Dear Family, Friends, and Diary,
This is a catch-up diary, not because anything significant has happened, but because it hasn't. The last diary covered one of our worst weeks and I am happy to report two-and-a-half subsequent dull weeks.
On the weekend after our "bad week", Marianne had a show of sorts. We had hung some of her work on the walls of the Toca Madeira Winery tasting room and the winery was hosting a big chocolate and wine festival. While the artist was still too puny to host her display, John-the-Sherpa did check that everything was hung correctly. Everything was OK, but no sales yet. We really do not expect much in the way of sales from folks concentrating too much on sipping wine and munching chocolate.
The next week passed completely peacefully. I managed to re-start my gym routine and Marianne sampled her gym, Zumba, and yoga routines. By mid-week, she was even back in the art studio, trying out some new techniques. The work-in-progress on the right was worked and worked, but never met the artists standards so, by now, it has been covered in white. That's the way with painting, sometimes its lifetime is pretty short.
On the weekend, we had visitors. Tom and Kate took the Saturday train down from Emeryville for an overnight and the next day's small memorial lunch for Magdalena. The old Santa Fe station is pretty cute, even if it is hardly ever busy, and meeting travelers is easy: no parking problem or lines or security; walk directly to the train. Of course the best part was an evening with family and the fun of catching up.
On Sunday, we held a small memorial for Marianne's mom Magdalena. Invitees included Tom and Kate and Fresno friends who had not been able to make the burial in Monterey last month. Memorials are lighter as time goes by, but memories remain. (especially the recorded ones.)
Way too soon, we were putting family back on the train, vowing to get together more often, not waiting for memorials or graduations or weddings. We will.
My big experience the next week was responding to a Fresno County Superior Court jury summons. Over the years, I have hardly ever received a jury summons and I had never actually had to show up at a courthouse.
It was an interesting process. At 8:30am, 150 potential jurors were assembled and welcomed with thanks for doing our civil duty, one that no one volunteered for. From that pool, two groups of about 50 were called out and sent to courtrooms. The good news was that I missed the cut. The bad news was that those of us that were left over were given a long lunch break and told to come back at 1:45.
After lunch and 6,000 steps walking around town, I was back in the assembly room, now with even more potential panelists. This time, 100 candidate jurors were selected, including me. (I knew from seeing the court schedule that this was a murder trial, hence the large candidate pool.) We walked over to Judge Gottleib's courtroom, received numbers to keep us anonymous, and waited nervously.
There were more thank-you-for-your-service words and then the judge got down to the day's business: hearing any request for hardship excuse from service. We were told the trial would last at least ten days and Gottleib warned that an excuse from this trial might mean a longer one later.
"Hardship" was defined narrowly and he asked us to hold up our number card if we thought it applied to us. Up until now, I had resolved to do my civic duty, but thinking about Marianne going in for her final chemo on exactly the day the trial would start made me reconsider. I held up #34 and made my case, explaining the overlap in Marianne's schedule and the trial. At that moment, I REALLY did not want to serve, and it showed. Judge Gottleib excused me for 60 days.
So, on Friday, February 21st, I was able to drive Marianne to Kaiser for her last chemo infusion. She managed a smile.
With the iv still dripping, we had a consultation with Dr. Box, her oncologist. We discussed "the bad week" and the interaction of cancer treatment and heart pacing difficulties. The official word was still that there was no connection, just coincidence. Whatever, we just want it all over.
Dr. Box introduced us to the next treatment stage, radiation. She again told us that this was just precautionary, in case some cancer cells escaped from the original lump and hung around. The plan called for three or four weeks of chemo recovery and then about three weeks of state-of-the-art radiation. Few side effects. As for more detailed explanations, those would come from an as-yet-unassigned radiation oncologist.
Our oncologist then discussed the care stage after radiation: five years of "hormone therapy", where estrogen would be suppressed, since Marianne's cancer is a type that "feeds" on the female hormone. Potential side effects can be complicated, but not generally too extreme. Box explained that it is not unlike the experience with teenage boys, when male hormones dominate. Anger management can become a thing, especially in the first couple of months. I don't suppose this is more tunnel, just possibly shade. Doable.
Writing this a few days after infusion #4, I have to say Marianne is doing well. (Knock on wood.) On Sunday, after a blood cell-booster shot at Kaiser, we headed to Irene's, a small restaurant in our neighborhood that we had heard was serving gumbo, jambalaya, and bread pudding. The pudding was the highlight.
Unplanned (by us), there was also a Mardi Gras parade about to start. We hung around, remarking again about our Tower neighborhood. Colorful.
Scene and Announcers
Neighbors Blain and Hazel
Floats - Mostly Bars and Restaurants - Tower mainstays.
Our plan for the rest of February is ... nothing. On Saturday and Sunday of "first chemo week" things were looking good, great even. Monday reversed that and Tuesday hit even harder. Darn. She is forced to draw solace from the three other "first chemo weeks" and the recognition that the second week has always been better and the third week is pretty much back-to-normal. We can't help but think of survivors who have many more than four infusions of the chemo poisons.
My therapy is photography, yard photography since that's the farthest from our patient I'm comfortable with. Below we have a row of our flowering plum, some gardenias, a little rust, and three gee-gaw decorations, all in the evening light.
As for Marianne's first week after her last Friday infusion, it's been mixed bag. Saturday and Sunday were good, Monday blah, and Tuesday pretty bad. The afternoon appointment for a shot of bone marrow booster got extended for a bag of saline to counter dehydration. One more IV, a three-try one this time. Wednesday did not behave much better. Thursday was not worse, maybe a little better.
Friday, the day we were originally scheduled for a dinner with neighbors at The Kitchen in Sacramento, she could see she was shaking the chemo side effects. Nevertheless,we could tell it had been a good decision to pass on our first Michelin-starred restaurant. After that, Saturday was even better and, on Sunday, she felt like the bad stuff was behind her. Great.
On Tuesday, we head over for Ava's birthday and start a few days of local travel.
John and Marianne