January 29, 2015

Visualize white blood cells

My white blood cells from Monday's lab draw were too low to permit me to have chemo on Tuesday. I've been caught between too much energy and things to do; fatigue after being too active; napping for two hours or longer every afternoon; and more insomnia at night.

Which is why I'm typing at 11:18 pm.

I go back to Dr G's  office for labs tomorrow and then we'll see what he orders in the way of treatment.

In the meanwhile it's supposed to be sunny and warm(er) again in Seattle, so Rik and I will run some fun errands at the Pike Place Market. I have a craving for sumac, which I can only find at Market Spice, and there's a new gelato place I hear I must try. It's a date day!

This is the toy white blood cell I received as a gift.
Now you know what to visualize.

January 19, 2015

New computer

I didn't realize what a control freak I remain, even after living with advanced cancer for twelve-plus years (something that one has no control over), until we bought a new iMac last week.

We'd been talking about this for more than a year, since the old computer was hit by lightning. Don't ask. It hadn't failed completely but it was older and slow. We have had Macs for years.

I was at The Mac Store getting iPhone advice from Mike the Macologist. Afterwards I browsed the new iMacs and saw there was a special loan: buy one of the two models on the deal and pay 0% interest for six, twelve or eighteen months. Like buying a new car except less money. (Hah.) I texted Rik back and forth, the deal expired the next day, so we went back together and bought a new computer.

Rik set it up. All is hunky dory, except I can't get used to the new keyboard (no number pad, only a back delete button). Or the updated software, such as Safari. Where are the emails in the Mail inbox? Where are my Notes? Yes, Rik backed up everything before we bought the new computer, but some things are either still hiding or never copied.

I'm trying to use Pages for the first time. I haven't even tried Numbers, although it's certainly a better name than Excel. And I know very little about Power Point, so Keynote hasn't been an issue. Yet.

In short, my control freakiness is still present and accounted for. I'm sure this is because there are so many things I have so little control over in my life. Nonetheless, I am frustrated, trying to learn new tricks, and trying not to take out too much of this frustration on Rik.

Just venting here.

January 12, 2015

Tumor marker down again

Just a quick update to say that my tumor marker went down another 30 points after last month's chemo. Dr G is watching my red cell count (I am a bit anemic). My white cell count is okay but my platelets are low.

I started another round of Abraxane again today. Plus Avastin and Faslodex (two shots in the tuchis). I'm still taking Aromasin daily as well as Cymbalta, L-glutamine powder and gabapentin/neurontin to help with the neuropathy in my feet. And a multivitamin. And vitamin D (not so much sunshine here in the Pacific Northwest). And calcium/magnesium. I'm sure there's something else mixed in there.

How do I keep all this straight?

January 06, 2015

Jewish Haiku/Jewish Zen

This was in an email from my friend P. Haiku are Japanese poems of seventeen syllables, in three lines of five, seven, and five, traditionally evoking images of the natural world.

Beyond Valium,
peace is knowing one's child
is an internist.

On Passover we
opened the door for Elijah.
Now our dog is gone.

After the warm rain
the sweet smell of camellias.
Did you wipe your feet?

Her lips near my ear,
Aunt Sadie whispers the name
of her friend's disease.

Today I am a man
Tomorrow I will return
to the seventh grade.

Testing the warm milk
on her wrist, she sighs softly
But her son is forty.

The sparkling blue sea
reminds me to wait an hour
after my sandwich.

Like a bonsai tree
is your terrible posture
at my dinner table.

Jews on safari --
map, compass, elephant gun,
hard sucking candies.

The same kimono
the top geishas are wearing:
I got it at Loehmann's.

The shiva visit:
so sorry about your loss.
Now back to my problems.

Mom, please!
There is no need
to put that dinner roll in your purse.

Sorry I'm not home
to take your call. At the tone
please state your bad news.

Is one Nobel Prize
so much to ask from a child
after all I've done?

Today, mild shvitzing.
Tomorrow, so hot you'll plotz
Five-day forecast: feh.

Yenta. Shmeer. Gevalt.
Shlemiel. Shlimazl. Meshuganah
Oy! To be fluent!

Quietly murmured
at Saturday Synagogue services,
Blue Jays 5, Red Sox 3.

A lovely nose ring,
excuse me while I put my
head in the oven.

Hard to tell under the lights.
White kippah or
male-pattern baldness.

Jewish Buddhism:
If there is no self
whose arthritis is this?

Be here now.
Be someplace else later.
Is that so complicated?

Drink tea and nourish life;
with the first sip, joy;
with the second sip, satisfaction;
with the third sip, peace;
with the fourth, a Danish.

Wherever you go, there you are.
Your luggage is another story.

Accept misfortune as a blessing.
Do not wish for perfect health, or a life without problems.
What would you talk about?

The journey of a thousand miles begins with
a single Oy.

There is no escaping karma.
In a previous life,
you never called,
you never wrote,
you never visited.
And whose fault was that?

Zen is not easy.
It takes effort to attain nothingness.
And then what do you have?

The Tao does not speak,
does not blame,
does not take sides.
The Tao has no expectations,
demands nothing of others.
It is not Jewish.

Breathe in.
Breathe out.
Breathe in.
Breathe out
Forget this and attaining Enlightenment will be
the least of your problems.

Let your mind be as a floating cloud.
Let your stillness be as a wooded glen
And sit up straight.
You'll never meet the Buddha with such
rounded shoulders.

Deep inside you are ten thousand flowers.
Each flower blossoms ten thousand times.
Each blossom has ten thousand petals.
You might want to see a specialist.

Be aware of your body.
Be aware of your perceptions.
Keep in mind that not every physical
sensation is a
symptom of a terminal illness.

The Torah says,
Love your neighbor as yourself.
The Buddha says,
There is no self.
Maybe we're off the hook.

January 01, 2015

Happy new year!

2014 was fun, a little rocky, but definitely a good year. Facebook friends can see highlights there. They include:

  • wonderful meals and gatherings with friends 
  • that (mostly) fabulous trip to Bulgaria
  • reaping the fruits of our garden
  • successfully revisiting a former chemotherapy
  • family visits
  • chocolate and more chocolate!

We just returned from a family visit, and I am a bit jet-lagged but wanted to post a new year's wish.

May this year be filled with good health, prosperity, and the ability to find daily joy in things large and small.

And chocolate. Plenty of chocolate!

This is the way a cancer patient travels by air to avoid exposure to germs
when in the chemo nadir (low and riskiest point). Nice selfie, don't you agree?

December 21, 2014

Long time no blog

It's been busy here. Since the transfusion I've had mixed energy, not what you'd expect from getting fresh blood. Twice I've taken dextroamphetamine as per Dr G just to get started in the morning. Today's real (as opposed to decaf) coffee didn't do it for me.

But I did manage to make 25 potato latkes for our block party this afternoon. The house smells like fried oil, as it should during Chanukah. Rik took the selfie below on the first night when it was just us.  You can find my dad's latke recipe here.

On Friday night we went to friends for a latke-fest and I baked a six-pointed "Jewish" star shaped challah. It was well-received with many an ooh and ahh. One guest pointed out that her Swedish grandmother used to make cardamom bread (I fill my challah ropes with cardamom and brown sugar), and that this challah smelled like love to her. What a lovely thing to say!

Bob spent the day at the groomer but it's hard to tell in this photo. Boychik did the same a couple of weeks ago, so both dogs are now dematted for a few months. FYI, Boychik had a small cyst on his back leg that only showed up when his hair was cut. The vet removed and biopsied it and it's benign - no cancer!

And that seems to be all the news of the day! Happy Chanukah, and I wish us all a happy and healthy, joy-filled new year.

December 12, 2014

Two of three problems fixed

1. A head cold since November 8th;
2. A sinus infection since last week;
3. Anemia (low red blood cell count)

In somewhat different order:

Last week the pounding in my head and pain in my sinuses was clearly, in my experience, a sinus infection of great magnitude. It took me a few days to get a referral and an appointment with an ear-nose-throat doctor (ENT). Yet another one of my ever-growing medical specialists, Dr Burgoyne diagnosed me right away, prescribed antibiotics, and told me to call by Thursday if things hadn't improved. Which they have.

At Wednesday's chemo session, Dr G took a look at my labs and told the nurse I had anemia and needed a blood transfusion. This has happened only once before over these past 12+ years. (I love saying "12+ years!") They type and cross your blood each time and yes, I'm still O+, and give you Benadryl and Tylenol before you get the blood.

On Thursday I received two liters of blood, which took almost seven hours, from 9:30 am to 4 pm. I picked up a mocha on the way to the hospital and noshed on chocolate throughout the day. Plus I had the usual delicious Swedish lunch of soup, tuna sandwich on rye, and chips for the second day in a row. I napped most of the day but did manage to read the newspaper. I drove home and went to bed at 6:00.

Today I felt in recovery mode after being at Swedish two days in a row. I slept in, eventually waking up to shower, change the sheets, start laundry, feed myself, etc. My friend G and I were supposed to go to the local Star Trek convention today, but I lacked the energy. I didn't even have enough energy to walk the dogs, so they have been canoodling with me all day instead and nobody complained. Rik will be home soon and he will walk them. I'll roast a chicken in honor of Shabbat and the fact that my cheeks are now pink once more!

PS I still have the head cold. What can you do? Send me some virtual chicken soup, please.

December 09, 2014

I've been nominated in Healthline’s 2014 Best Health Blog Contest

I got this in my email today:

Hi Jill,
I’d like to congratulate you on being nominated in Healthline’s 2014 Best Health Blog Contest! You can see the contest here:http://www.healthline.com/health/best-health-blogs-contest
Each year, we recognize and honor the top health blogs of the year with our annual Best Health Blogs Contest. The contest shines light on those blogs that have really made an impact on their reader community and provided them with valuable information and resources to help them live better, healthier lives. We are happy to let you know that you have been nominated in the contest!
The contest started this Monday, December 1st and will run through January 15th. We will award cash prizes (up to $1000!) for the top 3 blogs with the most votes.
Please share the page with your followers and ask them to vote for you. Users can vote once every 24 hours, so please continue to share and encourage your followers to vote!
You can create a badge for you site that recognizes your nomination and encourages those to vote for you here:http://www.healthline.com/health/contest-badges
Please let me know if you have any questions!
Thanks,Maggie Danhakl • Assistant Marketing ManagerHealthline • The Power of Intelligent Health660 Third Street, San Francisco, CA 94107www.healthline.com | @Healthline | @HealthlineCorp
About Us: corp.healthline.com 

(The "vote for me link" is on the upper right.)

November 30, 2014


It may seem trite or overused to say what we're thankful for on Thanksgiving Day. After all, every day can provide us with such moments if we can stop to appreciate them. So here goes….

I am thankful for:

  • still living well after 12+ years with metastatic breast cancer (this is something of a miracle owed to Dr G, luck and God, not necessarily in that order)
  • my loving husband and our close knit families, although those families live on the other side of the continent
  • our deeply connected families of the heart, with whom we have found decades of companionship
  • the unconditional love of pets (Dunky, Kitzel, Pumpkin, Bobka and Boychik)

I read recently on Facebook about an easy thankfulness practice. Starting on January 1 (or really, any time), label a jar and put it in a visible place in your home. Every day, or as often as you feel so moved, write on a slip of paper some experience that brought you joy. By the end of the year, you will have a jar full of memories to be thankful for, and the opportunity to recreate a year full of joy.

November 24, 2014

Sniffle sniffle

For the past ten days I've had innumerable cups of tea (the hot water just came to a boil now). Plenty of Tylenol. So many hours on the couch or in bed. And yet this cold, or whatever it is, remains stuck with me. Plus last week's Avastin gave me nosebleeds, and the Abraxane fatigue is on top of everything else.

In these few days before the Thanksgiving holiday, I know I can't get in to see Dr G (I tried last week). So for what I hope is a minor upper respiratory thing-y, I will try to call my primary care doctor and see a) if she can see me, and b) if there's anything she can do. If Dr K is too busy I may have to ride out this cold-or-whatever-it-is until I see Dr G next week.

Not looking for advice here; just "pissing and moaning" about feeling yucky. I hardly ever catch a cold, and certainly not one which lasts this long.

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I dance with cancer. Oy!