Friday, June 26, 2009

Stuff's a moving!

On the happy front, I'm currently in negotiations for my first house. Woo! Both seller and buyer have signed the agreement, pending the home inspection, which I've just scheduled for Monday. I'm hoping hoping hoping that nothing major turns up, and that radon levels are low, pests are non-existent (har har), and that there's no expensive, time-consuming damage that I don't yet know about.

On the unhappy front, while driving home last night, I had a flash from the past. Possibly the worst issue I had (have?) with depression was day dreams-more like flashes though, because they'd only take a few seconds to play out. In short, I always died. And seeing as I was in a car last night, I had a visual of me purposefully flipping my car into the meridian. I'm not sure if I should blame my own stupidity for listening to a particular CD (bad memories attached, although I love the songs), or if it's a return of a symptom. Haven't had one of those in a while. Spooked me a bit. I'm ok now, but well, yeah. It's...scary when that happens.

Oh, and I'm finally getting around to a mini responsibility. I'm on a committee for planning an event (won't take place until 2010, thankfully!), and have been given the task of creating the logo and visual aids. I can't work on the aids yet, since we haven't even received the parts to build our own structures. So, I'm working on several logos right now for the group to pick from. I might post it when done.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Public Service Announcement

Hey you teens and twenty somethings! This is test....of the emergency Ladydid, do not walk to your's office? Ok ok. HPV: human papillomavirus. I'm sure everyone's seen about a bajillion of those Gardasil commercials by now with the little girls jumping rope, right? Well, I've decided that this blog might be a good way for me to do some much needed research. I myself, despite being a female in the appropriate age bracket for this vaccine, don't actually know much about it. Currently, I am not vaccinated. And, as I'm soon going to find out, this may need to be remedied. Onward, research, tally ho!

So, for starters, let's begin with the virus itself, before discussing the vaccine. There are over 100 different strains of HPV, affecting between 20 and 24 million people in the US alone. Estimates say about 5.5 million people contract the virus each year; about half of all women by age 50 have been infected at least once. Now please, don't scream yet. Most strains of HPV aren't too problematic. It's still a sexually transmitted disease, so in general, it's not pleasant. Warts are the most common symptom of HPV strains, and can occur on various parts of the body, including: the genitals, tongue, larynx, soft palate, tonsils, face, neck, elbows, wrists, knees, and hands. There are different types of warts; for a better idea of the type of warts, visit here. HPV strains 6 and 11 often produce external genital warts, while strains 16 and 18 do not cause visible warts. In the latter two strains, the warts are internal, occuring on the cervix or anus, and are only visible with a colposcope. Strains clear up on their own 90% of the time before two years. If the individual has a compromised immune system, treatment may be required to clear up the infection. For external warts, cryotherapy (freezing), laser removal, or surgery may be required. Scars might form. Various chemicals may also be used (requiring frequent application), but are generally less effective, and take longer. These include: trichloroacetic acid, imiquimod, and podophyllin toxin. I am not saying these methods are ineffective-they just aren't as consistent. Individuals with compromised immune systems may continue to have outbreaks of genital warts from the virus.

Now, for the vaccine. Gardasil is produced by Merck, and is touted to prevent infection from strains 6, 11, 16 and 18. The first two strains cause almost 90% of genital wart outbreaks, while strains 16 and 18 are responsible for about 70% of cervical cancer cases. Gardasil is approved for women between the ages of 9 and 26, according to Merck's website. They are not encouraging young girls to have sex-they are simply providing possible immunity to the more common strains of HPV. The vaccine works best on young women, although it's not currently clear if there's a resistance to HPV built up as women age. Females who haven't yet had sex are the best candidates, since they are more likely to receive full immunity from those four types of HPV. If the individual has already been in contact with a particular strain, the vaccine cannot help. Currently, no tests have been performed to determine if the vaccine would be beneficial for males as well. People can be born with HPV. There is currently no way of determining which strains have been contracted if the infection (warts or other signs) has already cleared up. Latex condoms may help prevent some strains of HPV from being contracted, but it's not a guarantee. HPV is contracted through skin to skin contact (be it oral, anal, or vaginal sex). The vaccine does not prevent all forms of cervical cancer, and is not a treatment for HPV-it's merely a prevention for four strains.

So, should you get it? Should I get it? Really it comes down to personal choice. There hasn't been any major long term study performed, since the drug is brand spankin' new. Pregnant females should NOT receive the vaccine. I can't tell you to have your child vaccinated. I would suggest you talk to your daughter, and get her to talk to you about it. Sex should not be a taboo topic. Talk to your doctor. Weigh your options. Would you rather take the chance of contracting one of the two potentially cancer causing forms of HPV the vaccine can protect you from (if you haven't already had it), or would you rather risk some possible unknown side effect sometime down the line? Would you rather talk to your daughter about sex now, when it's embarrassing and she might be "too young", or would you rather take the chance that she'll have sex and contract a nasty strain that could have been prevented? Oh, and if you have a yeast allergy, do NOT get the vaccine. That would be bad.

On an aside, I was unable to find any data discussing the number of HPV strain 16 and 18 outbreaks that did not result in cervical cancer during life. I'm curious just how many people have these strains and don't develop cervical cancer from them. It'd be cool if someday we can determine which strains people have contracted, and compare that to the number of cancer cases caused by the strains.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Pets Vs. Children

Oi. So, as per usual, there seems to be a disagreement in the blogosphere, started several days ago by Dr. Isis and Dr. J. The discussion (a rather polite term, I think for the circumstances) was about the selection of research subjects. Dr. J, simply enough, would prefer leaving dogs and cats (specifically cats) out of research labs. Dr. Isis seems to support the use of the best candidate for the test. Both, of course, as most scientists insist (if not all), aim for the least pain and discomfort for the research subjects. The issue wasn't so much about the removal of cats from the lab, but Dr. J's choice in words on his blog. Granted, after reading it, I felt he'd gone a wee bit off the deep end. He equated pets (his cats) to human children. I can understand the human emotion and psychological ties we may develop with our pets, but found myself unable to agree with his assessment of what a cat is. Dr. Isis couldn't either, and decided to write about it. After her post, ScientistMother wrote about her opinion that although you may love your pet, they are not your offspring. I can understand both women's outrage at Dr. J's conclusion, although for reasons neither seemed to bring up.

So, here's the short and sweet of it. Of course, I adore my Half Pint. She's an absolute sweetie. But, she's my pet. I may talk to her, encourage her, and care for her like many care for children, but she is not a child. Children-particularly babies, are defenseless (except their cuteness. I'm thinking babies' cuteness is a defense mechanism to keep parents from throttling them). They are unable to feed themselves; they cannot provide the basics for survival. Pets, however, can. Your pet, if you were not around (and didn't lock the pet up), would be able to survive. Your dog would scavenge. Your cat would catch rodents. All your other pets would be just fine (unless horrendously outside their native habitat). I know for a fact that my dog would not starve if left outside alone. She's a quite capable hunter, and that's not even a breed requirement. She's a herding dog. Human children have an extended period of dependency on adults, while both cats and dogs can care for themselves before 8 weeks.

Now, what do we do about research? In order for progress to be made, work must be done. And unfortunately, there are many failures, and large sample populations to ensure the accuracy and reproducibility of the data. This does mean that test subjects die. Sometimes naturally, sometimes by accident, and sometimes by euthenasia. Today, there are standards of care, protocols to be followed, and paperwork to be filed. Even where the test subjects come from is highly regulated. This hasn't always been the case. That link is the first of a five part series about the evolution of the laws on animal testing. It doesn't cover everything, but it does manage to highlight the difficulties of wanting to improve life (not just human), and the sacrifices that have been made to get it.

Would I use rats for research? If they were the appropriate model, yes. Would I use dogs or cats? I honestly don't know. I am a sentimental person. There's a high probability that I'd become attached to my test subjects. This could potentially introduce a bias in data collection, depending on the type of experiments being performed. Dogs in particular would be difficult for me, because they show basic emotion-anger, fear, happiness, sadness (and because I have one). I would hate to have the animals fear or hate me, because of a negative association with the experiment. So, if I had to use dogs as a model, I would work even harder to make the experiment valid, as painless as possible, and would, if I could, try to make the animals happy during off time. Or, I could simply avoid the type of science that would use large animal subjects. I could avoid all vertebrates, if I wanted to. That's the great thing about science. There's so much to do, that if you have a personal issue with something, it's not a huge deal. But, though I may choose to avoid such experiments, I would not shun others who would use large vertebrates for their research. Sociologically, that'd be wrong.

For an interesting (though not crazy sciency) read, try this-it's all about a potential history of domestication. All about dogs and cats.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Having a total freakout right now

Fwew! I just got back from trip two to River Tam University City for house hunting. And....I think I found it!!! I love this place-it's move in ready; all the changes I'd like to make can be done while living there. Despite my complete certainty that Half Pint and I will be happy there, I'm terrified out of my skull. I put an offer in this afternoon, and will now be spending the next several nights awake until I find out if the seller lets me have it. EEEEEK!

Friday, June 19, 2009

Mental Illness, personal story take one

I'm on a roll today! Normally I don't have much to write about (or much time), but today seems to be different. The blogosphere seems to be quite active with discussions on Silence is the Enemy over at Sciencewomen, Academia and Me, and an older post I tracked down by Jo(e). I'm hoping to post a poem later today that I wrote (either new or old, not sure yet) that covers some of these topics. In the meantime, Dr. Isis has posted a letter reminding me of something I've been delaying writing about. So, in accordance with silence being the enemy (not just for violence, but mental illness), I've decided to start a few posts on the subject. All are personal experiences, either mine or from those close to me, and I feel that someone needs to voice them.

I've been battling depression since the 7th grade. Puberty happened, and something in my brain/psychological makeup clicked, making me think, "everyone's going to die. We're all just walking skeletons, delaying the inevitable decay." Not at all a positive thing to think. I inevitably found unhealthy ways of dealing with these excess and painful emotions and thoughts. Whenever anyone noticed signs, I'd lie about it. I fell, I got scratched by my cat, etc. etc. I didn't have a cat. I managed to at least express to my mother that I was unhappy, so she enrolled me in counseling. I had a bad experience with that first counselor, and ended up lying to get out of it after several months. I kept my problems and depression to myself for the next several years, other than the occasional friend or boyfriend who would discover them. My depression manifested itself in an extremely poor body image during my freshman year of high school, while the other symptoms remained. After a rather dangerous relationship my senior year of high school, I realized I was too self destructive, and went to see my guidance counselor. He at least, made me inform my mother that I was still having the same problems from five years previous. She never knew (and I don't think ever will) the extent to which I had problems, and just what they were. I grew up in a stable family, with a healthy relationship with her. I felt guilty for causing her pain when I was younger, and didn't want to involve her in what was really going on. I felt like she blamed both herself and me for my problems.

I jumped into college after that, settling in pretty well with my dorm, my difficult classes, and new relationships. Unfortunately, left to my own devices and a change in environment, my eating disorder re-emerged, manifesting in a different way though. It took me several months-towards the middle of the Spring semester-to realize just how bad things had gotten. I finally had the support I needed and the personal strength to want help (and realize that I actually needed it), and sought it out. I saw a therapist on campus during the remainder of that semester, eventually realizing that I needed more than talk therapy-I needed medication. I met with a psychiatrist, which was a daunting and terrifying thing. I felt as though everything I said was wrong. In the end though, I received proper treatment, with sleep being the only side effect (I suddenly needed more). I was ready to continue a happy life, but of course, life never works out the way we think it will. I fell into a deep spiral that Summer after freshman year. I was lucky to see the other side. Beginning of sophomore year caused some serious problems for me, as I was forced to deal with some rather painful emotions and experiences. The loss of my first love caused me to again hurt myself. And again, I count myself lucky to have been on antidepressants, or else the scars would have been much worse-both physical and emotional.

The remainder of my college experience went well after that point. I continued to take antidepressants, found some new friends, and learned some new skills. The completion of my college career and finding a first job, along with the loss of another possible future caused me to rethink some things. I never took any tests to determine if what I had was depression, or if was something else. My dosage was never tested. I was unsure if I could be on a lower dose, with the same positive effects. After careful consideration and discussion, I decided to see a therapist again on my own, as I worked to go off medication. It was a painful process, and incredibly scary. I talked a lot, and listened a lot. I had to rethink my personal history, and many of my demons came up. I had to learn to deal with them, instead of repressing them. I told quite a few people about what I was doing, and got a lot of different reactions. Some people were surprised to hear I was having problems. Others, who knew, were proud and supportive of me for doing something about it, and trying to improve my life. Others, including my lost future, thought it was the stupidest idea I'd ever come up with. At least it made it easier to move on. But I needed to know if I could function and be happy without medication for the rest of my life. I didn't want to be on something if I didn't have to be.

So, this Autumn will mark one year without antidepressants. I'm still alive, relatively happy, and doing ok. I haven't conquered all my problems, but I don't know if anyone ever does. If everything is solved and perfect, then what's the point of life? I would say I still battle with depression, but at least now, I win most of the time. Some things still trigger me; certain memories, songs; sometimes I just wake up sad. But there's a sense of accomplishment for me, knowing that I can handle life (most of the time), and I now have a lot more experiences that may be able to help others.

Besides lending an ear to someone with a mental illness, you can (granted, this isn't good for everyone!!) give them a hug. Not a pat on the back. A nice, long, "haven't seen you in a while and really missed you" hug. :) Go ahead. Find someone and give them a hug. It'll make their day. It'd at least make mine.

Shoutout to my new "happy place"

Please, check out My Milk Toof. It's my latest happy place and guilty pleasure site. I "squee!" every time I visit the page (I feel bad for my coworkers on occasion). Go visit my newest friends, Ickle and Lardee!

The stigma of sex

There's a gender dichotomy inherent in the United States involving sex, and I'm sick of it. It's quite probable that this issue affects other cultures outside the US, but seeing as I have no experience in other locations, I cannot comment effectively. Among the males of the species, having multiple partners is seen as a good thing. It means the male has "game," that he's a "player." He has many sexual "conquests." However, when a female has many sexual partners, she is seen as "loose," immoral, "easy," and often called a slut. A woman's reputation can be tarnished by her sexual exploits, while men receive the reverse treatment-their reputations are socially improved by multiple partners.

Personally, I'm tired of this shiznit. The current generation of 20 somethings (of which I am a part) is decreasing this societal discord, at least how I see it. It appears that many are returning to a bit of a 60's take on sexual identity, enthusiasm, and general freedom. Many women of this age group are no longer being labeled poorly for their choice in extracurricular activities. Men seem to be embracing more this concept of women being just as much pros in bed as they are-if not more so.

One of the best side effects of this is an improvement in women's self confidence. We no longer have to feel guilty for wanting sex, getting sex, and having sex. We can ask for sex if we so choose. We are not required to wait, be coy, and above all, protect our chastity. Humans are sexual creatures. We were built for copulation (whether it involves procreation or not); we have these nifty interlocking bodies that well, interlock. We are one of the few species on this entire planet who have sex for pleasure, and do so. We are not required to register each other's pheromones for improved viability and virility.

However, society and health issues still maintain some importance. For men and women who do choose to be sexually active, I can only hope that they provide their own protection. Quite simply, every individual should be prepared to protect themselves. Disease is common - though mostly treatable - and shouldn't be taken lightly. While some STD's can be cured, others will be lifelong afflictions, possibly causing harm to others. Pregnancy is a common concern. If you haven't had the baby talk with your partner, then you should not let a baby happen. Some subcultures are more open to sexually active women, while others still remain closed off. In some places, it is dangerous for women to have their sexual activity known. There are, unfortunately, people out there who believe that if you've had sex with someone, they can have sex with you. Rape is painfully common all over the world (this will be discussed in detail in a separate post). People can be and are ostracized from their communities because of their sexual decisions. So, while there have been some improvements to the sexual dichotomy in the US, it does still exist, and will for quite some time.

One last thing: please, protect yourself. People do lie-especially when pleasure is involved. Just because a gal says she's on the pill, doesn't mean she is, or that she remembers to take it every day. Just because someone says they're clean, doesn't mean they are. So, for those lovely people who choose to get some enjoyment out of their interlocking parts, have fun, and be safe.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Moving along, and singing a song!

I got my orientation packet in the mail yesterday! Woo hoo! Quite excited, and terrified, and all that jazz. I'm heading back up to River Tam University City to see more houses, and make a final decision this coming weekend. Yikes. I'm going to be a homeowner.

I um, also have a date this week? Haven't been on one of those in a while....hee hee. I'm a wee bit giddy at the moment. :D

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Clinical Diagnosis of the month: sarcoidosis!

I just realized I'm falling a bit behind on these suckers. It seems to be more of an "every other month" deal. Ah well.

If you happen to be a big House MD fan, sarcoidosis is not a new term to you. In most episodes, it is either mentioned or a possible evaluation, although I can't recall if any patient has ever actually HAD sarcoidosis. Sarcoidosis is an inflammatory disease that can affect just about anything in your body. In short, your body's immune system goes into overdrive, eventually damaging the tissues where the inflammation occurs. The most notable symptoms are granulomas-small red spots, similar to a rash. These can be found on the organs themselves, or in some cases, on the skin-legs especially. If the granulomas congregate too frequently on an organ, they can inhibit its function. Many cases of sarcoidosis involve lymph nodes and lung tissues, but can also include eyes, skin, liver, kidneys, heart, muscles, and brain (if it's a part of your body, it can be affected).

The cause is unknown, although some scientists believe there are genetic risk factors. General symptoms include: fever, fatigue, weight loss, malaise, and night sweats. If the lungs are the affected tissue, a cough often develops, without dissipating. Shortness of breath and chest pain may also be felt. The lungs are involved in about 90% of cases. If the lymph nodes are affected, swelling is seen. Anybody noticing a lousy trend here?

Sarcoidosis sounds a lot like most diseases. The symptoms are nonspecific, and sound a lot like many common ailments. Diagnosis is extremely difficult. Various tests can be used, but it often takes a while for the proper diagnosis. Physical exams, blood tests, chest x-rays, pulmonary function tests, fiberoptic bronchoscopy, CT scans, MRI's, and PET's are some of the more common methods employed to elucidate a diagnosis.

In some cases, no treatment is offered-it's expected that the disease with wax and wan over time. If the symptoms are bad enough, corticosteroids (prednisone, cortisone, prednisolone), anti-malaria meds (hydroxychloroquine), or immunosuppressants (methotrexate, cyclophosphamide, mycophenolate mofetil, azathioprine) may be administered.

For more information, check out Stop Sarcoidosis, or the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Oh, the pain!!


My dance studio is gearing up for the yearly recital, which will be next weekend. My classes (at least some of them...) are ready to perform, and all is right in the world! Except for my body.

The studio owner is a former teacher and "mom" of mine. One of her daughters and I grew up together in dance, goofed off together, and foolishly drank frappachinos while stretching at the barre. Both of us teach at the studio now and enjoy it very much (particularly the reconnection we've been able to share). There are a few other young ladies who've found employment with our former instructor. Missing how much we used to dance together, and believing ourselves capable of showing up the new group of teenage dancers, we've decided to choreograph a routine for ourselves to perform in the recital. A great idea, until you remember this gives us a week and a day to create, perfect, and perform. Also remember that none of us dance as much as we used to, and are not nearly in the same shape as we once were.

We had our first go of a rehearsal/choreography session yesterday after some other business we had at the studio, and now I am in pain. We want to make the dance spectacular, but realize we can't do some of the old tricks we had, because we're out of practice. I told myself as a dance instructor that I would be active-I didn't want to be one of those teachers who stays seated, having the assistant do all the work. I do consider myself an active, mobile instructor. But at the same time, I teach tap dance, NOT lyrical/jazz/contemporary/modern. I have bruises on places that have been pretty and clean for the past few years. My bones ache; my muscles ache; my neck aches. And I can't wait to do it again tomorrow!

Fig. 1: Not me.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Things are coming together...sort of.

Yay. I just heard back from Loan Officer #2, who had wonderful news for me. I have my finances in order (please oh please may they stay this time), numbers have been crunched, and I can now buy a house! Also on the bright side, I might be able to go to University City a week earlier than expected, because some family plans might change. I'm hoping they do, since it was kind of killing me to wait a whole month to go back up house hunting. What if all the houses I had previously seen and considered were suddenly off the market? That would be slightly upsetting.

Also in the world of Bug, the rain continues to leak from the sky, making Half Pint very ornery. Ok, so maybe that's not the best description, but I happen to like that word. Anyway, she's discovered a penchant for "mouthing" people's legs. She'll run into you (on purpose) with her mouth open, so that her teeth run into your leg-particularly the back of your knee. I find it entertaining and think the whole thing's funny, although I do try to get her to stop with the other household members. She also seems to think I should give her one of my peanut butter cookies. I think not.

As for the mini world, I've been too preoccupied with the impending move and change in life to feel any creative juices flowing. I've had some inspiration since the trip, but haven't felt like acting on it. Ah well.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Silence is the Enemy

There's an important message being sent around the blog realm today, begging for change. The topic is sexual violence, and its continued survival in Liberia especially. Many people-men and women-have been or know someone who has been a victim of sexual assault. I encourage all of you, to speak out, and ask for change. I first stumbled across this movement on Dr. Isis' blog this morning. Here's the short version. In Liberia, during their most recent war (ended in 2003), roughly 75% of women were raped. Rape is considered a fallout from war-something that just happens. Now, six years after the war ended, there is still an alarming percentage of women a year being raped and attacked by men. Children are the most astounding statistic though, with more than 50% of the reported rapes occurring in children under the age of 12. Think about that for a moment. What were you doing when you were 8, or even 4? How different would your life be if you had been attacked at that age? How much of your childhood would be intact if you'd been raped? Would you be who you are today?

I ask that you at the very least, check out the links. The stories are upsetting and incredible. If you feel a need to do something about this, please, contact your senators and congressmen, asking that we find a way to help. We need to empower these women and children, reminding them that we're all human, and should be treated with respect, no matter our age, gender, or social status.

Monday, June 1, 2009

House Hunting, day one.

Oi. So, I just got back from my first trip out to my new city to hunt for houses. Note to self: drop attitude when people look at you funny for being young. Although I know I'm not a fifteen year old angsty teen, strangers might not know that. Because quite honestly, most people still don't realize my age. Someday this'll be a benefit. Until then, suck it up!!! Bring ear plugs if you're rooming with a known snorer.

Anyhoo, the drive out was nice, the drive back was nice. The houses all had potential-some more than others. Half Pint would have been happier with some of the yards than others, so I'm keeping that in mind. I'm also trying to figure out where Half Pint could stay during the day to NOT destroy everything in each house. One house I absolutely loved, has a great yard for the area, plenty of indoor places to keep her during the day, and more than enough space for me. That's though, the potential downfall. It just might be too much house. I would need more roommates for that piece of property, to keep the extra bills down (gas, electric, cable, etc.). The other place I liked had a very nice yard as well, but was further away from the University, and was a bit more inappropriately dated. It'd need some updating, but because the price was so low, making changes would not at all be a problem. Good house for two people (me, Half pint, roommate).

I made a list of positives and negatives for each property, to keep track of things. I'm also marking which negatives can be changed (new stove, new carpet, etc.). I'm hoping that the ones I really liked will still be on the market later this month when I get another chance to go out to the city. If they're not, I'll claim fate intervened. I'll try and focus on some places a little closer to the University on the next trip out. By then, finances should be perfected, and I'll have done more reading on mortgages, radon testing, and "how to determine if the hot water heater needs to be replaced". Woo!!!