Category Archives: Mitotane

Alaska here we come!!

Enjoying the LPGA at Kingsmill Resort in Williamsburg

Enjoying the LPGA tournament at Kingsmill Resort in Williamsburg

We arrived home safe and sound on May 20 after spending a few short, busy and FUN weeks with Jennifer and family in Williamsburg (and my sister from Virginia Beach and niece from DC). The weather was great–except for when it had to rain. We joke that if they need rain down there, just invite us to visit–the rain won’t be far behind! My Fitbit got a good workout with walking the three dogs and keeping up with Laurel and Alex.

I had thought I would work on my story, “The Intruder,” which is sort of set in Jennifer’s house and the surrounding area. I never got further than thinking about either the story or having Steve tie me up to the newel post in the garage to test out the lawn edger string. (See my Thursday Night Writes blog post Just Write It“!)

Love being back home. Oh, if you don’t count the weather. Hot one day, rainy and cold for the next three. Definitely have missed all of our friends and family. Sheffield and Elise have grown up so much since December!!

We are now embarking onto another countdown–preparing for our cruise and land tour in Alaska! (Is there a person who has done this who wouldn’t do it again? If so, I haven’t run into them.) We leave the end of next week and I am nowhere near ready. It’s all about the clothes–how do you pack for a region where the temperatures have been fluctuating between the 90’s (record highs) and the 30’s and snow?? (I’ve decided that fleece gloves and headband are a necessity and they won’t take up too much precious space in my suitcases.) “Layers” is the advice I get from those who have done this before.

I have submitted my story “Jamie” to my writing group several times since our return from Arizona. I chuckled when I read the comments after our session last night. On some areas there is a consensus on what works and what doesn’t–yet on others, one member might like something and another might not. It’s as though I had six editors reviewing my work. Oh, it’s not just me. Everyone in our writing group runs into the same thing. One of my biggest downfalls is that I know inside my head what is happening inside my characters’ heads but I am not adept at getting that onto paper. Yet.

Since our return we have been busy with doctors’ and dentist (no cavities!) appointments. I met with my endocrinologist yesterday at DHMC. Nothing new except my left adrenal gland is finally starting to shut down. After slightly over two years on mitotane! She was pleased with that–and so am I. I’d hate to think that all of the nausea and fatigue was for naught. As it was Thursday, we had turkey in the cafeteria. The allure is finally wearing off and I didn’t even finish my meal. Shocking.

My oncologist visit is the day after our return from Alaska–who thought that was a good idea? I see my primary care physician in July, when we will discuss scheduling the dreaded colonoscopy. (I’m on the five-year plan.) Haven’t I been through enough?

Can’t wait to tell you all about Alaska…but that will mean the trip of a lifetime is over…except we already are planning on a river cruise to Europe next year!!

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The countdown has begun…

Eleven short days until we leave Arizona on our return trip home. We’re heading north this trip, spending time in some of the national parks in Utah, visiting with a friend in Charlotte, NC, and driving up the Outer Banks (I miss the ocean!). And I can’t forget Kansas….We’ll spend three weeks in Williamsburg, VA, then we’ll be back home in New Hampshire–assuming the snow is gone by then.

Taliesin West

Taliesin West

This doesn’t leave us much time to visit the places that we didn’t get to over the “winter.” Friday we toured Taliesin West, the winter home of Frank Lloyd Wright.

I previously read two novels about the women in Wright’s life, “Loving Frank” by Nancy Horan and “The Women: A Novel” by T. C. Boyle. These two books provide a slightly different perspective of Wright’s life than the tour guide was willing (trained??) to offer.

There’s no denying that he was an architectural genius. My favorite room: the breezeway!! He situated it so that you look out the back and your view is of the McDowell Mountains and out the front you look down into the entire valley of Phoenix. Also, it is designed to catch the breeze coming up from the valley, creating, I presume, a most comfortable place to write or read when the temperatures soar–assuming you can tear your eyes away from the view.

Not that we haven’t been busy since I last posted. Jen, Jeff, Laurel, and Alex were here in February. We

Friendly Butterfly at Desert Botanical Garden

Friendly Butterfly at Desert Botanical Garden

had a great time with them: the Desert Botanical Garden and their Spring Butterfly Exhibit, miniature golf, a boat ride on Saguaro Lake, a hike in Usery Park (not me….sick), the pool and the hot tub (not me….brrr), horseback riding (not me….sick). We even enjoyed a mini-family reunion with our niece, Wanda, and her two children from Maryland who happened to be here at the same time visiting a friend.

Steve and I got free passes from the local library for the Phoenix Art Museum as well as Arcosanti, “an urban laboratory focused on innovative design, community, and environmental accountability.” Paolo Soleri founded the community in 1970, which appears to rely mainly on the sale of windbells they create and tours. Soleri studied under Wright and developed the theory of Arcology (architecture and ecology), which he has applied at Arcosanti. The concept is intriguing but the execution needs work.

March was good news on the adrenal cancer front. I am now two years and four months cancer-free based on my most recent CT scan. Yippee!! Unfortunately, my mitotane level is just barely at the therapeutic range on four pills a day. As I’ve been quite nauseous and tired at that level, I’ve reduced to three pills a day. Wonder what my level will be in May?

As for our remaining days in Arizona, maybe I’ll just spend the rest of the time enjoying the rest of the time!!

 

Finally writing!!

Made it to warmer weather and Arizona—it’s been in the 70’s during the day with yesterday and today the exceptions at a high of 67. This weekend is going to make up for the “cold snap” by flirting with 80. Yes, friends and family back in NH, I said 80. And it has been sunny every day, naturally. Two nights ago we did have sprinkles with a smile of a rainbow in apology.

Last night I finally garnered enough strength to start thinking about writing again. I realize

Finally writing!

Finally writing!

that writing is not a physical activity, not like football (go Patriots!!), but for me it still takes both mental and physical stamina to even attempt it. If only the act of opening the laptop weren’t so daunting, I might have completed a novel or possibly a short story by now. Completed means revised….not shitty first draft. I’m overloaded with those!

My writing group back home is starting a blog. I’m trying to participate via email but I’m not certain if I, someone who claims to be a writer, am conveying my ideas coherently. Being in contact, albeit through email, reminds me how much I miss my writing group. Without them I would be a reader not a writer.

Next Friday I have my first appointment with the same oncologist I saw here last winter. Amazing what a difference a year makes. Last year I was intimidated to see a new doctor. Possibly afraid. This past year I have spent hours on various ACC Facebook pages, learning while wondering if what I am doing is the right treatment. Should I continue with the Mitotane after two years without a recurrence even though it is negatively affecting my quality of life? That is where the fear enters. If I stop, will it come back? If I continue, am I damaging my body unnecessarily? A fellow ACC warrior back home died recently. I had spoken with her on the phone and via Facebook. She was diagnosed after I was, had surgery then opted for a natural treatment regimen instead of toxic chemotherapy. This is why I am torn between the two courses of action. I have started my list of questions for Friday, hopeful that I leave with answers and not more questions.

Busy time here in Phoenix—the 2015 Pro Bowl is this weekend, the Patriots arrive Monday (hopefully!), the Waste Management Phoenix Open Golf Tournament starts Thursday, and the Super Bowl is next Sunday!! And just think, I’ll be busy writing……relaxing in the sunshine…..drinking Lemon Drops made from freshly picked and squeezed lemons…..while the sports fans in the family are out doing their thing. (That is what you call “rubbing it in” just in case you didn’t recognize it!)

 

Not enough time to write!!??

Blasphemy for a writer–and embarrassing–to admit. After all, I am retired. I should have unlimited time to write. It all comes down to priorities, retired or not. But I’ve had a busy summer! (Is it really over?)

We spent an incredible three days at the Cape with Jesse and Joy and families…..only wish Jennifer and her family could have joined us. We spent one day at Breakwater Beach in Brewster and one at Mayflower in Dennis. We went mini golfing and ate seafood. At the pond at Joy’s campground the kids fished and were entertained by three prehistoric-looking huge snapping turtles.

Minute Men Monument and North Bridge, Concord, MA

Minute Men Monument and North Bridge, Concord, MA

On the way home, Steve and I revisited the North Bridge at Concord, MA, where the Revolutionary War started on April 19, 1775. He convinced me to tour the Old Manse, the house that overlooks the bridge and the surrounding field, whose occupants were witness to the birth of our nation. Bronson Alcott, Henry David Thoreau, Margaret Fuller, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Ralph Waldo Emerson, were some of the famous philosophers and writers to either live or spend time there. The Hawthornes rented the house, which did not deter Sophia from etching with her engagement ring poems into the soft glass of the windows.

We spent a week in CT babysitting Tyler and Haley (Lucas was in VA). While the kids were at day camp we took a few day trips. At East Haddam we crossed the swing bridge over the CT River just to see the old Goodspeed Opera House–and got stuck there when the bridge opened to allow a boat through. An amazing feat of engineering.

Seeking inspiration from Mark Twain

Seeking inspiration from Mark Twain

We toured the home of Mark Twain/Samuel Clemens in Hartford. We loved, loved, loved the house. His writing desk is in the same room as his beloved billiards table. He ended up turning his desk away from the table to face the wall–otherwise all he wanted to do was play billiards. I can identify with that.

The Homestead-Emily Dickinson's Home

The Homestead-Emily Dickinson’s Home

Another day was spent at the homes of Emily Dickinson and her brother, Austin, in Amherst, MA. Their homes were nowhere near the pristine condition of Mark Twain’s. We wonder why, Amherst College.

In a few short weeks I touched the same bannisters that some very famous authors held onto many years ago as they walked up the same stairs that I did. Was this the inspiration to submit a complete short story to my writing group–a story that is now receiving a major revision? I’m not even certain I like it. What would Hawthorne or Twain do–persevere or trash it??

I’ve always wanted to visit Moosehead Lake in Maine and we finally went there for one night. Waiting to check into our inn, we took a three hour boat tour on the Katahdin. Or so we thought. We happened to be there on the two days a month it is four and a half hours long….we were so ready to disembark when we finally docked at five p.m. I can check that off my list!

On the medical front, I have a new oncologist–Dr. Ernstoff has moved on to the Cleveland Clinic. Because my mitotane level has dropped dramatically since May, I have upped the dosage from three pills a day to five. Unfortunately, at five pills I only feel well soon after eating. So I am eating what seems like continuously. Time for a trip to the outlets in North Conway….

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.

Almost Home

Biltmore Estate

Biltmore Estate

In case you were wondering, we did make it to Virginia the day before Easter. It was a long trip but we enjoyed several of our stops, especially the Petrified Forest in Arizona, Nashville and Asheville. On Judy’s recommendation, we visited the Gaylord Opryland Resort in Nashville. So glad we did–it’s a massive resort with beautiful indoor gardens and waterfalls.

Jesse secured us the family discount at the Omni Grove Park Inn in Asheville, NC. A one hundred year old magnificent hotel with manned elevators–two of which are in Ripley’s Believe It or Not for being inside the chimney of the massive fireplaces. And we rode in them!

The absolute highlight of the trip was a visit to the Biltmore Estate in Asheville. (Unfortunately, we toured it with what felt like thousands of other people–it was the Friday of Easter weekend.) Downton Abbey in the US for sure. The PBS series helped me relate to what life at the Biltmore would have been like (and vice versa). As we wandered the property, I kept thinking how much I would have enjoyed being a guest there. I hope to get to another estate–Mount Vernon–before we leave Virginia.

I am still recuperating from my long weekend at Malice Domestic in Bethesda. It was great to reconnect with Eleanor, Heidi, and Linda after almost five months away from my writing group. My niece, Casey, and her boyfriend, Andrew, joined us for lunch on Sunday. As they live in DC, I did get some inspiration to resurrect my NaNoWriMo novel, “Alex.” The good news/bad news is that I am now thinking about linking my other two novels, “Anne” and “Claire.” And making “Anne” into a murder mystery. Somehow. That’s what happens when you spend three days with mystery writers, the majority of whom have written series. I’m making notes and attempting to process this concept but will rely on my writing group to help me decide if this is even worth putting any effort into.

Waiting to hear what my last mitotane level was. It’s been over two weeks since I had the labs done. This is what happens when you’re away from your regular doctor and medical facility. Must say the medical part has been what has caused me the most stress this winter.

Steve is anxious to get back to NH. I’m not. He wants to golf more than anything–but he claims he wants to do things like use his pressure washer (that he got for Father’s Day last year!). I am happy to  be responsible for just a wee bit of living space. Right now it’s a bedroom and bathroom. I don’t have to worry that the floors need to be vacuumed or the dishwasher emptied though I do try to do my share of cooking, cleaning, and laundry. Babysitting is not a chore! But I am anxious to get back to my NH family (Elise and Sheffield!!) and friends. Maybe buying the fifth-wheel was the thing to do…..

“That’s the biggest black widow spider I’ve ever seen!”

Luke AFB Air Show

With AZ grandkids at Luke AFB Air Show

Which is what you don’t want to hear your daughter say when you are standing by the door to the casita (guest house). After we all admired it, Joy killed it with a sandal. No more leaving the front door wide open!

We had just finished entertaining Joy and family with our photos from our trip to Hawaii. The kids enjoyed the whale watch photos and we adults found ourselves discussing Pearl Harbor and the similarities to 9/11. I particularly was drawn to the pictures of the ocean, which conjured fond memories of me floating on the waves…..

Saturday Steve and I and the three kids spent three hours in the car traveling to Luke Air Force Base to brave the 100,000+ crowd at the air show. It was a production getting to the flight line but we all agreed it was worth it just to see the Thunderbirds perform. I wore my NaNoWriMo 2011 Winners Circle t-shirt for writing motivation.

And it worked. Sunday, instead of going to see Mr. Peabody and Sherman with Joy and Haley or Need for Speed with the men/boys, I stationed myself at Paradise Bakery and, like a real author, wrote. Longhand in a composition notebook. Granted, if a movie would have been playing that I wanted to see, I might have found myself inside a dark theater rather than outside enjoying the sunshine under an umbrella eating black bean soup and writing. And eavesdropping on the couple next to me–something about Boston and three-inch heels and snow.

I free wrote for a few pages (most likely stuff for a blog post that I should be checking right now!) and then I started on Claire. I outlined three different scenarios for the climax, already knowing which one I will go with. And already knowing that easily could change. After the movies, Steve and I took Lucas to purchase his tenth birthday present (a skateboard). He writes fantasy and loves to read. I presented my elevator spiel. Steve said he likes it (and he’s not just saying that) and when am I going to finish it?? Lucas seemed interested in the plot and asked that I change one of the main characters’ names to Lucas.

Since our return from Hawaii and my resumption of mitotane, I find that I am nauseous frequently. Except when I am eating, naturally. I don’t want to buy a new wardrobe one size larger–I just bought one for our trip. I have blood work on Tuesday for my endocrinologist in NH and on Friday I see the oncologist where I will have my mitotane level drawn. It’s possible I am in the toxic level again. Last doctor’s appointment before I return to my “home” at DHMC in May for my quarterly CT scan. (April’s blood work will be done in Virginia.)

Hard to believe our winter is coming to an end….Joy and family leave for CT in ten days while we will stay on for a few weeks. That now may be dependent upon how many black widows have made their home outside our door.

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