Tag Archives: long term survival stage IV lung cancer

For Pete’s sake

The month of August flew by; visits, appointments, camp and ironing. Not necessarily in that order.

Soon after my stay with Melinda and Kihan, our friend Julia and her boyfriend Keith travelled from Boston to join us for a meal which I prepared; in itself a simple joy (feeling well enough to cook!). Pete’s friend Miggles was staying over and Julia shared photos of her recent trip to Finland. The next day Pete and I dropped Miggles off in Concord and also attended a Love Your Neighbor event hosted by our friends at New American Africans.

Love Your Neighbor

Love Your Neighbor

The following week, Peter and I made a day trip to New Bedford for a meal with Jamie; we’ve not seen him since Christmas. Our daughter Jemesii and Jamie have filed for divorce but, realistically, are both happier now. As Jamie’s been part of our family for some years, it is important to me (and Peter) to maintain contact and just check up on him now and again—I’m glad we did.

And then, on August 18th, David dropped Peter off at his third Camp Kesem, a wonderful summer camp for children who have or have had a parent with cancer. Some of you may remember earlier posts from 2012 and 2011—and I wrote a blog about this year’s experience for Everydayhealth.com. There was also a report on Fox News about Camp Kesem MIT, and if you look closely, Peter makes two appearances.

Yet again Peter found the experience of camp transformative and a highlight of his summer. As we have done previous years, the two of us stopped at Flour Bakery & Cafe post pick-up for an early dinner. Over yummy roast beef sandwiches, Peter spoke with enthusiasm but also a certain sense of sadness; every year some of the campers and counselors ‘age out’ and the uncertainty of reunion is never easy.

Post Camp Kesem 2013

Post Camp Kesem 2013

However, hellos and goodbyes are all part of life, and Peter is already looking forward to Camp Kesem next year.

Summer wouldn’t be summer without a visit to Mary and Raleigh’s home in Meredith, and now that I can indulge, I was able to enjoy one of Mary’s special martinis (an olive and a pickled onion). We had a great time; leaving with full bellies, fuller hearts and very sore cheeks (from all the laughing).

David and Peter also took a special boy’s trip to Mattapoisett. Four days of fishing, crabbing and sleeping in the camper with one happy but smelly golden retriever (sick from drinking seawater). So glad I wasn’t there, and yet got to enjoy some fresh crab upon their return.

And then, the frantic days leading up to Peter’s departure. All those button down shirts to iron. An exercise in matching—I asked Peter to put together various ‘outfits’, pants, shirts and ties. I shouldn’t have worried; he’s a natural. David taught him to tie a tie—again, Peter mastered this new skill with ease. As he was going out for crew (intramural), he would need to take a swim test so we went over his strokes. It all came so easily that I teased Peter he was born to this (prep school) life.

In an exercise in sentimentality, the two guys watched Milo and Otis, Peter’s favorite movie ever. Aside:  Milo and Otis is a sweet flick about the close friendship between a pug and a tabby cat. Narrated by Dudley Moore and free of ‘artificial’ special effects, it is delightful and Peter must have watched it fifty times. However, I always felt a nagging sense of unease about some of the perilous situations the actual animals were placed in during filming. Orange tabby cats are rather ubiquitous and I hoped they weren’t considered expendable. Well, Peter, if you’re reading this, stop now. I happened upon this site today and my first fears might well be realized. Just another example of do your research (or, not).

Anyway, the actual day came, and a week ago we dropped Peter off at PEA. It was hectic, heartwarming and occasionally humorous. Example:  The Duffs went to the bookstore intending to get dad (David) some PEA swag, and while there noticed that all the other families were purchasing books. Oh yeah….books! David walked back to the car to fetch Peter’s class list and while Peter and I were sitting on a bench outside the store he turned to me and said something along the lines of, “I have this awful feeling we don’t know what’s going on…” I told him not to worry, we weren’t the only ones and that it would all be figured out.

Two days later I returned to campus for a meeting with a counselor. I’d brought along a rug for Peter’s room and we met up. I must say, the young lad was looking dapper:

Making a pretty face for mom

Making a pretty face for mom

Fun trivia fact:  Peter is in a single room, small and rather like a monk’s cell. Quiet though, and private. And….it’s the same room Mark Zuckerberg lived in his junior (or when he was an ‘upper’, to use the PEA lexicon)  year at Phillips Exeter Academy (he moved across the hall the next year).

One week in, all seems to be well. Peter’s already moved to a more advanced spanish class. He’s had his first crew practice which was ‘crazy’, but fun. I don’t believe he is a bit homesick. I think our boy is going to be just fine. And the grown-ups? We’re going to be okay too.

Assorted busy-ness and notable happenings

Sienna, Peter, Rayla, Risha, and Rachel at prom

Sienna, Peter, Rayla, Risha, and Rachel at prom

I still have some catching up to do, and I better start with April. Although I kept quiet about it this year, it is worth noting that I was diagnosed with lung cancer in April of 2005. That was more than eight years ago. Or, another way of looking at it; I am into my ninth year of surviving.

Also, Mr. Peter Duff turned sixteen on April 20th—yet another important milestone. He is enrolled in a driver’s education class and should have his license within a month or two. And…he attended his first prom. I was in Austin, but got to serve as wardrobe advisor prior to my departure. That’s my Uncle Roger’s white jacket that Peter is wearing, and I have to say, the kid looks mighty fine (as do his lovely companions).

I’ve also had some fun dates with friends. Last week I spent twenty-four hours with Melinda, her daughter Lizzy (who is home for three weeks after completing her first year of law school) and Melinda’s sister-in-law Stephanie. Strolling, shopping and lunch followed by a nap, movie, tapas and a sleepover. Perfect!

Julia with the Boston Opera House in the background

Julia with the Boston Opera House in the background

And then, several days ago I joined my buddy Julia in Boston. After a yummy dinner made by her boyfriend Keith (barbecued chicken, asparagus and macaroni salad), Julia and I attended a Boston Ballet performance of Coppelia. It was pure confection; an all around delight. Too tired to drive back to New Hampshire, I crashed on Julia’s guest bed. As a child I seldom slept over at friend’s houses, but now that I’m an adult, it is one of my favorite things to do.

Over the weekend it was Peter’s turn to be sociable, as we hosted dinner and a sleepover for a few of his friends. Well, you know you’re getting old when you fail to get a real head count. Four of his guests left after dinner; the following morning I counted thirteen pairs of unfamiliar shoes in the front hall.

Normally I would be having chemo in two days, but it has been pushed back a week so that I can travel to Utah tomorrow for my stepfather’s eightieth birthday celebration. Busy, busy, busy!