Happy New Year – 2019

It’s amazing what old age will do to you. For the hubby and me, it means you find yourself addressing “Christmas cards” on New Year’s Day. Somewhere around December 22nd, the hubby and I realized we weren’t going to get the Christmas cards out on time after all. So, because there was little other choice, we decided to purposely wait and make them a “Seasons Greetings” as soon as we could in the new year.   

Much of the year was spent keeping doctor’s appointments and “having procedures.” In March my “routine mammography” became anything but when, instead of being called in and blessed with the “You can go home now, everything looks normal” reply I’d expected, I was led to a quiet side-chapel room to await a private talk with the oncologist. Yep, it was the old “lower case c” announcement every woman dreads. This time, instead of a recurrence of the 2010 non-Hodgkins lymphoma found in a lump in my breast, it was a ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) in the other breast. Then came the usual procedures including another colonoscopy and endoscopy to make sure it hadn’t spread. Then the lumpectomy, and hopefully all the affected skin cells duly removed–all with waiting periods in between. Then another three weeks of daily radiation, and it was determined that I had at that time “no (further) evidence of the disease. From now on I’ll face each mammography I have with dread. During this time, I had to twice reschedule a complete knee replacement we had expected to do in April much later than expected. 

I finally got the new knee in August. You’ve probably heard the old adage. My version goes “surgery went well, but  the patient almost died due to complications from low sodium and bad reaction to pain medication. It’ll make a good story if you like that sort of humor.

Now, four months later, I’m beginning to feel it might have been worth it. I walk well now, and that means there may be more travel possibilities in our future. Hubby’s bucket list is very long, so we’re hoping for a good year in 2019 that may include some travel. During this down time, and so much time on the couch during the various recovery periods, we made a new best friend of Netflix–who was always there for us. We both got hooked on NYT crossword puzzles. Even though I know many words–I have the very best words–Hubby is so much better, but I’m getting better, both health- AND word-wise.  In spite of all our bad new habits, we hope to get better organized in 2019 and do everything on our “must do” list on time. We’re grateful we’re ending the year better than it began. It’s all in the attitude. For now, we’ll just raise our virtual glasses to wish everyone a Most Healthy and Happy New Year.

wine glasses






ready for a new look at india

Monday was my six month checkup with the cancer institute. No scans, just bloodwork and a consultation. So uneventful it didn’t even merit a pitcher of Margaritas.  Everything still looks good, so now Hubby and me have finally scheduled the visit to India that got interrupted last year by chemo and radiation. We’re scheduled to leave New York January 15 and return there February 12. For part of that trip we’ll be accompanied by the Pittsburgh friend who accompanied us to Utah’s southeastern canyons recently.

What I’m particularly looking forward to showing our friend on this, my second trip to Agra in northern India, is the legendary Taj Mahal. The last time I was there was in 1980 on a Tuesday in May, and would you believe it?! The reflecting pool, shown here in a photograph from Wikipedia, had been drained for cleaning. What are the odds? Since this trip will no doubt be my last–to the Taj Mahal at least–I’m driving Hubby crazy saying “we have to find out what days and how often they clean the reflecting pool.” He’s much more laid back than me and it wouldn’t bother him one whit if it happens again, but not me!

There’ll be other wonderful re-visits to forts and palaces and temples in Delhi, after which we’ll spend a few days in Goa where I’m hoping for at least one feast of seafood in a fabulous restaurant. After that we’re looking at a short houseboat journey in Kerala, to explore through its backwaters and watch beautiful sunsets and sunrise while somebody else drives, makes the beds, and cooks. Sounds like a pretty good way to work the stress kinks out of the body and soul. Then on to Kanayakumari, which is literally the bottom of India and bordered by the Arabian Sea, the Bay of Bengal and the Indian Ocean.

I feel great in body and spirit, and there’s no sign yet of my rheumatoid arthritis (!). My oncologist tells me that it’s not uncommon for RA symptoms not to return for a long time, but that eventually–if I live long enough–symptoms will probably appear again eventually. That’s because one of the treatments used in the chemo-regimen chosen by my doctors, mega doses of Rituximab, is also used to treat RA. In the meantime, I’ll just enjoy being in remission–of both cancer and rheumatoid arthritis. And get ready to explore India and visit as many of those relatives who were so supportive of both Hubby and me during the treatment.

A few months ago on one of my cleaning-out sprees, I found the calendar I had on my kitchen wall in 1980. I had forgotten that I’d posted daily notes on it about that trip–my very first to India. Where, who, what and little experiences I had. Travel really is broadening and that was just the beginning of a lifelong journey for me. So now that my Osher class is almost over (next week) I thought I’d spend a few posts to jot down a few of those experiences, so they’ll be fresh in my mind to compare with the new/old me looking forward to the upcoming trip which will be number five for me, or is it six? That ought to make the time go faster, huh?

hair apparent and other after-treatment news

Driving by my old hair dresser’s shop yesterday after my first Osher class of the new season, I decided to stop in and surprise him, sporting as I was, my new au naturel look. I have about two inches on top, with slightly less on the sides. New growth from formerly bald, I’ve learned, is erratic and uneven. The color is salt and pepper, leaning a little more on the salt side.

Most of the summer I’ve been waiting for my hair to grow. Technically, it’s supposedly been growing since about three weeks after my last chemo treatment, which was sometime around the end of April–how quickly we forget. That means sometime in May, maybe around my birthday on the 12th, I noticed the straggly hairs on my eyebrows that grow low nearly on the eyelid itself, which mostly disappeared during treatments leaving me a Clara Bow hint of brow, were the first to pop their ugly coarse hairs up again. Not much luck with the more important kind–that on top of my head–but lo and behold, sometime around the end of the month there was definitely more than a five o’clock shadow up there! And HOPE. That a new, full head of hair was indeed in my future. And that there was a future, indeed, to look forward to!

The bad news about the new hair apparent is that the texture is just as soft–like cotton–as it always was.

The good news is that it takes less than 10 minutes to have a perfectly fresh “do” to go out with in the mornings. The color’s not bad, and I’m planning to try one of those “silver” hair shampoos and save a lot of money not having my hair blonde-streaked ever again. I still cling to my wigs for backup, but they’re no longer out waiting on top of my dresser anymore. I’ve packed them away into their boxes. Just in case. Most of the time, I’m very happy to go about sporting my own–yep there’s enough to call it that now–HAIR.

The funny thing is how I feel as if I’m really presenting myself as myself now, perhaps for the first time in my life. I had a neck injury when I was young that left me with a lump on my neck at the top of my shoulders that makes me look a little like a turtle with his head sticking out of his shell if you see me sideways. I will always believe that my grandfather’s teasing me and pinching my breasts at a crucial period of my young life resulted in my rounded shoulders. If he didn’t notice the “Sunday bumps”–as he called them–he wouldn’t pinch them. I began hunching my shoulders when he was around. Eventually, I stopped noticing how I was hunching more and more, even when Grandpa wasn’t around.

I always feel as if I’m standing perfectly straight but candid glimpses of myself reflected in storefront windows and in pictures reveal the truth. For most of my adult life I’ve hidden this anomaly with either the “right” hairlength or the “right” kind of blouse or jacket as a disguise. Wearing wigs made this even easier because there was a heckuva lot more vinyl than I had real hair. The wigs are tiresome after awhile though, and they get awfully hot some summer days.

Eventually I decided it wasn’t worth the hassle. It was time to get over it. Going cold turkey with my appearance–figurative warts and all–seemed the only way. Why now, you may wonder. In the spirit of looking for the good that comes from every bad thing that happens to you, I’ve decided that cancer has taught me it’s time to let go. In spite of how we tell ourselves we do, I know that none of has any real control of his life. The best we can do is learn to roll with the punches and simplify life as much as possible. At 68 I have nothing to prove to anybody anymore.

It’s been very hard to present myself to the world without all the props, especially when SIL reprimands the grandson in my presence to stand up straight. At the same time it’s been so “freeing”, so I just give SIL the benefit of the doubt and not infer that he’s reminding Thomas that he doesn’t want to wind up looking hunched like Grandma. It is a parent’s job to teach their children to stand up straight and proud, after all, and another thing I learned from having cancer is that people care a lot more than you can believe. You just have to be honest with everybody. This is me, folks. Get used to it.

So Kim, my hairdresser, a guy not a girl despite his name, tells me he kinda likes my new “do.” So for the future cuts, I gave him carte blanche from here on out to cut it however he wants to. And I think he’s already planning to go with the new look, beginning with a “shape up” in a few more weeks when I have an inch or so more hair to shape. And then, a trim every five weeks or so to keep it neat. Now THAT’s when I figure my hair will really start to grow. I’m sure you’ve noticed how fast your hair grows when you have to get trims at $xx.00 a pop every five or six weeks! In spite of Hubby’s sorrow, I’m so-ooooooooo looking forward to it.