Thursday, September 30, 2010


Well, PHOOEY…The best “F” word I can come up with now. I had such a wonderful time with my daughter and her family, AND her husband’s family these past few weeks, and I know I’ll be ready to share all the sweets on that later, but right now I’m “PH-n” grumpy. I know blogging right now is more like BLARFING, but if I can’t be honest here, where can I be? I guess I feel like my body is making my life a little prickly right now.

Hubby is out on a biological survey right now, and I’d normally be in creative mode, but I’m having a hard time concentrating with these flippin’ side effects.

NOTE WARNING: The following paragraphs contain details of symptoms which MAY set off the stomachs of some queasy folks (Renee, this might mean you!...I’m coughing, and it’s icky.) I share the following information 1) In order to hopefully help anyone else dealing with chemo or lung, (or other cancers), 2) to help my friends understand why I am laying a little low right now, and 3) so they can admire me for being so brave…oh, just kidding, but SEE…blogging is helping restore my humor already.

READ on, or skip forward to where you see: “SAFE TO READ FROM HERE!”

NO, thank goodness I’m NOT nauseous. But, crap, this year I’ve had so many digestive and breathing issues. Something in my body has changed, possibly the lining of my stomach and lungs, but I have to be SO careful about the quantity and mixtures of food I eat, otherwise, I spend the evening like I am tonight, CONSTANTLY salivating (for over 6 hours now), belching, coughing (including some blood), and spitting so I don’t swallow a bunch of gas by repeatedly swallowing. Not being able to eat as much or as frequently as I'd need to or like to is frustrating...I'm trying NOT to lose any more weight!

The coughing up of blood is something that has been occurring for maybe 6 months, and I’ve been through various tests to determine the source, with no conclusive answers. The cancer isn’t growing, according to the scans. One possibility for the bleeding is that the chemo is attacking the “infected tissue.” I mean, I look pretty healthy, ‘tho my stamina doth sucketh. (I joined some friends on-stage at a performance recently, and I could either sing or I could dance along, but I couldn’t move AND sing! Also, I was able to play ping-pong with my daughter and granddaughters recently (short rallies), but chasing the ball REALLY took it out of me.)

I know you’d rather see a photo of my daughter or granddaughter, but I’d better get permission before going there!

Anyway, the coughing up of blood issue waxes and wanes, usually subject to treatment, but this last time it didn’t clear up before my next chemo, so I started at a disadvantage. What this means is that I sleep with a pile of about 5 or 6 pillows, and usually only on my left side. This has been the standard for MONTHS. Sleeping on my right side or back generally generates coughing. Sometimes (like last night), I have to sleep in the recliner.

Also, the coughing and spitting isn’t limited to night-time, and sometimes it’s almost spasmodic. I carry a jar/spittoon around, and I’m very self-conscious about grossing people out. The coughing, spitting, and congestion sometimes can make it VERY difficult to talk.

“SAFE TO READ FROM HERE!”Between being self-conscious and having problems breathing/talking, I find myself getting a bit behind on my communications. I try to talk to my daughters and granddaughters when I can, of course, but sometimes that’s the only phone call I make during the day. I grab the time when my body decides to go along with my wishes.
So say a little prayer for my patience and my body…I KNOW this will pass, it has before, but I’m sure uncomfortable now. (I haven’t been able to paint or journal right now, and I’m working on a special video project for a friend, so nothing but photos to share for now.)

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Creative Enlightenment, 101

My hair is growing back, though a bit more slowly on top, and baby-fine! I asked my friend to take pics of me this weekend. This is just one of a few nice shots she got.

I continue to follow the ebb and flow of my 3-week chemo schedule. I’m about mid-way through, feeling pretty decent, and knowing I’ll be feeling better as I approach my next treatment. It’s just wonderful to have my energy back—-to have time to feather the nest AND indulge in creativity. All the better, as I excitedly await the arrival of my older daughter, and her family, including my 2 granddaughters. Since they all live in Hawaii, I only get to see them twice a year. Yes-yes--I know, "Hawaii is a great place to visit family", but I’d rather be able to see my granddaughters every week!

Creatively, (and otherwise) I tend to work on multiple projects at each sitting, doing one step on one project, setting it aside and picking up another, and another. (It’s part of my personal “style” in other areas, and maybe not very productive!) Dream Garden was a project I started months ago, and it wasn’t working for me. After enjoying the effects of adding a MUCH larger image bit to “Pet Your Sunflowers”, I tried the same approach by adding the magazine cut-out of pink flowers flowing from the top. It helped immensely, but I was ready to move on. I’ve committed myself to posting my progressive work on my blog, so after adding a little verse to the piece, I pronounce it “complete” and am ready to turn the page of my journal.

Sleepless in Del Dios” was also started months ago when I was having nightly sleep issues. It started with doodling on black gesso, where it languished for many weeks, as I looked at the project and found NOTHING else to inspire, until I found an ad for a prescription sleep aid. Then-more waiting for inspiration, until I found the shimmering flower image from a card I’d received, followed by the tissue. Again, I consider this more of a learning experience (as in “a page of the same doodle is more cohesive than a bunch of random ones”).

I’ve wanted to delve more into digital art and use my scanner. I was THRILLED when I bought my HP ScanJet for a dollar at a local garage sale, but then found I was disappointed with the image quality when scanning 300 dpi JPEGs. While reviewing a 2005 issue of “Cloth, Paper, Scissors” (anyone else find inspiration in that publication?) I found the recommendation to scan images in as 600 dpi .tif files.

What an improvement! So now, instead of photographing my work, I’m scanning it in! AND I went back to a reference book from my Photoshop class to straighten out one of the images that had scanned crookedly! AND, while I was reviewing my class notes, I also experimented with creating a line drawing from a photographic image. Oh, yeah, AND I learned how to use my images in text to create my new banner (above: “HalfRaven.”) I am obviously easily pleased, and sense that I’ll be testing out many new techniques for working with my photos and scanned images.

I stumbled upon this link a couple of weeks back. The artist’s name is Ben Heine, and he calls his work “Pencil vs. Camera.” I’ve NEVER seen anything like this, and I sure wish I was talented enough with pen or pencil to try and emulate it, but I DO find it inspiring. I know you will too!

"There is not one blade of grass, there is not one color in this world that is not intended to make us rejoice" John Calvin

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Of family and facials…

I’m slowly emerging from my chemo cocoon, having spent most of the extended weekend in bed. Monday, I was able to wield the broom upon our entry, which was more pleasurable than it might sound. The lake glinted silver and blue, the birds swooped and dove, and a hint of fall sent me in for another layer before continuing with my chore. I rewarded myself after my half-hour workout by sitting in the sun watching the holiday boaters, letting the breeze provide the perfect balance to the sun’s warmth. In spite of (or because of) my energetic start to the day, I found myself ready for a 2-hour nap before noon.

After snoozing, I was eager to start catching up on the lost hours from the previous days, but I knew I needed to pace myself. I called my Mom-in-law before heading to the market. Gloria is an active 87-year old, who still kicks butt on the pool table. (That’s her pool cue in its case in the back seat of her car.) She regularly exercises her expertise in worrying about “us kids,” so I find myself cautiously navigating the conversational waters regarding my cancer. I personally find the level of worry interesting, for one of “the faithful,” but it is a comforting thought to know she’s praying for us every evening.

Monday’s conversation was upbeat and somehow we landed on the topic of pampering ourselves, via massage, pedicures and other body treatments. I’ve been spoiled in that the only massages I’ve had have been in-home. Currently, neither massage nor pedicure costs are expenses I spring for, but it’s hardly a hardship.

One treatment we both pondered over is the facial. Call me a dinosaur, but what’s the big deal about facials? Even when my income was decent, I couldn’t get myself revved up to plop down $100+ to have someone massage stuff on my face, especially when I have a masseuse who can do my whole body for less than that. I mean, how many nerve endings are there in my face, and how long can the “facial high” last? I’m still holding the gift certificate one sweetly-intentioned friend gave me 2 years ago for a “chemical peel!” I know they don’t use battery acid, but this doesn’t sound like anything I would want to do to any part of my body, let alone my face. Of course, someone with a cupboard full of brown rice and quinoa is probably not likely to do anything to themselves that has the word “chemical” so obviously involved.

At any rate, it was a sweet conversation, bonding with Gloria. (I’ve only been married to her son for a little over 2 years.) I lost my Mom last February 20th (2009)…less than 2 days later, Gloria lost her husband, Willie, of 50+ years. My Mom had been suffering from Alzheimer’s, but her trip down what was expected to be a long, slow path was halted by a stroke. Willie’s passing was not unexpected, as he’d been suffering from congestive heart failure for several years. Nevertheless, last year was a tough one for Gloria.

So, it was heart-warming to capture this moment last June, 4 months after the passing of my father-in-law. My brother-and-sis-in-law like to add a little friendly competition to our gatherings, via the game of “washers.” Everyone has their own style, and Gloria’s funny-bone was certainly tickled by the delivery of my sis-in-law’s sister, Lollie. I can’t watch this video without smiling!

Back to Monday evening, where I treated myself to a personal massage of my legs and feet, using only essential oils and 100% natural lotion (all recognizable ingredients) while viewing “national treasures” on ANTIQUES ROADSHOW. The older I get, the simpler my simple pleasures get.

Finally, I’d like to share another artistically inspiring link. Susan Tuttle’s images require no words. I’m MUCH more tempted to spend $130 on her “Visual Poetry” (digital alteration) workshops than on a facial!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Update on my lung cancer treatment

As promised (or threatened) I’m temporarily (for today) switching my blog post back to the subject of my original posts…the status of my lung cancer. While I’ve tried to avoid making my life all about my cancer, I do want to keep my friends updated as to the results of treatment. I’ve enjoyed delving into new artistic pursuits, and it’s been a lovely experience being able to share this with you. It helps me take my mind off some of the more difficult aspects of my cancer.

When unpleasant side effects of cancer or treatment take control of my body, it can be difficult to stay positive. The last few days have been like that. I’ve noticed an increase in pain and pressure in my back and side…issues that previously arose last winter (2009)after 10 months of treatment…which ended up being indicators that the cancer was back, after receiving a clean scan in late October.

Extreme congestion, coughing and shortness of breath have recently severely impacted my ability to sleep, to get the rest I need, to refresh through sleep, that most welcome respite from these stresses. Being tired hurts the spirit. It makes it too easy to not worry about the future.

When we talked to the oncologist last month, we were told that I would likely switch off of my current treatment after my next scan, which occurred last week. Eight treatments of Taxotere is about the max that most folks can handle, and I’ve just completed eight. The side effects become cumulatively worse, and the med becomes less effective.

We (my husband and I) were pleasantly surprised to hear yesterday that my cancer is mostly stable, with a bit less metabolic activity (showing a slight reduction in cancerous activity.) So, we jointly made the decision to continue on with the next 2treatments of Taxotere, which will make a total of 10 treatments. I had my 9th treatment today, which means I’ll be out of it for about 4-5 days, beginning this Friday.

During those down-days, my activities consist of the bare minimum: living in my PJs, and basically only sleeping and eating (OK, and toilet activities, of course.) My appetite seems to hold steady, amazingly, considering I’m not really burning any calories. I sleep, get up to eat, then go back to bed or to the recliner. I’m realizing that my attempts to downplay the impact on my life, (calling it a mini-vacation) have made it difficult for friends to realize how this impacts the usually energetic person that they know. Sometimes, even holding a book or watching a movie is more that I can handle. It IS an interesting experience for someone who has always been so active, but it does pass.

I sometimes have weird food cravings; last time it was Corn Flakes, which I haven’t purchased in YEARS! I’ve also craved canned chili and grilled ham and cheese. Who knows what it will be this time!

Anyway, the basic news is the cancerous activity is very slightly reduced, but considered to be holding steady. I can appreciate that! Funny, how not having the energy to do housework REALLY makes me appreciate doing housework when I come out on the other side of the chemo funk! Looking forward to some serious dusting come Tuesday!

Bring it on!