Sunday, November 25, 2012

A conversation with a light bulb

I couldn't resist using that subject line but it's actually accurate.  Today I had a conversation with a light bulb.  For those who might be worried about this I should say that the conversation was one-sided.  The light bulb didn't say anything.

I try to decorate the house for Christmas on the weekend before Thanksgiving.  It helps to remind me that Christmas isn't far away and I need to kick in with other preparations.  The holiday will get away from me if I don't do the decorating right away. If I don't haul out the holly right after Thanksgiving then I just might be trying to play catch-up on December 26.

I put the electric candles in the window just before Thanksgiving. I like the way they bring a soft glow to the house. I have old window candles, some that came from my family's house and some that I bought from thrift stores years ago.  They all take a standard, 4-watt bulb. Over the years times have changed and everyone uses small Christmas light that are either tiny incandescent bulbs or LED bulbs. I was raised on lights that have the bigger Snoopy's-doghouse bulbs (which will mean something to those who watch A Charlie Brown Christmas).

OK, after all that set up, this morning I saw that one of the bulbs had burnt out.  When I looked at it I saw that it was a slightly different shape from the others.  Some of the covering was peeling too.  I realized that this was a bulb that had come from my family home. It must have been 20 or 30 years old and had been hanging on all this time.  I replaced it, as I needed to do, but I didn't want to throw it in the trash.  That seemed too dismissive. I did it, though.  As I did, I thought how that little light bulb had run its course and had been  important in a part of my life for decades. So I threw it in the trash, knowing that it had its destiny and I had mine.  Our time together was important but it had ended. So, I had a little burial-at-trash-can moment with a light bulb and I wished it well on its journey.

Just after that little non-ceremony, a friend called to tell me that his mother had died.  It was the third death of a parent among my friends in the last week.  I have experienced the loss that they feel and am, in a way, further down that path of loss and acceptance.  Holidays always bring back memories of those who have gone and to lose someone close to the holidays makes that even sadder.  I have them all in my mind, hoping that their memories will let them see sorrow from a distance and joy nearby in the days and years to come. 

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Five years today

It was five years ago today that I had the surgery to remove the tumor from my lung.  I won't get the official all-clear from the doctor until early December but I'm not expecting any surprises.  It has been a day of quiet celebration for me. I did send a message to my family today to thank them for all the support they gave me. I have tried not to talk about it aside from that.  It's enough that this day is important to me.  I don't need for it to be an event for anyone else.  But.....

Just as I wrote that last sentence I got a delivery of flowers from my sister and brother-in-law. Beautiful roses, carnations, stocks and chrysanthemums.  A mix of colors and scents.  I said that this day doesn't need to be an event for anyone but me.  Still, it's wonderful to know that it is important to others, too.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

June 2012

The sixth of the month again. It's always a special day for me.  Most of today didn't have much to recommend it.  It was a day among many others with necessary tasks at home and frantic activity at work.  It was a beautiful day, though - cool and clear with a sky filled with the sort of clouds you see in calendar photos.  I happened to look up just as I got out of the car when I got home and saw a blue heron flying overhead.  I saw herons often during the time that I was sick. That has always been reassuring to me in some way.  It was the same today. 

After the sun went down I went into the back yard and saw lightning bugs for the first time this year. They may have been sparkling back there for days or weeks but this was the first time I had spotted them.  It was good to see them there.

A heron and some lightning bugs. Not really remarkable sights I suppose, but seeing them has given me quite a lift.  There's something very comforting in seeing familiar, beautiful things.  Old friends gone for a while and back again.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

The home stretch

Six months from today I will reach my five-year point.  With the sort of tumor that I had, the odds of a recurrence are small.  Still, it will be good to see that day. It has been a life changing experience, that's for sure.  I sometimes forget that I was sick at all and other times it seems like it all happened yesterday. There were some very scary parts and some painful times, too, but what I'm remembering now is how people rallied round me. 

All of that came back to me clearly the other day. The subject of the surgery came up when I was talking to my friend Audra. She remembered coming to the hospital shortly after the surgeon had come out to tell my family that all had gone well.  She told me that she came into the waiting room to see that they were crying and hugging each other. I knew that it was a scary period for all of us but I had never imagined that moment for them. It was so wonderful to have them with me.

So, six months to go until I reach my five-year landmark. I'm looking forward to that day.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Passed my four-year follow up

I had meant to report this before now. I had my four-year follow up appointment with the surgeon in December.  There were no problems or surprises.  I have another appointment scheduled for next December which will mark my five year point. After that, I won't have to go back. I've already been released by the pulmonologist so the surgery/oncology release should be my last step.  It's amazing to think that this will all be officially over with by the end of this year. 

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Four years

This is the fourth anniversary of the day that I had the surgery to take out the lung tumor.  I haven't had my official four-year follow up doctor appointment yet but it's very unlikely that I'll get anything but a good report. 

This is a good news sort of day for me but it's a bittersweet one, too.  I spent the day at a memorial service for someone who had died earlier this year.  Troy had kidney cancer several years ago and after surgery and treatment it seemed gone for good.  It came back, though, in a way that couldn't be stopped.  Although the progression of the disease was very hard on him, he made the best of the time that was left to him. 

Earlier this week I also heard that my friend Bruce had died.  He had endured some serious health problems over many years but his death took everyone by surprise. Bruce lived out of town and I saw him last on a camping trip at the end of August.  I will remember him for his laugh, for the sparkle in his eye, and for the way he could take joy in the simplest of things. 

In contrast to these things, my brothers and their families got together at my house last night to see one of my nephews who is in the area for a few days.  It was wonderful to see them together - laughing and talking about important and unimportant things.

So, on this landmark day for me I am reminded again of how lucky I am to be surrounded by dear family and friends. I am also reminded of how lucky I have been in many other ways. I so often lose sight of that.  As I have said before - and have often failed to achieve - I will try to let the awareness of these gifts and gratitude for them guide my thoughts, attitude and actions. 

Thursday, October 6, 2011

October - some introspection and some fun

Fall weather has come as we move into October. Some crisp days are welcome after the unrelenting grey skies and rain we had in September. Soon it will be Hallowe'en and then Thanksgiving and then that headlong rush into Christmas as the year ends. This year seems to be slipping by quickly. That was brought to mind more clearly to me yesterday when I heard that Steve Jobs had died. As self-centered as it seems, news like that always hits closer to home when the person is close to you in age. He was only a few years older than I am. He truly was a person who had everything except his health. That puts things so clearly into perspective - what's important and what really is not.

I have a two new residents at the house now. One is a little bird. I think it's a sparrow but it could be a wren. He (or she) sleeps every night on the post that supports my back porch. It's hard to get a good photo. Here's my best effort.
He shows up some time around dusk and leaves as soon as it begins to get light. He's been with me for about a month now. I look for him every evening.

My other guest comes from my brother who is away from home for a little while. His dog, Lucky, is staying with me. Lucky is old now and is almost blind from cataracts. He has always been a good tracker and retriever. It's clear that his sense of smell is as good as ever. He can zero in on unattended cat food quick enough. Here are two photos of him. The first was taken when he stayed with me many years ago. He looks sad but he was having a great time. He was just waiting for me to throw a stick into the water for him to fetch for the millionth time. The second was taken this morning. Poor old guy. He is still the happy dog he has always been and loves everyone.
We're getting along just fine. It's fun to watch the cat around him. She's usually scared of dogs but she also likes to protect her territory. At first she shied away from Lucky or hissed at him when he came near. He can't see or hear her, though, and isn't interested. Now she seems annoyed at the lack of attention.

And speaking of Sam the cat, I have a video. I took a quick movie of her just to see how it would look on the TV. She has never paid attention to the TV before but she perked up when she was on the screen. She didn't recognize herself, of course, and didn't like it that some other cat had invaded her territory. I decided to post the video on YouTube - adding to the giant volume of cat videos that are already posted on the internet. Here it is. It's good to have the sound turned up so you can hear her yell at herself.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The return of old friends

I haven't posted anything here in quite a while and I decided recently that I should begin again. I'm starting back today because the sixth of the month has a significance for me. I had my lung surgery on November 6 and I hold this day of the month as a landmark - to remind myself to be grateful that everything went as well as it did.

These past few days have seen the return of some old friends. I had surprise emails from two people that I hadn't heard from in quite a while. It was delightful to reconnect and to catch up with them.

Following that theme, at my mother's house there were always datura plants growing by the driveway. They are remarkable plants that grow as perennials - dying to the ground in the winter but coming back every year as a substantial two or three foot plant. They produce beautiful night blooming flowers that have a rich scent.

I had planted some at the side of my house years ago. They thrived for a while and then faded away. I just recently found some seeds that I had saved from my mother's place. They were over ten years old. I planted many of them and nothing happened for months. Then this one plant emerged. It's now just over a foot high and flower buds appeared on it recently. Just last night the first flower opened. I could smell it before I saw it. It was, for me, the return of another old, dear friend.

Monday, December 20, 2010

A thought for the end of the year

I bought a greeting card recently when I was in New York. It has a quote from Einstein that reads,

"There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle."

I love that thought. I always lean toward the "everything is a miracle" side of things. I'm glad of that. It makes the days more enjoyable and interesting.

Whenever you read a quote like that, they never give you the source. I've come upon many "so and so once said..." quotes that are obviously foklore but people just keep passing them along. In this case, there's an excellent attribution on the wikiquote site. What I read there was much what could be expected. It seems as if Einstein said this or something like it but it's also possible that he may have been repeating something originally said by someone else. I like this thought and attributing it to Einstein gives it more punch so I'm choosing to believe that it came from him.

Monday, November 15, 2010

In touch with nature

It was a beautiful weekend. I didn't get outside as much as I had hoped. There were too many other things to do. I still had a few interesting encouters with nature. I stepped out onto my back porch just as dawn was breaking on Sunday morning to find four deer looking back at me. They were hanging around back there and seemed very unimpressed by me. Then, while we looked at each other, a big and healthy fox came bounding out of the bushes, took a route through the group of deer, and then trotted under the red maple tree and away through the neighbor's yard. The deer didn't take much notice of that either and eventually divided into two sets of two and ambled away.

My other wildlife experience was to see a blue heron again this morning down along the river as I was walking. I have been taking those walks before dawn lately and haven't seen a heron for months. They might be there but I can't spot them. This morning one was right by the bridge and flew away as I approached. It's good to know that they're still in the area.

And finally, this was the weekend for the red maple to put on a show. It's usually a tawny burgundy color but for a few brief days in autumn it becomes a brilliant, pure red. In the late afternoon light it makes an arresting sight. I took these three photos yesterday afternoon. I think these are striking but even they don't capture the experience completely.

This is such a beautiful time of year.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Three years

It's hard to believe that it could be true, but it was three years ago today that I had my surgery to remove my lung tumor. Since I started this blog to keep people posted on my progress, I can't let this day pass without mentioning it. Three years. It's difficult to remember all the details now. Some seem so recent that it could have been yesterday. Other parts of that experience feel as if they had happened long, long ago.

I was surprised today to see a flower delivery van outside the house. I was even more surprised when the flowers turned out to be for me. They came from my sister and brother-in-law. They sent them to me to celebrate this landmark day. What a glorious surprise! I'm including a photo of them below. I like typical autumn colors, of course, but for flowers I'm more partial to the brighter colors of spring and summer like these.

The cat is featured in the picture. She's very fascinated by flowers or greenery of any kind. I had to move these out of her reach.

A lot has changed for me in three years. I do notice a significant limitation in lung capacity. That's not really a surprise but I thought I might be doing better than this by now. I think the doctors were trying so hard to reassure me that I'd have sufficient lung left to get through the day that they made it sound as if I wouldn't notice a difference at all. I do have plenty of lung left. At my most recent visit to the pulmonologist, he told me that my oxygen saturation was over 95% and that I am doing well enough that i don't need ot go back to him ever again - unless some new unpleasant thing develops. I'm so glad to have made it to this point so smoothly.

This was a typically beautiful autumn day. I took the picture below from my kitchen window just a few minutes ago. I enjoy looking at that tree as the seasons pass. It stands so much higher than anything that surrounds it. That puts it at greater risk of wind and weather damage but it continues to thrive.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Assorted good news

My birthday was two days ago. I had a wonderful day filled with celebrations and well wishes. I got some good news from my doctor, too, who had sent me for an assortment of kidney function tests. They all came out fine. And today I had a visit with my pulmonologist. He said that my lung capacity has increased a little since a year ago. He said that that was probably because I had lost weight and it would increase a little more if I continue on this path - which is my plan. According to his records I am down 9 pounds since last year. That's not a lot but I only really started this campaign in August.

He also told me that my oxygen absorption rate has gone up from about 80% to 97% since last year. That was really good news to me. I still have less lung capacity than I did before - since I have less lung to work with - but it's good to know that it's working well. He told me that improvement like this is to be expected after surgery. he also told me that I seem to be where I should be at this point in the process and that I don't need to come back unless something bad - and unanticipated - comes up. I'm very happy about this. He's a very encouraging and kind man but I welcome the idea of not having to go back. One more part of this whole saga that is completed. I've been working with this doctor for three years. It's amazing to think back over that time and think of all that has happened, how much I have learned, and how my understanding of things both medical and non-medical has deepened since it all began.

I haven't tagged one of these posts as a medical update in a long time this counts as one. A happy development today.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

A walk along the river

I was out for a meeting yesterday afternoon. It ended early and I planned to head home and plow through work email for the rest of the workday. It was so beautiful outside that I put myself down for a couple of hours of vacation time instead and took a walk.
I went to the Daniels area of Patapsco State Park. It's not far from my house and I sometimes take my kayak there to paddle up the river.

On foot, my favorite route there is to take a path along a ridge that meets the river about a mile upstream and then return along the riverbank. There are several stands of tall tulip poplars along that route. They seem to do well in the hollows between the hills. On windy days, which yesterday was not, it's fun to watch them sway back and forth.

I usually come upon deer in the woods and along the river I'll sometimes see turtles or frogs and occasionally a beaver. There are always geese. I think people feed them because when you get close to them they swim out to the middle of the river but then hang around and watch you. It's late enough in the year that they wouldn't be protecting a nest so I assume they're hoping for a handout.

The light along that part of the river is always good in the late afternoon but it's best at this time of year. Yesterday evening I was there early enough that there were very few other people around. Taking those hours off was a good decision.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Early September

Well, it's early September already. This year is flying by in a way I've never experienced before. All of the signs of the coming autumn are showing themselves. When I go walking in the morning the constellation Orion is clearly visible in the sky. I go very early and at the same time each day. It's interesting to watch how Orion began close to the horizon and now it's high in the sky. This morning I started to learn the names of the stars in Orion. I'm impressed by people who can identify the stars.

It's interesting too, to see how the colors of the landscape have changed - slightly but definitely. All summer the fields and woods were almost the same shade of green. Now there are differences. There are deep greens, pale greens and yellow or brown greens. It's as if everything wants to show its individual identity before fading completely for the winter.

The animals I see in the morning are changing, too. In midsummer I see groups of deer. I've seen as many as seven at a time. Now I see mostly only solitary ones. And there are owls calling in the woods now. I see foxes regularly. That hasn't changed. They're always alone, although you can sometimes hear them barking as each other. This morning I saw one that was just playing in the grass by itself. He headed for the woods when he saw me but he wasn't in a hurry. There have been groups of ducks most of the summer huddled in a quiet, shallow spot in the river but I haven't seen them lately. It has been so dry that the river level is too low for them now.

I do see one cat in the same spot each morning. She just sits and watches me stroll by. I say hello to her every morning that we see each other. That's one of the advantages of walking very early in the morning. Nobody hears you when you're talking to a cat or a deer or a fox. And don't ask me why the fox is a he and the cat is a she. That's what feels right. I certainly don't know for sure.

In other news, I'm having a little success in the weight loss campaign. I'm down about six pounds. It's not noticeable as far as I can tell but someone did ask if I had lost weight. That gave me more motivation to stick with this. I still have a ton of weight to lose but I'm just going to chip away at it a little at a time. One plus is that I'm saving a fortune on lunches at work. It's pretty cheap to pack a lunch made up of a container of yogurt and a few rice cakes.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Second half of summer

I'm on a campaign to lose weight. I've been loading it on for the past several years a little at a time and it has finally gotten to me. I'm hoping that my enthusiasm for this will hold. Many times it hasn't. Over the weekend I spent a little time observing people and I noticed how much easier daily things are for those who are thin. I've never been thin but I've never been this heavy. It's time to kick in with a weight loss campaign. we'll see how this goes. If I am to reach my real goal weight according to all the charts, I need to lose about 50 pounds. I'd settle for 30.

We are definitely in the second half of summer now. The roadside blue and white combination of Queen Anne's lace and chicory has given over to the gold and pink of black eyed Susan, goldenrod and Joe-pye weed. It's hard to believe that we're in mid-August already.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Back to walking

With the torn Achilles tendon I had stopped taking morning walks. Even though the doctor told me that I was healed enough to go back to normal activity, I had fallen off that morning routine. I started back to it again today. It was a good morning for a walk. We had some heavy rain yesterday and it cooled down quite a lot though the night. In the pre-dawn hour, the misty air created quite a serene feeling. I saw a few deer and some foxes. At one point, two foxes ran across the road in the distance. One seemed to be chasing the other. I heard them barking a few moments after that. It's not mating season so either it was a territory battle or just a couple of chums playing around. It was interesting to see in any case.

I am going to try to stick with the morning walks now that I started again. I realize that I do some of my best thinking when I'm out early in the morning with no distractions. It's a good way to start the day.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Surgeon follow-up

I had a follow-up appointment with my surgeon today. All went well. There is always someone who does a preliminary exam and then the surgeon comes in and has a second look. They reviewed my CT scan images and report, examined and re-examined me, listened to my lungs and felt around for new tumors. At one point they asked me if I had noticed any new masses in my armpits. I said that I hadn't. Mostly I wanted to say that if I had found something I would probably have mentioned it without having to be asked. They're all very kind there. I don't think I present much of an interesting challenge for them. I'm glad of that.

I have now progressed to the point that I won't see the surgeon himself at my next appointment. I'll meet with some of the doctors on his team. They all seem remarkably competent (while being annoyingly young) so I know I'll be in good hands. So, now I'm officially documented at the two and a half year point. That's a good feeling.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Halfway there

It was two and a half years ago today that I had surgery to remove the lung tumor. They talk a lot about a five year survival rate so I'm halfway there. This is a big landmark for me but not as big as it would be for some people. My tumor was less threatening and virulent than most.

Still, I got a letter from the hospital this week inviting me to a cancer survivor event. It's hard for me to think of myself in that light. I'm grateful that things are going so well.

I'll try to make the most of this day and spend my time on the really important things. One of those things was watching the sunrise. It was beautiful this morning.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Locust flowers

The weather has been a roller coaster ride lately. We have gone from frost warnings to the mid nineties in the span of a couple of days. Sunday was hot and steamy, followed by a drenching rain overnight and cooler temperatures today. All of this came just as the black locust trees were blooming. There is another type of locust tree that grows in this area. It's the honey locust. Even with that name I can't imagine how they could smell any sweeter than the black locusts.

They are exceptionally laden with flowers this year, maybe because of the regular rains we had this spring. As the moist air cooled this evening, it was filled with the scent of the locus flowers. One of my fondest childhood memories is the smell of the locusts blooming in the woods behind our house.

This is one stage in the parade of scents that comes with spring in this area. The daffodils, hyacinths and lilacs have come and gone. Now the locusts will have a few days in the spotlight alongside the lily of the valley. They'll be followed by peonies, the roses and finally the wild honeysuckle. I love this time of year.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Trouble all around me

Back when I was sick I was the one with the biggest problem. That is so far from true now. It seems that everywhere around me people are having trouble. There are medical, legal and financial issues as well as employment and family problems. I have been trying to think of things to do to help. It's difficult to come up with anything substantial. It's frustrating to be powerless to make a real difference. I will do what I can.