Location: one hour from Suffolk, Rockingham, and Scarborough, United States

I'm one of the co-authors of Point of Hopes, Point of Dreams, and The Armor of Light (which, contrary to some reviews is NOT a Points novel). Proud member of CoastLine SF, Piscataqua Obedience Club, and admin for Horseboard.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Who do you pretend to be?

No, sorry, that is not as risque a question as it sounds. I just finished reading Martin Dugard's book, Chasing Lance (about Lance Armstrong and his 7th Tour de France victory). It was a very enjoyable book, and if you're a fan of Armstrong's (trying not to "Lance" him here...), you'll probably like it.

Something that hit me though, and that is when Dugard parts from his colleague and companion during the Tour, Austin:

When we said good-bye in Paris we didn't know quite how to say good-bye. It's one thing to spend ten days riding in a car with a guy, talking about your wife and kids and the quality of the morning run. It's entirely different to make the decision to either shake hands or do the buddy hug. We did neither. He filed his story; I filed mine, and then we walked down the Left Bank at midnight and pretended, like all the other post-Tour tourists, that we were Hemingway.

Men, maybe. Especially American men who find themselves on the Left Bank at midnight. But that caused me to wonder -- who do women writers pretend to be, on the Left Bank or anywhere else?

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

One thing leads to another...

The spell checker saw "Tootsie" and tried to correct me with Tosca. I'm impressed.

Current food obsessions

I know, in January, you're supposed to be focused -- really focused! - on losing weight, specifically that gained over the holidays. But instead, I find myself craving certain foods. Nothing unusual about that, everyone does in the winter.

But my cravings have something like a 2 week lifespan until I get bored and want something else.

Currently: Tootsie-Rolls (Midgees, or however it's spelled), and Wise Onion & Garlic potato chips. Not together.

Previously -- Oreos. My friend Jeff was scarfing them down during the same period of time. We determined since they are, or seem to be, dark chocolate, they qualify as health food.

Monday, January 23, 2006

No clever title

(I sometimes think the hardest part of blogging is coming up with a moderately intelligent title for a post... I had one when I started, then Netscape ate my post and I have completely forgotten what the title was.)

Today is January 23. 26 years ago, I ran into Melissa, whom I had met a few months before, coming o out of Science Fantasy Bookstore (now Pandemonium) in Cambridge. We spent the next several hours talking -- and we're still talking.

One year ago was the start of the Blizzard of 2005. I was also two treatments into my fractionated radio-surgery. Fractionated -- a full (or nearly) dose of radiation right to the tumor, delivered in five doses. I had had the first two on Thursday and Friday. We drove home on Friday and picked up Vixen. Then it became clearer and clearer that the bulk of the snowstorm would hit late Saturday and all day Sunday -- and my appointment for treatment was for 8:30 Monday morning. In Dartmouth.

We took the dog back out to the kennel and headed back up to Dartmouth on Saturday. We got there just as the first flakes started flying. We unpacked, then headed over to the Food Co-op to pick up food for dinner -- and, truth be told, some junk food, but luckily, Melissa had a package of sushi in the basket when we ran into Dr. Hartford so we could pretend to be eating healthily. The next day, Sunday, was the 23rd, and it snowed and snowed. Up at Dartmouth, we got only ten inches, as opposed to the two feet we got on the coast. Forget the radiation, the one thing I was not looking forward to was shoveling out when we got home. but when we did get home, Wednesday afternoon, my friend Eric -- friend and gentleman Eric --had shoveled out our back walk, enabling us to get into the house.

WHy all this backstory? Last Friday, January 20th, I went out to Wentworth-Douglass for a follow-up appointment with Dr. Singh. I was able to bring the radiologist’s report from my MRI two days earlier.

He said (a) he could tell I was doing much better than the last time he had seen me (during treatment) just by looking at me -- I looked more myself --and he also said the rate of the tumor’s shrinkage was excellent. He also said that the various problems I’ve been experiencing have been caused by (a) the swelling of healthy tissue in the brain as a direct result of the radiation, a completely normal occurrence and (b) the decadron. Yes, folks, two weeks after I was taken off it, I was still wrestling with that ol’ demon decadron. I asked Dr. Singh (almost hopefully!) whether I should go back on the decadron for a spell, or to be macho and tough it out.

He suggested I tough it out, for a few days at least. So, I’m being tough.

It was a very positive follow-up, just what I needed just, as they say, what the doctor ordered. I hope it, and the MRI, are signs that 2006 is going to be, health-wise at least, a lot less “challenging” than 2005 was.

(And it is snowing again, but nothing like last year!)

Friday, January 20, 2006

Oooops. :-)

Before you ask, umm, no, we didn't make it to Saratoga last weekend. On the other hand, I didn't end up in an emergency room, either. I did end up calling my oncologist on Saturday morning (he was on duty, and it wasn't that early), as I had been feeling... unsteady... since that Wednesday or Thursday. And I didn't think I would enjoy walking around Saratoga when I was worried about my balance. (Then there was the weather, too.)

Of course at first, I thought it was worst case, tumor regrowth, etc. Then I remembered something. On the 6th, he said I could come off the decadron. So I hadn't taken it for something like five days. And since decadron is taken to reduce swelling, it was, it seemed to me, just possible that what I was experiencing was a typical effect of the radiation itself.

But it was confusing, because sometimes it felt like my knees were weak (a side effect of the decadron, though why it should be worse when I had stopped it, I do not know), or like my blind eye was somehow... blinder. So, my doctor slotted me in on Monday morning (which was really good of him, as they do a lot of treatments on Mondays), and because I wasn't able to point my finger to precisely where the problem originated -- knees, eye, or head (do not go there), he suggested I try my eye patch for a few days and see if that helped at all. Especially since I had an MRI scheduled for Wednesday afternoon.

So I tried it. Did it help? I'm honestly not sure! Sometimes I think it did. Sometimes it felt like the problem was in my knees. All I know is that, with a turtleneck sweater, eye patch, and watch cap pulled down to keep my head arm, I looked like a WWII commando! Though some waggish souls suggested I get a dangly earring and a parrot. I declined, not wanting to compete with Johnny Depp.

Wednesday, January 18. First MRI since the radiation. Bloody miserable weather, too -- rain, wind (lots of it). More wind hereabouts than rain. Walked over to the library at lunch, was ahead of the rain, but the wind had me going thither and yon. So, Melissa picks me up, we drive out to the hospital. We get out of the car -- and there is the most gorgeous rainbow I have ever seen. It was a bright, complete arc, and a double rainbow to boot (though the second one was pretty faint). A bunch of people stood around outside the hospital, on the sidewalk, in the parking lot, gazing at the rainbow, silly smiles on our faces.

Still had to have the MRI done. The tech was, as usual, very nice, and more than usually efficient: "This next set will take about 2 minutes," and bam, it would start, no fiddling around. The longest single part was carefully injecting the contrast, since my veins are so awful.

Cut to the chase: I called my doctor Thursday just before noon --and he had just gone in with a patient. But he called me within a half hour or so. "Has the eyepatch worked?"

"I can't tell!" I practically wailed. "Sometimes I think it has, other times, no."

"Well, the good news is the tumor has shrunk. But there is still swelling in the brain."

"Oh. What from?" I asked, having my own notion.

"If I were to hit you on the arm, your arm would be bruised and swell up. The same thing with your brain."

"So what causes that?"

"The radiation. It causes the healthy tissue to swell."

Now, I could be wrong, but I think that is what I was suspecting earlier. And I am profoundly grateful to my doctor for confirming it, frankly (though I think I would have made a great instinctive oncologist!).

The cool/convenient thing is that I am seeing Dr. Singh (you remember Dr. Singh?) this afternoon, and the good folks at my doctor's office said they'd fax the radiologist's report over to him, so he'll have the most recent hard info in front of him, so this could be even more useful than the general follow-up it was going to be. While my doctor said he could not, with any medical reason, strong arm me either into going back on the decadron or staying off it, well, it's Dr. Singh's swelling, as it were, and he started me on the decadron, so I figure I'll go straight to the source and ask his opinion.

So, Saratoga -- and Mayakovsky, Dr. Singh's equine stand-in -- will wait. We're now looking at the first weekend in February and no, not just because that's when the harness racing track re-opens. Much. (Wish I were in Saratoga today, though, it's 50 degrees and quite lovely.)

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

The Eyes Have It

As I mentioned earlier, we're taking a bit of a road trip this weekend. Uh-oh, I can hear readers of this blog saying. Didn't you end up in the emergency room the last two times? Well, yes, I did. Not going to happen this time, though. I have been off the high blood pressure medication that caused the hypo-tensive occurrence at Saratoga over the summer (low blood pressure -- I had lost about 30 pounds in two months, and didn't need the medication anymore) for a good length of time now, and my blood pressure remains quite good. Nor do I expect my eye to give me any problems, as I just saw Dr. Norman yesterday and he was almost as happy as a little kid with a new sled by the way my eyes looked and behaved.

What I never knew was that, before scans and MRIs become commonly available, many doctors would use pressure in the eye as an indicator of possible edema or swelling in the brain. Well, he said there's no abnormal pressure in my eye, which there had been following surgery and at my last visit. He was delighted... which made me quite happy, as you can imagine!

Anyway, the road trip. We're heading back to Saratoga, to visit our friend Jeff. It's not going to be a physically ambitious weekend -- the three of us are very much of the sit around talking school (in the summer there, it's the "sit around handicapping" school, but since Jeff is good at handicapping, and I'm as likely to say, "Oh, that's a lovely horse!" well, you can imagine....). And yes, we're probably going to visit at least one yarn store -- if anyone has been to the yarn stores in Saratoga, I'd welcome reviews!

Ms. Vixen will spend the weekend at the Bark n Run (what we call the kennel she stays, and loves). The really excellent thing about this is that the noses will no longer have it, which is to say she is getting a bath. You have to understand, she is a very clean little dog (imagine that said by Paul McCartney in A Hard Day's Night), and never smells doggy. Well, in the torrential rains we had toward the end of last year -- and right after she had a bath at the vet's, she discovered that a house near us had disgorged from its cellar, via pump, something that smelled amazingly good to a dog. She rolled in this spot three separate times -- she never rolls! So I will let Pam deal with it this weekend. I consider it a late Christmas present to myself.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Off the Decadron!

I had my biweekly (I mean every two weeks, not twice a week) check-up with my medical oncologist yesterday. I had been down to 2 mg of decadron, once a day. And anyone who has been on decadron will tell you, even that is too much. He was pleased enough with what he saw and what the blood work said that he took me off it completely! I have been taking it since mid-November. And right before Thanksgiving, I went up to a high dose of 4 mg four times a day. It's a good thing I lost so much weight following surgery this summer... my face is quite puffy (of course), and I don't currently have any hair to, um, disguise it. Though I have to say, I think I look quite kick-ass bald. It really doesn't bother me, being bald, except when I'm walking the dog in the morning and the windchill is 6 degrees! Yes, I'm wearing a hat, let me tell you, it doesn't always help!

But Dr. Bonnem also said that I don't have to come back for three weeks this time -- nor do I need to have blood work done! That last is especially welcome -- I would think for the phlebotomists -- since my veins are terrible. I'm a challenge, let's say. It's a good thing I don't mind needles, nor am especially queasy about blood... oops, sorry if you are.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006


It's happened -- and I'm thrilled! I was mentioned on a blog I really admire -- blogdog (in case you missed the link last time!).

How can you not love a site that has such great photos of beardies? And while I don't even knit, I love yarn (I don't quilt, either, and love going to quilt shops), and love reading about people's projects. I know, it must seem weird enjoying something so very vicariously -- after all, one can certainly learn to knit, either well or not, as opposed to say, driving a stock car (Melissa is talking to the auto museum in Saratoga about showing her one of their 1930s cars up close and personal for a book she's working on.). But there is something so very peaceful about it all... well, ok, not to read Yarn Harlot.

It sounds as though Dale and Karen had an outstanding (and remarkably restrained) trip to Patternworks. Melissa is officially a very becoming shade of green with envy. Couple that with the fact that our mad friend Susie (another IBC survivor) lives in Wolfeboro, and it's sounding like a road trip from the seacoast sometime in the not too distant future.

Not right away, though, as we're visiting our dear friend Jeff up at the Spa over King Day weekend. I warned him Melissa wants to also visit two yarn shops up there, and bless him, he said he was ok with that as he spent a lot of time in yarn shops with his ex-wife (!) and his late mother. We pointed out to each other that one of the stores is almost next door to a very fine used bookstore. Something for everyone! Including, we hope, a visit with a friend who is probably one of the two foremost equine photographers, and a visit to a farm which is standing at stud (a) the most gorgeous horse we have ever seen who also (b) happens to have an incredibly sweet temperament, which is very unusual in an intact male who has been breeding for a couple of seasons.

Yarn. Horsehair. It's all fiber.

And next month is Boskone, for the science fiction fans among you. Melissa is going to go down for a day -- as soon as we know what her schedule might be, we'll post it here, on the official Pointsman website, and on her own site(s).

So I want to thank Karen for inspiring me to fulfill one of my New Year's resolutions, which was to post more frequently, and especially for the kind words on the writing.