Sunday, October 28, 2012

The waiting game

There is a lot of waiting going on around here these days.

Waiting for the storm, which may or may not come here, and waiting for the election, which definitely will come.

I haven't done much about the storm except to buy two half-gallon jugs of water (the gallons were sold out), ask Joe to bring in the lawn furniture and clean out the garage, buy more chocolate and salvage the last springs of mint from the garden, which make my iced tea-lemonade taste like summer.

As for the election, I have just about had enough.

You cannot watch the local news without dueling ads by Scott Brown and Elizabeth Warren. Rival candidates always make photos of their opponent look bad in their ads, but you have to laugh at the overkill in the witch-like Warren visage that Brown is using in his ads, cropped to make her look like all she has a ghoulish face floating in the air. And Scott, would you stop it with the truck already?

I guess you can see who I'm for, but honestly, I'm tired of them both.

As for the presidential race, I thought it was funny the other day to be at the gym riding a bike in front of the MSNBC and Fox News channels side by each. Talk about dueling perspectives.

Having almost reached the saturation point, I have actually skipped "Hardball" a couple of times. But the past couple of days I have succumbed again. By the way, I don't only watch MSNBC. Today, I watched "Meet the Press," in which round-table participants weighed in from both sides.

But for the most part I subsist on a daily diet of MSNBC and Nate Silver, checking daily. Click, click, click.

Anne Lamott posted on Facebook that a daily diet of MSNBC and Nate Silver was getting to be too much for her delicate "princess self." I laughed. She said that candy corn was the only thing getting her through, and that her grandson kept asking why the bags were empty.

The only difference is that for me, it's been Hershey's miniatures.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Doctor a pioneer in bone marrow transplants

A headline caught my eye as I was reading the New York Times earlier this week:

E. Donnall Thomas, who advanced bone marrow transplants, dies at 92

As the grateful recipient of a bone marrow transplant, I read this obituary with interest.

And I learned that like all transplant recipients, I owe my life to this pioneer who persevered with his research into bone marrow transplants despite skepticism from other physicians who believed that transplants would never be safe enough to be practiced.

It's hard to believe that it wasn't so long ago – the late 1950s – when transplants were seen as only a last desperate resort for patients with blood cancers. The patients usually didn't make it: Either their immune system destroyed the transplanted marrow as foreign matter or the transplanted marrow would destroy the recipient's organs.

Through years of research, Thomas and his team learned to match tissue types and use drugs to suppress the immune system.

The team performed the first matched transplant from an unrelated donor, an allogenic transplant like I had, in 1977.

In 1990, Thomas received the Nobel Prize in Medicine.

Today, of course, bone marrow transplants are an accepted treatment for leukemia and other blood cancers. When you are in line to get one, you don't think about those doctors who worked so hard to make it happen.

None of us wanted to get cancer, but we are lucky to be alive today when so many advances have been made thanks to the work of dedicated physicians like Thomas.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Wellfleet in the fall

I went to Wellfleet with Diane and David this weekend as most places were shutting down.

Some already had. The Beachcomber was boarded up, as was Mac's down at the harbor. It was the last weekend at Mac's Shack, where Diane and I had dinner Friday night. It can make you kind of melancholy.

But some things never change. The salty sea air was like a tonic. I took deep breaths as though I could store it for later.

It was gray on Saturday, but the sun came out on Sunday. We walked through the woods to Gull Pond on the right and Higgins on the left. Then we sat at a small sandy beach and watched the sun glisten on the water. A few people were out in their canoes. We also went to the ocean and parked at the dunes to take a look.

One benefit of going off-season was that we could actually get into the French bakery, which during the summer is so crowded that nobody goes there. I went at 7:30 a.m. in August to get their famed almond croissants, but the line was so long that I gave up. We went Saturday around 8:30, and there was no line...but, alas, they had just sold the last almond croissant.

I got regular croissants instead, along with their homemade blueberry jam and a blueberry muffin. Along with fruit, it was a delicious breakfast. And at least I saw the inside of the place. They said I could order almond croissants for the next day, but I took a pass.

Diane and David don't have a TV there, so in a way we felt removed from the election, although we did read the papers and check Just being at their beautiful house in the woods, off the beaten track, helped me to get a little break from it.

And now, on to the debate.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Upstairs downstairs

Q: Why do wild turkeys cross the road?
A: They are just strolling around Boston, looking for peanut shells, trash and whatever else they can find to eat.

I began to wonder about this Monday when I was driving to my appointment at Dana-Farber and four turkeys crossed in front of me, right in downtown Boston, causing me to stop short in traffic. The first one saw me coming and turned around, but three were oblivious and kept going, so the first one joined them.

Luckily the driver behind me stopped soon enough that he did not rear-end me. The turkeys took their time getting to the other side, and, puzzled at the sighting, I took the next turn to Dana-Farber. This naturally took my mind off the usual check-up anxiety.

I googled "why do turkeys live in downtown Boston?" and sure enough there was a story in about turkeys having gotten used to residential and urban living in the past few years. Who knew?

Anyway, I got to Dana-Farber without hitting any turkeys.

After getting my blood drawn, I went to the 11th floor and got my tongue checked by the doctor who had removed a small scoop of it. She gave my mouth a clean bill of health.

I went down to the eighth floor for my appointment with Melissa, who was running late, so it was back to the 11th floor for my flu shot, then back down to the eighth. I was getting used to the elevators.

Everything was good. First of all, I gained seven pounds in a month. If you're just stopping by the blog, I need to say that is a good thing. People are not usually happy about gaining weight, but in my case that was the goal since I had lost about 15 pounds in four months.

My hematocrit was normal (35.6) for the first time in ages, earning me the opportunity, if it stays normal, to have a "blood letting" (sans leaches) next time to lower my ferritin. I'm not sure what the technical term is. I take a nauseating medicine called Exjade every morning, and the level – which is high from all the transfusions I got – has gone down some, but it is still way above normal.

I was happy to see that my platelets had inched up to 95 (normal is 155-410), which is still low but high for me.

In my body's topsy turvy way, my potassium level has been high; many people eat potassium-rich foods and drink potassium-rich beverages so they can get enough potassium. I take another potion to lower it and keep in with normal range. It was a little high, possibly due to too many tomatoes over the summer and fall.

Due to still-elevated though steady liver enzymes, I need to stay on prednisone. It's a low dose, 5 mgs a day, but still, it would be nice to get off.

I stayed over at Diane and David's so I could see my dermatologist, Dr. Lin, in the morning. She said my skin had cleared up well after the PDT (face fry) and suggested we keep ahead of the game and do another one in six months before little scaly things appear again.

Lucky me!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

A beautiful walk in Whately

Maddie and I joined some 10 other dog lovers yesterday on a beautiful walk in Whateley (Mass.). We walked – and the dogs ran – along a path that winds through farm fields.

The outing was organized by a group that plans different dog walks throughout the year. It was a little blustery yesterday, but the sky was a gorgeous blue, and the air was crisp. It's a good way to spend a morning for dogs and people alike. The conversations don't always focus on dogs, but it's a good starting point for people who have a common interest. The big dogs ran ahead and played while the small dogs held up the rear on their leashes.

There were a few hills, but the walk wasn't very strenuous. Still, as soon as we got home, Maddie fell asleep on one side of the couch while I fell asleep on the other. It was a good tired.

Tomorrow I am going to Dana-Farber for two appointments, one a regular checkup and the other with the surgeon who operated on my tongue. I'm sleeping over at Diane's and getting together tomorrow night with my friend Saul from Dana-Farber. On Tuesday morning, I have a checkup with my dermatologist. That will make for two busy days.

Here are some more photos taken during the dog walk. Notice that Maddie decided to park herself in a puddle. I guess labs will be labs. Thanks Michelle for downloading some of these photos.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Sampling a 'President Obama Grinder'

It's funny how a day can start out one way and end up on a totally different note.

First I decided that I wanted to try a run again. I approached this little run with the anticipation of someone preparing for a race. It meant something to me; after all, the name of my blog is Running for My Life.

I went a little over a mile, from my house to the lake and around. I felt OK, although my pace was only a little faster than a walk. I thought I'd just loop around the other lake, but all of a sudden I began to feel shaky. "Time to stop!" I said out loud. So I walked the rest of the way back to the house, zig-zagging unsteadily. I really want to get back to running and I'm frustrated that my body won't cooperate. I guess I'll keep doing my physical therapy strengthening exercises and try again some other time.

On the cusp of being late, as usual, I ate a quick lunch and made myself presentable for an interview   in Springfield for a story I'm writing. I rushed downtown and, driving past The Republican, felt a little nostalgic. (When I called upstairs later and asked a friend who's still in the trenches  if I should be sorry I'm not there anymore, I received an emphatic "No!")

Anyway, when I got to where I needed to be I had trouble parking, so I called the person I was going to interview and said it might take me a few minutes to find a spot.

Oooops. He had mistakenly thought we were getting together today. He was very apologetic, and we rescheduled for today in South Hadley. I don't want to embarrass anyone by naming names or for that matter, the publication for which I'm writing. Anyway, there I was on a damp day in what's left of the South End of Springfield.

The reasonable next step would have been to turn around, drive to the Chicopee Jiffy Lube (which gives a discount on Tuesday) and get the oil change I needed. But after a wobbly run and a no-show, I was in the mood for something else. I had pulled in across the street from La Fiorentina and went into the pastry shop.

A couple of older people sat at a table, speaking Italian. The cases filled with pastries were a thing of beauty. I got my favorite treat, a strawberry/peach cake with whipped cream layers. Then I got a cappuccino served in a white cup and saucer with a small spoon, and I sat down at a table with the book that I had brought in from the car.

After finishing, I walked next door to Mom and Rico's, a South End fixture, and saw that their menu included a President Obama Grinder. (Also, Divorce Soup instead of Wedding Soup....ha ha.) I went in to ask exactly what a President Obama Grinder was, and the owner pointed to the description under the president's photo.

He gave me a sample of the sandwich made of turkey, cheese, and sapostini (an Italian salami) on a grinder roll. It was so good that I bought some for lunch today. As a bonus, I took home a PLAYBOCCE bumper sticker that goes in everyone's bag.

I did eventually get to Jiffy Lube, memories of cake, cappuccino and sapostini dancing in my head.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Running around

I was going to break out and try running today, but instead I walked to the Common for the South Hadley Columbus Day Fair. I ate a baked potato with sour cream and cheese, bought a scarf, talked to people and then walked Maddie around the lake with two friends. Then, I ran to buy a chair to take advantage of a Columbus Day sale.

I also spent a lot of time on the Internet making arrangements for when I join Katie in Seville on Dec. 17. We're going to travel for 12 days; I haven't done much except get my plane ticket and reserve a room in a B&B in Seville, and now all of a sudden the trip is drawing near.

We are going to spend a few days in Seville so she can show me around, and then go to Granada, Barcelona and Paris. After I settled on a place to stay in Paris, I looked at a map of the surrounding area and saw the hospital. Oh, the hospital! Not Oh, the Eiffel Tower. I wonder if there will always be that little voice that says, "Just in case."

Anyway, it's very exciting to be realizing I'm actually going.

But first things first.

The election is maybe taking up too much space in my brain. I "have to" watch the MSNBC politics shows and I have to read the New York Times and on-line sites. On one of the news shows, a panel was debating whether the good jobs report on Friday – unemployment dropped to 7.8 percent – would give Obama a bounce that could neutralize the negative effect of his poor debate performance in Denver. Some thought that it could, but one panelist wondered how many people actually felt that the lower number made their day.

Well, I was one of those people. I heard it on the radio driving down to tennis and immediately felt buoyed after actually being depressed by Obama's lackluster performance. I went on to play some decent tennis.

Meanwhile, I hope that tomorrow I will get that run in.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Busy day

I had a busy day yesterday, with physical therapy that wore me out, followed by two assignments that made it feel like a full work day in the old days of having a regular job.

First I attended a seminar at Holyoke Community College on women and criminal justice, followed by an interview with the professor for a faculty profile. It was an interesting seminar, focusing on prostitution.

Next I went to the Sixteen Acres section of Springfield to meet with a young man who is one of four community college students from unsettled home situations now living in a nice house where they are receiving all kinds of support through a new endeavor called the Millbrook Scholars Program. That one's for the new on-line magazine, Speaking of Springfield.

I could have written it last night, but I thought that first I'd read a little of our book club book, Laura Hillenbrand's "Unbroken." Before I knew it, it was 11:30 p.m.

So today I am writing. Back at the paper, some of us were known for eating our way through a story, which meant frequent trips to the vending machine. My version today was coming to the Thirsty Mind and eating a piece of cake with coffee.

I have to finish so I can go to tennis, and then to a debate watching party!

The polls showing a tighter race are making me a little nervous, so I could use some support.