Thursday, January 2, 2014

Dear Friends and Followers of Lisa’s blog,

As I’m sure you’ve noticed, there haven’t been any recent posts to Lisa’s blogs, Michigoose’s Gander at Quilts & Life and Long Time Living: Living with Breast Cancer.   Lisa spent a week in the hospital at the start of October and entered hospice on October 5th.  Sadly, she lost her battle with cancer the following day.  Lisa’s family and close friends were with her and her release from pain was peaceful. 

I had texted Lisa as soon as I learned she was in hospice.  Lisa’s husband, Carlos, found time to call me and let me speak with Lisa.  Though she was unresponsive at the time, I’m certain Lisa heard me, and understood me, as I told her she was widely respected, admired, and loved.   

Like many of you, I met Lisa over the internet.  I’m not sure how I came across her blog, or how she came across mine, but I’m so thankful we connected.  Our friendship started as simple blog comments on art and life.  We soon discovered we  both had daughters who seemed to be injury-prone and I understood what it meant to have a mother battle breast cancer while I looked on as a teen.  Soon our exchanges became more personal. Lisa and I talked on the phone at length, and even managed to meet up at a quilt art conference. 

Through our conversations, I got to know more about this incredible woman who shared so much with so many. She was a voice of reason and restraint when it came to debates and lively discussions on quilting group forums.  She was a tireless volunteer, pitching in to work at quilting booths and organizing local art groups.  She had an encyclopedic knowledge of plant life and a tremendous green thumb. Even when she couldn’t garden as much as she wanted to due to the painful side effects of her cancer treatment she still thought of others, dividing over-reaching plants and sending the extras to liven up new homes.   And Lisa never failed to share her knowledge and experience of living with cancer.  She offered endless advice on treatments, managing insurance red tape, and the emotional side effects of living with cancer.  She understood hope – and believed strongly in the will to survive.  Lisa believed strongly that late stage cancer victims needed as much help as those who benefitted from early detection.  Lisa didn’t believe in panic; she believed in gathering facts and facing a situation head-on, armed with as positive an attitude as possible and a strong spirit of personal advocacy.  Yes, she shared privately how her fingers numbed and wouldn’t cooperate, how her bones ached and her body was weary, but I don’t recall that Lisa ever let that stop her from doing what she set out to do; instead, I watched her implement creative solutions

I know Lisa hoped to be with us longer; there were many things she still wanted to do.  However, I also believe that she left us knowing that she fought the good fight longer than anyone ever expected she would.  I also know she was thankful for all her experiences and friends. I hope she can take a measure of satisfaction now in knowing how wide a net she cast with her words of wisdom and her friendships.

I miss Lisa terribly, as I’m sure you do as well.  I miss our talks, her little quips, her photos of her garden, and her incredible sincerity and empathy as she shared stories of her life.    I am eternally thankful to have met her and my life was enriched because of our friendship.  

Lisa’s ashes were spread in her beloved Michigan and I’m confident she’s happy to be at rest there.  For those who weren’t able to attend her service in Ohio, there will be a memorial on May 17, 2013 at the Keeney Memorial Cultural Center in Wethersfield, Connecticut. The time and details have yet to be determined. It is our hope that we’ll be able to arrange a plant and/or bulb exchange among the attendees to celebrate Lisa’s spirit of sharing and giving.   Please offer your thoughts and ideas on Lisa’s Facebook page; Lisa’s family and friends will be checking her page periodically.

Promise me you'll always remember: you're braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.  -- A. A. Milne – a quote that inspired Lisa during her last battle

This message provided by Vivien.  Thank you!

Monday, September 16, 2013


One of my friends made a comment to me the other day.  She's also on Halaven (eribulen) but she's doing much better than I am....fewer side effects and MUCH better response with the tumor markers.  She said something to the effect that when she starts feeling neuropathy with a drug, she gets off it.

My viewpoint has always been that I will suffer through the neuropathy because it is better than being dead.  I suppose I came to this point as I got some neuropathy with Taxol.  I got more with Abraxane, even Xeloda gave me some, and Halaven is giving me a lot.....even to the point that I have numbness in my face.  Don't get me wrong, there's a lot of other reasons I may be experiencing this in my lower lip, and teeth....and I am checking with my dentist tomorrow.... It is a listed side effect....but I could also have a tooth infection, problems with my temporal mandibular joint (TMJ), heart issues, or a host of other things.

So....maybe she's right to jump ship and I'm silly for slogging on....,I sure as heck would like to find something that works.  My markers have been playing hopscotch.  Not fun.

So, what would  your choice be? Stick it out, or stop when you get the whimper of a debilitating side effect?  All I know is that it is getting progressively harder to walk.....  I sure do wish I could convince my oncologist to do a biopsy of the gluteal mets and have rational theraputics or Caris test it out...I am getting a little tired of being the lab rat and risking the side effects when there is something else out there which may give us the direction to go without needless side effects....but this is a new process and lots of the docs aren't looking at the new methods that these two employ, just at what used to be done.  I'm not saying it is without error, but surely it would be less expensive and possibly easier on me.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

How Many,how much?

One of the things I struggle with in my current chem is not knowing when it is going to end.   Back in 1994, when I got CAF (cytoxin, adriamysin and 5-Fu) I knew I was to have 6 courses.  In 1998, with Taxol, I knew I was slated for 9 24-hour doses, one every three weeks.  But now?  "Until it no longer works or you die."

It is interesting....when people ask, and I tell them.....they startle.  They weren't expecting that.  To be honest, neither was I.  I used to play mind games with the chemos in 1994 and 1998..."One down, 5 to go..." until I had counted them out.  There are no mind games to help me through this one...Hopefully, (but terribly unlikely given how this has progressed and that it is in so many bones, my lungs and liver....and however improbably, my gluteal muscles) I will be able to knock this into a little period of remission...but....maybe not....and maybe I will be kept on a maintenance dose of some chemo ....Even for this warrior, such a protocol is hard to take.  So...I put one numb foot in front of the other and hope...That's all we can do.

Monday, August 26, 2013

There's a Cream for that!

When I was a kid and had to go to the pediatrician's to get a mom always promised me an ice cream afterwards to make me feel better ( was really sherbet as I had to watch my milk intake as I had a sensitivity to dairy products).  I didn't like needles then unless they were pulling thread.

So, when I had a deep port which was often difficult to access, the nurses offered me a numbing cream for the skin.  I thought that was pretty silly as the skin was just a temporary prick and it didn't hurt much. What did hurt is when they dug around trying to find the port, poking through muscle tissue.  There's no cream for that unfortunately.

Since then, particularly after I got my current port which sits right under my skin and looks like an alien has taken up residence, I snorted when people asked me if I needed "the cream."

Today, however, I changed my mind about what I thought about it.  I was talking with another breast cancer patient who watched me get accessed.  She asked me why I didn't use THE CREAM.  I said I never really understood it.  She told me it made her life so much easier...and less painful.....and more relaxed to "get her pokes."

Hmmmm. I had known  that I could tolerate pain very well...but I never thought about it, especially in the case of needle pricks.  I said that I guess I really do have a pretty high tolerance, and said I delivered my baby without any kind of anesthesia. I thought my chemo partner for the day was going to pass out right there.

So..if you didn't know, and that pin prick hurts, just ask for the analgesic cream (it is sort of like Novocaine in a tube).  But also remind them to wait a little bit for the alcohol swabs to dry on the skin surface.  It does hurt when the needle carries in the alcohol and burns.

So...remember you can ask for THE CREAM.....and the kind of cream above isn't bad either.  I will still skip the former and occasionally have the later. Anyone want to share with their own spoon?

Friday, August 23, 2013

Karma and Punishment

About a month ago, I was sitting in my office trying to sort out insurance issues, deal with the denial of coverage for my husband and my daughter (for acne for pete's sake)  and dealing with some things which would be minor under most circumstances, but with the lack of income in my has become major. I began to wonder what in heaven's name did I do  to deserve this?  I then was reading one of the posts from an older, devout Christian lady on one of the metastatic breast cancer boards I read and she said that she believed God was punishing her.

I am sure that this lady hasn't killed anyone,.  In fact, I am pretty sure that her transgressions are minor.....and my head snapped to.  If God is an entity who mets out punishment like this, then I want no part of him...and I certainly DO NOT believe in Karma, particularly the thought that the actions of an ancestor several generations ago can plague us now.  No.  This is just the human side of us wanted to explain the unexplainable....why we are suffering.

But it isn't just's suffer horrendous diseases....innocent children do as well.  Unfortunately, suffering side-swipes us...and it is up to us to make the best of it.   Sometimes I admit to myself of being a little jealous of those who are planning trips, and retirement.....and  I can't.  But, I will continue to forge ahead, and enjoy what I can.  I hope you will too.

I know this isn't a chameleon, but my photographs of anoles I took several years ago in Florida, are now corrupted and I borrowed this photograph of "Carlos" from Lauretta Brandow Kyser. 

Monday, July 29, 2013

Sherrie loves color!: Cancer survivor's mom needs votes

One of my on line Quilty friends is Sherrie Spangler.   She and I have very similar tastes in color. :)  today she posted about a mom of a 2 year old cancer survivor's mom who has an etsy site wehre she sells her hand-made knitted and crocheted items.  For every three hats sold, she donates one to a child currently fighting cancer.  Her etsy site is:

She is participating in a website: Geen Mom Guide and they are having a contest.  Please check out Sherrie's blog spot and follow her links to give this woman extra publicity.

Sherrie loves color!: Cancer survivor's mom needs votes


I was pleased to find this today.  I guess it was originally posted here:

I don't know where people find this stuff.....

Today was another treatment day and I was talking to a guy who has an aggressive form of lymphoma.  He is hopeful for a bone marrow transplant, but he must get the lymphoma stabilized before he goes for it.

He and I were of the same viewpoint:  We would continue, hoping and waiting for something to work so that we could manage this as a chronic disease.  "I don't fool myself," he said.  "Even if I do get a bone marrow transplant, life will be different.  I may have to do things in a different way....but if I can get a few more years or 10 or 20....I'll do what I can."

Things are different.  For the most part I feel good, even though I have lots of annoying side effects....and there's always that monkey on my shoulder....but if I keep on feeding it bananas, maybe I can keep it from whacking me in the head.