Saturday, June 21, 2014

Logan graduates

Today was a milestone day for my great nephew, Logan James.  He graduated pre-school.  It was in the school yard of his Tiny Tots school.  When the kids came out (wearing construction paper graduation caps) they played an Andreas Bocelli song, "Time to Say Goodbye",  that made all of us cry (well at least me, my sister, and Melissa).  The kids sang a bunch of songs, and were just so cute.  Congratulations, Logan, you are so smart.  Good luck in Kindergarten!

with mommy and daddy

Sunday, June 8, 2014

breast cancer

Wanna know about cancer?  Mine, at least?  It didn't phase me.  I was diagnosed with it, and didn't really feel any sense of shock.  Thought I was in denial for a while, but I wasn't.  It was just another passage in my life, albeit a tough one.
After my double mastectomy, I looked down at where my breasts used to be, and saw the scars, and thought, okay, there are scars... just like my mother had lots of scars.  I wasn't afraid of scars.  The plastic surgeons nurse had told me not to look in the mirror for four days.  Did she think I would pass out or something?  It was no big shock.  I knew what I was facing, and I looked it straight in the eye without flinching.
The chemotherapy was a tough time.  Wanting to sleep twenty hours a day, and popping percocets the rest of the time to ward off the bodily aches and pains.  By the time you felt well, it was time for the next chemo treatment.  Losing my hair wasn't fun, but that too was an experience.  I got a new wig and felt like a new person in it, to tell you the truth.  It was fun to play around with it.  By the time I was getting sick of it, my hair had grown in an inch or so, so that's how I go around now... with a virtual buzz cut.  I'm loving it, it's very liberating.      And then there was Radiation.  A hassle because I had to be there five days a week for seven weeks.  But the treatments were easy and fast, with the most competent team of professionals, and it wasn't until my last week that I experienced the radiation burns, which really didn't hurt, and were healed quickly with Silverdine ointment.
Now it's almost time for my reconstruction surgery.  I haven't called my plastic surgeon to set anything up, because I just need some time to decompress after the last eight months of being "a cancer patient".

I am happy to say I'm a survivor.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

the quiet time

It is 3am, and I'm wide awake. A side effect of having more than my normal amount of coffee today.  I used to be fairly addicted to coffee, drinking a pot (10 cups) a day, but now I drink maybe 2 cups.  Today I drank about four.

The air is cool and fresh tonight.  So thankful for that.

I have a new camera... a Nikon D800.  It's a top of the line model, and a full frame camera, with a huge 36.something mega pixels.  You can take photos in a FX format or a DX format.  I got it with a prime 50mm lens, 1.4, which I'm happy to have... haven't had a prime lens since my old film days.
The thing is, though, that I haven't been out with the camera yet.  I'm kind of intimidated by it.  Have got to get my feet wet with it, though, and I hope soon.

I've stopped wearing my wig (as you can see in a pic of me in the last post).  Got so tired of it, and  now that it's getting warmer, I certainly don't want anything covering my head.  I am even liking my Annie Lennox look... something very liberating about it.

 Hard to believe that nine months have gone by since I was first diagnosed with cancer.  The days seemed to disappear, really.  But I remember being sooo tired most of the time during those chemo days.  Geez.

Now I just have to find out when my "exchange" surgery is... when they exchange the expanders for the breast implants, and you get  your foobs (fake boobs). That's major surgery again, and will be glad to get past that, because it will the the sort of end of a long hard road.  I got through it okay with a little help from my family and friends.

Sometimes I feel guilty staying up so late.  I don't know why.  I can almost hear my mother calling "I hope you shut that light soon", as I stay up late in my room, the light peeking out from  under the door... enough to assault her senses at such hours.

Today I should not feel guilty at all.  I kicked cancer's butt, and I deserve to do whatever I like for a while.  If I want to sleep into the afternoon tomorrow, so be it.

Oh wow, I started reading over my novel tonight, with a critical eye!  Yikes, am I ever going to have to do some serious rewriting.  There is quite a bit of "telling" in the book, when I should be showing.  That alone will be a tremendous task.  If I do that, it may even be a good novel. 

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

radiation days

I put my palm in the reader (something new in people), give my birthdate, and my picture comes up on a screen.  Right  patient.  They realize it's my birthday, and wishes are made, and asking if I have any big plans.  I explain that the big plans will go down after treatments have ended.   I climb on the table.
My butt scrunched up against the plastic pillar, covered with a sheet, a bolster under my knees,
my right arm extended overhead, holding onto a post behind my head, and my left hand at my side, tied in with a sheet to cover some support, but not enough, and sometimes my arms trembles, trying to stay in that very same position, which is what is necessary for the radiation to work correctly.
The big round saucer comes down above me, my head tilted away from my right side, which is the affected side.  It whirrs, and from the corner of my eye I can see things lining up inside, making decisions and designs.  Never sure when I am getting zapped.  Many moving parts.  Some things look down at you, some close up at your side, like  a table closing in.  Zapping now?   You never really know.  Sometimes the thing I'm laying on starts to jerk, a little, and a little more.  I always feel for sure the zappings happening then.
I watch each shift of machinery, anticipating correctly what is coming next.  Then every other day they come in mid-way, with a yellow gel-pack that they strongly secure to my radiated parts.  It's supposed to pull the radiation closer to the skin.  It extends the treatment for another two minutes, but then the tech's come in, and untie my hand, and I can let go of that rod that has my arm frozen in position, and takes a while to thaw. The tape securing the gel pack are torn off quickly, and I am free. The techs.. nice men and women whose names elude me, as I'm bad at that, but I sure do like them.  "Another day down" the one of them always says.  Yup, another day down.
Afterwards, in the changing room, I compare the both sides of my chest, and see how dark and red it's becoming on the right side... skin just breaking under the arm, too.  So close to the end of treatments, but this is the skin at it's most sensitive.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Tibetan Museum of Art

Me and Evie visited the Tibetan Museum of Art today, in Staten Island.  It was just the tiniest of  places, with two rooms of Tibetan artifacts, including a beautiful sand painting under glass.  It was a little disappointing... not too sure what we were expecting.   Many years ago I had a dream that I was in some type of Tibetan monastery, and there were artifacts on 3 levels of display, and that's exactly what was there today.  Got a little bit of the chills when I saw it.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

park day

This past sunday was a beautiful Spring day.  I went with my sister, niece, and great-nephew, to a park down on shore road, and watched Logan playing.  It was good to get some air, and to take some pics of my best buds.

me and my buddy, Logan

Theresa and Logan

Melissa and Logan

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

a few words for April

The PET scan I had after chemotherapy ended showed no sign of cancer... not in the lymph nodes or anything!  Now I am having radiation as an extra precaution.  I've just finished my 4th treatment and have some 30 to go.  It's everyday, monday through friday, in the middle of the afternoon, so it kind of kills the day, but stupid me, those were the hours I requested.  Taking buses, waiting in waiting rooms, and the treatment, all combine to make me kind of tired when I get home, so I nap for a couple of hours.

Haven't been out with my camera in ages, but the weather is getting nicer now, so maybe I will.  Hoping to see my sister, Melissa, and Logan this weekend.  That will warrant pictures.

Friday, February 28, 2014

short update

A little update on me.

I finished my 8 courses of chemotherapy this past monday, the 24th.  These are my down days following the infusion.  But when these aches/pains/fatigue pass this time, there is no having to go back and do it again.  I'll start feeling more myself, hopefully.
I've been holed up inside for the most part over the months. Feeling weak to walk. Cold weather.  Snow.  More snow expected in a couple of days, and it will be March.  Coming in like a lion, it seems.
In less than 3 weeks I start radiation.  5 days a week for 7 weeks.  The process itself is short, maybe 10-15 minutes, but oye, everyday.
I am worried about my extensive lymph node involvement ... 17 positive out of 22 removed is not such good odds, and is what bumped me to Stage 3 cancer.  I just hope the chemo/radiation kills the damn shit off.
By my 60th birthday, in May, I want to celebrate being cancer-free.  Get the Jack Daniels, and roll another one.

Haven't been out (or in) with the camera, so nothing of mine to show.  But here's a pic that Mel took of Logan on "picture day" for this pre-K class.

Saturday, February 22, 2014


“Don't use the phone. People are never ready to answer it. Use poetry.” 
― Jack Kerouac

Where would Jack Kerouac say to start?  Well, wherever you are, baby, don'tchaknow.  Here in a friend's house, walls adorned with paintings paintings and more paintings.  Must be an artist, that's where she starts.  Me, the "writer", locked out of words for long stretches of time, but only because I don't do it, it's there to do.  Jack would say look at the dirt here on the road.  Get a feel.
I got a feel so deep it's etched in my bones.  Know where I am.  Need new dirt.

This blog has to do with dirt.  That's why the address is Road Side Gems, even though the name of the blog is Reading the Sky... roadsidegems...that's the dirt and rocks alongside the road, always different yet the same, wherever you travel.  Always touched by the same moon.  Did you ever gather up dirt from a special place to bring home with you?  I've done things like this.... just little bits, put in some bottles or containers.  Dirt from inside the medicine wheel back when Sun Bear was alive, and Grey Antelope, too.  Rocks from the roadside in Durango, Colorado, where everything looked like turquoise.
Then there have been people who've brought back dirt from places like Machu Picchu, or the Grand Canyon.  I believe that was my old friends, Alan and Laurel.  Long lost now.  But I have the dirt.

“My witness is the empty sky.” 
― Jack Kerouac