Monday, March 26, 2018

Remembering Nacho

I knew there would come a day that we'd have to say goodbye to Nacho and honestly I'm surprised this day didn't come years ago. His health has declined quite significantly since Spence passed away. It was a little slower at first, but then picked up speed as his joints grew stiffer, his appetite grew smaller, and his wish to sleep away the day and not budge outweighed all other options during the day and night.

He's been living with my parents since Spencer died and has bonded with mom, and about mom only. My mom and sister visited me last weekend and mentioned that they thought they'd have to put him down. I didn't say too much, kind of avoiding the topic and stating that I knew the time would come. I changed the subject fairly quickly because I didn't really want to think about it.

But mom sent me a text message that said tomorrow was going to have to be the day. His white cell count is off the charts high and his liver and kidney's are failing. She desired to take him home one last night and love on him all that she could before tomorrow. I appreciate that very much. That text message just hit me kind of unexpectedly. I didn't really have any wave of emotion but tears welded up in my eyes and started to roll down my cheek. I knew it'd affect me, I just haven't wanted to think about it.

It's really hard to not feel like another little piece of Spencer is going with Nacho. Little by little it feels like he slips further and further away. Friends of his die taking cherished memories along with them. possessions get forgotten, given away, and those not needed thrown away. Pictures get pushed back into the gallery as new ones replace them. My own memories fade and become lost in time seemingly impossible to capture before some day they feel like they'll all be gone... and with each thing I lose that once belonged to Spencer, what once was continues to feel like a far away dream.

I have never seen love between a dog and his owner like I saw between Spencer and Nacho. Spencer rescued him one day at the shelter. He sent me a picture of a very scruffy looking dog that, honestly, kind of looked like a rat! I just laughed and told Spence he was crazy, especially after he chose to name him Nacho... but somehow the name Nacho just fit him.

Nacho claimed both Spencer and his mom, Pam, and there wasn't anyone who dared come between them! Because Spence was frequently in the hospital they were separated a lot. For awhile we got "special" privileges for Nacho to not only visit him, but to spend the night. In fact I'm about convinced that we were the reason they put stricter pet policies in place on his ward :) But honestly, I have no regrets. Spencer lit up so bright when I brought Nacho to visit. He became a different person and his outlook changed completely when Nacho showed up.

I easily became the "bad guy" with Cho. Spence spoiled him crazy! I was the one who made him go out into the rain to potty. I was the one who spanked him when he went inside of the house. I was the one he associated with Spencer leaving. He didn't like me all that much. But when Spencer was gone he sucked up to me, which was a nice relief.

Nacho loved lounging in the sun outside. But his favorite place to lay was in Spencer's lap, even better if he had a blanket to burrow under!! He tolerated a lot of things Spencer did to him, like dress him up in his shirts and making him dance to be just a couple things!

When Spencer got admitted into the hospital the final time I think there was a part of Nacho that knew his human wasn't coming home. I spent most of my days at the hospital and had our landlord and friend Sally care for him most days I was gone. He was left with Spencer's mom and brothers a lot as well. Because of strict ICU policies Nacho wasn't able to visit for the first couple of months. It wasn't until we got to go to the ICU step down unit and that Spencer was put on palliative care that they bent the rules for us.

I was able to bring Nacho to the hospital to see Spencer for the first time in nearly three months and I promise you there were tears all around. To see such a special bond be reunited was incredible and so, so heart wrenching at the same time, knowing it would be their very last reunion. Nacho got SO happy and could hardly contain himself. Once he got settled down he slept by Spencer the entire afternoon as Spencer petted him and slept as well.

I feel guilty for not caring for Nacho after Spencer died and I feel guilty I haven't done more for him, visited more, or just generally taking him in as my own. I'm so thankful my mom was kind enough to care for him. He really sucked up to her and she's about the only person he'll tolerate. I'm always afraid that he'll forget me each time I come home. But he doesn't! His little tail will wag so fast and he just can't wait for me to come and pet him. Of course he growls, but I know there is the familiarity there. Each time I'm home I made it a point to put him in my lab and cuddle with him, just like Spence would. I'll miss that.

Even though Cho and I didn't get a long the best... I'll miss that little growling mutt. I'll miss the memories he brings and the snuggles he gives when I'm home.

Thanks for being such a great companion to Spence, little dog. Give him some extra love for me when you get up there with him, okay?

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Angry Intestines

Coming into the knew year I wasn't feeling the best and so I knew it would start out with quickly figuring out how to get my intestinal health on the right track. I just didn't know it'd come so fast.

I don't write about my personal health issues very much on my blog. Largely because I have been very fortunate to not have any symptoms, and some because when things get bad I use Facebook and CaringBridge to share with friends and family to avoid having to repeat myself time and time again.

When I was 11 years old, in 2001, I was diagnosed with a form of inflammatory bowel disease called Crohn's Disease. After much debate and slight uncertainty my diagnosis was changed from Crohn's to Ulcerative Colitis (UC) limited to my lower colon. As I said, I've been very fortunate with how my health has played out (although when I'm sick I don't feel fortunate!). I've only had 3 *major* flare-ups in my 17 years of living with this disease.

Side note: I CANNOT believe I have had this for 17 years!

The last flare I had was in 2013 and it was very severe. I scared myself with how ill I got, how much weight I lost, and how quickly things progressed. I participated in a clinical trial and when that failed and I pulled out of it early it was recommended that I consult with a surgeon to remove my colon. Obviously this is not something I EVER want to have to face and it was terrifying for me. Luckily I consulted and got a second opinion from another specialist who was willing to try a couple of minor treatments to see if it helped me get over the hump to avoid surgery. I'm happy to say it worked and for the last 4 years overall I have been pretty healthy.

I tend to get "seasonal" flareups when the seasons change from fall to winter; many of us do. I feel rough for a month or two and my symptoms develop and increase, but then once winter gets into full force the symptoms die down and I feel myself again. However this time things aren't going as expected. I started feeling rough again late October and thought it'd all get better early to mid December. But my symptoms are just increasing and this last week I've felt exceptionally rough.

After a really rough day, I made an appointment with our local general surgeon to get a colonoscopy done as soon as possible. See, I'm supposed to be getting scopes done every 1 to 2 years to make sure my intestinal tissue is healthy and I am not developing polyps or any other nasty thing. Due to insurance, money, and time I haven't been scoped since 2013 sooo I am long overdue.

My appointment with him went very well and he agreed that the best step to take is to look and see what is going on in my colon. We suspect increased inflammation and a consult with my GI specialist to get back on a treatment plan with some new medications.

But as always, I always get reminded of the reality of living with a chronic disease like UC. After 8-10 years of having IBD the risk of colon cancer increases significantly. With patients, like me, who specifically have ulcerative colitis, that risk is even greater because the disease activity is limited to the colon, whereas Crohn's disease patients can have inflammation anywhere in the GI tract. Each year after year 10, the risk, as you might assume, continues to increase. I am nearly 20 years out and I was gently reminded that I am in a very high risk category to develop colon cancer.

No, this doesn't mean that I WILL get cancer (and I have to keep reminding myself this), and my doctor told me that only once has he diagnosed a patient under the age of 35 with colon cancer (who also has IBD <15 years), but that the yearly screens are critical to me decreasing my risk and catching a dysplasia early to prevent it progressing into cancer. With that being said, I'd lie if I said I wasn't concerned or nervous to what he'll find in a couple of weeks. I haven't been scoped in several years, so it's a little concerning. I have had a history of a lot pseudo-polyps suggesting that I've had a significant amount of inflammation and healing. Thankfully I don't think I've ever actually had a polyp, so I'm trying to stay optimistic that he won't find any this time, either.

I scheduled my scope for the 23rd and will follow up with my GI in Colorado following it. He said that he will be taking extensive biopsies throughout my colon to check for any abnormalities as a preventative measure. This assures me he has my best interests in mind and I'm so glad he is real with me and lays out all my risks and options going forth.

While I'm a little nervous for all of this, as I always am, I'm also ready to get the ball rolling and finally get back on track with regular screenings and maintenance of my disease. This was a goal of mine in 2018, so the earlier I can get it done, the more I can get accomplished this year! Update to follow when I finally learn what's going on inside of these angry intestines :)

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Just Keep Working Out

This week has reminded me why it's so important to quit stopping and starting workout routines! I think back to where I was a year ago.... even just 6 months ago! I started going to the gym in North Platte and got into a good routine of consistently doing SOMETHING to keep me active. After moving back home it was harder to stick with it, but my husband and I usually would try to take a walk in the evenings together... we even got into a stint that we'd go running (it didn't last but more than a couple of months).

But then our wedding came and went and I started working full time. I didn't have anything specific to work towards (like fitting in my wedding dress!) and it was exhausting trying to get into the work routine. I'd wake up at 5am, spend an hour driving to work, 10.5 hours at work, and then an hour driving home to get home at 6:30 or 7pm. All motivation to exercise after that is gone... and it hasn't gotten better, especially now since I also take call. 

I'm slowly trying to get back into that routine. Right now it's as simple as hitting 10,000 steps each day this month. Because that's how not active I've been. At work that's been pretty easy. My lowest was 10,006 and my highest was 13,295. Overall, I'm proud of not only my activity level but my eating habits as well.... But this weekend has been a completely different story.

After a long week of being on my feet and, basically just working and sleeping, I want nothing more than to sit on the couch and watch Netflix, crochet, or read. It takes a lot of conscience effort to get up and move, and even when I do it doesn't amount to very many steps! It's quite cold outside so it's pretty hard to will myself out the door when I don't have to. Today I feel like I'm going to be lucky to get over 6K steps in which I'm not too proud of, but I'll have to get creative tomorrow to get myself moving more! 

I did get on the elliptical for 15 minutes early this afternoon so that I didn't feel like I was being a complete couch potato. That's when I was REALLY reminded that I should never completely stop working out and being active. It is horrible trying to get back into a routine. It was embarrassing how difficult it was to sweat out those 15 minutes. Yikes! 

I am still a part of Beach Body and so I downloaded the On Demand app onto my phone and would like to pick a workout to do each day, especially if I can't get my 10k step in. Maybe after I get this exercise thing figured out again I can try to do the 21 day fix. 

I did that last February and it is the first thing that I've done that has actually WORKED. I wasn't super compliant about it, but I did eat significantly better, I didn't starve myself of food, and I was working out each day. I felt really good about myself after doing that, and I'm so sad that I stopped. 

I have to keep reminding myself that it takes time. If I jump into it full force and too fast (like I always do) I get so frustrated with myself and I never see it to completion. This time I want it to be different. This time I want to go all the way and by the end of the year look back at all I've accomplished with my fitness and health goals and be proud! 

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

In 2018...

I can't say that I'm a huge fan of New Years resolutions. I don't think I've ever kept one that I've made. They are full of good intensions but are incredibly hard to keep. January 1st doesn't magically fix all the bad habits created over years and years time. I've learned that it's okay so set goals and resolutions, but it's a process and it takes time to get to where you want to be. Even when a day or even a week doesn't go as planned, it's not reason to give up. I've got a whole year to make the change - I think that's key to helping me stick with it.

I've been thinking of things I would like to improve upon this year and while I've come up with A LOT of things I want to change, I limited myself and decided to break them down in my monthly calendar with small manageable steps each month.

By the end of 2018 here is where I'd like to be!


  • Be fitter, stronger, and leaner and feel good about my body
  • Getting my disease in check and seeing the necessary doctors to make sure I'm healthy from head to toe


  • Set back (at least) $100 each month
  • Continue adding to retirement fund


  • Two vacations with my husband; one being a week-long and one over a long weekend
  • Make a short trip to Utah


  • Being more open with my husband
  • Going on at least one date a month together


  • Less screen time and more time enjoying life through my own eyes
    • Spend more time cooking, painting, crocheting, reading, being active etc

I think that the most challenging thing for me is going to be finding the motivation for my health goals and, believe it or not, the easiest will be my financial goals. I struggle with the rest of these and it will take a conscious effort each and every day to follow through. I hope that by breaking them down and keeping them where I see them every day it will help me be mindful of them all the time!