Wednesday, March 28, 2007


When you're pulling weeds and a nice juicy worm crawls out, do you tell it how glad you are to see it and that you hope it has lots of friends down there? Or have I gone completely 'round the bend?

I spent about two hours yesterday afternoon weeding the gravel area between the back porch and the herb garden. No, the area is not that big; much of the time was just sitting there enjoying a beautiful spring day. I use one of those aluminum and canvas chairs that fold up and have their own carrying case. I pull all the weeds I can reach, then move the chair and pull more. I thought I'd get out there today and start on the paths in the garden (I need to take a 'before' picture), but it rained last night and has been overcast today, so I've stayed inside. I've really been sitting here at the computer way too long, reading email from Yahoo groups, 'real' email, and blogs. But I did wash dishes and put a pork roast in the crockpot, so the day is not wasted. Now I need to do some knitting.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Berea Alumni
Saturday was the annual Western KY Berea Alumni get together. Doing this 'special effect' on the picture was the only way to show everyone, including the representative from the college who was telling us about changes on campus. It was a small group; it varies from year to year.

Spring's progress
The redbuds are beautiful now, but mine aren't old enough to bloom yet. However my dogwood is opening. I'm sure this has some people in Paducah upset. They always want the Dogwood Trail to coincide with the Quilt Show near the end of April, but it looks like the dogwoods will be past their prime by then this year.

I spent most of the day Sunday outside. I had my coffee and muffin in the front porch and sat there knitting for a while. Then I decided that the chairs on the back porch are more comfortable, so I went there for the rest of the day. I looked up from my knitting at one point and saw this little guy in the middle of the yard. The camera was on the table beside me, so I got a couple of pictures. I went back to my knitting, and wasn't quick enough to switch modes when he hopped away.

My Japanese maple is mostly leafed out, and the holly is blooming. The bees really love the holly blooms! Even Dominic commented on how pretty the flowering crabapples look, especially with the several shades of green around them, although this picture doesn't show them very well.

I think from now on I'll only have doctor's appointments every four weeks, so maybe I can get back to some of my regular activities.

The radiation finished on Friday. The radiologist said that although the radiation killed off the bad plasma cells in my femur and clavicle, I still have a hole in the femur which will take a couple of months to heal. Therefore, I shouldn't do any heavy lifting or jump off the steps. (Dominic asked if I laughed in his face.)

Yesterday, the oncologist said that tests show that I am responding to the Thalidomide and Dexamethasone. The rash I had when I saw her in the 15th disappeared after two or three days and the edema has been gone since last Thursday. (My feet and ankles and hands and wrists are the only parts of me that aren't fat, so it was upsetting to see my feet and ankles fat.) I am now on 200 mg of Thalidomide, and on 40 mg of Dexamethasone on a four days on , four days off schedule until April 15.

Dr Balbastro said that on my next visit they will take a lot of blood for testing - they only took three tubes yesterday. She also said to tell them to draw the blood through my port, rather than stick me in the arm. She also wrote that on the sheet with lab orders for next time, so maybe they'll do it that way.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Round Robin

Over sixty years ago, my mother and her siblings started a round robin letter. When we were kids, the arrival of the family letter every couple of months was a big deal. Mother would read all of the letters aloud. Then she'd take out the last letter she wrote, write a new letter to put in, and send it on to the next person in the loop. School pictures were always circulated with the letters each year, so we knew what our cousins looked like, even though they were several states away.

Now only three of the twelve children of Ole and Mathilda remain, so the loop consists mainly of us cousins, but the letter is still going. Instead of eleven stops (Paul had already died, of pneumonia after having his appendix out, before some of the wonder drugs we take for granted today), I think there are seventeen, so it takes at least three months. We all grew up with the idea that you didn't hold up the family letter, but we're not quite as good about that as our parents were. The letters arrived here on Tuesday, and I mailed them off today - not bad. I mail it to south Florida, then it goes to Colorado, California, Washington, Idaho, South Dakota, about six places in Minnesota, three in Iowa, Kansas, and back to Kentucky.


This is my production for the first two full weeks of March. There are five watchcaps there, although not all of them show well. Also three scarves that match three of the caps. Those things are for the Seamen's Church Institute. Then there are two short capes, which I mentioned a few posts ago. The gold one was worked in stitch number 254 from Lesley Stanfield's The New Knitting Stitch Library. Since I worked the cape from the top down, the pattern is upside down from what is shown in the book, but I like it that way. I think it looks like flowers.

I've made another cape this week, as well. When I get it washed, I'll stop by a nursing home to see if I can give them away. This one I worked in wide stripes of dark blues and greens in the Gothic Lace pattern from Mary Webb's Knitting Stitches.

I love stitch dictionaries! The Stanfield one usually lives in a basket with a large cone of cotton yarn that I use to make dishcloths/washcloths. There's a paper in it with the numbers of the patterns I have used so far. When the Art Guild director tells me that they need more cloths in the gift shop, I use the next pattern that seems suitable. It's a great way to try stitches without committing to a large project.

Tomorrow should be my last radiation treatment. I'm glad, because that daily trip to Paducah is getting tiresome. When many people have weeks of radiation, I shouldn't complain about ten days, should I?

The rash I had has disappeared, and my feet are back to normal. I started on 150 mg of Thalidomide on Monday, and have not had any problems with it. I see Dr Balbastro again on Monday, and I'll also be getting the Zometa through my port then. That will probably make water taste funny for a couple of days - at least it did last time.

I'm feeling a bit less stressed about the cost of the medication, because I got a letter from Medicare that I've been approved for extra help with the drug plan costs. I suppose it will take a few months for it all to shake out, but maybe it won't bankrupt me. In the meantime, I have two applications to other agencies that I have to take to the cancer center on Monday along with proof of income stuff for them to photocopy for me.

And this too shall pass.

Saturday, March 17, 2007


All comments are welcome. It's nice to know that people think my blog worthy of reading. But the comment from Donna got me thinking of my long-time neighbors.

I met Donna in September 1968 when her family moved into the house next to mine. Ray and I had been there two years (he died five years later). She and my daughter Carmen were 2 1/2 years old. Her sister Christine was 5, Patty was 8 months (Karen and Billy came later), and my son Dominic was one week. Donna, Carmen and Patty after she grew a bit became constant playmates, friends, and Donna and Patty are godmothers to Carmen's daughters. They were in and out of each others houses all the time.

Their mother Marie was a stay-at-home mom. For years she was also my after-school babysitter, and when the kids were old enough to be on their own after school, she was there in case they needed her. I don't know what I would have done without her! She and I spent many hours talking over the back fence, or sitting on the front steps watching the children play in the evening. Yes, they played in the street - the traditional place to play half-ball. If a car came, they all moved to the side while it passed.

Marie never learned to drive. She grew up in Philadelphia where public transportation was readily available. After they moved to New Jersey, Bill was always willing to drive her where ever she needed to go. If he didn't need to go into a store with her, he sat in the car and read.

I remember talking to Donna once about some of the problems of kids like mine with only one parent or those of divorced parents, and telling her that she and I were among the lucky ones. We grew up in stable, two-parent families. My parents were together almost 57 years. It was not a lovey-dovey, sexy relationship (at least not that one would see from the outside), but they had worked out their relationship, as all couples need to do, and raising the four of us children was probably the most important thing to them. Mother sometimes complained that Daddy wasn't romantic, but then he would surprise her with a hurricane lamp she had admired. Or going back even further, in 1941 he bought a kerosene-motor, wringer washer so she wouldn't have to do my diapers by hand. When the delivery truck brought it Mother said there was some mistake, but they said no, it had been bought and paid for. Mother probably saw no romance in that, but I do.

Anyway, back to the Jordan's. Marie and Bill have now been together 45 or 46 years. I think it's 'Til death do us part' and hope that parting is not for another 15 or 20 years at least.

Friday, March 16, 2007


I had Dominic stop at the bottom of the driveway yesterday so I could photograph the forsythia. He said, "OK, which flowers?" You'd think he'd have learned some plant names from me over the years, wouldn't you? There are two other bushes of it down there, as well, but this one is right beside the drive. The green stuff beside it is yucca, which will bloom in a couple of months. And see those steps and the sidewalk? Even tiny towns sometimes have such amenities. On the other side of the drive, there is even a street light!

It's interesting watching the changes in the trees on the drive to Paducah - a little more green each day - or red in case of red maples. The weeping willows are lovely. The Bradford pears are almost completely in bloom, as are the saucer magnolias. My flowering crab apples are starting to show some color, and my lilac is leafing out.

Medical stuff
I finished my first week of radiation therapy today. On Monday I will talk to the radiologist as well as having the treatment, to see how it's going.

I saw the oncologist yesterday. I'll be off the steroid until at least the 26th when I see her next, and she wants me to increase the Thalidomide to 150mg starting Monday. She's increasing it gradually to make sure I can tolerate it. So far I have edema in my feet and ankles, which started immediately after I increased from 50mg to 100mg. She told me to watch for signs of blood clots and if they materialize to stop the Thalidomide and call her right away. I also have a strange rash, that she's not sure is Thalidomide-related. She said it looks like bleeding into my hair follicles. She ordered a bleeding time test, which I had done at the hospital after the radiation treatment.

The manufacturer of Thalidomide said they could not help me with the cost of it, because I have Medicare Part D coverage. However they did send me applications to two agencies that might be able to help.

So I'm spending much of my time knitting - both at home and in the car. I've finished a scarf for the Seamen's Church Institute going to and from Paducah this week. At home I've knit a short (approximately 20" at the front edge) cape to be donated to a nursing home resident. I did one last week in stockinette stitch - BORING! This one I used a lace stitch pattern, which made it much more interesting. I plan to do another one and then stop at the nursing home I pass every time I go to Mayfield to donate them there. I have one that I use all the time. It's easier to put on and off than a sweater and stays on better than a shawl. Mine has ties, but I'm putting crochet loops and buttons on the ones I'm donating.

I also finished a watchcap for SCI today. It had been sitting here on the couch about 3/4 done for a week. So now I've cast on for another watchcap to match the scarf I knit in the car. I'll probably finish it tomorrow and then make another one to match the last scarf I did.

I just checked my spreadsheet of knitting projects for the year - I've used 14.2 pounds so far! That's getting my stash a bit smaller. But I've got a long way to go.

Comment on Comment
Oh, Donna, how wonderful to have a comment from you! With all the medical things your family has been through, I know you understand my current situation.

Monday, March 12, 2007

X marks the spot

I went back to the Radiation Therapy Department today. They had discussed with the orthopedic surgeon and decided that no rod was necessary in my leg, and that radiation therapy could be done now. So they measured and marked and calculated, and then gave me the first treatment. The X on my chest seems to be in the wrong place to me, but I guess it depends on what angle they're shooting from. Above the X, you can see the scar on the lump on the clavicle where they took the tissue for biopsy six weeks ago.
Now I have to go Monday through Friday at 12:40 p.m. for at least two weeks. The treatment only takes a few minutes, but the round-trip drive takes close to an hour and a half - 30 miles each way on two-lane roads.
Thursday morning I have a 10:15 appointment with the oncologist. Then I guess we'll have lunch and then go to therapy.

Dominic keeps telling me I need to write something mean about him here, but how can I when he mops the kitchen floor for me. There is a scrub-brush in his hand, but I didn't get it in the picture. It's really nice to have it clean - it had gotten very dirty, especially in front of the stove.

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Guild Meeting

I made it to the Ewe-nique Knitting Guild meeting in Paducah last night. I missed last month because I just wasn't up to it.

Heather, whom we had a shower for in January was there with the baby. He's three weeks old now, and a normal, cute, little boy. He was very good - I didn't hear a peep out of him.

Stephanie and Sue were afraid I'd run out of yarn (fat chance!), so they did a little stash transfer - from their stashes to mine. A total of almost 2 1/2 pounds. That brown and burgundy look like good colors for watchcaps or seamen's scarves for the Seamen's Church Institute, as does the blue in front of them. I'm sure I'll come up with uses for it all.

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

The Donut Hole

I had thought I would post to my blog Friday after the visit to the orthopedic surgeon, but I was too upset. The information I was given on Thursday about the cost to me of the Thalidomide was not correct. Oh, yes, I've been approved for it; however, the pharmacy called Friday morning and said that it had put me into the infamous 'donut hole' of Medicare Part D, so my copay would be just under $1800! As my son says, I knew that was going to happen sometime, but I just wasn't ready for it - especially after what I had been told on Thursday. I guess I'm glad that I have a ridiculously high limit on my credit card and that I hadn't asked them to lower it, so I was able to pick up the Thalidomide and get started taking it. It's blister-packed, with all sorts of warnings about not getting pregnant. Each small white capsule even has a 'don't get pregnant' symbol on it. The cancer group has sent a request to the manufacturer for financial assistance for me.

The visit to the surgeon was somewhat disappointing as well - I guess because it was inconclusive. His computer wouldn't pull up the bone scan and x-rays from the disc I had taken him, so he took some new x-rays. Actually, that was probably good, because he could see that there has been healing of the crack in the femur, so I probably do not need a rod. But when I asked about having the radiation therapy right away, he seemed to think that was not a good idea. I think he's afraid that the radiation might kill some of the new bone cells. The three doctors (surgeon, radiologist, oncologist) will have to get together to decide what to do.

Jumping up on my Soapbox

One of my cousins called me Saturday evening. It was really nice to talk to her. We really have not had much contact as adults - always lived a thousand miles or so apart and were busy with our own lives, kids, etc. Of course health issues were a major topic, and she mentioned that she did not sign up for Medicare Part D because she has never taken much medication. I said that I never had either - until now. But she went on talking and didn't seem to hear what I was saying. I fretted about that all day Sunday, and Monday morning sent her an email begging her to reconsider. She just turned 66, so is a few months past her Initial Enrollment Period and will have to pay a slight monthly penalty for late signing, but I think it would be well worth it.

For those of you approaching Medicare, or just past the Initial Enrollment Period, PLEASE take the drug coverage. It's not about how little medication you've needed in the past; it's about what you may need in the future. Even though I'm in that 'donut hole' at the moment. when I get past that into catastrophic coverage things will be better for me. And maybe the donut hole will be eliminated sometime in the future (I've always been an optomist). My parents didn't take the drug rider on their Medigap policy because they had never taken much medication, but later they regretted that decision.


Dominic tried to get a picture of the moon Sunday evening while we were eating dinner. It didn't show very well, but you can see my knitting place without me in it. The loveseat is in front of the triple window in the living room. I sit on one end with my box of tissues and my telephone on the other, and a small table beside me for my mug of water and knitting-notions. The cat is often behind my head, looking out at the birds, etc.

I made another childs sweater for charity - started Thursday and finished Sunday night. I had this pound skein of Red Heart 4-ply acrylic, and a bunch of balls of leftovers in other shades of blue and of green. I decided I would do a slip-stitch brick pattern, using the medium blue as the mortar. When I stuck in that bright green, I thought I should probably take it out, but didn't feel like frogging. Besides, I know from prior experience that sometimes if you keep going with other colors, it works out. Although it doesn't show well in the picture, there is a yarn below the green that has spurts of bright reds and yellows mixed in with black, and a few brick-courses above the green are several courses of amethyst. After I added the amethyst, I thought it looked sort of like a landscape - bright flowers, then some grass, and a purple sunset. The rest is darker shades of blue. I just hope some kid will enjoy wearing it!

Thursday, March 1, 2007

It's March!

And right on cue, I saw about a hundred times more March flowers on our drive to Paducah today than I did yesterday, despite the clouds and rain. When we got home, I had Dominic take some pictures of the ones on the neighbor's side of the driveway. (It's a shared driveway and they have the south-facing bank.) For those of you covered with snow, this is coming!

I only saw one doctor today, because the orthopedic surgeon was sick. They called this morning and left a message, but we were already at the oncologist, or at least on our way there. So they've rescheduled me for tomorrow afternoon. We'll have to call before we leave, so we don't waste a 60-mile round trip.

They used my port this morning to inject Zometa. It's like Fosamax or Boniva, but supposedly better, especially with my condition. It took less than half an hour, and I was able to knit.

I took along some of the eyelash 'chemo caps' that I've been knitting recently to donate to the patients. Dr Balbastro says I won't be losing my hair, so I won't need any for myself. However, now that I have that information, I need to make an appointment with my hairdresser. I was slightly overdue for a haircut when this myeloma popped up. As soon as my primary care physician said the word cancer (although Dr B says this is not cancer - it is a blood disorder), I figured I might loose my hair, so why pay to have it cut. But I need to wait until my probable surgery is scheduled before I schedule something as frivolous as a haircut, hadn't I?

I've been approved for Thalidomide, and my drug policy covers it, so it won't cost too much. The pharmacy I ususally go to is not approved to dispense it, so I'll have to go to a new pharmacy. That's OK with me - I've been getting rather annoyed by the one I've been using. Of course that doesn't mean I'll like the new one any better. Dr B's office has faxed the prescription to the pharmacy, and we'll pick it up tomorrow afternoon after we see the surgeon. If he's still sick, I guess the Thalidomide will wait as well.