Sunday, August 28, 2011

Ziplining in Hawaii - To Count or Not to Count

Aloha! We're back from Hawaii and I'm here to tell ya the Big Island is INCREDIBLE! Gorgeous, interesting, and fun.   Spent a couple of days at different beaches.  There were green, white, and black beaches, with sand textures ranging from soft and fine to pebbles the size of couscous.  A few other beaches weren't sand at all, but rather solid, black lava.  The water was crystal clear and various shades of blue depending on the depth.  It was amazing.  The area was less developed than the I thought it would be, with only 5-6 "main" (i.e. one and two lane) highways to get around the entire island.  The climate/environment ranged from rainforest to coastal to pasture to mountainous...with a lot of hardened lava/volcanic ash in between. 

We toured a Kona coffee farm and walked through macadamia ("macnuts") groves. We went kayaking, snorkeling, and ziplining, and we hiked to waterfalls, craters and volcanoes.  Some of us adventurous types got as muddy as possible riding an ATV while others elected to go horseback riding instead. Everything was a blast but my favorite activities were kayaking, the ATV ride, and of course, ziplining! 

Which brings me to a quandary about my bucket list.  Technically speaking, the plan was to zipline over a waterfall. Unfortunately, the operator switched the lines to new locations just a few weeks prior to our trip and hadn't updated their website. The original tour included lunch by a waterfall and lines that went over a few more, but the tour we ended-up with didn't have ANY waterfalls, much to my surprise and disappointment. Hence my quandary: does the trip count towards my bucket list?  I'll go with "no, not really," and consider it only partially fulfilled.  That way I have an excuse to go ziplining again in order to properly complete the waterfall portion.

Nothing Normal 'Bout Me

I often wonder if my body will ever get used to chemo.  I suspect the answer is, "no," and to the contrary, it keeps getting worse.  The day before we left for Hawaii, I had chemo (as originally scheduled).  About an hour into my infusion, I noticed that my vision became severely impaired.  I alerted my nurse, Meg, about what was happening.  To try to figure out a possible cause, she ran another blood test.  Turns out that once again, my red blood cell count had plummeted and the test results showed that I was "critically low."  My case manager/patient advocate, Bridget,  who knew I was leaving for Hawaii, promptly scheduled me for an emergency blood transfusion. 

I was admitted to the hospital immediately after chemo.  I insisted to the hospital staff that I had a plane to catch the following morning so they needed to get me outta there.  I laid there in my bed for about 8 hours, tethered to an IV while waiting for two units of blood to drain into me.  The upside was that I got to order whatever I wanted for dinner.  I had trouble deciding on chocolate pudding or strawberry shortcake for dessert, so I didn't get either.  I don't remember what I ate for the main course. Too bad, because it was the highlight of my day.

They finally let me go at midnight.  I went home and slept for a couple of hours, got up at 4am and arrived at the airport around 7am.  Thereafter, we spent a grueling12 hours in the air.  There was also a 6 hour time difference, so by 8pm Hawaii time, it felt like 2am hit-by-a-truck body time.  I was exhausted and didn't care if I was in paradise.  I rationalized that with an emergency trip to the hospital less than 24 hours prior and barely any sleep since then, I had a valid excuse for my lacklustre enthusiasm.  I went to bed sensing that that was NOT how normal people start their vacations.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Black Tie Breast Optional Party

I've had a couple of people ask me for clarification about the upcoming BTBO party on 9.10.11, so I thought it was worth mentioning a few things here. Besides raising money for the Life with Cancer Family Center, the party is also an excuse to dress-up, drink martinis and play like we're grown ups.

First, the "requested" formal attire doesn't mean it's "required" attire.  Wearing a tux or evening gown won't look out of place, but I don't expect people to run out and buy anything special; a cocktail dress or suit is totally acceptable. Black and pink are the party theme colors, so if you happen to have a dress, scarf or other accessories that are pink or have pink in them, then that'll work just fine. Furthermore, as far as I'm concerned, "pink" is whatever light-reddish hue you decide looks good on you (eg, fuchsia, bubble gum, dusty rose, hot pink, pastel pink, cotton candy...whatever shade you prefer). Again, don't feel obligated to go out of your way if you don't already have something on hand.

Second, we're having food brought in by a caterer. The menu consists of a range of hors d'oeuvres only.  Said another way, please note this is not intended as a "dinner" party. Those with a hearty appetite and/or who plan to drink freely throughout the evening would probably do best by having a main course at home prior to the party.

Since this is our first attempt at a fundraising event (not to mention I'll likely be feeling some side effects from my chemo that week), we're keeping things simple. Once we have a few years under our belt and figure out what works and what doesn't, maybe we'll try to add dinner, a greater selection of drinks, more catering staff, live entertainment and possibly some silent auction items.

Third, the BTBO party isn't necessarily a "private" affair.  Obviously I can only invite people I know, but you're welcome to bring guests and/or invite other folks to join us.  The more the merrier and the more funds we'll raise for the cancer center.

Similarly, if you live outside the Northern VA area and you did NOT receive a save-the-date postcard and/or invitation, I apologize in advance if I've inadvertantly slighted you. As mentioned, I want to keep it simple, and I don't see this is as a party that merits a road trip, travel expenses and possible time away from work, so I only invited local guests. Nevertheless, if you'd like to attend the party despite coming from out-of-town, please let me know asap and I'll send you more details. We'd be happy to see you.

Finally, for purposes of planning your babysitter's time, the party "officially" opens at 6pm and I estimate it will knock-off around 10pm-11pm (but it's certainly okay to hang out later if you like).

I hope this answers most of your questions, but if there are any other concerns in the meantime, please don't hesitate to contact me. 

I look forward to seeing everyone!  *Remember to RSVP in writing so that I have correct headcount.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Another Scan, Another Success (I Think?)

Hi all.  Just a quick update about my PET scan from last week.  The report indicates that the soft tissue cancer sites appear to be disappearing!  Unfortunately, there wasn't any measurable progress with the bones, but stable is better than getting worse, so I'll take it!! 

Also, I've been laid-up with nasty, prolonged headaches that won't go away with over-the-counter pain medicine, so I spent yesterday at the imaging center getting an MRI of my brain.  Good lord if I didn't have a headache going into the machine, I sure had one coming out.  It was SO INCREDIBLY LOUD. I can't imagine what it would have been like without with my ear plugs in.  It was a 30-minute assault of tones, beeps, pounding and pulsating noises that I can't really describe.  The closest I can come is that it was a barrage of emergency broadcast signals on steroids, machine-gun fire skewed through a synthesizer, and electronic fusion'ized jack hammers, all coming from random directions in random tempos at random times. My brain must've been lighting up like a pinball machine.  None of the sounds ever made any sort of musical "pattern," which drove me insane.  I tried to figure out a rhythm and at least turn the noise into a mental chant of some kind but it was utterly impossible.  In terms of decibel, it was as if every note was being funneled out of a jet engine then compacted and sent directly into my eardrums.  Maybe they should use brain MRIs to get the terrorists to talk.

But enough about that.  The results of my torture proved useful in the sense that there's nothing wrong with my skull or brain.  Whew!!  I was worried they'd discover all those dead cells and empty spaces I managed to develop from chemicals and other illegal substances I used back in my pot-smoking days.  Sorry Mom. 

So now that we've eliminated a worst-case reason for my headaches, I probably just need my vision checked (even though I think I can see pretty well, maybe I don't know what I'm missing).  But the eye exam will have to wait.  We're off to Hawaii for a vacation in paradise, where I plan to zipline over a waterfall or five. I'll try to think of you losers while I'm gone.