Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Shakespeare in the Park, here we come

I woke up in the middle of the night and had a revelation: I don't have to take the chairs.

In the general scheme of revelations, this is a small one, but it plays a big role in my trip this weekend  with Katie to see Shakespeare in the Park in the old country, a.k.a. New York.

I had been wondering how I would get two chairs, my suitcase and me to the city. I don't want to drive in this time, because I won't make it to the Shakespeare line on time if I have to sit in the car. That means I need to take public transportation – probably a bus because the train is so expensive – and I couldn't picture myself juggling all that stuff on and off the bus and through Port Authority.

I called Katie about this and she said she doesn't need a chair for the approximately five-hour wait to get our free tickets. I was thinking we might get a bench and not even need the chairs, but she suggested I bring one anyway. I think I can manage that. Also we're going to try to coordinate our comings and goings so that she can pick me up if I trip on the platform. Only kidding about the tripping. (Well, sort of kidding...remember the big trip in the Paris Metro?)

We're going to see "The Comedy of Errors," set in the 1940s with music and fedoras, starring one of our favorite actors, Jesse Tyler Ferguson of "Modern Family." It's going to be a brisk 90 minutes without intermission. As I have confessed before, even though I love being outside under the stars (or a cloudburst on one occasion), it's a long day, and during the longer performances I can't help but nod off from time to time. The shorter format is just right for me. I also confess to asking Katie questions about what we just saw, and she says, "Mom, weren't you watching?" Well apparently I have missed a few parts.

I think we should get there especially early, maybe 7 a.m., because it's the last weekend and it got good reviews. You can't beat the people who sleep outside the park waiting for it to open so that they can be first on line, but I think we'll be safe at 7.

I told my friend Mark how much we love doing this. He said he could have just as much fun in his living room. But to us it is so New York, and such a great thing to do every year.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

'I guess leukemia isn't for sissies'

The quote in that headline is what my local doctor, Ronald Berger, said to me when I saw him Thursday after not having had a check-up with him in ages.

He was thumbing through a mile-high pile of reports that Dana-Farber sent him about me. Also I was filling him in on my latest medical "adventures" and updating him on my long list of medications.

His comment interested me. While I do have many anxious days, I have been remarkably tough about the big things while still having my natural tendency to obsess about the little things.

When I was first diagnosed 10 years ago, I made an emergency appointment with a therapist I had been seeing. He said that worriers often surprise themselves by rising to the occasion when confronted with something serious. I guess it's your mind and body's way of saying, "Come on, you need your energy to be really focused on this crisis." (By the way, it was Dr. Berger who drew the first suspicious blood test when I saw him 10 years ago complaining of fatigue during the St. Patrick's race that we both had run.)

Meanwhile, I found out last week that I would be in the hospital for four days after surgery. I don't know why I thought my stay would be shorter. When I saw Barry and Mark Thursday at Starbucks, I said I was worried about the coffee situation on the surgical floor where I will be. When I was on the sixth floor where I had my bone marrow transplant and where I returned during my pneumonia stay, the nurses know me well enough (and are kind enough) to bring me their own coffee just how I like it. As anyone who has been hospitalized knows, the hospital coffee is undrinkable.

 Up on the 11th floor where I will probably stay, who knows what the coffee situation will be? Mark said he and Barry might make a coffee run. In any case, I'm sure my local people and visitors will take care of me with coffee and Coke because the Brigham is a Pepsi hospital. See what I mean about worrying about the little things?

I bonded with my urologist, Dr. Steele, last week. I thought that he was the emotionless surgeon type, but then I saw that he was very sweet. He drew me a detailed diagram about the procedure and then asked me what my situation would be like at home when I returned. He asked if I had a dog, and I told him about Maddie, and then I asked him, and he said his wife breeds Vizlas. He rolled over to his computer and showed me a picture of them. Then he pointed to one and said that particular dog had run 1500 miles with him...not at one time! Turns out he is an ultra-marathoner.

When I got home, I sent him a photo of Maddie "in action," i.e. lying on her bed with a toy. When he responded to say beautiful Lab, I noticed he called me Ronni instead of Mrs. Gordon as he had done  before. (I never corrected on the Mrs. Gordon, who was my mother and, not me.) The point is that I liked the familiarity. I figure that if you are friendly with your surgeon, he will do a better job. Only kidding, but it is nice to have a good relationship with your doctors.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Happy 99th birthday Dad

I'm three years old in this photo in our living room.
My father, Al Gordon, would be 99 today.

I can just hear him say, "It's hard to believe."

He was the nicest, sweetest man. Even though he's been gone for 11 years, and my mother for seven, I miss them both so much every day. They lived long, good lives, and as he would also say, "I can't complain." But that doesn't keep me from tearing up as I write this. I'm so lucky to have good memories and to feel like they are still with me.

We thought he looked like a movie star, maybe Gregory Peck. In any case, he was always a hero to us.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Busy busy

I've had a busy five days, starting with a wonderful weekend in beautiful Wellfleet and ending with two doctors' appointments yesterday and two today.

In Wellfleet, Diane and I walked along the beach and the bay, timing it perfectly to coincide with a sunny day and a half. We ate a lot of bluefish, caught by my nephew Sam and his cousin Giancarlo and then had it again after they caught more along with David the next day. It was nice and buttery, served with local asparagus that I had brought. On Sunday, David delivered pieces of fish to people on their block in Newton for what amounted to a community grill-fest. I might have eaten my quota for a while!

My visit with Dr. Alyea yesterday went well. My counts are normal and everything is in order. Next I saw an allergist who is going to give me a test to see if I really am allergic to penicillin. It says so on my chart, but years ago I took a "challenge" that said I wasn't. Still, it stays on my chart and limits what I can take in case of emergency. I'll have to return for that.

Today I saw Dr. Lin, my dermatologist, who froze off many of the problematic spots I have on my hands and face. (Ouch!) And I also met with Dr. Steele, the urologist who is going to do the kidney surgery. He spent a lot of time with me, drawing a diagram of where the spot is and what he will do. It's too involved to do laparoscopically, so it's going to be "real" surgery. Afterwards, I'll have a pain pump for the few days I am in the hospital. Does not sound like too much fun.


Friday, June 14, 2013

What to do with all those T-shirts

And now for something different.

It's more about running than about cancer, although it's kind of about both, and it's also about different kinds of memories.

OK, it's about T-shirts, an overflowing of T-shirts, which I think you can relate to if you've done anything or been anywhere.

The other day I decided it was time to clean out my overstuffed dresser drawers. I started by dumping everything on the floor. What a mess. It was time for piles: one pile for giveaway, one for shirts I wear all the time, one for shirts worn sometimes, and – now here's the problem – shirts from races and tennis tournaments and shirts bought at memorable moments.

Most of them were fifty shades of green from the St. Patrick's Race in Holyoke, which I've run on and off since I started working at the T-T in 1979 and ran with a gang from the paper. (OK, not really 50 shades, but I couldn't resist.) I wear the light green one from last year all the time; I like the color and it marks my first race post-transplant. Many are large. What was I thinking? Maybe I was bigger then, but in any case I don't wear them because I float around in them and am really a medium. The royal blue shirt from 2003 has special meaning: That was the year that my slow time led to my early discovery that I had leukemia. The long-sleeved white T-shirts from the DH Jones ten-miler and from the Hartford half-marathon are good to sleep in. Quite sexy along with yoga pants.

Most of the race and tennis shirts went in the pile of "will never wear but can't give away."

I read about this issue once on the Internet. Someone said to cut them up and make a wall hanging out of them. That didn't sound like a good idea to me.

Others that went in this pile were the orange on black shirt from The Gates, the 2005 work of public art in which Christo and Jeanne-Claude had 7,500 gates erected on 23 miles of footpaths in Central Park on which free-hanging saffron-colored fabric panels were suspended. It was visible from our window; my mother joked that she could see her laundry, but we had an unforgettable experience walking through it.

Speaking of the park, I also have an extra large black T-shirt from the Public Theater's Shakespeare in the Park, not to wear around but good for the moment two years when it started to pour during a performance of "All's Well That Ends Well" and I got soaked to the bone. A better scholar than I am might know which elderly character said the following, but all that I remember is that when it started raining, he said, "Lend me a cane," and then improvised, "Or an umbrella" as the cast ran off the stage.

I bought the T-shirt at intermission, putting it on and pulling down the top of my wet dress underneath it to my waist. The perfect fashion statement for the moment. After the rain stopped, I finished watching the show in relative comfort.

More went into this pile, but I think you get the idea. Maybe you have some interesting ways of dealing with this "problem."

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Four in a row

I was just checking on my upcoming appointments in Boston so that I could write them on my calendar for next week, and here's what I have over the course of two days:

The hematologist, the allergist, the urologist and the dermatologist.

 Way to pack 'em in. Has a certain ring to it, doesn't it?

I did it that way on purpose so that I wouldn't have to run back and forth, but when it's happening it's a little dizzying. It also, I have to say, requires a certain amount of planning expertise to get them all lined up.

I'm going to Wellfleet this weekend with Diane and David, and after that  I'll spend Sunday and Monday nights in Newton, with appointments Monday and Tuesday. Sometimes if I have a late-day appointment I stay over to avoid rush hour and fatigue, but I planned Tuesday's early enough so that I can drive back that day and go to George's Wednesday morning tennis clinic. You have to keep your priorities straight.

I went to yoga last night and did pretty well. I still have trouble with balance poses, so I just lightly touch the wall. I figure that's what it's there for!

Monday, June 10, 2013

That old razzle dazzle

I had a great weekend with Katie home: ice cream at the place with the silly name (Flayvors) and the great view, a little gardening, dinner out and dinner in, local strawberries with whipped cream on homemade biscuits, and then to top it off, the Tony Awards.

I also had a brief pity party on my way home from tennis on Sunday. I was playing with friends who all understand my situation and cheer my progress. I hit some good net shots, but my inability to move well just frustrates me.

"Why is it that I'm always recovering from something?" I asked myself.

Well, it's too bad, but at least I am recovering.

With that thought in mind, I got home, took a nap on the couch and felt much better. And that old razzle dazzle of the Tonys, however corny, perked me up considerably.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Surgery date

In the general scheme of things, the following was a very minor annoyance, but it was an annoyance nonetheless.

Over the course of a week, I called my urologist's office three times to find out my surgery date, but got no call back. I e-mailed the scheduler but got no response. I got a packet from the hospital saying my surgery date had been set, but there was no date listed. There was no rush to find out, but I just wanted to put it on my calendar and get that part off my plate.

Finally, on Wednesday night, I e-mailed the doctor, telling him I was feeling fine but was kind of stressed out from not knowing what's going on. He immediately copied me on an e-mail to his scheduler, saying it was very important for her to call me the next day.

It worked like magic.

She called yesterday saying my surgery is scheduled for Thursday, July 25 at 7:30 a.m. I have to be there two hours before. Joe volunteered to take me to Boston, but since I have to be there two hours before, that would mean getting up at 4 a.m. Instead, I'm going to spend Wednesday night in Newton, and Diane will take me. I'm sorry to drag anyone out of bed so early, but she knows the ropes and has done it for me many times before.

Of course I think of things in terms of tennis, so that means I will be able to get in George's clinic Wednesday morning, but I won't make it to Thursdays practice. Oh well, with the Wednesday clinic, our Thursday practice and another game on Sunday, I think I'm getting enough in. George said my balance and my circle swing look good. I had a few nice net put--aways last night. It doesn't take much to make me happy.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Always look on the bright side

Watch this and then hum along:

It's what I am humming as I tell this little story.

I had a dream last night that, without anesthesia, the urologist took out my kidneys, washed them and then put them back in. He congratulated me for being such a good patient.

I told Joe this morning and he said, "I'm sorry, but at least he put them back."

Katie agreed that it was maybe actually a good dream in that the procedure was quick and easy.

It shows that I have some anxiety about the upcoming procedure. I would actually kind of like to get it over with, but Dr. Steele said to wait until July.

The weekend was so hot that it was hard to do anything. I got up really early on Saturday and walked Maddie, which was a good idea, but when I walked with Meryl yesterday around 10, it was so hot that we could barely make it to The Thirsty Mind for our iced coffee.

On Saturday I planned to go to the gym to ride a bike instead of riding on my real bike, which Joe had picked up from getting repaired. Joe said, "Will you please, please not get on that bike." He texted Ben, who agreed. OK already. As it was, I couldn't even make it to the gym.

Yesterday I put on my bathing suit with good intentions to go to the Swim Club, but all I did was sit around in it and then change back into shorts.

Today looks a little better.

Always look on the bright side...