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Sunday, January 31, 2016

Critter antics

Usually when I let   the dogs out for their last bathroom call they go running straight off the deck towards the  back fence. Agatha  often runs back there barking her head off, usually when a neighborhood cat  has wandered out of the woods behind the fence and into the yard.  Agatha chases  the intruder back over the fence in no time. A few nights ago when I let her out, she went out barking and running toward the fence, but a few minutes later, I heard her let out a yelp and she came running back to the deck.  When I went to let Agatha and Victoria out  for their last call at midnight last night, Agatha  went running out the back door, stopped dead in her tracks at the  edge of the deck,  lifted her head and began sniffing the air. She turned straight around and came back in the house. Wouldn't even step off the deck. Victoria didn't even bother  going to the edge of the deck, she just turned straight around and came back in. I got the flashlight to see  what was scaring her, but couldn't see anything. I could NOT convince either one of them to go out and take care of business. I figured I might have a mess to clean up  in the morning, and sure enough, I did.

Tonight  when I  opened the door, I stepped out with them and could immediately smell something- a musky animal smell.  It was a scent I   smelled often when we  kept chickens in the back yard, and usually was a sign that  opossums or raccoons had been around the chicken coop. Then I remembered that when I went to  dump some kitchen scraps in the compost the other day,  there were  scraps on the top of the pile and some deep holes in the middle.  I could have sworn that I'd covered up the scraps I'd taken out previously and assumed that some critter had  come in from the woods  in search of food and had been digging in the pile. Meanwhile, as I pondered this, there stood Agatha, nose up in the air, sniffing.  We had a repeat of  last night's performance.

But  tonight,  the critter, whatever it was, didn't hang around, and  when I opened the door a half hour or so later, the smell was very, very faint.  This time, both dogs went out, sniffed the air, then Agatha  went off the deck and took off running and barking towards the  fence. She made a couple of passes back and forth, then got down to business, finished up and came back in. Victoria, brave soul that she is, watched Agatha  to make sure it was safe to go , then she went off the deck, too.

 I'm wondering if Agatha actually had a hostile encounter with a raccoon or 'possum the night I heard her yelp, and doesn't want to repeat the  experience.  If so, it's probably a wise choice, because I don't think her ten pound little body would scare off either one if they decided to hold their ground, no matter how loudly she barked! Our experience with the 'possum who killed Sam, our rooster, taught me how dangerous a normally peace-loving possum can be when it's cornered and threatened, so I think Agatha and Victoria are wise in their reluctance to tangle with the wild critters that live in the woods behind the fence. Agatha still thinks  chipmunks,  rabbits, squirrels and cats are worth scaring, though, and thankfully her bark gives them a warning and enough time to scurry out of harm's way.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Of scares and sunshine, sole and seafood chowder.

Today I got up early, around  6:30 AM to let the dogs out and got a bit of a scare when I saw that the greenhouse door had blown open sometime during the night.  Fortunately, the temperature didn't get too low last night and all the plants looked OK, although  goodness knows how  hard the poor little heater had to work- - or what our electric bill will look like as a result of trying to heat the  entire back yard! I did notice that the heating cables in the seed box didn't seem to be working well- the temperature was   just below  60°F in the box.  It's a good thing lettuce  germinates in lower temps! I'll have to buy new cables before  starting more seeds.

As I  stepped back up on the deck I looked up at the  western sky and saw the moon still hanging in the pale blue morning sky. It was a very  nice boost to the day, especially after the greenhouse door mishap. The sky got bluer as the day wore on and the temperature climbed to  69°F.  We drove across town mid morning and had to turn the air conditioner on in the car as the sun beating down on it all morning had made it uncomfortably warm.  And to think that last week we   had  to keep the heater running to keep from freezing!  Our trip was  a search for some local honey.  Our usual source, a  small   store up the road a piece,   has been closed for some time, and most of the local  beekeepers are out of honey at this time of year.Luckily we found some and  bought a big jar.  Hopefully it will last  us  for awhile. We also bought some lovely  local eggs from free range chickens, so it was a worthwhile trip.

After lunch we took the  dogs out for a walk . They sniffed and investigated every tree, every pole, every blade of grass and every clump of pine straw along the way, and Agatha  marked her  trip every five feet it seemed. There was a big  dog we'd never seen before wandering the neighborhood a day or so ago and I'm pretty sure the girls sniffed out his entire life history during our walk! If he comes back  any time soon  I'm sure he'll  sniff out a lot of information on Agatha and Victoria.  I just hope they didn't leave him a message to come visit them next time he comes around.

 All the activity today  tired me out so I took a nap and woke up much later than I'd planned.  I needed to come up with something  fast for supper, so I turned to one of the recipes on this week's  list from  Jacques Pépin's  More Fast Food My Way: seafood chowder.
The recipe uses   shrimp,  fish fillets,  mushrooms, leeks , garlic and zucchini cooked in a delicious chowder  based on clam juice, thickened with  instant potato flakes and  enriched with  a  small amount of half and half.  I had bought some faux Dover sole on sale at Publix yesterday along with some Gulf shrimp, so we were all set. Now, I am under no delusions that the Dover sole sold so cheaply at Publix is actually the Dover sole that  impressed  Julia Child and changed her career path. The sole that  Julia ate was   probably solea vulgaris or solea  solea, the European sole.  The sole sold  in Publix and  Whole Foods is Microstomus pacificus,  actually not a sole, but a member of the flounder family.  It is also known as the (Pacific) Dover sole, slime sole or slippery sole because of the mucous it excretes which makes its skin quite slippery  It ranges from Baja, California  to the Bering Sea. It's really a very nice fish in its own right, with  firm flesh and a nice mild taste. I like to cook it  as paupiettes in a mushroom sauce.  I imagine it sells much better as Dover Sole than it would as slime sole! Anyway, back to the chowder- it is quick to prepare and is quite filling, not to mention delicious without being too heavy.  With a nice loaf of French bread it makes for a very satisfying meal.

Friday, January 29, 2016

A day for surgeons, shopping and seeds

I met with the colorectal surgeon today. He's   concerned more  now with the secondary liver tumor than with the rectal tumor, which has shrunk to almost nothing. We have decided not to do surgery  until we can shrink the liver tumor so it can be removed either by ablation or resection. In a way, that's a relief. I was not looking forward to having surgery and  recuperating during the beginning of gardening season!  So I 'll be  going back on chemo  the week after next.  This time, unless the oncologist changes her mind, the mixture will not contain oxaliplatin but it will contain the 5-FU and Avastin plus Fusilev.  I don't know yet how many  rounds are planned this time, will find out  that when I meet with the oncologist on  February 10. Hopefully  there will be few side effects and I'll do as well as  I did on the first round.

After  the appointment we  stopped by Publix for groceries.  I had made up   menus for the week using my two new cookbooks plus  some recipes from Jacques Pépin's More Fast Food My Way. I've been doing this for the last few weeks and  discovered it keeps me from buying ingredients, usually fresh produce, for dishes  that I  think  I might like to cook, then decide against, while the  lovely produce gets left in the crisper drawer until it's no longer fresh. Today I bought  a nice variety of fresh produce and have a definite plan to use it all.And that includes artichokes, which have intimidated me in the past, but after watching Annabel Langbein prepare  artichokes vinaigrette, I decided to give them another try.

Seeing all the fresh veggies, and learning that I  wasn't going to get any surgery for a while  gave me the impetus I needed to  get serious about setting up my seed starting  area in the greenhouse.  I did more than get it set up, though- I actually planted  some seeds! It's too early to start most seeds, since our last frost is  mid-April, and it's best to plant  eight to ten weeks before  the  last frost.  If I have to keep the plants in  the greenhouse too long before setting them out they tend to get weak and leggy so I'll wait  until next week or the week after to start most of the seeds.

But lettuce is perfect for starting now, and I can plant  successive crops for a while. Last  year  I transplanted the lettuce seedlings into long window box containers that I  could  easily move in and out of the greenhouse as the weather warranted.  I was also able to keep them going  in the heat without having them bolt or go bitter by moving them into  cooler  areas on the deck.  We had  lovely fresh lettuce   well past spring, enough to share with  neighbors!

So today I started lettuce seeds. Here's my seed starting set-up.Mine is in our little greenhouse, but it's basically the same set-up I  once used indoors with a smaller mortar tub. Now I use a  big  plastic mortar/concrete mixing tub on the  bench with a fluorescent light hung just above the box.  I fill the tub with sand, then arrange a heating cable in it, topped with more sand to keep it buried just under the surface. In the second picture I've moved some of the sand aside to show the yellow cable. This provides bottom heat the seeds  need to germinate and keeps the temperature in the seed containers at around 70°F, which the seeds seem to like.  Lettuce will germinate at a lower temperature, but  70° seems to work fine for it, too. I   keep a thermometer in the tub to monitor the temperature.










                                      
Next I  round up my containers. I use  whatever plastic containers I have on hand: margarine tubs,  mascarpone tubs, pet food  containers, etc. I punch holes in the bottom for drainage
I wash them, then disinfect them in some bleach water and let them dry. Then I fill them with horticultural grade vermiculite.  There are a number of different mediums   that can be used, but I've always had good luck with the vermiculite. I should have filled these up a little more since the vermiculite  didn't expand  with the moisture as much as I thought it would,  but hopefully  they'll be OK. When the containers are filled I  dampen the vermiculite by setting the containers in  trays filled with water. wetting the  vermiculite lets me plant the seeds without  worrying about displacing them by top watering later. While they're  soaking, I prepare my labels.

Finally, I plant  the seeds,  lightly cover them with a little more vermiculite, then set the containers in a  flat inside the mortar tub. I use flats without any drainage holes in the bottom so I can  bottom water the seedlings as they grow without disturbing them too much. Then I label the containers so I  know what's in them
and the date they were sown, and cover the mortar tub with a sheet of Plexiglas.  I move the Plexiglas off  on sunny days when the temperature in the greenhouse rises, then replace it  as the temperature drops in the evening.  With some seeds, I set the   fluorescent light   just a few inches above the flats and move it up  as the seedlings grow,  Lettuce isn't all that  picky about having light to germinate but as soon as the tiny sprouts appear they need light to grow.  They get a lot of natural light on sunny days, but I turn the fluorescent  lights on in the evening  to extend the time they're exposed to light and keep them under the lights on  cloudy days.

So  the lettuce seeds are now doing their thing and if everything goes as it should they'll  break through the vermiculite in a few days. It's always exciting to see them sprout! I can hardly wait!
 

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

A promise of spring

As I was walking across the yard to fill the bird feeders today, I saw a promise.  In the middle of a swirl of dead  brown leaves and weeds was a welcome sight: slender green shoots - the first sign that the  jonquils  are waking up from their long winter sleep. This winter has been strange.  At Christmas time,  the weather was  too warm and seemed totally out of season. Then the  winds and rain moved in, bringing freezing temperatures and day after day of bone-chilling cold.  There were times when it seemed the sun had taken a permanent vacation and had no intention of returning. There have been days when I felt that spring would never get here, that  some force was holding it captive and would refuse to release it. I 'm reminded of the passage from Hemingway's A Moveable Feast  where he recounts similar feelings:
“With so many trees in the city, you could see the spring coming each day until a night of warm wind would bring it suddenly in one morning. Sometimes the heavy cold rains would beat it back so that it would seem that it would never come and that you were losing a season out of your life. This was the only truly sad time in Paris because it was unnatural. You expected to be sad in the fall. Part of you died each year when the leaves fell from the trees and their branches were bare against the wind and the cold, wintry light. But you knew there would always be the spring, as you knew the river would flow again after it was frozen. When the cold rains kept on and killed the spring, it was as though a young person had died for no reason.
 In those days, though, the spring always came finally but it was frightening that it had nearly failed.” ~Ernest Hemingway, A Moveable Feast
  But now,  with the  tiny  jonquil shoots reassuring me that spring will indeed finally come, I feel reassured.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Fellow Travelers on a Rocky Road



When Lisa Bonchek Adams used her blog and her social media accounts to chronicle her eight-year journey with the breast cancer that eventually  metastasized and  killed her, she gained admirers and followers all over the world. She was also criticized by some, including one prominent columnist who questioned the propriety of Adams’ sharing what she dubbed the “grim equivalent of deathbed selfies.”

I have also read comments from fellow cancer patients on some of the various cancer forums I frequent complain about other cancer patients (notice I am  avoiding the term “cancer victims”) who post on social network sites about their condition and treatments.  These posters are sometimes accused of posting simply to garner praise, sympathy or to capitalize on their condition in some way. Or as my daughter would put it to “play the cancer card.”

I don’t know how people feel about my posting, but as more people learned  about my diagnosis and began to ask questions, I began posting to keep friends and family  informed about what was going on, how I was doing and what  treatment I was  having, etc. I do sometimes get comments about how brave or strong I am, or how someone admires me, but that was not and is not my goal nor my intent.

 Quite frankly, when I began this cancer  adventure, I went looking for information.  Not just information on the treatments, the research behind them, the techniques, etc.  I was certainly interested in all those things too, but what I wanted was some reassurance that other people, ordinary people like me, had gone down this bumpy, rocky, dangerous road and had not fallen into the ditch or  been  set upon by demons, or worse, but had  remained  in control of their  sanity and been able to  retain their sense of  humor , their joy in living and their dignity as they lived out their lives under very difficult circumstances. 

I found what I was looking for in articles,  in forums and on blogs, including Lisa Bonchek Adams’ blog.  Many   cancer patients had written  about their fears, their hopes, their despair, their  love for their friends and families.  They helped me learn  about what to expect when I went to have a port placed in my chest before beginning chemotherapy. They warned me about some of the side effects of  that treatment: about the fatigue, the frustration and the mental fog that often envelops  us  as the  chemo kills off brain cells along with cancer cells.

This is a  journey that is different for everyone who makes it.  Everyone  reacts differently to treatment, and some  suffer  more or less than others. But knowing that it is a journey that others have made is reassuring, somehow.  There have been happy endings as people hit the  five year mark or the ten year mark of  being cancer-free, and there has been sadness as  family members post information on funeral information for those who reached the end of the road much sooner than  any of us planned.   But even in the sadness, there is  the memory of a  person who knew his or her journey was nearing the end and faced the inevitable, sometimes with anger, sometimes with fear, but often with grace and  dignity and with humor. In doing so, they  had kicked some of the rocks and obstacles out of the road making it a little smoother for those of us who travel after them. I don’t know that my posts are helping anyone who has to travel down that rocky road,  but I would like to think that I have kicked a few rocks out of the  way and made the road a little less forbidding and fearsome, a little less lonely.


Monday, January 25, 2016

Not exactly what we'd hoped for

Met with my  medical oncologist and  my radiation oncologist today and  got the results of the CT scan I had on Friday.  Instead of my metastatic liver tumor shrinking, it has grown. The  report states that  everything that showed up on the previous scan is stable except for the  liver tumor.  Which is very disappointing.   It  was 1.5cm when first discovered in May, then after 8 rounds of   aggressive chemo it shrank to 1cm. I finished up the last  FOLFOX plus Avastin treatment on September 30, had a month off to recover, then  began chemoradiation on November 16, finishing up on Dec. 30. So after 28 treatments  of radiation aimed at the rectal tumor, during which I was hooked up to a chemo pump that delivered  5-FU  twenty-four hours a day 5 days a week,  the liver tumor grew like Topsy and is now 3x2.4cm. 

Quite disappointing results, especially since the  5-FU caused nasty side effects like mouth sores and peripheral neuropathy. So  as much as I would like to say that the nasty treatment was worth it given the results, in all honesty I can't.  But now  we just have to move on and figure out what  to do next.  I meet with the colorectal surgeon on Friday to see  if an exam and possible scope of the rectal tumor shows the positive response the CT scan shows, or whether he feels we need to  go ahead with  surgery on the rectal  tumor. After that and after the oncologist and surgeon  decide on a plan, they'll  determine when we  go back to treating the  liver with another blast of chemo in order to shrink it again  before doing an ablation or a resection. The medical oncologist is concerned that we not wait too long since it does seem very chemo-sensitive and   is afraid it will continue to grow  as long as it isn't being treated.    On a  little bit of a positive note,  when the  radiation oncologist read the  scan report, he decided to pull up the actual axial images with the slices from the scan.  He says that the images are not quite as alarming as the   written report  and he  was much more optimistic after seeing them. I'm hoping his optimism is justified. 

Meanwhile, I'm still planning to  start seeds, plan a garden, keep refilling the bird feeders,  go to yoga classes, enjoy bird watching, moon gazing, cooking and finding ways to aggravate poor Mr. G.  In  other words,  do  all the things  that I normally do and still can do as long as I am able to, because, as I mentioned before, life goes on.  Until it doesn't.  So we may as well go on with it and continue the business of living instead of wasting time worrying about dying. 

Sunday, January 24, 2016

A Birthday and a Full Wolf Moon

Today we celebrated  our youngest son's  forty second birthday  a day early.   We were invited over to  his house  for a delicious supper of   salmon cooked to perfection on his grill and  some lovely veggies . His birthday cake was a bit unusual-- not a cake at all  because he's on a no-carb regimen  temporarily, so  he had candles stuck in a pan of  baked apples. Apple bake does rhyme with cake, after all!  We were entertained by four-year-old  granddaughter Abby who cajoled Mr.G  into  helping her  put her new puzzle together, then left him to finish it alone while she  went off to do more important things like  presenting  Daddy with  a present she had made herself: A photo of the two of them  in a  picture frame she had decorated herself. It was a fun evening.

As we were driving home we looked up and saw the beautiful full moon. Tonight's moon was surrounded by a fuzzy ring that some people say is a sign of  rain.  We don't have rain in the forecast for tomorrow, but you never know.  In Native American folklore the January full moon is called the  Full Wolf Moon because of the wolf packs that howled outside the villages during the cold, snowy winters. We neither saw not heard any wolves, thank goodness, but I can imagine  them howling in the cold, silhouetted against  the bright  shiny ball in a black sky.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Blizzards that didn't visit and birds that did

Yesterday we had snow flurries. For a while, big flakes fell steadily and it looked as though we might actually get some accumulation.  Fortunately, or unfortunately, depending on  how much you love or hate snow,  it didn't happen, and our blizzard was  very short lived.
 
Having seen  today  how much snow some parts of the  Northeast got and the trouble it has caused with   traffic accidents, stranded motorists, and  massive power outages, I am very thankful it passed us by! We don't do snow well in central Alabama.  People here don't know how to drive in snow, most of us don't have snow tires and would have no idea how to put chains on tires if we had them. We don't have snowplows or other  equipment  necessary for keeping the roads cleared, and we invariably lose power when lines break under the weight of  snow and ice. Consequently, schools  dismiss at the first sign of a snowflake and  grocery stores immediately sell out of milk, bread and toilet paper.  

Even though we didn't get the snow,  it was  bitterly cold today and we  watched the birds make steady trips to the  feeders, eating enough to build  up the fat reserves that enable them to survive the cold winter nights.

While we were watching the cardinals, sparrows, finches, doves and other birds, we  noticed that the magnolia tree  close by seemed to have more pods than we remembered it having earlier in the week. We  looked again through the binoculars and saw that what we thought were pods, was actually a group of  cedar waxwings  who were neatly camouflaged   among the magnolia leaves. We had just   mentioned a few days ago that we hadn't seen any  waxwings this year and wondered what had happened to them. Turns out they've probably been hiding in plain sight all along!  We were afraid if we opened the storm door to take a photo we'd spook them, causing them fly off.  I don't have a  powerful  zoom lens on my camera but did manage to get this somewhat fuzzy shot shooting through the  storm door.  If you look closely you can see five cedar waxwings pretending to be magnolia pods.  Masters of  disguise they are!  They are also  most likely the reason we haven't seen  many red berries poking out of the pods this year. Magnolia seeds  I don't mind sharing with them; I just hope they don't decide to  eat all the berries off the dogwood tree, leaving us bereft of blossoms come spring.
  

Friday, January 22, 2016

Scanxiety

Well, thank goodness THAT'S  over! My CT scan was scheduled for 8 AM this morning.  Didn't sleep all that well- in fact didn't go to sleep until three AM, just kept tossing and turning and trying to get the cat to move to the foot of the bed instead of right  by my shoulder. Part of my sleeplessness may have been due to "scanxiety" since the results of this scan will determine to a large extent  what  treatment comes next. Got up bright and early  very hungry and  dying for a cup of coffee  and some toast but had to settle for a big bottle of  barium suspension instead.

 I don't know what they add to the barium in the suspension, but the stuff was sickly sweet, so I'm assuming it was some sort of  artificial sweetener. Did I mention that artificial sweeteners often act as a  potent laxative for me? Needless to say,  we were a little late leaving the house and I  suggested to Mr. G. that maybe he should try to find a Port-a-Jon on wheels to pull behind the car so I could ride back there. I'm still not completely over the  loose bowel effect brought on by the radiation treatments, so  I was operating under a double whammy this morning.  It got so bad that I  figured I had better wear a Depends  and take several changes of clothes to avoid any public embarrassment. When we arrived at the hospital Mr. G  dropped me off at the front entrance and went to  park the car. My first stop was the restroom in the main lobby.  I  pretty much know the  location of  almost every public restroom in the hospital by now and some that aren't so public and have used most of them!

I finally  made it up to  radiation department, got registered, paid my copay and found a seat in the waiting area that was   fairly close to the restroom. That didn't really help too much, and I didn't quite make it a few times. When I got down to my last change of  underwear, I inquired at the desk to see if there was somewhere close by I could buy some Depends.  The  kind woman in charge said she would check with the nurses and see if they had something I could use. Pretty soon a  male nurse came out with a thick package in his hand. He  asked if I was the person who needed the adult diaper and handed it to me, explaining that it was probably going to be too big, but they only had one size and  it was better than nothing.  

Too big was a huge understatement!  Remember, I  am about 5'1" and weigh 85 pounds soaking wet. This thing wrapped around my body, overlapped, and bunched into a glob between my legs. It would probably  have been too big for the average sumo wrestler! Nevertheless, I struggled valiantly to get it wrapped around me only to discover that  once wrapped, there was nothing to  secure it with.  Besides that, it was bunched up so thickly between my legs that I couldn't even walk, I could only waddle! I finally gave up,  took it off, refolded it, put on my very last pair  of underpants and  hoped fervently that there were no more  mishaps.

When I came out, Mr. G said they were waiting for me in the back, so off I went through the door to meet  the nurse, who took me back to the CT machine. After  taking a blood sample they got me all comfy on the nicely padded table - such a  difference from the  cold hard table used for the radiation treatments!  They asked if I needed another pillow and even brought me a heated blanket, which felt like pure heaven, and told me if I needed to make  a run to the restroom to let them know. I did need to, twice actually, before the tech came in to access my port and  inject the contrast medium. 

After the  contrast medium is infused I always get a weird taste in my mouth; it feels as though something hot is running in my veins and  there's the sensation of  losing control of my bladder. Even though I have never lost control during the procedure, since I had already pretty much lost control of my  bowels, that just added to the stress. Not even yoga  breathing and meditation could help the situation much today! Once  infused I was told to raise my arms over my head and the table moved into the center of the  doughnut ring.  The machine started its whirring and spinning and the  stern very loud voice of the CT  god blared forth. Could this  disembodied voice actually be the original inspiration for  Deux ex machina, I wonder? Lord CT ordered me to  "BREATHE IN!" "HOLD YOUR BREATH!" "BREATHE!" as the table slipped in and out of the doughnut ring. I meekly did as I was told,  very thankful that Lord CT was not my yoga instructor!

Finally we were finished and I  was able to lower my arms. The nurse said she was about to flush my lines with heparin. Heparin is an anticoagulant, often derived from pigs, that keeps clots from forming. Since having the port  implanted and  beginning treatment I've had so many heparin flushes that  it wouldn't surprise me if I began to "oink" at some point! Heparin smells bad to me and leaves a funny taste in my mouth, so I usually  suck on a peppermint during the flush.   I mentioned that I'd left the peppermints in my purse which was with Mr. G in the waiting room.  The nurse told me  they had peppermints and would get me one.  A second nurse came in and handed me a peppermint  candy so huge that I can only surmise that  it was meant for the same giant-sized people the adult diaper was made for. I stuck it in my mouth and must have looked like a greedy squirrel  hoarding nuts!

When we were all finished and I was no longer woozy the nurse escorted me back to  the waiting room. After a couple more trips to the restroom on our way out of the hospital it seemed  my problem was over- there was nothing left in my  gut, thank goodness and I could ride home without  having to resort to wearing the sumo diaper!  By the time Mr. G and I  stepped out of the hospital to  head for the car the   wind had picked up and the temperature had dropped.  It's been dropping all day now and we've had some snow flurries mixed in with the rain.  When we got home we saw that the  bird feeders were empty, so I refilled them, figuring that the wet  front steps would soon be frozen and hazardous  as the temperature dipped below freezing. Then I rewarded myself for surviving my morning ordeal by  eating a very late breakfast  followed by a nice long nap.  My oncologist should have the results of the scan by Monday when I meet with her. Now  we just have to wait patiently and I have to remember to tell myself, in a  very gentle voice, to "just breathe." 

Thursday, January 21, 2016

The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men gang aft agley

Tonight's scheme for supper was a delicious meal from the Annabel Langbein cookbook. But did it ever go agley! And get ugly to boot!   I worked hard to make it look and taste good, I really did. It seemed so easy and flawless when Annabel prepared it on TV, and it looked wonderful in the cookbook. Maybe I need to take a course in food styling or hire a food stylist or get a better photo editing program or something,  because I don't  think potatoes rosti look all that appealing when they're mostly grey, with  some burned bits here and there and a few flecks of green that you  think  are parsley but can't really be sure about, given the overall appearance.

Supper was to be  flash roasted pesto salmon, potato rosti, and braised fennel with lemon.See how lovely the finished  potatoes  look in the book: beautiful and creamy with bright green flecks of parsley, surrounded by   a perfectly   cooked golden layer of deliciousness? And the braised fennel-- again a lovely creamy color with  bright green flecks of parsley.  Oh, how I was looking forward to  presenting a meal of such beauty and  watching Mr. G gaze in wonder at  my glorious creation!

Everything began well enough.  Evening rain was predicted, so I had, earlier in the day, gathered some basil and parsley from the greenhouse and   put the  stalks in water to keep them fresh.  I'd roasted some pine nuts and had them standing by, chopped some garlic,and grated some Parmesan. They all went in the blender with some olive oil and out came a lovely pesto- it looked and smelled delicious! Then it all began to go downhill.

The potato recipe called for peeling and grating the potatoes. In the process of grating them I also
grated one of my fingers, which bled profusely. While I was stemming the flow of blood and trying to find the Neosporin and Band-Aids, the grated potatoes were just sitting there, getting surly and turning a rather  nasty color.  Once the finger was bandaged up, I  squeezed the moisture out of the now discolored potatoes as directed and proceeded with the recipe, which called for adding  chopped parsley.  

I mentioned in my last post  how  hopeless I am with a knife.  So I don't use one to chop parsley or other herbs. I use a wonderful little gadget called a mezzaluna- a rocking blade with  a wooden handle that makes  quick work of mincing  parsley or  most anything else. It's perfect for knife-challenged folks like me.  I have an addiction to kitchen gadgetry.  Most of the gadgets get used a few times then  are relegated to the back of a gadget drawer and forgotten.   This one however, is very useful and gets used a lot.

The potatoes were now formed into the disc-shaped portions called for, drizzled with olive
oil and ready to be popped into the oven. I began to tackle the fennel. Again,  opting to  use a knife substitute to slice the fennel into "thin segments lengthwise" as directed in the recipe, I used  a mandoline. However, "thin" is a relative term, and my  sliced fennel was much thinner than the fennel pictured in the book. Consequently, it browned much more and much faster than I anticipated, leaving a lot of brown bits in the skillet. When I added the freshly squeezed lemon juice and water,  the liquid  immediately turned brown. Meanwhile, the potatoes were in the oven, turning grey. This did not bode well.

The salmon didn't look too bad, in fact , it was quite nice looking.  Placed on a parchment covered baking sheet,  given a generous coating of pesto, surrounded by cherry tomatoes and capers, then drizzled with oil, it looked pretty darn good I thought. The   pink salmon,   green pesto and cheerful little red tomatoes complemented each other well .It got popped into a hot (425ºF) oven for  6-8 minutes and came out still looking pretty good.


However,  everything else lost something in  translation when  it all got together on the plate, as you can see.
The colors were off, so the presentation was sorely lacking, and as I said, when  you cut into the potatoes they were sort of gray and unappetizing inside.  The fennel looked OK but Mr. G said it  had way too much lemon and I think he's right.  The fennel is definitely worth trying again, but with less lemon, and the salmon was quite delicious and  is  worth repeating. The potatoes, on the other hand, were really not worth the trouble and I will leave them to    more skilled cooks like Annabel.

Oh, well.  Sometimes it all works, sometimes it doesn't. I still wonder, though, could  a food stylist  have made it look a little more  appetizing? I doubt it. Maybe  our next meal will be more photogenic and a little less lemony.  Hope springs eternal.



Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Pasta, Pancetta and Prepping

Tonight's supper was another recipe from the  Pollan Family Table: creamy spinach pasta alfredo with crispy pancetta.  Oh my-  it was very, very tasty! I  forgot to take a pic, but here's the recipe page from the cookbook.   Our supper looked almost just like   the picture.
The recipe called for  frozen chopped spinach but I have a "thing" about frozen spinach.  It  is chopped with stems and all and I much prefer to by fresh spinach and remove the stems.  With older spinach I also like to remove the   hard spine and even when  we buy baby spinach there  always seems to be a fair amount of older larger  leaves with  tough spines.  Stemming  the spinach takes longer  but in my opinion is well worth the effort. Blanching  the leaves, squeezing out the  moisture and chopping the spinach takes only a few minutes and to me just tastes better than frozen spinach.

I also much prefer to  grate my own Parmesan cheese and  nutmeg because they taste so much fresher and better to me. But one  time and work saver I did use tonight was  already  diced pancetta.  I saw it   last time we were in Publix and thought I'd try it.  I'm glad I did, it was excellent and seemed to brown much better and faster than  when  I've hacked at it myself in an attempt to dice it.  Did I tell you I am  hopeless with a knife?  It's one of those skills like  swimming or riding a bike  that I was never able to master despite the efforts of some very dedicated instructors.  The poor souls tried everything they knew to help me get past my clumsiness before finally throwing their hands up in desperation and giving up.  So I am a hacker with a knife rather than a slicer,  dicer, chopper or a mincer, and the pancetta was spared from a torturous end on my cutting board, thanks to Publix.

I used another trick to peel the garlic called for in the recipe:  put the cloves in a  jar ( I used a plastic smoothie  glass with a lid that came with my blender)  with a lid and shake vigorously.  The  skin falls off and  the garlic is peeled with little or no effort on your part and no garlic smell on your hands!  You're welcome! 

The dish came together  quite nicely.  It was quick, delicious, and   called for a minimal number of pots, pans and utensils. The latter alone is enough to elicit a five star rating from Mr. G., who has taken over  dish washing duties. He frequently mutters under his breath about how, based on the number of  dirty dishes confronting him,  anybody would think I was  cooking for an army instead of two people. He just doesn't  appreciate the concept of mis en place and all the extra  little bowls that hold the prepped ingredients. Tonight,  there were only three little bowls, one saucepan, one skillet, a spatula, wooden spoon, colander for draining both the spinach and pasta, two plates and  knives and forks. We were both happy and there was a minimum of muttering, thank goodness! 

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Winter Bird watching

Another cold but sunny day.   The  birds have been emptying out the bird feeders almost as quickly as I can refill them.  Agatha and Victoria enjoy sitting in the sun as it streams through the  storm door in the morning  and watching  the activity at the feeder. Sometimes they are joined by Patches, the cat, but she has gotten lazy in her old age and opts to sleep most of the time.  Patches is over 20, as near as we can tell- we've had her so long that we can't remember exactly how long she's lived with us!

Things get  loud when a cat or a squirrel wanders into view.  The dogs   take to   barking and running up and down the hall as though they expect the the squirrels and cats  to storm the barricades and launch an attack.  But this morning it was pretty quiet and peaceful and they  had only Carolina chickadees, sparrows,  house finches a tufted titmouse or two and a few cardinals to watch. Sometimes we have a more varied assortment of birds who  stop at the feeders. It may have something to do with the   seed mixes we buy and use.  This week  for instance, we've had more cardinals, but the bird seed we just bought has a lot more sunflower seeds in it than the previous mix, and the cardinals  do seem to love those sunflower seeds. When we  have  birdseed with a fair amount of cracked corn in it, we see a lot of mourning doves under the feeders.

For the last few years, come spring,  a house wren makes a nest in one of the hanging baskets in the greenhouse.  I'm anxious to see  whether that happens again this year.  It  wreaks havoc on the plants in the baskets, but  it is exciting to watch the parent birds fly in and out with materials to line the nest, then later  flitting in and out to  feed the babies when the eggs hatch, and finally  watching the  little ones stumble about on the   greenhouse benches as they learn to  fly before leaving  the nest and the  greenhouse for the last time.  I often wonder whether the little ones who hatched here are the ones who return to nest, but  have no idea.This is one of the little fledglings from last April.  Maybe he or she will come back for a visit this spring.  I hope so!

Monday, January 18, 2016

Baby, It's Cold Outside!

It has been cold all day.  I have been cold all day! Seems that  I just can't take cold weather as well as I once did.  Part of it is the  peripheral neuropathy that I  now have as a result of chemotherapy. I take extra care to make sure my feet and hands don't get cold- I put on gloves when  cleaning out the fridge or reaching into the freezer,  and even sleep with a heating pad  at my feet to keep them warm. 

But  the rest of me stays cold, too, not just my hands and feet.  Part of the reason, I think, is that I'm  quite thin and have  very little natural padding to serve as insulation. But turns out there's another reason, too: I'm getting old, and  just as I suspected,  older people feel the cold more. According to an article from Scientific American's Health After 50 there is a natural slowing of our metabolism as we age and our bodies become less efficient at generating heat and maintaining a normal body temperature. It's nice to know there's a logical scientific explanation for it.

Much as I would like to think that warm weather  will be here soon, the local weather forecast  is calling for more of the same, with a possibility that temperatures will drop into the teens tonight.  And to make things worse, there's a possibility of snow by the end of the week.  Now I know some people  love snow and look forward to it, but I am definitely not one of them! So I guess I'll just have to grit my teeth, bundle up in a zillion layers and dream of  spring. Stay warm, y'all, and repeat with me the words of P.B. Shelley: "If  Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?"

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Musings About Meals, Moons, and Meat Pies

Today was one of my more energetic days.  The  cupboard was bare, or almost bare, so we went to the supermarket this morning and stocked up on provisions. I have plans for some delicious meals  in the coming week: cream of leek and mushroom soup; creamy spinach pasta alfredo with crispy pancetta, roast chicken with roasted vegetables, and tonight we had Natchitoches Meat pies, using a recipe from the American Test Kitchens cooking show on PBS. 
The recipe called for a mixture of ground beef and ground pork, so we splurged a little and bought some lovely grass fed beef to go with the ground pork.  Aside from the  ecological  considerations, the beef was worth the extra expense  from a taste standpoint. The pies were really quite delicious, and were easy  to make. The recipe made enough for tonight's supper and tomorrow's, too but that's a good thing, since I'm hoping to go to yoga tomorrow and  supper will have to be on the fly.

If you'd like to try them yourself, the recipe is here:Natchitoches Meat Pies

Other than the fact that the  meat pies have a  half-moon shape this is  totally unrelated, but as we pulled into the driveway at home after our grocery buying trip, the waxing gibbous moon  was visible in the afternoon sky. I snapped a photo. It's not as clear as I'd like, but it does show the beautiful clear blue winter sky with the  pale moon  hanging there ever so gently. From what I've read, the  moon is always there in the daytime but we can't always see it.  That's OK with me because it makes the times that we  can see it that much more special. 

Saturday, January 16, 2016

A rambling account of Ants and their imminent demise, among other things

Although the   blue sky that  greeted me  when I awoke this morning was a welcome sight after yesterday's gloomy grey sky, it still wasn't quite enough to   drive away the winter blues feeling I get  this time of year. Maybe it's the cold, the shorter days, the itching to get outside and feel the warm sun without   having to bundle up like the Michelin Man. I find it hard to come up with anything worth  blogging about when the blues hit, but since I vowed to do better this year, I'm determined to try, even if I just have to ramble on aimlessly :-).  Please feel free to leave  if you get bored. 

I did get outside today  long enough to refill the bird feeders and clean up some odds and ends on the deck.  But what was really nice was puttering about in the greenhouse for a little while, deadheading some plants, clearing up a space  for seed starting and just admiring the  few plants that are still blooming.  With the sun beating down on it all day the  greenhouse  was toasty warm.  Which is probably why every ant for miles around has decided to take up residence in there.  I take that back- there are some ants who have decided the  window ledge above the kitchen sink is a nice toasty place to  reside. 

 I admire ants- they are industrious little creatures, and are  interesting to watch as they signal each other by touching antennae as they scurry back and forth between food sources and their nest.  I always feel guilty when I dispatch them to the great ant colony in the beyond, especially when I see one trying valiantly to  carry his fallen comrade back to home base. But I'm just not quite ready to  coexist peacefully with them yet. At least, not in the house or in the greenhouse, where they pour out of my pots in droves every time I water. 

We can usually keep a milder invasion under control by spraying peppermint oil. Ants use chemicals called pheromones to leave scent trails for other ants to follow. The peppermint oil, or any other strong oil, such as cinnamon,  interferes with their scent receptors and they can no longer signal each other and usually stay away from the strong scent. But sometimes, they  are so invasive and   come in such huge numbers that we resort to more drastic measures. My favorite method is to use Terro ant baits or drops. The  active ingredient  in Terro is  Borax in a liquid base that attracts the worker ants who consume the  bait and live just long enough to carry the  liquid back to the nest  to deliver a deadly dose to the rest  of the  colony. When we first began using Terro we used  drops on little   cardboard squares.  It took a little while for the ants to discover the bait, but  soon a few came and began to fill up on the syrupy liquid. 
 
 As word (or whatever communication form  ants use) got out more ants came- and kept coming until there was a huge pile of ants upon ants upon ants on the  bait. This went on for two or three days and then there were none.  They   just disappeared. Needless to say, it was a little unnerving to see that many ants on the kitchen counters,  so we began to use the traps- the ants climb inside, and many of them die there, but enough  get back to the nest to  deliver the  poison and soon they are all gone. As I said, I feel guilty, but not enough to stop using the stuff, especially after discovering once a few years ago that they had  invaded my cutlery/gadget drawer and  a sizable contingent had  taken up residence in my turkey baster. 

Killing ants does nothing to lift the winter blues, but  it did give me something to blog about tonight, in a rambling, roundabout way, so maybe ants in  the kitchen  do have some redeeming qualities after all! :-)




Thursday, January 14, 2016

Ponderings about life and death and living well

I have begun this blog post  several times, only to  delete everything I've written.  The news this week that  David Bowie, Alan Rickman and now Celine Dion's husband, René Angélil, have all died from Cancer within days of each other  is depressing enough.  But then to read in today' newspaper that a young man, full of hope and promise, from  a town just up the road was shot and killed in a robbery as he waited in line  to buy a hamburger  at a fast food restaurant is almost too much  to process.

When you have  stage IV cancer, you realize that the odds are it is going to kill you, you just don't know when.  It's sort of like waiting for the other shoe to drop.  Meanwhile you go on with life  in as normal a way as possible, because you also realize that   any of us could die  at any time, even  while waiting in line for a hamburger.  So  you   decide that you can either spend your days worrying  about dying or you can get on with the business of living. And you do that in between waiting for the next scan or test to be scheduled, the next  doctor appointment, the next treatment. But in between all those tests, appointments, treatments, some of which  sap your  energy, make you   ill, cause you to have numb  feet and fingers, there are  meals to plan, shop for and cook,   dogs and cats to  feed, walk, take to the vet, bird feeders to refill, gardens to  plant and weed,  and even toilets to scrub.  And there are sunrises and sunsets to marvel at,  birds flitting about, squirrels  scampering up tree trunks, and friends and family to talk to and interact with. 

 And life goes on.  Until it doesn't. And that's OK, because today is all we have, and  the best we can do is  live today in the best way we know how and not take it for granted.  To squeeze every drop of joy and love and life  from every day and  share  that love and  joy as best we can with those around us.  As Francis Bacon said: “We have only this moment, sparkling like a star in our hand and melting like a snowflake...” Let us live that moment well and fully.

Seeds, Spring and Salmon

My seeds from Pinetree Garden Seeds  Seeds came today! Also in the order were  plant markers a new marking pen, a complimentary packet of zinnia seeds and a new cookbook,  The Pollen Family Table,  written by Corky, Lori, Dana and Tracy Pollen with a  foreword by Michael Pollen. It's a lovely cookbook with   photos of the Pollans preparing and enjoying food and  it's filled with hints, suggestions and  biographical sketches of the authors.


I   tried recipes from both my new cookbooks for supper tonight: pan seared salmon with salsa verde from the Pollan book, and saffron spinach risotto from Annabell Langbein's book. Here's a pic  of the salmon dish and  the recipe, since we gobbled ours down without taking a pic of it. It was  fun to make the salsa verde with parsley and chives from  the earthboxes on the deck and  mint and basil ( the Pollans suggested basil as a substitute for people who don't like cilantro --and I definitely don't like cilantro) overwintering in pots in the greenhouse.

It was a delicious meal, with  so many lovely flavors. I'm looking forward to trying more recipes from both books. And of course, I'm looking forward to sowing  the seeds that came.  Oh- and I  also ordered more seeds- I've decided we MUST have   summer squash and more annual herbs. Now I'm keeping my fingers crossed that I haven't bitten off more than I can chew with all these grand gardening plans! At any rate, I'm looking forward to spring and watching   all the plants wake up and  leaf out  after their winter sleep.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

The cookbook as a work of art


My  Annabell Langbein Free Range Cook book came today! It is  absolutely wonderful!

Not only are the recipes fresh, exciting and  delicious, but the beautiful photography makes each dish, each meal, look like an  inviting, sensual delight. The menus from her cooking  series are there so you can plan an entire meal from appetizer to dessert.  Interspersed throughout is Ms. Langbein’s commentary, showing her devotion to wholesome, fresh food, simple living, and her appreciation of  and for the people who produce that food and the beautiful  New Zealand landscape that surrounds her. 





 I can’t wait to try some of the recipes.  And I have decided that we MUST grow squash in our garden this year, or at least zucchini, just so we can try her chevre-stuffed zucchini flowers. Watch out, evil squash vine borers-  we  will fight once more



If your local  public television channel  carries the show, you might want to check it out.  It’s shown in my area on APTV Create, but  the  schedule seems to vary quite a bit and I’ve missed a few shows. You can check  for your area on her website which has a link to the  US  stations that carry her show.



 The cookbooks are available from Amazon; This is the one I  have: The Free Range Cook: Simple Pleasures.



Sunday, January 10, 2016

Dreaming of Spring


I ordered seeds today:  haricots vert, rainbow carrots, eggplants, both purple and white, tomatoes, lovely little leaf lettuce.  I decided to minimize my stress factor by NOT growing squash and facing the inevitable   heartache of losing my lovely squash to the evil squash vine borers as has happened nearly every year.  I will buy squash this summer at the farmers market and let others deal with the nasty insects that suck the life from the plants. I had hoped to grow some so that I could cook the squash blossoms, and I may yet order some  summer squash seed, there’s plenty of time.  Not wanting to completely eliminate the challenge of organic gardening in the Deep South, I did order some tomato seeds, so that I can battle the tomato hornworms again. I am a glutton for punishment, it seems. 

At any rate, the order is now on its way and the seeds should be here soon.  So while the temperature  tonight is already in the  twenties here and the cold winds, gray skies and frigid winter weather  may be here to  stay a while, I shall escape them temporarily by dreaming of spring and lovely warm  sunny days as I start preparing my seed box set-up in the greenhouse. 

Friday, January 08, 2016

To Seed or Not to Seed, That is the Question


Eight days into the new year. Time seems to fly by these days, and   so many things on my to-do list remain undone. I thought that once I was off the chemo and radiation, I would feel energized and get a lot more accomplished, but so far that hasn’t happened, and if anything, I have even less energy sometimes. I guess those non-cancerous cells that got zapped in treatment are taking longer to recover than I thought they would.  On a positive note, though, my radiation “sunburn” seems to be getting better and I can lie down without feeling I’m lying on a bed of nails.  And the large blue paint pen "X" marks that the radiation therapists marked me with have finally been scrubbed off. I rubbed and rubbed every time I got in the shower, but they stubbornly remained.  Now, after a week, they have finally faded to the point where they're barley visible.

I ordered a new cook book today: The Free Range Cook: Simple Pleasures , by
Annabel Langbein .  I  have  been watching cooking shows on  Public Television’s “Create” channel, and have gotten hooked on  Annabel Langbein and her recipes. I’m really looking forward to cooking vegetable samosas when the book comes- along with  some of the other scrumptious recipes I’ve seen on the show.

Ordinarily, I’d be sending off seed orders now, in anticipation of starting seeds in the greenhouse next month. But we still don’t know exactly what’s ahead in the way of treatment/surgery  or disease progression or regression  and whether or not I’ll be up to doing any heavy-duty gardening come spring so I’m thinking of just waiting to see how things go at my next appointment and buying bedding plants instead of starting my own seeds if it turns out that gardening is a go. I may give in and order seeds anyway, since we prefer heirloom plants and buying seed gives you  a much wider variety to choose from. Decisions, decisions. . . The saying goes that to plant a seed is to believe in tomorrow, so maybe I should just take an optimistic view,  sweep away any negative thoughts, plan my garden, and dream about all the delicious meals we can have  with freshly harvested  veggies from our very own back yard!  Meanwhile, I’ll look at  pics from last year's garden for inspiration. 
The garden looked so nice and neat until the hot weather set in and my energy and enthusiasm for weeding waned.  From then on, it became an unruly jungle!
The Bright Lights Chard is always so pretty.

 Annabell Langbein  cooked squash blossoms on tonight's program.   That would be fun and easy  if they were growing right outside the kitchen door!
 We enjoyed the lovely tender fresh lettuce last spring- and had enough to share with neighbors since I  tend to overplant .

Monday, January 04, 2016

Goodbye, Mr. Snowman. See you next year


We began taking down the Christmas decorations today.  No more brightly lit snowman with outstretched arms to welcome us home on cold dark nights. Now Mr. Snowman and his little fawn friend are inside, tucked away under the basement stairs until next Christmas.  The outside decorations, door wreaths, nutcracker princes, sleigh, santas and reindeer and the browning greens in the living room are all gone.  The Christmas decorations in the kitchen and den remain, but in the living room the Christmas tree,   with the nativity scene tucked under its lower branches, is all that remains of Christmas. It will come down tomorrow, on Twelfth Night.  I will miss seeing it all sparkly and shiny, brightening the corner with its cheerful lights.

Sunday, January 03, 2016

A laid back start to the year


The new year is getting off to a slow start. I’m not pushing myself to get a lot done. Did a couple of loads of laundry, paid some bills, filled out my “to do” list for the week and managed to tick someone off  on facebook. You know, the usual stuff. It has been a cold day.  The sun must have thought it was too cold to come out too, since it has been hiding behind the lovely little fluffy cotton clouds all day.  But there have been patches of blue sky peeking out between the clouds, so it hasn’t been a dreary day, just a cold one.
  And I am very proud of myself!  Mr. G gave me a smartphone for Christmas.  It arrived after Christmas, but that’s another story.  At any rate, I  HATED it.  Couldn’t figure out how to do ANYthing with it. I was perfectly happy having a dumb phone that just made and received calls and text messages, but Mr. G heard me say once that I guessed I’d have to get a smartphone one day, and ta-da!  He decided now was the day and bought  me one.  I am happy to report that I have now managed to transfer my contact list from the old phone to the new one.  But best of all, I now have my faithful old rooster ringtone  back! Maybe if I keep plugging away and googling for  answers I’ll figure out how to use all the bells and whistles and grow to love it, just as I did the Kindle Fire, which I also hated at first.    

Hoping that your New Year is off to a good start and that the year holds  promise and hope and love for us all.

Friday, January 01, 2016

Welcome 2016!


It’s a new year.  Quite a few of my friends had more than their share of sadness in 2015 so I hope 2016 is a much better year for all of us.

Here’s a medical update: I finished up 28 rounds of chemoradiation on Dec. 30.  It was not the most pleasant experience I’ve ever had; in fact, my seat is quite sore. There is no way to describe the experience without being a little gross, but I’ll try not to be too graphic.  Imagine, if you can, that you have a severe sunburn  in and around your large intestine and rectum.  Now imagine that before it exits your body everything you eat is magically transformed into habanero peppers  boiled in molten lava and seasoned with fire ants. There you have it. It’s quite painful.  I’m pretty sure insurance won’t cover the cost of soundproofing the bathroom, but I think it should! Yet another complication, and one which caused the doctor to take me off chemo for a week or two, was mucositis-  nasty ulcers  that formed in my mouth and nose. I also had  more severe  tingling and numbness in my feet and hands but the ulcers were the doctor’s primary concern. She was worried they could spread to my throat making me unable to swallow and that I’d become dehydrated. So off came the pump. I was not sorry.  The pump went back on once the ulcers cleared up and I wore it for the final three days of radiation. The neuropathy  was more annoying than  truly painful- numb fingers make decorating a Christmas tree somewhat challenging J

I told my oncologist that I was pretty sure she and the radiation oncologist had consulted with the Marquis deSade  before coming up with that particular treatment plan.  She thought I was kidding. Little did she know!

Now we are waiting for insurance to approve another CT scan to see what effect, if any, the treatment has had. Once the CT scan is scheduled and done and the results are in I’ll meet again with both oncologists and the surgeon to see where we go from here. Needless to say, I’m hoping all that misery served a good purpose and that both the rectal and liver tumors have shrunk or disappeared.  Time (and the scan) will tell. Meanwhile I have almost a month with no daily treks to the clinic for a radiation treatment, no being tethered to a pump 24 hours a day five days a week.  The new sense of freedom has been wonderful for the past few days!