Archive for July, 2007

tenth chemo - my nurse is better than your nurse

I really sounded thrilled about my 9th chemo session going so quickly and efficiently, but after this 10th session I see that it had everything to do with making an earlier appointment and having my blood work done the previous Friday. My substitute nurse, Nicole, was indeed quite efficient, no question. She was subbing, though, and made no real effort to get to know me. Don’t get me wrong, she was polite and courteous, but slightly curt. Some people might have been offended, but Todd was there, so it’s not like I was alone and needed or wanted someone there to talk to me. I see this as Nicole being considerate to Jackie, not trying to hone in on her patient, as it were.

Which leads me to this week’s chemo, my 10th session. My nurse, Jackie, is the best. She’s been an oncology nurse for a long time, she knows so much, she has kids who are older than me, but she doesn’t look or act like it, and she not only lets me be the goofball that I am, but she seems to actually appreciate it. Either that or she’s a great actor, but it doesn’t matter because she puts me at ease and makes my treatments go smoothly. She and my clinical nurse, Sue (the one who let me know it was definitely unusual to want that “gross photograph”) are awesome.

For me it really is all about the people. That’s why I’ve had the same dang go-nowhere job I’ve had forEVer. It’s a good job and all: it pays fine and it has become not-so-painfully evident that my benefits are outstanding. But I’m not in any position to “move up” unless I go to law school and I’m not interested in becoming a lawyer. I chose to work where I do because I’m organized and learn quickly, and because what I really want to do is sing.  This job pays the bills. Certainly one could say it was naive to think my band, one of thousands of local bands, could make it big, so to speak, and I agree, but I still intend to sing. I’m considering session work, too.  Much as I love writing and playing original music, I’m at my happiest singing in general.

Hello, tangent! Back to my original thought.

The thing is, I’ve stayed where I am for so long because I love so many of the people I work with. They’re like family to me and they make me feel, for the most part, that I can be myself. I chose BIDMC’s cancer treatment center for some of the same reasons. The nurses are all wonderful and caring and mine in particular, is fabulous. How could I face the reality of these toxic drugs without them, without her?

I just read an article in Harper’s June issue (yes, I’m behind, I always am w/Harper’s) called “Chemo World: Surviving the cancer unit” by Sallie Tisdale.  She’s an oncology nurse at a treatment center at the Portland Medical Center in Oregon called 5-K. This treatment center is quite different from mine in that it sounds like most of the patients there are worse off than the ones I see. Maybe I’m being naive now; I only go once every two weeks and see many of the same people each time. They don’t seem so bad off, but who knows? Hell, I look and seem hale and hearty until I sit down in that chair, get pierced in my chest and then sit for a few hours while IV bags pump drugs into me. Who would guess?

Anyway, this story was especially poignant to me, as you can imagine. I found myself crying a few times as I read it last night before bed. She describes many patients’ personal experiences and writes about how little any of us know about cancer and chemo and its effects. Here’s an excerpt I found especially interesting and moving:

I asked Christa, who had lymphoma, what she remembered about being told she would need chemotherapy. “Oh, just the word ‘chemo’ - just the idea of chemo,” she said. “You’ve heard the most frightening things.”

Just that word, “chemo”: an insider’s word, diminutive, familiar. “Chemotherapy” actually means “any treatment with medicine,” but in modern parlance it means only one thing - the cytoxic drug. And what a word - the root, chem, has the same Greek source as the word “alchemy”: the search for a means of prolonging life, a universal cure for disease. The search for transmutation. My friend Sylvia, who survived Hodgkins disease, said of her chemotherapy, “It’s like going to a foreign country you’ve heard a lot of bad things about and never wanted to visit. And then you have to go there.” After Sylvia said that, I began to call it Chemo World.

Later in the article she writes:

Chemotherapy can be horrible and it can be a breeze, and it is usually something in between. The side effects I’ve listed here are horrible; I find them hard to read. Is the life that follows the reward for all this suffering? Or is the difficulty itself a gift? I know that people suffer here. They also survive. Their hair falls out and then it grows back. They throw up, they lose weight, they feel weak, they feel embarassed and then they get better. People get better. People get well. People go home.

As I read this memoir I did feel pangs of self-pity now that I’m a member of this getting-less-exclusive-by-the-day club. I also, again, felt lucky. None of my doctors know for sure that they got rid of all the cancer in my body. We may never know, which is why after all of this chemo I’ll still be getting checked every six months. I am lucky, though, for all the reasons I’ve written out so often. No doubt there are more reasons I’ve yet to uncover, but I’ll find them.

the simpsons movie + shark week

My weekend started well and ended well, far as I’m concerned. It began with getting to see The Simpsons Movie at the Somerville Theatre.

I love this theater for many reasons, not the least of which is that it’s a 5 minute walk down the street from me. I have a nostalgic adoration for it since it used to show the Bi-Annual Animation Fests when I was in college. My friends and I would take what felt like the longest trip on the red line to get there. It’s there I first saw Creature Comforts and A Grand Day Out featuring Wallace and Gromit.

There’s also the fact that it’s essentially (and usually) a second-run theater so it costs less, they serve real butter on their popcorn, and they don’t mind if you bring your own snacks, so you can waltz in with a bag of Twizzlers from CVS without a hassle. (Did anyone else’s mom bring them to the movies with a paper bag of home-popped corn as a child? I seem to recall going to the movies as a large group, each of us gripping our own little paper bag as it turned black on the bottom with the oil and butter…)

The topper for the Somerville is that they now serve Harpoon Ale on tap.

So as much as I excitedly anticipated this movie, I was also wary that it might suck. Been watching The Simpsons since they were on the Tracey Ullman show in high school and love the show. Simpsons quotes come out of my mouth so often I hardly notice anymore. I report here happily that I thoroughly enjoyed the movie. You won’t find me reviewing it, though. Nor will I give away the teensiest bit. There’re enough people out there who love to spout their film assessments without me throwing my hat in the ring.

Saturday we drove up to Haverhill and didn’t go for a bike ride because the rain was so off and on that each time it occurred to me to go out, the clouds would gather again. We picked up dinner from the Essex Grill because I was dumb enough to give that place a second chance. We’d gone there with my friend Melissa when she last visited and we were not impressed, but it wasn’t awful, by any means. This time I’m considering going to one of those restaurant review sites and panning them. The worst scallops I’ve ever had in New England, “fresh vegetables” my ass, and WTF is up with putting french fries on top of the scallops in my to go tray? They were soaked! Never again.

We watched some Shark shows for Shark Week and I ate some frozen yogurt with butterscotch and it helped raise my mood some. How can Shark Week not make everything better, right?

Sunday was a beautiful day, despite rain predictions. I got Todd to blade with me as I rode his bike out on the same road I discovered the previous weekend. Since blading is so much harder and arduous and I wanted us to ride together I didn’t go very fast. We went about 6 miles together then I went back out and rode another 12 miles or so. It was just beautiful and I passed a farm where you can pick your own fruit. Apparently raspberries and blueberries are in season now.

Sunday night we drove back to Somerville in the evening and watched more Shark Week madness. All in all a good weekend. Only thing missing was cooking on the grill, though I was lucky enough to catch sight of our bats as they ate their supper.

an active week

Since I can’t really think of anything else to write about at the moment, I’ll fill in the week in general. I’m always up for a good rant, so that might happen soon, it merely requires focus on my part.

Sunday was the kick-off for my active week. I took that bucolic hour-long ride in the early afternoon and the hour-long walk w/Todd around dusk. Monday, after a very long day I went to 45 minute spin class. When I stay up in Haverhill Sunday nights I have to get up at 5AM or so to get the 6:55AM train to Boston to go to work. So, yeah, a very long day.

The weather was much warmer Tuesday, but so agreeable that I decided to walk home from work. I like doing this because not only is it good exercise, but I like seeing the scenery change as I move from neighborhood to neighborhood; it’s always interesting. And once I’m over the Salt and Pepper Bridge (that is the Longfellow Bridge) I can make phone calls and catch up w/friends. It usually makes the time pass more quickly, too, seeing as it takes approximately 2 hours for me to walk the 6 miles home.

This time K8 was around so we talked from Inman Square all the way to Davis and then some. I love having friends with whom I can converse for hours, it’s one of life’s enormous, unquantifiable joys.

I was beat by the time I got home, just wiped out completely. Had a small dinner and watched a Sopranos episode.

Wednesday morning is my 6AM hour ride and it was a real struggle to make it to class this week. Why I didn’t think the walk home would tire me out like it did, I know not, but somehow I got to class and, as always, was glad I did.

I was talking to one of my attorneys who is an avid cyclist and he hasn’t been doing much riding since he went on this over 100 mile ride back in mid-June because he’s been busy with his family. Lately he’s been running. I told him I hate running. I really do. He agreed, he hates it, too, but he feels he must in order to keep healthy. I feel for him. Biking is so great. I’m no cyclist and have no interest in racing, per se, but there is nothing like that feeling of being on a bike on a nice stretch of road….

After my morning spin class on Wednesday I get a nice long break till Thursday afternoon. Wednesday after work I met up with Anthony for drinks and the best fries (called “frites” on le menu) I’ve ever had at a bar. They were like high class McDonald’s fries, same thin shape; just delicious. As always it was great to finally catch up with him - I hadn’t seen him since we hung out with K8 for brunch.

Since it was finally playing at the Somerville Theatre I went from drinks to the movies to see Knocked Up. I’d been dying to see this. I’ve loved Judd Apatow since My So Called Life and Seth Rogan since Freaks and Geeks. (And Super Bad has been on my calendar since May, man, I can’t wait!) There were parts where I was laughing so hard I thought I would choke.

Thursday I made sure to leave work with enough time to make it to 5PM hour ride, but when I got there my massage therapist friend told me Jon had a sub. At least I found out before I went upstairs wearing my bike shoes. I’m like a spoiled child because I essentially refuse to take anyone else’s spin class because Jon’s are the best. By far. When he opens his own gym I’m going to have to join it, that’s all there is to it.

Unlike a spoiled child I didn’t pitch a fit or throw a tantrum, though, I put on my regular gym shoes and got on the elliptical. I did come pretty close to putting my street clothes on again and going home, but hell, I was already there, so I worked out.

And there we are, the chemo girl remains active.

grillin’ in the ‘burbs

What a wonderful weekend, right?! We in New England should be especially happy with the weather the world delivered, I know I was.

Friday night Todd and I (finally) went to see Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. Since the book was so fresh on my mind I was able to view it from the point of view of a class I took in college called “Novel Into Film.” Not that I sat there scrutinizing every change and every book trim, I mostly just dug it, but let’s say I was very impressed with the director’s and screenwriter’s choices. Truly an exciting and much more serious Potter movie. The only Potter movies I really like are the odd ones, that is, the first, third and fifth. My favorite is still the third.

Saturday didn’t begin so beautifully, we spent the morning dealing with all of the yard waste he had piling up in the garage. We first had to remove all the spiders (as many as possible), cover each paper bag with an oversized black trash bag and then transport them to the Haverhill town dump. It was just as fun as it sounds!

Feeling kinda beat after that we had lunch at a little cafe in town that turned out to be quite nice. MOST excellent iced coffee, too, which is a huge bonus as I’ve become enormously reliant on it. It’s a summer thing, but I’m definitively addicted.

Another trip to Home Depot was necessary because Todd is seriously thinking about re-tiling his bathrooms. It’ll raise the value of his house for sure, not that he’s thinking about selling just yet (ha), but bathrooms and kitchens can make or break a house’s selling price. So there we were again for the 28th time and we found a nice tile.

Because I needed a few things, and it happened to be right next door to Home Depot, I had my first (and last!) excursion into a WalMart. Yes, it was my VERY FIRST TIME inside a WalMart, hard to believe, and oh-my-god it was terrible. I just, I don’t know, maybe my expectations were high, although how could they have been?, but my goodness me oh my, it was an aesthetic nightmare. I’m certain Target and WalMart have incredibly similar wares (except clothing, I’m guessing), but when someone says presentation is everything, they are on the money. YICK. The ugly overhead fluorescent lighting; the plain, flat blue color that infested everything; the other customers, even; the 78 year old “greeter” who ignored us as we entered; all these things made me feel like I was back in some cheap-ass film shot in the late 70’s, you know? The lighting? I suddenly needed another shower.

So that will be my last visit to a WalMart; I’m a full-on Target girl and have been since the early 80’s. Yes, we had Target in Nashville back then.

I was going to write that I wasn’t sure why we were so tired when we got home (I swear, I felt I’d been drugged - I could barely function), but now that I’ve written about the WalMart experience, the reason has become clear. We napped a little and once up again, Todd realized he had 20 minutes to get over the hardware store and buy the grill he’d been wanting since purchasing the house.

Off we went to make the store’s last purchase of the day. They wheeled out the floor model fully assembled and we drove slowly home with it strapped into his open hatchback. YAY!!! A GRILL!!!

I immediately set to marinating some chicken, cutting up new potatoes and wrapping corn cobs in foil. We had a fabulous (although I burnt the vegetables - I’ve never grilled before) meal on the back deck in the dry, 70 degree weather. At dusk we watched bats diving for insects, which was brilliant, and when it got too dark to see them Todd brought out his guitar and we played and sang for some time. A much better ending to the day than start.

Sunday was a banner day.  Started it out drinking iced coffee (I’d had the foresight to brew some on Saturday) while listening to the Will Shortz game on Morning Edition on NPR as I ate some healthy waffles.  Then I got going on a short, hour-long bike ride.  I thought I’d just ride around the big park down the street, but there were two separate baseball (or softball, I didn’t look closely - as though I’d be able to tell the difference!) games going on and lots of people on the paths, so I took a detour into the hills on the other side of Water Street.  I found a fantastic street with gentle inclines and sweet slopes downward that took me past beautiful houses that were big, but not ostentatious estates like some of the ones we saw on route 113 towards Newburyport.  Within no time I was riding past a horse farm and an interesting looking graveyard and lots of open fields.  It was grand and it put me in the best mood.

Got back to shower, hang out with the little neighbor girls - what does it say about me that I get along so well with 10 and 11 year old girls? - and have a band rehearsal with Matt and Todd in the basement.  It was our first rehearsal this year and our inaugural use of the basement as a rehearsal space.  It went well and once we get a de-humidifier down there will be even better.  How nice to feel like a band again.  We revisited some older tunes and tried new things with them as well as attempted a new song for which all we have a chorus.  It sounded awesome.

We grilled again early that evening and I convinced Todd to accompany me on an after dinner constitutional.  Ended up walking for over an hour and I showed him some of the road I had ridden earlier.  His eagle eye caught sight of a deer in the field that we first thought was a spec of different colored wheat or something.  It lifted its head, which isn’t something wheat or grass does, indicating it was a deer in mid-meal.  Very cool to have that within walking distance.  I took a picture on my phone of the pretty view, but sadly it’s too small for Wordpress to accept.   High res standards, you know.

All in all, a great weekend.  The judges give it a 4.5 out of 5.

ninth chemo - maximum efficiency rocks

My nurse, Jackie, was on vacation this Monday so Nicole handled giving me my treatment. Why no one had told me the reason I sit around for almost an hour between arrival and treatment, I’ve no idea, but turns out it takes 30-40 minutes for the lab to process my blood work (they take blood everytime when I get there). They can’t order my drugs till that’s all done and then we wait for the bags of my drugs. WELL, finally I know what the holdup is.

This time my appointment was an hour earlier than usual, and since I’d had my blood drawn the previous Friday when I met with Dr. Jain, there was zero wait. I was told to head to the treatment room, sat down, and within a few minutes Nicole was accessing my port.

Can I just say how awesome Nicole is? I don’t mean to disparage Jackie, I love Jackie, but my goodness, Nicole was so damn efficient. Maximum efficiency rocks! She did things the way I think I would do them. It could be because she’s younger and/or hasn’t been doing this as long, but she was all about getting me out of there. For instance, she prepared my drugbag early, which is to say she placed the pump and the bag of 5FU in the backpack and got them all ready well before it was time to give me the 5FU syringe push. This meant that there was no time wasted after the 5FU push; I was ready to get up and go the minute she hooked me up to the bag.

I was home by 12:30 that day, which was crazy early and awesome. The weather was beauteous so Todd suggested we take a walk.  We were hungry and walked over to Sound Bites. We’ve ordered food from there approximately 783 times over the past four years, but hadn’t actually ever been inside. The awning and facade gave me the impression it would be run-down inside, but we were pleasantly surprised by the interior. Warm colors, lots of accent tiles and sunlight infused. And since it was before 3PM they were still serving brunch - things were going well! I got the eggs benedict (what else?) that came with some of the best home fries I’ve ever eaten. They were like a cross between home fries and mashed potatoes.

Boy, I’m really defying the cancer treatment predictions. Not only do I still have my hair and have rarely been nauseous, but I only stopped caring about food for a month or so. I s’pose after a lifetime of loving food like I do it’d be strange for that to continue. Food is one of my life’s joys; I’m certain that’s become evident in my entries here. On Monday I couldn’t stop referring to what a nice meal we’d had and saying how great it was that we have another great brunch place within walking distance - I’m so sick of Rosebud and their rude blue eyeshadow wearing waitresses and the way they hurry you in and out. The food isn’t anything special, either, it’s just fine, not great, not awful.

How did this entry change its focus so enormously? Well, that’s my brain for you.

drugs and nyc - an odd combo?

Since my Oncologist, Dr. Jain, was going to be in India for my Monday treatment I met with him on Friday morning. I met his new doctor assistant who was very nice. We had a good discussion about the drugs that we discontinued, the Oxaliplatin (which had given me that sudden bad allergic reaction) and the Avastin (we stopped when my period re-reared its ugly head because a side-effect of Avastin is slower healing of wounds and there’s no real research done on pre-menopausal women with colon cancer).

After much research he deemed it best not to reintroduce the Oxaliplatin. His findings weren’t very encouraging regarding my reactions; the line between them being treatable with Benadryl and getting worse to the point of coma or even death is a delicate one and he thought it best not to test my limits. He said the Flourourocil, or 5FU, is doing most of the work (along with the Leucovorin (vitamin E) which helps prolong the effect of 5FU on my cancer cells). Plus, 5FU has a long track record for treating cancer whereas Oxaliplatin is a relatively new chemo drug.

I’m fine with this for a number of reasons. Not interested in dying from the cure and to be honest, the strongest side-effects I got were from the Oxali. That cold sensitivity was beyond annoying, it went from unpleasant to painful and with summer in full swing it sure is nice to able to enjoy the little things like my morning ice coffee. ahhhh…

So enough about the cancer stuff for the moment.

This past weekend we down to Hoboken to visit with K8 and Peter. Todd and I shared our ride with a new co-worker of his at Avid, Sabena. It was a pretty good time and having a third person in the car with whom to have interesting conversations made the wall to wall traffic on the Cross Bronx bearable. That’s just what happens when you have to leave at one in the afternoon instead of 11AM, which was my original solo plan. But I was glad Todd decided to accompany me.

We had a nice evening in Hoboken and Saturday K8 and I decided to take the ferry over to NYC instead of the PATH train. It was certainly more scenic if slightly overpriced. We met Melissa at one end of SOHO as we walked and chatted discussing where to eat lunch, Melissa mentioned it was Bastille Day. We decided we ought to have a French meal and ended up at Le Jardin Bistro. I’ve put in a link because not only was the meal we had amazing, but their grape arbor covered back patio was a perfect oasis in the middle of the crazy SOHO pedestrian traffic and the cloudless heat we were dealing with.

Here’s Mel w/her lovely steak, K8 w/her duck and me looking insane w/my crocque monsieur.

Mel at le jardin bistro   kate at le jardin bistro

roo-insane-crocque.jpg

We spent the rest of the day in a crazed mercantile frenzy going from Pearl River (at least an hour there alone) to Pearl Paint and onward to Jo Malone and Sephora. The City Bakery provided a coffee and cookie break and we ended our shopping day at a children’s book store called Books of Wonder which was incredibly thorough. I loved that they had Maurice Sendak in Spanish, Italian, French and German. The French title for Where the Wild Things Are is Max et les Maximonstres. Love it!

where the wild things are

Kate and I saw Mel off at the subway and headed back to Hoboken on the PATH to meet Todd and Peter for dinner at Zafra, a Cuban place in their neighborhood. This place is usually packed, but there was a water main break in Jersey City and for a while they had no water and were closed. We totally lucked out because by the time we got there they were open again and empty. Disco.

And I had to include this shot of what is normally called a speed bump.  Evidently that’s not what it’s called in New Jersey.  Maybe they mean something else…?

speed bump

Sunday was K8’s Baby Shower, so I attended that while Todd and all the boys hung out at a bar nearby. The food was excellent (the polenta was especially delectable and I just cannot say no to eggs benedict) and I had a great time catching up with Kate’s friend Maria (the one who was texting us from the her labor room when Kate was last in Boston) and her new baby William, Ronna and Kim, K8’s sister-in-law.

We didn’t leave till 3PM to drive back to Boston because I wanted to watch the presents get opened and take photos. As it happens we didn’t hit much traffic and the only real holdup was some heavy rain outside Hartford, CT.

In summary, a wonderful weekend. We just got so lucky in so many ways, not the least of which was with regard to the weather. The last few times Todd and I have ventured to NYC in the summer we’ve been hit with the nastiest heat and humidity you can imagine. One August we visited Kate and Peter when they were living up on 110th and we got record breaking heat. The temperature in the park reached 114 degrees! Oy, I tell you, this was very different. Very different indeed.

bike, fun and bikefun

Boy, it’s been a while since I last posted. The week after 8th chemo was uneventful despite being a holiday week. Had Wednesday off for 4th of July, but did nothing special except get unhooked. If the rain had held off I might’ve gone for a short bike ride, but this is New England and you can’t count on weather. I check weather.com religiously, but I don’t bother with any forecast longer than 2 days out because it will inevitably change.

Anyway, I’ll skip to the weekend. On Saturday I rode my bike around my neighborhood and up and down the hills around Tufts for an hour and lifted weights at home. Then Todd and I drove south to my friend Melissa’s cookout in Weymouth. It was a beautiful day and a real treat to hang out with some ex-work friends (Nathan, Greg and his wife Laura, and Bob and his wife Deanne). I hadn’t seen most of them since before the chemo. It was a good time. I really missed them and I really love hot dogs, so it was a win-win.

If I could go back to that Saturday night and do one thing differently I’d have remembered to put Todd’s TomTom back in the glove compartment. Sunday morning we left the apartment to find his car had been broken into and TomTom was gone. Figured we’d been praising the device so highly at Lissa’s cookout, one might decide we jinxed ourselves. By now you know I try to see the glass half full, so I was glad that was all they took. They didn’t steal the radio (complete w/Sirius satellite) and Todd’s guitar and rollerblades were still in the trunk. Things could’ve been much worse.

We spent a few hours dealing with cleaning up all the glass from the broken driver’s side window, which involved going to a carwash and using their heavy duty vacuum as well as buying a plastic dropcloth and tape to cover the window. Fun day. Eh, it was far too windy to play frisbee anyhow…

Monday morning I had another stomachache so I stayed home, but by 2 o’clock I felt better and was itching to get some exercise. 4:30PM spin sounded like a plan, but when I stepped outside to get the mail I realized it was beautiful out. How could I waste wonderful weather on my indoor bicycle to nowhere? Don’t get me wrong, I love Jon’s spin classes, but it was gorgeous out. So for the first time this year I rode the Minuteman Trail - the whole thing. That’s 24 miles.

I made it in just under two hours and had a fantastic time. It was early enough in the day that the trail was mostly empty - just how I like it. The sun was out, but there was a cool breeze with many clouds for shade (also just how I like it) and I got to see a rabbit, a chipmunk and several squirrels. It smelled amazing, too, very lush but not too overpowering.

My mental plan was to get to Concord and see how I felt, but likely turn around there. By the time I got to Concord I was feeling good and strong. Plus, that last portion of the trail is my favorite, so I kept riding. It was awesome. I stopped in Bedford long enough to drink some more water and check out my dirt covered calves, then headed back the way I came.

Seems no matter what I tell myself about riding nice and easy and not pushing myself hard or “competing” with anyone else on the trail, I ignore my rules. Things were going smoothly enough when with only about 4-5 miles to go I found myself behind what I would call a serious bicyclist. This is my judgment based solely on speed, getup and bike gear and this chick fit the bill. I was having a fine time just keeping up behind her when she slowed down enough and her leg speed was such that I got fed up. I picked up my own pace, sped by her and continued in this manner till Arlington, which was a few miles. When I reached Alewife it felt as though I were biking underwater; every pedal stroke was a struggle and it became painfully evident how exhausted I was.

Like I said, though, it was worth it.

eighth chemo - so it goes

For my eighth chemo session we arrived on time and things went smoothly. I spoke to Jackie about the painful stomachaches I’d been having as well as this weird bloated feeling. I’d also noticed a real bulge in my tummy and mentioned it. She brought my doctor back, I talked to him, and we set up an ultrasound for Tuesday. I didn’t want to miss work (”I can’t say I’m really MISSing it, Bob”), but I know, I know, I have to think of my health first. You’d think with the tumor and all this chemotherapy going on that I’d realize that right away, but it’s still surreal to me. This is my life now, this is my routine.

Isn’t it interesting how things become routine? You do something a few times on a certain schedule and before you know it, that’s your routine. Maybe you don’t even notice, maybe you only see in retrospect how things changed, how you changed. You don’t achieve the altitude you need to see the whole picture until afterwards.

That’s almost always the way it goes. Even when something enormously life-altering happens, like this cancer; like getting a new job; like having a baby, you roll with the punches and adjust.  You automatically shift gears and keep moving.  Otherwise you stall out.

When I sit still for too long and have time to really think about what’s happening in my life, I stall out. I sit in the middle of the road blocking traffic getting sad, depressed and self-involved. I get angry that this is happening to me. I get sullen and jealous of healthy people and all the things they can do without the same worries, without getting so tired and worn out. Sometimes it bothers me that I still look healthy because I’m not. Part of me wants everyone to know by looking at me that not all is well so they’ll treat me like I’m sick.

But then again, I don’t.

And the mirror fools me, too, and makes me think I can do things I can’t. It’s a conundrum, for sure. I might be having one of those days right now. Which means I need to get my butt to the gym.

Back to the treatment center - One of the many friendly nurses came back to chat a bit and made mention of the fact that Todd and I usually have our laptops out (he always does, I sometimes do). It came up that Todd got an iPhone. Faster than Steve Jobs says “we don’t talk about future products,” every nurse and volunteer was coming over asking to get up close and personal with the phone. Todd was suddenly Mr. Popular. Even other patients were curious to see it and find out if the hype panned out.

It does, by the way. That phone is soop-air cool. And with all the attention and interaction with people, my treatment went by nice and fast. I was home and napping by 3PM.

The next day I had that ultrasound and go figure, they didn’t find anything. My guess regarding the stomachaches (that my delicious homemade smoothies were too big) may have been correct. The bloating is still a mystery, probably just my old, fat belly returning to form.

As I said before, I’m taking my butt back to the gym.

zachary, the intrepid explorer

Saturday night Todd joined me in Davis for some Freaks and Geeks and Sunday we drove up to Haverhill hoping to finally finish painting some rooms. Half-painted walls covered with leftover tape are becoming a tiresome eyesore and make everything feel incomplete. So after bringing in some just-purchased second-hand furniture we set to work.

About 15 minutes into the work Todd asked if I’d seen Zack. I hadn’t. He remembered he’d left the front door open and my stomach sank and my hands went numb.

The Z-man is a strictly indoor cat. Much as we’d love for our beautiful fat baby to get some much needed exercise, we’ve witnessed how trusting he can be and how he doesn’t scare easily enough. I can imagine a car coming along and him not moving out of the way. Plus, as most pet owners know, outdoor cats require a lot more vet maintenance. And now that the Zack meister lives with Todd up in the comparative woods, I fear tics and mites and all kinds of I-don’t-know-what that might attach themselves to him.

Not more than an hour earlier we’d been talking about pets with Todd’s neighbors, looking at Zack through the upstairs hallway window and discussing what an indoor cat he was. So when we ran outside calling his name and running into backyards, the neighbors hopped to action and helped us look. They were so awesome. One even rode her car around the block several times w/her eyes peeled for the sight of our creme brulee cutie. I was calm at first, but as more time passed I feared the worst.

Walking down toward the Merrimack I was sobbing like a little kid, complete with the fast in-and-out breathing, worried I’d find him smooshed on Water Street. It was terrible. I was freaked out. We’d never lost him before. It was much more frightening than the fear I have for my own health and safety, honestly. Zack’s an innocent kitty, he’s never hurt anyone (with the slight exception of Lucycat), all he wants is to love, be loved, eat and sleep. He’s my favoritest pet ever, ever, ever (if that hadn’t come through in previous entries) and I didn’t know what I was going to do if he was suddenly out of my life.

I walked back to Todd’s house and grabbed my cellphone as he started to walk farther up the street the other direction. I started systematically checking backyards. Our driving neighbor started to take another trip around the block when another lovely neighbor from down the street emerged from the the backyard next door carrying a big, fat, furry animal, saying “So HOW much does this cat weigh?” “17 pounds!” I yelled.

I can’t even describe my relief. She handed Zack to me and I immediately phoned Todd. We thanked our neighbors profusely and took kitty inside. Despite wearing dark clothes and knowing we’d be wearing his white fur with it, we refused to let him go for about an hour. I felt like my life had been shortened…. But I’m so happy to have him back. I have a renewed empathy for the people who put the signs up about their missing kitties. May you all find your beloved, furry little children.