Friday, May 3, 2013

school

I haven't blogged in a while because I've been, you know, FINISHING LAW SCHOOL.


(This is not what actually happened. What actually happened was I wrote my last exam, fought my way onto and off of the stupid crowded bus with a bag full of books, and went home and fell asleep, but that was still pretty good.)

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Freud

I went to see one of my cardiologists last week. All is well and under control. I asked him if there was anything I could do for my left arm, which is puffy and a bit purple due to poor circulation because of the larger leads in my vein. The issue is cosmetic, but it's irritating nonetheless.

He said there isn't much that can be done, but that some of his patients have found success with massage, where the massage therapist (or you can do it yourself if you want) runs their hands along the patient's arm, actually pushing the puffiness down.

He called this "intermittent massage". I heard "intimate massage".

He kept saying it, and I kept staring at him, in my head sort of frantically running through any possible way I could think of in which this kind of thing might make any difference for a puffy arm. I couldn't come up with anything. I also didn't know where I would begin to look for such a service. Did he know?, I wondered. Should I ask him? I just sat there.

Eventually, thankfully, I saw him write it down on his notepad. I said, "Oh!" and he looked at me a bit quizzically, but I left it there. I'm glad I figured it out before I hit the Yellow Pages.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Better

It's spring!! It's almost spring, right? Right?!

We had such a lovely, teasing, sunshiney weekend and today has been cold and damp and grey again. I'm tired of coats and boots and steamed-up glasses.


As the weather improves, so, it seems, do I. After six months on Humira, I am finally feeling a real difference, even though I haven't taken methotrexate in a month and a half. I got better bit by bit, so that I didn't really notice how good I felt until I was walking with my Dad a few days ago. He said, "you're moving along pretty well - you must be feeling better," and I realized that yes, I was. My hips hardly hurt at all anymore, my knees feel better, my elbows and wrists don't ache, and my Dad wasn't having to slow down for me, either. I felt like I could go and go.

It isn't perfect. I still get stiff after sitting and in the mornings, and my feet and my right shoulder act up sometimes, but I'm not limping around befuddled by pain like I was in the fall. Every day I stretch my legs out on the way to the bus and swing my arms and actually enjoy my body.

It's been a while.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Carrot almond loaf

 I've been eating pretty well lately, which is nice but also, when I'm busy, quite boring, as I don't have a lot of time to experiment with recipes and just end up eating loads of raw vegetables, nuts and fish. Which makes my body feel great, but my brain a little antsy. So today, as a weekend treat, I decided to make one of my favourites, which is still not at all terrible for you.


This is a lovely loaf adapted from a recipe for brown sugar carrot bread with almonds on Mark Bittman's blog. I've made quite a few changes to it and it's still very good, so it can handle quite a lot of fiddling around. His version is made with all flour, but the ground almond gives it a really nice depth and richness.

Ingredients:

4 tbsp cold butter (1/2 a stick)
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup ground almonds
1/2 to 3/4 cup brown sugar, depending on how sweet you want it
2 1/2 tsp baking powder (less if you aren't using ground almonds)
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
3/4 cup milk or almond milk
1 egg
1 tbsp orange zest and a few squeezes of the juice
1/2 cup grated carrot
1/2 cup slivered almonds

1. Preheat oven to 350. At least I think that's what you do, but my oven likes to turn everything I bake into a pile of ash. I baked this at 300, for 15 minutes less than the recipe advised, and it still came out with a very dark bottom.

2. Mix together the dry ingredients, then cut in the butter until the mixture is crumbly and there are no blobs of butter any larger than a small pea.

3. Mix together the egg, milk, zest and juice and pour into the dry ingredients. Mix until just moistened (don't beat it or mix until smooth, or it'll be too dense).

4. Fold in the carrot and nuts.

5. Mark Bittman says to bake this for around one hour. I baked it for 45 minutes, but like I said above, my oven is weird, so you might just want to keep an eye on it.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Methotrexate, boo

I've been taking methotrexate for 18 years.

That is a really, really long time. And recently, for whatever reason - I'm not really sure why - I've started to hate it. 

It's not like it's doing anything new: my only real side effect is hair loss, and that's been happening for years. I've just grown, for some reason, to dislike it intensely. Thinking about it makes me queasy, and (confession time) I've started to skip it occasionally (I know - bad patient! However, after 18 years on a pretty wide range of doses, from almost-nothing to very high, I'm not worried about fiddling with it).

I just don't like it. I don't like that it makes me worry over every glass of wine. I don't like that it makes my hair come out in clumps and has given me bald patches. I don't like that it's a chemo drug and an abortifacient. I don't even like that it's yellow and makes awful looking stains when it spills.


I debated whether or not to even post this, because the last thing I want to do is frighten someone who is about to give methotrexate a try. The thing is, I know I am being a bit silly. Methotrexate has been perfectly safe for me - I've never once had iffy bloodwork in all my years of taking it, and my nausea went away completely after the first couple of weeks. And it did, it absolutely did, halt the severe damage that was occurring to my wrists, knees and and elbows when I was a teenager. I don't regret taking it.

Nevertheless, I'm ready to stop. I don't think it's doing much for me anymore on top of the Humira, Plaquenil and Celebrex, and, while my disease activity is definitely worse that it was a few years ago, it isn't as acute as it was in the summer, and when I first started on Humira.

My rheumatologist is awfully keen on it, though, especially paired with a biologic. I'm going to try and convince her to let me try just the Humira, Plaquenil and Celebrex and see how things go. I hope I can. After 18 years, I'm more than ready to know what my body feels like without it.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Winter

Another long gap between posts.

The first half of the gap was spent studying and writing, not sleeping, not eating very much, not exercising at all, and having the occasional (ok, frequent) panic attack. The second half was, I am pleased to say, spent reading books of my own choosing, eating good food, seeing friends and family, snuggling pets (including a recently rescued cat named Lewis), painting and taking long walks. Somehow the Christmas break always arrives in the nick of time.


I hope you've all had peaceful and joyful holidays.  My goal for the new year is to scale back my use of technology. Or at least, to try only to use technology for a purpose, rather than wasting hours aimlessly clicking from video to video and checking a thousand different news sources every day, and playing solitaire on my phone in bed at night. This is something I've been thinking about for a long time, and I want make the effort now to make that change.

I have no goals for my arthritis. As before, it limbos between pretty good and not very good at all, and I'm coming to accept that. My hand has enjoyed the rest from frantic typing and note-taking, but my feet have begun to crack when I walk and I don't seem able to go barefoot without feeling like I'm walking on marbles (which has, unfortunately, scuppered the dream of becoming a world-famous ballerina which began to take root after I saw the Nutcracker for the first time two weeks ago). It isn't so much painful as unpleasant and, well, icky. But I see my rheumatologist next week and am hoping some new orthotics might help. 

                                                              *

On Christmas Eve I went to a job interview a couple of hours from where I was staying at my parents' place. It's a firm of eight lawyers in a small, but not tiny, town (in fact, the town where I was born), to whom I'd been introduced by a former professor. I woke up at 5:30 and watched the sun rise slowly as I made my way along country roads. I met them, I liked them (very much), and on the way back afterwards I stopped to to buy a cup of tea and check my email. There on my phone was an offer.

When I'm anxious or burnt out I try to remind myself that the things I need and hope for often come when I least expect them, even though sometimes that's hard to believe. But now I'm returning to school on Monday with a new sense of motivation, purpose and confidence, and a huge weight off my shoulders.

Wishing all of you a beautiful new year. 

(Winter Fox woodcut by Mark Hearld)

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Rough patch

It's been almost two months since I posted anything here.

I'm having a rough go at the moment - the Humira doesn't seem to be working, school is busy and very stressful (whoever told me third year would be a doddle was lying), and I'm feeling first-hand the effects of Ontario's articling shortage (desperate job-hunting on top of school is not fun at all).*

Mostly, though, I'm in quite a bit of pain, and everything is a little bit more difficult. Mornings are especially frustrating: I'm up at 6:20 (super early for me) and my morning stiffness doesn't usually abate for a couple of hours, so I shower, make breakfast, dress, and lug my heavy bag five blocks to the bus in a fog of sleep, pain and stiffness. Often by the time I get there, I'm teary and angry. Then I get to school and to our awful law building, full of stairs (so many stairs!), hard-to-open doors and inconveniently placed elevators. Thank goodness for my iPod, which helps me settle down on the bus and between classes.

I know what you're thinking: why haven't I gotten help yet? I keep thinking it's got to get better soon. And in just a few weeks, by December 11th, I'll be done exams and on Christmas break. And I never know what I'm going to feel like from one day to the next - I guess I'm worried about putting a lot of work and time into arranging special accommodations and then waking up feeling great the next day. Or maybe that's just what I'm hoping.

For the past two days, I've had trouble opening my right hand. So far, I can still type, but I know that if this - whatever it is  - continues, I'll need to ask for help.

Law school is the hardest thing I've ever done. I've done hard things before, but the combined hard-thinginess of law school - the massive time commitment, the fact that I'm a hippie at a school full of corporate types, the effort of re-training my brain to think in a way that doesn't come naturally, and trying to do all of that while I'm tired and in pain - puts it at the top of the list. 

I read something this morning that helped a bit. It was something the outgoing Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, wrote about the idea of vocation: just because the thing you're doing is right, he said, doesn't mean it will always be easy. It might actually be really frustrating and scary and difficult and even "dreadful" sometimes, but anything else wouldn't be true - it would be "a game, an invention."

I really do want to be a lawyer, and I keep telling myself that when I am done school and have found a place that is right for me, I will feel more confident and passionate than I do right now. I'll actually be able to help people instead of just sitting on my couch with my computer all the time. And maybe one day I'll work part-time, or work from home, or find other ways of accommodating my disease if I need to. For now I know I just need to keep my head down, grit my teeth and push through this.

*Any blog-reading Canadian lawyers want to hire a student for ten months? I promise to bake things and bring them to work.