Saturday, August 6, 2011

Blame Garry!

One of my good buddies, Garry, stoked my ego yesterday by telling me I didn’t post to my blog often enough. The rest of you needn’t worry, I told him that, as honored as I am by his opinion, I don’t intend to bore the rest of you with more frequent blathering. (More on Garry & his lovely wife, later.)

But, as timing would have it, it’s time for a health/treatment update. And, since I simply can NOT stand dry and droll cancer-talk, I’ll close by sharing some SWEET news and products of my creative endeavors. (The one above gives you an idea.)

The six months of major indigestion I endured since December wound down in June after discontinuation of 2 of the chemo meds, those that I received through my port.

After 2 months of treatment by Tarceva pill only, I was due for my PET scan, which I underwent this past Tuesday. I’ve been taking the smallest dose possible, 25 mg. of Tarceva, as I’ve struggled to combat side effects of medications.

Unfortunately, at about the same time that the indigestion ended, I began experiencing more pain, mostly in my right back and side. I began taking Extra-strength Tylenol during my Hawaii visit, but by the time I returned home toward the end of June, I was concerned about the frequency with which I had to treat the pain. Additionally, I began experiencing nausea in the morning. Ibuprofen controls pain for me better than acetaminophen, but I must REALLY watch my intake, because it can induce or increase bleeding, which has already been an issue with the fluid I’m draining via my catheter. (Did I put that delicately enough?)

After a few weeks on Tylenol and occasional Ibuprofen, I reached a day when neither the nausea nor pain would respond to Tylenol or Ibuprofen. As noon came and went, with me unable to eat, I reluctantly broke out my bottle of Vicodin. Within an hour, both pain and nausea were gone, and I was able to eat my breakfast, at around 1:30 PM. I somewhat reluctantly added daily Vicodin to the med regimen. After about a week, I made appointments with both my oncologist and pulmonary specialist.

In the meantime--I began experiencing a PROFOUND lack of appetite. I’d manage to eat breakfast, but had to force myself to eat lunch or dinner, usually not both. I’d serve myself the smallest of portions, and still only be able to consume ½ of that.

My oncologist assured me that I was medicating myself appropriately to manage my pain until I was able to get in for my scheduled PET scan. We didn’t really discuss, at that point, what to do about my appetite. We had no idea as to whether the pain was related to the cancer or possible scar tissue, especially in the area of my drainage catheter. I had him examine the increasing lumps and bumps developing under the skin by my ribs on the right side. He thought they might be either scar tissue or increased cancer growth.

My pulmonary doc reviewed the Xray he ordered, and felt that there didn’t seem to be anything out of the ordinary.

It wasn’t until about a week ago (a week before my scan) that the light bulb finally went on regarding the loss of appetite. I awoke feeling less pain than usual, and skipped my morning dose of Vicodin. That afternoon, I noticed an increase in my appetite. An internet search confirmed that Vicodin can interfere with appetite. Since then, I’ve tried cutting the doses in half, but I have struggled to find that happy medium between pain management and appetite.

Teaser for creative update at end:

Fast forward to yesterday’s follow-up to my PET scan. The increase in pain had me expecting very bad news about my health status. My weigh-in didn’t help, as I found I had dropped under 100 pounds…98, meaning I’ve lost 19 pounds since diagnosis.

The PET scan revealed very mild disease progression. The Tarceva, even at the lowest dose, is working. So the plan is to gradually increase the dose, as my body allows, to hopefully let the Tarceva do its thing. The progression is in the area where I’ve had increased pain.

The more immediate issue was to find a remedy for the loss of appetite. Rather than trying to find a new method of pain control, my oncologist suggested an aid to stimulate appetite. He prescribed Marinol, a cannabis derivative. Of course, I asked my doc about potential side effects, and he said some dancing in the streets was reported. I clarified that I was only interested in ADVERSE side effects. Another option would have been some sort of steroid, but the marinol seems to be the most natural option.

Boy, am I pleased with it so far! After filling the Rx, we returned home where I took my first dose as I was preparing lunch. I was thrilled to be hungry enough for a second serving! I had similar good results with my evening dose, not only finishing my dinner, but having room for a Vanilla Ice Cream Drumstick. NOW, I think we are on to something.

While I celebrated my double-serving of lunch, I reviewed the information sheet provided with my Rx. Hmmm….Potential side effects include red eyes, dry mouth, feeling “high”, an exaggerated sense of well-being. Well, I could certainly use a sense of well-being, as I’ve been wallowing in discouragement with increasing frequency these days. My first dose did seem to make me feel pretty darned good—in fact, while I THOUGHT I was ready for my afternoon nap, I found myself relaxed and happy, but NOT tired!! It appears that these side effects diminish as the body adjusts to the dosage…dang!! My night dose did not seem to provide the same sensations, but I’m elated to see my appetite return!

On other fronts: I got some VERY HAPPY news a little over a week ago—My older daughter and her family of 5 (total, including her!) are moving back to San Diego County on August 25! My son-in-law has found work here, which will enable them to establish residency. He’d like to study diesel mechanics at Palomar College, but must have established residency for at least a year to avoid paying non-residence fees. So, I’ll have my grandkids an hour’s drive away, instead of across an ocean!

I’ve been enjoying (immensely!) a 5-week online class on art journaling given by Pam Carriker. The images posted today are all products of that class. I’ve completed 2 pages so far. My favorite part of this process is painting. Although these pages are painted with acrylics, the use of a baby wipe to blend creates a washed look, similar to a watercolor. I’m also enjoying experimenting with new tools including a woodless graphite pencil, glazing medium, and watercolor pencils. I can’t wait to test the new techniques on a larger surface. OK, Lindy…maybe I’ll have some art for the school sooner rather than later!

Oh, and with that message to another friend, I’m reminded that I want to share the website for my friend Garry, who encourages me to blog more. Garry’s lovely wife Cherrie is also his partner with their Glass Ranch Studio. Their home studio grounds encompass their hillside garden retreat, where they have a gallery and glass blowing structure. They hold semi-annual art shows, as noted on their site. Their shows are an awesome opportunity to stroll their grounds, strewn with artistically placed glass “discards” and hung with a lovely assortment of garden art. If you find you’re inspired by Cherrie’s glass jewelry, you can buy a piece or two AND/OR sign up to take one of her classes.
Check out their website
…and then go do some creatin’ of your own!

Friday, July 15, 2011

Getting my hands “DIRTY”

Hopefully absence makes the heart grow fonder. But, I date myself with that quote. OK, well, then: Have you missed me?

As usual, life conspires to get in the way of all the “To Dos” on my list. Somehow, I think I’m managing a half-way decent job of balancing housework, paperwork, art, friendship, family and health. I WOULD prefer to allocate a smaller slice of time to health, but that’s not possible at this point. I may PLAN to vacuum the bedroom AND dust the living room, get one thing done, and find that some side effect or loss of energy sends me to bed for restoration. I must appreciate that THAT is an option. And my husband repeatedly tells me how much he likes just having me home. It’s sweet.

Last time I wrote, I was in Hawaii, awaiting the arrival of my newest grandchild, a little guy who made his appearance on June 8. Bradley, is OF COURSE, adorable! I’m thankful Skype enables me to see Bradley and his family in between trips. Of course, a few pictures have been exchanged, but it’s not the same as hearing their little voices and seeing them in action. It may be another 6 months before I get to hold them again.
As wonderful as it was to spend time with the family, it was AWESOME to come home. One month was just too long; I missed my husband and my home. I know there are many people who live for their vacations, for that destination. I’m glad I’m not one of them…that I have a home I love to come home to, which I prefer to the destinations! I wish my family lived closer, but Hawaii isn’t for everyone. And since I was unable to swim in my private pool (due to my catheter), and the overly-abundant mosquitoes kept me indoors too frequently, Hawaii as a vacation spot didn’t happen for me this time. A few friendly folks (wise guys?) suggested that I could at least dip my feet in the ocean. What the hell kind of pleasure is that supposed to be?? The rest of me would be fried in the tropical sun, but I could wet my toes?! Oh, boy, oh boy!! Thanks, but there’s a beach a half-hour from my home, and all my art supplies are here!

…which leads me back home, to my newest passion, or at least one of them!
I signed on months ago to participate in a 3-day art retreat. I’ve never treated myself to anything like this, and anticipated it excitedly. The 3 artist-teachers have previously taught this class in Paris! It was hosted right here in Del Dios, less than a mile away. I knew Renee, the artist at whose home the class was given, but had only admired the work of the other 2 artists, Pam Carriker & Lisa Bebi, from a distance, via magazines and online. To see them teamed up was a persuasive temptation!

The retreat was 7 hours daily, Monday—Wednesday. It was fantastic to learn new techniques, observe the different teaching styles, AND get treated to lunches prepared by one of the teachers each day! Unfortunately, I wasn’t feeling well for part of each day, as I continued to deal with digestive issues that made me uncomfortable enough to consider skipping classes twice! I did find that once I arrived, immersion in creativity distracted me from discomfort!

During the retreat, I was reminded of how slowly I process new information. It reminded me of a dance class I took in college, where I got frustrated to the point of tears, as everyone else seemed able to pick up the routine, and move forward. I know I tend to OVERTHINK things, which doesn’t always work in my favor creatively. At art retreat, it seemed I was always the last to complete a project, I know: It wasn’t a competition!

During the workshop, I was reminded of another issue with my creative approach: I’ve tended to rely on “the TOOLS” to apply paints and glues, and avoid getting my hands dirty! I tried to make a point of getting some paint on a finger or 2, but I began considering a 12-step program to work through it! Kinda crazy, since I’ve done my fair share of ROUGH camping. On a few Baja kayaking trips, (only about 10-15 years ago) the fresh water was saved for drinking, so all bathing was in salt water. On one of those trips, I lived without my hairbrush for over 10 days, since I’d mistakenly left it at home. This was back when I had LONG hair…so you can imagine what the combination of salt-water and no hairbrush did!

The avoidance of getting my hands dirty has carried over into my gardening. Up until recently, I gardened with gloves on, and NOT just when I was working with thorny plants. Recently, I’ve made an effort to leave the gloves inside, to connect with plants, weeds, and dirt.

One of the techniques I learned involved making a 3D “portrait” using a Styrofoam wig-head. I enjoyed this lesson so much more than I thought I would, tho’ I went home with an unfinished project. Everyone else's portrait was more complete. Oh well!
(Mine is on the top left.) They're all so different!

This week, I made use of the techniques to begin re-finishing a water-crock stand (for bottled water.) I started out with torn newspaper, and initially thought I was going to dress it up with images of morning glories. I fondly recall a splash of them spilling down a bank of the property next door to where I grew up, but have never grown any myself. As I was attaching the bits of newspaper, the earth-tones directed me to consider a different color scheme. I’ve toyed with the idea of trying trompe l'oeil (fool the eye) painting, but, since I’ve never done it, it scares me. I’d be over-thinking this project until my daughters are grandparents. So, I’ll let this project evolve, and avoid planning out too much.
AND, I found that the easiest way to work out air bubbles when I’m gluing paper is to USE MY FINGERTIPS. I started really getting into it! Periodically, I’d take a break to peel off layers of gel medium/glue, as it inhibited my ability to feel what I was doing. What now looks like a skin condition is proof that I’m in recovery from my “dirty-hands” phobia!

I squoze (past-tense of squeeze, which OBVIOUSLY should be a word) in another hour or two a week ago to move a couple of other projects forward. They were languishing, but I think I like where they are headed! I just love my collection of tissue paper!

Oh, yeah, and tomorrow I start a 5 week on-line art retreat, given by Pam Carriker…one of the artists who taught at the art retreat. She’s the one who presented the 3D portrait lesson. You can check out her work here. In a prior blog post, I referred readers to the site for Lisa Bebi, who taught her awesome paint-over technique. In case you’ve not visited her site before, you’ll find it here. While I don’t believe Renee Richetts, who taught cold-water paper making and hinged metal books, has a website, she does have a blog, which you can view here.

Gotta go create!!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

A little aloha with treatment update on the side

Aloha from the Big Island of Hawaii!

It’s Wednesday--I arrived here in Kona this past Saturday afternoon, where I was met at the airport by both daughters as well as my two granddaughters. I’m making the transition to Hawaii-time (a 3-hour difference) much more easily than I expected.

Thanks to perfect planning by both Lauren’s mother-in-law, Jan as well as her friend, Brook I was finally attend a shower for my daughter. Previously, distance and timing had meant that I missed the showers. Oh, yeah…and after the first baby shower, I guess it’s called a “sprinkle.”

I can’t remember the last time I played baby shower games, and the 3 we played were new to me. I wish I taken a photo of the babies we all made from (unchewed) bubble gum! Lauren’s MIL gave her the baby quilt that had been used by Lauren’s husband, as well as his father. It’s not only special because of that history, but it’s still in near-perfect condition. It’s gorgeous, huh?

We are now in a holding pattern as we await the arrival of my 3rd grandchild and 1st grandson. Little Bradley is due June 5, and I’m scheduled to return home on June 6, so I’m cutting it close. However, Lauren’s doc reports that she’s dilated about 3 cm., and she doesn’t expect the baby to wait another week. After suffering from some nasty indigestion my first 2 afternoons here, my tummy has settled down, so I’m hoping THAT won’t be any issue for my attending the delivery.

I intended to send out a treatment update a few days prior to leaving California, but it was good that I didn’t, because there were some last-minute changes.

So, here goes: You may recall I took a 10-day break from Tarceva, during which time my stomach distress cleared up. After going back on a reduced dose of Tarceva a few weeks back, the indigestion gradually reappeared, not only causing discomfort, but making me skip meals AND lose more weight.

While we had hoped I could tolerate the lower dose (combined with my other 2 chemo meds.), it appeared that I wasn’t able to handle that combo. So, I made the decision to discontinue the Tarceva, and give the other 2 chemos the chance to do their thing.

When I went in for my scan last week, the oncologist reported that my cancer was stable—no progression, but no improvement in the fight to beat it back. We discussed the options: Stay on the 2-chemo treatment, switch to a combination I used the first year, try a clinical trial, or try Tarceva alone. Since we knew SOMETHING in the 3-chemo treatment exhibited improvement in my first scan, we decided to opt for trying Tarceva alone.

Just to clarify-- it’s been my assumption, all along, that the issue is NOT the Tarceva per se, but the combination of meds: Carboplatin + Abraxane + Tarceva. The Tarceva is known to have the potential for causing stomach distress, but I’ve assumed that combining it with other chemo-treatments was what pushed my situation over the edge.

What’s interesting is that although I’ve been off the Tarceva for 10 days, I’m STILL experiencing stomach distress, which isn’t at all what I expected. All this time, we’ve suspected the Tarceva as the main cause, but I’m now starting to wonder if the Carbo or Abraxane (or combo of both) has been more problematic than we guessed. I was treated with Carbo/Abraxane 3 days before leaving California. I guess we’ll know more when I start treating with Tarceva alone on June 8.

In the meantime, I’m taking a 2-week break from treatment, and my body appreciates the respite. Of course, we don’t want to let the cancer get the wrong ideas, so I just consider this a chance to gear up for battle!

Aaarghhhhh---I so tired of thinking about, talking about, writing about cancer and my treatment. Thank goodness for the sweet distractions of being here in Hawaii, enjoying the family and absorbing the sensations of Hawaiian sounds and scents. The local doves have such a memorably distinctive coo.

Now, I’m going to get out my colored pencils, and PLAY, while I wait for my little munchkins to visit!

Friday, May 6, 2011

Only Art—3 projects

There’s no sense in getting bogged down in too many words…I just checked in to share some completed projects!

“Dream with Your Eyes Open”
took a LONG time to finish, because there is a hidden project underneath that just wasn’t working for me. Since it had pictures of my grandkids, I tortured myself about covering up the images…but it just didn’t work ARTISTICALLY. (I’m working on a replacement project.)

On the other hand “Decisions, Decisions”
was completed quite quickly, and I’m just as happy with the final “product.” Oh, that they would all flow so easily!

“Drawing without an eraser”
is my first completed digital piece (not including the goofy Photoshop picture of me!) I’ve still got a lot to learn, but the process is grand fun!
Digital supplies were from DeviantScrap and ScrapGirls.

Enough playing for me…kitchen chores beckon!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Short and simple: Art, animals, and answers

Can I rise to the challenge of keeping this short and simple? Probably not, but I’ll try.

I took a wee bit of time this week to finish this art project. There’s not much to the technique, so I’ll fancy it up and call it a color study. It took some time to grow on me, but I’m kinda, sorta mostly satisfied with it…I’m positive, I think. It’s mostly acrylics, with pens (gel, metallic & Pitt Brush Pens), and papers.
I’ve got a few other creative projects on the back burners which I’ve been playing with---I mean educating myself about---digital scrapbooking and Photoshop, thanks to my dear digital friend Electra! More to come.

Since we don’t have pets, I stroke my animal instincts with the local wildlife. We have all kinds of birds in the area (thank you Lake Hodges), which we love, except when they eat our lizards. I never was afraid of reptiles as a girl, which is fortunate, since I’m now married to a herpetologist. Maybe I’m taking that too much too heart? Anyone got a tiny collar?

On the medical front: I’ve made my decision about the Tarceva. This was probably THE toughest decision I’ve had to make in the 2 & ½ years I’ve been in treatment…and I STILL wasn’t certain when I talked to my oncologist at 6 PM last night. I was leaning more toward staying off the Tarceva; it has been heavenly to be able to eat what I want with less concern of side effects…and not listen to that damn-ding-dong alarm all day telling me when to stick something in my mouth. However, when the doc pointed out the logic behind the three-fold chemo attack, I decided to continue on. The thinking is that if one chemo only “kills” 99 out of 100 cancer cells, with one resistant cell behind…that’s all it takes for the cancer to come back. A 3-pronged attack gives less opportunity for a resistant cell to slip through…each chemo works differently, and hopefully NOTHING slips through the triple whammy.

I was happy to hear that his plan is to have me start out at 25 mg. EVERY OTHER DAY, as opposed to the what I thought would be 25 mg./day. (I was previously taking 50 mg./day.) Today is the first day; I’m crossing my fingers!

I’d better get…much to do, but at least dishwashing isn't on today's agenda. Hubby and I are celebrating our 3rd anniversary tonight and will slip out for some sushi before returning home to watch a video. Love those simple pleasures.

I have to share a moment of sweet marital communication…direct from our bed. We had some pillow talk about “Tom Swifties.” This was the result of listening to a podcast of “A Way with Words” earlier in the day. Tom Swifties, are adverbial puns, that make most people groan; they make me giggle. An example would be, “’We’re out of toothpaste,’ Tom said, crestfallen.”

At day's end, we couldn’t quite recall what the puns were called, even after a bit of discussion. You know how things come to you, unbidden, in the middle of the night? Fortunately, just as the answer arrived, hubby returned from a trip to the loo. As he tucked himself back in he heard me murmur: “Tom Swifties.” No explanation was required for him to utter his 2-word agreement...and, so, with 4 words uttered in the middle of the night, we completed a conversation started hours before. See what simple pleasures you singles miss out on?

If you’d like to torture others with Tom Swifties, you’ll find more at

It's NOT hard to find something in life to smile at.

Monday, April 18, 2011


Time to tap out a few notes, since friends are writing to ask if I’m OK. Hey, I’m just trying to be a good girl, stay on track, keep my life in balance and stay active, instead of unfolding myself from my chair after I discover that 4 hours have passed while I am web-wandering.

OK, I’ll let myself indulge periodically, as with the Photoshop lessons I’ve been toying with, but that’s really about education, right? Don't I look more scholarly?

The quick answer to the question of how I am is “Fine,” but it’s been a long dang year, this one. To call this daily pain & distress that I’ve been experiencing for 4 months INDIGESTION, just doesn’t feel accurate. It’s frustrating to have hours eaten up by The Daily Dyspepsia as I try to find comfort in the recliner, especially since I’ve given up foods I love (and which I know are good for me) to try and maintain some sense of comfort.

Try to imagine eating like this for 4 months: NO onions, garlic, tomatoes, citrus, caffeine (including green tea) or bananas. That means NO Mexican or Italian food, and where do you get soup that isn’t made with onions and/or garlic? (Who would want to eat THAT?) Potlucks are no fun, and it’s pretty much impossible to meet anyone out for meals or eat at their homes. It might be more worth it, if this eliminated my symptoms, but that is not the case.

At my doctor’s recommendation, I’ve tried numerous treatments and prescriptions to combat the pain, which has only gotten worse, AND caused me to skip too many meals, loosing additional weight. The size 2 jeans I had to buy a few months back are now baggy. None of the 3 meds I’ve been taking can be taken together, and they are supposed to be taken an hour before and 2 hours after meals, so I’ve set up spreadsheets and timers beginning at 6 am to tell me when to take meds and when it’s ok to eat.

The culprit for this issue is evidently the Tarceva pill I take…one of 3 chemo treatments I’m on now. I get the other 2 meds via my port, weekly.

After reading about the side effects from Tarceva, I was concerned, but my doc felt combining chemos was the best approach, even tho’ it has meant fighting a losing battle with my insurance company. This combination treatment is NOT FDA approved…in fact: published data states that Tarceva should NOT be combined with other meds, but my doc says that’s based on OLD studies. After 4 appeals, my insurance company’s FINAL answer to covering this combination treatment is “NO.” However, we have managed to get support from the pharmaceutical companies, and so I can continue taking (enduring?) this treatment.

I know you’all love me, but I ask that you not to join the gripe-group ready to take aim at the insurance company. My personal feeling is that our culture has come to feel that insurance companies should pay for any and all treatment, even if there is insufficient evidence to prove its effectiveness without doubt. YES…I got a scan that showed that SOMETHING is going right…but I have no way of knowing whether it’s one of the meds, 2 of them, or all 3. I’ve told my friends that I want to trust that what should happen, will, and if I need to discontinue some part of this treatment, it’s because that’s how it’s supposed to happen.

What I’ve found is that this combination has caused me increasing pain and the loss of valuable weight and stamina.

Even worse: I discovered this week that patients who are on the combination of Tarceva and a “taxane-based” chemo (which I am) are at increased risk for gastrointestinal perforation…including fatalities.” (Emphasis mine.) I already knew that there was a chance of gastrointestinal perforation with Tarceva use, but had somehow never stumbled on the issue of elevated risk for this combination therapy…and my oncologist had never mentioned it.

I discovered this after my husband questioned whether I could be getting an ulcer. I had been awakened by pain at 2:00 AM, and managed to get only minor relief by the morning. Dinner and breakfast portions were tiny, as I could not comfortably eat.

I called my oncologist, and the upshot is that I am taking a break from the Tarceva. I thought it would take me a week or 2 to get my gut to settle down, but within 2 days, I’d seen substantial improvement. Today is Monday…I took my last Tarceva pill last Wednesday…and last night I ate tacos (with salsa and my garlic-laced Spanish Rice.) I had more Mexican food for breakfast. Heavenly! Oh, and I’ve been able to cut back on the meds I’ve been taking for stomach upset. I hadn’t realized just how stressful it had been to have the timer going off all day to tell me when to stick something in my mouth, until I didn’t have to do that!!

But, now, I need to make a serious decision. The doc wants to talk after one week off the Tarceva to see whether to go back on it at a reduced dose (25 mg. instead of 50 mg. which I’ve been taking.) My original dose was 150 mg., but we’ve had to reduce the dose due to side effects, and it seems that STILL hasn’t been enough. I’m confused, and have no idea as to the best plan of attack.

I’m scared to go back on the Tarceva at all…a gastrointestinal perforation normally comes on suddenly…dang…I don’t want the chemo to kill me! But my doctor thinks this might be the best shot at getting the cancer. Since it’s a non-standard treatment, I’m not finding much in the way of data to help in the decision-making process.

I don’t want to be driven by impatience at wanting to get back to eating normal food. It’s not just childish selfishness that causes me to want to stamp my feet when I want to eat what others are eating, but there’s a bit of that there. but then again: Is my digestive tract trying to warn me?

So send out some “good decision” vibes…I’ll need them!

I don’t want to make this too long, so I’ll close with a few images. One thing my cancer has given me is time to join hands with my muse. I’ve previously been too impatient to want to practice sketching…I want to be good at it without trying. You must wonder what kind of example I set for my daughters…

So, I’m trying, and still learning…and am led to believe that practice might NOT be so painful, after all.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Cancer and Creativity

Normally, I follow a possibly abnormal self-imposed rule to make my posts EITHER about creative pursuits OR about cancer, and that WAS my intent. I’ve been FIRED UP creatively lately, though I’ve not had enough to time to indulge. I did however manage to finish a couple of projects last month, and it was my intent to share those projects, but dang it, I had a PET scan in the middle of trying to complete my blog. I know my friends will lovingly hound me if I don’t give a report…so here goes:

After 3 months of treatment (described in my January 14 post), I had my first PET scan, after which, I received good news! There was decreased size and activity in the cancerous nodules, as well as in nodules which had appeared in my left lung (a new site, as prior activity had been on the right.) The new nodules in my left lung (over 20, at last count) had previously been considered non-cancerous, but the fact that they responded to the chemo indicates they were either cancerous or pre-cancerous. The report also indicates that there is improvement in of the hydropneumothorax…which is a mixture of fluid and air in the pleura (the lining around my right lung.) I still have the chest catheter in place, but am crossing my fingers that continued improvement will mean that this can be yanked out one day soon!

Unfortunately, I am in a new battle…with my insurance company. The 3-fold chemo treatment is non-standard. One of the meds alone is standard, but combining the daily chemo pill I take with the other 2 chemos I get weekly is non-standard…not FDA approved. Well, the FDA approved treatment did NOT work for me, and this IS working. So, although coverage for this treatment has been denied twice, the last denial having been deemed “final”, the new development of measurable improvement means we can re-appeal. Send out those good vibes and prayers and hope that we prevail!

OK…on to the FUN stuff!

Seems my life is proving my theory that time is like a woman’s purse…the more time (or the bigger the purse), the more we’ll find to fill it up. It certainly seems like it should be an easy enough thing to do to find/make time to blog, but it seldom seems to work out that way.

There’s got to be a way to make the time…

My most recent solution found me trapped in a chair for 7 & ½ hours at Scripps Hospital, Encinitas, where I received a transfusion. The other option for that day was to drive up to Julian to stay with close friends, in hopes of getting snowed in. Although one might think we’d opt for that, I couldn’t quite convince my husband that reclining in the snow on the side of the road with his arms entangled in snow chains was the best way to spend a Saturday…so we opted for the transfusion. It gave my hemoglobin a boost AND gave me a chance to get most of my blog written up.

As I mentioned, I was able to finally complete a couple of art projects early last month.

“It All Comes from Within” started with a background in my favorite color of yellow, to which I added text from my collection of words and phrases, and a bit of black acrylic paint. The resulting image seemed disjointed, until I layered blue, green and yellow tissue paper swirls to create depth and movement. This is one of my husband’s favorite pieces of mine, so far. I really like working with tissue paper, and am starting to collect probably WAY more than I need.

Sometimes I’ll work, re-work and overwork a piece to get it to where it feels done (or I’m ready to give it up), which was NOT the case with “Fractured Forrest, Winter.”

It was probably one of the simplest pieces I’ve created. You know how hard it is to throw out those pretty images from calendars? That’s what started this page, as I cut into strips a serene winter scene. I laid on a little paint, winter-based text, bird image from a discarded book, and the yellow tissue moons, and called it “done.”

In the meantime, I’ve finally put my new sewing machine to good use. Until last summer, I used a Signature sewing machine, one given to me back in ’73. My little office/creative space doesn’t really have sufficient room to keep my sewing machine set up, and I swear that old machine gained weight with the passing years…it would have been easier to pick up my car, and I’d generally have to ask for help to get it (the sewing machine, not the car) out of the closet. Last summer, I saw a Brother sewing machine at Costco for $100. Light as a flea, lots of stitches I’ll never use, and a few cool features that please me. Time, and a little learning curve kept me from letting it earn its keep, but the fabric stash from my good ‘ole quilting days beckoned, and provided some inspiration to replace the pillows on our bed.

Those who quilt will understand that, in spite of a closet-full of fabrics, I found I didn’t have the right color for the background of the pillow. This sent me marching into the local quilt store (SERIOUSLY) chanting to myself “I’m only buying 1 thing, I’m only buying 1 thing.” A sales clerk with an obvious artistic eye (who started out in mixed media, including metal, before moving into textiles) turned me on to a technique I’d never seen before, called “chenilling.” It basically involves layering 4—8 layers of fabrics, stitching grids on a ½” bias, and then cutting through all but the bottom layer, before washing and drying the piece a couple of times to cause all the cut edges to fray and open...creating a piece with lots of visual movement.

I got started on that piece, but had to set it aside to start up sewing a dress for my nearly 5-year old granddaughter. (I used to sew clothing for my daughters, as well as myself, but haven’t made clothing in YEARS.) Both projects are as yet, “to be continued.”

Looking for a little creative kick? A friend turned me on to a site recently, called StumbleUpon. I set up my profile to tag various interests…they cover a WIDE range from Philosophy, Geneology, Humor, Health, Fashion, Mythology…YOU name it! Every time I go to the page, it makes recommendations about other websites I might be interested in, and I give the recommendation a “thumbs up” or a “thumbs down.”

So, (since I’m not already suffering from enough “informational overload”) I set up my profile to (OF COURSE) include “Art.” Based on this, StumbleUpon made a recommendation for Those who love color will find PLENTY to distract them from things they REALLY should be doing, like paying bills or cleaning the toilet. You’ll not only find lovely palettes AND patterns, but you can copy these patterns for use in your art projects. AND, you can design your own palettes and patterns.

I haven’t experimented with designing patterns, but have used several patterns to create greeting cards. I’ve also created a couple of palettes, and was pleased today to find that someone had created a sweet plaid pattern, which they named “Sherbert Plaid” from my palette, named “Rosy Sherbert.” And, ever-learning creature that I am, I now have discovered that the correct way to spell “sherbert” is “sherbet,” at least according to good ‘ole Spell-Check! ( DOES show it both ways!)

As luck would have it, I DO have time today to get out the paints, papers, colored pencils and other items from my creative stash…so I’ll give you’all a break for now. Go out…and create!

"I found that I could say things with color that I couldn't say in any other way-things that I had no words for." Georgia O'Keefe