Lincoln County News
February 18, 1999

"LifeLines" My journal about living with cancer

by Sandy Labaree

This journal submission describes my battle with persistent fatigue over the past few weeks. The restaurant review goes Chinese. Readers and friends are inquiring if I'll repeat my evaluation of Valentine candies and Easter peeps this year.

February 5, 1999: Tonight, the restaurant review team departs for First Wok in Brunswick. We have not had Chinese food in months so we have to remedy this situation. First Wok is not your typical Chinese restaurant. There are no booths, funky dragons, or music playing. The tables are covered with crisp linens, and the atmosphere is quiet and inviting. Though the trend in Chinese restaurants seems to be buffet-style, the review team prefers table service and a more relaxing dinner. Buffets are great for quick meals or short lunch hours. Ben has twice visited a popular Chinese buffet place in South Portland near his office for lunch. The restaurant is always mobbed, the buffet is huge and inexpensive, and you are whisked in and out in minutes.

Tonight, when our waiter comes around for drink orders, Paul orders some kind of scotch whiskey and rather than repeat the name of it, he tries to point out the bottle in the line up of bottles behind the bar. Our poor waiter, got confused. There was a possible language barrier or a misunderstanding as to left and right, with Paul using the bottle of Galliano in the line-up behind the bar as a reference point. Finally, the bottle was identified and Paul got what he ordered. Sue and I ordered the house wine, figuring that was easier.

Our dinners were superb. We started with vegetarian dumplings, spring rolls and hot and sour soup as appetizers, before moving on to Hunan chicken, General Tso's chicken and mixed vegetables in garlic sauce. We all pigged out and there was no need for doggie bags. Ben's and my tab was around $25, and that included drinks. An excellent meal at an incredible price!

February 8, 1999: I have been feeling dragged out the past two weeks, ever since our return from Florida. At first, I attributed it to the 3700 mile drive, then to the slight delay on receiving my Aredia treatment, and finally to the fatigue and slight discomfort I usually feel the first several days following treatment. I am trying to get plenty of sleep and rest, but it doesn't seem to help. It is very frustrating because it is hard for me to plan my activities. I never know how I am going to feel from day to day, or hour to hour.

For instance, on Sunday, we had a long day planned. I prepared for this by going to bed early on Saturday night. We had to get up at 5:30 am. to meet our friends, Tom, Charlene and Gary for breakfast and to travel to a Corvette Club meeting in New Hampshire. About 7:15 am., I was remarking on how good I felt, and the day progressed quite well. However, by late afternoon, my back was in pain. By the time we arrived home around 10 pm., I was exhausted and in more discomfort than I realized. I slept miserably and awoke today feeling light-headed and tired, with my bones hurting.

We have discussed fatigue at length in my cancer support group. It can be brought on by chemotherapy or radiation treatments, from medications, or just by cancer itself affecting the immune system. And seasonably, the winter doldrums or cabin fever compound the problem. It is an insidious affliction because in most cases, you appear normal on the outside. Folks will comment on how good you look. (A comment I hear regularly!) Meanwhile, you are ready to keel over. Fatigue is frustrating and stressful because it affects your ability to perform routine tasks. You feel inadequate or think that others will view you as lazy. Sleep and rest sometimes do not cure fatigue. This all sounds very depressing, but it's an issue in many diseases, and not just cancer.

Since I don't have a miracle cure for fatigue, I am just limiting my activities, getting plenty of rest, and trying to deal with this on a day-to-day basis. My lack of energy is probably a cumulative effect of everything that has happened to me in the past month. If it persists or gets worse, I plan to call Dr. Tom.

February 9, 1999: Today, I am having lunch with Linda, a former Executive Director of the Yarmouth Chamber of Commerce. In my role as Executive Director of the Wiscasset Regional Business Association, I have had the opportunity to meet and work with many Chamber representatives throughout the state. I am fortunate to count several of these fine leaders in my circle of friends. Linda has since moved on to a new career which also coincidentally crossed paths with me. A former nurse, Linda is now director of breast health for the American Cancer Society in Maine. Linda and I communicate regularly by e mail, have occasional lunch dates, and I have agreed to assist her with breast cancer programs.

Linda and I have not decided upon a location for lunch, so when she arrives at my house, I propose going to Canfield's. We had been to Le Garage and King Eider's previously. Linda laughs when she hears me suggest Canfield's. Before she left her office today, her fellow workers were placing bets that I would suggest Canfield's. They all read my column and know that it is a frequent hang-out of mine. I figured it was time that Linda be introduced to Canfield's cuisine and a little local color. Linda ordered the lobster stew and was delighted with her choice. She felt especially honored when owner, Mary Ann, came out to visit our table.

February 11, 1999: Readers and friends have been asking if I will be repeating my peep and chocolate diets again this year. For those who are unfamiliar with the peep and candy references, I will briefly recap the story. Last February, while I was undergoing chemotherapy, I had tremendous sugar and chocolate cravings. I'm talking tremendous, not your average chocoholic outbreaks. Ben bought me a one lb. box of dark chocolate covered butter creams for Valentine's Day. He made the mistake of giving them to me early, or maybe I begged him to let me open the box before the 14th? I forget. Needless to say, I finished them off in 5 days and whined so much that he returned to Tontine Candies for another box. I have never eaten so much candy in such a short period of time, and I lost 4 lbs. Though I attributed the weight loss to my butter creams diet plan which I hope to patent, it was probably due to the chemo.

My next sugar attack occurred around the beginning of March. As soon as Easter candy hit the store shelves, I was consumed by an overwhelming craving for peeps, those marshmallow chickens and rabbits that are coated with sugar. Initially, I purchased several boxes of peeps. Then, the Easter shopping craze hit and not a peep was to be had. Friends came to the rescue and sent me several boxes. Eventually, I ended up with a total of 70 peeps. Though I shared some with friends, I managed to lose 3 more lbs. on my peep diet.

By the time Easter was over, I had overdosed on peeps. Once the word was out on my love of peeps, well-meaning family, friends and readers have been sending me peeps. I received 6 boxes of orange marshmallow pumpkins at Halloween and a box of green Christmas trees at Christmas. Though both were made by the Just Born Company, the official manufacturer of Easter peeps, they didn't taste the same as the puffed up Easter rabbits and chicks. Must be a secret recipe reserved for Easter.

I feel the need to be re-inspired about peeps, so I am now going to a peep website, www.critpath.org/~tracy/peep.html, which is loaded with all the information you need to know about peeps, but were afraid to ask.

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