Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Bob says that I usually start my blogs with something philosophical. I find it difficult to be philosophical when half of my brain is focused on my abdominal area and I am waiting to see whether my next 30-60 days are going to be a return to cytotoxic therapy or a continuation of immunotherapy and another blissful short-term lease on life at its fullest. It’s 10 days and counting until I get some hard data on the status of my disease from the scans. Since my mindset still vacillates from day to day about whether the outcome will be favorable or not, I think that I will not be surprised, regardless of the outcome. But one way or the other, we have done some very intense living in the past 3 months since I went off chemotherapy. Aside from strange bumps in my fingernails which seem to mark each cycle of chemo and my “Dan Rather” hairstyle, the chemo remains only a memory. My dentist commented last week on how healthy my gums were, when in the last chemo cycle they would bleed with the water pic on the gentlest setting. I am now more physically fit than before this diagnosis. I still can’t sleep. I think that all of the thoughts that I manage to subvert during the day re-emerge to put my brain into hyper speed as soon as my head hits the pillow. But now, 2 nights a week I take an Ambien and sleep soundly. Friday night I slept for 10 blissful hours to make up for the lost sleep the previous night due to “bedtime reading” of a recent review of gastric cancer treatment/prognosis – dismal - stupid move on my part.

On Friday we headed off to the beach to what weather forecasters predicted would be a completely rained out weekend. I had actually not wanted to come, but Bob said that it would do us good “rain or shine”. One thing that this disease has taught us is to take a little more time for each other, and not be quite so intent on working all the time. In fact the weekend was glorious. Each day – without planning to do so – we ran 5 miles on the beach to our “benchmark” destination in Fenwick. Like Sunday when Bob said that we would turn around whenever I stopped running – so I didn’t! The tide was lower and the beach wider, flatter, and harder than it has been for many months. The water was warm and the waves rather gentle, except for Sunday morning when the surf was whipped up by the reverse course of the remainder of hurricane Ivan. With the exception of 2 or 3 fishermen, we shared the beach with only the birds. Kiara entertained herself by chasing the scurrying sandpipers and we by watching powerful flocks of gulls and V-shaped formations of migrating pelicans flying overhead. And on Saturday, just as we interrupted our run for a swim, Bob spotted 6 dolphins frolicking just beyond where we were swimming. It was exhilarating. About 30 minutes after we got home from the beach, Ivan blew in with all its fury of high winds and pouring rain. We seem to be playing our cards right! I hope that’s an omen.

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

Trivia….this morning when I returned from my early morning run with Kiara dripping wet from the moist drizzle of the fringe of Hurricane Francis, I saw the 3 mums that I had bought at the beach. Thinking about how upset I would be if I didn’t plant them so that they could get a good drenching start to their life in the ground, I went to the shed, got out the shovel, and planted them all. It made my day. An extra 15 minutes can make the difference between an OK day and a terrific one!

I have experienced an unexpected beneficial effect from the Celebrex that I am taking as an adjuvant to my immunotherapy protocol. Usually after long barefoot runs on the slanted sand at the edge of the surf I have a lot of foot pain, probably from mild arthritis in my feet. Our runs the past few days at the beach were even more taxing because the sand was often soft. But with the Celebrex I have no pain! Bob is jealous. He can hardly walk today.

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

Mind Games……I have now crashed through one goal after the other – our 40th wedding anniversary and now our lab site visit are now both behind us. Therapeutically, the site visit was the best in that for the two weeks preceding it I had no time for any thoughts of cancer. In fact, I felt totally normal and was able to focus 100% on the issues at hand. Now having received my final vaccine boost on Friday, I have a very long month – or 28 days to be exact – to wait for the set of scans that will determine my eligibility for continuation on the protocol. So now I have to deal with the games of my mind. One day I am convinced that I am losing this battle and that metastatic cells are spewing out ascites fluid, coalescing, and reaching out like the tentacles of an octopus to wrap around my bladder and intestines. I stare at my belly convinced that it harbors the enemy. Then the next day I feel like the Cavalry is coming with bugles blowing and that my activated lymphocytes are flooding my peritoneum and eliminating the tumor cells. Those are the days that I like. I had one of those encouraging days yesterday, 3 days after the boost. I remain optimistic – but it will remain an ongoing game with my mind until I finally have some hard data.

So back to reality and the joy of existence…We had a very special weekend at the beach with Greg and his family. Max (5) has dubbed me the “best sand crab catcher” – a title I am very proud of. While Alyson (3) loves to play with sand crabs, she is still afraid of the ocean. Max though is an exuberant wave crasher. He is comfortable with being totally out of control and letting the ocean suck him out, push him back in, and tumble him at will. He simply rolls with the punches and laughs himself silly the entire time. Yesterday was a particularly wild, powerful, and totally unpredictable ocean – enough to scare most children. Max however (and Greg, who is equally comfortable being out of control) couldn’t get enough of it. There’s something to be learned about being able to lose control sometimes…

Bob and I jogged/ walked 5 miles along the beach every morning with Kiara, our golden retriever. The winds were quite strong and coming straight off the water and the ocean was very rough, spewing tumbling mounds of foam across the sand – a perfect backdrop to philosophic thoughts. I wish that I could start every day that way – with the sound of the crashing waves, the taste of salt water in my mouth, and the incoming waves swirling around my legs, sometimes even knocking me off balance. It serves as a constant reminder that the ocean has been here for a long time and only sometimes tolerates “guests” on its beach.

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