Friday, April 29, 2011

Do dogs go to Heaven?

Courtesy of the blog Campanastan.
These churches are across the street from each other. Location unknown.

In medias res

One more painful day of studying and Naomi will take her final. She still has to go to her labs next week.

Josh will be going to Mexico for 2 weeks. I will be worried the whole time for his safety though his Mexican colleagues have promised to take good care of him and will personally drive him all over the place. It would be useful for him to learn some Spanish, especially as he is going to be teaching but he avoids learning languages. High school French was difficult for him. His soccer game was again cancelled last night as the fields are under water. He did come over after work to spend some time with us.

Tomorrow morning, I will have my precious grandsons here. I am hoping for a safe trip as they drive all night.

Mom's group tonight. I am relying on the North End bakery for my contribution.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Après moi, le déluge

The more apt expression: avec moi, le déluge.

It has been raining almost non-stop here for the past few days. The ground is saturated and our sump pump works noisily around the clock to prevent the lower level from flooding. The racket keeps me up. Even when it goes silent, I am awake as I fear that the motor has burnt out and the flooding will begin.

During a rare break in the rain, I ran between flooded fields listening to the frogs and the spring birds. The break was not long enough as it poured on me for the last 15 minutes. Fortunately it was warm and not windy.

As for the title, the flood in question was figurative, not literal. The quote was presumably by Louis XV who seemed to predict  the French Revolution. Others have interpreted this expression to show his callousness as in 'after I am dead, nothing will matter, least of all to me."

Finals are coming up for Ms. Naomi and we've been studying daily. I will be glad when this week is up.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011


The boys by the sea

Daniel stuffing his face

Maya using her walker

Maya enjoying her corn on her daddy's lap

Oliver and his great-aunt

The boys in Rockport
Oliver and his mom
Daniel after sliding into the mud. Headless Mom behind him

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Diaries vs blogs vs laboratory notebooks

Between 8th grade and sometime in the middle of my freshman year at college, I've kept diaries, the cover of one I posted 4-21-11. These were not meant to be read by anyone other than myself. My current self has left these alone for many years. I glanced briefly at the one whose cover I scanned the other day; the usual adolescent yearnings and declarations of undying love for unworthy boys. I also tried to ensure these diaries did not fall into the hands of snoops. Some of them, I tried to write in French though my potential snoop population unfortunately had some knowledge of this language. In others I wrote in shorthand learning the Gregg system. I wonder if there is even a need for stenos anymore and whether this is a lost art. Anyway, there are 3 different sizes of  'brief forms' and unless you are using ruled paper, which I was not, it is difficult to discern one size from the other. These diaries are untranslatable even by myself. (Meine arbeit ist so geheim dass....). But since most of it are detailed accounts of my petting sessions, I think the world can live in ignorance.

The closest I have to a diary now are my Books of Miles, aka my running diaries. They need no protection from the reading public as the content is only interesting to my compulsive self.

Then there is this blog. I leave my sexual exploits out of it for many reasons with the primary reason is that I do not want a divorce. The closest I've come to discussing my sex life is  writing the statement that chemo and sex do not mix despite the name of that book having Sexy and Cancer in it. I also try not to include names excepting those of my family members who I probably should not include. Perhaps I will change them some day. People don't want to google themselves and find themselves in a blog. I started one originally to detail my experience in Italy and then not much longer after, to discuss my experience battling cancer (however passively). I hope that the information I give in the blogs on cancer research is useful. My blogs are not complete. I do not discuss certain issues even if they are central to my life. I do not lie in these blogs but I am selective on what goes into them. I do try to include experiences that give me joy or interesting things that I encounter. I do have difficulty expressing my feelings other than to say I am angry or sad.

Then there are the laboratory notebooks which sometimes, my blog seems to closely resemble. Laboratory notebooks are not meant to entertain but are legal documents. They are written in a manner that another chemist should be able to follow. They are to contain no opinions or emotions. Each page had to be read, witnessed and signed by someone who would not be on a patent containing those pages. It is very important documenting when and or if a particular compound was made. Notebooks can be subpoened in patent disputes. I once had to attend a deposition attesting only that the witness signature was my own on a disputed page. But suffice it to say, if ones company loses a patent dispute due to your poor notebook, it will not be amused. Its intellectual property (IP) is worth way more than anything concrete and it will defend its IP vigorously.

Back here in the gloaming, it is at least warm. Naomi wanted me to be a witness this morning when the public health nurse came. But she seemed very happy with Maya's progress.

Steve did make it back late yesterday afternoon from Boston bringing treats from the North End that will be part of the dessert I have for the Moms in a few days. There were a few days that I seemed to be overcome with loneliness while he was gone though I do have 2 of my kids nearby and I did see them both several times in his absence.
Shanna and her family outside her apartment on the Harborwalk in Boston. Also in the picture
are her father Steve, Uncle Harold and his wife Diane and Aunt Maddy.
I've run along this Harborwalk many times but by the time I return to Boston, they
 will have moved.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Hope for alleviating aromatase inhibitor pain

Grandpa Steve reading to Daniel. Steve returns later today and Daniel and his family will be here this weekend
One 'positive' about having triple negative BC versus the estrogen fed kind is not needing to block the estrogen. ( A huge negative would be the two-threefold increase in mortality for the same size tumor). Premenopausal patients are advised to  take Tamoxifen which blocks the estrogen in breast tissue though it stimulates the estrogen in the uterine lining to no good effect. Post-menopausal patients are given aromatase inhibitors (AIs) which effectively block estrogen produced peripherally. AIs are presumably more effective in reducing recurrences but many patients experience severe joint and bone pain similar to the pain of arthritis. Also troubling is that the most likely site for metastases is the bone causing bone pain also. It is not clear to me the mechanism of this pain. Is it neuropathic pain? (due to nerve damage). It (the pain)not seem to be alleviated by anti-inflams. Why do AIs cause this and could one be developed that does not cause the pain. Presumably 20% of patients (I am surprised it is not more) decide the pain is not worth reducing their risk and stop taking the drugs.

Recently in the UM cancer research  magazine Thrive, my onc was the lead author on a study to use duloxetine (usually prescribed for depression or anxiety) to reduce this pain. This drug has been effective in treating neuropathic pain. Anyway, 75% of the patients on it  reported at least 30% reduction in pain. This study is preliminary. It has not been tested versus placebo though a study is planned. I am not sure if there has been a study using traditional drugs that treat neuropathic pain such as gabapentin. If not, they should test it.

Our Easter BBQ was fun. Ms. Maya is getting closer to walking. She can get herself to a standing position without pulling herself up on something and she can take a few steps to steady herself before falling. She can stand independently for more than 30 seconds now. She loved chewing on corn cobs yesterday. Naomi came over earlier to make a dessert. She needs to spend more time in the kitchen.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

The Easter Lamb cake

Since my birthday is between March 23 and April 25, occasionally it will fall on Easter though, so far, it has only happened once when I was 4. My birthday and Easter will be on the same day when I am 66,77, 88, and 99. Notice that those days are 11 years apart, the most common interval between Easters occuring on the same date.

Naomi was born on an Easter and had an Easter birthday when she was 11. She'll have another when she is 33 but then she have to wait until she is 95.

It was a rare sunny day when my 4th birthday/Easter occurred. My mom had borrowed one of those lamb molds to bake a cake covering the lamb with coconut. She placed the lamb on that cellophane grass and surrounded it by jelly beans. She was 8 months pregnant at the time. I still remember my special pink dress.

I still don't have a clear idea on how they calculate Easter, either the orthodox one or the western one. Different calendars are used. Only about 30% of the time do they occur on the same day such as this year and on my 4th birthday. As time progresses, this will happen less and less.

It is sunny but cool here. It will rain for 4 or 5 days straight starting tonight. We will have an Easter BBQ at Josh's. I am bringing the main dish.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

The Rape of the Lock

Yesterday I went to a reunion of former co-workers from a different department than what I had worked in. They had invited my former labmate who travelled across the state to attend and who asked me to come. We were good buddies so sure, I'd go.

Some how these people remembered me but I must have an awful memory for faces. I was drawing blanks. But it was fun and I enjoyed seeing my buddy.

He was the unofficial social director for our group always arranging white water rafting, canoe, camping and bicycling trips for us all. He also held regular parties at his house complete with bonfires. He also volunteered for the Big Brothers/ Big Sisters organization and tried to include the little brother on our adventures.

Fifteen years ago, he brought his then 16 year old  little 'brother' along on one of the white water/camping trips. This kid was extremely obnoxious and socially awkward. He certainly needed a lot of guidance and my friend was trying to modify his behavior on their weekly visits as much as possible. On this same trip, I brought Shanna, then 17, and Josh and his buddy; both 14. During the weekend, it was apparent he had a crush on Shanna and made very clumsy attempts to engage her. She was not the least bit interested. I had driven the 6 of us down there in my trusty minivan. On the way back, Shanna and I sat in the front row, my friend and the 'brother' in the 2nd row and Josh and his buddy in the far back row. Shanna was asleep with her long hair draped over the back of the seat. Before becoming a mother, Shanna seemed to sink into a coma while sleeping; nothing seemed to disturb her. This made her a perfect baby dropping off to sleep for 8 hours at a time when she was just 2 weeks old. Unfortunately her siblings and children did not inherit this trait.

After I dropped off my friend and the 'brother', Josh immediately launched into a diatribe on how 'whack' that kid was. He and his friend reported that while Shanna was sleeping, the 'brother' was caressing Shanna's hair and seemingly getting off on it. I was doubtful of this as my friend never went to sleep and certainly would have noticed this and hopefully would have put a stop to this. It turned out he did notice it but was afraid of waking Shanna. He eventually had the little brother apologize to Shanna for this behavior.

Shanna's response to the incident: Ewwww!

I saw this kid about 6 years ago. He did grow up and was married with a child so he was able to learn a few social graces.

Finally it seems to be spring: warm and sunny. I was able to run out on the 'scenic' road this morning in shorts.
I will be alone until late Monday as it turns out. Shanna is having a big, double Easter dinner for everyone in Boston. Double Easter? The Orthodox Christian Easter usually is much later than the 'western' Christian one but this year they are on the same date; a rarity. She converted to the Orthodox church before her marriage.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Sunny evening

All the above are from the net-perfectly timed photos.

It was a sunny evening last night. I had spent the day in a dark mood throwing a pity party. Yeah I know, cancer survivors are supposed to embrace each birthday as some sort of victory against the alternative. One heroine of mine, who happens to be my age, didn't get to see the same birthday. Grete Waitz, the former Olympic marathoner, died Tuesday of an undisclosed cancer she's been battling for several years. So much for having a healthy lifestyle sparing one.

But the clouds pass. Onto soccer night on the only sunny day this week ( I saw some wet flakes again this morning!). There were plenty of geese overhead (no storks with contrails or vultures forming smily faces) and clouds of gnats. Josh's team happens to be overly stocked with talent and if their third buddy ever shows up, will be even more so. They so far have been winning by huge margins. When he leaves next month for Mexico City (which seems to be a go), they will not miss him.

After the game, Josh took me out for a birthday dinner. It's been a while since I've been alone with him. We had some interesting talks.

I hope he'll be safe in Mexico though most of the scariness seems to be on the border. The engineers that he is training promise to take good care of him.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Maya crawling

How old am I anyway?

Me at 16..Love the Nehru, paisley jacket?

Diary from high school. I would mod-podge pictures on the covers. There are some boyfriends here. My parents are on the bottom.
As Old as I Feel. In my dreams, I am in college always forgetting to go to classes and in bizarre living situations.

But really I think I am in my early forties or late thirties.
The mirror lies.

Sort of a sad day here. Feel that I have been left behind.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Perpetually March

Flowers on my patio from last summer
All I have in bloom now are snow drops and some scraggly hyacinths
Cold and rainy yet again here in drab Michigan. In the morning I chose whether I want it cold but relatively calm or slightly warmer but windy to run in. We had close to 5 inches of slush the other day but it mostly gone by the afternoon. Yesterday morning my car was encased in ice which  disappeared after an hour but fortunately was not on the paved streets. Josh presumably played soccer last night in the cold rain though I am not that much of a soccer mom to go see him while freezing. Besides I was with a good friend to celebrate by birthday which is technically tomorrow.

I did add to my solar light collection to boost my mood somewhat.

Steve's family will all be together this afternoon in Boston. Meanwhile I am on my own. I finished watching Mildred Pierce. Evan Rachel Wood played the perfect snake in the grass while Kate Winslett played the blindly loving mom. We see what we want to see.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Snow?!? Seriously...

Some places are used to snow (Chicago). When one goes through the trouble of clearing a space, its theirs and is marked by a chair, trash can. Woe to 'transplants' that do not know the local customs...from passive/aggressivenotes
There is snow on the ground here with more to follow. It is April 18th. The average high for this time of year is supposed to be 60 degrees.

Today I go out with my 'birthday buddy'.Last week,  I had selected a restaurant that we could sit outside in the warm, sunny air. Ha!
What is a birthday buddy?
Ones that remember each others birthday and celebrate by going out to lunch. I am looking forward to this. In the meantime, I need to babysit as Naomi takes her test. Meanwhile Steve is safe in Boston. It seemed to take him almost 14 hours but he stops much more often than I do.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

The onerous ominous omentum

Recently a good friend of mine was told that she had suspicious lesions on her omentum. On what?

The omentum is an apron of tissue and fat that protects the abdominal organs. It is sometimes a site for mets to form from colon, uterine or ovarian cancer. An attempt to biopsy the lesions failed to show cancer. Then there was an undelightful search for the possible primary tumor, which could not be found. Finally there was an exploratory surgery to see what was going on. It turned out that the lesions were not cancer (good!!!!) but an inflammatory response to surgical glove powder from surgery my friend had years ago. Apparently this has happened before. My friend should be a case on House.

Why were they even looking there anyway? She had gall bladder pain and they saw the lesions while imaging the gall bladder. This has since been removed.

Ah winter again here..please, please go away. I ran early hoping that the wind would be minimal then. My face was blasted with sleet. Steve left bright and early to go to Boston. He'll have a huge tail wind driving there.

Naomi  (and Maya) came over for studying joined later by Don'tae and his other 12 year old brother I hadn't met who seemed to be a sweet boy. Josh stopped by for a while. He might be shipped to Mexico City for a while to teach a class to Mexican engineers. I offered him my Spanish books but again, he refuses to learn any foreign language.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

It's a mean, mean world

From; one of my favorite websites

Since the election of Snyder, people here in Michigan are becoming more more polarized. Aside from the concept of increasing the taxes on the poor so business taxes can be cut (a variation of the trickle down theory), what is most controversial is forcing the cities and school districts to balance their budgets. If these entities are unable to do so, a Snyder appointed group will take over the city government or school district and do all the cuts needed. This in general means dismantling the unions. Suffice it to say, they will not go gently into that good night. We don't have much of a newspaper left here. Basically it appears to be a mean spirited place for ill-thought out commentary via internet. Ann Arbor appears to be  safe from this bizarre takeover but many neighboring communities are not. This is not a political blog (unlike a certain someones in my house that I don't read as it makes me too upset) but it seems that the destruction of the unions will turn us into just a few haves and many have nots. I can not see how this will be good.

People will even attack each other for using objectionable love here.

A cold windy rainy day here. For some reason, Naomi's teacher decided to condense the last 3 weeks of classes into one week meaning she has several units to cover. I tutored her a good part of the day.

Ms. Maya is gaining 3 or 4 new teeth at once and it is making her crabby. 

Yesterday I finally used part of my last year's birthday present and had  an almost 2 hour long massage. I really liked the therapist. Running does many good things for me but it does seem to make me less flexible and more tight. Plus the day before, I finally got around to sawing down some of the junk trees I have and it made me very sore.

Tomorrow I will be without Steve for a week. His family is all convening in Boston  at Shanna's even though in 2 weeks her family will be here for the boys' baptisms.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Soccer mom redux

From the web (thanks JP). This baby seems to be enjoying its bath

It is soccer season again. I went out last night to watch Josh and his buddies play. Most everyone is out of shape but as they are young, they will be back to normal soon. They won handily (11-2). It cracks me up when they complain they can't do the things they once did (most were HS athletes if not college athletes) because they are so old. Ha! I once worked with a woman who had states times (in a big state at that) when she was in HS running cross country. At the ripe old age of 28, she complained she was too old to run that distance any more. I didn't start running until I was that age and had 2 kids.

But even though I underestimated how cold it would be standing out there, it was fun and his new team seems to have developed a camaraderie already.

We had one day of summer this month and hardly any spring. The bunnies are in full force chewing up all my flowers before they get a chance to bloom.

Bad bunnies!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

How not to raise a child

I love the above 1950s ads. It is hard to read the small print here about  how the mechanism of watching TV can be  useful for parenting but basically their point is that you can ensure compliance in your children by threatening to withdraw TV privileges. And I assume the beer-swilling mom above isn't had developed a new improved milk delivery system in the 50s.

The ads these days aren't too much better. My favorite is the metal bracelet that emits 'natural body waves' to cure all sorts of ailments..notably balance issues. At least the ads above have a small kernel of truth in them.

When my babies were born, I was warned repeatedly never, NEVER let them sleep on their backs lest they spit up in their sleep and can't clear their secretions. Somehow babies have changed because now, you are never, never permit a baby to sleep on its stomach lest it 'rebreathe' the same carbon dioxide setting off apnea setting off crib death. This time there are statistics to back up the recommendation. The public nurse came in one day when the napping  Maya was 5 months old and immediately woke her up. Guess what? The baby was able to flip to her desired position.

There is this new concept of 'tummy time' that needs to be supervised lest the baby fall asleep. Babies need tummy time as their arms will be slow to develop without it. In the old days, every minute was tummy time.

And all the new food prohibitions...
It is a wonder that my children survived.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Vitamins for cancer prevention

Not only do I want to be cute for my husband by being able to work harder but since my stint in cancerland, I've been taking vitamins to hopefully increase my odds of cancer not returning. The vitamin most associated with cancer is Vitamin D as studies have corellated low levels with higher cancer incidence. There is no guarantee that this will work but I figure it can't hurt. I take 1000 mg of Vit D in the morning along with a baby aspirin and my Synthroid and have a multivitamin at night which contains more.

The studies showing that aspirin lowers recurrence for BC are weak and were not designed specifically to show this. All that can be said that nurses who had had BC that took any amount of aspirin for any reason had half of the recurrences as the non-aspirin takers. At any rate, it  might prevent strokes and heart attacks too. Having chemo allegedly reduced my risk by a factor of two also. Taking an aspirin  seems much less painful though I certainly would not recommend people substituting it for chemo.The downside of aspirin taking is that it is tough on my stomach lining which still hasn't recovered by having the Red Devil shred it.

It is very pretty outside. I ran hearing the spring peepers this morning. 

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

What were the best years of your life?

For me, every single year for the past 12 years have had sad events, major life changes, intense anxiety inducing situations occur. Cancer scares, cancer itself, almost a year with a boss from hell, deaths, court cases, dealing with Alzheimers' , broken arm, job losses..

When was life easy? Certainly not in 1989 in which we dealt with a hospitalized child, a dying parent, and a miscarriage all within weeks. But up until then, I guess were the golden years raising Josh and Shanna. We were very busy. Besides the full time jobs, we were coaching various sports teams and I led a Girl Scout troop for 6 years. I also was usually training for some type of distance event: marathons, triathlons, and long-distance biking.
We didn't have a chance to travel much besides family vacations.

But not all has been bad: we do have 3 healthy adorable grandchildren and for now, seem to have our health. I have been able to travel most years and hope again to do so soon.

Monday, April 11, 2011

The Battle of the Dieticians

Josh, Maya, and Julia

With Sunny
Last week, the pediatrician was alarmed that Maya has not gained any significant weight since she was 4 months and insisted that we schedule a visit with a nutritionist at UM. Meanwhile Naomi went to apply for WIC benefits as money is tight: a minimum wage salary does not go far in supporting 3 people especially if they want her to buy formula. Since the visit 5 days ago, Maya is being fed around the clock. Maya is thrilled with the "Fatten me up program" and has only turned a few items down. To receive WIC benefits, one has to see a WIC nutritionist first. So today, Maya and Naomi saw 2 (two!) nutritionists. Did they give the same information?  Of course not! Though they both agreed that Naomi should skip formula (elixir of the devil) and that Maya seems to be fine.

Here's a math problem: If it takes 3500 excess calories to gain a pound and if each baby fruit or vegetable cup contains 70 calories, how many baby cups need to be consumed to gain a pound? Assume that the baby does not spit up half of what you give her. Assume she is completely immobile and is not burning up these calories just as fast as you shovel them in. We are assuming that Naomi is producing 400 calories of breast milk based on what she can pump out. Nutritionist 2 believes half of the calories should come from breast milk. The total calories for someone Maya's weight and age should be 820. That doesn't sound like much but remember she is one tenth the size of an adult. Any rate, we quickly figured out that these baby cups weren't going to do the trick. Cheese, butter, meatloaf, high fat yogurt..might.

Nutritionist one weighed Maya..a gain of 1.6 pounds. Her verdict: height and head circumference 75% tile; weight 50%tile. She said that there are a variety of different charts used. She uses the WHO one which is for breast-fed babies. Breastfed babies have different growth curves than formula ones. They gain weight fast and furiously in the beginning but formula babies start out-gaining them in the 2nd half of the first year. Later in life, the formula babies have a greater tendency to be obese. She said no formula and hardly any table food. Adult food has too much sugar, salt, spices..etc. No red meat whatsoever, no fruit juices at all. The only permissible fresh fruit would be smashed bananas..absolutely no strawberries (which Maya was happily munching on the night before). Naomi went to the store nearby with her new card that was good for 22 little jars of fruit or vegetables. But all the baby food was in tubs. The cashier, who was very snotty, said only JARS would be covered and no they don't have jars. How convenient! I think the other store does though but Naomi was too upset to go there too.

Nutritionist 2 thought Maya looked great and took our word about the new weight. She agreed it would be very difficult to gain weight with the WIC menu and that Maya was old enough to enjoy, in moderation, foods that have salt and sugar in them. She found nothing wrong with strawberries. Even people who are allergic to many things rarely react to them. Tree nuts and eggs are the usual culprits in causing reactions (see grandsons' prohibitions). She gave a review of what things are choking hazards.

But at any rate, the skinny baby scare is over.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Suddenly summer

It is a toasty 83 degrees here. Look at the thighs. We are making some visible progress with the weight gaining project. Off to a family dinner at Josh's.

Does lightning strike twice?

Yes, figuratively and literally despite the adage to the contrary.

Years ago on one of my multiday bicycle rides, I ate breakfast with an insurance risk calculator. His interest was assessing property damage risk. Now there are clear sections of the country where everyone could guess that these risks would be high: much of Florida due to potential hurricanes and tornadoes; California due to mudslides, fires, earthquakes; areas clearly in a flood plain such as my old house in NY though we lived there between floods; what area of the country would have the lowest risk?

The UP of Michigan.

No earthquakes, tornadoes, mudslides, minimal flooding. Ice damage, yes. Fires yes but not where people are likely to reside.

Unofficial slogan for the UP: Nine months of winter; three months of guests.

It is indeed beautiful in the summer. I had biked in it on 2 different one week tours though one had us taking a ferry down to Wisconsin's Door County after 3 days. Most of the population seems to be on the edge of the Great Lakes. We went shore to shore twice in one ride. Fortunately it was raining on the way north. Why would rain be good? Well the biting flies don't come out in it. I hate biting flies. Nothing seems to deter them. Mosquitoes at least avoid certain chemicals. Biting flies do not like rain, the dark, or motion so as long as you are moving, they will not land though they will follow you. Going south, it was sunny and calm. It was also our long day and largely uphill starting off with a three mile steep climb outside of Marquette. I wanted to get an early start as I was no longer the bicycle phenom I was when I was younger and this stretch was going to require some effort on my part. Unfortunately I missed some arrows covered up by a road paving crew so I ended up going an extra 20 miles. Stopping for water at the aid stations meant being covered in biting flies. There are few towns in this part of Michigan and the the very few that had places open could not deal with the huge temporary increase in population (300?) so there was no escaping these flies. Even at our campground. The tents were too hot to hide in as long as the sun was out and the inside of the building was unbearably hot. So my companion and I walked and walked until the sun went down which at that time of year and as far north and west as we were, was about 11 pm.

I was impressed with Marquette though. We had gotten there early one day as the ride from Munising is short even against the prevailing winds. I ate lunch  (alone since I couldn't persuade anyone to come with me) in  a cute Flemish cafe. The afternoon was spent on a beach in which the water was almost warm enough to swim in. We stayed in the stands of the world's largest all wood dome (Yooper dome?) after visiting a really nice brew pub(lots of people willing to go with me there). I could see living there, at least in the summer. One of my Facebook friends (an old neighbor) lives there and is a big fan of the city constantly promotes businesses there. Recently she conducted a poll on what is everyones favorite Great Lake. Hers was Superior because, of course, it is superior! Sorry, I have to go with Lake Michigan.

There are maybe 60 houses on my street. Two have suffered serious fire damage due to lightning in the past 5 years. Are we magnets for lightning here?It would not appear to be. These houses were far from being the highest point and are surrounded by huge trees well away from the houses. The latest house to be hit was already struck with deadly cancer. Bad, bad, luck.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

The Jewelry Box

Slowly I am making a dent in the excess stuff here. In our lower level, we have a large file cabinet chock full of probably useless papers. I want this thing gone. I do better throwing stuff out when Steve isn't around as he seems unusually attached to weird things. But the cabinet was locked thwarting my plans. I waited impatiently for him to come home.
Where's the key? Why did you lock it?!?
He shrugged. I asked him when the last time he opened the file cabinet. Maybe ten years ago? He wasn't sure what was in the cabinet.
Somehow keys get thrown into my jewelry box. This thing is a mess beyond belief. It at least takes up only the fraction of the room that file cabinet. I emptied the thing for the first time in over 30 years and removed about 20 keys. I can't imagine what they may be for. Suitcase locks? Fortunately one of the keys worked.
Just as I thought, most of it was junk. Warranties for appliances long since dead, receipts...The only important papers were to the title of this house. I am not permitted to throw things out though. After the taxes are done, he promises to separate the truly important stuff.
I decided to finally clean out the jewelry box full of many things I will never wear again. In high school, I loved long dangling earrings. I also have kids' teeth, swatches of the kids' baby hair, hospital bracelets, spare buttons to clothes long since gone, various badges, money issued from various Caribbean nations, old watches..I found some button saying "I visited the Springfield Basketball Hall of Fame". This was deemed too valuable to throw out. He was there as a teenager.
The most valuable in a gold pocket watch that presumably belonged to my great grand ma. I also have a silver charm bracelet full of tarnish. All the silver jewelry needs to be detarnished. I have an original Cinderella watch given to me for X-mas in 1959. The strap had been replaced once but the watch still ticks 52 years later. I have a silver and wood necklace from Sweden given to me from my Grandfather on his wold cruise back in 1966.
A low key day. It is gradually becoming spring. The ponds were full of singing peepers this morning as I ran. Later I took Ms. Maya for a walk and saw crocuses in bloom. My blue snow drops are out.
We weighed Ms. Maya by difference, a poor way to do it but we don't have a baby scale. Already she is a pound more than she was a few days ago.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Worlds End

From wiki..These mountains are also known as the "endless Mountains"
Worlds End is the name of a park near my hometown that we went to several times when I was young. I, not knowing better, took the name literally. This must be where the world ends. It was surrounded by forests and the Allegheny Mountains. I think we could drive there and not see any towns whatsoever. Why the name?

Of course I was easily fooled. Our town was surrounded by these mountains or at least the foothills. On the top of the highest hill, there was a cross. Why the cross? I asked my mom. She said that someone had died up there. This puzzled me for a while. Why would someone die up there? Why would anyone even climb up there? After a while, I assumed this was again something my mom made up.

The town depended on one company: The Corning Glass Works where my father was a research scientist. One of his projects was to develop a color other than cornflower blue for the Corningware. Much of our cookware consisted of 'culls' with test dates baked in. The Glassworks had an employee activity center. I remember the bowling alley which did not have automatic pin setters. One could see people scurrying behind the lanes placing the about a sucky job. There was also a glass museum (still is though now it is much fancier). I remember most of the exhibits: glass that you could bend by pushing a wheel; glass (fiberglass) you could light a burner to it and all that would happen is that it became sooty; glass you could hammer but not break; 3 inches of
window glass compared to 10 feet of optical glass(you couldn't see anything through the window glass but the optical glass was flawless); a periscope in which you could see what was outside the museum. You could watch the Steuben artisans make their art glass.

I spent a lot of time with my friend Michelle who lived with her grandmother and younger brother. I wasn't sure what happened to their father but her mother's new husband had no interest whatsoever in raising someone else's kids. The mom was starting a new family with this new man but would occasionally visit her first kids. I didn't like this mom but the grandmother was very kind to me. I have lost track of Michelle but there is a Michael of the right age and with the same unusual last name who is a chiropractor in Syracuse.

I spent a summer at a Seventh Day Adventist Bible school. What I remember most was that the teacher was born missing a forearm. Where her elbow would have been were these fleshy lumps which I assume were like fingers but they had no bones. I have a picture in my mind of her gluing pictures to a poster board and smoothing out the bubbles with her stump with those flesh balls oozing out.

My parents were clueless. At one point my mother had to be hospitalized leaving my especially helpless father in charge of us. An older woman stopped by: my brother's diaper had not been changed in hours. Mrs. McMillan screamed at my father saying how useless he was.

The town was like a bowl with the hills as its boundary. Most of the town was in a flood plain. When Hurricane Agnes hit NY in 1972, it wasn't the winds that killed people but the torrential rains that breached the dikes and swept away these trailers that were along side of the river. The water reached the 6 foot mark inside of the museum destroying lots of its art glass.

My father felt he was in the middle of no the end of the world. He constantly was driving to  the bigger towns. When I drive along 1-90, I am reminded of these towns. We left NY for good at the end of 1960.

We are in the process of fattening Ms. Maya up. Even thin Oliver outweighed her by more than 3 lbs at the same age. Fortunately Ms. Maya is co-operating by eating most of what is offered her. We'll see Monday if she has gained some weight.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Fighting a ghost

Yesterday I wrote about the young parents who both were diagnosed with advanced cancers within 9 days of each other. Turns out the woman has a blog and writes quite well. This is her post about finding that her BC is actually Stage 4:


Well, there's no way to sugar coat this so I won't.  My PET scan revealed spread of disease. That's the doctor's nice way of saying-spread of the cancer-to my liver, many lymph nodes, part of my pelvic bones and parts of my spine.  This classifies the cancer as stage 4.  Now if you are offended by swearing jump down to the next paragraph or better yet skip this post all together because I need to get Brooklyn right now.  ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME, PEOPLE?  This is me.  Elisa.  I don't get cancer much less the really bad, terribly serious kind of cancer.  It just doesn't suit me.  Heart disease.  I could see that in my future with all my emotions running wild, but cancer? Or diabetes.  That's a likely disease for me.  I have PCOS and it's in my family.  But CANCER? No way.  Give me a break.  This is fucking ridiculous.  Fuck, shit, mother-fucking, what the fuck? AHHHHHHHHHH.  

Sorry but I needed to get that out and I'm sure there is more coming so I apologize if I offend anyone's sensibilities but I have cancer so fuck your sensibilities.  As one of the nurses said to me yesterday when she heard that Nathan and I have cancer at the same time and were diagnosed 9 days apart, "This is some shit!" It is.  It is beyond absurd to me.

Besides, the swearing, I am virtually speechless.  "What?  What? WHAT?"  That's all people can say to me and that's all I can hear in my head.  "What?" I only have one plan right now and that is to dive head first into denial and stay there until I can figure out my escape plan.  Perhaps if I just get on a plane to South America I won't have cancer.  If I can just get out of this place, I can leave it behind.  It's all a big mistake.  Each step of the way, they have been talking about someone else.  It's not me.  This is NOT my story.  Fuck the plane, I need to run.  Get out of my way.  MOVE.  I gotta run.  I just have to runaway.  But I can't.  Sadie.  Nathan.  Nathan and Sadie.  This can't be.  This can't be their story either.  There is only one option; the treatment works. I survive.  I thrive.  This can't be Sadie's story.  There can only be one ending to this because I didn't go through a horrendous pregnancy, 39 hours of non-medicated labor and delivery, a broken vagina for 9 months post-delivery and no sleep for the past 17 months not to get to watch this beautiful child grow up, graduate, travel the world, speak six languages, win So You Think You Can Dance, solve the Middle East peace crisis, cure ALL cancer, invent an app for teleportation, find the perfect partner, have kids and grow old.  I mean it is a lot of pressure but I know she can do it and I'm not watching from the nose-bleed seats in the sky.  Hell no.  I want to be here on terra firma.  I totally believe in an afterlife, a very beautiful and well-populated one.  But I'd like to have this life for many more decades before I get my passport the "other side". 

I am so mad.  I am so sad.  I am ________.  I don't know.  I don't who or what I am.  How can this be going on inside my body with no symptoms?  Besides the lump in my breast, I'm as healthy as a horse.  If someone put a gun to my head I could probably run a marathon.  It would hurt but I could do it. I look and feel perfectly healthy.  Okay, I could lose the 20 lbs I still haven't lost from my pregnancy but come on.  My hair is longer and healthier than it's ever been.  My nails are even long and manicured.  It is not me.

I know I will have to get around to accepting that it is me and rather quickly so I can "fight" this but I hate that.  I hate all the "you're going to fight this", "we're in this fight together" crap.  Really?!  What am I fighting?  It's a ghost.  I'm fighting a ghost.  It's lurking in my body but I can't grab it by it's throat and punch it and kick it and yell it and punch it some more.  It's a part of me.  It's embedded itself in me.  I have to trust that the drugs and the poison they're going to put in me knows how to fight a ghost.  
From Elisa

I liked her comment about 'going Brooklyn" (She lives in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn). I wrote earlier about the Brooklyn Alphabet (F**ing A, F***ing B...etc)My in-house Brooklynite does NOT swear, at least not often and winces painfully if I do.

But cancer indeed is a ghost. It can cause  a lot of damage before one even knows it is there. Scary, scary, scary.
Yesterday was non-stop precipitation here so I held off on running until today. I saw a herd of deer run through the fields near me. When I was a child, I never saw deer in Southern Michigan. Now they are over the place. There is a small herd that lives on the property where Steve works.
More studying today and maybe I will try to fatten Ms. Maya up. I certainly have no trouble keeping myself fat.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Skinny babies

Not a skinny baby but very cute. He is at least 1/32  Irish having a great- great-great-grandfather from Dublin
Ms. Maya went for her 9 month check-up. All is well except she is not gaining any weight even though she became taller. So now she is only 10%tile for weight and 83%tile for height. She seems to want to eat all the time. Perhaps all these fruits and vegetables don't have as many calories as breast milk. Now she has to go see a nutritionist. In the meantime, she is now eating cheese. She is supposed to be supplemented on formula which is expensive so Naomi is seeing if she can get back on WIC as money is very tight.

My kids all started off in the high percentiles for both weight and height but they all turned tall and thin. Shanna especially was very thin. She barely hit 100 lbs in high school and she is almost 5'6". Yes I fed them. Oliver is also very thin though he has started getting heavier. Both of the boys had stomach viruses last week. Daniel continued to eat, despite the puking; Oliver, not much of a chow hound, refused food. He had to be hospitalized briefly to rehydrate.

On the TV this morning, they featured a young couple with a 18 month baby who found out within weeks of each other that they have advanced cancers: Stage 4 BC and Stage 3 rectal cancer. Who says that life is fair.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Testing breast milk for cancer

Still being breast fed

Recently there was a study on testing the breast milk of moms who already had a suspicious lump for changes in the tumor suppressor gene RASSF1. If this gene had signs of methylation (thus making it useless), it was strongly correlated to that lump being cancerous. If no signs of methylation, no cancer. There seems to be many tumor suppressor genes (at least 12). Wouldn't it be useful to be able to predict breast cancer from breast milk? Lots of work to be done with this. I know that there is work trying to identify cancer cells in breast secretions. Mammograms miss so much especially in premenopausal women.

Not long ago, there was a report of being able to identify cancer calls in the blood stream. I wondered about the usefulness of this. Just because the cells are there doesn't mean they will blossom into a tumor. Conversely, just because none could be seen doesn't mean that a stable colony isn't already present. A relative of someone in my survivor cooking class was a participant in these studies. She has stage 4 breast cancer. After a recent bout of chemo, no more cancer cells could be found in her blood giving her and her family much joy and hope. However, a few months later, her liver mets started to grow.

Ms. Maya spent the afternoon here yesterday. She is finally perfecting her pincer grasp.

Today's job here is to reduce some of the clutter. A refrigerator sized box is downstairs filled with Shanna's clothes. I had already gone through piles of shoes. Every pair of shoes that was smaller than mine or Naomi's, I brought to Shanna during my last visit. Turns out that most of the shoes belonged to my traitorous house guest. I went for my run early given that the winds will become stronger as the day progresses. I prefer cold and calm to mild and windy.

Monday, April 4, 2011


From the Manzana de la Discordia (block of the discord) Barcelona. We were there late in the day. Early morning light would have been better for pictures.

Cathedral in the Barri Gotic

Dragonback plaza in Parc Guell..The tile mosaics are called trencadis. You can see this in Gaudi's buildings too

Me sitting on Gaudi bench in the middle of Passeig de Gracia

Parc Guell

From Wiki: Casa Batilo (Gaudi) at night
I watched the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona with interest. What a beautiful city with all its modernista architecture, particularly that of Gaudi! I vowed that if I ever got to Europe, difficult at the time as I had 3 kids, one a baby, I would head to Barcelona. Ten years later, we had a mom's trip to Paris where one of the 'babies' was studying. How close is Paris to Barcelona? Thirteen hours by train.

We took the Joan Miro, the night train to Barcelona. We (two of us moms) opted for the deluxe suite. Beautiful lit up French villages flashed by as we had a gourmet Spanish dinner with plenty of wines. We were very comfy in our bunks. We even had our own shower!. I woke up several times in the night as the train chugged through the Pyrenees. The railroads in France and Spain have different gauges: our train (Talgo) was equipped to have the wheels adjust at the border.

We stayed in the Barri Gotic, the gothic section, a maze of narrow, dark passages. We feasted at the edge of the Mediterranean on paella containing numerous sea creatures sipping our sangria on a bright, sunny day. Miles we walked through the Gothic section, Las Ramblas, Passeig Gracia, Parc Guell taking the subway between locations (rides were about 30 cents each way). So much to see!

Dinner is late in Spain: 10 pm. We found a place near our hotel in the Gothic section. It seemed popular. We opened the menu: all in Catalan. I could understand that 'pa' meant bread but little beyond that. The waiter spoke no English. We didn't hear anyone speak it the whole time we were there and I knew no Catalan or Spanish. (The next time I was in Spain, I learned enough Spanish to get around). I listened carefully in the dining room for English speaking tourists. None. Then I thought I heard German and trotted over to the speakers with the stereotype that Germans usually know English.

Sprechen Sie Englisch? I asked hopefully.

One of the tourists replied in English..What makes you think we are German! We are Dutch! We find this an insult.
I apologized profusely and said that I only heard them speak a few words and it sounded like German to me (and I know no Dutch) and what do they have on their plate anyway? Is it good?

I returned with different friends in 2004 and visited other cities in Spain during that trip.On my other blog I wrote about that.

The local bookstore is going out  of business. I bought up a few of the travel books the other day plotting and planning my next theoretical trip.So many places to see!

Back in gray Ann Arbor, it is finally warm but rainy. I am taking a day off from running. There is plenty to do around here and I should get cracking. Josh returned from his trip yesterday but 'forgot' to pick up his car. Steve and I ate lunch in this pan-Caribbean place. On the menu is churros and chocolate, a common Spanish treat.

According to the various stat counters on my blog ( I have three showing different results), the page that for some reason gets accessed the most is one on hummingbirds. The number one non-English country that is on my blog is The Netherlands even though I never write about it. Number one Asian country : India. South American: Brazil.  African: South Africa. I average about 50 hits a day. In general Sunday is my slowest day but yesterday for some reason, was very busy even though I did not post anything. Some days I really have nothing to say and other days (I think of these things in the middle of the night) I have plenty. I know who some of my readers are but others are a mystery.

For really beautiful pictures of Barcelona see:


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