Saturday, May 16, 2009

The garden, mid-May

Photos to show the "before" picture as it stands currently...


Today we decided to break with routine. We packed a picnic, and headed north, to Whidbey Island via La Conner and Deception Pass. We went to a Native American festival at Coupeville, we had frybread, we went to a couple of beautiful parks, we had our picnic.

We agreed that it felt like we were on vacation, and we've decided we need more days like this. Why don't we do this more often? It was great, memorable, and lovely. We'll be repeating again soon - Port Townsend? Vashon Island? Bainbridge? We don't need to go far, but we were a world away from our rourtines, and it was bliss.
We even got some passers-by to take pictures, and got some decent family photos. Check them out!

Friday, May 15, 2009


I exchanged email with my oncologist. I told her about my side effects when going off Aromasin, including increased fatigue and skin break-outs. I asked if I was getting an estrogen surge that was causing this, and when it would get better. Her response? Mostly, people don't have side effects when quitting this drug. I'm blazing a new trail on this one. She said that she wasn't surprised by my side effects, but that they weren't standard. She still thinks I'll feel much better in a month or two.

My face looks like I'm going through adolescence because of the acne, and menopause because of the wrinkles and age spot. Good grief. Still, it's the fatigue that gets me the most.

And I have to confess that the longer it goes on the harder it is to talk myself off the ceiling. Maybe it's a sign that the beast is back? Never mind that fatigue is not usually a symptom of cancer, it still scares me. This is part of the cancer game - no matter how far out from diagnosis I get, these questions whisper around the edges of my mind. It's not as bad as when I was first diagnosed, when the whispers were actually shouts and screams, but it takes up a lot of my energy just to keep those voices soft and not allow them to take over. Generally, I can talk myself down, remind myself that my blood work and tumor markers look good, that I've done amazing amounts of treatment....but it's hard work.

Thursday, May 14, 2009


I'm really impatient and frustrated.

Yesterday I did my lovely long walk.

By 4pm I was completely, totally wiped out.

I am so tired of this. I want my life back!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009


I didn't take a "sleep aid" last night because I'd slept for a few nights in a row and hoped my body would do it on its own.

I was wrong.

The down side of that is that it is 5:26pm and I'm sleepy today - oh dear. I will definitely take that Ambien CR tonight.

Walk in the woods

Today I went for a five mile walk. I wished it was a run, but alas my body is not doing what I tell it to do. So, with that understanding, I left home for a walk. Dr. Okorn said that exercise would help cure what ails me, and I am desperate enough to try it!

As usual, I wanted to be purposeful, so I took the dog (of course) and an empty backpack, with the intention of picking up some groceries. I made sure that the most recent podcasts were downloaded, and I plugged my iPod phones into my ears, and I was off.

All the way to Lincoln Park, I didn't think of much, just listened to This American Life.

I walked along the shore of the beach, and looked for orcas (I didn't see any). I turned up the path at the end of the park, and walked back through the woods.

Halfway through the park, I realized what I was doing. I was being completely mindless on my walk. I held my purpose - must get exercise! - in hand, but I was completely, utterly wasting the opportunity. I unplugged my iPod, and listened. I heard many different birdsongs. I could occassionally hear a little lapping wave at the shore. Breezes moved branches or leaves. I saw dozens of kinds of wildflowers (including a gorgeous dwarf lupine plant). I sat on a bench, and found a notebook inside a plastic bag. The notebook read, "Look behind the bench and slightly to the right, in the forked fir tree, for an eagles' nest. Please record what the eagles are doing." I looked, I paced the tree in question, but didn't see eagles. I sat. I observed some more. I heard a terrible screeching squacking sound, and 100 feet or so away I saw a bald eagle at the top of a tree, shrieking at a crow. A man in nylon track pants swished by me on his walk, talking on his cellphone, oblivious.

I spent perhaps a half hour on that little bench, breathing in some fresh air, thinking my own thoughts. It is probably the best thing I've done this week.

I did continue the walk home, stopping by the grocery store for milk, flour, and toothpaste; I did get my exercise; I did wear out Shep. But that half hour restored me. I plan to do that with more frequency....maybe that is really the cure for what ails me.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Accidental accumulation

I was reading comments in a New York Times article about car-less societies, and one of the comments referred to the "stuff" that we accidentally accumulate.

This hits home. As much as I do not wish to accumulate in this way (savings? yes. just stuff? no.) today I emptied many bags out of our attic and filled the back of our Subaru in order to deliver it to Goodwill.

Where does all this stuff come from?! Some of it is from Tessa, and I'm pretty guilt-free about that....she grows out of things, and we pass them along, and that is good. It does seem, however, that I accidentally accumulate things. I am working hard at avoiding accidental accumulation, but it seems that my attic tells a tale that I have a ways to go. I think I've come a LONG way, I think that I'm doing better than ever before....but I'm not "there."

I'm working hard at buying only high quality things, so they won't need replacement. This is easier for me to do now than at any other time of my life, because though finances are tight, we have a household stocked with all of the essentials. When we were younger, we were still acquiring the niceties of life - if someone was coming to spend the night, we might have needed to buy pillows, or extra towels. To serve a meal we were sometimes lacking in the right platter, etc. But now? Now we have pillows and towels and sheets and platters galore, and what is lacking is minimal (despite what I believe when I enter a housewares shop).

Accidental accumlation indeed. Maybe that phrase will help me to be more intentional.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Okay this is ridiculous

In addition to feeling the effects of the drugs, or the drug transition, I have some kind of a cold taking over my sinuses.

And my face is breaking out. That goes along with the theory that my body is going through some kind of estrogen freak out.

What is next?!

Tomatoes - phew

I just spent a couple of minutes verifying when I planted the tomatoes last year. My answer, according to the blog: May 11.


I was reading in a number of places that I might want to wait until June. Well, perhaps that is true, but I didn't wait, and now they're in the ground. The good news? Last year we got an amazing tomato crop, and I'm told that last year was a bad year for tomatoes. It was a GREAT year for tomatoes for us, so if this is a mistake then I plan to keep making it.

It made me very happy this morning to pull aside my bedroom curtains to peer out at the newly planted garden. My back aches, my shoulders are tense, and I'm tired....but this was definitely worth it.

Sunday, May 10, 2009


I've been complaining on this blog for a while, but today I'm noting an improvement. Case in point - it's 9:23 and I'm still dressed and wrapping up my day, instead of in PJs and in bed. I really, really hope that the worst of my drug transition is over. Nobody told me to anticipate such an awful shift when going off Aromasin, but I felt like I was hit by a truck. My theory is that, with the first estrogen entering my body in 3+ years, I was having PMS meets menopause and the result was pretty ugly. I'm hoping that my body will regulate a little bit before I start tamoxifen in June, because the combo fatigue and crummy-feeling was just overwhelming. The continued side effects from my treatment bring me down because not only do they make me feel terrible, but I keep thinking "but it's not supposed to be like this!" When I was on chemo, I expected to feel terrible. So many years out from "heavy" treatment, I thought it would be so much easier. It is awfully hard to move on when my body is reeling like it was happening yesterday. I have to say, this week I felt as bad as I did when I was on chemo - I was that tired and achy and just sort of out of it. I am greatly relieved to have an improvement, and hopeful that it will get better from here, or I'm not sure what I'll do.

Maybe if I felt better it would be easier to exercise and take care of my diet. Weight Watchers is a disaster right now, and the scale has become my mortal enemy. Getting dressed in the morning is a challenge because nothing fits. I wish that was an exaggeration; it is not.

In totally other notes...

I had a great Mother's Day. Ryan went out of his way to give me a nice day, including coffee in bed, making dinner, and (best of all) doing a ton of yard work to get the garden going. I was really grateful for his extra efforts to make my day special. Tessa made me cards, gave me lots of smooches, and told me that I was the best Mama ever. THAT certainly made my day!

Thanks also to Kathleen for a lovely brunch this morning -yummmmmy baked egg dish.

The garden - ahhhh it is so satisfying! The tomatoes are planted, and I got 8 different varieties, including my favorite Brandywines, and several varieties of cherry tomato. It's kind of funny, but I have to admit to wishing I could fit way more in the garden; even though we doubled or tripled the garden this year, it fills up so quickly. Of course, my back and muscles aren't up for much more than we've got going, and it will be a challenge just to keep it watered and weeded....but I'm addicted to growing food.

What we had previously planted:
fava beans
sugar snap peas
rainbow chard
mixed lettuces
herbs (rosemary, sage, parsley, thyme, oregano, mint, chives, tarragon)

What we planted today:
8 varieties of tomato: Brandywine, Sweet 100s, Yellow Pear, Green Zebra, Sungold, something-French-that-I-can't-remember....and two that I can't remember at all
more carrots
more lettuce

Flowers planted today:
Granny's mix zinnias
Alaska mix nasturciums

Still to plant:
bush beans
squash (summer and winter)

The roses are doing well, the hanging pots are doing well (I'm too cheap to buy the pre-planted one so I bought flower starts and filled old pots....they're filling in nicely), and the lupine planted a few weeks ago is triple the size. I'd like to get a few more lupine plants, maybe another rose bush, and a couple more blueberries in addition to huckleberries and salmon berries for a shady corner near the neighbors' yard. I still need to build a path, and I still need to get some sunflowers to plant.

But no matter what I wish was done, I can say with conviction that the garden has a great start. I dream about gardens in future years (another lilac maybe? oh and a hydrangea. and definitely some apple trees in the parking strip....) but the garden for THIS year is going to have a lovely crop, and I will enjoy it even as I dream about future gardens.

I think that one of the things that I love about gardening, in addition to the thrill of eating what I have grown, is that I feel so deeply rooted to the land. I know that I'm doing what humans are made to do, and it feels as fundamental as simply breathing. In WWII they were called victory gardens, and though fortunately mine is not a victory against some foreign enemy, it does feel like a victory to re-learn how to do something so basic as grow my own food. Am I self sufficient? Not even close. But I'm closer than I once was.