June 2010

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Photo by Monica

Here’s me geeking out in my customized Edward Cullen t-shirt on the way to see Eclipse this morning at ten a.m. I wanted to sneak it in before chemo tomorrow. I had to wear the shirt. I was in the mood for fun and fun was had. In fact, I’ve been feeling so great the last few days that I’ve been saying to myself and others, “If I could just feel like this every day, I would never want anything else in life.” What else could be worth wanting?

And then later today, things got a hundred times better. I met with Doc G (Not in the Edward shirt. Sorry girls, I just couldn’t.) and he told me my CA-125 had dropped from 600 to 100 in 21 days. I believe that is an 83% decrease, but you might want to check my numbers given my track record with accuracy (Katrina :-) ).

Hooray is not a big enough word. FANTASTIC!!! is much better.

We are so happy here, so so happy. So now I feel so good AND I know that the battle is nearly won before we are even halfway through the fight.

More than likely, we’ll continue all six treatments in spite of what Doc G is calling my “remarkably quick response.” But it’ll be easier to cope with all the ugh that goes along with the treatment knowing that things are going so well on a cellular level.

When I emailed the news to Dennis at work, his heart swelled and nearly burst with gratitude. In fact it blocked the sun for a brief moment. The second eclipse of the day. The gratitude eclipse of the sun. Did you see it?

So, I may not be able to go to the world-famous Company 4th of July picnic, but  I will not miss the Sugartown parade, and I will watch some fireworks on TV. I will imagine they are big, bright bursts of THANK YOU to the universe from our family.



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Photo by Monica

The Sugartown Gang was in full effect yesterday. They swam in Heather’s pool from four until after nine, with one tiny break to nibble on food.  Their energy is out of this world, their laughter, vervacious™ enough to keep the planets in alignment, their goofiness…there are no words, not even made-up ones.

Heather hosted a bbq at Summer Central on one of what I’m calling my “furlough” weekends. It’s one of the four weekends this summer that follows a full week without chemo. That means it’s a weekend for as much fun as can be packed in. This weekend past was a furlough weekend, and I’ve got two left before kindergarten (omg) starts.

This weekend was one for the record-books. On Saturday I watched England lose (completely unfairly) to Ghana while the boys hunted for bugs in the garden. Then we went to John and Eddy’s in the East Bay and spent most of the day on the deck, gazing across the bay at what might have been San Francisco underneath all that fog. They’re babysitting a gorgeous little puppy, whom I was so worried Little J would fall in love with, but instead, I fell in love with. How could I not? He fell asleep right in my arms.

On Sunday morning, we took Little J to his swim lesson. It was the first time I’ve been able to go. Believe me when I say that sitting in the shade and watching little J have a lesson, then swim with his daddy for an hour is nothing less than full-on bliss. Just that. Just sitting and watching, comfortable in my body, loving them so much.

It’s tricky, this summer. There are eight weeks left. On the one hand, I want it to last forever. After all, did I mention Little J starts kindergarten at the end of it? And on the other hand, if when things go right as planned, I’ll be done with chemo by September 8th. So I kind of want it to go quickly.

Luckily, the only thing I can do is stay right in the moment, because each one is so different. Perfectly happy and energetic one day, curled up in pain and fever and oh-my-God-are-we-going-the-M*A*S*H* unit-ER-the next.

Today is happy, healthy, strong and grateful. And now I must go. I hear the vuvuzelas calling me. Go Braziiiilll! (Sorry Jon in Chile. Please forgive me for that one).



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Our neighbor, whose name sounds like Darren, is an artist, a musician, a man who is connected to nature, and a master builder. He builds things for his work and also from his heart.

Last spring, when I was finishing up with chemo, he offered to build us a redwood pergola off of the back of our house. He didn’t like the idea of  us going through another Sugartown summer without a little more shelter from the sun. So he and Dennis discussed the design, and Darren got the wood, cut it, and got to work. He and Dennis built it together in a day. The pretty structure has changed our lives. We live outdoors once the heat comes to town.

As you can see, the structure’s  got  good legs for the luscious and showy passionflower vines to climb on with wild abandon.

Yesterday was  a typical Sugartown afternoon. The kids were playing outside, and the adults were milling around, catching up, asking me about my chemo treatment (which was fine, by the way). Darren pulled up and announced he’d seen a baby crow that had fallen from its nest. He walked back to where the bird was, cupped it gently with his hands, and showed the kids how to hold a bird that was hurt. His working hands, toughened by the years of his art, calmed and soothed the bird instantly. The little thing held its mouth open, so Darren fed it some water, using his fingertips while J and Princess T looked on.

The kids’ hearts were all a-flutter. So was mine.

Then Darren went into his house and got little bites of food for the bird to eat. The kids tried to feed it turkey bits and raspberries. Meanwhile, the adult crows (its parents?) circled madly overhead, squawking. So Darren found a safe, quiet place to set the bird so it could try to eat in peace, and where the concerned birds overhead could see it and know their baby was safe.

The kids and D went to another neighbor’s house to celebrate a birthday. Pizza, cupcakes, laughter and chatter filled the house. At one point, Little J pulled his daddy aside and asked him to please take him outside to make sure that little baby crow was ok. Dennis obliged. But when they got out there, the bird was gone, as were the adult birds who’d been circling before.

Dennis said, “It looks like the baby bird is back with its mommy and daddy.”

“No, Daddy,” Little J laughed. “Those birds couldn’t carry that bird and fly away.”

Daddy replied, “You’d be surprised. Parents can do just about anything for their little ones when they need to. Anything.”

The little ones give you the strength. And the neighbors, with their open hearts, the shelter.

Happy weekend.

Love, Jennifer

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So yesterday our Little J graduated from preschool. I know. Preschool. But still. It was an adorable event and a perfect end to an eventful week. Some highlights:

Mr. Serious:

Getting his diploma:

Posing with some bffs:

And posing with proud Mama and Papa:

Hope your weekend is off to a smashing start.

Love and hugs,



Why so smiley? This morning, before chemo, I found out that my CA-125 is down 200 points. That’s a 25% decrease after the first round. Hooray is in order. HOORAY. The doctor who was filling in for my regular Doc G, started the conversation with, “You’re just a baby!” and “You can’t possibly be 40,” so I was already chipper when he said, “Now I have some really good news for you. This regimen is working. It is working.”

Thank God and everyone out there who is praying for me and sending good thoughts.

On top of that, chemo was a breeze with my new fancy port. I’m telling you, it’s going to be a great summer in spite of the C.

D and I got home in time to see Little J and share the news with the neighbors before J had to be ushered off to his big “Preschool Graduation Party” where there will be: a treasure hunt, a jumpy house, a candy walk (whatever that is) and pizza.

So we’re all celebrating tonight.

Oh, and my hair has begun to shed, which only means I’ll be sporting a look similar to the one above this summer. Ah well, I’d trade my hair for the news I got today, easily.

Cheers and hugs,


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My week off from treatment has been awesome. I’m so happy to report that about a week after the last treatment, around Wednesday, I started to feel so much better and even felt normal. One tiny setback was that the “bone crusher” marrow-stimulating shot kicked in on Wednesday making sitting or standing suddenly really painful. But that passed in a day. Since then, it’s been ahhh.

On Tuesday, Little J got to spend the afternoon with his pal Lil’ Salty.

On Friday, we had a sleepover with Princess T.

On Sunday, it was back to the fishing hole, this time with mom.

Then later that night, it was dinner and movie with Princess M.

And finally, yesterday, we went for a swim in the neighbor’s pool.

We’re packing in as much fun and together-time as we can as we have big week ahead. Tomorrow is the surgery to put in the chest port for easier administration of the chemo, and Thursday is dose 1 of round 2. Friday is Little J’s graduation from preschool, and we’re all planning to go.

Hope your week is off to a great start!



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Guess who had an amazing weekend.

On Sunday, Dennis took Little J fishing at a stocked lake north of Sugartown. J caught five fish and was beyond proud of himself.

Those cheeks are soo kissable.

I stayed home to rest and read poems by Dan Whyte, a new book Ryan sent which seemed to be written for me, for that exact afternoon.  Not just this/aromatic cup/from which to drink/but the flavor/of a life made whole/and lovely/through the/imagination/seeking its way.

Try as I did to wrap myself in the perfection of the lines, symptoms started to pile up quickly and out of the blue. I couldn’t get out of bed and just gave into the heave of it.

When the boys got home, the burst of excitement from “the catch” revived me. Little J was beyond thrilled and ready to go swimming. D took him to the pool, and they cooled and splashed for hours.

That night, as little J shoveled down pizza, D called the on-call doc. There was just too much turning toward the worst: nosebleeds, swelling belly, etc. We were ordered to the ER. Neighbor Debbie came over in her cloud pajamas (because she is an angel) and held the fort, comforting little J who was so tired from his thrilling day, but still processing that mama had to go to the doctor at night.

Hours and hours went by with blood tests and hydration and x-rays and waiting, and D telling stories of  “the catch” and trying to stay alert and focused on getting home. The news was just that the chemo is really, really taking a toll. Blood Pressure 70/55, platelets 30, etc. etc. And with the swelling and the pain, it’s just about having a cancer that takes over the belly. It’s either the chemo getting in there and working, or something else. We’re going for the former. We were released near midnight and raced home to shower little J’s sleeping cheeks with kisses.

Memorial Day was better, much better. Christina came over with magical Austrian bone soup with marrow dumplings. “This broth is my mother’s medicine.” I sipped it on the back deck while we talked of angels and the wind whirled around us. Then she cut my hair short, like last time. Really short. When she left, I felt so renewed and my spirits lifted.

After a long, peaceful nap, neighbor H invited me for tea in a new little space she created in her backyard. “A little Zen place behind the lemon tree I want to show you.” It was so lovely to just sit out there and sip some Earl Grey and smell the lemon tree flowers while she talked about her garden, her boy’s new teen-ish ways, and the coming summer.

In the evening, D made his famous ribs, and we had neighbor D and her husband T over. Ribs, the trout that J caught, and talk of easier times when D and I traveled to Australia, got engaged, and lived like hopeless romantics. Later, texting with Ms. Miller about love, I realized D and I still live like romantics, but not hopeless. Hopeful. If love is what’s needed for what’s bad to go away, then the three of us: Little J, D, and I are in good shape. In fact, we’re blessed.

Dennis’s mother, who passed away on Memorial Day when D was eighteen, would be so proud of her son, the way he cares for his family, the way his heart is so open. The way he draws such good people into his life. The way his son beams and beams with inner light.

A memorable weekend. Difficult and full of blessings at the same time.



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