Allergies? Cold? Allergies? Cold?

Feet First | 5

Not where I planned on spending my Sunday. And it was gorgeous outside.

24 hours after feeling the first inklings, it's official. It's a cold.

Thankfully I have the day off tomorrow. (It's JD's first day of school and mom is taking her.) That means I can rest up and beat this thing quickly. This cold has a deadline and it's next Monday.

Down the Mighty North Shore Channel

North Shore Channel

In the hundreds of times I've crossed the "river" that is Evanston's North Shore Channel, I've never seen a boat this large on the water. The channel is commonly used by kayakers and rowing teams at practice.

This barge, motoring down the waterway, was loaded with branches pruned from the trees along the water's edge. It never occurred to me that they have to maintain the trees here just as they do on the city streets. The boat caught my eye when it was far off in the distance and I did a double take. In just a few minutes, it covered the distance and passed underneath the bridge.

Happy Labor Day Weekend All!

Labor Day Weekend

I'll be spending a lot of time here. Three Cubs games in six days. Believe me, I did not plan it this way, just luck of the draw. There are worse places to spend the last official days of summer. Especially when you're sitting five rows behind home plate.  😀

I'm very delinquent on the old blog here and have much to post but lately I've just not had the time, energy and/or inclination to do so. I've been busy with this, that and the other thing, including a freelance gig bug-testing a website, so blogging has been slight. Apologies. I'm sure when the weather turns cold, I'll be back at it in force. I have many book reviews to catch up on and I don't want to leave them until the end of the year, traditionally my time to play catch up before I compile my annual reading list.

Also, I'm looking forward to starting a new daily project that I'll unveil on the blog next week. Nothing major, just a little creative spark to get me blogging more regularly and have some fun.


A Blech No Energy Kinda Day

Hello all.

I have a million post-worthy things to put up on the blog–five books waiting to review, not to mention post-surgery status updates, some photos and this-that-and-the-other-thing–but I just don’t have it in me. I’ve been fighting a cold all week and while I had the upper hand earlier, today it seems to have sucked all the energy out of me.

I’d like to blame it on the weather (low pressure system?) coming our way; more t-storms are set to roll into town this afternoon, but whatever it is, I don’t even have the energy to sit in front of the computer for thirty minutes and compose a half-way decent entry. I’m just happy this didn’t happen yesterday, when I had tickets for one of CSO’s amazing Beethoven concerts. (Fidelio overture, Symphony’s 8 and 5.) An incredible night.

Strangely, this is the first time in my entire month-plus of recovery that I’ve been physically, dog tired. And all from a common cold. Figures.

Have a wonderful weekend all! I hope to be back and blogging strong soon.

Back on the Boat

Wilson Avenue water intake station, Lake Michigan

Yesterday was my first day back on the boat, almost exactly one month to the day after my surgery and I’m pretty pleased with that. I played the part of a North Shore lady of leisure on board since I couldn’t do anything other than fold a sail cover and wrap a few lines at the end of the day. Everything on a sailboat involves some sort of pulling, twisting, lifting, and stretching, so I just sat there and drank a beer, enjoying the sun, the water and the Chicago skyline.

Actually, I wasn’t such a slacker. I did skipper the boat for the second half of our sail, which when conditions are right, is far easier than driving a car. Out and back to the Wilson crib a few times (about two miles off shore) we only tacked a handful of times and then all I had to do was turn the wheel while everyone else did the hard work. My kind of sailing. 🙂

Later, friends came over for dinner; nothing fancy, brats on the grill and side dishes from our favorite deli, Piatto Pronto. By the time they went home, I was pooped. My day had started early, at the farmers market. Today will be spent resting up. I have a 450-page book about Sir Richard Burton’s adventures to keep me occupied, cramming for next week’s book club.

I hope you’re all enjoying your holiday weekend!

Sometimes My Computer Makes Me Want to Hurl (It Through a Window)

For some unknown reason, the book and calendar projects that I had in my iPhoto program (created last December) have disappeared. A slight amount of panic was followed by a sick feeling as I discovered that the Time Machine backup program has not backed up iPhoto as I thought it was. This means the books I created about JD for her 3rd birthday are gone gone gone and I'm p-i-s-s-e-d. Folks wanted to order copies of them and now what little $$$ I would have made off this labor of love will be completely eaten up by my having to recreate these projects.

Like I have time for this now.

And after all that, it still doesn't explain how they went missing in the first place. I'm just sick about it. If my attempt to retrieve them from the cloud doesn't work, I'll make a last ditch call to Apple to find out if they can be of any help. But I'm not holding my breath.

And none of this is what I intended to blog about in the first place. I meant to say hello, I'm back, safe and sound from our sailing adventure. We had a fantastic time challenged by stronger-than-usual winds and lots of waves. The weather altered our itinerary a bit but the nice thing about sailing down there is you can be flexible and find another beautiful spot to drop anchor no matter where the wind takes you.

I took about 800 photos that I'll get to in who knows when and I shot a lot more video than last time, so that will be fun to play with in the coming months. All in all, it was a relaxing and wonderful time, filled with wind, sun, the call of laughing gulls, the splash of pelicans diving for fish, the gentle (and not so gentle) roll of the tide, and gorgeous sunsets painting tall clouds as they floated by from east to west over the ocean.

These are images that will carry me through the coming weeks and months.

You Know It’s Not A Good Sign When Your Doctor Calls While He’s On Vacation


So, a few weeks ago, as I was taking a walk along the lake while JD was in school, I absentmindedly answered a call on my cell phone and everything changed in an instant. Sounds trite, but that’s what it felt like. On the morning of March 15th, I got out of the car one person and thirty minutes later, I got back in as someone with cancer.

Yep, I got the call no one wants to get. I knew instantly when I heard my doctor’s voice on the other end of the line, and knowing that he was on vacation that week, I knew this couldn’t be good news. It wasn’t. The biopsy performed three days earlier had come back positive. I had breast cancer.

This was the first of a series of phone calls I would take in the next two weeks, each progressively grimmer as I got one piece of news after another, results that were simultaneously shocking and yet not. After all, I come from a family with a three-generation history of breast cancer so a tiny bit of me has always felt it was just a matter of time.

Now, before I go any further, let me stop my tale to say I’m going to be fine. Just fine. The cancer has been caught early, very early and it doesn’t appear to be a particularly aggressive variety. I feel fine now and had no indication that anything was wrong. I went in for a routine annual mammogram (the shiny new digital variety) and after a follow-up mammogram to examine a suspicious area, a stereotactic biopsy was ordered which resulted in the diagnosis.

I won’t go through a blow-by-blow account of the past few weeks but will cut to this point in time and briefly how I got to the decision I have made regarding my treatment. Directly after the diagnosis, one of the first tests ordered was the BRCA genetic test. (Mutations in the genes BRCA1 and 2 indicate an increased risk for breast and ovarian cancer.)

I also had an MRI of both breasts. The genetic test came back positive for the BRCA2 mutation, which I was disappointed but not surprised to learn. The MRI, however, threw me for an unexpected loop when it showed something in the other breast and another (uncomfortable) biopsy was ordered. This I did not see coming. Coupled with a pair of tests focusing on the ovaries, I was more than a bit unsettled to say the least until those results were known. (Very thankfully, the ovarian tests came back negative.)

I learned to hate and dread Mondays, as each of the last three Mondays in March brought disappointing news from my doctor. This past Monday, I learned that the biopsy on the left breast shows pre-cancerous cells present, an even earlier incarnation, but cancer none-the-less. Based on that fact, coupled with the positive result on my gene test, the surgeon (as well as my primary physician) recommended that I have a double mastectomy with reconstructive surgery.

This was something I’d initially thought I’d be able to avoid, so this latest news hit hard and Monday night, as the reality sunk in, I began for the first time to feel truly overwhelmed. Curious as I was to know what all was involved in the surgery and what the recovery time was like, I made the classic mistake of turning to the internet. I knew it was a stupid thing to do, but I did it anyway and succeeded in thoroughly freaking myself out when I stumbled upon a message board that scared the shit out of me. Dumb dumb dumb.

For the first time in two weeks, I broke down and just lost it. So, in a way, going down the internet house of horrors served as a great release. I had a first-class, A-1 cry and the next morning, I woke up feeling battered, but better.

Progressively, as the week has gone on, I’ve felt stronger, calmer, and more confident as I came to my decision to have the more radical surgery. Though the cancer in me is slow growing, these past few weeks have been difficult and the thought of dealing with it now, only to potentially face a recurrence years down the road, seems too great a risk for me.

I feel very lucky that my cancer was caught so early, before it even had a chance to develop into a lump that I could feel. My doctor is optimistic that at this early stage, the cancer hasn’t spread to the lymph nodes, which would preclude me from having to go through chemotherapy. No small thing, that. Not only will the bilateral mastectomy take care of my current cancer, it will drop my risk from a 60% (though at this point really 100%) chance to virtually nil. Given my personal history, my sister’s recent bout with breast cancer, and the three relations on my father’s side of the family who have all battled breast cancer, that risk is just not something I’m comfortable living with.

Last night I talked to two generous women who spoke with me about their experiences going through this surgery. (One of them was a woman my age who also carries the gene mutation and it was particularly encouraging to talk with her about all aspects of her decisions, and life afterward.) After my evening spent on the phone with them, the last bit of apprehension and fear of the unknown surrounding recovery and life after surgery was gone.

All this week, I’d been coming to this decision, and now that I’ve made it, I feel a great sense of peace and calm. I know these next few months will be hard, an experience unlike any I’ve ever had to endure. I’ve never had major surgery nor personally faced a life-threatening situation and I’m actually curious to know how I will handle it. My father died of a brain tumor in 1994, and up until the end he was fighting and holding on. He lasted months longer than the doctors gave him (it was a very aggressive tumor) and all along he faced it with a humor and spirit that inspires me to this day. I often wondered how I would react under similar circumstances.

I now have an opportunity to find out. My situation is nowhere near as dire as Dad’s was as I’m fully confident I will make a complete recovery, 100% cancer (and risk) free. When I go into surgery on April 22 (after my vacation, thank God) I will take with me the courage, unfailing good humor, encouragement, and strength of family and good friends who have already rallied in force.

As things progress, I will continue to regularly update the blog as well as Tweet thoughts and experiences along the way. Updating you will serve as an outlet for me. Months and years from now, I will be able to look back on these pages to see how far I’ve come and witness that I made it through. Just fine.

Happy New 2010!

Just an excuse to post another photo from my quick trip by Lake Michigan yesterday. Even on a cold, overcast winter’s day, the colors by the lake were gorgeous. And in winter, especially when there’s snow on the ground, you can’t beat the stark contrast of the dark tree silhouettes. I love it.

Do you see the two dark specks in the snow between the two large trees? Those are squirrels caught in a game of chase across the snow. They were having a grand old time on the last day of the year, racing into the next. I hope everyone is enjoying their first day of 2010.

Happy New Year!

Lake Michigan on the last day of 2009

A belated happy holidays and wishes for good health and happiness to all in the new year!

While blogging has been scarce around these parts lately, I hope to get back in the groove soon. Lord knows (at least for the immediate future) I’ll have the time for it. Let me take this opportunity, as we launch into the 20-teens, to thank those of you who visit this blog. Your readership and comradeship in the ether is very much appreciated.

Now, I’m off to the kitchen to whip up an onion pie and break out the champagne glasses. I have friends coming over soon and I’m eager to get started on 2010.

Cheers all!