DRAFT TODAY, POST TOMORROW: Some posts may be in draft status until I (aka procrastinator extraordinaire) get around to posting them.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Gray squirrels in Phoenix

While we were in Pahrump, M's parents stayed at our house to watch the dogs and cats and work on our to-do list for us. They went above and beyond and I'm glad they did, with one exception.

We've been putting plastic chairs and flower pots on the bench in front of our outdoor fireplace so that Cassi can't look over the fence at the neighbors' dogs. A small space has a plastic flower pot filled with firewood someone gave us. I noticed when we returned that the firewood was in the fireplace and thought that could be a safety issue when the dogs are trying to find lizards in there, but I left it and we headed off to Vegas. This morning, I noticed that Cassi and Teka were both trying to get into the fireplace. I didn't want them to hurt each other with the chair that was in their way, so I went over and pulled it down and started taking the wood out of the fireplace. To my surprise, a baby squirrel jumped out, directly into Cassi's path. It had no chance. I felt so bad! In my defense, I have been trying to keep the adult squirrel from making a home in my yard. And then M's parents built the nest in my fireplace!

After Cassi finally gave me her catch, I told M what had happened. I went out to see if there was anything else in the fireplace--it was early for me and it actually hadn't occurred to me yet that the fireplace was the nest, I kind of thought it was just one squirrel--but there was another one. It stayed put and we put the dogs inside for the day. It appears that the mom moved the baby during the day, probably after finding the other one missing.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Vegas, baby!

We've been in Vegas for several days. Most of the family we were meeting stayed at Bally's; M's parents stayed at Harrah's. When we booked our accommodations, we found that we could get a room at a brand new hotel for the same amount we'd spend at those, so we tried it. Vdara is near Bellagio (a sister hotel) and has no casino and no smoking. It was very modern; we really enjoyed staying there. We spent time each day at Bally's, where the family had reserved a cabana at the pool. I managed to get a weird sunburn on my back, top of my knees, and of course, the part in my hair. We decided to see a show while we were there. The family was going to another show--we decided to see Frank Caliendo, a comedian who does impressions. He was pretty funny, loved his presidential impressions, great Kermit the Frog, spent a lot of time on Charles Barkley (when he says terrible, is he saving the vowels for Wheel of Fortune? Trrble. You know it's true!)

I lost money on slots, did okay on Blackjack (didn't win, but played for a long time without losing it all, and got a bunch of free cards and beads at the Bally's party pit), and had fun hanging out with the family. We had dinner at the Wynn one night, and on the way back, I took my shoes off in Bellagio (not in the casino) and a lady stopped to tell me I shouldn't do that because I would get parasites. I always wash my feet when I walk barefoot (outside my own house) but I was surprised someone would say something. Especially after I've been in public pools all weekend! I noticed a lot of women were doing the same thing. (Apparently, women only wear heels or flip flops in Vegas.)

I guess we haven't been to Vegas in a while because we found some things to be new or more intense. First, there are women dancing in the casinos, usually a stage in one of the pits, not stripping but not really dressed either. And not just at night, though they weren't out on Sunday. At night, there are people in costume all over the strip, making money off tips by taking pictures with tourists. Superman really looked like Christopher Reeve! The most annoying thing is those guys, not the ones selling water for a buck, but the ones flipping or clicking their flyers at anyone walking by. As far as I can tell, we could get rid of a lot of trash (paper) and illegal immigrants by cleaning that mess up.

We might go back next year for another cousin's birthday....

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

One day in town

I don't know what I was thinking, going to work after getting back from a trip and going again tomorrow! I got about 3 hours of office time before I had to go to the meeting and continuing education session. I fit about 6 hours of work time into those 3 hours! The meeting ended up being extremely stressful (our speaker was very late and I had to fill the time, with some good suggestions from someone else.) I did not stay for the later part (an extra training session I would have attended otherwise) and headed home so we could get the dogs off to their sitters. That, of course, takes some time. R and D were kind enough to provide dinner again. When we got home, time to pack and sleep. Exhausted. Really. And the cats still get dropped off in the morning before we go to the airport...

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Front Sight

I've been in Nevada, attending the four day defensive handgun course at Front Sight while Mike attended the rifle course. We stayed in Pahrump at Saddle West.

The first day of class, neither of our guns passed inspection. It was pretty disappointing to have to use program/rental guns. The upside is that they clean them each night. My range master gave us "brown room" instructions, which I thought was pretty amusing. In case you've never had to use the portapotty while having a gun in a holster on your hip: close the lid, pull down pants, open lid, do business, close lid, pull up pants. Apparently they've had some issues with people dropping things (like guns) into the "blue juice."

We had range time and class time over the four days. The most interesting classes are the discussions of specific situations that have actually happened and getting the students to think about what they would do in that situation. Then they go a step further and talk about the repercussions of those decisions. Even if you are "right" to shoot someone, you have to be able to live with it and understand that you can suffer financially, criminally, civilly, emotionally, socially, etc. The discussion of mental awareness gives the students some practical ways to avoid getting into situations that may require the use of a handgun.

On the third day, we get into tactical movement, such as clearing a doorway or a house. We go to a simulation with an instructor and make quick decisions about which targets to shoot or not shoot. I rocked it but did something that seems to be common: the target with a hostage, I shot further away from the hostage instead of in the middle of the visible target area. In a real scenario, that could mean missing the target since we're only half as good under real life stress as on our best day on the range. We also went through gun malfunctions and I was much better this time around but still slow--I really had to think it through every time.

The last day, we do the most "fun" stuff. First we were set up with four targets and told how many intruders we have (between one and four); we shoot once to the body for that number of intruders. Then you would check to see if your intruders were still a threat, so he would tell you which one was, and that target would get one to the head. It's all very fast paced but my friends tell me I did awesome. We had a 78 year old guy in our group that was ex-CIA and was there with his family. He was amazing. He misunderstood the instructions and did head shots to all 4 targets, right in the middle of each target area. Amazing shooting. The range master just shook his head and said "C, I wouldn't want to come across you in a dark alley. You are a dangerous man. We're not executing the targets. Go sit down." We were all trying not to laugh!

Later, we had our one-on-one shoot off. They set up a hostage taker target--you have to shoot the little white square without hitting the hostage, the large gray area. Then there is a blue target and a red target further away. Each pair of shooters competes based on time unless they shoot the hostage. I did really well, did not shoot my hostage and was so much faster than last time I tried this. Unfortunately, the guy I was paired with barely beat me on time. I later found out that he has been hired to be an instructor and was starting the next week. So I feel better about losing to him. :) The 78 year old guy made it through several rounds before he was beat by an ex-Marine, who was later beat by the ultimate winner, who was really, really good.

Later, we had our skills test. I decided to take the test on the targets that do not spin as I'm still too slow for the turning targets. You get points for faults, so a low score is best. I ended up with a total of 14 in 3 rounds, including the zero I got on the head shots. I have to remember to stand correctly, move slightly to the balls of my feet, and push with one hand, pull with the other, keep thumb on top of the safety, and so on. Oh, and I changed to my right eye rather than my left dominant eye. Still accurate and slow! I got most of my points on the malfunctions test, ending up with a 41 total. If I could get that score on a turning target, I would be close to "graduating" rather than "completing" the course. (Very few people "graduate" and they are all multiple repeat students.)

They finish with the hostage taker situation. I did the same thing I'd done in the simulator--the first shot was a little on the edge but then I corrected and was right on for the other 3 shots. Great way to end the weekend. I have to say, after getting my own gun back in my hand, I think part of the time issue I kept having was because their gun didn't fit my hand, even though it was a similar gun. I kept having to move my hand around to fit over the safety. I'm looking forward to getting my grip safety fixed and practicing a little. I'd love to go again and would have considered buying a membership if we weren't saving for buying a house. I wonder who we can get to go with us next time!

On our way out of town, we stopped in Vegas and got massages at Hara, a yoga studio outside the strip. It was really relaxing (for me) and M was happy with his too. Great idea he had, even if he did make me book it!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010


NARCOMS survey is done.

And I read about a blood test for MS that is in testing in Israel. It would detect MS markers well before any symptoms are apparent. I like that way better than a vaccine, but a cure is still the goal!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Day at the vet

The cats went to the vet. Kachina is still around 7 pounds. Otherwise, the vet thought she was fine. Jill, on the other hand, has a growth on her face and they think it should be surgically removed and biopsy it. If it's not removed, it could burst (like a blister) and get infected, but I can't see spending that kind of money. I just felt a little bad because I've been giving her ear drops, so she has been avoiding me and I didn't even realize she had the growth on her face. In fact, Jill and I got into a fight to get her to the vet. I was concerned that I would be late, and she was hiding. Unfortunately, she was hiding in the kitty condo in the front room that is practically surrounded by boxes. I ended up having to pull her out by her tail. She was very unhappy about that!

Later, I took the dogs to the vet. That was pretty uneventful after the morning! They just had rattlesnake boosters and Teka's vaccines. Later, at the Weim Club meeting, I was told that she doesn't need those (and the cats don't need theirs either.) Teka got her parvo/distemper booster, and as often as I hear of parvo "going around" I'm not sure I agree that she doesn't need it. I'll have to keep reading up on it.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

What to believe?

I ran across two articles on the same LinkedIn list update today. One shows that BPA in canned goods is disastrous to our health. It includes a link to a report called "No Silver Lining." Note that Planet Forward is a seller of BPA-free products.

The other article states that Health Canada did not find significant health risk from BPA in canned foods.

Well, which is it?!

Monday, June 7, 2010

Trial after effects

I went to work but wasn't feeling my best. Actually, my head was hurting and my scalp is itchy but I'm taking any more Benadryl. Later in the day, I started feeling like I might be sick to my stomach, but I made it home and laid down for a while and then felt better, enough to get some stuff done before heading to bed.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Trial after effects

I was up for a few hours yesterday and then went back to sleep. I got up for "dinner" at 11, stayed up for an hour or two and then went back to bed. I still don't feel motivated to do anything. Maybe I won't.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Trial after effects

I can't believe I slept past one o'clock! M tried to wake me around 7 or 8 but I went back to sleep. He said I must have needed it. I don't feel like doing anything. I also took several Benadryl because I was itching and rashy every time I woke up.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Alemtuzemab Trial Part 2, the day after

Last night, I had a similar experience from the previous evenings: the steroids gave me that stay up, don't sleep rush. I took a Benadryl and started getting ready for bed. Then I noticed the itching. I had a rash (hives?) all over my back and the top of my front. I took another Benadryl and put lotion on and went to bed. I was able to sleep, and I woke up without the rash this morning.

I decided to take Benadryl throughout the day so I wouldn't end up with itching while at work, but it did make me feel tired. I worked a long day trying to catch up with client stuff. I'm so mentally tired! Anyway, I think the worst is over, but I'll take one more Benadryl before I head to bed.

By the way, I still have the numbness in the hands and feet. I don't think the steroids are having any impact on it. But it's not getting worse, so I think/hope/pray that it will go away on it's own like it has in the past.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Alemtuzemab Trial Part 2, Day 3

Today was the third and last day of infusion. After the Solumedrol steriod drip, the Alemtuzemab drip was sped up and everything went smoothly. T and I were back together in another room and neither of us had itching, which would have slowed down the drip. I'll still take Benadryl tonight in case the itching is just delayed.

The trial continues for the next year, as we are monitored with monthly research visits and quarterly doctor evaluations. Our nurse, E, said she is going to a meeting next week to find out more information about the extension trial that has been granted after the initial trial period ends. It is anticipated we will get another 3 day infusion in a year and continue monitoring. So my next visit at the research center, I should get my MRI results and find out about the extension trial.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Alemtuzemab Trial Part 2, Day 2

I forgot that yesterday when I met with Dr. G, he mentioned that one of my thyroid numbers came back abnormal but he wasn't concerned since the other numbers were fine. However, he suggested (more than once) that I review the results with my general doctor. Unfortunately, my GP died recently and I haven't replaced him yet.

Last night, my back started hurting like it does, and I got a headache that I thought was related. In hindsight, I can't believe I didn't connect the dots and self medicate. I went to bed and couldn't sleep. When M came to bed (very, very late) he was surprised to see me wide awake. I would have been up doing something if my head wasn't killing me. He reminded me I went through this last time, so I took a Tylenol and a Benadryl and went to the other room to toss and turn. I did manage to get some sleep.

Today's treatment went smoothly, sped up the drip a little. I got a nap while I was getting the Alemtuzemab drip. For some reason, they put me and T in different rooms, so E had to go back and forth. I'm nervous about the next side effect: itching, usually the 3rd or 4th day.

I found out that a great lady I used to know, L, works part time at the office, sounded like filing type stuff. She was our PetSmart trainer for Cassi and dog sat for us. She loved having Cassi, since Cassi is great with little dogs and she has a bunch of them. It's weird to see someone and recognize them but since you're in the wrong setting, you can't place who they are or how you know them, but as soon as I heard her name, I knew. She said her partner, M, had asked about me, and that I look better than I did back then. Apparently I was showing signs of my MS at the time, but I don't remember what, maybe balance and walking issues. I'll have to keep her on my dog sitting list.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Alemtuzemab Trial Part 2, Day 1

For those who haven't been following, a quick summary. I was diagnosed with relapsing remitting MS in 2005, and soon thereafter, started treatment on Avonex, a weekly intramuscular injection. In 2007 and 2008, I had relapses, and the last MRI showed enough progress that my treatment was changed to a higher dose interferon, Betaseron, an every other day subcutaneous injection. A year later, I had another significant relapse, so my doctor offered a trial I could participate in. The control group takes Rebif, similar to Betaseron but 3x weekly, and the trial group takes a cancer drug known as Compath or Alemtuzemab. I signed up after we discussed the details, and was selected for the Alemtuzemab injections, which are done by IV for 5 days, and then after a year, another 3 days. The first three days of both IV injections include a steroid called solumedrol. In addition, I have monthly visits to the research center for tests, and quarterly visits to the trial doctor and my neurologist.

It has been a year since I did the 5 day treatment, so today is the first day of my 3 day IV treatment. Another person is on the same time schedule as me, so T was there again. He has not had any relapses in the past year. Mine may stop with the steroid treatment. (I currently have numbness, maybe dullness is a better word, in my fingers, toes, and shins, and a little in my left stomach area. It is not painful, just annoying.) The trial nurse, E, got my IV in on the third try, so the crying was kept to a minimum. She took blood from my right arm (IV in the left), took vitals, started the steroid drip, and shortly thereafter, my mouth started getting the metallic taste. After an hour, we switched to the Alemtuzemab drip. I brought some snacks that I thought I could eat with the yuck mouth taste so I could get through the day. I also brought several drinks to keep hydrated so E would be able to find a vein for the blood draw at the end of the day. The downside is that I had to go to the bathroom across the hall and carry my IV and battery box.

So Day 1 is done, I have an IV plug in my hand, and I am home and hungry.