suddenly summer

I took my last final this morning and now I am officially done with school until the fall. This also happens to be the last week of school for the kids that I babysit, so my schedule is about to get all shuffled around as it morphs to accomodate full-day childcare needs, summer vacations, and of course B’s chemo treatments.

I’ve been looking forward to summer since Thanksgiving, so I intend to make the most of this brief season of sunshine. After many long months of cold, rainy, dreary weather and the last several busy weeks of school and cancer stuff and out-of-town guests, I am in the mood for a little self-indulgence. I’ve been remembering last summer rather wistfully lately, thinking of the freedom of the road and the adventure of exploration with a feeling that is the opposite of homesickness. It’s been six months since I last got out of the Pacific NW, and I’m definitely feeling antsy. But since B isn’t in any condition to do any serious traveling, I guess I’ll have to find creative ways to satisfy the urge to roam without actually getting too far from home. Maybe if I travel on foot/ bike I can create the illusion of going further as it will take so much more time and effort to get anywhere. This might also add an interesting element of adventure/ intrigue to an otherwise not-so-adventurous local trip. Hm… It might also be fun to visit the areas of Canada that are relatively closeby, since I’ve never actually been to Canada before. Even though it’s not that far away, at least it’s a different country!  

B continues to do generally quite well. It seems like the side effects of the chemo, especially the fatigue, are hanging on a little longer this time around. I suppose that is probably going to continue to be the trend throughout the duration of his treatment. But he is a trooper and he has felt well enough to enjoy spending time with his brother, who is visiting us from Texas one last time before heading overseas in July. B is also starting to lose his hair, although it isn’t exactly falling out in earnest yet. That is, it’s coming out in drifts, but not in clumps yet. He went ahead and buzzed his hair really short to help control the trail of fuzz that he was leaving everywhere, but he doesn’t have that bald cancer look yet.

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Chemo II

So yesterday was B’s second chemo treatment and today he received his second Neulasta injection. He was experiencing some nausea yesterday after chemo, but managed to keep it under control with drugs and rest, and today he was feeling a lot better. They do blood work before each chemo treatment to check on B’s white blood cell and platelet levels, and the results came back good yesterday, which – as I understand it – means that B’s body is doing a good job of bouncing back from the effects of the chemo. Actually Dr. Nichols and the nurses seemed particularly pleased with the lab results, which was encouraging.

B and I were hanging out at a cafe today when we were approached by a guy who overheard us talking about B’s cancer (I’ll call him Bob here). Bob introduced himself as a practitioner of alternative medicine and chatted with B for a few minutes about alternative/ natural treatments that he thought B might be interested in. He wasn’t super pushy or anything, but it was a little weird having a complete stranger approach us out of the blue like that about something that is so inherently personal.

I don’t know if B is going to follow up on any of the specific things that he and Bob talked about today, but we are interested in alternative/ natural treatments that can help support B’s healing and wellness throughout this process. It can be hard to know who to listen to on issues like these though, especially since practitioners of traditional and non-traditional medicine are so often at odds with each other, with each pooh-poohing the other’s position.  Dr. Nichols has seemed somewhat skeptical when we have brought up different”natural” treatments that have been mentioned to us, so I’m not sure if we’ll get much guidance from him in that area. He didn’t exactly discourage us from pursuing any of the options we discussed with him, but I got the sense that he felt wary of our interest, almost as if he were afraid we were going to pull B out of chemo in favor of some kind of natural treatment. That’s not what we’re thinking at all, of course. We just want to make sure that we’re supporting B’s ability to heal in every possible way. We are thinking of talking to a nutritionist about diet recommendations and will be doing some more homework about other types of holistic health practices as well. Of course in the end all I can really do is assist in the search for information, as B will have to make his own decisions about what he feels is right for him. But this whole experience has really made me value my own health much more as well, and has made me want to be more proactive about protecting and strengthening it, so I will probably benefit from this research in some ways too.

In other news, I have one last exam to take next week and then I’m done with school for the summer – yippee! These last few weeks have been super stressful in that regard and it is such a relief to be finishing up. I am so ready for some good old fashioned summer laziness. Can’t wait to loll around in the sun (assuming it decides to make an appearance eventually) and stuff my face with all the good stuff that’s going to grow in our garden. Also have big plans for canning and other kitchen adventures, hopefully involving my little sis who’s moving up here at the end of June to attend culinary school.

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First Insurance Hiccup

Got a letter in the mail today from our insurance company. It stated that pre-existing conditions are not covered by our insurance plan and asked if we had insurance coverage between December 28th of 2009 and February 28th of 2010. Um yeah, Aetna, we had insurance coverage from YOU! Why on earth are you sending us this letter? I knew I should be expecting trouble from them eventually, but I was expecting them to try and quibble with us over some fine print issue, not question whether we actually had coverage for all these months that they’ve been billing us and we’ve been paying them.

Our plan was renewed a couple of months ago, so I’m guessing that is somehow the reason that we are receiving this letter. It seems preposterous that their records don’t show that we’ve had insurance with them for over a year and that our current plan is just a renewal of our old one with no lapse of coverage in between. I don’t know what’s harder to believe, that (a) they’re playing dumb, or (b) the dumbness is genuine and they really have no record of our previous year of insurance coverage with them.

As Brandon has reminded me though, team Wilson will prevail. Wish I could call and hash this out over the phone right this minute, but the letter conveniently (for Aetna) stated that this matter could not be resolved on the phone and our response must be submitted in writing. Okay fine. I’ll play by your rules, Aetna, but just know that you picked the wrong woman to trifle with and I AM going to win.

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Rainbow Lights, Bear Klaws, Patty Pans & A Pink Marker

What a good day today was! Slept in until 8:30, went to geography class and got the news that I aced the make-up exam that I took on Monday, came home and had some down time to just answer emails and putter around on the interweb, went to work and the young lady that I babysit was even more agreeable and adorable than usual, came home and had energy enough to put the house in order, and ate a delicious dinner cooked by my exceptional partner. Said dinner included the first harvest of chard from our garden.

We are growing two types of chard, Rainbow Lights and Pot of Gold. I love both of these names. The above is the rainbow variety, although we did happen to pick stems that were mostly a goldenish color. I think they’re so so pretty.

Could this day have been any better? Well yes, it could, but only if it hadn’t rained, so that my soil would be nice and dry and workable tomorrow. As it is, I’ll have to keep waiting for the sun to come out and dry things up a bit so I can till the ground at the Farm. Which is what we’re calling our community garden plot, by the way – Bear Klaws Farm, spelled with a “k” so that it’s BK Farm when abbreviated, or just “the Farm” for short. And yes, I would like to grow Bear Klaws if possible; but preferably the pastry kind since biting one’s nails is bad form and eating someone else’s is even worse, and I intend everything I grow to be edible. Which reminds me, I forgot to mention that I finally found some pattypan squash starts today as well. Hurrah! One of the cutest, cheerfulest vegetables ever! I’ve been looking for them, but hadn’t seen any until today. God bless whoever decided to grow them and sell them in the Whole Foods parking lot. Will definitely post pics once they’re producing.

Oh and check out the fantastic card that the little girl I babysit made for me. I’ve been away from work for the past two weeks because of all the cancer stuff and also because I had already planned to take last week off while my mom was in town. I was really touched that she made this for me. She has a huge heart, just like her mom, who also left me a little welcome back note. Actually the whole family is beyond great in so many ways. Sorry for the crummy picture quality.

 We got in the car today and Elena said to me, “You know that pink marker on the front of the card I made you?” Yes. “I just happened to have a pink marker in my backpack that day,” she said. Her tone suggested that she could hardly believe the good fortune of the situation. I was tickled by it. I hope she always has a pink marker when she wants one.

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Off Week One

Been a while since I’ve posted. The last week has been a busy one; my mom was visiting from Texas, Brandon was experiencing the effects of his first chemo treatment, I was catching up on schoolwork, catching up with some long-lost relatives that happen to live here in Portland, and trying desperately to catch up with all the weeds that have dominion over the community garden plot we’ve been assigned. All in all it was mostly a good week for me, but I now feel mentally, physically, and emotionally exhausted. Thank god school will be out in just a couple more weeks!

Brandon handled the first round of chemo rather well. Fatigue seemed to be the biggest problem on this first round, but luckily he was able to rest up and take it easy this week. I am so thankful that his job allows him so much flexibility – just another one of the many advantages that we have going into this whole cancer business. We’ve been told that the effects of the chemo treatments are cumulative, so we’re just going to have to take this stuff one day at a time and see how things go, but I’m grateful that the first one was more manageable than miserable.

Because of Brandon’s treatment schedule, we are having to rethink a lot of our summer plans. We intended to do a lot of traveling, but it looks like that won’t be happening. One of the good things about this is that I will be around and able to devote more of my energies to my garden. Gardening is a new experience for me and I’m sure I do a lot of things wrong, but so far I find the process to be really delightful. Granted pulling weeds gets rather tedious after hours of doing nothing but that, but even weeding has its own peculiar charm when it’s for a good cause. And I hope I’m going to reap the benefits of my labor all summer long! We actually harvested our first peas today from a potted pea plant that I’m growing at home. Only one pod was ready to be harvested, which yielded exactly three peas. Brandon is preparing them for dinner tonight, along with some other peas that I bought at the farmers’ market on Saturday.

While it’s true that our garden plot was mostly populated by weeds when it was assigned to us, we have managed to clear a great number of them and have found a few surprises hidden underneath. My mom was a huge help in both removing weeds and identifying the plants that we might not want to pull. Thanks Mom! ❤ 

Probably the best surprise is that about a quarter of our plot is occupied by dozens of strawberry plants which are already producing berries. None of them are ripe yet, but some are starting to blush red already, so it’s only a matter of time.

We also found some ruby cabbages, some broccoli plants, some onions, some garlic, and some blue potatoes that are thriving in an old compost pile! I don’t know if I can expect the cabbages and broccoli plants to produce anything, but the cabbages sure are pretty. I’ve already pulled out some of the broccoli plants which looked diseased. I have lots of broccoli starts to transplant from my home garden beds anyway.

Our garden has the longest earthworms I’ve ever seen! Hopefully this means our soil is full of nutrients.

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Chemo One

Today Brandon received the first of eight chemo treatments that he needs. The treatment took five hours, but we’ve been told that the first day is a little slow and we can expect future treatments to take between three and four hours. He goes back to the hospital tomorrow to get an injection of a drug called Neulasta that will boost his white blood cell count, and after that he doesn’t have to go back to the hospital until his next chemo treatment on June first.

The treatment itself went relatively well, although accessing the port (poking a needle into B’s chest right next to his surgery wound) was very painful. B didn’t say much (I’ve already noted that he’s not a complainer) but I could see in his face that he was in a lot of pain. Part of this was due to the fact that the wound was opened a little bit when the bandages came off and the nurse rubbed the whole thing down with alcohol – YOW! The nurse assured us that it won’t hurt as much next time since the wound will have had time to heal, and indeed Brandon saw another patient getting poked and that patient didn’t seem to be in pain at all. I’ll be keeping my fingers crossed until his next treatment. The nurse was super nice and reminded me a teensy bit of Brandon’s mom, which I think was comforting for him.

I can’t say enough about how courageous Brandon has been throughout this whole ordeal. I love him so much and am so proud of him.

Now we’re back at home waiting to see if the chemo is going to make him feel nauseated. He has been prescribed four different anti-nausea medications, so hopefully we’ll be able to keep any potential problems under control. The waiting to see what happens is difficult; I want to spring into action and do something to make him feel better, but there’s really nothing I can do. Except make sure he has gentle foods to eat in case he’s not feeling well. Guess I’ll go make some soup…

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