Thursday, June 30, 2011

Exercising options

The Y recently started a weekly exercise class for those who had been in their LiveStrong program. The good thing about it is that I don't need to be a member and it is fairly low cost. We also get plenty of personal attention. I had to quit going to the Y in February as I can not afford it. I also can no longer get a partial scholarship as Steve is working to pay for the numerous expenses of last year and this year. But I went to the first class yesterday and now I am plenty sore. I've been scared to weigh myself as I think I would get too depressed but I finally did today: 7 pounds lost in a bit more than 3 weeks, not as much as I hoped. But using weights, etc should get me more toned so I will occupy less space at least. I do have some weights at home but I haven't been very good about using them. I also have access to the exercise room in the condo along with the swimming pool so there is no excuse I guess. I have been good about running though.

It has not rained in a long time and the grass is turning brown. I water the plants twice a day. If I would mulch them, I wouldn't need to water as often.

Naomi and Julia went to register for the wedding. I took Ms. Maya to the park. She loves the swings.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Say yes to the the dress?

The dress is crushed rayon

The back

Front detail
I was at the Farmer's Market this morning ( I should really..really be finished with this right?) and I saw this dress in the window of a shop near-by. This could work. I went back when it was open. The dress there was a small so no trying it on but the owner would order it for me. Readers, what do you think?

Another possibility?
Or back to the 5 year old mother-of-the groom that everyone has seen before

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Endogenous cannabinoids

Endogenous cannabinoids are substances the body produces that interact with at least 2 receptors, CB1 and CB2 controlling pain sensation and appetite control among other effects. They have identified at least 3 of these short-lived substances in the body. They are very effect in reducing the sensation of pain. Suppose these substances were longer lasting? Suppose we found a way to inhibit their degradation? We could 'naturally' reduce the sensation of pain. This was the central premise of the last project I worked on.

Why are they called cannabinoids? Although the structure of the substances the body produces do not look like THC, the active component of marijuana, they interact with the same receptor that THC does and thus the name. Our project found some very potent inhibitors of the enzyme that destroys the cannabinoids and identified one of them for further development. Steve went to England to produce this compound in large amounts.

I think the project has been dropped. Too sounded like such a good idea.

A nice sunny day. I enjoyed it.

I was supposed to have that colonoscopy today but I lost the instructions and they would not give me new ones so I canceled. I found the missing instructions today in a place I looked ten times before. Even their bright pink color did not alert me.

Monday, June 27, 2011


This has been a good year for carnations and pinks. I have several varieties that I grew from seed last year

A double petalled burgundy cosmos. I have the traditional hot pink kind too. I made sure not to get the giant variety. One year I had 8 foot cosmos trees blocking the light for the other plants. They were pretty but susceptible to wind damage.

Moss rose. These are the only annuals I plant in the rock garden. Today I had blossoms in 6 different colors. Allysum next to it technically is an annual but it reseeds itself. Also next to it, a  green marble rock from the Mediterranean from Bonassola, Italy.

Back in Boston, Oliver enjoying running through the fountain

Purple cleome. Note its marajuana like leaves. Unfortunately, these smell like skunks. Not even my bunnies will eat them nor do bugs. I will have zillions of white ones in a few weeks. Need to plant them earlier.

Yeah, too many baskets of flowers and today I made even more. This red and white petunia basket goes to Naomi's for either her balcony or front of the condo. In the foreground are some of the salmon geraniums I've been nursing for 5 years.

Cheap but pretty petunias I bought today on top of one of my bags of impatiens
The lazy days of summer. I do my puzzle while drinking coffee sitting on the patio watching the antics of the hummingbirds first thing in the morning. I spend some time dead heading blossoms and cutting away dead foliage. Then off for a run before it becomes too hot. Before I even showered, I went off to the nearby, usually expensive plant place in Dixboro (town that Naomi will get married in). But at the end of the season, they have very good deals. The man loaded up my car as I went to pay. When I returned, I found twice as many petunias than what I paid for. He said the free ones were looking sorry and maybe I could revive them. I made 2 baskets out of them.  Some of the cheapies, I'll give to Naomi. I'd give them to Josh too but in the past, they didn't get watered.

Lunch with friends this week and maybe a visit with my cousin and my aunts.

Much of the wedding stuff is done.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Stalking the wild hummingbird

I love these amazing creatures

She looks like she only has one wing here but it is moving so fast. We still don't have pictures of her mate who is much prettier with his darker, brighter color and ruby throat patch

Random picture from the engagement session. I do love her smile here

At some point in the evening, it seems like it becomes the male's turn to feed at the feeder
 and the female stops showing. She does try to chase him  off initially. He is only 60% of
 her cute. If I am only a few feet from the feeder dealing with the flowers, she'll 
come to the feeder anyway. I can only hear her propeller sounding wings if I am near. Steve wondered why they go to the feeder 99% of the time ignoring all my alleged hummingbird friendly flowers. Well if there was 2 bowls of nuts, one shelled and the other you needed to shell, which would you feed out of?

I sat outside until it was dark with all my colored solar lights. It was cool and mosquito free at least for a while. The fireflies are out in full force.

It is a lazy, summer day. I didn't even run. My cosmos are blooming including my new, 
double burgundy ones. Also my first California poppy. Steve and I went for a long walk
 after lunch. We interrupted a large buck in the woods who stood staring us down until
 we walked away.

A new country today appeared in my flag counter, Bangladesh. Someone was interested
 in my Montreal pictures.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Lost and not found

Nothing drives me crazier than having something misplaced. A huge part of the problem is I put something in a place I know where to look but then Steve moves it to who knows where (he is very forgetful and is becoming more so) or just throws it out. For really important stuff, I have a special place in a drawer that he can't touch but for other things like instructions for a colonoscopy, I put it on a table. Well the instructions are gone and I think no problem, I'll just have them e-mail me them. But no, they refused to so I just cancelled the appointment. Just as well. I wasn't looking forward to it and the aftermath, the aftermath being a probable months long battle with the insurance company. But if I die from colon cancer....

Insurance battles were a huge part of cancerfest. Part of the problem was that I switched plans 3 times (not by choice). My favorite was when the insurance company denied about $3000 worth of x-rays to check positioning during radiation. Back and forth on that with my appeals being denied. Finally someone at UM pointed out that there was a contract between UM and the sucky insurance was not my battle. And dealing with Neulasta. The first insurance I had covered all medications totally. The next one had a 20% copay which doesn't sound like much until you see that the dose can cost any where from $3000 to $12000 a dose. So obviously there would be an incentive for me to find the cheapest provider which would be the provider that the first insurance company used. But no, I either had to use their pharmacy where it cost $8000/dose or have myself dosed at the hospital for $12000. Since the new pharmacy would only send it to me the day before I needed it when I was in chemo and noone was home to rescue it from freezing, I ended up having the it dosed at UM. When we were doing our own injections, they said the least painful place was in the belly. The most painful would be the arm. Guess where UM injects it?
I skipped the final dose. I no longer needed acceptable numbers to get my next chemo. Of course it probably wasn't wise to be on a plane for 5 hours a few days later with a very compromised immune system but I survived.

But it is pretty out here. I went to the Farmer's Market one last time to get cheap tuberous begonias. I will put them for storage where Steve can't throw them away (twice he has done that). They are so pretty! I probably can't fit any more flowers around my crowded patio.
Steve has staked out Ms. Hummingbird with his big fancy lens so now he has more impressive close-ups.

We picked up the dress yesterday which fits Naomi like a glove. She looks very beautiful in it. She doesn't want to wear a veil (she'll have her hair down but wants a tiara instead. She and her little family have moved into Josh's house to take care of it while he and Julia are on yet another trip. They will be staying in that glass pyramid In Vegas (Why see a real one in Mexico when you've seen a fake one? I told that to someone on his soccer team and she said that the canals in the Venetian smell much better than the real ones)Josh almost didn't make the plane.  He thought Who would be in the airport at 5am?

Answer: Many people.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Maya, flowers and a hummingbird

I camped out the other day trying to photo my hummingbird. You can barely see her at the feeder here


Ms. Maya and Grandpa Steve

My orchid that I brought outdoors

Her new headband

To the left is pink baby's breath

See how many teeth I have


Zinnia..I couldn't find my seeds so I bought a few. Since my cleomes won't be big enough to bloom for several more weeks, I bought a purple one today. I don't have that color, just whites, pinks and variegated
Well the dress is finally in, just 6 weeks after they said it would be in. Naomi is going to a fitting today. I've called them several times to hear that there were manufacturing delays but not to worry, they had reserved the store sample for Naomi. Too bad it has been tried on by countless brides and is 4 sizes too big.

I have been looking for my wedding gift cage..still missing in action. I did come across 90-100 votive candles that we used in Shanna's wedding that I had forgotten about..just after we bought more. Also we have a bunch of mirror panels.

Turns out that I was wrong when my 40th reunion is. It will be in 5 weeks. Still mulling it over whether I want to come.
Bouquet from Shanna's wedding. It was a fall wedding so burgundy, white and black were the colors

Our cake baker decorates with flowers. Her cakes are very tasty
The missing gift card cage..where is it?

The table decorations from Shanna's wedding. Still have all those mirrors and votives that I had smeared silver glitter all

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Cooking for survival

I hadn't gone to my cooking class for several months in part because they had temporarily switched it to Friday nights but now that is back on Wednesdays, I will come. These classes, sponsored by Whole Foods at at the Cancer Support Community, formerly known as the Wellness Center and Gilda's Club, are taught by a nutritionist who is a 2 time BC survivor. The premise is that healthy eating may be beneficial in preventing recurrences. Recurrence rates are higher in TNBC patients that are obese. Obesity surprisingly is NOT a risk factor for recurrence in estrogen positive BC, surprisingly as fat cells themselves are a source of estrogen. I think I have read that in TNBC, it isn't the fat cells themselves that are the problem but the high blood glucose levels that sometimes go hand in  hand with the obesity that TNBC cells thrive on. Metformin, a diabetes drug, is being tried for TNBC successfully. Well my glucose levels are normal probably due to exercise so I am one of those rare fit and fat people. But I don't like this fat, not one bit so I am trying to change things.

Last night's topic: super smoothies. She tried combinations that I would never had touched. For instance: Green Slime: a mixture of spinach, kale, strawberries, pineapple juice and bananas. It looked very similar to a gross diaper I had changed just hours before. It actually didn't taste too bad. Some of the smoothies had flaxseed  in them making them taste kind of musty. Another strange combo: zucchini, cocoa, bananas and peanut butter. Still another (lean green smoothie) honeydew melon, broccoli, cucumber, mint and green grapes. Well everything was healthy but I hate cleaning out blenders. The noise of the blenders made it difficult to speak or listen.

There was a new woman there who just finished treatment for TNBC.  I really don't run into too many people with TNBC: just her and my neighbor (and lots on line). She understandably was very interested in ensuring that it won't come back and asked for what I had learned. Basically keep those Vit D levels up, glucose levels down and a baby aspirin a day. There was a huge study on nurses who had BC. Basically for those nurses who took aspirin regularly for any reason, their recurrence rates were exactly half. This was not a controlled study in which the aspirin levels were standardized. But I figure a baby aspirin couldn't hurt and as an extra bonus, cuts down on heart attacks presumably too.

Families of patients are welcome there too. One woman is nursing her husband who had throat cancer. The throat cancer is gone but the effects of the treatment are devastating. He can not swallow so he needs to be tube fed. He does not want anyone to see him so she can get no help. He has chased visiting nurses away. Depression also plagues him.

I had spent most of the day entertaining Maya as Naomi and my friend arranged for flowers and decorations. They should be pretty. I am trying not to get too stressed about this wedding. Main problem, we are very near capacity.

I've spent some time futzing about in my garden rearranging things. Even though by the end of the summer, my whole patio is under a canopy of morning glory vines, I rarely get any seedlings the next year. The few that I do are quickly gobbled up by the bunnies (they and cosmos seedlings seem to be the tastiest to the bunnies: they don't touch the cleomes) This year, I have morning glory plants all over the place. The bunnies have eaten a few of them but there are too many for them. Also, cleomes are taking over the place too. Seedlings have popped up in the cracks of my pavers. Steve believes that they will destroy the patio (not as much as ice and refreezing will) and wants me to kill them all. But not until I figure out what they are. Some are petunias, snapdragons, and zinnias but until I see flowers (which I finally did in the baby petunia case) I am not killing them.

One gardening mistake I am still mad at myself about is throwing away my tuberous begonia tubers. Steve saw the bag of them and asked if there was any reason I had clumps of dirt in a bag. He threw them out. One however has mysteriously sprouted in my front yard.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

C-reactive protein levels and recurrence risk in breast cancer

A recently published study in Denmark showed a high association between levels of this protein, an indication of inflammation,at diagnosis of breast cancer and recurrence. In general, this protein has been associated with heart attack risk and increase risk of recurrence in other cancers, particularly prostate.. The study followed almost 3000 women over 5 years. Another marker, Amyloid A has been shown to have a stronger association between levels and death. Any rate, this information isn't too useful unless you happened to have had these proteins measured at diagnosis. Who knows? Maybe they measured mine. I had given them carte blanche to do whatever studies they wanted with my tumor and blood levels. When I asked if I would hear the results, they made me sound like a selfish person..all the research would be used to help patients in the future..not me.

In general, it has been a slow year for info about TNBC. There is a huge oncology conference going on but the only info to leak out of it is that larger clinical trials using PARP inhibitors against TNBC have proved disappointing.

Warm, stormy and humid today and I have a cold. Running was an effort. I am tired.

Yesterday was the last visit that Naomi had with the social worker. This woman is more complimentary about the job Naomi is doing with Maya than the nurse. Naomi for instance, is the only client to breast feed and the baby is almost a year old. But the social worker reminded Naomi how tough being a mom can be and how one needs to stick to a plan that one believes is right versus one that is easy and used an example from her own life. Her teenage son had been bugging her repeatedly for a cell phone and she finally gave in listing all sorts of conditions of use. Soon she discovered that the son was texting in the middle of the night and she immediately took it away. He since has been reminding her hourly on how much he hates her but she won't give it back just to win his approval. Naomi is eagerly waiting for Maya to speak, not just to silence those who believe that her lack of speech is a developmental delay, but to hear how much Maya loves her and to hear what is going on in her mind. Ha! I hope she won't be disappointed.

I told Shanna that Naomi is very patient with Maya. She thought it is easy to be patient with a one year old but try being patient with a three year old.
Try being patient with a teenager.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Colon cancer

An event on my calendar that I am not looking forward to is my colonoscopy next week. Somehow I have not had one. About 6 years ago, I had one scheduled but I was told that I didn't prepare properly (they had given no instructions) and I was sent home. I scheduled another one a few years later on the day that I ended up having my first breast surgery. I obviously cancelled that one too. Now I have really bad insurance, which I guess is better than none but it is expensive and we don't receive much. For instance, certain cancer screenings are free including this colonoscopy but if they find one polyp, the screening colonoscopy turns into a diagnostic one and I will have to pay $1.4K minimum. Presumably half the population has these so there is a 50% chance that I'll end up having to pay the big bucks even if I don't have colon cancer. It really makes me want to skip the whole mess. I really have no risk factors aside from my age but then again almost as many people are diagnosed with colon cancer per year as breast cancer though a greater part of these cases are men whereas BC is almost all women.

The same rules apply to breast cancer screenings. Routine screening mammograms are free but if there is any problem, it becomes a diagnostic one and one pays through the nose for the multiple follow-ups. Before my last mammogram, I was told last year would be my last diagnostic one; henceforth they would be the free screening type. But then it turned out that I have a seroma at the site of one of the incisions that looks identical by mammogram to a tumor (though by ultrasound, it looks benign). Unless this thing disappears, which someday it should, each year I can look forward to paying for multiple scans. I would love to skip these things all together but I am at high risk for recurrence. Also I could not feel the original tumors despite them being only an inch below the surface. Now it would be impossible to feel anything as there is so much scar tissue and the seroma. The lady my age in my neighborhood who was diagnosed the same week as I with TNBC could feel her tumor but the mammogram would not pick it up. The scary tumors are the ones one can not feel or see by mammogram and these exist. So many bloggers have said things like Well it's a good thing I opted for a mastectomy as they found more tumors they didn't see before.

I spent some time this morning trying to photograph my hummingbirds as the light was good but they were spooked by the sound of the camera opening up. I try to keep it open but every minute it closes up automatically. Hummingbirds do not like to share space: if one is feeding, the other comes just to chase it away. I've seen males battle beak to beak in mid-air but I seem to have only one male living in the area now.
I've been trying to keep the feeder ant-free. The ants must take a very long trip to get is amazing how persistent they are. I put inverted masking tape on the holder so they will get stuck but the rain makes this unsticky.

Another unpleasant event on the calendar came and with a bang..out with a whimper. Another unpleasant chapter closed. Lesson learned: life is unfair.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

The Lifeguard

I bought 3 of these at a garage sale last week. They match Naomi's old room perfectly

My patio yesterday. Next week it will be prettier as the lilies and the cosmos will be in bloom. Also more geraniums will open up

I love these pale pink petunias that I got on quick sale

One of the other pictures. There is a fourth, which may be available that would match the house walls that Shanna might bid on soon
I was at Naomi's complex's pool yesterday. I need to get goggles  and start swimming laps. Swimming used to be my main form of exercise but aside from snorkeling, I haven't swam in 15 years. The water was a bit chilly yesterday for Ms. Maya but she enjoyed splashing while sitting on the steps. Unbeknownst to me, I was being watched by the lifeguard, a young handsome man, who soon put a call to his mother. She showed up not much later and called my name. I hadn't seen her or her son in over ten years. Her son went to the same daycare as Naomi and later was on Naomi's swim team so we used to spend hours talking on the side lines. Naomi used to have play dates with the boy, who is a year older than she. But it was nice catching up with her.

There are now allegedly two bears roaming Dexter, the small town my son lives on the outskirts of. Live traps have been set.

No unusual wildlife here though yesterday I saw a baby black squirrel. Most of our squirrels are the giant fox squirrels with some gray squirrels and the tiny red squirrels.

At the party we went to last week, the host had put up blue bird houses. However they were occupied by swallows, a kind I hadn't seen before. Tree swallows. From a distance, they were black on top with a white breast but pictures close-up show the males with iridescent dark green feathers. Maybe I just saw females.

Father's Day today. My father is dead and even while he was alive, this was not celebrated as he had been angry with me for the past 30 years. I made Steve his favorite dessert: cherry cobbler.

Josh took Steve and me out for lunch. Julia was on a mini vacation with her friends. The two of them certainly travel alot.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

The night of the hummingbirds

It must be hummingbird mating season. My little pair showed no caution in feeding repeatedly  just feet away from us and chasing each other noisily around. They must be building up energy to sit on their eggs as they were on the feeder almost continuously last night.

It was a nice evening to sit outside with The Moms surrounded by flowers, fireflies and my flashing solar lights. At one point a giant moth fluttered by..Cecropia?The mosquitoes left us alone until the sun set. We sipped frozen pina coladas, dined on artichoke spinach pizza, sweet potato fries, my goat cheese, carmelized onion arugula pizzas, gazpacho, and 4 different salads followed by lemon tart and coffee. A nice night of camaraderie. The first set of babies will be 32 this summer. How time flies!

Friday, June 17, 2011


Edelweiss from the web. Less than a day ago, I had six blossoms of my own growing in my garden. No more.
I have struggled to grow this stuff. For three years, I had one plant that could only produce one blossom per year and then it died. Ever hopeful, I planted a new one last year in a shadier section of the rock garden and it returned with 6 beautiful blossoms. Sometime late afternoon, someone or something ripped off the blossoms and threw them on the grass. For extra fun, the poppies nearby were beheaded too. This garden is in my front yard so it would be hard to believe someone would do this in front of everyone. It is possible that the bunnies liked the taste of the stem right under the blossom. They ate off my carnations off my patio last night too.

It appears that Ms. Maya has RSV virus, not to be confused with RSVP virus which infected Shanna and myself in which we are left unable to spell the abbreviation. Maya was not her food seeking self yesterday and breathed with a rasp. She coughs at night. No runny nose either. She probably had a temperature. It was hard to get a hold of the doctor. By the time she returned Naomi's call (7 hours later) Maya had started moving around again.

This week we had perfect weather for gardening, running and watching soccer. The heat will return this weekend. I am hoping that the rain will hold off for tonight as the Moms are coming over and it would be nice to sit on the patio. Possible menu: gazpacho, goat cheese pizzas, and corn, black bean quinoa solad..still mulling the options.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011


Only 8 more to go..Naomi is out getting more supplies. Too late in the game, I finally learned how to tie the ribbon decently (not on this one)
The purple above is what I thought Naomi would want but it clashed with the photo. The only photos it would have worked with are the ones with them sitting among greenery but none of those pix were good. Even though Shanna and I both received As in French, we both made a mistake in our respective invitations spelling RSVP but the font (not my first choice!!!) is so stylized, it is not obvious. The vellum lifts up to reveal the picture.

For the past few days, Naomi has had a short term assignment taking her away for an hour or so in the morning. I have Maya. I had gotten up early to get the now much cheaper flowers at the Farmer's Market but I tried to plant them and watch Maya at the same time. For a while, she was content to just sit on the blanket near me watching the world go by but then she got antsy. Eventually a neighbor came over with the little boy she was watching  who was just a few months older than Maya so they enjoyed each other. I bought more cosmos to replace those that became bunny food and placed these such that the bunnies need to navigate some obstacles to get them.

Then came hours of putting together the invites and we are still short!

Fortunately it is cool enough to run in the middle of the day. I ran into a co-worker who brought me up to speed where many of our other co-workers are now....

The days of working in the same place for years and years are definitely over.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Wedding work

We are finally making a dent in all the work that needs to be done..a meeting with the music director today and the caterer. We decided to make our own cards. Naomi wants her colors to be wisteria and white but she shouldn't have had Don'tae wear an orange shirt against a tan/orange wall in the setting sun. It just did not look right with a purple background. Peach does match. Then she wanted a picture with a horizontal orientation to fit into a vertical 4x6 format. She spent hours figuring out how to resize without distorting their faces. Original attempts cut off part of her hair. Now the one we settled with cuts off part of Don'tae's arm but too bad. The printing on the vellum worked. So we are mounting their picture to a stiff mat and tying the vellum which has all the information printed on it as an overlay to the picture. It looks nice.

The weather is beautiful. I did get a chance to run in the middle of the day. My hummingbirds are back..I've counted three.

Monday, June 13, 2011


Maya happily ignores the uncomplimentary things said about her today
I made a point to be present at Maya's evaluation today. Unfortunately it didn't do much good. The nurse is recommending special services in language. Maya does not babble. As  most 7 month olds do and she is almost 12 months, that is considered a lag. Also troubling is her refusal to imitate behavior. She will watch carefully if someone is performing an interesting task but she makes no effort to try to do it herself. Naomi was given no instructions on how to convince Maya to speak. To me, she does not seem to be so far behind but I do not count.

Another part of the day, equally frustrating, was dealing with the invitations. The original idea was to print copies, mount on attractive art paper, print out the invites on transparent vellum, and adfix to mounted photo with a pretty ribbon. But now Naomi notices companies that will make collage invitations (for much more bucks) out of the photos. This will be less work on our part. Also she insists on editing some of the pictures to no good effect. They end up looking blurry and the colors are all wrong.

It is very pretty out. I took a rest day as I was dealing with the above issues but the rest of the week is similarly scheduled.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Engagement photos

Angell Hall

Clements Library

Law Quad

Business School

Kelsey Museum

All photos taken by Matt B. of Premium Event photos around the University of Michigan campus.


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