Friday, June 18, 2021

Caution is warranted

When I said a mere 10 days ago that “this health journey has certainly not been straightforward,” that wasn’t an understatement: Things are, in some ways, less settled now than they were even then. Right now, “moving forward” means using caution.

A week ago tomorrow, I began the new plan that my doctor and I were moving to, which meant I’d take one 60mg tablet of Diltiazem twice daily, something I described in detail in that post 10 days ago. Since then, problems have popped up that may or may not be significant.

I couldn’t sleep Sunday night. At the time, it seemed like my mind wouldn't stop racing, and that was making me feel amped, like I’d had too much coffee (I hadn’t; I never drive coffee, decaf or otherwise, at night). After about an hour and a half or so of lying there awake, I turned on my light and played with my phone for a bit in an effort to get my mind to quiet down. When I turned the light out a half hour or so later, I dozed on and off, but the feeling never went away entirely. Monday, of course, was a washout, though I felt fine. I also slept well-enough Monday night.

Tuesday evening, I had my pill, and within an hour I felt extremely anxious. I took my blood pressure, which was basically normal for me. I decided to go to bed. First I used the KardiaMobile device I talked about the other day. The first result said “Possible AFib”, so I lay down, rested, and took it again. This time it said “Unclassified”, a reading I’ve been getting from time to time since April (before that, it was always “Normal”).

The first thing to be said about this is the obvious and rational thing: I’m well aware that, at best, these readings are indicative only. The descriptions the App puts on ECG readings are determined by AI, not real humans, and so, they have a huge possibility of being incorrect. I’ve known that all along, but it didn’t matter in the moment because this was exactly the thing I was terrified would happen: I’d have some sort of tachycardia or AFib event without Nigel there to help me work through what was happening and, if necessary, to drive me to get help. At one point, I was afraid I was going to die, and I considered calling an ambulance.

My rational mind regained control, and I realised I was panicking, not looking at the available evidence. The ECG reading aside, my vitals were normal: My blood pressure was okay, but, more importantly, my heart rate at the time was a completely normal resting rate (for me), and that meant it was highly improbable that it was either AFib or tachycardia. I calmed down and went to sleep.

The next morning, Wednesday, I woke up and felt fine. I started my day, fed myself and the dogs, then took my morning pills. As I was sitting playing my morning round of “Words With Friends” on my iPad, I again started to feel anxious and unwell. I took another ECG reading and it said “Unclassified” again. I lay down and slept for a bit, and when I woke up I took it again, and it was classified as “Possible Afib”.

I rang my sister in law about something else, and talked to her about what was going on (she’s a nurse), and that helped me formulate a plan.

Since I wasn’t in any pain, didn’t have shortness of breath or anything, I said that I didn’t feel I was in any immediate danger. So, based on what my sister in law and I discussed, I made an appointment with the cardiologist I saw privately back on October. I’m still waiting for a follow-up with the cardiology department at Waikato Hospital, and it’s likely I’ll be waiting for quite some time yet. Even so, the earliest I could get a private appointment was August 31. There's more to all that, too.

In mid-May, the Waikato DHB (District Health Board) was hit with a ransomware attack, which meant there were no computer resources available until some started to be restored over the past week. The worst part of that is that radiation therapy for cancer patients was unavailable, and they had to be sent to other parts of the country (there was also a plan to send them to Australia, but that turned out not to be necessary; those services have now been restored). But this meant that all outpatient appointments were cancelled, and no appointments for new ones were issued, so there is likely to be a backlog of many, many weeks. That most likely includes my cardiology follow-up, which is another of my motivations for getting a private appointment: Ten and a half weeks is likely to be faster than waiting for the public system (I also think that at least part of the reason it’ll take so long to see the cardiologist privately is precisely because people couldn’t be seen in the public system).

I made an appointment to see my doctor yesterday, so Wednesday afternoon I quickly went out to get my blood drawn for my routine tests (important information for the doctors). I also sent a copy of the ECG reports to my doctor and the cardiologist. My doctor sent me a message saying, “Your ECG readings look like sinus rhythm with extrabeats (ectopics) rather than AF”. Sinus rhythm is normal, and ectopic heartbeats are extra or skipped heartbeats in otherwise normal rhythm. There may or may not be a cause, but it’s usually not life-threatening (unless, possibly, it’s associated with some other condition).

The problem here is that I have a history of heart rhythm problems, and it’ll be necessary to find out if it’s that or just ectopics. To do that, my doctor is asking the cardiologist to arrange a special monitor that records my heart rhythm for a week, apparently recording whenever I push a button so it can get a reading whenever I feel unwell, and during the actual event.

In the meantime, I’m continuing on with my medication as I described ten days ago, but I decided to do a couple extra things, too: I’m avoiding alcohol, which can aggravate AFib as well as cause ectopic heartbeats, and I’m also severely limiting caffeine (there’s no conclusive evidence that it affects AFib, but it has been linked to ectopics).

If I do all that, and otherwise look after myself as I’ve been doing (like taking my prescriptions on time and not missing doses), it may be enough to stop this. Or, maybe not. If it doesn’t the monitor might show what’s going on, or, at least, determine if it’s just ectopics rather than a bigger rhythm problem—or maybe a different, non-heart problem.

Aside from all this, but related to it, is that the results of my blood tests were all good. My cholesterol is the best it’s been in ten years of monitoring (which I know because I have a spreadsheet of all the results over the past ten years—of course). My iron levels, liver function, kidney function—all are good. What I was particularly glad to see is that the thyroid level that had been high while I was on the potentially dangerous drug amiodarone had returned to normal (I was taken off the drug after my procedure last December).

All of which means this health journey isn’t over yet. My desire to feel less tired all the time will be unfulfilled for now, because until we know more about what’s going on, keeping my heart rate slowed is prudent. Changing my anticoagulant/blood thinner will be deferred even longer. I’m okay with all that, though, because I want to find out what’s happening first.

Tend days ago, I said that I didn’t know “how likely it is that this attempt could end in a setback.” Technically, this isn’t a set-back as such, it’s more like slowing things down a bit.

And, as always, I still hope for the best.

Important note: This is about my own personal health journey. My experiences are my own, and shouldn’t be taken as indicative for anyone else. Similarly, other people may have completely different reactions to the same medications I take—better or worse. I share my experiences because others may have the same or similar experiences, and I want them to know that they’re not alone. But, as always, discuss your situation and how you’re feeling openly, honestly, and clearly with your own doctor, and always feel free to seek a second opinion from another doctor.

Monday, June 14, 2021

A surprising thing

People may think that after 20 months on this grief journey, there wouldn’t be much that surprises me anymore, but, actually, there are plenty. People have an amazing capacity for kindness and support, and today I saw another example of that, one that was both unexpected and also the most unusual.

I’ve known writer Matt Burlingame for many, many years now, and he’s one of the nicest and kindest people I’ve met through podcasting. Nigel heard me talk about him, and finally met Matt through Pride 48. These overlapping circles have now become complete: Matt has included Nigel in the Dedications page of his new gay romance, Last Romance (that page is the image in this post). The Kindle edition of the book will be released on July 1. This act of remembrance really touched me.

When Matt first shared the image above with me, I cried when I saw Nigel’s name. It wasn’t long or loud, but it was enough to make Leo look up at me to see what was going on. The thing is, Nigel read a lot of gay romance novels, beginning many years ago. He began with Kindle editions, then, later, he switched to audiobooks from Audible. I told Nigel he should read some of Matt’s books, but I have no idea whether he ever did. Regardless, he would have been touched to be remembered—I can see him with that little smile he’d get when he was pleased about something, but didn’t want to look pleased about it. He was always intensely modest. But I also know he’d be happy that this made me smile—and remember him, too.

I think it’s awesome whenever people remember those we’ve lost. There’s a common myth, I think—one I’ve talked about before—that grieving people don’t want people to talk about the lost loved one, but I’ve never met anyone for whom that’s actually true. If anything, they want the opposite: They definitely want their loved one’s name to be spoken, to hear happy memories and funny stories, especially things they may not have heard before. I certainly want to hear Nigel talked about, for him to be remembered.

There’s a quote that’s attributed to anonymous artist Banksy: “They say you die twice. One time when you stop breathing and a second time, a bit later on, when somebody says your name for the last time.” I have no idea whether he actually said that, and there are other versions around, along with an anonymous version from a different angle: “He who is remembered, never truly dies”.

The point here is that as long as a person is remembered, they’re still with us. That’s another reason why it’s so important to speak the names of those we’ve lost, especially while there are still those who remember them from first hand experience.

Sure, a reader of a Dedication page won’t know who, specifically, this Nigel listed there was, but they will know that Matt thought enough of that Nigel person, and those he left behind, to speak his name in print. Same for the others also remembered. For me, and probably others, that means the world.

Obviously a gay romance novel isn’t for everyone, but he’s written a variety of things over the years (you can check out Matt’s author page on Amazon to see some examples). But you don’t have to into the genre to appreciate when a kind person does something that touches someone else, and Matt’s inclusion of Nigel in his new book’s Dedication page did exactly that.

Thanks, Matt.

The things I do

The hardest thing about suddenly living alone is learning to live alone. It’s not merely about keeping our own company, though that can be a challenge for some people. Instead, it’s about having to take sole responsibility for absolutely everything, every day, and that gets exhausting. Theoretically, that should get easier over time, but it certainly isn’t easy at the start. For some of us, monitoring our own health can add another burden to the mix.

For more than twenty months I’ve been re-learning how to live alone. It’s not just that for 24 years I lived with Nigel, but also that for more than a decade before that I lived with one or more people, whether flatmates or with a partner. Its been some 35 years since I was alone all the time, so I’m not even remotely used to it. Add to that how important Nigel was in my life, and that’s a recipe for disaster right there.

Some people think about the opportunities I have, to decorate the house however I want, to choose what to buy for it, what to discard, all of that, without having to consult anyone else is a great. The reality is very different: Having to consider Nigel when making a decision about something wasn’t a burden, so I had nothing to be liberated from. All of which makes my situation now seem unreal to me. So, I get to choose how the house is decorated and equipped—big deal. Supposedly “good” things like that are far outweighed by the bad.

Like health, for example.

Since 2016, I’ve had a string of health issues, beginning with that cardiac stent and continuing right through to two bouts of tachycardia (one requiring hospitalisation) and one bout of atrial fibrillation (which also required hospitalisation). Every step of the way, Nigel was there for me. As I put it a month after Nigel died, while I was still living alone in our house in Auckland:
[I]t scares the crap out of me that I might have another afib incident while living here, all alone, and have no choice other than to call an ambulance, no matter how difficult that would be (dealing with the dogs, for example). Nigel took care of me when I had an afib incident and helped keep me from freaking out. That’s all gone now, and I have to rely on myself, and that’s frankly terrifying.
My anxiety was eased a little bit when I drew up a Will, but that mostly just took care of my fear that I might die from a broken heart, as I talked about at the time. The anxiety about possible health problems persisted well after I moved to Hamilton, and the major reason for that was the fact I was alone and needed to figure out how to monitor myself, and to try to make up for the fact that Nigel was no longer there to notice subtle changes I wouldn’t see.

Not very long after I moved, I ordered the six-lead version of a device called KardiaMobile, which performs a basic ECG and detects atrial fibrillation (afib), tachycardia (unusually fast heart rate), and bradycardia (unusually slow heart rate). When I first saw the cardiologist way back in June 2018, he recommended the device, adding “it’s rather expensive though—around $400.”

For a variety of reasons, especially that I just didn’t get around to it, I didn’t order one. Then the new Apple Watch later came out, and it had the ability to monitor not just heart rate, but also detect afib. Unfortunately, at the time that function was only licensed in the USA, and so, it made no sense to get a new watch which didn’t even have the afib detection capability in New Zealand.

More time passed, and after Nigel died I remembered the device. The sole importer into New Zealand was out of stock—though their price was far less than $400. After I moved to Hamilton, I looked again, and they had it, but I’d also stumbled across the fact that there was a newer version that was the equivalent of a six-lead ECG, while the NZ distributor only carried the 2-lead version. So, I ordered the 6-lead version from a supplier in the USA (also under $400)—just as Covid-19 was starting to take off. It arrived at my door the day before NZ Lockdown began.

When the device arrived, I took it out of the shipping box and left it on the table for a few days in case it had any virus on it (at the time, it never occurred to me to wipe down the shrink-wrapped box with alcohol, something I did once I was able to order-in things again). A photo of the still shrink-wrapped box is up top; the photo below shows my device out of its box.

The first time I used the device, it found no irregular rhythms, which is what I would’ve expected, but it also showed me that I had it set-up, and was using it, correctly. After that, I used it whenever I felt “odd” (often after taking my blood pressure), and each time it was normal. The reassurance was more valuable to me than I can possibly express.

After I had the cryoablation procedure in December last year, I used the KardiaMobile frequently (and randomly), just to make sure I haven’t had tachycardia or afib. That’s been reassuring, too, because it showed that going off the dangerous drug didn’t put me into afib.

I’m now using it periodically to make sure the change to my heart rhythm drug (which I talked about last week) doesn’t cause problems. It’s important to note it’s highly improbable there will be any problems at the moment because the daily dosage is the same; problems, if there are any, wouldn’t be likely to happen until I start reducing the daily dosage.

This was the best I could do to monitor my health in a way that was somewhat like the close observations of me Nigel would’ve made, though his would have been based on him seeing changes in my behaviour or bearing that I wouldn’t see, and mine was based on, basically, clinical data. It’s the best I can do.

The two together—Nigel’s observations and my clinical data—would have been a formidable force, but that’s not possible now. Even so, I’m sure it’s no surprise to hear that whenever I’ve used the device I’ve thought about Nigel, as if he was there helping me, and also comforting and reassuring me. The device has pretty dramatically reduced my anxiety and worry about what “could” happen, and the fact that Nigel’s not here to help me. To me, then, this purchase was among the best-spent few hundred dollars of my entire life.

I’m still learning to live alone, how to take sole responsibility for absolutely everything, every day. It can be exhausting, but at least I found a way to monitor my own health, and that’s definitely taken a burden out of the mix. It may not sound like all that much, but it’s one of things I do to deal with the additional responsibilities and burdens I now have in my solo life. And, so far it works.

Important note: This is about my own personal health journey. My experiences are my own, and shouldn’t be taken as indicative for anyone else. Similarly, other people may have completely different reactions to the same medications I take—better or worse. I share my experiences because others may have the same or similar experiences, and I want them to know that they’re not alone. But, as always, discuss your situation and how you’re feeling openly, honestly, and clearly with your own doctor, and always feel free to seek a second opinion from another doctor.

Sunday, June 13, 2021

Rainfall in my life

Into each life some rain must fall, as Longfellow put it. This week brought a deluge to my life, and I considered building an ark. Metaphorical arks for those floods in life aren’t necessarily easy to come by, though, but maybe we can nevertheless find ourselves on dry land.

Earlier this month, I stopped getting emails on my private account. At first I didn’t think much about it—email traffic ebbs and flows, after all, and it coincided with the Queen’s Birthday holiday weekend. A few days later, it became clear something was wrong.

I thought that there must be a problem with the email service provider, so I logged into the account. I eventually found a link to check the DNS, the service that translates a website domain into the numeric Internet address that computers can access. It found there were errors.

I next logged into Nigel’s account with the company he bought the domain from, and I had a terrible time navigating the site, but eventually saw the domain wasn’t listed in his account. I checked his past orders and found the invoice from when he renewed the domain for five years. That five years was up on June 2.

This points to the part of this story that maybe could be considered my fault.

A month or so after Nigel died, I did something that broke my email. As I worked to fix it (and I did), I checked his domain account at the time and saw that same receipt. I don’t know whether it was “widow brain” (it probably was) or something else, but at the time I saw it as dated “2019”, when it really said “2016”. So, the domain expired in 2021, not the 2024 I thought it was. I should have been more observant.

The domain service provider also should’ve sent out a reminder email before it expired. But I’ve been monitoring Nigel’s email account since he died in case there was anything important, and there was never any warning email from the domain provider. I even logged into Nigel’s account online to double check they hadn’t sent a reminder at the very last minute. They hadn’t. The domain company absolutely should have sent a warning email (like the company I use for most of my domains does).

Finally, Nigel himself bears some perfectly human responsibility: He didn’t have the domain registration set to automatically renew so he wouldn’t have to remember (I have auto-renew on all mine for that very reason). Sure, in hindsight it’s obvious he should’ve done that, but when he last renewed it, he had no reason to think he’d be dead three years later. Besides, the payment method he’d probably have used was cancelled after he died, so it wouldn’t have worked, anyway.

Add it all up, and there were several missed opportunities, many of which were unavoidable, but only one—lack of preemptive support from the domain company—makes me grumpy. But how can I be angry at anyone when it was mostly a perfect storm in which everything went wrong? Besides, their customer support people did spend an hour and a half on the phone with me trying to help—it was just too late for them to do anything (it’s now in the hands if the domain registrar—yet another company involved in this, and one we had no direct connection to).

I was upset about all this because Nigel got the domain in the first place so we wouldn’t have to keep changing everything using an email address every time we changed Internet Service Providers, something we did several times over the years. Over time, that domain became a kind of metaphor for the family Nigel and I had, so losing it feels a bit like losing our family yet again.

All hope is not completely lost. Some IT professionals are trying to regain it for me. If they don’t succeed, then the last backup is that I have it on “back order” for when it’s publicly available again—in 90 days. All of that may fail, though, so I’m coming to terms with the fact I may never get it back, and I need to deal with the implications of that.

Yesterday and today I spent many, many hours changing the email address used for my various online accounts one way or another. There were dozens and dozens of them. I think I finally finished—I hope? It was every bit as awful as it was back in 2017 when I went through a similar process, and also not by choice, actually.

This isn’t all bad: Changing my email address in various accounts led me to delete lots of dead sites from my password manager (and to better organise the ones left). It also means an end to the perpetual stream of spam emails—the cockroaches of the Internet—going to Nigel’s email account. I’ve slowly unsubscribed his address from newsletters, stores, etc., and the last few left will pretty much take care of themselves now that his email address doesn’t work.

That’s the best light I can put on all this, I’m afraid. Still, maybe it’s all for the best. Maybe it was time to tidy up the last lingering details. I haven’t done it before now because it, too, feels like losing our family yet again, so slow and steady was a gentler way for me to proceed, and so, the only way I could proceed.

“Into each life some rain must fall, some days must be dark and dreary”. I think I’ve had more than my fair share of such days lately, but I still believe—hope—that “behind the clouds is the sun still shining.”

Thursday, June 10, 2021

Leo’s toy rampage

One thing that Leo has in common with Jake (when he was Leo’s age) is that he tears new soft toys open so he can pull out all the guts. Then he chews the carcass. And chews it. And chews it until it’s destroyed.

This past Saturday, I bought some new soft toys while I was at The Base (it was a special stop, actually). The top photo in the montage at left shows the two toys I bought. The bottom row shows Leo chewing the toy next to a pile of guts that he’d already pulled out—that photo was maybe an hour after the top one. The bottom right photo is what the pig looked like the next day (and still does).

The toy was unusual (among soft toys I usually buy) because the arms and legs were ropes with knots at the ends, which made it good for tug of war. Theoretically. In reality, Leo managed to untie one of the arms within a few minutes. I re-tied the knot.

The next day, Sunday, I noticed he’d untied a knot again, and had also managed to start to unravel the braided rope. So, I re-wound the rope and re-tied the knot. The bottom right photo shows the no longer braided arm. It’s no longer knotted, either. Leo’s clearly very industrious.

Leo had a really good time playing with (destroying) the toy. In the midst of the initial destruction, on Saturday, he looked up at me at one point and had what seemed like a look like pure joy on hos face. I don’t know if it was or not, but he sure looked happy—very happy. Kind of made up for all the guts picking up I had to do—several times.

When Jake was young, he had soft toy bunnies, something I talked about, with a photo, back in 2008. He had them for years, and when Sunny came along they sometimes shared the bunnies. Jake eventually lost interest, and over time, Sunny became mostly interested in using the toys to play tug of way (I bet she would’ve liked the rope-armed toys I bought last Saturday). Sunny played tug of war with Leo for a time, even after her teeth were removed (before her surgery, I posted a photo of Sunny and Leo playing tug of war with the last of those bunnies, something I found in a box when I was unpacking here in the new house). Jake took no notice.

Leo’s now the only one still playing with (destroying) a soft toy. I have no idea when or whether he’ll stop or not. The fact that Jake didn’t continue doesn’t necessarily mean Leo won’t. Right now, though, he’s clearly enjoying them. He’s also entertaining me. Win/win.

Wednesday, June 09, 2021

AmeriNZ Podcast episode 356 now available

AmeriNZ Podcast episode 356, “Eine schwierige Zeit” is now available from the podcast website. There, you can listen, download or subscribe to the podcast.

The five most recent episodes of the podcast are listed on the sidebar on the right side of this blog.

Tuesday, June 08, 2021

Trying again

This health journey has certainly not been straightforward. There have been many changes to the prescriptions they gave me, including dosage of some drugs as well as changing others completely. There have also been a couple procedures along the way. Not all of the changes went exactly as planned or smoothly. Like now. Still, the overall trend is still moving forward.

I saw my doctor the end of May, as I do every six months, in order to renew my prescriptions. I again talked with him about how tired I feel all the time, and I added that I know that it could be months before I get an appointment with the cardiologists to review my prescriptions, and two of them I’m particularly anxious to get rid of. We’re working to change one.

The drug I can’t change at the moment is Dabigatran, a “powerful anticoagulant” doctors put me on when I was hospitalised back in September 2018. It has very unpleasant side effects, so when the cardiologist I saw back in October 2019 told me that they’d look to putting me on a milder drug after my ablation procedure, I was thrilled.

I mentioned all this to my doctor, who didn’t know what that “milder drug” might be (and neither do I). It turns out that dabigatran causes significantly less severe bleeding than the other two approved/fully-funded drugs. The first of those is Rivaroxaban, a drug I was prescribed back in October by the cardiologist I saw privately, but I never started it because the risk of severe bleeding frightened me too much. The other drug is Warfarin, which is usually prescribed for elderly patients (because it’s more easily “reversed” in the event of a severe bleed).

I’ve read some research that seems to show that low-dose aspirin isn’t appropriate for people with atrial fibrillation, but obviously they can’t be far enough down the research path yet to know if that includes people like me, whose afib has been treated with ablation. Which means I have no idea whether that’s an option or not.

All of that means that we really do need to wait until I see the cardiologist, since they’re specialists in the field. I may be somewhat less resistant to taking Rivaroxaban now than I was last year, because at the time I was very uneasy about going through any drug changes alone. I still am, actually.

So, one of the two drugs will have to remain as it is for now.

The other drug is Diltiazem, a drug used to slow my heart rate, and so, to keep me out of tachycardia and afib. I started taking the drug back in July 2018 when the first cardiologist I saw privately put me on it as an alternative to beta blockers, a class of drugs my body can’t tolerate (at all). The hope was that Diltiazem wouldn’t make me as tired as the beta blockers did, however, it only helped a little. Worse, though, a few months later I was back in hospital with tachycardia, and the doctors rejigged all my prescriptions, including the dosage of Diltiazem.

Despite changes, I’ve remained on Diltiazem all along, and I’ve become convinced that it’s the drug most likely to be the one making me feel tired—even exhausted—all the time. My doctor agrees with me.

The dose I’m currently on—120mg per day—is in a sustained-release capsule. My doctor was going to have me take one 30mg tablet twice a day (because they’re not sustained release), however, they don’t make that dosage any more, and 60mg is now the lowest dosage. So, for now, I’ll take one 60mg tablet twice a day (same dosage as now). Then, the doctor wants me to eliminate one tablet, when I feel ready, with an eye toward eventually stopping it altogether. When I picked up the prescription for the 60mg tablets, I asked the pharmacist if I could cut a tablet in half, and he said I could. I think I’d feel more comfortable dropping the dosage a little more slowly, so I’ll ask my doctor if the next step could be half of a 60mg tablet (30mg) twice a day, then eliminate one of those. It’s just I’ve been on the drug for nearly three years, and I’m a little leery of making a change too abruptly. At the moment, though, I’ll start the two tablets per day routine as soon as I finish all the remaining 120mg capsules, which will be the end of the week or so.

I feel good about the change I can make because I think it’ll help—and fervently hope it will change my life. If that sounds like I’m setting myself up for disappointment, the reality is that I always hope for the best possible outcome, but I don’t necessarily expect it. In this case, I just want to feel better, and if I feel even slightly better as a result, that’ll be a major improvement, and good enough—for now.

I made one other related change: I switched the chemist I go to, changing to a location of the same NZ-owned chain that’s closer to my house. Originally, I went to the chemist close to my doctor so that I could get my prescription and go fill it. However, it’s a 15-25 minute drive from home, depending on traffic, and I go every month to pick up the repeats (because I don’t want to have to destroy lots of drugs if my prescriptions are eventually changed; normally I’d get three months at once). The chemist I used to go to wasn’t just farther from my house, it also wasn’t open as much: They closed fairly early on Saturdays, and all day on Sundays and all public holidays. The one I’m going to now is maybe a 5-10 minute drive, and because it’s in Te Awa (the mall at The Base), it’s open seven days and on the public holidays that the mall is open (which is all but three and a half days). This is far more convenient for me.

I also use that particular chain rather than the two places that offer “free prescriptions” (meaning no $5 co-pay) because the cheap places are Australian-owned, and they’re driving smaller pharmacies out of business. Going to locations of that NZ-owned chain supports New Zealand business, but it has the advantages of being part of a chain (for example, it offers rewards points and specials) that small independents don't have. The chain’s stores are usually franchises, so they’re small NZ-owned businesses, just with a bigger company behind them, All of which puts them in a stronger position to survive foreign competition. Basically, it’s my pesky values in action again.

This, then, is another attempt at improving the way I feel, and so, what I can do each day. I don’t know that this attempt will be any more successful than previous ones, nor how likely it is that this attempt could end in a setback. But I have to try. Again.

That, and hope for the best.

Important note: This is about my own personal health journey. My experiences are my own, and shouldn’t be taken as indicative for anyone else. Similarly, other people may have completely different reactions to the same medications I take—better or worse. I share my experiences because others may have the same or similar experiences, and I want them to know that they’re not alone. But, as always, discuss your situation and how you’re feeling openly, honestly, and clearly with your own doctor, and always feel free to seek a second opinion from another doctor.

Saturday, June 05, 2021

I’ll take a good day

A little after three this afternoon, I went up to The Base, the big shopping area not far from my house. I needed to pick up a prescription at the pharmacy in the mall (which, you’ll remember from earlier adventures, is called Te Awa). I also wanted to go to Briscoe’s because I needed a new pizza cutter to replace my current one, which will break soon. I wanted to go to that store because they were having a sale, which I know Kiwis will find very hard to believe (the joke is that they have sales for nearly every second of every day).

I accomplished everything I wanted and negotiated many successful purchases (an obscure cultural reference…), but I was truly surprised that The Base was so mobbed. Today is Saturday of a three-day holiday weekend (Queen’s Birthday is Monday), but it’s hardly a big shopping weekend. Yet it was.

I parked farther away from the entrance to Te Awa than I’d planned, but the exercise was good for me—not “close the exercise ring on my watch” good, but pretty good. And, I didn’t freeze or get rained on, either/both of which can happen this time of year. So, it was all good. On the way home, I even tried out an alternative route for me to go when I go to pick up my mother-in-law, a way to avoid getting stuck waiting to turn during rush hour. The route is a little out of the way, but I think it’ll be better.

The thing is, I’d normally look at the clock, see 3pm and think, “I’ll go tomorrow”, but I didn’t. I’d normally think I couldn’t be bothered heading out and potentially facing crowds, but I did. And normally if I overcame all of that, the crowds would’ve worn me out and I would’ve been tired and subdued when dealing with store clerks, but I wasn’t. In fact, I was downright chipper. I have no idea why today was different than any other day, but it was. I’ll take it.

This is adapted from what I posted on my personal Facebook.

Tuesday, June 01, 2021

Leo is four

Today is Leo’s fourth birthday. This year is another first birthday without a family member, the third in a row: 2019 was his first birthday without his sister, Bella, last year, of course, was his first birthday since we lost his other daddy, and this year is his first birthday since we lost his sister, Sunny. Fortunately, he takes it all in his stride.

He still sniffs Sunny’s collar first thing nearly every morning. However, he and Jake seem to get along much better than they used to. At least, they don’t growl at each other, and I count that as a win.

Leo’s such a happy little guy, and he loves to sleep on my lap, something I’m especially glad of on this first day of winter. Sure, he still “barks at any person walking past the house (especially if they have a dog), and also at any truck driving past,” as I said last year, but he’s also still not likely to bark when I leave the house or when I return, something I also talked about last year.

The whole family loves him, and why wouldn’t they? Like I said last year, maybe that’s why he’s so happy all time.

Happy Fourth Birthday, Leo!


Leo is three
– 2020
Leo is two – 2019
Leo is one year old – 2018
Another new addition
All blog posts tagged “Leo” – All the posts I’ve talked about him