Sunday, October 30, 2005

Storm warning? What do you do when the sky is blue and you hear that there’s a storm warning? You think that the gods (or the weathermen) must be crazy! So now I have my own personal “storm warning” and I don’t want to believe it. My ascites is slowly increasing after many months of being either stable or possibly even decreasing. Is this just a little blip in the barometer or does it signal some heavy weather ahead? I am very pleased with my present H&H situation (hair – almost 2½” now – and hematocrit – in the normal range). I am keeping my fingers crossed that I won’t have to go back to heavy duty chemo – which affects H&H and worse. But I’m feeling very good, am very upbeat, and will do whatever is the best course to keep me going. Regardless, I’m going to request that I remain on my present chemo regimen for this coming Tuesday so that I feel good when Bob and I go to California on Friday to participate in our cousin’s annual olive harvesting festival in the Russian River region in the Sonoma valley.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

I am so overwhelmed with joy that I could cry! After 3 months, Bob is back to being himself, to walking, and to doing all the little things that we love to do together. The visit to Paris did it. In Paris you walk to everything. Even if you want to take the Metro, you’ve got to walk TO the Metro, THROUGH the Metro, and then again TO your destination at the terminus. With his personal orthopod consultant (Karl), Bob gained his confidence and just DID IT, by walking, walking and walking!. So now I have a dream of a trip archived in my noggin and my husband back to boot! Who could ask for more?

The trip to Paris was so ideal that I had to keep pinching myself to make sure it was real. Every moment was perfect, from the hotel, to the weather (sunny and in the low 70’s), to the food and the opportunity to pause and share a beer or an expresso on almost any street corner, to enjoying special times with our youngest son, Karl and his wife Stacy. On Friday I gave a lecture at the Hôpital St. Louis and on Saturday I accepted the Griffuel Award. In both cases, my friends were there to meet us and to make everything go smoothly. It is so special to connect with my international colleagues who are friends in the truest sense of the word and who make me feel at home wherever I am.

The morning after returning home from Paris I had another chemo treatment which made “re-entry” quite a reality shock. As with the previous treatment, it put me in a very confused state mentally (apparently due to the 5-FU) and that, together with the stress of trying to play “catch-up” in the lab, made the transition rather difficult. However, today I feel that I am emerging from the cloud that enveloped my head and find myself again brimming with excitement about life. Somehow the knowledge that I have only 10 more days before the next hit with chemo makes me feel like I have to consume the “elixir of life” in big gulps. And, for the moment, I think that I am doing that to the best of my ability!

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Two weeks of glorious living pre- and post-chemo. Last weekend, like a squirrel frantically foraging in the fall to prepare for the winter, I planted 50 pansies and 100 tulip bulbs (given to me by a former postdoctoral fellow visiting from Holland) in anticipation of Spring. To think that I would be counting on experiencing a Spring 6 months from now represents a very positive change in my long-term outlook on life. I took joy both in my stamina in planting these bulbs and in the expectation of their emergence and colorful blooms next March/April.

Then after being atypically discouraged and mentally “down” through my chemo treatment this week, I emerged to be revitalized by a unique weekend with Bob in Boston. We arrived Friday late afternoon and had a most enjoyable evening of reminiscing and reliving some of our postdoctoral experiences in Boston and going to some old haunts. In the end, because we lost our way several times, we walked several miles – the longest Bob has gone since breaking his ankle in early July. Thinking that I might again have a walking partner put me on such a high that I could hardly sleep that night. Then Saturday was the day of my induction into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences – a day that we had thought might be rather boring, but that was instead rapidly paced, intellectually stimulating, and truly memorable. It ended with the induction ceremony in the historical Sanders Theater, built in 1874 to commemorate Harvard students who lost their lives in the Civil War. Tom Brokaw (one of the new inductees) gave a stirring talk urging us all to commit to restoring our country to its former greatness. The ceremony ended with the Harvard Glee Club singing Amazing Grace, Shenandoah, and America the Beautiful – talk about tear jerkers! After that we rushed to get a cab to Mike and Kitte Sporn’s apartment in Boston for a planned dinner together and were overwhelmed and totally surprised by the presence there of two of my closest colleagues in the lab – Lalage Wakefield and John Letterio - who had traveled from Washington with their families for the celebration. It was a most special evening of toasts, shared memories, and hopes for the future. Our “scientific family” is indeed that and is strengthened by our respect, our caring and support, and our love for each other. It was an evening to remember for a long time to come - one to pull up out of the back reaches of the mind when one needs to remind oneself of the best that life has to offer.

On Tuesday I head to St. Michaels Island on the Chesapeake for our annual lab retreat – always a special event- and then Wednesday Bob and I fly to Paris to accept the Griffuel Prize from the French Cancer Research Association. Karl and Stacy will join us there for what will be surely be another most special occasion. Onward! Live Strong!

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