Sometimes, It’s all About Numbers

Posted on May 21, 2013. Filed under: Art, Cancer, Just fun! | Tags: , , , , , , |

numbersNone in 100,000…and I’m not talking Lotto
Two weeks ago, I had my lovely monthly meeting with Dr. G. He spared me the six month bone marrow biopsy by trading it for a simple “give-me-100,000-blood-cells test.” This is a simple blood draw that gets sent to a hidden bunker somewhere on the east coast where they magically examined 100,000 cells for any trace of those immature leukemia cells. The numbers came in: O <- That’s a zero; not an emoticon. 🙂   <-That’s an emoticon.

Numbers, Numbers
Well, one of the side effects of Trentenoin is weight gain BECAUSE I ALWAYS FEEL HUNGRY! I needed that like a whole in the head. If I had to get cancer treatments, why couldn’t they make me nauseous and skinny. (They tell you that people with extra weight do better with chemo.) So, I’ve put on almost 20 pounds since the diagnosis and it’s not like I could afford to. So once again, I’ve decided to ride the diet wagon. It’s a ride I know well. I get to an ideal weight about once a decade, but I have to admit, I haven’t been back there since before the millennium.

I’ve written about 40 million words on healthy eating, so I don’t need tips about the lowest calorie foods or fat-free delicacies. I need willpower advice. Hence, I am examining my cue, actions and rewards as outlined in The Power of Habit. I’m also trying to throw in a little more exercise.

Part of the issue has always been my ambitions. I never cared about sports or marathons. All the action happens in my head, which spins with Olympic potential. Runners, I will write and get paid and I will give you money to feel good about myself. However, age is catching up with me and I’m feeling more achy and unbalanced, so I need to haul around less weight. I figure, I’m just going to eat less, weigh myself once a week, walk, play basketball in the park across the street, swim and keep a list of numbers that I hope will decline. Anyone want to join me?

One More Bit on My Health
About a month ago, a sinus infection took me out for a good two weeks. After a round of antibiotics and every sinus remedy available, it cleared up only to return with a vengeance last week. Stuffiness, coughing, vertigo when moving from lying down to getting up—awful . I guess it’s because I planted flowers instead of painting them! To cope, I’ve been on Allegra for the past few years. Now I’m wondering if allergies are the immune system’s overreaction to elements, if antihistamines suppress the response, is there a link to cancer. I mean, isn’t the immune system supposed to go after cancer infiltrators? If antihistamines tell my system that everything’s cool, doesn’t that give cancer cells a green light. I’m wondering if this has ever been studied. Google…here I come.

Farewell to Five, Yes, Five Paintings!
I’ve been studying with Ed Hinkley for about four years. He’s awesome. I didn’t realize how awesome until I took a class at the Palette & Chisel downtown. Here, I receive a PDF of a barn or a forest or a river or a forest with a river. You get the picture? Then, step-by step, we all do our own rendition of the teacher’s savvy strokes. Argh. I haven’t painted anything I actually like yet and today is the last class.

HOWEVER, Ed brings out our unique styles and throws in technique as needed, which I’ve learned is more often than I realized. The result is a group of artists who don’t look like they’re in the same class. Excellent. Then a few of us participate in spring group show at August House Gallery each year. The first year, I sold four paintings. The second time, I sold nothing and frankly, I remember having a lot going on and not feeling like I got my act together. This year, I asked the “universe” for a heads up on my artistic direction by selling at least how many I sold the first time. I’m happy to say I sold five! Plus, one was to a young couple I didn’t know. Cool.

Flying Through Time

Shorline SerenityOahu Beach CrowdRed Rock 14x11-9.25x3.75How we move #2 (2)

I’ve been asked if I feel sad when someone walks away with a painting. Hell no. I’m so happy, flattered, validated that someone will enjoy a tiny piece of me, I could cry. If I want to look at it, I have pictures. And, I can paint more.

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Making and Keeping Connections

Posted on January 28, 2013. Filed under: Art, Cancer, Just fun!, Poems | Tags: , , , , , , , , , |

Last time I wrote, I was anticipating a dentist visit. I’m happy to report that my dentist rebuilt the broken part of my tooth so no root canal will be necessary. Yay!

The Power of the Blog
A few weeks ago, I received a comment from a young woman who also had been diagnosed with APL. Within hours we exchanged emails, phone numbers and had a great conversation about our shared experiences. She lives in the area and will celebrate her two-year anniversary in a couple months. (Congratulations, Marci.) If you’ve ever suffered from ANYTHING, you know how rewarding it can be to share details with someone else who has gone through the same thing. Thank you, Marci, for sharing.

tret0808

Evil Potion

Tretinoin is Back on the Menu
Three weeks without Tretinoin and my scaly, red skin cleared up. I even had a little more energy. The achiness and fatigue still hung on, but I felt better overall. Amazing. Now, after another week of the evil potion, I am back to lying in bed until 11 a.m. and lathering on oodles of lotion. Urgh.

Since the drug is also used to treat psoriasis (in lesser quantities), I have now have great skin. Not that I have a skin problem, but there’s definitely an improvement. Now if I could just make it less scaly.

On an even brighter note, I went for my second haircut! I’m keeping the short look. It’s really thick, but the salt and pepper is not exactly close to my formerly dark blond hair. I’m wondering if this is the new color or the interim color. We shall have to wait and see.

Other than those symptoms, I’ve only had a few moments of chemo brain…like when I totally zoned and got a call from a friend I’d scheduled a lunch date with. She called me from the designated restaurant at the designated time wondering if she’d mistaken the time or place. She didn’t. I left the house and luckily was there in less than ten minutes. Sorry, Susan.

To Flu Shot or Not
With the doomsday reports about the flu epidemic, I considered getting a flu shot, but decided to pass. After all, my system has been pummeled by drugs over the past year and I think I’m better off risking it. I still feel a little guilty—kind of like I decided to leave the door unlocked. None of my doctors have even suggested it. They have asked if I want one, and when I say, “not really,” they move to the next question without even telling me to wash my hands. It’s like they want to tell me not to get one, but they can’t. So far, so good. I haven’t been sick…knock on wood.
IMG_6815Another Poem in a Painting
I started art classes again and last week, I finished another poem in a painting. This one was a challenge to lay down the poem in the piece, so we made some adjustments. Here’s the text:

Counteract
Who counts
the bodies?

How many missing limbs
equal one?
Which body bags,
lost tags
add to the tally?
Bodies that fall
seconds before the declaration?
or minutes
after the truce?

Who counts the body
of knowledge lost
in clouded memories?
Who counts
the piece in the parent
when the epaulets show
through the peephole?
Or the low voice on the phone
asks for his parents?
Who counts the child’s body
if it’s the enemy’s?

How many are missing in action?
Covered under smoldering ash?

Who counts the spirits
when bodies become armor?
when eyes become empty bowls?
when people become photos?

I now have about 15 paintings with one of my poems in them. I’m excited about getting my book of poetry together and will include them. I’ve got about 80 pages so far. That should be enough. One has to stop somewhere.

20130126_211001_resizedReliving the 80s
Last night Scott and I went to the Old Town School of Music for a student/teacher tribute to Madonna and Prince. It was pretty funny and brought back memories of my kids listening to Madonna songs. I’d read about it on www.gapersblock.com, which often has events that you’re not likely to find in the Tribune’s art section. The show was great fun. There’s so much more soul to a low-budget show than the big-budget program. However, we bowed out a little early. I was yawning and Scott had met his 120-minute limit for sitting still in one place. That’s another good thing about small productions: You don’t feel obligated to stay longer than you want to just because of the price of your ticket.

100_2715Pink Flamingos…Here we come!

Scott and I are SO overdue for a vacation, so we booked flights for a Florida fly/drive trip. Our friends are snowbirds and invited us for a visit. They live south of Tampa from December to March-ish so we are flying in and out of Tampa with a mega road trip through the state. I also have a friend in Jacksonville, so I am looking forward to seeing her and soon basking in some sun.

FlamingBirthdayCake1Birthday #59

This week, I will be 59. Geez. Creepy. Although, I’m truly lucky to have lived to be 59. Part of me wants to have a huge party and another part of me wants to roll into a corner with a candle  and a chocolate cake. I’ve always wanted a “garden” party, but a Chicago January is not the time to host an outdoor party. Then I thought maybe I’d have a 59-1/2 year party. After all, that’s an age when one can start eying those retirement funds, but that would encroach on my daughters’ birthdays, which both land in July. Plus, my oldest will be 40, which actually makes me feel older than being 60!  😛

I think I’ll save the party for the big 6-0 and settle for the chocolate cake.

Considering it took me a few weeks to gather up this much to say, I think my days are winter-slow. Oh sure, I have stuff to do. We finally cleaned up the holiday tree and ornaments, but the frenzy is over and it’s sort of quiet. I have learned to appreciate that.

Stay warm. Have fun. Thanks for reading!

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The Second Opinion about the Third Step

Posted on November 20, 2012. Filed under: Cancer | Tags: , , , |

Last Monday, Scott and I drove down to Rush University Hospital. Hmmm…I just remembered that I was born there!) Anyway, we met with Dr. Venugopal, a major honcho in leukemia research, for a second opinion about the need for the three ass-kicking drugs I am to take for a year. When I googled the protocols, they were all over the place—from no meds at all for low risk of recurrence, which I was told I was, to two years of meds. I figured a second opinion was in order.

I found Dr. Venugopal through my art instructor’s friend’s wife, (got that?) who works at Rush. He was delightful and informative. He seconded my doc with an explanation: I’m not really low risk for recurrence, so some meds should be in order. He said the primary indicator, which is based on specific levels when diagnosed DOES put me in the low risk category. But the secondary factor puts me in the intermediate risk category. Also, patients usually get drugs for two years, but since I “tolerate” them so well, they increased the dosage and condensed the duration to one year.

Hmmmm… Just because I can stand them, doesn’t mean I should. I’ve been feeling REALLY tired and plugging along. I’m getting skin rashes, extreme dry lips, shaky hands that occasionally cause minor catastrophes (like spilling my FILLED old lady pill tray on the floor). A couple days ago my face started twitching intermittently. SO, next step is to talk to Dr. G about decreasing the doses and going with the two-year plan. If I could feel better, I wouldn’t be opposed, although the light at the end of the tunnel would be longer. Maybe it wouldn’t make a difference anyway…to be discussed at my next doctor appointment next week in Evanston.

It felt good to know my doc was on the right road, and respected by Dr. Veno, but it would have been nice to hear alternatives earlier on. They always ask if I have questions, but mostly I don’t know what questions I should ask. The other good thing was realizing what a pain it would have been to trudge to Rush for treatments on an ongoing basis. I’m much more happy driving up and parking in Evanston.

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Friday, June 22, 2012

Posted on June 24, 2012. Filed under: Cancer | Tags: , , , , |

“It’s like this:

I can feel like crap and lay at home in bed,

or I can feel like crap and be out doing something

that makes me forget that I feel like crap.”

Today was a lot like yesterday. Scott came with me for treatment. Arsenic in bags on hangers. Hook me up. Unhook me. Except today I had a regular visit with the breast cancer oncologist who poked around and gave me the “all clear.” Since we had a private room, the scenarios of other patients were limited. Because it’s Friday, I’ve had about all the arsenic I could take. I went home and lay down for awhile.

Part of today’s agenda included returning a matte that I recently had cut for one of my paintings. I had sent Karen final jpgs of the works in mattes. Her Virgo love of detail noticed that one side of the matte looked smaller than the other side. I measured and sure enough, there was a 3/16th difference. Once confirmed, the difference screamed at you. So, I needed get myself together to return it and have them fix it. Since Scott had picked the work up, and noted the crabby staff, I wasn’t exactly looking forward to the exchange, but hey, it looked weird. Lucky for me, the staff person was super nice and had a guy re-cut it in five minutes. They even let me keep the old one, which I can use if I turn it sideways. No problem.

After rousting up dinner, Scott and I went for a walk. Of course, because it’s now 8 pm I’m feeling much better, and being a night owl, will probably get a second wind about 11. Tonight, Scott suggested a river walk, so we drove over to the other side of the river and a little south. There, we found a mulched path with brush trying to take over along the path. Some of the path became rather rustic and because you can barely see, and the land drops to the river, I opted for a neighborhood walk after a few blocks. We probably walked at least a mile, so even though I feel pretty energy-robbed, I’m still trudging along.

I’ve had a yearning to whip up some jewelry so when I got back, I got out the beads and knocked out four pairs of earrings in almost no time. Just the kind of relaxing activity I needed before bed.

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

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