Great News – April 2, 2020

Hi!

I should have posted this yesterday, or at least earlier today. But I’ve been distracted, working on a new tutorial about the Line Tool in Photoshop.

As some of you know, I’ve been battling cancer for the last year. Yesterday, I had a CT scan, blood work, and a video visit with the physician assistant who works with my oncologist.

It’s all good news!

The remaining, very tiny, nodule in my lung is stable. It’s probable that it’s scar tissue, not cancer. My blood work looks great. I have a tiny little bit of anemia left, but that’s all. I’m no longer immunocompromised, and I don’t need any treatment. I’ll have another CT Scan on July 1, because we need to keep an eye on it, but so far, so good!

Which is why I’m working on other things.

It’s taken me longer than I thought to get over the chemo. My hair is starting to grow back, but I still have “chemo-brain.” I forget what I’m doing while I’m doing it, it’s a bit hard to focus my eyes, and I don’t have a lot of stamina. But I’m getting better every day. At least, that’s what I tell myself. (And Michael agrees.)

For those of you who want to know when I can sign cards and things, ummm… not quite yet. I’m still a bit shaky, and autographs (unlike the stuff I’m doing on the computer) don’t have an “undo” function. I don’t want to mess up your cards or books. Thanks for your patience. I hope to be able to do all the things I used to do in another month or so.

Until then, I’m working on things for Second Life, working on tutorials, and yes, Michael and I are being very careful. I’ve only left the house for the tests and Michael is wiping down everything that comes from the grocery store with antiseptic wipes. 

Take care of yourselves, and thanks again for all your kind wishes, love and support.

I love you all!

Cancer Log 20.1.10

More really great news!

On Monday, I had another CT Scan. Yesterday, I had some blood work, and went to my oncologist again.

 I’m still anemic, but the rest of the blood work is pretty much back in the normal range. My immune system and platelets are back on line. Yay!

The nodules have gotten even smaller. (The raw numbers are about the same size as I reported last time, because, as the doctor explained to us, different radiologists estimate the size of things this tiny differently. So they compare the two scans, and note the size (as they see it) for the one in November, and the size of the one this week. The nodules are about half the size they were.)

They are now too tiny for surgery. The surgeon wouldn’t be able to find them. They are so small, my oncologist said, that it’s possible there are no cancer cells left, and what we are seeing is just scar tissue. 

All three are in the upper lobe of my left lung. The one that the original PET scan found in my right lung seems to have vanished, according to the doctor.

So, he told us, we now have two choices. I could have another two sessions of chemo, or I can have a break for a couple of months, and then another CT Scan to see if anything has changed.

I asked which he recommended, and he said the break. Which means that I can recover completely from chemo before anything else has to be done. If anything else has to be done at all.

So that’s what I’m doing! We go back on April 1 (which is the perfect day for it) and if all is well, which I think is what he’s expecting, then we just go back every three months for another CT scan for the rest of my life. In the meantime, I have a five o’clock shadow on my scalp, and my eyebrows are itching, because the hair is growing back in.

As my oncologist left the room, he said, “Congratulations!”

So, with any luck, that’s it for the Cancer Log, at least for a while. We now return you to the regularly scheduled blog, about Second Life and the occasional short story, if anyone is interested in short stories!

Cancer Log 19.12.21

Hey people! Happy Solstice!!

I had the echo cardio gram and it showed my heart was fine. My Hemoglobin was down to 8 – normal is12 to 16. So the Dr decided to go ahead with the last session of Chemo and to give me 2 units of red blood cells (Note: not whole blood.) So I went into the infusion center on December 12th, and had the 3 full days of Chemo. They gave me one of the units of blood on Friday, the other on Saturday, (My hands and face turned pink for the the first time in weeks.)

However, as expected, the Chemo really whipped me – to the point that although I am dictating this, Michael (retired now) is typing it in. I still don’t know how we’ll publish this, but if you’re reading this – we managed.

So, Chemo is over, and there was much rejoicing! I went into the local U of M clinic to have my blood drawn for testing Thursday the 19th. The test showed that I had a hemoglobin reading of 9.8. It’s better, but I’m still quite anemic. On January 6th I go back to get a CT scan to see how effective the Chemo has been. On the 9th I talk with the Dr again to discuss future treatments (if any).

Thanks for all you kind thoughts and well wishes! Enjoy the holiday season and you should hear from me again in the new year!

Cancer Log 19.11.19

I have great news!

As you might know, last Friday, Nov. 15, I went in for a CT scan. I haven’t heard from the doctor yet, but I got an e-mail today saying that the test results had been posted to my Patient Portal. So I grabbed my courage in both hands, and took a look.

It’s working! The summary of the test result says that compared to the CT scan from September 12, there has been a significant decrease in the size of multiple scattered non calcified pulmonary nodules, and then goes on to explain that, of the three listed, two of them are half the size they were (down from 8 mm to 4 mm) and the third has decreased from 12×8 mm to 8×4 mm.

So my cancer is in the one third that do respond to this chemo, and the tumors are going away.

I’m so glad that I changed doctors, since the previous doctor had decided to stop a therapy that was actually effective. It also makes me wonder just how big they got before they started to give me chemo!

But yay! This makes all the discomfort of chemo well worth it.

As mentioned, I haven’t spoken to the doctor. I’m pretty sure he (or his assistant) will be going over things with me on Thursday, when I see him (or her.) I’ll know after that how many more sessions there will be before I get a break, and all that good stuff. Since that’s also the first day of the next session of chemo, I don’t know if I’ll be up to posting right away, but I’ll try to at least put up a quick post letting you all know that. Or I’ll see if Michael can.

Thanks again for all your good wishes, prayers, and positive energy! 

Love you all!

Yay!

Cancer Log – 19.10.25.

I know that some of you have been waiting for me to tell you how the new treatment went. I’m sorry it’s taken me this long to write the post. I had the extra two weeks off between sessions, and somehow, in that time, I forgot how bad the chemo makes me feel. 

So, the last session was at the Medical Center at the University of Michigan, October 2, 3, and 4. I went there each day, and came home at night, instead of being admitted to the hospital. It was much nicer to be able to sleep in my own bed, and eat Michael’s cooking, and generally be away from it all every night. 

I was told I’d have a private room, with a private bathroom. That wasn’t strictly true. I had a private room with a private toilet and sink, and a curtain I could draw around them. I could also close the door into the area where all the nurses were working, so it was private enough to be comfortable. 

I had the private toilet because they were keeping track of how much fluid was going out, as well as how much they were pumping in. Something they didn’t do in the hospital. 

The doxorubicin was delivered via a pump that lived in a fanny pack. It worked flawlessly. I have it at home now, and I have charged the battery for the next session. 

The other big difference was the delivery of the Neulasta. That’s the very expensive drug that boosts the immune system; pretty much necessary after each session of chemo. 

Before, my former oncologist was having me drive all the way back to Farmington Hills on the Monday after the session ended to get the shot. That meant that I wasn’t getting it until about 50 hours after chemo ended. The recommended timing is 24 hours. 

This time, they stuck a gadget on my arm that delivered the shot 27 hours after they put it in place. So not only was I getting the shot in the recommended time frame, but we didn’t have to make a long trip back to the medical center. 

Which means Michael got to work two full five day weeks, for the first time since April. 

All in all, it was a much better experience than the first three sessions. I’m so glad we switched doctors. 

I go back on Halloween day for the beginning of the next three day session. We’ll be going in that Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. Sometime after that I’ll have another CT scan, and we’ll find out if this set of chemo drugs is working. 

If it is, I’ll have another session. Or maybe two, since I did have that extra two weeks off. If not, the doctor knows what drug cocktail he’ll be trying next. 

So, that’s where we are. Thanks again, everyone, for all your support. I love you all!

Cancer Log – 19.10.4

Yesterday I had an appointment with the new doctor at the University of Michigan.

Unlike other doctors, both he and his assistant (an internist who is planning to become an oncologist) examined me throughly. The bronchitis (or whatever it was) segued into a cold which isn’t quite over, so I was wearing a mask and coughing some. Neither one seemed to think it anything out of the ordinary.

The upshot is; I had a CT scan May 6. Chemo started July 15. The CT scan on September 12 showed a slight increase in two nodules, but because there was no CT scan taken in July there is no way to know when that growth occurred. Or how much growth there was that might have been reduced, for that matter. So it’s impossible to say with any certainty that the chemo isn’t working.

So the U of M doctor (hereinafter known as my oncologist) is going to try the chemo again. It starts next week, and we’ll do two sessions and another CT scan to see what has happened. If it’s working, then we’ll do another session, or perhaps two, and then give me a break, followed by as many sessions (and breaks) as needed.

If it’s not, he knows exactly what drug cocktail he’s going to use next. He even told us the names of the drugs, but I don’t remember what they are. (I’m blaming it on having a head full of mucus.)

He’s also going to consult with a thoracic surgeon to see about the feasibility of surgery to remove them. A lot will depend on how many of the tiny little nodules in my lungs are actually cancer.

It turns out I have dozens of them. I thought all the rest were scar tissue (my poor lungs have been through a lot, starting in my infancy,) since only a couple were bright on the PET scan, but that might not be the case.

My oncologist explained that PET scans work by bonding a radioactive tracer to glucose, and injecting it into your bloodstream. Then they see how much of that glucose various cells have taken up. Things that always take up a lot of glucose, like your liver and brain, are always bright. Lungs aren’t so much, because they don’t use as much glucose. Cancer, of course, does. But tumors that are too small to use enough glucose also don’t show up on a PET scan. So, we know for sure that one of the nodules is cancer, because it was biopsied. We’re assuming the other bright spot is also cancer. But there’s no way to tell for sure about all the spots that didn’t glow. They might be scars, or they might not.

We’ll have to keep an eye on them to see.

But, for now, I’m going back to an infusion center, as an outpatient this time (yay!) Three consecutive days, six to eight hours a day, depending on how well I do with it. I’ll be wearing a doxorubicin pump home, and the Neulasta shot will be one of those packs on my arm (as seen on TV) or a shot I can give myself. So I’ll be sleeping in my own bed, eating my own food, and I won’t have to go all the way back to Ann Arbor for the shot the next day. And there was much rejoicing.

They have to squeeze me in, so we don’t know what days I’ll be going yet. They will be calling (eventually) to tell me.

I’m so glad that I’m now seeing an oncologist who knows what he’s doing. Michael called the other one, and told her I’ve switched doctors, so she won’t wonder what happened, or keep trying to make appointments for me.

And that’s where we stand now. I’ll try to answer questions if any of you have them.

Love you all!

Cancer Log – Earthdate 19.09.17

On Monday, September 9, I went in for a CT scan with contrast. It went as well as any test where you have to drink 3 glasses of barium can go. At least it was the watery barium, not the thick stuff. Good thing I don’t mind the taste of bitter things. (I have been known to eat unsweetened Baker’s Chocolate, when I really need a chocolate fix!) I also got a shot of iodine right into a vein. It felt kind of weird, but didn’t harm me in any way.

On Wednesday the 11th, I woke up feeling kind of bad. By afternoon my fever was up to 101.3° and I had a knot in the middle of my chest, right under my sternum, that was making it hard to breathe.

By 5:30 am on Thursday the 12th, I could barely breathe at all, and my fever was up to 101.6°. One of the things they tell you when you start chemo is that if your fever goes over 101.5° you have to go to the Emergency Room. So off we went.

They were extremely nice, accessed my port, took a bunch of blood, and gave me Tylenol, fluids, and an IV antibiotic. They also took a chest x-ray and (on the orders of my oncologist) another CT scan, without contrast this time. They told me it all looked clear, made sure my temperature was back to normal, and sent me home. Where my fever went right back up to 102.1°.

On Friday the 13th we had a long-scheduled appointment with my oncologist.

First, as usual, we saw the resident. He looked at the CT Scan from the day before, and told us it showed enlarged lymph nodes in the center of my chest, and a small pocket of fluid in the pleural cavity of my right lung, both almost undoubtedly from the infection. He said the fluid wasn’t enough to do anything about. But, he said, the nodule in my lung had increased in size from 0.5 cm to 0.8 cm.

Then my oncologist came in, said that the cancer had spread to my lymph nodes and my pleural cavity, (which isn’t something phyllodes tumors do,) and that the nodule had more than doubled in size to 1.1 cm. All of which showed that chemo wasn’t working, so she was going to stop treating me for two weeks. She admitted she didn’t know what to do next, since my cancer was so rare, so she sent me home with a script for antibiotics (without even listening to my chest, or examining me in any way) and scheduled a test to sample the fluid.

She also said she’d be sending samples of the tumor off for Next Gen Sequencing, to see if there was a treatment for any genetic mutations in the tumor. That was so expensive that I had to fill out paperwork for financial aid (which I’m sure we aren’t eligible for.) There also should have been blood samples in a special kit for genetic comparison, but my doctor failed to let the office staff know about that. (They called after we got home to say they needed the blood, could we come back Monday.)

Michael got the script filled. But when I read the package insert, I found that that particular antibiotic could permanently damage tendons and nerves, and that the tendon damage was more likely in patients over the age of 60. (Me.) It also said not to take it if you have Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, because it can cause an aneurism. (Also me.)

The thing is, Michael and I promised each other, after the last time, that we’re not going to wait until a doctor half kills one of use before we switch doctors ever again.

So, on Saturday we went to an urgent care, and got an antibiotic that wasn’t likely to cause more harm than good. (Note: when a drug says to take it with a snack or small meal, they really mean it. Ignore that at your peril!)

Then yesterday, we cancelled the blood kit, called the specialist in Ann Arbor, and asked if he’d take me as a patient. We’ll be seeing him on Oct. 3.

Today the pain and knot in what I’m assuming is my bronchial tubes is gone, although I’m still coughing quite a bit (not as much as yesterday, though!) My fever as I write this is 99.7°. Oh, and the catch on the right side when I breathe, which I’m guessing was the fluid, is gone. So, still not well, but much, much better. 

And that’s where we stand now. More news as I have it, and am able to write a blog post. 

Love you all!

What’s Going On

As you may have noticed, I haven’t written a new blog post in more than a year. There are reasons for this, and it all boils down to I haven’t been at all well. But I’m getting better! (I hope.)

For a long time – years – my energy level has been steadily dropping. Last November, just before Thanksgiving, we found out that the reason was that I had developed diabetes, and it was Really Bad. It had gotten so out of hand because I had a Very Bad Doctor who, although I’d informed him I had diabetes on both sides of the family, and needed regular blood tests, hadn’t been doing them. (Kids! Ask for the results of all your blood work! Don’t let the doctor tell you, “If you don’t hear from me, it’s all normal.”)

The diabetes is completely under control now. I’ve even been able to go off the insulin, and am managing the disease with just diet and exercise. I was feeling better than i have in years!

But.

Because we (needless to say) fired that doctor, and because we also switched our insurance (I am finally old enough for Medicare,) we wound up without a doctor until early April.

By then, a lump that I’d had in my right breast since November 2005, and which had twice been diagnosed as benign, had started to get weird.

Cut to the chase; it turns out that I have stage four cancer. Not a common type, because why would I do that? I have phyllodes tumors. In my case, it grew very slowly for 14 years, and then went nuts, growing from the size of my fist to 15 pounds between April 3 and June 15. I had a double mastectomy on June 15, and surgery went very well. So that part is gone, and there was much rejoicing.

However, because of the years and years of neglect, mine has metastasized to my lungs, where I have two very small tumors. So my oncologist has me on chemo. There’s no need to go into details but chemo isn’t any fun, and it doesn’t leave me with a lot of strength to do other things.

I’ll try to keep anyone who is interested updated via this blog, because people have been asking. I’m (obviously) not keeping any of this secret, so if you want to talk about it with others, send energy, pray, light candles, and so on please feel free.

Just don’t expect a whole lot from me for a while. My energy is kind of wrapped up in getting well.

Thanks for reading. I love you all!

Robin

Time to Fight

As the attack on our institutions intensifies, I’m finding it necessary to write an essay about Things. The last time our Republic was in danger, I posted essays in a special section on my site. Right now, my site is split between the pages you can see, and the new pages on my server. Because of that, I’m posting essays here until I get my new site up. I’ll move them then; but in the meantime, I can’t be silent.

I originally wrote this on June 28. I normally leave a day between writing and posting, as a kind of “cooling off” period, to get some distance from the words and look at them a bit more objectively. In this case, router problems, and then other obligations, kept me from posting until today.


June 28, 2018

After the last few days, it’s become apparent that we are in the fight of our lives.

We didn’t choose this. We don’t want to be. But we have been for some time, whether we admitted it or not, and it’s high time we admitted it, and started to fight back.

The good news is that we vastly outnumber our opponents.

There are way more people of good heart, who believe that everyone is, indeed, created equal. That we are entitled, by the social contract that binds us together, to things like a working wage, support in illness and old age, freedom, education, the right to marry the person we love, and so much more.

That we are entitled to these things regardless of our skin color, country of origin, circumstances of birth, ableness, health, weight, gender, religion or lack thereof, or anything else that can be named.

That infants and children should never, ever, be separated from their families and incarcerated simply for being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

That seeking asylum is not a crime, and immigrants help our economy and make us stronger.

That the only way to lose the things we are entitled to is to break the social contract by intentionally harming another living, breathing human being.

That owning these entitlements does not deprive anyone else of them.

That it is not, in fact, a zero-sum game.

The bad news is that there is a sizable number of people who seem to be laboring under the belief that it is zero-sum. That anyone else claiming the things they are entitled to is somehow depriving them. They fear and hate the “other,” and want nothing more than for the “other” to be forever subservient, at their beck and call. And if they will not, then the “other” must cease to exist.

These people have, at this point, taken over all three branches of government. They are imposing their twisted view on all of the rest of us.

To paraphrase a friend of mine (Gwen Smith) the monsters are no longer afraid of showing themselves for exactly what they are.

The bad news is that, if we don’t want to be part of their world, forever subservient and happy to take any abuse they want to dish out, we will have to fight.

Fight as if our lives depended on it, because they do.

In order to fight, we will all have to make sacrifices; especially people with privilege. Yes, I mean white cis straight people, men in particular. We have to give up the comfortable view of our own future, if we had one, and realize that we aren’t in it for ourselves any more. If we cannot unite, put aside our petty squabbles, our talk of purity, our own prejudices, and work as a cohesive whole, we will not win this.

We have to give our time, to make phone calls we don’t really want to make, and write letters we’d rather not write. We have to take time to march, and protest, and get in people’s faces. We have to risk arrest to do this.

We might have to give up space in our homes, for housing those who are most at risk, sheltering those who are traveling to march, or who need medical care not available where they live. (Yes, I am talking about women who need abortions.) We have to be willing to be a meeting place, even if that entails some risk.

We have to give some of the money we wanted for extras to make life more pleasant, to organizations or people that will make continued life possible for others.

We might have to give up time and space we would ordinarily use for business or pleasure to write political essays. Even if we feel that no one is really interested in what we have to say.

But the good news is that if we do, if we watch out for each other, and have each other’s backs. If we stop worrying about what terms should be used, and whether someone is pure enough, and if someone is fighting the way we would fight, then we can.

Because united we outnumber them more than 2 to 1.

Don’t let them divide us.

Don’t let us divide us.

United we stand, and we will fight, and we will win justice and equality for all.

 

New Short Story

I’m still working on my website, and trying to catch up on everything else. As part of that, I put a new short story up on my Patreon page. Which means it’s been long enough that I can release a short story here, too!

Let me know what you think!

(Sorry there’s no picture, but I don’t have time today. Sigh.)

Your Money or Your Life

A Short Story by Robin Wood

Gilbert Clarence Barnette the third peered around the pile of rocks. He could see the coach now, far down the road. Well, what he actually saw was a cloud of golden dust, but it was moving far too swiftly to be anything but the coach.

He rolled back behind his chosen cover, enjoying the thrill bubbling inside him. His father would be livid if he knew! Of course, with any luck, he never would know. But still, knowing he was doing something that would infuriate the old man was its own special flavor of wonderful. It didn’t hurt that he was risking his life, at least in theory. He might even get a haul of gold and precious gems! Not that he needed them; he had plenty of money. At least the old bastard was good for that. Ever since he learned the value of a coin, Gil had only to put out his hand, and his dad would fill it with cash.

It was the thrill he was after! He’d dreamed of being a highwayman all his life; dashing, handsome, devilish, without a care in the world. Not that he had many cares. Anything he wanted always fell into his lap. Which was why he was so bored with it all.

But this! Ah! This was exciting! He felt more alive than he had… well … ever, really.

He peeked again. The coach was clearly visible now, the horses’ legs flashing, the windows glinting as they caught the lowering sun. Perfect. In about three minutes they’d come to the bend in the road, see the deadfall he’d put out, and have to stop. It was time for him to get into place.

Grinning to himself, he adjusted the fine silk scarf over his nose and mouth, pulled his hat brim down as far as it would go, loosened his pearl handled six-shooter, and slipped into the small copse that had supplied his deadfall. Just one branch, really. Anyone could move it aside easily, but there wasn’t room to drive around it, and with no other traffic, and the road known to be safe (thanks to Dear Old Dad) he was gambling that the coach driver wouldn’t want to risk injury to the horses.

His heart pounding, he waited.

“Woah! Woah there!”

Yes! Right on schedule, the coach drew to a halt.

With a flourish, Gil drew his gun, stepped into the road, and said, “That’s enough! Everyone out of the coach! Line up!”

He had the drop on them. The driver made an abortive move toward his rifle, thought better of it, and climbed down, as the passengers debarked.

If he’d really been a robber, dependent on their pockets for his living, it would have been a disappointing catch. An old graybeard, slightly threadbare. Probably a professor of some kind. A haughty woman, who lifted her chin and glared at him with her nostrils flaring. Some fairly good jewelry on that one, but nothing really fine. A slender girl, maybe 13 or 14, who looked underfed and overworked, with her head bowed. And of course the driver.

But the looks on their faces were extremely gratifying! Pale, trembling, just the way people should look at Gil! Even the woman looked worried. He’d make her sweat just to see it.

“Your money or your life!”

This was such fun! He finally got to say it in a real robbery!

The girl looked up, straight into his eyes, with a smile that looked almost like feral triumph. “Done!” she whispered, stamping her right heel.

The world dissolved in bright white light, Gil’s stomach dropped to his toes, and then he was looking at himself, as if he was stooping among his victims. Looking right into the barrel of his gun, but just for a moment.

In stunned disbelief, he saw himself shout “Yes!” and fling both arms up, then holster the gun.

How could he be outside himself, watching? It made no sense!

Gil looked up into the face he was used to seeing in the mirror, or at least the part that showed between his scarf and his hat. His own bright blue eye winked at him. “You asked for it, you got it. Enjoy it!”

Confused, he watched the hand that had always been his go into what he thought of as his pocket, and come out with a gold coin.

“Hey!” he said. But his voice was high and thin; nothing like his voice at all. And it didn’t come from the figure in front of him.

Instead, that figure said, “Just joking, folks. Here, for your trouble.” And he tossed the gold piece to the driver. A $50 gold piece!

The driver caught the coin, as the highwayman turned on his heel with a little spring, and vanished among the trees.

“Spoiled brat.” The driver spat to the side, then examined the coin and grinned as he pocketed it. “Go ahead and get back in, folks. It’ll only take a moment to clear this.”

Gil felt someone grab his arm, and a harsh voice said, “Get in the coach, Livy, you lazy layabout.” He looked up, shocked, to see the nasty woman glaring down at him.

“But…”

“No backtalk. Do as I say.” And she shook him viciously.

He would have protested, but at that moment he felt a horrible pain in his lower abdomen, as if all the muscles there had clenched at once. With a gasp, he folded over, as much as he could with the woman’s hand still holding his arm tightly enough to bruise.

She shoved him towards the door, and he found himself climbing in, and scooting over on the slick horse hair seat. His legs no longer reached the floor, and he was wearing some kind of dress made of cheap cloth. He felt sick, weak, and cold. Unfamiliar memories crowded his head.

He plastered his face to the window, and was just in time to see his body, mounted on his fine chestnut horse, riding away to his lovely, wealthy, luxurious life.