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Friday, November 30, 2012

Amazing

That is how I would describe my husband. After 23 1/2 years of marriage, he still amazes and surprises me.

Today was my last day of radiation treatment and I asked several of the people I've met here in Houston to help me "ring out" if they were available and could come. I was very happy to see Paivi, Melissa and my old friend from LSU, Lisa H., waiting in the lobby when we pulled up. We all walked down to waiting area I for my turn at getting zapped for the last time.
While I was in there for the 8-10 minutes it takes to fry "Dezzie" to a fare-thee-well, Len was setting up Nana's computer so several of our friends and family could skype in and share the event. What an amazing and wonderful and thoughtful thing to plan!! I was able to share this fabulous day with Uncle Ry Ry in Singapore, Yia Yia and Pappou in DC, Tita Wheez in Atlanta, Jackie, Christy, Josephine, and Aleks in Chicago. Meme and Papa tried to skype in as well but we never could get connected. Can I just say how wonderful it was for everyone to take the time to call in and for Len to put it all together??! I mean, I'm still grinning! It really made the day so special.
 Nana held up the computer so everyone could see me ring the bell.
The girls had been talking about ringing the bell all week so they did some pretty good and loud ringing before we had to physically pry their fingers off the rope!
 For the longest time I thought I was in Room 13 for treatment but it's actually I3 for waiting Area I. Still, it was a bit disconcerting there for a while.
Before I move on to the celebration on the Observation Deck, let me give a shout-out to the wonderful staff in the radiation department. Without fail these ladies were cheerful and always happy to see me when I came in. They made my daily trips much easier just by having a happy face greet me as I walked up to the desk for check-in.
I know the oncologists always get the most kudos but I have to say that the people doing the hard work are these ladies. They are there every day, smiling, happy to see you, and working above and beyond to make the whole experience as easy and "enjoyable" as having radiation can possibly be. I have to say I will miss these smiles every day!
After ringing the bell much more than was necessary, we said goodbye to our skype crowd and headed upstairs to the Observation Deck at MD Anderson.
We brought some goodies to eat while we enjoyed the view from the 24th floor.
Lisa H. and I got in some good catching up time. It's been 8+ years since we've seen each other.
The most amazing man on the planet! Thank you again Len for arranging such a wonderful surprise.
We got lucky--window washers showed up and provided lots of entertainment for the girls.
 
Once we got back to the apartment, Len ceremoniously cut my wristband off!
And the girls and I went for a swim after naptime!
Lisa H. is in town for the weekend so we will have more time to catch up with each other before we all head home, she back to Louisiana and us back to Chicago. We had a nice dinner of mushroom pasta and some salad.
 My supper was accompanied by my wine glass full of supplements as usual.
And finally, thank you to everyone who has emailed, texted and facebook messaged me today. I haven't had the chance to respond to everyone yet but do know that your support, thoughts and prayers have meant a lot to both Len and me. We are thankful beyond measure for such wonderful friends.

And I'm still grinning.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The Oncology Diet

I discovered a hidden world today. The world of fresh food, whole grains, vegetarian offerings (other than salad), and virtually no lines. Yes, I discovered the Lantern Cafe at MD Anderson. This is where primarily staff and doctors eat. Certainly, patients can eat here (I did) but only if they know it exists. I've been here almost 2 months and only heard of it today when I met up with Lucy R. for lunch.

What was on the menu? Veggie lasagne, eggplant parmesan, Asian chicken (non fried), brown rice, a pretty kick-ass salad bar, freshly made sushi, and roasted root veggies with pesto. I chose the rice and root veggies which had walnuts for protein and some green tea.
 Guess how much it cost? $3.18. 

Notice the lack of wheel-chair bound people?
This is such a far cry from what is offered to patients at MD Anderson. I have been to two of the main eateries offered to patients and their caregivers and the results were pretty dismal. The salad bar was pretty much the only fresh and healthy fare to be had and even that was pretty sparse. What was available were hamburgers, fries, pizza, chickfila (more fried food), and some overcooked veggies and protein entree. Nothing vegetarian, no green tea. But by golly you can have a danish and every known soda created.

I cringe when I see people so sick they are being pushed through the crowds in a wheelchair, their IV bag following behind, with a tray of fried and sugary food devoid of nutrients sitting on their laps. Contrast this with the fit and healthy doctors over at The Lantern Cafe which even advertises Cooking Light at their entryway. What do the doctors know that we, the patients, don't? Perhaps seeing cancer every single day, how it ravages the body and soul and how, even after 50-60+ years of the cancer fighting trifecta (surgery, chemo, radiation) at their fingertips, cancer is still projected to affect 1 in 2 men and 1 in 3 women, killing 1 in 4 (this according to last month's Newsweek).

Perhaps we should do as the oncologists DO and not just what they say. And patients should demand better treatment, not just from their doctors, but from the hospital itself. I think it is pretty damn close to criminal to offer such fare (without an equal number of healthy alternatives) to people who need as many nutrients as they can get in order to fight for their lives. In effect, they are guaranteeing their continued business.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Galveston

We woke up Sunday and decided it was a good day to drive the  hour or so to Galveston. We loaded up and headed for Moody Gardens which is just the oddest conglomeration of activities I have ever seen. Looming large over the water are three pyramids that house the main attractions: an aquarium, a rainforest and a discovery-type place which has ride-on theatre experiences. There is also a spa/resort, a water park with beach and a paddlewheel boat cruise.

We started off our adventures in the aquarium. I must say I was impressed. Having been to the Chicago aquarium, this one has a lot more closeup viewing with more impressive displays of sea life both above and below water level. Part of the joy was found in the absolute barrenness of crowds...there just was no one there today! Apparently yesterday was jam-packed and then today everybody was heading home. It was amazing. No lines, no waiting for a turn to see the displays. It was awesome. Have I mentioned how much I hate crowds?

We got there right as the seals were finishing up a snack so got a good view of them right up close.
 The penguins were a bit far away on the land but you could see them swimming from here and also in a viewing area one floor down.
 Up close with a turtle.
 Hands on to touch pencil sea urchins and starfish.
 Lucy almost got banned because she wouldn't stop splashing....
 She finally got the message after we made her sit a turn out.
 In the shark cage.
Shark overhead in the giant water tunnel.
 Taking a nap with two nurse sharks.
 Silly frogs.
 Some parrots and turtles in the rainforest.
 It smelled in here too according to our tender-nosed daughter.
 A really large lizard.
 And just some monkeys hanging out with absolutely no barrier between us and them. It's a pretty cool place and I would highly recommend it to anyone traveling to Galveston or Houston!
Next up was a short cruise on the paddlewheel boat. 
 You can see just a bit of the pyramids in the background.
Unfortunately, the boat horn was really loud which scared the bejeebers out of Lucy. We ended up moving to the highest level of the boat and she buried her face in me. We've had a few instances of this in the past few weeks. She is more easily spooked than usual which is not surprising given the circumstances. Before Len came back we were at the zoo and decided to watch a short 4D movie of Polar Express. I so did not expect what happened next. Kate was riveted, completely transfixed by the movie. Lucy, on the other hand, was scared out of her mind and ended up buried in my chest the whole time. Fortunately, we tried again today, this time with just a 3D movie (so it didn't have the physical aspect like water misting or chairs moving, etc) of ocean life. She started out scared by ended up turned around and reaching out to the dolphins and fish swimming right in front of her face!
 
Happy Nana!
 Ice cream made everything better!
 Even for Lucy!
 Fortified with snacks, the girls started to explore the boat.
And to check out the other boats in the water.
 Here's the boat we were on.
 There was a really nice play area right near the dock so we let the girls run off a little steam before heading back to the car for the drive home. I know I've mentioned it before but Lucy's climbing ability never fails to amaze me. She seems to innately know where to place her feet and hands to scale up and then climb back down most anything.
After only one time of me spotting her on these, she was flying across them as if she had been doing it for months.
You get a better perspective here of how far off the ground she is. You should also know that each disk moves and swings as you are standing on it so you not only must be coordinated enough to hang on and balance onto one as you reach for the next.
As we were driving home, we realized we were going to get home about 1/2 hour past our normal suppertime. Rather than face the empty stomach meltdowns of two over-tired toddlers, we pulled into a cracker barrel for supper. Kate was immediately mesmerized by the "jumping game"...just not the way it was intended. She took great delight in lining up all the pieces.
We got home in time to Facetime with Ms. Julie before heading into the bath and reading some books before bed.

Tomorrow starts my last week of radiation! Only 5 more treatments left. We are still planning to leave Houston on December 4, a week from this Tuesday. It will be good to get home but I must say, I've had a much better time here than I had anticipated, especially with the warm weather. The 40-50 degree temperature difference will be quite a shock I'm afraid!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Thanksgiving Weekend

I know the weekend is not quite over but here's a rundown of the past few days. Melissa invited us over to her family's house for Thanksgiving dinner. They live out in the Woodlands so we got a small tour outside of Houston proper. I completely forgot to take any photos of the food or of the entire group gathered to eat or even of Melissa! Suffice to say that the food and company were so good that all was momentarily forgotten. I did manage to snap a few random photos but most were of their dog, Annie, being hounded by Lucy whose quest for canine affection continues unabated.
 
Melissa's sister, Meredith, trying to protect Annie from the vice grip of Lucy.
 Poor dog.
 
 Kate finally decided to see what all the fuss was about. She was pretty unimpressed.
Friday night we got tickets for the Zoo Lights. We got there around 6:30pm and spent a little over an hour walking through the lighted maze they had set up. Most of the areas were off-limits (I'm assuming so the animals could sleep) but the lights were pretty and the girls loved being out at night.
 
Another stinky part of the zoo....
Finally a picture with all of us!
 
 
 
 They had a lot of fake animals to make up for the real, sleeping animals! This wasn't at all confusing to the girls who kept asking why they weren't moving...
 Very intent on playing the drums.
This was pretty cool--they lit up the rocks in the chimpanzee area.
 Yes, my shoulders hurt after this adventure...I knew you were thinking that. Thank goodness for the oncology massage I had scheduled!

 
It was difficult to see this sleeping lion as the area inside was dark but with a little photo manipulation I was able to light it enough to see that he was sleeping on his back with his legs in the air.
Saturday morning we went out for brunch courtesy of Papa and Meme who sent us a gift card for Canopy. We got there a bit early to avoid the hard-core (i.e. non-kid) brunch crowd. In fact, we were the only people with children in tow. Fortunately, our girls are quite used to eating out so were well-mannered throughout the hour + we were there.

Lucy, more-so than Kate, really gets involved with coloring.
My breakfast consisted of a bloody mary (hey, I'm almost through with radiation and it does have veggies as its base...), crabcakes and fried green tomatoes.
 
My breakfast also came with eggs and since I don't eat eggs it worked out well for the girls. We just supplemented their eggs with a yogurt/granola/fruit parfait and they were quite happy as you can tell by the almost empty plates.
We got some chocolate croissants to go...
Thanks Dad and Gloria for the brunch...good choice for a restaurant!

Although we have long passed Halloween, our girls are still recounting the events of that night and finding new uses for the grocery bags we are amassing.

BOO!

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