Saturday, December 26, 2009

Aloha, Maui

I have to say, if you are trying to generally avoid Christmas but still be celebratory and be certain not to be down, Maui is an excellent place to spend the holidays. I'm sure one could come here and really actually enjoy Christmas too (lord knows there are plenty of families here doing so. Oh, and note to said families, if you are going to have a family portrait on the beach at sunset, and you all do, for the love of god wear something other than khaki shorts and white shirts so we can tell you apart!).

Our Christmas day was spent whale watching (note photo; no, we are not whales. We did see some but oh my god are they hard to photograph) and having brunch, which included mai tais, with the Pacific Whale Foundation on board Discovery II. Unfortunately, we encountered a whale that had been seriously injured by a boat and since this was the Whale Foundation, our captain's job was to babysit the whale (and ward off other boats) until the rescue boat got there. Although the captain said there was probably nothing that could be done for the whale--except keeping other boats away (and how long can that go on for?). We spent most of the tour floating near the injured whale. Afterward, on our way back in, they cued the performing whale (who Chris named "Timmy"; I don't know why) and Timmy began performing spectacularly, repeatedly breaching and waving his dorsal fin--which is why it seemed he was a "ringer" whale to make up for the injured whale experience. Before Timmy, I almost, but didn't quite, launch into a sad state (the poor injured whale!). I kept telling myself it was nature (but it was a boat!!) and nature can be cruel (don't we know that?!). Timmy and his exuberance saved the day. Okay, so did the mai tais.

The rest of the day was spent at the condo, relaxing on the lanai, reading and napping. Dinner was hot dogs and potato chips and wine. A lovely non-Christmasy meal. Neither one of us felt like moving, dining out, or really cooking much, so it was perfect.

Here's my best whale shot (it's Timmy; wave back to him).

We leave Maui late tonight on a red eye flight. It's been a wonderful trip. We've completely explored both the big Island and Maui, went for long walks on the beach, spent two days on the beach and one poolside, been on a lava boat tour (and seeing molten lava pour into the sea is a must-see experience), had several fantastic meals, toured a tropical, botanical garden, a lavender farm and a goat farm (fantastic goat cheese! and newborn babies right as we arrived), gone wine tasting on each island, seen whales, and waterfalls, and gorgeous stretches of beaches and tropical LOST-like jungles; I read two books, wrote about 10 pages, took nearly 500 photographs, and finally, relaxed. Most importantly, I rarely thought about cancer and we never mentioned it. I've lost my compulsion to "explain" my hair to people (actually, it was great to have short hair on vacation) and when I wore my "survivor" t-shirt on Christmas day, even though it says "out-chemo, out-radiate, out-live" and there's the pink ribbon and all, the only comments I got were from people who assumed I meant the TV reality show. Huh. Maybe this BC odyssey really is over.

Onward to 2010!
(Christmas Eve dinner at Mama's Fish House).

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Provence, Maui

One of the many problems with having  breast cancer this year (yes, there are problems with breast cancer. Who knew??) was that Chris and I basically missed out on summer. Summer is our favorite season. By far. But with radiation and what not, I was banned from the sun and well...bald. So we weren't really out playing in the sun much. That's part of the reason we picked Hawaii for our December trip. Our "make-up" summer.  As it has turned out, we got an added bonus.

 We also missed going to France this year (stupid cancer!). But today, on Maui, we got to make up for that too. We went "upcountry" to what really should be known as Provence, Maui. Why? Because stop number 1 was a lavender farm, where we walked the fields and then had lavender lemonade and a lavender scone with lavender honey (and we bought some lavender honey to go with...well, wait and see how the rest of the day went).

 Then we went a little further "upcountry" and went wine tasting! who knew there was such a thing as pineapple wine (and it wasn't bad, but there was some "normal" wine too, made from, you know, grapes and all).

(Note bag in Chris's hand...a little Maui Rose' champagne).

And then we journeyed on over to....

The Surfing Goat Dairy Farm for a little goat cheese tasting!! And as we arrived, many baby goats were being born. Spectacularly cute.

Minutes after they were born they were brought out from the barn to the sunny, grassy area where we could watch them try to stand (sometimes helped by the border collies) and then eventually run and play.

(They're not running...they're trying to stand up). After they are sturdy, they get moved over to a different pen. And surfing lessons begin.

And did you know Santa had goats? And lived in Maui?

After a "flight of goat cheese" tasting and  buying some incredibly fresh, fantastic pure goat cheese (called "udderly delicious")  to go with our lavender honey and rose champagne (read: Christmas day on the lanai), we ended our day back down in Lahaina, with mai tais of course.

But, I feel compelled to mention that I had absolutely nothing to do with this:

Monday, December 21, 2009

The Way to Spend December

Maybe I've been too hard on December. Maybe December isn't always about sickness and death and bad stuff happening.  Maybe December could just be about lazy days reading in a chaise lounge, mai tais, walks on the beach, palm trees, sunsets and kind strangers offering to take our photo.

Today anyway, that's what December was about. I could get to like this.

Okay, wait....Chris just brought me a glass of Chardonnay and a bag of Lay's potato chips (also known as "Teresa's favorite trashy 'meal'"). I could get to love this.

Walking south on the beach.
And then north (notice how few people are here?? Amazing).

P.S. I'm feeling so good about December, I made reservations for us to go on a Christmas brunch whale watching tour!  Details (and photos) will be forthcoming.

Friday, December 18, 2009

One Year Ago (the BC anniversaries begin)

One year ago today I was sitting in my doctor's office because I felt a strange thickening, lump-ish sort of thing in my right breast. And the physician's assistant said, "I don't like this one bit." So began my breast cancer odyssey.

This year, I'm cancer free, relaxing in Hawaii with the one I love--the one who saw me every step of the way through this-- and enjoying the view. This year, I could marvel at mother nature in an entirely different way.

(First photo is from our hotel room balcony--Chris is out there right now. Second photo is from the lava boat tour we took last night. Yeah, that's lava pouring in to the sea. Amazing.)

You'll understand if this is a short post, right?

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Mammogram Math

I read this article in the New York Times this morning and I think it, although heavy on math, is a rational and helpful discussion on the task force mammogram recommendations. Mammogram Math.  So I thought I'd share. Your thoughts?

Friday, December 11, 2009

Beach bound

My foot neuropathy seems to be getting better.

My hair is getting longer.

The cough is pretty much gone.

My ribs are starting to feel better.

I've got only 3 more days in the office (yeah, still need to work Sunday).

Things are looking up.

And do you know why?

Because that photo is where I will be in just about 100 hours from now. I'm trying not to jinx it (you'll understand if I'm skeptical about this time of year, right?), but I'm really looking forward to this. I need a vacation from this year.

The laptop is going with me (I'm going to keep writing the memoir), so expect photos and maybe a little bragging. Also news of a tsunami total relaxation.

And just so we all remember how far I've come...remember this little encounter with a Hawaiian Sunset last January? Ha! Obviously it was just a vision of happiness to come.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

200th Post--and it's Deja Vu all over again

Yep, it's the 200th blog post. And coincidentally, I journeyed back to UCLA and the good and great Dr. Karam again yesterday. And, for those of you keeping track, you'll quickly figure out that my 3 month check-up was only a month ago so there's no way it's time for the 6 month check-up. No, I went back because I found another lump in my right breast. This time it was right breast 2 o'clock. Deep breaths. This time, it's only a build-up of hardened tissue caused by all that radiation. But what a couple of weeks it was worrying about it! There's actually a funny story here and now I can tell it (because my parents read the blog and others who don't need to be worrying about me right now, I didn't post about this until I knew it was nothing to be concerned about).

A couple of weeks ago, I felt the lump. And just like last time I got a second opinion from Chris. He didn't think it was anything, but I did. In fact, I had a whole little spiral downward of "oh shit, here we go again." (You may remember I mentioned having a really shitty week? Yeah, this was the beginning of it). And then a couple of days later was The Pink Ribbon Place's professionals panel that I was moderating. Of course, Dr. Karam was one of the speakers. So after the event, when folks were still hanging about chatting, I mentioned the lump to Dr. Karam. He offered to exam me..., the lump. It seemed like the prudent, if somewhat odd, thing to do--hey, it would save me from driving to UCLA. We set about trying to find a private room for a private exam. Recall that the event was at the Community Room of the Riverside Police Department, which isn't really set up for, you know, breast exams. But it was Captain Meredyth Meredith to the rescue. She's a breast cancer survivor herself so she understands the sort of panic a lump can cause. Off we went to her office, and yep, Dr. Karam examined "right breast 2 o'clock" in the privacy of the Captain's office, with her stationed outside (weapon and all!). Too funny. If, you know, I hadn't been worried that my cancer had come back before I'd even grown my hair back out! Dr. Karam's opinion (which turned out to be correct, naturally) was that it was hardened tissue caused by the radiation. I was relieved, but also noted that his bottom lip was sticking out during the exam and to me, he looked more concerned than he was letting on. Or, maybe that was just me. He suggested that I come in for an ultrasound, just to be sure.

I, being me, decided I'd rather wait until after Thanksgiving and getting some stuff taken care of at work before thinking about being cancer girl again. I underestimated how much the not knowing would weigh on my mind. I should have just recalled the "if this were any other dog" lesson I learned when Seamus was post-treatment. I should have just remembered that I once upon a time (long, long ago) had cancer and therefore I'm always going to get "special treatment" and need to have things checked out. It doesn't mean it's cancer. I'll have to get used to that.

Yesterday I and my lump and my entourage headed out to UCLA. Because hey, we may as well make a fun day of it, right? Brein and Roryann Clements and Sheena Meder and Ronaldo Fierro joined us for the afternoon--which started with Bloody Marys (aka spicy courage) and French Dips at Cole's in downtown LA.

Then, we were off to UCLA for my ultrasound. The entourage had Starbucks (and worried about me, I'm sure) while Chris and I visited with Dr. Karam and the ultrasound machine. The good news was, as mentioned, it's just hardened tissue. The bad news was my cough--which is just not going away and my ribs on the right side (weakened from the radiation) are really painful. So, I got a Z pak prescription (antibiotics). We'll see if that kicks it. But hey, no cancer! (The top picture is me with the entourage after I came out and gave them the thumbs up that we were free to proceed with our fun LA day without any cancer tagging along; which is good because Ronaldo "hates" cancer people. So he keeps telling me.) The ultrasound was otherwise uneventful. Chris did ask if it was a boy or a girl and looked really emotional staring at the ultrasound. But that's because he says it looked like pork belly, and he's a big fan of pork belly.

After those touching moments, we were off to the Beverly Hills Cheese Shop. Mmmmmmmm!!

And because that wasn't decadent enough, we made our way back downtown to the Pacific Dining Car for Caesar salads, steak in Bearnaise sauce, creamed spinach and onion rings. Oh, and there may have been a celebratory martini. And wine.

Ironically, in celebrating my good health, I managed to over-eat, over-indulge and feel not so hot that night, but hey, you could've been a lot worse.

And that's my 200th blog post! (Now, just leave a comment so I know you're still out there!)