It’s the Holidays.

This was back when going Downtown was actually fun, rather than a dangerous, road-rage-filled, chaotic, holiday shopping frenzy.


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To Tara & Vidal: Long may you run



For one human being to love another: that is the most difficult of all our tasks, the ultimate, the last test of proof, the work for which all other work is but preparation.—R.M. Rilke

To the happy newlyweds, I propose a toast—to love, friendship, courage, faith, tradition, and all the mystery ingredients that make the magnificent sweetness of companionship.  "May you have warm words on a cold evening, a full moon on a dark night, and the road downhill all the way to your door." May your love endure, and strengthen the bonds that twine your lives together, shelter you from life's storms, and "give light with inexhaustible oil".

A good marriage is that in which each appoints the other guardian of his solitude, and shows him this confidence, the greatest in his power to bestow.—R.M. Rilke

I love you both and wish you all the joy and happiness heaven and earth can bring.


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Fish or fisherman, seeker or sought?

When I was in college, I spent three summers living/working in the Grand Tetons, in eastern Idaho and Jackson Hole, WY.  I was quite poor, living on student loans and work-study.  Summertime was the only time I could be somewhat extravagant.  During the schoolyear I couldn't afford meat, and so was a vegetarian.  When we (meaning my other friends from around the country who went there to work) arrived, we'd arrange a meeting at the Victor Steak Bank or the Mangy Moose, or some other bastion of meatdom and initiate another carnivorous summer.  However, consumption of meat was still a luxury, and saving for the year was after all still the primary goal of being there.  So a large part of the mornings, evenings, and even part of the day (when I was a whitewater photographer) was spent foraging for food, and most of the time, fishing for it.  (The foraging part had to do with crashing other people's work pizza parties, parties in general, coaxing whoever got the most tips to splurge on a group meal, hitting up friends who worked at food places for day-old baked goods and aging supplies, and trading with the hunting types for elk and venison.)

I was not the sophisticated angler that I perhaps should've made some effort to become during my time there.  Nope, I used some fishing rod given to me in high school by my ex-best friend's father, who made poles for Fenwick.  I had some old lures, and we would spend hours stream fishing in the Snake River.  The mosquitoes were unbelievable, draped over the water like buzzing blankets.  There was something meditational about that activity, although I didn't know it then.  When I think back, I realize how clear my mind was, so focused was I on the bug and bird noises, the rising or setting sun, the sound of the water.  The water was so clear you could easily see the fish…they could easily see us.  There must have been some weird understanding.  I always came away with just enough for dinner.  I never abused my luck or privilege.

One summer, I discovered the neighbor two doors down was the ex-mayor of the small town I lived in.  The neighbor next door was a fish and game officer.  The mayor gave me corn and veggies, and the warden gave me confiscated fish.  I returned some of the donations in cooked form, as they were both bachelors.  It was a model of neighborly love that touches my heart, although I've forgotten about it all these years.  Again, I was grateful at the time, but I don't know that I absorbed the full impact while it was happening.  Maybe I was too poor or too hungry. 

What a treasured memory.  I've been saying that alot lately about the past.  I'm sure I was miserable about being poor, but I must've felt alive, too.  It never drove me to stop what I was doing to change paths to a more capitalistic life.  I might've wanted a better material quality of life, but I didn't want to change my lifestyle.  Perhaps it all boiled down to a lack of commitment.  Later in life (as in the recent past), I was swept into a lifestyle that I neither chose nor prevented.  I subjected myself to a lifestyle that I thought was temporary, something I was doing as a means to the life I actually wanted.  I've come to realize the fallacy.  What you're doing now is all you have.  This moment is it.  Do what you want right now, even if it includes some "have-to's", but don't compromise.  Nobody knows about tomorrow. 


I haven't been fishing in a very long time, but I'm thinking about it again, although the season is past.  I imagine myself as the lure, spinning and gliding through the water, intending to be swallowed.  Or maybe the fish, watching the glinting motion…well, I don't know what goes through a fish's mind, but I think they lead fairly simple lives.  They fraternize with friends and family, hover about, eat, sleep, and eventually die of old age or get caught by something.  Would I rather be the seeker or the sought?  Maybe I'd rather be the water, though even that is no longer sacred, or the riverbed over which these events unfold.

If I meditate long enough, perhaps I can join the whole, and be at peace, and be returned to wholeness.  I was at the gate to enlightenment for so many years, and passed it by.  Did I always think it would be there?  I don't think I was aware.  I was asleep.

Awaken to the experiences around you.  You may be walking past the portal to Enlightenment. 

Oh, and Happy Birthday, Marine Corps!

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A cote de Plage du Sud (Beside the South Shore in butchered French)

The evening seascape is dazzling.  The bay is a shocking blue with glints of titanium, overlayed at the edges with sandbars of molten gold and black sand lace.  The necklace of San Francisco's glittering silhouette pierces sea and sky, chained to the horizon by the trail of shimmering cities across the bay.  The sky is its own bright blue edged in a peachy glow.  It's a post-modern Dutch seascape missing the incandescent sails of grand vessels.

With each exquisite Alameda sunset, I am renewed.  My heart wanders to other places, to maple forests and tall mountains, but as I round the bend from either direction, my heart jumps, and I'm home again, in dear old Alameda.  Here comes the full moon, ready to blaze the nightscape over the Bay.  It was a warm day, the tide is far, far out—someone ought to build a fire and throw a party on the beach.  There's little wind.  It's a balmy eve.  Alas, the sidewalks are rolled back early, old village style.  I spot 2 fish taller than myself hanging off my neighbor's pergola.  I could be back in sleepy northern San Diego County.

I don't know why the weather influences me so.  I reveled in my pine scented commute from Walnut Creek today, no doubt drawn out by last week's moisture.  I am a girl of the West through and through, loving the arid warmth of these regions, but I will concede, we do need the moisture.  It's a different type of good weather, and the hubby needs more of the seasons.  (He's an east coaster and really misses the seasons.  He threatens a move to more varied climes.  I counter with his fondness for scuba diving and a logical choice of more tropical locales.)



On the cancer front, I had my final infusion of Gemzar today, marking the completion of 4 cycles of the Carboplatin (Paraplatin)/Avastin (Bevacizumab)/Taxotere (Docetaxel)(2 cycles and then allergic reaction) and Gemzar (Gemcitabine)(the last 2 cycles) combo I was to receive prior to starting the clinical trial (Nov. 20th).  Gemzar was a medication initially developed for pancreatic cancer, so it's supposed to be good, but for what I have, doctors like Taxotere and Taxol.  But I'm allergic to various and sundry trees, and those two are derived from a European Yew tree that grows in the Pacific Northwest.  It's no good if it cuts off your breathing, so I'm just glad they found something in the top 3 that I'm not allergic to!  I've also been started on ProCrit (or Epogen), which is a hemoglobin booster.  It helps your body generate red blood cells, which provide your oxygen.  It's ironically one of the performance enhancers tested for in contests such as the Olympics and World Championships.

Doesn't it make you wonder how my liver and kidneys are taking all this?

I am relieved yet apprehensive.  The clinical trial I'll be on is a double blind study involving 1 or maybe 2 chemo agents.  If I receive the placebo, I'll only be receiving one agent that theoretically prevents tumor(s) from creating new blood vessels to feed (anti-angiogenic—there's a more technical description—some of you are familiar; those who aren't, I'll tell ya if ya really wanna know).  It's like starving a vampire by keeping it from regenerating bicuspids.  I pray I am randomized to receive the study drug and not the placebo.  Both drugs are manufactured by Genentech, which has a plant in the Bay Area, and are trademark-named Avastin and Tarceva (Erlotinib).  Very, very expensive if you aren't insured ($8800/month and $3300/month, respectively).  But will it be enough?  Initial studies in Asia showed promising response rates among Asian women.  But this does me no good if I get the placebo!  Sigh.

I'm nervous.  An older woman (60's or 70's?) across from me today had 16 cycles of Taxol (paclitaxel) (the first drug I was allergic to) 3 years ago.  Now she's back and will be receiving something like 12 cycles.  It makes me question how aggressive my treatment is.  Should I be looking for something else, somewhere else?  She's still kicking…!

I worked on my Nano project a little, read one of the 3 newspapers I'm now receiving, and worried about a side effect of my IV-administered bone medication (Aredia, a biphosphonate)—osteonecrosis of the jaw (ONJ), or Dead Jaw, and of the hip.  More about that in another blog.  As if I didn't have enough to worry about. 

I feel like turning into a work-out freak again.  This is my full-time job—reading about healing, exercising, doing relaxation/meditation/visualization exercises, disinfecting my home and being the housekeeper I never was, restraining myself from the pumpkin muffins my sister brought over (I come from a food-oriented society that values yumminess (aka sweet snacks) as a primary facet of only living once), trying to cook creatively without using anything containing fructose, sucrose, glucose, honey (I think I can still do the pork chops marinated in orange juice with fresh thyme, or the herbed pork loin with sour cherry sauce, but not the maple-glazed pork chops on baked apples)

(Oh damn, I don't think I'm supposed to eat pork?)

(But I love dry fried ribs, aka salt and pepper short ribs…and Kalbi)

(Is my cultural identity that wrapped up with pork?  Is Rumaki out?)

Aaaaaarrrrgggghhhhhh….as I was saying, my full-time job is to GET WELL.  THAT is more important than FOOD!

Oh yes, and a couple of other activities to be added to the above job description—be a Mom to my Siamese cat, be a loving wife (this used to say Wife who takes care of business as 2nd job), pray to my God to comfort me and bless the world, and above all else, to myself be true.  I feel like something's been over my head for a very long time.

How can I not worry/be happy when one of my long-term meds could cause me to have a total hip replacement or excruciating, incurable, smelly disfigurement of my jaw/teeth?  Is kissing/eating/smiling out, and the hip?  Well that's another ball game altogether.  Do I cower out of fear or torture myself by reading more scientific papers or launch into action and try to find a dental oncologist…or just try not to think about it and take Ativan (just call me drugstore cowgirl) ? 

I would appreciate recommendations for good dentists in the East San Francisco Bay Area from anyone willing to comment (I still have your recommendation, Judge Gee).  My holistic dentist (a former acupuncturist and Army dentist) developed cancer late last year and was forced into early retirement (Dr. Rothman).

Thanks for any pearls of wisdom regarding this topic.

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It's the 2nd and all I have is a measly synopsis of a feeble story I was going to write for Nano.  Egads!  I had to sleep through part of today, I was so very tired (chemo).  Now I'm 3300 words behind, or something like it.  Maybe I can bust a move through the day now that my mum has left.  On the other hand, I have chores galore…

And words to write before I sleep…and miles to go before I sleep…

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