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Sunday, November 01, 2015

Another Catch-Up Post

Looks like my   goal of posting frequently and regularly has gone unfulfilled again and despite my promises and intentions to do better, I’ve fallen into a pattern of posting once or twice a month.  So this will be a catch-up post.

I finished the eight cycles of Folfox plus Avastin October 3rd.  I feel  fortunate that the side effects were not as severe or debilitating as I’d feared. Probably the worst side effect, other than the occasional fatigue, was the drop in my white blood cell count, which delayed treatment a few times and made it necessary for me to get Neupogen shots to stimulate  my bone marrow to produce more white cells -- nineteen shots in all. One of the possible common side effects listed was  deep bone pain. I had the bone pain after the first shot  but was able to prevent it by taking a Tylenol before getting the next 18 shots- it worked! At one point my white cell count went from 3,100cmm to 36,200cmm after 3 shots; germs didn't stand a chance of surviving that week. But  they went  way down again after chemo.  It was a real roller coaster! 

I don’t want to paint too rosy a picture- the chemo was not all smiles and sunshine; there were quite a few days when I did feel the side effects.  And given the high temperatures we had here this summer, the desire for something cold to drink got really overwhelming at times.  But the oncology nurses warned me that drinking anything cold while on Oxaliplatin could be painful, so I drank and ate everything at room temperature or hotter. Except for the one time I forgot and took a swig of water straight from the fridge.  Oh MY!! It felt as though I was swallowing shards of glass! I didn’t try THAT again! And it did get to be an aggravation towards the end of the regimen when, in order to avoid the pain of neuropathy, I had to wear gloves while reaching into the fridge or freezer or shopping the frozen food aisles at the grocery store.

Anyway, I survived- and didn’t even lose much hair.  It thinned but stayed on my head for the most part. In fact, everyone I run into who knows I’ve been on chemo says how good I look, which is a little worrisome because folks never  went out of their way to tell me how good I looked before all this started ;-)

The oncologist set me up for another CT scan to see how effective the chemo had been. The results came in a couple of weeks ago. They show that the rectal tumor and the liver tumor have both shrunk, but the surgeon suggested that rather than schedule surgery right away we try to shrink or eliminate the rectal tumor using radiation therapy and shrink the liver tumor some more with chemo, then consider ablation, so I met again with the medical oncologist last week and will meet with the radiology oncologist this week to get that ball rolling.  Not looking forward to having a sunburn where the sun don’t shine nor am I overjoyed at wearing the portable infusion pump five or more days a week, but you do what you have to do.  And so it goes.

Monday, October 05, 2015

Rights, Restrictions and and Gun Control

With all the news over the past few days of  shootings and the ensuing Second Amendment arguments that invariably follow such tragedies claiming that gun control legislation is an attempt to seize  guns owned by law-abiding citizens and to take away Second Amendment rights, I got to wondering. . .
The Privileges and Immunities Clause, Article IV, Section 2, Clause 1 of the US Constitution  guarantees the right of free movement between the states. Most people nowadays drive or ride in motor vehicles. According to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, in 2008, Americans owned 137,079,843 passenger cars, or a little less than one car for every two people.  But in order to legally drive a motor vehicle a person here in Alabama, as in other states, must obtain a license which includes taking a test to insure that he/she  has the skills necessary, is  physically and mentally fit to drive, and is aware of  the laws related to operating a motor vehicle.  Furthermore, this license has to be renewed periodically.  Additionally, all vehicles must be registered, which has another set of requirements, and the vehicles must carry insurance.
And yet there is no great hue and cry that these restrictions and controls infringe on a citizen’s right of free movement. Nor is there an outpouring of outrage  that such   requirements are an attempt to take vehicles away from people. Because  people know that it just isn’t true, and the auto industry evidently has no powerful, fear-mongering organization  equivalent to the NRA to convince them otherwise. 
Guns  and hunting have been  around a long time in this country, as has the National Rifle Association, but  for  most of that time, people didn’t see the need to hunt defenseless animals with semi-automatic, military-style weapons using armor- piercing ammunition, and I’d be willing to bet that most responsible gun owners still don’t. It seems to me this whole Second Amendment   uproar is a result of manipulation and lobbying  by the NRA to increase their membership and increase gun sales during a period when fewer people own guns and a small percentage of gun owners actually hunt.  For over a hundred years the NRA focused on hunting, conservation and marksmanship. One of its programs  taught Boy Scouts how to shoot safely and still provides Rifle Instructor Certification for those who wish to become a Boy Scouts of America Rifle Merit Badge Counselor. That certification requires training and testing. Ironically, the organization that believes everyone who wants to own a gun should be allowed to  regardless of  their fitness or ability and that opposes sensible regulation and registration for gun owners requires candidates for   instructor positions to:"achieve a score of 90 percent or higher in a written examination and have a minimum passing score of 80 out of a possible 100 points in firearms handling, shooting competence, and firearms safety evaluation."  The NRA states that "Only those candidates who achieve satisfactory scores in the pre-course qualification, and who meet other specified requirements for NRA instructors, are eligible for certification."  So obviously the NRA sees some value in testing and certification for certain gun owners and users.  Somewhere along the  way,  radicals took over the NRA and it became more political,  until today it is one of the most powerful lobbying organizations in the country, spending millions to influence legislators and legislation.  In 2014 the NRA spent $3.6  million on lobbying against gun control legislation, which is quite a hefty sum, but  is  considerably less than they spent in 2010.  Forbes magazine reported that in 2010 the NRA reported that it had 781 full time employees, 125,000 volunteers and generated revenues of $227.8 million, but that still wasn’t enough to cover expenses. In total, they spent $243.5 million, leaving a $15 million shortfall. That year, $10 million went to the NRA’s lobbying arm, the Institute for Legislative Action. The NRA’s 129th convention, held in Charlotte, N.C.  in 2000, became an all out political attack on Democratic presidential candidate, Al Gore, with speeches  claiming that Gore would  take away everyone’s guns.  The convention concluded with Charlton Heston, then president of the NRA, making  his famous speech in  which, in true movie star style, he brandished a musket in the air, challenging Gore, stating, “ especially for you, Mr. Gore: From my cold, dead hands!"
Today, there are  too many “cold dead hands”, too many dead children, too many troubled youth who see guns as the way to end their problems and too many paranoid people who have been stirred up into a frenzy by fear-mongering entities like the NRA who spread  misinformation, and hatred.  Yes, the 2nd Amendment guarantees the right of free citizens to bear arms.  That is not in dispute. But that right, like all the others granted in the Bill of Rights, is not absolute.   Rights carry with them limitations and restrictions.  Even the very conservative Supreme Court majority, in their 2008 ruling in the District of Columbia v. Heller case, note that, “Like most rights, the Second Amendment right is not unlimited. It is not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose: For example, concealed weapons prohibitions have been upheld under the Amendment or state analogues. The Court’s opinion should not be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by
felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of fire-arms in sensitive places
such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms.”
 Why is that so hard for some people to understand? How many more mass shootings at schools and workplaces, how many instances of children shooting each other will it take before people say, "ENOUGH!"?

Sunday, September 27, 2015


Tonight  was  a once-in–a-generation occurrence- a supermoon, plus full lunar eclipse.  Since the next one is not scheduled to appear until 2033 or such, I figured that at my age and in my condition, this was my last chance to see one.  Of course, as luck would have it, the weather has been overcast all day with a heavy cloud cover and we were afraid  we wouldn’t  get to see it after all, but  there were a few moments when the clouds drifted away from the moon and we were able to get a few pics.  Not as spectacular as  some  I’ve seen posted on the Internet tonight, but  it was fun to watch, anyway. 

At first, there was no  red or orange glow, but   at the first break in the clouds I was able to get the  pic at the left. Within a minute, though the clouds moved back in and obscured the moon. Later, Mr. G went  and stood in the street, where  the trees wouldn't block his view, and waited for another break in the clouds.  He was able to get the picture below which does show the the moon with  its orange glow. It was  kind of fun to spend an evening being a little  moonstruck.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Late Summer, Early Fall Roundup

Pepper Place Market
It’s been nearly a month since my last post, and what a busy month it was.  After  my sixth treatment on August 26, we began to get ready for our daughter’s visit from Australia. We were in a flurry of getting the dogs to the groomer, cleaning house, getting in groceries, etc. and getting more Neupogen shots to keep my white blood cell count up.  I was able to get the shots scheduled for early morning so that our days weren’t  interrupted too much, so we were able to get a few activities in while Heather was here. We went to the Pepper Place Farmer’s Market, Railroad Park,  Art Crawl in downtown Birmingham, plus a couple of yoga classes and had a family get-together. 

Plenty of tomatoes and peaches
Heather   admiring some of the work at ArtCrawl
I was scheduled for the seventh chemo treatment on  September 9, but once again, my  white blood cell counts  had done a roller coaster ride in the week  following the last  Neupogen shot, so  I got more shots and chemo treatment was put off until September 11, a Friday, which meant I was  wearing the pump for Heather’s last week-end at home, which curtailed our planned activities somewhat. But we still managed to  have a nice visit and  we were able to enjoy some  of the sights  and activities in town while she was home.

It took me  quite a while to recover after that last treatment, and I had side effects that  I’d
 been able to avoid before. I experienced peripheral neuropathy in my hands for the first time- and it is NOT fun, so now I wear gloves whenever I reach into the fridge or freezer and Mr. G  reaches into the cooler and  frozen food sections  at the grocery store, because I  keep forgetting my gloves when we go out.  Gloves are just not something I normally think about when the weather is hot and humid, but a few more experiences of numb, painful fingers will probably work well to jog my memory.

I had  more shots on Sept 14,15 & 16 in order to build up my blood counts for  the last scheduled treatment on September 25, yesterday. I  thought at the time, and did mention that  maybe we should put off the shots until  just before the treatment, but was assured  this schedule should work just as well.  Guess what? It didn’t.  Another roller coaster on the  numbers and another delay, so I got a shot yesterday and will get more on Monday and Tuesday, with the chemo treatment  scheduled for Wednesday. About two weeks after that I’ll have a scan to see how all this chemo has worked, or rather IF it has worked to shrink the tumors,  and then we’ll figure out, based on the results, what happens next.

Hummingbird straggler, tiger swallowtail
Meanwhile, the  hummingbird  feeder, the scene of so much activity a week or two ago now hosts only the occasional straggler. The hummers have begun their migration now that fall has arrived. Butterflies are still fluttering about, and the summer  flowers are putting on their last show of the season, while  fall blooms and berries, like the beautybush are coming into their own.
Late summer bloomers
Signs of fall: American Beautyberry, goldenrod, pineapple sage, dogwood leaves
 Although the temperatures certainly don’t feel much like fall, the leaves are beginning to turn, ever so slowly, and  when a slight breeze blows, the golden leaves  come drifting down- a very welcome sight after a long, hot summer. .

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Blue Infusion Chair Blues

Got my sixth chemo treatment today while I was in the blue chair in the  treatment room all hooked up to pumps and tubes. I'm now  hooked up to the portable pump  with the 5-FU until Friday.  White blood cell count was up just enough to go ahead with treatment after the three Neupogen shots last week but was still pretty low, so  I'm scheduled to get four shots next week.  Yuck!

Our daughter is coming in from Australia for a two week visit on Monday. I was able to plead with the scheduling nurses and get all the shots scheduled for first thing in the morning so  we don't have   the four days  broken up by mid-day runs to the clinic. Yay!!

Not feeling all that great tonight, having a little nausea for the first time, along with the fatigue and general  feeling of malaise.  Hopefully tomorrow will be better and I can go back to feeding hummingbirds, playing with the dogs and enjoying  Fred and Flo, the  pink plastic flamingos with panache. I may change Fred's name to Floyd, what do you think?

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Pink Plastic Panache

We have flamingos in the front yard!  Gaudy, colorful, bright pink plastic flamingos. Maybe not a flamboyance of  flamingos,  since there are only  two, but I’m thinking of adding more.  I read of a  Christmas display that featured  eight  pink flamingos pulling Santa’s sleigh. I rather like that idea. Mr. G  went along with  these two, but didn't seem too thrilled about my idea for adding  to the flock.  I thought I heard him mumble something under his breath about my becoming an eccentric old biddy or words to that effect.  Honestly, the man has no sense of adventure!

 I know there are those who think pink plastic flamingos break the rules of decorum and good taste in garden decor, but  some rules just cry out to be broken. By having only two   pink plastic flamingos guarding two potted palms, I have also broken another rule, one of the cardinal rules of  good garden design- the rule of odd numbers. According to the garden guides,  one should plant things in groups of three, five, seven, etc. rather than in groups of two or four or six and so on because odd numbered groupings give a more naturalistic appearance. But let’s face it, there really isn’t a way to make   a gaudy pink plastic bird on wire legs look naturalistic in an Alabama garden, or any garden for that matter.  Since I am rather fond of symmetry, there are only two- one on each  side at the top of the front steps leading  from the parking area to the  front landing. The flamingos have a certain panache, pink plastic panache, if you will.  You can see only one in this photo,  this is Flo Flamingo. There is an identical display on the other side of the steps, with Fred flamingo guarding the potted palm. I’m not sure you can have identical displays with a male flamingo in one and a female flamingo in the other , but  in a whimsical world anything is possible.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Yoga, Doga, Do

Monday  night is yoga night, and I really look forward to our weekly class.  Many, if not most, of the class  participants have had or are having some sort of medical or health issue.  Some  have had   joint replacement or other surgery, several are  cancer survivors who have had or, in my case, are currently having, chemotherapy, and quite a few of us are in our golden years or beyond.   It's doubtful that any of us will be doing headstands,  complex lotus poses  or one-legged cranes, but Jilda, our wonderful instructor, encourages us to do what we can. And in fact, we do  very well with lunges  and planks and as  mountains, chairs, warriors and trees,  although I  will admit that my tree  tends to sway in the wind quite a bit, and since I do chair yoga,  have steered clear of planks. I do  enjoy the class and feel both energized and calm afterwards.

Agatha and Victoria are always overexcited when we get home, particularly when we come in, as we did tonight, with  aromatic food from the neighborhood Mexican Grill.  Agatha was  leaping about begging for  some of my spinach cheese enchilada while  Victoria was more low key, sitting under the table and whining as though she hadn't been fed in ages, when in fact, she had eaten  shortly before we left for class and could, given her current pudginess, stand to miss a meal or two.

Tonight, I decided to  try a new technique on Agatha.  I told her, in my calmest, most soothing yoga voice to  "just breathe  and let your muscles soften and relax.  Let go of your tension and  with each breath feel yourself becoming calmer." Wonder of wonder, she was so  surprised that  she sat down, perked up her ears, cocked her head and looked at me as though I'd lost my marbles. But she was no longer    begging noisily for food. I told Mr. G that maybe we were onto something and should start    a yoga class for dogs. Then I discovered that this isn't a new idea at all- there actually is such a thing as dog yoga- or doga!   There are books about doga and doga calendars like these that I found on
Agatha and Victoria won't be going to yoga class with me, but who knows, one day  there may be a doga class offered at the community center and if there is,  I just might sign them up!