Monday, August 20, 2018

Thoughts and art on the journey, homage to the people

Not too far to walk

Here is a glimpse of my next wood engraving, work in progress. With the main lines and elements laid out, now I get to bring forth the light and character of the piece. Keep working.
One of my reference photos
somewhere in the desert...

Drawing on the block with my
engraving arsenal on the right

I was going to call this piece "promised land" but being a realist I understand there is no such thing in life. All we have is our respective journeys and our feet. Once the walk begins, there is no place that is too far to walk if we just have the stubborn inclination to keep walking. The light guides us, surrounded aloft and afoot by prickly, sharp, hard and biting things, we bear all, we move onward to the destination, distant yet attainable and somehow irrelevant. Walking the journey is life, one step at a time.
How is this related to my cancer journey? In every way...in every way...keep working.

BTW "Not too far to walk" is a a song by John Huling, largely unknown master flutist who publishes most inspiring native nature revering Southwest music.

Meanwhile back at the Cancer Center...

After a milestone week in which I swam my first full mile since the snake bit me, I am feeling as good as can be. Grateful, always grateful that I am able to live a new-normal life so fully.
My trusty Garmin stats
first full mile!

Another thing to be thankful for,
someone built this old pool exactly to
100th of a mile!
100 laps = 1 mile

So today I got to visit my friends at the blood-letting lab and the oncology office. I get a visit with the lab techs, always hard working and professional. I get to visit with a budding medical student on a residency rather than with my oncologist, he is also very cheery, nice and professional and I like that he does his homework on my case before uttering some words related to my steady state. He will make a fine doctor.
And I am in a steady state, cancer tumor markers are steady and perhaps a bit down from last month, blood work shows better recovery from the poison pill during recovery week. No more pain, no more rashes, no more digestive troubles (as long as I eat berries), no fatigue other than perhaps a tinsy bit tired at the end of the chemo cycle. All is well.
Then I see my scheduler, who mentioned the shock at seeing people "disappear" after a few visits. She can't get used to that and I am reminded that these folks behind the phones and the reception counters and the needles, behind the scales and blood pressure cuffs and stethoscopes...these people are very much human. Perhaps they don't have the deadly disease but they feel it, just as much as everyone else.

My hat off to them today, thank you for all you do.

Friday, August 10, 2018

Wait, WHAT?!

Insurance notes

And oh let me just start by saying that I LOVE my insurance and all that it pays for and how quick and wonderful they are and am totally amazed that I am still under their tender loving care. Having said that, July will be heretofore known as SHOCK MONTH!!!

So if you know how insurance works, and I barely do, there is a mysterious and rather humongous "deductible" that I never really worried about prior to my rattlesnake bite (cancer, please see first post and name of blog and...where was I?...) Ooooh yeah, insurance reset month, aka SHOCK MONTH is upon us, that month when the deductible, the family deductible, and the out of pocket expenses amounts all reset to zero and you have to start spending in order to save later. Never in my life did I think I would get near those huge deductibles and out of pocket expenses. Well...butter me up and call me a biscuit! Here we are...
One of my favorite artists, Edvard Munch "The Scream"

If you recall, I got a PET scan last month, that puppy's so-called "co-pay" was $950... co-pay...wonder what the test actually costs. But never mind that! That was actually easy and painless.

Fast forward to August, month after SHOCK MONTH, heretofore known as WAIT, WHAT??-MONTH. Yeah, my very first month of palbociclib, the horrible/wonderful drug that is slowly but surely strangling the deadly rattlesnake, without the deductible. I think I mentioned before that this marvel substance costs $11,585 per month or roughly $566.61 per pill. YOOOAUOUCH!

So now it is WAIT-WHAT?? MONTH and I just ordered my next dosage at the tune of $2385 co-pay. CO-FRIGGIN'-PAY!!! Wait, what? There goes that vacation in the Florida Keys...sigh. I went to the drug-ordering website and sat helplessly staring at my "shopping cart," then I went away, then I came back, then I cried a little, then the shopping cart crashed. I ended up talking to a very nice lady who kindly completed my order. Even she cried a little.

I think I'll sell that stupid cat that ate one of my pills last week, she won't get a job. Too bad, she could probably keep an entire household free of crickets, roaches and scorpions. Anyone? ANYONE???
Another favorite, Vincent VanGogh and everything he does

Sigh...
Well, good news is my deductible is met in one "convenient" payment of $2385 plus the $950 for last month's PET.

All in jest, really, very grateful for health insurance. Just thought I would point out some of the unexpected expenses of owning and operating a live rattlesnake inside your bones.

Monday, August 6, 2018

Cycle number 7 just another month in paradise and a cat story

"Normal" again

A bit scary to slip back into my new routine, no PET scans planned, no major events, no expectations...I'm beginning to understand now. These modern days, cancer is being managed as if it were not the deadliest scariest disease that has stricken humankind. "Managed" as if it were diabetes, I am told. "Managed" as if it were high cholesterol, hypertension or any of the other "manageable" lifestyle diseases.
Except of course it isn't a lifestyle disease, oh how I wish it were. How many times I have wished that I brought this upon myself and a strict regimen of diet, exercise and a harmless medication would be enough to "manage" and perhaps eradicate the disease. Nope, it is still cancer, it is still inside my body, a little over here, a little over there...invisible still, unpredictable still. Manageable, they tell me, a whole different kind of scary.
I started a new engraving, called The Promised Land, shows a few bumps on the road to the light, here is the block with my drawing and my arsenal of engraving tools.
The promised land, an engraving in the works
might as well make art while the energy level is low

Cycle 7

So I'm managing my seventh cycle of palbociclib, the deadly poison that is killing the deadly disease. Aahhh, that's too depressing, let me try again: So I'm managing my seventh cycle of Don Quijote pills like the champ I am!
I know what to expect now. Nothing the first week. Curiously my blood values were just about normal before I started since I took that long (long!) two-week break from medication. I was proud of myself for rallying up my white blood cells to resemble any other 58 year old healthy woman out there. Second week brings a bit of fatigue and low blood counts, third week I'm just counting the days until the last pill so I can recover. I get the sniffles, sometimes a bit of a temperature, I sleep a lot! I still haven't had to shave my legs, a blessing, really, but my head hair seems to be healthy as ever.

Also curiously, the first bloodletting showed a bit less lowering of the values than previously. Oh there is hope. And eagerly awaiting my second bloodletting values, which will be posted on my account tomorrow sometime. I write them on my calendar now so I can see at a glance how my blood reacts to the poison. And of course, I wish upon the cancer cells the same fate as my Neutrophils, which are most horribly affected by the mysterious substance.

Damn cat...

Hazelnut, the cat in question, looking very guilty
Speaking of mysterious substances, funny story...
I gather my pill from the organizer box that I swore I would never use in my lifetime. This particular organizer box has 21 days in one color and 7 days in another color so I always know which day of the cycle I'm on. Also no fear of taking more than 21 pills and not "resting" the other 7 days.
Anyhow, I usually prepare dinner, go get my pills and set them on the table on my napkin. I forgot a fork so I went back to get one and when I got back to the table....AAAAAAGH!!! horror of horrors one of my cats had cracked the capsule open and yellow powder was spilled everywhere, including on her mouth fur.
The palbociclib pill says not to get it on your skin! skin! the damn cat ate half the capsule!!! Of course we rush her to the vet in a panic and put her through some horrific detox cycle which includes vomiting and charcoal and bloodletting and a night of observation.
Of course the stupid cat is okay but our wallets get hit with not only the $566 pill wasted but another $501 of vet bill. Bring her back in seven days for another blood count, yeah, that's going to happen...
Sheesh, will the fun never stop?!

So what's up with the rattlesnake?

Monday November 27 2017 Rattlesnake story There I was...surrounded by ferocious diamondback rattlesnakes hissing and rattling and slith...