Sunday, November 27, 2005

I am truly amazed and thrilled that I was again able to participate in another great family Thanksgiving celebration – now 20 months post-diagnosis. We got up to full strength for our annual beach reunion slowly this year, being 11 strong by Wednesday evening, 15 of us by Thanksgiving dinner (lobster for most and turkey for a few), and finally up to our max of 18 and 5 dogs by the evening of Thanksgiving day. The big excitement this year was the introduction of 3 month old Alice to the group. I thrive on the chaos – everybody chattering at once, the kitchen always full of people cooking, cleaning, or munching, and the evenings ending in raucous games of Texas Hold‘em Poker. Both the 30-year old cousins and the younger cousins (our grandchildren) all delight in seeing each other, and it’s hard to say which generation is noisier. We were blessed by sunny, but cold days. But regardless of the temperature, the dogs and the little kids (fully clothed, of course) seem to consider the ocean fit for swimming – while the older members of the group are content to walk or run on the beach. I think that this year was the best ever with a constant buzz of activities with different groups going running, kayaking, golfing, shopping, baking cookies (my speciality with the grandchildren), etc. One of the little kids more interesting activities was scooping the ice out of the canal with fishing nets. I treasure the memories. These family bonds are the strength of my existence. I have learned so much from having this disease – it has forced me to focus on the joy of life, love, and family, and to no longer be bothered by “trivia”. I think that I am a better person for it – too bad I had to have such a shocker to have achieved this new level of appreciation for each new day.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

I’m thrilled to say that the good luck hasn’t worn off my bag of lucky charms that I carry with me to each and every medical procedure. To my total disbelief, my CT scan today again showed no progression of disease with the exception of the ascites which has increased from the previous scan. I was very strangely relaxed this morning – I even liked the berry barium breakfast. I managed to put myself into such a mental zone of protection that I think I could have handled any news in a matter of fact way. But when I was told the good news my brain simply exploded with joy. After I got back to the ground floor of the Clinical Center to return to my car I was so spaced out that I went the wrong way out of the elevator (I’ve been working there for 30 years!) and walked quite a way before I “woke up” and realized that I had no idea where I was. So tomorrow we’re off to my second Thanksgiving celebration on “borrowed time” with sunshine in our hearts. I have no clue how I continue to be so lucky or why I am so blessed.

Monday, November 21, 2005

I had a wonderful “cancer-free” weekend visiting Greg’s family in Atlanta. I was so totally immersed in enjoying the grandchildren, helping to cook, planting spring bulbs (always a symbol of hope for me), and relishing relaxed dinner conversations that there was no time for thoughts about my upcoming CT scan tomorrow. Typically I brood over these scans, always imagining the worst. This time I am ready for whatever comes knowing that I am getting the most out of every minute that I am alive and that Thanksgiving and our grand family reunion is only one day away.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Of late, I have been living life with exhilarating intensity while experiencing undercurrents of fear concerning possible progression of my disease. But yesterday and today, I had a return of my appetite and have the sense that the ascites is either coming under control or at least is not increasing too rapidly.

Regardless, Bob and I have had truly memorable experiences of late. We flew to San Francisco the first weekend in November to participate in the annual olive harvest at my cousin Ridgely’s farm in the Sonoma valley. The trip was a wonderful break and one of the few times that Bob and I have traveled of late without a business obligation for one of us. Saturday was perfect weather and started off with a bang as we accidentally encountered my cousin and his sons bringing their first pressing of olive oil for the season into their store in Healdsburg. The aroma of the cloudy green liquid was overpowering. I even tasted a little of the intensely flavored oil, which had a very peppery kick. We spent the day touring various vineyards, taking pictures, finishing with dinner at the farm. Then Sunday morning, though somewhat drizzly, we picked olives, and then thoroughly enjoyed the lunch for 150 guests, prepared by gourmet chef friends of Colleen and accompanied by Ridge’s home-baked brick oven bread, DaVero olive oil, and DaVero Rosso and Rose wines. It was all so relaxed – a wonderful return to the wholesomeness of the “good earth” in this new age of processed foods! Not to slow the pace, we spent this past weekend at the beach celebrating my sister’s birthday and getting ready for the Thanksgiving invasion! The weather was unseasonably warm allowing us a last fling at long walks on the beach and bay retrievals for the dogs.

Today was another chemo treatment. If it continues to keep me afloat and enables such experiences, I certainly can’t complain! This disease has served to intensify my enjoyment of life. I only wish that it could have come with a somewhat more benign jolt!

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

What a comedy of errors! I think all the problems associated with chemo treatments got bundled into one day today, so that maybe it will be smooth sailing two weeks from now! It started when we arrived this morning and they didn’t have the orders for the blood work. That stalled the start of the day and then, after my blood was drawn, it leaked all down my arm making a nice mess of my white shirt. After I got to the bone marrow transplant unit for my chemo (which I usually like since I get a private room and high speed internet access), I had to wait close to 4 hrs before the Avastin (my first infusion) was started. I didn’t get anything to eat until after 2PM and it was such a non-descript piece of meat that I still can’t decide what critter it came from – chicken, turkey, or pork. Is there a beast called “cardboard”? Whatever, it could not be described as “tasty”. Then a few minutes after my 5-FU pump was attached, it stopped. After some reprogramming and some waiting, we were happily on our way home. Well sort of….. About 5 min into our ride home I remembered that I had left a jacket in the treatment room. By the time I got back to GU and picked up the jacket, the pump had started beeping. That led to another 10 min of discussion after which I was sent up to the infusion unit. After more reprogramming and waiting, we finally were on our way home – almost 11 hrs after we started out this morning! On the plus side, I did get a lot of work done in the peace and quiet of the very long day.

So what about my chemo? Dr. Marshall is clearly dismayed about the increase in my ascites, but wants to be cautious in changing from this therapy which has been so successful and so tolerable. So for at least the next month he will keep me on the Avastin/5-FU regimen and add in some diuretics to see if I can get rid of some of this unwanted “juice”. I will also schedule another CT scan and we will go from there. If I’m incredibly lucky – as I have been so far – maybe this “storm front” will move on.

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