Saturday, February 28, 2015

Another Health Update

This past week has been busy.  Last Sunday, as I posted, I did the Orchid show.  Monday I had lab work to see if I was healthy enough to do chemo.  Tuesday I went in for chemo.  We were to start an additional chemo, but it didn't happen.  My liver enzymes were too high, so I only did one chemo.  Erik is now coming every other Wednesday to help us. So I did laundry, down the 26 steps and across the parking lot.  And Friday night a friend took us out to eat in San Francisco.  I don't usually do things at night because I poop out about supper time.  I did pretty good and wasn't too tired when we got home.

I have been lucky with side effects, mostly.  I have the fatigue they warned me about.  It isn't awful. I can do most things I need or want to do..  I do have a problem, itching from head to toe.  I would wake up clawing my skin..  The doctor suggested Benadryl to control the itching.  It helped but did not last until the next dose.  So I am now on a prescription drug that is working.

All things considered I am doing well.  As long as I rest each day I can pretty much do what I want. 

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

I DID IT! I did the Orchid Show!

Sunday we went to the Orchid Show in San Francisco.  I was worried about walking and standing for a couple of hours.  But I knew I could rest  in the food court if need be.  I walked and stood, and looked for 2 1/2 hours before taking a break.  Then I walked another 45 minutes.  Tired but not exhausted.  It was a wonderful time.

I of course took lots of pictures, around 100.  After deleting bad ones and self editing, I will show you around 20.  Remember to click on the picture to enlarge it.

Welcome to beauty

Love this pointy petal

A winning cattleya.  This is the corsage flower all girls in the 1960's hoped for.  This meant he was serious.  Thank you  Jonathan-Ladd.  Loved mine.

The theme for the show was The Last of the Orchid Hunters.  Some of the displays were outstanding.

Love the this orchid.  We have a white one.  The colored ones are hard to come by and are more expensive.  

Lovely color and interesting little dots.

This orchid had a wing span of at least a foot.  Absolutely marvelous to see.

Love this deep deep color.  The deeper the reds and purple, the more they cost.  No way we can buy one like this.  

Okay, if you wore an outfit with these colors and different designs, awful.  But this orchid wears it well.  Stunning.

Polka dots work for me.

The throat of this orchid looks as if it is on the back of the bloom.  A very flat looking flower.   Still gorgeous.

A mix of cattleyas.

Love the twisty tendrils on this bloom.

Another fancier display.

This is our favorite of the whole show.  The star bloom is very waxy and will last about 6 weeks.  Also it is very fragrant. We looked through dozens of vendors and only found 2 selling this type of plant.  It is rare.  We bought a young plant that will not have its first bloom for at least a year.  I will have to talk to my oncologist about keeping me around a long time so I can see it bloom.

Little cattleya.  We bought two plants, white and a yellow.

This is one of the strangest orchids we saw.  It glistens on the red feeler looking ends.  This looks as if it should live in the ocean.  Be sure to click on it in order to see those ends better.

A lovely mix of orchids.

Our second favorite orchid.  Love all the ruffles and twisty things.

I hope you enjoyed my orchid show.  It was a wonderful day for us.  This was not a "normal" day for me.  This a once a year spectacular event.  And I did it. I walked it, did not need the wheelchair.  

Monday, February 23, 2015

Never Work With Children Or Animals

Joe again has word from the Marriage Factory.

Children at weddings are always a risk.  I've written before about how variable their behavior is. No child under the age of 7 will be interested in a wedding for more than 3 minutes.  There's nothing to capture the attention - just grown-ups talking a lot, including a strange one who might be in a robe.  The happiness of their parents/relatives/relative's friends carries no weight.

If you do want a child present at your wedding, bring something to distract him.  Infants are sometimes not aware enough to fuss more than a few minutes.  iPads and handheld video games usually do the trick for the over-5 set. The sour spot between those two generates the most tantrums, bench-climbing, and room-wandering.  The latter two are the most distracting for the adults, especially the officiant.  A child tearing down a window blind or falling on a hard wood bench and cracking his skull open is not the happy wedding-day memory most couples want to keep, so have someone in tow to wrangle the little ones.

Sometimes, even the fussiest baby gets a pass.  This week, a couple brought in their toddler, who fussed for the entire ceremony, so I just spoke louder (inadvertently learning that the wedding room has a great natural echo). The couple were good-natured and apologetic, but that's not why I couldn't be cross.  The boy was dressed to the nines in black trousers, a white shirt, and suspenders.  Baby suspenders!  Who knew such a thing existed?  I was so delighted by the way they'd dressed him - like a 1920s newspaperman at work - that I couldn't be cross.  Let that be a lesson.  Always dress for the job you want, even if you're pre-verbal.

Fashion report: beautiful green dress with a matching (but not samey) emerald necklace and earrings, a midnight blue dress with a silver neck piece - not a necklace, more Cleopatra-like in shape and sparkly copper/silver heels, another silver lace dress - that seems like it would be a dark look for midday, but some people can pull it off.

By The Numbers:
Ceremonies: 10
Formal wear: 6
Formal wear, toddler class: 1
Adorable couple over 70: 1

Thursday, February 19, 2015

And another update on me

Sunday I had lab work done to see if everything would be a go for Chemo on Tuesday.  Because of the holiday the infusion clinic was closed Monday.  No  one would be able to call me if the numbers were off and they couldn't do the chemo.  

Tuesday morning Kirsten took me to Kaiser.  The nurse came out for me and said my liver enzymes were high.  She was waiting for word from the doctor on whether they would cancel chemo or do a lower dose.  We were all betting that the dose would be lowered.  The nurse took me back to the chemo recliner, took my vitals and then we waited.  Finally word came, do the chemo with a lower dose. 

After the chemo we met friends for lunch. As I have said before the effects of chemo are accumulative.  So I was becoming tired during lunch.  Kirsten noticed, she is a little mother hen, and said she needed to get me home for a nap.  She was right.  I  never knew when Marty came home.  I slept off and on most of the afternoon.  Later that night I had mild nausea and took a pill that took care of that.

I have been tired this week, as warned.  But I am still walking 30 minutes a day.  I am cooking meals and washing dishes.  Trying to do that normal thing. 

Marty and I decided last night to add another chemo as suggested by the oncologist.  The side effects are about the same as the one I am already doing.  She thinks I will just be a little more tired and maybe mild nausea.  This new chemo is also a more gentle one than the pre Christmas ones.  So I shouldn't end up in the ER or the hospital again.  Keep your fingers crossed.

We plan to go to the Orchid Show this week end.  I have been in training since Christmas to be strong enough to walk and stand for a couple of hours.  I really do not want to take the wheelchair and be pushed around.  If and when I get tired I can go back to the food court and sit down to rest.

I find it interesting that as long as I am wearing a mask, I can go out into groups of strangers.  But church and groups of friends are a no no. Friends want to hug me, kiss me, hold my hand.  My immune system can't take that.  Strangers don't touch me or hug me. 

At the orchid show, I won't be touching anything except maybe a chair.  At church I would be touching books, attendance pads, pews that members have touched.  Communion would be an issue because the loaf of bread is grab and rip a piece off.  Other hands have been there.   I would love to go to book club, I could wear a mask.  But by evening I am tired and don't want to be anywhere except in the recliner. 

So friends know I miss you, but have to take care of myself. 

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Dia De San Valentin

Here is Joe's update on Valentine's Day at the Marriage Factory.  I so missed being there this time.  It is one of the few times you see the commissioners from other days of the weeks which is always fun.  This year was a smaller crowd.  But still a busy day.  Enjoy.

Día De San Valentín

Valentine's Day is a busy day for weddings at the Marriage Factory, as you might imagine.  It's not a madhouse, like 8/8/08 or 11/11/11, but a lot of folks put a lot of stock in calendar-based romance.  So many did this year that the Hall of Records opened on a Saturday just to marry those romantic souls, even taking appointments.

When a couple gets married at the Hall of Records, they can choose to have the ceremony in one of several non-English languages, Cantonese, Mandarin, Vietnamese, and Spanish among them. Four years of high school Spanish classes, and a little help from a couple of fluent friends, qualify me as a bilingual marriage commissioner.  I can conduct weddings en Español.  The English to Spanish ratio on an average Friday is 4:1, mas o menos.

There were 5 commissioners on hand Saturday, more than enough to handle the traffic.  Since I was the only Spanish speaker, I got all the Spanish-language weddings.  That kept me very busy. The groups ranged from 3-person walk-ins to full houses chanting "Beso! Beso!" when the ceremony was finished.

One challenge with Spanish weddings is that I know the ceremony very well, but I'm not good at free-style conversation.  I can say "Please silence your phones." or "Do you have rings?" but trouble arises with something complicated like "You have to go downstairs and ask the clerk for your legal certificate, which might take 10-15 minutes before it's ready."  Luckily, at least one person in every group spoke or understood enough English that I could communicate the next steps after the ceremony, and I struggled my way through it a couple times in Spanish, just for good measure.

We opened at 9 and got everyone done by 2, which was a credit mostly to the wonderful clerks who got folks registered, including a bunch of walk-ins, fixed typos, and made sure licenses got recorded properly.  They even got us donuts and pizza!

Fashion report: lots of beautiful dresses and suits, of course.  Why get married on Valentine's Day if you're not going to do it right?

By The Numbers:
Total ceremonies: 40
Ceremonies conducted by me: 15
Spanish ceremonies: 14
Formal wear: 12
Donuts eaten: 2

Joe Mallon

Sunday, February 15, 2015

An update on me

This past week was a rest week between rounds of chemo.  Tuesday, if platelets are high enough I begin another 3 week round.  Although that may change a little after the talk we had with the oncologist Friday.

The oncologist said if she had seen me out and about, she wouldn't have dreamed I was a cancer patient.  My color is good, and I look healthy.  That was good to hear.  We were hoping for another scan to see if any progress, but she said it is too soon from the last one.  Then we talked about the chemo.

The three chemo meds I did before Christmas were just too harsh and hard for my body.  That is why we went with a gentler one in January.  The doctor thinks I have rebounded so well that we should add another gentle chemo.  It doesn't have as awful side effects as the pre Christmas chemo.  I might have some nauseas and more fatigue.  Marty is researching the new one and we will decide in the next week or so if I should take it.

I wrote a week or so ago about the loss of hair except on my upper lip and chin.  Well folks, overnight my eyelashes are coming back and I am growing head hair.  Doing my happy dance.  Of course the new chemo will probably make everything fall out again. 

I am a very vain person as mentioned in other posts.  When my legs swelled from the chemo I was really upset with the old lady no ankles look.  I now have ankles and must say they are damn good looking.  Then there was the hair loss. 

Even when I was bigger than the side of a barn, I felt I always looked good because my hair was gorgeous.  I had the Triplett silver hair.  Daddy had it, Uncle Fessor had it, Aunt Margaret, and Uncle Bill had the silver hair.  Big Boy Cousin Ernest has gorgeous silver hair.  It is a Triplett blessing.  So I cried when my hair fell out.  My hair was my crown of glory.

Here I am with pancreatic cancer that they can do little about, and I worry about ankles and hair.  Doesn't make sense does it?  Last night I dreamed all my hair came back nice and thick, but it wasn't Triplett hair, it was Mother's side of the family: Edwards' mousey grey hair.  In my dream I cried over the hair color, and had it dyed pink. 

Even in my sleep I am vain.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

A surprise for Joe

This has a fun twist to it.  Enjoy

You Live Where Now?

When I get a license at the Marriage Factory, I scan it for age, county (non-Alameda county weddings require a little more processing and explanation), and names, so when I call out to the masses in the lobby, I have a rough idea of where to aim.  A Chinese couple in their 20s are unlikely to be the 3 elderly Hispanic gentlemen sitting together.

I rarely look at the other information until the ceremony is underway, and mostly just as a point of conversation.  "Oh, you were born in Michigan.  My wife grew up there."  The address is usually the least interesting thing about a couple, although if it's the same for both participants, at least they know each other well.

Imagine my shock when I glanced at a license and saw my own address.  Not my current address, mind you.  That would be a little too baffling.  No, this soon-to-be-wed duo live in the house my father bought in the late '80s when he first moved to California.  When I headed west to start my new life here, I stayed with him for a year, and then in that house for 2 more years while he headed back east.

I've never been back to the house since leaving it to pursue employment and stability.  It was a nice house then and I'm sure it's even better now, especially with the real estate values in the Bay Area.  The couple were very kind in talking with me about the house after I performed their wedding, not at all unnerved as I asked questions about the wall color and carpeting.  Then they went on their way, back to the place I used to live.

Fashion report: a groom in Crocs and a bowling shirt with train illustrations, a groom who took off his hoodie for the ceremony, and...well, that should be enough

By the numbers:
Ceremonies: 10
Couples in formal wear: 5
Couples who live in a house I used to live in: 1

Thursday, February 12, 2015

What to do with the rings?

Once again Joe is sharing some things that happen at the Marriage Factory.  A great big thanks and hugs to him.  I really miss doing the weddings.  So I keep in touch with Joe's updates.

A Familiar Ring

It hasn't been raining a lot in the Bay Area, as most of you probably know, so car washes have been very busy.  Once the downpour hits, most people forgo that stop.  Nature's done the job - why waste the time to redo what's been done?

By the time we see a couple at the Marriage Factory, may times they've already been married via a cultural/religious/extranational ceremony that has not had a legal component.  In most cases, the couple are already wearing rings.  I then confront them with a choice: do they want to exchange the rings they're currently wearing?

There are 3 options: ignore the ring part of the ceremony, even though they're paying for it; talk about the rings without removing them; doff the rings and trade them again.  The last is the most treacherous.  It is surprising how quickly knuckles change shape and size.  Some rings slide right off, despite having been on for years.  Other, newly-donned ones require soap, spit, and tugging.

If I were being married in that situation, I'd go for the easiest solution: talking without the taking off.  All the pomp and circumstance, none of the phalangeal trauma.

Fashion report: a gorgeous teal sleeveless dress (Lupita Nyong'o- style), a lovely white knit dress, and a fantastic silver lace dress with a matching necklace and fascinator

By the numbers:
Ceremonies: 8
Couples in formal wear: 6
Had own vows: 1 (first time in Spanish)

Monday, February 9, 2015

Chemo = Hair Loss, so why, why . . .

Because of the chemo I do have hair loss.  I am pretty close to bald.  You can see my pink scalp through about 25 hairs.  My eyebrows are thinning and my eyelashes are disappearing fast.  I haven't needed to shave my legs or underarms in months. Even regular body hair on my arms is gone. 

So I have to ask you why oh why is that pesky mustache coming in?  Why are white and sometimes black hairs cropping up on my chin?  Does that seem fair?  My gorgeous silver head hair is gone, yet hair is growing where it is not needed nor wanted. 


Friday, February 6, 2015

News from the Marriage Factory

I asked Joe to send reports on weddings when he had time.  He does work full time and volunteers other places besides the Marriage Factory.  Today he is writing about bouquets and he gives some history.  Thanks Joe.

A Rose By Any Other Name

The wedding bouquet has its origins in ancient times, to ward off either evil spirits or the smell of plague.  It wasn't until the 19th century that flowers supplanted herbs and leaves.  Nowadays, at least at the Marriage Factory, the bouquet serves mainly to get in the way of the couple holding hands and to block the photographers from capturing the moment the bride puts a ring on the groom's finger.
Bouquets take many forms: store-bought amalgams of mums, blossoms and baby's-breath; neatly shorn roses in red, white, pink, or coral; rubber-banded sunflowers with blooms the size of a baby's head.  Doesn't matter - they're all difficult to wrangle when the time comes for the vows and the handholding.  Still, some brides seem utterly stricken when it comes time to set aside the flowers.  I never demand one way or the other.  I just wonder how many pictures there are of a bouquet covering the groom's hand as his soon-to-be-wife slides an invisible ring on him.

Fashion report: a beautiful ecru dress matching a traditional Filipino embroidered shirt in the same color, with a flowered headband in the same palette

By the numbers:
Ceremonies: 9
Couples in formal wear: 4
Ceremony where the children outnumbered the adults: 1, although the kids were well-behaved

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Health Update and other stuff


I had a lab appointment that morning to check platelets and other things to see if I could have chemo on Tuesday.  Everything was all good.  That afternoon I had my two year eye check up.  Then we were off to our regular store, Embry Bay Optics to pick out new glasses. Marty and the owner have picking out my frames since the late 90's. 

After that Marty needed to stop at an Alameda County Office to pick up a survey plot.  He parked in front of the Marriage Factory.  I put on my protective mask and headed in to surprise and visit with the staff.  As I went in I waved at  my favorite Alameda County Deputy.  He looked at me funny and then came over and said, "Janet, is that you?'  The mask, glasses, and my cap did hide my face. I went upstairs to the Marriage desk and said I needed a hug.  Christine (who does have a vision problem) looked at me and said, "I don't think so." She then recognized my voice and we laughed. Then I saw most of the staff.  It was wonderful to see them again.  They had been such a huge part of my life and now I can't do marriages.  Too weak for all the walking and standing, and too many germs from the public. 


At 9:00 I had a dental check up.  A friend who was a nurse had warned me I couldn't have a cleaning.  All that scrapping would spread germs into my blood stream.  The oncologist agreed.  So no cleaning just a check up.  No cavities.  That was a good things, don't know how we would handle the drilling, that could really spread germs into the blood stream.

That afternoon I had my chemo session.  It has been over 24 hours and no side effects other than fatigue.  I will take that any day over all the troubles I had with the other chemo. 


Today I did really normal things.  I did the laundry.  Marty carried down and back up the clothes. I needed to hold on the banister down and up those 26 steps.  Why you ask am I doing the laundry.  Son Erik, who comes every Wednesday to help us out, is out of town on a business trip.  Marty would have done the laundry but I wanted to try to do it.  I need to do more things to build my strength so I can do fun things. 

I had to rest after going up and down the steps.  Then I put clean sheets on the bed.  I had to do it.  I  had stripped the bed that  morning.  We have to have sheets to go to bed tonight. 

Who knows, maybe I will get strong enough to clean the apartment.  Not sure I want to be that normal.

Plans for Thursday and Friday

Friend Kirsten is driving me downtown for a little shopping Thursday.  The plan is to have a late lunch and then shop for Valentine cards.  Marty would have taken me, but then he would have to stand in another part of the store as I picked out his cards.  That wouldn't be much fun.

Friday I plan to watch the pouring rain and rejoice. The meteorologist better be right. It hasn't rained in over 40 days.  And we are running out of the rainy season.  This drought is big time scary. 

I am feeling good, doing more, and thank all my prayers warriors for getting me back to a better level of health.  Friday week we meet with the oncologist and work on our game plan. 

Sunday, February 1, 2015

A Wonderful Friday with the A Team

I must explain the A Team to new readers.  We are 4 couples who were neighbors for years.  We liked cooking and going to progressive dinners.  So we formed a group that met every now and then to eat good food, talk, laugh, and enjoy the wines poured.  After a few gatherings we realized we were a special lucky group of friends.  We loved each other and had become a family.  Even though three couples moved out of the neighborhood, one clear to Texas, we still get together.  Friday for the first time in 5 years, all 4 couples were together.

Here is our A Team selfie.  For those who don't know me except through this blog, I am the lady in glasses and a good wig.

A lunch was set up so that I wouldn't be tired.  By dinner time my energy level is falling.  We had appetizers, which Marty and I forgot to photograph.  We were too busy eating Pigs in a Blanket, and Deviled eggs.  Champagne and other great wines were poured.  I had a little bit of Champagne.

A beautiful and tasty soup was our first course.  It was a sweet corn with crab and basil on top. Delicious!

A close up of the soup.  Place cards were pictures of each guest.  The table was glass, so the wood you see is really the floor.

Our main course was ham, asparagus, and cheese grits. Being a Southern Belle, the grits were my favorite of this course.

Hank plating an almond tart with whipped cream.  This was my favorite dish of the meal.  It was exquisite, lovely to the eye and perfection on the tongue.  Great job by Thom!

A close up of my plate.  Trust me the tart and whipped cream did not last long on my plate.

The lunch started at noon, and we left to go home after 6:00.  Just what did we do for all that time you ask.

This picture of Hank and Thom says it all.  We laughed like fools.  We took pictures, we told what we had been doing, and we talked about our favorite A Team moments.  It was a wonderful Friday.

I was so lucky that I could be with these friends.  Everyone was healthy so I could have hugs and kisses.  No mask needed that day.  We talked about my health, and I was upfront that even with hope, Marty and I have to be realistic.  So with the laughter, there were a few tears.  This was a safe place for us to share and feel the love.  And days like Friday help me to be "normal".  Except as I told the A Team, no one would say we are a normal group of people.