Lincoln County News
November 5, 1998

"LifeLines" My journal about living with cancer

by Sandy Labaree

This journal submission describes the return of the rolling restaurant review. I am tolerating my new hormonal treatment well. I make plans for our annual Halloween Costume party and Lurk returns home after three months vacation.

October 23, 1998: Well, tonight is restaurant review night. Ben and I missed so many this past summer, and Sue and Paul had to continue without us. I have a particular enthusiasm for reviewing, or should I say eating now, because the Megace drug I am taking is stimulating my appetite. Not every day, but enough so that I can envision my new larger than life-size, blimp-like body. Fortunately, if my current schedule of visits to Dr. Tom continues, I will only have to face the scales once a month. Cindy always weighs me in kilograms. I like that because I don't speak metric and the number is much smaller than lbs.

I seem to be tolerating the Megace well, without the nasty reaction I had to Arimidex. I do notice a small amount of fluid retention and a few hot flashes, which are minimal side effects. In my mind, I like to believe that these side effects are evidence that the drug is shrinking my tumors. So much for my simplified system of the power of positive thinking!

Tonight, Ben and I join Sue, Paul, Dot and Bill at King Eider's Pub in Damariscotta. Sue and I have been there for lunch in the past and thoroughly enjoyed it. The host greets us and tells us that the homemade crab cakes are the greatest and if we don't agree, they're on the house, or something to that effect. Dot and I order them and I must say they are fantastic, including the delicious homemade tartar sauce. The breading is nice and light and I couldn't find a speck of crab cartilage, which I hate picking out of crab dishes. So that was a big winner, followed closely by the barbecued salmon that Ben and Sue ordered. My appetite, being pretty much in high gear, I pull one of my usual tricks. I give Ben one of my three crab cakes and order pumpkin cheesecake for dessert.

After dinner, we discuss the rating of the meal. Sue and Paul feel that awarding a five star rating to King Eider's will not leave us much leeway in our rating system. We also don't want to lull the chef into complacency. So, we look around for what could be a minor deduction. Sue discovers it in the little box on the table that contains packets of sugar and sweetener. Mixed in are two packets of raw natural sugar. Sue insists that there should be three packets of raw sugar per table. Actually, there may have been three or four in the box, as I saw a couple of packets disappear into Sue's purse. All in all, we decide to take a minor deduction for this oversight, resulting in a 4.9999 rating. Paul tries to use a different tact by claiming that the martini he ordered with three lime seeds, did not contain a single seed, so a deduction should be taken there. We dismiss this as an after-effect of his martini, and disallow the deduction. On the way out the door, the host asks how we enjoyed our meal. Ben informs him that we had just conducted a restaurant review. I don't think the man believed us or he figured that we had partaken of too many adult beverages.

October 24 and 25, 1998: It is a glorious Fall weekend and Ben and I get out and travel in my beloved Corvette. We won't have too many more warm Corvette days like this, and the time changes this weekend. I am always sad to see the darkness come before 5 pm. In our travels, we relive the Saturday Night At Moody's Diner experience. Where else can you have hot dogs, baked beans, brown bread and cole slaw for $3.25 a meal? Sunday, Ben and I visit Dos Amigos, a Mexican restaurant in Northport. I love Mexican food and I miss the authentic southwestern cuisine that Peg and I had in early August. So, this has been a full weekend of restaurant reviews, all of which were most satisfactory.

The rest of my weekend was spent planning my upcoming Halloween Party. The past several years, I have hosted a Halloween Costume party. Last October, I skipped the party because I was going through the node biopsy and the tests that determined that my cancer had spread into my lymph nodes. Around Halloween last year, I the learned the bad news about the spread of my cancer. So this October, I am determined to celebrate the month in a positive way. I also love any excuse to party, so this social event of the century will also be a welcome-home-from-my-Tour party.

On Saturday, I decorated the entire house with items from my large collection of Halloween decorations, many of which are on permanent loan from friends. I have a black witch's hat, lots of cardboard cut-outs of ghosts, goblins, and bats, miles of orange and black garland and white spider web, plus pumpkins, gourds and candles. This year, Melissa has donated a most wonderful addition to the collection, a six foot tall inflatable Frankenstein! He was so huge, that Ben had to inflate him with an air compressor. Ben had him lying out on our sofa, but I moved him to the porch. I suspect he will be the hit of the party, and the source of many jokes. I also have a full supply of Halloween essentials: marshmallow peep pumpkins and chocolate candy treats which were selected with my taste in mind. We only get a few trick or treaters, so someone has to eat the left-over candy.

Some of my friends share my outrageous sense of humor and know that they can be very creative with their party costumes. Others are more tentative at first about dressing up in weird clothes, and require some assistance in planning their outfits. First of all, I won't allow anyone through the door without a costume. Secondly, I have a closet full of costumes that Ben and I have accumulated over the years. This week, Sue, Paul and Dot came over to peruse the costume closet. Sue took a few accessories for their Jimmy Buffett Margaritaville theme outfits. Dot got nervous and seemed overwhelmed by the costume collection. Finally, she wimped out on the party invitation and said she had to accompany Bill on his hunting trip. I told Dot we will excuse her, just this once.

Ben has already chosen to wear his hobo costume which has received rave reviews in the past. I am undecided, but I may do something really tacky. That might be tough to do. We already have two Monica Lewinskys coming to the party.

October 26, 1998: Well, today I have finally bitten the bullet. I am attempting to answer about three months worth of fan mail that arrived while I was out on Tour. The mail is a tremendous source of pleasure to me, especially to know that my column is appreciated. It is also a source of stress as I feel so remiss in not responding promptly to these kind notes. My mother always instilled in me the absolute need to respond immediately in writing to any gift or note. It was a cardinal sin to not answer mail promptly. I appreciated this as I grew older. I automatically insisted that my daughter do the same. In fact, Christy is far more prompt and gracious in her notes than I ever was. I have gotten lazy and overwhelmed by the sheer volume of mail and my lagging stamina. I told Ben that I need a personal secretary. He just stared at me. I also need a full-time cook and house cleaner. None of that is remotely possible, so Ben is the cleaner and Lurk is my personal secretary.

Speaking of Lurk, he has returned from his great adventure vacation at Rich and Mary Ann's house. Certainly, Lurk must have thought that he had died and gone to heaven when he went on this extended 3 month pampered stay which included chicken and haddock treats from Canfield's, a small saucer of milk each morning, three walks a day followed by a brushing, plus permission to walk on tables, counters and all of the no-no's of home. Also on days when Lurk chose to be finicky, Mary Ann would open a new can of cat food for him. So, a spoiled Lurk returned to the harsh reality of life at home. Poor Mary Ann fought back tears and made several phone calls to check up on him. When I stopped by the restaurant this week, Mary Ann brought me a take-out box filled with fried haddock for Lurk. She assured me that this was not left-overs, and she had just cooked it fresh for him. Mary Ann had also written a note to him and drew a little heart on the box. I read it to Lurk when I got home. He knew right away that it was treat time.

Actually, Lurk settled back into the home routine immediately. I really expected that he would be doing a lot of sniffing around and meowing. Instead, he quickly took up his daily post on our bed, where he sleeps about 22 hours a day. Maybe he thought he just had a dream, that his vacation really didn't happen. Or maybe, he knew that he was needed back at home. Lurk has always sensed when I didn't feel well. He will curl up next to me and lightly touch me with his feet, little healing cat touches, the laying on of cat feet.

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