Monthly Archives: January 2011

A Tale of Five Kitties

When I was a kid, my mom was not big on pets but I kept bringing home stray cats, mice that I found in the woodpile, etc. I talked her into hamsters and chameleons as pets, but she would not allow cats or dogs. (I did have a puppy, briefly, but she gave him away when she realized the bulk of puppy care would fall to her and not me. Hey, I was 9 years old, what did she expect?!) At one point, my mother told me in exasperation that I could have a zoo when I grew up and had my own house. Now we laugh about that when she comes to visit, with cats winding around her ankles and a dog rolling over on his back for belly rubs.

I’ll be honest…I’m a cat person. We do have a dog, a black Cockapoo named Toby, and I love him with all my heart. If it weren’t for Dave, though, he would not be part of our household. It was Dave who took a then 5-year-old Paige to the county pound back in 2000 and told her they were going to look for a dog. It was Dave who picked Toby out, named him, declared him the Perfect Dog. It is now Dave who gives Toby his Neverending Haircuts, takes care of any problems in his nether regions (dingleberries, anyone?) and reassures me when Toby does Dog Things that worry and confound me. Dave is a Dog Person. I’m glad he’s a Dog Person, because our lives wouldn’t be the same without Toby. However, I don’t get dogs the same way I do cats.

When Dave and I met, back in 1998, I had one cat. His name was Bear, and he lived to the grand old age of 20 years. Dave and Bear got along famously and I think he was Dave’s first experience with a cat that was kept indoors and pampered, rather than an outdoor farm cat.

We adopted another male cat from a shelter the following year. He’s all white and his name is Sugar. We had originally intended to get a female cat, figuring Bear would accept a female quicker than a male. Sugar, however, won Dave’s heart by grabbing onto the hood of his sweatshirt jacket as he walked past the cage. We read the index card attached to the bars, and found out that Sugar had been rescued from the streets. He’d been in the shelter for 5 months and was only 7 months old, although he looked full grown. He’s partially deaf, and could only go to a home with a ‘hearing’ cat to help him along. We agreed it was a sign — after all, we were both partially deaf and we could really relate to a partially deaf cat!

We went along like this for quite a while…Bear and Sugar the cats, Toby the dog. We even adopted 3 guinea pigs from a guinea pig rescue organization here in Illinois. (For some reason, none of our cats think of the guinea pigs as prey…they completely ignore them.)

Bear’s health deteriorated in 2005 and we had to have him put to sleep that summer. It was heart-wrenching for all of us — the kids had Bear in their lives forever, and I’d had him with me since he was just a tiny kitten in 1985. Dave & Bear had forged a bond that was truly amazing — Bear would sit on Dave’s lap, and Dave’s lap only.

We waited a month, and at the end of August 2005 Dave took me to look at cats waiting to be adopted. We had promised the kids we’d get a kitten — we figured it would be easier for Sugar to accept a kitten, and the kids had never had the experience of raising a tiny kitten before. However, I immediately fell in love with a 4 year old long-haired black female cat. I couldn’t help but return to her cage again and again — the kittens were cute, but something about her just drew me in. Dave declared her my birthday gift and we brought her home. We named her Sabrina and she fit into our family immediately — she is by far the friendliest, most laid-back cat I’ve ever owned.

Later that year during winter, we noticed a stray cat in our neighborhood. We assumed it was a male. We first noticed it walking on top of the wooden privacy fence between our home and our next-door neighbor’s. As we watched this little cat do an amazing balancing act, I declared to the family that I wanted that cat…it was meant to be with us…after all, it was black and white, which was a combination of our current two cats (Sugar, all white, and Sabrina, all black). We made jokes about having only monochromatic animals, and everyone began to humor me when I made noises about wanting to bring this cat into our home. After all, we had no idea if it was truly a stray/feral cat or if it was somebody’s pet that was allowed outdoors.

As the weather warmed up in early 2006, this black and white cat started showing up by our patio door. We sometimes set a plate of cat food outside on the deck, and this cat figured out that a free meal was available. We began feeding it, called it ‘Max’ and would all gather around to watch as it polished off each plate of food.

In mid-May of that year, our lawn had grown to jungle proportions and Dave went under our deck to retrieve the lawn mower. The deck is enclosed, and as he opened the doors he was met with a surprise: there was ‘Max’ under the deck, along with two tiny kittens. We realized Max was a girl, and the reason we’d been seeing her on a daily basis was because she was living under our deck.

We spent about 2 weeks going under the deck to feed the cats, sitting on old crates quietly until the kittens would come out of hiding and begin eating. We brought down an old litter box, an old cat bed, blankets, food and water. We rarely saw Maxie (her new, more feminine name) but the kittens began to get used to our presence. Since they were eating solid food, we figured they were 5 or 6 weeks old. We named the grey and white kitten ‘Smokey’ and the black and white kitten ‘Boots’, for its white paws.

We found this all fairly amusing — we had promised the kids we’d still get a kitten, if the time was right and the right situation presented itself. We had to admit that having 2 kittens pretty much drop into our laps seemed very much like a sign!

On top of discovering the kittens, we also began to have a problem with tomcats coming into our yard. More than once we found them looking into the windows of our candle workshop, and they were always in and out of the yard. We would see them chasing Maxie through neighborhood yards. Eventually, one of them took to waiting on the deck, near the entrance under the stairs, that Maxie was using to get in and out (since she hadn’t mastered opening the deck doors with her paws!) which made us very nervous. We had no idea if they were going to try to harm the kittens.

One morning we went down to feed the cats and saw a large amount of grey fur outside the deck door. This fur looked exactly like Smokey’s fur, and we were certain that a tomcat had gotten in and killed one or both of the kittens. We had been planning to eventually trap the kittens and bring them indoors, and this pushed our plans into high gear. We ended up emptying everything out from under the deck, hoping and praying that what we found wouldn’t be heartbreaking.

We’d cleared the deck entirely and found no sign of any of the cats. At that point I was convinced Maxie had moved the kittens to another location. There was only one item remaining under the deck — a large platform ladder. Dave lifted it up and both kittens shot out!

We were able to coax both of them into cat carriers and then we moved them into a large crate in our garage. The next day we set the crate on the deck, using the kittens as ‘bait’ (how horrible that sounds!) to catch Maxie as well. This literally took hours as she circled the crate but refused to go inside.  We had tied a string to the crate door (the kittens were in a sectioned off back part of the crate, which was huge – it was a crate for a large dog).  We extended the string into our house through the deck door, closed the blinds and peeked out while we waited for Maxie to walk inside.  We were beginning to think she would never fall for this, when she finally walked into the crate to sniff her kittens.  Dave pulled the string, the door slammed shut, and Maxie went crazy…but we had her!  All of the cats were okay, although Maxie had an obvious fight wound on her side.

We set up an area in the garage, using the crate as well as some shelving material, to give the feral cats a place to stay where they couldn’t run off but also couldn’t expose our current animals to any diseases or fleas.

We took all three girls to the vet a few days later. (This was easier said than done…we had to once again trap all of them into cat carriers for the ride to the vet, and this took about 45 minutes each time we had to do it.)  We found out that both kittens were girls, so we renamed them: the grey/white kitten became Grace, and the black/white kitten was christened Alice. They were in remarkably good health, with no worms, fleas or ear mites. Maxie was spayed and her abscess was cleaned up and stitched closed. (It was huge; the vet said she would have died if we hadn’t intervened.  Poor girl!!)  She did have worms, which were treated and cleared up, but no fleas or ear mites.  The kittens got all of their vaccinations and then got spayed, and we began very, very slowly working on socializing them.

In the beginning, Gracie was much more friendly — she would come up to us, let us pet her, pick her up, etc. She was completely fascinated by Toby and loved to walk up and sniff him. Alice was very timid and would run away if we approached her. However, at the vet’s office she was the calm one and Gracie was the hissing, spitting wildcat!  Over the years, their roles reversed.  Alice (or Ally-cat, as we often call her) is friendlier and will come up for long petting sessions.  Gracie is still very nervous and will often shoot out of a room if we enter.  Every now and then, we can get her to hang around long enough for us to pet her.

Maxie is my little sweet pea. She will come up to us, rub her head on us and let us pet her. As I mentioned before, we don’t pick her up. As soon as we move our hands to her sides, as if to lift her, she slinks down and runs off.  She has come a long way, though! She used to swipe at us and hiss if we came near. Now she sits on our chests if we’re lying in bed, sits with us on the couch, and she even tolerates Toby, Sabrina and Sugar.

If it weren’t for the fact that we still can’t pick them up, you’d probably never know these cats used to be feral.  It took about 2 years of patience, but it’s really been worth it.

We submitted their story to Borders for their Hopeful Tails book project, and it was accepted.  You can see a short story and sweet photo of our girls on page 79 of the book.  One funny note:  in the abridged version of their story that was published, my name was changed from Wendi to Melissa in the middle of the paragraph.  Everyone who sees the book wants to know who Melissa is!

Each of the girls has their little quirks:

Maxie loves to jump onto one of the kitchen stools when we’re cooking.  She peeks her face over the corner of the kitchen island to watch and sniff the enticing aromas, but she always stays on the stool and never tries to jump up onto the counter.

Gracie is our Flying Wallenda.  We often find her on the fireplace mantel or on top of our work oven in the workshop.  She’s the one most likely to leap from surface to surface without hesitation.  She’s also still absolutely in love with our dog, Toby!

Ally-Cat loves to come up for chin scratches and back rubs, and will flip over in a ninja roll when you start to pet her.  We’ve never seen a cat do somersaults before!

The cats tend to hang out downstairs in the summer and in our bedroom during winter.  It makes Dave a little bit nervous; he has to race Maxie into the bedroom and try to leap into bed before she gets there.  Otherwise he has to try to slip under the covers without her thinking it’s a game – a couple of times we’ve had cats attacking our toes under the covers and boy, their teeth are sharp!

So that’s how we ended up with 5 cats.  🙂  Here’s a photo of Dave with all the cats and Toby…I believe this is the only photo we have with all of them in one shot:

All of the cats and (one) dog in a single photo

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Bullet Points

  • If you post on Facebook and say that you like snow, you’re guaranteed to get some angry responses from folks offering to send you their snow.  Talking about snow is like talking about politics or religion.
  • I like snow, but I think I will stop announcing it to everyone on Facebook.  It will be my dirty little secret.
  • Half the time when I am sitting at my computer,  I am craning my neck to look around my cat, Sabrina.  She loves to place herself in the space on my desk between my keyboard and the monitor.
  • Yes, I have a desktop computer and I prefer it 100% to the laptop.  How do people touch-type on laptop computers?
  • I also use a Microsoft ‘Natural Ergonomic’ Keyboard.  It’s the only way I can type without my hands getting sore.  This keyboard also elicits strong reactions from people (95% of them hate it).
  • Three of our cats were feral (as in, born and lived outside and no exposure to people, not house pets who were left to fend for themselves).  We took them in and they live indoors now; over the course of the past 4-1/2 years, they have gotten used to us and are friendly and affectionate.
  • However, we can’t (and don’t) pick them up.  I’m pretty nervous about moving them to a new house when we move.
  • I think I will let Dave be in charge of corralling them into the crates when the time comes.
  • Right now we have 5 cats, 1 dog, 2 guinea pigs and a hedgehog.
  • I still beg Dave to take in stray cats when we see them.  I’m a sucker for strays.
  • I’m letting my hair air dry right now, so my ‘ears’ are off.  It’s really weird to type and not hear the keyboard.
  • But it’s very nice to hear silence and not tinnitus!!
  • I’m 46 years old and still feel like I don’t know what I want to be when I grow up.

Our House

We’re probably going to spend this year working on the house…all those never-finished projects will (hopefully) be completed, and all the clutter cleaned up…in anticipation of putting it on the market next year so we can move to Michigan once Paige graduates high school in June 2012.  I’m alternately thrilled and terrified…it’s exciting to think about moving but also slightly horrifying with the way the housing market has been lately.  My dreams of actually making a profit when we sell the house died long ago…now I’ll just be happy to get the darn mortgage paid off.

One thing that makes me a little nuts is the constant recommendation to paint your house in neutral colors when you want to sell.  I love COLOR and really can’t stand beige, tan, white, taupe, etc.  I can handle a soft grey as long as I accent it with bold colors (our kitchen has a very light grey color on the walls with a deep cranberry trim and accent color, for instance….Paige has grey walls in her bedroom, with bright yellow and purple for her trim and door colors). I like walking into a house with color – it feels alive and welcoming to me.

So anyway, my bathroom is lime green and sky blue, my main wall going into and including the hallway is bright TiVo orange (the color of the “v” in the TiVo logo, which I used to match the paint color, seriously!) and our guest room is a bright blue with white trim and orangey-red accents.  I love all of these colors and I’m not planning to repaint them.  I mean, when I look at houses I really don’t even care how they’re painted and/or decorated…that’s the easiest thing to change.  So if I bought a house full of boring (to me) tan and beige walls, no biggie…I’d just make sure I paint everything first thing.  I look at the layout of the house, structural integrity, where it’s located…things I can’t change, you know?

We still have two living room walls to paint, and our bedroom as well.  And I’m torn.  Do I go with colors I really can’t stand, knowing we’ll be listing the house in the next year, year and a half?  Or do the colors we already have doom us enough to future buyers that I should just paint the walls the colors I want?

Notice I said “the colors I want”.  I’m lucky in the sense that Dave pretty much goes along with whatever crazy color scheme I mention – he originally painted all the doors and trim in our hallway a dark olive green on a spur of the moment whim.  I seriously had no idea he planned to paint – one day he just started taking doors down and painting with some paint he got at a resale shop (which I didn’t even know we owned).  It looked terrible because the walls were done in this faux-finish of mauve and Wedgewood blue over white (which is what is still on the two living room walls, and that is why they need to be repainted).  So we looked at it for a few weeks, thinking of wall colors, when I suggested orange.  But it had to be bright, to counteract that drab olive color.  Dave laughed, then realized I was serious.  I grabbed our TiVo manual, which has that orange color on the bottom of the spine, put it against the door trim and showed him how it looked – just the right hint of bright warmth without it being neon obnoxious.  Once we painted, he loved it.  So though he might question some of my ideas, he lets me run with them and gives me his blessing when it comes to paint color.

So that’s what we’re heading into for 2011…lots and lots of home renovating.  On top of all that, I’m thinking about a potential new business to replace the candle business when we move.  We definitely won’t be bringing all the candle-making supplies to Michigan:  it’s not making enough money to make it worth the hassle, especially with the cost of wax tripling from when we first started the business 10 years ago.  (We used to pay about $35 for a case of wax and we could pick it up locally; now we pay around $85-90 per case and have to have it shipped, which adds almost $20 more…ugh.)  I really like being my own boss, so I’m hoping to keep employing myself … if I can just figure out what my next career move will be.  But that’s another post.  🙂

Rock the Boat

Dave decided to shake things up a bit, and he called the VA yesterday to get the results of his endoscopy.   He’s never done this before; I wasn’t even sure they would give him the results over the phone.  Unlike the other tests he’s had, though, these results really mean something to him.  He’s tired of taking Prilosec and Tagamet and getting no relief; he really wants this surgery and he wants it soon.

There is no cancer (yay!!) but he does have gastritis and a large hiatal hernia.  He was sure he had the hernia so he was feeling really validated by that finding.  Dave was pretty upbeat and excited when he got off the phone, because things are moving ahead for the surgery that will hopefully put an end to his coughing and need for the medicines.

First, though, he has some other things to get out of the way.  They noticed he was waiting for the liver biopsy to be scheduled, so they decided to get that done before his next visit with his hepatologist (liver doc).  I was watching the captioning scroll by on the CapTel phone, and I swear I saw that he had an appointment with the hepatologist on Feb. 14.  Valentine’s Day!  On top of that, they scheduled the liver biopsy for Feb. 2, which is our nine year wedding anniversary.  Geez, are they trying to squash all the romance for us?!  😉

He’s got another hematology visit on Jan. 26 – this is the routine bloodwork and doctor visit to make sure the leukemia isn’t coming back (this was the test that uncovered the low platelets at the end of last year).  Dave goes for these visits every couple of months or so.

Then he has the liver biopsy on Feb. 2, and he should get the results when he sees the liver doctor (possibly on Feb. 14, but we aren’t sure because he hasn’t gotten any paperwork or official notice of that appointment yet).  This should tell the doctor the extent of damage (if any) to his liver, so he can get started on the proper treatment for Hepatitis C.

Somewhere in there, he has to get a test that will tell the gastrologist how much acid his stomach is producing.  I think it involves swallowing something – a quick online search leads me to believe it’s possibly the Heidelberg Capsule Test, because Dave mentioned swallowing something that would test the acid level in his stomach, but afterward he would just, uh, pass it naturally and they wouldn’t be retrieving it or anything.  (gack!!)  I think this is the last test he has to get before they will (hopefully) schedule him for the fundoplication surgery.

So, the news is pretty good so far, and thanks to Dave rockin’ the boat a bit, his medical journey is progressing a bit faster now.

Falling

So, I fell down the stairs yesterday.

Not a “head over heels somersault” kind of fall, more like a “feet swept out from under, slam down on your tailbone as you hit every step” kind of fall.  Ouch.

I wasn’t even running down the stairs or anything…I just stepped like normal off the second step and next thing I know I’m bouncing and slamming down the stairs to the landing by the front door.  (I think I need new slippers…the grippy stuff on the bottom of these is clearly wearing off!)

As I fell, I could feel my CI processors lifting up and then coming back down off my ears.  The magnets dislodged as well, so I fell in complete silence…to me, anyway.  (Dave said it sounded like Paige’s bed fell over…he had no idea what he was hearing!)  I couldn’t tell for sure if my CIs flew off my head and if they were damaged, or if they were still in my hair somewhere.  My first thought was that I hoped they were okay and not broken.

I lay on the landing, trying to decide how much physical damage I’d done, and suddenly felt Dave’s hands on my shoulders.  I couldn’t hear him, of course; I had to shake my head and put my hand up, telling him “I can’t hear, hang on” while I felt around for my CIs.  Luckily they were still on my head, just tangled in my hair, and were perfectly fine.  (I didn’t hit my head, thank goodness.)

In the end, I just ended up very sore and majorly bruised – across my shoulder blades (the first place I hit), my tailbone, my right palm (I must have put my hand down to brace the fall – I have a huge bruise at the base of my thumb) and the inside of my right arm.  I’m fine today, just a little stiff and sore.

What surprised me, though, was how fast my CIs flew off my ears…both of them.  I’ve always been a little paranoid at the thought of being in some kind of accident – car or whatever – and having my CIs fly off, then having the paramedics not realize I’m deaf.  (Without the CI processors and magnets, there’s no visible evidence that I wear them – no scar or shaved head or anything.)  I wasn’t really sure if they would come off that easily or if I was worrying for nothing, but now I really can see how the CIs would be the first thing to fly around in an accident of some sort.  I really wouldn’t want to be unconscious and be plunked into an MRI machine (a big no-no since I have magnets inside my head)!

So now I’m thinking I might spring for some kind of Medic-Alert jewelry…a bracelet, most likely.  I figure I’ll note that I’m deaf, bilateral cochlear implants, no MRI…I think that would cover it.

If you are deaf with CIs and have Medic-Alert jewelry that you are happy with, I’d love some recommendations of stores and/or what you have engraved on it.  Thanks!

Snap, Crackle, Pop…Part 2

I told Dave, “I think I’m getting a problem with static in my CIs” as I was standing over by the end of our kitchen island, while we made dinner.  “I keep hearing this kind of low staticky sound, but I think I’ll just wait until my next mapping to have it checked out, it’s not really that bothersome.”

I walked over to the Dutch oven to stir the onions that were simmering for our French onion soup.

“Um…never mind.  I just realized what I was hearing.”

Doh!

(Even two and a half years in, I’m still caught off guard by sounds sometimes!)

Dream, Dream, Dream

I was going to make this my Facebook status, but it’s one of those things that requires too much explanation…so instead I’m making it a blog entry.  🙂

I had this dream last night that I was back in high school.  That’s nothing new — I periodically have those awful dreams about being back in school and …   a: can’t find my locker;  b: can’t remember where my classes are;  c: have to take a test for a class I’ve forgotten to go to or have missed all year long for some reason.  Y’know, your standard stress dream…I usually wake up grinding my teeth after I have them.

This one, though, was different.  First of all, I was in a class with high school kids but I was my current age (46).  Yes, we were handed a test…but instead of panicking, I opened my purse to take out my reading glasses.  Then I thought, “Man, nobody else needs reading glasses…this is really going to make me look old!”  I looked down at the test and wasn’t worried; it looked like questions I could answer fairly easily.  BUT…then the teacher walked over, leaned down and said, “Oh, you actually don’t have to take this test if you don’t want to, because you’ve only been in class for two weeks.  You can wait until the 10th week to take it.”  It was like the warm, fuzzy version of a high school stress dream!

The dream continued – I was staying at school ‘til, like, 6:30 pm to finish projects because I enjoyed it so much and was doing so well.  I mean, really, it was the strangest, most enjoyable ‘school dream’ I’ve ever had!

A Question of Time

On Monday we went up to Hines VA hospital so Dave could have an upper endoscopy.  This was unrelated to his Hepatitis C diagnosis; he’s been going for fairly regular visits over the past year or so to figure out what is causing this chronic cough he’s had.  He doesn’t smoke, and nothing in particular seems to provoke it (exercise, etc.)  He’s had lung function tests, CAT scans and been put on medication for GERD, he’s been seen by pulmonologists and ENTs, and now he’s being seen by gastro specialists.

Since he had a bone marrow transplant back in 1993, he also gets graft-versus-host (GVH) flare-ups and these can manifest in all sorts of weird ways, affecting different parts of his body.  So we also thought the cough might be a GVH byproduct.

Dave loves to diagnose via Google, so he ran across this procedure called a fundoplication that he thinks will eliminate the GERD and the cough.  When he had his first visit with the Gastroenterologist, he brought up the possibility of getting this procedure and the doctor agreed that he’s most likely a candidate.  However, he had to get the endoscopy first.

He was given twilight sleep and it knocked him out completely so he doesn’t remember the procedure at all.  (He’s had twilight sleep before and still remained alert, so he wasn’t sure if he would be awake for this or not…I’m glad he wasn’t!)  I guess they took some biopsies so we are waiting to hear the results.  (This makes me very nervous because I always associate the word biopsy with cancer.)  It could be quite a while…they said it takes about a week to get the results, but he won’t actually find out what they are until they schedule another appointment with the Gastroenterologist. The way the VA works, they call you and tell you when your appointment is…you don’t call to schedule one yourself.  It can take weeks before they call to set up appointments…the endoscopy took about 3 weeks, and we are still waiting for a call to schedule the liver biopsy.

When Dave’s first blood test came back wonky (with low platelets) in early November, they scheduled him for an ultrasound a few days later.   We never found out the results of the ultrasound until Dec. 2, when he had another blood test and visit with the hematologist.  On that day, they took 15 tubes of blood because the ultrasound had shown his liver was enlarged.  He finally saw the hepatologist to go over the results of the blood work (which showed Hepatitis C) on Jan. 3.  So it seems to take about a month to find out the actual results of a test…and that drives me crazy, since I like to find out what’s going on right away.  This is really teaching me the fine art of patience!

So that’s where we are right now…waiting for the results of the endoscopy, waiting for another appointment with gastro, and waiting for them to call to schedule the liver biopsy. Sigh

 

Living With Cochlear Implants (2-1/2 Years Later)

(Is it just me, or is the first sentence of a blog entry the hardest one to write?!)  Okay, so it’s been almost 2-1/2 years since my cochlear implants went “live”, and if you’re curious about life with cochlear implants a few years later, this is what it’s like for me.

I wake up in my natural deaf state, and no longer cringe at the thought of how loud it’s going to be when I put on my processors.  I’m not sure if it’s just that my last mapping was extra-excellent or what, but usually as months go by, things just sound louder and louder to me.  I’m only going once a year for mappings now, and by the time I went in Sept. 2010 I was pretty much keeping my CIs on the ‘background’ setting all the time.  This setting compressed a lot of background noise and just kept things at a better level for me.  That’s way in the past now.  I don’t even change to ‘background’ in the car or stores automatically, the way I used to.  Now I pretty much stay on my regular listening program (at 12:00 for volume) from the start of the day to the end.

Listening with just my right ear (the worst one) is better now – voices no longer have the computerized, Darth-Vader quality to them.  But I do really need both ears to understand without lip reading.  If one of my batteries dies, or I slip my headpiece magnet off because the dog is barking like crazy (as I just did!) then I need to lip read to understand speech.  With both processors on, I can generally carry on a conversation with someone in the room without needing to look at them.

The phone will never be my friend.  I know there are people with CIs who can just chat away on the phone but I assume they don’t have the phone phobia that I have – I just hate the phone and I always have.  The only way I’ll feel comfortable on the phone is if I can perfectly understand every word I hear, so I don’t have to stress out about it.  That’s not the case, so talking on the phone is my absolutely least favorite thing to do.  I can do it – especially with the CapTel phone (this phone captions what the other person is saying, although there’s a bit of a lag and the captions are often not accurate) – but I only use the phone if I absolutely have to, for the shortest amount of time possible.  Like I said though, this is partly because I’ve never been one of those people who likes the phone.  I think a couple of other things play into it for me – the fact that I still have a high frequency loss even with my CIs, and the fact that I hear better with two ears than one.  I know I could probably do some kind of convoluted thing with a neckloop and putting both my CIs on T-coil to get the bilateral effect (I think…I’m not even sure about this) but the phone is just not important enough to me to make that kind of effort.  Give me email or texting, thanks!

Music is pretty good now, especially with music I already know.  I do practice listening to music on Pandora – I have a couple stations set up so that they play music I’m familiar with (or that is similar to that music) and I pop some headphones on and just listen.  I find that if I don’t do this, the quality of music does go down for me.  It also sounds better through headphones or Direct Connect.  But it has improved so, so much since the early days of listening with my CIs.  It used to just sound like crashing noise, especially music coming through the television.  For instance, we watch House and the intro song is Teardrop, by Massive Attack.  I always really liked this song before I went deaf, but after my CIs were activated it sounded truly horrific.  To be honest, I usually fast-forward the intro credits/song with our TiVo but lately I’ve been known to let the House intro play through, just so I can enjoy how good that song sounds now!

I’m tempted to do the list of things I can hear now, but yeah, that can be pretty boring to read.  Still though, it’s pretty cool to jump out of my seat when the dryer buzzes (downstairs!!) or to look around and wonder what the heck that noise is, only to see it’s my cat (way over on the couch) licking her paws.  Come on – I never even knew that made a sound!

I don’t have superhuman hearing though … last night Paige was sputtering and exclaiming about the fact that the neighbors were having a party (on Saturday night, geez) and playing their (crappy, according to her) music too loud.  Dave and I listened for a minute, shrugged and said we didn’t really hear anything.  “But you’re deaf!” was her response, spoken with classic teenage exasperation.  I had to laugh – she’s right about that!

So… identity, something I think I probably talked about before but it could use some updating.  I imagine most people with cochlear implants question their identity sometimes, as far as the “Deaf or not deaf?” question.  Before I went deaf in April 2008, I said I was hard-of-hearing or hearing impaired; that label doesn’t bother me because yeah, my hearing was impaired.  It didn’t offend me to say it.  And now when I wear my CI processors, I hear even better than I did back then…so do I still say I’m hearing impaired?  Nah, I say I’m deaf, because I am.  What I am when I wake up in the morning…I’m deaf.  No big deal, and it doesn’t bother me.

So I’ll usually tell people, “I’m deaf, but I hear through cochlear implants.”  I might explain that it helps me to lip read as well (if I’m dealing with someone that has an accent or a voice I’m not used to, I use every tool I can to help me understand).  Most people accept this without even questioning it and just continue to talk to me as they already were, maybe making sure to look up when they are speaking.  But a few times I’ve had people just stop and get visibly nervous – one guy stopped using his voice completely and would just nod and gesture to me.  That’s fine too – I know sometimes they hear the word ‘deaf’ and just stop listening after that because it can be scary to wonder how to communicate.  If I get a chance, I’ll point out that my CIs do help me to hear to put them at ease.

My tinnitus is GONE, folks.  That was probably the hardest part of being deaf – it was not quiet like I always figured it would be.  It was constant, crazy noise all day and all night, until I went to sleep.  There was never any relief at all.  It’s hard to explain what it’s like to hear all that noise and never be able to escape it.  I’ve always had tinnitus but in the past, I would put my hearing aids on to get rid of it.  My brain needed to hear something in order to settle down.  Once I went deaf, there was nothing to hear.  After surgery (but before activation, which was a month later), I still had tinnitus but the quality changed.  I heard pretty much the same few sounds rather than a wide variety of sounds (music, talking, etc.) like I used to.  Once I was activated though, my tinnitus disappeared within a week or two.  It is really peaceful now if I have my processors off, because I hear actual silence!  Every now and then I might get a soft sound, whooshing like the ocean or a couple of beeps or something, but it’s so soft and so rare that it just doesn’t bother me.  Even at night when I take my processors off, the most I might get is some soft sounds but it’s barely enough to be noticeable…for all intents and purposes, I consider the tinnitus gone (for now, and hopefully forever).

One more thing I wanted to touch on – captions.  I’ve seen a few people ask if getting CIs means you don’t need captions on the TV anymore.  Like everything else, this is going to be different for each individual.  For me, I still need captions.  I don’t need them if the person speaking is visible on the screen and I can read their lips, but for voice-overs I still rely on captions.  Sure, I can catch maybe 50% of what’s being said without captions, and I do practice this…I glance down at the captions only when I need to.  We’ve also gone to some movies without open captions – we saw Avatar and Tron in the theater the first week they were out, before the open captioned versions came to our area.  I didn’t catch everything but caught enough to follow the movie.  So I definitely do better in this area with CIs than I did with hearing aids, but I do still rely on captions.  However…my husband is also hearing impaired and my daughter loves captions (even though she doesn’t need them) so our TV will always, always have captions on!

Anyway, if you’re reading and you recently got a CI, it gets even better and better.  Even once you stop going for mappings every couple months, it still gets better.  What I hear now is what I remember hearing before I went deaf…and then some.  I could not ask for more!

What Are Words For?

At the end of the year, WordPress sent me this little recap of my blogging year (it was a nice surprise – I don’t recall receiving this at the end of previous years).  Nice, but embarrassing…because I found out that I posted four, yes, four times in 2010.

Rather than go through my various excuses, I’m just going to briskly clap my hands, declare 2010 in the past and start fresh here.  So a little fair warning – I’m just going to write about life in general, not necessarily living with hearing loss or cochlear implants.  Sure, I’ll still write about them but I’m also going to be writing about food, health, family life, house stuff, etc. … basically, all the things that consume my days.

Dave’s been writing and originally we both planned to write a little bit each day…he on his book (a memoir) and me on my blog.  We were going to start when the weather got colder.  Dave did start and I obviously did not.  I’m so glad he’s finally writing though, because he really has a book’s worth of stories to tell.  He’s 55 and he’s lived at least 5 lives so far!  We got to know each other through writing – we had a long distance relationship and our friendship began through email.  Once you’re physically together with someone, a letter or email from them becomes a rare thing and I’ve really missed reading his writing, so this is a treat for me.

We got a Nook Color for Christmas – this year we skipped individual gifts and went in on this one gift to share.  It’s our first e-reader and the first tablet kind of gadget we’ve ever tried, and geez, it is amazing.  It handles all the different tasks (books, magazines, internet, etc.) so quickly and the touch screen thing (new to us) is really handy.  Dave’s currently re-reading all the George R.R. Martin books in anticipation of the HBO series coming in April, Game of Thrones.  I’ve never read the books but I usually enjoy fantasy and sci-fi series so I’m looking forward to it too!

Dave was just diagnosed with Hepatitis C on Monday, so we’re waiting for a call from the VA to schedule him for a liver biopsy.  This isn’t a total shock – he was hospitalized for a couple of months back in ’74 with hepatitis when he was in the Army in Italy.  Back then, they said it was Hep B because they didn’t even know Hep C existed.  This latest doctor said he’s most likely had it with no symptoms or issues for all these years.

He goes for regular blood tests since he is a leukemia survivor, and his blood test in Oct. or Nov. showed low platelets.  That prompted his doctor to send him for an ultrasound, which showed an enlarged liver.  He was referred to the liver clinic (and sent for more blood work…15 tubes!) and that was the appt. he just had on Monday.  The biopsy should show the amount of liver damage (if any) and then we’ll find out his treatment plans from there.  If he gets put on an antiviral regimen (usually peginterferon and ribavirin) it might really make him feel like crap and could potentially last for almost a  year (most treatments are 48 weeks, sometimes 24) so he’s bracing himself mentally for all of this.  On the other hand, it might eventually help him feel less fatigued, and I know he would welcome that!

I just wrote all this other house-related stuff (moving, renovating, paint colors) and decided it was making this entry too long.  I always feel like people cringe when they see my long blog posts and emails so, for a change, I’m going to shut up and save that for another day.  Happy 2011, everyone!

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