Tuesday, May 25, 2010


Everyone is so antibiotic, I wanted to give a shout out to probiotics.

Since I continue to have digestive issues, my doctor suggested I buy probiotics at the health food store. Some of us who've had chemo have been prescribed Protonix, a way of giving a foothold to the good bacteria that's been wiped out along with the rest of you. Since I did not want to take the Activia challenge because I don't much like yogurt, although I do hope Jamie Lee Curtis will consider playing me in the film version of my life, I headed straight to my local natural food mart and quickly saw I wasn't in this alone. There was a huge section dedicated to these products. A nice woman explained the how much and when I should take these babies. It turns out that if you are on antibiotics (which I am, as a preventative), you should take the pros a couple of hours later, and on an empty stomach. Five days into this thing, I'm feeling less gaseous but not out of the woods yet.

I do want to mention that I jogged a mile yesterday morning, slow and steady. My quads feel a little achy when I go down stairs, but I'm not complaining. Speaking of running, I picked up Mark from the train station yesterday. He'd gone on a road trip encompassing eight states, as far south as Arkansas and as far west as Indiana. He went with four other members of the Columbia track team, all done with school and taking a much-deserved break from running. We had burgers on the grill for dinner last night and he ate two. This is the former vegetarian who went back to meat last summer for protein reasons. He was never into tofu or rice and beans, and he didn't eat calcium-rich veggies.

Today is supposed to be what we call a scawcha in New York. That's "scorcher" in English. I just shut down the heat and now I'll have to crank up the AC if it gets bad. Harry asked me last week how people live in the South sans AC. Slowly and carefully, I told him. Do they wear suits? Only when they marry and die.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Steroids are My Friend

Ever since I stopped taking Rapamune (an immune suppressant) and V-fend (an anti-fungal), I've been getting nauseous daily, and I occasionally get as far as the old heave-ho. This week, digestive problems ensued. Basically, I feel slightly bilious all the time.

Could this be gvh (graft versus host)? It makes sense that if you eliminate the drug that was keeping your new immune system from doing naughty things to the rest of you (in my case, my digestive system, where I've had issues before) said system will begin to flex its muscles. Knowing that a little gvh may be a good thing, since it (the graft) should also attack other foreign-looking cells such as leukemic ones, I decided to soldier on and not complain. Then came the egg. In the wrong direction.

That's it. It's one thing to have the dry heaves; quite another to lose your breakfast hours after you've eaten it. Eggs apparently hang around for a while. I've tried to make this as tasteful as possible, given the subject. I promise it gets better from here.

I broke down and emailed my doctor. As much as I didn't want to increase the dosage of Prednisone (an anti-inflammatory steroid), I didn't want to feel queasy all the time either. Predictably, he advised me to go from 10 mg. to 20. This is not a high dose, but math whizzes may note it is double. Prednisone has been good to me, so I should not complain. It has helped me gain 20 needed pounds by tamping down nausea and reducing inflammation in my digestive track. It's filled in the sharp edges of my face, given me squirrelish energy and only destroyed a small part of my sleep. I have accomplished much with its assistance. I popped 10 mg. at dinner last night.

But as Prednisone giveth, it also taketh away. It's side effects can be devastating, but in small doses and for short periods of time, it helps more than hurts. So I'm sitting here listening to the early morning rain and the dog whine for his breakfast, and at the same time, writing and eating a banana. I'm starving, but this could be a mental response. It's as though the Prednisone were whispering in my ear: eat more; do more. You have two hands: use both. And chew while you sit there thinking and typing.

At least I don't feel bilious.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Senior Moments

Good-Looking Crew

Harry & Britt

Best Buds

Mutt & Jeff

No, I'm not talking about forgetting a word or a name or where you put something. That's for another post. Baby Harry went to the Senior Prom on Friday. He looked pretty dapper if I do say so myself.

The obligatory photo shoot at a beautifully landscaped East Greenwich home lasted a long long time. There were eighteen promers and at least thirty parents madly snapping away. I got a little bored and started shooting the limo, a stretch Ford Expedition. We once had a loner Expedition when our petite minivan was in the shop. I couldn't drive it because I thought I'd take out any unfortunate mailboxes or pedestrians in my path.

We hosted the post-prom party at our house. Marty drove back from NYC for the weekend, so he was here when the kids arrived. I was snoozing comfortably two floors up and heard nothing. Harry had a track meet in the morning, so they were all gone by 8:00. No photos of the party--Harry would've killed me.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Hospital Gowns

Call me crazy, but I've been meaning to write about hospital gowns for some time now. I'm tired of them getting a bad rap. Or is it a bad wrap? Turns out, according to a lone internet opinion, the correct phrase is bum wrap, which hospital gowns notoriously don't do. Personally, I thought the phrase was bad rep, and being the anal person I am (ahem ...) I was forced to research which usage was correct. I've lost you, right?

Hospital gowns are not known for their sartorial properties. They barely give coverage where some of us need it most. But they are designed that way. On purpose. They have all kinds of really important features, some to make life easier for medical staff, but some for the patient, too. If you're hooked up to intravenous meds and you wake up in the dead of night drowning in perspiration, you can unsnap a hospital gown and put on another without being disconnected. And they have a nifty pocket through which your line passes so that you don't have it snaking up through the top or down under the bottom of your shirt.

Well, you might be thinking, I didn't have an intravenous line, so why should I have to be subjected to this poor excuse for pajamas? Surprise! You can wear your own pajamas, although they might get a bit of bodily effluvia on them. If that's not acceptable, you can wear two gowns when you go out into the hallway for your exercise. Or a robe. Why not don a cool pair of hospital pants with a plain t-shirt and pretend you're a member of the staff? You see, there's nothing to complain about and much to be thankful for.

I'm currently reading a book that blathers on about hospital gowns, an otherwise good book that got my ire up. It's not even the patient's opinion. That's what kicked off this diatribe.

Thank you for putting up with me.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Chicken Parmesan for the Soul

I went to my internist yesterday and he heard nothing untoward with my lungs or heart. He gave me extra-strength ibuprofen and a script for a chest x-ray. After a great night's sleep, I woke up and realized I had no pain. Could this be why?

Show 'em how it's done, Harry.

Cutting the cheese

Frying the cutlets

Showing off the finished product


Monday, May 10, 2010

If It's Not One Thing, It's Another

So far, the celebration has been muted, although I did have my first martini Friday night. I also worked out at the gym with Marty, cooked a delightful meal (shrimp scampi), watched the Yankees trounce the Red Sox, and even went out for a post-prandial stroll along the Hudson.

It all started when I began feeling nauseous on Wednesday and threw up walking Turbo, who was unfazed. I started feeling terrible after that and had to leave my yoga class early. Thursday I woke up with chest pain on my right side, no other symptoms. Dr. Antin thought I might have pleuritis and said I should use analgesics.

I took the train to NYC Friday morning, feeling pretty bilious. Took a cab to the apartment, which even at $20 was worth it. I had a bowl of rice chex and and had to wait for the phone guy to come. I dashed out to return some shorts to Century 21 and make a few odd purchases at Bed Bath & Beyond.

After bailing the car out of the garage Saturday, we drove to Princeton to pick up Mariel at the train station. We then went to Princeton University to watch Mark run the 1500. At this point, I must add that when I went to pay for a two-day entry pass, I saw there was a half-price discount for Seniors. Yes!!! It never felt so good to be so old. Nevermind that two bananas cost $2 and two pretzels, $5. My niece Gabrielle and family came to watch, and we went out for lunch afterwards at a brewery. I had iced tea.

I started feeling really bad, tired and physically out of sorts. We checked into our hotel, and I proceeded to sleep for three hours. I woke up feeling crappy but hungry, a good sign. We ordered Chinese food and ate pretty well. I was zonked again by 11:30.

Fortunately, I woke up feeling much better after the rest cure. We had breakfast; Marty took Mariel back to the train; we headed to Princeton to watch Mark in the finals. We met other Columbia parents who seem like us. The woman behind me was whistling like a construction worker. She's the mom of another Freshman Lion. Mark got 6th place and earned a point for his team. He also got a nice medal. We got stuck in horrendous traffic heading into the Holland Tunnel. I just missed my train and had a light dinner at Grand Central. Harry, who was going to prepare a Mother's Day dinner for me, decided it would be better to do it tonight instead. He also gave me a gift: a George Foreman mini grill, which Marty and I will put to good use.

Dr. Antin agreed I should be seen by a doctor. I went to my internist this afternoon. He could find no symptoms of pleuritis, but ordered a chest x-ray just to be safe. No rush; I'll probably do it tomorrow or Wednesday, depending on how I'm feeling.

In case this is too downbeat for you, I'm adding a picture of me toasting you all, one of the girls and one of Mark getting his medal.


Gabrielle, Mariel holding Dahlia, PJ

Mark getting his medal

Tuesday, May 4, 2010


I'll have an extra dry Beefeater martini with a twist.

The good news out of Boston today is that I'm stopping the immune suppressant Rapamune, as well as the anti-fungal voriconazole. It's my choice as to whether or not I start tapering the anti-depressant I've been on since the bad old days. It's the Rapamune though that will allow me to have my Friday martini whether I need it or not. I've had an unauthorized glass of wine here and there, but Marty gives me a parental look when I do. I'm not planning on getting blasted or anything, but it's nice to know my liver is all mine.

Dr. Antin and I mostly chit-chatted about vacations, living in Manhattan, and real estate. My blood counts were good. He didn't give me a print-out but it's something like this: wbc= 9; platelets= 121; hematocrit= 27.8. The red cells are low but my reticulocyte count is normal which means I'm making red cells but using them up. As long as my energy's good, it doesn't really matter.

We drove back home and Jamie suggested we have lunch at Tio Mateo's. We were both starved. She offered to buy me a beer, but I passed. Suddenly I realized it's Cinco de Mayo tomorrow, but Marty the Margarita Man is in Manhattan.

Here's to you, Marty.