Monday, July 30, 2007

Do It Yourself Girl

When I bought my house several years ago, I was obsessed with home improvement. I bought a do-it-yourself book from home depot and attacked my projects with gusto. I was so spurred on by getting rid of what appeared to be 20 year padded silk, walls and ceilings in one bathroom and my bedroom, they were hideous and had to be removed pronto. Of couse, I discovered that the padding was covering many, many holes in the walls. Anyways, after months of hard work and becoming very good friends with my spackle, I finished the projects. Landscaping followed and then I took a break from home improvement for awhile, because the next projects were to big for me to do myself. I discovered that I liked these projects, and the whole weekend warrior homer depot thing. So, what is the point of this tale, well- obviously since Oct I have been unable to do any projects, big or small around my house. So things have been piling up, shall we say. Last week, I had my back patio redone and landscaped the side and back of the house. I love it, I have now spent every night sitting, on my patio listening to my new fountain, reading. This was one of those projects that there is no way I could have done myself, but every big project leads to more little projects and so Sunday after church I ensconced in full force puttering and completing of these little odds and ends. I did things that have been put off for months. It was so good to be able to do some of these things, I even climbed my back hillside. Tomorrow I am going to go get some paint, to finally paint my spare bedroom.

Hello, project girl, nice of you to come back.

The fountain- The centerpiece of my new patio

Monday, July 16, 2007


The assertive patient has inspired Joint Blogging Again.

Over the last several months, I have specifically thanked many of the people who have helped me on this journey- my family and friends. I know that I have gotten to this point with my sanity reasonably intact because of everyone’s help and support. However, there is one very little being who has been with me every step of the way (except for her hiatus at the beach with my brothers family, while I was in New York), who gets very little recognition for her unending loyalty. Yep, that is my little pesky dog, Sadie.

Sadie joined my family 3 years ago when she was just about 6 weeks old and barely over a pound. She has been my nearly constant companion ever since; however, I never fully realized the real truth of the bond between a dog and its owner until I got sick and then the canine intuition became so clear. She has been so acutely sensitive to my moods. When I am happy she gets me out of bed every day, encourages me to walk, helps with my morning stretching, makes me laugh with her antics, etc. However, on my bad days which fortunately have definately been in the minority, she knows just what the right response is to the impending badness…
1- stay clear and let me be alone- those are the real meltdowns
2- sit beside me offering her support but no words of wisdom, no platitudes just support
3- lick the tears off my face as if saying it will get better
4- bring me toys and convince me to play with her- the translation- get over your self and smile there is fun to be had.
Further, she knows when it is time to transition between the stages. If I could give one word of advice to support people out there- it would be to follow the guide of the person’s dog, they know exactly what kind of support is needed at any moment.

Now, that I am getting better and stronger and hopefully, all of those bad, teary moments are a thing of the past. Sadie is an eager participant in my new walking and hiking skills. She loves it when we go up to mountains and she can run her favorite trails. She is so happy to go on her daily, sometimes twice daily, walks. She is almost as excited about the progress that I make as I am. However, the downside is that as I get better and have to go back to work her reward alas is to be left home alone again. It hardly seems fair. All of that devotion and that is the reward she gets. Sort of like M. Acklam’s, thought “We give dogs time we can spare, space we can spare, and love we can spare. And in return, dogs give us their all. It's the best deal man has ever made.” While I may argue, that I give Sadie more than just what I can spare there is no denying that I get the better end of this trade. Sadie gives me everything she has and in return she just wants a couple of hours of attention a day. Nice

Sadie waits patiently while I write this post.

Sadie exerts her wish to not be left behind by climbing into my suitcase of her own accord.

Sadie helps me make the slipcover for my couch- time passing tactic number 5 during those darkest days late in radiation and in the post recovery period when I couldn't walk and was crawling around my house while doing this project.

My goal in life is to be as good a person as my dog thinks I am.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Happiest Place on Earth!!

Hey Lisa, You have conquerred cancer surgery, radiation and are making great strides with getting your strength back so what are you going to do next.....I'm going to Disneyland.

Remember those commercials from many a year ago. I can even hear the tune in my head. Well, so that is what I did on Saturday. I spent the ENTIRE day at Disneyland. I even swallowed my pride (or reentered reality) and rented a wheelchair for the day. The walking around the park I might have managed, but there is no way I could have stood in the lines. Plus, going around Disneyland in a wheelchair means you don't have to wait in all of the long lines, which was really helpful for the new Nemo ride, which had 2-3 hour long waits. We even got stuck inside of Space Mountain which means we got to ride the tracks with the lights on and then they let us ride again for the full experience. Let me tell there are few stones unturned in Disneyland and even California Adventure after our 14 hours there on Saturday. It is so rare that you get to to spend a whole day in touch with your inner child and just have fun- and I revelled in the opportunity. I was so exhausted by the end, which is funny as I spent most of the day in the wheelchair, but it was so fun and the fireworks were great. The Happiest Place on Earth- Indeed

(Sadly my camera misbehaved so the pictures turned into movies, but as we didn't know we were taking movies they are really not good.)

Friday, July 13, 2007

Sea Squirt
Sarcoma Internet Buzz

Here is a complete break from my usual blogging habits, but it hit a cord with me so you'll just have to bear with. As most of you know, I had myxoid liposarcoma a rare variety of a rare sarcoma in an even rarer spot- my ankle. I don't know what the total numbers are, but they aren't big. While I've never really sought to be average or common, there are some real downsides to having a rare disease. Hence journeying to New York for treatment. Over the past few weeks the internet has been buzzing about the NIH specifically cutting research funding for sarcomas, because well they are rare so impact per effort/ money is less. I don't know the details about all of this, so I haven't weighed in on it yet becuase there is always so much more to the story then what is reported. However, I have found the discussions interesting as I work in a field where we often need to look for "orphan drug" development becuase what I do in my doctor world is also rare especially in its most severe forms. See like I said, I never aimed to be common.

Now, this is even more interesting, it seems that there is a new thing, causing some buzz in the internet world which is that they have discovered, a substance from a Sea Squirt that acts as chemotherapy specifically against myxoid liposarcoma. This is good news for liposarcoma patients and maybe even for sarcoma patients in general who have metastatic disease, which thank God I don't. As it highlights that all soft tissue sarcomas are different and should be treated as such. Even more it highlights the careful balance between the environment and health and our need to be good stewards to the world around us, above ground, under the sea, everywhere. It reminds me of that movie from the early 90s with Sean Connery, Medicine Man. As I recall the plot, Sean Connery has found an extract from the flowers that appears to cure cancer, but they can't isolate it. They fight against time as developers are coming to destroy that part of the rain forest and when they finally find what they are looking for it highlights the need to look at the careful balance in the environment. Sorry I won't give away the ending in case you want to order it on netflix. None the less this sea squirt is a seemingly innocuous sea animal that starts out life mobile and then morphs into somthing like a sea sponge by the time it reaches adulthood.
The above photo is an adult spongy type sea squirt and to the left is the embryo sea squirt with a tiny brain and spinal cord so it can move.

Like I said- different then my usual posts but hopefully, thought provoking.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

July 4th week

So, I have now been officially back to work part time for one week. Of course, that one week happened to fall over July 4 for which I had two days off and during the week in which I had an entire day of appointments scheduled- MRI (with no residual disease- yeah!!!), PT and a doctor's visit. Therefore, once all was said and done I was at work for two half days last week or about a total of 7 hours- far less than I used to work in one day. Yet, still I somehow found both days exhausting. Literally fall asleep while laying on the floor playing with Sadie exhausting. I have no idea why it was so tiring yet alas as my surgeon keeps reminding me- I have been through a lot in the last 8 months, it will still take time. Next week I am going to try for three half days and may even get myself resituated in my office. However, we'll see about that..

In far more fun news- July 4 was spent up at Lake Arrowhead with friends. We had 5 adults and three children (two of whom are babies) and it was a compeltely enjoyable combination of people and the fireworks were fantastic. Kyle at the ripe old age of two was somewhere between mesmerized by them and a little afraid so he watched them while holding onto his mom and then the next day kept saying fireworks, fireworks. So, I guess it was successful in spite of the heat.

The fireworks over the lake.

The only way to escape the heat was in the water. Kyle got into the action by continually getting in and out of the water with a myriad of flotation devices.

Sadie even had to get into the water to escape the heat and trust me she is not a water dog.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Phase 5

For months now I have been saying that I would go back to work part time in July. At first I had thought that maybe it was a little generous, but I never expected that when I told people that radiation would set me back how true that could be. SO, the reality is that July isn't as generous as I thought. Anyway, now here we are July 1, and tomorrow I start back to work albeit VERY part time and a lot of what I will be doing will be from home. Yet still there is something so real about having arrived at July. Four months ago when I targetted this as a return to work date, it seemed so far in the future, almost like the next decade. I who used to fight to secure time off from work have not really worked in 9 months. I never would have thought that possible. The other day I was communicating with a good friend and fellow neonatologist who is now looking at taking a prolonged time off for very different reasons and she was so unsure of how she would tolerate the time away from work without going crazy. I tried to reassure her that after a few weeks it gets much easier. Of course, for me feeling lousy made it easy to not miss work too. But now I don't feel so badly and there is so much I can do, (of couse, still a lot I can't do) and I feel like I still have so many things that I want to do. However, the truth of the matter is that I am truly not going to be working anything close to full time by anyone's standards for a while so it should be OK.