Sunday, February 28, 2010

The long road to babies

Naomi and I are finally in Boston after our long drive here. I didn't get much sleep the night before we left. Naomi didn't show up here until well past midnight and I was nervous about her driving in yet another storm. Plus the car was completely gasless and as I soon found out, without wiper fluid. We needed to take the car we let her drive despite its smaller gas tank,less comfort, worse mileage,etc because we need space to bring the crib back. But it has a thermometer which I nervously watched to make sure it was too warm for ice, a moonroof, and a sound system that makes glass rattle within a quarter mile of us. Our ride was uneventful until we got aound Hamiliton Ontario in which we were in a lake effect snow squall and fog making it difficult to see the car in front of me. As we got closer to the border crossing, the road had become a single track in deep slush. Where were the road crews? We crossed the long bridge over the Niagara River sliding the whole way. It seemed we were the only car on the road. I almost got stuck in a deep drift right outside customs. Fortunately they had cleared the US side but Naomi had typed that we wanted to avoid tollroads into our GPS so we were off on a very painfully slow road that added 30 minutes to our trip before I realized what had happened. It was clear after that and warm enough so that we didn't worry about snow anymore. It was beautiful driving through the Berkshires with the trees covered with snow and the mountains. Once we descended from them, there wasn't even snow on the ground (around our house has 24 inches).
So we made it in about 12.5 hours. Naomi drove the flatter areas of New York. Daniel has changed alot but now has the croup which is making him miserable. I needed to sleep not long after we got there.
Around midnight, I thought my ears were ringing due to dehydration but no, a fire alarm. Naomi never even heard it. I assumed the college kids living here set off the alarm and buried my head. I didn't want to get up and run down 5 flights of stairs to stand in the cold much less take the babies out or try to wake Naomi up. But after 10 minutes, the alarm stopped and I went back to dreams of giant insects attacking me.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Snow, snow, go away....

The source of our yummy knishes conveniently only 1 mile away from where Steve
stayed. It is a Kosher pizza place so no meat on those pizzas. Restaurants are
either meat or dairy-no Kosher restaurant would serve both. So fish..meat or
dairy? If you guessed meat, you would be wrong.
The old time knishery in the Lower East Side. Steve got some knishes there until
we found a better source.

Steve and his brother in front of their old house in East New York. A few years
ago, standing there would be risky but gentrification is encroaching. New
Yorkers must love white cars!!!!

Steve (the tall brown haired one) and his brother in the same spot only 52 years
ago. Their mom is off to the side. A few years later, their family moved to
Brighton Beach
Well I had hoped to be on the road to Boston by this time today but storm after storm stand in my path. I'm tired of that perky Weather Channel lady gleefully reporting record snowfalls here and there, trees crushing New Yorkers in Central Park, expressway closures, airport closures. Good thing Steve got out while he could. It looks only somewhat better tomorrow.
And the snow is piling up here too with black ice in the morning threatening my son's life. So no running outside for me-it is windy too along with the slick conditions. I did run around the Y track and then worked with weights hoping that it will help my bad arm. Yesterday I went to visit my housebound friend though I think soon she'll be able to drive where she wants.
Naomi once had a friend who was a kleptomaniac. Her room was full of stolen objects-from friends and from stores. Naomi had contact lenses that made her eyes intensely blue. The girl did ask if she could have a pair though they would not be her prescription. Naomi told her no. Shortly thereafter, Naomi's entire stock of blue contacts went missing, about $200 worth. I was furious but there was really no way to prove that this girl stole them. A few months later, she was observed with intensely blue eyes and this was reported to Naomi. Naomi went to the mom and told her about her daughter, which was no surprise to the mom who also had observed the contacts. I had to send this woman a receipt for the contacts and I did get a check. But I wanted Naomi never, never to have anything to do with this thief again. Now the girl has taken Naomi's pix off her Facebook, cut the heads off, and claims that it is herself that it is pregnant. This is one strange girl.

Thursday, February 25, 2010


The best place to eat sfogliatelle

Sfogliatelle are Neapolitan pastries that are triangular folds of crunchy dough containing sweetened ricotta. They are a mouthful for me to say as sf words don't easily roll off my lips. In Italian, the prefix 's' is similar to our 'un'. Fortunate =fortunato; unfortunate=sfortunato. Foglia=leaf . In Boston, these pastries are known as 'lobster tails'-something that flows more readily off of American lips (and then on to their hips!!). When we were in Boston last time, Shanna asked us to pick up a lobster tail for her. Steve thought she meant the actual crustacean.

I had a sfogliatella in the Gran Caffe Gambrinus shortly after we were dropped off in Napoli (from the Greek neopolis-new city-ha! they don't know what new is)and told to fend for ourselves with one week of Italian under our belts. A beautiful place full of frescoes and art noveau woodwork. My first job: asking for a sfogliatella without resorting to 'Vorrei quella' (I want that!) And how did we eventually find what we needed to find? French tourists! En francais! Good thing I knew French!

Now these delights are under my roof thanks to Steve along with the cherry cheese knishes, which are just as good as Mrs. Stahl's. So he's safely back and I am seeing if I can leave tomorrow despite the snows along my path.
I am tired of this snow. I went to the Y to run my laps. The public schools are out this week so the place was full of kids. I parked in a snow drift spot only inches longer than my car. Should get a gold medal for parking. I will award it to myself just like the Russian skater awarded himself the 'platinum medal' because he did a quadruple toe loop.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The Wall

Our driveway faces a cul-de-sac. Sometimes as the city clears the entrance to it, it pushes the snow in front of my driveway. Monday afternoon I diligently cleared everything out to the narrow clear lane in the street. It wasn't easy given the uselessness of my right arm but I did it. A friend Monday night told me about the wall. While it was still soft, I should have taken it down but I was tired and had a guest. By yesterday morning, it froze solid effectively sealing me in. It was so thick and high that it probably could last for another month. Until the sun softenned it (fortunately it was out), it would be impossible to do anything about it. I ran a 10K. It was pretty out with all the trees laden with snow and comfortable as it was 30 deg.

The Wall was by then showing some signs of softening. I hacked away at it for more than an hour with a sharp metal shovel. I was so mad. So unfair for the city to do this to me when I am all alone and now effectively am one-armed due to cancer!!!! It hurt my right arm to use it. The city has some law about not putting the snow back out into the street but I certainly was not going to carefully pile it up now. I flung it bit by bit back into the street with tears of rage thinking very dark thoughts about how cancer walls you off from the world.

Once I finally freed myself, did I go anywhere? No I was exhausted. Did I really need to do this? I could walk to the store (1.5 mile round trip) or demand Naomi come and bring me things. I could have had Josh stop by after work with all his carefully groomed muscles attack the Wall in a fraction of the time. Or I could wait 24 hours and have Steve do it. I'm sure he would be thrilled after driving back from NYC. As it is, snow removal is something he really thinks is useless as it will melt sometime anyway. And now it is snowing hard again. No clear streets for me but I can go to the Y.

I wasn't totally isolated. Throughout the day, I heard from all my kids and my daughter-in-law. The last one was a surprise for me as usually she asks me for things through Josh, never directly. I am not really that scary, really.
And Ms. Naomi called panicky as she saw a spot of blood! But it was one spot and the baby was still kicking strong. It made me feel guilty. In the beginning when I thought or hoped that she was only a few weeks pregnant, I wished for a miscarriage. But now even though I think she is ill-prepared to be a mother, I know losing the baby would absolutely crush her. She thinks her purpose in life is to be this baby's mother and doesn't want to listen to me about how hard it will be.

Next week will be Baby Bootcamp. Two babies to prepare Naomi for motherhood! She says she just needs to help take care of Daniel, the 6 month old (who at his check-up yesterday weighed as much as Naomi at a year) as she said she will only have one baby to take care of. If only that will be true!!! I pointed out that she needs to know how to deal with toddlers too. But she is just thinking baby at this point-not toddlers or heaven forbid-teenagers!!!

I watched "The Painted Veil". An excellent but sad movie. I fell asleep watching the ice skating. Steve will return at some point today. He stopped in the middle of PA last night. Hopefully this snow clears up before he has to drive in it.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Cherry cheese knishes

One of the pluses of visiting Brooklyn, NY when the kids were growing up was the food! Steve grew up in a high rise close to the Ocean and Coney Island, the Cyclone was right outside his window. Also right outside his window was the point where two elevated train lines converged, one going around a steep turn screeching noisily as it did, sparks flying. The building would shake when these trains went by. So between the carnival rides, the ever present trains, the car alarms, and garbage trucks, this was one noisy place.Two blocks away was the Boardwalk- basically northeast and southwest for 2.5 miles-good for running but the southern half was scary-I would turn around just beyond the remains of the Parachute Jump. I usually just ran to Sheepshead Bay for long runs eventually going along Jamaica Bay for even longer runs.So in Brighton Beach, I was introduced to egg creams (no egg or cream in them),farfel, kasha varniskas, all kinds of smoked fish and cherry cheese knishes. Cherry cheese knishes are 5 inch squares about 2 inches thick weighing more than a pound a piece full of sweetened farmer's cheese. Very rich and tasty.The principal source of these was Mrs. Stahl's Knishes on the corner of Coney Island Avenue and Brighton Beach. It has been gone for 10 years at least. We had found another source near his brother's apartment but when we went there last May, it too was gone. There is a store in Manhattan on the Lower Eastside (hard to get to by car)but they didn't taste as good as the Brooklyn ones. I was doing a search yesterday and found a few sources on Long Island. Right before I going to see how far those were from Steve, I found a place less than a mile away from where he is currently staying. Score!! So tomorrow I will be hooked up with these delights.
Also for every Jewish neighborhood, there are several Italian neighborhoods-mainly Southern Italians. This translates into more good food and bakeries. More goodies like sfogliatelle and rainbow cookies coming from the Avenue X bakery though next week, I could be in the North End of Boston so I won't be Italian deprived. Steve has gone to the same Italian restaurant several times during his trip. I was getting tired of it but without me there to complain, he was free to go.
What you can't find on Coney Island are Coney Islands! Those you would find only in good ole Michigan (and possibly Ohio). Coney Islands at first were hotdogs covered in chili but then turned into the small restaurants that serve them, collectively called "Coney Islands"-cheap places for breakfasts almost always run by Greeks.

I am walled in my driveway. The official snowfall for the NE corner (UM has a weather station nearby) was 9.6 inches. More is falling now. The plows came through late yesterday and put a wall up in front of my driveway. I should have hacked away at it while it was soft. Now it is ice and I have to wait for it to soften again.

We watched the ice dancing last night. Josh's friend came in 11th. To be the 11th best at something in the world is quite the accomplishment. But it was fun to watch.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Walking the walls

I broke my left humerous (not funny!) 2.5 years ago tripping over a tree root running through the woods. Immobilization of my arm for 3 months left me with severe adhesive capsulitis (frozen shoulder). I could not extend my arm in front of me. Lying on my back, it was difficult to push it back beyond 90 degrees (good motion would be 180 degrees) Three months of 3x/week physical therapy plus work at home fixed it. After a year, I was 95% better (I still felt a little pain when forced to have my arms completely back for the MUGA scan needed to see if I could tolerate Adriamycin).
Now my right shoulder seems to be frozen. Initially the pain made me fear bone mets but the onc said my symptoms are not consistant with those (thankfully!!!).Why my arm is this way is a mystery as I didn't have an acute injury. I suspect radiation had something to do with it. One of the exercises for frozen shoulder is to see how far one can climb the walls walking with the fingers. While dealing with my left arm, I made little marks on a door jamb with dates. Now I can extend the left arm way beyond the highest mark but come no where near with my right. I could not get radiation with my arm this way as I can not put it behind my head. I guess I have to try harder to get rid of this. It is making my life difficult. I had to fix a toilet that a friend left running last week and it really hurt to extend the arm.
We've been hit hard with snow. The official total as of early morning was 7 inches but I think it is closer to a foot where I live. As Steve has been gone for a week, I needed to shovel..not so much fun with my damaged arm though I managed to find a way to have my left do most of the heavy lifting.
A minor victory last week as it was not immediately assumed that I was elderly due to gray hair. The train officials were busily helping older folks off the train but when it came to me, no help. At first, I was annoyed..what am I ..chopped liver? But then I thought more optimistically, oh, they think I am younger because I have no gray hair!!! Of course not having full use of my dominant arm made things tricky with the suitcase.
School was cancelled for Naomi. It took Josh more than 2 hours to go to work with accidents everywhere. I think I will torture poor Spud with a bath and nail clipping. He didn't enjoy plowing through the snow that came to his ears but he was not willing to wait for me to clear a path for him.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

The Calm before the storm

20 weeks 3 days

So our spring couldn't last. Tomorrow a snowstorm will hit us. Just as I finished running 7 miles, Josh and Sunny came over for a long walk in the Arb. There seems to many more swans than usual wintering in the Huron River. Very pretty, I should have taken my camera with me to capture the snowy riverbanks and the swans. Sunny of course wanted a piece of them. We did release her into a flock of Canada geese on the soccer fields. She gleefully charged full speed into them scattering them into the winds. The flock must have had 100 individuals. Last week Sunny encountered a deer in the arb but it didn't ignite her prey instinct. She merely sniffed the air. But squirrels and cats, beware!

I enjoy our walks and talks; makes parenthood very worthwhile. When we returned to my house, Naomi and Dontae were over doing their laundry. After throwing up for 2 days, Naomi seems interested again in eating. This weeks's anatomy task is memorizing all the muscle groups: not fun.

Tonight is the ice dancing finals. Josh's friends are not expected to medal but it should be fun watching them.

Saturday, February 20, 2010


For the past 10 years or so, monthly we receive a letter from our city's 'processing center' listing parking violations. Responsible citizens that we are, this letter goes straight to the trash. Over the years, we received similar letters from Kalamazoo and Madison, WI but fortunately they know when to give up. A few months ago, we received a letter stating that this would be the last letter we ever receive and that a court judgement has been issued to seize our car on sight. One problem that they may have with that is the car in question was junked 3 years ago along with its plates. Yesterday we received another letter: my first thought was Great, now Naomi is following in her brother's negligent ways but no, they are still trying to collect from before. They were just kidding about the last letter part.

Our fair city is divided into University land (state) and city. Since my former employer's land has since been sold for a song to the University, the University part has grown. No taxes generated on this land! Students living in the University section send their children to our schools without paying a lick of taxes! Often these kids are high needs too-ESL for starters. For some reason, parking violations in the University section cost 3 times more than the city's section. All these violations were in the University section with Josh visiting his buddies.
The University students sometimes don't appreciate the 'town and gown' distinction. Back in the early 70s, the city council run by the so-called Human Rights Party (whose emblem was a hippo) set the fine for smoking grass at $5. Yay! said the students. However this fine only applied to violations in the city proper; the University land (containing the students)still went by the State's considerably harsher law.

See how careful I am not to even mention the name of my fair city here! A few hours later of me posting a complaint about a certain communications giant, I received a comment from their public relations department stating the FCC makes them do this testing and I should see what I missed "On Demand" which I do have. Still they do have some discretion when to conduct these tests. I am sure they don't choose the final moments of the SuperBowl. Lesson learned: if you post the name of an actual entity, they will find you quickly.

It was spring like yesterday; birds chirping and the sun shining improving everyone's mood. I did run though when there was still some ice. I met up with some friends for lunch. A business we went by: Stylin' in Milan. (oxymoron anyone?)Only in this neck of the woods would those words rhyme. Proper pronunciation is not our forte; many of the streets of Detroit (itself mispronounced)were named after the original French settlers. My favorite: Gratiot-not Grah-tee-oh but Graaaa-shit.

Steve is still gone. Shanna and her family will drive from Boston today down to Brooklyn where so many have amassed. Back here at the ranch, I watch the Olympics and live in temporary squalor. I'll clean up before Steve comes back. Naomi had some sort of stomach ache last night and called me hourly crying and worrying that the baby would be impacted though it still was kicking.

Now she is here in person bellyaching.

Friday, February 19, 2010


Scheherazade is the name of the musical piece that Evan Lysacek skated to in his gold medal performance last night. How well he skated had to be left up to the judges because right smack in the middle of his performance, my screen went blank soon to be followed by loud announcements from the The Department of Emergency Preparedness that they were conducting their mandatory monthly drills followed by all kinds of warbling. Dudes!! In the middle of the US Gold Medal performance? suck!!!! But in the small bit I was able to see before the rude interruption, Evan looked impressive and I liked the snakes wrapped around him. Scheherazade is the Persian princess who successfully broke the cycle of a certain king who would marry one day and after the wedding night, would behead the bride and then marry another. For 1001 nights, Scheherazade would tell the beginning of a story but conveniently couldn't finish it until the next day ensuring her survival. I assume one of these stories involved snakes.

Scheherazade was also the first musical piece I put on my budget, tinny stereo 33 years ago when I first invited Steve back up to my place. He immediately was able to identify it (we shared an appreciation of classical music) but thought it was an Italian word pronounced similarily to 'scherzo' (which we learned was a joke in Italian 110 but also is a musical term). Nope, she wasn't Italian; I knew the backstory. Also, in the same visit he remarked how messy my house was. Dear Readers, I had cleaned and cleaned in anticipation of this night. But as I soon found out, it certainly was compared to his carefully arranged furniture of his apartment. Suffice it to say, some compromises were necessary over the ensuing years. And we won't go into our 1001 (now closer to 12,000) night experience, equally memorable.

As for Evans, the local Evan Bates will skate today in ice dancing. I first met him as a tow-headed toddler running along the sides of the soccer fields. His older brother is one of Josh's best friends whose family invited Josh to come to Vancouver. He declined against my advice.

Yesterday, the temp went over 40 and it looks similarly nice today. Do I run outside in the sunlight trying to make up for my very low mileage of the first half of the month or do I hit the Y and work on those muscles. Decisions, decisions. Yesterday was spent driving Naomi around to here and there. Later my friend came over to watch the Olympics with me, which as it turns out, she had little interest in.

I will go out with different friends today.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Six months old today!

And no, I never miss a meal!

An aspirin a day MAY keep the cancer at bay

Recently it was reported that in a group of 4000 nurses that had had breast cancer, the ones who were taking aspirin daily had 70% less recurrence. This was not a controlled study: no standardized doses of aspirin, etc...just an observation. No mention why these women were on aspirin-arthritis? preventative for cardiovascular events? My primary several years ago suggested that I take aspirin daily as it allegedly prevented heart attacks. I said no as believe it or not, I was selling my NSAID-free blood monthly to my company to standardize their machines.

The article(Wall Street Journal but widely reported elsewhere)could not come up with a possible explanation for this phenomenon but of course(certo!!!) I think I can. Earlier I reported that there is a link between inflammation and cancer ( Inflammation per se does not cause cancer but it may provide an environment in which rogue cells could thrive. Aspirin is a classic anti-inflammatory agent-it may destroy the environment in which the cancer cells would grow. According to the Merck Manual, even a 1 cm tumor sheds a million cells/day. Almost all of these are destroyed by our immune systems or can not find a suitable place to grow.

Oh well, I am sure this idea will be followed up on.

So I am alone now. Steve has taken off before but usually there were kids in the house. Naomi did come over yesterday eating everything in sight so I need to buy more food.She especially liked the 'lacies' that I originally bought for my post-surgical friend but then decided to keep for my piggish self doling out one a day (I got healthier treats for the friend).

I was researching blood types. Some cultures put more stock in these than others: the Japanese in particular know theirs and some infer character traits to those possessing certain types. B types are not good in their book. Also it appears that B types in the past have been associated with being Jewish so there is some anti-Semitism there. I always found having O positive rather boring. So I have two kids that are A- and one who is A+. I can infer that Steve must be A something or other. His mom claimed that one of her babies needed a transfusion because she was Rh- and the baby was positive. But her younger babies are AB- and B-(both pretty rare). Steve must have been the positive baby but he was first. Maybe she had the transfusion. Steve hasn't had any major medical work so he has no idea about his blood. At some health fair, we tried to test the antigens ourselves and he clearly was A but we got a weak response for the B antigen. I should make him donate blood. That's how Josh and I know ours.

It's a sunny day. I will run and then go around running errands. Running comes first of course.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Rh factor

Almost 20 weeks-halfway there!

Naomi had another OB appt-All fine! She had the results of all her blood work-normal thyroid, has high titers of antibodies against chickpox and rubella, none against herpes, normal blood sugar, not anemic, etc. She also is Rh negative and there is a good chance that Dontae is Rh positive (Rh negative is 16% prevalent in Caucasians, only 3% in Blacks)so Rhogam for her so she won't develop antibodies to her baby's blood. She opted out of the alpha feto protein blood test that may indicate Downs' syndrome or spinal defects. She said she didn't think she could abort her baby regardless of the findings. While pregnant with her, I had a low blood level suggestive of Down's syndrome. I had already had amniocentesis and karotyping done because of my advanced age so this was a false result. But if I hadn't had it done, it would have caused alot of needlesss worry. She might get another ultrasound in 6 weeks.

Warmer today but not soon enough for me to avoid running in slush this morning. Naomi is very, very hungry now. She had a hankering for crepes, eating them faster than I could make them.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Turn me on! Turn me off!

Your moment of levity-ha!

Oncology visit/pregnancy nightmares

For at least 2 years, I am to be checked out every 3 months by either the oncologist or the radiologist. They don't follow any markers or do any scans; they check only for 'regional' recurrences i.e. node and breast checks. They wait for symptoms of distal recurrences. Scans are full of false positives and negatives. So many times on the boards patients are told that they are NED (no evidence of disease) and a month later come down with distal mets. If TNBC is to recur, it does sooner than later, mostly within 3 years of the original diagnosis so I am almost halfway through the scary time. All other factors being equal(stage,tumor grade,etc), estrogen positives have a much less chance of recurrence but it could happen over a much longer period of time. The very sweet lady in my cooking class found her bone recurrence a month before her 10th anniversary.
So this morning I met with the onc. According to them, I need mega doses of Vit D3 and calcium, preferably divided, to increase my survival chances. The calcium is a problem as it interferes with my thyroid hormone. Two years ago I put myself unwittingly into a severe hypothyroid state due to my constant intake of rolaids (calcium!!!!) to counteract the effects of NSAIDs on my poor stomach lining. I needed the NSAIDs for arm pain from when I broke it. The onc noticed on my history that I take Armour thyroid and wondered where I got it. It's no longer available!!! I then noticed the tell-tale smily scar of a thyroidectomy on her neck-new. So someone else needs this unavailable drug.
No new lumps so I am good to go for 3 months. My only suspicious symptom is the arm pain that seems to be more of a rotator cuff injury than cancer. They strongly recommend PT but I told them that I know the drill from my frozen shoulder (different arm) episode and the Y trainers will work with me. Mainly my new insurance won't cover it. She reviewed the signs of bone mets with me. They usually first show up in the ribs or spine or hips-not in the joints or upper arm. Plus the pain isn't getting worse in my case though my mobility is becoming more and more impaired.
So cancer is slowly releasing its hold on me. I am not sure the mechanism of injury to my now useless arm but suspect radiation damage somehow though the onc doubted it. My chemo curls are relaxing but I am still going through this annoying cycle of shedding my lower eyelashes every 3 months. The individual lash cycles are at least becoming less in sync with each other so I am not totally lashless. I did show up to Montreal fairly lashless though with little baby ones coming in and with these annoying scabby dry skin patches above my upper lip that to the casual observer, appeared that I ate chocolate messily or applied lipstick spastically.The hair on my legs still goes through furry and hairless periods-currently in fur mode. Small potatoes.
I am watching the weather with trepidation. Steve is in the middle of PA right now in a dry area but soon will hit the snowy section. Route 80 is filled with speed filled truck drivers. He's gone by numerous jack-knived semis already.It is slippery here too so no dry pavement for me to run on. Last night was spent watching the weather and advising Steve on where to stop.

Ms. Naomi came to visit yesterday between classes. She's been having baby dreams. In one, she gives birth to a very small baby, so small that she decides the best way to carry it would be in her back pocket. However, at one point she forgets about it and sits down...Damn. End of baby!!!
In another, the baby is full sized but capable of speech right from the start. The baby provides a running commentary on Naomi's parenting skills, which of course the baby finds lacking. At one point, Naomi is shopping for baby supplies with my son and the baby tells her that what she really should be doing right now is cleaning the baby's hands. Naomi calls that the smart baby dream. She said that she doesn't want her baby to outsmart her. I of course, am hoping for a smart baby.

I suggested that she take some classes. She agreed to LaMaze but thinks she knows all about baby care.Dontae is also the 3rd out of 9 so he has some experience too. I gave her some hypothetical situations and her response was that she would just bring him to me. Sounds like a plan.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Miracle House

While rooting around through others' blogs today, I learned of Miracle House ( This is a place that family members and/or patients can stay while receiving treatment in mid-town Manhattan. Otherwise staying in Manhattan is unbelievably expensive.

Steve is on his way to see his family member trying to out-drive a storm. The patient is undergoing rescue therapy; poisoned by high amounts of methotrexate and then 'rescued' at the last minute by calcium leucovorin.

On my very first day of work in Detroit, I had to climb a ladder, shovel in some column support material, and then add a slurry of crude leucovorin to clean the material up so it could be used to rescue patients. Later in the day, the secretarty took me over to get the standard issue 'female' uniform-a pillowcase dress! I told her that I had to climb a ladder 20 feet high earlier. Would this be appropriate in a dress?

But calcium leucovorin is a pain to make. I guess they are still using it.

Placebo effect

As I was leaving Montreal Saturday, a handsome man somewhat younger than me plopped down beside me on the train. From his reading material, I inferred that he was a physician. Yep indeed he is! Goody, I love doctors and he turned out to be quite talkative. I was on the 'slow' train stopping at every little place so our trip was quite long but we filled the time discussing our work (when I did work)from our very different perspectives. He is a psychiatrist in an emergency ward and though he does have a private practice, most of his patients are experiencing psychiatric emergencies. I on the other hand, spent a lot of my time synthesizing drugs that could be used as antipsychotics primarily targeting schizophrenia but also manic depression. I was quite removed from patients although occasionally we would see patients in special learning environments so there would be a human side to our work. Ultimately we were to help these people (while making lots of money for our shareholders). But aside from the actual process of making and purifying these substances, my focus was seeing how well they bond to various receptors and behaved in our screens. Preclinical work: way, way down in the trenches. So many hurdles to overcome before anything from my hands ended up anywhere near a patient. He, of course, was a heavy prescriber of our (not just our company's but of the industry in general) psychiatric meds given that many of his patients are experiencing acute crises and talk therapy just won't do the trick for them. We spoke of influence peddling: how so much of his knowledge is influenced by 'our' drug reps. And the awful side effects: you fix one problem with a drug and another pops up. Messing around with ones neurotransmitters is a risky business. For instance, many antidepressants can cause an increase in anxiety. We discussed the irony that antidepressants can contribute to suicidal behavior. A profoundly depressed person may want to die but it just is too much effort to go about doing anything about it. As the depression very slowly lifts (the neurotransmitters change quickly but it takes much longer for the behavior to change-don't quite understand it)the patient reaches a dangerous point in that he is still depressed but now he actually has the energy to kill himself. But the biggest conundrum is the placebo effect. This is a huge problem in proving efficacy. Newsweek had a cover story on it last week with its lead article claiming that since antidepressants don't work any better than placebos, antidepressants don't work. Any evidence to the contrary is anecdotal. But for me, I was surprised that the placebo effect is so strong in depressed people. I would think that they would be so pessimistic about their situation that the thought mainly going through their head is that their situation was hopeless and nothing, nothing was going to help them. Yet they do improve: on drugs and on placebo! He attributed the effect to that people really do want to get better, even depressed people. We are fundamentally optimists. And as for the proof that antidepressants work (zillions of anecdotes not withstanding), it is true that for the first few months, there is no difference between drug-treated and controls, but as you extend the timeline, differences do appear. Oh Grasshopper, we have trained you well!
So what can I contribute to all of this discussion? He had no idea how drug companies select targets, how we can actually measure changes in neurotransmitter levels, how patents are our friends and enemies, how do we decide what areas to exploit, what does a medicinal chemist actually do anyway? I told him that most of my work was like his basic organic chem lab. I never took organic chem lab. In what universe would a pre-med student not take organic chem lab? We actually made lidocaine in ours! In the Canadian universe. Besides it's not useful to MY work. Yes it is!!!! I then blathered about how organic chemistry is fundamental to understanding biochemistry, pharmacology, etc subjects very germane to the physician, I would think at least.

Naomi is loathe to learning anything that she probably won't need in the future. She extends this argument to about anything so consequently, is content to learn nothing. Sadly many people have this attitude. As you may have guessed, I take the opposite approach. I read about everything regardless of its immediate usefulness. I do draw the line at memorizing baseball stats as someone in my house may not. For instance, last night I researched those bizarre hills of the Montreal area. The area around Montreal is basically a plain but there are 6 or 7 distinct hills including the eponymous Mont Royale and another overlooking Beloeil. They seem to be rounded cones suggesting to me, extinct volcanoes. Claire said they weren't but I wasn't convinced. But they are the result of volcanic activity but very, very long ago. 250 million years not like the more recent Mt. Ranier and its ilk. I also learned the Beloeil was the site of the biggest Canadian train disaster ever. There was a swing bridge over the Richelieu river left open to let barges through and the conductor ignored the stop signal. Oops! Someday this information will be useful, someday!

Toward the end of our journey, a young woman appeared before us and said that she had been eavesdropping with interest to everything we said. She is a law student on a project to mount a defense that in a nutshell was: Prozac made me kill him! Did she even had a chance? I said I was not in a position to answer that, I might be able to tell her how to make Prozac but Dr. Cute One might be of more help. Yes indeed, people on antidepressants might display more psychotic behavior. It didn't cause the the psychosis but the lifting of the depression may give them the energy to act out their underlying craziness. I did tell her of a local man, a chemistry teacher, who killed the superintendent of the school system then blamed his antidepressant for it. I don't think that defense saved him.

An interesting talk and he was so cute!

Steve barely made it in time to pick me up caught up in tunnel traffic. No traffic at all at the bridge. Lesson learned: don't cross into Canada in the tunnel on a Saturday night. The Hiram Walker fire filled the air with smoke with only one firetruck there to deal with it as opposed to the entire fleet of Longueiul's finest to deal with the smoke alarm. We were on Riverside Drive quite a while on route to the bridge. At night, Detroit looks quite impressive especially this one building that appeared to have a light show displayed on its side.

Steve will leave to New York soon. When he returns I will go to Boston. We are two ships just passing.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Quebec, parte deux

My Grandfather and Jeannette on their wedding day August 1962

The cocathedrale in Old Longueuil

Typical old stone house of the region

I am happy that Claire and Louise let me have the picture of my grandfather and Jeannette. I had not seen it before. You can see what a beauty she was and she aged very gracefully. I had more wrinkles than she did at 90, the price of my sun-loving ways. But as you can also see, my grandfather was no beauty although he did age well. Small pox had not been kind to his skin. (While having it, he had to live by himself in a cabin on the edge of town and food would be left on the doorstep.) My grandfather was very charming however and was able to win Jeannette's heart. Longueuil, on the south bank of the St. Lawrence, is a very old community established in the 17th century. Lots of these beautiful stone houses. Later we went to another community, Beloeil (beautiful eye or view), to eat in a creperie in an old stone building such as this complete with those thick, oak beams inside. It was too dark to take pictures and there are none on the web of it. Very good crepes however and very French or Breton, the area of France (Brittany) that crepes came from. One difference is that every table had the Quebecoise staple of choice, sirop d'erable (maple syrup). The Quebecoise love their maple syrup.
After Jeannette was buried, we all returned to the funeral home where there was a reception. I got my wine shower, got too close to my brother while he spoke wih his arms. Good thing I was wearing black.One of the relatives was on the first ship that went down the St. Lawrence Seaway when it openned in 1958 so I got to hear all about locks. The man was happy to practise his English with me (my attempts to speak French are too pathetic to record here). He spoke of a friend, a new French speaker, who would say 'je suis decedee'instead of 'j'ai decidee'. I have died versus I decided-who knows what silliness I would could come with? But people were very nice and treated us as family. After the lunch, I went to town to take some pictures and then visited Claire and Louise at Claire's nice apartment. Later Andre came over and we all went out to dinner. Jeannette had left a box for us in her assisted living place but when we went to retrieve it, the place was crawling with the 'pompieres' i.e.firemen. Look at these pompieres! We only hire the good looking ones!! Claire told me. Indeed they were pretty cute. Although they were just investigating a fire alarm, they needed alot of bodies in case the residents needed to be hand-carried out of there. The elevators don't work during a fire and the wheelchair bound would be out of luck.By the time, we retrieved the box, just glassware, and went back to Montreal, it was quite late. I fell asleep during the openning ceremonies trying to catch a glimpse of my son's friend's little brother. He's reported that each athlete receives unbelievable amounts of swag, video cameras, fancy this and that. It cost his parents $1100 each for the openning ceremony tickets.

I am home now. I had no time to run in Montreal though the weather would have been OK. The bikepaths of Longueil were ice covered but I thought I'd run along the waterfront in Old Montreal. Never happened. I tried to make up for my 3 days of sloth today. Still catching up with unfinished business here.

Les petits-enfants

ROSS, Jeannette (née Albert)
Parution: 2010-02-10 au 2010-02-10 dans La Presse - 2107979
ROSS, Jeannette (née Albert) 1919 - 2010 À Longueuil, le 8 février 2010, à l'âge de 90 ans, est décédée Jeannette Ross, épouse de feu Dr Howard C. Ross de Ann Arbor, Michigan. Elle laisse dans le deuil ses petits-enfants Suzanne et Bruce, ses soeurs Aline Vallée et Mariette O'Connor, ses belles-soeurs Rita Richard et Émilienne Beaudoin, sa grande amie Gilberte Rioux ainsi que plusieurs neveux et nièces. La famille vous accueillera le jeudi 11 février 2010 de 14 h à 17 h et de 19 h à 21h ainsi que le vendredi 12 février 2010 de 9 h à 10 h 30 à la Les funérailles auront lieu le vendredi 12 février 2010 à 11 h en la cocathédrale St-Antoine (à l'angle de la rue Saint-Charles Ouest et du chemin de Chambly) à Longueuil. L'inhumation suivra au cimetière St-Antoine. Au lieu de fleurs, un don à la fondation de votre choix serait apprécié

Look here! They called me 'petite'!!! I take my compliments where I can. Of course I never was a 'petite enfante' weighing in close to 10 lbs and rapidly expanding beyond that. But petits-enfants are merely grandchildren regardless of their size. I do like their words for 'sister-in-law'-bellesoeur (beautiful sister) and best friend (grande amie). I am glad the family remembered Gilberte who has faithfully looked out for Jeannette for many years only for Jeannette in her delirium towards the end accuse her of being the devil and stealing her ribs in the middle of the night. Don't understand French? Tant pis!!! (Too bad) Everything was in French on Friday. I can read the language all right; I can ask for things as a toddler would but beyond understanding simple sentences; I am lost especially with the Quebecois version which sounds different than the Parisienne version I was taught 40 something years ago. Italian is a much easier language to understand as they actually enunciate every letter although very, very quickly. Not many in Jeannette's generation learned English. Even in her nieces and nephew's generation, (roughly my generation) English was not taught in the schools though many learned it anyway as adults. The generations of Quebecois my kids' ages speak English without an accent for the most part. Throughout my trip, from discussions with 'ma famille francaise' and English Canadian train seat partners, I learned much about the attitudes towards the language issue in Canada.

Steve had cobbled together an iterinary from a patchwork of last minute deals on the VIA website. The website being down from several hours really was a pain as we had to make lots of decisions at the last minute. We saved about $100 by this but the downside was that there were two sizeable layovers in Toronto. I did manage to beg them to let me on an earlier train yesterday eliminating one layover-this is my version of getting ones cake and eating it too. He drove me Thursday morning during rush hour (not a problem as it turned out-massive unemployment has some perks) to Windsor. No line in customs too but unfortunately our customs agent, a surly young woman barely out of adolescence (still had some acne) decided to use her powers. We explained our situation. Oh really? Let's see those train tickets. Well they aren't really tickets but confirmations that will be converted into tickets. Let's see them. She studied them carefully for 5 minutes with knitted brows. (tick-tock, tick-tock!). She then quizzed me on how much money I had. About $20 Canadian. I had decided to be truthful as the next step seemed to be for her to root through my wallet. She then wondered how that was going to be enough for me. I explained the miracle of ATM cards trying not too be too smarky as this petulant child really, really has too much power. My father pissed one of these agents off once and they seized all his cameras holding them hostage until he could come up with bills of sale for each one. Wish my brother had gotten a similar lecture about showing up in Canada with absolutely no Canadian currency. Now do I look like a likely candidate to game the Canadian welfare system? We were driving our new car and I thought I was well dressed. Later another agent asked Steve if the car actually belonged to him. And last night, why didn't he go to the funeral with me? Indeed!
The train station was next to the Hiram Walker distillery with its yeasty, malty aroma. Yummy. It reminded me of my summer sitting due North (yes due North-Canada is actually south of Detroit at this point)of the distillery on the Detroit riverbank eating my lunch watching the freighters and sucking in the distillery fumes when there was a south wind (often) when I worked there-only one summer thankfully. This distillery was on fire Saturday when Steve came to pick me up. Less 'pompieres' involved with an actual fire than the broken smoke detector in the assisted living place. More later.
So to Toronto, I travelled first class-only one dollar more than economy and boy did I get my dollar's worth. Very, very good lunch, linens, warm hand towels and wine and apertives anytime I wanted them. Maybe I took advantage of the free wine a little bit too much, maybe. My seat partner probably had raised eyebrows but too bad. She was a very pleasant lady en route to see grandchildren whom I learned all about and we discussed differences between the English Canadians and Americans and the world's attitude towards them. So often the others can't detect how we pronounce the word 'about' differently. Her son had gone back-packing in Europe and somewhere had asked the locals for directions. They gave him some very complicated instructions but as he walked away, they noticed the maple leaf sewn on his back-pack and ran up to him correcting the instructions and apoligizing for thinking he was an American. Must wear those Maple leafs. For the most part, I have been treated nicely while abroad-I think because I try to speak, however badly, the local language. Only In England was I asked if I were Canadian (good) or American (bad).She did say that in Quebec, being an American would win me more friends than being an English speaking Canadian. I do know this from Gilberte's previous rants about the evils of the 'English". Jeannette eventually corrected her as I possibly could be offended being of similar ethnicity as the 'enemy' and from there on used the word "ottawa" to descibe the evil.
I had a three hour layover in Toronto that no thanks to a late train-not first class this time back to the cheap seats, turned into 4 hours (not warned in advance either-stood in line for 90 minutes with promises of boarding in 'just ten minutes'). I woozily explored the city, one of my favorites though not too surprisingly, cold as hell. I found an Asian bun shop. Yummy, yummy-different fillings in this yeasty dough. I stocked up for my dinner. Should have bought more!!!! By the time I was to board the train, I was tired. I didn't sleep much the night before as I thought I was woken up in the middle of the night (10:30 but it seemed later) by my brother to tell me his train was cancelled due to the really bad east coast weather and that his sub was buried under nearly 3 feet of newly fallen snow so I would have to deal with Montreal by myself. He later decided that if he could get out of the danger zone, about 20 miles of hazardous conditions, he would make the drive through the mountains, which was clear. They also made me check my luggage as the new train, express thankfully, had no room for it. As it turned out, it had no room for my legs either and I was forced to play footsie with Asian teenagers facing me who continually invaded my personal space. Fun times. I arrived at 11 pm, 90 minutes late and everything was quickly closing down. We stayed at the deluxe "La Reine Elisabeth" conveniently on top of the station. I quickly fell into my 'pillow top' mattress and slept-finally!!!

We had breakfast in that good patesserie in old Longueiul after listening to hilarious mispronunciations of the local streets by his GPS-touring much more of them than we needed. I had my enormous 'bol' of cafe au lait to wake me up. One difference between France and Quebec is the use of those large bowls to serve coffee versus the thimblefuls in France. Vive la Quebec!!!! On to the pre-funeral viewing. We quickly had labels 'la famille' impressed upon us and we met up with Andre, the executor of the estate. Initially Bruce and I were to be the co-executors-fun with different laws, language, etc but she had changed her mind. I had met Claire, his sister and Jeannette's favorite niece and goddaughter previously. Claire lived across the street from Jeannette's building keeping a good eye on her along with her sister Louise. We then spent the rest of the day until late at night with Andre, Louise and Claire. They were very welcoming. Claire and Louise were to leave Saturday on a 3 week trip to Tunisia (a retirement gift-all I got was a coffeemaker). It must have been hectic planning the funeral and dealing with the trip. Louise closely resembles Angelica Huston (only more attractive) and had an interesting, sarcastic sense of humor. Claire (like me) loves to travel and has biked several places around the world so we found plenty to talk about. Andre, an engineer, is very organized with all his lists carefully explained Quebec law, complicated, to us. At the viewing, funeral and reception later were numerous nieces and nephews. All were very nice to us though not all English speaking. They really were fond of my Grandfather. Some of the relatives really wanted to practise English so we definitely were not ignored. The service itself was in the massive 'cocathedrale' (shares a bishop with some other cocatherdale)in the village-very beautiful inside. Good acoustics too and beautiful singing from the choir way up in the rafters. Did I understand what was going on? No, hardly at all. The priest did introduce himself to Bruce and me. Jeannette was a very faithful Catholic going daily to mass as her health permitted. Was her husband Catholic? No way Jose, always strictly Protestant though he did some church hopping. The burial service was thankfully brief. No more Jeannette!!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Allons a Montreal !!!!

So I need to be in Montreal this Friday for my step-grandmother's funeral but all this snow is making driving hazardous. I am taking the train from Windsor. The VIA site was down for a few hours making planning difficult. Still haven't decided whether to stay in Montreal proper or in the region across the river where Jeannette lived. I have some stopover time in Toronto both ways so I will explore the city assuming I can park my luggage somewhere. My brother is coming up from the NYC area. Although he didn't have as far to drive, the northeast will be hammered with yet another storm and the Adironacks are in his path.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010


Jeannette married my grandfather nearly 52 years ago making her my step-grandmother and now, my grandbabies' step-great great grandmother. I never called her 'grandma' or anything like it as she was just a few years older than my father, her step-son. He certainly did not call her "Mom". My father disliked her from the start. As my grandfather was a successful physician and she was young and pretty, he suspected some gold-digging. Also she was French-Canadian filling the house with French language and her many relatives whom he also objected to. Well you can't select your kids' spouses nor can you select your parents'. She was a difficult person to warm up to with her many rules. One was to dry the sink out with special towels after you use it so water marks don't form. She was very reserved as opposed to my grandfather's extreme gregariousness. She also considered me to be my father's 'mini-me' so it took years of convincing her that we were not the same. She and my grandfather were married 18 years, took many trips, threw many parties, and had a good marriage-very devoted to each other. After my grandfather died when he was 90, she moved back to Quebec moving in with her college roommate who also as they later found out, was a cousin. We kept in touch over the years and I tried to visit when I could-most recently 3 months ago. She was slowly forgetting English so no longer was comfortable writing it. I can read French all right but the Quebecois dialect is much harder to understand than the school version I learned. I was getting better.

She died yesterday morning of causes I don't understand. She had congestive heart failure but that didn't seem to be the cause. Towards the end, she started accusing her best friend of 80 years of all sorts of stuff. She seemed fairly lucid when I saw her in person in November except that she accused me repeatedly of not sending a thank-you note, which I had.

Not sure when the funeral is but this is really a bad time to travel north. She lived 600 miles away. We are getting our first snow storm of the season today. Even though this winter has been cold, 4 inches at a time is all we had. I got in a long run in yesterday. It was only 15 degrees but sunny and windless.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Aphorisms R Us

Recently a first grade teacher who collects proverbs let her first graders fill in the second part of them. I got this from the blog Campanstan. I am not sure of its original source.
1. Better to be safe than......................punch a 5th grader.

2. Strike while the............................bug is close.

3. It's always darkest before..................Daylight Saving Time.

4. Never underestimate the power of............termites.

5. You can lead a horse to water

6. Don't bite the hand that....................looks dirty.

7. No news is..................................impossible.

8. A miss is as good as a......................Mr.

9. You can't teach an old dog new..............math.

10. If you lie down with dogs, you'll...........stink in the morning.

11. Love all,

12. The pen is mightier than the................pigs.

13. An idle mind is.............................the best way to relax.

14. Where there's smoke there's.................pollution.

15. Happy the bride who.........................gets all the presents.

16. A penny saved is............................not much.

17. Two's company, three's......................the Musketeers.

18. Don't put off till tomorrow put on to go to bed.

19. Laugh and the whole world laughs with you, cry have to blow your nose.

20. There are none so blind as..................Stevie Wonder.

21. Children should be seen and not.............spanked or grounded.

22. If at first you don't succeed...............get new batteries.

23. You get out of something only what you...........see in the picture on the box.

24. When the blind leadeth the blind............get out of the way.

25. Better late than............................pregnant.

I decided to have Naomi fill in the blanks too. She only knew the 'correct' answer to about three of them. Making inferences is her main weakness. Even if one never heard these before, one should be able to deduce the endings.
She and Dontae came over yesterday to do laundry. She allegedly did well on her big test but wasn't ready to study for the next test. She just wanted to chill.

I was a tired slug yesterday and pretty much accomplished nothing. Josh won a bet on the SuperBowl. Hate it when he bets although it is small potatoes compared to what his friends do. There are some scary genes hidden in his gene pool that I am afraid might surface. I will go out to lunch with him as he is taking the day off after his SuperBowl party.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

18 1/2 weeks

Baby Naetae continues to grow...

Paying to be the Best

Recently I watched with interest an infomercial highlighting a local school district and all its innovative programs. From the ten minute presentation, the school system looked fairly impressive. I thought things must have changed drastically in the 35 years since I taught adult ed in that district whose residents at the time seemed to come from trailer parks on swamp land. During the day, I had a parttime assignment teaching high achieving 10 graders in the Ann Arbor district chemistry and physics. At night I taught adult GED math students in the district 10 miles away geographically but light years away in every other aspect. I had no experience teaching 'adults'. I had done my student teaching at the other big Ann Arbor high school teaching AP chemistry and 'regular' chemistry. Even 'regular' chemistry requires math skills that most of my adults would never master. I tutored math while I was in high school but fortunately for me, my students were quite bright, just lazy or distracted, so all ended up successful once they actually looked at the stuff. With one of tutoring jobs tutoring 2 girls at once, I received the princely pay of $7/hour. I had been babysitting for 50 cents/hour-a big bump up with less work.I also tutored younger kids in the intercity reading-an experience that openned my suburban eyes to a lot of things. I had no idea what to expect with adults; I was familiar with high achieving tenth graders though they were no picnic. I was younger than all of my students excepting a 19 year old who already had 3 kids. Her mom was in the class too-her motto: I can't add but I certainly can multiply.Indeed!Where to start? Absolutely no guidance except my marching orders to just get them ready for the GED and to keep track of the Milan prison parolees (!!!?!) I gave a skills test gleaned from a 7th grade math book nervous that the adults would find it too easy-my 10th graders would have no problem with it. No one could get anything right but still they had all different levels. One elderly man, a very sweet pastor with his wife, I called him the Rev, could add up strings of numbers in his head but couldn't multiply. Basically, my adults averaged at the 3rd grade level. My star pupil, a former hood who finally in his twenties wanted to get his life together but was always placed in remedial math classes due to his past poor performance, was quite bright and I quickly got him up through the middle of first year algebra enabling him to score in the high nineties on the GED. Lots of stories...but back to the 'best in Michigan' school district.
One of my classrooms by day was an 8th grade classroom. There was a chart on the wall with all the students' names and their progress mastering the times table. Only one student had mastered it all. Eighth grade!!! Some Ann Arbor students at that age take 2nd year algebra. Another was a biology classroom with a caged animal with the sign:
Carfull, he bit!
It was a chinchilla-never saw one before in the flesh (just their organs of Corti-from my scut job counting hair cells at the Hearing Research Inst.) He managed to escape once under my watch. I didn't want to pick him up given the warning.

So how did this school district turn itself around in the 35 years since I visted it last (although as a part time science educator, I did demonstrations in its schools)It paid a public relations company lots of bucks!!! As it is a 'school of choice' district, it can entice students from other districts to go there and get the state aid that follows those students so I guess, money well spent especially if the high achieving, low cost to educate students can be enticed.

I was in the hospital another day with my friend who was finally released. She will be with her beloved son for the next few days and then I will keep her company at the end of the week. But I think our time together has made us closer.

My husband will leave in a week (instead of today dealing with snow drifts along the route) for his caregiving.

My friend was in the new, fancy wing of the hospital. From the top floor, one could see Detroit. South and east of Ann Arbor, Michigan is a flat chunk of land. Coming from the hills of the Southern Tier region of New York, I was shocked at its flatness moving here though we always went to Ann Arbor twice a year as that's where my grandparents lived (in Barton HILLS-so that wasn't flat). Pretty as this wing is, there are some design flaws that were made evident to me yesterday. The sleek design of the elevator keys make it not obvious on which button to press. There is a star on what appears to be the first floor button. (At least everyone knows the first floor is the one to get out of as this hospital is built on a flat piece of land-UM is built on the side of a steep hill-Main floor of the Cancer Center-bottom of the hill is B2-In other buildings the 5th floor). I first found an elderly couple who were going up and down just hoping that the elevator would stop at one. They had pressed the 'star' not this little bump nearby that apparently elderly eyes can't distinguish. They were quite grateful to get to the first floor and I showed them the secret button for future reference. Design flaw number two: very poor signage. They get off the elevator and there are no signs hinting in which direction to go. Being that it was my third day there and that I had made numerous trips in that time, I had mastered the maze. I took them through several corridors until we could find the signs. They had extremely limited mobility and making them learn the maze by trial and error seemed really unfair. When I left the hospital for the day, I got on the elevator with a hysterical older woman already calling security through the emergency phone. Apparently she had been stuck on the elevator for sometime trying to get to the first floor and had claustrophobia. She thought it was just accidental that we made it there when I came in. You didn't press the right button. I know how to work an elevator, I pressed the star with the one on it. Are you ever coming back to this hospital? I have to, all my friends have cancer!!! Well let me show you the magic button...

I only heard one lullaby yesterdy. A slow day for babies. I found a woman wheeling out newborn twins. I asked if they had been born two days ago at noon (when we heard the lullabies close together). No they had been in for more than a week-one looked 50% bigger than the other.

Naomi's big test is today(she goes to the school's testing center-open on Sundays). She thought she could study on her own for the past two days making me very nervous.
While my friend entertained other friends, I went for a run yesterday. The wind was brutal but pleasant while on my back. So far Michigan has been spared much of the snow everyone else got. Fine by me.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Red Dress

My daughter is the first bridesmaid, maid of honor, behind the bride. Three of the women in the picture, including the bride were in my girlscout troop. The bride was the smallest looking like a 3 year old amongst the 6 year olds but when she smiled, you could see the typical 6 year girl dentition-no upper incisors. She's now living in Paris expecting her first child in 2 months. Hopefully the baby will be more developed than she was, a very small preemie. How things change in 25 years!

I put this picture up as the weather is such a stark contrast to here-bleak, cold and gray. This photo was taken July 2006 on the Palo Verde pennisula outside of LA. There is not much development on it as the area is extremely geologically unstable. Also the red dresses are in honor of women's heart month. Presumably our cardiovascular health is a greater threat on the whole to our lives than breast cancer but I just don't feel it. The odds computer the onc used was that my chance of death due to my breast cancer in the next 10 years was 25% and due to other causes: 4%. I assume the lion's share of 'other causes' was heart disease. But hopefully I am keeping my heart healthy by my constant running. I am working on the better diet part. Not that I have been running that much this week between getting over the throat infection and spending time in the hospital. I did get out while my friend took a drug induced nap to run along the river. It was brutal coming back, uphill and very windy. The path was part of something I used to run every day when we lived in the township. I would run the 6.5 miles home from work. Since then, they've built this bridge to nowhere on my path suitable for an ocean liner to pass through (the river is dammed right underneath but the train is also there-couldn't have a railroad crossing on a principal hospital route).

While I was in the hospital, Steve and Josh went out to fetch us a bright blue new car. While it is not the sexy, red roadster that 2 of my faithful readers bought after cancer, it's still cute though practical. Now we can come and go as we please without worrying about inconveniencing the other. A few years ago, we had a fleet of vehicles surrounding our house, two cars belonging to Josh and Julia when they lived with us, our two cars and this monstrosity that I inherited that we barely used. For a while, Julia had a second car so we had 6 vehicles to juggle. After we let Naomi use our 2nd car(probably a bad idea), we were down to one. Bright red, bright green and now bright blue: primary colors.

Back to the hospital today. My friend is making great progress (she must have consumed 500 calories yesterday) and is off the iv. I will probably take her home today. Even though she does not feel well, we are enjoying our time together.

Thursday, February 4, 2010


Today I spent the day in the hospital to help out a friend. This hospital recently received a new addition and is now quite deluxe but I got lost several times trying to get from one point to the other. I had delivered my oldest 2 babies there but when I had Naomi, the UM system was the only one permitting midwife assisted births so I went there instead.

They do things differently at this hospital vs UM. UM has a dedicated children's hospital whereas this hospital has a peds floor partially filled up with post-surgical patients such as my friend. Everytime a baby is born, a lullaby is played on the intercom. At one point, the lullabies came 2 minutes apart-we were thinking twins. The night before was filled with lullabies according to my friend. Everyone's having babies. You would think that would become annoying after a while but it is just a small part of the constant din. My least favorite noise-the alarms that go off when an iv bag runs out. You can reset them for one minute at a time giving you some peace. I learned to hate these things when Shanna was hospitalized for 2 weeks when she was 10 and shared a room with 3 other girls, some having these bags along with her. I stayed with her the whole time. I'd dutifully call the nurse's station to tell them that a bag needs changing usually to be ignored. This went on all night. So it's not crucial that a bag gets changed right away but what really got me steamed is when they would forget Shanna's pain meds. I was on that intercom right away. Once when ignored and told 'just a minute' five times while my daughter writhed in pain, I interupted a meeting finding the nurse there sipping coffee. YOU get up and give my daughter her medsright now!!!!! I'm at a meeting now. I dont give a F!!! Yep I made plenty of friends there but don't mess with Mama Bear.
Moral: don't leave semi-helpless people alone in the hospital.

To leave the hospital, my friend has to be able to eat. Being a peds floor, baby food is in the patients' food cupboard (complete with signs: Only for Patients!!!-no elaborate fruit plates and pastry displays for patients' families such as the nice Cambridge hospital my grandsons were born in). I reported my findings to my friend to see if any of the flavors appealed to her in the least. No apricots? Sadly no.She settled for pears-a teaspoon full. One small step to getting freed.

I agree with her: baby apricots are the best! They should make them for adults. Indeed they did for a while. Trader Joes carried apricot sauce (and equally yummy-mango sauce). I was a big fan and found ways to make desserts with both sauces. In the morning, I'd mix it (unsweetened) with yogurt and granola. Bliss but now they don't carry either sauce.

Walking is a big part of recovery so I was needed for door openning and to make sure she didn't suddenly become ill away from her room. We'd walk by the kid cages. Patients less than 5 are put in escape-proof crib-cages. Unlike the cribs that my grandson now escapes from, these cribs have tops.

Last night was more cramming for the big micro exam. She seems to be trying so hard-so much for her to learn.
I will go back to the hospital today. Steve and Josh will buy a car so my husband is free to travel this weekend to help a family member's recovery. Then more cramming.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Le mie cugine

Everytime that I am alone in my car, I listen to my Italian tapes just so that I won't forget what the language sounds like. I have two sets of tapes of my own and recently got another 2 sets from the library. I am getting more consistant with rolling my 'r's. I went to Royal Oak today to meet with my cousins and my aunt so I was able to go through an entire set of tapes. I did stop by my parents' home and by some miracle, someone seems to be living in it now. When it was built in the 60s, my parents' house was quite nice but years of neglect plus having this vermin squatter living in it, took its toll. When my father died, the house was in absolute shambles and stuffed to the gills with trash. I sold it to a flipper for half of what it would have been worth if it had been maintained. Alot of work was put into it but by the time the flippers had finished, the housing market went downhill and it remained unsold for 5 years. But apparently someone finally bought it as I could see signs of life inside.

My mom had 2 sisters (actually there were 4 girls in all but one had died very young) and each of them had a daughter (along with some sons). Today we 3 daughters got together along with my mom's oldest sister for a nice lunch and gossip time.

So much of our time is spent dealing with insurance issues. We pay for dental insurance but all our claims were denied as they said, no we don't. Back and forth on that one to get it straightened out. Then they stopped withdrawing our health insurance out of our pension. More calls. Steve spent numerous hours on hold.

And now my thyroid replacement medicine is not available indefinitely so I needed to switch back to this stuff that I don't think is as effective. What I want is the natural thyroid extract which is a mixture of the thyroid hormone itself and its prodrug that the body will turn into 'the good stuff' as needed. What I have to take now is the prodrug form and my doctor sends in a script for the wrong dosage-off by a factor of 2. Either he can't do the math or read my chart but fixing this will be a pain.

And Naomi continues her immature, scary wasteful ways. We let her have a credit card saying it's only for gas but she quickly treats all her friends to dinner several times plus buy $63 of make-up maxxing out quickly. So no credit card for her. I don't know what she could have been thinking.  So.. So..scary. Maybe when I am 75, I will be done with child-raising...

But my friend has got good news after her grueling surgery. No more treatment for her beyond recovering from the surgery. And my relative won't need the really scary treatment for the recurrence but is doing now a difficult treatment nonetheless. I really hate cancer.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Sue Redux

I've finally emerged from my slothdom of 4 days. I had only left the house once in as many days and that was to entertain Sunny. But today, back to running, which I dreaded as it was snowing and I thought I'd be weak but I felt fine and toasty. It was good to be moving again. I am not sure what my ailment was, no symptoms of a cold-just a very painful throat and my vomiting episodes, which I think was a reaction to the Vicodin. But it's gone and I'm glad.

Naomi was able to feel her baby kick for the first time yesterday. She was thrilled.

Steve and I saw Up in the Air. I always regarded Clooney as just smug eye candy but I was very impressed with his performance in this. I also liked the actress who played his young replacement. Some of the scenes were shot in Detroit shown as a very depressing place. All in all, a great movie.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Monday moaning

I am still not 100% healthy so again, I didn't exercise, not that going outside right now looks all that inviting. I did walk with Sunny yesterday to burn off her energy rolling the ball down the hills for her to chase in the woods. She is very agile.But now she is at her own home.

Naomi came over to work on microbiology. Hopefully she is retaining it although the pictures of the infections some of these organisms cause, she won't forget any time soon. She is excited to receive one of Shanna's cribs even though it is 'used'.She's afraid her boyfriend won't approve of a used crib for his precious child. I wouldn't even begin to describe the many ways the condition of their apartment is 'unsuitable for a baby'. That should be their top priority.

This drug that I take for my Graves' disease is no longer available and my doctor won't return my calls about a suitable replacement. Argh.


Blog Archive