Thursday, August 18, 2016

The things I learn at work

I have a vivid, dramatic imagination, so I was very relieved to be told that the chest x-rays were good (e.g., no pneumonia and more importantly, no cancer). I got that news on my phone as I drove in today for the 3rd time this week to be trained on some QA for which I'll be responsible until I leave, as everyone else is leaving before me. So I told my boss I still have bronchitis and asked her if she was OK with my driving in just one day next week, rather than my usual 2, since I still feel crummy. She said yes and because she's a nurse, I told her and two of the other nurses with whom I work (we were all together) what my symptoms are and that my doctor had prescribed Cipro. She laughed and said "You told him you're not taking that, right?" I told her I'd actually been thinking I would take it, since I've had this miserable cough for 10 months. Both she and the other nurses immediately began quizzing me, in detail, about my symptoms. My boss wanted to know if I ever cough up any phlegm and if so, what it looks like. I told her it's clear with white flecks and all 3 nurses responded in unison: "So you don't have a bacterial infection, so there is absolutely no reason to take the Cipro". Their unanimous diagnosis? The same as mine (and I'm not a nurse, but I did work for 5 years as a diagnostician): allergic asthma. They recommended that rather than Cipro, I try OTC anti allergy meds, so I'm going to try Claritin and Zyrtec (one at a time), and I'll also use my albuterol inhaler to see if I get any relief from coughing with those treatments. My boss also recommended I make an appointment with a pulmonologist for a spirometry test so I can, if needed, be prescribes an Advair diskus inhaler in addition to the albuterol inhaler.  So I'm feeling much better psychologically today, and all because I drove in to work. Sometimes that horrible commute is totally worth it.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Cough cough cough

So last October I got bronchitis and, dunno why, but the cough never left. Although the cough sounds wet, it's non productive. Whenever I lie down I sound like a leaky tea kettle: lots of whistling and wheezing each time I exhale. But I was raised in a family where we didn't go to the doctor unless the bleeding couldn't be stopped. For example, when he was 5 years old, although he was obviously horribly ill, my older brother's appendix had to actually burst (which caused all sorts of interesting, to say nothing of life-threatening, complications) before my father consented to my mother seeking medical treatment for him. As a result, my reaction to this persistent, annoying cough, and the hoarseness that sometimes accompanies it, was not to go to the doctor but to "tough it out". Stupid reaction, I know, but I'm willing to bet that many others my age can relate. Last March, when I'd had the cough for just 5 months, I developed a low grade fever and became exhausted. I finally went to my doctor, who diagnosed walking pneumonia for which he prescribed a steroid shot and a Z-Pak. After treatment, the fever resolved and I was no longer exhausted, but the cough was completely unaffected. I've coughed all summer and my voice is no longer clear, which I hate. So today, August 17, 2016, I went back to the doctor to see what can be done. He said he could hear me coughing from outside the room "and that cough is HORRIBLE!" The good news is, my lungs sound clear; the mystery is, what's causing the bronchitis? For the record, I've never smoked, or, as I like to say, five of my six siblings did, so I didn't have to. Nevertheless, he sent me for a chest x-ray (to rule out more ominous causes of persistent cough, although that's not what he said). Also,  I got another steroid shot, for which I'll have to pay almost a hundred dollars out of pocket because some bean counter with no medical training at my insurance company has decided there is no reason, EVER, to have a steroid shot. But in situations like mine, a steroid shot is absolutely called for, so I'll pay the out of pocket. The doctor said he was also going to prescribe a much stronger antibiotic, "but some people have tendon problems with this". "Oh, you're prescribing Cipro?" I asked. He turned around and looked me in the eyes. "How would you possibly know that?" he asked. "I work in pharmacovigilance, remember?" I answered. "So I know it's a fluorquinolone antibiotic and there's a possibility my achilles' tendon could snap coincidental to my taking it. The good news is you can prescribe the brand name, because we happen to manufacture it so I think I get it for free" (actually, I have to copay $15, which is fine with me).

15 years ago, a guy whom I was dating wrote me a script for Cipro to treat an upper respiratory infection, but I've never believed in overkill, so I had him re-write it for a milder antibiotic which worked fine. But having had this damned cough for 10 months, even though there's a class action lawsuit due to the side effects, I'm willing to try Cipro. And I hope the damned chest x-ray looks good. Bette Davis had it right: old age is not for sissies.



Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Hell Day

This is the third one of these that I've been through in the almost 10 years I've spent working for a large corporation. They're always awful. The way it works is, there's a meeting where there's a general announcement by Senior Management, delivered very solemnly: "We regret that we have to make cutbacks" yada yada yada, after which everyone goes back to their cubes, stunned and a little in shock because despite the rumors, no one actually believed this would happen. Then the emails start: "Please hit "Accept" to indicate you'll attend the one-on-one which has been scheduled for you at x o'clock in Room X." At the one-on-one, the severance terms are explained. The invitees are then accompanied back to their cubes where there's a single box waiting for them to quickly pack up whatever fits into it, while the attendant waits and then takes the employee's ID badge and escorts the now ex-employee out of the building. It's humiliating and embarassing for everyone involved, including the attendant. I survived the first 2, but this time, I knew my head was on the chopping block, because my whole department is being outsourced. I called in to the 8:45 AM meeting where senior management announced "21 positions in FW have been identified as redundant. Affected individuals will receive a meeting invitation in their mailbox within the next hour for a one-on-one regarding how these changes will affect them."  At 9:17 my email arrived, making it official that my job had been eliminated. I was IM-ing with colleagues at work, saying goodbye before they were walked out, when it arrived. I'd made a list of questions for my one-on-one, including, because my main office is at home, "When and where do I need to turn my laptop and monitors", etc. But at my one-on-one, at 1:30, I got a reprieve, of sorts: Because I'm so close to retirement (or so they said) they want me to continue working until Nov 4. Then everything that happened to everyone today begins for me. I'll do it, of course. I need the money, and it gives me a little time to get things in order. The severance package is actually much better than I'd dared hope for. But I'm still having a strawberry margarita, because this was one hell of a day.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

A Rant: Not Big on Small Talk...

At 66, I'm still working. I'm not asking for a medal, but here's my typical schedule: On the 2 days a week I drive in, I'm usually on the road by 6:30 at the latest. I'm not a morning person, so that often means I've been up since 5 or 5:30. Those days, if I'm home by 7 PM, that's early. Often, even when I've come in early, I work late to  avoid traffic. When I do that, I usually don't get home until around 9:00. When I work from home, I try to be online by 7:30 at the latest, and on those days I sign off at 5:00. But when I'm done with work, whether I've driven to FW or spent the day in my house, there are things I must do outside my house, including, among other things, trimming the hedges (monthly), mowing, edging, and weed whacking the lawn, front and back (weekly); bringing in my mail (daily); and watering my potted plants, front and back (daily). So when I'm outside my house doing any of those things in the zillion degree Texas summer heat, I'm not outside to socialize.
All I'm doing is dodging mosquitoes and trying to finish up so I can get back inside, where I can kick off my shoes and make myself some dinner and enjoy the coolness of the air conditioning. I don't want to be mean or rude but I'm not out there to socialize. Really, I'm not.

Wednesday, June 01, 2016

Oh, the places you'll GO!

49 years ago today, on June 1, 1967, I graduated from high school. That doesn't sound like much, I know, but in a family of 7 kids, where only 2 of us completed high school, and I was the only daughter to do so, it was a Big Deal. I left home the next day, and moved to Chicago, to make my way in the world. Eventually I earned a B.S., summa cum laude, (yeah, I'm proud of that) and an M.S., and I ended up with a corporate job with a 401K, good benefits, and a decent salary. And yet now, as I contemplate retirement this coming fall, I realize that in terms of finances I'm not much more educated than I was at 17. In terms of daily living, I can manage. Since I was 17, I've known that I must pay my bills on time, and spend less than I earn, and save as much as possible, etc., etc., but when it comes to managing a portfolio, or even knowing whom to hire to do that, I'm clueless. We aren't born with this information in our heads (or at least I wasn't) so how on earth are we supposed to acquire this knowledge? Are there courses out there that everyone else has taken, but I haven't? I think I'm going to hire someone to help me navigate the shoals of Social Security but I'm wondering how others approaching retirement feel.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Thanksgiving...À la recherche du temps perdu...

This morning I met A for breakfast, and after eggs benedict at Deli News (not the best place for eggs benedict) I drove my Fiat across the street to Kroger, where we went shopping for Thanksgiving groceries: sweet potatoes, but also Yukon golds; also fresh cranberries and oranges; canned pumpkin; fresh celery and onions; Pepperidge Farm bread cubes for stuffing; preserved, grated horseradish; ginger preserves; sweetened, condensed milk; and of course, an 18 pound turkey. We got the 18 pound bird because we're optimists, and also because we love leftovers. So far as I know, there will be just 3 of us for Thanksgiving in Dallas this year: Katharine is the only one of our children who's said she'll be here. Alex, Chris, Silas and Callum live in Fairfax, VA, so of course they'll be there, and Mike and Tami, his sweetheart, are flying from Tucson to Hawaii to spend Thanksgiving with her family. Xander is in Austin with Brenden. Chris and Caitlin are here, but haven't said whether or not they'll join us for the meal, or whether they'll just stop by for pie and coffee afterward. Although I would love to have them here with us, I don't impose that on them. They're young, and the young always have so many invitations. I remember those days very well, when we were young and broke, but it didn't matter, because everything was ahead of us. We were bright and beautiful, although we didn't have any idea or understanding of that, but because of that, when we went out, everyone wanted to talk to us: to ask us what we thought about things, what our plans were, because we had plans, lots of them, and lots of energy to carry them out. Our lives were exciting. We (I'm referring to young people in general) might get engaged, or we might break up. We might decide to move across the country to go to school or get a job, or we might move overseas, or halfway around the world. We might decide to have a baby, or two or three! We were learning to cook, and there were always new recipes we were trying, new stores where we shopped, new restaurants where we went out to dinner. If I bought a new pair of boots I wore them to show them off and everyone admired them. If I made a pie and brought it for desert, everyone fussed about it as if that were something incredible. Those were such heady days, and we thought, or at least I thought, they would last forever. But of course they don't. Things wind down, for everyone. Now, incredibly, A and I are old; it's light years since we were young, with our lives ahead of us. How did this happen, I wonder, and then, in a moment, I think, well I know how it happened, but how did it happen so fast? When I drive over in my little Fiat to pick him up, my hands hurt sometimes when I grab the gear shift, because I have arthritis in both hands. I pull up in front of his house and take out my cell phone and call his land line. "I'm outside!" I announce cheerfully. "OK," he says, "Will you call my cellphone?" He doesn't have to say why; I know why. He's misplaced it. I do the same thing, and use my land line to call and locate it. He finds his cellphone and walks to the car. Both of us move so much more slowly than we did when we were young. He gets in the Fiat and looks at me. I'm dressed in red and black: black pants, black over the knee boots, a black long sleeved knit shirt with a J Jill loose red sweater on top of that, and silver earrings and a black and red scarf at my throat. I've let my hair go completely grey, which completes the effect. He says, "You look like you're going on a sleigh ride!" I laugh and respond "I am, with Santa, right after breakfast!" He chuckles at that, and fastens his seat belt, and I start the car and drive the Fiat to Deli News.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Denial is more than the name of a river in Egypt...

The first time I had stress incontinence, I was in my early teens. I was with my best friend, C, and we were laughing so hard I lost control of my bladder. I was shocked and embarrassed, but C kindly acted like it was no big deal. That first time it happened I thought it was simply a fluke; a sign of how funny C was, or so I told myself. Sure, I sometimes lost a bit of urine when I sneezed…but that happened to everyone, right? And when I was young, it only happened on rare occasions, so it wasn’t really a problem.

In my mid 20’s and early 30’s though, late in each pregnancy it became a regular problem that lasted for several months afterward. I hated it, but I wore the bulky pads and religiously did my Kegels and assumed everything would be fine, and for a few years maybe that was true, until one day when I was in my 50’s and I realized that it had become a real problem, because all day, every day, I was leaking a little bit of urine if I so much as walked fast.

So, like so many other boomer women, I started buying pads. I was mortified the first time I had to go looking for those in the grocery store, so it was a huge relief to see the endless variety of choices, which made me realize that although none of my friends were talking about it, this must be a rather common problem. So I stocked up on pads and Googled incontinence and read endless articles about the various treatment options that were available, none of which sounded very good.

I hated the pads for so many reasons. Among other things, they chafed. I began walking for exercise, and a couple of years ago I got pretty serious about it, and began to wear a pedometer to keep track of my steps. Most days, no matter what the weather, I’d do a brisk 3 to 5 mile walk through my neighborhood, which was great, and very enjoyable, except that all that pounding on the pavement caused me to lose urine. So of course I wore pads, but with the nonstop movement, the pads chafed me so badly that my skin was often raw by the time I got home. So in addition to the pads, I began buying tubes and tubes of Desitin Ointment, and yet, because I found the whole situation horribly embarrassing, when I saw Dr. P once a year for my pap smear and she asked about incontinence, I would smile politely and say, "Oh no, that's not a problem, not for me!”

Then I read about the InTone Device, and the next day I was calling to schedule an appointment to get it. InTone is a durable medical device that helps women regain control of their bladder function in the comfort of their own homes using a combination of muscle stimulation and biofeedback. I don't work for the company that manufactures it, and I don't own any of their stock, etc., but I do own the device, and it works. It can be purchased from various healthcare providers who are certified as InTone specialists, or it can be purchased online if you submit a medical necessity form completed by your doctor.

I’m 64 years old, and two weeks after I'd begun using it I was able to stop wearing pads, even on my 3 to 5 mile walks. I’m a born skeptic, so if someone had told me this was possible, I wouldn’t have believed it, and yet I'm definite proof that it is.

I still have room for improvement. I know this because I'm able to see that I still can’t contract my pelvic muscles to the full range of the device, and on rare occasions, if I cough hard or sneeze unexpectedly, I still sometimes lose a bit of urine, but it’s a very small amount; a few drops or perhaps a teaspoon at most; not enough to require me to wear a pad.

I’ll never go back to pads, and I can’t tell you how good it feels to be able to say that.

I’m so grateful that this option exists. It’s expensive, but it's cheaper than surgery, and to paraphrase an old commercial: the ability to sneeze or cough or laugh without an involuntary loss of urine...that's priceless.