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Thursday, August 2, 2012

The end is in sight.....

No, this is not me now, but I don't particularly like looking at hair too short to even comb, but on the bright side it is coming in (slowly). I had my last 30 second lead-blocked radiation this week, so the worst is over. I did burn and peel, but no blisters, so that is good news. I am still in bed most of the time, they tell me it will be a year before I feel more like my old self, but at least that is positive. I start 5 years of oral chemo in a month and I hope that this will all seem like a dream in a few years. I am very much looking forward to having a picnic (indoors) with my brother and his clan -- I haven't seen him in nearly a year (the downfall of his having four children on four schedules.... I can use all the moral support I can get so please don't be a stranger. Isobel leaves for college in 2 weeks, and Cannon goes back to school, so I will have an empty  house.

xoxo Anne

Thursday, July 5, 2012

When it rains, it pours......

After a few days of feeling really bad (vomitting etc.) I became so dehydrated I had to go to the ICU. My magnesium, potassium and lactate (lactic acid) levels were so concerning that I was on both oxygen and a heart monitor -- and they were checking my blood every 3 hours.... Its is only now, a week later, that I realize in what danger I was, they doctors finally were honest about their concerns. A main line IV was planned straight into my aorta -- and I suddenly turned around. That scared me, since I have a port already, and  had received 10 L. saline. Today I had a slew of medical appointments, and today was the first day I literally got out of bed.... so I received a new diagnosis -- fibromyalgia ( which is much less serious than the cancer, but still concerning. I have to rest, rest, and rest, and think positive thoughts as I prepare Isobel for her departure for college -- we have been having fun playing with all the different stitches on the new sewing machine. Four blankets and two stuffed elephants to go, and I think we have nearly everything set to go. I hope to start pinning the first blanket today. Next I will learn to quilt -- I am going to make her a quilted periodic table to put onto her wall.... (yes, I am a nutcase nerd). While I go up and down in my mood, a slight adjustment to my antidepressant has me feeling a bit less weepy and more cheerful. I continue to send out thanks to all of your strength and support. I will kick this cancer to the moon!

Anne Lunasagh 2012

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Another little scare...... (life is uncertain)

Today I foundnd a hard walnut sized lump in my cancercerous breast -- drinking a glass of wine and trying not to panic..... I'll have a mammogram, ultrasound and a CT scan ASAP Sigh. Yes, I am terrified, even though the oncologist says this "unusal" but not unheard of. Yes, I am scared. The radiation is making my skin peel and dry --- Lots of aloe vera and cotton.

Tomorrow I have my port flushed out and labs drawn..this too shalll pass! <3

I am hoping to go to Cleveland in September for Parent's weekend... Isobel is so excited it is cute. Trying to set up her room to feel like home -- we bought a sewing machine and will stitch up matching blankets adn throws, adn a pair of stuffed elephants. This will be good OT.

Anne xoxoxo 6-27-12

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

A Beautiful and Unexpected Eulogy -- Life is uncertain....

Lots of changes in a week. Cannon finished 9th grade and goes off to football camp in Reno tomorrow.  Then summer school. (English and Geometry). In the mean time Isobel graduated HS and while Cannon is in Reno Isobel goes to Danville to visit her Bay Area friends. and when Cannon returns Isobel goes off to London for a week with her Granny to say goodbye to to her own Granny (98), home for a month to prepare for school, and off she goes to Cleveland (we just ordered her a quilt and pillow shams that are perfect for her). 

In the meantime, I started radiation this week, daily 10 minutes from two angles, and I'm already exhausted. My friend's mother just suddenly died and he sent me the eulogy he wrote and it made me cry -- I only hope I have influenced my own children as much (and the eulogy will be a long time in the future).

Thank you my friends for your support. I need you now more than ever.


Sunday, June 3, 2012

Small Rewards


On Friday I had a "simulation" with at CT scan of the radiation field, so that we can check to see how  much of my right lung will be radiated (and possibly damaged). Earlier in the week I had a vacuum mold made up so that I will be held into place on my back with my arm over my head, and had several black (yuck I requested pink) tattoo markers places so that the lasers will hit the right coordinates every time.

A wise woman who has already  undergone radiation for breast cancer suggested that I plan a small reward at the finish  of each treatment. Today I bought two cases of one of my favorite wines, so I can have a small reward each evening. I am still extremely achy from the chemo, so I have to wake up, take meds, and crawl back under the covers until I can move without weeping. 

Now my sessions are scheduled, and I am wearing a ring of Isobel's to give me strength, and so that later she can wear it when she needs strength, later in life. Starting in about a week, I will be radiated every weekday at 9:50 am PST, so please send me your good throughts then. This will go on through most of August, and then I should be able to return o a "normal" life taking oral chemotherapy for five more years and being checked for mammograms every few months. This too shall pass.

Thanks again for your support and love. I need it. So do my "babies", especially as one will be flying the coop just about that time. We got her a set of  "non losable" (bright) suitcases yesterday......

Anne 6-4-2012  (now mother to 17 and 15 year olds)

with much love and appreciation.

Friday, May 18, 2012

An Elephant Never Forgets

I have several good friends who are amazed at the details I remember from a very early age -- and that applies to my life now too. I will never forget the kindesses showed to me by my friends and family during all my trials and tribulations -- whether it be in 1998 when I escaped from a seemingly intractable situation of domestic violence and went into hiding -- or when I got so thin I nearly died and had to be hospitalized in 2004 -- to my current battle with cancer. Every little tiny bit of support (you have no idea how little) has been monumental for me). I am buoyed in spirit and soul by those who have taken the time to make an effort as little as to send me a card to a phone call of reassurance or the offer of physical help -- even bringing me chicken soup when I have felt so low I could melt into the floor. You have reassured me that I am doing the right thing with my parenting (being a single parent is really hard, and have you not done it there is no way to explain it) and my life decisions (like when I lost my newly purchased home after owning a home outright and living with a partner who was unwilling or unable to carry his share of the financial load). Bankruptcy and the affiliated shame pale in comparison to walking around bald as a cue ball, and the offers of visits and offers to make freezable meals is so appreciated -- I seem to manage to be able to pull it together for my children but taking care of myself is so much harder. I guess that is the caretaker in me who puts everyone else first. In any event, thank you, I hope I survive the adventure awaiting Isobel when she goes off to college in August. THANK YOU for all that you have done (and will do) for me. I will never forget your kindness and karma will return the favor to you.

Next step: radiation. We'll see what that will bring; all I know so far is that it will be 10-12 weeks of treatment 5 days/week at a high dosage of gamma rays..... spawning extreme fatigue and not likely to encourage any more fine peach fuzz to grow.

Anne 5-17-12 (the day after my father turned 75 -- which makes me feel very old and vulnerable.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

A slow but steady ascent..... into the land of the living

This week marks the first time since Thanksgiving that I am actually starting to feel less sick -- which is not to say I feel "well" but at least I feel improved and that is  HUGE positive step which begins to ease my mind. Its been three weeks since I had any chemo -- so the withdrawal is beginning (slowly) to ebb and I am in less pain and slightly more energetic (I can walk Gwendolyn 6 blocks instead of one!). I am just trying to focus on the positive and enjoy the last three months I have with two children at home.... I am (obviously) blue over Isobel leaving but a huge step towards her becoming more independent and making her own positive contributions to the world. Cannon will be next, though I am sure the next three years will fly by as he does his "job" of getting into a good college and training for football. I am proud of them more than I could ever say.

Anne 5-8-12

Friday, May 4, 2012

Too Much Information?

Today I asked my children if they had ever looked at my blog -- one hemmed and hawed (i.e. no) and the other said yes but it felt like all I did was to harp on the less than helpful things they were doing to support me.... I guess that was TMI for all of us. I don't mean to complain in this blog -- it is supposed to help me (and others who follow in my path) as reflection and guidance. Thanks for reading, and thanks for your thoughts and support.


May 4, 2012.

Triply at risk for Depression

I have been finding lately, especially since the abrupt termination of my chemotherapy (which is now mimicking hormonal withdrawal) that I cannot stop crying. The littlest thing can set it off (from a child refusing to hurry to breakfast so we are not late for school) to a perceived slight from a friend (emphasis on perceived) or family member, and I find that I am so lonely I can cry for hours and hours until I dehydrate myself. I was just doing some reading on some of the various physiological and emotional reactions to breast cancer treatment, particularly when mastectomy is involved, and found that over the next year or so (and I should expect the recovery to take that long after radiation which has not even started) and I am at triple-risk for severe depression. I am going to have to be very strong to combat this, which is not going to be made easier with the half-emptying of my own nest this fall. I will plan to spend more and more time with my puppy, even though I continue to feel so exhausted that walking a block is overwhelming. I have to ask for more physical and emotional help, as humiliatingly hard as that can be for me. Miss Independent. What is likely to make it worse is the inception of tamoxifen, which I am likely to have to take orally for five years to prevent recurrence after radiation ends at some point this summer. I just hope I avoid the burns and broken skin where it is so delicate at the cancer site, and further hope that my heart muscle will not be damaged by the gamma rays.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Happy May Day (and Lei Day) 2012

I just got back from the Dr. and we are going to do blood work in two weeks and then meet again, and meet with the radiologist. As far as my case goes, the chemotherapy is over, as the risks of organ failure etc, are about 4-5% whereas the benefits from the Taxol (chemo part II) are only worth at most 1%. He thought the previous chemo should be moving out of my system in the next 2-4 weeks and I should start to feel less lethargic and groggy. It is too early now to say whether or not I will use Tamoxifen, so we'll just have to wait and see. The blood results should guide the next course of action. So overall my prognosis is "excellent", although I will have to keep on staying safe and away from crowds, no dirt/germs, no eating out, etc. 

Isobel and her film team are getting a special award in Sacramento on Friday night -- so I will go to that but wear a mask.

Thanks to all for your wishes of wellness and for your offers of help -- as soon as I can I will appreciate any offers of company, especially during the summer as Cannon goes off to Football Camp all day and Isobel packs off for school.... first order of business is to outfit her dorm room with sheets etc. that coordinate with her roommate (unless she gets a single). I hope to set up a Skype base. I am currently on a 6 month 'disability" leave of absence but it is more likely that it will be a year as it seems to take most women at least a year to recover from what I have been going through.

xoxoxo Love, Anne

Friday, April 20, 2012

Difficult News

I have mixed feelings in reporting that my medical team has decided to terminate chemo only half way through (the difficult half) as the risks of organ failure and even death are stronger than the possible benefits at this point. Perhaps over time, as I recoup my strength and sleep (I still have chemo in me) I will be able to  restart. Within the last week I have had several "experts" suggest that I get my final affairs in order, including who will will look after the children, and that certainly does not make me confident (to say the least). I still have radiation ahead of me, and I am aware that I have to draw my strength from within, though today it is difficult.

Here is a lovely photo from our last venture out, the day I was released from hospital with pneumonia. I don't think I have recovered yet.


Tuesday, April 3, 2012


Angels are like stars some are so bright they are like Orion's Belt leading the way on a moonless night at Tahoe while others can be so dim that that some angels may fear to tread there.... The trick is having the faith to know they will come in many disguises; be an angel for a stranger or a loved-one everyday!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

102 Fever again.....

And a new word in my vocabulary: Thrombocytopenia -- a decrease in the number of platlets which may lead to low low blood platlet count. Well it cancelled my chemo for this we will try again next week. Now I have a fever and am back in bed on antibiotics.....So frustrating.


Sunday, March 25, 2012

Colorful Icelandic Poppies (1 lb loose seeds)

The Scene 10:15 am Sunday:
Two Sleep deprived High Schoolers raging with hormones, one awaiting college rejection letters (she fears) and the other furious and out of control after having been woken by very-loud least-favorite music and an enthusiastic, wet, freshly bathed corgi pup (25 lbs) with sharp claws unleashed from the toweling area. 

At Hand:
The motivation to make my (rented) and desolate deed path strewn patch of scrubby oaks look like the above, a field of color all around the house, from measly property line to property line (which I had to pay two gad-abouts $280 to rake up the leaves, twigs and dispose of them, and stack the two cords of wood I had been working on stacking having already paid for a $50 video game for the privilege of so doing). A soft hand to scatter seeds (I wish I hand sand to mix with them) and a broad chalkboard to envision this beauty.

The Motivation:
The ability to fall asleep every night (when I could) to seek eagerly the tender shoots -- signalling the promise of a day without tears.

Strong muscles. Metal Rake. The ability to touch dirt, cooperate, speak without throwing kinves (even sheathed) and not  having a tempertantrum (seriously the video would go viral) of a 14 year old forcibly having the xBox removed -- knocking down all in his enormous 300 pound furious gorilla's path.

The Result:
Bruises, bumps, an 8" x 4" circular dent/hole in the wall who thankfully yielded a large enough chip to be color matched. Hurt feelings, and lots of tears (not the heman kind, certainly). Three people locked in three rooms after much yellling. Despair. A desire to make beautiful that which is terrifying.

Friday, March 23, 2012

I'd heard a few, but not seen any yet.....

A Hummingbird! I love these.... and this year I will put out lots of food for them. I will meet or beat the challenge of the gentleman I met in Costco in Danville -- he goes through 25 lbs of sugar a WEEk to keep his birdies happy! The most I have ever seen at once was at my Great Aunt and Uncle's farm in Boerne, Texas (near San Antonio) and you cold hold out the multi (8?) feeder and they literally SWARMED around me -- buzzing my hair.... oh that I still had hair for them to buzz but it WILL grow back -- I don't know when, but give me five years and I 'll bet I can make a braid again. Bummer my hair and nails grow so slowly -- maybe that will keep my nails from falling out....I'm trying tea tree oil but it really smells awful I am not sure I can stand it.....

I got a super booster surprise in the mail yesterday -- I was supposed to have two "chemo angels'' and I didn't know that -- I thought I just had one who was lovely from NJ -- I got about 15 cheery cards in snail mail (and three tea bags - earl grey -- and a lovely eastery colored bookmark... now how am I going to get all those replied to!? What a lovely gesture of these women... It shows me what I want to do once I feel better -- a little cheery card can make such a difference. I think I will look for a grant for this.... It seriously makes such a difference to feel that someone (anyone ) cares....

Thanks to Erik for letting me use this lovely photo.

xoxoxo Anne

03/23/2012 (no I am not Sheldon but he cheers me up!)

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Spring is coming.....

I don't know what this lovely tree is, but it runs rampant in Bernal Heights (SF) and is so bright that one needs sunglasses! It cheers me to see this lovely flower (and irritates me that I used to know the name....). I let Isobel drive most of the way to Berkeley yesterday and took over just in time -- a jerk driver (I thought they were  bad in Auburn) decided to pull across my lane (I had the right of way) to make a left in front of me.... he sat there cursing and making rude faces at me but I suddenly thought, instead of flipping him off (the drivers behind me were honking) I just grabbed the top of my skull cap and looked him straight in the eye and pulled it straight up leaving him gawking at my bald head... it was better than flipping him off. Just glad I took this picture first..... he was flabbergasted but continued to flap his gums at me (Isobel and I broke into laughter)......

Star date 03-22-12

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Snowy Vernal Equinox


Three Days Ago................................................. and Today

How appropriate that the third of my most nasty chemotherapy sessions has passed and I've gone from bright sunshiny spring to a deep sleep (thinking of the Wicked Witch of the West, saying "sleep my little pretties, sleep"). Perhaps it was the only way I could get through this horrible week by sleeping (literally) the entire time except while being infused with drugs, fluids, or anti-emetics. I doubt the snow did any long term harm to my precious blooms, and now we have the benefit of the added daylight every day that will surely help to bring healing light into the dark recesses of the evil tumors. My mother came from 80 degrees and cherry blossoms in Bethesda to help me to get rough this session, and fortunately I was able to relax enough to sleep 20 out of 24 hours each day for the past 4 days. Much needed sleep, and a much appreciated gift to not hve to worry about the children. Isobel has been driving stick with the able guidance of Coach Werntz, and Coaches Fernandez and McCrory have taken Cannon under their wings to try and motivate him from his efforts of zero at his school work in order to get him eligible for Football in the Fall. Please join with me in encouraging Cannon to realize the importance of "busy work" so that he can actually show that he has put some effort into his school work, and stays away from the wrong crowds who encourage him to be non-compliant and non-trustworthy. It really does take a village to raise a child, and this child does not  and will not listen to or respect his mother, however painful that reality may be for me.

Thank you one and all.


Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Chemo Session 3 took 5 hours (but it is finally over)........

Three Sessions Done

Five Sessions to Go (and then 40 doses of radiation)

Of course I am feeling nervous now -- I have to check my temperature every few hours.... go back for the bone marrow reboot shot tomorrow -- its like massive growing  pains in every bone and every joint all at once from your whole life .... I am just hoping that this does not revive the neutropenic fever, I have had enough hospital time already. I am booked for fluids and anti-nausea drugs through the weekend, thank goodness my mother is coming to help with the children etc since I won't be able to drive. Isobel drove me to the chemo in the rain and handled it like a champ (even the jerk who honked when she didn't start like Mario Andretti (she had to get it in gear!).

Its pouring with rain today which is great for the bulbs that the children helped me to plant -- I had been saving ash from the fireplace -- and dumped it into the barrels with some bulbs -- the kids spread out the ashes, and I planted day lilies (orange from Craigs List Davis), allium (blue and white), assorted daffodils (from Grocery Outlet) and Lily of the Nile (Agapanthus, moved from behind a big bush where they were unseen, nor sure if they are blue or white). Then kids spread out 6 huge bags of dirt (I cannot touch anything that might have bacteria on it).

Now before I risk feeling the side-effects (I have a a 6-8 hour window so I will be working as long as I can manage now .... teaching and taking a course -- getting the teaching done first.

Pi Day 2012 (3.1415926...)

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Sea Anemone at Rest

One of my favorite pass-times (as a child, and still now as an adult) is poking around at the edge of the water and sand/rocks on the beach, particularly the Pacific Coast from Big Sur to Mendocino (where I hope to end up "when I grow up" -- so I can walk the beach and search for treasures every day. This beautiful multicolored anemone is right up my alley -- changing colors between blue and green -- like Indian silk that looks different colors depending on the direction you look at it (warp or weft, for you weavers)....This anemone is at peace -- though filled with sand that could set off contractions to close up and disguise itself like a rock. My nerves, on the eve of my third round of chemo (the second of which landed me in the hospital for a week in isolation) are set to contract, just like the petals of this anemone. Grant me the peace to stay relaxed over the next week: stress makes the pain unbearable, and I am scared, but not as scared as I am of not recovering fully. Isobel and Cannon this is for you.

Tuesday 3-13-12

Thursday, March 8, 2012

My First Blooming Daffodils - Hope for Tomorrow

"Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is not to stop questioning" -- Albert Einstein

As I approach my first oncologist's visit since my bad reaction to Chemo #2, I go back for a "re-evaluation" of the situation today. Tomorrow I go to the radiologist to make a mold of my body that will hold me still for precision. They will also make three small tattoo dots (so they can position me exactly the same every time) -- but they only have blue ink -- I asked why not hot pink and he said no one had ever asked.... maybe that is an idea?

More tomorrow.

Thursday 03-08-12

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

When I was little and lonely, I used to tell myself (ok, now I admit 'kid' myelf) that I would never be lonely again. I have learned  through painful experience that I have to be happy within, happy being alone, happy just being me. When I thought it couldn't get any darker, it did, and when I couldn't go any lower, I did. It has become crystal clear. Love thyself. It is at this point of limbo where I have no idea where my treatment will go next, I feel uncertain.

Walking out on the deck this morning and slipping on the plastic beads that used to fill Cannon's "wildcat" and cutting myself on the "lock pickers" (opened paper clips) while en route to fill the wood boxes (I keep the fire going all day and it keeps the chill out), I nearly burst into tears -- feeling so vulnerable -- how had two smooth talkers so violated my space -- so much for thinking they at least respected #71) it felt like I had been raped (and I have on several occasions). When I returned the call of the one mother who wanted to know why her son was deposited at her doorstep very early Saturday morning -- she accused, first, didn't listen, accused back, and then hung up on me.

I just have to remember "a few of my favorite things"......


Monday, March 5, 2012


Not surprisingly "More Interesting Facts" (2012) reveals that '[s]ocial isolation adversely affects breast cancer. Breast cancer facts that a socially isolated, stressful environment can speed up the growth of breast cancer in animal models. Conzen and her colleagues randomly assigned mice that were genetically susceptible to breast cancer to live either in isolation or in group housing. The outcome showed that social isolation can actually change the expression of genes important in the growth of mammary gland tumors".

After my fever spiked at 102;8 a few hours after my last post, I called my oncologist and he admitted me to the hospital in "reverse isolation" meaning that everyone who entered my closed and sterile room had to be masked, gloved, and gowned fully. Needless to say, this combined with a lack of seeing any facial expressions or any physical touch other than changing the input or removing blood from the tube emanating from my chest, was quite depressing. My white blood count went over the days from .5, .6, 1,5, 1.6, and 1.7 at which point the IV antibiotic was enough to treat my risk of infection. Needless to say, I was very glad to be released last night, and so happy to be home in my own bed. I am now on oral antibiotics, my chemo for the week is cancelled, and we have to reconoiter to make a new plan. Who knows. I just want to be able to hug my loving children, and not have other teens try to trick mine into letting them stay in an empty house (which they trashed, including fires in the driveway, trash can, fireplace, and on top of the propane tank -- how much non-common sense do children have today?

Today I am very cynical, and after spending 3 hours cleaning the house from the chaos it was in from being parentless for 5 days, I am in bed trying to think "happy thoughts" (ha ha). Clearly I need more social support, but knowing very few people  here, I have to rely on those generous ones who are willing to take the risk to invest in getting to know me better, or who live far away and cannot give me a hug. Now I owe a phone call (or do I? This is the second time I have been bamboozled by the boy) to the mother who demanded to know why I had the police physically drive her child home at 2:30 in the morning (he managed to leave his glass pipe here, where it shall stay) "what did you do that for"?

Stardate 3.5.2012.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Snow Day Leap Year 2012

Leaping in 2012. Well the phone rang at 5:30 am announing a snow day for school (I'd love to be in Mont Blanc/Chamonix) -- snow levels down to 2,000 feet and dropping, I would love to be going skiing this weekend, but alas my health (and slowly mending broken ankle) would not cooperates. I had to go to the hospital for the third day out of four (and scheduled again for tomorrow) for rehydration and anti-nausea drug infusion. After doing a series of labs the team decided I have "neutropenia" ( which effectively means that my white blood cells are all gone, leaving me at a very high risk of infection. I am home now, but have to take my temperature every hour and once it hits 100 degrees I have to go to the ER for IV antibiotics. This was unexpected, but not unheard of in cancer patients (or radiation patients). Here is what my blood looks like (an example, not my actual blood) showing my risk for infection. So now I have to avoid anything uncooked, raw, dirt, pets, people, germs, etc (basically wear a mask except in my own house) and I arrived home to a lovely treat -- my sister-in-law sent me a beautiful (and fragrant) jasmine basket -- what a lovely treat on such a nasty snowy day when I feel so under the weather. Two chemotherapy sessions down, 6 to go. Then on to radiation. I am looking forward to going to some of Cannon's track meets, as well as Isobel's choir performances, and of course, her graduation.

Leap Day 2012.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Saint David's Day in Wales

Seasonally the ACS Daffodil Days concide with Saint David's Day -- March 1 in Wales -- where traditionlly every Welsh person worth his or her salt celebrates St. David, or Sant Dewi, the Patron Saint of Wales, and daffodils are liberally given to all women and girls. " Dewi is sometimes known, in Welsh, as 'Dewi Ddyfrwr' (David the Water Drinker) and, indeed, water was an important part of his life - he is said to have drunk nothing else. Sometimes, as a self-imposed penance, he would stand up to his neck in a lake of cold water, reciting Scripture. Little wonder, then, that some authors have seen Dewi as an early Puritan!" On St. David's day children still go to school on St. David's Day in traditional dress (for girls): Today the costume is usually worn by young girls and women throughout Wales on St David's Day.  

walesfly.gifI received this email 6-30-2015 and would like to properly acknowledge it: "I notice that you have a sketch of Gwenllian Llwyd (Welsh Costume Feb 28 2012) on your blog. That image was originally taken from my web site I would appreciate an acknowledgement and /or a link to my web site. The sketch was given to me by the artist himself, a descendant of Gwenllian Llwyd." (Helen Forder <>)

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Will the Sea Star Escape?

Courtesy of my dear friend Erik -- what a cheery shot he shared from Santa  Cruitz --- it makes me smile to look at it -- and I wonder if the seastar escaped. It looks a bit big to swallow. Slept 48 hours (nearly straight through) getting up only for essentials, like taking Cannon to the Track/Field fundraiser dinner tonight where he is serving. I am slightly more rehydrated after a few units of saline, more tomorrow, and then I hope to be back on track for a few days. It amazes me the havoc a few malignant cells can wreak. Puppy squeaky clean, collared with with her Draign and curled up angelically next to my knee, where I sit on my bed propped by pillows, a desk and computer that has a knack of repositioning its cursor randomly on the screen about every 20-40 keystrokes... VERY IRRITATING!? Frankly I have no idea but it must've been 2008 so we were in Danville, headed to Godforsaken Valley Springs that summer.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Protective Gear for Chemo Specialist

Yesterday I shared with my medical team that I was writing a small blog and this specialist invited me to take a photo of her in her haz mat suit just before she shot me up with the Adryomycin Cytoxin (red tubes in yellow bag). I feel like I am living in a movie! Today I went back for a reboot of my bone marrow (white blood cells -- to the tune of $2000 per shot). I hope it works!

Nausea has arrived again.... trying to stave it off with drugs.... I'll feel better in time for round 3 if this session goes like the last one. 

Thanks so much for all your thoughts, wishes and support. It means so much to me (especially) and to Isobel and Cannon and my remote family to know that I have local support.


Yesterday I had round two of the poison to cure me. Two down, six to go, as of today. Taking all the prophylactic anti-side effects and just downed my second cup of espresso so I can get done what I really am  not motivated to do..... playing music to help.

On the left you see me at one of my highest moods --- 2004 at my Daddy's wedding 10 years to the day after he met his bride (ironically 9/11). They were actually booked on UA 92 which hit WTC but Lynn's father died a few days before so they cancelled the trip. There but for the grace of God go I. The other image is a card that came with a custom-made (free) silk head wrap (its too cold to wear it now) from it is really nice and the card was signed by hand inside by about 20.... very cheery. 

"It's been a while, since I could hold my head up high...."

Sunday, February 19, 2012

St. Johns's Episcopal, Williamstown, MA

How ironic that my most valued heirlooms are those of my Auntie Nanny, much of which is vintage St. John knits. Classic 1980s.  This is where I was baptized, confirmed and married -- many sacraments from my God Mother -- what a role model The Reverend Susan Crampton (since about 1980). 

Today my Dear friend Rachel is coming this afternoon to stay overnight, and we are making French Macaron's (or trying anyway). I just have to get this grading done (and I won't and I'll feel obligated to do a few hours more until it is done enough to visit).... sigh. I have to learn to be satisfied with *NOT* rewriting every students' papers (which I view as pre-dissertation plans, and have to assure myself primarily that the research question is sound, the methodology makes sense and is going to provide some sort of interesting and useful results). But I cannot let shoddy work sully the degree to which they aspire. I continue to be amazed at the quality and interest level of MANY too many of them percentage wise (honestly about 65%).  They feel entitled to an A with little to no serious thought, let alone a little mind stretching and self-reflection over a reasonable period of time (MAKE time for it if you want to be doing it, stop rushing) instead of simple drivel, and make it clear to me that it is *my* fault for their lack of understanding when I recommend that they  might benefit from some cooperation from the writing center (suggestions about how to make research more robust is not a personal attack). Just because you can pay for it does not mean you earned it. I was appalled to find that 60% of those who attend even one Residency (one week learning seminar in a conference setting) do not finish their degrees. Maybe I should just be a dissertation advisor -- it is much more rewarding working with highly motivated students. 

Honorary degrees, on the other hand, are very meaningful. Funny how on Sundays (all days now, really) my little consistent rituals are what get me through each day. Ironing my scarves, using special meaningful items daily. Like Gwendolyn sitting on my lap blanketed feet (with a hot water bottle in the small of my back in my chair though my morning tea made several hours ago, is icy cold. I did manage a lovely lightly toasted and heavily buttered english muffin, though, and an pleasantly comfortable.

Over a 24 hour period Cannon made his very first attempt at preparing and serving a meal all himself: two self-chosen teacher-approved Venezuelan dishes for which he has to produce an edited 2 minute video for Spanish class. Amazingly delicious and Isobel only found one small chicken bone. He was very proud of himself, though it took me a total of 3 hours to put the kitchen to rights. Baby steps! I am proud of him.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Baptism by Fire

I've been baptized now three times. Once on Christmas Eve, 1963, at a Unitarian Church in Philadelphia. Unfortunately this was not recognized by the Episcopalian Church when I wanted to be confirmed by my God Mother in Williamstown, I had to be rebaptized in 1983, which I was with holy water, and Confirmed by the Bishop Wisseman, also in Williamstown (MA, 1984). I was also married in the same church (8-1-1987), surrounded by friends and family, and God. Grandaddy, owing to the hour (noon) opted for a seersucker Brooks Brothers suit with a Marimekko tie (one which my brother wore often while teaching English in Vietnam 10 years later).  Isobel and Cannon's father was in cut away (horrors) and I in my Great Grandmother's gown (much altered for the 5th wearer). We flew that afternoon to JFK from Albany to join an Air India (don't ask) connection -- which was "overbooked". Our luggage was sent to the "lost luggage basement" and I dissolved in tears. A nice Pan Am (shows how old the story is took pity on us and asked me for both tix and both passports (like I would hand them over now). He put us on a flight to London in the Morning, and then down to find our one bag (needle in a  haystack). We called Charlie Olson (yes, the one who is friends with Izzy Horowitz's Beastie Boy father in Gloucester) and  he drove us back to our Brooklyn apartment, where we drank for several hours, and then back to JFK at 4 am..... what a day. We spent our first night in a castle (damp, mouldy walls) in twin Shannon.

---> Today I was baptized by fire by an unknown angel, St, Jude in hiding. Whoever managed to muster enthusiasm from Cannon to whoop Tuscon in the weight room and hit 37' with the 10 lb shot, I owe you my  debt of gratitude eternally. This morning his grades arrived,  straight F's. Thank you.  Please keep him engaged.  Its so nice to see him smile and laugh. He's just a little boy and don't let his size trick you. He and Isobel are scared. S******s. I have to hold it together for them.

This Alex Grey (Breastfeeding) along with Wonder have changed my life. About 12 years ago, I was introduced to his work, and even got to see some originals. They are amazing. Since then I have encouraged Cannon to feel his "third eye" (from his earliest memory) and pet between his eyes as if he is a lobster about to be boiled. Give me strength.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

As a child, visiting my Grandparents in snowy or hot and  humid Philadelphia I never dreamed that I would take these solid symbols of daily ritual (my Grandfather's favorite three-footed salted roasted nuts to go with cocktail hour) and my Great Grandmother's dish that we used to have summer blueberry or currant pudding in (or hard sauce in winter) -- I have repurposed them both. The nut dish now sits over my head on a windowsill (where the cats can knock it down showering over my head) full of ginger and butterscotch candies (anti-nausea) and the other sits on the bathroom counter full of the multiple prescriptions I have to take every day just to get past noon. Today was a really hard day. I did not ever anticipate feeling as sick as I have done this past week (getting the flu on top of it all did not help) and I have a new found respect for my Auntie Nanny who endured chemotherapy for a decade (my Uncle says "you get used to it"). The children were rude and sniping, and I never wanted them to see me so out of control in tears and collapsed in a heap on my bed with tears pouring down my face -- hot on my cold cheeks (I cannot seem to stay warm, even with the heat on and a roaring fire). I remember lighting a fire for Nanny on the 4th of July weekend before she died (in Boston)... it all makes sense now. I hope I have the strength to endure this for my children, uncomplainingly. It seems unreasonable to ask them to come out of their teen-age self-centered shells and look at life from my perspective. I will march on. I am a brave soldier.


Saturday, February 11, 2012

A careful hunt on ebay and I turned up these new and vintage silk scarves to keep me warm. Something for every occasion. Today we took the puppy out on her first jaunt on the leash with a collar, and I wore a white one with a Pac Bell Stadium baseball cap. Lots of ironing, but it is soothing work. Gwendolyn escaped her collar but we caught her -- she has no idea the dangers of bikes, golf carts or cars -- and a HUGE dog came sidling up to her in a golfcart!

Friday, February 10, 2012


This is the view outside my friend's apartment in Istanbul this morning. She lives there with her husband (an Instanbul CIA type) and teaches English preschool and practices karate and other mixed martial arts. It is difficult for her, as an "outsider" she (as a non-native Turk) has never met her husband's family and the relationship is  totally secretive. I have a new perspective on her life now. Today we ruled out pneumonia for Cannon, but both children tested positive for flu (nasal swab) so I went into CVS with a mask,  hat and sunglasses and felt like a bank robber. While I was registering Cannon for his Chest Xray the lady made me take off my hat and glasses (yeah, it is me) which made me feel like a criminal. Not unlike the feeling when I was returning from Miami recently where I had been teaching on the ground (vs. online like I normally do) and I had my hands and fingers swabbed for traces of explosive. Am I explosive? I hope not. I try very  hard to remain calm, cool, and collected. To the jerk on 49 N who would not let me over and then passed me twice, "calm down man!" we;ll all get there in the end.

Stardate 02102012 (what a number!)

Thursday, February 9, 2012

My lesson(s) learned for the day. Everyone is unique, and as such, they all react differently based upon their own "worldview" to the circumastances presented to them. We all need to be mindful of the reactions we may trigger (unconsciously or not) ... whether the loss of hair, or a child, or any illness the reminds others' of times they would rather forget. I must admit it would be easier to crawl into a shell and hide and avoid all this "sturm und drang" but then I am reminded (by this beautiful photo posted above and taken by my classmate and friend Erik Colasanti in Santa Cruz -- we must all may our own way through this deep and mysterious path of life.... and here is an angelic mermaid trying to show me the way. Morrigan, be strong!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Before and After.....

OK, you should have seen the looks I got at the hair place.... The bald photo was taken by the lady behind me at the line at the post office where I was mailing the hair off. Then I looked at the photo and burst into tears. Amazing how much your identity can be tied to something so stupid and materialistic as hair. Puts life into f******g perspective. I am just glad I have a head and the opportunity for it to grow back on, and it will, and I don't even care if it is all gray. I'll finally be a toehead (or is that towhead? -- I never knew but read to find out the interesting reasoning) again like I was until Isobel was born.... Flaxen headed..... Enough staring today to last me a lifetime. Note to self: It is cold without out hair when it is raining -- I didn't even think to put up my hoodie!

02072012. At this point I look forward to Valentine's Day 2013. A year will be gone and this will be over by then, I hope.

Monday, February 6, 2012

The Patriots lost, and Cannon arrived home with fever, chills, general malaise and a shaved head -- which was a shocker -- we had talked about it (I thought we were doing it together) but it was a shock to see it in reality -- no longer can I convince myself that this is all a big dream.... my mane (or tail, as I used to call it when it was longer, and I measured it by the number of over-unders it took to do my braid -- 22 at its longest just after Cannon was born) will be shorn tomorrow. I am sure to be cold so I have got a few "skull caps" to keep warm at night -- of course Gwendolyn the puppy picked the Norwegian style one (it has braids for goodness sake!) and absconded with it..... the French Beret style was much less attractive. I have no idea how to tie a scarf so Isobel and I will have to practice. A trip to the DMV (to get her driver's permit so she can take official driving lessons) and picking up a used chest freezer for the garage since my cooking interests have diminished exponentially since starting this process.... Someday my hair will look once again like the beautiful mermaid Lisa painted -- and I can be like Lady Godiva (if I ever have a horse again).

As always, too much to do, and not enough time to do it in. I HAVE to lower my expectations.... its ok not to strive for an A+....


Sunday, February 5, 2012

My iron has been busy -- smoothing wrinkles out of long unused scarves. My fingers are flying and I am grading like mad -- and just as happy that the super bowl is coming on. Nausea is rampant and hope that my ginger chews arrive soon. Nice fire going, that slightly eases my headache. Very dizzy --- driving is questionable. Sign. So much for independence. My Draig wondered why I was restaged -- it was from the patciularly nasty agressiveness of the genetic makeup of the fast growing tumor. I will kick it to the corner. I've decided there is no point in confusing my Granny who already doesn't know who I am (she's 97 and lives in London), though I am hoping she will get a chair so that she can go out of her apartment to the garden when spring blooms press forth, like the amaryllis on my shelf and the paperwhites that I am forcing in a jar -- the smell will be glorious.


Friday, February 3, 2012

Today the enormity of the tasks in front of me rose up and became real. Not only had I set myself a goal of grading all 40 papers and providing practical and concise and clever feedback for the papers that build in tone and technique on these I have and are due Superbowl Sunday. I started this morning's treatments  with a new supply of anti-emeitcs and a double shot of espresso, and did not listen to my tired body and soul: -- instead promised to attend two meetings in Berkeley (125 miles away). Thoroughly nauseated, I changed into my party clothes and set off... only to get to mid-town Sacrametno realizing I was sweating, shaking, and unable to keep the Jeep in a straight line. I pulled into a parking lot -- tried to sleep, but gave up and returned home at a snail's pace, arriving about 4. My son was off with his friends (no hope of getting wood in for a few hours) and my daughter was asleep from her own exhaustion. Lesson Learned: Plan to to do only 30% of what you had hoped --and be thankful for each moment that you dont' think you will projectile vomit!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Joy -- an ode to Hannah Lees (my Granny 1904-1973))

"Joy offers itself in strange forms and there is little enough in any lifetime. Too bad we are taught to look askance at so many of them." (The Sweet Death of Candor, Hannah Lees, 1969, p. 55)

My children bring me sheer joy (most of the time!). Blessed am I when they both sit with me and perform random acts of kindness, such as listening and talking, really having a meaningful conversation.

The nausea has kicked in full bore. Anti-emetics are not helping. Finding that "special place" in my mind where I can recall a moment of joy....