Wednesday, October 31, 2007

On Again, Off Again

I was downright giddy after I received a 6:30 pm message from the City of Hope yesterday. A nurse called to squeeze me in to consult with Dr. Raubitschek about radioimmunotherapy. The two-week treatment using wonder-drug Zevalin has become standard procedure for mantle cell lymphoma patients prior to a stem cell transplant at CoH.

I called right back and left a message saying, "YES. I can make a 2 pm appointment on Wednesday." I whipped out my calendar and started counting the days until my 30 days and 30 nights at Hotel Hope. The way I figured it, I wouldn't be roasting a turkey this Thanksgiving but could be cracking crab for our traditional Christmas dinner.

But my giddiness was short-lived. The nurse called back this morning to say that she had jumped the gun. She found out that Dr. Forman and team had decided NOT to include me in the Zevalin trial. I still don't know what will come next, but tomorrow I hope to find out where I'll be eating my turkey dinner.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Smooky was hiding on my hard drive!

Having a bazillion gigabytes of storage is great when you have years and years of project files to save (and save again on a back-up drive). However, if you plop digital files in the wrong digital folder, they may languish there for years.

Imagine my surprise at seeing Smooky in a completely unrelated client folder. Skye Moorhead took this portrait and others during a "writers' photo day" a few years ago. I am close personal friends with Skye, so I got to see her favorite shot of each writer.

Why I filed the shots where I did is anyone's guess. I can't blame chemo brain, but I do use industrial-strength hair dye to cover my gray. Maybe the fumes?

What have you lost—or found—on
your hard drive?

Boulder Banter

It's been almost a week since I last wrote - the longest blogging vacation that I've taken since I began pounding out posts in February.

Last night I got back from beautiful Boulder, where I visited my friend Ellen and her family. Colorado is known for its Great Oudoors, but, as it turns out, the Indoors is pretty great as well.

The Great Outdoors

Glistening gold Aspen leaves; majestic elk, deer and fox; long walks and longer talks were AHHH inspiring.

On Friday, we took to the high-altitude Rocky Mountain National Park and started off with an easy 1.5 mile jaunt around Bear Lake. When I found that I wasn't gasping for air, we added a higher elevation, 4-mile hike to a frozen solid lake.

The Great Indoors

Boulder residents take the indoors almost as seriously as the outdoors.

In spite of Colorado Rockies mania, the Boulder Bookstore (the Boulder equivalent of Pasadena's Vroman's and Brentwood's Dutton's) packed a standing-room-only crowd of Birkenstock-lovin' mountain men and earth mamas on Wednesday. Friend Ellen, who wrote a cover story about the Farm Bill for the Boulder Weekly, introduced Frances Moore Lappe', author of the 70's classic, Diet for a Small Planet, and the recently published Getting a Grip. It's no wonder Boulder is called the "Berkeley of Colorado."

I also spent some time indoors at radio station KGNU, an independent community radio station in Boulder. Ellen, who's a host of the station's Book Talk show, interviewed me about Cancer Banter. I'll let you know when the show airs.

Before I left on Sunday, Ellen's daughter, Erica, interviewed me about my experiences with teen wilderness camps for the station's Teen Talk show. Yep, two radio interviews in one week. Who knew I'd have so much to say in Boulder.

The Stanley Hotel, setting for Stephen King's The Shining, was a particularly eerie place to be indoors on the Saturday before Halloween when the hotel holds its annual Shining Ball.

And, finally, what would the Great Indoors be without Sunday brunch? We enjoyed ours at the Chatauqua Dining Hall in Boulder.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Just Two More Weeks

Last week, a chef friend came by to harvest fruit from our back yard. I loaded her up with plenty of grapefruits and permissions, but she'll have to come back in two weeks to pick lemons, avocados, oranges, pomellos and tomatoes. Each time we inspected the hard, green fruits on the trees or vines, we would simultaneously call out, "Two more weeks" until it became our chorus.

Friends keep asking me about the next step in my treatment. I think that some people think that I'm withholding information on the blog. What you read is all I know, but I hope that will change soon.

I'm leaving for Boulder, Colorado, tomorrow to visit my friend Ellen. After that, I'll be home for a few days, and then George and I will be going to Chicago to attend his law school friend's Rolling Stones-tribute birthday party. At the same time, I'm taking a side trip to Minneapolis to attend a one-day Lymphoma Workshop.

I'll be back in town on November 5. That's just two weeks away. I'll invite my friend back to harvest fruit with me and hope to be able to tell her and all of you about what happens next. All together now: "Two more weeks."

Running Scared in Running Springs

As I was listening to radio updates on the southland wildfires this morning, I looked down at my right arm and saw elbow-to-wrist goose bumps and hairs standing on end. Visual images of fire "jumping" or the potential of out-of-control wildfires "merging" and growing faster than the most aggressive cancer tend to do that to me.

Each time I hear an update about Running Springs, it brings me back to the fall of 2003, the last time the area was ravaged by wildfires. Cindy was 14 and a student at an emotional growth boarding school in Running Springs.

At the first threat of fire, the students and staff evacuated to a hotel on the mountain. But 24 hours later, the encroaching flames necessitated another mandatory evacuation order. The 100 students and staff were forced to flee from the highlands to the flatlands at the base of the mountain. The Salvation Army of Redlands immediately mobilized and clothed, sheltered and fed our children.

But the shelter was a short-term, not a long-term, solution. The Salvation Army recommended that the school move to "Camp Malibu," a Salvation Army-owned facility in the wilds of Malibu.

Within a week, the students moved three times from the mountains to the lowlands to the sea. We parents were advised NOT to do the thing that comes most naturally to parents - to swoop in and rescue our children. I knew intellectually that Cindy was safe, but my anxiety levels were higher than the flames rising up in the skies.

Within three weeks, the mountain was safe, the campus was clean and the students and staff returned to their "normal" life.

Today, as I watch the fires burning in Running Springs, I'm grateful that Cindy is safe and sound asleep in her own bed in her own room. I'm also grateful for the "highly trained and highly motivated" fire fighters, for the staff and volunteers of the Salvation Army who loved and cared for our children as though they were their own and the staff at CEDU who worked tirelessly to keep our children safe, before, during and after the fires.

And the next time you see a "bell ringer" from the Salvation Army in front of your favorite department store, I hope you'll drop in more than a few loose coins. I know I will.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Now THIS I'd Wear

OK, so Mikimoto's pink-threaded "hope" bracelet may not be something I'd strap on my wrist.

But here's something I 'd wear with pride.

Yesterday's "cancer-free party" did not disappoint. Meredith's home near Griffith Park, a former residence of Cary Grant, was spectacular. The champagne and food were top flight. But the best part was witnessing Meredith's soaring spirit, which is memorialized on the shirts that every guest received. (Tank tops for the gals, T-shirts for the guys, or vice-versa)

Yes, she bears physical scars from her colon cancer operation. And, like most of us, she has metaphorical scars from other life wounds. But the scars are sexy because they're a reminder of her strength, passion, persistence and resiliency.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Everything is Possible with Hope (Pearls of Wisdom from Mikimoto)

Marilyn might have sang that diamonds are a girl's best friend, but I've always been a pushover for pearls.

I'm especially partial to Mikimoto, the brand that is to pearls what Tiffany is to diamonds. Iconic. Classic. Overpriced.

In spite of the inflated price tag, I've had a yen to own a strand of Mikimotos ever since I first laid eyes on them on our first trip to Japan more than 20 years ago. But, alas, the closest I come to Mikimoto is their weekly ad in the New York Times Sunday Styles section.

With this in mind, I don't quite get why I found Sunday's ad (see below) a turnoff. How could I find fault with Mikimoto's "pearl of wisdom" ad copy, "Everything is possible with hope"? (Well, not to get picky, but is that really true? City of Hope's slogan, "There is always hope" is more accurate.)

And what could be more generous than Mikimoto donating 20% of the overpriced bracelet's $980 price tag to "fund the fight against breast cancer"? (Well, technically, the money is going to support the Young Survival Coalition, an excellent nonprofit dedicated to "action, advocacy and awareness," not research as the ad implies.)

Perhaps it's the pink thread that rubs me the wrong way. Call me old fashioned, but I think the thread used to individually knot pearls should be a subtle functional element, not a tacky design element.

Or maybe it's the yellow gold clasp and ribbon charm that's getting my goat. Mikimoto, like Tiffany, has always been partial to the understated elegance of white gold or platinum, and the yellow gold seems just a bit gaudy.

But I think the thing that really bugs me about the bracelet is its crass combination of conspicuous consumerism with conspicuous causes, or as Mikimoto puts it, "a luxe take on the cause."

What's next? Driving for the cause with a pink Cadillac embellished with ribbons? Vamping for the cause in pink Jimmy Choos?

Why does all of this make me a little blue instead of tickled pink? I'd love to hear your thoughts on this issue.

Click on ad below to enlarge.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Champagne with Cary Grant

What am I up to this weekend?

Among other things, I'll be sipping champagne in one of Cary Grant's former residences in the Los Feliz area.

Meredith, one of George's colleagues in the legal community, is celebrating her "cancer-free life." (Like George, Meredith is an expert in Article 9 of the Uniform Commercial Code, but we won't hold that against her.)

I may not get excited about the Uniform Commercial Code (which, by the way, has nothing to do with casual Fridays in the corporate workplace), but a cancer-free life is an entirely different matter.

I'll drink to that!

ISDK (I still don't know.)

I've been trying to nail down my next course of treatment before leaving for Boulder on Wednesday. I want to hit the ground running when I return on October 28.

I'm back to inducing head scratching (won't be the first time). The CoH lymphoma team will meet next Friday, October 26, to discuss my case.

Keep turning those pages!

Repetition aids boredom

Anyone who's ever tried to memorize the bones of the body, the capitals of all 50 states or the elements of the periodic table can attest to the old saw, "Repetition aids learning."

Unfortunately, it also aids boredom and fatigue.

I was reminded of this last week while waiting for my colonoscopy. A woman who was undergoing surgery put her sister in charge of updating at least 35 of her closest friends after the operation. The sister sat next to me in the waiting lounge and made the calls on her cell phone.

During calls one and two, she was animated and engaged. By call three, her delivery sounded machine-generated. It appeared that everyone asked the same questions, and she was tired of providing the same answers. By call four, she sounded like a bored student working her way through college by making telemarketing calls during the dinner hour. "Groan. Just 31 calls to go."

While witnessing this exchange, I couldn't help thinking, "Thank God for the blog!" I can communicate with hundreds of people in minutes, and I can sound just as animated communicating with the 100th reader as the first.

I can save my energy for other "repeat performances," like redoing PET scans and colonoscopies and answering "What's new with Cindy?"

Thursday, October 18, 2007


I do
a little eavesdropping almost every day.

My favorite source for overheard conversations is the eavesdropwriter. The blogger doesn't just capture the content of the conversations; she brilliantly portrays the context as well. We see through her a subtle touch of a hand, a lone tear streaming down a cheek, the bob of a head.

I've recently discovered that I'm a prime source for other eavesdroppers. When my friend and cancerbanter reader, Myrna, called me from Arizona, she exclaimed, "You life is so darn interesting." "You should hear the parts that don't make it to the blog!" I confessed.

A few weeks ago, a breakfast buddy and I ate at Russell's, where the tiny tables are just an elbow apart. After an animated conversation about one of our favorite writers, Naomi Hirahara, the two women seated next to us politely interrupted and asked us to write down the name of the author.

I went on to bring my friend up to date on my life. Before long, I realized that the elderly couple seated on our other side had slowed their conversation. They eventually stopped talking completely and tilted their heads in my direction. I became acutely aware of the absurdity of my monologue: My conversation with the warden of a prison about testing an inmate for a stem cell match; my successful private eye work in tracking down my long-lost younger brother (the victim of the dirt clod), who has been living in a homeless shelter in Illinois.

The same thing happened at an Indian restaurant in Old Pas. My friend and I are both having lots of "Jerry Springer" moments in our lives, thanks to our challenging children. We both started laughing out loud when we realized what eavesdroppers must think about us.

Given a choice, I think I'd much rather be an eavesdropper than an eavesdroppee, but, at least for now, this is my life in all of its absurd glory.

What about you? Are you eavesdrop-worthy?

Tuesday, October 16, 2007


After my colonoscopy, I was certain that the GI doctor told me that he was recommending another test. As soon as I was fully awake in the recovery room, I asked the nurse if I could talk with the doctor to get more details. He had already left for the day, so I asked Dr. Forman about this last Thursday. He had no orders for further testing and couldn't even speculate about what Dr. L had in mind.

Yesterday I received a call from Emily, my nurse coordinator. She followed up with the doctor, but he said that he had no other tests in mind. The only explanation is that I hallucinated the entire conversation (although the screaming and pain were clearly the real thing). So much for my credibility!

What comes next? ISDK. (I still don't know.) I've been granted another brief "vacation," so I'm planning a quick trip to Boulder, Colorado.

5:oo pm Update: Janet, who picked me up from the recovery room last week, called me as soon as she read the blog this morning. She confirmed that I wasn't imagining the entire conversation. The nurse said that Dr. L didn't find anything on the inside of the colon, but he said that there could be something on the outside. I immediately called my nurse coordinator, and she will get to the bottom (no pun intended) of this.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Princess Smooky

You've read several of my tales about Sue and me, way back in the days of our carefree childhood. These stories were about the farm life, getting in and out of trouble. On the farm, our garb was usually restricted to shorts, t-shirt and "tennis" shoes. Unless we were picking blackberries, then it was long sleeve shirts and jeans.

When it came time to dress up, our Mother Eiko was a woman of great substance and style. She knew how to dress herself and Sue to the nines. The photo is Sue celebrating her fourth birthday and as you can see, she is quite immaculate. (She traded cowboy boots for patent leather.) I can picture our Mother standing in the background with a very proud smile.

When I visualize my sister, I have two images that immediately come to mind. First, Sue and I crouching behind an old timber, throwing dirt clods at our brother James. Hot and sweaty during the hottest part of dog days, covered with streaks of mud and wearing tattered shorts. Sis would laugh like a mad scientist when she would hit a crying James with a big clump of dirt. Wow, those were the good ol' days.

Second, Mom would take us to downtown Clarksburg on Saturday morning to shop for clothes. I always loved the hustle and bustle of a busy downtown. There was always a traffic cop at the busy intersection in front of the courthouse and the 5 and dime stores (Murphy's, McCrory's, W. T. Grant, et. al.). The police officer would have a whistle stuck in his mouth, standing in the middle of the intersection, directing traffic like a very animated maestro. I loved to hear the shrill sound of his whistle. He would stop cars in one direction, order them to go from the other side, all with a fluid grace and order. Very cool.

Once past this intersection, we would set course for "Clarise's", a very exclusive clothing store that catered to young girls. Sue and Mom were shopping for dresses and this was very serious business. The ladies at the shop knew my Mother and Sue, and were always pleased to see them. James and I would disappear in a corner while the two of them would gasp at the latest new dresses. My second image is of a young Ninnie Choo Choo, standing with a glowing Mom, big smile, in a frilly, prissy dress. Perfect fitting dress with co-ordinated shoes. When you have a tomboy sister, you have to tolerate these times, just so you have the required help when building a tree house.

We would leave Clarise's with shopping bags in tow and head for Murphy's (one of the five and dime stores), go to the middle of the store, take the steps downstairs and we would arrive in the bargain basement to buy clothes for James and I. We would usually get a size too big, that way we could grow into them. We never gave it a second thought. I had a new design for a tree house and the sooner we finished shopping, the sooner we could get started on the tree house. Unless, Sue and Mom were still playing dress up.

Sis really is a well rounded individual. Thanks to her diverse background, she knows how to throw a dirt clod or throw a formal party. Awesome.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Ten Things I Love About Fall

Yes - I thought I'd be at Hotel Hope by August, then September, then October, then . . . Well, you get the idea. The good news is that I can be an "outdoor cat" during my favorite season of the year.

Here are ten things that I love about fall:

1. Light and shadow: Ordinary scenes look magical in the fall light.

I took these pictures in our bedroom, kitchen and dining room.You can catch a glimpse of one of my favorite fall portraits of Cindy, age 8, in the kitchen photo. (Click to enlarge.) She's standing in a light-dappled oak grove, holding an oak leaf. The antique oak frame is surrounded by miniature acorns. Yep, the whole vignette was heavily "art directed."

2. Long walks at high noon: I no longer need to rise early to stride before the temperatures rise.

These miniature "mushrooms" sprouting around the giant 'shroom are a recent walking discovery.

3. Candied Apples:
Have you seen the "Martha" version with twigs instead of popsicle sticks? I plan to make the red candied apples AND the caramel version with heavy cream (no Kraft squares).

4. Clear Skies:
We could see Catalina Island from the balcony of John and Terry's Laguna Beach home during their wedding ceremony last Monday. Heavenly!

5. Acorns: I love collecting these treasures when I walk.

Don't these look lovely in a tarnished silver candy dish?
The one with the greenish "hat" is from an English oak, an unusual find in Southern California.

6. Planting: While my white blood counts are out of the danger zone, I'm planting iris bulbs (compliments of an Altadena neighbor), sugar snap peas and winter greens and replacing a Jerusalem sage.

7. Harvesting:
Persimmons, figs and grapes are now ripe and we're still enjoying fresh tomatoes and Japanese eggplant from our garden. And, of course, my favorite fall harvest are those 2 million+ stem cells safely stored away in a CoH silo.

8. Pumpkin Patches: I even love the crassly commercial ones with pony rides and giant slides.

9. Halloween: The decorations, the costumes, the haunted houses, the trick or treaters - love it all.

10. Smells: My nostrils and lungs can't get enough of the scent of the crisp leaves and the even crisper air.

And the one thing I hate about fall? Candy corn.

What do you love most about fall?

Friday, October 12, 2007

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

I've been strongly identifying with our cat Heather lately. For the record, Heather is our indoor-outdoor male cat, not to be confused with our indoor only cat Tiger. And, no, my strong identification with a boy named Heather has nothing to do with gender confusion.

Heather, who freely roams the streets of Altadena by day and purrs by my side by night, suddenly found her . . . er . . . himself an indoor only cat. A slight scrape resulted in an infection, stitches and two weeks of home confinement and antibiotics. (I wonder if the other tom cats were tormenting him about his name.)

Life on the inside was hell for Heather on day one. He was like a cat on a hot tin roof - edgy, jumpy, agitated - and spent the entire day screeching "MEOW," with a strong emphasis on the "OW." My anthropomorphic reassurances ("This is temporary. You'll be out in two weeks.") did no good. No amount of cooing, coaxing or stroking could calm the beast. I could relate to that.

By day two, Heather was noticeably calmer. He alternated between a cat on a hot tin roof and a cat on a nice warm lap. An hour of agitated house prowling was followed by an hour of contented lap purring. I could really relate to that. I felt like my own life was a series of "OMs" and groans, calm and serenity interspersed with agitation and anxiety.

On day four, it was as though someone had flicked a switch in Heather's brain. He was content to sit for hours on a lap or chair. He wandered into the kitchen for leisurely meals and into the bathroom for water. The only time he mewed was to tell me that he wanted me to turn on the faucet so that he could drink from a running source of water. (Yes, he's trained me well.) He appeared to have reached Nirvana.

I could especially relate to my new contented cat because I was experiencing the same "flick the switch" phenomenon. Two weeks ago, I reached a level of calm amidst the uncertainty and chaos of my life. Yesterday Dr. Forman said that he knew that I was eager to finish treatment so that I could "get on with my life." He had good reason to say that because calendar, control and returning to "normal" have been three of the most important aspects of my life up until now. I didn't have time to tell him about my "transformation" and how I was already getting on with my life during the treatment and testing and waiting.

This is not to say that I'm operating under the illusion that my new found "nowness" is permanent. As a matter of fact, just hours after bragging to a friend about Heather's healthy adjustment, we discovered that he had made a getaway. He managed to scratch away at the latch on a living room window screen until he could break free. Had he been planning the "great escape" during those long stretches of contented purring?

Like clockwork, Heather returned home at nightfall and slept by my side. George fixed the loose living room latch while I braced myself for a rerun of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.

But, in spite of the relapse, Heather quickly found his center.
Right now, he's calmly purring on my lap as I write this post.

QUESTION OF THE DAY: In which cat stage are you?

Thursday, October 11, 2007

On the Record

I received an unusually warm welcome at CoH today.

Apparently, news travels fast from the OR (operating room) to the clinic, and word of yesterday's traumatic experience had made the rounds.

When I saw my nurse coordinator, Emily, in the hallway, she gave me a remarkably sympathetic greeting. Turns out she'd read the colonoscopy report. While I was waiting in the exam room, Dr. Forman's nurse practitioner, Barb, tracked me down. "Oh you poor thing! Let me give you a hug," she groaned while giving me a warm embrace.

"I see you've read the report too," I said. "Yes, the whole hospital's talking about it," she teased (or at least I hope she was teasing). Barb spoke with the GI doctor, and it sounds like he's the one who needs a hug today. He's still shook up over the screaming patient incident.

Dr. Forman and I read the report together so that I could see what was on my permanent record. "Patient screamed in pain" it read. I'm sure Dr. L used his physician's restraint to keep from adding "like a big baby" or "like a banshee" to the report. He went on to write that he withdrew the adult scope and substituted the diminutive pediatric scope. (Hmmm . . . here's a tip: If you suspect you have a "skinny colon," ask for the kid's scope.)

Today I followed the lead of Martha Stewart's daughter, Alexis, and brought fresh-baked chocolate white chocolate chunk cookies to my favorite doctor and nurses. (Alexis routinely brings beautifully packaged baked goods to the staff of her infertility clinic.) My timing couldn't have been better. I'm hoping now everyone will remember me as the nice patient who bakes instead of the kooky one who screams.

(And no cheap shots about what these cookies remind you of.)

PS We're still uncertain about the next step or next test, but I hope to find out more tomorrow.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Colonoscopy Update

I'm home from CoH and still a bit out of it, but wanted to leave a brief post. As you can see, my creativity is in full gear - How's "colonoscopy update" for a scintillating title?

The good news is that there were no polyps in my colon. But at the risk of scaring off potential colonoscopy patients, I screamed "Ouch!" during the entire procedure. The first time, three years ago, I was groggy but not asleep and actually saw the doctor zap a small polyp on the screen. Didn't feel a thing. A few months ago, I was completely asleep and don't remember a thing. This time, I was wide awake and felt everything. The nurse kept giving me more Demerol, but that drug seems to have no effect on me (or perhaps it takes too long to work). The doctor said I have a very tiny colon, and from the discomfort that I felt while the camera was passing through, I believe it.

The GI doctor is ordering more tests. He said something about radiology, but by the time I was coherent enough to inquire further, he was gone. I'll have to wait and find out tomorrow what comes next.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Here we go again (and again. . .)

Today's fasting and cleansing regimen brings me back to the early days of my cancer adventure.

During the prep for my first colonoscopy in March, I got an urgent, unexpected call from City of Hope, "You need to check in [to Hotel Hope] as soon as possible so that we can start the hydration for your chemo." George made a mad dash from downtown LA so that he could get me to the hospital on time. I was in a panic that I'd need to make a mad dash to the bathroom during our one-hour trek to CoH on the rush-hour-congested 210 Freeway.

After I arrived (accident free), the nurses hooked me up to an IV. I had a few hours to finish off my gallon jug of cleansing GoLytyely, which meant that I had to chug 8 ounces of the vile-tasting liquid every fifteen minutes. When nature started calling, I had to dance my IV pole partner into the bathroom with me every 15 minutes. Aaah, the memories. Talk about crazy, sexy cancer.

Today, I'm thankful for a number of things. I have the luxury of being in the comfort of my own home during the fasting and cleansing. I'm not strapped to my omnipresent pole partner. And this time around I requested Fleet Phospho-soda instead of the GoLytely regimen. For the benefit of you youngsters under age 50 or any of you reluctant over-50 readers, you take two doses of Fleet versus 16 glasses of the vile stuff. It's no contest. (Kind of like that blood warmer in the harvesting room - you gotta know about it to ask for it.)

I'm also thankful that I was able to schedule the colonoscopy for 2:00 pm tomorrow. At first, the scheduler told me (and my coordinating nurse) that the first available appointment was two and a half weeks away on October 24. I explained that Dr. Forman had scheduled me for my colonoscopy follow-up appointment on Thursday, and the next thing I know I'm booked for Wednesday.

What are you thankful for? For starters, you must be grateful that I didn't try to find an illustration to go with today's post.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Sunday night with Smooky!

You could spend Sunday night organizing your sock drawer…or you could hit The Ice House with Susan and me. We're going to a two-part boffo benefit for Hillsides!

The silent auction runs from 5:30 to 6:45 p.m. on the Ice House patio. Here's a partial list of items. Everyone is welcome. Those who bid big are revered.

The comedy show starts at 7 p.m. Details on the 10 performers are here. Tickets for the show are $35, plus a two-drink minimum. (Manhattans for Susan, natch!)

The Ice House is located at 24 Mentor Avenue in Pasadena. Call
626/577-1894 to reserve your seats. No reservations are necessary to attend the silent auction.

Okay, I'll stop the promotional blogging now. (Um, until next year.)

On a Stroll

I hate strolling.

I think those of us who hate the stroll are the same ones who despise yoga, as I once did. If I couldn't sweat, elevate my heart rate or at least get some endorphins pumping, I was outta' there.

On the other hand, I love walking - fast, killing-four-birds-with-each-step walking: walking for exercise, walking the dog, walking with a friend, walking toward a goal. A woman in my book club adds the fifth element by listening to books on tape while she power walks with her dog and bike-riding first grader on her way to an important destination.

I have little patience for strollers. If pedestrians came equipped with horns, I would blast mine at the slow-moving mall strollers who block traffic. I would beep at George, who takes the stairs in our house one languid step at a time, while I hop, skip and jump two-by-two from basement to second floor. I would honk at the dawdling airline passengers who apparently have all day to get to their gates.

In spite of my strollerphobia, I opted last Sunday to take a tour of a private, one acre Japanese strolling garden in Pasadena. The garden was part of the LA Conservancy's "Cultivating LA" tour of five sites representing Southern California's Japanese-style gardening traditions. I skipped the other four gardens, but didn't want to miss the chance to peek into the only private garden on the tour. (Hey, I told you I was nosy.)

One of the unique feature of the strolling garden is that it never shows all of itself from one spot or at one time. These gardens use the Japanese landscape principle of "hide and reveal" to "enlighten and revive the spirit of the observer" by gradually exposing the garden's wonders

The design of the Japanese strolling garden forces me to do what comes unnaturally to me: slow to a stroll. At the Pasadena garden and later at the Japanese Tea Garden in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park, the slow pace gave me the chance to contemplate the sound of the trickling water, the feel of the wind, the shape of the lanterns, the smell of the fallen leaves and the taste of the warm Jasmine tea. I even felt a haiku coming on. And the woman photographer making a mad dash from site to site became the object of the sanctimonious disdain I usually reserve for mall strollers.

I didn't rush through the gardens or worry about what was waiting round the bend. The next vista or contemplation spot remained hidden until it was time to be revealed. Breathe in, breathe out. Hide and reveal. These are lessons I'm being forced to learn.

Now I'm trying to apply the hide and reveal garden philosophy to my own life. My natural tendency is to power walk into the back yard of life and insist upon seeing the whole garden revealed in one glance, weeds and all. But there's beauty, serenity and drama (yes, definitely drama) in strolling into a world that hides and then reveals itself when the time is right. And that's what I'm trying to appreciate while I'm waiting for the next site (i.e. test and test results) to be revealed.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

San Francisco, Here We Come

With sunny skies, temperatures in the high 60s and a strong need for distraction, I can't think of a better time for a trip to San Francisco.

George and I will be going up for a short visit from Wednesday until Friday, complements of Wells Fargo Bank. We're being flown up to attend his 25-year-anniversary dinner celebration at the historic Palace Hotel. (Of course, the way we figure it, Cindy has indirectly financed one of our trips, thanks to the outrageous overdraft fees she's racked up on her WFB checking account.)

I'll be checking messages but will be taking a blogging vacation for a few days.

Monday, October 1, 2007

It could be nothing, or it could be something.

If I had a nickel for every time I heard these words, I'd be at least a quarter richer.

My PET scan showed some hot spots in my colon and bowel area. This could explain my vague symptoms - gastrointestinal grumblings, gassiness, unexplained weight loss, a feeling of fullness. But it could be nothing or it could be something.

Cancer spreads to the colon in 50 to 80% of Mantle Cell Lymphoma cases. When I had a colonoscopy in March, right before the start of Hyper CVAD, you may recall that I came out as clean as a whistle. But with this new turn of events, I'm scheduled for another colonoscopy (GoLytely, here I come) and lower GI biopsy early next week. I'll meet with Dr. Forman to review the results a week from Thursday.

Don't worry. Dr. Forman has a lot of tricks up his sleeve to deal with the worst case scenario. In the meantime, it's more waiting and more wondering.