Thursday, March 31, 2011

Opening Day

"Ah, Opening Day. What a wonderful time of year."

Those are Joe's words coming from the den as I sit here at the dining room table and he watches the Yankees play the Tigers. Joe is home from college for a couple of days, and I like the sound of his commentary mixed with the announcers and the cheering crowds. It's still cold here, but baseball does definitely make you feel like spring might actually come.

My local dentist, Badri Debian, called earlier to check on how I feel after I had the two teeth extracted in Boston Monday. Actually, my mouth hurts a lot; I almost broke down and took an Oxycodone yesterday, but I don't like the way it makes me feel, so I just took Tylenol.

Dr. Debian said to really not worry about the spot under my tongue, and he said it so convincingly that I think I can keep my mind off of it. If I do start to worry, I'll switch to thoughts of Opening Day and all it symbolizes.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

'Fun' at the dentist

Yesterday started beautifully with a yoga class in which the teacher placed a big emphasis on breathing. Breathing was a good thing to remember as I went through the day.

Having skipped breakfast because I was having a fasting cholesterol test, I was getting kind of hungry when I checked in for my appointment at Dana-Farber. Accustomed to long waits in the old building, I was surprised when I was called right in to my appointment in the infusion room in the goregous new building.

One of my old nurses set me up in a corner chair with a view of the Boston skyline, a welcome change from the windowless infusion room in the old place. She quickly put in an IV and drew my blood, then said I could go to the cafeteria to get some (Starbucks!) coffee. Diane had packed a blueberry muffin and a yogurt, and when I returned to my seat I happily settled in.

I got premedication – two Tylenol and a Benadryl – the platelets started infusing, and the nurse zapped my coffee for me a couple of times. Unused to Benadryl, I got pleasantly drowsy. The dentist had said I could take two Ativan in advance of the extraction (scheduled for 1), so around noon, I downed them. I probably could have gotten away with one.

Melissa met me in the infusion room and said my counts are good, about the same as last time. My liver is stable, but she said to stay on the same prednisone dose – 10 mg. – until next time and then hopefully decrease. My potassium, sodium and cholesterol are normal.

Diane came and walked me to the surgeon's office. He gave me enough Novocaine so that I didn't feel much except for a few twinges. In contrast to the first surgeon back home who chipped away at the teeth until there was nothing much left, this doctor actually pulled them right out. A resident, he was eventually joined by his supervisor, and it seemed to me that they took a while twisting, turning and pulling.

I say "seemed," because I was falling asleep, and they had to keep reminding me to open my mouth.

Just so life should not get too boring, the resident noticed a small spot under my tongue and said he was going to biopsy it for tongue cancer.


He said that it was small, and if the biopsy came back positive, he would simply go back in and remove the rest. The results are due back in about a week. He also said to make an follow-up appointment in a week. I had no memory of doing that, and Diane later told me she made it for next Wednesday.

With that, she wheeled me out of there back to the car, where my mind drifted to the only case of tongue cancer that I had ever known, that of a friend's sister (a smoker) who died of it.

I didn't have much time to fret, because as soon as we got back to the house, I passed out in my coat on the couch. I wandered into the kitchen long enough to eat an omelet that Diane made, tried to read but couldn't because my eyes wouldn't focus, and then went to bed.

This morning we went to see Dr. Linn, the dermatologist. When I showed her the yukky spot on my forehead, she proclaimed it beautiful and said that's what it's supposed to look like. I have a few lingering spots – precancerous – and she said to apply that same strong cream (flourouracil) )to them so they too would get really red and gross and then fall off. Definitely something to look forward to.

I asked about the tongue cancer biopsy, and she and her resident looked it up on the computer and said that it was, indeed, very small and manageable if the biopsy was positive. The resident also pointed that out that with a history like mine, they have to follow up on every polyp like this, meaning that it could be nothing at all.

I double-checked with Melissa and told her that my mind had drifted off towards the one fatal case I knew, and she said they were too different kinds and not to worry about. "So I shouldn't write myself off?" I asked. "No, definitely not," she said.

OK then.

I had thought of maybe driving home today, but I didn't feel 100 percent, so I decided to stay one more day at Diane and David's. It was a good decision, because after lunch, I crashed on the couch for some three hours.

Revived, I took my book (Isabelle Allende's "Island Beneath the Sea") and walked to the nearest Starbucks, about 20 minutes away. On the way, I stopped in a jewelry store to buy a watch band and walked out with a bracelet I did not need.

But it was a perfect antidote to yesterday's events, and I have no regrets.

About a year ago, I lost a David-Yurman look-a-like bracelet that I wore all the time. It just slipped off my wrist, never to be found again. While the woman in the jewelry store put the watch band on for me, I noticed a bracelet that reminded me of the one I lost. It had the same silver cable but also had two blue topaz end-caps where my old one had plain silver. Plus, it matched a pair of earrings and a necklace that I had bought at different times, also in Newton.

It called out to me, and it wasn't that expensive.

If I start to fret about the biopsy, I am going to look at those beautiful stones.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

'Fun' day planned tomorrow

As I wrote previously, four of my teeth decayed badly in the time period during chemotherapy when I was severely immunosuppressed .

The teeth couldn't be saved. I had two extracted by a surgeon near me and am having the other two taken out tomorrow in Boston. My platelets, 61 at my last check-up a month ago, are lower than they were when I had the first two taken out. They are OK for getting around – and not worrisome because everything else is OK – but borderline for something like dental surgery where there could be a lot of bleeding. (Obviously I don't know what they are now, but the pattern is that they just haven't climbed very much.)

I could have gotten platelets and the extraction back home, but the Dana-Farber people like to supervise this kind of thing. My check-up is at 11, followed by the platelets around noon. I need to take a Benadryl before the infusion to head off the allergic reaction consisting of hives and rashes that I had in the past. I'm also going to take two Ativan, as recommended by the dentist, at about the same time.

Diane is going to pick me up and walk me next door to Brigham and Women's Hospital, where the surgeon's office is. I get the teeth out around 1. I expect to be loopy enough at that point that I won't really care.

We're getting up early tomorrow for an 8 a.m. yoga class. I figure that will be my only chance to get any semblance of exercise in the next couple of days.

Tuesday morning I'm scheduled to see the dermatologist so she can check on the status of the squamous cell carcinoma in situ (on the skin) that is on my forehead. I've been applying a cream to it twice a day. I don't know the medical term for how it looks; the only word I can come up with is yukky. After that appointment, I plan to drive back home if I'm up to it.

Oh, also, my bloodwork tomorrow includes a fasting cholesterol test. I hope that the result doesn't prevent me from enjoying the blueberry muffin I'm going to pack.

I had a whirlwind day today, first lunch with Katie, then a walk in the woods with Margaret, and then dinner at Diane's, where I am now, preparing for my cholesterol test and my weigh-in by having chocolate chip cookies and milk. I needed to pack in all the fun that I could today.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

You want me to do what?

My plantar fasciitis feels a little better, but I have still not gotten back to tennis, so I am spending more time at the Y.

A friend told me that the Total Fitness class wasn't too hard, and, figuring that I could use a little total fitness, I went to try it out Tuesday morning.

A woman who had taken the class before told me to get two sets of weights, a light and a heavy, set them down beside me. She said there are a lot of repetitions, so I should probably start really light; I grabbed two 3-pounders and two 5s.

The instructor jogged in, the music started blaring, and the class began. They did jumping jacks, they did lunges, they kicked and they jabbed side to side. They lifted their weights, lowered them, and lifted them again, pumping them while balancing on one foot and then the other.


I realized with some chagrin that I can do one, maybe two, jumping jacks. Lunges are not in my repertoire. And although I have been practicing standing on one foot (per orders of the physical therapist), I can't do it for very long, let alone while lifting weights.

I did modifications, marching in place and such while the others bounced around. Most of the weight lifting, actually was OK; I just couldn't keep up with the movements.

Afterwards, I learned that I had wandered into a "Power Sculpt" class. Clearly I am not ready for sculpting.

The woman who helped me set up said she was hanging around to take the next class, Pilates. I've only done Pilates once or twice, and since I was there, I thought I might try it again. My friend said it was much more laid back than the class before.

We got to talking, and she said she was a nurse on her day off. "I love nurses!" I said. I wasn't surprised that she was a nurse, because she had the same caring manner as many of my nurses. (During the Power Sculpt class, she had asked me mid-way how I was doing.) While we waited for Pilates, I gave her the three-minute version of my ordeal, and then I joked that I had the perfect excuse for my inability to hop around.

"I was in a coma. I don't do jumping jacks!" I said.

Or if course it could be that I still have not made a complete recovery from the three-plus months in the hospital, even though that was two years ago. At this point much of it probably has to do with muscle weakness from prednisone, but it doesn't sound as emphatic to say, "I'm on prednisone, I don't do jumping jacks."

In any case, it's nice to be able to joke about it.

I did stay for Pilates, which was not too hard and gave me a good workout for my abs, which I could use, due to the aging process, and again, to prednisone, which is known for giving you a little pot belly.

I drove home, pulled into the driveway, and fell asleep in the car.

I'm very good at my 15-minute power nap. Much better than I am at doing lunges and jumping jacks.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Children, lost and found

Most of the time, when you have children who have left the nest, you don't focus as minutely on their whereabouts as you did when they were under your wing.

But sometimes, if you're like me, you are seized by the need to track them down out there in the big bad world. And if you fail, panic can quickly set in.

Here's an example from Saturday and Sunday.

On Saturday, I couldn't find Katie at college, and it was getting late.

Did all the usual: Text, call and snoop (on Facebook). Rational Mom figures she's out and about; panicked Mom imagines disaster.

This is how my mother behaved before there were even methods like texting and snooping on the Internet. If she couldn't find me, she called neighbors, relatives and friends. Our communication "gap" wasn't even very long, and when she finally "found" me, I was annoyed.

The panic is like that of having a young child who disappears behind a clothing rack at a store or who is simply not in your direct vision for even a second at any crowded place. One time when we were with my parents at a museum, Ben was right behind my mother, but she thought he had vanished, and she shouted for him at the top of her lungs.

Figuratively, I was shouting for Katie.

I called Joe, thinking he might have heard from her or seen something on Facebook. Joe always answers, either through text or voice. No response. (Duh, it was Saturday night.)
This caused a mini-pileup in my brain.

At 11:37 p.m., Katie texted that had been out and didn't have her cell phone. I called her and said now I couldn't find Joe. "Mom, he's a college senior, leave him alone!" she said.


The next morning he texted to say he was sorry, his phone had died.

I had located two, but the next day I "lost" the third. Ben had come home to run the St. Patrick's Race with some friends from high school. He had hardly trained, running a mile or so here and there, and I had told him he was crazy to tackle the hilly 10-K. He replied that he probably wouldn't do well, but he would do it.

I wanted to cheer him on like he had cheered me on when I ran the race, so I told him I'd watch for him along the last stretch near the finish line and to look for me in the crowd afterwards. I got there 20 minutes before his estimated time and waited...and waited and waited...probably another half an hour until it looked like the last runner out of the field of 6,000 came hobbling in.

I searched the crowds, and no Ben. Rational me: I missed him and now he's gone off with his friends. Crazy me: He collapsed. You read about 25-year-olds having heart attacks, and it could have happened to him.

So I went home, and some time later he came in, all happy and carrying a green bottle of beer. He had done way better than he expected and had apparently crossed the finish line two minutes before I found my place, probably when I was trying to get through the crowd. (I won't publish his time, because it's his business, but it was really good for someone who hadn't trained.) Also, he had come in on the left side, and I was on the right.

He had looked for me but figured I had gone home...and the celebration beckoned. Arrrrrrggggghhhh!

One minute, three children, in terrible trouble.
Next minute, three children, safe and sound.

The worry never ends.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

What lies beneath the snow

Before Maddie, we had a golden retriever, Misty, who was crazy about tennis balls. She would fetch for as long as you could throw. The key was getting her to drop them: She would do it if you used two balls, throwing one first, then showing her the other when she brought the first one back, which she would then drop so you could throw the other one, etc.

(Maddie, who is also a retriever, couldn't care less. She might pick the ball up if she is in the mood, but then she will run around with it, or she might ignore it all together.)

During our play with Misty, balls would inevitably get lost in the small wooded area behind our house.

At our parents' beach house on Long Island, balls would also get lost in the hedges. This was due to Misty's occasional visits or to my kids playing catch or batting the balls.

Nobody noticed them when the leaves fell in fall, but when the snow melted and spring came, the yellow spheres would be more visible.

My mother used to call and say, "There are yellow bulbs blooming all around!" Of course she meant the balls. I noticed them in my yard, too.

With this in mind, now that the snow has finally melted, I began to notice all the little things that had been buried under the snow in my neighborhood. Yes, I'm talking about trash. There seems to be more of it this year. For fun, I memorized words that I saw on newspaper circulars and other scraps of paper and junk that I saw. OK, it sounds weird, but I picked up some pieces of paper too.

Here's a little poem that I came up with, mixing up some words but also keeping many together as I saw them. Let's call it my version of modern-day anthropology. It really has nothing to do with what I usually write about, except for this: It's about noticing, and noticing is a good way to keep from worrying.

Raspberry, peaches, pudding
Bottle caps: Blue
Bottle, Yahoo
Pencil, blue too.
Plastic wrap, paper cup, straw
Lamp, mattress, TV room
Will you scratch my back?
Feed your family
Manwich sauce, Subway
Sloppy Joe
Triple chocolate brownie
Purple crush, Capri Sun
White sock: One
Merry Christmas, Happy New Year
Joy and happiness
Cash, change, megamillions
Prescription drugs:
Effexor, Cialis, Viagra
Red plum, spring water, blue moon
Good deal, shopping spree
Peanut butter M&Ms

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Talking about the "S" word

I had coffee this morning with John Stifler, a longtime friend and longtime runner who writes the "On the Run" column for the Daily Hampshire Gazette.

Our conversation turned to the plantar fasciitis that is keeping me, and has kept many runners, from going out and doing what we love to do. The conversation was especially relevant since Holyoke's big Saint Patrick's Road Race is this Sunday. That's the 10-k that I was running in 2003 when my fatigue was the first sign that I had leukemia.

John asked if I had considered the "S" word.

I thought maybe he had come up with some new curse, and I asked him what he meant.

"Swimming," he said.

Ah, yes. I have done some laps and gone water jogging, but it's not quite the same thing.

I told him that I remembered my friend Chip telling me, years ago when I first had this crazy-making heel pain, "Sooner or later all of us end up in the pool."

John had a different way of looking at it.

"If you're naturally a runner and you're injured and you swim for exercise, God eventually takes pity on you and makes it so that you can run again," he said.

I liked that.

I asked him if it applied to tennis, but he said he only knew about running.

I hope the tennis gods will take pity on me too.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Foot fault

As I sit here writing, I'm rolling my foot on a golf ball. This supposedly loosens the ligaments under the feet, and tight ligaments are cause of plantar fasciitis.

I've been doing this on and off for a while, but maybe not hard enough, and before the golf ball (Donna's son's) I used a tennis ball, which apparently wasn't painful enough. Over the weekend I poked my head into a running store advertising cures for this infuriating pain, and a salesman said I had to roll my foot hard, until I could cry.

All right already, my eyes are tearing up like they would if I was peeling an onion. The two activities are just about the same amount of fun, come to think of it.

I thought I was finished with this. It went away in both feet, then came back a little in the left. I had my orthotics adjusted, and now the left is better and the right hurts. Also my right ankle feels like I sprained it. When I drive for more than five minutes, I could cry some more. (I'm exaggerating, but you get the idea).

I don't know what I did to it. I went to tennis last week, but I didn't push myself too hard...except for one little sprint to the net for a put-away. We were playing doubles at the time, and George, who was my partner, was up at the net and didn't expect me to get up there from the service line.

He grinned and asked, "How'd you do that?"

"I used my racquet as a cane," I joked.

OK, so maybe I hurt it then.

My foot doctor said there is nothing wrong with my orthotics or my new sneakers. He said to do all the usual things – stretching, icing, rolling the ball – and to see him if it's not better in two weeks. Also, no tennis or running. I am going to get a slip-on Ace bandage for my ankle in hopes that it will help me when I walk the dog.

So what's the big deal?

I know from experience that there are worse things. But on a basic level, it just feels bad to get shooting pains from your feet. And, as I've said before, possibly too many times already, I really want to get back to doing the things that make me feel like me.

I think runners who can't run will know exactly how I feel. When I walk Maddie and see runners go by, I sigh so loudly she sometimes looks up at me, possibly wondering what is wrong or possibly thinking, "Would you please stop that?"

I am signed up for a 10-mile race May 1 in Philadelphia with my friends Emily and Tami. I never intended to do the whole thing, but I thought I could probably run/walk for about five miles or so. Now I don't know.

My friend Jo, a personal trainer, had an interesting insight about the pain in my knees that might also apply to my ankle pain. Due to the prednisone, my quads have weakened, and I should be doing strength training, which I'm not. The pain is probably caused by not having the muscle strength for my legs to support the amount of exercise I'm doing.

Jo gave me some exercises and said to continue the ones that I had from physical therapy. I had been doing those but slacked off when I began to feel stronger. Bad idea.

For now I'm riding a bike at the Y, hoping that will build my endurance in case I decide I can run a little bit of the race.

Over the weekend, Katie and I had a mother-daughter outing. I picked her up at Brandeis and we went out to lunch, had our nails done, and took a walk along the Charles River. I hardly ever get my nails done. For some reason, it just seemed the thing to do. We both chose the same maroon color; it makes me feel very sophisticated.

I told Katie about my problems and she traced two lines in the air, representing a fact that she has reminded me of before: Progress doesn't happen in a straight upward line.

"Remember, it doesn't go like this," she said, tracing a line that went straight up an incline.

Then she showed the way it really goes: a line trending up with dips and ascents.

Her polished fingers looked nice. Mine look nice too. Maybe they will take my mind off my feet.

Friday, March 11, 2011

News of the ridiculous

1. The landline that was fixed Wednesday had no dial tone again yesterday. I called Comcast and they said they could send someone the next day. I said how about same day since I am using too many cell phone minutes.

The rep said the system would not allow her to add another appointment. I'm getting a little prickly after days of dialing contractors and shivering in the cold, so I asked if Comcast wanted to pay my cell phone bill. The woman said their billing department will credit me for my days without service. OK, whatever.

2. The plumber didn't show. This is the one who was supposed to call yesterday to say when he was coming that morning to fix the leak in a basement pipe. There is a bucket under the pipe, but when I checked, it was overflowing. The plumber said he was down to one instead of two trucks and his crew had more work than it could handle.

I had called his office to say please use the cell phone because the landline was down. Then I waited most of the morning. I called again and he said he hadn't gotten my message about not using the house phone and had left a message on it saying that he couldn't come.

He said all I had to do was empty the bucket and call another plumber whose name he gave me. Thanks, bud. (Actually his name is Bob, so, thanks, Bob.) I did put a mask on to check the basement for water; it was OK, so Meryl did not have to come. But emptying a heavy bucket filled with stale water is not in my repertoire. Somewhat frantically, I started calling other plumbers.

3. The critter control guy came to fill in the hole around the bottom of the beam where the squirrel probably came in. He kindly said he would empty the bucket for me. He squirted some gunk into the hole, but it didn't stick, landing in a pile on the cellar floor. He said all I had to do was go down and pick up the gunk in a couple of days after it hardens. This is not in my repertoire either.

Maybe I gave him a look, because he quickly said he would come next week and clean up the mess. Then he gave me the bill: $278. I told him I thought the price was $199. No, I must have heard the quote wrong. It was $199 for the inspection and setting the trap, and $79 for removing the squirrel and releasing it.

Excuse me? For $79, I could have opened the trap myself. I asked him where he releases his captors, and he said he and his girlfriend let them go in the woods about 20 miles from here, near where she lives. So I'm paying for his romantic outing?

4. My toilet started flushing on its own.

On the positive side:

1. Another plumber actually came yesterday to fix the leaky pipe. I greeted him with enthusiasm, saying, "I am SO glad to see you." He obviously did not know the background, and I think I might have sounded unhinged. "Good to see you, too," he said, eyeing me strangely (or so I thought). He also fixed the toilet.

2. I have heat. I am still in that stage where I so appreciate something I took for granted that was taken away from me.

3. I peeked downstairs, and although it is pouring, the basement is dry.

4. Sometimes I worry that I will run out of things to write about. All this ridiculousness gives me plenty of material.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Progress report

The house did not float away. Everything is back in order – sort of – but I am kind of drained (pun intended, I guess) from the experience.

I had a new hot water heater installed this morning...and put on bricks to keep it dry.

A plumber also came, put a bucket under the leaky pipe, and said he'd be back tomorrow to fix it. He said he would give me the name of a contractor who installs sump pumps, but he also said I might be over-reacting to a situation that is unlikely to recur. Many people around here who never had water in their basements have it now.

He disconnected the small pump that I had running and said it was not doing anything because the floor was dry; still, as Dave said, the water keeps coming up from the floor, and by the time the gas company finally came tonight around 9, the water had risen about an inch again. The technician plugged the pump in, got a bunch of water out, and said I would have to monitor it because it's not the kind that turns on and off automatically.

I'm not sure what I'm going to do about going down there periodically to turn it on and off, because I shouldn't be near fungus and mold. Meryl is going to plug it in in the morning, but I don't know about the rest of the day. Even if it is expensive, I might see about getting the permanent pump installed, that is, if they can do it on short notice and with some water still on the floor.

The forecast is for more rain and snow tomorrow. Ugh.

Last night I kept Maddie with me in the kitchen with the door closed. The system heating the kitchen and my bedroom was working, albeit not very well, but it was better than the rest of the cold house.

She looked kind of forlorn lying on her bed with no option to go into the den and get on the couch, where she usually sits next to me. I imagined this thought bubble: "Why is she keeping me in here when I really belong on the couch on my afghan?"

After a while she gave up and put herself to bed in her crate before her normal bedtime.

Odd story in an odd day spent mostly juggling phones and calling contractors: Comcast was supposed to call before they came to fix my dead landline. Instead, they just showed up. The guy went downstairs, fiddled with some wires and pronounced the phone fixed.

Ah, dial tone! Ah, heat!

Later, I listened to the messages that had backlogged in the phone. One was from Comcast, confirming the appointment to fix the phone. So they called the broken phone that they knew I could not answer to tell me that they were coming to fix it.

Very curious, to say the least.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

I Think I'll move to Australia

I've been thinking about that refrain from Judith Viorst's wonderful children's book "Alexander and the Terrible Horrible No Good Very Bad Day."

It's below freezing, and for two days I have had no heat. As I sit here typing, I am wearing three layers, a jacket, hat and scarf.

My children will tell you I'm no wimp when it comes to heat. I usually keep it pretty cool in the house; sometimes they plead, "Can't we have some heat?" and sometimes they just sneak in and turn the thermostat up.

I pay extra for a program called Guardian Care at our company, Columbia Gas. They are supposed to come when you call, at no charge.

I peeked into the basement and saw that there was water on the floor after two days of pouring rain coming down on about a foot of snow on the ground. (I know, I should have looked earlier, but I didn't.)

Yesterday, my friend Dave came and set up the sump pump, and then I called the gas company, where a dispatcher said someone would be over before 8 p.m.

I guess I didn't realize how much water was down there.

I think maybe the gas guy who came was hard of hearing. "How did the water get down there?" he shouted. "Uh, I guess it came in from the outside," I said, not understanding the reason for this question since the answer was obvious, given the conditions.

He stopped on the stairs down to the cellar. "I'm not going down there and neither should you! You have to call the fire department!" The exclamation points are there to denote shouts. "We'll come back when the water is out of there!"

OK! OK! I said.

I called the fire department and before the words were out of my mouth, the officer said, "Let me guess, water in the basement."

The fire department is two doors down. Three men arrived quickly with a truck and an ambulance. I appreciated their concern, but I wondered why they needed the ambulance. Did they think I had called from underwater? I guess it's probably just procedure.

In any case, they were very nice and set up their big pump alongside my smaller one. Turns out I had about five inches of water.

They said all the water should be gone in about an hour, so I called the gas company again and they said someone would be here before midnight. They also said I had to be home. I asked if I could go to a friend's house nearby where they could call me on my cell phone. The answer was, no, the drivers are not equipped with cell phones.

I told them I was not going to sit there and freeze, and they said, OK, we'll have a dispatcher call you. Oy. Deb gave me and Maddie shelter for a few hours. We shared a pizza (and dessert, of course) and watched the dogs play. Around 10, I headed home.

Meanwhile my neighbor called and asked about the ambulance. I told her the situation and she kindly brought over a space heater. Then Katie called from Brandeis and asked if everything was OK; someone locally had sent her a message on Facebook saying there was an ambulance in the driveway. Ah, the wonders of the Internet.

I stayed up until around midnight, and still no gas company. I called again and they said, "So many emergencies...." and told me now it would be in the middle of the night. I piled on quilts and went to bed, and by this morning, still no gas company.

I called again and got the answer, "So many emergencies..." and was told it would be later in the day. This time I got angry. The rep put me on hold to see what he could do. I decided that if I wasn't going to get some action, I was going to pull the "C" card, but in a subtle way, beginning with "let me talk to your supervisor" and then saying, "I've been sick and I'm home recovering and I pay a lot for this service and simply cannot continue to go without heat." The rep came back on and said someone would be over in about an hour. That was 9:30 a.m.

Someone did arrive shortly afterwards. He restarted the burner that heats my kitchen and bedroom, but there was still too much water around the one that heats the rest of the house. The pump has, again, been going all day.

Oh, by the way, the service guy said my water heater is shot. I have made arrangements to get a new one, which should be installed tomorrow.

Did I mention that I have no landline?" Comcast, my provider, said they said someone would be over tomorrow between 11 and noon.

Dave came back around 7:30 p.m. to see if he could sweep enough of the remaining water out so that the gas company could return to work on the boiler. He said the water is still coming up out of the foundation and in through any cracks in the walls. He also noticed that I have a pinhole leak in one of the pipes.

So there may be too much water to get the new hot water heater, fix the boiler, and even keep the "good" boiler running.

Except for possibly moving to Australia, I am not sure of my next step. I would take an Ativan, but then I might not wake up if the house was floating away.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Critter capture, swimming pool serenade

The critter turned out to be a squirrel.

No big deal. I was actually happy to see it and discover that it was not a rat. It got caught in the trap that was in the living room near the beam with the gap around it. It was turning in circles, rattling the bars of its prison. I went into the kitchen for a few minutes, and when I returned, it had curled up in the back and gone to sleep.

I put the trap on the porch, and the critter control guy said he'd come get it later and release the squirrel away from here. He's going to come back and fill in the gap around the beam.

It was pouring yesterday, too nasty to get a good walk in with Maddie. My knees and feet still hurt, which is discouraging. I am going to increase my Neurontin dose, which hopefully will help with the neuropathy, but that's only part of my problem. It's been more than a week since I overdid it on the treadmill, and although I'm walking better, I'm still nowhere near being able to run or play tennis.

So at the Y yesterday, I did a combination of water jogging and laps. Nobody was in the pool, and the lifeguard was just sitting there with obviously nothing to do. I noticed he had a ukelele by his side, and I asked if he would play it to ease the boredom of water jogging. He picked it up and began to play as I slid into the water. He was quite good.

A friend who had returned from an island vacation talked the other night about the warm water and temperatures. I have to admit I was a little jealous. But as the lifeguard played his beautiful music and the small waves lapped around me, my pain dissolved, and I had to smile.

I had driven only about 10 miles to Holyoke, but if I closed my eyes, I could be near a warm beach, serenaded as I swam.

The lifeguard played the whole time I was in the water. On my way out I thanked him, ready to face the dreary day.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Critter patrol

"Whatever it is has pretty big teeth," the critter control guy said.

Thanks so much. That makes me feel better.

He came today and looked at new evidence that an intruder is still in the house.

Yesterday, I was gone with Maddie for a couple of hours, and when I came back, I saw that it had eaten a whole pear that I had left on the counter to ripen. It had left little pieces of pear skin and had removed the supermarket sticker.

When I walked around the house today with Mike, the critter control man, we found the missing pear core in the living room next to an old beam that has a big space around the base. That's when Mike made his remark about the big teeth. It's possible that the critter is coming and going through the gap around the beam.

At first he thought it might be a squirrel, but now he thinks it is a rat.

He set two traps, one in the living room near the beam and another on the kitchen counter. He made a trail of peanut shells into the trap, where apple halves hang from the top.

If something goes for the bait, it will be caught alive and will be going crazy. Mike said I should call him at that point. I can take the trap outside if I want, or I can just ignore it until he gets here.

In the general scheme of things this is no big deal, but still, I'm not too happy with the idea of a rat, or even a squirrel, running around in the house.

So, we'll see what tomorrow brings.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Why I could barely walk

I already suspected it, but the official word is in:

I overdid it. Again.

I saw the foot specialist, Ken Holt, who approved of my New Balance 1064 running shoes and said my orthotics looked fine. I told him that I did three miles on the treadmill on Sunday, two running and one a mixture of hills and running. I should have stopped after the second mile.

It was only the second or third time I had run two miles without stopping, and I need to stay at that level until I'm comfortable. The first time I did it I had the right idea: After the treadmill I went on the bike for a while. I don't know where I got this cockamamie idea that I had to throw in some hills. Holt said that first of all he doesn't like treadmills because they provide an unnatural movement, and second of all hills would have definitely irritated my knees.

I guess you could say I have a stubborn streak. On the positive side, maybe it helped me get out of that coma.

I did manage to walk Maddie yesterday and today and to go to yoga. Yoga probably helped me, but I felt out of sorts. The neuropathy in my feet – a result of chemotherapy – persists, causing a sensation difficult to describe, part numbness and part like you're stepping on glass shards. I take a drug called Neurontin, but it doesn't work that well, and I'm told they don't have anything really good for it at this point.

Add this to the pain in my knees and legs a general all-over malaise from feeling overweight, and I could not quite achieve that peaceful feeling.

I can control (or try to control) things like pushing myself too hard, but problems like neuropathy and other side effects are out of my control. The thought did cross my mind that maybe my yoga funk was due to decreasing the prednisone; your body gets a little rattled when you decrease because it has learned to depend on the medicine.

I decided that being in the moment meant allowing myself to feel the way I felt.

In any case, I'd rather be alive to have limitations to deal with than not be here at all.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Good labs, minor mishaps

I've done a few odd things since Sunday, but I'll start by saying that I had a good report at Dana-Farber Monday.

My counts were about the same as last week: Normal white count and nearly-normal red count that had dropped just a little. Platelets were still not impressive – 61 – but they hadn't dropped, and Melissa did not seem concerned. The good news is that my liver function was a little better, so I can decrease the prednisone from 15 mg. to 10 a day.

I gained 10 pounds in the last month. It's unlikely that it can be attributed to the prednisone, because I had my big puff-up with the higher dose and then deflated after lowering the dose, although it is possible. The only change in medication is that I restarted Exjade for getting rid of the excess ferritin that my body is storing from getting excess iron through so many transfusions. Melissa said to stop taking that and in the meantime to get a stomach ultrasound to check for possible fluid retention related to Graft vs. Host.

I have been eating more than my share of chocolate chip cookies and muffins this winter, but I have also been exercising more, so 10 pounds does seem unusual.

I got the stomach ultrasound today and my mind wandered to what PJ calls "the dark side."

"Tumor the size of a grapefruit," the doctor's voice said in my head while the technician did the ultrasound.

"Everything is normal," the real doctor said when she came in.

OK then. I'll have to see how I do minus the Exjade and, maybe, minus a cookie or too.

I had stayed at Diane's Sunday after dropping Katie off at Brandeis earlier in the afternoon.

As I've written, I'm back to my "normal" self in getting antsy when I don't exercise every day. So I got Katie to take me into the Brandeis gym so I could get in two or maybe three miles on the treadmill. The inside of my knees hurt a little when I started, but the pain subsided once I got going, and I did two miles without stopping. Then, same as earlier in the week at the Y, I walked for about half a mile, increasing the incline, then jogged the last half mile.

I should have stopped after two. My knees and my right heel started hurting, but I pushed on. Why? Because I still think I'm 30 and was never sick and I can do whatever I want?

When I got off the treadmill, I could barely walk. I hobbled out of the gym, hobbled to Starbucks and drove to Diane's as darkness fell. I had made dinner plans with my friend Rook and had less than an hour to shower and get ready.

When I pulled into her driveway, a lightbulb went off in my head. I forgot my clothes! Diane and Sam greeted me at the door, and I shrieked like a crazy person, "I can't walk and I forgot my clothes and I need to get ready!" She ushered me to the couch with ice packs and reached for my coffee. I held it up high. "Don't take my Starbucks!" I yelled.

Diane is a little larger than I am, but we have similar tastes in clothes, so she lent me a dress and jacket just like an outfit I have at home. I made it to dinner, where Rook had to listen to the whole rant.

I still could barely walk today, but I made it to yoga with Diane, resolving not to do poses that hurt my knees. Interestingly, the yoga was pain-free. It only hurts when I walk. Tomorrow I see the foot doctor again.

After yoga, I went to the dermatologist, who biopsied a spot on my forehead that had not responded to photo therapy. Then I went for the ultrasound and finally headed home, stopping, of course, at Starbucks to get a coffee for the road. My phone rang when I was getting in the car, so I put the coffee on the roof for a second. The hot coffee spilled, just missing me but pouring down the open door and onto the seat.

I went back in, and they gave me another one.

Then I headed for the Mass Pike, and sighed in relief when I got on the highway. With gas prices so high, I was determined to keep to the speed limit, so I paid close attention to my speed. So close, in fact, that I didn't realize I had gone east instead of west until it occurred to me that the Boston skyline was coming up instead of receding.

So...I had to turn around, pay double the tolls and figure out how to get back in the right direction...which took me straight into traffic. For good measure, I spilled about a quarter of my coffee onto my lap.

I picked Maddie up from Jim and Jane's around 7 and came home to discover that "the creature" had left droppings all over the kitchen counter and had knocked over the tin of dog biscuits and helped itself to some.

Maddie was delighted to find one left over in the living room. I was not too happy.

Sorry this is so long. I think I am finished now. I have been advised that I can buy a squirrel trap and catch the intruder on my own. I was not brought up for this. Tomorrow I call someone.