Wednesday 31 October 2018

It's Not "Canter"

Alright, let's just get this out of the way.

I have cancer.

And now I'm wiping the tears out of my eyes. That's the first time I've put that down in print. Whew.

It's new. Found out at about 2:20 on Monday afternoon.

It's unknown. All I know at this point is that the nodule on my thyroid that was biopsied came back malignant. It could be one of three types of cancer, but the pathology didn't indicate what type.

It was completely unexpected. The nodule wasn't very big, but it had grown over the last 18 months. Nodules are very common. The chances of a nodule being cancerous are very low, something like 5-10%. I had no reason to believe that my results would come back with anything other than nothing wrong.
I'll break up the rather unhappy text with pictures from my trip to the happiest place on earth in 2012.

It's scary. Thyroid cancer is supposedly one of the most treatable cancers. And I'm hoping it was found very early. But, having to apply that C word to yourself is pretty terrifying. And until I see an oncologist, I don't have much information. Which is not how I like to work.

Here's where things stand. (The more I talk about it, the easier it gets. So feel free to skip this part, it's not overly exciting.)

About two and a half years ago I had a hoarse voice for no reason. Hadn't been sick or anything. I also would feel like I was running out of breath while I was talking. Lost my voice completely once after work while I was talking to the cat. It lasted about a month. By the time I got in to see my doctor it was back and everything seemed fine. My doctor thought that my thyroid visually looked enlarged, so I was sent for an ultrasound.

Ultrasound came back that I had a nodule on my right thyroid, which is typically benign. Recommended rescanning in six months. At which point there was no change. So, re-scan in a year.

Which should have been in February or March of this year. But I forgot. I was having a "female" issue and needed to get a PAP test done, but every time I would schedule it things would, um, happen, and I had to keep rescheduling. So I forgot about it when I finally saw my doctor in May.

No worries, I was going to have to go back in July to get my Synthroid prescription refilled. I'd mention it then.

Except that my doctor apparently retired in June. So I had to find a new doctor. Which actually wasn't hard, and I probably got an appointment much sooner than I would have with my previous doctor. The appointment was in August, and because I was working nights, I booked the ultrasound for the second week of September when I was on vacation.

The first clue that something was wrong was maybe at that ultrasound appointment. It was at a different facility than the previous ones. The tech got the images, then I had to wait until she showed the images to a radiologist, as per their protocol. That didn't happen at the other place. I tried not to read anything into it, but I was a bit disconcerted.

Then I got the call from the doctor's office to come in for my results. Like, tomorrow?

Now, my previous doctor usually gave me results over the phone. So getting called in, ASAP, immediately gets me worried. This time, the nodule had grown, to about 1 - 1.5 cm, and a fine needle aspiration biopsy was recommended. And I was being referred to an endocrinologist.

Getting a needle stuck in my neck didn't sound like a fun time. Especially after I read that many doctors don't use a local anesthetic, and that the "fine" needle commonly used is a 25 gauge 1.5" needle. I envision horse needles, which is in no way what I would consider a "fine" needle, even after discovering that the gauge is about 1/2 that of a standard 18 gauge horse needle.

But the actual procedure was fine. The doctor did use lidocaine, so there was only a very slight discomfort as he dug around a bit to get three samples. My head was tilted back to expose my neck, so I wasn't able to see anything that he was doing. If you have to have this procedure done, don't stress about it. It was no big deal. It did leave a decent bruise on my neck, that looked like a hickey or that I'd been throat punched, and that I didn't have the right makeup to totally conceal. Whatever, didn't bother me.

I saw the endocrinologist the week before the biopsy. It was just a quick chat. He didn't sound overly concerned that my nodule looked irregular, but said there could be many things between nothing and cancer that could still be wrong. The chances of the nodule being cancerous are very low, but if it is cancer, thyroid cancer is one of the most treatable, with one of the highest survival rates. He mentioned a study they are doing in Japan, where they are not treating those with thyroid cancer, and there is no higher death rate than in areas where the thyroid is removed, as is typical here in Canada. Also my nodule is very small. He's seen ones as large as 5 cm that have nothing wrong with them.

I had no reason to think that my results would come back with anything wrong. I was 99.5% sure that that would be the case, and I kept forgetting that I was awaiting to hear.

First thing Monday morning, I got a call from my doctor that she wanted to review the results. And hey, would 2:15 this afternoon work? Cue instant worry.

And then complete shock. That moment of no reaction. Then the realization of what the doctor said. This is real. This is happening. This is happening to me.

Thankfully my mom and dad live only a couple of minutes from my doctor's office. I managed to hold it together until I parked. They were the first people I told. It didn't get any easier by the end, who was my brother, only because I hoped to catch him at home and not at work. Which of course didn't happen since he was working late.

I have a couple of co-workers who have gone through this - one has gone through a couple bouts of cancer over the last few years and another whose husband passed away about two years ago. They have been great to talk to and have made me feel better.  They told everyone else so I didn't have to, so other than some text messages I can keep myself busy and distracted at work.

For now, life is kind of on hold. I fell like I can't make any plans. I have to go for some bloodwork at 3 this afternoon. And then I'm waiting for a call from an oncologist.

It's all rather surreal. I feel the same. I look the same. But something's wrong. And I don't know how it's going to be fixed. Hopefully I have some answers very soon.

So life goes on. Everything is the same.

Except that it's not.

Edited to add 1 hour after I posted this: I just got a call from my doctor to clarify what she had told me the other day. (I hoped she was going to tell me that she gave me someone else's results, but no luck there.) She had reviewed the report a couple more times, and wanted to let me know that it is not a confirmed malignancy. The report has a bunch of "it could be's" and a definite "suspicious follicular something something something". I had asked her at the original appointment if it was a definite malignancy and she had said yes at the time, so she wanted to let me know that upon re-reading the file that is not the case.

It will be up to the oncologist as to what we do next to get a confirmation.

I'm not going to get my hopes up, but I might squeak out of this yet!

Mostly Wordless Wednesday

It's been a tough week. I have much to process, and everything in the near future is unknown.

I also hate when people post really vague things and just allude to problems without any sort of detail. Don't worry, I just need to find my words.

So in the meantime -

Proof that Phantom is not fat. She's fluffy because she's quilted.

No idea why her coat gets this quilted look to it. She wears a Rambo, so it isn't because of a stitched pattern on her blanket.

This isn't the first year that I've seen this pattern on her coat. I don't know why I feel the need to blanket her if she comes with a quilted winter coat pre-installed!

Thursday 25 October 2018

Throwback Thursday - Horse Ownership is Glamorous

A couple of years ago I offered to go with a friend when she was taking a couple of horses to the vet clinic. She was coming from work, I had the day off, so I went out to catch the horses and bring them into the barn for when she arrived.

It was November. It was very muddy. It was cold. I went into a field I never had to go into.

I was wearing my beloved Muck Boots. The boots that let me feel invincible and that I could slog through any footing and emerge intact on the other side.

I was wrong.

I had mud everywhere. And I mean everywhere.

Yep, I'm living the horse dream.

Wednesday 24 October 2018

Partly Nekkid

Being the wild and crazy horse-person that I am, my Friday night was spent clipping my horses. Cisco has been getting pretty sweaty when ridden, and Phantom has most of her thick winter coat. After a month of below average temperatures the weather has finally warmed up and winter coats are a bit too warm during sunny days.

I had taken the blades for my Lister Star clippers in for resharpening a couple of weeks ago. Last year I had them sharpened, but they weren't done correctly, and when I tried to clip last winter I had to use the fine blades instead of the desired mediums. They cut shorter than I would like so I was really hoping this new lady would do a better job and the mediums would work.

Thankfully they worked just fine. But there was still one more problem.
His shoulder and elbows were sweaty. I do not recommend clipping sweaty horses.

Cisco came into the barn sweaty. Don't know why, but it was warmish out. Cisco also has very fine hair, especially the fluffy bits around his elbows and inside his front legs. Clipping him was like clipping a wet rabbit. Or how I envision clipping a wet rabbit would be since I've never had the pleasure.

Fine, wet rabbit hair clogs up clippers. Especially the smaller clippers that I use to get into the tricky bits. So it felt like it took forever to get his modified Irish clip done.

By comparison, Phantom, who has a thick coat, but doesn't have rabbit hair, took a max of 30 minutes start to finish.  Less than half the time that I spent on Cisco.
Phantom has turned into a blonde lately. I would prefer that she go back to her natural platinum blonde, but she seems to dig the yellow blonde. 

The clips aren't the prettiest jobs I've done - a bit ragged around the edges of the tops of the legs and by the girth. But they'll work. By Christmas you probably won't be able to see the difference from the shaved area to the non-shaved area and I'll have to do it again.

Friday 19 October 2018

Itty-Bitty Real Jump

I've managed only a few rides over the last 3 weeks or so, all on Cisco. Because they have been so inconsistent, they really haven't been all that exciting. They have mostly been the same - I lead him to the mounting block, he circles it a couple times before I manage to get on, we warm-up in a very forward walk, spook in the scary end, trot way too fast, forget how to go into corners, and he bulges through his right shoulder.

Depending on how long it took to get him to settle, I may or may not canter him. Also depending on how many people I have to dodge or if no one is around. So yeah, our canter has a long ways to go still.

I usually manage to get some nice moments at a trot, but it takes most of the ride at this point. Once he gets the initial whoo-hoo's out of his system he generally tries really hard to figure out what I'm asking of him.

On our last ride, I rode during a beginner kids jump lesson. So the jumps were all itty-bitty crosspoles. We had done a short canter each way (hard to steer around the kids bombing around on ponies) and I wanted to do something else with him. So I figured, hey, let's try an itty-bitty jump.
The itty-bitty crosspole.

Last time we went over an itty-bitty crosspole, which was the first time, he went over it each time, but didn't really jump. So I kind of expected the same this time.

Good thing I grabbed a chunk of mane before the jump though, because he actually put effort into it and did a proper jump over it! And then landed and immediately turned right. Lol.

So we came around again, and this time he jumped and went straight. So we changed direction and approached from the other direction, he jumped, and cantered softly away. Super pony!
Sadly, no riding media. But trust me, he was super cute.

Three jumps and we were done. It was only his second time jumping, and he was super straight into it and quiet on the landing side. Can't hope for much more than that!

The canter after the jump was a much more relaxed canter than what our normal canter is, so I might play with some small jumps a bit more and see if that helps the canter. I have a Wow jump saddle on its way to me. If the demo works out I'll have to start the search for used pieces so that I can actually start proper jumping with him. Well, as proper as I'm probably going to ever do again.

Thursday 18 October 2018

The Soup Diet

I've been a bad blogger. Well, more a really busy blogger.

Last week I had a bunch of prep to do for this sale that I was going to. (I did okay, but didn't sell as much as I hoped or had done in previous years.) Monday last week was Thanksgiving up here in Canada, so I had to do the family thing. During which I cracked my nose against the skull of a toddler (I bent down as he popped up), so I had a headache centered in the middle of my face for the rest of the week.

The ponies got ignored for the whole week until the weekend. On Saturday night I made it out to give them a chance to run off some sillies in the arena as I hoped to ride them both on Sunday morning.
Trying to take pony selfies on Saturday night. Hard to do when you have short arms.

The arena is being rented again by a local 4H group every second Sunday morning, as it was last winter. But this winter they seem to be a bit more organized, and busier. We are able to ride while they are there, but it looks like the late morning groups might be doing consistent jump lessons, so it might get a little hairy.

This week I was out early enough to ride the first horse during the earlier lessons, which are more beginner, so I was hoping it would be quieter and thus I tacked up Cisco. I actually timed it perfectly to arrive in the arena as the group was on a bit of a break and I had to share the arena with only one other person. Which was great because Cisco was a wee bit up.

There was just so much to look at - there was probably 15 unknown horses tied up at the hitching rail. Occasionally kids ran across the gravel along the bleacher side. Jumps were being set up.

When I got on him, he felt a bit light on his feet. Not the normal feeling. As we passed the horses all tied up at the far end, his back feet felt even lighter. I hopped off and attached a lunge line.

He wasn't overly silly on the lunge, just more forward than normal. And immediately sweaty.

I hopped again with the thought that I might just walk and cool him out. But I decided to throw in some trot and see what happened. And he was actually pretty good, and was trying to do what I wanted him to do, although he was still easily distracted when we rode past the horses that were tied up.

Eventually, the kids started to get tacked up so I ended the ride. It ended up much better than I thought it was going to be when I first hopped on, so I called that a win.

The plan was to take him back to the barn, dry him off, feed him, chuck him back out and grab Phantom for a quick ride. Unfortunately, it didn't go that way.
I'm clipping the first time I have spare time. 

Cisco choked on his food. Again.

There were no carrots this time - only pellets and beet pulp. So I guess I can't totally blame the carrots from last week. The beet pulp was soaked, but it was from the top of the bucket so it was far more fluffy than soupy.

It was exactly the same as the previous week - he stopped eating just one mouthful short of licking up the remnants, and then he started looking like he was going to vomit.

I squirted a couple of large syringes of water down his throat. I don't know if it helped or not. It seemed to be slightly worse than the previous week, and he might have been a bit more stressed, but otherwise, it was exactly the same. I left him in a stall for a bit, so I'm not sure if he got sweaty because of the stress of choking or being in a stall.

Again, it passed in a little less than an hour without me having to involve a vet.

So now the question is why? Is he eating too fast? Is there some scar tissue in his esophagus from previous incidents? Or maybe just some irritation from the last time? And how often does this happen when I'm not around to see it?

For now, he's getting soup when he gets his grain (beet pulp and a ration balancer pelleted feed). He wasn't overly impressed with his soup the first time I gave it to him, but he slowly slurped it up. His hay is in a slow feeder net, which I patched up (Cisco and his roommates were not happy that I fixed the hole and they could no longer get their whole nose inside to chow down) so he eats his hay pretty slowly.

I'll keep him on his soup diet for probably a month or so before trying his regular food again. Maybe he'll lose weight?  Ha ha ha.

Tuesday 9 October 2018

Cisco's Carrot Privileges Have Been Revoked

I picked up a bag of carrots for the kids last week. Mostly because I went grocery shopping and realized that everything in my cart was either frozen or boxed. I figured I should get something fresh, not that I would be the one eating it.

Both kids had some carrots added to their food one-day last week, and then again yesterday. I watched Cisco eat from his dish, and was of amazed to see that he didn't pick out all the carrots first, but started on one side of his dish and systematically worked his way to the other side. I even took a picture and posted it to Instagram when he was almost finished.

Then he stopped eating. There was still a handful of beet pulp left in his dish, but no carrots. He wasn't licking his bowl and the floor clean. Hmmmmm.

I watched him closely. His neck kind of gave a big twitch, then he let out a big cough. Crap. He was choking on the damn carrot.

Kind of, maybe? That cough was the only one. There was no drool or snot coming out of his nostrils or mouth. But every few minutes, his neck gave this huge convulsion like he wanted to vomit. Which, of course, horses can't do. I heard some gurgly sounds seemingly from his neck area. He was quiet otherwise, with no attempts to eat, and not showing any signs of stress. 

I walked him back and forth down the barn a bit, cursing out loud at how expensive the vet bill was going to be (Sunday evening, long weekend). I didn't know what I would tell the vet though - I think my horse might be choking because it looks like he wants to puke?
I managed to get a video of the last puking convulsion I saw.

As I was walking Cisco, Phantom, who was eating her dinner in jail a stall, decided that she was done and wanted out. Now. I was in no mood to deal with her temper tantrum, so I found Cisco a stall with no food to stand in and took Phantom out. 

When I came back Cisco was pretty quiet in the stall, but he had a bit of sweat around the neck where his blanket was. Hard to say if it was because he was inside with a blanket on, if he was stressed because of choking, or stressed because he had been abandoned by Phantom. I took the blanket off just to be safe and tied him up in the aisle. I figured I might as well run a brush over him while I watched him.

And it seemed like nothing was wrong. There were no more convulsions. He was perky and enjoying being groomed. I gave him a handful of hay. He took it in his mouth and just held it there. My heart sunk and I started to think about which credit card I was going to use to pay the vet.  But then he started chewing, and continued to eat the rest of the handful I had. 

I brought his dish that had just a handful of beet pulp left in it. He licked it up and played with his dish, just like he normally does. Vet call averted! It seemed to have cleared.

Then the big dilemma - turn out. Do I turn him out into a different pen with no food? Or back to his regular pen, which has a netted bale in it? 

I opted for his regular turnout, and asked the barn owner to check on him in a couple of hours. I watched him for a bit when I turned him out, and he was eating and harassing his girls, so he wasn't feeling too sorry for himself. 

Hopefully I am able to just chalk this one up to a learning experience. I know that Cisco choked once before - as a 2 year old on a hay cube. He's had them since with no issues with his previous owner, and on the couple of times I've given him cubes I've added some water to them just to be safe.
This was the result of the last time he choked - he was sedated to be tubed, but apparently it wasn't enough. When the first squirt of water went in he went straight up in front and a hoof connected with my thigh. Then we remembered how much sedative it took to knock him down to be gelded as a yearling. (It was a lot)
I've seen choke 2 or 3 times, and in each case there was lots of coughing and snots (lovely green snots since hay cubes were involved). I've not seen the "vomiting" before, but I just googled and that apparently is a symptom of choke.

I'll probably be hard pressed to trust him with a carrot again. Unless it's gone through the food processor or been pureed like baby food. He'll have to make do with cookies for treats - not that I think he'll care that much.

Friday 5 October 2018

New Paddock Boots!

I ordered new paddock boots from Germany on September 26th. They arrived on October 4th. And that was the slow shipping option! I chose the slower option because it was slightly cheaper (not much really, but mostly because it sends the package through the postal service when it reaches Canada. This means it is definitely slower than the other option of a courier, but it most importantly means that the chance of getting dinged and having to pay customs and duties on the shipment are significantly less. Sure enough, it paid off, and there were no extra fees that had to be paid when the postman dropped off the parcel. Score!

I ordered a pair of Cavallo Paddock Sport boots in dark brown. They are a lovely, rich shade of brown. Not a perfect match for either my old Grand Prix half chaps or my newer ProChaps, but no complaints. Cavallo makes matching half chaps for their boots, so if you needed a matched set you might have to go that way.

When I first pulled them out of the box my heart sunk - they looked like they were going to be much too long. They are a little bit longer than my Ariat's that they're replacing, maybe a half inch or so. When I put them on though, they didn't feel too bad.

I have slightly wide toes. Because of the shape of the toebox, I think that if I went down a size they would be too small. The outside toe area cuts in much more than the Ariat's do. I could afford to lose a touch off the length, but couldn't afford to lose any width. I ordered the UK5's, which are a European size 38.

Because they have zippers down the back, and the laces are a fixed elastic lace, they have a much slimmer fit around the ankle than my Ariat's. Which means that they kind of look like clown shoes to me. I mean, I kind of have big feet - I generally wear a 7.5, which isn't really that big, but then I'm only 5 feet tall. That's a solid 1.5 - 2 sizes bigger than almost every other vertically challenged person I know. These wouldn't be the first pair of clown shoes that I've owned.

They felt quite comfortable right off the bat. At the barn I only wore them through my ride on Cisco. The inner liner on the footbed felt nice and squishy, even when I put my foot in the stirrup. I didn't have any rubbing due to the zipper, but I only wore them for about an hour.

The left boot was a bit too tight, and the right one was a bit loose. I'm not sure if my feet are that differently sized, or if the boots are slightly different. I tightened the lace on the right one a bit, and I'm pretty sure that the left one will loosen up in a few rides. I couldn't feel my feet in the stirrups very well, but that should go away after they've been worn a bit.
Initial impression? I'm quite happy with them. They are comfortable and seem to be of good quality. I'm okay with the fit - if I went down a size I don't think I could get winter socks in them, but they might end up slightly big in the long run. I might have to use the bathtub method in the spring to fix that if it turns into a problem.

The boots, with shipping, came to about $236 CDN. I also added some Haas brushes to the shipment, which came to about another $30.

I love them all! I'll review them shortly.

Thursday 4 October 2018

Signs of Winter

Both ponies looked better on Wednesday. Cisco didn't take any noticeable bad steps, and Phantom was a little short in the same spot where the footing is a bit compacted but wasn't head bobbing like she was on Monday.

I still think that their feet were soft due to the moisture in their paddocks. We've also been having sub-freezing temperatures every night and someone said that the ground has been frozen in the mornings. I'll keep applying Keratex to their feet and hope that it stays dry for a bit.

Cisco hasn't been quite himself the last couple of days - quite quiet and lethargic, to the point that I took his temperature yesterday afternoon just to be safe (it was totally normal). I'm pretty sure that I know the reason - it's because he's got a full tummy. A round bale (with a slow feeder net) was added to his pen this week.

I had talked to the barn owner about the possibility of them having a netted bale during the winter. I don't want them to be able to gorge on it, but I don't like the idea of them not having hay all night when it's minus 40 out. I was hoping it wouldn't be going out until at least the end of October. I think it went out early for another reason - Cisco lives with a couple of mares who have been chewing the crap out of the fences. I think the barn owner is hoping to prevent further destruction from the beavers.
Some of the beaver destruction.

It looks like the cold weather is here to stay. Phantom's coat has gotten quite floofy.

And I noticed that Cisco's muzzle got fuzzy.

It's going to be a long, long winter at this rate.

Wednesday 3 October 2018

Joys of Horses

I have two horses.

And they are both lame.

Well, I think more foot sore. At least, I hope that's what it is.

We've had a bunch of rain (and snow) for about the last 3 weeks. Daytime temperatures have been just above freezing, so the ground has been very slow to dry out. Thus, they've been standing in some mud for much of the last few weeks. Not ankle deep or anything, just enough that their soles have been in contact with damp ground.
Not himself tonight.

It has been below freezing at night, so the ground might be a bit crusty in the mornings. Not totally frozen yet.

Both horses came into the barn on Monday night seemingly a bit owie on the hard ground or gravel. In the arena they were inconsistently off, but were definitely off in a couple of spots where the footing is a bit more compacted. Cisco had a hind leg that was a bit thick above a fetlock, but it came down a bit after he was handwalked. He didn't react to me squishing the tendons and ligaments around, so I don't think that it's a major problem.

Phantom was far more lame at moments than Cisco, but since she's a drama queen that is totally expected.
Phantom was pretty sure that if she stared hard enough at the place that her food comes from, it would magically appear in front of her. Turns out she was right!

My thought is that their soles are soft, and maybe bruised. Phantom wears shoes but has always been sensitive to hard/rough ground. Cisco is barefoot and his soles are a bit on the flat side, so it wouldn't be a shock if he picked up a bruise. Thus both horses got their soles Keratex'd, and Cisco got a gram of bute since he also had the fat leg.

The pens have started to dry out, and there isn't any more moisture in the forecast for the next couple of weeks. Hopefully I am right and their feet can start to dry out and harden up again and that solves all my problems. Well, probably not all of them.

Tuesday 2 October 2018

Christmas is Coming

I ordered the paddock boots. After walking through mud in the dark to catch a horse and praying that I didn't end up with a muddy sock I figured I would bite the bullet. Those lovely dark brown Cavallo's will be mine (in about a month when they arrive).

Every spring and fall there is a local new and used tack sale. The last couple of years I've taken a table at the fall event and attempted to sell some crafty things that I make. The tables are pretty cheap, at $35 each, so it has totally been worth my while going to this sale.

This was my table the first year that I went.
I sell glittery ornaments, pillow covers for sofa cushions. some nightlights.

I also have some non-horse related gift items on the table that generally do very well.
These dish towels did very well last year.

The best selling item is car decals. I do up a bunch of pre-cut decals in white and silver and sell them for $6. 

This year I am going to try make-up bags.
Lettering done in glitter, of course.

You'll get it if you've ever ridden in flat classes.

And I'm contemplating horse Christmas stockings, similar to these ones.
Phantom's stocking from last year. She was quite disappointed in how little Santa put in it and fully expects Santa to make up for it this year. 

Pony Grandma can stitch them up for me, and there would be minimal adornment. Names could be added if someone so desired. The problem with them would be if the selling price would make it worthwhile to make them. This is no high end sale. People are looking for deals.

So, a couple of questions for my readers.
1) Would you need to buy a stocking for your horse, and how much would you be willing to spend?
2) Would you squee at a pink car decal? (Light pink, not fuschia.)
3) What would entice you to spend your money as soon as you saw it? Under $25, nothing sized (thus no tshirts).