December 30, 2013

Taking it easy

Rik is off from teaching for the winter holidays and we've been taking it easy, getting together with friends, sleeping late, playing with dogs and seeing movies. It's a great time of year except that we have to share the computer…

My fingers continue to heal although my left thumb is still peeling several layers of skin. I found out the hard way that my tongue is still sensitive -- I put four (four!) drops of Sriracha hot sauce on some noodles on Saturday and I couldn't bear the heat. We were at synagogue and I had to grab some cream (the kind used for coffee), put it in a cup, and drink it to cool off the heat. Only dairy seems to cool the fire in my mouth. So I won't be testing any red wine soon.

We did have a lovely meal at Gainsbourg, a local French bistro. My dinner consisted of a fantastic cocktail made with gin, celery shrub, beet essence and something else; shared beet salad with walnuts and goat cheese; and a whole plate of poutine. Oy. Then dessert of yummy hot chocolate and a chocolate truffle. Oy again.

Poutine, for those not in the know, is a Quebecois peasant food that is currently a must-have across North America: fried potatoes topped with brown (or in this case, mushroom) gravy, and cheese curds. It's so delicious I can't resist ordering it when I see it on the menu, but no one will share it with me. And of course I never met a fried potato I didn't like.

More later as our stay-cation continues...

December 21, 2013


I finished cycle 12 of Xeloda with an increase in Hand-Foot Syndrome but only at the very end of the cycle. I lost three layers of skin on my thumbs and first fingers but they're healing nicely. My tumor markers are still stable!

Dr G said, Oh, I'm hurting you! I reassured him that I was coping but really I think I am getting close to the end of my Xeloda tolerance. 

The dentist says my sore tongue comes from the same side effect. Basically the skin covering my tongue has Hand-Foot Syndrome (!). She could hardly believe that I still have taste buds. 

My new opthalmalogist/surgeon says that 18 months of Abraxane likely caused the cataracts in both eyes. I am having the surgery in January, so I get a three week chemo-cation (plus the week recovering from the first surgery). 

Between eye surgeries I'll have one more Xeloda (round 13) and then we will re-evaluate during my second three week chemo-cation. Dr G wants to add Afinitor to the mix (Xeloda, Avaston, Aromasin, Aredia). I had Afinitor before without much luck and plenty of side effects, but I may be close to the end of what I can tolerate from Xeloda. However, Xeloda has me stable and I do tolerate pain well. (I am sad that I had to learn this about myself, but it's one of the things cancer taught me.) There are plenty more drugs out there plus anything new that comes out of the recent ASCO conference.

December 14, 2013

Penultimate day of Xeloda round 12

Yesterday was the second-to-last day of round 12 of Xeloda and it hit me hard. By mid-morning I had diarrhea, followed by fatigue, hand-foot issues, and mouth sores. I decided to cancel the neighborhood Shabbat dinner we'd planned to host for some folks from our synagogue because I could barely hobble, much less shop and cook. Everyone understood and sent me wishes to feel better soon. I slept the rest of the day. Rik ordered some Chines food and I crawled into bed around 8 PM.

The hard thing about all of this was that I'd forgotten how awful the chemo side effects can be, since I don't experience very much on Xeloda. Yes, I have a lot of hand-foot syndrome, but for some reason it wasn't so bad this month. I didn't even have to use henna! But I keep forgetting from month to month what the last two days of each cycle and the first two days of the time off can be like. Xeloda is cumulative, so I feel much worse at the end of the cycle than at the beginning.

So today is the last day. My feet hurt so much when I got out of bed to use the bathroom that I couldn't bear to stand. Rik brought me some yogurt and my morning meds but I stayed in bed until 1 PM. Hunger finally drove me up and by then my feet were less tender, the diarrhea had stopped and I really couldn't sleep any longer.

This is how it goes: I feel rotten, I blog about how rough it is. Then I feel better, I live my life, and I forget to blog except for special things, like holiday celebrations.

I guess I need to put my blogging on a schedule so that I don't go too many days on "quiet mode."

December 04, 2013

Last night of Chanukah

I couldn't resist making latkes one more time for the last night of the holiday. Eating any food fried in oil counts to celebrate the miracle, and so we have eaten latkes, sufganiyot (doughnuts, traditional in Israel), olive oil on salmon, leftover latkes with scrambled eggs, you name it.

Again I will post my adaptation of my father's latke recipe. As my mom and I recalled, Dad would stand at the stove frying while we three sat at the kitchen table. He'd serve up a plate of latkes, start frying another batch, and eat his while standing up. No wonder both his daughters became master latke-makers!

Jill's take on Shellie's Latkes

2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled
2 onions, grated
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/4 cup matzo meal or flour
Avocado or other high heat oil, mixed with olive oil for frying
Applesauce or sour cream for garnish

1. Grate the potatoes by hand using the tiny holes in the grater. Or in a food processor use the thinnest grating blade, then whirl with the S blade to turn potatoes from grated strips into more of a mush. Grate the onions in the same way. Scoop up 1/4 cup of potatoes at a time with your hands and squeeze out and discard the excess liquid, then put in a colander and add the onions, eggs, matzo meal, salt, and pepper, making sure that everything is very well blended. Let batter drain in the large colander over a mixing bowl while you fry.

2. Heat about 1/4 inch of oil in a 10-inch pan over high heat. Scoop latkes using a tablespoon and add them to the hot oil. Don't crowd the pan -- four at a time is plenty. Be careful not to burn yourself! Cook latkes for about 3-4 minutes per side. Drain on a rack placed in a baking sheet with one inch sides (do not use paper towels), and keep warm in a 250 degree oven. Or eat standing up, while they're fresh from the oil.

3. Serve with applesauce at a meat meal or with sour cream or Greek style yogurt at a dairy meal.

PS You can freeze fried latkes in a single layer on a baking sheet. Transfer to a freezer bag or other container. When ready to eat latkes again, reheat in a low oven for about 20 minutes or until warm. This way your house doesn't smell like fried potatoes or stale oil when the guests arrive.

Rik loves latkes!