Category Archives: Adrenal Cancer

A novel in 30 days!

Today is the start of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) and I just completed my first 1,667 of 50,000 words! I did not even know until yesterday what I was going to write about and that only developed by picking Steve’s brain on one of our gas-wasting late afternoon rides. I am cheating because I am using a character out of my very first novel, “Anne,” and naturally that means I’m using the same setting. It picks up where “Anne” left off with a different protagonist. And that’s about as far as I’ve gotten. I do have a title: “It Takes A Village Store.” (I hope Hillary likes it.) It was Steve’s idea to base it on the village store. I believe in giving credit where credit is due…..

This past Monday I started a four-week memoir writing class in Lebanon offered by the Women’s Resource Center at DHMC. It’s tricky juggling three writing projects (NaNoWriMo, memoir writing, and my writing group) but I can only produce with deadlines and commitments so this is a good thing! And I gain one whole hour tonight because we set the clocks back–and I’m using it to write this long overdue blog post.

I started a project late this summer of having my picture taken at every one of the 235 historic markers in New Hampshire, with the goal to do additional research about each and every one of them then post the information on my blog. Seemed like a good idea at the time. So far I’ve visited 13 and most of

Alderbrook Historic Marker

Alderbrook Historic Marker

those we hit in one day on a trip down to the Lake Sunapee region. Even with directions off the State of NH web site, we had a difficult time locating a number of them, somehow driving by them a few times before seeing them right in front of our eyes. I’m proud to say we got through the day with nary an argument (easy to say weeks after our adventure!). Doubt if we’ll get through the remaining 222 before we leave for Arizona but it’s nice to have goals, isn’t it? Alderbrook is the first one I took a photo of–I was alone on my way back from a DAR meeting in Whitefield. Interestingly, neither Hanover nor Lebanon have any historic markers….

This afternoon we saw “The Judge” at the Nugget Theater in Hanover. Steve and I both enjoyed it, which doesn’t always happen when there are tears involved. If you haven’t seen it, do, despite the 2 1/2 stars it received!

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Home again

Sheffield's Pre-school graduation

Sheffield’s Pre-school graduation

I’ve been home almost a month now. And, like most New Englanders, I’ve spent most of that time focused on the weather–either complaining about it or planning my life around it. It seems as though we have fluctuated between winter and summer these past four weeks. Maybe that is what spring is in New Hampshire. Monday I was sitting out on the deck, trying to see my laptop screen in the bright sunshine. It was almost too hot to be outside and it wasn’t quite eleven a.m. The day before, for our Father’s Day celebration, it was too cold for most of the day to be outside.

The day after arriving home from Virginia, eighteen months to the day following my surgery for adrenal cancer, I visited DHMC for my three-month CT scan and doctors’ visits. Great news–still no evidence of disease!! My endocrinologist made some changes to my medication but other than that it was a routine visit. My mitotane level came back at the high end of the therapeutic range, which explains why I was feeling nauseous, so I took a mitotane holiday for the weekend and have cut back to just two pills a day for three weeks. Now I am back up to three a day in preparation for my blood tests and visit with my oncologist on Friday. It’s amazing how quickly four weeks go by.

And what have I accomplished in those four weeks? Without work as a gauge, it’s hard to quantify. I/we did get our brand new kitchen organized. I am working on a short story that was inspired by our month at Jennifer’s in Williamsburg. We have toiled in the yard to get it under control. Snails and bugs have taken over, damaging many of our plants. Steve has mowed the lawn a thousand times already. I’ve submitted my application to the Daughters of the American Revolution and attended my first meeting. We attended Sheffield’s pre-school graduation and Elise and Sheffield’s gymnastics show. Life is back to NH normal.

After spending five months with no responsibilities, it has been an adjustment to take responsibility for yard work (and we have a large yard and numerous gardens) and the cleaning, and maintenance of our house. Every time we drive by the campground near our house I point out the fifth-wheel that is for sale. Steve just shakes his head and says “will you make up your mind?” I’ve never been very good at that.

Making myself “right”

Making myself write

Making myself write

I told my daughter, Jennifer, that I was going upstairs to “make myself write.” She thought I meant I was going to “make myself right.” If only I could do that. If only any of us with adrenal cancer (or depression or heart disease) could just make ourselves better by announcing we were going to do just that.

Coincidentally, (and I am not certain that there are any coincidences), my granddaughter, Laurel, is studying homophones in second grade. Words that sound the same but are spelled differently and may have different meanings. “Right” and “write” definitely qualify.

Writing may not cure my cancer but it does help make things right in my head. I feel better about myself when I put words down on the page, even if it’s just garbage. And as we writers know, what looks like garbage today might shine like gold tomorrow.

Coincidentally, (again!), I am reading “The Right to Write” by Julia Cameron. Actually, I am rereading it. It was published in 1999 so it may have been 15 years since I first read it! I gave my original book to my sister-in-law and by chance ran into a used one at Changing Hands Bookstore in Tempe, AZ. At the bargain price of $6.95, I was lured into buying it. When I got home, I found out it had once belonged to (an unknown to me) M. J. Reck, who had made notes and underlined sections in the first two chapters of the book.  Then nothing. I am usually loath to mark up my books but M. J. seems to have given me permission to do just that.

I have discovered that reading the book relaxes me. I don’t remember it having that effect the first time around (I was much too earnest) but now, when I am amped up over Candy Crush or Words with Friends, I can read this book and literally feel my blood pressure drop.

What I particularly like about Cameron’s approach is that you don’t need to have a large block of time to write. Train yourself to grab your ten minutes here and your half-hour there of writing time throughout the day. It’s a luxury to have hours at a time to write.

Yet I have those hours and still don’t write. I know the problem. I’m a perfectionist, which leads to procrastination…..Maybe if I only allow myself ten minutes to write, I won’t expect perfection. Haven’t we already been down this road? (July 27, 2013 post “Perfection Paralysis”)

But it’s a dry heat…..

Time to get in the pool!

Time to get in the pool!

In case you haven’t been keeping up with the weather forecast in Arizona (not to rub it in to our friends and family back East), we hit 95 today, the first ninety degree temperatures of 2014. And it will last through Friday. It may even flirt with 100 degrees. But, as they like to say here, it’s a dry heat.

We just happen to be heading north to Las Vegas on Wednesday where it is forecasted to be much cooler–the low nineties. As I recall from my one and only visit to Las Vegas (granted, it was August), that is one hot city. And it just feels more like the desert than Chandler, Arizona does.

We are flying up for the night to see Elton John perform at Caesars Palace. A short one hour five-minute flight. Granted, we’ll miss the Hoover Dam experience by not driving up but the flight is free. (Thanks to my Southwest VISA card!)

I am so excited to show Steve Las Vegas. Not that we are gamblers or drinkers. OK–I could get addicted to the slots but I can depend on Steve to drag me away.

To prepare him for the trip, we watched “Last Vegas” via our Apple TV. Definitely worthy of an Academy award. NOT! But it was entertaining. It probably helps to be our age to appreciate the movie. The other day we actually “argued” about what day of the week it was–forgetting to check either our watches or our iPhones! I imagine our children are wondering if it is time to check out nursing homes but I can assure them it is way too early for that! (They all have guest rooms, don’t they?)

Have to admit we are enjoying retirement. I especially like playing Candy Crush (93 million people a day play it) and Words with Friends and reading as late as I want (Steve doesn’t even complain), which means sleeping as late as I want (again, no complaints), drinking a leisurely cup or two of coffee, going to lunch (Sunday it was San Tan Brewing Company–jalapeno bratwurst hash for brunch–almost as hot as the weather) and then heading out to wherever we want (after brunch it was WestWorld in Scottsdale celebrating Arizona Bike Week). Steve is painting and enjoying the weather.

We leave for Virginia next week, stopping in Albuquerque, Nashville, and Ashville along the way. Looking forward to spending time with Jennifer and family in Williamsburg, meeting up with the ladies from my writing group at Malice Domestic in Bethesda, MD, and visiting Joy and family in CT. And then HOME (after almost five months away) just in time for my CT scan at DHMC. Eighteen months to the day from my surgery for adrenal cancer. Fingers crossed!

Addicted to….Candy Crush!!

Banzai Pipeline Oahu

Banzai Pipeline Oahu

I’m not certain how much longer I can keep up this blog now that my granddaughter, Haley, has introduced me to CANDY CRUSH! How I have remained in the dark about this game for this long is beyond me. It’s a good time to provide an update on everything I’ve done since my last post as who knows how long it will be before I can tear myself away……

This past Sunday I attended a workshop at Changing Hands bookstore in Tempe, “Writing About Illness,” presented by Thomas Larson. He’s written The Sanctuary of Illness and The Memoir and Memorist. I went there with no intention of writing a memoir about my adrenal cancer but now I may be inspired to write about my journey. As Eleanor has reminded me, you can always learn something from any writing workshop.

Prior to that we spent ten days on the islands of Maui and Oahu. The vacation of a lifetime….until the next one! Highlights of Maui include a whale watch, the Old Lahaina Luau, Maui Theatre’s Ulalena, Haleakala National Park (volcano), La Perouse Bay (Maui’s last lava flow and wild goats), THE Road to Hana, and a bright blue Ford Mustang convertible! Our splurge was our anniversary dinner at Mama’s Fish House in Paia.

On Oahu, organized tours, taxis, and our feet took us to the Dole Pineapple Plantation (pineapples do not grow on trees!), USS Arizona Memorial/Pearl Harbor, the Banzai Pipeline (the Pacific was wild so no surfing), the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific (the Punch Bowl), Duke’s, a hike up Diamond Head (I tried to make it to the top), and the typical tourist attractions (the school President Obama attended, etc.)  We even attempted to search for my childhood home from when I was 2 to 4 years old.

I read James Michener’s Hawaii before, during, and after our trip (it’s a long book!), which helped immensely with understanding the history of the islands, as did our visit to the Polynesian Cultural Center on Oahu. We were surprised at the number of Asian tourists in Oahu. (Much of the signage in Waikiki Beach is written in both English and Japanese.) Actually, we were surprised at the swell of tourists in Oahu compared to Maui.

Jen, Jeff, Laurel, and Alex were able to visit us in Arizona to celebrate both Valentine’s Day and our 40th wedding anniversary. We enjoyed dinner at our favorite East Valley restaurant, San Tan Flat, on our actual anniversary. It was crazy busy due to President’s Day holiday but that just gave us more time to drink Margaritas and dance.

Other than that we’ve enjoyed reading the Facebook posts of our friends back in NH and VT complaining about the terrible winter they have been experiencing–as we bask in the sunshine and 70-80 degree temperatures. We’ve read a variety of books–I am juggling four currently. Put jigsaw puzzles together. Walked around the Nature Park. However, one thing I haven’t done much of is write. Too many distractions. And now….Candy Crush!

A brothel in its former life (seen from the bathroom window)

Jerome, AZ

Jerome, AZ

Today I was going to get serious about my book–didn’t I say that yesterday?? What was I thinking? Instead we traveled to Sedona to see Dan, a friend of ours from back in NH who is a snow bird, just like we are now. It’s further up there than we thought–over two hours, and that’s in the HOV lane–and we got a late start (someone had to take a shower and do her hair).

It’s about 15 degrees cooler up there so I was happy I remembered my fleece jacket. We actually ran into some rain on the way up. Rain!

We ventured to Jerome for lunch, with Steve receiving just a warning–no ticket–for speeding and failing to stop at a stop sign. Jerome is an old mining and “ghost” town, about the elevation of Mount Washington, that appears to have most of its original buildings still standing, without any renovations, or if there are any, they are done “tastefully.”

Looking out the window of the bathroom at the restaurant where we had lunch I could see what was obviously a brothel in its former life. And hanging on the walls for decorations were vintage corsets and garters and things I couldn’t identify. Dan will be 90 this July–maybe I should have asked him if he knew what they were?? Without doing any research, I can say unequivocally that Jerome must have been a happening place back in the day!!

Kathy, my Pilates instructor in Vermont, is reading a book that takes place in Jerome. I’ll add it to my list of “must reads.” I can always rely on her recommendations.

In our absence (she must have been afraid I would buy another t-shirt), Joy visited Goodwill and brought home two “new” jigsaw puzzles. While she and Steve were busy carting Tyler to football practice and Haley to gymnastics, I was occupied with setting up one of the puzzles. Although we had vowed not to do another puzzle after the last one, Joy, Haley, and I didn’t hesitate to gather around the dining room table for an hour and work on the new one. We refrained from getting out the head lamps this time but we certainly could have used them. I imagine my writing group members will identify this as creative procrastination. I suppose I could have been out shoveling snow as I know some of them were!!

No word from my doctor on the results of the CT scan or the blood work. Tomorrow I will call as they don’t seem to be the ones to initiate the calls. Did I mention how much I miss DHMC?

Starting to get serious about writing–once again

San Tan Mountains

San Tan Mountains

I feel guilty even writing that we have been enjoying temperatures in the 70’s during our stay in Arizona while the rest of the country seems to be mired in yet another round of snow storms after having survived yet another polar vortex. (Not to say that we don’t cool off over night–but it’s worth it to awaken to blue skies and sunshine, even if there is a slight chill in the air.)

I met with a new oncologist a week ago Friday. He was very nice. But oh how I miss my Norris Cotton Cancer Center at DHMC. And Dr. Ernstoff, Nancy Crosby, and gang. Finally had my three-month CT scan yesterday after three calls to the not-so-nice scheduler (“I have 127 orders on my desk…”) and, I’m almost embarrassed to admit, a not-so-nice message for the doctor. Come to find out, he was on vacation. For those of you who are not familiar with my journey with ACC, it is laden with delays due to doctors who are on vacation.

My scan was at SMIL. No “e.” They were efficient and friendly. I didn’t even mind when the tech asked me if I had nipple rings! (You don’t want to know. But the answer is no.)

Now the wait for the results begins. I’m definitely spoiled by DHMC, where the doctor has the report on his desk within an hour of the scan. Funny how much we have come to rely on the results of the CT scan every three months. It’s a report card of sorts. But one with life or death significance. If you haven’t been there, I imagine that sounds melodramatic.

Today we visited Changing Hands Bookstore (and an art store) in Tempe and earlier we made it to The Poisoned Pen Bookstore in Scottsdale. We are starting to get serious about painting and writing–the two activities we have planned to focus on. I have managed to write about ten lines on my “Claire” novel and Steve has produced a first draft of a watercolor of the San Tan mountains. Our excuse is that we have been busy with the kids after school and with going places during the day. It’s wonderful to be retired and not just on vacation!

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