Archive for August, 2007

Okay, I’m going to finally try and get started on the trip/eating report from our getting less recent trip to New Mexico. We flew in Saturday night after 2 flights (no non-stops from our airport unfortunately) and were greeted with an Albuquerque monsoon. The rental car guys said, oh, they never last more than 10 minutes. Well, they were wrong, this one went on for well over an hour and it was a pretty soggy mess getting our rental car since they insist on doing the paperwork outside with the car. Oh well! Since it was late we just went to our hotel and went to sleep (we decided to stay at the airport Fairfield Inn for that one night- cheap, convenient and clean).

The next morning we went out to breakfast at Kelly’s on Central, it’s a microbrewery with a huge space filled with big long tables. Maybe it was a car dealership or something like that in a previous life? We met our friends who made me the 1000 paper cranes. It was so cool to finally meet them in person! Kids eat free on weekends so they each got the kid breakfast of one egg (Z. skipped that), a pancake and bacon. The other Z. (my friend’s 10 year old boy) got a side of green chile for his. A., J., and myself all got the huevos rancheros covered in green chile, with J. getting extra chile. It was great jumping right into the NM hot stuff. Funny how I don’t really eat food that is quite that hot at home, but when in NM I go for it.

After spending a couple of hours hanging out with our friends at Kelly’s we left and went to the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center. We walked around the museum, the art galleries and saw a dance performance in the courtyard (and actually we participated in a snake dance which A. and I enjoyed while Z. complained the entire time since at 10 years old she already has the “I’m too cool for this mom” thing going on). We decided to eat lunch before we drove to Santa Fe (late, it was about 3pm or so) at their restaurant, the Pueblo Harvest Cafe. Z. ordered a grilled cheese and fries and while she didn’t eat it all she liked it and thought it was the cheesiest grilled cheese she’d ever had. A. ordered the Jemez Enchiladas- they took a flour tortilla and stuffed it with cheese and then rolled the whole thing in red chile powder and baked it. It was very good. I had the Tiwa Taco which wasn’t like any taco I’ve had previously. It was a round of Indian fry bread on the bottom with beans, cheese, lettuce, tomato and red chile sauce and another round of Indian Fry bread on top. Messy but good! A. and I shared both dishes. Z. got a gigantic peanut butter cookie from the little bakery case they have at the entrance of the restaurant for dessert. A. and I shared an order of pinon pumpkin bread. It was a dense and chewy bread, not real sweet and warmed up, topped with a ton of whipped cream. After the first couple of bites I found it addicting and ate more than I probably should have, but yum!

We drove up to Santa Fe and checked into our hotel, the Casapueblo Inn. It’s owned by the El Dorado Hotel (a big expensive hotel a few blocks away) but has the advantage of free parking (without valet, you drive up and park outside the rooms, like a motel) and we got a suite room so had a separate bedroom for A. and I and the fold out couch for Z. and a small efficiency kitchen with microwave, stove, sink, fridge, cabinets with dishes, pots and pans, silverware etc. I also had gotten a great deal on the room $116/night, less than half the rate it usually goes for in August. We could walk to the Plaza area easily and there were many restaurants within walking distance. The only negative is that the management is at the hotel from 7am to 7pm and outside of those hours you have to call the El Dorado for service.

After checking in we were all pretty tired so we decided to drive to Whole Foods (just a few minutes drive) and buy bottled water for our week and pick up something in the prepared foods for dinner. Before we left A. called the hotel manager and asked for a few more pillows (I needed them for sleeping & positioning especially with my back hurting). A. got a piece of fried chicken, I got a piece of turkey meatloaf, we shared a balsamic lettuce, tomato and mozzarella salad and a piece of Chocolate Maven chocolate mousse cake (OMG, that was really good!). There wasn’t anything in the prepared foods that Z. wanted so I broke down and got her an Ian’s frozen kid’s meal, a few chicken nuggets, a few curly fries, some apple pudding stuff and maybe something else. Z. wanted some milk chocolate so we got her a bar for dessert (which she ate over the course of the week). We also got wine at Whole Foods. A. was so excited to see good, cheap wine there! We live in a state store system state so can’t buy wine anywhere but a state store, so this was a novelty. He found a $4 bottle of red wine that was actually really good!

When we got back to the hotel it was 7:15 and as we pulled in we saw the manager and the trainee he had been training when we checked in and they waved to us as they left. We got to our room and no pillows. A. was pissed! He called the El Dorado hotel and they said sure they could give us pillows but that we had to go over there to get them. A. drove over there and got them while I heated up the meals. After dinner we all collapsed in bed and went to sleep.


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Livestrong Challenge 2007

A., Z. and I participated in the Livestrong Challenge 5k walk today. It was an amazing experience and I can’t wait for next year to be able to do it again! The three of us were a team and raised $3550 thanks to a lot of very generous people. It was enough to get my name in the printed program :-))

The event actually started yesterday which was when we picked up our registration packet and our “fundraising incentives”. Everyone gets the event tee-shirt, but we also got event water bottles and baseball caps and I got a nice event gym bag. We handed in one last minute donation check and then went to the Livestrong Village which is where various sponsors and vendors set up. We got our pictures taken by Embassy Suites in a kind of photo booth, we got pedometers at a health booth and in the Livestrong booth we got Livestrong yellow wrist bands and Livestrong Challenge temporary tattoos. In that same booth we got the yellow “I am a Survivor” and the white “In Honor of” and “In Memory of” cards to pin to our tee-shirts for the walk. We also each added my sister Lisa’s name to a big yellow paper chain they were making. It was REALLY hot yesterday and the registration and Village was in the gymnasium (it was held at a Community College) so we left completely drenched, but we were excited. It was funny on the way out, there was a walkway lined with bunches of regular latex balloons that kept popping as we walked because of the heat. Z. HATES popping balloons so she made us walk on the grass well away from them.

So we had to somehow get to sleep early because we had to wake up this morning at 5am (UGH!). We had an early dinner and then Z. went into the tub and afterwards I gave her some Benadryl and put her to bed with the cat. I don’t normally drug her to get her to sleep, but she’s been up till 11pm or so this past week and there was no way she was going to be able to function today on that little sleep. It worked well and she was sound asleep in no time. A. and I managed to get into bed by 10pm (a miracle for me- I never get in bed that early) and I took 2 Benadryl so was asleep pretty quickly (A. can fall asleep easily so he didn’t need to be drugged). We all managed to get up at 5am, get showered and dressed and due to some good breakfast planning were able to get out the door by 5:45am (we made egg sandwiches and iced coffee/tea the night before so only had to heat and eat- in fact I ate most of mine in the car- Z. ate cereal, she wouldn’t dare eat eggs). Before we left we put on our pedometers and our temporary tattoos.

We got to the event by around 6:15 and got a great parking space close to the action in the parking lot closest to the events (that lot was closing at 6:30am which was one reason we got there so early). We took some time at our parking spot to pin our numbers and all of our tribute cards to our shirts. Z. and A. each had 2 cards and I had 5. Some of those cards had 15 to 30 people each. We know way too many people who have cancer or have died from cancer 😦 We took pictures of each other and a woman in the car next to us offered to take a picture of the three of us. She had a bright yellow car (Livestrong colors are yellow, black and white) so we got a little bit of the car in the photos on purpose.

We headed over to our lane. We were pretty early and it was mostly cyclists there that early but there were some walker/runners around. They were still setting up and huge things of balloons were being walked by us. There was a couple of small bleachers set up near the starting line so we sat down there. We stayed up there till it was almost time for the walk/runners to go and had great views of Lance Armstrong as he cycled up to the small stage area and of all the cyclists as each group started (it began with Lance and 3 other famous cyclists who I have no idea who they were, then the fast 100 milers, then the “gentle” (aka slower) 100 milers, then the 70 milers, then the 40 milers, then the 10 milers and finally us 5k walk/runners.

We were pretty close to the front of the pack when we started, but most of the people up front were runners so we were being passed right and left. Our pace was set by Z. since she was the slowest walker but I was impressed with how well she kept up the pace (she normally complains bitterly that we are walking too fast or about stitches in her side, her feet hurting etc., but she didn’t really do that- maybe one complaint about her feet later in the walk). The 5k route was different from the bike routes. It was through 2 residential neighborhoods next to the college. Some of the residents in the neighborhoods came out to cheer us all on. We found out later that one of the neighbors had a team (he is battling testicular cancer now) as he won an inspirational award later in the day.

The course was pretty flat, the weather was humid but not hot and it was overcast, so it was a pretty easy 3+ mile walk. However I was wearing my compression stockings and some sneakers that aren’t quite like regular sneakers (they have a strap like thing in the back instead of being fully enclosed). I had worn these things all over NM and was fine, but today my feet were sliding around in them (I should have worn socks over my stockings) and I ended up with a blister the size of a quarter on the ball of each foot (ouch!). Early on (we hadn’t even gotten out of the college parking lot yet) Z. asked me how many miles we had gone. That brought a lot of laughs from the people around us. I explained that we hadn’t even gone one mile yet. There were markers at the 1, 2 and 3 mile points, and a water station at the 1.5 mile mark. That made it easier for Z. to judge the distance (kind of). We finished in about an hour and maybe 5 minutes. The survivors crossed the finish line on the right while the others finished in the left lane. There was an announcer who was reading off the survivors entry numbers and names. However for some reason the announcer read my name off as Robert something or other and shrugged his shoulders at me. As the survivors crossed the finish line we were handed a yellow rose and our pictures were taken.

After walking through the cool mist tent and going into the locker rooms in the gym to use the rest rooms we walked over the post event Party area. First thing we did was get some food. Each participant has a tear off on their entry bibs for a free meal (and one for a free beer also, but we didn’t use those). The meal was a pork bbq sandwich, cole slaw and potato chips (there was a vegetarian bbq option also) and I thought hmmm, Z.’s not going to eat anything but the roll and the chips. She was starving so I offered to put the meat next to the roll and if she liked it she could put it inside. Amazingly, she liked it (or she was hungry enough not to care) and ate every last bit. After eating we wandered around the booths, which didn’t take long as we were tired and wanted to sit and then plopped ourselves on the grass in the middle of the place as besides the eating area there were no places to sit. We remembered we had a blanket in the car and A. graciously offered to go get it (note to self, next year bring beach chairs like some people who no doubt did this last year did). We kept the blanket as a home base and watched some musicians perform and watched the giant tv screen next to the stage which had video of the race (we saw ourselves start the race and A. and Z. finish the race) and photo tributes (I had submitted one of my sister but it was too late to get in). We got up and got some little freebies at some booths, got our pictures taken for free 3 times by Nissan employees running around with cameras, drank lots of water and used the port-a-potties a few times. There was an announcer kind of guy who was wandering around interviewing people (the interviews were on the loudspeaker and sometimes they were on the big tv screen). So we were entertained but we had a long wait as we got there before 9:30am and were waiting for Lance Armstrong to speak at 1:30pm.

A nice aside, there were two teenage boys who seemed to live in the neighborhood next to the college that we walked through. They had their shirts off and had put body paint on their chests and faces. They were cheering us on all along the 5k route. Every time we saw them they had added more and more (and different) body paint to themselves. Later at the post-even party they were interviewed by the announcer. People had been walking around with these yellow inflatable stick like things and I was trying to find out where they got them so I could get one for Z. I saw the two body paint guys walking toward me and each one had one so I asked them where they got them. They said that they were handing them out at the finish line. I said (nicely) “oh, they didn’t give them to me” and thanked them and continued walking. I got stopped by one of the Nissan camera guys about getting my picture taken when one of the boys came running up to me with both of their inflatable thingies and said, “here, you can have ours”. I thought it might have had something to do with my yellow survivor card pinned to my shirt, but thought it was very sweet of them and Z. was happy when I came back with them. Speaking of Z., I think I mentioned in a previous post that there was going to be a Kidzone with a moon bounce and face painting. Now I knew that she wouldn’t be interested in the face painting but figured she’d love the moon bounce as every time she has been in one you can’t drag her out of it, but no, she was completely not interested in it and wouldn’t even go near it to check it out. Go figure.

So as it got closer to 1:30 we moved our blanket right up to the stage and had a prime front row seat for Lance Armstrong’s speech. Unfortunately my camera batteries had started dying not long before. I had forgotten to put new batteries in the camera or in the case and had two sets of dead batteries. I was able to get a few more pictures by mixing up the sets, but just before Lance Armstrong gave his speech they were both completely dead. We took a couple cell phone photos but those are usually pretty awful quality. Oh well! I got a couple while he was handing out awards that are kind of goofy but nice and close up! After his speech and then watching his interview on Meet the Press on the tv screen (which was very interesting- for instance did you know that only 10% of cancer research grants are funded by the US government- scientists are going to other countries to work because of this) we packed up our blanket and headed home, exhausted but energized by the experience. We are hoping that next year we can get some other families to join us. Seeing the larger teams the energy and the fun they were having was very evident. I think Z. would love to walk with a bunch of her friends. It would also be a lot more fun at the post event party with a group of people. So, what do you say friends, will you join us next year?

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The back pain has eased today, kind of like that feeling you have after you stop hitting your head against a wall, it’s still sore but it hurts a lot less than when you were banging it. I talked to the acupuncturist and he told me that he usually does both local and distal acupuncture and that the local needles caused a severe muscle spasm. The muscles in my back are really tight and they want to bounce back to their shortened position. He apologized for my pain and suggested moist heat and otc meds like Alleve (I’ve been using ibuprofen every day for over a month now and I had to step it up over the weekend). He said that when I see him this Friday he won’t put any needles in my back and just treat it distally for now. I have felt better enough today to think that maybe I’ll actually get better at some point (what a difference a day makes).

I also wonder how much of this is having gotten through my gyn onc appt. and being told that I don’t need to have more treatment right now. Stress is a huge part of this I think.

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I went for my checkup with the gyn onc this afternoon. It’s rainy and cool here today and parking downtown was nuts. I drove up and down and up and down the entire 7 or 8 floors of the parking garage twice before finally finding a space. Luckily I gave myself and extra 15 minutes above and beyond what I normally give myself to get there, just in case.

Even once I got to the office I had a long wait, including a long wait sitting in the exam room (which meant that the paper on the exam table had become permanently attached to my buttocks by the time the dr. came and asked me to slide down for the exam). The nurse took my blood pressure and asked if I was on medication. I didn’t even want to know what the number was, between the ibuprofen and the pain and being in that office I know it was high.

I could hear the dr. talking to a patient in his office (not his actual words, just his loud voice) so I assume he was giving someone some bad news as it took a while. His nurse (not the one who comes in during the exam, but the one who calls with test results and is the “go to” nurse for all kinds of things) came in to talk to me. She doesn’t work in the exam area or even on that floor but she always comes in to see me when I come in to say hi and see how I’m doing. She’s the main reason that I stay there, I really like her a lot and she’s my main point of contact for anything I need to know or get done. I told her about my back pain and that the rad onc thought it wasn’t cancer related and we talked about the scan results and about vacations and med oncs.

So he finally comes in, with some young dr., which is good, I always find his bedside manner improves greatly when he’s got a student/resident or whatever with him. He says everything’s great, says my scan in negative (which the rad onc kind of said too, I guess as far as the onc’s are concerned whatever disease is still left isn’t a concern at this point) does a quick pelvic, asks me when I’m getting my mammogram (made my appt. this morning actually for mid-November) and tells me that we don’t want to use the horses till we need them (huh?). He meant that we don’t want to do chemo or hormonal treatments till we need them, but the horse thing was pretty funny. I also talked to him about my med onc leaving town and asked who he thought I should see. He recommended the med onc that my old med onc had put on the form letter, said she’s very good and that she trained under the med onc I saw for my 2nd opinion at Fox Chase. So, I’ll make an appt. and meet her and see what I think. I forgot to mention the back pain.

That was pretty much it, I go back in 4 months, which is about a month after I get my next PET/CT scan and see my rad onc. This November/December is going to be pretty stressful with a mammogram a few days before my 50th birthday, a PET/CT scan & rad onc appt. right after Thanksgiving and a gyn onc appt. right before Xmas. If I ever do get rid of this back pain it will probably come right back! I sometimes wonder if I should be on some kind of drugs, almost everyone I know who is going through this cancer crap is on an anti-depressant and/or anti anxiety meds (the anti-anxiety meds are taken as needed with some people needing them daily). I have neither and sometimes wonder if I would have all this back pain crap if I was. I don’t know, in general I hate taking meds, especially ones that have side effects, but sometimes they are necessary. Probably time to see a gp and start dealing with the rest of my health. I just have to decide who to see, a new dr. or my old one who I haven’t seen in years and who I’m not particularly fond of. It’s just always hard to make another dr. appt. when I’m tired of the rounds of oncologists & other drs. I have to see every few months. Bleh! And you all know how great I am at making decisions about which dr. I should see (not!)

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I’m back

It’s been a while and we’ve been away from home a lot these last few weeks. We had an absolutely fantastic vacation in New Mexico (which I’ll blog about more later, especially about the food, and I even remembered to take pictures of our food sometimes and I wrote a bit about each day in a journal each night so I would remember things) which was part vacation for the three of us, and part a reunion of sorts with some moms I’ve been on a listserve with since we were all pg and due the same month 10 years ago. The kids 10th bday seemed like a good excuse for some of us to get together (we’ve done this before, but not for a few years). So, more about all that in future blog posts.

I had one “beginner” session of acupuncture for my back before we left on our trip and then a full session last Friday. My back hurt worse than it did before by Friday night and all weekend. I have another session scheduled for this Friday but am afraid to go since I have the Lance Armstrong Livestrong Challenge walk on Sunday. I have a call into the acupuncturist to see what he makes of this. I knew it might take some time to get better, but I certainly didn’t expect to feel worse. I’m getting to about that level of pain when it was at it’s worst the last time this happened last fall. I am beginning to understand how people get hooked on prescription drugs (not that I have any, all I have is ibuprofen) as when it hurts so bad and doesn’t stop and you can’t find a comfortable position to sleep you just want to do anything to make it go away. This afternoon the pain has dulled down enough that while I am aware of it, I can think (which is why I am attempting to write this). Sigh, I really want this acupuncture thing to work, the chiropractor didn’t help much last fall and I don’t know what else to do besides heavy drugs or hitting my head against the wall. It’s been more than two months now and it’s wearing me down. I think the worst part is not being able to get comfortable to sleep (which is a fairly recent development), if I can’t sleep it’s hard to do much of anything else.

Okay, back to more pleasant topics. A., Z. and I are walking in the Lance Armstrong Livestrong Challenge walk this coming Sunday. We have raised almost $3000!!!!! I am beyond pleased with the generosity of family and friends, thanks to all of you! (There is still time to donate if you do so online with a credit card, the deadline is August 23rd.) Z.’s very nervous about the 5k (over 3 mile) walk, she thinks she can’t do it, but I’m sure we’ll all manage. We will take our time and do the best we can. Thankfully in general my back feels okay when walking, better than sitting anyway (although I don’t know how hilly the course is, hills could do us all in). Keep your fingers crossed for good weather!

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