Time

Dawny update here for any and all who care… and, honestly, who doesn’t care about sweet Dawny Virgil???

Bottom line:  She is doing GREAT!  I have certainly seen the difference.  Friends have commented on how wonderful she looks.  But it is always good to have solid clinical data to back up what our mere human senses detect and suspect.

The main thing the vets have been tracking through Dawny’s battle with kidney disease is her creatinine level.  Creatinine is a perfectly normal waste product produced by our muscles and filtered out of our system by the kidneys.  Kidney disease inhibits this process, though, and that is why creatinine builds up in the system and is a handy marker to test disease progression.

When Dawny was first diagnosed in March of this year, her creatinine was at 2.2 (1.6 is considered too high).  When I had her tested in May, the creatinine had more than doubled to 4.7.  The vet said she would not be able to survive another doubling of that value.  I figured that if she lived to see August it would be amazing.  She lived.  And she is amazing.

This visit, her creatinine level had only climbed from 4.7 to 4.9.  Incredible!

After the May appointment, I returned to the vet to be trained in subcutaneous fluid injections to help keep my girl hydrated, critical when combating kidney disease. I nearly fainted just looking at the needle and the bag of fluid I was expected to try to slowly squirt into the back of her neck somewhere, somehow.  Yeah, I failed.  And it made me miserable.

So I doubled down on the food side of the battle, shifting most of her meals to home cooked, supplementing with a prescription food from the vet.  In my post of March 21, I talk about Dawny’s diet, specifically what nutrients are best for someone with ailing kidneys.  I will repeat some of that here, although I go into more detail in the earlier post.  If you would like to check that out, you can find it in the archives box to the right.

Here is what we have been doing for the past six months:

Morning and evening meals:  Ground beef (not lean–fatty is better because it is lower in protein) mixed with a roughly equal amount of white rice (not brown, which can contain toxins in the hulls).  Add some sweet potatoes mashed with green beans.  Mix with water to make it like a stew (hydrate hydrate hydrate!).

Lunch:  Hills Prescription Diet K/D dry food (add water) and a heaping spoonful of plain yogurt, which helps her intestinal health–the evidence of which can be seen when she poops nice, solid poops compared to the horror that was exiting her backside last spring.  I feed her the prescription dry food so that she will get some of the nutrients that she may not be getting from my home-cooked meals.  You do need a prescription from a vet to get this food, but the nice thing for a traveler is that you can pick it up at any PetSmart around the country.

Since her original diagnosis last March, our girl has clocked in roughly four more years in human terms.  Four good years.  That is how it would be counted if you figure one dog year equals six human years, which is about what it is for a doggy of her size (30 pounds or so).  That is a lot of time.

In that time, sweet Dawny Virgil has enjoyed our journey from Florida to workamping jobs in Virginia and Pennsylvania, followed by a non-working trip through Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois to discover new smells and see old friends in Missouri.  A sharp turn back to the east brought us rolling through beautiful Kentucky and Tennessee and then to more jobs in Virginia.  She has witnessed a rare eclipse, celebrated a major birthday (mine), and relished cookies and lovin’ from the hands and hearts of so many, many dear friends.

So, as my girl and I celebrate another Thanksgiving together, I am most grateful for this gift of time–both its quantity and quality–with my best buddy.  I hope each of you have many wonderful things to be grateful for in your lives, as well, and that you enjoy a safe, peaceful, yummy holiday season.

Psychic Clutter

Last night I had a dream about my house.  Its various rooms came straight out of all the different houses I have lived in over the years, going back to our house in New York, which is the first one I remember very well.

The house was terribly cluttered, items spilling from closets with doors that could not even close.  I recognized the biggest closet as one that used to be in my parents’ bedroom.  This closet has shown up in many of my dreams.  It was a mysterious, slightly scary place, where Mom hid our Christmas presents until they magically appeared under the tree.

Most of the clutter in this house belonged to my two husbands.  Isn’t it funny that they both lived in the same house with me!  The house had finally been sold after being on the market for a long time.  I had known it had been sold and had been busy cleaning up my own stuff, but my husbands had procrastinated.

It was moving day.  The new people were due to take over the house in the afternoon.  And it was still full of my husbands’ clutter.  So, while they were both away, I went through everything, room by room, closet by closet, box by box, and cleaned it up.  By “cleaned it up,” I mean I unceremoniously tossed most things into the trash.

I woke up before completing the job and quickly gave myself a retrospective break, deciding that the next thing I would have done, had I still been dreaming, was hire a deep-cleaning crew to finish the job and make everything sparkly clean.  So I did that real quick in my head.  How good of me.

This dream struck a deep chord.  I spent the first week of October at a campground where I was surrounded by silence.  No clutter in the airwaves–no TV, internet, computer, or phone.  Heck, for the first few days, I was the only one in my rather remote section of the campground.  It was quite a challenge and I will admit that I did not like it at all at first.  I missed the clutter!

By mid-week, however, I was going strong, writing the first story I have been able to get excited about in over a year.  It was basically complete by week’s end.  Now settled into my next campground and workamping job, I have been fine-tuning the story with edits, formatting, and design, preparing to release it soon as my third ebook on Amazon.

There was an even greater significance to my dream, though.  Surrounded by the peace and quiet of that week, I was able to get in touch with the role that certain life-shaping events have played in my own life story.  And I recognized after the dream that the piece I wrote, although not technically autobiographical, turned out to be a really good exercise in psychic decluttering.

Thankfully, I have managed to remain fairly unplugged, even though I can get 50 channels via my TV antenna now and the internet comes in strong.  I have greatly cut back on the amount of news I watch and spend far less time on the computer (unless I am working on the story or something else productive).  It feels wonderful!

I will post here once the story is published.  It will be the second book in the Campground Chronicles series (the first being Billy:  A Campground Chronicles Short Story).  It was initially inspired by my son’s recent suggestion that I write something about my childhood.  That is not something I can easily do, so I took a sideways approach instead.  I thoroughly enjoyed writing it, and I hope a good measure of that pleasure will be shared through the page.

Doing Sick Solo

So… about that stupid joke at the end of my last post…  Well, I got bit all right.  Not by a bear, thank goodness.  By a tick.  I usually save the bodies, wrapping them in a little paper with a date on it.  Then I freeze them, just in case I have to get them tested one day.  The latest addition to my tick morgue is dated 6/1-6/3/17, one month before I came down with classic early Lyme Disease symptoms:  fever bouncing between 101 and 104, headache that painkillers wouldn’t touch, chills, extreme fatigue, rash, etc.  I got better after six days.  Six days after that, I was sick again.  Then better.  Then sick.

I thought this would be a good time to share some thoughts and tips for others who might find themselves in a similar situation:  sick, solo, and away from home.  As a full-time RV traveler, my actual home is always with me, so it might be more accurate to say away from family.  In any case, most of what I have to contribute would apply whether you are on the road or stationary.

You are your own best (and only?) advocate.  I am grateful that a friend reminded me of this early on.  It helped give me the spirit and strength to wrestle with the doctor who saw me at the local urgent care clinic during the first spell of sickness.  Yes, I wrestled with a doctor.  Read on.

You know your body best.  This was different from any flu virus I had ever had before.  I also recognized a rash on my chest as out of the ordinary, including a faint “bullseye” pattern that the literature associates strongly with Lyme’s.  I took a picture of it and showed it to the doctor.  He barely looked at it before quickly dismissing it as just red, ugly, splotchy, old lady skin.  Ok, so he didn’t really say the words “ugly” and “old lady,” but I heard them all the same.  The rash disappeared along with the first batch of flu-like illness.

Take notes, in writing!  Don’t rely on your memory.  There is no such thing as a reliable mental note after the age of 33.  During my doctor visit, they took blood to test for Lyme Disease.  I asked the doctor how I would know if I might have Lyme’s even if the test came back negative (false negatives are very common in the early stages).  He said I wouldn’t get better.  I wrote that down.  The test, indeed, came back negative.

Research, research, research.  And take more notes.  Since I spent so much of my adult life in Virginia, I already knew about the dangers of Lyme Disease, especially when not treated early.  When I felt up to it, I got on the computer and googled (I love you, Google!) for more on early symptoms, late symptoms, tests, and treatment. Consistently, the information warned against letting the disease get established in your system without treating it early, even without a positive blood test result.  It also confirmed my symptoms as highly consistent with early stage Lyme’s.

With all due respect, do not back down…  Wrestle if you must!  When I got sick again six days after the first bout, I called the doctor to ask for a prescription for the antibiotic used against Lyme Disease.  He refused.  He said it could be a hundred other things.  I responded that my symptoms tracked very much with early Lyme’s, including the point he made during my office visit that I would not get better from the initial virus-like symptoms.  He said I didn’t have the rash.  I responded that yes, I did… remember the ugly picture?  He said there was no proof I had been bitten by a tick.  I reminded him that almost one month prior to becoming ill, I had a tick latch on for at least 48 hours.  He said he would “mollify” me by prescribing one week’s worth of antibiotics.  I responded that one week would do no good since proper treatment required one month’s worth.  He finally relented.  Yay.

When you can, DO.  I felt better after throwing up, which usually happened in the morning.  So that is when I would get critical stuff done (rather than climbing back into bed, which is what I really wanted to do), like emptying the RV’s waste tanks, adding to the fresh water tank, shopping, and preparing batches of Dawny’s home-cooked meals ahead of time.  Luckily, my workamping job here is very simple and flexible and I was able to do the minimum to get by.

While you are well, prepare for when you are not.  A list of emergency contacts should be placed in several obvious locations (wallet, glove compartment, fanny-pack if you hike with one).  As a workamper, I give my emergency contacts to the office or head ranger when I arrive at each new job.  I also try to let someone there know how to access my RV in an emergency, which is especially important if you have a pet and/or are unconscious inside.  Make sure your emergency contacts know of each other and have each other’s contact information.  Let them know where your important info is (health insurance card, financial stuff, will, spare keys).

Along similar lines, be a proud, practical squirrel.  RV’ers are supposed to travel as lightly as possible.  Nevertheless, it is important to load up on at least a week’s worth of “sick-supplies” to always have on hand (pain reliever/fever reducer, cough medicine/lozenges, other first-aid basics, ginger ale or whatever helps your nauseous tummy, tea/honey, bread/butter for toast).

Finally, yes, good squirrels save ticks.  Wrap the body of any tick that bites you–especially if it has had a chance to feed for 48 hours–in a dated piece of note paper and file it in a discreet corner of the freezer.  If, after my antibiotic course is finished, I continue to get sick, I now know what to do with that body from early June.  East Stroudsburg University’s Wildlife DNA Laboratory (link:  www.esu.edu/dna) will test that tick for Lyme’s for $50.  It will test for three possible pathogens, depending upon the tick, for $125.  For $175, it will test for all pathogens.  The tick can be from anywhere, not just from Pennsylvania, and even after several years the lab can still conduct the tests.

Thank you for reading.  Wishing all of you good health and tick-less happiness.

(Anyone who would like to contribute a tip on dealing with illness while alone and/or traveling, please feel free to use the comment section.  Keep in mind that each comment needs to be individually approved, so it won’t show up right away.)