3 November

So here it is. Election Day. I think I feel sick. We’re supposed to get together tonight (appropriately social distanced, of course) with our neighbors for the viewing of election results and the consumption of alcohol. I’ll have to be very careful how much I consume due to my still-cranky liver so I’ll probably function as the designated driver, even though we’re gathering in our own back yard. Rory will be setting up the projector and we’ll livestream one of the news channels showing the returns. Most of us will be either rip-roaring drunk and horrifically depressed or celebrating happily by the end of the evening. I sure hope it’s the latter.

I spoke to my cardiologist yesterday via FaceTime. The ultrasound showed no visible damage to my heart due to the chemo drugs but he still wants to do a stress test on me, which is basically just me climbing aboard a treadmill in his office while hooked up to monitors and being put through a series of cardio drills. Considering all the crap I’ve been through up until now, this should be a relative piece of cake.

Today will most likely be spent paying bills, trying to ignore the constant noise of the media both on the telly and on our portable devices, maybe baking some muffins and making an early dinner for my critters. At some point I’ll have to nip off to the bank but that’s the only errand I need to do.

Ugh, it’s now Wednesday, the day after the election, and we still don’t know who our next president will be. I had hoped for a decisive election but I was pretty sure we weren’t going to get it, and look what’s happening. Color me shocked. Meanwhile, Trump is rattling his “stop the rigged mail-in ballot count” saber, never mind that there isn’t anything wrong with counting those ballots post-election day. Hell, many states don’t even begin counting those ballots until Election Day itself. And this year, there are a LOT more of those to wade through, thanks to the pandemic and the fear of crowded polling precincts. I’m hoping for two things: 1) That what the pundits and political historians have said is true and the mail-in ballots will lean more heavily Democratic; and 2) Trump won’t be able to stop those ballots from being counted. Pennsylvania’s governor has basically thrown down, telling the president that he hasn’t a prayer of interfering with the state’s electoral process. Good on ya, buddy! We could use a few more politicians on both sides of the aisle who aren’t afraid to show a little backbone.

25 October

It’s a beautiful warm Sunday afternoon in late October and I’m once again picking scabs.

Now that I have your undivided attention…😆

I’ve gotten back into the wallpaper stripping job and if I’m not careful, this project could completely take over my life and mushroom into something colossal. A while ago I suddenly had the idea of getting rid of the cheesy, fake “chair rail” wood molding in the kitchen and attached dining area. Last weekend I scouted out Lowe’s, made a note of which aisles contained the products I would need (joint compound, wall skimming blades, mud trays, putty knives, etc.), picked up a three-inch paint scraper/putty knife with a nice sturdy blade, and today got to work on removing that stupid molding. After watching a DIY video or two about how to do this without gouging the crap out of my walls, I’ve got all but two sections down and the underlying walls scraped as well as I can. I’m glad I stumbled onto another video showing how to seal, patch and skim-coat walls post-wallpaper because there are some sections that are pretty badly damaged. I had some… issues… with pulling down the paper before I discovered my miracle stripper product! Hey, don’t judge. I had NO idea what I was doing going into this and I’m not much of a DIYer. It’s pretty ridiculous, really. Let’s just say that I’m upping my game fast. Still, this whole process reminds me of picking at a giant scab or possibly several wall-sized areas of peeling skin. Cringe-worthy, I know, but there’s something so weirdly satisfying about it. I’m indulging my lower-primate grooming instinct!

Tomorrow (Monday) I’m going back to my cardiologist’s office for a heart ultrasound. Dr. Wellford wants to make sure that my old ticker hasn’t sustained any damage from all the chemo, which I guess is a fairly common occurrence. We already know that my left ventricle is slightly enlarged and that I have a fetal remnant somewhere in there as well, so let’s just hope that the scan shows an Energizer Bunny heart. This is making me almost as nervous as the idea of getting a bone marrow biopsy. I hate diagnostic tests and waiting for the results. I’m pretty sure that I’ve come through all the medication relatively unscathed but prayers are still being offered up.🙏🏻🙏🏻

Oh, I forgot to mention: I had another IV chemo infusion and blood test last Wednesday and Dr. Santiago has once again adjusted my meds to help with my still-cranky liver. I’m down to only five itty-bitty tablets of Methotrexate per week now instead of the former ten. Some of my other numbers have improved, such as my platelets and hemoglobin, and my kidneys are still firing on all cylinders, so I’ll take what I can get.

Holy moly, I’m actually publishing this blog post on-time for a change. That hasn’t happened in a while!😄

18 October

Happy birthday to me, happy birthday to me…🎉🎈🥳

Yep, it’s the first anniversary of my 59th birthday. Honestly, the sound of “60” is frankly so hideous that I’d like to deny its very existence for another year or so. My fifties are gone, up in smoke, POOF, and I’m staring down another decade, one in which I’ll transition from middle-aged to a senior. I figure that, at best, I have about another 20-25 years to go before my number’s up, and that’s going to go by in the blink of an eye. I begin to understand why some have thrown reason to the winds and plunged into an all-consuming quest for immortality. (Full disclosure: That won’t be me.) I also think I know why many major religions have at their core the promise of everlasting life for the “true believer.” We big-brained human animals simply have too much to do and not nearly enough time in which to do it, and we’re constantly looking for reassurance that there really IS more than the mere 65-80 some-odd years that we’re allotted. These are the thoughts that have been pinging around inside my head today.

Of course, I need to refocus and remind myself that at the very beginning of this year, none of us were even sure that I’d be around to celebrate my birthday! But for the grace of God and the expertise of my doctors, I’d most likely be taking a very long dirt nap right now. I’m very, VERY grateful for this, even though I may sound like I’m kvetching about turning one year older.

So yesterday we were going to drive into San Antonio and go to the Botanical Gardens for the first time but then I woke up feeling horribly dizzy. Like, drunken bed spins without the alcohol. Weird. I suspect an issue with my right inner ear because I’m pretty sure there’s fluid in there sloshing about. We changed our plans and stayed local, which is probably for the best given that Covid numbers have been rising again in our state. Also, Lauren wasn’t feeling great either so pulling the plug on the outing ended up being the right decision.

Rory cooked dinner tonight, a welcome change for me. Poor guy – I was getting all up in his face about preparing the dish a certain way and I had to really pull back and just let him do it. I admit, I have a horrible tendency to butt in and tell others in the kitchen that “THEY’RE DOING IT WRONG.” I try to be diplomatic about it but it still ends up being annoying as hell. This is definitely a character flaw that I need to work on!😝

14 October

Yay! We got our general election voting out of the way this morning. We tried yesterday but the lines were ridiculous. They weren’t much better today but we decided to stick it out anyway and after over an hour of waiting at the polling place, the deed was done. Apparently in our county alone, there have been over 5,000 votes cast already, which doesn’t sound like much but it’s a new record for a county with a population of around 200,000. Get out the vote, people!

I had an appointment with my cardiologist last week and he was a bit concerned about how my heart has fared with the amount of chemo drugs I’ve been exposed to over the past eight months. My ECG looked okay and my heart sounds pretty solid but I’m still going back in a couple weeks for an ultrasound just to make sure that the heart muscle hasn’t sustained any damage from the drugs. I am NOT going to worry about this, I am NOT going to worry about this… I’ll just keep repeating this to myself. Honestly, there isn’t anything I can do about it anyway except trust in my doctors’ expertise and hope that God has other plans for me besides a severely weakened heart!

Not much more to report, other than I dug up a video last week on what will probably be the best way to prep my kitchen walls after all the wall paper is gone. I’ve got one more bottle of enzyme solution on order so as soon as that arrives, I can get the last of that cursed paper off the walls. I geeked out in the paint section at Lowe’s a couple weeks ago and have pretty much settled on a paint scheme of pale neutral grey for the walls and a bright white for the cabinets. Hah, cabinets… Now I get to figure out the best way to paint those! Yeah, right…😄😆🤣😱

7 October

BLURGH. I’m days late in posting and there really isn’t much to report, so this is probably going to be a very short post!

Online schooling continues for the girls. They’re approaching the end of their first nine-week grading cycle (!!!) and they’re going to remain online for the foreseeable future. Covid-positive cases have been going up county-wide and just this week there have been six or seven new cases reported at the high school and ninth grade center, including at least one staff member. Meanwhile, Leyna has been invited to TWO birthday parties in the last several weeks, one of which was a sleep-over, and as much as I’d like to allow her to attend, it’s too much of a risk. Honestly, I’m surprised that parents are allowing any sort of parties at all. I certainly understand the desire to reacquire some degree of normal but this type of thing is more than a bit nuts.

My health is in a sort of holding pattern. I’m certainly not feeling too much worse but I will be VERY glad to see the back side of the oral chemo phase of my treatment. The neuropathy in my hands and feet is slowly worsening to the point where I’m having some issues picking up small objects like pins and earring backings. I know that once the chemo stops, the feeling in my extremities will begin to return. Just before starting the oral chemo in July I was feeling pretty darn good so there’s hope that my body will recover fully from its constant bludgeoning by the drugs.

It’s another lovely day in south-central Texas. The days have been warm but not stifling and the nights have been cooling off nicely. The cicadas are quieting down and the crickets are replacing them in the evenings. Our geckos aren’t as vocal as they have been but we also haven’t had any significant rain in weeks. They seem to peep the most when it’s damp. I miss them! The deer have once again checked what little brain matter they had at the door. It’s breeding season and they’re seven kinds of stupid, charging out onto the roads and getting themselves killed, or roving through the neighborhoods in mindless packs, mowing down any new plant material they can find. Stinkin’ pretty goats… GAH.😬

We’re still on the mostly vegetarian-vegan wagon but we’ve begun eating a bit more meat simply because Rory and I have been craving it. We’re still staying away from red meat so for now it’s chicken and fish, and maybe only once a week. I’ve discovered an amazing recipe for fried catfish that I think I wrote about before a few weeks ago and now I’ve found a good source of fresh fish here in town. Our local meat market, Granzin’s, has some incredible, fat catfish filets. I don’t know where they source their fish from but I do know that we’re sitting almost smack-dab in the middle of catfish farming country. The best fish comes from farms in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama, so the fish doesn’t have to travel very far. The stuff I used to buy back in California was truly awful – mealy and strange, but the catfish here is WONDERFUL. Now if I could just find a good source for tilapia, I’d be a truly happy camper!😄

Did I say this would be a short post? Guess I was feeling a bit more chatty than I had originally thought!😊

29 September

Aaaahhhh…. fall is officially here! Well, Texas autumn, anyway, but I’ll take it gladly over the ridiculous heat we had in late summer. The sunlight has turned golden and the mornings are wonderfully cool. Visions of pumpkin muffins are beginning to dance in my head as well as thoughts of Halloween decorations, bundling up in blankets and cooking hearty meals. Yep, I think fall is probably my favorite season although I wish we were in a part of the country where we could see its full glory. I envy our friends the Fergusons and Wendells, who live in the Northeast. Even though their winters are much longer and colder, they at least get to enjoy the seasonal color show that the trees put on every year as well as crunching about in fresh snow. *Sigh* I may be a born-and-raised southern Californian but I’d really like to live in an area that has four definite seasons!😊

The post-chemo aches are coming back but at least now I know what they are, what causes them and how long they last. Last month I was certifiably freaked out because I didn’t know if the discomfort was treatment-related or if I’d been smacked down by COVID. Knowledge is power! I’ll feel sort of crappy for a few days and then I’ll pull out of it and be fine. As long as those vile mouth sores don’t come back we’re golden.

Today will probably be spent working on a friend’s website. The poor bunny is virtually illiterate technologically and has been struggling to put something together using one of those online site-building apps. She was nearly in tears yesterday because she’s been fighting such a steep learning curve so I’m going to step in and build the site for her. Ugh… I told myself I wouldn’t do this, she needs to learn this stuff for herself, but she’s fighting a deadline and her site really isn’t that complex, just an online portfolio with no flashy bells or whistles. I’m probably going to regret this but I’m a bit of a pushover with a soft spot for those who are floundering.

I’m trying out a new recipe for dinner tonight. It’s a soup called Porrusalda that hails from the Basque region of northern Spain and it looks really easy and so, so good. Leyna has also started a batch of home made bread but I don’t think much (if any) of that will last until dinner time. We as a family tend to fall on a freshly baked loaf like a pack of ravening wolves. I’ll probably nip out to the store at some point today to grab a loaf of something crusty and hearty enough to be a good accompaniment. The soup also calls for fresh cod as an option so I’ll see if I can find some of that as well. I’m looking forward to this!😊

20 September

It’s official. I now have just enough hair to wake up with appalling bed-head in the mornings!😆 It’s still only about 1/2-3/4” long but that seems to be quite enough to look as though it got brushed with an eggbeater when I climb out of the rack. So far, the Vincristine IV infusions don’t seem to be causing any hair loss, although my eyelashes are once again beginning to fall out a bit. That doesn’t bother me though – they’ll begin growing back as soon as the chemo stops.

I actually began stripping more of that obnoxious wallpaper from our kitchen walls this week! I’m running out of enzyme solution but I think if I push it, I may be able to complete the job in another day, providing I can get the fridge pulled out. Yes, the prior owners wallpapered the fridge alcove.🙄 This means I’ll probably have to turn off the electricity for the kitchen and plug the fridge into another circuit while I work in the alcove but that isn’t insurmountable. Then it’s wash with TSP, sand, skim coat, second sand, and finally paint. I’ll probably need to do some drywall patching as well because I’m planning on pulling down the cheesy fake wainscoting and I’ll probably end up damaging the underlying drywall in the process. BLURGH… Oh, and THEN I get to think about how best to repaint our kitchen cabinets! Ordinarily I don’t like to paint over wood but our kitchen is so stinkin’ dark that bright white cabinets would go a long way towards brightening things up. We could also knock a hole in the roof and put in a skylight but that isn’t what I would call a DIY job.

The weather today looks like it’s going to be rainy off and on all day. We’ve got another tropical storm parked just offshore in the Gulf that’s pushing moisture our way. I really hope we can score some decent rain out of it but we’ll see. It’s only just begun sprinkling again but I suppose if it does this for the entire day our plants (and especially our trees) will be better off for it.

There isn’t much more to report, other than I’m once again getting a bit itchy to start another painting. It’s been a full two years since I finished the portrait of Lauren and I’d love to do one that features Leyna. I have some pretty decent photo reference but they’re all from 7-10 years ago and I’d sort of like to do something more recent. Maybe I can get her to model for me. Yeah, right… when pigs fly! That kid can’t stand still for more than a few minutes at a time.😆

13 September

It’s finally, FINALLY cooled down to the point that it’s once again pleasant to park one’s self on the back patio for a while in the morning, which is exactly what I’m doing. It’ll warm up today to the upper 80s but that’s far more bearable than it has been. I think we’re finally clear of the oppressive heat. YAY!

I had a pretty good week, if a slow one. My weird aches are all gone and now the only symptom I have is continued fatigue, though not nearly the bone-sapping kind that I experienced just before diagnosis. I’ve taken over all cooking duties once again and usually manage quite well. There are some nights when I have to sit down and rest regularly but as long as I pace myself I’m usually okay and don’t have to call in for reinforcements.

We watched a truly chilling documentary last night on Netflix called “The Social Dilemma.” It’s basically about how social media has taken hold of our society and especially our young citizens in the last 15 years. It honestly makes me want to strip away all the social media apps from all my devices and then throw the devices out the window. Lauren sat down to watch most of it with us and at one point looked at us with eyes like saucers and asked, “Is this really happening?” Yep. It’s really happening, honey. People are being driven apart by the vitriol on social media, and those latent prejudices are being taken advantage of by the companies that drive the online advertising as well as by the social media companies themselves. It wasn’t always this way. These companies developed their apps in order to help connect college students, old friends, family members, and lonely individuals looking for more interaction with their fellow humans. The genie was let out of the bottle. Pandora’s box was opened. These new miracle tools were corrupted and made to serve a darker purpose.

6 September

Welp, I wish I could say that this week was a good one but I would be lying through my teeth. The oral chemo meds that I’ve been taking were delayed in their side effects but they’re settling in now with a vengeance. I started out with a slight ache in my neck last Sunday that I thought was a result of having slept like a pretzel. Then the ache spread to my shoulders, mid and lower back, arms, hands and hips, to the point where I was nearly immobilized from the pain. I worried that the aches were a sign of Covid-19 but I had no other real symptoms – no dry cough, no fever, no loss of taste or smell, nuffink. I’m beginning to feel a bit better a full week later but I still have to take pain meds to keep the discomfort at a level that I can tolerate. This seriously sucks. I got too complacent thinking that I could breeze through this stage of the treatment without issue. I stand corrected!

Ugh… Another unpleasant side effect to the new chemo regimen seems to be horrible constipation. I’ve never had an issue with elimination but now (apologies for being so graphic) it feels as though someone has jammed a huge cork up my bum because I’m completely stoved up, bloated and crampy. Miralax doesn’t seem to be working at all so I may have to add prune juice to the mix. If THAT doesn’t cause any lower intestinal seismic shift then I’m in deep poo-poo!😱😆 Sorry for the horrible pun but it was far too easy a mark.

The girls are slowly settling in to their online school schedule. There is still quite a bit of complaining and there has also been some class shuffling (sorry, school counselors, we love you for the work you do!) but things seems to be calming down considerably. The panicked shrieking episodes have all but ceased and yes, there are still frequent snarls of frustration, but we’re getting there.

I think the unbearable summer heat is finally beginning to break. A few days ago we actually had a few hours of lovely solid RAIN. It was still relatively warm outside but cool enough to open up the house and let in that delicious rainy smell (yeah, I know – it’s called petrichor). One of our big Texas red oaks in our back yard was showing stress from the heat and dryness and was dropping a lot of leaves prematurely but the dampness has helped it tremendously. It’s big enough that its roots probably extend under the dry creek bed just outside our back fence and that creek was full and running for quite some time during the rain. More moisture = much happier trees! Poor babies – it would nearly kill me if we were to lose any of our trees. I adore them all and will definitely be watching them more closely now for signs of stress.

So, I sat down with a calendar the other day and discovered that all my chemo will end on the 13th of January, exactly one year to the day since I was hospitalized for my first induction chemo cycle! I’ll still have another six months of a different set of meds to deal with after that but HELL YEAH!!!! WOOT!!!!!😆🎉

30 August

Summer’s officially over. The girls are back in school (remote learning, at least for the first nine-week grading period) and there’s more early-morning bustle in the house on the weekdays. I wish I’d had the presence of mind to set up my iPhone on a tripod to record the wacky goings-on of the first morning on Monday – some of the stuff coming out of their mouths was HILARIOUS and they were in remarkably good spirits, considering it was the start of the school year. Well, that lasted for maybe the first hour and then things began flying apart at the seams. Apparently one of Leyna’s teachers hadn’t yet communicated the sign-on info for getting into the Zoom class meeting and, given that this kid is one who absolutely HAS to have all her ducks in a row at all times, she was having a complete meltdown. Another problem was that their class schedules weren’t available until about 7:45am. THAT SAME MORNING. This caused more than a bit of consternation and resulted in me stepping in and gently reminding them that none of this was their fault and that they wouldn’t be penalized for showing up late to a class that they couldn’t access.

So, did I say that summer is over? Heh. You certainly wouldn’t know it by the weather, which has been scorching, obnoxious, nasty, stinking hot for the last week. On Friday I had to run over to the high school to pick up art supplies for one of Leyna’s classes and I had to take Rory’s car because he had the Subaru for the weekly market run. Every surface on that little car is either black or chromed and EVERYTHING I touched resulted in much pain and swearing. Ridiculous. Why the hell even make black cars in the first place? Rory bought the damn thing five years ago because it was lightly used, fuel efficient and relatively low mileage, not because of its color. The poor little thing has never seen the inside of the garage (which is home to our two MGs, neither of which is currently in driving condition) and has to sit in our driveway instead, cooking in the blazing Texas sun. The same can be said for our Ruby, the Subaru. I sometimes wish we had some sort of carport attached to the front of the garage that could protect our vehicles a little more. I’ve seen some in the neighborhood that are actually quite attractive and look more like backyard gazebos than utilitarian vehicle shelters. The only caveat to this possible solution would be that the structure would have to be tall enough to enclose a camper trailer, since that’s how my in-laws travel and they need space for their trailer when staying with us. Still, that’s something that can be managed.

Now for the “big” news of the week: I had my second IV chemo infusion on Wednesday and my blood cell counts are now messed up to the point that Dr. Santiago has cut back on my meds. Apparently my liver is being impacted by the constant low-level poison and according to the blood panel, it may be inflamed. I’ve cut out ALL alcohol consumption, even though I wasn’t drinking a whole lot to begin with, and I’m increasing my intake of foods that can help with liver function. I want to make absolutely certain that I’m doing as much as I can to help my body continue its healing process. However, a new wrinkle has emerged: My bones ache. The discomfort isn’t quite as bad as the pain I felt after my Granix shots during my fifth hospitalized cycle but it’s more wide-spread, involving my shoulders, arms, wrists, mid and lower back, and hips. I’m a bit nervous about this new development because I also have a sore throat. Yep, I know… COVID!!!! AAAAHHHHHH!!!!!! That’s where my mind went when I first began having these symptoms a couple days ago but I don’t have any trace of fever or cough. I looked through all the paperwork provided by the doctor’s office to check if this is a fairly common side effect of my prescribed drugs and it may be. Looks like another phone call to the office may be in the cards for me today.🙄