Friday, September 21, 2018

In Wellfleet: some sadness, some sun, also tipping over but having fun

View from the bench on an overcast day
One of the first things I did on this little trip to Wellfleet was to take my beau over Uncle Tim's Bridge to the bench book. It is one of the most peaceful spots that I know.

We sat on the bench, and I wrote down my thoughts about coming here with my kids, and about how restorative it was to sit there and let your cares drift away. A nearby resident has been maintaining it for years. When it gets filled up with peoples' thoughts, someone takes it and places a new one in a little wooden treasure chest.

Waiting for table at Beachcomber, 2012
I looked up Uncle Tim's Bridge bench book and my blog post, Wonderful Wellfleet, came up fifth. I must have unintentionally good SEO or something. It was from 2012. I wrote this about our visit to Provincetown: "Joe, who is understandably upset by my falls, watched me like a hawk when we walked through Provincetown's busy streets. Step up, step down, step up, step down, he said. At one point when we were all in a gallery, I "escaped" by going out to the street by myself. "Hey, come back here and get back on your leash!" he said. I ultimately just walked along holding his arm, which was comforting because I knew I wouldn't fall."

I also wrote about how the seals seemed to be getting too close to the shore on the ocean side. Most everyone now is talking about the seals, what to do about the increasing population that is bringing sharks closer to the shore, and specifically about the recent fatal attack.

Jeff and I walked on that beach, Newcomb Hollow, on a day so misty that my glasses kept getting wet. People stood silently for a few minutes at the memorial for 26-year-old Arthur Medici. You don't want to speak badly about the dead, but all around, in the discussions, some were wondering why he and a friend went so far out, off-season, on a day when there was no lifeguard to warn them of the danger.

Memorial at Newcomb Hollow Beach
Some local officials want to cull the population of seals, which are on the endangered species list, but many are against that and are proposing other ways to keep swimmers safe, and to help fishermen who say the seals are taking their fish. Maybe the idiot climate-change deniers should wake up to the fact that there is a scientific reason that the warming oceans are contributing to the problem.

But back to good things.

The sand was hard, providing a good surface for a run, so I ditched my Tevas and went up ahead a little when walking on the beach on this moody day. It was actually a trot, in between a walk and a run. But it felt good. I stopped to do some yoga.

 Out of our four days here, only one had some sun, but in a way it was good because we didn't have to worry about getting sunburnt. We covered most of the bases: a walk along the bay and beach, dinner at Mac's restaurant and lunch at the dock, a little shopping, a walk around Provincetown, coffee, a visit to a newfound treasure – Chequessett Chocolate –  in North Truro, dinner at a new discovery, also in Truro, Blackfish, (formerly a blacksmith shop), and just plain breathing in the wonderful air.

I also spent a little time in an ambulance.

We were biking on the bike path. I got a "foolproof, "step-through" frame after my accident on my old bike. To me it does not seem like a real bike. But of course it is, and you see more and more of them around. Anyway, it was quiet so we didn't have to make full stops at the stop signs. When we got to Orleans Center, there was a sign instructing you to get off your bike. Jeff stopped and went across.

Cloudy day on Newcomb Hollow Beach
Maybe I was daydreaming about how I used to work there, and about how it looked different from when I hung out there with my high school boyfriend.

Maybe I hadn't stretched enough. I don't really know. My right foot was on the ground, and as I lifted my left foot over, my toe got stuck in the frame near the pedal. The bike started to tip over. I had that moment when you say, "Oh, no." I tumbled to the pavement. The bike tipped over onto me. The brake handle cut into my shin. I sat cross-legged and took one look at it and squeezed my hand on top of it. I was wearing gloves and pressed them down hard. It looked like a good gash.

I motioned to Jeff. He came over, walking pretty slowly, because he said later that he thought I was taking a rest to do yoga. He went back to get his bike. A couple stopped. The man went into the bike shop right next to wear I was and brought out some gauze. Jeff brought a bandana over. We made a tourniquet. A nice Orleans police office, whose name, appropriately, was cutter, said he sees all sorts of crashes at the same spot. Some ride right into the yellow pole.

He called the paramedics. They came in an ambulance. An Orleans police officer took Jeff to an Eastham police officer who took him back to get the car. I said why don't we just bandage it tightly so we could keep riding. They said they didn't think so.

The paramedics took me into the ambulance. I lay on the stretcher and had a lovely talk with the female paramedic. We talked about many things, ranging from plantar fasciitis to the propensity of  seals. She showed me a video, taken from above, of seals along Monomoy Island. There are apparently 50,000 off the coast.

I guess there aren't many nerve endings on the shin because it was stinging more than hurting.

Jeff came and we went to urgent care at Fontaine Outpatient Center. A friendly doctor said that in season, every day they see some 150 patients who have had some sort of accident. My blood pressure was high, though not terrible, about 155 over 100. I was glad that I had Ativan in the car.

The doctor gave me 12 stitches. I also got a tetanus shot. He said that if I put a sock over it, I could bike the next day. That takes us to yesterday. We biked around some trails in Provincetown and ended up a beautiful Herring Cove Beach. A (relatively) new concession stand, Far Land on the Beach, appeared in front of us. It had a solar roof and not-your-traditional offering, such as kale salad, which the woman at the window promised that they massaged, so it wouldn't be tough.

Looking out at the sun glinting on the water, we had the best kale salad with chick peas, and a fish sandwich with french fries. I held up a crispy french fry and said, this is the life, a crispy french fry, a fresh fish sandwich, and kale salad that actually tastes good.

Too bad this is the last day. I'm sitting on the little deck.
Our Airbnb hosts, Susannah and Russell, have three baby goats. It's funny to be on a beach vacation and hear goats in the background. The black cat, Fiddle, is around here somewhere. Susannah is going to make us eggs. Every day she bakes wonderful muffins. She made blueberry, cranberry, and her speciality, with chocolate mixed in.

Yesterday, I stretched before I got on the bike. Jeff watched me get on and off and concluded the tipping over thing was a fluke. Since we did pretty well yesterday, we're going to take one more bike ride before we leave the Cape.

View of Herring Cove
I wanted to jump in a pond, especially since there wasn't time to jump in a lake in Wisconsin, but now because of the stitches I can't do it. That's OK, though. It's a beautiful day and we're going to meander out of here and make a couple of stops, including maybe a bike ride at Nickerson State Park. It's hard to leave Wellfleet, for sure.

Joe called and I told him that the bike tipped over onto me. He said it's an improvement because it wasn't a bad fall. After one of my BIG falls, Aldo, the Mount Holyoke tennis coach, said I need to learn how to roll when I fall. That's kind of what I did, so I guess it goes with my theme of learning how to fall, in general.

Friday, September 14, 2018

Trekking, schlepping, & celebrating

I am just getting around to writing about my great trip to “the old country” to celebrate Rosh Hashanah. 

I got back on Tuesday, feeling kind of scrunched up from a lot of driving, and then thankful for Wednesday morning yoga, and got back in a car to go to Dana-Farber. Thursday I overslept for the first time in a long time. I woke up only a little before 9:30, which was tricky because I had to be at the Bay Road Tennis Club for my contract time at 10. It's not too far, so I made it, but I didn't get to stretch...or even fully wake up until a ball hit me in the left ear, somehow causing the opposite side of the frame to cause a little bruise behind my right ear. But anyway... 

The trip included: services at the 92ndStreet Y, traditional post-service lunch at Three Guys Restaurant on 96th and Madison (the old neighborhood) with Katie, Ben and cousin Joanne; family dinner in Queens; hanging out in Brooklyn with Katie and discovering cool restaurants and new neighborhoods; getting rush tickets to see “Beautiful” ($40 orchestra seats) and wandering into my high school friend Amanda Church’s art exhibit in SoHo. 

If the sun came out once, it was for a peek through the clouds. Every time we thought it had stopped raining, it seemed to still be drizzling. I went in my summer clothes and had to borrow a sweatshirt. I had a sore toe, brought on by hiking in shoes that don’t have as much give as the sneakers I usually wear. It is black and bruised and half-off, of great interest to me but understandably not that fascinating to others. When it happened before, it was my runners' badge of honor for going 10 miles. Now, unfortunately, it's just for being careless. 

It slowed me down, somewhat. Still, what with walking here and there and up and down subway stairs, we put in our 10,000 steps most days.

$40 Broadway ticket
Having left home a little later than I planned last Saturday (who, me?) I drove down to Stamford, thinking that would be faster than parking in New Haven and taking the train from there. (You have to walk quite a ways in the station, and Stamford is more manageable). It probably wasn’t faster. Several bad accidents backed up the Merritt Parkway. 

I had an adventure after leaving Grand Central, when I found out that one of the trains that Katie had told me to take wasn’t running. A guardian angel (even older than I am, an RN from Jamaica) told me to follow her, "at no cost." We got onto an alternative train, which meant I got off at a different stop in Brooklyn than planned.

I packed light, but by this point my little purple suitcase felt heavy. Up the stairs I trudged, coming up onto the street into the midst of a flock of black-clad men celebrating the end of the Sabbath. It was the Lubavitch World Headquarters. Who knew? Katie did when she walked down from the other direction and motioned me to come across the street.

It was late and we were hungry. We went to a nearby Indian restaurant. I was surprised at how well it sat with me. (When we newspaper peeps ate down the street at Sitar, I could only eat one dish that didn’t bother me.) 

The only other diners occupied a long table behind us. It was a 60thbirthday celebration, festive and loud. We didn’t mind, though, because it was entertaining to watch them. We sang happy birthday along with them, and they gave us each a piece of delicious, moist, chocolate cake. (Nutritional consultant, I hope you’re not reading this.)

I told Katie that it might have taken less time to go visit her in Minnesota!

With Amanda Church painting at
 Steven Harvey Fine Art Projects
On Sunday we went up to the art gallery and then further up to Broadway to seek out our rush tickets. My little theater guide (not so little, actually maybe taller than I am) did it again. I never knew from rush tickets. But now I do. The same-day, discounted tickets are not always available. We lucked out.

I had been a doubter about “Beautiful.” I thought it would be a too-nostalgic trip down memory lane. But I was wrong, and I was surprised, both by the story of how Carole King grew up in Brooklyn as Carole Klein and became Carole King when she sold her first song at the age of 16. I had no idea that she had written for so many groups. The story of her breaking out and singing her own songs – gasp – was interesting in that it would be taken for granted today.

And it was a treat (and a surprise) to see the role played and beautifully sung by Abby Mueller, sister of Jessie Mueller, who originated the role.

Monday we went to meet Ben. We got off at 86thstreet and picked him up at Starbucks, then walked to the Y with him. From playing on the roof as a kindergartener there to going to services with my parents, I have many memories of time spent there. 

We like the rabbi, Elka Abrahamson, who combines a light touch with reverence for the holiday, the celebration of the new year, 5779. Some of us like the cantor more than others. It is controversial to some because he is a cantorial soloist, not a “real” cantor. The sound has changed since the days of my youth, from the choir, with an organ, to a band, with a combination of rock and klezmer sound.

I miss some of the traditional, more somber, singing, but in a way it’s better, because especially in the first year after my father died, the music made me sob into my prayer book.

And while I have to admit to occasionally nodding off in the past, and being rescued with help from those little candies my mother carried in her coat pockets and purses,  I never once felt sleepy.

I would have lingered over honey cake and challah, but we needed to keep moving. So it was on to Three Guys, then out to Queens via subway, then taking an Uber back to Brooklyn because it was more direct than the train.

The next morning, after bagels with Katie, I got back on the Metro North train for the first leg of my trip home. At this point I was tired and wished I had a longer train ride and a shorter drive home. But I had one-third on the train and two-thirds in the car.

 Fatigue might account for the moment when I burst into tears after finding out that I had accidentally parked in an executive garage, not the public garage, and that the cost of parking was more $110, much more than the public garage, which I had tried unsuccessfully to enter. 

It was an easy mistake (at least, if you’re me) since they are side by side, and when I was slowing down to find the entrance to the public garage, drivers behind me were so ferociously honking that I took the first garage entrance I saw.

Maybe these were held-back tears from missing my parents so much during the holiday observances. I know I’m not alone. Holidays can do that to you. I doubt I'll ever experience anything as beautiful as  my mother's holiday dinners. 

It’s always hard for me to leave New York, and top of that, even harder now because it involves leaving our newly minted Brooklynite. So I lollygagged, and by the time I got back home, it was dark. It seemed like it took a long time to get back, but not enough time to count all my blessings. These included having been on this planet to see the cutest set of first-day-of school photos ever, in my opinion, at least. 

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Mysterious rash on face, marvelous trip to US Open

With Donna and Roger at the US Open
When I heard while watching Kaia Kanepi play at the US Open that she had battled plantar fasciitis in both feet – and almost quit tennis because of that and the debilitating Epstein-Barr virus – I could totally sympathize with the plantar fasciitis part. (She lost to Serena Williams in the Round of 16.)

My friends said I complained more about the heel pain than I ever did about leukemia. 

Actually I don't think I complained about cancer at all. That's because I expected it to be bad. The heel pain drove me crazy because I couldn't understand how an area the size of a quarter could be so debilitating. During one bout I skipped all exercise for about six months. Even walking to the end of the driveway, I felt like I was walking on crushed glass.

Now something new is driving me crazy. It's a combination of blisters and rash on and around my lips. Sometimes it hurts a lot, or stings, and other times it's incredibly itchy. I sent photos to my health care team. One doctor said it could be an allergy. Another said it could be, in his shorthand that took me a minute to figure out, HSV, or herpes simplex virus, otherwise known as cold sores, aka HSV1.

One possibility is that the herpes simplex virus broke out because they let me decrease the dosage on the Valtrex that I take as a preventative, because I'm on prednisone, from 1,000 mgs twice a day to 500. Dr. Marty said to in an email to increase the dose, so I did. 

I thought maybe the chemotherapy cream, Efudex, that I'm applying to select spots, had gotten onto my skin and irritated it. But through my googling I have learned that the cold sore can spread from your lip to other areas of your skin. So I figured it probably wasn't some stray Efudex. 

A friend at tennis said it looks like sun poisoning. She suggested Aquafor. It feels good to have something moist on it, but I don't know what it's doing. The pharmacist said to put aloe vera gel on. I said it would burn. He said not if it's pure. He sold me some. It burned. 

I came upon a story about shingles and decided that's what I have.

The pharmacist said stress brings the cold sores out and I should go home and rest.

What, me stressed?

I tried unsuccessfully to remember if a correlation existed between the outbreak and the outburst on the tennis court.

WHAT DIDN"T CAUSE ME STRESS was my fifth annual bus trip with Donna to the US Open Friday. It strikes me as funny that when I lived nearby, I never went. But as soon as I went on the bus from the Enfield Tennis Club, I was hooked. 

In my story about how tennis helped me recover from leukemia, I wrote about what the trip means to me.

Rafael Nadal, a speck
We've had fun every year, but the first year was more haphazard because we didn't know where to go. Now, we have a plan. It being USTA Membership Appreciation Day, we went to the USTA booth first to pick up our gift. It was a $10 gift card and a nice baseball cap with ... drum roll ... USTA member on it. 

Then we went to an outside court to watch doubles, sitting so close that you could see and hear how hard they hit it. This is the fun of going that I didn't understand when I lived so close but never went. 

The heat had broken. It was slightly cloudy, with a little rain here and there. Perfect weather for it.

When we were talking around, Donna said, excitedly, "I see Roger Federer!"

I jumped.

There he was, on a wall. A woman took a photo for us. 

We checked out the new Armstrong stadium and went to our nosebleed seats in Ashe – part of the bus trip package – to watch Nadal play the young Russian prospect, Karen Khachanov.  We went down further than our assigned seats, but due to the full stadium, they wouldn't let us sit in a lower section. We were close enough, though. Also, we got to see the new roof close.

I got a kick out of emailing my friend Francisco Marty, the infectious disease specialist at Dana-Farber, and getting a response in less than a minute. I told him about the rash and asked about increasing the Valtrex, and he wrote back, to increase, and also, "take a selfie with Nadal."

I wrote back that Nadal was too far.

He responded, "Tell him come up to you."

He always made me smile, even when I was deathly ill, and he had made me smile again.

Though we wanted to stay to the finish, we also wanted to see more action, so we left before the end. Out in the plaza, a crowd had gathered to watch the gripping finish on the big screen. We joined them. The world may be falling apart, but we shared this communal moment with strangers who cared only about a tennis match. (Nadal won in four sets.)

The bus left at 7:30, an hour later than previously. Our trek to the bus (it's a long walk) was much calmer than our first year when I wasn't feeling well. Our friend Deb Doner was leading the way, imploring Donna to get me to go faster, and to maybe even put me in a cart. Donna said she was doing the best she could but she couldn't pick me up! When we finally got to the bus, what happened next wasn't pretty.

US Open signature drink
That year it was scorching hot. I didn't drink enough water. I thought I only had one, but Donna says I had two of the signature Honey Deuce cocktails with Grey Goose vodka in a (plastic) glass with all the names of all the Open champions on it.

This year I only had one, and I wasn't sick, unless you count whatever is going on on my face. We got back to the bus early...and waited almost half an hour for two stragglers. It ended up being a long day. But I would do it again.

Meanwhile back at the ranch, I have been taking Tylenol, Advil, and occasionally a little oxycodone when the pain around my lips reaches a 9 on a scale of 1 to 10. Dr. Lin (Jennifer) said via email to apply 2.5 percent cortisone and Vaseline. She also said to stay out of the sun. I don't hit the Ativan much, but I took a little when I realized I wasn't breathing. (Well, I was breathing, of course, but not the right way.)
We went to a party. I tried, unsuccessfully, I'm afraid, to keep my hands off my face. The whatever-it-is was itching like crazy. At home, I took two Benadryl. The next morning I felt hung over.

I skipped George's clinic at the Canoe Club yesterday. Meghan's yin yoga at the Hampshire Y seemed like a better thing to do. It is the perfect combination of movement and stillness. Hearing her voice brings me back to Costa Rica. 

On the way home, I stopped at the Canoe Club. I sat under the umbrella and talked to George and the players who had just finished. I told him about the "I hate you" comment. He said he had overheard an exchange between my antagonist and another player. The other person had said, "That's uncalled for."

So this person is taking something out on others, and not just on me.

George said it's a long summer. It's not the first time that by the end of it, words can fly like tennis balls.

Today was the first day of an indoor contract at the Bay Road Tennis Club. It's split among six players. I thought of getting a sub, but I didn't want to do it on the first day, and I thought that it would feel good to run around. I figured while pain in my feet stopped me from playing, there was no reason that pain in my face should do it.

They are nice ladies and excellent players who don't take themselves too seriously. 

Will give a report in another post on the what is the reason for my rash, and what I'm going to do about it.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Warm Wisconsin welcome, bad behavior on tennis court, & another tooth bites the dust

With new friend Mary Robinson at Wisconsin Welcome sign
I Went to Wisconsin without my laptop and neglected the blog. I did a little writing on the rehabbed iPad (I had dropped it almost as soon as I got it) and I'm sure it's not complicated but I have a leap to make before I can write a blog post.

The MacBook Air is my version of the old-fashioned well-sharpened pencil on a favorite pad, I guess.

Actually I went to Chicago, then on to Wisconsin. It was with my boyfriend. Just trying that on for size. I don't know what to say. He's not a boy.  Boyfriend and girlfriend kinda work, but not totally at a certain age.

In previous blog posts I wrote that "a friend" drove me to Dana-Farber. It's time to be a little more specific while at the same time not revealing too much.

I went to meet his sisters and extended family. So that was a big step. There are sensitive issues.

My "friend" and I have discussed the awkwardness of finding the right name for the significant other, or as my mother used to say, gentleman caller.

Not a partner: too much like you're dancing or in a business arrangement. Although I hear that a lot of people are using it. Not a companion, which sounds more like an aide. Or beau? I used beau for a while but then some people got annoyed and said to please use his name.

I like meeting people and finding out about them (occupational necessities), so I was only a little nervous about the trip. He said, "Just be yourself."

They were so friendly and welcoming, and interesting, that I was immediately relaxed and did just that.

I think it went well, but there were a few moments when I wondered what they thought. For example, we were in the middle of lunch at his sister-in-law's when my fingers decided to do back bends and cramp. Trying probably unsuccessfully to be subtle, I pulled at my thumb to try to straighten it out. His niece asked if I was OK. At the moment I wasn't, because when this happens it hurts a lot.

It isn't just my thumbs. My other fingers can bend backwards also. I couldn't do this if I tried, but when it happens they get a mind of their own. One doctor said this is related to my graft vs. host disease of the skin, though I've heard that it happens to other people who didn't get a stem cell transplant.

 I know that the limited range in my wrists, which is a problem in yoga, comes from the GVHD. (Sorry former and current news peeps, this is an oft-used acronym. The whole terms is a mouthful.)

My beau's sister-in-law said it could be low salt, and she gave me some Gatorade. It worked. I was so happy that I flapped my freed-up fingers around. She kindly gave me a bottle to take with me in case it happened again.

I seemed to have a connecting point with many of his relatives. For example, I talked to one about our shared chemotherapy after effect, neuropathy in our feet. For people who don't have it, it's hard to understand how your feet can be simultaneously numb and painful. I wrote about it in this article about the pain of having and treating neuropathy. 

After a night in Chicago, we drove some four hours to Stevens Point, Wisconsin, my friend's hometown. (How about special friend? Nah.) We had two lovely runs in Iverson Park, along a trail padded by pine needles and leaves.

We also went to Waupaca and Appleton. It was a packed itinerary. I got an actual state map and enjoyed trying to find my bearings...and attempting to fold it back the proper way.

On the drive back, we stopped at a tourist attraction, the Mars Cheese Castle. At first, when Mary mentioned it, I thought for a moment that it was actually made out of cheese! It isn't made of cheese, but there is a lot of it.

I didn't get any cheese because I'm toying with the no sugar, no dairy, diet. I got some pushback on it. It seems like there should be a way to make some changes but adhere to moderation, not total elimination of certain foods. In any case I didn't get very far without eating ice cream.

 It was my birthday on Friday, and while writing the beginning part of the blog, I was eating a large piece of my birthday carrot cake. It's hard to refrain from cake on your birthday. It's carrot cake so it must have something good for you in it. Those little frosted carrots on the top, per chance?

The day before, I had my 13th tooth pulled. As directed by the dental surgeon, I took two Ativan (two milligrams total). I really wanted coffee afterwards. My chauffeur obliged. He was a good sport. I don't remember doing this, but I believed him when he said I was falling all over the place.

I vaguely remember going into the Odyssey Bookshop and picking out three books for him to buy me. (Educated, Less, and the first Louise Penny book, recommended by his sisters and echoed by friends.)

Unhappy camper
The next day I said we could return one because it seemed like a lot. He said it's only three books. Did I say he's a mensch? Also, my dog has a crush on him.

There is a string hanging down from the stitch in my gum where the tooth used to be. It is hard to avoid playing with it with my tongue. It hurts on and off, more so at night. The oxycodone makes me have hallucinatory dreams, but it works the best.  I need to repeat this or else people will think I'm a drug addict: My doctors don't want me to take much Tylenol because it is bad for the liver, in which I have some graft vs. host disease. Advil and the others are not good either, for a variety of reasons.

On my birthday we went to George's smaller (than Wednesday) clinic at the Holyoke Canoe Club. It was a fun time, as usual.

But sadly, in other ways, the stars do not seem to be aligned over my happy place, specifically in our normally relaxed, low-key, Saturday and Tuesday group.

My other groups are set up so that we plan ahead to have an even number. In this group, whoever shows up, plays, so you might have one player at a time rotating in for the server.

It's not my first choice because you don't play a full set. But I realized that the socializing and coffee-drinking while waiting your turn is part of the fun.

If there are more than two people sitting, however, I get antsy. So I either leave or on occasion have asked someone to hit with me on another court. This still leaves one extra person so that anyone who wants to rest, gets a chance to do it.

Last week when a third extra person arrived, I asked another of the "sitters" if he wanted to go on another court to hit. It would still leave one to rotate in.  Believe me, I know what it's like to be tired, so I have compassion.

A player, "E," bellowed, "YOU SIT! We need to rest!"

Excuse me? I wondered, would he direct a guy this way? I think not. Was he being a bully? I believe he was. After I had my turn serving, I packed up to leave. With tears in my eyes. Nobody likes being yelled at. But in addition, for me, an element PTSD comes into play.

I went home to walk the dog. Who does not bark at me.

Saturday was even worse. I went to tennis despite having a bad night's sleep and being a little "off" because of the pain and the remnants of the night's drugs. When I got there, it looked like three would be sitting, but then another player arrived. So we had eight, two women and two men. I was excited. Good for real doubles.

We had some good rallies but they beat us, 6-1. It seemed like it would be obvious to switch partners. They were a stronger team, let's face it. I was off a beat, and so was my partner. I suggested switching, but my partner wanted a rematch. Actually, he INSISTED.

It started out OK, 1 to 1. Then this happened. A ball came right to my partner, just a little bit higher than his head. He ducked. Our coach, George, would say that a good player is always ready to back a partner up. But I guess I'm not that good. I said, "Oh, C, tell me if you want me to get it and I'll go for it."

I didn't think much of it because partners say things like this to each other all the time. And I didn't say it in an angry way, because who am I to get angry with a partner?

The next game when I was serving, a ball rolled half way into the court, near where he was standing at the service line. Etiquette, or just plain being reasonable, calls for the partner who is not serving to pick up the ball. He looked back at me and said, "You get it."

Normally talkative, he didn't say one word after that.

We lost the second set 6-1.

When we were sweeping the clay, he picked up the brush and lowered his head. He would not look up. I grabbed the line sweeper and walked alongside him. "What's the matter?" I asked. He wouldn't answer. I repeated the question. He glared at me.

"I hate you," he said.

"You're just as bad as R," he said, referring to a player who he thinks takes it too seriously. (First I put the whole name in and then took it out.)

"I don't criticize you when you make a mistake. Don't you tell me what to do," he said.

I was stunned.

I followed along for a while and said I was sorry, I wasn't criticizing.

He walked off the court to where George and a group of other players were sitting.

I went over to the other player cleaning their side of the court.

I asked if she heard what was going on and if she saw what had happened during the game. She said she saw him go silent after the point that I referenced.

She suggested that to clear the air, I should just repeat that I was sorry.

So I did it.

"C," I said, "I'm sorry."

He looked up at me with (sorry about the cliche) daggers in his eyes.

"Don't talk to me," he said.


How rude, how ungracious, how juvenile!

This person by the way has been a big supporter through the cancer stuff, and, I thought, a real friend.

You could psychoanalyze...maybe he was mad that the other guy was playing better, maybe he had a fight with his wife, maybe he got out on the wrong side of the bed....

But again, I ask, would he talk this way to a guy?

I can't imagine he would.

Meanwhile, I saw I had a missed call from Katie.

I walked over to the river and sat on a chair. And started crying so much that she probably thought something terrible had happened.

I said I wished I was tougher and had said, "Don't talk to me like that."

I was also crying because I was tired, because it had just been my birthday and my parents weren't there, because I thought of all the parties at Atlantic Beach, and because the sweet photo that my sister posted of the two of us and our mother and Sam in front of 77 Coronado Street made the memory so vivid, and because I lost another tooth and the absence of the tooth generated a dull ache as though the tooth were still there, and because I will need another bridge costing thousands of dollars, and because I thought I knew someone and it turned out he was just another bully on the playground.

Afterwards, my reaction made me think of that horrible presidential debate in which Hillary Clinton turned and smiled when Donald Trump was coming menacingly close to her, after which she wrote in her book that she wished she had said, "Back up you creep."

Clinton wrote, “Maybe I have over-learned the lesson of staying calm, biting my tongue, digging my fingernails into a clenched fist."

The author of an article in Quartz wrote, "The passage is a clear appeal to the women who supported her. And Clinton’s reaction is relatable to anyone who has been harassed or intimidated—even if it wasn’t live in front of the entire country—and didn’t immediately react.

Then again, that's how many of us were brought up, and there is something to be said in favor of staying calm.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

'Visiting' parents' bedroom, chewing over dietary recommendations

I dreamt I was in my parents' bedroom at 1200 Fifth Ave.

My father's bed was made, but you could see he hadn't slept in it. I looked over at his nightstand  and saw the framed black and white photo of his parents. I knew he was gone.

But my mother's bed looked recently occupied. The pale blue coverlet was on top. She hadn't covered it with her bedspread. So I knew she was around. But where? I couldn't find her.

It was part distressing, part comforting, kind of dissonant.

The day before I had replied to a leukemia patient wanting to know what a stem cell transplant was like. I said the infusion of donor cells itself was no big deal. It was just like getting blood and platelets. I didn't get into how sick you get during chemotherapy, but my dream picked it up.

That night I dreamt I didn't feel well. Someone came in and took my temperature. It was 105. Just like it really was on the night that my mother called every hour or so and the nurse assured her that she had wrapped me in cold sheets and I would be fine.

I also dreamt I had such a bad toothache that I needed to find an emergency dentist working in a hospital, but I had no idea how to find that person.

Today I go to the dentist to find out his plan for the chipped tooth.

On Sunday I went to see a nutritionist (yes, she works on Sunday.)

She said I should cut out sugar and dairy and that despite all the good stuff I put into it, I put in so much crap that it depletes my body of the good nutrients.

She said that the inflammation that I have from my graft vs. host disease of the skin would calm down if I cut out the sugar. She is a fan of maple syrup, though.

She said that most likely, sugar gave me cancer.

If you look that up, every other post says yes it does, no it doesn't.

I think my mistake was in telling her that after tennis, I go to Breezy Acres and get coffee cake.

She said I eat too much fruit and not enough vegetables.

I remember going through something like this a long time ago, before cancer, and telling my mother I was going to cut the sugar. She said please don't cut out the fruit, it has so many good things in it.

At Atlantic Beach, we loaded up with fruit from the fruit truck. It's part of my culture.

The nutritionist probably has a point about the coffee cake. I went one whole day without it, and I survived.

But seriously, it is summer and I'm going to keep eating local fruit. I will make an effort to cut back on it though, and when I go to get tomatoes or corn maybe I'll have to go to Dave's, or if I go to Evelyn's, avert my eyes from the coffee cake, but that might not work because the smell there is so wonderful.

Or maybe I'll cut back and get one sliver to have with my afternoon coffee, which I am supposed to cut out but that is not going to happen because then I won't be able to write.

I think she meant to cut it ALL out.

She is not a fan of the yogurt I have been eating in large quantities. I thought I was doing something good. It's very confusing.

I got some almond "milk," which might not be called milk for too long.

I guess I can try for a few weeks to adhere to it as much as possible, but in the back of my head, I hear my father saying, "Everything in moderation." He isn't saying, "Cut out all the fun stuff."

Also, I'm going to Wisconsin and I need to eat cheese.

It's summer, so what about ice cream? Maybe one scoop instead of two?

It can get old to call everything a First World Problem but when I get in a bad mood about this I do have to remind myself that it is a luxury to have this problem.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

A little more dental drama

Well, folks, I might be getting near the point when I pop my teeth out before bed.

It wouldn't actually be teeth. It would be just one tooth, but it sounded more dramatic the first way.

I got worried on Friday when a piece of an upper tooth chipped off when I was eating a soft Cliff Bar. It wasn't even an almond or a Tootsie Roll, two of the previous culprits.

The major culprit of course is chemotherapy and how it suppresses the immune system. Chemotherapy causes dry mouth, which in addition to feeling bad, is also bad for dental health, since saliva helps prevent tooth decay. Chemotherapy also disrupts the balance between the beneficial and harmful bacteria in the mouth.

Without chemotherapy, of course, I wouldn't be here to write about this.

My teeth have been pretty calm lately. This after losing 12 teeth over the course of my treatment. Dr. Debian has been able to repair the remaining teeth that shed little pieces or pieces of fillings. He was on vacation this week. So yesterday I saw a different dentist at one of my homes away from home, Holyoke Dental Associates. (The other being Dana-Farber.)

After looking at the X-rays and checking the chipped tooth, Dr. Griffin looked at me solemnly.

He said the tooth was infected (in other words, a dental abscess) and in "normal" situations could be saved with a root canal and a crown. But he did not think there was enough left of the tooth for it to hold a crown.

He thinks it should probably be pulled. But he is deferring to Dr. Debian, who is returning next week. I have an appointment for Tuesday.

Say it is pulled. I then have two options.

I can go the route that I did when filling the gap on the upper left side: getting a permanent bridge (not paid for by insurance).

Or he said I could get a denture, which is covered.

I asked, "You mean the kind you pop out at night? "

"Yes, that's right," he said.

Not a good visual.

In the meantime, he gave me a "z-pack," or Azithromycin. The tooth hurt but started to feel better pretty quickly.

I won't be happy if I find out on Tuesday that I need tooth number 13 pulled.

But it could be worse.

Friday, August 3, 2018

Squamous cells still not serious, Shakespeare in the Park still great

I don’t have checkup anxiety anymore, but I do have checkup curiosity.

View from the back row, Twelfth Night at Delacorte

What will they find this time?

Yesterday was dermatologist day, followed by more skin-related stuff: my appointment at the Kraft Family Blood Donor for the light treatment, or ECP, on my skin.

I was telling someone about it and she said she knew about graft vs. host disease. A friend who also had a transplant has it so badly in his joints that he can barely move. That puts mine in perspective.

My appointment was at  9:15 a.m. for a skin check. I didn't think I had anything major, but I do have some flaky areas that go in either direction, possible squamous cell cancers or pre-cancers or actinic or other types of keratosis. Turned out what I had could be frozen, so, no suspect squamous cells or biopsies this time. Dr. Lin zapped a few spots, leaving the choice one, in my left ear, to the resident. It was LOUD.

I did have a little problem with her word choice. She said something along the lines of "you've been lucky that your squamous cell cancers are still just on the skin."

Still? Implying that they could at some point be the kind that spreads? That could kill me like what happened to Ann, who survived leukemia only to be taken by a spreading squamous cell cancer?

The train can run away in a second.

We're friendly enough that I could give her a little swat on the elbow. "Still? Can't you find a better way to say it?"

"We're all just still here," she said. "We don't know what will happen in the next minute."

But, she said that I'm lucky that my Dana-Farber team watches me so closely. (As does she.)

OK, then, on to the next thing. For no real medical reason, my mood had dropped a level. But that's the way it goes.

I drove to Dana-Farber for ECP, which I had moved from 4 p.m. Wednesday to 1 p.m. yesterday so that I could have two appointments in the same day. I had decided to drive myself so that I had more flexibility. I didn't know exactly when I would get out of the dermatologists’ office so was better to fend for myself than to depend on a (possibly flaky) driver.

I was tired from the two trips to New York. My left eye was twitching. But I had food and coffee one way and iced tea the other and made it. 

Despite being tired, I am still  flying high over what the New York Times calls the “blissful” musical version of “Twelfth Night” that we returned over the weekend to see in its entirety at Shakespeare in the Park. Deadline Hollywood called it "an exuberant, seamless melding of song, choreographed dance, sign language and gesture."

Shakespeare line, revisited
I call it pure joy.

 The effect was probably heightened by the effort Katie and I put into seeing it a second time. As I wrote previously, we only saw 50 minutes – in the rain – before the show was called the week before. Katie and I, joined by Connie this time, waited for a speedy four hours on a much nicer day.

We went from front row seats the first time to the last row. (The free tickets are given randomly.) The seats are all good, so it didn't matter, though it was kind of funny. Cosmic payback for the better seats?

The weather was perfect. There is nothing as magical as the sky darkening behind the set, clouds seeming to float by, the lights coming on in the city.

The show was so good that at the end I had tears in my eyes.

It was amazing how seamlessly members of community groups from all five boroughs blended with professional actors on the brimming stage.

Here is the blurb from the Public Theater, which presents this amazing free offering for anyone to see.  I want to go again! 

In celebration of five extraordinary years of Public Works, a Public Theater initiative that invites communities across New York to create ambitious works of participatory theater, Free Shakespeare in the Park presents a re-imagining of Public Works’ 2016 Musical Adaptation of TWELFTH NIGHT for a full five-week run in Central Park. (It runs through Aug. 19.)

Professional artists and two rotating ensembles of community members from all five boroughs will perform together on the Delacorte stage in this enchanting comedy about Viola, a young heroine who washes up on the shores of Illyria, disguises herself as a man, is sent to court a countess, and falls in love with a Duke.

Featuring music and lyrics by critically-acclaimed songwriter Shaina Taub, this very special TWELFTH NIGHT is a unique partnership between two Public Theater programs that exemplify The Public’s commitment to radical inclusion. Oskar Eustis, The Public’s Artistic Director, and Kwame Kwei-Armah, incoming Artistic Director of London’s Young Vic, helm this unforgettable musical about love in all its many disguises.