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.
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.
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.
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.
Between episodes of “Wicked Tuna” and “Below Deck” (yes, I am addicted to reality tv and in a few months I’ll probably need an intervention, but until then I dare you to try to pry my old crooked fingers from the remote) I stopped to watch someone on a shopping network cook meals in this “Geek Chef 11-in-1” pressure cooker.
Banjo Man had just come upstairs to check on me and he was also fascinated. You see, Banjo Man loves to cook but his work schedule means that if he has decided to cook something for dinner, he doesn’t start until after 6 and we don’t end up eating until 7:30. This is not a good thing, despite his good intentions and adventurous online recipes.
We think we’ve found the answer. Chicken breasts cook in 20 minutes. Salmon even faster. And it’s easy to clean.
We were both mesmerized by all the possibilities. Plus the fact that this is something I can hopefully manage myself without risking burns (that’s an issue that has yet to be resolved so I’m staying away from my lovely new stove for the next few months).
So, my question is: do any of you own one of these? Love it or hate it? Used it once or ten times?
I’d like to hear your thoughts before I send Banjo Man to Walmart to get one.
Yesterday’s blog post came straight from the heart and I really appreciate the support you sent afterwards. I don’t know how else to blog about what we’re going through except by being truthful.
I still don’t know how to decide what is “too much information” and what my friends and family need to understand. But I do hate the drama of it all.
So…I cannot talk on the phone because if I hear a loving voice I totally lose it. And that is very hard on me. So forgive me if you’ve called and had to leave a message. I know you care, I really do, but if I answered all you would get is a weeping mess and I would find that very embarrassing. Text and email all you can. I love the connection. I love the cards. I love to know that you are thinking of me. It means so much. And I shed private tears of gratitude every time you reach out.
It means so much to Banjo Man, too. I cannot say that enough.
Yesterday Amy, the lovely nurse practitioner up in Providence, supplied me with tissues and let me cry. I appreciated that, because I’d started crying the minute I entered the exam room and there was no way to stop. I am so easily overwhelmed. And I had a lot of fears. She listened and asked questions and came to the conclusion that I was not taking enough prescription pain medication. I was also suffering from anxiety (first time in my life) but she said it was totally justified after everything that had happened in such a short period of time. She gave me medication to reduce anxiety so that I could sleep at night. She recommended I see a therapist and gave me the name of a phone app for meditation. All good suggestions. She also thought that the botched surgery and aspiration disaster was the major source of the anxiety, which made perfect sense to me because that’s when my attitude changed and I turned into someone half-crazed and pessimistic and pissed off.
And then she pulled the drains out. OMG. The pain of that was totally worth it. Those suckers were huge.
That’s when I started crying from relief. Amy reassured me that everything looked fine and nothing was going wrong. It all looked perfect, she said. I decided to believe her.
So thirty minutes later the Percocet had kicked in, I’d stopped crying and things were looking up. We stopped at Dave’s, a local market, because they had beef tenderloins for sale and we wanted some for a family dinner next week. Then we went next door to Subway and I treated myself to a Spicy Italian sub which was the best sandwich I’d ever tasted in my life.
Seriously. It was. I ate it all the way home.
My appetite has been strange and unpredictable, especially since the surgery. But that sandwich came at the perfect time. With the drains no longer hurting every time I moved, the pain pill working its magic and the emotional release of a few thousand tears, I was experiencing Serious Subway Joy.
Banjo Man thought it was hilarious.
And I felt a little more like myself. And that was encouraging.
Brave? This is so not me. Not even close. I’m shaking in my boots 24/7. Since this whole thing began the information on this cancer has gone from bad to worse to pretty damn terrifying, along with the aborted surgery and yesterday’s emergency visit from the visiting nurse (pain and fainting are not a good combo, but Gatorade saved the day). I get my drains out this morning, which is a good thing, but in my present state of nervousness I assume that something–anything–will go wrong.
As I explained to Banjo Man last night, I’d decided weeks ago not to be brave or courageous dealing with this cancer. I don’t need the extra work of pretending “I got this” with a smile on my face and a reassuring wave to family and friends.
Nope. The thing is, I have no control over this disease or the processes by which it will be attacked. I have no control over how long chemo will last or how quickly I’ll lose my hair. Will I have radiation first? Be sick as a dog? Gain or lose weight from the drugs? Be able to go to Texas for Christmas (I frenetically bought the tickets on my phone the hour they were released from Southwest, between a cat scan and a bone scan)?
And as a friend reminded me, because I am such a “planner” this is especially difficult.
Rosemary the Visiting Nurse worriedly asked if I was a high anxiety kind of person. I did laugh at that. Uh, no, Rosemary. Just the opposite. Until I got cancer and had my breast sliced off!
So maybe in a year or two I’ll be spouting the benefits of green smoothies, running a marathon while wearing a pink tank top, and waving cheerfully to those folks cheering on the sidelines. It’s a pleasant vision, but for now–today–I’ll settle for a day with no surprises.
It’s a muggy and buggy New England morning, but we have the AC conditioners in the windows and we’re not putting up with humidity.
I love air conditioning.
So…greetings from Cancer Land.
We are fine. I am resting. I am not in much pain at all most of the time. Oh, things are awkward and uncomfortable, and stuff hurts, but it’s not horrible.
I love my couch. I love my bed. I love watching “Wicked Tuna” marathons on television. Banjo Man does not understand the appeal of “Wicked Tuna” or “Deadliest Catch”, but oh, do I love those shows.
I never, ever want to be on one of those boats. Fishing on the ocean is not on my bucket list. Not even at the bottom. But I love to watch the antics of the captains and crew.
“Deadliest Catch” has the best storms and the most danger. I worry about every person on every ship.
Oh, and let’s not forget “Below Deck”, about what goes on during yacht charters. Good stuff!
Poor Banjo Man. Yesterday he confessed that even after 49 years together he does not understand me and my love of these fishing shows.
One of our friends from our little thrice-yearly dinner group dropped off three casseroles yesterday. THREE!!! I felt like we’d won the lottery. I even cried. I should have prepared better for this post-surgery time, but as the weeks before surgery went on I became more and more tired and distracted.
Food is difficult to fix and reheat using only my left arm. Banjo Man does everything he can for me, but there are times when I am alone and just want to nibble on something. Or reheat something. My exhausted husband doesn’t need to be trying to put meals together either, so yesterday’s casserole bonanza will go a long way towards getting us through the next few days.
I am so grateful.
I will now head back to the couch. I am wallowing in the concept of “rest”. I should do nothing but rest. Imagine that! I can’t quite wrap my head around it. The visiting nurse who stopped in yesterday told me that I was exhausted from seven weeks of stress, pain, tests and worry, along with the surgery. That made sense, though I hadn’t thought of it like that.
She said to rest. And keep resting.
I find that amazing. It’s such a lovely idea!
Who knows? I might even become very, very good at it. I’m certainly going to practice.
One Saturday about a month ago, Banjo Man and I decided to take a vacation from breast cancer and not talk about it all day.
We really did need a break and we were sick and tired of being sick. It was a beautiful May day, bright and breezy, so in the spirit of having a cheerful day, I agreed to ride along to the dump with Banjo Man.
And then we thought about going out for a late lunch in Narragansett, as did hundreds of other Rhode Islanders. This was the first bright day after weeks of clouds and rain and it seemed that everyone in the state had the same idea: ride down to the ocean and eat some seafood. Winter was over and summer couldn’t be far behind. Time to celebrate and breathe in some ocean air!
We ended up in nearby Galilee, Rhode Island’s only commercial fishing port. It’s home to a lot of charter boats, commercial fishing vessels and the Block Island ferry. You can go down to the docks and buy lobster right off the boats (one of Banjo Man’s favorite things to do when we have company from out of town).
Banjo Man and I ended upstairs at Champlin’s overlooking the entrance of the harbor. We ate fish and fries and coleslaw while we watched the boats go in and out.
I’ve become addicted to a tv series called, “Wicked Catch”. It features tuna boats and their crews out of Gloucester, Massachusetts. When I was a teenager the Tuna Derby was a huge deal here in Galilee and Snug Harbor. We’d sit on the breakwater and watch the tuna boats come in. They’d fly a flag if they’d caught one and we would cheer and wave our congratulations.
Banjo Man says that when I’m stressed I watch fishing shows because it’s in my whaling DNA. Generations of Winslows made their living on whaling ships, so he might have a point.
Whatever your genetic makeup, an afternoon in Galilee is a wonderful thing.
In order to make the best out of a non-lake, non-mountains, non-Idaho summer, I decided we should plant some tomatoes and have a container garden on the back patio. People grow lots of tomatoes here on the coast. Tomatoes and blueberries and sweet corn all do especially well in our little part of the world.
The idea of a garden was Very Exciting News for Banjo Man. His face lit up with happiness as he considered all the possibilities for planting in pots and displaying them behind the house.
Banjo Man loves the back patio. He created it after a trip to New Orleans, so it has an old brick, Southern vibe. You’ve seen pictures of his water feature, another labor of love.
So the day before surgery, we took a ride to Clarke’s Farms (my favorite place to troll for pumpkin stems) and loaded up a wagon. Tomatoes (twelve plants), parsley, basil, dill, eggplant and zucchini came home with us.
Oh, was Banjo Man happy! He also bought flowers for hanging planters and some for the slate patio at the front of the house. The man had plans.
After bringing me home from the hospital Saturday, he charged outside to start farming. He would spend that afternoon and all day Sunday creating a pretty place to spend the summer…and grow things. We’re hoping the groundhogs and deer and wild turkeys don’t find our plants.
My one and only outdoor job is to feed the chipmunks. That amuses me no end and is something the Funny Grandson enjoyed a few years ago when he visited. I don’t know if he’s too old to feed chipmunks this summer, but I know I’m not!
I have a huge bag of sunflower seeds and I’m ready to train them to come running when they hear the sound of my voice.
Banjo Man had one last chore Monday evening and that was to burn brush before the rain came.
So as we deal with all that is happening right now we try very, very hard to take care of each other. Life is not all about cancer—there are so many other things to do and talk about. Things to enjoy.
I wouldn’t put “gardening” at the top of my Must Do list, but if it makes Banjo Man happy that’s all that matters.
Yes, it’s been a while since I’ve posted anything on the blog. There have been so many times I’ve wanted to write about what is going on here…but I really haven’t wanted to write about what is going on here either. The blog has been such a source of fun for me and I’ve loved sharing our lives as we travel across the country, play in the band, hang out at the lake with our family and friends, and cook up a storm.
You’ve even put up with quilting news and secondhand shopping descriptions, along with pictures of tablecloths and Banjo Man’s always funny expressions.
I confess, I don’t really know how to handle this. Blogging walks a fine line between writing about my life and protecting my privacy. And yet…everyone deserves to know what’s going on because you have been such loyal and wonderful readers of the blog. And I can’t thank you enough. I don’t want to quit blogging. I really don’t.
So enough drama. I’ve been diagnosed with breast cancer. I had some suspicions on Easter Sunday and was diagnosed a couple of weeks later. At first we thought the tumor was “small”, 2.1 cm, and my treatment would consist of a “simple” lumpectomy and six weeks of radiation.
I was devastated to not be able to get on the plane to Idaho on June 1st as planned, but I figured I could get through radiation and spend part of August and all of September by the lake. No big deal, right?
Those plans were dashed during a meeting with my “cancer team” (yes, a team–my uncoordinated self has never been on a team) which revealed the results from an MRI: the tumor was actually 5.6 cm and there was a suspicious lymph node. All bets were off. The lymph node turned out to be malignant. I now had to have a cat scan and bone scan to make sure the cancer hadn’t spread.
Let me tell you, those were bad days.
May 30th ended with the news that the scans were clear. It was now an official Stage 3A cancer, with ER+, PR+ and HER2- (all good signs for future treatment). But I am looking at a Modified Radical mastectomy, five months of chemo, radiation and medication.
Okay, bring it on. I can do this. I can do this because the cancer hasn’t spread.
My mastectomy was scheduled for last Friday, but something went wrong during the anesthesia process in the operating room (yes, you read that right–scary stuff). The surgery has been rescheduled for this coming Thursday–as long as everyone involved can explain to me today why the problems won’t happen again. I am very much looking forward to those phone calls.
So let’s get to the good news in all of this. There are reasons why I feel so lucky and so loved and here they are:
Remember Sammy, my little friend who comes over to hang out with me?
His mom, Angela, is a dear friend…and an oncologist. She has helped us navigate this new and terrifying world of cancer. I cannot even describe what she has done for us–guiding, explaining, scheduling tests faster, getting results without having to wait, etc. She’s our angel in all of this and we are so grateful.
I haven’t known what to do to thank her, so I made her a pan of chicken enchiladas. Lame, I know, but it was the only thing I could think of at the time. I know that will make Jeff happy, too.
The Funny Grandson saw no reason to go to Idaho without his grandparents there, so Ben, Amber and the FG are coming to RI for their summer vacation. I’ll probably be starting chemo while they are here, but having them around will be so wonderful. I hated to think of missing a summer with the FG and now I won’t have to.
I have two pans of enchiladas and three pans of shepherd’s pie in the freezer. Some things never change.
Son Will is also coming, but a bit later in the summer so we can spread out the visits. I am so happy about that. He gets one of the shepherd’s pies.
Our daughter NancyK lives right in town, so she stands by for transportation assistance and help around the house, plus she is dealing with my mother as I cannot.
I am lucky.
And Banjo Man? Well, he is my hero. And he deserves his own blog post tomorrow. We are stuck together like glue, more than ever. Because of the pain I’ve been in since this first started (they say cancer doesn’t hurt? Wrong!) Banjo Man has worried about me driving. So he takes me everywhere, to doctors and hospitals and Walmart and even to a fabric store so I could stock up before chemo starts.
My friends here in RI have supplied food and flowers and cards and love and encouragement. My family all over the country has been so supportive and loving. My brother sent me a dvd of four seasons of THE TUDORS. Oh, how I love wild historical dramas! And my dear Idaho and Montana friends are sending so much love and so many prayers that I can actually feel them, no lie.
It’s wonderful to “feel” a prayer, especially during the silence of a bone scan machine.
Another reason to be thankful? Well, the kitchen project finished up just a few days before the cancer drama began. So the house is beautiful and each day we comment on how wonderful it is to have everything look so pretty.
And we love our new gas stove, which deserves its own blog post, too. Banjo Man has bought a wok. I haven’t decided if that is a good thing or a bad thing. I’ll keep you posted.