December 31, 2012

The "package" is off

Mom left this morning after a week's visit. We had a good time together, even though in retrospect I can't recall that we did anything special.

Well, we did go out with many friends for our annual Chinese food extravaganza on December 25th. And then they came over (and more of them showed up) for dessert and shmoozing. That was really fun, and I was exhausted after spending five hours with everyone.

We three also saw the movie of "Les Miserables," which we all enjoyed. We went out for a couple of meals, we went for treatment and Mom accompanied me when I saw Dr G. Mom skunked Rik and I both at Scrabble. I cooked some yummy meals and served up cocktails twice (Moscow Mules and Campari with orange juice, a family favorite).

We also did a lot of talking, the kind of mother-daughter conversation that you can do best in person and is harder to manage over the telephone.

So all in all, it was a very good visit, and Rik, Bobka and I will both miss having Mom around. Especially Bobka. Until her next visit!

December 27, 2012

Tiny change in treatment plan

I saw Dr G today and the good news is that my tumor markers keep dropping, this time by 65 points. But he wants to mix things up in the treatment plan.

Eribulin can be given in three doses (think Papa Bear, Mama Bear, and Baby Bear). Papa  dose wiped me out completely in October. Mama dose came close to wiping me out a few weeks later. Baby dose has been tolerable but as Dr G explained to me today, too small a dose of chemo might mean my cancer has a greater opportunity to get out of control. 

So next week I start at Baby dose on day 1 of the eribulin cycle and then move to Mama dose on day 8 if my numbers look good. I am slightly anemic at this time but not enough to warrant a transfusion.

In other news, we're having a great time with my mom, who skunked both Rik and I at Scrabble last night!

December 24, 2012

Just an update

A friend reminded me at shul last Saturday that I hadn't posted to my blog in quite a few days. So here's the latest:

I braved Costco, which was not especially crowded for this time of year. They had black cod, which I adore. Then had to go to Umajimaya for the kazusuke marinade.

Dunava had our last choir rehearsal on 2012. We worked hard, sang well, and are busily preparing for the next recording session in January.

I had the second dose of eribulin plus the monthly dose of Faslodex (two shots in the tush). It's odd how the Faslodex didn't work on its own the first time I took it, but in combination with exemestane (Aromasin), it seems to be helping keep my cancer down.  Three days of steroids followed, but only 4 mg per day, so I didn't feel especially strung out.

I made it to the synagogue board meeting that same day as chemo treatment, after a long nap in the afternoon (despite the steroids). I was even able to follow and participate in the discussions.

Went back to the oncologist's office the next day for my Neulasta shot, to build white blood cells and allow me to be around people and limit the risk of infection.

Cooked Shabbat dinner for good friends (Thai-ish tom yum soup, black cod kasuzuke, black rice with coconut milk and chopped almonds, rice wrappers with sliced vegetables and sweet chili sauce, ginger cake with fresh pineapple. And J's delicious challah.

I've done almost nothing since -- well, walked the dog, took some naps, read a book, and watched "Strictly Ballroom" for the umpteenth time. (One of the best and funniest dance movies ever made!)

Tonight my mom arrives for a visit. It should be a great week!

December 17, 2012

What's new in CancerLand

I was able to start another round of eribulin last week. At first Dr G wasn't sure that my numbers would rebound in time, particularly my platelet count, but everything came back up by the end of the week.

Dr G also gave me permission to reduce the follow up doses of dexamethasone (daily for three days after chemo). I took only 4 mg per day, and that seemed to be fine. I had enough energy without feeling completely wigged out.

The neuropathy in my feet continues about the same. It's apparently still confined to my toes and the balls of my feet. Occasionally I am in pain by bedtime, with searing foot cramps. Wearing socks to bed seems to have helped that. I think it has to do with keeping my extremities warm. If my feet feel warm, they don't cramp. Taking lorazepam in the evening if the discomfort is intolerable also helps.

I am beginning to feel some numbness in my fingertips and a tiny bit of tingling in the palms of my hands. I'll be sure to report this to Dr G when I see him next week.

Today I took a nap, for the first time in days. Maybe it was the steroids wearing off (today was the third of three days), maybe I was just bored, but one minute I was reading and the next I was snoozing.

And that's the news from CancerLand today.

December 12, 2012

Latkes and Chanukah

Tonight we'll light the fifth candle for Chanukah. Last night I made latkes for dinner (and fresh trout, and green peas). I used my Dad's recipe but instead of standing and frying while Rik sat and ate (Dad used to fry while we ate; he'd eat standing up at the range), I kept the latkes on a rack placed on a rimmed baking sheet in a warm oven until we were ready to eat. I learned that trick from Cook's Illustrated.

The real problem for me is that I don't always like other peoples' latkes, so when I go to a Chanukah party, I might be disappointed. Latkes should be made from potatoes grated on the small, round holes of a box grater, not shredded, with plenty of onion, salt and pepper, and just an egg or two (depending on quantity) and maybe some matzah meal or flour to bind everything together. Okay, I use my food processor instead of a box grater. But after I shred the potatoes, I spin them a few times using the S-blade. This gives the texture of grated potatoes without the risk of bloody knuckles. Same with the onions.

My sister taught me two tricks:
1. After you mix everything together, place the mixture in a strainer over a bowl and let it continue to strain while frying. The less liquid, the better.
2. If you want to make latkes in advance for a large group, fry and then freeze on a flat tray. When frozen, bag until you need them. Reheat gently in a low oven.

Today I fried about 30 latkes and froze them to serve for dinner on Friday night. I couldn't help but eat the broken bits. YUMMY!

December 10, 2012


A quick update: I worked on the synagogue's big fundraiser at the end of last week. I cooked dinner on Friday night for eight people, everything made from scratch (challah, pumpkin curry soup, chicken roasted with green beans, farro with mushrooms, and apple strudels). Dunava spent three hours in the recording studio on Saturday. Sunday's fundraiser was a great success, with record attendance. Rik took me out to dinner to celebrate at Luc.

I spent most of today trying to recover from all of the above, but also took the dog on a long walk, went to the grocery store, and made mushroom lasagna for dinner.

I get chemo again on Friday, and plan to take full advantage of feeling well and having lots of energy this week!

December 05, 2012

Good report from the doc

My tumor markers fell another 57 points with this last round of chemo. That's not as dramatic as the initial 133 point drop, but it's still headed in the right direction. We'll do another set of labs at the end of the next round of treatment, and hope for a continued slide downward. Dr G did mention something about increasing the eribulin dosage back to a higher level, and when I gave him a hairy eyeball look, he said, "They'll throw me out of the oncologist union if I don't at least mention it!"

What I think he meant is that I might get more benefit, and faster, from a higher dose, provided I can tolerate the side effects. If we try it and the side effects become too much, we can always go to the lowest dose again.

Speaking of side effects, my neuropathy appears stable at my toes and the balls of my feet. I have begun to notice the tiniest amount of numbness in my fingertips, enough to report but not so much that it interferes with life.

Dr G also made a Jewish joke today. He asked, did I know what the trade name of eribulin was? He pronounced it Ha-leven. Leven is "white" in Hebrew and leben refers to a kind of yogurt. (B's and V's can be interchangeable in Hebrew.) But the manufacturers pronounce it Ha-la-ven. I don't know why they named it this, but it did make a clever play on words by my doc.

As he left we had a mutual love-fest about how we suit each other so well and how if I still have to be treated for cancer, he wants to treat me. I'll certainly stay with Dr G!

December 03, 2012

Coming down from steroids

We had a sort of quiet few days while I was on the steroids these past few days.

On Saturday I had permission from Dr G to go to synagogue, and I enjoyed visiting with the 150 or so people there. All that socializing did wear me out a bit, so I spent the afternoon relaxing on the sofa. At 5:00 PM we had an invitation to a friend's home a little ways north from here, so Rik and I tootled out there for a glass of wine, a nibble and some lively conversation.

Afterwards we decided to have an impromptu date night. We almost never go out on Saturday night, for no particular reason, just never do. We stopped at Third Place Books in Lake Forest Park and ate at the food court, listened to a 15-piece swing orchestra (very hot!) and browsed the bookstore. I found a great book to give my niece for Chanukah. (I've been giving my nephew and niece books for every birthday and Chanukah since they were babies. If only I had written down every title -- I am sure it would make a great but small children's library collection!) Rik came home with two new books as well. I thought about buying The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook or Dahlia Bakery Cookbook: Sweetness in Seattle, but I'm not sure I have room for more cookbooks.

On Sunday we did almost nothing. Rik walked the dog and did some yard work. I spent a lot of time with the newspaper and a book. But around 2 PM we both smelled natural gas, as though the range was leaking. Rik turned off the gas hookup behind the range, and I called Puget Sound Energy. They were terrific on the phone, and a technician was at our home within an hour. He tested everything and sure enough, the central burner was leaking a bit of gas due to a cracked knob. The technician removed the knob, we covered over the space with masking tape, and I called a repair place this morning through The Homeowners Club. Hopefully everything will be checked out on Thursday and it won't take too long to get the replacement part. We don't use the central burner frequently, so it's no hardship to be without it for a week or so. The other burners and oven are safe to use according to PSE.

But what a scare! Natural gas smells like rotten eggs, so it's hard to ignore -- which is the point. I was mildly freaked out by this experience, as was Rik. It took an Ativan and some dinner to settle me down afterwards.

For the last part of the evening I was in my jammies, on the sofa, watching TV and snuggling with Rik and Bobka. No more steroids until my next chemo. This is the week off, so I'm hoping for reduced pain in my feet from neuropathy and a good report at Dr G's in a few days.