Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Just a Thought Series ~ Another Aha Moment ~ August 17, 1978

Ever the child I continue to learn
Though at times 
It's at my own expense

There's an eerie light to the east
A wildfire's child
The air becomes a gossamer shroud
For the dreams of some
New beginnings for others
Though I've seen no flames
It's presence is felt

I am strongly intrigued
By the possibilities of chance
Your words awaken me 
From a jello minded lull
Of the sometimes 
All to consistent coastal fog

Words on timely wings
Thank you for the thoughts
I've been resting, resisting, too long
In a relationship of less than real

How could I have misplaced 
The value of passion
The key to alive
Cutting loose is difficult
But I know my happiness and creativity
Depend on what I do for my self

I was living in Jenner at the time, high up on a hill that overlooked the mouth of the Russian River. The wildfire was the Creighton Ridge fire in Cazadero. There was concern it might crest the ridge, but little chance it would reach Jenner. I do, however, remember laying in bed one night thinking about what I'd grab on short notice.

Who provided the "words on timely wings" that shook me back into renewed consciousness? Momentarily stumped, I went a few pages back in my journal to see if I could find something. The entry for August 15, 1978 had three lines, no doubt excerpted from a book and not my original journals. The initials "TG" at the bottom of the page cleared it all up. Tom is a long time friend who I've know since 1973. He was in the Coast Guard stationed in Maine at the time and we must have been corresponding about what was going on in our lives. The full text is:

"For our one chance lies in expanding that interval, in getting as many pulsations as possible into the given time. Great passions may give us this quickened sense of life, ecstasy and sorrow of love, the various forms of enthusiastic activity, disinterested or otherwise, which come naturally to many of us. Only be sure it is passion — that it does yield you this fruit of a quickened, multiplied consciousness. Of such wisdom, the poetic passion, the desire of beauty, the love of art for its own sake, has most. For art comes to you proposing frankly to give nothing but the highest quality to your moments as they pass, and simply for those moments' sake". 

The words are from Walter Pater (1839-1894), taken from his Conclusions in "The Renaissance." He was an English essayist, writer of fiction, and literary and art critic. He was educated at The Queens College and Oxford. He argues that the most profound and passionate occasions in life, are the instances when, like viewing artwork, we are bombarded with emotion and sensory overload in a mere moment.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Just a Thought Series ~ for Rod on Valentine's Day 2015

This was written not long after I met the love of my life at the Fort Ross Volunteer Fire Department Picnic in Cazadero on May 23, 1981. Rod lived up on the Navarro Ranch the first year we were together so we'd only cross paths on weekends. 

His pup Hazel would jump up into the crate on the back of his Honda 90 and they'd motor a few miles down the hill to the Blue Heron Restaurant in Duncans Mills. Once the bike was locked up under the deck, he and Hazel would come stay with Jessie and me in Sebastopol. He was a best kept secret for months and it drove my girlfriends crazy. 

At work, though hardly working
Some late afternoon daydreams
Toying with my senses and concentration
Sipping spring water 
And kisses from your well
Fingerprints in places rarely touched

There is nothing so amusingly precise
As keeping the Who, What, Where and When 
Ladies at bay

You are a mystery man
Only the sweet Buddha 
Knows my secret
For my smile and my eyes
Speak only and without words

I've changed my plans
For the weekend

May we come play in your meadow
And sleep beneath your stars?

Friday, February 6, 2015

De-Liver Me Tour ~ Game Changer ~ February 5, 2015

A "Game Changer" is a newly introduced element or factor that changes an existing situation or activity in a significant way. The adenocarcinoma on my pancreas is a different cancer than Audrey and Carmine, the hepatocellular carcinomas on my liver. What this translates to is that I am off the liver transplant list for now. I will have to remain clear of pancreatic cancer for 3-5 years before I can be reconsidered. I totally understand logic, especially with so few livers to go around. Truth be told I am actually a bit relieved. The prospect of major transplant surgery, being out of sorts for several months and on steroids and immunosuppressents is a little hard to fathom right now.

Storm Clouds, sunbeams, birds, blue green yellow orange, nature photography, inspirational God beams, Free US shipping
Storm Clouds and Sunbeams

Small blessingsSometimes the least expected is a blessing in disguise. I was close to the top of the transplant list when the pancreatic tumor was discovered with a CT scan and biopsy late last Fall. Had it not been discovered early, and before the liver transplant, the immunosuppressents and steroids dictated by a transplant would have prompted the pancreatic cancer to run wild. 

We met with my oncologist today and as he walked in the door he smiled at me and said "Survived another one, eh?" Here is what we learned. 

StagingThe staging of cancers is a complicated process, but here is the country girl's guide to short and simple. 

1 ~ tumor is 2 mm or smaller and hasn't spread to lymph nodes
2 ~ tumor is over 2 mm and hasn't spread to lymph nodes or body
3 ~ tumor has involved lymph nodes but hasn't spread to other parts of body
4 ~ tumor has spread to other parts of the body

I rank as a Stage 3: My surgeon removed six lymph nodes, though only one of the six was was involved. A generalized rule is that patients at Stage 3 have a 60% risk of recurrence of cancer returning or showing up someplace else. 

Normally, in this scenario, chemo would be offered as a preventative measure to keep cancer from returning to my pancreas. However, at this point the cancer is gone and chemo could facilitate the growth of the liver cancer because of compromised immune system from removal of my spleen. It might also cause a flareup of the Hep C which has almost reached "cured" status. Can you spell NO THANK YOU? I swore years ago that I would not do systemic chemotherapy. I've watched too many friends endure hell for no apparent benefit. It's all about the quality not the quantity. 

Under the microscope - Starting today I'll be doing a quarterly blood test called CA19-9 which helps detect early recurrence of cancer. At surgery the marker registered 294. Today's blood test will establish a new baseline, hopefully with a much lower one. I will touch bases with my oncologist again in May. Also, the letter from Kaiser that approves an additional year of medical care from the Liver Transplant Unit at UCSF just arrived in the mail. This is all good news. My orders are to continue to take care of myself: exercise, eat healthy and travel at will. We can do that!

Life Expectancy ~ I had to ask the questionThere is no one answer, only averages from large trials and large patient data bases and it is only a rough guideline. In a worse case scenario, if the cancer comes back or spreads and cannot be removed surgically, life expectancy is about two years. We are all different though so you cannot read much into that. Considering the odds and bullets I've dodged so far, things are looking brighter than expected. I may indeed outlive the October 2017 expiration date on my American Express Card and see my mid seventies. 

On the HorizonDamn the torpedoes, full speed ahead! We have friends to visit, seasons to experience, and blue highways to explore. Alberta is calling, we've never seen the east coast in the fall, the aurora borealis, or the poppies in Antelope Valley. The possibilities are endless. 

Alberta 1997

Northern Lights Photo, Aurora Borealis Photography, Fine Art Print, Apex Mouth Green Shower Purple Dancing Lights

Monday, February 2, 2015

De-Liver Me Tour ~ Sisterhood of Traveling Body Parts

January 7th: Oh boy surgery day. The game plan was to remove the tail of my pancreas (home of said adenocarcinoma) and my spleen with a combination of a laparoscope, robotics and the capable hands of my doctor. The surgery took about 6 hours. I was, of course, on another planet and haven't a clue as to what was going on. Since the doc was in the neighborhood she also checked on my liver and found a small hepatocellular tumor and with Rod's permission removed it. 

January 8th - 9th: Me and Mr. Wheels my best buddy and travelling companion for 3 days. Patients are encouraged to get up and walk as soon as possible, as it helps get your digestion system moving again. You are also encouraged to make good use of the patient regulated pain medication day and night. It's easier for your body to heal if you're not dealing with pain. Sounded reasonable to me. And who knew a catheter could be such an asset when the simple act of getting out of bed was to much to contemplate. 

Day 2

Clear liquid and liquid diets suck big time. I realize it's necessary, but where's the nutrition? They kept trying to push soy milk, fruit juices, vanilla pudding and bouillon, holy blood sugar Bat Girl. The one positive note is that I developed a new fondness for Cream of Wheat. Once I graduated to real food on Day 4 the menu was a lot better. 

I can't say enough about the doctors, nurses and staff at Kaiser SF. Some of them were working long shifts, but always made sure their patients were their first priority. They were professional, caring, supportive, and full of fun. Laughter is, after all, the best medicine.

Got unplugged day 4 and graduated to a walker and free range of the corridors. Also got to take a shower. I had a little private bathroom with a hand held shower head. The stuff they gave me for shampoo (I use the term loosely) was the consistency of snot and didn't soap up. It made my hands slick and it was hard to control hand held. I ended up spraying down my nurse, the towels and my gown. We both about collapsed in a fit of laughter. 

You know those little things in life you often take for granted? Well surgery brought the concept to a whole new level. Farting, pooping and walking were manna from heaven in my book. Whining, being cranky and cursing like a sailor are part of the healing process, so attitude is encouraged. 

Rod busted me out of the hospital on the afternoon of the 12th. Evidently one of the side effects of surgery and being on your back for 5 days is inflamed joints. I walked out of the hospital unassisted but Holy Knees Louise I could hardly walk the next day. I went to see my primary doc at Kaiser SR and had to have a wheel chair. She came in, gave me a smile and said "You are human, this is the first time I've seen you even look slightly tired during this entire journey. You must be related to the Energizer Bunny." 

Show me the exit

Things are pretty much back to normal and then some. We're back to walking 1.5 to 2.5 miles a day. My belly still looks like I walked into a load of buckshot: four holes for the laparoscope and drains and one incision with five or six stitches. All were closed with Steri-Strips that were supposed to fall off in two weeks. Mine seem to be related to NASCAR 200 mph duct tape, 19 days and they were still holding fast. Got permission to gently pull them off. Oh Yeah!

WTF moments: Since the surgery my platelet count is adequate for the first time in 2 years and I'm not bruising at my insulin injection sites. The answer is no spleen, platelets can once again roam at will. I'm sleeping better, my acid reflex has abated, the sporadic leg cramps have ceased and my alligator skin has improved. You just never know.