Sunday, July 31, 2011

the traveling Crohn

The adventure, three days in, has already been packed with thrills, chills and hospital billz [yo].  On a mild Sunday evening in the Bay Area, I find myself with a moment to reflect on the first phase of this great adventure.

The back story is very important here.  I have never lived more than 1 hour away from my childhood home, in which 20 nigh consecutive years of my life were spent.  When I went to college, I was an hour south.  When I went to work, I was half an hour north.  Although I have traveled some, I have never done the "big move"; and the "big move" includes a three-bdrm apartment of stuff that I didn't have before getting married last year.  With that in mind, let us begin.

I had planned for Wednesday the 27th to by my final full day at work, giving me a little buffer room to wrap up final minutiae.  Come Monday evening, and after accepting that the newly deposited moving POD is probably too small for what we need, I receive word that someone very dear has been addicted to narcotics for the past three years and is now ready to seek support in deciding the next steps toward recovery.  As if I weren't stressed enough -- if you ask H.K., "freaking out" would be his word choice -- this was pretty much icing on the cake.  Or fondant, if we're going for the full-blanket "heavy and surprisingly not good" analogy, and I am.

Tuesday morning during a short tea with Boss Man, I announce that I will be finishing up everything today and that I will be leaving early to be able to devote some time to Loved NA before I disappear.  Emotions abound during good byes and I flee the lab and go directly to Loved NA's abode.  It is pertinent, here, that I have not eaten much/well in several days because nausea and evening Crohn's attacks have become frequent and increasingly more painful.  This made the evening spent with Loved NA et al much less fun than it could have been.  However, it was a productive evening and I was sure that I could leave knowing that Loved NA was in good hands and of good-ish mind.

H.K. has already spent Tuesday packing up his small business into the POD, and Wednesday morning brings my involvement.  We get the thing a bit less than halfway packed before retiring.  I spend the night in and out of the Thunder Dome (ya like that?).  Thursday morning is blur of half-consciousness and sore limbs (does it come as a surprise to anyone that I'm totally out of shape but still lifting boxes and furniture twice my size? no.).  Loved NA is over helping a bit while kept a close but friendly eye on.  My mother has come as well with a repeated strain injury in her wrist and still clambering to help so I am delegating her to very small items.  Bless their hearts, delegating is the last thing on this earth that I want to be doing.

Wednesday evening, happiness arrives in the form of Minister Man (*totally unaffiliated best bud who kindly got ordained solely to hitch H.K. and I).  At this point, my diet of saltines, broth and beans has rendered me Throughputless, and I indulge in salmon and rice.  Then, I die.  The next morning, H.K. and Minister Man take over the heavy lifting as my body is near useless.  Mid-morning, I get a call from Loved NA, whose "watcher" has been called away and who is in need of a safe place.  I drop what I'm doing (which in honesty is not much), and leave the boys with the packing burden for the next hour, the poor things**.

Eventually on Thursday evening, our lives sans the trash and recycling bins and a dragon flower plant are packed, the apartment is in better condition than we received it despite the gaping cement hole and Frankinsteinian counter in our kitchen.  Without the extensive help of Minister Man, my mother, my sister and Loved NA... there is no way in the world that this could have been accomplished in two days.  No friggin way.  H.K. and I spend the night at my parents, where I [again] indulge in foods which encourage peristalsis, and [again] spend the evening with the Thunder Pot in more excruciating pain than I have been in over two years.

Had we not planned on leaving at 330am the next morning, I would have woken H.K. and fled to the ER for morphine salvation.  Instead, and without any form of painkiller, I endured.  Because I am an idiot.  And then got up at 330am.  Because I am an idiot.  You betcha.

H.K. was kind enough to do the majority of the driving to the Bay Area (a 12 hr trek).  We arrived with ample time to greet and have dinner with his family, after which we made for the ER where I was plugged into saline and chugged a gallon of CT scan contrast (in apple juice, which I have never had but was surprisingly effective).  Four hours later, I had peed I'm pretty sure at least 20 times, was given a "negative" CT scan and prescribed oxycodone and a very acute steroid dose.  Come again?  Acute steroids and no inflammation?  Sorry bud, not going there.  The oxycodone will do me just fine until I get down to New Home Base and find a new Dr. GI with whom to discuss an actual treatment plan.

The weekend has been lovely so far, with morning swims in the heated outdoor pool directly on the Bay, breezy walks on the Bayside promenade, coffee to encourage the Throughput and relaxing games, all less than 10 min from the nearest Thunder Dome.  I'm starting to return to functional status.  H.K. is loving this mini-vacay.  Neither one of us are yet dreading next weekend when we drive down to L.A. to meet our moving POD.

** lest I have over-sold my impotency, please know that in reality I did a ton of work for this move.  just... the heavy lifting paled in comparison to H.K. and Minister Man.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

rollin' in the deep

Is there ever a better time for your whole world to come crashing around you than three days before a move to a new life?  Nope.  The universe knows this and plans accordingly, I'm pretty sure.

In recent events, we have the following:
a) rotting sewage pipes and the stank from hell rising from the depths of our kitchen foundation for three months and the current stank-free-but-Frankensteinian state of my unusable kitchen,
b) coworker fiascos and consequences of arrogance in abundance,
c) three days left to pack a three-bdrm apt. to travel 1009 miles,
d) credit card fraud,
d) officially failed performance of Remicade and inability to make a treatment adjustment until after the move,
e) exponentially increased anxiety over the grad school decision and heavy sadness surrounding leaving Boss Man,
d) and a loved one's confession of narcotics addiction at t minus three days to departure.

Really?  Srsly?

The Crohn's is having a field day with this.  Nightly attacks, almost constant nausea, diet of primarily saltines, not much sleeping to speak of.

Almost on the beach... almost on the beach... almost on the beach...

Sunday, July 17, 2011


Yesterday was a day of unkemptitude in the Ragamuffin abode.  The first 4.5 hours were spent in Remicade infusion, steeping in unwashedness with greasy psoriasis treatment-stained hair thrown up in a bun with loose strands draping over the letters "MINI" which stretched across my anythingbutmini rack.  I think it weirds my nurse friends out to see such a creature reading books on the Carnegie Steel Company and Russian politics of the WWI era.  Although this is typically how I roll in the infusion center, it's not how I run errands... typically. 

Upon returning home, having added the odors of saline and ethanol to my aspect, there were errands to be run.  Thus, the Lego store and two groceries witnessed the essence of Ragamuffin.  Apparently, even after two years of Remi, I run myself into the ground after infusions as if it were nothing.  Heat flashes and vertigo abound and I nearly pass out in the car ride home.  Brilliant.

Home again, I am so excited at having bought real food after two weeks of not being able to use my kitchen that I spend 20 minutes arranging things.  Here would be a good place to note that the stank in my house is gone (after only 3 months! hazzah?); pipes replaced, hole in kitchen covered in cement and 1/3 of my cabinets and counter space ripped out.  The ant situation has resolved itself, and I have decided that what drove them to our kitchen was their own home being overrun with rotting sewage-soaked soil.  Neither the missing vinyl floor nor the counter will be replaced before we move.  The fridge resides in the middle of the room blocking both the stove and dishwasher, as it cannot be placed over the new cement yet.  And yet, I am resolved to use my kitchen in these last two weeks of residency.
 This is what it looked like before the cement.  
Now, imagine rock debris and the fridge front and center by the dishwasher.

Still un-showered, the rest of the afternoon was devoted to unclogging the bathroom sink and shower drains for about the 6th time in the 2 years that we've lived here.  I am willing to admit after the experiences of the last 3 months that this place -- aside from new carpet, white walls and a lot of space -- is an absolute dump.

I.  cannot.  wait.  to move.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

the year of plenty

In the last year, I have been exceptionally fortunate.  Acceptance to graduate school, publication of 5 manuscripts, the receding of Crohn's to a point where social activity and (dare I say) sleep could be resumed.  But above all, I have been a wife this last year.

My Heroic Knight is, without a doubt, the best decision I ever made, a better partner than I had previously ever imagined could exist, an extraordinary individual who makes my life equally extraordinary, my hero, my knight.  The amount of love in this house can be nauseating.

The man I married a year ago made this for me to celebrate our first anniversary.  I'm pretty sure I win epically on all fronts here.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Crohn's Wins and Technician Survival

In the absurdity that has been my final month in my current lab, I have neglected several announcements.  But this afternoon, I finished collecting data for and writing the first draft of my last Home Lab manuscript, and now I have a few moments to breathe.

1.  My first CCFA Take Steps for Crohn's and Colitis walk was, for me, a big success.  We raised some big monies with the generous contributions of many friends and family, including some fellow Crohn bloggers!

2.  Operation Raga Detox has gone swimmingly, and I managed within 2 weeks to bury the Throughput deluge in its own audacity (too visual?).  This, my friends, means that I will be trying to work things out with Remicade for a while longer before throwing in the towel, ripping the shirt, or what have you.  I'm pretty much on the BRAT diet for now, and between that and neglecting all coffee and alcohol (I dare you to try this in PDX where happy hour is like breathing) things are churning at a tolerable pace in there.

3.  Also, until today I hadn't been on Facebook or read anything from my extensive blogroll in 2 weeks.  While that was its own version of nice, I'm ready for a break from the 10-12 hour days (weekends included) and the monotonous and yet never-dulling misery that has been waking up and going to work lately to bust my ass and attempt to ignore my chastising and mocking coworkers (again, thank goodness for my summer student slash REAL replacement).

4.  In news that I still can't seem to grasp, my boss wants to continue paying for my health insurance until the student coverage kicks in, instead of having me dry up my funds paying for COBRA continuation and then being without coverage for the month following, which was my ingenious plan.  This is why I break my butt for Home Lab.  My boss/mentor/surrogate uncle/guru/guide gives me fancy tea and healthcare.  The conversation went something like this.

Boss Man: So, when you talk to Payroll today, see what it would take to allow me to pay for your continued health coverage until your student plan kicks in.
Raga:  Haha... no.
Boss Man: Why not?
Raga: Well... because you're not firing me, and you're already paying for my Big Conference expenses even though I wont be here.
Boss Man: Oh nonsense.  You're going to be working on the manuscript revision and poster after you're gone anyway.  Think of it as salary.
Raga:  I don't think I can do that, even if Payroll will let you.
Boss Man:  Look, I wouldn't offer if I didn't have the money.  And frankly, I wouldn't have the money without the work you've done this year alone.  What you've helped to develop in your tenure here will carry several future grants.  Covering your health benefits for two months is but a small token of appreciation.
 Raga: *sob*... Alright, I will try to think of it that way.

Why am I leaving this lab again?

Oh yeah...

Friday, July 1, 2011

friday night lights

Who has two thumbs and spends their Friday night learning how to use EndNote and finishing off the last speculations of a manuscript in hope of avoiding a nervous 4th of July breakdown?  This guy. whatever.

I've finished up most of this beast of a paper.  My grand finale, so to speak.  My legacy, my investments, my several clumsy self-stabbings with syringes carrying various types of toxins, tea times with my boss, my first real collaboration, and four years of developing a disease model and a successful intervention are all wrapped up in these pages.

Did I mention that I'm still waiting on 1/5 of the data?

Not that there is any build up of pressure, what with less than three weeks to go before this baby is submitted and my butt is out the door headed for warmer climates.

Final projects are straggling along, throwing tantrums left and right as if I don't have an urgent need to get their boots and jackets on.

Coworkers are combative at every step, as if everything I attempt to teach is an attack on their person (I cannot emphasize enough what a drag this makes everything).

The only things that save me from unleashing a smackdown are tea times with my boss (when he is in town, which is not often these days).  Mornings of discussing data, the general state of the lab, the future of science and fine loose leaves.  These are why I work late on Friday nights.  These are why I do not dread going back to the lab Monday mornings*.  And they make it very, very hard to leave.

*only with the most recent stresses (see... most posts from June) has this ever been an issue.  In the four years prior, I have only ever loved to be at work.  It is amazing what negative attitudes do to their surroundings.