Simply ordinary observations from an ordinary person - sometimes having to do with health care issues, sometimes not. Topics will change as my attention wanders. Yours probably will too....

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

blogus interruptus

Life is what happens in between blog postings. Just like my other hobbies, sometimes I simply don't feel like writing. So, I apologize for the gaps in my posts but I can't promise it won't happen again. It will. Here's an update on the sypnster's life since April 6th

My friend is home from his first week of immunotherapy at UCSF. He managed to set an ICU record for # of doses received, but is now paying the price. When I talked to him this morning he was headed for another Aveeno Oatmeal Bath soak. His skin is peeling off in sheets, he has a black eye from rubbing his eyelid, his gums are bleeding, he's expelling 30 lbs of water weight, and hasn't eaten anything but miso soup and top ramen in 8 days. But he's still laughing and cracking jokes, so he's certainly not down for the count. He goes back on May 4th for round #2. F****ing Cancer.

The 3 Cats on the Porch Situation has been resolved. I finally rustled up some help from the local shelter and one very lovely, helpful, compassionate volunteer took them away one evening. Turns out both mom and daughter were pregnant! I had strong suspicions about mom, but the little one wasn't even a year old. It was like finding out a 13 year old was pregnant by the neighborhood bully! But all three are safe and sound now in the shelter and will be up for adoption after 7 days. The kittens won't be arriving tho - both girls had some medical assistance to remedy their unfortunate circumstances.

My recycled, black plastic, raised planter beds finally arrived, after being on back order for three weeks. Much to my surprise, they were made in Great Britain, not China as I had assumed. Hallelujah! I won't have to worry about lead or other substances in my backyard vegetables. Not to insult China or anything, but I'm thrilled to receive gardening supplies from the world's best gardening country. I have planted 3 types of lettuce, 1 Bush Pickle cucumber, 1 Lemon cucumber, yellow wax beans, Kentucky Wonder green beans, 2 peppers ( red & orange), 3 tomatoes (Early Girl, Mama Mia, and Sun...something), carrot seeds, herbs, nasturtiums, and zinnias. So far, my "free" vegetables have cost about $500.00. Not counting the water bill, which in a CA summer can be substantial. And not counting the replacement plants when some of these inevitably croak. But hey, hobbies are supposed to be expensive right?

I also managed to haul the dirt and plant everything while hobbling around on a self-diagnosed case of plantar fasciitis. My heel hurts like hell. And all my baby boomer friends tell me that's what it is. I've tried heat, ice, ibuprofen, foot stretches, new $100 workout shoes, new Clarks old-lady work shoes (hey, Great Britain again!), standing on a tennis ball - the entire treatment protocol. It still hurts. I think I need stronger drugs. A trip to my favorite MD might be in the near future. It's his fault anyway. He told me to start exercising - which I have done, and have now worn my feet out! Hmmmphh.

So there you have it - 2+ weeks of not much. Just life.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Cat Astrophe

I seem to be well on my way to becoming the "cat lady" of the neighborhood. For some reason, a gang of 6 has selected my front porch and back yard as the favorite feline hangout. The absence of a dog and the presence of a bird feeder probably scored high on the selection checklist. Now, in addition to my two mostly-indoor calicos, I am playing hostess to one gray tabby with identical twin gray- striped offspring, plus two black & whites - one large, one small, plus another one who is all black. That's about six too many, as far as I'm concerned.

The 3 gray ones are my biggest concern because they are victims of the housing downturn and have been semi-abandoned. They sort of "live" 3 houses over, but the homeowner hates cats and just leaves food and water in the garage for them. Apparently they belonged to a niece who was recently evicted and forced to move to a studio apartment. At least that's what I've been told from another neighbor. But they're not getting enough food nor enough human contact, and the mama cat sits on my front step and cries. Of course I've given her food - how could I not?

I called the local no-kill rescue center on Friday and was told that they currently have 191 cats in residence, although they only have space for 100. It's raining cats and dogs. They're being dropped off night and day by people who have lost housing and can't keep pets. The shelter is overwhelmed and the woman I talked with practically begged me to keep providing food and a warm porch - and possibly taking Mom Cat to the $35.00 low cost, spay clinic to prevent a spring batch of kittens. OMG.

I'll do what I can, but this situation is not good. I don't want to be a cat lady. Would anyone like a sweet, affectionate, friendly, lonely little friend?

Sunday, April 5, 2009


I can see now that's it's difficult to write a blog when feeling distraught, sad, angry, and afraid. We've had several disturbing events in my area lately: the tragic death of a talented eye surgeon and his beautiful young family in the Montana plane crash; the tragic shooting deaths of 4 Oakland police officers; the tragic murder/suicide of a family in a South Bay condo - bad news followed by bad news. It's been enough to make me stop reading the papers for awhile.

As sad as those stories are, they happened to strangers. It's possible to fold up the newspaper and walk away from the heartache a bit. But when something bad happens to one of my favorite friends, the heartache doesn't go away and taking time to write a blog post doesn't take high priority. That's where I've been the past 3 weeks.

Two years ago, as soon as he had stable health insurance, my friend went to have an ugly mole checked out. That one was fine, but the "freckle" on the side of his neck wasn't. The biopsy came back positive for early stage melanoma. He had surgery two weeks later and all the docs were confident about the results. He has followed their instructions to the letter - no sun exposure, regular chest x-rays and blood tests, and twice a year skin checks at the UCSF melanoma clinic. All has been well.

Last month he felt a petite pea sized lump at the site of the original surgery. He received varied opinions from "it's not a concern" to "wait and see" to "let's be cautious and take the d*#n thing out, even tho it's most likely fat or scar tissue." He had it taken out and it was a lymph node positive for melanoma. F*#K!

He went back to UCSF for a series of scans and discussions of treatment. Everyone was confident that the scans would be negative and they scheduled him for another round of surgery to remove all lymph nodes in the general regions of the petite pea. The scans were not negative. He has systemic melanoma in the lymph nodes and multiple pin-point lesions in both lungs. All of us - my friend, his doctors and family and huge circle of friends and coworkers - feel as if we've been slammed against a wall. These microscopic wayward cells have caused unmeasureable amounts of tears and fears and anger and brave reassurances and gestures of generosity. We're going through the exact same patterns as all the other millions of people who get a cancer diagnosis, but this diagnosis is ours and it hurts.

And the worst part is - he SO does not deserve this. He is an amazing person; happy, positive, always making people laugh, enjoying life and helping everyone else enjoy it too. The first response from all of us when we heard the news was "OMG, this is so unfair!"

So, he will be going to UCSF in 2 weeks for an intense 5 day bombardment of immunotherapy, followed by one week of rest, and then another 5 days of treatment if it can be tolerated. In the meantime he's getting the garden ready for summer, planning ahead for adjusting his work load, celebrating Easter with adoring 4 year old twin nephews, and focusing on each 24 hour period.

I'm leaving now to go to Target to buy an iPod shuffle, so he will have some soothing sounds when the fever, shaking, and fatigue begins. OMG, this is so unfair.