Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Alrighty then.

I do not have Cushing's Syndrome.

Everything that's wrong with me is a result of my weight. It's all my fault. I brought this upon myself.

Things need to change. Obviously, I need to lose weight for my health. This whole "you might have a tumor" thing has really opened my eyes.

I'm looking into different weight loss programs now, trying to decide if any of them are right for me or worth the money.

I don't want this to become a weight-loss blog. However, I have a feeling that the whole weight loss quest is starting to take over my life, so it's going to come up here once in a while.

There's a part of me that doesn't want to lose weight. It took a long time for me to be comfortable with being a big girl, and I finally feel like I am. Will I still feel like myself if I cease to be large?

But I can't just sit here and do nothing. I may like the way I am, but I'm flawed, broken, falling apart. My heart works too hard to keep my body moving, and if I don't do something about that, I'm going to wear it out. Sure, I'm taking medicine now to regulate it, but I still have times where I can feel my heart pounding in my chest, and every time that happens I think to myself, "this can't be good."

My feet and ankles are so swollen that I can't wear more than half of my shoes, and almost everything I try on in the store doesn't fit, even if I go a size or two bigger than I normally wear. I have to wear the special socks "for larger shoe sizes" so that they don't cut off the circulation to my feet.

I run out of breath just by walking down the street. I sweat far too easily. My skin looks disgusting with all the stretch marks and cellulite.

That's just me and my health. Socially, there are a lot more issues at play. I don't fit into some chairs. Sometimes I have a hard time fastening the seat belt in a car - it's even worse on airplanes. I'm uncomfortable in crowds (because I take up too much space) and I'm always afraid to sit in a booth at a restaurant because I might not fit.

My latest fear is that my bed will collapse underneath me as I sleep.

Clearly, I need to change.

The question is: can I do it myself, or do I need help? I've been a member of Weight Watchers enough times that I know what it takes. I'm not an idiot. I know what foods are good and which foods I should limit and/or avoid. I know I need to move and exercise regularly. Do I really need to spend money on a weight loss program?

The idea of a program where I don't need to think about the food (meaning the food is provided as part of the program) is appealing. However, after researching Seattle Sutton's Healthy Eating and Nutrisystem, I cannot afford them (each one would cost me more than $500/month, and I can't see spending more than my rent on weight-loss food).

My endocrinologist got me thinking about gastric bypass surgery. That's all I'm going to say about that now - I'm not even sure if my insurance would cover it.

I have a lot of thinking to do, and I'm nowhere near ready to make a decision yet.

In other news, we were able to get Twins tickets for Saturday's exhibition game against St. Louis. I'm really excited to finally get to see Target Field (aka "The Bullseye").

Monday, March 29, 2010

Fear of Falling

I've been afraid of heights for a long time. In high school, when the band went to Chicago on tour, I could barely look out the window at the top of the Sears Tower. Last year when I saw Jason Mraz at the Xcel Center, I had to stay seated because we were in the front row of one of the upper levels, and I would get nasty vertigo if I were standing up.

I learned yesterday that steep hills get me, too. I was at the Omaha Wildlife Safari with my friends yesterday. It was really cool... until we got to the part where you get out of the car and walk around. (Sidebar: Timber wolves are much larger than I realized.) The map they gave us was weak. It just showed a dotted line for the trail, and it was not to scale. There was a map at the beginning of the trail that showed some parts as being "easy," "difficult," and "most difficult," but some of the colors had rubbed off of the map. We walked around to the wolf habitat first, then continued on. There was another map just before a fork in the trail, but the map didn't correctly illustrate the choices we had. None of the trails were labeled. So we picked one and started walking. We climb uphill for a while, and that was rather taxing on me because of how out of shape I am. And I was thirsty. But I kept going. We get to the peak of the hill and there's a small arrow telling us to make a left turn. Gillian scouts ahead and says it's pretty steep. But we really don't have another option other than turning back the way we came.

She wasn't kidding about the steepness. It had rained a few days earlier, so there was a lot of mud on the trail. Occasionally there was a wooden block in the trail to give the illusion of stairs, but some of them led to a two-foot drop - and for the top part of this path, there was no handrail. It was very steep and went on for what seemed to me like a significant distance. In reality it was probably only 50 yards or so.

I freaked out. I had to go on because there was no way to get up the hill after I had gone down halfway. I've never known fear like that, to be honest. I was convinced that I was going to slip on a patch of mud and tumble down the hill, hitting my head on the wood steps and collapse in a dead pile at the bottom. When we reached a level part in the middle of the trail, I started crying. I wanted to sit down, but there weren't any benches, and the ground was still all muddy.

When we got back to the beginning of the trail with the map, we saw that the place we ended up was the area marked as "most difficult." They really need to label the trails when you get there, and put a warning out there about how steep it really is. We weren't trying to go to that path, and had we known, we would have taken a different trail to start with.

I always knew I was afraid of heights. I learned yesterday that what I was really afraid of was falling.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Learning by Experience: Medical Billing 101

This week I sent off a check for about $200 to the clinic for that echo-cardiogram I had a while back. It applies to my $500 deductible. I thought that meant I was done.

I was wrong.

Today I found out through my insurance company (and their explanation of benefits form) that the $200 charge was only dipping my toe in the water. The rest of the claims came through and were recently finalized. My insurance company was billed $1,624 for that day. On top that $200 bill I already paid. Silly me for thinking something like an echo-cardiogram would only cost $200. And silly me for assuming they'd bill everything at once. Why would they want to do a crazy thing like that?

Thanks to the magic of insurance, I only have to pay $350 of that. CONGRATULATIONS! I have now met my deductible for the year. That sure didn't take long. What do I win? Well, let's look at it this way. If I had a higher deductible, I'd be paying a lot more of that $1600 out of pocket. That's what I win. I'm suddenly very glad I opted for the low-deductible plan.

I need a bagel.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Things That Make Me Go Hmmm...

It seemed like a long weekend. In reality, I was just really busy. But now it's Monday, and I'm back at work.

I had a personal debate in this blog a while back about mp3 players. Did I ever share with you, my darling readers, that I decided on the iPod Nano? It's purple. It's shiny. And because of it, I recently discovered the magic of podcasts. I'm in love.

And, like I am with all things that I do, I want to make my own podcasts now. Maybe one related to this blog! But then I think to myself... what tools will I need? Some sort of decent microphone, likely, and probably some device (software?) to actually capture my voice. What format will I need to record in? Is there something I can download that will convert it into the necessary format? How will I then get the file from my computer to the internet? I bet if I did a little Googling I could figure all this out.

I think my coffee this morning might be flavored with dish soap. I washed the cup before I put coffee in it, and I think it wasn't really rinsed all the way. The coffee kind of had a weird taste to it, but that was before I added my flavored creamer. Does it always taste weird? Maybe it's not the dish soap at all.

In other news, I'm still waiting to hear from a doctor about the results of the last test I did. So far they've taken my pee, my spit, and a lot of my blood. Depending on what they say next, I'll have to give them more pee, and probably more blood. After that, who knows? Sweat? Tears? Or maybe after that, they'll actually be able to tell me what's wrong with me and give me a definitive answer on Cushing's. Waiting this way is like living through the awkward in-between phase of growing your hair out. I hate it.

Also, has anyone else noticed how awkward the word "awkward" is? It's even awkward to type.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

The Awesomeness of Yesterday

Yesterday was pretty awesome, and it had nothing to do with St. Patrick's Day.

First of all, I got to sleep in a half hour - had to get to the doctor's office to get more blood drawn for tests. I ended up getting to the lab 10 minutes before it opened. Not exciting there, but at least I was first so they got to see me right away.

I got to work around 8 and it was a decent day at work. I wasn't bored out of my mind and I got some good things accomplished - especially one particular process that's been nagging at me for months now. No worries, I won't bore you with the details of my work here.

It was a good day at work, so I'll just leave it at that.

After work, it was absolutely gorgeous out. A perfect day, especially for mid-March. I walked to Barnes & Noble because I really wanted to pick up a book on gardening. Now that I have a yard, I really want to garden, but I have no idea where to start. I ended up buying "Gardening Basics for Dummies" because it was on sale and cheaper to start with than some of the other books I saw. Plus, despite their name, I've heard good things about the "for Dummies" books, and the reviews on Amazon for this one are pretty good. I'm kind of excited to get started.

I would have walked to my parents' condo from downtown after that, but I wasn't wearing the right shoes. My feet would have died by the time I got there. So I hopped on a bus and walked the couple blocks from the bus stop... it was such a beautiful day. I was listening to Mike Doughty on my shiny new iPod because he's coming to town this weekend and I'm going to one of the shows. I'm super excited. I could listen to him all day.

I went to my folks' place for Game Night, and it was awesome. We ate pizza and played a game my brother introduced us to called Puerto Rico. It was a fun game, but I made a foolish mistake at the end that cost me the game. A good time was had by all. I think, if I play that game again, I could have a chance at winning. It's not a quick game, though. But that could be because there were a couple first-timers playing. We asked a lot of questions.

In the end, I was home by 10. It was a good day.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Because it's Friday?

I really feel like I need to update this blog. Unfortunately, I don't really have anything to say.

I ordered an iPod Nano. Refurbished, so I didn't have to pay full price, but it's still the newest model. It was being shipped from China. Estimated delivery date is Tuesday, but it's already on the truck for delivery. Of course, I didn't leave the authorization form on the door, so the FedEx driver won't just leave it, sadly. It requires a signature. *sigh* I really wanted to play with it this weekend. I wonder if they'll attempt delivery on Saturday? I hope so.

I've been excessively emotional lately. There's a lot going on in my life lately, and it's hard to cope with. My body is trying to find any outlet it can to let some of those feelings go. It's not cool when you almost start crying over something as stupid as getting an answer wrong at Pub Quiz.

A lot of my questions about my crazy life should be answered on Monday when I meet with an endocrinologist (see my post titled "Why my day is weird" for details). It feels wrong to be thinking this way, but what I'm most afraid of is finding out that I in fact DON'T have Cushing's, and that everything wrong with me is a result of being overweight after all, and I'll have wasted a lot of time and money figuring that out. And that wouldn't answer any questions about my headaches. But based on my symptoms and lab results, it's likely that I do have Cushing's, and I'm also a little afraid of what's going to happen next.

There's a lot of uncertainty in the air.

Monday, March 8, 2010

In the Mood for a Monday

There's a hangnail on my pinky finger that's trying to kill me. This irritates me.

There's a charge on my bank account from from an "auto-renew" feature that I don't remember signing up for. They didn't even bother to give me a heads-up that it was going to be charged. This makes me angry.

I only got an hour or two of sleep last night. Up late for the Oscars and had a hard time falling asleep. This makes me crabby.

So, suddenly (thanks to, I'm an irritated angry crabby-pants. I hate everything and everyone. Even that adorably cute little lobster doll sitting by my monitor that's smiling up at me. I hate that stupid thing, too.

I hate that my coffee is cold, but I don't want to get a whole new cup because I know I won't drink it all.

I hate that there's not a lot on my to-do list today. There's plenty I can work on, but I'm having a hard time building up the energy to work on something that doesn't have a pressing deadline.

I hate things that are made of leather. Not for any PETA-related reasons, mind you. It's just that the last few leather products I've worn have smelled like fish. I guess they're treated in some sort of fish-related oil or something along those lines. Still, I made a necklace on Saturday on a leather cord. Couldn't wear it out to dinner because the stench from the necklace would have interfered with the delicious smells and flavors of my food. Stupid leather. I know now to sniff everything leather before I buy it.

I hate that the package of Cadbury Mini Eggs I bought this weekend was only large enough to fill the candy dish on my desk once. I thought I'd be able to replenish it later this week.

I hate that I'm craving tacos.

See? This just isn't cool. Bad moods suck.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Why My Day is Weird, or: Beware the Ides of March

Today is weird. It didn't really start out weird. It's just weird now.

As you may or may not know, I've been going to the doctor a lot lately. It started out because I was having a lot of headaches. Bad ones. Then my doctor was concerned about my blood pressure. It was suddenly much higher than before. I went in a few weeks later, and while my blood pressure had dropped slightly, it was still high - and for someone who has a history of heart disease on both sides of her family, my doctor was naturally concerned. I started taking a beta blocker medication because in addition to lowering my blood pressure, it was also supposed to help suppress migraine headaches.

I kept getting the headaches. My blood pressure isn't back to normal, despite taking the medication for five months now. I've gained a lot of weight in the last year or so. While that isn't necessarily out of the ordinary for me, it still raised some questions with my doctor.

He wanted to see if I might have something called Cushing's syndrome. It's caused by an elevated amount of cortisol in the body. To test for this, I had to collect my pee for 24 hours. Reading up on the symptoms of Cushing's, I realize that I have a LOT of them. Almost all of them.

My doctor called me today with the results of the pee-collection test. I had more than three times the normal amount of cortisol in my system, which is indicative of Cushing's. He explained that this is caused by some sort of malfunction in my pituitary gland and/or my adrenal glands. They're not talking to each other correctly and somehow they're causing too much cortisol to be produced. The next step is to get my blood drawn to test the levels of ACTH (don't ask what it is, I have no idea), and that should be able to narrow it down to my pituitary or adrenal glands. Then I need to meet with an endocrinologist to figure out what to do next.

I realized, after I got off the phone with the appointment scheduling lady, that I scheduled that appointment on the Ides of March. Maybe not the best, but I already have an appointment about my blood pressure for the same day, and I really don't want to have to get out to the clinic again.

So... this whole thing is weird. If I do, in fact, have Cushing's, it would answer all the questions about what's been wrong with me lately. I always just assumed it was because I'm overweight, and if I just sucked it up and lost weight, my problems would correct themselves. But now I'm beginning to wonder if that would have worked at all, since this is really something out of my conscious control. But if it means that, after treatment, I won't get these stupid headaches anymore? That would be awesome. If it means I don't have to take so many pills every day, that would be awesome, too. Based on my reading, I might have to continue taking something to regulate the cortisol in my body, but that's something to worry about later. Let's figure out if I even have Cushing's before we start thinking about what's going to happen after.

I'm kind of scared. I've never been this kind of sick before. I've never needed to see a specialist. My doctor told me I'm an interesting case - usually people who get Cushing's aren't heavy to begin with. But it would answer so many questions...

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Why I Hate Money (and Why I Wish I Had More)

For the last few years, I've gotten a rather sizable bonus from work around this time of year. This year, economy being what it is, I got a significantly smaller bonus. I never realized how much I took that bonus for granted until I made that list of things I want to do in the next 10 years. Assuming I would get nothing this year, I started saving to protect myself from going completely broke.

Now I'm realizing, not even three months into the year, that I've started a good thing, because my body is falling apart and health care costs money - even if you have insurance. I got an echo-cardiogram a couple weeks ago. I just found out that I have to pay for the whole thing because it applies toward my deductible, which I certainly haven't yet met for the year.

So, there's my first unexpected expense of the year. That expense? Just a little shy of the bonus I received this year.

What does this mean for me and my plan? Back to square one. Like it never happened, and I go back to never getting a bonus in 2010. Back to the saving machine. I hate that I have to think about this stuff all the time.

Here's why I wish I had more money: I want things. I'm still planning on that trip to Vegas for my birthday in the fall. But right now? I want an iPod.

Yeah. I know. I hate the whole "i-whatever" thing. I've said it a hundred times. But my main mp3 player is on the fritz. It hates me. The buttons don't work half the time, and I'm surprised it still plays music. And it's a dinosaur. The screen isn't even in color! The more I look at the iPod Nano (the fancy new ones that shoot video), the more I want one. I like all of its features. Does anyone know of a similar device that's not an Apple product (preferably available in a 16GB version)? Bonus points if it comes in awesome colors like the Nano.

With all the traveling I have planed for the near future, it would be really helpful to have something like this. Something small and shiny, but able to hold a lot of music and a few episodes of some TV shows. I wants it.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

About the last few days...

I took last Friday off work. It wasn't for vacation or anything fun like that. It was planned, so it wasn't supposed to be because I was sick. Of course, I was sick.

It was just supposed to be a regular, relaxing day. I was going to sit at home and collect my pee to test to see if I have Cushing's disease. I decided to eat Chinese food for lunch.

And then something horrible happened. About 3 or 4 hours after I finished eating that Chinese food, it came back to haunt me. I was violently ill for the rest of the day and into the night. I couldn't even drink water. I lost 10 pounds.

It's been a long time since I was that sick. I think the last time was when I was in high school. I hate being sick.

After the big sick of Friday night, I was still nauseous the rest of the weekend. I felt well enough to go to a friend's house for brunch on Sunday, but I limited myself to eating toast. I still wasn't feeling awesome.

Monday, I went back to work. That was foolish. I should have stayed home. Every time I ate or drank something, it caused a stomach cramp that would then lead to a wave of nausea pouring over my belly. Nothing ever came of it, but it was very uncomfortable, and I left work early. I felt better on Tuesday, but after lunch the same thing started happening. Last night for dinner I limited myself to toast and applesauce, and I think that really helped me. This morning I woke up feeling refreshed and well, and I haven't really been nauseated all day. So far. I plan on still eating a very basic lunch (maybe graduating to a bagel and a banana), and I've been drinking Gatorade to rehydrate.

My goal is to be back on a normal (for me) diet by the end of the week.