My First Colonoscopy

Okay, this probably isn’t the best subject to approach on my first blog back for a while, but my Mom said I should write the experience down so I can remember it the next time I get anxious about having a colonoscopy…

My family has a strong incidence of colon cancer.  My Oma died in 1987, only a year or so into her retirement, from colon cancer.  She’d been showing the signs but wasn’t willing to see a doctor about it until it was too late, and she was given a month to live.  I remember the day we found out very vividly.  My brother Brian and I came home from school to find my Dad on the phone in the kitchen, and when he turned around to look at us, his eyes were pink and he was upset.  I think Brian and I got upset because he was upset, and I’m pretty sure we had a family meeting in the back porch of their house where they explained the bad news.

We didn’t have a chance to visit Oma in the hospital, mainly because those were the days where kids in hospitals weren’t really encouraged.  I felt very guilty for many years after she died that I didn’t get the chance to tell her what she meant to me.  I remember months before she was diagnosed, in the autumn of 1986 I think, she took us to Randhurst for some reason, and she turned around to Brian and I (and maybe even Jeremy) and said something about knowing we didn’t love her as much as our other grandmother because she couldn’t buy us as much stuff.  The comment struck me between the eyes; I honestly had never felt like that, and it did hurt me a lot that she thought that was how we felt.  Oma had given us a lot of wonderful memories and experiences, and an unnatural love for Gummy Bären.  I only wish now, looking back on things, that I’d been able to tell her that, and I wish she’d taught us German too.

But these things were never to come to pass.

So our family has been urged to get colonoscopies.  My Dad is one of five kids, and so quite a few family members over the age of 40 have had their colonoscopies, with a few (if not most or all) having polyps removed.  Dad’s specialist told him that my brothers and I were all to have colonoscopies for the first time at 40 due to our family’s risk.

I hit 40 this year, and, despite wishing for an easier solution (maybe the invention of a Star Trek-like tricorder) to detect polyps or other problems in my colon without having to insert anything anywhere, it was my time for a colonoscopy.

My doctor and I had an ongoing conversation over the last few years about this, and he was (at first) convinced I wouldn’t need one until I was 50.  My parents were adamant I needed to go and get one at 40.  So I persisted and presented my case, and my doctor saw my point-of-view in the end, scheduling me for an appointment with the specialist.  The specialist confirmed that it would be in my best interests to have a colonoscopy at 40 due to the significant family history, especially given my Oma’s and father’s histories.

I bit the bullet and booked the colonoscopy in.  On the plus side, I found out my insurance would cover the full cost of the procedure.  (There is no nation-wide screening programme in New Zealand, and I would not be eligible for public health assistance, despite my family history, unless I was presenting symptoms or was over a certain age.)  There was a bit of a hassle between the insurance company and my specialist’s office, which saw the procedure delayed, but I think that worked out for the best, and the insurance won in the end.

I’ve heard a lot of stories about colonoscopy experiences, through my family and friends who have had them, and also online.  There’s a real danger by consulting “Dr Google” because medical advice on most sites seems to border on the worst case scenario, but I guess I’m macabre that way and can’t help but search away.  (I do admit, I take a lot of what I read with a grain of salt…)

The worst part, the re-emerging theme from friends and family became, was the preparation.  For those of you not in the know, the bowel has to be cleaned out before the procedure.  This is not only for hygiene purposes but also for the specialist to easily be able to identify any abnormalities during the procedure.

A week before the procedure, I had to stop eating anything with seeds or pips in it.  It sounds easy, but it’s a lot harder than one thinks!  I did have a wee whoopsie a day after I started and ate 3 small crackers with sesame seeds in them before I realised what I was doing.

I personally thought it would be best if I cut back on what I was eating too, and be a bit more selective about what I ate.  I’ve been on a diet for the last month or so, but I really got stuck in to eating white meat, lots of fruits and vegetables, and drinking a lot of water, reducing my intake the closer the colonoscopy grew.  This definitely helped during the prep.

Being quite a nervous person, I found myself not able to go to the bathroom the days before the really “harsh” prep started.  The dam burst, so to speak, before I even had my first Picoprep… More on that later.

The day before the procedure, I was allowed to have a light breakfast (Weetbix with milk), and then I could not have any more solid food.  Noel and I had stocked up on apple juice and Sprite, and Noel even made me chicken broth.  So, for morning tea at work, instead of having an apple, I had a glass of apple juice.  For lunch, I had chicken broth.  And, for afternoon tea, I had more apple juice.  I couldn’t have any milk (other than breakfast) or any liquids red, green, or purple in colour.

The instructions the specialist gave me said I needed to mix my first glass of Picoprep by 5 PM and drink it all down by 6 PM.  I mixed the Picoprep and warm water, stuck it in the fridge, then suddenly felt the urge to go to the bathroom, and, as I said before, the dam burst.  This may have made my prep experience a little better than most.

I had heard the Picoprep and water mixture wasn’t the best tasting or the nicest experience, and the instructions said I should drink it down “by” 6 PM, so at 5:45, sick of waiting around, I downed the whole glass in about 3 gulps.  It had an orange-flavour to it, but it filled my nose and mouth with that burnt plastic smell.  I downed 3 to 4 glasses of water immediately after, even though the instructions probably meant to take each of these over a period of time.  I wanted the water to get rid of the burnt plastic “smell”.

The instructions said it could be between 30 minutes and 6 hours before the Picoprep kicked in.  I’d put a 1.25 litre bottle of water, a book, and my fully-charged iPad in the bathroom, ready for it.  It took an hour before I started to feel things move, so I watched TV until I thought it was time, then head to the bathroom to hunker down for the night, if I needed to.

To be honest, the prep wasn’t bad.  I was expecting the inability to hold on or to be on the toilet for a while, but after an hour, I was pretty much done.  I spent an additional half hour there, just in case, but I decided to go back and watch TV with Noel and get some more to eat.  I had some more chicken broth and some lemon Jell-O.  Before we went to bed, I went to the bathroom again, and it looked like I was pretty much ready to go.

(Throughout this time, I drank plenty of water — probably 2 1.25 litre bottles plus 5 glasses or so — and Sprite to keep my fluids up.)

Mom told me to take a bottle of water to bed with me because she’d found during her prep that she woke up very dehydrated.  I followed her advice and whenever I woke up (a few times quite dehydrated), I took a sip or three of water before falling back to sleep.  I didn’t need to go to the toilet at all during the night.

The next morning, I had to be up at 7 AM to mix my next dose of Picoprep and put it in the fridge to drink by 7:30 AM.  Before the second lot of Picoprep had the chance to kick in, I had to go to the bathroom again, and I spent a lot of the morning in the toilet, more so to make sure I was getting everything out.  I was researching on “Dr Google” again to make sure what I should be seeing.  I also drank another 2 1.25 litre bottles of water, in addition to 4 glasses of water and 2 glasses of Sprite, during this time.

I have to admit, I was getting a slight bit of discomfort / burning, purely through going to the bathroom so much.  I guess this is normal, and supposedly Vasoline or other similar products can relieve that.  For me, it relieved it only a small degree.

My research on “Dr Google” said that the result of Picoprep should be pale, clear, and yellow.  Some people said a small amount of residue was okay, as long as there was no faecal matter.  It seemed I was there.

Even though I could drink water and Sprite up until an hour before the procedure (so 12 PM for a 1 PM procedure), I stopped at 11 AM, just in case.  I was finished with the bathroom about 11:30 AM, although I’m pretty sure I could’ve cut it out at 10:30 AM.

I dressed in sweat pants and a tee-shirt with a sweatshirt over the top, so if I was drugged up, I could put them on a lot easier than jeans or whatever.  We left at 12:20 PM to have plenty of time, but we made it to the clinic around 12:40 PM.  I was extremely nervous.

Being there early, a nurse and trainee nurse took me into a small consultation room to go over my information and to take my vitals.  I was nervous, so my blood pressure came back a bit higher than normal. The nurse confirmed a pale, clear, and yellow Picoprep result was correct, even if there was a small amount of residue.

After that, they took me into the patient waiting area, weighing me in a side room before showing me to a cubicle and getting me a gown, dressing gown, and little scrub booties.  I could keep only my socks on.

The gown was long enough and didn’t have a huge gap at the back, which was great, and I sat down and waited in the cubicle.  Another nurse came in and spoke to me for about 20 minutes, which actually calmed me down a lot.  The clock showed 2 PM before they came to get me (I assumed something was going on because the corridor next to my cubicle was full of people moving around… And Noel confirmed that ambulance personnel came in after 1 PM).

A nice nurse named Sharon (I hope… I was so nervous!) came to get me and lead me into the operating theatre, which was through the double doors to my cubicle’s right, and then a little kitty corner to those doors.  A student nurse was there, as was the specialist and another lovely nurse named Anne.  They all explained to me what was going to happen.  Anne asked me to lay down on my back on the gurney, which I did, and she placed a warm blanket over me.  She attached a blood pressure cuff to my left arm and an oxygen monitor to the end of my finger.  They also fitted me with an oxygen mask.  I tried to maintain a good sense of humour and talked to them about my Mom being a nurse.  It was a good conversation, and I think the humour helped a bit as well.

The specialist asked me if I was allergic to anything, and I said I was to Guar Gum and Xantham Gum.  He had a puzzled look on his face, and I said, “They’re in food.  I think you’re at the wrong end to worry about that.”  He had a big smile on his face then started to laugh.

The specialist asked me how sedated I wanted to be — and here’s the clincher — I told him I wasn’t very good with coming out of these sorts of things, so as mild as possible would be great.  He put the IV line in — and that did not hurt at all, only pinched — and he gave me a super-mild dose.  I was relaxed enough (finally) to be cool with the procedure but aware of what was going on.  They gave me the sedation at around 2:15 PM and said I would possibly feel a little sleepy, but I didn’t.

They rolled me to my side and asked me to put my legs up, which I did.  I barely felt the colonoscope (is that the name of it?) go in, and I didn’t really feel it working inside me, except a small amount of discomfort (very small) when it was going around corners.  I could see what he was doing on the screen.  Anne held my hand for part of it (she was so lovely) and they all explained what was going on.

At one point, he asked if I had used ibuprofen regularly, and I answered him I had been using it for about 6 years, but I had given up a month ago and was only using it very sporadically now.  He implied he could see this on my scan.

Then, before I knew it, it was over.  I couldn’t believe it!  I was finished before 2:30 PM.  The specialist said there were no polyps, nothing of concern.  There was one small angio-something-another that he took a sample of, but he said he was pretty sure it was nothing abnormal.  They injected me with the anti-sedative (I didn’t feel this either), then wheeled me to recovery, which was down the corridor and at the opposite side of the medical area I was sitting in before my procedure.

The nurse there told me to have a rest and get some sleep, but I felt wide awake.  My oxygen levels were low, so she encouraged me to breathe a bit heavier to get them back up, which they did.  My blood pressure was great (122 over 80!) and I felt like a million dollars.  I was so worried over this procedure that was really quick and really painless and really easy!

Another nurse came in and said that Noel was on the phone to my Mom, and was it okay for him to come in?  I told her that would be fantastic, and that I wasn’t tired.  She seemed really happy I had recovered so quickly, and she told me she’d get me some sandwiches and Sprite while I changed.  She did warn me to be careful because I could be light-headed (which I was, kinda), and I saw Noel come in, so I peeked out of the curtain and waved.  He was surprised I was looking so happy and with it.

I was trying to fold up all the blankets and things for the nurses, but they told me to leave it, and helped me into the family room area off the recovery room.  I ate two sandwiches and gabbed away to Noel, who I think was astonished that I was so alert, as he texted my Mom to let her know I was okay.

I was only 2 out of 3 sandwiches in when they asked me if I could see the specialist, so Noel and I went into another small room, and the specialist came in to explain the same things he did in the operating theatre and give me a written report.  And then he said I could go home!

I think I was so full of adrenaline that I was very happy to go home and gab away about the procedure and so on.  It wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be, and I honestly think that everyone who needs to get one done, should get one done.  I’m the world’s biggest baby when it comes to medical procedures, but this one couldn’t be more straight-forward, and honestly, the worst things that hurt were the IV port going in (and that was a quick pinch) and being sore from the Picoprep.  That was it!

The only thing I would warn people about is trying to do too much too quickly after the procedure, because your body will let you know.  I was ready for bed about 8 PM the night of the procedure, mainly because I think I’d chewed through my adrenaline reserves, and all that worry had melted away.

The Picoprep does continue to deliver (although not as much) after the procedure, and I wasn’t very hungry after either, so I took it slowly and ate really bland food for dinner.

I did get a really excellent night’s sleep that night.

The day after, I got up early to talk to my Mom, and then Noel and I went out to do some shopping for groceries and household items.  When I got home, I definitely knew I’d overdone it as I was extremely physically exhausted.  Again, I was falling asleep early, so we went to bed early.

Having the low dose of sedative (Hypnovel) did mean I remembered most of the procedure and what followed, but after and the next day, I did find myself a little more forgetful than usual (things like trying to put the house keys in the fridge and going into the kitchen to clean-up when I already had as I had meant to go into the garage to do laundry), but that was okay.

Colon cancer is a big killer in several nations around the world (New Zealand included), so it’s very important that you get this simple procedure done for your own peace of mind and to ensure you don’t suffer with cancer when this procedure could have helped prevent it.  I know it’s difficult for some people to face having it done, but seriously, it’s a short procedure and think about what you’d rather have: a few hours of discomfort in prep and during the procedure, or months of cancer?  I know what I’d rather prefer!

Rest in Peace, My Little Buddy

Rest in peace, Levi

14 February 1996 — 16 March 2014


I usually associate a song with a pet’s passing, but I think this time, I’m too emotionally numb right now to think of one.

Levi was an amazing little buddy. His tail was always wagging, usually so hard it was a blur, and he seemed to smile at us. As he grew older, and his vision and hearing started failing, he didn’t seem to smile as much, but his tail still wagged, especially for his chorizo or Schmacko, the former of which was the mode of delivery for his Vetmedin and diuretic pills and the latter of which was his most favourite treat of all time (not the brand name Schmacko, but he knew the word meant “treat” and we gave him Beggin Strips, which he loved).

In the last few weeks, he had started to fail. His breathing grew heavier and he was not as active as he used to be. Last Saturday, we took him to our vet, the wonderful Chantal Moreton, who upped his medication but in a moment of instinct, gave us her home phone number, just in case we needed it. Yesterday, we needed that number because Levi refused to eat, arched his neck when he was breathing, and his breathing was through his mouth with a strange clicking noise.

Chantal found that his chest was full of fluid and his heart was having big problems. She said she could give him oxygen and shots of this, that, and the other thing, but that was what his sister Nyota went through, and she had to be put to sleep a few hours later because she was very distressed and coughing up blood. It would only buy him a day, maybe more, and Noel and I decided that he couldn’t spend his last few days in a strange place when he was blind, deaf, and distressed. So we made the hard (but right) decision to have him put to sleep.

I love my little buddy, and it’s so hard to see his cushion in front of the fireplace, indentation where he used to lay. It’s hard not to have him following us around, or checking up on us wherever we are in the house, especially when I get within 10 feet of the fridge or his snack cupboard. But, wherever he is, he is at peace and no longer struggling for breath.

Levi, you were a lion in a puppy’s body, and you were the best little buddy anyone could ask for. I love you, give your sister and aunties a kiss and cuddle from us, and rest in peace, my boy.

A Funny Story about Phoebe and the Earthquakes

Phoebe scooping candy out of the candy bowlOne of the best ways of dealing with grief and the passing of someone beloved (whether that be a friend, family member, or pet) is to think about the good times.

There are plenty of funny and amusing stories Noel and I could tell you about our cheeky cat Phoebe, who we sadly had to put to sleep on Monday after a short illness, pictured above in one of her more mischievous moods, but one that keeps sticking out in my mind is an earthquake story we have about her.

Now, an earthquake like the 22 February 2011 quake that struck Christchurch, causing heavy damage and quite a few casualties is not something to laugh at.  But even in the darkest moments, there is light, humanity, and humour.

We’d returned home to find our house thankfully in one piece but stuff was down everywhere.  Jenah and Levi were scared (and rightfully so) while Phoebe had that attitude of “meh” that she always seemed to have.  Sissy was hiding, spread out flat under the couch, and that took us a while to find her, fearing (at first) that she was under a pile of suitcases or other larger objects down around the place.

While we had water, electricity, internet, and pretty much everything but phones, we knew that it might not last, so Noel and I took measures to safeguard ourselves as much as we could.  Noel filled the bathtub up with hot water from the water cylinder (as we knew that had been boiled and contained no contaminants) to a moderately deep level, but not deep enough to have a large aftershock slosh the water all over the place.  He closed the door and walked away from our emergency water supply.  (I had been prepared enough to buy bottled water a few weeks previously, just in case.)

Our friends Dave and Shaun and Emma and Phil came to stay with us as Emma and Phil had lost many of their services to their apartment, and Dave and Shaun wanted to be with other people.  It was a very safe feeling to be all together in one place.

The next day, somehow the bathroom door was left open.  None of us really thought much about it as we were still dealing with the trauma from the day before.  Phoebe and Sissy were somewhere in the house, as they normally were; we’d assumed they were sleeping on our bed or in the sun or something.

Suddenly, we heard a splash.  All of us looked at one another — a splash? — and then it dawned on us that the bathroom door was open…

Out came a soaked Phoebe.  She didn’t seem angry or upset, but she did have this look of, “Oh, by the way, the water in the bathtub hasn’t evaporated yet.  Just checking.”

Normally, Sissy is the water-obsessed cat, but obviously curiosity got the better of Phoebe and she fell into the tub.

Needless to say, we all found it pretty funny, but we ended up using all that water for non-drinking purposes!

Below, here’s a clip of the Wolf from Shrek.  This is the same attitude Phoebe always seemed to have, and a nonchalant “What?” became the catch phrase Noel and I would use for some of her rather “meh” looks.

Rest in Peace, My Little One

Rest in peace, Phoebe

7 November 2002 — 29 July 2013


“Goodnight my angel, now it’s time to sleep

And still so many things I want to say

Remember all the songs you sang for me

When we went sailing on an emerald bay

And like a boat out on the ocean

I’m rocking you to sleep

The water’s dark and deep, inside this ancient heart

You’ll always be a part of me”

— “Lullabye (Goodnight, my Angel)” by Billy Joel

Our Roller Coaster Ride of a Week

This week started on a high: Noel’s business partner Don and Noel won a lifetime achievement award from their peers at the New Zealand Beauty Industry Awards.

This week has ended on a low: our beautiful cat Phoebe is most likely terminally ill.

I’ve shared the link above about Noel and Don, so you can read about it there if you’d like.  I’ll talk about Phoebe and what’s led up to this in this post.

Now, Phoebe has always been a rather big cat.  She’s pushing the scales at around 12 pounds / 5.5 kilograms.  As a Tonkinese, she can be big.

I’ve written before about how we came to adopt Phoebe and her little sister Sissy in earlier posts.  So, if you want the backstory on our own Tweedledum and Tweedledee, have a look there.

About 6 years ago, as we did every year, we took Phoebe and Sissy to the vet for their annual check-up.  In the same carrying cage.  Big mistake.

They were fighting in the cage.  They were fighting outside the cage.  They were covered in claw-marks and bite-marks and bruises.  We were covered in the same (from them fighting).  The vet was a bit more level-headed and had padded herself up to the nines.

But the fighting didn’t stop there.  Oh no.  Sissy decided to push the issue at home.  For an entire month!  And it wasn’t pretty.

So, having another conversation with the vet after hauling another pet into the consultation rooms, she and I came to the conclusion that, if they were indoor cats, they didn’t need to be vaccinated or checked-up-on as often.

With Celeste, then Nyota, then Jenah, then Levi falling ill, to be honest, I haven’t had the money to take Phoebe or Sissy checked up on.  They didn’t seem to need it, and they have always been pretty happy and healthy.

We have given the cats the same food for years now.  After Celeste’s passing, they seemed pretty happy with that food, and it was a weight management food we could get at the supermarket.  Phoebe actually never lost weight, and Sissy never gained any, but it was tasty to them, so what the heck, right?

A few months ago, the manufacturer changed the formula.  Phoebe started to lose weight, while Sissy started to gain it.  We didn’t really think further than the pet food.

Last week, I noticed Phoebe didn’t quite seem herself.  Noel commented on it as well, but there were no outward warning bells.  She seemed a bit more quiet and reserved, but she still wanted her cuddles and petting, and she and Sissy spent a lot of time together, and so on.  Phoebe just seemed… not as rambunctious and a little quieter.  We chalked this down to getting older.  I mentioned this to Jacqui, our neighbour, who was looking after the cats over the weekend we were in Auckland for Noel and Don’s award.

On Monday night or Tuesday, Jacqui mentioned about Phoebe being quieter, and that she felt I was right.  By Wednesday night, we noticed Phoebe’s breathing appeared a little more rapid than usual, but we weren’t sure if this was over-joyous purring (as she purrs… a lot) or something more serious.

I had Thursday off to work from home, and I took Levi in to the vet for his weigh-in.  There, I spoke to Chantal, our usual vet, about Phoebe.  She said to keep an eye on her, and if anything out of the ordinary seemed to be happening, or if her breathing got worse, to bring her in.

When I got home, I looked at Phoebe and her breathing was pretty weird.  I mentioned it to Noel, but he dismissed it at first.  Since I had to pick up some groceries from the supermarket, I left again, and he had another look at her.  Her breathing was at twice the rate of Sissy’s; something was up.

Dropping the groceries off, I called the vet and booked another appointment.  Phoebe seemed pretty happy to be going for a car ride, talking all the way (as she does), and once at the vet, Chantal and Angela (the vet nurse) seemed to think Phoebe had some sort of chest infection.  Her heart rate was fine, her breathing seemed okay, but there seemed to be a little liquid or something in there.  Chantal wanted me to go to their main branch to have Phoebe undergo an x-ray on the (very slight chance, according to Chantal) that Phoebe actually had a diaphragmatic hernia, which is where her diaphragm (which is responsible for helping you draw in and expel air in breathing) would have had a rip or hole in it, affecting her ability to breathe.  So, off we went in the car, during rush hour traffic, to get Phoebe x-rayed.

A new vet there, Kate, and the vet nurse took Phoebe off for x-rays.  Kate came back with the x-ray and a somewhat serious face, and she put the x-ray up for us to see some sort of line running through her liver, bisecting it into two separate areas.  She suspected a diaphragmatic hernia, but she didn’t want to operate on her own if that was the case.  Kate explained a whole range of factors came into play with this sort of hernia, and if they could repair it or not.  Phoebe and I were to go home, make Phoebe comfortable and make sure she wasn’t jumping or climbing high distances, and come back in the morning with her for surgery.  If her breathing did get worse, we’d have to take her to the after-hours vet to stabilise her.

I came home very upset, as there was a risk Phoebe could not make it, and Noel was very upset too, as she is very much his cat.  We had a very solemn dinner at the JAndersons across the road, then came home to spend some time with Phoebe, Sissy and Levi.

That night, I didn’t sleep very well.  Noel, full of a cold, didn’t either.

Phoebe in her carrying case

Next morning, we got up at the normal time, letting the pets into the main part of the house.  Phoebe climbed into her cat carrying case, and Sissy rubbed the door until it closed, then walked away.  Noel said his good-byes, just in case, and Phoebe and I fought the winter frost and rush hour traffic again to get to the vet.

At the vet, Angela was on duty, as was Tania (who was there when Jenah passed, and has been a vet nurse at that clinic for a while).  They were surprised to see me, so I explained what happened, and Angela was in a bit of shock because Chantal had mentioned the hernia as a very unlikely cause of Phoebe’s breathing difficulties.  Tania and Angela calmed me down, told me it was a rather routine surgery, and that Mike (the head vet) would be looking after Phoebe.  Since our vets are very experienced and very knowledgeable, we knew Phoebe was in good hands.

All Friday morning, we waited.  To be honest, we thought we’d get a call around 12 PM to 1 PM, but about 11 AM, Mike called.  He explained he’d taken more x-rays, and Phoebe didn’t have a hernia (phew).  That particular x-ray showed a vein of fat that made the liver look as if it was separated into two areas, but other x-rays showed the diaphragm in tact.  She did have fluid in the chest cavity around the lungs and heart.  He’d tried to get some out, but couldn’t, so he’d have to try with Phoebe being sedated.  All his scans had shown this fluid.  Blood tests, taken the day before, didn’t indicate anything was out of the ordinary, although he was waiting on the white blood cell results.  Her heart rate was normal.  At this point in time, he thought it could be some sort of chest infection, something like feline infectious peritonitis (FIP) or another type of virus, a bacterial infection, or the dreaded cancer, although he said the last bit could be confirmed by the white blood cell count, even though he didn’t see any mysterious areas on the x-rays.  He’d call back when he’d had a chance to drain and analyse the chest cavity fluid.

Around 12:30 PM, Mike was on the phone again.  White blood cell count was back.  It was pretty normal except one was slightly off, but it didn’t sound like anything to worry about.  He’d got about 150 millilitres (5.1 US ounces) from the chest area around her heart.  It was a yellowish thick liquid with little white clumps in it, and he was sending it off for analysis.  A slight chuckle came over the phone; Phoebe had been sedated so they could withdraw the fluid with the use of ultrasound, but she’d fought them, so they had to put her under for a while.  That’s our Phoebe.  He’d eliminated some of the infections that it could have been, and he mentioned putting her on antibiotics as a way to clear up the infection.  That gave us a bit of hope.


By this time, Noel and I seemed pretty relieved as we understood that Phoebe probably had some sort of chest infection that antibiotics could easily clear up.  Mike said we’d have to wait for the results from the lab on the fluid around her heart, and we could go from there.

Around 4:30 PM, Mike phoned again.  This time, his voice was that type of voice you really don’t want to hear, like you know bad news is coming.  The results were back in, and while not super-conclusive, they showed that she had a possibility of having FIP or cancer.  While I can’t remember exactly what he was reading, a result of below 0.04 would indicate she had FIP, and a result of 0.08 or higher would indicate she didn’t have FIP  Her result was 0.06: a grey area.

Either way, it wasn’t a good result.  He kindly said that, if either diagnosis was the correct one, Phoebe did not have long to live.

I was in shock.  Noel asked me what he’d said, and I relayed it back to him as best as I could and then started to cry.  We were going to pick her up and talk with Mike to see what our options were.

The car ride there was very quiet.  We fought rush hour traffic (again) to get to the clinic.  Mike took us into the consultation room and showed us the x-rays and the beaker full of the fluid he’d taken from her chest.  He did explain again the two things he thought it could be, FIP or cancer, and told us he would get the lab to run another series of tests on her blood.  These tests could tell us which proteins were elevated, which might give us a better clue on what exactly she was facing.  He’d have the results on Tuesday or Wednesday.  Until then, Mike said, we were to keep Phoebe quiet and spend some quality time with her.

Phoebe talked and purred all the way home.  Noel was holding her cage, very upset, and crying.  I said I’d drive because I knew he’d be upset.

So… now it’s like we’re in a lobby, between life and the beyond.  Where do we go from here?  Is it actually FIP or cancer?  Could it be something else?  How long will we have to wait if she is dying?  If we have to euthanise her, do we go out on a high note or do we wait until she’s not well?

I hated playing God with Jenah.  It doesn’t feel right to me.  What right do I have to make that decision for her?  But another part of me knew that there was no hope for her, and letting her go was far better for her than letting her suffer.  And that goes for Phoebe as well.

Noel and I have been crying quite a bit.  When he starts to cry, I start to cry, but my insides scream a prayer to God that He gives me strength to help Noel and Phoebe through this.  Sissy, of course, has not helped matters by hissing, spitting, roaring, and generally being a bitch to her sister, like she did all those years ago, because she smells like being at the vet.

These last few years have been difficult years for us.  This week is a prime example of what has happened.  Here’s hoping that, whatever happens with Phoebe, it happens with no suffering, no pain, and us by her side.

NaSA Owners Noel Turner and Don Kendall Win Lifetime Achievement Beauty Industry Award

Scott Fack:

Sorry for being so quiet over the last few months, but work has been busy. One thing I’d like to share with you all is that my fiance, Noel, and his business partner were honoured last weekend with the New Zealand beauty therapy industry’s highest honour: The Contribution to the Beauty Industry award. Very proud! Read more below.

Originally posted on Beauty Blog by The National School of Aesthetics:

Don and Noel Win Contribution to the Beauty Industry Award 6 July 2013 Every 2 years, the New Zealand beauty industry gets together for the New Zealand Beauty Expo and the New Zealand Beauty Industry Awards.  This year’s awards were hosted by former New Zealand Idol and current X-Factor New Zealand host Dominic Bowden.

This year, the New Zealand Beauty Industry Awards were held on Saturday, 6 July 2013 at the Pullman Hotel in Auckland. We are very proud to report that some NaSA graduates and their clinics were finalists in various categories in the awards, including Nicola Quinn and the team at Nicola Quinn Beauty and Day Spa (Christchurch) and Jess Telfer and the team at Cocoon Beauty and Day Spa (Rangiora) being finalists for the best clinic award. Nicola and her team won the Clinic Marketing Excellence 2013 award. Congratulations to them and to all the winners and runners-up on the evening.

The final award for the evening was…

View original 298 more words

I’m Like an Old Man. Seriously.

Okay, well, I have to admit, I’ve always been a bit clumsy.

It comes and goes, so when I’ve bumped into something and got a nasty bruise in return, you can bet your bottom dollar I’ll probably hit it at least 3 times more within the next 48 hours or so.  Just my subconscious self reminding my conscious self what they can do to one another, kinda like an internalised stand-off or something.

I remember sometime in my late teenage years, finding a report my own mother filled out when I was in Kindergarten, and feeling slightly hurt at the comments at first, then realising that she was absolutely right.  For some reason or another, she was acting as a gym monitor for us, and what she wrote was that basically, I was a clumsy, uncoordinated child.

Something that I have learned from being a clumsy person is pretty good balance and how to shift my weight to catch myself when I am falling or whatever.  One icy winter in DeKalb, I went to visit Yves at his house between classes, backpack slung over my shoulder.  Approaching the little concrete porch in front of the front door, my feet hit some hidden ice, and I fell forward towards the porch.  Somehow, I managed to get my backpack between me and the concrete, and the thing that was bruised most of all was my ego.  From what I remember, Yves wasn’t home, so, unless one of his neighbours was spying at me from behind closed curtains, no one saw me do that.  Phew.

A few Thursdays ago, I was home alone, doing my normal Thursday routine.  I’d eaten my breakfast and read the Press online, checked my Facebook and email, and that was that; it was shower time.

The shower was fine.  Sometimes it can get a little slippery in there when shampoo or liquid soap gets between your feet and the tiles in the shower, but normally it’s pretty good.

Now, our ensuite bathroom has a double walk-in shower.  The shower heads are on opposite sides of the shower with a small shelf in between on the far wall.  The shower wall facing the bathroom itself is glass up to about 6 feet / 1.8 meters tall in a metal frame.  The full glass door fits neatly into this frame, but the frame surrounds the outer edge of the door on the top, bottom and side so water doesn’t leak out.

Noel and I never shower together or use the shower head closest to the door.  We only use the far shower head.  I think this is because it is enclosed so tends to be slightly warmer (even though it’s on the corner of the house).

I finished my shower and grabbed my towel.  After drying myself down and squeegeeing the glass, I wrapped my towel around me and went to exit the shower.  Bear in mind that the floor at the door-end of the shower was not wet.

I pushed the glass door open, but found myself slipping, with my head moving backwards and my feet slipping out towards the door.  Somehow, my balance kicked in, I righted myself, but I slipped again, and started falling head-first and sideways out the shower door.

My hands grabbed the door, trying to steady myself, but I managed to rip the glass door clean off the hinges in the process.  My body hit the floor, cushioned slightly by the floor towel, with my legs knocking over all the large shampoo and liquid soap bottles on the shower floor, and my midsection landing squarely on the metal frame around my right lower rib and right kidney areas.  My right arm protected my head from hitting the tiled floor.  In the process, the glass door came free from my hands, but I caught it before it hit the ground.

Normally, I would’ve panicked or been upset or really angry with myself, but I think years of earthquakes have drummed that level of emotional shock out of me.

Laying on my side, half in the shower, half out of the shower, holding a rather heavy glass door, my mind struggled on what to do next.  It did know not to panic.

First, I looked at my lower rib / kidney area.  Not bleeding.  Good sign.

Second, I wiggled my toes and moved my legs.  Not broken, not bleeding.  Good sign.

Third, I looked at my arms.  Not broken, not bleeding.  Another good sign.

Fourth, I looked at the glass door.  Slightly chipped with some small shards of glass on the floor, but it was amazingly in one piece, and even more, amazingly very heavy.

I laid there for about five minutes, or what seemed like five minutes, trying to figure out what exactly to do with the door.  In the end, it was propped against one of the sinks with the bottom propped against the wall until I could stand up.  (Unfortunately, I managed to scratch the mirror above the sink in the process.)

After I secured the door against the wall, I got upset and started to cry.  It actually gave me a delayed fright, and I landed with quite a thud.  My side was quite sore, and I wondered if I should seek help from Carolyn or Judith, one of neighbours home during the day, or should call an ambulance.  Again, I knew I hadn’t broken anything, but I have to admit that I was analysing whether or not I might be bleeding internally.  Having a look in the mirror, I saw my lower rib / kidney area was red but it didn’t look like it was bruising.

No, there wasn’t an earthquake.  No, I wasn’t drunk.  No, I didn’t have a seizure or dizzy spell.  The only thing we could think of, analysing it a few days later, was I had some shampoo or soap on my foot and slipped.

Eventually, Noel made his way home (after I had called him and told him the story), and he helped me put the shower door back into the frame.  The door’s hinges were fine; they only needed to be snapped back into place.  The frame needed a little bending, but it too was okay.

He looked at my side where I landed and said a bruise was coming up.  I had a look at it and the voice of Nurse-Mom came into my head, that, of course it was going to bruise and I’m fine.

We went out and bought anti-slip mats for the shower, with Noel asking me, “Are you sure you’re okay?  Do you need to see the doctor?” with me being the stubborn German that I am, replying, “Nah, I’m fine.”

Over the next few days, I found myself moving slower than usual.  Climbing stairs was quite the painful little chore.  James and a few other people said they couldn’t believe I didn’t take the day after off from work to recover (and I did need that, I found out on the weekend, because I slept something like 12 hours each Friday night, Saturday night, and Sunday night, and I had a nap on Saturday).

And the bruise?  It was magnificent.

So… now every time I get into the shower or bathroom, I move like a little old man. Seriously!