Lincoln County News
June 24, 1999

"LifeLines" My journal about living with cancer

by Sandy Labaree

This journal submission describes a week of organizing for our upcoming Tour, while slowly recovering from my hospital stay. Rave restaurant reviews for Sebasco, and a surprise visit from Christy brightens our weekend.

June 11, 1999: I am still recovering from the mysterious headache episode that landed me in the hospital. I am feeling much better, the headache is completely gone and my bones have been in less pain, probably from the residual effects of all the morphine I had in the hospital. My stomach has had a slower recovery from the 1 1/2 hours of dry heaves. I couldn't figure out why my chest and neck muscles were so sore until Ben pointed out that dry heaves put a tremendous stress on those muscles.

Sue and I went to lunch at Canfield's today to plan our restaurant review for this evening. We always plan better while we are eating. Sue is pleased and relieved about my miraculous recovery. Ben had sent her a rather ominous e mail announcing that I was in the hospital. Being in the hospital scared everyone except me as I was in such pain, or in a morphine haze, that I didn't care where I was.

Sue and I decide to stick close to home tonight for the review, but we want something scenic and relaxing. I suggest that we check out Sebasco Resort's new dining room that opened last summer, and make reservations for 7 pm. Though dining at Sebasco is primarily for Resort patrons, the public is welcome with advance reservations.

The weather is spectacular tonight and Paul, Sue, Ben and I are treated to a beautiful harbor and sunset view from a window table in Sebasco's dining room. We are most impressed with the extensive and reasonably priced menu. I vacillate among choosing roast duck, shrimp and veal piccata, a beef filet or shrimp grilled Cajun style. There is hardly a menu item that doesn't appeal to me. Finally, Paul and I both order the roast duck, a boneless 1/2 duckling in a sherry sauce served over rice pilaf. It is superb. Ben selects a delicious salmon and asparagus entree wrapped in a very thin phyllo-type dough. Sue orders a seafood dish with scallops. For dessert, Sue and Paul split an order of chocolate bread pudding, and Ben and I share a slice of carrot cake. With such interesting menu items, we are already making plans for a return review. We vow to arrive earlier so we can stroll the beautiful grounds of the Resort.

June 12, 1999: Today, our daughter, Christy, is coming up for a brief overnight visit. Nils is away on a business trip in California and Christy thought it would be a good time to visit and celebrate Father's Day a week early. We will be on the road on Father's Day and probably won't see Christy again until late July.

Christy arrives at lunch time after braving the incoming Maine traffic and leaving two angry cats, Oops and Spot, to sulk and get into mischief at home. Christy said the cats have been out of sorts with Nils away. To add insult to injury, she left them this morning with a dish of dry cat food, meant to last two days, which they devoured instantly. Oops and Spot eat like dogs. As soon as their dish is filled with food, they eat it all at once. Lurk and most normal cats, pick away at their food over a period of time.

This afternoon, Christy and I spend a few hours shopping for Father's Day cards and gifts, a birthday gift for my sister, Mary Ann, and refilling prescriptions for my trip. I am out of practice when it comes to walking and shopping, but I manage to last four hours. We call Ben and arrange to meet him in Bath at Beale St. for dinner. Christy has never been to Beale St. and wants to treat Ben to an early Father's Day dinner. She is so impressed with her meal that she orders a rack of ribs and a jar of Beale St.'s famous barbecue sauce to take home to Nils.

June 13, 1999: Christy leaves after breakfast today. It was a very quick visit, but it's always an emotional boost for me to see her and hear how she's doing. She leads has a busy life and is building a very successful career. She needs the weekends to relax and re-group. She does not have much time for herself, so I appreciate her spending her free time to drive to Maine and visit with us. It is a tough balancing act to fit family, friends and personal needs into a demanding work schedule.

Less than ten years ago, my life was much like Christy's. I worked crazy fourteen hour days. I was driven by my career and the unrealistically high expectations I set for myself. I miss working, being healthy and having energy, but now I have time to relax and smell the coffee or the roses, or whatever it is that gets sacrificed when you are on the endless treadmill of career pursuits. I wish I could remember the quote, but someone once observed that when your life is nearly over, you aren't going to be looking back and remarking on your career and work achievements, and wishing you had spent more time working. Instead, you'll probably wish you had spent more time with your family and friends, and enjoying the good things in life.

June 16, 1999: This week, I am trying to get organized for our Tour trip to Illinois. Ben took me to Central Maine Medical Center in Lewiston yesterday for the final fitting of my compression sleeve. I found the sleeve quite comfortable after I had it on for awhile. The therapist placed a small cotton pad in the elbow section to eliminate any irritation from the sleeve bunching and pinching as my elbow bends.

I am playing it safe by having a sleeve ready to use when my arm swells in the heat and humidity this summer. The therapists at the Lewiston Clinic agree that my lymphedema is mild, but suggest I put the sleeve on early in the day when the weather is predicted to be hot and humid. Moist more than dry heat aggravates lymphedema, and the Midwest is known for its humidity. Last year, we spent five days in 100 degree heat at the Bloomington Show. I will go prepared this year.

I also went for a haircut yesterday. I am just getting used to having hair again. I have been letting it grow a little and enjoying it because if I go into a chemotherapy trial, my hair will be history. Once I start chemo, I figure I have only 3 more weeks of hair. The countdown has started to B-Day, Bald Day. I told my hairdresser, June, at Profiles that she may not see me for another year and a half. That's how long it took my hair to grow back last year to the point it needed a cut! It is very depressing. This will be chemotherapy regimen #3 for me and it doesn't get any easier to think about losing hair. I will have to find new ways to have funky fake hair, like looking for interesting new wigs to add to my collection.

Tonight, Tom and Charlene drive up to meet us for dinner at Canfield's. Tom unexpectedly lost his job last week with no notice. He is a professional welder and fabricator with many years experience. Ben knows how it feels to lose a job at age 50. He lost his job with 5 days notice in 1994, shortly after my cancer diagnosis. I had just been released from the hospital and was on an unpaid leave of absence from work. Both of us being unemployed, facing tremendous financial pressure, and starting cancer treatment had to be the lowest point in our lives. Though coping with a job loss can be overwhelming, I believe that when one door closes, a new one will open.

June 17, 1999: Another day of organizing for our trip. I have most of our Tour materials and suitcases set aside for final packing. Before having our weekly Canfield lunch, Sue comes over for a presentation on how to water and care for my plants. Lacking a green thumb, I have trained my plants to be watered once a week whether they like it or not. Sue has similar gardening skills, so my plants should be in good hands.

Tonight, is the wrap-up and evaluation dinner for the Living With Cancer Conference planning committee. After an excellent meal at the New Meadows Inn, we look through the evaluation forms. Most people don't take the time to fill out the forms and we usually end up with about 1/4 of the Conference participants responding. I received 85 Excellent and 18 Good votes for my keynote speech, plus some comments saying that it was the best keynote speech ever and the most personal. One person noted that they didn't like the photo (slide) of my cat, Lurk! Lurk must have gotten his paws on an evaluation form, or Christy may have said that in response to negative comments I made about her cats during my slide presentation.

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