Thursday, April 30, 2015

Chemo week and some observations

First off my chemo day went better this week.  No trip to the ER.  The only side effects were being very tired and of course the hair disappearing.  Eyelashes and eyebrows are thinner, my buzz cut is just about all gone and there is just scalp now. 

As I have said often, I am a vain woman. I have said if the house was on fire, I would dress and put on my makeup before I would let the fireman see me.   Vain has some ugly definitions.  The only one I like is concerned about one's own appearance.  I am not too over the top about my appearance, but I have high standards.  I try to look neat and well turned out when leaving the house.  I admit last November and December when I was so sick, I let some things slip. 

I wore looser clothes, slip on shoes, and no make up.  The loose clothes were because Marty was having to dress  me, I was too weak to dress myself.  No make up because that took too much effort.  Slip on shoes because I could just slide them on, no bending over to tie shoes.  But I still looked neat and clean.  I was pale and needed makeup, but that one was just too hard.  Evan though I wasn't a fashion plate, I looked better than many of the people we saw at Kaiser (caregivers not just patients) and even at the grocery store. 

Now that I am feeling so much better I look pretty good even when I go to chemo.  Cute sparkly hat, coordinated top and jeans.  Of course full make up.  I feel better looking "normal".  I have even worn my Kick Ass boots to appointments.  And I wear my leather motorcycle jacket with them.  I really feel great when I wear those boots.  Thank you Little Brother and Ann for taking me shopping for shoes.

Now I am not judging but making an observation here.  Nearly everyone getting chemo looks like they are homeless.  Their clothes are mismatched, stretched out, and sad.  This is men and women.  They look as if they have given up, they don't care anymore.  I know how awful chemo is, I nearly died from the side effects.  I want them to still care about their look.  I want them to feel good about themselves.  I want them to feel loved as I am.

I know I have the greatest caregiver in the world.  Maybe they don't have the support I do.  Maybe their spouse, friends don't think about how they look.  Marty knew I needed warm clothes, looser clothes. he knew I wanted to still look normal.  So he went out and bought sweats that looked like regular slacks and they were in pretty colors.  He bought fun/cute shirts that were warm and easy to get on.  He kept me looking pretty good through those really sick times.  He knew I might be sick enough to die, but I would go out looking good.  Thank you Marty.

And that is what I want for the other patients.  I want them to care, not to give up, to look good and that will make them feel better.  Vanity is not always a bad thing.

Friday, April 24, 2015

And now a word about my health

Monday I saw my oncologist and had lab work done.  The report from the doctor is I am doing well. In fact well enough to plan a train trip this summer.  Marty and I have only looked at getting through each day.  We have made no long range plans.  But there are some things I want to do before the end of this illness.  And a train trip to visit friends in San Diego is one of them.

One of the blood tests was called a tumor marker.  It was to be compared to a base line to see if the tumor was growing, shrinking, or the same.  The doctor says she uses it as a clue, it is not a perfect test.

Tuesday as I was waiting to go into chemo, I got an email from my doctor.  The tumor marker was down.  GREAT news!  I started crying with joy just as the nurse called me in.  I told him why I was crying and he hugged me and held me as we walked to my chemo chair.  Nurses in a chemo infusion clinic need good news too.

Before the chemo starts they take my vitals.  My blood pressure was high.  He took it again and it was higher.  I sat a while, took it again and higher.  Crap, I have been stable since December, what is going on?  After the chemo was done, before I could leave, the blood pressure was taken once again.  Still higher.  My doctor came to the clinic and we discussed what to do.  It was high enough to be border line run her to the ER now.  I decided to go to ER because I was afraid to go home.  After 3 1/2 hours and a change in meds the numbers came down. 

I had my blood pressure checked on Thursday afternoon to see if the meds were helping or hindering.  Too much meds and the blood pressure will plummet.  I was down in the normal range and now only have to make an appointment with my primary care doctor to get his thoughts.

Back to Wednesday, I had my heart echocardiogram.(I think that is the correct term.  It is basically an ultra sound of the heart)    If you remember the awful CT scan, a shadow around my heart looked as if there was fluid there.  Nope, heart normal, nothing to worry about. 

So all in all lots of good news.  I am not having awful side effects, I am walking 30 minutes most days, I am healthy in many ways.  So the prayers are working friends.  Thank you for the love and caring.  I feel you out there.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

More from my teen years

Corbin, as mentioned before, was a small town in the foothills of Kentucky.  Looking back compared to where our son grew up, we were a little deprived.  No live theater, no symphony orchestra, no pro football, baseball, or basketball.  But we didn't miss any of that.

Our high school band and choir gave concerts, and we packed the gym with citizens, not just parents. We had a the senior play every year.  Traveling acts came to town and we every now and then saw live theater, and concerts. Ringling Brothers set up their three ring circus every spring.  And of course carnivals came through town.  Sports, well honey we didn't need pros.  We had the Corbin Redhounds to watch.  Great in football and basketball.  Many athletes went on to play on big time college teams and some went pro.  Lots of sports trophies in the Corbin High School halls.

There was stuff to do all the time.  And the place to go, The Youth Center.  We went there to dance, socialize, dance, and dance.  This was the best place ever.  We paid a very small fee to be a member.  There was the wonderful Princess McBurney(I hope I spelled that right) who was our chaperon.  The Youth Center was open most nights and was a safe fun place to go.

I loved its location.  It was upstairs over the police station. I think in the day time it was a court room.  At least at one time it was.  There were lots of chairs around the dance floor, a juke box, and I think a pool table.  If you had a date you went, if you didn't have a date you went.  There was always someone to dance with. 

I have great memories of the Youth Center.  Dancing with the really good dancers, not often but sometimes.  Being with friends and laughing, flirting, dancing, did I say dancing enough?    When I was Beta Club Valentine Queen, the crowning and the dance were held there.  Such fun times and such happy memories. 

Friday, April 17, 2015

And the marriage began

When Marty and I married in April, he lived in Frankfort, Ky.  I moved in with him.  We knew in July we would be moving to Northern Kentucky.  CHEVRON, for some reason did not want him moving before then.  Yet he was working the area already.  For none Kentuckians, Northern Kentucky is across the Ohio River from Cincinnati. 

I was still teaching outside of Louisville in Oldham County.  That was at about an hour's  from Frankfort.  Marty had over an hour's drive to work.  The interesting part of this was Louisville and Frankfort were on Central time, Northern Kentucky was on what we called "fast time" or Eastern time.  So Marty was always feeling behind on getting to work.

One morning Marty had an early meeting in Louisville and left before I did.  We couldn't ride together because my school was 20 miles from where his meeting was.  So about 15 minutes later I am speeding up I 64 when I see a familiar person on the side of the road waving me over.  Marty's company car had died. A sign of future trouble with that car.  I stopped, he drove me to work, and took my car on into Louisville. 

Now you whippersnappers ask, why didn't he call you or a tow truck?  Well, children this was 1967 and cell phones weren't invented until the late 80's or early 90's.

When we moved to Northern Kentucky I began to find out how crazy being a CHEVRON wife was going to be.  The movers were hours late packing us up and arriving at our new apartment. They also stole all our booze. (We learned quickly to pack it our selves and mark it as kitchen oils.)  I am sitting in the floor waiting on them when Marty comes in and tells me he has been asked to take a transfer to Nashville as an auditor and not in sales.  He told the powers that be that he could not go tell his new wife we were transferred when the truck had not even shown up to move us in yet.  They said think about  it.  He did, and turned it down.  He loved being in sales. 

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Cars and teenagers

Cars were everything to teenagers in the 50's and 60's.  In a car you could escape your  parents' eyes.  You could flirt, smoke, do dangerous things.  The car was everything.

Of course the first thing was to get access to a car.  Very few of my friends had their own car.  Most of us had to beg for the family car.  I was lucky that Mother kept her old car when she bought a new one.  I usually could get the car on a weekend night.  Or I could have it to drive to the football stadium for band practice.   The car was a 55 Ford.  It was Robin's Egg Blue and was a 9 passenger station wagon.  Not as cool as a 57 Chevy, but it held lots of us. 

To have the car, I had to buy my own gas, which cost 19 cents a gallon.  I would pick up my friends and they often brought glass pop bottles,  We would then go to the grocery store and redeem the bottles at 2 cents a bottle.  Then we bought gas and hit the road. 

I had boundaries where I was allowed to drive.  I could drive anywhere in the city limits (big city, less than 5000 people; I think the sign said 4799).  I was allowed to push the boundary to go to the Hungry Hound or the movie drive in out on the Falls Highway.  No further down the Falls Highway was allowed.   And never ever was I allowed to drive on Fifth Street Road.  That road and teenagers usually resulted in wrecks.  Yes, the one time a bunch of us went out there, the driver hit a telephone pole.  We were sore but not hurt badly.

What all did we do in cars you ask?  If you weren't driving sometimes you sat in the back and necked.  There were lots of other things to do in a car:  playing chicken, drag racing, scratching off (google doesn't have anything on this other than lottery tickets) also called laying rubber or peeling out.  That I did, not the others.  You put the car in park or neutral depending on whether you had an automatic or stick shift., foot on the brake  Then you floored the accelerator, dropped into gear, and took your foot off the brake.  Loud, smoky, and  rubber covered the street.  We thought it was very impressive.

Others things we did in the car: ate, threw our trash into open car windows, played loud Rock n Roll, drove by our crush's homes, raced 18 wheelers through town (they stayed on the main drag and we went down a street with few stop lights) honking and waving them out of town.  Did not take much to entertain us.

We cruised the drive ins checking out cars, boys, and met up with friends.  Cars were the way to be social.  Not getting the car was cause for great teary scenes.  Cars were not just a form of transportation.  Cars were where the fun was. 

Sunday, April 12, 2015

A short update

I haven't updated for a couple of weeks.  Not since the scan fiasco.  There isn't a lot to tell you all.  My chemo sessions are not making me sick as the pre Christmas chemo did.  And that is the great news.

I feel pretty good, slight nausea and very tired.  I take a pill and the nausea goes away.  I am eating well, maybe too well.  Cheetos showed up on my plate this week!  YUMMMY!  The tiredness is helped by scattered naps through the day.  I sometimes almost forget I have cancer.  The tiredness is sort of strange.  I feel weak inside, as if I were boneless, it really is hard to describe the feeling.

One other possible side effect is I am wobbly and dizzy, more so then usual.  This could be from my long standing inner ear problem, heart and blood pressure medicine, the chemo, or all of them. What ever it is, it highly entertains Marty when I walk into a door, bounce off a wall, or grab banisters and furniture in order to stay upright.  He is not entertained when I grab him and nearly pull him down as I start leaning and can't stop. 

I am doing more of the cooking since I am feeling better.  I help with the laundry, I even have been changing the sheets. I admit some things I could do more often, such as dusting and maybe even run the sweeper, but I tell myself I am sick with cancer.  Why should I do things I hate now?  After a couple of days I talk myself into dusting and feel saintly for doing it.

 I feel stronger, but not totally normal.  But I will take it.  Almost normal is great.

A huge amount of pancreatic cancer patients don't make it 6 months after they are diagnosed.  I have passed that 6 months and into my 7th month.  Is it the treatment, was it found earlier than most people's, it is prayers?  I don't know, but I am betting on prayers.

Prayer warriors keep up the good work.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Courtship and wedding with Marty

Today is our 48th Anniversary.  We can't believe it has been that long.  This post will be about our meeting and time around the wedding.

We met on a blind date in February 1966, not the best date I was ever on.  But we clicked and dated every weekend.  Marty was working full time for CHEVRON as a station  manager and finishing night school at the University of Louisville.  I taught first grade in Oldham County, KY.  I have always said we married because it was the only way to have more time together.

Being a man has nothing to do with age, it is what you do and how you react to situations.  I had dated males older than Marty, but they were boys.  Marty was a man.  We had grown up dates: dinner in restaurants with strolling violins, we went dancing, to movies, to the theater, and to church with his Mother.  He always wore a suit and I was dressed to the nines.

I have taken a job in Florida but I no longer wanted to leave Kentucky.  I told Marty I loved him, asked if  he was going to let me move away.  Pretty pushy for 1966.  Luckily he loved me and I backed out of the job.

A couple of weeks before we married I had (the doctors thought) an allergic reaction to the measles shared by one of my students.  I ended up in the hospital for a week.  There was talk that the wedding should be called off.  I said if I had to be pushed down the aisle on a gurney I was getting married.

We married April 8, 1967.  Our Mothers invited every person and relative they knew, over 500 invitations went out.  Maybe between us Marty and I knew 100 of the guests.  The dress rehearsal was a nightmare as the mothers tried to take over.  Manly Marty shut that down and said the non traditional music was our choice and it was our wedding.  We used the wedding march from the Sound of Music and Trumpet Voluntary.  It was wonderful.

But that night I was a wreck.  Marriage is a huge step, You are an adult with no safety net.  I cried all night.  Mother got in bed with me and said, "You don't have to marry that boy.  We will call off the wedding."  This is less that 12 hours before the wedding.  Best Mother ever.  But I wanted to get married, I was just scared. 

That  morning I went to my hair done.  When I got home everyone but one bridesmaid was gone.  They had gone to the wedding without the bride.  They had told my bridesmaid I would drive her to the church.  So we had two cars at the wedding.  Not real sure how my car got back home.

You can't even tell I cried all night. 
During the ceremony I saw movement up in the balcony.  It was my brother in law running with a fire extinguisher.  One of the candles had fallen and his fireman training kicked in.  All was well.  No fire.   
As we came up the aisle, our next door neighbor leaned over to Mother and said, "Poor Marty, he's married a doctor bill." (boy was she right)  Her very young daughter asked in the clear voice children have, (Where is their baby?)  She hadn't had that sex talk yet and thought babies just arrived with the ceremony.
Now to our wedding night, not that part.  Because I had been so sick we went back to our apartment.  The honeymoon had been canceled.  Only one person knew where we were, fireman brother in law.  Mother heard Marty's fraternity brothers talking about crashing/trashing our apartment, one had a key.  She found out we were there and was really worried.  So they called us and warned us.
My wedding night was spent at Sears buying a dead bolt lock and installing it.  After all that, the guys never showed up.  Thank goodness.
Good thing we had canceled the Honeymoon.  We would have been called back for Marty to work. He had graduated from college and was a Sales Rep.  One of his station managers had embezzled from CHEVRON.  Marty spent days straightening out the mess.  This was warning about how CHEVRON I was married to them to.
This is just a little that went on during that time.  I was going to write about events over the 48 years.  But this has become too long.  So in later posts I will share.  Hospitals over the years, how we spent anniversaries over the years, shoveling snow, putting in yards, ER runs with our son, and lots more. 


Monday, April 6, 2015

Crazy Day at the Marriage FactoryCcrazy

Joe has written about Crazy Friday.   Thanks Joe

I haven't figured out if there is an actual correlation between holidays and wedding traffic.  Christmas is busy, New year's Eve not.  Halloween is a crap shoot.  Easter Eve Eve Day, at least this year, was quite busy.  I needed a runner by 11 AM: 4 licenses on the desk → 4 weddings done → still 4 licenses on the desk.  I served 2 very large crowds and and thee were couples arriving as I left.

Advice for Parents: if you want your child's wedding to go well, let your child plan that wedding and be a happy guest. Don't order everyone around and especially don't stand next to the couple during the ceremony glaring at the officiant. That just looks creepy.

On the other end of the family spectrum were the uncontrolled children.  I can handle one toddler who tears around the wedding room yelling.  I'm even OK with two in a row.  There were three separate couples with runaways youngsters, one of whom punched his father the groom in the stomach during the vows.  Luckily, tiny fists don't hurt that much.

There were a few folks from "away", including a bride who'd flown 23 hours the day before just to get to the Bay Area in time for her wedding and a guest dropping in from Dubai to server as the only witness for her friends.  That's dedication.

Fashion report
So much purple!  It took until the second couple with a purple theme for me to make the connection to Easter. One bride wore a white dress with purple lipstick and purple flowers in her bouquet. Most of the large crowd wore a shade of purple, including grape, lilac, and lavender.

The award for best gear of the day goes to the bride with the blue top and orange skirt whose groom wore an orange shirt and blue jeans.  Her bodice had a design of origami cranes forming and flying away - very clever!

By The Numbers
Ceremonies: 14
Formal wear: 9
"As long as I will": 1
Misbehaving child wearing dapper-looking three-piece suit: 1

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Life is different today

Picture a playground today: swings, climbing structures, slides. All the equipment is made of plastic.  There are all kinds of protective items.  On the ground are rubber mats in case someone falls, slides are plastic, swings have safety bars, slides have safety sides, you can't fall off the climbing structures because you are climbing inside it.  This is nothing like I grew up with.   How did we survive?

Our school playground in the 1950's was hard dirt, rocks, and sometimes broken glass. And there was no plastic equipment.  Under the swings were scooped out holes that usually were little muddy ponds.  The playground was hard as a rock or muddy, and often both. 

Picture metal swings that were at least 12 feet tall.  To adjust the height of the swings one of the big kids would throw the swing over the top to raise the height of the swing.  We would  have orange hands from holding onto the rusty chains that held the wooden or metal seats.  We would push off with our feet to get moving, thus digging out the above muddy ponds.  Or we stood up and pumped like mad.  When as high as we dared, we jumped off, onto the rock hard ground.  Don't know how we didn't kill ourselves.  Now some of the really brave kids would loop the top bar and if lucky, not fall off as they went over. 

But that was just one of the killer pieces we played on.  We had monkey bars, again metal.  (imagine a sunny day and metal, ow!  You swung by your hands from bar to bar.  The really dangerous part, people would start from opposite ends.  The point being to meet in the middle and knock the other person off. 

See-saws. probably the most dangerous thing on the playground.  If you have ever been on the up side and your "friend" on the low side jumped off, you know exactly what I mean.

Now we come to the big metal slides, with a ladder going up and very short sides going down.  In the 1950's most little girls wore dresses to school.  The dresses had puff sleeves and sashes that tied in the back.  The sash regularly would catch at the top of the slide but you would continue down.  I can't tell you how many times I went home with a hole where the sash should have been.

Imagine wearing the cute dress and going down a metal slide on a hot sunny day.  You could get burns on your legs.  Plus at the bottom you had to jump because the slide also had a muddy pond.  Landed in it many times.

If you know where to find one of these metal slides be sure to take some wax paper.  If you rub down the slide with the wax paper, you will get a faster ride.

Now we come to my favorite equipment,  the Giant Stride.  Marty had never heard of them so many of you  probably haven't either.   I loved the Giant Stride.  If you go here , number 6 is a picture of one.  The whole article is interesting as it explains the dangers of old time playground equipment.  For those who don't go to links, picture a May pole with handles on chains hanging down.  You ran around and would swing off your feet.  Also one person would wrap their chain over all the others and then get the ride of their life.

We played on other dangerous thing: merry go rounds (I caught my foot under one and still have a large bone like knot 60 years later), grapevines were not trustworthy especially over a creek, trees were made to fall out of, garage roofs made a great fort, clamp on roller skates, just to name a few.

Were we tougher than the kids today?  Probably not, we just played on what was there. 

Friday, April 3, 2015

Hope Springs Eternal

Joe has sent us another report on marriages.  He wants you all to have the chance to read it.  Thanks Joe.

Samuel Johnson called second marriages "the triumph of hope over experience", and I think were he to join me for a week of weddings, he'd double down on that. This past week saw several return Marriage Factory customers, including one couple who'd had 5 previous swings and misses between them. If there's one thing marriage teaches, it's that everyone makes mistakes.  Sometimes the marriage is that mistake.

It would seem that being married before affects the chances of success, but luckily, my personal experience belies that. My mother stayed married to my stepfather from 1981 until she passed away. I have relatives and friends in very happy second or even third marriages. I am married to someone who has been married once before. We have been married almost 15 years, so it seems to have taken. Since America is the land of reinvention, why shouldn't that apply to weddings?

Fashion report
It was all about tiger print this week, with one bride in tiger-print heels and another in a tiger-print blouse.  The winner was my final couple, with guests dressed in flowing multicolored saris and the bride in a black gown with gold detailing and beads.

By the numbers
Ceremonies: 10
Formal wear: 8
Couple who had a large crowd at their confidential wedding: 1

Joe Mallon