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Lincoln County News
August 26, 1999

"LifeLines" My journal about living with cancer

by Sandy Labaree

This journal submission describes a brief visit from Christy, and a flurry of restaurant reviews. I am hobbling around after the first of several medical tests.

August 13, 1999: It is Friday the 13th and though Sue seems a little skeptical about the date, we are going ahead with our restaurant review of the Cuisine House in Brunswick. Located in the Atrium Hotel at Cook's Corner, the restaurant is really the old First Wok, complete with former owners, transplanted to a new location. The menu remains the same, except a huge buffet has been added.

Ben and I had an enjoyable dinner there several weeks ago. We ordered off the menu then, but tonight Sue, Paul, Ben and I all decide to do the $10.95 buffet. We are delighted to find that this all-you-can-eat soup to dessert buffet has some hot and spicy Szechwan items. The orange beef, the General Tso's chicken and a spicy pork dish are excellent. The steamed and fried dumplings, and the hot and sour soup are also delicious. Tonight, Alaskan King Crab legs and several very tempting and colorful seafood entrees with shrimp, scallops and crab are also offered. A buffet is an open invitation to eat too much and we all leave stuffed and happy.

August 14, 1999: Our daughter, Christy, and her husband, Nils, are arriving today for a very brief visit. We determine that between our schedule and hers that if we don't meet this weekend, we won't see each other until October. Due to Christy and Nils' late start, we meet them in Brunswick to drive to Cook's Lobster House on Bailey Island. Nils wants lobster, so Cook's was the logical choice, even though we know they do not accept reservations. Cook's is packed to overflowing and we wait over an hour in the bar until our table is ready.

Cook's is worth the wait as their seafood is excellent and the sunset views from the dining room are incredible. Tonight, it's cloudy and dark by the time we're seated, but our waiter is good and the service excellent despite the hordes of people. After all this wait, Nils orders broiled haddock! I resist the urge to throw my empty steamed clams shells at him for making us drive all the way to Bailey Island for broiled haddock.

Christy tells us about her new job that she will be starting in two weeks. After 2 1/2 years at Clarke & Associates, Boston's largest public relations firm, Christy has been hired by one of her clients. She was not looking for a job, and this is the second time she has been recruited away from a current job. Christy will become the Global Marketing Director for a bio tech firm that manufactures contact lenses. She will spend one week out of each month traveling. September will be a big travel month as she will visit the firm's offices in the U.S. and Europe to meet the various managers. Christy likes traveling and the job offers her a tremendous opportunity to expand her experience.

It's hard to believe that at 29 years of age, Christy will have a job of this caliber. Ben and I are in awe of today's working world which employs so many young people in major positions of responsibility. It used to be that you worked your way up the corporate ladder and people in their 50's and 60's held the positions of authority. Times have changed, and we are proud and thrilled that Christy has this great opportunity.

Christy updates us on the grandcats, Oops and Spot. Poor Spot has an anxiety problem and has licked most of the fur off of his stomach. The vet says it is anxiety brought on by competition with his brother, Oops. She suggests feeding Spot separately and says that if this doesn't help, she can put him on a low dose of Prozac. Christy doesn't want to medicate Spot, but if they were my cats, I'd sedate them both because of their destructive behavior. No plant can survive in Christy's house, even hung at upper levels. Not to mention any trash, especially paper products like Kleenex, toilet paper and cotton swabs which end up shredded and strewn throughout the house. We are lucky to have Lurk, a sweet, laid-back cat whose only problems are an occasional grass barf and the normal finicky eater cat syndrome.

August 16, 1999: Today, I take my Corvette to Strong Chevrolet in Damariscotta for a warranty repair. After the job is done, I meet Sue and another reporter, Art, from the LCN for lunch at Salt Bay Cafe. Art's 87 year old mother, Betty, is joining us for lunch and awaiting a ride in my Corvette. She is undergoing radiation treatment in Bath and Art thought a ride in my Corvette would be a special treat for her. Betty is a very vivacious lady and a talented artist. She shows me photographs of the many animal portraits she's done over the years. After lunch, Art takes some photos and I give Betty her ride, and throw in a couple of impressive accelerations. She comments that my car has far more pick-up than her old Corsica.

Tonight, is our cancer support group meeting. We've missed so many meetings in the past two months because of Tour appearances and my trip to NJ. Dave and Nancy are there and I appreciate hearing Nancy's latest news as we are in similar circumstances treatment-wise.

Nancy has carcenoid cancer, a rare and slow-growing form of cancer that has affected her liver and intestinal tract. A few months ago, Nancy dropped out of a research program at Dana Farber when she encountered many nasty side effects from a chemotherapy regimen. She has since looked into many options including a special surgical procedure to treat her small liver tumors. Like me she is doing her own research and suggesting treatment plans to her doctors. She asked to receive Interferon. A nurse by background, Nancy is very knowledgeable and injects the Interferon herself. She is looking very well, and the Interferon has helped her cut back on other medications.

Tonight, I express my frustration with the status of my treatment, or lack of it. Being in limbo and not knowing what comes next is annoying. The pain I've been dealing with is related to my bone tumors, and the rising tumor marker levels. Megace and all the hormonal drugs I've taken to lower the tumor levels are only temporary fixes. Megace is no longer working and I have run out of hormonal treatments. Chemotherapy is an option, but having another round of chemo will disqualify me from most research programs. Dr. Dy has told me that no matter what chemo or treatment option I choose, the outcome will be about the same. He is not afraid to be very frank with me.

August 18, 1999: Today, is my bone scan, a painless procedure, but a long ordeal aggravated by bone pain in my lower back. I drive to the Bath Hospital an hour ahead of the scan, so I can register and get my chest x-ray done first. Then I get an injection of a radioactive dye for the bone scan. Since you have to wait 3 hours for the dye to take affect, I return home and drive back to the hospital a few hours later. I dread the next part of the test because you lie on a hard table for an hour. You have to stay still while the machine is scanning your entire body from head to toe and both sides. Lying on the hard table aggravated my back so much that I had trouble getting off of the table and walking when the test was finished. I know I will be in pain the rest of the day, and maybe more so tomorrow.

I hobble home and work at my computer for the rest of the afternoon. Big Al and Melissa have invited us out to dinner tonight. We usually go out with them a couple of times a month. While I was in NJ, Ben joined them for dinner at Beale St. When Al picks us up tonight, he asks where we should go. I suggest the new German restaurant in Topsham and everyone agrees.

The German restaurant is located in the building that used to house the Cross St. Restaurant. A small Bavarian style beer garden is set up outside. We choose to dine indoors. The restaurant is small, but broken up with half-wall dividers that make it appear larger. Blue tablecloths and little candles are on each table. I never did catch the name of the restaurant, but I promise to include that in a future column as Paul and Sue have put this on our list of restaurants to review.

Regardless of the name, the food is excellent and authentic German. Three German beers are offered on tap and we sample two, a Pilsner and a darker brew made with wheat and maybe a hint of cloves. We have a tough time choosing entrees, so we each order something different. Al orders a ham and cheese strudel which we all sample, and a cheese noodle dish with fried onions to share. It tastes like a fancy macaroni and cheese made with spaetzel noodles and probably a German cheese. We can't find the onions, but it's absolutely delicious. Ben selects pork in a dark beer sauce, Melissa has meatloaf made with pork and beef, topped with a fried egg, and I order the homemade beef and pork sausages served with sauerkraut. Two side orders come with each entree. Some of us choose the spaetzel and red cabbage and others the dumplings, all of which are excellent. Other side orders include sauerkraut, potato, vegetables and a small salad.

Melissa and I have to try dessert. I have a thin slice of Black Forest cake and Melissa has a double chocolate truffle cake. There are so many entrees that sounded good that a return trip by the restaurant review team will be required. To top it off, the menu items are extremely reasonable in price. My homemade sausage dinner with two side items was under $9. All in all, we have a pleasant evening with good company and lots of laughs. It has taken my mind off my aches and pains. Big Al is very entertaining and as usual he was recognized by some of the restaurant patrons who know him from his TV commercials. It's like going out to dinner with a celebrity. I tell Al that when we are up in my neck of the woods, similar things happen to me when folks will come up to me in stores or restaurants and ask if I'm the LifeLines columnist from the newspaper or ask how Lurk is doing!

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