Sunday, August 30, 2009

A Decent Week-end

So, Scott has to move out . . . complicated reasons, really, some of which have to do with having more opportunities for his work and massage school. We figure, though, that it's just temporary. His friend came down yesterday and they loaded up his stuff and brought it to Portland. Scott was driving the UHaul, so he asked that I go up to Portland to fetch him afterwards. I took the opportunity to go to Powell's and run a couple of other errands before I met him at his new and much improved apartment.

First, I wanted to check out this yard sale at 20th & Division - there was something there Eddie was interested in. As always with a yard sale, you always find something you didn't know you wanted or needed. I found a couple of brand new frying pans (yes, I do sometimes cook - sometimes - and it seemed like a good investment as Renee wants me to "tinker" in the kitchen while I'm in Hawaii in order to encourage more of that domestic activity in me). Mom and dad's oven went kaput about a year ago - mom hasn't been able to bake or do anything like that for a year. There was this table top rotisserie/convection oven. Brand new. I bought it for them. It is only about 13x17 - not as large as a conventional oven, but they can bake small things until such time as they can afford to get an oven. Dad called tonight to thank me again for this purchase - they had meatloaf for the first time in a long time and wanted me to know how much they appreciated the gift. You're welcome, guys!

Then, it was off to Powell's. My absolute favoritist bookstore in the world. Found a couple of books related to one of my research projects, a book on Hawaii geared for kids, and a book on Energy Healing Scientific Experiments.

I saw Scott's new digs - wow, what an improvement over the old place and in a neighborhood that just feels healthy and energetic. It's a good move for him under the circumstances.

Then, Scott, his friend, and I went to John Barleycorn's (a McMenamin's pub) for a quick lunch and a beer. Good conversation ensued.

Then, back home and my folks, my brother Scotty and I went to see Credence Clearwater Revisited play at the Albany Art and Air Festival. Great music and good company - we bumped into my other brother, Kevin, and his roommate and other friends.

Today, Scott and I had breakfast and sat at a coffee place and worked for a couple of hours. Afterwards, we took a walk through a neighborhood near campus, then downtown to sit on the Rooftop at American Dream (where Obama stopped by for a bite of pizza in March 2008 while campaigning) and we worked for awhile up there.

I then picked up Eddie from his dad and we bought his new "skoo hoo's". When I was in kindergarten, I got new "skoo hoo's" (school shoes) - a story my mom likes to tell and now whenever anyone gets new shoes, that's what she says.

So, it's been a good, busy week-end. I still have some work I want to do tonight . . . but I'm feeling lazy. Best get to it, though!! Happy Sunday evening, folks!

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Wow - a great new friend!

When I was in Norway in May, I met Renee, a Hawaiian geographer. She and I hit it off and have been having this wonderful email exchange regarding healing and relationships and also work - she and I are hatching a plan. Anyway, Renee offered to let us stay at her house in Hilo if and when we were able to come to Hawaii. Initially, she was going to be traveling in September, but now she's going to be home, so I decided to go to Hawaii and visit her and not worry about home improvement projects.

I booked our trip for the last week of September, before I start teaching, and Eddie is coming with me.

She started asking me this week what we might like to do and then, the other day, told me that Hawaiian Airlines was having a $25 one-way island-hopping special. She asked if we were interested and I thought going to one island might be fun and the next morning . . . .

she had already booked an overnight stay for us on Oahu!!! So, we'll fly to Hilo, stay two days, go to Oahu for a night, then back to Hilo for three days before we head home.

Isn't that amazing? I feel so blessed to have such a wonderful new, generous friend. Thank you, Renee!!

Hawaii - Here we come!!!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

This is one fortune I'm keeping . . .

I just ate a fortune cookie and my fortune was

"You will live a long, prosperous life"

What cancer patient doesn't want to hear this?

I just taped it to my monitor at work. I may make it a mantra for myself.

Our Glorious Oregon Coast

I got back yesterday from a 5-day trip to the Oregon Coast. We had great weather (well, a bit of rain and then fog one day), but other than that, sunny blue skies, temps about 70 and sometimes it was windy.

It was 5 days of huge swells; big waves; splashes; crashing waves like a jet engine; walks on the beach; foam feet; seaweed; reading in the crow's nest; eating; antique shops; some gambling luck; good company; slot cars; mini-golf; Yaquina Head lighthouse; hiking up Yaquina Head; Boiler Bay; Devil's Punchbowl; star fish; Eddie as King of the Seaweed; Mo's; arcade; outlet stores; barking sea lions; sunsets; moonsets; soaking in the hot tub; watching movies; and beautiful beautiful scenery.

First, here's the house we stayed in:

Pelican's Perch at Bella Beach (part way between Depoe Bay and Lincoln City)

I should say that on the day we drove down there, I bought an Oregon lottery scratch-it ticket. And, we won $100! That paid for our groceries for a few days.

Then, on Tuesday, I took Eddie to the children's arcade at the child care center at Chinook Winds Casino. Mom took care of him and I went to the non-smoking casino and put $20 into a 1 cent slot machine - and 30 minutes walked out of there with $60 - a $40 profit.

Of course, I got the bug and went back the next day and went to the same machine. I only won $3. But, I guess that's better than losing, huh? Yay!

Now, here are some photos.

Here's my dad and Eddie getting caught in the surf - a wave splashed them when they weren't looking!

Eddie's enjoying his walk on the beach. He really enjoyed the waves and, for some reason this trip, he enjoyed playing with seaweed.

The day this picture was taken, it was windy.

The waves and surf were really rough and wild, so rough that it created foam, hence causing "foam feet". Here are Scott's foam feet.

Eddie had foam feet, too, although by the time I snapped this photo, the foam dissipated.

Awww, aren't we cute? You can see the water droplets in my hair.

Mom, Eddie, and I took an almost two-hour walk on the beach - we walked clear to the southern end of the beach our house was located on. It took us longer to walk down, because we played with seaweed. I think it took us about 45 min to get back to the house. Eddie and mom are showing us how long the seaweed is.

Eddie decided to collect seaweed - you should've seen how valiantly and patiently he kept picking up the seaweed to put into his hand, but it kept falling off. At one point, he looked like he was carrying a little seaweed Christmas tree.

One night, we could see the crescent moon just over the horizon - it was a "moon set"!

And, the next night, I snapped this picture of the sunset - the sun is reflecting off the water, all the way to the beach. Very cool, eh?

I still need to download more photos - and I still need to post photos from my Oxford trip. I guess I've been too busy doing things in real life that my blog has suffered somewhat. But that's okay, isn't it? : )

Thanks to the powers that be for this wonderful coast . . . and thanks to my family for joining me!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Woo hoo!

An article that I submitted to the indigenous journal, AlterNative, has been "tentatively accepted for publication", pending revisions. There were comments from four reviewers and it will be a bit difficult for me to decide which ones make the most sense for making revisions. The article is entitled "Almost Every Place, Every Rock, Has a Name: A Consideration of Placename Density on King Island, Alaska".

I only have two weeks (until Sept 3) to make the changes.

I guess I better put my nose to the grindstone!

But, woo hoo!

Back in the Saddle

I spent most of my afternoon at work yesterday - my son was over at his dad's house, going to a swimming hole. It was a nice afternoon. I had an impromptu lunch with a colleague and we had a good conversation. Then, I met with my grad research assistant, then turned in my receipts for Oxford, then tried to get my email inbox cleaned out some. But a colleague invited me out for a birthday drink for her birthday, so I joined them! It was an enjoyable time.

I am in summer mode, for sure. I really really need to get to some writing. My family and I are heading to the coast for five days, starting Saturday. I'm kinda thinking of getting up early to write while everyone is sleeping. Hmmm ...

Otherwise, no other news to report. I am taking my meds and trying to get enough sleep and rest. I can tell a difference in terms of how much spice I can handle - anything with tomato sauce or curry burns my tongue. Well, it doesn't burn it, but I can certainly feel my tongue. It's sensitive to anything acidic or spicy. Other than that, I'm trying to work on my visualizations regarding the lung spots. My friend, Renee in Hawaii has been helping me with that - something I really appreciate!

Have a wonderful day everyone!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Home in Oregon!

I arrived home yesterday. I was pretty tired as I didn't sleep much on the plane and didn't sleep much at my hotel at Heathrow. I think I figured out that I probably hadn't slept more than about 60 min. at a time over a 38 hour stretch. Not a good thing when you have cancer, when your need for restorative sleep is greatest.

I landed about noon at PDX, then we picked up Eddie at 2pm and was at my house by 3:45pm, after grabbing a bite to eat. I unpacked quickly, took a shower and brushed my teeth, and went immediately into my pj's. I laid around for a couple of hours, dozing off, and then fell asleep about 6:30pm. I woke up about 8:45pm and was awake about an hour, resting, and went back to sleep. Through the night, I woke up perhaps three times (from 10pm to 7am), but I feel mostly rested and normal.

My impressions of Oxford? Well, I certainly like it better than London, where there are way too many people rushing around. I'll go on the record as officially strongly disliking big cities. Oxford seems more manageable especially when you get away from central Oxford and there aren't as many people. My colleague, Tom, and his family live a little bit north of the central part of the city. I think it took about 20 min or so to walk to his house. Coincidentally, his family just moved to Kingston Road, a fact his 6-year-old son found interesting. We also discovered that Tom and I share the same birthday - he's exactly one year older than me. But I digress.

Central Oxford is very busy - with buses going by all the time (buses take off from Oxford to Heathrow every 30 min) and people walking all over the place on the sidewalks. Sidewalks are relatively small, with barely enough room for two people. I think that, over time, I would start to feel claustrophobic. I do, however, like the walk-ability of the place.

Oxford's colleges are scattered around the town - that system is quite interesting, but I am still not entirely clear on it. It was cool to see the old stone buildings and there's an old castle there as well. You can see the gardens of various colleges - and I glimpsed the botanical garden that Cat, Eddie, and I toured around four years ago.

Something that really struck me when I lived in London four years ago and I was reminded of this trip was just how commercial England is. The stereotype of America is how materialistic and capitalistic we are; however, I find England to be much more capitalistic than we are. There are ads absolutely everywhere - it's a very commercial place. And, the differences between the haves and have-nots seem pronounced as well. I think what America is guilty of is the fact that what we have is BIG - bigger houses, bigger cars, bigger stores. But the selling and marketing of things is so much more over there. I also find it to be dirty over there.

I do like the pubs, though, and hanging out in these old buildings and talking with colleagues. In moderation, though, of course! Pub food is pretty greasy and there isn't a lot of flavor. I found a cafe that had healthy salads and sandwiches that were quite nice.

Anyway, it's time for me to start my day. I'll write a post later and share some of my pics!

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Hmm . . . note to self: Do not try to keep up with Australians!

I'm sitting here at the Holiday Inn Heathrow, watching TV for the first time in days! I just finished watching Loch Ness with Ted Danson and now the Scorpion King is on! I haven't cruised through the channels to find something else yet.

I got to London this afternoon after having breakfast with my colleague, Tom, and walking around Central Oxford some. I managed to find a DVD video set that Eddie wanted - videos of Mr. Men and Little Miss.

Yesterday, I had dinner at Tom's house. His wonderful wife, Tia, made dinner: dumplings, noodles, red and yellow peppers, Szechuan tofu, and chicken. We hung out on their backyard patio. It was a relatively warm evening.

I spent most of yesterday resting and recovering from a night out at the pubs the night before. After our meeting finished, we went to the Lamb and Flag for a couple of pints, then to another place that had a nice open courtyard where I had the requisite fish and chips and another pint or two, then we went to another pub on George Street - where I only drank water - and then back to our rooms where one of the Australians invited a few of us back for a "nightcap". It was a shot of whiskey. I hate to admit it but I was a little worse for wear Friday during the day. I told the Australian that he was a bad influence. I will say, however, that it was quite fun hanging with this group of academics - there were Australians, Scottish, Irish, English, a Croatian and Canadians in our group, in addition to me and Tom (Americans).

Our two day meeting was interesting and now we will see what happens and how we will move forward. At the very least, we may meet again in a year or so - perhaps in Auburn, Scotland, where several people now work. I learned a lot about the Law of the Sea and how the various Arctic countries are delineating their territory in the Arctic Ocean. There were other presentations on maritime law. In essence, I think what we aim to do is to do research relating to the opening of shipping lanes in the Arctic Ocean. My own personal goal is to figure out how to empower indigenous communities in the Arctic when these shipping lanes open up because of climate change. We'll see what happens.

I did take pictures, but not many. I had visited Oxford four years ago - just for the day - so I didn't really do a lot of sight-seeing. I was more interested in learning how people live here. But I will post what I have soon.

So, back home tomorrow . . . I need to catch the 4:15am shuttle for a 6:30am flight to Amsterdam - then back to Portland. I hope I can sleep on the plane!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Merry Ol' England

I'm here! I'm here! I made it safely and with no incident. I had good instructions from my host, about how to catch a bus from Heathrow to Oxford and while I'd forgotten to find the bus station in Oxford on the map, I managed to get an internet connection in Amsterdam and figured out where I needed to go. I tried to pack light - I only carried on my luggage.

I need to find my colleague, Tom. We didn't make any real arrangements other than a vague "we'll meet up on the 11th". I don't know how to get hold of him other than through email.

I'm staying in a dorm room and it has NO clock and NO internet and NO phone. Gadzooks! So, I think I may try to find a temporary phone to use while I'm here. I'm at a cafe - having a quinoa salad - that has free wifi. So, I'm not completely unplugged. : ) I also need to find an adaptor for the electrical outlet . . . brought the one for mainland Europe not the British one. Grrr!

Later this evening, I will go to the Eagle and Child Pub and will try to take pictures and post them.

It's cloudy and muggy here . . .

Anyway, I will update everyone on how I'm doing as I'm able!

Friday, August 7, 2009

The Eagle and Child Pub

I leave Monday at noon to fly to London, then I will take a bus to Oxford, England. I arrive in London at 9am on Tuesday morning. On Tuesday afternoon, I will meet with my colleague Tom - thankfully, we can check into our rooms by 10am, so I hope to get to my room, rest and then shower before meeting Tom.

Then, our host says that he plans to go to the Eagle and Child Pub at 7pm on Tuesday, in case there are others of us who arrive early and want to go to a pre-workshop event. Then, he said "where we can soak up the atmosphere of JRR Tolkien and CS Lewis".

Well, that caught my interest - I'm a huge Lord of the Rings fan. I don't know how many times I read the books (and while the films did a fairly good job, I was terribly disappointed in how much the director fudged the story line in terms of the love story between Aragorn and Arwen; there were other inaccuracies of the films which pissed me off, but the scenery and the creation of the characters were spot on).

I also enjoyed the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and read some of the series, but not all.

Apparently, Tolkien and Lewis with some others would go to this pub and hang out. They called themselves "The Inklings" and it was quite a literary place to be.

How cool is that? I got to admit . . . sometimes, I love my job!! (Yes, I do have to do a presentation . . . but I'm not gonna stress about that. It'll get done. But going to the pub where Tolkien went ... very cool.)

The Other Tumor Marker Results and My Visit with Dr. K

So, my other number came back - it was 29.7. It went up from 22.1. Here's the history:

Sept 2007 - 23 U/mL
Jan 2008 - 31 U/mL
Mar 2008 - 36 U/mL
June 2008 - 23 U/mL (started radiation that month)
Aug 2008 - 18 U/mL (week of August 4th)
Sept 2008 - 14.5 U/mL YAAAAAAY!!!
Oct 1 2008 - 19.6 U/mL
Oct 31 2008 - 15.3 U/mL
Nov 28 2008 - 19.5 U/mL
Dec 30 2008 - 16.0 U/mL
Jan 22 2009 - 15.4 U/mL
Mar 2 2009 - 17.8 U/mL
Apr 8 2009 - 19.6 U/mL
May 5 2009 - 18.4 U/mL
June 4 2009 - 19.7 U/mL
July 2 2009 - 22.1 U/mL
Aug 3 2009 - 29.7 U/mL

So, it's jumped up some this month. I was a little disappointed. But as my friend said to me in an email, maybe fighting this disease is a bit like turning around a train. You got to put the brakes on first before you can turn it around.

I think I may have posted before, but the CA15-3 measures a protein that is released by breast cells and it may go UP when cancer cells are dying as well as when cancer is growing. It can also measure inflammation and not necessarily just cancer cells.

My other number didn't go up as much - that was the CEA or cancinoembryonic antigen. It measures a protein that is found in many different kinds of cells but "associated with tumor cells". Interestingly, it says that sometimes with chemo and radiation, that number does go up because of the death of cancer cells, which releases more of the CEA into the blood stream.

Sooo . . . my thought is that the CA15-3 number jumped up because the drugs are working and are causing more cell death. In other words, because cancer cells grow and die at a faster rate than normal cells, these numbers tend to go up in cancer patients; but it can also go up if chemotherapy is causing the cells to die faster than they would do otherwise.

I asked Dr. K about it the fact that the numbers go up and his reply is that it does take several weeks or a couple of months for the medications to build up in your system, up to a level that can counteract the drugs. So, he wants to stay the course and not do anything differently to my medication regimen. I'll see him again next month and we'll see what happens then.

I choose to think that the drugs are doing their work and next month, we'll see those numbers go down. Dr. K says that we want to contain the cancer again and then go on a maintenance regimen. Sounds good to me! We started to talk about more options . . . just so I'm prepared . . . but for now, there will be no changes.

I was feeling down because the meds do sap me of some energy. I think my body is telling me to slow down. So, I'm trying to . . . LOL

Monday, August 3, 2009

First tumor marker result back

I just called to get my CEA results. It was 4.2 this month. Anything 3.8 and under is considered normal. So, I'm just over normal now.

It went up by 0.5 this month. The month before, it went up by 0.7; the month before, it went up 1.1. So, it's still going up, but more slowly. I've only been taking Xeloda (1000mg or two pills once/day) and Tykerb (a full dose) for four weeks. Sooo . . . maybe it's working and the nurse thought it might take some more time for it to do the work it needs to do.

I see Dr. K on Thursday. I should get the CA15-3 results on Wednesday. At this point, I think we'll just stay the course, but Dr. K might have other ideas.

Here's the history:

1/2008 - 1.2 ng/mL
3/2008 - 0.9 ng/mL
6/2008 - 1.0 ng/mL
8/2008 - 1.1 ng/mL (need to double check this number, but it was in that 0.9 to 1.2 range)
9/2008 - 0.5 ng/mL
10/2008 - 0.9 ng/mL
10/31/2008 - 1.2 ng/mL
11/28/2008 - 1.2 ng/mL
12/30/2008 - 1.1 ng/mL
3/2/2009 - 1.4 ng/mL
4/8/2009 - 1.6 ng/mL
5/5/2009 - 1.9 ng/mL
6/4/2009 - 3.0 ng/mL
7/2/2009 - 3.7 ng/mL
8/3/2009 - 4.2 ng/mL

As I look at the numbers, I see one gap in January 2009 (I recorded the CA15-3, but not the CEA) and I had surgery in February so there's another gap. But it went up 0.3 from December 2008 to March 2009, then up 0.2, then 0.3, then 1.1, then 0.7, then 0.5. Let's hope that it keeps slowing down and then reversing so that it's below 2.5 again.

The nurse said that she's seen patients with CEA numbers over 100. So, I guess, in the overall scheme of things, I'm doing okay. Not great. But okay.

The fatigue is bothering me, though. I had a busy week-end - Eddie's birthday party on Sat and three hours of softball in the hot sun yesterday. I ran a few errands today and have felt too tired to do something fun with Eddie. That makes me feel bad . . .

Well, it is what it is. Eddie will be fine, so I just need to let go of the guilt, huh? Yep. Easier said than done! : )

Z-Day Today

Later this morning, I have my zometa appointment. They'll draw my blood and take my tumor markers. I'm hoping that they are the same as they were last month. I can still feel my lymph nodes under my left arm pit.

I am feeling effects of Xeloda - I gave myself a week-end off from it, though, as I could tell I needed a break. My mouth was starting to become really sensitive to spicy things . . . my digestive tract was irritated but I'll spare you the details of how I know that.

My softball team had three games this past week-end. We lost by a lot on Friday. We lost by only a few runs during our first game yesterday at 3pm. It was hot yesterday afternoon - temperature was at 91 degrees. I drank A LOT of water and then put a cold bandana around my neck. I didn't play very well. I had a couple of errors in the field and was 0-fer in terms of hitting.

We then had a second game at 4:20pm. We only lost by one run. In the first or second inning, I participated in a double play - I caught a line drive in right center and then threw the runner out on first. We'd been ahead by a couple of runs and then, in the bottom of the 6th, they tied it up. I don't think we scored any in the top of the 7th, and then they had a runner on first and I caught a long ball out in right center .. . had to go backwards a few steps for it . . . and then I extended my arm ======> just long enough to catch it. I think my teammates were holding their breath. I think that was the second out of the inning and then we got their third out on the next at-bat. So, it was still a tie-game in the bottom of the 7th. We ended up tied at the end of the 8th - both teams scored a run or two. Then, we didn't score in the top of the 9th and they got one run.

It was a close game - a fun game. I think the fact that a breeze came up and cooled things down made it easier on us. My big toes (the ones that lost the toenail last year) were sore the whole two games - the shoes were too tight in the toe-box.

Then, we went to Woodstock's and hung with members of the team for a couple of hours. Afterwards, we came home and watched Hitch until bedtime. I was bushed. Drank lots of water all afternoon and evening.

But it was a good day. The day before, we held a karaoke birthday party for Eddie. He turned 9 years old (hard to believe!). The words on the karaoke didn't work quite so well, but the kids had fun playing with the mics. We visited with the other parents. Good thing there were only 9 or 10 kids - the house couldn't have held more - because of the heat and because we only have two window units, we closed off some of the rooms and tried to contain things to just one room. In the end, I think people had fun.

Mom, dad, Scotty (my brother) and Scott (my boyfriend) all helped a lot to prepare for this party. I didn't put as much planning into this year's party as I did last year's. I feel a little bit bad about that but, on the other hand, last year I went all out with a Price is Right party for Eddie. Hard to top that. Although, I just got an idea for next year - maybe we need to try to do a Wipeout Party .. . hmmmm. Got a year to figure it out, don't I?