Archive for May, 2009



We live in the city, but not the downtown area. The larger neighborhood is bordered on one side by a huge wooded area with all kinds of wildlife. Our backyard is filled with trees and we besides the typical city animals like squirrels, we get things like raccoons, groundhogs and opossum roaming around. I’ve personally never send the last three, but our neighbors do. One neighbor sets out those have a heart traps and sets them free in the tony suburbs (they are all pretty destructive in all of our gardens and at least one neighbor has had a raccoon get into the basement of their house).

So, there’s wildlife, but nothing too exotic, although when we first moved here I saw some wild turkeys go through the backyards, but not since. Our yard is fenced on three sides and the front has privet hedges and bushes but is open at the driveway and front walk. A couple of weeks ago A. was working in the far reaches of our yard, which is pretty wooded and a bit wild and saw a fox sitting in there. He also heard a bunch of crows going nuts. Since then the crows go nuts off and on every day (I think they have a nest high up in the tallest trees). So we figured the fox must still be around but we hadn’t seen it, until yesterday. I was making my breakfast and heard the crows. I looked up and out the window and there, sitting in the grass area of our yard, pretty close to the house, was the fox, grooming himself!

I think the damn thing doesn’t know how to get out of our yard. I don’t know how the heck it got into our yard in the first place, it had to walk pretty far and cross many busy streets to get here. A. emailed the SPCA (supposedly the org that does the animal control for our city) but hasn’t heard back yet. My suspicion is that they won’t do anything unless we have it in a trap (that’s what animal control told me when I had the squirrel stuck in our dining room for 6 hours). It makes me nervous having this fox kind of contained in our yard with Z. and her friends going out there (not that they play outside as much anymore, but still).


Note: sorry for the blurry photos but I had to take them with the zoom all the way out and through the kitchen windows. As soon as I opened the back door the fox ran away.

(eta) And this morning there was a deer in the driveway in the back too! We’ve never gotten deer here, it’s really crazy! Also the fox was having fun cavorting with the squirrels on the back lawn again earlier this morning.


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I watched the Farrah Fawcett documentary on Monday afternoon (dvr’d it Friday night as I wanted to watch it alone). Boy, that was tough, I cried through half of it. But there were a couple things that stuck with me. One was when she talked about how hard it was to come to terms with the fact that she couldn’t *will* her body to heal. Oh boy, can I relate. If will were enough I’d be pretty damn healthy.

The other was when her and one of her German drs. said “we will not surrender”. Dealing with recurrent cancer and knowing that there really isn’t such a thing as a cure, and still being determined to try everything you can to get more time, it’s not what everyone does. Most people I know do, but not everyone.My sister fought that way. You have to balance the effects of treatment with what it’s going to possibly give you. It just breaks my heart to see someone go through so much sh*t (from the treatments and the disease) and still die. Like Farrah is in the process of right now. Like my sister and so many friends have been through already. What I keep hoping I don’t have to go through. Technically recurrent cancer is considered incurable but there are some fine lines. Is the recurrence local or distant, in organs or lymph nodes? Mine is in between, considered regional (and in one lymph node as far as we know). Once it hits major organs like lungs and liver it’s a whole other ballgame. And of course each cancer is different, definitely not the same disease.

Anyway, this program didn’t really help my mood much as I was already feeling apprehensive about the next scan (which I have scheduled for the beginning of August). But I went to my support group yesterday, and while it was tough listening to one group member who isn’t doing well talking about end of life issues, somehow I came out of there feeling more hopeful. I felt determined not to spend the next few months before the scan worrying. I also decided I am going to go right ahead and make plans for the end of August, which I will do regardless of what the scan shows. I needed to remind myself that I am in charge here. I can decide what to do with my life. I hate wasting any day being depressed and sad (it can’t be helped sometimes of course and there are just some days when I have to give in and let it be). Denial is my best coping strategy and that is where I’m going to do my best to stay right now.

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pain dr. appt.

Went to see the pain dr. yesterday. I was happy because my bp was “just” hypertensive (140/90) instead of off the charts (last week the machine couldn’t even read it). Guess the pain drs. aren’t quite as upsetting to me as the oncologists.

So I went with my agenda, pain is worse, stress is worse, what next? This time I saw the fellow or resident, not sure which, and the medical student first. They totally cracked me up when they were checking my heart and lung sounds with the stethoscope.  One would do one side, the other would do the other side, then they would switch sides (not moving around the table, just with their arms) and for some reason the pacing and synchronizing of this just sent me into a fit of giggles. I tried to explain but they didn’t really understand and thought I was strange I think.

Anyway, the resident/fellow said she thought that neurontin (used for a lot of things, but with pain it’s used mostly for nerve pain) might be the next step and that she’d go talk to my dr. and then he would come in. I was like, oh yeah great, another drug you have to take every day (three times a day) with side effects (it makes you really sleepy till you adjust, if you adjust) that probably won’t work. I was happy then when my dr. came in and said that he didn’t see any point in putting me on something like that and he felt that I should try taking the morphine more often. Right now I take one tiny low dose pill at night before bed. He said I could also split the pills and take half and see if that worked.

I have been very resistant of the morphine. Visions of drug addiction I guess. Maybe visions of late stage cancer patient too. But the dose I am using is so small that I can stop it without weaning off of it, so I’m not nearly in either of those camps. Still, I do have a hard time with it. Not to mention that even that tiny little dose can make me really sick to my stomach if I don’t eat enough before taking it. So it can make it difficult to watch one’s eating if you have to eat something when you are not hungry because you need a pain pill.

I asked him if there was a different muscle relaxant that didn’t have so much of a hangover. I find when my back is spasming if I can take that before bed a few nights I can often break the cycle and get some relief. He said sure, and gave me a script for a different one. I have to split the pills in half, so I guess he wants me to take a lower dose than is available. I tried it last night and I slept great and feel fine this morning, no grogginess. I did have to make myself get up at 8:30am though as I felt so good sleeping (and it was dark and rainy outside) that I could have stayed in bed all morning I think.

We also talked about the idea of an anti-depressant, the newer types (effexor or cymbalta), the one I tried before was the old tricyclic type. The reasoning being that those two have helped with chronic pain, and that my stress has been so high lately that it’s contributing to the pain. He thinks it could be worth a try, and if it doesn’t help after a few weeks, or I hate the side effects, I can go off of it. He wants me to get that through my internist though, so I need to contact him and see what he thinks.

So we’ll see how it goes. I’m on the fence about the anti-depressants, I’ll see how I do with the other options first probably.

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This morning I found a place in our dining room in the built in hutches to put all of my Mom’s china which I brought back with me from her condo a couple weekends ago. It’s a very simple pattern, white with a small blue/gray design around the edge and a platinum band. What little china I have of my own is a different pattern and manufacturer but similar colors and has that same platinum band. They actually work well together.

It was a challenge finding the space, and I was determined to place it in such a way that it can be used easily (so not stacked on top of each other). I pulled everything out, put it in, and then started putting back the various things of mine (or my grandmothers or A.’s grandmothers) that I wanted to keep. I pulled out all the things that are kind of everyday ceramic pieces, those shouldn’t be in the dining room anyway. I rearranged and took out some pieces from my standing china hutch. So now I have a dining room table filled with all the things that don’t fit. I will give Z. a few things for her “shrine” room (she is collecting treasures and displaying them on her bookshelves) like a Japanese tea set and sake set we got as a wedding present and don’t use and maybe some of A.’s grandmother’s Lenox pieces (that ivory stuff with the gold band, I am not a fan of Lenox). Although maybe I’ll pack up the Lenox and put away in a box for her for when she’s older since it has some value. The rest, some I’ll give to the Salvation Army thrift store (the mismatched china pieces) and some will go in the kitchen (which means getting rid of things there to make room for them). This is really a big can of worms bringing new things into this house!

Anyway, we used the china yesterday for our Mother’s Day brunch with my IL’s. It was perfect, a way to have my mom there with us. And the china that I never cared one way or the other about before became very beautiful to me. I appreciate it’s simplicity in a way I never did before.

We had a lovely lunch and the visit was nice so I survived Mother’s Day just fine. It probably helped that I hadn’t spent Mother’s Day with my mom in years so it wasn’t a change in tradition. But later that night as I was walking by my computer, the photo slideshow screen saver had a picture of my mom on it that just stopped me in my tracks. She was just standing at a bbq grill, grilling chicken at A.’s sister’s house a number of years ago. But there was this animation in her face that made it feel like she was really standing there. I’ve looked at a lot of pictures of my mom since she died, but none of them affected me quite like this one did. It was only on the screen for a few moments and I felt crushed when it went away. Damn, I miss her.

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health crap whine

It’s that time again, I saw my med onc yesterday. I’ll see the pain dr. next week. I should be seeing the gyn onc this month too, but whenever I go they never have his calendar up and whenever I call they still don’t have his calendar up, so I end up forgetting, almost every time. I called yesterday, as I remembered in the middle of talking to the med onc that I didn’t have an appt. scheduled, and May is booked up and he doesn’t have his calendar up for June yet. Supposedly I should try again next week. Sigh.

Anyway, in case I have never mentioned it, I HATE going to the drs. Doesn’t matter what dr. it is, I just hate it but I particularly hate going to see cancer drs. Can’t imagine why. So for this appt. I did not have to have a ct-scan like I have been having to get before each appt. for a long time now, but I did have to have blood work done. Because of a pesky blood test measuring ca-125, this is not quite but almost as stressful as a ct-scan for me. It’s supposed to be a cancer marker, but it’s not a very clear cut one. It’s been used in ovarian cancer but more recently in endometrial cancer also. Mine was not even measured until a little over a year ago and it has been above normal (normal is under 32) and it continues to inch up (previously it was 47, 54 and this one was 68). What does this mean? They can’t tell me. They say they would be more concerned if it had doubled or more than for these small increases which can be normal fluctuations. HOWEVER, this does seem to concern them enough that instead of having my next appt. and scan in 4 months, like they had told me the last appt., they want me to have my appt. and scan in 3 months. Does that month really matter? I don’t think so, but it’s just their restraint, cautiousness, or whatever that makes it feel bad. He said, if this scan is okay then we’ll move you back out to 4 months (I sure hope he meant the appts., not the scans, I didn’t think about that at the time he said it).

Okay, so I am sick of this already. I have not had a good few months as my health is still crap in other ways, my pain is still too high, and of course the stress of my mother dying and three members of my Wellness Community support group dying since March (the most recent was last week) doesn’t help. I start every day with my blood pressure reading (not awful, but not great), blood sugar readings (too high, but not uncontrolled) and getting on the scale (which has been going up and up, and don’t tell me not to get on it, it’s honestly the only thing that keeps me from gaining at a much faster rate). The blood work came back with low kidney function (been a problem for a while now but this one was worse), a borderline high liver function (not worse than it’s been though), and high a1c (but for a diabetic, which I guess I have to technically call myself now, it is still considered controlled, but it’s getting close and has gone up each test for the last year or so).

My blood pressure at the drs. office was so high that the machine couldn’t read it. The nurse did it again and tsk’d and said “do you even want to know what it is?” I said no. She said this was more than white coat hypertension. I said that it only happens when I go to the drs., not at home. She said they (the drs.) were going to come in and “yell” at me about it. I said, no, they won’t say a word, they never do. She said, oh they read it. I said, well they still don’t say anything. And sure enough, they never said a word. I was so annoyed by this interaction with the nurse. And this is the nurse that I like! It’s like a frigging scolding like I had a choice about what my blood pressure was going to be. I see my internist, I take blood pressure meds, I measure it every day, I watch my salt intake, what more can I do? Lose weight I guess but that’s been downright impossible lately. I certainly don’t need nurses taking me to task for it like I’m a bad child. Really pissed me off.

So the fellow comes in first as usual (I realized that this was probably the last time I’d see him as they change fellows in June/July so when I go back in August it will be the newbie fellow). We went over my bloodwork. I told him that I was pretty stressed, too much dying lately. He was the one who thought I should come back in 3 months instead of 4 and when the med onc came in later said so to him and he agreed.

Anyway we (the fellow and I) discussed my back pain and I mentioned that someone had suggested I try another type of anti-depressant (one of the newer types, rather than the old tricyclics that they had me try before) and that besides it’s possible pain reducing benefit, that the evening out of my stress levels might help. He said he was all for that. I’m going to talk to the pain dr. about it next week. I have concerns because of drug interactions with things I am already taking and with effects on my blood pressure.

Oh, and last week my internist mentioned I could go on meds (metformin) for my blood sugars also. At this point it’s a choice, but if my a1c goes up past 7 then it’s not a choice anymore. So many medications, all interacting with each other. Makes me nuts!!! I think I will hold off on the metformin for now. Maybe if I can get my pain under control it will be easier to control my eating and if I feel better I can move more which will also help. It’s all a catch-22, I sometimes feel like one of those snow boulders running down the hill gathering up more snow and more speed as it goes.

51 years old and already all this crap.

But the real issue is not all these things. The real thing that has me upset today is that the cancer thing is back in my face. I  was doing a good job going along acting as if the cancer was gone and that’s that, it’s not coming back. Makes it easier to enjoy life if I think that way. But that’s been taken away again. Now I have those doubts back. How long do I have before my life is taken over by chemo, how long do I have period? I try not to dwell, but it’s really hard to have that threat hanging over me all the time. Like right now over the coming months I have to get my mom’s condo cleared out (first enough to sell it, and then once sold the rest of it) and I know I can’t do it if I’m having chemo, I’ll be too sick and tired. So since I have a reprieve till August it’s a huge pressure to get it done by then. Since the condo is at least 3 hours away it’s not like I can do a little here and there, it requires planning and weekend trips (we’re planning one a month and a week in July). Just another ongoing stress.

So, a big whine from me today, but one that I think I really had to express. I feel on the edge these days, I mostly do fine, but little things can tip me over, mostly stuff that doesn’t matter. But these big things are the constants that don’t go away. Kind of like my back pain. Cancer drs. and Mother’s Day in the same week? Probably not the best thing.

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