Another fun Thanksgiving

Did it again, used the easy, no fuss turkey recipe. For the 3rd time it did not let us down. I wonder if I’ll ever try another turkey recipe, would there be a reason to? Maybe just for the adventure of it. We will find out in the years to come.


Thanksgiving at the hotel continues to be my favorite day for all of us who live here. It’s a humble holiday, no fan fare required. The only structure is that the turkey will be ready around 4:00 so others plan their cooking around that. Black kitty, Brenda, got about ten meals throughout the day, turkey, turkey innards, and her regular kitty food. She still tried to tell me she was hungry before we snuggled up for bed!

Once we fill our plates with all the fixings, sat down to stuff our faces, any little irks (believe me they come up when you have fifteen people living under one roof, sharing bathrooms and kitchens) are long forgotten and we are thankful to be under the same roof, happy and mostly healthy. They even made a community toast to our group effort in beating f—ing anal cancer. They all have been so sweet, always checking in to see if I needed anything, hanging in my room for a cup of tea and a visit.


Honestly, it was the first day in a few weeks that I had energy and an appetite. At one point in the afternoon, I thought I was down for the count, but after a short rest, some food and hydration I made it for dinner time, dessert, followed by nerf gun wars in the hallways.
Maybe I’ve turned a corner. For the past two weeks I have hardly gotten out of bed, felt like I had lead in my legs and no food sounded good. It was a bit depressing. They, the nurses, had warned though, saying it will get worse before it gets better. It’s still not comfortable to sit directly on my bottom, but that’s getting better too.


The sun is shining today in Missoula and I’m thankful not to be going to any Black Friday sales. I’ve got a project or two to keep my busy and a bit of clean up from yesterday.


It’s helping my spirits, knowing I’m getting back to my pet sitting gigs. I got even better news when I went by to get last minute instructions for my dog sit starting Monday. Rafa, the dog, has the same routine as me. In the mornings, he gets up for breakfast then demands everyone get back in bed for a bit. We will get along beautifully.


One more piece of good news, I revised an essay I wrote last year, submitted it to Insider and it was accepted, my first paid piece of writing. Once it’s live, you will be the first to know.

Thanks for reading. Have a peaceful day.

View from back balcony

Free from Treatment!

It’s official. I have a certificate to prove it. I’ve completed the required chemo/radiation to burn this butt of a tumor. My appointment with the surgeon is December 15th to confirm we beat it.


Meantime, I plan to rest. After they handed me my “diploma” on Friday. the radiation techs, who feel like family now, followed up with a warning, “the side effects will get worse before they get better.”
This morning I woke up at 8:30, late for me. I feel exhausted. Today, I’m staying put in my pajamas and going no where. I’m getting used to sitting on my side (always been a side sleeper) since the radiation burn makes it hard to sit flat and upright.


It has been my urge to nap each time I had to get myself together and out the door for 2:00 radiation. Now I will be able to rest.

My first dog sit is scheduled the week after Thanksgiving for a couple of weeks. It will be welcomed. My clients, fully aware I’m just coming out of treatment have graciously offered alternatives for days I may not feeling like getting their sweet dog out for a walk. Their home offers opportunity to rest, complete with big screen TV, streaming channels, gas fireplace and a dog who is allowed on the couch for cuddling. I’m so lucky. I will miss our house kitty, Brenda. We’ve become quite attached to each other even more so the past six weeks.

That’s the latest. I am tired and won’t write anymore for now.

Thanks as always for reading.

Love, Frances

Seeing the light again

The brain-gut connection is real. I can attest to that. My 5th day of nausea took me to a sad, lonely place.

With a new nausea med, I can see the light again. Food still doesn’t sound good. It’s a fact that chemo/radiation changes your taste buds. Things I used to crave and eat regularly, my favorite chocolate/peanut butter bar, salads, popcorn do not appeal.

This article from the MD Anderson Cancer Center gives some suggestions on how to manage nausea. ie: eat small through out the day, ginger candies (thanks to a dear friend), and staying hydrated. I’ve always been a water drinker and have continued with that. The doctors have been impressed that my electrolytes have remained good throughout treatment.

With the nausea somewhat resolved, I can acknowledge what I am thankful for:

I am grateful to still be enjoying my morning coffee. That taste bud has remained intact. It’s a ritual for me, a cup of coffee while either reading or writing gets my day off to a better start.

In gratitude for friends who have reached out to say they are thinking of me. The Power of Casual Check-In, NYT

Thankful for my high school friend who sent me taffy from the Mississippi state fair, the best taffy ever.

Thankful for the constant companionship of our house kitty, Brenda, even when she sneaks a bite of whatever I’m eating!

Grateful for the friend and his eight year daughter who brought me plants yesterday and stayed for most of the afternoon.

Thank you to the friend and ex co-worker who encouraged me to set up a Mealtrain during treatment.


Thank you to the friend who recommended Anderson Cooper’s podcast, All There Is. Cooper begins a series of emotional and moving conversations about the people we lose, the things they leave behind, and how to live on – with loss, with laughter, and with love.
 
And most thankful next Friday will be my last day of radiation. Chemo ended last week. Woohoo!

We had our first snowfall of the season in Missoula last night. It was beautiful and peaceful.

Thank you all for reading. Enjoy your Sunday.

Week 5 of cancer treatment

This is the hard part. They warned me these last two weeks may be the worse. I’ve been nauseated since Friday. Can’t eat. No energy. I make myself go outside and stand in the sun. It’s lonely. It’s unsettling. I fear I will die alone, but many of us do.
I want to hear my family’s voices.

That’s today and the past few days. This too shall pass.

Relaxing weekend after a stressful previous weekend

This past week I have been cat sitting. It’s been a nice reprieve, relaxing and very quiet. My cat sit is just a few minutes from town, with a creek running just feet from the back door. I brought all the foods I eat lately: banana, peanut butter, bread, butter, rice, baked potato (I bought a little steak, steamed the hell out of some broccoli, that went down pretty well) and crackers so I was set. Oh and ginger tea. The only thing I had to do was drive to my radiation at 2:00 each day.
Next week I’ll be at a cat sit near downtown just feet from the Clark Fork river. The week after that, back at home and my second week of the chemo pack strapped to me 24/7. Now that I know what it’s like I am so not looking forward to it. But hey I can do it! My radiation doctor laughed when I half jokingly, asked if we could check to see if the cancer was gone so maybe I don’t need another round of chemo.

I needed this week in a house by myself with such a peaceful setting and sweet kitties. Last weekend, I wrote about the birthday celebration but left out the out unfolding stress of that weekend. Living downtown sometimes brings it’s challenges, parking being one of them. Last Saturday as I drank coffee I suddenly remembered I had not moved my car from the street where the farmer’s market happens. Of course, it was gone when I went outside, in its place was a lovely family selling produce. A phone call to the towing company brought some relief as they told me my car had only been moved a few blocks. “just walk around and you will find it.” After walking two blocks east and two blocks south, I needed a rest before walking more in hopes of finding my car. I called back to ask if they keep track of where they move cars to. That would be too easy. No they don’t.
It wasn’t until Sunday that I walked around some more with no sign of car. Now I was stressing. My appointment with the chemo doctor was first thing Monday morning. It took several more phone calls for me to find out my car was at the Red’s towing lot. They are closed on Sundays but the answer service found out there was someone there. One of my favorite housemates drove me over there. We immediately began our improv act. I was his sick mother and by God my “son” was going to make things right. The young man behind the counter asked for $350 to release my car. “T’ put his arm around me, “we can’t afford that, she has medical bills”
I piped in, “I called several times yesterday and was told it was only moved a few block, now you are asking for the daily rate.” Red’s employee asked for proof, so I showed the call history on my phone. After telling him I had an appointment with the chemo doctor first thing, he asked for proof. I pulled up Mychart on the phone to show proof of the appointment. T, sticks up for me, again, “she does not need this stress right now.” Employee did start to feel bad, trying to get hold of his boss. Finally the employee assured us he would call once he heard from the boss. There was never a phone call.
Monday morning, I picked up my car just minutes before my appointment. They charged me $275, the towing fee, removing the daily rate. Unhappy, I frowned and left with my car.
I’ve since learned a few things about Red’s and towing companies. During Covid, Red’s would not allow people in to pick up their car if they were wearing a mask! Also, towing companies have free reign to tow a car from anywhere that has signs that parking is not allowed or not allowed at certain times. It seems it should be illegal to tow on a Saturday and not be able to pick up one’s car until Monday. They should have someone at the shop on Saturday’s and Sundays. It’s a scam. There could be numerous situations that would make life miserable, what if you were flying out that day or had an emergency? At least folks need to be aware of this scam and the way Red’s treats their customers. If I have the energy and can figure out who in the government to talk to, I will.

Today, I’m not going anywhere, staying put with the kitties, reading and listening to the creek (no radiation on the weekends). The kitties’s owner is a retired English teacher, books adorn several shelves. She offered for me to read any books while here. I’ve started two, enjoying both very much, The Marriage Portrait, a novel by Maggie O’Farrell, author of Hamnet and Never Simple, a memoir by Liz Scheier.

Enjoy your weekend and thanks for reading.

Peaceful sound of the creek
Emma in the sun

I baked a cake

I baked a cake, from scratch, a chocolate very moist cake. It was easy and I am quite proud. I was able to use the nasturtiums I planted to decorate it.
One of our housemates turned 29 yesterday. Her boyfriend, who caters with a local gourmet company, cooked up chicken enchiladas, made homemade chips and verde, salad, and simple veggie appetizers for our household as part of her celebration.
Another housemate had just rearranged and freshened up our community sitting area. It was all ready to be decorated with pom poms and streamers for the party.
Bob, asked me to order a cake earlier in the week. After several calls on Wednesday we were too late. Seems there were a lot of weddings this weekend, bakeries couldn’t take any more orders. Even though I can count on one hand how many cakes I’ve baked in my 63 years on the planet, I began my internet search for best chocolate cake recipe. I honed in on one, BBC easy chocolate cake recipe, gathered the ingredients, made the so easy, so delicious icing in the morning. Baked the cake around noon. Bob was looking at me with skeptical eyes as I put the very liquidity batter filled pans into the oven. The recipe stated once you add the boiling water, “the cake mixture will now be very liquid.” I was only a little worried about how they would come out.
30 minutes later, it was a very moist and perfectly formed cake. I iced it like a pro.
Dinner was delicious. I was happy to have a decent appetite.
The cake was donned with candles, lit, carryed out to the tune of, you know, “Happy Birthday to You.” I helped slice and serve a few pieces when my body suddenly told me to go lie down. There was no arguing with it. I did get to hear the rave reviews the cake was getting.
It was really a fun day, helping with the festivities. I love the people I live with.
As I laid down with my black kitty, since I was tired, the tears just came. I wish my child and I could share special moments, laugh together. I miss her, damn it.
Life is short, life is precious, hope springs eternal, forgiveness is possible, choose love not fear.

Thanks for reading.

3rd floor community room

Living for the Weekend

Friday they disconnected my chemo fanny pack for the weekend. I haven’t been that excited about a weekend since I was a teenager.
Even though I do have some side effects kicking in,
ie: nausea (under control if I stay on top of nausea medicine), low appetite, diarrhea started this weekend and mouth sores, I felt good enough to crank up the tunes, dance around my room and get some cleaning done.

To add to the excitement, at my Monday appointment to check everything; platelets, blood count, etc, I learned that I don’t have chemo for two weeks, only the daily radiation. I was dehydrated, so I sat for an hour relaxing receiving hydrating fluids. All that happens through the port. Hence, don’t have to get poked all the time.

Some of you have asked for clarification on the port and fanny pack of chemo. Below is a pic of me with the pack. I wear it over my shoulder. The tubing from the fanny pack is pretty long, runs under my shirt and into the port that’s in my chest. It’s with me 24/7 during the weeks I have it. I drive with it, sleep with, bath with it, occasionaly dance with it. Robert, the 83 year old owner of the building I live in, and I often greet each other with a jig when we meet in the hallway each morning. His positive attitude inspired me throughout his health issues during this past year. Now he is cheering me on, telling me, “well, you certainly are a trooper.”

My fellow housemates have been so sweet, offering to bring me anything, making extra mashed potatoes for me, the gift of a journal titled – 52 Lists for Calm. They didn’t even know I have a “list” writing group. My new room as of late spring is decorated, cleaned and organized. It took me all summer since I was pet sitting so much. Happy I bought the tv from the previous tenant, haven’t had a tv in years. Making good use of it now. There hasn’t been much energy to read or write. The adult coloring book that has been on my shelf for ten years is getting used for the first time and I’m cutting from magazines for collaging while watching tv. Back to the basics in the creativity department. They are comforting yet mindless activities.

That’s the update for Tuesday, October 4th.
Thanks for reading.

Appreciated the prayer posted in the hospital elevator today.

Me with chemo pack
Prayer on hospital elevator wall
Secret garden adult coloring book

Ode to October

Her voice was soft and smooth as she sang quietly into the audio text I received early this morning.
A comforting made up jingle reminding me it is October 1st.
We can feel it in the air, in how the light is low in the morning and stunning in the afternoon, showing off oranges and reds, purples and pinks just before it leaves for the day.

October gives such a lovely reprieve.
The oppressive heat has lifted, school has commenced, many tourist have returned to their work/school life.
It begins to quiet down, a prelude to the peaceful stillness a winter day can bring.

Keep a look out for love

Port has been implanted. It is a miracle that medicine has come this far, that I will not have to go get poked on regularly for chemo. For some reason, I was really nervous about the procedure. I’ve had a few surgeries: appendicitis, c-section, hysterectomy, knee surgery. For all those, I was out, under anesthesia.

I was awake for the port, given valium and numbed at the site (near right collarbone). The “cocktail” nurse was right by my side offering up any cocktail that might be needed. Another attending nurse, asked if I wanted music, “sure” I said. I was smiling, rocking my feet back and forth, taken back to good times with my high school/college sweetheart as Earth, Wind and Fire sang September. No telling how many times we danced to Earth, Wind and Fire even seeing them live in Memphis. My sweetheart is no longer alive. Maybe it was the valium, but I sensed he was with me, letting me know it would all be OK. I trust him, it was all fine.
Cancer has made me hyper aware of when love is present. Friends from as far back as elementary school have reached out offering support, my community of local friends check in regularly offering any help I may need, house mates take me out for a high protein meal before the pet scan. Packages of goodies show up from an out of town friend. Our house cat who prefers to sleep at the end of my bed (no snuggling) has been making a habit of laying right next to my bum.

Yesterday, a sunny fall day, I walked a few blocks to pick up my car at the hospital. From the middle of the crosswalk, I heard my name blaring out of a car. The boys I occasionally watch were waving arms, yelling, excited to see me in this random place, sharing they had been in the homecoming parade earlier. A couple of more blocks, I ran into a dear friend’s son. We hugged while he announced he would be bringing me houseplants to purify the air.

It’s another clear fall day. I think I’ll take a stroll, watch for love, feed a cat and head to Fact & Fiction at 5:00 for Second Wind reading with Chris LaTray and Mark Schoenfeld.

Chemo/radiation begin tomorrow. I’ve been told side effects may not take effect for a week. Maybe they won’t be too bad.
I have some low key cat sitting gigs lined up. They will be a welcomed distraction.

Thank you all for reading. Watch out for love out there.



Brenda healing my bum

Update: Pet scan results

Good news – the pet scan showed no spread of cancer, only stage 2 anal cancer.

I was to get chemo port implanted tomorrow but it is now on Thursday, September 22nd (some problem with the room they use, my chemo doctor was not happy about that). Chemo and radiation will begin Monday the 26th. Treatment should be for six weeks if all goes well. Radiation is daily Monday-Friday, only for about 15 minutes. It’s a 10 minute walk from where I live, which will make for a nice stroll.

Meantime, I often feel tired, dealing with some pain and digestive issues. Today, a doctor’s appointment and lots of phone calls with doctor’s office to reschedule everything. That takes it out of me.
Self care is resting, drinking lots of water, eating healthy, soaking in the bathtub, reading and streaming series and movies.

A couple of friends from Eugene came through Missoula this week. Our few hours together were filled with hugs, laughter and tears – good medicine. They took snapshots as I gave them a tour of the colorful, funky, one of a kind, historic community building I live in.

I am so thankful for my supportive community, friends and excellent team of medical care.

For ease of communication, I will continue to share updates here.

I’ll leave you with a link to Suleika Jaouad’s Isolation Journals newsletter including writing prompts from guest writers. She is an inspiration as she continues to create through her journey with leukemia.
Isolation Journals

Prompt from Sophie Blackall:

Make a list of things to look forward to. Include big things if you’d like, but also the small everyday things that buoy your spirits, make you laugh, make you feel alive.

She also suggest,

If you have an egg in your house, you can draw a face on it. No one will stop you. Then you will look forward to opening the fridge. 

“Hello, Egg!” you’ll say.

You will amuse yourself no end. Trust me.

Thanks as always for reading.
Frances