My Year In Review

my year in chalkboard

before and after morro bay 2013 was a very good year for me.  I started out not wanting to make a new years resolution out of fear of the disappointment that would always come from breaking it.  I decided to make one after a few days, and I stayed with it, well, until July anyway.  I said I wanted to lose weight and I did.  By July I had lost 70lbs with an android app called Noom, but then the weight stopped dropping and I gained 10lbs back, but fluctuated throughout the rest of the year.  I started out the year at 264lbs, went down to 194lbs and as of today I am 205lbs.  I will make another resolution to get back on my diet so I can get down to the weight that I wanted to get down to.  I know how to do it, I just need the willpower.

xray1 On March 16th I had an accident while riding the bicycle home from the grocery store at night and I broke my arm.  It was the ball of my left arm that fits into the shoulder socket.  I didn’t have a cast, instead all I was given was a sling from the emergency room.  By that time I had already lost 35lbs, and as you can already tell from the previous paragraph, the broken arm didn’t stop me from reaching my weight loss goal.

etsy banner While I was recovering from my broken arm, I decided that I wanted to start a new craft.  Well, it wasn’t really a new craft, it was an old craft that I learned when I was 9 and in the Cub Scouts.  I had some materials, so I wanted to use them up by making a couple of keychains.  I had so much fun that I decided that I wanted to learn a more complicated pattern.  I got so good at it and I was having so much fun that I ended up with about 40 keychains, so I opened up an Etsy shop.  I started out with keychains, and I added dangle keychain style earrings, studs and hoops and I already have plans on making and selling dream catcher earrings.

On June 26th, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled DOMA to be unconstitutional and Prop 8 was finally repealed.  HURRAY!  What a glorious day that was for the gay community in California.  In fact, 18 (or 19) states made gay marriage legal in 2013 and legal on a federal level.  The reason I said or 19 is because Wikipedia doesn’t include DC, but says eighteen states AND District of Columbia.  Whatever.  18 or 19, it’s still a huge victory for us.  Illinois is in that 18, but theirs isn’t legal until June 2014.

IMAG2002 In late July I started having pain in my parotid gland, which happens at least 2 or 3 times a year for I want to say the last 10 years, but I am not positive.  It’s been going on for a very long time.  The parotid gland is the saliva gland and for some reason the saliva doesn’t release into my mouth, instead something blocks the way and it swells up to the size of a golf ball or bigger.  I try to milk it so the saliva goes into my mouth, and that does work, but it hurts really bad.  The doctors usually give me an antibiotic and it clears up in a week, but this time it didn’t clear up.  My doctor sent me to an ear, nose throat doctor and to have an ultrasound which showed that I had a stone inside of my parotid gland.  The ENT doctor sent me to have a cat scan with contrast which showed that I had several stones in both of my parotid glands, but the ones on the right side were much bigger than the left.  I had surgery on November 20th to remove my parotid gland.  The area is still numb and I was told it will probably be numb for another couple or few months.  YAY!

My back has caused me tons of pain for so many years and this summer I finally found out what was causing it.  Apparently I have scoliosis in my spine.  I told my aunt about it and she told me that my great-grandmother was born with scoliosis and she lived her entire life with it.  I remember she had a hump on her back, that was the scoliosis.  My doctor sent me to physical therapy for a month and that halted the pain, but it didn’t correct anything.  I have an appointment in January to start treatment up again, and it’s a good thing too because the pain is already starting to come back.  My first treatment was a shock, no, seriously, they put these electrodes on my back and it shot electricity to my nerves to dull them.  They had me do exercises for half an hour and then they would give me a deep tissue massage. The electrode was only applied to me on the first visit, all the other appointments were just me laying on the table doing exercises and then massages.  The last couple appointments didn’t include a massage.

bread slicer pumpkin bread We went to a thrift store in October and I found a bread machine for only $6.  I can’t say I have ever had homemade bread before, like ever, so that was quite an experience.  I did learn that I was doing it wrong for a very long time when I had such a horrible stomachache which felt like I had a 10lb brick sitting in my stomach.  Apparently the bread was too dry.  I read the instructions.  It clearly stated that I was to use exact measurements, no more, no less, so I was only doing what I was told to do, but apparently rules are made to be broken.  Now the bread is light and fluffy and it actually tastes better than store bought bread.  My favorite bread to make is Spiced Pumpkin Bread with raisins.  Have you ever had a ham sandwich or a peanut butter and strawberry jam sandwich with pumpkin bread with raisins?  It’s quite awesome.  Although I will have to cut back on the bread when I start my diet up again.

We also helped feed a couple of neighbors for Thanksgiving and Christmas, which frankly is what the holidays are all about.  It’s nice to receive presents, but it’s even nicer to do a good deed for someone.  I guess those were our good deeds for the year.

Of course we exchanged presents.  I got a Nook HD+ 32GB tablet from my partner, and I gave him a Google Chromecast so he can watch Netflix and YouTube from his tablet, plus I got him Netflix.

I don’t know what will happen in 2014, but I’m sure it will be as memorable as 2013.  Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you all!

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I am finally not in any pain

pain

I have been going to Jacobo Physical Therapy 3 days a week for a few weeks and I can’t believe it but, I am not in any pain.  I can’t say that this is a permanent thing, because I do occasionally feel pain, but it’s not a constant nagging in my spine like it normally is 24 hours a day.

A few years ago I was diagnosed with degenerative disc disease, but recently in the last month I found out from x-rays that I also have scoliosis.  I was wondering why I was in constant agony, now I know why.  My doctor sent me to physical therapy and I go there three days a week.  They give me certain exercises I can do for 30 minutes, then someone comes in and gives me a soft tissue massage.

Dr. Jacobo told me that my insurance will only cover so many visits per year, so once I’m done with physical therapy, I’m on my own.  She said they will see me three days next week, but after that I can come once a week.  I am not sure if my insurance will pay for once a week, but I hope they do.

weider total body works 5000She told me that they can give me a printout of all of my exercises in case I forget what they are so that I can do them at home.  I have a Weider Total Body Works 5000 which I can use to help me.  Some of the exercises I do use weights, so that’s where my home gym will come in.  Not all of the exercises will require using the gym, so I will have to remember them and try to make it a daily ritual to keep my back pain down to an absolute minimum, if that is possible.

I’m wondering if I should set up my video camera so I can do all of the exercises so if I ever forget how to do them, I can always refer to the tape, or well, DVD since it’s a DVD Camcorder.  I think that would be a good idea because I know I will forget if I don’t make it a habit.

I bought that Weider Total Body Works 5000 in 2005 from Wal-mart’s website for $99.  Now they are $149 at Wal-Mart and $159 at Target.  It’s $400 and $1000 on Amazon, which is amazing that they would sell it for that much money since you can buy it much cheaper at Wally World and Target.

My gym is outside in our patio which makes it a miserable experience because it’s way too hot out there to use it, but there isn’t any room for it inside the house.  I’m pretty sure I can deal with using it out there for half an hour per day if it will help me with my pain levels.  Although I can’t say that I will get my massages, but I guess I will just have to deal without those lol.

The good thing about these exercises is that they taught me how to stretch my legs while laying down when I start and when I finish, so I can use that knowledge for when I ride my bike.  It’s always a good idea to stretch before and after a bike ride.

I really hope my pain levels aren’t as high as they used to be without going to physical therapy 3 days a week.  If you have ever suffered from back pain, then you know what that constant nagging pain feels like, so you understand.  Most people who don’t have any back pain never understand.  In fact, some people feel that because they don’t have that same or any pain that they don’t think we are in any pain at all.  It’s a “if I’m not in pain, then you aren’t in any pain either” type of thing I guess.

Pain meds don’t always help me.  I’ve taken Ibuprofen, Vicodin, muscle relaxers, Tylenol, Advil etc.  Nothing works.  Although when I broke my arm I was constantly medicating myself with Vicodin which took ALL my pain away.  I think that was the best vacation from pain I’ve been on in a long time.  When my arm healed and I stopped taking the Vicodin, the back pain returned.  I have taken more Vicodin since then, but it doesn’t do any good.

I think I spoke too soon because I’m getting shooting pain in the middle of my spine.  YIKES!  Well, let’s hope that it doesn’t get worse.  I think I will take something for it now.  I bought some generic “Pain Relief PM” from Dollar General for $1 to help with the pain and to help me sleep.  I really hope that doing those exercises at home will help because I don’t think I can take being in as much pain as I was before going to Jacobo Physical Therapy.  That really is no way to live.

Health Update

Health_Update_rainbow

In my previous health update on my back I mentioned that my recent x-rays showed that my spine was curving like a parenthesis (.  Today I had my appointment with the physical therapist who told me that it was like that on the top, but the other way on the bottom, so basically it’s in an S shape.  ( on the top and ) on the bottom.  I like to think that I am such a huge Superman fan that my back is turning into the Superman S, which means hope on his planet, of course.

The physical therapist office wants me to come in 3 days a week for my therapy.  They gave me some homework exercises to do in the morning or at night, but at least do them daily.  She also suggested that if I could go swimming, I should.  I told her I didn’t have a pool and because I have a weak immune system already, that it’s probably not a good idea to use a public pool.  I get bronchitis if someone coughs 30 feet away, I can’t imagine how sick I will be if I’m in a pool with children lol.  She suggested that my bicycle is a better alternative since it doesn’t cause pain.

Today I also went to have a cat scan with contrast, which by the way… ick!  All I taste and smell is Iodine lol.  They will hopefully find out what the problem is with my swollen parotid gland so they can fix the problem.  My regular doctor suggested surgery, but the ear, nose and throat doctor doesn’t know my doctor’s diagnosis and isn’t exactly sure why he should care.  At least that’s how it seemed to me by the way he spoke to me.  He didn’t seem to have any of my doctor’s notes or even know why I was there.  I basically have to start from scratch with him as if I have never come to any doctor with my problem.  It would be nice if when a doctor refers you somewhere that they tell that doctor why they are being referred.

I will see my regular doctor this Friday and the ENT doctor on Monday.  The place I went to today for the cat scan said it would be released to both doctor’s offices in 2 business days.

I woke up in the middle of the night with THE worst headache and pain from my saliva gland.  I was also sick to my stomach so I had a PB&J.  Right now I have nausea and all I smell is Iodine still.  I hope that goes away soon lol.

More updates as they happen. 🙂

Do I Have Scoliosis?

I have had serious back pain for probably the last decade of my life.  Sometimes my back locks up when I bend over and boy it is painful.  Mostly I can’t walk too far before the pain kicks my ass into submission and I have to sit or lay down.  I can walk to the grocery store from the house because it is only 3 blocks from the house, my back is in pain by the time I come home but it’s not excruciating.  I cannot go for a walk for exercise though.  Before I got a new (used) bicycle wheel, I was trying to walk for exercise and that caused the most horrible pain I have ever felt in my 43 years on this planet, and that is not hyperbole either.

Last month I had some x-rays of my back taken and a week ago my doctor told me that according to the x-rays, my back was curving, and he shaped his hand like a parenthesis (.  I misunderstood when he mentioned something about slouching, so naturally I thought my back was arching outward because I do tend to slouch a lot, but then I went to see him again yesterday and I asked him about the x-rays again and he wrote down on a piece of paper exactly what he means.  This is a normal spine |.  This is my spine (.  He drew it on a piece of paper so I could see exactly what he meant.

That makes sense to me, and that explains a lot why my back is in pain in the middle of my spine.  I was diagnosed with degenerative disc disease in my lower spine a few years ago and so I was assuming that it was going up which was why I was in so much pain in the middle of my spine which is why I asked my doctor for help.  Who knew that it was some new problem.

So I use the term scoliosis loosely.  I don’t know for a fact that I have scoliosis.  I asked my doctor “Is it like scoliosis?” and he responded with “yes” but that was not a diagnosis.  He asked me if I wanted to see a physical therapist and I said yes because I don’t know what to do about this and if a physical therapist can help me, then I’m going to go see one.  It will also help me with my weight loss, so I will do anything that I can to help stop this pain.

I called my aunt this week and told her about it, but with the impression that my spine was bending outward, but with the understanding that I had no clue which way it was bending.  I mentioned that I wanted to ask about a back brace and she said “DO NOT ASK FOR A BRACE!  You do NOT want to depend on a back brace, trust me.”  I don’t like arguing with people, especially her because she gets very emotional, but like I said before, I will do anything that I can do to stop this pain.  I didn’t ask my doctor for one when I saw him, but if a physical therapist suggests and prescribes one then I will wear it.

No I don’t want to have to rely on a brace, but I will do whatever it takes to stop this constant nagging pain that I have all day.  I’m not joking when I say I am in pain all day.  I am literally in pain every waking moment.  Even if I’m sitting down like right now I’m in pain.  If I’m laying down, I’m in pain.  I can’t do the dishes for more than 5 minutes without being in pain.  I can’t go to the mall and walk around like a mindless zombie like my partner loves to do because… you guessed it, it causes me pain.  It doesn’t really matter where I am or what I am doing, you can guarantee that I will be in agony, whatever it is.

I had a broken arm earlier this year and I was taking Vicodin probably 3 times a day.  It wasn’t stopping the pain in my arm, but it was helping and it did help my back pain, so I had a vacation from my pain for as long as I was taking the Vicodin.  I stopped taking the Vicodin when I stopped having pain and naturally the pain in my back came back immediately.  I have tried taking a Vicodin here and there, but they don’t seem to help at all.  I have been taking Ibuprofen, and that helps my toothache, but it doesn’t stop my back pain.

Oh one more thing about my back pain.  I have a very large patch of skin on my back that is dead.  I mean the nerves actually  I say that because my back in that spot has been numb for 19.5 years.  It never really bothered me until now.  Now it tingles and the numbing is causing pain.  It’s constantly itching and I’m constantly scratching it and the tingling really bugs the hell out of me.  Scratching doesn’t do anything except weird me out that I can’t feel my own fingers touching my back.  I mean, I can feel it, but I can’t feel it if that makes sense.  It’s like I know my hands are scratching my back, but it feels like someone else is doing it.  I can’t explain it, it’s a very odd sensation.

Anyway, I would really love to just go one day without having pain if that is possible.  I am hoping a physical therapist will help because I am really sick and tired of being sick and tired of being in pain.

Naturally I will update my blog when I begin physical therapy.

Doctor’s Appointment

doctor who

We went to the doctor’s office today, and no, the doctor’s office wasn’t in a TARDIS lol.  Doctor Who fans will get that, anyone else will be like what is he talking about?

We had our regular appointment that we made last month and it’s very convenient that I was sick at this particular time of the month because I needed to see a doctor.  I have chest congestion, nasal congestion, a sore throat and my saliva gland is swollen causing a lot of pain there and tooth pain.  Of course, he can’t do anything about the toothache, but the tooth is only hurting because of my saliva gland, I’m assuming.

He gave me a prescription for Bactrim which is an antibiotic for my saliva gland.  That happens to me a lot with my saliva gland.  I think it happens two or three times per year and it usually goes down by the time we see the doctor so I never bring it up.  One time it was happening around the same time we saw the doctor and I was prescribed an antibiotic and I don’t remember if it helped, but I do know that this is not a normal thing to happen.  He told me to come back in 5 days and if it’s still swollen then he will send me to get a cat scan and I might need surgery.  When we came home I looked in my mouth and saw a black spot on the inside of my cheek which is probably what is causing the blockage in the saliva gland.

drawing-of-spine-deformities-scoliosis-and-kyphosis-curvature-of-the-spine-and-hunchback-or-round-ba

Last month I had some x-rays on my back and today he told me that I have a curve in my spine.  He didn’t specify which way it was curved, but he told me I need to sit up straight more so I assume it’s the one on the right in the image to the left.  So I need to learn to sit up straight because I have a tendency to slouch.  When I’m sitting on the bed, the couch, my desk chair, my bike and anywhere else, and even while I’m standing, I’m always slouching.  It’s mainly because I’m always trying to be as relaxed as I can because of the back pain.  Perhaps what I need is a brace to force me to sit or stand up straight.  I would totally wear that if that would help.

I try to take good care of my body but I guess I’m not doing as good of a job as I should if I am having all these health issues.  I have no one to blame but myself.

I mentioned that I haven’t lost any weight this month and he said that it’s okay because I have been riding my bike and he said you shouldn’t expect to lose any weight since you are building muscle, which we all know weighs more than fat.  He said that he likes me at the weight I am right now, so he’s happy with how far I have come.

Left Me at IHOP January 1, 2013 – Right Me at Morro Bay July 25, 2013

What a difference a change in diet makes.  I went from eating whatever crap I wanted, whenever I damn well felt like, to watching what I ate, counting my calories and only eating healthy foods and using the Noom app and I lost 70lbs.  I not only look healthy, but I feel healthy.  I am very happy with my progress.

2009 before I was looking for a specific photo yesterday in an old folder and I found a picture of myself from 2009 and I was even fatter than my before picture.  I looked like a balloon.  I couldn’t believe how fat I was.  I remember taking that picture too.  I was trying to get a good picture that I could use as my profile picture for the blog and all of my social networks like Facebook and Twitter, but I looked too blown up so I didn’t use it, but I didn’t delete it either for some reason.  OMG I can’t believe how fat I was.  Holy cow!  So yeah, I am never going to let that happen again.  As embarrassing as that picture is, I still feel like perhaps it would make a good before picture lol.

So I have to go fill this prescription and I will see the doctor again next week about my swollen saliva gland.  I really hope it goes down because I am sick of always being in pain.

Help Me Exercise

Huffy Nassau

I have been riding my bicycle for years for exercise because I have a bad back which causes excruciating pain when I walk.  It’s just easier on my back to sit down.  I was diagnosed with Degenerative Disc Disease in my lower spine, but since then the pain has gone higher, near the top of my spine.  I have recently had new x-rays on my back and those x-rays will tell the doctor whether I need to have another MRI done or not so that I can finally get something done about it.  I have already lost 70lbs with diet alone, but I feel that by not exercising because I don’t have a bicycle to exercise with, I am probably not just losing fat, but also muscle tissue and I don’t want that to happen, so that’s why exercise is crucial to helping me in my weight loss journey with Noom.

Since I had my accident a few months ago that resulted in a broken arm, I haven’t been able to ride my bike.  It’s not because of the accident, but because of my back tire.  See, it was constantly going flat even though there wasn’t a hole in the tube, so I bought a no mor flat hard rubber tube for it and I couldn’t install it and I think trying to install it I might have made things worse.  The damage that no mor flat tube caused will end up costing me $30 for a new tire and $30 for a new rim, or more.  Well, my bike was only $60 to begin with and I have sunk far too much money into it and it’s old now so I would rather just start fresh with a new bike.

The bike that I want to buy (image above) is from Target.com for $125, although that is a temporary price reduction, by the time I have the money saved it will go up to $140, so that is why I am asking for help to pay for it.  I’m not asking for a handout, but simply asking if people bought a keychain or a pair of earrings on my Etsy store.  Whatever I make on Etsy will help me buy a new bicycle.  I already have half of the money, I just need the other half.

Below are my keychains and earrings and I am making more everyday.  The earrings are only $5 and the keychains are only $3.50 because I don’t feel right about asking for any more than that.  I always feel bad about asking for money, so that’s why I am selling these so cheap.  They literally take a couple of hours to make, so I am working hard for the few dollars I am asking for and also risking damage to my hands because I have carpal tunnel syndrome.

So if you find something that you like, please help me out and if you would like a specific color combination let me know and I will make it.  I have the following colors available.  Red, translucent orange, yellow, green, blue, purple, black, white, clear, translucent blue and translucent pink.  Thank you for reading.

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Back X-rays

back-pain-xray

We went to the doctor’s office today for our regular appointment and I mentioned that the Robaxin that he gave me for my back pain wasn’t helping at all.  That is a muscle relaxer and I don’t think the problem is in my muscles.  I told him that I had an MRI a few years ago and they found out that I had Degenerative Disc Disease in my lower spine and since then the pain has gone up to the middle of my spine.  In fact, if you look at the image above, the red area is actually where my pain is.  The top of the red area is the worst.

He poked my back and of course I wasn’t in pain at all because I was sitting in the waiting room and in the exam room.  I told him that the pain is usually when I am standing or walking for more than 5 minutes.  I described the pain by motioning my hand as if I were repeatedly stabbing someone in the spine.  I’ve never been stabbed repeatedly so I don’t know exactly how that feels, but I do know that my back hurts a lot, so I can just imagine that is what it feels like.

We went to Truxton Radiology and I had many x-rays taken.  The x-ray technician told me it would be up to 4 days, but I told her that I won’t see the doctor for 4 more weeks so no rush.  Besides, I’ve been dealing with this pain for many years, so another 4 days isn’t going to hurt me.

My pain first began in 2000 when I would bend over to pick something up and my back would literally lock up.  I would be stuck in the bent over position because I could not straighten my back.  After grabbing something to keep from falling and almost screaming from the pain, I would stand there for a minute until it unlocked and I was able to stand up slowly.  That happened in front of my aunt and uncle in Palmdale in 2004 or 2005, I forget when exactly.  I had pain in the lower part of my spine, but it was nothing compared to what it is like today.

Just before I went to get my x-ray I saw this humungous fish in a very large fish tank by the back door.  My first thought was holy cow that’s a big fish.  As I left, I took my phone out to take a picture, but first I reached my finger to the tank as if I were petting him, or the tank, and he rammed the glass while trying to chomp my fingers off as if they were inside the glass.  Holy crap that was an aggressive fish lol.  I pulled my hand away and he was looking straight at me.  He wouldn’t look at anything else, so to get him to turn so I could take the picture I had to put my right hand out to my side so he would turn his body.  Here are 2 pictures of the fish below.  You can see my reflection in the glass so you can use that as a scale.

big fish

big fish 2

Anyway, now I am finally getting my back pain taken care of.  The doctor said that the x-rays will determine whether I will need another MRI, but in the meantime he is going to call Truxton Radiology where I had the original MRI for those results.  I don’t know what they can do, but at least they will see where the problem is and possibly give me a brace or maybe injections for the pain.  I’ve seen the commercials for that exercise machine where you are upside down which helps to replenish your discs, so perhaps I will get something that is equivalent that is more affordable.  Who knows for sure.  I will keep this blog updated on that.