Monday, August 31, 2009

Hurricanes

Otsego Lake. Cooperstown is on its southern shore. It was called Glimmerglass in the Leatherstocking Tales. There is a castle built on its Eastern shore resembling a German castle.


The church in Corning I went to as a young child. I remember it being dark and dingy. 48 years later, it still looks dark and dingy.

The elementary school I went to, now known as a "gap closing " school. Corning has few minorities so I am not sure to what gap they refer.


My old house that my parents had built in 1950. It is now lilac colored instead of white and has an ugly chain link fence around it instead of the barberry hedge my dad planted to keep the high schoolers from cutting through the yard



The honey-combed molding used to cast a huge mirror for the telescope at Mt Palomar, CA. This was a huge technical achievement at the time putting the Corning Glassworks on the map as a place of innovation despite its remote location in the Allegheny Plateau. Scientists were then attracted to come to develop TV picture tubes in the late 40s, which led to prosperity and the hiring of even more scientists, including my father.


The Veranda where we sipped our wine at night listening to crickets. Our red car can be seen.





While we were in Boston, two different hurricanes threatened us: Bill and Danny though the former went out to sea right before coming near Boston. Danny was downgraded to a tropical storm and caused a very rainy Saturday for us. Of course when we finally got home yesterday, it looked like a hurricane had hit inside our house. That would be Hurricane Naomi with some help from Tropical Storms Spud and Sunny.

One of the most devastating hurricanes to hit inland was Hurricane Agnes in 1972. It had gone out to sea then headed back inland with renewed strength with torrential rains into central PA and the southern tier of NY. It was the first Category 1 (low winds) named hurricane to be retired due to the death toll from flooding (248). Eighteen of the dead were from Corning, NY as the excessive rains caused the levees to be breached and a wall of water hit the low lying areas of the city. People died in their attics in some cases. (they were warned ahead of time to evacuate). The house I grew up in was in a low lying area and was badly damaged. In the spring of 1973, I visited a friend in Alfred, about 50 miles away and hitched a ride to Corning ( I lived dangerously back then). I had not been there since I moved to MI in 1961 but was able to remember where everything was due to my constant roamings as a young child (never would I have let a 4 year old wander around for hours by herself but I guess my mom was busy with my brother). Almost everyone that lived in my neighborhood were living in army trailers, including the people in my old house. All the damage was repaired by that time to the Glassworks (right next to the river but protected by a concrete levee). I took a bus back to Hornell but then had to hitch a ride to Alfred, 10 miles away. Fortunately a Hornell family gave me a ride enthusiastically telling me about the devastation there. 11 inches of rain caused this small creek we drove by to become the torrent of death. They pointed to tops of trees where bodies were found.

We took the kids there in 1990 to visit its very cool glass museum (they did not agree with this-whiners as they were). I had spent many days there as a young child and remember each exhibit: glass that one could burn, bend, pound on, etc. My father was a researcher for the Glassworks, which was involved in many projects other than making Corelle and Pyrex. My father was on 2 projects there, developing picture tubes for TV and experimenting with different inks for the Corningware collections other than cornflower blue. All of our baking dishes were test pieces with codes inked on them. My father thought Corning was in the middle of nowhere and left as soon as he could to deal with windshield glass for Ford. It has been rated either in the Top 25 or Top 100 (depending on whose doing the ranking) art small towns with its numerous galleries, most featuring glass. The downtown area has been considerably gentrified since I lived there. Now Corning (the company and thus the town as it is the main industry) survives due to, in part, fiber optics. The museum has been expanded and improved considerably since I was a child. Also it has very cool stores where I couldn't help myself from buying some glass. I love glass! We stayed in a very nice B&B (the Rosewood) a block from the hospital I was born in. The house was built in 1854 but must be on higher ground than my old house as it only received basement flooding during the deluge. The owner had it full of local history books, which I love and tried to speedread.She also had lots of Katherine Hepburn stuff as she was the granddaughter of the founder of the Glassworks. The rain had stopped by the time we reached Corning so we were able to stroll along the historic houses and eat next to a plaza with twinkling lights and a lighted water fountain. Afterwards we had wine on the Veranda of the the B&B, a nice night. We haven't had too much special time together since cancerfest began. We had a formal, candlelit breakfast in the morning with interesting people, one of whom was a Chaldean man who had worked in Detroit for many years as Louie the Lightning Bug, the mascot for Detroit Edison (have to look this one up-I did the next day-it was not Freddy the Firefly as I miswrote). Steve in general hates B&Bs as he hates speaking to strangers but he was humoring me in part because earlier in the day we had finally made it to Cooperstown, NY, his dream town. Steve loves baseball and its statistics. The Baseball Hall of Fame was a place that he could spend hours in (we decided that 2 would have to do). The town itself was very nice capitalizing on its baseball roots (Abner Doubleday, who allegedly invented baseball came from there) and its literary roots-James Fennimore Cooper was the son of its founder. The whole area is called the Leatherstocking area (for his tales, the most well known would be the Last of the Mohicans) and Otsego Lake is known as Glimmerglass from Cooper's stories. Otsego Lake is very pretty and looks like a Finger Lake (Corning was just south of the major Finger Lakes so I visited them alot as a kid) but probably is too far east to be considered as one. I sat awhile at its base while Steve was in the museum until the rains came back. I visited a herd of European Fallow deer that according to the guidebook would feed from your hands. All I had to feed them were my macaroons and rainbow cookies from the Italian bakery back in Boston. Anyway, we have plenty of deer back home. I only saw one of the herd. I also drove around admiring the Italianate houses. Rich people must have settled there.

So our minivacation in NY was successful though the path was much longer than the trip there. Naomi had only one class today and was able to buy books. Steve convinced Blockbuster not to charge us all those late fees as we had a medical emergency. We've cleaned up the house, I dead-headed lots of my pathetic flowers-only a few might have died from lack of water. Some look like they died from too much water. On our last day in Boston, we had lobster rolls. Tasty but pricy. We watched the babies as Ramy and Shanna went out for a drink (she planned to pump and dump-she has filled the refrigerator with zillions of her pumpings so she can afford to throw away some of her milk). Oliver got up shortly after they returned and refused to sleep. He also learned to open all doors, not just the ones with handicap handles so now there is no confining him. Ramy started his paternity leave so he will entertain Oliver while Shanna tends to Daniel.






Sunday, August 30, 2009

Homecoming

So what happens when you take off on a minute's notice without any pre-planning? Nothing good. We returned to garbage all over the floor, an extremely smelly house, over-due videos, dead flowers, overgrown lawn, dishes all over the place. Clearly a certain someone wasn't ready for the responsibility. When will she grow up?
School starts tomorrow and noone is prepared for that either.

Sigh.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Harborwalk

Oliver and his new buddy Elijah, age 27 months resting after chasing each other non-stop

Oliver likes to explore cracks

Oliver and friend Kevin, age 18 months, on top of the harbor map pointing to the planes overhead landing at Logan


I-93 bridge. As soon as you emerge from the long tunnel that goes under Boston, you're on this bridge going north.
Harborwalk is a series of 39 miles of bikepaths that skirt the shore through Boston. Shanna's apartment is just a few minute walk from it. Very convenient for this runner. Today I made it to Castle Island and back-a 8 mile round trip. As it is finally cool and dry, I didn't need to stop for water. If the path were not mainly concrete, it would be ideal. Fortunately the causeway going out to the island isn't so I had 2miles there of softer running.
Yesterday we fretted how the viewing of Ted Kennedy's body next to us at the Kennedy museum would impact us coming and going from this peninsula formerly known as Columbia Point. There used to be a notoriously crime-ridden housing project here. It has been since torn down and replaced by UMass Boston, the museum and this huge, gated housing community that Shanna lives in. Shanna needed to take Daniel to the pediatrician just as the motorcade would be making its way here. Turns out that there wasn't much of a problem traffic wise. Daniel had gained 5 oz since his release so all is good though she has to bring him back in a few days for a weigh in. Meanwhile I took Oliver for a long walk along the water. Lots of helicopters overhead so I could see where the motorcade was. Oliver likes the helicopters, the planes landing at Logan, and the sea gulls. We came across a couple of toddlers on our walk that Oliver enjoyed interacting with. One of whom he spent a whole hour with as his little friend's great-grandma and mother watched the goings on at the Kennedy Museum from our perch across an inlet. The mom, a very pleasant, chatty woman has 2 sons, 2 and 19. Interesting spacing. She figured out quickly that we had our youngest children at the same age. She had some concerns about raising a child when she was in her fifties but said that I looked pretty good and healthy and she'd hope she'd be the same at my age. Ha and dear reader, I didn't say anything about what I've been through. Such restraint! Sometimes I embarrass myself by blurting out, you know I've been battling cancer though I usually just want to explain my bizarre hair-do. Her nana, pushing 90, was a big Kennedy fan but wasn't going to have the strength to stand in line at the wake. We both took pictures of Elijah and Oliver together-the mom said Look, they look like Kennedy and Obama together. Well I guess if Americans can elect an African-American for President, they someday can elect a Jewish-Arab for President. Our little get together ended when Oliver tripped and scrapped his knee wanting his mama. By the time I got him in his stroller, he changed his mind and wanted to stay with Elijah. Mama spent nearly 3 hours on her trip to the doctor's with Steve as a chauffeur. Oliver is still working on sharing his mama with Daniel. He especially hates it when she feeds him.
Tomorrow Steve and I go back though not through Canada. I don't want to be detained at the borders with my expired passport plus Steve wants to go to the baseball hall of fame in Cooperstown. We will probably stay in Corning, NY where I was born just south of the Finger Lake regions.



Thursday, August 27, 2009

Home at last!

Kennedy Musuem from behind Shanna's apartment where they just took Sen. Kennedy
Oliver showing off his little brother

Inside the Kennedy musuem. Now it is packed with people to pay their last respects. The water around the musuem is filled with boats and the helicopters are flying right overhead much to Oliver's delight


Happy Oliver-Just as long as Mama isn't holding Daniel



Not us, but Daniel was finally allowed to go home as an 8 day infant. For some reason, the nursery put him on a 4 hour schedule instead of a 3 hour feeding program and then became concerned when he was losing weight. They wanted to keep him longer but it sounded like he would enter a downward spiral. Shanna now is supposed to put this weight gain supplement into her breast milk. I was fortunate to have 3 full term very large babies (Josh was over 10 lbs) that wanted to nurse every few hours. I never had to wake them up to feed. Daniel just wants to sleep all the time and he is difficult to rouse to eat.

Naomi misses us at home. She went to the school yesterday to find out the results of the tests she took a couple weeks ago from the school psychologist to see what accommodations will be given for her 'disability'. The bad news: no accommodations. The good news: she scored well on all her tests though reading comprehension was the weakest but not low enough to cause concern. She did mention that Naomi might have ADD but a physician will need to prove it. It rained yesterday in MI and Spud, our old pug, hates to go outside in rain so he peed in the house. Naomi really hates cleaning up after him.

Fortunately it was not as hot as they predicted in Boston yesterday and the humidity was finally reasonable so I went running for almost 7 miles. There is this walkway 30 minutes (by me running) that goes out into the ocean to an island that I was able to reach. It was much cooler out there with the breezes. Bringing the baby home was just for the immediate family so Steve and I were free to explore Boston babyfree. We went to the North End, which is the Italian area, for lunch and treats that we brought home from the bakery.

Oliver isn't thrilled to share his mama with the new baby as could be expected. Also due to the C-section, Shanna can not pick him up. Not much sleep for anyone here last night.

Boston loves those Kennedys. The local stations have Kennedy news around the clock. Today Edward Kennedy's body will be transferred to the Kennedy Library right behind Shanna's complex where the public can visit him tomorrow (though the national news misidentified the place as being on Cape Cod-hopefully everyone will just go there). Due to construction, traffic already is a pain getting onto this peninsula. Later today and especially tomorrow, traffic will be really impossible. Daniel needs to go to his doctor later today.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Wimpy White boys

Daniel on Day 6
He is out of the isolette and has no feeding tube. He also is wearing his own clothes. Still he is wired with monitors for heart beat, oxygen and breathing rate.


White boy babies are twice as likely to experience respiratory distress as white baby girls. Apparently the little bit of estrogen they have helps mature the nervous system faster. The little champions of the nursery are Black baby girls. They are the most likely to survive extreme prematurity.
To get out of Level 2 nursery hell, Daniel has to go 5 days without an apnea episode. He also had to pass the car seat test. Babies less than 37 weeks gestation have trouble being in a somewhat vertical position so last night they placed him in his with monitors on for 90 minutes. No problems. Also he was taken out of the isolette last night as he is able to maintain his temperature. He also has figured out how to breathe and eat at the same time. His weight has dipped slightly below 7 lbs but it is stable.

Shanna and I have spent the last 2 days at the hospital for his feeds. He was quite alert today and is behaving more and more like a full term baby. He has less head control and still has open hands. Shanna and Ramy go back to the hospital at night while Steve and I have Oliver. Oliver was not a good baby last night. Apparently his new molar hurts and he does not suffer in silence. Shanna is sleeping as I write this but she hasn't gotten much since coming home. She also gets up every 3 hours to pump. She's been asked to stop bringing it in as the refrigerator there is full.

When will the cold front ever get here? It was supposed to come last Sunday but no, now it will be Thursday. Today was the first time with a dew point less than 70. (50 back in MI). I run as early as possible so I can be clean when taking Shanna to the hospital. With the heat and humidity, I keep sweating for an hour afterwards even with a cold shower.

Monday, August 24, 2009

The biggest preemie

Daniel is still in Level 2 care and won't come home for at least 5 days. He has had some setbacks; his bilirubin levels went back up so back to the bililights and he had more apnea episodes. They are now thinking that despite his size, he is even younger than what they first thought. His due date was calculated based on his size at 10 weeks by ultrasound. Usually at that gestational age, the error limits are within a week. At birth, Daniel weighed more than the average full term infant. It is hard to believe that a 34 week baby could weigh 7 lbs 10 oz. My nephew Joe was born at 34 weeks weighing slightly more than 6 lbs, which was considered large.
Unlike most newborns whose fists are tightly balled up, Daniel's fingers are extended though he will curl them around ones finger. He has no eyebrows but does have a nice set of eyelashes (unlike his chemo poisoned grandma). At first glance, he appears to be a normal newborn (a cute one too now that the swelling from being manhandled in his difficult delivery has subsided) but he does not behave as one. Even though he has a strong sucking reflex, he has trouble coordinating swallowing with breathing.

Shanna is now home of course disappointed not to have Daniel here. She is pumping around the clock and could feed a small army of newborns. Steve and I took a walk to give the 3 of them some bonding time visiting the Kennedy Library. She went back to the hospital, 10 miles northwest of here, to deliver the milk late last night. Ramy will go to work today. Steve and I will take turns transporting her to the hospital (C-section patients shouldn't drive for 2 weeks)and watching Oliver.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Short term goals

Daniel with Grandpa Steve. He hasn't used the feeding tube shown here in 24 hours but they are keeping it in just in case

Finally awake and checking out his surroundings

The whole family. Oliver rather be somewhere else.


Daniel's goals posted over his isolette. The checked off items are what he has accomplished so far. The unchecked items need to be done before his release. Despite this hospital being associated with Harvard, spelling and grammar are not its strong suit. "Spells" are apnea episodes
Daniel continues to improve. He is out of the bililights and they are slowly weaning him off the extra heat in his isolette. By now, he should be in the standard nursery crib but he will remain in the special care area until his release as he needs monitoring. Shanna was provided a deluxe Medela breast pump to obtain milk to be brought to him when she is released today. Now he has periods in which he is awake and can look around at his family. He is nursing and not using the feeding tube. He has to learn to breathe and nurse at the same time. His O2 level dropped to 80 as she nursed yesterday setting off alarms (needs to be close to 100). I got to hold him yesterday for the first time. He has light blue eyes that underneath his skin folds look very much like his mother's pretty eyes. He also seems to have her full lips.
Oliver also got to see him for the first time but he was not too interested.
I've been reading up on his condition-transient tachypnea or wet lung. It should resolve quickly with no lasting effects except for a tendency for asthma. It is much more common in elective C-sections vs C-sections that were performed after the mom was in labor. Various hormones are released during labor that prepare the newborn's lung to absorb the fluid inside. Vaginal births help expel this fluid. Both times Shanna was in labor, I drove the 750 miles plus frantically to get there in time. Any delay frustrated me as Shanna was trying to hold off going to the hospital waiting for me. During Oliver's birth, she was already 4 cm and in active labor by the time we got to the hospital. Just as she was ready to push, it was discovered that Oliver was breech. I was angry that she went through all that pain needlessly but as it turns out, maybe it prevented Oliver from this mess Daniel is in (he was 2 weeks early). Maybe we should have taken our sweet time Tuesday instead of rushing to prevent Shanna from experiencing any more needless labor pains so more hormones would be released making life easier for Daniel.
The speed limits here are annoyingly lower than in MI so in our mad rush, we were checking for police. Fortunately Massachusetts seems to have a different use for their troopers: human traffic shields in construction zones. In Michigan in the few constuction zones the state can now afford, the construction zones are flanked by orange barrels with flashing lights. Here they use state troopers with blue flashing lights. In the first construction zone we encountered (fortunately in the westbound lanes), all the blue lights made us think there was a massive accident, but no, they were just flanking the workers. Since all the troopers seemed otherwise occupied working as human orange barrels, we felt free to speed in the eastbound lanes. Even minor construction sites on side roads seem to merit police presence as I have discovered during my runs. They do lots of the work in the middle of the night, so during Ramy's and my return from the hospital at 4 am, we saw plenty of blue flashing lights in their underground x-ways (Miss Dig). Glad they can afford this.
We also saw some Boston wildlife, massive raccoons galloping through their apartment parking lot.
Shanna is coming home today. The nurses at the hospital are very friendly and helpful but their accents crack me up. Oliver is pronounced "Olivah' in the local dialect. Bostonians haven't mastered the letter R yet. I should be used to east coast accents by now living with a New Yorker but Steve's accent only occasionally surfaces.


Saturday, August 22, 2009

The apnea clock

Daniel under the bililights with his sunglasses
Daniel's welcome sign in the Level 2 nursery

Apnea is a stopping of breathing. Daniel has had several episodes in which he doesn't breathe for 10 seconds or so.He starts up by himself. He has several monitors on him measuring his breathing O2 levels, and pulse.The good news is that he has been fully weaned off of extra O2 and is able to nurse for very brief periods. Nursing is difficult to do with weak lungs as it is exertion and one has to breathe only through ones nose. The bad news is that he needs to spend time under the bililights as he is quite jaundiced. The earliest he can come home now is Tuesday as the policy is that a baby needs to be free of apnea episodes for 72 hours.

As he needs quiet, the hospital is the best place for him now. Oliver is certainly not quiet-full of energy. Seeing his mom with another baby won't quiet him down either. He has yet to see Daniel. I did show him other babies through the nursery window.

Hurricane Bill is the big, local news here but the bay was absolutely calm this morning. It was already 79 deg here at 6am when Oliver (and therefore Steve and I) got up. The humidity is so much greater here than Michigan. It could be 45 deg early in the morning back home and be 90 in the afternoon so it pays to run early. Here not much difference and of course it gets light here 1.5 hours earlier. The cloudiness did help me do a longer run today.

So we have settled into a routine. Get up early with our pal Oliver, feed and entertain him, I go for a run. Put him down for a nap, get lunch when he awakes, drive the 10 miles or so to Cambridge. Stay with Shanna for 3 hours taking turns entertaining Oliver, go home and make dinner. Put Oliver down around 8 and have 2 hours of free time before falling asleep.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Kangarooing


Day 2 close up
Kangarooing in the nursery is providing skin-to-skin contact between mother and baby for 90 minute stretches. Shanna and Daniel are allowed 3 sessions per day. The amount of extra oxygen he needs is decreasing and soon, maybe today, he'll be off it. He seems to have 'wet lung syndrome' more common in C-section boys. Normally the fluid in the lungs gets wrung out mostly in the birth canal and the remainder is absorbed by the lung tissue. But no birth canal squeeze for Daniel and his immature lungs are having trouble clearing this fluid. It rarely lasts more than 3 days. He nursed for the first time last night so he had to improve enough to just breathe through his nose. Before his whole chest and belly would cave in as he struggled to breathe. Another symptom is a blue tongue but that goes away under oxygen. What remains blue is the foot and leg they pulled on to try to extract him. Maybe newborns bruise easier but it is shocking to see. His face is all swollen by the fluids so we can't see how pretty he really is. The earliest he can be released is Monday where as Shanna needs to go home Saturday or Sunday. Already a woman is camped out in the visitor's room to feed her baby around the clock but can not stay there as a patient. Shanna might be joining her.
We are waiting for Oliver to get up from his nap to go see Daniel. We had been taking Oliver out with us to lunch but yesterday, he refused to sit still and threw everything he could get his hands on to the floor. He has yet to see his brother nor do I think he understands why his mama seems to be living in another place. He likes the hospital though. More people to admire him and new spaces to explore.
Hurricane Bill is scheduled to hit here this weekend hopefully cooling things off. It is so humid here that the highs and lows are quite close. I have been running for the past 2 mornings totally soaked. At least it is flat, carless, scenic, and has drinking fountains along my path. The downsides are no shade and most of the path is concrete.
I am hoping that Naomi is being mature and taking care of things at home. Josh calls her daily and will go over there today (he doesn't work on Fridays).



Thursday, August 20, 2009

Daniel pix

Shanna and Daniel
View from her room The hospital is in Cambridge MA. Across the river is Boston
Daniel in his isolette. He is getting oxygen through a nasal cannula. His pulse, oxygen levels and respiration rate are continually monitored. He still can't be removed from the nursery, which is kept dark and quiet.
Having clear lungs is a luxury we take for granted. Daniel struggles for oxygen still. Initially he was unclothed in an open warming chamber so his chest could be easily observed. He used all his muscles just to breathe and it was very tiring for him for the first 12 hours. Now that it is becoming easier for him, they let him be swaddled. He also has an infection as indicated by high white counts and is on antibiotics. He grunts every few seconds to clear his lungs. When I saw him shortly after birth, I thought the grunts were an attempt to communicate as he was awake and regarding his surroundings but no, they are a reflex in response to full lungs. He won't be allowed out of the special nursery until the grunting stops but he is grunting less now so that's good. His breathing rate is slowly dropping. It was around 100/ per minute vs 60-70 for a normal newborn. I noticed Shanna's rate was 18, which is normal for an adult resting.
Shanna puts on breast pumps on both breasts simultaneously every 3 hours for 20 minutes in anticipation of being able to feed him. She is disappointed that he can't be with her all the time. She was allowed to hold him for 1 hour yesterday. Stimulation must be kept at a minimum as it increases his breathing and heart rate to dangerous levels. not fair they have to go through this.
Meanwhile we have his healthy, very energetic brother 24/7. Such a contrast! We did take him to see his mom yesterday (he will have to wait to see his brother). Oliver seemed to be taken back by her altered appearance and suddenly was shy but soon remembered her and pounced on her. Ouch.


Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Welcome Daniel !!!

Blogger is not my friend today. First it wouldn't let me in, now the autodraft feature isn't working and my entire post was deleted. Boo hiss on it.

Shanna called very early yesterday to say she had contractions all night even though it was 24 days early. She wasn't sure if they were Braxton-Hicks but within an hour we were speeding across Canada and NY hampered by torrential rains, me grabbing an expired passport instead of my current (we were really rushing to get packed and going) The US custom guy was not amused but I still don't see the problem, they could easily check to see if I had renewed it and my birth situation hadn't changed. The Canadian guy didn't even notice. With Oliver I drove the 755 miles in 12 hours but this was hard to repeat even though we had little traffic to deal with and no snow like I had with Oliver. Still I didn't want to stop even for a second as time was a wastin'. Shanna went to the OB around 10am who wasn't sure she was in labor and didn't want to do the planned C-section unless she was because the baby was early. When we were about 2 hours away, the contractions progressed such that she couldn't speak through them-scary. I wanted to meet her at the hospital with Oliver so Steve could take him home when we got there but she waited until we got there in 12.75 hours. Steve stayed at her appt with the precious one while Shanna, Ramy, and I went to Cambridge to Mt. Auburn near Harvard's campus. She was admitted at 10:30 pm and found to be in early labor-definitely had progressed since the morning and there was no going back, but Daniel was lying sideways inside, impossible to get out naturally and as it turns out, difficult to get out even with a C-section. I only got to view part of the action through reflections through several windowed doors. I kept waiting and waiting for his cry (I had heard Oliver instantly after he was born quite a distance away). I could see that he was finally out of her but several people were working over him and still no crying (it turns out he was crying but it was muffled by the oxygen mask over him). Finally a nurse saw me and gave the thumbs up so my worrying was somewhat abated.

Daniel Joseph Shammas was born 11:47 pm weighing 7 lbs 10.5 oz measring 20.5 inches.

They had let Ramy parade Oliver around shortly after his birth but there was none of that this time. Even though Daniel weighs more than Oliver did, his lungs are less developed and he swallowed fluid as they were trying to get him out. I saw him only for a brief period that they were wheeling him to the higher level care nursery where he will stay until at least tonight. He can't leave it and Shanna was too weak to come to him so she was extremely disappointed and worried. She wants the nursing to begin now. She had so much post-surgical pain, way more than last time. At least with labor, there was relief between contractions. Not so with this. I really felt helpless seeing her in agony and she had the additional worry of what was happening to Daniel. Plus she misses Oliver whom she never has been apart from. He is taking a nap now but we will bring him to Cambridge once she says she is strong enough. Ramy is with her now. Oliver meanwhile is his adorable self-he tries to talk more but enunciation is not his strong suit. But he quickly learns new words and shows he knows what they mean. I've already taught him a few more words this morning alone. Having healthy baby is such a blessing. I wish Daniel were stronger but we are told that he will be all right very soon.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Sea of Pink

Yesterday as I was driving to the Y, I saw the 3 day Avon walkers against breast cancer all in pink walk through Ann Arbor. Now if I knew about it in advance, I might have volunteered but without a newspaper any more around here, except for a twice a week publication of a collection of blogs, their movie reviewer is a 11 year old boy who writes well for his age but is 11, we are pretty much devoid of a local news source.

I am sort of bored right now but I have only myself to blame. Lots of things I could be doing. I did have a good run this morning despite the humidity. I still have Ed Grimbley hair (nerd played by Martin Short on SNL) that forms a peak on the top of my head unless I put gel in it. It won't lie straight at all.

Steve bought Naomi a laptop for school which starts in 2 weeks for her. Steve and I will leave around then for the birth of the new baby unless he makes an early appearance.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Where am I?

My life has changed so much in the last 3 years that I am not the same person. During this time, I've seen 2 of my children married, became a grandmother, lost my job (as did my husband), lost my mother, broke my arm, travelled to England and Italy, and had (HAD I hope, I hope) cancer.

I read many blogs. So many have gone down similar roads to that of myself but at some point, some of their roads have gone to a place that I am so afraid of: metastatis. One of the blogs I have read is that of a woman who calls herself Pinehouse (http://pinehouse.wordpress.com/)

She died last week. She first had BC back in 1996 but it recurred several times. She developed lung mets 3 years ago. In her last 4 months, she had to decide which mets to fight the most: the brain or the lung. Talk about picking her poison. Ultimately she decided to go into hospice where she lasted 2 weeks.

Life goes on now at a much lazier pace but I am not bored or depressed. I do worry about my children, particularly Naomi as she faces many challenges and I feel I haven't equipped her properly to handle them. Unfinished business.

At some point soon, we will have to start collecting a pension. We've been delaying it as much as possible because there are really severe penalities for collecting it so early. Another annoying choice is deciding on survivor benefits. Normally the survivor gets 50% of the other but you could opt for the survivor to get 75% but with less money coming in now. If I knew I wouldn't survive beyond a few years, it would make sense now to opt for the 75% but to Steve, it denotes a lack of faith. To me, it means being practical. But since it is his call, I guess I will be optimistic and go for the default amount.

So now August has shown its typical self: hot and dry. I did have a nice run early yesterday before the heat was too oppressive. Today will be a Y day. I don't have to jump out of bed at the crack of dawn to beat the heat so that's a benefit. Steve and I went to the botanical gardens, beautiful though he isn't too interested in flowers and hates the sun. They had a bromeliad sale: strange plants that gather nutrients from the air-the most well known type is the pineapple. But I bought a specimen that is related to spanish moss. It is airy and has 2 pink blossoms with purple spots on them. I hung it in the shade of my fence and only need to dampen it occasionally and bring it in before the frost. A friend came over last night to take a walk but the heat never went away. We had fun playing on the computer instead and watched "Hung".

Friday, August 14, 2009

Balancing act

Barely visisble are these cute little white flowers in my Scottish moss
I do have some orange cosmos now
Some day I will learn to properly group plants together. I have dry, sun loving cosmos who love poor soil with my impatiens who love moisture, rich soil and not so much sun. If I fertilize the impatiens, I get lush cosmos leaves with no flowers. These two plants have almost wiped out their competitors: the zinnias, poppies, pansies, violas, delphinium and listeria (not the right spelling but pretty tulip shaped annuals). My giant (at least the flower is) hibiscus is doing well but my petunias seem to have the same disease they had last year.
Our house guests are now gone. It was nice sitting on the patio in the evening sipping various drinks as the solar lights came on just talking about this or that. We had one last happy hour last night with Josh and Julia coming to see Harold off.
Instead of moving in with her boyfriend, Naomi now wants to get an apartment with a girlfriend. Although this is an improvement in many ways, she isn't really ready but I guess I have to let her find out for herself. I know at her age I was counting down the minutes until I could move out but we are leaving entirely different situations.
Yesterday was a "Y" day as I had run so many days in a row but today it was back on the roads. It does feel so good when I stop.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

9/4/09

This may be the birthday of my new grandson who is still upside down and not likely to turn.The OB has an opening that day. He is in the same pike position as Oliver was: butt down, knees around his ears. Shanna was told that maybe her uterus is more conducive for babies to be positioned that way. At any rate, we'll go out a couple days earlier assuming that the baby doesn't repeat Oliver and come 2 weeks early.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Cosmesis

Cancer is not for the vain. We are subjected to so many assaults on our appearance-hairlessness, steroid induced bloating, paleness etc. When I requested the 3 week Canadian radiation treatment (hypofractionated treatment), I was told that I will probably experience 'negative cosmesis'. Of course I have nothing to compare my affected breast to except to my non-mutilated breast. My primary remarked upon the 'good cosmetic effect' in June but I figured his experience was limited. He rather talk about my running. Both he and his wife are runners, she being in my age group. In my one moment of glory when I came in 3rd in the Big Ten, she came in 2nd. Now I can't even run 50 yds at the pace I ran for the entire 10 miles.

Anyway, I had asked the onc yesterday how my breast compared to those who had the full 6 weeks of radiation. She said it looked better than most of them so I guess my gamble paid off. Also I would be stuck for even more positioning x-rays that Aetna doesn't feel like paying for. As for my survival, they gave higher doses per treatment, more likely to kill those errant cells left behind from the surgery and chemo so that wasn't in question.

Today is the good day for running as the temperature is relatively low though it is still humid. I went for my long run in the country and felt fine.

Naomi decided to have her hair cut and now has bangs for the first time since she was a toddler. I will post a picture as soon as I can have her stand still for a second.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Synecdoche

I love this word even if I can barely pronounce it. It's an approximate homophone of Schenectady (only the 'd' and 'k' sounds are transposed). The word, derived from the Greek for 'simultaneous understanding', itself has several meanings, including of course, to have several meanings. Its main use is that of a figure of speech in which a part represents the whole as in 'she had too many mouths to feed' and 'he purchased 100 head of cattle'. Or how some clueless Phd chemists referrred to non-Phd chemists as 'hands'. (Just loved those guys but I bet they can't define synecdoche)) Obviously there were bodies attached to these mouths, hands and heads but the part represents the whole. In my case, the breast went for a check-up today. There was a body attached to this breast but you wouldn't know it for all the attention the breast received today. The breast is doing fine, thank you very much. Its hard, painful components are apparently scar tissue, not more cancer. Also since the body attached to this breast is capable of running without stopping for an hour in this awful heat, it can be assumed that the body isn't teeming with mets, at least not big ones. One can never be sure. Signs of doom: more than temporary nausea, dry cough, unexplained weight loss, painful bones, headaches, visual disturbances. But in the case that the worst occurs, they are starting a clinical trial at UM for PARP inhibitors-the potential cure of triple negative metastatic breast cancer: it will be the first treatment specifically for TNBC. I do like Dr. Henry-very friendly and knowledgeable. I did whine about the lack o'eyelashes but she said the record for losing them is 4 times. Hope I don't beat this one.

As I was checking out, I noticed the scheduler had pictures of pretty flowers, one of which looked like mine. She was broken hearted. She had thousands of flowers but all are dead now due to a storm Sunday night that pelted them then covered them with a foot of ice balls. They all froze on a day that the temp reached 95! No hailstorm here 15 miles to her south but I could see the lightning in the north.

As for the word of the day, we watched Synecdoche, New York yesterday, which takes part, at least in the beginning, in Schenectady, NY. My chemobrain didn't make the connection between the words for a while. This movie did not come out in Ann Arbor as I suppose we aren't sophisticated enough to enjoy it. Indeed my son, who gave it to me, did not enjoy it one bit but he is not a fan of words. He also is not appreciative of the surreal settings like repeated conversations between two characters oblivious to themselves being in a burning building.The movie features many synecdoches: different meanings for the same word, like all the meanings of the word 'right'. But it threw in some homophones for fun such as psychosis and sycosis-both pronounced the same and both medical conditions but one refers to pustules of the face due to irritation of the hair follicles. The main character, played by Phillip Seymour Hoffman, suffered from one of these conditions if not both.

We made a field trip to the burbs to have some stellar pho in Ferndale and then to pick up good corned beef from the Star Deli in Southfield. My parents house remains unsold. I closed on the house 5 years ago this month to flippers. But the market plummeted drastically by the time they had fixed the house up.

And don't hire me to be your OB. My new grandson- to- be has NOT dropped nor is his head engaged. He is continuing his brother's backwards tradition and is clearly breech on the ultrasound taken today. Shanna's friend whose wedding she came out to attend is an OB also (I am not an OB but Rae is a friend and an OB-I am too influenced by this movie full of such misunderstandings)thought he was in the 'right' position so either she was wrong or he turned in the last few days to the 'worse'. True he has a month to turn around but they also were able to calculate his weight, 6 Lbs 11 oz, so either he is a big boy or he is almost done cooking.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Hot, hot, hot

Varenna on Lake Como in Northern Italy
Manarola-One of the Cinque Terre towns that we will be visiting in 2 months

Yesterday it was unbelieveably hot here. I woke up at 4 am because of our elderly, fecally incontinent pug was having a breathing episode and panicking because he couldn't get enough air. He was running around panting so I had to calm him down as the running was making things worse. I didn't think he'd survive the night but eventually his breathing slowed down and he was able to sleep. We kept the air conditioning on to keep him cool. With the heat index over 100, running for me was out of the question so to the Y which has good air conditioning. I ran this morning. With the heat index over 80, it wasn't pleasant but it helped that I had fresh legs. Still I was sweating profusely for an hour afterwards.
Shanna et al should be back home. She will have an ultrasound tomorrow to see where the baby is hiding out though it appears he is engaged already. We have to get things ready to take off in case he comes early, which I feel is a strong possibility. Harold is still with us and we have a good time just hanging. We went to Josh's last night. His wife was holding a bachelorette party in Manhattan for her friend but she's flying home tonight.
Tomorrow I go to my first post treatment check-up with the onc. No tests of any kind are scheduled so I am not sure what will be done beyond a node feel and breast lump check. The scar tissue is hard, lumpy and sometimes painful, all 'normal' but if there was something growing there (most likely spot), I am not sure how anyone could tell. From what I have read, with TNBC, the first year is when recurrences (both local and distal) are more likely to occur but after the 3rd year, the incidence drops drastically. Past 5 years, it is less than the estrogen driven kind. Almost one year is over, just have to sweat it out for 2 more years. I am able to not think about this for increasingly longer stretches of time but I am aware of the odds and they are scary.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

La mia famiglia

From left to right: Ramy, Shanna, me, Oliver, Steve, Harold, Naomi, Josh

For the past week, we have had visitors. First Shanna and her family then Harold, who is Steve's brother. We are at the $1.99 martini place in this picture. Shanna's new baby has appeared to drop so maybe he will come early. I've been trying to run every day to make up for my sloth and fatigue early in the week but now am dealing with thunderstorms.

One night I spend a good portion trying to console Naomi after a fight with her boyfriend. She of course, thought it was the end of the world and refused to eat or smile for 2 days. As I write, she is negotiating with him. I am trying to convince her the more you cling to a person, the more you drive them away but this is a lesson that one must learn on one's own.


Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Returning to normal

For the past few days, I have been very tired, which I found worrisome. Why can't I do things I did the week before, is this a sign of something? But today I was able to run 6.5 miles without feeling like I was on a death march so that reassured me.

Shanna and her family have moved to her in-laws so no more waking up to Oliver in the morning. She has to balance visits with many in-laws, made more by divorce, with our small family. Steve and I have been taking Oliver to the park in the mornings so he can burn off some energy and she can sleep. He has to be moving all the time. Hopefully the new baby will be less active. Steve and I will probably go out before the birth. Naomi has agreed to not move out quite yet while we are gone.

My bizarre cosmos are actually coreopsis. I was confused as the leaves are so similar but the seeds must have been in the 'wedding package' of unspecified wild flowers. At least it's a perennial so it will come back.

I went again to our cancer cooking class tonight. The subject being summer salads, which were quite tasty. Hi to Pat if you've found this.

I had a Happy Hour with some of my former colleagues yesterday. Lots of us have lost another set of jobs since our place was closed. Anyway it was fun seeing them again.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Mystery flowers

My bizarre cosmos. Although I planted some yellow and orange cosmos, those flowers look completely different and I haven't seen yellow cosmos with dark centers. Could they be some variety of English daisies?The flowers are only slightly more than an inch across.

At Shanna's wedding, as part of the favor bags, we gave out wild flower seeds-unspecified mix. This pink poppy is from that along with my mystery cosmos.

Oliver at Sugarbush near our house
As Steve and I had Oliver at the local park on the swings, Marilyn , the lady who was diagnosed with the same relatively rare cancer as I in the same week, walked through. She finished treatment 10 days before me but thinks I have more hair. But mine sticks up, even without the gel instead of lying flat as her does. Oliver enjoyed our park while his mom got some much needed rest. Still trying to plan how to handle the new birth. Ideally Ramy and I will be cheering her on in the labor room while Steve watches Oliver. Clairvoyance would be useful. The official date is 9-11 but she went 2 weeks early last time.
I still don't have alot of energy. Maybe I have some low-grade fever. I did run later in the day but it was an effort to keep going and I went to sleep not long after I finished. And tomorrow, summer actually will come with temps near 90. Not good for this runner.


Sunday, August 2, 2009

Oliver

My little buddy at 18 months

video
Oliver interacting with his Uncle Josh with Naomi on the side

Almost 15 hours after they left Boston, Oliver, Shanna and Ramy are finally here. They were delayed an hour alone trying to get into Canada around Niagra Falls. (it is shorter to cut through Canada than to go around the Great Lakes). He is a joy to have around but he is very active.

We had a mother's group Saturday at Brenda's who barbequed salmon on a cedar plank, which was tasty and also made sangria. I had made my quinoa salad that turned out well. I had enough left over for the brunch at my house today. It was a nice night with good friends complete with visits from the hummingbirds and the deer.

It was past midnight once the Bostonians came. I was so tired this morning I really couldn't do anything after brunch but sleep. Hopefully I will be more energetic tomorrow. Oliver is currently with the other grandma now-called Ta-ta (pronounced Tay-tah-Arabic) whereas Naomi spent the day with her friend Tata pronounced as it appears.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Waiting

Shanna and her family are slowly inching across Rte 90 stopping every few hours for her to walk around (week 35 of pregnancy) and to let Oliver blow off some energy. He hates to be confined. This week he learned how to lock himself in the bathroom (fortunately he will press the unlock button when asked), take his diaper off, unravel paper towels, and escape the apartment before his mom can stand up and catch him.

Naomi is at training to become a waitress. They will make some cuts today, hopefully not her as she really needs a job.

Mom's group tonight. I usually make desserts for this but tonight I will make a quinoa salad that I learned about in my cancer survivor cooking class. Unfortunately I lost the recipe but found one that sounds very close.

A shout out to Debbi who created my beautiful top that I purchased at the Art Fair. She put my picture in her latest blog entry (http://artweardesign.blogspot.com/).

My orange cosmos are finally in bloom. I was getting paranoid because none of the plants that I grew from seed actually produced flowers until this week even though the plants look healthy. I thought that there was be some magic ingredient I had to add to actually see flowers. A few days ago, I found that my string of solar lights (little stars that light up my fence) was chewed through. I was able to splice the very tiny wires back together yesterday and now my stars are lit again. Happy days. It was very toasty to run this morning making it an effort to finish. No running records this week and next week with my guests and activities, it will be hard to get many miles in.

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