Thursday, December 31, 2020

My year in health: 2020

Sometimes it’s difficult even for me to know what to say and what to leave out. Although I’ve spent several years describing and detailing my Health Journey, it’s still easy (even for me) to lose track of everything that’s happened. This year, there’s another, completely different complicating factor, one that isn't even about me.

Two years ago, I published a post about “My year in health”, and I noted:
While I don’t do “my year in review” posts (because this blog has details of my year that I’d talk about anyway), I think I can make an exception for this subject because it changes so much, and often so fast.
Since I wrote that, so very much has changed that this blog can no longer be said to have “details of my year”. It just doesn’t. Some of it, sure, but so much is missing. This year it’s still true that when it comes to this subject, it “changes so much, and often so fast” that I still think an annual reflection makes sense.

The important thing that happened this year is, of course, that I got my cardiac cryoablation procedure done earlier this month. Finally. Only about two months before that, I was frustrated that it seemed my procedure wouldn’t be done. The following month, October, I saw a cardiologist privately (which means I paid the full price for the consultation), and he said he’d go to bat for me. By the end of the month, I was on the waiting list for the procedure, and it was done something like five weeks later.

Getting to that point certainly wasn’t easy. The cardiologist changed some of my prescriptions in an effort to reduce the side effects I was experiencing, fatigue in particular. Doing that scared the hell out of me because I was facing it alone (meaning, without Nigel). As it turned out, I was right to be concerned, because I couldn’t tolerate the first of the drugs I’d switched to, so four weeks later I switched back to my old prescription.

Meanwhile, I also needed dental care and found out how limited that is in Hamilton. While the dentist I chose was great, I was still surprised at the long waiting time to get things done. As it happened, though, a cancellation meant I had my tooth extraction done a week after my cardiac procedure and that’s gone well, but healing has been slower than I’d hoped). The next appointment is with the hygienist—on my birthday. That’s not by choice, of course, but because it was the earliest appointment available—that limited availability thing again.

This year, too, I got a new GP, and have been seeing him for my maintenance (mainly repeat prescriptions, though I imagine I’ll get my Covid vaccine from him next year). I also have a new chemist, one close to my doctor. That’s not especially newsworthy, except that it means that all three of my regular healthcare providers—doctor, dentist, and chemist—are all different than they were at this time last year, and they’re all Hamilton-based. Lockdown delayed all of those changes, except for the chemist: My GP in Auckland sent my prescription through to the new chemist for me to collect because I couldn’t yet see a new GP. That wasn’t long after we went to Level 3 (I think; if only this blog had included “details of my year”…).

Here I am, then, at the end of my Health Journey – 2020 Edition. I had my cryoablation procedure three weeks ago, and what I said about it one week after the cryoablation procedure is still true: I don’t feel “better” than I did before it because my fatigue is still as bad. However, there’s been one definite improvement: I feel that the “brain fog” has eased a bit, at least during daylight hours. I can think more clearly, concentrate better, focus on what I’m doing, and even remember (somewhat) better than I could before. They’ll review my prescriptions sometime in the first few months of 2021, and they may be changed. That will trigger fear again, but I’m hoping it’ll also trigger further improvement, too. But that’s for next year’s story.

There’s one more major health thing to note—not my health, but Sunny’s. She hasn’t been right since her teeth were removed in May, and she’s now nothing more than fur and bones. She refuses to eat when her bowels are playing up, and she has no reserves to draw on when she doesn’t feel like eating. I feed her more than I used to, but it’s not enough, and she doesn’t gain back even a tiny amount of the weight she’s lost (mainly because she can’t get enough nutrients from her food).

I mention Sunny’s health problems in this post because it directly impacts on mine: It’s been a huge strain on me—though emotional rather than physical. I worry about her constantly, and I keep watching her for signs she’s in her final decline and it’s time to take her to the vet for the last time. She rallies and I get hopeful, only for her to decline again. Sometimes when that happens, I wake up in the morning sure she must’ve died in the night, only to have her rally yet again (with the help of steroids).

I have no idea how long Sunny will carry on, though I no longer think she’ll improve. It’s all according to her schedule, not mine. Because nothing I’ve tried has worked, whether official advice or Dr. Google, (apart from the prescribed steroids that have kept her eating anything at all), I feel cheated. Most dogs with inflammatory bowel disease can live even for years with proper dietary management, but that doesn't appear to be the case with Sunny. Of course, I'm used to being cheated by fate, and that does—oddly—help me.

I have no idea how long Sunny will carry on, so I’ve decided I won’t travel anywhere until she dies because I couldn’t put the burden of caring for her on anyone else, but mostly because I’ve seen how upset she gets when I’m away. I want her final days to be peaceful and for her to feel safe and loved. I owe her that.

This year, then, has been a rocky one for my health, with all of that heaped on top of my profound grief. Despite all that, my health year is ending better than last year’s did, which leaves me hoping the same will be true for 2021. Hope is probably one of the most important and underappreciated parts of anyone’s health journey, especially mine. I’m trying to remember that.

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