screw numbering days, whatever

Most of the art things I've been doing lately are dumb doodles or more hands-on: painting little hexagonal boxes to put things in, and rearranging the bedroom furniture, and making living room layouts on graph paper for built-in track shelves and my dream furniture. I like to do things in fits and starts. I have a bevy of hobbies, and I never leave them behind entirely, but--fits and starts. Soon I'll be in a cooking phase, where all I'll want to do is make insanely complicated feasts and stink up the kitchen with homemade sauerkraut. Then I'll be into clay, then back into fashion and make-up, etc etc etc, the cycle continues. Sometimes it feels like I'm too unfocused to have a consistent hobby, but I think the real deal is that I'm interested in too many things (the art/home improvement hobbies don't even touch on my medical research hobbies) and maybe it's not so much a curse of lack-of-follow-through and more a of rotation. At least I'm doing a little something every day.

I was officially diagnosed with hEDS this afternoon. It was highly suspected, but it could have just been benign joint hypermobility syndrome (note that there is some disagreement in the literature on whether or not JHS and hEDS are dots on a spectrum or actually two different syndromes) with some other random things stacked on top of it. But today we ran through the diagnostic checklist, and it is what my doctor and I both expected. I think my case is fairly mild by comparison, though obviously not so mild that I wasn't actively pursuing medical help for it. We're starting on H1 and H2 antihistamines and a mast cell stabilizer (a medication I did not know existed, because why would I need to know that? I didn't even know what mast cells were until a couple months ago) for the suspected Mast Cell Activation Syndrome (MCAS) and we'll be figuring out how to treat the Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (POTS) as we go, too. Again, I don't have symptoms so bad that I'm ever bedridden for weeks at a time, but we think the MCAS is the reason for my (occasionally terrifying) brain fog and intermittent anomia, and the POTS is probably responsible for my 24/7 nausea problem--those are my current Top 2 Genie-Please-Help-Me wishes to resolve now that I've got the physical therapy tools to mitigate some of the pain. I also now know that you can use a rolling pin and a friend to push dislocated ribs back into place! Knowledge truly is power. I also found some fascinating abstracts and papers (1, 2) on the weird association of hypermobility and anxiety/panic disorders, and specifically OCD (here). How incredible/strange that all of my myriad issues are likely explained by some yet-undetermined gene* that affects collagen production, and equally strange that though my brothers are also hypermobile, and all of us have anxiety, that our anxieties have manifested in such different ways. But their brains are not mine to talk about, so I shan't. 

There is something about diagnoses that lead back to desire. The nature of desire is a thing I find myself daydreaming (daywondering? daymusing?) about** recurrently. In this particular case: why is the promise of a name for what ails you so alluring? I mean, aside from ability to treat things more easily. Why do I want to know if it's a mild flu or a bad cold when the treatment for both is so similar? Why do I find a syndrome that offers no cures, only mitigating treatments, so much more comforting than a list of symptoms? I think, in my case, it has to do with (and I may have mentioned this in a previous post) a reclamation of power. Like all the stories where you know the real name of your enemy, and that allows you to curse them. Names are powerful. And I can rally against one Big Thing far more easily than I can a hundred small things. I think about the history of medicine and humanity, of the curiosities that prompt us to bestow names upon them. We like things with names. Descriptions and metaphors are great for pathos, but only when they are leading up to (or dancing around, or searching for) something with a name. We feel better when there's a word for an emotion we're feeling--so much so that there are jokes like "there's a German word for that." There's something innately human about the desire to christen things. Granted, we don't know at all what other huge-brained animals are thinking, but I doubt that blue whales worry much about giving names to what they eat, what they feel. They may communicate it--I would bet money that they communicate both those things with one another--but I doubt they take the time to label it. Perhaps that's why classical music is so brilliant and fundamentally resonant; for a moment, it lets us be blue whales. 

That got a bit off-topic. I wonder of other animals tell stories? If crows start off a chatter telling their friends where the good food is at, and end up talking about their great uncle's run in with a hawk. See? This is why I have a million hobbies. How can you not wonder about these things.


I also dumped coffee, tea, and a bottle of pills on myself today, so that's my life.



*Doctors/geneticists have a fairly good idea about the genes that cause the other types of Ehlers-Danlos, but the hypermobility eludes them. There's one possible gene, TPSAB1, but I don't have any info about it on my Promethease report, which probably means it wasn't tested in my 23andMe data, or however that works. I've considered going all-in and asking my doc if we should do a legit genetic workup, but I hear that insurance companies can use that against you. As if there weren't enough ways for the US healthcare system to shart on your life already.

**Brief aside: when I say things to Daniel at the dinner table like "So I've been thinking about the nature of desire," he finds it as hilarious as he does interesting--hilarious because he, analytic philosopher to the core, ended up with a babe of the continental persuasion.

Day 16 & 17

I've primarily been reading medical research, Quanta Mag, and essays by Ursula K. Le Guin this week, though I also just started Vladimir Nabokov's Pale Fire, which is one of those books I've been meaning to read for, you know, years. In terms of non-hermit behaviors, Daniel and I went to Deborah Reed's release reading for her newest novel, The Days When Birds Come BackI met Deborah at Pacific (she was finishing, I was starting), and she's so funny and wonderful and brilliant (her writing is also wonderful and brilliant, but more, um, devastatingly heartbreaking than humorous, typically). I got her book AND a hug. She's one of the people I wish I could see more often. 



Lots of goofy art for you today, from over the past few days. In order of their creation:

lizard from a long line of wizards

lizard from a long line of wizards

perpetual mood the last week

perpetual mood the last week

Daniel's prompt was "draw a wizard's chair," sooooo...

Daniel's prompt was "draw a wizard's chair," sooooo...

felt like using tarot for my inspo last night, and went with a loosely Nikola Tesla-inspired Magician because Daniel made a joke that, like Tesla, it's likely that celibacy is the secret to the Magician's genius

felt like using tarot for my inspo last night, and went with a loosely Nikola Tesla-inspired Magician because Daniel made a joke that, like Tesla, it's likely that celibacy is the secret to the Magician's genius

Day 13 & 14

Day 13, I drew a tiny comic that didn't seem worth its own solo post, but here ye go

sick cat.PNG

Today, I did some color- and black-fill on a tattoo I lineworked out for my mom before I retired the ol' rotary. (Photos at the bottom of this post)

I loved today--turns out, I kinda missed tattooing, which surprised me. It's pretty client-dependent, whether it's fun or not (unless you're one of those hardass artists who DGAF about the client, which I could never actually do but can totally understand some days). Which is dumb, and a thing I don't like. Bad clients suck. BUT! Despite my fun time, my back and shoulders hurt like hell. They haven't been this bad since before I did physical therapy. So that was a good reminder that I didn't just stop because people were annoying. It's a really physical job, and my current, loosey-goosey-jointed body can't cope. So I'm glad I've (mostly, generally) made peace with quitting. Having my pain rocket from a few weeks at a glorious, nearly-unprecedented 2 to a definite-5-bordering-on-6 is not super fun. (I even took stretching breaks like three times! UGH.) I really hope I didn't undo all that PT work. *cries*

Before the tattoo photo, a few things (that I thought might be interesting):

1. The few noticeable blowouts on the head of the left chicken are really interesting (since I filled the rest, the other blow-outs aren't visible. There were none on the right bird, though, which is what makes me think it's healing-related; you can't really avoid exerting the back of the arm in day-to-day activities, and my mom is notoriously active). The line work is from about a year and a half ago. I'm glad it really doesn't seem to impact the finished piece, because I was fairly disappointed. Blow-outs suck. But they happen, and sometimes it's a skin-to-needle depth or pressure thing, and sometimes it's a healing thing. Not sure which it was here, because it could honestly be either. I distinctly remember that we didn't do the black fill that first day because I was quite sick, so I could have been more heavy-handed than usual. Either way, it's ok! Even a perfect tattoo won't look perfect for long. Everything could be done *just right*--the body doesn't care. Your body knows that ink is an invader in its personal space, so your cells are slowly breaking it down from day one. Even people who use sunscreen every day are going to see fading and blurring over time. Don't panic! It looks badass (and you can always get it touched up if you want). Also, in this case, my mom thought it was totally perfect and gorgeous, and if my mama is happy, then I am extra happy.

2. "Why does the yellow look like there's red/orange in it?" you ask. That's blood. Some colors take more repeated effort to take (see: any color that has white pigment in it) and, additionally, light colors show off the blood. The blood won't mess with the color, especially if the tattoo is kept clean and moisturized while it's healing (and there's NO SCAB-PICKING).

3. "Why does the chicken on the right have a little unshaded area on its head?" Great question! My mom has a mole there, and you should always tattoo around moles. Even if they aren't super raised, it's smart to give them space because (a) they bleed A LOT and (b) the client's dermatologist will thank you.

4. Even though I don't really tattoo anymore, if anyone has a question about the science (or social/etiquette) aspects of it, I'd be happy to do some more detailed blog posts. The science was a big part of why I got into it in the first place (light chemistry, dermatology, virology, hematology--all paired with art! Pretty rad). I also know some very cool, very smart doctors--including one who does tattoo removal in Portland--and I'd be happy to ask them questions when I don't have the answers. You can hit me up on twitter or send me a message. I'll keep any inquiries that I blog about anonymous, because this is a SHAME-FREE ZONE.


Diabetic Cat post

Mulder's diabetes is back after four months in remission. Cat diabetes is super weird--they can just spontaneously get over it for a while. I don't know how many cats remain in remission, given their natural lifespan, but I think most end up with it again eventually (unless it's purely weight/food-related, maybe? Maybe they can be better forever?? That would be cool for those cats/owners). Mulder is a weird case, because he's not overweight and he's only 4.5 years old. The vet said it's not unheard of, but it's pretty unusual. I've read some black cat breeds are genetically predisposed, but who knows? I am not sure it was a reliable source. If it was, I'll add a note. Anyway, it's crappy for him and for us, but we're all trooping on through because DUH, HE IS OUR PRECIOUS CHILD.

I am not a vet, this is not a vet's perspective on anything--this is just a place for me to put things I've learned (I'll update this original post as necessary), and if you have a diabetic cat, then you can utilize my hours of repeated, agonizing research and add them to your ever-growing list of things to think about (and talk to your vet about, or totally ignore!--but still talk to your vet, that part's important). Stuff in bold is relevant to things.

--UPDATE! I haven't used it yet, because I had to urgently buy insulin online (long story about pharmacy confusion), BUT! I found an infinite-use pet insulin discount card (they probably have other discount cards, too) that *should* save you up to 75% at the pharmacies listed on the site.--


See your vet, like, now if:

  • your cat is losing weight even though they are eating regularly (+ demanding extra food) (also, always see your vet if your animal is losing weight rapidly!!!)
  • your cat is drinking a lot more water than usual (either once a day for a couple consecutive days, and definitely if it's more than once in one day)
  • the litter box smells like weird, putrid fruit after the cat pees

    These following ones aren't indicative of diabetes on their own, but they are still signs that your cat is sick or ate something stupid, and they do often happen in conjunction with the above symptoms:
  • they are barfing more than usual
  • they have repeated diarrhea in a short period
  • they are acting super weird for them (obviously this means different things for different cats, but: more lethargic than usual, more snuggly...think of a toddler running a temp)

See any medical website's description of ketoacidosis, basically. Cats can tolerate MUCH higher glucose levels than a human before they need to go to an emergency room, but the indicators are all really similar.


We give Mulder wet food 2x/day, 12 hours apart (right before his insulin, which is this kind), and we use the Purina ProPlan DM for said-wet food, which we buy from (not sponsored--they're just great) because it is the absolute best deal. The food is expensive (as are the test strips, and the initial pet glucometer purchase), but welcome to having a chronically ill pet. The insulin dosage depends on how well he's responding to it.* If his blood sugar is too high, we can wait for the vet to call us back. If it's a little too low, we give him some karo syrup. If it's a lot too low--and hopefully we never have to deal with that, knock on wood--we will syrup him and take him to a vet ER immediately

The reason I was compelled to write this long note to myself at midnight tonight is because I just did more research on dry foods and found some really good options. The DM dry food is insanely expensive. Here are two dry foods that have carb content under 10% and are thus safe for grazing (which our vet has us do with Mulder--this may not be the case with your animal,* but if it is, you're in luck! I did all the stupid research for you!)
--Wellness CORE Grain-Free Original Formula Dry Cat Food
--Wysong Epigen Starch-Free Chicken Formula Grain-Free Dry Dog & Cat Food


Keep a spreadsheet. Make it in good ol' G-docs, so it is shareable. Share it with your partner-in-care, if you have one. Share it with your cat-sitters, and family members who are generous enough to be said-cat-sitters. Keep important information on the spreadsheet, like the daily basics (date, time of measurement, glucose reading), and don't forget to utilize a notes section. This is good for keeping track of things like "Raised insulin dosage from X to Y," behavioral changes, or barfing.

I will maybe add photos of this spreadsheet and more notes tomorrow, when it is not midnight.

Ok, it's no longer midnight! Here are some screenshots of how we organize Mulder's spreadsheet:

image 1.a.

image 1.a.


Alright, you'll note that we went through a variety of glucometers before finally getting the AlphaTrak2 (we were given the Henry Shein one by our specialist vet on accident--only vet offices can buy test strips for those for some insane reason--but we were able to exchange it with them for the AT2 when they realized the error. The Henry Shein is equivalent to the AT2, so no drastic number changes. The Contour Next EZ was the first one we bought. It is super affordable, but it's for humans, so I had to come up with an equation to estimate the actual measurement, as compared to the glucometer our local vet was using. If a person was on a super budget and was good at math, the EZ might be ok, but when you're getting down into lower number management, more precise is better so you aren't risking seizures). 

The AlphaTrak2 is an initial cost of $55 and comes with the glucometer, 30 lancets, 25 test strips, and an automatic poker that we never use because we can poke his ears manually (probably the most traumatic part of having a diabetic cat). You will go through 25 test strips VERY QUICKLY, especially at the outset when you're measuring levels throughout the day (a glucose curve--see here). Lancets are hella cheap and come in packs of 100. The test strips are mad expensive and come in packs of 50. You'll be lucky to find a way to buy them for $1/strip. This is honestly the biggest cost for us, assuming Mulder isn't having complications that require a bajillion vet visits (we went through a phase like that last spring, and it was awful). You generally have to buy the test strips that go with the particular glucometer--you can't substitute BRAND X for BRAND Z. *However* there is a little hack: if you can establish the manufacturer of the test strips, sometimes you can find a workaround. For example, I just found this and will be buying these from now on, assuming the readings match up as well as everyone says they do. Forums! They ain't all bad.

If you don't want to mess with workarounds but the AlphaTrak2 is too spendy for you: This one, Advocate, is real cheap if you forgo the starter kit and buy the items separately (glucometer is ~$17, and test strips are nominally more expensive, in the $32 range) (if you buy a starter kit with 50 test strips, it's ~$60, but might be wise, given that the glucometer on its own doesn't come with the test liquid, which is pretty important for calibrating the machine) and has better reviews than  EverPaw (that's in the $20 range for the glucometer, with test strips in packs of 50 for $30. I don't know anything about this brand, but reviews are mixed-leaning-towards-negative), but the major flaw I read about the Advocate in the reviews re: false lows seems like a thing I don't want to mess with. So I'll just stick with the AT2 (and my sick new hack) for now, but there are options. Given the affordability of these, I'd go for either of them over the headache of a cheap human glucometer. It's nice that there are some options now. 

The vet tech shows you how to prick the ear to get readings (it's supposed to be a lot less painful than pricking their paws, and I imagine it's more sanitary for the cat, as well, given that their paws are constantly in litter), but this site provides good backup. In fact, it's just a great general resource. Obviously, take it all with a grain of salt, but when Mulder was first diagnosed, I spent a lot of time on there to get acquainted with everything. Another note: Dirty hands are a great way for anyone (including cats) with an open wound to get infected, so I wash my hands before prepping things, then give them a quick spritz/squirt of hand sanitizer before actually pricking his ear. Make sure hand sanitizer is dry on your hands before doing it, because if alcohol mixes with the blood sample, you won't get a reliable reading, and then you just spent $1 on pain and suffering with no reward. 




This is helpful for seeing how much your cat is eating, and whether or not brand changes in the food impact the glucose levels wildly. You can see above that we--through convos with our vet--changed the frequency of the dry food free-feeding. Today (not pictured), Mulder only ate 1/2 of his 1/2 can of food, but he's also eating some dry food, so I'm not terribly worried. I'd be less happy about that if he didn't have other food out to graze on. The brands above are not brands I'll be using going forward--they were brands we had sample packs of from a friend. They were all grain free, but like 25% carb. But Mulder was eating them, and he was super low weight at this time (it was early in treatment--he'd lost like 7lbs and then he got a really bad face infection, so he was just coming off antibiotics and finally eating/tolerating food other than plain, boiled chicken) so I was totally fine with it. Later, we switched to the Purina DM dry food, but, as I mentioned, it's super expensive, so we're trying out the Core Wellness (see above) for now. We caught this relapse before he lost much weight, so it's more of a priority to make sure he's not gaining weight after he stabilizes.




This is an insanely useful thing to track. Be detailed. Add anything that might be anything, because you'll forget quickly when your brain power is taken up by worrying. Doctors of the human and pet variety all love having access to this kind of data. It might be nothing, but it might be a really big deal.



REMINDER: this post will be edited and updated as needed by me, so don't freak out if the food list changes or something.


*for questions about this: SEE YOUR VET, I AM NOT YOUR VET