Category Archives: Fighting Cancer

Haiku: Water Retention

My body continues to hang on to water, and my impersonation of a beached whale is ongoing. I’m now up thirty pounds. I’ve decided it’s time to immortalize my experience in poetry.

A Haiku is a traditional form of Japanese poetry consisting of three lines. The first and third lines are five syllables. The second line is seven syllables. For me, there is immense beauty in the simplicity of a well-written Haiku — but don’t expect that in the following. I am, at best, a hack when it comes to writing poetry. But this is where my head is at this morning.

Water pools inside,

Competes with kidneys for space,

Squeezing my bladder.

* * * * *

Difficult to walk,

With thirty pounds of water.

I like a challenge.

* * * * *

Water retention.

I feel like a rain barrel.

Waterlogged fullness.

* * * * *

Like a spring shower,

Water pushes past my eyes.

Freed from retention.

* * * * *

The weight of water

Tries to pull me to the earth.

I fight gravity.

* * * * *

Quick! Find a straight pin!

The water my body holds

Is needed out west!




Four More Weeks of Jabba-the-Hut?


Thank you Wikipedia.

Three weeks ago, I put on 10-pounds of water weight.

Two weeks ago I had my last chemo treatment. Four days after that, side effects from the chemo put me in the hospital for three days–and I came home retaining even more water — a whopping total of 20-pounds.

I am doing a remarkable impression of Jabba-the-Hut. Or a beached whale.

I saw my Oncologist today. He says it’s probably going to take several WEEKS for the water to re-absorb so that I can pee it out. There are no drugs I can take to help with this. But if I can keep active it might help to move the water from my soft tissue to my bladder for elimination.

It’s not painful, just uncomfortable. And having that barrell of water around my torso and theighs makes walking a challenge sometimes.

But this is not going to stop me from moving on with my life! Like a gun-slinger, I’m giving this water target the narrow beady eye…..

…Anybody got a straight pin? Bring it on and we’ll water my flower beds!

From Ham Feet to Thigh Pillows

This past week I had a 3-day stay at the hospital thanks to my good buddy, Gemma.

FRIDAY, 9/18/15
Side effects are a bitch, and this last cycle of chemo has really kicked my butt, but good. In 10 days, I’ve put on 11 pounds of water. It’s concentrated in my thighs, gut, arms, chest, neck and head — in other words, everywhere but my calves and feet (so at least I can wear shoes — no ham feet!)


I must look like the Michelin Man.


My face is moon-shaped, and I’m neck-less (seriously, my neck is gone and my head is just one big lump attached to my shoulders.) My arms feel like they’re propped out away from my body, and my body has expanded to the point where some of my tee shirts are uncomfortable to wear.

Farley as FoleyBut the worst is probably my thighs. I keep checking, I don’t see where the Side Effect Elves have strapped on the pillows –but I know they’re there. Right at my crotch, between my legs, though I don’t see them, I know there are bed pillows strapped to my legs. I’m walking like Matt Foley, that Chris Farley character whose thighs never touched when he walked. I’m feeling those water pillows, and though it’s not painful it’s very disconcerting and uncomfortable.

SATURDAY, 9/19/15
Went to the After-Hours Oncology clinic today and (luckily) it was my oncologist’s weekend to be in-house. The irony of all this water retention? I’m dehydrated. The water is sitting in my soft tissue, and not going into my bloodstream, so my blood is running “thick,” which is affecting my kidney numbers. So to fix my water problem, we’re gonna hook me up to a bag of plasma and pump more water into me.

SUNDAY, 9/20/15
Back to the After-Hours Clinic for a bag of saline to be pumped into my vein. Good thing too, cause I feel like crap.

This is a bad day. It’s the first time I’ve actually worried about being able to dress myself. Every effort steals my breath and makes gravity my overpowering enemy. The overwhelming pressure to sit and be still is so bad that at the last minute I ask my neighbor, Judy, to drive me to the clinic–because I realize I won’t be able to walk from the parking lot to the door of the clinic. And I was right. Judy dropped me at the door and I used a wheelchair to get to the check in desk. First time that’s ever happened.

(Baby Boomer Sidenote: Text messaging has become an amazingly powerful support tool for me. If you’re a boomer, and you don’t know how to text, take the time to have someone teach you. For reference, in the following text messages, my words are either in a blue or green field.)

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MONDAY, 9/21/15
I wouldn’t have thought I could feel worse, but I do. Back to the clinic for another bag of saline. But we’ve barely started pumping the fluids when the nurse comes back to tell me that my kidney numbers have gone so far south that my Oncologist is admitting me to the hospital. Hurrah.

God bless my neighbor, Judy. Once again, she was my driver, and she deserves a HUGH THANK YOU. She got me to the clinic on Sunday and Monday, and then got me to the hospital. Bless her! She’s a keeper!

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TUESDAY, 9/22/15

(Just a sidenote, at this point in putting this blog post together my laptop crashed. I’m finishishing up on my iPad. I apologize if any of the upcoming photos are wonky-looking. Eventually, they’ll be fixed.)







Cindy took this lovely photo of me, just before she left for the evening. Just call me Ms. Puffy Face!



WEDNESDAY, 9/23/15











THURSDAY, 9/24/15
The steroids I got interfered with my sleep, but I think it has ultimately helped me. I had to get up 3 times during the night to pee, and each time was easier to get out of the bed, walk to the bathroom, do my business, and get back into bed.

The last time I got up was after what felt like an intense couple of hours of sleep. I actually felt a bit rested. The part that sucked was that I was drenched in sweat. My front/back hospital gowns were almost dripping wet. There are few things grosser then laying down in a sweaty-wet bed while wearing a pair of sweaty-wet hospital gowns. But what a great motivator! At 6:48 AM, I made the decision: it’s time to send Bev home.

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Monday afternoon to Thursday afternoon. Three days, three nights. Not really that much time out of my life, but I’m glad to see it gone.

When you enter the hospital system, you surrender your independence and self-autonomy. This is frustrating, and frightening. But there are too many moving pieces in the hospital system, too many inputs and outputs, to allow each patient to have their own way.

Our hospital caregivers owe us, their patients, a huge and almost overwhelming responsibility: to restore our health to the best of their collective abilities. What an amazing group of people to take on such a challenge!

We as patients also have some responsibilities.

  • Take an active part in your recovery by paying attention to what each doctor says, writing stuff down and (IMPORTANT!) asking questions. If you’re not able to take part in these conversations, a family member or a good friend should do it for you.
  • Remember that the staff has multiple patients, so do what you can to group together the activities you need help with, instead of hitting the call light every 20 minutes.
  • And if the nurse has to wake you up every 4 hours during the night to draw blood, it’s not because that’s how she gets her jollies. It’s because the doctor is closely watching for changes in your blood (in my case, potassium levels), so that issues can be addressed and you can get well and go home.

When you enter the hospital system, it’s hard to avoid feelings of anxiety, fear, and pain. For me, it helped to focus on the people helping me — to invite them to the “party” in my room. This gave me something outside of my own troubles to concentrate on. And it gave us all lots of laughs. Laughter can help you heal.

To the party pals I found at the hospital, thank you for all the laughter! I’m raising my cocktail in toast to my favorite party-hardy team on the Fifth Floor: Nurses Robin, Swetha, Shelley, Alicia, and Jamila. And PCTs Nathalie, Benita, Sang, Jenny, and Georgia. And to the ladies in the room next door, Erin, Jessica, and Sylvia, your laughter was lovely to hear, and I’m glad that we got to meet.

Party on, my friends!

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Live Blogging from the Chemo Chair: Cycle 6.2, A New Beginning.

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My new bracelet. Click the photo and you can order one too!

Almost done… Almost done… Almost done…

Today is my last (I hope) chemo treatment. Emotional roller coaster doesn’t even come close to what I’m feeling today.

“Almost done” has been percolating on my brain all week, and it’s been a rough week. Last Thursday, I still had residual fatigue from the previous week. This week, I didn’t get my usual Friday-after-treatment steroid buzz, Just more fatigue. Sunday and Monday, traditionally bad days, were beyond bad. In 36 hours I put on 10 pounds of water weight in my face, upper arms, and thighs. If I stayed in a supine position it’s tolerable. But if I had to walk anywhere (like to the bathroom) it’s as if I had pillows strapped between my thighs. Walking down our driveway to the mailbox has been exhausting.

Almost done… Almost done… Almost done…

A few weeks ago, an old and very dear friend reminded me of something quite wonderful: the end of my chemo corresponds with the start of the Jewish New Year — which can be viewed as a new beginning.

A new beginning. For me, this is a profound thought. I found myself out on my patio on Tuesday afternoon pondering this thought and the incredible day. It was the kind of day meant to stop you in your tracks so that you could ponder something momentous. An autumn day of such perfection that it inspires an urgent feeling to be doing SOMETHING. Anything! Make your mark, pull some weeds, start a business, make a new beginning. I’ve been standing still since January 15. Eight months dormant. I hardly remember the passage of time, but I feel the urgency for a new beginning.

The urge to rush and grab that new beginning as if it might slip away from me.

Almost done… Almost done… Almost done…

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Today’s selfie!

My Chemo Buddies for today, my last day, are Shelley and Cindy — which is fitting because these two women have been my rock and anchor through the chemo battle. Shelley, Cindy, Pam H., Sharon, Pam C., Dr. Amy, Monica, Annie Lee — I have been so lucky to have such an amazing group of women supporting me through this battle. They’ve patiently listened to me whine, and made time in their busy lives to check on me, helped me celebrate the good milestones, chauffeured me to my treatments, and helped me stay positive over the past six months. I am humbled and in awe that they would gift me with their time and care.

Cindy made me chocolate covered strawberries to celebrate today!

Cindy made me chocolate covered strawberries to celebrate today!

Almost done… Almost done… Almost done…

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Patio at TJ Chumps. Thanks for this photo, Chumps!

We had lunch today at my favorite ‘Burg sports bar, T.J. Chumps. I forgot to take photos, take my word for it, the food was great, the conversation even better and we had a glorious day for patio dining.

The Chemo Cafe was packed today, with only one open seat. And it was a cursed seat — when Chemo Nurse Jana inserted the needle to my port, we discovered my port was clogged. We knew it was clogged because when Nurse Jana tried to draw blood for my blood test, all she got was clear bubbles. This happened once before, and there are ways to fix it starting with something euphemistically known as “Drano” — which (of course) didn’t work today. After trying a few other tricks (coughing, laughing, pushing the recliner all the way back, holding up my right arm, bending over my knees), we tried re-sticking the needle, with a bigger needle. Clever Nurse Jana! She knew I’ve been dealing with water retention in my torso, and by using a bigger needle she thought the needle would have better purchase in my port. She was right! So, only an hour late, we finally started the last chemo treatment.

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Almost done… Almost done… Almost done…

Last week, I posted about things I would not miss once chemo was over. One of my friends asked me what I WOULD miss. It’s a very short list — only three things

I will miss all the wonderful nurses at the Chemo Cafe, especially Nurse Jana. They have been so kind and understanding. And I’ve always felt that I was in good hands when they had me in their care. Truly, I cannot say enough good things about the nurses who have seen to my healthy well-being since my battle began back in January when the first step back to normal was surgery. God bless all nurses, and thank you God for putting me in the path of some of the best of them!

I’ll miss how easy it’s been to schedule lunch with my friends. Without the cloud of chemo hanging over my head, scheduling lunch with my pals may become less urgent and a little more complicated. Or not. We’ll see.

A part of me will miss the lazy excuse to take no action. Since January, my life has been on hold and I’ve been living, not so much in suspended animation, but more of a suspended existence. No big decisions until I was done with chemo. Now, I have no excuse. Change is scary. And after six months, my life is going to be one big change. Scary, but exhilarating all at the same time. I just might miss the comfort of a suspended existence most of all. Or I might revel in this new beginning. We’ll see.

Almost done… Almost done… Almost done…

As I sit here in my chair, the nurses seem to be gathering. They’re moving towards me in a group like the wait staff at a cheesy restaurant waiting to sing Happy Birthday. Or a bunch of zombies looking for brains.

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Almost done… Almost done… Almost done…

They’ve pulled out sparkly party horns! They’re smiling and tooting the horns!

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OMG! I’m done!

Live Blogging from the Chemo Chair: Cycle 6.2, Top 10 Things I Won’t Miss

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Thursday was my penultimate chemo treatment!

Photo by Panera.

Photo by Panera.

With me was my pal, Shelley. We did lunch at the nearby Panera–they’ve got a seasonal squash soup right now that’s very tasty. And before we left, we ran into an old pal from work, Sue.

Thanks, Lindor!

Thanks, Lindor!

I LOVE this kind of random event. It’s like finding a Lindor Truffle

at the back of the fridge when you’ve got a raging chocolate craving. We got caught up with Sue, then had to beat feet to get to the Chemo Cafe.

With Shelley at the Chemo Cafe!

With Shelley at the Chemo Cafe!

Lately, I’ve been pondering the things I won’t miss once chemo is over. While my deadly chemo cocktail was pumped in through my port, Shelley helped me refine a list of the

Top Ten Things I Won’t Miss When I’m Done With Chemo

10. Chemo Mouth Rinse.
I have to mix it up every two days. It leaves an unpleasant, salty aftertaste. It’s just yucky.

9. Sun Screen.
I hate the way it just sits on my skin. If I’m going out, I have to remember to save time to put it on before I leave. I think it dries out my cuticles. There are little white foggy marks all over the interior of my car from where my sun screened arm has brushed. It leaves yellow stains on my white shirts.

8. Chemo Clothes.
Because I hate wearing sunscreen, I’ve been wearing long-sleeved shirts to limit the exposed skin needing to be greased up. And I’ve been wearing wide-brimmed sun hats. And let’s not forget the compression stockings. I look like the crazy old lady neighbor from a bad situation comedy. It doesn’t help that sometimes I shuffle a little when I walk because I’m tired. I’m NOT a crazy old lady character — at least not yet. And when I become a crazy old lady, I’m not going to do it with more style.

7. The Viking Hat.
Okay, the Viking Hat has served me well. And I will continue to wear it when I have my ongoing checkups with my oncologist. But I’ve worn it all summer — sometimes I get tired of how it mushers down my thinning hair.

6. Chemo Drugs.
I don’t think I’ve ever mentioned that Zofran, my anti-nausea med, causes constipation. And if you’ve read some of my posts here, you’ll know the issues I’ve had with constipation. I’ve got Lasix to make me pee when my edema kicks up. It also robs my body of potassium, which my heart needs to stay strong. Then there’s the steroids, which help control the side effects but also keep me awake at night and make me want to eat everything in sight. And let’s not forget the star of the chemo drugs, my battle buddy Gemma, AKA Gemcitabine. This is total poison indiscriminately killing the good cells along with the bad cells. I will not miss my weekly dose of this nasty stuff.

5. The Steroid Buzz.
This is a buzz for all the wrong reasons. Every week, for the day-and-a-half after my treatment I’ve had a buzz that drives me to do task after task and get no sleep. It’s been great to have the energy to clean out closets and pull weeds, but it feels so unnatural. And I don’t sleep. Did I mention that it feels so incredibly unnatural?

4. Chemo Side Effects
Ah! The scrounge of the red rash! These last two cycles, in addition to my legs, the red rash has also been making an appearance on my face. I’m also looking forward to being able to walk at a brisk pace again, instead of shuffling along and huffing/puffing because my red blood cells are so low I have no oxygen. There’s always a bad taste in my mouth after I eat that I seem to only be able to chase away with massive quantities is Altoids. My appetite for food is so unpredictable — I’ll spend major bucks at the fancy deli on stuff that I’m craving, then an hour later I can’t tolerate. My ham feet have not made a return appearance, but my chemo brain (cognitive issues) is still hanging out. I’m looking forward to a time when I’ll sleep all the way through the night instead of going from my bed to the recliner to the sofa and back to my bed again all in a six hour period. And then there’s the hot flashes — no, wait, I might still be stuck with those (menopause).

3. Lack of Pedicure.
I used to get a pedicure every month. It’s been nearly NINE MONTHS since my last pedicure! This is the first summer in a decade that my toenails have gone polish-free! Yeah, I know this is superficial, but a girl has got to draw the line somewhere!

2. My Mustache.
Again, a superficial complaint. Early in my treatments I had the hope that if the chemo was going to take my hair, it would take my menopausal mustache too. But no. The hair on my head got thinner, and I swear the hair above my lip got thicker! I am SOOOOOOO looking forward to the time I can start waxing that mess again!

1. Phillips MOM and Dulcolax.
(Constipation. I know this is gross, probably way too much information. However, it’s a huge issue for me and I can’t help but believe that someone else going through chemo might come across my little bloggie and be helped by my honesty — so you’ll have to deal with the TMI for the greater good of that random chemo patient.)
I have always had very regular bowel movements. But with my chemo treatments and meds, I have had some really miserable moments when my bowels were so backed up, and the poop so compacted, that I thought I’d end up in the hospital with a blown-out butt hole. After trying different laxatives, I’ve found that what works for me is taking the maximum dosages of Dulcolax and Phillips Milk of Magnesia, before bedtime on my chemo day and the four days after. The downside is that I have to be careful in how I take them to avoid indigestion, which is very uncomfortable and keeps me from sleeping. Plus, it’s a challenge to “control” stool firmness. Intellectually, I know I could probably back off a little on my dosages and not have diarrhea so often. Emotionally, I’m frightened that if I back off on my dosages I’ll end up with a colon of poop that has the consistency of cement. It’s an irrational fear, and I haven’t been able to get past it. The end result is often an upset stomach at night and diarrhea in the morning — which I believe will end once my body starts to recover from the chemo treatments. Though they’ve helped me through the misery of constipation, I will be SO HAPPY to see the last of them!


Next week marks my completion of 18 chemo treatments (if all goes according to plan), but it’s hard for me to forget that there could be additional chemo in my future. Think of all the stories you’ve heard about someone heroically beating cancer only to have it pop up in a different form a few months or years later. This one persistent anxiety lives in the back of my mind. My friend, Shelley, who is a 6-year breast cancer survivor, says she feels this anxiety too — though it has soften somewhat as time has passed. Those stinking rogue cells live inside us like a group of undercover terrorists, just waiting for the opportunity to bring down the World Trade Center that is our health. It’s up to us to care for our bodies, work with our doctors, and be on guard against the bad guys.

I’m planning to stay on guard. I’m going to continue to educate myself about the cancer that might be lurking in my body. I’ll keep all my doctor appointments and seek a second opinion, if needed. I will make my health a priority, and do everything I can so that I don’t end up in the Chemo Chair again.

And I will do my best not to live in fear of a recurrence.


Live Blogging from the Chemo Chair: Cycle 6.1, Good Medicine?

Thursday I began Cycle 6 of my chemo — the last cycle!

My Chemo Date was the incomparable Dr. Amy, one of my favorite veterinarians. We had a lovely lunch at Meadowlark Restaurant. (And I continue with my brain block for taking photos of lunch.) I had the most luscious BLT. The bacon was Amish and piled about two inches high at the middle. The lusciousness came from the locally grown yellow tomatoes, cut in one-half inch thick slices and so juicy! Dr. Amy had a grilled sharp white cheddar cheese sandwich with apricot chutney. She was in bliss!

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The Chemo Cafe felt quiet, I don’t know why. I miss the ladies of the afternoon snack cart — they do not visit the Chemo Cafe on Thursdays like they do on Tuesdays. They’re volunteers and maybe there’s no one to cover Thursdays.

The peacefulness of the Chemo Cafe was in direct contrast to my just-finished chemo vacation, which is best described as crowded, loud, and busy. In fact, I think I over did things a little. But sometimes wonderful events happen that must not be ignored.

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9-6-15 Book of Mormon

I saw “The Book of Mormon” with my pals on the Sunday after my last treatment — which is my “bad” day (it wasn’t my bad day when my treatments were on Tuesday, as they were when we bought the tickets). But I’m glad I went because I haven’t laughed so hard in a long time! Laughter is good medicine.

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The next day we had a short-notice visit from a couple of my cousins (and their hubbies) — who we hadn’t seen in nearly ten years! They were on their way from North Carolina up to Thunder Bay, Ontario where they were attending a wedding. We took the easy way out and got deli salads and meats the day before, which made a nice lunch. Time with family — even when unexpected — is good medicine.

I had two separate lunches with two dear friends, met another dear friend for coffee, and met my former co-workers for dinner. Time with friends is good medicine.

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And we did an update to the entertainment center in our living room. Of course, this meant emptying out all the gewgaws stored in the two side display towers plus the DVD/video player and amplifier we never use ( which might not make a return appearance), and summoning the Salvation Army to remove three of the five pieces of outdated entertainment center. Then my pal Sharon came by with her massive farm pickup truck and together we went to the Antique Mall to pick up the new-old buffet that will be the new center piece of our entertainment center. Updating your digs is good medicine.

The newest member of our house, Warren Buffet.

The newest member of our house, Warren Buffet.

But now I’m faced with restoring all the gewgaws to the two display towers. That includes re-attaching the glass doors, re-setting the glass shelves, and re-circuiting the display lights (because the on/off switch was on one of the three pieces that the Salvation Army hauled away). Ah! Bah! A challenge is good medicine!

I’ve started a business plan for the next act of my work life. This is also good medicine.

I think this was my most active chemo vacation. I probably should have rested more then the short naps I managed to occasionally grab. But in spite of that, I’m back at the Chemo Cafe feeling fine, with a sense of purpose.

Sixteen treatments down, two treatments left to go! Siggy, the cancer, is a war I will be facing for years to come. But this first big battle is nearly over, and that’s really good medicine!

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Live Blogging from the Chemo Chair: Cycle 5.3, Blessings

8-20-15 CHEMO COUNTDOWN 4-3Blessings. The patio screen door open to a refreshing, bracing early morning coolness — along with the birds’ songs. Listening to the cicadas chatter. Seeing the sunshine streaming through the window. Hearing my mom out in the kitchen making us a pot of tea. The smell of toast. Seeing the pinks and blues rippling through the sky as the sun comes up. Snoozing in my recliner with just the right amount of extra pillows under my legs and a comfy quilt warm against the early morning coolness. Puppy snoozing on my lap adding to the cozy. Realizing that in 28 days this 6-month chemo combat will be complete.

Sun through the stain glass in our windows.

Sun through the stain glass in our windows.

Lap pup.

Lap pup.

Early Thursday morning, I was counting some of my blessings.

Actually, counting my blessings has become a daily habit. One I’m going to do my best to keep.

Chemo Thursday was beautiful. Like a fresh fall day. Sunny, yet chilly enough to restrain perspiration. Crisp. I love days like this.

Cindy and Bev selfie.

Cindy and Bev selfie.

8-20-15 Lovelys CindyMy Chemo Date was the marvelous Cindy. We had a charming lunch at Lovely’s (SUCH an appropriate name!) Farm Market. I had a fried bologna sandwich–which was the totally wrong choice for someone with high blood pressure. But it was such a beautiful day, and (I confess) 8-20-15 Lovelys bolognaI LOVE fried bologna! I made up for my bad decision by having tomatoes on my sandwich–which may have been the wrong decision for someone with acid reflux. But it was a serving of veggies — which is a good thing, right? And it was on whole wheat bread — that’s a winner, right? Add in a side of confetti corn, which was lightly dressed sweet corn stripped from the cob mere hours ago and mixed with more fresh ruby-red tomatoes (ah! the sweetness!) and some green peppers. Oh! It was total heaven!

Before we left, we took a look around the “market” part of Lovely’s — right now, heavy on baked goods, tomatoes, corn, and green beans. I purchased a dozen fabulous molasses cookies (all gone in two days!)

(Sidebar: My fascination with molasses cookies originated during my undergrad years at UW-Wisconsin. When in a baked goods situation, I am forever on the lookout for molasses cookies like the ones I used to get from a little pushcart that occupied a corner of Library Mall. Omigosh they were good! The only bakery I’ve ever found that made better molasses cookies was in Brattleboro, Vermont–they tasted like the cookies of my memory, but they were better because they were the size of dinner plates!)

After our foray into the farm market, we were off to the Chemo Cafe.

My red blood cells and hemoglobin numbers continue to live in the basement, but not so low as to deny me my Chemo Cocktail. And it was Chemo Nurse Janna’s birthday! Luckily, Lovely’s also sells fudge–and Janna loves fudge!

8-20-15 Chemo Cafe bloggingI didn’t get much writing done this week while sitting in the chemo chair–so I guess calling this “live blogging from the chemo chair” is a bit of a misnomer. Real life continues to intrude on the plans/goals I set for myself. Like the goal of publishing my chemo chair post immediately as it happens.

The thing is, another blessing I’ve discovered (and am starting to cherish) is the simple act of talking with the person who brought me to chemo. Having a real discussion about things that interest us that are not part of a job we’re doing for our employer. Is this what retirement is like? Cindy and I had the best time just talking about goofy stuff — like the recent customer service rep hacker/troll on the Target Facebook page (did you see this? It’s both hysterically funny and horribly frightening all at once.)

Three mums now sit on my patio patiently waiting for their new home.

Three mums now sit on my patio patiently waiting for their new home.

We talked about gardening, and how I want to put in a few mums for fall color (“We can stop and pick up some on the way home!” said my pal Cindy with obvious delight.) We talked about a baby shower she’s hosting for a relative and what she did for decoration. And so many other mundane topics.

Over the past few years, I’ve been so busy being busy with work that I’ve gotten out of the habit of talking about things that have nothing to do with my job. Until Siggy slapped me in the face. I refuse to call this cancer a blessing, but the joy I’m rediscovering because I’ve been forced to slow down and reassess what’s important certainly is.

All these months (since February!) I’ve been spending in the slow lane have underlined a concept I’ve forgotten: Living in the moment is a priceless blessing.

I am wallowing in the pleasures of my blessings.

Live Blogging from the Chemo Chair: Cycle 5.2, Art for Relaxing

8-13-15 CHEMO COUNTDOWN 5-4Frankly, it’s been a wonderful week. The Red Rash has been minimal. My energy level has been decent. My usual Third Day Blahs (the third day after chemo treatment is usually the worst one for side-effects) amounted to me being overly tired (instead of feeling like an infected refugee from a flu pandemic). And in the last few days, I’ve been able to do another round of weeding and dead-heading on my flower beds and I’ve started downsizing one of my closets. I feel almost normal!

Except for the high blood pressure.

My Chemo Nurse told me today that the steroids I’m taking can elevate blood pressure, and you may recall that my Oncologist increased my steroids after the Ham Feet Issue. So that may be an explanation to the upswing in my BP. I’m going to continue to monitor my numbers and report them to my family doctor, who will be my adviser on this.

My good pal, Sharon, is my chemo date today. Before lunch we decided to explore an “antiques mall.”

8-13-15 Antique Sharon

It was pretty much what you might expect an “antiques mall” to be, except for the “Canned Annies.”

8-13-15 Canned Annie28-13-15 Canned AnnieThere’s just something wrong about “canning” Raggedy Anne and Raggedy Andy. It’s the stuff that horror movies are made from. Imagine those dolls coming to life and “canning” the misanthropic person who had the termerity to put the dolls into bottles. I cannot deal with the possibilities. Yes, I found this freakish beyond belief!

We left soon after being creeped-out by these Chucky-wannabes.

Lunch was at a new place next to Whole Paycheck Foods, called Zoup!

8-13-15 Zoup Sign

We both had mac and cheese soup and half of a turkey club sandwich. For once, I remembered to take a photo of our meal!

8-13-15 Zoup LunchThe soup was good comfort food, maybe a little salty — though I’ve been over-conscious of salt lately. The sandwich was excellent — I think the french bread it was served on was a major player in the excellent part. The sourdough roll that came with the soup was a total loss. Still, I would consider this a fast-food restaurant, and in that category it was very good.

Sharon and I had a little fun spoofing the staff. Every time someone replenishes the soup, they yell “Hot soup!” which is echoed by the rest of the serving staff. And when bread comes out of the oven, it’s “Hot bread!” which again, is echoed by the staff. It didn’t take long for Sharon and I to join in, but it took them a few echoes to figure out the extra “Hot soup!” was coming from the peanut gallery. We can have jobs there, if we want.

8-13-15 Selfie with Sharon

At the Chemo Cafe, imagine my surprise to find that at the cocktail table next to mine were a mother-daughter team — and they were coloring!

You may know that coloring for adults has become a much publicized stress-reducer for adults. I like to think that I was slightly ahead of the curve and started coloring before the news media picked up on it, turning it into a mainstream fad. I find it to be a wonderful way to relax (cause it’s not like I’ve got any stress in my life, right?)

8-13-15 coloring 1

One of my early efforts at coloring, done with pencils.

I use colored pencils, gel pens, colored markers, and I’ve even used highlighters. I recently purchased a set of drawing pencils with the idea I would try to color in gray tone shades, but I haven’t yet been brave enough to set pencil to paper. But after seeing what my chemo neighbors were working on, I think I will be inspired to give the pencils a try.

8-13-15 Coloring 3

I colored this mandala using gel pens.

They were doing something called Zentangles, which is a specific art form that involves making deliberate pencil strokes to form patterns on a small square of paper. In addition to what’s on the website, the Zentangles folks also have a YouTube channel to help teach the method. There’s more to it than simply drawing lines. It’s the contemplation of the line, the meditation of the line, and that’s what draws me (pardon the pun) to this art form. This is more complicated then coloring in an adult coloring book. And I’m looking forward to giving it a try! If you’re looking for a way to meditate that really accesses your creativity, this may be the right therapy for you.

8-13-15 Zentangle

(Thank you to for this view of their site. Click the photo to learn more about Zentangle.)

So, with today’s treatment I’ve completed 14 of 18 chemo cocktails. Counting one more chemo vacation — and providing all goes well with my remaining cocktails — I’m left with five more weeks of chemotherapy. If all goes well, my last chemo date should be September 17. Just in time to do fall prep on my flower beds. Just in time to get back to walking again before bad weather drives me indoors to the tread mills. Just in time to regain my strength before the holidays. Today is a good day!

No matter what, Tyler always finds the sunbeam!

No matter what, Tyler always finds the sunbeam!