Thursday, July 20, 2017

3 Month Update

So today is 3 months since I finished radiation for DCIS breast cancer.  The actual breast cancer treatment wasn't too bad.  I was lucky.  I sailed through the surgery & for the most part the radiation was easy.  Fatigued yes but I got through it without any major illness or time off work.

Last Day of Radiation
I took May very easy.  I continued to walk instead of run.  I did a couple short bike commutes to work.  We had a great vacation in Washington. I came back to work after Memorial Day feeling healthy.  I continued bike commuting a couple days of the week.  I slowly started adding run intervals to my walks.  I even hit the pool in early June.

Shillito Pool
Then came the second week of June.  It started with a scratchy, dry sore throat.  Then a little burn in my lungs with any exertion.  I figured I had a cold or allergies.  Several folks I knew had hacky coughs so I figured  it was my turn.  I managed to stay really healthy all through the cancer treatment so I was due.  I went to the work doctor & he said it was just a cold.  So I didn't think much about it.  Just went on my way.

The problem was I just wasn't getting better.  I dialed my workouts down even more.  No more jogging, only 1 bike commute each week, used fins at the pool but nothing helped.  I was tired.

We went to New York to visit family for a long weekend at the end of June. We always hike & explore while we are there but this time I was perfectly content to sit & hang out all weekend. That damn cold was really hanging on. Over 2 weeks since the first symptoms.

Queensbury, New York - Mom, Grandma, Steven, Jason & me
The following weekend was 4th of July weekend & we headed to Savannah to visit Nina.  I had to take naps every day.  We barely did anything.  By Saturday I knew I was heading downhill fast.  We had rented kayaks & I could barely keep up.  The effort was exhausting.  I felt bad but I had no interest in exploring Savannah. Just the thought was exhausting. I was so freaking tired.

Tybee Island - Me, Nina & Steve
I had 2 extra days off at home thanks to the holiday so I was just trying to get home knowing I could rest.  By the evening of the 4th I was done.  I was coughing, barely could breathe & my chest hurt something fierce.  I thought I had bronchitis.  I called my GP office first thing Wednesday (7/5) morning.  Thankfully they were able to see me that morning.

To my surprise the doctor told me I had pneumonia or possibly radiation induced pneumonitis.  Huh?  I was stunned.  She sent me to have a chest xray to confirm.  While waiting, I was googling radiation induced pneumonia.  I didn't like what I read at all.

Later that afternoon the doctor called me to confirm that I had pneumonia & that I needed a CT scan.  They got that scheduled for Friday morning & she started me on antibiotics. By Monday (7/10) morning I had zero improvement so I called to schedule a follow up with my GP.  When she walked in she said they are trying to get me in with a Pulmonary specialist ASAP because my pneumonia was severe.  My entire left upper lobe was full of pneumonia.  The CT could not determine if it was bacterial or radiation induced.  She assumed bacterial so they gave me a shot of antibiotics & a stronger antibiotic prescription.  She also told me no work for 2 weeks.  I thought she was nuts at the time but believe me I have needed every bit of those 2 weeks off.

I went to the Pulmonary specialist on Tuesday (7/11) morning.  He showed me my CT scan & explained how the next couple of weeks were going to go.  He re-iterated that they couldn't tell if the pneumonia was bacterial or radiation induced without a lung biopsy.  He treatment plans were this: 14 days of strong antibiotics & steroids.  If I get better, then it's bacterial.  If I am the same in 1 week then we do a lung biopsy.  If I get worse, go straight to the ER.  No exercise, no work, no being outside in the heat until I start to feel better.  Period.

See all that white?  That's pneumonia.
That bright white spot is most likely pneumonia on my right lung
Well, you would think being cooped up inside in July would be the worst thing in the world for someone that enjoys being outside & active.  The reality was I was so miserable I didn't care about the mandatory couch time.  The first 10 days were spent sleeping 9-10 hours each night, a morning nap & an afternoon nap.  When I was awake I watched the Tour de France & HGTV.  Each afternoon I would try to spend a few minutes online checking work emails but that was pretty much the extent of my working.

I had such a hard time determining if I was feeling better.  The improvements were so minor.  I remember telling the doctors that if I stay still & don't move I could convince myself that I am feeling better but as soon I got up it was a completely different story.  I was exhausted.

I had my first follow up with the pulmonary doctor on Tuesday (7/18).  I had little to go on from my perspective on whether or not I was truly improving.  I resorted to my Garmin data & a couple of things others said to me.  First, one of my friends said it didn't sound like I was as out of breathe when I spoke.  OK, that's good.  I still felt like I was out of breathe but that was good feedback.  Second, the same pulmonary nurse saw me each week & she said I looked better even though I still felt rough.  The rest was on my Garmin data. Yeah, total data nerd.

I looked at Garmin Connect to check my average resting heart rate & sleep trends.  My average resting HR on June 4th was 57 bpm.  Through the month of June it creeped up to a high of 67 bpm by July 2nd.  I started antibiotics on July 5th.  By July 9th it was down to 60 bpm & by the 18th it was down to 54 bpm.  The antibiotics & the rest were clearly helping even if I didn't feel better.

The next thing I looked at was my deep sleep time.  Prior to starting antibiotics my deep sleep was 3-4 hours per night even though my total sleep time was 9-10 hours each night.  After two weeks of antibiotics I was sleeping deeply 5-7 hours each night out of the 9-10 hours.  I interpreted that as I was breathing better & not coughing nearly as much in the night.

Using this data & feedback from others we decided to delay the lung biopsy which relieved me greatly.  This was not something I wanted to do AT ALL.  My next follow up is 7/31 & I am optimistic that I will be feeling much better.  I still have a few days before going to work but I have gone 2 days without a nap.  I have much more mental energy than I did even earlier this week.  I am definitely breathing better.  I am still very fatigued & don't see myself doing any real workouts for several more weeks.

In addition to my inhaler optri-chamber, I got a breathing apparatus called a flutter valve this week.  The way the pulmonary nurse practitioner explained it was it is like doing bicep curls for your lungs.  I use it 6 times a day & I noticed right away that it noticeably improved my breathing.

Flutter Valve

Opti-Chamber
The doctors said the total recovery time was 8-12 weeks provided I don't have any other underlying issues.  I go back on 8/21 for a follow up CT scan to see how much my lungs have cleared up.  At that point we should be able to determine if this was just a nasty case of pneumonia or something else is lurking.  Fingers crossed it is the former.

Sammie - My couch surfing buddy
While on rest, I have thoroughly enjoyed watching the Tour de France this year.  I have watched all but 2 stages so far.  It has been the highlight of my days this month while recuperating.

Conversely, I am entirely sick of HGTV.  I'm so over those shows. I think HGTV will now always remind me of radiation treatment & pneumonia.  That channel is always on in the waiting rooms.

I read a few free prime books this month nothing worth noting.  Just easy reads. My biggest accomplishment this week was that I finally got our paperwork in order to meet with a financial advisor. I have been putting that off forever.

Tomorrow I go for another craniosacral massage.  It helped a lot during radiation treatment so I am hoping it will help a bit with my fatigue since Monday I go back to work. I am hoping that I can make it a full day but we shall see. 

Stay healthy, y'all!













Saturday, July 15, 2017

Adirondack Camping

My mom finally retired in June.  One of her first trips was to visit Grandma in upstate NY.  We decided to fly out there to visit.  Since we just broke the piggy bank in Washington we decided to give camping a go.

During one of my many campground searches I came across this website.  They take photos of campsites across the country.  This was so helpful since we were planning to bring our hammocks & we needed to make sure we had trees.  They had a video of photos showing every site in Luzerne Campground.  The campground looked perfect. It had plenty of sites & didn't look like they were filling up for the weekend we were going to be there.  Plus it was about a 15 minute drive from Grandma's.

I called a few days prior to leaving Lexington to ask some questions about availability & if they accepted walk ups.  Then on a whim I asked if hammocks were OK.  With some hemming & hawing the women on the phone said technically they can be used but not as your main sleeping arrangements.  Huh?  Puzzled, I asked if they had any signs posting this & she said no.  She said if we had any issues we could just get a cheap tent at Walmart.  Huh?

After some more google searches it appears there have been some issues of nudity amongst hammock folks in campgrounds so the government put some caveats on hammocks.  I found a forum discussion that talked about this crazy rule.  After talking with Steve, we decided to go ahead & bring our stuff anyway.  He was able to fit his 2 person tent in the suitcase along with our hammock gear.

We flew into Albany on Thursday around noon.  We picked up our car.  We had a few options & choose the Nissan Rogue which happened to be brand new with only 3 miles on it!  It was a great option since it gave us the extra room we needed for all of our gear. It was also a very comfy & nicely designed car.

Brand New Nissan Rogue
After a lunch stop in Glens Falls we headed to the campground.  The folks at the gate gave us a map, told us to drive around & pick out a few sites we liked.  The campground is huge with several loops.  Reading the reviews on the web the first loop was to be avoided if possible. Too close to the main road.  The second loop was completely empty & about 1.5 miles from the entrance.  We checked out the main loop which pretty full since it was right on the lake plus the sites were pretty close to one another.  I don't think we bothered checking out the last 2 loops.

We had picked one site that we really liked in the second loop & a few other back up sites in that same loop.  We got our first choice. Site #22 was available all weekend long but we only booked the first night in case we didn't like it.  We spent the next hour setting up the tent & both of our hammocks before heading to Grandma's.

Site #22


Very deep site

Loop Road - So Many Trees!
The first evening we spent a couple hours visiting Grandma & mom before heading to the store for some supplies like water, beer, bug spray & a few snacks. Mom brought us a cooler to use to keep our beers cold.

The thing about campsites with so many trees is it feels like it is almost dark for like 3 hours.  The sunrise was around 5:15AM & the sunset was around 8:30PM.  The first night we were in our hammocks early & I got an amazing nights sleep.

Friday morning we drove to the little store across from the entrance for coffee.  On our way back in we booked the following 2 nights stay.  Steve spent the next couple of hours re-arranging his hammock before we headed out to the grocery to pick up some food for Grandma's. When we got to her apartment only mom was there.  Grandma was out running an errand. While she was out, she had a dizzy spell & ended up at the ER.  At 94 people don't take chances.  Grandma didn't want to go the the ER but her friend pretty much made her go.  So that is where we spent the afternoon.  Waiting in Glens Falls ER while they ran tests.  In the end, she was fine & we were home around dinner time.

Friday night Steve & I had a fire at the campsite.  During the night we woke up to rain.  It was warm that evening but the rain was soothing & brought in a cool front. The tarps did their job keeping us dry.

In the morning, Steve woke up & did his morning run while I went for coffees.  Afterwards we went back to Grandma's to make breakfast & to await the arrival of my 2 cousins from Connecticut.  None of us had seen them for 20 years so we didn't know what to expect.

They arrived around mid afternoon.  You are never sure what to expect when you haven't seen someone for 20 years. Plus they were 5 & 7 the last time we saw them.  They really didn't remember any of us.  The reunion was perfect.  They are such great young men.  The conversations were easy.  I am so glad they came up. It is only a 3 hour drive for them to visit so I do hope they will visit her more now.
Mom, Grandma, Steven, Jason & me
After dinner, Steve & I headed back to our site.  Since the cooler weather came in there were a few more people in our loop but it still wasn't full.  Thursday & Friday there was only one other person in our loop.

Sunday morning we again got coffee & started taking everything down. We had to cram everything back into our suitcase so we had to make sure we took our time.  As we drove around the campground we saw a few other sites with a tent & hammock so we weren't the only ones.

We were all packed & showered up by 10AM.  We again spent the majority of the day hanging out at Grandma's.  Steven & Jason left early afternoon & we headed back towards Albany around 4PM since we had an early flight out in the morning.

Overall the camping trip was a success.  We really didn't spend much time at the site but used it like a hotel room.  We also didn't do any hiking like we usually do when we go to New York.  I was still feeling sluggish from what I thought was the radiation treatment.  I didn't know it at the time but I had the early stages of pneumonia.  The pneumonia wouldn't come out in full force for another couple weeks though.

We got all our camping gear in one suitcase that we checked.  Plus each of us had a carry on bag for our clothes, shoes & toiletries.




Camping Gear contents:

  • 2 Hammocks & Straps
  • 2 Sleeping Bags
  • 2 Under Quilts for Hammocks
  • 2 Tarps
  • 1 2-person Tent w/poles
  • 2 Thermarest Pillows
  • Bag of tarp & tent stakes
  • 1 Camp stove --> Never used on this trip
  • 1 bag of plastic wear
  • 1 Helinox Camp Chair for me
  • 1 Seat mat for Steve



Sunday, June 18, 2017

Washington State!

Washington State has been on the list of places I wanted to go to for years.  Last year when our work trips to China started routing us through Seattle I thought we must take advantage of that.  So when Steve said he was going to China in May I jumped at the opportunity.  It worked out perfectly to meet him in Seattle on his way back.  I flew out Friday night after work & he arrived Saturday morning.  It was also nice that it was the week before Memorial Day so we had an extra day to play with.

I stayed at the airport Marriot that first night.  Our plan was to spend the weekend in Seattle & then head out to explore the National parks.  My flight was a few minutes early and by the time I got to baggage claim my bag was already there.  I think that may have been a first.  I grabbed my bag & went looking for the hotel shuttle.  After a short wait for the shuttle & a short drive to the hotel I was all checked in before midnight.  Things rarely go that smoothly in travel.

Steve's flight landed about 8AM & he was at the hotel around 9AM.  He immediately got his Saturday run out of the way & we grabbed breakfast at 13 Coins. Decent food but first reminder that this trip was not going to be cheap.  After breakfast we checked out of the hotel & took the Link Light Rail to downtown.  I absolutely love cities that you don't need a car.  We stayed at Motif right downtown.  Nice hotel, great location.

After a short nap, we headed to REI of course. We had to check out their flagship store plus I had been searching for a weekend backpack.  We spent about 2 hours getting fitted.  I left with one but not Steve.

Testing out my new pack
After our REI trip we headed to the market but most things were wrapping up for the day plus we were thirsty.  We stopped at Old Stove Brewing for a beer.  We then headed to Pike Place Brewing for dinner and another beer.  On our way we found the gum wall in Post Alley. After dinner we walked along the waterfront & rode the ferris wheel at sunset.


Mt. Rainier in the background
Sunday was another day of walking, eating & drinking.  We started our day at Biscuit Bitch for breakfast.  Gotta love the name!  Then went on the Underground Tour.  This was a really good tour & learned a lot of the history of the city, including the early day seamstresses.  We had passed a shop earlier with rows of sewing machines in their window. After this tour we understood the meaning.

We then went back to the Market and met a guy with a parrot. This made my day.

Parrot laying in my hand
We stopped in to Seattle Brewing for a flight of beers while we contemplated what to do next.  We decided on taking the ferry to Bremerton to check out a couple of breweries and have dinner. The ferry ride was $8.20 round trip & took about 50 minutes.  The weather was perfect to do this.

On our way to Bremerton

Love Craft Brewing in Bremerton
Bremerton is a Naval town & was pretty dead on a Sunday.  Only Love Craft was open.  The other brewery was closed on Sundays.  We had a good dinner at the Horse & Cow before heading back to Seattle. We did see 2 bald eagles while waiting for the ferry to come back.

Bald Eagles

Mt. Rainier

Return to Seattle

Monday started with another walk through the Market & coffee at the original Starbucks.  We made a return trip to REI for Steve to try on some more packs.  He settled on one but decided to wait since he didn't have a good way to get it home.  We had chowder at Pike Place Chowder for lunch at the market before picking up our rental car to head to Mt. Rainier.

Original Starbucks
We picked up the car downtown & saved the airport tax. On our way out we stopped at the Fremont Troll.

There is a Volkwagon Bug under the hand
Around 2:30 we headed towards Mt. Rainier.  I didn't reserve any rooms in advance at this point.  I wanted to be flexible & hoped for the best.  It took longer than I thought to get there.  We arrived at the National Park Inn around 6PM. The only rooms they had left were with shared bathrooms. We took it. The shared bathroom wasn't a big deal.  The toilets were like public restrooms & the showers were a private room. The location was awesome.  It was situated perfectly to sit on the front porch and gaze at Mt. Rainier.

Mt. Rainier from National Inn front porch

Mt. Rainier

Deer at dusk on National Inn front yard
We had dinner at the lodge - expensive and the food is just OK.  There are a couple of places just outside the park but the options are pretty slim. Afterwards we hiked the mile long trail of Shadows loop.
Trail of Shadows
Tuesday when I got up I grabbed some coffee & sat on the front porch.  The view is spectacular & so peaceful.  We had breakfast at the lodge.  I saved half of my omelet & muffin to eat at lunch.  After breakfast we drove up the road to Paradise Lodge.  It was as far as the park was open due to snow.  Paradise lodge is open seasonally but we were there a couple days prior to their official opening of the season.
Paradise Inn
The visitors center was open.  We asked about trails & they have one marked trail called the Nisqually overlook.  It was all snow but the trail was easy to follow.  My new hiking boots worked great.  I started the hike with two layers but quickly got hot.  I was totally overdressed. I actually brought more layers & a winter hat.  Who knew?
Nisqually Trail Head 

Mt. Rainie
 
Mt. Rainie

How do we celebrate?  A beer of course!
After our hike we watched the movie at the visitors center & then headed back to the Inn.  I took a nap while Steve hiked the trail of shadows again.  After my recharge we hiked up to the overlook which was about 4 miles out and back with ~1,300 feet of elevation gain.  It was a good hike.  We had to run some of the way back to make dinner since the restaurant closed at 7PM.  We barely made it.


Wednesday morning we grabbed coffee & hiked Carter Falls.  It was an easy out an back about 3.4 miles long.

Carter Falls - Mt. Rainier Park

Carter Falls - Mt. Rainier Park

Carter Falls - Mt. Rainier Park

Carter Falls - Mt. Rainier Park
We had breakfast at the Inn before heading to Olympic National Park.  Our first stop was Lake Quinault Lodge. Again we didn't have reservations.  Our original plan was to stay for 2 nights but they only had 1 night available.  The lodge was really nice & on a beautiful lake but after being at Mt. Rainier for 2 days it was a bit anticlimactic.

Lake Quinault Lodge

Lake Quinault

Near Lake Quinault Lodge

Worlds Largest Spruce
One our way to the lodge we stopped at a grocery for snacks, bread & peanut butter so we could try to eliminate one meal each day.  I don't know why we didn't think of that from the start. I didn't realized how desolate Washington is outside of Seattle metro area.

After we checked in we hiked the 4+ mile loop from the lodge.  Part of it was along the lake but then it entered the old growth forest. These old trees are amazing.  After our hike we bought a couple of beers from the store across the street & sat in one of the adirondack chairs on the lawn.  As I said earlier, if it wasn't for Mt. Rainier clouding our judgement I would have thought this place was spectacular.

We bagged another lodge dinner & spent the evening in the room eating PB&J's while searching for lodging options for the rest of the week.  There was no cellular service or wi-fi in Mt. Rainier.  This lodge did offer wi-fi so we took advantage of it & did some surfing.  I booked the Port Angeles & the last night at the airport hotels.  We found some options for the next day, Thursday to check out.

The next morning we made coffee in the room while getting ready. The lodge did have an awesome lobby with fireplace.  I would have loved to drink my coffee sitting in front of it. Steve wasn't in the mood to stick around so we were out the door by 9AM.  It took about an hour to reach the Kalaloch Lodge.  Lucky for us they had quite a few options for us that night.  While we were checking out the property a couple of folks offered to let us look at their cabins.  The views were breathtaking.  It was right on the ocean. We were sold.  We booked our room & since we couldn't check in until 4PM we drove to Hoh Rainforest.

We hiked the shorter loops around the visitor center.  There is a longer out & back that leads you to Mt. Olympic but we didn't do that one.  Supposedly, somewhere in the Hoh rain forest is the quietest spot in the US.  We didn't find that spot either.

Over 100 inches of rain every year 
Tree Hugger
One our way back to Kalaloch lodge we stopped at Ruby Beach.

Ruby Beach
We checked into our lodge.  This was our favorite accommodations during the week.  It was a cabin with kitchen & eat-in area.  It faced the ocean & had a small patio with adirondack chairs.  It would have been great to stay here for a long weekend.

Chilling

View from patio 
We ate at the lodge & that too was the best lodge food of the three places we stayed.  After dinner we walked the beach & watched the sunset.  Steve started a fire in the wood burning fireplace & I tried to stay awake long enough to see the stars.  Once the sun sets it is so dark which offers a great view of the starry sky.
Sunset
The next day when we woke up it was low tide so we could explore further out into the ocean.  We walked along the beach again & took our time getting ready. When we checked out the guy told us we should check out Sol Duc Falls since we were heading to Port Angeles.  It was about an hour drive to Sol Duc Resort.  We decided to do the longer trail from the resort.  It ended up being a 7.7 mile loop.  Since it was early in the season there were several down trees on the trail.  When one of these big boys fall it takes several others out.  We must have climbed over/under at least 15 trees.
Walking along one of the fallen giants.  Picture doesn't do this justice!
We had one creek crossing
Part of Sol Duc Falls - Really hard to capture in a picture
After we finished out hike we headed to Port Angeles.  We stayed at the Uptown Inn a couple blocks from the main strip.  Nothing fancy but pretty cheap.  We ate dinner at Next Door Gastropub.  Good food & beer selection.

The next day Steve went on his Saturday morning run. While he was running I grabbed a coffee & walked around town.  I saw a bike rental place.  I hadn't planned to bike on this trip but when Steve got back he was telling me about how he saw bald eagles & seals on his run along part of the Olympic Discovery Trail.  After we grabbed breakfast at a local diner we stopped into the bike shop to ask about rentals.  We got a couple of bikes & rode about 17 miles along the trail.  We saw the bald eagles but no seals.
One of the bald eagles

After our ride we had pizza than started the journey back to SeaTac. We decided to take the Bainbridge Ferry back to Seattle.  I love ferries - they remind me of visiting my grandparents on Shelter Island when I was a kid.

Ferry ride back to Seattle
We checked into our airport hotel & returned the rental car. Until we meet again Washington!










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