Sunday, April 29, 2007

Finally! Click here to read about 'chemo brain'

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I hope the link in the title of this post works. It should lead you to a New York Times article on 'chemo brain', a term that refers to the cognitive deficits that frustrate women and men during and shortly after chemotherapy--and long after, for some like me.

"Um, John, can and give me" I wave my hands, sometimes drawing a shape in the air to indicate the object I'm looking for. Sometimes I describe it: "You know, the thing you use to wipe your mouth when you eat". "You mean napkin?" John asks. Duh. I feel like a non-verbal species of primate.

"It'll come back", my shrink said. Well, apparently not for all. The chemo I had for my primary finished up almost three years ago, and it's not back yet. If the new chemo I just started makes it worse, I may just join a convent.

Did I tell you about my new chemo? I was supposed to start an oral chemo called Xeloda (capecitabine), which is a form of 5-FU--I kid you not, that's the real name--and I had done a lot of research to see what I could do to minimize the dreaded hand/foot syndrome (palmar-plantar erythrodysesthesia--see, I must still have some brain cells; I did all that without looking it up), which would have meant I couldn't walk, hike, or beachcomb this summer. But when I went to my appointment with my onc on Thursday the 26th, he had obviously been thinking...he knew how disheartened I was about possibly being immobile all spring and summer, and he suggested that we go with a chemo called Navelbine (vinorelbine, a vinca alkaloid extracted from the Madagascar periwinkle), which
most women would not want to do first, since it's an infusion, but the thought of which made me ecstatically happy! I started it that day, along with a 'premed' of good ol' compazine to prevent nausea. I came home with a scrip, but didn't need to use any more! My only side effect was being ready for bed a little earlier that night.

Please, please, please let it work! We are moving (yes, it's sudden) to a gorgeous place in Portland (CT) with a 70-foot ravine down to a beautiful brook behind the house. It has not only a deck, but a screened-in porch, complete with kitty door from the master bedroom, and a beautiful knotty pine living room. We hadn't planned to move, but (boss) Cathy and her partner (guru/therapist) Pat are moving to a condo to save money and so that Cathy can be near her aging parents. I feel bad for them, but the place is gorgeous!! I have told them to feel free to come over any time, whether we're home or not. I hope they take me seriously. I know that Pat will see me through the dying process, anyway.

One photo to end with: this was taken at Harkness in Waterford on Earth Day.

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Monday, April 23, 2007

Well, the word is out...

I heard from my oncologist around 5 p.m. today, and there's good news and bad news.

The good news is that the tumor in my sternum is most likely completely eradicated.

The bad news is that I have a small tumor in my liver.

The bad news is more bad than the good news is good, if you get my drift. The prognosis for bone metastases only is much better than for soft tissue mets, i.e., spread to (most likely) liver or lungs.

It's not the news I was hoping I would get, but I guess I don't get to choose.

I see my oncologist again on Thursday for my regular Herceptin treatment. As we discussed today, he will most likely give me a prescription then for an oral chemo called Xeloda, which is a fairly effective chemo without causing major side effects. It has this weird one called palmar plantar erythrodysesthesia, aka hand/foot syndrome. One explanation I read said that Xeloda causes thinning of the capillary walls, so that any place that has friction applied to it, such as the hands and feet, can chap, peel, get sore, and bleed. Another site said that the irritation is caused by the chemo drug leaking out of the capillaries and damaging the surrounding tissue. Whatever. It's recommended that you use lotions constantly, and, of course, avoid friction...which would mean no hiking or beachcombing. I mentioned this to my oncologist, and he said they'd work with me to minimize side effects. So I guess I'll start that this Friday.

Everyone dies. I just don't want to do it right now.


Sunday, April 22, 2007


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Back in my post of March 31, I noted that one of the eBay art groups I belong to, CaaT (Complimentary Art and Things) is suggesting a weekly posting topic for its members. I posted then on the topic of the week, organization, then promptly forgot about it.

The topic for this week is fear, an apropos one for me: tomorrow I should hear from my oncologist about what last Thursday's PET/CT showed.

I have a fear of showing fear, I think. I want to prove myself as courageous as my mother was when she found out she had an incurable cancer. I do feel fear. I think a fear of death is a visceral, and probably universal, human feeling. When I think about it, I know there is nothing to be afraid of. On the other hand, I do, realistically I think, fear dying--that I will have pain, or be alone; that I will be unable to have any control over what is happening to me, or express my needs and be helped by those around me.

A friend asked me yesterday how I cope with knowing, not knowing, waiting...I told her that waiting for test results, for example, in years past, would have me in uncontrollable anxiety...but that somehow, I have learned to let go. What I truly believe and know to happen after death I find comforting...I will become part of my beloved Gaia, the earth mother, and return to what I was before.

These are some of the chants that move me.

Ancient Mother, I Hear You Calling
Ancient Mother, I Hear Your Song
Ancient Mother, I Hear Your Laughter
Ancient Mother, I Taste Your Tears
The Ocean Is The Beginning Of The Earth.
The Ocean Is The Beginning Of The Earth.
All Life Comes From The Sea.
All Life Comes From The Sea.
We All Come From The Goddess
And To Her We Shall Return
Like A Drop Of Rain
Flowing To The Ocean

All over the world, the waters are breaking (repeat)
Everywhere, everywhere, the waters are breaking
And so return, return, return
Return to the Mother
Where there's fear there's power, passion is the healer
Desire cracks open the gate -
If you're ready it'll take you through

But nothing lasts forever, time is the destroyer,
The wheel turns again and again

Watch out, it'll take you through.
But nothing dies forever, Nature is the renewer,
The wheel turns again and again -
If you're ready it'll take you through.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Sometimes, there's no there there

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Since I did spend some time this evening playing with the photos I took today in the cemetery, I thought I'd post these before I head for beddie bye.

John and I had driven all around the graveyard, stopping here and there to take pictures, and were just about to leave when we saw the vault below built into a small rise near one of the exit roads.

I took about seven or eight pictures of it--it was too perfect not to want to get a bunch of shots. I did this one with the 'cyanotype' feature on my camera, then added a pink gradient sky. I also took some in 'sepia' mode which really look like old photos, and a couple in regular color mode.

I noticed the black square in the door, which turned out to be an actual hole through it. Cool!! What do you suppose are in there--dead people, or what?! So I set my camera on the 'night' setting, stuck it an inch or two in the hole, and took a couple pictures. Then, with pounding heart and dilating pupils and--oh, never mind. Anyway, when I looked at the shots, this is what I saw:


What up with that, dude??!?!

More photos tomorrow, folks. Goodnight.

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Today, John and I went up to Hartford Hospital so that I could have the first PET/CT since my radiation to the sternum. Thank you, John, for driving, and for being with me, and for taking me to the nearest Dunkin' Donuts afterward, so I could get some coffee and start to feel human again.

The sun being out, it occurred to me after we arrived home and had a little food that I could go out and take pictures! No matter what the scan results are, I'm still living and spring is actually coming! So we headed off to the cemetery in Willimantic, and the tracks behind it.

Most of the pictures are pretty overexposed, but I'm going to play with them in Photoshop to see what I can salvage. In the meantime, enjoy this one picture of John.

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Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Feelings, nothing more than: feelings

Feelings, whoa-oh-oh, feelings...

Just love that song. My ex used to sing:

Feelings: just like orange peelings

If you've forgotten the tune, check this out:

Anyway, the damn things are a pain in the ass.

The shootings at Virginia Tech are awful. Being told by the techs at Hartford Hospital that I can take my Metformin before my PET/CT on Thursday, when I know damn well I can't, pisses me off. The fact that Ann McAllister, whom I met at the breast cancer list's annual get-together in Boston in October 2005, is now really sick, after being in complete remission for well over two years, freaks me out. The fact that Cathy, whom I've known for years and who is now DNEC's executive director (and my therapist's--scuze me, guru's--partner) has some very weird symptoms involving her uterus really worries me. The fact that Carrie seems very depressed and isn't talking to anyone about it--but instead is preparing to get married--worries me. The fact that Obie, our blind, deaf black lab is now 15 and a half and shows no sign of dropping dead though he smells like he already is, ticks me off...partly because I know it's bad karma for me to wish he'd just go to sleep so John and I can go off for a few mini-trips before I drop dead too. It sort of ticks me off, in fact, that he may outlive me. The fact that I really have no clue how my kids are doing worries me. Those are feelings, and I don't like them very much.

I will say, though, that I actually cried a couple of times over the past couple days. Clinical depression notwithstanding, I remember with fond nostalgia the years when I cried nearly every day. No sinus headaches, no knots in my stomach, no exploding head. Goddamn, goddamn, 'tis why I am goddamn, so 'gainst the winter's balm (if you don't know the song, remember: Google is your friend).

All right. One new piece of art to balance out this whine.

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Friday, April 13, 2007

Thoughts of death

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I hope this doesn't, I guess, is the word I want...but I do think my photography and digital collages are improving.

For one thing, I'm getting to know how to use Photoshop a lot better. When I look back at my older collages, they look rather crude to me--not bad, just sort of naive. As I relax with both the photography and the way I put images together, I guess I am, more and more, giving myself permission to express myself freely, rather than copying other people's techniques, to create what I think others will approve.

I've been in one of these moods lately--you'll see what I mean when you look at these images.

Dust to Dust

Them That Sleep

These collages are both made from pictures I took myself--I didn't have to rely on any stock images for them. The first one has a photo of a deer skeleton that John and I found behind the Semel factory in Amston. (The original's not blurry.) The statues in the two collages come from two different cemeteries; the one in "Them That Sleep" is not in the graveyard pictured in the background.

I suppose I think more and more about death these days. If you had told me ten years ago that I could have lived so serenely as I am living now with a diagnosis of terminal cancer, I would not have believed you. Next week I have my PET/CT scan to see how effective the radiation to my sternum was, and, of course, to see if I have other metastases. Of course I hope I'm okay, but I'll just accept what comes. I'll be upset if there's spread, especially if it's significant, and then I'll get over it.

This is how I think things should be. Americans think death is a terrible thing, when it's simply the natural thing. The Life Extension Foundation, which sells all manner of supplements that supposedly extend life, has posited, apparently, that humans might be able to live 500 years, under ideal circumstances. Is that a good thing? Where would all the new little humans fit? How would there be enough food and fuel to go around? Why can we not stop thinking that we are the pinnacle and perfection of God's plan?

I comfort myself with thinking that, perhaps, someday we shall evolve.

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Monday, April 09, 2007

Abandoned Service Station

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Entryway Ceiling


Electrical Fixture

Storage Room

Patches of Sunshine
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Thursday, April 05, 2007

I may be slow, but I'm learning...

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A kind soul on Urban Exploration Resource clued me in to the 'rule of thirds', which says that if you locate a central feature of your photo on one of the crosses on a grid like the one below, your photo will be much more interesting than if you just center it.

He tells me that 99.99% of the time, he doesn't crop his photos--he composes them properly when he takes the picture--but since the Semel Smokestack photo I took already existed, I decided to play with it to see if just following that rule would actually improve the photo. Below is what I came up with:

The original is in the post dated March 31. You can judge for yourself, but I think this one is better. So now, when I'm editing my pictures in Photoshop, I copy the grid above and paste it on the photo to see if a central feature does indeed fall on one of the crosses. Someday I may learn to compose them a bit better, but for now cropping will have to do.

Some I seem to have composed well by instinct or accident. In my next post I'll post a photo of crocuses that is obviously 'photoshopped', but which more or less followed the rule when I shot it.

I need a small book on the basics of photo composition, I think. The trouble is, there aren't any such books, that I can find, anyway. They're all huge and either hopelessly complicated or too simplistic (one said, if the sun comes out suddenly after a rain, look for a rainbow because they make good pictures), and all of them contain things that are not pertinent. I don't want all the technical details; I just want to learn how to take a decent, reasonably aesthetically pleasing photo.

One of the guys at UER said my photos were okay...just don't go around calling myself a photographer. A woman wrote in to ask what his definition of 'photographer' was--and was it from a regular dictionary or the Holier-Than-Thou dictionary? Seems to me that a person who takes photographs is...well, you know.

After I post my crocus thing on eBay, I'll put it up here. You're welcome to click on the link on the left to my eBay auctions...and of course, to purchase it, if you like :>) I come cheap.


Monday, April 02, 2007

More pics

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