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Sadie: if Colin had been an alpha

Colin:  paint can ninja surprise!
A ferretish thing I wrote last night. :)

Everyone is in splendid form tonight. After the evening's romp, I rounded the weasels back up and put them in the bedroom. I then tossed the books I'm reading, my phone, and a brand new bag of treats (sandwiched between the books so as to not draw attention to it) onto my bed.
The next part of the nightly routine is to top off the kibble and take the water bowl to the sink to rinse and refill it. As I turned off the water, I heard it: the unmistakable crinkling sound a bag of treats makes when it's being stolen. ONLY Sadie steals those, the little butt. I shouted 'Hey, no! No!' while I hurried back to the bedroom. My hurrying was hindered by trying not to spill the fresh water and I returned to just in time to see Sadie climbing back on the bed.
The next part of the routine is to give the ferrets their treats and all four of them know this. Only I COULDN'T because SOMEONE had hidden the damned treats. I felt like a particularly demented Pied Piper, what with the ferrets excitedly following me around the room while I tried to make them tell me where Sadie had hidden the damned treats.

'I can't give you treats when you hide them from me! This is not evil genius! This is being criminally insane! Where are the treats? How can you have any pudding when you don't eat your treats?' It was that sort of shouty running monologue. The ferrets only heard 'TREATS' and 'TREATS' and 'TREATS' and they could hardly stand the excitement of watching me break the routine to toss the damned bedroom to try to find where the hell Sadie had hidden the damned treats. Don't get me wrong: they've seen me toss the bedroom plenty while I searched for something they've hidden. I just try not to wind them all back up by blowing their little minds and doing something they don't expect before we all settle down to spend the rest of the night fending off Bowie's attempts to groom our faces off.

ANYWAY. I finally gave up looking for the bag because they were all starting to do, like, Milli Vanilli chestbumps when they weren't trying to leap onto my back and head. I grabbed another a bag and returned to the bedroom, giving everyone the stink-eye as I dispensed some undeserved treats.

Eventually, everyone finished their respective treat silliness. My first best moment of the night: Finnegan had run away off the bed with his last treat, which is something they all do. Less than a minute later, he scrabbled back up onto the bed and did this slow, sinuous twist into the happiest stretch and yawn on his back. He didn't even look at me, which is how I knew he had forgotten I existed. I held back the giggles while he groomed and squirmed and preened...then FLIPPED AND FROZE. He didn't just get a buzzy tail while he stared at me, his eyes huge and his mind blown. His entire coat buzzed out. If he could have clutched at his chest to still his undoubtedly frantically beating heart, he so would have. Sooner or later, that weasel is going to give me an existential crisis what with the way I cease to exist at such random intervals. Probably damaged sinuses, too, what with the way I snort with helpless laughter whenever he does this.

My second best moment -- and this second best only in terms of chronology -- happened not long after (right before I got back up to write this, in fact). I again heard that familiar crinkling sound of a treat bag being dragged. This time, it was coming from a suitcase. Rollo's tail end appeared fas he backed out of the suitcase with that damned bag of treats that Sadie had hidden. He dropped the bag and looked at me with such affront. My earnest little alpha likes things put away Just So and Sadie had clearly violated protocol by not seeking a special dispensation to hide the bag wherever she managed to put it in there that I didn't see it when I had looked. I grabbed the bag before Sadie could, all the while assuring Roland that I will totally sign off on the report he intends to put in her permanent record about what a chicken-butt she is.
And now the Jingly Snitch is in play and Sadie is hissing her bossy little britches right off about it. I am off to hide under the blankets and refuse to give anyone any more treats tonight. They are all weirdos.

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JINGLEJINGLEJINGLE all the flippin' way

brain cell in action
I love that the epic struggle for the possession of the jingly toy plays out between Sadie and Finnegan even when one or the other isn't looking. Early this morning, Finn scrabbled onto the bed for treats. He was followed fairly closely by Bowie. Sadie climbed up the blanket just high enough to look over the top of the mattress, blinked, then slid down. She took off for the toy closet and JINGLEJINGLEJINGLEd her way back to the dresser with it. After, she joined us on the bed. She and Bowie eventually curled up together so Bowie could attempt to groom her face off while Sadie attempted to fend her off. Finnegan noodled around on the bed for maybe a minute then climbed on my hip to glance at the girls. He hopped off my hip and most of the way over them, only stepping on Bowie's head a little bit. Then he was off the bed and I heard him JINGLEJINGLEJINGLE as fast as he could to the toy closet. When I finally gathered the four of them for the morning romp, Sadie only stayed with us a few minutes. She climbed back over the force field and went straight to the closet. I heard the familiar JINGLEJINGLEJINGLE almost immediately.

There's a strange cleverness to the way they have selected that damned jingly toy and that toy alone and determinedly move it between two dedicated spots. Roland and Bowie have their tandem stuffed animal rescues -- toys are NOT for playing, you guys, they're SRS BNS for GROWN-ASS WEASELS -- and a preferred corner where those toys are supposed to be. That's close to what Sadie and Finn do, especially since Rollo and Bowie both remember to check on the toys independently: Rollo to make sure they're still huddled together in the back of the closet and Bowie to steadily groom off every single feature their faces once had. (Seriously. That pile is so creepy now. Every one in it is missing at least one eye and usually two. In the course of removing their thread eyes and noses and mouths, Bowie also often every so slightly pulls out wispy tufts of the toy filling. The result is the appearance of sheer polyester tendrils wafting from every orifice, looking for all the world like their little toy souls are drifting out of their featureless faces. Thanks for making it look like I have an altar made of dead toys hidden in the back of that closet, little Bow.)

Anyway. I'm fascinated with the way Sadie and Finn are constantly remembering that one toy and taking the otherwise unprompted initiative to move it back to the spot they each chose. They do that as often as they play together with it, stealing it back and forth as I've described before. It's the sort of clever, deeply strange thing that made me a ferret person from the moment Tooms showed up on my porch and moseyed into my townhouse. Ferrets are just so WEIRD.

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not dead yet (but not for lack of trying)

GF:  housemates
Medically, it has been quite an exciting few months. I can now officially vouch for that fact that 'medically' and 'exciting' (and even 'months') don't make for an appealing word combo.

That's why I'm posting about ferrets instead.

Morning, with weasels.

From time to time, the ferrets manage something or other that comes across as eerily planned. This morning, for example, they seemed to have rehearsed a bit of choreography in advance of waking me. It was so well-timed and perfectly executed that I was faintly weirded out. Shortly before dawn, I felt the familiar weight of Roland dropping across my ankles. I opened my eyes to see what he wanted, when the baby popped up over the edge of the bed, hopped on my hip, then settled against my backside, also looking at me. That's when Bowie popped up onto my shoulder from behind me to stare down into my face and, seconds later, Finn did his favourite thing: stuck his face in my hair, sneezed, and wiped his nose on my scalp. (THANKS, BUDDY.) Seriously, though, their timing was as exact as their positioning -- Rollo, Sadie, Bowie, Finn; ankle, hip, shoulder, head -- to the point of being disconcerting. And then, of course, they got all excited and I found myself delivering a monologue (that might as well have been a soliloquy for all they were listening):

'No! I am not awake. Just because I opened my eyes to look at you doesn't mean I'm awake. No, you don't get any treats for waking me up because I am not awake. Stop it! There's plenty of kibble. No! Stop bothering me! No one is getting treats or playing because I get to sleep for at least another hour. Just...okay, fine. Yes. Here, you can have treats, but I am not awake and I get to go back to sleep. And this isn't me getting up! I just have to pee. Stop being happy! There is no happy when I just have to pee! Stop! We are not playing! I am just going to the...okay, fine. Yes. Here, you can go play in the living room, but we are not getting up yet. You just get to run around and take the edge off so we can all go back to sleep! I GET TO SLEEP FOR AT LEAST ANOTHER HOUR. And stop being so happy! I want you to be dour! And grim! Because we are all going back to sleep! No, you can't come in here with me! No! Out! But don't be evil when I'm not looking! AND STAY OUT OF THE KITCHEN.'

And so my day began. Morning, with weasels. AUGH.

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it's not easy being Roland, you guys

archaeologists = ruins
I love what a complex little guy Rollo is. Most mornings, he will at some point drape himself across my forehead and heave the most massive sighs to let me know how much I suck for not letting him out of the bedroom to inspect the rest of the place. (This position not only lets him communicate his despondency over my sorry state of ferret-based responsibilities, but he can stare mournfully at the Plexiglass force field I have thus far failed to remove.) I personally find this hilarious, which he does not appreciate. When he feels me shaking with silent giggles, he'll eventually slide off my forehead to SKRITCH SKRITCH SKRITCH very emphatically (and surprisingly loudly) on the side of the pillow while fixing me with an imperious-bordering-on-offended look. His offense is all the more compounded when I not only laugh more, but scoop him up and cuddle him like that's an okay thing to do.

Then he occasionally does his shy-guy act, as he did just before I started writing this. I don't get it every day, maybe a few times a week at most, but it's pretty charming from such a bossy-butt weasel. He'll suddenly pretend he doesn't know what 'come here' means and act all coy and flirty. He stands just out of reach, maybe even backing up a few steps, and then he'll duck his head to rub his cheek on his shoulder and back up a little more. Eventually, he'll wind up on his back, grooming his little face with his paws so he can peek at me around his fingers and being all silly and squirmy. Yeah, funny how THAT guy never puts in an appearance in the morning. ROLAND.

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so, here's this

GF: buttscratch
There's sadness and frustration and even anger right now, but overall I'm at a pretty solid philosophical point about all of this. I've been using massive knee braces that span from mid-thigh to mid-calf to deal with my severely knocked-knees. The right one has been successful at keeping my weaker right leg stable, preventing my knee from folding when I go downstairs and kind of shoring up the muscles above and below it. So. I already have what I need to help me with a fair piece of this new revelation and I know it works very well. Likewise, even though my right arm is a little worse now than it used to be and even though that surgery has been delayed, the post-op products (button/zipper fastener, rocker knife, bottle cap-grip, the new tug-on bras and tops, and the rest) are absolutely perfect for seeing me through any pre-surgical rough patches. Another nice thing: I asked the orthopaedic surgeon if he would write me a 'scrip for more PT, but this time for my biceps and how to strengthen the muscles around it to better compensate for the torn muscle. He agreed, telling me only to use it if there was some sort of delay with my other surgery. Well. Here I am. Even if there aren't six full weeks between now and whatever we find out about the rest of my spine, I'm going to request Joyce again and see what she can teach me to make a part of my daily routine when I'm at home. Having something productive to do there is easily as soothing as researching because I won't just be sitting around feeling helpless and worthless and scared. It's just another form of preparation. I have been and will keep doing everything that is reasonably in my power to do to stay on top of this.

I'm glad to have a little more time to rearrange things in this place. I have an old, okayish chair I'd like to move to the bedroom because I've realised how much easier it will make filling the ferret food dish and water bowls (a problem I've also solved with a pack of 8oz water bottles and food portions in Ziplock bags, both of which I can open one-handed and let me tell you: I felt like all kinds of smart when that finally clicked). In order to facilitate moving it, I have slipped half a Swiffer pad under each foot. Not only will it slide more smoothly and not scrape the floor as I nudge it along, but the straight stretch between the chair's current position and its destination will totally count as clean.

I'm making great progress on the unspeakably fugly asymmetrical poncho/capelet I'll be using ONLY at home. The yarn is nice to touch -- Noro 100% wool -- and more importantly, it was free from someone else's stash and I already had it. It just happens to be an unholy ugly self-striping colour-combination. Still, the asymmetry will cover my right arm (in a sling or otherwise) even as it leaves my left arm uncovered from the elbow down. Once it has served its purpose to keep me warm at home during all of this, I'll rearrange it back into a long, narrow rectangle and hide it between my top sheet and covers at the foot of my bed to keep my feet warm. That way it can still be all the fugly it wants to be but still useful.

There's other little things I could detail. It all comes down to the same, though. I have more going for me than not when it comes to dealing with all of these little revelations. Most of the revelations are just different words for shit I've already learned to manage or have the things I need to teach myself to manage it. I'm sure freak-outs are going to pop up along the way. I'll get through those, too. I have good doctors, good friends, and a whole business of cheerfully deranged ferrets. The time between now and the 20th will be okay. I can do this because I'm already doing it. It will be okay, mostly because no breathing tubes or surgical incisions inside my throat means I can drink whatever booze and coffeeohmygod I want between then and now. Bring on the goddamned iced quad-shot Gingerbread Lattes with extra whipped cream is what I'm saying.

GO BIG OR GO HOME: well, shit

archaeologists = ruins
The good news is I'm no longer being rushed into surgery for this thing in my neck. The crappy news is because today we discovered my right leg fails as badly at the knee and ankle as my right arm does at the elbow and wrist. That was a little on the difficult side for me, I admit. I was very glad the doctor left for a few minutes so I could try to keep myself together. All this time, I've chalked up every problem with my leg -- the slight limp that worsens the more I walk, the way my right knee and/or ankle constantly tries to give out when I'm walking down stairs, the constant ache in my hip bones -- to being somehow down to a bad knee. Some of it probably is, but a bad knee doesn't explain how my leg kept failing at every resistance test. The problem is, the nerve roots and spinal cord being stabbed and smushed don't explain that either. In fact, there isn't any obvious thing this neurosurgeon and one of his colleagues could think of that explains my symptoms.

ETA I forgot to add that my reflexes don't exist on the right side. Left side did the normal little jumps and kicks, but my right leg and arm didn't even twitch. Nothing, no matter how distracted I was or how often they tried. I found that didn't particularly rock my world any more than the rest of the day's revelations.

As such, I'm now going to have electromyography (EMG) and nerve conduction studies (NCS). The next day, I am scheduled for three new sets of MRIs: one of my brain, one on my neck with a focus now on the thoracic region, and one of my entire spine. The last two will actually be arthrograms because the contrast is needed to check my spinal cord for tumours. Dr Shimer and I meet again on 20 December to discuss the results.

I hate to be the one to say this but I think it just really needs to be put out there: as far as I'm concerned, Santa is being the biggest dick this year.

Oh, the one kind of amusing thing: you know how the human spine has a slight curve forward between the head and the shoulders? I've inverted mine, apparently by way of how I've retrained my posture to reduce the pain in my neck. Of course I have. Of course.

caught a break there

Colin:  paint can ninja surprise!
I feel a little protective of my spine, nerve roots, and spinal cord, so I decided to just call UVA Sports Med today to ask for a referral to one of their neurologists. Dr Pollard might actually be just the guy I need and I'd certainly prefer to have this surgery done so much closer to the apartment. I still want a second opinion. I have to have surgery to remove this thing no matter what because it's growing into the back of my throat as well as my nerve roots and spinal cord. I want to make sure I pick the best possible procedure out of the ones available.

UVA rocks: they got me in with a spine specialist on Friday afternoon, just a few hours after I meet with my orthopaedic surgeon. Specifically, I'm meeting with the guy who's a specialist in complex cervical spine conditions and adult spinal deformities. He had just had a cancellation or it would have been months before we could meet. Hot diggity damn. I am so glad I decided to try for the referral today.

a smallish update

A3 these boots
Although I had been scheduled for two more PT sessions with Joyce, after hearing about the updated spinal surgery stuff, she went ahead and wrapped things up. She asked me to stay in touch, updating her as I have news, and said she'd love to work with me again for either or both the neck and arm PT I'll need. I really appreciated that. We went through most of the same tests we did my first day. As expected, there's been no improvement in strength. I'm thrilled that there's less pain and slight improvement in range of motion. The lack of the crippling muscle spasms hitting 9 and 10 on my pain scale that I had on the first day is noteworthy, too.

She was pleased I plan to ask my orthopaedic surgeon for a second opinion (his or someone he refers me to, I don't care) about the surgery. No matter what, I must have surgery on my spine because I'm steadily worsening. If there's a way to avoid resectioning and the bone grafts, though, that's the direction I want to go. I brought all this up to ask if she knew of any spine specialists in the UVA system she had heard good things about, and she had one suggestion. I'm really hoping Dr Brockmeier spontaneously suggests the same surgeon.

This would have been my fifth out of six weeks of PT. It's a little unreal that in about a month's time I went from thinking I just had some knotty muscles to learning I need at least two surgeries to address pretty significant issues. I'm ready, though. Today, I unthinkingly reached for an envelope in my mailbox with my right hand. My outstretched arm shook so hard from the effort, I fumbled and dropped what was little more than a piece of paper. I am committing all of this bullshit to memory so I can use it when I'm struggling with the post-op PT or if (when) I start feeling sorry for myself because I hurt too much to sleep.
archaeologists = ruins
Today I learned that the only thing as bad as my PT looking at my MRIs and going easy on me is my doctor sounding nakedly worried in describing the urgency with which I should be seeing a spinal surgeon. She's personally contacting one she knows to find out how quickly he can see me. There's significant advanced osteoarthritic deterioration in my C5 and C6 vertebrae and the disc has certainly slipped, but that's not really the issue. If that was it, I could be like the more than 95% of other people who never need surgery and have this treated with an epidural cortisone injection. Inflammation really isn't a thing, though. The problem is the huge bony mass that is growing around and into my nerves and spinal cord where these vertebrae are. Dr Powell has never seen anything like it, to the point that she was struggling to describe it to me. She'd get a few words into a sentence then suddenly say again, 'You know, I just really need to talk to Dr Pollard. I need to see how soon I can get you in.'

AWESOME.

Anyway, my takeaway from what she said and what she didn't say is that this isn't just bad, it's dangerous-bad. I knew I had epic bone spurs on all of my vertebrae -- no joke, in X-rays, my spine looks like it's made of a stack of pissed-off dragon skulls -- but I didn't know there was anything like this nonsense going on at the top of my spinal cord. She did confirm that the lump I feel at the back of my throat is this same bony mass growing that direction, too.

I did get props, in sort of a backhanded way, for my pain tolerance. So, you know, this conversation wasn't a total wash.
A3 hypo full of love
I will know more about this on Monday, but my neck MRIs suck on a spectacular level. Naturally. I have osteoarthritis in exactly two vertebrae, C5 and C6. Their degeneration has caused the nearby nerves to herniate and in turn my spinal cord is being mashed. This explains why I haven't been able to wear halter-style bras or tops without excruciating pain for quite a good long while now. Likewise, my tension headaches and the bilateral muscle spasms, pain, numbness, and tingling are explained. It also confirms I'm not going to be able to wear the sling I'll need following my shoulder and biceps repairs until some sort of action is taken to ease the pressure on my nerves and spinal chord. Neurosurgery was suggested, but I asked if we might consider a short-term solution to get me through the arm surgery first. Thus the delay until Monday in order for the doctor to research options. Man, I don't screw around when it comes to injuries. No simple sprains for me, by gum.

Argh.