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Lincoln County News
May 6, 1999

"LifeLines" My journal about living with cancer

by Sandy Labaree

This journal submission describes the great mouse invasion and several restaurant reviews. While undergoing testing for the cancer vaccine trial, I prepare for the Living With Cancer Conference and a TV appearance.

April 22, 1999: One of my fans dropped off a gift for Lurk at Canfield's Restaurant today! Lurk deserves a gift for his heroic attempts to catch a mouse in my kitchen. I awoke around 5 am. today to a scrabbling sound coming from my kitchen. It was Lurk trying to get traction on the linoleum floor. I figured he had either fallen off the kitchen table which is forbidden territory for him, or he was playing with one of his catnip toys. Deciding it was not worth getting out of bed, I went back to sleep.

When I got up, Lurk was parked by the kitchen stove, peering under the front drawer. I took apart a coat hangar, thrashed it around under the stove, and out came a real (not catnip) mouse! Lurk however, was having one of his senior moments and had turned his back on all the commotion. Meanwhile, I'm yelling at Lurk to do his job and get the mouse. The mouse then darted under my refrigerator in a space so narrow, I couldn't fit the wire. I took off the bottom vent panel on the refrigerator and attempted to stick the wire under all the tubing and various refrigerator parts. No response from the mouse, though Lurk was watching me intently as I was lying on the floor, flailing around with the wire, and worrying about electrocution. After futile attempts to flush out the mouse, I picked up Lurk and placed him in front of the open vent area. He sniffed it, then sat and stared at the refrigerator for half and hour. Bored by no further mouse activity, Lurk tried to slink down the hallway to our bedroom for his daily 10 hour nap. I yelled at him to get back to work. Usually, Lurk doesn't listen to me, but he returned to his post.

About an hour later, I was talking to Sue on the phone in the kitchen. Lurk must have detected mouse movement as he suddenly perked up his head. In a flash, the mouse came charging out, rounded the corner to the hallway and ran under the door to the basement. Senior Feline had a slow start, but took the corner quite well before crashing into the basement door. He spent the rest of the day parked by the door.

I don't like having mice inside my house. I'm not afraid of them and they look cute, but mice belong living outside in my yard or in the field across the street. During the winter, field mice have occasionally sought warmth and shelter in our basement. Ben has caught a few in traps, as we don't allow Lurk in the basement. I put an end to what I call the mouse murders last year when a very bizarre happening made me think twice about mousetraps.

Last winter, Ben saw a mouse in the basement and set a trap. The next day, I went down to do laundry and found a dead mouse in the trap. Figuring I'd let Ben dispose of the carcass, I took a broom and pushed the trap out of sight. Later, when I returned to the laundry room, the trap had moved back to it's original site! I carefully checked to make sure the mouse was dead. When Ben came home, I told him the trap with the dead mouse had moved. He eyed me skeptically and said that traps kill mice instantly. We went to the basement, and the trap had moved again! This time, it was flipped upside down by the bulkhead door, dead mouse still intact! Ben confirmed the mouse was really dead and had no explanation as to how the trap moved by itself. Entering the Twilight Zone? I was convinced I was being punished for murdering mice.

Ben re-set the trap and the very next day, we had another dead mouse. Again, the trap had moved from where we had set it. We found it upside down by the bulkhead door. Ben disposed of dead mouse #2 and re-set the trap. The next day we caught mouse #3. The trap was where we had placed it. Ben figured that mouse #2 and #3 had valiantly tried to save their buddies by dragging them away. I told Ben no more mouse murders. They can live in my basement during the winter. I may regret this decision because a mouse has now decided to visit upstairs.

This afternoon, I picked up Lurk's gift, a lovely fleece throw with colorful felt appliqués of a mouse, fish, lobster, cat and heart. One of my readers, Sherry, makes these wonderful "Catnappers", which are designed to protect your furniture from cat fur. I put it on Lurk's favorite chair. He sniffed it and it apparently met his approval, as he was soon curled up on it sound asleep after a rough day of mouse patrol.

April 23, 1999: We have had two consecutive restaurant reviews this week. Last night, Big Al and Melissa invited us to a surprise dinner at Robinhood Free Meetinghouse to celebrate the completion of their new warehouse. First, we had a tour of the warehouse. It looked like an enormous cavern because Al hasn't put his merchandise in there yet. He tells me that he still won't be able to fit all of his stock in there. Christmas items will have to go elsewhere.

I wasn't very hungry tonight, so Melissa and I decide to order a couple of appetizers instead of dinner. First, we had a greens and mesclun salad with an excellent raspberry vinaigrette dressing. My Moo Shu Duck appetizer could have been a dinner portion. I ended up taking home my second appetizer of fettuccini with prosciutto. Both were absolutely delicious. Ben had the spicy Szechuan sirloin and Al had a seafood medley with vegetables that was both tasty and colorful. None of us had room for dessert.

Tonight, the restaurant review team heads to Slate's in Hallowell. Reservations are accepted for 6 or more, so we expect a long wait. It is very noisy and crowded, but after standing for a few minutes, we find seats in the waiting area/bar. Within an hour we are seated in the main dining room next to the entertainment, a guitar player who gets even better as the evening goes on.

I order a yummy pasta with white clam sauce, Ben and Sue select the Mahi Mahi special prepared with Jamaican spices, and Paul has the red snapper with cucumber raita. Ben said he would have preferred his fish spicier, but then Ben enjoys having his mouth burned out with hot sauces. Our Caesar salads were delicious and huge and the rolls fresh from Slate's Bakery were fantastic. Desserts are a must at Slates. Paul and I had the phenomenal Magic Chocolate cake. Ben had a lemon square and Sue had custard with fresh raspberries.

April 26, 1999: Today, I go to MidCoast Hospital in Brunswick to have screening blood tests for the cancer vaccine research trial. The lab is not busy and soon the technician in drawing five tubes of my blood. It takes awhile as I have them use a tiny butterfly needle on my weakened, skinny veins. The lab technician is excited that I am being tested for a clinical research trial, and asks me to let them know if I'm accepted. The tests results should be back this week and then faxed to Dana Farber. I will know next week if I have passed the first round of tests.

In mouse news, Lurk has again fallen down on the job. The elusive mouse made another foray upstairs. He either has a death wish or enjoys tormenting Lurk. Ben heard loud pouncing by Lurk and saw the mouse run into the bathroom closet. Ben opened the door and the mouse ran out into the hall and back under the door to the basement. It happened so quickly that Lurk was left sniffing around in the bathroom, unaware that the mouse had escaped. Time to get a trap.

April 28, 1999: Today, I am meeting at the American Cancer Society office with Pam, Donna, and Chuck. Pam and Donna are staff members working on the Living With Cancer Conference. Chuck is a friend of mine from the support group. He is a survivor of melanoma and prostate cancer. Chuck and I will be appearing next Tues. May 4th on Jim Crocker's Lunch Break Show on WCSH Channel 6 to talk about the Living With Cancer Conference, and encourage last minute registrations. Donna reports that registration is going well. The past couple of days, she has been receiving about 14 calls an hour about the Conference.

Afterwards, Chuck treats me to lunch at MacMillan's in Brunswick. Chuck wants to be sure he's part of a restaurant review. It truly is a review for me as I have never been to MacMillan's. Our waitress, Gail, was very pleasant. Chuck had a lobster/asparagus quiche with a salad and I had the soup and 1/2 sandwich combination. Our entrees were good and served very promptly which makes MacMillan's a great place to go on a short lunch hour.

Note: Sandy urges her readers to join her at the Living With Cancer Conference on Thurs. May 6th at the Augusta Civic Center. Registrations will be accepted at the door from 7:45-8 am.

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