Friday, September 09, 2016

recovery update; shows I've been watching

I miss sleep. There were maybe one or two nights of uninterrupted sleep in August, but since leaving the hospital I haven't slept more than six hours at a time, and frequently only three or four before I get up in discomfort around my abdomen. I'm not sure if it's the lying down that aggravates things, or the staying still, but sleep, true restorative sleep, escapes me for now.

You may think that I had a lot of free time in the hospital but it simply was not so -- I was constantly switching between pain and/or nausea, or had my mind clouded by Morphine or had eyes droopy with Gravol. In such states I could do very little but lay down until that fog would pass. Still, when the colitis symptoms were under control I did manage to watch a few of shows:

  • Sword Art Online: Why do I keep going back to anime? Nostalgia for the halcyon days in university? To avoid having to engage my face-reading skills of real actors? In any case, overall I enjoyed the first season of SAO, with each episode having enough conceits to keep me going. My biggest complaint would be the side story with the sister, which seemed contrived, unrealistic, and unnecessary.
  • Koko Wa Greenwood: Certainly nostalgia played a big part here (I look rather fondly on my time in residence), and I was entertained by how much (or little) I remembered of the series since viewing it some twenty years ago. I think it still holds up, quirks and all. And man I forgot how much I really dig the closing music.
  • BoJack Horseman: I maintain the opinion that BoJack is one of the best shows out there -- a flawed protagonist, relatable characters who undergo nuanced development, with themes of friendship, the pursuit of happiness, fulfillment, loneliness. It has everything a burnt out adult could want.
  • Lupin the Third: Castle of Cagliostro: A hankering to see this again was invoked by one of the Koko Wa Greenwood episodes, and it was a true joy to see Lupin again in a high adventure full of daring escapes, last minute rescues, and witty one-liners. I wasn't aware this was Miyazaki's directorial film debut, nor that he toned down the lechery of Lupin, but I am well and glad Miyazaki made these changes.
  • Rurouni Kenshin: I feel like it was my old friend Pops who recommended this to me, so many, many years ago now. As it was on Netflix it seemed an easy choice and I've got to say, it's actually really good, blending childish slapstick with intense hairs-breadth swordsmanship, much like its titular character.
  • HarmonQuest: I finished this short series shortly before going to the hospital but since I'm talking about shows anyway I'm adding it here. If you enjoy comedians playing Dungeons and Dragons, this is the show for you. Lots of laughs. On a sidenote, Dan Harmon's Harmontown podcast is also pretty swell.

As to how I am currently doing? I still have discomfort around my surgery wound, though laughing and coughing aren't nearly as agonizing as they initially were. I can walk about fifteen minutes before breaking a sweat or having to rest. I haven't weighed myself since leaving the hospital, so I don't know how much of the 30-40 lbs I lost have been regained. My appetite at least is very healthy, and I haven't had any issues with vomiting since the surgery. I find myself craving all kinds of food, generally of the unhealthy Doritos or fast food kind.

I have not gone back to work, staying at home and doing chores and hanging with the cats and flipping through Twitter and Facebook. The thought of being around people is a bit daunting; certainly the prospect of having to use a public bathroom I do not look forward to. Walking around with a stoma and colostomy bag is no joy either.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

a vicious cycle comes to an end

I got my Remicade infusion on Friday, August 12, a seemingly simple enough procedure. The nurse said it was chemotherapy, which stuck in my head. I guess I'd imagined chemo to be more involved or multi-stepped or something.

The next day was mixed, and I had a couple bouts of nausea and retching, squeezing my innards past empty, so that by the end I screamed putrid gusts of air.

Sunday is when things got serious: I had a fairly regular bowel movement in the early evening but it was soon followed up with a flood of blood BM. And then another even more urgent, even more torrential evacuation, so much so that I lost my vision for a second. And lo, as I washed my hands I experienced a head rush strong enough to make me stop, to make me slouch over the sink and slowly slump onto the bathroom floor. I rolled my head around, attempting to shake this heaviness off, this foreign dark fog of the mind.

I awoke to find my face on the floor at an distressing angle. I lay there a few moments realizing what had happened. Gathering myself, I pulled the nurse call string and braced myself against the sink, fearful of passing out again.

Over the next couple of days I received two units of blood to get my levels back to near normal. I continued the regimen of Prednisone and Methotrexate, still hoping that these and the Remicade would spare me from surgery and return my large intestine to normal. And indeed, my stools firmed up and the pain lessened, though I was highly constipated and often had to turn to Morphine and Gravol for relief. But the lack of symptoms was but a ruse: Sunday saw me throwing up and retching all over again, some five hours of hollering my guts into a basin, wiping away naught but white spittle until I collapsed in exhaustion, unable to face the world, dead by nearly every measure.

Monday, August 22nd I came close to passing. As with the week before, I woke to empty a large amount of blood from my bowels. This time I was careful to move slowly and avoid passing out. I got the nurse to give me some intravenous Gravol, in preparation for the nausea I now felt. I remember suddenly feeling an extreme unease, a general sense of malady.

"I can't see!! Something's wrong!!! I.. I hear ringing!" I scrambled and thrashed in bed, without direction, as my parents and fiancé looked on, stunned. "I'm dying, I'm dying!" My fiancé rushed to get the nurse. I got out of bed, "I have to go to the bathroom NOW!!" and pointed to the portable toilet chair which had been set up next to my bed. As I slipped off my underwear I recall losing control of my bowels and collapsing into the chair, even as I blacked out.

Later I was told that I lost over a liter of blood, that my systolic blood pressure dropped below 50 mm Hg, that I was in shock. I only remember having a peaceful, calm dream, the details of which will forever escape me, a self-erasing glimpse of some Elysian Field.

The nurses got me cleaned and back in bed, and with fluids being pumped into me the living world came back into view, the fog of nothingness drifting away. I remained calm, lucid even.

"Well, that was a lot of fun."
"How do you feel?" someone asked.
"I'm great!"
My mother sighed in exasperation.

My doctor told me, and all those around me, that I'd lost too much blood and that my large intestine had to come out now, the risk of more bleeding too dangerous.

"Mr. Hong, the colon needs to come out now."
"I don't want the operation."
"Mr. Hong, you must have the surgery. We have no other options."
"I know."

And so I left a piece of myself in Richmond Hill, and have several scars to show for it. The first night in ICU was pure agony, the longest night of my life: I was trapped balancing the pain of my back and the wound in my abdomen, never able to find relief for either, switching constantly between two extremes. I had been using Morphine pretty regularly before but now I had to plead for them to open the taps, to give my life an island to breathe on.

It has been a long fight, this war of mine, and I will emerge both a winner and a loser, much reduced is how I feel. You will forgive me if I am slow to respond, or lack a response in passing. The slightest breeze can knock me down, a kind word can set me into a river of tears, so close am I to reliving it all over again.

Monday, August 08, 2016

Back in the zone

I don't remember having to deal with such incredibly strong musical hallucinations the last time I was sick with colitis in the hospital. I really think I would, as it's currently driving me quite mad -- I keep hearing the same lame guitar riff fading in and out, some tired 80s rock ballad that is better left on tape. It is of course just my hearing's interpretation of the constant fans in my room, but the illusion is so damn convincing. And it is keeping me up, alongside the bubblings in my abdomen and the prednisone sweats.

Yes friend, I have once again tread back onto that murky path of pain, nausea, suffering, insanity that is ulcerative colitis. That I find myself so deep inside makes one's spirits fall, that all light should shudder so suddenly, so fully. The same disdainful nurses, the same apathetic system, the same curious doctors and their repeated questions -- all have passed before me as they do now, and having done so does not make the repetition any easier.

But sure, there is something in knowing that it can be passed, as remote a solution that may seem to me now, pumped full of drugs and finding relief fleeting and mixed. My life is put on pause elsewise -- dearer friends I do not know have helped keep my activities in order, as I continue to writhe and struggle to breathe, to push the pain out of my body like some spectral invader.

I remember missing food. Ye Gods, how I have squandered my daily calories on rot and fodder not fit for people. Surely there is a better way to learn this lesson?

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

wheels in motion

EMP Museum
Though it may seem so, I have not forgotten about you. It's just that many, many other things preoccupy my mind and my time, so much flotsam and jetsam.

The colitis is still with me, and my condition worsens. I am hopeful to get more powerful medication next week, when my specialist returns from their vacation. My days are a struggle with frequent, painful trips to the bathroom, my energy and mood low.

Space Needle
I have sold my condo, which is now empty save a couple chairs, my bed, and kitchen items; the rest is in storage, hidden away while my place was being staged. Mary Jean and I are moving in together to Riverdale, northeast of the downtown. A big step, sure. In fact, we plan to get married within the year. Yeah, that's the big news I have for you since I last wrote. Wheels are in motion!

Work, work is much the same. I did spend a week in Seattle for workshops, with a couple evenings to enjoy the city: open green hills, gentrifying neighbourhoods, distant mountains that seemed unreal. We had warm, comfortable days, ideal for exploring and seeing sights. I liked that the downtown didn't suffer from a dense packing of tall condo buildings, though I'd forgotten what real traffic can look like.

By the Johnston Canyon Ink Pots
Earlier in June, I traveled to Calgary with MJ, staying with her family and indeed it turned into a small family gathering. So many new faces! We managed to get a whole day to ourselves, driving out to Banff and Johnston Canyon, turning a relaxing stroll into several hours of hiking up and down a mountain, motivated to carry on by the breathtaking views. By the end though my knees complained noticeably, and I was thankful to return.

Not that Calgary is a big draw for me, though in truth I saw little of its character in my short time there. Still, I enjoyed the parks and the greenery, easily accessible and well maintained.

That's all the big stuff. Until the move in August, I keep busy with my FutureLearn courses ("Korea in a Global Context", "Biochemistry") and archery, Hearthstone, and Clash Royale. Peace!

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

we can rebuild him

My ACL knee surgery went as planned back on March 10th, a long day of traveling, anxiety, then realization and moments of suffering. Realization that my leg was pretty much useless, more a raw stump than a leg, unable to bend, packed tight with fluid. After the first ragged night I kept to my prescribed pain medication (Percocet), as well as the anti-inflammatory Naproxen. Unfortunately, this latter drug triggered my colitis, so that both my leg and stomach assaulted me when the Percocet dreamstate subsided. Once it was depleted, I found myself stressed that I would soon be unable to bear the waves of colitis nausea and pain. Thankfully, my gastroenterologist was able to get me a batch of Mezavant, and the worries went with it. Still, my internals are rather touch and go even now, some 19 days after the surgery.

Oh, the surgery, the very act of, was of little excitement. Sure, there was the stress of waking to make the appointed time with all of the required documentation, but the act itself passed invisibly: I lay on the hospital bed in the operation room (much as you'd expect -- sterile and filled with various instruments, trays, and cupboards) one moment, then waking in a hallway, my knee wrapped in the cold machine a good friend had leant me. My parents and partner helped me get home, a limp and drained figure.

My days then consisted of going to my physiotherapy sessions, struggling with such chores as going to the bathroom and doing my exercises. I'd have thought video games or Netflix would consume my awake time but as it happened I spent my hours doing my FutureLearn courses ("Cultural Studies and Modern Languages", "World War 1: Lessons and Legacy of the Great War", "Climate Change") and reading about Louis Riel, that poor soul.

I went back to work on the 21st, that first day feeling much like a blinking pup, with things slowly returning to normal. I continue to walk with one crutch, having discarded the other and the prohibitive leg-splint. The knee is becoming stronger and more flexible, though my right leg is but a sapling to its sibling. The cats kept me good company, and certainly my seemingly speedy recovery can be heavily attributed to my partner's attentiveness and care.

I am on the mend.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Playing games here and there

My internet, that blessed fount of procrastination, has been restored, restored after no less than five Bell technicians and uncounted phone conversations. What a kerfuffle! But now that it is here, surrounding me, binding me to the outer world, I have drunk deeply from its waters and have been fairly actively playing video games. Peace, when have I done otherwise?

For the computer, I have thus far played:
- The Book of Unwritten Tales: Downloaded this one way, way back and finally got around to finishing it. Really a lot of fun, with intricate hand-drawn graphics and lots of self-referential humour. Worthy point-and-click adventure.

- Convoy: I Kickstarted this one, intrigued by the notion of a FTL-like in a Mad Max-esque world. The combat employs a novel engine that plays like an RTS on rails. Fun, but graphics leave much to be desired.

- The Curious Expedition: Lovely, tiny pixel figures crawl around the world, annoying (and sometimes befriending) the locals while pillaging their sacred treasures. Though I would never condone such blatant looting I do find the game fun, what with its many flavorants and procedurally generated maps. Combat (for there are lots of nasties crawling around) uses a Yahtzee-like system for rolling combinations attacks.

- The Fall: I'd heard good things, and the game lived up to them. Excellent mystery and voice-acting in a gloomy, shadowed world. Slight annoyance with the odd UI, particularly in its offering of actions that cannot be performed. Highly recommended.

- Kingdom: Gorgeous. Simple, intuitive UI. Fair amount of replay value as you learn the game's tricks and events. I have put many hours into this game and have yet to finish it. For those who like to peel away layers of a game so that they may master it, and who enjoy building something from nothing.

- OTTTD: Over The Top Tower Defense! Or, at least I think that's what it stands for. Tower Defense with cartoonish graphics and a bit of RTS thrown in. Mindless fun.

- Skyhill: I'm not sure what prompted me to get this one. I do like the idea of a survival horror inside a building, but the implementation makes me wish it had more -- the map is too simple so there's little exploration, and the combat is just a series of die rolls. Curious that the game offers so many weapon options -- how many people that survive an apocalypse are also weapon aficionados?

- The Typing of the Dead: A blast from the past with a profane voicetrack! I actually enjoyed the regular point-and-shoot version (which is included), it being a very satisfying shooter. Upgrading the weapons gives some replay, but I tired of the game after finishing it.

- Void & Meddler: An interactive fiction game set in some rainy, Blade Runner future. A lot of hunting down items and speech options to solve puzzles. Perhaps I'll find the momentum to try this one again soon; I do like its story and look.

On mobile there are two poisons:
- Clash Royale: Holy cow this game is addictive! I mean, really, really addictive. As someone who used to pour hours into RTS (Starcraft, Command and Conquer, and all their ilk), this game combines that with card collecting and deck-building. A dangerous triple-threat to my daily life.

- Trivia Crack: I tried this one out late last year at the suggestion of my friend David. As a pure trivia game it's hard to fault, though the genre itself has little lasting appeal.

And... I'm sick! Or at least, coming down with something fast -- fever, sore throat, cough. I look forward to a night of sleep, of uninterrupted roborative sleep.

Sunday, February 07, 2016

Teksavvy sadness; my knee is broken; a bow in hand

My ADSL connection has gone way off, rarely any connection at all now. A lot of back and forth between Teksavvy, myself, and Bell, a maddening circle of bureaucracy to which I wonder if any relief can be found. If I say I don't have internet but the company desires that I prove it, what is the conclusion? I would more seriously consider dropping the whole thing if I didn't so enjoy watching videos, though I suppose I could get used to foregoing even that if it meant I could satisfactorily escape this hellish cycle.

January has now past, and my age has increased again. What more is there to speak of?

I had my MRI for my knee on the 5th, and it confirms our fears -- my ACL is torn, and surgery is required if I am to contemplate karate, or any activity that requires sudden changes in direction. I have tentatively booked an operation for the 10th of March, to be followed by a couple weeks of rest followed by rehab. I am nearly used to the idea of going under the knife, though a remote part of me still fears the worst, a most illogical and unlikely conclusion.

January also saw me become the proud owner of a bow! Olympic recurve, with 18 lb limbs. I am slowly warming up to it; indeed, I am rather enjoying my life in archery and am getting passably proficient at it. Pity then that I shall be forced to miss a month, what with me using crutches in March.

Though Timeful is no more, it taught me the value of making reusable to-do lists, which I have now incorporated in my weekly life -- 4 sessions of workouts, 3 sessions of piano, a couple for cleaning, a couple for the cats, and a blog entry. But fear not, I shall strive to update again soon.