Sunday, September 15, 2013

Returning to "The Big Red Machine"

Sometimes, even when you are tired, you have to seize an opportunity that will never come around again. When my college girlfriend and eventual bridesmaid, Sharon, contacted me to ask me if I would like to go to a Reds game in which the Big Red Machine, that we watched during our college and marrying years, would be reunited to honor Joe Morgan, who was having a statue placed in the plaza of Great American Ball Park during the weekend, the answer was simple. Are you kidding me? YES!

When Sharon, her husband and many of our pals were in college between 1972-1976, we got together, bought cheap seats, walked a mile to Riverfront to save a nickel, ate quarter hot dogs and generally did anything we had to do to get to a game. Filling the car with people was a given, as many as we could get into the vehicle.

We loved the Big Red Machine. It’s always fun winning; but we loved the entire experience, and we loved ALL the players, not just the ones who were brought back for this weekend’s festivities. The business of baseball was different then and considering the culture of the sport today, this will never happen again. The Atlanta Braves of the 90’s came as close as those of us will remember.

I knew I would be tired, so I paced my entire week for this event. My work day was purposely “unscheduled,” although in my line of work, you NEVER KNOW! It went well and I ran a couple of errands on the way home. Sharon would have beat me to my house, but she got lost. It would have helped to put MY street name into the GPS. I digress.

Off we were to Cincinnati and in spite of traffic, we were in our seats at 6:00 having dinner. While I am trying to eat healthier overall, one simply MUST have a hot dog at the ball park. That’s all there is to it.

I have to admit, I had misgivings about them tearing down Riverfront and building the Great American Ball Park. I didn't see it as necessary, but I now get why GABP is more of an “experience” than just a baseball game, which may not be needed for a diehard baseball fan like myself, but would bring a broader audience to love the game. This would be the first time for all of these players to be at the GABP.

Mike Leake pitched a fine game, with one mistake in the first inning to Hanley Ramirez of the LA Dodgers. That shot was gone from contact! I don’t even think Ryan Ludwick did anything but watch it. The Reds won the game on Joey Votto’s two run homer. This game had everything: first and foremost, the win; but we got to see phenom rookie Billy Hamilton steal a base. He is so fast it is amazing. We also got to see crowd favorite Aroldis Chapman strike out the sides in the ninth inning. Talk about  crowd energy! I just watched the speed board. His 13 pitches ranged between 99 and 101.

Then, after the game, the Great Eight of the Big Red Machine was reunited as they took their positions on the field. First out was left-fielder George Foster, who just loves people and loves the world of baseball. He is such a happy man! Secondly was center-fielder Cesar Geronimo, a little less energetic, but looking great and just enjoying the moment. Then right-fielder Ken Griffey, Sr. came out. He has been around the Reds organization in the meantime and we've seen much of him, but it was great to see him again in this context.

Next was third-baseman Pete Rose. The crowd had a mixture of boos and cheers. The cheers won; but it’s obvious there is still disagreement about Pete Rose. Personally, I think it’s time to get over it. As long as A-Rod is still over there playing on the east coast, let’s get over this! Pete was touched. It was very obvious. Then they brought out short-stop Davey Concepcion, who just loves being in the ball park! What a delightful human being. After Davey was the finest catcher ever, Johnny Bench. No one would ever accuse Johnny of NOT hamming it up. He loves the crowd. Then, before Joe Morgan came out, the first-baseman Tony Perez came out. Everyone loves Tony! Tony loves everyone! He epitomizes the Big Red Machine.

And last, was the honoree Joe Morgan. He made a short speech as his big one would come the next day at the unveiling of his statue in the plaza. I will have to wait until next time to see that.

Seeing this team on the field all at the same time just took us back in time. Are we REALLY 59 and 60?? Really? We felt like we were kids again, cheering on the Big Red Machine at Riverfront Stadium. OK, that is until we climbed the steps to get back to the concourse, when our knees hurt.
And now.....

It was a great moment that probably will never happen again publicly. I was very happy to be a part of it.

Then we stayed for the Friday Fireworks and that was spectacular too! Music from the seventies was used for the playlist. There was only one song that was missing. “We are the Champions.”

Friday, September 13, 2013

SPAM--and Not the Kind We Eat!

One of the best blogs that I have written is entitled "The Last Class To Graduate From Fairborn High School." I have no idea why, but this blog has been targeted by spammers, and I decided to go back to moderating the comments. Since doing that, there have probably been five spams a day.

I am still moderating comments, but I took that blog and reverted it to draft mode. I did NOT delete it. It has good content for those interested in the subject. What I want to see now is whether the spammers pick another post or go away.

I can see where my bloggers come from and well over 90% come from Facebook, but there are some people who want to link to my blog and promote themselves. I am fine with that if I know you, and you know who you are, but I didn't start this with the idea of promoting those bloggers and products that I do not know.

This is sad, and I am sorry to have to make this announcement. I will continue to write and I continue to watch the figures, the sources and of course, your comments, which I appreciate. Keep the real comments coming! Thanks!

Saturday, September 7, 2013

The Cancer Center: Becoming Like "Home"

I remember the first time I went to the cancer center, I felt like it was “us” (meaning my husband and me) and “them.” I really didn't belong here, did I? I needed to come to terms with the fact that I did belong. The last few weeks have evolved to where I have become part of “them."

The first time I received my packet ABOUT the cancer center, I read their mission statement. “We strive to treat every patient with the compassion of Jesus Christ.” Yeah, I am in the right place.

Although my scheduled appointment is for 9:15, usually try to arrive at the center at 9:00. Two blocks east of the center is a church that I worked for in 2002-03 and during my tenure they procured a carillon and programmed it to play two songs at 9:00 AM and 6:00 PM. I have great memories of that church, and it fills me spiritually to hear the chimes and the songs playing in the morning before treatment. On the way to the center, I play songs from the iPod through my sound system in the car and I deliberately choose “inspiring” songs to listen to in the mornings. These are not all “Christian” or even “worship” songs. Right now I am into Celtic Thunder; Peter, Paul and Mary; and Smoky Mountain Hymns as I prepare for my Smokies “fix” soon.

Now that I am in daily treatment, I arrive alone. I notice things. I walk briskly into the building. Many patients are brought by family members and are dropped off by the door. I walk in, salute the receptionist, because by now, she knows who I am, and I head for the dressing rooms. I rarely have to wait long for the technicians, but I know where the blanket warmer is, and I grab a blanket. There are five technicians for two treatment rooms. I know them all. We have running jokes. They ask about stuff going on in my life. Start to finish, undressing to redressing, takes fifteen minutes.

(On a side note, the director of the center called me one day to check on me. I was telling her about the choir robes that I have “inherited” and are hanging in my basement. A few days later, the technicians had a bag with four garment bags to use to store the robes if I wanted. That’s the kind of place this is.)

I see the radiation oncologist once a week. There are two of them and I like them both. I have seen them both because my own doctor has been on a few vacations this summer. She is a mother of four. School is back in session and vacations are now over.

I see the social worker once a week. I usually see her on Thursday or Friday. She is administering a grant from the American Cancer Society for breast cancer patients. It is for help with transportation to treatment. For me, that means Speedway cards. I am very cool with that. We talk about our professions. We talk about Springfield, Ohio. She provides me with many literary resources. She signed me up for the make-up party.

The center has a central waiting area which reminds me of a lodge; high ceilings, with a big stone fireplace in the center of the room. One end of the building is the radiology department, the center is the doctors’ offices and examination rooms, with a nurse’s station. This is to the rear of the lodge. The other side of the building is that of the chemo department. I hope that I never have to see it.

As I walk through the main area, it has been filling up and many more people are waiting. As I have mentioned before, I am on the younger end of the average patient, age-wise. Most patients are with their spouse, partner or other family member. I am strong enough to be able to deal with this myself. On Tuesdays, there is a guitarist playing hymns. He is good. I wish I had time to just sit and listen or maybe even join in singing, but I am off to work.

I realize how much better off I am than many of the folks in treatment. It’s just apparent by their physical appearance and their demeanor. They appear weary. Some are there to see the doctors for the first time(s) before treatment, and they look just fine. It runs the gambit.

On one wall are names of people who donated money to build this cancer center. I know many of the names. Today I emailed someone that I knew, thanking him for his family’s involvement in getting this center going. He responded promptly, wishing me well.

As I write this, I have 10 more treatments. I will continue to see both oncologists. One is for my radiation treatment; and the other is for my ongoing medication. The cancer center is becoming like home.

I certainly never planned for this.

P.S. My next blog will NOT be about cancer, unless something remarkable happens. I do have other ideas!

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Ups and Downs: Realities of Radiation

I have entered this “journey” with full transparency, as I want my reader to know the good and bad and REAL of a diagnosis like cancer.

I am four weeks into radiation and I am now officially fatigued. It is not the radiation, it’s the rest of life. The real heroines (and heroes) are those who do chemo, radiation and still work. I don’t know how they do it. I have cut back to twenty-five hours a week at work; go to radiation before work—what’s so hard about that?

Often I don’t get to work on time, because I see the radiology oncologist once a week, the social worker once a week and have ex-rays once a week. The radiation itself takes five minutes. I may have to wait for the other appointments.

I know that it’s important to do as much with exercise as I possibly can, without overdoing it. My goal is three days a week of “something” at the gym. Then there are the “other” appointments, that of my hairdresser, other doctors’ visits, the bank, the drug store, all of which are squeezed in around work and attempting to be home in the evening to rest. There’s church on Sunday, and visits from the kids. We don’t stop living, and we wouldn't want to.

My husband helps, but he has things to do also, so I have the majority of daily cleaning chores and grocery shopping (because he would come home with junk food, and I am concentrating on cancer-fighting foods). I break down the chores such as cleaning bathrooms one day, dusting another, sweeping yet another (and I have asked him to help with that). He is taking care of the yard, the finances—going over medical bills with a fine-toothed comb—and other errands that need done! He shampoos the carpet and other "large" household chores that I wouldn't even attempt. He painted our basement during this time.

But—then there are things I WANT TO DO!

  • I WANT to go to the Reds game and see the kid from Springfield play for the Diamondbacks.
  • I WANT to go out to dinner with my sorority sister from college.
  • I WANT to get my hair colored. (This is not a want, this is a need!)
  • I WANT to go to a graduation party.
  • I WANT to go to a baby shower.
  • I WANT to go out with friends.

And finally, I WANT to be at my son’s football games on Friday night! We won’t be at all of them, but out of 10 weeks, I want to be at 7. Unless it’s raining. I did my time in the rain. Besides, they tell me that radiation compromises my immune system. No sense in asking for it!

There are some givens in all of this. I take a medicine which is an estrogen-blocker. It has made me nauseous and the oncologist and I have to have a talk at our visit this week. (BTW, this is the second oncologist, I have two doctors to see this coming week!) I stopped taking it for a week to see what would happen and indeed, some of the nausea has gone away, but not all. What will we do? Stay tuned.

Now, with being nauseous, you would think that I would lose weight, but alas, I have gained back 12 pounds of the 30 that I lost. Since I dutifully threw away my “fat” clothes, I find myself in a quandary. I now have to buy “some” clothes to get by. This is truly depressing. I have gone through my closet and pulled out what does not fit and put it away. I pray that this is only temporary; but I can’t be looking in the closet every night and not knowing what I can wear the next day. I have purchased two pairs of slacks. I am able to move the buttons on my skirts.

On the other hand, I had the opportunity to go to a “Look Good, Feel Better” group last Tuesday. Now I have been to my share of “Mary Kay©” parties and I use Mary Kay© regularly, but I don’t mind being given free make-up at all! I was exhausted that evening, but $250 worth of product could turn my head. Yes, indeed. What I wasn't counting on was the joy of watching several older ladies literally transform themselves with make-up and wigs, and becoming so excited by the process. These were ladies who “didn't wear make-up” and have succumbed to the ravages of the natural course of disease. Maybe it’s the social worker in me, but for me it was as much about the process as the product. I am on the younger end of the patients that I have met, and that may have something to do with the time that I have chosen for radiation. We all know that women younger than I have breast cancer, I just haven’t run into them! They must do their treatment later in the day.

So, life in cancer treatment has its ups and downs. Yes, I am tired. If I sleep well, it makes all the difference. If one has sick time to use, I suggest using it. If I didn't have to worry about work, the rest would fall into place. However, I do not have the skin issues—sunburn—that many women have, at least not yet. I had hoped to lose weight, but that is not happening. I experience nausea and maybe we can do something about that. We must ask ourselves if that is radiation or medication. Medication is with me for the long haul. Radiation is over in 18 days.

Don’t think that when radiation ceases that I am done with the doctors’ appointments. There will be many more, and they will be with me for life. We will move into another phase, and all the other aspects of life will still be with me. I surely hope it slows down a little. But wait, we’ll be into the holiday season—birthdays, Thanksgiving and Christmas. Oy vey!