Monday, December 12, 2011

9 month follow up on December 22

My next 3 month follow up (which will be 9 months after finishing the investigational Avastin protocol) will be on December 22, 2011 when I have the next CT scan, Physical exam and blood tests. We forgot to draw the blood test CA-125 during my last port flush visit, which was rather harried tucked in as it was between my return from 12 days in Turkey the evening before and a 9 hour drive to Charlottesville VA for Thanksgiving that same day. So it will be drawn on Dec 22 but i won't get the results until later.

I am expecting a good exam. I have continued to work with a trainer 4 hours weekly at the gym and my physican strength and stamina have both continued to improve. I continue to have a neuropathy in my feet, but it is very mild and rarely significantly bothers me.

Between Nov 10- 22 I had a wonderful tour of Turkey - visiting some many sites that were relics of buildings dated 2-4 thousand years before Christ that by the time I arrived in Istanbul and visit the Haggia Sophia built by Justinian and his mother about 500 AD it seemed like an essentially modern site. High points included visiting ruins of Ephesus (a city of about 250,000 when Paul preached there and site of the third largest library in the ancient world), Troy, Pergamom (the capital built by Alexander the Great's general on top of a mountain and late covered in marble by the Romans), and many many other sites. In Istanbul I experienced a traditional Turkish bath in a building that was originally built in 1489 or so but had been recently renovated. I imagined that meant that they had automated the heating process and gotten rid of the slaves who previously worked below the rock slab that I lay on stoking the fires. It was rather amazing to participate in a ritual that had gone on for thousands of years, and to recognize the intact version of the architecture that I had seen fragments of in so many ancient ruins. But if you just want an excellent massage, I recommend NAtural Body or some other US spa. The highlight for me was Cappadocia - full of cave dwellings that had been occupied by ordinary people as recently as the 1960s, and 6 story refuges carved into the mountain where up to 5,000 Christians huddled for up to a month for protection against the most recent maurauders - according to my tourist information, mostly invading Persians. But the most amazing thing was the paintings on the walls of Byzantine churches carved into the caves. We were in one tiny chapel carved rather high up in a rock that was big enough for only a few people, but within which we could see remnants of byzantine crosses painted on the ceiling. It was terrific.

Then I had another wonderful Thanksgiving with extended family hosted by Jane and Bruce Greyson in Charlottesville, VA, Followed in rapid order by a detail on Dec 1 to the Emergency Operations Center at CDC (a very interesting 4 month tenure with folks I worked with before and enjoyed) and a celebration of my 59th birthday on December 7. Last good birthday before 60!!! So enjoying my youth.

So next 3 month follow up is in 10 days, but i won't post an update about it until after the new year, because I will have this examination in Gainesville GA and depart from there to go directly to Cherokee NC where I again do clinical duty through the remainder of the year, returning to Atlanta the first day of January. A slightly overscheduled last quarter of the year but ... making it through all right and glad to be busy again. I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas and a very excellent New Year.


Thursday, September 22, 2011

6 month follow up and still loving my best friend NED

Today was my second 3 month follow up since completing the investigational chemotherapy. So i got up at 6 AM and drove to Gainesville for CT scans with contrast and lab tests and physical exams.

All Great news - physical exam No Evidence of Disease (NED)


Labs - CA-125 = 4 (anything under 30 or so is normal, so it is totally meaningless that the values have declined from 7 to 5 to 4 the last 3 tests. Never the less, knowing it is meaningless, still I LOVE it. So in other words - LABS = NED

Other measures -

I have worked up to 4 hours a week with a trainer - 2 hours of weight training, 2 hours of pilates - and starting Sept 1 I added 2-3 hours a week of water aerobics depending on how often I can get to the classes. That is a big difference from January 2011 when I would do half an hour with a trainer and then have to take a nap before I could shower.

And while I have not yet made it back down into the PHS approved weight category, I have moved 5 pounds down which is at least movement in the right direction.

So all in all - all indicators are good. And I am very very glad. Now I am looking forward to 2 serial weekends of 40 year high school reunions - this weekend in Sylva NC and next weekend in Magnolia Arkansas - 2 good places to grow up!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

It is possible!!!

I am here to witness that no matter how old you are, how fat you have become, and how tired you start out -- If you make a consistent effort to eat servings that are just a bit smaller than the ones you were used to, AND to increase the proportion of your meals that come from fruit, vegetables, grains, fiber, and protein, AND to avoid eating empty calories (ie things with sugar and alcohol), AND try to drink as much ice water as possible in place of any flavored beverage, AND in addition to try to actively (if gently) exercise 4 hours a week or more AND if you keep it up long enough YOU CAN LOSE 5 POUNDS!!!

How long is long enough? Well, let's just say I am looking at life style changes, not short term benefits. AT this pace, however, if I manage to keep it up consistently enough I fully expect to be back at my preferred weight sometime prior to the close of 2020...

Since the last PHS officer requirement that I have not yet been able to achieve since returning from Chemo is getting myself back down into the acceptable weight range, this is a step in the right direction.

YEAH!!!!!!!!!!! Pat on back Pat on back Pat on back Pat on back...Whoo Whooo Whooo Whooo Whooo!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

The significance of the moment

"The trick is not to count the moments, whether backwards or forward, but to experience them for what they offer in and of themselves."

The quote above is copied from the blog of a college friend who was diagnosed with advanced lung cancer about a month before my diagnosis. The context of the quote is ruminations on the significance of the 9/11 anniversary in the context of her own situation - just notified that the 4th line experimental chemotherapy that she has been taking is not working, and her only remaining option is a broad spectrum nonspecific drug that is likely to have little impact.

Gina has throughtout her disease not only show courage and grace, but been a remarkable source of support to others and of eloquent description of experience. Her sentence, shared above, captures very excellently the challange before us at every moment of our lives. It is, however, easier to adhere to it when you have something to strongly focus your mind.

Thanks, Gina, for another eloquent expression of what matters most.

My second 3 month check up occurs 12 days from now. CT scan, physical exam, and another blood test for CA-125. Fingers Crossed, all will continue to be well.

Monday, August 1, 2011

First 3 month check up and All is well

I have been on vacation from the blog for a while but it is time to catch up. After I completed the standard chemotherapy in May 2010 I thought that the clinical trial part (avastin every 3 weeks) was not affecting me, because I began a slow up hill rise with evident progress every trackable by the week. But I finished the last dose of the investigational drug the end of March this year 2011 and took a rapid step up - so I guess it was affecting me after all.

Other things come into play - in January I decided my neuropathy had receeded enough to begin twice weekly half hour gym sessions with a physical trainer. Initially we did very mild stretching mainly and I would still have to go home and nap before showering, dressing and going to work. But I rapidly got past that, moved on to increase to 1 hour sessions twice weekly and lost the naps. This has resulted in much improvement. These sesions came to an end in May when I irritated a knee taking a CPR renewal class and had to spend a couple of weeks with ice on my elevated knee and walking with a cane. But I took a week vacation in Minnesota in June, was able to walk for hours with friends and had a terrific time on a Segway tour of Minneapolis. What fun! Immediately upon return on June 20 I had my first 3 month follow up off the Avastin. Physical exam, CT scan, and blood test for CA-125 all continued to show no evidence of disease - often referred to as NED. So I was delighted. My Ca-125 blood tests continue to bounce around between 9 and 5 - anything less than 30 is normal. So I am very pleased.

Later that week I came down with a severe flu - was out of work for 2 days with fever and muscle aches, and was weary for more than a week. But that is all behind me now, and I stated back with 1 hour training sessions for 3 weeks. This week I am taking personal leave with the intent of catching up on lots of personal paperwork that I am behind on at home, and decided to step up to 4 sessions a week. We will see how it goes. I am eager to get as good as possible as fast as possible. This seems to help.

Today i went back to Gainesville for my steady appointment to have my port flushed - necessary every 3-6 weeks to keep it from clotting off. But mine seems to often clot off - so I wind up having to sit for a while and have medicine injected to remove the clots. Still, as long as I remain NED I can't complain about small inconveniences.

I have a lot of piled up personal leave that I need to take before January 1 or I will lose it. I don't intend to lose it this year - so open to suggestions about how to spend it. Right now I am organizing the house and personal paperwork, but next time off I hope to do something a little more fun!

Friday, May 27, 2011

R.I.P. Jacob P. Dawg Chapman 7/1/96 - 5/27/11

Jacob P. Dawg Chapman, aka Jake, born approximately July 1, 1996 and acquired from the Atlanta humane society a little more than a month or so later, died peacefully while sleeping in my living room sometime between 7:30 and 9:30 AM today. Intelligent, gentle, patient, beautiful when he ran, he was as good a dog as I have ever known. With apologies to my siblings' canine companions, I feel confident that, with the possible exception of Wilbur late of the Dallas branch of the family, Jake was his Grandfather's favorite Granddog - despite having, in a fit of youthful indiscretion, chewed up that Soviet military fur hat that Granddaddy had proudly brought back from Russia.

At nearly 15 years old, he was 3 human years (which I guess translates into 21 doggie years) beyond his predicted life expectancy. Diagnosed with tumors in his liver and lungs months ago, increasingly skeletal, he just kept trucking along defying all expectations for a very long time. He was clearly living on borrowed time, but he seemed indestructable until I came home and found him warm but unresponsive.

Which created a bit of a problem.

When we were kids and our family dogs died Daddy would bury them in the garden. Years later you could gaze out and recognize the particularly bright patches of green. There was Sheba, over there Missy, that especially large well fertilized patch in the far corner was Wilbur the goat.

But still at less than full strength from chemo, limping due to a knee that flared up this morning after hours of kneeling on a hard floor during a CPR course yesterday, it was pretty clear that picking him up, transporting him somewhere myself or trying to bury him in the back yard was not a feasible approach to removing an unexpected corpse from my living room.

Turns out when a dog dies in your living room in Atlanta you call a business called "Deceased Pets". For a fee approximatly 3-4 times what it cost you originally to acquire the dog from the pound they send out a man to remove the corpse from your living room and transport it to a large refrigerator (which they assure you is just like the human morge) where it will be stored over the weekend until they can accomplish an "individual cremation" sometime next week and return the ashes to you in a plastic baggie inside a pretty blue tin container. For a fee I probably could have gotten a more decorative container worthy of my mantle place. For a larger fee I could have interned Jake in their cemetary. And for a tiny additional fee I could have had a terracotta imprint of his paw made before he was cremated. For no cost at all they were willing to preserve a lock of hair for me.

I declined all but the basic removal and cremation service. I feel confident if I really need to save some Jake hair I can sweep up a bit from under the various furniture around the house.

I expected the transportation man to arrive with a large plastic bag. But instead he came in with a little blue gurney with velcro straps onto which he respectfully rolled the dog, secured him with the straps and covered him with a blanket - I suppose to ensure that he does not get cold prior to arriving at the refrigerator - uh I mean morgue. He gently tucked the blanket around Jake's lifeless chin, then checked to learn whether I would prefer that he covered his face (it is OK, I have seen dead creatures before and have been sitting in the living room with this one for nearly an hour before he arrived), and finally asked me if I would help carry the gurney out to the van. Which i did. When we arrived, inside the van I noticed a large black plastic garbage bag containing an unknown object that appeared to be about the same size as would have been a dog who might have recently occupied a little doggie pillow that was resting next to the garbage bag in the back of the van. Which left me suspicious that Jake's duration of residence strapped onto the little blue gurney and carefully covered with a blanket to ensure he did not get cold would last - well about as long as it took to get to the site of the next deceased pet pick up site.

Amused by the ritual, still I did appreciate their concern for my feelings. Or maybe just for my doggie removal fee. I suspect that the basis for an entire anthropological dissertation lies in the study of modern urban dead pet disposal rituals.

He was a good dog. And I miss him already.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

We are fine after the storms - thanks for asking

I, too, spent last evening glued to the TV watching incredible storms moving closer and listening to the warnings. I even tried to call my collegue in Rome, GA when the storm looked especially threatening and the weather people augmented the warnings to immediately seek shelter they had been issuing steadily for an hour by asking the audience to call any friends and family in the direct path by cell phone and warn them to seek shelter if they had not already done so.

Unfortunately I forgot that having developed the habit of TIVOing everything I want to watch during my chemo days - I was watching the warnings close to an hour after they had been urgently issued.

So I went to bed. The worst of the storms bypassed Atlanta. Except for Balsam (the Plott Hound) inexplicably deciding to join me in my bed in the middle of the night, nothing too dangerous happened. And my collegue in Rome GA? He is fine, too. His family was watching the warnings in real time and responding appropriately.

Growing up in Arkansas I learned to respect tornado season. But I never remember anything like this. Last estimate I hear was more than 150 tornadoes in Alabama alone yesterday and more than 200 deaths counted to date. Alabama is our neighbor to the west for those of you a tad weak on geography.

But on other topics:

Finished my last Avastin (investigational drug) injection in late March. Celebrated with a weekend visit from college girlfriends from Omaha (Susan Thomas) and St Paul (Sherri Buss). Their visit gave me an incredible energy boost and we spent the weekend walking through the Botanical Gardens in full bloom, the Atlanta History Center, taking the Oakland Cemetery Civil War focused walking tour at twilight, and enjoying dining outside at various sites. Then they went back to the Midwest snow and I took a long nap.

Celebrations continued with a visit to Arkansas for cousin Nathan Walker's wedding on Palm Sunday weekend - visited with lots of Walker side relatives and my childhood friend Kathy Wilson took me to the best Palm Sunday service ever!! Drums, dancing, Hawaiian shirts, and the Pastor dancing behind the burro with a shovel and broom in his hands. A bit of a contrast with Easter Sunday pre-dawn great vigil with the bonfire, candle light, and Dean marching sedately with ceremonial candles and silver chalices in hand. Followed by a large Easter pot luck meal with friends from CDC and my Aunt Marian Sprinkle Graves here in Atlanta. 93 years old but she could beat me in a foot race. My friends thought she could not be a day over 75. Great food, great company, great celebration.

And this coming weekend I go to Nashville to see niece Louisa M Chapman perform in Carmina Burano with the Nashville Ballet. Those of you who have access to my Facebook page may have noticed postings a few days ago of Nashville Ballet members breaking into dance in a public building in Nashville. Louisa M is the one in front being lifted with the single blond braid.

That pretty much completes the month of official celebration. I am delighted to have the whole treatment thing over. I am really benefiting from the physical trainer's help, and my neuropathy is nearly gone. And I have nearly a month to catch up on some work around here before my next celebratory event, a trip to Minnesota for a week in early June (June 11-19) when I hope to see lots of friends from college and residency days.

Monday, April 4, 2011

A quote worth sharing

I found the following, written by Joan Borysenko, an MD and psychologist, on my friend Gina's blog today and wanted to share:

“You are at my side, dear friends, and God is everywhere. Yet ultimately we are alone, making our way home by the candle of the heart. The light is steady and sure but extends only far enough to see the next step. That there are steps beyond is a matter of faith. That we have the faith to endure and walk our own journey-even when we think that we are lost- is a gift of grace, and of friendship. Many times our light seems to go out. But another light, one held by a stranger or a friend, a book or a song, a blackbird or a wildflower, comes close enough so that we can see our path by its light. And in time we realize that the light we have borrowed was always also our own. ”

Friday, March 25, 2011

Last Avastin Dose and good CT scan

Last Monday, March 21, I got the last dose of Avastin of my investigational trial.

The good news: Totally completed the entire chemotherapy regimen & now that I am no longer taking Avastin, within a few weeks - a month or so at most - if I have to have surgery it will no longer be life-threatening.

The disquietening feeling: that was the last dose of stuff that makes it hard for any residual tumor cells to get a foot hold and grow. From now on, they have an open playing field.

Well, let's focus on the good stuff.

Then Tuesday, March 22 I had the first follow up CT scan. Wednesday I was called and told the CT scan looks good. And the next set of follow up appointments was made.

So from here on out it is a visit every 6 weeks or so to have my port flushed. The port is a permenent little entry inserted into the vein that can be used for drawing blood and giving infusions like medicine into the vein. They leave it in for at least another year - and I have to have it flushed periodically to keep it from clotting off. Plus they will use that opportunity to draw blood to test for the blood marker CA-125. As if starts rising again, that suggests the cancer is returning. As long as it stays down it suggests all is well.

As well as a visit every 3 months for an examination, and a CT scan every 6 months for the next 2 years. After that all visits drop to every 6 months. Time will tell, but for now all is well.

Meanwhile it is that confusing season in Georgia when you may have to switch your home system from heat to AC back to heat again several times within a week. Last night it dropped to the high 30s or maybe just the low 40s, and I put the heat back on. Predictions for this weekend suggest I may have to switch back to AC again.

The blossems are gone from the peach tree in the yard, but in full bloom on the dogwoods now. Lots of daffodils and narcissus in yards, and the azealas are budding out. The forsythias are no longer the only bright sentinels of spring around here.

On the down side, when I pick the dog's outdoor water bowls up in the morning to refill them, I first have to clear the yellow rim of pine pollen away, and NPR reported this morning those famous Georgia High Pollen Counts that should encourage people with lung disease to stay indoors or wear respiratory protection, and those will pollen allergies to keep their antihistamines close by.

Beautiful sunny days that begin before you leave for work in the morning and extend beyond the rush hour traffic coming home. It is a great time of year in the South.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Spring in Georgia

I forgot to say that it is that glorious time in Georgia that arrives every year just as spring announces itself. As I drove off to get labs tested last Thursday i noted the first bloomed out daffidil of the spring in my back yard. After returning from the swamp as I drove out to get my AVastin today I noted 5 blooming daffidils or narcissis of various types in the front yard, as well as 3 clumps of blooming crocus around the mail box. What a beautiful time of year this is!

Penultimate dose down, one more to go...

Got my last set of labs for monitoring chemotherapy last Thursday, after which I took Friday as leave and headed to south Georgia and the Okefenokee Swamp. What a great place to spend the weekend! The weather was terrific - warm with a little misting rain off and on throughout the day but nothing prohibitive.

On Friday I explored the east entrance of the park - an area characterized by swamp prairies since most of the old cypress groves were cut out years ago. I spent the morning sleeping, the after noon walking (about 2.5 hours worth) around on trails and boardwalks, including the old restored swamper homestead, and the evening taking a sunset boat tour. That was wonderful - the guide loaded us onto a motor boat and drove us up the canal and into a meadow. The water was low due to drought, and the canal was crowded with alligators all over the place. After watching the sunset over the priarie, we headed by in the dark. We were each handed flashlights to shine on the water. If you got the angle just right gator eyes lit up bright red. By this method I recognized that there were in fact far more alligotors in the swamp than I had realized on the way in. Many were hanging out with just eyes tipping over the water and during daylight I had mistaken them for cypres knees or floating debris or logs or some such.

On SAturday I drove around to the western entrance to the park where I had hoped to take another group motorboat tour. But I arrived just after the morning tour left and the next would not go out for another 3-4 hours. So instead despite having no experience whatsoever with driving a motor boat I decided to rent a boat for 2 hours and take myself out. Turns out is is not so hard to steer a motor boat if you have someone else hook up the gas and start it for you. I was a little wobbly on the steering but as long as I went slow most people could figure it out and get out of the way, and I got better as the day went on. Being alone in the boat was not so bad as there were enough people in the water that i was in sight of another boat most of the time and I kept my life jacket on all the time. Which might not have been so helpful if i feel overboard in front of a hungry gator but I tried not to think too much about that.

The western side of the swamp was cypress forest - and beautiful in a slightly different way from the eastern side. But again incredibly full of gators - way more it seemed than in the east - and that was only partly explained by my ability to recognize gators by their eyes poking over the water instead of having to see the whole thing now. There were also a lot of turtles sunning themselves, and a few birds. I only really noticed one, but it was lovely - a large blue heron that appeared to be stalking a fish or something in the water at the base of a tree right at the point where the canel emptied into the large swamp lake. Nearby was a gator that was lying as still in the water as the crane was standing at the base of the cypress, and was as intently focused on the crane as the crane was on whatever it was stalking in the water. I had a feeling I was watching a progressive chain of predators, and if I had enough time to hang around I would eventually see the crane catch and eat a fish or the gator catch and eat the crane, or maybe both.

The only problem was that I realized, out on the water, that I knew how to steer and change directions and speed up and slow down, but I was uncertain how to stop (and restart) the boat. So that was a bit limiting. I had to only drive places where I could turn around instead of having to back out, and could not risk stopping the boat altogether and getting out. Although the thick coating of gators disguised as logs along the side of the water did not frankly inspire me to want to get out and walk around. And toward the end I was driving along heading back toward the canal and dock when I noticed I was passing through an area that seemed particularly thick with gators. I was concentrating on one ahead of me and debating whether I ought to deviate toward the right to avoid it when it solved the problem by sinking down below the water out of the way. But something caused me to glance a tad to the right and I registered that the sunlight was creating an interesting pattern on the water right next to my boat - sort of looked like a long set of little ridged under the water - then I realized that what I had seen was the pattern on the back of a very large gator that was apparently just under the water directly to the right of my boat - lined up nearly side by side with it and extending, I suspect, longer than the lenght of my boat. I am not exactly sure because when I realized what I had glimpsed I was not inspried to slow down and lean over the water to see exactly how big the gator that was cuddled up along the side of my boat might be. I confess i was instead inspired to jump a bit off my seat, then settle down, speed right up and hurtle forward keeping my eyes rigidly to the front. IF the gator was curious about whether I would be a tasty meal I felt no need to find that out. shiver.

It was beautiful. I need to do it again soon. Although it may be less fun once bug season strikes. I recommend the Okefenokee Swamp to anyone who has not visited it and who has a liking for the interesting variety of things supplied by nature.

I returned to Atlanta late Saturday and spent most of Sunday just sitting around recovering from all the exercise.

Then today I drove to Gainesville GA again for my next to last dose of Avastin today as well as physical exam. In 3 more weeks I get the last dose of the investigational maintainance schedule of Avastin that I have been receiving. After that - a CT scan, followed by CT scans every 6 months for 5 years, and physical exams every 3 months for 2 years, followed by every 6 months for the next 3 years.

It feels really really good to be close to finishing. Although there is a slight voice in the back of my mind that wonders if it will be a good thing to stop getting doses of drugs intended to keep the tumor at bay. Still it will be a landmark of sorts.

What a fascinating world - what interesting creatures, what a great swamp.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Another one down, two to go....

Last Monday i received my 3rd from the last dose of Avastin. The penultimate dose will be Feb 28, and the last dose March 21. Great to be nearing the end of the protocol.

With excellent timing, a friend sent me another news release from Roche (the manufacturer) stating that Avastin combined with chemotherapy has now been shown to significantly increase disease free survival in 3 large stage III trials. Stage III are the final trials where safety and efficacy have been established and these enroll large numbers to see if the efficacy findings hold up and the safety profile remains stable. This is excellent. There was discussion in the news clipping about whether Avastin would get FDA approval for the indication of ovarian cancer, because it is expensive and while it has been demonstrated to prolong disease free survival (the duration of time before disease recurs or comes back), it has not apparently been demonstrated to clearly extend overall survival.

For me, I know what I would argue for if the FDA wanted to bring me in as a patient representative. What I am focused on is disease free survival, as I continue to wait for my chemotherapy-induced neuropathy to receed and my strength to return. I don't think in terms of time to death or wonder how long I will survive. I think in terms of time until recurrence and wonder how much time I will have before I have to return to chemotherapy again. And I hope it will be long enough to regain my strength, complete the organizational, planning and other tasks that I need to prepare, have my neuropathy go away at least enough to allow me to travel and maybe dance and scuba dive again with out excessive limitations. There were many blessings and lessons contained within the experience of chemotherapy. But I think I learned them the first time around and am less optimistic that a second round will be a time of learning and progress rather than a time of ... marking time and resting because i can do little else. The ability to be productive, to travel, to take care of business or to just go out to have fun that I measure is the time between now, when I have finally reached a physical point where I can begin to do intentional exercise (half hour at a time and very very mild, but still...) and the point where disease recurrence will push me back onto chemo. It is not the time between now and the point when I cease to breath.

So I would argue that an increase in disease free survival is more meaningful than an overall increase in survival, if FDA wanted to ask.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Counting down

Dose 19 of Avastin today, along with laboratory testing (since I was snowed in last Thursday and could not get out for testing) and physical exam.

That is dose 19 of 22 - so only 3 left in the investigational trial - currently scheduled for Monday February 7, Monday February 28 (along with a doctor's exam) and Monday March 21 - And we will be done!

So I decided we were close enough to the finish line to ask about monitoring after I finish the treatment course of Avastin. It will consist of an physical exam and CT scan after then completion of the Avastin course, followed by physical exams every 3 months plus CT scans every 6 months for the first 2 years. Then followed by physical exams and CT scans every 6 months for the next 3 years. Then, assuming I have gotten that far without evidence of recurrence, the follow up required by the GOG clinical trial will be completed. I did not ask about follow up not required by the clinical trial. I will be happy to make it to these first milestones, then figure it out from there.

For the first time in more than a week the roads are clear and the snow is largely melted and gone. I say largely because large pockets of my yard (the shady areas) still have clumps of snow waiting for the weather to stay warm long enough for it all to melt. But yesterday it was warm enough to enablt me to chip away at the remaining snow and ice stuck to my front porch, pry it up in sheets and move it off the porch. All the time remembering that my Minnesota days should have taught me that you ALWAYS remove snow from walk ways immediately after it falls and before it can stick to the ground in sheets of ice. But that is because in Minnesota they know it will be sticking around for months, and here we (mistakenly this time) assume it will just melt away within hours or at most a day or two. Fooled us this week!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

3 days and counting below freezing in the deep South...

At the end of the third day of being snowed in, the approximately 6 inches of snow in the yard has not diminished except in the places where one of us has walked on it, or shoveled it out of the way to allow safer access to the yard for ourselves or our dogs. The dogs tread cautiously around the treacherous back yard. The crust of the snow has turned into solid ice, resulting in the younger dogs skidding and sliding around the yard like young kids on ice skates, only not enjoying it nearly as much. The ancient dog, Jake, has the same problems but with less stable footing, so that he frequently skids down on the ground or his feet slide out from under him. Occasionally the iced crust fails to hold their weight and one or more legs breaks through, which is even more difficult for the old dog, who creeps gratefully back into the house as soon as possible. The young dogs also do not care to linger in the yard.

Threatened with the requirement to make it to work or take personal leave today, my niece Dorothy managed to walk to the nearest MARTA stop (Atlanta subway) - a normally 15-20 minute walk that took more than 30 due to the slipperly road conditions - and made it in to work, only to return about 4 PM. They decided the 11 AM - 4 PM work day had been ill advised, sent the employees who made it in home and declared the business closed for tomorrow.

I have not exited the house since Sunday night except to help the dogs down the back stairs and to shovel off the back deck so they could make it into the yard on their own.

Temperatures did not rise above freezing today, and are not scheduled to do so tomorrow either or anytime before Friday afternoon at the earliest.

Never the less, CDC has announced to employees that we will open tomorrow, just at 10 AM instead of 8 AM. I guess someone got impatient with all those federal employees staying home, despite having spent the past couple of years encouraging the employees to telecommute whenever possible. All fine and good except that the dangerous conditions that closed the agency have not improved. Wishful thinking will not make it safer to try to drive to work tomorrow, and it is not possible to walk that far or take public transit since the subway does not go anywhere near most of the campuses.

I worked full time at home yesterday and today on CDC business - starting with a teleconference this morning at 9 Am and finishing about half an hour ago. So just over a 10 hour work day, and a slightly shorter one yesterday. GRanted on Monday I only did a few hours of CDC work, and having depleted my at home resources, likely would not have been able to do much for CDC tomorrow. Still out of 3 snow days I have performed work from home for approximately 2.5 full working days - not bad. I am not really thrilled about risking my car and my life trying to get into work tomorrow over very dangerous icey roads.

I will wait until 10 AM and hope that either the weather predictions are wrong or someone with authority will come to his or her senses and call off the work day. But if not I will be treading my way into work tomorrow and hoping I do not wind up in the hospital again - this time for trauma. After 8 years in Minnesota and 2 in Boston I am pretty comfortable handling my car on snowey roads. But even up there I would be attempting to stay off these roads, since unlike the upper midwest and new England, we have no road clearing equipment so if the snow does not melt it simply turns to patches of ice and the roads do not improve. And being able to handle your own car does not protect you when the guy next to you who has never driven on ice before goes into a skid.

We hear they are planning to cut the agency staffing by 10% by attrition as a money saving plan. We just did not realize they were planning to do it all tomorrow.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Am I in Minnesota?

Tonight, for the first time ever in the history of my living in the South, I had to shovel snow! The (by my estimate) 7 inches of snow crusted with ice that coated the back deck and the 4-5 steps down to the yard were too much for my ancient mostly-pointer Jake to negotiate. I carried him down once - then got to work clearing the steps.

Last night I was cohosting a dinner party for a Foyers group (from church) but we tied up early because of the predicted snow. My cohost Sue insisted that I head home and leave most of the clean up to her. Sure enough, the snow began as i was loading the car (more like tiny balls of ice), was coming down steadily by the time I started out, and was accumulating steadily by the time I got home. Fortunately the roads were still clear, but by 10 pm last night the yard and neighborhood looked like a winter wonder land, and my neice and her boyfriend were out playing in the snow. This morning the CDC was closed "except for essential personnel". Fortunately for me I am not currently essential because I don't know how I would have gotten in if I needed to. The same 6-7 inches of snow that coated the deck, steps and yard also coated the driveway and street.

Since I have not ventured out I don't know if the roads are clear once you get off my street. I do know that the temperatures have not risen above freezing yet today and the block remains totally snowed in. I am searching the internet and keeping an eye on my Blackberry for another email from the CDC EOC telling us not to report to work again tomorrow. But since none has arrived yet, I am beginning to turn my mind to thinking about how I might best attempt to get into work if I am expected to report tomorrow.

I still have those Minnesota cross country skiis - but the same absence of side walks that makes it hard to walk anywhere in this city would inhibit my ability to skii to work - not to mention that physically I doubt I could make it these days.

Today was very productive - perhaps not for the taxpayers but for me, as I finished 3 loads of laundry, a couple of loads of dishwasher, a lot of accounting and filing and tax preparation at home.

Tomorrow morning I will try to get a photo of the lovely snowy land to post.

Meanwhile, how many mass killings in schools and public places do you think we will have to have before the Congress decides that if it is necessary to have a license to drive a car and to renew that license periodically and keep that car registered then it should also be necessary to have specific training and a license to have a gun and also necessary to register that (those) guns? Why does the right to bear guns make it necessary to have laws that prevent the ability to have a national database documenting gun owners? Why is it necessary, easy, even possibly for mentally ill people to easily equip themselves with automatic weapons? Am I the only one who thinks that the NRA has had too much influence on Congress, and in ways that go way beyond protecting the ability of my acquaintances who hunt to put food on the table to coninue to be able to do so?

Thursday, January 6, 2011

And Another Haircut!!!

Today I got my second haircut since chemo. Now the first one in october did prehaps shape the hairs a little more evenly. But to be completely honest the major incentive for a haircut at that point was simply the idea that I finally again had hair that could be cut.

Today I actually had enough hair that indeed things looked better after the haircut. AS Yang (my excellent hair stylist) said, he had a little more to work with. It was still under normal circumstances nothing really to write home about. But I really enjoyed it. Enough to also purchase the stuff that he recommends I put into my hair to be able to shape it. And to agree to another appointment on saturday when he will stripe color into it.

Never thought it would be so very much fun just to have hair...