Monday, December 31, 2012

more gratitude

1. People. I know there are some evil people in the world but if you look around and add up the truly wonderful ones, they far outnumber the mean bastards. This has really come to the front of my brain since my cancer diagnosis. I have a basket full of cards and letters. I have gift certificates for massage. I have had phone calls of support and emails and Facebook messages from people I know only though social media. Friends have brought chicken soup with Amish noodles. Caramel apple pie. Beautiful sparkly caps and a huge multi-colored afghan. It's like a rainbow on my lap. I am very, very grateful for the people in my life who surround me with this cloud of light and love.

2. Retirement. I don't know how I would have gotten through this business had I still been working. Of course, if I had been working, I could have taken a lot of sick time and that would have helped right the inequity of getting screwed out of the retirement incentive I didn't get because I was off a teacher's contract for one bloody year...but that's another evil story I don't let dwell in my head. Retirement is grand. We sit and watch the day start. The opal colored sky, the birds coming to feed right at dawn, we don't have to hurry anywhere, and life has taken on a lovely pace. More like a waltz than a tarantella.

3. Stuff. I know I have been trying to get rid of stuff (clutter) around my house and I've been sort of successful at it. There are still things for which I have a special fondness and they will never see the darkness of the inside of the little white van that picks things up for the epileptics. I have a Kermit the Frog I bought in a thrift store twenty years ago. He still sits on the book shelf. I have small plates and tiny cups...way more than a person would ever really need...but I love them. I have a very old quilt hanging on the wall in my bedroom. It's been in my family for many years and I'm not even sure anymore who made it but I like to think of the hands that sewed it and the bodies that were warmed by it. A nice connection to the past.

4. Music. On May 19th at six in the evening, what appeared to be a single, tuxedoed street performer playing a bass for people strolling around Plaça de Sant Roc in Sabadell, Spain (just north of Barcelona) turned into a mass ensemble performing a movement of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony — including more than 100 musicians and singers from the Orchestra Simfònica del Vallès, Amics de l’Òpera de Sabadell, Coral Belles Arts, and Cor Lieder Camera.

The production is lovely and highly produced, but it's the fascination and pure joy of the passersby that makes the moment quite magical.

And this one: 

And one more:

Go to the woods of Kyushu, Japan. Engineer a massive xylophone (or is it a marimba?) to run down the slope of a forested hill. Take a wooden ball, place it at the top of said instrument, and push it. What do you get? Bach’s treatment of a traditional church hymn! Namely, “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring.”

I just had to get that one snarky dig in there, didn't I? And I can't make myself delete it. Ah, well. I can be grateful and I can still hold a grudge about that. Hahahaha! A bunch of gratitude and one shark bite.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

gratitude for 2012

We had the wee ones over yesterday for a while. They still had presents from cousins under the tree that needed to be opened and they hadn't gotten much time to play together over the holidays. Like most family gatherings, it got a little disorganized but we all got plenty to eat and we had some good laughs. Even Gus got in on the action. He did all his tricks for Eric, multiple times.

Elliot came in his pajamas, the bottoms inside out. I think it was a statement myself: I'm tired of dressing up and traveling around and I'm going comfortably in my fuzzy pajamas or not at all. We didn't care. He was fuzzier to hug this way!

I made spaghetti the little kid way...Ragu sauce, chopped up meat, bread sticks, nothing fancy. They were all good eaters. Oreos for dessert. A kid's dream.

Elliot and Alex had a few new things to play with...a transformer thing and a couple of Mario stuffed toys. Such good imaginations, they have.

This year, I didn't have the forethought or the gumption to get everyone in a Christmas hat and posed in a group. I should have made that someone else's responsibility. I think Regis and I did pretty well to entertain and cook as much as we did this year. It helped that we gave ourselves a stern message about scaling back. No need to make the ketchup from scratch, for example. Yes, I have been known to do that.

I'm doing what I always do this time of year, avoiding the year in review in the papers and on television. Who needs to hear all that bad shit once, much less repetitively at the end of the year? I like to be marginally aware of things that go on, then let them settle into the dusty corners of my subconscious so I know there is good and bad in the world, then I like to skip on my way and enjoy the sunny side of life.

I'm not doing, what do they call those, resolutions. Learned my lesson about that many times over, too. I'm working on a list of things I'm grateful for and a list of things I would like to explore in 2013 (no distant volcanoes or anything like that) but that will be about it. I'm pretty happy with the way things are and see no sense in making things all crazy and unpredictable which usually leads to lots of guilt for things undone.

Here are a couple of my grateful posts from the past:

I think I'll start my list now and add to it as the days go by toward 2013.

1. I'm grateful for portable sources of heat. I'm sitting in front of a small, electric stove that looks kind of Ben Franklinish. It throws a lot of heat out of the bottom. We have one in the living room and one in what we call the sitting room. I can have warm feet wherever I go! I also have a big hand-knit afghan from Kathy Wessel and an electric mattress pad. I don't like to be cold.

2. I'm very grateful for the white-haired man who lives with me and says I am beautiful even though I have no hair and some of my parts are not symmetrical anymore. He likes to talk about books and movies, he sends me funny cartoons, he does the laundry and takes care of my car, he hugs me when I'm sad, and he makes me laugh.

3. I'm grateful for my mom. I have a lot of friends my age who don't have their moms anymore so I'm fortunate to have that plucky Norwegian woman living in her own home who plays cards with her friends on Sunday nights, throws parties for the Queen's Jubilee, sends me boxes of surprise candles and trinkets and candy, and who knows how to get back up when life throws her a curve. Here she is at Caleb and Kelsey's wedding in October.

4. I'm very grateful that we have such nice kids. They call us, they shovel our sidewalks and clean the snow off our cars, they haul heavy stuff up and down the stairs, they take us to medical appointments if we need it, they are a source of joy. They love to come here to eat or just to visit. They like my cooking, especially the cookies and the barbecue. They're all funny and they all have an enthusiasm for life. You just couldn't ask for better kids.

5. I'm grateful that we have an appreciation for cooking and eating. I have had less of an appetite lately but Regis makes me simple things that taste good and once in a while I get a notion to make buckwheat cheese straws or dark chocolate truffles.

6. I'm most grateful that we laugh. Some families (some people) are way too serious about everything. They get their feelings hurt, they carry grudges, they worry. We are the grasshoppers of the world and can find something funny in most situations. It's not a bad way to live.

I better get back to my cheese straws and truffles. I'll prompt Regis to take pictures. The gratitude list shall continue, as well.

can't sleep...must write

We had a wonderful day yesterday. The little ones came about 11, accompanied by a parent or two, some of whom left to do other things that are made more difficult by the company of children. Those of us who were left enjoyed a lunch of Ragu spaghetti, bread sticks, and Oreos. Can't beat that for a kid-friendly lunch.

When they went home, we went to a service to say good-bye to our friend, Karen Burns Noble, who died suddenly on Christmas Day. Her daughter, Nikki, read two poems and it was one of the sweetest memorials I have ever attended, No pomp, just a roomful of lovely people who loved Karen.

Regis and Gus went to the dog park for a while while I listened to Dean Martin's old classic Christmas songs, then went to the liquor store for a bottle of pinot noir and a six pack of Magic Hat for Regis. We're planning a quiet weekend and eve of 2013. Avoiding crowds and germs by holing up at home with all our comforts...good spirits, scallops, bread, shrimp, steak, salad, something sweet.

I had no appetite for dinner so Regis made me a soft fried egg and a piece of toast. It tastes so good when someone else makes it. We watched re-runs of old episodes of Seinfeld.

I try to read but the book doesn't compel me. I wander through the pages, wanting to know how it ends but not being curious enough to keep going for very long.

If I lie in bed awake too long, I start to pay attention to the shadows of cancer that float across the dark ceiling. Nothing too frightening...just reminders. Like when I wake up and worry that I forgot to pay the light bill. I run through the future appointments in my head, I think about the medication I took today and what I can stop taking tomorrow. I think about whether my hair really will fall out or it that was a pre-emptive strike for no good reason. I can let the creepy future fears stalk me if I let them...things that might be side effects of the toxic treatments but I don't let that happen very often. I might as well worry about meteors or the apocalypse.

Now, that I chased those chickens out of my brain, I'll try to sleep again.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

i am the champion of naps

The first few days after chemo, I can easily take 3-4 short naps a day and sleep for 11 hours a night. It's like heaven. After today, when I wean off the nausea meds, I will gradually become more alert and will spend more time vertically. Ah, well. It's a nice respite from insomnia.

Most of the minis from our family are coming for lunch and some play time today. They didn't get to play together much over the holiday so this will be fun. There are still a few stray presents under the tree for one or the other, too.

Regis and I are spending a quiet weekend and New Year's holiday at home. Sort of an attempt to avoid wayfaring flu and cold germs but also because we like it. We have a few movies lined up, some favorite easy menus in mind, and all the comforts we need. It will be like a vacation.

My cousin in Arizona sent us homemade lefse from my Aunt Vi's recipe. Vi was the champion lefse maker so we are listening carefully for the sound of the delivery truck. We'll take photos, for sure. Thanks, Deb!

Friday, December 28, 2012

it won't be light for hours but we are grateful

I woke up before 4 and tried to go back to sleep but I can tell when it's a hopeless cause. I had a good eight hours of sleep...that's enough. I love this part of the day. I like to watch the sky go from black to soft gray to opal. Every morning, I come out and turn on the Christmas tree lights, the fireplace, and I drink the last cup of coffee from yesterday heated in the microwave. I wrap myself in my new rainbow afghan and a warm hat and I wait for morning to come.

Regis and Gus come out to join me. Gus has a habit of jumping into Regis's lap for a while in the morning. They watch the rabbits and the birds in the yard and wait for morning to come. Sometimes Gus gets a little grooming.

I have a hankering for coffee cake this morning so might have to make one. It's been a long time but the smell of brown sugar and butter is enticing.

I've decided to take a leave of absence from my job at River Rock. I didn't work many hours anymore and I could do much of it at home, but it took a lot of thinking time and I didn't feel that I had that too spare. Now, I can think about the healthy things: cooking, eating, exercise, and good strong state of mind.

A Facebook poster who I read quite often says that cancer has enriched his life. Enriched his life by the people he has met and connected with, by the experiences he has had, and by the new way of looking at his life. He would never have invited cancer into his life and like I have said, he wouldn't sign up for it again, but all in all, it's been interesting and I guess I could even say enriching.

I've met a lot of people online, Caroline and Karen, some through blogs and some I'm not even sure how we met. I've connected with lots of women in town who have cancer or had cancer in the past, Mary, Nancy, MaryAnn, and have been willing to share their stories and their support. For all of these folks, I am grateful. Linda and Stu, old friends, have sent email and pictures of their Christmas in Missouri.

My family has been good about calling me, Mom, Bruce, Pat and Helen, Deb...and sending things to cheer me up: fresh, homemade lefse, surprise packages, massages. My Aunt Liz and Cousin Joanna from Arizona sent the beautiful prayer shawl in the photo above. Emily's mom sent a beautiful and wildly colored afghan that I love and carry from room to room with me.

Friends in town have brought things: chicken soup with Amish noodles from Keith and Corinne, tomato and squash soup from Montana and Sam, granola from Josh and Tamika, a scarf from India from Kemmie and Joanne. Anders, who lost his sweet wife to cancer some years back, brought me a bag of her beautiful scarves to wear.

That is my gratitude post for the day. Thanks to Winston for the inspiration and for all my friends and family who have been so good to us. Bless your hearts.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

moths in my head

I have been noticing some moths in my head lately. I go into the kitchen to get the yard stick and a phone, I come back with a cup of coffee. I sit down a realize I have forgotten both things I wanted so I get back up but then I wander in to make the bed and come back without the phone again. When I made the coffee this morning, I let the water run on the floor, then tried to pour the water in the pitcher back in to the tank. Do I have to make sticky notes on my fingers again?

I checked to see what the Mayo Clinic as to say about chemo fog. There isn't a lot of research on it so the evidence is mostly anecdotal but they take it seriously. I could answer yes to many of these. I'm not confused in the sense of "where am I?  and "what am I doing here? I sometimes forget which doctor I'm seeing in which place and for what.

Signs and symptoms of chemo brain may include:
  • Being unusually disorganized 
  • Confusion 
  • Difficulty concentrating 
  • Difficulty finding the right word 
  • Difficulty learning new skills 
  • Difficulty multitasking 
  • Fatigue 
  • Feeling of mental fogginess 
  • Short attention span 
  • Short-term memory problems 
  • Taking longer than usual to complete routine tasks 
  • Trouble with verbal memory, such as remembering a conversation 
  • Trouble with visual memory, such as recalling an image or list of words 
Signs and symptoms of cognitive or memory problems vary from person to person and are typically temporary, often subsiding within two years of completion of cancer treatment.

That's all the medical news today. If you want advice on what to wear on your head or appropriate footwear for the chemo room, I'm your gal. For the difference between adriamycin and cytoxin, find a scientist for that. I'm the flibbertigibbet of cancer and the chemo room.  

My role is to wear tall boots, sparkly earrings, a velvet turban, and my faux fur coat. And to be as amusing as possible. I don't infringe on the peace of people reading the Bible aloud or napping...I just like to crack a joke from time to time.

I did commit a minor faux pas yesterday. I didn't have my usual oncologist, but a fellow in a turban. He was quite serious but very kind. He went through my blood work, then said he would do an exam. He hands me a gown and walks over to the sink to wash his hands. I whip off my sweater and bra by the time he turns from the sink. He looks a little dismayed and says I could have used the curtain in the corner. The other onc didn't do fact, helped me get undressed. So, what's the protocol there, doc? It's confusing to the patient!

I don't have much of a plan for today except for napping and finishing my book. I'm almost done with Iron Lake by William Kent Krueger. I have the next four on my Kindle already and the next two in hardcover. Regis has been a fan for a long time but for some reason I didn't think they would appeal to me.

Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life? Mary Oliver wants to know!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

hi ho hi ho

It's off to chemotherapy we go.

My second treatment is today and I go with some apprehension. The last one, except for a couple of drowsy days, was uneventful. Just waiting for the other shoe to drop, you know.

Adriamycin, Cytoxan, dexamethasone, Zofran, lorazepam, and Compazine. Quite the chemical shit storm. Some are to fix the cancer and some are to fix the fix, as in lots of anti-nausea meds. That's good because puking is one of my least favorite activities.

We had friends over last night, one a recent inductee to the world of cancer. She commented that a lot of people have trouble saying the word cancer and she's noticed that when family members call, they ask about "it" instead of cancer. I had trouble saying it at first. Maybe this is what they do at support you say the word. With the word comes acceptance.

My hair has apparently not yet begun to disappear. I can tell because the bristles are all there. Regis reshaved me once and maybe have to do it again. It would be ironic if my hair didn't fall out but it's been a hoot of a fashion opportunity.

Regis goes with me to the clinic. I sit in a monster recliner and he sits in an uncomfortable chair. Each patient gets their own little pod with a television. Nice touch. There are curtains that you can pull for privacy but it's kind of like putting a fence between just isn't done. A volunteer walks around offering people coffee, water, and warm blankets. Another nice touch.

I can take one step at a time. After today, I will be halfway through the Adriamycin and Cytoxan. By the 1st of February I should be ready to start on the weekly Paclitaxel, a mitotic inhibitor. This is what Paclitaxel looks like. Good to have a visual.

I know some people are into reading research about cancer but that's not my bag. I figure I am paying a ton of money to have a spectacular oncologist and I trust that he is up on things. I bet he reads journals and goes to conferences and understands pictures like this one a lot better than I do. I'm doing pretty well to keep the paperwork organized and remember what day I am supposed to show up where and for what.

I'll be in touch. Wish me luck.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

wine glass and cupcakes hit the floor

Christmas Eve was eventful, as always. Who wants to have one of those family celebrations where nothing goes wrong? I dropped six cupcakes on the floor and thankfully, only one had to be destroyed. The rest are rough looking but fine for eating.

I also sent a wine glass crashing to the floor. Somebody else cleaned it up, good for them and lazy props to me.

There's a link to all the Christmas pictures at the bottom of the post but these are a few of my favorites.

This is me in my new blonde bomber wig, thanks Emily and Ella! The hat is a gift from Emily's mom, Kathy. Do they know me or what? It's my gangster moll look.

Gus looked on in dismay from under the table. He was a good dog. Probably ate more cookies than is good for a dog, but what the hell. It's Christmas.

Reggie wore my hat for a while. He looks like he's giving Alex some serious uncle advice here. Probably something like, "Go get us some of those peanut butter cookies, boy!" Alex is a convert to  the Reese's peanut butter cookie cult.

Those cookies are so popular here among the men folk that we have to portion them out. Bob was a little late getting here because he had to work (boo) so I saved some in a container on top of the refrigerator for him. When the cookies on the plate were all gone, I told him that there were more and you should have seen it. Bob, Regis, Peter...making a beeline for the kitchen, elbowing each other out of the way.

This is the best group shot we got. It's impossible to get one where everybody looks in the same direction at the same time with their eyes open. The boys in the back row have a lot of fun planning mischief, as you can see. That's Bob behind the bird for Reg and Peter's amusement.

I think this is right before the wine glass crashed to the floor. Ella likes to snuggle with her Nana. I'm wearing a little sparkly cap that was a gift from Ella's family. I have quite the hat and scarf collection. I think I wore four different things on my head over the course of the evening. 

Oh, Katy in Georgia! The apron arrived yesterday so Ella wore it to help prepare our dinner. Wish I had gotten a picture of that. I will next time. She wanted to leave it here...hanging right next to mine. 

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Here's the link to the whole shootin' match if you want to see the more serious pictures of things like presents. We didn't get any food pictures which is a darn shame because it was very good.

Monday, December 24, 2012

make much of something small

Robyn Sarah has another poem on Writer's Almanac this morning. Her poem Riveted, on the right sidebar, is one of my favorites and was my first gratitude poem. Oh, in fact, I used her line "spellbound by our own imperfect lives" as my title.

I love the message of this one...make much of something small.

Bounty by Robyn Sarah

Make much of something small.
The pouring-out of tea,
a drying flower's shadow on the wall
from last week's sad bouquet.
A fact: it isn't summer any more.

Say that December sun
is pitiless, but crystalline
and strikes like a bell.
Say it plays colours like a glockenspiel.
It shows the dust as well,

the elemental sediment
your broom has missed,
and lights each grain of sugar spilled
upon the tabletop, beside
pistachio shells, peel of a clementine.

Slippers and morning papers on the floor,
and wafts of iron heat from rumbling radiators,
can this be all? No, look — here comes the cat,
with one ear inside out.
Make much of something small.

"Bounty" by Robyn Sarah, from A Day's Grace. © The Porcupine's Quill, 2002.

Last night, Regis and I sat in the quiet of pre-Christmas Eve with a hot brandy made with Courvoisier cognac. Someone gifted us with two mini-bottles ages ago and they have sat in the hutch, waiting for the right moment and this was it. Hot water, a lemon slice, honey, and a sprinkle of nutmeg. Perfect.

I made a River Rock style salad with baby spinach, butternut squash cubes roasted with olive oil and balsamic vinegar, pumpkin seeds, dried cranberries, and blue cheese. I am rockin' the kitchen the last week or two.

Turns out my distaste for coffee was due to my head cold and not to the chemo. Oh, thank God. I would have missed coffee. White wine...not so lucky on that one.

We have lovely birds at our feeder. Most nights, a family of four cardinals comes together and takes turns on the feeder while the others wait in the apple tree or feed on the ground. I couldn't figure out why the bird seed in the feeder wasn't disappearing. I went out to check today and with all the freezing rain we had a while back, it all frozen into one big bird seed popsicle. I had to bring it into the house to thaw. Poor birdies.

On to the family Christmas celebration. It will be quiet here for most of the day, then pandemonium will break out about 3 o'clock although today, I think only two small children and one large dog. Minimal chaos. Merry Christmas to all. Make much of the small things in your day.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

post-whine post

I should have gotten back to the blog yesterday after writing that wretched whiny post but I am happy to report that I got myself out of my funk and was too busy. Most of those things I whined about yesterday have been resolved anyway which is usually what happens to irritations and annoyances.

I made the favorite Fritsch/Saum family cookies yesterday. Peanut butter cookies in a small muffin tin with a Reese's Peanut Butter cup tucked in the center. Some families fight about stock portfolios and real estate, we fight about these cookies. Not really fight, of course, but when they hit the table you'd better stand back with your arms close to your sides.

I had a wonderful nap in the afternoon. Regis brought me the cards that came in the mail and I drifted off to sleep with Christmas cards, sweet notes and pictures spread across the blankets.

I got up and made a small ham and au gratin potatoes for dinner. One of my favorite meals.

If you read the comments at the end of some posts, you know that mom is a frequent contributor. Yesterday she said she didn't want me to look like James Carville but then she made a sweet comment about how I am not defined by my hair. Thanks, Mom! I thought I looked like Paul Schaeffer on the Letterman Show.

She also said instead of worrying about the port, I should drink some port. Good advice. I'm not fond of port but I did partake of some pinot noir. And it did make that port feel better! Medical miracle!

My mom says she is one tough old bird and she's right. I've learned a lot from her about dealing with the shit that comes down the pike at you. You meet it head on, both arms swinging or you step aside...but you don't let it bowl you over.

I've been having an interesting conversation with my friend, Yvette, in New York City about baldness. She lost most of her hair some years ago and decided to make the move to bald and proud. She's helped me think a lot about hair and how to approach the lack of it. She is gorgeous and elegant.

In the first pictures taken after my head was shaved, I looked a little tentative and nervous. I wore hats almost constantly for the first weeks, first because it's colder than hell here and I didn't want my brain to freeze. I also liked the look of dramatic hats and scarves.

In the last picture, Yvette says I look fierce. Ready to be bald and proud.

Did the presence of the scarf or hat or turban always signal to people that I am "sick"? Could I happily and proudly go out and about in this town (it ain't New York City) with a bald head? How would people react...and would I care?

My old friend and neighbor, Deb, who has embraced the very short hair look for a long time believes it's liberating to not have to worry about hair. It is. Yesterday it occurred to me that giving up hair is a little bit like giving up girdles (1969), brush hair rollers (1970), and panty hose (2005). Who needs that shit? Devices of torture.

The sick part. Because I have cancer, does that mean I'm sick? I don't usually feel sick. Most days I feel fine. Maybe cancer doesn't mean the same as being sick. When the nurse told me she thought I was in denial about cancer being a part of my life, did she mean that I haven't accepted that I'm sick?

I'm not going to think of myself as sick. I'm going to keep on dancing in the streets, thank you very much. If that's denial, in the words of my father-in-law Howard Fritsch, so be it.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

do you serve cheese with that whine?

I feel like I'm ruminating on a whole list of minor complaints so I'm going to write them down and see if it's really as bad as I think it is.

  • I have a head cold. Yesterday I would sneeze ten times in a row, my nose ran constantly, and my eyes were encircled with red and irritated circles. I was tired but I think it was just from the constant nasal activity. I felt pretty good from the neck down.
  • I talked to the nurse yesterday and afterwards, I felt like I had exposed my self to the dreaded plague. Be careful of nose membranes and mouth membranes. Check your temperature. Go to the ER if your fever is over 100. Rinse my mouth with salt water. This could turn a guy into a hypochondriac.
  • My port hurts. Thanks to my angel, Kathy, I have a collection of little pillows to cushion it but sharp pains come from under it, like Tremors. I figured out if I throw the pillows in the freezer, the coolness feels good even if only for a few minutes. The doctor said sometimes people leave the ports in when chemo is done, just in case. Right. Like you'd leave a nail in your head in case you needed a place to hang your hat.
  • My head itches. Not the kind of itch that lotion will help but the kind of itch that comes from below the surface, like Tremors. If I don't have a hat on, it's cold. If I wear the turban, it's hot. I spend all day taking hats off and putting hats on and in between, rubbing and scratching at my head.
  • I've lost my taste for coffee. Bummert, as Elliot would say. I have found some tea I can drink and some I even enjoy, but it's not coffee.
  • I've lost my taste for white wine. It tastes really cheap wine. Like the wine they have in bars where you ask what kind of wine they have and they say red and white. In a bag but the box is gone. Mystery wine.
Six complaints. That's not so bad. I have to get something to eat or I would write a more positive spin on my day...that will come later.

Friday, December 21, 2012

northern lights and acts of kindness

I made three meals yesterday. I only report this because it's a new land speed record. These were not cheese and cracker meals either. These were hot food of a healthy variety kind of meals. Hurray for me.

This morning for breakfast, I had a piece of lefse with butter and a molasses cookie. If I had pickled herring in the house, I would have had some of that, too. Tis the season.

I made a batch of my favorite molasses cookies. Of course, I got to the point where you add the molasses and I have none. Bless my husband's to the store he goes. Here's the recipe:

Molly's Coffee Molasses Cookies
4 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 and 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 and 1/4 ground cloves
1 and 1/4 teaspoons cinnamon
1 stick butter, softened
1/2 cup vegetable shortening
3 and 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup molasses
2 large eggs

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees and grease 2 large baking sheets.
2. In large bowl whisk together flour, salt, baking soda, ginger, cloves, and cinnamon,
3. In another bowl, with a mixer, beat together butter, shortening, and 3 cups sugar until light and fluffy and beat in molasses.
4. Beat in eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition.
5. Gradually beat in dry ingredients and combine well.
6. In a small shallow bowl, put remaining 1/2 cup sugar. Form dough into 2 inch balls (Don't skimp! Ours were 1.8 ounces each. We weighed them.) and roll in sugar.
7. On baking sheet, arrange balls about 4 inches apart and flatten slightly with bottom of glass dipped in sugar. Everybody used to have a cut glass something or other for this purpose. Don't use a fork...that's for peanut butter cookies.
8. Bake cookies in batches in middle of oven for 15 minutes, or until puffed and golden. Cookies should be soft. Let them sit on the pan for a few minutes to settle. Transfer to metal rack with spatula to cool.

The recipe says that it originally came from Molly’s Coffee Saloon and Roasting Company in Steamboat Springs, Colorado.

I used a whiskey glass with a nice pattern in the bottom. This is what the cookies should look like...big and crackly. The pattern doesn't show up so much...but it's important to use the right thing. No forks! No smooth glass!

There is a movement afoot, originated by Ann Curry, to encourage people to do 26 acts of kindness in memory of the victims of Sandy Hook Elementary School. Lovely idea. Wouldn't it be good if this just became what we do instead of something special that we do? Be sure to read Karen's comment about earth angels on my last post.

Mom, loved your comment, too. Being grateful for what we have is important. I learned from you, many times, when things are crappy you just soldier on because things could always be worse. I counted ten friends I wrote Christmas cards to this year, where part of the message was understanding that some tragedy or illness makes it hard to have a happy Christmas. That's a lot of folks suffering.

Regis and I got up in the middle of the night and went out into the back yard to watch the northern lights. If you're not from here, this is a good link to read about them and here is a fairly reasonable picture at our latitude although we didn't see the dramatic colors at the bottom. It's not common to see them here in southern MN so when you read on FB at 2 am that one of your friends says to get out of bed and go outside, you do. It's an amazing thing.

Regis shaved my head again the other day because it wasn't time for my hair to fall out yet and it was starting to, let's say, itch. Last night, I had a glass of pinot noir and modeled my hairless head again, this time with more verve. Mom's friend, Ione, loaned me a bunch of hats from her bout with cancer so I wanted to send a couple photos along with my thank you note. I also got my new red velvet turban in the mail the other day, and my cousin, Christine, sent me a crown. All cause for photos.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

angels walk among us

I've been telling my Facebook friends to watch for angels among us because I know they are here. At first, I thought of them as elves, but now I think they are sort of a combination of characteristics of both: compassionate, tough, sweet, funny, prankster-loving helpers. I looked for an image of an angel this morning, but most of them look like porn star angels. Good grief. I found this. This is an angel would get the job done. She's not afraid to get her hands dirty.

Those skinny barely-clothed angels with long flowing hair and bare feet could not really do the job. An angel would have to be sturdy even though they are celestial, I suppose. I'm thinking of these more as earth walking angels than religious angels, however.

This is a nice one, too. A mama figure gathering all the children.

I'm going to keep looking for angels and telling their stories. There are some wonderful folks out there.

I've written before about my purple power port. It looks like this:

This is on the bony part of my chest. And yes, it does make a knob like this. I asked the doctor if it would stick out or if it would kind of disappear. He said, "Well, you're thin so it will probably poke out." Who thought that would ever be a problem.

It's healing but the two spots are still covered by glue, a medical version of glue, I am sure but still glue. It itches, it hurts, it's aggravated by a bra strap. I started looking for a solution online...tiny pillows, pads, cushions, even a different sort of bra. I came up with one thing that looked sort of industrial and was kind of expensive. I gave up. Then I had an idea...I folded up a soft, silky polyester scarf and used that to pad the port site. So much better!

So, I think....who wants to wear a folded up scarf in their bra all day and night. Someone could make this...just not me. I imagined it to be about 3X5, soft fabric to slide over the pin pricks and glue residue, triple padded, machine washable, bright colors, and inexpensive enough that you could have a couple to toss in the wash.

I presented my idea to a couple people who are contemplating it and working on prototypes. Kay, a very sweet woman at Sew Boutique in St. Peter, drew a little sketch and said she would work on it even though she is pregnant and running a busy retail store. I sent an email to my friend Katy, in Georgia, who makes my aprons. She's very busy, too, and takes care of her mom who has cancer. She said they were making a road trip and pondering ideas would make good conversation over the miles. Kay and Katy, taking time out of their busy lives to help.

Then I went into My Father's Daughter where my friend, Pam, works. MFD is a gift shop that specializes in local and handmade things. Since they sell a lot of sewn things, I thought Pam might know a seamstress. She gets right on the phone to her friend, Kathy, who asks for my ideas and says she will have them ready by 3 o'clock. That day. No charge. What? I argued about that but she was adamant and said it was her gift. I told her my goal yesterday was to watch for angels among us and she was definitely one! Pam, too!

So, it was a great day. Jan came to help with some cleaning, I washed all the bedding, Gus went to the dog park, I saw some very nice people (Thanks for the hugs, River Rock family!), and we took a drive to see the Christmas lights. Lovely. Life is good.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

I found Santa at the HyVee in Mankato!

When I started seeing pictures of my grandkids with Santa, I got the happy notion that I wanted my picture taken with Santa this year. I missed it when Santa came to the lumberyard in St. Peter so I put out the word that my friends should let me know when he came to town again.

As luck would have it, we were walking into the HyVee yesterday morning and there was Santa, going in the other door! Regis and I grabbed a cart and trailed him through the deli and back to the entrance. He was setting up the Salvation Army red kettle so I asked if I could have my picture taken with him. He insisted I sit on his knee even though he was carrying a cane and I was a little worried about that. He was a funny Santa and it was a hoot.

I woke up a little pissy again this morning. I had a call yesterday from a health care provider who I like very much. She wanted to know how I was doing. Appreciate that. I said sleeping is my biggest issue. She thinks it's because I am lying awake at night worrying about cancer and that I am in denial about cancer being a part of my life. I call bullshit.

She wants me to visit with a social worker and go to a support group. I thought I just needed better drugs for sleeping but all she offers is guided imagery and sympathy which I can find in the dictionary between shit and syphilis.

I agreed to visit with the social worker next time I come in but I am not going to a support group at this point. It might be different than I imagine (most likely) but sitting in a circle of folding chairs with a bunch of morose people is not my idea of support or fun.

I have a long list of people who are wonderful support for me, some who have been through breast cancer and some who have not. I tried an online support group and we all know how that went. They censored me.

Am I stomping my foot and saying not not not?

So, I will carry on. If I am in denial, I think there may be a part of denial that's healthy.

Calvin is my hero. He always has words of wisdom for any of life's difficult moments.

Regis and I have been regular morning shoppers at the HyVee so we have gotten to know a few of the folks who work there. The guys in the meat department are great. Regis was in a couple weeks ago and told them about my cancer when they asked about me. Yesterday, Scott expressed concern about my health and well-being. How sweet. I sent a note to the HyVee interweb presence so they would know we appreciate their very personal brand of customer service.

I met my friend, Joanne, for a glass of wine at Patrick's yesterday afternoon. We always have wonderful conversation and we enjoy the dark quiet. Except for the giant television and the loud drunks. Haha!

As we were leaving, Jerry told us to come down Friday to celebrate the Mayan New Year by buying really expensive drinks and putting them on a tab...just in case. Good one.

On to whatever day this is. Oh yeah, Wednesday.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

reactivating the force field

I had a mostly wonderful day. I woke up a tiny bit pissy, as I reported on Facebook, and didn't feel like going to work out with Rachel. I took a warm shower, rubbed my bald head with Jojoba lotion from the Swedish Kontur, drank some coffee, and I changed my mind. The workout was great...all legs and abs...and Rachel is a lighthouse in a dark night.

We picked Alex up at noon and went to Whiskey River for lunch. He had a great time counting the squirrels and wild turkeys (birds not whiskey). We ordered ribs for our Christmas Eve dining pleasure. Alex wanted to win an Angry Birds stuffed toy in the machine which costs a dollar a time and almost never gives up a toy. I tried to explain the dumbness of gambling and made a deal with him that he couldn't melt down if we didn't win one. We didn't win and he wasn't upset. He said maybe next time. The gambler's creed.

I tried to take a nap to no avail. Sleep is elusive. Damn.

I signed up for an online cancer support group. The first post I wrote, I used the word hell, as in it's been a hell of a ride. They censored it to read: It's been a XXXX of a ride. What the fuck. People with cancer can't use the word hell?

We're watching the concert to benefit the victims of Hurricane Sandy. So many good old rockers that I had to order (had to) a sweatshirt with 121212 on it. What the hell. I don't even wear sweatshirts. The power of the internet.

Eric Clapton is playing Crossroads, a song he first sang when he played with Cream back in the 60's. I would never remember that but my in-house musicologist came up with that factoid. That's almost 50 years ago and of course, my friends know that I couldn't come up with that fact either, having not only a bad memory but being very bad at math.

I woke up in the middle of the night and had to know about the nadir of my chemotherapy. I heard that term bandied about but I let that bird fly away...there was too much. Why do these things occur in the middle of the night? I had to get out all the chemo papers and read them in bed at 3 am. No wonder I have insomnia.

Here is my explanation. (Please refer to the disclaimer a few posts ago.) I have the chemo treatment which whacks not only the bad cells but some good ones because it is inanimate and doesn't know the difference. After the treatment, it goes about slaying all these cells, good and bad, until some point when my white count is at its lowest and it stops cooking. This is the nadir. The low point. After that, it picks up again until the next treatment. That is recovery. I think.

One thing I have learned about when bad things happen, powerful forces of community good and prayer rise up, surge up, and encircle the injured and pretty soon everyone is in the circle. Powerful forces bring everyone together.

I found a fellow on Facebook, through another friend, who has cancer. A very serious cancer for which he gets daily treatments until his white cell count says stop. In spite of his hardships, he writes lovely posts almost every day about his farm, egg coffee, biscuits, his old truck, his wood stove. They are works of joy in themselves, but then other people start writing about what he's said and how it fits in their own lives and they wish him well and express love and gratitude and it must feel like one of those old tent revivals in a way.

Yesterday the Fed Ex man came to the door with a package. He has been coming here for years and I don't know him personally but he's always very friendly. He asked about my health and welfare and I was a little surprised but then realized, ah, the chemo cap and the port bandage give it away. I was touched that he took a moment from his very busy day to talk to me. That's a Christmas elf.

We are awake early again. Gus is going to daycare for the morning and we're going off to do errands. You don't stop needing to buy coffee and milk and bread just because you're distracted. Maybe a distraction from a distraction is good, too.

Monday, December 17, 2012

airing my minor complaints and sap warning

Because it's my blog, I get to decide on the content. I know my problems are not as bad as those some folks deal with but it's my life and I'm spellbound by it. Bad ass shit and all.

Saturday night, I had terrible bone pain from Neulasta. Terrible? Probably a 5 on that little smiley face pain scale they give you. Tylenol didn't help. Nothing helped. So I spent a whiny and restless night.

I woke up weepy in the morning. I haven't had many periods of weepy self-pity so I thought I could indulge myself. I cried on Regis's shoulder, I let a few tears run down my cheeks during The Nutcracker, and I wallowed in general misery most of the day.

I knew it was happening so I did implement some defensive moves. I invited Ella to spend the afternoon. We watched The Nutcracker, the really old one with Mikhail Baryshnikov and Gelsey Kirkland. I had a glass of wine although the benefits of that are up for debate. Ella set up the Leopard Chair Cafe and served us fresh berries and hot chocolate. We got burgers from McDonald's for dinner and please God do not let us make that mistake again. It's probably been five years since we ate there and I don't think we need much more proof that there is little of nutritional value in a McDonald's hamburger and a lot of gut and taste destroying chemicals. Ugh ugh and double ugh.

Last night I slept better and we woke up at 4 ready to start the day. I'm not saying there won't be a nap in our future, but for now, two hours before daylight, things look good.

I read through the book they gave me called Chemotherapy and You. There's a day brightener for you. I know this does not make sense, but back when I had my surgery, I thought of this as a physical wound that would heal quickly and that I would be back to my merry ways. I told Rachel I would be back to work out in a week. Water off a duck's back, I thought. I'm strong. I'm cocky. No problem.

While I am in pretty good shape for an old gal, it has not been as easy as all of that. I don't think it's because I'm a bigger whiner than some, but because I have very few thoughts that get filtered out before they're written. If it flits through my brain, it comes out here.

So, I sit here in the pre-dawn hours reading about mouth sores, muscle and bone pain, dreaded infections, changes in vision, loss of appetite. What the hell. I did not sign up for this. This is not the ticket I bought. Not the bus I wanted to be on. Not the show I planned to see. Can you hear the sound of maniacal laughter?

As always, my disclaimer. My views are not necessarily the views of the establishment. No reference materials were used in the writing of this blog post. Do not use this information for any scholarly productions or even in a middle school report on cancer. Do not use this information for educational purposes. The complaints and the opinions are mine alone.

Ah, that felt good.

On to other things.

Our old friend and neighbor, Jim Hughes, died in a terrible car wreck on a viciously icy 169 last week. I knew him for years through school, his kids played with my kids, Deb is a good friend. In an instant, a bright and active man is gone.

School shooting has dominated the news which is one reason why I don't watch the news and only read it sparingly. I know it happened, I have a few details and that's all I want. It is unspeakably sad on so many levels.

My brother, Bruce, lost a grandbaby to SIDS a month ago. More unspeakable sadness.

My youngest brother, Steve, is in a hospice program, dying. More unspeakable sadness.

And everywhere it continues.

But. It's the way the world is or can be. Evil people. Sad accidents. Unspeakable acts of violence. My philosophy is that sad things will continue to go on forever and it's our job to look for good in the world. Like Mr. Roger's mom used to tell him, "Look for the helpers." It can't be all tragedy and illness and death. We have to be grateful for things. Maybe we even have to be grateful for the bad things that give us perspective on the good things.

Barbara Crooker

This week, the news of the world is bleak, another war
grinding on, and all these friends down with cancer,
or worse, a little something long term that they won’t die of
for twenty or thirty miserable years—
And here I live in a house of weathered brick, where a man
with silver hair still thinks I’m beautiful. How many times
have I forgotten to give thanks? The late day sun shines
through the pink wisteria with its green and white leaves
as if it were stained glass, there’s an old cherry tree
that one lucky Sunday bloomed with a rainbow:
cardinals, orioles, goldfinches, blue jays, indigo buntings,
and my garden has tiny lettuces just coming up,
so perfect they could make you cry: Green Towers,
Red Sails, Oak Leaf. For this is May, and the whole world
sings, gleams, as if it were basted in butter, and the air’s
sweet enough to send a diabetic into shock—
And at least today, all the parts of my body are working,
the sky’s clear as a china bowl, leaves murmur their leafy chatter,
finches percolate along. I’m doodling around this page,
know sorrow’s somewhere beyond the horizon, but still, I’m riffing
on the warm air, the wingbeats of my lungs that can take this all in,
flush the heart’s red peony, then send it back without effort or thought.
And the trees breathe in what we exhale, clap their green hands
in gratitude, bend to the sky.

Today, my list is thus. Good coffee. A sweet man in the recliner. A fluffy dog at my feet. Warmth from my faux fireplace. A family of cardinals who come to our feeder daily. Barbara Crooker's poems. Ella who wants her dad to rub my bald head for luck.

Life is good.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

my shield of invincibility went haywire

We had a pizza party last night. With a two-year old, a four-year old, and a 65-pound dog, our house is full to the brim. It was a fun time and the only casualty was a Schell's beer glass. The pizza was good, the salad from River Rock was delicious, and the Ravishing Red Velvet Cake was divine. We all licked our fingers.

More moopish weather today. We could use some sunshine.

I had a shot of Neulasta last Wednesday. It's purpose is to build up my white blood count and prevent infections but one of the side effects is bone pain. I wasn't worried because I have been wearing my shield of invincibility. Oh, yeah. That stopped working last night right about bedtime. My legs ache like a word I shouldn't say. I tried a heating pad, Tylenol, wine, heavy no avail. This morning, I will try exercise.

Doctors are very smart; this I know. They must have giant flow charts to show where the bad cells are and what they do to combat them and what the side effects are and what to do about those and how it all works together. I'm sure I could never keep it straight. This ain't bakin' Christmas cookies, my friends.

Here are some pictures from the event. The young woman is Peter's friend, April. The little girl is Zoey, April's daughter. (And of course, my handsome and wonderful children, Tiffany and Peter...but you knew that...) We had a wonderful time. God bless us everyone.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

it's a new day!

Yesterday, I took two naps before noon and today, I haven't had one nap and it's almost 3 o'clock! I'd say that's progress.

I've also gotten a lot of things done. I wrapped the gifts I need for tonight, bought more cards, finished my cards, made all the corrections to the spreadsheet, did errands downtown, went to the liquor store, and helped Regis make Bruce's apple pie recipe. Now, I need to head downtown to pick up the rest of the dinner fixin's but I'm feeling pretty darn smug about the state of my circle of influence.

We simplified the Christmas meals. Tonight, Papa Murphy is making the pizzas and River Rock is providing the green salad (roasted butternut squash, blue cheese, and cranberries) and the Ravishing Red Velvet Cake. I love a menu that comes together like this!

Elliot loves his bath and usually tries to convince me that he needs one when he comes for a visit. His mama sent me this picture by text message this morning so I know he had one. Isn't that quite a grin?

Zoey is coming here for the first time tonight. We haven't had a two-year old for about a year so we better batten down the hatches. Funny how much they change in a year.

I realized today that I missed the Nutcracker this year for the first time in many years. I recall Emily mentioning it but it slid right off the radar. That makes me a little sad.

Here we go. Enjoy your moopish evening in Minnesota!

brain mush and some stray photos

Regis and I are pretty sure that the guy who draws this cartoon knows us.

Ella and I always wear aprons when we cook together. My apron is called Fight Like a Girl (See the breast cancer logos?) and my friend, Katy, in Georgia, is making Ella one just like it.

I'm not sure I ever shared the hinder side of my Halloween Fun Run costume. I am an artificial knee and  I rigged up elastic tendons so the knee cap on my butt would move when I bent over. I didn't get a prize as they seemed to go in for traditional mummies and monsters. Ah, well.

Ella and I had our picture taken by the giant cat after the race.

I was going to write that Regis had taken me somewhere today but all I could think of was that it was out in the country. Oh, yeah, Walgreens. No exactly IN the country but we had to go through it to get there and we took the long scenic route home so I could eat my cheeseburger and Gus could have a few fries. It was a beautiful sunshiney day.

I needed wrapping paper and things like that. Also stopped at Contents for a few things although I spent a lot of time standing and staring at the three things I bought. Wait, wait...what?

Now, I have to take on the printing of a spreadsheet into labels. I did this last year so I should be able to connive my limp little brain around it again but we shall see.

Later, I did manage it and even got a snowman face to appear on the label. Ta da!

Regis and I spent the evening watch an old compilation of SNL Christmas shows. Chevy Chase, John Belushi, Gilda Radner, Dan Akroyd, Garret Morris, Jane Curtain...all the good ones. It was a hoot. Can't believe we used to stay awake until 11 o'clock to watch it...we used to go home to make sure we got to watch it...and now we have to shut it off at 8 and go to bed. Humbug.

I called a nurse yesterday and she gave me the go ahead to stop taking all the nausea drugs. I hadn't had any nausea and I think they were making me fuzzy-headed. I feel good so far, so will only use them if needed. I wonder about next time? Is the effect of chemo cumulative? Will I feel clobbered by the end?

Friday, December 14, 2012

inspiration and bravery?

It's a puzzle to me how my diagnosis of breast cancer can be like some of the others I hear about: Stage IV metastatic brain cancer, pancreatic cancer, esophageal cancer. Those seem a lot more dire and frightening and I wonder how those folks keep going. They must be the brave ones, the inspirational ones.

Maybe it's that once you don your boxing robe, it doesn't seem so bad and you just dance on, forgetting what the words on the back say.

Cancer is a mad procession of appointments and medications and procedures. Some have left me bruised and battered but most have been tolerable, even the ET hut I was in the other day to have my port installed. We wonder how people do it but maybe this is the answer. We all, we just do. Without thinking of the choices or the fairness or the conclusion, which will not be any different, really, than anyone else's conclusion in most ways that matter.

Some of my sweet friends in the social media and friends who send me cards say I am an inspiration and that I am brave. I don't feel like that at all. I am only doing what many other people do every day, get up and face the dragon. At this moment, in my life, the dragon happens to be breast cancer.

In a few minutes, I could name ten people who are facing far more dire dragons that this, and probably with far more bravery than I am. In some cases, they are more alone, or in more pain, or in worse financial straits, or their prognosis is not so good. Lots of reasons that one's lot could be worse.

I wallow in self-pity sometimes, I spend a few hours some afternoons in my bedroom nest reading and napping, I let things go that I should be doing, I forget things, I am lazy some days. Some days I cry.

Then I get up and watch the cardinals in the bird feeder or I take Gus in the back yard for a romp, or I try to organize my helter-skelter Christmas card list. I go to River Rock for a gingerbread latte and hugs from my dear, young friends. That's life. Good and bad. We buck up and do our best.

Dodge the shadows, friends. Always look for the sunshine wherever you find music or poetry or birds or your big, fluffy dog. Life is very good.

short note...middle of the night

We have been sleeping better but Regis had a restless period and I needed a drink of water so here I am. Gus likes to sleep on the bed some nights so we had his furry self to contend with, too. I decided to get out of bed to re-hydrate and write a little after my last meds.

Young Regis dropped off a bag of ice for us and was just in time for beef stew with dumplings. He stayed to eat stew and have a cookie at the end. Regis even made him a Manhattan for dessert. It had been a cold day in his truck with no heater.

Our Christmas meals this year are going to be a combination of catering and pot luck. I'm ordering ribs for Christmas Eve from Whiskey River (I hope), and bread and desserts from River Rock. Reg thought they could bring cheese potatoes. Voila. Tiffany and Eric are coming on Saturday night because they won't be here Christmas Eve. We're having a pizza buffet, a big green salad catered from River Rock and a Red Velvet Cake. Easiest menu ever.

Why do I wake up in the middle of the night thinking of this stuff? I think my mind goes numb when I think about the plethora of medication on my desk. Tomorrow, I can cut back on some of the nausea meds if I haven't experienced any...and I haven't.

Back to bed. Feel fingers slowing down.....back to sleep.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

almost-solstice morning and still very dark

I do not know how people survive in the places where they have 24 hours of near darkness. Ack.

Yesterday, I went back to the cancer center for a shot of Neulasta® (pegfilgrastim), a prescription medication used to reduce the risk of infection (initially marked by fever) in patients with some tumors receiving strong chemotherapy that decreases the number of infection-fighting white blood cells.

We ordered a pizza for dinner and watched the movie Scrooged. My policy has been that the phone and lights go off about 7 o'clock and we watch a silly Christmas movie. It's very relaxing.

Regis is in his recliner this morning and Gus is in his lap. It's their ritual. Gus lays his paw on the arm of the chair and Regis combs his ears while they watch the sun rise. It's a calm way to start the day for both of them.

I stopped at River Rock for a gingerbread latte yesterday and ran into my friend, Jill, by accident. I also gleaned many gentle hugs from the lovely baristas. We had a nice visit while Regis took Gus to the dog park. I heard about her Christmas plans, which are wild and include many small children, and advised her not to watch Christmas Vacation. Ha! She said it will be fun and I bet it will be.

I got a fun box of Christmas surprises from Mom in the socks, a candle, sweet smelling things, an insulated cup, and probably a thing or two I am forgetting. Thanks, Mom. Our neighbor, Julie, stopped by with a poinsettia later in the afternoon. All in all, a sweet day.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

purple power port, chemical cocktail, chest wounds

Yesterday was my first chemotherapy treatment. I had all sorts of, so far, unfounded fears. The port install went just fine, although I thought they were a bit stingy with the Versed. I was looking forward to a long nap but I was barely in and out of wakefulness, no pain but awareness of them fiddling around with me, then fully awake as soon as they finished. I like to be less conscious than that.

I ordered breakfast which was waiting for me when I got back to my curtained cubby hole. The eggs were cold but I don't mind them that way and it all tasted great, not having eaten since the day before. The photo at the top was my destination: Chemo Chair #8, Andreas Cancer Center.

My chair hos lots of comforts: massage, heat, foot-rest, back recline, cup holder, and television remote. The nurses or volunteers will bring coffee, water, and pretty much your heart's desire. We packed a little bag lunch of peanut butter sandwiches, nuts, crackers, and dried fruit.

Regis sat with me most of the time as they hooked up bag after bag, I think there were 8. a bag of saline, a bag of antibiotic, a bag of anti-nausea stuff, then another, then a steroid to make the anti-nausea bag work better, then the real stuff. One of the real chemos (and you can tell them because the nurses suit up like they are approaching ET) came in a giant tube of red liquid. It makes your pee red for a couple days. TMI?

I had to pick up four prescriptions on the way home. Since they weren't ready, we dropped into Tav on the Ave for a glass of wine and some popcorn. I think that helped as much as anything.

So now, I'm dinged on both wings: the scar and potential swelling under my left arm, the stitches over my left breast, the hole up near my collar bone where they snaked the port tube in, and a  minor lump further down where the port is. Don told me they aren't purple anymore but clear, which is not nearly so much fun. I am pretty sure that all these owies will prevent me from doing household chores like dishes and cleaning.

I'm going to follow my friend, Jan's philosophy which is try very hard not to act like a sick person and to have fun every day. First...a short nap.

Monday, December 10, 2012

cards, soap, and an icy walk

I think I should make cookies. I put a turkey breast in the oven for dinner (and left-overs) and a small sweet thing would be nice at the end of the meal. Can a guy make cookies without dirtying any dishes? That's the part I hate.

I think my interest in Christmas baking peaked a few years ago and then went into a steep decline. I just looked at my Christmas binder (another story) but there isn't one thing there that interests me. Maybe we'll just make the old standard chocolate chip cookies. Or truffles. Truffles do interest me.

I had Regis drop me off downtown this morning so I could buy Christmas cards. I did a search and rescue in the basement yesterday, thinking I must have cards that I bought in some previous post-Christmas sale. No such luck. I did find, however, the mother of all stashes of holiday napkins. I love holiday napkins...obviously as I have eight packages ready for use.

I bought cards and this lovely box of soap at the Swedish Kontur. It's sitting on my desk in front of me and I pick it up from time to time and sniff it. Actually, I inhale deeply. It's so nice I may never use it.

Cards. I realize this is a multi-step process of which I may be incapable. I have the cards and that is the easy part. Additional steps: Stamp. Address. Write on card. Take to PO. Well, now that I wrote it down, it doesn't seem so daunting.

The hard part is that my fancy list of addresses that I had put on a spreadsheet disappeared in my last computer upgrade. I have managed to scavenge what I hope is most addresses and I might be able to scrounge some more from the web and FB. Uh oh...back to feeling like a daunting task.

The sidewalks downtown were an icy bitch. I walked like a penguin from one store to the next. It's the one thing I hate about Minnesota winters...walking like a damn penguin. For all my warm climate friends, this is it:

You walk like this so you don't fall down and crack your head. One winter a few years ago, I fell three times and Regis fell once. Most of those were on the same day.

I liked the comments on the last post from new cancer friends. Caroline suggested that the germ thing is a worthless battle and Karen suggested that she did the same thing and it was more about control than germs. I've never been overly concerned about germs as you can attest if you have been to my house. I am not a cleaner and if it weren't for Jan, we would live in a hovel. That could be an exaggeration for effect, a literary device of which I am fond.

I'd like to point out that I am not ending my sentences with prepositions today either.

Onward and upward.

Sunday, December 09, 2012

sunday snowfall

I feel that nervous agitated energy I always feel before a trip. I feel like I have to get everything done today and tomorrow, forgetting that there will be stores and restaurants and Christmas cards after Tuesday. I cleaned up my office and threw out a ton of paper and magazine and catalogs...needing order and calm. I wiped everything down with antiseptic wipes. Not sure what that last part is about.

I'm listening to BB King's Christmas album and watching the snow fall. We're going out to the winery with some friends later to toast the first snowfall of the season.

Saturday, December 08, 2012

bidding adieu to my hair

I decided to get rid of my hair in one fell swoop. As Ella says, "Who wants your hair falling out in chunks? That would be gross."  She is a philosophical one, that girl. Besides, her principal, Mr. Doherty, is bald and she thinks he looks good.

It was not traumatic. Regis studied up on how to do it and he cut it in three stages going from one attachment to the other as it got shorter. Emily wrote a poem called Hair? Who Cares? and read it before the clipping commenced.

The two ladies who were here, Emily and Ella, took me into the bathroom to have the first real look. It's startling at first but what the hell. It's only hair, and as the poem says, there are far more important things in life.

I was a bit disconcerted that after my head is shaved, we could only pick up a half a sandwich bag full of hair. That's all I had?

I told my cousin, Deb, today that I was nervous about getting my port installed and then having to travel through the halls from one medical facility to another through a public hallway and right past an a blue gown She said: Wait. You are the person who posted a picture of herself on Facebook in a blue gown. Hilarious and true.

Since my company went home this morning, I have spent some time in my the bedroom with the drapes closed, the laptop playing the 1970 version of Scrooge with Albert Finney and a pile of detective novels on the bed. It's very serene and comforting. Regis is taking me to Dino's for pizza so I will have to get out of my pajamas. Next week, I'll go out. I promise.

Actually, I am only half in pajamas. My top half is hot because of the blankety-blank Ace bandage and my bottom half is cold. So I have leggings and socks on the bottom half. If the Ace wrap keeps the alien baby from returning, it's worth it.

If I had any gumption, I'd go do the dishes. But I don't.

Thursday, December 06, 2012

all clothes must fit in bag

In my typical fashion, I am perseverating on the minutia of my cancer treatment. I have several lists and the one regarding what to wear and bring on Tuesday, starts with: All clothes must fit in bag.

If I go in full regalia, including hat, tall boots, socks, purse, pants and several sweaters...Regis ends up dragging all my crap everywhere he goes. If I am careful about what I wear and bring, it will all fit tidily into a bag and won't be such a nuisance. Someone suggested I get him a wheeled cart but that might be going too far.

I also have a list of food things to bring. I hate getting trapped places with no access to good food. They have coffee and other beverages there but I don't think much of their snack assortment which consists mostly of giant dry muffins that must be made in another state. I'm thinking small sandwiches, nuts, cheese, dark chocolate.

For those of you who might be interested in the scientific side to this, as opposed to the fashion and food side, I was randomly assigned to Arm 1 of the clinical trials. That means I will get:
Adriamycin every 14 days for 4 cycles
Cytoxan every 14 days for 4 cycles
Paclitaxel every 7 days for 12 weeks
Dexamethason before each Paclitaxel treatment. It's for nausea.

At the end of all of this, there will be radiation for some period of time. Then targeted hormone treatment that goes on for a long time. Maybe five years. Cross that bridge when we come to it.

I read back over my posts for the last few days and thought I must sound like I'm high on Zoloft or something. Believe me, it ain't all silver saddles and Sunday parades. Many days I am tired and bleary-eyed. I usually take a restorative interlude in the afternoon from noon to two o'clock. I don't always sleep but I do read and spend some time with my eyes closed. Some days, even after that, it doesn't take much to feel a kick in my sad pants, get my feelings hurt, or just succumb to ennui.

I will say that things are tipping in my favor for now. Far more good times than bad..far more. I am greatly humbled by the kindness of so many people, those I have known for a long time and some who I have only met through cancer. Maybe it's like most things in life, once you've been down the road, you recognize the signs and eagerly lend a hand or an ear.

Thanks to Mary for the morning coffee in her serene country home and the company of Handsome Bob. Thanks to Keith and Corrine for the chicken soup with homemade noodles and the ride to see the Christmas lights. Thanks to Joanne for the glass of wine and the hour in the sunny booth at Patrick's. Thanks to Jill for the quiet lunch in the shadows last week. We had our own little tucked away place to linger over chicken sandwiches and at that moment, it was just what I needed. Thanks to Laurie at Turban Diva for making me feel chic and cool instead of old and sick and for letting me tell my story. Thanks to Anders and Judie for the sweet dinner the other night. We know there is not a better way to spend a winter evening than with friends and Manhattans! Thanks to Karen who read my blog and wrote a note to tell me her own cancer journey and to share her mantra, believe.

Thanks to Regis, my sweet husband. He sits with me in clinic after clinic, he drives me to appointments, he makes me eggs when I'm hungry, he finds me books and music, he pastes my face on a Dancing with the Stars photo, and he takes care of me and Gus. He swears he will help me with this dragon.

That's a lot of nice things to happen in a few short weeks. I am lucky.