Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Bottoms up!

I have finally zeroed out on my blood cell counts. So this is the bottom; I may stay here for a few days but then will begin to climb out. For the first time in my life, I am getting blood. Can't give me any old germy blood; I get the extra-pure, super-radiated, hi-octane blood. "Sanitized for Your Protection." Just like those paper bands on the motel's toilet seats.

And I get a big chart - yay me! Nurse Jesse hasn't had time to fill it in yet. I don't know if it will be just numbers, or maybe some smiley faces and gold stars on really good days.

Most of the nurses have been in the good-to-great range. My two weekend nurses surprised me, and not just because they were boy people. Nurse Paul is a big ol' strapping hunk o' manliness. He reminds me of one of the "Blue Collar Kings of Comedy" -- the one who always has a highball glass and a cigar. Anyways, Paul looks like he was first string, and and could snap a lesser fellow in pieces without much effort. I promise you, if you put his picture in front of people, no one would guess "nurse" in their first ten tries. So I was really surprised, then, when Paul was relieved by Nurse Floyd, who looks like he could snap Paul into pieces. My word, he's a big 'un! Pirate, Viking, Lumberjack. Again, I just don't think anyone would ever guess "nurse." I was almost afraid to see who would relieve Floyd....maybe Shrek?

On a personal level, this zeroing business is not much fun. I'm still quite fuzzy-headed, and in spite of frequent mouth rinsing, starting to get that mucositis. Hair is starting to fall out, still don't know if it will all fall out. I'm still surprised that a trip to the restroom & back exhausts me. I haven't done a lap around the unit for a couple of days; I'll try & start that again tomorrow. And maybe I can add it to my chart! And get another star!

Geez, does the name Pavlov ring a bell?

Hysteriawatch Final

Intervention Radiologists 3
LaCootina 0

Sunday morning, part of my central line catheter ("Portitia") went cablooey. The outer plastic line cracked and sent saline a'flyin' all over the room. My nurses spent the rest of the day trying to find out what could be done and when, from a department called Intervention Radiologists. First, the Intervention Radiologists (for our purposes here, the "IR Pricks") refused to give even a ballpark time frame for when they would see me. I understand that on their planet, where they are no doubt worshipped as gods, one little catheter going "cablooey!" does not constitute an emergency. But all I was looking for was maybe a 4-hour time frame, because I wanted someone to be with me. The lucky task fell to Sis, who WORKS FOR A LIVING and so if the IR Pricks could just have said "Oh, it won't be until after noon." That could have been so very helpful, and just a slight indication of humanity.

I'm exercising all my limited patience all day long, stretched so thin you could see through it, because there is a chance, just a chance that the cablooey can be repaired and surgery will not be needed. However, there still existed a chance for surgery, so all day long I had to hold off on almost all my meds, and couldn't eat anything. Now at 30+hours since cablooey, I am ravenously hungry, blinding headache, anxiety very close to pee-my-pants level, exhausted, frustrated, using all my SuperPowers not to have a screaming meltdown on the nurses or my poor Sis because I have one goal, one minute obsession: if they can't repair it and i have to have surgery again, I don't want to be awake, I want to be knocked out.

Well, that's a no-brainer, you say. What kind of asshole would expect you to be awake during surgery? DING DING DING DING!

If I had been physically capable of doing so, I would have gotten up off the table and run. But I couldn't, so here's the 15-20 minute conversation that will haunt me for the rest of my life:
Me: I want to be out. Knock me out. Get the twilight stuff. I don't want to be awake.
IRP: Oh, it'll just take a few minutes. It'll be over before you know it.
{{{extreme pain, discomfort, nausea burbling, more pain, pain PAIN}}}
IRP: Nurse, can you fribulate the franchenator and blagivate the phericory?
{{{hurt hurt pain stop hurt stop stop}}}
IRP: ...and just FORCE IT here...!
IRP: {harrumph, big whiny crybaby}

Now, almost 24 hours later, I am only beginning to calm down. Because everything is "fresh" again, i feel like i have a javelin run through me. I know that ice packs and time will greatly relieve that. And I acknowledge that my version of the event is probably distorted by hunger, exhaustion, pain, hypersensitivity. But even with all those mitigating factors, I am asking them to tell me why I was not allowed to be sedated for the procedure.

EPILOGUE: I started this process by calling "Patient Services" and was initially treated rather frostily by John. I very briefly told him I had some issues with the way things were done by IR and would like to see the notes from those procedures. John insisted that I could not access any of my records or reports until after I was discharged from the facility. I told him to please check with his attorneys on that and I would do the same. Next thing i know, ol' John is knockin' at my door. Yessum, I can access those records and yessum, could he shine my feet, seeing as how i wasn't wearing any shoes? I doubt that I will get satisfactory answers... but by gum, I'll get answers!

Monday, September 29, 2008


I feel like Sally Fields in the (whatever year) Oscars: You like me. You really like me!.

To Michelle, Holly, Mac, Kathy, & others amazed at the notion of anti-hiccup medication: it doesn't really work. (You suspected as much, didn't you?) What does work is a large tablespoon of peanut butter, downed in one gulp. In my case, it works for 30-60 minutes. If you're still a' hiccin', only a hefty dose of anti-anxiety medication will work. It's probably worth it, at that point, because having the hiccups for a prolonged period of time does indeed create a whole lot of tension and anxiety, not to mention a whopper of a stomach ache. If you suffer hics with some regularity, tell your doc you need to keep anti-anxiety med in your arsenal.

(Unrelated: Kathy, I loveloveylove thedry washcloths. Brilliant.)

To Margaret, Superchai, Josh, et al, Fresh fruit is crawling with juicy goodness, and harmless bacteria, and maybe one dangerous lil bacterii. There was a time when I could have been tempted by a bowl of canned peaches, maybe with a llittle brown sugar and pecans. No more. I now believe that fruit should be either fresh-picked, flash frozen, or compost.

To Becky G: My long lost gal pal! I bet your darling daughters are teens now. Yikes! It was so nice to hear from you, though we both wish for different circumstances.

Josh: I missed the first presidential debate; couldn't risk the chance that it wouldn't cheer me up. Not so for the VPs. I expect a rip-roaring good time and expect to have the full armory of anti-meds (anti-anxiety, anti-seizure) at the ready. My only concern: will I be able to distinguish Sarah Palin from Tina Fey?

First Grade... at last

First Grade...Remember what a proud day that was? Kindergarten was for babies. What else do I remember about first grade? Hard to tell, but this was my toothless picture.

Well, I thought my teacher was a monster because she had freckles on her arms, something I'd never seen before. She yelled at me one day for reasons I didn't understand, and I had nightmares for a long time afterwards.

Oh, and in January, I got to make the big Goldfish Announcement.

I think my mom insisted on setting my hair in pincurls almost every night. There were always a few hairs that got pinched horribly and made it impossible to sleep. I got exactly this much curl each morning, and by lunchtime it was gone. Hardly worth it for a few hours' of this "Flying Nun" look.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Hysteriawatch: 4.75

The Plan is for Sis to be here at the asscrack o' dawn. And these folks can explain exactly what went cablooey, and exactly what they plan to do to correct it. And if I don't understand it, or if Sis doesn't understand it, they can just explain it again and again and again. And again. Cause if I don't understand it, I'm not doing it. So, Lucy, you got some 'splainin' to do.

Nearing Zero

Imagine the worst day of your life so far. Now imagine it's 100 times worse than that. now imagine that you-- who more than anything in the universe, hate to throw up. Hate, hate hate hate it. Then you throw up. And the day's just beginning.

The antinausea medicine is called Ativan. You ask for it at the first sign of nausea, hoping to head it off at the pass. But my little window just gets smaller and smaller, and so this morning it was "Ativan!" "BARF!" Just that quick. it was also my first hurl in 3 days so that was kind of discouraging; thought i was past that.

But i (barely) managed to regroup and curl into a quiet little ball. slow, steady breathing, manage to change into clean pjs. And then Nurse P does "something".... or "something" happens while Nurse P is canoodling with portimer. And there is a GASP and there is a small CABLOOEY and suddenly I am covered with goopy saline and doctors and nurses are once again to-ing and fro-ing with that barely-controlled anxiety and no one will explain.

In the meantime, Bro #1 came for a visit. Ah, the voice of sanity. except i'm not absolutely sure he understands what happened. All we know for sure is that I'm going back in for more surgery tomorrow. Sis & Supergirl 3 also stop by; my conversation is distracted as i imagine small plastic arrows racing toward my heart, lungs, jugular. Of course no one will admit that anything has gone wrong, that anyone did anything wrong, but i wouldn't be going back into surgery otherwise would i? I just want someone to tell me the truth about this.

They have just enough ativan in me that i can't put up much of a fight. (hmmm...think that might be a coincidence?) But I'm very angry. i'm disappointed that Dr. A. has never called or stopped by. Is that unrealistic? This is the second major complication... and nothing. So i'm angry. angryangryangry. Fuzzybrained. Barfy. Angry. i hope this is the worst day of my life.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Day One

Well, Loyal Legions, if catnapping is ever an Olympic event, I stand ready to lead Team USA to victory. Even the boatload of painkillers I took yesterday could not trump the Dex (steroid). The good news is, the Dex dose for the next three days is just 4 mg instead of 10mg. Even without the dex, I might have been too anxious to sleep.

Day One starts with daily meds and daily blood draws. Already, I hate Portitia (the central line catheter) about 1% less. The neck pain is about 1% better. I managed to get down about half of my breakfast: an egg sandwich, the obligatory fruit cup, and some juice. Because of fear of infection, I seem to be on a no fresh fruit diet and it's killin' me. The one thing I want to eat is off limits. I've tried their canned fruit a couple of times, and I don't want to think about how long ago it was canned.

Everyone has been telling me that the transplant itself is a bit of a non-event, so that's what I was expecting. Well, it's a bit more than that. An hour prior, I get a bunch of pre-transplant meds: aniti-fungal, anti-viral, anti-nausea, anti-anxiety and I don't know what else. Then the hoopla begins. Lots of equipment is wheeled in, including a large cart with all kinds of stuff. The stem cells are brought up frozen and defrosted "while-u-wait!" Mom &Dad on one side, me in the bed, and the army of nurses and the supervising Doc God on the other. It looked like they were getting ready to embalm me.

I was already loopy from the anti-anxiety meds; even though they explained what they were doing each step of the way, I just had glassy-eyed nods in response. "Uh-huh." Then as the actual transplant begins, I feel the tension level in the room increase, like air pressure. I get just a flash of warning -- "I'm going to be sick"-- and a small basin is handed to me just in time. A little more of this, a little more of that, the whole thing is over in 20 minutes, but I was out cold long before.

An uneventful night thanks to that boatload of medicine and a sleeping pill. I've had intermittent hiccups the last 12-18 hours. A tablespoon of peanut butter is an excellent remedy. However, in my case, it only lasts another half hour and then the hics are back! So now we add anit-hiccup meds to the lengthy list of anti-[fill in the disaster] medications.

And now, I'm just going to relax and enjoy my ice water, my cable-of-many-stations, and the opportunity to nap at will, without car doors slamming or dogs barking. I think (hope) I'm entering a boring phase, so maybe a few more nostalgic posts may be in order.

Monday, September 22, 2008

And another thing...!

Thanks to a quick call to Mom and Dad, I switched to my other TV addiction, Dancing With the Stars. I can't believe I almost missed it! {{{shudder}}}} Come on, it's not just me; there are millions of us totally hooked on it. My whole family knows there is a no-phone-call rule during the show.

Brooke Burke - wowza! Has she really had four kids? Unbelievable. Cloris Leachman - props for getting out there at her age but please, please, put the funbags away. I promise you, those 82-year-old tatas are not helping you get votes. Can we program my stem cells to give me Edyta's body? Who is Kim Kardashian? And isn't being a "reality tv star" just a bit of an oxymoron? Or is it just plain moron?

NOTE - I also got a mega dose of my pal, dexy (dexamethasone, a steroid that makes me leap short buildings in a single hobble). Now I can't even remember why I need it, but I argued against it, and I lost. Maybe I argue just out of habit, but I really hate dex. I inhaled dinner, a larger meal than I've eaten in weeks; now I'm typing, reading, watching, eating horded cookies, and I expect to bounce off the walls at full speed all night long. It would probably take two sleeping pills, and maybe an elephant tranquilizer, to slow me down now.

And if you look at me sideways, I will burst into tears and it will clearly be all your fault, you pig, you bastard. Now shut up, I'm watching.

Day Minus One

The surprise call came at 8am: pack your bags and come on down! I called my folks with the news that I am being admitted today, and the stem cell transplant "countdown" starts today. (My poor parents must feel like they're on one of those elastic paddle-balls: go HOME, come BACK, go HOME, come BACK. They live about 150 miles away, and this was, I think, their third trip here in two weeks.)

Hoodie Mary Ann graciously agreed to drive me here, just as she graciously went and got me a thermometer last night when I couldn't find mine. If I lived two lifetimes, I couldn't begin to pay back Gracie's humans for all their favors and kindnesses. (And I was mighty impressed when she slung that suitcase-the-size-of-an-ocean-liner around as if it were a lunchbox.)

I got to my room right away; I was completely unprepared for The Parade of Visitors to take almost three hours. I was impressed that when the physician's assistant (PA) decided another chest x-ray was needed, suddenly a portable chest x-ray machine was wheeled into the room! A nutritionist, a respiratory therapist, the oncologist on duty, several visits from the nurse, I can't even remember who else, but suddenly it was after two and again, no lunchee. And of course, the first nurse's visit gave Portitia (the port or catheter) a workout as she drained me almost dry for the obligatory tests.

I was finally able to get some chow just as the folks arrived. After some of that Sitting Around Waiting (which we've all mastered), we gave ourselves a tour of this gorgeous new facility -- it opened just three weeks ago -- and I discovered a computer in the Family Lounge. Good thing, since I can't seem to send email from the ol' laptop. (That will work for now, but in a couple weeks, I may not be well enough to leave the room and then I'll be madly bummed.)

The mega-dose of chemo was almost a non-event, as I'd been told to expect. Aside from great care with disposable scrubs, gloves, and masks, it was just a brief hook-up to Portitia, and then it was over. Scrubs, gloves and masks were whisked away as though they were radioactive. And that was pretty much "Day Minus One." Day One, tomorrow, is the actual transplant.

Okay, the very best part of the whole day is that I'm watching Project Runway on Bravo. It's a silly, un-real, faux reality show with lots of histrionics: atrocious fashions and vicious backbiting and cheesy, old fashioned melodrama. But I haven't seen this show in 2+ years, since I lost my "free" (as in, something other than legal) cable, so it's novel again. And I just realized that this is a PR "marathon," probably from last season. It's like eight desserts!

Forget the fashions – I think it's hilarious that all the models look like they can't wait to bite the head off a snake, and all the boy designers look like they're vying for Silliest Hair Ever. Every one of them looks like he lost a bet.

That's my dirty secret, folks. I don't read romance novels, I don't watch soap operas, I don't eat fried foods... but I loves me some ticky-tacky Project Runway.


Judging by the amount of pain and swelling, Mr. Clot is still firmly attached, which, I'm told, is a good thing. We don't want Mr. Clot wandering around to, oh, say, my heart or lungs. Our goal is for Mr. Clot to soften a bit and eventually be reabsorbed. The twice-daily gut punctures of blood thinner will not dissolve Mr. Clot but will prevent future clots from forming. You're in the No Colonizing Zone, buster!

I would like to mention that I was told the blood thinner would be similar to the insulin injections. Liars! Not even close. The insulin pen has a needle that is barely 1/2" long and the breadth of a hair. The blood thinner has about a 2" needle with a girth I would call... significant.

It is called Lovenox, which I find offensive. There is nothing lovey about this. It should be called Clotnot or Clotfree or Clot-B-Gone! It causes a little bruise at the site of injection; I am attempting a perfectly symmetrical polka-dot pattern, to impress the nurses next week. As if they haven't already seen it all.

Ebony and Ivory and Misery and Agony

Ah, 8th grade graduation. All dolled up with hair that had been set on rollers for the occasion – solar eclipses were more common than me curling my hair. This dress barely covered my caboose ...but it's the shoes I remember. They had about a 2"heel, and a small platform, and they laced up the front, "for show," and I'm pretty sure they were the coolest shoes evarrrr.

It's hard to tell from my expression, but I was relieved and happy to be moving on. Whatever high school has in store for me, it can't possibly be as bad as junior high. Not only was there the usual misery and agony on a daily basis, but I had a nemesis, an enemy all through junior high and I was hopeful that in the much larger high school, it would be easier to disappear into the crowd.

Her name was Grace (yes, ironic) and she hated me with a passion that poisoned her soul. Why? Well, I have no idea. Honestly! She just hated me on sight, and decided that her extra-curricular activity for the next two years would be tormenting me at every opportunity. Just a bully, plain and simple. She never missed a chance to trip me in the halls, or slam me into a row of lockers, or grab my books out of my hands and send my papers flying. I must have been all of 4'7" -- it's not like there was any sport in it, for crying out loud!

Maybe it was because all us little white girls briefly had a pretend black boyfriend in junior high, and mine -- for reasons I'll never understand -- was beyond cool. His name was André and he was handsome and soft-spoken and kind. Nah, she started picking on me long before I'd even met André. And my torrid affair with him never got beyond some clammy hand-holding. (Looking back now, I'm pretty sure he was gay. Duh!)

I happen to have a picture of Grace, because at graduation, she shrieked at me, "TAKE MAH PITCHER! TAKE MAH PITCHER!" and I dutifully pointed my little instamatic, hoping to avoid triggering a global race war.

My high school years were also somewhat lonely and unhappy. (At least the first two years were; then I discovered "skipping" school and the last two years weren't nearly as bad.) But nothing compared to the agony of junior high school...at least until cancer came a' knockin'. I don't know if the misery is comparable, but I think I have developed better coping skills.

"If you are going through hell, keep going." -- Winston Churchill

Sunday, September 21, 2008

We Could Fight Two Crazy Wars for That!

As if I weren’t feeling badly already, what with an invisible fork in my neck for 3+ days, and what feels like an infection slowly spreading across my neck and up to my ear, I wake up on Sunday to hear our Elected Idjuts and Supposed Experts talking about a $700 Billion-with-a-B Bailout for “troubled” financial firms, as if it were already a done deal.

Yes, in spite of Aunt Crankypants’ concerns and caveats, apparently it’s true. So we will never be able to address national health care, adequately preserve our infrastructure, eliminate the Medicare “donut,” or even make a dent in our great-grandchildrens’ budget deficit...because the pigs at the trough are going to bail out their buddies to the tune of $700 Billion.

But if we don’t feed the pigs at the trough, the neocons whine, our house of cards will tumble and we will be thrown into a Great Depression! ...And could it be worth mentioning that (according to NYT “Shareholders at the Top”) Secretary Paulson still owns $523 million (current value) in Goldman Sachs?

Ah, but if we DO feed the pigs, we will be Rewarding Bad Behavior, which as any preschool teacher will tell you, only encourages more bad behavior. These financial institutions took on too much risk, out of greed, and it shouldn't be my job to bail then out. I’ll risk another depression if there’s a chance the CEOs of these firms will be left penniless.

From “Connect the Dots” at the Daily Kos:

A few years ago Bush tried to hand over social security to the same captains of high finance who managed to fly the nation's economy into the side of a mountain last week. Had he succeeded, we might have spent the last few days debating how to bail out Social Security. Just a few days ago John McCain wanted to do the same with your healthcare

That ought to help a lot of people decide how to vote.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Protect Access to Health Care

For your sisters, nieces, daughters and granddaughters. For yourselves.

The Bush Administration has proposed regulations that could seriously undermine the ability of American women to get basic reproductive health care, including birth control and abortion. The regulations put politics above women’s health care needs.

The rule leaves open the possibility that -- based on religious beliefs -- institutions and individuals can deny women access to birth control. It also permits individuals to refuse to provide information and counseling about basic heath care services. And it expands existing laws by permitting a wider range of health care professionals to refuse to provide even referrals for abortions.
Tell the Bush Administration to Reinstate Patient Protections and STOP the Health Care Refusal Regulations!
At a time when more and more Americans are either uninsured or struggling with the soaring costs of health care, the federal government should be expanding access to important health services, not undermining existing protections or interfering in programs that have successfully provided services for years.
Read more here, and sign the petition by September 25 here.

Let a Smile Be Your Chemo?

Recent blogsurfing has confirmed what I've long suspected: when it comes to Multiple Myeloma, I am one Dumb Dora. Everyone else seems to know what all the numbers mean; whether it's good or bad when they go up or down. Me? Nopedy nope nope. Strictly on a need-to-know basis, with the caveat that my brain is rather low-functioning these days.

I found this excellent excerpt at "The Beast," another MM chronicle. It is from a Molly Ivins article:

"Another thing you get as a cancer patient is a lot of football-coach patter. "You can beat this; you can win; you're strong; you're tough; get psyched." I suspect that cancer doesn't give a rat's ass whether you have a positive mental attitude. It just sits in there multiplying away, whether you are admirably stoic or weeping and wailing. The only reason to have a positive mental attitude is that it makes life better. It doesn't cure cancer."
Molly Ivins was a funny, saucy, insightful author and political reporter in Texas. She was the first to apply the nickname "Shrub" to George W. Bush. While she enjoyed skewering the president and congress, her real focus was the Texas state legislature. She died of breast cancer in 2007. Read the whole column here.

It reminded me of my post about this very subject ("What To Say, What Not To Say"). I hate people insinuating that I caused my cancer, and that only my cheerful demeanor can cure it. I don't believe that; I'm counting on actual doctors and treatment to do the trick.

P.S. Molly Ivins doesn't believe cancer made her a better person. I do. But then, she started out a much better person.

Brave World

by Tony Hoagland

But what about the courage
of the cancer cell
that breaks out from the crowd
it has belonged to all its life

like a housewife erupting
from her line at the grocery store
because she just can't stand
the sameness anymore?

(Excerpted. Read the rest here...)
I was already having a creepy, weepy, pitiful self-indulgent sort of day, and I remembered bookmarking this poem. It almost made me laugh (keyword almost), and gave me a completely new way to look at cancer. Is it like weeds and flowers? Some omnipotent "they" decides one group of cells is good and another group of cells is bad? Can't I at least acknowledge that my cancer cells are industrious and dedicated to their cause?

I was somewhat comforted, then, to read this, an excerpt from another of his poems:

Often we ask ourselves
to make absolute sense
out of what just happens,
and in this way, what we are practicing

is suffering,
which everybody practices,
but strangely few of us
grow graceful in.

Friday, September 19, 2008

The Harvest that Wasn't

Remember those Grapes of Rap? Well, Vintner Gary recently shared the sad news that the grapes kicked the bucket, so to speak:

It is with great sadness we must inform you that the much-anticipated pressing of the wine grapes, harvested so joyfully just a little more than two weeks ago, has been cancelled. Some kind of nasty white fuzzy fungus thing caused the grapes to wither, and to give off an aroma that suggests dirty vinegar mixed with rotting roadkill. This was not the fresh, fruity bouquet to which we were aspiring.

And so, there will be no Vintage 2008 from our Vineyards. As for the grapes themselves, they will be the centerpiece of a memorial shrine to be set up street-side later this morning. Please feel free to drive by, stop, examine, and to pay your respects. Plans for a wake (featuring, sadly, store-bought wine) are forthcoming.

And, as September ushers in autumn, winter, and then the rebirth of spring, please join us in looking forward to the sure-to-be-a-hit 2009 vintage.

Of course, my condolences were extended immediately:

Well, if you hadn't been so hasty, I could have offered to help with a home Stem Cell Transplant kit! Since the harvest has already gone to the great grapevine in the sky...is it utter heresy to suggest fruitage other than your own? In sympathy,The Coot

P.S. Will this shrine be a classic, over-the-top homage to hysterical over-reaction? Will there be plastic flowers, stuffed animals, and laminated photos of the dear departed? Cause otherwise, I ain't wasting my time on this cross-stitch..
I'm sorry I haven't followed up, or even visited the shrine. Of course, this past week I've been rather self-involved with my own wretched busyness; I only hope I'm not exuding a similar aroma.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

What Not To Say

"Che palle!" as Margaret would say. It's been quite a day and I can only give you the abridged version. I have a BLOOD CLOT in my neck and an "irritated" (read: enflamed) lymph node causing tremendous pain. Could it be caused by a large foreign object recently inserted in the area? Uh...yeah. But I should go home and put warm compresses on it, I was told. I could not understand why I was sent home without an Rx for blood thinners. It was one of those "uh-oh" feelings that I have learned not to ignore.

I dashed an email to Dr. A asking about this and several other things and asked him to please call me when he had a moment. And here's what Dr. A had to say, in a rather dismissive tone: “Well, you've got a foreign object in your body so there is always the chance of problems. It's not the end of the world."

And for the second time in our relationship, I think to myself:

This man had better be one kick-ass oncologist,
because his bedside manner blows

UPDATE: I'm not sure why the change of attitude, but I will be on a blood thinner, after all; in fact, I get to give myself more belly shots. It just doesn't seem fair, one girl getting to have all the fun.

I would like to tell other MM patients that my experience is atypical. If 98% of all patients never have a problem or issue with a port, you can count on me to lead that 2% pack. Remember Toxic Shock Syndrome from the 80s? Yes, I'm one of the few survivors.


In the words of Frank Barone, "Holy Crap!" And I don't mean that in a good way. The 'rents and I shlepped through rush hour traffic to get here in time for my 8am admission. Then we sat around for 2+ hours waiting for a bed to become available. In the meantime, the pain in my neck (and I don't mean that in a good way, either) was increasing, exponentially.

Eventually, we were told that a bed will not be available, and I will be sent home, to wait again until next Tuesday. Except, I explained, that we have to determine the reason for the pain TODAY. Non-negotiable. We shlepped down to x-ray, then we shlepped over to the cafeteria, and finally back up to the BMT unit to wait for the results of the x-ray. In all the to-ing and fro-ing, we are toting a suitcase the size of a small ocean liner, Mom's purse, which is slightly smaller and full of bricks, Mom's tote bag and my totebag which has my 200lb dinosaur of a laptop.

I will bet you cash money that the @#!! port has sprung loose and is stabbing me in some exquisitely sensitive gland, making every breath, swallow, cough or sneeze excruciatingly painful. And I'll bet you cash money that before the day is out, this port will be out as well, and they will have to put in another @#!! port because I will be unconscious, and unable to stop them.

And my reasons for sharing this with you, my Loyal Legions, are twofold: First, you WANTED the gory details. And second, I would like some validation: my anxiety about the port was not unfounded; in fact, it was spot-on. Can I get an amen? (Okay, you can wait until I actually have the results.)

UPDATE: Waiting to find out if I can get an ultrasound today as the x-ray did not show any problem with the port. Waiting. Waiting Waiting Waiting.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Mamma Mia

I know there are a lot of wonderful mothers; I’ve met many of them. But there is no question at all that my Mom gets top billing, and probably the Purple Heart of Motherhood.

First and foremost, Mom wins the prize for surviving my aforementioned adolescence. It was really a record-breaker. I was hysterical, or close to it, nearly every day...for years. My personal punching bag was the one person on the planet who had the capacity to forgive my atrocious behavior and come back for more: my mother. And I finally emerged from that phase just a bit more stable; what might charitably be called A Troubled Teenager. Which she also endured, and forgave.

My mother possesses the very rare ability to keep her mouth shut. (Unlike the parallel parking skills, I missed out on this one.) She’s the opposite of that mythical Jewish Mother who’s supposed to be nosy and judgmental. Even if you wheedle and whimper, the most Mom will offer is a series of leading questions. “Well, what do you think will happen if...?” or “Have you thought about...?” She will gently lead you to the Least Stupid Option, and then give you all the credit in the world for making such a wise decision.

Mom is always busy, a whirlwind of activity. (Yeah, the energy level also was not passed on.) She’s always been involved in volunteer work, and recently has utilized that patience by helping with an adult ESL class. A talented seamstress, she sewed quite a few dresses for me in elementary school; even then, I loved wearing something that no one else had. She also knits and crochets at a rate that Madame DeFarge would envy. She has made scores of chemo caps, premie caps, baby blankets and afghans for various charities. Grandma Sophie was a professional caterer for many years; no surprise then that Mom is also a wonderful cook and baker. I didn’t know until I went out into the world how special it is to have a mom who makes things. I thought everyone grew up like this, and the truth is, very few did.

Mom is also very funny and doesn’t hesitate to laugh at herself. I think her humor, her patience, and her loving, ever-forgiving heart are what I treasure most. You just couldn’t ask for a better best friend.

There are a lot of wonderful Moms out there, and they never draw a salary for doing the toughest job in the world. But as far as I’m concerned, they’re all tied for second place.

And Awaaay I Go!

This afternoon I got a call from the transplant coordinator. It was completely unexpected; I had reconciled myself to wait until next Tuesday.

In fact, IN FACT, I actually reviewed the Portita Flushing Procedure yesterday with my visiting nurse and, AND (!) I ACTUALLY FLUSHED THE PORT ALL BY MYSELF TODAY. (Cue violins: "This Girl Is A Woman Now") If I'd had ANY idea there was just one more day of home care, I would have been delighted to impose on the visiting nurse one more time! But I thought I was looking at another full week of care, and felt an obligation to finally start being a little bit less of a weenie.

So, knowing this may still change, the tentative plan is to be admitted tomorrow at 8am. Then I will "settle in," which I expect to be something like checking into prison. We have been given fairly detailed lists of What Is and What Is Not Allowed in the SCT/BMT areas; I imagine a scene in which a Nurse Diesel* look-alike starts chucking my stuff in a plastic bin. Forbidden! Verboten! I'll just keep zisss for you....and zees.

On Day One, which is called Day Minus One, I'll get my big honkin' dose of Melphalan. Woohoo. Stay tuned for more exciting updates!

*from High Anxiety, one of Mel Brooks' funniest movies.

Make, Create, Share, Enjoy, Experience!

You really have to watch -- and listen to! -- the quiet ones. All my friends are spectacular; some of the quiet ones are the most spectacular. So here are a couple of amaaaaazing links from hoodie Kelly, who is one of the quiet ones. Just when I'd been thinking about making things, instead of talking about it or reading about it.

Watch them (with sound on) in order:
1. 17 things i made
2. The Beckoning of Lovely

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Crafty Blogs

I used to love making all kinds of crafty things; now I just read about them. Luckily, there is no shortage of wonderful crafty blogs. Here are just a few. I hope someday to get back to Making Stuff.
How About Orange
Paper Forest
Hens Teeth


No young lady would leave the house without the proper accessories: her straw hat and matching tricycle. But I wonder... where are my gloves?
Today's Awwwwww Moment has been brought to you by Kodak Brownie cameras, and the Late 50s, home of the Last of the Carefree Childhoods.

Bonne Chance!

Hoodie Chris hosted a lovely supper on Saturday night. Bro #1 was in town and joined us. We also enjoyed the company of her 5 kitties and our 4 dogs, including Miss Molly and her BFF, Gracie May. It was sort of a family night: Mary Ann's sister Charlotte and mother Anita joined us. Charlotte is a nurse and a Doctor of Oriental Medicine. She has performed acupuncture on me several times and I think she's a miracle worker. Anita is also a nurse (now retired) and helped me with those delightful Neupogen shots. In addition to the food, the vino, and the charming chatter, the highlight was persuading Bro to play a song or two on the piano. We managed two before he signed off with his "leave 'em wanting more" philosophy.

Seven of nine Foodies gathered for a Good Luck brunch on Sunday. Providing a little balance to all the estrogen, we were joined by a brother, two boyfriends and the Heartbreak Kid himself, Baby Andrew. My awesome peeps had a generous contribution from the sales of cookbooks and crafts to give me. And a lovely wig in case I decide the classic pageboy wig from my S-I-L is just too flashy. And did I mention a delicious brunch? These girls can cook - if you haven't already, get yourself a cookbook before they sell out.

Front row (l to r) Lynn, Amy, Michelle; back row Christie, Nancy, Cathy F, Cathy C
Not pictured: Karin, Angela, and "honorary member" Stephanie

I want the Hoodies AND the Foodies to know I don't expect another send-off soiree when I finally get the high sign for admittance. But thanks for two great meals and all the good wishes. I don't know what I did to deserve you all.

Monday, September 15, 2008

More Angels

With the tagline "One Less Thing to Worry About," Cleaning for a Reason steps in to offer FREE professional house cleaning services for cancer patients. I don't know if you can imagine what a relief this is, especially for an unattached person like myself. I have already asked for a lot of help, and the last thing I want to do is ask anyone to scrub my tub, wash my floors, etc.

I haven't even contacted them yet, but I'm assuming I will qualify. Between my lack of income and bona fide diagnosis, I qualify for almost everything. If you were looking around for a nice organization to squander your extra $20, $50 or more, they would be happy to accept a donation. For those who itemize, the IRS still considers this type of charitable contribution 100% deductible.

And if you happen to use a professional cleaning service, ask if they're involved with Cleaning for a Reason. If not, it's probably because they've never heard of it. Ask them to go to the website and check it out. The more maid services that join the cause, the more cancer patients they can help.

Translation, please?

"Your total collection of stem cells is 11.5 x 10^6 CD34+ cells per killogram. That is divided into 4 bags, 80 mls in each bag for a total of 320 mls.
Since I do not have Dr. A's final recommendation back, I do not know how many will be given for this transplant, and how much will be kept for any future use that might become necessary."

Can anyone translate the first two sentences for me? I have no idea what that means.


Got my ducks in a row here, ready for the big check-in tomorrow. Have a lovely "Bonne Chance" dinner with the hoodies on Saturday and a brunch with my foodies in Sunday (pics to follow). Suitcase is packed and I'm ready to go.

And I just got a phone call from my transplant coordinator telling me that I definitely will NOT be checking in tomorrow at 8am. Of course, my parents have just come back from taking a few days off; wish we might have known this yesterday. There is a chance I may check-in on Thursday, but there are currently 9 patients waiting to check in and no beds available. There is a chance -- I sense more of a likelihood -- that my check-in may be delayed until next week. My coordinator said that "It's not unusual to be delayed for one week. It would be very unusual to be delayed for more than one week."

I'm a little disappointed, but even with the uber-itchyness, it's all manageable. In the Big Scheme, one week won't make a difference, no one is horribly inconvenienced. If anything, my heart goes out to the patients who are clogging the pipeline; patients who were expected to go home and have been delayed. That's got to be a lot tougher than waiting to get in.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

What About Happy and Doc?

I don't know if it's my brain or my body or both that are in revolt, but something has decided to have an allergic reaction to the adhesive on Portitia's bandage. It was a little itchy and then a lot itchy. And then it was bumpy and itchy and now we've got the trifecta: bumpy, itchy and red. (Add grumpy and sneezy and I've almost got a full set of dwarfs.) Now it looks like actual hives, across my chest, out to my shoulder, creeping up my neck. So far, unaffected by benadryl lotion or hydrocortisone cream.

If you're even considering suggesting that I did this to myself, that this is an inevitable manifestation of my anxiety, I promise, my next inevitable manifestation will be to cyberpunch you right in the kisser, or die trying. My theory is that my body is rapidly careening toward maximum misery, in order to make the transplant seem not just acceptable, but almost appealing.

Either that, or I'm allergic to the goddamned adhesive on the dressing.

EZ Burn ith tho fuhn

EZ Bake? More like EZ Burn. Why were these things such a big hit? It must have been just their size; miniatures of almost anything have been irresistible to kids. I know we even had a kiddy-sized ironing board and iron. How much fun is it to "play" ironing drudge?

EZ Burns were messy and the servings were smurf-sized. They didn’t even taste good. Although the little cakes and treats “baked” under a lightbulb, they came out of the EZ Burn oven still in a near-liquid form, but at the temperature of molten lava.

After all the preparation and anticipation, I doubt there was a kid in the world who could wait for them to cool down. Ahd that ith why kidth talk like thith back then - becoth we buhd ouh tohgueth on EZ bake cwap.

"Did Tina Fey Out-Palin Palin?"

The SNL opening sketch last night featuring Tina Fey as Sarah Palin has to be one of the funniest, most insightful comedy moments of the 21st century; even though there are 92 more years to top it, I'm confident it won't happen. Amy Poehler as Hilary Clinton was razor sharp. Every line was like a glistening pearl. (I can't believe I actually got to see it, live. I had already gone to bed, but woke up remembering that I had not taken my evening medicines. Just a pure fluke that I happened to catch it.) Here is a transcript, and I believe, a video:
SNL sketch with Palin-Clinton


Saturday, September 13, 2008

Name That Port

It came to me in a dream: Portitia Addams!
...after my fellow sunny optimist, Mortitia, and with an obvious nod to Rightina. Although I loved Portense and Portimer, I think Portitia is a clear winner.

I hate Portitia. (The port, not the name.)

No Murphys Allowed

Mom pointed out that I was wrong in my previous post (Big C Update II). Moms are allowed to do that, and I've learned my Mom is always right. Always. Including this time. I was sitting here reciting to myself my Litany of Misery (my back hurrrrts, I hate this f*cking porrrrt, I'm so tiiiired) and I realized that I do this more out of habit than anything else.

So here are just a few things that have gone right (but I haven't even acknowledged because I'm a myopic, ungrateful wretch who probably doesn't even deserve them):

  • Yes I have cancer, but even with the misdiagnosis, it was found in time to respond to treatment
  • I have a great oncologist and I'm getting treatment at a world-famous, state-of-the-art facility
  • Supernurse G might be "just doing her job" when she battles DieSuckah, but I believe she goes above and beyond that, for every single patient
  • Every step of the way I've had the support of devoted family and incredible friends. Even if this was the only thing on the list, it would be more than enough to make me humble and grateful forever
  • The MM support group has been wonderful, and I'm sure that they are waiting for the opportunity to do more.
And that's just for starters. Thanks, Mom.

But I think I'm much funnier when I'm cynical and skeptical, so please indulge me occasionally, if only in the interest of fine art.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Go See...

"Her vocabulary was as bad as, like, whatever."
Bad Analogies - well, they're mostly bad similes.
The Art of X-Rays - plants & flowers, and all their naughty bits
That's Water Over the Bridge - yes, we said "Over"

The Joys of Cancer

#5. Kindness

If you ever had a moment’s despair at the spiritual trajectory of humans in general and Americans in particular, I’d like to tell you that this surly cynic has been transformed: I have experienced overwhelming kindness, compassion and generosity of spirit.

It’s easy to fall into despondence. There’s a lot of tragedy in this world. There is heartbreak on a small scale: everything from schoolyard bullies to drug dealers terrorizing neighborhoods; from embezzlers stealing pensions to animal cruelty. On a national scale, our economy is in a downward spiral that is devastating individual families and whole communities. We are war-weary and heartbroken over the losses of the Iraq war; not just the lives lost and the lives altered by those losses, but also by the wounded and their families, who will never be made “whole” again.

On an international level, it’s even harder to feel a glimmer of optimism. Pollution and climate change have the planet in a sorry state and time is running out for instituting policies that will not only put on the brakes, but begin to reverse some of the damage. In spite of some enlightenment over the last decade or two, poverty and disease still exist on a scale that should frighten and shame us all.

And yet... and yet, every single day on the cancer carousel, has filled my heart with gratitude. The outpouring of support has come from everyone in my immediate orbit and far beyond: from family and friends, the medical team and my support group to the internet community, long-lost acquaintances and complete strangers. I can feel their compassion and warmth, rallying all my good cells for the challenge ahead. It has easily triumphed any lingering doubts about personkind.

Whether or not you have money, education or even simple mobility, you still have the capacity, and the opportunities to commit acts of kindness.

And if you think you lack opportunities, you’re just not looking hard enough.
More Joys of Cancer
#4 Accepting Help
#3 Asking for Help
#2 New Priorities
#1 We Share

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Big C Update III

Today, I had a visit from a Home Nursing Service; the purpose was to teach me to take care of The Port. (Please, help me come up with a charming name for The Port. Mort? Sport? Mr. Portato Head?) I have shoes older than Nurse Bunnyface. I have fillings older than Nurse Bunnyface. But let's not hold that against her. I was supposed to learn this in my transplant class, but there was no chance of me actually absorbing information that night, especially about Portense.

The placement of the port, and the shortness of yours truly, means that any access to Porterhouse involves... well, let's just say one of the Girls can shy away, but the other has a starring role. So while we're all very focused on Cleaning and Flushing the Port, part of my brain wants to know why Rightina is so fascinated with my shoes; is Lefty likewise obsessed? Up here, Girls!

It's all moot anyways: there is simply no way for me to do this: I can barely SEE the area. And I am unwilling to try doing it by looking in the mirror and risk doing something backwards or upside-down. Nope, much to Nurse Bunnyface's disappointment, I tell her that I believe I will need help with Portofino every day. She seems to take this personally.

I don't care. I have learned to stab myself in the stomach for insulin shots. I have learned to stab myself in the thigh for Neupogen shots. And I have reached the outer limits of my squeamish threshhold. If Portimer has to be flushed every day, you'd better send someone to flush it.

Big C Update II

First, the good, good, GOOD news:

They collected enough stem cells on the first day of harvest.

The average harvesting takes 2-4 days, because they try to harvest enough stem cells for 2-3 transplants. They freeze whatever isn’t used the first time, so that if you need another transplant in 3, 5 or 10 years, at least you don’t have to go through the harvesting again. I steeled myself for 2-4 days, and the possibility of even more. I recently heard of someone who went through eight days of harvesting.

Why is it so easy for me to accept when terrible things happen (in fact, I've grown to expect them), and so difficult for me to accept when something really good happens? Now that I say that out loud, and see it in front of me, I realize how indulgent and self-pitying it sounds; but if you look at my history of the last year, it seems perfectly reasonable.

Every step of this journey, I have been a Murphy's corollary: whatever can go wrong, will... at the worst possible time and place...and will be wrong to a degree never seen before. Everything from the original misdiagnosis to a near-overdose of some meds to fighting DieSuckah for coverage. There has never been a single event, a single test, a single appointment that has gone "better than expected," much less perfectly, until now, For the first time since my diagnosis, something has gone perfectly, and I'm having trouble switching gears and believing it's true.

Big C Update

At 6:30 am, Sis pulled up to give a ride to the hospital. I didn't want Ma & Pa to get up that early, or to have to spend the entire day basically watching me lay around.

The first hour at the hospital, I was in a low-level panic; first in the middle of a lengthy questionnaire ("Have you ever had sex, even once, with someone who has been out of the country or who has had sex, even once, for money, in the last five years?") and then because "Brian" started to give me the companion spiel for yet another consent form. "Wait a minute!" I yapped in the middle of the spiel. "I've been scheduled for this procedure for weeks. Why couldn't I have been given this form weeks or even days before the event? Why do you wait until minutes before, when I'm in a cold sweat and hardly able to absorb information much less ask questions?" Oh... wait a minute... maybe that's exactly WHY. (What, me, jaded?) I ended up signing, again crossing out a few things, just to register my pique.

Then they took me down to a different department for the "central line" or port. This is actually two I.V. tubes that are surgically implanted for both innies (e.g. transplant, feeding tube) and outies (e.g. blood draws). Hey, guess what they wanted me to sign? Again with the consent form at the very last minute. I'm not paranoid; there IS a vast health care conspiracy. I finally get taken into a private area and "gowned." Things were moving very slowwwwly. I decided this was a good time to take my prescribed Ativan for anxiety. After which, i buttonholed one of the nurses: "I took my Ativan, so I'm gonna be out cold pretty soon!" Things got very blurry then: I vaguely remember some harrumphing and a bit of hustling and bustling.

The next thing I remember, it was 3-4 hours later. I woke up in apheresis all hooked up and in mid-harvest. i felt like someone had smashed my chest with a baseball bat, but aside from that, no problems at all. You don't feel the apheresis. I have given blood donations this way before, so i know it's painless. Apheresis just takes what it wants from your blood (in this case, stem cells) and puts everything else (red cells, white cells) back in.

I drifted in and out of sleep till the folks arrived around 2pm. The only problem I had, I realized as I slowly emerged from the fog of that "twilight" anesthesia, was that my back was killing me and there wasn't any way for me to lay on my side. but I actually finished a bit early, around 3 pm, and got sprung. They said I would receive a call telling me whether or not to come back tomorrow for more harvesting.

"Whether or not to come back?"


Should I blog aboaut the stem cell transplant?
Yes, we want ALL the gory details 80%
Maybe, but you can leave out the gory parts 20%
Nah, let’s stick to funny posts 0%
What Stem Cell Transplant? 0%

Okay, Loyal Legions of Readers, you asked for it. Gory details with disclaimer to follow. Read at your own risk!

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Harvest Time

"Bringing in the stem cells, bringing in the stem cells, we will be rejoicing, bringing in the stem cells!" Oh, sure, now I come up with a harvest song...

Tomorrow is Port/Central Line insertion day, and Harvest day #1 and SCT -7 (stem cell transplant in 7 days, ideally). I don't expect to get any sleep tonight, and I'll have plenty of time to catch up tomorrow, but I should at least try to rest a bit. I've done all I can; taken all the shots exactly as prescribed, so all I can do is try and dial down the anxiety.

I'm in good hands and now it's time to let go and trust the medical team: they are not only skilled, but also compassionate. I hope to check in tomorrow with a full report (so far, 81% of you want all the details, including the gory ones); until then, I leave you with a short poem about my new pseudo-religion, kindness:

Life is mostly froth and bubble,
Two things stand like stone,
Kindness in another's trouble,
Courage in your own.
~Adam Lindsay Gordon

Monday, September 8, 2008

Big Damn Hair

Three little monkeys ready for a night on the town. Ahhh, the 80s: my hair was big and my ass was small. Yes, it's true: my hair was bigger than my ass. I met Cheryl and Susan at a singles' group when I first moved to town. They both found keepers; I did not. (Or maybe I wasn't marriage material.) I have never had any fashion sense, but have latched onto people whose style I admired, and copied their style (or tried to). If my friend wore jeans, a shiny pastel t-shirt and a little evening purse... then so did I.


by Dorothy Parker

I wish I could drink like a lady
I can take one or two at the most
Three and I'm under the table
Four and I'm under the host.

"I like to have a martini,
Two at the very most.
After three I'm under the table,
After four I'm under my host!"

I've heard the last line quoted as "One more drink and I'll be under the host." I never knew it came from a poem. Dorothy Parker is one of my favorite cranky girls. She was a writer and critic for magazines such as Vanity Fair, Vogue, the New Yorker and others. She also wrote poetry, short stories and screenplays. One of the original members of the Algonquin Round Table, she was known for her rapier wit and satire. Other favorite quotes:

  • You can lead a horticulture but you can't make her think.
  • This is not a novel to be tossed aside lightly. It should be thrown with great force.
  • If you want to see what God thinks of money, just look at all the people He gave it to.
  • Beauty is only skin deep, but ugly goes clean to the bone.
  • It serves me right for putting all my eggs in one bastard
  • It's a small apartment, I've barely enough room to lay my hat and a few friends.
  • You can't teach an old dogma new tricks.
  • Four be the things I'd have been better without: Love, curiosity, freckles and doubt.
  • She runs the gamut of emotions from A to B. (I think this was a review of a performance by Katherine Hepburn.)

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Stir Crazy!

Celebrating the completion of a decorating project a few years ago are members of the Stir Crazy supper club. from left: Nancy, Christie, Cathy F., Lynn, Stephanie, Cathy C., Michelle, Karin, Jason. Not pictured: Angie and Amy. Last week as our 7th anniversary. Seven years of food, fun and friendship. You're the best!

Cookbooks of our favorite recipes are still available. See story at right.

Go See...

One Sentence Stories - mostly funny and well-edited.
The Trolls Among Us - Cyberbullies, basement-dwelling, socially inept loozahs, who will turn your life into hell...well, cause they're bored, and they can.
Is Google Making Us Stupid? - At the risk of sounding ageist, I think the answer is age-related.

"Never has a communications system played so many roles in our lives—or exerted such broad influence over our thoughts—as the Internet does today. Yet, for all that’s been written about the Net, there’s been little consideration of how, exactly, it’s reprogramming us. The Net’s intellectual ethic remains obscure."

A Liberal’s Pledge to Disheartened Conservatives

Dear Friends,

I have just read and signed the online petition "A Liberal's Pledge to Disheartened Conservatives." If you can spare a moment, please take a look, and consider signing yourself.

5. When we make America the last Western democracy to have universal health coverage, and all Americans are able to get help when they fall ill, we promise that you, too, will be able to see a doctor, regardless of your ability to pay. And when stem cell research delivers treatments and cures for diseases that affect you and your loved ones, we'll make sure those advances are available to you and your family, too.
OK, the truth is I'm not nearly as gracious, forgiving and compassionate as the author, but I'd like to think that I could be. Someday.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Don't wait for someone else...

to bring you flowers. Grow your own!

In a fit of self-pity last spring, I told Mom I wasn't going to plant anything. She wisely filled just a couple of containers with impatiens... and I quickly realized I'd be miserable without flowers. So I put a few of those "Wave" petunias in the window box; three on each side, I believe.
And I planted just 2 packets of zinnia seeds. I've been enjoying one bouquet after another. I don't believe in waiting for someone to do something I can (and should) do for myself, but if someone wanted to bring me flowers, that would be absolutely 100% acceptable.

Friday, September 5, 2008

No, Really, I mean Certifiable...

Attempts at dissuading McCain
Were certainly made, but in vain.
He's yet to be shown
What everyone's known:
That four-fifths of PALIN is PAIN.

Steve Bates

That came from Yellow Doggerel Democrats.
Find three more limericks at Mad Kane.

Was McCain thinking that women might switch from Hillary Clinton to this wacky, uber-fundamentalist, moose-hunting, soon-to-be-grannyfied Alaskan head case just because she's got a pair of ovaries? As MadKane points out, she stands for EVERYTHING I DESPISE, and I'm betting most women agree with me.

Commentary: Sarah Palin, right and wrong (CNN, Hilary Rosen)
Palin's Secession Flirtation (LA Times, Rosa Brooks)
Palin: Wrong Woman, Wrong Message (LA Times, Gloria Steinem)
McCain's Quayle (23/6, Some of the News Most of the Time)
People Who Would Be Better Picks than Palin (23/6)

Big C Update

The Neupogen shots start tomorrow... well, it's after midnight, so I guess they start today. The harvest begins on Tuesday. If you missed it, here's a very brief outline of the Stem Cell Transplant process, with links to more detailed sites.

I haven't even mentioned that, since my diagnosis, I have been going to monthly MM support group meetings. They are a great bunch of people, and I'm really touched that so many of them still come regularly, although their transplant, or primary treatment, may have been years ago. I will see them on Monday, the evening before the harvest begins, and I'm sure they will be supportive and offer good advice and suggestions. It just happens that the 8-10 regulars are all married. I'm having a very different experience because of my single status. Still, they have been open, and kind, and extended very sincere offers of help, and I'll be grateful to accept those offers soon. In one sense, they have accentuated my "aloneness," but in another, they help diminish it.

I won't blog about the transplant; it's going to be a rough road and I'd rather use this as a pleasant distraction. Plus, I think there may be other cancer patients out there reading this. Every person's experience will be different, and I don't want to add to anyone's anxieties. If I happen to have a funny experience, or a particularly heartwarming experience, I probably won't be able to resist sharing that with you, but I'll skip the gory stuff. Let's all just think good thoughts and sprinkle ourselves with pixie dust!

Simple Pleasures

Simple pleasures are easier to recognize and appreciate as I get older. I'm no longer skipping or stumbling blithely through life, focused on the future while the present slips through my fingers. Right now, I'm appreciating, I'm acknowledging, I'm savoring...

Fresh berries! Strawberries are gone and blueberries are almost over, but it is the peak of fresh raspberry season. My friend Chris not only grows her own (the very best raspberries are home-grown) but she shares them with me. I've come to appreciate the whole "eat local" philosophy; the closer you are to the source of that food -- the less it travels and ages and taxes the environment -- the richer the flavor in my mouth. Berries from Chris come from one block away.

Sometimes I drizzle a bit of chocolate sauce, or have a spritz of whipped cream, or just a tablespoon or two of vanilla ice cream. But I’m delighted to enjoy a scoop of berries a la nothin’ -- fresh and pure and perfect; a mouthful of summer sunshine.

The season will be over in a heartbeat, and I’ll be left to enjoy the only winterberry this midwesterner appreciates: the liberry.

Blueberry Bread Pudding with Lemon Curd

Very easy but looks impressive!

PUDDING - bakes in one 9x13 pan or in separate ramekins, see below.
1-1/2 cups 2% reduced-fat milk
1/2 cup sugar
1-1/2 tsp grated lemon rind (lemon zest)
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 tsp vanilla extract
4-1/2 cups cubed French bread (about 8 oz.)
Cooking spray
1-1/2 to 2 C blueberries, divided. And/or peeled, cubed peaches to total 2C fruit

  1. Beat eggs, add lemon rind, vanilla, sugar & milk. Stir well to combine. Add bread, tossing gently to coat. Cover and chill 30 minutes or up to 4 hours.
  2. Preheat ovento 350º
  3. Divide half of bread mixture, spread in bottom of 9x13 pan (do not press, just spoon gently). Divide half of blueberries & spread on top. Spoon remaining bread mixture, top with remaining blueberries. I CHEAT - I stir the fruit into the bread mixture and spoon it all into the pan.
  4. Bake covered for 15 min. Uncover & continue baking 15-20 minutes or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. While baking, prepare lemon curd (below).
1/2 C sugar
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1/4 C fresh lemon juice (add more lemon zest, if you like)
1 Tbs butter
  1. Combine sugar and egg in a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring with a whisk. Cook 2 minutes or until sugar dissolves. Stir in lemon juice & butter, cook about 2 more minutes, stirring gently until mixture coats the back of a spoon.
  2. Remove from heat & cool to room temperature. Serve over bread pudding.
Yield 8 servings. 240 cal, 20% from fat.

*For a fancier version, divide among 8 (6oz) ramekins. Layer as directed. Cover each with foil, place in a large baking pan and add water to a depth of 1 inch. Bake covered, then uncovered as directed. Frankly, I don’t think it’s worth the bother and extra dishes.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

SpongeCoot SquareHead

I got a haircut last night from my former stylist, who came out of a well-earned retirement for the occasion. The idea was to ease my transition to expected chemo-induced baldness; but the haircut was very cute! very kicky! very sassy! I was afraid it would make the transition more difficult.

However, after washing and trying to style it myself, I confirm what my stylist noted last night: I have not one, but two very assertive cowlicks, one on each "corner." With some spray, and maybe some gel, and perhaps a couple good whacks with a rubber mallet, I can probably get them under control. But the good news is, the transition may be just a little bit easier than I thought last night. Thanks, Cathy!

The Miracle of Adoption

There’s a very good reason that one of each gender is required to reproduce: having an adult male in a child’s life is critical to their physical and emotional development. Not a grandpa, or an uncle, a father who is there every single day. Every study I've ever seen confirms this: children of single-parent households are more likely to quit school, use drugs, get pregnant, commit crimes. Why do so many women have the idea that one parent is as good as two? Could anything be more insulting, more demeaning to an entire gender than to dismiss them as optional in the rearing and nurturing of a child?

Children deserve to grow up with the benefit of a couple, committed to each other and their children. They deserve to experience first-hand the role of a husband and father, and to luxuriate in the security of a two-parent household.

Thankfully, there are still a few women on the planet who appreciate that a father’s role is a vital element of a healthy childhood. Even though these women may suffer other disadvantages, they decide to give their children a life they would never have otherwise, and unselfishly find the best home for their child through adoption.

I’m friends with a woman who was born to be a great mother; in fact, she is a preschool teacher. She’s married to a lively, passionate, caring guy who was destined to be a great father. But they each have physical problems that, when combined, make it unlikely they will have their own biological children.

Friends watched and worried when they started the adoption process, knowing there was at least a chance for heartbreak, financial stress, emotional turmoil. But somehow, the planets lined up...and a young woman who’d made some bad decisions saw the chance to make a good one. She set in motion a win-win-win scenario:

  • A wonderful couple who happen to be “reproductively challenged” still get the chance to become a family and parent a beautiful, healthy baby. The ecstasy ripples out to grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins.
  • A beautiful, healthy baby gets to enjoy every advantage of a loving, committed family that includes a devoted father.
  • And a birth mother can get on with her life, knowing she has given her child the very best possible future.
Isn’t that the very definition of good parenting - putting your child’s needs ahead of your own? Hooray for birth mothers who put their child first and choose adoption.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Welcome, Pesky Pals

I've been a reader and admirer of PeskyApostrophe for several years. PA is one smart, insightful, wickedly funny blogstress, and I'm honored she sent her readers over for a looky. Here are a few of my favorite posts; I hope you find some you like, and stick around to read more.

The Joys of Cancer
Smells Like Teen Angst
It's State Fair Time
Worst Movies Ever
The New Addition

I'll be starting the Stem Cell Transplant process this Friday; I'll be blogging throughout, but not about the transplant. Come along for the ride; you're welcome to lurk and more welcome to comment.


by Judith Viorst

I'm learning to say thank you.
And I'm learning to say please.
And I'm learning to use Kleenex,
Not my sweater, when I sneeze.
And I'm learning not to dribble.
And I'm learning not to slurp.
And I'm learning (though it sometimes really hurts me)
Not to burp.
And I'm learning to chew softer
When I eat corn on the cob.
And I'm learning that it's much
Much easier to be a slob.

Judith Viorst is the author of many poetry collections, newspaper columns, and novels (most recently Necessary Losses, but is probably best known for her children's books, including If I Were In Charge of the World and Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. I should probably read the latter, and see if it compares with my recent THNGVB days.

Eeeew - Taste This!

Most of the time, I'm a relatively contented single person. Not that I've completely abandoned the idea of finding a soulmate, but I was never the kind of person who felt incomplete. I have to admit, however, that there are times when a Significant Other (SO) is mighty handy. The aforementioned life-threatening illness, for one. Another, the million times a day when you want to elbow someone and share a seemingly insignificant detail of your life.

In my case, those moments usually fall into one of two categories: food and literature. There are times when I've concocted something really delicious, and I just want to hand someone a spoon and say, "Here, taste this!" and wait for the rapture to roll from their tastebuds to their brain and back to the vocal chords, for at least an appreciative, "mmmMMMMmmmm!" Even the rare but notable culinary failure deserves to have at least one more person acknowledge its spectacular awfulness.

The other moments are when I'm reading something, and I want to share a passage with someone, usually because the writing is strong and moving, but occasionally because I'm outraged at the author's complete and total wrongness about a subject. Right now I'm reading Eric Idle's Greedy Bastard Diary; it's about his tour of North America, usually by luxury bus, as he traveled with his revue-style comedy show. (I have to admit, the Greedy Bastard tour never made it anywhere near my midwest locale so I'd never heard of it.)

It's very evident that the Monty Python boys met at Cambridge and Oxford. This book sent me scrambling for a dictionary (yobbish? apothegmatize?) several times. And there were a few passages so lyrical, I've been frustrated by the lack of presence at the other end of my wagging elbow. One was a defense of his affection for most things French; not an easy thing for an Englishman to admit:

"I like their Frenchness. I like their language; I like their style; I like the way they have of living their lives through their senses, paying attention to the important things like food, clothing, sexuality, wine, and even movies. Everything is about enjoying life and that applies to all classes of French society, not just the bourgeoisie. By comparison, the Anglo-Saxon obsession with duty and the endless American pursuit of money are simply second-rate ways of being."
That's just a brief excerpt, but isn't it lovely, and succinct, and very true? And I would like so much to point that out to... someone... who is falling down on the job by his complete absence.

I can, and often do, save a bite for my good friend, Hoodie Chris, and she reciprocates. I'm sure if I ever called her with a "listen to this!" she'd be a good, appreciative audience. It's not quite the same, but it helps. It helps a lot. Still, I'd just like my SO to know that aside from this pesky incurable disease, I'm still the same sweet, surly girl, waiting here with a spoonful of sumpin' sumpin', ready to apothegmatize your yobbish manliness.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Fridays with Myra

Are we sick of Party Dress Girl yet? "No," the crowd roared, "We want more! We want more!" Well, all right, then.

Aside from my adorableness, this picture is notable for two reasons. First, we see the nine-paned picture window, also visible in this previous post. This is the very window which Bro 1 hurled himself through, head first, at age 8 or 9. He was arguing* with Bro 2 about who "got" to be Superman and who "had" to be Mighty Mouse. Bro 1 contended that he should be Superman, because he could fly, and he turned and hurled himself through the window, forgetting that Superman always, always opened the window first. This window is in many family pictures, and every time I see it, I think about Superman's aborted flight. Bro 1 has his own reminder: a little scar from the stitches he received that afternoon.

The other notable feature here is my Sambo doll. Talk about a sign of the times! I believe it was a gift from Grandma Flo, who had a certain... insensitivity about race issues. (Lamenting her "Mediterranean" complexion, Grandma Flo used to say "Why, when I was a child, people thought I was a darkie!") Oblivious to the social implications, I adored the Sambo doll because he wore overalls and had a bandanna in his pocket. He enjoyed a long reign as Favorite Doll, until Shirley Temple dethroned him.

Speaking of race, my mother's one little luxury was a once-a-week housekeeper, Myra, who was black. We kids adored Myra; we thought it was like having a celebrity visit every week. Every visit started with a near bone-crushing hug. "Ohhhhhh" Myra would say, "I'm gonna squeeze the juice right outta you!" And we thought she just might. Her laugh filled an entire room, and ended with an unlikely high-pitched squeal of delight. Somehow we got it into our heads that when Myra pulled a loose tooth, it didn't hurt. We would fight to hang on to that tooth until Myra's next visit. "Don't touch it! I'm waiting for Myra!" Myra always had a few minutes of undivided attention for me, "just us girls," to brush my hair, and maybe have a cup of tea with me and a few dolls.

She went on to work in the public school system as a cafeteria worker, a "lunch lady." Every one of her seven children went to college and graduated. It seems ridiculous to try and summarize her in a couple of paragraphs when, even in my memory, she is larger-than-life. I think I was lucky that the first black person I met was someone so kind and loving.

*Why were they arguing? Bro 1 was five years older and twice as big as Bro 2. Any argument was a mere formality before Bro 1 squashed Bro 2 like a bug.