Monday, July 25, 2011

6 Week Check

July 20, 2011: Today, I went back to see Dr. Avizonis, my radiologist, for a 6-week check-up since finishing radiation. I was actually a little excited to go - maybe because I knew it would be a uplifting experience and not a scary one. I wore makeup, curled my hair, wore a cute summer tee and my (newest DI find) denim skirt, and drove that old familiar road to the UCS building. Six weeks has flown by. The summer is halfway over (boo-hoo!). And thankfully, happily, I am doing well and feeling good.

Nurse Allyson was her usual cheerful, bubbly self (I loved her bright purple eyeshadow today - she is a gem!). I was happy to find that I haven't gained any weight back, even though I am eating more now than I was. I walked back past the treatment waiting room and counted my lucky BLESSED stars that I wasn't one of the many sitting in those chairs.

I had a few questions for Dr. A, and she answered them with her usual, laid-back, no-nonsense, practicality.

ME: Taste buds still not connecting, especially the sweet ones.
DR. A: The sweet ones will take the longest to come back. Just eat your green vegetables!

ME: Still losing hair - I have two very pronounced bald spots in the back.
DR. A: (after lifting my hair and observing said bald spots) Yep, it's a little thin there, but I see sprouting! Don't let your hairdresser give you a pixie cut anytime soon, okay?

ME: What about the puffy, red skin on my right cheek?
DR. A: The skin is still healing. As for the puffiness, we had to "dam" up a lot of the normal drainage spots. So, while it's trying to discover new places to drain, it will be puffy, especially after sleeping on that side or in extreme heat, etc. It will probably go into your neck and cause it to look puffier, too, but that's normal. Try to sleep on your left side...and just be patient! Radiation usually takes 12 weeks to completely leave the body.

There you have it! She said she didn't need to see me again until the first of November. She also said that I probably didn't need to see Dr. Bradley again - that she and Dr. Grossmann will tag-team and keep me healthy. That made me sad at first - you know how much I love and am grateful for cute Dr. Bradley! - but as I've thought about it, he is a surgeon, as well as a neck/throat doc. So, if I don't have cancer in my neck any more and don't need any further surgeries, he's done his job. Well done, doc. As much as I'd love to see you again, as long as I don't NEED to see you, I'm happy.

The good news continues. Summer goes on. I'm a happy chick.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Play Date

July 15, 2011: First of all, I must apologize that some of you have tried to comment and not been able to post. Even I couldn't post to my own blog! Weird. I asked the invisible Help people what the problem might be, and they suggested that when you log into your account below the comment box - mine is a Google account - that you don't check the "Stay Signed In" box. I unchecked mine - and voila! - I have a comment on the last post. Thanks, Chels, for trying to figure things out, too. We knew it couldn't be something too hard, right?

Now, I have to tell about my super-fantastic play date I had yesterday with my darling baby girl (who is officially taller than I am - wow!). Our church youth had an activity planned, but didn't have enough adult leaders to attend, so I volunteered to go for half a day (my conscience prodded me into believing I must work the other half of the day, especially since the pay period was ending today - and I guess a part of me also thought I wouldn't have the stamina to play the WHOLE day). The day began very early for us summer loafers - we had to meet at the church at 7:45 AM. I slathered on my sunscreen (decided to leave my hat home) and grabbed a water bottle on the way out. After an agonizing moment in the garage when my ultra-reliable car decided not to start right away, Janessa and I bowed our heads in a prayer-plea and the engine roared to life. Waiting at the church were 4 other adults and 12 teens, aged 12 to 17 - 7 girls and 5 boys. We prayed again for "a fun time" and "safety and protection" and were off to Salt Lake City. I'm a "cool mom" - letting my 14 year-old be in charge of the radio, where her favorite boy band, "Hot Chelle Rae", gets air play about once every 15 minutes! But the thing that cracked up both of us on that 15 minute drive to SLC was when Adele came in crooning with "Rolling in the Deep" and both our 12 year-old passengers began to sing along in FULL VOICE! No, not some quiet "I'm-in-someone-else's-car-so-I-better-not-sing-too-loud", but with enthusiasm (and more than a few sour notes!). It was hard not to belly-laugh, but J and I kept our cool for the little darlings...

We met our group on the beautiful Temple Square and the activities began. First was a tour of the temple grounds by two wonderful sister missionaries, both converted at age 19 - one from Florida and one from Germany. I reveled in the Spirit and counted my blessings to be there. Stop No. 2 was a tour of the amazing Conference Center across the street. Our 80-plus year-old guide was the best! She could run laps around the rest of us. She led us up and down the escalators, gave us insights on many of the wonderful works of art in the building, and encouraged us to walk right down in front of the auditorium to look up at the 21,000 seats. Someone (Sister Margetts?) was practicing the organ. Glorious! We climbed our way to the roof and looked down over the new City Creek project, under construction, but moving along. It was a beautiful day - warm, but not too hot; breezy, but not enough to blow us away. Stop No. 3 was the organ recital in the Tabernacle and the awesome acoustics display - the sound of a straight pin dropping onto a wooden block was louder than a silver spoon on the kitchen floor. Richard Elliott was the organist. He is so very good! He opened up those historic pipes and let the music ring from the bow-shaped rafters. I loved every minute - not sure about the (drowsing) kids. Stop No. 4 was lunch in the famed Lion House pantry. Oh my. I chose the Asparagus Chicken. Janessa chose the Artichoke Chicken. We also got two sides (she chose mashed potatoes, I chose mixed vegies and we both grabbed a bowl of fruit) and a warm, flaky roll and dessert (we shared a huge slice of chocolate cream pie). I could taste the chicken! I could taste the watermelon in my cup, but not the other melons. I could taste the broccoli, but not the cauliflower. And I could taste the first two bites of the chocolate pie, but not the third. Still, it was enough to satisfy and make me happy.

After lunch, one of the adult leaders had to leave our playtime to go to work. I should have gone, too, my half day coming to an end. But, for some reason, I couldn't pull myself away. I asked if I could stay, and I could see my girl cheering excitedly inside her head. "Forget about work," I told her. "I'll just work harder tomorrow." She was ecstatic. So...there was my reason. The play date happily continued.

Stop No. 5 was a cooking class in the Joseph Smith Memorial Bldg and I had a moment of deja vu to see our class would be held in the same room Chelsea & Rob had their wedding reception! It was wonderful. The young male chef showed us how to make the famous "Smith Chicken", JSMB's version of Chicken Cordon Bleu. I think maybe I could do it myself! Yummy smells and even better tastes, and I think that I can chop an onion and a clove of garlic like a pro now. We even learned how to "fan" a strawberry for a pretty accent. Who knew we'd be learning such useful stuff today? Stop No. 6 was a scavenger hunt in the beautiful new Deseret Book flagship store across the street from the temple. A short walk, but a walk just the same. I felt strong. The food had rejuvenated me. My only complaint was that I wasn't drinking enough water, but at least I had my water bottle - the others were scrambling to every drinking fountain along the way. Janessa and I were one of the first "teams" to find all the clues to the scavenger hunt. She turned down the piece of chocolate they offered, but I grabbed an old-fashioned striped candy stick. Wonder if I'll be able to taste it? We were given a short introduction to the art offered for sale at the store. One of my favorite artists, James Christensen, was featured (his puzzle art is framed on my walls - I can't afford his real prints!). I saw several inspiring works I'd love to have in my home someday. One was "A Song of the Heart" by Jay Richards - beautiful. Another is the close-up of the SL Temple with the red-bud branch in front of it - stunning - and a third was a piece, called "Faith, Hope, and Charity" of three beautiful young women - so symbolic and stirring. (sigh) Stop No. 7 was a walk BACK to the JSMB (okay, now I'm getting tired) to have each youth sit at their own computer in the Family Search department and play a "Jeopardy" game, where the answers were found by searching the Family Search site and the site. So fun! One of the helpful missionaries told the kids, "I challenge you to turn off Facebook and Twitter for one hour a week and devote that hour to searching for your ancestors on Family Search or" What a great idea! I need to try it...soon. Stop No. 8 was back across Temple Square (now we were grumbling just a little that we had to criss-cross so much!) to visit the Church History Museum. That one we could have skipped. It was a little juvenile - geared more to 5 year-olds, I think. The kids felt it. I felt it. But, I still thrilled to see the old things that belonged to the early pioneers and church leaders. How did they ever get their pianos and desks and favorite things across the plains? Pure willpower...and a lot of luck. Stop No. 9 - and the final stop on our play date - was dinner BACK in the JSMB. By now, my feet were hot and tired, I was dying of thirst, and I just wanted to sit and enjoy the surroundings. We had another wonderful meal - the "Smith Chicken" we loved and an ice-cream/cookie sandwich - and then listened to a great speaker encourage the kids to "lift, not drag" (like on an airplane) and to follow the example of our Savior. An excellent ending to a wonderful day.

Sometimes, you just have to play instead of work. Sometimes, you just have to listen to your heart instead of your head. The smile on my little girl's face all day was priceless and meant more to me than anything a paycheck could bring. Yes, I was exhausted when we got home a little before 9:00 PM - even had a hard time falling asleep, I was that tired - and my feet, legs, and back ached a bit from all the walking back and forth across Temple Square. But, my heart was full and my spirit was revived. Precious memories that will live on forever. I couldn't have asked for more.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Chef in the House

July 12, 2011: I am finally cooking again. Okay, I know two or three home-cooked meals in the past two or three days are not that great of an accomplishment for most, but in this time and place for me, it's a major deal.

Even before I was diagnosed, I didn't feel up to par. I was tired. I knew something was wrong, but assumed it was just growing older, menopause, not eating right, no exercise, etc. I had no idea it was something that would change my life and my family and my whole attitude. After the diagnosis, it was one round after another of doctor visits, surgeries, treatments - you know if you've been following along - and the last place I wanted to be was in the kitchen. My poor family. It's a good thing they are such good sports. As long as there was milk, eggs, and lunch meat in the fridge, and cereal, bread, granola bars, and oatmeal in the pantry, they could make a meal. Not especially healthy or appetizing, but satisfying. Their tummies were filled. Of course, we couldn't have survived long without outside help. We had meals brought in from our neighbors and friends, we were invited to dinner by our good son and daughter-in-law, and Mom was ever willing to make a taco run or treat at Panda Express. It was literally life-saving, life-giving service, now that the Vacancy sign was up in the kitchen.

Then, the loss of taste buds tipped us even farther upside down. I was hungry, but I couldn't eat. When I tried to fix a simple meal, I could only handle two or three bites. I'd have to ask my hubby, "Does this taste right to you?" Obviously, it didn't taste at all good to me, and I lost all joy of preparing meals.

Gradually - maddeningly s l o w l y - the taste buds are waking up. I actually made a roast with potatoes, carrots, mushrooms, and onions for Sunday dinner. I actually cut up some raw cauliflower and broccoli to dip in Ranch dressing for a snack. I actually baked blueberry muffins for breakfast this morning. I actually make an egg-sausage-hash brown casserole for dinner last night. And though things are still wacky - the Heinz 57 sauce that I love to put on my roast tasted like vinegar and the Ranch was a waste of dipping effort! - I am able to cook and enjoy a small plate of food much easier than before. Though I couldn't really taste the warm muffin this morning - COME ON, SWEET BUDS, & WAKE UP ALREADY! - the crunchy on top, soft in the middle texture was satisfying. I even went back for half of another one.

One of these days, I may even crack open the recipe book and get a full week's menu planned. I'm determined to eat healthier, get Dean's diabetes under control, go for long walks, and have more energy. I'm not the greatest chef - not even close - but I do like to cook for my family and eat meals together. It's one of life's simple pleasures. And I'm still waiting for the day when I can pop a homemade pizza in the oven and say, "Mmmm," over that first mouth-watering bite...

Thursday, July 7, 2011


July 7, 2011: Seven days gone in July already. Four months today since the diagnosis. One month today since my last radiation treatment. (Someone asked me, "So you're ALL done with radiation?" I said, "For now..." and then, I said, "YES! I'm ALL done, forever and ever!" Gotta have that faith...)

Had a good 4th of July weekend. You have to be creative about celebrations when you can't rely on FOOD to make you happy. Good thing I live with two (well, one and one who wishes he wasn't one) people who are willing to forgo our standard food pleasures and traditions until the taste buds are back in line again. Who would have thunk it?

We did the Eaglewood fireworks on Saturday, but admit that we're spoiled by the Mueller Park display on Pioneer Day. Eaglewood's finale is like every first, middle, and last bomb that explodes at Mueller...sigh. Of course, it could be that we're lying right underneath the ones at Mueller - so awesome. Most of the fireworks this year were NOT on the 4th, so that night, we parked on the mountain high above the city, where we could see the valley from North Salt Lake to Roy, and watched the display of thousands of neighborhood aerial fireworks (just legal this year here in UT). It was very cool, I have to admit.

We also took a road trip on the 4th, heading west. J wanted to see the Bonneville Salt Flats, and I realized I've never seen them in real-life before either. I've always imagined them to be completely flat - sand-like - and smooth. Not so. Stepping out onto the dazzling white ground, we found that the surface was bumpy/lumpy and sticky. J ventured out and found that the salt crystals were stiff and sharp to touch, and even, a little stringy, like hair. Strange. We imagined Johnny Depp/Captain Jack Sparrow walking where we had walked (doubtful, right?) in that crazy scene in Pirates 3, and I had the urge to go home and watch the delightful film, "The World's Fastest Indian" with Anthony Hopkins. Since we were only 9 miles from Wendover, we also decided to straddle the UT/NV border. Tried to check out a buffet, but at $13 per person (and one of those persons not able to eat much), decided to have good ol' Subway. Yep, went all the way to Nevada to eat lunch at Subway!

I've also thought a lot about "resiliency" lately. When Mom was here, she bought me a Topsy Turvy hanging tomato planter. We've nursed that tomato plant through root shock, rainstorms, heat and dry spells, hoping that it would survive long enough to produce at least one tomato. I was happy one day to see that one long stalk had about 6 little yellow blossoms on it - hooray! Tomatoes! Then, the next day, a fierce wind came up and whipped that poor plant to shreds. When I went out to check on any damage in the yard, I saw that the blossoming stalk had broken and was withered. I wanted to cry! BUT - and here's the tender mercy - after cutting off that dead stalk, the plant has revived and is bursting with little yellow blossoms. We will have lots of tomatoes one of these days! As I think about my journey the past four months - and the daily challenges that come with July, as our Passey/Boynton family contemplate the passings of our sweet daddy, Roy, and our beautiful mom, Janice - I understand how faith and prayer and courage and hope make us resilient to yielding to the broken parts of our lives. Like the tomato plant, we will blossom again - whether in this world or the next - and we will be better than ever. Sometimes it just takes a little wind, a little battering, a little cutting - but the end result is worth it.

Friday, July 1, 2011

The New Normal

July 1, 2011: May I just begin by saying...Happy 50th birthday, Princess Diana! Wish you were here...

A new month. Funny how July seemed so far away just a few weeks ago. I changed my calendars today and wrote out our month's activities on the dry erase calendar on my fridge. Every week is brimming, not only with good things, but with sad remembrances. July is a fun family month--but also a time to miss my family and the way we used to be. The holidays during this month are only a reminder of what came next. It's the "new normal", but it's still hard.

My other new normals are a little easier to take:

**I can wear TWO earrings again. The right earlobe is still puffy and completely numb, but I can wiggle that post through the hole without it bleeding. A little thing, but it's a relief.

**I'm digging clothes out of my closet that I haven't worn in a long time...and they fit, thanks to my weight loss over the past three months. It feels pretty good. I'm not skinny by a long shot, but it's the FIRST 30 pounds.

**Considering everything, I feel pretty healthy and reassured that I've done all the tests that I should have been doing all along. I'm actually flossing every night! That's never happened before. I'm "up to date" on all those annual exams (and even that "every 8-10 years" one).

I'm tired tonight, but that's normal after a week of late nights and hours of working without a break. I'm cranky, but even that's normal after wishing I could have eaten a thick slice of pizza and a bag of buttered popcorn for dinner instead of string cheese and ramen noodles. I'm stressed after paying the weekly household bills, but am extremely grateful to be able to send off two looming medical bills to my sweet "fund advisors" for payment. It gives me some breathing room, which is a blessing beyond words. So, I embrace this "new normal" and continue to get up every morning with a thankful heart.