brca bullshit

How Otto came home

Dana Kollmann – former professor, fellow deviant (in a legal, only slightly unhealthy way), and troublemaker. She was the beginning of this adventure, and we will forever be indebted to her for bringing us this goofy, wonderful ball of joy. It all began when I saw this post on her Facebook wall:

Dana's FB Post About Otto
The Facebook post that started it all…

After seeing Dana’s post, I emailed J, who was, of course, exceedingly practical in saying: “he’s too big and our house is too small”. I continued pleading with him though, because I had a very strange strong GUT instinct that told me that we needed this dog as much as he probably needed us. We were each going through a lot of personal struggles, and settling into a fairly unhealthy/sedentary lifestyle, so a dog was one solution we discussed to get us moving (and J had wanted a dog badly for as long as I had known him). I reminded him of this, and he relented, allowing me to email the woman who posted the initial plea. Below is the email exchange with her:

Emails About Otto
The initial email exchange.

The following day, much to our surprise, our landlord agreed to let us add a dog to our already very full house (for a VERY reasonable pet fee of $20/month) – we were almost positive that he would not agree because he had seemed so adamantly opposed to dog ownership when we signed the initial lease, but very thankful that we were wrong! I enthusiastically updated Dana, and thanked her for sharing the post.

Thanking Dana
Thanking Dana

On Saturday, April 20th, we drove to Middle River, MD to meet Otto. We met Missy and her husband in the parking lot of McDonalds down the street from Otto’s original owners’ house. From there, we followed them to the house, all the while feeling both apprehensive and excited to see this big boy.

When we arrived, the two men that had been “taking care” of Otto brought out a shaggy, skinny, sad-looking dog and I thought my heart was going to burst into pieces – he walked right up to me, licked my hand, then continued past me to Jason, on whom he rested his head, and leaned his (obviously) weary body. The men loaded him into their SUV and asked us to follow them to a local park so we could “see him out in the open” (we now think that this was an attempt to hide Otto’s living conditions from us so that we would not report them). Upon reaching the field, they unloaded him and we sat under a pavilion and talked to them about Otto’s story – most of which we have since determined was one giant lie.

We were told that he was a 5-year-old purebred Shiloh Shepherd, a rare breed thought to be a cross between large German Shepherds and possibly a Malamute line. They explained that he had undergone K-9 police dog training, but unlike his father and brother, had not been selected to be a police dog because he “lacked a prey drive” (these people were idiots – just ask my poor cats about his ‘prey drive’!). They went on to say that their father had retired from the police force after suffering from complications related to Lyme disease, and since both the father and brother had been killed in the line of duty (we are still looking into whether this part of the story is true), they had no desire to keep Otto as a pet – they only wanted working dogs.

Meanwhile, while they were telling us about him, Otto was desperately searching for water on the ground (he was clearly extremely dehydrated), climbing on the picnic table (apparently his go-to sleeping spot in his “habitat” in their back yard), and endearing himself to each of us individually in various different ways. By the time the massive impending thunderstorm hit, both J and I were already telepathically communicating (mostly via pleading looks at each other and Missy/her husband), and we agreed with the two men to come back and get him the next day. After they left, Missy and her husband climbed into our car and we finalized the plans to bring him home with us. It was everything J could do not to follow them that very night and beat them to a bloody pulp – but Missy and I both felt that it was best not to antagonize them until we had him in our possession.

After we left them, I realized that I didn’t take any pictures, so I quickly sent a text to Missy, who replied with (the above) photos. We continued to text back and forth, and discussed how to get his vet records – we were very anxious to remove him from this terrible situation!

Yesterday, Sunday, April 21st, we brought Otto home. He was neither afraid, nor even remotely hesitant to get into the back of our CRV, and perhaps I am making him a bit anthropomorphous, but to me, he looked relieved. Of course the “crate” they said they would provide was rusty and disgusting, so we met my mother at the Catonsville PetsMart to buy him a new crate. He had a very unpleasant accident in one of the aisles after eating a can of dog food after going probably several days without any real food or water, but my Mom and J helped the employees clean it up, and we got him some new things and packed him up to go home.

Otto Riding Home
Otto Riding Home

Today, we took him to the vet, where we learned that he only weighs 83lbs (grossly underweight – according to breed standard, he should be at least 120lbs!), and that he has a skin infection, fleas, worms and probably other issues as well. He did, however, test negative for heart-worm, so we are saying prayers to the puppy powers that be that he will be able to thrive given some TLC (and lots of expensive tests and antibiotics). He’s also still “intact”, so we’ll likely need to get him neutered once he’s healthy.

Welcome home, Otto!

brca bullshit

Kickin’ ass and running miles … back in the swing!

Repost from Facebook:

Just finished Couch to 5K week 1 run 1 with Get Running. Distance: 2 MILES!

I haven’t run in exactly 1 year and 21 days, I have gained 20 lbs and I’ve spent a looong time on my ass on the couch…and yet, I just started at a pace that I had only reached towards the end of the program last year. The human body is an amazing thing. I don’t think I’ve been so proud to be in pain in my entire life.


Update (6/25/13): Aaaand…. haven’t run since. Doh.

brca bullshit

1 year BS visit

I wasn’t excited about this visit – hell, I almost didn’t go, but I was unprepared for what transpired.

The first thing that happened was a lot of unnecessary fussing over my blood pressure. I hate doctors, and I am in constant pain…why do you think my blood pressure is elevated?! When I finally convinced them that this wasn’t the end of the world, they took me in a treatment room and there I waited. And waited. And waited.

Finally, in came my breast surgeon, who I had not even spoken to since the nasty email exchange (to be posted in Terri’s “Letters to Doctors” book), and the look of shame was written all over her face. Apparently, she had been following up, just not with me. The first words out of her mouth were a jumble of apologies and statements of disbelief, but it seems that she believes me now. It only took 14 months.

We discussed all 35,000 treatments and supplements and drugs and therapies I had tried and she finally handed me a piece of paper with Dr. Denney’s name and number on it. “One last pain doctor to try?” she offered. I took it, because I’m not one to look a gift horse in the mouth. We discussed options and then she dropped the bomb.

“Why haven’t we done a breast MRI?”

*beat of complete silence*

“Have you considered having then removed?”

I actually did a dramatic teen eye-roll here (a la the divine Ms. Tina Fey) and heaved a great big sigh as I answered her question with a quote from a previous phone conversation: “I wouldn’t know what kind of MRI to order – you need to see a specialist.” At this point she got that I was irritated and apologized again, explaining that “she’s never had a patient like me before” and “she’s been reading everything she can find for months”. She blinked a few time while I just side-eyed her in my paper gown, and then repeated her question:

“Have you considered having them removed?”

Yes, I told her, and many times I’ve come VERY close to removing them myself. I explained about my new-ish plastic surgeon, and re-iterated that if the other surgeon’s name was even mentioned, I’d strangle her with my hospital gown. She looked vaguely afraid of me by the end of the appointment, but rightly so. She should be afraid. Very. Afraid.

But, I did leave the appointment with a pain doc appt (since they keep ditching me) and an MRI scheduled. It seems that the universe really needs a kick in the ass to jump start it, lately…

UPDATE: My MRI has been cancelled 3x. Still haven’t had one. The medical community’s un-ending bullshit NEVER fails to surprise me.

brca bullshit · pain management · psychobabble


Lamictal is a drug that no one should ever try. Not for the disorders for which it is intended, nor for the off-label uses that are absolutely absurd. My psychiatrist made it sound easy: “it’s a mood stabilizer,” she said! That sounds pleasant enough, I thought, but i wondered why she found my mood so unstable.
As it turns out, the last of the original doctors had finally turned to the dark side: the pain was now officially “in my head”. Somehow I developed a mood disorder from the time of my surgery until now – I’ll admit, I had been testy, tired and depressed from the pain, but wouldn’t everyone?
Still, sadly, I questioned myself and began to doubt reality. A mood disorder had a treatment. A mood disorder could be controlled. Lamictal could be my saving grace! Except it wasn’t – and it could have ended up killing me.
Possible Side Effects:
Call your doctor at once if you have any of these other serious side effects:

  • the first sign of any skin rash, no matter how mild;
  • fever, swollen glands, body aches, flu symptoms, headache, neck stiffness, increased sensitivity to light;
  • easy bruising or bleeding, severe tingling, numbness, pain, muscle weakness;
  • upper stomach pain, loss of appetite, dark urine, jaundice (yellowing of the skin or eyes);
  • chest pain, irregular heart rhythm, feeling short of breath;
  • confusion, nausea and vomiting, swelling, rapid weight gain, urinating less than usual or not at all;
  • pale skin, feeling light-headed or short of breath, rapid heart rate, trouble concentrating; or
  • increased seizures or worsening of your bipolar disorder.

Less serious side effects of lamotrigine may include:

  • tremors, dizziness, tired feeling;
  • blurred vision, double vision;
  • loss of coordination;
  • dry mouth, mild nausea, stomach pain, upset stomach;
  • changes in your menstrual periods;
    back pain;
  • sleep problems (insomnia); or
    runny nose, sore throat.
  • *This is not a complete list of side effects and others may occur. Call your doctor for medical advice about side effects.

…Ask me how many I had. Go ahead. Ask me! Yes, friends, you guessed it – almost all of them.
Weeks one-three: double vision, sore throat, swollen lymph nodes, intermittent fever/nausea, headache (but let’s be honest, everything gives me a headache) and ACNE. I looked like a hormonal teenager (and felt like one).
Doctor’s visit:
Me: My throat is so sore I can’t swallow – is this related?
Doc: Nope.
Me: I can’t see my computer screens at work because my vision is so blurry. Is this related?
Doc: Nope.
On it went, until week 7, when, at 125mg, “the rash” fears started. This is when I started researching…turns out, you can *die* from a rash reaction, which turns into “Steven’s Johnson’s Syndrome” (i.e. your skin falls off). I told the Doc that I was fearful of all my reactions, and she told me to quit…cold turkey. Awesome. Side effects+withdrawal= a special, special two weeks.
She put me on Effexor, another “special” med to replace this, as I refused outright any other off-label use drugs, and lithium wasn’t even an option in my mind! So, hopefully this won’t make me crazy, too!