Saturday, December 23, 2017

Fifth Chemo Session

Good News!

The PET scan results showed “no new evidence of the disease in the body.” The oncologist said I am doing fantastic and will continue the treatment as planned. That means I have two more chemo infusions. Six weeks after my last infusion, I will have another PET scan; if the results are also good, then my infusion port will be removed. YAY! There was another piece of good news; my white blood cell count was up, so I did not require another injection of Neulasta.

Project Partners

There are large flat screen televisions hanging from the ceiling at the infusion center to help patients pass the time while sitting there. Two of the shows I have been watching are about married couples renovating houses–home improvement. I enjoy watching the old made new again; it appeals to the recycler in me. The other thing that appeals to me is watching how well the couples work together on these projects. They do it right.

Effective Negotiations

I am impressed by how well the married couples negotiate and compromise. They have many decisions to make about cost, location, time, money, design, and resale value. They do not always initially agree on everything, yet they always come to a compromise that they both can live with. They remind me of my husband and me. Jack and I have always worked well together on projects because we practice effective negotiations.

We have owned three homes so far. We did a major renovation on our first home and had our third home custom built. In both cases, we had decisions to make about cost, time, design, etc. We presented our ideas and discussed them respectfully. We do that in all our joint projects, large and small, which makes working together a truly satisfying experience.

Recently we decided to redo our front yard lawn, flowerbeds, and sprinklers. We hired a contractor who scheduled us for the first week in January. He called last Monday, said he had a cancellation, and asked if he could start the job on Tuesday. I was feeling up to it so we said yes. Tuesday morning, Jack and I sat at our kitchen table with a sketch of our front yard and a book of outdoor plants and decided on what we wanted in the flowerbeds. Then we went to the nursery, and with the help of the knowledgeable Lynn, got everything we needed for our landscaping project. Jack and I did not initially agree on every little thing, but we negotiated and compromised. In the end, we got what we wanted. We both won.

The Big Mystery

All this makes me wonder why the Democrats and Republicans cannot work well together. Why can’t they negotiate and compromise in such a way that is a win for everybody? “I win­–You lose” is the most ineffective leadership imaginable, and yet, that seems to be both parties’ goal. The Democrats did it with health care, and in retaliation, the Republicans did it with tax reform. I just don’t get it. I think every member of Congress should be forced to watch these home improvement shows to see just how rewarding it is when two people with different opinions find a way to get along. Drats! I can’t remember the names of those shows. Oh, well. I have one more infusion session left. I will take notes.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

A Cancer Journey ~ How to Help Your Body Fight Cancer

Two of the well-known side effects of chemotherapy are nausea and loss of appetite. Small wonder. The drugs used in cancer treatments are designed to attack rapidly-growing cells, both cancer cells and normal cells. The cells in the mouth and stomach have a quicker growth cycle than some other cells in the body. When the chemotherapy "bomb" goes off, the normal cells are collateral damage.

I decided before my first treatment that I was going to give my body super-foods to help it recover. I figured that if I was not going to feel like eating (1) I will eat anyway and (2) the foods I ate would build health. So here are my power foods.


  • one bowl of Cheerios with milk (no sugar)
  • organic whole grain toast, buttered
  • one bowl of oatmeal

Mid-Mornng: Kale-Blueberry Smoothie

  • one-half leaf of fresh kale, without the stem
  • one-half a quarter-size slice of fresh ginger root
  • one-third of a banana
  • two shakes of organic ground turmeric
  • one-half teaspoon of olive oil
  • one-half cup of frozen organic blueberries
  • one-fourth cup of vanilla almond milk
  • one-half cup of milk

  • three or four stalks broccoli and three or four cauliflower florets, steamed
  • one apple or pear
  • one-third cup of cottage cheese
  • one boiled egg (hard or soft)
Mid-Afternoon: Plain Greek Yogurt

  • Vegetables and Protein, such as beef-vegetable soup, legume soup, grilled salmon or chicken, chicken soup, shepherd's pie, etc.
  • a glass of milk and two or three ginger cookies (the Swedish peppar kakor are the best.)
  • One of the side effects of the chemotherapy drugs is constipation; the fruit and vegetables help provide natural fiber to promote regularity.
  • The ginger helps alleviate nausea.
  • Some of the drugs induce osteoporosis; the milk, cottage cheese, and yogurt add calcium.
  • Another side effect are canker sores in the mouth and on the tongue; the yogurt adds natural B vitamins which may reduce the eruption of canker sores.
  • Blueberries contain anti-oxidants, which help fight cancer.
This is what is working for me. After each chemotherapy infusion, I feel terrible. Like I said, the drugs set off a bomb inside my body from which it has to recover. After the first infusion, it took fifteen days before I felt tolerable. The next time, it took fourteen days to recover. The next two recovery times were eleven days and ten days. I attribute the decreasing recovery time, in part, to the diet I have been following. By faithfully eating the power foods (whether or not I felt like it), I have been giving my body something good to worth with.  I share my food list in the hope that it might help others whose bodies are going through a difficult time. Here's to good health.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

A Cancer Journey ~ Chemicals

I can't get over the chemicals. I don't do chemicals. I am organic, natural, free-as-the-wind. Yet every three weeks, my body is pumped full of chemicals. How many chemicals? Imagine enough to kill you, and then back it off a little.

The only good thing is that the cancer hates the chemicals as much as I do. Otherwise, I think years from now this whole chemotherapy ordeal will be viewed as barbaric. What would Dr. McCoy say? He would probably be appalled. Of course, the last time I looked, he was also using chemicals.

It always amazed me that no matter what desperate situation the crew of the Enterprise was in, no matter what planet they were on, Dr. McCoy always had something in his bag that could fix it–the illness, I mean. In one Star Trek movie, he even had a pill on him that grew a new organ in an old woman (I think it was a gall bladder.) Think of that! Of all the organs in the body, Dr. McCoy had the right pill for the one the woman needed. Good old Dr. McCoy.

What got his goat was not chemicals; it was surgery, cutting into people with sharp instruments, rooting around, and sewing them back up again. He thought that was disgusting, barbaric. He preferred chemicals.

I don't care much for chemicals. If the future still depends on them for health, then we still have a ways to go. I think it would be better if we learned how to contact our bodies, make friends with them, and persuade them to stay healthy.

You there, little cells! Yes, you! What are you thinking that you went haywire? Don't you realize how unhealthy–not to mention inconvenient–that is? Come on, guys, let's work together. Other wise, it's chemicals, and I know you don't want that. I don't care what Dr. McCoy says, chemicals are not the way to go. Except that right now, they are.

(Note to self: Be grateful for the chemicals today; they are trying their best to help you. In the meantime, enjoy this photo of driftwood attempting to look like an elephant.)

Saturday, December 2, 2017

A Cancer Journey ~ Fourth Chemo Session

Over the halfway mark–after this, only two more to go. After this session, I will undergo a PET scan which my oncologist is expecting to show clear. I pray it is so. My white blood cell counts have been decreasing after each session so the doctor is going to give me a shot of Neulasta. This drug acts like a protein in the body to stimulate the growth of white blood cells. The lower the count of white blood cells, the greater the risk of infection. There are a few days of nasty side effects from the drug, but an infection would feel even worse. So gimme the drug; what's one more right now.

While at the infusion center, I briefly chatted with Peggy, another cancer patient. Today was her last infusion. YAY! We exchanged notes on our experience with cancer so far and found a few things in common. The first was regarding food. Very few things taste good. We are always getting asked, "What would you like for dinner?" And our response is, "I'll let you know five minutes before." We just cannot know in advance what will appeal to us. I picture various foods on a conveyor belt, like the kind they have at a dry cleaners. I run the belt with the food swishing past until I spot the one that sounds the best at the moment. "That's it! That's what I'll have for dinner. Now!" I go for it right away because the mood could quickly pass, making me run the conveyor belt over again,

The other thing that Peggy and I agreed on is that people who have not gone through the cancer experience do not really know what it is like. Before I had cancer, I certainly empathized with those who did, but I never could sympathize from a shared perspective. I think it's the same with everything that humans endure, all the pain, sorrow, and suffering. Until we experience the same things ourselves, we remain at best sympathetic observers. However, those sympathetic observers are wonderful supporters.

Our conversation reminded me of something one of my students told me. She confessed one day that she couldn't concentrate on the mathematics we were studying because of issues at home.
"Mrs. Hart," she said," You just don't know what it's like."
I acknowledged that was true, and I determined that my classroom would be a safe haven, a place where teenagers would not have to deal with distracting issues. I did not know what it was like in her home, but I remembered when there were issues in my home, trying times that made algebra and history and chemistry seem meaningless. All I could do was give her a space to be.

Going through cancer treatment has rendered some things meaningless. There are issues that used to rile me that I now ignore. Just let me get through my last two treatments, let my body recover, let my hair regrow, for crying out loud, and then maybe I will cry out loud about something else. But not right now. I'm the NOW girl.

(Note to self: One more thing we agreed on is that the actors in cancer drug commercials don't look sick enough–they even have all their hair.)

Saturday, November 25, 2017

A Cancer Journey ~ Hugs, Not Drugs

My sense of smell has been affected by chemotherapy. Things that used to smell good now make me queasy. Pizza, bean burritos, marinara, chile verde, and sweet fragrances. The last is particularly bothersome because most fragrances come attached to people in the form of cologne, perfume, hair products, and even deodorant. Loving, kind, and gracious people who express their support in hugs.

So I am really looking forward to the day when I can accept hugs without any drugs messing with my sense of smell.

I am thankful that I could eat a traditional Thanksgiving dinner with turkey, stuffing, and gravy. But I could not manage the pumpkin pie; it just tasted too strange. When I am all done with chemo, I think I will go hug a pumpkin.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

A Cancer Journey ~ Berried Secret

I decided to repost a story because I think it's funny. I need something funny today. This story was inspired by The Music Man and a picture I took at the berry farm.

Mrs. White waited nervously for the others to arrive.  Although she knew the meeting was necessary, she dreaded it.  She would not have even called the meeting, but her character demanded it of her, and Mrs. White was not one to shirk her duty.  She touched her hat to reassure herself just as Mrs. Blue entered the room, followed by her daughter Miss Adeline.

“Mrs. Blue,” said Mrs. White, “how lovely to see you, my dear.  Dear Miss Adeline, what a pleasure!”

“Oh, what a lovely hat,” said Mrs. Blue.  “The basket is a delicious touch–and so daring.  Don’t you think so, Adeline?”

“Yes, Mama,” said Adeline, echoing her mother’s words.  “It’s a lovely hat, delicious and daring.”

“Thank you, ladies,” said Mrs. White.  “I appreciate your responding so promptly to my invitation, especially as it is not our usual meeting day.  But there is something I must discuss with you–a very serious matter.  You see…”

“Oh, I knew it!” twittered Mrs. Blue.  “Adeline, didn’t I tell you that Mrs. White had a serious matter to discuss?  Otherwise, why would she call a meeting for today when we just met last Monday?”

“Yes, mama, it is a serious matter even though we met last Monday.”

“Is it about Mr. Green?” asked Mrs. Blue.  “Oh, say it isn’t so?  Or is it Miss Yellow?  No, it can’t be her because Adeline and I had the book drive with her only yesterday.  If it was about her, I am sure I would have noticed it.  There is always something about the eyes that gives it away.  Don’t you think so, Adeline?”

“No, Mama; I mean yes, we would have noticed her eyes.”

“Ladies, please!” said Mrs. White.  “The matter I wish to discuss with you concerns me.  The issue is–and here I must demand your fullest assurance, your most solemn promise that you will keep what I say in strictest confidence, no matter how sorely you are tempted to repeat the matter to others–my drawers.”

“Your drawers!” said Mrs. Blue and Miss Adeline in unison.  

Mrs. White sighed.  It was out now, and there was no getting around it.  She straightened her spine and looked directly at her guests.
“My drawers are stuck,” she said.  “They have been for several years.”

“Oh, Mrs. White!  How dreadful!  But…but how could such a thing have happened?”

“How could it not happen?  My drawers have not been opened for a long time.  And what is worse…”

“There is something worse?  Oh, how can we endure it?”

“Mrs. Blue, please.  Your interruptions only make this more difficult.  Yes, it’s worse.  My drawers are not only stuck, but they are full of bottles.  What’s more, some of the bottles are so old their contents are beginning to smell.”

“Mama, remember you said something about…”

“Never mind, dear,” said Mrs. Blue, looking uncomfortable.   She turned to Mrs. White.  “Oh, Mrs. White, words cannot express how deeply I feel for you.  Full drawers that are stuck are so…so…well, full!  If there is anything I can do, just name it.”

“Yes, there is,” said Mrs. White.  “You can help me get them unstuck and emptied.  I need my drawers emptied immediately.  Now pull.  You, too, Adeline.”

“Oh, dear,” said Mrs. Blue, “pulling one’s drawers is such a delicate matter.  Are you certain it’s appropriate–I mean, with Adeline present.”

“Adeline is well over forty so I should think it’s appropriate.  Now pull!”

The three ladies commenced pulling at Mrs. White drawers.  They pulled and strained and groaned and grunted until finally Mrs. White’s drawers popped open.  A dreadful odor filled the room.

“Oh, dear,” said Mrs. Blue.  

Mrs. White was fierce in her embarrassment.  She immediately began emptying her drawers; Mrs. Blue and Miss Adeline followed suit.  In minutes a pile of old bottles lay on the floor at Mrs. White’s feet.

“There,” she said, “that’s the last one.  I can finish the rest of this on my own.  Thank you, ladies, and remember that not one word of this must be spoken.  It must forever be our secret.  I am only sorry that I kept it to myself for so long.”

“We will be silent as the grave,” said Mrs. Blue.  “Isn’t that right, Adeline?”

“Yes, Mama, silent as the grave.  And, Mama, is this what you mean when you say better out than in?”

Saturday, November 11, 2017

A Cancer Journey ~ Third Chemo Session

If all goes according to plan, I am halfway done with chemotherapy. So far, my journey is fitting the healing pattern. Just call me "Mitchio", which is Japanese for man on a path. Being a math person, I always notice patterns. The pattern I tracked after my first two sessions was the following: The first five days after the infusion, I felt full of drugs but tolerable. The next seven to eight days, I descended into extreme discomfort as my blood counts lowered, and my body went into BATTLE! Then I turned a corner and began to feel tolerable again.

My oncologist said that the pattern was normal and that I am doing great. I'll take that. If I know that better is on the other side of worse, then worse is not so bad. It's the Law of Undulation that C.S. Lewis writes about in The Screwtape Letters. It's like a sine wave describing the seasons of our lives traveling between peaks and valleys.

Here is a graph of a typical sine wave.

Since I am a cheerful soul, my sine wave is somewhat elevated (the blue one.)

But since the cancer ordeal started, my blue sine waves have shifted south.

I hope you enjoyed my illustrated math lesson and the Law of Undulation. If it weren't for the prayers and support of so many loving family and friends, the valleys would be even more extreme. I love you all. Many blessings.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

A Cancer Journey ~ Now Girl

To quote Monty Python, "I ain't dead yet!" I am not Gone Girl. I am Now Girl.

I decided that if I am going through the hassle of cancer, I may as well learn a thing or three from the experience. (These are things that strike me all o' a heap.) One of those things is that I am Now Girl, as in when a friend calls and tells me that she would like to visit me.

"When would be a good time to come over." she asks.

I do a quick check of how I am feeling at the moment. I feel pretty good.

"Now," I answer.

The reason I call myself a Now Girl is that I never know from one day to the other, one hour to the other, how I am going to feel. Some of the time, I really feel awful–just plain pooky. Other times I feel okay. I barely feel like I am surviving during the awful times, so I want to live Life during the okay times. If Life comes knocking when I feel okay, I open the door NOW.

In the afternoon, Jack asks, "What would you like for dinner?"


An hour or so later, he asks, "What sounds good for dinner?"


At dinnertime, he tries one more time, "Well, how about dinner? What would you like?"

"I want a bacon cheeseburger with fries from Stacked, and I want it now, please."

Alas, not everyone is on my Now time. Last Saturday, Jack and my sister arrived at Stacked to place my order just as it was closing for a private party. I learned another lesson that day about being a Now Girl; when my Now is denied, it makes me grouchy. Obviously, this is something I must work on.

Overall, I think being a Now Girl is a good thing. It is a very Present sort of thing, what C. S. Lewis described in The Screwtape Letters.

"The Present is the point at which time touches eternity. Of the present moment, and of it only, humans have an experience which (God) has of reality as a whole; in it alone freedom and actuality are offered them."

So right now, I don't want anything for dinner. I am very much hoping in an hour or so, I will want to go to Fugazzi's now, please!

Here is my Now Girl painting.  (I don't know why–it just struck me all o' a heap.)

Saturday, October 28, 2017

A Cancer Journey ~ Reedley Beach

Last week, Jack and I took a drive through the country to Reedley Beach, along the Kings River in Reedley. The water was still running. Years of drought had transformed the river into a glorified mud puddle for the past five years.  But with the rains last year, the river was a proper waterway, hence the trip to Reedley Beach.

It was quiet along the river. There were few of us about: a young couple canoodling at a picnic table, two men eating sandwiches, a couple walking their dogs, and a boy looking for a good fishing spot. Once in a while a car drove through the parking lot. No one paid us any attention. Suddenly I was aware of my bandana. I realized that I was wearing “colors.” I remembered how I knew that.

My first two years teaching the Tiny Rascals gang and the Bulldog gang were at each other hammer and tongs. There were constant fights—in the lunchroom, in the bathrooms, in the classrooms, in the hallways. I hated breaking up fights, having to do it three times, which is three too many. I preferred to prevent them in the first place. Like Mad-Eye Moody, I practiced “CONSTANT VIGILANCE!” I watched for hand signs and flashes of color, always aware that either one could trigger a brawl.

I also knew when one of my students was going to get “jumped” into a gang over the weekend. He or she was nervous, distracted, and about as uninterested in the Pythagorean theorem as anyone could be. They usually caused a disruption in class. I don’t blame them; they knew what was coming. On one such occasion, the principal and I met with the father of a young man to warn him what his son was about to do. He did not believe us, and called me a smart-ass. On Monday, his son came to class beaten and bloodied; they always did.

So as I was wearing my bandana, I thought to myself, “CONSTANT VIGILANCE!” I scanned the park at Reedley Beach for any sign of trouble. I kept the car in sight. There was no actual danger at Reedley Beach that day; but isn’t it interesting that some habits of mind remain so firmly fixed?

Over a year ago, I encountered a young woman who was one of my students my first year teaching. She was one of those who came to school beaten and wounded from a gang initiation. At one time, I also broke up a fight between her and another girl. She remembered me. She told me that I was the nicest teacher she ever had and thanked me for being so patient with her. She also told me that she has teenage daughters of her own whom she constantly admonishes to be nice to their teachers. She tells her daughters all the time that teachers care about their students. 

It was nice to hear that. I thought about that last week while I was at Reedley Beach wearing my bandana. I thought that when it comes to being nice, one should always practice “CONSTANT VIGILANCE!”

Saturday, October 21, 2017

A Cancer Journey ~ Second Chemo Session

I'm going into this session with a lot less hair. Fourteen days after the first session, my hair started falling out by the handfuls. I decided to help the little birds with their nests and scattered it on the ground. After a while I realized there was enough for either a hundred little birds or one big monster bird so I left it.

All that hair on the ground reminded me of a song from "Country Bears Jamboree" at Disneyland. Here is my version of the song:
Hair on the saddle. Hair all around.
And a great big puddle on the ground.

I am wearing bandanas on my head now, mostly to keep it warm. I think I have a nicely shaped head. (If only there were a phrenologist handy, but I think they went somewhere warm at the turn of the century.) The bandanas are just like the head-coverings I used to wear in the commune. They were all the rage. In fact, there is a picture of me in my high school year book with Doug Myers when we were voted most talented (for singing). We are sitting on the hood of a bus in our blue jeans, tee shirts, and me with a bandana on my head.

That was an interesting day that day. Doug's girlfriend from Fruita was visiting him in Durango for the weekend. On Sunday, he was going to drive her back, a four-hour, 180 mile drive through the mountains (including Red Mountain Pass.) He asked me if I would like to go with him to keep him company; since my grandparents lived in Fruita, I said yes. He spent the night at his girlfriend's parents and I stayed with my grandparents. We left for Durango Monday morning.

It's such a great drive from Fruita to Durango. After leaving the flatlands of Grand Junction, Moab, Delta, and Montrose, you begin the climb to Ouray and the mountains. There you continue to Silverton and then home to Durango. One time some friends and I were driving back from Silverton to Durango at night in a snow storm. There was a lovely full moon so naturally we drove part of the way over the pass with the headlights off; we did things like that sometimes.

This time, however, there was no full moon to distract us. Doug and I had choir class in the afternoon. Forget the morning classes; we had solos in one of the pieces for an upcoming performance. If we missed dress rehearsal, Mr. Evans would be furious. We pulled up at the school a few minutes before class and sang our solos without a hitch. Before school dismissed for the day, a photographer for the yearbook said he needed to get our pictures. Doug and I found an obliging school bus on which to pose–me with my bandana.

I have fond memories of wearing a bandana on my head. Of course, the other times, I had hair to go with it. I am hoping that this time will find its way to a pleasant memory–of how I beat cancer.

Here is my happy picture for the day.
Durango, Colorado

Saturday, October 14, 2017

A Cancer Journey ~ The Challenge

This is what the morning shower produced.

I think I will challenge Clark the cat to a hairball contest.
Who is Clark? Clark is a cat. He does calculus.

Clark used to be the name of my son's cat–except it really wasn't. For some reason, I got the idea fixed in my brain that the name of his cat was Clark. (I still can't remember the actual name of his cat.)

Since I liked the name, I decided to create a literary character named Clark that was a cat. Now it so happened that at the time I was thinking of Clark, I was also thinking of calculus. Five years ago, I taught Advanced Placement Calculus at Roosevelt High School. Of all the many things I am curious about, I was curious to see if I still could solve calculus problems.

So I downloaded the Free-Response Problems for the 2015 and 2016 Advanced Placement Calculus Exams. I started working the problems and found that I could still solve calculus problems. Huzzah! Like any normal person, I wanted to do something with these problems and their solutions, so I decided to make them into a story. I did that all the time when I was teaching–tell stories about the problems. The numbers, the symbols, the operations, the properties, the theorems, and the postulates were so real to me that is was not difficult to bring them to life. In doing the same with the calculus problems, I turned them over to Clark. I am pleased to report that he rose to the challenge and performed beautifully. That's the kind of guy–or cat, rather–he is.

Now about that hairball...

Saturday, October 7, 2017

A Cancer Journey ~ Fatal Associations

Day Ten after Chemo: I still have my hair.

With all this time to wait...and wait...and wait, I still have not done anything new with the second book of Rhino. There is a reason for this. I do not want my beloved book to be associated with this particular period in my life. I have a tendency to connect things in sometimes unprofitable ways, and the memory lingers.  I call it the "Flowery Fart Effect."

Years ago, when my brother got married, he had a limited income so the wedding was done on a small budget. The family all chipped in to help; my mother and aunts did the catering and decorating, and my sister and I did the flowers. My future sister-in-law had a friend who worked in the floral section of the local supermarket. She arranged us to make the bouquets, corsages, and boutonnieres under the direction of her friend. The day before the wedding, the four of us met in the back of the store where the flowers were kept and went to work.

Unfortunately, my sister-in-law's friend was very pregnant and uncomfortable standing on her feet. Once in a while she passed gas. In that small room, there was no escaping the smell. It forever linked the smell of hothouse flowers with the smell of a fart. To this day, whenever I enter or even pass by a flower shop, I smell a fart. I don't want a similar unpleasant association with Rhino.

Oh, I can still write a few stories about Rhino–"between the lines" stories–but not the real story of Rhino. That is just going to have to wait. I hope those who loved the first book don't mind waiting a while for the second one. It's my way of guaranteeing it won't be a stinker.

Here is another cheery painting that I like.
This is my soul somewhere inside trying to find my laugh.

Monday, October 2, 2017

A Cancer Journey ~ First Chemo Session

I had my first chemotherapy infusion September 28, 2017. I'm not too thrilled with the results. I realize that it is part of the fight against lymphoma to send gruesome chemicals into my system to attack the even more gruesome cancer cells in my body, but that does not make the experience any more palatable.

"Cry Havoc! and let slip the dogs of war!" My body is now a battleground. I feel like the cancer cells are mindless zombies that kill the very host upon which they depend for life. Stupid cancer cells! World War C is now raging! I hope something good survives.

So to make myself feel better, I'm going to include a favorite painting. This is how I remember my spirit. At one time I was very happy. Lord willing, I will be so again.