Sunday, November 30, 2014

Saturday at Home

Today was actually warm today.  Well, relatively speaking.  It got all the way up to 39, which would have me turning on the heat at home, but I was standing outside enjoying the "warm" weather.

When I woke up and saw that Peach had put on her family reunion shirt, I surprised her because I had brought my shirt too.

For breakfast I had my last Iowa biscuits and gravy, something new I have come to enjoy. (But my friend Jessica tells me she's from Iowa and can keep me happy.)

We didn't do much this morning, except 3 loads of laundry.

Lunch was good and Peach was feeling so good she decided to go play cards with some friends, the first time she has felt good enough for games.  I came back to the apartment with Bob and finished the laundry and putting away the clean clothes.  I was going to meet Peach for cards, but Bob was confused about what time the upcoming afternoon's entertainment was, so I stayed with him and went to see Kirk Eastman give a concert, called "Dancing through the Decades," music mostly of the 50s.  DooWop music.

He played recorded songs on a karaoke machine, with backup accompaniment and singers, and accompanied himself on the guitar...or sometimes not.

One couple danced

and the audience watched.

Bob was exhausted when the concert was over, so sat in his walker and I pushed him back to the apartment.  When we got here, we discovered that the family of Bert, the lady who lives next door and who has terminal cancer (they hoped she would live till Thanksgiving, which she has done) were decorating the tree right outside her window.

Then my mother called to tell me she wasn't feeling well and didn't want to go to Thanksgiving dinner, so please don't come and pick her up.

So there is that to return to next week.  Sigh.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Marshmallow Sandwich

I've been here at Mallard Point long enough to see a pattern in the meals, where rarely is anything wasted.  What is supper tonight will show up in a dish for dinner tomorrow, or maybe even breakfast.  I don't have too many specific examples (except that a day or two after anything with potatoes in it, you can be sure we'll have potato soup, which is delicious).  

However, tonight's "turkey waldorf" was a new one for me.  Waldorf salad of a couple of days ago, mixed with leftover turkey and spread on a slice of bread.  Waldorf salad here is a mix of grapes, pineapple, pecans, and marshmallows with some kind of liquid.  Hence, when I bit into my sandwich tonight, I could see grapes and marshmallows (unfortunately I ate the marshmallow before I thought to take a photo).

The white circle is where the marshmallow used to be.  Dennis' salad shows remnants of several recent dishes.

From the slices of ham we had for breakfast the other day, to the curly pasta fettucini, to some sort of fruit, to the side dish of peas.  Nothing is wasted.

It was a lazy day.  Contrary to my fears, after I finished Funny the World at midnight and went to the couch to try to sleep, I fell asleep quickly, cocooned under a heavy layer of blankets (including a 49er blanket) and slept all night, not waking until nearly 7.

By the time Peach and I got up, Kris, Tom, Miranda and Matthew had been out Black Friday shopping for hours.  We had our coffee and sat on the couches, while Princess (with whom I fell in love) sunned herself.

Kris and Tom didn't buy much and left Miranda and Matthew still shopping while they came home to have breakfast with us, pack the truck up, and head back to Cedar Falls.

The landscape is pretty bleak around here at this time of the year and this is pretty much what it looked like for the better part of the not quite an hour it took to drive back. They say in summer this is all corn.

I said good bye to Kris, who won't be back, now, until Wednesday, when Peach has her next treatment.  It was sad to say goodbye, but I have known her two siblings all these years better than Kris and this trip has given me a chance to get to know her, Tom and Matthew a bit better.  Kris was born a week or so after Walt and I got married, and was the reason Peach and Bob could not come to our I told her I will never forget how old she is!

She and Tom have been so good to me while I've been here and I have really appreciated all they have done.

The three old fogies (and the two old doggies) were worn out when we got back.  We had had a very busy time for two days, relaxing and eating and relaxing some more.  It was a difficult life.  We managed to stagger to the dining room to be fed a delicious meal after we got back home, but then we headed back to the apartment where Bob took a nap and Peach and I just kind of vegetated.  I may have dozed off too.

Bob and I went to dinner, while Peach heated some cream of tomato soup in the apartment.  Then we watched a movie and called it a night.  As I said, it was a quiet day and we needed it after all the excitement of the previous two days.

(My god are we old!!!)

I'm going to miss this place, a bit, but I probably won't make a marshmallow sandwich when I get home.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Baby, It's Cold Outside

This is the house where Matt and Miranda live, with the Santa in front of it, taken from in front of Kris and Tom's house.

This is the house where Kris and Tom live (on the right), taken from the porch of Matt's house,.

When it is this cold...

...and you have food and feeble old people to get from one house to the other, you drive.  Believe it or not, I took the picture of Kris & Tom's house standing on Matthew's porch in my stocking feet.  But it had warmed up to 7 by then.

It was a full day.  A very full day, starting with Peach getting all dressed up in her Thanksgiving finery and wearing one of her two new wigs, looking very beautiful and festive.

Miranda and Matt came over for breakfast.  Tom cooked his famous "Iowa skillet" (I think that was what he called it.  Not sure what he called it before they moved to Iowa)

Shortly after breakfast we packed up and moved the feast across the street, where Miranda had prepared a groaning board of hors d'oeuvres.

Peach and I worked together to make the stuffing for the turkey.

And then Peach stuffed the bird.

While Miranda and Matt were working together in the kitchen.

This was the first Thanksgiving dinner they had prepared and they wanted to get it right.  Miranda had worked a double shift at the store where she works yesterday and had not gotten home until 3 a.m.  She was amazing.

While everything cooked, the gang looked over newspaper inserts trying to plan Black Friday shopping.

Peach and I had a Skype conference with my mother, Ned and Walt.

Eventually the turkey came out of the oven and Tom carved it.

Miranda's table looked beautiful...and she even had special Thanksgiving plates.

I had been planning to make a pumpkin pie, but through a series of hilarious and too complicated to add here circumstances, I made a cherry cheesecake instead.  Tom had purchased a Marie Callender's pumpkin pie as a back-up, so I figured I would have pumpkin pie anyway.

However, that was the one failure of the night.  Nobody ate the pumpkin pie.

We drove back across the street and started to watch the 49er-Seahawk game (sorry, Tom Sykes!) but my body cried out to lie down, at least for a little.  I went into a back room and passed out on the couch, waking at 11, finding myself covered with blankets and everyone else in bed.  Nice that I woke up in time to write this...and to be here when Jeri called to wish me a happy Thanksgiving.

And it was a happy Thanksgiving.  I hope everyone reading this had a good day too.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

A Hair-Raising Tale

I'm going to let this be pretty much a photo entry, except occasionally, because I think the photos are powerful enough.  Let me start by saying that whenever you see movies about women with cancer, there is usually that moment, after starting chemotherapy, when they wake up and find a long golden lock of hair on their pillow. Well, it doesn't exactly happen that way.  

Yesterday, I noticed that Peach's hair looked "different." By "different," I meant that the consistency seemed different.  Not alive, really, if that makes sense.  That afternoon, she told me she was "shedding."  Her clothes looked like she'd just held a shedding dog in her lap.

This morning she got out of the shower and said that two clumps of hair had fallen out.  We knew it was time to take matters into her own hands.

Today, this day before Thanksgiving, we came to Kristie and Tom's house, where we would make preparations for tomorrow's Thanksgiving dinner.  Kristie would also shave Peach's head.

First she tried on some knit caps to wear afterwards.

The first picture was right after she had her hair cut at Mallard Place last week, the second is shortly after we arrived at Kristie's (notice how the hair has lost its "rich" look?) and the third was a few minutes later, after trying on some caps and discovering how much of her hair had come off when she removed the cap.

So Kris poured her some wine and started the process.

When it was over, Bob was there.

She chose a cap to wear

And the two of us shared a glass of wine.

Later, all the family got food ready for tomorrow, but that is a story for another day.  The deed is done and another indignity of cancer has taken place.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Why Don't You...?

I have a good hearted, well meaning casual friend who always knows what I should do, whether it's where to eat, what Netflix videos I should watch, which airline I should fly, or how to deal with my mother. She has a wealth of information and is not shy about pushing her suggestions on me, though I never ask for her advice.
The problem is that rarely will her suggestions work for me.  She does not have insight into the intricacies of my personal life, what my mother (whom she has never met) is really like, or what my taste in movies is (as I said, this is a casual friend!) 
I listen, thank her for her advice and then usually ignore her because I'm going to do what works best for me.
This line of thinking came up in the first place because of the Question of the Day on "What's My Answer" this morning:  Have you ever faced a difficult situation when you had to choose between sorting it out yourself, or asking someone else for an easy fix? What did you choose — and would you make the same choice today?

I thought about her as Peach and I talked about her meeting with the doctor yesterday and the options which were explained to her.  In truth, I don't even know what I would advise her, but I watch her seriously thinking about the pros and cons of continuing chemo or stopping it.  She will know more after her next round of treatment next week, but there are very serious considerations that will enter into her decision, Bob's physical and mental condition foremost among them, added to her age and chance for longevity if the cancer had not been part of the equation in the first place. And of course that all important quality of life.

What is clear after yesterday is that she has people in her corner, knowledgeable medical people, who will support whatever choices she makes along this strange new journey on which she has embarked.

We had a busy afternoon.  Tom came for lunch and then he, Peach and I went to the hospital to see the surgeon.  Fluid had collected at the surgery again and needed to be drained.

You can see the little spout that is inserted in Peach's surgery site, where more fluid is leaking, as Dr. Sevaride empties the syringe.  Last week he removed 215 cc of fluid, this time it was 350 cc.  He says eventually the fluid will become clear, that everything is normal, and that she just needs to come back whenever she needs a draining.

There was time after the appointment to stop by Durable Medical Equipment to modify the mastectomy bras Peach had and check out other supplies.

With all that happening, we still got back to Mallard Point in time to catch almost all of the concert by Monty King, who is a preacher, and who performs at four facilities around this area (Monty and his wife live at Mallard Point).

Monty had a surprise for Peach and, inspired by Peach & Bob's tale of interacting with Humphrey the Wayward Whale back in 1985, he played "Sweet Caroline" for them, the song they had playing on a loop on their boat when Humphrey decided to follow them.

After the concert we headed right into the dining room for a classic comfort food dinner of celery with peanut butter, cream of tomato soup, toasted cheese sandwiches, and bread pudding.  I felt like I was a kid back in my parents flat again!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

A Real Happy Thanksgiving

I'm getting used to Sophie coming in from outside in the morning and licking me awake.  Sheila will politely lick me once if she needs to go outside.  Sophie is in for the full face cleaning.  It's especially memorable if it has snowed all night (as it did last night) and the dogs are cold and wet.

I was so incredibly proud of Peach today.

Tom and Kris picked us up at 8:30.  It's in the 20s and it didn't seem that cold until later in the day when we had the wind too.  Then it was cold.

Tom dropped us off at the cancer center and we waited for "the arm lady."  It turned out that we got the date wrong and her appointment was before next week's chemo session, but Kathy had time for us today, so she took Peach anyway.

I like this lady so much and both of the appointments I've been to have been so positive.

She had positive things to say about the new accumulation of fluid (to be drained tomorrow), she went over again the things Peach needs to do and best of all, she got her on the exam table and gave her good massage, which relaxed her so much that by the time she got to the doctor's office, her blood pressure was lower than it usually is...not low enough to worry, but enough to be a significant decrease.

After a long wait (we are learning that part of the routine of cancer care is waiting.  waiting.  waiting), we were taken back for the routine blood draw.

The other times they have tried to draw blood from the inserted port in her chest, they have had to work hard at getting anything.  The first time they had to take it by the old fashioned way, with needles into veins.  Last time they got her contorted into all sorts of positions to get the blood started.  This time it responded perfectly.  Good blood.

Then it was time to meet Dr. Nadi.  We waited forEVer in the exam room (after having waited forever for the blood draw), but when he came in, Peach took charge.  She was informed, well-read, and had good questions to ask.  Also, the social worker she had seen last week came into the room for support (Dr. Nadi was taken aback by the size of her support group!).  And he listened while she explained her concerns and asked her questions.

Basically she said she is 75 years old and she wanted to know what were her chances of surviving this cancer with and without chemotherapy, and what were her chance for a recurrence with and without chemo.  She explained about her fear (stressed "fear" more than once), and the hell her first week had been, talked about her quality of life and the difficulty of caring for Bob when she is feeling so bad.  

She laid it all out and he answered her honestly.

He admitted that if she were 80, he might advise her differently.  He did agree with her figures about surviving with and without treatment, the biggest point seeming to be that if she survives 5 years without chemo and if the cancer were to pop up again in another organ in 5 years, chemo then night not be effective without treatment now.  But he freely admitted that this was a decision she alone had to make.  He agreed that "quality of life" is an important consideration and only she could decide that question.

He said that he's fairly certain that subsequent treatments aren't going to be as horrible as the first one was because he has altered her regimen.

Best of all, he decided that since Thanksgiving is Thursday, he would skip her chemo treatment this week so that she would be able to enjoy the holiday.  Her next treatment is not scheduled until December 3, the day after I leave.

So the connections to the port were removed and she's free to enjoy Thanksgiving week. And that alone is enough reason to give thanks.  Decisions about what happens next can be made after she sees how the next round goes.

We came home and she took a 2 hour nap and said it was the best sleep she's had in more that 2 weeks.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Heat Wave

It has warmed up to 40 today.

We sat in the living room with the door opened!  The dogs loved it and the cool air felt very good.

They tell me that this is really what Iowa is typically like in November.  The weather report for the coming week is all over the place, so who knows what it's going to be like.

As you can see, this little room has 2 chairs and a couch.  But I have to share the couch with the other 4-footed people who live here.

Sophie lets me have the couch at night, but when the daylight is out, it's first come first serve.  I do love it, though, when Peach lets her out in the morning while I am still half awake.  Sophie comes in and makes a bee-line for me, wagging her tail.  She has accepted me as part of the family.

Today was another good day.  We had breakfast in the apartment and then Peach made it down to the dining room for "dinner".

There was a planned saxophone concert in the afternoon that we were going to attend, but Kris, Tom and Matthew came to bring supplies.

The concert was to start at 2:30, so we decided they could stay till 3 so we could visit, and we would then catch the last half of the concert, only by the time they left, we decided we really didn't want to go down there after all...and then found out later they only played until 3:30, so we would have missed most of it anyway.

(At least they spelled "quartet" right!)

Bob has become intrigued with my journal (though he has difficulty reading and comprehending, so he hasn't asked to read it), and always want to know how I think of something to write each day.  I tell him that sometimes I know what I'm going to write and other days I don't have a clue until I start writing, and then it just happens.

Guess which day today is!

Oh yeah...and this...

I thought the least Mike could have done now that he has nothing pressing to occupy him, would be to help Cal win this year's Big Game.  Guess not.