Thursday, October 28, 2010

Weighty Matters

 All appears good on the check-up front. We'll know in a week when the four vials of my blood they took have been appropriately screened, tested and magnified (or whatever it is they do with all that blood o' mine).

My visit to Dr. Glaspy for my one-year and 6 months post-chemo (or one-year three months post all treatments) check-up went just about as I expected with one exception.

I mentioned the lingering issues which either occured during chemo and never went away or have cropped up since chemo and my body does not seem to be clearing up by itself. In no particular order those are:

1) my eyelashes continue to grow in and then fall out. Every few months (like now) I end up with three or four long normal eyelashes and then stubble for the rest. And mascara looks ridiculous. The horned-eyelid effect is not a good one.

2) my digestive system has never returned to normal. Enough said.

3) I have to cough and clear my throat for anywhere from 5 to 20 minutes after eating anything.

4) the right breast (the formally "afflicted" one) seems to have a certain unnatural firmness (right, I know...not supposed to be something one would complain about...unless one was a panicky former breast cancer patient).

5) I still have sleep issues (insomnia and night sweats).

Now, none of these things are problems that cause me pain or worry or really even are things I think much about. But, this far out from treatment I figured I'd ask if these were now just a permanent part of me or if there was anything I could do about any of the above. And for item #1 I asked about a prescription for Lashtisse (or whatever that is Brooke Shields does the eyelash super-growth commercials for). I also asked about seeing a nutritionist and/or ear, nose & throat specialist.

Dr. Glaspy gave me that patient, indulgent smile of his along with the Lashtisse prescription (clearly, he is not a believer! But also, I think he may think eyelash growth is a silly concern. He may have a point). Then he said....he said...cough, cough...he....said.....(with the exception of #4 which is the result of the radiation)......cough....he said....

"I'm willing to bet that all of these issues would clear up if you lost some weight."


Wow. again.

Now, it's not like I haven't noticed I've gained weight. According to my chart, I've gained 12 lbs since the cancer odyssey began. And I've gained 30 since Chris and I began dating (as has Chris; we're sure this is pure coincidence).  But I've never in my life been overweight or had to watch what I ate. Not rail thin, but not overweight. And I eat (and drink) like a teenage boy. And I don't exercise. At all. Huh. Who knew that was all going to catch up with me one day?? And now is that one day. I'm telling myself that I'll take walks while I'm in Paso Robles next week and when I return I will join the gym and talk to a nutritionist. Assuming I can roll myself off this couch and get myself all washed up with that rag I've got tied to the end of a stick for bathing purposes now.

Then we left Dr. Glaspy, went on over to the (totally healthy, dietetic, nutritional) Cheese Shop of Beverly Hills. $200 later (including purchases for friends) we went to our usual "no cancer anymore" dinner celebration with the good and great Dr. Karam. See photo above for his hair growth (the curls are coming back) and mine (the curls are going away!). And photo below for how Chris's massive head of hair is doing (he's due for a cut, but the nurse drawing my blood was loving his great hair and complimented him on maybe he won't cut it just yet).

Much to our surprise we later ran into Emily, Chris's BFF from high school, and Emily's former roomie Hillary. The amazing coincidence here is that the first time we met Dr. Karam was of course January 8, 2009-- my first appointment after the "highly suspicious of malignancy phone call. That night after my appointment we went out to dinner with Emily (and some random never seen again guy--by us; but Emily has dumped him too) and another friend of Chris's, Ashley. So last night, the other friend role was played by Hillary (second from right) and the random guy role was played by Shawn (second from left)--one of the owner's of The Yard where we ate. And hey, anybody recognize the not-so-random guy in this next photo?

Chef CJ --fan favorite from Top Chef Season 2. He's the chef at The Yard and joined us for a bit. Obviously he was just trying to show me how tall and thin is done. Apparently, it can be done. Huh. Something to think about....while I finish off these cheese and crackers and sip some more wine.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Checking In and Up

Time has a way of flying by. I've heard that somewhere.

So, it's been one year and 3 months since I finished up all breast cancer treatments. And we know what that's the quarterly visit to UCLA Medical Center! I go tomorrow to see Dr. Glaspy, my oncologist, for a check-up. And then of course we'll be seeing the good and great Dr. Karam for dinner which is more like a check-in. If you are wondering what the difference is, the obvious one is that I have my top on for one of those events. And there is food at only one of those events.

Although for the most part I've moved on to not even thinking about the breast cancer, it's inevitable that when I get close to the check-up appointment time I start paying too much attention to too many things. If my back or ankle hurt, instead of old age I (momentarily) think bone cancer? And lately anytime I eat anything I have to spend twenty minutes coughing and clearing my throat. And instead of thinking "allergies," I think throat cancer??  So I will be happy to go see Dr. Glaspy, have him say "all looks good" (and typically when I tell him my weird "symptoms" he smiles patiently and gives me the logical answer-- you know, like "old age" and "allergies.") Then I can return to forgetting about BC. Except for the fact that it is breast cancer awareness month. Hard to miss all that pink.

I did check my own blog here to remind myself where I was this time last year (this time 2 years ago, I was oblivious to the whole cancer thing!). And ironically, since it was then my first post-treatment quarterly oncology check-up--I was in pretty much the same situation (just with less hair). I was trying to think of myself as "any other dog" (a la Seamus). Hmmm...maybe I'm not progressing as much as I thought.

Ah well. Stay tuned. I'll report back in on the check-up and dinner with the good and great doctor. Perhaps we'll even get an updated photo on my hair status and his (he had shaved off all those gorgeous curls, so he's got some hair growing-out to do as well!). Oh, and you she see the massive head of hair Chris is sporting once again. Right, hair growth. Now that's going to be exciting....

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Breast Cancer Bloggers

Check out the Woman's article on breast cancer just might see someone you know. (Right, I wrote a piece for it. You are so clever to figure that out!). And the interesting part is I "know" two of the other bloggers--through their blogs. Apparently, it's a small BC Blog world.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Of Books & Beagles (No Boobies…yet)

Last April I met author Reed Farrel Coleman at the LA Times Festival of Books. He was able to help mutual friend and author Sara Henry (Sara in Vermont blog) pick me out of a crowd (before that we'd only met "virtually" through our blogs). And now I'm thrilled to be participating in the blog tour for his new book, Innocent Monster. Especially because the book involves wine…and a beagle. Here's some official stuff about the book and then we'll get to the really meaty stuff…you know, my questions:

About the book:

"Sashi Bluntstone, the 11-year-old Next New Thing on the New York art scene, has been abducted, and Moe Prager—former NYPD cop and former PI—is asked by his estranged daughter, Sarah, to join the search. He expects only tragedy; Sashi has already been missing for three weeks, and he hasn't been a PI for seven years. Now a well-to-do wine merchant, Moe agrees, primarily to attempt to restore his relationship with Sarah." – from Booklist

And now for my hard-hitting questions for a hard-boiled p.i. writing kinda guy:

1) Let's get the obvious stuff out of the way. Tell us what's hot in wine right now. Kidding! But what wine do you suggest readers indulge in when they first sit down with Innocent Monster? And how about when they finish it? (Obviously this book is worth two bottles, no?)

I'm all about reds and so is Moe. In fact, reds are allegorical for the books and the series: very complex, about different flavors and sensations at different points of the drinking experience, changeable. I would suggest three wines for Innocent Monster. I would begin with a South African Shiraz, transition to an old vine California Zinfandel, and finish with an aged French Cabernet.   

2) Where does your wine knowledge come from? My significant other, a wine guy himself, says you know your stuff.

I worked for a French transport firm for five years in the 80s and got a rudimentary wine education. They were big on office celebrations which meant lots of Champagne. I'm a dry, yeasty Champagne, not lemony kinda guy. My older brother David, the model for Moe's brother Aaron, has long been an oenophile and has a sommelier's certificate. He's the source of most of the details about wine in the book. I know the basics, but he knows the specifics. Now my oldest brother Jules has gotten into wine in a big way. Half the emails I get are from We're allreds guys, but Jules and David do white too.      

3) I assume you do not feel compelled to kill people or solve mysteries during book signings and conferences, but do you feel obligated to be drinking wine? (This would be such a fantastic excuse for constant imbibing that I'm really hoping for an affirmative answer here!)

One never needs feel the obligation. Drinking red wine is my default setting. I like the occasional beer or gin and tonic, but these days it's all about the red wine. Plus, at conferences, drinking can get a little ridiculous and with a glass of red in your hand you can stretch a glass out for a long time but still enjoy it. Try that with a beer. Doesn't work. I didn't even need your prompting to say that red wine drinking is just the perfect drink at conferences, conventions, and book events.  

4) A beagle or two makes an appearance in Innocent Monster (and surprisingly, not as the title character). When did you first realize they are in fact the greatest dog ever?

My closest and dearest friend Ellen, a school librarian, always hated dogs. I mean HATED dogs. So when she decided to get a beagle, I knew they were magical and mythical creatures. And the beagle she got, Olivia, is just the coolest dog. She loves her Uncle Reed to no end and howls for me when she hears my car pull up to the house and makes me pet her, which I would do without prompting anyway, for 15 minutes before she calms down. She even smiles at me. Olivia is the model for the dogs in the book and she did in fact eat all of Ellen's family's Hanukah gelt (chocolates shaped like coins and wrapped in gold foil). God, she was really sick for days.

5) Do you think that the beagle will take over all future novels and suddenly you'll be the beagle mystery king giving the cat mystery genre queens a run for their money? Beagles have that sort of mind-bending power, you know.

Hey, if there are cat and dog detectives already, why not have a beagle be the Sherlock Holmes of animal detectives?

6) You've covered wine and beagles in a book - which pretty much covers the three most important things in my life. Do you think you can get breast cancer into your next novel and confirm that you are in fact stalking my life for writing inspiration?

Read the next Moe book, Hurt
Machine and see if I don't surprise you.


Obviously we can expect to see Reed back on this blog. I'm thinking Moe is one of the 2,000 men a year diagnosed with breast cancer. (Hey, at least it's fictional!) And here's a bit more about Reed. Please note that among his awards is the "Shamus Award" (and for today, he gets the "Seamus award"). But the most important part about him is that he would be eternally grateful if you now went and bought his book (or really, all of them). You can do that on the link right below.

About the author:

Reed Farrel Coleman has been called a hard-boiled poet by NPR's Maureen Corrigan and the noir poet laureate in the Huffington Press. He's published eleven novels—two under his pen name Tony Spinosa—in three series, and the stand-alone Tower co-written with award-winning Irish author Ken Bruen. Reed has won the Shamus Award for Best Novel of the Year three times, won the Barry and Anthony, and twice been nominated for the Edgar. He is a co-editor of The Lineup and was the editor of the anthology Hard Boiled Brooklyn. The former executive VP of Mystery Writers of America, Reed is an adjunct professor at Hofstra University. You can reach Reed on his website, Facebook, or Twitter.

Innocent Monster 

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Angels in My Life

Based on that title, you're expecting a mushy post, aren't you? Really?

It's like you don't even know me.

I mean the Anaheim Angels. Okay, right the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (but that's just so stupid; the Angels and Disneyland are NOT in Los Angeles. Sorry. Pet peeve on the loose).

The Angels have played a special part in my and Chris's (epic!) love story. Our first date was at an Angels game (June 12, 2004); we've managed a Angels game every year since (preferably in the Diamond Club. Ahem.), even last year post-chemo but in the midst of radiation we spent our anniversary at the Angels game (see photo to right: fake hair; fake eyelashes; real smiles).

But recently, we had the ultimate Angels experience. Well, ultimate in a year when they weren't going to see any post-season play (which is a nice way of saying they sucked).

We were guests of Bank of America in a Dugout Suite. Which is...Sweet!!! Check out these seats!! It's like he was pitching to us.

(real hair; real eyelashes; real happiness...and yeah, that sky's real too. We're standing, but our seats are right there. Right. There. Awesomeness.)
Dessert cart inside the suite. Oh. My. Gawd. Yeah, I went for that red velvet cake you see in the upper right. Did I mention the bar in the suite? Yep, that too. But back to the game...
Ok, so I had to use my zoom lens on this one, but still...I'm loving this shot. I may have a sports photographer career in my future. Or some next life. Truly an amazing experience to view the game this close up. It reminded me of the first time I sat really close up at a ballet. I was forth row center--close enough to hear the ballerinas grunt (occasionally), see their muscles quiver, and ...get sprayed with sweat following some otherwise spectacular spins. At this Angels game the crack of the bat was much louder, we could hear the players talking (and yelling), we could hear the umpire's calls clearly and even heard him "caution" the Oakland A's players who were getting a little, well, rude about his calls. We could even get dusty from the field.
This shot was taken before the game started (and it was hot out, so most folks are inside the suite...where the bar and the food were), but gives you an idea just how cool our seats were.

Yep. Loving those Angels in my life.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

The Month of Pink

Happy October. And you know what that means. We are of course launched into Breast Cancer Awareness month. The Pink Ribbon Place kicked it off on Thursday night (September 30th--we were getting a jump on things) with a candlelight vigil. I did a brief M.C. stint for the event but mostly I enjoyed meeting and talking with the other survivors--including a young woman who was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 26. She was pregnant with her fourth child and her husband had been injured and was unemployed when she was diagnosed. She is in remission now, but tragically the baby, who was born healthy, died just a few weeks ago. I can't imagine the strength she has. She was there to speak to the crowd about her journey and how the Pink Ribbon Place helped her through (she had no insurance and couldn't get any health care providers to pay attention to her at first because she was "too young" for breast cancer.) Her three daughters played with Seamus, so he did his part too. An inspiring evening. And for the month of  October the lights on top of City Hall in Riverside will shine pink, to remind us all.

It's also been an exciting few weeks around our house. First, the Women of Achievement Luncheon (see post below), then some exciting news on the memoir agent search (not sharing yet...too soon!) and then an article came out in Inland Empire magazine featuring Seamus & me both as part of the "12 Local Survivors Tell Their Stories." (my picture even made the "table of contents"!!; that's it over to the right only it's not that blurry in the magazine).
I'm not too sure those links are all that useful (you may have to search through the online version of the magazine to find us (I'm on the page next to Ellen DeGeneres! Right after the article on Reese Witherspoon!  I'm like a Z-list celebrity! ;-) ). If I could post the article here, I would of course.

It's the month to wear pink, think pink, drink pink, your local breast cancer resource center!  Such as...The Pink Ribbon Place.  I'm just sayin'....