Lincoln County News
February 5, 1998

"LifeLines" My journal about living with cancer

by Sandy Labaree

This journal submission is about my friends, and how their friendship helps me through the difficult days of my cancer treatment.

Jan. 13th: Today I had a great visit with my friend, Mary. Mary and I have been friends for nearly 15 years. Over the years, I've had the pleasure of knowing her as a friend, colleague and also even as her employee. We are both very organized, assertive, business-oriented women, but we also know how to laugh and play hard. We can be a dangerous combination of high estrogen, wit, humor and business, if given half the opportunity.

Mary is just finishing up massive schooling like Masters, MBA and God knows what. With her credentials, she is now qualified to run the world. Mary has come over to "have tea". This sounds so prim and proper, so I decide to make little tea sandwiches to serve with our tea. I feel like June Cleaver on "Leave It To Beaver". I decide to wear my frosted wig for the occasion. I call this wig my New Jersey Shore Italian Ladies look. Mary agrees that she has also seen many of these frosted styles in the area where she grew up on Long Island, NY.

Mary brings me a special gift she has made. It is a ceramic dragon and she guarantees it will bring me good luck. Perhaps, I can be like St. George, the dragon slayer, using my powers to slash away at every little cancer cell. I like this picture.

Jan. 14th: It's blood test time and Keith, one of my dear friends from the Corvette Club, has offered to drive me to the Brunswick Hospital. Keith, is a contractor and since he's his own boss, he says he can set his own schedule. He picks me up at 10 am. and by noon I have had the blood test and visited Tom's office to have his Physician's Assistant, Carol, check my lungs. I still have a cough and wheezing so a new cough syrup is suggested along with my inhaler and humidifier. Otherwise, things sound all right. If the wheeze and cough are not gone by next week, Carol says they will do a lung x-ray.

Keith and I make a trip to the lumberyard and then out to lunch at Applebee's for a hamburger. My counts show that I am anemic so I figure it is time for me to start eating beef. It is a great day. I feel so happy to be out of the house and amidst humanity again.

After arriving home, Libby phones to check up on me. I tell her it is Tuesday and begin to describe my plans for the week. Libby says, "Sandy, I really think it is Wednesday, are you sure?" I am absolutely sure. Libby calls back a half hour later to tell me she has called several people to ask what day it is. They confirm that it is Wednesday. Now, I know my brain has been really fried on chemo. I sit down and cross out all the things I have written on my weekly calendar. They were all off by one day. Fortunately, Libby and I can laugh at this. If it wasn't for the chemo and all the drugs I'm taking, I'd be certain I was losing my mind.

Jan. 15th: Today, Lurk, my cat, and I have achieved celebrity status. This must be my five minutes of fame! Sue Cereste's article about my journey with cancer hit the front page of The Lincoln County News, with a great photo of me holding an embarrassingly plump, over-sized Lurk. Ben says Lurk looks like the Kliban Cat without the sneakers.

Sue did a super article and I heard many good comments from my adoring public. Only one tiny error: My brother-in-law, Bill, (The Hairdresser To The Stars) is responsible for my wigs, not my brother.

Next week, my journal will appear weekly in The Lincoln County News. I have decided to name this weekly (weakly?) submission, LifeLines. LifeLines has several meanings for me. It's not only written copy about my life with cancer, it is also a connection to humanity outside my four walls. This human connection quite literally is saving my life.

Well, enough of that seriousness and back to what people really want to know, according to Sue. The world is filled with pet lovers and apparently the photo of Lurk has raised many questions and comments back at the newspaper office. I expect that in the near future, we will be establishing a special mailbox at the newspaper for Lurk's fan mail and I may consider an e mail address for him. As it is, he spends many hours sitting on my computer and attempting to walk on the keyboard, so perhaps he can be "trained" to type responses to e mails. Excuse me, I forgot. There are no trained cats, only trained owners, so forget the e mails.

Today, after my five minutes of fame, I decided I would attend a public meeting. I am a member of the prestigious Maine Yankee Decommissioning Panel. Important business is conducted at those meetings and I make every effort to attend.

My stomach and intestines have been on a roller coaster for the past week and taking a real hit from last week's chemo. Ben drove me to the meeting and I managed to tough it out for the very interesting 3 1/2 hour session. Fortunately, my chemo fried brain cooperated and I was able to concentrate and participate.

Jan. 18th and 19th: We visit my daughter, Christy and her husband, Nils, in Bedford, MA. The main purpose of our trip is to set up a fully-equipped backyard feeding station for birds. Christy also wants to prepare some meals for me to take home. My daughter has just purchased a lovely Cape with a wonderful backyard. They have no bird feeders and I have volunteered to assemble everything necessary to attract an assortment of birds. The feeders will also serve as entertainment for Christy's two indoor kittens, known collectively as the Orange Menace. The cats are 6 mos. old, orange-buff in color and brothers rescued from a shelter. So far, they have only temporary names,"Oops" and "Spot". For those familiar with my cat "Lurk", they are his "nephews" by marriage and my "grandchildren". They are very active and potentially destructive, and my daughter is constantly excusing herself to administer beatings. We allow the cats into our bedroom for the night. Big mistake. As soon as the lights went off, the cats began flinging themselves against the wall and attacking wall and ceiling mounted white fluorescent dots, left behind by the kids who used to occupy the room.

My trip to Bedford also included a quick side-trip into Boston. My friend, Marian, is at Massachusetts General Hospital, recovering from a serious liver operation. Though I wasn't feeling particularly well, I decided to make a surprise visit. It was a short "T" ride and Christy and Ben accompanied me. I figured if I passed out, at least I'd be at a big medical center and not far from Dana-Farber, where my treatment is based. Marian was feeling quite miserable and was half-asleep when I walked in. She thought I was an apparition. Certainly, her friend the cancer patient would never travel down from Maine to visit. I arrived in the nick of time to assist poor Marian with an attack of vomiting. Being the expert now on nausea and retching (and having worked as a nurse's aide many years ago), I knew exactly where to find the emesis basin in the bedside cabinet. In no time, the nurses arrived to get Marian cleaned up and comfortable. It was a strange feeling being the "Visitor", rather than the patient. Marian will have a tough recovery and we talked about her pain and what she's been through. I asked who was caring for the family cat, "Sammy". Samantha is a 23 year old black cat who I have had the pleasure of knowing for the past 11 years. Marian looked distraught and said, "Didn't I tell you Sammy passed away just after Thanksgiving?" Well, I just lost it right there and couldn't hold back the tears. Marian was teary-eyed, but looked concerned that I was taking the news so hard. Marian started to say, "She was so old, Sandy." Yet, I think both of us knew that these tears were being shed for the plight of the three of us: Sammy, Marian and myself.

Jan. 20th: Today, is the last day of my Neupagen for this round of treatment. I am glad it's finished. The past two or three days, when Ben gave me my shot, the needles seemed dull or missed their mark, the injections hurt more than usual and I ended up with a huge 3 or 4 inch bruise on my stomach. I told Dr. Ben I was going to sue him for malpractice. Time to take away his needles and syringes, at least until the next round of chemo.

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