Working from Hard Copy While Nursing a Patchwork Dog

Here I am again, at last!

As mentioned in my last post, my sweet old chocolate Labrador bitch had to undergo surgery to remove some lumps, one of them a nasty mast cell tumour. On the day of her surgery, it felt as though I was delivering her to a torture chamber.

Usually the association in my dog’s mind between visits to the vet and bountiful “good girl” treats makes things just about okay. However when a dog has had no food since 8 pm the evening before surgery and then has the vet steal her away from her family on an empty stomach, this is bad news. The previous morning it seems she sensed the need to build up her strength.

Following many hours of waiting, the vet called us to say the surgery had gone well. Late in the afternoon, we collected a very sorry-for-herself but brave dog all trussed up in a string vest to hold the padded dressings in place and protect her stitches. She came home armed with anti-inflammatory pain meds and some tasty soft food, her appetite unaffected by the experience.

We live on a hillside and that means loads of steps in the front and back garden, but our list of instructions for her included no running up steps or stairs. Initially this meant carrying her up on to the lawn to do her business and banning her from going upstairs in the house. She also had to stay on the lead in the garden, to prevent her from chasing marauders, scratching her underside on undergrowth, or jumping against the fences.

Of course I made sure to stay downstairs with her, so she didn’t feel lonely or unloved! This meant a holiday from my computer, which lives upstairs. With editing still to do on my manuscript, I decided to do it the old-fashioned way and print it out into hard copy. This enabled me to set up my nurse cum editor station on the sofa, with a wedge pillow as a climbing slope for my four-pawed friend.

On Day 3, the vet removed the string vest and suggested our old girl wear a T-shirt instead, to help the air circulate better to assist her healing. Mister and Son donated one garment each for this purpose, and pretty super-cool madam looked, too. As for the indignity of wearing one of those lampshade collars, Mistress Houdini was out of the offending anti-fashion item in one minute flat. Mister tried it on as a hat and it suited him much better. Shame I didn’t have my camera to hand at the time.

Zoom forward to 13 days later and freedom at last: stitches removed, off the lead in the garden, stairs and steps permitted. And a week on from then, her undercoat has regrown and resembles brown carpet underfelt. She is back to her usual happy and exuberant self, even demanding I play tug of war with her today.

As mast cell tumours have a habit of popping up elsewhere on a dog that’s susceptible to them, I’ve added cod liver oil to her diet, for its anti-inflammatory and anti-carcinogenic properties. I’m also treating her with relevant homeopathic remedies, plus the twelve cell salts. Fingers crossed, she’ll be with us many more years yet, hopefully as long as our last Labrador who lived to the grand age of 17.

I’m taking homeopathic remedies, too, along with probiotics containing anti-histamine bacteria — all to good effect so far, other than my inability to put on weight (unusual for hypothyroid, I know). Unfortunately the synthetic thyroxine medication prescribed by the doctor made me very ill and I had to stop taking it, but that’s another story for another day.

Have I done much editing during the last month? That’s questionable, although the experience has reminded me that working from hardcopy has its definite merits. It’s easier to spot errors, get a sense of flow, and put yourself in the reader’s head, plus it stops you going boss-eyed in front of the computer screen.

Dratted Thyroid! The Culprit Behind My #Writer’s Block

Today I’ve decided to break a rule and blog about my health, not to gain sympathy, as my malady is only minor in the scheme of things, but to share something that might prove relevant to other people suffering from inexplicable writer’s block.

For the last decade, my thyroid has shown up as borderline underactive in routine blood tests. This means everything I’ve achieved on the creative front, including publishing two novels and writing two more, has proved a mega-exhausting business. However, during that time I’ve rarely suffered writer’s block for longer than a few days.

On December 2, 2018 things started to take a notable downward slide, or was it a plunge? My brain felt as if it was disappearing down a sink plughole. On one level I kept up pretence of having energy and enthusiasm, but on the other I was heading for a very dark place. It was like being two different people: inwardly half-dead but outwardly engaged and wearing a brave smile not to let other people down, especially Mister, after his severe medical crisis throughout October and November.

I’m glad to say Mister is now bounding with energy, thanks to modern medicine and the correct drug regime. In our garden, he has chopped down two dead trees – an apple and a lilac – and dug all the beds (his stepson’s job being to saw up branches and mine to bag them up). At the allotment, Mister has dug the whole plot and (with stepson’s assistance) has erected a fabulous greenhouse acquired from Freecycle. Plus he has restored some antique oak furniture in his workshop and built a bespoke cabinet for someone’s kitchen, which he installed yesterday. Not to mention his carrying on with his musical commitments. See what I mean about exhausting 😉   

Mister, garden gladiator, wields his chainsaw!

Regarding my thyroid dysfunction, not everybody displays all the symptoms, which makes diagnosis nigh on impossible without a blood test, or two, or three, or many more.

This is my list of symptoms…

  • Exhausted all day, despite 7-8 hours of interrupted sleep at night
  • Loss of appetite (full up after a few mouthfuls)
  • Falling asleep at the dinner table
  • Weight loss (BMI 17.0 at last count)
  • Depression/extreme negativity/anxiety
  • Slow, irregular heartbeat (except during anxiety attacks!)
  • Low blood pressure
  • Digestive issues
  • Brain fog
  • Extreme sensitivity to cold
  • The death of all creativity

Spot the odd one out that doesn’t fit the usual hypothyroid picture… WEIGHT LOSS? Hence, my latest blood test a week ago checked for cortisone levels as well as thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) levels, in case my adrenal gland was sending my thyroid gland haywire. Not so, but my thyroid was now sufficiently underactive to require treatment. Might I add, that if I’d lived in the US or Canada, rather than the UK, I believe I’d have received medication a lot earlier, although I’m not sure it would have been free! Perhaps one of my fellow bloggers from over the Pond would elucidate me further on both points.

People who know me well, are aware of my reluctance to take pills. I prefer to solve things with diet and lifestyle changes, but there are limits to how rotten you can feel before you bend to the call of conventional medicine.

For the last few days, each morning I’ve taken taking the minimum dose of thyroxine (25 mcg). The doctor will review this in about 5 weeks, after I’ve had a further blood test. If my levels are up to a healthy level, I’ll continue on 25 mcg. If they are still too low, then the doctor will have to try me on 50 mcg. Whatever dose I end up on, I will need to take thyroxine for the rest of my life (let’s hope for my sake and Mister’s, there isn’t a shortage of medication if there’s a hard Brexit, as the scaremongers are forecasting).

I am not out of the wood yet, but there’s a slight improvement. Firstly, I’m getting my appetite back, which should help me gain some weight. Secondly, I’m much warmer than usual. Thirdly, I took myself out for a brisk quarter-of-an hour walk following my usual half-hour plod with the dog. Not sure about the creativity but at least I’ve motivated myself to write a blog post, my first in over two months, which is a good start.

The anxiety is still there, but with good reason. In just under a fortnight, my beautiful 11-year-old chocolate Labrador bitch has to have some lumps and bumps removed, one of which is an aggressive malignant mast cell tumour. The good news is that she’s otherwise in excellent health and blissfully unaware of the planned operation, which means she can enjoy the next few days and leave all the worrying to her family. The brilliant vet, who’ll carry out the surgery, specialises in treating mast cell tumours and I have every faith in him to do the best for her.

Madam’s favourite armchair

So there we are; that’s life in the Potter household at the moment — some good, some bad, but always full of love and hope.

Get On Your Bikes, Gremlins!

When I announced at the end of September my intention to take a month off blogging and concentrate on doing an intensive edit of my latest novel, I might as well have sent out a party invitation to every gremlin in the neighbourhood.

Here was the gremlins’ idea of a party

  • Turned my landline into a homing beacon for international call centres.
  • Made sure that everything I needed to buy wasn’t available in the local shops, so I had to search for the items online, which, in turn, distracted me with things that I might like to buy in the future.
  • Compelled me to google for the perfect cure for being underweight.
  • Put the idea into my head to take fish oil supplements, which caused me the rarest side effects of insomnia and anxiety attacks.
  • Blew up my mobile phone charger with an almighty flash and bang.
  • Knocked out the speedometer and petrol gauge in my car.
  • Ensured no family chilling out time in front of the TV in the evenings by damaging the satellite dish.
  • Caused instant narcolepsy to anyone in the household trying to read a book after supper.
  • Then finally, as if this wasn’t enough, those darned gremlins decided to make Mister so ill I thought he was going to die. This necessitated him being admitted to hospital as an emergency and undergoing every test under the sun.*

[*It reminded me of an episode of House, whilst the team search for the cause of Mister’s symptoms like medical detectives, finally diagnosing the problem. I can’t praise them more highly. They’re my heroes. They are the reason he’s still alive. Thank you, NHS. You are a national treasure. May this Government and future ones always see it that way and provide the necessary funding.]

As you can imagine, I haven’t finished editing my novel but have only completed a third of the task. Neither has my son managed to complete the first draft of his novel as intended. Now we’re both working hard to stay below the gremlins’ radar to complete our missions, although, if I’m being realistic about it, I can only manage an hour a day of intensive work. On the plus side, I admit to achieving more in one hour than I sometimes achieve in four!

Please bear with me, my dear blogging friends, if my participation in the WordPress community is rather intermittent for a while longer (maybe until the New Year).

Next week, I will post a 5-star review of Sam Jordison’s most entertaining non-fiction work The Ten Worst of Everything: The Big Book of Bad, which, despite the title, is incredibly funny in places and helped me put my own trials in perspective.

Please note, that if you add the fact I haven’t finished editing my novel to the nine bulleted ingredients of the gremlins party, it equals TEN BAD THINGS – a most interesting coincidence, indeed.

So how did everybody else’s October go?            

Monday Morning #Haiku — Celebrating its 200th Week!

To mark this special occasion, here are the three haiku and accompanying images to have earned the highest number of likes since the 100th week celebration

Night Dog (53 likes)

Snow-dusted garden
Luminous eyes pinprick night
Explorer dog lamps

Bird Truce (39 likes)

Jackdaws and magpies
Annual Branch Meeting starts
Armistice short-lived

Tulips (2) (39 likes)

Tulip sweet delight
Assortment of Bold colours
Nature’s candy mix

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This is my last post until the beginning of November, as I need to take a month off from blogging to concentrate on doing an intensive edit of the offbeat satirical novel I began in National Novel Writing Month 2017.

To keep me focused upon achieving my goal, I’ve agreed to do a beta-reading swap with two other novelists in November.

I’ll try to visit as many of your blogs as I can before the end of October.

Love and best wishes to you all x

Friday Fictioneers — Beyond the Veil

Genre: Tragedy
Word Count: 100

BEYOND THE VEIL

Alice’s bridal veil hangs at the window, curtaining her off from the world.

Beneath a silvery moon her seducer had sung of love and sent her heart sailing over the rooftops, along with her brain.

If only clouds and rain had sheeted the moon in gloom that night, Alice would’ve hung on to her brain and her panties.

If only she’d worn a straitjacket for her hen night, she could have settled for mediocrity.

If only her fiancé had sent her heart sailing over the rooftops as her seducer had done.

Forever after, “if only” will be her daily mantra.

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Friday Fictioneers: 100 word stories
Photo Prompt: image copyright (c) Gah Learner