Tuesday, February 23, 2010

You Asked Me What?

As most of you know, my daughter got married in June, 2009. It was a beautiful wedding. She and Mike bought a house and moved in right after they were married and immediately began settling in to their new home and life together.

Not long after the wedding the questions started. To Lauren, “so, are you and Mike planning to have a family”? To me, “so, is Lauren trying to get pregnant? I mean she does want children, doesn’t she”?

Mike told us the story of how he was outside working in the yard one day shortly after they moved in and a neighbor, who he hadn’t yet met, came over and the first words out of her mouth were, “how much did you pay for your house”? Not even with a caveat or mild opening like – would you mind if I ask….

I’ve been arbitrarily polling people to find out about other inappropriate questions that they have been asked and here are a few of the answers I received:
  • From a single friend: Are you dating anyone yet? Why not? Don’t you want to get married?
  • From a childless married friend: How come you never had children?
  • From a recent widow: I guess you’re going to sell the house now that your husband is dead (this was immediately after his death).
  • From a woman who gained a few pounds: Her co-workers asked if she was pregnant?
  • Are the baby’s parents going to get married?
I don’t think that there is one reader of this blog who hasn’t known someone who had difficulty conceiving a child. Doug and I couldn’t have children, and it was such a traumatic thing for him that he insisted when someone asked (and they did), that we say we decided one child was enough. I had a neighbor who tried for years to get pregnant – spent a fortune on invitro – had several miscarriages and finally adopted in her late 30’s. She did get pregnant in her early 40’s, but went through pure hell for a long time.

We all have single friends and we know how difficult it is to find the right person, and why would we assume that someone who is single is unhappy? Today it is not uncommon for people to live together and not get married and for single women to have children. It’s nobody’s business why people make these choices, yet often we feel the need to question their motives.

Are people really coming from a place of pure innocence when they ask these types of questions? Is it idle curiosity; is there bit of a snicker behind it, or are these people just that clueless? A person can’t help but be put on the defensive when questions that confront immediate, hard reality are asked. My reaction to someone who wants to know what I paid for my house is to get my back up and say none of your damn business, even though they can look it up in the tax records (which actually could be a good response: “If you are so interested – go look it up!”).

Thierry says this is a purely American phenomenon; Europeans would never ask such personal questions. Perhaps he is right. I often think that we are losing our manners (what are they?), and people have become less thoughtful of others. Perhaps instead of reacting defensively or negatively to an inappropriate question, we should just address the issue head on and express our discomfort or anger – at least it would get the person thinking before they ask another.

As you can tell, this is a subject that gets me riled – I’m a defensive mother hen. But I don’t let things like this spoil my day – and a rainy one it is today. The good side of the rain is that it will clear out some of the snow that is still piled high in the streets. So, I’m curling up on the sofa, with the Olympics on the TV, my book in hand, my man in his chair, and thinking about how good life is.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

A Trip to the Barber with Dad

When my parents were over for dinner on Valentine’s Day I was wigless. Everyone was commenting on how much my hair had grown. Yes, I have a fine covering of fur, sort of like a puppy’s I guess – no more like one of those baby chicks at Easter - light and wispy and mostly gray. Thierry has been telling me for weeks I needed a cut, mainly in the back as it was starting to get a bit out of control. So, I said to dad maybe I should go to the barber. He asked mother if he needed a cut, we decided yes, so on Friday the two of us went to his barber shop.

They happen to have a female barber there, and she was up when it was my turn. This is a pretty traditional shop, by the way. Joe, the owner is a man in his early-mid 70’s and apparently followed in his father’s footsteps. He owns the shop and the building it is in. If any of you have seen my father’s head, you know there is not a lot of hair there, yet Joe takes his time, about 20-30 minutes to give dad a trim around his rim!

Dotty is the woman who cut my hair. She was a bit nervous, I guess looking at this lopsided growth, thick in spots, almost bald in others (definite signs of male-pattern baldness – thicker on the sides, thin on top) was a little unsettling. As it goes, she and her twin sister are both breast cancer survivors. She was very sweet and actually did a pretty good job considering what she had to work with. Hey for $10 what more can one ask for. So now when I wake up in the morning my hair is a little less… messy.

It is pretty odd the way my hair has started to come back – not just on my head but on my whole body. I now shave my legs about once a month AND my eyebrows are starting to sprout. Not as thick nor as long, but light wispy little things. I have to say that I’ve gotten used to drawing them on – but it really helps to have more of a guide.

I have no idea how long this hair will last or how long it will grow, but it is interesting to watch the changes that my body is going through –some good, some not so good – but overall I’m doing great and appreciate everyday for what it brings.

Note:  Pictures are pre-haircut

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

How Long Do You Want to Live?

About a month ago I had dinner with a friend at a fairly posh suburban restaurant to celebrate her birthday. The restaurant had recently opened a more affordable “bistro” which is where we dined. During the course of the meal the clientele shifted from business diners to local couples. I couldn’t help but observe how well dressed and chic they all looked, especially the tall, elegant woman in her haute couture skirt.

Not only did the women look stylish, but the men were also dressed well and perfectly quaffed. One thing I noticed about these couples were how smooth and silky their skin was – I thought this interesting since their ages seemed to run from early-mid 40’s to late-50’s early 60’s.

Later when we were in Miami, we spotted many women with obvious breast augmentations, as well as many men and women who had some facial work. Then the news hit the stands about a young Hollywood wannabe starlet who had a series of surgeries done to perfect what was already a fine looking body.

Then just the other day, I caught a radio interview with Greg Crister, author of “Eternity Soup: Inside the Quest to End Aging.” The current theory is that aging is a disease to be cured and that aging is, unnatural. Hormone therapy is one of the “potential” cures being touted by the anti-aging movement (although this has not been proven to be effective, and is very costly).

He also discussed another theory, that eating fewer calories will result in a longer life. This is based on research conducted with lab mice and studies of rock fish (where some are suspected to be 200 years old). Folks who follow this thinking eat between 30-40% less calories than you would normally consume at a meal. It has been shown that by eating less, you accumulate less plaque in your arteries. Many anti-aging seekers also take statins regularly, which apparently have the same benefits. One result of eating fewer calories is a decreased libido, but those in this group think it is a small price to pay for a longer life.

Hip and knee replacements are common surgeries these days. Recently a man in Spain who was cured of cancer had his trachea replaced by a non-cellular tube that was infused with his own stem cells. The stem cells fused with the replacement part and the individual was able to recover without the use of anti-immune drugs. While the current and most acceptable theory is that longevity is driven by genes, there is a lot of research being directed at curbing the aging process, and much will be done in the future through genomics.

I am one of those that has snickered and looked askance at people who have had facial work done. Quite hypocritical for a person who had a nose job (when I was 28 - desperately needed – even my mother said she had always hoped some day I would have it done!). I’ve always held the belief that we should age gracefully… but then what does that mean? I would give anything to have someone grow me some new genes to eliminate my cancer. And even as I struggle with chemo in an effort to extend my life, I still look in the mirror and see my mother’s jowls looking back at me – and I think maybe…..

I believe in improving one’s quality of life, but what means quality to me may be very different for someone else. One person’s quality may depend on being wrinkle free, while another’s may be being able to walk without pain.

It is very scary to think that 20 years from now we could have a huge population of “older” adults. What would our society be like, having millions of centenarians walking (or being wheeled) around – with faces that look like Joan Rivers? Where would all these people be housed and how would they be taken care of, needless to ask what would it do to our healthcare system?

So, how old is old, and how long do we (you) really want to live, and what does that life look like? I’ll keep focusing on stem cell research and hope it progresses before it’s too late for me. If I make it, maybe I’ll consider the facelift, lipo-suction, thigh lift and tummy tuck -and when I do die, I’ll make sure the casket is open and I am lying in it – naked.

In the meantime, I’ll try to continue to live my life gracefully, making sure each day is a good one, because eventually, we’ll all end up in the same place.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Test Results

The news was good – I guess pretty darn good. The scans showed that the tumors are, in fact, responding to treatment. Many of the liver tumors can no longer be seen on the scans, and the two larger, scarier ones have continued to shrink. The larger of the liver tumors has been reduced by a little more than half. There are still small (3 and 5 mm) tumors in the chest area, but the bone lesions have disappeared, and there is no new metastasis.

So, the plan is that I continue on the same treatment plan – at least for the next three months. At that time, I’ll have another set of scans and depending on the outcome, the treatment may change.

I know this is all great, and I should be jumping for joy. But the fact is, this is all extending my life a little, and I will be living with cancer for as long as I live. The time bomb continues to tick. This reality hits me when I see the results, (when I really want them ALL to be gone) and when one of the doctor says, you know this is the best we can hope for. I can’t help but get slightly nauseous when I read these reports and scan the internet for explanations.

I actually wrote this several days ago thinking I would be in a better place to write and post about my tests and my state of health. However, when rereading the reports to relay accurate information, it all affected me again. Overall, I’m doing great. My doctor says all my vital organs are functioning perfectly. I generally feel good, with the exception of the neuropathy which gets worse in both my feet and hands, and my nails (hands and feet) are starting to deteriorate.

I’ll continue to try and focus on meditating, healing and killing cancer cells, and pray for another five years and a breakthrough in treating triple negative breast cancer… and living a full life by trying not to waste any day – making each one the best day of my life.

Friday, February 5, 2010

I Want to Be in Miami!

Well we’re back, several days now, from sunny, party cloudy, rainy, but warm South Miami Beach (SoBe), awaiting the second major snow storm of the season. They are predicting up to 14 inches in Philadelphia.

We had a nice time away. Our room at the Sagamore Hotel was pretty good – a suite with a kitchen area that included a refrigerator, microwave and a toaster. No flatware or plates, so we picked up some paper and plastic at the drugstore. We shopped at a little gourmet market we found when we were here three years ago with Curlew. We had our breakfast in our room, and also wine and cheese. The room had a king-sized bed, so it was sometimes hard to find Thierry under the sheets.

The hotel boasted that it was an “art hotel”, and they did have quite a number of interesting photo arrangements, sculptures, paintings, and video images throughout. They also had murals painted in the stairway. As the hotel only had 5 floors, it was easy to take the stairway and enjoy the artwork.

We managed to spend one afternoon at the beach – and learned that the chairs and umbrella (which was necessary as my skins is sensitive to sun due to the chemo) each cost $10 (umbrellas $15) to rent (ugh!). We spent the second day (afternoon) at the pool. We went to North Miami Beach for an arts and crafts show on the third day – which was not very impressive, but we had a good lunch at a Thai restaurant.

We saw a performance by the New World Symphony of Bach’s Orchestral Suite No. 3, which included a discussion of the way performances of this piece have changed over the centuries.

Each day we also walked quite a bit, visiting various sections of South Beach, and tried several restaurants on Lincoln Road for dinner at night. One of the more memorable was a Sushi restaurant (“Sushi-Samba”), where there was a lot of action and a great place to people watch – the sushi was good. The other was a place called Spris, where we had salads and a pizza. The pizza was good, the salad was great and the waiter was a lot of fun.

Our last day started out rainy. By the time the rain stopped it was lunch time. We decided to try a little place about a block and a half from our hotel. We were sitting outside under an awning and had just about finished our lunch when it started to rain again. After a few minutes the rain turned into a deluge – it just poured, and poured. We sat there for about two hours observing traffic and those that were brave enough to walk. The streets quickly became flooded.

When the rain seemed to calm a bit, we made a break for it. Unfortunately, the cross streets were so backed up with water, we had to wade through it with the water coming up to mid-calf. Thierry thought it was lots of fun. I was near tears as I was wearing one of the two pairs of decent walking shoes that I own (suede Merrils). When we got back to the hotel, Thierry stuffed them full of newspaper to help them dry out. I kept telling myself I needed to find humor in this (as my sister Jean would say), but the best I could come up with was that I was sure I would laugh about this in a day or two (it only took me until dinner time).

On our last night, we had dinner at a restaurant called Sardinia, which is away from the main drag and is actually very close to where we anchored several years ago. The food here is really good and not too expensive, and of all the places we have eaten in SoBe, they have the best bread. Most of the restaurants in So Be are expensive for really mediocre food. If you want to go to a good restaurant expect to pay $30-50 for an entrée. You can usually find a reasonably priced glass of wine, but the cocktails are in the $12.00 range and up.

I think if we go again we’ll look into renting a place for a month. We would probably spend the same as what we paid for 5 nights. But I like the area, there are things to do, good beaches and much to observe. It was a good getaway.