September 30, 2014

A happy new year starts off

I meant to post something significant if not downright mystical last week as the new Jewish year approached. Instead, I made chopped liver. And ginger cake. And plum kuchen from my friend's miter's recipe. And 100 travados.

I'm a practical kind of person, after all, so a quasi-mystical post wouldn't have seemed right somehow. Instead, here is my dad's recipe for chopped liver, a Jewish delight that resembles a rough pate de fois gras only made from chicken instead of goose livers.

Below is the chopped liver technique. Video by Rik Katz; fun also provided by Bob and Boychik. Shana tova umetuka veshalom - wishing us all a new year of joy, sweetness, good health, and peace around our world.

Chopped Liver Video Part 1:

Chopped Liver Video Part 2:

Chopped Liver Video Part 3:

Chopped Liver Video Part 4:

September 22, 2014

Chemo update

I finished the third dose of Abraxane last week and this morning I noticed that my hair has started to fall out. Right on time, I suppose. I made an appointment for tomorrow morning with the hairdresser to buzz cut my hair and trim my wig. I may want to buy a second wig in a slightly different color. My wig, which cost a lot of money and is artificial, is much darker than my hair color now after a summer in the sun.

Other than hair loss, the side effect from Abraxane that bothers me is the increase in neuropathy in my feet and its beginning in my fingertips.

My fingertips aren't painful, just a little sensitive. The neuropathy hasn't spread further down my feet; it's still confined to my toes, but the intensity has sharpened dramatically. I will try to get in to see an acupuncturist.

My feet hurt so much most nights that it can take me about four hours to fall asleep naturally. If I need to be up and active early in the morning, I take Ambien and hope that it gives me a full night's sleep. I just don't want to be dependent on it. So I'm learning to get by with less sleep.

I'll try to remember to post a photo tomorrow after my buzz cut. Hopefully the hairdresser will leave a little hair, maybe half an inch in length, so that I'll look trendy instead of bald.

And I am so thankful that I had my eyebrows tattooed a couple of years ago! Now I won't see a space alien, or a balding brother, when I look in the mirror.

September 12, 2014

Still good

Haven't written in a week but all is good so far. I had the second dose of Abraxane and feel fine, haven't lost any hair yet.

In the meanwhile, here is a photo of one of my orchids blooming AGAIN! This is at least the third time for this plant. I think that makes me a successful orchid mama, just like my friend S's mother. This picture is in Jackie's memory, who taught me how to care for orchids.

September 05, 2014

Meanwhile, while we were in Bulgaria...

Mentally going back to Bulgaria now --

We began our second to last day still in Pazardzhik. In the morning T our guide and teacher gave us two hours to ask her questions, listen to her demonstrate different styles, and talk to us about the importance of vocal technique.

This is what I recall from T's talk: In the days before there were large state music schools, people simply sang the way they sang, without much thought for how it sounded and what singing in this way might do for their vocal chords' health. They were singing for pleasure, not for recording etc.

As training singers began to learn proper vocal techniques, more and more began to move traditional songs and styles into proper placement in the throat. They learned to use their skills to reproduce the raw, village sound without blowing out their voices. T said that this is what keeps her singing in her large range at the anne of 54. (She and I are only a few months apart in age but of course have lived very different lives.)

T spoke at length about how to increase one's vocal range and keep it healthy at both the top and bottom ends. As a soprano, I loved listing to her demonstrate how to maintain and grown the upper end of her voice while not losing the lower end.

Later that afternoon we drove the nearby village of  Patelenitsa for a local festival. This small town is something of a suburb of Pazardhik but has it's own population and customs. Rainstorms interrupted the planned start of the festival, but after a few hours of drying the microphones with hairdryers, they started. A woman born here but now living in Calgary was home for a visit and wanted to meet the American singers. She introduced me to her mother, a member of the local choir.

RIGHT The local choir singing in the rain with their accompanist whose accordion is shielded by the umbrella-wielding conductor.

September 04, 2014

Abraxane again

Yesterday I had my first dose of Abraxane in this third round of that chemo. Today I feel fine, maybe had the tiniest queasy tummy last night so took some Zofran just in case.

However, my day at Swedish was too long. I arrived at 130 on time, at 230 a nurse came out with the consent form which I was supposed to sign with Dr G but of course we didn't do this since I've had Abraxane twice before.

Got called back to a chair at 245. Then my port wouldn't give any blood return no matter which way I positioned myself or coughed. At 3:45 I sent Rik home to relax after his first day at school, feed and walk the dogs, etc. I received a dose of alteplase, a drug which can unclog a stuffed up port. An hour later, thankfully good blood return! In the meantime I ate a soggy egg salad sandwich from the bagged lunches and enjoyed a cherry turnover Rik brought up for me.

By 4:45 pm I was so tired of waiting that I asked the nurses to call Dr G's office and get permission to skip the Avastin, which would have added another hour to the total infusion time. Nurse Jacque called out to him in the hallway, and he said "Okay, but she can go home!" Creative thinking nurse Mary Beth called the pharmacy since the Avastin was already mixed (i.e., ready to give to a patient) and they assured her that they could use it the next day.

I was done with the pre-meds (like I needed steroids at this point, I was so wired), Abraxane and Faslodex. I talked with my mom for a half-hour, read some more, and tried to relax. Rik met me at 6:45, we went home, and by 10:00 I was ready to eat some leftover chicken. I was in bed at 11 with all my drugs to relax me and felt fine today.

I take responsibility for my port causing a longer visit but for a two hour infusion to take five hours seems excessive to me. After my four appointments at Swedish's First Hill Cancer Institute, assuming the Abraxane works well for me, I will schedule all my ongoing infusions at the Ballard campus, which has a much better nurse:patient ratio.