Posts Tagged ‘brian

23
Jun
10

The Silence of the Cancer

On my little break from chemo, please don’t be surprised that I am being so quiet – only a little blogging, no phone calls or e-mails. Now that I’ve had time to quit wallowing in the cancer and its treatment, I’m wallowing in my depression. My normal depressive behavior is to do just that – withdraw and keep my feelings to myself.

Fortunately for me, I’ve got Brian here to help keep me sane.

I met with my counselor, Counselor Troi, today, and she took a lot of notes, with the end result that she doesn’t know how I’ve managed to go so long without an anti-depressant. So tomorrow I start one (sorry, the name escapes, me).

The bad news about that is that it’s going to physically depress me for a couple weeks – i.e., low energy, etc. Right in time to just about the time Dr. Medici wants me to start chemo again.

So how am I going to know if it’s working?

Also, Nurse Serenatia called today, and told me what I already knew – it’s going to take months to get back my energy to where it was – months I don’t have.

Thus ends the homily on depression for June 23, 2010.

16
Jun
10

A little beach party

Brian and I headed off to Newport on Thursday afternoon. It was pouring rain when we left, but down to overcast when we arrived. We settled in for the night, watching Happy Feet, and I went to bed early, as is my wont these days.

The next couple days were pretty days, Friday clearing up to be sunny but a little cool. Although I spent most of the day either resting or sleeping, we did make it out to dinner. We watched Shrek as our evening entertainment.

And on Sunday, once again I spent the morning resting or napping, but then suggested we go for a little drive up the 101, a drive being about what I thought I could handle. We drove up to just past Salishan, and turned around. Coming back down, Brian pointed out that I hadn’t eaten much that day, so we stopped at Tidal Raves. We’ve eaten dinner there before, and it was extremely good, so I was a little disappointed in my razor clams. But the floor show made up for it by having 3 Orcas playing just outside the windows.

Sunday was a pretty drive home, but, let’s say it all together, I slept pretty much most of the way. All in all, though, it was about spending some loving time with Brian, who gave me massages and took care of me. I just wish I could return the favor.

08
Jun
10

Husbands and Friends

I was still wallowing in my misery come the weekend, because one week goes just like another.

I did have some relief – my friend Sue came to visit on Thursday, and it was so good to see her. I met her in my first support group – you remember, the one where I actually was helping support, not just being supported. She was having her surgery on the Tuesday after my Friday surgery and was very worried about it. I got dressed on that Tuesday, and had Brian drive me over there while she was in pre-op so I could show her my dressings, and how quickly I was up and around. She told me once that my doing that helped her get through her surgery easier emotionally.

Her coming to visit me when I was so down was sort of the equivalent for me.

A couple friends who had planned to come by on Friday had to cancel, but we’ve rescheduled for later – as it turned out, Friday was a very physically down day for me, and I really needed to sleep, so it worked out for both of us.

By Saturday I was back into full tailspin mode again, just seeming to be unable to shake all the nasty fatigue and pain – I can lessen the pain using the pain killers, but that ups the fatigue and inability to focus, and what is a good balance one day isn’t the same the next.

Brian is becoming hyperaware of my moods (for me, sometimes it seems there’s only one, which is down; but he sees variations). He said “I’m going to call Cathy and see if she can come for a visit on Monday.” I knew then he was worried, because he was calling in the big guns.

He tried to get me to go see Prince of Persia both Saturday and Sunday, but I just physically couldn’t come up with the energy.

Monday morning, I was taking it easy expecting Cathy’s arrival around noon or so, but emotionally I was worked up to a peak again. I finally called the doctor’s office to talk to the triage nurse, and tell her I couldn’t go on this way. I mean, I had 4 months of taxol/avastin treatment, and even with the pneumonia, I never felt this bad. Heather told me that there are lots of things we can do in terms of taking breaks from chemo, from lowering the dose to changing drugs, but that this level of toxicity isn’t normal, and nobody should be trying to deal with it. As I was talking to her I realized that I’d always just answered questions about what side-effects I was having, but never really told them, except for the pain, how hard they were to deal with. Also, she said abraxane is one of the hardest drugs in the chemo regimen – I just figured that since it was similar to taxol that I must just be getting wimpier than I was when I had taxol.

Heather told me that she would make sure the doctor knew we’d had this conversation, but that I had to make sure that I talked to him about it when I saw him on next Tuesday. After I hung up, I started crying and just couldn’t stop.

By the time Cathy got to the house, I was down to just sniffles, but as soon as she got a look at me, she asked “Are you OK?”

“Oh, my nose is just runny. . . . . . and I’ve been crying.”

She just opened her arms and held me until I quit crying. Again.

Everything else we talked about was secondary to that and the goodbye hug she gave me. Sometimes, touch is the only healer.

05
Jun
10

Will I Bless it Then?

I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about Oregon’s assisted suicide law, and I have discussed it with Brian, also. We are both in agreement that this is a good law, but one to which we’d hoped never to need access.

But then life takes some funny turns (ha, ha, I’m so amused), and here I sit, one step closer to eligibility. I’ve been through some difficult times in my life, but never resorted to even attempt suicide, because for me solving an unhappy relationship or letting go of a piece of my past was not worth losing the rest of my life over.

I have to say, though, that although I’m not compelled right this minute, I forsee a time in the future when I will take full advantage of the Assisted Suicide law. Months of pain and suffering, of being unable to use my head or my hands in the way they’re intended; unable to get out of the house without someone there to give me a ride; dependent upon handholds and stair steps to get into the bathtub because I can’t step that high any more; being unable to read for any length of time; not being able to visit with my family because they’re too far away, and can’t afford to come visit me; being unable to play with the dog or even take him for a walk.

These are all just personal limitations, and not nearly all of them. I’m much more concerned that Brian will exhaust himself taking care of me; that the hope of one regimen of chemotherapy working for a few months will be replaced by the despair of finding that the other options out there don’t work as well; that Brian will end up having to declare bankruptcy due to all the medical bills in store; that all he’ll have to remember me by is a wasted body and brain and screwed finances.

So while I’m still of sound mind and body, but before it becomes the only option I can see, I say now that it is very likely in the future, when treatments are no longer working, but before massive deterioration in my condition sets in, I will look into the option of the Oregon Assisted Suicide law, and will probably take advantage of it. Brian has told me that he supports me in this, even though both of us would prefer to have a miracle cure discovered before I reach the point of making that choice.

Blessings on the Oregon voters for understanding personal choice, and for understanding death with dignity. I never want to be there, but given the likelihood that I will be, thank you for making it possible for me.

04
Jun
10

Bad Times at We’reNot High

Not this week which is just finishing, but last week, I had an emotional crisis.

Brought on in part by my homebound state, which in itself is partly brought on by trying to get my pain management right, it also digs out parts of me that were the most pessimistic and cynical aspects of my personality for many years. No matter how long ago or how thoroughly I’ve changed from that alienated, hard-headed, angry, blameful, unhappy person that I was decades ago, there are remnants of her that lay in wait for just such a difficult time, popping up her little Alien head right in the middle of my chest, leaving a bloody mess for me to clean up.

Now being homebound is bad enough, and being whacked out (or not enough whacked out) on pain medication is worse, but add in an insidious little voice that tells me that I’m not good enough for my friends, and why would anyone bother to be in touch with someone who doesn’t bother to be in touch with them, and you’ve got three prime ingredients for emotional crisis.

It’s true that I haven’t been very good at keeping in touch, although it is hard to do when you spend a lot of time sleeping; and even more difficult when you can’t seem to get the pain meds balanced so that you’re awake enough without  being in too much pain. But the fact is that I *know* that the people who love me love me in spite of my poor communication style. Knowing that they have full lives is much more the kind of the thing that the “normal” Julie would think, or that they’re worried about overwhelming me with contact when I’m having enough trouble just getting my meds balanced, or that they’ve been meaning to call and are just no better at it than I am.

Sadly, I have to spend so much time with “Used to be Julie” who still resides in my head just for these kinds of instances, that it doesn’t take much to push me over the edge into depression and self-pity.

So that was the state I was in for most of last week. I basically told Brian that the only things keeping me living were he and the dog and cats, family, and friends – at that point, I told him, I have no purpose in life other than to be here because of them.

I’m not sure which is more pitiful – that you could read it as being that I’m just sticking around because you poor people need me; or that it is so depressing that I could believe living because of the love I have for that group is barely enough to keep me holding on.

Brian, bless him, understands me much better than anyone, and he knew that I needed to talk about it. And talk we did, around me sobbing into his shirt – I think this is the first time I’ve had a serious cry about being told I have terminal cancer. Of course I have something to be depressed about, but there’s no need for me to go creating reasons to be depressed.

One of the steps we decided on is that I need to get out of the house more often. The tricky part with this is a) choosing an activity that isn’t overwhelming or too long for the amount of energy I have (or am likely to have, when planning in advance). This weekend, we implemented this part of the plan by getting out to see a couple movies. You know, terminal cases can make anything seem profound, but does it seem like a bit much that I sobbed through the preview for the remake of The Karate Kid? I used up nearly half my allotment of kleenexes for the whole movie just on that preview alone! I managed to get the dose right to be able to stay awake and mostly comfortable in the movie theater seats; so we decided to try again and went to see Iron Man II on Monday. Again I hit the right dose. We did go out to dinner afterwards to The Old Spaghetti Factory – unfortunately my tastebuds are all whacked out from the chemo, so it was more or less a wasted effort on my part. Brian had leftovers for Tuesday, though. Just getting out helped my mood immensely.

The next biggest step to implement is for me to get over my fear of asking people for help. I’m afraid of being a burden, especially this early on in the whole process. In this particular case, help is synonomous with coming to visit. I’m going to figure out a way to set up a calendar that people can log into and put their name down for visits, but in the mean time, I am going to handle it manually.

I learned from a visit by my friend Sue yesterday that 2 hours is about my top max time – I was definitely ready for a nap by then. I’m having chemo on Tuesdays now for a while, while my Wednesdays have support group. Probably the best time to visit is either Monday afternoon/evening or Thursday afternoon/evening. Mornings are much more difficult for me, since they’re a prime time for sleeping. As long as I know in advance, though, pretty much any day but Friday is OK (Friday evening works, but morning/days don’t really).

The third step is for me to get out to visit people. Wednesdays, as mentioned is for my support group. Leah is putting together a small group for a beer after work next week – we’re keeping the list of names short so that it’s not too overwhelming. Brian is going to drive me there and home.

Hopefully between these three steps (and I really am going to try to make a better effort at keeping in touch, also), my current mood will stay improved as it is, and maybe get even better as I get into the hang of the whole crawling out of my shell thing. It’s doing so much better already that I’ve only cried about three profound things in this post.

(No, not really). . .

26
May
10

What Dreams May Come

I’m not so concerned about those *after* I have shuffled off this mortal coil as I am taken aback at the intensity of some of the ones I have under the influence of either chemo drugs, pain medications, or the combination.

I usually don’t remember them, mostly I remember bits and pieces (this one involved a lost dog somehow, or that one was a scary one involving people being tied up, possibly in a home invasion scenario).

What I do remember is that they are often disturbing on some level, even if I don’t remember the specifics; I can still feel the fear or strangeness that pervaded the dream.

I’ve mentioned them to the doctor before, but Brian is lobbying for me to tell him again. I figure it won’t do any good if I can’t give him details, but maybe Brian’s right, and just knowing that they’re scary dreams will give him an angle to work with.

24
May
10

Robin – In Search Of: The Cube

Here, for you to watch while I’m off at the chemo “spa day”, is a video starring Robin and Brian demonstrating how Robin searches for his treat-filled cube. Because it was shot in one take, it ends up being a fairly simple search. We really need about 5 cameras, clip-on mics, and some editing software to turn this into a professional-looking video, so please forgive the faults.

Robin searching for his cube

23
May
10

Brian’s Knee Update, More Photos

Brian’s surgery on Friday went fine, and although there was a significant enough amount of pain for Brian to actually resort to the prescription pain pills on Friday evening/Saturday morning, by Saturday evening he was down to just ibuprofen.

It just amazes me that they can fix knees with three little holes in an in-office procedure these days – when my first husband had knee surgery, he was in the hospital overnight (at least), and has a big scar running down from the top to the bottom of his knee – I think it’s around 6″ long or so.

Thanks again to cousin Jeanette for taking Brian over and waiting with him while he had surgery. I’d planned on going with them, but as the week wore on, it became obvious that the chemo was still hitting me pretty hard. So I waited at home for them.

And because I don’t really have the brains this morning to blog about anything else, here are some pictures for your delectation.

Robin's definition of foot rest

And April the cat gets in on some of the action:

April's definition of back rest

We’re going to the ballet today, and I have to remember to wear a mask, since I’m probably immune-compromised at this point. I’ll know for sure tomorrow, but around all the kids, probably best not to take any chances.

15
May
10

Rash Actions

A day or so after my last chemo treatment (May 4 or 5), I developed a rash on the back of both hands. This happened once before, I thought with the adriamyacin treatment, but since abraxane is essentially the same as the taxol, it probably was with the taxol.

Exactly the same as the previous time, it starts at the base of the thumb, and runs towards the wrist for up to an inch-and-a-half; follows the web of the thumb to the base of the ring finger, where it covers the knuckle; and spreads a little bit up the ring finger, a little towards the knuckle of the middle finger, and maybe even up the middle finger a little bit. It starts out bright red, with extremely shallow bumps that taper out as they get further away from the web towards the center of the back of the hand. It is not itchy, and only mildly painful topically; but it is extremely sensitive to water temperature, more than lukewarm being very painful.

This week it was clearing up after using Aveeno hand lotion regularly, and periodically soaking it in a paste made of Aveeno oatmeal bath soak.

Tuesday and Wednesday were beautiful days, sunny and warm, so I went out into the back yard and lay in my lounge chair in the spotty shade provided by the elm. It was a little cool in the shade, but you’re not supposed to have sustained sun exposure while on abraxane, so I snuggled under the quilt that Evelyn made for me (really, I’m going to post pictures, just having some minor logistic difficulties). I’m pretty sure that my hands were mostly under the quilt both days.

I noticed on Tuesday evening that my hands were swelling a little bit – I didn’t think too much of it, as minor fluid retention is one of the expected side-effects.

Wednesday morning, not only was my left hand quite swollen, but my ring finger was extremely swollen. Before going to my support group meeting, I showed Brian what was going on, and we decided the ring had to come off. We tried soap, lotion, oil, and icing to reduce the swelling, but that puppy was going nowhere. While I was at the meeting, he called our PCP to ask if they knew of any special techniques. When I returned home we tried her suggestion, which involves running a piece of string under the ring, then winding it around the finger. By pulling on the string as you try to pull the ring off, it should get the ring past the swollen spot. In my case, the finger was just too swollen, and although we could see some progress, it was incredibly painful.

At that point, I was getting seriously concerned about triggering lymphedema in the arm (swelling due to the lymph fluid not being able to get out of the arm – typically, when only the sentinel nodes for the breast have been removed (such as mine were), it’s not a high-risk concern, but the additional surgeries and the radiation increased my risk somewhat). I also started having a minor panic reaction at the feeling of claustrophobia of having something so tight on my finger.

So I made the painful decision that the ring needed to be cut off. We called a local jeweler who told us over the phone “Sure, we can do that”, but when we got there, fobbed us off with the excuse that their cutter was out for repair (actually, one person said it *needed* to be sent out for repair, another said it was, and we think they were both full of it). When I asked if they could help us find a jeweler who could cut it off they didn’t even bother to say “sorry” before they said “NO”. So we drove over to the mall and at the first store we found, they were very nice and concerned, and cut it off in less than a minute.

I asked to have it soldered together on a temporary basis, so that I can wear it on a chain – since the rash is a known side-effect of the abraxane, I don’t want to take any chances on having it re-sized and then discover that I have to have it cut off again.

The swelling is mostly gone now, although it took a couple days to show much result.

We pick up the ring tonight, and I’ll be very glad to have it back – until now, the only time I haven’t worn it since we were married was when I was having surgeries, and then it’s been on a chain around Brian’s neck.

09
May
10

Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walk was today . . .

. . . and I missed it.

(OK, so I started this post Saturday, but didn’t finish it.)

I’ve been immune-compromised since the last chemo, and giving myself neupogen shots. Apparently I caught something, because I felt OK Friday evening, to the point that I had everything ready to go in the morning for the walk; but in the middle of the night I started having trouble sleeping, with a little bit of everything chemo-side-effect-related cropping up. So unfortunately I wasn’t up for the walk.

Brian and Robin, however, were, so they went off to meet up with the Schrödinger Team over at the Rose Garden Arena, where “a good time was had by all”. They took the 2.5 mile route, and made good time. “They” are: Leah (thank you for organizing this year!), her husband Dan and son Marshall; Carrie, James, and Lucas (who, I understand was very well behaved! (Lucas, not James)(well, I didn’t hear that James was badly behaved, although he and Brian were apparently making plans for how they *could* get arrested. . .)); Dean and Dionne (Dean himself just had some surgery – good on him for being in good enough shape to be walking so far so soon!); and Evelyn, Chris, and Vada, who came down from Seattle for the walk. Forgive me if I missed anybody – Brian told me who was there, and I think I mentioned everyone.

I know there were several other people who made donations: Schrödinger made a sizable donation (and thank you Michelle!); Dean and Evelyn made donations as well as walking; Leah and Marshall donated/raised the most collective donations on the team; and Jenny, Dan, Kevin, and Carrie Weston all made donations. If you made a donation that I don’t list here, it is because some people chose to make “stealth” donations without putting their names on the honor rolls. But know that I appreciate those as much as the ones that are “claimed” ;-}

And special thanks go to Evelyn, who made me a beautiful quilt – I will post pictures on the blog soon. The label says:

“Nature’s peace will flow into you
as sunshine flows into trees.
The winds will blow their own
freshness into you, and the storms
their energy, while cares will drop
off like autumn leaves.”
John Muir

02
May
10

Paging Dr. Fine, Dr. Howard, Dr. Fine. . .

In reality, this post is a tribute to Dr. Awesome, a naturopath whom I met last Thursday for the first time.

Well, she’d come up behind me the week before and touched my hat, asking if everybody wanted to pet it? Truly, the hat I was wearing at the time, yes, people do want to pet it. It’s made with mohair and poly eyelash yarn and is extremely soft and feels good both to the hand and the bald skull beneath; with short-row shaping so it swirls; and instead of weaving in the ends, I braided them together so it has a little tail, too. Lovely hat in shades of maroon and purple, but getting too warm to wear much any more.

Of course at the time, I didn’t know this mystery petter was Dr. Awesome, but it tickled me that she was so willing to feel up a complete stranger’s hat in the middle of the doctor’s office.

My main goal for Thursday’s doctor appointment was originally nutrition, with a side of stress relief, and pain management for dessert. That was, at the time I made the appointment, the order I was most interested in covering the subjects. As it turned out, after talking to Dr. Awesome for 5 minutes, we rearranged it to pain management, nutrition, and stress relief.

For those of you who read this who have been through cancer treatment, you may understand immediately what I mean when I say it is a relief to talk to someone who “gets it”, particularly a doctor who not only understands but who validates what you’re going through and provides immediate, concrete solutions to some of the problems. You can talk to fellow sufferers all day and it’s good to hear that they have had the same problem and what they did for it, and in many cases, it will be of help to you when you encounter the same problem – never diminish the power of what experience can do for you.

But I at least tend to dig into the depths of my head and don’t even bring up problems in group, not because I don’t want answers, but because the group isn’t all about *me*, nor should it be. There are probably 12 – 16 regulars, and for any of them to get enough of a chance to talk, we often have to limit the number of speakers, and sometimes the depth of the discussion.

So having a medical authority validate that what I’m going through is real, is normal for cancer patients on chemo, and most important, isn’t just in my head, and doesn’t *have* to be dealt with just in my head makes me feel whole heaps better.

Pain Management: make sure I take the pain medications *regularly*, not sporadically; and take the smallest dose I can get away with. This might mean taking a higher dose in the morning than I think I really need, because for the pain to be worse in the evening means that I’m not giving it enough attention during the day. Also, hot baths with Dead Sea Salts are good, massage is good, and possibly acupuncture in the future.

Nutrition: Now, we all know the “Big C” is the cancer, right? Well, once you have cancer, there are other contenders for the title. Chemo might be considered the “Middle C”, since it is at one and the same time the treatment for the “Big C”, and the cause of the “Low C” (back into euphemism territory, here). I still think of the “Low C” as being the “Big C”, because it is much more immediate and pressing than cancer, and can make life pretty miserable. The pre-chemo drugs, the steroids and anti-nausea drugs they give you, and the pain medications I’m on all contrive to keep me from moving on. So Dr. Awesome prescribed something a lot less virulent than the clean-out liquid used for colonoscopy preparation, although she gave me that option if I wanted fast results. I chose the non-fireworks route. So now I’m thoroughly revising my menu, making sure I get lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, lots of whole grains and fiber, coffee (yay!) and supplementing with this product that makes moves smoother than an Italian gigolo.

And finally, Stress Relief: Exercise is a component of all of the three topics I initiated with Dr. Awesome. Exercise can reduce pain, if not overdone; it can help the diet and supplements do their nutritive acting; and it can help with stress relief. But for chemo patients, taking the dog for a walk even around one block may not be possible except when you’re at the end of a two-week break. Especially shortly after chemo, exercise may mean getting out of your chair and walking around the house once, or making that trip upstairs to get the medication bottle. And some days, it may mean standing up out of the chair for a minute or two. One’s body is under attack, and while it’s good to push the boundaries a little bit, pushing them too far, or having too high of expectations about what your body can do when it’s just out of chemo is bound to create a feedback loop that eventually immobilizes you by trying to do what you were able to do two days ago, when you were on your 2-week break, but since you just had chemo, there’s no physical way you can do it.

I’ve been beating myself up because my focus is so bad, and I have always had great powers of concentration. I’ve been taking it as a personal failure that I am not able to keep my mind on something for more than 15 minutes. With one sweep of her hand, Dr. Awesome pushed that self-blame out the door, and helped me see that I can live with it, and even manipulate it to my advantage. It isn’t a solution that is going to allow me to be able to work better, as that still demands unbroken sweeps of time to focus on a particular project; but it means that I don’t *have* to focus on anything for longer than 15 minutes. Pick up my knitting, and if my hands are cooperating right then, work until I feel the focus slipping. Then put it down and read a book, or play a game on my phone. Write a blog for a while, and if I feel like it, do some beading or quilting. As soon as I feel the attention slip, set whatever it is down. And try just resting instead of sleeping. Sometimes, just sitting thinking rather than sleeping is enough rest to let my body recoup the energy for my next couple rounds of knitting or reading or whatever.

Brian was there for this appointment, and although he has never indicated that he thought I was being a drama queen or exaggerating my symptoms, Dr. Awesome’s immediate understanding and recommendations of solutions tailored to my specific case made him understand just how difficult it can be to look physically well on the outside, and yet to feel like crap on the inside.

So all hail Dr. Awesome! She has empowered me to quit being my own worst enemy, and feel much more like a human being than a lump of bruised potatoes.

Truly, I have the fortune to be surrounded by so many wonderful, caring, knowledgeable doctors and nurses that I just wish everyone with cancer could be so lucky as to work with my team. I would not hesitate to recommend a single one of them.

01
May
10

So Many Things to Do. . .

A week ago Monday, we spent more than 2 hours with our attorney, figuring out a basic plan for our estate. This was the first time I’d met Mr. GoodLawyer, Esquire, and he turned out to be kind, funny, and knowledgeable. Brian has been doing business with him (usually by phone/e-mail) for more than 12 years, but it was only the 2nd time they’d met in person.

The whole business of planning one’s estate seems as if it should be a bit of a downer, which is probably why we’d put it off for so long. But there is so much to cover, and we did it with laughter, so it really wasn’t too onerous. Mostly, we’ve come to recognize that without children, we are planning for our (well, actually Brian’s) old age. We have enough to make it worth the time to do the living trust model, but not really enough to worry too much about tax planning after I’m gone. Of course, as we (and the lawyer) pointed out, there’s a major, legitimate assumption that I will go first, but it is always possible that Brian will step out the door and get hit by a bus, blah, blah, blah.

So we’re on to the business of figuring out fiduciaries and heirs. About the only thing I didn’t like hearing is that there is no good way to provide for the animals. Brian and I have friends who have said they will take Robin, and we figured that we would leave them a certain amount of money with which to take care of him (and likewise with the cats, but different people).

Mr. GoodLawyer pointed out that although you can say what a bequest is intended for, there’s no way to enforce that it is actually used for that. So in his grim world, you leave the money to the Humane Society, and request that they use it to take care of the animals until they are adopted – but there’s no guarantee that the Humane Society will do *that*, either. Also, and this makes more sense to me, by the time both of us are dead, whoever is left will probably have a whole different set of animals, anyway. Since I might live another 10 years, and Brian presumably has another 20+, Robin, April, and Jeremy will probably be long gone, and our neighbors who love Robin and will take him might not even like Rex (or King, or Lassie, or whoever).

The good thing is that living trusts are amendable, so we will provide for Robin and the cats, and change the terms of the trust if necessary down the road. In *our* world, our neighbors *do* love Robin and will take him and use any money we provide for taking care of him; as will the family who will take the cats.

And in the meantime, we need to think about heirs (not making them, fortunately, merely deciding. . .)

p.s. Schrödinger is signed up for the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walk on May 8, 2010. This is a link to the main page. For the Schrödinger team, here is the specific link: Schrödinger. In addition to myself, there are at least three other people in the Portland office who have had family members with cancer that I know of. Although this is a breast cancer walk, please donate or walk in honor of all Schrödinger employees and their families who have had to deal with this devastating disease, whether it was breast cancer or some other type of cancer.

Brian and Robin will be walking with the group; and I will at least be at the starting/ending point, and will walk if I have the energy. Since I’ll be in the middle of my most recent round of chemo, I’m not sure what my activity level will be up to – most days in the middle/end of the chemo cycle, I have trouble with more than a couple trips up and down stairs. I might have to kick somebody’s baby out of their jogging stroller if I get out on the route and find I can’t make it the whole way ;-}

26
Apr
10

Chemo #4 – The Great Scrabble Hustle

Laura came to my chemo session today, which also involved meeting with the doctor. Fair warning: I told her this might give her tmi about my bodily functions, and told her I could come get her when it was time for chemo; but she decided to tough it out. I think she was a little flustered by the end.

And fair warning to readers: euphemisms ahead. If euphemisms are still too much for you, I recommend you skip this post.

This week I met with the gynecological oncologist who removed my ovaries (this is not a euphemism), because about 1 or 1-1/2 weeks into chemo I developed what seemed like an abrasion that had a lump associated with it down in my lady parts (euphemism). I thought at first it might be an ingrown hair causing an abscess (non-euphemism), but not being a contortionist was unable to get a good look, and it eventually cleared up to just being a small lump under the skin. It actually took another week or so for me to have a paranoid attack about whether someone (well, OK, women specifically), can develop cancer in their flower petals (euphemism).

So in my meeting with Dr. Sweetheart, she reassured me that although it was possible to have cancer there, it much more likely is a cyst or a healing abrasion, ingrown hair, or other injury-type lump. If it hasn’t completely cleared up in the next month or two, we’ll do a biopsy, but I’m no longer totally paranoid. As to the cause of the lump, I would have to relate that with many more euphemisms than even I care to type; so let it simply be said that it is still a mystery. However, the conversation regarding cause led to many more euphemistic-laden subjects, and neither Doctor Sweetheart nor I flinched, but I sensed some going on in my peripheral vision.

Suffice it to say that Brian and I are scheduling a date night for my next chemo break-week (euphemism).

Last night, Laura had suggested that I download Scrabble to my iPhone so we could play during chemo. We chose some recliners over in the corner, and passed the phone back and forth. Now, I’m a pretty good word person, and I know some pretty good $20 dollar words. I even know some pretty good $50 words; but seriously, what kind of word can you make with the letters NEELNER? or UUSKINI? and why, when Laura was getting all the “bad” letters (Z, X, Q, etc) was she not only able to make words, but get all the Triple Letter and Triple Word scores? I, sirs, have been hustled.

Next time, I’ll have to play the cancer card.

20
Apr
10

Sunday, Lovely Sunday

My Sunday started on Friday, when Brian and I tried something I wasn’t sure I was really up for – meeting friends for dinner. In preparation, I took a nap Friday afternoon, and felt about as rested and ready as I ever feel these days. We met Shawn and Hope downtown at Mother’s, and we were there for a little over two hours. We’d warned them that I might be quiet unto napping, if the chemo was picking on me that day, but the nap seems to have headed that off, and I was able to be a full participant in the conversation.

Hope brought a photo album of her dog Scampers, who is just adorable – you can tell that he scampers pretty much everywhere. She also told some very amusing stories about how her cat (sorry, brain fade on the name) entices the dog to play with her. We had a very enjoyable dinner, and the promise that we will get together again soon when it is a good time in my chemo cycle. I’m looking forward to that!

I wasn’t up for much once we got home though. That’s the way it usually works – I can push myself to be on for a couple hours, but then it’s back into the pumpkin. Brian and I played Yahtzee (probably the simplest game we have, and all that I was up for), then went to bed by 9:30 – 10:00.

Saturday our friend Cathy and her dorky Augie came down from Longview. We talked knitting, and she helped me figure out an alternate way to accomplish something that my peripheral-neuropathied hands were having trouble with doing by the book. I had to stop part way through and go take an emergency nap, although it was mostly an emergency close-one’s-eyes-and-rest – at any rate after about an hour I felt as if I’d recouped some energy. We all went to the Mad Greek Deli for a late lunch (mmm, lamb gyros!), and got some various baklava to go.

That evening, we had crockpot potroast with garlic bread, then watched Time Bandits. Just as my favorite part of the movie came on, I got smacked by yet another “you must lie down now” brick, just out of nowhere. I stumbled up the stairs, and slept through booms and roars, sinkings and burnings, as well as ogres, Supreme Beings, and Pure Evil. Good thing it wasn’t incumbent upon me to rescue the world from Pure Evil; or if it was, well, sorry.

Sunday morning I got up relatively early (8:00 *is* early, for me at least), made a pot of coffee, and set out the baklava. We all relaxed, and Cathy and I knitted some more; round about noon, I suggested that we go lie out in the backyard in the sun. As it turned out, we only lay in the sun for a half-hour or so, then moved into the shade, as it was quite hot in the sun. I read several chapters of “The Light Fantastic” by Terry Pratchett to Brian and Cathy (and Augie and Robin, although I doubt they were really listening). Eventually we came in, had lunch, played a game of Uno (Cathy creamed us); and then Cathy had to head on back home.

What a lovely, relaxing weekend, and especially Sunday! It is days like this, with good friends and quiet enjoyment that make the miserable days of treatment worthwhile.

05
Apr
10

Everybody loves irony . . .

. . . except when it happens to them.

Last fall, everything was falling into place – Brian and I were having lots of fun and were more in love than ever (just so you know, this isn’t the irony part – we still are more in love than ever); work was going great and I was starting on some really fun projects; we took one of the best vacations we’ve ever had, and spent it with two of our most favorite people.

Sure, there were little blips, but isn’t life always like that? Even when nearly everything is perfect, there’s always something to remind you how grateful you are for your good life.

We had a wonderful Christmas, with my company extending our vacation policy to include all the days between Christmas and New Year, so I was rested and ready to come back to work. I put on the company Winter Party, and people seemed to have a good time (plus the caterer’s food was fabulous as usual ;-} ).

I started taking mandolin lessons in January, because I’d always wanted to, and it seemed like now was the right time. And it turns out that I’m somewhat of a natural, although probably partly because of my piano days, and existing familiarity with music.

Also in January, Brian moved the “Julie – Breast Cancer” medical file out of the active file cabinet into a box in the garage.

It is fairly reasonable to say that these were the happiest days of our lives so far.

On January 5, I finally ordered the book “The Happiest Days of Our Lives” by Wil Wheaton. I’d planned on ordering it before, except there’d been some long publishing delays; but word was that it was going to be shipping very soon. Yay! Order that puppy, because it is right in tune with where my life is, and I’m always up for more good stuff!

It arrived on March 26th, the day I had my first chemotherapy for my Stage IV breast cancer.

(In case anyone is unsure, that is the ironic part).

So my mission, and I *do* choose to accept it, is to convert this back from irony to truth. While one doesn’t have to be happy at having a terminal disease, one can live their life as if it doesn’t matter if they have a terminal disease. This doesn’t mean I’m going to do all the traveling I’ve always wanted to do, or write the Great American Novel, or win the Nobel Peace prize. It does mean that, with help from all the loving friends and family who are there for me, who call, write, e-mail, post comments, or even just pray or send positive thoughts and energy my way, these can still be the happiest days of my life; and hopefully Brian’s, also.




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