life without mosquitoes


Amber enjoys the cooler temps, the wine and the bug-free back yard.

We can’t believe we can enjoy the patio without getting bit by mosquitoes!  Maybe it’s because Banjo Man had so much brush cleared around the property?  That’s one theory.


Banjo Man’s Salada Caprese appetizer.

I wear mosquito-proof clothing, as I am not supposed to risk bug bites for the time being.  But there’s not a mosquito in sight.  I’m safe.

Banjo Man is almost delirious with joy over this new phenomena.  And he loves his basil plants, too.


This all looks very civilized. 

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the oncotype

Raise your hand if you’ve ever heard of the Oncotype DX Breast Recurrence Score.

I never had either.

It is now my favorite word, my favorite test, my favorite scientific breakthrough in the complicated world of breast cancer.

The Oncotype DX  provides “risk estimates for distant recurrence and/or breast cancer-specific survival based on individual tumor biology” (the DNA of your very own tumor).  In other words, a low score = a low recurrence rate and no need for chemotherapy.

My cancer team was not at all enthusiastic about sending a slice of my tumor to California for this test.  It’s not standard procedure for Stage 3 cancer with cancerous lymph nodes.  They wanted me to start chemo right away.  BUT Angela did a lot of research, made phone calls and came to the conclusion that I should have it.  She explained to us that the Oncotype would be used on Stage 3 in a few years.  Studies so far had been very positive.

She sat with us during the team meeting (this wonderful woman cleared her morning appointments and rescheduled her patients so she could be with us) and insisted that the test be given (I would have wavered and given in had she not been there.  I mean, who am I to contradict the cancer pros?).  After about an hour and half of discussion, we all agreed that I would have the test and, if insurance didn’t pay for it, would foot the bill.  And we agreed that if the Oncotype came back in the “single digits” then I would not have chemo.

No one really expected the odds to be in my favor.  I had less than a 10% chance of avoiding chemo, but for us it was worth the money.

According to some of the studies, the survival rate is 97% if your number is under 18.  We wanted to know my number–low or high.  Because “high” had its own consequences.

Want to know what my number was?  (sound the trumpets, please)


When I saw that text Thursday night I gasped so loud that Son Ben came rushing upstairs to find out what the strange sound was.  Amber was right behind him.  I was crying so hard I couldn’t get the words out, just “It’s okay, it’s okay” for a few minutes.  Then I told them the good news and we all hugged and we all cried.

It had been a very stressful day.  I had seen my surgeon at 9 AM only to find out that the painful swelling on my side was not fluid (and easily fixed) but lymphedema (not so easily fixed).  Then Amber had driven me to the physical therapist, who took one look at the mess that is my chest, arm and side and said sympathetically, “It’s going to be a long road ahead for you.”

After mopping up my tears in the car in the parking lot, Amber patiently (and expertly, city girl that she is!) drove us to Federal Hill.   We bought frozen ravioli, sauce, treats, and cheese at Venda’s (Amber’s Happy Place) and filled the cooler we’d stashed in the back of the Highlander.  Then it was on to Zooma’s, another gorgeous Italian restaurant on Atwells Avenue.

I was going to have wine, but wisely decided on taking a pain pill instead.

Happy daughter-in-law!


Then we went next door to the bakery.  Check out the cakes in the window:

We even had enough energy left to cook the ravioli (lobster and smoked mozzarella) for dinner that night.  Banjo Man was still in Pennsylvania on business, so it was a low-key, early-to-bed night for all of us.  Until the test results appeared on my phone.

Then it was time to tell Banjo Man, daughter NancyK, son Will and my brother.  Everyone had to celebrate with me!

Because “3” is now my favorite number.  




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two of a kind

I couldn’t resist taking these pictures of Banjo Man and his oldest son.


How much longer are we going to be here?


I think we’ll hear about that new recruit today.


I thought they were so darn funny sitting like that as they waited patiently for the Funny Grandson to select a doughnut (which was a very exciting event for the FG).  Maybe they were talking about Nebraska football?

These guys crack me up.


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a special operation


Laying across my sewing table is the Funny Grandson’s beloved Winnie the Pooh.  Well-loved Winnie has been in desperate need of stuffing and repairs for several years now, but the FG couldn’t bear (pun intended!) to let anyone–even his seamstress grandmother–touch his friend.

We came close last year, but at the last minute the FG panicked, changed his mind and took Winnie back to bed where he was safe from scissors and needles.

But yesterday was different.  As I sipped my coffee, the FG brought Winnie to me, handed him over and said solemnly, “I’m ready.”

I examined him carefully, explained where I would cut (the seam up the back) and how and where I would insert new stuffing.  The FG agreed and then left the room.  So I carefully started surgery and opened up Winnie’s back.  I quickly realized that all the old, padded cotton stuffing should be removed and replaced, which I did.  Then I stuffed the arms and legs with new filling and received the FG’s approval for the level of stiffness.

I needed more stuffing–I had borrowed poly stuffing from my “Knitted Knockers” (these are lightweight knitted “breasts” made by volunteers and are **wonderful** for tucking into that new void in my bra)–so a trip to Walmart was necessary.  It didn’t take long to stuff Winnie back to his original state and stitch up his back.

He looked wonderful.  The Funny Grandson beamed.

I swear that bear smiled at me.



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go ahead and shuffle


When I was a kid, my Great Aunt Laurabelle had one of these.  The family was big into playing Canasta and everyone knows you have to have a card shuffler if you’re playing Canasta.

She was a fun, loving, generous Great Aunt, but she never let me touch her card shuffler.

As a woman in my 60’s, I was thrilled when I ordered my own from Amazon.  (I ask you:  do we ever grow up???)

Now that the Funny Grandson and I are playing hours of UNO, I brought out the card shuffler.  He loves it!  We ignore his father’s warnings about using it too much or breaking it.  He can use it any time he wants and as much as he wants!

And he has Aunt Laurabelle to thank for that.


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whales, penguins and pasta


Yesterday we all piled in the car and headed south to Mystic, CT to the aquarium.  So much fun!!!

Banjo Man was particularly taken with the African penguins.  We could barely tear him away from watching the little guys.

The Funny Grandson loved it all, though he drew the line at petting the sting rays, which I’m sure don’t sting, but no one could convince him.

After a good time in the gift shop, we headed to Groton to a restaurant on the water called “Paul’s Pasta”.  It’s an old house on the Thames River where they make their own pasta fresh every day.  Every bite is delicious.


Pasta makes us happy.

Check out the FG.  He absolutely loved Paul’s version of pizza.


The chef gave him free cookies to take home.

We all agreed to order the large-sized meals and take half of our lunch home with us for dinner, but no one was all that hungry by dinnertime.  So tonight is when we’ll heat up our leftovers and enjoy them all over again.

Despite what you see on the blog, I really am resting a lot.  It just about kills me not to be cooking meals and organizing food for everyone, but I haven’t lifted a finger (much to my frustration and everyone else’s relief).  I take a nap every afternoon and in the evenings we all sit around the table and play UNO.  We’ve walked on the beach a couple of times after dinner, but I have learned to pace myself as far as outside activities go.  It doesn’t take much to wear me out.

I’ve started physical therapy in Providence due to something that happens once in a while after surgery called “cording”.  It has to do with trauma to the lymph nodes under the arm.  Cording is painful, I’m not gonna lie, but the therapy involved is pretty awful, too.  Everyone assures me it can be fixed and I will feel better, but I’m still waiting.

I also do daily stretches to regain the full range of motion in my arm.  Combine that with the cording pain and you have one cranky woman.  But I try really hard to hide it.

Tomorrow will be three weeks since the surgery and I thought I would feel a hell of a lot better by now.  Banjo Man says I’m making great progress, but I definitely don’t think progress is happening fast enough.  I long to feel like myself again, but with chemo looming on the horizon–and radiation after that–it’s going to take a long time.  And that makes me sad.



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any excuse to eat a doughnut


Sunday morning was the Rhode Island Donut Tasting Event, produced and planned by Party Grandma.

Aunt Nancy drove.


Thank you, Aunt Nancy.

First stop was a local little coffee shop that sold the state’s famous Allie’s Donuts.  We bought six of them, all different kinds, but assumed we’d be testing chocolate, glazed and cake donuts from several shops.

Then our Wild Card:  the pastry shelf of Cumberland Farms gas station.

On to Dunkin Donuts:


We didn’t choose our chill, but we did buy an assortment of Dunkin Donuts, Son #1’s personal favorite.


You can tell the Funny Grandson was excited.

Then we headed south to Westerly to hit Honey Dew.  The Texans had never tried these donuts before, so the excitement really ramped up.




And then we headed home, where the FG arranged the boxes for a photo shoot.


And now it was time to cut up little samples, taste them and vote.  The results?

In the Glazed Doughnut Category, Allie’s was the winner but Honey Dew was a very close second.

Cake Doughnut:  surprise winner was Cumberland Farms with its blueberry cake offering.

Chocolate:  Allie’s won in the chocolate (cake) category, but Honey Dew had a delicious alternative.

Poor Dunkin was never even close.



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they’re here!


At the breakwater in East Matunuck.

Yesterday was the best medicine ever!  Waking up to the Funny Grandson eating blueberry pancakes started the day off right.

And then a walk on the beach–5000 Fitbit steps!–followed by a trip to town for beach chairs and beach passes, and then a nap (me and my daughter-in-law), before heading to the library for a program on “animals”.



“Animals” meant turtles, snakes, an alligator and an albino hedgehog.

My grandson and I sat in the back row because, he explained, “I want to be in the last row in case anything escapes.”  And we were also the people closest to the door.

This kid is smart.

I enjoyed seeing the various turtles, but I bailed once the boa constrictor came out.  The FG lasted through the snakes, but the alligator was too much for him.

Banjo Man and Son #1 sat through the whole thing and whispered so many jokes to each other that they ended up in tears as they tried not to laugh out loud.  My librarian daughter-in-law chose to enjoy some quiet time perusing the books and avoiding the wildlife completely.

Once home we cleaned the lobsters and then played UNO before it was time for bed.



This guy is never tired.


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lobster in the pot, take two

I totally screwed up this blog post by writing it as a “page” and not a “post”.

Therefore you will find it underneath the header photo of the lake.  It says “Lobster in the morning, why not”.  Click on that and you’ll have what should have been this morning’s blog post.

I’ve tried to fix it, but frankly it’s beyond my brain power.  And I’ve run out of time.   The FG is arriving in three hours and I need to be ready to stand at the end of the escalator and wait for his smiling face to appear above me.

So for the latest cancer news and lobster photos, check it out.

More Pie


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keeping busy between naps

Yesterday I started sewing 480 squares onto 240 peach rectangles. Normally this kind of sewing would have me itching with boredom, but this is the last step in a 2017 Bonnie Hunter mystery quilt. It’s going to take a while to finish these.

Before the surgery I made sure I cut out every little piece of fabric because I wasn’t sure how long it would take my arm to be in shape for rotary cutting.

That was a good decision.

The basic blocks. There are 30 of them.

Now I will confess that prescription medication contributed to my calm, Zen-like sewing state, but hey–whatever works, right?

These colors are interesting. I used Bonnie Hunter’s color suggestions and that has created a cheerful quilt. I’m not an “orange” person, but I do love the browns and the neutrals. Some day someone will love it, I hope, and it will find a good home.

Posted in quilting, rhode island, the cancer fight | 3 Comments