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Where is my summer?

This May has been so weird.  It's been raining pretty much every week, and cold.   On May 17th last year, San Francisco had a high of 84, this year 60. I know you can do the math, but I feel the need to remark: that's an astounding 24 degrees lower.

A year ago this weekend it was something like 100 at my house.  I remember because that was the weekend of Panoche Valley Road Race at which Joe crashed and broke his humerus.  I drove an hour and a half to go get him in Hollister where it was 110.  Hollister is bad enough, but Hollister when it's 110?  Ridiculous.

Here's a visual on the aftermath of that crash.  I couldn't resist taking photos of Joe in the ER where, seriously, every other patient had an armed guard. There was a point at which I had to leave Joe alone in the car while I had his prescriptions filled, while still in Hollister.  He was too wasted on whatever pain meds they'd given him to even walk, so wasted that he wanted me to turn off the A/C while he waited in the car because he'd been too cold in the hospital.  The whole time I stood waiting in the pharmacy, talking to scary people who loved my tattoos and wanted to know all about them, I kept expecting to look up and see my high husband shambling around the parking lot in his hospital gown in the full and blazing heat.  Thankfully he nodded out and dreamed his crazy dreams about polar bears and Jamaican cycling teams with which he regaled me on the drive home.

As someone who grew up in San Francisco, albeit in a relatively sunny and warm neighborhood, I revel in the warmer summer temperatures in central Marin where I have lived since 1991.  I do not miss the fog.  I love the heat.  I love those nights when it's so hot that it's hard to sleep, those days when going outside feels like stepping into an oven.  I love the quality of the light on a really hot day, how unbearably hot the sidewalk gets, how great it is to eat outside in the garden when it's dark but still 80.  I love not needing a sweater in August.   I love, most of all, how easy it is to grow things, how plants soak up the sunlight and warmth and visibly change every single day.

So this year, with this weird weather, I am experiencing some strangely-timed seasonal affective disorder.   Along with hay fever,  a given in these windy early summer days, I'm cold.  Cold!  Today, while gardening, I was in jeans and a long-sleeve t-shirt.  Reminder: this time last year it was 100!  OK, that was abnormally scorching, but generally 80 is the norm around these parts as we approach the end of May.

I'm thinking about those devices they sell in that Gaiam catalog for people who get sad in the winter, to generate more light, to bring them out of their wintertime, shorter-days funk.  I'm thinking about that as I lie here on the couch, at 7pm, fuzzy with allergies and irritated by a day of cold wind, wondering how the vegetables will do this year if things don't turn around pretty quickly.  I feel strangely hopeless, worn out, which I know is the stupid hay fever, but it's also, I think, a product of my weather-based discombobulation.  I am craving the heat this year and can't wait until it's back.

Until then maybe I'll just stay in this exact spot with my computer on my stomach, keeping me warm, and wait it out.


The final word on the PET scan?

I got the call this morning that I've been bracing for. Unfortunately, every time Joe calls me lately, I am instantly in a panic, wondering if this is The Call -- the call that contains the final information on the PET scan, which is really the final word on his lymphoma (oh jesus, please let there not be something else, not more chemo and suffering and pain). It's a drag because instead of feeling my usual total joy at hearing my sweetheart's voice, there's also this spike of nausea and anxiety.

But I think I can be done with that for a while.

The ENT doctor (Dr. Chien, love his name) called to say that he had indeed spoken with the radiologist about Joe's last PET scan. For those readers just joining the saga, we needed to make sure that the little Something on Joe's right tonsil wasn't some residual uber-lymphoma, power cancer, that survived the chemo scorched earth treatment.

The radiologist said that the Something was nothing to worry about. In a regular person, one who hadn't had lymphoma, he wouldn't even mention something like this when reviewing the results of a PET scan. In a normal person, not even worth mentioning. It's nothing to worry about, he said.

So Joe's not having his tonsils out, and we're trying to get comfortable. We both wanted news that would make us jump around and shout and laugh and cry and schedule a big party, but I think we're still a little stunned - not feeling exactly elated, not feeling exactly devastated, either. Perhaps just another aspect of our shared Post Cancer Stress Disorder which I assure you is very real and present in us both.

But really, even though we're stunned and not sure what or how to feel, I know that it really and truly IS good news. Once cancer has invaded your life, it's hard to feel safe, get comfortable. But I know this is good news. I just can't quite exhale yet, even though I know it's coming.

We will have a party. We will jump around and shout and laugh and cry. It might just take a little while.



Traveling through layers of memory

Taking the kid and his buddy to SFO this morning at 6am was an experience of swimming through thick memory, while the two of them snoozed in the car. 

I suppose this is what it is to get old living in the same basic place, seeing through what is there now to what was there before: oh yeah, long before Starbucks that used to be the Gap, oh yeah, when did Larson pool become Charlie Sava Pool and where did the airplane go, and here's where I lived in exile like Hester Prynne when you were a baby, in the boonies four blocks from SF State where I was a graduate student and it just goes on and on, the constant narration. Taking 101 back I looked for the Planter's Peanut man. And thought about the time when I was 6 that a truck rammed and took down a pedestrian overpass right near the Vermont exit on 101, so that its replacement looks completely different from the others.  

So, wow, coming up Larkin and seeing this blew my mind.  Something completely new, occupying a space where nothing was before. Wow.  

This work by Zhang Huan, "Three Heads, Six Arms," weighs 15 tons, is two stories tall and part of a sister city arts-exchange thing with Shanghai.  Whatever, i don't care where it's from or what it means.  I love it.  It snapped me right back to the present, out of my endless memory meanderings.  Snap!

I can't wait to go look at it again, maybe tomorrow, from the sidewalk rather than from the window of my car, this time with my own camera in hand.


Gray anatomy: the PET scan results are in

It's been two weeks since Joe's PET scan, the post-chemo PET scan to check on the suspicious right tonsil.  We would really, really like to be done with cancer.

In response to an email to his doctor, Joe heard this today:

The result came back and showed that there is even less activity in the right tonsil area which is great news. I am waiting for a call back from the radiologist to confirm that we don't have to worry about it anymore. I will let you know once I hear back from him. Thank you.
For whatever reason, we were expecting to hear one of two things: #1) it's clear, you're done; OR #2) it's not clear, let's get those tonsils out and see what the hell we're dealing with. We weren't really prepared for "even less activity," this familiar yet never comfortable GRAY AREA again. It just doesn't get easier to inhabit this land of uncertainty.
The YogiTea bag I just brewed myself yields the following well-timed message: "Bliss is a constant state of mind, undisturbed by gain or loss." Word, YogiTea. I'm working on it.


Serious Sugar Hang-over

A few weeks ago I read an interesting article posted by my friend and neighbor Linda, an interview with Dr. Christiane Northrup on how bad sugar is for women in their 40s.  I am surrounded by people who don't eat sugar, so I've been hearing about this for ages.  Even I think years ago I read a book (Sugar Blues?) about how bad sugar is for you, but I LOVE sugar, so I've held onto it.  Even when we were vegan, I was still a total sugar-head.  Still, I gave the interview a read, then another read, and then decided to stop eating sugar.  If Dr. Northrup is right -- that eating a lot of sugar causes hormone havoc in women in their 40s, who are experiencing perimenopause; that it's connected to migraines and insomnia, not to mention heart disease, osteoporosis and cancer, and other unpleasant things like hair loss where you want hair, hair growth where you don't -- surely that's worth a try, right?  I also liked something I read in the interview, that fat doesn't make you fat: sugar makes you fat.  Permission to eat butter?  Hmmm.

Keep in mind that ours is a house that generally *always* has cookies in the pantry, if not an open bag of dark chocolate chips.  That I do remember one evening finding Joe up on the stepladder, rifling through one of the top kitchen cabinets looking for chocolate (there was none below in the usual places), finally settling on the most unsatisfactory Baker's bittersweet (which nothing can make palatable, believe me).  That the other night I got a one-word text from the kid while I was in yoga: "Cookies?"  And being the person I am, of course I stopped at the market on my way home and picked some up.

I gave up eating sugar about two weeks ago.  It was easy.  It was actually not a problem.  I do remember feeling clearer in the mornings, and definitely felt steadier throughout the day -- no highs and lows.  No problem not participating in the afternoon sugar-fest at the office.  As luck would have it, we had a potluck lunch at work and I drew dessert.  I brought strawberries.  Really.  Next I'll be handing out raisins on Halloween, right?  But those strawberries were delicious.  I had no interest whatsoever in the lemon tart, the brownies, the other sugary delights loaded on the conference room table.

That's so weird for me.  It usually doesn't feel like a party for me unless there's chocolate, but here I was eating strawberries and feeling fine, not missing out, feeling good in fact.

Until this morning.  Yes, this weekend was the big graduation of the boy.  I had a small piece of cake at the post-graduation reception, and a bigger piece of chocolate cake last night after dinner at home.  And this morning I feel like utter shit.  I'm not kidding: I feel completely hung-over, super-fuzzy, tired, listless.  I got plenty of sleep and there is no other reason I can think of for this feeling.  The only difference between yesterday and the 13 days before, is the sugar intake.

So I'm climbing back on the wagon, to see what happens next.  I could have another piece of cake, see if the sugar picks me up, but honestly I have no interest.  I'd rather crawl into bed and sleep this off, give in to how fuzzy I feel. I miss my old friend Sugar, kind of rue losing that life-long relationship, but not enough to go through this again any time soon.