Sunday, January 31, 2010

A crib of ones own

Belly at 17 weeks

Day 3 of Beached Whaledom in the House of Ex-tumors,Teenage Pregnancy, and Demanding Dogs. I hate just lying around here though maybe I will walk with Sunny later as Steve has had to provide most of her entertainment. What she wants: to catch balls non-stop. I am getting better but the throat is still sore. I need to take less pain meds now to make life tolerable so that's an improvement nor do I see those blisters anymore. The on call doctor wouldn't write me a script for antibiotics without either a case of strep throat that I was exposed to or the results of the rapid-Strep test. There are presumably alot of sore throats now not caused by strep. Plus I wasn't running a fever making strep unlikely. I started to wait in the after-hours clinic near me but was told that my insurance wouldn't cover anything and I was in for a 2 hour wait. So tough it out. Did I say that our new insurance sucks? It won't cover the hospitals near us or any doctors in Ann Arbor excepting a few osteopaths.

Ms. Naomi spent part of the day shopping for a crib despite having no money. I pointed out that a used crib would cost much less but she found that very offensive. She said that her baby wasn't sleeping in a used crib. I pointed out that at least 3 babies used her crib before her and then 15 years after buying it, I sold it for almost as much as I had paid for it. (ironically the crib salesman was the prostate cancer survivor in my LiveStrong class-small world)

I guess we all make promises to our babies. Back in elementary school, I was selected for a pilot 'gifted child' afterschool enrichment program. However it required a dollar/week contribution for books. My father stated he didn't have the money for that kind of BS. (We were not 'poor' but he had some crippling to everyone around him hoarding disorder-money being the prinicpal hoarding object). I swore I would never do that to my kids. If they wanted books to read, I'd buy them. Two out of three refused to read for pleasure but we let the reader buy anything she wanted to read. Later, Josh became a reader too but he was out of the house by then.

I will need to convince her that a used crib doesn't mean her child isn't loved.

Saturday, January 30, 2010


I am sick and miserable. I rarely even get a cold even when exposed to them during chemo with my white blood count down but now I appear to have strep throat. It hurts to swallow so I drool like a St. Bernard and it's disgusting. My throat has been vaguely sore for the past few days but I didn't feel badly otherwise and was still able to run without feeling miserable. I have no symptoms of a cold or flu. In the middle of the night Friday, I took some ibuprofen for pain relief-did nothing for my throat but it made my arm feel better (so the bad arm is probably not due to neuropathic pain). I had agreed to meet with a friend's physician yesterday while she was undergoing surgery. I ended up taking some vicodin on am empty stomach right before I left. I still felt OK otherwise, just wanted the throat to stop hurting, which it did for a while. While sitting in a coffee shop with my friend's husband, I suddenly felt a huge wave of nausea and ran to find a bathroom. Couldn't make it and I ended up throwing up all over the place in a hallway. Very embarassing. I went to clean myself up and got cleaning supplies to pick up my mess which had disappeared by the time I got around to it (we were in a hospital). I went home and threw up some more just as my daughter-in-law was knocking on the door with my granddog Sunny. I let them in and my pug promptly pees on the floor. Ugh. Do I need this? Steve shows up a half hour later not thrilled with our house guest and my uselessness.

What I should have done is see my doctor yesterday but I felt too bad to even deal with the phone calls. Now it is Saturday and I am trying to convince the nurse I can self-diagnose, just give me a script for antibiotics please so I don't have to wait hours in an Urgent Care facility with H1N1 people. She is now consulting with the doctor on call who isn't my regular so I might be SOL. I do feel better. I might even eat something other than mango gelato.

Naomi came over but I wouldn't let her stay in a room with me. I need to help her today. Strep throat isn't very contagious but can be. I remember when my nasty neighbor Bonnie (thankfully moved away) sent her little darling to play with Josh while she had a case of strep throat, which I found out about too late, managed to give it to him when he was 4.

And Sunny demands attention around the clock. She'll go home tomorrow.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

10,000th visitor

I love looking at the stat counter. Just received my 10,000th visitor, someone with an AOL account at 7:30 tonight. I think I know who it is. I am up to 74 different countries.

Baby Mama

This is what 16 weeks,3 days looks like

By this time in my pregnancy, I had gained enough to nourish full term octuplets. When I had showed up at 13 weeks with Shanna, I wanted to hear the baby's heartbeat. The OB was reluctant saying that he could try but we might not hear it and I was not to get upset but it might be difficult to hear because um, ahem, you're big.
Just try, please.
We heard it. He could have saved the 'you're fat' speech if we didn't hear it. And I wasn't fat when I got pregnant but I then couldn't stop eating even when I was feeling queasy.

Cold and windy so back to the Y where I ran around and around and around. At home I do research on the various cancers my friends/family are dealing with now. Cancer all over the damn place. The local basketball coach's uterine muscle cancer has now metastised to her scalp-a very rare event.

We also need another car. With Naomi having our 2nd car, we have to carefully plan our comings and goings so the other isn't stranded. Steve needs to drive to NY soon which would leave me stranded here. More research.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Fragility of Life

I learned yesterday that a close family member's cancer has returned. This person is monitored closely and just last month received the coveted NED-No Evidence of Disease. But NED sadly isn't the same as No Cancer at ALL as some people think. No doctor can ever tell you that, just that they can't see it.

So the treatment for the recurrence will be much more brutal than the first, which was awful enough. Plus there are some underlying medical conditions unrelated to cancer than will postpone the treatment. They will clear up. Still there is some hope.
I had thought that enough time had gone by that this person against all odds, was in the clear. But no. I will research as much as I can. Unlike BC, this cancer is relatively rare and thus not studied as much.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Birthday boys

Birthday cupcakes

Oliver and Steve from this summer

Oliver turned 2 today: his grandpa turned..some real big number. Oliver was due mid-February but apparently did not want to wait that long. Fortunately he held out for me to make the 755 mile trip there. I was so lucky to have a break from the non-stop snow that winter. The time has gone by so fast and now he has a little brother and a cousin on the way.

I took Naomi for more prenatal testing explaining to her every single test. She was trying to understand the Rh compatiability issue but I don't know if she if is neg. Her sister isn't but her brother is. Dontae came along for the ride. At one point, she thought I insulted him, which I don't think I did but it put her in a testy mood for the rest of our trip. Dealing with her is walking on eggshells.

Later I went to deal with my roots, my new problem as I never had dyed my hair before. My hairdresser cut off some of the chemo ends and thinned out the sides so I won't have that Bozo the Clown look anymore. My chemo curls seem to be relaxing as time goes on. When they disappear, I will grow out my hair again as short straight hair doesn't look good on me. Fortunately it still is thick.

Steve and I will go out tonight to celebrate his birthday. Wish I could be with the grandsons...

Monday, January 25, 2010


Baby Tae-Nae

There's this program on the web that predicts what your baby will look like by combining features from the parents' face shots. Naomi spent a lot of time with this yesterday; her handiwork is above. She refers to herself as Nae and Dontae as Tae, thus the baby Taenae. Hopefully this name is not on her list. And she's been writing lists, naming the baby is so much fun! And there is still a chance that it's a girl and they are more fun to name. Still she and Dontae are rooting for a boy. It is hard to predict what the baby will look like, computer program aside, but the baby will be big. There isn't such a prejudice against 'big girls' as I experienced growing up but there is some. Naomi still subtracts an inch from her height when reporting it though she certainly doesn't avoid wearing heels. She seems to like to teeter over people's heads. I hated those fairy tales with the dainty heroines and their damn small feet. I had huge feet and was several standard deviations taller than my peers, even those who eventually became taller than me. I felt like Baby Huey amongst the cute, tiny chicks. It was assumed that I had flunked several grades. I had one woman lecture me on how I should be ashamed of myself for trick or treating as I was so big (and thus old). I was 11. Taenae will not be tiny.

I had her watch that Pregnancy Pact movie. She did not see see herself in it at all and was annoyed that I would think that she had anything in common with the girls-they are younger, whom did she have a pact with anyway, she didn't do this on purpose, she's graduated from high school, etc.

Earlier in the day, it was back to the gym working on morphing myself. There is a great body in here buried somewhere...really. They had a free spinning class that I walked in towards the end. Something different from the ellipitical that I usually do to work on the non-running muscles.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

The Pregnancy Pact

I watched The Pregnancy Pact with interest last night. This is a made-for-TV movie about 18 teenagers deciding to get pregnant in Gloucester, MA. I recognized lots of the magical thinking that the girls expressed: Our babies will be so cute and we will dress them up alike and spend our days in the park playing with them together...and they will love us..True Naomi is older than them but at 18, still very much a teenager and quite an immature one at that. Of course the movie showed the side effects of their pregnancies: pissed off parents, disappearing boyfriends, labor that actually hurt (who knew?), ugly preemies, babies that would not shut up. And then the blame game: whose fault was it that these girls thought that getting pregnant was a good life choice? No access to contraceptives was raised though these girls really wanted to get pregnant so that would not have helped. It might have helped their impregnators. Too much time was spent discussing whether providing contraceptives was giving the kids permission to have sex. Also magical thinking on the parents' part thinking that their little sweeties would never..never have a sexual urge and of course their sweeties wouldn't want to burst that bubble.
Also these girls by and large, did not see a future for themselves beyond motherhood so why not get an early start on it?

For the record, Ms. Naomi was provided with contraceptives, several career paths that could prevent her from being mired in poverty and the means to follow up with that. Occasionally she would test the waters asking me what would I do if she came to me pregnant. I should have said 'shoot you' but instead told her I would be very sad as I would think that would be something that she could not handle and it would make hers (and MINE!!!) lives very difficult.

Pain: We had dinner last night with Josh and Julia as a reward for dealing with Sunny last weekend. Julia shared that Naomi thinks she wants to have 'natural childbirth' as that's what 'good mothers' have. More magical thinking. When I was driving her to her blood test, she went on and on how much the blood sample was going to hurt (don't get cancer sweetie!)and how afraid she was. I used to take the kids to every science museum I could find-not much appreciated by them. But Josh remembers a display stating that men and boys have more pain receptors than girls and women so that women in general could endure more pain. To show this, they had some very cold handles you could grasp and time how long you could endure it. After several trials, Shanna lasted way longer than he did, which annoyed him at the time as they were very competitive.

I think people really vary in their tolerance of cold hands. If it is less than 50, even if he will be in a car most of the time, Steve wears these huge gloves suitable for the arctic taking them on and off repeatedly so he have dexterity when he needs it. All I can think when I see this is Toughen up, Buttercup.I never wear gloves unless it is less than 20. Even then, I will take them off after I have run more than a mile.

While we were eating, Josh received a text that his good friend's younger brother just earned an Olympic berth in ice dancing coming in 3rd place at the Nationals in Spokane. The family had rented accommodations in Vancouver in anticipation of this and has asked Josh to come along. I would if I were him. But as I keep finding out every day, my kids are not me.

It is raining outside now, the warmest day since November. I will work out at the Y. It took me into the first week of May last year to have run as many miles as I have run so far this month. I am tired. More tutoring scheduled for Naomi today as was yesterday. I wish I could somehow transfer how quickly I learn to her.Yep I know that I sound like I am really full of myself but that's what I have; I learn facts quickly. I am not pretty, not patient, not terribly athletic, not neat, not especially sweet..but I'm your girl for Trivial Pursuit.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Friday night basketball

Last night was the big showdown between the 2 major high schools in Ann Arbor for both the men's and women's basketball teams so Steve and I decided to go. Last year's women's team had only 4 seniors (including the lovely Ms. Naomi) so essentially the team is the same and we know the girls well. They are fun to watch though I really miss not seeing my girl play. She was so good.....

She was there too teetering on 4 inch heels as Dontae's relative was on the Pioneer men's team showing no signs of her 4 month pregnancy. The ugly brown dye is slowly fading so her redhair is more evident. She looks striking and I could see her from a distance happily chatting with all her acquaintances probably bragging about her baby boy (keep warning her that 65% is not the same as 100%). Some day reality will set in and it won't be pretty. I cringe when people ask about her not knowing what they know. Another past senior was there with her parents, a girl I've know since she was 6; the other redhead of the past team. She is doing great in all respects. Too much contrast for me.

Earlier in the day, Naomi had lunch with Julia, my daughter-in-law. She had been avoiding my son as he is prone to lecturing and voicing his disapproval. She was afraid that Julia would do it for him but she was relieved to find out that Julia just listened.

I had lunch earlier with a good friend taking advantage of Ann Arbor's restaurant week. Our top choice was too crowded so we ended up in Gratzi's for their prix fixe lunch. A nice seat on their balcony overlooking main street. I had their spumoni for dessert. Strangely I have never seen spumoni in any of the many gelato shops in Italy that I visited (and there were many). The best spumoni is at the Spumoni Gardens in Brooklyn. A certain family member has been known to polish off a quart of it at a time. This stuff I had here paled by comparison.

I found 61 cents while running yesterday. Oooo..I'm rich. Today it will be the first time I will be running above freezing in the longest time. Can't wait for winter to be over.

The place was packed with mainly Huron fans even though it was at Pioneer and their school is 30% bigger. Both Huron teams won by a huge margin though many of the fans went home after the men's game. Girls just don't get the respect. Last year the Pioneer's coach came up to me during the fundraising game for LiveStrong and hugged me. I was in the middle of chemo. She had been treated for leimyosarcoma, which is cancer of the involuntary muscles. In her case, it was in her uterine walls (most uterine cancer is in the lining). At that point, she hadn't needed chemo but judging from her cap she was wearing last night, I think that has changed. They were holding a fundraiser in her name.

A former soccer teammate of Josh's sat with us for the men's game. He now is a teacher at Huron and was Naomi's soccer coach. I first met him on our driveway when he was 11 shooting hoops early in the morning. I had judged him to be 6 though he was extremely adept at basketball. He kept up his routine on the way to middle school for 3 years as long as the weather was good keeping his ball jammed into one of our yews. I found out later during that same time, his mom was dying of cancer. Once he hit high school, he became large for his age vs small. It was fun watching him grow up. Naomi didn't go out for softball (in which she had more talent) because she wanted to play for him.

Many of you in blogsphere are friends with Renee, the 'Goose' in Washington State. I consider her my TNBC mentor being diagnosed with TNBC with very similar characteristics a few months before me. She was the first one to jump on to my blog to give me support.I also learned of the 3 week radiation protocol from her. Anyway, it appears that she has a local recurrence now and is understandably terrifed.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Turtle or hamburger?

Reading up on how to tell a girl from a boy by ultrasound, I found the technical terms 'hamburger' to describe the 3 lines a girl has vs the turtle, when viewed from above that a boy has. The arrow points to the area in question. Hm.....

Just desserts

One likes to think of the world as a fair place, that awful things only happen to people that deserve them. The woman who walked into my cancer group last week a few years back had experienced a heart-breaking tragedy. Surely she wouldn't have to deal with cancer too but that's not how things work. Of course people search far and wide to explain otherwise unexplainable events. My favorite explanation is Pat Robertson's reasoning for why Haiti was hit with an earthquake where it could do the most damage. No he didn't blame global warming, he said it was due to the Haitians having made a deal with the devil to gain independence from France 180 years ago.(Did the Americans make such a deal to break away from England?)God is mad and now it's time for their comeuppance. But the Devil isn't happy with Pat. See below:

Dear Pat Robertson,

I know that you know that all press is good press, so I appreciate the shout-out. And you make God look like a big mean bully who kicks people when they are down, so I'm all over that action.

But when you say that Haiti has made a pact with me, it is totally humiliating. I may be evil incarnate, but I'm no welcher. The way you put it, making a deal with me leaves folks desperate and impoverished.

Sure, in the afterlife, but when I strike bargains with people, they first get something here on earth -- glamour, beauty, talent, wealth, fame, glory, a golden fiddle. Those Haitians have nothing, and I mean nothing. And that was before the earthquake. Haven't you seen "Crossroads"? Or "Damn Yankees"?

If I had a thing going with Haiti, there'd be lots of banks, skyscrapers, SUVs, exclusive night clubs, Botox -- that kind of thing. An 80 percent poverty rate is so not my style. Nothing against it -- I'm just saying: Not how I roll.

You're doing great work, Pat, and I don't want to clip your wings -- just, come on, you're making me look bad. And not the good kind of bad. Keep blaming God. That's working. But leave me out of it, please. Or we may need to renegotiate your own contract.

Best, Satan


Just thought I'd share that.

My cousin was scheduled yesterday to see the ultrasound of her first grandchild who is due about 4 weeks before mine. When she told me about this a few weeks ago, I was blissfully ignorant that we would be sharing the same experience around the same time. I called yesterday to see how it went. It had been rescheduled.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The Bird

Note the middle finger. This is for Grandma for wishing away the reality

According to the ultrasound, my 3rd grandson should be born around 7-8-10. Since it is a little early (16 weeks)to determine sex and the technician went back and forth a couple of times whether she saw the tell-tale 3 lines of a girl vs the protrusion of a boy, she is saying it's a boy with only 65% confidence-slightly better than 50-50. They will know for sure next time. In the meantime, all looks well and the baby is unusually active. The father had tears in his eyes as he saw his baby for the first time. They are already planning the baby's basketball career. His initial coach will be his dad. So they are both very excited. Me? Well.... Naomi is so young and so immature...but this is going to happen so I need to deal with it.

So this bit of news trickled down to me last week and I was shocked. I've lectured her almost daily on how to avoid this situation but to obvious deaf ears. Allegedly it was not planned and she could provide me with no dates last week. The blood tests indicated 10-12 weeks; the strong heartbeat suggested a later date and her uterus was consistant with a 14 week pregnancy. Her belly is flat as a board though she complains she's lost her 6 pack.. But by ultrasound, the baby is 16 weeks and that's what they are going by. I wonder if it just is a big for gestational age fetus, this has happened before.

For now, she is our dependent and has our even worse insurance. I complained so much about our insurance last year: this one hardly covers anything and the nearest hospital is 25 miles away. There is one OB it covers in Ann Arbor and fortunately she is a warm, patient woman. We have to go to Livonia for lab tests and the ultrasound facility is in Canton-all a hike from here.

So I am conflicted. A new grandchild..yay!!! A baby that I will have alot of responsibility for.... OMG!!!! Help!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010


"We will remember not the words of our enemies but the silence of our friends." Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., 1929-1968

So true. So easy to look away and say, Not my problem; this doesn't concern me.

But thanks to MLK and his supporters, life will be much better for my new grandchild in the works.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Monday funny

My canine guest will soon leave. She demands a lot of attention. To siphon off some of her energy, I take her to the woods and throw the ball around made difficult by my bad right shoulder. The tennis ball is bright orange and green but unless she tracks it as I throw it, she can't see it against the snow and has to smell it out. Running with her is difficult. While I run at my top speed, she is comfortably trotting. Today she found a golden retriever to chase around. The golden didn't care about her but really, really wanted that tennis ball.

I helped Naomi with her school work yesterday. It will become harder and harder for her. She was in a good mood-in fantasy land-but I am not quite sharing her dream here.

Sunday, January 17, 2010


Sunny claims the couch. She will growl if Spud even touches the couch. Woe to any dog who touches her food or toys

Sunny is my 4 year old granddog who is staying with us for the 3 day weekend while her humans ski up north. She is not happy about it and for the first few hours made lots of mournful noises. In the Dogs of Babel, a man's dog is the only witness to his girlfriend's murder/suicide. If only the dog could talk, then the man would know what happened. He then goes about teaching the dog to interesting read. Sunny's vocalizations sound almost human sometimes but I think I know what she is saying which is Why oh why did they leave me here with this old smelly pug who won't play with me? This sucks so much. I am so, so sad. To further show her bereftness, she went on a hunger strike. But after 24 hours, she resumed eating and making the best of it begging us non-stop to play fetch or at least go for a walk.

I did try to run with her but between squirrel sightings that would turn into sudden direction changes and with still some icy spots on the road, I took her back. Later I thought I spotted a fox before she did when I let her off leash but it turned out to be a shibu inu in a probable electric yard (which won't protect it from bigger animals).

When she barks, the whole house echoes. I am used to Spud's quiet vocalizations which mainly consist of snorting and grunting.Pugs in general have a very feeble bark due to shortened airways. Our house is safe from intruders on Sunny's watch.

I still have trouble sleeping at night. Rather than stare at the ceiling, I go into Josh's old room to read, do puzzles, anything than have negative thoughts spinning around. I found Sunny sprawled across the bed and she wasn't thrilled to cede it to me.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Awesome Moms

I will replace the above picture with a better one. Our poor photographer was besieged with trying to use 5 cameras at once and was too far away for my flash. He did take some better pictures with the others cameras.

Last night we celebrated 30 years of getting together for the first time with our summer of 1979 babies. We are not sure of the exact date: early January sometime in 1980. The LaMaze Association called some of us (not me! but my roommate from my hospital stay had invited me) to see if we'd be interested in a post-partum support group meeting weekly with a facilitator for 8 weeks. There were initially 7 of us; all with little boys except for me. Some of the babies were born on the same day; 2 of them had the same name. One mom quit shortly after the facilitator left but was replaced by my neighbor and her son; another moved out of state; another quit after 6 years leaving us with a core of 5 moms, eventually 10 kids, and even later 5 grandbabies, several weddings, a couple of divorces, many house and career moves, 3 cancer diagnoses (!!!!) and many changes all around. We are not the same ladies who first got together with our little bobbleheads lying on their own blankets in a circle showing off this ones ability to sit or this one being able to pull himself up. Only one of the original babies is in-state: the others have scattered across the country. We've gone through thick and thin (literally and figuratively)together serving as a support system well beyond the usual baby issues. I treasure my friendship with these ladies.

Friday, January 15, 2010


Part of the exhibit we saw yesterday at the Detroit Institute of Arts

To keep my mind off the life changing news I received this week, I've been keeping busy. Wednesday I met with the "Cooking for Survivorship" ladies (and occasional male support people). Usually there are about 12 of us. A lady I knew from the past strolled in. I hadn't seen her since Josh graduated. Oh no, not you too! Most of us there are BC survivors including our teacher. Someone brought a book highlighting the diet differences between people living in India and the huge differences in cancer rates especially of those cancers linked to fat consumption (breast, uterine, colon, prostate..). Also the Alzheimer's rates there are one fifth of ours. One might argue that if you die from dysentery at 20, you will be spared cancer but it could be due to their superior diet. Also Indian diets are especially rich in phytochemicals-from spices and the various vegetables.So our teacher features foods that are full of presumed cancer fighting nutrients but low in fats and rarely have animal protein. Butternut squash, coconut and pear soup; cream of tomato-spinach soup; cannellini bean and sweet potato soup were made. A recipe for carrot, ginger, coconut soup was also provided.

The other day, I took down the tree counting the ornaments: 229.

Yesterday a friend and I went to the Avedon exhibit in Detroit stopping off in Ferndale for my favorite pho bowl first at The Fly Trap. I don't think I've been to the DIA since I was a kid excepting to their film program. I love the Diego murals and the elaborate wisteria gate.

Tonight is our 30th anniversary of our 'post-partum' support group. There are 5 of us left. I debated whether to go because right now, I feel like such a failure.

I am still running and it is finally above freezing though I still almost fell today on black ice.

This weekend we will be dog sitting for our granddog Sunny, the German Shepherd.

At night is the hardest. I fall asleep readily but awake around one and then the mind starts spinning. I try to distract myself by reading or concentrating on logic puzzles. Maybe at 4, I fall asleep again.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Dorsal lateral prefrontal cortex

This is the last part of the brain to develop. In 'normal' people, it doesn't finish maturing until their 20s. This part of the brain is involved in decision making and the most neglected part, understanding the consequences. Its lateness to mature goes a long way in explaining some teenage behavior. This part of Naomi's brain clearly hasn't developed at all. I have tried my hardest to provide this missing link for her going over and over possible life choices and their consequences to deaf ears apparently. Of course she will have to live with the consequences, which she still hasn't grasped.
So I am trying to make peace with this. The initial shock has thankfully worn off and now I will get on with my life, which has been altered considerably.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

What's on for today

This is the menu from our first night in Italy. Note the donkey stew. I went for the osso buco (not seen) and Teri went for the polenta-not the snail variety

I am a sucker for buying items that sound good enough to eat. Many of my past lotion and shampoo purchases sound delicious. I have to be more picky now that I have 'color-treated hair' so I don't use dye stripping sulphates. So polenta above is translated as 'corn meal mush'. This may be an accurate translation but not an esthetically pleasing one. The other day I bought some 'Asian pear hibiscus white tea'. Sounds yummy but it sadly wasn't.

It hasn't been above freezing here for several weeks although it might hit 33 Wednesday. Our energy bill was huge even though my friend who likes to sleep with the window open(!!!-obviously not worried about global warming) was only here for the first part of December. Though it was cold, I need fresh air and sunshine so I ran on a very narrow strip in the middle of the road that had partially melted jumping aside into the ice zone every few minutes to let cars pass. I miss the miles of dry pavement.

Josh and I went to a new sushi place near my house that is spelled Naomi with an extra letter inserted. (I am paranoid about putting actual names unless I say something good about it. I read some negative reviews about this place in Italy followed by comments from the owner of said place saying he was going to sue). The place was very friendly giving us free treats to entice us to come back but I still prefer the place on campus. Josh and I had a good talk about many life issues. I am not left wanting to pull out the few strands of my chemfro as I am after discussions with Ms. Naomi.

Later a friend came over for wine and to watch "My Sister's Keeper" that I had started to watch on the way to Italy hoping to finish it on the return trip but NW's viewing system was broken on the way back. Flight 265-same as the infamous Nigerian underwear bomber). Rats. A sad movie about a designer baby conceived to provide body parts for her ailing sister. Lots of chemo scenes bringing me back to a sad time.

Saturday, January 9, 2010


I debated yesterday about whether to go to the BC support group. Part of me thinks(and others have strongly hinted)that I should move on. As time goes on, BC is becoming a smaller part of my life. Still every time I feel like I have bone pain, my mind jumps to dark possibilities. On top of it, the weather was bad. We finally have 'significant' snow on the ground.On the plus side, I like the facilitator and they serve a free, tasty lunch so off I went, slip-sliding away. I am glad I went. The other participant, a woman I very much like, was counting on me being there and brought her extensive list of meds that she didn't understand the function of. I carefully explained the function of each med and she seemed impressed that I could make her understand as her medical team was unable. So my science education background occasionally comes in handy. She is a 'triple positive' so her treatment is quite a bit different from my own but there are commonalities.

So what to do next? Last year was focused on just surviving and then rewarding myself with the Italian trip. True we have a myriad of house projects from 27 years of neglect but I need more than that. Recently on the TNBC a newly diagnosed woman appeared, a single woman with triplets(!!!) who was asking for advice about the logistics of chemo while working and dealing with the kids. I was just thinking OMG. How lucky I was not having to work and having someone around to wait on me while I was under treatment. Even though I suffered many of the nasty side effects, I got off easy compared to many. So many cancer patients aren't as 'lucky'. How can I help others? Stay tuned.

In the category of bizarre side effects of chemo but maybe TMI: my apocrine glands have resumed their function. Until this week, since chemo, I really didn't need deodorant. There are still none on the left side but I never had them there ( a blessing when I broke my left arm and was unable to move it from my side for 3 months). This is a side effect never mentionned in the handouts (they go on and on about hair loss, compromised immune systems, shredded digestive tracts, mouth sores, fatigue, etc..)but others have reported it.

It is pretty out but very cold and slippery. I've been running in the Y but it is a 10 mile round trip. I am going out to lunch with my son soon and then I'll see how much I want to run.

Friday, January 8, 2010

A decade of changes

New in 2009

In the past decade...I've
become the grandma of 2 little boys
seen two of my children graduate with honors from college
seen both of them marry
seen my daughter be a starter for the varsity bball team and win the district championships
Seen her AAU volleyball team win the state championship
been to Europe 6 times
been on 3 Caribbean cruises
climbed a pyramid in the Yucatan
snorkelled with barracudas and sting rays
survived TNBC
lost all my hair
lost my job (at the same time my husband did)
lost both of my parents
went to court 5 times

The good outweighs the bad by far (see precious above)

Thursday, January 7, 2010

It's all in the environment

Recently there was an interesting article in the New York Times ( about how cancer works.Apparently it isn't enough for a cell to mutate; the cancer cells need a proper environment in order to spread and invade. Most research is centered on stopping the cell's growth. Some believe that more effort should be towards studying the environment of the surrounding tissue that enables these cells to become an invading tumor.

Some cancer myths were discussed.One was that that injury to your breast did not cause your cancer. Many women insist that the site of their tumor just happens to be where they were injured. Usually this is scornfully dismissed. According to some of the research presented, there may be some truth into what these women insist. The injury did not cause the mutation but could have altered the surrounding tissue through inflammation making an environment in which the mutated cells, already present, could escape and turn into cancer. Animal evidence produced tumors that thrived when added to a chicken's injured wing but didn't take hold in the uninjured wing. This theory makes biopsies extra scary in that the inflammation that the procedure produces might make these dormant cells escape their ducts and do their damage.

Another issue. Your cancer has been there for years. I still believe that this statement was taught to physicians by their lawyers to prevent lawsuits claiming their cancers weren't treated quickly enough. Of all my readings on how fast tumors grow, there was only one in which a woman wouldn't agree to remove her tumor but did agree to have it measured regularly. They certainly grow quickly when transvected to mice. In 2002, the Women's Health Initiative suggested that taking Prem-Pro actually increased the rate of breast cancers. Many women stopped taking it as soon as they read that.The rate of new breast cancers fell 15% in 2003.This is just in one year. Some thought well maybe less women had mammograms. So if you thought you might have exposed yourself to a possible breast carcinigen, would you choose the next year to skip your mammogram? Causality is a tricky thing. So the authors of the research explain it this way: Prem-pro changes the envirnoment in which already present cells can thrive. It is known that Prem-Pro (and its still just as sinister cousins-bioidenticals)increase breast density. (I always thought this was a good thing-who wants fluffy, saggy breasts) It gives an estrogen-rich environment that if there are tumor cells lying in wait, can begin to thrive.

As for the 2002 study, later it was determined that for women in early menopause, Prem-Pro did NOT increase BC rates as long as it was taken for more than 2-3 years so I believed that and got some. Of course my tumor was estrogen negative but maybe it started out positive.

Finally the issue of DCIS, which is ductal carcinoma in situ i.e. non-invasive cancer cells. There is contraversy on how dangerous these may be. Two schools of thought: they are harmless as they don't have the machinery to invade. They are dangerous cells just caught early. But are the cells different from the ones who managed to invade? No as it turns out. Same bad genes, enzymes, etc. What is different? The environment....maybe. How to keep the environment inhospitable to such invasion? Avoid inflammation? Who knows.

Today will not be a fun day as I will try to work with Naomi concerning many issues. I will need the patience of a saint.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Indoor garden

One of the many aspects about winter I dislike is the lack of flowers. I do have a few in bloom. I've had the azaela for 2.5 years and it blooms several times in the winter. The orchid I received for X-mas; the geraniums I try to save over the winter. Also starting to bloom after no activity for more than a year is the kalanchoe (I have no idea how to spell this-succulent plant with lots of little red, pink or orange flowers). It is relatively warm today (27 deg)and since parts of our neighborhood are school bus routes, they started salting again. A clear path for me. It has not been above freezing here for a long while. I rather run outside than inside. Since I restarted my weight training and stretching program, I am feeling less pain in my arm. This gives me hope that it can't be the dreaded bone mets, which would get worse with time. Still if I reach for something, I get a sharp pain.

I spent a relatively pleasant day with Naomi yesterday. I decided to give her a day in which I don't try to 'fix' her. I have to bite my tongue around her. We went to lunch and then to the movies to see Nine a musical in the style of Chicago (same director) but not nearly as good. But we both loved the costumes, the actors, the glitz and for me, the Italian setting. She then spent hours here doing her boyfriends's laundry to counteract his claim (I'm sure he is right) that she doesn't pull her weight.

Today she called demanding money eroding any good feelings that we had from the day before. She has so far to go towards growing up. I have so much trouble dealing with the disappointment I have in her. We have a lot of things to iron out before her semester resumes next week.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Ice, ice, baby...

This woman needs some hair!

Actually I have almost 4 inches of hair now if I straighten out the curls. Now I am hoping it won't grow so fast as I am beginning to see roots. Fortunately the curls cover up quite a bit. I even have a full set of eyelashes too.

The roads were all slick with ice this morning. I called to see if Josh made it to work safely as he has a 30 mile commute. Shanna made it back to Boston safely yesterday.

I got my Y membership back so icy roads shouldn't stop me from running. I did strength training today for the first time in 3 weeks. My one arm has become increasingly useless. Resting has made it worse. Bicep curls and lat pull downs are increasingly painful. Even sit-ups are difficult because now it hurts to place my hands behind my head. I am hoping that this is some kind of nerve damage. That doesn't sound good but better than what I am very much afraid of.

I was wearing my favorite, cheap t-shirt (cheap is good because it is particularly thin so I won't get too hot exercising) that says "Albergo Firenze'. A nice man came up to ask me about it. Turns out he is married to a woman from Pescara (Abruzzo)Italy and visits Italy often. He was very surprised I ever heard of the town but I was more surprised he heard of the tiny Abbruzziese town I stayed in. He says he speaks a little Italian but can not roll his 'r's due to being born with a high palate. That made me laugh as I have this same high palate though the tongue is supposed to roll right behind his teeth, not on the roof of his mouth like he thought.
One of my kids has this same high palate. My day care provider called me panicked as it appeared to her that the baby had no roof in her mouth. She showed me her own baby who had a low roof. The pediatrician didn't think much of this 'defect' though said that it may impact her speech. Of course, this baby spoke clearly and early. I don't know if she can roll her 'r's though. My other baby can.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Jumping to conclusions

After having dug to a depth of 10 feet last year, New York scientists found traces of copper wire dating back 100 years and came to the conclusion that their ancestors already had a telephone network more than 100 years ago.

Not to be outdone by the New Yorkers, in the weeks that followed, a California archaeologist dug to a depth of 20 feet, and shortly after, a story in the LA Times read: 'California archaeologists, finding traces of 200-year-old copper wire, have concluded that their ancestors already had an advanced high-tech communications network a hundred years earlier than the New Yorkers.'

One week later, The Alpena News of Michigan reported the following: After digging as deep as 30 feet in his cow pasture near Posen, MI , Stosh, a self-taught archaeologist, reported that he found absolutely nothing. Stosh has therefore concluded that 300 years ago, Michigan had already gone wireless.

The above is not real. All gleaned from a "Michigan Humor" page.

The other day, the Wall Street Journal had a survey of numerous studies to determine if caffeine is detrimental to ones health. Results were mixed. On one hand, caffeine drinkers experienced a lower rate of certain cancers but suffered more heart arrhythmias. Currently in discussion on the TNBC web pages is whether Adriamycin actually contributes anything positive to surviving TNBC. Lots of studies out there that say not really unless one is HER2+. While deciding what poisons to take, I trotted down to the onc with these studies in hand. She said that they may be right but if they are wrong, it would be a bad gamble on my part. Adriamycin can cause heart failure, both acute or chronic. I guess I survived the acute kind-the jury is still out in regards to the chronic.

Snow, snow, snow. After about 12 hours of driving with unhappy babies, they only made it slightly more than halfway back stopping in Syracuse where the lake effect snow was blowing so hard, they could barely see. Today the forecast for eastern NY and all of Massachusetts calls for even more snow and strong winds. The snow doesn't show up well on radar. I kept reporting clear roads to them (as they looked clear according to the Weather Channel) but in reality, the snow was heavy. They haven't resumed their journey yet. I will be relieved when they are home safely.

It is cold and windy again but at least no new snow. I ran in below zero wind chills yesterday-tough against the wind. It was at least sunny. It felt good when I was finished.

And Ms. Naomi continues to be untrustworthy. Without going into details, suffice it to say, she breaks my heart just when I thought she was making some strides towards independence and maturity. Her future is looking bleaker.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

A New Year

Shanna's family

Steve and I and the precious ones

Sometime soon (hopefully already as the weather here is temporarily clear) Shanna and her family will make the long drive back. The weather situation in NY is not good but even worse if they head south to the Ohio Turnpike. I didn't get to see them much during the second half of their stay but Ramy has a large family that I had to share with. I will be nervously checking the local conditions until they are safely home. NY and Massachusetts aren't so ready to use salt as they are in Ohio and Michigan (aka Rust Belt). There are salt free zones in the mountains where the curves + hills + ice=danger. The babies are slowly getting over their colds but are crabbier than usual. I wouldn't want to be in that car.

BC (before cancer), my goal was to run at least 100 miles a month. Chemo in the first 3 months of this year made it difficult to run more than a minute at a time. Still I almost hit 1000 miles for the year. I've run the last 3 days down by the river as they try to keep a path clear there. The downside is that if there is a strong east or west wind, it is not too fun half of the time. I am trying to talk myself into going back there today. Yesterday it was 21 with a stiff 20 mph wind. The high today is 16 and I see the trees moving around already.

Over the last few days, I have had friends and family come over at various times. Lots of food including a huge plate of baklava and homemade hummus from Shanna's Syrian in-laws. It has been fun but now I should become serious about bettering myself. How?-not sure but stay tuned.


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