Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year!

And please let it be a healthy one for us all!!!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Parties

Last night we went to a party thrown (strange word)by a former colleague and cancer survivor who had stage 4 lymphoma. Stage 4 doesn't seem to mean the same across the board in cancer world. In general it means it has spread beyond the original site past the lymph nodes into other organs. In her case, cancer was found in every major organ yet she survives and thrives after a year of hell. I've run across other Stage 4 lymphoma survivors also. Stage 4 breast cancer is a more difficult beast to contain. You can slow down the march but for now, little can be done to stop it completely. Hopefully that will change soon.

So my friend was the only one we knew at the party. Sometimes it is intimidating to make conversation with total strangers searching for some commonality (hard to find amongst all the deer hunters there with their tales of gore) but I did meet a woman who loved long distance bike rides, travel, and has done alot to further science education so I was entertained.

As for deer hunting; I realize that there are too many deer around here and since our collision with one, I am constantly scanning the shoulders, especially at night, for them to come bounding in front of me. These hunters like to go up north even though the deer are scarcer there. Too much cross fire down here for them plus they like rifles not shot guns. (There is a line drawn across Michigan above which rifles are legal) I don't believe that hunters though are doing a 'noble' service. I remember reading how one hunter was patting himself on the back for culling the weaker members of the herd-the albinos. Most hunters are encouraged to do the opposite: go for the biggest buck with the most points leaving the weaker males to breed with females. If they were interested in reducing the herd, extending doe season would help. But you won't find me out there anytime soon shooting does. I cringed hearing their stories. I turn off the nature channel when they insist on showing predator/prey interactions.

So I have one more week to tough it out outside before I can rejoin the Y. I went down to the river yesterday where they occasionally clean the paths. We've had only 2 inches of snow but somehow it melting and refreezing over and over again with no salt has made a safe running surface hard to find. In the past, I've run on much worse and maybe have fallen once due to ice but now I am super cautious and uneasy with my poor balance (due to chemo) and memory of breaking my arm. The path yesterday had a few clear areas and it was good to exercise again but annoying to deal with the many slippery parts. I will repeat this later today.

Shanna stopped by only briefly yesterday with her crew as she has lots of obligations to fulfill. They will return tonight for a 'family' dinner.

Monday, December 28, 2009

2 sick little boys


Although he looks fine here, poor Daniel has a cold

This has been the day of repairing broken things. First the tire of our car. We had run over some broken chain on X-mas and it became lodged in our tires-a flat. Then Naomi came over complaining she has no control in the snow due to bald tires: all replaced now and Josh dropped his car off last night: bent wheel. Oh the phone had been out of order almost a week: now fixed. So the things are all fixed.

But everyone in Shanna's family has a cold and the boys don't suffer in silence. Not much sleep around here for anyone. The deal is that Shanna et al stay here for half the visit and then on to Ramy's. My time is up but on the plus side, it will be quiet at night.But I will miss the babies in the morning.

Too snowy to safely run; I only left the house to take Steve to the mechanic. Naomi came over while the tires were being replaced wanting another cooking lesson. Today's subject: crepes.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Sunday Funnies

Somehow it just doesn't feel like Sunday here. A Happy Birthday to my sister-in-law!! The kids enjoyed their many presents and outfits from the Northwest.

These below are from a Washington Post contest:

Bozone (n.): The substance surrounding stupid people that stops
bright ideas from penetrating. The bozone unfortunately, shows
little sign of breaking down in the near future.

Cashtration (n.): The act of buying a house, which renders the
subject financially impotent for an indefinite period.

Sarchasm (n): The gulf between the author of sarcastic wit and the person who doesn't get it.

Inoculatte (v): To take coffee intravenously when you are running late.

Hipatitis (n): Terminal coolness.

Osteopornosis (n): A degenerate disease. (This one got extra credit.)
Karmageddon (n): It's like, when everybody is sending off all these really bad vibes, right? And then, like, the Earth explodes and it's like, a serious bummer.

Decafalon (n.): The grueling event of getting through the day
consuming only things that are good for you.

Glibido (v): All talk and no action.

Dopeler effect (n): The tendency of stupid ideas to seem
smarter when they come very quickly.

Arachnoleptic fit (n.): The frantic dance performed just after
you've accidentally walked through a spider web.

Beelzebug (n.): Satan in the form of a mosquito that gets into
your bedroom at three in the morning and cannot be cast out.

Caterpallor (n.): The color you turn after finding half a grub in the fruit you're eating.

Foreploy (v): Any misrepresentation about yourself for the purpose of getting laid.

Ignoranus (n): A person who's both stupid and an asshole.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Not so close calls


The ladder is on Julia's former store


Naomi soothing the motion junkie

Two events happened in Michigan on X-mas yesterday: the fire started by a terrorist on an Amsterdam to Detroit flight and a fire in downtown Dexter. This was the same flight we took back from Amsterdam only 2 months earlier. As for the fire, it began in the office of an embroidery shop and quickly spread to 3 other businesses and the apartments above them. This embroidery shop used to be the dog bakery (pawtisserie)owned by my daughter-in-law that she had to close in April due to the economy.
So our living room is full of toys. Little Daniel is a motion junkie: he can only be soothed if kept in constant motion. If you try to sit, he screams if he is in that mood.
The snow melted enough for me to get a run in. Yesterday it poured all day (didn't seem to stop the fire though).

Friday, December 25, 2009

X-mas


Josh and Julia

The boys and their parents


Daniel takes a nap in Naomi's arms


My 3 wonderful kids. Note Naomi's brown hair now. Daniel spit up on Shanna right before this picture.


Oliver was so excited to see Sunny the dog

So the boys woke up to lots of presents under the tree. Oliver loved unwrapping everyones and got lots of trucks-his favorite. We went to Josh and Julia's for more present unwrapping and brunch. Oliver and Sunny chased each other nonstop. Shanna and her family are now at her in-laws and Naomi is with Dontae's family. It is a quiet X-mas night here. A good time for all. Hope everyone has had a blessed X-mas as we did.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

The babies are here!


Oliver is happy to be here

Very, very hard to take a picture of the boys together


He is so cute


After driving all night, Shanna and her crew showed up around 6 am. Though they had no trouble with weather or customs and the babies were pretty good, they were quite tired. So while the parents rested, I took Daniel and Steve had Oliver. Shanna was a big baby also but according to my baby book, Daniel has surpassed her for height and weight even though he was a preemie and she came late. He still doesn't have the head control most 4 month olds have but he is very alert and social. It is quite easy to make him chortle. Naomi spent lots of time later in the day entertaining him. I will post more pictures as I load them up.
While Julia has been gone, Josh has been spending lots of time with Naomi and dealing with her many issues: one of which I have been too blind to notice. I am happy that the kids are mostly getting along now. We had a family dinner here that I had Naomi help with as she really never learned to cook. So it is nice to have everyone here.
There was a point yesterday afternoon in which everyone was gone. It was calm and sunny. Although still cold, a narrow clear path has formed on some of our streets and I ran on it. A lady walking on it (vs the sidewalks which are all icy) stopped me: she was a mom of one of my favorite girl scouts. (I had a troop for 6 years for girls Shanna's age). I have seen this woman before over the years but she usually avoids me so I was surprised that she asked me to stop. Also she has orange hair now-very unlike her-so I barely recognized her. Her daughter was a very gifted child but chaffed under her mother's many rules and expectations as she grew up. This seems to happen a lot when the parents are from one culture but they have children in this culture. The kids immediately adopt the American way and this causes many household conflicts. In this family's case, the child made some very bad decisions sabotaging her success to rebel. It was very sad to see happen. It still isn't clear if the mom ever sees the child.She said she never went to the distant city where the child is. I told her that Shanna is home for the time being with 2 baby boys. The mom told me how very lucky I am.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Holiday Gatherings



I went to the neighborhood tea yesterday. It was good to see moms that I've known since the boys were in kindergarten. They seemed surprised that I appear so healthy but many of them see me run.

I wish the city would go back to salting tertiary roads. Aside from it impacting my running, it is dangerous. Several people reported sliding into the main road from our neighborhood streets.
They did plow a path along the river where Josh and I walked Sunny yesterday and I returned to run on it today though today, it had a dusting of new slippery snow,

We went to see the IMAX 3D version of Avatar. Predictable story but stellar special effects.
Later I went for Korean BBQ with my old labmates cooking on a hibachi that came out of the table. It was fun and good company.

Our phone is out of order but our DSL works. Argh! So if I don't appear to be answering my phone, call my cell.

Shanna et al is slowing inching her way on Rte 90 as I type. She will drive all night if she has the energy so they might be here real early tomorrow morning. Such a long drive with 2 little babies but they are hoping for the kids to sleep. We used to drive overnight to NYC when the older kids were toddlers so that Josh would sleep (Shanna usually wasn't much of a problem.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Solstice

I am not a fan of winter's long nights and short days. But for the next 6 months, each day will bring more and more light. Yay!

We don't have much snow here but since they have cut back on city services, no more salting and plowing of side streets so I have no clear path to run. I did run on top of the snow yesterday as there was no ice underneath it but the ice has had some time to form so I am out of luck. My Y membership is in limbo. I will take a long walk with my son and his German shepherd Sunny instead.

To keep me occupied, I have a few holiday parties to attend. Later today is our tea for Moms whose Sons Graduated from Huron in 2000 with a few moms whose sons graduated in 2003 thrown in for fun. We were originally mothers whose sons played on a neighborhood baseball team together. They were usually the worst team in the league but Josh insisted on playing with them as they were his friends (and many still are his friends). Since it wasn't much fun seeing them lose night after night, we'd go out for drinks or coffee afterwards. The baseball days eventually ended so we started meeting once a year to catch up.

Tomorrow, I'll go for a holiday dinner with some former co-workers and next week a party with yet another former co-worker. Wednesday Shanna and her family will be here. They start the long drive from Boston tomorrow. I will be looking at the weather map nervously until they are here.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Buche de Noel


The buche de Noel aka The Yule Log


The presents I wrapped 'for the moms' and the Buche


Our tree
Still isn't completely decorated. I am wearing my summer art fair purchase


Every year, our postpartum support group,'The Awesome Moms', has our holiday dinner. In January, we will have our 30th anniversary of our first meeting though I knew 2 of the moms before our group started. Between the 5 of us, we have 10 kids and 5 grandkids. Everyone goes all out to make the dinner special. My task is the dessert. Usually Naomi is around to help with the marzipan decorations but with the snow yesterday, I didn't want her driving. The buche de noel is a jellyroll made to look like a log. The hardest part is making the cake base that will hold up to rolling into a log. This year, my base was a flourless torte-big mistake as it was much too fragile for the rolling up part. (I am going back to a genoise base) It broke into several pieces and my jelly roll turned into more like a sandwich which I liberally covered with a fudge frosting that covered up most of the cosmetic defects. I filled it a whipped cream cherry filling. The frosting seemed too thin initially even though I beat it forever but soon as I put it on the cake, it set up like cement. So the cake wasn't as pretty as I hoped it would be but it tasted very good. Chocolate, almonds and cherries-how can you go wrong with that?

So caviar, cocktail shrimp, special salmon, great salads, brie covered with pear conserves, chambord-champagne cocktails, lots of wine, good company, beautiful decorations, carols, candles, presents... a nice night among old friends who have gone through so much together.

Ms. Naomi made an appearance Friday to help with the tree decorating but got bored after a short while. We have lots of ornaments (even more after last night). Some are looking pretty ragged after 33 years. I was in this craft making phase early in our marriage so we have lots of embroidered or needlepoint ornaments. Also we still have the kids' handmade ones. Our tree has scoliosis; the tree looks straight but there is a curve in the main trunk which makes balancing it a challenge. Hopefully it will hold up..I've lost so many ornaments to trees falling over.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Picking those apples...

I've written before how running is the perfect exercise for me as the equipment and skill requirements are low. Still I don't do it 'right' inviting critics to come out of the woodwork telling me what I am doing wrong. They usually comment about my excessive arm swing. About a mile into my run today, I hear someone gasping behind me wondering if she could give me a little advice as she sees me out here quite often.
Sure why not. To eliminate my arm swing, she said I should imagine that I am picking apples straight ahead on the road. I tried her method for a while and I think she's right that it helps eliminate my side to side motion but it was hard concentrating on that and I was especially tired today. I would do it 'her way' for short blocks of time especially going up hills. My advice to her-don't run so hard that you are sucking air.

My route should be retitled 'the deer graveyard'. At least 4 carcasses are along the side-one with its head missing.

My X-mas decorating is on hold until we can straighten out the light situation. Usually I'm very careful to only pack away 'the good lights' but I must have been too tired last year to pay attention. As it was, I was too tired due to chemo to even decorate the tree though my friends came and did it for me.

A year ago today, my hair all fell out. I was going to a party that day and still had about half of it left. I piled it under a cap and away I went. When I came back, I cut it to about 2 inches as the weight of it was tugging on my burning scalp. I still have that pile of hair. Most of that was gone by the next day.

Some funny puns my friend Nancy sent me:

A vulture boards an airplane, carrying two dead raccoons. The
stewardess looks at him and says, "I'm sorry, sir, only one carrion
allowed per passenger."

Two hydrogen atoms meet. One says, "I've lost my
electron." The other says, "Are you sure?" The first
replies "Yes, I'm positive."

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Cold, cold days

The past few days have been lazy ones. Since my Y membership ran out (I am waiting word on a partial scholarship), if I want to exercise, it has to be outside. Fortunately it has been dry for the last 3 days.I try to balance the wind versus the cold. It is colder the earlier it is but less windy very early in the morning. Still with the wind chill, it whas been around 7 degrees outside during my runs.

I've done a little X-mas shopping, the tree is up though not decorated and I haven't made anything special for X-mas. Shanna and her family will be here in less than a week. Naomi's last final was today. I've been helping her study for the past 3 nights. Hopefully she'll do OK. She'll seem like she understands her work then she makes careless mistakes on her tests.. I wish I could transfer some of my knowledge to her. She is still living with her boyfriend and the pregnant roommate has returned despite being kicked out a few weeks ago. Naomi has no job and seems to think the car will operate on fumes. She had to be rescued the other night with a gas can. But I'll get a 3 week break from worrying about her school.

We had lunch yesterday with Josh and Julia. Julia just lost her job due to the bad economy. Fortunately Josh's is doing well.

Sleeping has been difficult recently. I awake by 2 am and start thinking about stuff. I then try to read or do puzzles to stop thinking about negative things. Last night my rib hurt worrying me as I did nothing to it. The pain since has gone away so I assume it isn't bone mets (which would be constant pain getting worse as the tumor grows).

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Anniversary


Pretty at night

The Kingsley Inn

Our whirlpool

Our room

Sunday was our 32nd wedding anniversary so we went to the western side of Michigan to Saugatuck, which is full of art galleries. We stayed in a little town nearby called Fennville. The jacuzzi made my sore muscles feel better. More and more of my muscles and joints now seem sore. I am assuming this is some sort of post-treatment neuralgia/myalgia caused by Taxol. Sometimes it seems like the bone itself seems sore, which makes me nervous but as it isn't getting any more painful as time goes on, I will assume it's not due to bone mets. There are some nice shops I like to visit in Saugatuck and now I have some very cool tops.



I've been slowing plowing through the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symp. abstracts. So much stuff! Lots of proteins identified that predict survival etc and which could possibly be targeted for treatment. My old company presented data on an oral drug for Her2 positive people. That would cut down on the once a month infusions needed now. Still see no cure for TNBC any time soon but maybe in the next 5-10 years.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

San Antonio

Every year around this time, there is a conference in SA on advances in breast cancer research. It is still on-going and I haven't read the abstracts but so far I haven't seen any news specific to TNBC.

Interesting news for BC in general:
1) Oral bisphosphonates seem to reduce the incidence of breast cancer by some unknown mechanism. In general, women with HIGH bone density are at increased risk for breast cancer presumably due to their higher levels of estrogen, which is associated with higher risk of BC. These women are not likely to be taking bisphosphonates. But presumably the study took this into account and had women with similar bone densities divided into drug taking and non-drug taking groups and the drug taking ladies had 33% less BC. These bisphosphonates are not without risks: osteonecrosis of the jaw is just one side effect along with bone pain. I'm not sure how they convinced ladies with normal bone densities to be on this study (all were cancer free in the beginning of the study).

2) For Stage 4 her2+ ladies: Tykerb added to Herceptin extended their lifespans by 2 years. Herceptin latch onto the protein on the surface of the cancer cell whereas Tykerb attacks it within the call.
All cancer cells have human epidermal growth factors (HER) but HER2+ have extra copies(about 25% of BC). What I am wondering is what Herceptin would do to Her2 neg BC. I'm sure there are studies: I just haven't seen the results.

3) Also for Stage 4 her2+ BC. Generally Herceptin is given until the tumors start growing again as it is assumed that the drug stopped working. But in this study they kept on giving Herceptin resulting in extended lifetimes.

4)Zometa vs a monoclonal antibody for bone mets: just as effective with less side effects. Allegedly a double blind study but as one drug is given iv and the other sc, I'm wondering how 'blind' the study was. As expensive as Zometa is, I wonder how much more this monoclonal antibody product is.

5)and 6)Alcohol consumption and recurrence. Even as 25g of alcohol (1 oz or so)daily significantly increases recurrence significantly. Also increasing death in recurrences is having a BMI over 25. These authors surmise that the recurrence is discovered later in the big ladies leading to increased death rates.

It was sunny, calm but cold this morning for my run. I wore gloves for the first time (I only do if the temp 20 deg but I took them off after 2 miles). I have to stay off the dirt roads now as the ice doesn't melt on them as soon as the paved ones.

Tomorrow is Steve's and my anniversary so we are taking a minivacation. I see that there is freezing rain forecasted for the morning. Yuck.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Lazy Sue

It has been so cold and windy here for the past 2 days. Yesterday I ran inside on the Y track-around and around and around. Even though I didn't run as long as I usually do, I am sore maybe because of no hills and constantly having to turn. I couldn't get myself to repeat that today.

Naomi and I went to see her old basketball team play last night. It was nice seeing some of the parents and the players. I miss watching her play. Her semester will be over in less than a week.

I went to the monthly BC support group this morning. Today there were only 2 other ladies-one who was new to me. Before dealing with cancer, she and her husband sailed around the world, which sounded like fun though dangerous as they had close calls with Somali pirates. She has a medical background and keeps current with many treatments so it was interesting exchanging info. I know that some of my readers think that since my cancer is probably gone, I should move on to non-cancer world, although the other people there were further away from treatment than I. It is a much smaller part of my life.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Survivor cooking class

Last night I went to the Wellness Community's cooking for survivorship class. It always is interesting and educational taught by a 2 time breast cancer survivor. A few of us are regulars (though my neighbor could not attend yesterday) and it is nice to see how people are progressing. The topic was "holiday appetizers". The trick is to include healthy foods important to cancer survivors. She made a salmon dip of yogurt cheese, which she showed how she made-non fat except for whatever fat that is in salmon:red pepper,spinach, feta cheese quesadilla, which was tasty and colorful; mushrooms stuffed with spinach and bread crumbs(not so good but if she put more garlic in it, it would be fine; and a hot cranberry mulled cocktail.

But have I incorporated all her good suggestions into my own cooking and eating? Sadly no. I am trying to eat more fruit and vegetables but I fall short. I've made a few of her recipes but not too often. You would think that if I were really serious about surviving, I'd clean up my act. I really have no one to blame except myself as now only Steve and my house guest is here and the latter goes out of her way to eat only healthy foods. I do exercise quite a bit.

Naomi spent a few hours here yesterday. At least she pretends to listen to me but she is struggling in many ways. Dealing with her is like walking on eggshells: anything she perceives as criticism, she stomps out. We are to go to her old bball team's home opener tonight to see how her teammates are doing. They are playing the top team in the state so it probably won't be that much fun.

The weather has changed for the worse with high winds and very cold. The westside of Ann Arbor has no power due to downed powerlines. I went to the Y to do the ellipitical trainer and lift weights. I still have a pain in my right arm when I do certain moves but I am thinking it must be nerve damage somehow and not a bone met.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Mucin

There are no targeted therapies for triple negative breast cancer. It is susceptible to being killed by traditional agents (such as my friend the Red Devil)that kill fast growing cells. Mucin 1 is a protein that 92% of triple negative breast cancer cells have (other tumors such as ovarian have it too). It is not clear to me what its function is but a vaccine has been developed by Cleveland Clinic researchers that targets it. If all goes well, the vaccine will create antibodies to any cell containing this protein and kill it before it gets to metastasize. A small study is in progress. Hopefully this will work.

Also in the TNBC news is that these patients are more likely to have 'metabolic disorder' versus non-TNBC breast cancer patients. People with this disorder have low HDL, high glucose levels, high waist to hip ratios, tendency to be diabetic, etc. How this might make people prone to TNBC, who knows. Maybe the TNBC cells feed off the high glucose levels. I am overweight but I don't think I have this disorder. Metformin (an anti-diabetic agent) has been shown in the lab to deplete TNBC cells and kill them. I don't know if any clinic studies are in progress to see how this would help.

Ignorance is sometimes bliss. Every study I read starts with the same depressing spiel on how deadly TNBC is. While in treatment I did a lot of reading and I felt doomed. Now that I feel better, I think that I might escape with my life and that this whole mess will be behind me.

Since it will be very windy in the next 2 days, I ran outside today (cold but no wind or ice) despite this being a Y day.

This is by 400th post on this blog. Someday I will go back and edit.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Little boys..



Little boys will try anything. When Josh was three, I found my keys sticking out of the outlet, fortunately he chose the ground. Yes I had an outlet protector on but he used the keys to quickly remove it. Around the same time, I had left him in a running car while I dealt with the garage door. Within a minute, he got out of his safety seat and managed to get the car into neutral pretending to drive the car. When I looked back, the car was going back into our semi busy street with him turning the wheel every which way.

I get to see the next generation of little boys in a couple of weeks. I can't wait.

It was snowing as I ran today but not enough to stick on the ground. For our anniversary this weekend, we want to go to the western part of the state where more than a foot of snow is on the ground. Maybe we can cross country ski if my balance isn't too bad.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Sunday Funny



The world's biggest preemie continues his expontial growth


A New York lawmaker called and asked, ''Do airlines put your physical description on your bag so they know whose luggage belongs to whom?'' I said, 'No, why do you ask?' He replied, ''Well, when I checked in with the airline, they put a tag on my luggage that said (FAT), and I'm overweight. I think that's very rude!'' After putting him on hold for a minute, while I looked into it, I came back and explained the airport code for Fresno, CA is (FAT - Fresno Air Terminal) and the airline was just putting a destination tag on his luggage.


When we took an Air France plane to Italy, they put 'lourde' stickers all over my roommate's luggage (heavy) but she didn't take it personally.
Twenty degrees when I went for my run today but at least it was sunny. Waiting for my son to take me for lunch. Hopefully he did not forget.

Naomi dyed her beautiful red hair brown. It looks awful and breaks my heart.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Christmas Fair



Cute photo sign I got at the Christmas Fair. You had a choice of 6 or so variations for each letter and of course, you could spell any word you wanted.

I went to the Christmas fair this morning at the kids' former high school. Lots of cute stuff. I bought some jewelry for myself and others, a real pretty picture frame and the photo sign pictured above.

I am taking a day off of exercising. My upper right arm hurts. Maybe I sprained a muscle or maybe it is nerve damage from the surgeries/radiation but it worries me somewhat. I guess if it were bone cancer, it would hurt more than it does plus the pain keeps shifting from place to place suggesting nerve damage.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Stats

Another device appealing to my inner nerd is my stat counter. I love statistics though not the ones predicting my survival (which fortunately improve with time-just like a two year old has a better chance of surviving until s/he is 80 than a new born). My site averages about 40 hits/day. In the past month, I've had visitors from 36 different countries including Qatar, Mauritus,India, Estonia, Nepal, Lithuania, Kazakhstan, Turks and Caicos Islands, Malaysia, Kuwait, Brunei and all the major Western European countries (except Denmark and Austria). I haven't had any visitors lately from South America though in the past, several Brazilians appeared.I have many visitors from Canada and the UK but hardly any from the middle of the US. Some of my visitors are regulars that I know: some like the people from Lidingo, Sweden and the American University in DC remain a mystery. Many visitors come only once led here by a search engine result. I can tell what they were searching for with the counter. For some reason, when I wrote about the Abruzzo earthquake, my site became very popular even though I didn't have anything useful on it. Recently searches for bad ear wax and what color tumors are have led to my blog. One search: Triple negative: am I going to die? was especially sad. Lately my post on 'donkey stew' drew several visitors. Who would search for such a term?
If I look closely, I can determine the operating system of the computer, the internet portal and the resolution of the screen. Not so interesting.

There was a dusting of snow on the ground this morning. I ran out in the country trying to avoid frozen spots. Dirt roads remain icier longer and soon I won't be able to safely run on my favorite path. Another threat to my safety: a young man drove into the sun going 60 mph texting steering with his elbows, eyes on his text. I doubt he even saw me in the bike lane just a foot or so from his path.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Ms Pedantic

Back in the lab, my lab mate used to call me "Suzie Chemistry' because he unfortunately heard me introducing myself to a group of high schoolers as Sue Chemist instead of my real name which has a similar sound. He made up a silly song:

Sooo-zy chem-a-stry, Sooo-zy chem-a-stry
She can make a drug or two.


But others called me Ms Pedantic as I was the official proofreader and editor of many of their papers. I had an eye for pointing out others mistakes but learned quickly: only if asked. My favorite target was an English boss who insisted in writing in British English while representing an American company so I merrily circled the esses where zees (or zeds for him) should have been. To keep me on my toes, he always misused the word 'principle' when he meant 'principal.' I know what all of you are thinking: Ms Pendantic, heal thyself!!

I do occasionally reread these posts and are deeply embarassed at all the mistakes I make. I do know better. Also I would like to pull out the cancer card here and remind that word substitution is a common chemobrain symptom. The chemobrain study I was in monitored how quickly I recognized things but there is no way to measure the 'word recall time' as I search for the correct word.

Yesterday was the anniversary of me beginning chemo. What a frightening day! I expected the worst as they slowly syringed the Red Devil into me but really, it was anticlimatic. I was able to run OK the next day carefully monitoring myself as it is known to be cardiotoxic. Over the weeks, chemo slowly sapped my energy.I am so glad that is over.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Poetry Night

NAME OF HORSES

All winter your brute shoulders strained against collars, padding
and steerhide over the ash hames, to haul
sledges of cordwood for drying through spring and summer,
for the Glenwood stove next winter, and for the simmering range.

In April you pulled cartloads of manure to spread on the fields,
dark manure of Holsteins, and knobs of your own clustered with oats.
All summer you mowed the grass in meadow and hayfield, the mowing machine
clacketing beside you, while the sun walked high in the morning;

and after noon's heat, you pulled a clawed rake through the same acres,
gathering stacks, and dragged the wagon from stack to stack,
and the built hayrack back, uphill to the chaffy barn,
three loads of hay a day from standing grass in the morning.

Sundays you trotted the two miles to church with the light load
a leather quartertop buggy, and grazed in the sound of hymns.
Generation on generation, your neck rubbed the windowsill
of the stall, smoothing the wood as the sea smooths glass.

When you were old and lame, when your shoulders hurt bending to graze,
one October the man, who fed you and kept you, and harnessed you every morning,
led you through corn stubble to sandy ground above Eagle Pond,
and dug a hole beside you where you stood shuddering in your skin,

and lay the shotgun's muzzle in the boneless hollow behind your ear,
and fired the slug into your brain, and felled you into your grave,
shoveling sand to cover you, setting goldenrod upright above you,
where by next summer a dent in the ground made your monument.

For a hundred and fifty years, in the Pasture of dead horses,
roots of pine trees pushed through the pale curves of your ribs,
yellow blossoms flourished above you in autumn, and in winter
frost heaved your bones in the ground - old toilers, soil makers:

O Roger, Mackerel, Riley, Ned, Nellie, Chester, Lady Ghost.
Donald Hall

When I was a freshman in college, I especially appreciated poetry. I met a man that wrote poetry. I was so thrilled to have a poet boyfriend, I was willing to overlook his numerous character flaws that later reared their presence, one by one, making the relationship not so much fun. One silly poem he wrote for me is as follows:

How, now brown cow.
She's dead now,
My poor little sow.
Never a corker,
My unfortunate porker.
TES

I was taking a poetry class at the time, 16th through 19th century English poets taught by a TA who thought we all (only 4 in the class) should become English majors. We met at the instructor's house and it was grueling. I ended up spending more time on that class than my science classes.

But my boyfriend was taking a much better class on modern poetry taught by Donald Hall. I would attend with him the lectures, which I really enjoyed. I even bought one of Hall's books of poetry out of my very meager funds. He was a gifted lecturer and of course, poet. He was the nation's poet laureate in 2006. He married another poet, Jane Kenyon, and left Ann Arbor to live in his mother's ancestoral home in New Hampshire and to be a full time poet. He had metastatic colon cancer with little chance of survival but he did recover. Unfortunately, the love of his life, Jane, soon had leukemia and died within 18 months. He went through an extended period of grief without writing but now he deals with his grief in poetry.

Donald Hall was giving a lecture last night at UM so I had to go. He is now 81 years old and no longer has a booming voice but still can command an audience, which was standing room only. He still has quite the sense of humor reading his poem enititled Tennis Ball about a visit to his wife's grave with his lab who becomes distracted by a couple having sex at the outskirts of the cemetary.

Today was my long run out on the 'scenic beauty road' which in Michigan means no cutting the trees on the shoulder. I am slowly making progress against the mess of clothes my closet and drawers have become filled with things that would be nice if only I repaired the zipper or were a few sizes smaller. Despite all the running, I am still too big but at least I've firmed up considerably.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Nerd Heaven

I love maps especially when I am planning a trip. But what I love more is looking at Google Earth. I can place a cursor on any point along my route and I get the elevation. My house is at 926 ft. If I run the 3.5 miles down to the river, the elevation drops to 744 ft or a loss of 182 ft. It is tough for me to go up the hill, which I won't do if there is a north wind. My country route peaks out at 968 ft, only 44 ft just a little over a mile from my house. Seems steeper than that but maybe I'm a wuss. The steepest hill I used to tackle, was the 'arb hill' which is about .75 miles long but climbs 170 ft.

When I was in Gagliano,Italy (in the Appennines) I'd try to run to Secinaro and back-only a 5 mile round trip but too hard for this one. It involved a 391 foot climb for 2.5 miles. I had to take several breaks going there but coming back was easy.

Looking at the Cinque Terre region, our path between Vernazza and Corniglia had us climbing 700 feet or so. Google Earth has a neat feature in which you can tilt the map. Instead of just looking overhead, you can look at it from the side as if you were in a boat. Those hills look especially impressive from that angle.

Today was a Y day even though the weather turned out much nicer than predicted. I might go to a poetry reading tonight.

Monday, November 30, 2009

LittleLifePreservers.com



Another beautiful hand-made card from Lesa, a breast cancer survivor from Massachusetts. This one has pearls glued on and fishing line. She makes these beautiful, creative cards for other cancer survivors. Thank-you again, Lesa!!!!

So our unusually warm November is gone but as long as there is no ice on the ground, I'm out there pounding the pavement. I made turkey matzoh ball soup from all the leftovers yesterday. Naomi came over for that. Today I had a return visit as she noticed artichokes in my refrigerator and they are her favorite. The other kids love them too. I used to serve them to their friends, many who never saw an artichoke before. They always looked puzzled to see us all happily dipping them in the lemon-garlic butter sauce. She had plenty of drama in her apartment last night as the other apartment mates had a fight that involved the police coming. The other woman was escorted out by them. She is quite violent and was breaking everything she could get a hold of.Hopefully they won't kiss and make-up. She will have a baby in a few months. All I can think is Oh My Gawd!

Just as my lower eyelashes are almost grown in, the uppers are beginning to fall out. It is so puzzling what havoc chemo still plays with my hair follicles so long after I had it. I would love to have a scientific explanation for how my genetically determined straight hair is now curly.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Sunday funny

These following alternative definitions are from the Washington Post:

1. Coffee (n.), a person who is coughed upon.

2. Flabbergasted (adj.), appalled over how much weight you have gained.

3. Abdicate (v.), to give up all hope of ever having a flat stomach.

4. Esplanade (v.), to attempt an explanation while drunk.

5. Willy-nilly (adj.), impotent.

6. Negligent (adj.), describes a condition in which you absent-mindedly
answer the door in your nightgown.

7. Lymph (v.), to walk with a lisp.

8. Gargoyle (n.), an olive-flavored mouthwash

9. Flatulence (n.) the emergency vehicle that picks you up after you are
run over by a steamroller.

10. Balderdash (n.), a rapidly receding hairline.

11. Testicle (n.), a humorous question on an exam.

12. Rectitude (n.), the formal, dignified demeanor assumed by a
proctologist immediately before he examines you.

13. Oyster (n.), a person who sprinkles his conversation with Yiddish
expressions.

14. Pokemon (n), A Jamaican proctologist.

15. Frisbeetarianism (n.), the belief that; when you die your Soul goes
up on the roof and gets stuck there.

16. Circumvent (n.), the opening in the front of boxer shorts.

Every few weeks or so, I try to see what is new in cancer world. Not much. I think all the news will be presented at this month's San Antonio Conference. I did find an article that for BRAC1 ladies whose moms had cancer from the gene, get cancer 6 years earlier than their moms suggesting that here must be some environmental factor. It would be useful to know what this factor is. But it also suggests that women should be more viligant earlier.

Susan Love has publicly supported the new recommendations delaying screening mammograms until ones 50s. People are outraged at that and now are withholding contributions. Not all people are aware of their BRAC1 status (if you received it from your father, it isn't as obvious). 10% of breast cancer is due to BRAC1/2 gene variants. If these ladies are now getting their cancers earlier, these new recommendations will contribute to delayed diagnoses and increased deaths.

I went out with a friend to the local Vietnamese restaurant last night. Very tasty.

I'm still sore from my Pilate's misadventure. But the muscle fibers are sore for a reason and don't hurt unless I move. The minor aches would go away if I'd just take an ibuprofen. When on Taxol, my muscle fibers ached for no reason even if I didn't move. Furthermore ibuprofen did not help one bit. There was no escaping the pain due to inflamed nerves (neuropathic pain). One of the new useless articles I found today said that Taxol causes neuropathic pain and thus this side effect should be weighed against its benefits. Unstated is the benefit of possibly saving one's life.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Agita




When I enrolled in my 5 week Italian experience in the summer of 2008, I was one of the few non Italian-Americans students(though one of my dear readers is married to an Italian American). Most of the little Italian vocabulary I had was based on watching The Sopranos. 'Agita' was one of the words constantly used on the show meaning aggravation as in Naomi gives me such agita! Ever since I broke my arm, I had been taking ibuprofen to deal with the pain which resulted in a shredded stomach lining. Even though I stopped the ibuprofen, I still had the stomach issue (now renewed thanks to the Red Devil though I am weaning myself off of the Prilosec)I was controlling the heartburn with Rolaids but somehow being in Italy aggravated it and I was out of my 5 week supply of Rolaids in 2 days. I needed drugs. Fortunately Italian pharmacists have great powers to give you what you need without a prescription but unfortunately the one in Castelvecchio did not speak English. Two days of Italian didn't make me fluent so I brought my roommate Nancy along to help as she grew up listening to Italian. My plan was to list possible proton pump inhibitors and see if the pharmacist had any. I didn't know the generic names (do now!) and sadly the drugs all have different names there. Nancy described me as having 'agita'. No I don't! thinking they would give me Valium. But he did figure out what I wanted and all was right with the world.

Yesterday I was doing a crossword puzzle almost finishing it (if I don't finish it, I worry that chemobrain is kicking in). One clue I didn't get was 'Tum target'A_I_A.
The answer: Agita. So agita is their word for heartburn too. You were right Nancy!

It is sunny here today and I went for a nice, long run even though my body is sore from my Pilate's experience. Then Josh came over to eat our leftovers. Now all I have left is the carcass which is being converted to soup as I type.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Pilates

Over the Thanksgiving Holiday, the Y was having some free classes. My friend and I took the beginning Pilate's class. Now another thing I suck at. I couldn't even breathe correctly (they want you to breathe in while pushing your belly out and exhale bringing your belly in- I do just the opposite). I especially wasn't good at that exercise where one lies on one's side and lifts the whole body by one arm-seems more difficult than an one-armed push-up and I can't even do a 2 handed one. Even though I have been working on my lack of flexibility, I did way worst than anyone on maneuvers emphasising that. My friend was lost too but at least she got points for being flexible although they told her maybe she was too flexible. So Pilate's is supposed to work on 'core muscles' and I guess I just use my peripheral ones. Afterwards, I lifted weights. No coordination needed for that.

The class made me sad or maybe I was just sad already. Got the blues.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanksgiving


After dinner today. Pictured-Dontae, Naomi, Julia, Josh, Me and Steve

So much to be thankful for this year. Aside from my family and friends, I am alive and recovering.

I woke up early to make the pecan pie and stuffing. Later I made the green bean casserole and gravy. My guest provided the relish, pumpkin pie, and pear salad. Julia brought a sweet potato casserole. So much is left over.

While the turkey roasted, I did a run in the cold rain. I should have worn a hat, especially one with a visor as the raindrops on my glasses made seeing difficult but I was comfortable.

We will be having turkey here for the next several days.
Happy Thanksgiving to you in blogsphere!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Having your cake and eating it too.

Back in the lab while performing tasks that didn't require much thought, my lab mates and I would amuse ourselves by conversing in silly idiomatic sayings. Our favorite was I'm going to fix your wagon! meaning we are going to throw a wrench in the works. The former is confusing as fix does not mean 'repair', the common usage here but the opposite. More like 'fixing' races. Another we invented for the lab itself was 'loaves and fishes' (from the Miracle at Cana) In our lab vernacular, it meant we got over 100% yield for our reaction. Usually this meant our stuff was wet.

But the dumbest is: You can't have your cake and eat it too!

Then what is the point of having cake if you can't eat it.

A good portion of Naomi's disability was the inability to make inferences. (Recently the school psychologist tested her and ruled that she has no disability that would qualify her for accomdations though did suggest she might have ADD) Part of her 'treatment' was meeting with the speech therapist (though she had no fluency or enuciation disorders) going over 'idioms'. A sample:

What does it mean when you say'People in glass houses shouldn't throw stones' ?
Ummmm..they shouldn't dress in front of the windows?

Recently Oliver was tested for possible language delays. To see how well he understood 'receptive language', he was asked to put a book on his mom's foot. He just handed it to her instead

New record for running without stopping: 65 minutes vs 1 minute last March. Woo-hoo! In the drizzle no less.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

What bothered me the most..

Right before my minivacation, I went to a breast cancer support group. Another woman and I were comparing notes about our baldness experience. The moderator stepped in and asked if I found baldness to be the most distressing aspect of cancerfest. What?!?!! If that were true, baldness could have been easily avoided by not allowing the red devil in my veins. How about the fear of early death being the most distressing? No I didn't enjoy being bald, not a good look for me. The day that handfuls of hair came out from my burning scalp was not a happy day.

I must have been voted most likely to contradict that day. Another woman was going through the thought processes she went through to choose a particular treatment and how she doesn't regret her decision for a second. The moderator said something about how noone regrets the choices they made for themselves.
NOT TRUE. I made the decision about the lumpectomy vs mastectomy without knowing the full extent of my disease. They can repeat all they want how survival is absolutely the same for either but I don't believe it. Either the research is based on a small sample or that it is full of bias they couldn't correct (the mastectomy patients tending to have more advanced cancers for example).

On my busy schedule for today, a dentist trip. I had run 37 miles in the past week. I rested my weary legs by working out in the Y.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Breast issues

Recently there was a research report about after surgery/radiation breast pain. Apparently even up to 2 years after treatment, 47% of women report persistant breast pain; half of these report it as severe. Apparently surgery and/or radiation inflames the nerve resulting in neuropathic pain. NSAIDs are ineffective against this type of pain. I still have pain too but I would rate it a one on a scale of zero to ten. It concerns me mainly because in my mind, breast pain could mean the return of cancer along with the lumpiness and hardness I feel. But apparently, this is the new 'normal' for me-hard, lumps in a painful breast as I was just checked out and found to be 'cancer-free' at least in my breasts.

One of the 'myths' of cancer is that if you have a lesion that is painful, it is not cancer. From what I read on boards, it seems that at least half of women report that their tumor was painful.

And the big issue of last week: the recommended stopping of screening for breast cancer in women 40-50 as there are too many false positives. Since this came out, the major insurers have all promised to keep paying for mammograms for this age group but we'll see how long they will keep that up. 1.6% of women in this age group develop breast cancer (source Merck Manual).Unfortunately, it is more likely to be the more aggressive, non-hormone dependent type that could kill if not stopped early. Once a woman reaches menopause, her breast cancer is more likely to be the slow growing, estrogen dependent type that one might get a way with screening for every 2 years (I am the exception to this-a mammogram found my aggressive non-hormone dependent cancer relatively early and probably saved my life). I read many blogs and most of these ladies are much younger than myself; it isn't just an old lady's disease. These are women who are still raising their children. It is true that many of these women discovered their lumps themselves but in some cases, it was by mammogram. I guess it all boils down to how much a life is worth. What is needed is a develpment of a marker that is more reliable and cheaper than mammograms such as the breast aspirate that Susan Love's crew is working on.


I posted more pictures on my blogs for the past week now that I have more time to be on the computer.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Back home


Our last night with the boys though they will be in Michigan in a month


Such big blue eyes!!



So there is at least one person on this earth with bigger feet than mine.


Steve and downtown Boston

On our last day in Boston, Steve and I headed downtown. It was so warm, we didn't need a coat and the rain had finally stopped. We went to the touristy Fanueil Hall and Quincy Market to get some "lobstah' bisque at the Chowda House and then on to the North End to pick up some Italian goodies such as limoncello, a lobster tail for Shanna (a large sfogliatelle), rainbow cookies and macaroons. Late in the afternoon, I went for my last Boston run. It was very windy. Fortunately my path is U shaped so I'm not headed one direction for that long but on the way back, there was a 1.5 mile stretch in which I directly faced the head wind. For extra fun, the low setting sun was directly in my eyes so it was tough going on my tired legs. I had run 20 miles in the 3 days I had been there. It is strange seeing the sun set at 4 pm. Of course we in Michigan are on the western edge of the Eastern time zone and used to later sunsets.

Later that night, Steve and I watched the boys so Ramy and Shanna could have some rare alone time. Fortunately Oliver was in bed already but Daniel was up and wanted to eat. He was very annoyed to find a bottle instead of his mother and complained vigorously. He was placated by Steve walking and rocking him until his parents came home.

All week I had been having bad dreams about Naomi's life going down the drain. She is my number one worry.. (Cancer is high on the list but she gets top billing) We drove back in one day so I could help her today but as of 2 pm, no Naomi to be found.
Update: Her highness did come over later for our weekly tutoring session. Things didn't fall apart as much as I feared. I missed my son (and his wife and dog) who visited while I was out on my run. Oh well, they'll be here for Thanksgiving. Last year, Julia fixed it as I was 'in treatment'.

It's roughly 760 miles back. Fortunately we had good weather and made good time. We have 2 border crossings to deal with. Outside of Buffalo, they had a sign giving the delay at the various border crossings. Of course the one on our planned route had the longest delay so we went for the Rainbow Bridge instead. So we could see the Falls as we waited our turn on the bridge. Fortunately the delay wasn't too bad and off we went. Coming back in the US took even less time.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Boston

video

Oliver running 'around'

Rain, rain go away. I will have to wait until late afternoon for a dry run. I ran to Castle Island yesterday. It's very nice along the water. We took the kids to the playground yesterday to burn off Oliver's considerable energy. Today we will go to the North End, not all that far from the South End which is close to where Shanna lives. The North End is where the Italians and their restaurants are. Yum.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Hooter Hider




Daniel smiling
They have lots of new toys and equipment for babies now. Shanna has a 'hooter hider' (from bebe au lait), an apron like device so one can nurse discreetly in public. Also new, is the concept of 'tummy time'. When my kids were babies, we were told to have them sleep on their tummies. Now this has been reversed as studies show sleeping on the back prevents SIDS. To build up their arm muscles, babies need supervised tummy time. But these babies hate it though once they can roll over, it isn't needed.

I watched the speech therapist today try to trick Oliver into speaking. He has been able to get what he has wanted through a series of grunts and signs. He is capable of speaking but finds it not necessary.

It is nice to be able to run along the water for miles.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Boston Babies


Steve in the White Mountains






We are now in Boston with the babies. When I saw Daniel last, he was struggling to breathe and put on weight. Now he is huge and can look around, smile and chortle.

As soon as I saw the sun start to rise, I took off running while we were in Longueuil, on the south side of the river facing Montreal. After about 7 minutes of crossing over expressway entrances and busy streets, I was on the rail to trail that gives right aways to the bikes (and runners). It was cold. A few puddles were frozen solid. It was nice to run after taking a few days off. The downtown has cute stone houses that are probably quite old. We stopped at a patisserie for breakfast. In Montreal, they serve cafe au lait in huge bowls (bols).We had really good amande croissants. I brought back some for the Boston folks.We went to visit the ladies one more time before leaving. Jeannette is 90 but her skin has very few wrinkles as she always avoided the sun. Her main bane is congestive heart failure which has swollen her ankles quite a bit. When she was my age, she had ovarian cancer but survived despite the lack of treatment in those days other than surgery.

We went down to Boston mainly through New Hampshire. There were several ways to go: with Naomi I went via Burlington and Waterbury so she could see the Ben and Jerry factory but it involved a no expressway route through numerous small Quebec villages and was slow.This time we went through the White Mountains after stopping at a Thai restauratnt in the bit of Vermont we were in. We had camped there years ago in the Franconia Notch State Park. I wanted to walk through the Flume again-a narrow canyon that you walk on a boardwalk with water rushing below your feet but they took out the boardwalk for the seeason. The Old Man in the Mountain's nose had fallen off so it is no longer recognizible. It still is on their license plates along with their bizarre "live Free or Die' slogan. There was a sign on the border exhorting us to 'drive the New Hampshire way, with courtesy'. In rural Quebec there were numerous moose crossing signs (none seen) and signs saying we should have snow tires on by December 15 to be safe.

We scheduled our arrival at rush hour. Good planning (not!)but we only suffered halfway through the tunnel to her exit-about 4 miles of stop and go.

It is good to be with the precious sweeties again.

Monday, November 16, 2009

O Canada!


Many of the islands along the Thousand Island Parkway have their own little houses on them
One of the many other inns on the street we stayed on. This one looked the nicest from the outside but I prefered the inside of the one we ended up staying at

Kingston from Fort Henry. This was a fort used to defend against us land-grabbing Yankees.

Our Inn at night. Naomi thinks it looks haunted but it is very pretty.

Half of our two person shower. Note the 19 heads. It was called a 'walk-in' shower but how else do you get into a shower?

Thousand Islands on the way to Montreal


Kingston waterfront with windmills on the island across from it


Our breakfast at the B&B. Yum!

Detail of an angel in the dining room


The inn in Kingston we stayed in.

Right now I'm in Longueiul across the river from Montreal just having visited my 90 year old step Grandmother Jeannette. She was only 42 when she married my 72 year old Grandfather making her just a few years older than my father, her stepson whom she has outlived.

So yesterday we began our adventure. I noticed that we will have good weather for the next few days, a good time to travel. We stopped in London Ontario for lunch. We had come there several years in a row when Josh was on a travel soccer team. They always felt it necessary to spell our city Ann Arbour.(At the inn we stayed at, our host registered us as living in Ann Arbour too). The teams he played always seemed to be made up of one nationality in Canada. Anyway, we ate the Quebec speciality poutine with Montreal smoked meat on top. Poutine is a(un)healthy mix of French fries, cheese curds and gravy.Smoked meat is similar to corned beef. We were going to stay some place closer such as Belleville but couldn't find a nice place so on to Kingston, which is a very nice town with beautiful limestone buildings. We stayed in a place I stayed before, the Rosemount, styled like a Tuscan villa only with better plumbing. Our walk-in shower had 19 heads!Not all used at once though. Ten when you used the sit down shower feature but 9 otherwise. A good place to shave legs if I only had anything to shave. We had a very nice gourmet breakfast and took long walks in the city. I thought I was getting a cold so I didn't run but that seemed to past. We went along the Thousand island parkway on our way to Montreal. We ate in a pub in the town of Brockville and made it to my step-Grandma's exactly at the time I said we would despite very heavy traffic. I tried to practice my French. Not so good. But we had a nice dinner and Gilberte made her special drinks for us-a champagne cocktail. Gilberte is Jeannette's cousin who lives near her and helps her handle her affairs. Down to Vermont tomorrow and eventually Boston to see the little pumpkins.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Indian Summer

It is 70 degrees here. I was able to run out in the country in shorts this morning. In the past week, on 3 occasions, I've been stopped by people congratulating me on trying to run so often. These people don't know the whole story but it's nice they are trying to encourage me.

We will probaly go to Montreal tomorrow (although we are stopping in Kingston along the way) to see my step-grandmother who seems to be becoming increasingly confused. I tried to speak to her by phone with a really bad connection. I have trouble enough understanding "Parisian" French (what they teach in schools): the Quebecois variety is very hard to understand with the bad connection. The expession c'est moi (it's me) in French French is pronounced Say moah. In Montreal it's pronounced Sah moy. Presumably the Canadians speak the 18th century French and modern French has evolved away from that. I will call her cousin who isn't so confused and speaks English still.

The moms came over last night for our Italian night. A fun time for all although my walls, floor and table cloth got drenched with red wine.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Ypsilanti



Ypsi is the next town over from us (pronounced Ip-see not Yip-see). Although I never lived there, I did have a Ypsilanti address when I lived out in the township. It was always fun spelling it out on the phone. Naomi lives there now near EMU's campus although she is going to a community college nearby.

Today I went to the BC support group at the Wellness community. We had a new woman there currently going through chemo. Glad to be down with that.

So for my Italian dinner I am making for the moms: penne pasta (not pene pasta which would be penis pasta)with lemon marscapone walnut sauce; melanzane ripiene (stuffed eggplant- means crazy apple as they thought eggplants were toxic and would cause craziness) and trofie (type of pasta with a sticky surface good for pesto to stick to) with basil pesto that I lugged back from Italy. Along with wine, I have limoncino (similar to limoncello but made with 'northern' lemons) Someone is bringing a zucchini salad: another a Caprese salad. Another is bringing an appetizer that will be a surprise. (Una sopresa: I bought back some Kindereggs that have una sopresa inside)For dessert: cannoli (singular: cannolo).

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Chestnuts


Can't argue with this logic!

Chestnuts are tired sayings. In Cancerland we hear a lot of them: When life hands you a lemon, make lemonade. What doesn't kill you, makes you stronger. etc. But chestnuts also are one of my favorite foods. It also is what our last name means in Croatian. I'm not sure when Steve's relatives spent time there but at one point, they must have. It was chestnut season in Italy while we were there. There are especially a lot of chestnut trees in Tuscany though I think the ones that make their way here are from Silicy. Chestnuts for many years were considered peasant food. Even if you couldn't afford to buy much, you could always forage for chestnuts for free and convert the nuts into flour. In Lucca, we had crepes made from chestnut flour-castagnaccio filled with sweetened ricotta. Yummy. In Roman times, bread was made from chestnut flour as it is resistant to spoilage and also contains Vitamin C.
Chestnut blight wiped out most of the trees in the US though my friend has a tree that was saved due to its isolation. She has to battle with the squirrels for the nuts.

I had my cancer cooking class last night. Most of the participants there this time have dealt with breast cancer including the instructor who had it twice unrelated to the other incidence (different breasts: one ER-, One ER+) Basically the idea is how to include nutrient rich, healthy foods into your routine to decrease recurrence and to increase ones quality of life. We made this pesto from lime, cilantro, and pinenuts last night that was particularly tasty. A big debate always amongt the folks is the danger/benefits of soy especially with the ER+ ladies.It also is comforting to be with people who understand what you are going through. Non-cancer people just expect you to move on as soon as you finish treatment if not before. I'd like to move on too but somethings remain.

I run 5 days a week and go to the Y on the other 2 days where I use the ellipitical trainer at the highest level I can stand using different muscles than running. I then do the weights. I like to have a fan on me while I am doing my ET workout as I really work up a sweat. Today some woman wanted to work out next to me and started to move the fan away. There were planty of free machines all around that were fan free but this machine 'was her favorite'. She allegedly gets 'chilly' easily. Well work out harder or wear more clothes!!! No I didn't say that but said that I really needed the fan and got here at this time when I knew I wouldn't be bothering people. She sighed and disappeared.

I will try to make some of the Italian dishes I had while in Italy tomorrow for the 'moms'. Then maybe Sunday or so I'll go to Montreal and visit my step-grandmother who seems to be getting weaker and weaker. Hopefully it'll be too early for snow.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

New Hair



My new hair

Aside from a year when I was 13 of putting Summer Blonde on my 'dirty blonde' hair, I have never dyed it. It started turning white when I was in my twenties. Premature grayness is linked to the Graves' disease gene but although others in my extended family had Graves', I'm the only one with the early grayness or even late grayness. But it really wasn't gray until after cancer. It was a mix of white, blonde, dirty blonde and light brown.My hair was silky, thick, and straight as straight can be. But in July, it started growing in salt and pepper and curly and it made me look even older than I am. But what to color it? Naomi thought I should go brown as light blonde is too close to gray in her eyes. So now it is dirty blonde. I was hoping for my highlights but I could add them later. The necklace is this silk band I bought on Isola Bella in Italy. Now I need to lose the rest of the weight and may be some plastic surgery and then maybe, I'll be ready to face the world.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Beware of bears!!!


Make sure you read the last paragraph on how to distinguish between grizzly bears and black bears!

It's nice to run in November wearing shorts and a T-shirt and still get hot. I love Indian summer. Today will be nearly the same but I've run so much in the past 3 days, I will lift weights instead.

We had a marathon studying session yesterday afternoon as Naomi (my own little bear) tried to catch up on her schoolwork plus plan a schedule for next term. After almost 5 hours, she was getting more and more frustrated. She did a slightly better job at not taking her frustration out on me but the whole afternoon was a challenge.

Later we went to Josh and Julia's house for a nice dinner. I hadn't seen Julia since I've come back. Sunny, their energetic German Shepherd was happy to see us too. Naomi was in a good mood by the time we got there but took her own car (ours!!)so she could escape lest we become too annoying.

I had a dream last night in which some stranger started speaking to me as if I had cancer. I told her in the dream, How can you tell, I have hair!! Everyone can tell.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Vietato


When I went to Italy the first time, the countryside was covered with little paths with signs in front of them saying
"Vietato Accesso" which I translated as access to paths, which I then proceeded to access. I walked across these paths many times and noone ever stopped me to remind me that I was on private property and my presence wasn't welcomed.

However on this trip, I kept seeing the word "vietato" and it occurred to me that maybe it doesn't mean cute little walking trail but FORBIDDEN. I saw these signs around the train tracks especially as in VIETATO! Don't cross the tracks!

Oh well.

It is warming up here. A good day for a run.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Grandbabies


The boys were monkeys for Halloween






The boys together
Oliver in 21 months: Daniel is 10 weeks

We had a hard frost last night that probably did in my flowers. They have survived temps as low as 25 deg but 20 deg is too much for them. But it was calm so I felt comfy running my 7 miles out in the country. I will carve a body out of this block o'flab yet. I ran a little faster than the other day so maybe I'm improving.

Naomi came over in a more reasonable mood (plus she really wanted those dishes). She is thrilled that I am doing something about my hair FINALLY and quickly found haircolors and styles she thinks I should have. She's annoyed that my appointment is during her classtime and is considering calling my stylist begging her not to let me be light blond as that would be too close to what I used to have. She has always been embarassed to have an older mom. I think I'd be more embarassed to have a teenage mom but go figure. The girlfriend of Dontae's friend has moved in with them now. She's 5 months pregnant. Not sure what will happen when the baby is born. Still no furniture in the place. They sit on the mattress to eat. I asked if they'd prefer a bed frame or a kitchen table for X-mas. Of course she'd like both.

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