Friday, August 31, 2007

The Simple Life

My dad is a simple man. Don't confuse this with being a simpleton or unintelligent; he's as bright as they come. But his needs and wants have always been and continue to be simple.

Now that he's 80, he's gotten to the stage where he shares many of the same stories again and again. I think these stories boil down to the essence of who he is or how he wants to be remembered.

He's always been a hard-working man. One of his favorite sayings when we were growing up was, "I never want to have to step backward to pick up my paycheck." When I attended my 10-year high school reunion 25 years ago, one of my classmates asked me if I was Clyde Strother's daughter. He worked with my dad at "the plant" and said that he was known for his work ethic. He put it this way: "Your dad is crazy. He works so hard that he makes the rest of us look bad. We're always trying to get him to slow down." I was so proud that I could have burst my buttons.

And so my dad's own stories go, a litany of hard-scrabble, low paying jobs. He always gave more than 100%, even when he chose to work through slipped discs or sprained thumbs or pneumonia.

It's no wonder that one of his favorite baseball players was Randy Hundley, the Chicago Cubs catcher who became famous for "playing through the pain."

All of this gets me to thinking about what stories I'll repeat when I'm 80 years old. I do take a perverse pride when I recall throwing a baby shower and then driving myself to the CoH ETC (Evaluation and Treatment Center), only to find out that both my hemoglobin and platelet levels had hit all-time lows. Or the day that I turned away a discretionary red blood transfusion when my hemoglobin counts were at 8.3. "No, that's OK. I don't need it. I walked four miles in the 90 degree heat last night."

I know these stories have Cancer Banter readers regarding me in the same way that my high school classmate viewed my dad. "You are crazy!"

I may not share my dad's love of the "simple life," but I think we're alike in many other fundamental ways.

What will be the stories that YOU repeat?

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Life in the Slow Lane

For decades, the official slogan of Ravenswood, West Virginia, was "Living is good in Ravenswood." I always wanted to change the slogan to "Living is slow," but I guess we would have had to change the name of the town to "Ravenswoe" to make the rhyme work. "Living is slow in Ravenswoe." I think it's kinda' catchy, but I don't think the Chamber of Commerce would have bitten.

To get a better view of the slow life, I took a 3.5 mile walk around town last night. Here are a few things I observed:

1. It's not the heat, it's the humidity: Need I say more?

2. Practice the wave: I wave to everyone I see drive or walk by, whether I recognize them or not. God forbid that someone should later say, "I saw that Sue Strother walking last night and she's gotten so uppity since she moved to California." Never mind that I moved away more than 31 years ago.

3. This porch is made for sitting: With the abundance of craftsman homes in the Pasadena area, there's no shortage of front porches. But I can't remember the last time I saw someone actually sitting on one of them. Not so in Ravenswood. I must have seen (and waved to) more than a dozen porch sitters. They were no doubt drinking "sweet tea," the common name for iced tea with sugar.

4. Howdy is not the name of a puppet: People really do say "Howdy." And without a trace of irony.

5. Earplugs, please: This must be a locust year. Is it true that they come every seven years? I could have used a pair of earplugs to protect me from the din of the noisy creatures. But then I wouldn't have heard the folks yelling, "Howdy!"

PS A shout out to Bill and Melinda Gates, who made today's post possible.

And the winner is . . .

"I'll get you , granny. . . and your fancy little apron, too!"

Congratulations to "the other Karen" for submitting the winning entry. I'll make arrangements to deliver your Duke's Mayo as soon as I get back to So. Cal.

SAMO's Caption 6, "MY Boots, MY Bike, My Doll. Hey Robert, what did Santa bring you?," was a close second, although I don't know what's so funny about it. Those really were MY boots, Robert. Since the contest was so close, I think I can come up with another jar of Duke's.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Think Funny - The Official Contest of Cancer Banter

It may not be the cure for cancer, but laughter really is the best medicine. No kidding - a few "ha ha's" a day have been known to boost the immune system and keep the doctor away.

So . . . which one of the following photo captions had you laughing out loud? Vote today and find out later this week who will be smearing Duke's Mayo on their BLTs or ALTs or BLATs or, heck, whatever else the winner wants to smear it on.

1. Born to be Mild

2. Heck on Wheels

3. Don't let the Christmas tree fool you. Those candles in the window are a Menorah.

4. Horse Thief!

5. Yes m'am, all cowboys reverse their underpants in the wild!

6. Christmas checklist: MY Boots, MY Bike, My Doll. Hey Robert, what did Santa bring you?

7. HI HO ChooChoo AWAY!

8. Catch me if you can Grandma!

9. Horse thief wins hearts from West Virginia to West Coast

10. Mama, don't let your babies grow up to be cowgirls.
Lett'em be bikers and pianists instead.

11. Underpants!? We cowgirls don't need no steeenkin' underpants!

12. No I am NOT a tomboy! See my dolly?

13. I'll get you, granny ... and your fancy little apron, too!

P.S. I got in to Columbus at 11:30 pm last night and decided not to drive the 2.5 hours to West Virginia. Instead, I drove for an hour and spent the night at the computer-stocked Best Western in Zanesville (of pottery fame), Ohio.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Country Roads

I'm leaving this morning for West (by God) Virginia, so you may not hear from me for a few days.

Keep those captions comin' in.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Think Cure - The Official Charity of the Los Angeles Dodgers

With the Los Angeles Dodgers sliding steadily downhill in their National League West standing, it's hard to "Think Blue" without feeling a little blue from the Dodger doldrums.

It's a good thing the Dodgers have a pick-me-up in the form of Think Cure, a collaboration between the Dodgers, City of Hope and Childrens Hospital Los Angeles. Think Cure will champion critical cancer research at these two institutions.

Be sure to watch the video on the home page of the Think Cure website. Dr. Stephen Forman, the head of City of Hope's Hematology Department and MY doctor, is prominently featured.

Now I just wonder which will come first: researchers finding a cure for cancer or the Dodgers pulling off a World Series playoff.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Another Photo Caption Contest

Here's Ninnie Choo Choo at 3 years old, complete with my cowboy boots and sitting on my new bicycle, circa 1957. Sue gave her blessings to post the photo and commence with the contest.

Winner gets a jar of Duke's mayonnaise. Those with frequent blogger miles will remember Sue's post extolling the attributes of Duke's mayo.

Same contest format. Let the games begin!

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Exhaustion, Frustration, Distraction, Elation

Exhaustion: Daily late-night runs to CoH for injections and observation. Post-midnight bedtimes. Daily 7 am reporting for duty for more injections and harvesting. Interrupted sleep from mild but persistent AMD 130 side effects. Emotional ups and downs from the numbers game. It all added up to a case of full-blown exhaustion by the time Friday rolled around. I'm relieved the week is over.

Frustration: Last week I found myself sliding into the unproductive "minimize, maximize" rut that ultimately ends in frustration and a pity party. The cause? Every day I was surrounded by blood cancer patients who were pumping out stem cells like their lives depended on it, while I remained a stem cell underachiever.

I overheard nurse coordinators scheduling the start dates for stem cell transplants with other patients, while I still have no idea when I'll be hunkered down for my month-long stay at CoH. I think I'm asked about the date of my stem cell transplant more often than my newly engaged friend Terry gets asked about the date of her wedding. But, unlike Terry, I have no idea of the month, let alone the day of this momentous event.

I'll get to discuss the game plan with Dr. Forman during my next appointment on September 4. Even though the "miracle drug" AMD 130 didn't pull off a miracle, it helped me mobilize another .78 million stem cells, bringing my two-mission total to 1.7 million. That's just .3 shy of the 2 million minimum. My email from Dr. Forman on Friday evening said that we will "try again [to harvest more stem cells] after a little more treatment for the mantle cell." This at least is very good news because the donor room doctor led me to believe that I couldn't try again.

Of course, all of this means several more weeks of waiting and not knowing.

Distraction: It's a rare week with no doctor's appointments and no treatments. I've decided to use the time to fly back to West Virginia (the land of bad perms and all-you-can-eat restaurants) to visit my dad, brother Piper Robert and nephew Bobby. I'm looking forward to meeting Robert's new gal pal Bonnie, eating beans and greens at Cracker Barrel and shoveling down biscuits and gravy at Bob Evans. I may even return to the scene of the underwear crime.

Elation: For a peek at the brown polka dot dress and the infamous members of the "stemware gang," visit my friend Debbi's blog site. It's hard to stay down for long when I'm reminded of my many loving, supportive friends.

And check out the latest comment from Norma Jean Cope on "The Right Size Bag for the Right Size Job." The post paid tribute to Garland Cope, the owner of Cope Super Market, where I worked my first job as a cashier 36 years ago. Mr. Cope's granddaughter stumbled across the blog post when she was surfing the web and shared it with her family, including Mr. Cope's widow, Norma Jean. I also received a private email from Jeff, Mr. Cope's son, saying that the "whole R'wood family is tickled that you mentioned what the right size for the job has meant to you."

Thursday, August 23, 2007

One More Day

Dr. Han from the CoH donor center just called with disappointing numbers from today's harvest. The stem cell count dropped from .17 yesterday to .09 today. In order to have reached the 2 million goal by Saturday, I would have had to continue to pump out .17 million stem cells each day.

The total is now at 1.57 million. I've been asked to come in for one more day because miracles have been known to happen.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007


Ah yes, the spanking story. This one ain't short.

Chapter One. First, some background information needs to be given. We're talking dog days at Grandma's West Virginia farm, summer of 1962. From what I can remember, we had no rain for quite some time, typical of dog days. Water was always a valuable commodity, whether it be well water or rain water. Grandma always had nicely maintained rain barrels. Run off rain from the house roof gutters was caught and stored in these barrels for use as wash water for clothes. I learned at a young age to preserve water during the summer and I knew the benefits of soft rain water. Sis and I would shampoo with rain water...awesome.

Grandma was very proud of her Scottish heritage and it showed. Nothing was wasted, we all worked hard, we would lend a hand to help a neighbor at the drop of a hat. We were very aware of what we did/didn't have and made the most of this. Most importantly, we were a tight knit family and community. This still holds true today. Sardis, WV is a great place. Three cheers for the MacDonald of Clannranald. (Our cousin Nathan's clan.)

Chapter Two is understanding the protocol involved when visiting family and neighbors in the rural areas of West Virginia. Grandma always wore an apron around the farm. Whether stringing beans, frying chicken or weeding the garden, Grandma had her apron. She wore her everyday type apron and also a dressy apron. Sometimes Grandma would wear her apron when visiting and other times not. If there was going to be some type of work involved while visiting, the dressy apron was worn. When Grandma and I spent the night with Effie Martin, this was a no apron visit. We would eat popcorn, no bake cookies and drink grape Kool Aid. Laughing and playing dominos was a requirement when visiting Effie.

My sister and I had play clothes and dressy play clothes. Get the picture? Sue and I worked hard and played hard. Sue would go after it like she was fighting snakes. Is it becoming clear why Sue is the person she is? Hard working, intelligent, compassionate, frugal, to name a few admirable traits.

Chapter Three. Hollering was a common form of communication between our Grandma and Bea Allen. When Bea would pick up her mail, Grandma would holler down to her (at least a hundred yards away) and they would have a conversation. Bea told Grandma she was going to string beans that night. Grandma answered she would help and told Bea she needed some milk, could she get a couple gallons from her? Bea said, no problem. These were the days before plastic and Grandma kept milk in glass “vinegar” jugs. The type that had the finger hold at the top of the jug. Grandma used lot's of vinegar and when the jugs were empty, they were cleaned and used for milk.

The Allen's were almost a self sufficient farm/family. I would routinely walk up to their farm and get a gallon of raw milk that was loaded with rich cream. They had cows, sheep, chickens, big garden, potato patch, corn field, you name it, they had it on their 300 acres. You've read some of my other exploit's with Nathan Allen and his family. I love him like my brother.

Chapter Four. Putting all this background information together, remember, Sue is aware of a water shortage, she is resourceful, she's intelligent, and honest.

Sue and I were told by Grandma to get ready for our visit. We washed and put on our dressy play clothes. I was upstairs in my bedroom and Sue came up to hang out until we walked up to the Allens. (Yes, walk, it was only a half mile.) I heard Grandma climbling the steps and when she arrived, I made a mental note, Grandma was wearing a dressy apron. Cool. She asked Sue if she had changed her underwear. Sue replied yes. Grandma asked, “Where are they?” Sue answers, “I changed them.” Grandma asks again, “Where are they?” Now I'm wondering, where are they? Sue stares for a moment, then replies, “I turned them inside out.” WHACK.......WHACK

Still in the Stem Cell Game

My stubborn stem cells are slowly but surely leaving the comfort of my bone marrow. I think they heard a rumor that they'd be put on ice and, like me, don't like the notion of being cold and out of commission.

The good news is that the doctors have lowered the collection bar from an optimum of 5 million to a minimum of 2 million. The more stem cells the better for a quick and easy engrafting after the transplant, but 2 million can get the job done.

I'm now up to 1.32 million and can collect for three more days. (The mobilizing drug is limited to a six-day collection time frame.) I harvested .28 million on Monday and took just a slight dip to .22 million on Tuesday. If I (with the help of AMD 3100 and Neupogen) can continue to coax the stem cells out at this rate, we'll have that 2 million in the bank by Saturday.

(PS My laptop will be in the shop for several more days, so I'm posting this from the City of Hope.)

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Playing the numbers

Well, crap!

Susan just called from CoH to say yesterday's harvest resulted in a puny .28 million tally. This, after she gave herself all those shots! The first harvest after the booster drugs is supposed to net a bumper crop of stem cells.

She'll be in harvest mode today and tomorrow at least. She has .8 million cells on ice (they keep, unlike some of the UFO's in my freezer), and she needs a cool 5 million to get the job done. It may take her a month or two, but it's doable.

Really, really, really frustrating, but doable.

Bro, I think we're ready for the "spanking story" any time now!

Monday, August 20, 2007

Laptop Dancing

I successfully resolved my WiFi connection problem, and didn't even have to call in the Geek Squad to do it.

But my laptop will be in the shop for an indefinite period of time to fix the problem with my "optical scanner." I brought my iBook to the Apple Store's Genius Bar last week, but the "genius" used the same ejection tricks that I had tried before concluding that it was a hardware problem.

I'll call Paula with the (fingers crossed) good news about my stem cells tomorrow so that she can post the word.

And I'm hoping that Piper Robert will use this down time to entertain us with a yarn or two.

Neupogen Junkie

I'm still taking daily Neupogen injections along with the stem cell- mobilizing AMD3100.

Between the late night trips to CoH for the AMD and the early morning (7 am) call to duty for harvesting, I'm spending more than eight hours a day at my home away from home.

Tomorrow I'll find out just how many stem cells we harvested today.

A Toast to Stem Cells

Stem Cell: An undifferentiated cell of a multicellular organism that is capable of giving rise to indefinitely more cells of the same type, and from which certain other kinds of cells arise by differentiation.

Stemware: Fancy glasses for drinkin' hooch, especially when one finishes cancer treatment.

Thanks to more than a dozen gal pals, I have a beautiful new collection of assorted stemware glasses for sipping Manhattans, champagne or margaritas; toasting special occasions; and envisioning the production of millions of stem cells.

I've learned at least two things from the first botched stem cell mission:
When envisioning stem cell production, don't picture the stemware swirling (and then clashing) in space. And ask for a blood heater to prevent 70 degree blood from surging through the veins.

Manhattan, anyone?

Friday, August 17, 2007

We have a winner!

Congratulations to the winner of our Cancer Banter Caption Contest, Tara of Virginia. Her winning submission was number 7 on the list, "Another year blown by!"

She's one of the funniest and most fun gals in my circle of friends, and I know that she'll have fun with this opportunity to be serenaded by Piper Robert.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Caption Contest

Please vote for your favorite:

1. Take that! In dog years you're still older than me.

2. Next year, don't forget to buy me a present.

3. Try licking your face for a change!

4. Gesundheit!

5. I'm allergic to dogs.


7. Another year blown by!

8. Dog:make a wish!




Dog:Nice blow,but you kinda missed the candles.

9. I told you to get your paws off the table.

Oh, Happy Day!

It was indeed a happy day yesterday - one of the best.

In true Leo style, I start celebrating a week before my birthday and keep blowing out candles for for at least a week after the date.

I was deeply touched by each and every one of the comments I received. But, hey, there wasn't an embarrassing one in the batch. I thought for sure that at least Piper Robert would come forward with a blush-inducing tale. His "I saw Grandma spank Sue" teaser reminds me of the line from Cold Comfort Farm: "I saw something nasty in the woodshed." I'm sure many of you are thinking, "Enough already. What did you SEE?"

So in honor of my Leo-brother's birthday on August 19, I have added him as a contributor to this blog. He may use his powers for good or for embarrassment as he sees fit. But, don't forget: I have the power to delete or remove him (or Paula) at the stroke of a key.

My plea for comments did coax a couple of dear friends out of the woodwork. I still have a few BFFs and many readers who haven't posted. But I know you're all thinking about me and have sent cards, phone calls and emails in lieu of the coveted comment. I treasure all of these as well.

Later today I'll round up the captions and post them so that you can help me weigh in on the winner. If you haven't yet posted a caption, there's still time to compete for the bagpipe solo serenade. The consolation prize is an accordion solo. (Just kidding about the accordion, but the bagpipe and accordion must be the two most dreaded instruments on the planet. You either love 'em or hate 'em.)

PS For anyone following the comments thread: The actual date for VJ Day is confusing because August 14 was the US date, but August 15 was the date in Japan. That's why my Japanese friends linked my birthday to this historic date. My parents were married in Japan and always had the same dilemma about when to celebrate their anniversary.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Life is a Squeezebox

For the last few months, my life has contracted and expanded more times per minute than a squeezebox.

I'll never forget the day that Paula dropped me off at home after my first week-long hospital stay. I was delighted to be home again, but I couldn't get over how suffocatingly small my world felt. I had given up my job, cut back on my volunteer activities, couldn't garden and wasn't sure how physically active I could be. I sat there thinking, "What do I do now?"

Just a week before (I'm reminded from an earlier blog entry) I had hosted a party for more than 90 friends, selected paint colors and window coverings and coordinated the painting and installation, expedited a second opinion through MD Anderson, and tied up thousands of loose ends at my job.

Of course, that sinking "What do I do now?" feeling didn't last long. My prior life had contracted, but, as much as I hated to admit it, my energy level began to shrivel as well. At the same time, there was more room for friends and family, social activities and an obsession with food. My life was full.

This went on through each round of Hyper CVAD. My energy level would contract and then quickly expand and my activities would go through the same shrinking and growing process.

Today my emotional and physical energy far outstrip my activity levels. I'm looking for new challenges and stimulation. For the first time, I'm feeling restless.

But this feeling won't last long. There's talk that I'll do another round of Hyper CVAD if I successfully harvest enough stem cells. After that, I'll go through two weeks of out-patient radioimmunotherapy. And once I'm in the hospital for my stem cell transplant , I'll receive a mega-dose of chemo that will shrink my blood counts down to nearly zero. Until the transplant brings those levels up, my life will revolve around a small hospital room, my laptop and immediate family members who are allowed to visit.

After a few weeks, my blood counts and energy level will start expanding again, and I'll no doubt curse the smallness of my world. But that world will once again expand.

Expand, contract; expand, contract; expand, contract. It's the rhythm of life of a cancer patient.

Monday, August 13, 2007

All I want for my birthday is . . . a comment.

This year, all I want for my birthday is a comment. How's that for a cheap date?

If you haven't yet left a comment, why not give it a shot on August 15.

Top 6 reasons Cancer Banter buddies give for not commenting:
1. Your friends are so witty and articulate. I can't compete.
2. My comments are private. I'd rather share them with you in person, by phone, snail mail, email or via smoke signals.
3. I don't want to leave a permanent trail in cyberspace.
4. I'm waiting for you to write something that's worthy of a comment.
5. I forgot my password.
6. Comment? I can leave a comment?

Top 6 reasons Susan wants you to comment:
1. I'm an insatiable egomaniac. (After all, I am a Leo.)
2. I don't own a Crackberry and have forsaken caffeine. My sole addiction is to comments.
3. When I get lonely in the hospital during my four-week stay, your comments will encourage me/enliven me/enrage me/embarrass me.
4. I love the community created among commenters.
5. Piper Robert (aka "Big Bro") loves to get to know my friends through the Blog.
6. I'm curious about who's lurking.

Share a memory, a wish or something interesting about yourself. I don't care - just share.

OR, ala The New Yorker, come up with a caption for the cartoon above. We can vote on the best caption. Winner will receive a bagpipe serenade from Piper Robert.

Friday, August 10, 2007

The Shortest Distance

One of the first lessons we learned in Mr. Hutchinson's plane geometry class was "the shortest distance between two points is a line segment."

Duh! How much more obvious can you get? I didn't need a text book or a teacher to tell me that.

When it comes to my cancer treatments, I wish the most direct path was as obvious. I've moved forward, gone back to the starting point, veered off and swung back multiple times. I'm getting there; I'm just taking the scenic route.

It seems like everything in my life is taking the circuitous path these days. Since my WiFi connection went kaput a few weeks ago, I've been working from the basement, hooked up directly to the DSL connection.

I finally got around to purchasing a new WiFi router the other day. Nothing could be simpler than swapping out a router. Or so I thought. The directions for the installation said to run the enclosed CD before installing. I dutifully popped the CD into my laptop and immediately discovered that the disc only works with Windows. I have a Mac.

No problem, I thought. I'll exchange the router for one that doesn't have that limitation. One problem - the CD refuses to eject. There are "50 ways to leave your lover, " and there must be at least 15 ways to eject a CD. Not one of them worked.

I called Dino, a computer repair shop that specializes in Macs, but their first available slot is August 15. This means that I won't be able to use WiFi until I exchange the recently-purchased router for a new one that's Mac compatible. I can't do that until I can eject the CD. And I can't do that until my date with Dino's on the 15th. Geesh! Could the route to wireless be any more convoluted than that? If I had any hair left, I'd be pulling it out round about now.

I will eventually resolve the WiFi conundrum and I'll conquer all of the treatment obstacles. Just forget about that straight line.

Stem Cell Mission Approved

I just got a call from Emily, my stem cell transplant nurse coordinator. I've been approved to start the trial of AMD 3100 to mobilize my stem cells. Hurrah!

I'll go in on Monday for an appointment with Dr. Forman, chest X-ray, EKG, electrocardiogram, respiratory function tests and labs. On Sunday, August 19, I'll report to CoH for my injection of AMD and "observation" from 9 pm until 10 pm. Harvesting will start the following morning at the ungodly hour of 7 am. The late-night runs to CoH and early morning harvesting routine will continue until we've collected an additional 4.16 million stem cells. (The .84 we collected this week are on ice.)

Most patients are asked to stay at Hope Village during this protocol, but since I live so close I'm going to try the twice-a-day commute. After a few days, I may be begging for that bed in the village.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Mission Aborted

Whenever I tried to sit back, close my eyes and visualize millions of stem cells/stem ware glasses coursing through my blood/champagne, a strange thing happened. The crystal glasses would inevitably crash into one another and shatter. "Focus, Susan, focus." I tried again and again, but the visualization always went awry.

Minutes after the shattered vision, I received a message from Dr. Wang from the CoH Donor Center. "At this point it's unlikely that we'll be able to harvest enough stem cells," he said. "You'll be hearing from your nurse coordinator about another mobilization protocol that we'll try. See you in two to three weeks."

The "mobilization protocol" is AMD-3100 (aka Mozobil). It may sound like something that was deployed in Desert Storm, but it's a drug that's been successful in "mobilizing" 5 to 8 times more stem cells than Neupogen alone. It isn't offered as a first-line protocol because it's not yet on the market. I learned from a post on my Mantle Cell Lymphoma listserve that AMD-3100 can be prescribed in a "compassionate use program." I see that at least two of my "cell mates" used this drug and harvested enough stem cells within six days.

Time to pick up the pieces and try again.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Day Off from Collecting

I just received a call from a CoH nurse to let me know that I get the day off from collecting tomorrow. (You were right Karen.) Today's harvest took another plunge from .14 million on Tuesday to a dismal .04. Doctor's orders are to delay collecting if the numbers fall below .3.

We have a long way to go to meet that 5 million stem cells goal.

At this rate, trick or treaters will be collecting M&Ms while I'm still collecting stem cells.

Stem Cell Report

I discovered this morning that the little bedside TVs can also display DVDs or video tapes from the hospital's collection of more than 250 movies. I amused myself by watching "Cold Comfort Farm," one of the movies Paula recommended. I had just finished reading the book by Stella Gibbons, courtesy of Mrs. Duck. Both the book and the movie are hilarious. ("I saw something nasty in the woodshed.")

Between the movie, a rerun of Martha Stewart, an hour of cell phone chatting (before the battery died) and a half hour of pretending to read, the four and a half hours went pretty quickly this morning. All five of the other patients in the room spent the entire morning snoozing.

I didn't want to fall asleep until my stem cell counts from yesterday afternoon came in. Every time a nurse walked by with a piece of paper, I perked up, hoping to see my results.

The counts usually fall by 50% on the second day, but mine took a bit of a nose dive, falling from .64 to .14. Let's hope that today's harvest is more bountiful.

Another woman, at least 15 years older than I am, produced 1.78 million on her first day. I know, I know . . . it's not a competition.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

The New Day Job

Lying in bed for four and a half hours is surprisingly exhausting.

The blood leaves my body at 98.6 degrees, the stem cells are extracted and the blood comes back into my body at the chilly room temperature of 72 degrees. It feels as though ice water is surging through my veins. I manage to read about ten pages of a book before seeking refuge under a mound of warm blankets. It's difficult to turn pages when your hands are nestled four layers beneath the book.

And, unfortunately, the laptop/DVD idea doesn't pan out either because there's nowhere to put the laptop when it's not in use. The beds are very narrow and there aren't any side tables.

So I watch TV, doze off and make futile attempts at reading. There are several other patients in the room, but the beds are spaced too far apart for chatting. Doesn't sound like I'm having fun, does it. I think I'll try to download some books onto my iPod.

Today I got the report on my stem cell production. I'm not going to be one of those stem cell over-achievers who are in and out in three days. The first day is supposed to be the biggest harvest, but I only pumped out .6 million yesterday. We need 4.4 million more to reach the 5 million goal.

Dr. Wang, who heads the collection department, said that I'll definitely be in all five days this week and we'll evaluate on Friday how things are going.

Keep those cheers coming!

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Oh, My Aching Bones!

Two nights ago my hip bones started to ache and throb. I've never given birth, but I imagine that the sharp jolts of pain must be a little like labor. After each new round of "labor" pains, I'd let the expletives fly. Thank God, Extra Strength Tylenol takes the edge off.

The aching bones are a side effect of the Neupogen injections that I've been receiving daily for the last week. The resulting hip pain is because the bone marrow is working harder to produce more white cells and stem cells.

Even though I might yelp out, "Oh, shit!" when the Tylenol wears off, I'm delighted that the little factory in my bones is working overtime to pump out those stem cells.

"Go stem cells, go stem cells." (Chant this with shoulders bobbing and arms gyrating in an oval pattern.)

Friday, August 3, 2007

A Close Encounter of the Hair Kind

Our eyes met from across the crowded Von's Supermarket aisles.

Feeling a little shy, we both glanced back down at the contents of our shopping carts. But we couldn't keep our eyes away from one another for long. It was a little like that ol' country song, "I was looking back to see if you were looking back to see . . . "

Finally, we both summoned the courage to approach one another. The shyness passed and a wide smile broke out on both of our faces.

When we met, we both blurted out simultaneously, "I love your hair." We chatted briefly, hugged one another and went our separate ways. It was a great way to commemorate my "coming out" without head covering at Von's.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Put up your Duke's!

You gotta love a sandwich that has three of its five ingredients in the name. Is there anything more satisfying and easy than a BLT?

Last night, I made the first BLTs of the season with the juicy, ripe tomatoes from our back yard. Between the smoky scent of the bacon sizzling in the cast-iron skillet and the sweet fragrance of the sliced tomatoes, I was in sensory heaven while preparing this summer-time fave.

Instead of the usual Kraft or Hellman's mayo, we tried Duke's Mayonnaise, which I ordered online. Southerners claim that Duke's is the ONLY acceptable mayo for a BLT, and now I see why. The flavor and texture is as close to homemade as you can get out of a jar.

I've seen recipes for BLTs that incorporate basil leaves instead of lettuce, aioli instead of mayo and fried green tomatoes rather than the fresh red variety. But I say, why mess with perfection. We stick with toasted whole wheat bread, fried bacon, fresh tomatoes, Romaine lettuce and the now essential Duke's mayo.

Southerners often skip the lettuce and the bacon and feast on tomato (or "mater" as they say south of the Mason Dixon) and mayo sandwiches. Budget-conscious (i.e. poor) West Virginians have been known to eliminate the tomatoes and make a meal out of a slice of bread smeared with mayo and a sprinkle of Cayenne pepper.

What does any of this have to do with cancer? Not a darn thing, my friends, not a darn thing.

I'd love to hear your comments about:
- Do you have a variation on the BLT theme?
- How do you smear your mayo on a BLT? Cindy insists upon spreading both slices of toast with mayo, and that's just the way I do it too.
- Have you ever tried Duke's mayo?