Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Playlist for a New Hampshire summer

Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head
The Rain in Spain is Mainly on the Plain
I Saw the Rains Down in Africa
Soon It's Gonna Rain
Singin' in the Rain
Rain, Rain, Beautiful Rain
Rain, Rain, Go Away
Stormy Weather

And, at this rate

Old Noah Built Himself an Ark
The Trout Quintet

Not to mention the song Jerry suggested,

When I Marry Sweet Lorraine

Any others?

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Old dogs, new tricks department

When people ask what I do all day, I'm embarrassed to admit that I spend a lot of time with electronic stuff. Most of it is the various learning curves.

I got a Kindle for Christmas and an iphone for my birthday, and while both are supposed to be intuitive, neither exactly fits my kind of intuition, though I love playing with both. I now have something like 34 books on my active Kindle list and about 40 more in the back-up, otherwise known as "it would have to be a very small desert island for me to be desperate enough to read these."
You can get some really good free stuff for the kindle. And some real crap.

Then there's the iphone. I knew I was hooked yesterday when I was stuck waiting in the bank without my knitting and ended up playing Scrabble. The only other person waiting was in her early 20's, and she, too, was twiddling her thumbs over a small rectangular piece of equipment. I felt so part of the modern world.

Meanwhile, Jerry, driven mad by the three straight weeks of rainy weather which have dispirited the garden and made it impossible for him to do the painting jobs he'd planned on the house, suddenly joined Facebook. It's turned him into a seven-year-old. Wistfully, "Do you think anyone will want to be my friend?" or "Do you realize that I have a lot of friends, and they're all under 40?" or "Will I hurt so-and-so's feelings if I don't want to be his friend?" and now, "You know, some people post very inane messages."

So, to make him happy, become his friend and send him something philosophical.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009


My latest CA19-9 is 83, down from last month's 93, but still way above my best, 32 in January. I've done better, done worse, but at least the trend is in the right direction.
Today is chemofunk day, the day after treatment when I feel not so great. It isn't that I feel nausea or am in pain. I just have no energy and when I try to do anything I give up and lie back down on the couch. Jerry makes supper, and it's always so good that I consider claiming chemofunk for a couple more days. (Yes, Dr. Nickerson, my appetite is good.) However, by evening I know that tomorrow morning I'll have my energy back.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Thoughts from my book

I've spent the past two weeks working on a piece for the book I'm writing. I went back to the time when we first got the news, now sixteen months ago, trying to sort out how I felt then and write it down without being maudlin or, on the other hand, too Pollyanna-ish. At that time I didn't know that I'd have the wonderful gift of these sixteen months or how well I'd feel most of the time during them.

I once read that people with permanent handicaps call the rest of us the "TABs" -- the temporarily able-bodied. Everyone is vulnerable. Accident, disease, or old age happens to each of us, usually without warning. Most of us spend our lives as though good health will last forever. Which is the way it should be.

What amazes me is the strength and resilience people show when the inevitable trauma strikes. I think of a friend who is dealing simultaneously with a hip replacement and a husband in the early stages of Alzheimers. She does it in a delightfully crisp, no-nonsense, New England style. Other friends or family members deal with MS without making a fuss about it, at least in public.

People are wonderful.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Woody Allen made me think

Yesterday I heard Woody Allen say in an interview on NPR, "First of all, life is short. And it's dull."
Allen is 74 years old. He's already had nine years more than I've had. He can probably expect at least nine more than that.
If those eighteen years are so all-fired dull, I'd be willing to take them off his hands, just out of the kindness of my heart you understand. I'm sure I could find a few things to do with them.

I took this picture this morning on my walk. It's Arthur, a neighbor who happens to be around Woody Allen's age or a bit older, busy trying to destroy the beaver dam on the pond. Every night the beaver builds up the dam, and every morning Arthur mucks it out. They both have the attitude of "well, somebody's got to do it."

Maybe neither of them is doing Great Creative Work, and certainly neither of them is getting much fame or fortune for it. But neither of them is sitting around complaining that life is dull.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Regular oncologist visit

Once every month I have the big blood draw for liver function and CA19-9 as well as the usual red and white counts. Then I see the oncologist, and after that I have the first chemo of the new cycle.
That was yesterday. The appointments with Dr. Nickerson follow a routine, and while he's always friendly and ready to answer all Jerry's or my questions, it's obvious that most of the time this is not the most exciting case he deals with all day -- which is fine with us.
He asks how I'm doing, if there have been any changes, if my appetite is good, and then he checks my lymph nodes, looks down my throat, and listens to my breathing. Then he sends me off for the chemo. This time we talked about the new ulcer meds. The real side effects (aside from purple spots) have included some arthritic aches and fluid retention, but they seem to be getting better.
And we arranged the chemo schedule around our Utah trip, which makes the trip seem even closer.

We go out to the infusion room and play scrabble while I get the chemo.

Interesting people today: a young man who told J that he "liked the shirt with the vertical stripes," and then almost immediately told a nurse that he "liked her blouse with the flowers on it," in each case without any leadup or followup. Obviously he had something else going on besides cancer.

A prisoner plus guard was off to the right. The prisoner was wearing an orangejumpsuit and shackles. The poor guy was getting Lasix (?) which makes one have to pee, so at about five-minute intervals he'd head for the bathroom, encumbered by the shackles, the IV pole, and the bored guard.

A woman sitting between the prisoner and me looked scared and upset. The nurse explained to her that she needed a port, that it would make chemo and blood draws much simpler, and that look, this woman (me) had one and didn't mind it at all. She gestured me over to show off my port. I did and also did my best selling job on ports, especially after the poor woman showed me her bruised arms where the phlebotomists hadn't been able to find any more veins. Don't know if I persuaded her.

(I won the scrabble game, to the cheers of the nursing staff. They're all on my side.)

Sunday, June 14, 2009

birthday celebrations

Max, Anya, Miles (and Stella the dog) came up between Max's and Anya's birthdays to celebrate. Wonderful day.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Gratitude journals

A couple of years ago I got involved in an "increase your happiness" project through a university. I dropped out when my ankle and then my pancreas fell apart because at that point I found it really hard to keep a gratitude journal.
Then a few days ago I found a gratitude journal app for the iphone, and I remembered that while I was keeping the gratitude journal I did, indeed, feel some good effects. Here are two examples of the research I found on the internet about this particular kind of journaling:

Robert A. Emmons, University of California, Davis
Gratitude Interventions and Psychological and Physical Well-Being

In an experimental comparison, those who kept gratitude journals on a weekly basis exercised more regularly, reported fewer physical symptoms, felt better about their lives as a whole, and were more optimistic about the upcoming week compared to those who recorded hassles or neutral life events (Emmons & McCullough, 2003).

In a sample of adults with neuromuscular disease, a 21-day gratitude intervention resulted in greater amounts of high energy positive moods, a greater sense of feeling connected to others, more optimistic ratings of one’s life, and better sleep duration and sleep quality, relative to a control group.

Well-Being: Grateful people report higher levels of positive emotions, life satisfaction, vitality, optimism and lower levels of depression and stress. The disposition toward gratitude appears to enhance pleasant feeling states more than it diminishes unpleasant emotions. Grateful people do not deny or ignore the negative aspects of life.

Prosociality: People with a strong disposition toward gratitude have the capacity to be empathic and to take the perspective of others. They are rated as more generous and more helpful by people in their social networks (McCullough, Emmons, & Tsang, 2002).

Prof. Robert Emmons studies gratitude for a living as Professor of Psychology at UC Davis and is Editor-In-Chief of the Journal of Positive Psychology. He has just published Thanks: How the New Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier , an interdisciplinary book that provides a research-based synthesis of the topic as well as practical suggestions.
What are the 3 key messages that you would like readers to take away from your book?
First, the practice of gratitude can increase happiness levels by around 25%. Second, this is not hard to achieve - a few hours writing a gratitude journal over 3 weeks can create an effect that lasts 6 months if not more. Third, that cultivating gratitude brings other health effects, such as longer and better quality sleep time.

How can you lose? I've often counted over all of the big reasons I have to be grateful, from family and friends through the good people at the hospital all the way down to the availability of saunas, but maybe it's time to start the project again (and I challenge you to try it, too). The rules are that every day you write down five things, preferably that have happened that day, for which you are grateful. I'll do this on my own time, not here, but I wanted to share the concept with you. Besides, it's only 8:40 a.m. and I already have five, some bigger than others, but all good.
1. Both Take Five and Lush Life played on my iphone during my morning walk.
2. The cat spent our meditation time trying to lick my nose and totally destroyed my focus.
3. Coffee tastes sooooo good again.
4. An email from my publisher says that Borders has ordered an amazing number of the ELL text I wrote years ago.
5. The rest of the day includes two of my favorite things: a get-together with the Top of the Hill Friends and, this evening, yoga.
And each of these branches into so many other things that I'm thankful for that I could spend the rest of the day writing, which in itself I appreciate every day.
It never stops.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Great weekend

I've noticed that I never know how bad I was feeling until I feel better. Now I definitely feel better, and was able to go on the traditional twice-a-year Boston trip with three out of four of the usual group. (Toni, we miss you.) For about twenty years in spring and fall we've met in Boston, first at a wonderful coffee shop called Rudi's, then when that closed in various not-so-good places, then at the new Rudi's, except that this one has now closed. This time we made do with Panera's. We always have coffee, splurge on a pastry, then go off in separate directions to shop and wander around. When we meet we try a new restaurant each time. We've been to Chinatown, eaten at a Turkish restaurant, gone traditional with an Irish pub and one of Boston's oldest seafood restaurants, and have eaten on Newbury St. and at Quincy Market. The meals are always almost as good as the company. Then we usually wander around Quincy Market where the people watching is the best, and then come home. I was a bit worried that I'd be worn out by the day, but as I said at the beginning, I feel good.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

So far so good

I'm feeling well after two days on the new medication, and I'm happy to say that I don't seem to have any major side effects:

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Good news

My friend Nancy, who was a nurse, says that whenever you're expecting results from a lab, you should call them early and frequently, so even though Dr. K said that the biopsy results wouldn't be in for a week or so, I called his office today and the nurse/receptionist said
There is no sign of malignancy.
No sign of H. pylori either, so who knows why I have an ulcer? But I do, a non-malignant one that seems to be responding to the latest meds. I started the latest yesterday and even today I notice how much better I'm feeling.