Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Eww!! The Cat Just Puked!

As I finished up that last post, I heard the cat in the hallway doing that hacking sound associated with throwing up. I hurried over and picked her up - she was on the carpet - and moved her to the floor. She still got some puke on the carpet and a bit on the wall and on the floor! Yuck! Cleaned and deodorized already. Man, it stunk, too. Gack!

Thank god she didn't do it last night. I would've fallen apart. Silver lining, huh?

The Bathroom Paint Job, Take 2

My bathroom is sorta divided into two areas - the area where the tub is and the area where the sink and toilet are. The yellow walls with white and blue didn't seem too bad near the tub, but seemed too busy near the sink and toilet. So, at Brenda's suggestion, I decided to paint two of the walls white to tone things down. But then the white seemed too stark, so I then did the random brush strokes in blue and yellow. I decided to paint the whole half of the bathroom, near the sink and toilet, the same way. I spread the whole project over three days (half the room) instead of the full bathroom in two days. My back thanks me for that!! Here's the new version! I like it! It was a lot of work, but it really brightened up the room and now it has this kind of frivolous fun ambience there. That is, if bathrooms can have ambience. LOL

Lilacs for Sara at Moving Right Along

A week or so ago, Sara, over at was anticipating the blooming of lilacs in the Boston area. My lilacs just started blooming the other day, so I'm posting a picture here for Sara. I hope yours are soon to bloom!

Cancer as a Roller Coaster Ride

I had a good day. It's amazing to me how much different things seem to me today than they did last night. I was in tears all night and even continued to shed a few more this morning. But after a good lunch with a friend and former grad student, Cathleen, and then a massage, it really changed my outlook. So, when I showed up for the planning appointment for radiation today, I was doing okay. The radiation tech, Brad, even remembered me from my radiation treatments five years ago. I was even able to share some of my favorite boob jokes.

So, here go the thank yous to everyone who gave me support last night and today. First, I want to thank my mom and dad, for being there for me in the past and up until today. They have been so willing to help me and rearrange their schedules and help take care of Eddie - I just want them to know how much I appreciate their help. I even barked at dad last night - I apologize for that. Other people who called and/or emailed their support are Tammy, David, Sunil, Brenda, Carver, Jeanne, Missy, Laurie, and Cat. Thank you all!

I also had a massage today and that always helps! Thanks, Samaritan Rejuvenation Lounge, for offering a free massage to cancer patients!

So, this gets back to my title - dealing with cancer is really like a roller coaster ride - it seems like there's some really low lows and really high highs. I had been living life on a somewhat even keel lately, so it does come as a surprise when the roller coaster ride starts up again. When is it time to get off the ride?

That just makes me think of my son - he loves roller coaster rides. And, if he could stay on the ride all day, he probably would. I guess I'll remember how much he enjoys those rides next time the damn thing takes off again!

Feeling Better This Morning

I did have a rough day yesterday. I'm doing better today, although I could really use a good solid 8-9 hours of sleep. Woke up at 3:30am thinking about stuff and couldn't get back to sleep. But yesterday evening, between emailing a couple of friends and then talking to a couple of other friends, I feel a lot better.

Luckily, I have some work things to do that will reorient my thinking. The work things are positive and interesting things to do, which will get me away from spinning over and over about the stuff that was bothering me yesterday. It'll help put me back on my feet again. I have a teleconference with the National Science Foundation today - I'm on the Advisory Committee for the Government Performance Reporting Act. NSF has to prepare a report that shows that America's investment in science is bearing fruit. Then, I think I'm supposed to chat with another colleague about a new grant proposal. Then, lunch with a friend. Then, a massage. Then, I have to go back to radiation oncology and do the set up for treatments next week. So, it's a busy, full day.

I told my son that I was going to get zapped with radiation. Then, my dad told him that I might start glowing. He he.

Thanks to everyone who read the post and are sending their love and support. Also, thanks to those folks who talked to me last night - whether by email and/or telephone. Missy also gave me a little pick-me-up gift - thanks, Missy! It was much appreciated!
Thank you, Dee

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Radiation Update

I met with the radiation oncologist and it looks like I will be starting this treatment next week. Basically, she said that 1) because that area had been previously radiated, it's hard for the chemo to get access to the cancer cells, so the radiation, as a targeted local treatment, may have better luck gaining access to them; and 2) if the red rash is indeed cancer and it's not receding, there is a chance that it might grow, which means that if I waited longer, the radiation field would have to be bigger and that is not what we want at the moment.

In terms of the side effects that I feared, it was her opinion and understanding that the reason why the open wound is not healing is probably because of the cancer cells. So, if we radiate it, it might actually help the skin heal quicker because we kill the buggers. In other words, she didn't feel that I'd have a bigger open wound, but it might actually help heal it.

Also, it's really a crapshoot in terms of whether or not I would have capsular contraction and lose the implant. The risk is already there because the tissue has already been radiated. I think what she says is that we don't know, really, whether more radiation would increase the chances of losing the implant. In her experience, she has not seen a woman lose her implant from radiation. Although, I forgot to ask her exactly how many other women with implants she has treated in the past.

I am feeling really really raw today - just really beat up. Can't really go into details as the individuals involved read the blog and I do want to remain friends with the individuals... suffice it to say that I'm hurt and disappointed. Also found out yesterday that a big grant proposal wasn't funded and that was on top of two other small grant proposals that didn't get funded. So, while I can handle one or even three of these little disappointments, they all seem to be piling up today - then put radiation as the icing on the cake and you can understand why I just need some hugs tonight.

My son is with me tonight - I need to go pay him some attention and get some more hugs from him, too. Have a good night, folks.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

He He He

So, why am I chuckling to myself? Well, I'm messin' with ya. I decided to change my template for the heck of it. Got tired of the little dots. Wrote a new title description. What can I say? I like to change things up once in awhile. As I play with blogger more and more and I'm getting more proficient, I figure, "Why not? It's my blog, after all?" He he he.

As you can read, I'm doing fairly well. My lower back is still sore - the massage helped on Friday, but the back still aches. I think I may have mentioned that I overdid it in painting the bathroom last week-end. Not only is my back sore, but I ended up with more lymphedema in the area of the red rash, under the tissue expander, and above my right ribs. My massage therapist did some lymph massage there and she showed me what to do. So, I have decided to continue trying to drain the lymph in that area.

Now, conventional thinking is that when a person has cancer in a particular area, it's better to keep it contained in that area. In my case, since we know cancer is in that area, we should NOT do lymph massage because if we do, that encourages lymph flow and hence more cancer cells circulating in my body. By not doing lymph massage, we keep the cancer relatively contained, and then it'll be easier to treat.

However, as I discussed with Dr. Kenyon a few weeks, we know that the cancer is already elsewhere in my body - it got to my bones. So, why not decrease the lymphedema? As I discussed in an earlier post, when tissue has had radiation, it scars the blood vessels (and I think the lymph channels, too), which means there is less blood and lymph flow in that area. I think that if there is more fluid than the system can handle, it creates traffic jams and then the meds cannot get to the cancer cells to kill them. (And, BTW, Dr. Kenyon thought that my thinking sounded just as logical as conventional thinking as conventional medicine really doesn't know the answer to the question. But remember I'm not medically trained.)

By decreasing the lymphedema and encouraging more fluid flow, I am encouraging cancer cells to start flowing through my body. But I also allow the meds to have better access to the cancer cells since the meds are also flowing through my system.

My massage therapist (who was careful to say she really doesn't know the answer but was just thinking out loud like me) also felt that maybe that area was still red and looked like a rash because the lymph fluid was all backed up and not able to flow. In other words, she questioned whether or not it was cancer causing the swelling, but rather lymph fluid getting all jammed up.

At any rate, I figure I can try this and see how the rash responds. We do know that the meds haven't quite been doing the trick in that area without the lymph massage. So, it's another experiment. I figure I have nothing to lose, since I am taking meds that are supposed to kill cancer cells when they encounter each other. I might lose some containment of the red rash, but it's a risk I'm willing to take since I may be able to opt for more aggressive treatment down the road. But I may just save myself a lot of grief with the radiation AND allow the meds better access to the cancer cells by doing the lymph massage. I'll let you know what happens!

Friday, April 25, 2008

Turmeric Experiment, Day 22

I keep forgetting to mention that Dr. Kenyon thought that the open wound was indeed healing. The white areas I saw are the upper layers of skin trying to form. I think he was happy that the wound was healing as quickly as it is. I mentioned this to the rad onc the other day - that I have an open wound, that I'm using turmeric and that it seemed like it was working, and her reply was that we may delay radiation for another week to allow the skin to finish healing there. I was relieved that she was willing to do that . . . now if I can just figure out how to keep another open wound from occurring, I'd be really happy!

A sunny day today - yay! Also, I'm meeting with Sara Gelser at 11am to talk about drug repositories, then I'm attending a lunch with a woman who does research(?) on narratives and illness, then a massage at 1:15pm. So, it should be a good interesting day! Have a good one out there!

Thursday, April 24, 2008

My Impressions of the Rash and the Radiation and Now the Back Pain

I am feeling somewhat better today about the prospect of radiation. I am hoping that the rad onc agrees to go slower and/or do less radiation, at least initially, and see how my body responds. This is in the hopes of alleviating any potential problems with open skin wounds and/or losing the implant. I'll see what she says next week.

I think, though, that perhaps I shouldn't have been so surprised about the fact that the rash wasn't disappearing. The area has had previous radiation, and as I explained earlier, tissue that has had radiation tends to have less blood flow.

Okay, so this area probably has less blood flow and less lymph fluid due to the radiation, so it's harder for the meds (Xeloda and Tykerb) to get to the cancer in the lymph channels. If the meds can't get to where they can kill the cancer cells, then it seems logical that it'd be harder to get rid of the rash. So, if the meds can't get there, then we try radiation which can probably kill the suckers.

The lymphedema in the area of the rash also seems to be increasing. Dr. Kenyon felt around and it doesn't seem as if the area is trying to grow a tumor. The increased swelling may be related, instead, to the fact that I spent two full days last week-end painting my bathroom. This involved a lot of reaching, cleaning, scrubbing the cabinets, taping everything, and then painting one coat on all surfaces, and then doing more painting over that for the stripes and the random brush strokes.

As I am right-handed, this means that the right side got a work-out - certainly more activity than it has seen in a lot of months. So, the body has to adjust and that just might indeed mean more swelling.

I remembered this morning that my massage therapist said to wear under armor - I've been pretty good about doing that except in the last week. So, I wore it again today and will see how the swelling goes.

In the meantime, yesterday, after hearing the news about the radiation, I went to pick my son up from school. I was in the car about 20 minutes - driving to and fro - and when I got out again, WHOA! My lower back felt like it'd gone out of whack. It feels so tense and tight. I mentioned it to my colleague and I initially told him that I wasn't sure what I did - only get out of the car -and then I told him about painting last week-end and his reply was that sometimes, your back might wait a few days to bug you after doing activities like painting.

Anyway, my thinking is that I overdid it last week-end, but after hearing the news that I'd have to do radiation - and I really don't want to - caused me to tense up so the back responded by kinda locking up like it has.

Luckily, I was able to get an appointment with my massage therapist tomorrow. And, the cancer center in Albany (about 10 miles away) was able to fit me in for another massage (free of charge) next week.

Again, thanks to everyone who continue to read about my journey . . . and for commenting on the blog! I know you're reading it because I can see it on my site meter! Hope all is well with you.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Well Crap - Again

I think I have mentioned that the red rash is still there. I've been on the drug combination - Xeloda and Tykerb - for about two months now and it hasn't resolved. It may have stopped growing, but it hasn't really started to shrink. So, Dr. Kenyon today thought that we should go to radiation and get rid of the f*#&#n' cancer cells in that area for once and for all. I will meet with the radiation oncologist again next Tuesday.

What this means is that I might lose the tissue expander. And, it might cause the skin over the implant to slough off and I'd end up with an even bigger open wound. Crap.

Sigh. The ongoing saga . . .

Monday, April 21, 2008

Crazy Weather Makes You Do Crazy Things

Recently, I posted a picture of some snow on my bench. Believe it or not, we received more snow this past week-end. I woke up to snow on the ground yesterday. I took some pictures, but they didn't turn out very well, so I won't post them. But I bet you'll agree that the weather was kinda crazy, especially since a week ago on Saturday, my car said the local temperature was 81 degrees out.

It is my contention that crazy weather makes you do crazy things. I decided to paint the cabinets in my bathroom a week or so ago. But while cleaning those cabinets, I decided I absolutely needed to clean the walls, too. Then, I decided to paint the walls. Now, it's either my camera or it's me (probably me), but I can't get great inside shots - because the walls were not yellow, as you can see in these shots, but white. At any rate, here's a view of my bathroom before painting.

You can see the sink and the dark wood cabinets underneath them. And, in the mirror, there is a bit of a reflection of the linen closet.

And, now here's a view of the door leading out to hallway.

And, finally this shot of the window, opposite the door.

You know how you start a home-improvement project and it just mushrooms into a bigger job? Well, as I was wiping down the cabinets, I saw how dirty and dingy the walls were. So, I wiped them down and then decided to paint them, too. I got up at 6am on Sunday just to finish taping (man, so many things to tape around in a bathroom - the shower, the tub, the trim, the toilet, the towel racks (too lazy to take them out), curtain rods, mirrors and light fixtures!!). So, I'd finished the cabinets on Saturday and had started on the walls. But before bed on Saturday, I decided that the cabinets were too blue and the walls were too yellow and both needed to be toned down. So, I added white and yellow stripes to the cabinets (to match my rugs and towels) and then added white and blue random brushstrokes over the yellow walls. I fear the effect is too busy. I kinda like it, though. I plan to ask peoples' opinions when they come over and just see what they say.

So, here's the cabinet under the sink. Also, look in the mirror to see the linen closet and the door.

And, here's a shot of the door leading to the hallway:

Finally, here's a shot of the window.

On the one hand, I kinda like it. The random brushstrokes of white and blue seem to tone down the yellow and then the stripes on the cabinets tone down the blue. And, it all matches the rugs and towels. But on the other hand, I fear it's too busy. What's your take on it? I would love to hear opinions, good and bad. And, if bad, suggestions about what I should do! Thanks!

Side Effects Update

Today is Day 18 on the turmeric experiment. I really believe that the open wound is healing. My ob/gyn thought that it only looked superficial on Friday. Today, it looked like the outside layer of skin is trying to form. I see Dr. Kenyon on Wednesday and will see what he says. I also believe that part of the red rash is fading, although there is one small area that wants to stay red.

On the other hand, I am starting to see more symptoms of hand-n-feet syndrome. The tips of my fingers are cracking, but mostly, all of my fingers are really red and I can no longer tolerate hot showers or washing dishes under hot water. Last week, after walking a lot, I ended up with painful blisters on the balls of my feet (under some small callouses, wouldn't you know?) and it hurt to walk. So, I took myself off of Xeloda on Thurs and Fri in order to let my body recover. My feet seem to be doing okay now, although I can't stand for too long these days.

All in all, though, even with these complaints, my side effects are tolerable. I continue to get good sleep and am staying active with both work and house projects, and helping Eddie at school. Hanging with friends when I can, too! I painted my bathroom this week-end - it's a little wild, but I think I like it. I will post pictures in the next couple of days!

Friday, April 18, 2008

Proud of My Son

My son, Eddie, is on the autism spectrum. He probably has Asperger's Syndrome (although this is not an official diagnosis), a form of high-functioning autism. He looks and acts pretty much like a normal kid. But, he has certain sensory sensitivities. I remember he didn't like to be touched on his feet or to have q-tips in his ears or have his nails trimmed when he was a baby and toddler. He also has really acute hearing and doesn't like the noise of things like vacuum cleaners or loud airplane engines. I think he has perfect pitch (he knows how to name a note when he hears it - not me, I'm tone deaf). He hand-flaps when he's excited. He likes to spin. But he's also really bright - he was reading by the time he was 4 years old and is now doing really well at school. He has some trouble with social interactions - like he doesn't like to make eye contact, especially with new people, and is not sure how to interact with his peers.

But, as I said, he's pretty intelligent. He does like to keep to a routine, so I try to accommodate that when I can. He does, however, have a problem with loud bells at school. Two years ago, we took him out of the public kindergarten for that very reason (don't ask - still burning about that one) and put him in a private one that didn't have bells. He's doing really well without the bells. But he still has to contend with fire drill bells once/month under state law.

For the past couple of years, the strategy was to have staff or a parent take Eddie out of the school for these fire drills. But Eddie and the other kids have gotten wise to this strategy and now know when they are having a fire drill. This month, they decided to see how Eddie would respond to NOT being pulled from the classroom. They tried this experiment today.

Fortunately, I had just finished with an appointment and parked my car near his school. When I got out of the car, I heard the fire drill. So, I walked onto the playground as the kids filed out and I saw Eddie standing in line. He seemed to be fine - he looked all stoic as he marched in line with the other kids. I hugged him as he passed - the poor guy was shaking like a leaf. I picked him up and he held onto me very tightly. He didn't cry so much as do that hyperventilating thing with the shaky breaths. I just hugged him and told him he did a great job and that I was very very proud of him. He just hugged me tighter as I carried him to his classroom. By the time he got to his desk, he picked up his book from the floor, sat down, and returned back to work like nothing happened.

He really did a great job. I was just glad to be there to tell him so. The principal, the secretary, and the teachers will reinforce the message, too. This was a real milestone for him!! Yay, Eddie!

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Relay for Life - two events in my honor

A couple of weeks ago, a good friend of mine in Fairbanks informed me that she was part of a team called CARDDs (Cancer Avenging Relay Dudes and Divas) that will do the Relay for Life in Fairbanks on May 30th. Karen Brewster is doing the relay in honor of her mom, Renate Brewster, who died of a brain metastases in 2004, and also for her friend, Ann, a one-year breast cancer survivor, and me. She's asked me for permission to use photos and jokes from my blog for a little poster they plan to put up during the relay. Karen and I have known each other since 1995 (holy cow!! I can't believe it's been that long), when she and I were both taking graduate classes at UAF. She is now a published author - she wrote a book entitled "The Whales: They Give Themselves", which is the life history of a whaling captain (Harry Brower, Sr.) in Barrow who became a very good friend of hers. Here is a description of the book: She now works for the Oral History Program at UAF.

The link to her relay team is below:

In addition, my counselor (Pat) told me that she donated money to her niece, who is also doing Relay for Life in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. She donated in memory of her father, who died of lung cancer, and in honor of me.

I feel very honored that these two women feel compelled to contribute to cancer research and cures in my name. Karen and Pat, thank you so much for thinking of me! I am really touched by this.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Foam Mattresses and Health

On May 7, 2007, I bought a new queen mattress and boxsprings. It was a Spring Air Backsupporter Mattress which had a memory foam pillow top. It was delivered on May 9. On May 11, I remember waking up feeling tired. Later that afternoon, I leaned over to get into a cupboard and was so dizzy and felt slightly nauseous that I decided that I couldn't drive up to Portland for the night as planned. For the next ten days, at least, I continued to feel dizzy, nauseous, and fatigued. I even slept a good nine hours on one or two nights and woke up feeling like I hadn't slept at all and that I might have even had a hangover, but I hadn't had any alcohol at all. I was so fatigued and sometimes even shaky that I didn't teach my classes the following week.

I tried to find answers and one thing that was suggested was that I had adrenal fatigue. I certainly had a lot of symptoms. One symptom is that upon standing from a sitting position or sitting from a laying down position, you feel dizzy. I started measuring my blood pressure and it actually dropped when I stood up - I documented this on my appointment calendar.

I eventually had my cortisol levels checked by my internist, but they came back normal. I saw a local naturopath and he suggested that we do a saliva test - which is taken by putting in an absorbent cotton into your mouth, let it absorb your saliva, then you stick it into a test tube. (The idea is that drawing blood causes a rise in your cortisol so blood tests can't be accurate - it's stressful getting stuck with a needle - the saliva test is less invasive and less stress-inducing.) The tube with the absorbent cotton (I think) is then sent to a lab. The results came back with low cortisol levels and something else - I'd have to get the test results to see. The diagnosis was adrenal fatigue, caused by chronic stress (at that point, I was a 4.5 year survivor of breast cancer, a divorced mom of an autistic-spectrum child, and had just received tenure the year before - there's no stress there, huh?).

But several months ago, I'm not sure what I was searching for, but I found a few sites that discussed foam mattresses and the outgassing that they need to do from the manufacturing process. That was around the time I was diagnosed with cancer in my skin, and then the bone mets, so I didn't follow up on it. In recent weeks, though, when I have time, I try to look up information. Here's a couple of sites to read over:

And another one:

While most of the health effects seem to revolve around autoimmune disorders - or allergic-type reactions, there is a suggestion that some of the chemicals that are outgassed are carcinogenic. Great, huh?

So, my thought is that I already had a somewhat weakened immune system from my cancer treatments five years ago. I tended to catch colds easier and they hung on longer than they usually do. Then I buy this new bed and I have fatigue, dizziness, and nausea.

My mammogram in September 2006 was normal. But, my mammogram in September 2007 showed calcifications that were eventually shown to be cancer tendrils throughout my breast tissue.

So, what happened between 9/2006 and 9/2007? Well, I'd started a new relationship, which is exciting but was also sometimes stressful. I had a lot of things going on at work. So, certainly, there was stress. But then, there's this new bed, which was more than likely outgassing toxic chemicals.

When the bone mets were found in Feb 2008, I asked Dr. Kenyon how long he thought they'd been there growing. His guess was "months". Not "years", but months. Could that be the bed? May 2007 to Feb 2008 is 9 months.

Could the bed have caused the recurrence or the mutation of my previous breast cancer? If you will recall, this cancer was different than the first one. My previous cancer was Her-2 negative. This was Her-2+. My previous cancer was lobular, this was ductal. The previous one caused a tumor. This one had "tendrils" of cancer in the ducts and lymph channels. The previous one was slow growing. This was medium-growing. My thinking is that the fumes may have caused whatever cancer cells may have already been there to mutate so that they didn't respond to the tamoxifen I was on. I think I read that tamoxifen is not as effective against Her-2 positive cancers.

My doctors guessed that the cancer tendrils throughout my breast may have been there a couple of years, but my thinking is that it may have actually only been months.

Will we ever know for sure if it was the bed? No. We won't. But the idea has been planted in my head and it won't go away.

So, after thinking about it - chatting with my friends Paula and Dwight while in Bandon last month - I have decided that my health is worth the $1600 price tag to buy a new all natural latex (rubber) mattress. It's a steep price to pay right now while I'm on sabbatical and especially after spending $800 last year on the new bed. But every night before I sleep, I think, "am I making things more difficult for my body to fight this cancer because of any toxic outgassing from the bed?" I've been sleeping okay- not obsessing about it - but the thought is there.

The red rash that is cancer in the lymph channels has not receded much in the past couple of weeks and I have some lymphedema there. It isn't advancing, which is the good news. But it isn't receding either. That is causing me me to worry about the bed.

The new one will be delivered in a few weeks. I am looking forward to it.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Woo hoo! I don't need a bra!

Today was our first softball practice of the season. This is a team that I have played with since 1990, except when I lived in Virginia, Fairbanks, Alaska, or Connecticut. A lot of my good friends were there (Tammy and Rick Webb, who host the weekly card game, Tammy's sons Don and Scott and their wives (Lynn and Betsy) and kids, Rick's daughter Kathy and her husband Chris and their daughters, Carol Olufson with her husband and three kids. I have played softball with Carol since 1990 and Rick and Tammy since 1991. (Tammy may have been there in 1990, but I don't recall - sorry Tammy if I got it wrong.) Other card playing buddies were there - Jay and Gina and Ruby. Erik was there - he's now on the volleyball team. There were a few others who are relative newcomers to the team.

I wondered how well I would do playing softball again after my surgery. I have been playing volleyball since mid-January and at first, I was tight, but I think it did me good to play so that I could stretch muscles again. I wondered how my chest area would do playing - would I be able to run without a bra? How would I do batting again? And, what about throwing?

Good news! I can continue NOT wearing a bra. I have not worn a bra since November 15, 2007. Cool, huh? I even ran around the bases once after hitting a line drive out to right field. (I used to hit grounders to shortstop, but after playing tennis, I've learned timing and can now hit to right field when I want.) No problem with batting. But I was certainly tighter throwing than I've ever been. I have a fairly decent arm - I can sometimes throw to the pitcher on a single hop from outfield. I may not be able to do that for awhile because I need to get the throwing muscles (chest wall, bi and tri-ceps, and shoulder) into shape.

But I can play! Yippee!

Before practice, my sister told me about a fundraiser for Jeff Tolbert, who has played on our softball team off and on for several years. A few years ago, Jeff found out that he had a benign brain tumor and it was surgically removed. Last summer, he found that it was growing back and I believe he just had surgery for it last month. But around the same time, he found out he had prostate cancer. They're doing a benefit fundraiser for him tomorrow night, Monday, April 14, at Bomb's Away Cafe. A band will be playing from 8-10pm ($5 cover) and folks can have dinner beforehand. I think they said 20% of the proceeds were going to Jeff. I'm planning to go as well as some of my teammates. He has two boys, teenagers I think, or one teenager and one nearly so.

Another joke - may be offensive

I haven't posted this joke that one of my friends gave me yet, because I wasn't sure whether or not it would be too offensive since it pokes fun at organized religion. So, please understand that I'm not posting this to be offensive, but rather because I find it funny.

Here it goes:

A man decided to buy a new bra for his wife, so he went to Victoria's Secret. When he arrived, the saleslady asked him if he needed help. He replied, "Well, I'd like to buy a bra for my wife."

The saleslady said, "You're at the right place. We have lots of colors, sizes, materials, and brands to choose from."

He looked overwhelmed, so the saleslady said, "But really, we have three kinds of bras. Catholic Church bras, Salvation Army bras, and Baptist Church bras."

He said, "But what's the difference?"

She answered, "Catholic Church bras support the masses. Salvation Army bras pick up the fallen. And, Baptist Church bras make mountains out of molehills!"

Whaddya think?

Sara, over at, said something in her post on Friday about making mountains out of molehills, which reminded me of the joke. So, I decided to post it! She's also teasing me for having a dirty mind over at Jeanne's blog (scroll down to the comments), so I told her that I'm not that kind of anthropologist - archaeologists are the one with the dirty minds because they dig other people's trash out of the ground! I don't have a dirty mind, right?

Friday, April 11, 2008

Turmeric Experiment, Day 8

I just had a chance to check on the progress of the open wound and I think that it's healing nicely. The wound doesn't seem as deep as before and most of it looks pink and healthy. Cool, huh?

I reported earlier in the week that my face break-outs are better than before. I noted earlier, I'd upped my dose of Xeloda and I found that my face started to break out a bit more. I cut my dose today, though, so hopefully it clears up!

Happy Sunny Day!

Drug Repositories, Part III

A couple of days ago, my state representative, Sara Gelser, responded to my email about drug repositories. She said she is interested enough to put in legislation about it for 2009. Yeah! We're going to have coffee next Friday to talk about the issue more.

For those of you in the support group and my colleagues who said they were interested in the issue, I will soon email you. I meant to do it sooner, but my computer at work died and it's easier to find emails via subject line at work than at home. I want to compile all of your emails together to begin a conversation about the next steps. Once I talk to Sara, I hope that this takes a life of it's own. Jeanne Sather, over at, will be here in Corvallis May 19-21. She will do a blogging workshop on the 19th, a public talk at OSU on the 20th, and a noon talk in my department on the 21st. At her public talk on the 20th, Jeanne plans to bring up the topic of drug repositories. It was through her blog that I first heard of them. This may be a time when we can publicize the effort.

Just wanted to give you all an update!

Outhouse Stories

Carver, over at, had a post about the drought over in the Southeast, and her efforts at conserving water. I asked her a question about how she collects the water she runs in her shower before it gets warm, and then our comments began to revolve around potty humor - specifically my recounting various outhouse stories that I've heard in the course of my career.

I am a cultural anthropologist whose work is based in Alaska, most specifically, in the Bering Strait region. Some of the areas I've been to are very remote, without running water. My colleague, Loren, is an archaeologist who also does work in fairly remote areas. Here are the stories:

When my science and community crew worked on King Island, a very remote place, our logistics crew put in some porta potties, but apparently it was the kind that you have to use with a certain chemical - that quickly converts the waste into solid blocks which then are biodegradable. But they were also vacuum-powered, too, and the joke told by the crew was that they were afraid they'd get flushed away, too!

When I was a grad student in Fairbanks, a lot of students in my cohort lived in cabins outside of town. Many of these cabins had electricity but no running water, so they used outhouses that were placed a little ways away from the house. I remember walking in below-zero weather to an outhouse during a dinner party. The joke there was that it was better to have a styrofoam toilet seat because it didn't freeze and it didn't feel cold when you sat on it! I remember a funny story when grad student told - her outhouse was fancy because it had two holes cut into the bench to sit on. She said that she had to switch the seat from one hole to another because the waste had frozen into a tower so tall that it was almost up to the level of the hole! Imagine that - a frozen tower of waste in an outhouse!

A lot of people in my community have cabins on King Island land on the southwest Seward Peninsula. it's about 40+ miles from Nome, with no running water or electricity. Several have been gas-powered generators so that they can watch movies on their VCR or DVD players there. My uncle even rigged up a tank to catch rainwater which then runs to a spigot inside the cabin.

Anyway, about 18 months ago, there was a strong fall storm that caused a storm surge (bigger and bigger waves) to come ashore. It carried away my cousin's outhouse!! They had to go by 4-wheeler about a mile inland to fetch the outhouse - the building itself was still intact. Imagine that! Someone might ask, "hey how was your day?" "Well, I had to tow my outhouse today!"

Which reminds me of my colleague's story. Loren has an archaeology field school occasionally on the Salmon River in Idaho. A couple of years ago, they had to tow their outhouses to town and get them serviced, but the road from their camp to town involved a long, steep uphill climb. They got to the top of the hill and realized that one of them fell off the trailer, so he sent his students back down the road to find it. Luckily, it was one that hadn't been used, because it had rolled some on its side!

The "hazards" of fieldwork!

So, today looks like it will be a good day! They say it will be sunny and 72 degrees out there. I got another good night's sleep, too. Yesterday, I didn't sleep well the night before - my partner and I decided to break up (differences in how we approach things like parenting, planning for future events, being proactive or reactive, plus bigger issues like my cancer and issues he's got to work on at his end) - and then I think I started to get overloaded on Xeloda as I felt slightly nauseous all day (I'd gone back up to 3 in the am and 2 in the pm, where last week, it was 2 and 2). A good night's sleep and sunshine really help, though. Have a great day!

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

The Turmeric Experiment - Day 6

Hi everyone,
I had a great night's sleep, I finally figured out how to upload the mp3 file for "My Xeloda" onto the previous post with the help of our department secretary Loretta, a colleague is reviewing an article for which my coauthor and I have a final draft, I'm about halfway done with some proposal reviews for NSF, AND I think the skin wound where the skin mets were is healing!

So, it's a great day!

The first few days using the turmeric paste on the skin wound, I wasn't sure what was happening. On Sunday or Monday, I think, I actually felt something - like there was movement or something. I think that the turmeric was drawing out the toxins (which is one of its characteristics) as there was more fluid draining onto my dressing. Today, when I looked at the wound, it seemed that I saw new skin growing there.

In addition to the paste, I started taking turmeric in pill form on Saturday. The interesting thing is that I think it's made a difference in the acne on my face! How cool is that! I'm certainly not breaking out as much.

I also slipped on a yellow stripe on the curb and fell onto the sidewalk on Monday. I scraped my hand - when I got home Monday afternoon, I put the paste on it. It did sting, but later that evening, the band-aid showed that it drew out more stuff from the wound. I'd washed it and it'd stopped bleeding in the morning, but it bled again after putting on the paste. Interestingly, because the area was getting too big for the band-aids, I didn't put the paste on one small area. The next morning when I woke up, it looked red around that area. I figure it was getting infected, so I started putting paste on it.

Also, since taking turmeric in pill form, I think it's also helping the arthritis in my joints. That's another one of its properties, I think, that it helps the connective tissues. I certainly feel less achiness in my joints.

So, thanks to Sunil for sharing some of their turmeric spice and talking about it with me. I guess folks use it all the time in India.

I have great friends and colleagues, don't I? A big thanks this week goes to Heather (for the great song!) and to Sunil, for the turmeric. If the wound is really healing, I can't wait to share the news with Dr. Kenyon!

Sunday, April 6, 2008

My Xeloda by Heather Kenagy

Hey everyone,
Remember awhile back when my colleague said that I should compose a song entitled "My Xeloda" to "My Sharona" music? Well, one of my friends took me up on it! Heather Kenagy, with the help some friends who has a studio, composed the following song. Scroll down to click on the widget to hear Heather singing! She's done a wonderful job! It's just too funny and also well done! Thanks again, Heather!

Oooh you make my fingers numb, fingers numb
My hands they used to be just fine, Xeloda
Now I have insomnia, insomnia
REM sleep's fallin' way behind, Xeloda
Have the little pills in my hand
take them every day; wanna throw them out
throw them up, throw them all away... My my my i yi WOOOO
M M M MY Xeloda

Tried to have some viniagrette, viniagrette
You gave me sores on my gumline, Xeloda
Sores appearing everywhere, everywhere
Can't eat anything with spice, Xeloda
Have the little pills in my hand
take them every day; wanna throw them out
throw them up, throw them all away... My my my i yi WOOOO
M M M MY Xeloda
M M M MY Xeloda

Acne keeps a breakin' out, breakin out
My chin looks like a big stop sign, Xeloda
Even though you help me out, help me out
Why couldn't this have been benign, Xeloda?
Have the little pills in my hand
take them every day; wanna throw them out
throw them up, throw them all away... My my my i yi WOOOO
m m m m m m m My my my i yi Woo
M M M MY Xeloda
M M M MY Xeloda
M M M MY Xeloda
M M M MY Xeloda

Isn't it cool? Thank you so much, Heather! I love it!

Words © Heather Kenagy

Saturday, April 5, 2008

A Turmeric Experiment and a Joke

As some of you know, I have an open wound where the skin metastases was or is in the lower quadrant of my right breast - left from my point of view and right from yours. (Confused, yeah, me too!) I googled "skin mets healing wound breast cancer" or something and found a bulletin board on (I think, now I can't find it). One woman with skin mets said she started taking an herb called "cucumin" or "curcumin" in addition to her regular chemotherapy. She reported that her skin mets healed. After some searching, I found a lot of sites about the topic. Curcumin is from turmurec, a root that is used in many curries. Turmeric is used in ayurvedic medicine to heal skin wounds. My colleague, who is from India, gave me some turmeric and a web site that told how to make a turmeric paste ( I made the paste on Thurs and applied it to the open wound after my shower on Friday. I haven't yet had a chance to check on things today, but I did have a dream last night when I woke up to find the wound completely healed. I will report on its progress over the next few weeks (or hopefully less) and let you know how it works.

While trying to find the original post on, I found this joke: (
OK ... so if the Jacksonville Jaguars are known as the "Jags" and
the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are known as the "Bucs," what does that make
the Tennessee Titans?

Thought it had some relevance to my boob jokes research, so I thought I'd share it with you!

Tip Toe Through the Tulips - Photos for Carver!

Yesterday, even though it was blustery with periods of sunshine, my friend, Brenda, and I "tip-toed through the tulips". We went to the Wooden Shoe Tulip Farm ( in Woodburn, Oregon, to see the first tulips blooming. It was fun to see these acres of tulips. Not all had bloomed. I especially had fun looking in the fields where multiple types of bulbs had been planted, which created rows of multi-colored tulips.

Carver, another blogger who takes very good photographs over at, usually takes photographs of flowers. I'm glad I brought my camera to take these photos because I thought Carver might like to see them. Unfortunately, I don't think my point and click-style of photography will do justice to the flowers . . . but hopefully she likes them nonetheless!

We also literally tip-toed through this field - because of some recent rain, the fields were pretty muddy. Afterwards, we devoured a large bag of popcorn - who'd-a-thunk walking through tulips would make us so hungry? It was a good day - change of scenery was fun! I bought some seeds for flowers - not sure just where I'm going to put them.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

I'm Doing Well, Thank You

It's interesting . . . several people asked me today how I was doing in reference to the meds and other treatments for metastatic cancer. My therapist mentioned that I haven't really talked much about it in the last few weeks.

My answer: I'm doing okay. I am getting some good sleep every night - taking away the night light and adding melatonin to my night meds, augmented by peppermint tea and massaging my feet with lavender before bed seem to be working fairly well. I think I've averaged at least 7 hours a night. I had good energy the past few days - and yesterday, I was busy from about 7am to 9pm, without much resting in between. I ran errands, worked on an article, graded papers in Eddie's class, worked on the article some more, and then paid bills.

It was nice. It struck me last night that yesterday was the first day in MONTHS in which I didn't get the late afternoon fatigue and wanting to just collapse and relax. Of course, I just gave a big yawn and am feeling tired today - maybe it's my body telling it I overdid it yesterday.

It seems with more sleep, I am tolerating the side effects better, too. I have had to alter my diet some - no spicy foods for me - and by using aloe vera juice to swish in my mouth and drinking peppermint tea, I haven't had bad mouth sores. I've been keeping my hands and feet fairly moist. My hands are sensitive to heat, so I am starting to take cooler showers and to use cooler water when washing dishes. I've had no nausea or diarrhea. I'm keeping the open wound, where the skin mets were, clean.

I'm even contemplating going back to a 3 Xeloda in the am and 2 at night schedule, in the hopes that more of the stuff will hasten the disappearance of the red skin rash.

In fact, my therapy session this morning had more to do with normal, everyday stressors and not cancer. And, that's a good thing!

I don't think I'm in denial. Cancer is always there in the back of my mind. It is nice, however, to go back to a relatively normal life again, spending time with my son, hanging out with friends and family, talking about playing volleyball and softball, writing those academic articles and enjoying it! I've been working on the props for Eddie's Price Is Right birthday party, too. Fun stuff.

It bodes well, I think, as I have a pretty full plate at work for the next few months - a couple of obligations for the National Science Foundation (reviewing proposals and then working on the committee for the Government Performance Reporting Act, and our meeting is in June), a symposium I will participate in at Univ Oregon in Eugene next month, a possible meeting with my colleague at Portland State with the Alaska Native corp leaders also in May, and a revision of an article I submitted to Etudes/Inuit/Studies. And, I'm organizing a visit by Jeanne Sather the third week of May; Jeanne will stay with me and do a blogging workshop, a presentation to the general public at OSU, and a talk in our Anthro department. And, then in August, my plan is to go to the International Arctic Social Science meeting in Nuuk, Greenland. Also, for the June trip to DC, I plan to visit Carver in Raleigh . . . I've never been to North Carolina. It'll be a short trip, but it'll be good to hang out with her for awhile.

So, yeah, I'm doing well, thank you. I appreciate your prayers and blessings and all around positive energy. I'm sure that it's helping! And, if you hear of a good boob joke . . . I'm still collecting them!