Friday, February 27, 2009

cows and comida: (food)

The cows in the warm areas seem to be bramhas and semmitals. (excuse the spelling) They have lumps on their backs and big floppy low set ears. There are a lot of dairy cows in Monteverde: mostly Jersey and Swiss. Dairy farming was started in the area by Quakers who moved there from Alabama. In other parts other parts of the country there seem to be a lot of mixes in the pastures: hereford looking white faces with big floppy ears and all different color combinations. The ears seems to be dominant.
We haven't had a bad meal in Costa Rica and most have been excellent. There is lots of fish and fruit. "Comida tipica" is what they call typical local food. All the hotels include breakfast in the price. It is a full breakfast with eggs, pancakes or french toast. Gallo pinto (painted chicken) is a typical dish that is served with breakfast. It is rice and little black beans flavored with onion, garlic and some other spices. I had it nearly every morning. I think it gets its name because it is brown with little black flecks, like a brown chicken with little black feathers.
The other dish that is typical are "platos casados" Casados literally means married people. It is a plate of food that "marries" a variety of food like fish or chicken, rice, beans,vegetables, and a chutney-like sauce. My favorite drink is jugo natural. They put ice, water, fruit an little sugar in a bender and make a really refreshing drink.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Manuel Antonio and Quepos

   Notice the Pacific Ocean in the background of the cow pasture.  
 After being in the mountain rainforest, where the temperature dropped into the 50s at night, we headed south to the hot tropical coastal region. On the way we changed cars to an automatic so Marty could drive. The roads are better in the south so we are having a smoother ride. Yesterday we spent the day in the Manual Antonio Park, which is a protected area along the beach. We spent the morning hiking and saw monkeys, a sloth and of all things, 2 deer. We spent the afternoon at the beach in the park. It is wooded along beach, so we didn't have to sit out in the sun. Lying under big trees at the beach in the shade was novel and relaxing. There was some wave action which made the ocean fun.
The hotel where we are staying is lush and tropical. It is hot and humid, but I am finally getting my fill of the sun and it's nice to use the pool and swim in the warm ocean. Our room has a balconey with an ocean view and is the place to be at sunset.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009


Monte Verde is high is the central part of Costa Rica in the Cloud Forest. It has 2 ecological parks which protects thousands of species of plants and animal. We stayed  in a the Cloud Forest hotel, which boasts of sunset view of the gulf of Nicoa 60 miles away. There there were French, Canadian, Chinese and Americans there. Just at the hotel, we saw 5 or 6 species of hummingbirds at the feeders. We also saw a cotamundi, which looks like a cross between a raccoon and a monkey. Unfortunately, I didn't get a picture. 
We took the the Canopy bridges tour, which is a series of suspension bridges throught the rainforest. We saw a lot of plant life but the animals were shy. I took more pictures than anyone except for my friend Susan the botanist would be interested in. We also took a butterlfy and hummingbird tour. 
I've been doing a lot of things that I am afraid of this trip: like horseback riding and heights. At the hotel They had a series of zip lines set up  through the tree canopy. I will try to upload a movie of me zipping. I found it really scary to be attached to a cable 150 feet above the ground. We even rappeled down two the lines. it was amazing to be in the canopy like the birds. 
We were really glad for 4 wheel drive on the way to Monte Verde. The roads were steep and bone jarringly rough. I'd have to down shift into first halfway up some of the hills. The residents are dead set against paving the roads. They are afraid that the area would be ruined with any more tourists.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

We had a sunny day today, so we went off adventuring. The place where we are staying has its own nature trail. so we took that in the morning. In the afternoon we took a tour on horse back to La Fortuna Falls. ( Me on horseback imagine).We rode through a farm with a lot of cows to avoid the road to the Falls. Since it was Saturday, the guide had his wife and kids with him. The little girl was about 8 and a dare devil on her pony. The baby was 16 months and sat on the saddle in front of the mom for the whole ride! When we arrived, we dismounted and walked down about 600 steps to the bottom of the falls, took pictures and jumped in the cold river. At least Marty did it was too cold for me to put more than  my feet in. The climb back up was arduous, but I made it and rode my horse back down. 
We relaxed and started planning the next leg of our trip. Sunday we will drive to the Monteverde area. It is big national park that has 1000s of different plant and animal species. 

Friday, February 20, 2009


We left San Jose today to go to the Arenal Volcano. We had heard that the roads are terrible, so we rented a 4 wheel drive. They didn't come in automatic, so I'm doing the driving, which suits me fine.
The drive was really beautiful. The first two hours were crossing a mountian range. There was farming on steeply terraced mountain sides and lots of little towns and people. Costa Rica has the highest literacy rate in Central maybe even south America. There were schools and school chilren everywhere.
    The drive was fun. It brought out my inner Mario Andretti. It was up and down and switch backs and following trucks at 5 mph. and getting passed on curves. I actually really enjoyed it after i figured out what all the road signs meant and got Marty on board as navigator.
     We saw lots of cows and all kinds of crops. They were harvesting sugar cane. The combine looked like a corn picker, except the augers were vertical. 
     We arrived at our destination with out getting lost once. Unfortunately, the "getting some sun plan" hasn't worked out yet. This a tropical rain forest. Although it is suposedly the dry season, it misted and rained alot today. But it is warm and the vegetion is lush and that is what counts. Hopefully tomorrow the rain will lift and we can see the volcano
We stopped for a break in a little town and were intrigued by the topiary park. We also went drove by an obstetrician's office that had 3D ultrasound pictures posted. We were so surprissed.

Arriving in San Jose

We arrived in San Jose after a day of uneventful traveling, got through immigration and customs and picked up our car by 10:30. The adventure began trying to find the hotel. This is how Tikas (costa ricans) give directions while showing you a map: Take this road for a awhile until you see the Nissan sign, go 3 blocks 1 2 3 then turn left on colon. There are not street signs. Go 2 more blocks 1,2  You'll see the the sign it looks likes this (Shows me the Best Western logo).  Oh and lock your doors and don't talk to anyone that is a bad neighborhood.
The streets really are sporadically marked and Marty had problems with the counting blocks thing. The next thing you know we are lost, and I turned down a one way street. There are lights of a police car coming at me. I pulled over and was really glad I could speak Spanish and plead how lost we were. They were very nice and told me to turn around and follow them. (We'll go 3 blocks to the left and turn right and go 2 blocks to the right. There is a big sign thats says Best Western) So we arrived at our hotel in our first night in Costa Rica with a police escort.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Wednesday Day #10 Like topsy

I got up feeling fine, so I was dismayed when I lost my breakfast. and it was such a nice one too. Just a little cough started it all. When I was resting on the couch after all that, feeling depressed about how soon the next chemo cycle would be, Marty came in and said, "You need to get away from this. I was looking at airline tickets last night to Costa Rica. We could leave tomorrow."
I looked out the window at the sleet coming down and said. "Let's do it"
It made for a very complicated day. I went to work, and had to rearrange my schedule and leave lots of notes for the secretary, arrange for coverage at Baby Preview, and arrange for pet/house sitting. Unfortunately, I had to cancel plans to meet Caitlin and Allison in Boston for Allie's birthday February 27. There is so little time that I feel good between chemo cycles. I just can't do every thing. This cycle has been such a tough one psychologically for me. I hope they'll forgive me and I can make it up to them later.
By afternoon, I was already feeling physically lighter, although psychologically weighted and ambivalent about rashly canceling so many commitments. But we are almost packed and ready to go. I am feeling like I can find a little joy in life again. Hopefully, there will be WIFI in Costa Rica and I can blog about the trip. Adios!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Tuesday Back to work Day #9

I got a little behind on my posting  between not feeling the greatest but still trying to distract myself with doing interesting things. All my down time was spent on the couch, napping. I went back to Sunday and Monday in case your are interested.
I forgot to post that on Sunday I booked a cottage at Rehoboth for the last week of July. It is where we used to stay when Caitlin and Allison were little. I am really excited about that decision being made.

I got up the morning feeling like a bundle off energy and did my usual (in my prechemotherapy life) routine: eat breakfast, empty the dishwasher, attend to the current stage of laundry, empty the cat litter. ooops! Poor Kitty. My morning routine has taken a hit with this round of chemo, and it never occured to me once to check the cat littler. Fortunately he wasn't too finicky ( or I haven't found the damage yet.)  
My energy was short lived: after showering and dressing, I stretched out on the couch and promptly feel asleep! 

I did wake up and go to work . I made one visit and spent most of the rest of the day trying to track down clients make appointments. I'm trying to come up with a different way to keep up with my clients, so that they still a feel that they are being helped and supported, even if it looks a little different than it used to. Amazingly, I slept from 5 to 7 when I got home. Sleep feels so good.

I am hoping that tomorrow starts my ascent to normalcy

Monday Day 8 Hittng the Wall again

Monday I had off for President's Day. Dear friend Penny came over to help me with the house blessing. She has an infallible knack for coming on my worst day, which is bad for her, but comforting for me. We buzzed around and sparkled the house up then had lunch and played rummy. I slept the rest of the afternoon. 
Although I haven't felt well most of this cycle, Monday was the only day that I was really depressed. I started the Zoloft for depression  but I don't expect an effect for a few weeks. I have also been taking the Atavan which is for nausea, but also seems to be a happy sort of drug.
I am absolutely counting on Wedesday being the turn around day, when I start to feel like myself.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Sunday Day 7

Sunday was a busy fun day. I went to early church at Hope Lutheran. The lessons were on healing lepers. One of the stories was about Namaan, the Syrian army captain who had leprosy and went to Elisha to be healed. He pitched a hissy when Elisha sent a messanger out who told him to go dip in the Jordan 7 times. He was insulted because Elisha didn't bother to come out himself and make a big deal out of calling on the name of the LORD to heal him. And what's so great about the Jordan anyway? He could have stayed home and bathed in his own rivers.
     I generally like those sorts of stories full of hubris and complicated emotions anyway, but I really liked this one  because of the healing aspect. When the pastor was giving the sermon, I just kept thinking how I would so dip myself in the Jordan 7 times and WHAT was wrong with this guy. 
      After a nap, Marty and I took a ride in the country and stopped by to visit some Folk Festival friends. We had an impromptu dinner party before Sunday night shape note singing, when my friend,
 Donna and Dan from  Bethlehem came (with food and helping hands) before the singing.
      Although I didn't feel the greatest, it was very diverting, but boy was I tired

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Day #6 On the mend?

Marty gave me pearl earrings and a a pearl necklace for Valentines. Caitlin sent heart PJ pants, which I will photograph soon.
We finally had a day with nowhere to be first thing in the morning, and had a nice blueberry pancake breakfast. I went back to the couch for most of the morning. It is amazing how good it feels. Marty made me get up for lunch and we went to look for some new carpet for the lower level. I bought lots of fruit at the Farmer's Market. I crave fruit all day. I think it must be a detoxifier.
We had a surprise snow shower and made a nice fire. We are tired of so much cold, but I will miss building fires. I'm feeling better, less patina and ick tonight. I just keep knocking back all the drugs and waiting for tomorrow to be better.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Day #5 Friday still feeling crappy

I am grateful that Allie urged me to buy this fabulous red Valentine's Day scarf.

This chemo cycle has been a giant disappointment to my schedule and emotional flow. I went to work today because I had to take my client, who is handicapped, to a dr. appointment. When I called to tell her that I would be picking her up shortly, she informed me that her mom had left for an appointment, so we would have to cart the baby along. The baby is 17 months old, but doesn't walk, which means I have to carry the baby, the car seat and the stroller. Not happy news at 8:15 AM. I called the office for back up but everyone was off, or out on visits: even the secretary had called off sick. Excuse me for whining but we did it.
My next visit was supposed to be a final visit to celebrate the client graduating from the program after two years. I went back to the office to try to sort out my paperwork. This working and living one day at a time really wreaks havoc on the ebb and flow of running my client caseload. My awesome desk mate, Laura, had a cancellation and helped me get my charts in order and get my desk cleared off. My "chemo" brain was having trouble focusing. My client canceled: they often do on the the last visit. They just aren't ready for goodbye.
So at any rate, I got a full day's work in. If it hadn't been for the doctor's appointment, I probably would have stayed in bed. Distraction really does help.
Marty and I went Folk Dancing tonight. That is more his thing than mine, but it was the Valentine's Dance and it was romantically festive. He took me to dinner beforehand, so it it was a maahvelous impromptu Valentine's date. So life is lovely in the middle of all this crap.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Thursday Day #4 Still sad.

No, I did not go out on the boat today. We were talking about sailing, though, because it was really windy today. Being on the boat is my "happy place" where I go when I need to distract myself about what is going on in the present. Sometimes I go to my garden.
I was up early to go to the hospital for my shot and and had a good bacon and egg breakfast. One wouldn't think I could eat that sort of thing but it tasted good. I still feel lousy.I talked to the nurse who gave me the shot at length about managing the nausea. She had taken care of me yesterday, so knows how I have been feeling.
Allie just called to say that she is home safely. I fell asleep when she left and just woke up half an hour ago when the phone rang. I slept through almost her return trip to Wocester! Sleep is a good thing.
Well As Scarlett O'Hara says, "Tomorrow is another day."

Round #3 Day 3 Half done Yeah!

I really didn't feel up to posting the last two days. Allie did Tuesday's. Wednesday's treatment went ok. I slept through most of it. I had plans to meet my co-workers for lunch. One of our co-workers is leaving and we were wishing her well. :(. I wasn't sure if I was up for it but I was glad that I went. It was a good distraction to see every one. Allie had lunch with her Dad for his Birthday.
Half done should feel better than it does. Today, 3 more rounds does not sound appealing. This is the worst that I have felt on day 4. I usually don't feel bad until Day 6. I haven't been sick. I just have "the patina" the underlying feeling of nausea all the time. All I can manage is sleep. I am hoping to come out of it soon. I'm taking every pill they have given me. Based on how I had felt during the last two rounds, I had made plans to work yesterday and today and had to cancel them.
Now is a good time to say how much the comments on the blog, the e-mails, the cards and gifts of flowers and food cheer me up. I also appreciate all the thoughts and prayers. It is a great comfort know so many people are rooting for me.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Round #3 Day 2 Not so Hot

Mom woke up this morning feeling not so hot and it pretty much continued throughout the day. However we had no problems with the treatment and things went pretty smoothly at the hospital. Mom had scheduled a massage for me as the caregiver at the image center so I did that during her treatment and stopped up to the second floor and visited my Grandpa.
In the afternoon, mom slept for a couple of hours. Then Mom, Leo and I (see picture) watched Napoleon Dynamite. We made dinner, talked on the phone and are about to go to bed. Nothing too much exciting happened today, hopefully tomorrow everyone will feel better because we have plans that we wouldn't want to miss.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Round #3 Day1 Made it through

Sunrise Let the Chemo begin AM Full Moon Setting

I chickened out and didn't take the Atavan for anxiety. I did yoga instead this morning and that calmed me down. The things I worried about most went ok. The nurse put the needle in the port on the first try. The mint lifesavers masked the bad taste when they flushed the port with saline. I felt ok with all the medicines.
My new doctor ordered the longer acting anti-nausea medicine for the 3rd day instead of today, so hopefully that will carry over for a few more days. I get a shorter acting one tomorrow and the next day. It instilled confidence that he was paying attention and trying to make me more comfortable.
We were there 8 hours, but Allie took good care of me. We played games, I slept some, and we watched a bunch of episodes of "Arrested Development" a funny TV show.
We go back tomorrow at 9:30 AM but only for 2 hours.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Livin' high on the hog

The sunrises are a little earlier each morning.
To answer my sister's question asking if I am on the sexy new drugs; the answer is no. I am on boring, dowdy, old cisplatin that has been around for a million years and kills everything in it's path.
I left out a few things about my new doctor in yesterday's post. He spent most of the visit going over any side effects that I have had and giving suggestions about how to minimize the worst of them. I told him how miserable I was both cycles on days 6 through 9. He suggested I stay on the dexadron, which is a steroid that decreases nausea and increases perkiness, for a few more days. He also suggested that I suck on ice while receiving the chemotherapy to cut down on getting mouth sores. I am going to try both of those suggestions. Both he and my therapist suggested I go on an anti depressant, not because I am so depressed, (I'm not except for days 6 through 9 when continuing to live doesn't really seem worth the effort) but because cancer can cause depression chemically in one's brain. I haven't decided yet. I already take plenty of pills. My therapist says, "So what's one more?' The oncologist says 90% of his patients are on them.
He also gave me a prescription for Atavan, an anti anxiety drug, after I made a joke about Allie having to handcuff me and drag me to the hospital for the next round of chemo. I was just kidding...mostly.
I've been really living it up my last few days before the next treatment starts on Monday. Today I want to the pool and did my 35 laps, Allie and I went shopping and got cheese steaks for lunch. Tonight Marty and I went contra dancing. We met 6 year's ago at February's dance in 2003. Coincidentally, the band that played tonight was the same one who played at our wedding reception.
Sorry that I didn't get a picture of Marty and I dancing.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Good News

Allie came home last night to go the doctor with me today. I was to meet the new doctor, get my CT results, and make sure I was healthy enough to start chemotherapy on Monday. Yes, I know it is unbelievable, but three weeks have gone by and it's time to chemo again.
     Allie and I really liked the new doctor. He was funny, seemed knowledgeable, and talked about all the "sexy" new drugs. He also thought I looked great and he liked my hair. Marty is ambivalent, as none of the above attributes are important to him. 
      The CT scan showed the tumors are much smaller so the treatment is working. It's a good thing tht they did the scans, otherwise I'd be less inclined  to keep going with treatments.
    Allie and I went out to Good Eatz for lunch then shoe shopping. The picture is of Allie's new boots and Tipper looking dubious.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

The house on the top of the world

I was thinking of my co-worker Lorrie the other night as I was trudging up the hill. She had asked me if we regretted buying the house on top of the hill in the winter. At the time, I thought, "maybe so." But this morning as I was trudging down the hill, which is so much more enjoyable than the trek up, I was treated to this magnificent view (above) of clean snow and sparkling blue skies. The other day when I was hiking down, I saw a fox trotting along over the ridge. So the answer is mostly "no, I don't regret having the house in the winter."
I tired, I worked a full day today. I stopped at the hospital to visit Caitlin and Allie's grandpa Bill. He is in the hospital with heart problems.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

The long and winding road

Another day of feeling great!
This morning, I did Yoga at home for the first time since I had my port put in. It is so easy to get out of the habit of doing something, even something one likes. I did my favorite, balancing yoga, where I get to balance on one foot a lot. My last client of the day canceled, so I went to the pool and swam 40 laps. Swimming is such a joy. Because it is snowing AGAIN I got to climb up the driveway after I parked the car at the bottom. This is a picture of the driveway from my files. Unfortunately, it doesn't give an appreciation of the steepness of driveway.
Marty and I made a fantabulous General Tso chicken for supper. I'm sorry I didn't take a picture of that; it was beautiful with yellow and peppers, broccoli, carrots and snowpeas. So I am feeling all virtuous with all the healthy things I did today.
Tomorrow I will go pick up a disk with my CT scan from medical records and see if I can read the report. I ordered it to send to my doctor at Fox Chase, but sometimes I can read some of it on my computer. I don't want to wait until Friday until I see a doctor.

Monday, February 2, 2009

I am still feeling good, although tired from all the excitement yesterday. I worked this morning and had my massage and CT scan of the chest and abdomen today. I should have done it in reverse order: had the scan first and then the massage. The massage really did feel therapeutic. I felt nice and light after wards. The cat scan made me a little nervous. I am not normally a worrier, but one can't help but think, "what if?" I also don't think it is fair that the techs can look at my scans and I'm left in the dark!
Susan and I went to sing shape notes in West Chester. Singing with other people has the same effect of the massage. It's been a month since I was able to sing and I have really missed it.
Tomorrow is a full day at work. I hope the weather is cooperative

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Bris and the Super Bowl

Now there is a combination! The ceremony was very nice, it was like an infant baptism, welcoming the baby into the faith and urging the parents to raise him in the faith. Except the baby gets circumcised instead of sprinkled with water. The pictures are of the mohel and Isaac, me and Isaac and the happy grandfather. Notice the baby is sucking on a q-tip soaked in wine. I was a little shocked, but I have to say it works to quiet them down
Our lasagne turned out great. Dinner went smoothly. We had 10 adults and 3 baby/kids. Most of the guests stayed for the super Bowl. What an exciting game. Too bad both teams couldn't win.
Tomorrow I go for a CT scan of my liver and lungs to make sure the chemotherapy is working. I fully expect them to be smaller.