Saturday, December 29, 2007

late for Christmas

Well, I did less and a lot of that was late. These pearl earrings for Suzanne are the only gifts I actually made this year, and she won't get them until after New Years. Nice, though.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Missing sister and nephew

They were supposed to arrive last night - a little before midnight. Fog in Chicago. I tracked their flight on line - about 45 min late - and got to the airport about 11:30. Plane arrived at 12:04. No relatives.
When I got home I checked my email. A nice message from my brother-in-law that not only were they stuck in Chicago, Cynthia had inadvertenly deleted my cell phone number.

I loved the title of his message (above). Maybe tonight they will get here.

And whoever thought of a snowman creche?

Friday, December 21, 2007

More things I don't want for Christmas

Pink ribbon antenna ball and yodel pickle. Well, maybe a yodel pickle would be fun.

Something I don't want for Christmas

Inflatable Japanese breasts.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

zombie Christmas

Daniel and Cynthia arrive from NYC tomorrow and I am planning an all-zombie Christmas. We will go and see "I am Legend", I have that Italian zombie film where they walk across the Brooklyn Bridge coming on Netfix, and assorted zombie books (including 39 Days of Night) are under the tree wrapped in penguin paper.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Tamoxifen brain?

I've lost my ID tag twice this month. My cell phone has been left behind (or gone dead) so many times I regret giving up my landline. I have a calender but can't seem to distinguish one week from another. I've lost one remote and have trouble moving the remaining one from room to room.

Am I any worse than I was a year ago? I'm not sure, but I worry more about it. Where will this end?

But really, despite some hot flashes and vagueness, I'm not sure the Tamoxifen is bothering me at all. How competent was I a year ago? I'm not sure.

Sunday, December 9, 2007


This happened last year too, and I don't think I ever solved the problem. I bought this pre-wired fake tree because I always had tangled lights. But this one has a combination of plugs, sockets, and fuses that I don't understand at all. There aren't any written instructions. So I plug and unplug, first patiently then more and more angrily, in hopes that the top third of the tree will light up. I think it took a couple days last year, and obviously I don't remember the solution! So much for holiday cheer tonight.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Snow finally

Just when it was too dark to bear, snow arrived. Weeks later than usual. But now the brief daylight, the moon and stars, and even the streetlights reflect off and the world is bright again.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

finally November

..and the dogs are in their winter coats and soon the pink ribbons on the soup cans will disappear. I wonder if I will be this angry next October.

I'm into the second week of tamoxifen and trying to get used to having hot flashes again. Only four years and 50 weeks to go. Actually there will probably be a whole new standard of care before then.

Today I made the appointment for my 6-months-after-radiation mammogram. "And are you a breast cancer survivor, ma'am?' the woman on the phone asked cheerfully.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

World Series

Foggy, cold weekend - and I'm looking forward to two evenings of serious baseball.

Game One was a horror show. I kept hoping the umps would stop the game before someone got hurt. But Game Two was everything you could want in a game.

Linda has been watching the games with me. Now Linda has never shown any interest in any sport. But she has been entranced. She likes Manny, of course.

Her questions started out very basic. I had to define outs, balls, and innings, explain how many men were on a team, what was a bullpen, and so on. Linda learns fast, however, and her questions have gotten more sophisticated. Last night I had to explain the designated hitter.

Fortunatly, she became interested in the playoffs late, so I never had to explain the magic number or the wild card. (I don't understand either.) I'm now trying to keep her away from the in-field fly rule.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Cure! Cope! Heal! Mamm?

The magazine rack at the oncologist's office.

No matter how good your prognosis, never go to the oncologist's office without your own reading material. This stuff looks lethal.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

false alarm

I've had a lot of pain right below my collarbone ever since I finished the radiation. Then two days ago, while rubbing the sore spot, I noticed a sizable lump on my collarbone. Maybe 3 cm x 2cm, and tender to the touch.

So now what? I've vowed never to see my internist again. Which of my three docs should look at this? My first choice was the surgeon, but although I was vague about "a new lump" I couldn't get past her vigilant receptionist. I already have an appointment with the medical onocologist for Friday. I thought it might be bad luck to present to him with a lump. The radiation oncologist - the kindest man in the world with the best office staff - agreed to see me right away.

He pointed out that the lump was outside the field of radiation. Therefore, nothing of interest. But he (kindly again) gave me an order for an xray and promised to go over the results with me immediatley.

Freaked, I called in sick this morning and went to the hospital. They did the xray quickly and handed me the film and the report.

"Moderate osteoarthritis with hypertrophy of the clavicular head".

More good news - persistent pain fopr the rest of my life and nothing lethal.

I went out to lunch, came home, and immersed myself in a Norwegian detective novel.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Across the Universe

I don't like romantic movies. Not unless they are "Wuthering Heights" with Merle Oberlin and Lawrence Olivier out on the moors.

Car chases, shock cuts, zombies, and explosions are always good. Sometimes a tidy, wry, little British movie is good. But usually my tastes run to aliens, Will Farrell, mobsters, cops, vampires, and more zombies. I watched a DVD of "Dirty Larry, Crazy Mary" tonight.

I saw "Love" in Vegas last year. The sound (which went from speakers built into the seats directly to the brain) was thrilling. Some of the scenes, with Beatles images and voices, made me cry. Others, more Cirque than Beatles, were rather annoying.

The show had me primed for more new ways to explore the Beatles' great 20th century songbook. When iTunes offered the "Across the Universe" soundtrack, I downloaded it and played it over and over.

I saw the movie yesterday and fell in love - the way I fell for "A Hard Day's Night" 44 years ago. But this time there were huge hunks of my life on the screen.

I hear the movie is a big hit with 15 year old girls. If one asked me, "Was it really like that?", I could only say "Yes, it was".

And another Christmas cactus

This one combines gifts from two friends. This plant has never left Anchorage. It spent the summer in the yard and budded up right on schedule. It confused me with a handful of blossoms last Easter.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Christmas cactus

Aunt Anne gave me some pieces of a Christmas cactus just about a year ago. It was a piece of my grandmother's plant. I remember it blooming in the bay window where she held court with the big black phone. I brought the cuttings all the way back from Virginia to Alaska, and they have done well.

But now this plant reminds me of my grandmother, my father, and my Aunt Anne.

I'll repot it this week and next year it will start to bloom about now. This makes me feel so lucky and so loved.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

goodbye Mango and Kiwi

I have finally found a new home for my lovebirds. They are delightful fellows and I feel terrible now that they are gone. I developed severe asthma about a year after I got them - probably not a coincidence. And since I've been too tired to keep up with housework (a room with birds requires daily vacuuming) things have been worst.

And Mango is a plucker. I have similar problems - I am always tearing at my eczema. The vet says Mango's problem is behavioral and the dermatologist tells me mine isn't. He says I scratch uncontrollably because the itching is so intense. anyway, I identify with Mango and I always felt worse when I looked at him.

They are going to a lovely young couple who have experience with birds and run an assisted livng home. They will get more attention and maybe I will feel less inadequate.

Rocky reluctantly prepares for the playoffs

Monday, October 8, 2007

Lovely weekend

The Sox clinched. And maybe the Indians? I would have enjoyed another Sox-Yankees playoff , but the Indians are really cool this year.
The first killing frost and the first snowfall last night. The air was delicious today and the sky was brilliant.
It is wonderful to snuggle with the dogs at night. I haven't closed the window yet.
I am struggling to realize that I have to spend the rest of my life being treated for breast cancer. In return, it won't kill me. But given my fears of health care and medicalization ... I don't like it.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Still October

Went to the library for a new supply of neo-noir and was confronted with this thing. You were supposed to write names of "those affected by breast cancer" on pink ribbons and put them on the tree.

I can't wait for the Colon Rectal Cancer Awareness tree.

Monday, October 1, 2007


This is the first time I've heard this through. iTunes, thank god, is on eastern time. I can hardly breath for the thrill.

"You're own worst enemy has come to town"

Today I saw the surgeon - she is young and little and dynamic and I love her. She says this pain under my collarbone and along my sternum is neuropathic and not likely to go away on it's own.

And she disagrees with the oncologist about tamoxofen therapy. She thinks it is important. I said the oncologist says there is no survival advantage with it.

"Survival!' she says. "We can keep you alive, That's no problem." For a second it sounds like a threat. Alive, with painful and debilitating slash/burn/poison, until I die of something else.

"Tonight I'm gonna blow this town town".

Sunday, September 30, 2007

fall in Alaska

This is our shortest season and some years it doesn't come at all (sort of like spring in New England). The days are less than twelve hours and disappearing rapidly. Still, it is beautiful. The mountain tops white with snow, the tundra below bright red, and gold on the lower slopes. Mainly a silver and gold palette - perfect in moonlight.

We have not yet had a killing frost. The perennials I cut down weeks ago are regrowing and the nasturtiums and tuberous begonias are still spectacular.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Help! language police!

We found this sign at the top of the Alyeska tramway.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

autumn quilt

I just starting quilting this "turning twenty" variation with April Cornell's Sonnet fabric line. I was craving orange and chocolate. Now that I've done the basic stitch in the ditch for the big blocks and the borders, I'm not sure what comes next. I hope to decide tonight, since I would love to sleep under this soon. We are down to twelve hours of daylight and dropping fast.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Saturday, September 15, 2007

The NYT on the same issue...

Do we really know what makes us healthy?

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I don't do why's either

Last week I was talking to someone I don't know well and hadn't seen for about a year. When I told her about the breast cancer stuff she asked, "Were you surprised?"

That question semed odd to me. "No, not really".

"Did you have a lump? Did you think something was wrong?"

"No, there wasn't a lump and I wasn't expecting anything. I was scared and angry but I wouldn't say I was surprised."

Why would I be surprised? What is unusual about a routine mammogram picking up DCIS in a 53 year old woman? Happens all the time.

I don't seem to have a "why me?" reflex or a need to search for causes and reasons. I was attracted to probability theory and epidemiology because I always suspected that many things were random. Even if there is causation it may be impossible to prove it and hopeless to look for it. I know most human brains are programmed to deny randomness and demand links. Mine isn't. Some of the distance I feel with others is my irritation at this basic quality.

Breast cancer discussion boards (and probably those for other diseases) are dominated by this obsessive search. One website is actually titled "Why me?" Women post on their belief that one food causes breast cancer and another prevents or cures it. One woman announces she is turning to an all raw foods diet, another says she has given up caffeine, sugar, and alcohol "because they make the tumor grow". And of course there is the power of the pink ribbon positivity...

Miriam's version in "Cancer Made Me a Shallower Person" is the only one that made me laugh. "I think I caused breast cancer by eating too much cheese." I eat a lot of cheese too. I'm going to eat more cheese.

I've been watching the "Joan of Arcadia" series on DVD. I never saw it when it aired, but Lorraine and I met the show's producer at the Springsteen symposium two years ago. A very nice family is struggling with life and God starts appearing to the sixteen year old. In human form. As a hunky high school boy, a lunch lady, a four year old girl in pigtails. In many episodes, Joan is asking for answers. God explains, a little impatiently, "I don't do why's."

I don't do why's either

Monday, September 3, 2007

friends and vacation

Alessandria, Jim, and Lorraine will be home in western Massachusetts by now. The house is empy and I miss them. We had planned this vacation for years. The hardest part of this breast cancer stuff was the impact on this vacation. I was out of leave time and out of energy. We adapted. They went off to Denali without me. When I was too tired to cook or go out we ordered pizza.

We did have some fun together. And the visit ended with a segeway tour of Anchorage.

I have always had this lovely recurring dream. I am walking on the sidewalk, going faster and faster. Then I discover I can run smoothly just inches above the surface. The same sensation as the segeway!

Monday, August 27, 2007


Earlier this week, we took the dogs for a walk on the Matanuska Glacier. This is rather like stepping onto a planet with an atmosphere remarkably like Earth. There's ice and silt and rock underfoot, intense blue crevasses, and no sense of proportion at all. The picture I took would probably make as much sense upside down.
When Rocky goes to the glacier, he pretends he is the little dog Stickeen from Muir's "Travels in Alaska". He leaps heroically over the abyss.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

grave quilts

Friends are visiting from Massachusets, so I am out seeing the sites. One of my favorites is the cemetary in Eklutna Village. Most of the graves are covered with Athabaskan "spirit houses", painted bright colors every spring. (Jim says it reminds him of a minerature golf course.)
Other graves are covered with blankets or quilts weighed down with rocks. We need a quilt anthropologist here! It looks like the top of the quilt disintegrates first, then the batting, then the bottom. Here is one example, with just a fragment of fabric left. I suspect, from the size of the fabric scrap, that the quilt was placed on the grave pieced side down.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

no one cares what you had for lunch

But this is no ordinary lunch.
It was a working trip to Nome, and we were presented with an Innupiat Eskimo style banquet. Dried whitefish, salmon strips,
caribou sausages, muktuk, muktuk salad, seal oil, and walrus. I'm not sure the raw string bean is traditional, but doesn't it look nice? The paper plates and the saltines are sort-of-traditional. Pilot bread is more traditional than saltines. Both are used to soak up more oil. There was cooked salmon pineapple teriaki for a second course and blueberry buckle (not agootuk?) for dessert.
Now I fell in love with halibut, salmon, and crab the moment I entered Alaska. I have been thrilled with all preparations of moose and caribou. Seal meat is delicious, although my uneducated palate cannot distinguish it from walrus. I have often been told, "You eat good for a gussuck". ("Gussuck" means not an Alaska Native and more specifically, not Eskimo. It is said to be a corruption of "cossak". It is not a fighting word, there doesn't seem to be any malice in it, and we often refer to ourselves this way.)
I have been ambivalent about muktuk (slices of raw whale blubber and skin) and seal oil. Not disgusting, but the mouth feel was unpleasant and there seemed to be too much chewing involved,
Today, I slid happily over that barrier of strangeness. The seal oil was so lovely I poured it over my fingers as well as my whitefish. I licked if off my fingers and soaked it up with crackers thinking it was better than fine olive oil. The aftertaste in my mouth and the smell on my fingers were wonderful.
And muktuk! The contrast in color and texture between the skin and the blubber were thrilling, The texture was perfect, firm but yielding. I loved the smell, I licked my fingers, I treasured the soft feel of the fat in my mouth.
I am starting to think about leaving Alaska for a variety of reasons. I think of myself a few years from now, in a double wide in an active adult community in Florida, or a studio apartment in the Bronx. Craving muktuk.

Monday, August 20, 2007


The new disc in October, the new tour about the same time. With the whole E Street Band. Rock this time.

How lucky can we be! I remember waiting for Darkness, just hoping for one more album and one more tour. All the nights at Meadowlands when I wondered if there would ever be another show.

Now we are old and the music just keeps coming. This part of the long walk home might be the best.

Thanks Bruce.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Cancer has made me a more obsessive and reclusive person

I love Mirian Engelberg's breast cancer comic book. One of my favorite parts is how she began doing TV Guide crossword puzzles obsessively during treatment. There is one frame with her and the TV Guide and the thought balloon "Must avoid all conscious thought". That's how I still feel.

I should be back in my real life by now. The bird cage must be cleaned, the frog needs a mouse to eat, the garden needs work, the new quilt should be pinned and basted, the bathrooms need to be cleaned, I have guests arriving Monday night and no food in the house. So I'm doing this stupid jigsaw puzzle. Its all I want to do.

If I'd been reading Betty Rollin's new book, "Here's the Bright Side" instead of "Cancer Made Me A Shallower Person" I'd be worried about this behavior.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Here's the bright side ???????

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Here we are - Jane Brody at the New York Times writing about how people are so much better after a cancer diagnosis. Maybe I didn't have enough cancer or enough suffering. I'm just tired and irritable and my nipple itches.

Saturday, August 11, 2007


There's a family reunion in upstate New York this weekend. Rumor has it there may be 90 people - I would know all of them, except for the three new babies I have not met yet. This is the first time my generation - the cousins - have organized an event. It gives me hope that the family will not disappear when my aunts and uncles do. My aunts and sister have promised to tell me all about it. I feel terrible about missing the party, although I have spent a lot of time with these folks in the last year.

I spent all my vacation days and all my money and most of my energy on this damn breast cancer stuff.

I was trying to whine this morning when Linda convinced me to come with her and the dogs on a hike to Arctic Valley. We drove to 3,000 feet and the trail rose another 1,000 feet in about a mile. This was a bit much for me, but I almost made it.

The dogs had an even better time than we had. Sookie led the way with her little rear end wriggling, and looking back over her shoulder at us every few paces. Rocky was bad. He took off along a rabbit trail. Linda eventually lured him back with a biscuit and some water, and managed to leash him before he took off on another hunt. Cosmo was smiling from ear to ear.

A beautiful day in Alaska. But the family gathering reminds me that the Alaska idyll should end soon. I want to go home.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

still thinking about DCIS

This graph (Lancet 1999) compares recurrence rates for DCIS after partial masectomy.

This is really big business. Some treatment creep is occurring. The standard of care is now moving towards breast conserving surgery plus radation plus anti-estrogen therapy. The breast cancer message boards are full of women who have opted for all of that (or bilateral masectomy) for small, low grade DCIS. Any risk, any effort to avoid a recurrence. Of course as treatment gets more elaborate and painful and dangerous, the motivation to not do it again gets stronger!

Would research on DCIS divert attention from breast cancer that actually kills women? But its not like there is someone who actually makes decisions about health care resources...

Friday, August 3, 2007

Goodbye Tommy Makem

I must have seen him perform 20 times - in the Makem and Clancy years of his life, when I lived in New Hampshire as Tommy did. I'm ashamed to say that I have hung out in circles where Tommy was not considered authentic enough. I'm actually too young to remember the Clancy Brothers, and I never had much patience with those purist. Yes, the Weavers and the Clancy Brothers brought folk music to people who were not devotees of NH"s Grammy Fish and the others who made the pc cut. But they brought me music and joy and sorrow.

There has been nothing in my life as sad and as stirring as Tommy singing "Four Green Fields". I remember Liam introducing it, explaining that many thought of it as a folksong. Tommy wrote it in NYC in 1967. I can still feel the chills up my back as I stood and bowed my head to listen. I must have stood there 20 times. I only wish I could do it again.

I will sing it alone here in Alaska in Tommy's honor, with gratitude.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

I still have questions

Rocky surveys his domain.

DCIS: 60,000 new cases a year in the US and you still can't tell me...

* What mortality and recurrence stats are at 15 years?
* How well the partial breast radiation works?
* If Arimidex decreases recurrence rates in post-menopausal women?
* If or how DCIS outcomes are different for comedonecrosis vrs non-comedonecrosis?
* My USC/VNPI index is 7 - does that really predict anything?
* What is the risk of lymphedema (given sentinel node biopsy, partial masectomy, and radiation) for me?
* Do the standard recommendations for decreasing lymphedema (no manicures! not hot tubs! gloves for all activities! don't paint the bedroom!) actually decrease rates of LE and if so, how much?

The bad attitude is increasing as I think about this - and I think about this all the time.

Monday, July 30, 2007

not really over

I slept straight through the weekend and woke this morning to shooting pain in my breast. Squeezing it tightly is the only thing that relieves it, but I went to work today and opportunities to do that were limited. So I'm still feeling sick from the treatment of something that didn't make me sick.

This NYT article on the difficulty of managing cancer care caught my eye right away. I can't imagine juggling appointments and bills and making decision while actually being sick. I was barely healthy enough to handle the relatively straightforward care for DCIS.


Tuberous begonias always look so tropical.

Friday, July 27, 2007

almost done

I've spent the week having radation twice a day and working on jigsaw puzzles in the waiting room. With my usual talent for dissociation and denial, I think more about the puzzles than what is happening. The experience of radation therapy is painless but oddly unpleasant - the moving table, the moving machines, the distictive three note buzz as the machine turns on.

In three hours it will all be over. I've been tired all week - napping after each treatment - but that's been the worst of it. My nipple is a bit tender and there is a deep, vague ache in my chest wall. Basically its all been tolerable and now it is almost done.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Harry Potter - no spoilers

I was young enough to line up at the bookstore before midnight to get my copy, but I fell asleep that night at chapter 3. With several distractions and a little sleep, I finished this morning at nine.

I liked the Sopranos ending better. I hate closure and explanations and all clues tied up.

But I was very pleased with my favorite character Snapes.

Friday, July 20, 2007

do not want

I spent most of the day (a summer day, lovely as only an Alaskan summer day can be) lying on a hard table in a windowless room. Head back. arms over my head, trying to hold still as my nose itched and my ear itched and my muscles twitched in protest. Lasars sited on my tattoes. Big panels swooping towards me. At one minute four people in the room looked at my breast and shouted coordinates to each other and scribbled on me with markers. Then everyone withdrew for ten or twenty minutes while the machines swooped and whirred again.

Every single person warm and courteous. Showing me the films, showing me how the radiation field will spare my lungs and my other vital organs.

I should have nothing to complain about. I will have a new technique, partial breast irradiation. The third person in Alaska to get it. Five days instead of six weeks. Fewer side effects. Lucky, lucky again. Monday to Friday next week and then this story is over.

This scares me. I hate it.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

learning anything ?

I've been searching for anything I've learned from this experience as a patient after 27 years in nursing.

First of all, I've met very few nurses. And they have flitted through without making any impression.

The physicians, in general, have been wonderful. Now I chose them carefully, with access to inside information most people don't have. And I managed them carefully. Still, the surgeon, the radiation oncologist, and the medical oncologist have been heroes. They assessed my mood carefully, responded thoughtfully to questions, and gave me plenty of time. When I asked for their recommendations they gave them and their rationale (they all know more about this shit than I do).

But the two people who stand out in my mind are techs. Barb massaged my back as I laid face down on the table with an unseen someone inserting wires into my breast. I swear I would have pulled back and run without her help. And Scott who chatted softly as I was scanned and tried to hold still as the machine swooped over me.

I wonder if I have ever given anyone what they have given me.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

feedsack nine patch

Doreen found this vintage quilt in a thrift shop in Oregon (I never find treasures like this!). It is all feedsack fabrics. It is not made well. The quilt is tied at odd intervals. It is double sided, and instead of binding it looks like it was folded and stitched. I though about leaving it intact, but I can't bear it. I feel greedy about this, but if I open it up and back and bind it I'll have a nice lap size antique.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Scanned, marked, tatted

One of the three tattoos for radation.

Three medical appointments in a week. Negotiations with the hospital "financial counselor" (very helpful) and the insurance company (not helpful).

The medical oncologist surprised me by NOT recomending tamoxifen. He said the small decrease in reoccurences does not outweigh the toxicity and side effects of the drug. I'm more afraid of strokes than breast cancer, so I will take his advice. And I'm thrilled have one thing less to juggle.

The final radiation simulation will be next Friday and I will start radation on the 23rd. It may be possible to do high dose partial breast irradation - twice a day for five days instead of daily for six weeks. That would be wonderful. I could be out of this cancerland (at least temporarily!) by the begining of August.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Italian gore and neo-noir

These days I am preoccupied with my next medical appointments, worried about what will happen next, how much it will hurt, and how much it will cost. I can't sleep more than three hours at a stretch. I can't concentrate. I'm not getting anything done.

But I can escape. My life-long enthusiasm for crime fiction and horror movies remains intact. They have to be dark. Intense. Death, mutilation, and gore are good. No whining. I can fall into these stories completely.

Since I've read all of Ian Rankin and Lee Child I am now reading Charlie Huston and Ken Bruen. The rest of David Wellington. Tough guys. No pink, no women breathlessly explaining how they are deeper and better people.

For movies, I am totaly absorbed in Dario Argento's work. Deep Red, Suspira, Demons, Stendhal Syndrome. I ignore what little plot there is to get lost in the sounds and the visions.

I am careful not to judge others by their enthusiasm for genre fiction. I know smart, tough, funny women who watch Lifetime movies and read romances.

My tastes are different. Right now I am very grateful for my favorite books and movies.

Monday, July 9, 2007

another medical office

My corn snake, Sunshine, lounges in the forget-me-nots in the shady part of the garden.

On to see the radiation oncologist today. Everyone I met there was intelligent, warm, and funny - so I have to complain about the waiting room and the decor. A metal column in the middle of the room, with a gas fireplace (welcome even on a July day in Alaska) in one corner and a big aquarium above it. This gave me a odd sensation of swimming fish soup. Alluring jigsaw puzzles laid out on generous tables near comfortable chairs. I love jigsaws, but I immediately begain to worry about how much time I was going to spend in this room. The usual basket of hand knit hats. (I will keep my hair but I will knit hats for the basket.) Assorted water and teas and juices and old magazines. I looked at a thick glossy international travel magazine, wondering if I was ever going to travel again.

They made me watch a long boring video about radiation therapy with Elliot Gould. This was done in a private, cozy little closet where I fantasized about "Capricorn One", one of my favorite 70's paronia movies. Starring Elliot Gould. I turned it off and rewound it a little early.

I showed my breasts to four more people. I have done this so often that my first impulse, when people ask how I am, is to lift my shirt and show them.

More potential good news. I may be a candidate for partial breast radiation, which takes five days instead of six weeks. On Friday I will be CAT scanned to see if the cavity is deep enough and my thyroid, lungs, and other breast are far enough away to do this.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Audrey's quilt

This is the only quilt I've ever made from a kit - April Cornell's Poetry collection. It came in an irresistable fabric box and went together quickly and easily.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Cynthia's quilt

Cynthia lives in a Greenwich Village loft. Not a place for tradional patchwork. So her quilt is white/black/red in a contemporary pattern, Boston Logs. I machine quilted it with a lovely varigated thread (white, gray, black).

I was so thrilled when I saw this in their home. A NYC downtown quilt!

the bad attitude part

A perfectly healthy person is turned into a cancer patient almost overnight. There is something radically unhealthy about this.

I am one of those employed, insured Americans - like the people in "Sicko". Of course I have to stay employed to stay solvent and insured. So I go back to work after a painful biopsy, after getting a cancer diagnosis, a few days after surgery, after every radiation treatment.

Speaking of money, the biopsy alone cost about $4,000 and I'm not sure all the charges are in yet, a month later. Yes, my insurance will cover much of it. But I won't be saving for retirement, maintaining my home, or buying a new laptop anytime soon. The only part of the economy I'm supporting is healthcare.

If I'm investing in my life, buying time in the future, I'm not sure that's a good deal. I might be buying years of poor health, years when I don't have enough money because so much went to pay for those years.

My mamos and PET scans are scattered all over the city. Eight different physicians billed for their role in the partial masectomy - two of them I never saw because I was lying face down on a table with a hole for my breast and they were underneath injecting it. Another, a pathologist, seems to be in Louisianna. I have appointments with a surgeon, a radiation oncologist, and a regular oncologist marked on my calender. And, because I had breast conserving surgery, I have another mamogram this week.

This sucks.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Stage 0 Grade 3

Poppies are blooming in my garden.

Before I was distracted by rivers of chocolate puke, I was planning to use this to sort out my experiences to date with a little bit of breast cancer.

It started with a mammogram. Actually, it started with my screening colonoscopy, which I finally got around to doing at age 53. One polyp removed, very nice drugs, and I got cocky. It had been five years or so since my last mammogram, so I scheduled one for a Saturday morning. Got the call Tuesday morning - a stereotactic biopsy was recommended for the microcalcifiations that have been there since my first mammogram ten years ago.

The biopsy was June 1. (That's a long funny story for another day). The radiologist kindly showed me the calcifications they had vacuumed out, explaining "This one looks benign but these over here look like DCIS". That's what I expected from the mamography report, ductal carcinoma in situ. That "in situ" is good news, medical for "not spreading".

The next task was to pry the biopsy report out of my internist. She ducked my calls for two days and finally sent a message that I would have to come to the office for results on June 6. She came in obviously distressed and blurted out "Its bad news. You have breast cancer. You need surgery. Then chemo and we'll have to see about the nodes..". She was so flustered I took pity on her and stopped her. I told her the surgeon I wanted to see and asked for a copy of the report and she fled. She sent the med tech in the the number of the surgeon (which I already had) and I managed to get as copy of the report after several more requests. By then I was anxious. DCIS is not life threatening and not treated with chemo. But the report was basically what I expected. DCIS with comedonecrosis - the worst kind of a not-so-bad diagnosis.

I'll deal with that doctor later.

The surgeon saw me two days later. "Can't we just remove everything and get it over with?" I asked. "You don't really want to do that," she told me. On reflection, she was right. Partial masectemy with sentinel lymph node biopsy on June 15. The pathology resultts on that were more good news. The nodes were clear, no signs of invasive disease, estrogen receptor positive.

Next: follow-up mamogram, vistis to the oncologist for aromatase inhibitor prescription, and the radiation oncologist.

And pick Sookie up at the vet and clean up more chocolate poop.