Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Where's the beef?

The vajay-jay as Naomi calls it
Profile-Seems to have a prominent forehead
So Baby Tae-Nae's chances of being a boy has slipped from 65% to 25%. The sonographer wouldn't commit-the same one we had before. No waiting in this facility and the sonographer is very friendly and accommodating. Most of the time, the baby was in a position not conducive to a crotch shot but Naomi made the baby switch positions and it finally openned its legs. Nothing dangling but without a clear hamburger sign, she wouldn't commit. She'll have another ultrasound in her last month but babies then usually have their backs to the camera. Other than that, the baby appears healthy, proper amount of fluid, all systems normal, weighs 2.1 lbs, has a head diameter (not circumference-of 9 cm). Julia, my daughter-in-law, came with us. Hopefully she'll catch baby fever. Dontae and Naomi didn't seem too sad about the lack of boy equipment (though it still could be hidden). I do like her girl name but Dontae does not. He has another name in mind. We'll see who wins this battle.
Julia bought Dakota a pink Snugli along with some sex neutral clothes for Baby Tae-Nae. Pictures of this tomorrow. We all went out to dinner for her birthday. Very pleasant.

My baby is turning 19!!!

Age 17
Age 3

Age 1
For her birthday, she gets to find out the sex of her baby later today. Hopefully I will have a good picture of this baby, stay tuned!
Robins are no longer a harbinger of spring as it is now warm enough for some of them to stay all winter but today while running out of town I saw another sign of spring; the turkey vulture. When they are on the ground, they are difficult to distinguish from a turkey but as I got closer, it flew off (hard for turkeys) plus it was somewhat by itself (turkeys usually are in clusters). So ugly! The frogs are still singing. Now a different kind is chiming in too so it's quite noisy.



Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Checking the margins

As I sat in the waiting room last month waiting for my every 3 month breast check ( I am right in the peak of the period when recurrences might occur), I was reading UM's cancer center research news. No more second surgeries for lumpectomies!!! Back in the olden days (October 2008!!!), they would remove the lump plus an extra cm on all sides. Within the next couple of days, pathologists examine this hunk o'flesh and see how close the cancer cells come to the edges; 30% of the time the cancer cells are too close necessitating a rescission. Lucky me! I needed a second surgery with hints of a third. But now apparently, the pathologists check the margins right when you are open to the world and make a decision whether to cut more. This makes sense. Too bad they didn't think of this before.

Someone last week asked me who my surgeon was. I could not remember it for the life of me though her earnest face came quickly to mind. The name popped in my head several days later. I really have a hard time with names and dates. I forgot a dear friend's birthday remembering it too late, a day later.

I am still having trouble keeping asleep ( no trouble falling asleep). I worry about the dumbest things. Last night I dreamt that Naomi lived in a thatched cottage and wasn't taking proper precautions against the roof catching on fire. It took a while to tell myself that although her complex has caught on fire twice in the last few months (once a clear case of arson), her thatched roof was not a problem. I read for a while, fall in and out of sleep, wake briefly when the high school bus picks up kids at 6:48 am in front of my house and awake for good to the sound of the special bus at 7:24 that picks up the 'miracle baby' (as per her mother) across the street to take her to the middle school. It makes much more noise. The baby was born at the same gestational age as Naomi's baby is now to a mom who is probably my age now. She is unable to walk at age 12.
Naomi goes in for her 2nd ultrasound tomorrow on her birthday so maybe we'll have a better idea about the sex other than '65% boy'. The official reason is that her uterus is growing faster than anticipated. I have warned Naomi ahead of time that just because they might find a baby the size of a 30 week old fetus, it probably is younger. She hasn't inherited much from me but I am guessing the ability to grow a big baby might be one thing she has. Since she has little bodyfat, it isn't difficult to see its outline sometimes. In that picture I posted last week, the lump to the side is the baby.
It is supposed to be 60 degrees today but the temperature is hovering in the low 20s. They measure it in a low spot 10 miles away from here so I suspect it's much warmer. A good day for a run.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Kitchen Table Wisdom

A friend lent me the above book saying it was very inspirational for her. Oh, oh, I thought. In general 'inspirational' and I are not compatible; I am much too cynical. At work about ten years ago, we were all hauled down to campus to listen to a motivational speaker whose main point seemed to be that when life gets tough, you just say "how fascinating" and that we are all leaders in our own way, even from 'the back row'. I have been given books filled with vignettes: a typical one being someone diagnosed with stage 4 cancer miring themselves in self-pity and isolating themselves but suddenly has an epiphany that the little bit of time they have is worth living. Their new attitude leads to friends popping out of the woodwork and surprise, the dire prognosis seems to disappear. The right attitude cured their cancer!!! And even better, all the lessons learned from their 'wake-up call' has turned them into a superior person.To me, this message is disturbing as it implies that your bad attitude attracted your cancer somehow (see "Laws of Attraction")and worse, if you just think the right thoughts, it will disappear. In other words, you get what you deserve. This is so unfair to the many who battle difficult odds! And as one author has said, if you think cancer is a gift, then you can't come to my party!

But my friend was insistent, so I read it anyway. It too is filled with people struggling with difficult situations but at least rightthink doesn't convert to miracle cure. It speaks to acceptance of awful situations with grace. No one is miraculously cured but some inner peace can be obtained.

Hopefully my son is back from Austin, TX. The poor economy here has scattered his friends. Many live in Chicago and he goes there frequently but two of his groomsmen live in Austin including a boy he met at daycare when he was 18 months. When the boys were 11, I took them on a cross state bike ride. Josh had done it the year before with me but thought it would be fun with his best friend. About 30 miles into it, his friend begged me to carry his backpack. It was very heavy.
What's in it?
You told me to bring books so I have those and I bought maple syrup for my mom. She likes it.
Did you have to get it in a ceramic jug?
But once he learned how to pack light, he was fine.
Naomi came over to study yesterday. The baby kicks alot but when she grabs my hand to feel it, the baby calms down. Hopefully I'll have this power when its out of the womb.
A strong north wind today which makes running up to my favorite place difficult (though easy coming back) but I persevered.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Genetic testing

Huntington's chorea is a devastating condition involving GABA receptors leading to psychosis and lack of motor control developing in middle age, well past when the autosomal dominant gene could be passed on. There is no cure. Some people refer to it as "Woody Guthrie" disease. By the time it develops, patients will have passed this gene to half of their offspring. Researchers have found the faulty gene so now it is possible to tell the possibly affected offspring whether they have it. Was there a big rush for Huntington children to find out whether they had it? Aside from the ethics of having possibly affected children, it turns out that many preferred to wait and see if they had it. They still had the 50% chance that they didn't have it. They didn't want to lose that hope even though there was a large chance of relief.

BRAC1 and BRAC2 deletions are passed on in an autosomal dominant fashion also. If you have it, you received it from one of your parents and you have a 50% chance of passing it on to your children. If you have it, you are at increased risk for ovarian, breast and prostate cancers and possibly colon and pancreatic. So if you were to remove your ovaries and breasts, you'd cut your chances of having those deadly diseases significantly. At cancer support day at the Wellness Center yesterday, I ran into a woman whose BRAC gene has wreaked devastation in her life and in her family. She has 5 adult nieces who refuse to be tested even though their parent is nearing the end of Stage 4 cancer. Statistically half of those nieces have the gene too and could do something to lower their chances of having cancer but they don't want to know about it and now the aunt isn't allowed to nag them.

I haven't been tested for the BRAC deletions as my family history isn't consistent with having it. The main suspicion is that I had TNBC, the variety of BC that this deletion generally leads too.

The Red Cross finally told Dontae he has A+ blood so Naomi will need Rhogam in a few weeks given the high chance of incompatibility with the baby's blood. Only 3% of African-Americans are Rh negative so that was a long shot. The other day at the OB, the nurse was doing a history trying to identify any possible genetic redflags and asked Naomi if she were of Ashkenazi Jewish descent.
No.
Um, Naomi, your father is an Ashkenazi Jew.

We are hoping for hybrid vigor here. Naomi probably is not a carrier for the Sickle Cell trait either. Naomi and Dontae have a clear idea what their baby will be. If it is a girl, a supermodel. A boy, a basketball superstar. Don't tell them otherwise.

So I think I have moved on regarding these support groups. Cancer no longer is my biggest worry.

Friday, March 26, 2010

River Rats Rule!!!

The Huron River Rats Men's ball team defeated Southfield (my alma mater) this afternoon in the semi-finals in State Championships. Tomorrow they vie for the State title. They looked amazing when Steve and I went to watch them last month.

The girls however went as far as the final 16 and lost.
I miss those days.

TMI

TMI was the trick of today's WSJ crossword puzzle. All the long clues had those initials: a very easy puzzle.

A downside to being a teenage mom is the presence of the mom at the OB visits. She wants me there as she isn't able to process all the information given. However, sometimes she has to answer very personal questions and I am there. The OB doesn't flinch for a second. I am liking her more. I wrote the other day about my visit to a gynecologist when I was just slightly younger than Naomi. As intrusive as I thought the questions were, at least my mom wasn't standing right there as I hemmed and hawed for an answer.
Recently Naomi had shared something personal with me and instantly regretted it.
You would never had told your mother that, right?
Um-my mother wouldn't even know what you said means.

When Shanna was in college, she went for a visit to her primary and wanted me there as I knew her history which is a bit complicated. The primary was clearly uncomfortable with me there and glared at me throughout the visit.

I later brought my mom to this same primary to get a clean bill of health so she could be admitted to a nursing home. Living with my father, my mom with Alzheimer's Disease had been neglected.I had tried to clean her up (nailcare, extra hair removal, general cleaning,etc)but it was clear she hadn't been taken care of. For one thing, despite having been tall while younger, she had shrunk to 90 lbs. The primary assumed that all this neglect was my fault and glared the whole time. My father rarely let my mother out of his sight but at this time, he was hospitalized and it was clear she couldn't be with him any longer. Yes I knew my mom was in trouble and had had Social Services investigate. But although they asked questions, they would never answer any. All the primary needed to do was confirm (with the help of a chest x-ray and the radiologist instantly had told me there was no problem) my mom did not have TB but she decided that I needed to be punished by having my mom stay 2 more weeks with me (and I couldn't go to work while my mom stayed with us). She said there was no medical reason for her to sign the form immediately and I would just have to wait until she had time. Finally after me haranguing her non-stop, she relented but I was told to never, never see her again. No problem with that.

Ten degrees this morning! Where is our spring?
But it was sunny and icefree so away I ran.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Orchids

The lady slipper I have has been in bloom for more than 4 months now and my new yellow orchid
My kalachoe is full of blooms now too
Orchids are named after the Greek word for testicle due to the little sac most orchids have. My friend and I went to an orchid nursery today. Many different kinds of beautiful blooms. Hopefullly the one I bought will be easy to care for. My lady slipper still survives. At another nursery, they had a pond of multicolored carp some of which were quite beautiful. For a penny, you could feed them fish chow. They were jumping out of the water to get at our food. Sadly I only had my phone camera with me.
It was a dreary, rainy day so no running. I did lift weights for a while. Then off for a hospital tour. The website said every 4th Thursday, a tour but noone ever heard of that once we got there. We got our tour anyway by a very nice nurse. Only 2-3 babies are born there daily. Naomi pictures herself chilling in the jacuzzi for the whole labor. So the facilities there are nice as it recently was remodelled. I then took Naomi and Dontae out to eat. They have such high hopes for this baby.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

OB appt

Checking the heartbeat which always seems to be 150. While Naomi laid there, I could see the baby move from one side of her to the other. That lump to her left is the baby's back.
224 weeks 6 days
Baby Taenae continues to grow. BTW, although Naomi refers to the baby as Taenae (her teammates called her Nae; Tae equals Dontae), she has other names picked out. I really like the name she has for a girl, though except for a possible flash of the 'hamburger sign', this baby is probably a boy. I don't like the boy's name much but she changes her mind alot and is easily influenced. She goes in for another ultrasound next week. Medical reason: fundal height inconsistant with due date (26 weeks+ vs 25 weeks). She gained a whole pound in the last 5 weeks for a grand total of 8 lbs. Still weighs less than in her basketball days. Otherwise, she and the baby are healthy.
I asked the OB about her C-section rate: 30% which is now average in the US. We both expressed our wishes for this to be avoided. We take a hospital tour tomorrow.
It is so nice not to worry about icy patches. Spring and fall are ideal to run in. I've been more consistant about stretching my arm: I now can reach 1 inch beyound last month but 6 inches or so less than my left arm.
I went yesterday for a long walk with Steve to hear the frogs. He couldn't hear them!!!! He did hear the red-wing blackbirds though.His hearing loss becomes more severe as time goes on but he denies it and accuses us of mumbling. For the record, I speak loudly and clearly.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

my cute grandsons redux

Steve, Daniel and myself Oliver was mad at the time
Oliver and his fortress of coke

I am so, so happy!!!



Daniel enjoying his hospital stay



What would I look like if I were a girl?



Need to suck on my nebulizer
These were all taken by Shanna






Flags and inflammation

On the very bottom of my blog last week I installed a flag counter. Statcounter erases my hits every 500 or so. I have been keeping track of all the countries from that I have had visitors. I am up to 83 today with a visitor from Macedonia trying to read about Donkey Stew, the number one search engine term that gets people to my blog. Number one cancer related phrase: What color is your tumor?

Maybe at some point, I'll hang up a world map and stick pins where my visitors are from. When I lived in the co-op, a man had a large map of the US on the wall with pins stuck in various cities. There didn't seem to be any pattern to them as there would be if he had made a cross country trip. I finally asked what the pins represented: places where various coke bottles he drank from had come. To each his own.

From the science news (Tuesday is the Wall Street Journal's medical news day): genetic diversity and the effect on drug metabolism. It turns out that Plavix needs to be metabolized by the liver to be effective against forming blood clots after a patient has had a stent implanted. This is the number 2 selling drug so many are effected. Most people have the cytochrome necessary to do this but there are two subsets of people: some with reduced cytochromes so they'll need twice the dose and some who can't metabolize the drug at all. They have an expensive test that can identify these people but insurance doesn't usually cover it even though more strokes will result if the people aren't identified. Bits of information such as this keep appearing. Last year it was discovered that taking some antidepressants interferred with the conversion of Tamoxifen to its active form thus putting these ladies at risk for recurrence of their estrogen positive tumors.

I decided to take some of this new research personally and take a baby aspirin a day. In a very uncontrolled study, it was shown to cut breast cancer recurrences by 50% presumably by reducing inflammation. Reducing inflammation from any source is thought by some to being a key for cancer prevention. There are even anti-inflammation diets. Some foods presumably increase the amount of C-reactive protein in the body, a marker for inflammation (see http://www.nutritiondata.com/help/inflammation) and nutritionists have determined which foods are IF positive or negative. Blueberries are surprisingly on the bad list despite their antioxidant properties. I'm not sure how much I believe all this but in the meantime, the baby aspirin can't hurt much and might even make my arm feel better.

Where is the sun? I bought even more solar lights yesterday and want them charged up. My patio now is a tangle of strings of lights flashing through various colors-fantasyland. Not too classy but it gives me pleasure. I had a good run today too. The peepers are still going strong. Later Naomi and her puppy will come over. I've been trying to teach the dog to walk on a leash which I don't recall my other dogs having had problems doing. She does somersaults behind me trying to escape but at 5 lbs, I am stronger than her. I did teach her to sit.

Monday, March 22, 2010

The consequences of sex

When I was young, I had severe dysmenorrhea. Not every month thankfully, but often enough so that I dreaded the next month. Nothing seemed to help but we didn't have the effective antiinflammatory drugs we have now. I remember going to the library to research this sometime in the late 60s. I was surprised to read that it was a figment of my imagination and that it was my response to not accepting my womanhood. It then described the typical dysmenorrhic patient-thin and anxious of which I was neither. It was quite crippling. During my six hour attack, I could concentrate on nothing else and usually stayed home. My grandfather, a physician, would pass his medical journals on to me. These mostly consisted of glossy ads of my future employer and its competition but occasionally one could find something interesting in them. For instance, an article about the many Fs of gall bladder disease. The typical patient: Fat fiftyish, farting female with foul, flocculent,floating, feces. But most interesting to me at the time was that women on birth control pills rarely experienced dysmenorrhea!!! First of all, they acknowledged that this problem existed but better yet, a cure. The problem was that I was 17 and would need parental permission to score these pills. My mom was well aware of the misery I was in, dry-heaving, etc. She said the same had happened to her but all went away once she had kids. I pointed out the article to her and asked if she'd help me get the pills.

ABSOLUTELY NOT!!!!!
Why not?!?
Because then you could have sex with no consequences.

Thanks an effing lot. Again logic wasn't her strong suit. Better that I writhe in pain one day in month than risk me trying out consequence-free sex. Once I got to college I learned I could get contraceptives from the Health Service even though I still was a minor. But you had to go through a contraception education class and fill out a history full of what I thought at the time, very personal questions such as: frequency of intercourse. My then 18 year old self was outraged. In what universe is THAT anyone's business!! I left that one blank. Big mistake as then I was asked in person. I mumbled something about once or maybe twice a month, I don't know. Well maybe you should consider a less drastic form of contraception given the infrequency of such event. Um, I haven't established a regular pattern of intercourse due in part to having no contraceptives.
That worked and no more cramps until much later when I was trying for a baby. After that, ibuprofen eliminated any pain left.

Naomi was asked to distinguish between symptoms and signs of a disease in one of her classes recently. One you experience but there is no proof of them such as headache, fatigue, nausea; the other one can clearly see: a rash, swollen lymph glands, elevated temperature. Signs are given more weight than symptoms. Heaven help those with only symptoms and no signs!

Early in labor with Shanna, I thought I was experiencing terrible pain. The nurse on duty felt my contraction and told me that it was nothing-wait till I get a 'real' contraction!!!

A gray drizzly day today. I did get a run in before the rain. Yesterday after having lunch with Josh and Julia, I went to stretch out my muscles at the Y. Fortunately my back pain is almost gone though the frozen shoulder persists. I spent too much of today renewing my license. An incredibly long line and very inefficient Secretary of State workers!!! But I am good to go for another 8 years.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Endorphins

Endorphins are substances the body produces in response to stress to diminish the perception of pain. For me, there seems to be 2 varieties: one that disappears after about 2 minutes and another that isn't as strong but lasts for about an hour after running is over. I have started runs with shoes that pinched but after 2 minutes, I no longer feel them. I have finished runs, walked around for a bit and then felt the sting of open flesh rubbed raw by cotton short edges or running bras that seemed all soft and nice but after 6 miles, turn into flesh searing razors. Along from the obvious scars of the cancer surgeries, my chest has numerous dark scars from the times I didn't put enough protective lotion on.The endorphins enable me to ignore most of this during the run. When I finished my first marathon I was elated to have finished it in the time I set out; mind over matter: and slowly walked through the finish chute. By the end of it, all the pain I had been able to not perceive came rushing over me at once. It really was quite striking. Running other marathons later, I was better trained and didn't need to push myself so hard but I was always hesitant to stop too long or those endorphins would fade. Or I would be crying out, where are my endorphins NOW!

I woke up 2 days ago with a pain in the middle of my back. Maybe I slept in some silly position, I don't know what I did. I was too busy to run Friday but decided to make up for it Saturday. I have a quota for the week and I am full of self-reproach if I don't make it. Yes I realize how silly that is. I was still in pain yesterday morning, but no problem I have my trusty endorphins that will kick in, hopefully sometime SOON, please. I went over 8 miles on the so-called scenic beauty road 2.5 miles away. It goes through woods and plenty of wetlands and usually I don't encounter more than one or two vehicles. During some seasons, I don't dare stop or I get eaten by deerflies. Yesterday the overwhelming sound was that of the spring peepers. The temperature had dropped considerably. A big front of snow hung just north of me on the weather map, I was hoping it wouldn't hit me. I hadn't been so far on this road for a long time. It used to be more interesting going by the Highland cattle (very long shaggy red hair), the miniature horse farm, the sichuan pheasant reserve and in the other direction the bird farm that had black swans and peacocks. All are gone now. At one point, there was a great deal of fresh blood on the road. A deer? It isn't hunting season. The predominant dirt in these parts is clay. When dry, it is hard as rock but after alot of rain, it becomes spongy-very comfortable to run on. I could still feel my back but it was way in the background but of course, after I stopped there it was again..
If I lie perfectly still on my back I don't feel it but I am a tosser and turner. It probably drives Steve nuts. He stays in one position for the night. (By contrast during the day, he is a fidgeter annoying me with his constant motions). He'll put his arms around me but after 10 minutes or so, I feel trapped and need to move. But if I am not careful, I'll hurt my bad arm and now the back. Something else to keep me up. Hopefully this will pass.

So a low-key day. Shanna and her family were en route home; Naomi went to Dontae's family's BBQ. A friend came over and we watched Ricky Gervais. He actually is quite funny.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Crepuscular display

Part of the herd
deer photos by dk

From the Rivera mural in the DIA-we are all cogs in the great machine



The Wisteria Gate which we initially found closed

For the last two days, the city tree crews have been by pruning the trees and then with their big truck, grinding up the branches. This process is extremely fascinating to Oliver. He'd happily watch them all day risking hearing loss as it is a very noisy operation. Yesterday the crew was right next to my house although my city tree didn't need pruning. When new houses go up in Ann Arbor, one or two city trees are planted on their easement between the sidewalk and the street. A variety of different trees are used so neighborhoods don't face total deforestation such as due to Dutch Elm disease although the city has plenty of elms that escaped that. Our neighborhood had a disproportionate amount of ash trees though and the ash borer killed all of them. I believed I have a Norway maple but the tree man said that it is not a Norway but a sugar maple. It is very early spring so there aren't even buds on the trees so he was identifying it from its root patterns. He said the maple in my yard though is a Norway.

Yesterday was my last visit with Shanna and the precious boys. I showed Oliver my first crocus and he promptly picked it-purple-one of his words. They go back to Boston today. Shanna promised a more extended stay this summer with more 'Sue' time.

Later, it was off to Fashionable Ferndale and The Fly Trap-a 'finer diner' with my friend to score some tasty pho. On to the Detroit Institute of Arts. We were turned away from the main parking lot puzzling as there were no special exhibits there that I knew of. Turns out that some real estate tycoon was having his funeral at the DIA. He had lots of well-dressed, rich looking friends too. I wanted to show my friend the Diego Rivera murals-the showpiece of the place and I was especially interested as I had just read a novel somewhat based on his life. During the Red Scare time, the museum had to put up a sign decrying Rivera's politics but said the murals would not be destroyed due to their artistic merit. But the Wisteria Gates to the Rivera Court were closed for the hotshot's reception!!! Soon they opened so the help could bring in food and we went into the court promising not to eat the food. Two of the Rivera experts suddenly appeared to answer any questions about Rivera we might have. They reminded me of the Book People (Naomi's writing assignment this week concerned Fahrenheit 451 and the few people left in the world that appreciated literature each chose one book to memorize). I had asked one of them about Frida Kahloe, also a person of interest to me and Rivera's wife. No she just knows about Rivera.

As a child, I remember just 3 works of the museum: the Rivera murals as they were so large, Van Gogh's self-portrait-interesting as he had cut off his own ear, and Copely's Watson and the Shark showing a boy desperately trying to swim away from a shark gnawing on his leg.

The museum has many German artists that I know very little about. My favorite era is that of the Impressionists. My favorite museum being Musee D'Orsay in Paris-Impressionist's Central.

Later that evening, a few of us sat in the last warm evening for a while sipping wine listening to the spring peepers, which would suddenly stop for no reason we could fathom, and watching the deer herd silently strolling in front of us. It consists of about 10 individuals. When the peepers stopped, we could hear the trills of the red-winged blackbirds. Soon more wildlife appeared as the sun set, bats and a lone raccoon who didn't seem too concerned about our proximity emerged. As it became darker, the deer became more bold and edged closer to us. Underneath us, we could hear something scratching and fussing; we assumed another raccoon. But shortly after we became too cold and it was too dark to appreciate much, the skunk sprayed the house.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Tempus fugit

Daniel eyeing me suspiciously as I push him in his stroller. His eyes are still blue but are showing signs of changing to brown
A rare moment in which Oliver is sitting still. I finally got him to look at me. From this trip, I have much more pictures of Daniel as he can't run around like Oliver. Oliver is in constant motion

Oliver considers, just for a second, his next move at the park


Daniel is enjoying the fresh air too



Back at the ranch , Baby Taenae continues to grow. 24 weeks yesterday
I was trying to get a run in before Shanna came. Steve was going to some presentation about our health care changes (inconveniently scheduled in Dearborn for Ann Arbor people) and if she came earlier than planned, she'd come to an empty house. There would be no stopping on this run to stretch, blow my nose, try to identify some strange bird or any of the excuses I usually give myself. Sometimes when I tell people I run, they tell me they couldn't run as it is too boring. Well I guess I am easily amused. No I can multitask meaning I can think and run at the same time along with taking in my surroundings. True some of my thoughts are too focused on how much longer do I think I still have to be out there but in general, the thoughts are more pleasant than the ones that come to me in the middle of the night such as:
Median time to recurrences from diagnosis for TNBC: 18.9 months
Median time from recurrence to death: 7.5 months
Time from my diagnosis to present: 18.4 months
Naomi's various shenanigans
Unfinished business
Widening gulf between 2 parties that I won't mention
But the time flies by while I run-generally. Sometimes every step is an effort such as when I tried to run during chemo. It was very pretty out and it felt good to run. I was showered by the time Shanna's family came.
Shanna and I took the babies to the park. Oliver loves to run around and Daniel got his first swing experience. He had to go back to the hospital for his check-up. They were given a nebulizer for home treatments but he seems to be on the mend. Oliver took a long nap during the time I was to watch him. Time is flying by too in my life. It wasn't so long ago my kids were babies and now they are having babies. Naomi came over with her dog that fortunately knows to give Oliver wide berth. She loves running on top of Daniel though. We tried to weigh the puppy by difference: 5 lbs.
Later I went to the cheapie movies in the mall with a friend to see The Blind Side, which I enjoyed. I don't think I've been in that mall for a year- I'm not much for malls.
Today I get one more baby visit and then I will have fun with my friends. No time for running but tomorrow I can make up for it.




Thursday, March 18, 2010

Pneumonia

Steve in 1991-found when I was looking for a picture of Josh. Isn't he
cute? Fortunately for us all, the kids inherited his looks

Poor Daniel and his parents spent most of the day yesterday in Pediatric Urgent Care at the hospital dealing with his cold that had gone bad. He had 'retractions' meaning if you were to look at his chest while he breathed, his whole abdomen would cave in with the effort. Meanwhile his oxygen levels were low so his efforts weren't delivering enough air. Chest x-rays revealed the pneumonia-an early case so he was not admitted-just nebulized repeatedly. They were given a nebulizer to take home. They are to return today. Update, she called while I wrote this. He is still wheezing away. Early asthma? The eczema he has according to the peds could indicate hypersensitivity. Someone should learn not to sneak hummus into him even though her kids survived it.

Naomi's appt was cancelled due to the OB being in delivery at the time. An option to come in anyway with the nurse doing the measurements was presented, but we'll wait a week. Meanwhile they will send an ultrasound requistion. With the change in our insurance, we now don't need to stick with this lady. She seems very friendly and non-judgemental but I wonder about her C-section rate. She seems very firm about not letting one go beyond one's due date, which in Naomi's case was determined from an ultrasound. Presumably fetuses (fetii?)don't vary much in size early on so this ultrasound estimate is good for within a week. But what happens if Baby Taenae is unusually large for gestational age? Seen this before. Also she didn't seem to take any measurements of Naomi's pelvis. Maybe she's good at eyeballing but somewhere I am afraid, she looks at Naomi and sees "C-section". I asked if she thought Naomi's pelvis was adequate for birth. She said, well she's a tall girl..probably is. Well I am hoping that she inherited my capacity for big babies. Steve's mom seemed to be good at delivering (though probably while unconcious)big babies too as Steve was nearly 10 lb. Shanna's friend in France, now in her 39th week, informs us that in France, they go by a 41 week schedule and they don't even think of inducing until you hit 42 weeks. C-section rate there..5%. Here 30%. With Naomi's doctor..I bet higher.

Instead of me running, Steve and I took a long walk down by the river. Very nice weather and calm. The birds were in high gear for the mating season-lots of red-wing blackbird trills and Canada geese going wild. We then went downtown for Josh's birthday-unbelievable crowds due to St. Patrick's Day. Steve thought I should have a chosen a different day to have him.


Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Luck O' The Irish

Josh holding Daniel last X-mas


Josh at 9 holding Naomi the newborn


Today is Josh's birthday. He is now 28 years old, which still is hard for me to believe. From a very active little boy, to a mature, married man, I have seen him grow. He has been a joy. We will take him out later today. He celebrates his birthday in shifts: first the family then with his friends of whom he has many.
My father's maternal grandfather (Graham, which was my middle name)immigrated from Ireland in the 1880s, which makes me at least one-eighth Irish. I believe his wife was also Irish (Saxby?possibly Welsh). Everyone on my father's father's side was Scottish. Our family is now quite the melting pot-Jewish, Chinese, Arab, African-American...Let's hope for hybrid vigor.
We now have beautiful spring weather and I was out running soon after waking yesterday. Despite the weather though, a sadness gnawed at me most of the day and I spent too much time choking back tears. I will control these thoughts though. It will pass.
Shanna and Daniel came over to go for Shanna's haircut with Stephanie, the hairdresser. She knows the both of us well so it was fun catching up with her and showing off Daniel. We were also able to eat out, a rarity for Shanna as Oliver makes meals out a challenge. Tuesdays are study days. Oh how I wished I could be outside!
On the schedule today is Naomi's check-up and hopefully a visit from the grandkids. Then out with Josh and Julia.I am getting tired so maybe I'll skip running but then I will feel guilty for wasting a pretty day.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The visit

Wide-eyed Daniel

Dakota checking out Daniel


Dakota checking out Spud. Spud is 14.25 years old
Oliver spent the majority of his visit yesterday taking a nap so he missed Dakota's visit. The visit was cut short when Naomi said she had to go and buy a cage for Dakota. Somewhere in my or Josh's house, is a perfectly good pug cage but Naomi thinks her doggie deserves a new, never used cage. Spud really never needed to be crated. He never went through that chewing stage, probably because he still seems to have baby teeth. If we were gone, he just went into hibernation mode. But Naomi demanding a new cage for Dakota sparked something in Shanna on how Naomi will have to get used to having used things given the choices she's made and how she will need to know that now she is a poor person doomed to welfare. Naomi said she didn't come over to be lectured and left. There is no use in shaming her. She is in fantasy land and I am trying to slowly bring her to reality. I am propping her up but the minute I let go, she falls. It is all very tiring. After she left, we played the Blame Game-my favorite-a game no one truly ever wins. Everyone is a loser. But the fingers were pointed at me. Among my many crimes, having Naomi live in a city in which she could meet people of different cultures. As I said, there are no winners in this game and I made no effort to defend myself. Naomi later was pissed that I made no effort to defend her either. A bad mother no matter what I do. I guess I could counteract and point out what happens when someone doesn't feel love at home, they try to find it somewhere else with bad results.
Why do children turn out the way they do? I know so many people with less than perfect childhoods and who had the most awful parents grow up just fine. A mystery of my life has been how my father turned out the way he did given his very privileged upbringing. He was shown how to behave but he rejected being a decent person. Maybe he just couldn't help himself.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Chipughua

An adult chug from the internet


Dakota sleeping. Hopefully she doesn't outgrow this bed



Dakota all wrapped up. She wants to be carried everywhere


Who is this little stranger that Naomi brought to the house yesterday when she was supposed to be studying? She is 5.5 months pregnant, living in poverty, struggling in school-does she need to be taking care of a 4 month puppy too?


Dontae picked Dakota up as a surprise from some rescue operation. She presumably is a 4 month old chihuahua and allegedly will never grow any bigger. Now it's true that toy breeds don't grow quite as impressively as lets say, Sunny the German Shepherd Dog. But even Spud, the pug, purchased as a 4 month old tripled in size and technically he is a toy breed. Compared to Mz. Dakota, he is mammoth. The only hint that maybe she won't grow is that she has the tiniest feet I ever saw on a dog. But she seems as big now as an adult. Also her fur color: I never seen this color on a chihuahua before suggesting that perhaps she is far from being a purebreed. It wasn't until this morning when I uploaded these pictures that I realized where I have seen this fawn agouti coat with black ears and snout with the black ridge running down the spine. Duh!!!! She's part pug!!!It also explains her lack of nervousness. When Spud got in her face, she growled, which he can't hear, and then she snapped at him. After that, she showed no fear of him. I thought for a while that her boldness may be due to being part terrier of some sort..Jack Russell? But they never have fur such as hers. Being part pug explains alot. I have since learned the official word for her ilk is Chug.



Yesterday was hectic trying to prepare her for the exam and then later helping her with some nutrition assignment. She of course brought all her laundry as she had no time to do it. She had a baby shower to go to. She has managed to find many unmarried pregnant girls her age and now socializes with these new friends. But no money or time for a present..could Steve go fetch one? Didn't have time to get money to buy gas...on and on. When do I stop enabling..when will she grow up..it's exhausting and sad.


And last night was our big family dinner so let's see.. that's cooking for nine? To be fair, Daniel doesn't eat anything of mine and Oliver, not much. I put food preparation off to the last minute then I couldn't enjoy my guests-not really guests but family. Maybe I was crabby because I had no time to run.


In the middle of the night, to stave off racing, negative thoughts I read. My latest: The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver. Not as good as Poisonwood Bible but still interesting. In between the plot lines, it gives a history of Mexico. When Cortes first reached its shores, he asked the natives what they called their land. They answered "Yucatan" What Yucatan means in Mayan is 'we don't understand what you're saying'.


Another Mayan word I learned yesterday from a completely different source is 'chia' from the plant of the same name sold with a terracotta animal that you water and sprinkle the seeds on it.

"Chia' in Mayan allegedly means 'strength'. The natives are presumably very good distance runners. They swallow a handful of these seeds and they are good to go for another 50 miles. Some consider these seeds 'superfood' and that it should be part of the cancer survivor's arsenal. The source of all this in the last paragraph is from Jennifer, a Fox News reporter who has been a spokeswoman for TNBC lately. This fall, she found she had a 9 cm breast (TN) tumor, the biggest I've heard of. Chemotherapy has shrunk it to 1.5 cm. Whether its remains contain living tumor cells will be answered next month when it is removed. She supplements her heavyduty chemo with nutrition using superfoods only. She's been on TV several times and of course has a blog. (http://jengriffinblog.blogspot.com/)


And I assumed 'chia' was a mispronounced Italian word. Josh had this friend who seemed to be at our house every morning. Despite my kids' requests not to speak to their friends, I try to extract information from them anyway. I had learned that this boy had an Italian mom. Really, what was her name? Chiapetta. I assumed at the time, he made up the name just to shut me up. I had laughed at his reply as he had been smiling. But this woman wrote me out a check later and it actually was her name.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Old Wives' Tales

My mom was not a highly educated woman. She had dropped out of high school at 16 to get a job. I am still trying to understand from her sisters what was behind that decision as what they tell me does not jive with what she told me. Later, after she met my father, his mother, a very educated woman not pleased at all with her son's choice, insisted she get a GED and some college. Her future mother-in-law paid for that. But much of her knowledge seemed to be gleaned from old wives' tales. It was very frustrating living with such ill-logic. I felt I was raised by wolves: people without a clue.

No you can't shave your legs. The blonde hairs will turn black!
If you swim within 2 hours of eating,you'll get cramps and die!
If you wash your hair while you have a cold, you will get pneumonia!

That last myth was especially embarassing to live with. At eleven, I had all the signs of early puberty: a growth spurt that caused me to tower over everyone and extremely overactive oil glands. Unless I washed my hair daily, it would hang in disgusting greasy ropes. We had a X-mas concert that year and my friends and I were chosed to sing in a trio-"WinterWonderland" singing harmony. That was difficult as I kept wanting to sing the soprano part-the melody. There were a few lines I got to sing by myself. I used to have a reasonable voice but puberty has since reduced my range to just a few notes. But then, I still could sing despite a minor cold. I was forbidden to wash my hair due to the cold and the threat of pneumonia. After a few days, my hair left grease stains on everything it touched. On the night of the concert, I showed up with my very greasy hair. This did not go unnoticed or unremarked upon!!! I'd rather have had the pneumonia.

I thought about this yesterday as I ran with my cold in the rain and driving wind. I tried as much as possible to keep the wind at right angles. I should have worn a hat. At the end of my run, my hair was sopping wet and my skin red from the chill. All was fine after a hot shower. So far no signs of pneumonia. Despite running in the cold routinely, I do feel I get much less disease than most. My last cold was 6 years ago and as far as colds go, this one is very minor. My theory is that the elevated temperature kills off the potential pathogens. But I can't get too high and mighty: I had cancer.

No Naomi and the test is later today! Suffice it to say that it would be much, much easier to be the student than trying to turn her into one. Shanna and crew finally made it to Michigan after a drive that was much longer than mine. They will come over later in the day as will my other kids.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Rust Belt Cuisine


The Hungry Moms

Recently Anthony Bourdain featured the cuisine of the Rust Belt, which included Detroit. I expected some mention of Vernors, Faygo, bumpy cake and Coney Islands but no, just the food of various immigrant communities including that of the Arabic, Belgian and Polish. One contribution of the Polish community I learned was that vile substance I had as a child known as 'city chicken'. This was miscellaneous pieces of tough veal on skewers rolled in cornmeal. It had a funky, musty taste. Chicken used to be much more expensive than veal. It didn't taste like chicken.

Other foods of my childhood that I stay away from:
Spam
Mexicorn and creamed corn in a can
Canned corned beef
Velveeta
Doritos
Twinkies
Chipped beef
Banquet pot pies
Frozen, breaded fish
Canned fruit cocktail
Spaghetti-Os
Bologna
Vienna sausages
Frozen cream pies of any sort
Cool-whip
Jello with various canned fruit suspended in it
Pudding from boxes
turkey legs at 19 cents a pound
Swiss steak
Junket-made from rennet

Bad childhood food I still like:
Chicken rice-a -roni
Bacon
Waldorf salad
Orange jello with carrots in it
Ambrosia although modified by me to be tastier
canned crescent rolls
3 can green bean casserole though I do use frozen green beans

Last night I cooked for the moms: the post-partum support group for moms of babies pushing 31 years. Although some of them call our group the Awesome Buddy Group, I refer to them as the "Hungry Moms" from that reggae classic whose lines include "A hungry mob is an angry mob. Them bellies full but we hungry..." When I first heard the song, I thought Marley said 'hungry mom'. Still I am not sure whether he says 'man' or mob'. Jamaican man=mon.

No rust-belt cuisine for my friends. I cooked 'for survivorship' as 3 out of the 5 of us are 'survivors'. Yogurt cheese with a smoky chipolte sauce and tuna cakes for appetizers. Carrot curry coconut soup and sesame sole for a main course. A lemon, dill yogurt sauce also was prepared to put on the fish . My friends brought spinach pies, shrimp, a garbanzo avocado salad, dessert(tasty raspberry tart) and lots of wine to supplement. Absolutely none of those things would I have had as a child although my mom did make a nice raspberry pie.
It was nice.

We've received better mail recently. An E-Z pass transponder and news that our insurance has decided to consider UM an in-service provider. No more trips to the lab in Livonia when there are UM labs right down the street. Less out-of-pocket expenses. Who-hoo!
Michigan is surrounded by states with tollroads so few of us have transponders. When I was trying to beat the clock driving like a maniac to Boston during Shanna's first labor, not having to stop for the many tollbooths would have been a blessing and probably, less costly. Also I didn't have full use of my left arm then so it was a pain fumbling for money and then extending my right arm out. But no more of that with my brand-new transponder!

Although it is warmer than usual, it is raining now. I ran in it, cold with the wind and hard to see with the drops on my glasses. Shanna and family should be at her in-laws now but I won't see them until our 'family dinner' tomorrow. Hope they like left-over sole.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Death

What do I do with all this time on my hands some of you may ask? Well aside from my running, which surprisingly takes up a lot of time particularly if I have to drive to the Y, helping Naomi study, writing this blog, I read. There are many things I should be doing but I just haven't found time for them. I do have a list.

I follow several blogs including one from Renee in Canada who had Stage 4 inflammatory breast cancer (IBC). This beast is either diagnosed as stage 3 or 4 and is the most deadly form of BC. It does not form lumps. Rather it blocks the lymph channels causing the whole breast to painfully swell. It spreads quickly. In her case, along with several other sites, it went to her stomach which is very unusual. Renee's blogs were works of art and poetry alternating with practical tips on dealing with ones looming death (an example is planning her funeral: http://circlingmyhead.blogspot.com/search/label/funeral)
She died earlier this week. The above picture she selected for her final post. She was comforted by angels and now she is one.

Also dead this week due to stage 4 ovarian cancer was the wife of Steve's former boss. I ran into Kavita this summer at my cooking class. She was very much hoping that changing her diet would extend her life. I knew her husband way back when I worked in Detroit. Theirs was an arranged marriage, which fascinated me and of course I questioned him how one could marry someone that ones family had selected for him . He said that the low divorce rate amongst such marriages was proof that it was a better strategy than the "American Way". After meeting her, she seemed like a woman that no one would take advantage of-very strong.

From the Wellness Community lending library this week, I scanned through the Nanny's and Elizabeth Edward's cancer stories. Quite a contrast in styles! The former had early stage uterine cancer and spares no detail from her bowel movements to graphic descriptions of her post-surgical sexual encounters. TMI indeed. Ms. Edwards provides little information other than the terror of finding a 'large lump' during her husband's campaign. As for treatment, she received chemo and radiation. She said that she had every side effect imaginable but would not go into detail other than to say the only side effect her young children was fascinated by was the hair loss. She does discuss the death of her 16 year old child and the rigors of being on the campaign trail. One thing that very much bothered her was a man who for a while stood along her path on many occasions carrying a sign that said "Fatso". This upset her. This biography was written before her husband's shenanigans came to light and also before her cancer returned to her bones.

My Canadian 'famille' must have returned from Tunisia by now. They had another sister that I must have met but forgot. She died instantly in a car accident in 1989. Shortly before her death, we had visited Montreal. While Steve and I were at Le Parc de Ski du Fond (cross country ski park-Steve hated that), this sister and Claire came over to play cards with Shanna and Josh who were left behind at Jeannette's condo. I had told Shanna about the death way back when but then completely forgot about it. Shanna remembered though. She said it was her first brush with death. One day she is playing cards with this friendly French lady and then she is dead. Later that year, she had another, much bigger brush with death when her beloved Grandpa Joe died of stomach cancer.

Thirty-five years ago, Jeannette, my step-grandmother was diagnosed with ovarian cancer-a death sentence in those days. She survived.

I had bad dreams last night with Oliver walking along the edge of a cliff and no one stopping him. Shanna and her family will leave Boston sometime today on their way to Michigan. Long drives make me nervous but at least ice won't be in their way. I have been told though there will be no equal sharing this time of grandchildren. Our side used up our share already last week and the week before in NY. This trip is to visit a 100+ year old relative that is losing his memory before he forgets them completely.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Cooking for Survivorship


This was sent by my fellow Italian student Jeanette

Yesterday was my "Cooking for Survivorship" class at the Wellness Community. It is getting more popular as so many want to avoid a recurrence. So the foods we prepare are high in anti-oxidants, low in fat, no meat, no white sugar or flour. Have I adopted this diet at home as I should? Not really but baby steps..baby steps. I will make some of the recipes for the moms tomorrow. There is usually one or two new people there so we all introduce ourselves with a summary of what we've gone through. I mentionned that my latest challenge is the teenage pregnancy and that the shock of it was nearly that of hearing about my breast cancer. Then I felt bad as how is a new grandchild anything like a tumor. One woman came up to me later and said that someday I will look on the baby as a blessing. Maybe. Naomi asked me earlier in the day, Aren't you excited for me? I know what she wanted me to say but I just couldn't. I know. I need an attitude adjustment. I'm no longer moping about it and am trying to prepare Naomi as much as possible. I have to be more positive about this baby. A woman in our neighborhood, Josh's best girl buddy for many years, recently had a baby with a minor disability. Her mom blamed her for working too hard causing the baby to be 'defective.' Suffice it to say, grandma won't be seeing that baby anytime soon until a big, big apology is made.

Our new insurance covers nothing for my visits to my cancer team until I rack up more bills. I will be seen every 3 months for at least another year. I almost hate getting mail as it is bills, bills, bills but I did get a beautiful card from Lesa of LittleLifePreservers I will scan.

It is spring for a while here and I was able to run in the cool air in shorts no longer worrying about ice patches. I basked in the sun later on my patio. A lazy day. I am fighting a cold but I still can run.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

A Year without Chemo

22 weeks, 5 days

March 10, 2009 was the date of my last Taxol infusion. They were running out of good veins in my left arm to access. They never do chemo in the arm in the side of surgery due to possible lymphedema. Too bad because that's where I have my best veins. I hated the search underneath my skin randomly jabbing at various veins-very painful and creepy. In the end they made do with a substandard one. Alarms would go off unless I held my arm at some painful angle which on that day was for 5 hours. Good times. Taxol has to be delivered very slowly due to possible allergic reactions. To ward these off, we are pre-dosed with steroids and various antihistamines-all causing their own side-effects. Taxol itself is not the allergen but the vehicle used to solublize it made from castor bean oil (same bean the toxin ricin comes from). Back in the lab, any potential drug not readily soluble in the usual vehicle (water)would be dissolved in this 'cremaphor'. Sometimes it was hard to tell if the effect was from the drug or the cremaphor. Little did I know they actually use this stuff in humans and that would be in me. Taxotere has a different vehicle, much more costly but the'cheap' stuff for me as I tolerated it. Taxol itself is not cheap. It is a natural product, an alkaloid found in the bark of Pacific yew trees. It has nine stereocenters, which doesn't mean much to many readers but makes it almost impossible to make. For a while, it was the holy grail of synthetic chemistry. I listened to many lectures at meetings with chemists showcasing their brillance in developing routes to make it. A route was needed as the Pacific yew supply was running dry. Eventually it was discovered that a crucial intermediate could be obtained by plant cultures of the cultivated yew and then converted to the actual Taxol. Later it was discovered that certain fungi produce it which might make it easier to cultivate (fungi grow faster than trees). Also these fungi produce other 'taxanes'. Maybe one would be better than Taxol? I am sure they are working on that.
So my last infusion left me with a throbbing purple lump on top of my left wrist which slowly became smaller and less painful as time went by.Now it is a faint purple line. What bothered me the most about Taxol is the neuralgia it caused especially 3 days after dosing. All my muscles, especially around my hips and trunk would be painful to pressure meaning I couldn't sit, lie down without being in pain. It was neuropathic pain which does not respond to the usual pain killers. One of its minor side effects is damage to the nails. Many lose their nails to it. I was left with white ridges and brown stains.It felt that my nails could fall off at any time but I just lost 2 toenails. But of the 3 poisons I had injected in me, from what I read Taxol was probably the most useful in preventing recurrences. The jury is still out on what the Red Devil did for me.

I get updates from the Susan Love Foundation about 'breaking news'. The aspirin a day cutting recurrences by 50% update was in my in-box the other day. This is the same number I was given for what chemo would do for me. Certainly gobbling aspirin would have been easier. But at this point, it is not being recommended until further study. Why the hell not? Yesterday I read a report in the 'medical breakthrough' section of the Wall Street Journal that men taking NSAIDs regularly were more likely to have hearing loss-something about changes in blood flow to their cochleae. No mention about what happens to women. But less heart attacks and strokes and lower recurrence of cancer versus possible hearing loss and stomach bleeding...you make the call. For the record, my stomach is still shredded by the Red Devil, which along with the Cytoxan, has been known to cause deafness (along with heart damage, more cancer,..)

So a year later, I am alive with a full set of healthy nails, sweat glands, oil glands, and normal blood values. I am no longer puffy due to steroids. I still weigh too much-how much no one knows, most of all me. I do have muscle tone though and can run for a long time without gasping for air. I now fret that my hair is growing too fast (expensive to keep dyeing it) and its chemo curl is relaxing into chemo waves. I still have right arm pain that is probably due to treatment. Yesterday , our warmest day ever in the past 4 or 5 months, Naomi and I walked at glacial pace to the playground (along with her (thankfully) clearing infection, she has now developed back pains from all the sitting in one position) to bask in the sun. I used the various equipment there to stretch out my frozen joints, it seems to help. We returned home for more studying (Tuesday is intensive study day) and to watch one of those birthing shows on TLC. Yesterday was the silliest birth yet. The crazoid mom insisted that her 4 year old watch the whole proceedings done without any epidural. While the mom screamed in pain, the child stuck his hand in her mouth to shut her up. Naomi thought that was funny. Meanwhile, the husband and grandmother stood uselessly to the side. Shanna was in the birthing room when I had Naomi but she was almost 12 and not especially squeamish. I had more or less given birth quietly without drugs for the older two. I thought that a third birth would be easy-peazy especially as by then, I was a marathon runner who I thought could push herself through anything. But even so, I know circumstances are different with every birth and I didn't want to scare her childless so I told her that if I said to leave, she'd leave and wait to be called back in. My waters ruptured 2 weeks early and the midwives told me to wait for 3 days before an induction as most likely I would go into labor. After dripping around for 2 whole days, I couldn't take it any longer and at the first sign of a contraction, I demanded to be admitted. The induction caused me to go from no labor to end-stage labor in just a few minutes. After the first contraction, I was demanding relief (this was after how I was bragging just a few minutes early how I had a 10 lb baby-Josh- with no drugs). I sucked on laughing gas, which was heaven sent. Naomi was born after 1.5 hours total from start to finish. Sometimes I wonder if the rapid delivery somehow caused her problems though usually, physical problems are the result and she was unbelievably athletic. But maybe that frontal lobe was deprived from oxygen for a few seconds..Anyways Shanna was not traumatized and went on to have her own 2 babies.

And now Naomi, the baby, is pregnant.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

My precious ones

The path outside of Shanna's apartment with Boston in the background

Monday, March 8, 2010

Pink Isn't the Only Color Associated with Breast Cancer

As we slowly weaved through the 5.5 miles of twisty streets through minority Boston neighborhoods on our way to Oliver's classes in Jamaica Plain, we'd go by this billboard stressing the deadliness of BC for African Americans. The incidence of BC is much less for African Americans but the mortality rate is higher. Some of it could be due to access of health care but some of it is also due to the prevalence of TNBC among African Americans, particularly for young women. Right before going to Boston, I read the obituary of a young woman with a familiar name. Could this Tia be the same girl Shanna played basketball with in 7th grade? Yes it is, Shanna confirmed. I remember her as a particularly good guard very determined to bring the ball down. Girls' sports weren't as developed in those days compared to when Naomi played. Tia must have had brothers to help her with her considerable skills. But now she is dead at 31, probably of TNBC (the kind of BC was not specified).

In Ghana, 60% of BC is TNBC compared to 10-15% here. As Ghana is a west coast equatorial nation, it is likely that many African Americans share the same ancestry as the Ghanians. A researcher at UM, Lisa Newman is currently in Ghana looking for the gene that is possibly causing this. It isn't BRAC1, the defect that causes many cases of TNBC, but an unknown one. What could be done with this knowledge? At the very least, women could be told that they are at risk. At best, if a particular antigen was produced, a vaccine or a drug targeting it could be developed. The inheritance patterns could be established though having BC in other parts of the world is so shameful, many won't admit to it.

TNBC (triple negative)has completely different risk factors than the more prevalent and more studied estrogen positive breast cancer. It is a different disease altogether except it is found in the breasts. And there seems that not all TNBC is the same. Certainly the kind that BRAC1 ladies get and the young African Americans get seems more aggressive. I am selfishly holding on to the hope that the few older white women who get it have a more benign course. I have no statistics to back me up, just alot of anecdotal evidence. One reason that we are more likely to survive is that we are in the age group having mammograms; 30 year olds aren't looking for BC in general and mammograms do them little good.

Also in the obituaries last week, a former softball teammate of Naomi's of heart transplant complications. Naomi doesn't remember her but only the girl's father who coached their team to keep an eye on his then eight year old daughter.She was 19.

While we were in Boston, Naomi spent much of her time connected to her laptop. A former friend contacted her through Facebook. I referred to this girl's family at the time as the Trials of Job family. Both the little girl and her father shared the same heart defect and needed heart transplants. The father had one but was rejecting his heart as they desperately looked for a new one. The little girl, then 8, was doing all right for the moment with her heart but had such a list of things she couldn't do that it made me very nervous when she was over, which was often. I thought any moment this girl could go into heart failure under my watch. But I really couldn't say no to her or her family because at the time, the mom had a brain tumor and couldn't drive due to seizures. Geez!!! Ten years later, the girl and her dad are fine though I would not be able to recognize her. The mom however died 4 years ago.

It is a sunny day here in Michigan. The 2 feet of snow we had is slowly melting but I can see some of my spring flowers poking through. I went for a long run yesterday wearing shorts basking in the sunshine. As I had run in Boston before our big drive Saturday, I am tired. Back to the Y for me even though the weather is especially nice today. But it will be nice for a while..hope the winter is over.

Yesterday was Julia's (my daughter-in-law) birthday and we went out to dinner with her and Josh. I noticed she had wine with her dinner (I know what this means..sigh). But it was fun catching up with them. His friend the Olympian, came home with lots of stories. Later I tried to watch the Oscars but fell asleep.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

NaomI I moaN

Daniel and his folds. He is sooooo cute but moves around quite a bit so taking non-blurry pictures of him is impossible
Two moving targets relatively still for the second

Daniel sitting in the Circle of Neglect pointing to his erupting tooth


Oliver finishing breakfast



Daniel all bundled up ready to go




22 weeks with Oliver in the background
The baby is kicking harder and harder but I always miss it when she suddenly grabs my hand to feel it.





Sweet treats at the bakery in Brookline. I bought some very tasty ruggelach there






View from Rainbow Bridge of Niagara Falls. We were on this bridge for a long time yesterday. Naomi could have taken a better picture if she would have just stood up through our moonroof but that would be work. She took this by reaching blindly from the moonroof. Note to Canadian Customs: Check out why it takes the Lane 7 guy three times longer than the Lane 6 guy to do the same job. Note to self: stay away from Lane 7.




Sunset from Shanna's terrace. A more interesting shot would have been to waddle down to the beach and take a picture of the Boston skyline to the west-yes Boston is almost due west (and somewhat north) of Shanna as she is on a pennisula sticking out into the ocean.



Pleasure Bay-South Boston

To get to these series of causeways that eventually leads to Castle Island takes 3 miles of running (6 mile round trip). To run on the causeways to get to Castle Island is an 8 mile round trip-more if I actually run on the island, which I did Tuesday. Logan Airport is just an island over to the north so the planes fly very low overhead. The Castle in question is actually an old fort



The start of the causeway which thankfully, is not cement unlike the path leading to it. It is very refreshing in the summer to be out in the water. Not so much with the northeast wind in the winter


Naomi on Carson's Beach about a mile from Shanna's apartment. Her complex can be seen as a series of red brick buildings. The white building is the JFK Library on Columbia Point



We are finally home after the grueling 13 hour drive with Naomi's throbbing music still resonating in my head. When we were not studying microbiology, we took turns listening to 'our' music.The roads were clear and sunny but Canadian Customs was a bitch. Outside of Buffalo is an electronic billboard with estimated times for the various crossings: the Lewiston crossing (one that the Tom-Tom suggests) was 60 minutes plus vs the Rainbow crossing (0-30 minutes which turned into 45 minutes due to me guessing the wrong lane). There is a 3rd crossing but it flashed too quickly for its abbreviations to make sense to me. Everytime I see the name "Rainbow Bridge", I think of that sad poem people send you when your dog dies saying how happy your doggy is on his side of the Rainbow Bridge happily cavorting painfree now that he is dead. But with all the mist kicked up by the falls and sunlight, rainbow spottings from this bridge are quite frequent and thus the name. Note to self: if you are the only one in the car capable of reading a map, don't be driving when you have to make a change of plans or memorize all possible routes ahead of time. I think I know the path now. Another issue was trying to cajole Naomi to move during our stops so she wouldn't develop thrombophlebitis or a bladder infection from avoiding peeing. She still has an infection despite treatment. Her own OB was useless but Shanna's friend the OB sent in a script for us. Lots of moaning the entire week with her telling the both of us that we don't know what pain is. Oh I think we do and it has red hair. She didn't want to hear how the second trimester is the easy one-wait until the third if she wants misery and how at this time while pregnant with her and being 19 years older, I was running 5 miles a day whereas she can't walk 50 feet feet in less than 2 minutes.
Due to her condition, baby bootcamp was a bust although I think she did absorb some mothering skills from Shanna. She also received lots of baby equipment. In her rare good moods, she did interact happily with Daniel and would rock him to sleep. Most of the time she wanted to just lie around and moan. On our last day, she wouldn't go to Oliver's music class or to our trip to the North End, which normally she'd enjoy. As it was sunny, I did drive her to the beach (usually one can just walk to it-or in my case run to it) and it cheered her up somewhat. She was mad at herself for wasting a potentially good time. There won't be many opportunities in the near future to be on vacation. She still has a very romanticized version of what motherhood will be despite seeing Shanna night after night trying to quiet a sick, fussy baby. Her baby won't get sick and she thinks she knows how to make them happy. Shanna at one point said how embarassing it is to have a teenage mom for a sister. I guess it suggests that we are low class somehow. But just try being the mom of a teenage mom with people pointing their fingers and tsk-tsking your obvious failure as a mother. Their precious sweeties would never get into this situation, they were taught right from wrong..blah, blah, blah. F them.







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