Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Book Avoidance

Here's a book that I might have read "BC" (before cancer).  The Emperor of All Maladies is a "biography" of cancer by Siddhartha Mukherjee.  It sounds like something I would read because I enjoy general non-fiction, like to learn new things, and have found medical history fascinating.  It has a great title and on the cover, an intricate yet fearsome crab.  One of the reviews I read said something to this effect: oncologists can offer all kinds of treatments and often with so little success or hope.  That's why I don't want to read this book yet.   The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion also hasn't made its way to my Kindle yet.  Didion's husband died suddenly while they were dealing with their daughter's serious illness.  Eventually, I am sure that I'll read them both, just not yet. 

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Life Savers

Mark has had many "life savers" in the last five years.  Here's one of them:

Dr. Smith is a great guy.  He's kind, friendly, and always makes time to answer questions and offer reassurance to nervous and upset people.  Ok, me!  He was the one who gave us hope on December 19th, 2006.  I'll forever thank him for that one day.  It was like he said, "There's one more thing left in Pandora's Box.   Don't forget it."

Friday, July 22, 2011


Visists to two doctors today: One for Mark and one for the Baby Kitty.  Situation with Mark is normal, which means: nothing new, weight is stable, pain meds working okay.  Baby Kitty, on the other hand, is a bit of a mess.  He had slipped out, must have gotten into the losing end of a cat fight, and now has an abscess on his head.  Poor guy: he's wearing the kitty cone of shame, has drains in his head, pain meds (he and Mark have something in common), and a bad attitude.

Thursday, July 21, 2011


I pull a lot of weeds from my garden.  Lately I've been somewhat obsessive about seeking out and yanking them.  There are dandelions with their long roots, oxalis (clover like) with little yellow blossoms and roots that spring from underground mats; and weeds that hide in "real" plants.  I don't always recognize these right away, but when I do, I get them out fast.
If only the cancer was like that. If only I could just yank it out or slash it out with garden snippers.  The surgeon tried that and it didn't work.  The cancer was too entwined.  It had its tentacles wrapped around vital anatomical structures.   It was as if I found one of the sneaky, hidden weeds and dug it out only to kill the "real" plant as well.  So now we are left with the oncologist as constant weeder with potent herbicides as his weapons.  He watches and applies his various poisons in hopes of keeping the weed tamped down.  We know that the weeds will win but not without a tough fight. 
So why do I, who had been such a reluctant gardener before, enjoy weeding so much?  It gives me a sense of control over one thing in my life.  I can't control the most important thing (although I'm part of the team that is trying hard) but I can control those weeds.
Weeds, beware my wrath!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Handicapped? Disabled??

Mark got this back in April.  We'd been to see the doctor and I mentioned how difficult it was for him to walk to a building from a far parking lot, toting a heavy laptop bag.  He'd been able to attend a weeklong class.  Just being out of the house for that many hours, that many days in a row, is tough for him.  The doc got him this placard for the car.  So, he's officially "disabled" at least as far as parking goes.
The thing for me is, to not think of him nor to treat him as disabled here at home.  It bugs him if I want to get up and do something for him.  He is out in front right now, watering the plants.  I noticed he was wearing his slippers.  Then the water wand didn't hook onto the hose correctly.  Water sprayed all over, including his feet.  I said, "I'll go in and get your garden clogs."  He didn't want me to.  "No!", he said, "I have to go in anyway."  Time for me to back off.  It's hard.

Mirablis Jalapa

What's that?  It's a plant, known "in English" as a Four O'Clock because their sweetly fragrant flowers open around 4 p.m.  I have one, with gorgeous lime bright leaves and magenta blossoms in a pot on my patio.  I'd planned to upload that photo to Facebook but decided I wanted to know a bit more about it and so I googled it.  And here's what I found:

Thursday, July 14, 2011

A cold day July!  We drove up to Bellevue to pick up a pain med prescription. It was misty then but later in the afternoon it was outright rain. We both felt a bit down for a good part of the day, but the mood gradually lifted, like the clouds will tomorrow.   It's hard not to feel sad at times but it's impossible to feel sad ALL the time. 

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Hands on....

.....some cancer drugs can look like this.  The palms of Mark's hands and the soles of his feet are a mess.  The skin cracks, dries, peels, reddens, and hurts.  This photo shows his hand on a good day.  Why does it happen?  The life-saving drugs (Xeloda and Avastin) that he must take to slow the cancer cell growth also affect the palm and sole skin cells.  These cells must replicate constantly because hands and feet are always touching, being traumatized, taking a beating  just as we go about our daily lives.  Who thinks about that stuff when they don't have to?  We certainly never did; we took that for granted.   Dr. S. says he should avoid causing trauma: wear gloves when doing yard work, for example.  Sometimes he even does!  We've tried many lotions from expensive Aveda to Vaseline.  Right now Gold Bond seems to be working fairly well.  He "should" soak his feet; he "could" slather his hands with Bag Balm and wear cotton gloves overnight.  It's just one more thing to put up with.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Take Care of Yourself..... many times have I heard that in the last 5 years?  What does it even mean?   Today it meant a 2.5 mile walk along the river to the lake, coffee with a friend, a surprise lunch out, and the Farmers' Market. 

Monday, July 11, 2011

People Ask, cont.

People sometimes ask me, "Does Mark still work?"  They are often surprised, that yes, he does have a job.  It's a demanding job and he works long hours.  Fortunately he is able to work out of the house.  If working virtually weren't possible, he'd have had to quit.  He needs access to the comfort and facilities here at the house.  And his job is the source of our decent health insurance.  Why do people seem surprised to hear that a man with serious cancer is still on the job, providing for his family, and contributing?  Because the word cancer conjures up terrible images of disability, death, and general withdrawal from the world of the "normal".   We know that people can be cured, sometimes against all odds.  Their treatment ends, they visit the oncologist for checkups to watch for recurrence.  That's not in the picture for Mark: Dr. S. treats the cancer as a "chronic condition".  There are a lot of people living and working with cancer in their lives.  Lives, people, lives.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

People Ask

Sometimes people ask, "How's Mark?"  with a question behind the question. It's "How's he scary sick?  Can he still do things?"  Of course, anybody with incurable, inoperable cancer is sick.  However, he's not "not living his life".  Today he washed his truck, went to Earlington Greenhouse with me, planted some plants, and at this moment is making a salad.  He has to parcel out his energy, monitor his symptoms and rest as needed.  But he lives a life as valid and worthwhile anybody else's life.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Goin' to the Dogs

It's a sunny, mild day here today.  We took Maia to the dog park today but the canine crowd was small and none of them seemed to feel much like mingling, let alone full out playing together.  This dog park is fairly rocky and I'm sure it was hard for Mark to walk around on it.  You can see him with Maia.  Note that he is using a cane. 

Friday, July 8, 2011

Gray Friday

Another gray day before summer (we hope) returns for the weekend.  I don't have a lot of plans for the day, or for the summer in fact.  When school ended two weeks ago, people would say, "So, any plans for the summer?"  I'd have to say, "Oh, just hanging out at home, on the patio, working in the yard."  Making plans, anticipating pleasant things is a whole different ball game when cancer takes a bigger role in your life.  I could have said, "Well, every other Friday we will see the oncologist, Mark will have an infusion, we'll make sure there are enough painkillers on hand (they know Mark at the Walgreen's pharmacy), that he gets enough rest, keep an eye on the edema in the legs, watch for the infection....."But that brings people down and makes them feel guilty for even asking, so what's the point?  There are still plenty of fun things we can do (and we do).  You find your fun/pleasure/happiness/contentment in a smaller world.

We're actually going to a movie this afternoon.  Mark was able to get some time off, and we're heading out in a few minutes to see Super 8. 

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Drizzly Day

Yesterday's weather was as perfect as it gets here in the Seattle area.  Warm, low humidity, with a little breeze.  Perfect for sitting outside at our favorite local place with my beloved.  If only the third presence hadn't been there: cancer.  Today's weather is gray, damp, and drizzly.  Maybe a welcome break for the garden and new flowers.  Definitely it's more reflective of my sadness yesterday, which is lifted a bit today. 

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Beautiful day!

It's shaping up to be a gorgeous day here: Sunshine, blue skies, the mountain is crystal clear.  We bought more plants for the yard.  How can it already be 50% off time?!  Plus, we took a quick trip up to Overlake for a prescription.  Cancer always muscles it way in, somehow.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Fourth of July 2011

Look, I'm celebrating Independence Day by creating a blog!  This is one of my "sand bucket list" items for the summer before it's the dreaded back to school time.  We were busy today: Bought a few plants, some algacide for the fountain, and a new digital camera!