Sunday, July 31, 2011

Every Visit An Adventure

This wonderful young lady is Cheryl.  She is the clinic coordinator.  She is the one who keeps the clinic running smoothly from 8 to 6.  She loves me and gives me special treatment.  I learned the secret of being treated like a king.  I bring them goodies every time I come.  This time was fresh baked tollhouse chocolate chip cookies.  Brownies.  Pumpkin pies.  Assorted Christmas cookies.  Almond cookies from China Town.  It's like Martha Stewart always says, Never go to an oncology/ hematology clinic empty handed.  I never wait long for vitals or for labs.  I rarely wait for the Doc.  I always get the room with the recliner.  I'm not the only one who thinks food is good.  All of the nurses and front desk staff do everything possible to make my stay a lovely experience.
These are the 7 vials of blood that they take through my port ev4ry time I come to do all of my blood work.  The report covers 48 different tests.  The good news, I'm still cancer free nearly 16 months after my stem cell transplant.  The bad news, I will be taking the daily chemo pills for another 10 months, "at least", instead of 4 months, and my neuropothy is getting worse due to the buildup of the chemo in my system.  I have very poor feeling in my fingers, hands and feet.  My chemo brain, which was compromised long before this as everyone knows, has gotten worse.  I still drool really well though.  My metabolism has caught up with me too. After months of not retaining much food, I now have to loose about 10 pounds!  Oh my. Whoda thunk it. Then, after, I was supposed to visit with one of my early UCSF experience doctors who is now working on a cure for my cancer, but he had to go to the other UCSF hospital at Mission Bay for a research meeting.  So I had a few 2 1/2 hours to kill.  From my hospital room I would look at Golden Gate Park. Tour #1. The west end. Quickly
The fantastic Conservatory of Flowers.  The grounds around it are almost as impressive as the inside displays.

This very impressive monument on the left was honoring Francis Scott Key, who wrote the Star Spangled Banner. In the background is the de Young Museum of Art. They were having a Picasso showing.  I didn't have that much time. but I made it up to the 9th level and observation deck. For some pictures.
View from the de Young Museum at the California Academy of Sciences.  To the left the Francis Scott Key memorial.  At the top middle of the picture is my alma matter, UCSF Medical Center, Long and Moffett Hospitals. My rooms were on the 11th and 14th floors, with a view of the park and the Golden Gate Bridge.  I REALLY  like this view better.
This is the view from the de Young to the north-east.  You see the town and buildings of San Francisco, with the hills in the distant background being on the far side of  the bay.  If you've never been around San Francisco, take a very small and narrow car with good brakes.  I have found no level spot in the whole town.
I will now regale you with photos of the Japenese Garden, which I found very interesting, and in fact, relaxing.
This is the "Peace Lantern".  I didn't realize that the US and Japan didn't sign a peace treaty until 1951.  This 9,000 lb. solid brass peace lantern was presented to the people of the United States by the Consul General for Japan in San Francisco on January 9, 1953.  It was from the 'children of Japan. In hope of peace.'
Everywhere you look were wonderful rock landscapes, bonsai gardens, streams & waterfalls.  Picturesque. I won't bore you with any more pictures, but I spent quite a bit of time walking around here. Feng Shuy
.Stow Lake is a favorite of the locals.  They have paddle boats and row boats available to rent.  People bring their own kayaks and canoes.  It's pretty big.  The gazebo-ee thing on the left is a Chinese building.  The waterfall is a big draw for the tourists, as you can hike to the top of it. If you love green water, this is for you.
As I needed to be heading back I saw the Shakespeare Garden on the map and thought to myself, 'To go, or not to go. That is the question."  But because I have chemo brain, I forgot the question and just walked to it.
A quiet little park within the park.  Several students just lying on the ground studying.  Other people just sitting and thinking.  No computers, ipods, cell phones etc. were observed, or heard, here. This park is a cool place.

Then back for a quick visit with Dr. Burch's office to present a report from my physical therapist, and a chat about my lack of progress with the injections in my back in preparation for the anticipated oblation, and an authorization to play tennis IF I didn't do something stupid (moi?) and hurt myself.  I assured him that I hadn't with the bicycle riding and the golf so he said go ahead and try it.  Report in the near future. 

Then the highlight of the trip.  A friend from Paso, John Adams, "knows a guy who knows a guy that can get us tickets to the Giants games.  The next day was my physical therapist's birthday, but she had to work all day, so I was able to get us some tickets to the Giants - Dodger game that night.  She's a big Dodgers fan.  I am a big fan of goofing off.  So it was a fit.  She and my daughter Candice, who is her aide and is now a certified trainer (health fitness specialist), got off work in Paso at 2pm and headed north.
Dr. Jennifer Seay (pronounced 'see') is in the Dodger cap.  Neither of the two guys are my daughter Candice. As usual, I have my mouth open, just this time I hadn't put my foot in it. Yet.  Wait a minute.  Who's the big goofy looking guy with the Provo T-shirt on?  Yep, it's my youngest brother, Brian, who just happened to be in SF for work conference and was flying home the next morning.  We all converged and had a great time.

Aren't them guys about the brightest lookin' guys you've ever seen?  The Dodger fans weren't very bright either.  Their 'Go Dodgers' sign was upside down. Dodgers lost 5 to 3.  Got home at 1:35 am.  So there you have it.  The update that both of you have been waiting for.  Thank you for your love and prayers. I still pray at least once a day for all of you too. 

Sunday, July 3, 2011

UTAH IN THE SPRINGTIME! (End of May - early June)

Dale, Hillary & I were able to make a trip to Utah to see some family and friends, and what a wonderful trip it was!  I shall now regale you with a pictorial recollection of events and relations:
The primary reason for going was to visit with mom again.  She's been having a very difficult time with her back & sciatica, but we were able to make the short trip to visit dad's grave and clean up the plot and headstone.  Mom's a stickler about weeds and grass on dad's plot.  Her back's no good, but her eyesight is like a hawks!  She could see weed sprouts UNDER the grass.  It was wonderful to visit dad's grave and reminisce.  Anyone that knew him heard the stories of his amazing childhood and life.  It's been over 5 yrs. since he passed away. He will always be in our hearts and conversations.  By the way, that's Dale hiding behind Grandma.  That's the closest we got to getting a picture of her during the trip.  She doesn't mind.
We love his headstone.  He grew up in a small coal mining town in central Utah.  We used to visit it when we were young.  My Grandma & Grandpa R lived there many years after it was closed down, and we LOVED  to visit there.  Grandpa's stories were so much fun to hear.  I think it was my oldest brother Mark's idea to get one of the stones that everything in Spring Canyon was made from and have it engraved.  What a great and personal tribute to the man who loved rocks.  Do you know that he wanted to name me Rock?  Me, Rock Richards!  They just would have called me swirly Richards.  Thanks mom for not letting that happen.
I know all of you are sick of looking at me, but I wanted you to get a good look at my little cancer buddy Spencer and my stunningly gorgeous niece Becky.  I won't go into much detail, but we all went through cancer at about the same time.  Spencer, just before his 8th birthday, found out that he had a rhadomyosarcoma tumor in his face.  This giant of a hero went through 54 weeks of chemo and radiation at the Salt Lake Primary Children's Hospital, and was determined to be cancer free just before our visit.  Becky was diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma about 1 1/2 yrs. ago.  She went through many months of treatment/chemo at the Huntsman Cancer Center in Salt Lake, and, other than a different hair color, looks just like her old self.  I however, am still working on the hump on my back.  3 generations of cancer survivors.  If you're interested in learning more about their experiences, Spencer's blog is "The Journey of A Superhero", and Becky's is "Don't Panic Roger! I Have A Plan".  When Grandma R's mother asked Grandpa R's mother at the wedding "Are there any morons or idiots in the family?"  Great Grandma R's response was, "No, but we're damn mean!"  Needless to say, that was the last words spoken between those two.  But besides being mean, apparently we're also pretty tough. We're smiling.
This was taken at Spencer's home.  That's his little sister, Isabelle, or just Belle. We're learning about the universe.  A day or so earlier I took them to Der Wienerschnitzel because I was having a hankering for a corn dog.  It was a very interesting ride.  Spencer looks up at me and asked: "Did you throw-up a lot from the chemo like I did?"  Here's an 8 year old taking about cancer and treatments like an adult. It was heartbreaking, but also you have to wonder what great things he's going to do in his lifetime.  The conversation turned to what foods we missed while sick, and we both  agreed that bacon was really high on that list.

When I told him that we could get bacon wrapped hot dogs, his eyes got as big as my stomach.  He then took it up a notch, "What about a chili dog?", he asked.  My response was, "What about a bacon wrapped chili cheese dog?"  So here's what happened: Spencer, Belle (little tiny Belle) and I all ate a bacon wrapped chili cheese dog, a corn dog, and a soda, EACH!  Belle was done before Spencer.  The owner of the establishment had overheard some of our conversation and invited the kids up to the counter after their meal.  He gave them a huge ice cream cone, which of course they finished as well.  I got one too.  We then went home a decided to take a walk to try and wear off some of our lunch.  We had a wonderful time.  There are some pictures on Spencer's blog, but I don't know how to get them onto mine.  Spence, Belle & I held hands and strolled along.  We were joined by Dale, Hillary, Spencer  & Belle's mom Holly,  their little bro. Gavin, my niece Laura that lives with her husband Caleb and her daughter Evelyn at Grandma R's house. It was a beautiful day with blue sky & white puffy clouds.
Speaking of Evelyn, she is so cute, but apparently she hasn't had much experience with nuclear zerberts (sp?), so uncle Kevin volunteered to administer the training.  As you can see by the picture, she was screaming in agony.  I just kept reminding her that it was for her own good and would make the zerberts of life so much more bearable after living through the experience.  We then spent the next hour or so playing "Over".  Where she lays on my lap with her head over my knees, then on 3, she gets flipped 'over' onto her feet on the floor.  Great fun.  It wore me out.  She not so much.

 Of course what would Hillary's picture collection be without one of her famous 'pouty model face' pictures.  This time with Belle.  I think Belle's got a great future.  When we were on our walk and her mom Holly would ask Belle to stop for a second so she could get a picture, Belle would pose like you would not believe.  It was so funny to watch.  Spencer, on the other hand, had to be physically threatened before he would stop for a picture.  All of the kids LOVE Hillary.  She is so much fun and spends a lot of time with each one while we're there.  She's also amazingly good with adults.  For those that may not know, Hillary's still in Orange County and having way too much fun.  She keeps saying she's gonna get a job, but just hasn't gotten around to it yet. She does have a lot of new friends and better yet, doesn't ask for any money.  You'd have to ask Holly about Belle, but I bet she asks for money all the time.

The dashingly handsome young man is my nephew, Mason.  My brother Jeff & Mandy's youngest.  He works at the world famous Purple Turtle in Pleasant Grove.  We saw him a couple of times during the week.  One night I asked mom if there was anything she wanted for dinner.  She thought for a minute and responded, "Onion rings and a coconut cream pie tornado from the Purple Turtle"I asked if she wanted any food to go with that, but she assured me that she did not, so off I went. Mason was doing fries and rings that night, so of course they were perfecto.  Well, there it is.  I'm sorry I don't have any pictures of the whole clan that got together just after we got there.  I'm not sure of the count, but I think it was about 29 of us.  Thanks to my family who make it so fun when we come.  See ya in a few months.