Wood smoke

March 31, 2009


My olfactory hallucination has changed. I noticed a couple of weeks ago that the chemical smell had disappeared, and proceeded to “enjoy” a week of nothingness. Then the smell of chemically wood smoke (ish) arrived. It started very quickly and instantly made me feel ill for about half an hour. That feeling passed*, but the wood smoke remains. When it is at it’s worst I can taste it too! Ewwww.


I have to say, I have so much respect for everyone involved in the world of medicine. It really seems like the work of super heros, but such lofty status is within your reach. GIVE BLOOD.* You could save a life, and one day you may need someone to return the favour for you. 

I received blood during my surgery and wish I could donate in return, alas because I grew up in the UK I am not allowed due to Canada’s concerns with vCJD.

So maybe someone could donate for me? See it as a challenge 🙂

*For readers in the UK.

Update: April 3rd, 2009

The nurse who told me I received blood during surgery was thoroughly wrong. My surgeon told me yesterday (and checked my surgery notes to confirm) that I lost no more than 2 thimbles of blood, and tolerated surgery very well. You should still give blood though 🙂

Craniotomy’s are things of horror movies, or TV shows like Grey’s Anatomy. It never crosses our mind that these things happen in real life, but they do. Many times a day in the city that you live in, whether planned like mine, or unexpectedly due to an accident for example… they are happening.

This is a series of clear diagrams and annotations from the Mayfield Clinic that shows how a craniotomy is performed (I take no credit for the information below, it belongs to The Mayfield Clinic). My neurosurgeon explained this to my husband and I verbally, but this is exactly the picture that formed in my head. It is good to be aware of all the layers of your head that need to heal afterwards so that you can truly respect the recovery time needed… and it’s a while considering you can look perfectly normal on the outside.


Figure 1. Craniotomies are often named for the bone being removed. Some common craniotomies include frontotemporal, parietal, temporal, and suboccipital.


Figure 2. The patient’s head is placed in a three-pin Mayfield skull clamp. The clamp attaches to the operative table and holds the head absolutely still during delicate brain surgery. The skin incision is usually made behind the hairline (dashed line).


Figure 3. A craniotomy is cut with a special saw called a craniotome. The bone flap is removed to reveal the protective covering of the brain called the dura.


Figure 4. The dura is opened and folded back to expose the brain.


Figure 5. The bone flap is replaced and secured to the skull with tiny plates and screws.


March 26, 2009



This is my dog Chukker, we are buddies. He has hung out with me every single day that I have been sick, actually he has followed me everywhere from the toilet to taking the garbage out. In return he has been thoroughly spoiled. 

It has been proven that owning a dog helps lower your blood pressure and your cholesterol. Pets make us feel happy and help us to deal with stress, which is a major source of illness.

Dogs can also help seniors, one study* observed neural activity in seniors while they walked or interacted with a dog. It turned out that walking with a dog gave seniors a boost in parasympathetic nervous system activity, which is good because the parasympathetic nervous system helps calm and rest the body.

Speaking of which, it’s time for his walk…

*I have no reference, I have slapped my own wrist.

Update, 8 weeks post-op

March 25, 2009

Here I am, 8 weeks after my craniotomy to remove my bugger of a meningioma. My follow-up with the surgeon is in a week so I don’t know officially how I am doing just yet, but this is how I’m feeling these days…

It hasn’t itched since before my staples were removed, but now my scar is itching again and it is very annoying! It started out that when I scratched the itch, my head couldn’t feel the scratch… and so resolve the itch. Now at least I can feel the scratch, but the itch persists! What a tongue twister 😉

I can lie on the right hand side of my head, but I avoid it. My scalp isn’t flexible where my surgery was, normally your scalp will move around on your head if you push it with your fingers. When my scalp moves on one side of my head, it pulls against the surgery area. Doesn’t hurt, just feels weird. I put castor oil on the scar as recommended by my naturopath*, to loosen this up which is slowly working.

With good days and bad days, I still get tired if I push myself too hard. It is frustrating, but to be expected. When I look back several weeks, my endurance has come a long way. Still suffering from the hypervigilance but to a lesser extent. Of course, there is a direct correlation between the two.

Also still can’t smell anything, not even the imaginary chemical smell I was experiencing. Wonder what it means that the olfactory hallucination is now gone?

As you have seen, I am trying to reduce the toxins in my life. I am treating it as a bit of an experiment to see if all-natural products do the job just as well. So far they do, you just have to get used to fewer bubbles as natural products do/should not use sodium laureth sulphate (made by mixing sulfuric acid, monododecyl ester, and sodium salt eeeeek) amongst other things. These products also seem to have a slightly different consistency, and sometimes need to be shaken before use, but really thats all the superficial differences I can think of.

 I guess when you go through something like this that has no known cause, you really stop taking things for granted and start thinking about what you CAN prevent. Why expose yourself to ingredients that are linked to cancer, developmental/reproductive toxicity, allergies, immunotoxicity, neurotoxicity,  Persistence and bioaccumulation, Organ system toxicity (non-reproductive), Irritation (skin, eyes, or lungs), Enhanced skin absorption, Contamination concerns, Biochemical or cellular level changes…

*Make sure you find out what is right for you at your stage of recovery.

Ask your nurse…

March 23, 2009

I wish I had this list when I was in hospital. There are a series of things you should ask your nurse that will positively impact your stay in hospital. Toronto Expect RN’s Consulting Inc. provides this handy list:

  • Informed Consent explained, and what Doctors don’t tell you
  • Patient’s have more rights than they think…
  • Personal EHR – viewing your chart
  • When and where to get a second opinion
  • Medical and medication errors, what you should know
  • Infection control in hospitals, behind the scenes
  • Keeping track of all the personnel who are assigned to you
  • Communicating your concerns and complaints effectively
  • Accessing your complete medical records
  • Individuals and agencies with the authority to intervene on your behalf
  • Getting information on tests and results made easy
  • Hospital Secrets -finding out what went wrong when you feel something is amiss
  • The importance of establishing Power of Attorney for Personal Care

More information can be found in their book “The Ultimate Empowered Patient” that educates Canadians who want to negotiate their health system in an informed manner.


I blogged about early detection of brain tumours a while ago. Turns out the Brain Tumor Foundation has made this a reality through the Road to Early Detection initiative. 

“Road to Early Detection is an initiative of The Brain Tumor Foundation aimed at broadening public awareness about brain tumors and the urgent need for preventative brain scans. With the introduction of this campaign, widespread early detection of brain tumors will be available to everyone.”

“The launch of the Mobile MRI Unit in November 2008 marked the start of the first-ever national campaign promoting early detection of brain tumors. Road to Early Detection focuses on outreach to communities – particularly for those under-served in the five boroughs of New York.

The Mobile MRI Unit will continue to set up in places where people work, study and live in order to make brain scans, and thereby early detection, accessible and cost free. Dr. Patrick J. Kelly, Founder and President of The Brain Tumor Foundation, maintains, “The only way to detect a tumor early is through the use of MRI brain scans. Regrettably, by the time brain tumors become symptomatic, most are incurable.” In the 4 short months since the Unit has been traveling, several brain tumors as well as MS, Alzheimer’s and other abnormalities have been discovered.

This year more than 300,000 Americans will be diagnosed with brain tumors. About a million are walking around with one and don’t know it – 25,000 of them are in New York City alone. While there are no preventive measures as yet, the impact of brain tumors can be vastly reduced. Detected and treated early – they can be completely eradicated. MRI brain scans are safe, painless, non-invasive, emit no radiation and take only ten minutes. Scans are available by appointment only and can be scheduled by calling 877-SCAN-NYC (877-722-6692) or visiting www.roadtoearlydetection.org.

This service is for those who are asymptomatic and in the US. Hopefully this service is sucsessful and the idea spreads North to Canada.


“WHEN  actively promotes the primary prevention of environmentally linked health conditions such as cancer, asthma, immune system related conditions and others by advocating the reduction of toxic emissions; more efficient, renewable energy sources; affordable public transportation; a shift to safe production models, biological agriculture and lawn care and more.”

Specifically, “Lower Your Doses is a WHEN campaign aimed at raising awareness about the toxins present in our everyday household environments. Taking action for prevention is key to reducing our health risks.”

If You are able, attend their workshop on March 17th in Toronto.

The Cosmetic Database* is an eye opener. Have you ever counted how many cosmetics or personal care products you use in a day? Chances are it’s nearly 10. And chances are good that they include shampoo, toothpaste, soap, deodorant, hair conditioner, lip balm, sunscreen, body lotion, shaving products if you’re a man, and cosmetics if you are a woman. And what about your children? On any given day you might rub, spray, or pour some combination of sunscreen, diaper cream, shampoo, lotion, and maybe even insect repellant on their skin.

Here’s a list of things you should most definitely try to avoid.

These are some of the safer cosmetic products I have switched to so far as they have very low chemical hazards:

This Lady Mitchum Clear Gel Unscented Deoderant I am trying scores very well, as does this Almay One Coat Triple Effect Mascara (Blackest Black) that has a low risk.

It’s a long process and I am still looking for body moisturiser, shower gel, and soap. Giovanni line of hair products looks worth a try, and that’ll be my next experiment.

So far I have not had to compromise on product performance, or pay any extra, but it takes some time to find them in normal drug stores so be prepared to shop around in new and unfamiliar territory.

* Thanks for the link Justine.

Vitamins galore

March 13, 2009


These are my morning (left) and evening vitamins (right) from my naturopath. I feel goooooood on them! Fish oils, vitamin C, & B, probiotics, plus a general antioxidant (vitamin A, C, E, magnesium, zinc, selenium). I also take vitamin D drops. 

My mix of supplements and their dose changes about once a month. I was off the Fish Oils for 5 weeks after surgery (they are blood thinners) but am glad to be back on them, they make you feel seriously good!