Sunday, August 17, 2014

Looking forward to the un-birthday party

My mother arranging flowers from my garden for my 50th
On my 50th birthday, I invited friends who lived locally over for cake, and when my mother, who was here with me, learned that I wasn't serving anything else, she was appalled.

I can just hear her saying, "You can't have people over and just serve them cake!"

A quick shopping trip ensued, and my mother worked her magic to produce some of her signature hors d'oeuvre plates. Then suddenly the house filled with people from work and the neighborhood celebrating with me not any ordinary birthday but one that marked my coming through chemotherapy and a bone marrow transplant with flying colors.

Well my mother is no longer here – though I do feel her with me – and as my 60th birthday approached, I thought, been there, done that, and I am not having another party.

My thoughts were mostly of the angst variety, tempered by:

Ben telling me to get over it, I was basically already 60 and I have a long road ahead of me, and
others telling me to see it as a celebration of how much I have survived.

Whatever. I planned the un-birthday party, which would consist of going to a Red Sox game with the kids. It will be Red Sox vs. Mariners a week from today.

Next up came Diane and Margaret wanting to take me out to a nice dinner in Boston, which we are doing Friday night.

On Saturday, my friend Katryn is coming down from Maine, and we might go on a Harbor Cruise or do some other fun thing to celebrate our birthdays, which are a couple of days apart.

For the icing on the cake, Emily (who lives in Pittsburgh) is coming just for dinner and an overnight on Sunday because she will already be in the Northeast.

And voilĂ !  The un-birthday party has turned into four mini-parties sort of like my mother's fabulous appetizers instead of one big meal.

Now my angst has become anticipation.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

This week in (my) history

A year ago this week, I was pacing around the kitchen where I am now sitting comfortably. I was crying then due to some of the worst pain that I could remember, and considering what I had experienced in the past, that is saying a lot.

It was early afternoon. I had just come home from the hospital after surgery to remove a cancerous lesion on my kidney. I was taking a high dose of the opioid Dilaudid (hydromorphone), alternating with extra strength Tylenol. But it wasn't working, and I was afraid to take more.

I could hardly breathe. I called the office of the urologist who had performed the surgery. A receptionist said she would mark my message URGENT, but when an hour passed and I didn’t hear back, I called Melissa. I was so glad to hear her voice and to know that there was someone who would always call me back when I said it was important. She said it was OK to take more. Someone from the urologist's office finally called back around 5:30 – when it was no help at all.

I thought of this recently in the context of how something bad can sometimes lead to something good. 

The bad was that last May, I was anticipating going to my cousin Nancy's 60th birthday party in California but developed double pneumonia and landed in the hospital on the day that I had expected to fly out of Boston.

During a 10-day hospitalization at Brigham and Women’s, I had a scan to determine the extent of my pneumonia. It showed something that would not have otherwise been found: a small lesion on my kidney.

The attending doctor told me that if this was cancer, it was a miracle on top of the other miracles that had come my way. Finding it this early and by accident meant it could be removed before it had the chance to spread. There is no routine screening for kidney cancer, and it is usually found after the development of full-blown cancer.

At the time, I was not nearly as pleased as my doctors were. My thought bubble would not have read "Yay!" but more likely would have been "WTF?"

Outpatient tests showed that it was indeed cancer. Surgery was set for after I had the chance to recover from the pneumonia.

The surgery took care of it, with no further treatment needed. Now I see that episode in a different light.

My make-up trip to California in September was fabulous. I got to see the America’s Cup and spend more time sightseeing with my cousins than I would have otherwise.

The scar on my right side is now just a section on the road map of the things I have survived.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Feet firmly planted on the ground

When George tells me during tennis to jump, I am inclined not to ask "how high?" but to say to myself instead "no way."

My theory is that I was given long arms so that I could avoid jumping. Only kidding. Sort of.

I am mentioning this because earlier this week, when I returned to exercise class at the Y, the class started doing double jumping jacks, making me think I might just leave. (I had missed a month of these classes: two weeks for stitches in my right arm and two weeks for stitches in my left.)

But then I told myself: Modify according to your ability. So I took steps instead of jumps, and I warmed up enough so that by the time we jumped rope (minus the rope) I was actually able to get my feet off the ground the tiniest amount.

I am always relieved when we move on to lifting weights, although this is not my favorite thing either. I do it because with five-plus years of prednisone in my system, I feel like it is a health need for me to continue working on my strength since prednisone is known to weaken your muscles.

Also, years ago, even before cancer, my friend Jo, a personal trainer (the same Nurse Jo who removes my stitches), told me that none of us should just run or play tennis: We really need to do strength training also.

I am told by a friend who is into weight-lifting that if you do it enough, it gives you the same endorphins that you get from running, but that requires more commitment than I think I have.

I have also been told I should give Pilates another try. I much prefer yoga for its all-around benefits. Plus I can't take on the expense of another class.

The Pilates class at the Holyoke Y doesn't fit my schedule, but I did notice that the Northampton Y, where you can go with a Holyoke membership, has many more offerings.

In fact, as I am finishing this up at 8:30 in the morning, I should leave in 15 minutes if I am going to get to Sunday morning Pilates in Northampton. Sundays are for the New York Times, two cups of coffee, Meet the Press...

Will I be able to get myself out the door? Now that I have announced the challenge, I will try very hard.

Stay tuned...