THE TIMELINE – Marilyn Armstrong

Finally, last night, I figured out that I’ve got between 10 and 12 years to live. It would be great if it were longer, but that’s pretty much what I’ve got and I want to live them well.

The math isn’t complicated. Hopefully, I’m finished with cancer. As much of my gastrointestinal tract has been removed as can be removed. My spine is completely calcified and most of the time, I can barely move.

The valves and Pacemaker they put into my heart are stamped and dated. They have time limits and the clock is ticking.

I’ve got two replaced heart valves: the mitral and the aortic.. Both are made from animal parts (valves?) and have an average life of 15-years. I’ve had them for nearly five years. They can last a little longer — sometimes as much as 17 years or as few as 12. Four down, let’s say ten to go?

Then there is the Pacemaker. The battery runs out in about 10 years, at which point they will want to open me up, remove the old pacemaker and replace it with a new one with a new battery. I think maybe since they have made major improvements in Pacemaker technology since they put this one in me four-years-ago, I could have this one replaced with one of the newer ones. Better batteries. And not metal.

That way, I wouldn’t have to wait until my eighties when I doubt I’ll want to go for heart surgery, minor or major.

My post surgery heart pillow; You grab it and hug it when you need to sneeze or cough, it is supposed to make you feel better. It doesn’t.

The valves are a larger problem. I know they are making progress designing replacement heart valves which last longer and work better, but whether they will be ready for me – in this lifetime – remains to be seen. As it stands right now, I have about 10 years. Maybe 12. After that, it’s time to say goodbye.

Unlike most people, there’s an actual clock ticking in my chest. Optimism will not make a difference. The timeline was created the day they did the surgery — five years this spring. The best I can do with it is pay forward on the Pacemaker (if they let me) and hope for the best with the valves.

Meanwhile, I am coming off a two-week remission of pain and misery using Prednisone.

I know Prednisone has a lot of side effects, especially for a woman my age with heart issues. Nonetheless, this two weeks using Prednisone has been the best two weeks I’ve had in years. I’ve been able to walk upstairs. Down is harder because it’s a balance issue, but I can walk upstairs. Slowly, but I can do it. I’ve been able to sleep in a comfortable position … which means I’ve been able to sleep.

I can get out of this chair without pushing myself up with my hands. I didn’t have to limp between the kitchen and the bathroom. In short, I have felt like I’m really alive. Now that I’m down to my last four tablets, I have been doing serious thinking about how I want to spend these next ten years.

I probably can’t take a full run of all-the-time Prednisone. That would more than likely wind up ending my life sooner rather than later … but maybe intermittent Prednisone? Like two weeks on, a month or six-weeks off? If I’ve got a limited lifespan, I would like to live it. Enjoy it.

I want to be able to move and not spend most of my life fending pain.

I’ve run out of options. I can’t take any NSAIDs. I am already taking narcotics light and I don’t see heavier doses as a direction I want to take. It doesn’t make the pain go away and it makes me stupid. What’s more, I’m allergic to most of them.

So, following the holidays, it’s time for a long, complicated talk with the doctor.

I can hope science will make a great leap forward that will change my future. Otherwise, I would like to make sure I don’t spend the remainder of my limited time battling pain. And you never know. They might find the miracle I need. It could happen.

Sensible ideas are welcome. I have choices to make and it’s time to make them.

THE LIFE AND TIMES OF TINKER BELLE – Marilyn Armstrong

Can you set a price on love? Can you set a number to it? Can you calculate it by the cost of health care, toys, dog food? Grooming?

96-TinkerAtHomeHPCR-1

Tinker Belle was a Petit Basset Griffon Vendeen, also called PBGVs or Petites. They are a medium-sized, shaggy rabbit hound from the Vendée region of France, but have become over the past 20 years, quite popular as pets, though they are definitely not a dog for just anyone. They are smart, funny (they will do almost anything to make you laugh), noisy, and into everything.

Tinker Belle was special. From the day I brought her home from the airport (she had just flown up from her breeder’s home in North Carolina), she wasn’t like any other puppy I’d ever met. She was incredibly smart. As a rule, hounds are intelligent, but she was something else. Housebreaking? We showed her the doggy door. She was henceforth housebroken. She could open any door, any gate and close them behind her. She would open jars of peanut butter without leaving a fang mark to note her passing. All you’d find was a perfectly clean empty jar that had previously been an unopened, brand new jar.

75-TinkerInSnowHPCR-1

She was deeply sensitive. Probably born to be a therapy dog, she knew who was in pain, she knew who was sick. She knew where you hurt. She was the only dog who would never step on a healing incision but would cuddle close to you, look at you with her dark, soft eyes and tell you everything would be fine. She never hurt a living thing, not human or anything else … except for small varmints she hunted in the yard. She was, after all, a hound and a hunter at that, born to track, point and if necessary, kill prey.

She was the smartest of our five dogs, the smartest dog of my life. Not just a little bit smarter than normal. A huge amount smarter. When you looked into Tinker’s eyes, it wasn’t like looking into the eyes of a dog. She was a human in a dog suit. She knew. We called her Tinker the Thinker because she planned, she remembered. She held grudges. More on that. For all that, she was Omega (the bottom) in the pack, we thought it was mostly her own choice. She had no interest in leadership. Too much responsibility maybe? But the other dogs knew her value. When they needed her, other dogs would tap into her expertise in gate opening, package disassembly, cabinet burglary, trash can raiding and other criminal activities. Throughout her life, she housebroke each new puppy. A couple of hours with Tinker and the job was done. It was remarkable. Almost spooky. She then mothered them until they betrayed her by growing up and playing with other dogs.

k-and-peebstight_edited

When Griffin, our big male Petit Basset Griffon Vendeen came to live with us a few months after Tinker, they became The Couple. inseparable, deeply in love. They ate together, played together, slept together, sang together. When about a year later, we briefly had a little Norwich Terrier pup and Griffin (what a dog!) abandoned Tinker to go slobbering after Sally … well …

Tinker’s heart was broken. She became depressed, would not play anymore with humans or other dogs. For the next 10 years, Tinker refused to so much as look at Griffin. Worse, she apparently blamed us, her humans for having brought another girl into the house. In retribution for our crimes, Tinker began her Reign of Terror.

Tinker took to destroying everything she could get her fangs on when she was three years old. She’d done a modest amount of puppy chewing, but nothing extraordinary. She was more thief than a chewer. She would steal your stuff and hide it. Shoes, toys, towels, stuffed animals. After Griffin betrayed her with that stupid little bitch — Sally was indeed the polar opposite of Tinker being the dumbest dog I’ve ever known and ill-tempered to boot — Tinker was no longer a playful thief.

She was out to get us.

Nothing was safe. She had a particular passion for destroying expensive electronic devices. Cell phones, remote controls, portable DVD players, computers. If she could get a fang to them, she killed them. She would do more damage in under a minute than I thought possible. For Garry and I, it meant we couldn’t leave the room together unless we put everything away where Tink couldn’t get it. Tinker would strike quickly and she was lethal.

Kaitlin’s toys were safe if Kaity was currently paying a lot of attention to Tinker. If not, she was punished with the beheading of any doll Tinker could find. She didn’t bother with limbs but always went straight for the head. She gutted stuffed things with grim efficiency.

75-SnacksHPCR-20

During one memorable intermission, Garry and I went to the kitchen to grab something to drink and she dismembered our remote controls. We were gone, by the clock, about a minute. The kitchen is adjacent to the sofa where we watch TV, so she managed to do this with us not 10 feet away. It cost me a couple of hundred dollars to replace them.

She pulled off the backs, tore out the batteries (but never ate them), then ripped out the wiring and boards. She didn’t waste any time, either. If she had the leisure, she’d also tear out the keys and generally mangle the cases, but if time was limited, she went straight to the guts of the thing. She was good.

75-Tinkerized2HPCR-15

For 10 years, we lived under siege. If you didn’t want it Tinkerized, you couldn’t leave it exposed, not for a minute.

Yet we loved Tinker and for the last year of her life, after we brought Bonnie home, Tinker became a real dog again. Under the influence of Bonnie, the friendliest, happiest, most charming Scottie on earth, Tinker came out of her sullens and played with Bonnie. She ran around the yard and played tag, joined the chorus when the other dogs pointed their muzzles at the sky and sang.

Hounds have such beautiful voices and Tinker’s was the most beautiful of all. When she sang, nature sang with her. I suppose this is a matter of taste, but for those of us who love hounds, you know what I mean. Singing is a social function for canines. When a pack sings, it isn’t an alert. It’s a chorus. They are really truly singing together. Each dog has a part, joining in, then pausing and rejoining at the right moment. Tinker was a baritone, the deepest and loudest of the canine voices and Bonnie is a coloratura soprano, very musical, but light.

Tinker died of cancer at age 12. She had shown no symptoms except a slight slowing down and a very minimally reduced appetite. One day, she collapsed. She was riddled with cancer. How in the world she had so effectively hidden her illness is mind-boggling, but she did. A couple of weeks later, Griffin had a massive stroke and died. They were almost exactly the same age and I don’t believe for a minute that the timing of their passing was mere coincidence.

The house was so quiet with the two hounds gone. We didn’t have to hide everything anymore, though it took us months to realize it was safe, that I could leave my laptop out at night and no dog would bother it. After the two hounds passed, the pack did not sing for half a year. One day, mourning ended and they started to sing again. Now, they sing twice a day, early in the morning (get up Mom) and in the evening (pause that show, time for the chorus).

75-TinkerPrisonerHPCR-1

What was Tinker’s true cost? We paid $700 for her when she was a puppy. Who knows how much her medical care cost over the years? That’s such a basic part of the contract between dogs and their keepers. They love us, we care for them. Other damages? Thousands of dollars in electronic gear, furniture, shoes, books, DVDs, videotapes, dolls, stuffies and who knows what else.

But she paid us back, you see. When I was terribly ill, Tinker never left my side. When I was back from surgery, missing another piece of me and in pain, Tinker was there, never placing a paw where it would hurt me. How does it add up?

How much was the love worth?

MY COCHLEAR IMPLANT: THE 3-MONTH AUDIOLOGY EVALUATION – Garry Armstrong

LEARNING TO HEAR by Garry Armstrong, 
Photography: Marilyn Armstrong

Sing “Hallelujah” softly and this year, I will hear you. Crystal clear!

One of many hearing tests

That’s the lead on a delightfully mild Monday as I look back on today’s evaluation of my Cochlear Implant at UMass Memorial Hospital.

It was like getting an A on your first major exam in college.

Nicole Seymour, audiologist on the job!

Last week, I got excellent grades at the surgical evaluation of the Cochlear procedure. All the stuff placed inside my brain was line-dancing with the receiver parts atop my head and right ear. No unseemly scars, bumps or rashes. Even my fast receding hairline appears to be flourishing.

Is this a side perk?

Garry in the booth, listening to the test signals

Today was a detailed session of testing and adjustments. I sat in a small room that looks like Interrogation Room 1 on NCIS, but with more electronic equipment. I went through a series of tests administered by my audiologist. The tests involved various levels of single-word recognition, complete sentence awareness, and range of tone comprehension.

It’s harder than you think.

Putting the equipment on again

If you’re hearing-challenged, which is to say, deaf, you have problems with all these things. Single words that rhyme – led, dead, bread, red are easily confused. Whole sentences are often misinterpreted, sometimes leading to misunderstanding and embarrassment. High and low tones aren’t audible. I couldn’t tell the difference, so statements and questions sounded the same.

Consultation

I sat tensely – my body coiled – as I sat for decades during my TV news career. Struggling with interviews, courtroom testimonies, and pivotal political speeches. My breath came in rushes because I wanted to be successful.  A lot rides on the cochlear implant. At age 76, this is a major turning point. 


I can experience clear hearing for the first time in my life.

I clearly heard many of the words, sentences, and sounds.  But some of it was guesswork, just as it was throughout my working years. I could feel my body tighten as I wondered how well I was doing.

Nicole setting the levels on the implant headset

Progress or not?  I’ve been working hard with the cochlear implant. I wanted progress very badly.

Tools of the trade

When it came time for evaluation, the audiologist gave no facial hints. I was tense and nervous. She slowly and clearly told Marilyn and me that my progress was substantial with major improvements in all the areas tested. Some of the improvement was huge, some more moderate. But everything was better.

I smiled inwardly which turned into a broad smile that could have lit the room.

Filling in the forms

My cochlear implant and the hearing aid in my left ear were adjusted to give me more audio on 5 levels. She expected I would probably not want (or need) the strongest (loudest) level, but it was there, just in case. The new “bottom” level was the top of my previous levels. Go, Garry!

Setting the new levels on gear

In the coming weeks and months, Marilyn and I will be attending several large events where there will be many people, lots of background noise including live music — the dread of anyone who has trouble dealing with background noise. These events will be powerful tests for my implant.

More tests

What’s more, these are exactly the events that I dreaded before the cochlear implant surgery.

Now, I am eagerly looking forward to them.

Hallelujah! Time to celebrate!

THE WHITE ELEPHANT PARTY: A TAGALONG FROM MELANIE B CEE – Marilyn Armstrong

Look what that MELANIE B CEE gave me? What a sweetheart! That’s not a white elephant. That’s a saving grace!

From Melanie:

Okay, my gift recipients are … cough, cough … VICTIMS … cough, cough, cough …are the following: Marilyn (yeah I’m picking on you today). I hope you can use this.  I know I could! HEY SANTA?? You taking notes??!

christmas-hat-full-100-dollar-260nw-139679770
A giant Christmas stocking full of cash is no white elephant!

Is there enough money to repoint the chimney? Replace the kitchen window? Maybe even replace ALL the windows!

Oh, thank you thank you thank you!

Since so many of the people with whom I am online friends, what I will give all of you is a year of health, free of fear. Where no one hates you, no one is cruel. Where you can do what you enjoy and feel free and happy while you do it! To all of you on this first evening of Chanukah … be full of joy!

This is a joyous time of year and I send you all kisses and hugs and every sort of good feelings. May your books sell, your dogs and cats be healthy, and all your remaining parts work almost like new!

And just to keep this fun, here are some portraits of the many animals on the Commons yesterday during the preparation for the parade. Goats, sheep, and Vicuna! And one photographer.

The prettiest goat!
He could come to our place and keep my weeds cut … or at least, chewed

A very attractive sheep
And some vicuna,, a little abstract to blur faces

And one last portrait … and a reminder that — AGAIN — we will be gone all day at the audiologist at the hospital because it’s Garry’s three -month audiological checkup. There are going to be a lot of tests and a lot of tune-ups of all the equipment.

Lots of domination games in the pen. Reminds me of home!

And yes, I WILL  bring a camera this time. If I don’t have time to visit your blog, please forgive me.

It’s just going to be that kind of month. Doctors, vets, and actually a few cool parties that are long drives from here, but we’re going to try to go anyway. At least they aren’t in Boston, so we might actually get there!

UNAWARE OF THE CONTRAST – Marilyn Armstrong

It’s amazing how subtle changes to your body can be. The best way I can make sense of it is to contrast the way I feel now compared to how I felt this time last year.

It’s an enormous difference. I’m constantly exhausted and I barely have enough energy to get up from the sofa and get to the bathroom, which is barely a dozen feet away. And all of this because I’m anemic and I can’t take iron pills. They make me sick. I should have known that because recurring anemia has been part of my life since I was a teenager.

The problem is, it didn’t make a big difference in my life when I was a lot younger. I had a natural amount of energy which these days, I lack. So I’ve been dragging myself around for a few months, but I realize that anemia in a person nearly 72 is not a minor anemia in a 22-year old. It’s bad for my heart which has had quite enough to put up with and it makes things that hurt even more painful.

So instead of taking pills, I’m going to have to arrange for intravenous iron. The good news? Probably just a few infusions and it will all be set right. The bad news? Do I have a vein anywhere that will accept the needle?


You know they’re nuthatches because their natural position is upside down.


I’ve always had difficult veins, which my unlucky granddaughter has inherited. For her, the very idea of an intravenous anything is so terrifying she’s ready to leave town. I don’t have the choice of running for cover, so I hope that they have someone who is really good with a needle and can find a vein — NOT in my hand or feet, thank you — that will accept an infusion. The last few times, they wound up using my throat and that was not fun at all. I’m hoping it won’t come to that.

So, I made a doctor’s appointment. I’m hoping that if I get over this hoop, that maybe I will feel more like a human and less like a sack of rocks. You kind of know when the first thing your husband asks you is “How are you?” that you haven’t been looking well. I do not feel lovely.

I made an appointment for tomorrow and we will sort it out. I don’t have to be happy about it, though.

RDP Thursday – UNAWARE

FOWC with Fandango — Contrast

SO DO WE WANT TO KNOW WHAT BRITAIN IS LIKE FOR 14 MILLION CITIZENS? A REBLOG – By Tish Farrell

Many — probably most — Americans think we have the world’s worst government. We probably do have the world’s worst fool as our president. He is most likely the most narcissistic and stupid person to ever be elected to such a high office.

But the rest of the world is embroiled in equally bad government and an equivalent degree of poverty, corruption, and neglect. England and France and Australia, to name a few. Where you find a government, it will be corrupt.

It’s probably true that all government is corrupt and probably always has been to some extent.

Despite that, there was a portion of good people ready to fight corruption. Who held a desire to improve the life of the citizens who supported them. There were always enough people in power who wanted to improve the quality of life for the citizens who elected them.

Now? We can but hope!

Today, everywhere, the corporate bottom-liners are running the world. It is killing us. Destroying our climate, making it impossible to earn enough money to live on. Making our education useless. Failing to provide an education for the world that is coming.

This is one of those rare times when I’m not sorry I won’t be here to see how this works out. It isn’t going to be easy and I don’t know if we will survive the apocalypse we have made. I want to believe we will manage to overcome the adversity, but I don’t know.

No one knows.

We can hope. We can try, but we can’t make it work unless every nation puts its shoulder (so to speak) to the world. If we do not, it will not be long before we are living on a planet where there is no drinkable water, insufficient food, and air that is unsafe to breathe.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NeozhyFY1i8

Last week, 16 November 2018, Professor Philip Alston, international lawyer, and UN Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights made his statement on the shameful state of Britain. He began by pointing out that the UK is the world’s fifth largest economy, yet one-fifth of its population live in poverty. Of these, 1.5 million are destitute. The reasons for this, he says, are largely ideological, and government ministers are so fixed on their agendas, they are refusing to acknowledge the evidence presented to them, or acknowledge the consequences of their policies. The problems, Professor Alston states, are set to grow worse, and especially for the most vulnerable: CHILDREN.

“14 million people, a fifth of the population, live in poverty. Four million of these are more than 50% below the poverty line, and 1.5 million are destitute, unable to afford basic essentials. The widely respected Institute for Fiscal Studies predicts a 7% rise in child poverty between 2015 and 2022, and various sources predict child poverty rates of as high as 40%.  For almost one in every two children to be poor in twenty-first century Britain is not just a disgrace, but a social calamity and an economic disaster, all rolled into one.”

Amber Rudd, the new Work, and Pensions Secretary dismissed the report on the basis that its tone was ‘highly inappropriate’. Philip Alston’s response, as covered by the Guardian, was to tell her to take action rather than criticize.

You can judge Professor Alston’s tone in this introduction to his statement:

“The UK is the world’s fifth largest economy, it contains many areas of immense wealth, its capital is a leading centre of global finance, its entrepreneurs are innovative and agile, and despite the current political turmoil, it has a system of government that rightly remains the envy of much of the world.  It thus seems patently unjust and contrary to British values that so many people are living in poverty. This is obvious to anyone who opens their eyes to see the immense growth in food banks and the queues waiting outside them, the people sleeping rough in the streets, the growth of homelessness, the sense of deep despair that leads even the Government to appoint a Minister for suicide prevention and civil society to report in-depth on unheard of levels of loneliness and isolation. 

And local authorities, especially in England, which perform vital roles in providing a real social safety net have been gutted by a series of government policies.  Libraries have closed in record numbers, community and youth centers have been shrunk and underfunded, public spaces and buildings including parks and recreation centers have been sold off.  While the labor and housing markets provide the crucial backdrop, the focus of this report is on the contribution made by social security and related policies.”

You can read his full statement on Britain HERE

And his 2017 statement on the United States is HERE

Many thanks to Dear Kitty, Some Blog for drawing my attention to this video.

See original article at: SO DO WE WANT TO KNOW WHAT BRITAIN IS REALLY LIKE FOR 14 MILLION OF ITS CITIZENS? by Tish Farrell, Writer On The Edge

THE FAMILY STRESS TEST – Marilyn Armstrong

It was Garry’s stress test, but somehow, it was mine too. He did all the running and he didn’t quit until the angle on the machine-made caused him to lose his balance. His heart peaked at 165/90 which is the reading I get when I’m a little bit nervous.

Exercise matters.

The word is that his heart is just fine. Excellent. He has a great heart, which i could have told them, but now they have all the readouts, so it’s official. It’s just that we are all getting older.

EKG setup

If I were going to start a new career today, I would go into medical technology. I have to admit — I love those machines. I love watching how neatly the valves in a heart open and close and send the oxygenated blood to be pumped to the rest of the body. I love how they have been able to notice that someone needs an immediate fix — off with you to catheterization or surgery, or intake to the cardiac ward.

Cardio-treadmill

I talked with the woman who was in charge of the machinery. She was also in charge of the doctor. She said she loved her job, that medical technology is a fabulous job. You get to do important, potentially life-saving work — but it’s all technology.

My kind of gig. Of course, that work didn’t even exist when I was figuring out what to do with my life. There are so many choices now. Maybe we’ll lose jobs to robots, but robots or robotic tools are going to change the world for all of us.

We came out of the hospital happy. They didn’t exactly tell Garry he was doing great, but they sort of did. I believe the expression was “nothing to worry about.”So Garry is tired after 20 minutes of running uphill. I’m tired from traipsing around the hospital. There are four huge buildings with the same address, so we had to go to two of them to find the right room. Most of the time, if you ask someone where something is, they don’t know. They know where they are going — or where they work — but where anything else might be? It’s a labyrinth.

We needed to stop at the grocery store on the way home because going shopping the day before Thanksgiving would be the ultimate stress test for us. Then he had to haul the groceries upstairs, then haul the trash up our bunny-slope driveway. It was quite a day.

At seventy-six, he is learning to hear and he has a great heart.

Happy Thanksgiving, Y’all.