Friday, May 10, 2013

5/10/13 Setbacks

Dear Family and Friends,

Gabrielle here.  Yesterday promised to be an awesome day.  We were going to go out to dinner with Renee, the weather report was for afternoon clearing, and Daniel and I were sitting on the Bremerton ferry on our way to a cool mini-golf course when my oncologist's office called.  Bad news part one:  my white cell counts are too low to get chemo this week.  My segs, the part of the white cells that allow you to fight an infection are in the 400s.  Normal range is 2000 to 7000.  I am at very high risk for infection right now and need to avoid all crowds, children, sickness, and germs this week.  This is particularly difficult with Steve having a terrible cold!  After getting this news yesterday, we cancelled our dinner out with Renee (bummer) and Steve came home from work and put on a surgical mask for the evening to help keep me safe.  What a good husband.  :-)

Bad news part two:  my CA125, the cancer tumor marker in my blood, went up for a second time.  It has gone from the 15s to the 17s to the 18s over the last three weeks.  I am still under 20, and in the NORMAL range, but because of the "slight" upward trend, which can be worrisome, my doctor suggested a CAT scan on Monday to hopefully, put our minds at ease.  Of course, just her suggesting that does the opposite of putting my mind at ease!!  She wouldn't let me get the CAT scan today (Friday), because it's too dangerous for me to be at the hospital today, where sickness abounds, with my counts so low. 

What are we doing about the low counts?  First and foremost, praying!  But also, the doctor is not giving me neupogen shots this week.  She wants my body to create its own white blood cells which are stronger and last longer than the ones the shots can produce.  Then hopefully, I can get my last double chemo next Friday and we will follow that with a week of the shots to enable me to get the last two single chemos.  That is the plan, and I am glad God "knows the plans He has for me...plans to give me a hope and a future!"  (Jer. 29:11)

Remember in the Sound of Music when the Von Trapp children go to the Abbey looking for Maria and the sister who answers the door says "I'm sorry children, you can't see Maria because she's in seclusion?"  Well that's what my week ahead looks like--I'm in seclusion!  I am disinfecting things that Steve touches (like this computer I'm typing on got disinfected before I started) and staying on the other side of rooms from him, while basically avoiding people in general.  I will still be going outside for walks, of course.  Just not to the grocery store or gym or, very sadly for me, to the Wellspring Luncheon at SPU on Tuesday.  I am so proud of my program coordinator, Rachel, who planned all the details of this luncheon on her own in my absence, and am just sick (well, let's not think about me getting SICK) about missing it!

I want to close with thanks to those of you who sent cards and notes this week, thanks to my friend Patricia who bought me lunch and gave me great dark chocolate, and to my friends with whom I had good walks/talks this week.  Special thanks to our friend and financial advisor, Howard, who came to my home for our meeting this week and reassured me that despite the high cost of battling cancer, we are not broke yet!! 

But also, I want to close with a special note I received yesterday, on the day I got all the discouraging news.  It is from my friend Loretta who is a six-year cancer survivor.  Here is what she said:  "Dear Gabrielle, Seven years ago you sent me this wonderful, encouraging card, filled with the anticipation of summer and life getting back to "normal."  I give these words back to you with praise to our Lord that His love and faithfulness is the same yesterday, today, and forever!"  And here is what I said to her, in that card from 2006, that she copied back to me yesterday:  "Dear Loretta, This card is to remind you that a month from now, your treatments will be done and you will be relaxing by the lake with the warm sun on your face, enjoying a beautiful and healthy summer!  I have been inspired and encouraged by your faith, hope, and strength through this past year's trial.  God shines through you and you are a blessing to me.  Praise Him for His compassion and mercies which are new every morning." 

Please pray with me that despite the setbacks of this week, that I will be DONE with cancer and chemo a month from now, enjoying a beautiful healthy summer, just like Loretta was.  Let's pray that my cancer will not recur, just like Loretta's has not.  And let's give thanks to God for the blessing of friends who come alongside us in our trials, and for His love, faithfulness, compassion, and mercies which are new EVERY morning!



P.S.  I beat Daniel by one point at golf yesterday, but he got his second hole in one.  I have yet to live up to our team name "Hole-In-Onederfuls," but am confident that I will one day!

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

5/8/13 Vancouver Trip O-13!

Vancouver trip O-13! Daniel here, to report on a successful and exciting trip north of the border. My mom received word from a friend that Amtrak was featuring a buy one get one free special on train tickets. We figured it would be the perfect opportunity to get some distance between us and Northwest Hospital, and enjoy some fun vacation time in a different city. Tickets purchased (a steal at $32 each roundtrip), bags packed, away we go!

I had not taken too many train rides, so it was extra exciting for me to ride the rails. We were dropped off at Edmonds by Steve/dad, and within a few minutes of the train arriving we were happily in our seats! This already was better than going to the airport! The train traveled along the Puget Sound for most of the way, which afforded us the most spectacular views of marine life, the Olympic Mountains, sky, clouds, trees, and the occasional waving beachcomber. It was just spectacular! At one point, we we even saw a bald eagle that flew right next to the train for almost a minute, it was awesome! Another nice thing about taking the train is how quickly you get through customs, or at least, some passengers do. While it sometimes takes over an hour to get through customs in a car, the train just goes right through to Canada, and you simply get your passports checked by Canadian customs officers once you arrive at your destination station. I was hopeful as I saw almost every passenger in front of us quickly let through after a cursory glance at the passports by the Customs agent, but when mom got up there, something triggered a "random search" and we were directed to a side room. I don't know if it as the almost bald head, large bag containing needles (her neupogen shots to raise her white blood cells), or my temporary neck tattoos that set the guard off, but there we were, the only ones on the train getting our bags searched. Thankfully it was pretty quick and they were quite friendly, especially when they found out mom was in chemo. The officers even were kind enough to write down walking instructions to our hotel! Thanks Canada!

Here are some of the fun things we did during our 1 night stay in Vancouver, B.C.:

La Taqueria Pinche Taco Shop: We ate lunch at this AMAZING taco place. Mom had eaten here before on a business trip to Vancouver, and she told me it was fantastic, I was skeptical, as we have some pretty good taco trucks here in Seattle, but I was blown away! These tacos were so good! Fresh, quality ingredients, rich, delicious sauces, a variety of homemade salsas, and a fun atmosphere as well! Fantastic! Here we are posing with our delicious tacos! Next time we want to go on Wednesday so we can get 6 tacos for the price of 4! 


Walk to Stanley Park: From our hotel downtown we walked to Stanley park. About 3 miles each way (I tell you, people think my mom would be worn out from chemo, but I'm 23 and I can hardly keep up with her when we are walking :-)), this is a lovely walk along the body of water known as Vancouver Harbour. There is a very nice walkway that is divided for wheeled individuals and individuals on foot. We loved looking out at the water, and seeing all the cool boats in the harbour. Getting to Stanley park was a long walk, but totally worth it, as it is one of the most beautiful parks I've ever been to. At 1000 acres, Stanley park is larger than Central Park in new York (843 acres), and far prettier in my opinion. There is so much to do here, we only wished we had more time and bikes to get around better.
Mom in front of the largest tulips! Along walk Vancouver Harbour walkway towards Stanley Park.

In front of Vancouver Harbour, I'd take any of those boats!

Granville Island: We love Granville Island! Although it is really more of a peninsula, it feels like an island because it is so different from downtown Vancouver. Filled with shops, restaurants, and artist studios, Granville Island is a great place to mosey around. The best part for food-lovers like us, is the marketplace! Like Pike Place, this farmers market offers delicious and fresh produce, meats, cheeses, seafood, pastries, and prepared foods. We wanted to eat everything! However a few of our favorite pastries were: blueberry bread from Terra Breads, chocolate almond croissant from La Baguette et L'Echalote, and nanaimo bars from a place whose name I can't remember. Everything was so delicious! Another great thing about Granville Island is arriving via the world's smallest ferry! I don't know if it is actually the smallest, but it was the smallest I had ever seen! It fit about ten people and was operated by one person who goes from the dock near downtown to the dock at Granville island. For a couple of bucks you get a scenic trip on an adorable little ferry (see pics below!)

My beautiful mom in what looks like a Hamlet of England, when we are actually five minutes from downtown Vancouver! This is why Granville Island is so cool!
World's smallest ferry! The captain was the girl on the far right of this picture, she loaded passengers, captained the boat, took cash, made change, and docked the boat all by herself! I was quite impressed!
Terra Breads at Granville Island! If you are ever here, you MUST try the blueberry bread! I have never had anything like it! Chewy, moist, rich, tart, sweet, and delicious.
La Baguette et L'Echalote was fantastic! We got the almond chocolate croissant on far right.
View of downtown Vancouver from Granville Isalnd. I'm amazed at how many condo skyscrapers are in Vancouver. Condo city!
Granville Island! (actually a peninsula)
Sweet tooth Gabrielle was in heaven :-)
Our fun ferry ride to Granville Island!
Fish and Chips: The best Fish and Chips I have had in a long time are from Go Fish just a short walk from Granville Island. These are amazing! Crisp, perfectly fried fish, served with hand cut, crispy french fries. The fish was so fresh, moist, and cooked perfectly. Also, I am not usually a coleslaw fan, but they did a coleslaw with a vinaigrette that was light and peppery, which was very delicious. Mom loved her halibut and chips, and I loved my cod and chips. This is worth a trip to Vancouver, just for these fish and chips! Also, we sat and ate them on a bench overlooking False Creek and downtown Vancouver. Simply gorgeous!

Cod and chips!
Best fish and chips ever!
Halibut and chips!

Beach walk: After getting our fill of fish and chips (I ate way too many fries), we decided to walk it off. With perfect sunshine and a light breeze, we made our journey across the Burrard Bridge, and turned left on the Seaside Bicycle Route past Sunset Beach and English Bay Beach. It was beautiful weather and we felt truly blessed to have such a wonderful mini vacation. I was thinking on that walk that there are a lot of things a cancer diagnosis can take away from you-- strength, physical well-being, emotional energy, hair, etc. But there are even more things cancer can't take away from you. It can't take away the beauty of God's creation (very evident in beautiful British Columbia), it can't take away our faith that we are sons and daughter of God, redeemed by the blood of Jesus Christ, it can't take away our hope that there is healing and that God performs miracles all the time, it can't take away our relationships with friends and family who give us so much love and support, and it can't take away the joy of a perfectly fried piece of freshly caught Alaskan Halibut with malt vinegar! Yumm! :-)

Mom on the Burrard Bridge! A beautiful view of downtown and False Creek entering English Bay (beach on right is Sunset Beach) 
Mom in front of the Vancouver Olympic statue (an inukshuck, an ancient Inuit symbol)

Some cool art by English Bay Beach. Mom is throwing the shaka (hang loose symbol)

This is my "yes! my mom is almost done with chemo!" face
Gelato: Our favorite treat while in Vancouver has always been gelato. When we first came here when I was a little kid, Seattle hadn't gotten on the gelato bandwagon yet, so we were in awe of this delicious, powerfully flavored Italian treat! Our favorite place was called Mondo Gelato, and we thought it was out of business, but we realized on this trip, that it simply had changed its name to Gelarmony. This is the best gelato in Vancouver! Fantastic, homemade with fresh ingredients. Delicious! 

My sweet mom with her sweet treat! I think this was raspberry and coconut gelato. Yummo!

All in all, a fabulous trip to Vancouver B.C.! It was so nice to get away from the city and not think about chemo for a little bit! Thank you for continuing to pray for my mom. Our family has felt the prayers, and we feel extremely blessed to be surrounded by so many loving and compassionate friends, family members, and coworkers. I am eternally grateful for your support of my mother through this journey. -Daniel

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

5/7/13 Update on a sunny Tuesday

Dear Friends and Family,

You are all probably going CRAZY wondering how our first ever shrimping expedition went.  I am happy to report that it went "swimmingly!"  We caught 105 spot prawns.   If we had stayed out the final two hours (until 3 PM) we probably could have turned that into 130 or so.  Our two licenses were good for up to 160.  See photos of the cute little creatures below.  Steve, Daniel, and Dean did a fantastic job pulling up the super heavy pots at record speed (and Renee pitched in a little on that too).  Renee's job was to decapitate them (the prawns, not Steve, Daniel, and Dean) with her bare hands, which she was a pro at after one or two tries.  And my job was to hold open the ziploc bags to Renee could toss the headless prawns into the bags before we put them on ice.  When we got home, we cooked up the first bag of them (20 to a bag) and had our neighbor Jerry and his son Kevin over for a little pre-dinner appetizer feast.  They were delicious!

In other news, yesterday was "spa day" for Renee and me at the Willows Lodge Spa.  We started out sunning ourselves by the large outdoor jacuzzi on comfy cushioned lawn chairs, and then they called us in for a full body exfoliation with pomegranite scrub.  After that got rinsed off, leaving us with baby soft skin, we had one hour massages, which were heavenly.  Then we were served a spa lunch while getting our pedicures (I ordered the crab/prawn cobb salad and Renee ordered some sort of sandwich/salad combo...she loves sandwiches almost more than life itself).  We loved our pampering and our bonding time together and wish to thank Steve for this gift and to tell him we would like to receive this gift once a year, please.  :-)

Today I had a good one-hour exercise walk through Edmonds with my friend, Colleen (she and Mike are the ones who give us homemade yogurt...and I gratefully came home with some).  While I was away, Daniel planted all our annuals along the driveway that he and I had picked out this morning at the nursery.  Gorgeous bursts of color to give us some much needed curb appeal and something to cheer us as we drive home from chemo visits! 

Though I had a good walk today, yesterday I only made it 20 minutes on the elliptical and was out of breath with a racing heart.  I fear my blood volume is dropping again and expect that next week I will receive what I hope is my last blood transfusion.  In anticipation of that, Daniel gave blood yesterday.  He is A negative just like me (as is Renee, who has given many gallons of blood and platelets in her young life) and perhaps they will give me Daniel's blood next week.  I hope so, because he is so full of energy.  Perhaps some of it will rub off on me!

Since Thursday night this week is my best eating night (day 18 before we begin the final chemo cycle), Renee is treating all four of us to dinner out!  We are going to try Bizarro Italian Cafe in Wallingford which Steve and I used to go to when we were dating years ago.  It was recently profiled on the Food Network for their homemade pastas and I can't wait to try it again after all these years. If you decide to go, please do NOT go Thursday night, as they don't take reservations and I don't want you to make the waiting line longer!  ;-)

Steve has caught a sore throat and cold that is worsening so I am trying to sit on the opposite side of the room from him and am praying I don't catch it.  I don't want anything to interfere with my final three chemos.  I am SO ready for them to be over!  Please pray for Steve to heal quickly.  It makes me sad to see him feeling so miserable.

Lastly, I am reading a good novel called the Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry.  He's a 65 year-old man in South England who gets a letter from an old friend that is dying of cancer in a hospice in North England.  He decides to walk to see her--all across England--with a somewhat crazy belief that if he walks to her, she will hang on and she will live.  Anyway, as he walks he meets all sorts of people and has many growing insights about his past, his mistakes, and the human condition.  I particularly liked this quote I just read after he had met a hurting man during a stop for tea:  "Harold sat in silence.  The silver-haired gentleman was in truth nothing like the man Harold had first imagined him to be.  He was a chap like himself, with a unique pain; and yet there would be no knowing that if you passed him in the street, or sat opposite him in a cafe and did not share his teacake.  Harold pictured the gentleman on a station platform, smart in his suit, looking no different from anyone else.  It must be the same all over England.  People were buying milk, or filling their cars with petrol, or even posting letters. And what no one else knew was the appaling weight of the thing they were carrying inside.  The inhuman effort it took sometimes to be normal, and a part of things that appeared both easy and everyday.  The loneliness of that."

I like this quote because when I first was told I had a life-threatening cancer and got home from the hospital but still had my hair, I would stand in line at the grocery store and look at the others around me.  I would think to myself, "no one here has a clue that the normal looking woman standing next to them in line has 44 fresh staples forming a train track up her abdomen and is about to start a grueling 18-weeks of chemotherapy which may or may not save her life.  They have no idea of the terror she is feeling right now as she buys her milk (well, in my case, it was probably very cold milk in a Ben & Jerry's container). 

I want to always remember that those around me may look like they are going about their days in normalcy when on the inside, they could be carrying an appaling weight and bearing the loneliness of that.  I hope that words of kindness, smiles, prayers, cards, or a helping hand will make a difference.  Just like all your kindnesses to my family and me have helped lift the weight of what we are going through and made it far less lonely.  Thank you from the bottom of my heart!!


Friday, May 3, 2013

5/3/13 End of Round Five!

Dear family and friends,

Gabrielle here.  Single chemo number 15 was a huge success today!  As you recall, number 14 lasted four long hours.  Today's single was only two hours and fifteen minutes!  This was accomplished by getting my blood drawn the day before and great efficiencies by my nurses and the pharmacy.  We were so thankful that on a gorgeous sunny day, we got to leave early!  We didn't even have time to watch a movie so we just read, played Canasta, and enjoyed fun banter with our favorite chemo nurses and other awesome Women's Cancer Center employees.  We brought them cookies we made last night--oatmeal, walnut, chocolate chip, fruit-juice sweetened cranberry cookies.  Needless to say, they were delighted and Daniel and I must be their very favorite patient and chemo buddy duo.

After coming home and resting with our lunches in front of the last half of our movie, Sense and Sensibility, we drove to Elliott Bay Marina to meet Steve and leave a car.  Then we drove to our marina in Ballard and took our boat through the locks to leave it overnight at Elliott Bay in a guest slip.  Aside from the beautiful weather and stunning views of Mt. Rainier and the Olympics, the most fun was watching a huge fight between one of the Locks attendants and a single guy on his brand new looking motor boat (cruiser? yacht?  I still don't know what you call non-sailboats after owning one for two years).  The Locks guy told the yacht guy to tie his boat up starboard side in the large locks and the guy said NO--that he wanted to raft onto another boat.  A huge fight ensued and after the yacht guy called the Locks guy an A_ _ _ _ _ _, the Locks guy screamed at the yacht guy to get the H _ _ _ out of the Locks and that he was NOT going through the Locks today, no how, no way.  Off the yacht guy went in a giant fury.  Score one for the Locks attendant!  If you are ever going through the Locks, be EXTRA nice to the Locks guy in the bucket hat who is NOT to be antagonized if you ever want to see salt water!

Steve and Daniel have gone to bed early to get up at 5:30 AM for opening day of shrimping.  I don't know why it's called shrimping when actually, we'll be catching (I hope) spot PRAWNS.  Steve is the captain, Daniel is the "first shrimpmate," Renee is the "second shrimpmate," our friend, Dean, is the "third shrimpmate," and I am calling myself the "first PRAWNmate!"  Renee and I won't join in until 10 AM.  After being pumped full of steroids during chemo, I am WIDE awake as I write this at 10:30 PM, so will no doubt get to sleep well after midnight and will need to sleep in a bit.  Renee and I are hoping when we get on the boat that they will already have caught a bucket load of prawns!  The prawning "closes" at 3 PM so then it's home for naps, followed by Daniel's pizza and games party at our house with his friends.  Steve and I will steal a slice of pizza and retire to the basement to watch a movie while the festivities take over the main floor of our house.  We love having our kids and their friends in the house.  It's always a time of joy and blessing.

My counts (white cell, red cell, and blood volume) are sinking pretty low again.  They said I can skip the shots this week but will have to do them after double chemo next Friday.  And they said that when I start feeling weak, short of breath going up hill, or dizzy, to let them know and I can have what we hope is my FINAL blood transfusion.  I still can't believe I have just one round (three chemos) left and that three weeks from today, I am DONE!  Praise the Lord!  And thanks to all of you for your love, prayers, support, and kindnesses.  For instance, thanks to my walking buddies at SPU who did a nice leisurely FLAT walk with me this week instead of our usual "straight up Queen Anne Hill walk," since I am indeed beginning to get weak and short of breath going up hill!

As for other kindnesses this week, thanks to one of Steve's patients--"N may or may not be his or her initial!" who sent home a great card/note and box of pretty flower bulbs to plant that attract butterflies!  Thanks to Mike and Colleen for the yummy homemade yogurt and chili!  And thanks to Laura and Jerry for a fun dinner and Canasta night at their home next door!  Thanks to Tammy and Keith for the May Day flowers and card!  Thanks to neighbors John and Georgette for the flowers, wine, and Nanaimo bars (a sweet treat to remind us of our fun in Vancouver)!  And thanks to all of you who sent the most wonderful cards, postcards, voicemails, and e-mails this week.  You know who you are and you are DEAR to me!

When praying for me this week, I would appreciate your prayers for my friend, Linda, on the East Coast who is going through my exact same cancer.   She's about my age, was diagnosed in January, is a single Mom, and is going through ovarian cancer with, it seems, a smaller support network than me.  She is suffering a great deal with pain and worry and I would covet your prayers for her.  She is half-way through her chemo as they started hers a lot later after her surgery for some reason.

A song I was singing along to on the radio today has this reassuring chorus:

I know Who goes before me

I know Who stands behind
The God of angel armies is always by my side
The One who reigns forever
He is a friend of mine
The God of angel armies is always by my side

And in my Psalm today (Psa. 121:8):  "The Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore."  And (Psa. 121:3):  "He will not let your foot slip--He who watches over you will not slumber, indeed, He who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep."  So while steroid girl here isn't sleeping tonight, neither is the Lord who will be watching over me, and watching over YOU.  :-)

Off I go now to take a ring off my pink paper chain (taking off ring #21!!!) and then to watch some Frasier episodes.  Enjoy the wonderful weekend wherever you live and those of you in Seattle (or KAUAI, Kristi!!!), put on your sunscreen and have fun!



Monday, April 29, 2013

4/29/13 Hole-In-Wonderfuls Round 3!

Hello! Daniel here! As some of you may know, miniature golf is the new hobby my mom and I have chosen to help occupy our time during chemotherapy.  Miniature golf affords my mom and me the chance to explore new places, get outside, test our putting skills, and get our minds off pesky cancer! Our team name is the Hole-In-Wonderfuls, although we have yet to live up to our namesake by scoring a hole-in-one! We are confident it will come! :-)

Our third installment of mini golf brought us close to home, just down in Interbay, off 15th, is the beautiful Interbay Golf Center, which features a lovely 18 hole miniature golf course . Some things we loved about this course:

1. close proximity to our home in Shoreline
2. Wide selection of colorful golf balls to choose from
3. Multiple lengths of putters offered (great for those of us over 6')
4. Great landscaping, including several water features and a faux river that runs through the course
5. Genuine flags marking each hole! Not too common among miniature golf courses, and gives us the false impression that we are actual golfers!

It was a beautiful sunny day, and we were so thankful! It is much more fun golfing in the sun! We had a good round of golfing, mom was especially good today, beating me by several strokes overall. There was a bit of wind, which we tried to factor into our putting, mostly unsuccessfully, but we felt very cool licking our fingers and holding them up to the wind like we knew what we were doing. :-)

Below are some great pictures from "Hole-In-Wonderfuls-Part-3"! Of course, we brought along our team mascot, Mrs. Potatohead! Mom thought we should remove Mrs. Potatohead's hair, to make her resemble mom better! :-)

Mom tests out a golf cart, although I don't think we'll be needing it on our 18 hole miniature course.

Although I lost today, I was so thrilled to get out in the sun for a golf adventure with my mom!

Champion of the day Gabrielle, holds up the team mascot with pride!

Hole-In-Wonderfuls Round 3 at Interbay Golf Center in Seattle!

Saturday, April 27, 2013

4/27/13 A guest piece from Bubba Gump

Hi, y’all!  My name’s Bubba Gump.  I just got word of one purdy l’il miss up in Seattle who’s puttin’ up a good fight against one pesky ovarian cancer.  Seattle’s a long ways from me ‘n my shrimp boats down here on the bayou, but word travels fast and I’ve been followin’ her progress with great interest, especially since I learned that her husband has taken an interest in all things shrimping.  To that, all I can say is…what took you so long?  As I was once quoted as sayin’ in a movie about my life (with a little help from my pal Forrest Gump), “shrimp is the fruit of the sea. You can barbecue it, boil it, broil it, bake it, saute it. Dey's uh, shrimp-kabobs, shrimp creole, shrimp gumbo. Pan fried, deep fried, stir-fried. There's pineapple shrimp, lemon shrimp, coconut shrimp, pepper shrimp, shrimp soup, shrimp stew, shrimp salad, shrimp and potatoes, shrimp burger, shrimp sandwich.” 

But that only touches the surface.  There’s shrimp scampi, shrimp salsa, teriyaki shrimp, shrimp tacos, curried shrimp, shrimp rolls, shrimp fried rice, shrimp soup, shrimp cakes, shrimp Benedict, Szechuan shrimp, dirty shrimp in beer butter sauce, shrimp Alfredo, garlic shrimp, shrimp jambalaya, shrimp ceviche and avocado, bacon wrapped grilled shrimp, shrimp gumbo, shrimp risotto, popcorn shrimp, crab stuffed shrimp, almond fried shrimp, shrimp bisque, shrimp toast, hot and sour shrimp, Calypso shrimp, shrimp grits, shrimp Dijon, shrimp tartare.  Heck, for that matter, you can even make shrimp ice cream! 

So, I have sent a special dispatch to Gabrielle’s husband with instructions not only on how to catch those tasty little gems from the sea, but also how to whip them up into a tasty meal for the bravest cancer fighter out there. 

I’ve been tellin’ all my buddies about Gabrielle every chance I get.  After a hard day of shrimpin’, we usually repair to the Twist ‘n Shout, a local hangout made famous by Mary Chapin Carpenter.  We sit around quaffing a favorite beverage and tell stories.  My redneck pals tell of huge waves, fighting gators, moonshining…all good fun down here…but none of them have the bravery, moxie, nerve and courage that Gabrielle has been displaying the past few months. 

I usually stroll in to a raucous crowd as the Pabst Blue Ribbon is busy tellin’ the Rum ‘n Coke about the time he came across an armadillo in his bathtub when they see me.  It suddenly gets real quiet as they all ask, “What’s the latest about Gabrielle?”  So I tell them.  Grand stories of heroic battles, dealing with horrible drug side effects, wavering white counts, dropping CA 125 numbers, numb toes, but with amazing family and friends…and their jaws drop.  The suds drip from the Coors Light’s mouth, while the tequila sunrise’s eyes just about pop out of his head in sheer wonder and admiration.  Yep, they love those stories!!  Every last one of them.  And that trip to Vancouver!  Amazing!  None of us have even been north of the Mason-Dixon line, let alone a foreign country no less.

As one of my favorite doctors (Dr. Seuss) once said, “Oh, the places you’ll go!”

You go, girl!  You’re a real hero to all of us down here.  A true inspiration of faith and courage.  How do you manage?  Especially keeping that yahoo husband of yours in line?  And eat those shrimp…that will help ease the stress.  Heck, for all I know, shrimp kills cancer too.  You ever seen a shrimp with cancer?  Rest my case.

Well, the Twist ‘n Shout is calling.  I think Beau Soleil is playin’ tonight…key up that funky Cajun beat.

Friday, April 26, 2013

4/26/13 Four - Three - Two - One - DONE!!!

Dear Friends and Family,

Gabrielle here.  Please bear with me as I share some random thoughts quickly...because Steve is calling me to watch a Foyle's War on this Friday night!

  • Daniel and I made it safely home from Vancouver late Wed. night.  We had the BEST time ever!  The weather was sunny and about 65 to 70 degrees.  Our four-star hotel, in the center of downtown, purchased through Hotwire where you don't know what hotel you are getting ahead of time, was only $119 and was excellent (The Sutton Place).  We walked until we dropped.  Probably not the best plan for someone four/five days out from a double chemo, but on the first day we walked about 8 miles, around Stanley Park and shopping on Robson street.  On the second day, we walked from our hotel to Granville Island, then over the Burrard St. bridge and down to the beach path that runs back toward Stanley park, up Denman St. through "West End" Vancouver, up Robson for more shopping, over to Hudson Bay Co., then to the hotel and back to the metro skytrain to get to the train station.  Probably ten miles total.  Need I say, yesterday and today, I am recovering.  So tired!!!  But it was so worth it.  Steve always says, "better to burn out than rust out!"  The train ride to/from Vancouver is gorgeous, snaking along the sea for most of the way.  We played Scrabble and I read my entire Maine Coast travel book!  Lastly, if you go, be sure to eat cod or halibut and chips at "Go Fish" at Granville Island, the blueberry bread at "Terra Breads", and gelato at "Gelarmony Gelato" on Robson street.  Thanks to my friend Janet (and probably others) who prayed I would be able to taste and enjoy my food on this trip.  I did!  :-)
  • Next up, Renee's turn.  I am about to book a Spa day for the two of us at Willows Lodge in Woodinville.  Massages, exfoliation of dry skin (!), manicures, pedicures, jacuzzi, spa cuisine lunch.  Here we come on a Monday in the near future (Renee's day off).  Will report back!  And I can't wait to have Renee spend all of Sunday with us this weekend.  I miss my sweetpea.
  • While Daniel and I were gone, Steve put our boat back in the water with the help of friend/neighbor Jerry, after spring cleaning it, then Steve attended a seminar to learn how to go "shrimping" for spot prawns. It has a very short season--like two to four days total in a year (!)--and he bought two pots and lines and so much gear that some spot prawns had BETTER be in our future.  If he limits at 80 prawns on his first try, they will be about $5 bucks a prawn.  Those better be amazing prawns!!  He is over the moon with excitement.  Daniel and Renee will join us on this adventure that begins at the boat at 6:15 AM the day after next week's chemo.  Aaaaahhhh!
  • Daniel and I survived single chemo #14 today!  It was SO long.  The pharmacy at the hospital doesn't seem to like me.  They take forever to come back with my blood counts and then forever again to deliver my chemo drugs.  We arrived at 9 AM and left at 2 PM...the longest single chemo time yet.  But fear not, we made good use of our time watching "Two Weeks Notice" with Hugh Grant and Sandra Bullock, playing two feisty games of Scrabble (each won one), and reading up on pop culture and food in various magazines.  We came home exhausted, watched an Ina Garten Barefoot Contessa on TV, then made her food tonight--roasted asparagus with hollandaise sauce, artichokes, parmesan chicken, roasted rosemary potato slices.  It's good to eat when I'm pumped full of I/V anti-nausea drugs!
  • My white blood cell count was quite good after the five days of shots, but the part of the white cells that actually fight infections, the "segs," are below normal still.  They also re-did my CA125 without telling me they were doing so. They normally only do that every three weeks.  They had done it last week and it had slid up from the 15s to the 17s.  Steve thinks that made them nervous so they re-did it (want to see it go down, not up).  Today it was 15.6 again.  Phew.  Anything 0 to 30 is considered normal range for any woman, but cancer patients need to get under 20 to be out of the woods...and stay there.
  • Random tears came today when I read an article in a magazine about a woman, 44, with a spouse and three kids, who was diagnosed with ALS and has less than five years to live.  Her kids are about 7 to 12.  She is living her "bucket list" as quickly as she can.  One of the things was she took her 12-year-old daughter out to try on wedding dresses, then to a fancy lunch, so that one day when her daughter does that for real, she will have a memory of doing it first with her Mom.  I have cried twice over this story today, knowing that I may or may not have a long life ahead after chemo ends.  Believe me, if I ever get the word that my time is limited, Renee and I will try on wedding dresses!  I guess what I'm saying is, we all think and hope and pray for a positive outcome, but we can't control it.  It's God's plan, not mine.  He knows the number of my days and we have to work with and maximize memories in whatever time frame that will be.  Not just for me of course, for all of us!  And that, my friends, is why I overdid it in Vancouver, despite my friend Dean's admonitions not to do so (sorry Dean)!
  • Thanks to all of you who have sent cards this week--they made me smile so much (you know who you are)!  Thanks to new friends, John and Nancy, who gave us the most special evening last night at their home, with delicious "foodie" meal outside in the sunshine of their beautiful backyard, and with gifts to take home (homegrown honey, homemade chutney, fresh rhubarb, and some rhubarb cobbler)!  All this, and great conversation too.  We loved our time with you!  And thanks to my MANY friends who send daily prayers, love, and good thoughts my way.  I feel them!  We all do.  I wonder sometimes how many times a day God hears my name in prayer.  I hope He never tires of it!  ;-)
  • Scripture of the day--from Jesus Calling--2 Cor. 4:16-18--"Therefore we do not lose heart.  Though outwardly we are wasting away (no hair, continually dripping nose from chemo killing off cells and hairs in there, nausea, fatigue, nerve pain in hands and feet), yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.  So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen.  For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal."
  • And fortune cookie message of the day, from recent lunch with my friend Anna, that is taped above my desk in the kitchen, "Do not give up.  The best is yet to come."  Amen to that!
Much love to you all,

P.S.  Newest prayer request--the nerve pain in my hands and feet.  I thought I had missed out on this common side effect of chemo, but it hit hard this week and is quite unsettling, to say the least.  Ugh.  Let's pray it lessens, goes away, and does not become permanent, which is a risk.  Thanks!!