Saturday, October 31, 2009

The creature, unmasked

The other day I wrote about scary words coming from my basement.

Today it was scary sounds.

The Terminix man was here, making a racket. Pound pound pound. Chip, chip. Then, the sound of wood chips falling down. Maddie lay on her bed, her ears up. She looked anxiously at me, then to the basement door, then back to me.

The man's name was Gordon Barnes. Sounded to me like a character out of Hemingway. Terminix was supposed to send someone last week. I waited the three-hour window, but they stood me up. I didn't care. I didn't want to see them anyway, until every night I remembered the reason I had called.

The creature runs around in my walls and in my ceiling every night. It scratches, claws, scuttles. It is so loud that it wakes me up. I imagine a huge claw coming through the ceiling or a scary creature falling through. My friend Karen said it actually happened to a friend of hers: A raccoon fell through her ceiling. Thanks, Karen.

After the creature woke me up the other night, I decided to call Terminix again. We all need our sleep, especially those with health issues. Gordon Barnes called and said he'd be over.

First stop, the attic. He said he found mouse droppings and even one dead mouse. Although there is no attic over my bedroom, he said there is a vent through which mice could travel. So the creature is probably a mouse or mice. I asked him what he did with the dead one. "Left it up there. It's dead anyway," he said. "Ummmm, do you think you could get it for me?" I asked. He guessed he could, and he went up and brought it down in a bag.

Maddie went over to examine the Terminix guy's measuring
wheel. For back-up, she brought her teddy bear.

Next stop, the basement. The basement is unfinished, with big old tree trunks and ancient beams the major supports. Anyone who goes down there sees trouble. There is evidence of old powder post beetle and termite damage. Sure enough, Gordon came up triumphantly waving a piece of rotten wood showing the lines made by termites and the holes bored by powder post beetles.

"If you've never been treated, you really should be," he said, explaining that although he didn't see any evidence of present activity, you never know when there could be some. "I'm sure it's been treated at some time," I said. Yes, but...he went back to "If you've never been treated" and I said the same thing I said before. He still had that piece of rotten wood in his hand. I was getting itchy.

When he went outside to measure the house, I fished through some papers, and, miraculously, found the piece of paper saying Terminix had treated for powder post beetles in 2006. Ah ha! When I told him, he was surprised that they hadn't followed through with their promised yearly inspections. These are things I just don't remember to think about. So he said never mind about treating again and he will check in with the office about why they haven't followed through.

Anyway, he wants to charge $450 for a service contract that basically amounts to setting mousetraps now and spraying for bugs in the spring and summer. They do not come and reset the traps, although they will pick them up and throw them away. Sounds like a lot of money for not much.

Anyone want to come over and have a mouse-trap-setting party? I will supply coffee and dessert. It will be so much fun! Come on over, and I'll let you paint my picket fence if you give me an apple.

He also thinks I should treat for the non-existent termites ($1,281) and get the attic insulated with insulation made of boric acid, which repels pests and mice ($700, price negotiable.) He said I'm probably losing 30 percent of my heat through that attic. I'm thinking about doing the insulation, but I'm not excited about the termite treatment.

They use an insecticide called Termidor to get the termites. I asked Gordon for more information and he gave me a raft of papers. I am going to take it to Dana-Farber with me on Monday. Sounds pretty yukky to me...and like money I don't want to spend for something that's not there.

In the meantime, at least I know that my creature is only a mouse. Still, if it falls out of the ceiling before the mouse traps get set, I bet that Susie will hear me scream all the way in Australia.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Oy vey, I have shpilkes

In light of my financial problems, the words that I heard coming up from my cellar yesterday were especially scary.

Having finally broken down and turned the heat on a couple of weeks ago, I really wanted heat on Tuesday, a damp, rainy day. I felt especially tired and was not happy to realize the heat on one side of the house was not working. We have two systems, one for the old part of the house (built in 1848) and one for the new part, an addition built in 1992 and comprising my bedroom and the kitchen. The new part was cold Tuesday. I called Bay State Gas, our heating contractor, and a technician replaced a broken part and said we were good to go.

We briefly had heat, but by yesterday it was broken again. So another guy came. After he went down to take a look, I heard these words: "Oh no! Oh no! Oy vey, oy vey."

This is a little like hearing the surgeon say, "Ooops."

I held my breath as he came up the stairs. "What's the problem?" I asked, imagining an expensive repair.

"Whoever put that burner in did a bad job," he said. "They put it in backwards so I had to stoop under the pipes and crank my head around to see the dials and it hurts my back. I'm too old for this."

By the way, he said, my problem was fixed. The previous tech had simply forgotten to clean off the sensors. He didn't look that old to me, but what can you say.

I still had the glow of the benefit, but the week started off so-so. When I saw Dr. Alyea on Monday, he said I was doing very well. He didn't seem concerned that my platelets were back down to 13 (still in double digits, however) and my hematocrit was 22. My white count continued to be normal – a good sign. He said there was an option for boosting the platelets and rbcs, and that's a stem cell infusion from the donor. But he'd rather not do that, because it includes the risk of more – and possibly more serious – graft versus host disease. So he continues to believe my marrow is just taking its time recovering, and that we should be patient.

I know, I know, but sometimes it gets to me, especially after a day like Monday. I got in a chair in the infusion room at 3 p.m. and got my bag of platelets pretty quickly, but there was some glitch at the blood bank and my order wasn't processed on time, so the blood didn't come until around 5:30. Which meant I didn't get out until after 7:30. I was so tired, I called Jim and asked if he could stay with Katie that night. He said yes, so I stayed at Diane's and left the next morning. Diane gave me a nice plateful of dinner, and we had a little slumber party.

I hate to keep complaining about long hours spent at the clinic, because I know it happens to most everyone. Still, the long day, combined with my tendency to catastrophize about the low counts (I won't even go there) kind of brought me down.

I tried to describe my unease to my friend Deb Doner. "You mean you have shpilkes," she said. "What?" I asked. "You know, shpilkes." I didn't get the spelling of this great Yiddish work right, so Meryl and Danny told me, and I looked it up in a Yiddish dictionary. Shpilkes: pins and needles. Zitsh oyf shpilkes: Sitting on pins and needles.

This bit of research caused me to relax a bit. Somehow it's comforting to know there's a Yiddish word for my state of mind.

And, as my father liked to say, "This too shall pass."

Put more bluntly, even though he'd never say this: Stop kvetching.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Big hug

A big thank you to those who participated in the fund-raiser last night. That includes Erin and Pat, who organized it, and Erin's family and all the friends, family and neighbors who came and/or donated. There were two tables of incredible raffle prizes, plus music, dancing and a buffet. I am still overwhelmed. Although Dr. Alyea had advised against it, there were lots of hugs and kisses. It couldn't be helped, and it was good medicine.

To back up: I met Erin Kelly in 2003 while healing from my first round of treatment for leukemia. I attended a class at her Ahimsa Yoga Center here in South Hadley, and found it calming and rejuvenating. I've continued going to class (except for now when I'm not allowed in an inside group), and we've become good friends.

Months ago, she sat at my kitchen table and asked, "How would you feel if we put on a benefit for you?" My answer: "Embarrassed."

Over tea one day, I had told her this saga: I had recently been terminated by The Republican newspaper and had begun paying the high premium for my insurance through COBRA. The newspaper "terminated" me at the end of June at the same time as they laid off about a dozen employees. All of them got severance packages, but I got nothing because they said that technically, they only needed to hold my job for 12 weeks. I gave 25 years of good service, but because I got sick, I walked away with nothing. I was devastated. I don't know when I can begin looking for a job, and I can't collect unemployment until I can look for work. I do get Social Security. I didn't mean to go into this, but it provides background on the fund-raiser. Also, seeing the work people, both employed and unemployed, brings it back.

I had told Erin about my worries, and she and her neighbor, Pat, started talking about the idea of a fund-raiser. I told her that I didn't want it to seem like I was asking for money. She said that people like to do this kind of thing, that it brings the community together. "Just think of it as a big hug," she said.

Because of the embarrassment factor, originally I had hoped I wouldn't be allowed to go. But Dr. Alyea gave the green light, and the more I thought about, the more I liked the idea of seeing many of my friends.

Margaret came that afternoon to go with me and hold my hand. As she drove me to the Holyoke Country Club in the pouring rain, I began to whine. "Nobody's going to come," I said. "It will be so pathetic." (Thanks Margaret for keeping me from going over the edge.)

We drove down a dark, winding road and suddenly saw twinkling lights up ahead. As we drove up, we saw lots and lots of cars. The lights were decorating the entrance to the function room. The sound of music, laughter and talking came through the windows. There were lots of people inside.

Erin greeted me at the door with a corsage. I looked around and was astonished to see so many friends from the community along with friends from work, tennis and baseball (from Joe and Ben). Diane and David came, and it was good to see them too.

Everything went off without a hitch. In addition to being a warm, generous soul, Erin is a good organizer. She told me today that 167 people attended.

I'm not sure what I'll do with the money, but I have so many bills to pay, I'm sure it will go to good use. Plus I might buy myself one tiny little treat. (You know, good for the healing process also.)

I was pretty tired by the end of the night, but it did feel good, like a big hug.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009


I dreamt I was in a line of people slowly walking. Somebody pulled me aside and said I was going to be tortured. "Why me?" I asked. "Just because," he answered. He told me they were going to put needles through my eyeballs and do other painful things to me.

I was terrified, but I had no choice about going. Then I figured if I took two Ativan, I could get through it.

This was obviously a cancer dream. You can't fully get over it, although with the passage of time it haunts you less.

Another train of thought got into my head that night. I had just finished reading Anita Diamont's new novel, "Day After Night." She tells the story of four young women refugees from Nazi Europe, who, in 1945, got to Palestine, then ruled by the British. Each woman has suffered terribly, in different ways. They thought they were heading towards a new life of promise, but instead they are locked up in Atlit, a British detention center for illegal immigrants. The novel is based on an actual event, the rescue of more than 200 detainees and their placement in various kibbutzim.

I often have nightmares after reading books or watching TV shows or movies about the Holocaust. Who wouldn't? But maybe the dreams are more intense for descendants of survivors and for those whose relatives died in the Holocaust. In my dreams, I am usually being chased by Nazis. In my dream the other night, I was being herded in a line.

My maternal grandfather was from Germany and had a large family there. He came to the U.S. before trouble started and urged his siblings to join him when the situation worsened for Jews in Germany. They were professors and businessmen, and they said, "Our boys will never hurt us." Of course, their "boys" did hurt them. Many perished in concentration camps, while a few fled to Israel. My grandparents stayed safe in the U.S., where they lived in the New York area and had three children, two girls and a boy. My mother, the middle child, told and retold the stories to my sister and me.

So there I was being pulled out of a line, about to be tortured by needles. It felt pretty raw. When I told Katie, she had a positive interpretation. She focused on my will to survive: In the dream, I accepted the situation and was determined to get through it with help from my good friend Ativan.

It could also be a sign that I should be doing ads for Ativan.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Betwixt and between

The other day I went to pick up a prescription at our pharmacy in the Big Y supermarket. It didn't look crowded, so I didn't put my mask on. My white count has been steadily good – 6.9 at last week's visit – and I'm eight months out, so sometimes I make a judgment call on the mask.

I've had a zillion prescriptions filled at that pharmacy. Clare, the friendly pharmacy assistant who knows all about my history, said, "It's great to see you with your mask off." Then, she looked at me sternly and said, "Now put it back on. You have to be careful of Swine Flu and all the other things going around."

"Okaaaaay," I said. She watched me put it on and kept her eye on me as I went down an aisle to pick up a few things.

I am betwixt and between.

On Thursday, I went to look at a college with Katie. I try to keep up with the tour guides, but this one was exceptionally energetic. I had to push myself, but I did keep up. We went up stairs, down stairs, in buildings, out of buildings at a decent clip. I was wearing a knit hat, and it was hard to put the mask on with the hat on. So every time we entered a building, it was hat off, mask on. Then mask off, hat on. I held tightly onto railings, applying hand sanitizer after every exit. I thought the other visitors would look at me strangely, but they didn't. It's probably not that uncommon to see people wearing a mask these days.

I was happy to sit on a couch at the admissions center (very empty, no mask) while Katie had her interviewl. I'm supposed to do my physical therapy exercises twice a day, but I figured that the tour could take the place of one set of exercises.

I learned that there was no Starbucks nearby, which is too bad because I judge the colleges partially on their proximity to a Starbucks. Also high on my list: visibility of roadside signs directing you to the school. It's a relief to put down your directions and just follow the signs. (Only kidding, sort of.) Anyway, on the way home Thursday, I knew that Katie would sleep and that I would get tired. I had a feeling for where the Starbucks was in the next town, so I set out looking for it. Of course I got lost, and the detour cost us about 20 minutes. Still, I got my strong coffee.

The physical therapist came shortly after we got home. "Uh, the dog ate my homework," I said. "I was at the clinic in Boston all day Tuesday and away looking at a school today so I didn't do as much as I could have." He didn't seem to care. We went through my exercises and added some new ones. I had my yoga mat on the living room floor, and Maddie came and lay down next to me with her stuffed green teddy bear.

Walking the dog in the rain, which is on my list of things to do today, is much more appealing that doing the exercises. But if I want to walk without wobbling and get my strength back to where I can run, I better do them.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Moving forward, moving backward

Yesterday I got the final results of my bone marrow biopsy. Everything is normal, and I am 100 percent donor. Yay!

Still, it was a down day in terms of platelets and hematocrit. Last week I had 27 platelets and left without a transfusion; this week I had 13 and needed a transfusion. This week my hematocrit was 22; last week it was 24 and I snuck by without getting blood. This week I needed two bags. White count remained normal (another yay).

I asked Melissa how it could go from 27 to 13. She said the good news is that my bone marrow is fine, and that given all I've been through, it makes sense that my marrow is taking its time producing platelets and red blood cells. In a sign of either being a persistent reporter or a pushy person, I asked her again, using slightly different wording. She gave me the same answer (duh). I understand that I'll get the same answer every time, but I feel compelled to ask. I don't really mind going there once a week. Everyone is lovely, and it gives me a chance to put on normal clothes and some jewelry. Still, it can get frustrating, and especially since I'm going alone now, it can make for a very long day.

Margaret had met me for lunch, a nice diversion in a long day. The waiting room overflowed with people like me whose Monday appointments were canceled due to Columbus Day, and with patients who normally came on Tuesday. After Margaret left, I waited to see Melissa and then waited about an hour and a half for the blood bank to send over the "product." By the time I got out of there, it was 8 p.m. I had to get a high-test coffee; it was either that or fall asleep. Got home around 9:30, dashed through the grocery store and had a sandwich for dinner at around 11. I slept through some of the transfusion; that and the coffee had left me pretty wide awake even after midnight. So I took half an Ativan and went to bed around 1. Next thing I knew, it was 11 in the morning.

On another topic, at the last minute the insurance company approved four visits by the physical therapist. I ran out and got an exercise ball and went through the exercises with the therapist, Keith. I have my work cut out for me. When I tried to balance on the exercise ball, I rolled over onto the floor. He tied a Thera-band to the post at the bottom of the staircase and told me to loop it around my waist, lunge backwards and then come forwards with control. Instead, I catapulted towards the stairs. There are others, none of them too much fun.

Be careful what you wish for.

I'm supposed to do most of them three times a day. Yesterday was a washout, so today's the day. I'm exhausted. But I guess I better start. I can't remember everything he said, so it's a good thing that he printed them all out, with diagrams. Now I have to find that piece of paper.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Too weak or too strong?

Dr. Alyea put in an order for home-based physical therapy for me because, in addition to weakness in my legs just from being in bed so long, the issue is now compounded by prednisone, which can cause muscle weakness.

Although I am slowly tapering the prednisone, which I've been taking to control mild graft vs. host in my digestive system, my legs are very wobbly. My breathing is OK, allowing me to walk the dog and hit some tennis balls, but my legs feel wooden. When I tried jogging between trees the other days, my legs provided no shock absorption, and I could feel the jarring right up to my stomach. My balance is off; sometimes in the house, I sway into a wall and right myself with my elbow.

A nurse from the VNA came the other morning with forms to sign and questions to answer, followed that evening by the physical therapist, who evaluated my strength and flexibility. The plan called for doing the physical therapy in the house because I can't go to a facility filled with germs.

The nurse was extremely nice, asking me all sorts of questions about my usual day. I told her I split the grocery shopping with Katie, but I wore a mask and just ran in and out. I said I was walking a lot and hitting some balls, and then I told her the problem with my legs.

Keith, the friendly physical therapist, measured my leg strength and flexibility. After each test, he told me that for a young person (I liked that!) I was way off where most people would be. I couldn't resist his pressure: "We have a lot of work to do here," he said. I couldn't bend my knee beyond a certain point. "We have a lot of work to do here," he said. Etc. He said I should get an exercise ball and he would return Monday. He clearly thought the exercises were important, and he understood why I had to do them at home.

After he left, I said to Katie, "In other words, I'm a total mess."

Katie corrected me. "That's not what he was saying at all," she said. "You've come a long way. He's giving you the exercises so you can get even better."

This morning, a nurse from the VNA woke me up with this news: Because I was too active, Blue Cross/Blue Shield would not authorize the PT. She said that because I could shop, walk and play tennis, I could make it to a facility. I said that's ridiculous: I'm not really playing tennis, I'm standing in one place hitting the ball. And yes I'm walking, but it's difficult, and it's OK because it's outside.

She said she'd pass that on. About 15 minutes later, an evaluator from BC/BC called. "How are you today?" she asked. By now I was catching on. "Well, I'm OK but I'm still in bed," I said, which was true. I re-explained to her that I could not go to a facility. I also realized that they had a picture of me running around a tennis court. I repeated that this image was not true.

I realized later that I should never have been so chatty with that first nurse. She was looking for signs of immobility and examples of being housebound. I was trying to give her the more nuanced picture. This of course is small potatoes, and I'm lucky they paid for my major procedures and all the charges that went with a long hospitalization. But still, they should be more open to patients' needs after the crisis has passed. It will save money in the long run. For example, someone like me could feel unsteady and fall, and that would lead to more costs.

A similar thing happened when I first got out of the hospital this spring after being in "the big house" for three and a half months. When I first got out of bed I could barely walk. They wanted to get me out of the hospital, and the first idea was to send me to a rehab facility. Instead, they decided to send me to my sister's in nearby Newton, with visits to the clinic for transfusions three times a week. They put in a request for a physical therapist to come to Diane's house.

The woman came once and taught me some exercises. By that time I could walk a little, so she held my arm while I walked (with difficulty) about half a block, my maximum. I returned to the couch, exhausted. The next day word came that PT at the house was denied because if I could walk, I could get to a facility. They did not seem to understand that I could not be around germs, and that my level of walking left a lot of room for improvement.

The care coordinator and my nurse at Dana-Farber said they would fight it. At that point I could barely get off the couch, and fighting with the insurance agency over PT was not up my alley. So I told them to drop it.

On the phone this morning, the evaluator from BC/BS seemed to finally get it. She said she was confident they would give me at least a few visits to get started, and they would call me back with the final answer. So far I haven't heard anything.

Next time I'll remember to sound my worst and take out my smelling salts.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Resistance...or not

The penultimate harvest of flowers
from my garden.

Yesterday, as I was eating breakfast in my usual spot at the kitchen table, I looked out the sliders and watched the pine needles float onto the trowel still on the table in the backyard. This of course also means that the table, umbrella and chairs are still out there too. So is the grill cover, thrown over the back of a chair instead of being on the grill where it belongs.

All are covered with a dusting of pine needles.

It's the intersection of summer and fall. You could call it laziness, as in, "Someone please put that trowel away and cover the grill! (That means either Katie or me.) The table and umbrella fall into the "wait until Joe comes home category." Still, it also has to do with resistance towards letting summer go. It wasn't the best summer, with a lot of rain followed by a period of high humidity and heat. But there were beautiful days, and we were lucky to have most of them on our mini-trips to New York and Cape Cod. The sunny days definitely helped keep my mood upbeat.

The garden is mostly shot, but some flowers are hanging in there. The other day I picked one bunch, and I think I can get one more. I like my perennials, but I have to say, those zinnias and snap dragons are the best for picking. I'm still not supposed to dig in the dirt, (out of fear of picking up a fungus) and in the spring I wouldn't even go near the garden to cut a flower. But now I think it's OK to pick a bouquet. It will be one last "summer" experience.

Fall, of course, is beautiful here. What I don't like is that it presages dreary November, when your spirits can really dip. But there's nothing not to like about this time of year. The leaves are brilliant colors. We've had a few cold days, but mostly they've been sunny and warm. Yesterday when I hit tennis balls with my friend Ken, the trees were vibrant against the blue sky. The sun, not the kind that scorches you in summer, makes you warm and toasty.

"This day is so beautiful," I kept saying.

No, I was not stalling...I really meant it. I was having fun. Ken, like my other tennis-playing friends, is really good at hitting it to me or within reach if I take two steps. Yesterday we joked about the two-step rule. Three steps and I don't bother. He said it helps him too, because he can cultivate accuracy by trying to keep it within my reach.

Thinking back... When I got my homeward-bound coffee at Starbucks on Monday, I was delighted to see that they had pumpkin scones. I don't usually like to buy pastry there, because it is overpriced and not great. But pumpkin scones – and other things pumpkin – are among my favorites of the season.

Maybe I'm not so resistant to fall after all.

I bought the scone and enjoyed it on the way home. This, for the record, is the crazy way I ate the scone. It has too much vanilla icing, which, although tasty, is too intense even for someone like me with a big sweet tooth. I took some full bites, but I also, like a squirrel attacking a nut, took some small pieces and chewed out the insides, leaving the sugary coating on my lap. (And imaging how odd my behavior would look if there was a camera in the car.)

Then I went back and started on the discarded sugar chunks, because they were too good to throw away. I did make myself stop before I got to them all!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Transfusion-free day #2

Today I had my second transfusion-free day at the clinic, and, to balance out last week's marathon, it might have been my shortest visit too. I was in at 11 a.m. and out at 1:45 p.m. I hardly knew what to do with myself.

My platelets were 27, a high for this round. Red blood count was pretty low – 24 – but I feel OK and have been getting around fine. So I just got a shot of Aranesp. White count was normal, 6.9.

It reminded me that a day of downs like I had last week does not signal down, down, down. We should not expect recovery to be a straight upward line, even though some of us get frustrated when it's not. It's called a rollercoaster ride for good reason.

I asked Dr. Alyea about the peculiar way my hair and my eyelashes are behaving, or, should I say, misbehaving. The lashes on half of each lower lid fall out, then come back in, then fall back out and come in again. Currently I am in the half-off phase, and it looks kind of odd to me. As for my hair, it has stayed in the fuzzy duckling stage for longer than after past transplants. Also it is very thin, and I have a couple of bald spots. What I do have that I remember from before is the Denis the Menace cowlick. I actually have enough hair in some places that I could use a trim, and tomorrow I'm going to see my hairdresser in hopes that cutting it shorter might help it thicken. Small potatoes, but still ...

Dr. Alyea said it might be some mild graft vs. host disease, which is actually not a bad thing.

Anyway I got home on time to take Katie to the runner's shop in Northampton for a badly needed new pair of running shoes. I looked at all the clothing and general running stuff and felt anxious to get back into it. A wall of gloves and mittens drew my attention. I continually buy those and lose one. I was going to go look, but then I thought, well, I'm not running, so why spend the money, which is a variation of, I don't really deserve these. My mother's voice did not rescue me by saying, "Oh, go ahead, buy the mittens, you'll wear them soon," so I didn't do it. I can always go back some other time.

When we got home, it was getting dark, but it was still warm, and the sky and trees looked beautiful. Before dinner, I took Maddie for a quick twilight walk around the lake. Inspired by the trip to the runner's shop, I jogged between two trees that were kind of far apart for me. My legs still haven't regained their spring, and it was more like a fast walk, but it felt like an accomplishment. Later in the walk, I "jogged" again. It feels like starting from scratch. But I assume that when you get going, your muscle memory comes back and helps you out.

In any case, those little steps felt pretty good.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Should I call?

First of all, don't worry. I will explain the photo further down.

In the meantime: Last night I started mulling over whether I should call Melissa today to ask about the early bone marrow results, or whether I should tough it out until my appointment. She had said either I could call or I could wait until Monday.

I figured I wouldn't call. If it was bad news, it would ruin my weekend, and nothing could be done immediately anyway. And if it was bad news they would call me. I told myself I should realize, however, that if I saw the Dana-Farber number on caller ID, I should not have palpitations, because sometimes they call with good news or just a minor question or piece of news. But then I figured that I should call because there was no reason to expect bad news, and I wouldn't have to worry about it over the weekend. Hold on!

I know patients should never have this discussion with themselves. I've heard this from many people, and I agree with it: If you want to call, then call. Don't waste time worrying about how you'll sound or whether you're displaying weakness by calling.

Still, the mind can be a weird place. Also, this was a hard one for me because I hadn't had one in a long time, and I've had too much experience in getting bad news from them. I decided I needed to do something to chill out. My options were (a) going into my room and doing a little yoga and meditating, or (b) having an Ativan and lots of sugar. I chose (b). I cut the Ativan in half, but doubled up on the sugar via my still-favorite, Klondike bars. I've discovered the kind with chocolate ice cream and extra thick chocolate coating. I got to sleep fine.

I was awoken around 5:30 p.m. by the stupid alarm that goes off whenever the mood strikes it at the little museum across the street. So I walked the dog and went back to sleep until around 10:30, pretty late for me these days.

I called Melissa around 11:30, but hung up on her voice mail. While dialing, I could feel my heart beating despite saying to myself, "It's only a phone call!" I didn't want to leave a message, so I took the dog for a walk. On the way back, she grabbed a big tree branch with two forks and started shaking it in delight, whacking my leg as if she were in a fencing match. Now this is the same leg bandaged in three places from the fall she took my on the other night. I separated the stick into a smaller one and carried it down to my yard so I could throw it for her. She ran a few laps, shook the stick and ran into the neighbor's yard (where I've caught her before stealing sneakers). Once there, she found something to roll in. I walked down and got her, and she smelled pretty bad. Later, when Katie came home, we gave her a little outside bath.

Don't get me wrong about her. She is great these days and is mostly well-behaved. I think sometimes her exuberance just takes over.

Anyway, I decided to call after my podiatrist's appointment. This is not very glamorous, but I have an infected ingrown toenail. Dr. Alyea prescribed Bactrim and said I should go to a podiatrist. They had a quick opening, hence my visit today. The podiatrist said he would anesthetize the area and cut away a piece of the toenail. I've known him for a long time through our kids, and he's a friendly guy.

"I hate needles!" I said. Coming from one who has been stuck more times than I can count, that's a strange thing to say. But I guess you could still hate them, or hate them even more, if you've gotten a lot. Also I don't like the idea of being stuck in the toe. Anyway the podiatrist smiled at my declaration. We chatted about our kids while he slowly did the injection, and it really wasn't so bad. I didn't feel the rest.

So now I am really bandaged up. Hence the smiley-face toe above.

When I went home, I called Melissa again. No answer, so this time I paged her. In the meantime, Maddie and I went to Deb's for our "playdate," with running around in the yard for the dogs and Deb's good coffee with Evelyn's good apple crisp for the "moms." Melissa called while I was there. She said two of the early test results were in, and they were both great.

Big outbreath.

Tomorrow Katie and I head to Maine. We are stopping for an overnight at my college friend Katryn's in Portland, a cool little city. The next day we're going to see Joe at Bates, around 45 minutes away in Lewiston. We'll see him in the morning and for lunch, but then he'll need to go because he is announcing the football game.

I will be able to breathe easily.
I will not be taking the dog.