You are here ⬇️

We’re still unpacking boxes and putting things away, but it’s beginning to look more like a home and less like a flea market. This afternoon I posted a photo on Twitter showing the portion of the den that looks habitable, and I started thinking what great big geeks it shows us to be.

But then it also dawned on me that it shows lots of connections to the people in my life, my friends, from the mementos Edmund and I have given each other, to furniture items we got from local friends, to games and art created by people I know online and sometimes in real space, to presents we’ve received, and games we played with great people. So I marked up the picture to give you an idea of what I’m talking about.

Thank you, friends, for being in my life!

Progress, sort of?

Some day, this will be a living room.

Sheesh. We/re still unpacking, cleaning the old house, and getting to new the new housemates. We each took falls and scraped joints, we’re banged up and bruised, sore and tired, but we’re making progress.

We’re deeply grateful for the help and moral support we once again received from our friends.

The new neighbourhood is less suburban and more mixed-urban, which means less privacy and more traffic, but also three bus lines right on our street that connect to CalTrain stations. The terrain is rather flat, not steep like our old neighbourhood, so it’s less daunting to take a walk. It also appears t be the world capital of ice cream vendors, with the chimes of ice cream trucks and bike-powered carts constantly ringing. I have not broken down even once yet. Yet.

Continue reading “Progress, sort of?”

Big Week!

Two big events in our lives this week, which should help a lot with mental health! First, I accepted a half-time job that I can telecommute for, thanks to a tip and recommendation from my friend Bryanna. If all the hiring paperwork can be taken care of in time, the start date is July 8. I’m very excited about this!

Second, I just signed the lease earlier today for a shared house, and our cats can stay with us. 💖 We heard of this through our friend Karen, and the people we’ll share with seem super-nice. The only sad part is that we could not find anything we could afford in San Bruno, so I will have to step down from the city planning commission. This is not very far, though, a little further south and closer to the Bay.

We’re moving – but where?

You know how we have been struggling in the past year. We had hoped to be able to sublet the main house area and live in the in-law unit; this project dragged on with one hurdle after another until we finally learned that although our friend and landlord was willing to accommodate this arrangement, it is illegal where we live (not permitted by the zoning code). Now we have to leave by the end of May.

We don’t really know where we’ll end up; it’s too expensive in the Bay Area, so we are looking at rural California (Humboldt County), Portland OR, Vancouver BC, and other less expensive places. We’re also looking at shared housing programs.

To be honest, homelessness is on the list of possibilities and pretty darn near the top. We have used up the finances raised for us by our friends on GoFundMe, all our savings, and all our retirement funds. We both have health challenges, physical and mental. My energy level is low, I have not managed to work full-time since my bout with cancer. And we have two cats, which always makes it trickier to find housing.

But since we let our local friends know a few days ago, we have also received offers of help to find a new place, get employment and move, invitations for temporary stays while we search, and so forth. We are poor in money, but rich in friends. As soon as we get back to a sustainable living situation, I will be satisfied; I don’t need more. I love you all.

Marie Targer

Mitochondries, Filles du Roi et Huguenots

Scroll down for the English section of this post.

L’ADN mitochondrial, dont on se sert pour tracer les migrations humaines, se transmet pratiquement inchangé de mère en fille, excepté quelques rares mutations. J’ai donc la même formulation, le même ADNmt que mes aïeules de lignée maternelle: ma mère, sa mère, et ainsi de suite.

Quand je remonte cette chaîne, la première à vivre en Nouvelle-France est Marie Targer, venue de La Rochelle.

Continue reading “Marie Targer”

Gillette Banne

Au meurtre!

Scroll down for the English section of this post.

La première femme d’origine française exécutée pour meurtre en Nouvelle-France, Gillette Banne, est ma neuvième arrière-grand-mère du côté de ma grand-mère maternelle:

Banne, Gillette [décaïeule ou 9x arrière-grand-mère]
mère de Bertault, Élisabeth Thérèse Isabelle [nonaïeule ou 8x arrière-grand-mère]
mère de Laurence, Nicolas [octaïeul ou 7x arrière-grand-père]
père de Laurence, Jean-Baptiste [septaïeul ou 6x arrière-grand-père]
père de Laurence, Jean-Baptiste [sextaïeul ou 5x arrière-grand-père]
père de Laurence, Joseph [quincaïeul ou 4x arrière-grand-père]
père de Laurence, Joseph [quartaïeul ou 3x arrière-grand-père]
père de Laurence, Grégoire [trisaïeul ou arrière-arrière-grand-père]
père de Laurence, Mathias [bisaïeul ou arrière-grand-père]
père de *** [aïeule ou grand-mère]
mère de *** [mère]
mère de Lagacé, Sophie 

Continue reading “Gillette Banne”

Je me souviens

Scroll down for the English section of this post.

Il y a un bon moment que je n’ai écrit un billet en français; c’est le sujet qui m’y amène.

Ce Noël, Edmund m’a donné un livre, Hélène’s World: Hélène Desportes of Seventeenth-Century Quebec, centré sur la première personne de souche française à naître en Amérique (ou du moins, la première qui ne soit pas morte durant sa petite enfance).

Je l’ai mentionné à ma mère et la conversation a vite tourné vers le sujet de la généalogie.  Elle a récemment développé un intérêt pour ce sujet et même suivi un cours. Comme j’ai toujours été intéressée par le sujet, elle a partagé avec moi les notes qu’elle avait assemblé sur les lignées de son grand-père paternel et ses grands-parents maternels.

J’ai jeté un coup d’oeil sur les outils disponibles pour organiser l’information et choisi un logiciel libre, Gramps, qui peut être utilisé sur diverses plate-formes (Windos, Mac OSX, Linux). Ayant déjà les lignées paternelles pour trois de mes arrière-grands-parents, j’ai commencé à remonter les lignées maternelles. Continue reading “Je me souviens”

Post-cancer update: Heart and Mind

I had a check-in with my oncologist yesterday morning and she continues to be happy with my progress.

At our last meeting in July she switched me from tamoxifen (which works by blocking estrogen from binding to receptors in the breast) to Arimidex (which limits the production of estrogen altogether.) Tamoxifen is known to be an additional risk factor for blood clots and for uterine cancer, while Arimidex increases risks of osteoporosis and muscle and joint pain. In light of my pulmonary embolisms last February, my doctor (and I) felt the risk trade-off was logical.

I’m staying on Coumadin until and unless I become more physically active on a steady basis, at which point I could be switched to low-dose aspirine instead.

I will get my final MUGA heart scan in three weeks, and since all previous ones have been satisfactory, I don’t expect bad news. I will also be getting an MRI this fall, which will keep alternating with mammograms every six months for the foreseeable future (one of each a year.) That’s because of the dodgy genetic profile that suggest increased risk.

So no cancer-related health problems right now, and side effects are being monitored. I feel well cared-for, as usual.  Continue reading “Post-cancer update: Heart and Mind”

Emerging from the fog

One thing I was not really aware of when I was diagnosed with breast cancer a little over thirteen months ago was the phenomenon patients call “chemo brain.” Even if I had been, I probably would not have put it very high on the list to worry about, compared to other symptoms and side effects. But it turned out to be a protracted, annoyingly lingering effect even after the end of chemotherapy.

It was, of course, at its peak during that treatment. The strangest thing was that I completely lost my sense of elapsed time. I am normally pretty good at estimating how much time has passed in a given subjective period, whether it’s on the scale of minutes or months. But during chemotherapy, I completely lost this ability; the feeling of time simply vanished. Everything was compressed into yesterday, today, tomorrow.

Things gradually returned to normal on this front in the months after I was done with chemo, but other symptoms continued: poor concentration, memory lapses, short attention span, inability to accomplish more than one task at a time, and this only by focusing hard. Given that I normally revel in efficiency and method, this was quite frustrating.

For the last six weeks or so, however, my powers of concentration, my mental acuity and energy have improved dramatically. I’m not back to peak performance yet, but it’s a sharp contrast with the mental sluggishness of previous months. Today I had jotted down twenty tasks on my to-do list and I have accomplished sixteen of them! Just a couple of months ago, it was a big deal to get one thing done in a day. This feels so much better, so encouraging!

 

 

The Lung Con

Oh great, another illness post…

Although we had planned to spend Presidents Day weekend at DunDraCon, I was concerned about a cold that was leaving me severely short of breath and occasionally dizzy last week. I saw my general practitioner because I had been told to watch out for symptoms like shortness of breath. She gave me antibiotics to avoid the cold turning into bronchopneumonia. But although the cough rapidly got better, the breathing and dizziness didn’t — I was panting from merely getting up and walking to another room. So on Friday morning when my doctor called to check back, she said I should go directly to the Emergency Room.

A proof-of-life photo for my friends.
A proof-of-life photo for my The friends.

A few hours later I had had an electrocardiogram, a CAT scan, an echocardiogram, ultrasound of the legs, and multiple examinations, as well as being hooked up with an intravenous heparin drip for blood thinning, electrodes to monitor my heart, a pulse oxymeter, three catheters in my arms, a sphygnomanometer cuff for frequent blood pressure monitoring, and a nasal cannula for oxygen.

Doctors said the CAT scan showed “multiple, extensive” pulmonary embolisms, and the echocardiogram indicated that my heart was enlarged on the right side from overwork to pump blood through the obstructed alveoli. On the plus side, my physical strength, blood pressure, heart rate, respiration rate, and even oxygenation were generally good, no clots were found in my legs, and I had no chest pains at any point.

pulmonary_embolismI was at one of these tipping points when the benefits and risks of two different treatments seem to exactly even out.

  • In a moderate case, the treatment would consist of administering heparin to prevent further clots, then allow the clots to dissolve gradually, transitioning me to another blood thinner like warfarin for long-term maintenance. The risks in this are primarily associated with clots starting to move before they’re small enough and causing cardiac problems.
  • In a severe case (i.e., when things are dire and you can’t really f– them up much more), the treatment would be the administration of a tissue plasminogen activator (tPA), often referred to as a clot-buster. The risk then is to cause catastrophic internal bleeding, particularly in the brain — such as a stroke.

In the end the primary doctor, a pulmonologist, was very cautious. She sent me to the Intensive Care Unit instead of a regular room because clot-buster treatment can only be administered in the ICU due to the risks. I was monitored at all times with a heparin drip, but the tBA treatment was not immediately administered. It was crazy busy in the ICU with some acute cases (fortunately, I was in the quieter wing) so it was only in the evening that the doctor was able to come back and talk to me. Since my vital signs were strong and I had even eaten dinner (I was SO hungry by then, having left home without even breakfast), she decided to keep me on heparin but supervised in the ICU for the moment.

In ICU with my pussy hat for warmth.
In ICU with my pussy hat for warmth.

Thus ended Friday night, with me sleeping in the ICU, nurses watching me and blood samples being drawn every few hours. Despite the severity of the case, I was by far the “healthiest” looking patient in ICU. Two things that made the nurses chuckle: I asked for a sleeping mask, and I was the only one well enough to eat an actual breakfast on Saturday morning. By Saturday afternoon I was allowed to get up, take a few steps around the room, sit up in a chair for a couple of hours. I spoke to the doctor a few times throughout the day. In the evening I was well enough that she transferred me to the Transitional Care Unit (TCU); she just wasn’t willing to risk a stroke if she gave me the tBA.

So I got to TCU in time for the night shift. Because the ratio of nurse to patients is much lower there, the doctor told me with some insistence that I was not to wait at all if I needed even the slightest help, but immediately use the call button to summon a nurse. So I did. In fact, I try to be the most obedient and courteous patient around, but when I need help, I ask firmly. I had to, because there were a lot of distractions during my stay in TCU!

When I was wheeled there, the room across the corridor from mine was already the site of a commotion. The patient there was a woman who appeared to be suffering from dementia, along with whatever other problems were being treated. She was having hallucinations at times, she would not comply with the personnel’s instructions, she would not let them take her stool-stained garments, she yelled, etc. Several nurses and aides were tied up with her case at all times. Their patience and gentleness was truly amazing, but they were clearly very tired.

In addition to the noisy neighbour, other rooms had multiple visitors, and I could hear everyone’s televisions. Possibly because of the number of elderly patients, the wing was kept much warmer than the ICU so I was sweating like a pig. Nevertheless, I was grateful that the nurses told me they would trust me to call for any help I needed and allowed me to keep the door to my room closed for the night. And yes, I could hear the agitated patient and her cohort of personnel throughout the entire night. I was grateful I had my iPhone and earbuds to have some soothing sounds covering most of this. After my 3AM blood draw, instead of going back to sleep immediately, I spent a couple of hours making a music mix on Spotify!

No cannula anymore!
No cannula anymore!

I finally slept again for a few hours, until I was awakened on Sunday morning for more monitoring, sampling, and the sounds of Jesus TV coming from neighbours’ rooms (soon to be replaced by super-violent-movie sounds!) But happily, once the lab results came back I was switched from the heparin drip to Lovenox injections every 12 hours and warfarin tablets in the evenings, much less cumbersome. I was also allowed to do without the oxygen cannula for most of the day, so I had fewer pieces of equipment interfering with comfort.

Edmund was actually with me for much of the time, unexciting as it is to sit in a hospital chair. Since we live only a few minutes away, he was able to come and go for meals, errands, and checking on the cats. He brought me dark chocolate-covered pretzels and raisins, fresh blueberries, and flowers. Throughout the weekend he kept up this shtick with live reports from the “game convention” which made me laugh.

Since I could hear everyone’s televisions, I played music and sang along when I was alone — as confirmed by the pulse oxymeter readings, this actually helped me get nice, long, regular breaths. The nurses chuckled again and encouraged me to continue (I told you they’re dedicated!)

On Sunday afternoon I was allowed to take a couple of closely supervised walks up and down the corridor; it was nice to stretch my legs. I spent a second night in TCU, a little quieter noise-wise though the agitated patient started again on Monday morning.

But after breakfast and a couple more walks, the doctor came to talk to me. Because I had someone at home with me and because I showed good comprehension of, and compliance with, medical instructions, she said she would let me go home but sternly admonished me to treat this as if I was still in the hospital: bed rest or sitting quiet, no activity until my blood prothrombin time (coagulation rate) is in the right range and the clots are dissolved. And by early afternoon on Monday, I was home. Hurray!

Valentine and me, minutes after I got home.
Valentine and me, minutes after I got home.

It was so nice to be home, without wires and catheters, and buried instead under a pile of purring cats! Valentine, in particular, has been keeping a close eye on me. It’s been a luxury to sleep in my own bed and be able to take a shower at last!

I’m in contact with the anti-coagulation clinic pharmacist for dosage adjustments. I must report any unusual symptoms, of course, and come in to the lab for blood sampling every couple of days. The best guess right now is that the tamoxifen I started taking in late January to prevent cancer recurrence is what precipitated the problem (pun intended). I have follow-up appointments scheduled with my general practitioner and my oncologist.

I want to say thank you to all my friends for their encouragements and kindness. I know some of you wanted to come visit me in the hospital, but I just wanted to rest most of the time. The care I received was stellar, but I still wouldn’t call it a fun place to hang out at! And thank you to all the ER, ICU, and TCU nurses and doctors, who were so kind, respectful, and competent (and in some cases, funny!)