Friday, August 16, 2013

One Year Anniversary

One year ago today I woke up from a tonsillectomy to hear my ENT doc say, "I am sorry to tell you this but you have cancer."

Looking outside Penn Medicine window September '12
Those of you who have received a cancer diagnose may have experienced the unreality of those first few days with the thought galloping around in your head "I HAVE CANCER" accompanied by your stomach doing a flip-flop every time you try to re-digest the thought.

It's amazing what you can get used to with the passing of time. I still get flip-flops in my stomach on occasion but I'm getting used to the idea that yes, my days are numbered ~ like every one of us. It's just that I've had a longer look behind the curtain than you. It certainly gives flavor and relish to mundane tasks. Mowing the lawn (about a 3-4 hour job) used to peeve me and make me sigh with resignation. I can't say I leap upon the mower seat with zest now, but I appreciate the beauty around me more & enjoy looking at my finished work. This summer, with all the rain, I've certainly had a lot of enjoyment :)

Looking outside the same window August '13
In the past two months I've had another MRI, blood tests and a few doctor appointments. All is well. I will continue this gig for years as this cancer has an 85% chance of coming back in five years if it is going to reappear. (Flip-flop!)

A friend surprised a laugh out of me when he wrote "... At least 50% of (doctors) graduated in the bottom half of their class, and, when you get down to it, academic stardom does not translate into professional competence, so that makes all of them suspect. ..."
I must say, my doctors at Penn inspire my confidence & hope. What ever comes down my path, I will never worry that I made a wrong decision choosing them.

I think I am more easy-going now and ~ this may seem odd ~ in a way, happier. I don't sweat the small stuff so much. I'll catch myself worrying about something and then ask myself, "So what? What's the worst that can happen?" Cancer puts things in perspective.

I always opt for dessert these days. I buy a book if I want it. And, losing 40 pounds has made it more fun to shop for clothes :)

I'm baking again and have been put on a strict "One Pie Per Week" limit by my son who has discovered he likes my pies very much. I've made a few batches of jam, planted lots of flowers and am redoing a bathroom. 

Our beloved Fluffy >"<

On a sad note, I had to put our amazing & wonderful Fluffy to sleep. This kitty was my Constant Companion as I went through operations, radiation & healing. She was always at my side. She was 15 years old and I hope I see her again. She was one of a handful of animals I have known in my life who were truly Special Souls.

Phil & me @ Rolling Stones concert
Health Stuff for others who may be going through this: No sleeping through the night due to a combo of waking up with dry mouth, quaffing water, then waking up to pee several times a night. I've been using a number of mouth-moistening gels & lozenges to find the right combination to allow me to sleep. ENJOY your restful, unbroken sleeps, people! Thank goodness for interesting podcasts, Solitaire & Facebook. 
• My scar bothers me just a little. It feels stiff & stretched & sometimes itchy. Been putting Vitamin E oil on it. I give myself lymph massages because I can feel lymph fluids collecting in the area above the scar as it tries to find a new route. 
• I've been off Gabapentin (Neurontin) for a few months now and, glory be! My memory is slowly improving, if I remember correctly.  :)
• I have normal energy levels and there's no limit on what I can do. This was tested on recent college tours where we walked miles of sidewalks looking at schools. Just give me a water bottle & a place to pee and I'm good to go!
• My left ear is back to full-strength hearing levels. Shadow (our dog) gives it regular workouts.
Look Ma! No cavities!
• Teeth are holding up well ~ radiation is tough on teeth because saliva glands are destroyed. I'm in good hands with the Phoenixville Family Dentistry team of Anns & a Linda.

Since being diagnosed with Tonsil Cancer (Tonsil Cancer still sounds like a fake cancer to me), I have heard of or met three other people who have it. One has had a neck dissection & TORS at Penn as I did, then went to Mexico for a different form of chemo treatment. He did well and I have not heard any updates so I'm taking that as good news. 

My son Phil has his first Gardasil shot, which prevents certain HPV viruses, found to be the new leading cause of throat cancer.

I'll leave you with a beautiful pie shot. Thanks for coming along on this journey with me. Ya all Rock.
Craig's favorite pie. I love you, Craig!

Friday, May 10, 2013

cutting lawns & coupons

Found in an antique store...
Just wanted to chime in with a lovely boring update. The best kind :)

On the Dental Front ~
The Silly Sappy Smiles Family
At my first cleaning after all the hubbub in my mouth, Linda, my Hygienist, and I were both ready to jump as she carefully poked around in there. I did jump at one point which made her jump. After we got that out of the way, we both settled down and got 'er done. Everything looks pretty good & my treatment has changed from "Upgrading" to "Maintaining".
I've started using "Biotene Gel" at night ~ a dab on the tongue seems to help with the dry mouth, so I don't wake up as much for a drink. Since I drink so much water during the day though, I wake up to pee three to five aggravating times a night. I always look out the window on my pee trips, hoping to see a shooting star, a fox or deer wandering through the yard, a skunk even ~ nothing yet! The odds are in my favor though :~)

Cutting Lawns & Coupons ~ At first I was secretly worried that riding on the lawn mower would "jounce my cancer back". I know this makes no sense, nor is it a medical term or concern, but it was still in the back of my head. What cured me was seeing how "other people" mowed our lawn. Terrible swaths of cut brown grass clippings, jagged lines and swoopy-looking margins. (Was it cut this way on purpose? hummm.) I'm too Type-A to put up with that. Cancer jouncing was a risk I was willing to take. Oh the satisfaction of a well-executed cut!

Also, I find myself cutting coupons again. This means I am more concerned with saving .50 on a box of Baggies® than I am about being around to use 'em all.

Phil's Prom ~ 

Yup, there we are with smiles plastered on our faces. (On our perfectly mowed lawn I might add.) Phil sure rocked his tux and his date was a lovely young lady indeed. He goes to another prom in mid-May, so his bum knee is not holding him back on the prom front. Phil has one more year of high school to go. He works hard at his studies and is such a funny & nice person. We couldn't be more proud.

Latest Scan Results ~ 

Thank you for all your thoughts & prayers, peeps!
So far, so good! I go to see a cardiologist in a few weeks. I had a blood test to check for thyroid functions & other stuff & will probably get those results in a few days. I go to see Drs. O'Malley & Ahn in July. As for how I feel, my tongue is still wonky. Pins & needles and reduced taste bud function. I am petering out my Gabapentin dosage and will try to stop entirely in the next few days. Hopefully, my brain cells will regroup and I'll be able to remember stuff better. "Scatterbrain" definitely applies to me now! Energy levels are getting close to my normal laziness. Sometimes I wake up grumpy & sometimes I let him sleep.

Thankfulness Levels ~

Still high! Surely I would have liked to skip along, blissfully unaware of my mortality for at least another decade or so, but being forced to think about the possibilities has also been a blessing. I realize that my family is amazing and able to do all kinds of things without me offering opinions & advice. I have been forced to think about the what-if's and different choices I have. I have even been forced to clean out a few drawers! It's all good.

Monday, April 8, 2013

As The Dust Settles...

Shadow, Friend of Bluebirds.

I just made three doctor appointments ~ ones that everyone makes: a dental cleaning, a ordinary old physical & a cardiologist appointment. Okay, maybe not every one makes a cardiologist appointment. I was advised to make one so my carotid artery (the one that nine out of ten vampires prefer) can be monitored for possible blood clots since it was radiated along with the rest of my throat. The tumor was very close to that artery.

Spent a satisfying weekend cleaning out some of the gardens and have the beginnings of the seasons "garden patina" on my fingers & nails to prove it. I put up a bluebird box yesterday and have two pair of bluebirds feuding over who gets it. Todays mission; buy more BB houses.

Here's the link that will take you to the interview I had with Erica Voll, who writes for the University of Penn website: Penn Medicine Focus on Cancer. I sure hope that it, along with this blog, can offer additional information from the patient's viewpoint for anyone who may be undergoing these procedures.

I had a Band-O-Bald running around the bottom of my scalp.
Info for others who may be going through this...
My new hair is coming in nicely ~ no grey! This picture is 14 weeks out from last radiation.

My tongue still has the "pins & needles" sensation, but it is slooooowly diminishing. I haven't spurted spontaneous tears in a while, except for a totally unrelated event; when the writers of Downton Abbey killed off Matthew. 

I massage my lymphatic fluid vessels every day and try to wear the compression bandage as long as I can bear it. I can see (what I think) is a little bit of lymphedema now and then and it keeps me on the stick. Because I google stuff. And the images for "Lymphedema of the Neck" are NOT attractive.

Here is how my neck is looking these days.
Mouth opening abilities will be tested with the dental cleaning I have scheduled next week. I can open it about two fingers wide. This requires the squishing down of anything bigger than, say, a sandwich. That's okay though. When I was first set free after radiation, I was told to practice opening my mouth until it was at the point of pain, and to exercise my neck by doing a series of exercises. At my last appointment, I was told NOT to do this anymore and not to push my mouth opening any further either, as they are changing the thinking on that. It makes me wonder if we will ever stop learning about our bodies and the ailments they get. 

I recently saw an article published by Reuters about a company called Navidea Biopharmaceuticals Inc. They've come up with a cancer diagnostic agent that "... was effective in identifying the first lymph node reached by the disease in patients with head and neck cancer.  The diagnostic agent, Lymphoseek, correctly identified cancer in 38 of the 39 patients determined to have cancer in their lymph nodes, the company said. ... The company said detection of cancer-affected nodes by "Lymphoseek" led the the removal of only about four lymph nodes per patient on an average, while surgery ~ considered the gold standard to detect the spread of cancer ~ led to the removal of about 38 lymph nodes per patient. ..." I think that's pretty exciting! I sure hope it doesn't cause Hot Dog Fingers though.

My constant companion is a water bottle. 

My scar doesn't bother me one bit, aesthetically. Actually, I think it's dashing and romantic. I even have a vampire bite mark ~ two whitish scars ~ where my two drains were. Several times a day I will put moisturizer on the scar area. I'm partial to good old Cetaphil. The scar still "pulls" a little and pains me just a tad when the lymph fluids make it puffy above the cut. In the photo of my hair coming in, you can see where the neck around my scar is a tad puffy today. 

Couldn't resist buying these lovelies...
I bought a big, floppy straw hat to wear outside, since I'm to have no sun on my neck for this first year. Plus, I couldn't resist buying some pretty flowers when I went to get the bird boxes.

Speaking of flowers, I'm thinking of myself as more of a "Perennial" than an "Annual" these days :)

Saturday, March 30, 2013

A day of reflecting.

Vilma Griffiths, BSN, RN, OCN
On my visit Thursday, I tried to get on the scale fully loaded: water bottle & heavy purse. The friendly but gimlet-eyed nurse spied what I was up to ~ foiled! ~ and asked me to put them aside before getting on the scale. Earlier in the week, I contemplated wearing my cowboy boots and filling up the extra room around my legs with spare change & claiming any jingling sound was from my spurs. I still managed to keep my jacket on and I thought heavy thoughts as I was weighed. Two pounds up from last weigh-in & for the first time in months there was no concern voiced over my weight.

Vilma, the nurse who has been with me for my decent & travels through Radiation Valley and the climb back out, chatted with me for a bit about function levels of taste, swallowing, pain, etc... She is always ready with a warm hug and a genuine interest in my well-being. God bless her!


I waited in Examining Room 8, anticipating a fuller report of good news on my cancer, after getting the brief email that the PET scan looked good. I thought about all the other people sitting in the other rooms up and down the hallway, waiting to hear... what? What kind of days do my medical people have, breaking bad news in one room and good news in the next? How do they insulate their psyches?

Right Now, In The Moment, I feel optimistic and will try to live currently rather than Future-ly. I am doing all I have been instructed to do to keep good health. Am I living now as if this could be my last month/year/decade? No. I feel like I'm still waiting for other events to play out. I'm waiting for my husband to not have to work seven days a week. I'm waiting for my son to be settled and happy in his college/job/marriage. There's stuff I would like to do; go out West & dig for fossils and pan for gold; walk on a warm beach & look for shells. The reality is: Our son Phil will be just fine. He is a good, smart, mature young man. Craig will probably be working seven days a week for quite a while yet, as Phil has a bit of schooling to go and Craig is a Good Provider. I need to find a satisfying pursuit so I can continue to live in the Present and stop doing the what-ifs about the Future, whether they be happy or sad. I'm on the brink of something.

I think Craig & I were in this same room when we met Dr. Ahn for the first time after my operations and before the radiation. Dr. Ahn told us of all the side effects of radiation, and they were legion. This radiation treatment, provided by the nation's top Head & Neck specialists, would hopefully eradicate any cancer cells that eluded TORS. When I thought of the Now and the Future (survival!), the future side effects of radiation seemed distant and oh so minor after a cancer diagnose. "After Treatment" seemed so very far off as we all sat in Examination Room 8 on November 12, 2012. I remember Dr. Ahn having a moment's trouble figuring out the number of days for something and I piped up, "Wait ~ an Asian who can't do math?" For an uneasy second, my heart stopped, as he was silent. "Crap!", I thought in a panic, "I've offended my doctor on our first meeting!" "Hey, that's prejudiced!", says Dr. Ahn in an upbeat tone, and everything was okay.

Over four months later, I sit in the very same big beige chair as Dr. Ahn numbed my nose for a look down the pipes. He and I both watched the video screen which showed the progress of the teeny video camera up my nose & down my throat to the area where the tumor had been. There was a smooth, flat, yellowish scar area there. Dr. Ahn says they see this type of presentation sometimes & will keep an eye on it. He told me of some things to possibly expect in the future:
• 40% patients develop a thyroid issue, because the thyroid is radiated during treatment. My blood will be tested for thyroid function twice a year. 
• There is a possibility of a blood clot forming from my carotid artery also getting radiated. This clot could break off and possibly cause a stroke. I will see a Cardiologist who will monitor me.
Both of these possibilities are easily treated with... a pill. It looks like a freakin' pill case may be in my future after all. It's gonna be the prettiest damn pill case I can find!


After my appointment, I felt peace. I decided to finally check out the Penn Museum. I felt insignificant as I viewed various scraps and shards which were all that were left of entire civilizations which rose into being & fell into obscurity. What does my one little puff of life matter? Millions have risen & fallen before me and perhaps millions more after me. I wandered past statues of great kings, whose very names were lost in the obscurity of time. I thought of the Bible verse: "For all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass wither, and the flower thereof falls away: but the word of the Lord endures forever." 

I wandered into the China Gallery, which is housed in the tall round tower that I used to look down at from various hospital windows and wonder about. This Gallery was my favorite room. It housed sophisticated sculptures and delightful novelties.
When I left & walked up the sidewalk between the hospital and the museum, I felt that a chapter in my journey was at a close. I had vowed that I would get to this museum as I would look down on the tall round brick tower from my different hospital rooms and wondered what was inside.
Main hospital at HUP where I would look out windows
& speculate on the contents of the "Round" tower.
That curious round tower!

Something kind of bazaar...

Some minutes after getting the news that my PET Scan was clear, I happened to look down at my left palm and saw a little cut that I didn't remember getting. It started at the bottom of what I think is my palm's Life Line and extended for 3/4's of an inch further. I'm taking it to mean that my life had just been extended :)

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Giant Sighhhh :)

Dr. Ahn
Don't you call him Dr. Off (his joke, not mine)
Dr. Ahn.... Ever a man of few words & even shorter emails:

Ms. Bolinger,
 PET scan looks fine. I will see you shortly.


Thanks all for your prayers, peeps.

I go to see him this Thursday for a follow-up.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Nuclear Farts

I had to add Marvin the Martian to this sign...

Insert Body Here
On Friday I went in for my PET Scan. I had one back in August when I was first diagnosed with cancer so I knew the drill. Things were done a little differently at Penn than they were at our local hospital, who used a small lead-encased vial containing the radioactive material which was carefully extracted and fed into my IV. At Penn, a dishwasher-sized machine held the material & delivered my dose without the nurses having to fiddle with scary containers. I reclined in my honkin' big recliner in a curtained off area with dimmed lights and "relaxed" for about an hour while the marker fluid flowed into all my nooks & crannies. Before the scan, I was asked to use the potty, and once again wondered where all the radioactive pee went. And what about farts? If I farted, would it be a Nuclear Fart, destroying all humanity within scent radius? Fortunately, being the Lady that I am, humanity has been saved.
Michelle, who worked the PET Scan.

Me, relaxin'. That is the machine that delivered my dose of, er, marker fluid.
A few days before my scan, I was convinced I had the worst & most stubborn case of painful Thrush ever. I phoned Erin McMenamin, my Oncology CRNP Extraordinaire, and she asked me to stop in after my scan & she would take a look, bless her heart. I brought some goodies with me, in appreciation of seeing me without an appointment. (Make your own cute Spring-Cone.) Erin sat me down & clicked on the Flashlite app on her iPhone (heh-heh!), and took a look.

Little cones filled with Happiness :)

"No, you do not have Thrush." She asked if my tongue felt like pins & needles.
"YES! Exactly!" says I. Erin explained that this is because my nerve endings are healing so this is a Good Thing.

Hurrah! I am so relieved to hear that this is all part of the healing process.

And here is a picture of Erin, for whom I am mightily grateful for:

Erin McMenamin, MSN, CRNP and
TCP (Totally Cool Person)
It is Sunday night as I write this. I find that I am only a little nervous about my scan results. I have not cleaned out any drawers all weekend. (Although I did not send out invites for Easter at our house ~~ just in case.)

Things I am noticing... 
(feel free to skip, I write this mainly for others in my Throat Boat)
• My hair is growing back! I backed up to Craig, flipped a handful of hair up and commanded, "Look!" Craig asks, "What am I looking at?" I turned around and smacked him in the arm. "My HAIR is growing back!" I explained.

• Sometimes I sleep great & sometimes I am awake until Dawn spreads her rosy fingers, yada, yada, yada. I fill the space between the small hours by listening to podcasts. A recent one I've stumbled on after googling: "Stories", is one called "Risk". One story a week is produced and I have listened from 2010 all the way up to the late 2012's. Sleep better return before the stories run out! Other favorites are This American Life and Selected Shorts.

• I do the Lymphatic message on myself daily and try to wear my attractive compression bandage as I go about my day here at home, whipping it off & behind my back when any of the boys come home. My left ear gets blocked up, then clears. I'm guessing this is because of my lymph fluids saying, "Where the heck are we supposed to be going again?". Also, a tooth-achy kind of feeling in my jaw that comes and goes.

• And my poor tongue! It's sore and it's tiresome to eat and talk. I didn't realize just how much I thoroughly enjoyed those two activities. Craig's probably praying this continues, heh-heh! A Silent, Skinny wife.

TMI Alert!
Because my tongue and throat are a bit different than my original stock issued model, eating takes time. My small bites of food tend to form into a big mush ball and I have to keep quietly coughing it back up into my mouth for several go's before I can finally swallow it. If I am by myself, I cough it up with all the gusto, noise and facial contortions of our black lab, Shadow. I drink lots of water with my meals.

My 15 minutes of Fame, courtesy of Cancer

I was contacted by Penn for an interview about my experiences as a patient and to link this blog with their page so others going through this can come visit me. I am thrilled to help anyone I can. When the interview is up on their site, I'll post a link.

So now it's Monday

Waiting for results. Will post when I hear!

Saturday, March 2, 2013

The C-Bomb

Me (L) with my teeny but fierce
PT trainer, Dana. Jeeze, my
hair looks really stupid.

I finished my last physical therapy session at Apex for my left arm, which was weak because muscles had to be cut during my neck dissection. My arm is almost back to normal now & able to carry multiple shopping bags :)

'Ears to you!

I am nearing the end of lymphodema therapy at the Radnor branch of HUP. Stephanie taught me how to gently massage the lymph areas to drain the lymph fluids. I have to wear a compression bandage around my head for several hours daily, like an old-timey toothache cure. It makes me giggle every time I put it on because it reminds me of The Three Stooges and plus, it makes my cheeks puff out. I have not allowed my husband Craig to see this lovely vision, and rip it off whenever I hear him coming. I can dress it up for seasonal occasions by adding assorted animal ears, though. Easter is coming, so I made bunny ears. Too bad I don't have the boobs to go with.

Recently, I stopped at our local market to pick up some items & as I was at the self-check out register, the woman employee who stood at the main register said,

"You look great! I almost didn't know you, you've lost weigh!"

"Yes! It's the Radiation Diet!", I piped up brightly.

The poor woman! Her face fell instantly and she started stammering, "Oh! I'm so sorry!" I apologized for dropping the C-Bomb on her, explaining that I was used to the idea but I keep forgetting how jolting it can be to hear "CANCER" for the first time. I'm sure it conjures up a different & horrible picture for every single soul who hears that word. Who doesn't know of someone who died of cancer?

I felt bad for the awkward spot I put her in and I silently vowed not to do that to people anymore. I'll be hearkening back to my Mom's training of "just graciously say thank you". Let me get it out of my system here. RADIATION DIET! RADIATION DIET! RADIATION DIET!  Whew.

Dinah, making sure I cross my t's and dot my i's.
The only issue I (think I) have now is this damn thrush in my mouth. I just finished up my 3rd round of Fluconazole and it seems to be less and less effective. Eating some foods is like eating shards of glass. I'm finding that once again, I'm less & less interested in food. This is a quandary at our house because my husband & son don't want to eat because they don't want to gain weight, especially Phil, who is couch-bound from ACL surgery last week. I have to eat but don't want to eat. I even bought a box of Frosted Raspberry Pop Tarts ~ my own version of crack ~ and they are still here after three sunrises. I've had a Secret Pop Tart Addiction ever since my Mom refused to buy them, almost half a century ago. When I share this painful addiction, people look at me like I'm nuts. "POP Tarts? Yuck!" they say.
I haven't tried a glass of wine yet, but look forward to it!

I do buy healthy foods ~ honest. I bought green grapes and discovered I could barely open my mouth wide enough to fit a grape in. If you are reading this and are undergoing a similar procedure, please do your mouth exercises to keep the scar tissues from becoming wooden and immobile! I constantly have to remind myself of this.

Life is resuming a more normal pace & I am mighty grateful!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Dear Doctors,

Yesterday I went for an MRI of my neck. It was done with and without dye. Unlike the iodine dye injected for my CAT scans, this dye did not make my va-jj heat up. Darn.

I was given a small bulb-type alarm to squeeze if I was going to panic, and the choice of ear plugs or music headphones. I chose music but the machine noises easily over-shouted my rock & roll. Two plastic forms were put over my neck and head, a comfy blanket put over me and I was loaded in the MRI, torpedo-style. The scans took about 30 minutes total. If you ever have one, be prepared for all sorts of loud whirlings, beeps, chords, etc... There was one noise that sounded like an alarm and it was... alarming. No panicky voices came over the intercom, so I relaxed, confident my head wasn't going to be whirled off.

I had an appointment with Dr. O'Malley a few hours later. Thanks to the integrated computer system, my MRI results were read, a report was generated & sent to my doctor within that time so he had results in hand when I was sitting in his chair. Yet again, HUP continues to amaze me.

Milkshake from the Potbelly
Since I had a few hours to stew before my doctor appointment, I decided, damn it! I was going to treat myself to a milkshake from  Potbelly Sandwiches. It was wonderful; made with hard-dip't ice cream & presented with two wee shortbread cookies threaded on the straw. Very cool presentation and it got me thinking about stealing that cookie idea for the Ice House...

My appointment with Dr. O'Malley was running behind time so naturally I was thinking, "Crap! It's bad news & he's busy figuring out my next surgery." When I was taken to an exam room, it was a different set up than previous ones ~ with lots of chairs for the grieving entourage, I reasoned.

A nurse numbed my nose (say that five times fast) with spray in readiness for the scope. Doc O'Malley came in and made my knees weak by saying the MRI showed the best possible outcome. Yay! He used the scope to look at the surgery site and said all was well. I'm scheduled back in two months when I will have had a PET scan under my belt. Hoping for same type of happy results for that test also.
I feel better in teeny increments every day.

I am still dealing with thrush in my mouth. It's great for the waistline as it makes my tongue tender & sore. Eating is a chore and not a pleasure.

I am in the midst of PT for my left arm/shoulder and have started lymphedema Therapy.

Things are going well and the bites of elephant are tasting better these days :)

Thursday, January 31, 2013

The Tardy Bell

Hello all you peeps! As I've written emails to some people, texted or talked to others, I realized I'd better get on the stick and write a new post ~ WITH pictures of "The Ringin' 'O' The Bell". For cryin' out loud, how could I omit that? Thanks, Miz Munchberry, for pointing out where I was remiss. So, here ~ without further delay, are the Bell pictures and oh what a happy day that was.

Ta-Da! Craig, myself & our son Phillip on Christmas Eve ~ last day of radiation.
And here's my radiation buddies, Theresa & Don:
Don & I were on the same radiation schedule & he rang out on Christmas Eve too!
My actual doctor appointments are slowly peetering out to every few weeks, once a month, etc...
• I have an MRI scheduled for February 19 and a PET scan in March. 
• I will go for twice weekly therapy for my lymph nodes in my neck for a few months, called "Complex Lymphedema Therapy". This will help drain the lymph fluid from my neck, lessen the swelling and aid in the healing. 
• I will go for PT for my shoulder to get back full movement of my left arm. 

Erin McMenamine, my most awesome Oncology NP of the amazing silver hair, is so reassuring to talk with. She listens to my fears, tells me they are normal and only has encouraging words to say. God Bless you, woman!

I keep my medicines in a pretty lidded basket in the kitchen, trying to disguise any taint of illness from Phil. I am happy to report that I am only on one nerve pain medicine. Way down from the oodles of bottles & potions I juggled in days past! I will begin down-stepping the Gabapentin starting next week, as per Erin's orders. Hopefully, my missing brain cells will return and I can stop going through packs of "Post-its". My computer screen is wreathed in Post-Its!

What else? I have taken a few yoga classes until I caught Phil's cold ~ bah! Feeling ready to start yoga-ing again in February. I have scheduled a Hair Appointment. I have gone shopping at the mall. I have prepared actual dinners with a protein, a starch and a vegetable. Of course I have baked:)

Now it's Phil's turn for medical stuff. He came down hard on his left leg during a basketball game & heard a pop sound. Diagnose? Torn ACL, nine months in a brace, lots of PT. My heart bleeds for him.
Dr. Lipton at Brandywine Orthopedics surveys the damage.

Seems I'm not the only one in the fam getting MRI's.
Should I suggest he start a blog?

My radiation mask is still rolling around in the back of the car. I absentmindedly push it aside to load groceries.  I have mixed emotions about it. I was thinking about jamming a cigarette in the mouth section and hanging it up on our sunporch, where Craig smokes. Then I thought that would just annoy him. I know he doesn't want to smoke. I know he wants to quit. He will or he won't. (How Yoda-like:)

But I hope he will. I remember a few years ago when I was still smoking, I would wonder, "Is this the cigarette that is going to be the last straw on the camels back? Is this the one that's going to send my nice, delightful healthy cells over the edge?"

Thanks again for keeping me in mind & for the prayers. Boy, I sure appreciate 'em and I am daily humbled by the care and concern of my friend, family & medical team.

Ya all ROCK!

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Happy New Year!

A Happy New Year to us all!

I realized an update is way overdue!

I am feeling so much better these last two days. I feel like I've
turned a corner ~ yay! Yesterday, I had the energy to put Christmas
away (mostly), and am finally keeping up with the wash. I am starting
to think longingly of yoga class and dreaming of making lovely home-
made dinners again. Cooking & cleaning: a sure sign of returning health!

I go back in to see the docs this Wednesday, then again the end of
this month & in March. A PET scan will be taken a few months out &
will hopefully reveal a healthy neck.

The recovery starting on Christmas Eve was pretty rough. There was a
time when I just cried, bent over the sink with my pills clutched in
my hand. It was so hard to take them with my throat so sore. This was
the "Magical Weight Loss Period". I didn't eat anything for days &
days and didn't care. (Remember, I started out with a healthy
reserve!) I was barely drinking. I slept all the time, with Fluffy, my
couch buddy always with me. What a good cat.

Now, I could care less if I never saw another Bravo show, I've watched
so many!

I got a kick listening to Craig & Phil make a nice dinner for
themselves while I was under. Phil went to the market and bought all
stuff you would be proud of; produce, fresh scallops, etc... They made
a Surf & Turf meal of scallops & steak, complete with two vegetables.
AND CLEANED UP! It was a proud moment for me, I'm telling you. They
did this several times since.

Wednesday: Today, I went for my first of quite a few follow-up visits. As expected, everything is healing along to schedule. I was told that my taste buds will come back in about six months, my throat will take a good 14 months to totally heal (!), no sun on my neck for the first year, etc... All stuff I can live with, and, have no choice in anyway so I'm not sweating it. I was reprimanded for losing weight, but am secretly delighted. I got the green light to do yoga & go to the gym. One of my complaints has been fatigue and it has been shown that the more exercise you get, the better you beat fatigue!

Don & Theresa, I hope you are reading this, as I am wondering how you are. Please email me at and let me know how things are. 

So, I'm on the mend. My eyes tear up when I think of all the
kindnesses extended to me and my family during the last 4-5 months. I
am so blessed to have you all in my life! The thoughtful cards and
gifts, the rides down to Philly ~ I couldn't have done it as well as I
did without all your love, caring and prayers.