Thursday, February 28, 2013


I don't know if I slept too much yesterday or if the evil forces in the universe were keeping me awake but I didn't sleep worth a damn last night. I think I was awake every hour, once retreating to the couch with a pillow and blanket. It ought to be a long day.

Ella was here for a while before school which was a nice start to the day. She and PopPop went off to school just now. She's going sledding for PE today and was excited about that. We didn't go sledding in PE when I was a child but maybe the places where I went to school were too flat. Distinct possibility that.

Peter is coming for a homemade breakfast at ten o'clock but suddenly I feel time compressing so we may have to go out for pancakes instead. I have a chemo appointment at 12:30...and dishes to do, groceries to put away, and a shower. Simple things feel overwhelming today.

Yesterday I packed up all my little dishes that were on the shelf in the living room. I wanted to dust there and they were cluttering things up one of which was my mind. They can live in boxes in the closet for a few months.

I went through my winter clothes and took my black and gray wooly things to the basement. There comes a point in the year, after months of winter colors and textures, that I can't stand it anymore. I need a crisp white shirt and a swirly skirt even if we still have snow on the ground. I'm hungry for sun and for sandals.

In my mind I have paired radiation with gardening. About the time the radiation treatments start, it will be time to get in the dirt. I'm thinking that every day of treatment, I will reward myself with some planting. I hope it works out that way.

My garden has been neglected for a few years so I have some changes in mind. I want to steal some bricks from a neighbor (not really steal) and make a small wall or walk. I want to get rid of or move some the rangy sun loving plants that aren't thriving in the shade. I want to plant lots of shade loving annual flowers...impatiens and begonias. My favorite veronica, choking on all the shade, is moving to the sunny end of the patio.

My neighbor down the street has a huge flower garden and she said I could bring my wagon down and we would split some of her plants. Jill gave me some hostas a few years ago that are too pretty to be in the side yard so I'll move them to the front garden.

I think I'll ask Peter to come and help me dig. I can bribe him with grilled steak and cold beer.

On to the rest of the day. Be hopeful about spring!

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

the ordinary

Last night I sat in this chair watching the sun go down and now here i am, waiting for it to come up. The only difference is the beverage. Even though Billy at the liquor store tells me that sauvignon blanc would make a great breakfast wine with its citrus tones, I think I'll stick to coffee in the morning.

I heated a cup of yesterday's coffee in the microwave, waiting for the inspiration to make a new pot. Gus is taking his first nap of the day on the couch. I love that dog. A nap before 6 am is a thing to be admired.

Yesterday I cleaned my cool mist humidifier. Who knew that thing could produce microorganisms that smell like old gym socks? I found, and read, the instruction manual which was helpful. It only took me a month to get that done.

I love the smell of cinnamon all the time but this winter there seems to be something sublime about it. Whenever I open the cabinet and get a whiff of it, I have to search out the bag and inhale deeply. Ah, cinnamon. You make such wonderful toast.

This morning, my legs ache. It could be a coincidence as they have hurt in my life before cancer but now I am hyper-vigilant about side effects and this could be one. Usually when people ask how I am, I say fine fine fine, feeling better... because who wants to hear this litany of minor complaints? If I were someone else, I'd avoid talking to me if I did that.

I saw in the local paper this morning that they had a Valentine's Day king and queen at one of the nursing homes. That is perverse. Even in your dotage, you can't escape those popularity contests that force you to wear a paper crown. My friend, Jane, has one criterion for a nursing home: If they make you play Cootie for bananas, she is not going there. I'm sure she'd feel the same about the king and queen thing.

I looked at all the papers this morning. The local one, the regional one, and the state one. The further out you go, the worse the news is. I suppose if you publish something every day, you have to come up with some crap for people to read so they feel they're getting their money's worth. I won't make that mistake again for a while.

My google calendar sends me my agenda every morning about this time. Today it says I have no events scheduled. To call what I do every day an agenda and the things I do events is a stretch. A funny stretch, but a stretch just the same.

You would think that a calendar that emails me reminders of my events would keep me from forgetting to do things...but it doesn't.

I'm reading a book of historical fiction called The Bloodletter's Daughter. It's marginal and readable but not compelling. Maybe I'm just not in the mood for a book about obsession and madness right now.

We've watched two episodes of Sherlock, a modern version of Sherlock Holmes where Holmes and Watson solve crimes in 21st century London. It's very entertaining. The actor who plays Holmes is Bendedict Cumberbatch which is a name for an actor if I ever heard one. I've done an OD on Sherlock Holmes this winter...two movies, two tv episodes, and many of the original stories by Arthur Conan Doyle.

I love Sherlock's trench coat. It's a good look with boots. I read that BBC doesn't usually influence men's fashions but this coat has the Brits drooling.

I don't have much for plans today, let alone an agenda. Do the dishes. Dust the bookshelves in the living room. Finish the grocery list. And my ever-present agenda item: take a nap.

Monday, February 25, 2013

winter afternoon

I'm not going to give my daily agenda here and I can sense some of you may be breathing a sigh of relief.

It's been a good day. I don't know where to give credit...maybe my potassium level...but I got some exercise, had breakfast with a friend at Guenther's, took a nap, did some reading and now I'm having a glass of wine and watching the winter sun go down. Cannot complain about any of that.

Regis took Gus to the dog park. He was going to have a cold beer first but Gus started what we call "singing" so they went to the dog park first. Sometimes Gus sounds like those movies of dinosaurs where the brontosaurus is baying in the distance. This is not our dog but it sounds a lot like him, and it looks like him. Apparently, singing comes naturally to doodles.

Don't watch until the end. A few seconds will give you the idea. Hahaha! Go, doodles!

Hey, Karen. Regis and I both have Yaktrax....we just never have them on when we fall down. Funny about that.

i don't think i left the house...


Cécile Veilhan
The only time I left the house in three days was to meet my friend, Joanne, for a drink on Friday afternoon. I meant to go to the grocery store, but didn't. I meant to go for a walk, but didn't. Normally, this would make me crazy but for some reason, it didn't.

I slept a lot and I read a lot. Another mystery by Colin Dexter, Anne Tyler's book Beginner's Goodbye, and The Last Afternoon at the Ritz. I finished one knitting project and started another. We watched a couple movies and the first installment of Sherlock which I didn't think I'd like but I did. I cooked quite a bit and I think I reported on that here before so I won't bore you with those details. The only thing I can add is an eggbake yesterday morning. After the nap.

I talked to Tiffany (who has the flu) and Peter (who does not) over the weekend. I talked to their dad, Steve in Eagle Lake, Mom in Canby, and Deb, my cousin in Arizona. My brother, Bruce, called last night. It's not that I didn't have any social contact, I just never left the house. Somehow it was just fine.

The paired cardinals who come to our feeder keep us entertained. We're looking forward to the whole family again this summer. Last year, there were two adults and three young ones. The flinches are turning color and are also active at the feeder. Lots of other birds, too: juncos, woodpeckers, chickadees, blue jays.

My neighbor had a hawk in her yard, shopping her bird feeders for a small birdie snack. With the snow cover, it isn't easy to spot lunch so they come to town where there's fast food. Tasty and convenient. It's hard not to be distressed when you see cardinal pieces strewn about the stump in the back yard, but everybody's gotta eat. Cardinals are usually pretty smart...not like robins who get squashed by cars on a regular basis all summer long.

I'm in a mood to pack up about 80% of my winter clothes and stow them in the basement. I wear the same things a lot and it would simplify my life. I root through them all every day and leave a giant mess that needs to be folded up later. Maybe I'm just in the mood for spring clothes. That's one of the problems with a cold climate...the change of seasons doesn't always coincide with the change in fashion mojo.

We tried to watch some of the red carpet business at the Academy Awards last night but since we don't have cable, we had to stream it. We watched something called Popsugar for a while but the conversation was so vapid we had to stop and blow the cobwebs out of our ears. I heard one young woman say a dress was "over more sophisticated" whatever that means. Like fingernails on a chalkboard.

On to the week. I'll try to get out a little more... I can see a Guenther's cheeseburger in my future today.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

the big sleep, then more optimism

Out of the last 48 hours, I have slept nearly 36 of them. It amounts to two good nights of sleep and several prolonged naps. It was blissful and I feel renewed and invigorated. Don't get any ideas about me cleaning the basement or sorting through our CD collection because that ain't happening but I might sit in the chair and knit today which requires more verticality than napping does.

I even managed to do some cooking yesterday, between naps. Nothing fancy...chicken breasts, beef stew, corn meal muffins, sweet potatoes. Enough to provide good nutrition for a few days.

Regis and I did our household chores yesterday so that means today is a day of rest. Ha! There's some irony for you. I wonder how I did squeeze in all that sleeping.

Things are looking up. I feel more optimistic that spring will come, the ice will melt, I will feel better, and life will go on. There are days on the patio ahead, my friends!

One of the nice side effects of all the sleeping is all the reading. I read before I go to sleep and again when I wake up. I read at night and sometimes I read in the middle of the night. I go through about three books a week, having gone through a British mystery phase, a non-fiction phase, a Tony Hillerman phase, and a William Kent Kruger phase. I just got the new Bookmarks magazine so I can find some new material.

We finished all the episodes of Doc Martin that are available. I think Regis was relieved but I miss the characters. We'll have to find another series to watch. We watched an action movie last night and I think the action just distracts from the story sometimes. I loved the characters in the movie but all the fights and chases were boring. Give me a movie where nothing much happens.

It's only 6:45 and it's getting light outside! There's cause for optimism!

Saturday, February 23, 2013

ice and lemons

Deb sent me a lemon pound cake with lemon glaze made with lemons from their tree in Arizona. It tasted just like sunshine.

The sun was shining when we woke up at 7:30 (I never sleep that late!) but now the clouds have covered it again.

I have a list in my head of things I want to do today but it may get shortened. There is a lot of tidying up to do because Regis and I are not, by nature, the kind of people who put things away as we use them. Mittens, hats, boots... stuff collects here and there. I have dirty dishes in the sink, some laundry to finish, and some cooking to do. Probably not all going to happen.

Our neighborhood is a mix of young and old but one street (and our house) is mostly folks who are retired, elderly, infirm, or all three. The other day, one of the youngest went to the hospital by ambulance with a heart attack. The others are trying to do the neighborly thing and keep their walks clean and dry.

One neighbor pointed out to Regis a particularly icy patch where she had recently fallen. Her husband recommended grit so Regis tramps back to our house to get a can of grit. He is almost there when he goes down on the ice. The neighbor on the corner calls over to ask if he needs help. "Stay where you are or there will be a whole pile of us here!" he said. No broken bones. Just old people going down like bowling pins.

I'll try to write more later when I have more vim and vigor. Maybe I need coffee.

Friday, February 22, 2013

medical report and pope fashions

I had blood work done yesterday then saw the oncologist. He said my counts (hemoglobin and white cells) are sliding slowly downward but it is not unexpected and not enough yet to postpone treatment a week. My potassium was also low. His advice: eat potassium rich foods, take naps, and cross my fingers on the white count. Time will fix that.

I mentioned my general malaise and my brain problems to Judy. She was very reassuring on both fronts. She said there is research that shows cognitive changes occur between diagnosis and the onset of treatment, meaning that the memory and concentration issues are probably as much from dealing with the life-changing diagnosis as anything. She said cancer always brings thoughts of mortality and time and matter what the prognosis...and that is stirring beneath the surface of my brain even if I am not aware of it. That's a sobering thought right there.

The general malaise is also to be expected. The cumulative effect of weekly chemotherapy will cause increasing fatigue. I have two more months of chemo, then six weeks of radiation which will also make me tired. I figure I should be comatose by the 4th of July. I better lay claim to a wagon so someone can pull me to the parade.

I reclined in my big chemo chair all morning while next door to me, the town's loudest family got caught up on the neighborhood gossip. I could tell you who causes trouble on their street, what they had for lunch, if their kids are flunking math, and how many cars park in each driveway. It was like Jerry Springer live.

We had a lovely snowfall last night. I'm planning some snow angels today and I'll have Regis snap some pictures. We needed snow for the moisture and for covering up the dregs of winter...dirty ice and slop. It should be a beautiful morning.

Speaking of parades, the St. Patty's Day parade is coming up next month. Last year, it was almost 90 degrees which was gross. I love parades but this one was unpleasant. Here's what I wrote about it last year:

Here is my list of grievances regarding the parade. Please remember that this is not a scientific study and most of this information is presented as exaggeration for effect.
  1. First of all, it was very windy and humid. This is a problem for several reasons one of which is my costume. I have green and white striped tights and green and white arm warmers, a red wig, and a felt derby. It was too hot for most of that and a partial costume is just...a partial costume.
  2. The heat and the wind made for little gusts of sand blowing down the street. You might expect this if you are at a parade in Saudi Arabia but generally not here and not in March. It was weird.
  3. The weather (must mean lack of snow) meant that there were record crowds. Third Street is not made for record crowds so it was nuts to butts making the next few items even more annoying.
  4. Of the estimated ten thousand people lining the four block stretch of Third Street, eight thousand were either drunk or had a dog or a bicycle or both. Do dogs really enjoy parades? Really, all they get to see are the butt cracks of the people sitting in front of them and they don't get the marching bands. In my world, the rule is that the dog stays home unless the dog is in the parade.
  5. Same with bicycles. If you are riding a bicycle to the parade, chain it to a tree a block away and walk over. Do not attempt to ride a bicycle through a street crowded with drunks, small children, and dogs.
  6. Unruly and over-sized children. I'm not sure the age of these children...they were more like teens and pre-teens but they were excited about the smashed tootsie rolls and left-over from the last parade candy being strewn in the street. Ella and Elliot figured out pretty fast that there was a code of conduct: stay in your area, don't get too far out into the street, share with the kids smaller than you. Not these big oafs. They had a grocery bag full and were still cruising the small kids area like land sharks.
  7. People who try to drive and park a car as close to the parade route as possible and then try to leave when the streets are still full of dogs, bicycles, drunks, and small children. I'll be amazed if nobody got run over.
  8. Drunk college kids who play football on crowded streets. I love dodging a football as I try to make my way home with two small children. (No bicycle or dog.)
  9. Gigantic tractors. Somebody drove a tractor the size of our house to town and down a crowded street. It had giant wheels that went practically from curb to curb and were as high as an adult person. Really? You have to drive something this big to a parade?
If it sounds like I would like everyone to walk in an orderly fashion to Third Street then stand in an orderly fashion to watch the parade, you're right. So Norwegian of me, right?

Now that I know I'm normal (well, in terms of general malaise and cognitive functioning), I think I will try to have a more positive attitude.

Ending with a couple of pope fashion photos for your Friday morning pleasure.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

was I always such a whiny baby?

It's been a rough week, as I have complained to everyone who has asked and even a few who didn't ask. I tried not to be whiny but I think that only made it worse...building up the cranky chemicals and then the anxiety in my head until it was bound to cause something evil.

My force field must have been sending out messages because I talked to my cousin, my daughter, my son, and my mom yesterday. All were very comforting.

I'm up early to get ready to go for Paclitaxel #4. How much do I whine to Judy? She's pretty good at sorting out the real stuff from the garbage so I guess I'll just give it all to her. She and the doctor can decide.

I'm not taking anything with me to do because I don't have the gumption to do anything. I'll be like one of the people I saw last week...fetal position beneath a white blanket. I told Regis I wished they had a treadmill in the treatment room so I could take a slow amble with the IV pole at my side. He said not bloody likely and why don't I just ask for a wine bar while I'm at it.

I see a different doctor today which is I don't mind except that they all have different protocols for how and where you undress if they want to do an exam. My usual doc doesn't care about the guy wigs out if I don't go behind it. How is a girl to know?

I'm taking a peanut butter sandwich because the food they have there tends to be cookies. I could live on peanut butter. I have a piece of peanut butter toast almost every a baby with a bottle.

I read back through some old blog posts yesterday, searching for something I didn't find. Funny how every year I start complaining about winter right about this time. Must be my craving for light and warmth. I've reached the end of my winter rope.

Here's Gus. Better go and tend to him. More later.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

ah, morning

The pizza party was fun even though I had slept the afternoon away and felt like a bear coming out of winter hibernation. Fuzzy in the head, slow and ambling.

After dinner, Alex blew out his candle and wished for world peace. On Sunday, he wished to be able to open his presents and PopPop said, "What? No, world peace?" Last night, that was his wish. So funny what kids remember.

It's 4 am and I think I feel better this morning. Last night, I imagined I was a strep carrier. (This was not completely out of left field. Is that the baseball expression? Or is it "out in left field"?) I thought that must be the explanation for the crappy way I have felt this week. I looked it up online, though, and I don't think that's it. I think it's a simple case of feeling crappy and being hyper-vigilant about how I feel and focusing on every little twinge. Bad combination.

When I woke this morning and before I got out of bed, I started listing things in my head to be nervous about: Pat flying to LasVegas, Tiffany not feeling well, the impending snow storm, junk in the basement. Banish those thoughts.

The hair in the middle of my head is about a quarter of an inch long. The rest of my head is fairly bare yet leading me to believe I could grow a great Mohawk if I had enough time.

Regis had a dream the other night that I knew I was circling the drain and commenced to interview  replacement wives. I had criteria and wouldn't just allow anyone to apply. He dreams vividly and said that this one caused him to wake laughing once and crying once. We had a good laugh over it in the morning. If he had only been writing these dreams down over the years, we'd have a best seller and be able to live a ritzy lifestyle.

It just occurred to me that I think I quit one book in the middle and started another without really meaning to do that. Now I have the plots mixed up: The Last Afternoon at the Ritz and The Aviator's Wife. It's hard to be addled.

Paul Douglas, Minnesota's weather guru, swears (Do weather forecasters ever swear?) that a blizzard is coming. I'll be glad for that. Anything to break the monotony of this winter's gray landscape and gray sky. Of course, now that he has sworn, I'll be disappointed when it's a few piddling flakes and some slushy rain.

Regis and Gus are still sleeping. It's about time for Gus to come out and lay his furry head in my lap, meaning that he wants to go out, then he wants to eat, then he wants to go back to bed for an hour. He flushed a rabbit the other night but only pawed at it and sent it on its way. The rabbit who met up with the little white Westie next door the other day was not so lucky.

I'm going into the kitchen to make coffee. The curtains in the living room are still closed and will remain so as long as the wind howls and there is no snow to watch. I did crack them a bit yesterday so I could watch for cardinals at the feeder. The cardinals are singing their spring song now and if they can be optimistic that spring is coming, I guess I can be, too.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Elvis burger and winter

Yesterday I spent much of the day in bed either reading or sleeping. When I stumbled out of the bedroom at 4 o'clock, I wondered what we would have for dinner. I had the ingredients, but not the wherewithal, to make stuffed peppers so we wandered over to Whiskey River.

We could have been seated by the big windows to watch the snow fly in the 40 mph winds but we hunkered down in a corner booth with a glass of wine and a beer and contemplated comfort food. For Regis, that was the special, an Elvis burger. Peanut butter and banana slices on a hamburger. I had a chicken quesadilla that came on a nice bed of lettuce with fresh tomato salsa and cilantro. It was delicious.

I'm awake early this morning and I can hear the wind howling outside again. There were whiteout conditions in parts of the state yesterday and last night. It's February 19th. Aren't we supposed to be reaching the end of this subzero stuff? Regis said three blizzards are predicted for the next few weeks but I'll believe that when I see it. I am adding drought-related fires to my list of anxieties.

I've already closed the drapes (although drapes is a pretty fancy word for what I have for window coverings) so I don't have to look out at the frozen tundra.

My plan of the day includes: getting the pepper ingredients ready so I can make dinner tonight, putting on my long faux beaver coat and meeting Kris for lunch at 11:00, reading the papers that Jill and I do together twice a year, making some cards to send out to friends and family. Maybe taking the Valentine decorations off the tree.

The last has been on my list for a long time and once in a while I do accomplish a few. When I made Valentines, I put some of the hearts on upside down which was discouraging. I realize that some of my cards look like they came home in your elementary student's backpack. I am not an artist...but I could play one on tv. Hahaha!

Alex is celebrating his 4th birthday today! Happy birthday, Alex! We'll see you later for pizza!

Oh, shit. See how my brain works? I have stuffed peppers on my list of things to do and then I remember we're having pizza. I can't keep things straight. I told Regis he will have to do my primary thinking for the next few months. I can't be trusted. Every time the phone rings, I'm afraid it's someone telling me about something I forgot to do.

Monday, February 18, 2013

the gray-faced men got me yesterday

Sometimes the anxieties only march around the bed in the middle of the night when I can't sleep but yesterday, they found me in the daylight hours.

I've been feeling less than grand since my last treatment. I feel run down and wake up every morning with a headache and some weird sinus complaints. I'm cranky about things I can't do and things I don't feel like doing and things I have to do. I sleep a lot then feel bored by sleeping.

I was going to pick Elliot up at daycare on Tuesday. His mama had an appointment at the U for her thyroid issues so I was glad to help for a few hours. I had plans for a birthday pizza party for Alex who is turning four on Tuesday. Little pizzas from Papa Murphy's, lots of play and books and fun.

Elliot had to go to Urgent Care in the morning where he was diagnosed with influenza B. Shit. No appointment Tuesday. No daycare all week. No pizza party for Elliot, Alex, and Ella.

Then the door of my closet of anxieties flew open

Out they came. All the little anxieties and big worries. Tiffany's thyroid. Elliot's flu. Elliot's ear infections. My cancer. Chemo brain. Our kids driving all over every day to work. All the mean people in the world. Sad movies. Icy sidewalks. Regis's general malaise. My messy kitchen cupboards. Weeds in the garden. The dryer vent.

And so I was curled up in bed by noon, still in my pajamas amid the messy sheets, pondering all of this. It seemed unmanageable and overwhelming.

At one o'clock, I got up, took a shower and resumed the fight. I ripped the sheets off the bed and washed them. I made focaccia bread and the most decadent brownies. I picked up all the stray boots and gloves and mittens. I made steaks for dinner. I asked Regis if he was tired of me or of cancer and was glad when he said no.

By the time I went to sleep last night I remembered that no matter what, every day is an act of faith. I have to get up and let the people I love move around in the world without worry. There is no way to protect any of us from the forces out there and it will drive me insane if I try.

I have to put on ass-kicking boots and have fun. I have to put up the Guinness lights for St. Patty's Day and get out my green glitter shoes. I have to call people to come for dinner and make brownies for dessert. I have to send out the Valentines I made even if some of the hearts are upside down. What else can I do?  It's an act of faith to believe that it can be a rotten world but it's got great peaches so we just keep going.

My friend, Deb, wrote a comment yesterday that some days you don't have the energy to open the can of whoop ass, you just have to kick it out of the way. For a while, that's just what I did. I knew today would be better and it is.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

wisconsin snow angels

I am really touched when people send me snow angels. These three came from my cousin (second cousin?) in Wisconsin. I love the real snow angel at the top. She will be happier in the spring when she is surrounded by daffodils rather than snow, but she's cute just the same.

This is one of Michelle's little ones, Benjamin, making a snow angel. Looks like they have nice fluffy snow. Ours is mostly ice and hardened black slush...doesn't make such pretty snow angels


Sometimes the formatting on blogger makes me insane. Why it insists on leaving those big gaps is a mystery. The other day it would not let me save a couple pictures of the pope. Well, actually one was the pope in a long white coat and the other was a gentleman of the evening in a similar long white coat. I figured it was a conspiracy of some kind and finally gave up in despair.

I've decided to pare my life down even closer to its core. This round of Paclitaxel is kicking me hard. I'm not sick but I'm tired. I have less energy maybe because I have less time to recover. I don't know. Judy, my research nurse, told me to expect cumulative fatigue. Oh, boy.

I'm not sure yet exactly what this means but I hope it doesn't mean I'll shuffle around the house in my nightgown and forego showers for days on end, let the trash pile up and the dirty dishes sit in the sink. Regis is helpful with those kinds of things so we'll be fine. I'll figure it out.

It's good this day started out well at 5 am because it sort of slid downhill from there. I am going to refrain from even starting to complain about the things that bothered me today because I know tomorrow they won't seem so bad. I didn't take a nap after lunch, instead took a shower, made focaccia bread, did some laundry, and tried to feel better. It worked a little.

Sigh. Some days are hard.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

gentle morning

I slept until 8 o'clock then came out to the living room to have coffee with Regis. Big snowflakes are falling out the window. Gus is napping on the couch but sneaks into my chair every time I vacate for a moment We had friends over for dinner last night and I was too tired to clean up the mess so the table is full of dishes and wine glasses but I don't care. That can wait.

We had hoped to go out to see some live music old people's set from 7-10...but in thinking about it more, we expect it to be crowded so probably won't try it. If by some miracle there are only two cars in front of Patrick's, then maybe.

Regis read that the threat of flu is waning but old people and those of us with compromised immune systems are still at risk. He says I shouldn't let down my guard. Dammit.

Today I will restore the kitchen to some order. I have the energy for that this morning. I'll take a walk in the fresh winter air, not going anywhere quickly...just shuffling along and breathing deeply. Then I might take a nap. Gus has the right idea.

Friday, February 15, 2013

chemo report and musings

Here I am getting my third Paclitaxel treatment. All went well in spite of my certainty that the chemicals were not going into the vein but free-floating around under my skin. It took two nurses to convince me otherwise. Don't ask me where that notion was born...I have no idea.

Tom and Betty gave me the little bear for my 60th birthday. He rides to chemo in my bag every week. I like to take little totems that represent people I love with me to chemo. I always take a jar of Vicks for my mom. I've taken poems, pictures, books, cards, and coffee just never know.

I usually take a couple things to do, my knitting, a book to read, cards to write but I find with the big hit of Benedryl they give me that I just like to sit and relax. I wish I could sleep. Yesterday, I came back from dragging my IV pole to the bathroom with me and as I looked around the room, everyone was curled up under a while blanket, asleep. It looked like a scene from the movie Coma and my first reaction was to scream and run for the door. What am I doing hanging around with these old, sick people? I demonstrated remarkable restraint and returned quietly to my recliner.

People rarely strike up conversations in the treatment room. They rarely make eye contact. I don't know why that is. Maybe it's Midwestern Scandinavian/Germans. (An extroverted one of those will look at your shoes when talking to you. Instead of their own. Ha.) Blog readers who are cancer it different in other places?

The nurses, however, are friendly and chipper in a good way. They always visit and they happily put up with my shenanigans as in paragraph #1. (They probably laugh about me when they go out for drinks at the end of their shift but that's a good thing. The only thing I like better than a good story is being the subject of one.) They're angels who walk among us.

One of my readers, Karen, left the nicest comment about my blog yesterday. (I read the email of it on my phone in the middle of the night which is another story...the multiple ways that information gets into our heads nowadays.) I'll encourage you to read it because she is a very good writer and I appreciate so much the time she took to say all those nice things about me. Shucks, Karen. But I'm so glad we're cyber friends.

A Facebook quote by Winston Borden: After fighting cancer for months, I have ever so slowly concluded that having cancer can be a liberating experience. It has caused me to live more in and appreciate the moment--sometimes with lowered expectations. I agree.

I read something (an app?) on my Kindle called Pulse. I can read blogs, newspapers, and lots of stuff there. I won't try to explain it because I have no idea really what it is. It's like why airplanes can fly and little birds don't freeze their legs off in the winter. Inexplicable.

So, what I read was this: a meteor fell to earth in Russia and 400 people were injured. I don't know if this is a rare occurrence or not but what struck me about it is that my seven-year old granddaughter told me this was going to happen when she was here last weekend. Is this something she learned about in school? I wish I had asked her more about it then. Was she worried? She seemed sure it wasn't going to fall in St. Peter. 

It reminded me of the stories my elementary school music teacher told during the Cold War. He came in every day ranting about how Russia was going to blow us off the map. Then he would loudly unfurl the rolled up world map and point to Russia and then the US and he would repeat, "Russia is going to blow us off the map!" This was in the days of duck and cover so I had terrible night mares about being blown off the map. I think my mom finally had to call him and request that he cease and desist. He should have been teaching us Old Dan Tucker instead of talking about world politics, the crazy old coot.

I have my own blog as one of the things I can read on this app. It always tickles me to see a picture with my post title. I'm always a little surprised. Always. Oh, look! That's mine! Haha! After Karen wrote those nice things about my blog, I had to go back and read a couple of the past week's posts. Another reason I love to's a good record of what I've done and where I've been.

Here's my daily can of whoop ass. Our friends, Betty and Tom, vacationing in Texas. You can tell this is not Minnesota by their attire, by the palm trees, by the sandy beach, and by the lack of frost bite on their appendages.

Tom takes the pugs, Gonzo and Elvis, for a ride.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

my year with cancer

When I was first diagnosed with breast cancer, I remember saying that I didn't want it to dominate my life. I didn't only want to write about cancer, I didn't want to wear pink, and I didn't want any part of a support group. You know.

I wanted cancer to play a bit part in my life. I expected to heal from the surgery in a week or so and pretty much go on with my pre-cancer normal life only with chemotherapy treatments.

It didn't work out that way.

There are so many constant reminders of cancer: my bald head, the scarf repertoire, the itchy skin and search for products to relieve that side effect, the humidifier, the dry eyes...the list goes on and on and on, each thing on the list is minor but a daily reminder.

Even though I feel preoccupied with cancer, I don't feel burdened by it. I'm not sad and I'm not afraid. I figure everybody has to deal with something and this happens to be my thing right now. I read. I bake. I knit. I have cancer.

So, off I go to the pharmacy to find different soap. I rub down with jojoba oil and organic lotion. I try to get used to chicken skin, mine, not the kind on the chicken.

Like most things in life, I guess, this is a process and it isn't always easy. Like a bear riding a bike.

My daily whoop ass today comes courtesy of the folks at my exercise class: a woman who had a double mastectomy and lost her mother, a 90-year old man with a great sense of humor and a flirtatious way, a man with an oxygen tank and an artificial larynx, and a man who taught his two dogs to walk on the treadmill so his exercise could be a "family" project. If they can soldier on, so can I.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

job opening at the vatican

The pope is retiring. Presumably to live happy, wild, and free. If I were him, I would be happiest to be shed of that ridiculous chapeaux. It has those long tails on the back to help stabilize your head. I do like the wand. It's no wonder the guy wants to quit, all that heavy shit he has to carry around.

Really. What is up with the oomp loompa outfits? I don't what looks sillier...the guys in all the stripes and red feathers or the old dude in the pink beanie. You have to agree, this is bad fashion magic.

I admit to spending some time this morning looking at funny pictures of the pope and his tribe. Here's a blog you can check out for more photos and some commentary. The whole process fascinates me...the voting, the puffs of black smoke, then ta da! the puff of white smoke when a new pope has been elected.

New, ah, bath tissue we are giving a try. Bath tissue? Anyway, you can see at the bottom that it's made from sugar cane husks and bamboo which gives an interesting visual. It's 100% tree free, too. I bought it because I was rebelling at the price of the stuff we usually buy. It's a necessity of should be free like cars and wine.

Cancer-wise, things are fine, although I have been very tired. I exercised yesterday and bought groceries, then came home to lay around the rest of the day reading and dozing. This morning I slept until 7:30. The good news is that I had a dream. I don't remember it but it was a good one. Maybe this is why I never dreamed before...I never slept enough.

I have my third Paclitaxel treatment tomorrow afternoon. They don't cause me anxiety anymore and I don't worry about the eternity that they seem to last. It's my hobby.

Regis is doing AARP taxes today and he wants me to take him so I can have the case I want to go somewhere. I don't want to go anywhere so I don't need a car. It's a battle of wills.

Monday, February 11, 2013

winter whoop ass

My high school friend, Peg, sent this snow angel!

Thousands of people flap their arms and legs in unison, creating angel imprints, during a world record attempt for the most snow angels, in Bismarck, N.D., Saturday, Feb. 17, 2007. Organizers said they believe almost nine thousand people took part in the event. The previous world record was 3,784. (AP Photo/Will Kincaid)

 Regis took these pictures of the birds at our feeder yesterday. Those cardinals are there for you, Deb!

So, even though it's icy and cold, we are not suffering. We had a wonderful day yesterday. It was so gloomy and depressing in the morning with the freezing rain that we went back to bed. Richie, the chili fairy, left a bowl of chili on the step along with a box of crackers. She's like meals on wheels! Nice...take a nap and lunch appears on your front step.

I got dressed in a long skirt and fancy shoes, then made beef stew and pretzel brownies. I had time to take a nice long nap in the afternoon again.

Young Regis came over with his puppy, Ace, in the late afternoon and had stew with us...and a pretzel brownie. Peanut Butter Pretzel Brownies have become the dessert of the winter. Brought to you by the fine folks at Putney Farms. Here is the recipe. A little extra work and a bit of a mess to eat but so worth it.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

in case you've forgotten the value of a good rant

The yellow orb in the sky is called the sun. It's what makes grass grow in summer and ice melt in winter. It helps us know when night is over and day is breaking. It helps us get out of bed in the morning and keeps us from jumping off the Minnesota River bridge during the endless winter.

We haven't seen the sun in quite a while. Last Tuesday, I was making snow angels in the yard and held my position for a while to watch the clouds pass in the blue sky. All of a sudden, it was all gray again. That was the last sighting of the sun.

Every day the damn weather forecasters (also known as agents of the devil) say it will be partly cloudy or partly sunny or 50% chance of partly sunny to partly cloudy. Some bullshit. It's just a tease. Don't fall for it.

In the absence of sun in the winter, I will take a blizzard. A good, old-fashioned three days blizzard where you can't possibly get your car out of the driveway so you trudge to the bar to make sure your friends are all safe.

Now they promise us a blizzard. For the last four days, they have been talking up this big snow event. Winter storm watch, blizzard warning, snowmageddon. More bullshit. Regis went down to gas up the snow blower almost guaranteeing there will be no snow.

I understand that the difference of a degree or two can make the difference between snow, ice, and rain. I also understand that 50% chance of partly this or that is a way to hedge your bets.

So, there's my weather rant.

Regis tells me that people can go on Craig's List and rant about things. Maybe these are people who need a public voice and they should start a blog or start posting profusely on Facebook. Craig's List does not seem like a credible venue for anything.

But I guess if you have a rant in your head, better to let it out. Like cuss words. That stuff gets backed up and it can be bad. Mike thinks it can cause brain tumors so I drop an F bomb from time to time. Just as a precaution, you know.

Calvin knows the value of a good rant.

Saturday, February 09, 2013

doin' the big sleep

 Me at exercise class.

Gus in the morning. He has such a happy face.

Regis in his Regis University cap driving us to exercise class.

I slept for two hours yesterday afternoon, went to bed at 9 and slept until 9:30 this morning. I'm having trouble feeling alert, even after two cups of coffee.

We exercised yesterday morning, had breakfast at Guenther's, then I had a two hour massage by a friend down the street. Oh, my. It was like being transported. Hence, the two hour nap.

We were invited to have dinner last night with Anders and Judie. Such a good meal, great company, and a very relaxing time. We always have so many things to talk about and I can feel Jan's spirit in the house...all her books, her glassware, her presence.

All in all, a most pleasant day.

I talked to Mom this morning, Ella is coming to make Valentines, and Regis says he is going to the store to get the fixings for Peanut Butter Pretzel Brownies. It's all his favorite flavors in one food item. Today has the markings of a good day, too.

We're waiting for the big blizzard. Or what might be a big blizzard. We're under a winter storm watch and a blizzard watch simultaneously which seems odd but then they issue the disclaimer that it could be rain. Well, let's cover all the bases (or asses) at one time.

Yesterday, they said it was going to be partly cloudy. That must mean total gray because I haven't seen a hint of the sun since Tuesday when I was making snow angels.

Blechh to the gray weather. Need to open a can of whoop ass. Maybe two.

Friday, February 08, 2013

keeping everyone up-to-date

I survived my second treatment of Paclitaxel just fine. The benedryl makes me lethargic but not enough to sleep sitting up in a brightly lit room.

I've been getting inquiries about how I am really doing which makes me think I am either not doing as well as I think I am or I am not communicating it to the people who are not blog readers. This morning, I wrote a letter that I can send to friends and family who may not have the detail they want. Breast cancer is a big disease with a huge range of kinds and severity. I'll reproduce it here for anyone who is a recent subscriber and has an aversion to archives. If you're curious, reading through November and December is the best illustration of the evolution of my acceptance of my diagnosis.

Here you go. Skip this if you are up-to-date. (Don't you love how I think everybody wants to know this? I don't really. I just don't want people to worry when there is no reason.)

Friends and Family,

After getting a few questions recently about how I am really doing, I started thinking about it. Some of you may only know that I was diagnosed with breast cancer in November and if you don’t read my blog or follow me on Facebook where I tell all, you might not have enough detail to know how much to worry.
It took me a while to get to being fine, I’ll admit. Breast cancer is a huge range of kinds and severity. When I first started reading about it, I was scared to death. Once I quit reading stuff on the internet and started listening to my medical team, things got better.
I was diagnosed with invasive ductal carcinoma in the early part of November after a mammogram, an ultrasound, and an ultrasound guided biopsy and surgery the following week. The main tumor was quite small (1.5cm) but there was cancer in 4 lymph nodes so it was categorized as Stage II. The surgeon removed the lump in a lumpectomy and the lymph nodes in a dissection. I was in the hospital only overnight and went home with an Ace bandage and a drainage tube.
The cancer is called invasive because it was in the lymph nodes, not because there is evidence of it anywhere else. The treatments are precautionary…just in case some of those cancer cells got a chance to stray off and set up outposts in other places. By my blood work and my lack of symptoms, they don’t believe that is true.
My oncologist says if you have to get something, breast cancer is not a bad thing. One in eight women will get it by age 65 (and it’s a very popular disease…the pink ribbon campaign) so there is a ton of data and they know how to treat it.  My prognosis is very positive.
I have had three treatments of Adriamycin and Cytoxan. They give me so many drugs for nausea that I have never experienced any of it. The treatments make me sleepy for a few days and tired most days, but otherwise I have not been able to report any side effects. Last week, I started a twelve week cycle of Paclitaxel. I’ll go every Thursday for a 3-4 hour infusion of chemicals until April 18th. I’ll have about two weeks off, and then will start daily radiation for 30 days. That’s a lot of precaution, I’d say! I am hoping to be done by July 4th! Independence Day!
I have so much in my favor: my age (post-menopausal), my tumor size (1.5 cm), my tumor is hormone positive and HER2 negative which means it’s lazy as opposed to aggressive, my active lifestyle, my retirement (it would be very had to do this with small children and a FT job) and my general health.
I’m being treated at the Andreas Cancer Center in Mankato, a Mayo facility, so if my oncologist has a concern, he is on the phone to someone in Rochester in a flash. My surgeon was Tim Deaconson, the chief surgeon for this Mayo region and the guy who did my biopsy, Dr. Wolfe, is the head radiologist. I’m getting wonderful, first class care.
I’m part of a Phase 3 clinical trial which is too much to explain here but it’s a good thing. I have the very best care, the attention of a research nurse, and I’ll be followed for ten years.
If you decide you want to read my blog, November and December show the evolution of my mood. The news was stunning at first but gradually I accepted it and now I think of it as my hobby. Regis has been wonderful, supporting me, driving me to every appointment, waiting during my treatments, asking questions, and remembering all the things I forget. I might have a disease but I don’t think of myself as sick because I don’t feel sick.
The worst parts of it are these: being housebound to avoid germs because my immune system is suppressed, being tired, and all of the appointments. But like I said, I am thinking of this as my hobby so I find things to enjoy about all of it. My oncologist is a very funny guy who tells great stories about growing up in Nebraska, my research nurse likes knit so we share patterns, there is a little café on the corner where we stop and have eggs or cheeseburgers. Life is good.
I love the cards and calls and packages. I appreciate your support and concern. If there are other things you are concerned about or want to know….please ask. I don’t mind at all talking about it. And women…don’t skip those mammograms!

Thursday, February 07, 2013

whoop ass and running on ice

I walked downtown yesterday morning for the fresh air and exercise. Mostly I walked in the street because the sidewalks are treacherous. I walked like a penguin and watched every footfall. I was careful. Everyone says to be careful but that doesn't have much to do with it. One second you're vertical and the next second, you're horizontal. Not like you say to yourself, "Hell. I'm going to take a chance and shuffle fast!"

Behind Ace Hardware I met my Waterloo. One second I was up, vertical and chugging along just fine and the next second, I was down horizontal. Nothing broken but I have a bruise on my hip. When I told the story at the coffee shop, they thought I should have a ride home but I declined and I made it safely back to my abode.

I stopped at the Pulse to see Rachel, at Culligan to see Kris and Gus, ran into Anders RM on the street and heard about his new adventure, went to Sew Boutique to see Kay who made me two lovely port pillows. I went to My Father's Daughter to buy a hat for a new friend at the exercise class. I stopped at Contents and did a little shopping for things to send my mom and then to the PO to mail a book. I had a busy morning, you can see. It was busy, and so nice, I would consider it my daily can of whoop ass!

Here's what my afternoon will consist of...a chemical shit storm of force field proportion. I have no idea what a force field is but this is how I envision it. The cancer cells are in the middle and the Paclitaxel hits them like a million laser guns.

I've decided that the duration of my chemotherapy and radiation is so far into the future that it's going to be my hobby for now. Rather than just gritting my teeth and gutting it out, I am going to find something to enjoy about it so I look forward to it. I think I wrote about this before. I did look forward to the Lorna Doones until Regis read the ingredients and found that they use palm oil and hydrogenated oil. Both are very bad. Shit.

Maybe I'll make a few snow angels around the cancer center today. If I drop into the snow a team of people will probably come running with a gurney and an AED. Hahahaha! Funny to think about that. I wonder if they would charge me for a false alarm.

Remember today, as you make your list of things to do, that pleasure is a thing that also needs accomplishing.

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

supreme slothfulness

I haven't done much today. We laid in bed a long time watching the snow and drinking coffee. When I finally got up, I did my household tasks (you know...garbage, recycling, dishes) and then I went back to bed to read. When I got up from that siesta, I went outside to shovel the walk while Regis used the snow blower on the driveway. It didn't take long so I made three snow angels and took pictures of them. It was so warm that I laid in the snow for a while and watched the clouds roll by. The sun felt good on my face and I realized how much I enjoy doing nothing. I sat on the steps for a while until Regis finished, then went back in to read. I've done some knitting, read some more, posted a couple things on the social media, and brought in the mail which was a waste of time. Tomorrow, I am planning to walk downtown to do a few things.

I made it sound like the joy of doing nothing was some kind of revelation. It wasn't. I have always had the nature that appreciates non-productivity. Given the choice of accomplishing a lot or nothing, I will almost always choose nothing. There are cultures where this is thought of a gift. Too bad I don't happen to live in one of them.

I hope I used the right tense of lay. I get confused about that but I do not mean we were laying eggs in bed or that I was laying eggs in the snow. I figure most of you are quite literate and will figure it out. I don't feel like looking it up right now as I'm busy.

Regis and I went to a new restaurant yesterday with bonfire in the title. The food was not good. We had a pizza that was so heavily spiced it was almost inedible. The steak bites were tough and the wine was very costly. We won't be cruising back there any time soon. They had us packed in like sardines, too. I could have reached over and grabbed something off the next table but their food didn't look good enough to risk it.

We didn't even go exercise today. We called in with the general malaise. Everybody gets a day like this once in a while and this happened to be ours. We'll do better tomorrow.

Monday, February 04, 2013

my metabolism slows to a crawl

I'm a turtle. I should dig my way under the snow and dirt to hibernate the rest of the winter and only come out when the warm sun shines. Seriously, It's about what I am doing...without the digging.

I spent Friday, Saturday, and Sunday in the house except for a brief outing to the winery and one to buy a few groceries. The more troublesome part of this being housebound is that I didn't mind it. I took naps, I read books, I watched movies, I talked to friends and family on the phone. What if I actually had to round up some ambition and do something?

Regis went to the first half of a super bowl party but I stayed home since there were germs abounding. I ate part of a little frozen pizza (I get a craving for frozen pizza once a decade or so...) and watched Inspector Lewis on television.

Regis and I are going to exercise this morning even though he has the general malaise from low hemoglobin and I have the metabolism of a turtle. He's calling one of his ologists today to make sure he's doing the right thing as general malaise is no fun.

I asked my oncologist last week how they know these chemicals are working. At first he said because of thousands and thousands of patients who have been treated with them and the research they have done on all of those patients. But then I wanted to know how they know it works for me? Will their be repeated scans, I asked? Pet scans? Bone scans? MRI?

Judy said no scans unless there are symptoms. They watch my blood work and my symptoms closely for signs. That's a little creepy. Like watching for news of recurring cancer in tea leaves. I'd rather not wait until I have symptoms to treat the cancer, thank you very much. I would like them to scout the outposts and deter their encampments. Ah, life in my world.

At first, I thought about my cancer battle like this. Cancer a huge scaly dragon. Me tiny, mostly unarmed.

Now I like to think about it more like this. Multiple good guys in the cancer light saber army and much more modern weaponry than a sword and shield. I have to remember when I go to see my oncologist that there are a lot of good guys behind the curtain...oncologists, specialists, researchers, teachers. They've got me covered.

Today will be a good day. We're meeting friends, Jim and Kay, at a new restaurant in Mankato, Axel's Barbecue, for dinner. I've already scoped out the online menu and decided what I want. It's an early Valentine dinner since none of like to fight crowds on holidays like that. Sneak in early, get good service, no crowds, good food. Perfect.

Saturday, February 02, 2013

happy groundhog day

This is a holiday whose meaning escapes me. I think the story goes that if Phil sees his shadow, we'll have six more weeks of winter which they always make sound like a bad thing. Here, if winter ended mid-March, we'd all be picnicking in the park on St. Patrick's Day and that ain't bloody likely. Some years they have to cancel the parade due to snow storms.

The stuff they call news now is amazing. The other day while exercising, I watched the Today Show which I remember as having some real interviews and real news. Four people sat on a low wall and yucked about this and that as they watched a clip of the president and the secretary of state. The conversation was about their body language and if it indicated she would be on the presidential ticket in 2016. That's some heavy duty news.

And that football player with the made-up girlfriend. You can't walk by a tv without seeing a story about that. It's all very weird.

As expected, I slept the day away yesterday. I did get up and go to Walgreens with Regis and Gus, then out for a bite of lunch. Another nap ensued in the afternoon. I got up in time to order a pizza for Tiffany and Elliot. I meant to make a home-cooked meal but did not have the gumption.

My brother and his family are providing the daily can of whoop ass today. They're meeting up in Mankato and joining us for lunch at the winery. Four cheese pizza, nice glass of wine, fireplace, good company. That's all good for the soul. That's the kind of stuff they should put on the news.

Friday, February 01, 2013

theme from Rocky: can you hear it?


I knew I would feel better today and I do. Regis and I are both very pragmatic when it comes to shit that comes down the pike. You either do it or you don't but you don't do it and complain about it for six months.

So, the weekly taxol and daily radiation just become my hobby for a while. I find things to enjoy about going there so I look forward to it, I get dressed up and put on make-up and a fancy hat...and I just do it. Once in a while I need a can of whoop ass, but not often.

I'm planning to have a beautiful garden this year. I should be able to start working in the dirt about the time the radiation starts so I'll go to radiation, then I'll work in the garden.

I'm anxious to start riding my bike again. I think I'll have Regis put the rack on the back of the car so I can explore some more distant bike paths. Exercise in the fresh air and sunshine is always better for my mental health.

My friends and family have been wonderful for sending emails and cards with good wishes, light, and love. Friends bring pots of soup and send flowers and books. They offer to drive me to appointments. They come for coffee on Saturday morning and we watch birds and eat cookies. I hear from people I'd lost contact with for a while. Sometimes we say I love you at the end of the conversation.

I've met so many new people who now feel like friends: Brianna who always bring our coffee at Guenther's, Kerry who takes care of me at the cancer center, Judy the research nurse who brings me knitting patterns, my oncologist who tells us stories of growing up on the Nebraska plains, Susan in exercise class who had cancer and is now exercising to ward off depression, Arlene who is 92 and learned how to drive a team of horses when she was young.

Many people say they are praying for me every day. That's a powerful thing, no matter what. Mom's church, Arlene's church, Mary, Susan, Joanne and Elizabeth's church.

Emily's mom made me an afghan. It's a giant, bed-sized afghan in many wild colors, like a warm rainbow.

Mom sends me little packages of candles, antiseptic hand wipes, angels, and kitchen towels.

Life is good.