It still hurts

I’ve started writing this post many times, but it just didn’t come out right.

I planed to write a post each day I was in the Diamond Headache Unit. but I was so busy while I was there.

Then I tried to write a detailed post saying everything I did there, all the things they do, but it got to be too long, and I got too tired. That’s how I’ve been since I got back, just so very tired.

The program there was very good. There were a lot of classes you could attend, like yoga, biofeedback, nutrition, stress reduction, pharmaceuticals…a lot of things to do! It’s really a very good clinic. It just didn’t work for me, and that’s been very hard to tell people. I had so much hope, I didn’t realize just how much, until I didn’t get the desired results.

I was there for three weeks. I decided it was time to come home. Dr. Diamond didn’t say it, I did. I had just been away too long. If I lived close to the hospital I might have stayed, but being so far away was hard. I needed to get back to make sure my pets were okay, they’d never had a sitter for so long. I needed to get back for my Spravato treatments. I had a treatment the day before I left, so I missed two treatments. I was happy that I didn’t crash being off of it that long. Of course I’m sad that the treatment didn’t work for me, but I’m not depressed. That’s a great thing.

When I was at Diamond I did have times where my pain was negligible. That was amazing. But after a stressful night in a hotel with extreme constipation, and then a long plane ride and 2 hour car ride home, I had a major migraine, again.

The first week back it did seem to be a bit better. When I took my abortive, it worked. Then we had more monsoon days, where it was bright and sunny all day, with extreme storms in the evening. My head…oh my head.

I was seeing Dr. Diamond and her team remotely, and they w doing their best to get things under control. It’s just takes a long time. And I don’t like treating all these symptoms without treating the cause. I know they don’t know the cause of migraines, but they do know there are triggers, and evidently we haven’t found out what all my triggers are. We do know that the extreme weather changes are a trigger, but that only happens about 3 months a year. Last year it didn’t happen at all. So what triggers me the rest of the time? Why do I have a migraine all the time? Or is this not a migraine? I’m so very confused. That’s the biggest reason I haven’t been writing. I’m confused. I don’t really know how to go about making things better. My quality of life isn’t very good right now, I’m try hard to fix that. Don’t get me wrong, I accept that I’m chronically ill, I just need to find a way to increase my ….well…quality of life. And I’m working on it.

But let me say more about my treatment with Diamond. I now have an arsenal of medications that I can use, but I’m not too keen on having so much medication. I’m having side effects, and I don’t know which medication it’s coming from or if it’s a combination of meds interacting…or what? I’m now on I think 3 preventatives…or is it 4…yes, I think it’s 4. I also have 3 abortives I can use. That’s a heck of a lot of meds! Then they say that they can’t give me things because I’m not tolerating medications. Ya think maybe it’s because I’m already on a shit load of meds?? I was put on one medication to help with the weather related migraines. I don’t mind taking a medication for that since you can’t avoid or control the weather, but this medication is the same medication I took for Idiopathic Intracranial Hypertension. That medication lowers your cerebral spinal fluid pressure, heck it reduces any pressure you may have….like your blood pressure. Taking this medication when I don’t really need it all the time, caused my BP to drop drastically! I could barely walk. Every time I got up I almost blacked out. I was so out of it I couldn’t really figure out what was wrong. I thought it was just because of the major migraine I was having. Then I strapped on my BP cuff and stood up, while holding on to the wall and being propped up, took my BP. It was 77/49. No wonder I couldn’t walk and my head hurt so bad when I was upright. So I’m have taken myself off this drug. Well I’m tapering off, I’m almost all the way off this med and I feel much better. Still have a headache, but much better.

I had an appointment with one of Dr. Diamond’s PAs last week and found out something I misunderstood. I thought I could only take 2 abortives a week. That’s what I’ve always been told. But I’ve only been given one type of abortive at a time before, now I have 4 different types of abortives. I have an ergot, an NSAID, a muscle relaxant, and what I think is an anti-seizure medication. She told me I can take EACH of these twice a week, just rotate through. So that means I can basically have an abortive every day. That’s pretty cool. Now if all of them worked that would be wonderful, but they don’t all work the same. However, I was given a chart that says what to take when I have a low grade migraine, what to take if it’s moderate, and what to take if it’s severe. That’s good to know. I have found that if I take the NSAID with another medication they work better together. (yes this is allowed) Sot hat reduces the number of days I have for meds if I take two together, but it’s still a heck of a lot better than just 2 a week. That has made things easier. I just don’t want to be on so many medications. One I think I’m going to drop soon, because I should have seen a difference by now, and I haven’t. That’s one down! Woot! We celebrate every success, no matter how small, because we don’t have a lot of them.

I’ve changed my diet, and I think I’m going to go even more extreme…well different than most people eat. I have cut out almost all meat based products. I’m still having non fat plain Greek yogurt sometimes, but that’s about it. Oh I did have an egg white omelet when we went out for breakfast with Stuart’s father, I don’t feel like explaining my diet preferences to him, or anyone else, it’s hard enough dealing with my diet restrictions for medical reasons. I’m basically eating vegetables, fruit, whole grains, beans, nuts and seeds. Unfortunately I have been eating too many nuts and seeds so I haven’t lowered my calorie count at all so no weight loss. Now I’m going to reduce the amount of grains, nuts, and starchy vegetables, to reset my body. I have to cut out all soda! I can’t have just a little, it’s keeping my body in the junk food craving stage. I really want to detox away from all of that and see if I feel better.

I’m tired. I’m really just to tired of dealing with all of this. I’m tired of the headache, and tired of the treatments, and tired of being tired. So I’m resting now. I’m not rushing any more.

Okay, I wrote that a couple of weeks ago, why didn’t I post it? I dunno!

Here’s a snippet of what’s happened since then: I went to Barrow Clinic in Phoenix, I’m transferring all my care there, no more dealing with the woman I’ve been seeing here, and no more having my care in Chicago, that was hard. Harder than I’d like to admit. Dr Diamond wanted me to come back, I just can’t do that, the trip causes too much pain so it negates the treatment I get there.

About Barrow, first I have no idea what the Woman, here has against them, I found them very knowledgeable, they treated me with great respect and validated all my feelings. They changed my medication from Diamond a little, some that were oral are now injectable so I get it faster when I’m in severe pain, and they increased a preventative. They said to wait until January to see if any of the preventatives kick in, if not we will try something else. They also want me to have a tilt table test to rule out things like POTS and see a physical therapist there who specializes in migraines. After I see the physical therapist there a couple of times we can transfer that to Tucson, they will just tell my PT here the treatment plan. Oh and they are recommending that I get another occipital injection that uses a steroid instead of the one I got recently that only used a numbing medication.

Opps, my battery is very low and I don’t have my plug, so I’m going to publish this before I find another reason not to.

I promise I’ll be back very soon.

Catch me up on you all if you can. xoxo

Damned statistics

This is a wonderful post about why it’s so important to still be diligent during this time of COVID-19.
‘the problem is that some poor bastard is always going to be the wrong side of the comforting stats’, personally I don’t want to be that person, and I don’t want anyone I love to be either.

RD Ramblings

People who know me well will be aware that I’m not a fan of numbers. In fact, I detest the darn things. Maths was my worst subject at school (aside from the much-dreaded sport); I never learnt my times tables; and although I can easily rattle off huge chunks of ‘Hamlet’, I struggle to remember my own ‘phone number. And don’t even get me started on a task in my previous job which involved working out standard deviations from cohort means in order to calculate student prizes.

However, I acknowledge that numbers are important – especially in these days of rising Covid cases at a time when we’re all getting dragged back to the office by our hair, kicking and screaming (did I mention that I’m not looking forward to going back?). In fact, it amazes me that although the daily infection, hospitalisation, and death figures in the UK…

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I missed you too much, going to the headache clinic.

Okay, so I couldn’t stay away.

I don’t know how much I will be posting, but I hope you will bare with me when I’m silent for long stretches. Such is the live with chronic illnesses and pain.

If you’d like to know more about what’s been going on with me here’s where I’ve been, sporadically, https://dizzychickblog.wordpress.com/

I have great news! At least I hope it is.

Headache guide by W. Holcombe

I’m leaving Saturday for the Diamond Headache Clinic in Chicago. They are very well known for helping headache patients who are complicated. I had a virtual appointment with Dr. Merle Diamond, she is the daughter of the founder. She was very encouraging. She said we’ll start with a cocktail infusion and if that doesn’t work, she will try something else. I have no idea when I’ll be home. The average stay is 7-10 days, it could be a little less, or more.

When I had my virtual visit with Dr. Diamond she asked when I wanted to come and I said “as soon as possible”, expecting to have to wait for a long time, she said “how about tomorrow?”. Oh my! She really wanted to get me in there fast to get started helping. Unfortunately, I couldn’t go immediately, I have some other appointments that I had to take care of before leaving. Like getting more trigger point injections, I sure don’t want to have the severe nerve pain while I’m there.

They do much more than just medication treatments, I’ll also be working on mindfulness relaxation, nutrition (I have to eat a low tyramine diet while there, and can have no outside food), and other modalities if they think it’s necessary. For example they also do physical therapy, massage…ect.

One more thing, Stuart gets to stay with me. They have the room set up for a companion. So we don’t even have to pay for a hotel room. I couldn’t get any luckier about this trip. Oh, yes I could, since I’ve already hit my maximum out of pocket this isn’t going to cost us anything. Just the plane tickets and a hotel for extra days we are hoping we can spend so we can visit friends out there. And hopefully visit the Art Institute of Chicago, I’ve always wanted to go there. If they are actually open to visitors with the increase of covid cases. Hmmm, will I feel comfortable going there? Oh my! I just thought of that.

I’m excited to go, and also way stressed out . There is so much to do this week to get ready. Luckily Stuart is very good at planning. He has lists for so much. I am a list maker too, but not to the extent he is. It makes me laugh sometimes.

More news about me. I had a urine test to check on my adrenal function and we found that the hormone norepinephrine (noradrenaline) is high. I then had to do a 24 hour urine test, I turned it in yesterday. When I turned it in the lady said, “This is just 24 hours?” Hahaha, I pee a lot! The test will determine if I have a tumor. Tumors on your adrenals are normally benign so I’m not worried about it. Of course if I have one they will remove it. There is also a possibility that it’s high simply because I’ve been under so much stress, especially from pain, for so long I’m stuck in the fight or flight mode. And it could be caused by a medication I’ve been on, (Fetzima) that I’m tapering off of now. If so the relaxation techniques I’m going to learn will help, and I’ll probably need medication at least for a while. This could explain the increase in my symptoms, the sudden high blood pressure, increased heart rate, high anxiety, prolonged migraine….among other things. I’m actually hoping that this is the reason., it could change everything.

I’m going to try to keep a diary of everything that happens at the headache clinic to share here. I hope it will be helpful to some people.

My headache specialist here, that I’m not fond of, actually suggested I go to a headache clinic because she is out of options, and this migraine has been going on way too long. She suggested Diamond or Jefferson, but when I messaged her to tell her I was going, she didn’t even respond. What is wrong with this woman? And why did it take her so long to suggest this? I’m so glad I’m getting a new doctor in November.

I have a virtual appointment with my psychiatrist in about an hour so she can see that I’m still doing well at the lower dose of Fetzima, so I can take it down even more. This is a very slow taper, it’s kind of frustrating, I really want to get off this as soon as possible to see if it may be the culprit. So I’m off to get ready for that, then I need to do more to get ready for the trip. So much to do and my symptoms are very high lately so it’s very hard to get things done. It’s amazing how we can push through so much. Plus, the anxiety about all this is driving me crazy. I know it’s mostly from the norepinephrine, but it doesn’t make it easier. I do so wish I could drive so I could get some things done while Stuart is working. This is really going to wear him out.

Oh, we are so lucky that our pet sitter is available to come stay with out babies during our trip. So he’s not only pet sitting, he’s house sitting. And he’s going to clean! He said he wants us to come back to a clean home. He’s going to get a big tip from me!

I hope you are as happy to be back here at Picnic With Ants as much as I am. I put so much into this site, I just couldn’t give up on it.

How are you all doing? Have you ever had to go to a specialty clinic? I’d love to hear about it.

I’m shutting her down

I can’t keep up with this blog any longer.

The nerve pain is back. The injections on the 22nd didn’t work. Once again I can’t type.

I’ve written so few posts this past year I don’t think it’s worth it.

It’s been a good ride, but it’s time.

Farewell my friends.

I appreciate you being there throughout these many years.

Be good to you.

Being disheartened, and hopeful.

Mexican Poppies, Tucson, AZ. by W. Holcombe

I don’t even know where I left off so I’m just going to ramble a bit. I guess I’m too lazy to read my last post, or just not in a good frame of mind lately.

A lot has been going on. I had an injection (epidural) in my neck to help the disc bulge on February 22nd, and lately it seems to be wearing off. I’ll be getting a second injection on the 22nd of this month. They say it can take a couple of injections to get the full effect when you first start getting them, so hopefully this one will last a long time. I’m just concerned because they don’t normally give more than 3 injections a year, what if this one wears off in just a couple of months? Even if they would give me more injections, I’m not sure that’s wise considering I had Avascular Necrosis (AVN) in my left hip causing a total hip replacement, which they believe was caused by steroid use. Trying hard not to think about all of that, just take it one day at a time, but wouldn’t it be irresponsible of me not to at least be concerned about this? When I talk to my doctor he just said that it’s always more of a chance once you’ve had AVN, but it’s the only thing they can do to relieve the pain right now. Later, if it gets worse, they can do surgery, but who wants to have surgery on their neck? That’s pretty darn scary to me. But I will NOT think about that! That really is getting worked up about what might never happen. Of course, I was getting upset about the whole injection thing, so I guess I really should just take it as it comes, and not get worried about things that may never happen.

I was about to tell you how happy I was about something that caused me to look at the calendar to check the date….Wow! It’s been a long time since I posted! It’s been a bit busy here. Anyway, my happiness… I had a Vyepti infusion on the 16th of March, it was my first infusion at the higher dose. Afterward, I had NO migraines on the 18th, 19th, 20th, and 21st!! After a YEAR of migraine pain, I had FOUR days without one!! I was so happy and so hopeful. even after a bad on the 22nd, I was still hopeful that I’d have migraine free days once again. That hasn’t happened. Since then I’ve had 8 days where my migraine made it impossible for me to do anything except curl in a dark room. The rest of the days I’ve still had migraines but I was able to do something, even if just a little.

I’ve been feeling so disheartened. It looks like the PT didn’t help the pain at all, only with the injection have I been able to get relief from the horrible nerve pain. It did however, improve my range of motion and strength. So I’ll continue my exercises and hope for the best. I had a little break in my migraines, but it was very short lived. My mood has fluctuated from happy, to anger, to sadness…

courtesy of Headspace

Then last night I saw in an article on Migraine Strong that a new neuromodulationdevice for migraines has been approved by the FDA. I already have the Cefaly and the Nerivio and bot word to some degree. The Cefaly is the best for me. It stimulates the supraorbital branch of the transgemial nerve. The Nerivio stimulates nerves in the arm that makes your brain focus on it and off the migraine pain, it’s kind of interesting. The Nervio works for me only if I use it at the very beginning of a migraine, when you are intractable it’s impossible to catch it at the Start of a migraine.

“Relivion targets two main nerve branches believed to be involved in the Migraine process: the trigeminal nerve branches in the front of the head and the occipital nerve branches in the back of the head.”

This gives me hope. Hope that I might get some relief. However, since it isn’t on the market yet they don’t know how much it will cost or if it will be covered by insurance. Since I’m on Medicare, if they have a discount I won’t be eligible. That’s very unfortunate. I did just find out that if you are on Medicare you should reach out to the manufacturer to see if they will offer you a discount. We’ll see if I can get it. crossing fingers. If not, I guess it wasn’t for me.

I’ve been looking at a headache clinic in Phoenix, but I don’t see where they offer more than I’ve already tried. I honestly don’t know what to do or, where to go for help. Would Mayo offer more? I just don’t know. I have an appointment with a new headache doctor, but the first appointment she had for new patients is in November! It’s really crazy how in demand headache specialist are, and how few there are. I just read in Practical Neurology “If all patients with migraine were cared for by a UCNS board-certified headache specialist, each would see approximately 78,000 patients per year”. UNCS is the United Council for Neurologic Specialities. Personally, don’t actually think that all patients with migraine need to see a specialist, however if you do not respond to typical treatments you do need to see one. That can be very difficult. The average neurologist receives just 4 hours of training on headache disorders. There are about 500 headache specialist in the US. Migraine affects 1 in 7 people world wide. It’s just crazy that we don’t have more doctors who specialize in it. Tucson has 2, one is certified by UCNS, the other is certified by the Certificate of Added Qualifications (CAQ). The later is who I’ve been seeing, the former is who I have an appointment with in November. I’m very lucky that I have access to a headache specialist at all, there are some states that have none!

I’m so grateful for all the new medications and new neuromodulation devices that have come out for migraine. It’s amazing really since there is so little money allocated to migraine research. There is so much they do not know.

On a good note, I got my first vaccine shot, and get the second on Saturday! Woot! I’ll still wear a mask and be careful, but I might actually go out some.

I plan to have a give away soon. I received a lot of things from the Retreat Migraine conference (virtual), and I can’t use all of it. Stuart also got a goodie box since he attended too, so I have some of that to give away too. I just want to give back to you, after all the support you’ve given me over the years.

I’m thinking of starting Mindfulness Monday again. I’d like your input if you’d like that or not?

“See” you soon!

I can type again

Photo by Min An on Pexels.com

When last we spoke I was hurting too much to type. I’m happy to say that I can type again! I’m not sure I have too much to say, but at least I can type. I’m going to try to be brief here, just letting you guys know that I’m okay, and I’ll try to post more often.

For the past few months I’ve been consumed by the nerve pain going down my arms and bursting out of my hands. The pain also traveled down my back, in between my shoulder blades. I’ve had a lot of pain in my life, but this nerve pain has, by far, been the worst. I believe in accepting what comes and being okay with it. Everything changes, you just need to go with it. This pain I could not accept, and that hurt me as a person. I couldn’t accept what was happening to me, the pain was just too great. I have a much deeper understanding of what severe pain can do to you. I saw what it was doing to me, and I didn’t like it, but I couldn’t change it. How can anyone accept feeling like their hands are on fire from the inside out, every morning! I would scream with pain. I made bargains, if it would just stop I promised I’d be a better person…ect. I have never wished to die so often, and I’m not depressed. Can you imagine how messed up I’d be if I was going through this with depression? I can’t even imagine.

I was in physical therapy in January, and it seemed to be working, then I had a set back and we kind of started over. Then I felt like I was getting better, then I hit a wall and crashed. Every time we tried adding any strength training all my symptoms would return. It has been hell so far this year….but it’s getting better.

Last Monday I finally got an epidural in my neck and trigger point injections through my trapezius on both sides. I cannot express enough how this has changed my life! I’m no longer afraid to go to sleep for fear of what will happen when I wake up. I’m sleeping more than 4 hours a night. I actually slept for 10 hours one day this week! I think I’m still catching up on sleep.

Migraines are still here. Both my physical therapist and my pain management doctor think that my migraines may be so much worse because of my neck. The last two days I’ve had a very intense migraine. That’s really hard when you don’t have a rescue med that works and Medicare won’t pay for the only one that does. I don’t have thousands of dollars to spend on medication each month. So I’ll live with the pain, for now. The pain changes from day to day, hour to hour, it’s often just in the background, but when it climbs too high, I really notice. But that’s the thing, yes I’m in pain all the time, but it is constantly changing, that gives me hope. Everything changes.

Okay that’s it for today. I promise I’ll try to be back soon. I have lots of migraine stuff I want to share with you all.

How is everyone? I really want to know.

Is it over yet? Hope for a New Year.

Writing this is causing me a lot of pain, so bare with me.

Is 2020 really over? Funny, I still feel the same.

Maybe after January 20th, when our new president takes office I’ll feel different. I’m sure I’ll feel better mentally and emotionally, but physically, not so much.

The nerve pain is excruciating. I wake up each morning in such severe pain I pray to die. However, I do have a little bit of hope that things will get better. I started seeing a physical therapist last week who specializes in nerve pain. He says my nerves are lit up like a Christmas tree. Yup, I believe it. We aren’t sure why, there could be numerous reasons, or no reason at all. I only know that it is the worst pain that I could ever imagine. If you have been following my blog for a while, you know I’m no stranger to severe pain. The medication, gabapentin, isn’t working any more. and I don’t know if increasing the dose would do any good. My physical therapist is helping me calm the nerves down. He said all of my pain is connected. My migraine, back pain, and this horrendous pain in my arms and hands, all connected. He believes we can get it better, but it will take a long time. Unfortunately, until then typing causes such severe pain I simply can’t do it for long. I’m wring this a sentence at a time, then I have to rest. But……

I have hope.

I think hope is what got us through this past year, and will continue to get us through until we can all get back to normal.

Until typing no longer causes so much pain, I won’t be here much. Please know, I will be back as soon as I’m able, and I miss you all.

May this year be filled with love, and hope.

What I love about the holidays during COVID-19

Image by Jill Wellington from Pixabay

As much as I love most things about the holidays, the stress is not one of them, and oh, how stressful they can be. This year, it’s different.

Having multiple chronic illnesses that have kind of ravaged me lately, I’m thankful this year the holidays mean no stress…or as little as can be.

There’s one person (or maybe two) that I always have to see during the holidays that I’d prefer not to spend time with. This year is different, I don’t have to. When we were asked what the plans were for the holidays, it was nice to say that we are isolating. (With the number of COVID cases rising each day, why would anyone risk getting together? I don’t get it. I’d rather have my loved ones alive and well so we can get together when it’s safe.)

I don’t have to get upset if I’m not invited to parties.

On the other side, when I am invited to a party, I don’t have to worry I won’t be able to go, or might get sick while I’m there.

I don’t have to decorate my house for drop in guests.

I don’t have to feel bad when I can’t host a dinner…no matter how much I’d like to.

This year it will be quiet. I still feel like I need to make nice meals, and cookies, and…. But I don’t have to, and if I don’t, no one will know.

I can just sit back and watch Christmas shows on TV, sing carols out of tune, and eat Chinese take-out if I want.

Okay, the first two, yeah, that will get done, but the Chinese take-out might not. We’ll probably have Dad over for a social distance meal on Christmas, but who knows. Maybe not. It’s a no stress holiday after all.

Remember, we aren’t STUCK at home, we are SAFE at home….and so are our loved ones.

Merry Christmas!

Mini Me Update

I know my last post was a bit bleak, but things are getting better, I think.

I still have this dang migraine with no relief in sight, but I haven’t given up hope. My useless stay in the hospital and the indifference my migraine doctor showed about the akathisia has lit a fire under me to find a new headache specialist, which is much harder than you might think.

Luckily the medication that my PCP sent and the medication that my psychiatrist gave me have mostly taken away the akathisia. I still feel a bit antsy and my anxiety is higher, but I don’t HAVE to move all the time. I’m amazed the akathisia was so bad and has lasted so long from 3 doses of Compazine, I’m so grateful for my PCP and psychiatrist for helping me. My PCP even offered to call my migraine doctor to stress how important this was. My migraine doctor did call, after I sent a message to her about how unacceptable it was that she hadn’t gotten in touch with me. When she called she had to talk to Stuart, of course, and said she was out the office on Monday (in my message I told her that another doctor in her practice should have been covering her for her if she was out of the office. I also told her how my other doctors had helped), and said he had been researching how to help. Really? When Stuart first called her we gave her the name of one of the drugs that help with akathisia, so she already had that information. I got it after a quick Google search. It sure didn’t take me THREE days to get it.

Now I have to not only search for a new headache specialist, but I also have to look for a new PCP because mine is moving next month. Hopefully, this will be an easy process, and I’ll find some great doctors. I know finding a new headache specialist is going to be hard, there are only around 500 in the country. I don’t like the idea of having to travel 100+miles to see a doctor, but I may have no choice.

One thing that came from this, I’m really proud of how I advocated for myself while I was in the hospital and for messaging my doctor about how unacceptable her actions (or inactions) were. Since I lost my hearing it has been very hard for me to do that, but I made sure in the hospital when a nurse and tech ignored the fact that I have hearing loss, that they understood what they were doing wrong. Hopefully they will change their actions in the future.

One of the medications my doctors gave me for the akathisia makes me so stupid. I am forgetting everything! I can’t remember what I was talking about in the middle of talking! Right in the middle of a sentence I’ll look at Stuart and say, “What was I talking about?” It has been very confusing, luckily it will go away once I’m off the medication. I cut it down from 2 pills a day to 1 a day since my symptoms are so much better, and the confusion is much better all ready.

I don’t remember what else I was going to write, so I’ll close for now.

How is everyone holding up? Have you known anyone personally who has been infected with COVID-19? Do you happen to know a good headache specialist in Tucson? hahaha