Wednesday, December 31, 2008

there's a lesson here somewhere...

i am so frustrated right now.

i am here in southern california visiting my friends and family for the holidays and as usual, i've been taking lots of photos. i just uploaded them from my camera to my laptop, or so i thought...apparently only about half of the four hundred plus photos made it into my computer. and all of the photos were deleted from my memory card.

so photos of my niece and nephew when i spent the night are all gone. photos of lunch with my aunts, breakfast with cousins, ej and the salsa he made, christmas day...

i am perhaps absurdly attached to photos, so i'm very grouchy right now.

and while i'm wallowing in my misery, the imaging center where i had my scan done informed me today that my medicaid is inactive. this is after i was recently issued a medicaid card.

ps: my hysterectomy is now scheduled for feb 3.

Friday, December 12, 2008


today i got the status of how the cancer responded to treatment.

very well, thank you.

my lungs, my abdomen, and the rest of my body are clear. my doctor did remind me that this doesn't guarantee that there aren't teeny tiny cancer cells that don't show up in scans, but he was very pleased with the results. he was witness to the lung biopsy i had in august, and he said there were quite a few nodules hanging out in both lungs, and now there are none. there is still work to be done as far as making sure that cancer's ass is properly kicked, but for now, we celebrate.

i don't know what you were all so worried about.
i knew it was going to be fine.

thanks to all my friends, family, and the kind strangers who have reached out and held me up for the past six months. whaddya doin' next year?

ps: hysterectomy jan 27.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

playing the waiting game

i spent this evening organizing my small mountain of pending hospital bills. this made me sleepy and grouchy.

i wish it were snowing instead of raining.

i ate too much at lunch.
all by myself, i finished off a pizza the size of a steering wheel.

we have heard evidence of another, um, rodent. in the pre-dawn hours, it was making a racket in our ceiling right above the metal plate that holds our light fixture. now our light doesn't work. tomorrow the exterminator comes. i hope he's bringing an electrician.

ok. i'm done complaining for the moment.
i think i'm nervous about tomorrow. no photos for that.

Monday, December 8, 2008

nuclear medicine or, how i became radioactive

i had no idea that today was supposed to be so cold. it must've been in the teens when ej and i left the apartment early this morning for my PET/CT scan appointment. and can i just say how odd it is that poisons are used so often in the pursuit of health?

today, i was given an iv full of some radioactive liquid. "radiotracer" it's called. the better to scan me with. i was told not to fly today (they might arrest me) and not to hang around any small children (i might inadvertently poison them). apparently, i'm oozing gamma rays or something. sheesh.

so this scan will reveal if those nasty cancerous nodules are still hanging around in my lungs. i have an appointment with my oncologist on friday to get the results. i didn't think i was nervous about it until last night when i didn't sleep a wink. well, maybe one wink, but certainly not enough. i guess i'm nervous.

i didn't catch this guy's name, but he was fantastic. skilled, experienced, really talked to me...i felt completely safe in his care. i wish all health care workers were like that. someone give this guy a raise.

the pink smock is not mine. they made me remove my jeans because of the metal zipper. i'm so glad i was wearing longjohns underneath. my iv is prepped and i'm drinking contrast. banana flavored. yum.

afterward, we had breakfast at a diner with ej's aunt ellen and uncle skip. hanging around with them is like hanging around with the mayor of 5th avenue. they know everyone in bay ridge.

scan results on friday...

Sunday, November 30, 2008

quitting chemo

i'm not quitting, but as of this past friday, i've fulfilled my quota for the year. after an upcoming CT scan and a couple of doctor's visits, i'll be free to leave nyc for a break in california, at least, temporarily. i'm still waiting on approval from medicaid, ah bureaucracy, but for now, my belly is full, i'm feelin' the love, and i have plenty of hats for my drafty head.

to commemorate the end of phase I...

hooked up, but perusing a menu, of course.

ack! chemo in action.

i left home without my eyebrows.

sharing my morning with liza. if you look closely at my head, you can see the remnants of a recent henna encounter.

the end, for now...

help! food on my mind!

in an effort to keep myself out of trouble between hot flashes and pill-popping, i will be officially blogging for a food website called the hungry? city guides. finally, i can direct my love of food toward the all-inclusive abyss that is the internet. i won't be getting rich off of this, at least not yet, in fact, money won't be involved at all, only the joy of life experience. (for example, most of the photos on the home page are mine.)

now, this is where you come in. since i can't keep reviewing the same places within a 3 block radius of my apartment, i need restaurant suggestions. i'm not looking for anything fancy or highbrow, just good grub at reasonable prices. maybe you know of a fantastic bakery whose cupcakes bring you to tears, or a hole-in-the-wall with out-of-this-world pad thai, or a mom and pop place that has crazy delicious fried chicken. whether it be a diner, a taco truck, or a bistro that reminds you of that trip to paris, send me the names of eateries that you hold near and dear to your heart and stomach, and i will visit as many as i can. (i'm primarily looking for places in new york city, but am also open to your own hometown favorites for when i visit you!)

now, close your eyes, think of food, and send me your suggestions...

eating heavenly risotto in a previous life.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

mug shot

so yesterday, i got a letter from the california dmv saying that it's time to renew my driver's license. the good news is that i get to retake my photo. i had shown up for that last renewal thinking that my hair was finally going to be just right. i had spent a fair amount of time working hard to make my hair look free and easy, naturally curly without being too wacky. when i received the license in the mail, i was disappointed to see that my giant moon face was surrounded by an unbecoming 'fro that was smashed on one side.

the bad news about the upcoming renewal is that i'll be bald for the new photo.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

e-rat-ication: day of reckoning

as i sit here with what feels like a combination of jetlag, post-traumatic syndrome, and a hangover, i wonder where we went wrong. surely, there must've been an easier way to get to this point.

yesterday, we cleaned out the cabinet underneath the sink, only to discover that the DDR (damned dirty rat) has been hording food and stockpiling it there. we also found his gateway from the nether world, the hole in the sheetrock through which he gained entrance. disgusted, we cleared out the cabinet and set a trap with a tantalizing morsel of chicken.

at 1:30 am, the trap was triggered, but instead of blessed quiet, there was a great thrashing about, punctuated with rodent screams.
this was upsetting.
we dared not open the doors to the cabinet when clearly the DDR was not dead, and in fact, sounded quite fired up. i called the city, who referred me to a website which offered us rat data for nyc, but didn't mention who to call in the middle of the night when you have a live rat caught in a trap. by this time, it was very late, and
hoping that perhaps it was a mortal injury and that the DDR would be dead by morning, we went to bed exhausted. i don't want rats where i live, but i also don't want to torture them, so it was difficult knowing that the Deed was not yet done.

unfortunately, as i lay in bed in the dark, i could hear the DDR battle with the trap. i slept off and on for a while, mostly off. a few brief hours later, i was up because i had i heard what sounded like something being dragged across the kitchen floor. i discovered that the DDR had pushed it's way out of the cabinet, crawled across the kitchen floor dragging the trap that was clamped onto a rear leg, and made its way up into a hole underneath another cabinet. but the trap wouldn't fit and the DDR couldn't go any further. it would've been so easy for me to reach down and release him and go back to bed hoping that we'd catch him another day, but i didn't. i couldn't stand that this wasn't a quick kill, but that DDR must die.

i woke ej. we decided that we would pull the trap with the DDR out of the hole, drop him into a long cardboard box and take him downstairs to the basement to make him an offer he couldn't refuse. (i didn't tell ej, but i was hoping to bow out of the proceedings right after the drop into the cardboard box.) with long bbq tongs, ej pulled on the trap.
squeal!! squeal!!
holy crap.
i wasn't prepared for the volume, or the intensity, or the general freakiness of it all. the DDR wouldn't come out. ej let go of the trap. i steeled myself and ej tried again.
squeal!! squeal!!!
this was giving me the heebie-jeebies. there was ej using the tongs to pull on a trap that was clamped onto a rat which was holding on for dear life to a hole in our cabinet. i could see the trapped leg, the back half of the DDR stretched out, but that determined rodent wouldn't come out. ej let go. he said he would try one last time, but that if that failed, we needed to call an exterminator. i agreed. one last time, ej pulled.

i wanted to scream too.
the DDR wouldn't budge. ej let go and i ended up going down the street to where we'd seen an exterminator sign. they sent someone in about an hour and i was so relieved to hand over the rodent reins, i nearly hugged him.

theodore the exterminator surveyed the situation. he assured me that he would end the DDR's life as quickly and humanely as possible. my mom had joined me by this time and we left the apartment while theo did his job. i did not want to hear any more squealing, so i waited out on the sidewalk in front of our building. and waited. and waited. what could be taking so long? i found out that theo was also unable to pull the DDR out of the hole. he said he's done hundreds of rat removals, but he's never seen a situation like this. great. he calls anthony, a co-worker, to assist him and explains that they'll pump "tracking powder", a very potent poison, up into the crawl space and onto the rat to kill him first, that way they should be able to remove him more easily. they figured he would be dead within half an hour so we all left and came back over 30 minutes later only to find that this DDR, this king of the rats, was still very much alive. what the hell kind of horror movie creatures are these new york rats???

the exterminators shook their heads. plan c was to pry off the piece of cabinet that was helping to hold the rat in place. i was downstairs having a nice sit-down at this point. i heard them wrenching wood, i heard the DDR squealing, i heard the men yelling things like "get him!", "suffocate him!", and "hit him with the hammer!". then pound!pound!pound!, a scuffling of boots, more squealing and pounding. then quiet. that's when i went back upstairs.

i half expected blood to be splattered everywhere, but instead tools and pried moulding and a dusting of tracking powder covered the floor. the refrigerator was standing in the middle of the kitchen and the men were standing proudly, though wearily, with what appeared to be a touch of shell shock. the Deed was finally done.

what i saw when i got out of bed.

before the Deed: theo and anthony formulate the plan of attack.

after the Deed: catching their breath.

kitchen in disarray, theo collects the dead damned dirty rat.


anthony and theo: the heroes of third avenue.

Friday, November 14, 2008

crazy and complaining?

one of the daily pills i take is a fabulous, immune-boosting supplement called astragalus. i just looked it up on wikipedia and learned that it's also known as locoweed or milk-vetch.

locoweed sounds like something i'd hear gabby hayes babble about as he does a little jig in an old western, and milk-vetch sounds like a yiddish dairy complaint. for some reason, that just makes my day.

Monday, November 10, 2008

damned dirty rat

holy crap.
are you even kidding me??

living in new york, i've come to accept that life may be grittier than it had been in my previous life in california. part of that grit is the occasional mouse in the house. we refer to each one as "murray". sometimes we go months with no sign of murray. other times, a little murray will scurry along the wall at night. silent and, i confess, a little cute. if i could magically transport all the murrays from this building to a mousey sanctuary where they could frolick freely in their mousey-ness, i would. instead, traps have been set, and a murray was killed last week. i haven't seen murray since.

last night, i learned that i do not have the same feelings toward all rodents. sadly, a rat has made its presence known. a tenacious, hungry, and i'm sure ugly rat. during the six years that i've lived in this apartment, this is the first possibility of mano-a-mano with a rat. this creature is stronger and has better climbing abilities than murray. i've not seen him (ej has), but as i was laying in bed pre-dawn today, i could hear that damned dirty rat getting into something in the kitchen. i got so angry that i had visions of me sitting in the dark, baseball bat in hand, waiting to brain that nasty creature with one sure stroke. instead, i got out of bed and added an irresistibly creamy dab of peanut butter to the already loaded rat trap. i disposed of the bag of tainted danish wafers that sat on the kitchen floor. i found a wafer, alone and partially chewed in front of the fridge. i sanitized the kitchen table and baker's rack. the sun still wasn't up, so i waited. and hoped. nothing yet.

to my friends and family who will be visiting for thanksgiving (if indeed, they haven't had a sudden change of plans), i expect to have very good news regarding the rodent situation in the next 24 hours.
it has helped that my mom is completely freaked out about this invasion because it makes me calmer. and focused. and ready to wage war.

rattus rigor mortis will be his name!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

numero cinco or, no more bikinis for me

well, today i sat in a recliner from 10:30 to 3:30 while toxic drugs were pumped into my system. this scenario is getting old for me and i've only had to do it five times, so far. it went smoothly so i shouldn't complain, but i will because i'm learning that my mounting mental resistance to accepting chemical crap is just as difficult as the physical side effects to it.

my oncologist came by while i was doing this intravenous tango and it looks like there will probably be a hysterectomy in my future. january. after ej and i return from a holiday excursion to the west coast. (january. the month i turn 43. perhaps he can do a little liposuction while he's in there as a birthday present to me. or will the lack of all those potentially problematic innards automatically flatten my belly?)

if i have a hysterectomy, it sounds like he's leaning toward performing the surgery old school style, one big vertical incision in the middle of my abdomen as opposed to the less invasive laparoscopic surgery. he says that the big cut would enable him to manually feel what's going on inside and he'll have a better view of my inner world. he'll also be able to use his hands to help remove the undesirable bits, instead of depending on only the tools of laparoscopic surgery, and through a small incision no less. if the surgery reveals even one tiny cell of cancer, i will return to the exact same course of chemo that i'm doing right now. ack. if no cancer is found, then i will probably have "maintenance" chemo, less drugs, less often (once a month, but for a year). hmm.

laparoscopic hysterectomy recovery time = approx 2 weeks.
old school hysterectomy recovery time = approx 6-8 weeks.
hmm, again.

another option is to do nothing and simply keep tabs on what's going on in my body. meh. i'm not so into waiting around hoping nothing appears.

at any rate, nothing has been decided yet. and i still have a full body scan to look forward to at the beginning of december. i'm eager to see what effect the current chemo has had on those nasty cancer nodules that they found in my lungs.

on the lighter side,
we have a fabulous president-elect who
has foresight and can put together an intelligent sentence,
ej and i are going to take another cooking class a week from sunday,
wonderful friends and family will be visiting during thanksgiving week,
and i took a chi gong class at gilda's club that i absolutely love.

there. life is good.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

eyebrows for obama

today i voted.

it felt like a special occasion, not because i was voting, but because i was voting for obama. i decided to wear my wig. the first time since the day i got it. and heck, if i was going to break out the wig, then i may as well apply a little eyeliner. and a little color on my lips. and draw myself some eyebrows. i felt a tad groucho marx, but ej said they looked normal.

waiting in line, we looked more confused than we actually were.

the People wait outside.

the People wait inside.

the moment arrives!

dazed with the afterglow of voting.

Friday, October 31, 2008

escape from new york

oh, to flee to the forest. that's exactly what ej and i did for a few days (thank you, hanna!) and it was great. we drove (even that was a treat) to upstate ny and stayed at a fabulous place called creek locks bed and breakfast. if you're ever near new paltz and need a place to stay, go there. kate makes deeeelicious breakfasts and john will set you up with gps to guide you anywhere you want to go. their golden retriever, indy, is perhaps the friendliest, most well behaved dog i've ever met. true, it was cold and rainy most of the time, but i enjoy hunkering down in a warm and cozy recliner and reading us weekly (it's important to be up on the latest news) as much as i enjoy a walk amongst the trees.

as a side note, i did notice that i felt much more aware of my baldness outside of new york city. i ended up keeping my hat on most of the time, even indoors because it never felt like the right time for The Reveal. as a result, it was really nice to chat with kate and john without having to discuss cancer.

crossing the george washington bridge and leaving nyc behind.

i see them! up ahead! on our way, we were happy to discover that there were still trees with color.

at the b&b, one of my favorite rooms was the library.

breakfast #1 included incredible lemon pancakes and local organic bacon. i could eat a lot of both. in fact, i had already started in on the piggy before i remembered to take a photo.

indy came by to say hello. and i'm pretty sure he also said, "i love you. you're both my favorites. out of everyone." that's kate in the background.

this is kate's husband, john. both are retired teachers. try to picture him with long hair and a full beard because that's what he looked like when he was a hippy in the 70's. he was at the first woodstock. we talked about traveling through europe. we discussed politics. the next morning, john left for pennsylvania where he was joining the obama campaign to make phone calls to voters.

because ej and i were the only guests, we were upgraded to the suite. this was our bathroom. i loved this bathroom and did some quality thinking here.

ah, the bedroom in our suite. that bed was so comfortable, all nestled in down. we even had a choice of soft or firm pillows. now that's luxury.

the view from one of our windows. below is the fire ring that we'll have to enjoy next time because this time we were met by cold, rain, and hail.

since hiking and kayaking were postponed, we took a drive and decided to visit hyde park, where fdr and eleanor roosevelt lived, but on the way we stopped to check out an old cemetery.

here, ej performs his impressive ode to the dead dance.

this is the house where fdr, eleanor, and fdr's mother, sarah, lived. for a while. until fdr had a separate house built for eleanor. i do believe she had her fill of her mother-in-law.

i took this photo before i found out that they don't allow any photography. it's a yummy room where lots of important things happened, none of which i remember.

this is another part of the same massive room. churchill may have sat in that chair. well, maybe not that petit chair.

out on the grounds, we discovered a gang of wild turkeys. ej showed off his realistic mating call and even did a little turkey dance, but none of them seemed to be interested. this was as they ran from us.

after the turkey encounter, we found the final resting place of fdr and eleanor.

we also visited the fdr presidential library and museum. this is his mother sarah who had a very imposing personality. we were told that when franklin was born, he was breech and weighed over 10 pounds. sarah never had another child. also, she didn't seem to care for eleanor very much. with all of the photos in their huge house, only one included eleanor.

we had a paraplegic president. i don't think that would happen these days, unfortunately. fdr worked hard to keep the extent of his physical challenges quiet, and the press cooperated.

fdr was 39 when he contracted polio and he never fully recovered the use of his legs.

when he was young, he enjoyed photography.

he gave a few of his fireside chats from this room in the presidential library. he had wheelchairs specially made for him because he didn't like the bulkiness of traditional wheelchairs. judging from the wheelchairs on display, he had a tiny hiney.

i love this painting of churchill.

fdr's loyal dog, fala.

sadly (maybe not sadly for you), by the time i got to the eleanor section of the museum, the battery in my camera died. i think eleanor was the bees knees, but the only photo i have of her memorabilia is this one of her suitcase and some uniform (i didn't read the info for that).

we drove back to the b&b and relaxed in the library, but made the mistake of waiting too long to go out to dinner. we left at 9:30pm and soon realized that we were not in nyc anymore. virtually every restaurant was closed except for a 24 hour diner on some highway that we found thanks to a kind stranger. i was so tired, i could have closed my eyes and slept right where i was.

hunger and weariness are not a good combination for us. and this is why we can never be a team on the amazing race.

this is how i see the world before i eat.

the next morning, indy was waiting for us at the bottom of the stairs. that, combined with the incredible aromas wafting from the kitchen, made me very happy.

i accidentally left my flash on and nearly blinded the poor thing.

i had been doing so well to lay off of sugar and caffeine, but i was not about to skip any part of kate's beautiful breakfast. this was her apple pear crisp with berries.

there was also homemade zucchini bread with chocolate chips to tide us over before the main course.

and then breakfast appeared. fluffy scrambled eggs with local goat cheese. baked tomato topped with bread crumbs, parmesan, and seasonings. homemade, that's right, homemade sausage. this photo doesn't do it justice. goodness gracious, i'm salivating just at the memory of it. seriously.

after breakfast, i waddled around. i had to take a photo of the floors because i loved them almost as much as i loved the food. wide planks, refinished, original to the house which was built in 1866. i felt like kneeling down and just touching the floor, but i restrained myself.

i tried to get a photo of kate and indy, but indy was quicker than i.

eventually, i stole a shot.

after we checked out of the b&b, we drove to a state park since it was our last chance to walk amongst some trees. the drive there was gorgeous.

there were whole groves of yellow light filtered through yellow leaves. fantastic.

the trail we picked overlooked lake minnewaska in the shawangunk mountains.

i'm being very good by including only a fraction of the tree photos that i took. it was those darn leaves that took hold of me.

pretty berries. when i was a child, i ate plenty of plants that were growing around the yard at the house where i grew up. my appetite was aggressive even then. i did manage to refrain from eating these berries. i've matured.

explorer fry: master of his universe

cracking ourselves up.

this is a caterpillar on the wrong side of a spider's web.

up in the mountains, there was snow!

i love snow!

my woodland nymph.

ok, last tree photo.

we tore ourselves away because we had to return the rental car. before i knew it, we were crossing the tappan zee bridge back into new york city. our trip was over just as we were starting to relax.

post script: we stopped at a salvation army thrift store while upstate, and ej found this sign in the electronics area. it was too good not to share.