Wednesday, December 31, 2008

By popular demand . . .

Betty, wearing her favorite pink dress, attempts to escape the paparazzi.

Betty: Does this make my hips look big?
Susan: I can't like to you, Betty. . .

Betty and the entire Carrier household wish you all a very happy, healthy, humiliation-free 2009!

(Actually, if we don't have at least one humiliating experience, maybe we're not taking enough risks.)

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

You look healthy

I giggled yesterday after my doctor told me, "You look healthy."

Of course, he couldn't understand why this remark was funny. I explained that I was used to the social hyperbole of "You look great" or "You look fabulous," but lately friends have been commenting, "You look well" or "You look healthy." The funny thing is that I love it when friends tell me I look well, because I know that I didn't look or act that way a few months ago.

I not only look well, I look normal - not like someone who battled cancer. Not like someone who was laid low by eosinophils. Not like a 105 pound weakling who passed out on the way to the bathroom.

At a Hanukkah party on Saturday, our gracious host introduced me to a guest wearing a fashionable turban, but I knew right away that the head covering was more than a fashion statement. The host added, "I think you two have something in common." I don't think anyone else would have noticed, but I saw her face twitch. We both wanted to be happy revelers stuffing our faces with latkes and apple sauce, not patients comparing treatments. I made an excuse and then slipped away to fill my plate with freshly fried potato pancakes.

Normal. Well. Healthy. Not long ago I would have chafed at the thought of anyone using these boring words to describe me, but now they're music to my ears.

"You look fabulous," my doctor teased as I left the exam room. That sounded pretty good too.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Mutts Like Me

Photo of Betty (half Aussie, half Welsh) by Skye

President-elect Barack Obama has made it cool to be a racial mix, or, as he calls it, a "mutt."

What's not cool is the difficulty that bi- and multi-racial patients have in finding a bone marrow match. Just ask Ann, a hapa (half Asian, half Caucasian) who just completed her second life-saving bone marrow transplant. Or talk to Krissy, another hapa, who's still searching for her match.

Read more about mutts and marrow in this opinion piece that appears in Sunday's Pasadena Star News (as well as sister papers, Whittier Daily News and San Gabriel Valley Tribune.)

If you're a minority (black, Latino, Asian, Native American) or racially mixed, contact A3M (Asians for Miracle Marrow Matches) in Southern California or AADP in Northern California to find a drive near you. Or, go to the website for the National Bone Marrow Registry and sign up online or find a drive near you.

You could end up being the life-saving match for someone - maybe even a mutt like Obama or me. How cool would that be?

Friday, December 26, 2008

One degree of se-purr-ation

Bob, Puss's former owner, danced with Eartha Kitt when she was a member of the Katherine Dunham dance troop. Both Bob and Eartha died from cancer at age 81.

Puss has nine lives to go.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

I'm dreaming of a wet Christmas

Raindrops are falling, logs are burning and the monkey bread is up to its business in the oven.

Wishing you all a very merry!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Cookies and sprinkles and icings, oh my!

Cynthia created this beautiful "pretty in pink" angel cookie. Leave it to my fashionista to make a Christmas cookie stylish and sexy. Note the highlighted hair, the heels and the plunging neckline.

Two days before Christmas, and I'm finally getting into the spirit. Find out how we made these beautiful cookies at Open Mouth, Insert Fork.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

The lazy food blogger makes butternut squash and sweet potato gratin

I swear I must be the laziest food blogger in the world wide web. After Pinch My Salt posted her recipe for butternut squash and sweet potato gratin, she received loads of comments from fellow bloggers and cooks who tried and loved the recipe. Not one of them whined about the sweat-inducing labor of working with butternut squash or the tedium of stripping the tiny leaves from a sprig of thyme. The first time I made this dish I swore, "Never again."

But then I tasted it and two weeks later I was back to whittling butternut squash and stripping those pesky leaves from the thyme branch.

Yes, it's that good. Find out how to make this at Open Mouth, Insert Fork.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Holiday Tradition - Caramel Popcorn

Find out how we make our family favorite caramel popcorn at Open Mouth, Insert Fork.

As a matter of fact, I think I'll go indulge in some right now to celebrate my clean scans.

Funny Little Butterflies

They're wreaking havoc in my stomach this morning because today's an "envelope day," when I find out the results of my PET and CT scans at the City of Hope. I'll also find out what those whacky eosinophils have been up to.

I'll post after my appointments this morning.

UPDATE: Hurrah! The scans are clean; I'm still in remission.

We're still waiting for the lab results of what's called the eosinophil (EOS) differentials and should have them back tomorrow. If we find that the EOS are on the rise, we'll develop a plan.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

The Quest for the Imperfect Purse

Because of the tag line on this blog, I'm frequently asked, "Have you found the perfect purse?" or "Is that the perfect purse?"

The answer is always, "No, but I'm still on a quest."

I did, however, find an imperfect purse recently.

I discovered this vintage crocodile handbag at Hughes Estate Sales in Altadena. Doors open at 8:00 am for the once-a-month warehouse sale, but dealers and civilians start lining up a half hour earlier. It was handbag love at first sight, and I grabbed it without a moment's hesitation.

The imperfect purse

What made it irresistible? The fine crocodile leather, the exquisite craftsmanship, the leather lining, the brass top closure and hardware, the classic shape (which reminds me of the handbags in my sidebar). It is in impeccable condition, but has a faint smell of my Grandma Opal. I think the scent is a combination of stale Clove gum, pressed face powder and old pennies.

What makes it imperfect? It's too formal to carry every day; it looks a little out of place with blue jeans or yoga pants. It truly is a "handbag," designed to be clutched in hand or dangled on the lower arm, not the shoulder. No, it's not the perfect purse, but it's a classic that I'll keep forever.

And at $60, it was a steal. It's similar to this one pictured at left, available online for a starting bid of $250. Even the lining and inside compartments are identical to mine. Another look alike I found online is selling for 350 pounds.

I'm quite happy with my new handbag, even though it's not the perfect purse. I just ask one favor. If you see me carrying it, resist the urge to chant, "Here comes the doctor. Here comes the nurse. Here comes the lady with the alligator purse."

Do you also think of Ruth Buzzi's character on Rowan and Martin's Laugh In when you hear the word "handbag"? It was the ultimate weapon of male destruction.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

When you're too thin, nobody wants to hear about it

My first-person essay about my struggles with losing and gaining weight will appear in print in the Health section of the LA Times on Monday, or you can read it online here.

UPDATE: Sorry - the essay did not appear in the print edition, but you can still read it online.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

More Driving for Noodles

Instead of an "I brake for yard sales" bumper sticker, I think I need one that says, "I drive for noodles." Especially Japanese noodles.

I recently drove to Gardena for a bowl of chubby Japanese udon noodles at Sanuki No Sato. Read about it at Open Mouth, Insert Fork.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

It's that time of year.

It's a busy time of year - with lots of hustle and bustle, greeting and eating, shopping and dropping.

On Saturday night, I agreed to be the "pinch hit" hostess for a dinner party for eight after the original hostess sprained her leg. You can read about the signature Winter Delight Salad I prepared at Open Mouth, Insert Fork.

It's also that time of year when I'm busy at the City of Hope with six-month CT and PET scans, my quarterly infusion of Rituxan and follow-up appointments.

I'm gradually tapering off the Prednisone (down to 10 mg every other day), and I'm already starting to experience the same GI symptoms that were prevalent when my eosinophil (EOS) levels began to rise in May. I'll have a blood test on Monday, December 15, to confirm if those whacky EOS are once again on the rise. As we learned the hard way, out-of-control EOS can make me very, very sick, so it's important to rein them in right away. Like diabetes, hyper eosinophilic syndrome (HES), is controllable, but it's a lifelong challenge.

One good thing is that my preoccupation with my EOS levels (along with the hustle bustle of the season) have taken my mind off the possibility of a relapse of mantle cell lymphoma (MCL)

Sunday, November 30, 2008

I once had a cat . . .

Or should I say, she once had me.

Norwegian Wood, one of my favorite Beatle's songs, has taken on a new meaning since I discovered that my recently adopted cat Puss is a Norwegian Forest breed.

A surprising number of cat lovers (and haters) had been asking, "What breed of cat is Puss?" "Um, she's grey?" I'd reply. Then I'd add, "And she has eyes the color of freshly squeezed lime juice."

No, I didn't have a clue as to her breed. And this seemed to bother people. By the reaction I got, you'd have thought I had forgotten my child's name.

So I went to Google image, entered a few key words and discovered that Puss is a Norwegian Forest cat. Her ancestors probably chased the mice away from the grain supplies on the Viking ships.

Several of the cats in the online photos I found were dead ringers for Puss. I wish I could post them, but they're stock photography, available for sale for at least $50. Either Puss has been doing a little modeling on the side (to support her catnip habit) or she has a feline doppelganger. (Click here to see the image.)

Puss the Norwegian Forest Cat gives the "evil eye" with her characteristic lime green eyes.

I just have to be very careful when I tell people that images of my Puss are on the web.

To avoid misunderstanding (and teasing by the other cats), I'm thinking of changing her name to Nanna, the goddess of the moon in Norse mythology. Then again, that opens her up to taunts of "Na-na, na-na Nanna." Maybe we'll just stick with Puss.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Ojai Adventure

I've talked before about living my life in six-month increments between testing. The first six months, I lived my life with a near manic sense of urgency, but now I'm taking a more laid-back approach to life, including long lunches on garden patios.

Read about my Ojai adventure at Open Mouth, Insert Fork.

It's not about the bird.

That's what I learned last year when I ate my Thanksgiving dinner at Hotel Hope.

Frozen veggies, instant potatoes, pasty gravy and (OOOH) my shedding hair.
(Click on photo to enlarge.)

One year ago today: No appetite, inedible food, dangerously low white blood counts, red blood and platelet transfusions - a very memorable (and thanks-filled) Thanksgiving.

Today: Huge appetite, fabulous food, almost normal blood counts - much to be thankful for.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

SHHHH - We're not really here

Vibrant colors, a variety of textures and rich, briny flavors make salad Nicoise one of my favorites.

I've written more than once about how my cancer diagnosis and treatment have made me into a bit more of a risk taker. One of the fun ways that I can engage in a little harmless risk taking is with my trespassers picnics, where crossing the line is part of the fun.

Read all about my latest excursion and the beautiful salad Nicoise that I served at Open Mouth, Insert Fork.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Curious - Curing Cancer

One year ago, public television aired a documentary in its Curious series about finding a cure for cancer. I missed it then, but it's finally available on youtube. The show features the first human to test IT-101, a nano-particle designed to destroy cancer tumors without the harmful side effects of chemo.

If you have 30 minutes, you should watch this because:

- It's a great love story: Dr. Mark Davis, a chemical engineering professor at Cal Tech, started researching cancer treatments when his wife, Mary, was treated for breast cancer at the City of Hope more than a decade ago. "There's got to be a better way," she told him when she became violently ill from a chemo called "the red death." He rolled up the sleeves of his lab coat and, unbeknownst to anyone, started researching cancer at the City of Hope library. The research and development for IT-101 grew out of Davis's love for his wife.

- It's a great collaboration: Dr. Davis eventually shared his idea with Dr. Stephen Forman (my doctor) at the City of Hope. Forman went to Davis's office at Cal Tech and saw a rough white-board sketch of the nano-particle (which looks a lot like Sputnik). He sensed right away that the idea could work. City of Hope eventually became a partner with Davis's company and participated in the first clinical trial of IT-101.

- It's a great concept: The IT-101 nano-particle is about a zillion times bigger than the cells of a typical chemo drug. Chemo cells are so small that they seep through the blood vessels into the rest of the body, indiscriminately destroying other fast-growing cells. The nano-particles are like a big MAC truck traveling down the highway of blood - too big to slip through an "off ramp" but not too big to take a detour through the porous blood vessels that crop up around cancer tumors. They can make a direct hit on the cancer cells without harming the rest of the body.

- It's a great success story: Ray's doctors predicted he only had a few months to live after his pancreatic cancer metastasized to his lungs. With nothing to lose, he became the first human guinea pig for for the stage one clinical trial of IT-101 at the City of Hope. The documentary brings us up to six months after treatment, and Ray is still alive and fighting another year later. The trial is over and IT-101 is not yet FDA approved, but Ray is still receiving treatment through compassionate use.

The drug is now in stage two of clinical trials and Davis hopes that it will be approved by the FDA in three to seven years.

Watch it here. It makes me more proud and grateful than ever to be associated with Dr. Forman and the City of Hope.

Gratitude and Giving - The Last Bamboo Leaf

Triangles of sticky rice and red beans perfectly wrapped in bamboo leaves make me grateful.

I reluctantly unwrapped the last leaf from the sticky rice yesterday. I say reluctantly because they were so beautiful that I just wanted to gaze at their artistry. The bamboo leaves were pulled taut and smooth with a top knot as a finishing touch. Do you see that knot? How does someone go about pushing a bamboo thread through sticky rice? Unwrapping the little treasures was like undraping an obi from a geisha (or so I imagine).

These were a gift from a family in Arcadia. The grandmother prepared them for me to show her gratitude for the persimmons they picked from our yard. I'm grateful for the time, talent and . . . . . gratitude that went into creating them.

Every time I looked at them I was reminded of the circle of gratitude.

Not just beautiful - they tasted pretty darn good too.

This post also appearst at Open Mouth, Insert Fork.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Follow the Leader

I have been poring over Jonathan Gold's 99 Essential LA Restaurants list in this week's isue of LA Weekly.

I've rounded up the Eastside recommnded restaurants and added my own humble opinions. Check it out at Open Mouth, Insert Fork.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Open Mouth, Insert Chopsticks

Just as I predicted, I've been spending a lot of time over at Open Mouth, Insert Fork.

Even though my mother was born and raised in Tokyo and my grandfather was the chef/owner of four Tokyo restaurants, I didn't grow up with Japanese food. Of course, the ingredients are a little hard to come by in Catfish Hollow, West Virginia.

I'm making up for lost time at the monthly cooking class at the Pasadena Buddhist Church.

I hope you'll read about our latest creations, traditional Japanese vegetables and mochi soup.

(Note to Wendy, who I don't know how to contact any other way): I saw Mark the fire fighter/bone marrow donor at an event last night and got his email address. If you'd like it, email me at susancarrier AT

Friday, November 14, 2008

They Say It's My Birthday

It was one year ago today that I sat shivering in my bed at Hotel Hope as my frozen stem cells were infused into my body.

I'm told that stem cell transplantees - both auto and donor - get a new birthday on the day that they receive their life-giving stem cells. Since mine were infused over a two-day period, November 14 and 15, I'm not sure if I have two new birthdays or if I just look at it as a very long labor with the birth taking place on November 15.

Either way, it's certainly something to celebrate. Another year alive. Another year cancer-free. Another year older. And another excuse for cake.

(The cake in this photo from my August birthday is from Pastries by Nancy in Altadena. I just ordered a birthday cake from Takes the Cake in Pasadena, the same bakery that made my brother's wedding cake. At least now I won't be tempted to raid the ice box for the top tier of his wedding cake.)

UPDATE: I enjoyed a beautiful birthday weekend in Laguna Beach with two good friends. We sipped champagne while we watched the sun set at the Montage, walked the beautiful grounds, and then ate dinner and the "re-birthday" cake.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Bringin' Home the Bacon, Drowning in Spinach

It's lovely to wake up and realize I have no thoughts related to illness, blood counts, eosinophils, cancer or sagging skin.

Readers can easily gage the state of my life by the ratio of posts from Cancer Banter and Open Mouth, Insert Fork. When I was at my sickest, I completely abandoned the food blog. I've had a balance for the last few weeks, but I'm predicting the food blog will start to dominate again.

After all, I'm feeling healthy, energetic and . . . hungry. Go to Open Mouth, Insert Fork to read the latest about salad bar bacon and giant bags of spinach.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008


The Allens, our friends and quasi-cousins in West Virginia, have been stirring up apple butter in the same copper cauldron for 150 years. They recently produced 150 pints on a crisp Autumn day. And I helped.

If you'd like to read more about the 150-year apple butter tradition, visit Open Mouth, Insert Fork.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Too Busy to Blog?

There's at least one good thing about feeling lousy from a bad cold or the flu or eosinophilic pneumonia. When sickness fades and health returns, the contrast is so stark that you just want to kick up your heels.

I felt that euphoria today as I navigated around the City of Hope - from the parking lot to check-in to blood draw (13 vials today) to a two-hour "chemo brain" test to pulmonary testing to my appointment with Dr. Forman. It was all easy and effortless and pleasant, not a gut-wrenching triathalon.

Writer and cancer survivor Linda Stowell describes the debillitating effects of illness (chemo-induced in her case) in an AP article, "Running for my life: 1 woman's story" that ran in my local hometown paper a few days after I met "Running Woman."
"The fatigue was so intense, the sleep so deep that it was as though a chunk of my life was sucked away. I rose only to take a shower. One afternoon I tried to make tea and slept through the kettle's whistle. I awoke to the kettle burned dry to the stove and belching smoke. I had few conversations: that took too much energy. A trip to the grocery store was overwhelming."
I can especially relate to those last two lines. Is it any wonder that I'm in a state of euphoria now? Since returning from West Virginia, I've found that my energy levels and lung capacity have bumped up another notch (I passed today's pulmonary function test with flying colors), and I'm going full speed ahead from early morning until midnight.

After my return, I threw myself into the silent auction for the A3M's Starnight event on Sunday. It was all-consuming for a few days, but it felt great to be doing something productive for an organization I support. A lean organization with a vast outreach in the Asian community, A3M has recruited more than 150,000 potential bone marrow or stem cell donors. More than 250 of these have gone on to be life-saving donors.

Jackie, the new A3M staff member who is recruiting in the Latino community, and I set up jewelry (donated by Cookie Lee) on display stands (provided by Wasabi Jewelry) at the event.

This is why I volunteer: A 13-year-old Korean-American girl from Kentucky, meets her donor - a brawny Japanese-American LA fire fighter. They now have identical DNA.

The downside of volunteering for a primarily Asian organization: I tower over everyone. My friend Nancy (another reason I volunteer) and I pose with fire (and cancer) fighter Mark Tomita.

Three more reasons why I volunteer: Jerome, an African-American seeking a donor match; Krissy, a Hapa (half Asian, half Caucasian, like me) searching for her match; and Christine, a Phillipina-American who met her match.

One of my goals this year is to help A3M expand their outreach to the African-American community. After all, "advocate" is part of my three-word ID. And that's something that I can really kick up my heels about.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Calling All Jazz Fans

A3M (Asians for Miracle Marrow Matches) annual fundraising event, Starnight, will feature jazz pianist Keiko Matsui. Tickets are still available for as little as $47 for this November 2 event at the Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts.

If you'd like to splurge, consider the VIP package with dinner, a silent auction and the concert. I've been helping with the auction descriptions for the bid sheets and can tell you that there are some amazing items. If you're interested in seeing Celine Dion, the Cheetah Girls, the Ducks or the Bruins in luxury box seats at the Honda Center, send me an email (, and I'll give you more details. If you like, I can bid on your behalf.

Even though "Asians" is in the name of the organization, they work tirelessly to sign up all minorities for the National Bone Marrow Registry. I'm excited because they just hired a Spanish-speaking representative to do outreach and recruitment in the Latino community.

Candy Banter

I'm back from Ohio and West Virginia, land of the bad perm, the all-you-can buffet and biscuits and sausage gravy. I indulged in guilt-free gluttony and packed four more pounds on to my skinny bones.

"Yes, I can" was my mantra for the week. When the waitress asked if I wanted more sweet tea or a piece of Coca Cola Chocolate Cake with a side of ice cream. When Daddy offered more home made oatmeal cookies or another helping of chilli and corn bread. (He's become a very good cook.) Yes, I could, and yes, I did.

I didn't consume any candy, but I sure had fun reading about your top three favorite Halloween candy treats. (And I especially loved that some "lurkers" came forward with a comment.) The comments and my recent post about running really got me thinking:
  • Why is it easier to come up with our three favorite candies than three words that identify us?
  • Why is it easier to come up with things that we are not (or don't want to be)than things that we are? (I am NOT that listless woman being pushed around in a wheel chair at City of Hope.)
  • Is there any correlation between the candy we love and our identities or personalities? Are candy corn lovers playful? What does the way we attack a Blow Pop or Tootsie Pop say about our patience levels? (I bite into my Tootsie Pops.) Are chocolate lovers the sweetest?
When we were little trick-or-treaters in Clarksburg, West, Virginia, Robert and I high-tailed it to the "rich" part of town, where the residents treated us with full-size candy bars. Now every year I like to play "big shot" and give out full-size bars or bags of candy. It's my little tradition. This year, the little ghosts and goblins and Sarah Palins will receive a big bag of M&Ms, not one of the mini versions.

Speaking of tradition, I think it's a wonderful way to define ourselves as individuals, as families and as communities. When I was in West Virginia, I got to take part in a day of apple-butter making, a six-generation tradition in the Allen family. The 50-gallon copper cauldron we used is more than 150 years old. Now that's tradition. I'll post photos and the story in the next couple days.

In the meantime, remember those Kit Kats are for the trick-or-treaters.

(It's not too late to share your three favorie Halloween candies or your three-word ID tag.)

Monday, October 27, 2008

I am a runner

Have you noticed that women can get away with a lot of things that men can’t? It’s easy for a gal to approach a total stranger and compliment her hair, an article of clothing or body part. And we (or at least I) can get downright nosy after the sweet talk. “What product do you use on your hair?” “Where did you find your bag?” “How did you get those gorgeous gams?”

That’s what I thought when I saw a woman in a short skort in the security line at LAX. She had the firmest, shapeliest legs I’ve ever seen on a 50+ woman. Actually, they were among the best-looking legs I’ve seen on any age woman. Of course, I felt obligated to share my observation and envy.

She beamed and explained, “I’m a runner.”

I wasn’t surprised that running produced her firm, athletic legs, but I was caught off guard by her choice of words. Not “I run” or “I like to run” but “I’m a runner.” Running was clearly more than exercise; it was part of her identity.

For the third time in less than a year, I’m rebuilding my body. Prior to my most recent bout with pneumonia, I exercised fanatically – three to four mile walks several times a week interspersed with Pilates, strength training and cardio at the gym. I was a perpetual motion machine determined to increase my stamina, strength, muscle tone and flexibility. But my identity wasn’t tied to any of these activities. If someone asked me what I did for exercise, I wouldn’t say, “I’m a walker” or “I’m a weight lifter” any more than I would declare, “I’m a toilet flusher.”

And yet I frequently hear those three words, “I’m a runner.”

As a post-middle aged, post-cancer woman in search of identity, this appeals to me. My friend Barbara, who has just returned to graduate school at age 40, said that one of her professors asked students to introduce themselves with just three words. (She chose mom, cats and Democrat.) At one time I also would have included “mom,” but now that Cynthia is nearly 20, my role and influence are diminishing. I will always be a mother, but it’s no longer central to my identity. I don’t think “wife” has ever been part of my identity, and yet I’m still adjusting to the identity shift that comes with a separation.

So where does that leave me? The only thing I know for certain is that I am a writer. It is what I do and it is who I am.

But I’m fascinated with the possibility of adding “runner” to my three-word ID tag. It’s power packed with imagery and metaphor. We run for our lives, run for cover, run amok.

I love to visualize myself as a wild cheetah effortlessly using my long, lean legs to stride across the Serengeti. And I love the thought of pushing myself and running toward a finish line.

I ask Running Woman, “How many miles does someone have to run before she can call herself a runner?” “That’s the beauty of it,” she answers. “If you run even one mile a week, you’re a runner.” I’ve often said the same thing to aspiring writers, “If you write, you are a writer. You do not have to be published to say ‘I am a writer.’”

I plan to start off with an easy walk-run routine and will gradually build. (At this point, I’m grateful that I can walk a mile, let alone run one.) I may love it, I may hate it or as Running Woman advises, “You will probably hate it at first, but in just a few weeks you will be surprised at what happens.”

Soon after my encounter with Running Woman, I get a chance to test my lung and leg capacity. A landing delay has shrunk my Chicago O’Hare layover from 40 to 10 minutes. I ask one of the American Airline agents if she would call the gate of my next flight to let them know I am on my way. She urges, “You can make it. You just have to run.” I want to tell her that the gate is in a terminal far, far away. I am tempted to protest that I am recovering from a severe case of eosinophilic pneumonia and have diminished lung capacity, but there is no time for that.

Instead, I run. Almost immediately I feel the cumulative effects of lung damage and three months of near inertia. I run and gasp, then power walk and run and pant some more. I can’t run all the way, but I keep moving until I reach the finish line.

“What’s your name?” the agent asks. I am so out of breath that, after what seems likes minutes of a heaving chest, I sputter, “Carrier, with a C.” She prints my boarding pass and I’m on my way.

I (pant) am (huff) a (puff) runner (gasp).

What three words describe you?

Friday, October 24, 2008

While Smookie's away, her friends will play...

Halloween is almost here, and it's all I can do to prevent myself from diving headfirst into the candy display at Vons and just sort of rolling around until a few dozen "fun size" candy bars unwrap themselves and accidentally fall into my gaping maw.

While Susan enjoys quality time (and, we hope, calorie-laden meals) with her family in West Virginia, let's use this opportunity to play candy confessions. Please, no Godiva snobbery—just state your favorite three varieties of store-bought candy.

I'll go first:

1. Snickers
2. Peppermint Patties
3. M&Ms

Happy Halloween!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The Hottest Ticket in Town

Tomorrow I'll be spending the day at The Women's Conference in Long Beach, the mega event hosted by First Lady Maria Shriver. The lineup of more than 100 speakers, from Madeline Albright to Bono, is amazing. No wonder the 14,000 person event sold out in just three hours. Lucky for me, the regional YWCA bought a block of tickets for its board members.

On Thursday I'll be taking off for a week for a visit to West Virginia and Ohio. I'll get to enjoy the fall foilage and crisp weather while I visit my brother and Bonnie, my nephew and dad. And I'll be stirring up some home-made apple butter with the Allen clan on their 200+ acre compound in Sardis, West Virginia.
Life is good.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Risks, Rewards and Expanding Worlds

It's been three months since I cat-napped Puss and drove with her from San Francisco to Altadena.

Puss, accustomed to life as an only cat in a small SF apartment, entered a brave new world with a dog and two other cats. The menagerie frightened her, and she showed her fear (and anger and confusion) with hisses and sharp claws. Betty, my shadow dog, felt the wrath whenever she was within eyesight.

Puss seemed content with her life in solitary confinement in the bathroom that straddles two upstairs bedrooms. She only cried out when it was time for her Fancy Feast fix.

After one week, I opened the door to the bathroom to give her access to her own bedroom suite. Puss liked having a room to call her own. She enjoyed my frequent visits but had no desire to join Betty and me in our bedroom. If I dragged her in, she would immediately scurry back to her safe place.

Betty, the biggest threat

Two weeks ago, I decided to expand her world again. I opened both bathroom doors (it's a Jack-and-Jill arrangement) so that Puss had access to our bedroom and the rest of the house. The result surprised me. It was as though Puss had become institutionalized. She was free to come and go as she pleased , but she had no desire to leave her suite. When I carried, her out, she couldn't wait to jump out of my arms and back to her own safe, dog-free space.

Yesterday, Puss decided to take a risk. She ventured out of her safe haven.

Puss decides to cross the line, but pauses to think it over.

"This may not be such a good idea after all."

The reward, basking in sunshine on mom's lap, was worth the risk.

"Can I watch the Aristocats one more time?"

Now Puss (or Sour Puss, as I like to call her) is free to roam about the entire house. She's exploring every nook and cranny from the basement to the bedroom, where she now sleeps by my pillow. She still hisses at the other animals, but, if cats could talk, I think she'd say the rewards of freedom and extra attention far outweigh the risks and fears. (Or maybe she'd just say, "Back off, Milk Bone breath.")

For the first seven months after I completed my auto stem cell transplant, I became a fearless, pole dancing risk taker. When you ask yourself, "What's the worst thing that could happen?" and the answer is not "death," fear of new challenges starts to evaporate.

With two recent events, the sickness that laid me out for nearly three months and the economic crisis, I've become a little risk adverse. It was even tempting to fall into a pathetic "I think I'll just stay home. People might be mean to me if I go out" thinking at times.

I think my risk pendulum swung a little too far in one direction and then, just as quickly, veered off into the other direction. Now, like Puss and our economy, I just have to find the right balance.

(Check out the latest at Open Mouth, Insert Fork, Sunday Italian Brunch, the Lazy Woman's Way)

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Going Once, Going Twice

I plan to delete the "Light the Night" widgets in the left column on Monday. If you click on the top icon you'll see we've raised a total of $1,835 ($335 over the goal). Do I hear $2,000?

This is my last plea and your last chance to donate to an organization that's funding blood cancer research and supporting and educating patients and families.

Then you can breathe a sigh of relief and mutter, "I thought she'd never leave."

Monday, October 13, 2008

Bits and Pieces

Today I chatted with Dr. Forman about my improved cough and life as a social pariah. He shared an old saying, "Better to have a bad headache than a mild cough" - meaning that it's easier to suffer in silence with a headache than to make others around you suffer with a cough. It's true, although I've known people who make everyone around them miserable when they have a headache.

I'm seeing improvement in other areas too. Even though we had thought that the left lung showed some clearing on my last visit two weeks ago, the radiologist had reported "no change." But this week, the x-ray definitely looks better. (I'm not just makin' that up.) And my weight is up to 120 pounds. I think that I have Trader Joe's and their new line of rise-overnight, bake-in-the-morning pastries (pecan sticky buns, croissants, chocolate croissants) to thank for the extra meat on my bones.

I'm gradually tapering off the Prednisone steroid from 60 mg to 40 mg to my new dosage of 30 mg/day for the next three weeks. As I've mentioned before, we're watching and waiting to see if those wacky eosinophils (EOS) creep up again after I'm off the steroids.

Since most of you know my brother Piper Robert through his comments on the blog, and I've mentioned several times that his wedding and reception were at our house, I wanted to share the photos. I have spent hours poring over these and reliving the wonderful wedding weekend.

Click on photo "b&r."
Enter password "susan."

I fell in love with the black and white jacket I'm wearing, but now I think it makes me look like a Pasadena matron. That's not the look I'm going for. And I can see that I really need to get back to my workout regimen, including Pilates, to pull back my slouching shoulders.

But the point of the photos is not for you to critique my chemo curls or fashion choices or poor posture. Look at them to see pure love and joy on the faces of Robert and Bonnie on every single frame.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

The Long Goodbye

After one week, no fewer than 12 phone calls, escalation to managers, 12.5 hours on hold and four broken promises to "call right back," my AT&T DSL service was finally restored last Thursday. (If my doctors and I had been this inept at diagnosing and treating my mantle cell lymphoma, I'd be pushing up daisies now.)

AT&T promised me Thursday morning that the DSL would be working by 8 pm. Like magic, it was up and running at 7:45. Of course, the "magic" involved 2.5 hours of my time on the phone with three different reps. My mantra, repeated at least 23 times, was, "My service was disconnected in error. I will stay on this line until it is fixed."

But do you want to hear the most painful part of this entire process? Saying goodbye to the reps. After I've been on hold with someone for an hour or two, I don't need a long, drawn-out goodbye. I just wanna' hang up. But, in the name of good customer service, AT&T has to keep me on the line for an additional five minutes.

AT&T: I will transfer you now to a customer specialist who will be able to help you.

Me: Thank you so much for your help. I really appreciate it.

AT&T: Thank you for choosing AT&T. We appreciate your business. Is there anything else I can do for you?

Me: No thank you.

AT&T: Do you have any questions?

Me: Just one. When are you going to transfer me?

AT&T: It's been a pleasure doing business with you.

Me: Yea, yea, yea

AT&T: You may receive a phone call asking you to rate your service experience. I hope that I have done everything possible to serve you.

Me: (Under breath - I do not have anything good to say about you or anyone at AT&T because you disconnected my service in error and can't get it reconnected and now could you PLEASE let me go.) Yes, thank you.

AT&T: Thank you for being a valued AT&T customer. Have a great day!

You say goodbye, I say hell(o).

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Some Great News

My days as a hacking social pariah may be over. For some unknown reason (alternate therapy?), my coughing significantly subsided today. I can't believe how much more energy I have when I'm not consumed with coughing up a lung.

With a controllable cough and respectable energy levels, I actually enjoyed my day of non-stop activities. I had a long lunch with friends in Old Pasadena, volunteered at the A3M (Asians for Miracle Marrow Matches) office in Little Tokyo, ran errands, picked up a dresser I purchased from Craigslist, ran more errands and right now I'm capping the day off at the Coffee Gallery in Altadena for hot chocolate and free WiFi.

I even had time for a hearty breakfast of eggs Florentine at home. You can read about how I like to take one dish - ground beef with spinach and mushrooms - and stretch it into three meals at Open Mouth, Insert Fork.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Cough 'til you drop.

I marvel every day at my improved health. I don't take for granted that I can march from the second floor to the basement to throw a load of clothes in the washer, stop to feed the dog and cats on the first floor and still trek back to the second-floor bedroom without gasping for air. Just a month ago, I needed someone to serve me breakfast in bed.

But my cough - my deep, raspy hack - has not improved. It kicks into gear whether I'm lying still or walking or talking and leaves me feeling like a limp dishrag.

Worst of all, it's turned me into a social pariah. Most people, both friends and strangers, are kind and concerned, but I know I'm annoying. "Would a throat lozenge help?" strangers ask. "I wish it would," I reply, "but it doesn't, and I darned near choked on one." I do accept cups of water and snippets of advice. "I had pneumonia too, and I found that drinking the hottest liquid I could tolerate really helped." I'm willing to try anything.

I've discovered that a small percentage of the population can be downright mean. I left an 8-stop East LA Mexican food sampling event after the second venue because I was clearly agitating at least two other people in the group. And, of course, that made me so uncomfortable that I couldn't get out of the birrierias (goat restaurant) fast enough. Today I mouthed "I'm so sorry" to another library patron after a coughing jag, but she was as bitchy as a tough old goat.

I'm trying to balance consideration of others with my own needs to get out, but it's tricky, especially since I'm still without DSL service at home.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

A Day Off

It seems I spent a big chunk of my summer in very un-summery activities (like trying to figure out how to get out of bed and to the bathroom without collapsing, for one). Inspired by Ronni and triple-digit temperatures, I decided to make up a little of the lost summer by heading up California's Pacific Coast Highway on a weekday afternoon.

Self portrait of foot (a footrait)

Bare feet in seaweed, algae, salt water and sand - I highly recommend it.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Coming to you from the beautiful Altadena Library

I'm sitting on an Eero Saarinen chair, but I'm disappointed that the iconic Sarineen white mushroom tables at my local library have been replaced with standard issue wooden versions with four boring legs.

Light is streaming in above me from a giant sky light and around me through floor to ceiling windows on one side and clerestory windows on three sides. I'm soaking in filtered sunlight and greenery while I type in this mid-century oasis.

And, thanks to an AT&T snafu, it looks like I'll be spending a lot of time here using the free WiFI service and writing, writing, writing. AT&T prematurely canceled my DSL service when I signed up for high-speed service connected with their new U-verse offering. (It's like cable using a fiber optic network.) I won't go into all of the details of this crazy, maddening affair, but the bottom line is that it may take "three to five business days" to get my DSL service back because "the floodgates have already opened." (Insert primal scream here.) Floodgates have opened?!? I think the AT&T reps have been listening to too much coverage of the economy.

I may call the California Public Utilities Commission, I may have AT&T give me free dial-up until the DSL is up and running again, I may do all of the above and, then again, I may do none of the above.

I love this library.

10-04 UPDATE: Today the library is hosting a reception and exhibiting three architectural renderings to potentially update this facility. I haven't yet studied the plans, but I wonder if they'll be able to "modernize" (and come into code compliance), still keep intact the things I love about this place and maintain the integrity of original architect Boyd Georgi (not to be confused with Boy George). I'm told that's the goal.

I found out that the Saarinen mushroom tables have been sold by the Friends of the Library because they weren't wheelchair friendly. I was hoping that they were being rehabbed and would eventually return. But they are keeping the Saarinen chairs. Hurrah! I won't have to chain myself to any furniture or wage a Sarrinen sit-in.

In other news, AT&T still sucks.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The Ultimate Buns

I was looking through my photo archive for a picture of me with buns, and I couldn't find one. I don't know if this is because I have never had junk in the trunk or we just never managed to get it on film.

Doesn't matter 'cause I'm talking about the ultimate hamburger bun. Did you know that Fraiche, best new restaurant in LA, serves theirs on a gougères, that crazy deliciouos French bread that's like a savory cream puff?

Check it out at Open Mouth, Insert Fork. And seriously think about a Culver City field trip.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

I saved $5.00 today!

I went for my bi-weekly triathlon at the City of Hope this afternoon - blood draw, chest x-ray and consultation. I even added a little distance to the event by parking my car in the regular patient parking lot instead of using the valet service.

Today's trek from the parking lot to the check-in center was the sweetest little walk I've taken in weeks. And wanna' know the best part? I saved the $5.00 valet fee.

Since my brother and niece, both Strothers, were visiting this last week, I've been reflecting a lot about what defines our family. The first thing on my list is that it will practically kill a Strother to spend more money than is necessary. For example, I broke down and bought a lemon a couple of weeks ago, and I'm still in recovery mode. (I'm hoping that the lemons in our back yard will be ripe soon.) Thank God that $5.00 valet charge is no longer on the "necessary" list.

Dr. Forman and I looked at today's chest x-ray and compared it to the one from two weeks ago. At that point, we concluded that the left lung was not improving. Today we decided that my left lung is "clearing," but still has some work to do. And my miserable, raspy cough is still going strong. But, hey, I walked from the parking lot, so we're definitely moving in the right direction.

The thing that's moving in the wrong direction again is my weight. I'm down three pounds from two weeks ago. How can this be? You should see the way that I shamelessly pack away food. You should have seen the way I got up the morning after the wedding and polished off a huge 8" wedge of left-over butter cream frostinged cake. Well, maybe you shouldn't have seen it - definitely not a pretty picture. I was smashing it into my mouth like a bride and groom at a wedding.

I could go on and on with stories of my gluttony. I'm consuming the same hefty amount of daily calories that I was when I was packing on pounds, but since my activity level has gone from zero to 60, I must be in fast burning mode.

During my wait at CoH, I got to catch up with another patient who I hadn't seen for several months. She had a donor stem cell transplant in January and bounced back almost immediately, but it turns out that her aggressive acute myeloid leukemia (AML) returned ten weeks after the transplant. She had another transplant in April (same perfect-match donor), is now in remission and looks fabulous. She was complaining about the bags under her eyes, which I couldn't see at all. And I'm sure those have more to do with life with a sleepless two-year-old daughter than chemo or cancer. She was beautiful and energetic and planning her daughter's second birthday party with 75 guests.

All I can say is, "Wow!" And did I mention that I saved $5.00 today?

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Talking makes me tired

Isn't that strange?

I have so much to say and I want to be engaged, but delivering long-winded (and even short-winded) stories or explanations still wears me out. While getting ready for the Saturday wedding, simple questions like "Where does this platter go?" could make me weak in the knees.

Yesterday, 26 third and fourth grade students from the alternative Sequoyah School in Pasadena came to our yard to learn about the food exchange group and to pick fruit. We gathered under the massive avocado tree while I talked and answered questions about growing and sharing for 15 minutes. My coughing became out of control and I was soon exhausted. I was relieved to let the future gardeners scatter like squirrels to pick figs, avocados and persimmons.

When my loving brother recognized this tiring-talking phenomenon, he asked George to give the toast at his wedding. This morning I woke up filled with regret that I didn't give a toast to him and his beautiful bride Bonnie. The top of his wedding cake is in our freezer, so I'll have to wait until their one-year anniversary to make that toast.

Seems like my turn at being taciturn is just fine with our three cats. With them, the less yakking and yapping the better. Puss (the cat I adopted from my friend Bob) and I have become especially close over the last few days because I slept in "her bedroom" while house guests slept in the king-sized bed. Puss made a daily ritual of grooming my head of hair. She started by licking my curls with her tongue. Then she wet her paw and stroked my hair. She finished with gentle nibbles on my scalp. I never had to say a word.

And I haven't had to wash my hair for days.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Saying Goodbye to Summer

Goodbye fresh tomatoes and basil.
Farewell peaches and plums.

Hello squash and pumpkins.
Welcome soups and stews.

Summer is fading. Fall is here. Find out more at Open Mouth, Insert Fork.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Picture Perfect

A bowl of flowers and a photo from a simpler time replace night stand clutter.

Picture perfect.

Those two words kept running through my mind as I prepared our house and gardens for my brother's wedding and reception on Saturday. As I worked through each room, I felt like a zealous dermatologist eliminating pimples, blackheads and unsightly wrinkles. I was ridding the world (or at least my house and yard) of imperfections one flaw at a time.

The night stands in our bedroom were prime offenders. A pitcher of water, a half-filled (or was it half empty?) glass, a box of Kleenex, a dozen prescription medicines and TV remote control littered the top while newspapers, magazines and books filled the bottom shelf. It looked like a collision between a pharmacy and a book store. I cleared the debris on both stands and replaced it with simple ceramic pots overflowing with variegated leaves from our garden and fresh hydrangeas and mums.

I swapped an old dresser for an antique armoire that had been taking up residence in Cynthia's room for the last decade. With its rich bird's eye grain, cavernous hanging space and full length mirror, it was the perfect bridal accessory.

Room for storing bridal party finery inside and reflection for primping outside

Like an aging actress preparing for high definition TV, our bedroom was ready for the scrutiny of a camera.

But then a funny thing happened. Families flooded in and chaos ensued. A two-year-old flower girl transformed into a princess, but refused to wear her ballet slippers. Three other small boys streamed in and out . The bride and bridal party slipped into their dresses and fussed with hair and makeup. The bed became cluttered with clothing, coat hangers and makeup, with a small space left for a sleeping five-month-old baby boy. And, once again, my night stands runneth over. It was a glorious mess.

Through it all, two photographers clicked away. The room had been stripped of its picture perfection and replaced with more interesting qualities: life, emotion and depth.

The whole experience made me realize how hard I work at attempting to put on a picture perfect facade in my own life. Sometimes I fear what lies beneath the surface, and other times I fear that there's nothing beneath. But during the worst of my recent illness, I was completely stripped of veneer. I looked sick and acted sicker. I had no energy, talking was tiring and I was content to do nothing for hours at a time. I could barely put on my clothing, let alone put up a front.

In short, I was a mess and the worst possible company. I could only take and had nothing to give. But, to my surprise and delight, friends still wanted to spend time with me and care for me. I am still so touched by this fact.

The beautiful flower arrangements on my night stands will soon fade and clutter will no doubt take its place. My energy is returning and I feel myself slipping back into attempting to put on the picture perfect front. When I become overwhelmed with the self-imposed expectations, I'll remember the chaos in our bedroom and remind myself that the most interesting shots are the real (and sometimes messy) ones. And that my friends will be my friends regardless.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Martha Immersion Monday

I ate Martha's fried chicken and baked her daughter's favorite chocolate chip cookies while watching the Martha Stewart Show. That's what I call a Martha Immersion Monday.

See how the cookies came out at Open Mouth, Insert Fork.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The Lazy Woman's Guide to Blogging

Actually, it wasn't laziness that made me decide to repost a blog article I wrote more than a year ago. After reading Ronni's latest post on, I started thinking again about how cancer survivors are frequently described as "heroic" and "courageous." Weak, cowardly and lazy rarely come up.

I reread the article and relearned a thing or two. I told you I was a slow learner.

Loved Ones Recall Local Man's Cowardly Battle With Cancer

Did you laugh out loud when you read this headline from the satirical newspaper, The Onion? I did.

Why is it that the use of the words "cowardly" and "cancer" in the same sentence tickles our funny bones? Comedy critics would tell us that it's the surprise factor or incongruous pairing that produces the chuckles. We expect cancer battlers to be strong and courageous, not weak and cowardly.

All of this has inspired me to think about why most of us naturally ascribe these adjectives, strong and courageous, to those battling cancer. Over the decades, I've known many friends and acquaintances (several of whom have died from the disease) who battled cancer. Each did it in his or her own way, but in every case I would describe the person and their battle as strong and courageous.

And, yet, most of us who are currently in the trenches feel uncomfortable with these descriptors. Jonathan Alter, in his Newsweek cover story about his battle with mantle cell lymphoma, described it this way. “Friends later said I handled it courageously, but they were wrong. American culture rewards cheerful stoicism, a quality that cancer patients usually display in public but find difficult to sustain in private.”

I often think of Alter's words when I find myself crushed with emotions that are contrary to the "cheerful stoicism" I usually display and genuinely feel. After my last release from the City of Hope, I was required to report back on the following day at 8:30 am. I was exhausted. I was dealing with the loss of my hair. My body was covered with unhealed sores, a cheetah-like rash and bruises. My lower legs looked like they were decorated in dots with a red, fine-point Sharpie. (I later learned that this is a hallmark of a low blood platelet count.) I was hideous. As I burst into tears while walking from the parking lot to the hospital, I thought, "I'm NOT strong and courageous. I'm weak and cowardly."

The truth is that I was a person in need of support, a hug, encouraging words, and I got all of those things as soon as I walked through the doors of Hope. And I got it later when I talked with friends who had experienced a similar ride on the cancer coaster.

One definition of "courageous" is "consciously rising to a specific test by drawing on a reserve of inner strength." I like this definition because the implication is that the corageous person doesn't know the reserve existed prior to the "test." When I admire someone else for being "strong and courageous," my unspoken questions are always, "Could I rise to the occasion if the same thing happened to me?" and "Do I have the necessary reserve of inner strength?"

I find myself asking these questions a lot these days. Whenever I see a mom with a young child with leukemia. After I chat with patients whose primary residences are out of state and they are taking up temporary residence in So. Cal. while undergoing treatment at CoH. When I make contact with someone who has undergone more than one bone marrow or stem cell transplant. When I talk with someone whose disease has come back after being in remission.

I ask myself these questions every time I think of my friend Wayne, a 65-year-old college math professor, who biked daily from Altadena to LA. After a freak cycling accident in February, he is a quadriplegic. This formerly physical and mental athlete is just now beginning to regain feeling and movement in the tips of his fingers. When I spoke with him two weeks ago, he, like Christopher Reeve, was quick to point out, "I'm still Wayne."

There's no doubt that Wayne epitomizes strength and courage. Could I be as courageous under the same circumstances?

Wayne’s life changed dramatically from one moment to the next with no time to mentally or physically prepare. Mine, on the other hand, has been a gradual adjustment. When my ocular surgeon told me that the tumor on my eye was mantle cell lymphoma, he added that I would most likely be treated with radiation therapy. I thought, "I can deal with radiation, but I don't think I can handle chemo." The next thing I knew, my hematologist told me that I would be undergoing chemo and I thought, "Once every three weeks. That's not so bad. I can handle that." In the end, doctors told me, "You must undergo a high-dosage treatment as an in-patient and you will have a stem cell transplant when it's all over."

By the time I heard these words, I was ready to digest them. If I had heard them right after the initial diagnosis, I doubt that I would have been able to "consciously tap into reserves of strength" as quickly.

When we were going through our turbulent years with Cindy, I was active on a listserve for parents whose children attended the same group of "emotional growth" boarding schools. Parents sometimes posted chilling stories about children who ran away from the programs, which were typically located in rural or mountainous areas. At the time, I thought, "I don't think I have the strength to handle it if Cindy ran away." Two years later, she did just that from a program in Utah. And, of course, I did handle it; I had no choice. It was an excruciatingly difficult time, but we all got through that and other crises, thanks in no small part to others who had been on or were traveling similar journeys.

I find myself wondering the same thing about cancer returning after being in remission - that dangling sword of Damocles that threatens every cancer patient and survivor. Naturally, I believe it when I tell myself that I'm gonna' kick this MCL to the ground so that it never comes back up again. But after Elizabeth Edwards' cancer returned, I heard a commentator state that our society puts tremendous pressure on cancer survivors to do just that. The reality is that cancer sometimes returns, regardless of the treatments and the attitude of the patient.

In spite of my fears, I know deep down inside that I will deal with what I have to deal with when I have to deal with it, with the help of my family and friends. Sometimes I think the most courageous thing we can do is to admit that we have no (or a limited supply of) inner strength and seek out others, both professionally and personally, who can help us through these "tests."

And that, my friends, is no laughing matter.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Woo Hoo! We've surpassed the $1,500 goal!

Daughter Cynthia holds the banner for the Light the Night event at UCLA.

I just opened up a card from friends in Virginia, and a $25 check made out to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society came tumbling out. That check put us over the $1,500 fund raising goal.

Thank you again so much to all of my generous Cancer Banter friends who contributed to this great organization. The LLS has benefited thousands of blood cancer patients (including me) and their families.

UPDATE: Contributions are continuing to roll in, and we've now raised more than $1,700.

Healthy Cravings

I've been craving roasted cauliflower and finally got my fix.

Find out how at Open Mouth, Insert Fork.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Click your way to an Italian brunch

Crostini with home-grown tomatoes and basil. Bruschetta with goat cheese and pesto. Melon and prosciutto. (I know where Pulitzer-prize winning food critic Jonathan Gold goes for the best prosciutto outside of Tuscany.) Italian sausage casserole. Bellinis. Chocolate florentine cookies.

Are we hungry yet?

I'd planned to invite the Cancer Banter walkers to a "thank you" Italian brunch in October, but have decided to open up the guest list to anyone who has donated at least $50 to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. We're only about a hundred dollars away from that $1,500 goal.

Those Bellinis and bruschetta are just a click away.