Saturday, December 03, 2005

This has been a busy year, and I haven't written much. I'm sorry, and will try to do better.

Our trips have been wonderful (as usual), and I'll try to get back to write about them individually. But today, I wanted to post a picture of one of my paintings that was juried into an exhibit here in Chattanooga. The exhibit is called Eye Candy. It went up in early November and will be hanging through the end of the year. A reception for the juror and the artists was last night. It was exciting getting to meet the juror and some of the other artists. The food was good, too, but a crowded reception is really not the best place to see the art that's hanging. We did see the show a couple of weeks ago, but we need to go back and look again.

My piece (Color Symphony) is acrylic on canvas, 36x36". I've been doing nonrepresentational pieces for quite a while, but this series is the first time I've done acrylic on canvas. Usually I do watercolor or acrylic on paper. They have been great fun to do, and have have "come" very quickly. I so much enjoy the "process" of making art. I want the piece to be good and to be meaningful to the viewer, but my main joy is in the "doing".

I hope this brings some color into a cold, gray, drizzly day.

Saturday, May 28, 2005

Memorial Day Weekend

Hi everybody! Two of our daughters, one granddaughter, and one granddog are here for a couple of days. Sue (our oldest) and Alison (oldest granddaughter) drove from South Carolina, and Jean (youngest) and Spencer (granddog) came from Nashville.

Right after they all got here, we headed out to the new Ocean Journey portion of the Tennessee Aquarium. Alison has just graduated (cum laude [says the proud grandma]) from the College of Charleston with majors in Marine Biology and Spanish. She was really eager to see the new part of the Aquarium. And it is great! She loves the invertebrates (jellyfish, nautilus, etc.), and they have a good exhibit of those. So it was a fun afternoon.

I had made lasagna, so we had that for dinner. They'll all be here for a while tomorrow, then Sue and Alison are headed for dinner with their other grandfather, and then home. Jean will be here until Sunday. We'll probably go to the Hunter Museum of American Art tomorrow, but don't know what else we'll do. Maybe find a shop or two to browse in.

Alison is headed to Panama next Friday to work at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute. I guess she's all grown up now, and off to start on her new life. She'll be there about 9 months, and then will probably be starting graduate school in the fall of 2006.
Have a great weekend!

Friday, May 27, 2005

Second post for the day

Jean tells me that I've been bad, and haven't been posting here. This is true, and I'll try to do better.

An update on the cancer treatment:

I had my first post-radiation visit with the surgeon yesterday. He says everything's looking fine. I am to see him in four months (September) after having a left-sided mammogram right before the appointment. Then I'll have a bilateral mammogram in January - a year from the routine one where they found the "irregularity". I asked him if he thought I was being a fool for deciding not to take Femara (the 5-year-course of medication recommended by the medical oncologist) - since the invasive part of my tumor was ER negative. He said that I wasn't being foolish, that it definitely wasn't cut-and-dried, since they found this very early, it was small, and no chemo was required. I do feel better about that now.

I saw the radiologist today - and now there is a semi-long-term plan in place. He said that the tissues held up very well during the radiation and that I seem to have recovered nicely. I asked him, too, if I was a fool for not taking Femara. He said that since the invasive part of the tumor was ER negative, medication was probably not indicated - would definitely have no bearing on my "survival". It was usually prescribed to lessen the chances of recurrence or new tumor formation.

Since I'm to see the surgeon in September, the radiologist wants me to come back to see him in January, i.e., to see one of them every 3-4 months. He said that the surgeon "was in charge" of the plan and we'd follow his lead. The radiologist also said that since I wasn't going to take medication, there was no reason for me to follow up with the medical oncologist, so I won't need to make an appointment to see him.

This past 5 month period has really seemed like a surreal dream. Amazing. But I really do feel good now, and am looking forward to our week at the beach next month, and our trip to Russia in August.

Monday, March 07, 2005

Basketball and Continuing treatment

From last Wednesday through Saturday, we were at the Southern Conference Basketball Tournament here in Chattanooga. This is really a marathon for those of us who want to see every game (men's and women's). Unfortunately, our Lady Mocs (UT Chattanooga) were upset in their first game - they were the odds-on favorites to win the conference. Our men, however, went on to win the tournament in a great game on Saturday, and will be playing at least the first round in the NCAA. Also on Saturday, the women's final was held. Our team wasn't playing, but it was a great game, that went into double-overtime before Western Carolina finally won. All in all, an exciting tournament!

I saw the radiologist this morning, and treatments will start next Monday. So, our three planned elderhostels in April have to be cancelled. This is certainly a disappointment, but not really a surprise. As with everything else that's been done so far, the people involved have been wonderfully kind, caring and considerate.

I went to the Cancer Center and saw Dr. Ellis for the initial visit. I loved it that after he introduced himself, and asked how I was feeling, he asked me what my "panic factor" was (not his exact words, but the general idea). I thought this was a wonderful way for him to get an idea of my general mental status. I'll go back again tomorrow for a CAT scan and conference with the nurse for instructions and information on all that will be done. On Friday, I'll go back again for what they call a "dry run", which is to get everything lined up, appointments made, and marks made on the breast to direct the x-ray placement. This will go for 28 regular treatments - 5 days a week - then another 6 treatments with radiation directly to the tumor site. He said I might be fatigued, and have some redness in the local area, but otherwise probably have no bad side effects.

On Thursday, I'll go to see the medical oncologist, to get into his care system. The radiologist said because the tumor was small and caught early, I'll probably be put on Arimidex. I'm in the process of weaning myself off of the Premarin therapy, with no apparent effects so far - I'm down to every 4th day now.

And so now we're off on the slower part of this journey.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Post Surgery

The results from the surgery were the best that could be expected. The sentinel node biopsy was negative for tumor and the margins of the tissue excised were free of tumor. Under the circumstances, that was a great relief. I went to the hospital early in the morning for a nuclear scan to identify the sentinel node (that was the only really painful part of the day - the injection of the material for the scan). From there I went to the stereotactic procedure room to have a probe inserted to the tumor site. Then back to nuclear medicine to have films of the sentinel node. Then finally about 2 p.m. to surgery. Of course, the next I remember was being in the Recovery Room and trying to claw my way out of the anesthetic.

John and Jean either followed me around the hospital, tried to find me in the hospital, or just waited. Margaret and FO Richardson and Betty Harper spent time with them in the waiting area. We finally got home about 6:30 that night.

I didn't sleep much that night, but managed a couple of pretty good "chair naps" during the day on Saturday. Vicki came by in the morning and brought delicious potato soup for our lunch. Betty H. came and brought us a wonderful dinner. Beautiful flowers were delivered - I do so enjoy those. I had just some discomfort during the day. Jean undid the Ace wrapping around my breasts so I could take a shower, and that was wonderful. There are two incisions, neither looking to be too large. She got me wrapped back up. John went to see the Lady Mocs play - they beat Elon. I slept well last night.

Today was a grey, drizzly day - all day long. I've found that although I don't have much pain, everytime I get up and move around too much, I get really weak - guess that's just the anesthesia talking back. That'll take a while to wear off. I got another good nap, and finished the Tony Hillerman book I'd been reading. Judy McCain came by and brought us a great pot-roast dinner. We haven't eaten this well in ages...and even will have good leftovers.

Jean left about noon today. Beth is going to try to come down tomorrow or Tuesday for a couple of days. I know that I'm going to be pretty much a stay-at-home for the week - no basketball game tomorrow night - until this anesthesia all wears off. I call tomorrow to make my followup appointment and see what the treatment plan will be from this point.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

On the road to surgery

John and I went to the surgeon yesterday. The site from the needle biopsy had healed satisfactorily. We talked about the diagnosis, Stage II invasive ductal carcinoma, the suggested treatment, and probable followup.

His recommendation is a nuclear scan to pinpoint the so-called sentinel nodes (nodes that would be the most likely sites of any movement of tumor), followed by lumpectomy. Assuming that the pathology reports showed the tumor margins to be clear and the nodes to be free of tumor, this would be followed approximately two weeks later by 4-7 weeks of radiation treatments (5 days a week).

The scan and surgery have been scheduled for Friday, 18 February. He does not envision any chemotherapy, but if this is necessary, it would be done prior to radiation therapy. After the surgery and after the pathology reports are in and after the surgical sites have healed, I'll be referred to a radiological oncologist and/or a medical oncologist for further treatment. We really can't get too far ahead with this. Each new step is based upon findings from the previous step, so everything except Friday's scan and surgery is speculation. Minimum treatment at this time is lumpectomy followed by radiation. We'll keep our fingers crossed.

Jean (our youngest daughter) has decided that she's going to be coming down from Nashville on Thursday through Sunday to help out. I know she will be a help, and I know it'll make her happy to see just what's happening to her mother. If nothing else, it's gotten her to make an appointment for her mammogram and pap smear.

I've done some painting - and that's a good thing. I really haven't done much in a long time. Oue neighbor send me some flowers, and I've been doing watercolors of those on cards. I need to do some of the big splashy acrylics, too. Margaret sent a photo of the two smaller ones that I did to go with her big one in the den. They look great!

John has a miserable cold. He's all stopped up and coughing. I hope he gets over that soon.

We'll be going to the Photographic Society tonight. The program is on digital photography, and I need all the help I can get with the new camera.

Monday, February 14, 2005

Good news/Bad news

John and I went to take courses at the John C. Campbell Folk School in Brasstown, NC (near Murphy, NC). That is such an incredible place - all sorts of classes in various arts and crafts - knitting, weaving, spinning, painting, woodworking, cooking, music, making musical instruments, photography, pottery, blacksmithing, etc., etc. John wanted to take a class in wood-turning, so I went, too, and took a class in gourd decorating. We both had a lot of fun, learned lots, and probably won't do those particular crafts again. We're ready to go back to the Folk School again, though, and take some other courses.

For the bad news: I had my annual mammogram in January. They called me back to make more films, and some irregularities were found. Last Tuesday, I had a stereotactic needle biopsy done, and the results showed malignancy. This has definitely not been a happy week for us and our family. It's the first time anyone in our immediate family has had to deal with a diagnosis like this. John and I have been to talk to the people at the Breast Resource Center at the hospital, and have been given more general information than we can digest. I know very little about my cancer specifically at this point. I have a followup appointment with the surgeon tomorrow morning. I hope at that time, we'll get lots more specific information, with options and recommendations, so we can make decisions as to the type and timing of treatment. I'm trying very hard not to do excessive worrying when I don't know what I'm worrying about. And I'm also trying to keep from jumping too far ahead before I have enough information.

I have a fanastic support system - my wonderful John, our daughters, sons-in-law, and grandchildren, my dear friends in person, and my virtual friends on SeniorNet. I know I'm going to be depending on them for all the love and support they can give me in the weeks and months ahead.

Saturday, January 29, 2005

Winter Weather

Today is Kate's birthday. She probably wouldn't appreciate my telling her age, and since it doesn't end in "0", I won't. Happy Birthday, Kate!

It's midafternoon, and we've been having freezing rain since before dawn. I don't think the temperature has dropped below 32F, but the rain has been pretty steady, and there's lots of ice. Our cable and broadband have been out for several hours, but that was mostly during nap-time. 8^) So far (fingers crossed), we haven't had any power problems. Cars have been going up and down the street, so travel doesn't seem to be a problem here in the Valley. I know there are roads closed up on Lookout and Signal Mountains. Our deck and back stairs down from the deck are covered with a sheet of ice.

We have tickets for the Lady Mocs vs ETSU tonight, preceded by a supper given by the Athletic Department for the season-ticket-holders. I'm sure we will make a valiant attempt to get there. And our classes at the John C. Campbell Folk School start tomorrow afternoon, so we'll be watching the roads closely for information on Hwy 64 along the Ocoee River.

Re JCCFS, John will be taking a class in wood-turning, and I'm taking one in gourd decoration. It should be a fun week. We're hoping John really loves the wood-turning. That'll mean that he'll want to get some equipment, and we'll HAVE to clean out the garage so he has room to work. Let's see, now - we've been in this house for 18 years, and we've been threatening for at least 15 years to clean out the garage. LOL

I've been managing to stay fairly calm about the upcoming breast biopsy. Several good friends have had needle biopsies and have had benign results. Of course, a couple of have had malignancies, too. I'm still working on staying calm about the procedure, and trying not to get too far ahead. We certainly can't make any new decisions until we get past the pathology results from the biopsy. Since I have to wait until 8 February for this, I'm glad we had the trip to the Folk School already planned, so I won't be sitting at home trying to "not obssess". It is wonderful to know that there are so many family and friends out there who love me and are holding me up with that love.

I doubt that I'll get any computer access for the next week at the Folk School, so it'll be a few days before I get back. Stay safe and warm!

Thursday, January 27, 2005

First Post

This is a new experience for me, and I hope I will be learning a lot as I go along. I have a new digital camera and a new laptop, so I know I have a lot to learn over the next months and years. Bear with me, and I hope we get to know each other well.