Tuesday, November 3, 2009
We were at an appointment with her surgeon, Dr. Kim Grafton, who is helping to keep a watch on the skin rash, with is the main evidence for the cancer’s spread. We have seen no advance, which is good news, and it seems that there may be some changes that could be a retreat. Grafton was very positive about the review. We do not want to get too excited about it, Grafton is an eternal optimist, yet the fact is that we are looking for a way to live with this cancer and this could be it. Margie is scheduled for the third round of chemotherapy on the 19th November.
As Margie has finished her manuscript and Steve prepares to get it published, the protagonist of her true story, and Margie’s children’s father, Joe Ford, died on 12 October. While he had not been in great health, he seemed stable so this came as a surprise. When Ceci is out for Thanksgiving, we will have a small remembrance with our family and the wonderful caregivers at Villa Alamar, where Joe lived.
Life goes on relentlessly and there is always more to handle.
Saturday, October 10, 2009
On the cancer front, there have been downs and ups. Her valiant resilience to the difficult chemotherapy of the beginning of the year coupled with the challenge of radiation that lasted through June did not succeed in mitigating the advance of her triple negative fast growing cancer. Ceci had found a nodule in the midst of the radiation and the redoubling of the radiation effort only burned Margie’s skin. The nodules were reappearing by the end of August.
As she prepared to meet her wonderful surgeon the last week of August to attend to the nodules, an unusual rash appeared on her right side. This the surgeon intuited was the cancer reappearing in the skin. A biopsy confirmed this. In the meantime, Steve found a laboratory in Long Beach run by Dr. Nagourney that would perform tests on cancers to determine reactions to standard chemotherapies. In addition, Margie went in for a CT scan to determine if there was more than just the skin involved in the spread.
Margie’s attitude was straightforward and her daily life was unchanged. In fact she indicated that she felt fine. She continued with her personal trainer, Sabrina, twice a week as well as her active social life. And of course her positive view and her laugh prevail.
The first week of September, in combination with her first cataract surgery, Margie had a nodule removed and packed in dry ice for shipping to Dr. Nagourney Lab. The results came in the following week and showed several options. Margie’s oncologist, Dr. Greenwald, studied the results and had several options that he presented on 14 September, just before her second cataract surgery!
At this meeting we learned the first piece of good news: the CT scan showed that all her solid organs were looking good and were healthy and well. Margie’s resilience was showing here. Her daily life reflects this good news. She awakes daily felling pretty good overall, her strength is good… she can walk around the whole of her complex within 10 minutes and estimates that twice around is about one mile. With Sabirina, she scales all the stairs in her apartment complex helping the strength of her legs.
The cancer skin rash is there, but the CT scan showed no the major organs were affected. Dr. Greenwald said, at this first meeting, that we can see the source of the problem now in the skin and the strategies we could embark on will be visible. His solution would be a new round of chemotherapy, just exactly what, was yet to be fully determined. There were options based on the lab results, but the exact path was not clear. He order that we do no more surgical removal of nodule and to simply watch the skin. In the meantime, Dr. Greenwald felt he had to study the data more, and to talk with Dr. Nagourney’s lab in Long beach to clear up subtleties of the results. We scheduled a meeting for the following Monday.
Ceci arrived for a short 5 day visit over the weekend and was able to be with Margie for her next meeting with Dr. Greenwald on the 21st. Here he presented his solution. He had weighed in several options, but after clarifying details with Dr. Nagourney, Dr. Greenwald felt that he had only one really viable solution. He was anxious to move ahead immediately because, just in the intervening week, he saw the advance of the cancer bloom on Margie’s skin. He felt there was no time to waste. She would go in on Wednesday.
We were told to monitor the rash and see if there was a reaction to the new round of chemotherapy. This was a challenge, as we had reason to think there would be something positive, but did not want to bring out false hopes. To track the rash, Ceci and Anabel reviewed the situation on the 22, the day before the chemotherapy, looking at the extent, the limits, and the nodules (described by Margie not like a pea but like the head of a corsage pin!). Being dispassionate in the observations is important so that the realistic measures are monitored. It was hard. We decided on photography as a way to gauge the changes, and this was later affirmed as a great strategy by the surgeon, Dr. Grafton.
We are two and a half weeks out from the new chemotherapy. There is great news to report:
1. Margie is “tolerating” the chemotherapy very well. Daily rhythm is steady!
2. Margie’s blood work is great, no anemia, no fatigue!
3. Most significant, Margie’s cancer rash is not growing!
Combining these three factors adds up to a strategy to manage Margie’s cancer and maintain her good quality of life. She is hail and strong. Her daily activities continue unchanged, her quality of life is ever improving! One week after the chemo administration, Margie was entertaining 10 wonderful girlfriends she has traditionally lunched with. She arranged the whole event at the Vista del Monte dinning area. They made a exclusive table, decorated it specially for her, and put on nice table settings with wine glasses for her group. Not only was she looking forward to this wonderful event, but she was energized by it. She brought her group up to her apartment and Andreya, one of Margie’s helpers, had her famous Polaroid handy to document the cheer. The best part, Margie exclaimed, was there was no clean up! This past week, the thank you cards poured in acclaiming the luncheon a great success.
While all this medical intrusion weaves through Margie’s life, she has met another milestone, and this with the steadfast support of Steve. Margie’s manuscript, A Quintet in Asia Minor, is complete. Margie is going over a final reading of the nearly 300 pages of text chronically the 10 years between 1956 and 1966 where she reminiscences about our family travels in Europe and the Middle East. It is a tour de force, well written, engagingly paced, and full of her own reflections. Steve has taken his absorbing interest in our family photographs to compile them for the manuscript. He has also worked with Margie’s good friend and artist John Rindlaub to bring to life the numerous maps that help visualize the geography of her memoir. The whole compilation is to be assembled and published as a limited edition by Steve. Expect to hear of the book signing soon!
In sum, we find ourselves cheering the day on a positive note. Our recent meetings with Dr. Greenwald and Dr. Grafton conferring on the state of the cancer rash have been constructive and optimistic. Dr. Greenwald was very encouraged, agreeing with Anabel’s assessment that were not seeing any progression of the skin rash. Ceci reminds us that this is a cancer that grows at an astonishing rate. To see no change is remarkable and noteworthy, and so deemed Dr. Greenwald. We were all very relieved for this news as well as by the good lab results. All of this tallies well with Margie’s own spirit that accentuates the positive, eliminates the negative, latches onto the affirmative and never messes with Mr. in-between.
Here are the specs and below please find a rendition of the wonderful song many know from that movie. A good theme for our Margie!
Director: Mark Sandrich Writers: Ken Englund and Zion Myers (writer)
Genre: Comedy | Musical Nominated for Oscar
Release Date: 18 December 1944 (USA) more
Tagline: They're in the NAVY now!
The hit song of the movie Ac-cent-chu-ate the Positive, by Johnny Mercer, was one of Bing's biggest.
Complete credited cast
Bing Crosby ... Johnny Cabot
Betty Hutton ... Susan / Rosemary Allison
Sonny Tufts ... Windy 'Pinetop' Windhurst
Ann Doran ... Ruth
Gwen Crawford... Tex
Noel Neill ... Dorothy
Catherine Craig... Lt. Townsend
==> Anabel Shaw ... Isabel (listed at that time as Marjorie Henshaw)
Paramount Pictures, Inc. Production Dates 11 May--5 Aug 1944
Premiere Information New York opening: 27 Dec 1944
Release Date Jan 1945
Bing Crosby and Bette Midler
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
Thursday, July 30, 2009
Ceci stays till the 6th of August, when Linda and the kids arrive from San Diego. Linda, Steve, Ellie and Tyler will all enjoy time with Margie (and Margie with them!), plus more fun at Fiesta.
Anabel has been home from Mexico for the past week. She as Estela (who worked for our father in the San Fernando Valley for several years and has been an enormous help for Margie on weekends during cancer treatments) -- anyway, they have been feverishly clearing out every last thing from Margie's condo so that the realtor can make it shine for showing.
Love to everyone,
Sunday, July 19, 2009
So here's a song for Mom/Margie today:
Monday, July 13, 2009
Just a snippit from Bob Fulmer's fantastic writing. Bob is one of Margie's dear friends and fellow Santa Barbara walker. You will see that he features our beloved Marjorie (AKA Anabel Shaw) in this part of a book project:
Walking with Tom is more intellectually stimulating than physically challenging. He doesn't walk quite as fast as he used to, but his mind hasn't slowed down at all. He reads Scientific American from cover to cover and points out the articles he thinks that I might understand. We swap books, usually agree on politics, and discuss his philanthropic interests in encouraging early reading opportunities for disadvantaged children in the United States and around the world.
The “Beach Walkers” group has become a community unto itself. Muriel collected e-mail address for about 40 some-time participants and circulates information about events like a pot luck holiday party at Linda and Pete’s townhouse or breakfast at Dotti’s clubhouse. At least once a month, Albie will bake cupcakes or brownies to celebrate recent birthdays after breakfast or someone will send out an invitation to stop by for ‘tea and crumpets’ or ‘beer and pretzels.’
Not long ago, Antonia invited everyone for “an evening of entertainment.” She and Raul live on a spacious lot with ten chickens and a variety of exotic fruit trees. They had cooked a ham and turkey for the main course. The rest of us were encouraged to “bring your spouse (if you have one) and one other covered dish.” Tonia had been mysterious about the plan for the evening, but after filling our plates and glasses, we sat down to watch a black and white movie from 1947. There were a few raised eyebrows at this choice for the entertainment until we recognized that Anabel Shaw, the stage name for the star of Killer at Large, was Marjorie Henshaw, one our walkers who had been on the cover of Life Magazine in 1940. Marjorie had turned down a couple of movie contracts until she could graduate from college, and discovered that, at 22, she didn’t have the same choices as had been available just three years earlier.
By Marjorie’s admission, her starring role was in a “B Movie” that took a whole week to film and for which she was paid the grand sum of $1000. Although more than 60 years had passed, Marjorie still had the “good bones” and vivacious personality that had attracted Hollywood talent scouts. In my opinion, the film slowed down when she wasn’t on screen, so I looked around the room and realized that most of these ordinary people had enjoyed extraordinary lives because they took responsibility for how those lives evolved.
Seated next to Marjorie was Mylene, the youngest member of the group, who in her 40s, became a retired Philadelphia litigator, and now studies and gives lessons on the harp and organ. Mylene lives simply, rents a small guest cottage in the upper Eastside and maintains only one vestige of her former demanding profession, a 2000 Porsche Boxster which she alternates with a ten-speed bike for local transportation.
Mike now spends much of his time volunteering for the Red Cross, and travels to problem spots around the country to help facilitate the organization’s fabled disaster response efforts. He attended 11 colleges before completing an undergraduate degree in business and an MBA that qualified him for a good career in the aerospace industry. Once, as I was about to leave for Peoria to facilitate a “Leadership Quest” program with high potential leaders at Caterpillar, Mike confided that he had worked for CAT when he was only 15 years old.
“I’m not saying that you didn’t work for CAT,” I challenged, “but I am pretty sure that they observed child labor laws even back in the dark ages when you were a teenager.”
“Oh, they wouldn’t have hired me if they had known my age,” he explained. “But my family needed a wage earner and I was the logical choice so I took a bus to Peoria. When the hiring agent questioned that I was 18 and told me to come back with proof, my uncle helped me modify my birth certificate, so I was suddenly three years older. I’m still grateful to Caterpillar because they paid me well, taught me good work habits and inspired me complete college no matter how long it took.”
“Did they encourage you to take classes at Bradley College?” I asked.
“Actually, I wasn’t even in high school yet, but during the orientation session, they introduced us to man who had been at the same inspection station for 35 years. The thought of standing in the same place and doing the same thing for more than twice the time I had been alive made me a believer in higher education.”
Mike went on to complete high school, and found a job was in the mail room of the CIA in Washington. After proving himself trustworthy, he was promoted to become a secure mail courier, and soon he picked up assignments throughout the Far East as a security assistant. I would have asked for more details about his adventures, but am still afraid he would have to kill me if I knew the whole the story.
Nan is the only person I know who is able to hear because of an cochlear transplant. She works for the deaf at the California Department to Rehabilitation, and coincidentally, before we joined the walkers, had purchased our East Beach townhouse.
Before I finished circling the room with my rumination, the movie ended, so we talked about Marjorie’s performance and what being a ‘star’ was like in the 1940s. When the conversation lagged a bit, I shifted the topic, “Tonia, that’s a very unusual statuette you have on the mantle. Can you tell us where you found it?”
“Oh, that,” she replied, “It’s one of my grandfather’s Oscars.”
“Don’t tell us, “I said, trying to gauge the correct timeframe, “Let me guess, your grandfather was Alfred Hitchcock.”
“No, but gramps did work with him on a couple of pictures.”
We finally learned that Tonia was the granddaughter of Frank Lloyd who was one of the founders of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and the first Scottish Academy Award winner. Lloyd received three Oscar nominations in 1929 for his work on a silent film, a part-talkie and one of the early all talkies. During his distinguished career, he worked with most of Hollywood’s legends and is probably best remembered for Mutiny on the Bounty, which he produced, scripted and directed.
As we prepared to leave, I looked around and realized that our little group included three Canadians, two folks from the British Isles, one person from Peru, one from Tennessee, and even one from Alabama. There were two former civil rights workers, one peace corps volunteer, and at least three republicans. I suspect that each of us is a little surprised when we look in the mirror and wonder who that aged stranger can be. Sally kiddingly comments, “When I was young, I was always interested in the latest, hip joints, and today, I still am. It’s just that the definition of ‘hip’ has changed for me.” Yes, hip replacements may account for the speed and mobility of some of the group. Tom may skew the average a bit, but the median age is probably getting close to 70.
Everyone is ordinary, and everyone is special, with a unique story of how they came to be who and where they are.
The walking group doesn’t impose many rules, but Tom and I have one inviolate requirement for our stroll. Each day, usually after we’ve reached the half-way point and turned around and started back toward the Grill, we look ahead and see friends who have a slightly faster pace as we all head toward a reward of coffee and conversation. To the left, we look over the red tile roofs of downtown and the Rivera to the purplish peaks of the Santa Ynez Mountains. To the right is the curving coast line of the Pacific dotted with palm trees. The weather is almost always perfect. We alternate the responsibility of picking the point to turn to the other and say sincerely, “Aren’t we lucky to live here.”
Thursday, July 2, 2009
Okay, so... the last day of my visit with Margie/Mom ( I will be back at the end of July, plus Anabel returns next week, and Steve, Linda and kids will visit again soon and particularly at the start of August).
Today, Thursday, Mom and I had both a busy and a relaxing day. I went cat-food shopping at Lazy Acres while mom got herself breakfast and visited the Vista Clinic. I then stopped by the condo to look for a few things that mom has been missing (including her beloved guest bathroom watercolor, plus vases, trays etc.). She was delighted to see these precious and familiar things.
After lunch, Mom's pilates teacher came by, and they worked hard. Then came Andreya, one of the lovely care givers Anabel arranged through Home Instead. Andreya and Mom did things around the apartment, while I rode my bike back to the beachside rental place, and Andreya & Mom drove down to pick me up.
Then we all relaxed, with Andreya guiding us in a yoga relaxation and breathing exercise (Andreya is also a very very skilled yoga teacher). I recorded the guided meditation and made it into a CD for mom to listen to at other times.
Finally, Mom and I shared a nice little meal, watched PBS, and are now preparing for bed!
Sunday, June 28, 2009
She still feels the effects from the last radiation (June 25th), but she is looking forward to better days. Imagine not having to go into the Cancer Center every weekday!!
Margie has yet to talk to my little video camera to greet you all herself, but I am working on that.
In the meantime, you probably know that she celebrated her 88th birthday this week. Lots of cards and calls. A delightful lunch with some of her dearest Santa Barbara friends. And the festivities haven't stopped. Her care companion, Kara, brought flowers on Friday. Saturday night we had dinner in the apartment with Helen Frederick, old friend and fellow Vista del Monte neighbor. Steve took Mom/Margie on an excursion to Ventura for lunch today, and tonight Fred and Cheryl Haddock (upstairs neighbors at the condo and dear dear friends) hosted us both for a fantastic dinner at the Biltmore. Tomorrow, we have lunch at the "Spanish Table" in the dining room with her new friends from Honduras, plus others who like to speak Spanish. They will celebrate a couple of birthdays. Finally (I think it's the final plan), Andreya, another care friend, will take us on a drive up high on Camino Cielo, ending up in Montecito for a cup of tea.
Margie sends love to you all!
Tuesday, June 16, 2009
But... she still calls her sister, Jane, as often as she can to old favorites together. Here's what they sang over the phone together today:
(remember that the other videos that are listed when this one finishes are not my choices. They are plugged in by YouTube)
[PS Margie sends thanks to Vicky for the sweet comment on her last post-- many hugs!!]
Monday, June 15, 2009
She was disappointed that her sister Jane couldn't visit this past weekend, but she really knows how hard travel can be when you are weary!! She took the weekend to finish up the small edits on her book. She finished on Sunday!!!!! Steve has been being a huge huge help by working with her and connecting her to a professional editor. Hooray!
Okay, on the downside, because her radiation treatment has been extended and intensified, she is now acknowledging significant pain at the site. You can imagine (some of you may have experienced it) the pain of a deep and persistent burn. Donna (not only my partner but an expert in paliative care) recommended that the DR prescribe something more effective than Tylenol. On Sunday, Dr. Weissenberger interrupted his liturgical reading at church to call in a stronger med for Mom, and by evening she was feeling much more comfortable. She may be less steady on her feet at first, since the drug has that effect. If you visit or talk with her, please remind her to be especially cautious. Controlling pain is important and very possible, but watching out for those side effects goes hand in hand with the process. Another thing to remind her of is lots of water as well as Miralax to counter the constipating effects of the medication.
Another good side: Along with Margie's birthday coming on the 24th, at that time she will be within a day of completing the radiation cycle. YAY!!!! Call to congratulate her on both.
She will have the joy of a visit from the San Diego family (Steve, Linda, Ellie, Tyler) over the weekend just before her birthday, though this will be mixed with services for their friend Bob Sinclair, who recently died after a long and difficult cancer journey. Steve will speak at the service.
Ceci (moi [actually je]) will arrive on the afternoon of the 23rd to be there for Margie's Birthday and to celebrate the end of the radiation treatment. The healing and pain from the treatment will last longer, of course, but this marks a time for mom's body and spirit to regenerate the way we know it can.
Tuesday, June 2, 2009
Sunday, May 31, 2009
Margie is feeling well-loved these days, with Anabel up from Belize for a week and Steve and the family up from San Diego for a night over the weekend. She is also simply delighted to see the Haddocks again. They are her neighbors at the old condo (upstairs) and are just like family.
She feels weary on and off, needing nice restorative naps.
If you visit or talk with her, please remind her to drink lots of water and to keep moving as much as she can. She's been taking walks in the past couple of weeks.
Ceci and Donna are in Kauai. Here are a couple of photos. One is the condo and the other is the view:
Wednesday, May 27, 2009
She's not hungry enough, but can be tempted and encouraged.
Margie is excited about Anabel arriving today and about all the San Diego Ford's coming this weekend. Her granddaughter, Ellie, has a special event to attend so everyone will come up to see Margie/Mom/Grandmom.
Ceci and Donna are off to Kauai on Friday. More sunshine there than in Wisconsin right now, but those of you in San Diego and Santa Barbara don't have that problem!
Speaking of sunshine, here is a song for today (and maybe tomorrow, since I don't update this blog everyday). love, Ceci
Thursday, May 21, 2009
Special Message to Ellie from Aunt Margie!
AND SOMETHING FOR EVERYONE: MOM IS IN LOVE WITH LIFE AND "IT'S WONDERFUL!"
Monday, May 18, 2009
Sunday, May 17, 2009
Friday, May 8, 2009
One of her care-companions took her to radiation today, which went easily and quickly.
They then went to see Joe Ford, Margie's former husband.
He had been evacuated from a care facility that was closer to the fire. Today, Joe was move to another center in Montecito, where Margie visited him
There is no stopping this woman!
Thursday, May 7, 2009
I (Ceci) have talked to Margie a couple of times today (Thursday). She is in good spirits, had a 4th day of radiation treatment, and also had a lymph massage to work on her right arm, which is having some swelling from her surgery.
"My children's father" -- as Margie sometimes refers to Joe Ford-- has been evacuated from his care center to a facility quite near Vista del Monte.
This is a good time to use whatever connections you have to protective and calming powers in the universe to send them toward our loved ones and all those affected by this fire.
Monday, May 4, 2009
Saturday, May 2, 2009
Thursday, April 16, 2009
Sunday, March 29, 2009
Margie got up at 7:30. Her blood pressure and temperature were in good shape.
Friday, March 27, 2009
Thursday, March 26, 2009
Margie will have her final round of chemo today, Thursday the 26th. Her blood worked looked good and safe for the last treatment, and her stomach has been doing well with the right medication.
Sunday, March 22, 2009
Saturday, March 21, 2009
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
Her daughter, Ceci, arrives in SB on Thursday. She will stay through next week, and Ceci's partner, Donna, will come to help Mom through the next chemo and the week that follows.
Sunday, March 15, 2009
Saturday, March 14, 2009
Taking no aspirin during chemo is one move she must make. Another is to take Prilosec to reduce the GI problems. Chemo does affect all fast growing cells, and stomach lining is one of those cell types.
Margie may be going home Sunday.