Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Hard to believe

Hard to believe my daughter will be 22 on Friday (embarrasing that I had to come back and edit this because I was thinking tomorrow was Friday) . Even harder to believe that I was only 6 months older than she is when I married her Dad. Bill is 8 years older than I am so he was much older than she is when he married me but I was 22. This will be the first birthday since she went to college where she'll be home with us. We're going out to eat at one of her favorite places which should be fun. Fortunately she's off work. It's getting better and better having her home for the gap in between her graduating from college in December and going to law school either in May or August. If she goes to one school which has offered her a scholarship, she'll start with the summer session and will be leaving in a couple of months. She's waiting until she hears from all the schools before making her final decision. She's already been accepted to 3, is wait listed at 1 and has 3 more she hasn't heard from yet. I am very proud of her. Not only for how well she has done academically but for having the maturity not to immediately jump on the scholarship offer at a school she really wants to go to until she hears from all of them. One reason it's getting better and better having her home is we're getting used to living together as adults, something we've never done. Her first two summers after she started college she had jobs out of state. Last summer was a short gap between getting back from study abroad and going early to school because she had a job there. She spent a few days a week with me during that gap but lived with her father for the first time since our divorce. She always went to his house Saturday and came home Sunday, when she was growing up, after we divorced. However, in terms of who she lived with most of the time, it was me. I'm still getting used to her being an adult but we've got it figured out now, for the most part, and it's nice having this time with her. I'm still not sure I'm ready to let her get up on the roof which is ridiculous since she has great balance. The deal is I sill haven't dealt with the jasmine and miniature fig which have reached the top of the chimney and she has offered to get them off for me. It's logical for her to do it, and it's not a very far drop but I'm having trouble being willing to risk her getting hurt. Have I mentioned that I'm an overly protective mother in certain regards. When she was 5 she fell out of a tree and broke her collar bone but that wasn't about balance, that was about the limb breaking. She was playing in the back yard with older neighborhood children and I was checking on them periodically but I missed the fact that she climbed way up in a sycamore tree until one of the older girls came running in to tell me what happened. Turned out fine but was one of those scary moments where you see your small child lying on the ground and don't know how it will turn out. I've been making a lot of progress in the garden and am still toying with a little drama on the storage building. The storage building is attached to the greenhouse and is a slightly darker green than it looks like in this photograph. Kind of funny to have a green storage building attached to a "green" house. Lately I've been thinking about what a fun canvas the storage building would be if I was more talented or braver. I considered painting designs like people used to do on the old VW vans in the 60s. I have thought about painting it barn red. Lately I've considered stencils of lions, tigers and bears, oh my! I think I'm getting even sillier in my advancing years, if that's possible. I've always had my silly side.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Progress in my garden

I love the fog when I don't have to drive in it. This morning I got outside into the foggy morning before it disappeared. Pleasant. I am making a lot of progress shifting the surplus of leaves in the front of my house to the back for leaf paths through the garden. I am close to eliminating all the grass and hopefully their won't be any areas I need to mow this summer. Still have a lot to do but in addition to moving leaves from front to back, I have also spread a fair amount of compost throughout the cultivated part of my garden and I have cut back most of the dead stalks. I'm alternating what I do so I don't hurt myself. The easy part is getting the leaves moved. Pulling up weeds and such is harder on me physically but as long as I alternate what I do, I think I'll get it done. I used to worry about having leaf pathways on the hilly part to the side of my garden areas because I was afraid that I would slip on wet leaves. Bill got me an aluminum walking stick which should do the trick and prevent me from falling if I remember to use it. I think he gave it to me more with our mountain hiking excursions in mind but it's perfect for walking up my garden hill when it's wet. I'm not sure why I'm enjoying my garden so much this year. Usually this time of the year all I can see is how barren everything is, combined with all the dead weeds I didn't get around to pulling up. I've always loved early and mid winter but late winter has been the least appealing time for me. In the past late spring and early summer, when lots of flowers were in bloom, was when I was able to overlook all that hadn't been done yet because there was so much going on in the garden to out show the mess. But this year I'm enjoying my garden right now. There is a lot to be done but it doesn't bother me. I'm even enjoying my neighborhood walks more than I used to this time of year. In the past, late winter has always been when my neighborhood has seemed the least attractive because the tree umbrella is bare limbs, and the houses are more exposed losing the softer look when there is more foliage. However, this year everything is softer and more appealing to me and I'm not sure why. I've always loved bare winter trees on a hill in the country or winter time in the forest, but in general the winter trees haven't provided enough protection from the boring qualities of houses built on about 4 plans, which is what my subdivision has. This year everything looks better to me. Very strange. I can't believe how the flicker is blending into the wood of the pecan tree it's peck, peck, pecking in. It's such a destinctive bird and I was sure it would stand out more in the photograph. I guess I'm destined to keep taking, find the bird in the picture photos.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Spring has Sprung oops here comes winter

I was caught off guard by more flowers yesterday. Earlier in the week it was quite warm but yesterday was cold and windy and today is even colder. Never mind that Spring 20007 has decided to spring into action in February. The photographs in this entry were taken yesterday. Since it was down into the 20s Farenheit last night there is not telling what my back garden will look like today but nevermind that, yesterday was another unexpected day of surprises in the garden. I feel sorry for the birds with the weather getting colder because they are out in full force. I went for a walk/jog yesterday and was practically tripping over the robins. They are so low key that if I had my camera with me I could have captured a bunch of pictures. That's part of how I saw the flowers in my back garden. When I got home, I got my camera and quietly went into my back garden to see if I could photograph the robins. That didn't work out because they were spooked by noisy birds flying over head. I didn't get any good bird pictures although I may post my dove hiding in the limbs and the overhead shot of a starling. What I was able to photograph were the spring flowers that literally burst out in color behind my back. The day before I had shifted several loads of oak leaves from the front to the back and had been working on another side of the garden so I missed how close to bloom some of the flowers in other areas of the garden were. The main event in my front garden so far is a cyclamen I thought I'd lost peaking out through the leaves. The cyclamen was given to me as a potted hospital plant when I had my hysterectomy in 1990 and 17 years later it still blooms in my front shade garden. I also have a bunch of amaryllis that started from a couple of potted hospital gifts to my father and keep on keeping on year after year to be stars of my summer garden. Now that I think of it the grape hyacinth I photographed yesterday was also a gift. Same with my red daisies that come back year after year although it will be a while before they come back and bloom their fiery bloom. The daisies started with a potted plant a carpool mom gave me because I did more than my share of the carpool having more flexibility than she did since I had started working from home so my daughter could attend a high school that didn't have a school bus. Every summer since 2000 the red daisies have provided a riot of color because I planted them in an area where I have yellow coriopsis and purple cosmos. The red juices up the colorfest. My daughter turns 22 on March 2 which is hard to believe. Her special daffodils look like they are at just the right point to bloom on her birthday. Funny how much symbolism those flowers have for me. It was so wild to go to the hospital with snow on the ground and a lot of ice in the trees, have my beautiful baby arrive out of me to the world, and when Bill went home to pick up a few things, it was a warm sunny day and the daffodils were blooming for him to cut a bouquet and bring them to the hospital for me and Judith. Most years they are pretty good about blooming on her birthday. I realize it would be wilder if she was born in January rather than March but still it's a fun thing to watch for each year. The week after her birthday is my week for doctors. Moday, March 5, I see my rheumatologist, Tuesday, March 6, I get a full body PET/CT scan and Thursday, March 8, I see my dermatologist. It's not until the end of March that I see the NP at the melanoma clinic at UNC but the medical oncologist scheduled the scan at Rex early enough so he could have the slides sent to UNC prior to that appointment. So far they have been great at Rex about calling me right away about scans and tests so hopefully I'll get the word about the PET/CT scan within a few days. Also, the great thing about Rex is they aren't far from me at all and I can always pop over to medical records and get a copy of the radiologist's report. They don't have the beurocracy to go through that UNC does. Every scan I've had done at UNC except for one, they have brought me a copy of the report during my appointment but the one time I didn't get one and went through medical records it took a month. I had to sign forms and then go through billing first and then I got it. They don't charge to send doctors your reports/slides but they do charge you unless it's like it normally is where they print me out a copy during an appointment. It not the charge I mind it's the way a separate agency handles the billing and they require advance payment. The problem I have is it took forever to get it. Oh well, garden thoughts for now, worry about BS later.

Thursday, February 22, 2007


I've never understood the makeovers some organizations offer to cancer patients. I've thought it's great if it gives the people a boost but at the same time it seemed odd to me. I think I understand it more now. I've been obsessing a little about my upcoming PET/CT scan and what do I do. I not only get my hair cut and styled for the first time in over a year, I get it colored for the first time in my life. In an odd way it makes me feel better. I still need to lose a ton of weight but I feel lighter after my new "do". I've never been a girlie girl but the older I get the more I find myself wanting to help along the mostly natural style I've always adopted. I could never get cosmetic surgery and the main lift my face will get is when I smile. Hopefully losing weight will help me lose some of the droop and little things like a new hair style and a little lipstick can't hurt. Since I'm a small child in my blog's profile pic I thought I'd post the nearly 50 year old me (49 for 8 more months).

Sunday, February 18, 2007

My day to blog but had to add my garden surprises

I am so glad that I got motivated and not only went on a brisk walk today but also did some garden work. Seemed funny to work in my garden bundled up in a winter coat but I was able to get rid of a lot of debris and spread some mulch. The big surprise was out of the corner of my eye I saw a purple and blue splash of color. I thought it was going to be an exotic bird. Funny how half the time when I spy colorful birds I think they are going to be flowers but this time of year I had the opposite reaction. Turns out the crocuses in an area of my garden I haven't even looked at lately has started to bloom. It perked me right up. I'm not in a hurry for warm weather but I am ready for some color. It also felt great to be out and about. If I can make myself work a half hour or so in my garden, weather permitting, most days; it will all get done. My problem is I've always been the kind of person that likes to get a huge chunk done at once. In my twenties, I'd turn the soil over for my vegetable garden, before I had raised beds, by working 12 hours a day on the weekends. Even then I would end up with my hands getting totally beat up not to mention my back but it was worth it and I was young and recovered fast. I haven't been able to do that since I was in my mid 30s but I was able to work pretty long hours for several days in a row. What I need to master now is the 30 minutes of piece work where I don't even worry about doing a whole bed at a time. I can do a 1/4 of a bed or even just a tiny area and before I know it, those tiny areas will become a whole job done. For today, I am oh so happy to have spied my first blooms. Not bad for mid February and worth the little bit of work I got done.

Springing Ahead

I keep going back to my photographs of past springs, in part, to get myself motivated to do the fall cleanup I never did. I am springing ahead to the promise of spring. The bulbs are popping up through the masses of dried grasses and such and my garden is crying out for a thick layer of mulch to help avoid the weeding which won't get done. It's bitter cold, at least for here, but that's the best time for me to tackle garden work. Since my post LND issues I can't handle heat at all and have a very high tolerance for cold. The ground is too hard to aerate or dig this time of year but I can skip that. There is a lot that I can do. That needs to be my mantra for everything. Focus on what I CAN do not on what I can't do. This is day 65 of my latest effort to rehabilitate physically. I am still averaging out to be walking a little over every other day. For some reason that's signficant to me. Ideally, I would like to hit the 5 days a week I was doing at first but as long as I average out to every other day I feel like I'm doing okay. I've had some good weeks, bad weeks, and everything in between but all told not doing too bad at all. I can't express how much the support I have recieved from people I've met through the MPIP has meant to me. It has meant everything to connect with people who understand what it means to deal with a melanoma diagnosis and the aftermath. For me the aftermath has been the hard part. I was so positive when I initially recieved my diagnosis that it was almost unreal. I got the bad news up front because my skin lesion was so deep that everything moved fast. In many ways I've gotten mostly good news since then. I only had one positive node and it was micromets. The only subsequent biopsies I've had were negative for melanoma. Although the scans have been a mixed bag, nothing so far has developed in the wrong direction. Although I do have a mild case of scan-anxiety, I am glad I will get a full body PET/CT scan in a little over 2 weeks. My goal is that as long as nothing is bigger or new or of concern to my doctors, I will be trying very hard to put this behind me. Not sure if that will be possible but I can try!

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Time turns me into a cliche

Hard to believe we're half way through February. What a cliche but there you have it. The passage of time is wearing on me like most people and the way it accelerates is one of life's little ironies of aging. I can hardly believe I turn 50 this year. Not that 50 is old by any stretch of the imagination but it's a milestone none the less. It helps to think of people I know in their late 50s, 60s, and one woman at the place I work who is 82. I work for a testing company that hires a lot of retired teachers so we have an older work force than some places. We have both extremes. Some people are quite young and my employer has programs to help employees go to college. I am very fortunate to have the luxury of working from home and I have to keep telling myself that when I get frustrated with work. I am pretty sure that I wouldn't have been able to keep working after all the issues I've had since my LND started if I had to commute. I try not to worry about the what ifs but it's hard. If my work situation changed and I needed to commute, I'm still not sure if I could do it. A woman on the MPIP posted that her husband who was stage IV worked literally to the end of his life, going to work the day before he died. It astounds me how strong some people are. I fear that I pale in comparison. Part of what I have trouble with is preconceptions I had of what chronic pain is. I remember clearly going to an appointment with my doctor with a family member. That's when I got the news that some people have chronic pain after a LND, particularly the groin LND. Up until that point I was sure I was having a recurrence. I couldn't believe that I could have the symptoms I had without a clear problem that could either be fixed or would ultimately be terminal. I remember telling my family member that I couldn't believe this was just chronic pain because of the severity. To me chronic pain might as well have been chronic complaints. I didn't see it as something dehabilitating unless the person let it be. I was oh so stupid. Fortunately my supporter was literally older and smarter than me and she said, Carver, chronic doesn't meant that it's nothing it means that it can be forever. She said it in the nicest possible way but I finally got it. For the first time it registered with me what chronic pain was. Later I saw a good news program on chronic pain and researchers who are doing trials with patients who suffer from it. It has been an educational experience but it's still hard to shake the feeling of being weak. I'm doing better in a lot of ways but it bothers me that I still have to take so many medications and I'm back to where the modified regimen I started on in September is barely sufficient and I'm adding in over the counter meds along with the prescibed ones. I feel like a whiner talking about it. I am so very aware of my good fortune but I also think it is important that I face it head on. I've had others who have had chronic pain after their LND let me know that it helped them to read my blog and know they weren't alone. That meant more to me, I'm sure, than anything I've ever said could have helped anyone else. I wish I had answers for a better system of dealing with this. I know my set up could be a hell of a lot worse but going to a pain doc every 6 months for re-fills is not ideal by any stretch of the imagination. That's my current regime. My last appointment he wrote out 6 months worth of re-fills and said see you in 6 months. At least he was congenial. He agreed with the changes my PCP had made when things got worse and he included the new med she had prescribed in my re-fills. That said, it's hard for me to accept that this is my life. It's not a bad life but I am still struggling with acceptance. I am still struggling with the feeling that I should be able to overcome my limitations in ways I haven't been able to do.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Planned lunacy

I've been looking through old garden photos to get an idea of where I may do some of my wild scatter planting. I love the idea of lunatic gardening where I pretend to be another of the animals scattering seeds willy nilly. It's not lunacy when animals follow their instincts and do what they do but a human animal tends to do it a little differently. I'm not going to look at my garden spreadsheet which I started years ago. The spreadsheet has all the perennials, self seeders, etc. sorted by location. A nifty devise for keeping me straight but not what I'm going to go by this year. I am looking through photographs though to help give me ideas about gardens past and also help me avoid scattering on top of bulbs. Some of my bulbs are in separate areas that I know to leave alone but some are in spots where I also grow vegetables but have flowers around the edges. Since I doubt I'll have much of a vegetable garden this year, I want to scatter plant seeds for spring flowers in areas that used to be reseved for food crops. It will be nice to have something besides doctor's appointment and scans to think about this spring. Even looking through old photographs adds a planned element to my gardening this spring so I will think of it as planned lunacy. I'll still do some scatter planting willy nilly but avoid spots where I know plants will be emerging soon. I'm not quite nuts enough to want flowers growing on top of other flowers, even if they could survive that kind of competition. The first full week in March, I see my rheumatologist, dermatologist, and have a full body PET/CT scan at the hospital where I've started seeing a medical oncologist. At the end of March I see the FNP at the melanoma clinic where my surgical oncologist is and a few weeks after that I see my pain specialist. These are all routine appointments. It will be interesting to see what the PET/CT scan is like at Rex since my others have been at UNC. My medical ONC said if I wanted to start getting my scans at his hospital which is close to where I live, he could have them sent to the melanoma clinic I also go to prior to those appointments. It will be a lot easier on me to get done 15 minutes away from me instead of having to allow the hour plus to drive to UNC, park, etc. CDs of the scans at UNC are being sent to REX prior to the scan so they will have that for comparison. It's also convenient that UNC healthcare owns Rex Healthcare at this point and the two cancer centers are doing some of the same NCI clinical trials (not for melanoma though). If I was ever in a clinical trial I'd have to do that at UNC or DUKE in terms of what's currently available in this area but I'm trying to assume I won't have a recurrence or need for further treatment. It will be nice to be able to check out new plants, buds forming on old ones and do a little lunatic gardening in between my appointments and scan this spring. Funny how looking through old garden shots I can see that in spite of notes and spreadsheets my garden has always been a sort of planned lunacy. I didn't have the title yet but that's what it is and I like it.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Signs of new life

There is so much going on outside that it invigorates me. In spite of how cold it's been lately, the warm spell sent out signals that spring was on it's way and the signs of new life are everywhere. So far no indication of damage to the tender shoots. Maybe they aren't so tender after all. I think a lot may depend on how long the colder spells last. Everything seems to be able to tolerate the back and forth weather but there are limits to how long some plants survive the cold. Either way I'm happy to have a blast of cold air to wake me up as well as the signs of spring to come. I can't believe it's been close to two months since my latest effort to be as physically active as possible. I'm averaging out at walking every other day although at first I was walk/jogging 4 to 5 days a week and lately that's dropped down. The important thing to me is I'm not giving in to the pull of intertia. Something that helps me not totally lose momentum is that I've noticed the fluid backs up in my foot if I go more than 5 days without an exercise type walk which is distinct from running errand type walking which doesn't seem to do me as much good. I do think trying to walk as much as possible is important to keep the mild case of lymphedema, which I have, in check. On that score I've been pretty lucky. I think walking is an important factor for me in terms of not having a worse case of lymphedema than I do. I'm killing time while awaiting my new dryer. My old dryer lasted 23 years. I know that I'll sound like an old codger but the problem I have with replacing appliances is new appliances seem to break down after 6 or 7 years while the older ones lasted well over 20 years. It's kind of fun to get a new appliance but in my old codger way I think about how the new ones get replaced 2 to 3 times before the ones I haven't replaced yet break down, or that's how it was in the past. At this point the only thing I haven't replaced at least once is the central air. I've replaced the heat twice which is one reason I'm reluctant to replace the AC until it breaks because if I replace it, I'll end up replacing it again. Yep, I'm turning into an old codger.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Lunatic Gardening

There is something about February that makes me think about gardening, even when I'm not planning on doing much about gardening besides watch the babies from self seeders pop up in unexpected places and as I have the energy clear the competitors out of the way. It's frigid here which I'm enjoying after our mixed up weather with warm to mild to cold and cycling through the temperature range within weeks. I don't mind at all that we are having at least a few weeks of actual winter. I think the reasons I'm thinking about gardening are as mixed up as the temperatures. In part it's all those seed catalogues that keep arriving in spite of my not ordering from them for several years. It's also the amount of growth I spotted this weekend, along with the helleborus with it's blooms beginning to burst out creating a lovely little area near my secret seat. After our little snow followed by a moderate few days, I decided to do my rounds before the temps dipped into the teens and twenties. So much going on and I don't mind that some things will get zapped with the cold week because we need that to avoid the bugs being out of control this summer. It made me laugh that my garden boxes which have not been tended this winter are bursting with life anyway although I'm sure much of that will be brown and bent over the next few days with solid cold and my lack of attention. If I covered the boxes at night and went to the effort I could have a winter garden as I used to but I'm moving into lunatic gardening as an intentional style rather than something that happens anyway when I'm busy or don't feel great. What made me laugh was the way a broccoli floret, kale, parsley, cilantro, yarrow, and carrots which weren't planted had self seeded from other places and were growing in the boxes. Although I had those plants in boxes, they had been shifted around so they weren't even in the same spots as the original plants. I'm not going to order from seed catalogues but this spring, in keeping with my lunatic gardening theme, I'm going to get all the seeds out of my refrigerator that I didn't use the last time I had a planned planting and shift them into the soil wherever there is an empty spot. I am not going to take notes likes I usually do when I plant because if I do that I'll be watching for seedlings and will feel like I need to help them along with water and such. I don't want to count on having the time or strength for much tending so instead my lunatic gardening will be me out with seeds pretending I'm a squirrel blending seeds hither thither into the soil and anything that survives will be a pleasant surprise rather than a obligation that needs to be tended. I think that lunatic gardening will suit me. I always enjoy the surprises that result from squirrels, wind, birds and whatever else is responsible for flowers and plants showing up in the oddest places. Why not be an active part of those surprises. For one thing if I don't take notes, within a week, I'll forget what I scattered where so it will be very much like the gifts the animals are responsible for. One of my nuttier ideas is to make stencils and paint my storage building with wild designs and symbols I like. Not sure if I have that in me but the idea makes me laugh. Sort of like the old VW vans that were painted with pop art in the 60s and 70s. That would be pretty hilarious, to me, if I did something like that on my storage building which is beside my greenhouse. Very unlikely though that I'd get very far. Painting under the best of circumstances used to be tiring for me, probably because I didn't enjoy it. I took forever painting my storage building after it was built and Bill ended up offering to help me because it was in danger of deteriorating if I didn't paint it. Painting designs would be different. That would be fun. However, doing that kind of painting on a building would take forever.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Tomorrow Marks Two Years

Tomorrow will mark two years since my melanoma primary was removed. In some ways it seems like an eternity. I know I have been lucky as all get out in more ways than one. The old photo of me that I’m posting could be an illustration that skin type is not a guarantee that you don’t have to worry about melanoma. I didn’t use to worry as much about my skin as I might have because I tend to get darker and darker and rarely burn. My skin is actually lighter than I thought because it wasn’t until a year or so after I was diagnosed with melanoma that I saw what my skin looked like without at least a little tan. On February 3, 2005 I went to a dermatologist and told him I wanted a cutaneous lesion removed from my hip. I said that I knew it was nothing because a dermatologist 20 years ago had told me it was nothing due to it being symmetrical. After 20 years, I FINALLY went to another dermatologist because what started as a blue/black mole which bled around the edges had turned into a large dome which caught my underpants and hurt when I slept on my left side. It never spread on the skin or had irregular borders but it was becoming a major annoyance. When I described the history to my current dermatologist he said that it could be melanoma but he leaned towards an ulcerated blood blister because he didn’t think I would have done as well as I had for 20 years if it was melanoma. He removed the lesion with a shave biopsy and I went home assuming that it was an ulcerated blood blisters. At that point melanoma was barely in my vocabulary and I wasn’t concerned enough to find out more about it. I enjoyed my weekend and on Monday I received a call that I didn’t expect. I was told that the lesion was nodular melanoma and was at least 6.9 mm deep. I was also told that 4 out of 5 of the dermatopathologists who reviewed the slides favored it as being a metastatic lesion but that one thought it might be the primary. I was given the survival stats for IIC and for stage IV melanoma and was told that they were going to fit me in the next day for a head to toe check and that I was set up with an appointment with a surgical oncologist at a research university who specialized in melanoma. They had set the appointment with the surgical oncologist the same week and I was being fit in so fast due to how deep as well as unusual my melanoma was. The upshot was that they didn’t find any other involvement when I had a PET/CT scan so they treated the cutaneous lesion as the primary and I had a wide excision and sentinel node biopsy. Another 2.8 mm of melanoma was removed during the wide excision and my sentinel node was positive for a small focus of metastatic melanoma. I had a groin lymph node dissection two weeks after the SNB and no other tumors were found. Over the past two years I’ve had some scares but no other confirmed melanoma has been found and I’m starting to believe that I am free from melanoma. We had a pretty but short lived snow this week and I did get a chance to take some photos before it switched to freezing rain and just rain.