Wednesday, October 31, 2018

In a funk after flu shot, and trying to run through it

On Monday I went to CVS and got a flu shot. I figured that by the time I made a doctors' appointment, I might get the flu.

Since I've been poked and prodded countless times, you'd think that I'd be tough. I didn't get hysterical or anything. But I did get a little whiny. I said it hurt.

"Well,  it should, I just put a hole in your arm," the nurse said.

I asked the usual question – would I get sick – and she said that since it is a dead virus, I would not.

Since I like to do things differently, yesterday I felt sick. And my arm hurt. Waaaaaa.

I had promised Maddie a walk. We went to the bank. She lay down on the floor and made herself comfortable. The teller came around and gave her a dog biscuit. My ATM card was not working, so I went to her cubicle and sat down while she made me a new one. Maddie came over and sat with me. I looked at the photo of the teller's dog. It was a Shih Tzu.

I told her about the time when I brought my dog Simon to live in Greenfield at my Aunt Marge's house while I looked for a place to stay. I had gotten my first real newspaper job, at the Transcript-Telegram in nearby Holyoke, before I graduated from Boston University's journalism master's program. (Thank you Jon Klarfeld.)

Simon was possessive about his food. The little dog came over to investigate. Simon snapped. And, unintentionally but still not a pretty picture, broke the little dog's jaw. I felt terrible, of course, but luckily the dog was OK. It's a good thing that everyone loved Simon. I got to stay until I got an apartment in Florence.

Ah, memories.

In any case, yesterday, still not feeling great, I walked Maddie around the lake. When I came back, I looked out the door and thought about how in the way-back-past, if I felt slightly under the weather I could get rid of it by going out for a run.

I wanted to be able to do that. My legs felt heavy, and a stood for a while, looking out the window. I put my leg up on the counter and stretched. (Actually, I my hand ASSISTED my leg in getting up onto the counter. ) It could have gone either way. But I went out for the so-called run, back to the lake, which is about a mile around.

My run was about the same speed as my walk. I bumped into a friend and walked a little way with her. I said that if I wanted to get back to the point where a run was a cure-all, I would have to push through the first part, which was always the hard part. I've done it a few times but not consistently enough. Tennis is easier.

Thinking about this, I wondered, enough for what?

Not enough to get the runner's high, but enough to be a lot more than back after my last transplant when I couldn't even turn myself over or get out of bed.

A little perspective helps.

In any case, my phone said that by the end of the day, between getting to the bank, to and from the lake, and around it twice, I had done, or rather trudged, five miles.

I almost called it quits but I went to Northampton to Megan's yin yoga. It is a hassle to get there and not the best time for me – 6 p.m. – but it always calms me down.

Saturday, October 27, 2018

That infiltrated feeling isn't a good one


in-fil-treyt, in-fil-treyt

verb (used with object), in·fil·trat·ed, in·fil·trat·ing.
to filter into or through; permeate.
to cause to pass in by filtering.
to move into (an organization, country, territory, or the like) surreptitiously and gradually, especially with hostile intent.

In nursing, it has a specific meaning.

Infiltration occurs when I.V. fluid or medications leak into the surrounding tissue. Infiltration can be caused by improper placement or dislodgment of the catheter. Patient movement can cause the catheter to slip out or through the blood vessel lumen.

I present these definitions because on Wednesday at ECP, the light therapy on my blood, the needle in my right hand infiltrated. This has happened before. It is not the end of the world. But when it happens, it is painful. I usually know it the minute the needle goes in. It doesn't feel right.

Surveying the damage
Nancy, my nurse, put the large needle in my left arm, for the draw. (Drawing out my blood so that the white blood cells can be separated and treated with UVA light.) Rosalie, a nurse who had a different patient, came over to help with the return needle, the smaller one. She patted my arm and my hand vigorously to get a good vein. Actually it felt kind of like slapping. She put the needle in and went back to her patient.

I told my nurse that it hurt. She took one look and said it was infiltrated. She pulled it out. There was some extra blood. She had to bandage it up before she put the needle in a different spot. My right arm was unhappy.

Meanwhile, my left arm wasn't doing so great either. My hand had a bad case of pins and needles. You can't move your arm, so you can't shake it out. The needle in the crook of my created a dull ache.

For a while I was taking a little oxycodone before, because I had had a few bad instances of severe pain when the needle felt like it hit a nerve. I haven't even been bringing it for a while. But with both arms hurting, I said maybe I would in the future. (Tylenol doesn't do it. I can get oxycodone at ECP, but it's a major production, and Melissa had said to bring my own.)

A nice resident, new on the rotation, came over to talk. I gave him a brief history of my two-plus years at ECP, going back to when I asked my doctor why my abdomen felt like it had a bowling ball in it, and why there were ripples in my thighs, and he said it was graft vs. host disease of the skin.

He thanked me for the info. I should get a teaching fee! Then I fell asleep. When I woke up, it was almost time to leave. I wasn't sure how I slept through being that uncomfortable, but maybe it was a defense mechanism or something.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Insensitive email triggers total meltdown

Melissa, me, and Dr. Marty
So this happened.

I had a checkup scheduled for today, with Melissa, at 2 p.m. before the light therapy on my blood. It was a shorter interval than usual – four weeks – but we made it for that because I had several ongoing matters to discuss.

Then I realized I had too much to do work to do this week. I emailed Melissa with a copy to Nicole, the (relatively) new scheduler, and I asked if we could move it back two weeks.

She wrote back,

"I am happy to move your labs and appointment to 11/7. Unfortunately, Melissa will be transitioning to a different department so you will see a different nurse practitioner.

Please let me know what will work for you.

This triggered an automatic meltdown.

If you've read this blog for even a little while, you know how attached I am to my nurse practitioner. She's seen me through ups and downs for more than 10 years.

For International Women's Day, when Healthline asked me to pick a woman to honor in their "day without her" feature by picking a woman it would be hard to live without, I wrote,

“My nurse practitioner, because she knows how much I go through and calms me down when I get nervous, always saying the right thing. She helps me coordinate my many doctors’ appointments, answers emails even on a weekend when she is busy with her husband and two young sons, cares as much about my mental health as my physical health, and most of all has become a true friend.”

Back to the meltdown.

I don't know why this happens, but often when I get very upset I knock something over. It happened the day Joe moved out, when I was crying so much, and not paying attention to the space around me, that I knocked over a glass of Gatorade...right onto my MacBook Air. I had to get the insides replaced. It was a costly mistake.

Yesterday I was sitting at my kitchen table, where you can often find me typing away, looking out onto the patio and the so-called garden, when I read the email.

I started crying. And knocked over a glass of water. It spilled all over the kitchen table, soaking pads and papers. It just missed my computer, though. I mopped it up. I texted Melissa, "Can you call me?" I don't know which she saw first, that, or the page that I sent.

Due to the tears, I could barely answer.

She said, "What's wrong?"

I said quickly, "It's not my health," because what with all my mishaps, that would be the first thing a person would expect.

I told her about the email.

She said she hadn't seen it, she was sorry about the way it happened, and she had wanted to talk to me in person. I said I would go in a little early today so we can talk in person. I mentioned that it hit me especially hard due to what happened with Mary Lou. That was shorthand for the clumsy way Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women's decided that I could no longer see my longtime social worker because she would be in-patient and the other social worker would be outpatient.

First Mary Lou had said she could stick with longterm patients. Then they told her that it wasn't the case. She wasn't even supposed to respond to my emails...a total cut-off of a vital support person. My sister and I talked to the social work department heads. They said, not in these words, to suck it up.

Mary Lou said that if I went over to the sixth floor at the hospital (my old home away from home), she could meet me in a conference room from time to time. We did that for a while. It was good to see her, but it felt like we were sneaking around. At this point she seems to have disappeared. I asked some people if she retired, and they said they didn't know.

Meanwhile the social worker who I was supposed to see, who I didn't want to see because we weren't a good fit, saw me a couple of times and then disappeared. I got a new social worker with no background in oncology. The questions she asked me sounded like she hadn't read my file. I said I didn't want to see her again.

People move around. We always felt the world would end when we lost a tennis coach. But how you take it has a lot to do with the way you learn about it.

I feel guilty griping about the place that saved my life, but hey, we transplant recipients are "babies" with sensitive skin.

Actually I don't think you even need to be super sensitive to be thrown for a loop by an email like the one that I received, about Melissa.

I believe that the two more experienced schedulers before Nicole wouldn't have done that. I think they would have checked in with Melissa and asked how to handle it.

As I wrote in this post for Health Union, how things are said determines how they are received. This sounds like a truism but still it doesn't always work out that people present sensitive topics in the best way.

I sometimes regret it when I dash out an email, but I don't regret that I wrote back, "Not ok to find this out by email."

To be continued, after my visit today.

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Three cheers for fake teeth and longterm friendship

Hiding behind chocolate mold
News flash: For the first time in as long as I can remember, I am able to chew on both sides of my mouth.

It was a big day when Dr. Badri Debian, of Holyoke Dental Associates, gave me my newest bridge a couple of weeks ago. For a while he had said I didn't need it because I still had enough teeth on my upper right to be able to chew on that side. It didn't seem so to me. I chewed so much on my left side that I wore down the bottom teeth and needed a bridge. But when I lost my thirteenth tooth last month on my right upper, he decided it was time.

I never knew that I would be spending so much time thinking about teeth, or lack thereof.

Friends asked how the bridge was glued in. I have a tooth in front, but not in back. For some reason this sounded funny, and we started cracking up.

So it turns out that I don't have a traditional bridge, which would be a fake tooth connected to two existing teeth.

A bridge supported by a tooth on one side is a Cantilever bridge, and that is what I have.

Here is another word that is new to me: a pontic. That is the technical term, or euphemism, for a fake tooth.  

I keep forgetting that I can use my right side now, so I still favor my left. It's not perfect, because I'm missing a bottom molar, so I don't have a great connection. 

Dr. Debian has my back. He gives me a good discount and is in my opinion, a mensch. But since I don't have dental insurance because dental insurance stinks for people in my situation, it might be good for the bite in my mouth but it takes a bite out of my bank account.
Anne with cacao pod

I'm behind on other news. My Vassar classmate Anne Outwater and I had an interesting visit to Taza Chocolate Factory, in Somerville. It was a busy couple of days. 

I crammed a lot in on that Wednesday, but when a friend (Anne) who lives in Tanzania says she is going to be in Boston and would like to visit a chocolate factory run by a fellow Vassar graduate, and it is the same day that you need to be at Dana-Farber at 4, and you have already promised to sub in a tennis group at 9 in the morning, what are you going to do except try to do it all?

Somehow it worked out. Getting there was crazy, though. As I neared my destination, I was thwarted by blocked-off streets. 

I later learned that it was because of the large public transit expansion affecting Union Square in Somerville. An employee from the chocolate factory talked me in. I almost gave up. But I got there on time for a little introduction and tour that included tasting a lot of stone ground dark chocolate of various textures and tastes. We learned that the higher the cacao levels, the more health benefits there are. Unfortunately I like milk chocolate better. But I'm learning to like dark chocolate.

I took a selfie with Anne but erased it because I had a big red mark on my nose, resulting from a zapping, or cryosurgery, on a precancerous spot. I conveniently displayed a mold by holding it over my nose. 

Afterwards we got in my car and went to Dana-Farber so she could sit with me while I got my blood treated. It was the only other time we would have together. Quite the difference from when we rode bikes around Prince Edward Island together and she placed a blue shield around us so that the dogs would not get us. 

Anne does not drive in Tanzania. I think I should have told her to close her eyes on the drive through Boston traffic. 

Anne has a Ph.D. in nursing and has an impressive job and title: Head of Department of Community Health Nursing at Muhimbili University of Health and Allied Sciences in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Before that, she was a medical officer in the peace corps. The nurses were impressed with her! She was also impressed by the nurses and interested in what they were doing. She got a quick lesson in ECP, or extracorporeal photopheresis for graft vs. host of the skin.

My compadres Larry and Lisa were also there. The three of us always come at 4 p.m. every other Wednesday. I don't know the name of the other man who is always there. Sometimes he is behind a screen. Due to traffic, we got there last, but I finished before Larry and Lisa, because they each use just one arm. I told Anne how it came about that I use two arms, one for drawing and the other for simultaneously returning. It was because one day Mark, my nurse for the day, came up and asked if I wanted to use two arms, and before I had a chance to balk, he put the second needle in.

Depending on where the nurse places the needle, I can sometimes use my right arm. But it was at an awkward place, so I couldn't. It was good that Anne was there to talk to. She was impressed with the nurses. When the procedure was finished, Mark walked Anne out to show her where to get the T. 

It was also a good thing I was going to Margaret and Nick's, because I was too tired to drive home.

My construction obstacles persisted, though. I have been to their house many times but got confused when getting off at the exit that I usually take off Route 128/95.  It looked different. I ended up where I didn't want to be and then had to circle around.

Margaret said the changes were due to something called the Add a Lane project. I was glad to hear I wasn't making it up and there was a reason for my confusion.

I had hoped that one of the doctors at ECP could remove the stitches from the Mohs surgery on a squamous cell cancer on my right temple. A doctor came over prepared to do it, but when he saw that it was running stitches, he said he couldn't; you need finer scissors and a better light. He asked Melissa to call ahead to the Faulkner Hospital Mohs Surgery Center to see if they could take me the next morning. He called it the Pregame. He said, in the meantime, to just go in the morning and assume they would see me. She texted me to ask if I could get there at 10:45. I was already on my way. Yay team!

The next day I drove home in the pouring rain. I went straight to a hair appointment that I had in Northampton. I don't have any construction-related explanations for getting there at the wrong time, 3 instead of 2. Getting out of my car, I couldn't open my umbrella. Getting soaked, I fumbled for my credit card to use in the meter. I dropped the card in the rain. I couldn't find it anywhere, so I thought maybe it was in my car. But I canceled the card anyway. This is a pain because a lot of things are attached to it.

The next day, I got a call from a man who said he found my card. He said he looked me up and found me via my website. He said he wanted me to know that he was a veteran and he wouldn't have tried to use the card. I thanked him profusely and said I had already canceled it. But it was nice to know that such a person existed.

Meanwhile, someone had gotten a hold of the number for my LL Bean card and put more than $2,000 in fake charges on it. The credit card company didn't catch it. I believe they should have. After I called, they removed all but one small charge. I told them it was also a fake charge. They said no problem, they would not charge me interest while they looked into it. They charged me interest and a late fee. I called and said to take it off. They said they would take it off and look into why there was a stray $58 charge on it...with interest. I said OK.

When I tried to use the card, it was rejected. I called to try to find out why. Of course as most people know, it is bad for your health to try to get through to a real person at a credit card company. You cannot just press zero. I yelled into the phone, agent, agent, agent. When I finally got a person, they said it was locked because I hadn't paid them the $58 even though it was in dispute.

They don't care, but I said that as soon it is resolved and I use my coupons, I'm going to cancel the card.

Sorry for the rant.

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Canvassing in NY to help take back the house, stuck in the car with a pill

Better days: In Keene, with Connie Britton, fall, 2016
In my desire to do something about the disaster in the White House, a while ago I got interested in Swing Left.  From the website: "Swing Districts are places where the winner of the last House of Representatives election was determined by a thin margin. Swing Left helps you find and commit to supporting progressives in your closest Swing District so that you can help ensure we take back the House in 2018."

It is pretty nifty. You can put in your zip code and find the swing district nearest you and then you find out what to do to either keep it Democratic or flip a Republican seat. Every week I get emails with links to either drive or carpool to our swing districts, New York's 19th Congressional District and New Hampshire's 2nd.

I dragged my feet but finally did Sunday. Since I had already been to New Hampshire's second in 2016, I decided to go to New York to canvas for Democrat Antonio Delgado. The Republicans are running a racially charged attack against this (black) Rhodes scholar for some lyrics he used during a brief career as a rap artist. According to this story in the New York Times, "The video ads have injected elements of race and identity in a contest already fraught with national implications: The race between Mr. Delgado and the Republican incumbent, Representative John Faso, is thought to be a tossup, so both parties are heavily invested in the district, which covers much of the Hudson Valley and Catskills regions."

Some of us met at 10 a.m. at Sheldon Field in Northampton. I drove with Robert Freedman, whose organizing efforts were featured in this Gazette story. We go way back; I interviewed him about a play he directed in 1991. We know a lot of the same people and had plenty to talk about. The drive over, with another volunteer, was a quick hour and 45 minutes to Hudson, N.Y. At the appointed time, noon, volunteers from the area and further away crowded into a cramped office. It is all done by app now, unlike when I went to New Hampshire in 2016 and we got clipboards with addresses where we were supposed to go. A crush of people descended on the one coordinator who was giving out location codes to put in the app. Somebody said they probably were not expecting so many people. Perhaps the Kavanaugh disaster had gotten them out.

In New Hampshire, they had separated experienced canvassers from new ones. Since I hadn't done it with the new system, I said I was new. A woman said she would go with me. The coordinator started giving an explanation of how to use the app, but when I lingered to hear it and to check in with Robert and tell him I was taking off, she walked towards the door and gave me a dirty look.

As soon as we got in her Volvo, the problems began. I've written about crazy drivers to and from Boston, and now I'm about to write about another type of crazy. I seriously don't know what was wrong with this woman. I looked at my phone screen and saw the addresses. Then I asked her what to do next. She said they were explaining all this back in the office. But she had wanted to leave!

She has a summer home in Stockbridge and lives in the 60s on the west side of New York. Perhaps she is a generally snooty person.

In any case, you swipe to the next screen and get the names, ages, and their party, and then to the next to say if you were able to connect with them.

Not too far into the farmland, we lost service, meaning we couldn't get directions to the houses. I had said earlier I thought it was easier with paper, but she had she didn't think so. Right around when we had to stop at an apple farm to ask for directions, she might have changed her mind. I can't even begin to get into the various times she snapped at me or ordered me around. She has been working on this campaign since April, so maybe she was annoyed about the carpetbaggers.

I opened the window to let in the fresh country air, and she said to close it because she had the AC on.

A highlight was getting some apples that were so crisp and tasty, they must have come right off the tree. A couple of times I commented on how beautiful the area was, but she didn't answer.

Very few people were home. I only talked to one person. It was from my driver's list, so she showed me the name on her phone. She asked me to walk to the house while she sat in the car, and I said OK. She wanted me to take her phone so I would remember the name, but I said I didn't need it.

A woman who looked like she was 40-something came to the door. She had a Bernie sticker on her car. That was encouraging. I said that Delgado was a good candidate who cared about issues important to people like us, and that although most of us don't vote in the midterms, this was an important time to do it if we want to gain back some control. She took the literature, thanked me, and said she would consider it. Maybe I got one voter.

When I got back to the car, my canvassing partner said, "Where's my phone?"

I said, "I didn't take it." She said, "Yes you did!"

I said I would call her. The phone rang from between the seats.

She said she was sorry.

About that time, Robert called, looking for me.

I told my driver that we had to head back soon. She said it was only 3:15, and we were supposed to go to four.

I took out the invite. It said, noon to 3.

She drove me back to the office and said she would finish the last few by herself.

I thanked her for driving, she headed back out, and then I got in the car driven by Robert to go back to Sheldon Field.

They had at least had conversations with six or so people who said they would probably vote for Delgado. I told them about my bad experience and showed them a photo from the day that Connie Britton had come to the Keene Democratic Committee's office to get us pumped up to go out and canvas for Clinton.

I thought of the spread they had given us in Keene and the hopes that we had for the election. In the car, we discussed the idiots we remembered saying at the time that they were considering "the lesser of two evils" between Trump and Clinton.

We had been tasked with getting out the vote for the whole Democratic ticket. It included Maggie Hassan for senator, so at least we got that. We had also given out literature for Annie Kuster for representative in New Hampshire's 2nd District. She also won, and she is the other candidate that Swing Left is helping.

By the time I got home, it was dark.

I was hungry. I had a peanut butter sandwich around 11, but only two apples and a donut afterwards. I pulled out a leftover cooked chicken and gnawed on a drumstick. Not a pretty picture.

I texted my friends that I didn't think it was a good use of time...but I felt like I should be doing something. I still have the opportunity to give New Hampshire a try. Maybe I will, maybe I won't.

I had felt so cooped up in the car that I needed to get some exercise. I put on a light colored T-shirt some running pants and went out into the balmy night. I ran on the well-lit paths around Mount Holyoke and on the parts of the street and sidewalk that weren't dark.

With stitches still in my head and stitches recently removed from my leg, I thought it would not be a good idea to fall. I went for about three miles. For most of it I went slowly, but I sped up between some markers to get some of the bad energy out.

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Expecting the unexpected, and being right

In the waiting room after Mohs surger

Yesterday when I went to the Mohs Surgery Center at Brigham and Women’s Faulkner Hospital, I had a feeling that the spot that had been in my ear had disappeared, although there could be a trace of something.

Dr. Lin, (Jennifer), had said the spot was too small for her to biopsy, so that is why she sent me to a specialist. She said it could be a skin cancer or a pimple. Jeff drove me, and I said we might be going all the way for a pimple. I imagined a quick visit leaving time to go out for lunch or take a walk in the Boston area afterwards.

I figured the visit wouldn’t be wasted, because I always have other spots to show.

My ear was indeed fine, but a spot at my right temple looked suspicious. A nice Fellow examined me first. Nice fellow, it sounds funny to say. He said the spot might be a basal cell carcinoma. When he called Dr. Schmults in, she agreed. I signed the papers giving permission for a Mohs, and I lay down on the table.

When she started to apply the anesthesia, I said I had written something nice about her, and she better not let me down. She laughed and said something along the lines of it putting a lot of pressure on her.

As usual, she did a good job. She applies the anesthesia in repeated little pin pricks so that you can hardly feel it. At 2:18, while she was operating, I heard my phone vibrate. It was the widely mocked presidential alert.

I had to wait an hour while she looked at what she had taken out. When she returned, she would know if it was a basal cell or squamous cell and also whether she had gotten it all.

My reaction to presidential alert
It gave me a chance to follow #PresidentialAlert on Twitter and see all the fun people were having putting their own words into it or tweeting reactions. I retweeted some of my favorites. 

The nurse called me back after an hour. It was indeed another squamous cell. The doctor had gotten it all, so she wouldn't need to go back for another pass. The Fellow zapped some other spots I pointed out, a few on my hand, one at the top of my head (he cut a little bit of hair out to do it) and one on my nose. The zapping hurt more than anything else.

The nurse said not to exercise or do yoga for four days. That’s a lot for me. At least it’s OK to walk. When the squamous cells have been on my leg, the restrictions have been worse.

Of course there wasn’t time to do anything. When we got home, it was after 6. I had run out of prednisone, so we went to the store to get the prescription. The anesthesia started to wear off, and the area of excision started to sting. I took some pain medication, and we walked down to Food 101 for dinner. It was a balmy night.  I told my chauffeur that he was a mensch. He also turned out to be a good dinner companion.

It had been a long day, so I don’t know why I wasn’t tired. I stayed up to watch Stephen Colbert on the Late Show, followed by James Corden on the Late Late Show. Both were having fun with the Presidential Alert. Corden did his Take A Break bit at one of Los Angeles’ hottest restaurants, going around to give employees a break. I laughed so hard that I forgot about the blisters on my hands and nose and the bandage on my face.

Monday, October 1, 2018

It's good to get out of the neighborhood

The news has been so distressing, it was good to go on a few outings this weekend. Getting away doesn't make it go away, but a change of scene sure helps.

I had mentioned to someone that I wanted to go to the Brattleboro (Vt.) Farmers Market, first, because I heard it was fun, and also, because a reliable person recommended a vendor who was selling good CBD oil. The person to whom I was speaking said, "That's where all the hippies are!"
Farmers' market booth

She was right. It was totally cool. We got some good fruit, veggies, bread, and other stuff, and we hung around listening to the music and watching the crowd. It kind of made me want to move to Brattleboro. 

CBD oil may provide relief for neuropathy. Since the gabapentin prescribed for me only takes the edge off but not much more, my feet could use some help. We found the vendor, who also sold us CBD-infused chocolates. Though it does not get you high, it is supposedly good for relaxation. 

CBD is typically extracted from the cannabis plant as an oil or a powder. The oil or powder can then be mixed with a gel or cream that can be rubbed onto the skin or ingested orally. According to the National Pain Report, "One of the most well-known compounds of the cannabis plant is THC or tetrahydrocannabinol. Once the THC is broken down by heat and ingested, it can create a high. Although THC and CBD both come from the cannabis plant, it is only THC which is mind altering and gives you a high."

I got permission from my Dana-Farber team to try CBD as a cream, but they said not to ingest it. I only tried it twice, so the jury is still out.

On the way home, we stopped at the beautiful Bridge of Flowers, in Shelburne Falls, Mass. 

It is open April 1 through October 30. A committee of green thumb volunteers changes the plants seasonally, making it one of the wonders of the area.

They provide a list of each bulb, perennial, shrub and annual that you will see, not only month-by-month but also according to each half of the month!

I realized afterwards that my photo was a little crooked, so I am taking the liberty of reposting one from the website, approximating the day we were there, when the leaves were just beginning to turn. 

So many people were taking photographs of the flowers it reminded me of being with Katie in Park Guell, where it was hard to get out of the way of somebody's photo. It's something about color and design, I guess.

I'm talking about the fantastical public park system, in Barcelona, designed by the architect Antoni Gaudí. When I blogged about it in 2012, I said, "Crowds of people took photos all over the place as though intoxicated by the shapes and colors. It was impossible to stay out of everyone's way. We got a little crazy too."

(And for a side trip down memory lane, one of those photos is below.)

In Barcelona, 2012
On Sunday, I went solo to the North Quabbin Garlic and Arts Festival, in Orange, Mass.

Quick: What were the four towns flooded to create the Quabbin Reservoir? (They are Dana, Enfield, Greenwich, and Prescott, and you can read more about the lost towns here.) Orange, obviously, was not one of them, but it is in the area. 

There was plenty of garlic, which I don't actually like, but I do like arts, so that is why I went.

After two good days, I'm wondering what could have precipitated last night's weird and distressing relapse dream. I posed the question to a friend at tennis this morning, saying, it's been nine years, and still, I have these dreams. She said it's PTSD. I basically know that, but I usually know what brought it on, and I have no idea.

In my dream, I had gotten a good manicure and pedicure. As I was admiring the ruby/maroon color on my fingernails, I noticed that the color was coming off before my eyes. I looked down and saw that it was vanishing from my toenails too. Suddenly it was all gone. For some reason, I knew it was a sign that I was relapsing.

I told my mother. We talked to the doctor. He (I think it was my first doctor, Dan DeAngelo) said that I was OK for now. I had a level of eight of some marker. He said that when it got down to six, we would have to take action. The action would consist of giving me some shots. If they didn't work, he could do it again. But I would only get two chances. I was afraid and upset.

I don't know what to make of it. But I know that I'm lucky that in real life I got more than two chances.