Sunday, February 27, 2011

My Birthday from Hell

A Birthday from Hell?  Well, not quite, but that is what my husband called it. It was the day I turned 65 – and officially became a pensioner and retiree – a reason to celebrate!  The morning started out great, with my husband serenading me with “Happy birthday to you” and us having a nice breakfast together.

But the enjoyment did not last. Living in Nova Scotia, February is not a kind month. As per weather prediction, it started out snowing, then switched to rain – a lot of rain – and very strong wind. 

I thought I’d get some exercise before the rain came, got on my snow shoes on and went down the path to pick up the mail. As I approached the car, I saw the one of the tires was totally flat. We live some 40 km out of town, on a gravel road that turns into a sheet of ice when it rains. So how will we fix this flat tire, with no means of getting into town to get it fixed? While there is a small emergency tire in the trunk, we were advised by a friend that given the very messy road conditions, it would not be safe to use that tire.  We’ll have to rely on the kindness of neighbours.  This saga will continue after the weekend.

When the rain came, it poured, and not just outside. Our porch, which, granted, is getting old, started leaking like a sieve. I had to gather whatever containers I could find, to catch the drips and periodically empty them, as they were filling fast. Our dog, Lucy, has excellent bladder control and refused to go outside. Molly, the cat, ditto.

My mother called from Brazil to congratulate me, but did not have otherwise good news, as they need to find a nursing aide to assist in the care of her 92-year old sister, but cannot find an appropriate person. So my mother, who is 89, thinks she may have to play nurse. It cannot work.

Then my husband, who has not been feeling well for the past week or two, told me that he has developed more symptoms, indicative of liver/gallbladder problems. My guess is that he’ll need surgery. 

And lastly, my daughter just broke up with her boyfriend of 3 years. She is moving out of their joint flat and temporarily moving into a small room at a girlfriend’s flat. She'll have to start looking for a flat. Living in London is awfully expensive, and it is hard to find a nice place. 

So, upheavals wherever I look. And not much I can do anywhere. Truly a birthday to remember!

Friday, February 4, 2011

My year living dizzily

The dizziness came on suddenly. When I got up one morning, everything was spinning. Going to work proved not to be a good idea, as the dizziness continued. Medical advice given was to rest for a few days and take Cerc (a medication for dizziness). The rest is history.

For the past year – actually a bit longer, since I developed dizziness in November of 2009 – I have felt like I was in suspended animation, work-wise.  I saw retirement in some foreseeable future, but had not envisioned leaving work yet. I thought I might just reduce the number of days worked, and would still be there for at least another year or two. I was strongly involved with the Green Team and enjoyed seeing it develop. Also, our hospital is being replaced by a new one, and I would have liked to be involved in the transition. Well, it did not happen that way!

I do not know what brought the dizziness on, but about 2 weeks prior to onset, I received a flu shot – actually two shots: the regular yearly flu shot and the H1N1 (aka swine flu) vaccine. The latter one, because the main ingredient was in short supply if the entire population was to be vaccinated, had an adjuvant added, to boost the immune response with a smaller dose. I have allergies, and I wonder if the two events are connected, and whether the vaccination could have triggered the dizziness. Health Canada does not think so, but then, they have been wrong before. Could it be a sign of aging – we all have a weak spot? Or something else – so often we don’t know what brings on an illness? Even with today’s advanced knowledge, the human body remains quite a mystery – medicine does not have all of the answers.

I’m fortunate in that, while I am unable to work, I am not totally incapacitated.  I cannot move around fast, and cannot handle noisy environments with multiple interactions – situations I would encounter all the time at work. I was hoping for the dizziness to resolve, so I would be able to get back to work. For a while, being off work was taken up by trying to sort out what was wrong, and how it could be fixed. I went the gamut: GP, ENT, ophthalmologist, internal medicine, gastro-enterologist, physiotherapists, neurologist, CT scan, MRI, ECG, EEG, numerous blood tests, hearing test and more. I took various medications that help with vertigo, but in my case just made it worse. So far there is no specific diagnosis, but a problem in the inner ear has been brought up as a possible source. Menière’s Disease has been mentioned, but not confirmed. Now I am waiting to see a neuro-otologist, but the waiting list is long. I have come to accept that the dizziness is here to say, and putting a label on it won’t change the outcome. I have to learn to live with it.

I am very thankful to live in Canada, with Medicare looking after all the medical bills. Also, having a nursing union – the Nova Scotia Nurses Union (NSNU) – with a good contract is very helpful in sickness, as I was still getting paid. So my illness did not impact me financially. Even the medications I was put on are covered, though only by the hospital-linked extended health insurance.

A recent newspaper article headline read, “Having it all – until you can’t”. This is how I feel at times. Quite a while ago, I had read of people who made lots of retirement plans, but as soon as they retired, were waylaid by illness. The advice given was not to wait that long before retiring, so one could still “have it all”.  Did I wait too long?

Suddenly, I have a lot of time to think about retirement and what I can still do.  My days of multitasking are over. I cannot undertake several tasks at once any more – I have to slow down and focus on one thing at a time. This is difficult for me to do, but it can be beneficial.