Sunday, March 28, 2010


I sent out forty or so queries to literary agents in the past ten days, most just proposals but some with chapter samples enclosed. Half have rejected my idea but most have added encouraging words. I guess when you're holding the cancer card, "not for us at this time" morphs into "not for us but your tale is harrowing and inspiring." One agent sent back her card and asked for an outline and chapter samples. This is the one nibble I've received, so you can be sure I'll bite.

Strangely, having my book idea rejected doesn't make me feel bad at all. I join a long list of famous writers who suffered rejection of their work. I'm confident of my writing skills, although I know I need a good editor with a critical eye. My story, although focused on leukemia, examines many aspects of life. Someone will pick it up someday.

What's harder to take is when your child gets rejected. Harry is anxiously awaiting word from the colleges he applied to. So far he has had one acceptance, one rejection and two wait lists. He's still waiting to hear from three more schools, which will notify him on April 1st. Harry has actually taken it very well. His response to the rejection was "meh." As a parent, though, I feel bad. With the wait-list schools, you can send additional accolades you've wracked up since submitting your application. Harry can say that his high school won the Rhode Island State Decathalon Competition last week, the first public school to win since its inception in the state. Harry himself won a gold medal in economics and a bronze in essay writing. It's kind of cheesy to play this "oh yeah, well I did save a whale last week," but if it nudges him up the list it's worth doing.

I'll be sending out more query letters to agents this week, and Harry will hear from three more colleges. We'll be fine.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Doing Things We Couldn't Do Seven Months Ago

Seven months ago my friend Patty C. came to take care of me for a weekend post-transplant while Marty took Mark to college. Marty was comfortable with this arrangement because Patty is a Nurse Practitioner, comfortable with flushing my catheter and deciding when a visit to the the emergency room was in order. I was in bad shape, but fortunately we made no visits to the ER.

Patty and I had planned to take a mini-vacation 18 months ago but it somehow didn't work into our plans. 18 months ago I was cancer-free and able to go away to a spa and have a massage. Then the nemesis returned and spa-ing or anything was out of the question. Don't put off to tomorrow what you can do today?

Recently, since I've been feeling like superwoman, I started researching our spa vacation. Patty had the month of March off and I needed to get out my house and away from my computer. We decided to go to the Newport Marriott which opened a spa last year. We got a great room rate that included discounts at the spa. To top it off, it was restaurant week in Newport: $15 3-course prix fixe lunches and $30 3-course prix-fixe dinners. We had a great meal at the Red Parrot--too much food. Our room at the hotel had those big comfy duvet-covered down comforters, the kind you sink into with a big ahhh.

Patty got up early and went to the gym. I made coffee, watched CNN (hey, my kids will be covered under our health plan until they're 26--taking no skin off anyone's noses), and started a new book by Ann Patchett, one of my favorite writers. It's called Truth and Beauty and it's about a friend of hers who succumbed to cancer after 20 years of battling a horrible disease. Why do I pick these books?

We tried to sneak into a conference breakfast but made the mistake of asking if it was sponsored by the hotel. We went to Panera's across the street and had really good coffee and toasted bagels. Then it was back to the hotel for the treatment we needed and deserved--massages. An hour later, oiled up and looking like asylum patients in our white robes, we transitioned back to this world in a room that had piped in new age music, herbal tea and organic snacks. Patty and I made plans to come again as soon as we could get a good rate.

A little shopping at the Gap, lunch at The Mooring, which included cream of scallop soup, Caesar salad and triple mousse yumminess, our self-indulgence was at an end. We went back to the hotel parking lot, climbed into the pumpkin van and headed back to the mainland.

All told, we spent $476 for the spa and hotel, plus food which was very inexpensive. In addition to the massage, I had an emergency manicure when we first arrived yesterday. It's already starting to chip, the reason I rarely get them. Except on occasions where I am Queen for the Day.

Monday, March 22, 2010


Now that I've been sleeping better and eating a little less (it was getting excessive, really) I've had lots of energy and feel I'm accomplishing more. Every day I have a ritual that includes reading, writing and exercising. Yesterday I ran. Being the weekend, I didn't read more than The New York Times and I wrote nothing. Marty and I were busy with other things.

I've been busy sending query letters to agents. I hope to get a nibble soon because I think the book is mostly written and might even need paring down. The parts I'm writing now I'm using everyday English--no SAT words. The blog entries I think are worth including have a less formal tone, but I play with words a lot and use my vocabulary in ways I don't when I'm speaking or writing lateness excuses for Harry, whom I better go wake up. He has a serious case of senioritis and had been asking to skip first period several times over the past few weeks. He has a pretty good excuse today in that yesterday he spent the entire day competing for his high school in the Academic Decathalon. Not only did East Greenwich High School win, it was the first time a public school won in Rhode Island in the past decade. I note this because the private schools dedicate a class to academic decathalon whereas E.G. meets after school once a week for five months to prepare. Last year, they got second. Harry himself took home the gold in economics and a bronze in essay writing. The gold gets him $500, not bad for a day's work. Also, the team gets to go to the National Competition in Nebraska in April. Enough bragging. Just another moment for me to enjoy.

Having been through what I've been through, I savor these moments. Simple things like chatting with my daughter, having lunch out with my husband become so wonderful, I can't stand it. I'll stop now.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Drugs Work

I think most of us can agree that a pill in time may just give you nine. Here are a few other strategies I used to catch some zzzzzs.

Even though I was tired and almost napped several times, I managed to stay conscious all day. I took the flannel sheets off my bed and replaced them with regular cotton ones so that being too warm would not be an issue. I kept myself moderately busy during the afternoon and evening but not crazily so. I almost blew it by going to a restaurant with the boys and eating a too-rich meal. I figured that would have me up all night dreaming of butter and cream. But I had other tricks up my sleeve, actually nestled in their containers waiting to do their magic.

I managed to watch the entire episode of NCIS, dangerously from the couch. At 9 pm I went up to my room and took a 10 mg ambien and went straight to bed, no reading like I usually do. Within 15 minutes I was gone. When Turbo started snoring I took no chances. I took a 1 mg ativan to put me under again and went off to sleep in Mariel's room. I didn't wake up until the alarm went off at 6:15. That's nine hours of sleep.

With two cups of coffee under my belt I feel ready to go. There will be no excuse for not jogging today. The weather will be fine and I won't be tired.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Help! I Can't Sleep!

I guess prednisone builds up in the body. Even though I've cut the dose in half, my sleeping habits are getting worse. Last night I went to bed early because I was falling asleep on the couch. In fact, I was sleepy all day, probably due to my lack of sleeping at night. I fall asleep right away but then spend hours tossing and turning. Sometimes, if it's early enough, I take a sleep aid. Most of the time though I don't even want to look at the clock because I don't want to know anything about the passage or non-passage of time.

Maybe it's time to cut back even more on the prednisone. We'll see what my doctor says in 3 weeks. By the then I should be a zombie. At least I will be a plump zombie because I've gained 10 lbs. in 6 weeks. I am constantly eating; even had a snack this morning at 5:30. I keep easily digested, not-too-messy snacks in my bedside table so I don't have to get up and walk around the house, further waking me up.

If anyone has any suggestions on how I can sleep better, I'm all ears.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

I Need a Rabbit

I ran two miles yesterday. Jogged two miles. Race-walked two miles. Walked two miles. I started out at a good clip, especially since it was downhill and I had two neighbors to impress. From there on, I just couldn't concentrate on keeping the pace. The problem is, I do not have a runner's mind like my son Mark does. When he runs, he falls into a comfortable groove and stays there until the record ends. I speed up to 45 rpms, fall back to 33 and suddenly I'm singing Beatles tunes with the needle poised above the record.

It would be nice to have a running partner, a so-called rabbit to keep me on pace. I could also try listening to a mix of upbeat music to keep my legs on track. I have many CD's that people made for me to listen to while I was in the hospital. Mark's radiation tape might be a good one to spur me on. I don't have a ipod though so I'll have to figure how to put the cd tunes onto something portable. Marty can figure something out.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Blog-Crossed Identities

I wrote two blogs with aplomb at the same time before; I'm confident I can do it again. This is the one for leukemia-related issues. The other one is for everything else that fills my head. Right now it's focusing on the sale of my house.

Speaking of House, blogging played a big role in last night's episode. Donna from That 70's Show was the sick blogger. She was addicted to it actually. It turns out blogging can be good and bad for your health because your faithful commentators offer to give you a kidney should you need one.

The only bodily complaints I have at this time are sleep issues due to medication and dog snoring, extreme gaseousness possibly due to mild gvh, medication and massive food intake, and the inability to focus on what to do next. This could be due to the dreaded but in my opinion overated chemo brain, or that I just have a lot on my plate right now and I'm trying to eat all of it at once.

Later on, I'll hop on over to Word and update you on the house sale. I think it gets listed today.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

House for Sale in the Woods

Some of you might be interested to know that I'm posting on Word in the Woods again. I'm going to transfer that blog to New York where I will rename it something like Alternate Street Parking, Word in 3A, Aging Infrastructure, Childless Brooklyn.

In the meantime, if you want to buy a secluded country house in rural (okay suburbarural) Rhode Island, bid below.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Time is Speeding Up

Is it today already? It's 7:17 am and I've already had one cup of coffee. Marty, Turbo and Harry are safely asleep upstairs while I speed through time. This is #300.

Yesterday flew by, and I didn't even have a nap to slow it down. I met my friend Susan for coffee and we caught up on kids and life. I went straight home to fill out financial aid forms and write a query letter to a book agent, had a freak accident involving a printer (I'm okay), received a phone call from the library about someone trying to reach me, and had to break for food I was so starved.

The morning gone, I called the number passed onto me by the library that was a further reminder that time waits for no man or woman. I spoke with a fellow graduate of Centereach High School (1972) about plans to get together this summer and have some fun. I missed the last official reunion because I was in transit between Costa Rica and Rhode Island. I plan on attending this event. I hope my hair grows out of the fuzzy stage.

The afternoon passed in a blur. I tried to stay on task, making phone calls, dental appointments, plans for dinner Saturday night. I walked Turbo since it was so nice out, did a little exercise for my shoulder, had another snack, and started planning dinner. Harry had plans so I was on my own. I decided on bean and cheese enchiladas. Yum.

Mark ran the 3000 meters at the Armory, setting a personal record. He ran the 3rd fastest time in for a Freshman in Columbia's history. Mariel's on her way to spring break with the track team, a yearly tradition that appears wholesome. They train and run in meets. I'm sure beer is involved somewhere. Hey, I stepped out of time for a minute. This paragraph could have been written say, tomorrow.

After dinner, which was delicious, I put on my jammies and waited for Marty to come home from NY. I fell asleep after Jeopardy, but woke up as soon as he arrived. He was bringing me a chocolate babka from Brooklyn and I couldn't wait to have a slice. Marty tucked me in around 10 pm. Time immediately stopped and I went to the place where snacks are plentiful, served by beautiful men in nice clothes.

I tried to slow time by writing this post, but I see I have not. Not only is time getting away from me, my stomach is crying out for food and no men in white are on hand to serve me.

Hey, Marty!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Night Sweating

I'm not going to beat around the bush. For the past week, I've woken up sweating, not every night, but enough to plant the worry seed.

A quick google of night sweats will give you mostly logical and benign reasons for the annoying occurence. Menopause is numero uno, but I don't get hot flashes during the day so my thermostat seems okay.

Night sweats mean one thing to me: leukemia. It was not an original symptom four years ago, but each time I was being treated and failed to achieve remission, I'd get them, the serious, drenching, change your pjs and sheets kind. The recent sweats have been mild--no bed changing, just toss off the top.

After all the upbeat posts, I wanted to include one that realistically portrays what we leukemia patients dwell on: low platelets; a bruise; anything we can reasonably or unreasonably associate with the return to hell. We silently wait for the other shoe to fall; we don't trust our bodies; we don't want to alarm anyone. We put the worry in the bad room and try not to think about it.

But obviously we do.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Boston Brief

My neighbor Claudia kindly drove me to Dana-Farber today for my monthly check-up. Blood draw, vital signs, doctor exam. The biggest news is that I gained six lbs. in four weeks, thanks to the binge eating brought on by the prednisone.

My liver is happy, my kidneys are happy, my blood production is going well.

WBC: 8.3
RBC: 2.96
HEM: 11.1
HCT: 33.0

I am seven months post-transplant.