Tuesday, September 29, 2009

H1N1 and me

No, I don't have it. And, apparently, I'm not at risk. You can't imagine how great this makes me feel. I get my regular flu shot and make Jerry get his every year because the experts always point out that people with compromised immune systems including people with cancer are especially at risk.

But the CDC lists the following in descending order as those most at risk for H1N1:
*pregnant women
*those with asthma or diabetes
*people between the ages of 6 months and 24 years
*health care workers
*people who care for infants
*people between the ages of 25-64 with other health problems

I'm not in there. This makes me feel so ... healthy. Sure I'll get the shot, eventually, but right now I'm glad to be in line behind all those vulnerable people. Me, I'm made of steel.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Why we need a new car

Or do we? Could we get along comfortably with just one car (okay, two if you count the 1976 Plymouth station wagon that we use for going to the dump and getting sheetrock)? But the other real car, which means the one I can drive, is getting old and rusty, and has trouble getting up our hill in the winter. Last December we needed a car that would get us, post ice-storm and nervous, to the ER at 3:30 a.m. It would be nice to assume that we won't have any more emergencies, but who knows?
We loved the KIA, but the body of mine at least seems to have been made of tinfoil, so we're thinking of something a bit more solidly built. Other requirements: small, all-wheel drive, automatic. Any suggestions?

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Friday evening

From the Fire Mutual Aid Log in the Keene Sentinel
Friday, September 18 5:54 p.m. Swanzey Fire Department to 767 West Swanzey Road, motor vehicle crash, two injuries.

All those years I teased my high school students as they prepared for their drivers' tests, "While you're out practicing, just watch out for my car and go up on the sidewalk to avoid it, or you'll get an F in my class." So we got rear-ended by a high school kid with a learner's permit who didn't notice that Jerry had slowed down and turned on his blinker for our turn into the restaurant parking lot. Jerry and I, in the front seats, were fine but shaken, but both of our passengers felt their necks were whiplashed.

It was amazing how quickly the emergency vehicles arrived. As a matter of fact, one of the fire department people told me that he lived a few houses down, heard the crash, and alerted the fire department. In no time, we had two fire trucks, three police cars, and two ambulances flashing lights around us. Everyone was completely professional and sympathetic, checking in at frequent intervals on Barbara, who kept cracking jokes, to their surprise.

The teenager looked shocked, his father as though he might have a few choice words to say to him when they got home. Jerry and I stood there answering questions. I suddenly realized that we were the people by the side of the road that all the cars slowed down to gawk at.

Barbara and Bill were carefully loaded into ambulances for a trip to the ER; our car was towed away; and a police officer gave us a ride home in the patrol car, pointing out that it would be a much pleasanter experience than most people got, since we wouldn't be wearing the handcuffs.

We were in the newer car rather than the older one.
I didn't have my iphone with me, so can't post dramatic pictures.
Our grandson wasn't there to watch all of the emergency vehicles. He'd have loved the sight.
And I feel bad for the poor kid who caused it.

Barbara and Bill are okay, with no apparent permanent harm.
We're both fine, as are the people who were in the car that hit us.
The insurance seems to be taking care of getting the car repaired.
I've had new experiences that I never expected to.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Signs of Fall

I'm not talking about taking down the hummingbird feeder, or the ducks leaving the pond across from the house, or even the first red leaves appearing on a few maples. For us, there are three definite signals that summer is over and we're getting ready for autumn and winter.

We get out the crockpot and start to eat mush for breakfast instead of cold cereal. Jerry puts a secret mixture of various grains (and for all I know, slightly used sawdust) into the pot at night and in the morning we have a hot and stick-to-the-ribs breakfast, at least until the weather warms up again and we switch back to cold cereal.

I get overwhelmed with the worry that we're going to starve during the winter if I don't preserve everything in sight. I want to be sure that we're prepared for anything like last year's great ice storm. Of course, ironically, I was in the hospital for that and wasn't allowed to eat anything, but if it happens again this winter and I'm out and around, we're ready for it. It better happen, too, because otherwise what will we do with approximately 60 jars of jams, jellies, chutney, salsa, sweet and sour sauce, and relish? For two of us. (Pat, I owe you a jar of peach jam in return for those wonderful peaches.)

But the real way you can tell that fall is coming is that Jerry starts a major indoor project. Inspired by Max and Anya's kitchen redo, he started talking last week about what we could do, if we really wanted to, but really, he was just thinking about it and playing around with the idea. Yesterday was the magic day when he came in with the crowbar, so I guess we're committed now.

I love spring and summer best, but fall is good, too.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Patrick Swayze

No man is an island,
Entire of itself.
Each is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manner of thine own
Or of thine friend's were.
Each man's death diminishes me,
For I am involved in mankind.
Therefore, send not to know
For whom the bell tolls,
It tolls for thee.

John Donne

Anyone who knows me knows that I'm not exactly celebrity-obsessed. All of us with pancreatic cancer, though, feel connected to Patrick Swayze. I was diagnosed at about the same time as he was, and like him, I was unable to have the Whipple procedure. Over the past 18 months I've followed his situation through the media and through the pancreatic cancer forums, which pick over any scraps of information like archeologists trying to determine the shape of a pot through a few scratched shards.

A typical conversation on the forums went like this:
"Does anyone know what treatment Patrick Swayze is getting?"
"He's being treated at Stanford, so he's probably getting something better than the rest of us."
"They say it's experimental."
"Don't be an idiot, the govt only oks Gemzar and Tarceva, so anything else is experimental, it doesn't mean he's getting better treatment than we are."
"I wish he was on the boards so he could tell us."
"Give the man his privacy, who wants to suffer in public?"

It was a combination of knowledgeable and sympathetic. Today the boards have reflected posters' feelings of personal loss. For us, he was not just a wonderful dancer and a great entertainer. He was one of us, in part important because he was a public face of the disease. We run through our poster boys rather fast, and he's been the most famous one since Randy Pausch died last year. More than that, though, he went through what we go through. Chemo was not easier for him because he was famous, and the best doctors at Stanford weren't able to make the Whipple possible for him.

He was a piece of the continent that is pancreatic cancer, and all of us hear the sound of the bell tolling.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Lots of good news

a) My CAT scan shows no change in my innards since last September. This is amazing and very good news.

b) My CA19-9 has gone down from 180 last month to 129 this month. This is what we want it to be doing.

c) Dr. Nickerson says that since my appetite continues good, I haven't been losing weight, and (except for chemofunk day) I feel well, I am well. No changes in my chemo regimen, no extra testing needed for a while. Another relief.

And, as far as the slight pain and nausea (and inability to eat french fries) are concerned, I'll start taking pancreatic enzymes with meals, which is something that most people with pc have to do from day 1. I've been lucky to do without for so long.

So all is well.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Tuesday testing

Tomorrow I go in for a CAT scan and more bloodwork. No picture of the bloodwork, to save Jerry's sensibilities. He usually goes out to get coffee while they draw my blood.

We go in to see Dr. Nickerson on Thursday to get the results of these tests and decide what happens next. I've been having mild stomach pain a lot of the time with something a bit more major whenever I eat things like french fries or more than a half a glass of wine. I suppose not eating anything fried or drinking anything alcoholic is an option. I suppose.

Plus there are the rising CA19-9 numbers, so generally it seems as though it's time for the retests and then to revisit my treatment plan and see if it needs tweaking.

Meanwhile we've had about two weeks of celebrating our 42nd anniversary, including getaways to our favorite getaway places.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Creativity--the planter and la cloche

Jerry can't leave an awkward pipe just sticking up in the middle of the lawn, so now we have a planter. What's in it now is just for illustration, but come spring we'll put in something bright and flashy. Or maybe tomatoes.

I play around with artisan breads (ie anything that isn't shaped quite symmetrically) and for ages have wanted a cloche, a pottery bell that encloses the bread as it bakes. Miriam, sister-in-law and amazing potter, created a cloche for me and I tried it out yesterday. Perfect!

I like hanging out with creative people. Shall I mention the wonderful colors and patterns Anya chose for their new house? The ways that she and Max bring Miles up? Luther's incredible quilting? And that is just my side of the family. If I added in the Germer side and included my writing, knitting, musical friends this post would go on forever. I am so lucky.