Monthly Archives: November 2010

Another Thanksgiving and one year older as well

Our Colorado family (missed you Owsleys though!) arrived about 9 pm Wednesday. John brought his signature chile and we tucked into a late dinner of that as well as cornbread and margaritas.

Thursday morning David placed a lovingly brined heritage turkey in the oven, and prep work began for all the sides. We paused for some locally produced cranberry salsa and chips around noon, and at 4pm we were joined by our neighbor Jim. Feast time! Turkey, madeira ham, mashed potatoes, David’s famous gravy, stuffing, green beans and ginger, cranberry relish, biscuits with local jam (tomatoes and preserved lemons–sunshine in a jar!), mashed carrots and turnips. We toasted each other, the chef, and all those who couldn’t be present. It was glorious.

A brief pause, followed by pecan and pumpkin pie, also baked locally. Amazing…

I awakened Friday morning a whole year older. We started the day with breakfast at Cochineal. Grits, Migas, french toast, fresh squeezed orange juice and coffee strong enough to stand a spoon in. And yes, that is Luke Wilson at the table behind Laura and August (photos by Jemesii):

After breakfast we lingered in the Marfa Book Company, where I happily selected two birthday books; Frida Kahlo Her Photos and  The Importance Of Being Iceland. A little more walking/riding around town, a quick errand to return the basket the pie had been delivered in, and then lunch at The Pizza Foundation.

It was a lot chillier than it had been the previous day, and we huddled around the little gas fireplace. Amanda had brought along her wee chihuahua, Max. He was a source of fascination for those of us accustomed only to bigger canines (miss you, Buddy), and possibly one of the best little dogs in the world.

Soon it was time to eat again, and hot turkey sandwiches and margaritas were on the menu.

After dinner everyone but Jem and David bundled up for a ride out to the viewing platform for the Marfa Mystery Lights. They did not disappoint, and we were treated to a celestial show as well, under an incredibly clear night sky. The milky way was a clear as spilled milk, the constellations appeared in three dimensions (as they really are!) and there were tons of shooting stars.

Early the next morning John and Amanda (and Max) came and scooped up August and Laura for the long drive back to Colorado. Five minutes after departing, they returned for some forgotten pillows. One more hug for Aug, and they were on the road for real. Until next year.

Getting ready for the turkey

The house is beginning to fill with good smells, as David prepares a madeira ham (to go with the turkey–a Duff family tradition). By this evening, we’ll also be joined by the Colorado contingent of the family.

My post today is going to be a bit of a mash-up of links. One of the things on my mind as of late has been the FDA proposed warnings for cigarette packages. I find the whole thing a bit ridiculous. It is not that I feel there shouldn’t be a warning on tobacco products; it is just that I don’t understand why cigarettes are still legal. I mean, we all know they are unhealthy for everyone except for the shareholders of Phillip Morris et al, so why, why, why? Isn’t a warning just as effective as spitting on a fire?

Well, of course it is complicated. And a big part of the problem is all of the tax revenues generated by smoking. Guess where that money is going? To the same government that is proposing the warnings on the packages. It’s all more than a bit disingenuous.

November is lung cancer awareness month, something few people are aware of. Following October, dressed in pink for Breast Cancer Awareness, ‘our’ month feels a bit like the ugly stepsister. And yet, there are those who are still working tirelessly to get the word out. I wasn’t able to attend this year, but representatives of Lung Cancer Alliance hosted more than 65 Shine A Light on Lung Cancer vigils in 29 states on November 4th. In addition, LCA has released its annual report card on Lung Cancer. And my sister Laura is gearing up for another Team Lung Love marathon in Austin.

Another bit of good news; in a new report from the National Lung Screening Trial, CT scans have finally been recognized as a lifesaving screening tool for those at high risk for lung cancer. The caveat, of course, is that those of us who never smoked are not in the group recommended for screening. Hence, we must remain vigilant as our own health care advocates (something many of us learned too late).

With everything going on in each of our lives, it is easy to become complacent. However, complacency equals complicity. For a tip on something simple each of us can do, check out this article in The Huffington Post.

And, have a very Happy Thanksgiving.

Me in Marfa

So, we landed in Marfa late Friday evening. I spent the next day on bike and foot; just tooling around. Had some mighty fine margaritas in the evening. Then, awakened Sunday morning feeling like poo. Just another sinus infection…
Fairly adept at anticipating the worst, I had packed some levaquin, and after two days I’m feeling better. However, just as the with the previous course of levaquin, my eyes and cheeks are puffing up. I’m hoping it is just a curious interaction with the crizotinib and not a drug sensitivity, because that would be a drag.

I’ve had enough sinus infections through the years that several antibiotics are no longer effective and for the gram negative variety that I had last time, there aren’t a lot of options. So…

Anyway, small potatoes, really. Speaking of, I still haven’t heard anything conclusive regarding the biopsy. Not simple science, this.

But, in the meantime, I am in Marfa, Although it gets cold at night, the sun is a warm and welcome presence during the day. Soon we’ll be joined by my brother John and his girlfriend Amanda as well as our son August and his girlfriend, Laura. On Thursday, we’ll sit down for some of the best turkey ever on my favorite holiday.

In the meantime, a few photos:

Buddy’s bad day

We are coming up fast on the thanksgiving holiday; in two days Jemesii (who turned 26 yesterday!), Peter and I will be joining David in Marfa. I’ve got a list a mile long of things to be accomplished in the next 48 hours and I will be satisfied if I check off 80% of them.

On Monday I was jotting down appointments in my datebook and eating lunch. I called the vet to schedule some overdue booster shots for Buddy. There was soothing viola de gamba music in the background punctuated by bursts from an electric hammer in the next room where good friend/hired handyman Dave (not my husband–one of the many Daves in my life) was building a bookcase. Buddy was lying next to me on the floor when suddenly he tried to stand and his hind legs gave out.

Buddy has hip dysplasia, so I assumed that was the issue as I got down on the floor to try to help him. He was really distressed though, and despite my support, unable to stand. At this point he began to really panic and then collapsed. His eyes fluttered and rolled back in his head and I realized he was having some sort of seizure. I yelled for Dave, who came and held Buddy’s head while I  hugged and tried to comfort him. His heart was going a million miles an hour and his legs were flailing. He began to froth at the mouth and his bowels let go as did his bladder. He was so scared; as was I.

The seizure lasted almost five minutes and then he struggled to his feet and sort of lurched out the door.

After cleaning up both Buddy and the floor, I called the vet back, and what was to be an appointment for shots now became a work-up. By my description it was determined that, whatever the cause, Buddy had suffered a severe grand mal seizure. I began to wonder whether I’d be getting on a plane on Friday morning or not. We left the office with a prescription for phenobarbital.

I returned to the vet with Buddy for the missed shots on Tuesday and learned that the blood work was all normal. Most likely, Buddy is epileptic. I called the kennel where he boards and explained my reticence to travel now and asked if they were comfortable with his new medical status. Evidently his situation is not so very uncommon and they would have no trouble giving him his medication and felt he’d be safe.

So, shaken, but somewhat reassured, I decided our plans would still be a go.

It is still hard to forget the image of Buddy struggling. Although I am quite matter of fact about death itself, I’m still not too keen on suffering. Watching another being in the throes of pain or fear is deeply unsettling. It also feels extremely intimate and personal,  and there is a part of me that wishes more than anything to turn away.  That said, I have nothing but admiration for those who are able to come forward and offer comfort to those requiring it.

Survival of self is instinct. Helping others is something more. Here’s to all you caregivers who have the courage to get up and do it day after day.

Taking to the air

Life has continued to be crazy busy. In addition to the usual chaos, a friend is working on some much needed renovations around the house. Not only are we in disarray, I have been occupied painting walls and such myself.

Today we took a break from all that though. It is veteran’s day,  and there was no school. We were up early anyway, as Peter got braces put on today. At the conclusion of his appointment, we drove to the local airport to meet one of our neighbors who is employed as a commercial pilot. He flies for fun as well, and owns a lake amphibian in which he had offered to take us for a spin.

It couldn’t have been a prettier day. Peter was in the copilot’s seat and was given a quick introduction to the control panel as well as the pre-flight checklist. We flew over the lake and circled our own neighborhood twice and also did two touch and go’s on the surface of the water.

Peter had a smile a mile wide as we landed. Perhaps his interest in all things wheeled will soon include wings.

Yesterday and this morning

Just another crazy day yesterday. David is on an extended business trip this month, so I’m holding down the fort on my own. As I had to leave for Boston and my appointment at the crack of dawn, Peter spent the night at a classmate’s house. That meant Buddy and a cup of coffee were my only early morning worries.

The waiting room in oncology was a bit of a grim place yesterday. Lots of wheelchairs and a stretcher or two; hale and hearty was the exception. As I waited to check in a woman moved out of my way and explained that she was not in the line. “Oh, you’re lucky, I quipped”, and she agreed, that yes, coming here made her count her blessings.

At my meeting with Alice (Dr. Shaw), she reiterated that enough tissue had been retrieved for several studies. First and foremost, is seeing whether or not I have a new mutation. All of the information gathered from analyzing the biopsy will also be collected for a clinical trial that I signed consent forms for a month ago. It is basically a data bank, and is actually my fourth clinical trial to date. Only one of those, PF-02341066 or crizotinb, involved my active participation (and, ultimately, personal benefit). Two earlier trials required only some additional blood draws. I point this out simply to accentuate that there are actually lots of ways in which to contribute to clinical trials; some of them risk and hassle free.

After saying goodbye to Alice, I went up a floor to infusion. I was early and they were way over-booked, so I grabbed some lunch and then returned. I didn’t have to wait very long, and to my great pleasure, I was given a bed and a short acupressure and acupuncture session by Irene.

It was a few minutes before two by the time I had collected my paper bag of meds, and I needed to be at Peter’s bus stop in New Hampshire by 4:05. I would need the gods of traffic to watch over me.

Well, they did, and I even had ample time to pull in at the rest stop cum state liquor store on the border for two bottles of zinfandel.

Peter called me from school just before I passed the exit to Sant Bani, and so I made a detour and picked him up there instead. This meant we had ten extra minutes in which to zip home and walk the dog, before we had to drive to Moultonborough for Pete’s guitar lesson at 4:30.  As soon as the lesson concluded, I headed to the polls (election day!) and then after (had to be) dinner out, we pulled into our driveway only a little past Buddy’s dinner hour.

Geez, what a day.

This morning should have been the start of a less hectic day, but half way down the hill we realized that Peter’s lunch was not in the car. Back for that and we rushed to the bus stop, only to discover that the bus had just gone by. Sigh. Buddy, who was along for the ride, was thrilled, because what should have been a twenty minute ride now ballooned to an hour and twenty minutes. I was having serious flashbacks to my days as a single mother some twenty plus years ago…

But home was some grotty apartment then, not this house at the top of a hill. And I definitely didn’t own a camera like the one I have now which I quickly grabbed before rushing out to capture some leaves before the hard frost melted away…