May 30, 2016

My dad's army story, for this Memorial Day

Dad always said he had a "good" war. This is what he meant.

He enlisted at 18 in January 1945. His mother went with him to the ferry to NJ and waved goodbye. He spent three days at Fort Dix (?), where he was issued a uniform and dog tags. The army sent his clothes back to his parents in the Bronx. He beat them to the haircut and had already had his hair cut militarily short.

Dad then went to Florida for basic training for six weeks, where he learned to master peeling potatoes. He was given a seven day leave before shipping out, but it took 2 days to travel by troop train from Florida to New York City, so he only had 5 days of leave.

He sailed to Le Havre where he was posted to the Army Corps of Engineers. Because of his experience with his father's seltzer delivery business, he spent his service driving trucks, including a 22-wheel rig. He drove from Le Havre over the mountains and south to Rouen and Marseilles; to Belgium and Holland, where he saw the famous fields of tulips; into Germany; and went to England for a special job for Eisenhower. After that trip he was thrilled to be personally thanked by General Eisenhower. He saw the concentration camp in Strasbourg.

He once ran out of gas somewhere in France. Having learned a little bit of French, he hiked back to the closest village, where he made a telephone call. He said to the operator  “Le militaire American.” The operator didn’t understand his accent, so he repeated  “Le militaire American.” Eventually they connected him and the Army came by with more gas.

Dad attended an Army buddy’s wedding to a French girl. At the dinner after the ceremony, they ate soup, a main dish, and served the salad at the end! He was very surprised by this custom.

His cousin Eva’s daughter came to Europe on a war bride ship and looked for him in Le Havre, but he was posted to Paris at the time. So she gave his buddies all the fresh milk and fresh food she had access to, and they all got sick. They had very little fresh food and were used to eating mostly powdered, dehydrated and canned items.

The Germans had sunk a freighter in the harbor at Le Havre to prevent any more Americans from arriving. When the tide was in, you could only see a main pole. When the tide went out, you could see the whole ship.

Dad said something about being in the Army was the best two years of his life. He was a young man, he traveled to five countries. He never saw combat. He served his country. He was honorably discharged in 1947(?) because the Army needed his unit to clear the harbor at Le Havre after the war in Europe had ended.

My dad the soldier with his parents, taken some time before he shipped overseas during WWII.

May 27, 2016

The latest from Dr G

I saw Dr G yesterday and he spoke several times with my cousin Dr Rich Schilsky. They agreed I should try the immunotherapy drug pembrolizumab that reportedly works so well for former US President Jimmy Carter and other melanoma patients, so Dr G will try to get my insurance company to approve it for off label use. Dr G told me he had the first patient to use this in Seattle and has several others, both with and without melanoma, who are taking it, with mixed results. Some have fantastic responses, with no or minimal side effects. One died. It's impossible to say how it might affect me, but it's a new option.

May 23, 2016

Still slow

The anti seizure meds still make me feel slow. I hardly have energy to shower and dress so spend several days in my pajamas in a row if I don't have to go out. Dr G may have something to recommend to me re chemo. He doesn't want me to take a break although that's what that's what the past two weeks have given me (without more energy).

No more to say now.

May 10, 2016

Seizure update

Yesterday I saw Dr Vermeulen, my radiation oncologist who zaps my brain mets with gamma knife. In November she hit 23 brain mets and was happy with the results. She says the two mets which swelled and caused the recent seizure were not problematic and would likely respond to both anti-seizure meds and steroids. But I won't be  allowed to drive for at least four months until my next brain CT.  This is problematic - no running errands, must get rides or Uber/taxis to appointments, etc. It will put more pressure on Rik and our friends. Thankfully Swedish has taxi vouchers through NW Hope and Healing, a local organization for breast cancer patients.

I feel more disabled than ever before. Not having independence of movement  is really tougher than I could imagine. On the other hand, I also feel reassured by Dr V.  I see Dr G on Thursday and will get his take on the seizure. In the meantime I'll try to enjoy the sun and not freak out too much.

May 06, 2016

More downs and some ups

I had a seizure yesterday in my right arm. First time ever. Must  have something to do with brain mets and reminded me of a friend's recent experiences with TIAs (mini strokes). My right hand made a fist and I couldn't relax  it. My arm pounded against my chest. Tried to use warm water to do so and then my hand  opened and I couldn't lift my arm. The whole thing lasted about 10 minutes. A friend took me to Cherry Hill ER where the neurologist on call diagnosed a focal seizure (one limb affected). I was glad I thought to say I'd had a stroke. I had immediate access to an ER room, nurses, doc, etc. Cherry Hill is still the best.

It was a scary day but I got to go home around 4 pm. My right arm is not working as well today even though I'm left handed things are complicated. Typing for instance - back to hunt and peck with pone hand like in high school. I'm not allowed to drive.