Sunday, August 30, 2015

Thanks For the Mammaries

We had almost finished our book club a couple of Saturdays ago when my daughter and granddaughter came in bringing a "Boob Voyage" party.

We played several games, made a lot of silly boob jokes only women can make or appreciate, and said goodbye to my left breast. Don't want to get maudlin about it, but it has served me well and I've always appreciated it. At the end of the party, my daughter brought out a little poster of the appropriate character from The Lion King doing the hula: It means no worries for the rest of your days... It's a problem-free philosophy... Hakuna M' Tatas. (Don't know where my kids got their bizarre sense of humor--surely not from me.)

After the procedure, the surgeon told me she had to take one lymph node in the armpit. She also found a patch of muscle about the size of a half dollar under the tumor itself which was inflamed, so she took that, too. My family says when I came out of surgery I told them my pain level was a seven on a scale of one to ten. I don't remember that, but when I finally fully woke up in my room I called it a two, and by evening I felt no pain at all, which surprised everyone but me. I always recover quickly. Since then I've felt the tenderness and an occasional stinging sensation when I put pressure on it, like pushing against the arms of a chair to stand up, but I'm still pain-free. I have about a seven-inch horizontal incision where my breast was, and a drain implanted somewhere in my armpit. A little "grenade" at the end of the drain tube catches the fluid, and I have to empty it a couple a times a day, whenever it gets full and record the amount of fluid being siphoned off. It's a plastic bulb that fits in a little pocket on the left side.

Nurses were good. As new ones came on duty and old ones introduced me to the incoming crew, I told them I like my water room-temperature and my door closed. For the most part they remembered.

Being without leg wraps allowed blisters of cellulitis to develop but the fellow from wound care found some compression socks he could pull on to protect the temporarily bandaged wounds. My husband arranged for the fellow from the dermatologist's office to come to the house and re-wrap my legs, which he did as soon as we got home Friday morning. I'm also on antibiotics again.

And I'm on oxygen. Levels in my blood weren't high enough, so they got that all organized for me to have tanks to use when I left the house. They are big and cumbersome and make me not want to go out very much. By simply pulls oxygen out of the air the main machine purifies it for my personal consumption. Moving around with a walker and 50 yards of tubing can really get your knickers in a twist... or your cord in a tangle.

Since I'm not going to church today, I'm just sitting here singing "I left my left breast in American Fork Hospital..." and trying to make it fit the rhythm. Not working too well. It's hubby's birthday today and daughter's tomorrow so we're celebrating by having dinner together later today. Hope I have an appetite by then.


Friday, August 21, 2015

The Certainty of Uncertainty

After our thoroughly pleasant vacation at the Oregon coast in July, I came home to finish three more chemotherapy treatments and face an issue I hadn't wanted to confront before: prognosis.

Since the PET scan revealed that the cancer is greatly reduced, I relaxed a little more, but I know what "inflammatory breast cancer" means. It's only five percent of all breast cancers, no one my age ever gets it, and and it's most common only in black women in their 50s.  I told the oncologist that makes me feel "special." However, we still have a long, hard fight. He gave me an anti-hormone drug, Arimidex, because this kind of cancer is hormone driven and killing the hormones at the source will choke off the supply of cancer cells flowing to the spots where it has metastasized.

So far I'm supporting several doctors in my efforts to control and manage this disease--oncologist; surgeon; dermatologist (cellulitis wraps on my shins apply compression that helps keep the swelling down); podiatrist (thickening and yellowing nails); plus lymphedema therapist, medical supply store, and massage therapist (just because she makes my back feel better). Wow--the upkeep on the human body never ends!

Side effects I'm dealing with: neuropathy in my feet and hands (painful, burning sensation most of the time, but sometimes my feet feel like they're sucking cold up out of the floor); lymphedema (left arm especially holding water, probably because the cancer is on the left side, and the compression sleeve isn't helping much; carrying around a lot of water weight and haven't discovered the magic key or cookie or whatever Alice in Wonderland discovered to get herself out of tight spots; cellulitis leaks when feet and legs swell); diarrhea (haven't identified the triggers, but I know watermelon is one); disfunctional taste buds (sweet stuff is intensely sweet, most things taste bitter or bland, and very few things taste good, all of which is manageable because I don't have much of an appetite anyway); dry hacking cough from the Arimidex; pain in my back that doesn't show up until two hours after I've gone to sleep, so I have to get up and sleep the rest of the night in a chair, which is bad for the edema because my feet need to be elevated to keep the swelling down; finger and toe nails tender, thickening and yellowing; hair growing back but falling out again because of the new drug; ongoing fatigue.

Thus, the misery quotient is high. I love it when people visit, however, because it takes my mind off that stuff, and seeing friends and family always energizes me.

When I saw the surgeon, we talked over the options (i.e. do we or don't we) and I said, "Well, the Bible says that 'if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out.'" She didn't quite understand, so I clarified: "Likewise, if thy breast offend thee, pluck it out." She hadn't heard that sort of reasoning before. We scheduled the surgery for next Wednesday, the 26th. I'll be in the hospital two nights. She is hopeful that by removing the tumor and affected glands we can encourage the other treatments to be more efficient and the unaffected lymph glands to do their job. Depending on the pathology report, she said radiation is also a possibility. And if that goes well and the pathology suggests it would be helpful, the oncologist said he may even recommend more chemo later on.

That doesn't change the prognosis (two to five years, the oncologist says) but it doesn't account for the "X" factor--stubbornness. Lots of cancer survivors are still walking around 20 years later when they were given only a few months. My neighbor lived 15 years with pancreatic cancer in remission.

So I keep doing what I do, enjoying life, and loving my family. I'll soon start editing my third book, which is coming out this fall. It takes about two weeks to prepare the raw manuscript for publication, and it involves lots of tedious details and meeting deadlines, but I love the process and look forward to it. Then I have another series to put out there, and family histories to write, and etc. etc. I'm too busy to get slowed down by cancer.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Turning Points

According to my latest PET scan, the cancer in my body has been significantly reduced, so the oncologist says we'll keep doing what's working. However, he consults with the surgeon frequently, and they have decided that I should see her again to determine if we should go ahead with the surgery. I'll have one more consultation with the doctor, and he may or may not decide to do chemo then, depending on how we're managing the side effects.

From my previous consultation with the surgeon, I learned that there's no such thing as a radical mastectomy anymore. In the old days, radical involved taking out lymph glands and muscles and tissue that hadn't been affected by the cancer yet but might be. While we were on our vacation in Oregon, the surgeon's office called to set up an appointment to talk about the next step. I've had a lot of surgeries in my time, so I'm not terribly worried about it. Friends who have had mastectomies recently tell me it's an easy surgery, without a lot of pain involved. I have a history of healing well from surgeries, so that is comforting information. My family "team" and I will visit with the surgeon next week, ask questions, and gather information to make a decision. When the surgeon sees how my tumor and glands have softened and shrunken from the first time she examined me, she may have a new recommendation.

When I met with the oncologist yesterday before treatment # 17, he said it's time to change direction in treatment. After a while, cancer learns to deal with the chemicals and adjusts so it can continue doing its thing. Though it has diminished, that's not a declaration of complete remission. We still have a long way to go. However, he said there's a list three pages long of chemical options he can use to treat breast cancer, and one of the new ones he especially favors is a pill that's taken for 14 days, followed by a seven-day break. That means I wouldn't have to go to the treatment center, although if the two-week treatment isn't as effective, I may go back to the infusions with something other than Taxol. I'm taking potassium because Taxol depletes it, but so far my blood work--white count and platelets--has been good every week.

Lymphedema has been a recurring problem. I got a compression sleeve for my left arm, but it doesn't seem to press much fluid out. I'm also on Lasix which is supposed to pull a lot of water out of the tissues. Interesting that its other name is "furosemide" because with the doubled dose, it does have a furious effect. However, I gained a lot of weight while I was out of town--which I can chalk up to salty restaurant food because I certainly didn't have much of an appetite, and I can't eat fresh fruit or sugar because of how my bowel reacts. This week, after starting on Lasix again, I lost 12 pounds. I also started treatments at the lymphedema clinic twice a week and hope that can bring the desired results. I understand there's lymphedema pump that might help as well. Don't know how that works, but my left arm is so swollen I'm willing to try anything. It may be possible to have the surgery but avoid touching the lymph glands in my armpit, which is a source of swelling after a usual mastectomy. Driving home Saturday from Oregon in one 14-hour push didn't give me much chance for exercise and my legs and feet were quite swollen when I went to have my cellulitis wraps changed on Monday morning.

We had such a wonderful time together on our vacation! Our first night there we all spotted some whales spouting and splashing out beyond the breakers just before sunset, and the next morning when the kids went down to the beach at low tide, a sand bar was exposed, and some sea lions were lounging there in the sun. All the kids got along well, and although it was sometimes hard getting all 12 of us (plus the dog) ready to go, we didn't try to keep a tight schedule--just made it easy on ourselves, planning what was doable with our various limitations.

On Tuesday, the highlight of the day was getting to Tillamook in time for lunch at the Cheese Factory (i.e. Williams' Oregon Coast Mecca), followed by a turn through the gift shop for cheese and fudge and local jams and sweatshirts and ice cream. Some of us went on the tour that shows how cheese is made--I especially love their Vintage White flavor. They have a new S'mores ice cream flavor we all liked a lot, and another one called horchata--fashioned after a popular Spanish/Central/South American almond drink with cinnamon. So refreshing as ice cream! We had miniature waffle cones so we could have little samples of these new flavors we were trying--some can only be purchased at the factory. They don't make blueberry ice cream at all, but they do make Oregon huckleberry flavor, another of our favorites. For the chocolate lovers among us, we go for Tillamook Mudslide, which has several kinds of chocolate in it, and Peanut Butter Chocolate, which has huge ripples of what tastes like peanut butter fudge.

On Wednesday, the highlight was the Oregon Coast Aquarium in Newport. Such a fascinating place. Our 19-month-old granddaughter went nuts identifying every fish to us as Nemo--it's one of her favorite movies, right after Monsters, Inc. We arrived in the afternoon just in time for the seal and sea lion feeding "show." So interesting. Seals have spots, in case you were wondering, and sea lions don't.

On Thursday, we had a little sprinkle of rain as we were cleaning up and getting ready to leave our nice beach house rental in Lincoln City that stood at the top of a cliff with a great view--70 steps down to the beach, lots of birds in the yard including hummingbirds, and a very nice flower garden. I slept quite well there. Doug the dog thoroughly enjoyed playing in the surf and chasing with the kids in the yard. In Portland that evening, we had dinner with a crowd of my family members who live in the area, brothers and their wives and kids, and cousins I haven't seen for a while, a great mini-reunion.

On Friday, I spent time resting and preparing for my book signing event at the Deseret Book store in Lake Oswego, about a mile or so south of the Portland Temple. It was really a rush to have the manager and clerks tell me they had read both my books and loved them, and that customers were reporting how much they enjoyed them as well. I wished I had known then so I could announce it, but the following week I found out the third book in that series will be published this fall. A special treat for me was to meet with a high school classmate I haven't seen since graduation. We had reconnected after all these years through the class website where we both posted profiles. She lives in Lake Oswego.

Since coming home, I have been thinking a lot about how kind and sweet my family is to me. They were so solicitous and watchful, making sure I had a place at the table, helping me in and out of cars, making sure I was comfortable and enjoying myself. I have been thinking about the roles of caretaker and caregiver and wondering about the similarities and differences of each one. All I know is that I have 12 of them (13 if you count the sweet-natured puppy dog) and I feel so loved.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

98.6 and Other Myths

According to weather forecasters, Utah is entering into a period of extreme summer heat. It's supposed to get into three digits by the weekend. I personally wouldn't know the difference because I am always cold. A sluggish thyroid is to blame, but so is cancer.

On chemo day, once the implanted port has been accessed and the infusions begin, I start feeling cold immediately. One of the best things about the treatment center is the heated unit full of blankets. Fortunately the "minions" who accompany me have learned by now that the way the blankets are folded in the heater is lengthwise, making them perfect to cover people six feet tall and 130 pounds... which I am not. Once I get settled into the reclining lounger, my people choose the heavier blankets, rather than the tissue-thin flannel sheets and refold them the other direction so they're wide enough to cover me. They tuck the blankets under my feet and all the way up behind my shoulders. It really helps counteract that cold liquid being infused into my body. I used to bring a book to read, but now I opt for the music stored on my phone. Something serene happens then when I'm warm and listening to my music.

In all my adult life, if my temperature has been 98.6 (normal for everybody else) it's an indication that I'm sick. A couple of times in the past four months of chemotherapy treatment my temperature has gone up to 98.0 and 98.4, but never 98.6. For a day or two after the chemo, I also experience a face flush, making my cheeks feel warm and look pink and healthy, but my temperature never goes up.

Side effects include neuropathy in hands and feet--tingling sensations, sort of like what my nephew once described as "7Up in your fingers." Many of my fingernails have what looks like bruises, but it's blood pooling in the nail beds, making them tender to the touch. I'm grateful that I can still type. Neuropathy in the feet is another issue. My feet feel like blocks of ice, and my poor little piggie toes suffer the sensation of drawing cold out of the floor. Wherever I sit, I try to keep my feet bundled up. Visitors think I'm nuts because they are all sweating and suffering from the heat.

Dressing all bundled up when I go to church makes me look funny, I'm sure--I've been wearing hats for three months to cover my not-quite-bald head, in addition to all those layers of clothes and sweaters. Sometimes I even have to use my "church blankie" to counter the effects of the powerful air conditioning in the building.

Hubby works in the yard early in the morning to avoid the heat of the day, and when he comes back in the house, he turns on the air conditioner and a fan that blows cold air directly on him. If I'm in the same room, I add to my three or four layers of clothing a sweater or jacket, and a couple of quilts. I'm now trying to train him to turn off the fan and the AC when he leaves the house but I haven't succeeded yet in doing that.

When we leave the house together, no matter the temperature outside, I'm always wearing a sweater or jacket. In fact, when we go out on errands, I often sit in the car enjoying the heat when we've finished the major tasks, while hubby runs into another store to pick up the prescriptions or whatever. It's how we roll. It's a good thing we have dual temperature controls in our car. Hubby's is set at 68, and mine is at 75, and I'm usually still shivering. I keep a blanket in there to shield me from the cold blasts of air coming from his side of the car.

We are headed for Oregon in a couple of weeks--all of our family except our missionary in New England--and I am looking forward to a few cool days at the coast, walking in the sand, eating ice cream in Tillamook, watching colorful kites fly, petting anemones in the aquarium, and sitting on the deck till the sun goes down. Apparently weather forecasters say there's going to be a heat wave in Portland that weekend when we go to an extended family dinner party. I won't mind.





Saturday, June 6, 2015

Hair Today, Not So Much Tomorrow

Twelve chemotherapy treatments have left me nearly but not quite hairless. It's a distinguishing side effect because the chemo attacks fast-growing cells, i.e. cancer, and hair follicles. Several friends have made hats for me, which I really appreciate because my head, though not totally bald, gets very cold. I used to take a lot of pride in having my hair done every week and feeling confident in how I looked. Now I settle for cute hats. In the same spirit as last week, when I reprinted an old essay, I'm reprinting the history of my hair--sort of a retrospective, sort of nostalgic, sort of hopeful.

Hair, Not the Musical

2005

         I have old hair. In fact, my hair got old before I did.
       Some people have bad hair days, but I’ve had a bad hair life. I was born with fine, limp, straight, plain brown hair, with a cowlick in the front. [Well, it was blonde for the first few years of my life, but that didn’t last long.] It grows fast and will not be ignored. It has always dictated to me what it wanted to do. In pristine western Oregon where I was raised, in the days before portable hair dryers, you didn’t give a lot of thought to your hair. The water was naturally soft runoff from Mt. Hood, and the climate was temperate. Whenever I washed my hair, I would comb it in place, maybe put a few curlers on the ends, and either sit by an open window to let the sun and breeze dry it, or in front of the roaring fireplace. When my hair was dry, I brushed it, and that was that—not a lot of fuss.
         When I got into high school curls were more socially important, and the fuss quotient increased. I knew by then that I was fighting nature. Through high school I usually wore it collar length, no bangs, often in a French twist or a ponytail. My sister, who has naturally curly hair, wore hers short, did it up in pin curls, and had what was then described as a tossed salad hairdo, right in style. I was so jealous.
         Until I went away to school in Utah, I had never used hand lotion or hair conditioner. The water is hard and the climate is dry in Utah, and I didn’t know what to do. The first time I washed my hair and didn’t use conditioner, I looked like someone who had never fixed her own hair before. It was embarrassing, and I still have the yearbook picture to prove it. Editors used your student ID picture for the yearbook in those days, for freshmen anyway. Lacking the natural drying elements I used at home—sun and fire—I got one of those portable hair dryers with a plastic cap that fit over my curlers so I didn’t have to go out in the cold with wet hair.
         During college I experimented a lot with hairdos. Some were pretty extreme, and observers might have assumed I was a rebel, but the truth was, I was just trying to make peace with my hair.
         Over the years I have not managed my hair as much as it has managed me; sometimes all I could do was give in to its whims. I tried coloring it a few times when I was in my early 20’s, but that turned out to be a treadmill I didn’t want to stay on.
          When we lived on Guam, the tropical climate and the Hair With A Mind of Its Own conspired together to undo me again. This time, curl was impossible because of the damp air. I had collar length hair when I arrive, and when I washed it the next morning, there was a power outage that took out my portable hair dryer. The following week I went to a salon where my hair was coifed and sprayed within an inch of its life. “That’ll show you,” I thought as I inspected the finished product. I strode triumphantly out into the weather again looking fabulous, for about ten minutes. Again the hair had the last laugh. By the time I got home about 20 minutes later it was a sticky, back-combed, shapeless mess. Not long after that, I surrendered to a very short wash-and-wear hairdo known in those days as a pixie cut. I have worn it fairly short ever since, though not always that boyishly short.
         To maintain some semblance of order, I have to get my hair cut every six or seven weeks. It laughs demonically at curling irons, so permanents have been my only hope for an alternative to that look you see in cartoons when someone has touched a live electrical wire. With a perm every three months to give me a little height, and some softness around my angular face, things have gone along pretty well for quite a few years.
         After my children were born, when I was in my late 20’s and mid-30’s, my hair turned a much darker shade of brown. Shortly after my son was born it began to turn gray, which has nothing to do with the fact that he was a boy and also my last child and I wasn’t that far from 40. Actually, my hair has a kind of mink effect, with gray ends and dark roots. People think it costs me a lot of money to keep that up, but I just smile when they suggest such a thing. I’m way too lazy for that.
         At that rate, my hair was almost completely gray by the time I was 60, and is well on its way to white. White hair is beautiful, as is gray, but it is also curl-resistant, no matter what my hairdresser has tried. For a while I surrendered and let my hair do what it wants. I let it grow and pinned it up on top of my head, like a matronly silver halo hovering over me, suggesting to my grandchildren something otherworldly and mysterious. That didn’t last long, and I fear I am doomed to an old age hairstyle that could easily make me a George Washington look-alike.

         Now I am giving some consideration to hats.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Tired of Being Tired

Anticipating the conclusion of the present round of chemotherapy in the next two weeks, I imagine myself able to make a To Do list and follow it through to completion. Looking back on the undone tasks now safely tucked into my list of accomplishments is part of my hoped-for return to normalcy.

Fatigue is one of the side effects of chemotherapy, and it has really hit me hard this week. I'm ambitious to plan menus and shop and cook and keep a household running, but I often get into the middle of a task and suddenly feel an overwhelming sense of exhaustion. Then I have to call for rescue. I want to be productive, but sometimes the best I can do is read or converse. Consequently, on some days I simply putter. It reminded me of an essay I wrote some time ago that explores my inclination to fool around and waste time doing things others might find unproductive. For your blog enjoyment, here's a reprint:

A Fine Pestilence

By Pam Williams (2005; revised 2009)

            Winter is the best time to be a putterbutt.
            This is a word I learned from my friend Elaine, and as a serious lover of useful made-up words, I installed it in my vocabulary immediately. It means to just fool around and sort of flirt insincerely with your To Do list, that primary source of proof that you are an adult and can be trusted with Serious Responsibilities. Putterbutting is my form of Attention Deficit Disorder, a diversionary tactic to avoid tackling a task I don’t really want to do. Somehow, when I’m trapped by winter’s tricks, there’s more opportunity, knowing the task has to be done eventually, to put my trust in eventuality and allow my attention to wander shamelessly, aimlessly, toward anything, everything else. That’s putterbutting.
Being a putterbutt helps me keep a positive attitude under gray skies and in white storms. Having been born in Oregon, and raised on nuts and berries like a bear, I have an inclination to hibernate in the winter. Sleep is a putterbutt’s hobby. For that reason, I have never found winter depressing and endless--boring maybe with its frigid sameness--but I believe spring will ultimately win. The tutoring message of winter is introspection, reflective pondering, putterbutting, while the triumphant message of spring is progress, action, resurrection.
A practiced putterbutt knows the unbridled, guilt-free joy of saying No. With experience, a savvy putterbutt knows not to wear a watch or make appointments that will certainly be sabotaged by motivated forgetting.
A putterbutt has an intimate knowledge of procrastination, which can be justified and rationalized despite an inbred work ethic and overgrown sense of duty. Slow-paced low-metabolism winter days with short daylight hours are perfect for putterbutting. Stuck with mostly indoor activities chokingly dull in any season--things like cleaning out drawers and closets, updating the address book, making an inventory of the food storage--I am desperate for interesting alternatives. Being a putterbutt helps me deny the existence of those chores, firm in my conviction that if ignored long enough, they’ll either disappear or become irrelevant. There are plenty of other days when I can prove I’m worthy of my over-21 privileges.
Putterbutting is a proud occupation for one or two, but it’s too personal to be a group activity. It is conducted by the rules of Whatever, guided only by whim and whimsy, curiosity and quizzical wonder. A dedicated putterbutt can spend hours reading greeting cards in the Hallmark store and never buy one, search through bottomless bins of Kmart clearance items she doesn’t need and won’t buy anyway, wander pointlessly the aisles of thrift stores, all motivated only by Because It’s There.
            For a putterbutt all the world’s a museum, opening life to the wonders of serendipity, the unexpected discovery of delightful surprises, sweet moments that make me smile or possibly even giggle, moments that will contribute to sparkling conversation later in the telling. Things discovered serendipitously are like lovely, intriguing pieces of a jigsaw puzzle that may fit together sometime in the distant future, but until they do, can be appreciated now for their individuality.
            But I digress, and that’s what makes me a champion putterbutt. Wandering from place to place around the house, or the town, noticing details, nuances, subtleties, shades of differences, I ponder, dissect, deconstruct and reconfigure. I take the leash off my imagination. I ramble over unnumbered unscheduled detours to What If and Hmm. I take pleasure in the vistas on the hill above Maybe Some Day, and make mental reservations to return when I can stay longer.
An occasional day spent in putterbutt limbo can be most satisfying. It is “wasted” only if I allow guilt to intrude with its shameful Should Haves and imperative Oughts who come shaking their scolding fingers dangerously near my sense of responsibility. There will always be other days ripe for taking charge like an adult and rampaging headlong through the To Do list, masterfully checking off jobs as if they won’t have to be done over again in another week or two.
            Putterbutting has a cleansing effect, decontaminating the soul from the anxiety that keeps it earthbound on tooth-gritting deadline days. At the end of a long delicious putterbutt day, not much has been checked off the To Do list, but I’ve been everywhere and thought everything and put all the problems in perspective.

If there were some magic elixir that would cure my seasonal bouts of putterbutting, I would tear up the prescription. I look forward to the appearance of this welcome coping mechanism every winter, my capitulation to the animal hibernation instinct. It’s a disorder that doesn’t strike very often, but when it does, I plan to indulge completely. I refuse to be cured of this fine pestilence.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Sleep: Is It Only An Illusion?

Chemotherapy hasn't been nice to my sleep patterns. This week, after the coma-inducing Benedryl wore off, the energizing steroids took over and I was up all night. It's more than annoying. I want to participate with the rest of the world doing the usual morning, noon and night routines, but the drugs won't allow it. So I go to bed at the "usual" time, then wake up three or four hours later ready to get on with the day, which would be fine if the rest of the world were also ready. It's not. So I spend the early hours of the morning checking and answering email, catching up on the news of the day, planning menus and shopping lists, indexing World War II draft records (or marriages in Colorado or wherever), and writing. And then I nap later in the day when I get tired again.

My hubby/hero/caregiver needs seven or eight hours of sleep each night. Normally I can get along with five or six. But not much is normal these days, although I try mightily to make it so. We muddle through.

Normal? What's that? Maybe I should readjust my expectations. Tiredness comes all at once, like a surprise. I'm in the middle of fixing a meal, reading a book, watching Antiques Roadshow, etc. and suddenly I get droopy, as if a two-by-four had been applied to the side of my head, and I find myself unable to continue. Fortunately, nearby daughter or granddaughter can come by and finish the food projects, but the other stuff just has to wait.

Chemo #10 has come and gone. Sweet Nurse daughter-in-law was there with me for a while. She had come directly from the train after her 12-hour shift so she only stayed a short time until I was hooked up for the infusions and then she went home to sleep.

During my chemo respite last week, Colorado Girl came for a few days and we spent time photographing family heirlooms and recording the history of each. I'm grateful that she cares about her family heritage. Her guest room has a display of things she values--grandmothers' teacups and milk glass, grandfather's leather wallet, parents' wedding gifts, etc.--and she has published a guidebook to identify and establish the history of those things that remind her and her children of who they are and where they came from. It was great to have her here. We celebrated all week.

After chemo #11 on May 26 and #12 on June 2, I'll have another scan of some sort to assess where we are, or more specifically, to see where the cancer is, or isn't. Except for the swelling and the topsy-turvy sleep patterns, I'm feeling okay. Lesions are nearly all gone from my left breast, the tumor is much smaller, and the affected glands have softened considerably.

Big event of the week: I was able to go to the book signing at the LDStorymakers conference at the Utah Valley Convention Center downtown, where my books were available at the temporary bookstore. Writers are book junkies, and while sales are nice, the emphasis at that kind of event is on schmoozing. I met someone willing to review my books and talked with writer friends I haven't seen in a while. I saved up my energy for a couple of days, but I found that making the effort to be there was more energizing than steroids.