Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Fall is Falling Finally

Two weeks after my first treatment. Waiting for the other shoe to drop. I had been coached that I would be so sick. Well? So far the only thing that has blind-sided me was constipation from the medicines that were added to my treatment. Man! I was not prepared for that! Concrete. Anyway, after doing what I had to do and getting on a regimen of Metamucil, I am fine.

I have another week before my next treatment. My plan is to get my lab done the day before so that there won't have to be such a waiting time for lab results before the treatment starts. I plan to ask if I can also do that ahead of time before my followup visits. It doesn't make sense to sit and wait for seemingly hours just to hear "you're fine," or not, especially if you are sick.

My lab was good my first week after treatment. They had kinda expected it not to be. I was told, "Well, it'll probably drop this time." Aha. To be warned is to be forearmed. Since my appetite has not been affected, I have kind of made a project of researching the foods I need daily to keep my iron level as stable as possible.

Also, we were told that my hair would start falling out two weeks to the day. That is today. Dare I look in the mirror? I know people are different, but the suspense is there. I do have my wig poised and ready for when we go out. I am not a baseball cap kind of person and I don't think I would look cute shiny-bald as one lady at the clinic looks.

Since the weather has cooled dramatically, I have started walking as much daily as possible around the garden track. The temp was 58 this morning at 8. September can be cruelly hot, but this respite is welcome.

So, with few problems, watching diet, exercise, so much to be thankful for. I am trying to focus on the "goodies" that are there daily. This morning, I saw several hummingbirds at the feeders and other blooming vegetation. This must be the peak season before they migrate. Also, the Jerusalem artichokes are blooming en mass. I hope J can get a good picture of them so I can post them. They are gorgeous not only where they are, but J enjoys picking a few along with some late roses for the bouquet he enjoys fixing for me. How sweet and how pretty. I wish I knew the name of the "cane" that blooms in September. It is breathtaking. I hope J can get a picture of that today. The 4 o'clocks are in full bloom. Some people think them pests, but I don't. They just do their thing without a lot of coaxing.

We had planted greens. They are up, but we fear the fall bugs are invading. J is fighting back. I need to feed them with Miracle Gro so they will go ahead and grow big leaves while they are still tender. I so hope I can can them this time. Our spring crop was a bust. We planted late squash, and right now they look healthy. Our cantaloupe crop has amazed us. There might have been three plants in that one hill, but we have had probably 20-something melons from that one hill. At today's prices, what a happy surprise.

If I remain feeling okay the next few months, I hope we can begin preparing the garden for the winter and have it as ready for spring planting as we did this time. What a work saver. The leaves we scattered have not only served to keep moisture in but kept grass under great control. My plan is to have a spring garden.

Besides keeping up with household obligations, I have done substitute transcription for a friend who has had health problems of her own for a few days. This was for the speed demon surgeon who doesn't or won't realize what a pain it is to hear each little syllable that can make a huge difference in how a word turns out. It's not a place for guessing. Said friend is scheduled for an upper endoscopy tomorrow and was testing the waters to see if I can cover for her again so soon. I probably will. That's my small way to help her.

This cool morning beckons, so on with the walking shoes and sweater (what a concept) and on to the track. Looking forward to whatever new is blooming this morning.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

A Lot of Water......

I think with the amount of rain we have had precluding my walks in the garden, that I am losing out on keeping up with events. The other day, we picked the last of the tomatoes that were still good and made juice. Then on Monday, I was cruising what I thought was the last of the veggies and spied a new crop, albeit small, of green beans, some of them shelly. I couldn't bear the thoughts of them going to waste and not knowing if I would be feeling like handling them later, I picked enough for 6 quarts of mixed snaps and shellies. I was thinking that amount would be fairly easy to handle, but got a long phone call and then came dinner, so there were the beans to prep and can. It was getting close to 11 or 12 when I finished. The only consideration there was that my chemotherapy was to start the next morning, Tuesday. Well. I am glad to have the beans to replenish what we have eaten and shared.

I don't think I have mentioned that I got my VAD implanted Friday afternoon. That went well, and I had no after effects, i.e., pain from the procedure. So my first chemotherapy therapy was scheduled for Tuesday. I am getting Adriamycin at three-week intervals for about four months. I suppose that the information I was given applied to the average person. I had been told that I would be given an anti-nausea medicine and some other meds that would prevent nausea, etc., and that I would sleep through the procedure. Guess again. The meds didn't faze me, was an interesting session, and J sat with me and we chatted through the entire procedure which lasted approximately an hour. We had lunch out, did some shopping for the food I would need in case I did develop nausea/vomiting. We later had a nap, and feeling well, I prepared dinner after having prepared to not feel like doing that. That was yesterday. During the night I developed a slight headache from a self-diagnosed sinus problem. Checked my temp, and that was normal.

I was all prepared to face today of possible nausea and had my pills, water and crackers by the bed. We had agreed this would be much like morning sickness with pregnancy. Been there--done that. So, I started my regimen of above plan, then regular small snacks, timely meals, and aside from just not feeling ravenous probably from the anti-nausea meds, I have done very well today. I have toyed with the idea of not taking the pill tomorrow because it does affect my general feeling of well being; however, I will be compliant. If I did not do that and fell very ill, it would be my fault.

Wouldn't I be lucky if after all the warnings I have had about what could happen, I was on the lower part of the average and sailed through. The part I most likely will not sail through will be hair loss starting in two weeks. I am prepared for that, though. I have purchased my wig and probably will get a short pixie cut soon so that there won't be such a dramatic change and could start wearing the wig when I go out and not feel so conspicious. I am not a baseball cap person at my age.

My next sequential chemo treatments, 4 months each, will most likely be Taxotere, and lastly Cytoxan, finishing those about a year from now. I understand that breaking these down sequentially will not be so stressful for me. For that, I will be glad. I am told that the Adriamycin is the roughest of the three and is appropriately named "the red devil." I will go back in a week for lab work to see how I am tolerating things. We are lucky to live about a mile from the hospital, and J can stay with me if he chooses or run errands or whatever. My guess is he will be right there with me. I think many of the people on treatment when I was there did succumb to the sedative given before the treatment started, because I saw one person slack-jawed, snoozing, and hoping J would have the grace to prop my mouth if I started that. I must have willed myself to stay awake! I didn't snooze, it just didn't affect me that way.

Today I have mostly goofed off. We had received a book from a publisher that we didn't want, so we drove to the post office across town and returned that. That was the extent of our running about today. We had scattered showers today and probably will have them again tomorrow as the remnants of Hurricane Fay, so that has made staying inside well received.

Enough of this. I'm waiting to hear Sarah Palin's address and then to bed.

Sunday, August 24, 2008


Countdown could be on several things. For one, the garden is almost slowed to a stop. J actually picked a"mess" of pole beans this morning. I have always enjoyed gleaning the late beans, which included shellies. The tomatoes have slowed down substantially. I need to pick some green ones and make the green tomato relish we enjoyed so much last year. I probably need to do that this afternoon because next week promises to be busy. I have finished the apples, peaches and pears. The pear preserve is delicious. I found out that the Bartlett, which is the old, old tree in our garden, doesn't have enough natural pectin, so I needed to add pectin to that, which made it okay. Looks like honey, all golden and delicious. The old pear tree from my childhood home is the best for preserves. That produces a "red" preserve, which makes a nice syrup, and if you watch it, it won't get so hard that it pulls your caps. Yesterday, for lack of something from the garden to do, and wanting to get a little ahead on some things I like to do, I soaked and canned dry black beans and cranberry beans. That turned out well. The grand boys like those beans, thankfully, so they like it when Granny brings a care package of veggies.

My schedule next week is busy. Monday, we go for pre-admission for (1) my Tuesday morning PET scan and echo cardiogram, and (2) go by my surgeon's office to sign permission to proceed with the VAD on Friday. Tuesday at 7 a.m., we will be at the imaging center for the PET scan, to Cardiology at 10 for the echo, and if I understand rightly, scoot on over to Outpatient for lab work and possibly pre-admission for the VAD. Then, I visit my oncologist for results of the tests and further discussion on proceeding with chemo. Sometime Thursday, I will be getting a taped dictation from the Orthopedic clinic I have transcribed for the past possibly seven years, get that done, and be back to the hospital on Friday for placement of the VAD. My friend at ortho "lets" me help her when she needs a break, and we think this will help me keep focused and have something for my mind to "rest" on. I need to stay busy.

I have made quite a list of discussion questions for the oncologist. On Thursday, I will find out if my tests indicate that I am well for chemotherapy, or if one or so needs to be changed. I was given a booklet, "Finding the 'Can' in Cancer," which has some helpful information on preparing for the effects of chemotherapy. Since I have not had chemo previously, this will be a new adventure. So far, I have not worried a lot, went through the mastectomy without a hitch, but I have to admit, the prospect of chemotherapy is daunting. Next week, early on, I plan to visit the wig place and get my wig ordered. I want to be prepared if my hair starts thinning/falling out soon. Probably will have it cut short soon so that there won't be hair all over the house. I feel that would be off putting. With cooler weather coming on before very long, I probably will wear 'boggans a lot when I am outside. I plan to walk as much as possible for exercise around our garden where J keeps a track mowed/raked. I read that appropriate exercise is a good way to handle a lot of the issues of treatment.

Some time during the week, weather permitting, we will be gathering with J's sisters who live in the area to celebrate a sister's 84th birthday. We do that for all those siblings who are in the area. He has six sisters, four live in the area, one in North Carolina and one in Tennessee who gets to visit home fairly often. He is their only brother. I think it is neat that they make a point to celebrate birthdays together. We have lunch together at a buffet restaurant, talk and eat, and then usually gather at the retirement center where their 85-year-old sister resides, for more talk about "old times" and what each is doing and what their families are up to. Lot of good fellowship.

We have had a slow rain today which actually was cozy. Looks like the sun is out now, so I need to make my tour of the garden before it sets in again. Since J has picked the okra, the beans and 'maters, probably there won't be much for me to gather in. We have kept the scuppernongs picked pretty well, but there might be a few ripe ones.

This has been the nicest year for fruit and vegetables. My pantry is proof. I have been advised that there possibly/probably will be times when I am on treatment that I won't be interested in being in the kitchen, so J has been coached that he can have his choice of veggies that can be warmed in the microwave, and he can pick up prepared meat such as chicken, barbecue, etc., that won't smell up the house. He is a good cook, and I know he can handle that well. If need be, I will just sit on the deck if it gets too pungent in the house! I hear that one can be very sensitive to odors, but I'm not borrowing anything to worry about that this point. I was told that my treatments would be one per week, every three weeks, over the next year. Thankfully, we live about a mile or so from the hospital here, and that will be so much more convenient for us both.

Off to the garden, hoping that it won't be too muddy to enjoy a stroll around the track.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Celebrating, Our Style

J and I celebrated our 53rd anniversary today by planting our fall crop of turnips, mustard, yellow squash and zucchini. It was relaxing and fun, and we finished just before the rains came.

We had a leisurely lunch at our local catfish eatery and then came home to just have a relaxing afternoon inside. He did make a few trips to see if our newly planted garden was surviving the rain. Appears it did. With the hot weather and moisture, we wouldn't be surprised to see that the seedlings will be up in a day or two.

I think we will be glad to have this done. Next week will be kinda busy. On Monday, I will be doing my preadmission for my PET scan on Tuesday at 7 a.m. Later that day I will be getting an echocardiogram. These tests will determine if I am healthy enough for chemotherapy, and I guess will determine if I can have the standard kind. I really wish I could skip the chemo, but since the pathology labeled this "poorly differentiated," that pretty well says I need all the ammo I can get to not have this come back somewhere else, such as the chest wall. Cancer is not for sissies.

So, on Thursday of next week I will be seeing my oncologist to get further information. I have deferred getting my VAP installed because of a snaffoo in information I was given, and I'm afraid he was given, and I want further information from him before I proceed. It won't be a biggie to get the VAP after I talk with him. I started to vent here on the snaffoo but decided not to do it now. May later. All's well that ends well.

I meant to can tomatoes today and maybe do a few more pear preserves, but goofed off instead. So sue me. The tomatoes will still be there tomorrow. And the pears.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008


Unexpectedly, we made a trip to Prentiss County to my old home place. THE pear tree, which should have gone away years ago, was laden with pears at just the right stage for pear preserves. No one else wanted them, so gullible me, I brought a batch home. I have made preserves with them, made applesauce with the remainder of the apples, and have a few pears from our own Bartlett tree that I will do something with. I may make a pint or two of preserves, although Bartletts don't make the very best preserves.

Watching Food Network, I happened to jot down a recipe for a rub for chicken to be grilled or roasted. We had purchased a package of chicken leg quarters. I tried the rub and roasted the chicken pieces. This seemed so simple, but we were pleasantly surprised that it is quite delicious.

Combine 1 teaspoon cumin, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper. That's all. Rub into chicken breasts that have been pounded to thin pieces, or any pieces you choose. Grill or roast until done. Enjoy.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Happy Birthday to Me.......

It's my party, and I can cry if I want to.......... Except I'm not cryin'. I have spent my 73rd birthday doing things I like to do, including doing a batch of apples from our pitiful tree that keeled over from the weight of the rain this spring. Said batch is going into a recipe in another post for mock dried fruit. We may not have another year for fruit such as this has been, and the canned product will last for a couple of years. The "fried pies" have been a hit. I don't fry the pies, but bake them, and they are simply delicious. Just ask my grandsons.

I am trying to get as many things taken care of as possible from the garden so as not to waste anything. I still have tomatoes to can, but as that is so easy I plan to take care of all of them. Juice is so easy to do.

The reason I am in kind of a hurry is that I found out yesterday from a first visit with my new oncologist that I will be doing chemotherapy for my recurrent breast cancer. I did not have chemotherapy 10 years ago. This all gets too technical to detail here. I am healing quite well from my mastectomy. The next move is to schedule the port for the sequential chemotherapy I will be receiving every three weeks for the next year. I am expecting to lose my hair, and I plan to visit my friends at the Tupelo Cancer Center who will help me decide where to go to order my wig to approximate my natural hair (I don't fancy baseball caps). I will be ordering a prosthesis soon, as I tend to "guard" my operated side and protect it much as a mother would a child, thus putting pressure on my already compromised shoulder. I don't need to do that and try to remember not to "give" to that side. Also, I am not waving a flag to say "look everybody, I have breast cancer!" I do feel very positive about my upcoming treatment and plan to make the most of it. I may be updating this blog with my progress or lack of.

Don't be surprised if I keep a log of my adventure. I have so many people on my "team" that I can't help being positive about the outcome. So----next!

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Peach Pie Anyone?

Today, anticipating a full but happy day with my daughter and granddaughter who stopped by on their way to her return to MUW, I had a phone call from my sister who wanted to verify a recipe for mock dehydrated peaches. She declares that that originally came from me, but that was so long ago that I really don't remember the origin. Wish I did. I believe her, though. This was timely, because I couldn't imagine what I wanted to do with the peach crop we had by some sort of miracle through this weird spring and dry summer.

I do plan to give this a try and see what gives:

Mock dehydrated peaches for pie filling

2 gallons peaches, washed and cut away from the seed in moderate size slices
1/2 cup vinegar
6 cups sugar

Combine and keep in a stainless steel or enamel container for 12 hours. Cook carefully, stirring to avoid sticking, until the consistency you want for pie filling. Put in sterile jars and probably wouldn't hurt to process in a hot water bath, although I bet some don't do that. I probably will.

This is great for "fried" peach pies or as a double crust pie you have baked in the oven. If after I have done this and think of something I've left out, I will add an addendum.

(IMPORTANT ADDENDUM) After cooking this ALL morning in a stainless steel stock pot, and its beginning to stick/burn, I called my sister-in-law, the best-cook-in-Prentiss-County, and asked her how much longer I was going to have to watch the pot. She asked, "Are you doing that in stainless steel?" I replied that I was. She said, "That's the trouble! You have to use heavy aluminum." I know the jury is out on cooking in aluminum, and I had thrown out a wonderful, heavy, aluminum Mirro cooker/canner just the right size but which had lost its handle and was too old to find a replacement. What to do. I decided to scrub out my larger Mirro canner that I have canned veggies in all summer (it holds 7 quart jars I think), and that worked wonderfully well. Just right for "cooking off" the rest of the fruit. At this time, I have canned 12 pints apple pie filling and that much or more of peaches. Wish I had more peaches. I will do more apples from the pitiful little tree that fell over from the rain and heavy fruit this spring.

My SIL is doing this with apples. As I remember, apples didn't yield the same results, but it might be worth a try. Since the peel of an apple is different from the peach, one needs to peel the apple before cutting into slices/chunks. That tough apple peel simply won't cook down, the peach peel will.

Guess what we're having Saturday when the kids are home........

PS: Father, daughter and granddaughter are transporting her to MUW but are retrieving her belongings her roommate had generously stored for her during the summer (in Carthage), so that will mean yours truly will be alone for the afternoon and evening, for one reason, limited space in the vehicle. I have napped, shelled butterbeans, prepared 'maters, loaded the dishwasher from the sumptuous lunch we had today. I'm so glad granddaughter is a veggie lover.
Next, I canned 2 1/2 pints butterbeans and cut off tomatoes to make another batch of tomato juice/soup for daughter to take home this weekend, along with a load of the beans, etc., I've been having such joy canning this summer. Before it gets too dark, I probably will gather a bucket of those peaches I have decided to make pie filling from. It was funny that I had already cut off about 2 quarts and froze them, not having any idea what I wanted to do with them. Thanks, sis!