanus and pertussis).

The hardest part about implementing this is finding a pediatrician who will be flexible with you. When we were in NYC, my pediatrician flat-out told me I was crazy and that she did not know what was in vaccines but she knew what they prevented. Awesome. Please make more decisions about my child’s life. But, she let me do whatever I wanted, so I stayed with her. When we moved to FL, I made a point of finding someone who is open to alternative schedules. We have no insurance, so I pay out-of-pocket to see her but it’s worth it to me. You can also get free vaccines at the Health Department, so I am going to look into that for her next round.

I did not do Rotavirus because I do not think the virus is that bad. And, this year, they had a recall on one of the brands because of contaminated pig tissue. I did not do Hep B because that is primarily from a needle or STD and I’ll decide on that later. I just take it one year at a time. At 12 months I did give her Polio. It has been around a long time and I consider it responsible for eradicating Polio in the US, so that’s the thing–there is no polio here. But since it’s been around so long I felt like it was safe and I gave it to her. I am undecided on the MMR vaccine and will examine that in a few more years, since they no longer offer it as separate shots. She will not be getting the chickenpox (varicela) vaccine. I would rather her get chickenpox and have lifetime immunity, although it’s getting harder to find chickenpox since most kids are vaccinated. I do not give Beau the flu vaccine nor do Oluv or I get it. Somewhere in the back chapters of The Vaccine Book, Dr. Sears talks about the statistical chance that your child will get any of the diseases and be hospitalized, which is really helpful when making these decisions.

Remember, you have the right to walk out of a doctor’s office. Do not let them intimidate you or make you feel bad. Some doctors do not actually know what is in the vaccine–all they know is what the pharmaceutical rep told them. And, if they are older, they may just do things the way they have always done them; or, so has been my experience. No one cares about your child as much as you do. I had so many regrets about what happened with Beau in the NICU that it gave me the courage to do things differently than my doctor advised and I am totally happy about the vaccine choices that I made. I did so much research that I honestly felt like I knew more about the vaccines than my pediatrician (at that time) did. This is not representative of every pediatrician and is just based on what I went through and discussions I’ve had with friends in the medical community. You are not violating a law by not/selectively vaccinating. All states offer a religious exemption for school (and some offer philosophical), so you just have to get a form signed by your pediatrician or the Health Department. In FL, they don’t ask any questions. They just sign it. I have been through that first hand and so have a few friends. But, the explanation that I have prepared, in case someone asks, is that vaccines contain aborted fetal tissue and I am religiously/ethically/morally opposed to abortion and don’t want those cells going in my child. That should suffice. The three vaccines that Beau received do not have aborted fetal cells in them. Although, I am more concerned about the pig, cow, and monkey tissue they put in vaccines. It is usually more helpful to discuss all of this with the pediatrician before you go to the first vaccine appointment, so you know how they feel about it.

I know people who get all vaccinations and people who get none and at the end of the day, you have to do what you believe is best for your child based on your experiences. I am not pushing this schedule on anyone, I do not think I have all the answers, and I am not a trained physician–I have just been asked about what I did and how I came to that decision and I thought it would be easier for people to reference here than in an email.

Resources:

The National Vaccine Information Center

Dr. Sears Vaccine-Friendly Pediatrician List

Dr. Tenpenny’s Website

BabyCenter Message Board for Alternative Vaccination Schedules (top post has additional resources)

Chickenpox Vaccine Article by Compassionate Souls

Read my follow-up post to this (recounting a trip to the health department) here.