Lincoln County News
March 18, 1999

"LifeLines" My journal about living with cancer

by Sandy Labaree

This journal submission describes a week of too many meetings, long days and continuing backaches. The restaurant review goes Chinese while Paul and Sue go Hawaiian. Details are finalized for the May 6th Living With Cancer Conference.

March 5, 1999: Thank God it's Friday. It has been a long week of meetings regarding the Wiscasset Area Community Fair, the Business Association's Area Guide, a regional job skills survey, and finally a lunch meeting today in Hallowell with Peter, the Executive Director of the Kennebec Valley Chamber of Commerce. Peter is meeting with me and Dan, Wiscasset's Town Planner, to discuss how Peter and his Chamber organized a business/industrial park in their region. I feel like I have returned to the working world, which is NOT good as I promised to cut back on my involvement and activities. Over the past few months, I have narrowed my focus to a few committees and projects. However, one thing seems to lead to another. I must renew my efforts to say "no".

Today's lunch meeting is at Slate's in Hallowell. It's a very comfortable little restaurant tucked into two storefronts in downtown Hallowell. The menu is really interesting and creative, and the portions generous. Slate's has their own bakery and their French bread and desserts are incredible. It's the kind of place where you are tempted to go for coffee and dessert on a daily basis. Dan and Peter ordered chocolate peanut butter pie a la mode. I was mentally taking notes for a restaurant review during our business discussions.

Tonight, Ben and I are on our own for the real weekly restaurant review. Sue and Paul are headed to Framingham, MA for a Parrot Head Convention, a huge gathering of Jimmy Buffett fans who listen to Buffett music and drink Margaritas all weekend. I think I am too old to party or maybe I've just gotten out of condition, but Sue says I should think about coming along some time. Instead, I helped Sue assemble Hawaiian costumes from my private costume collection. She selected a fake grass skirt made out of red crepe paper, a pink plastic coconut style bra, a black wig for Paul, some leis and a maraca. I have the feeling that I will miss an indescribable scene of Paul dancing in this outfit. If he's lucky, nobody will recognize him or he won't remember what happened.

I have a hankering for Chinese food tonight, so Ben and I travel to First Wok in Brunswick. Ben orders the Hunan Chicken, extra spicy, his favorite and I decide to have the mixed vegetables in garlic sauce. We shared an order of the steamed dumplings as an appetizer. It is quiet tonight as everyone is getting ready for the big snowstorm which is supposed to arrive tomorrow. As soon as we finish dinner, we join the hordes of shoppers at Shaw's in Brunswick. I usually do my food shopping on Saturday, but I plan on staying in and taking it easy this weekend.

March 7, 1999: Snow is continuing to fall in what will probably be our biggest snow storm of the season. I have been taking it easy this weekend, allowing Ben to do the housework, snow shoveling, etc. Though I feel very lazy, just relaxing and resting has definitely helped my back pain. This is the best my back has felt in several weeks.

Christy called this morning from the Charlotte, NC airport, a stop-over on her way to Jamaica. She arrived around 6:30 am. at Logan Airport in Boston to catch the 7:30 flight to Charlotte. The airline suggested she take the 6:40 am. flight as they were not sure which flights would be able to depart due to weather. So, after waiting for de-icing and runways to be cleared, Christy's flight took off and she arrived in Charlotte with plenty of time to make her connecting flight. Since Christy's husband, Nils, was able to take more time off from work, he is already in Jamaica lounging on the beach and scuba diving. Christy has been stressed out by work and a long bout with the flu, followed by a week or more of insomnia. So this seven day vacation is a much needed break.

March 8, 1999: My sister, Peg, called me tonight. My parents had driven up to Princeton for the day to take care of some banking business. They arranged an impromptu lunch at my brother's office, and Peg went over to join them. Just hearing about this little get-together makes me envious. I would love to take an hour out of my day for a family visit, but we're 450 miles apart. Of course, we have phone and e mail, but it's just not the same. I take some solace in knowing that my intervention in December made it possible for Peg and my parents to reconcile, and therefore be enjoying lunch together today. Since December, Peg and my parents have been regularly in touch. The family relationship is back to normal, and sadly I remain an outsider due to distance.

My brother, Ray, had a copy of my Corvette Quarterly article which he showed to everyone at lunch today. When Peg called me tonight, she asked me to mail her two copies of the magazine. Bill will be sending them to an actor/producer he knows who might be interested in my life story and the Tour as movie material. I often think that my column reads like a soap opera, and some of my readers tell me that they can't miss an issue because it's like an on-going serial. If that's the case, it could easily translate to a TV mini-series or a documentary movie. I told Peg that I can't star in the movie because I've gained too much weight from the drug I'm taking. She said not to worry as the producers can hire personal trainers to take weight off fast.

March 10, 1999: Today, I am meeting with Connie, the Regional Director of the American Cancer Society. We are having lunch at Le Garage and discussing my plans for the 1999 Corvettes Conquer Cancer Tour. I have decided that I cannot do what I did last year. It was 3 1/2 months on the road and I don't feel well enough or have the energy for a repeat performance. Instead, I have identified 5 national Corvette events that I will do, barring any health problems. It has been a difficult decision as I was invited back to all the major Corvette events, plus more. I would love to attend them all, but right now my body is telling me "no". It is very frustrating, but I am determined to do as many Tour appearances as possible this coming season.

I am feeling slightly burned out on American Cancer Society business. On Sunday, I finally completed a month-long project of putting together the brochure for the Living With Cancer Conference. I should have had my head examined when I volunteered to compile the information, typeset it and do the design and layout for the brochure. Yesterday morning, I sighed with great relief as I delivered it camera-ready to the Copy Shop for printing. I used to do work like this every day in my business, and hammered it right out. Now, I am retired, tired and out of practice.

Anyway, I am very excited about the Conference itself. We have 14 fantastic workshops featuring the latest treatment information regarding prostate, breast, lung, and gynecological cancers. Other workshop topics include skin cancer detection, advances in cancer research, coping skills, nutrition, spirituality, helping children deal with cancer, and pain management. We have four cancer survivors who will tell their own personal stories as part of our popular patient panel. We will have a room filled with exhibits and information, and in the midst of it all, I will be the keynote speaker. It's time for me to stop writing brochure copy and start writing my 45 minute (!) speech, which I will probably write the night before the Conference. I have started to assemble slides of my Tour as I plan to fill a lot of speech time with slides.

To receive one of these beautifully designed brochures, phone the American Cancer Society at 1-800-464-3102. The brochures will be mailed the end of March. The day-long Conference will be held at the Augusta Civic Center on Thurs. May 6th. It is open to the public and cancer patients/survivors and their family members can attend free of charge.

After four days of being relatively free of back pain, it has returned with a vengeance in a different part of my back. I resorted to Tylenol and a pain pill earlier today and I know that I will need another pain pill tonight. Next week, I have an appointment with Dr. Tom and will have my tumor marker levels and a full barrage of tests done at the hospital. I would not be surprised if the tumor activity level is up as I suspect my bone tumors are acting up and causing the back pain. I plan to do some Internet research between now and next week to check on new drugs. I might need a new plan of action and a different drug to get the pain and/or tumors back under control.

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