Thursday, September 30, 2010

Breast Cancer takes another

The sweet woman that I finally gotten around to writing today died last night. Even as of a few days ago, there seemed to be hope that they could slow the liver met down. Initially they thought she had a primary liver tumor and it was good news that it was a breast cancer met as there was some hope of treatment. Anyway, my heart aches for the family, especially for her beautiful son that is Josh's age and friend. She was my age and had three children.

Reaching out

When I was under going treatment for breast cancer, there were certain people I never heard from who I thought were my friends. I knew they knew too and it made me sad. But in some ways, it was my 'just desserts' for turning the other way when I knew other acquaintances were dealing with difficult issues.

Recently I've heard through the grapevine that an acquaintance has metastatic  breast cancer. We were in 2 different sets of car pools back in Josh's middle and high school days. A depressing carpool at that. Ann Arbor is a very diverse place in many aspects of the word. Aside from cultural and racial diversity, there is much economic diversity with haves, have-nots, and haves a whole lot. In this carpool, the closest in value to our humble abode was maybe 3x the value. The only friends Josh allowed to our house were the ones from the neighborhood; the very rich kids he didn't want to see our place and he had lots of very rich friends. Over the years I have had several pleasant conversations with this woman. Paranoid as I am, I always detected a little astonishment that Josh is such a great kid, athlete, well -adjusted person, etc despite... well... weird me.
Well I try to do my best for the kids but they are what they are.
Anyway, for the past 2 weeks I've been debating whether I should contact her. We don't exactly travel in the same circles and there was that tone of condescension that may or may not have been there but I figure I can't really ignore someone who has been dealt a terrible blow and then whine how certain people have forsaken me. So I wrote her a note. She can contact me if she wishes or throw the note in the trash.

Our house needs lots of work. Tomorrow we are going to the remodeler's showcase of homes to get some ideas. Our first target: our sorry, barely functioning out-dated bathrooms.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Paletta Grande

Very big poop calls for a very big scoop

Aside from the Art Prize and Chiluly exhibits, the Sculpture Gardens have permanent installations. Back in the 15th century, Leonardo da Vinci was commissioned by the Sforza family (we saw the Sforza palace in Milano last year) to design the world's largest horse sculpture. He made many drawings and constructed  a large clay model only to have the invading French use it as target practice. In the 1970s, an artist Charles Dent decided to use da Vinci's drawings and complete the sculpture but he died before finishing. Another artist, Nina Akamu, took up the project. Da Vinci wanted to cast the whole horse in bronze but all that weight on 2 legs would make that impossible. With some clever engineering, the da Vinci horse was completed and set up in Milano but it wasn't readily accessible to us while we were there. Its replica , The American Horse, is here. The giant pooper scooper is now gone. Perhaps there were liability issues with kids climbing the handle.

Another potential job for us surfaced in my e-mail, one specifically for displaced workers of my former company.

I have 3 varieties of stat analyzers on this blog; each having a different emphasis. One of them says that I have getting plenty of traffic from Latvia. Cool, I think. A new country. But the other two counters show no signs of this or of my alleged South Korean readers either. Strange. More people up to no good?

It is a beautiful fall day here. I ran effortlessly probably due to my day off yesterday (I did walk alot thouugh).

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Meijer Gardens

While it poured in Ann Arbor, it was bright and sunny in the western part of the state at Meijer Gardens In Grand Rapids. The whole city is decked out with their ArtPrize art. Some of it was at the Gardens. Also at the gardens: the Chihuly exhibit. I do love glass. Many pictures to follow:


Monday, September 27, 2010

Writer's block

I am still around dear readers. I just am losing interest in sharing my life with cyberspace so posts will be much less frequent.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Family time

About 18 months ago, I entitled another post this. Stat counter showed it as an entry point by a certain organization that seems to be stalking me. Word to the wise; never put ones last name on anything; not even a caption which I had done in this instance. It didn't matter that my first and last name was separated by a paragraph. The name has been removed but the stalking continues.

But we try to have a family dinner once a month even though part of our family is in economic exile in MA. I keep hoping that the space left by my former employer will fill up with research companies that could hire my SIL. At the same time, I was invited to a neighbor's BBQ but somehow standing in the cold with Steve pleading with his eyes Can we go yet?didn't seem like much fun. We had gone early to see the open house next door that my friend/realtor had staged. Furnished houses, especially nicely furnished houses sell better than empty ones. I like looking at houses though I hate dealing with pushy realtors.

We drove by fields of ginormous pumpkins. It must be a great pumpkin year. We left at dusk; dangerous as his township is the 3rd highest for deer/car crashes. We had just left his neighborhood 5 years ago when we had ours. After his soccer game the other night, the cars had to come to a screeching halt as a herd of deer crossed Fuller Rd.

While Steve was gone earlier helping Naomi yet again, I tried to make some progress downsizing our possessions. Too much stuff.

Saturday, September 25, 2010


Though it was sunny this morning, the sky was dark blue from a storm that never materalized, backlighting the leaves that are changing. An autumn sky. Steve thinks it's too cold to run now but I love it in the high 40s even with the wind.
A car pulled beside me as I started out yesterday.
I admire your tenacity

I feel good running, most of the time. I feel alive. Yes I wish I was faster or more graceful.
We spent much time feathering Naomi's nest yesterday and Steve was over there again today. All the furniture is put together.
I see from my statcounter, a person with an android is back on my blog fishing again. Creepy.

Now blogger has its own stats that records things form a different viewpoint. The number one blog read? Donkey Stew, mostly from foreign ips. Number two : Hummingbird and their imposters.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Moving day

We are now officially landlords as we closed earlier today on our condo that we will rent to Dontae and Naomi. Our garage is full of Naomi's stuff, which hopefully will be gone today. My job is to watch Maya while Steve and Naomi move the stuff. I worried about them in their place in Ypsi. This place should be much safer and much, much nicer. No sewage gurgling through the bathtub drain; no arsons and shoot-outs, etc. No broken locks, etc.

It was already 80 and humid when I ran before the closing. Now we have very strong winds. Several of the traffic lights are out near our house but the main road near our house is finally open. Happy Days! Going anywhere was a nightmare.

They are shortening the halves of the soccer game now that daylight is disappearing. Another mom was there last night videoing her son so I am not the only mom. Josh's friend's mom comes occasionally too. The other day she yelled at the ref to give someone a green card. Oops.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Cremains to be seen

Yesterday I had some time on my hands before the funeral. I had looked through the multiple pictures of the loved one whom I never had met but heard of. I met various family members and played with my friend's 11 month old great-grandson (he was smaller than Maya but very cute), I cleaned my purse, I took a walk in the nearby neighbor making phone calls until the drizzle drove me inside. Still more time left (why did I come so early?): what to do? I read through a book of services offered by the funeral home on how to honor ones loved one.
  • Send their cremains into space through some partnership they have with a rocket company. Their ashes will orbit the earth indefinitely (well Suzie Scientist begs to differ with that). No price offered for that service.
  • Convert their cremains into part of an artificial reef.
  • Convert their cremains into a diamond-like jewel to be worn as a ring or necklace.
  • Dump (not the word they used) their cremains into the ocean. My father had requested that his ashes be spread on Moonlight Beach in CA. This is illegal but my brother arranged for a boat to go out somewhere in the Pacific Ocean outside of San Diego. They gave a certificate with the exact co-rodinates.
  • Make an imprint of their fingertip to be worn as a gold medallion.
  • At the service, release monarch butterflies at $150/dozen.
  • At the service, release doves at $150/piece.
I swear I am not making any of the above up. Death be not proud indeed! As for me, I want none of the above nor do I want any Weird Al Yankovic songs be played full blast at the service (good sound system there though). As a cancer patient without fantastic odds of survival (I do hope they are improving with every month that goes by seemily cancer-free) I guess I should consider these things. I do have a plot in the nicest cemetary in Ann Arbor. Beyond that, I don't know what I want (just what I don't want).

By the time I got home, it was too muggy to run plus difficult after an Indian lunch. Maya was with us for a while. She is becoming much more expressive. Still not as smily as I remember my babies being. I am lucky to elicit one smile a visit.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Bohemian Rhapsody

Too late, my time has come
Sends shivers down my spine
Body's aching all the time
Goodbye, everybody
I've got to go

Gotta leave you all behind and face the truth
Mama, oooooooh (Anyway the wind blows)
I don't want to die
Sometimes wish I'd never been born at all

Spare him his life from this monstrosity
Easy come, easy go, will you let me go?
Bismillah! No, we will not let you go
Let him go
Bismillah! We will not let you go

Let him go
Bismillah! We will not let you go
Let me go (Will not let you go)
Let me go (Will not let you go) (Never, never, never, never)
Let me go, o, o, o, o
No, no, no, no, no, no, no
(Oh mama mia, mama mia) Mama Mia, let me go
Beelzebub has the devil put aside for me, for me, for me!

So you think you can stone me and spit in my eye
So you think you can love me and leave me to die
Oh, baby, can't do this to me, baby
Just gotta get out, just gotta get right outta here

Somewhere I have a video of Shanna and a few of her friends lip syncing this song with a multicolored backdrop..colors swirling all over the place. They made these videos at the senior high graduation party. I never realized how sinister these lyrics were  until today when they were blasted through the funeral hall home. They didn't play Queen's version; no they played this upbeat polka version (Bohemian Polka)in which the lyrics were even easier to discern. The polka part just seemed even more than a slap in the face.

Can we spell inappropriate? Or maybe it is appropriate. I am sure that this was someones last wish to have this music played but to me, not all last wishes need to be followed especially when they are capable of causing so much pain.

In the past five years, my friend has lost a husband and now a son. Maybe it is just me but this song was especially sad.

It was held in the west, flat suburbs. The funeral home looked familiar. Indeed, I had gone there to arrange details around my father's death. I didn't stay for lunch as I hardly knew anyone there except my friend. I did meet the rest of her family, which was interesting.

I did stop in the Indian section of Canton on the way back to pick up treats. They even have story time in the local library in Tamil. Unfortunately, they stopped making homemade Indian ice cream. No fig ice cream for me. I got a huge dosa with all sorts of chutneys. Yum.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose

Downtown Ann Arbor in late September

It is Indian summer today with highs near 90. Lately running has been sapping my strength so I went to the Y instead. I am finally recovering from my lack of weight training in July and August and can lift as much I did before. Still I remain the same: fat and slow.

It turns out that we do not have to go through the formal process of converting our condo to a rental unit as a family member is involved. Good, this saves many hassles and money. Steve has been doing the lion's share of dealing with this. My contribution? I found the condo in the first place.

I took Maya for a walk yesterday  with neighbors  stopping me to have a look at her. She is becoming more interactive. She hasn't grown any more hair since she was born. Ther is a half inch  fringe of wavy reddish brown hair above the nape of her neck but it is very sparse on the reast of her head. Her blue eyes have touches of green in them.

In less than a month, my grandsons will be here too. This is the longest I have gone without seeing them.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Lost and Found

Pictures of Maya by Naomi

Every time I can't find something, I have to fight the temptation to blame someone else for moving my things. I once was missing my keys for a few months. I know I had put them in the usual place on the table but where were they? Cleaning out my closet, I was about to throw out an old mostly empty cereal box and heard a rattle...Naomi! She was just a toddler though and liked to put things in small places. When my mom was staying with us, she exhibited the same behavior; redistributing our things and then denying she touched them. Alzheimer's Disease is like childhood in reverse; growing up backwards. First she lost her math skills, then reading, then speaking, then walking. In the end  she forgot how to swallow. One loves to see ones child acquire new skills. It is distressing watching ones parent losing them.

Now if I can't find somehing, I probably hid it from myself. Today two things emerged: my cleome seeds and some lotion that has been missing since Maya was born. Minor victories.

Steve went to pick up a few things at the grocery last night. He said he couldn't pick up too much. Why was that? Did he forget to bring money? No, no carts. Living near North Campus, the foreign graduate students seem to think that grocery carts are free and take them to their apartments. Do they return them? No, the grocery store hires some teenager to go retrieve them and bring them back but apparently the carts must be hidden. I saw a few of them thrown into the woods near the golf course on my run. I suppose this isn't their fault as there are no signs saying: Hey those carts are ours, not yours. I feel like yelling at these people,  Is that your cart? Do you realize that many people think you are a thief?

Today Steve is at the city offices seeing what is entailed in registering the condo with them. How many smoke detectors do we need? Does it matter that our tenant is a family member? Do we need a fire door?

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Triboluminescence in essence

Yesterday as I was carelessly blogging about our wedding party, I wrote that the deer jumped through the yard sipping ginger concoctions and eating smoked swordfish. A dear reader remarked that we feed our deer well in Ann Arbor. Indeed we do but the ginger drinks were not for them. Ms. Pedantic, where have you gone? This was my name back in the lab where one of my secondary functions was to proof read others reports but Ms. Pedantic, heal thyself! Can I blame chemobrain for this? Steve has pointed out that this was not the first time I have written so inanely. Apparently I do on a fairly regular basis. Tant pis!

When one breaks down a crystal structure mechanically, small amounts of electrical charge are given off in the form of light. Presumably the Ute Indians were the first people to put this into action by placing small quartz crystals in a translucent hide, shaking the crystals thus making the first light stick. Triboluminescence is in the Girl Scout leaders bag o'tricks to amuse children though I don't think they ever call it that. Their name: the Sparkle Walk. While camping  and on a night hike, you stop the girls, tell them to turn off their flashlights, and you pass out wintergreen lifesavers. You tell them not to eat them until you tell them too. They are to face their buddies and bite into the candy with their mouths open while their buddy observes sparks of light. Cool!

My co-workers had not heard of this despite being scientists. I must demonstrate of course. But where ?  We go into a janitor closet and stand there for awhile for our eyes to adjust to the darkness and then we bite on the candy. But right as we are getting started, a janitor opens the closet and finds me with 3 men.

You don't need to tell me nothing!
But I was just showing them triboluminescence!

Colors are changing here. In the cool, fresh air, I ran for a long time and then went to lunch with Josh. One of his friends resurfaced after ignoring phone calls for the past few years. His mom just was diagnosed with a distal recurrence of BC. Cancer, cancer everywhere!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Bridal shower

In a couple of weeks, one of the moms will remarry. She is one of the 5 moms in our 31 year old post-partum support group. She was my roommate in the hospital when I had Shanna. Another mom hosted a bridal party for her last night. It was very nice sitting out on the deck with hummingbirds flitting around and the deer running through the yard. We sipped on ginger concoctions and then feasted on shrimp,  smoked swordfish, chevre, and salad while laughing and gossiping about this and that. A very nice evening with good friends.

Now it is raining. I will go to the Y once the UM game starts. On football Saturdays, the population of our town doubles and one has to plan ones trips around that.

Friday, September 17, 2010

The Ex-Existential Heroine

Steve and Maya. Ms Maya turned 11 weeks yesterday

A few months after I graduated, my  then-boyfriend and I lived in separate states. I would send him lengthy accounts of the absurdities that I dealt with; teaching spoiled high achieving physical science students by day and low achieving adult math students at night fitting in my job at the Hearing Inst counting hair cell loss in guinea pigs and correlating that with antibiotic dosage. I also had my duties in the co-op. He referred to me as his Existential Heroine. But when I was forced to earn a living working for All that is Evil in his eyes (making drugs so someone could profit from human misery), I was no longer his heroine. For the first year of this blog, he was on it regularly but unless he has changed his address, he has disappeared into cyberspace. Maybe he will recognize himself and resurface.

It is a cloudy cool day. I wore a sweater to last night's soccer game. The team suffered their first defeat even though they were the better team. There is no transitivity in soccer and no fairness: the better team doesn't always win.

A friend of mine lost an adult child this week. I can not imagine the pain she must be feeling.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Three week radiation protocol

Five to seven weeks of daily radiation still seems to be the standard of care in the US even though it has been shown that a  3 week course is just as effective (see Change comes slowly. Recently a mother of a  friend of Josh was diagnosed with early stage BC. It was a very small tumor, low grade and excised with surgery. Still they recommended 7 weeks of radiation.
What?! I have a little tumor. How about just  a little radiation?

I have sent her (third hand) ammunition  to request the 3 week protocol. She lives in a big city whose health facitlities I am not aware of. She is an executive for a large company so she's probably articulate and forceful. We'll see how that works.

UM never did it before I insisted on it. My rad onc did acknowledge that the rate of recurrence was the same but thought in my case the cosmesis (ha) wouldn't be as good and made me sign a paper saying I knew that. Now she thinks that it isn't so bad.

Poison ivy is spreading everywhere. Now I see vines of it hidden under the grapeleaves. Some of the leaves even look like grape leaves like Escher's drawings showing fish morphing into birds. I think we need chemical warfare now.

I was walking Maya the other day and met a new young mom with a son just 2 weeks older than Ms. Maya. She gave me some varigated cleome pods but for the life of me, I don't know what I did with them.

Last night I went to the Cooking for Survival class. The subject: gluten-free cooking. This didn't seem to have much to do with cancer except that the inflammation in the digestive tract due to the intolerance of gluten has been linked to various digestive cancers and lymphomas. A man there gave his history. Some of his symptoms sound quite similiar to a certain someone here with digestive issues. Most of the people who show up there are BC survivors but there was a new person there. She has stage 4 cancer but has made the difficult decision to forgo further treatment. Yikes.

Back at the dentist this morning to get my new crown. So much fun.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Tata has Taya

The girls dressed for the prom just over a year ago. Tata is in yellow
Tata was once Naomi's best friend until something happened between them about a year ago. Recently Naomi found out that Tata was having a little girl too and all is forgiven. They plan on Maya and Taya to be good friends growing up together.

Yesterday Naomi received a text from her about 1 pm:

I am fully dialated (sic) and I am beginning to push now.

A text, dear Reader. Trust me, even if I knew how, I wasn't texting people as I was pushing. I don't think I was capable of uttering a coherent sentence. As it turned out, they had to wake her up to tell her that she needed to push. She had slept through her entire labor helped considerably by an epidural. And the epidural did not prolong the pushing: Taya came out after 20 minutes of pushing and texting weighing just the same as Ms. Maya: 7# 14oz. The name does NOT rhyme with Maya but is  an amalgam of Tata and Taylor.

The name Tata cracks me up. Apparently it does not mean the same thing in Filipino as it does here though the name does seem apt as a good percentage of her 100 lbs (if that) was devoted to breastage.It reminds me of that South American telenovela Sin Tetas, no hay Paraiso. Without tits, there is no paridise although when it was shown in the US, the offending words were changed to Sin pechos which I assume mean peaches. Also I am told that Tata, pronounced Tayta, is Arabic for paternal grandmother. So Oliver and Daniel have a tata and it's not me. In Arabic, maternal and paternal relatives have different names.

I was going to title this post:


or maybe


I did title one post

that got lots of hits.



Good thing you don't have to listen to me mispronounce anomaly. But the answer to my question  is that now she does not seem to be. So many young women are having babies...she has a long list. But in our family she seems to be. When she first met with the public health nurse, she wanted me there. The first question the nurse asked me was  whether I had been a teenage mom myself. Should I be flattered that would put me in my thirties (damn, this hair dye job is working!) or insulted that Naomi was perpetuating another generation of white trash culture that I must be a part of? Instead I replied that the medical term used to describe me as I gave birth to Naomi was elderly. Yes elderly. OBs describe patients over 35 as elderly

See lady, I know medical terms. I can't be too uneducated, can I?

In my living room, there is a picture of an earnest young woman EUSEBIA LYDIA WAGNER ROSS.
On the back, my grandfather has written her life story. Born 1850. Married 1882. First child: 1884, Fourth child 1890 (my grandfather at age 40!). Last child: 1892 (at age 42!). Died 1910. Definitely Eusebia was NOT a teenage mom. She was a redhead from generations of redheads. I was the first to break the chain with my dishwater blonde (hate that term)hair but Naomi temporarily picked up the chain. In strong sunlight, there are glints of red in Ms. Maya's hair. My father's mother turned 39 shortly after his birth, her only child. Even my uneducated maternal grandmother was in her 30s when she had my mom.

Whether Naomi is an anomie or more correctly, a symptom of an anomie remains to be seen. She is trying to do right by Ms. Maya and has high hopes for her. We will have to help a lot.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Usury R Us, Y?

UM fans the other day Maya with her uncle and aunt
Our state has laws against this, no more than 7% for personal loans. But certain financial institutions are exempt. I guess they would argue they are providing a service for low income people with no credit. How else could they buy a car? So this is the service: Charge 50% premium for a POS car then charge 18% interest. In a twist I didn't expect, they demand a down payment. Fair enough but the down payment is pure interest.The result is that even if we were to take over the loan and rewrite it at a more reasonable interest, it wouldn't help because the damage has already been done. Most of the remaining payments are principal.A whole system added to my evil list.

We had to write a lease up yesterday according to the by-laws. Sorting out financial issues was fun and an eye opener to us all.

Weather wise, it was beautiful though all this dryness is tough on the plants. I haven't seen the hummingbirds in a while. Hopefully last week's cold didn't kill them.

Maya is becoming more alert and interactive. She is happy in the Baby Bjorn, not so much in the stroller. We did take her for a walk for some fresh air.

I spent a nice evening admiring my friend's decorating abilities and having dinner. Shrimp goat cheese pizza. Yum.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Loaves and fishes

Loaves and fishes was an expression we used in our lab when we obtained more than theoretical yield for our reaction. We could not shrug, say God is Great and accept the  bounty. No we had to figure out what went wrong. Weighing error? Incorrectedly tared glassware? The product has boatloads of solvent contained within? Or worse, the product wasn't what we thought it was.

I have an investment that could be termed loaves and fishes also. We also refer to it as the House of Cards.Basically, we receive high yields in part because they are returning part of the prinicipal. Theoretically then, the prinicipal should decrease. Does it? No, it is increasing! Loaves and fishes indeed! Now back in the lab, I'd be obligated to figure out what is going wrong or in this case, right but out here in the big, wide world, there are much more unknowns than there are in the controlled environment of the lab. Ironically, I got this investment for my mother after some fund manager wore me down calling me constantly telling me that my dad's over reliance in T-bills was dangerous and I needed to be prudent. To this day, I don't understand what was wrong with my dad's thinking (in this case, he was wrong about so many other things). Anyway, I caved with so much other stuff going on. Fine! Get me something safe that produces income!!!
I trust fund managers about as much as I trust lawyers: too much self interest involved in both cases clouding their advice.

Money is a difficult concept. I was trying to explain it to Naomi yesterday beyond  don't spend more than you have. I was trying to explain car loans: part of the payment is that of the principal and part of it is interest: in Dontae's case, huge amount of interest. If this interest could be reduced, life would be easier for them. Not too long ago (7 years?)she wanted me to buy a $100 outfit for a single use. I explained that we didn't have money to waste on that. She said she knows we do, Josh had told her how much we earn. Really? How much would that be? She said that he said we earn $1000/year. OK, assuming that is correct, wouldn't it be wasteful to use 10% of our income on this outfit?

I seem to running out of energy. Even though I had ideal conditions and had a day of relative rest (I had gone to the Y), running made me tired. Lunch was nice with J&J. I should have gotten the ropas viejas (old clothes) as I was starving. The vegetarian frittata didn't fill me up. I ended up eating Josh's mexican yams. It was a beautiful day and Steve and I walked around for awhile afterwards. I did note that my 'one of a kind' necklace can be had for much cheaper in a local store.

Something is killing my petunias as it did last year. Not unique to me, I saw signs of death in the public baskets too. Soon the frost will get everything.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Lock and Key

Recently I finished reading The Billion Dollar Molecule which is the true story how one small drug company got its start in the early 90s, a time when many biotechs and small companies just popped up. I know people at this particular company and also had heard several of the main characters speak at various meetings so I found this book particularly interesting. One person is associated with the research institute that my SIL works at. Basically what this company brought to the table is that they were going to design drugs to specifically fit into a receptor aka structure based design. This was not a new concept even then.

When medicinal chemists try to explain what they do (beyond the I make drugs), they invoke the old lock and key metaphor: there is a lock (could be an enzyme, a receptor...) and we try to make the key that fits into the lock. There are a few problems with this metaphor (and structure based design in general). One is figuring out what this 'lock' looks like. Having a crystal structure of the enzyme is useful here. What are the binding regions of a receptor are a bit harder to picture. You can figure out what binds and what doesn't and construct a model from that. Another problem is that both the lock and key are not static. They both can bend and twist. Another problem is even if you find the key, by the time the body metabolizes it, it might be something else. As time goes on and computers become more powerful, they (the industry) is getting closer to making this work. In the meantime, we used to have modelling meetings which I used to hate. We'd sit around in a dark room wearing our 3-D glasses that gave me a headache after 5 minutes. Our alleged receptor, all pretty and colorful, would seem to float above the table. This always impresses outsiders. We had to propose targets in advance. The computational chemists would feed them into the computer and then see how they would fit into 'the lock'. On several occasions I was told that what I proposed definitely wouldn't work despite my intuition and I would make them anyway and guess what, they were good. So I was cynical of the whole modelling exercise. Once it was announced we were closing down, these modelling sessions were suspended. Back to my intuition on what to make which was fine by me.

In the book, the lock was a protein involved in immunosuppression. If this company found the right key, a successor to Cyclosporin could be found. Cyclosporin enables people to receive organ transplants so they don't reject their organs but the side effects are not fun. Clearly a better drug is needed. This company led investors to believe they had 'the lock' identified; finding the key would be simple. But as it turned out, the 'lock' wasn't anything useful. Fortunately for the company, they quickly found other projects to justify their existence.

Watching UM beat Notre Dame was fun yesterday. Josh had a UM party. Did he go there? No, but still it is his favorite team. Who did go there? 4 generations of us starting with my grandfather, father, me and Shanna (for 2 years, she graduated from MSU).

It is beautiful out here today. I ran out into the country. For lunch we will meet up with Josh and Julia for Cuban food.

Saturday, September 11, 2010


The above images are the inside and outside of a famous architect's house that I saw last month. Without trespassing, I couldn't get a clear short of the front showing the chain link fence decorations. The inside kitchen looks interesting. These are from the web.

I learned a new word this week: Anosognosia. Not sure if I can pronounce it but it means the denial that one has a disease or condition to oneself. It is common to both people who have schizophrenia or depression. Now I can understand why someone with schizophrenia might deny their condition: the very disease consists of an altered reality but depression? I could see denying it to others but to oneself?

Back at work, we were far removed from the patients. Their diseases were a mess of receptors, enzymes, neurotransmitters. To put a human face on why we were doing the work (other than to give a return on their investment to our stockholders), we would meet patients occasionally. The last patient encounter sesssion was 'manic depression' day. This condition is not served well with traditional antidepressives but the patient often presents as a 'regularly' depressed patient. The patient never shows up in their manic state as they feel too good. However the manic state is observed by others. The histories given by the patient differed quite a bit from that of their family member. Anosognosia at work.

It will rain with in the next hour  for the first time in around 10 days. Steve and I took a walk in the neighborhood last night. Since the recession, upkeep on houses is declining. Last spring, there were two fires in our neighborhood in a weeks times. Neither house has been repaired completely. The dryer lint fire house has no roof or any tarp to protect the insides. Work is still in progress with the lightning strike house. Our street has been particularly unlucky with lightning strike fires.

Friday, September 10, 2010

The Girl who dreamt of Hornets' Nests

Good Golly Ms. Maya. Her eyes are still very blue despite what this picture indicates. I don't think she's dreaming of hornets..probably just has dreams of milk, milk and more milk.

I've had several dreams of hornets lately. One in which I look up under my eaves and see multiple bumps indicative of hornet nests. Now I do have several paper wasps nests. I try to blow them away with the hose. If that doesn't work, then chemical warfare. The other night, I look up in my dream and on the chimney, there appears to be a minaret: a huge white hornets' nest upside down and onion shaped. I show a disbelieving Josh who says that hornets' nests are gray not white. I assume my dreams are based in me finding the hornets' nest last month tucked under the wild grapes next to the basketball backboard. I found a piece of 'hornet paper' and then looked straight up. You don't need to kick a nest to make them mad: the vibrations from the basketball hitting the backboard was enough for them to swarm in fury after Don'tae.

The weather has changed; only 41 degrees here this morning. I needed to borrow Josh's jacket as I watched him play soccer last night. Soon they will be playing in the dark. His team continues to steamroll over the competition. I love watching him play, so graceful and athletic. How did I help create such a man?

The coolness makes it easy to run. I feel comfortable in a t-shirt and shorts as long as it is above freezing. Of course, I wear a long sleeve t-shirt if it much below 40. Not much scheduled here in the next few days. Perhaps I should tackle some projects for a change.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Just desserts

From the Longueuil bakery we went to last month. Yum.

There are many expressions that just don't make sense in English: one of them is someone getting ones just desserts.Yeah, I know what it means, getting what you deserve but does anyone deserve a bad dessert much less more than one dessert.

So what has been happening in the Land of ex-tumors and teenage pregnancy? Well the condo sale is still on. There was an interesting case of seller's regret in which someone thought they should get more money for the condo. Well someone should not have signed a contract then. But that crisis seems to have passed.

For the past month or so, if we needed to get the air conditioner going, we'd need to bang on the thermostat resulting in sparks and often, the circuit breaker tripping. Then it would never stop on its own even when the target temperature was reached. Steve would get up several times a night banging on the thermostat, then turning it off. The furnance and air conditioner are almost 40 years old. The furnance has been rated 50% efficient and we have huge bills despite keeping things cool. Of course someone leaving the windows open for fresh air at night didn't help either. But with tax credits and winter ahead, it was time to replace both the furnance and air conditioner.

The old furnance out on our driveway. All the rust was due to the flood of 2004.

So they were able to do everything all in one day..yesterday. Of course we had no power most of the day and lots of noise. The new furnance is 95% efficient so we are hoping for lower gas bills. We also replaced the useless sparking thermostat. We are left with a pile of concrete that the old air conditioned rested on.

Then Ms. Maya had her official 2 month check up. At 24 5/8 inches and 13#15oz, she's at 98%tile for both height and weight. She had her 5 immunizations, so many these days, so today she is quite crabby. She is doing well with good head control for her age. Naomi also was able to get medication for one of her medical issues that suddenly cropped up.

Maya looking pensive at 10 weeks

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Happy cancerversary!

Cancer is odd and for me it is not what ‘someone else’ deals with and until you (your spouse, child, parent) have it you truly do not understand the magnitude of the diagnosis. How the world/your world will stop and struggle to start going again. The usual statements “I know so and so who had it and they are fine”, “I will pray for you”, “You are young or strong or maybe both don’t worry”, “Modern medicine is so advanced aren’t you lucky”… sometimes cut like a knife or become flotation devices in a stagnant pool of pain. They don’t make you feel better – they often make you angry – annoyed – frustrated – you may even wonder how these people could actually think they are helping. But it is in this that you /we /I need to realize they are as lost in dealing with this and just want to offer whatever measure of hope, faith or love they can at a time when much of this is lost.

From diary of a mad white cancer patient

It was two years today that a routine mammogram detected my tumor. Even though there is a huge false positive rate, I knew. I knew an hour before I had the first set of scans..followed by more...then more..then more. Finally an ultrasound and a meeting with the  previously hidden radiologist, a woman with absolutely no social skills who sighed impatiently at all my questions. How did I know? I had no symptoms. I had a 'false' positive in the past and they had watched the suspicious area very closely for years but this was in a different area. I felt a chill, a feeling that no..this will not be good and I am not immortal. I felt this same chill recently concerning an entirely different matter and I was right again.
Yeah I am Suzie Scientist governed by logic, not hunches or chills of insight. Usually.
 I tell newbies who find themselves suddenly in Cancerland that the worst that they will feel is in the beginning: the terror of the unknown, all the what-ifs..the main what-if being Am I going to die? The world continues to revolve around despite you. Things need to be done. The mind spins uselessly around with what did I do to deserve this? I get my answer the first day of chemo when I am in the bed right next to the pediatric unit: maybe I may be deserving of cancer but these children are not.
In general I received good care from the best of the 3 arms of the triathlon I had to complete: Slash! Poison!Burn! I read and question constantly. There are a few aspects of my care (and of my cohorts in this battle) that I think is deficient. There are some myths about cancer that the powers that be (probably more legal than medical)continue to parrot:
Belief in this justifies delaying treatment. A few months here or there shouldn't hurt, right? Well in the month between detection and surgery, the tumor doubled in size and also a new tumor appeared. I went from Stage 1 to Stage 2. My prognosis worsened considerably. The biopsy showed that I had a very aggressive subtype..why didn't things move faster?
More than half of the people in cancerland I encounter, in person or in blogsphere, report pain. Some delayed treatment because their lesion hurt so it couldn't be cancer, right? Wrong. After I was diagnosed, I did notice an itchy feeling, a very mild pain. Was I feeling this before? I don't know. I have, as most women in their fifties, minor aches all the time.
I received the current standard of care for my particular subtype of cancer. What this is very slowly evolves. Thirty years ago, standard care regardless of the subtype of cancer, even if it was in situ, was a radical mastectomy. Then it was if the tumor was below a certain size and no nodal involement, a lumpdectomy followed by radiation. Chemo is now recommended for large tumors or ones having a high grade, such as mine. Even though it did not appear in the nodes, there was a 50% chance that it spread through my blood stream. Chemo would reduce the chances of a distal recurrence to 25%. The median time for a distal recurrence to be detected is 18 months. It is now 24 months. What are my chances? Are they now halved? Aspirin, in a very uncontrolled study, reduced chances of recurrence to 50%. Is it going to reduce my chances too? I hope. Is Adriamycin truly useful for TNBC? The jury is out. Should I have been on Carboplatin instead? Maybe. Did I take a big risk on insisting on the 3 week Canadian study of radiation which was not studied in TNBC. They gave me higher rads in a shorter period of time. Maybe this will be found superior to TNBC.
I felt miserable during chemo but I know I got off lightly. I didn't need to be hospitalized. I was able to watch Naomi play bball. I was able to exercise though not at such a high level as before. My mind went into all sorts of dark places.Four months of being poisoned is a long time and it was hard that it occurred in the winter when I am not the happiest camper anyway.  Sometimes I felt forsaken when I wasn't. But in general, people came through for me especially Steve.
Did I learn any big lessons? I know I should have learned not to sweat the small stuff but I still do.
Part of me still has cancer on the radar screen but it is a very small part. I am supposed to show up there every 3 months to be monitored. What does this consist of? Asking how I feel and then checking for a local recurrence and then me paying $150 that is not reimbursed. I didn't show up last month. I will go for the mammogram however.
There is plenty of other things to worry about. I was just informed that there are some flies in the ointment with our condo purchase. Maybe they will go away, they should. Legally we are covered but...

Tuesday, September 7, 2010


View from the town castle looking west at Gagliano
When my  former employer decided to pull out of Ann Arbor, those of us left behind were offered a training allowance. There were no guidelines except the school had to be accredited. I enrolled in Wayne State's Summer in Abruzzo program to learn Italian and culture. Students would stay in a former monastery in the little mountain town of Gagliano Aterno.
Our monastery looking northeast

View from my window looking southwest
When I told people where I was going, they drew a blank when they heard 'Abruzzo' even though it is fairly close to Rome. Ask people where they want to go in Italy. Top answers: Venice, Florence, Rome, Amalfi Coast, Cinqueterre, Lake Como...Abruzzo never appears. It is beautiful with high mountains, 1000 year old towns, no crowds... Apparently the director of The American thought so too and was going to film there when the earthquake hit in April 2009. He wanted to film in L'Aquila, the provincial capital where the Italian students in our program came from but it was damaged too much. See
He filmed in Sulmona, Castelvecchio, and another town instead. He wanted the world to see how beautiful Abruzzo is. 
 On my stat counter, I can tell which pages are visited the most and which pictures are downloaded. The number one picture is one of Castelvecchio that I took the last weekend I was there.

There is a gorge that Castelvecchio is on the edge of. These houses are typical Abruzzese structures. There is a curtain of plastic beads in the doorway of the house in the center. Also very typical.
 During the program, various towns would host us and make us dinner: Secinaro, Vittorito,Goriano, Molina, Celano,and Castelvecchio. Gagliano is a commune of 310 perched on the side of a mountain. Further up the mountain is Secinaro. Down in the valley, is Castelvecchio, having 3000 people, a supermarket, a ATM, a farmacia and 2 gelato stores. It also had a Alfa Romeo dealership which puzzled me as the residents seem to be very poor. If we needed anything, there was a van that would take us to Castelvecchio. We'd often chill out in the town piazza with our gelati or apertivi until dinner.
In the morning, I would run: either up the mountain to Secinaro or down to Castelvecchio. There are no flat pieces of land.

Medieval aqueduct that runs through Sulmona. There is a shot of this in the movie
My roommate yesterday had told me about The American starring George Clooney. She saw it and was thrilled to see some of the places where we had been. Several scenes were shot in Sulmona, the largest town in the area that we visited. The poet Ovid came from there so everything is Ovid this or that.
The town of Sulmona seems to have two industries: confetti making and apertivi (fancy liquors). Both were fun to sample. They would make elaborate bouquets of flowers made from candied almonds. Too pretty to eat.
I have to see this movie for myself.

Labor Day is the official end of summer. So sad. Although I love fall, it means the barren winter will be coming soon. We had a low key weekend. I did watch Ms. Maya for a while when Steve took Naomi shopping. She woke up wanting to eat and I had nothing for her.

Tonight a friend and I will go see Eat,Pray, Love with more scenes of Italy, the more well known spots.

Castelvecchio alleyway


Blog Archive