The week…

So much for blogging on “at least” a monthly basis. But actually, I have been blogging! If you haven’t already, check out my new genealogy  blog. The topic is one I really enjoy reading (and writing!) about, and I think I’ll do better at keeping that blog updated, at least for awhile. Which is not to say that I plan to give up on “Writin’ Shotgun.” (I know that was a collective sigh of relief I just heard from the Internet public, now that you all know that I don’t plan on abandoning this blog… oh, wait. It was just my dad’s Chion, snoring in the doggy bed next to me.)

Henry the CHIhuahua-PapillON.

How come my dad’s Chion is in a doggy bed next to me?  Don’t worry, Daisy the Silky Terrier is alive and well (she’s in Olympia with her dad). I, too, am alive and well — but 40 miles away, in Gig Harbor, at my parents’ house. That’s because this week is the dreaded… Scans Week. Which means that, for the first time since February 2011, my oncologist ordered some “routine” scans (specifically, a chest/abdomen CT Scan and a full body bone scan) to see whether or not my cancer has progressed.

Yesterday, my wonderful mom drove me up to Seattle Cancer Care Alliance (she and Merwyn are both great about that) for the scans themselves. Tomorrow morning, I find out… the results.

I pick "anxious."

How did the tests go? Alright, I suppose. There’s nothing particularly traumatic about either of the two scans I had done. (That would be the pelvic ultrasound — a procedure I’ve only had once, and hope never to have again!) The worst part is always waiting for the pathology report.

 That said… I hate, loathe, and DESPISE that stuff they make you drink before a CT scan! I’ve had different variations of it; sometimes it’s white and milky looking (sometimes they try to give it some flavor, like berry or apple… as if that will help). Sometimes it’s called “Barium Sulfate Solution.” Yesterday, my lovely beverage looked like water and was called “Oral Contrast” — and came in this HUGE jug that I had an hour to finish. I left behind 100 ML of it (gasp) but managed to chug down the rest. It pretty much tasted like water, too…except, it was unusually thick and therefore reminded me of… I dunno, spit? Or something else just as gross. Stupid Oral Contrast!

The jug looked something like this, with the words KEEP REFRIGERATED! on the label in big red letters.

Fortunately, the actual CT scan went by very quickly. As usual, I just lay on a table and stared at the two smiley faces on the CT scan machine, while a deep man’s voice instructed me to “Breathe in — hold your breath” (doing so turned one of the faces orange and made his cheeks puff out) and then to “Breathe” (this turned the other face green; he had a “happy playface”). The whole process took maybe 10 minutes. I didn’t exactly love having to wait in a chair “for observation” for 30 minutes afterward, but at least I’d thought to bring some reading material along with me!

When that was done, my mom and I took a lunch break before my bone scan (unlike the CT scan — which required 4 hours of “fasting” — there are no dietary restrictions before a bone scan). Not that we had much choice; lunch break or no, we had to kill some time so that the radioactive stuff they’d injected into me earlier that morning could finish doing… er, whatever it does to make a bone scan effective. (For some reason, it takes 3 hours.)

But finally, an hour or so after lunch, they called me back to the bone scan room — where I got to lay strapped down on on that bed/table thing and stare at a picture of a tree on the ceiling, while my body moved verrrrry slowly through a machine that looked something like this:

Actually, I think this is an MRI machine, but they all look more or less the same. At least a bone scan is quieter than an MRI.

Those machines aren’t as intimidating as they look, by the way. I even got a nap in toward the end of the bone scan. (It was certainly a relief to be done for the day, though!)

Hey, notice how I didn’t (yet) say anything about needles? That’s because — where once upon a time, the thought of having a needle jammed into me was in my Top 5 list of biggest fears — these days, it’s such a nonevent that it barely warrants a mention. I’m not sure if this is a good thing…

Anyhow, the “technician” in the radiology lab knew her stuff, and got the needle into my vein on her first try (and it barely hurt!). I made sure to drink plenty of juice and water in the morning before I rode up to SCCA, just in case (certain liquids were “allowed”, despite the 4-hour fast). Somebody — I think my mom? — told me about that “drink water before they stick a needle in you” trick once, and it really does seem to work!

Everybody on the radiology floor was nice, and seemed to know what they were doing. This made up for the “team coordinators” (aka schedulers) at SCCA; yesterday, I had yet another encounter where a scheduler messed up. This time, she “misread [my oncologist’s] order”, which COULD have resulted in my missing both lab work and my every-3-months Zometa infusion. The Zometa is now scheduled for tomorrow — but only because I noticed it was missing on my paperwork, and asked about it. (I got the lab work done yesterday.)

All in all, it wasn’t the hugest of deals; however, it DOES make me wonder how many other orders those schedulers have “misread.” Plus, this is not remotely the first time I’ve had issues with a scheduler. At least, my onc’s current scheduler is marginally better than the one she replaced — who was notorious for her flakiness, so much so that a random person at the YSC boards knew exactly who I was talking about once when I ranted about one of her mistakes there (I said nothing that would “give her away”, either. The person just knew!)

Anyway, I like SCCA overall (and am definitely pleased with my oncologist) but their “team coordinators” sure could use some improvement!

That about covers yesterday.

As for tomorrow… I mean, today (just noticed that it’s past midnight!) I don’t have much to say about it. I don’t really believe in things like “jinxing”; however, I want to be careful about expecting either the worst or the best. I know what my “gut” tells me the pathology will say. But that’s the thing about cancer. There’s just no way to predict. Stupid cancer.

Finally… all things considered, my “scanxiety” hasn’t been as bad this time around as in previous years. Sure, I’m a little nervous (who wouldn’t be?) but I’ve done a pretty good job these past few weeks distracting myself with genealogy, trips to Poulsbo (Merwyn and I enjoyed a day in Washington state’s own “Little Norway” this past weekend!), and books and pets and comfort food… and sushi! (Thanks, Mom!)

With that, I’ll leave you with a picture of Herbie the Papillon/Shih Tzu. Who needs scanxiety when you have THIS face to peer at?

 

January Recap

I’m not going to worry about style or skill this time, for it’s already 10:39 PM and I only have one hour and 21 minutes to fulfill my goal of posting at least two blog entries per month. Granted, this post will make the bare minimum, but … better two than one (or none!).

 

  • Starting right off with some hardcore drama! We have these “Indian meal moths” that keep flying around our laundry room and kitchen. Occasionally they venture into the living room, and once one of them tried to be bold and fly back into the bedroom (I saw it lounging on the wall and … ended its life). Another time, I was eating a piece of pizza and one of the pests LANDED on it. (Needless to say, I did not finish that piece of pizza.) Fortunately, they’re not a huge problem; I’ve yet to spot more than two at a time, but even after one is caught, another one usually appears out of nowhere about five minutes later. Ugh! Someday, we will buy a trap and hopefully take care of the little annoyances once and for all (we looked for a trap the other day at Target, but no such luck).

 

  • Yes, much of my January has consisted of watching pesky meal moths cruise around the house in groups of two. Well, I don’t stare at them intentently or anything, but one might as well take up moth-watching for as exciting as is January in Washington state!

 

  • Actually, a few noteworthy things did happen this month. On January 8th-9th, Merwyn and I took an overnight trip up to Victoria, B.C. This was a Christmas gift from my parents, and a very lovely one at that (you should have seen the basket my mom made up to present the gift; it came with not just the trip itinerary, but a bottle of sparkling cider, a whole bunch of chocolate, bath salts, even a little angel ornament!). We had a fantastic weekend! One of the things I LOVE about living in Washington state is our proximity to the Canadian border. It’s so easy and (relatively) cheap to just drive — or, if you’re headed to Victoria, take the ferry — to a whole different country. Not everybody who lives in the USA can claim that!

 

  • Merwyn and I are planning to return to Victoria for another weekend getaway on April 14th, which happens to be 3 days after our 3-year anniversary. It also happens to be my 33rd birthday, which means I get to ride the ferry for three … I mean, free.

I wanted to include one of our Victoria pictures, but Merwyn's camera is back in the bedroom and he's asleep in there right now, so ... this picture of a Coffee Crisp bar will have to do.

 

  • Mmm, Coffee Crisp! I had one for the first (?) time while we were in Victoria. (The packaging looked familiar; however, I couldn’t remember ever trying one, and evidently they’re not available down here.) Yeah … we went a little hog wild with the candy this time. I also had a “Wunderbar” and a peanut-butter O Henry. (Merwyn had Turkish Delight and some other stuff that I didn’t sample. He offered me a bite of the Turkish Delight, which was good!) What can I say? It’s fun to try things you can’t find in the local grocery stores! And I haven’t even mentioned the poutine — seafood poutine, which was part of our dinner, and which must have been swimming in at least 456 grams of fat, but was gooooood!

 

  • I’m now on a bit of a “rare candy” kick. Not the healthiest habit, but I think it will be short-lived. It started with our Victoria visit, but was also inspired by my recent discovery of The Candy Blog (see Blogroll; WordPress keeps screwing up my attempt to link!), which proved a fun way to while away those dull January hours.  (I wish I had a candy blog!) My newest love:

    Divine. Totally worth the with-any-other-bar-it-would-be-overpriced $1.49 at CostPlus World Market!

     

 

  • Besides candy (from our “neighbors up North” and elsewhere), I’m also on a general “Canada kick” — the fulfillment of which involves browsing CBC.ca, watching episodes of Degrassi, and skimming Canada guide books. I’m currently in the middle of a book about British Columbia and the Yukon. It’s not just for amusement, as Merwyn and I are (tentatively) planning a road trip to either the Yukon or Northwest Territories this summer!

 

  • Okay …  enough about Canada.

 

  • Here’s something scary that happened in January: one of Merwyn’s back molars grew infected; this actually started before our Victoria trip. He got some Penicillan and hydrocodone and was fine through that weekend, and for about five days after. But the pain didn’t go away — in fact, by the end of those five days, it had grown significantly worse. So he went to some quack of a dentist and asked them to pull the tooth, but (despite the still-present infection) was given an appointment for several days later for a root canal (plus a handful of extra hydrocodone) and sent away.
  • Two days later, Merwyn went into shock and had to be rushed to the hospital in an ambulance! True story! And, fortunately, one that ended well: an ER doctor at St. Peter Hospital “lanced” the abscessed tooth, and Merwyn was fine — even joking about the incident — within a few hours. As you can probably guess, it was quite frightening watching my husband shake uncontrollably, although (like with most crisis situations, at least those involving others) I managed to maintain a sense of calm. But I felt so bad for him. And while I was sitting in the ER, (for once) in the role of caretaker … even knowing Merwyn was going to be fine, some of the scenarios that went through my head, well … I’d rather not get into. I’m just REALLY glad that it all turned out okay!

 

  • Throughout all this, we — meaning western Washington state — were in the middle of another crisis (or rather, “crisis”). We had an unusual amount of snow. Like 12 inches, which might not be a true crisis but (for us) is pretty rare! Truthfully, this didn’t affect Merwyn and me much; he had to miss a few days of work (but got paid for them anyway) and we lost power for a few hours … which was nothing compared to many of our friends and neighbors, who lost power for several days. (No sarcasm with the “crisis” there. Power outages are not fun.) I think everyone’s power has finally been restored. Thank goodness. I used to love when the power went out when I was younger … NOT so much anymore. (For one thing, unlike my parents, Merwyn and I don’t have a fireplace!)

 

  • And that just about sums up my January. Well, throw in some fun stuff like taking down (most of) our Christmas decorations, doing my usual volunteer shifts at KAOS and the Crisis Clinic, playing ungodly amounts of Words With Friends on Facebook, beginning the laborious process of reapplying for SSD — and, of course, working on my book (surely, but verrrrry slowly). I guess the month could have been a lot worse! (Still, the Victoria trip, which was just over three weeks ago, feels like centuries ago.)

 

  • I doubt that February will be much more exciting, but … who knows. Something I thought would happen in February that instead has to wait until March = my scans.  Part of me would have preferred to get these over with in the dull winter months. At the same time, I’m not especially sorry that they’re still several weeks away. I’ll undoubtedly blog about the joys of “scanxiety” and everything it encompasses when that time comes.

 

  • Meanwhile, stay tuned for at least two new posts in February! (Hey, isn’t this a Leap Year?)

This has no point, and is not profound.

Oh, Writer’s Block.

 

If that’s in fact the proper name for the somewhat-conflicted feeling running through me right now … where part of me feels the urge to update this blog, while the other part of me worries that it won’t be interesting enough, or that I MUST recount each and every second that’s occurred in my life since the last time I posted an entry (including detailed recaps of Christmas and New Year’s Eve) or I’ll lose all my readers (because, of course, everyone who has ever clicked on this blog has been SICK with anticipation wondering about my holiday!).

 

And if I do post an entry: should I include a “profound” anecdote, or do I need to talk about cancer…?  Or will anyone care if I just list all my DVD’s (because sometimes I like to be simplistic that way)?

 

I know …  it’s just a blog, right? Technically, I should be able to write about whatever I want, right? But, STILL!

 

Anyway. The point to all my rambling above, and a big part of why writing is sometimes a struggle for me: it’s not always that I don’t know what to say. It’s more like “will anyone actually give a crapola?” about what I’m saying. Plus that whole bit about worrying whether every sentence “sounds” right, or if it’s too awkward or too flowery or too … whatever.

 

But I’ve decided to give in to tonight’s urge to write … because if I can’t post a frickin’ blog entry because I’m worried it might fail in some way, how am I ever going to finish a book? Just be warned, all four eyes that might actually still be reading this: some entries of “Writin’ Shotgun” — like this one, for example — might contain … well, they might contain a whole lot of nothing! (Sandwiched between a healthy sprinkling of quotation marks and parentheses.) Okay?

 

(Hmm, “a whole lot of nothing”… now I can’t help wondering, is that too much of a cliché? Was it proper to use ellipses before “just be warned” and dashes before “including this one” — or does my NEED to use ellipses and dashes mean that I’m too wordy, or…?)

 

(Just kidding.)

 

(Sort of.)

 

Well, now that THAT’s out of the way. How are you? How was your holiday season? Good, I hope!

 

I definitely had an enjoyable (if a bit chaotic at times) Christmas Day. Now, I know not everybody is a fan of the holidays; I do enjoy them, but I have to admit that Christmas Day is perhaps my least favorite day of the season. I much prefer the weeks leading up to the 25th… particularly the very beginning of the season. At some point, it always just starts to go by so FAST!

This actually bothers me in a way that I’m too fatigued to really go into detail about right now. And it doesn’t just apply to Christmas — although the holiday season is a prime example of something that starts out with such promise and hope and possibility, until life and fatigue set in … which makes me want to stop the clock just long enough to take a nap and get my energy back and my “Christmas spirit” back, because this is CHRISTMAS, dang it, and it’s almost over, and how can I enjoy it if I’m busy with such-and-such not-even-Christmas-related thing, or I’m just too tired (more of a problem for me this time of year)? But next thing you know, it’s the 23rd, then Christmas Eve, then the big day … and suddenly my spirit’s back but now Christmas is almost over, and where does the time go, and WHY DO THE HOLIDAYS ALWAYS GO BY SO FAST? (And, trips, too, for that matter?)

Yeah. If I felt more confident in my ability to write something “profound”, I’d elaborate on wanting to savor every second of every day — especially times like the holidays and other events that revolve around loved ones and “making memories”, and … oh, I dunno. Well, I do know, but I don’t want to go on and on for fear of sounding like an idiot. (How did I even get off on this tangent? Am I even making sense?)

And yes, sometimes I think living with cancer exacerbates these anxieties about how too quickly time passes … plus there’s the fact that I’m rapidly approaching my mid-30’s! But more on that some other time.

Meanwhile, I might as well tell you at least a little more about my holidays! As per usual, the “this go by too fast” feeling kind of took away from Christmas this year … BUT not enough to keep me from enjoying the time with my husband, with his family (on the 22nd and 24th), or with my parents and most of my siblings (lucky Missy was in Germany) on the Day itself.

The only part that was just TOO chaotic was the present-opening (NEVER AGAIN will we open gifts with 20 people milling around in a tiny space … haha, right!) but at least I can look back on it “fondly” now. Heh.

As for New Year’s Eve, I had a pleasant one. Pleasant and low-key, which was fine with me!

New Year’s Eve never was my favorite holiday, but I don’t hate it or anything… and I certainly can’t complain about this one. We didn’t go to any parties or do anything crazy. Instead, Merwyn and I went over to my brother’s in Milton in the late afternoon, and spent a little time with him and my folks, plus Angie, Doug, and my nephews Cooper and Jonah. Afterward, Merwyn and I drove through Fantasy Lights over in Spanaway (which is UTTERLY charming, and which next year I want to do before Christmas!) then came home and carried on our sometimes-tradition of eating chips and dip and watching that ball drop in Times Square. (Only this year, since we no longer have cable as of mid-2011, we had to “listen” to the Times Square festivities on the laptop, while watching a New Year’s countdown clock in another window. I’m not sure why two separate windows were required; you’d have to ask Merwyn about that one.)

Of course, Merwyn and I also kissed at midnight; then he had to go back to consoling poor Daisy — who absolutely LOATHED the fireworks show our neighbors were so kind as to put on, and barked her head off all night long. (Richard, meanwhile, while a little bit scared, took the loud booms and bangs pretty well for a sensitive Siamese.)

We didn’t celebrate New Year’s Day (does anyone? the closest my family ever came was my mom for some reason cooking corned beef and cabbage every January 1st…); however, since it was Sunday, we got to do the Think Tank, specifically a “Best of 2011” show (programmed by yours truly). Later, perhaps inspired by the many cheap DVD’s we scored during the holiday season, and in a rare burst of energy … I decided to re-organize Merwyn’s and my 10 billion-50 trillion-6037 DVD’s, books, and CD’s. Surprisingly, I made a decent amount of progress on this yesterday; but my energy did not return this morning, and now we have paperbacks and other assorted media scattered across half the living room floor. I’m confident I can finish the job, though; the clutter is nothing compared to when we first moved to this house!

That brings me to tonight — and my urge to update this blog. I’m sure the resulting entry has THRILLED you, but here it is: I updated! I wrote! Now I’m that much closer to getting back into the writing habit, and finishing my book, and … and not finding it necessary to turn every other sentence into a list of “and’s”, like I’m doing with this one. (Who cares, though? I’m writing, aren’t I?)

Finally: for succinct,  witty, thought-provoking, sometimes snarky, occasionally downright controversial writing from an author who doesn’t find it necessary to italicize half of his blog entries, I encourage you to visit my husband over at Kalhoun. Seriously, he’s a very talented writer and I’m very proud of him for getting back into blogging himself!

And he can cook! On that note, he just gently placed a steaming bowl of fish stew on a pot holder next to the laptop, so I must say goodbye for now, and go enjoy some white ruffy, butternut squash base, potatoes, carrots and general soupy goodness!

Happy 3rd mets-aversary to me…

Yesterday Merwyn drove me up to Seattle Cancer Care Alliance for my treatment. I prefer to go up there on the weekends whenever possible, since not only does no one have to miss work to take me, it’s also nice and quiet and FAST!

Yesterday was no exception. They “accessed” my port — meaning, a bored lab technician rubbed alcohol over the port/catheter-thing in my chest, then jammed a needle full of Lidocaine into it so that the REAL needle wouldn’t hurt, then jammed the big needle in (it didn’t hurt), then, took some blood, somehow got an IV in there, and just generally hovered awkwardly over me for about five or ten minutes. After my “labs” (which I didn’t even have to wait in the lobby for!), Merwyn and I rode the elevator up to Infusion on floor 5. Again, I didn’t have to wait; my little Olive Garden-esque pager buzzed almost immediately after I sat down in the waiting room, and I went right back to Bay 15, one of SCCA’s 35 or so private infusion rooms, for my Lupron and Zometa.

This is always the most boring part of treatment, in part because I often have to wait seemingly forever for both my medicine to arrive and my bloodwork to come back. But neither took too long this time.

Actually, the worst part about yesterday’s treatment was the Lupron. Which isn’t uncommon … even after “getting used to” shots, I still loathe them. Even Lupron, though, I tend to only think about in the brief moment it takes to give me the stupid shot. (Then, later on, it’s “why is this Band-Aid on me? … oh, yeah.”) However, I was sore up until this morning at my injection site, which … let’s just say, didn’t surprise me much after I saw my nurse reading an instruction manual before she finally gave me the injection. I think she was just trying to determine how long to warm up the medicine; still, I’d rather my nurses not find it necessary to glance at “how to” books for ANY reason when they’re about to jam a needle in me! At least it wasn’t as bad as my first Lupron shot (which is a horror story for another time).

As usual, the Zometa infusion proved uneventful … Merwyn and I sat for 20 minutes while a machine dripped Zometa into my IV. Then (after the machine beeped it was finished), the nurse came and unhooked it; then she flushed and de-accessed my port (i.e. cleaned it with saline and took the IV out), and Merwyn and I were on our way! Before I went to bed last night, I took my Femara (the pink pill I take every night); like the Lupron, it suppresses estrogen, whereas Zometa keeps my bones nice and strong.

That’s it; that’s treatment for me, except I only get the Zometa and Lupron every THREE months now. Most days, you can take out everything above except for:

“I took my Femara”

… and that’s my treatment. Pretty boring, right? Now you know why I can’t keep up a cancer blog!

Actually, today is a significant day in my “cancer journey.” It was exactly three years ago today that my horrid then-oncologist broke the news to me over the phone: both the spot on my spine (revealed in a recent routine CT scan) and a second spot on my pelvis showed evidence of metastatic disease. In other words, not only had my cancer returned, because it had spread to my bones I was now Stage IV. The “worst” of the stages. “Beating cancer” was no longer an option for me. Once somebody has Stage IV cancer, it’s pretty much established that they can be treated, but never cured.

Well … for whatever it’s worth, that treatment sure seems to be working in my case! Three years later, I still haven’t had any progression. Not only that, the spot on my pelvis seemed to disappear almost instantly (it didn’t show up on my first follow-up scan, and hasn’t shown up since) and even the spot on my spine has remained stable. Granted, it’s been ten months since my last set of scans; but that’s only because my current oncologist (who’s great; I started treatment at SCCA about three months after my “mets” diagnosis) determined that I only need scans once a year for now. I’ll get my next ones sometime in February.

Honestly, even with bone mets (which are generally considered less threatening than mets to the organs) it’s pretty unusual for somebody to be doing this well after three years. Not that I’m complaining! I won’t go so far as to say that having Stage IV cancer doesn’t affect my life (or, on the opposite side of the spectrum, that it’s been some great “blessing”) but I WILL say that I feel lucky (for it’s sure not for any great effort on my part that I’m doing so well!) and blessed (in life, not by cancer!), and that I must have one heck of a “shotgun angel” riding with me all this way.

Speaking of blessings and angels, I must log off WordPress and go get ready … Merwyn and I are going down to the Washington Center for the Performing Arts to see Handel’s Messiah in less than an hour!

Gasp, a Kickstarter update!

Other than some Facebook updates from the road, I haven’t posted much about my epic Kickstarter journey (remember this ?). I’m hesitant to go into much detail about the actual trip for fear of  repeating myself in my upcoming book (and it’s probably “unprofessional” or something to admit that, but, technically, so is my book! Unprofessional, I mean. Sincere and written with love, yes. Professional, not so much.)

Also, while I’m a fan of Kickstarter in general, I’m not such a fan of their formatting style. I don’t know enough about HTML/formatting to explain what I don’t like; but, for example, if I push the “back” button to delete something, here on WordPress the text will disappear like it’s supposed to … whereas, on Kickstarter, if I push “back” some weird square will appear and entire paragraphs get moved to where I don’t want them. It’s rather annoying!

Still, despite my disdain for posting on Kickstarter, I realize that some who aren’t connected to me via Facebook might be wondering at this point how the trip went, or did I even go on the trip? The answer to the latter question is, of course, yes! I survived the journey! (The first question was more rhetorical, but to sum up the journey in one word: productive.)

For the most part, Heather and I followed our itinerary as planned, at least for the first four weeks. We did make a few tweaks here and there, such as adding a day in one town or cutting a day from another (and we had to eliminate Springfield, MO entirely); however, we at least visited the rest of our scheduled stops in the same chronological order that we’d intended.

Besides Springfield, the biggest change to the original itinerary is that both Heather and I (at different times, and for different reasons) unexpectedly ended our trips early. Heather made it to New Orleans before she had to fly home to New York. As for myself, I continued for another week after that and had just finished a 3-day ride on the Texas Eagle when my husband called me with some devastating news. I was hanging out at Union Station, waiting for check-in time at my motel so I could drop off my bags and proceed with my brief return to L.A., when I decided to check my messages. There were at least five of them from Merwyn. He sounded frantic. I called back, and Merwyn told me that Katie (our 13-year-old Yorkshire terrier) was in advanced kidney failure and might not survive through the weekend.

Now, there’s a LOT more that I want to write about Katie; however, at this point, I’m not yet ready. I will say that as as soon as I learned what was going on, no way could I just casually continue with my journey. Merwyn, bless his heart, managed to book an afternoon flight on Southwest Airlines (he even found a reasonably affordable “first-class” seat, with the intent to make my flight as comfortable as possible; he did this without any prompting from me, in the middle of a workday and in the midst of his own grief and worry over Katie, whom he loved to pieces. She wasn’t “just a dog” to him; she really was his “little girl” … mine, too, but point being, my husband’s heart is the size of ten Union Stations … times googolplex.)

I made it home by about 5 that evening (October 26th, to be specific — just four nights earlier than expected) where Merwyn and I spent a bittersweet last evening with Katie. We brought her here the next morning, where the extremely compassionate staff (who’d both informed Merwyn of her prognosis and taken great care to make her as pain-free and comfortable as possible the day before) helped her transition peacefully over to Rainbow Bridge.

(We now share our home with Daisy and Richard, the terrier and the “meezer” mentioned in my last blog entry. You’ll hear more about them in future entries, I’m sure. We certainly feel Katie’s absence every day, but Daisy’s presence helps a lot … and Richard even helps, too, in his own crabby old Siamese way!)

A few weeks later — beginning the day after Thanksgiving — Merwyn and my sister Missy (and Daisy) and I all rode down to Sonoma County, CA for a quick-yet-enjoyable weekend, to visit the area where my dad grew up and officially conclude my journey.

Missy and I at the Charles Schulz Museum in Santa Rosa. No one ever accused us of being cool.

Meanwhile, Heather, my filmmaking colleague, plans to continue documenting my overall journey (the trip is just part of the book, remember!); however, after much feedback and consideration (and screening all the footage she shot in our time together) she now wants to extend the filming beyond her school year. So, “I’m” no longer Heather’s “thesis”; however, I know she’s committed to this film and I wholeheartedly support her decision to proceed with the film in a more natural manner, rather than rushing it for the sake of school.

Believe me, Heather and I went through a LOT in our four weeks on the road together (heck, even before that); our journey is a story in itself! I won’t lie; as you might expect after four weeks of almost nonstop company, we also went through our fair share of stresses. Still, we survived, our collaboration remains intact, and (most importantly) I know that she treasures my friendship as much as I treasure hers.

I very much look forward to traveling future roads with Ms. Fisch! That said, it’s a lot harder for us to communicate from a 3000 mile distance  … especially when we both hate the phone. 🙂 Right now, though, for the time being I think Heather’s focusing on school while I focus on that book I keep talking about. (Provided Heather’s okay with it, I’ll certainly keep this blog updated with any “film” news on her end  … well, provided I actually manage to keep the blog going!)

Heather and I, about halfway into the journey, at Song restaurant in Brooklyn. (I think that's what the restaurant was called!)

So. The book.

It’s a work in progress, and my tentative hope is still to have it ready it before the end of 2012. To be honest, that seems really, really far off right now (and, like Heather, I’d rather not rush things just for the sake of finishing within a specific time frame) but I think I can make it happen without “forcing” myself too much … although I’ve given myself some flexible deadlines. (This might not be a professional project, but Kickstarter is still its own sort of “contract”, which I intend to honor —  for one thing, I owe it to the many generous people who supported me!)

Basically, by this time next year I’d like to have a few actual, published copies of this thing floating around (at least enough for everyone who pledged at Kickstarter!). I still have much to learn about the process of self-publishing, but if I’m finished writing by, say, my 33rd birthday (in April), I’ll have 8 months to turn what is now a mere Microsoft Word document into a real book, with pages and a (probably cheap-looking, yet constructed with love) cover and everything!

There’s one big hurdle I’ll have to cross fairly soon … maybe somebody reading this can help?

I’m a little shy about sharing these first drafts of my letters; and I guess I don’t have to share, yet I wouldn’t mind if at least one person could read over what I’ve got and let me know if I’m on the right track or if what I’ve written is  … well, crappy. The trouble is, I’m not sure who that person should be. I’d prefer this kind soul be somebody who’s both honest (but not brutally honest) and gentle (but not overly gentle). I guess a better way to put it is that I’m seeking a non-biased opinion … yet I also wouldn’t mind if that opinion came from somebody I know personally, at least on a casual basis.

Still with me? Any volunteers? 🙂

Last but not least … Kickstarter incentives. I haven’t forgotten about them, although I admit that my “postcard from the road” idea sort of bombed, due to various factors (limited time in certain areas, lack of post offices/mailboxes, the trip’s unexpected ending, fatigue … I even sent a stack of written cards not to their intended recipients, but — accidentally — to myself, when mailing some excess stuff home from Virginia. Or, I should say, my lovely hosts mailed the package; but I’m the one who “brilliantly” stuffed the postcards, which I meant to drop in a big blue box, into the package instead … which they later generously sealed and sent my way.)

If you haven’t received a postcard yet, it might have been in that stack (which means it’s currently … er, sitting in my living room), or I might have purchased it later in the journey (which also means it’s stiting in my living room). You’ll still get a card; obviously, the postmark will read Olympia, WA (or Tacoma or wherever they send our mail from here) instead of the city the card represents, but I can at least guarantee it was purchased in that city, and (in most cases) written from the road! I apologize for this delay and thank you for understanding!

I also thank you for your patience, and faith in this project, as it might take awhile to receive the other incentives. To save on postage costs, I’d like to mail as much of the items together as possible — meaning, you might have to wait until the book’s ready for most of your prizes … if you don’t mind holding out that long!  (I’m also still working on T-shirts and coffee mugs.) However, there are some smaller prizes, such as a CD that anyone who pledged at least a dollar is entitled to. If you’d like CDs, postcards, or even bookmarks sooner rather than later, I think we can make that work … just shoot me an email!

(And if you pledged $40 or more, which means you’re eligible to program and even co-host The Think Tank if you so desire, you don’t have to wait so long; I plan to get the ball rolling on that shortly after the new year, if not before.)

Okay … bedtime now. I’m not tired, but Merwyn and I are riding the Mt. Rainier Scenic Railroad tomorrow, and I want to be nice and rested for my first time on the rails since … the journey!

Merwyn on last year's Mt. Rainier Scenic Railroad trip.

Hello, Blogosphere … I’m back!

Welcome to my 474849275th attempt at a “blog”!

I think the biggest problem with keeping most of my previous blogs up-to-date was that they were often limited to just one theme (i.e. cancer, childhood stories). Not this time! Here, I plan to blab about whatever I feel like sharing with my two readers on any given day. If you’d like to follow the progress of my in-the-works “memoir”, you’ll find those updates here! If anything changes with my cancer treatment (which, let’s hope it doesn’t) I’ll post about it on this very blog! Prepare to read about such thrilling topics as my genealogy (my list of ancestors and distant cousins is pretty fascinating, if I do say so myself!); The Think Tank (that’s the radio show I host with my husband, in case you didn’t know); road trips; train trips; quirky Silky terriers; moody “meezers”; awesome antique store finds; TV or book snark … if you’re lucky, I might get really provocative and post about what I ate for lunch that day.

Seriously, I hope I can keep this blog going. Especially since I’ve started the process of Officially Writing A Book (it’s too late to back out now!); however, conquering writer’s block (not to mention worrying for way too long about whether each word I put down “sounds right” or not)  has proved challenging most days. We all know from English class that the only way to get past writer’s block and improve one’s writing is to WRITE. Right?

So do you think I am up to the task?