Tuesday, June 30, 2009

One of the Pleasures of Living in Seattle

I took these two pictures in our bedroom the other evening, probably around 8:00pm. This is sunlight, shining in the northern window of our bedroom. Yes, that's right--in the summer, the sun rises in the northeast, and sets in the northwest, having traveled about 3/4 of the way around the sky. The flip side is that in the winter, the sun never leaves the south.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Experts Agree This IS Significant

I'm sitting in the clinic right now, using my computer because it is my long day where I get two hours of Pamidronate in addition to my weekly Herceptin and Navelbine, so it's worthwhile to check my email and use my DVD player. I am in a bed, and the chair beside me is empty, so it's a pretty good situation. The first bed they put me in was broken so the head and foot wouldn't move up or down, and I think you will all agree with me when I say that being able to play with the bed is a significant part of the charm. Anyway, they brought me three pillows to lean against, a couple warm blankets, and put me on the list for a better bed.

Then my nurse brought me a copy of my labs and suddenly the moderate improvement of a moveable bed to my situation became much less important, because my tumor markers had dropped EIGHT POINTS.

That's right—I went from 50 all the way down to 42, which is practically normal.

I am obviously very happy about this, and I have to say, I am also very happy that I reminded myself (allowed myself to be reminded by the Universe?) that I need to enjoy the here and now. I felt great in Austin four weeks ago, and have been feeling great ever since, even through this cold. Even though my first reactions about my markers a month ago were significant disappointment that they hadn't gone down, I pretty quickly, and pretty successfully, derailed that train of thought.

Maybe I am learning something from all this, after all.

note--just to clarify: I got that news, and then ALSO a better, working bed.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Hardly Even Annoying

I have a bit of a cold, folks, and it started on Saturday at our party, so if any of you come down with colds this week, I do apologize. Usually, the common cold is an annoying, frustrating thing to deal with. The sneezing, the runny nose, the coughing. I have been experiencing all those things, and I was definitely tired yesterday, but not deathly tired. I still had the energy to imagine doing things—getting together with friends camping in the San Juans, house painting, my lessons and chores and whatnot—which is pretty different from how I was feeling at the end of last spring. Just under a year ago I developed pneumonia, and July 1st I was admitted into the hospital. Perhaps that memory is helping to keep me from coughing hysterically—I feel like coughing, a little, but I really don't want to go there. But the fact is, last year, I couldn't walk from the bathroom to the living room (a distance of maybe 35 feet) without being EXHAUSTED. And compared to that, I feel pretty darn good.

Also: WALL-E—excellent show, currently on-demand at Netflix.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

General Health Update

I don't have any specifics to report today, but in general, my health is very good. My right eye was briefly heading toward glaucomic, because of the steroid drops most likely, but those were discontinued and a different drop was prescribed and as of my last visit, the pressure was back down in the normal range. The shot to the eyeball also seems to be doing its thing—the blood vessels that it was supposed to start drying up have, and the pocket of fluid, still present, is contracting to a smaller space and is thus distorting my eyesight less. I do still get a lot of distortion, but it's not so much in the way.

I saw Dr Specht this afternoon—a little aside here—my afternoon at the clinic today was as much a pleasure as an afternoon at the clinic can be. I left my house more or less on time and arrived a couple minutes before my scheduled blood draw. There was parking on level A: Apple right by the elevators. I didn't have to wait at blood draw, and my phlebotomist, about 8 ½ months pregnant (like everyone else I know except for the three that had their babies within the last month), and I had an entertaining conversation about children and the benefits of other peoples'—i.e. the hassle and worry is primarily not your responsibility. "Although," mused my nurse, "I don't really like kids. I mean, I like my own, but other peoples . . . they're kind of annoying. Yep, I'm not a child person." I liked the honesty of that.

I went upstairs and checked in about 30 minutes early for my doctor's visit, and was called back early, and even Dr Specht was early. She let me out early, and I went upstairs to the infusion room and checked in 40 minutes early (at the new reception desk! Moving along quickly toward those extra beds!), and they called me back 30 minutes early, and put me in a bed! In a room with walls!

Anyway, back to my meeting with Dr Specht. She said I looked wonderful, she did not seem to be unduly concerned about the minor optic migraine I had last night right after craniosacral therapy, and she took my admission of horse jumping philosophically. I explained that I was only doing 1 to 1 ½ foot jumps right now, which were practically no different from a canter stride. She was relieved that I was not participating in 4-foot jumping, and I promised—quite truthfully—that I was not interested in ever doing that. Plus, I of course always wear my helmet, and there is always going to be someone else around, and I do not intend to ever jump anything solid (except maybe a log, but that barely counts).

As for my tumor markers moving from 49 to 50, she said that was the same thing. I told her that I lived with a statistician and he had pointed out that the range of normal comprised 37 points, and that my personal range had been up to 1015, and so one point meant absolutely nothing. "I like that man," said Dr Specht. This week's number isn't available yet.

That pretty much sums it up—I've felt particularly healthy and lively this last week, and boy have I enjoyed it!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Dog In The Deer Lights

For the most part, Spackle has ceased to believe that there is a universe outside the car when he is in the car. He will glance up occasionally when we've gone a distance that usually signifies the arrival of someplace fun—i.e. he'll look out the windows after 45 minutes to see if we're at Mom and Marsh's place, and again after about an hour and a half to see if we're in Anacortes. If we're neither of those places, experience has taught him that we're on our way to Jerome Creek, and he'll pretty much sleep the next 4 hours without even stretching. Hoover, on the other hand, still believes that his squeaking is what actually powers the car to his favorite destinations, and so he keeps up a pretty constant state of vigilance, to be ready to lend his assistance as soon as it is needed.

Saturday afternoon we were driving through our land on Orcas, slowly because it is pretty rough going, even with 4-wheel drive over dry ground, and it's impossible to see the ground because the grass, at the moment, is about 5 feet tall. Ian was the driver and I the passenger, and the dogs were in the back. Spackle was asleep, of course, or at least dozing, and Hoover was scanning the horizons, such as they were, through the nodding heads of the grasses. Suddenly, off to our left, the head and antlers of a young buck appeared only partially camouflaged by the grass. Hoover uttered a high-pitched SQUEEEEEEEEEEE and launched himself toward the windshield, from the way back of the car. Since we had not expected back seat passengers, the seat was covered with an array of camping gear and tools. Hoover perched precariously amongst the gear, only because I had turned around immediately and grabbed him by the collar to halt his forward momentum. His eyes dilated until the brown irises disappeared, as if he'd just taken a hit of something illegal. He squeaked and squeaked and squeaked, a plaintive, high-pitched sound I'd never heard before. It was completely unlike his I'm-helping-to-drive-the-car-to-my-favorite-places squeak.

It's true, he has nothing on this dog, but I think the blue eyes helped him.

Friday, June 12, 2009


I shared the parking lot elevator (and level B: BIRD) with Dr Chris Loiselle yesterday evening as I was leaving the clinic after my infusion. Sheesh—the thing that sucks about getting an infusion for only about an hour and a half is that I'm now pretty much always stuck in a chair. Yesterday my chair was the only one on the north end of the floor, and it was in a room of its own . . . but I could still hear the TV loud and clear across the hall, and it was a vinyl chair. I would rank a bed in its own room at the very top of the scale, naturally; a chair in its own room and a bed separated from the chairs by only a curtain pretty much together in the middle (bed probably slightly higher than chair, and both seriously inferior to the bed in its own room); and a chair separated by curtains from the other chairs at the very bottom. I have learned that they're a lot more comfortable to sit on if you put down one of the warm blankets first—last week the pants I was wearing were such a lightweight cotton weave that I could feel the sticky plastic grossness through them. They are planning to open the new addition to the floor—larger pharmacy and more beds—in July. I hadn't really expected that that would matter to me, but it looks like it's going to.

Anyway, Chris Loiselle. He was pretty much the first doc I saw very much of a year ago, during one of his residency rotations. He was the one who asked me to spell "diamond" in the ER, as one of my neurological tests, then spell it backwards. Which I was able to do. I remember him being pretty chill about that. "Yeah, yeah, that's right," he said. We recognized each other pretty immediately, said "Hey", and asked how each other was doing. Residency is good but exhausting; he has two more years left. I am doing well, fit and a healthy color instead of chemo gray, and told him I was back to horseback riding. He was impressed by that, but then I got to tell him that a couple weeks ago I started jumping again, and he was all "Really?!" I nodded, modestly, and he told me to wear a helmet. Well, duh.

The jumping that I'm doing is pretty minor stuff—barely more lift than a canter stride, of which I've ridden hundreds, if not thousands, in the last year. But boy does it sound like an impressive feat of health!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Maybe He Was On To Something

The "farmed salmon" color of one of the rooms. Pre rockstar painters.

K, of the Idahoans and father of Dr Jason, told me once that my dad could never be convinced to visit someone simply for the pleasure of spending time in his or her company—he always had to have a proposed job to entice him. Several proposed jobs that led him to eastern Washington and Idaho for a weekend visit comprised ferrying animals back to our farm—rabbits to add to our breeding stock, maybe a goat once, and—notably—a lovely gray heifer loaded into the bed of the pick-up truck and kept in with a temporary stock pen. Somewhere along Highway 26 in central Washington a couple of empty metal gas cans, which had been tied in the back of the pick-up with the cow, broke loose from their moorings and began to pitch around her ankles. My dad and my uncle, who had gone along for the fun, pulled over, and my uncle climbed up the stock pen to get at the cans. Somehow, the cow managed to connect with my uncle, and sent him sprawling several feet to the ground. They all did eventually make it back to Maple Valley. Two days later, my uncle was rushed to the emergency room with a blood clot in the leg, courtesy of the pretty gray cow. We named her Stormy.

I think my favorite though, of the jobs I hear my father was enticed by, was when K wanted to remove (replace?) the metal treads on a large tractor. I keep trying to imagine how on earth that was possible for the two of them.

Anyway, I am not entirely like my father—I will go to visit people simply for the pleasure of their company—but I did find this last weekend in Austin, helping C paint two rooms of their new house, an entirely satisfying way to spend time with a friend. I was also very impressed by how hard she worked. I know that I am somewhat obsessive about completing things, and she seemed to be as well. Over three days and probably somewhere around 48 badass woman hours of work, in 90 degree heat, we painted: on day one, two ceilings; on day two, two ceilings and two rooms; and on day three, two rooms once and the first one a second time, for a total of three coats. I don't know the entire square footage that we painted, but we used a total of 4 ½ gallons of paint, and that's quite a bit. And I will say, it looks professionally done.

And I feel that I have cemented a lifelong friendship.

The lovely yellow after three coats. And a lot of sweating.