Lincoln County News
March 4, 1999

"LifeLines" My journal about living with cancer

by Sandy Labaree

This journal submission describes my appointment with Dr. Tom and a change in my monthly treatment schedule. A visiting Corvette friend joins the restaurant review team at Graziano's. Peeps threaten to invade Wiscasset.

February 19, 1999: Today, one of our Corvette friends from MA is visiting. Ben and I have known Ann for 20 years. The three of us were involved in the founding of the New England Corvette Council, a group of over 42 Corvette Clubs from the New England states and Canada. Ann has every other Friday off from work, so she suggested visiting and keeping me company for the day. I give Ann a tour of Wiscasset before lunch at Le Garage. Afterwards, we visit Damariscotta and Bath, and I let Ann drive my Corvette. Ann owns a 1966 Corvette and has never driven a new one like mine. She seems very impressed with the ride and handling.

Tonight, Ann is included in our restaurant review team's trip to Graziano's in Lisbon. Ben, Paul, Sue and I haven't been there in a few years, but it was always one of our favorite restaurants. For those unfamiliar with Graziano's, it's renowned for its casual dining and excellent Italian cuisine. The restaurant, located on Route 196, started out as a small corner bar/eatery featuring pizza and home-cooked Northern Italian dishes, and an incredible collection of boxing photos and memorabilia. Over the years, the restaurant has annexed neighboring storefronts and now occupies nearly the entire block. Despite the expansion, the menu remains nearly the same and generations of families are regular patrons.

Graziano's will not take reservations, only preferred seating which means you phone ahead and give them the number in your party. They have a nice waiting area with hors d'oeuvres and entertainment, so we don't mind the short wait. The restaurant is very busy this evening, and our dinners are slow in arriving. None of us mind as we have a chance to chat, chew on fresh Italian bread, and share a small white olive oil and garlic pizza as an appetizer.

All of us have our favorites from Graziano's menu. Paul and I love the Shrimp Calabrese, which features large Gulf shrimp, prosciutto ham, mushrooms, black olives and roasted peppers in a marinara sauce on a bed of spaghetti. It is no longer listed on the menu, but the waitress says the kitchen will still prepare it if you ask. We decide to be bold this evening and order something different. For dinner, Ann orders tortellini and I choose Haddock San Remo which is prepared in a light white wine sauce with artichoke hearts and mushrooms, Sue and Paul have a shrimp special with a spicy marinara sauce, and Ben selects linguini with red clam sauce. I have no room for dessert, but sample Ann's Reese's Peanut Butter Pie and some of Sue and Paul's tiramisu. If Graziano's was closer, we would probably be dining there every other weekend.

February 22, 1999: Today is my IV infusion and appointment with Dr. Tom. The office is very quiet this morning. Cindy says that two patients canceled or are delayed. It is great to see Cindy, my favorite IV nurse. She can hit a vein every time, and I appreciate that as my veins are so thin and uncooperative. I have missed seeing Cindy the past few months as my appointments have been on Mondays, her day off. She has changed her work schedule, so hopefully we'll see each other more often.

Today it is very windy and cold and my veins are hiding. I run my left hand under warm water for a good five minutes while Cindy prepares the IV supplies. Cindy studies my hand for a minute and finds a suitable vein candidate, and soon the IV is off and running. Cindy is an expert when it comes to setting up IV's and getting them running on time with no problems. With Cindy at the controls, I can count on getting done in two hours. Without Cindy, it has occasionally taken 2 1/2 or more hours. I admit that I am not very patient about sitting in the chemo room. There are only so many magazines to read or notes to write while getting treatment. I really shouldn't complain because some folks are there for hours. Today, a gentleman was receiving an all day infusion. He was watching TV and chatting with fellow patients. His daughter also came in to visit with him and bring him lunch. He was making the most out of what must have been a very long day.

Dr. Tom seems pleased with my progress, despite my continued weight gain from the Megace (nearly 14 lbs. since late September). This is very frustrating and upsetting to me because it is drug induced and out of my control. Tom says he doesn't know if my weight will eventually level off. He mentions having to take one of his patients off Megace because she gained a huge amount of weight. We briefly discuss alternative drugs such as Erimidex, which I was allergic to, and Tamoxifen related drugs which in the past have not been effective in treating my cancer. My options are very limited when it comes to hormonal manipulator type drugs. Chemotherapy is an option, but Tom and I are reluctant to use Taxol which is the last chemo drug available to me. It seems wise to save that for dire circumstances. So I will stay with the Megace and continue to expand my boundaries.

I tell Tom about my recent bouts with light-headedness. We review the situation in detail and decide it is probably viral-related or from my sinusitis. I thank God that Tom has not ordered CT scans of my head or an MRI. I am tired of going through tests, so the fewer the better.

My backaches are another topic of concern today. Most likely they are either muscular in nature, or possibly the bone tumor sites reacting as they have in the past when I am due for my Aredia infusion. Each month since I have been on Aredia, I have observed some of the bone tumor sites aching about a week before my treatment, as if they are reminding me it's time for treatment. I suggest to Tom that we move up my Aredia infusion to a three week instead of four week schedule. He agrees to try a 3 1/2 week schedule, and in the meantime, he will be calling other oncologists to discuss the efficacy of a three week schedule.

February 24, 1999: Today, Sue and I met for lunch at Canfield's. It was so mobbed we could barely get a seat. Sue brought me a large box that had been mailed to the newspaper to my attention. Sue said she guessed it was peeps because the box was so light. Sure enough, inside were a huge variety of pink, yellow, white and purple peeps. A total of 60 peeps in all! Enclosed in the box was a note from one of my readers, Phyllis, in MA. She said she first read my column while visiting Pemaquid last April, and decided to subscribe to the paper so she could continue to follow "LifeLines". Thank you, Phyllis! This shipment of peeps, plus the box of 15 that I bought at WalMart's earlier this week, makes a grand total of 75 peeps. I am ready to join the national peep-off, if I don't suffer a sugar overdose first.

Last year, I lost 3 lbs. on my peep diet. This year, I will probably gain 30 lbs. due to the Megace effect. I am seriously considering joining an organization that advocates for large people. Just last week in San Francisco, I heard on the news that an organization of large people was picketing a fitness gym. It seems that the fitness gym was running an ad campaign with giant billboards showing a space alien type creature proclaiming that, "When we come, we will eat the fat ones first!" It was a stupid and insensitive ad campaign, but I'm taking no chances. After consuming all these peeps, I am taking cover.

- - -

(Click here to go directly to the next column)