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Friday, March 24, 2017

Playing in the Dirt

I got to play in the dirt today!  Since  my oncologist warned me to  stay out of the sun and make sure to wear gloves when gardening to avoid picking up any pathogens,  I donned  my long sleeved, turtleneck shirt, my  wide brimmed hat, and  gardening gloves and went  out to battle  the weeds that took over our little garden patch this winter. It was a  lovely day, albeit a little breezy,  and not too hot since  the clouds kept the sun hidden  off and on  all morning.

Mr. G  trimmed some dead wood from the trees and shrubs,  whacked weeds with the weed whacker and mowed the back yard while I tackled the weeds in the   herb and flower bed.  I managed to reclaim   a portion of the bed and rescue the  echinacea, monarda, calendula, achillea, rosebush and some other odds and ends from the clutches of the the vines and weeds that were trying to choke the life out of them.Rhis is how it looked  when I began:

And this is how much I got done before running out of steam:

While  he was whacking weeds  Mr. G called me over to see something, and this is what  we found:  a clump of redleaf lettuce growing  just outside the  compost bin:
We dug it up and  put it in a pot.  I hope it survives- and we can make some delicious salads with it.  I also hope it inspires the slow-growing little lettuce seedlings to put on a growth spurt. 
There is still a lot of weeding that needs to be done so we're hoping the rain holds off long enough to make some more headway. I might even   get around to  cleaning up the veggie beds to get them ready for the eggplants, squash, tomatoes and  bush beans I  plan to set out after  the last frost date.   Spring is definitely in the air, and it's most welcome to stay around a while.  

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Pollen and Pot Pies

Spring is getting  much, much closer.  The trees are leafing out,  and the world is slowly getting covered in pollen.
Around here, that means pine pollen, a  yellow dust that covers cars, sidewalks, roads, and if you leave your windows open, all your furniture. Because it's so visible, people blame pine pollen for their spring  allergies, runny noses and watery eyes, but pine pollen is not the culprit. Ragweed, and other weeds and grasses as well as trees like oak, birch and hickories, pecans and such are the real culprits with their much smaller pollen grains that can work their  way into your respiratory system.

Since I'm in my post-chemo reaction stage with  hot red skin on my face, general fatigue and a low  immunity I didn't venture outside, although it would have been a lovely day for weeding and  getting the garden ready for planting. My most strenuous activities today were paying bills and cooking supper. I decided to   make a chicken pot pie from what was left of the  chicken I'd roasted on Tuesday but couldn't find my recipe.  I googled chicken pot pie and was surprised to find  one of my blog posts on the first page. The recipe called for  two sheets of packaged frozen puff pastry.  Of course, I had only one sheet in the freezer, so decided to make my own using my trusted Julia Child  recipe for pâte brisée fine. I made the pastry, lined a casserole dish, covered the pastry with aluminum  foil and pre-baked it.  While it was baking I chopped carrots and onions, sliced some mushrooms, defrosted some frozen peas and shredded the chicken.  Then they all got put in a skillet with some butter, flour, thyme, pepper, parsley and chicken broth. and  were left to bubble away for a bit.
When the  pastry-lined casserole came our of the oven, I removed the  foil, let the  crust cool a little, then spooned in the filling. I covered the top with   latticework using   strips cut from the second piece of pastry,  sprinkled some  chopped parsley on top
and popped it in the oven for about forty five minutes until the crust was golden and the filling was all bubbly. It came out  looking fairly decent and tasted good, too.
All in all it was a pretty nice day, with a delicious supper. I hope your day was as enjoyable.


Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Chemo Treatment Day with Mixed Emotions

Today was a mixed emotions kind of day. My visit with the oncologist went well; I've gained another  pound since the last chemo treatment.  Who knows, maybe at the rate I'm going  one day I'll actually hit the 100 pound mark 😄  We went over the scan results and the onc  says based on the good results from this one and the previous scan she's comfortable with changing my scan schedule to every four months  instead of every three months.  She also confirmed that we'll continue on the current regimen of  Camptosar and Erbitux as a maintenance therapy for as long as I can tolerate them well and they continue to be effective.

When I went to the lab to get  my vitals taken and have blood withdrawn for tests, I was beginning to get guilt pangs for feeling pretty good since everyone else  who came in while I was there when asked if they had any pain, replied "yes" and most rated the pain at  around  7 or 8 on the pain scale. I am   grateful that  my pain is infrequent and minimal, I hope those in pain  were able to get some relief at today's session.

Last year I met another patient in the  chemo treatment room.  We  usually  had chairs next to each other and became chair mates, in a sense. He was an upbeat  guy,  with a wonderful sense of humor. He began telling his wife that I was his chemo room girlfriend. She seemed to take it in good humor and reminded him I may not have wanted him as a boyfriend. If I had agreed to be his girlfriend, I might have been accused of cradle snatching since he was a decade  younger 😀.    He was  receiving chemo for inoperable pancreatic cancer, and realized the odds for long time survival  were not all that great.  He was still able to do things around the house and yard, and go fishing, which he enjoyed.  Over time, though, the cancer and the chemo took its toll, and he wasn't able to do  much at all except sit around.  A couple of months ago he told me he'd been hanging on for the sake of his family, but that he was tired and had decided to stop the treatment. Shortly after that I had my new port put in and that  messed up my treatment schedule so he and I were no longer  getting treatment on the same day and  didn't see each other.  I'd often wondered if he had followed through on his decision to stop treatment, but  knew better than to ask the nurses or doctor because of patient confidentiality rules under HIPPA. I'd tried googling his name but  nothing much turned up. Today, though, I decided to  google his name with the added  word "obituary". He had died early last month. I hope his family are doing OK, and understand why he decided to end treatment. I'm guessing that he probably  had hospice care near the end of his life- I hope he went peacefully and painlessly.

Getting to know  other  patients in treatment is both rewarding and  upsetting.  We are happy to learn that someone has left treatment because it has done its job and their cancer  has been effectively eradicated or sent into what  we hope is a long term remission.  We are saddened when others, like my friend, leave treatment because it's no longer working, their other options have been exhausted and they are  just  bone-tired and drained, physically and emotionally. But  we all learn from each other's experiences, and I am very grateful to all of them, and grateful too  for the medical staff who care for us all in a  caring manner, knowing that some of us will make it and some won't.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

We Skipped Spring!

Yikes!  Mother Nature is up to her tricks again,  and  has decided we should skip spring for awhile. The temperature hit 89ºF today.  I finally broke down and turned on the air conditioner when the inside temperature hit 84. I  don't do heat well.  Needless to say, I didn't get as much done outside as I'd hoped, either.

I did supervise Mr. G as he trimmed and thinned out some some shrubs in the back yard. He was  trimming the butterfly bush when he realized all the branches were  dead- they just broke off.  Like the poor rhododendron in the front yard,  the butterfly bush  is  another victim of last summer's drought and  the accompanying water restrictions we were under.

I wonder if we'll have the same situation this summer.  It makes me wonder whether it's wise to  plant a garden. But since I've already started seeds,  I may as well plant and hope for the best. To that end I did manage to get some more seedlings  potted up into individual containers as they wait for  time to be planted out permanently in the garden or in earth boxes.
The lettuce is slowly  beginning to look like lettuce, or  miniature lettuce- this time last year I was already harvesting some leaves, so I'm hoping it goes into a growth spurt before hot weather sets in permanently.
Tomorrow is chemo treatment day so I won't be doing any gardening, or much else, actually,   for the next day or so.  I've been on the irinotecan/cetuximab regimen for almost a year now; this will be my  nineteenth  treatment, and despite the  dry, flaky, itchy skin, the cracks that develop on my fingertips and feet, the fingernails  that tear, the   swollen  toenail beds and ingrown toenails, I've actually tolerated  it  pretty well so far. I'm fortunate not  to have suffered some of the really nasty, pustular  skin eruptions that  many  patients get.  I had the  acne like rash  at the beginning of treatment, but   that subsided after a few treatments, thank goodness.  At least I now have  very long, luxurious eyelashes-they are so long that I have to use eyelash curlers to keep them from  brushing against my glasses. And the hair on my head- that's strange.   It has grown in  all straight and coarse in the front and wavy in the back.  I have no idea   what do do with wavy hair- it seems to have a mind of its own and does what it pleases regardless of what I want it to do.  Sort of like Mother Nature  and  Mr. G 😉

Monday, March 20, 2017

Blue Skies and Blossoms

Today was an absolutely beautiful day!  After getting some laundry and housework done I went outside to enjoy the sunshine and to see how everything was doing.

Sadly, the  white azaleas didn't fare too well in the  freezing temperatures we had.  What were once lovely white blossoms now hang limp and brown  and much of the new growth was  also damaged and is now wilted.

 But all is not lost-  the blooms that were hidden at the bottom of the  bushes and closer to the protection of the wall survived without  damage and  there are plenty of new buds that somehow managed to escape the freeze.
Some of the dogwood blossoms are fully open now and the branches are filled with buds and blossoms in various stages, from closed up tight to nearly fully open. A few more days  like today and the tree should be in all its glory, filled with  a bounty of  delicate white blossoms glistening against a  clear blue sky.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Sam the Second Is In the House

Our daughter-in-law, Sharil, celebrated her  birthday today. She and granddaughter Abby  celebrated another holiday today, albeit a little late: Chinese New Year, which began on  January 28 this year and  is designated  the Year of the Rooster.  Abby decided that since last year was the Year of the Monkey, she should  have a monkey and I should have a Rooster.  So they went to  the Build A Bear Workshop and  built a monkey for Abby and a rooster for me.  She delivered   him this afternoon- and a lovely rooster he is, too. He even brought his  birth certificate with him, showing that his name is Sam. He crows just like  the old Sam, although I'm not sure how Sam the First would have  liked    having a competitor, especially one more colorful than he was! As you can see,  Sam II is  quite a handsome fellow, although he lacks the long spurs that Sam I  sported, so he would be wise  not to antagonize any real roosters since he's at a definite disadvantage in the self-defense department.
Abby also gave me a  picture of herself with the Easter Bunny. Maybe it's just me, but that bunny looks as though it ate a few too many Easter eggs. I haven't figured out what the eyes remind me of- but that chubby rabbit has some seriously long eyelashes!  None of that seems to be bothering Abby, though, and she looks  quite pleased to be sitting on the critter's lap.
 Tomorrow is the first day of spring and our temperatures are predicted to be in the high 70s tomorrow and 80 on Tuesday, which makes me wonder if  Mother Nature  is planning to skip spring and go directly to summer.  I certainly hope not! But I do plan to get outside and transplant  some of my seedlings into  bigger pots and window boxes.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Blossoms, Butterflies and Baked Goods

Today was another day that began  cloudy and gray but the sun emerged victorious and broke through the clouds once more.

There is a peach tree growing in the woods behind the house, just over the fence.  It had begun blooming last week and I wondered how the  blossoms had fared in the   freezing temperatures we had earlier this week. They  seemed to have come through   unscathed. The peaches are this tree produces are very small and quite hard.  By the time they get soft enough to pick and eat they  have usually been pecked at by birds and invaded by ants, so the blossoms are all we  really get to enjoy, but they are a lovely sight.

When I went out with my camera to take a picture of the blossoms I was  surprised to see an eastern tiger swallowtail  flitting about. I followed me back to the deck and  swooped about the roses on the arbor before settling down on the mulch just off the deck.  It stayed still for quite a while as though anxious for me to  take its picture. I was only too happy to oblige.
With blossoms and butterflies, I decided  we needed another "B"  to round out the day's activities so I decided to bake something.  These chocolate chip oatmeal cookies are quite delicious.