August 7th, 2016

Update - the status of things in the land of the Gillian

Today I carried all my marketing myself. It was a backpack full of ten kom fruits (a type of citrus, possibly the most magical type there is), two big bulbs of fennel, tomato, sugar snap peas, bread, chocolate covered sunmuscats and some fresh cheese curd. I didn't have to carry it more than a hundred metres each time (to the car, from the car) but I carried it and it didn't hurt! The weight training is working, it seems, and it's only a matter of time before I can do all my supermarket shopping and carry it a mile. This makes it worth sticking to the schedule and exercises the rehab people and I devised.

I can now do the same amount of activity that a non-fit healthy person is capable of. Now I just have to work up to being a fit and healthy person. My aim is to be able to carry 20kg a mile, for that's what I used to be able to do. My aim with walking is to be able to walk 5 miles comfortably and to run for a bus without getting short of breath. This isn't as much as I used to be able to do, but I am older now, so it's a sensible aim.

My weight has stabilised now, and I get hungry. These things are linked. I was kinda hoping I'd be a few kilos lighter before my weight stabilised. Considering my doctor's already happy with my weight and considering I'm lighter than I've been in twenty years, however, this isn't a bad outcome.

I'm not skinny by any means, but my weight is in the safe zone. Well within the safe zone, in fact. And all the various people responsible for me have agreed that I am heavy for my height because I have big bones. This is rather important, because one of the reasons my heart problems went unnoticed was my erstwhile cardiologist was positive that I was far more overweight than I was, due to me apparently having small and light bones and therefore being about 35 kg overweight. I've lost eight kg overall and could lose another seven kilos without causing any problems. More than that takes my weight out of the safe zone at the other end. If 15 kg is the most I can lose sensibly, then 35 kg would have left me non-functional. All this is obvious to everyone now, and it's a relief to not have to argue that I don't have birdlike bones and that my large waistline is not all due to fat. While I would like a different figure and the chance of slim sylphness, working with my actual body type makes the goals achievable and is really making a difference in returning me to health.

My migraines are diminishing and my weather sensitivity doesn't produce quite as extreme symptoms as it did a few weeks ago. This means that the inflammation is lessening as my body heals. My doctor said this would happen. I'm afraid I doubted her, because it hasn't happened before, but it seems that a healthy heart makes an enormous difference to one's other symptoms. I still have many bad nights (I had one last night as the clouds pulled over Canberra) but even on a bad night, I'll get a few hours decent sleep.

Being able to lie down and sleep is an enormous gift. This time last year I was living on three hours sleep a night and those three hours were from sitting upright in a chair, for sitting upright hurt less. Now that my main back pain is ordinary back pain (and not referred from the heart) I can get out of bed, stretch, and then rest properly.

This is where those years of dancing and Pilates are paying off, because my back has come out this in remarkably good condition. The extended recovery from the operation, in fact, has sent my RSI into abeyance, so I have a stiff neck rather than damaged neck and shoulders and back muscles. This is one of the many reasons why I do two hours a day of various exercises: I love being more capable and in less pain.

I still have far too much pain, but it's getting less, week by week. Each week, too, a bit more of my days are spent in things other than dealing with my body.

My breaththrough personal achievement last week was being able to have hot baths again. Three months ago I could hardly stand up from sitting and had to sleep on a slope so that I could get out of bed safely. Now I can stand up from lying down, even if I'm lying down in a sloping and old (too small) bath.

I still need help with some household chores (vacuuming, putting rubbish out - things that require particular muscles used in a particular way), but I am reclaiming my own work in that, bit by bit, one chore at a time. I can lift up to eight kg now, and carry, as I said earlier, shopping for a short distance. All this makes me close to a return to independence. I'm expected to be able to do absolutely everything myself by late October. I also come off some of my medications then, with the rest of the temporary ones going in November.

I still have quite lot of background pain and the doctor says I'll be on pain relievers for a while yet (they're the November meds, in fact), but it diminishes week by week. And I can do more work each week.

I'm at a moment in my work when I could actually take on more work than I have been given, which is a good feeling. This means I can add a bit of research and writing in ie my life is suddenly not all about meeting my obligations. This week I've also done a bit on my seventeenth century novel. It's still way behind and I am still going to have to talk to my publisher, but last week it looked as if I couldn't do any this year at all. I'll give it til Conflux before I sit down with my publisher, I think, just so that I have a better understanding of where this year has left me.

The only work that my condition has run major interference with is this novel. There has been minor interference (some deadlines that needed to be shifted) but I've otherwise completed everything. The icing on the cake is that I made a significant breakthrough on my research just before I went to hospital, and I wrote notes about it into my academic paper (which has since been published in Croatia, because life does these things). That breakthrough pulled me ahead of where I expected to be, and means that I'm not even a day behind with my big new project, despite having had time out.

I am very thankful for intellectual insights at unexpected moments. Fandom has won themselves any number of papers and workshops and presentations because without their request for this, I'd be behind in my new project. I needed the push they gave me. I thought I was further behind, because I lost the paper, so I need to thank KJ Bishop as well as fandom. Kirsten wanted to read it and so I found it and pulled my research back together.

My finances are fine. Thanks to everyone, enough work came in and I am able to pay all my bills and even put money away for the very high electricity bill I'm expecting.

I know I went back to work a bit early and have pushed things on that front, but it was really worth it to reach the moment where I could pay everything without worrying. I can even afford occasional treats! It was also worth it because I know that I'm going to be fine for fulltime work in a matter of weeks. If I don't need to do fulltime work then, I can take more time off but I don't actually have to. After Jewish New Year, in fact, I'll be able to do almost anything. This is a very special magic. It means that when people ask "Can you come in and give a talk?" I can negotiate a time. I have two talks set up for various community groups and I am going to Melbourne for my booklaunch.

I always feel happier when I work, so being able to do things makes a big difference in my sense of well-being. This means I'll feel emotionally better in September, for all the work of a new book has been moved to then. I m able to do interviews and blogposts and .... loads of things. I hope that people want them! I lost so much momentum this year - I want to make it up.

I think the summary of this is: medicos extremely happy, rehab case manager extremely happy (I am meeting all my targets ahead of schedule, which augurs well for my longterm health - I had my meeting on Thursday, so this is news almost hot off the press), Gillian wanting to be better much faster than is possible and grumbly about every delay but making progress anyhow.