Sunday, June 30, 2013


I offer these photos as proof that my marbles are indeed coming back. First photo: my grocery list. Second photo: my two week menu. We don't always stick to it but it helps to have a hint. I make the menu and Regis looks through the Hy Vee ad and the coupons. We're a great team.

I know this is not the best photo (taken with my phone...what kids call a selfie) but it demonstrates another move in the right direction. Cousin Deb sent me a package with the bubble necklace and the pretty bright orange sarong. I put them both on over my purple shirt and went to the coop to do some shopping for dinner.

Regis is going to try cutting my hair today. I like it this short so I don't feel like paying 30 bucks for a haircut. Are we going down a weird path here?

We've also started "stocking up" when things are on sale. I would take a picture of the mountain of toilet paper we have in the basement but it's embarrassing. If we suddenly kicked the bucket, our kids would be able to stock the new Shopko with our accumulated TP, vitamins, lotions, bath wash, and allergy meds.

I remember my Grandma Elsie stocking up on cat litter. Every time she went to the store, she bought a bag with a coupon. Her cat was 20 years old and I told her she ought to start buying it by the cupful if she could. A 20 year old cat doesn't have a long life expectancy. Such a smart ass I am.

I looked up quasi on the google because it seemed like the right word but I wasn't sure. It means having some was the right word!

getting back to normal

Regis told me on the way home from the clinic the other day that it might be time for me to get back to my off-beat observations on the blog and leave the medical news behind. I think he's right.

I feel more normal each day. Yesterday, I set the table with my 4th of July tablewear. Peter and April surprised us in the afternoon and ended up coming back for dinner. I got busy cooking and made a blueberry corn salad, a fruit bowl, and dry rubbed steaks. Good food and good company.

The past year, we have been very disorganized in our cooking and eating. This morning we made a two-week menu and a lengthy grocery list. We're heading to HyVee tomorrow morning for provisions. I hope to have time to go through a cupboard this afternoon. I know there are weird things hiding in the back.

I'm anxious to get back into my cookbooks and to make some of the summer foods we love. Chipotle aioli, spicy chicken wings and grilled romaine lettuce, crab cakes, stuffed peppers and stuffed portobella mushrooms.

Young Regis and Old Regis traveled to the Mankato dog park again today as the St. Peter one is under water. They enjoy the time together and the dogs love it.

Off to have a wonderful Sunday!

Friday, June 28, 2013

early morning with the birds and gratitude

The weather yesterday was glorious. We sat on the patio as much as possible and we slept with the window open which was wonderful but when the birds start singing at 4 am, it's time to wake up. When I walk out into the living room in the dark, I see my nightlight. A mouse reading a book. Such a soft and comforting light.


Today is my three-month follow-up appointment with my oncologist. My main oncologist. Although I will continue to see them every three months for the next two years, in my mind this signals the end of active treatment. Done with chemo, done with radiation, no lingering cancer cells according to the PET scan. It's bittersweet...I'll miss those folks and now I'm kind of on my own.

I've thought for several months about how to say thank you to them. I know it's their job but I also know that medical care is not always this thoughtful and kind. To go to a place as often as I have in the past nine months and never feel dread is an amazing thing. I always felt cradled in their caring arms. How do you find words for that?

Yesterday I went to the grocery store early and bought ingredients for peanut butter oatmeal chocolate chip cookies. I think I made about four dozen and bagged them up for the radiation folks, the chemotherapy folks, and the nice people at the front desk. I sat at my desk and tried to write notes telling them how much their care meant to me but it was hard. I told Judy I was like a sinking ship and they shored me up and helped me sail through the storm. Haha...boat metaphors.

I wasn't sure cookies were a good idea but my Facebook friends assured me they would be appreciated. I don't like to shove food at people but I guess they can walk the halls with the colorful bag and pass them out to people who are interested in the major food groups that went into this baking...butter, peanut butter, and chocolate. How could we live without it?

I've learned from my cousin (and my mom) that if you like to bake, be prepared to give most of it away. She once brought cookies to a woman she met in Target who lived in a tiny house and didn't have an oven. This winter, she sent me lefse (twice) and a lemon pound cake made from lemons that grow in their back yard. Gifts of food are gifts from the heart.

This is the basket that I keep right next to my leopard chair in the living room. Every card I've gotten since my cancer diagnosis in November is in this basket. I intend to sort through them and attempt to thank each person who sent one. That's my intention and you know how those can go. If you're reading this and you sent one, know how much I appreciated every word.

Also the cyber support...Facebook messages, emails, phone calls, blog comments. I had regular visitors, regulars callers, and regular party participants. So many things to be very grateful for today. Cancer. Not something you would sign up for but certainly a learning experience for life.

My main angel through all of this has been my sweet husband. I couldn't have done it without him. He shared my fears and tears, my rants, my long sleeps. He took me to appointment after appointment, endured the cafeteria food, paid for expensive coffee (haha), and got involved in conversations with people in the waiting room. He remembered things to ask (or tell) the doctor when I couldn't remember what day of the week it was.

It's been quite a year.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

yesterday in pictures

I posted this photo yesterday...and I was right. It was the last time we have seen the sun since I took this picture. We woke up to the weather radio again this morning...more thunderstorms and rain and threat of severe weather. Penny size hail. Sigh.

Soon after this we headed over to the Eastridge Clinic for my PET scan. It was not an unpleasant experience...just weird. I was escorted to a semi truck in the parking lot, installed in a comfortable chair, and injected with some radioactive stuff. I had to wait an hour for it to do its thing. The picture is from my pod. A curtain was drawn right around my feet and I could only peek out from time to time.

The scan took about 25 minutes. The tube was bigger than the MRI tube, my head was out most of the time, and it wasn't noisy. The two characters who operated the machine and took care of me were fun. I had taken some sleepy drugs so Mike walked me back into the clinic, holding my arm like I was an old lady.

My earth angel, Judy, delivered the good news at 4 o'clock. No abnormalities. Nothing of concern. Nothing at all. Such a huge relief! I tried to be optimistic but deep down in my brain I was terrified. What if, I thought. What if.

I came home and took a big nap. When I woke up, Regis had set up the pool for Gus on the patio. He loves to play with his tennis ball in the water. I tried to take a video with my phone but all I got was my feet. Don't ask how that happened.

Now that the PET scan is over and unremarkable as they say, I can get on with things. I see Dr. Cockerill on Friday for my three-month check-up, which I will do for the next two years. Then every six months for several years, then once a year forever. Hormone therapy and frequent mammograms. I can deal with that, right?

Need to do some house tidying today. Time to get back to normal.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

sunshine and shadows

I had to step outside in my pajamas this morning to take a picture of the sunshine and shadows. We have seen precious little of both lately. We're still experiencing thunderstorms, or at least the threat of them, so we appreciate the respite.

We're headed over to Eastridge in Mankato this morning for my PET scan. PET stands for positron emission tomography. A PET scan uses radiation, or nuclear medicine imaging, to produce 3-dimensional, color images of the functional processes within the human body. I'll get injected with some radioactive shit and shoved into a tiny tube where I have to lie completely still for an hour. I'm sure it will be a lovely time. Said no person ever.

Some of that stuff I took right off the internet so you could use it in a research paper if you wanted to...I am not usually so factual in my reportage. Meaning I exaggerate and dramatize for effect.

We have a flank steak we're going to cook on the grill tonight. It's one of my all-time favorite meals. We grill red peppers and onions with it, sometimes I make chipotle aioli and we have some wonderful mango salsa. A feast for the senses.

Here we go. I'll report back later.

Monday, June 24, 2013

monday...and so it goes

Back from two of four medical appointments this week. Thumbs up on both of these. I have graduated from radiation for the time being and I was glad to say good-bye to that experience. Adios, y'all!

I'm going to plant some hostas today but apparently I am playing that game where you wait until the last minute...right before it starts to rain. Regis thinks he is going to get the front yard mowed, too, but that will be another touch and go situation. It's hard this year to find a time when the grass is dry enough to mow, it hasn't yet started to rain again, and you have the time and gumption to mow it. It takes a powerful and mysterious confluence of the forces in the universe.

I didn't think I needed a nap today but now I wonder if that should be my reward for getting the planting done. A retreat to the blanket fort to read and play my new iPad game, Color Zen.

I'm filling my garden with hostas and ivy. I got a few plants from Jill a few years back and put them in the side yard but decided they were too pretty to be hidden so now they are front and center. Betsy, my sweet neighbor, brought me a bowl full of hostas the other night and I put them in the ground today.

I love the soft palette of greens in the shade. It's a very restful garden. When I get it weeded, I'll have Regis take some more pictures.

Got the yard work done and took a splendid nap. It's been a good day.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

unexpected sweetness

Sometimes when I get blue and feel like wallowing in self-pity or at least crankiness, I remind myself to look around and appreciate the things that appear where I don't expect them.

That's serendipity, I guess. A happy accident or a pleasant surprise.

Richie brought me this absolutely gorgeous peony from her garden yesterday. It's the most beautiful shade of pink and it's huge. She also brought a bowl of pasta salad that I loved. I'm not usually a big fan of those but this one was light and flavorful without being oily. Yummy lunch. I'm going to call her for the recipe.

We went to the comedy show at the Treaty Site last night. There was not a big crowd (too many other things going on...) but we had a great time.

I remember a friend of mine telling me, years ago, not to be disappointed when support or encouragement or empathy don't come from the people you expect it to come from but rejoice when it comes from other unexpected places.

Last night, I saw a man I knew through my work at River Rock. A very nice man...but we saw each other only once a month or so when I would pick something up at his shop. He came over to me last night and asked how I was, said he didn't know about my breast cancer, but when he realized I wasn't coming in anymore, he asked around. He apologized for not knowing, wished me well, and was so kind and sweet it brought tears to my eyes.

I got up early this morning (to watch the storm) and had a long email from my friend, Karen, in New Jersey. It's almost like having coffee with her...I sit in my chair and sip coffee and read the stories of how she met her husband, the birthday celebration for her grandchildren, and her attempts (like mine) to get her cooking mojo back after a few major pains in the ass of life. Such serendipity to meet a friend like that through the comments on a blog.

It was a good day for a nap, being cold, dark, and gloomy outside. I went into the bedroom, turned on the ceiling fan and the white noise machine. I read for a while then fell into a deep and restful sleep. Something to be very grateful for...a delicious nap.

I must have had the Batman signal out yesterday because I heard from two brothers, my mom, and a friend. So nice to hear from them.

I'm going to get moving now that it's almost noon. I'm going to take a shower, do the dishes from breakfast, and then cook something. Maybe cookies.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

weather and health...both a drag

Thunderstorm91 °F
50% chance of precipitation
Thunderstorm73 °F
60% chance of precipitation
Thunderstorm86 | 64 °F
70% chance of precipitation
Thunderstorm84 | 72 °F
20% chance of precipitation
Chance of a Thunderstorm90 | 72 °F
Chance of a Thunderstorm
20% chance of precipitation
Partly Cloudy90 | 68 °F
Partly Cloudy

This is our weather forecast for the next four days. Unpleasant because we have already had several days of booming thunderstorms and heavy rain. Last night we had some nickel size hail that didn't seem to do any damage.

It's dark and cloudy this morning and the feeders are full of birds, many of them young ones. Grackles, robins, doves. Cardinals and orioles seem to keep their babies at home for a long time.

I feel better than I did a few days ago but I still don't feel right somehow. Anxious? Yes. Filled with dread? No. Somewhere between the two...on the freak-out continuum. I just wanted to get my real life back. I didn't want to spend another week waiting for a damn test and its results. Crap. Shit.

I don't ever think "why me?". I know this shit is random and I know that many people deal with far worse things than this. I know I shouldn't worry about the future and I know that I should live every day to the fullest. I know that in my head but I'm having trouble getting that to transfer to my heart.

Sigh. PET scan Tuesday. Shit.

I'm tired of thinking about this. Tired. And bored. And this morning I have a shitty attitude about it all. When I talked to Judy the other day, she said cancer is part of my experience now and I have to find a way to integrate into my life. It doesn't have to be the focus but it won't go away. I wonder how to do that.

Maybe I need to bring out the whoop ass again. Yes, that's it.

So the whoop ass for today is:
  • Bacon and eggs for breakfast
  • Bake a loaf of bread
  • Take a nap
  • Read my book
  • Go to the comedy show tonight
If you have any unused whoop ass sitting around at your house, let me know. I'll pick it up.

Friday, June 21, 2013

summer solstice

On Wednesday, we went to Waseca for my MRI. The purpose was to investigate the reason for my back and leg pain which has been much better since last week. I expected to get a report that everything was fine although I had some deep down fears of the kind you don't mention because people will think you're crazy.

My phone rang as I walked back into the house about 4 o'clock. My local doctor already had the report. Good news was that my nerves, joints, discs, and all looked fine. No mechanical problems. But the report didn't rule out metastasis. What the fuck. METASTASIS. Here we go. Dead man walking.

Anybody who has had any proximity to cancer knows that metastasis is bad shit. Very bad shit. It means the cancer soldiers have taken their pup tents and set up outposts everywhere.

Yesterday I woke up at 8, went back to bed at 9, and stayed there in my blanket fort until about noon when Judy, my sweet research nurse, called to talk me off the cliff. She said to focus on the fact that the report said non-specific. It also mentioned motion which could mean that I wiggled. Judy and my oncologist said they are obligated to do the next step but it does not at all mean there is anything terrible going on in my bones.

She also said metastasis was not in the report. That word must have sprung unbidden from the mouth of a nervous doctor. Dammit. They should know better than to fling around those hot button words. After that word, I didn't hear another thing she said.

That my back is much better is an excellent indicator that it will be fine. If I had bone cancer, it would not get better in a week. That's what the experts tell me. The PET scan is the thing that will confirm it.

So I feel better. Better enough to make it through the next five days. I have a PET scan scheduled for Tuesday at 10:30.

We have been up to our usual hi jinx. We had lunch at Mazatlan on Wednesday on our way to the MRI. We ran into the Dos Equis man in the waiting area! The police often question him just because they find him interesting.

Stay thirsty, my friends!

After our two days of mortal mental combat, we decided to go out for an early dinner to celebrate our 14th anniversary which is really Saturday. We indulged in stuffed jalapenos, a rack of ribs, a pork stuffed baked potato and a glass of wine. We have enough food to last for several more meals but it was wonderful. A respite from the shitty world of cancer.

My sweet Regis. He has been my greatest angel through all of this. He takes me to all of my appointments without complaining. He listens to my crazy fears and rants. He doesn't mind if I retreat to the blanket fort for hours at a time. I asked him yesterday if he didn't ever get tired of all this bullshit and he got tears in his eyes and said no, not at all. I am lucky to have him in my life.

I'm wearing Regis's new glasses from He also got a pair from Coastal for ten bucks that he loves. We'll never pay 600 dollars for a pair of glasses again. 

The MRI which has receded into the background of my experience was not a horrible thing. It's a tiny space and it's very loud but I kept my eyes closed and pretended that the loud noise was a new-age punk rock band doing a concert. I told the techs they should record it and sell it. I'm not sure but I think they rolled their eyes.

Just Monday I wrote that I wanted to get back to normal. Now I feel stunned again. Immobilized. But I know myself. I'll feel like crap for a few days and then I'll spring back. They can't keep a good Norwegian Lutheran down!

Happy summer solstice. Enjoy the longest day of the year. Remember that pleasure is a thing that also needs accomplishing.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

two poems

~ from “The Word,” by Tony Hoagland

Down near the bottom
of the crossed-out list
of things you have to do today,

between “green thread”
and “broccoli” you find
that you have penciled “sunlight.”

Resting on the page, the word
is as beautiful, it touches you
as if you had a friend

and sunlight were a present
he had sent you from some place distant
as this morning — to cheer you up,

and to remind you that,
among your duties, pleasure
is a thing,

that also needs accomplishing.

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.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

picking up the pieces

Herbs on the patio!

Garden art has consolidated itself into one spot.

Teresa and Gus enjoy an afternoon on the patio.

This is where we live in the summer.

I think I'm making some progress in my journey to the end of cancer treatment. I have an MRI today, I see the radiation oncologist Monday, and my main dude oncologist on Friday. He will outline the follow-up and long-term care plan for me.

Picking up the pieces means, for me, that I go back to doing normal things normally. Not sleeping all day but trying to be active and resume activities like exercise and cooking and cleaning and gardening.

I've done a little cooking in the past week and enjoyed it. Nothing too fancy...chipotle aioli, Mexican tabbouleh, banana bread. It was nice to be in the kitchen making something tasty, with the radio and a glass of wine.

I'm going to work in my garden for an hour this morning before I have to get ready for the trip to Waseca. Hosta planting, garden art distribution, weed management, and an extreme make-over for the corner that has gotten out of control.

Medical people are calling me this morning to report and remind. My insurance, for which I pay a ton of money, won't pay for one prescription so the doctor had to substitute another. My insurance company says it is too soon to fill the prescription for the burn cream until the 22nd. Apparently they have calculated just how much of that goop I should use per application and measured it out to last ten days. Or some shit.

Yesterday we met with our insurance agent/money manager to figure out the logistics of paying for medical insurance. There's a crack along side the head for you. I said on our way out the door that she is probably used to managing more money than we have. Haha! We were hoping Obamacare might help us out in this situation but now I read that the IRS scandal might mean there is no money for that. What the hell does one have to do with the other?

The bird report for Bruce. We've had a lot of young birds lately. Grackle babies and robin babies, mostly. Both are poop machines. They like to sit on the backs of our lawn chairs and dribble a streak down the cushions. Jeez. Learn some manners. Adult orioles are less apparent than a few weeks ago so they probably have a nest somewhere and they're shopping at the corner tree limb for bugs instead of scarfing grape jelly.

Our wedding anniversary is Saturday, the 22nd. We usually forget the date and I can never remember the year but this year, there is a comedy show that night so we're making it a celebration. It's a good fit. Our friend, Mike Callahan's irreverent comedy to celebrate our wedded bliss.

On to the day.

Monday, June 17, 2013

starting the week

I'm starting this week with my left front quadrant swathed in Silvadene, gauze pads, and my fishnet tank top. It's a hotter than the hubs of hell combination.

There are four things I wanted to do today and I have already finished three of them. These are not big projects, understand, and one of them was taking a shower. I like to keep my expectations low.

We had a very nice time yesterday but didn't take any pictures. It all just went so fast. We had three (make that four!) children here and they were good, but excitable and busy. The weather was beautiful, Tiffany and Amber took over in the kitchen, and we ended the day on the patio for a quiet drink at almost dusk. I love summer.

Sunday, June 16, 2013


Today is Father's Day. In honor of all the men in our families, and among our friends who are important male figures in their clans, we recognize it as Patriarch's Day. It's not just biological relationships that are's all the uncles and brothers and friends, dads, and step dads.

I can't linger long here today because, as is typical of me, I have a ton of last-minute things to do.

I made banana bread this morning! An ordinary day kind of thing that I appreciate being able to accomplish. It's in the oven...I followed a smells heavenly!

I'll be back at the end of the day to share photos and stories.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Friday morning medical update good grief

Yesterday I went to my last (God willing) radiation treatment. About a month ago, I had mixed feelings about leaving the safety and security of treatment but the past two weeks, I have been chomping at the bit, as horse people say. Here I am leaving the cancer center. I asked my radiation oncologist about the absence of balloons and a parade. He smirked.

So, after that. Here is where I spent two hours of the afternoon.

I have had horrific back pain this week. It isn't so bad during the day but it kept me from sleeping at night which after a few days, makes you feel psycho. The nurses and my oncologist want it resolved quickly because I'm scheduled to take an aromatase inhibitor and one of the side effects can be joint pain.

Aromatase inhibitors prevent your body from producing hormones which can stimulate tumor growth. I'll take something like Ameridex for 5-10 years.

I'll have one of these on Wednesday. Seems like we just can't go a week without a medical appointment. This one is in Waseca....road trip!

We cancelled our planned trip to see Mom this weekend. Between my back pain and my skin eruptions, I would be a somewhat miserable traveler. Besides, I can't wear the usual lady's undergarment and I don't want to be flopping around my hometown like a trollop.

I'm trying to invent a method for holding dressings on the burns and skin eruptions. Tube sock, maybe?

Nancy, this week I'm going to start delving into the book you gave me...the one about getting your life back after cancer treatment. I'm going to write a post on angels who walk among us again, but you were one!

Moving on this morning. Maybe more later.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

end of radiation

Last time I have to go through this door for treatment!

Wednesday, June 12, 2013


Remember how I felt so good and so normal for the last week? Remember the list of things to do that actually got done? Well, that all lasted until Monday when a backache and hip pain going down my legs reminded me of what's gone on the last months. Bang. Enough euphoria...back to earth.

At first I thought I had just overdone it for a few days. Cleaning drawers, after all! But it's persisted and it makes it nearly impossible to sleep, especially on my side.

I did some reading this morning on the Interwebs (dangerous) and it's a common topic on cancer blogs and forums. Shit. Damn. Hell. I was happier when I thought it was from cleaning drawers.

I'm going to ask about it at the cancer center today. One of my major thinking errors was believing that this would all end the day I walked out of there for the last time. Seems the chemo and radiation effects linger for a long time. Sigh.

And, by the way, I won't be walking out of there for the last time for a long time. They will follow me for ten years...maybe fifteen.

If it weren't about the 85th day in a row, the rain and thunder this morning would be pleasant. I did all my planting yesterday so the little begonias and impatiens will be happy to get a real drink. I have been known to buy plants and then let them sit unattended to until they croak from benign neglect. Getting them into the dirt the same day I bought them is some kind of record for me.

We're having some neighbors over tonight. I had thought I would tidy up the house and make it looks like someone else lives here but now that I can hardly bend over, I have to abandon that agenda. I guess they'll just see me as I am. Box of books under the table? Yes, that's where it lives. Laundry basket in the living room? Yes, it can sit there.

I had crossed my fingers that the weather would be pleasant and we could be on the patio and people could go to their own homes to use the bathroom. No such luck.

I have two friends who are coming to help me today and Regis is a big help so all will be fine. Anybody who complains about the ambiance can take their paper plates of potato chips and Saltines and go home.

I think I'll post sticky notes on doors and windows. Don't go in here. Don't look out this window. Don't go in the porch. Enter at your own risk. Haha. That would be funny.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013


A couple of winters ago, I posted pictures of the garden bunny as he was covered with snow. A couple times, even his ears didn't poke out of the snow and he's about two feet tall. My friend, Mo, in New Orleans and her husband, Cliff, got quite a kick out of the bunny and all the snow. They requested a new picture of the bunny in his summer surroundings. He looks better in chives than all that snow!

There's a long story about this little item (about 4 inches wide to start) but it involves radiation and skin eruptions so I won't tell the whole thing. My doc prescribed some antibiotic cream and the nurse gave me this to keep the dressings on. She said to put my head through the top and my arms through the tiny holes. It worked and looks like a fishnet tank top. Not to be worn in public by itself, believe me.

Turns out, after wearing this fashion statement for 24 hours, it helps some issues and aggravates others. The next few weeks could be rough, dermatologically speaking.

Regis took this picture of Ella and Alex at Whiskey River after our bird identification adventure. We had a great time and they did a great job finding the birds. We saw grosbeaks, finches, hummingbirds, orioles, cardinals, and a flock of wild turkeys.

Our neighbor, the lawn warrior has purchased for himself a new weed whacker. This thing could whack weeds in the jungle...way more than a guy needs to whack lawn grass. It sounds like a damn jet ski which is such a pleasant thing in a residential neighborhood where people are trying to enjoy some time outside in the evening.

With our wet and cool spring, the lilacs have been magnificent. These grow on the side of our house but I could smell them sitting on the patio. Ah, life is good.