August 30, 2012 A Week of Comings and Goings

Posted on August 30, 2012. Filed under: Cancer | Tags: , , , , |

My energy level has actually been pretty good for a couple days. I have even written a few headlines here and there. Yesterday, I worked on a sketch of a new painting. In the afternoon, I went to Oak Park for the rendezvous with the mayor of the French town I stayed in on the arts exchange trip I took in 2003. I’ll say it: The only thing more difficult to plan than activities with someone who has a serious illness is planning activities with a group of out-of-towners. Both are like herding cats. Put them together and you’re lucky anything happens at all.

So…I told figured I’d jump into the French gathering late in the afternoon, so I wouldn’t wear myself out for babysitting the grandkids at 6:30. Likewise, the person managing the French couple got a late start, so they didn’t get to the dinner destination until about 30 minutes before I had to leave. M cooked up a wonderful dinner that we couldn’t wait for, but I enjoyed the visit nonetheless.

Instead, I had pizza with the grandkids, which I’m sure was equally amusing. They insisted on concocting a “Happy 13th Anniversary” banner after dinner, but with 20 characters and a school night bedtime, I made them take their showers first.

Then, we rounded up paper, scissors and markers. When the headlights fanned across the front lawn, lights inside went off and we hid behind the sofa, jumped out and screamed, “Happy Anniversary.” I felt like I was 8 again.

Yesterday, I had a burst of energy and decided to take the basket ball across the street to the courts. I made four baskets before I pooped out. When I got home, my face was bright red—and not from too much sun. Seems I’m out of shape. Who woulda thought! I’m trying to do as much as I can before next week when I get pumped up with toxins again.

Last night, my in-laws arrived from Australia. They are staying at my mother-in-law’s, but we will have dinner with them tonight. I am looking forward to it. Scott’s brother and sister-in-law arrives tomorrow for the holiday weekend. Today, I’m having lunch with Veronica.

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Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Posted on August 28, 2012. Filed under: Cancer | Tags: , , , , |

Well, the good news on Friday propelled me into “normal” weekend activities that I spent yesterday recovering from. Well worth it though.

Scott took me out to one of our haunts for a Thai dinner on Friday. The highlight of Saturday was going off to Foster beach by myself and taking a swim! It was awesome. I arrived about noon and have to admit that it took much longer than usual to get used to the water. With all the hot days, I expected warmer, but eventually I talked myself out of being such a wimp and jumped in. I was up to my neck, swam along the shore and I could still see the sand at the bottom. Beautiful. I even took off my hat and scarf, let my new do show. I was careful to avoid the sun by using my towel as a tent. Some of the meds I have are not sun-friendly.

Another highlight was attending the Guild Complex fundraiser in Evanston. Great to hang out with respected poets and writers!  Scott didn’t join me because he had a horrible cold. I think his system finally rebelled under the pressures. On Sunday, we took it easy.

I finally organized all the papers hiding the top of my desk. I also finished a poem based on an experience I had at Target. A few months ago, a man in Army fatigues stood in line in front of me and tried to recruit the cashier, who wasn’t old enough to check out alcohol by himself. It was creepy. Luckily, the BOY wasn’t buying and was perfectly happy to make change and bag diapers. I read the poem at the Mill Sunday night and was rewarded with extended applause. Nice. It’s great to have new work. My brother, here from Dubai, arrived late so he didn’t see me perform, but we had fun after the show when Marc teased him about being a terrorist.

Yesterday, Scott and I went for a mile and a half walk down the river and back through the park. My left heel is killing me, like I have a bone spur or something, but if I have to make one more doc appointment, I’m going to scream! Scott suggested some Dr. Scholls orthodics that you can get after standing on a machine in the drug store. Pretty weird, but he said they’re working for him. I might try that.

By late afternoon I was back in bed. Guess I pooped myself out. Today, I’m still dragging, but later am meeting the mayor of a French town I stayed in back in 2002 during a Sister Cities exchange. I look forward to returning. Then I’m babysitting my grandchildren. Meanwhile, I’m in low gear, but determined to go for another walk. I always say, “You can feel like crap and sit feeling miserable, or you can feel like crap and force yourself to do things that help you forget you feel like crap.” Take that, side effects!

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Monday, August 11, 2012 20 Days Down/5 to Go

Posted on August 14, 2012. Filed under: Cancer | Tags: , , , , |

I’m seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. Only five more days of IV arsenic. I was apprehensive about my EKG being off because of what happened last Monday, but all the numbers came back within range. We had to wait FOREVER for the EKG and blood work results to come in. I’ve been here for 3 hours and still don’t have the bag o’ arsenic. I think the wait times test one’s pain threshold more than the treatment!

I had a great time at the Poetry Slam last night. There was a priceless moment when I was entering the Mill. A car came to screeching halt at a red light. Everyone on the four corners turned to look only to see the police officer, in the police car that was stopped at the neighboring light, reach out his hands to applaud the driver. The audience on the corners laughed out loud. Some applauded as well. It was hilarious, but maybe you had to be there.

I have to get back to reading at the Mill. I don’t know why I’m so consistent for awhile and then fade away. Last night, I was tired after Scott and I took a 2+ mile walk.

Saturday, I enjoyed hanging out with the kids. Christy and Tony put out their great breakfast buffet
Scott stayed home to load up the garage sale with stuff and it’s gone now. Yay! The Stuff is seriously thinning out around here. Now it’s a matter of getting it organized.

Friday’s treatment was a no biggie. I didn’t feel quite as wiped out—maybe because I ended the week short two treatments. When I got home, I had a great talk with a cancer comrade. We were talking about how people who have cancer can discuss ALL the “what ifs” with a practical attitude, while the rest of the world thinks you’re being morose. Trust me, when thinking the “unthinkable” we are merely exploring all possibilities, so we can plan accordingly. We are not wallowing or looking for attention. Cancer is the perfect disease for control-freak planners. Heart attacks are not. Cancer allows for a graceful exit…not that we’re looking to exit. We just want to know where the exit door is in case of fire.

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Monday, July 30, 2012 Birthday Cake & Arsenic

Posted on July 31, 2012. Filed under: Art, Cancer, Family, Poems | Tags: , , , , , , |

I had a great weekend! First of all, the weather was fabulous. It made it easy to get my errands done. On Sunday, we hosted Christy and Veronica for their July birthdays. We’ve made it an annual event and I was determined to pace myself so I didn’t get too tired.

Saturday morning, Scott and I started by hitting the grocery store for the menu items. We decided to grill chicken. We picked up some salads, cake and other goodies. Since I didn’t have treatment, I was feeling almost normal.

I spent the afternoon wrapping presents and making cards. It was nice to be able to put a little extra effort into it. I also finished the text in my “Letter to Picasso” painting (actual poem is at http://emilycalvo.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/Poems-about-Art-_1_.pdf )

Night at the Movies
By Saturday evening, it was time to chill, so we went to On Demand for a movie. I missed the film Being Flynn when it was out and I’ve really wanted to see it. It’s based on a book titled, Another Bullshit Night in Suck City. I’ve met the author, Nick Flynn, at several AWP conferences. The last time, he claimed to remember me.

His book is a memoir about his relationship with his father who was an absent father, but showed up for a bed when Nick worked in a homeless shelter. It’s a beautifully written ugly story that portrays the complexities of life with poetic language. It brings up questions everyone faces at one time or another: How much should we give to a family member? How much should we feel responsible for the actions of others. I was curious to see how the story would avoid being majorly depressing once the text was adapted. I have my own “dad book” in the works, so I wanted to see how adaptation was handled. I was pleasantly surprised. The screenplay held the mood of the book and stuck to the story without being morose. Plus, De Niro brilliantly played the father. You should see it!

Birthday PartyParty On
On Sunday, Scott and I got the patio in shape for the party. It wasn’t horribly hot outside, so that was promising. Christy and Tony, the grandkids, Veronica, my daughter’s dad, and Scott’s mother all arrived around three. We BBQ’d chicken and did the usual birthday cake, etc. When Anthony, my 9-year old grandson, saw Scott with his flip video in hand, he insisted on being the announcer. There were to be four parts to the party: Meet and greet; dinner, presents and good-byes. He would introduce each section. Being the announcer comes easily to Anthony. When we were on the patio we discussed his ability to court the camera.

“I just like to think of funny things to say,” he told me. “My teacher says I can make anything funny…and I think she’s right.”

“You’re good at it,” I said. “I can get up in front of people, but I’m not quick on the stage. I need to think of things first and then get in front of people.”

He responds, “Well you go and read poetry and I don’t know how you do that.”

“I can do that because I know what I’m going to say.”

He paused considering the difference. “My mom was reading something about how to be funny. I think that’s silly. You can’t get humor out of a book. It has to come from your heart!” He says this as he places his hand over his chest in earnest.” I laugh.

He is pleased to make me laugh. Show me another 9-year old like this????  Of course, his sister Alyssa also has a great sense of humor. Do they get it from their mom?

Everyone had a great time. No food was injured in the making of this party and I was still standing.

IV Arsenic: Week 3
Two down, three weeks to go. Today, I was back in treatment and our friend Pam B. who offered to come to the hospital with lunch. She arrived with a three-course meal and we enjoyed talking for the duration. When I got home, I slept almost the entire afternoon. I can see that having any energy is getting more difficult. Damn.

Scott had to take his care in for repairs because it made some uncomfortable noises and vibrations. I called a cancer buddy. In the past, I offered to connect with a cancer comrade through an organization that matches patients with others who have undergone similar experiences. Lorraine is a delightful woman in New York State. We spoke for over an hour and realized we have a lot in common. No doubt we will talk again.

By dinner time, I got a second wind and heated up some leftovers from the BBQ. The laundry was also piling up. Scott noticed that we hadn’t leveled the new washer, so we unhooked the tubes, moved it from the wall and tried our best to even up the sides. With that accomplished, we loaded the machine, turned it on and realized we’d forgotten to reconnect the water tubing when water flooded out of the back and flowed across our uneven floor toward the kitchen. Our sweet little machine adjustments turned into an hour of cleanup.

I went for a walk before going to bed. After all, I have a 9 a.m. treatment tomorrow.

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Thursday, July 26, 2012 Drip, drip, drip…

Posted on July 30, 2012. Filed under: Cancer | Tags: , , , , , |

Happy Birthday to my awesome daughter, Christy. You only get more beautiful!

We will be celebrating both daughters’ birthdays on Sunday. Hopefully the patio will be inhabitable.

Today, I am getting dripped. We had a meeting with Dr. G and his assistant. I feel like I finally have a clearer picture of how things will progress. I have three weeks more of the arsenic. Then I am scheduled for another bone arrow biopsy on August 23. A couple weeks after that I will get chemo pills: 7 pills of Atra and 3 days of daunorubicin; two, one-week cycles with two to four weeks in between. Atra is a pill, but daunorbicin is an IV drug so i’ll have to come into the hospital for that one. But wait there’s more! Then there’s one year of oral chemo that includes: atra, methotrexate, and mercaptopurine. Looks like I’ll be into scarves for some time. Confused? Ugh.

I miss my hair. I was the one physical feature that never gave me problems.

After the treatment I came home and rested for most of the afternoon. Then a second wind came my way after dinner, so I decided to have some girl time with myself and go to Old Orchard for a couple of birthday presents. I also had to exchange some makeup at Macys. That place is so unimpressive. It’s almost like the Gap–great if you want some classic solid color item that, while decently made, looks like everyone else. I was in a mindset to treat myself, but I couldn’t find anything worth having. Plus, I have enough stuff right now.

I’ve gained about 10 pounds throughout the treatment. It seems my stomach feels better when something is in it. I’m being more disciplined about what I’m eating even though the doctors tell me, “This is no time to diet.” But this is no time to become more “plus size” than I am.

Unlike me, Scott has turned up his nose at cookies and ice cream on a regular basis. Consequently he’s lost about 20 pounds. He’s taking daily walks too. He’s going to be all svelte and I’ll look 10 years older, so I better get on it.

On the bright side, I got motivated to exercise yesterday. One of my blogging cancer comrades posted a motivational post regarding his own lack of exercise and made a commitment to get back into it. I’ve been taking walks here and there, but the weather has been so awful, it’s been hard to keep that up. Instead, I’m dusting off the exercise bike and vowing to get back on it. Meanwhile, I am gearing up with walks of at least a mile.

I also took care of some of my mother’s business. I am her legal guardian. She has some dementia, so she is in a home in Eau Claire. Wisconsin. The upside:She is in better spirits than she’s been for most of her un-dementia life. However the occasional paperwork and check-ins with the state can be a pain. Today, i called the person referenced in the letter, who told me to call the person who wrote the letter.

On Friday, Christy and the children will keep me company during my drips. They even pick me up and take me home which means they are stuck at the hospital for the duration.

They are heroes for their patience.

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    A writer and cancer survivor chronicles her renewed dedication to art and words..

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