Sunday, December 16, 2007

We have snow!

I don't know exactly how much, maybe six to eight inches. It's higher than Spunk. I had to shovel her a path to go out and pee-pee and poop. Louie loves it. He jumps in it. But it's about 22 degrees out so they are happy to come back in.

Last night Bob and I decorated our Christmas tree. We were supposed to go to friends' house for a festive dinner, but Bob had some trouble with his digestive system and was afraid to leave the house (and bathroom). We hated to miss the party, but the snow was coming down furiously so it was more safe being at home.

Every year we debate about the Christmas tree -- real or fake? We say we will go after Christmas to buy a fake tree, but we never make it. So, each year, we end up buying a real tree at the YMCA. Real trees are beautiful and they smell great, but they require a bit of upkeep. Watering, vacuuming up needles, disposing of when Christmas is over. We're getting older and the work required is more difficult. (You have to crouch under the bottom limbs for the daily watering the tree needs.)

The dreaded task of decorating the tree began. For me, it's not very fun. I haven't figured out why; maybe the disorder it creates with boxes and ornaments and lights everywhere. But Bob loves it. We have almost zero storage room at this house so we have to put all our decorations in the garage. Bob trekked back and forth in the snow to bring in the decorations. I stayed at the door for the hand-off so that he didn't track snow in the house. He made us some hot-buttered rums (the fun part) and we set to work.

We finished and were cleaning up, admiring our beautiful newly decorated tree when ... it toppled over, breaking many of our glass ornaments and spilling water all over our wooden floor and area rug. After staring at the mess for a few stunned seconds we sprung into action. Righted the tree, sopped up the water, salvaged the ornaments. (Photo at right of me vacuuming up the broken ornaments.) We got it all fixed and put the ornaments back on, but I think the tree debate is settled.

Fake.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

It's not over till it's over I guess

Well, the doc gave me the results of my CAT scan today. They found a new spot on my lung. It might be nothing, he said. Most of the time, colon cancer navigates its way into the liver first, before reaching the lung. But, I said, if I ask you whether you can give me a definitive answer, you would say "No." Right? Yes, he said, but you can ask me my opinion. Ok, what's your opinion? "It's not cancer," he responded. Even if it is, he said, they can pluck it out at a later date.

So I still wait.

I have another CAT scan in four months; they handed over the bottle of barium today. I will drink it the night before and the morning of. He would not agree to remove my port. We should wait, he said. I wanted it out. Because if it was out, I would think that my waiting period was over. I would think that I was cured if he allowed my port to be taken out.

In eight weeks, I go back to get my port flushed and my blood taken. The port has to be flushed out every eight weeks (another reason I don't want it in my body).

The tingling and numbness in my toes and fingers may last forever, he said, "but you'll get used to it."

What am I learning from this cancer? Is it teaching me patience? I certainly hope so. I could use it. A friend at work said "Look at the news on the bright side. You can play the C-card a little longer."

Hey, I hadn't thought of that. More presents please!

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

I got my CAT scan yesterday

which my doctor will read Dec. 12 to tell me if he sees cancer still in my body. I feel pretty good, so my guess is, he won't see it. Let's hope. (I'll hope even if you don't.)

It's been nearly four weeks since my last chemo session and my appetite has returned. I do get hungry and I do like to think about food. I can almost taste it. I'm not quite there yet. But almost. It's not icking me out like it has in the past. I ate a whole jumbo chile today and Fritos and then an apple. In the midst of chemo, I could only eat about half a jumbo chile. A couple of Fritos, and no apple. So the scale should be going up very soon, though I like the weight I am now.

The only real symptoms that remain of the chemo are numb fingers and toes. The tips of my fingers and the tips of my toes are numb. When I get in the shower in the mornings, the numbness moves up my hand, nearly to my wrist. And up my foot into my ankle. But that goes away quickly.

I've googled these symptoms and read that this is common after chemo, but some people say it has lasted for years. Yikes. Hopefully, this is not true.

So my CAT scan went OK. I drank lots of thick gunk. Barium. So even though I couldn't eat solid foods, the thick gunk kept me from being hungry. There was a woman in the waiting room where we were all sitting around wearing our hospital gowns and socks waiting to be called in to get zapped who was little and bent over and talking to herself. She walked in talking to herself, walked into the changing room talking to herself, walked out of the changing room talking to herself. It wasn't a low murmur either. It was a conversation. I was thinking, this is what it would be like to read someone's mind. You could hear them thinking inane, uninteresting thoughts. "Now where'd I put my keys." "What am I going to eat for supper?" "My knees and ankles hurt." It just isn't worth the ability to read someone's mind. Well, maybe sometimes it would be interesting. If they're thinking about you.

It snowed in Chicago yesterday and today. What a surprise.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

People have asked me

if I am going to continue this blog since I'm no longer on chemo. The answer is: I don't know. The blog was mostly about keeping friends and families up on what was happening with me without having to detail it out individually. It was a time saver. A voice saver.

Other than cancer and chemo, I guess I live a rather bland life. Like most of you, I go to work, work, come home from work, go to the gym or walk the dogs or ride my stationery bicycle or sit in front of the television and veg out. Then I go to bed and read for a few minutes before I fall asleep holding my book. I might wake up with a jolt with my book in my hands or Bob might nudge me and say, "Terri, you're asleep." How he knows, I'm not sure. But usually I am.

I'm a pretty good sleeper I think. At least I fall asleep easily. Lately in menopause, I wake up more frequently, probably because of the hot flashes. But I don't seem to get night sweats anymore. So perhaps I've graduated to the next level.

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving. Bob and I are going to saunter down (or up) the street to a friend's house who throws a Thanksgiving feast every year for misfits like us who have no where to go. It's always a great party. You never know who might be there. Many of them are wacky, which makes the party even more interesting. We can have a few glasses of wine without worrying about driving. When the party ends, we just get on our feet and stagger home.

Friday, we're going to the circus. Barnum and Bailey. I think this might be the first time I've ever gone to a circus. I don't have any memory of ever having been to one. I guess my parents didn't want to take five kids (already a circus) to a circus. Makes sense.

Anway, the answer is I don't know if I'll keep blogging. We'll see. I should do video blogs. They're kind of fun, but they take forever to load.

Friday, November 9, 2007

It is finished.

It's all over but the symptoms!


My anxiety is palpable

I had to walk around the house in circles breathing deeply in and out before I could force myself to walk to the car for my last treatment. Sure, this is the final one, and in two to three weeks, I'm going to be normal, but that doesn't lessen the fear of the symptoms that will surely come.

I didn't take my half Valium, but I probably should. It always calms me down some, but it also makes me ignore the blog. Because the pill makes me feel normal, I don't feel compelled to blog.

I'm sitting in the hall waiting to get my blood drawn. The final stick into my port. Next, I'll visit the doctor and he'll tell me I'm doing great. Congratulate me maybe on making it to the final treatment and let me know what comes next (I hope.) Oops hold on, I'm being called in to get my blood drawn.

OK, that's done. Ouch. The stick hurt a little this time. Probably cause I was sans Valium. The nurse said she always feels like she's driving a nail into somebody's chest when she sticks the needle into the port. Well, that about conjures it I guess.

Next, I see the doctor but I have to wait awhile to make sure the blood work is processed. So I'm looking around the waiting room and I see some of the regulars. An elderly women I went through chemo orientation with. She doesn't remember me, but I have a good memory for faces (not names, unfortunately, but at least I can say Hi to a person I've seen before). There's a lady with a red sequined baseball hat on. She doesn't look like she's lost her hair so maybe it's a fashion statement. I might think so if she didn't have on a royal blue velor sweat suit. There are at least three people in wheelchairs. Wonder why. Theres someone with a mask on. Nobody's really smiling except the woman who just rammed her husband's (or brother or friend's) wheelchair into the side of a chair. And that's more of a crooked, embarrassed smile. Not a happy smile like I should have.

I think I'll upload this later in the day. I'm going to read my Anne Lamott book, Traveling Mercies. It's a St. Helena's book club book and I have to lead the discussion on it. Not quite sure how I'm going to do that; it's sort of a collection of disparate essays. They connect in some ways, but not entirely. It's fantastic though. This will be my second time reading it.

Well, it's 3 p.m.; I've been here since 10:30 and I'm not hooked up to chemo yet. I saw the doctor, who said I wouldn't need another white blood cell shot, but was concerned that my red blood cells were "big." I asked if that meant I had more cancer and he said, "Oh no, it's probably a result of the chemo, but it could mean a vitamin B-12 deficiency." I can live with that. So I was off to get more blood work. I checked in to chemo at about 12:30 and have waited until now to get a pink chair. At least I got most of my book read.

I've taken my nausea medicines, but haven't actually gotten hooked up to my chemo, which takes two hours. I'm ready now. I have to go home and eat nachos and watch a movie. I probably won't get home until 6. Dogs are going to be really hungry. This has taken longer than usual, which probably means I won't get my pump taken out until a little later on Sunday. So the finish line might be later in coming.

I've got my CAT scan appointment Dec. 4 at 7:30. I see the doctor on Dec. 12 and should get the port out shortly after that if my tests all look good. Doc indicated I didn't need another colonoscopy for awhile. He didn't believe it would really show anything. But he said he would "think about it."

So I'm signing off. I'm now hooked up, so I'm going to watch a Netflix movie.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

My heart is jumping

for joy. I go to my last, very last chemo treatment tomorrow. I am just so excited that I'll be able to enjoy the holidays, meaning I can taste my food and I'll feel good and I won't have a chemo pump hooked up to me any more.

I will not miss:
My hairy tongue
My runny nose
My tingly fingers
My thinning eyelashes
My unpredictable pooping
Feeling pooped out
Enjoying only sweets
Getting stuck with a two-inch needle in my port
My port

I will miss:
The concern
The nice nurses
The chemo Fridays off (well not off really, but waking up later and reading the newspaper and drinking coffee)
The ability to eat anything I want knowing I'll be sick enough after chemo to loose the few pounds I gain when I'm feeling good
My pants fitting loosely

Tomorrow is the day. The last day. I'm thrilled. The end really did come.

Thank God.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Oh, I forgot

to show you a photo of what I would have looked like had my hair fallen out and I needed a wig.

For more cowgirl party pictures, click here.

Score!

What a great birthday celebration I had in Nashville this past Friday. I scored with some great gifts again. This was really not a landmark birthday. I turned 51. But I think my mother was worried I wouldn't be around for the next birthday, so she thought she would make me feel special. And I did. Two sis-in-laws sponsored the party and my Mom paid for the dinner of ribs, chicken and fixin's. Everybody dressed like a cowboy or cowgirl, and they seemed to really get into it. I did have one nephew and wife come as a redneck cowpoke, but aren't they attractive? (See photo above right.) I actually have a good looking family. Everybody looked pretty darned good in their duds. (Bob is not in many of the photos because he took them.)

It was a terrific weekend in Nashville. The weather was gorgeous. We had a little picnic outside a local winery near my brother's house on Saturday. And Sunday we just lounged around (I skipped church!) and then went to lunch at a Mexican restaurant.

Coming up this Friday is my final chemo treatment. Hallelujah!!! Unless you've been through it, you just can't imagine how thrilled I'm going to be to put an end to all this. (Not a literal end; like I said before, I plan on living quite a few years past my 51st birthday!)



Here's a photo of my four brothers and sisters, my mom and Dad. From left to right: Doug, Jennifer, Daddy, Terri, Becky Jimmy and mom out front. (You can click on the photos to make them a little bigger.)

Friday, October 26, 2007

The unpredictabililty of it all

Today as I sat at my make-up mirror getting ready to go get my bi-monthly chemo treatment, I noticed blood running out of my left nostril. Why is this happening now? Right before my treatment. I have dealt with the blood in the past, but over the last few weeks, I have had no problem with it. It's the unpredictability of chemo that unravels me. Well, not exactly unravels, but contributes to uncertainty and floundering.

For example, lately I can't predict whether the chemo is going to make me sick on Sunday or Monday or Tuesday or Wednesday or not at all. Will I be tired, practically unable to move, and too sapped to go to the gym or will I feel fine and breeze through my work day and my workout? I just don't know and I just can't predict.

If I knew exactly what was going to transpire after chemo, I could prepare for it, but it's always different it seems. So there is no heading symptoms off at the pass. You just wait for them to happen and deal with them as they come.

Perhaps that's a good life lesson. Don't worry about what has not yet happened. Deal with it as it comes.

Is that even possible?

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Thursday, October 18, 2007

What a birthday

Wow! I racked up. I've got to come up with a disease to contract for my next birthday. This was terrific. Bob bought me, in addition to the $50 box of Fannie Mae candies, a VIDEOCAMERA. Zowie. I asked for one for Christmas, but I didn't think I'd get it for my birthday! Now, I'll have to learn how to use it, and especially how to edit what I take. I think that's the most important part of taking videos.

Also, Jennifer got me the cutest sign. Since pictures speak louder than words (really?), I'll just show it to you. Amazing that she found something like this. I just can't believe it.

Mom sent me a check; money is always handy. And Becky and Jana sent me a box of really weird stuff mixed in with good stuff, like two cowgirl shirts and a fleece jacket and a CD by Emmylou Harris called Cowgirl's Prayer that I listened to on the way to work. It's fantastic. Also, a book by Mitch Albom, the Five People You Meet in Heaven. I wonder if she's trying to tell me something.

I got lots of e-cards and some real cards too! (Thanks Susan and Michelle.)

So, not a bad haul at all. (That rhymes too.)

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Happy birthday to me

Great day so far. Bob woke me up with a wrapped present. [He didn't wrap it but it was wrapped!] A big box of Fannie Mae chocolates. Yum. I hadn't told him that I was so starved for sweets (chocolate) that I had to break into the Halloween candy. If I told him that, it would disappear. So now, after I eat a meal that usually tastes metallic, I can wash that taste right away with a piece of Fanne Mae. That rhymed.

So I brought cookies to work this morning to celebrate my birthday. I wanted to bring Hostess Twinkies and Cupcakes and Snowballs, but the store didn't have them so I had to settle for Oreos and Nutter Butters. When I got here there were two presents on my desk from Kate. And a really funny card. (Eva gave me another funny card, both of them sing; one had the Chicken Dance song and Eva's had a country song on it.)

One of Kate's presents was a Cowgirl calendar that I had in fact investigated on the Web yesterday. I almost bought the exact same one. Another was a book, Final Exits, an encyclopedia about the way people die. I'm very interested in strange deaths and wanted to write a book like that myself. Now, I guess I'll have to change tacks, and write a children's book. Maybe called Everyone Dies (like Everyone Poops.)

Then, a little while letter Beth brought in two boxes of assorted bagels for my birthday and after lunch Mary brought in some more treats. So we're all groaning around here. It's been a great day.

I have three boxes waiting for me at home to open and whatever Bob got me. I don't even have a clue about what he got me. I'm going to stop and get some Thai food on the way home so he doesn't have to cook and I don't have to wash dishes. So that's my report for now.

More later.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Cancer is lucrative

My birthday is coming up (Oct. 17) and cancer seems to be paying off. My brother is sending me a present from Shepler's (see photo at top left of this blog). My mom is throwing me a party in Nashville where everybody has to dress up like a cowboy (or girl). Well, she arranged it, my sister-in-laws are doing all the work I think. Bob says he's bought be a lot of presents. Jennifer sent me a big box in the mail (which I won't open until my birthday). And I just now in the mail today received a package from Becky. Wow, I think people feel kind of sorry for me and so are getting me gifts. Of course, Phyllis' e-vite invitation did say bring gifts to the party, but I don't require them. Really I don't. But I don't mind them either. I bet I get a bunch of new cowgirl stuff. That's great!

I had a white blood cell booster shot this morning. Doc didn't say my count was down, just that he wanted me to have the shot. So, I got it. This time it's making my bones feel 30 years older. And chemo has gotten to me a little yesterday and today. Not terribly. But I've been tired, and food tastes AWFUL. I can just barely stand to eat it today. I have not been hungry since this past treatment. Feeling hungry made me feel kind of normal. I liked it.

I know I only have two more treatments, but it's starting to get to me. I really want this to be over. I don't even care if I get fat now. I just want to be hungry and I want everything to taste good. I want to feel like I have energy. I want my fingers and tongue to quit burning.

I want to be normal again. Please, please, please.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

I'm hungry all the time

Just like old times. I don't understand it. I haven't been hungry since I started chemo in June. (Except when I skipped a week in Germany.) So this is all odd to me. It's almost like life is getting back to normal even though I have three more treatments to go. I can't say I like to be hungry all the time. Because only sweets taste good. And that's fattening. I haven't gotten my taste buds back. I still can't taste anything (especially if it's bland). I know when I'm eating peanut butter because I can sort of smell and taste it. But the fuzziness on my tongue is still there, so food (except for sweet stuff) kind of gags me out. I don't know how to explain it, really.

It's odd. I suppose women who have been pregnant might be able to understand it. I've heard some foods gagged them so much that they could never return to eating them.

The problem with being hungry is that I EAT, despite not being able to taste. Yesterday, sin of all sins, I went to McDonald's and ordered the fish sandwich combo (comes with a drink and fries). I was very excited to be hungry enough to eat it. But I had to force it down finally because something about it irked me. Even the fries (which everyone loves) got to me in the end. The only thing that satisfied was the coke (because it was sweet).

So even though I am hungry, I'm not enjoying the food I eat and I'm gaining weight! Today I weighed a pound more than yesterday and yesterday I weighed a pound more than the day before.

Why is it that pounds are so slow to come off and so fast to go on. I wish Einstein were still alive and I'd ask him. I bet he would have an answer.

I'm listening to Charlotte's Web for my book on tape right now. It's charming. Can't remember if I ever even read it. Probably. Before that was Whose Body by Dorothy Sayers (fun! especially when the reader is great) and before that Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen. I highly recommend this book for everybody. Absolutely delightful. At home, I'm reading Only Cowgirls Get the Blues by Tom Robbins. Now that one is tough. Very hippie like. Should have been an adult in the 60s to enjoy that one. But I was a kid. Oh yeah, and for my book club at church I'm reading The Heart of Christianity by Marcus Borg. A good book that delineates the difference between earlier (distasteful) and emerging (more open minded) Christians. At least that's my take so far.

And that's that for now. Tomorrow is chemo. Joy.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

A miracle has occurred

I haven't had any bad symptoms after this last chemo. I mean, really, nothing to speak of. Not nauseated; not tired. And my white blood cell count was even down. I got the shot Monday (this is Thursday) and have had no ill effects as a result of the shot either. (I was to expect some achy-ness of the bones).

Mary, our new marketing person here, prayed for me while she was in Paris at Chappelle Notre-Dame de la Medaille Miraculeuse (or Chapel of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal). She also brought me a medal to keep with me at all times.

The story goes (loosely) that in the 1830s Sister Catherine (born Zoe Labouré to a middle-class farming family in Burgundy on May 2, 1806) saw three apparitions of the Virgin Mary. In one instance, the Blessed Virgin told her that graces would be poured out on those who prayed at the altar of the chapel. In another, Mary showed St. Catherine a design for the Miraculous Medal (which I hold). On one side of the medal is an image of Mary, surrounded by the prayer, "O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to you." On the other side is the letter "M" with a cross over two hearts, one circled by a crown of thorns, the other pierced with a sword.

Those who carry the medal (me) will receive grace in abundance (especially if they wear it around their necks).

The third apparition was on December 30, 1830. (almost my mother's birthday, but not the year). Catherine was meditating in the chapel when she saw a vision of the medal behind the altar with rays shooting out of it and heard, "These rays are the symbol of the graces that the Blessed Virgin obtains for those who ask them of her."

So perhaps because of Mary's prayer (and others!) I received the grace of no symptoms during this treatment. And maybe because I hold the medal, I'll round the next three treatments with ease and slide into home base free not only of cancer, but of chemo's miserable side effects.

(Sorry for the baseball metaphors; the Cubs are in the playoffs.)

Saturday, September 29, 2007

My doctor called last night

He told me my white blood count was low, and that he might not have given me chemo yesterday if he had had all the test results back. Hmmm. That's why I go in and get my blood drawn early in the morning. Well, all in all, I'm glad I had the chemo. That's one more treatment down (three to go).

However, I have to go in for shot early Monday morning to stimulate creation of white blood cells. They say it may make my bones hurt because marrow is where they are produced (I guess).

Low white blood cells means I am at higher risk of infection (which may be life-threatening, according to my chemo notebook they gave me before I started treatments). Ikes.

I am supposed to notify the doctor immediately if I have a fever over 100.5 F. (My normal temperature is about 97.5 so I wonder if that makes a difference). Other symptoms are chills and sweating, sores in throat or mouth. Constant cough, shortness of breath, pain when breathing in. Earache, headache, (had both), changes in vision. Sinus pressure or pain (had some of that).

But we (doc and me) were both surprised counts were low since I felt so good. I still feel pretty good. But Audrey (at work) has shingles and that scares me a little bit. But too late, because we've been in each other's offices (well cubicles) several times within the last week.

So. We'll see. Hope I don't die from an infection. Lots of people are getting colds right about now. And there are several cases of West Nile virus around here.

Wonder if I should climb in a bubble.

Friday, September 28, 2007

I do not want to do this

I feel so good right now that it took every ounce of gumption in my body to drive to chemo today. The weather is gorgeous; autumn is my time of year. I was strong enough to go to the gym twice this week and walk the dogs when I didn't go. I was getting really close to being able to taste again. I feel so normal that I wanted to cry this morning knowing I have to start feeling bad again.

I thought I would tell my doctor that everybody on a 6-month/12-time regimen of chemo needs a week off, but now I'm not so sure. Feeling so good makes it twice as hard to voluntarily sit calmly for more poison. Especially when you don't even think you need it.

I still have to act normal. I still have to go out with people on the weekends, work in the yard, go to church--all hooked up to my weekend pump. It's embarrassing and inconvenient. All I really want to do is curl up and not talk, drink tepid water (because water with ice burns going down), eat crackers, not real food. If I were alone, that is probably what I would do.

I don't mean to feel sorry for myself because I don't really. I just want to do what I want to do when I feel bad. And maybe I won't feel bad. Who knows. Maybe I'll breeze through this treatment because I had a week's break. Part of the anxiety is in not knowing and anticipating the worse. That is NOT positive thinking, I'm afraid.

I have to keep up appearances, smile while I'm here getting poked, act like this is no big deal. And really it's not compared to what some people go through. There is some hacking going on in this waiting room, people with masks, but mostly everybody looks normal today. No green people. They're all reading or working crossword puzzles. Just waiting to see the doctor or to get hooked up to chemo.

It's so beautiful outside; I can't wait to bask in it, put my face to the sun, squint, sit, sip a beer (or even apple-cranberry juice, which tastes really good.)

Maybe next year.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Chemo Woman (simulates) eating on a plane

Here is a video of Bob and me eating at a small cafe outside of the Schloss Charlottenburg (Sophie-Charlotte Castle) in Berlin.


Wednesday, September 26, 2007

I feel great

We returned from Berlin Monday the 24th. No photos yet cause Bob's still editing them. He took a couple of videos with his camera and I'm going to see if I can get any of them up on this blog. I'm not quite that technically sophisticated yet, so I'll have to do some reading about it. Berlin was great, but I'll wait to get the photos before I post on some of the places we visited.

I really feel almost normal. Yesterday, I went to the gym and it didn't even tire me out. I can taste food and I even get hungry sometimes. I think everybody on a six-month regimen of chemo (12 times every two weeks) should get a week off just to experience normalcy again. Just a little break from the icky-ness of it all.

I'm in a book club at church and our first assignment was The Secret. Now, I am totally against that book. I think it's silly, but one of our members wanted us to read it just to see how silly it really is. The book has been No. 1 on the New York Times bestseller list for weeks, so somebody must get something out of it. Basically, it's a power of positive thinking book. And I do agree that positive thinking is essential to a good life. But this book says that if you just wish hard enough for a million dollars, you'll start getting checks in the mail very soon. Bah humbug. First of all, I don't think people should wish for wealth or a new car or the huge house of their dreams. I think wishing for the perfect job or happiness or a clean bill of health is fine. World peace and no war is even better. But wishing for material things seems a little un-biblical to me, though the author offers Bible verses that claim it is biblical. Bah humbug.

She mixes new age thinking with biblical thinking throughout the book. (The universe vs. God.) So she's working the whole crowd. And it's paying off for her. She must have positively thought about having a best seller and millions of dollars.

The book is a good reminder that we should think positively about our lives and circumstances. I do believe in that. I'm convinced I don't have cancer anymore, but maybe I should think more positively about chemo treatments. Instead of ruing the side effects, I should be glad that one more treatment is over and look toward the end. I feel so good right now that I can imagine the end.

And it feels good.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Off to Berlin

where I plan to eat boiled potatoes and Bratwurst (or Knackwurst: knock on noggin) and drink a couple of hausbiers (as Audrey instructed). And maybe they have something sweet that will taste good. I don't know nuthin' about Germany. (Though I've heard of Hitler and the trouble he caused.) So this will be an adventure.

I'm pretty much packed. Just need to gather what I want to take on the plane to read and eat. I'm sure I've packed too much stuff, but how do you know until you get there? Can't buy much because the dollar is 1.40 to their 1.00 (Euro) [or is the other way around.] Whatever. It's pitiful. Thanks Georgie for all you've done for our country.

I don't know whether I can post some photos from there. If I can, I will. Bob's taking his computer (of course; though he did talk of not taking it; Right, I thought). So if I can download photos, perhaps I can post a few.

I get to skip a chemo treatment. Hurray! I'll feel good for an extra week. I feel pretty good right now. Hurray!

Gespräch zu dir später (talk to you later).

Auf Wiedersehen

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

I'm losing my eyelashes

I just know I am. Everybody says they can't tell. But when I wash my face at night or take a shower, I find stray eyelashes all over my face. I guess I'll take that over losing my hair, which I'm not. Well, maybe I am because I do find a lot of hair in the shower drain in the mornings. So I'm constantly cleaning that out. And I seem to find more strands on the floor after I dry my hair in the mornings. But it's not noticeable because my hair is so thick to begin with. And for that I am thankful.

I'm reading a little book I saw in Sundance catalog called Cowgirl Smarts: How to Rope a Kick-Ass Life, Life Lessons from Cowgirls Who Tamed the West. (How's that for not quite being able to decide on a title.) So far, I haven't really learned anything mind-boggling, life-changing, but it's a cute book and it describes the lives of some real-life (well, they're real-dead now) cowgirls who bucked male hegemony in their day. We do that more these days but probably not enough. It also makes me want to be a real cowgirl and go out West and ride the ponies. Better take some lessons first. The more I read these types of books, the more I think I'm a real cowgirl at heart. For example, she has 17 (why 17? I don't know) Cowgirl Creeds like:
"Dare to be a cowgirl,"
"Buck the rules" (I like that one),
"Stay balanced in the saddle,"
"Ride the trail of adventure,"
"Dress for success--the cowgirl way," (Yes!)
"Give others a leg up,"
"Always get back on the horse,"
"Recharge your cowgirl spirit," and
"Die with your boots on."

I hope I don't die, but if I do, I'll try to do it with my boots on. I felt a little like I was going to die after my last chemo treatment, but I feel pretty good now. So it's over. It's the chemo that gets me. I know in my heart I don't have cancer anymore, it's just this damned "extra insurance" as my doc calls it that's wearing me down. Making me mad. Keeping me from "Riding high in the saddle," (another cowgirl creed).

To make it through my next four treatments (I skip one next week; off to Berlin!), I'll have to pull from the book's Cowgirl Spirit Words and be "determined," "dauntless," and "spirited."

Maybe I should add a Cowgirl Creed:
"Lasso those eyelashes and hang on for dear life."

Friday, September 7, 2007

I'm here

in chair 11, waiting to get hooked up to chemo. I like this nurse I have today. Bess. She's quick and efficient. The nurses are all different here in the Loyola chemo ward. Some like to chat; some seem preoccupied; some get right down to business. Which is what I like. The sooner I get hooked up, the sooner I get out of here.

Today I was a little anxious about coming in because I know I'll feel icky for a few days. So I took a half-Valium and that seems to have helped. I got these Valium when I moved from Nashville to Chicago. I was stressed to the max. Bob was in India and I was trying to get us all packed up. I had to get rid of a ton of stuff, and I was quitting a job I had had for 18 years. My eyes were as big as saucers. Somebody in my office (Janet) told me to go to the doctor and get some Valium. So I did. Lo and behold he gave them to me. They have served me well lately, when I feel anxious before a chemo appointment. I wish I could get more. Everybody needs a stash of Valium for various reasons. Even to sleep well. Maybe I'll beg a new doctor for some.

I saw the doctor and when he asks about my symptoms, I always seem well. "You're good to go," he says, ushering me out of his office and into the chemo lobby waiting room. "But my nose drips, sometimes blood, and I can't taste anything," I wail. (not really wail). And he says that's common with F5U, one of my treatments. I don't have tingling in my fingers or toes or numbness in my limbs. None of the bad symptoms they look for. So I'm fine, good to go.

This is treatment No. 8 out of 12. I have three weeks until my next treatment because Bob and I are going to Berlin in a couple of weeks, right about the time my 9th treatment is due. So I'm really happy to have a week's reprieve. I might even be able to taste German sausage and potatoes. Won't that be exciting? Well, it will for me.

I meant to bring a camera today so I could take a few pictures of Chair 11 and the nurses, but I forgot.

Chemo fog.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Tomorrow I voluntarily walk into

the torture chamber. I do not want to do it. I do not want to do it. But I will--calmly. And I will take the poke in my port with a good sense of humor. I'll hold my breath, allow the nurse to poke a three-inch needle into my body, and even smile, and say thank you.

Then I'll visit with the doctor who will tell me I'm doing just great. All my chemo symptoms are normal, to be expected. The drippy nose, the vacillation between constipation and diarrhea, the fact that I can't taste anything I put into my mouth (excepts sweets, which is fun, but not healthy), my extreme tiredness for the first few days after chemo and slight nausea. And I will be cleared to get more poison. To kill what? I don't know. Maybe nothing. Maybe something. These are the consequences I must endure if I hope to live a good, long life. And I do. Relatively long. I've always said 86 will be the age I die. That's fine with me. I have no need to make it to 90, especially if my bones only make it to 83 or 84. I want to live only as long as my body wants to live. No longer.

I do not sound much like a cowgirl. But I am. Because tomorrow I will mount my Honda and ride into battle.

Yee Haw.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

No. 7 slammed me

I don't know what was different, but this seventh treatment (who says seven is lucky) has worn me out. By Sunday at noon (Sundays are usually good days), I was flat on my back, napping most of the day. When I did get up, I felt like I was walking through water. I could barely move. I did my laundry, but it was tough. I even forgot the towels, which I never do. Bob took care of those the next day.

We had a guest over the weekend, but he was a delight, no trouble. (Bob took him out touring, so I actually had more time to myself than I would have). He left some lovely gifts for us, in addition to paying for our dinner and appetizers the night before. He left Bob some expensive single malt scotch and me some See's Candy. Oh man, that candy is good and it hits the spot. About the only things I can taste are sweet. I already couldn't taste very well before treatment no. 7, but now I can't taste at all. Bob made me a baked potato and steak last night, but I couldn't eat either. Even the potato, which normally tastes good to me. So the candy and some watermelon are my salvations.

So for my co-workers (and husband), if I'm acting like I'm under water, I am.

But this too shall pass. I will surface and take air.

Monday, August 27, 2007

My sister got upset

well, her co-worker really, because I haven't yet posted anything about my trip to her house last weekend. Jennifer, my sis, lives in Liberty, Mo., (just outside of Kansas City) in an adorable, old, refurbished home that looks like a bed and breakfast. One night, I took a long, hot bath in her whirlpool tub. (The house is for sale, if you're interested and want to live in Liberty.)

It was Jennifer's 55th birthday! So our goal was to go to movies all
weekend, and we did. We went to three at three different theaters. In one, you could even sit in red leather loungers and drink mixed drinks or beer with your popcorn. Let's see, I'll have to remember what we went to. A documentary on Broadway musicals, the Jane Austen movie, and one called Death at a Funeral. All were great or at least pretty good. Death at a Funeral was pretty light, but funny. I just love to go see movies and rarely get to go at home. So that was a treat.

I got to Jennifer's house late Friday night (her husband Steve was out of town) and stayed until Sunday afternoon. We had a great time of eating, sleeping, movie going and SHOPPING. I bought a few things, yes I did.

I would like to buy a couch from Ethan Allen store where she works if Bob would give me the OK. I know he would like it, but he doesn't always trust my judgment (even though I bought our house without him seeing it and he loves it). He's worried about the stock market right now.

Jennifer made me crispy okra (yummy!) and cut up a lot of watermelon. When I got home, I cut up some watermelon too because she gave me the idea and have been eating it like crazy. It makes me regular. We are pretty good companions because we both like to read, watch movies, go to bed early, and get up early.

Perfect if we ever have to live together in the "home."

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Over the hump treatment

Yesterday, I had my seventh treatment. So seven down, five more to go. The day seems so routine now that I don't feel compelled to blog. But I suppose I have some sort of unspoken commitment to blog at least through the end of treatments and occasionally thereafter.

An old, old man in a wheelchair came up to me and ask me questions about my laptop while we were in the waiting room yesterday. He was asking me a lot of questions about wireless connections (duh, I don't know) and wireless cards (duh, again; my computer is equipped). He just bought a new laptop and had set his whole house up with wireless, but wanted to know more about Verizon wireless cards. He wanted to kick himself when he found out Loyola was had a free wireless connection. There were so many things he could have taken care of, he said. He was really old with food all over his clothes. But he was in to computers.

As I looked around in the waiting room yesterday, I noticed a lot of people were green. Not lime or forest, but sort of Martian green. Or the beginnings of Martian green. Not quite as green as a Martian, but beginning to turn. I wonder, does chemo do that to you? Am I green? Or or those the people who are very nearly about to be whisked up to Martian land. No longer to be seen, only to be remembered. Bob said I looked pale. (Pale green?)

Yesterday, I used my Netflix account to watch a free movie (instead of blog). I haven't quite finished it, but what I saw was excellent. I had sort of steered away from the movie because I thought it was science fiction. But it's not. It's fairy tale fiction with real-life Spanish war mixed in. Pan's Labyrinth. I recommend it.

I'm up early this morning. We have a guest and he came in very late last night on Amtrak. He's Bob's new friend, so Bob took care of him while I went to bed. I got a good night sleep so am up to drink coffee and read the paper in peace and quiet. But I had to put on a little make up because I haven't met him.

And I don't want to make a pale green first impression.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Audrey made me a cowgirl quilt

And it is the cutest, most adorable quilt I've ever seen in my life. I didn't know she cared. And for six weeks (nine months?) she's been birthing this wonderful quilt. I bet she was sad to let it go; she'd been working on it so long.

Kate comes into my cube this morning with a sneaky look in her eyes and begins to beckon my coworkers into my cube. I thought we were all about to meet the new employee, Mary, and I had just eaten a Metamucil cookie, and they really stick to your teeth. So I'm quickly searching for my dental floss, swooshing water around in my mouth, and thinking, "Great, the new girl really is going to think I'm from the country."

Next thing I know, Audrey is presenting me with this bundle, a bed roll, all tied up in ribbon like a Martha Stewart project. I untie the ribbon, (the back side is blue, bandanna print) and look at the front side of the quilt. It is full of cowgirls and boots and horseshoes and sky and stars. It is the most fun cowgirl thing I have! Well, in addition what Polly sent me a couple of weeks ago: the cutest-in-the-world poster which I had framed last week. (You can see it beside the quilt I'm holding. Click on the photos to make them larger.)

I couldn't figure out why, if this was Audrey's project alone, everybody needed to be in my cube for the presentation (besides the fact it was a fantastic quilt). I asked Audrey. She said they wanted to see if I would cry. Now, that's a little low as I have been propelled into menopause by my chemo. I asked Kate later if I did cry, and she said "A little." But I think I just had the sniffles. How could I cry when I was so happy. I would have paid big bucks on Ebay for this quilt. (And I would have bid on it, be assured.)

But instead, I got it for free!

Thanks Audrey. You're a real pal.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Halfway finished

Gitty up little doggie. Today, I'm halfway finished with chemo treatments. Six down, six more to go. I wasn't nearly so anxious because what I worry about most, in addition to being nauseated and tired for a few days, is how the chemo affects my taste buds. Well, I haven't really tasted anything for the last two weeks, so I didn't get so anxious about that particular symptom.

Generally, I just don't feel like myself and have come to accept that I won't until I get off these treatments. By December, I'll be eating and pooping and drinking and sticking my hands in ice just for the fun of it if I want to. (Which I can't imagine that I will.)

Today I got the special room again. That worries me a little because I always thought the rooms with the beds were reserved for the sickest of the sick, but I've gotten the room two treatments in a row. I love having it. I can take a nap and have a semblance of privacy. I'm not in a pink chair staring at another chemo patient all hooked up. I also decided I would read today instead of take my computer to blog and watch movies. Then I forgot to bring my best reading glasses. (I'm up to 2.25 and my glasses are about 1.75.) So it was tough; I had to hold my reading material out at arm's length and tilt my head back. I looked a bit British, I think. Prudish. (Sorry Caroline.)

Last night I met a woman who had ovarian cancer and knew something about chemo fog. She showed me her Nintendo DS Lite where she plays brain teaser games to keep her mind sharp. She made me do the tutorial. I was not in the best of shape. Had a long day and a margarita before I met her. But still. I scored an F+. I had the mind of a fashion designer. So now I have to get the game just so I can prove I'm not really an F+ mind. (I could blame it on chemo fog and menopause. Love it.) The reason I went back to get my master's was to prove I wasn't a 2.5 GPA; not really. And I did pretty well. Graduated cum laude, maybe magna, but I can't remember (because my mind does not retain information well). 3.8 or so. I worked my butt off on that degree, though. I mean it.

But I digress.

In lieu of having a Nintendo DS Lite, to keep my my sharp, today I tried to work the crossword puzzle and the Suduko puzzle, which I've never even looked at before. I didn't do so well on either.

But I tried. And I'm halfway finished with my chemo treatments.

Yipee!!!

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Hmmmmmm

I haven't posted lately mostly because life has been rather uneventful. Well, except for that little incident where Bob broke his hand. Last Saturday we decided to walk to one of our favorite neighborhood restaurants, La Notte. On the return trip, Bob claims I pointed up and told him to look at something. When he did, he tripped on an uneven sidewalk and fell in what I think was slow motion, though he claims it seemed like it happened fast. He cut his hand and because he is a bleeder (like Louie), we finished our walk home with him dripping blood all along the way. He seemed to fall on every part of his body, but it was his left hand that took the brunt of the fall.

We got home, cleaned the wound, and he sat on the couch and fell asleep, though I tried to encourage him to come up to bed. The next morning (a Sunday, in which he had to perform a baptism and celebrate the Eucharist), his left hand was swollen to the size of a balloon, a purple balloon. Something was wrong.

But he had to go to church and do his job; there was no one to call on such short notice and he wouldn't have called them anyway. So after church, I dropped him by MacNeal Hospital (a neighborhood facility that we know is quite good), and I went to have my chemo pump removed (something all chemo patients with a fanny pack are eager to get rid of as soon as possible).

When I returned to the hospital, they had X-rayed the hand but knew nothing. We met (through the curtains of the adjoining suites) a sweet, young man who asked us about our accents. Turns out, like Bob, he had grown up in West Tennessee, but had moved here long ago and sounded like a native. We talked for several minutes before I asked him why he was in the emergency room. Because, he said, his leg which had been amputated below the knee a month before, was hurting. Why was it amputated? Because he hurt his ankle on his job with no insurance, ignored the pain, which turned out to be a broken ankle; it got infected and had to be amputated. Don't even get me started on why we need universal health care.

Three hours later after I had taken Bob to the emergency room (it took so long because a wreck with nine people came in), he was released with a cast of sorts and instructions to call an orthopedic doctor because they couldn't tell if the hand was broken. He got an appointment for Wednesday, and the doctor, in three seconds, found he had fractured his hand, and put it in a purple cast.

Lordy. A husband with no left hand is, well, a man with no left hand. You get the picture. The first few days in the cast (and even in the pre-cast), he spent negotiating his disability. At first it was rough (for both of us), but he's beginning to figure things out and is learning to do the little things that you really do, I must admit, need a left hand for. Obviously, mowing the yard and trimming the hedges are out for a while, but even opening a pill bottle is difficult. And, woe upon woe, typing is dang near impossible. And for a man addicted to the a) Internet and b) e-mail, that is quite the tragedy. Though he is hunting and pecking and getting through it. I mean, really, with our special form filler (Roboform) it is not that difficult to purchase over the Internet (both of our weaknesses).

So we will see how life with a cast pans out.

Symptoms
For my own edification, I would like to list my most recent chemo symptoms so I can refer to them later. You can stop reading here. I could put them in my Palm, but I've been having trouble with it lately.

OK, so chemo was Friday, and Friday and Saturday and even Sunday I feel pretty good. Though I get the hair on my tongue and food doesn't really appeal. It sometimes tastes good, but I could go without eating and it wouldn't really bother me. Also, the cold sensitive thing happens. The nurses said I wouldn't even be able to reach into a refrigerator, but I haven't found that to be the case. Though holding a cold can of pop (as they say up here) or a beer (which doesn't appeal), hurts a bit. And I can't drink water with ice in it. Even last night when I drank water with ice in it, I got the dry-ice mouth. A feeling like my mouth is kind of sizzling like dry ice does. Oh, and my fingers (especially the first few days after chemo) feel like numb bananas. Huge and swollen and numbish. Less so today.

But by Monday, I was dead-tired. I felt like I was walking in water. I went to work, of course, but by 2 p.m., my head was hitting my desk. So I went to the car and took a nap, which helps, but leaves me feeling a bit like a zombie for the rest of the day. By the time I got home from work, (around 6 p.m.), I needed another nap. This occurred on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday with slight variations.

On Tuesday, I took my nap at work and at home, but then went to the gym. Possibly a mistake. It was very, very hard. Because in addition to feeling tired, I also feel nauseated and take the nausea pill during this period (sometimes more than one a day) just to feel well enough to actually stand on my feet.

On Wednesday, I didn't go to my car to nap, but to a bench outside my work area where the people who smoke go to smoke. It was kind of an off-smoking time so I was basically alone. I didn't mean to lie down on the bench. I just mean to sit and try to wake up, but I found myself prone within minutes and actually fell asleep. (Kate says she is amazed at how quickly I can fall asleep and how I can do it anywhere; it's true, Bob and I both can. That's why we're married.) The problem with sleeping outside is that there are small varmints (well, ants) out there and they took advantage of me. I have been finding little whelks (this is the correct spelling; we looked it up. I always thought it was whelp.) all over my body. So that was probably not a good idea.

Thursday, I was beginning to feel normal again. Not quite so tired. So that's good. But I didn't go to the gym, nor did I do my physical therapy exercises for my shoulder (for the seventh day in a row: bad, bad, bad).

Friday, better. I worked from home and got a lot done. And we went to see the Color Purple downtown (8 p.m. show) which was absolutely spectacular. Very lively. I actually got hungry before we had dinner. Which was lovely since we paid more than a hundred bucks for our dinner and that was with an NPR member card discount.

Saturday. Today. Feel pretty good. MUST go the gym. Must do my physical therapy. Must do some chores. Must. Must. Must.

Five treatments down; seven to go.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Gracias a Dios

I feel like I'm wobbling on the precipice of a balance beam. Just before chemo, perhaps a couple of days, and especially as I sit here waiting to go back to Chair 12, I have great anxiety. Will I fall onto the soft blue mat and sustain relatively few side effects after chemo, or will I tumble to the hard wood floor, and feel pain and discomfort for the next two weeks, until I am poisioned again. That is the anxiety, the worry. It is, though, only a balance beam. Not a cliff. I might get hurt, but I won't die.

The good news is that the doctor said I'm doing great. When I recount my side effects, they are few. "Do you have severe sensitivity in your fingers or hands?" Nope, I'm cold sensitive for a few days after chemo and I've noticed my fingers peel some. "Are you nauseated?" Yes, but not severely; a burp might produce a little something, but I have never projectile vomited. "Do you have an appetitite?" Not really, but I take care to eat, and I love sweets. I've noticed that some ginger tea that came in a Get Well basket given to me by Mary and Anantha helps stimulate my appetitite.

I'm watching a thin, frail, bald woman walk toward the exit, using a cane, just finished with chemo. That is not me. Thank God. How did I get so lucky. I have hair, and though I am thinner (an acceptable weight at last for an aging, menopausal woman), I'm not frail. Still working out, though I've decreased my weights, some.

I asked my doctor if I still have cancer, and he said No. But I should think of the chemo as extra insurance, a precaution against getting cancer again. Or getting it in another place. And so I will consider myself cancer free. With another four months of precaution coming my way. That is not a severe burden to bear. Considering what others within my eyesight are going through.

Gracias a Dios.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

I can taste it already

The fuzz that gets on my tongue after chemo. Chemo is tomorrow, less than 24-hours away. The anxiety is creeping near. The sensitivity to cold. The icky feeling in my body. The stupid fanny pack that tethers me to the chemical for two days, until Sunday afternoon. The way food doesn't appeal.

We are having good friends over tomorrow night, Sam and Chris. Bob wants to cook some of his "famous" dry rub ribs and I insist only good friends come over for that. First of all, the ribs are hot as heck and could cause you to pant out loud, and secondly, the black rib particles get stuck in your teeth, so you can't really laugh with your teeth showing. Unless you feel comfortable with the people who are eating them with you.

And thirdly, unrelated to the ribs, I need guests who don't care if I feel crappy. And that would be Sam and Chris.

If I need to excuse myself, they will be content to sip Scotch or Gin & Tonic on the deck with Bob.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

We're baaaaack

from our road trip to Wisconsin/Illinois. I am now officially a cowgirl cheesehead. (right; click on photos for larger view.)

The trip was terrific.

I LOVE Madison, Wisc., and could easily live there if a) I had a job there; b) I had a place to live there; and c) my husband would move there. Alas, I will stay in Chicago (which is a pretty good place to live too). Both cities have horrible winters, but Madison has wonderful biking community. And if you go, stay at the Hotel Ruby Marie Bed & Breakfast. It was lovely. Very nice rooms, neat and clean, and a great free breakfast on the weekends. I had poached eggs, ham, toast and fried potatoes. Yummy. And wasn't hungry for a long, long time. We also ate at a very nice Indonesian restaurant. Double yummy. There was a farmer's market street fair going on, which happens every weekend in the summer. They had lots of food: cheese, vegetables, meats, cookies. Holy Moly. I wish my appetite was better (but maybe not).

Milwaukee was so-so, but Mader's (left) was great! The Knickerbocker, I wouldn't recommend. It was quaint, but old and run-down. But the location was good and the price was OK.

We drove down to Monroe to buy cheese and eat at Baumgartner's, a cheese store and tavern, where Bob ordered (and actually ate) a Limburger and braunschweiger sandwich (thickly sliced, I might add). I sampled a smidgen of the Limburger and it tasted like somebody's bad morning breath and a landfill, mixed together. Awful. Terrible. He felt like a real man for eating it (right). I can't describe the aftereffects throughout the evening, even on this blog.

Oh yeah, and we did a Frank Lloyd Wright tour in Spring Green, Wisc., (left). The man was definitely a genius.

We ended up in Galena, Ill., at the Ramada. It was fine, but honestly it is a new hotel without an elevator. (We were on the second floor.) I just couldn't believe it. Not even a service elevator for the cleaning staff. I saw a young woman dragging a 32-gallon trashcan full of wet towels up the stairs. The rooms were nice, though, because they were new. And we sampled the hot tub. We were whipped by then, so the next day we roamed the streets of Galena, but without a lot of shopping enthusiasm. We bought a few things at a French shop, and I found, and I can still hardly believe this, some burlap sacks that I have been looking for in Chicago for three years. There was a coffee shop full of empty burlap sacks. It was closed (though the door was open). The owner was inside and I asked him if he would sell me some sacks. I got six for a dollar each. That was my thrill purchase. (I fill them with cedar and use them for dog beds in the dog houses.)

Oh, and we found the perfect store for me! (See it at right.)

Bob bought some Galena wine, and then we headed home. Since he had driven most of the trip, I drove home so he could see the countryside (I have been through Galena territory twice before), and took a long nap when I got home. Dogs were happy to see us. We were home.

And all is well with my soul.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Heading out

Bob and I are headed out for a road trip this weekend. First to Milwaukee, Wisc., where I've booked us a hotel at the Knickerbocker, then to Madison, Wisc., where we have a cool room at the Hotel Ruby Marie Bed and Breakfast, then on to Galena, Ill., where we have just a regular old Ramada room. But it looks OK and has a hot tub.

Now, I don't know if the first two rooms are really going to be any good. But we'll see. I don't have a great history of vacation-planning. Like line-standing. I'm always in the worst line at the grocery store (or the Target). It doesn't matter if I'm standing in the longest line, then see the shortest line and move. The shortest line always has a shopper that has 1) forgotten an item after the ringer upper has encoded half his/her products or 2) needs a price check. So I've just given up. And stayed in the line I was in. No matter how long it is. Do NOT follow me when I get in a line.

This driving excursion should be a nice break for us. I've felt a little puny this week, but today I am much better (so far). I've had to go to my car twice this week to take a nap because I was feeling very tired and ill. And yesterday, even after a nap in my car, I took a nap when I got home. So far, no gym this week. And that just ignites my guilt (for reasons I don't fully understand). My wise friend Kate says "Guilt is fruitless. Listen to your body." She's right, I'm sure. So I will.

We're going to buy some cheese in Wisconsin. We're not sure where, yet. (If you have suggestions, put it in the comments.) There was an article in the Tribune (or was it Chicago magazine) recently that named the best places to buy cheese in Wisconsin. Bob cut it out, but we can't find it. Cheese is probably not what I need, with this bound-up side effect of chemo. So, in this case, I don't plan to listen to my body.

In fact, cheese has been my staple lately. Cheese crackers, macaroni and cheese, cheese-flavored nachos. Can you tell I'm eating well? Lordy. I need some turnip greens and okra. Some fried green tomatoes and cream corn. Some real green beans and potatoes.

Comfort food for a cowgirl.

Monday, July 16, 2007

The blog about nothing

It's difficult to blog when you feel like you felt almost every day before CANCER. Pretty much fine. Normal for a 50-year-old.

This weekend was a chemo weekend, so Bob and I didn't make big plans. We had hoped to go down to Millennium Park Friday night and listen to (one of those B classical composers, Beethoven, Bach, I can't remember) but we didn't make it. Friday or Saturday. I was willing, but I think Bob didn't really want to put out the effort. He had mowed the yard, tended the flowers. I had done a little shopping. Got a big, BIG exercise ball for some physical therapy I'm doing on my shoulder. It seems you have to strengthen your "core" body to get the extremities feeling better. So we just "hung out" on Friday and Saturday night. He cooked for me both nights; he's a good husband. And! I actually got him to watch a silly movie, Music and Lyrics with Hugh Grant and Drew Barrymore. No thinking involved.

Next day, Sunday, we did it up. First church of course. Bob's got to be there. He's the priest. After, I went to have my chemo pump removed. That's always a delight. It's difficult to sleep and shower hooked up to a pump (and the nasty fanny pack; read earlier blog). Bob napped while I went to the hospital. Back home, I decided to forgo my nap and we headed off downtown. We drove to the Blue Line and rode the train in. We wanted to go to an art show near the Tribune building. First, though, we ate at a New Orleans style restaurant called RedFish (I had an NPR member coupon). I ordered Cajun shrimp. Ouch. Ouch. Ouch. It was hot! I like hot stuff, but with my newfound digestive system, I'm not sure if it likes me. And it didn't really. Serendipitously, I found a cure for constipation. Three Senokot S laxatives, two fiber pills on the previous evening, and Cajun shrimp.

By the time I got home from town, I was running to the bathroom every few minutes. But cleaned out and feeling groovy.

Before though, we did some shopping and drank a beer. It was a nice, normal, uneventful day. But also eventful because I haven't been able to enjoy a day like that in while. And so, this is the blog about nothing.

Remember the Seinfield episode where George and Jerry pitch a show to network officials. It's to be a show about nothing...just like their show. That's what this blog is about.

Nothing.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

A poo coup

Or a better title: Vanity of vanities, a narcissistic sin.

OK, so I put a site meter on my blog to see how many visits I get. It's a horrible vanity. I just want to know if people are reading my blog. There are a few, some people I don't know, but mostly relatives and friends. I see only locations, no names.

But I guffawed (and so did Bob) when I saw that one person who had visited got to my blog by doing a Google search. And guess what she (or he) was searching for? "Hard pebbles stool." I just love it, my blog came out on top of that search. (However, it is no longer on top.) Still, is that not truly a poo coup? That was my biggest excitement of yesterday. I am the poo blog. Perhaps I should change the name of my blog. Of course, the person didn't stay very long when they found out I knew absolutely nothing about "hard pebbles stools," but if they had read down a little further (or is it farther) on my blog, they would have found my favorite book on the subject.

Another person got to my blog by searching for "cowgirl bars." Now, I love cowgirl bars, and in fact, have always wanted to start one, but it would have to be for early drinkers. 'Cause I can't stay up much past 10. 10:30 at the latest. Or it could be a morning bar, for really early drinkers.

I know of a good cowgirl bar if you're anywhere near Santa Fe. It's a restaurant too. The Cowgirl Hall of Fame. Very cool. Lots of different beers and sweet potato french (or cowgirl) fries.

Maybe they have buffalo pebbles.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Proof Positive

I have always had a Cowgirl Attitude:

That's me in the middle at my fifth birthday party,
bloody-nose Patty on the left, and best friend
Melody on the right (in my every day clothes).
These were my only two friends, and the only
people I invited to my party. You don't get many
gifts that way, but you don't have to give many
either.

More proof:

Bob and me

And even more proof!

Cowgirl and Indians

(I don't have nearly so much hair now; it's
shrinking, but I haven't gone bald, just cutting it
off more and more...in case.)
See me and friends from work below.

From left: Beth, Kate, Kris, me, Deb
at the company picnic.

I bet the people at my work hate emptying my trash can

I think they probably do rock, paper, scissors (or paper, rock, scissors, or whatever) to see which one has to empty my can.

I seem to have developed nose-bleed syndrome, which creates a lot of soiled tissues, and is actually ironic. Because I remember as a kid how I had a next-door neighbor (I think it was Patty W.) who used to get nose bleeds all the time. She got attention for it. People rushed to her aid, told her to hold her head back, oooohed and aaaahed until the nose bleed was over. So I recall thinking, You know, I want one of those nose bleeds. It was a time in my life when I wasn't getting much attention. I was the fourth of five children, and Becky had come along when I was four and stolen my last-child status. So I was desperate. [The entry in my baby book written by my mother under Problems of Cooperation says: Baby sister Becky was born during this year. Terri loved her, but could not help being a little jealous of her, since up to now she had been the center of attraction.]

I remember climbing into Becky's crib (she wasn't in it; she was probably being held and dawdled over by my mother, who had forgotten about me by then). So I climbed into her crib and tried to dive nose first onto the floor. I wasn't successful, of course. Instead of a nose bleed, I got a big bump on the noggin. I'm sure my mom doesn't even know this story. She was with Becky, who not only became the last and favorite child, but had red hair to boot.

So nose bleeds during chemo must be the result of thinning blood. (Which is why I can't take Ibuprofen, o rue the day, my drug of choice for all my old-age aches and pains.) The other day I was at church meeting new visitors and talking to old friends. When I got into my car to go home and looked into the rear view mirror (don't we all do that?) I noticed a big, red, dried substance on my left nostril. I had been laughing and talking and feeling generally cool with a bloody booger on my nose.

Will somebody please tell me about this next time?!

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

I need my own, dedicated, personal bathroom at work

None of this sharing stuff. None of this possibly someone else could walk in at any time as I'm swaying around, rocking back and forth, and crooning while having a Pebble Poo. (Sorry, Audrey, and all you fancy pants, poo-talk challenged people; this blog is NOT for you.)

I cannot have complete and total freedom while sharing a bathroom with someone else. Or while worrying that I might have to share a bathroom with someone else at any moment. Even when I know Bob's in the house (he has an uncanny ability to need to go to the very bathroom I'm in at the very time I'm in it, despite the fact we have three, yes three, toilets in our smallish, three-story house), I have trouble feeling free to sing and dance on the toilet.

So you can imagine how restricted I feel at work. And feeling restrained leads to being even more bound up. I cannot take this any longer. I used to advocate for a nap room. I think work places should have little catacomb-like spots we could squeeze into and take a 20-minute nap. Then we could get back to work feeling refreshed and creative. Better than strong coffee.

But my desires have altered. Now I want my own personal port-a-potty. (Not like this one in Japan.) But, private and soundproof.

And I want it now!

Friday, June 29, 2007

I'm all hooked up

Today is the day. Next weekend, Bob wants to celebrate that I'm a quarter of a way through chemo. It won't do much good to celebrate this weekend. Cause I won't have much of an appetite.

I walked into to Cardinal Bernadine Cancer Center at 9 o'clock. First you get your blood drawn, but there was a backlog, a line of patients waiting, so, after a while, they sent me into the chemo ward to get it done. Then back out to wait for two hours until they had a seat for me. I read about half my book while waiting.

They called me about 11:30 to come back into the chemo ward, mauve lounge chairs line the walls and corners and people shuffle in and out for chemo. This place is always crowded, full of people with cancer. The ward has a few beds and private rooms for those who seem to be the worse. If you chance a look, their heads are tilted to the side, eyes half closed, mouths half open. They look pitifully sick, not like me. I look just fine, I think, not sick at all.

When I first learned I had colon cancer, I kind of felt like "a chosen one," a person who was chosen to endure suffering to build character and learn a few things about life. You know the St. Paul philosophy: Romans 5:3-5: ". . . We gladly suffer, because we know that suffering helps us to endure. And endurance builds character, which gives us a hope that will never disappoint us. All of this happens because God has given us the Holy Spirit, who fills our hearts with his love." (CEV)

But once I walk in here, I don't feel quite so chosen anymore. I feel more like a Christian walking into a packed church or an activist at a peace rally or a Democrat in Chicago. I'm just like everybody else. There are lots of us. But here, we look different. Some of us are bald, some of us limp, some of us look pale and pallid, some of us need wheelchairs. The lucky few of us, like me, drive ourselves to the clinic, read, surf the Web, look fine, have hair, then go home.

I do have hope, dreams. The book I'm reading, loaned to me by Anne, makes me want to go to Italy, buy an old convent, and start a bed and breakfast. (But I don't really like people enough for that.) I want to sip cappuccino and sit outside in a chair and watch the sunrise. And the sunset. And read and eat and take naps in between. I want to drink these strange Italian drinks the author talks about, grappa, prosecco, Campari (I guess these are drinks.)

Mostly, I just want to be finished with all this. To feel great again. To be cancer free. (Am I cancer free already? They cut it out of me.) To eat with relish. I do not gladly suffer. I panicked on the drive in because I knew. I knew what was to come.

God, give me character. Sustain my hope.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

When people ask how are you, do they really want to know?

Hmmm. That's an endless debate. How many times have you read in Miss Manners that when people politely ask you, "How are you today?" that they don't really want to know. They want to hear, "Just fine thank you, and you?" It's the American greeting, a long version of "Hello."

But if they know you have cancer, are they really asking how you are? And do they really want to know. "Well, thanks for asking. Today I feel like puking." Or, "I haven't pooped in three days. So I'm slightly angry." Or "I've had a headache for a week, but it's probably just an anticipatory tension headache of my next chemo treatment because I know what will follow."

I am an anticipator. A worrier about pain to come. I didn't really worry if my colonoscopy would hurt, but for months before the procedure, I worried about the day I would have to spend drinking that poop cleanser and not eating. I hate to be hungry. Really really bad. I have food everywhere. I have a 32 quart Rubbermaid container at work stuffed with food and snacks.

And I didn't worry about the surgery where they would slit me open and cut out part of my descending colon, and sew me back up. Because I had nothing to compare it with. So I didn't know what sort of pain to expect. (But now I do; it hurt like hell.) But I healed pretty quickly and was back to work in a few weeks because, generally, I am a healthy person.

But I know what's to come now. And I fear it. Mostly I fear the bad mood I will be in, and consequently being generally disliked. Nobody really likes a sour puss. And it's hard to put on a happy face when you have poison coursing through your body. Is my husband going to get tired of me frowning? Are my colleagues going to rue the day I joined the team? Most of my friends aren't around enough to get tired of me. Many of them live more than 100 miles away. And that's the way I like it. And probably they way they like it, at least over the next few months.

Today, at least, I can say, "I feel good." That usually means I have an appetite, and I feel like getting up and walking to the mail box or the water fountain or the bathroom (washroom in the Midwest). That means when I get home tonight, though I might need a nap, I'll feel like walking Louie and Spunk (if she wants to go).

I have less than 24 hours to enjoy it. By this time tomorrow, I'll be hooked up to the chemo IV.

But I'm fine, thanks.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Today I felt like an ephinany might come

Have you ever felt like that? Like the "answer" was just around the corner? Like soon you would know exactly what you were to do with the rest of your life? I felt it for most of the day, but it's 4:40 p.m. and nothing's come to me. I've been reading a lot because sometimes answers come to you through other people's words.

I love my job (and co-workers), so it wouldn't be a job ephinany. I mean I don't know many people who wouldn't like to work a little less, a day or two fewer a week. At least at my age. So it must be something else. I'm going to keep on it, and I'll let you know.

Maybe I just need life counseling. Or a nap.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

The results of my most recent CAT scan (and not mad at God, for cancer, at least)

For my family (and friends who care).

The nurse called Friday after my my recent CAT scan to tell me the nodules in my lungs looked normal. They hadn't grown. It's always good when the nurse calls. When the doctor calls, you've probably got trouble. I wasn't worried, but then so far I haven't been that worried.

Bob said he can't imagine why he hasn't been mad at God because I got cancer, and I can't say that I have either. In fact, I haven't even considered being mad at God about getting cancer. I got mad at God today when God made every light I drove through yellow, then red, and I had to stop. As usual, I was late to church, and since I'm the priest's wife, I should get there on time, but so far, I might have been on time once. But when the lights turn red on me, time and time again as I'm rushing to church, I shout at God.

When I shouted at God today, at the 31st red light (all right, maybe the fifth), I thought, "Funny, I'm mad at God for this, but not for giving me cancer." What in the heck could that possibly be about? If anybody has the answer, let me know.

But, back to the lung nodules, which I didn't even know existed until my primary care doctor decided to make me have another CAT scan. From mayoclinic.com:

"Although most lung nodules are noncancerous (benign), some represent early-stage lung cancer.

Lung nodules — small masses of tissue in the lung — are quite common. They appear as round, white shadows on a chest X-ray or computerized tomography (CT) scan.

Your doctor may compare your current chest X-ray or CT scan with a previous one. If the nodule appears in earlier scans and hasn't changed in size, shape or appearance, it's probably noncancerous. Causes of noncancerous lung nodules include histoplasmosis, tuberculosis, lung cysts and vascular abnormalities. Such nodules usually require no treatment.

However, if a nodule is new or has changed in size, shape or appearance, your doctor may recommend further testing — such as a CT scan, positron emission tomography (PET) scan or tissue biopsy — to determine if it is cancerous."

Colon cancer spreads to the liver and lungs first, so I guess it was good to have it checked out.

Thanks God.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

We met this guy at a bar last night

He was a handsome, young man. We stopped by Berghoff's (no longer its name) on the way to see Beethoven's Ninth Symphony.

He was standing, and I offered him the empty stool next to me. No, he didn't want it because, in his short history (before Bergoff's Bar changed to 17 West), there were never stools at the bar, and that's the way he liked it. (I argued with him slightly but gave up because he was adamant). A few minutes later, he asked my husband and me, "Where are you from?" Berwyn, we said. And he didn't 't believe us. Ok, Nashville (me) and West Tennessee (Bob), originally. We moved here three years ago.

So in the course of our conversation, this (rather pompous, but cute) Midwesterner lets us know, he's always hated the South (Atlanta is tolerable because it is a large city and cosmopolitan) and that Southern accents are like (or used to be like) fingernails on a chalkboard to him. He has some relatives who grew up in Knoxville, and when he first heard their accents, he just could barely stand to talk to them. But the accents have now "grown on him," and he finds them charming. (Right. Give me a break.)

Now, I wonder, what would possess a person to proclaim his hate for the South (true, it has its sordid history) and his (former) abhorrence of Southern accents to TWO SOUTHERNERS. I can be very undiplomatic myself (ask any of my colleagues and friends), but I don't think, if I met someone, I would proclaim my profound dislike for the whole segment of the country in which they grew up. I would not say, "My god, I hate the North because of New York accents." (I might, however, indicate New York is not a place I would like to live. Too intimidating.)

There is something about the South and people who have Southern accents that allows outright ridicule. People believe they have carte blanche permission to make fun of the general area of the country and the people who currently (or formerly) reside in it. Because we have Southern accents, we automatically have 10 to 20 points taken off our IQs. (Now it might be true of me, but my husband has about a 2,000 IQ and a Ph.D. from Northwestern.) Genteel Southern accents from parts of South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia or Georgia are sometimes charming to these people, but I'm not lucky enough to have one of those.

I run into people like this at work, too. They will mock my Southern accent, but do you think they would ever consider mocking an African American accent? Nope that would be racial discrimination. It wouldn't be tolerated. And I work at a very liberal, politically correct place that provides anti-racism training to all new employees.

My colleagues are tired of my harping on this, but it hasn't been resolved, and I'll keep on it until it is.

Now, it's breakfast time, and I'm fixing to get some vittles.