Monday, April 29, 2013

Hole-In-Wonderfuls Round 3!

Hello! Daniel here! As some of you may know, miniature golf is the new hobby my mom and I have chosen to help occupy our time during chemotherapy.  Miniature golf affords my mom and me the chance to explore new places, get outside, test our putting skills, and get our minds off pesky cancer! Our team name is the Hole-In-Wonderfuls, although we have yet to live up to our namesake by scoring a hole-in-one! We are confident it will come! :-)

Our third installment of mini golf brought us close to home, just down in Interbay, off 15th, is the beautiful Interbay Golf Center, which features a lovely 18 hole miniature golf course . Some things we loved about this course:
1. close proximity to our home in Shoreline
2. Wide selection of colorful golf balls to choose from
3. Multiple lengths of putters offered (great for those of us over 6')
4. Great landscaping, including several water features and a faux river that runs through the course
5. Genuine flags marking each hole! Not too common among miniature golf courses, and gives us the false impression that we are actual golfers!

It was a beautiful sunny day, and we were so thankful! It is much more fun golfing in the sun! We had a good round of golfing, mom was especially good today, beating me by several strokes overall. There was a bit of wind, which we tried to factor into our putting, mostly unsuccessfully, but we felt very cool licking our fingers and holding them up to the wind like we knew what we were doing. :-)

Below are some great pictures from "Hole-In-Wonderfuls-Part-3"! Of course, we brought along our team mascot, Mrs. Potatohead! Mom thought we should remove Mrs. Potatohead's hair, to make her resemble mom better! :-)

Mom tests out a golf cart, although I don't think we'll be needing it on our 18 hole miniature course.

Although I lost today, I was so thrilled to get out in the sun for a golf adventure with my mom!

Champion of the day Gabrielle, holds up the team mascot with pride!

Hole-In-Wonderfuls Round 3 at Interbay Golf Center in Seattle!

Saturday, April 27, 2013

A guest piece from Bubba Gump

Hi, y’all!  My name’s Bubba Gump.  I just got word of one purdy l’il miss up in Seattle who’s puttin’ up a good fight against one pesky ovarian cancer.  Seattle’s a long ways from me ‘n my shrimp boats down here on the bayou, but word travels fast and I’ve been followin’ her progress with great interest, especially since I learned that her husband has taken an interest in all things shrimping.  To that, all I can say is…what took you so long?  As I was once quoted as sayin’ in a movie about my life (with a little help from my pal Forrest Gump), “shrimp is the fruit of the sea. You can barbecue it, boil it, broil it, bake it, saute it. Dey's uh, shrimp-kabobs, shrimp creole, shrimp gumbo. Pan fried, deep fried, stir-fried. There's pineapple shrimp, lemon shrimp, coconut shrimp, pepper shrimp, shrimp soup, shrimp stew, shrimp salad, shrimp and potatoes, shrimp burger, shrimp sandwich.” 

But that only touches the surface.  There’s shrimp scampi, shrimp salsa, teriyaki shrimp, shrimp tacos, curried shrimp, shrimp rolls, shrimp fried rice, shrimp soup, shrimp cakes, shrimp Benedict, Szechuan shrimp, dirty shrimp in beer butter sauce, shrimp Alfredo, garlic shrimp, shrimp jambalaya, shrimp ceviche and avocado, bacon wrapped grilled shrimp, shrimp gumbo, shrimp risotto, popcorn shrimp, crab stuffed shrimp, almond fried shrimp, shrimp bisque, shrimp toast, hot and sour shrimp, Calypso shrimp, shrimp grits, shrimp Dijon, shrimp tartare.  Heck, for that matter, you can even make shrimp ice cream! 

So, I have sent a special dispatch to Gabrielle’s husband with instructions not only on how to catch those tasty little gems from the sea, but also how to whip them up into a tasty meal for the bravest cancer fighter out there. 

I’ve been tellin’ all my buddies about Gabrielle every chance I get.  After a hard day of shrimpin’, we usually repair to the Twist ‘n Shout, a local hangout made famous by Mary Chapin Carpenter.  We sit around quaffing a favorite beverage and tell stories.  My redneck pals tell of huge waves, fighting gators, moonshining…all good fun down here…but none of them have the bravery, moxie, nerve and courage that Gabrielle has been displaying the past few months. 

I usually stroll in to a raucous crowd as the Pabst Blue Ribbon is busy tellin’ the Rum ‘n Coke about the time he came across an armadillo in his bathtub when they see me.  It suddenly gets real quiet as they all ask, “What’s the latest about Gabrielle?”  So I tell them.  Grand stories of heroic battles, dealing with horrible drug side effects, wavering white counts, dropping CA 125 numbers, numb toes, but with amazing family and friends…and their jaws drop.  The suds drip from the Coors Light’s mouth, while the tequila sunrise’s eyes just about pop out of his head in sheer wonder and admiration.  Yep, they love those stories!!  Every last one of them.  And that trip to Vancouver!  Amazing!  None of us have even been north of the Mason-Dixon line, let alone a foreign country no less.

As one of my favorite doctors (Dr. Seuss) once said, “Oh, the places you’ll go!”

You go, girl!  You’re a real hero to all of us down here.  A true inspiration of faith and courage.  How do you manage?  Especially keeping that yahoo husband of yours in line?  And eat those shrimp…that will help ease the stress.  Heck, for all I know, shrimp kills cancer too.  You ever seen a shrimp with cancer?  Rest my case.

Well, the Twist ‘n Shout is calling.  I think Beau Soleil is playin’ tonight…key up that funky Cajun beat.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Four - Three - Two - One - DONE!!!

Dear Friends and Family,

Gabrielle here.  Please bear with me as I share some random thoughts quickly...because Steve is calling me to watch a Foyle's War on this Friday night!
  • Daniel and I made it safely home from Vancouver late Wed. night.  We had the BEST time ever!  The weather was sunny and about 65 to 70 degrees.  Our four-star hotel, in the center of downtown, purchased through Hotwire where you don't know what hotel you are getting ahead of time, was only $119 and was excellent (The Sutton Place).  We walked until we dropped.  Probably not the best plan for someone four/five days out from a double chemo, but on the first day we walked about 8 miles, around Stanley Park and shopping on Robson street.  On the second day, we walked from our hotel to Granville Island, then over the Burrard St. bridge and down to the beach path that runs back toward Stanley park, up Denman St. through "West End" Vancouver, up Robson for more shopping, over to Hudson Bay Co., then to the hotel and back to the metro skytrain to get to the train station.  Probably ten miles total.  Need I say, yesterday and today, I am recovering.  So tired!!!  But it was so worth it.  Steve always says, "better to burn out than rust out!"  The train ride to/from Vancouver is gorgeous, snaking along the sea for most of the way.  We played Scrabble and I read my entire Maine Coast travel book!  Lastly, if you go, be sure to eat cod or halibut and chips at "Go Fish" at Granville Island, the blueberry bread at "Terra Breads", and gelato at "Gelarmony Gelato" on Robson street.  Thanks to my friend Janet (and probably others) who prayed I would be able to taste and enjoy my food on this trip.  I did!  :-)
  • Next up, Renee's turn.  I am about to book a Spa day for the two of us at Willows Lodge in Woodinville.  Massages, exfoliation of dry skin (!), manicures, pedicures, jacuzzi, spa cuisine lunch.  Here we come on a Monday in the near future (Renee's day off).  Will report back!  And I can't wait to have Renee spend all of Sunday with us this weekend.  I miss my sweetpea.
  • While Daniel and I were gone, Steve put our boat back in the water with the help of friend/neighbor Jerry, after spring cleaning it, then Steve attended a seminar to learn how to go "shrimping" for spot prawns. It has a very short season--like two to four days total in a year (!)--and he bought two pots and lines and so much gear that some spot prawns had BETTER be in our future.  If he limits at 80 prawns on his first try, they will be about $5 bucks a prawn.  Those better be amazing prawns!!  He is over the moon with excitement.  Daniel and Renee will join us on this adventure that begins at the boat at 6:15 AM the day after next week's chemo.  Aaaaahhhh!
  • Daniel and I survived single chemo #14 today!  It was SO long.  The pharmacy at the hospital doesn't seem to like me.  They take forever to come back with my blood counts and then forever again to deliver my chemo drugs.  We arrived at 9 AM and left at 2 PM...the longest single chemo time yet.  But fear not, we made good use of our time watching "Two Weeks Notice" with Hugh Grant and Sandra Bullock, playing two feisty games of Scrabble (each won one), and reading up on pop culture and food in various magazines.  We came home exhausted, watched an Ina Garten Barefoot Contessa on TV, then made her food tonight--roasted asparagus with hollandaise sauce, artichokes, parmesan chicken, roasted rosemary potato slices.  It's good to eat when I'm pumped full of I/V anti-nausea drugs!
  • My white blood cell count was quite good after the five days of shots, but the part of the white cells that actually fight infections, the "segs," are below normal still.  They also re-did my CA125 without telling me they were doing so. They normally only do that every three weeks.  They had done it last week and it had slid up from the 15s to the 17s.  Steve thinks that made them nervous so they re-did it (want to see it go down, not up).  Today it was 15.6 again.  Phew.  Anything 0 to 30 is considered normal range for any woman, but cancer patients need to get under 20 to be out of the woods...and stay there.
  • Random tears came today when I read an article in a magazine about a woman, 44, with a spouse and three kids, who was diagnosed with ALS and has less than five years to live.  Her kids are about 7 to 12.  She is living her "bucket list" as quickly as she can.  One of the things was she took her 12-year-old daughter out to try on wedding dresses, then to a fancy lunch, so that one day when her daughter does that for real, she will have a memory of doing it first with her Mom.  I have cried twice over this story today, knowing that I may or may not have a long life ahead after chemo ends.  Believe me, if I ever get the word that my time is limited, Renee and I will try on wedding dresses!  I guess what I'm saying is, we all think and hope and pray for a positive outcome, but we can't control it.  It's God's plan, not mine.  He knows the number of my days and we have to work with and maximize memories in whatever time frame that will be.  Not just for me of course, for all of us!  And that, my friends, is why I overdid it in Vancouver, despite my friend Dean's admonitions not to do so (sorry Dean)!
  • Thanks to all of you who have sent cards this week--they made me smile so much (you know who you are)!  Thanks to new friends, John and Nancy, who gave us the most special evening last night at their home, with delicious "foodie" meal outside in the sunshine of their beautiful backyard, and with gifts to take home (homegrown honey, homemade chutney, fresh rhubarb, and some rhubarb cobbler)!  All this, and great conversation too.  We loved our time with you!  And thanks to my MANY friends who send daily prayers, love, and good thoughts my way.  I feel them!  We all do.  I wonder sometimes how many times a day God hears my name in prayer.  I hope He never tires of it!  ;-)
  • Scripture of the day--from Jesus Calling--2 Cor. 4:16-18--"Therefore we do not lose heart.  Though outwardly we are wasting away (no hair, continually dripping nose from chemo killing off cells and hairs in there, nausea, fatigue, nerve pain in hands and feet), yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.  So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen.  For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal."
  • And fortune cookie message of the day, from recent lunch with my friend Anna, that is taped above my desk in the kitchen, "Do not give up.  The best is yet to come."  Amen to that!
Much love to you all,
Gabrielle

P.S.  Newest prayer request--the nerve pain in my hands and feet.  I thought I had missed out on this common side effect of chemo, but it hit hard this week and is quite unsettling, to say the least.  Ugh.  Let's pray it lessens, goes away, and does not become permanent, which is a risk.  Thanks!!

Monday, April 22, 2013

Vancouver Here We Come!

Dear family and friends,

Gabrielle here.  Just a quick note to say that Daniel and I are "going for it" with our trip to Vancouver BC on the train tomorrow...and hoping for the best!

Today I got I/V fluids and anti-nausea medicine to help counteract the double chemo side effects from Friday.  This should shore me up for the trip.  And I've had three days of the stomach shots of neupogen to bring up my white cell counts, so hopefully, with two more days of shots, my counts will be looking better during the trip.

The bummer, speaking as a foodie, is that pretty much all food tastes like metal or nothing to me right now, which is a shame when going to a great restaurant city like Vancouver.  Oh well.  I will vicariously enjoy watching Daniel savor the flavors of our food!

And the good news is, the weather report is looking clear and sunny, which will be great for walking around Stanley Park, Granville Island, and the city.  Hooray!

Daniel has been really busy this week but eventually will put up our latest golf photos.  And hopefully, we'll have some fun photos from Vancouver that we can post when we get back.

Thanks to my friends David and Janet for the wonderful CD of songs that encourage you when you are going through hard times.  I turned the CD player up loud while home alone today and let the words and music seep into and touch my soul.  Thanks to my neighbor, Cheryl, for the gorgeous tulips that arrived on our porch this week, and to my friend Doris who not only had a long, hilly, sunny walk with me today through Innis Arden, but who also brought us a pot of homemade soup and a loaf of homemade bread for dinner!  And as always, thanks to those of you who sent wonderful cards this week (you know who you are and you are dear to me)!

Lastly, I was encouraged by this Bible verse from my friend Ted today:  1 Peter 5:10

"And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast."

I am indeed holding out great hope that after five more chemos, culminating five months of suffering a "little while," that God will indeed restore my health and make me strong, firm, and steadfast.  Thanks for all your prayers for my family and me toward this end!

Love,
Gabrielle

Friday, April 19, 2013

Five - Four - Three - Two - One...Countdown!

Dear friends and family,

Gabrielle here.  This past week has been a good one.  The further away from the double drug chemos that I get, the less nauseous and tired I am.  So after Monday, the nausea was gone.  I was able to host a luncheon here for my Mom, Aunt Julianne, and two sisters, play mini golf (a complete Hole-in-Onederfuls update with photos will be coming from Daniel soon), eat Italian dinner out with Steve and Daniel, eat lunch out with my friend Anna, and attend a baby shower at work yesterday for my colleague, Jessica.  What a week!  We have also been playing a lot of Canasta...a new game (for us)our neighbors Jerry and Laura taught us last week.  It is a little addictive at first!

That said, I was shocked when I arrived at chemo this morning to find that the blood they drew yesterday and sent to the lab showed me dangerously low in my white blood cells and segs (the part of the white blood cells that fight off infections).  At first, the nurse and PA told me they would probably have to skip chemo until next week. Our hearts sank.  We want so badly to not miss any treatments, both for my best possible outcome and also to just be done five weeks from today.  Daniel immediately started to pray as they said "we'll go find the doctor and see what she says since she has the final word."  About five minutes later, the doctor came in and said "I'm going to give you the chemo but I'm going to reduce your dose by 10% and you have to start the stomach shots of neupogen again tomorrow for five days in a row this time."  As you remember, the neupogen stimulates my bone marrow to make blood cells.  Daniel and I nearly leaped out of our chairs for joy at this news that chemo would commence!!!  Daniel told me when we got in the car to drive home that this was the fastest answer to prayer he had ever received!  Thanks be to our gracious God...and my awesome doctor who is aggressive and willing to take calculated risks in battling my cancer. 

On the radio right after Daniel said it was his fastest answer to prayer by God, a song came on that I love, the chorus of which says "I will lift my eyes to the maker of the oceans I can't climb, I will lift my eyes to the calmer of the oceans raging wild, I will lift my eyes to the healer of the hurt I hold inside, I will lift my eyes, lift my eyes, to You."  Here is a u-tube link to the song if you would like to hear it and see all the lyrics as it plays:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Te0hy2YcLgg  As my friend Loretta told me right in the beginning (she's a cancer survivor), our mantra has become three important words to get us through--Eyes on Jesus!

Thanks for all your cards this week that cheered me (you know who you are...such caring and faithful friends), for your prayers and texts to ask how I am and remind me you are praying for me, and for other kindnesses such as more fresh homemade yogurt from Mike and Colleen (which we eat every day in our smoothies or with our cereal) and the cutest inspirational children's book called the Large Rock and the Little Yew, sent by our cousins Rob and Becky from Oregon.  As you recall, the yew tree is where scientists discovered Taxol, one of my two chemo drugs...and we have planted one in our backyard!  I appreciate all of you who read our blog and have encircled us with love, prayers, and support.  You have been instruments of God to help us survive this long and taxing ordeal!  Which, God willing, will be OVER in five short weeks!!!  :-)

Love and blessings,
Gabrielle

P.S.  Prayer request--that I not get sick this week and that my white cells increase.  Daniel and I had pre-purchased a two-day train trip to Vancouver BC this coming Tuesday/Wednesday BEFORE we knew how perilously low my white cells are.  We are still hoping to go...wearing our twin yellow face masks on the train and drugs in tow (not the kind that will get us detained at the border...we'll leave our medical marijuana home with Steve).  Thanks for praying that this trip will work out without worsening my health, and that I will have strength for it.  And a good appetite...Vancouver is the BEST restaurant city! 



Friday, April 12, 2013

Two-thirds of the way DONE!!!

Dear family and friends,

Gabrielle here.  Today was chemo day #12 (a single, only six to go) and this has been a great day.  I say that with all honesty.  And I can't believe--wouldn't have ever believed--that I could say that about a day of getting chemotherapy that will hopefully save my life.  It just amazes me.

I awoke a little early because I wanted to bake some cookies to bring to my doctors, nurses, and office staff to celebrate the two-thirds done marker.  Daniel had made the dough last night--the most amazing chocolate chip peanut butter cookie dough.  After baking the cookies and writing a thank you note to go with them, Daniel awoke, we ate our fruit smoothies and muesli and peanut butter toast, packed our chemo bag and headed to the cancer center. 

When we handed the cookies and note to our two chemo nurses (whom we adore), one appeared to tear up and both hugged me.  Then the one who wasn't teary pulled us aside and said about the other nurse "she really needed that today to know that what she's doing here is making a difference."  Later, EVERYONE in the office stopped by our private chemo room (which they always give us due to our loud and raucous movies...and because they love us so much) to exclaim over the delicious cookies and to thank us for them.  So that was really fun. 

Instead of watching a movie during our three hours there today, we were on Daniel's computer planning our "chemo is over" celebratory trip!  We will be going to a place we have always wanted to see in mid-June--the coast of Maine.  We will be walking and swimming the beaches, eating lobsters, touring lighthouses, and hiking the trails of Acadia National Park (on the rocky coast).  So it was fun to dream about the trip as we picked out our route and hotels. 

After chemo, we figured we had better celebrate the two-thirds marker by eating tacos al carbon and enchiladas rancheras at Jalisco's Mexican Restaurant.  Wouldn't you agree?!  I had forgotten to bring a hat or scarf today and went out to lunch with all my many bald spots in full display.  Nobody stared or gawked and everyone was super nice as we practiced our limited Spanish.  And the food was magnificent!

When we got home, more excitement!  On the porch was the most beautiful basket filled with homebaked banana bread, assorted teas, and a sweet note from my friend, Becky.  We immediately made the tea and sliced banana bread which was EXCELLENT!  This was so perfect for the traditional "post-chemo crash period" where I need to sit back in my lazyboy and just do nothing for a couple hours.  [Oh--and I loved my great phone conversation with Becky's Dad, Chuck, this week too. :-) ]

When Steve got home, Daniel took a nap and Steve and I went for a one-hour walk and short visit to the grocery store.  At the grocery store, a woman asked me if I was in treatment (I was wearing a hat) and I said yes and she asked if she could hug me and told me she was one year out from mouth cancer.  We had a good chat and then another hug.  The kindness of strangers!

Speaking of kindnesses, let me tell you about a few more of them this week!  My mother-in-law, Abby, sent me a mystery book signed to me from the author!  My friend, Loretta, brought us fabulous Greek lemon rice soup and chicken to put in it!  Steve's nurse, Holly, made us homemade healthy whole wheat/date scones.  Yummo!  My friend, Anna, gave me a cute cotton head turban for spring!  And my friend, Nancy, sent us a gourmet great box containing hand-tied teas from France in little cotton muslin sacks, ginger syrup to put in it (awesome for nausea), and outstanding almond/marzipan cookies from Italy!  Oh my goodness...I have already devoured three of the cookies with the tea and ginger syrup.  Unbelievably good...and unbelievable thoughtfulness from all the people I've mentioned here.  And as always, thank you to all of you who KEEP sending me cards!  I just can't believe that here we are, three months into this journey and you haven't forgotten me!  You know who you are and I just can't thank you enough! 

One two last fun things about yesterday...I was feeling so good from the blood transfusion that I went to my office to hug all my colleagues and then we went on our "hills of Queen Anne" walk over the lunch hour.  I was able to make it up all those stairs and hills at a reasonable pace without collapsing for the one-hour walk.  Hooray!  It was SO much fun and SO good to see everyone.  I miss them all very much.  I also got in good hugs from my friends in another department--Sharleen and Mia.  And then last night, our friends/neighbors, Laura and Jerry, came for dinner, bringing us gorgeous red tulips, and taught us to play Canasta!  Some of you know the Dudleys love games so we really enjoyed learning a new one.  It didn't hurt that Daniel won and I came in second.  Beginners luck.  Now Renee is over for Friday night dinner and we are going to make her learn Canasta.  She hates games so this is taking every bit of persuasion I have ever had in asking for multi-million dollar gifts in my fund-raising career!!

I want to close with a couple of verses from Philippians:  "I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy...(verse 1:3-4)" and "It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart" (verse 7).  When I get a call, email, card, or gift from one of you, I thank God for you!  I remember you all in my prayers and when your names come to mind as I pray, I do indeed pray with and feel joy for the blessing of your love and friendship.  May God bless you this week, dear family and friends!

Love,
Gabrielle

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Pink again

Dear friends and family,

Gabrielle here.  Just a quick note to tell you that my pale, out of breath walking up two flights of stairs self has been replaced by a pink cheeked energizer bunny after getting two units of A negative blood yesterday.  It was an ordeal to get them.  We arrived at 8:30 AM and left at 2:20 PM--almost six hours!!  There are many delays and protocols where various people have to document that you are getting the right kind of blood and that you are who you say you are so that they don't accidentally kill you by giving you the wrong blood.  They even have to sign off that the product they are putting into you "looks like blood."  It was fun watching an oncological surgeon with probably 25 years of schooling say to the nurse "It's red and it looks like good blood to me."  Profound!

They also have to drip the blood into you very slowly to be sure your body doesn't reject it and that you don't get weird symptoms like rash, low back pain, etc.  While we sat there all that time we did our usual--Scrabble, reading, and a movie.  We watched a delightful French subtitled movie called Romantics Anonymous about two exceedingly shy people who fall in love while working together in a little French chocolate-making shop.  It was very funny and sweet, and of course, made us crave chocolate.  We had brought chicken sandwiches and apple slices with us but NO chocolate.  What were we thinking?!

Long story short, once we got home, we put on our walking shoes and enjoyed a one hour and ten minute walk in the Richmond Beach/Innis Arden neighborhoods, half of which was uphill.  What a difference a little blood makes!  If you have a lot of good blood in you--think about going to donate some so someone like me can be blessed!  :-)

Love,
Gabrielle

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Marking time

Steve

Hi, friends.  Thought I would put in my two cent’s worth as it has been a while.  I have been so blessed by the depth and reflections of the other contributors to this page, that I have felt somewhat unnecessary in keeping the information stream flowing.  Today’s post is about marking time.  From very early on in this journey, I had to tell myself that at some point, this horrendous pattern of weekly chemotherapy sessions will indeed end.

 Sometimes it is nice to have something tangible to mark the passing of the sessions or the days.  I may have mentioned before about the paper chain the kids have made.  I am happy to report that it is getting markedly shorter.  Here is a picture of it, draped along the banister: 


When we started this whole process, it was not only draped around the bottom rail, but was dragging on the floor.  We are now more than half way to the top, which is very exciting.

Then there’s me with my little project:  macramé and beads.  Gabrielle mentioned my fondness for the bead shop.  She makes it sound as if I am such a regular customer there that, just as in the old T.V. show, Cheers, everyone knows my name.  Not quite…there still are a couple of clerks who don’t know me.  But, I will say that I do indeed know the drill when I go in and zero in on the beads that catch my fancy.  I decided to make some macramé ropes (though we and my people “in the know” refer to it as sennet…that’s the plaited product) with some beads interspersed along the way by which I can count down till the sessions are all done.  Here are three that I have done:




The one with the wood and black beads is my first attempt.  I attach it to my key ring.  My Catholic friends think it's a rosary.  Fine.  Whatever works.  It is made of some sort of tropical wooden bead to represent the dual chemo sessions and then black onyx beads to represent the single chemo sessions.  I really wanted yew wood for the wooden beads, but got stymied in my hunt for it.  In between each bead, there are seven knots…one for each day.  I quickly lost track of where we were, so added the little black piece at the top.  It is now next to the eleventh bead and is held on with a little gold heart-shaped clip (only $1.25 at my bead shop!).  Every Friday, I advance it one more bead.  Pretty cool, huh?

 Daniel’s necklace is the one with the pink and the black pieces in the middle.  These are made of red and black coral.  I know, there may be some dissenters out there who worry that I may be ruining the reef, what with diminishing coral supplies and all.  But, get this:  last time we were in Hawaii, I stumbled across a beach with this huge sign that said “KAPU” and waded in.  I was surrounded by these massive forests of lovely pink and black coral and started snapping them off right and left.  I figured “KAPU” meant “Keep Any Pieces U-pickup, Brudda!”, the “B” being broken off or scratched out by an annoying tourist who can’t respect the privacy and local customs of the Hawaiian people.  There was a rather irate park ranger standing on the beach when I got out, about as big as the famed Hawaiian singer, Iz.  He explained that Kapu meant “Stay out!”.  Sheesh!  Now he tells me!  I am scheduled to be arraigned soon, so I guess I will be “marking time” of my own from my very own jail cell in Lahaina in the not too distant future.  Hope they let me take my bead necklace along to mark the passing of the years… 

Gabrielle’s bracelet is more benign:  beach glass.  She said it reminds her of walks on the beach and the peace and tranquility of the sea.  I like that.

Now, these fine pieces of craftsmanship may beg the question: how did I ever learn such intricate artistry?  Well, as long as you asked, I’ll tell you:  I learned it on the Internet!  Heck, that’s what half my patients do when they want to learn about complex medical issues.  They show up with reams of printouts from “mydiagnosis.com” or “mydocknowsnuthin’.com” and show me the tests I need to order.  If it works for them, it can work for me.  So, I came across step by step instructions on how to “knit one, pearl two” or something of the sort.  Found them on a website devoted to crafts.  It was titled “Easy projects for Brownie troops” and was listed right alongside making a dandelion chain and emptying the cat’s litter box.  Still haven’t mastered either of those two yet.  But I’m getting pretty good at the ol’ macramé.  Here’s my little kit of supplies, which I keep in my very own “Operation” lunch box.  You can't quite read the fine print under the big "Operation" title, but it says "Where you're the doctor".  I like that part the best.  Oh, and the very happy patient...


You will notice that I use bona fide hemp cord.  It is strong, durable, and if Gabrielle continues to get nauseous, she can roll it up and smoke it.  The black thread serves a dual purpose.  It is used in some of my projects, but is also impressed into service to patch up my wetsuit.  It seems to be getting a little more wear and tear lately and has had a couple of new rips.  I suspect that’s due to the fact that I am still doing my part to help Gabrielle gain weight by leading by example.  Apparently, my wetsuit isn’t quite as accommodating of my newer shape as my “generous cut, relaxed fit spandex pants”.

So here’s to “marking time”.  The light is starting to appear at the end of the tunnel and we’re more than halfway through with the chemo.  For that we are all very thankful.  Oh, and just in case you want to call the Hawaiian Department of Natural Resources or Greenpeace or Save Our Coral Association and snitch on me, I didn’t really go around harvesting the stuff over there.  Bought it from a store on Aurora from a guy in a trenchcoat who also wanted to sell me some Maui Wowie.  Now, how more legit can you get than that?


Friday, April 5, 2013

Proof texts

Hello again.  Gabrielle here.

Forgot to say, am also reading in the book of Isaiah where today the Lord was upset with women who were behaving badly and hence this verse:  Isaiah 3:17b "the Lord will make their scalps bald" and verse 24 "...instead of well-dressed hair, baldness..."

Cue the music and my best Julie Andrews voice: Somewhere in my youth, or childhood...I must have done something BAD!

LOL.

Love,
G

Eleven Down, Seven to Go!

Dear Family and Friends,

Daniel and I always wait with bated breath for our chemo nurse to walk in and say "your counts are fine--chemo is a go!"  It took two hours from 9:30 to 11:30 to hear those words today since the NW Hospital Lab was so backed up.  But hear them we did!  Then it took until 12:30 to actually get the chemo medicine from the Lab and we left at 2.  Four and a half hours is a record for single chemo week! 

A happy surprise in the middle of this chemo was a visit from Steve!  He had some free time at lunch (a rarity for him) and he popped over to visit us.  So sweet!  We watched a movie at chemo today (as usual) called "Jeff Who Lives at Home."  It was a sort of a quirky comedy/drama about a single mom and two adult sons and I really liked it.  We ate cheese and crackers and apple slices while watching (popcorn smell isn't my favorite at the moment) and Daniel was once again a trooper to sit there in that little room with me for SO long.  :-)  Don't think we are health nazis eating our cheese and fruit and crackers.  When we got home, we ate chicken teriyaki followed by Fran's chocolates. 

Even with the neupogen shots (stomach shots four days last week) my white cell count is at the bottom of the normal range, so I need to be extra careful about hand-washing and staying away from sick people this week.  And my hematacrit (amount of blood in my body) is very low--24.9.  A normal person's might be 36 to 46.  No wonder I was out of breath on the elliptical machine yesterday, feeling super weak this past few days, and out of breath with heart pounding walking up two flights of stairs.  I need blood (I vant to suck your blood!!!!).  My oncologist agrees and Monday at 8:30 AM I will receive two pints of blood which takes, are you sitting down--FIVE HOURS to slowly drip into you so you don't "react" to it.  I think Monday will be a two movie Monday or perhaps one movie and four Scrabble games. 

I am THRILLED that this week and next I won't be as nauseous (queasy only until Monday after each single chemo) so I am looking forward to enjoying meals a bit more.  And today, since they filled me with anti-nausea medicine and steroids in my IV, I am hungry and Daniel is making lemon shrimp asparagus risotto for dinner.  If you can get here in 1 hour, I will save you some.  :-)

Because I don't get blood (i.e. energy) until Monday, I will take it easy this weekend. Tomorrow my big goal is to go to the Seattle Public Library semi-annual book sale at N. Seattle Community College where paperbacks are 50 cents and hardbacks $1.  After, we will take my Mom out for pizza lunch at Pegasus in West Seattle, since we have a Groupon that expires tomorrow.  Sunday morning I will go to Sunday School to hear Jeff Van Duzer (SPU's Provost) begin a two-week teaching series (which he is doing as a result of my begging and pleading).  He is one of my favorite speakers of all time.  If you have nothing to do at 9:30 AM Sunday, come to FFMC and hear him!

As I was reading my Bible today, I came across a verse that I had marked in the margin "my health."  I had written this back when I got Lupus but now, this verse relates just as well to cancer.  It is in 2 Cor. 4:16-18 and goes like this:

"Therefore, we do not lose heart.  Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweights them all.  So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen.  For what is seen (drugs, IV poles, nausea, feeling weak, missing work) is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal." 

My eyes are fixed on Jesus and it is well with my soul!

Love to you all,
Gabrielle

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Day Before Chemo #11

Dear family and friends,

I think it is about time I check in with you all before single chemo #11 tomorrow.  The main side effect from last Friday's double has been unrelenting nausea every single day this week.  And also the increasing metal taste in my mouth so that my favorite foods don't taste as good as they used to.  You are going to think this is crazy but I actually can't wait for chemo tomorrow because they fill the I/V with fluids and very large amounts of anti-nausea medicine so that for tomorrow, at least, I will feel a reprieve from the nausea!!  Don't worry that I am wasting away because of the nausea...I make myself eat anyway and am maintaining a really good and healthy weight that's only ten pounds less than my pre-cancer weight. 

Despite the nausea, I donned a dress and my wig for two important occasions last weekend.  On Saturday I attended Ami and Matt's wedding, which filled me with the joy and hope of a young couple in love that you KNOW are right for one another and will have a long and happy marriage.  It was beautiful and brought tears to my eyes.  Then on Sunday, I loaded up with anti-nausea pills, dressed up again, and made it to church for Easter.  And what a sunny, glorious Easter Sunday it was!  I also managed to steal generous bites from Renee and Daniel's dark chocolate buttercream Easter eggs from See's.  :-)

On the weekdays, I have made sure to get to the gym or outdoors for long walks.  Yesterday was a particularly good day.  My good friend, Sue, came over and we went out to lunch at the little Thai place near my house.  She had the day off so we could talk at leisure without watching our watches to get back to work.  It was really great.  And then, to make the day even better, Steve got off work early and we went to Richmond Beach for an hour-long walk, having good conversation and collecting lots of pretty beach glass along the way.  After, we hit happy hour at Hill's restaurant in Richmond Beach and enjoyed some yummy calimari and pizza. 

Daniel and I had hoped to golf today, but alas, it is a rainy Thursday.  Our wonderful housecleaner, Ryan, comes today (my family gets tired of my favorite phrase "I love my Ryan!") and thus, Daniel and I will hit the gym and do some errands while he is cleaning.  My magnesium and calcium are low so we will pick up some supplements the doctor ordered. 

I am hoping my counts will be fine for chemo tomorrow since I took four days of those stomach shots this week to bring up my white cell count.  And after tomorrow, only seven chemos left!  I am SO ready to be done.  I miss work and the normal routine of life.  I miss having food taste normal and being able to go up two flights of stairs without my heart pounding as it did last night.  But I will try to be patient and to take each day as the gift that it is.  If you don't learn to treasure each day from having cancer, then you've learned nothing at all! Thanks to Mike and Colleen for bringing us joy yesterday with another quart of their fresh, homemade yogurt for my daily fruit smoothies.  And thanks to all of you who sent cards this week--most of which cracked me up with their jokes and or photos on the front (one was a kitten wearing a knitted hat just like one of mine...as if she were bald from chemo as well). 

Speaking of hair, it's mostly all rubbed off in the back and on the sides, but about half and inch of thin hair remains on top.  I like to blow dry it straight up.  It kind of looks like a 50s male movie star look, which must be very weird for Steve to see when he kisses me.  Ah, the unconditional love of a husband who looks beyond bad hair and scars and sees only his beautiful sweetheart.  I am truly blessed!

I will close with a verse you may know well, but that Daniel embellished for me with the words you will see in parentheses:  "For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, [NOR CANCER! NOR NAUSEA!], neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord."  Romans 8:28-29 

You and I are loved.  What could be better than that?!

Love,
Gabrielle