Archive for December, 2008


December 27, 2008

We had a nice, laid-back Christmas – slept in, had a morning beverage of choice (coffee for me, hot chocolate for Brian), sat and enjoyed each others’ company. We started cooking dinner around 1:15 (ham, yams, green bean casserole). The only disappointment for the day was that we’d invited a friend over, but due to the snow and ice she wasn’t able to make it. We offered to go pick her up, but her neighborhood was completely unplowed, and she said we’d never get there in the MINI (I was game to try, but she was convinced, and so we have made plans to get together this weekend).

Since I got through the first round of cancer, and especially since the recurrence, I have started to feel oppressed by all the “stuff” we have. Back in July we did a major clean-out, culling things we haven’t used in a long time; we took a couple loads of stuff to Goodwill and sent a couple bags to the dump. There’s still plenty of “stuff” around (especially in my office), although lots of that is books and craft/art supplies (even after clearing out my yarn stash, I still have tons of yarn, ditto beads and quilting fabrics). At any rate, I suggested to Brian that maybe this year, instead of buying each other presents, we should spend the money on clothes (both of us are wearing clothes that are so old they’re starting to develop holes and frayed spots; although I think Brian is the winner – he’s got a couple items that he’s had for more than 25 years; my oldest piece, that I only wear once in a while, is a winter sweater from the early ’90s).

We agreed, and so this was a “presentless” year. In retrospect, I find that a lot of my joy in Christmas is in *giving* gifts, and I missed watching Brian open his presents. We did buy some toys for Robin and the cats, so we got to enjoy watching them open and play with the various catnip mice and the stuffed monkey. Robin was a little weirded out by the monkey in its tissue paper. He didn’t really like it at first, so he stayed away from it. After a while, though, he happened upon it when he was doing something else, and all of a sudden it was a cool toy – go figure!

For next year, we’ve decided that we will probably give each other a little present apiece, because it just doesn’t seem right to totally skip giving someone you love so much a gift on Christmas. In the meantime, I’m feeling another purge coming on – if only so that I can find the top of my desk again.

We had more snow on Christmas day – huge flakes that actually started to accumulate a little. Friday afternoon Brian shoveled the front walk again, although the temperature had started moving up and thaw was starting to set in. When we got up this morning most of the snow was gone, except where there were drifts deeper than six inches. Now we’re getting into normal winter weather for the area – rain and mid-40s.

I’m really enjoying being on vacation – I’m taking off all next week, to emotionally prepare for starting chemo again on the 9th of January. Right now, I’m working on some quilting projects and a knitting project. My goal is to get a lot of UFOs (UnFinished Objects) finished. Then I can start some more projects ;-}

Hope you all had a lovely Christmas, and are ready for the upcoming new year!


December 21, 2008

Happy Winter Solstice!

We’re snowed in, with the most snow that we remember having since we moved out here.

Last weekend, we flew down to Northern California to visit family on our usual quickie Christmas visit (I didn’t get to go last year because of the chemo). The weather forecast had indicated that snow and ice were going to arrive soon after we left Portland, so we made sure we had the chains in the car and headed off to the airport.

We had a lovely visit, and got to see parents and siblings on both sides, and meet the newest member of the family, our grandniece – what an adorable little girl! And we’ve got a grandnephew due the last week in December, so we’re excited about that, too ;-}

We flew home Sunday afternoon, arriving into PDX around 3:30, with the promised ice and snow awaiting us. By the time I had stopped at the Columbia Sportswear outlet and bought myself a new jacket, Brian picked up the checked bag, and we rode the shuttle out to the parking lot, it was nearly dark. We decided to start out without chains, and made it nearly home before we ran into any difficulties. After discussing the best route through the back streets, we decided to take the exit prior to our normal exit, because it has a slight downward slope at the top (whereas our usual exit has a bit of an upward slope at the top); our goal was to keep moving as much as possible, and only stop when absolutely necessary. After having to u-turn to get away from a line of stuck cars and go another way, we ran into the same problem on our second-choice route; and as we started out on our third-choice route (the one with the worst hills), we saw the line of cars that had been moving just 30 seconds prior come to a dead stop as the lead car slid sideways and stopped. Argh! Brian almost pulled over to put on the chains, but we were only about a mile from home, and I said “Just go around them, there’s nobody coming the other way”, so we made it around and home without the dreaded chain installation – yay!

But more snow fell that night, so I ended up working from home for three days – Thursday morning I was able to get the car out due to a thaw, and took the MINI over to get studded snow tires. Worked in the office Thursday and Friday. I had a grocery delivery scheduled for Friday evening, but Safeway called and cancelled. Did they try to reschedule? No – just cancel. You can bet they’re on *my* shit-list! So yesterday I had to drive over to Freddie’s and pick up groceries, and picked up some snow boots and some new flannel sheets as well. By the time I came out, the car had more than 1/4-inch of snow on it. It snowed heavily all afternoon and evening, and we now have around 3″ – 4″.

Robin loves snow, at least the powdery kind – he lays right down and starts poking his nose into it, romps through it, and makes snow dog-angels – unfortunately, I couldn’t get to the camera while he was playing, or I’d post a picture. Here’s a picture of him in our *last* batch of snow:

Snow gives me the runs!

Snow gives me the runs!

Jumping for joy ;-}

Jumping for joy ;-}

This is so cool!

This is so cool!

What he doesn’t like is when the top of the snow gets crunchy. There’s about a 1/2-inch layer on top now that has solidified, and he mostly breaks through, but sometimes slides. And we’re going to have to shovel out his little yard – there’s a drift that comes up to his chest that he has to jump over to get in and out. At least with the fenced-off area we don’t have to “watch out where the Shelties go” – and Robin is the only one who eats snow, so I think we’re safe on that count ;-}

My port-a-cath (chemo port) incisions are healing well, although they’re kind of itchy, even nearly two weeks later. The surgeon did manage to implant it on the right side, so at least I don’t have to worry about the increased risk of lymphedema in my left arm. I will find out how the port works when I go in for my first chemo in January – sometimes they will allow inflow but draws don’t work. Last time I was fortunate enough that it worked both in and out, but really, as long as it lets the chemo in, I can deal with arm-sticks for the blood draws.

For the most part I’m feeling pretty well, although I do seem to have some residual fatigue, presumably the dregs of the radiation fatigue. There’s some tightness in the radiation-treated area, but I try to do my stretches and massage regularly to keep it from building up scar tissue. I saw the radiation oncologist for my first post-treatment follow-up, and she was pleased at how well the burns have faded. There’s still a bit of darker color and a little bit of peeling, but other than that, you can’t tell what it has been through.

Like the rest of the Northwest, we’re in for more nasty weather – today is supposed to be freezing rain, and it isn’t supposed to warm up until Christmas Eve. Hope you all are keeping warm and safe, as well!


December 9, 2008

All went well with the chemo port implantation – the surgeon was a little late because her 5-year-old had mislaid his library book and they had to search for it, but I was back in recovery by 9:00 a.m., and home by 10:30 a.m.

St. V’s has a new piece of equipment in the pre-op ward that is pretty cool (well, so to speak). They now have warming gowns. What are warming gowns, you might ask? Well, they are paper gowns, lined with paper air channels, and with hose ports. There is a separate blower unit that produces air, and has a hose that connects to the gown. The hose has an adjustable temperature control, so if the air blowing through the gown is too hot or too cool, you can adjust it to fit. I was able to finish blow-drying my hair, too ;-}

My feet got cold, though.

After I got home, I had a little bit to eat, then took another pain pill and lay down. Robin and the cats took shifts on keeping an eye on me – although at one point, all three were required to make sure that I was napping properly.

Normally I sleep on my left side, occasionally flipping over to the right; it will be interesting to see if I can sleep without rolling over. I’m heading to bed shortly, so will find out soon.


December 6, 2008

This time last year, I was bald. This year, I am painfully short (well, my hair is).

I’ve decided to start keeping track of my hair adventures with this next round of chemo – I have a patchy record from the previous treatment, but am going to start a picture album of the changes I go through this time. I really regret that I didn’t get more pictures of the super-tight curl and the afro in its various stages and colors; although perhaps I can get a digital copy from the radiation oncologist of my ‘tweener stage with the bleached curls and the white roots. Except I have the “deer-in-the-headlights” stare in that one, so it’s not one of my better pictures. I definitely take after my mom that way – we always look like that in posed pictures. Candids are *much* better.

My radiation burns are clearing up nicely. Lots of peeling, with smooth, shiny skin underneath; but I suspect that I’m going to have a visual reminder from the treatment for quite a while until the tan fades. Happily, I haven’t developed a lot of scar tissue yet, although that is apparently an ongoing development for months if not years after. There is one big clump right in between the two scars, but now that my skin isn’t so sensitive to touch, I’ve gotten back into the massage technique the physical therapist showed me. I had to buy some tennis balls just for that – it puts a more even pressure on the tissue and rolls very easily, whereas using your fingers creates more specific points of pressure (which is fine in many types of massage, but not so much for breaking up scar tissue, I guess). The trick is to keep from doing it when the dog is around – he thinks tennis balls are *his* toys. Fortunately he’s not such a ball dog as a retriever would be. Robin will play fetch and dribble them between rungs of a chair, but by far his favorite game with a tennis ball is to pull the fuzz off of it.

I’m still feeling some fatigue, although it never got as bad as I thought it might. I have had some difficulty sleeping, but for the most part have been getting roughly 7 or 8 hours most nights.

Next up, I have my chemo port implanted on Tuesday this coming week. When I met with the surgeon, she said that she would try to put it on the right side again, in the same spot as before; but sometimes scarring from a previous port can make that impossible. If that’s the way it goes for me, she’ll have to put it in on the left side. That’s undesireable for several reasons – there’s all the skin damage from the radiation treatment to avoid; I normally sleep on my left side, and laying on the side with the port is very uncomfortable; but the biggest fear is that it will raise the risk of lymphedema in my left arm significantly. I am very anxious to avoid developing lymphedema. The people I know who have it tell me it is much more than inconvenient – it can be life-changing because of the way you have to limit things you do, and how you do them. I’ll keep my fingers crossed (unless someone tells me that lymphedema can be triggered that way. . .).

At this point, I haven’t heard back from the oncologist about the use of Avastin in my case – he was out of town the week before, and this week I think he was hoping to avoid talking to me by having the triage nurse ask if I couldn’t just talk to him when I came in for my first chemo. Well, no, I can’t. I’m very concerned about the significant increased risk of thromboembolic events (blood clots), because of my history. And I really want to know how he can justify that risk in the face of an unknown benefit for a treatment that is completely non-standard. On the other hand, I’m also paranoid about the possibility that this recurrence is much more aggressive than we know, and am willing to take a calculated risk in an effort to make sure that any cancer cells that might have gotten through the lymph system are dealt with. So I stated my concerns very clearly, and asked to have him call me back. When I hadn’t received a call as of Friday morning, I called again and told her that I really wanted to hear from him, as this is very important to me. She called back early Friday afternoon, and said that he was “gathering information”, and that he would call me early next week. OK.

Then Friday, we’re flying down to see our parents for our usual fly-by Christmas visit. Robin is staying with our neighbors Sharon and Gary, who have the two miniature poodles Jasmine and Lola. The three of them got along great at Thanksgiving (i.e., Robin, Jasmine, and Lola), although the two girls did sort of play together and sort of ignore Robin. I’m hoping that enforced together-time will be more fun for him – he and Jasmine loved to play together before Lola came along, so I think he really misses that.

Tomorrow we’re going to see little Emily Rose (and daddy Greg, too!) in The Nutcracker Suite. ER is going to be a Snowflake, and part of the Arabian dancers; Greg is going to be one of the Party Guests. I don’t think he has to dance, but he may be wearing leotards – no, probably not. I bet you couldn’t pay him to do that!

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December 2008

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