Wednesday, September 26, 2018

When dreams come true, it's kind of freaky

On Sunday night I dreamt three things.

1.     I was playing tennis, and my forehand would not go over the net. Someone said I had to get under it more. I tried, and got some, but not all, over.
2.     I bumped into a friend with whom I had had a fallout. He was walking towards the parking lot of The Republican. “Happy New Year!” I said. He looked back and said, “Same to you.”
3.     I had parked my car in the gated lot at work. When I went in to get it, I realized that I needed a key card to get out. I was afraid I would be stuck inside. But I waited a while until a car went out and I followed that driver, and the gate opened and I got out.

On Monday, these things happened.

1.     I was playing tennis, and my forehand kept going into the net. I told my doubles partner that this had happened in my dream, that I got under the ball, and it went over. I tried it. It got a little better.
2.     I went into Starbucks and bumped into the friend I had dreamt about. I told him I dreamt about him. He asked if it was bad. I said that no, I had just wished him Happy New Year. So in real life, I wished him Happy New Year. He wished the same to me.
3.      I parked in the garage in Northampton later that day and went to do some errands. When I got back to my car, I realized that I had lost the ticket. I went to the pay station and pressed the Lost Ticket button. I would have to pay $20.

I canceled the request and wandered around the garage, retracing my steps to try to figure out where the ticket had fallen out of my pocket. No luck. I walked out to see if I could get a new ticket, but it needed the weight of a car. By this time it was pretty late.

A young couple walked into the garage after paying for their “get out of the garage” ticket at the pay station. I asked what they thought would happen if I drove my car out after them. He said that probably the bar would come crashing down on my car. I got an idea. I asked if, for a few bucks, they would drive out and then drive back around to get a ticket and then back out and hand it to me. The guy said, sure. (I hope Dave Molnar isn’t reading this.)

They put their ticket receipt into the machine, drove out and around, got a new ticket and handed it to me. Success! We all smiled. I went to give him the dollar bills I had pulled out of my purse. He said that he wouldn’t take it for a favor. I thanked him and said that it would come back around, and someone would do a favor for him. We went our separate ways, smiles all around.

So….Last night I dreamt that I needed to go on a diet to lose five pounds. Does that mean I need to do it?

I am not overweight but I know the wishful thinking behind the dream. I am not happy with the way that mygraft vs. host disease of the skin has caused my stomach to stick out. It is more than being of a certain age. It has made some of my clothes unwearable and some just plain uncomfortable.  I know it’s a small price to pay, but that doesn’t make me like it any more. It has been described as feeling like there is a band around your stomach. It has to do with the fascia, the layer beneath the skin. Losing weight, alas, isn’t going to do anything for it. That is why I keep getting the ECP, or extracorporeal photopheresis, aka light therapy, aka sunburn of my blood, which has helped soften my skin and keep it from hardening more but alas has not done anything for the popping out thing.

Friday, September 21, 2018

In Wellfleet: some sadness, some sun, also tipping over but having fun

View from the bench on an overcast day
One of the first things I did on this little trip to Wellfleet was to take my beau over Uncle Tim's Bridge to the bench book. It is one of the most peaceful spots that I know.

We sat on the bench, and I wrote down my thoughts about coming here with my kids, and about how restorative it was to sit there and let your cares drift away. A nearby resident has been maintaining it for years. When it gets filled up with peoples' thoughts, someone takes it and places a new one in a little wooden treasure chest.

Waiting for table at Beachcomber, 2012
I looked up Uncle Tim's Bridge bench book and my blog post, Wonderful Wellfleet, came up fifth. I must have unintentionally good SEO or something. It was from 2012. I wrote this about our visit to Provincetown: "Joe, who is understandably upset by my falls, watched me like a hawk when we walked through Provincetown's busy streets. Step up, step down, step up, step down, he said. At one point when we were all in a gallery, I "escaped" by going out to the street by myself. "Hey, come back here and get back on your leash!" he said. I ultimately just walked along holding his arm, which was comforting because I knew I wouldn't fall."

I also wrote about how the seals seemed to be getting too close to the shore on the ocean side. Most everyone now is talking about the seals, what to do about the increasing population that is bringing sharks closer to the shore, and specifically about the recent fatal attack.

Jeff and I walked on that beach, Newcomb Hollow, on a day so misty that my glasses kept getting wet. People stood silently for a few minutes at the memorial for 26-year-old Arthur Medici. You don't want to speak badly about the dead, but all around, in the discussions, some were wondering why he and a friend went so far out, off-season, on a day when there was no lifeguard to warn them of the danger.

Memorial at Newcomb Hollow Beach
Some local officials want to cull the population of seals, which are on the endangered species list, but many are against that and are proposing other ways to keep swimmers safe, and to help fishermen who say the seals are taking their fish. Maybe the idiot climate-change deniers should wake up to the fact that there is a scientific reason that the warming oceans are contributing to the problem.

But back to good things.

The sand was hard, providing a good surface for a run, so I ditched my Tevas and went up ahead a little when walking on the beach on this moody day. It was actually a trot, in between a walk and a run. But it felt good. I stopped to do some yoga.

 Out of our four days here, only one had some sun, but in a way it was good because we didn't have to worry about getting sunburnt. We covered most of the bases: a walk along the bay and beach, dinner at Mac's restaurant and lunch at the dock, a little shopping, a walk around Provincetown, coffee, a visit to a newfound treasure – Chequessett Chocolate –  in North Truro, dinner at a new discovery, also in Truro, Blackfish, (formerly a blacksmith shop), and just plain breathing in the wonderful air.

I also spent a little time in an ambulance.

We were biking on the bike path. I got a "foolproof, "step-through" frame after my accident on my old bike. To me it does not seem like a real bike. But of course it is, and you see more and more of them around. Anyway, it was quiet so we didn't have to make full stops at the stop signs. When we got to Orleans Center, there was a sign instructing you to get off your bike. Jeff stopped and went across.

Cloudy day on Newcomb Hollow Beach
Maybe I was daydreaming about how I used to work there, and about how it looked different from when I hung out there with my high school boyfriend.

Maybe I hadn't stretched enough. I don't really know. My right foot was on the ground, and as I lifted my left foot over, my toe got stuck in the frame near the pedal. The bike started to tip over. I had that moment when you say, "Oh, no." I tumbled to the pavement. The bike tipped over onto me. The brake handle cut into my shin. I sat cross-legged and took one look at it and squeezed my hand on top of it. I was wearing gloves and pressed them down hard. It looked like a good gash.

I motioned to Jeff. He came over, walking pretty slowly, because he said later that he thought I was taking a rest to do yoga. He went back to get his bike. A couple stopped. The man went into the bike shop right next to wear I was and brought out some gauze. Jeff brought a bandana over. We made a tourniquet. A nice Orleans police office, whose name, appropriately, was cutter, said he sees all sorts of crashes at the same spot. Some ride right into the yellow pole.

He called the paramedics. They came in an ambulance. An Orleans police officer took Jeff to an Eastham police officer who took him back to get the car. I said why don't we just bandage it tightly so we could keep riding. They said they didn't think so.

The paramedics took me into the ambulance. I lay on the stretcher and had a lovely talk with the female paramedic. We talked about many things, ranging from plantar fasciitis to the propensity of  seals. She showed me a video, taken from above, of seals along Monomoy Island. There are apparently 50,000 off the coast.

I guess there aren't many nerve endings on the shin because it was stinging more than hurting.

Jeff came and we went to urgent care at Fontaine Outpatient Center. A friendly doctor said that in season, every day they see some 150 patients who have had some sort of accident. My blood pressure was high, though not terrible, about 155 over 100. I was glad that I had Ativan in the car.

The doctor gave me 12 stitches. I also got a tetanus shot. He said that if I put a sock over it, I could bike the next day. That takes us to yesterday. We biked around some trails in Provincetown and ended up a beautiful Herring Cove Beach. A (relatively) new concession stand, Far Land on the Beach, appeared in front of us. It had a solar roof and not-your-traditional offering, such as kale salad, which the woman at the window promised that they massaged, so it wouldn't be tough.

Looking out at the sun glinting on the water, we had the best kale salad with chick peas, and a fish sandwich with french fries. I held up a crispy french fry and said, this is the life, a crispy french fry, a fresh fish sandwich, and kale salad that actually tastes good.

Too bad this is the last day. I'm sitting on the little deck.
Our Airbnb hosts, Susannah and Russell, have three baby goats. It's funny to be on a beach vacation and hear goats in the background. The black cat, Fiddle, is around here somewhere. Susannah is going to make us eggs. Every day she bakes wonderful muffins. She made blueberry, cranberry, and her speciality, with chocolate mixed in.

Yesterday, I stretched before I got on the bike. Jeff watched me get on and off and concluded the tipping over thing was a fluke. Since we did pretty well yesterday, we're going to take one more bike ride before we leave the Cape.

View of Herring Cove
I wanted to jump in a pond, especially since there wasn't time to jump in a lake in Wisconsin, but now because of the stitches I can't do it. That's OK, though. It's a beautiful day and we're going to meander out of here and make a couple of stops, including maybe a bike ride at Nickerson State Park. It's hard to leave Wellfleet, for sure.

Joe called and I told him that the bike tipped over onto me. He said it's an improvement because it wasn't a bad fall. After one of my BIG falls, Aldo, the Mount Holyoke tennis coach, said I need to learn how to roll when I fall. That's kind of what I did, so I guess it goes with my theme of learning how to fall, in general.

Friday, September 14, 2018

Trekking, schlepping, & celebrating

I am just getting around to writing about my great trip to “the old country” to celebrate Rosh Hashanah. 

I got back on Tuesday, feeling kind of scrunched up from a lot of driving, and then thankful for Wednesday morning yoga, and got back in a car to go to Dana-Farber. Thursday I overslept for the first time in a long time. I woke up only a little before 9:30, which was tricky because I had to be at the Bay Road Tennis Club for my contract time at 10. It's not too far, so I made it, but I didn't get to stretch...or even fully wake up until a ball hit me in the left ear, somehow causing the opposite side of the frame to cause a little bruise behind my right ear. But anyway... 

The trip included: services at the 92ndStreet Y, traditional post-service lunch at Three Guys Restaurant on 96th and Madison (the old neighborhood) with Katie, Ben and cousin Joanne; family dinner in Queens; hanging out in Brooklyn with Katie and discovering cool restaurants and new neighborhoods; getting rush tickets to see “Beautiful” ($40 orchestra seats) and wandering into my high school friend Amanda Church’s art exhibit in SoHo. 

If the sun came out once, it was for a peek through the clouds. Every time we thought it had stopped raining, it seemed to still be drizzling. I went in my summer clothes and had to borrow a sweatshirt. I had a sore toe, brought on by hiking in shoes that don’t have as much give as the sneakers I usually wear. It is black and bruised and half-off, of great interest to me but understandably not that fascinating to others. When it happened before, it was my runners' badge of honor for going 10 miles. Now, unfortunately, it's just for being careless. 

It slowed me down, somewhat. Still, what with walking here and there and up and down subway stairs, we put in our 10,000 steps most days.

$40 Broadway ticket
Having left home a little later than I planned last Saturday (who, me?) I drove down to Stamford, thinking that would be faster than parking in New Haven and taking the train from there. (You have to walk quite a ways in the station, and Stamford is more manageable). It probably wasn’t faster. Several bad accidents backed up the Merritt Parkway. 

I had an adventure after leaving Grand Central, when I found out that one of the trains that Katie had told me to take wasn’t running. A guardian angel (even older than I am, an RN from Jamaica) told me to follow her, "at no cost." We got onto an alternative train, which meant I got off at a different stop in Brooklyn than planned.

I packed light, but by this point my little purple suitcase felt heavy. Up the stairs I trudged, coming up onto the street into the midst of a flock of black-clad men celebrating the end of the Sabbath. It was the Lubavitch World Headquarters. Who knew? Katie did when she walked down from the other direction and motioned me to come across the street.

It was late and we were hungry. We went to a nearby Indian restaurant. I was surprised at how well it sat with me. (When we newspaper peeps ate down the street at Sitar, I could only eat one dish that didn’t bother me.) 

The only other diners occupied a long table behind us. It was a 60thbirthday celebration, festive and loud. We didn’t mind, though, because it was entertaining to watch them. We sang happy birthday along with them, and they gave us each a piece of delicious, moist, chocolate cake. (Nutritional consultant, I hope you’re not reading this.)

I told Katie that it might have taken less time to go visit her in Minnesota!

With Amanda Church painting at
 Steven Harvey Fine Art Projects
On Sunday we went up to the art gallery and then further up to Broadway to seek out our rush tickets. My little theater guide (not so little, actually maybe taller than I am) did it again. I never knew from rush tickets. But now I do. The same-day, discounted tickets are not always available. We lucked out.

I had been a doubter about “Beautiful.” I thought it would be a too-nostalgic trip down memory lane. But I was wrong, and I was surprised, both by the story of how Carole King grew up in Brooklyn as Carole Klein and became Carole King when she sold her first song at the age of 16. I had no idea that she had written for so many groups. The story of her breaking out and singing her own songs – gasp – was interesting in that it would be taken for granted today.

And it was a treat (and a surprise) to see the role played and beautifully sung by Abby Mueller, sister of Jessie Mueller, who originated the role.

Monday we went to meet Ben. We got off at 86thstreet and picked him up at Starbucks, then walked to the Y with him. From playing on the roof as a kindergartener there to going to services with my parents, I have many memories of time spent there. 

We like the rabbi, Elka Abrahamson, who combines a light touch with reverence for the holiday, the celebration of the new year, 5779. Some of us like the cantor more than others. It is controversial to some because he is a cantorial soloist, not a “real” cantor. The sound has changed since the days of my youth, from the choir, with an organ, to a band, with a combination of rock and klezmer sound.

I miss some of the traditional, more somber, singing, but in a way it’s better, because especially in the first year after my father died, the music made me sob into my prayer book.

And while I have to admit to occasionally nodding off in the past, and being rescued with help from those little candies my mother carried in her coat pockets and purses,  I never once felt sleepy.

I would have lingered over honey cake and challah, but we needed to keep moving. So it was on to Three Guys, then out to Queens via subway, then taking an Uber back to Brooklyn because it was more direct than the train.

The next morning, after bagels with Katie, I got back on the Metro North train for the first leg of my trip home. At this point I was tired and wished I had a longer train ride and a shorter drive home. But I had one-third on the train and two-thirds in the car.

 Fatigue might account for the moment when I burst into tears after finding out that I had accidentally parked in an executive garage, not the public garage, and that the cost of parking was more $110, much more than the public garage, which I had tried unsuccessfully to enter. 

It was an easy mistake (at least, if you’re me) since they are side by side, and when I was slowing down to find the entrance to the public garage, drivers behind me were so ferociously honking that I took the first garage entrance I saw.

Maybe these were held-back tears from missing my parents so much during the holiday observances. I know I’m not alone. Holidays can do that to you. I doubt I'll ever experience anything as beautiful as  my mother's holiday dinners. 

It’s always hard for me to leave New York, and top of that, even harder now because it involves leaving our newly minted Brooklynite. So I lollygagged, and by the time I got back home, it was dark. It seemed like it took a long time to get back, but not enough time to count all my blessings. These included having been on this planet to see the cutest set of first-day-of school photos ever, in my opinion, at least. 

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Mysterious rash on face, marvelous trip to US Open

With Donna and Roger at the US Open
When I heard while watching Kaia Kanepi play at the US Open that she had battled plantar fasciitis in both feet – and almost quit tennis because of that and the debilitating Epstein-Barr virus – I could totally sympathize with the plantar fasciitis part. (She lost to Serena Williams in the Round of 16.)

My friends said I complained more about the heel pain than I ever did about leukemia. 

Actually I don't think I complained about cancer at all. That's because I expected it to be bad. The heel pain drove me crazy because I couldn't understand how an area the size of a quarter could be so debilitating. During one bout I skipped all exercise for about six months. Even walking to the end of the driveway, I felt like I was walking on crushed glass.

Now something new is driving me crazy. It's a combination of blisters and rash on and around my lips. Sometimes it hurts a lot, or stings, and other times it's incredibly itchy. I sent photos to my health care team. One doctor said it could be an allergy. Another said it could be, in his shorthand that took me a minute to figure out, HSV, or herpes simplex virus, otherwise known as cold sores, aka HSV1.

One possibility is that the herpes simplex virus broke out because they let me decrease the dosage on the Valtrex that I take as a preventative, because I'm on prednisone, from 1,000 mgs twice a day to 500. Dr. Marty said to in an email to increase the dose, so I did. 

I thought maybe the chemotherapy cream, Efudex, that I'm applying to select spots, had gotten onto my skin and irritated it. But through my googling I have learned that the cold sore can spread from your lip to other areas of your skin. So I figured it probably wasn't some stray Efudex. 

A friend at tennis said it looks like sun poisoning. She suggested Aquafor. It feels good to have something moist on it, but I don't know what it's doing. The pharmacist said to put aloe vera gel on. I said it would burn. He said not if it's pure. He sold me some. It burned. 

I came upon a story about shingles and decided that's what I have.

The pharmacist said stress brings the cold sores out and I should go home and rest.

What, me stressed?

I tried unsuccessfully to remember if a correlation existed between the outbreak and the outburst on the tennis court.

WHAT DIDN"T CAUSE ME STRESS was my fifth annual bus trip with Donna to the US Open Friday. It strikes me as funny that when I lived nearby, I never went. But as soon as I went on the bus from the Enfield Tennis Club, I was hooked. 

In my story about how tennis helped me recover from leukemia, I wrote about what the trip means to me.

Rafael Nadal, a speck
We've had fun every year, but the first year was more haphazard because we didn't know where to go. Now, we have a plan. It being USTA Membership Appreciation Day, we went to the USTA booth first to pick up our gift. It was a $10 gift card and a nice baseball cap with ... drum roll ... USTA member on it. 

Then we went to an outside court to watch doubles, sitting so close that you could see and hear how hard they hit it. This is the fun of going that I didn't understand when I lived so close but never went. 

The heat had broken. It was slightly cloudy, with a little rain here and there. Perfect weather for it.

When we were talking around, Donna said, excitedly, "I see Roger Federer!"

I jumped.

There he was, on a wall. A woman took a photo for us. 

We checked out the new Armstrong stadium and went to our nosebleed seats in Ashe – part of the bus trip package – to watch Nadal play the young Russian prospect, Karen Khachanov.  We went down further than our assigned seats, but due to the full stadium, they wouldn't let us sit in a lower section. We were close enough, though. Also, we got to see the new roof close.

I got a kick out of emailing my friend Francisco Marty, the infectious disease specialist at Dana-Farber, and getting a response in less than a minute. I told him about the rash and asked about increasing the Valtrex, and he wrote back, to increase, and also, "take a selfie with Nadal."

I wrote back that Nadal was too far.

He responded, "Tell him come up to you."

He always made me smile, even when I was deathly ill, and he had made me smile again.

Though we wanted to stay to the finish, we also wanted to see more action, so we left before the end. Out in the plaza, a crowd had gathered to watch the gripping finish on the big screen. We joined them. The world may be falling apart, but we shared this communal moment with strangers who cared only about a tennis match. (Nadal won in four sets.)

The bus left at 7:30, an hour later than previously. Our trek to the bus (it's a long walk) was much calmer than our first year when I wasn't feeling well. Our friend Deb Doner was leading the way, imploring Donna to get me to go faster, and to maybe even put me in a cart. Donna said she was doing the best she could but she couldn't pick me up! When we finally got to the bus, what happened next wasn't pretty.

US Open signature drink
That year it was scorching hot. I didn't drink enough water. I thought I only had one, but Donna says I had two of the signature Honey Deuce cocktails with Grey Goose vodka in a (plastic) glass with all the names of all the Open champions on it.

This year I only had one, and I wasn't sick, unless you count whatever is going on on my face. We got back to the bus early...and waited almost half an hour for two stragglers. It ended up being a long day. But I would do it again.

Meanwhile back at the ranch, I have been taking Tylenol, Advil, and occasionally a little oxycodone when the pain around my lips reaches a 9 on a scale of 1 to 10. Dr. Lin (Jennifer) said via email to apply 2.5 percent cortisone and Vaseline. She also said to stay out of the sun. I don't hit the Ativan much, but I took a little when I realized I wasn't breathing. (Well, I was breathing, of course, but not the right way.)
We went to a party. I tried, unsuccessfully, I'm afraid, to keep my hands off my face. The whatever-it-is was itching like crazy. At home, I took two Benadryl. The next morning I felt hung over.

I skipped George's clinic at the Canoe Club yesterday. Meghan's yin yoga at the Hampshire Y seemed like a better thing to do. It is the perfect combination of movement and stillness. Hearing her voice brings me back to Costa Rica. 

On the way home, I stopped at the Canoe Club. I sat under the umbrella and talked to George and the players who had just finished. I told him about the "I hate you" comment. He said he had overheard an exchange between my antagonist and another player. The other person had said, "That's uncalled for."

So this person is taking something out on others, and not just on me.

George said it's a long summer. It's not the first time that by the end of it, words can fly like tennis balls.

Today was the first day of an indoor contract at the Bay Road Tennis Club. It's split among six players. I thought of getting a sub, but I didn't want to do it on the first day, and I thought that it would feel good to run around. I figured while pain in my feet stopped me from playing, there was no reason that pain in my face should do it.

They are nice ladies and excellent players who don't take themselves too seriously. 

Will give a report in another post on the what is the reason for my rash, and what I'm going to do about it.