Sunday, January 30, 2022

My skin is a mess and my dog was sick all over the place but I made it to another re-birthday


This is before the anesthesia wore off

Maddie and I have both had a hard few weeks. I had a biopsy on my thumb, making it hard to write, but it quickly healed and turned out to be a tiny squamous cell carcinoma that could be treated with the chemo cream combination that I use. Harder still was the next week's biopsy on a fingernail on my left hand. My fingernails have turned a gross combination of purple and white, and ridged) white where the nail has died) and the nail specialist in Worcester doesn't know what to make of it. The biopsy itself didn't hurt but it really kills now. A friend said that makes sense because the finger is the part of the body most sensitive to pain.

The results of the fingernail biopsy were...drumroll...inconclusive. Either a flare of graft vs. host disease, which might make sense because I finally got off prednisone, or something called lichen planus. I have an appointment on Wednesday with the fingernail dermatologist and one the next day in Boston with my regular dermatologist. So we shall see. 

I really thought Maddie was in her final days. She stopped eating for three whole days. She also had diarrhea and was vomiting. I took her to the vet. The vet did (very expensive) bloodwork and nothing turned up. I couldn't get a stool sample. I tried everything to get her to eat, and she wouldn't even eat a tiny dog treat. The vet gave her a probiotic, antibiotic, and prescription canned dog food. She is almost 15, and I thought I should tell the appropriate people it was time to say goodbye. I shed some tears.

Give me more food! 

Yet she didn't seem sick. She was drinking and walking. I called the vet to bring her in again and the person on the phone said to try something I hadn't thought of : microwave the food so that the yummy smell might interest her. I microwaved it and put it on my mother's china and put it under nose. And she ate! Now she doesn't want to stop eating. That canned stuff is like doggy cocaine. I am trying to ease in some bland dry food but I don't think I will totally stop the canned food. It has really perked her up. Previously we were able to make it down to the lake (slowly); when she got there, she perked up because there is so much to smell. Now she is even more lively on our walks, especially with Deborah and her two Labs. Her coat even looks better.

A few years ago, someone at a party (in the Before Times) told me with a dog that old, I was living on borrowed time. It was unnecessary... I knew how old she was then and I know how old she is now. But still...


Today is my 13th re-birthday. It is hard to believe for sure. Thirteen is a lucky number for me. Ben was born on the 13th (of September). I am grateful for Denise, my donor, first and foremost. And for Dana-Farber and the whole rest of the crew who put up with me and helped me get to this point.

 Some people will know that this all started in 2003 with my acute myeloid leukemia diagnosis and spanned two relapses and three transplants before the last one. (Note : Here's why I don't call it a journey though I still don't have an appropriate name for it.)

On Jan. 31st, 2009, I described what I called the momentous occasion and concluded: "Diane brought me a birthday present yesterday: a card with a pop-up bouquet and a bag filled with the other kind of product that I now need after my transplant. It contained shampoo, conditioner, lotion, body wash and lip gloss, all in pretty perk-me-up colors. (After transplant, you’re supposed to start with everything clean and new and throw out old products.) On the card, she wrote, “Here’s to a wonderful and healthy life with your new mystery donor!”

Birthday treat today!
Last night, as the evening weirdness settled in on me, Diane reminded me, “You’re getting another shot at a whole new life. It’s great. It’s the miracle of modern science.”

It’s wonderful to have a baby sister who anticipates my every need, who picks me up and who washes, folds and delivers my laundry with a smile.

Thank you everyone for your support – your thoughts, prayers, comments, good vibes, messages, calls, visits and cards really mean a lot to me. "

Ditto on the thanks!

Saturday, January 1, 2022

Thoughts on the New Year

I almost forgot how to start a new post. At the Canoe Club on a beautiful day back in the summer, Donna said don’t stop the blog. I have to do what she says, as in “yours” in tennis, but I am only kidding about that and am giving it a try. 

Funny how things work out. 

I started this way back when Delta got worse, school for Nell was going to start, and Ben understandably didn’t want to take a chance with Cape trip #2. Joe also couldn’t come. So although we missed them, Diane, David, Katie and I had a lovely weekend. We went on the boat, which we might not have done if the whole crew was there. 

 My nose continues to be a pain. I had a skin cancer removed from the top of my head, and while I was lying there, at the Mohs Surgery Center in Jamaica Plain, the doctor said it (my nose) could use some dermabrasion and went after it with a sand papery thing. Now I am dealing with THAT healing. To finish it off, I apparently need laser. At 7 a.m. in Boston. At least I can get a little something out of these things. I wrote about how hard it is to bandage your nose, like so: Nose bandaging not my speciality.

It's funny, not ha ha funny, just strange, that as a blood cancer survivor I deal mostly with skin cancer, which I write about here.

It was also hard to bandage a wound on my head, as you can imagine. Boyfriend rigged something up with gauze, tape, and three hair clips. Donna and I made it to the US Open. That seems like so long ago. There was no bus, so I drove. Highlight of the drive might have been the pit stop on a sloping bank alongside the river just before we hit the Whitestone Bridge. Only kidding, I think. We navigated the grounds like pros, unlike in our first year, and saw women’s doubles up close, as well as men’s singles and a short trip to our nosebleed seats in Ashe, all the while juggling our Honey Deuce cocktail in the souvenir glass with the winners on it.

I did the Hot Chocolate Run for Safe Passage with my friend Amy Willard. We chatted most of the way and didn't do it for time. It was great to be with a group of runners again. Since it was outside, I wasn't worried about the virus. We kept our masks on except for the photo. It is so fun and festive and for a great cause.

I waited so long to finish this that now we are dealing with Omicron. I won't go backwards on some things, such as playing tennis indoors, which I wouldn't do last year when unvaccinated. Though I have to say that after having no problems playing all summer on the clay, my feet and to some little extent my right knee, are speaking to me with all of this playing on hard courts in Enfield and (still outside the other day in the cold) on the hard courts at the Canoe Club. 

On New Year's Day it is hard to know what to make of things. Someone I know asked on Twitter how it was possible to be optimistic about the coming year, what with climate change, the virus, and the anti-vaxxers giving the plague new ways of spreading. I agree that it is hard and infuriating. It is hard not to get my blood pressure up, when they parade around with signs along the lines of "don't tell me what to do with my body" yet will turn around and tell a woman what to do with her body. Big sigh.

But as for the positive: This time last year, we didn't have the vaccine. I couldn't let anyone in my house, and even when walking outside with Katie, I had to be careful not to wander into her pathway, as I am wont to do. This time last year, the grandkids couldn't have visited as they did the other day. We wouldn't have been able to play with the toys that I held onto from when my kids were young. We couldn't have had lunch. We might still have been able to take the "nature walk" that we took over at the college, but then we wouldn't have been able to come in and have hot chocolate and cookies.

In the old days back at the paper (s), I might not have interviewed my friends, but my sister/friend Margaret fit so will into the theme of pandemic pivots, which I wrote about for PBS's Next Avenue, that I had to feature her. I was honored that she used the photo on her Christmas card. 

Maddie is almost 15.  I remember when our dog Sam was this old and would be sleeping in the pool of light beneath the living room window, on the blue carpet, and we would check to see if he was breathing. Now I check her that way. She has mostly stopped playing with her toys but she really likes this snowman that Jane gave her for Christmas. As always, she seems annoyed when I take her photo.