Lincoln County News
May 7, 1998

"LifeLines" My journal about living with cancer

by Sandy Labaree

This journal submission describes an Easter phone call that leads me to ponder my illness and its effect on my family relationships. Also, more reflections on peeps and my first visit to the Lincoln Theater. I receive welcome news that my mother and sister are coming up for a five day visit.

April 10, 1998: Sue is my driver today and as usual we meet at Canfield's for lunch and to plan our Fri. dinner. For a change of pace, we decide to do two meals in a row at Canfield's and go to the movies at Lincoln Theater afterwards. I have now set a new record. Tonight, will be four meals in a row at Canfield's. I tell Lisa, the waitress, that I should get a frequent diner discount, but she says they don't offer one.

Today marks the end of two weeks of treatment. My throat feels better than it did yesterday, though there is nothing I can do to relieve the swelling, which is caused by a radiation sunburn on the inside of my throat. The angle of the radiation is giving my esophagus and trachea a "glancing blow", according to Dr. Gilbert. I feel sorry for those folks with lung, throat or esophageal cancers because they would receive a more direct hit of radiation to this area, and that must be very uncomfortable.

After dinner at Canfield's, Paul and Sue ride with us to Lincoln Theater to see the Jack Nicholson film, "As Good As It Gets". I am ashamed to say it is the first time I have ever been in the Lincoln Theater. It is a wonderful theater that obviously hasn't changed much in 50 years! I could almost feel myself being transported back in time to the days of black and white films when ushers with flashlights showed you to your seat. Sue said that the theater hasn't changed much, including the little lines and flaws that sometimes show up on the films. The movie was great and I thoroughly enjoyed the entire Lincoln Theater experience. Going out with friends this evening and watching a good movie has really taken my mind off my aches and pains. I plan to repeat this entertainment therapy more often!

April 12,1998: Today is Easter Sunday. We will be visiting our friends, Gary and Cheryl, in Cumberland for Easter dinner. Christy calls to wish us a happy holiday before heading out to Nils' parents house in New Hampshire. We have decided to celebrate a belated Easter with Christy on April 20th, Patriot's Day. She has the day off from work and will drive up to visit with us then.

My mother also calls me this morning, and my father comes to the phone just briefly. Usually when my mother calls, my father rarely gets on the phone. Occasionally, I can hear him in the background. Sometimes, my mother will relay medical questions to him and he will get on the phone and make short replies and comments. My father doesn't like talking on the telephone and he doesn't know how to use the computer or e mail. I doubt that he is even interested in learning because he has many other interests such as fishing, gardening and tinkering in his workshop. My Dad has always been a man of few words and now that he is retired, he probably communicates more with fish and tomatoes than with people. I still wish he would make more time to talk now.

As a physician, my father understands the stage of my disease and the prognosis. I suppose that doctors prepare in some way for dealing with death. By emotionally detaching themselves from patients, it must make it easier to continue practicing medicine after losing a patient. I wonder if my father is choosing to distance himself from my emotional and physical pain? Would becoming closer to me only heighten the heartbreak of losing me should I succumb to this disease? I am probably being unfair and unrealistic in expecting my father to have more time or reason to communicate with me just because of my illness and his retirement. Enough of my brooding thoughts, this is Easter morning, a time of celebration.

The Easter holiday has become a commercial candy fest, second only to Valentine's Day. I must admit that I have done my part to support the candy industry this Easter. My marshmallow peep craving has hit an all time high (or low?). I made the fatal mistake of mentioning my candy cravings to family members. Last week, a shipment of butter cream eggs arrived from my aunt, uncle and cousins. Saturday morning, I received an express overnight delivery of six double boxes of yellow peeps (a total of 60 peeps) from my cousin, Joanie.

I never thought I would say this, but I am peeped out. Sue directed me to The Unofficial Marshmallow Peep website at www.wam.umd.edu/~ejack/html. I checked it out and it was incredible! Unfortunately, too much traffic by fellow peep addicts has recently forced the host server to block the site and my readers will not be able to visit it. However, another peep site is worth viewing and that is: www.critpath.org/~tracy/peep.html. Some interesting highlights are the Peep Art Gallery with photos of peeps in different poses and settings, the history of peeps, and peep research studies. I bet my readers don't know (or care) that there is on-going peep research being conducted where peeps are subjected to a vacuum, liquid nitrogen, acetone, and other substances. The studies are ethically conducted and all peeps must sign a release form before enrolling in the research project. To learn more about peep research, check out: www.learnlink.emory.edu/peep/

With the new shipment of 60 yellow peeps, plus another 7 pink peeps I had in my possession, I toyed briefly with the idea of attempting to break the Annual 1997 Peep-Off record of 62 peeps (see Unofficial Marshmallow Peep website for details). Instead, my better judgment won out and I decided to give away one box to my friend, Tom, who is the only man I know over the age of 45 who admits to eating or liking peeps. I guess you could say he is a "peeping" Tom. So, now I have 57 peeps and no chance of breaking the record. In case I change my mind, does anyone have a stomach pump?

April 13, 1998: Today is the start of Week 3 of radiation. June is my Monday driver and she arrives with a freshly baked custard and an enormous angel food cake. I decide to freeze the cake for next week, when my sister and mother are coming to visit.

My sister, Mary Ann, and my mother are driving up from New Jersey to visit for five days. I have not seen them since Christmas and I am really looking forward to their arrival. They plan to visit with my daughter, Christy, on Sunday and spend the night in Bedford, MA before driving up to Maine on Monday morning. They plan to cook for me, drive me to treatments and clean my house! Well, actually, my mother will do the cooking and supervise the cleaning work. Mary Ann will not only have to follow my mother's cleaning orders and pass her "white glove" test, she will also be my official chauffeur for the week.

My daughter, Christy, is driving up with them on Monday to visit for the day, since it's Patriot's Day and a holiday from work. I am excited about having my family here. I have had to rely mostly on my friends to support me through chemo and radiation. With my family here this week, Ben will get a break. I tell him that he is free to do whatever he wants this week. Ben's patience has worn thin in the past month and he is tired of doing things for me. My illness has put many demands on him.

After treatment today, I meet with Jeff for a check-up. He is surprised that my throat is feeling better. I guess it has adjusted to the daily radiation. Jeff notes that my skin in the radiated area is showing some minor changes. Even though it has turned slightly red, it does not hurt. I apply aloe gel to my skin twice a day, to keep the irritation to a minimum. In some patients, the radiated area will itch and peel and feel like a bad sunburn. Hopefully, that won't happen to me. I mention to Jeff that my rib area is still sore. He examines it carefully and says he can feel a separation in the cartilage where it was injured. We are still hoping and assuming it is an injury and not cancer in the rib. We are also guessing that the radiation is "stressing" an injured area that has not fully healed. I will feel more at ease when the rib area is x-rayed in more detail, after my radiation treatments are over.

April 16, 1998: Lynda is my driver today and she arrives with more goodies for me: baked macaroni and cheese, homemade rolls and datenut bread. She also brings me a gift of a little painted tin decorated with cat pictures. Inside the tin is a beautiful enamel cat pin. Lynda obviously has my number: cats and food.

My driver friends are really spoiling me. What will I do when I finish treatment? Will I ever learn to cook and drive again? Lynda is really such a nice person and I am so blessed to have made new friends such as Dot, June and Lynda. I tell Lynda that if she gets sick someday (a cold or flu will do), I will drive down to visit her and bring her little goodies.

Lynda and I go to Le Garage for lunch today. The restaurant overlooks the Wiscasset Harbor and what was once the Hesper and Luther Little, two four-masted wooden schooners which have rotted away to almost unrecognizable hulks. The Town of Wiscasset has hired a marine salvage firm to remove the two hulks. Items of historical value or interest will first be removed and preserved. It is sad to see what's left of the ships being dropped into huge soggy piles of mud and rotted wood, alongside the Town landing. From there, dump trucks will take the remains to the local landfill, in a rather unceremonious end to what was once a Town landmark.

- - -

(Click here to go directly to the next column)