Hurricane Otto

I live in the Sarapiqui area and was extremely fortunate yesterday.  We were predicted to get between 12 and 18 inches of rain and strong winds; neither happened here.  We were prepared though.  We had plenty of bottled water, food, pet food, candles, flashlights, hand sanitizer, baby wipes, first aid kit, and some wine.  The hurricane made a turn to the north and all we got was some rain, wind, and a few wind gusts.  We were lucky, but other areas weren’t so lucky.  Our power did go out for about three and a half hours, but that was it.  We also made sure to have a full tank of gas in the car and the pet carriers at the ready.

The towns to the north and on the northern caribbean side got the worst of it.  The town of Upala was hit really hard.  The scouts came by today asking for donations, the only thing that I had on hand was a giant bottle of water that I bought the other day and hadn’t opened.  Normally when I get home I unpack things and put them in Tupperware containers because they come in bags and I don’t want to take the chance of the bag ripping open.  I wish I had more to give.  I’m thinking of going to the store and buying some things and taking them down to our Red Cross, it’s just down the hill from my house.  There are many towns in Nicaragua that got hit really hard as well.  There are still some missing people in both countries and several deaths as well.  It could have been worse.  I am thankful that we were spared the worst of it.  But I am sad for the others that have lost so much.  You can make donations to the Red Cross of Costa Rica if you would like to help.  This is their web page, but it is all in Spanish.  http://www.cruzroja.or.cr/

I hope that everyone is having a good day today and staying safe.  Until mañana, pura vida!

Thyroid cancer

This is my story about finding out I had thyroid cancer.

It started back in January, I had a little cough.  It seemed to be worse at night when I was laying down in bed for some reason.  This went on for about a week, I was thinking I just had a little cold or maybe some allergies to something.  After all, I live in the tropics and we had foreign company that week.  Then it felt like I had something stuck in my throat, just a little tickle in the back and it wouldn’t go away.  This went on for a few days when it dawned on me that I should probably see a doctor because my thyroid is right there.

As you all can tell I live in Costa Rica and our healthcare system is a one payer system.  It can be very slow at times.  But you can purchase private health insurance and you can visit a private doctor and/or clinic if you like.  We do not have private health insurance, but I did go private for a lot of my tests; so I use the two systems together.  Using the public one payer system there is no out of pocket expenses.

So, I go to my primary care physician and she feels around on my neck and tells me that she wants me to get an ultrasound done of my thyroid.  She does suggest that I go and have it done privately so it will be done quickly.  No problem.  I go to a clinic and have it done for around $70.  I get the results right then and there, I get the images, and take everything back to my doctor.  It does show a small nodule in my thyroid.  She says she wants it biopsied.  Again, I go private for this and it’s around $250.  I get the test results back in a few weeks with a suggestion of getting my thyroid removed because of the type of cells that were found; Hurthle cells.  This is when I really start doing some research on the subject.

It seems that Hurthle cells are rare and even rarer if they are cancerous, it seems that I am rare.  So, I decide to go to a private endocrinologist here in Costa Rica.  Cost for an office visit was $100 without insurance.  He orders some tests, another ultrasound, and can’t figure out for the life of him why they would want to remove the nodules when they are so small.  I’m already put off at this point with him after hearing him say that.  But I get the tests done and send him the results.  Blood work was actually fine and the new ultrasound showed another small nodule on the right lobe of my thyroid.  Private endo still wants to wait.  In the meantime I am waiting on getting in with the public system so I don’t have to pay anymore.

I made a trip to the States to visit my family, this was back in June.  Had a great time, my cousin and I took our kids on a road trip for their high school graduation.  Got to see my sister, which is always important to me.  Got back and got my appointment with the public system finally.

By this time it is the end July when I finally get to meet with an endocrinologist.  She was very nice and spoke pretty good English.  She reviewed everything and set me up with what they call a thyroid clinic at the hospital.  That appointment was August 11th.  During this appointment I met with an oncologist, endocrinologist, pathologist, a surgeon, and about 12 interns as it is a teaching hospital.  I liked the idea of meeting with everyone at once.  This kept everyone on the same page at the same time and I didn’t have to go to multiple doctors appointments and it saved a lot of time.  The decision was made that yes I would have surgery.  We just didn’t know when.  So, my husband and I ran all over the hospital getting all the paperwork ready and I got on the waiting list for surgery.  I also got another appointment for another ultrasound, this appointment was in October.

In the meantime, I’m trying not to freak out too much.  This is a lot to take in, still didn’t know if it was cancer or not at this point either.  A good friend of mine talked me into going up to Florida to see if I could get the surgery done there any quicker.  I went to an endocrinologist in Florida who told me not to worry about anything because the nodules were small and it was probably just papillary thyroid cancer and those nodules are very slow growing.  This doctor had all of my tests results and was bilingual, so he could read Spanish, and no where did it say papillary only Hurthle!  I was so angry.  His suggestion was to come back in six months and he would do a genetic test on it to be sure.  This doctor reminded me of all the stories that I have read on the support pages about how doctors don’t listen to their patients at all, I was in tears when I left there.  So, I came back home.

Somewhere along the line I actually lost the order for my next ultrasound.  I have no idea how I had done this.  But, I had taken a picture of it on my phone!  So, I went private.  Again, I paid the $70 for the ultrasound and the doctor was very nice.  She explained everything to me that she was looking at…well, almost everything.  My husband was right there with me the entire time like he was for every other test.  I get the results and head back to my primary care doctor to see if she can get them to the hospital for me.

It turns out that she can’t get them to the hospital for me and that I have to take them myself.  This is a two hour drive each way.  But, the results now show that I do have cancer.  So much for those doctors telling me not to worry about anything.  My husband and I decide to take the results down on a Friday and drop them off.  I get to my endocrinologists office and wait for the door to open so I can hand him the results.  He looks at them and then looks at me and asks, “You still haven’t had surgery yet?”  Nope, I’m still waiting for them to call with an opening.  He told me to come with him that he was admitting me right then and there!  He said this was not waiting and couldn’t wait and yes it is cancer.  I was starting to freak out at this point.  I like to be prepared for things and I was not prepared for this at all.

I went in on Friday afternoon to the hospital and had my surgery on Tuesday.  All of the nurses and doctors were very nice and treated me very well.  The food was terrible though!  If I ever eat rice and beans again it will be too soon.  My surgeon told me that the surgery went beautifully and I actually got to come home the following day on Wednesday.  I was super happy to be home.  After all, I was only home for a few days from Florida before I went into the hospital.  My poor cats and dogs were freaking out when I got home again.

It’s been a week since I had my surgery and I got my stitches out of my neck today.  I told my husband I could be Frankenstein’s monster for Halloween now.  I did get a secondary infection after I got home, which seems common for me to do; I have had many surgeries in my life.  I am now taking my medication everyday and I will have to continue to take it everyday for the rest of my life if I want to live, which I do.  I will go back for some blood tests pretty soon to monitor my hormone levels and to see if anything needs to be changed.  I will have to continue getting ultrasounds every so often also to check for any regrowth of any tumors.  This battle may be over, but the war still rages on.  It’s an ongoing war with this, many people are never right after the surgery and so many more people don’t understand what they are going through.  The thyroid is a very important little organ and it controls so much in your body, once it’s gone it can be very difficult to get balanced again.  They call thyroid cancer the “good cancer”, but there is nothing good about it.  You still have to try to live, take medicine everyday for the rest of your life, hope you can get it balanced.  Many doctors won’t listen to their patients about it either, I’m glad that mine is listening.  I told her today how much I appreciate her.

So please, if you know someone who is going through, or who has gone through a thyroidectomy for cancer…be patient and understanding with them.  Listen to them because many feel like no one is listening.  Many get left behind by friends and family because they just don’t have the energy anymore to do the things that they once loved doing.  We feel tired, all the time, no matter what we do or don’t do.  I’m just starting my journey and I have a long way to go with it.  But I am learning, and I have found support with my thyca sisters and my husband.  I hope to paint again soon because that is what I love to do.

Until Mañana, pura vida!

My morning

For those of you who don’t know me, I absolutely hate getting up early.  I got up early for years for work and now, if it’s not important, I’m not getting up before 8 am.

So, today I got up at 5:20 in the morning.  Brushed my teeth, let the dog out, got dressed, and then headed down to the clinic to make a doctors appointment.  They open at 6 am and it’s first come first serve and the first appointment is at 7 am.  There was already a line when I got there at 5:35 am.  I got my appointment for 8, but they assign four people to each hour slot and I was in the last slot so my appointment was really closer to 9.  That was good because that meant I could go by the bakery and get some pastries and then come home and have some coffee with my husband.

I get down to the clinic and wait to be called, they checked all my vitals and I went to wait again for the doctor.  I really like my doctor I have here.  She very nice, patient, understanding, and knows a lot of English.  I told her everything that was going on, she went over my biopsy report again to refresh her memory; after all she sees a lot of people.  I told her about the pain I am having and how my voice is getting worse.  She listened to my lungs, felt my thyroid, and then we talked.  With the way the system is, her hands are kind of tied right now.  She can’t send me in through the emergency department unless I can’t eat or drink.  She may be able to if the pain becomes unbearable though.  So, back to the waiting game.  I ended up finally breaking down and crying, which caused more pain.  I think this is the first time that I have actually cried about it.  I told her that I have been trying to stay strong for my family and not letting them know how freaked out I really am about the whole thing.  She said that they should be strong for me.  I did agree, but I have always been this way and for many years I was a single mom and had to be strong for the kid.  She asked me how I was sleeping, I told her not well.  Not only does my neck hurt but I have back problems too.  I will be sleeping good tonight with what she prescribed for me.  We went over my allergies again, that list keeps getting longer.  I’m allergic to almost all narcotics, fish, and cherries.  The older I get, the more allergies that seem to be developing.  That is something else we will have to look into after the thyroid gets taken care of because it’s sounding like an autoimmune type of disease.  Anyways, I got my meds and a shot in the hip and was on my way home.  Total time was about two hours, the pharmacy is right inside the clinic so that saves a trip.  Total out of pocket expense today, $0.  Yup, everything is covered.

I get back home and tell my husband everything that happened.  He said he wish he would have gone with me so he could have drove back after my shot.  It kind of hurt to clutch on the way home.  He gave me a big hug and held me for a long time; he then asked where I would like to go Pokemon hunting today!  That made me laugh and put a smile on my face.  Yes, I have been doing the Pokemon Go, but only to get more Pokemon than my daughter.  I told him maybe tomorrow as my butt still hurts and I got up early today.  So here I am with a large cat in my lap cuddling on me and purring, I think he is trying to cheer me up also.  But I do wonder what is going on my area, two of my neighbors had their thyroids removed and I met another lady today who is having problems.  Makes me wonder, but my biological mother had hers removed and I grew up close to a uranium processing plant that leaked.  I think I was doomed from the start.  Oh well.  Until mañana, Pura Vida!

 

Figuring out the hospital

The hospital I go to is in Heredia.  I haven’t been to any other public hospitals here.  So, again I can only tell you about my experience yesterday.

Yesterday was my appointment to meet with a bunch of doctors about my thyroid issues.  I have at least two tumors in it, maybe more.  So we get up at, “I shouldn’t have even gone to bed” o’clock and have coffee.  Feed the cats and dogs and head out.  My appointment was at 7 but you always have to be there at least 15 minutes early to show all of your paperwork and it’s about a two hour drive for us.

We get to the hospital and my husband drops me off at the front while he goes and finds a place to park.  We ended up getting there a lot earlier than anticipated, but that’s all good.  Now, the last time I was there I remember seeing a sign for the thyroid clinic on the forth floor of building C.  So, I go there first.  Nope, wrong place.  OK, we head to building B and ask the guard.  We are in the right building but we need to wait to be called up and they will take us up in a group to the third floor.  The third floor is the patient floor and it is a secure floor, no one is just allowed to walk in; I like that.  We get called up at 7 and head up with a lady and her family.  I was the first one to go in for the meeting at 7:30.  There were a total of 16 doctors and medical students in the room.  It was a little overwhelming.  My endocrinologist was there, a pathologist, an oncologist, a surgeon, and I’m not sure who else.  What they do is they get all the specialist together to meet with the patient and go over their case and decide as a group what should be done.  It really speeds things up, I don’t have to go all over town to different specialists for different things.  They are all there together communicating with each other.  They ask me a few questions, feel my thyroid, talk, and then have me wait back out in the hall.  Next they called in the other lady.  I wait for her to get done and then for the doctors to discuss everything on our cases.  The students leave and only one doctor stayed, he called me back in to discuss what the plan is.  I am going to have surgery.  With the type of cells that were found in my biopsy they want to get the tumors out.  That is going to be the only way to know for sure if it is cancerous or not.  These cells can go either way.  Now, when I went to a private doctor, he wanted to wait; saying that the tumors were too small and it was nothing to worry about.  These doctors want to get it out sooner than later.  From there we went back to the other building and up to the forth floor.

Now that we are back in building C we wait to get a paper stating that I am in need of surgery and with what doctors.  I take this down to the first floor to get it stamped.  After finding out where exactly to take it I get it stamped I take it up to the third floor.  At this point we are getting some exercise.  I finally found where to go on the third floor and take my paperwork to the window.  The guy then tells me that he doesn’t have my file and needs it; now it’s back up to the forth floor.  I get my file and then back down to the third floor.  He lets me know that it’s going to be 15 minutes before he can do anything.  OK, we went outside for a smoke.  We finally get my file back and have to take it to a nurse where she checks my vitals and then tells me to wait.  I have no idea what I am waiting for at this point.  My name finally gets called and I meet one on one with my surgeon. ( Ah, that’s why I was waiting.)  So, I finally get to talk to my surgeon and find out exactly what is going to happen.  They are going to remove at least half of my thyroid.  I need to get another ultrasound done first though to see if they need to remove the entire thyroid.  I really wasn’t expecting this.  But now I know.  From there I have to go back to building B and talk with admissions about when I can get in.  Unfortunately this is the only public hospital for my entire province.  I am on a waiting list and they will call when they have an opening for me.  I do know that I am put on the fast track which moves me to the top of the list because of possible cancer.  But at least I know I will get it taken care of without any out of pocket expenses.  I would hate to think what all  of this would have cost me in the States even with insurance.  Especially with all of the doctors that I met with.

Next it was off to building A to make my appointment for my ultrasound.  I go up to the guard who gives me a red number and I take a seat and wait for my number to be called.  I noticed that there were different colored numbers, red is priority.  My appointment is for next week, which means another long trip to Heredia; but at least I don’t have to get up as early.  The lady told me that they are open from 7-1 and I can come anytime during then.  I was listed for the 7-8 time slot, but when I told her where I lived she said it wasn’t a problem to come later.  Thank you!

So, we hit all three buildings at the hospital.  Met with an entire team of doctors, got myself on the waiting list for surgery, got my appointment for my ultrasound, and didn’t pay anything out of pocket.  No co-pays, no deductibles.  Our monthly premium is based on our income here, so we don’t pay a whole lot.  This will be my second surgery here, the first was an emergency appendectomy.  All of the doctors have been super friendly and so has the staff; including the security guards.  It’s like a one stop shop for all of your medical needs.  They even have a pharmacy there for people to pick up their prescriptions before leaving the hospital, so no leaving the hospital and driving to another pharmacy and waiting for your prescriptions.  They system isn’t perfect, but I find that it works.  It may be slow at times, but at least I know I’m not going into debt that I won’t ever be able to repay.  I know that if I do have an emergency I will be taken care of also.  When all was said and done we were out of there around noon.

Then we headed to Walmart for junk food.  I didn’t find exactly what I was looking for, but that’s OK.  We got some pastries to eat in the car while we watched the kids in the skate park practicing their skate boarding.  It was really neat to watch.

From there we headed home and I didn’t make any wrong turns while leaving the city.  About half way home there is a gift shop up in the mountains, which it was pretty cold up there for me.  I wasn’t expecting my husband to stop, but he did.  They have these hammock chairs that I really like; I have one but wanted another one.  The last time we checked they were asking 25,000 colones for them; we decided that was too much.  This time we asked and they were asking 22,000 for them.  But the one I liked was outside on display.  They lady told me that since it was the display on she would give us a discount on it; we got it for 20,000.  I was quite happy with that.  This one is a lot longer than the first one I bought.  So, after this already really long day my husband comes home and gets out the ladder to try to shorten the chain that my other hammock chair was on.  It was still too long.  I tie some knots in it and now it is perfect!  It is so much more comfortable than the other one.  I will only let you sit in it if I really, really like you!  So, that was my day yesterday.  It was a long day, but I feel that it was productive and I feel that I got a lot of answers.  Now, we just wait for the call.  Until mañana, Pura Vida!

 

Renewing our drivers license

Really, it was a simple and painless process.  Probably the easiest thing we have done here having to do with the government.  You also must remember that my blog is based on my personal experiences for the area that I live in.  We went to Guapiles to renew our license as it is the closest place for us.

First we went and got our physicals at a local doctor in the town we live in.  Next, we paid the fee of 5,000 colones each at Banco Nacional.  Our physicals were 20,000 colones each.  We made sure to keep our receipts from the bank, as you will need those.  We also got copies of our physicals, called Dictamen here, they did want to see that as we entered to get in line.  We got up early today so we could get a good place in line, when we got there I would guess that there were about 7-10 people ahead of us.  But the lady looked at my husbands birth date on his license and realized that he is 66 years old so he gets to go to the front of the line.  Now, also, my husband is 3/4 deaf and is lucky to hear me half of the time.  (But I still love him.)  I explain this to the woman at the gate that I needed to translate for him.  So I got to go with him!  We went first and we were both in and out in less than 15 minutes.  The lady asked for all of our paperwork, our current drivers license and our cedula’s.  She made sure our address was still the same, phone number, and e-mail address, took our picture, we signed, and had our finger print done.  That was it.  Super easy!

From there we did our normal monthly shopping in Guapiles.  There are some things cheaper there than they are in the town we live in, and we have to go there every month to make the house payment.  Stocked up on cat food and got to see the vets cat, I remember when she got the cat and it was a tiny kitten, now she is full grown and beautiful.  Stopped by one of the bigger supermarkets to stock up on coffee and salsa and a few other small items.  From there we did our monthly trip to Paqueño Mundo, it’s basically like a Big Lots in the States.  I can find my canvas there for really cheap.  We had to wait a few minutes for them to open and when they did they had all of their front of the house staff there greeting everyone as they came in, I found that to be very nice.  From there we headed back to our area and made the car payment.  A simple day, but we got a lot done.  Everything is paid for the month now.

It got super hot today and now we have some thunder off in the distance.  It’s been a busy week for me, I’ve been doing a lot.  I have been participating in GISHWHES.  If you don’t know what that is, I encourage you to look it up.  It’s rather interesting.  I can’t post anything I’ve done yet, I may do that next week after the contest ends.  But I think my entire town now thinks I’m insane.  I’ve made a lot of people smile and laugh though.  GISHWHES is partnered with Random Acts which is a wonderful charity organization.  Next week I go for my doctors appointment.  I will update you all on that when I can.  Until mañana, Pura Vida!

Very long day

We got up at 4 am and I hate getting up early.  Had our coffee and got ready to head out to the hospital for my appointment with an endocrinologist through the public system.  The hospital is at least a two hour drive away, and over lots of mountains.  It was still dark when we left, had a little misty rain in the mountains, drove through the clouds, and it was cool; it was actually below 60 degrees.

We get to the hospital a little after 7 am.  We finally find where I need to go for my appointment.  They tell that I need to go back downstairs first for something, they needed to make a file for me and I guess they only do that in one area of the hospital.  No problem, I finally get that down and head back up to the forth floor.  Next I see the nurse who checks my vitals, weight, and actually measured my waist.  Never had that done before.  Then I go out in the hall and wait to be called back.  My appointment was set for 8 am, by this time it was pretty close to 8.  I think what they do is schedule several people for an hour and call them back in order that they arrived.  I got called back close to 9; I was glad I took my Kindle with me.

The doctor was very nice and she had two students with her.  She speaks better English than she gives herself credit for.  She went over all my tests results that I have had done and compared the two different ultrasounds results.  I found it kind of funny when she asked if I had ever had any surgeries.  I have had at least 12 of them.  I might of missed a couple though.  (I think I am trying to see what I can live without.)  She was going to do a consult on the spot with another doctor, but he wasn’t in.  So, I go back in two weeks and meet with a pathologist, a surgeon, and a thyroid specialist.  Yes, I am going to have another surgery.  I’m not really surprised.  She told me my chances of having cancer are only at 20%, I will take that.  But the only way to know for sure is to remove all of the tumors and do a full biopsy on them.  She was pretty thorough in the examination and I was out in no time.

After that, my husband and I decided to make a trip to Price Smart, it’s like a Costco.  I found our way to this one with no problems at all.  I missed a turn or two when going to the hospital, but it wasn’t a big deal.  My husband said that I have problems finding the hospital for my very important appointment but no problem finding a place to shop.  What can I say?  I like to shop on occasions.  I did find a new pair of shoes at a Payless next to Price Smart, I needed them.  Also, we won’t have to buy toilet paper, napkins, coffee filters, or peanut butter for the next six months.  We also got some of those snack pack pudding cups, the neighbors grandson really loves them.

After that we were on our way home, it got a little rainy up in the mountains but not too bad.  Finally made it home and we all took a nap.  The dog was super happy to see us and so was my cat.  We were only gone about 8 hours, but you know how animals are.  Until mañana, Pura Vida!

Optometrist

I’ve been going to the same optometrist now for about four years.  I really like this doctor, she is a very nice and honest lady.  I went to a different one last year and she couldn’t get my prescription right for some reason so I went back to the first one.  Glad I did.  She found a small cataract in my left eye that the other doctor didn’t find.  I do have a referral for an ophthalmologist, but it is a ways out yet.

A couple of days ago I started getting some eye pain.  That usually only happens when I need new glasses.  I was thinking it was kind of early because it had been just under a year since my last eye exam.  I usually go about every two years, which was the recommendation of the last ophthalmologist I went to in the States.  But with me getting older and knowing I have the cataract I thought I should get them checked out.  I went back to my doctor in Ciudad Quesada.

She asked me how my daughter was doing and how my husband was and if I had been back to visit the States recently.  She only saw my daughter once before and that was over two years ago.  I think the woman has a great memory.  So she proceeds with the exam.   During the exam she was trying to get my left eye focused, which is nearly impossible, and all I could see clearly was the first and last letter in the row.  She was very thorough, gets the prescription ready and then compares it to my current glasses.  She tells me that the prescription is still exactly the same.  I am curious as to why I have been having the eye pain.  She looks into my pupils and tells me that the cataract is getting a little bit bigger and it is in the center of my eye; that is why I could only focus the first and last letter of the line.  She also tells me that I need to move my laptop farther back from me, about 50 centimeters. She just gave me advice today on how to prevent the pain and to come back in six months for a recheck.  The cost of the eye exam was under $10.

I know many people talk about how gringos are always getting ripped off or treated unfairly.  This doctor did not try to do that.  She was completely honest with me.  Didn’t try to tell me my prescription had changed just so she could sell me a new pair of glasses to make a profit.  Didn’t charge me anything extra at all, spent at least 40 minutes with me talking and going over everything.  I feel very lucky to be where I am and to know the people that I know.  Until Mañana, Pura Vida!

Still here

Yup, I’m still here, just not doing much with this lately.  Trying to think of where to begin, I know it’s been a few months since I wrote anything…

Well, we did take our car through Riteve, which is the annual inspection here.  You have to have this done every year and it’s not expensive at all, under $20.  They checked pretty much everything on the car.  They inspected the brakes, exhaust, windows, seatbelts, shocks, tread on the tires, oil, washer fluid, lights, and everything else you can think of.  We failed.  Turns out we had a hole in our exhaust system that we didn’t know about.  So we went and got that fixed, it cost about $90 to get it all done.  Took the car back, only $10 for the second time around, and we passed.  I believe you have three chances to get your car through, I don’t know what happens after that.  I am now affectionately calling our car “The money pit.”  We just had the breaks fixed (needed new pads on the front and the back ones cleaned), they started to squeak and we had our clutch fixed too, all this week.  Total cost for repairs, and getting the oil changed was under $100.  I can live with that.

I did go to the States for a couple of weeks and spent some time with my biological family.  I had a great time, I stayed with my cousin.  Her and I are so much alike it’s not even funny.  We joke around and say that if I hadn’t been put up for adoption the family would have found a way to separate us because we would have gotten into so much trouble together.  She even manages at a restaurant that I used to manage at as well, at least the same company, and know a lot of the same people.  I’m telling you, this apple didn’t fall too far from that tree!  She is planning a trip down here for next year and I can’t wait!

When I flew out, I changed my flight to fly out of Liberia instead of San Jose.  Volcano Turrialba had been going off and many flights had been canceled.  It only cost me an additional $40 to change my flight.  I’m cheap so I use Southwest.  So, we decided to make a trip out of it and we got a hotel at Playa Hermosa and stayed the night there.  We had a great time.  We got up early Monday morning and headed out.  Had a great lunch in Nuevo Arenal at a place called Paniagua.  Great food and great people there.  I definitely recommend it.  Got up early Tuesday morning and headed to the airport.  The Liberia airport is very easy to get around in and seems more tourist friendly than San Jose.  But it does usually cost a little more.

I did a little shopping while I was up there, some things are easier to find for me and some things are cheaper.  I try to find the specialty items that I can’t find anywhere but there.  My husband was quite happy when I got back, I was very happy as well. I don’t think I can live in air conditioning anymore.  It was really bothering me up there, my lungs don’t like cold air.

I made a trade with a friend of mine that found me a few weeks before my trip, I hadn’t heard from her in years.  I was super happy that  she finally got Facebook and was able to look me up.  I traded her one of my paintings for some new paints.  I did get to see her and we went to a wolf sanctuary in Indiana and I got to pet the wolves.  It was amazing.

Right before I left, one of my neighbors took all of my test results and my insurance card to the hospital for me with my referral for an endocrinologist through the public system.  Basically what you do is that you get a referral from your local doctor, take everything to the hospital, the doctors review it, and then they give you an appointment.  Some appointments can take several months, in some cases it can take a year or more.  It just depends on the severity of the case.  Well, my appointment was set for one month out!  They put me to the top of the list.  I am a little nervous about all of this.  We still don’t know if it’s cancer or not, but I am getting more swelling in the left side of my neck.  I will just have to discuss with the doctor and go from there.  I know I need surgery, there is no way around that.  I just hope they schedule it soon.  I have had many surgeries in my life, but I have never really been nervous about one until now.  I did buy a couple of scarves while I was in the States so when I have the surgery I can cover the incision.  I don’t want to walk around with people staring at me.

All the animals are doing well in the house.  Bruno was super happy when I came home.  Nothing like having a 60 pound dog running at you smiling and wagging his tail!  I thought he was going to tackle me.  Even the cats were happy to see me.  Not a whole lot else going on really, been working on a new painting and this one is taking a while.  I don’t want to rush this one.  I went with a bigger canvas and I think I found it a little intimidating.  We did have a few small tremors last Sunday night that put me on edge a little, and Volcano Turrialba blew her top again today.  Until mañana, Pura Vida!

Life in general

I know it’s been a while since I posted anything.  So, I will try to update now.

Yesterday we had a guy show up at our gate asking about the house across the street, it’s vacant now.  I used to have the woman’s phone number but couldn’t find it anymore.  There is another house down the street that is vacant also and is a little bigger.  It took us a while, talking with our neighbor, and a few phone calls, but we finally got the number for the house down the road.  It’s a small Tico style house with two bedrooms and a big kitchen, going for 60,000 colones a month.  The house across the street, we finally found out is no longer being rented but they want to sell it for 15 million colones; I wouldn’t give you 5 million for it.  It’s in really rough shape.  We bought our house just four years ago and only paid 15 million for ours and we have three bedrooms.  I wonder what our house would go for now with all the work we have done to it?  The house across the street was being rented for 45,000 colones per month, the guy told us that the same house in San Jose would go for around 150,000; I about fell out of my hammock.

Anyways, about the guy.  He had been in our town for about three days and working in the pineapple fields, which is really hard work.  His family lives in San Jose and he is trying to get them out of there and bring them up here.  He said his neighborhood is very dangerous and wants them to be safe.  He is only 21 and has three kids, he started early.  But I can tell you that he does want to provide for his family, so much so that he resorted to sleeping on the streets just so he could work up here.  He said he couldn’t find a job where he lives.  Everything he has made he has sent back to his family in the city.  He was here for a while, we made him a sandwich and had some coffee.  (We didn’t let him in the house though.)  He was very polite and I really felt sorry for him.  My husband did take him to town to write down numbers off the signs for other houses to rent, and we let him charge his cell phone here.  I guess today he is working.  I just hope that everything works out for him and his family.

We headed over to a friends house after that, I had some things that I needed to return.  Turns out that one of our friends had broken several toes and another bone in his foot.  Poor guy is on crutches now.  Today we took him over my crutches to use because they are much lighter than the wood ones.  We let them know that if they need to go anywhere to just call us, he is the only one with a license in the family and he can’t drive now.

Friday, my cleaning lady never showed up.  We waited and waited.  This was very unusual for her, she always let me know if she wasn’t going to make it before.  Turns out she was babysitting for her neighbors.  So she showed up Saturday but I had an appointment for another ultrasound for my thyroid.  I told her not to worry about it.

I went for my ultrasound at another clinic I found that was a lot closer to where I live and a lot cheaper.  I had been noticing what felt like another lump in my thyroid, but this time on the right side.  Turns out I was right, I now have another tumor in it.  This makes three now.  But they are all still pretty small, just bothersome.  If I talk a lot my voice starts to go hoarse.  One of my friends was joking with me today and said that makes me the perfect woman.  I couldn’t help but laugh and I know that he was only kidding with me.  After all, I had been picking on him for breaking his toes playing soccer.  He is like a brother to me.

As for the area I live in, Sarapiqui, it has been extremely hot here these past few weeks.  It has been getting into the upper 90’s, which is unusual for here.  Even the locals are in disbelief at how hot it’s been.  We haven’t been getting the rain like we normally do this time of year either.  It’s made it difficult to cook or bake anything in the house as we don’t have A/C.  When it does rain I may just run outside and dance in it.  The little beach areas at the river have been packed on the weekends with everyone trying to cool off.  I looked at it today and was very tempted to go home, put on some swimming clothes and jump in.  I haven’t been down there in a while.  I really feel sorry for my cats and dogs though, it’s almost impossible for them to cool off.

I did start painting again, but now I am out of canvas.  I did a geometric design in oil and an abstract in acrylic.  Looks like I will have to keep painting in acrylic because I can’t find oils where I live.  Acrylic is easy to clean up though too, plus you don’t get the smell from the oil or the paint thinner.  Would like to sell them to help cover the costs of a few things.  (Like saving up for surgery.)  In order to keep painting though I will need to take another drive to Guapiles, which is about an hour away, to get more canvas.  It’s a heck of a lot cheaper there compared to what I found here.  I can get it for 1,000 in Guapiles and around here it’s over 3,500 for the exact same size.

Well, that’s what’s been going on in my little corner of Costa Rica.  Not much really.  We have been to a couple of get-togethers with friends and met some more wonderful people.  It’s very relaxing here and I have started reading another John Grisham novel.  We are trying not to do a whole lot because we don’t know how much my surgery will be, we will be self paying for it.  Until Mañana, Pura Vida!

 

 

 

Endocrinologist

Well I finally went and saw an endocrinologist today.  He was a very nice doctor at Hospital Clinica Biblica.  He went over everything with me and spoke really good English.  He was really surprised that my public doctor wanted me to have the biopsy done with how small the tumor is, but he stated that it was a very good thing that she had me do it.  There are some cells in the biopsy that are very questionable at this point.  Basically, it is a 50/50 chance that it could still be cancerous.  He knows the doctor very well that did the lab work for the biopsy and was surprised to see him even give the recommendation to have it surgically biopsied.  He said this is very unusual at this stage.  He doesn’t want to jump right in and do surgery on me; especially with how many I have had done already.  I went over my surgeries with him and I thought he was going to fall out of his chair as I went down the list.

Three eye surgeries, Tonsils and adenoids; plus a cyst that was found, Wisdom teeth, gall bladder, appendix, bilateral lipomas four times, sinus surgery three times, plus countless removals of cysts.  I think I am trying to see what all I can live without.  And that is not even the complete list of stuff done.

So, I have a list of blood work that needs to get done.  I will be having that done through the public system as it doesn’t take too long to get the appointment and get the results back.  Then next month my specialist wants me to have the ultrasound done again.  He said I can e-mail him all the test results and if I have any questions I can e-mail him anytime.  My next appointment with him is in June, if all the test results are fine.  If things change I will probably be going to see him sooner.

He has ordered me to relax, no exceptions!  He said if it is cancerous I still don’t need to worry because it is easily treatable.  I know that it is, but it still makes me worry.  The doctor spent a very long time with me today and made sure that I understood everything.  Total cost of today’s appointment, with no insurance, was under $100 and this was at one of the best hospitals in the country.  He didn’t order any unnecessary tests, or prescribe any unnecessary medication.  He is taking it one step at a time to make sure that surgery is the last option.  I like this.

Until mañana, Pura Vida!