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The Next 10 Years
doubtful, but anything is possible!
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I've been on my medication for MS since the end of September. At first, it did make me feel like I had the flu the day after a shot, but now it really doesn't affect me at all. The shot itself is painful. Actually, it's not the needle that is painful, it's the medicine that stings/burns quite a lot. Giving myself a shot is a rather stressful process. It is much easier to get a shot than to give yourself one. So, on the nights that Jim is home, he does it for me now. At first he wouldn't do it, claiming that I needed to learn to do it myself and he didn't want to enable my avoidance of it. So, now I get a shot three times a week. Some weeks I have to do it myself every time, other weeks I get a break and have Jim do a couple of them. I hate having to give myself a shot, but I'm grateful that it is available. Other than making my life a bit more complicated because I have to have GROUP health insurance to cover my meds/testing and the inconvenience of the shots, I really have not been affected at all by this disease. Hopefully it stays that way.
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It never ceases to truly amaze me what evil man is capable of. Today I watched the HBO documentary, WHITE LIGHT, BLACK RAIN: THE DESTRUCTION OF HIROSHIMA AND NAGASAKI. Of course I've read first-hand accounts of the bombings in the past, but this documentary was such a stark reminder of the suffering of these people. Man's will to survive and rebuild are equally as remarkable. I cannot for a moment imagine being able to carry on after going through what these people did. But, as these survivors tell their stories in this piece, it is clear that the human spirit is stronger than anything imaginable.
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Went to Savannah Tuesday and Wednesday with Jim. Stayed at a great B&B The Green Palm Inn. It was my first time in Savannah. Bumbled around seeing the area on Tuesday and had dinner at jazz'd tapas bar. We wandered around a bit more on Wednesday and drove out to Tybee Island for a quick look see. We had to get back to River Street by 2:15 to catch our boat for a dolphin watching cruise. That was a lot of fun. We saw a lot of active dolphins. After a couple of hours out on the water, it was back to land and then the drive back home. It was a short getaway, but a much-needed one.

I took yesterday off from the shelter since Jim was working Friday, Sunday, and Monday this week. It's been so long since I didn't spend Saturday at the shelter, I kept thinking it was Sunday the entire day. I was all discombobulated. I did go drop off some donations to the Humane Society Thrift Shoppe and then swung by the Humane Society shelter down the street just to check it out. The more shelters I visit, the more I realize just how good my cats at Jacksonville Animal Care & Control have it these days. They've got much nicer cages and, of course, the beds and toys that I make for them. They have real litter boxes and just have much nicer environments. The cats up for adoption at the other shelters I have visited are all in cages like JAC&C has their holding/stray cats in (but even our cats in holding have little pillow beds that Margie and I sew for them). It's always good to visit other shelters. I usually come away with more appreciation for what we do have in Jacksonville. JAC&C is FAR from ideal. The shelter was built to hold 450 animals. As we take in 150 - 200 animals a day, we usually have closer to 700 animals at the shelter on any given day. Any other shelter I have visited has FAR fewer animals than that. So, I feel like when considering the volume in Jacksonville, it's actually pretty good in comparison. Every day is another opportunity to improve just a little bit more and I have seen a LOT of improvement over the last year. Today I was able to complete four more cat beds and start a new batch of catnip pouches. By the time I get there next Saturday I should have doubled the number of beds and have another 30 pouches done.

I'm so happy when I walk into the cat room and see them all resting comfortably in their beds. When I started volunteering there, they didn't have any beds. They had just a pillowcase or something like that on one of their shelves. This would lead to cats laying in their litter boxes. Who wants to adopt a cat that's sleeping in its litter box? They didn't have anything to scratch. Now they all have scratchers. And they certainly didn't have anyone to groom them. I have a grooming table with all sorts of grooming tools up there. I wish they were all in foster homes, but if they have to be in a shelter, their situation is definitely much better than it was a year ago. Gotta feel good about the things that CAN be done.

OK, that's all for now. Gotta get to bed.
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Well, I'm pretty well settled into my new place now. Living with Jim is great now that we have enough space. My old apartment was just way too small for two people. So, the living arrangement is working for me and I'm quite happy that Jim and I have made it this far together. I really love him more each day. It's nice.

I was working on a new venture with Steve for a while, but with the mortgage and real estate industries COMPLETELY TANKING, that didn't work out so well. Mortgage companies are looking to pull back as much as possible, not spend money on innovative marketing programs at this point. So, the last time I got a paycheck of some sort was probably back in February. That's fine, but my medical insurance is costing me $530 a month with COBRA and that even runs out at the end of the year. After December I won't even have the privilege of paying that kind of money for insurance. So, I have to find a "real job." The problem is that I have to get GROUP medical coverage. An individual plan would do me no good because it wouldn't cover pre-existing conditions (i.e. multiple sclerosis). My medications alone would cost me just over $2k a month without insurance. It's been a very, very long time since I had a "real job" where I actually have to get up and out of the house, preferably showered, and be somewhere at a certain time. It's been even longer since I had to be somewhere at a certain time and couldn't come and go as I wished. So, I'm looking at some serious adjustments in the near future.

Since I absolutely loathe going to an office and am completely tired of sitting in front of a computer all day every day, I decided I'm changing careers. I love all of the time I spend at the animal shelter each week. I have spent a couple of weeks doing the shelter job full-time (as a volunteer) to see if I'd like being there more than a couple of days a week. I did a week of kennel work and then a week of medical. It's hard work, but I really do love it. It's also 40 miles away, but I know the place and the people and there really isn't a lot of traffic in this area (compared to Boston there is NO traffic here). So, once a new vet tech position opened up at the shelter, I applied. The vet was so happy that I was going to be working there. This is a civil service position with the City of Jacksonville so there are lots of hoops to jump through before one can actually start working.

I passed the initial application review. I went and had my interview, which was kind of funny because it was with the vet and other techs that I've already been working with anyway. The big joke at the end was when they asked me if I'd like a tour of the shelter (which is what they would normally do at the end of a successful interview). I said I'd give the tour. Then I had to wait for all of my paperwork to be processed before I could get a date for my physical. Finally, I went for my physical and then went to City Hall to be fingerprinted and photographed so they could do my background check. I had to go back to have my fingerprints taken again because the first set got rejected by the national database. The final step in this process was to go for an "isokinetic test". This is basically a machine hooked up to a computer that measures one's maximal force and endurance. About a week after my physical I went to a rehabilitation center to have this test. All of the kennel staff that had done it before said it was really hard, but I'd be OK. Just do the best I can. I did the best I could. I was fucking sore as hell for the next two days. The day after the isokinetic test, I went by the shelter because the vet had asked if I could come and participate in a conference call with someone at UC Davis for a study on feline URI that the shelter is going to participate in. When I got there I told the head tech that I had taken my isokinetic test the day before. She said she knew. I asked her if she had the results yet. She did. I didn't pass. I wasn't really overly SURPRISED that I didn't pass, but it hurt real bad. I teared up and had a hard time keeping myself from just busting out bawling my eyes out. The vet and the techs were all almost as disappointed as I was. They got in touch with the director and tried to find a way around it. This being city government, the rules are the rules and I knew that. So, anyway, the vet is trying to get them to hire me part-time until I can reapply. In the meanwhile I can hit the gym and prepare. Unfortunately, I cannot reapply for the position for 6 months. That's too long from a medical insurance standpoint since coverage doesn't begin until at least 90 days following start date in that job. I mean, I'm happy to work for them part-time until I find something else, and they know that I can't commit to a specific time period for part-time work. There are several data analysis projects that I really want to do and if they can get me the PT work I'll be able to do them.

The thing that really sucks about all of this is that I know I can do the job. I've been doing it as a volunteer for the last year. I should be starting with this new group of hires like next week. But I won't be. I cried a bit that morning, but by the afternoon I was OK with it. I knew that everything will work out regardless of whether I end up working there right now or not. It was just incredibly disappointing because I was so excited to start on this new path. All of this for a job that was going to pay me less than half of what I was making last year and 40 miles away!

Sure, I can probably find a job closer to home in a veterinary clinic, but it isn't the same. The shelter medicine is what I love. There's a clinic up the street from me that is hiring kennel help, but they don't offer medical insurance, so that's out.

I could just get married and solve my medical insurance problem. BUT, I already got married once for medical insurance, just in the opposite direction: so I could get Dean onto my plan. That didn't work out. I'm still VERY jumpy about the whole concept of marriage. I'm happy the way things are now and I don't want to fuck it up. If I were to get married, I'm afraid I would feel trapped and freak out. That's really the last thing I want to have happen. (Yes, Jim would marry me if I wanted to get married.) So, I'd really rather not go down that road for something like medical insurance. That's just dumb.

My savings are dwindling at this point, so hopefully I'll get a couple of projects or get this part-time work at the shelter or find something good soon.

Oh yeah, and I quit smoking again about a week ago. So, just as I got over being totally cranky about the job thing I jumped right into something else to be cranky about. I have found that sewing has been really good for me during this time. Sewing is not an activity that I ever mixed with smoking and I can get really into it. So, when I really "need" a cigarette, sewing for a while helps me get through it. The cats at the shelter will benefit quite nicely from my smoking cessation program!

Melissa's (my brother's girlfriend) father was diagnosed with cancer a couple of weeks ago. It's not good. Pancreas and liver. He's starting on a clinical trial of some new chemo therapy they've got going on at Mass General. It has been going for a while and has worked for some people. Basically, it may shrink the tumors and buy him some more time. It's not expected to send him into remission. He's 52. Worked hard all of his life and now it looks like it will be cut short. It's been hard on my brother because this guy has been really good to him and is like a 2nd father to him. It just reinforces what I have believed for some time now: We have to balance living today and planning for tomorrow. Working your butt off and banking all of your spoils your entire life in plans of a great life in retirement makes no sense when we don't know if we will be around for it.

Mmmmm, I think that's about all I have to say for now. I'll try and keep this updated with any new developments in the job situation or anything else of any importance.
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Wow, it's really amazing how quickly time passes as we get older. I turned 31 this year and really felt like 30 should have lasted a lot longer than it did.

In 2007 I:

- Started volunteering at Jacksonville Animal Care & Control on Saturdays. This is something that has really been very important and rewarding for me. I originally planned on spending one or two Saturdays a month there. I have wound up being there every Saturday that I'm not out of town.

- Had my apartment all to myself. It really wasn't all that I would have hoped/expected. I mean, it was nice to have the entire place to myself because the apartment was so small, but I missed Jim a lot.

- Was laid off from my job with Equinox. That's fine since I had saved up some money over the past year to get me through any such event and I started working with Steve again.

- Went to Las Vegas for the first time. It was good to go, but it's not really my kind of place.

- Was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. Although it was a moderately big deal at the time, it really isn't a big deal at all now. I DO hate giving myself a shot 3x a week, but that's really just an inconvenience compared to the many other ailments that could be plaguing me and the treatments that I'd have to go through. I'm also grateful that the treatment is available. If this was 30 years ago, there would be nothing that could be done for me. And, if I lived outside of the U.S. today, there would likely be nothing available to me. My friend in Hungary has a friend who was recently diagnosed. What they told her? "There's nothing we can do." The pill-form of MS treatment is in Phase III clinical trials and should be available to the public sometime in 2009. So, I really can't complain much about the shots. At least there is treatment available to me and it will likely not be in the form of an injection for the rest of my life. I haven't experienced any more episodes since diagnosis either.

- Took in 3 feral kittens that were born under my apartment building. Although it was a LOT more work than I expected to tame them and get them ready for adoption, it was educational and rewarding.

- Got a sewing machine and started learning to sew. At this point, I just make cat beds for the cats at the shelter. Perhaps in the future I will take some classes and learn to make clothing and/or more interesting things.

- Moved to Saint Augustine in the last days of 2007. Moving is never a fun experience, but the new place is so much better than the old place, it was certainly worth the work!

I'm sure 2008 will be even more interesting...a preview of the events I am aware of at this time:

- Settling into my new place

- Trip to South Africa

- Getting Butterscotch adopted

- Lots of friends and family coming to visit (and now they have their very own room/bed/bathroom. =)
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I went to see the director of the MS program at Shands a couple of weeks ago. He agreed with the diagnosis and treatment plan. He said that my MRIs were not especially impressive, so not a whole lot of damage has been done at this point. He felt that my outlook was very good.

So, I've got my medicine and the nurse is coming tomorrow to teach me how to do the injections. Jim's going to come and stay the night with me since it's my first time and I'm a little nervous. His mom was so sweet today. She called and was going to offer to come and stay with me for my first night on the meds if Jim had to work. =)

So, that's the update. We'll see how bad the side effects are for me tomorrow night/Wednesday morning.

I'm doing a Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday schedule (injections in the evening) so that I am well on Saturday morning/afternoon and can still go to the shelter and take care of the kitties. This past Saturday was a BUSY one! Next Saturday is our monthly volunteer meeting. I'm usually pretty tired by the time I get home from there anyway, so taking my injection on Saturday evening and sleeping in on Sunday will be perfect.
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I had my doc's appointment this morning and everything is consistent with MS. I am going to go see another neurologist that only deals with MS cases to get a second opinion on the diagnosis and treatment plan. I should be able to get in to see him within 2 weeks.

My parents got here yesterday morning. Clearly they are not happy with the news, but have actually taken it better than I expected them to. It's been an OK day for me. Obviously I've had better days, but I am positive I'll have much worse days in my lifetime.

I gotta get to bed. Lots going on with work this week (of course, perfect timing, right!?).

I'll write more soon...
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I got all of my blood work done on the 10th and now I'm just waiting to go back to the doc on the 6th. My parents seem to have reversed roles now: my dad being the one freaking out and my mom being the practical one. They're both coming down on the 5th, but my mom said it was OK if Jim and I went to the office together and then just came home and gave the report. Honestly, at this point, I think I'd like to just send all of them to the doc and I'll stay home and wait for the report. =)

I'm going to take my mom (and maybe dad, depending on his mood) to the animal shelter where I volunteer so they can see what I've been doing lately. I'll try and take them to the Alligator Farm too, but, again, I don't know if my dad will want to go. When I mentioned it to him, he said, "Lisa, we're not coming down there for vacation." I said, "Well, if you want to sit in the house being miserable for four days, you can, but I'm not." So, we'll see. All I know is that regardless of the diagnosis, the LAST thing I want to do is sit at home with my parents and mourn my situation.

My vision in my right eye has improved a bit. However, I have been having some tingles in my head and some neck pain. Related? Who knows! I also did have several weeks of numbness in my right foot/thigh a while back (maybe 8 - 12 months ago?), but I can't remember EXACTLY when it was.

I talked with Catherine a few nights ago. She was diagnosed with MS about 12 years ago and has not had any symptoms in the last 10 years. She was on crutches and had lots of problems for about a year after being diagnosed. Now she isn't even on medication anymore! So, it was good to talk with her. She's also a Human Resources person, so she was able to fill me in on any insurance info I will need to know if my diagnosis turns out to be MS.

Once again, I'M FINE. I don't have a brain tumor. None of the possibilities are terminal. =)

I'm just hoping that in a couple of weeks when I go back to the doc she'll be able to tell me what is going on with me. I won't be surprised if she says we need to do more tests, but I'll be a little disappointed.
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I got the MRI of my neck done today. The place called me at around noon and said they'd had a cancellation, so if I could come in at 1 o'clock they could do my scan.

I like the enclosed MRI better than the open one. The first MRI was in the open machine. The top of the machine is RIGHT UP TO YOUR FACE in the open one. Yeah, the sides are open, but you can't turn your head, so you can't see that. And, the open MRI takes longer than the enclosed.

Today I was in the enclosed MRI machine and it was actually a lot better. There's more space between your face and the top of the machine and it only took half an hour.
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