Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Back in Jax

I'm back from my trip to D.C., for a class on usability research. Washington was much cooler than Jax, which made for a nice visit. I walked around plenty in the evenings, doing my siteseeing thing and taking dozens of photos.

View my Washington D.C. photos on Flickr

I could tell the security level was higher than usual in D.C. There were a lot of cops around, especially on the subway, which I rode a couple times each day. I sure wish we had a subway in Jax. It would make life a lot easier.

It was a nice surprise to see that some of the Smithsonian Institute museums had extended hours for the summer. Some open until 6:30 (Museum of American History) and some until 7:30 (Museum of Natural History). It was also good to see that the Washington Monument was open again. It was closed for renovation, or some such thing, the last time I was there. The views of the town from the base of the monument are beautiful.

I visited the Jefferson Memorial at sunset and took some photos over there. If it weren't for some confounded scaffolding they had up, those photos would be perfect. It's always something.

Topamax: Day X+ (side effects noted)

Lately, my headaches seem to be abating slightly. And, I have noticed some very slight side effects. Here's what I've noted so far:

Yesterday, I felt very noticeable tingling in my face for several hours while I was at work (I'm back in Jax after my trip to D.C.).

Memory Tricks
I have a peristent sense of everything sort of reminding me of things that happened about 15 years ago, even though there is no literal connection. Maybe this would be considered a very slight case of lingering déjà vu?

Lousy Cola Taste
Another expected side effect: cola has started to lose its appeal. I normally love the taste of Dr Pepper or Mr. Pibb. Now, every soda/cola/pop/Coke I drink, including my cherished Dr Pepper, tastes like something's just a little "off." My best analysis is that the fruity flavor is enhanced and the carbonation sensation is minimized relative to the flavor sensation. Yes. I just took another sip and that is definitely my verdict at this point. Subdued carbonation feel and amplified sweetness/fruitiness. End result: lousy taste.

These side effects are happening in spite of the fact that I've been sticking to a meager 25 mg. of Topamax daily, even though I'm past the first week and should, therefore, be taking more than that each day. I will increase the dose soon. The main reason I've delayed is that I keep missing a dose here and there. I want to get into a consistent routine.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Topamax: Day X (What day is this?)

I've already forgotten to take my Topamax tablet a couple times during these early days of my new prescription. I'm going to really need to remedy that. But, I'm feeling great today -- largely because I'm at a higher latitude, in Washington, D.C., where the air is cooler and clearer and easier to breathe than back home in Jacksonville, Florida.

The heat and humidity in Florida drives me crazy, and I've always gotten more headaches during summer. These few days in D.C. are going to be a nice respite.

Why am I in D.C.? For a three-day class on the latest usability research. But, that's a whole different topic.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Topamax: Day 1, Part 2 (Nap time, anyone?)

The Axert eliminated the headache within about half an hour, as advertised. But, the pain returned before the workday was over. Maybe within about four hours? So, I took my second Axert. It also dispatched the pain quickly. A little pain returned before the day was over, but not a full-blown headache.

Each Axert made me really, really tired. I'm not used to medication making me that tired, even when the label says it might. It's funny that the solution I normally use -- Excedrin -- does exactly the opposite. The caffeine in Excedrin makes me hyper and energized and jittery. As a practical matter, the latter solution is more conducive to a productive work day. The down-side is that the experts say taking Excedrin all the time leads to "rebound" headaches -- headaches triggered by too much caffeine. (I think that's what triggers them. But, don't quote me.)

I only had two Axert tablets to try. Next, I'll try Relpax to eliminate a headache.

Topamax: Day 1 + Axert x 2

I'm calling this "Day One" of my "Topamax Experiment" (or "Good-bye Migraines"). I took my first Topamax tablet last night, so that was "Day Zero."

As usual, I felt a headache coming on already today, before noon. I just took my first Axert tablet, instead of my usual dose of two Excedrin pills. I'll post at the end of the day to say how things went.

The Axert is the other part of this experiment, even though it's not really related to the Topamax. My pseudo-doctor (more on that later) just happened to prescribe the Topamax and the Axert at the same time. She also gave me a sample of Relpax to try. I'll give that a spin after I've had a go at Axert. It serves the same purpose.

What do I mean by "pseudo-doctor?" On my last two visits to my neurologist, I ended up seeing a nurse practitioner instead. Nobody asked me. I just made my normal appointment with the doctor. But, it was a nurse practitioner who saw me and prescribed the medicine. On the first visit, I think she said the doctor wasn't there that day. I remember thinking maybe he had taken the day off unexpectedly. But, on the next visit, when I found out I'd be seeing the nurse again, I asked about the situation and was told that everyone sees the nurse on "follow-up visits" now.

What's up with that?! Isn't almost every visit a "follow-up visit?" It sounds like the only time this doctor's patients will actually see him is on their very first visit. Maybe the loophole is to claim that each visit is for a completely new and different problem and is, therefore, not a "follow-up visit."

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

"The Topamax Experiment" (or "Good-bye Migraines")

Today, I begin a new treatment for my chronic migraine headaches. I'm going to start taking migraine preventative Topamax, which doctors say can really change the life of someone who gets chronic migraines. I'm also going to try Relpax and/or Axert to stop headaches when I do get them. These medications, if they work, will replace my latest regime of Inderal and Excedrin.

I've had migraines almost all my life. Since I was about seven years old, I think. My mother took me to several doctors, including a very good neurologist who diagnosed the condition as migraine. Previous doctors thought it might be eye strain or some other such thing. I suppose they thought it was unusual for a seven-year-old to suffer from migraines.

Just to make sure it wasn't something more serious, like a tumor or whatnot, the docs gave me a CAT scan, EEG, MRI, and even a spinal tap. All normal. Just plain ol' migraines.

Over the years, I tried several different medications -- Fiornal, Inderal, Midrin... I think I tried Migranol, Imitrex... There was some tiny blue pill in the late '70s or early '80s... I think it was shaped like a hexagon and the name started with an "m". Some were medications that end a headache once it starts. Others were "prophylactics" -- medications that prevent the onset of migraine. Some of these drugs seemed to work for a while. But none provided great relief or long-term substantial decreases in the frequency and/or intensity of the migraines.

The frequency and intensity has varied a lot over the years. Lately, it's been about 20 moderate migraines per month. Pretty annoying. They really make it difficult to function normally. As any migraineur knows, it's pretty hard to act normal or put together coherent sentences or tolerate sound and light during a migraine. But, I long ago realized that I cannot afford to use "sick days" every time I get a migraine. Of course, every now and then I get one that incapacitating and I don't have any choice but to lie in bed in a cool, dark, quiet room and deal with it. Fortunately, the really severe headaches only happen a few times per year for me.

I went through some biofeedback training also. That was really interesting and did seem to help a bit in keeping me relaxed and calm -- even during a migraine. It also taught me that my brain and body react unusually quickly to sensory triggers or emotional triggers. My EGR response was particularly rapid and strong, for what it's worth.

Now, I'm ready to try the next cool migraine drug to get these headaches under control. People who take large doses of Topamax, like 250 mg. per day, sometimes have strange side effects, like having trouble finding the right words when speaking, or experiencing jamais-vue or presque-vue. Some people say they look at items on their desk and it absolutely feels like things have been moved around, even though nobody has touched a thing. Like I said -- strange. But, I'm starting with a very small dose of 25 mg. per day. I'll increase it, on a gradual schedule, until it seems to have the desired effect. I'll try to post something here each day to report the progress.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Musical houses

It seems that a lot of people in Jacksonville, Florida, are playing a giant game of "musical chairs" with their homes -- moving into and out of houses at an unusual pace. Not that there's anything wrong with that. I'm just saying it's an odd happenstance that we didn't used to see.

One of my co-workers is selling his house after buying it pre-construction just a couple years ago, in 2003. He'll make a killing on the profit, thanks to crazy increases in home values around here, and all over Florida -- and in many other places around the country.

Of course, once mortgage interest rates go back up to historically "normal" levels, we can expect a levelling off of housing prices. I would even expect a gradual decline in prices after rates go back up to where they were in the mid-90s.

The whole trick is locking in a good fixed rate mortgage on a long-term home before rates and prices head in the wrong direction. How do you know the optimal moment? If I knew that, I'd have a servant typing this blog entry for me. And, I'd use a gold-plated font.

Our very own island

Charline and I will soon have our very own island. It will be a nice refuge to escape to every once in a while -- while we're cooking. That's right, it's a kitchen island. I had you going there for a moment, didn't I?

We are getting new cabinets, a new dishwasher, a new stove, and a new Corian countertop too. Even the kitchen sink. The whole enchilada. It's going to be sweet. Hmmm... A sweet enchilada... No. Probably a bad idea.

We'll be sure to post some photos on our Shutterfly gallery when we have them. Or, maybe on our Flickr site.