Hannah and the CoalBear: Caturday, 6/25/22

Hi. CoalBear here.

I’ve been entertaining the Mother of Cats all day because, frankly, she is in a slump.

Well, now that I think of it, she should be in a slump. The only day this week she was frisky was Tuesday and look at what she did to me!!

She took me to the vet!!!

People, this was the most horrible thing that has ever happened to me. I got stuffed into the carrying crate and before I knew it, I was in the car. We ended up in a strange building with other people and DOGS and I kept crying, and the Mother of Cats just ignored me and took me to a little room where I had to COME OUT OF THE CRATE!!!!! I got weighed, physically cathandled by a strange lady, and then there were the SHOTS that I absolutely did not deserve because I am the best boy ever. You want to hear the worst thing about all of this…. Hannah exercised her right to refuse and didn’t have to go the vet. I think that she was laughing when we got back home again.

Okay, back to the week. The Mother of Cats is taking lots and lots of new pills now and parts of her don’t feel good because of the side effects (let me tell you about the side effects of those SHOTS!) so I am doing my best to be cute.

She finished her little quilt and hung it up on the wall behind her knitting chair.

The Mother of Cats used clear plastic push pins to secure the tops and corners of the quilt. I have been pulling the pins out of the bottom of the quilt and taking them upstairs to play with. I left both of them on the bathroom floor where she would be sure to find them this morning so she can put them back into the quilt again. Wasn’t that good of me?

I’ve also been trying to help her with her knitting, but she seems to be in a slump. She isn’t knitting much, and the stuff she has going is… boring.

Do you see how boring this knitting is? The pink blob is a sweater… maybe. The blue is going to be a pair of socks someday, and that pastel smish of funny colors will someday be a hat. Where are the cat toys? Hello? How can I be cute and entertaining if I don’t have all the toys in the world…

Although, I think that I am pretty darn cute with the toys I have now!!!

Well, I guess that is all for now. It is almost time for the baby bunny to come out in the back yard. Show time!

Mateo the CoalBear

Notes from the Mother of Cats:

  • I did get Hannah into the crate at least three times, but she was too strong for me and managed to push her way back out before I could get it zipped closed. She has another appointment next month and I’ll try some new strategies.
  • I’m in the middle of a big drug push to get my lung disease under control; I am breathing much, much better and I have more energy by far than I did a couple of months ago. The downside is… side effects. My doctors are running frequent blood tests to monitor my progress, adding more drugs to control symptoms that are concerning, and so far, things are going well, but I am pretty much homebound with pain, blurred vision, and dizziness. Two more weeks of the steroid push to go and then I start to get tapered off. Yay! I’m dealing with a lot of tendon pain as my immunosuppressant dose is doubled, but that has happened before and I’m hopeful that there is an end in sight.
  • What type of side effects, you ask? I gained 12 pounds in two days and my blood sugar soared into the high 100s. Opps.
  • I am getting out into the garden a little and there is a new rose bush waiting for me to plant it. Someday soon, little guy.

The pictures above are my morning pills, the braces that I now am back in because of tendon pain, and my new, beautiful rose. The name of the rose is… Easy Does It!

Just the rose that I needed for the week.

Hannah and the CoalBear: GoldenFern Report

Hi. I’m Hannah. This has been a really special week. Let’s get to the most important event of the week first:

It was the anniversary of the day I came to live with the Mother of Cats this week!!! It has been two whole years since I arrived here more than a little upset. I mean, I had gone to another home and they didn’t like me and they took me back to the shelter! They said something about crying all night… I wouldn’t let the Mother of Cats out of my sight, slept on her bed plastered right against her so she couldn’t get away from me, followed her everywhere, and the rest is history. Now I am so essential to her life she wouldn’t know what to do without me.

For example, I worked really hard all week helping her with her new sweater. We got the second sleeve done early in the week (I helped her manage all of the loose ends by chasing and chomping on them whenever possible…) and then she had the bright idea of adding an I-cord edging to the bottom of the body of the sweater.

I got a great nap in while she was applying the edging below the ribbing of the sweater’s body.

It took her almost two hours to add the edging to the bottom of the body of the sweater, and then it was time for cookies and some excitement. CoalBear and I chased the laser light for a while, got some more cookies, and watched for moths while she finished off all of the ends, and then, in the middle of the night she tried on the sweater!

It fits!! I think that the Mother of Cats is kind of silly when she gets so excited, but I love her anyway.

The next day we misted and steamed the sweater to block it and left it out to dry.

Here is the sweater blocking in the closet where I can’t sleep on it. Why does the Mother of Cats do these things?

Can you see that the colorwork of the sleeve is a little more tightly knit than the colorwork on the body? That’s because the Mother of Cats used a bigger sized needle on the body so that the gauge would stay the same (Is gauge like tuna? If so, I wonder if I can have some for dinner?), but when she did the sleeve she didn’t go up a needle size so the sleeve snugged in a little and it fits her wrist just right. That was my idea: pretty smart, don’t you think? The I-cord added to the edging of the body gave it a little more weight and makes the sweater hang nicely. The Mother of Cats is really happy with her Goldenfern sweater. See what a great job I’m doing helping her? She never would have had the patience to add that edging to the sweater if I hadn’t been there for purring support!

Right now, the CoalBear and I are hanging out in front of the air conditioner.

I’m so glad that the Mother of Cats brought me home to live with her. Do you see that she gives me all the boxes that I want and a little playmate buddy too!!

See you next week!

Hannah

Notes from the Mother of Cats:

I put a lot of thought into this sweater. Here is some of my thought process:

  • The designer used a single ply yarn in her original design so I felt empowered to do the same. I found yarns for the contrast colors in my stash, and all of them are also single ply.
  • The lifted increases in the body are almost impossible to find! I could not be happier with the way they came out.
  • The designer suggested going up two needle sizes for the colorwork portions to maintain gauge; since my yarns were thin I settle with going up one needle size for the body.
  • I went back to the MC for the ribbing at the bottom of the sweater which gave the ferns a “floating” look.
  • I stayed with the needle size used for the sleeve when I got to the colorwork on the cuffs as I wanted a snugger fit.
  • I like the look of I-cord bind off at my wrists so I did a three stitch I-cord (instead of 2 stitch) in the MC to make them it stand out.
  • I then picked up stitches along the bound off ribbing at the bottom of the body and did a 3 stitch I-cord bind off along the bottom of the sweater. This I-cord doesn’t really stand out, but rather blends right in with the ribbing and provides a clean edge that has a little more weight.
  • My Ravelry notes are here.

Hannah and the CoalBear: It’s Caturday Again

Hi. I’m the CoalBear (AKA Mateo)

It is sooooo hot today. It is almost 100 degrees outside, and Hannah and I are staying cool in the house. The Mother of Cats has all the windows closed and we’re too hot to look out the windows anyway. Do you notice that the Mother of Cats has been brushing out all of my downy fur? I used to have a huge ruff around my neck, and now it is almost all gone. I look a whole size smaller now. I don’t like getting brushed, but today I guess I am glad that she did it. She also cuts my nails off and I will never get used to that!!

The Mother of Cats has been knitting away on her sweater this week and look at how far she’s gotten! She is done with the first sleeve and halfway down the second one already! She has also been sewing on the quilt with Hannah.

The quilt is coming right along and should be done in just a few more days. The Mother of Cats can’t wait to get it done. Hannah kind of hopes that she is going to get to keep it for her new bed, but I think that the Mother of Cats is planning to hang it up on the wall behind her knitting chair. I ripped the old quilt down a couple of days ago (Hey! There was a moth!) and she didn’t even bother to hang it back up again. Okay, the old quilt was a Christmas themed one, so maybe she’s ready to put it away now anyway. I’m such a good boy; see how I did her a big favor?

A scary man came this week and messed around with the Mother of Cat’s oxygen machine. When he left there was new stuff left behind including this new green bottle with a snazzy carrying bag. Now the Mother of Cats has oxygen she can take with her when she goes out on errands, but mostly she stays home with us because we are so cute! She has been working on her gardens this week and they are starting to look pretty good. The first rose bloomed this week which made her really happy.

It’s her first English rose of the year!
Well, that all I have. It’s still stinking hot outside and all of the animals are asleep, so I am going to take a little nap too.

See you next week!

>^..^> CoalBear

Notes from the Mother of Cats

  • The sweater is GoldenFern by Jennifer Steingass. Hopefully I will have it done in another week or so. I’m really anxious to start another sweater but so far I’m sticking to getting this one done first.
  • I know that isn’t a good shot of the quilt, but hopefully I will have a nice picture of the completed quilt to show off next week. Hanging on the wall, where I hope it remains as long as no moths land on it. 🙂
I’m listening to this audiobook while I quilt and I just am loving it!!
  • Not only did I get oxygen-to-go this week, but I also got my injections of Evusheld, which is a combination of two monoclonal antibodies that will give me protection from Covid for at least 6 months. This is huge piece of mind for me since my doctors are dialing up my immunosuppression drug dose this month and have started me on a new immunosuppressant drug at the same time. Yay, Evusheld! With the higher dose of drugs, I won’t be able to make many antibodies of my own, so I’m glad to have the Evusheld antibodies.
  • That rose is Princess Alexandra of Kent, and it is pretty much my favorite rose in the garden right now.
  • Hannah and Mateo don’t know it but they are heading to the vet for their vaccinations and checkups next week. Sad cat day is on the way…

Month’s End Report: May 2022

This month passed in a hurry. I spent most of a week in the hospital, and then the rest of the month recovering from the surgery. I haven’t been exactly frisky for the whole month, but I have been making some progress on several projects.

Hannah: The Mother of Cats has been spending lots of quality time with us!

Doesn’t Hannah look pleased with her box? The house is pretty much full of boxes at the moment as I have been making use of all the shopping services that cropped up during the height of the pandemic. I’m getting everything that I need with little effort and Hannah and Mateo are having the best time ever. From their prospective it has been a really great month!

Knitting

I worked on a sweater and community knitting this month. I really pushed and got the body of my Goldenfern sweater done early in the month and then immediately lost it on sleeve island. Poor sweater. It languished for the rest of the month in its knitting tub while I knitted chemo hat after chemo hat with a few PICC line covers thrown in for variety.

I have lots of brightly colored yarn so that’s what’s getting knitted right now!

I know that this is the end of month report for May, but I want to acknowledge that now that we are in a new month, I have pulled myself together and taken that sweater off of sleeve island. I made some good progress over the last couple of days, and I finally got to the colorwork section of the sleeve today.

I’m knitting the ferns onto the bottom of the first sleeve now.

I also made a couple of more passes through the yarn stash culling out yarn that I will never use and throwing out scraps. (So hard to do; I deserve a gold star!!) Altogether, I knit 6 chemo hats this month (Barley Light by Tin Can Knits), 5 PICC line covers, and used up or removed 38 skeins of yarn from the stash. I think that I deserve more than one gold star for the destash efforts this month… I am kind of thinking that I will get more than 100 skeins out of the stash, and to be truthful, things are looking a lot more tidy in the stash room.

Garden

Everything is growing like crazy now. The roses all made it through the late season snowstorm and there are buds everywhere but very few blooms. The snapdragons, however, are blooming their little flower hearts out.

All of these snapdragons are volunteers growing from last year’s plants. Look at all of those colors; they are the descendants of pink snapdragons that were originally planted a couple of years ago. Also, those flowers are NOT in a flowerbed where they belong!
This plant is my favorite in the bunch. It is growing with reckless abandon in the rocks along the driveway.

With absolutely no effort on my part these snapdragons have spread through the front gardens (and rocked landscaping…) and have brought lots of early color in reds, oranges, pinks and yellows. There is a BioGeek story here, but I will save it for another day. 🙂

Books

I managed to read 5 books in May. Not great, considering that I was a slug for most of the month, but I’m still on track to make my Goodreads challenge goal of 50 books this year.

I’m reading the most amazing book right now.

I can’t read this book fast enough!

I read A Visit from the Goon Squad, so I had some idea of what I was getting into with this book. The book is organized like a series of short stories about people who are connected to each other. There are a lot of names flying past, and there are also embedded themes within the stories, so there is a lot to keep track of. I am creating a flow chart showing the linkages and themes as I read which is helping me immensely. How I long for a book group!

So, here’s the simple backbone of the book: what if there was an electronic, open forum vehicle that let you store all of your memories? Think of this like Facebook on steroids where it is open to the world and people can access and search other people and memories. What would such a thing do to us; what would we lose, and what would we gain?

The people and themes that I am meeting as I read the book are engaging and I’m really enjoying myself. Also, I am going to need some really big chart paper to map out all of the interconnections the way things are going as I read.

Have a good weekend, everyone!

Hannah and the CoalBear: Happy Caturday

Hi. I’m Matao.

I’ve been helping the Mother of Cats knit lots and lots of chemo hats.

This was a great week! The weather has been nice and sunny and the Mother of Cats has been sitting out on her deck listening to her audiobook while she knits. Hannah and I have been watching all the stuff in the yard through the windows.

There is a squirrel with the world’s fluffiest tail that hangs out in the back yard. We love the squirrel!!
But the best watching ever is out the back window…
Because there is a baby bunny hanging out in the back yard for us to watch!!
and it is the cutest little bunny ever!!

Happy Caturday, everyone!

I have to get back to helping the Mother of Cats knit these hats!!

Notes from the Mother of Cats:

I’ve been reading the best book ever while knitting outside and watching the wildlife in the back yard. One of the main characters is an octopus, and I just fell in love with him right away. I seriously, seriously recommend this book!

This was a perfect book to listen to as an audiobook. Engaging characters, well told story, happy ending.

Years ago, another biology teacher told me about an octopus that would break out of his tank to go snack on crayfish from another tank in the lab. Yep. They gave been known to do this. Very smart, able to squish through very small openings, octopuses are kind of the stuff of legend. In this book, the octopus is also a wanderer with an incredible memory who becomes a pivotal character in the lives of the people who know him. I wanted the book to go on and now I am on the hunt for another easy to listen to books to keep me company while knitting outside with the wildlife.

Hannah and the CoalBear: Sad Caturday

Hi. I’m Hannah.

It is really snowy and cold today.

The week started out fine. The weather was really warm and nice, and the nice days made the Mother of Cats feel pretty good with her breathing and joints and stuff. She went outside and worked in the gardens almost every single day and got lots of dead leaves and weeds moved away. All of her flowers and bushes that she planted last fall are green and growing again and she was really happy. She was even happy about the seeds on the weeds!

Look at the perfect dandelion puff!!

And guess what? There are tiny baby bunnies in the backyard!! The Mother of Cats has been putting pulled dandelion leaves near the opening under the deck where the babies live, and they are eating them! We even see the babies sometimes as they race past the back window, but we never see our bunny anymore… The Mother of Cats is a little concerned because one of the neighbors has been trapping bunnies and releasing them out in the wilderness, and one bunny got a broken leg somehow from the trap. The neighbor has a huge backyard garden (AKA the bunny smorgasbord), and the Mother of Cats does understand, but she is sad at the thought of our bunny being lost in the wilderness, and chased by coyotes, and… it is just sad.

Our bunny is gone.

The Mother of Cats is depressed about the whole thing, so we have been spending extra time entertaining her because… it is MOTH SEASON!!! The moths get into the house where they are the best toys ever!!! and we spend hours hunting them until, finally, the CoalBear manages to catch them. The Mother of Cats helps us hunt the moths (well, we do call her constantly for help), and would you believe that if she gets them, she puts them back outside? Like, WHY???? Luckily the CoalBear (AKA Mateo) is able to practically fly up and down walls chasing the moths and he usually gets them before she can. See, entertainment! I get to play with the moths every time the CoalBear brings them down onto the floor and this is the best, best cat toy in the world.

Then this new distraction arrived…

Yep. There is a winter storm and a hard freeze on the way.

All of a sudden, the Mother of Cats was worried about the plants and the tree outside and didn’t care about bunnies and moths anymore. She spend part of the day yesterday covering up every single shrub and rose in the gardens but couldn’t do too much to protect the tree out front.

The tree broke!

So today we are kind of having a sad Caturday. The moths are gone (They don’t like snow? What light weights they are!), there isn’t a bunny in sight, and we are both hiding in the closet because some really scary people came to make lots of noises taking the tree’s broken parts away. Why did this have to happen on Caturday?!!!

The Mother of Cats is knitting happy colored hats today because it is too soon to take all the covers off the plants.

Well, that’s it. It’s time to come out of the closet and remind the Mother of Cats that on a day like this we require cookies! Extra cookies!! And lots of pets and attention and maybe even a new toy since the moths have disappeared.

Happy Caturday, everyone!

Notes from the Mother of Cats:

Poor tree. The branches on the top of the tree came down too, but the tree service cleaned everything up and assures me that the tree will make it. The days before the snowstorm were very warm and windy, setting off fire weather alerts. Now we get a week of cold and rain. Colorado.

The hat is for the Kaiser infusion centers and the yarn is from Hue Loco (colorway is Big Yikes). The pattern is Barley Light by Tin Can Knits.

It’s the bunny circle of life. My backyard bunny was a single baby stranded in my yard when the next-door neighbor had the bunnies in her yard removed. Now the offspring are with me, munching on my dandelions, and hopefully will safely remain to entertain my kitties and warm my heart in the months to come.

Miller moths are the guys getting into the house. They cling onto the outside of doors, and when an unsuspecting homeowner opens the door, they just zoom into the house where they cause endless hours of cat entertainment. Night, however, is when they really shine as they are attracted to the lights and almost always end up in my bedroom late at night where the cats zoom across me, the furniture, through the air, and basically put on an entire circus act of astonishing aerial contortions pursuing the moths. I worry about a cat hitting the ceiling fan…

Hannah and the CoalBear: Goldenfern Caturday

Hi. I’m Mateo.

My sister and I have been very busy!!

We have been hanging out for hours at a time with the Mother of Cats while she knits and knits and knits on her new sweater. Sigh. She isn’t very frisky at all and she should get up and play with me more… instead she just reads and knits all day. Hannah is cool with that because she like to snuggle with the Mother of Cats, but I am still a kitten and I need to play!!!

You can see that she has made some good progress with our help. Yesterday she knitted all day trying to get to the end of the body of the sweater, and around midnight she finally cast off the sweater.

My sister and I were watching out the window when she finished. There is some great wildlife in our yard around midnight!!

Overnight Hannah and I knocked over a container of kitty treats, got the lid off and polished off all of the cookies. I thought that the Mother of Cats would be grumpy with us, but since we let her sleep in until late in the morning she kind of forgave us. Kind of. I did notice that she put all the rest of the kitty treats into a cupboard. Hannah knows how to open cupboards…

This morning she tried on the sweater, and it fit perfect! Well, of course it did. We aren’t exactly amateurs in knit support, after all. This afternoon she headed outside to take pictures of her sweater and I gave Hannah’s ears a washing.

Hannah: the CoalBear is the best little buddy ever.

Now it is almost night again and I’m pretty sure that the Mother of cats is going to make some supper and we will get some more kitty cookies. Yay!!

Hannah: Happy Caturday, everyone!!

Notes from the Mother of Cats: The sweater is Goldenfern by Jennifer Steingass. My Ravelry notes are here.

What have I been reading this week? Here it is (please observe that the cover matches my knitting :-)). I would talk about the book, but I really can’t without giving out spoilers. Just let me say that I enjoyed this book and it was the perfect one for a surgery-recovering BioGeek.

Month’s End Report: March, 2022

All of a sudden, the season has changed on me. There are birds in my yard, the light is brighter, my backyard bunny is once again entertaining the cats, and shoots of green are starting to peek at me from under the winter bedding of leaves that I put in the gardens last fall. The cats are much more active as they rocket from window to window through the house tracking squirrels traveling from my front tree, over the roof, and then along the back fences (this is known as Squirrel Route One in my house). The fatigue-inducing storms of winter are transitioning to spring rains, and the first flowers are right around the corner. Bye, winter. Glad to see you gone.

When the cats take a break from squirrel tracking and bunny watching they hang out on my bedroom bookshelf keeping their eyes on me. Since I spent most of the month in bed, they have been up there quite a lot.

Knitting

I really have gotten a lot of knitting done this month. Since I’m tracking my knitting for the year (well, actually, the number of skeins that I can get out of the stash), I thought that I would also give a quarterly update on my progress.

I’m continuing to knit hats and PICC line covers for the Kaiser infusion centers.

So far I’ve knitted 20 hats and 19 PICC line covers this year. Early in the month I delivered all the hats and covers to one of the infusion centers on my way to an appointment with the rheumatologist. The infusion center had a huge impact on me; it was located in a spacious room with large overhead windows; sunbeams streamed down from the windows lighting up the room. There were almost 20 stations in there, along each wall under the windows, each one with a patient receiving treatment. I was stunned. So many people! I must knit faster.

I finished a simple sweater made with merino/cashmere yarn that is like a comfy sweatshirt to wear. Also, it goes with all my shawls, cowls, and mitts.

The sweater is Cushman by Isabel Kraemer. This is the second one that I have made so I was really confident with the fit and raced right through it.

I cannot stress how helpful the cats are in getting these pictures.
I have also been knitting along on a Goldenfern sweater (Jennifer Steingass). In another couple of inches I will start on the colorwork; the three golden colored yarns are for that. I plan to shade from the lightest to the darkest as I work my way down the chart.

Altogether I have knitted my way through 894 grams of yarn this month making the grand total of destashed yarn 3,154 grams (or the equivalent of 31 skeins) for the year. Okay, I did go through bins and pulled out several hundred grams of yarn that needed be thrown out… like many knitters I have saved the leftovers from almost everything I’ve knitted; at this point I need to let all of those scraps go! I had hoped to get 50 skeins out of the stash: now I’m thinking that I might manage 100 skeins. Knitting all those hats is paying off!

Garden

The outdoor garden is still dead, and the indoor garden is kind of pathetic. I’ve been buying some ferns and a spider plant to get more greenery into the house. The cats are fans of the new plants!

All the new plants are kitty safe.

Books

I’ve been reading like a champ so far this year. Mostly science fiction since I am not in the mood for thrillers, mysteries, or anything that is going to require the serious use of brain cells. I’ve been spending long blocks of time in bed with short outings to accomplish tasks in the house in the house all year. I’ve been relying on audiobooks heavily as I can listen to them when I’m too tired to hold a book (the fatigue is real, people!), and listened to more books while I was working on the quilt top that I got done this quarter too.

I was so happy to discover this little gem!

I usually don’t listen to the forward of a book, but this time I did, and I was glad that I took the time to let the author explain his book to me. John Scalzi struggled with writing a book in 2020 that he had contracted with a publisher for. Basically, he was kind of crushed by the whole Covid situation and the book wasn’t happening. He finally had to let his publisher know that the book was a no-go, only to think of another book idea a day later. A fun book. An upbeat and slightly ridiculous book with wisecracking characters and lots of fun. A book that celebrates scientific knowledge, jobs that you love, and sticks it to people who are kind of unethical in the pursuit of money/power. A book with Kaijus: those enormous monsters of Japanese fame… think Godzilla. The exact book that I needed!!

I even bought myself a Kaiju cat tee-shirt to go with my ridiculous, feel-good book.

So, how many books have I read this year so far? 19 books! The goal for the year is 50 books, so I am well on my way to meeting that goal.

That’s it for the month.

Hannah: Have a great April, everyone!! If you should come across a Kaiju, don’t try to play with it!!

The Scleroderma Chronicles: It’s okay if you cry…

My fatigue lately has been off the charts. I struggle to get the simplest of tasks done, and to be honest I just don’t feel like getting out of bed for days on end. I have been slowly, slowly sewing on a quilt top over the last few weeks. It is soooo exhausting to pin two fabrics together, guide the fabric through the sewing machine, and then to stand up to iron the seam. I handled all of this by 1) sewing only for an hour a day, and 2) lowering the ironing board so I didn’t have to stand while ironing. Take that, you nasty, exhausting fatigue!!

The quilt has a panel in the middle with really cute pictures like this one. Super cute, right?
Here’s the finished quilt top. This baby has really simple quilting in one border and then simple, simple borders around the central panel. Yeah. This took over two weeks to complete. Thanks, fatigue.

When I noticed some strange terminology on my last heart imaging test report, I contacted my pulmonologist about it, and he ordered a CT scan of my lungs. (You can read about that adventure here.) I knew that something was up when I got a call from his office telling me the date and time of the earliest possible appointment with this doctor. The nurse had intervened and made the appointment for me ahead of time. Then there was a call from the cardiologist’s nurse that was the same; an echocardiogram and appointment with that doctor had also been scheduled for me in order to secure the earliest possible appointment. Kind of the harbinger of a tough appointment, right?

Today I had a pulmonary function test and met with the pulmonologist soon afterwards. We joked about the horrible year we had both had. (He is a pulmonary critical care specialist who has been on the front lines of Covid care for two years now; for me lockdown never ended and the BLZ was running wild.) We laughed at my summation of the year: Crushed by Covid. We decided that “Crushed by Covid” could be the name of a really sad band. Then he whipped out his laptop and had me move over to look at it with him.

He had prepared for my appointment with a spreadsheet of my lung function tests over time and my latest lung scan along with that of a normal person. The spreadsheet showed that I was losing volume in my lungs. The scan of a normal lung was really interesting (old biology teacher here…) and then we looked at mine.

Um… my lungs were really cloudy. Like frosted glass. Like… “Hey. Is that what they call ground glass lung?” I asked.

“Yes. That is exactly what we’re looking at. That’s why I wanted you to come in. This isn’t the type of conversation that you have over the phone,” he replied.

Ground glass is not good, folks. Ground glass is the type of lung imaging that Covid patients with pneumonia have. Covid presents like systemic sclerosis because there is an extreme immune response going on in the lungs; both are aggressively treated with drugs that target the immune system. I also have some honeycombing that is the beginning of fibrosis; first the inflammation (which creates the ground glass appearance), then the fibrosis follows. My ground glass lungs are, in his opinion, absolutely not Covid. It is not likely to be just pulmonary edema. It’s systemic sclerosis at its worst. This is interstitial lung disease.

So, it is not good. On the other hand, this is good. I’m in trouble, but the problem has been identified early on and that means aggressive treatment now may stave off the worst of the fibrosis. I am so glad (and lucky) that I googled those crazy medical terms and then followed through with an email to my pulmonologist.

I’ve been referred to a surgeon for a lung biopsy procedure. Evidently that will land me in the hospital for a few days. Following that, if things go to plan, I will be started on more aggressive immunosuppressive drugs. He is going to talk to my rheumatologist about starting a course of chemo and an anti-fibrotic drug. One of the last things that my pulmonologist said to me was, “It’s okay to cry about this, but we have a plan.” That’s when it hit me that this might be really bad; lockdown will continue, and the fatigue is probably going to get worse. Oxygen 24/7 is right around the corner.

Crushed by Covid plays on. What a sad little band it is.

Luckily for me and the cats it is squirrel season. They will have lots of entertainment while I’m in the hospital and laying around like a slug.

The Scleroderma Chronicles: The shunt hunt takes a left turn…

I’ve been continuing my adventures in cardiology over the last several weeks. If you have been following along on my scleroderma adventures you know that I had a trip to the Cath lab that led to the discovery of a cardiac shunt: a hole in my heart. I also was eventually diagnosed with exercise-induced pulmonary hypertension and started on drugs to treat it, which is a lengthy process as I was slowly titered up on two different drugs while monitoring for side effects. I’ve been mostly living in bed for the last 6 weeks except for short trips out for more testing and blood work. The cats have been loving this, by the way. I’m kind of their captive right now.

This is edema in my arm. I’ve been dealing with headaches, muscle pain, edema, low blood pressure, and extreme fatigue. I cough a lot. Every new weather system is a nightmare. Ugh!

While the whole process has been pretty difficult, I am breathing much, much better and that blue lipped thing has mostly faded away. No more panting!! I haven’t had to put my head down because I felt faint for weeks. This is huge, people!!

I may have to retire the whole BLZ logo the way things are going!

My cardiologist is still hunting for the shunt that was detected in the Cath lab. I have one that they can see (a patent foramen ovale, which is pretty common), but for the really significant disruption of circulation that was detected in the Cath lab the feeling is that I have something much bigger somewhere. I’ve gone through 3 rounds of testing looking for the dang thing, and so far, no joy.

When the test results come in, I always read the entire text and google terms that I don’t recognize. The last imaging of my heart did not find the shunt, and my cardiologist sent an email letting me know that my heart looked pretty good. Umm… okay, but where is that infernal shunt?!!! This is getting a little frustrating, but I am doing better, so I guess I should just roll with it. I did notice this little sentence in the report about the portion of my lungs seen in the heart imaging: “There is mild subpleural reticulation and bibasilar atelectasis.” Say what? I googled and …. bibasilar atelectasis is a partially collapsed lung. I shot off a little email to my pulmonologist to ask if this was something new.

This is why I decided to write this post. As it turns out, this is new. Both of the things that were noted in that test result were significant (subpleural reticulation is evidence of scarring in my lung), and I was immediately sent to get a specialized lung scan that shows I have sustained moderate advancing lung damage over the last 10 months. Oh. No wonder I’m so exhausted. At least they didn’t use the word “severe” in the report. I seem to have developed pulmonary edema and my lungs took a big hit during the last few months; scleroderma is now attacking my lungs. If I hadn’t read that report and then contacted my doctor, no one would have picked up on this. The BLZ may be on hiatus, but the lessons she learned during that drive for the pulmonary hypertension diagnosis really paid off now.

What do you do when you get a sad little lung report? Why, you put on your Catzilla shirt and go start a load of laundry, of course!!

Tuesday I go for a pulmonary function test and then immediately afterwards I will meet with my pulmonologist. I’m kind of thinking that there might be more drugs in my future. Anyway, there is a lesson here that I decided I should share with you all.

Be proactive! Read your test results and ask questions of your doctors. Google is your friend, and those online portals that let you shoot your doctor an email are priceless! Use them!

And now readers, back to the shunt hunt…

Mateo: and now readers, back to my nap! After that I’m going to go swat some more helicopters!