Friday, October 31, 2008

Seattle days

I had a great visit with my favorite Fred Hutch doctor yesterday. He validated the treatment course my D.C. doctor and I had settled on a couple of months ago and gave me some additional helpful information in case the drug I'm currently taking doesn't work. I'm really happy I met with him.

He also recommended a transfusion so I'll spend this morning in the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance infusion room--another procedure for old time's sake. (Halloween, a perfect time for a transfusion!)

Fortunately, the extreme fatigue (caused by a low hematocrit) didn't begin on Wednesday until after I was able to enjoy a fabulous hike with two friends, Julie Friedman and her beau Jeff Stone (two of those Seattle angels who visited me in D.C. this summer). We spent the day in one of my favorite hiking spots, Umtanum Canyon near Yakima in Eastern Washington.

This area is famous for its big-horned sheep which we were very lucky to spot. The gorgeous yellow cottonwood leaves were flitting in the breeze and we saw plenty of evidence of beavers. Unfortunately, we ran into two Cheney-look-a-like hunters--with dogs and rifles--right on this well-trodden trail!

One more walk on the itinerary, several more visits with friends (and hopefully, a few more gourmet vegan dinners!) and then home to D.C. on Sunday.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Having a great time...wish you were here

Traveling to Seattle with my low white cell count was scary but I made it in one piece. So far, I've had two great hikes and two yummy vegan dinners. (Seattle is famous for both.)

Here's a pic of three of my Seattle angels (l. to r., Jennifer, Rita, and Laurel) overlooking Deception Pass about an hour and a half north of Seattle. We saw seals, quail and cormorants, mountaintops, tons of sun, and miles of views.

On a side note: Seattle continues to grow, the traffic is atrocious -- and sadly, seven killer whales are presumed dead this week from lack of salmon. Still, the area is beautiful...

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Headed to Seattle

I've been trying to get to Seattle to visit friends and consult with a doctor at Fred Hutch for the past few weeks. It looks like I'll actually be leaving in the morning!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

This day cancels out the bad ones

During my bad weeks, I begin to wonder if fighting so hard against the cancer is worth it, but a day like today overrides all that negativity.

John and I had an absolutely gorgeous kayak on the Pocomoke River today in southeastern Maryland. We had the wind at our backs, the tide in our favor, and the eventual cooperation of a reticent sun.

The Pocomoke is more like southern rivers, with bald cypress trees and dark tannin-filled water. We were literally the only people on our section of the river for three hours. Just us and the birds and the gorgeous fall colors. No mosquitos and even more important, no hunters! Drifting downstream in conditions like these--pretty perfect.

Lesson #587: I had been sick on Friday night and afraid my hemoglobin was getting too low, but we took the chance and drove out to the Eastern Shore anyway. As some folks in D.C. say, "have a blessed day." And we did.

P.S. Here's a picture of the Pocomoke Canoe Company in Snow Hill, a fabulous canoe/kayak outfitter that portaged us back up the river. Snow Hill has a bit of a charm, as well as a neat little restaurant -- the Palette -- with some vegetarian options.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Quick update

The third round of Vidaza went OK. I always feel under the weather after a week of treatments, but am starting to feel "normal" again.

I was supposed to go to Seattle this week to visit friends and see a doc at Fred Hutch, the clinic where I had my transplant, but have had to postpone the trip for a week because my white count is really low and it's too risky to travel. (For those blissfully unaware of the importance of white blood cells, they protect us against infection.)

Meanwhile, the weather in D.C. is absolutely glorious.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Past the "hump day" of the third round

I know some of you wonder how my third round of Vidaza is going. Like the earlier two rounds, it's hardly fun but definitely a snap compared to heavier chemo that I've had. I've even been able to walk to some of the treatments. (Good exercise and much cheaper than parking tickets!)

At any rate, we will not know until after the fourth round--when I have another bone marrow biopsy--whether this drug is working.

One more shout out for the wonderful folks who donate blood. I had another transfusion on Tuesday and am so grateful for their generosity.

If you would like to help the cause in some way, please think about giving blood. In fact, Halloween is the perfect time!

Here's a fun holiday-inspired blood drive in Seattle. Other cities may have similar events but even if they're not, there are blood donation centers set up all around the country. Forgive my warped sense of humor, but all this focus on blood makes me think of vampires! (Sorry--the link in the graphic doesn't work.)

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Kayaking nirvana

I'm scheduled to begin another round of Vidaza on Monday so I wanted to have as much fun as possible this weekend. Fortunately, the gods cooperated with some drop-dead gorgeous weather.

So on Saturday, John and I drove out to a state park in Eastern Maryland and went up Tuckahoe Creek. It was one of the most beautiful kayak trips we've ever taken.

A meandering creek, calm (and deep enough) water, tons of turtles, some amazing beaver dams, an absence of bugs, and not too many humans.

The trip would have been perfect if the hunters weren't shooting it up in the nearby woods. (Speaking of hunters ruining things, there's now a pink Palin-inspired bow for sale. God help us...) More kayaking pics here.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Must-read...on being a "bad patient"

Do you remember Charlotte York's amazingly sweet husband from Sex and the City, Harry Goldenblatt? Well, the actor who played Harry--Evan Handler--is also amazing for another reason. He had a successful bone marrow transplant for leukemia in the 80's and speaks out about the benefits of being pushy, aggressive, and relentlessly involved in every aspect of your care.

I can't wait to read his books and stop feeling guilty about double-checking everything. He says he knows he's saved his own life several times and given what I've through, I believe it! Read about him in this fabulous CNN interview about being a "bad patient."

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Seeing pink over breast cancer

It's that especially ironic time of the year--Breast Cancer Awareness Month--when you can help fight breast cancer by buying wine, steak dinners, and other pink-labeled products that may actually increase your risk of breast cancer. (In case you spend more time reading AdBusters than newspaper ads, it's the month when many businesses will donate a portion of these sales to breast cancer research.)

While I love the idea of a month devoted to raising awareness about a disease that has made my life so difficult, I don't like the fact that many companies seem to be using it to "pinkwash" themselves. And I hate the fact that so many of the funds are going to animal research rather than to prevention (for example, advocating for vegetarian diets, exercise, and a pollution-free world). Perhaps that's not surprising given that the month was invented by the drug industry...

If you want to donate money to help fight breast cancer, skip the pink M & Ms and choose one of the cruelty-free charities that carry the Humane Charity Seal of Approval; Avon is one of them.