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Lincoln County News
March 25, 1999

"LifeLines" My journal about living with cancer

by Sandy Labaree

This journal submission describes my round of blood tests and x-rays, and my appointment with Dr. Tom. The restaurant review returns to Maxwell's, and I contemplate a peep raffle to dispose of the growing collection.

March 12, 1999: Tonight, the restaurant review team is back intact as Paul and Sue have returned from their Parrot Head Convention, none the worse for the wear. Sue is still fighting a cold, so we decide to dine locally. We first tried to make reservations at King Eider's, only to discover that a party of 20 was booked into the upstairs dining room. Not wanting to wait for an 8 pm. opening, we opted instead for Maxwell's in Bath.

Friday at Maxwell's means prime rib and giant martinis. Sue and Paul usually share one of Maxwell's giant martinis. I have only had a martini back in my college days. It must have been pretty horrible as I haven't had the courage to order one since. We all order the prime rib tonight after giving the menu a cursory review. Sue, Paul and Ben all want end cuts. Sue asks how many end cuts are available and the waitress says they usually prepare at least 6 prime rib roasts, so that means at least 12 end cuts. The end cut is usually very tender and flavorful, and it doesn't disappoint any of the partakers this evening. My favorite part of the prime rib dinner is Maxwell's popovers. I always eat the popover first and end up taking home half of my prime rib. I usually heat it up for breakfast the next morning and share it with Ben and Lurk.

March 13, 1999: For a change of pace today, we catch a matinee movie at Cook's Corner. I had been wanting to see, "Analyze This", Billy Crystal's film starring Robert De Niro. The movie was very funny and well worth the ticket price. De Niro really should play more comedy roles. My brother-in-law, Bill, and his oldest son, Scott, worked on this film last year. Of course, Ben and I stayed until the very end to see their names in the credits.

March 14, 1999: Today is our first Corvette Club meeting of the season. We are having a pot luck supper at Gary and Cheryl's house in Cumberland. Cheryl is an adventurous cook who loves tackling any cooking feat she sees on TV. Today, under Cheryl's direction, Gary is deep-frying a turkey outside in a big vat! Gary readily admits he is not a chef, but he is able to tend the vat, the turkey and the meat thermometer and produce a perfectly cooked 21 lb. turkey in about 1 1/2 hours. The amazing thing about deep frying a turkey is how quickly it cooks. It also produces a very moist and tender turkey.

The rest of the club members have brought side dishes and desserts. We even have duplication: two green bean casseroles. No matter, our group demolishes them both, in addition to a potato casserole, homemade garlic knots, apple pie, ice cream and blue peeps for dessert. This is the first time I have seen or tasted blue peeps. Cheryl purchased them at Shaw's. Blue peeps are really rather disgusting-looking, but I have to admit that they taste no different from pink or yellow ones. Tom and Charlene have brought me a box of white peeps to add to my collection, which now numbers 85 peeps.

I don't know what to do with all of my peeps. I wanted to have a "peep auction" through the newspaper, but my editor pointed out that it would be a nightmare to coordinate. Perhaps, I can exhibit the peeps in a public place and raffle them off with proceeds going to charity. I have even considered donating them to a food bank or Meals On Wheels, though folks might argue that peeps have absolutely no nutritional value. However, they are completely fat-free and nothing else can imitate their squishy texture.

March 17, 1999: Today, I am having x-rays and tests at MidCoast Hospital. I arrive about 1/2 hour before my x-ray appointment. The lab receptionist signs me in and says she will try to get my blood tests done before my x-ray. I am dreading the long wait, as the last time, I waited over an hour for my blood test. One of the technicians tells me that waits are common now because of the new computer system and fewer staff. Claudia, the head technician, sees me and informs her fellow staff members that I am the person who traveled around the country in a Corvette to promote cancer awareness. Everyone asks how my Tour went and how I am doing. Some of them had seen the front page article about me in the daily newspaper. I do miss seeing Claudia and the other techs. When I was in chemotherapy, I visited the lab every other week to have my CBC done. Those were the good old days of the former computer system when I could breeze in and out in 10 minutes flat.

It's only a 25 minute wait today, so I am off to x-ray with minutes to spare. The x-ray tech can't find my previous mammogram films. I assure her that all of my old films have been sent from Eastern Maine Medical Center. I tell her that there is a giant file with my name on it in the x-ray department. She returns to tell me that yes, there is a giant file and she just located Volume II which houses the most recent mammograms.

The technician takes two x-rays of my left breast and one of my implant. I tell the tech that I thought that Dr. Minton wanted an ultrasound and not a mammogram done of the implant side. Mammograms of implants are difficult to do and rarely show a good view of the underlying tissue. The technician was unable to reach Dr. Minton and notes in my chart did not specify a sonogram, so I may have to return for this procedure at a later date.

March 18, 1999: Today is my treatment and appointment with Dr. Tom. His office is packed and the chemo room full. Before Cindy hooks up my IV, I meet with Tom to review my blood tests. The tumor marker test results aren't back yet, but my blood chemistries are excellent. In fact, they are the best they've ever been, and all within normal ranges. My alkaline/phosphate level is 72, well within normal range. In October, the level was 142 indicating problems in the bones. I was really pleased to see the level drop by half. I will be anxious to see my tumor marker levels.

Tom and I discuss my back pain, how many pain pills I'm taking per week, and how I am doing on the lower dose sleeping pill. My back pain has mysteriously disappeared this week, of course, since I have a Dr's appointment. I tell Tom that I suspect that the pain is mostly muscular or nerve related, and seems concentrated in the area of my former rib fractures. Tom seems satisfied that taking Aleve, an occasional pain pill and using a heating pad are sufficient for now. We also review side effects from my Aredia infusions. They are quite minimal, involving a general feeling of malaise the first day, and several days of minor bone pain. Today is my first treatment on the 3 1/2 week schedule. Previously, my bones started to ache on week three. With my treatment being upped, I am convinced it will help my bone and back pain situation.

In bad news, I gained another lb. Tom laughed and said it looked like my weight was leveling off, but then Easter was coming. I got the distinct impression that he was referring to my peep addiction. I was too embarrassed to ask if that was what he meant, but I will assure my readers that I still have 85 peeps in their unopened boxes. The Megace is continuing to do its job of piling on the weight. I tell Tom that I have never weighed this much in my life. He said he never has to deal with this problem as usually he is trying to help his patients retain or gain weight. After casually eliminating diet pills, and suggesting more exercise, we decide to look at other hormonal drugs. Tom will be checking on injections of Luprin, a drug that is being used at Dana Farber in combination with Aredia. I may be able to go off the Megace for awhile and try this. He will have some answers for me when he calls with the results of the tumor marker levels, probably next week.

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