Lincoln County News
November 25, 1999

"LifeLines" My journal about living with cancer

by Sandy Labaree

This journal submission describes my continuing battle with anemia. Tom and Charlene join us for dinner at Canfield's and Cuddles comes through his foot surgery with flying colors.

November 13, 1999: Tonight, Tom and Charlene join us for dinner at Canfield's. They live in Gray, Maine, practically next door to Cole Farms Restaurant, but Canfield's is their favorite restaurant. Charlene always orders scallops, Ben has the large portion of fried oysters, Tom has fried clams and I order a small strip steak. The steak is delicious and tender, and I am determined to eat all of it to help my anemia. I am still sticking to bland accompaniments such as mashed potatoes and carrots. Though I love mashed potatoes, I am becoming very tired of eating them with bland or cooked to death vegetables. I would love to order a salad, but the few times I have eaten salad, it has given me abdominal distress. Though I am gradually adding more fiber and food items to my diet, I am anxious to go back to my regular eating habits.

Charlene and Tom also want to visit and meet our new cat, Cuddles. He is very friendly to both of them and leaves large deposits of white fur behind. Charlene can't get over how large Cuddles is, especially his short legs and big feet. He in no way resembles Lurk whose features were his large head, big body and long legs.

Nov. 15, 1999: Tonight, we had a meeting at my house to plan the Wiscasset Area Guide, a yearly booklet that the Wiscasset Regional Business Association puts out for both the community and summer visitors. It is an ambitious project, but we have good committee members willing to do the work. After we finish the meeting, we order pizzas. They look and smell good, but they are not on my diet, so Ben has my share of pizza.

Nov. 16, 1999: Today, we are taking Cuddles to be declawed at Dr. Mason's office in Brunswick. Though this may seem to be an inhumane procedure, the vet has recommended declawing because of my illness. Those of us who are immune-suppressed are at risk of infections from cat scratches. Cuddles is an indoor cat so he will not need his front claws to defend himself against animals. Ben delivers Cuddles in his carrier box, and he is not too happy leaving our house. I hope he doesn't hold this uncomfortable procedure against us, but Cuddles temperament is so laid back he will probably be happy just to get back home.

Yesterday, while I was resting in my recliner, I caught a glimpse of what looked like the back end of a brown field mouse disappearing behind my sofa in the living room. Cuddles was a few feet away, sound asleep in his favorite chair. I got up from my recliner and started to chase the mouse around the room, but it was running behind all the furniture. I was beating on the furniture with my cane, hoping the mouse would come out into the center of the room so Cuddles could catch him. Amidst all the commotion, I was yelling to Cuddles to wake up and do his job as a mouser! Cuddles didn't open an eye or move an inch as the mouse ran from the living room and squeezed under the door to the basement. Finally, I picked up Cuddles and placed him against the basement door. He sniffed it for a second, rolled around on the floor against the door and then promptly returned to his chair to go back to sleep.

When Ben came home, I told him about the mouse episode and how Cuddles fell down on the job. Ben went out and bought mouse traps to place in the basement. With Cuddles laziness and lack of interest in mice, the traps will probably be our only form of mouse control.

Nov. 17, 1999: Today, I have a new helper friend, Mary Lou. I haven't seen Mary Lou in nearly a year since she moved away from Wiscasset. Mary Lou will have her hands full today as she will be driving me to my appointment with Dr. Tom. I was expecting a short visit for just my CBC and weekly Epigen shot to help raise my red cell count, however, I am having some annoying muscle pain in my upper back accompanied by muscle spasms. I discuss this with Cindy and she thinks that Dr. Tom should examine me. Dr. Tom thinks that it is some type of skeletal muscular pain and orders a prescription of Flexeril, a muscle relaxant. Tom reviews the results of today's CBC. My white cell count has climbed to 3300, but my red count is 25.9, basically the same as last week's. Tom mentions again that I could get a blood transfusion over at the hospital, but I am determined to tough this out with the weekly Epigen shots. Tom agrees that this will be fine as long as the hematocrit level does not drop any lower. I tell Tom that my intestines are still slowly healing and that I will not start any new chemo treatments until my counts are up and my digestive system is back to normal.

After leaving Tom's office, we stop at the vet's to see if Cuddles is ready to come home. They tell us that he came through the surgery just fine, but still has a little bleeding in the bandages. They will keep him at the vet hospital overnight and we should be able to pick him up tomorrow.

Nov. 18, 1999: Today, I have another new helper, Ginny. I am very apprehensive about Ginny having to care for me today because I feel so terrible. The muscular pain was so severe I could hardly sleep last night, so I am in pretty sad shape and groggy when Ginny arrives. This is the worst day I have had in weeks, and not knowing Ginny well I am concerned with how she will be able to deal with my pain and discomfort. I have already taken 4 of the Flexeril pills and I am not seeing much improvement. I call Cindy at Dr. Tom's office and tell her that the pain doesn't seem to be responding to the drug. She talks to Dr. Tom and he suggests taking my Darvocet, a stronger pain pill than my Tylenol. Later in the day I talk to my Dad, the doctor, and he suggests using a moist heating pad and taking one Valium four hours after taking my Flexeril tablet. That combination seems to do the trick and by early the next morning I am seeing some relief.

Cuddles returned home tonight and seemed happy to be back despite his sore feet. He seems none the worse for the wear and he is back to his normal routine of eating and sleeping. The vet has given him pain pills to take 3 times a day. I am half tempted to try one to see if it works any better than what they are giving me.

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