day in the life
the everyday life of a couple living well with a slow-growing cancer.
always easy, and there will certainly be sorrows and losses
along the way. But being alive is good. It is very good.
Sunday, April 20,
A friend gave me a
beautiful yellow bouquet about a week ago. I can never just toss
flowers when they first start to wilt.
So the roses get
non-dryable, droopy stuff gets discarded. And the remaining
color gets rearranged.
And even when the
petals began to drop, you leave them where they fall because they’re just as
pretty on or off the flowers.
I was going to draw
some sort of correlation between beautiful flowers and beautiful
grandchildren, although I don’t want any part of these kids
wilting and falling
off. Unless it’s, you know, like old skin or something.
But some day
they’ll be separated and rearranged as they take on their own
And this will happen
much sooner than their parents can possibly imagine. Or be
bouquets that grace our family – even if some of the most
beautiful flowers live clear on the other side of the continent.
Easter blessings to
Saturday, April 19,
Wellness - part 6
OK, one last blog
about the Walking 4 Wellness class, our sixth in the basic
walking series led by the lovely Michelle Poirot from FootZone.
We congregated at
Sawyer Park where Michelle put us through several stretching
exercises that were designed to make us look like storks.
And then we
were supposed to do an upper-body twist, although you can
see that some people weren’t following directions.
Out across the
steps later, back across to Sawyer Park.
A high percentage
of the group walked awfully close to a 5K today.
Some of them have
never done that.
One couple reported
they’d each lost 10 pounds in the six weeks of walking. (This
included walking in between Saturday classes.)
Not to mention all
those endorphins being produced.
So proud of these
people who have successfully faced down cancer and are now
adding some/more outdoor physical movement to their lifestyle.
Thursday, April 17,
For the birds
We purchased a
gourmet log of birdseed and hung it outside our patio window. No takers.
until the local deer found it one night. We rescued it off the
ground, half eaten, footprints in the soil that
were too big to belong to birds.
And then not long after,
Hubby caught the
four-legged thieves in the middle of the night, polishing
off the last of the the special blend of seeds and nuts.
So we invested in a
couple of tubes. Plenty of perches to go around.
You can imagine our
excitement in finally
getting visitors of the feathered variety.
Seems we have some
slow birds in our neighborhood, though. These two are standing in the birdseed and dumping most of it on the
ground. They must think they’re in one of those restaurants where you
eat the peanuts and toss the shells on the floor, right?
Slowly but surely,
the word is getting around the neighborhood and
visitors are coming in for a landing ...
... some of them sharing a
And then the big
boys showed up. Strutting their stuff. Sorry, guys. No shoes, no
shirts, no service.
We’ve got perches
for 14 feathered friends. My goal is to capture a photo with all
restaurant tables filled.
Sunday, April 13,
Hubby, on chemo, is
running on low energy.
Which is to be expected. Not to mention the swollen leg and foot
Yesterday, he went grocery shopping with me and was
exhausted when we got home. Concrete floors; fluorescent
lighting; waiting in line; stale air.
observation I made today as we explored along the Deschutes
River that flows through the middle of town: our version of
wilderness therapy also left him tired, but it’s an entirely different kind of tired.
Breezes blowing off
on camera: a mountain goat in a cowboy hat ...
scurrying across sun-baked rocks ...
... geese announcing their
landing and take-off.
Not to mention the calming chorus
of the river rapids. What’s not therapeutic about all this?
encourage Hubby to take in as much wilderness therapy as he can
handle during this clinical trial phase of his cancer journey.
note: Here’s a factoid
that you may want to tuck away in your brain bank. There are 65
miles of trails within the Bend Park & Rec District. We’re
not talking about the hundreds of miles of trails in the nearby
Deschutes National Forest, Three Sisters Wilderness, Smith Rock
State Park or Badlands Wilderness. Just the town’s park and rec
district. Sixty-five miles of trails. Imagine.
Saturday, April 12,
And we believed her
“Walking for Wellness” class—led by the lovely Michelle Poirot—included lessons on how to sniff a Ponderosa tree.
Yes. You heard that right.
Michelle talked us
all into sticking our noses between the cracks of the bark.
You’ve heard of
Pacific Northwest tree huggers, right?
Well, meet Pacific
Northwest tree sniffers.
Poirot (kneeling) demonstrating how to sniff a
time of year, the Ponderosa has a pleasant odor. Some smell
faintly of vanilla; others of pineapple.
Or at least this is
what Michelle told us. And we believed her.
Week Five of this
basic walking series for cancer survivors and caregivers found us at Shevlin Park this
Normally I don’t
attend all the groups and events I help plan, but we had more RSVPs than
anticipated, so I’ve been serving as trail sweep. Which has been
a pleasure - hanging out Saturday mornings with Michelle and
this fabulous group of people.
Wellness group in Shevlin Park
What more fun could
one ask for than exploring the trails along Tumalo Creek on a
sunny April day with courageous people who have faced down
cancer and are now getting on with their new normal? It just doesn’t get
much better than this.
No, wait ...
does get better. Michelle had arranged for coffee, muffins and chocolate-dipped
strawberries afterwards, shared around a sunny picnic table, a
creek burbling (burbling? bubbling? gurgling?) nearby.
OK, now we can say
it: “It just doesn’t get much better than this.”
Friday, April 11,
Clinical trial round three
Of course I’m
anxious every time Hubby takes off alone on his day-long,
round-trip, multi-vehicle excursion (read: planes, trains and
buses) to Seattle for clinical trial treatment.
And not because he
can’t take care of himself, but because he’s probably having
more fun than I am back at the office.
Per usual, I left
explicit instructions: “Text me every step of the way.”
And of course he
texted with his famous (infamous?) stunted messages.
Hubby: “On light
Me: “Don’t fall
asleep and miss your stop.”
Hubby: “I will try
not to. Love you.”
Me: “You will try
not to love me? I’m not sure I understand what your last text
Suffice it to say
that Hubby came home exhausted last evening but feeling
relatively well and in high spirits after this, the start of
Which is really all
The views from the plane window via this Pacific
Northwest route are part of what makes the journey fun.
in all her spring glory
Wednesday, April 9,
We’ve been guest
presenters to small support groups and at large medical conferences. From the Pacific Northwest to New Mexico and Texas, from
Wyoming and Colorado to Florida and up the Atlantic Seaboard.
But we faced what I
thought would be our toughest crowd last evening. The home
The home crowd
- 97 in Bend; 17 in Redmond
As it turned out,
they were pretty gracious. Well ... except for that time
when they laughed at a story Hubby told.
“I’ve gone through
a lot, and Marlys has been right there beside me,” he said. “I’ve
had two neck surgeries. Back surgery. Three wrist surgeries.
Cancer. And last year when I was hiking, I fell and broke these
two fingers. And Marlys has always been right there by my side.
“You know, it’s
taken me all these years to finally figure out ...” and here Hubby
pauses reflectively, “... that Marlys is bad luck.”
It wasn’t all that
Just wondering why the
me with the mouth open
... and not Hubby
Monday, April 7,
I first met Julie
as a young college grad when she came for Thanksgiving dinner a
few years back. She
and a friend, Jo-Jo, had just moved to Bend from Nebraska.
After dinner, we
spread out on the living room floor in front of the fireplace to
play games. Our granddaughter plopped her diaper-padded bottom down in the middle
of our game – thinking that the cards and
laughter were all about her.
My friendship with
Julie grew when we became mentor and mentee ... and then Thursday Girls was formed because
of Julie ... and Nate, who would become Julie’s husband, entered
the picture ... and we hosted Christmas parties and dinners with all the Thursday Girls and their friends and
Julie’s brother Mike.
It wasn’t until
later that we
met Julie’s parents, Jim and Sandy, when Nebraska got too lonely
and they moved west.
months ago, Jim was diagnosed with an aggressive and rare form of prostate
cancer. We got together over coffee, and exchanged e-mails, phone
calls, texts – comparing cancer notes.
And then Jim was
gone. Too soon.
Celebration of Life was held yesterday afternoon at a beautiful
ranch with the Cascade Mountains as backdrop. Jeans, boots and cowboy hats recommended attire.
Live music. Food. A
slide show. Hundreds of church family members, co-workers, friends of
his wife and children, bikers in black leather, band members, veterans
with flags that lined the driveway to the ranch. And words of
affirmation of a life well lived.
For Jim was husband, father, son, brother, vet,
biker, drummer. He attended church, worked at a local insurance
impacted the lives of Julie’s and Mike’s friends.
leaves in honor of James Dean Weiner
A co-worker of
Julie’s painted this tree on a beautiful slab of wood. The idea
was for guests to press a thumbprint into a shade of green,
stamp it somewhere on the tree and then sign it.
representing so many people whose lives
were touched by Jim’s. For isn’t that how we should live –
investing in and impacting others?
Saturday, April 5,
Best bran muffin
Muffins. Not because they’re so filling you can go six weeks
without eating again.
And not because the
muffins can last six weeks without growing green fuzz on them.
And certainly not
because they take six weeks to make.
The batter is
actually pretty easy. First you soak bran in boiling water.
Then you stir wet
ingredients into dry ingredients. (Or is it dry ingredients into
And lastly, don’t
forget the raisins. Or little chunks of fresh apples. Or nuts.
Or all of the above.
Fill a muffin tin
almost to the top. (Note, the fabulous second hand store find. I
think my mother had a few Ekco baking tins in her kitchen.)
And then you eat
the muffins hot, slathered with butter and honey. Or plain,
because they’re that moist even though they’re made with whole
wheat flour and bran.
You wanna know why
they’re called Six-Week Bran Muffins?
You can keep the
batter in the fridge for up to six weeks ... and bake fresh
muffins for breakfast.
Or lunch. Or
Whenever the mood
Tuesday, April 1,
Best April Fools’
For those of you in
central Oregon who woke up to snow this morning, Mother Nature
played a pretty good April Fools’ joke, didn’t she?!
On my way
to the office this April Fools’ morning
Sunday, March 30,
Hubby woke up
Friday with swelling in his right leg and foot. Only he
neglected to tell me about it until halfway through the morning.
I get his call at
made an appointment to see his primary care physician. An
ultrasound indicates no blood clot. Thankfully.
He is consigned to
a compression sock with leg elevated all weekend. I’ve
actually let him up once or twice on good behavior.
If it isn’t
one thing, it’s
quite pleased to report this morning that the swelling seems to
If it isn’t
one thing, it’s
Friday, March 28,
I may or may not
have a job next week.
It all started
innocently enough. We were just going to decorate our boss’s
office to let her know how much we missed her while she was on
You know, hang a
“Welcome Back” sign, splash the place up with a few polka-dots
and some ribbon.
And then one of us
got the idea to blindfold the boss’s
stuffed dog. And then another of us tied the little critter’s
were hurt in the producing of this blog
And of course you
know how these things go. One thing led to another. A ransom
note was produced and a little fluffy dog went missing.
For those who need to know,
ransom note was created off
The boss will
be back on Monday. Fortunately, I don’t
work Mondays. Which means if I’m
getting fired, it won’t
be until Tuesday.
say this, if I go down, I’m
taking someone with me (her initials are AD).
Hubby flew to
Seattle by himself today for his second clinical trial
treatment. I gave him strict instructions: “Text me every step
of the way.”
Hubby: “On plane.”
Hubby: “On train.”
I did get a longer
message around noontime, albeit a little disturbing: “They are
bringing me a runs sandwich.”
Having never heard
of a runs sandwich, I texted back for clarification. Wanted to
make sure the sandwich wasn’t going to give him the runs.
phone translates my words wrong.”
Oh sure, blame it
on my phone. Turns out, he had a tuna sandwich. Much better.
Later in the day,
me: “How do you feel? Are you tired?”
Him: “No, feel
As you can see,
Hubby has very succinct conversational skills.
Saturday, March 22,
There are so many
ridiculously amazing volunteers who help us facilitate some
fabulous programs and support for central Oregon families
dealing with cancer.
One such volunteer
is a licensed oncology massage therapist who also works at the
FootZone, a downtown athletic shoe and gear shop. The lovely
us with an idea that would marry her two passions
– working with cancer survivors and encouraging more movement,
My kind of person.
approach for the walking class is this: First, basic
instruction; then warming up (you can see we’re
getting the arm-propeller-stretch-thing down pretty well) ...
The lovely Michelle in pink
warming up walkers in
... after that,
splitting into different levels of difficulty with mentors per
level; and finally, meeting for coffee afterwards.
We named the class
Walking for Wellness (clever, huh?).
But after two weeks
of walking with this group and seeing how important the coffee
aspect is, I’m
thinking we should have named it Jaunt and Java.
Or Meander and
Or how about this:
Daily Gait and Daily Grind.
Wander and Wakey
Juice? That could work, right?
Or how about Ramble
and Rocket Fuel?
not just about the exercise, as important as that is. We’ve
found that the camaraderie piece is critical, as well.
about drawing strength and encouragement from one another; it’s
about seeing that we’re
not alone on this cancer journey
– that there are some pretty terrific people also traveling this
Last Saturday, the
first day of the six-week series, 22 people showed up.
Today, there were
30 participants, which means 30 very smart (and coffee-fueled)
people are just now getting home after a productive morning.
You remember the homeless guy who sits year-round on a
bench downtown? Today, he and his buddies were sporting new head
I like the matchy
got going on here.
neckwear in matching green
Wednesday, March 19,
clinical trial treatment
We took off from
our hometown airport before dawn, turned left at Mt. Hood ...
Mt. Hood on
the way to Seattle
... and then caught
the light rail to Pioneer Square in downtown Seattle (me trying
to look chipper since Hubby rolled me out of bed at 4:00am).
fabulous light rail system
first clinical trial treatment began this morning at Virginia
Mason Medical Center.
are pretty fabulous people. There’s
Jeremiah, the MA who got Hubby settled into his recliner and
took his vitals.
And the medical
oncology nurses who kept Hubby plugged into drugs for several
Mary, chemo nurses
And of course,
Mark, the clinical research coordinator who brought all this
out for a full day with these fabulous people—who are all younger than our own children—we find ourselves wondering if
getting old. That, or the medical profession is recruiting a
lot of Doogie Howsers these days.
Thursday, March 13,
Today is a
national holiday. In case you missed it, the entire country
National Popcorn Lovers Day (always second Thursday in March,
for those of you who need to mark your calendar for next year).
In honor of this
we popped up a
large bowl of the wonderful, white, crunchy, salty stuff and
popped in (pun intended) a DVD of Fred Astaire and Audrey
Hepburn in Funny Face.
You may or may not
know how Hubby feels about musicals. Any singing or dancing that
shows up in any movie is entirely a waste of the viewers time,
or so goes his twisted way of thinking.
In the case of
Funny Face, he wasn’t allowed to fast forward through more
than three songs.
can you not love songs with words like *swonderful* and *smarvelous*,
I ask you?)
taken by Hubby)
That was our Thursday night
date, and we still have our Friday night date coming up. How
lucky can a girl get?
Saturday, March 8,
Pacific Ocean ambiance
We got a call late yesterday afternoon from the clinical
coordinator in Seattle. After the oncologist studied Hubby’s
scans, it was determined that the tumor-in-the-bladder-cloggage issue
needs to be taken care of first.
Keep the kidneys functioning before moving forward, which
cancer appointment into a weekend date—we’re
at the Oregon coast (which is sort of on the way home from
Seattle, if you use your imagination).
Hubby has the little corner fireplace burning and is sitting
almost on top of it. Maybe because I’ve
cracked open the window
the better to enjoy the crashing waves and the seagulls lined up
on the deck railing below.
more important, I ask you
Pacific Ocean ambiance or Hubby’s
comfort levels? (It’s
a wonder he’s
kept me all these years.)
We had dinner at Mo’s.
Blackened salmon with garlic mashed potatoes. I ordered the shrimp cabbage salad with mine, while Hubby
had the world’s
best clam chowder.
I texted our kids:
best clam chowder!”
Daughter Summer from the east coast texted back:
best clam chowder and only places in Boston showed up. Do you
best New England-style clam chowder? Or have you actually tasted
all the clam chowders of the world and are now an expert?”
Smart aleck. She gets it from her father.
Thursday, March 6, 2014
Clinical trial prep
in Seattle. Beautiful, gray-skied, green-treed, rainy, cold
Seattle. (How is it that rain is colder than snow?)
Olympic Mountains across from the seaport
Hubby is in the process of getting registered for a clinical
trial. Yesterday involved meeting with the research coordinator,
paperwork, signing consents, an EKG, blood work and meeting
with Dr. Chatta, the oncologist overseeing the trial.
Today, we go back to the medical center for bone and CT scans.
This is a
new phase of our cancer journey. A whole new team of people interested in
keeping Hubby alive. I love that thought.
appointments, Hubby talked me into celebrating his half-birthday
instead of waiting for March 22. (For those of you
not familiar with Hubby’s
self-written birthday and half-birthday rules: He gets to eat
whatever he wants, which inevitably means a juicy steak and
something chocolate-y for dessert.)
am sorry to say that we ordered a slice of cheesecake. Chocolate
cookie crumb crust, chocolate ganache, real whipped cream. It
get more decadent than this.
have to report here that we shared one slice—two
left half of it on the plate. Seriously. That’s
how rich it was.
note: You can’t come to Seattle and not have fish
and chips at Ivar’s on the waterfront and not save most of
your chips for the sea gulls.
It just wouldn’t be right.
Saturday, March 1, 2014
In the eyes of the beholder
We invited friends over for dinner and games. They came bearing
an amazing arrangement of spring color.
And then we woke up to a couple inches of snow, which meant
Hubby and I played outdoors with our *his and hers* snow
hard to say which is more beautiful
spring roses on a wintry day ...
... waking up to winter white ...
We purchased a blend
of nuts and seed and suet,
but apparently the
... or this.
into the back room, and then
I heard the musical
whir of the vacuum cleaner