Lincoln County News
February 25, 1999

"LifeLines" My journal about living with cancer

by Sandy Labaree

This journal submission describes my first visit to my new surgeon. Ben and I enjoy a unique getaway and restaurant review. A fleeting series of aches and pains is driving me to distraction.

February 13, 1999: We are doing a unique and solo restaurant review this weekend. Ben and I have decided to do a combined Valentine's Day and (Ben's) birthday one-night getaway. After much searching for accommodations at various inns, hotels and B&B's from Portland to Camden, we could not get a room for Saturday night. I was checking out places in the Camden area when I came across the Youngtown Inn in Lincolnville. Ben and I have driven past this beautiful old inn on several occasions, and I had heard wonderful reports about their French restaurant. I called and we were fortunate to get a room for tonight. Only dinner patrons can reserve a room, so we will be dining there this evening. Included in the cost of the room is a full gourmet breakfast in the morning.

I told Sue and Paul about our plans, but they were unable to join us because Paul is going to an all-day Ham Fest. Not a smoked pork or bacon festival, but a function where ham radio buffs go to talk the trade and spend money on equipment they don't need, or at least that is how Sue describes it. Sue was most envious about missing the escargots and other specialties from the menu which is posted on Youngtown's website, along with pictures of the inn and its six rooms.

Ben and I arrive at the inn around 6:30 pm. and check into our room on the third floor. Despite the sloping walls under the eaves, it is a large comfortable room with a queen size bed, sofa, and a studio couch in an alcove. The room is immaculate, and decorated in a French country-style motif. Our dinner reservation is for 7 pm., so we order drinks in the small cozy bar off the dining room. The first floor of the inn is divided into several dining areas. The main dining room was probably once a living room. A smaller dining room may have been a parlor or library. The porch area off the main dining room is where breakfast is served.

When our table is ready, we are led to the charming small dining room which has only three or four tables. We are seated next to a glowing fireplace, and it is picture perfect. Ben and I share an order of escargots, sinfully loaded with butter and garlic. We sop up every drop of the sauce with chunks of delicious French rolls which are continually served from table to table in a large bread basket. For entrees, Ben selects the rack of lamb and I choose one of the dinner specials, braised sweetbreads in a Portobello mushroom sauce. Both are excellent. For dessert, we share a superb creme brulee. The Inn's owner and chef, Manuel, is a native of France and well-versed in French cooking. Despite the impressive menu, the prices are remarkably modest.

The following morning, breakfast is served on the porch. We are treated to hot croissants with thick strawberry jam, juice, fresh pineapple, followed by scrambled eggs served over smoked salmon and a potato puff. It was an incredible dining experience and a relaxing getaway for us. The other half of our review team was insanely jealous and is already suggesting a holiday getaway for St. Patrick's Day, Patriot's Day or whatever holiday comes first.

February 15, 1999: Despite the relaxing getaway, I am still not feeling up to par. Yesterday, I had a prolonged spell of light-headedness, and my backaches seem to come and go. Occasionally at the end of the day, I will use a heating pad on my back. Pain relievers such as ibuprofen and Tylenol haven't really helped, so I have just kept active and busy. I have learned that when all else fails, keeping busy takes my mind off aches and pains.

Tonight, Ben and I attend my cancer support group meeting. It is always a boost emotionally to listen and talk to my friends and fellow patients. Especially, if I'm not feeling particularly well, there is always someone else who is going through something worse. We all sympathize with each other, and are acutely aware of the ups and downs of cancer. Our group members are very positive and upbeat, yet we each have our times when we're depressed or tearful.

February 17, 1999: Today, I have an appointment with my new surgeon, Dr. Lisa Minton. I am delighted when I am taken in on time with no wait. I am so used to waiting for lab tests, x-rays, and Drs. I am familiar with every waiting room in explicit detail, including their stock of out-dated and/or strange magazines.

I met Dr. Lisa through the American Cancer Society as she does volunteer work in breast health. She comes into the examining room and shakes my hand, telling me that she is so privileged to have me as a patient! I'm surprised and flattered and assume she must be referring to my "celebrity" status as an LCN columnist and ACS volunteer. However, it's more likely that she greets all her patients that way.

Lisa is friendly and down-to-earth, and very thorough. Not only did she examine my chest wall and nodes thoroughly, she had also read through all the stacks of medical files sent to her by Dr. Tom and Wes. She comments about the huge number of files and x-rays, but it is apparent she has read them carefully. She seems intrigued by the initial diagnosis of my cancer. The area of malignant microcalcifications was very small, and yet the disease had already progressed into two lymph nodes, not a common occurrence.

Dr. Lisa has scheduled me for a mammogram and an ultra-sound next month to examine areas of microcalcifications that are showing up in the scar tissue from my reconstructive surgery. I have had several areas biopsied in the past. All turned out to be normal calcifications in the scar tissue. I suspect that I will soon be having another stereotactic biopsy, which will mean a trip to Lewiston or Portland, as our local hospitals do not have the equipment to perform the procedure. I have had two stereotactics and they are not painful. However, lying on the hard table they use is enough to leave you grouchy and hobbling around for days. My bones are now stressed by the bone tumors, so I am not looking forward to the procedure.

February 18, 1999: I have kept myself busy this week with meetings, both social and business-related. I had two business meetings on Tuesday, lunch with Sue at Canfield's on Wednesday, and today my friend, Dru, and I went to King Eider's. We had a great lunch and visit. On the way out, Larry the owner spotted us and waved. He probably went upstairs to check the raw sugar packets as soon as we left.

Today, was one of those days when I pushed my limits. I awoke this morning with a weird headache, much like the migraines that I get infrequently. I took a pain pill and went ahead with my lunch plans with Dru. I don't think she could tell, but I was in a fog from the headache. As soon as I got home, I lay down for a few minutes and then got up to write my column. Hopefully, it's coherent. My fingers are typing quite well, but it feels like my mind has taken a short vacation. I am counting the days until Monday when I will see Dr. Tom. As fuzzy-headed as I am, I can see tests looming in my near future.

- - -

(Click here to go directly to the next column)