Author Archives: justmepurring

It’s a Tiny Start

I will not go into everything that’s happened during the last several weeks. Unfortunately, my health has deteriorated. I so want to get back to blogging – I really NEED it. As long as I live and breathe there must be something to say. I may have to write a rambling post to open up the flood-gates of the mind. Ok, hokey sounding, but it’s a tiny start.

So This is a Computer…?

I believe I’ve been so long  offline that I’ve forgotten how to operate this machine! This will be brief since I’m still under the influence of substantial medication and don’t have my wits about me.

Basically, the surgery went fine. But after about 4 days at home, I got really sick, only to discover I had an intestinal obstruction. This led to another hospitalization of about 5 days. We’re still working to get all systems back to normal.  I also have some tiny anxiety (at times, maybe not so tiny) about possible additional cancer spreading that showed up in an ER CT scan. But no one has confirmed that and probably won’t without additional testing.  So we’re putting that out of our minds, right?

I imagine it may take weeks to get caught up on all the posts and happenings here.  I’m looking forward to it, but it’s likely to be a slow process. I hope everyone is doing well.

BTW at the hospitals I had my little tattered sheet of Rich pics which I would bring out for some mind-soothing gazing when I couldn’t handle any more “medicine.” And the past few days I have had a definite yearning for Armitage Fantasia. 😉   A sign of recovery? Please let it be so! 🙂

A Quick Message

Just the quickest of messages so I can feel like I’ve left things in a minor turmoil.  I’d had all kinds of plans to finish posts, answer comments, take care of lots of little things before this surgery mucko gets me down. Alas, the best laid plans……..

I do want to send a special “Richard hug” – you know which one I mean – to the many of you who, while I have been out of touch, have had life issues to deal with.  I think we can’t pass that hug around too much for all of you! I’m thinking of you and hope things are slowing down a bit  or at least slinging around in your favor.

Tomorrow at this time (central daylight savings time USA), I’ll be in some state of post-surgical haze. Hopefully, resting comfortably somehow. Thank you so much for your kind wishes and concerns. I’m likely to not have access to a computer for a while (help!), but will be thinking of you and, at least in my mind, doing as much Richarding as I can possibly muster.

Am VERY tired now. My very best to you all!

 

M. D. Anderson Revisited

Last Tuesday we met with the gynecologic oncologist (that’s really a mouthful), and as it turns out, he will be my surgeon as well. The bottom line is he thinks the surgery will help, but of course can’t guarantee it. And he thinks the recovery won’t be bad, but again, can’t guarantee that either. The main down side is that it could be more complicated that anticipated, especially since I’ve had previous abdominal surgeries. This might lead to some damage to the digestive system. Of course the odds are slim, but you know they have to tell you all the worst case scenarios.  He did say that if he gets “in there,” and it doesn’t look like it would be worth doing, he won’t proceed.

He had several criteria for making the decision, and I think I met all of them. This was sobering – one of them is life expectancy.  He asked what my doctors had told me so far – basically, they have chosen not to bring it up and we have chosen not to ask. Of course they’ve told us what the statistics show – I think it’s 2 1/2 year median survival for Stage IV colon cancer.  I assume that if things proceed to the point where there are no more options, they would tell me to start doing my bucket list.  From an objective viewpoint, if you only have a few months to live, you probably won’t want to spend half that time in surgery and recuperation. But all the doctors are good with proceeding.  So, in total, we concluded that won’t be a problem – either based on professional medical opinions or our sheer determination that it won’t be a problem.

So we go back next Wednesday for an Anesthesia Assessment and all kinds of pre-surgery instructions.  Surgery is scheduled July 5 at M. D. Anderson, with a 3-5 day hospital stay and 2-3 week recovery. Given the pain that seems to stick around all the time with little relief so far, and other symptoms my onc says are from uncontrolled pain – insomnia, loss of appetite, depression, and a couple of others that slip my mind (maybe one’s memory loss?) – I’m ready to do it.

Hopefully, I can spend the couple of weeks in the interim building up strength, talking and writing about something BESIDES cancer, and building up my reserves of Armitage firepower to withstand the physical onslaught of the next few weeks.

I’m gearing up to work on an Armitage post, hopefully today. I’ve spent far too little time writing and I really miss it. But for now doing a few mindless home tasks, like feeding the hummingbirds. Hope everyone is having a great weekend!

Back From M.D. Anderson

The visit to M.D. Anderson last week was full of pluses and minuses. It is never all good or all bad.  First, the scan results: Lungs showed some progression, but it appeared to be small – from 0.7 cm to 0.9 cm. Liver appeared stable.  So did the bone metastases on the CT scan, but the bone scan showed some progression – so we’ll say the CT scan is right! The primary growth is in the right adrenal gland and right ovary.  The ovary has grown from 5 cm. to 7 cm., or from about 2″ to 2.8″ for those of us who are metrically challenged.

Doc’s main concern is the ovary and the possibility of problems since it fills almost all of my right pelvic area. So I’m meeting with an oncologic gynecologist – or is it gynecologic oncologist? – on Tuesday back in Houston. This is to discuss whether he thinks surgery is a good idea. I think the MDA onc thought so, and the more I think about it, so do I. Let’s just say I’m beginning to think some of those possible problems he mentioned are already surfacing.

We then met with the Integrative Medicine doc (we really like this guy), who, among other things, suggested considering radiation on the right hip since I’m having so much pain with it. As long as I’m off chemo for surgery, this would be a good time.

So here’s the plan (assuming the doctor Tuesday agrees): surgery as soon as they can schedule it for removal of right ovary. Then some time during recovery, 10 radiation treatments on the right hip. My local onc said as long as you can get up on the table, you can do radiation while recovering from surgery. I guess that’s reassuring. Once that’s done, I start on a new drug called Stivarga, which is a pill. Yay, no infusion and no pump!

Finally, they have started the screening process for clinical trials. This is pretty cool the way they do it. They request tissue from my initial cancer surgery (that part’s not so cool), and test for genetic biomarkers that correspond to those identified in studies that are underway.  The latest thinking in cancer treatment is to genetically match treatment to cancer cells. I’m not sure what all that means, but it sounds good. 🙂 So, hopefully, they will discover some studies I qualify for, and if/when the Stivarga stops working, try those.

Whew! That turned out to be much wordier than I planned. But let me just tack on a couple of positive/humorous moments – there are always some. First, at breakfast in the motel, a young woman came over to me, and said, “I don’t want to be too forward and tell me if this is offensive, but you’re a cancer patient?” I was wearing my headscarf, so it was pretty obvious. Anyway, she was really sweet and supportive, a breast cancer survivor herself.  She assured me everything would be fine – I only wish I could share her total optimism. I also had several positive talks with other patients at the clinic – one a young woman who couldn’t have been over 30 with Stage IV colon cancer. (That’s just wrong!) She was very matter of fact about it all, even though she’d been through more drugs that I had, and at one time was on 15 different prescription drugs to control chemo side effects. (That’s wrong too!)

Humorous note – I was determined, based on the insistence of all of you, that I would use the wheelchair if/when needed. It turned out not to be needed. The long walk between buildings I was dreading was covered by a mini-shuttle that made it all easier on me and the husband.  However, there was still an entry in the Forget Your Foolish Pride Department – can you say barium enema?!

Then a couple of downer notes once I get home.  While at the local oncologist’s office, I stopped into the infusion room.  All of my nurse friends wanted to know  the latest and when I told them – basically what I just wrote above – you would have thought I was near death.  They all hugged me and gave me these sad faces.  I’d like to think that they just didn’t understand, but they’re oncology nurses.  Do they know something I don’t?

Second, I checked the patient notes from the visit Monday. The physician’s assistant posts them online within a day or two.  She commented that “we have very limited options at this point for treatment.” She also said re: clinical trials that “her options may be a bit more limited because of the KRAS mutant status.” Maybe not a big deal, but it brought up the possibility that none of the clinical trials will match.  Then what?

Well, got to stay positive, right? …Sigh… Bring out the Armitage files!!!

My Mona Lisa Cat

I really love this photo. What a beautiful expression she has! Doing lots of purring, no doubt! 🙂

the armitage effect

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This is Ginger, the funny, clever, energetic, charming tabby that showed up with her sister, Mary Ann, at the door to our Dayton townhouse one raw November night. It was windy and bitingly cold and the snow was beginning to fall. We invited the two kittens inside and they became part of the family.

Ginger lived to be nearly 2o, and over her lifetime shared our homes in three different states, proving to be an amazingly good traveler for a feline. This photo was taken with my old Yashica film camera at my in-laws’ house, where I discovered Ginger sitting in the window of the guest bedroom. It was a perfect “Kodak moment.”

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The Birthing of a Blog

“Click here to start your blog,” it says on the home page. As if to say, “Hey, it’s easy! Anyone can do it.”

During the journey of setting up l’Esprit de la Côte, my own blog identity, I was struck by similarities with childbirth. “With what?!” you say incredulously. Yes, with childbirth. And the idea gradually hatched into this, beginning with….

Family Planning – Many of us skip this step, in our eagerness to progress to step 2 ( 🙂 ), but there are a few meticulous souls who consider whether they have the constitution and commitment to bring a child into the world.  After all, there’s more to it than the fun of conception or the satisfaction of holding that newborn in your arms.  The care and feeding of this new little being is no small matter – are there enough ideas to produce posts for more than a month, do I want to deal with the occasional discord that seems to arise among “family members”? (That in itself was almost enough to discourage me.) And, am I willing to go through what I now recognize as the excruciating process of birthing a blog? On the plus side, there is the encouragement of friends and relatives – “Hey, you’ve really got something to say,” and “You’re not getting any younger, you know.”

What kind of family do you want to have? From the How to Blog guidelines: “Pick one area in which you’re proficient and make your blog about that single topic.” Ha! I want to talk about three different areas, and I’ll be damned if I’m going to go through this process three times.  No, this will be an only child – with multiple personalities.

Conception – So you’ve given yourself the go-ahead to move forward with a life-changing undertaking.  Conception seems like it should be the most enjoyable step of all, right? But I went blank on this. No recollection of that act.  Maybe it’s just asexual reproduction.  You know, like liverworts and slime mold. But surely this consummate creative act involves, well, consummation.  So who is the partner, the co-creator? Those of you more experienced writers are already answering this with a gleam in your eye, but my “light bulb” moment took a while. ……….Aha! Just one word – muse. This raises all sorts of delicious possibilities, doesn’t it? So who is my muse, when did this delectable act of creation take place, and why the hell don’t I remember anything about it?!

Gestation – Next comes the 9 month process when cells divide, organs develop, and the little being takes shape.  In the warmth of the creative womb, post ideas begin to evolve, clever turns of phrase pop into your head, and the framework of the whole thing begins to materialize.  These begin more and more to occupy your thoughts throughout the day and to inhabit those increasing sleepless nights.  They kick the breath out of you, roll around in your gut, and even hiccup as a particularly pungent idea begins to percolate. I don’t remember the exact timing, but I think my blog gestation period was somewhere on the order of 5-6 months.  At least. Yes, really.

Naming is also requisite during this time. You want your offspring to reflect you, your expectations, etc., but not be too pretentious, too random, or too obvious – still hanging on to some degree of anonymity (in the case of the blog, anyway). So l’Esprit de la Côte – how pretentious, random, and obvious (at least to those who know me) can you get? Well, I like it.

And the passwords! I hate coming up with passwords.  I takes me forever to think of one, and then the password troll tells me it’s not strong enough.  I have to start all over or, worse yet, try to retrofit my original offering.   I’m convinced that if passwords had been required for the delivery of my three children, the poor dears would never have seen the light of day.

Labor and Delivery – There comes a time when nature sets off the birthing process, and you’re at its mercy. OK, not really true with blog birthing, but once you’ve made it past names, passwords, and design, you’re kind of committed.  So those months of gestation and creation will finally pay off.

Using notes – yes, I actually wrote a lot of my structure, subject areas, etc., in a journal – I start to set up pages.  One for each of the three major topics I want to include, plus one About page, and one page explaining why I don’t want anyone to know who I am.  OK, that’ll work.  Then I can post to each of the three areas.  If someone wants to only read about Richard Armitage (and who could blame them?), they’d only need to go to that page.  But wait! What do you mean the pages are static, and you only post on the home page? Dang! All that planning for naught? Or I have to retrofit all of this to make it work? I’m not sure what the parallel is to real labor here, except maybe the pain, or at least mental anguish.

Let’s see, my longest actual childbirth labor was 21 hours, and my little Esprit took about 5 days from the first twinge of contractions to finally holding the little one in my arms. (OK, overdramatization here!)

Post-Partum – Even after such a trying delivery, there is some sense of euphoria once it’s all over, and you look into your newborn’s eyes. You gaze lovingly at your muse and say, “See what a beautiful Esprit we’ve created?”  (More melodrama, sorry!)

Once you return home and attempt to return to some semblance of real life, you’re constantly walking by the nursery door to make sure the little one is still breathing. Let’s see, how many times did you check the stats today? 2 visitors; 6 views.  The little chest still rises and falls.

For a while you delight in your newborn, finally learning how to post and add photos (you hope) legally. I remember those first few weeks with a newborn child: The three of you in your own idyllic private world.  Then someone comes to visit – or in this case submits a comment. Yikes! People are actually reading and responding to this?  I’m exposing to the rest of the world parts of me that have never been expressed, and they’re taking it in.  This vulnerable little thing is subject to the scrutiny of the blogosphere?  What have I done? So begins the real work of parenting.

What next? Luckily, more experienced “parents” are understanding and supportive as you bumble your way through the first few days (or weeks). They smile with amusement, perhaps recalling their own days as a young parent, and patiently point you in the right direction. (Thanks to all of you who helped and are still helping.)

Even now I like to peek into the crib at her sometimes, looking through her pages. As a new mama, I’m allowed that, aren’t I? After all, she’s barely a month old.  I know she’s a very simple little thing – not a lot of graphics, no gifs, not many widgets, but I think she’s pretty. And my muse, whoever he is, must be very fine indeed, and, I’m sure, as proud as I am to have accomplished this profound act of creation.

So, what’s next? Potty training?