June 28, 2012

First fruits

Here are the first of our raspberries and strawberries! Now if only the sun would shine for a few more days...

Scan results - I think

I think the news is good but won't be certain until tomorrow. When I saw Dr G this morning, he had prepared to tell me that the scan results were bad -- but then we realized that the radiologist reading the scan had compared it to one from August 2011, not May 2012. Dr G was unhappy; he's had this experience before. His staff called radiology and the scan should be re-read tomorrow. Then Dr G pulled up the images and he did a comparison to the May images. In his opinion, things look good, but he still wants a radiologist's opinion.

The other good news is that my both tumor markers have decreased by 10 points. However, in the case of the CEA, the percentage of decrease is much larger than that of the CA 27.29. So I will continue on the Afinitor combo. I also had my monthly double shot of Faslodex today.

I kvetched a little to Dr G about the neuropathy in my feet, and he remembered a report from the recent ASCO conference about how the drug Cymbalta (duloxetine) reduces peripheral neuropathy pain. Dr G wrote a prescription which I expect to pick up later today. This drug quite expensive, so we may be in for a conversation with the health insurance company again.

June 26, 2012

Scans

Tomorrow I will have a CT scan to determine what's happening with my bone and liver mets. Dr G doesn't like to order too many scans for me -- lots of radiation isn't good, especially if one has lived as long as I have with advanced cancer -- but scans give good information on the cancer's progression. It's been a month since I last saw Dr G, so a scan and labs are in order. I will see him on Thursday and get the results then.

So what have I been up to? I have been feeling very well lately, hence my lack of posting. I am too busy just living my life! In the past week I:

  • attended a meeting of my support group of young women with metastatic breast cancer
  • found out that yet another young woman I know has been diagnosed with mets
  • went to a synagogue committee meeting
  • took the rabbi out to lunch at Cafe Flora 
  • participated in a telephone marketing survey for a cancer drug
  • went to my regular support group
  • attended a high school graduation party for a friend's child (and baked quadruple-chocolate cookies, made with melted dark chocolate, chocolate chips, cocoa and chocolate nibs)
  • slept through my yoga class (sorry!)
  • led the Torah service on Shabbat and since I was the only Cohen present at the time, also had an aliyah
  • hosted lunch for some friends from my days dancing in Radost
  • celebrated the wedding anniversary of some good friends
  • and took the Theo Chocolate factory tour again and ate too much chocolate today!

As you can see, life has been filled with good times. I aim to keep it that way.


June 19, 2012

You can't stop the beat!

Life has been so normal these days that I am too busy to post on this blog. That's a good thing. Every day doesn't have to be about cancer.

I was roaming on Facebook when I saw someone's link to a "making of" video of Hairspray (the movie, not the who). This is my second favorite musical of all time. (The first is The King and I, which I fell in love with when I was maybe six years old. My parents had seen the original Broadway production with Gertrude Lawrence and we played the album all the time. On a family trip to New York when I was 17, we had the good luck to see Yul Brynner in a Broadway revival with Constance Towers.)

Back to Hairspray: It premiered in Seattle but I was too stupid to spend money to see it. The show moved to Broadway. A year or so later I was planning to visit my sister back east on a date when they had tickets for  Hairspray, so she picked up an extra one for me. I sat in the third or fourth row from the front, all the way to house right, and I was in love. I could see Harvey Fierstein adjust his costume in the wings. I could admire the hand-painted shoes up close. And of course the music was tremendous! I bought the CD at intermission. Afterwards we had dinner at a nearby deli and the female lead, "Tracy Turnblad," came in with her family. I asked for her autograph but of course the program is long gone. We played the CD on the drive home and sang, and sang...

Hairspray the movie has a different cast (John Travolta as Edna Turnblad) and a different ending (Little Inez wins the dance competition instead of Tracy Turnblad), but it's still fun to sing along.

You can't stop the beat!

TRACY
You can't stop an avalanche 
As it races down the hill 
You can try to stop the seasons, girl
But ya know you never will 
And you can try to stop my dancin' feet
But I just cannot stand still 
Cause the world keeps spinnin'
'Round and 'round 
And my heart's keeping time 
To the speed of sound 
I was lost til I heard the drums 
Then i found my way

TRACY & LINK
'Cause you can't stop the beat

Ever since this old world began 
A woman found out if she shook it
She could shake up a man 
And so I'm gonna shake and shimmy it 
The best that I can today

'Cause you can't stop 
The motion of the ocean 
Or the sun in the sky 
You can wonder if you wanna 
But I never ask why
And if you try to hold me down 
I'm gonna spit in your eye and say 
That you can't stop the beat!

PENNY
You can't stop a river 
As it rushes to the sea

SEAWEED
You can try and stop the hands of time
But ya know it just can't be

PENNY 
And if they try to stop us, Seaweed,
I'll call the N Double A C P


'Cause the world keeps spinning 
'Round and 'round
And my heart's keeping time 
To the speed of sound 
I was lost til I heard the drums 
Then I found my way

PENNY & SEAWEED
'Cause you can't stop the beat

PENNY & SEAWEED
Ever since we first saw the light
A man and woman liked to shake it
On a Saturday night 
And so I'm gonna shake and shimmy it 
With all of my might today

'Cause you can't stop 
The motion of the ocean 
Or the rain from above 
You can try to stop the paradise
We're dreamin' of
But you cannot stop the rhythm 
Of two hearts in love to stay 
'Cause you cant stop the beat!

EDNA
You can't stop my happiness 
'Cause I like the way I am 
And you just can't stop my knife and fork 
When i see a Christmas ham 
So if you don't like the way I look 
Well, I |ust don't give a damn!

EDNA & ENSEMBLE
'Cause the world keeps spinning
'Round and 'round 
And my heart's keeping time 
To the speed of sound 
I was lost til I heard the drums 
Then I found my way

EDNA & COMPANY
'Cause you can't stop the beat

Ever since this old world began 
A woman found out if she shook it
She could shake up a man 
And so I'm gonna shake and shimmy it 
The best that I can today

'Cause you can't stop
The motion of the ocean
Or the sun in the sky
You can wonder if you wanna
But I never ask why
And if you try to hold me down 
I'm gonna spit in your eye and say 
That you can't stop the beat!


MAYBELL
Oh oh oh
You can't stop today
As it comes speeding down the track
Child, yesterday is history
And it's never coming back

MAYBELL & ENSEMBLE
'Cause tomorrow is a brand new day

MAYBELL
And it don't know white from black

ENSEMBLE
Yeah!

MAYBELL & ENSEMBLE 
'Cause the world keeps spinning
'Round and 'round 
And my heart's keeping time 
To the speed of sound 
I was lost til I heard the drums 
Then I found my way 
'Cause you cant stop the beat

ALL
Ever since we first saw the light 
A man and woman liked to shake it
On a Saturday night 
And so I'm gonna shake and shimmy it 
With all of my might today
'Cause you can't stop 
The motion of the ocean 
Or the rain from above 
They can try to stop ths paradise
We're dreaming of 
But you cannot stop the rhythm
Of two hearts in love to stay 
You can't stop the beat!

Aah, aah, aah 
Aah, aah, aah 
Aah, aah, aah

ALL
Come on you Van Tussles
Come and shake your fanny muscles

AMBER AND MRS.VAN TUSSLE
But we can't

All
Yes you can

AMBER AND MRS.VAN TUSSLE
But we can't

ALL 
Yes you can

AMBER AND MRS.VAN TUSSLE
Yes we can!

You can't stop the beat
Ever since we first saw the sun
It seems Van Tussle girls are always trying to
Please someone
But now we're gonna shake and shimmy
And just have some fun today

ALL
And you can't stop 
The motion of the ocean 
Or the rain from above
You can try to stop the paradise
We're dreaming of 
But you cannot stop the rhythm
Of two hearts in love to stay 
'Cause you can't stop the beat
You can't stop the beat!! 
You can't stop the beat!!
You can't stop the beat!! 
You can't stop the beat!!

June 12, 2012

Dunava tour

This past weekend, my choir Dunava toured to Eugene and Portland, Oregon.



We started by renting two Priuses. (Prii? We could not figure out the plural of Prius.) By going "green" with car rentals we hoped to save some money on gas. (I'm not sure this worked, as the Prius gets better mileage in city driving, not on the highway). The brand new cars were fun to drive and came with all the latest electronic bells and whistles, so we could connect a phone or iPod via Bluetooth, listen to our favorite music (and sing along) and all talk to the other car through the car's speakers.

To break up the drive, we went only to Portland on Friday night. We left at 7 PM, hoping to avoid rush hour traffic, and arrived around 10:30 PM. We all stayed with Dunava friends or family. In the morning we headed off to Eugene for an interview on KLCC, the NPR affiliate.

After our radio gig, we walked to the WOW Hall, site of our evening concert. There is a poster wall outside the hall, where some of us posed for a quick pic.


The Eugene gig also included a performance with the local folk dance band Kef. After the radio, members of Kef fed us lunch and we rehearsed the songs we planned to do together. After the previous late night, the radio gig, a long walk, food, and a rehearsal, I was pooped, and took a short nap with another Dunavette. Dinner was at  Cafe Yumm!, a Eugene favorite serving what tasted like Mexican-Asian food (beans, rice, cheese, cilantro, olives and Yumm sauce, a combination of tehina and soy sauce). Of course we had to get dessert at Sweet Life Patisserie, where I bought a chocolate truffle tartlet to eat after the show. 

The show went very well, although had a small audience. I was told we sounded great. The hall has good acoustics, so we didn't need amplification. We sang for about an hour, and then took a break while Kef set up. We joined them on their first number and again at the end of their dance set for a lesnoto medley. I danced until my makeup was practically running don my face from the sweat. We again had overnight home hospitality. My hostess was also from the Bronx, so we had a lot in common.

After a huge breakfast on Sunday, we got back into the Priuses (Prii?) and returned to Portland. Our first stop was to give a short performance for our director's grandfather. Then some of us crashed, but M, S and I went to Powell's Books, where I spent a blissful 90 minutes browsing their large collection of science fiction and fantasy. I found a title by favorite author Marion Zimmer Bradley which I didn't already own. The three of us next went to dinner at Ken's Artisan Pizza where we sat outdoors in the sunshine and shared a green salad with beets and Beecher's cheese, a pizza with roasted spring onions, mozzarella and fresh herbs and one with anchovies, fresh basil and tomato sauce. Delicious!

TaborSpace, our last concert venue, is a community coffee house located in a church. The room has comfy chairs at tables and nice acoustics. More Dunava family and friends attended this show, which also was well received. But I have to say, after three performances in less than 24 hours, I was exhausted.

We piled back into the cars around 9:30 PM to head home. It took longer than expected, partly because of some nighttime road construction, and partly because we stopped twice for potty breaks and a snack. I finally rolled in the door at 1:30 AM and was in bed by 2:00.

It was a long, fun weekend, filled with singing, dancing, Dunava bonding, and lots of talking. On Monday morning I woke up a baritone, and today I have progressed up the scale to a tenor. Still, I had plenty of energy thanks to the Afinitor+Aromasin+Faslodex combo, and I was thrilled to be able to participate!








June 07, 2012

My dad, Sheldon Charles Cohen z"l

Tonight marks my dad's fourth yahrzeit (anniversary of a death). I lit the 24-hour candle, and as I stood over it, I wondered which memory to share when I go to minyan tomorrow morning. It's the custom for mourners to share a few thoughts about their loved ones after we say the El maleh rachamim * prayer.

I took a quick flip through some favorite photos and these stood out.



The first one might have been taken soon after my parents were married in 1949. (I looked carefully and my mother is wearing a ring on her left hand.) As I look at my father's expression while he gazes at his bride, it's clear that he was filled with joy at the start of their life together.










The second photo was taken in 1999, when the whole family celebrated my parents' 50th wedding anniversary. Dad is standing with his granddaughter (my niece). He's older and heavier. He's lost a sister and both parents. He's raised a family. He's been through job and career changes, moved from New York to Ohio to New Jersey, recovered from a stroke, and watched his oldest daughter go through her (first) bout with cancer. Yet he's still smiling.






I wish I could say that my dad had a sunny disposition all his life. His last years were increasingly difficult and he could be tough to be around. But I remember the joyful father who loved to cook his special dishes: Spanish omelet, his mother's onion "cookies," chopped liver. The one who snuggled up to my mother each and every night that they slept in the same bed. The father who, even as he was dying, could do the crossword puzzle in his head.

Zichrono l'vracha, may his memory be for a blessing to all who knew him.


* Exalted, compassionate God, grant infinite rest in Your sheltering presence, among the holy and pure, to the soul of our beloved, Shimon Shir ben Zalman haCohen, who has gone to his eternal home. Merciful One, we ask that our loved one find perfect peace in Your tender embrace, his memory enduring as an inspiration for commitment to his ideals and integrity in our lives. May his soul thus be bound up in the bond of life. May he rest in peace. And let us say: Amen.

June 05, 2012

Checking in

My mother was in town for a visit this past week so I had little chance to check in on my blog.

We had a great visit. Mom and Rik heard me sing at Folklife. We went shopping at the Nordstrom half yearly sale. We got that excellent news from Dr G. We talked, we ate, we talked and we ate.

I think the highlight of her visit might have been the tea party I hosted in Mom's honor. Some ladies wore hats; I loaned others from my hat collection and Rik took a group portrait. We pulled out the china tea cups and silver tea service I received from Rik's mother a few years ago.

The set table
Closeup of the goodies

Here's what I made:
Assorted teas
Egg salad tea sandwiches
Lox and cream cheese tea sandwiches (at a Jewish tea, you have to eat lox...)
Blueberry-cherry scones served with butter, jam and clotted cream
Rhubarb-strawberry tarts
Grown-up S'mores (recipe below)
Red grapes

Everyone brought cookies, fruit, or chocolate. We ate and talked our way through the afternoon. It was a wonderful party and the perfect way to end Mom's visit.




Grownup S'mores
(Thanks to Camp Solomon Schechter's head chef Dani Knapstad, who served these at the recent Women's Retreat. The concept is hers, the quantities below are mine.)

Serves 10 grownups

Melt 8 ounces dark chocolate over low heat and let cool.
Cut 8 marshmallows into quarters.
Break 2-3 whole graham crackers into small pieces.
Stir marshmallow and graham cracker pieces into warm chocolate.
Line a shallow pan with wax paper, tin foil or baking parchment. Pour chocolate mixture into pan and cool in freezer until firm.
Peel liner from s'mores and break into pieces. Enjoy!
If you have any left over, store them in the refrigerator.

June 01, 2012

Good news and good news

Stable is always good news, so when Dr G told me yesterday that all my mets appeared stable, I was very pleased. "Gratifying" was the word he used. Then I read the report more carefully. The prior scan had indicated a new lung metastasis. The current scan? No lung met in sight, and the radiologist had access to the old report and images and knew where to look for things. So, good news!

Although my tumor markers had risen, Dr G also explained that it can take time for tumor markers to fall when starting a new therapy.

Then we looked at the brain scan and -- no brain mets! Can I say that any louder? NO BRAIN METS! This is when Dr G asked me if I had told Seattle Radiologists where I'd gotten my last scan. Yes I did, and they told me before I left the office that they'd already requested the images and report.

It seems clear that this combo (Afinitor+Aromasin+high dose Faslodex) is working well and has been very tolerable so far. I've had some side effects, but they haven't lasted long. Even the remaining mouth sore isn't too troublesome and hasn't interfered with my eating.

Good news indeed!

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I dance with cancer. Oy!