Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Kayla's Bridal Shower

What a fun event hosted by Mike's Mom and sister, who are obviously event planners on the side!

It's always great to see "the girls". Here are Kayla, Gillian, Marissa, and Katelyn. All friends from school days. I wish Hannah had been here for the fun, too.

The whale cake was SO COOL and very beautifully created. Kayla has had a deep interest in whales for as long as I've known her so it was the theme of the party. There was a sweet candy bar (you can see some of it in the background, at which you could fill your own little commemorative jars with blue whales, jelly fishes, personalized wedding smarties, and a host of other candies. Cute.

Hannah and I gave Kayla a wooden salad bowl with wooden salad fork and spoon. Kevin and I got one as a wedding gift oh so many moons ago and we still use it all the time. It's developed a nice, rich patina over the years. I hope this one becomes a kitchen staple for Kayla and Mike, too.

Gillian gave Kayla this collection of framed photos of "the girls". Cute! Hannah is at the far right in the photo of the foursome at the bottom where they're owning the halls of Aden Bowman and looking like "The Mod Squad".

Gillian's Mom and I laughed ourselves silly at the card Gillian gave Kayla.

Mike's Mom and sister were such fun hosts and are truly lovely. Kevin and I are so looking forward to the upcoming nuptials and the good time we'll have with everyone at the wedding. And it will be so nice to have Hannah home for a few days, too.

Gillian, if you see this send me your email address so I can send you some photos.

Berny, if you see this, I was reminded of our connection through Kayla's Mom and how I was to meet you both for lunch that day at Alexander's and then I didn't show up because despite having been reminded of the correct date several times I kept having chemo brain farts and could not for the life of me keep the day straight even with a calendar! I'm happy to say that things have improved since then ... a bit.
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Sunday, August 28, 2011

Fabric Junkie

I didn't just buy backing fabric at Periwinkle's at their anniversary event on Thursday night. Fat quarters were on sale so I had to buy some. I have resisted for what feels like a long time this blue/red/grey/pink pile of Sherbet Pips cuteness but now that I've made and mastered (perhaps not the correct term) a baby sized quilt top and there will surely be more babies I'll want to gift with something. Easy justification.

And then I bought this bunch of fat quarters for no other reason but that I liked them at that moment. I only bought the whitish one with the coral dahlia because it appeared to match one of the others. That was the only one I bought for matching purposes, though. But when I spread them out I decided that most of them could work together. Hmmm ... I have yet to mix them in with the fabric I already have to see if there are any other happy happenstances.

I have not got round to sandwiching those baby quilts yet even though I'm eager to get at it. There's too much to do. Friday night we got together with Gerry, who is visiting from Vegas, and some other mutual friends. He was leaving the next day. As it happened, we were on the deck at Original Joe's on the Friday of Cruise Weekend so we watched were in a prime cool car watching spot. Gerry has his own very cool car, which he let Kevin drive. And then my brother, Jim, came along with this precision restored, cherry red (SUPER shiny) with cream interior 1957 T-Bird convertible. It's so pretty. I would have taken a picture to show it off but it was dark and my itty bitty flash wouldn't have done it justice.

Two drinks kind of wasted me for most of Saturday. I did run out and get a shower gift for our Kayla. We've been looking forward to this wedding for the better part of a year ... or longer. Hannah will be home for the wedding in October. Something else to look forward to.

Last night we had a special event to attend. A retirement banquet and party for Captain Ken. It was nice to see so many SARCAN people and all of Ken's towering family there for the special event. Lots of stories recanted ... memories ... fun times ... crazy times ... and the amazing growth and success of SARCAN. No drinks for me last night. I find that even one drink can leave me useless for the whole following day.

Last night Pat and Jo , with their combined wealth of quilting experience, provided me with some MOST valuable quilting tips for using the Minkee fabric. I'm so glad I talked to them before I started. I feel a little more confident about working with this fabric that can be reportedly slippery and messy. It's just so dang soft and cuddly. I have to try it, at least. 

Today ... too much needs to be done to play with fabric. Sadly.
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Thursday, August 25, 2011

Time To Make A Sandwich

A QUILT sandwich!

I got the necessary ingredients tonight at Periwinkle (the quilt shop at Grosvenor Park Mall on 8th Street) during their anniversary open house. It was quite fun to be there. Lots of staff to help and offer expert opinions, tips, and encouragement for which I'm most grateful. Lots of quilters shopping and snacking, coming and going.

So this is the Minkee fabrics I chose. It's super soft. I mean SUPER soft. Very cuddly. And I think both colours are a great match with the Farm Fresh fabric. The green Minkee fabric looks quite true in the photo but the deep coral Minkee looks brighter than it really is. I got batting ... the white bundle at the top of the photo, some basting spray, which was recommended for keeping the slippery back of the Minkee fabric in place for quilting. I got perle cotton threads to hand quilt with. The green thread looks much darker in the photo than it really is. I got a cream coloured thread, too, just to give me some options on both quilts.

So there. All the ingredients for a quilt sandwich. Now I just have to make it. Maybe Saturday I can get one sandwiched and partially stitched. Oh, I hope, I hope, I HOPE I don't run into any difficulties. I really want this quilt making thing to be a real GOOD experience all round.

By the way. About my garden strawberries. Lately when I go to pick the ripe ones, they often have holes eaten through them. Someone told me that birds will try to get the strawberries before me so I assumed that's what was happening. Today when I reached to pick a ripe one at lunch time I got the strawberry AND a big, old wasp. Right in my hand! I didn't get stung but I dropped them both like a hot potato! Then I more carefully lifted some leaves and looked before reaching. Lo and behold under the leaves there were wasps crawling all over the place. They eat holes right through the strawberries! Damn wasps!

On the good news front, I had my first dental check-up and cleaning since just before I had chemo. I was quite worried about the state of my teeth and I still carry with me some horrific memories of that abscess tooth issue I had in spring after I finished treatments. The one that had me on heavy doses of morphine for a week as I went back and forth between doctors and the dentist before they figured out it really was an abscess. Anyway ... the cleaning went well. The hygienist was very gentle and pleasant. And best of all, I have no cavities or pressing dental issues. My dentist remarked that she is surprised that my teeth and gums came out of my experience in as good a shape as they have. Yeah!
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Arm and Shoulder Pain After Breast Cancer

This woman who blogs about breast cancer brought tears to my eyes when I read this. The information about shoulder and arm problems is very useful to anyone who has been through breast cancer surgery and treatments. But what made my throat tighten was her opening bit about the fatigue and brain fog she still experiences three years later ... how a little bit of stress or exertion can "throw her under the bus". And how "folks who haven't been through cancer treatment ... don't really get it".

While I'm sorry she has had to go through all this, I took some comfort from her words because I often feel very alone in my experience (crazy, I know, considering all the people who have been so helpful and supportive). I don't know personally many people who have been through what I have. If someone who hasn't had a similar experience asks me how I'm doing and if I'm honest ... and sometimes, not often, I am ... and I mention my lingering fatigue and how I still struggle cognitively sometimes and how a little bit of being over busy can render me totally useless for a day or even days and how working full time saps me of the energy to do things at home or socially and how my body and brain just seem to shut down sometimes ... well, frequently people say something like, "ME, TOO!" or "This getting older sucks!" or "That's menopause for you!" or "God, I can't remember anything either".  To which I will ... sometimes, not often ... say, "This isn't the same. It's different".  And the reason I don't say it very often is because many people really don't get it. They think, "she's done treatments, she's back to work full time, she has hair (or something like it) growing out of her head again, there isn't a gargoyle sticking out the side of her face, she's not bleeding ... so she must be just fine now".

How I wish that were so. I don't want to over dramatize. I am so much better than I was even a few months ago. I am getting better. Stronger. My endurance mentally, physically, and emotionally is improving. But there's still shit going on that doesn't show for the most part. So, to read this woman's frank talk about her lingering issues touched me deeply and made me feel less alone with my mostly invisible issues. This isn't to say I haven't been fortunate to be surrounded and supported by so many dear and caring family and friends. But surely you, too, have or have had things going on in your life that most people just "don't get" and which you might just keep quiet about. I hope that one good thing that has come out of my breast cancer experience is increased compassion and understanding.

The Accidental Amazon » Arm and Shoulder Pain After Breast Cancer: Arm and Shoulder Pain After Breast Cancer

The Accidental Amazon writes: 
"Fatigue and brain fog still lurk. A little stress can throw me under the bus again ... During a good week, among the thirty or so hours of work I put in, I’ve been able to add one session of intense physical exertion, like spending an hour mowing the lawn or going to the gym. I can usually only pick one thing per week, though, which puts a crimp in getting through my overlong to-do list. But one session a week is better than none. If I’m lucky, I will only have to take a long nap after I exert myself thus. If not, I will have to spend the next few days mostly in bed, saddled with fatigue — again. If, like this week, I have some extra stress, from seeing my breast surgeon yesterday, I find myself knackered again and have to postpone some project I’d like to accomplish, like working on some photographs or writing a blog post. My brain just doesn’t work as well after a shot of stress, and my body ends up once again feeling starved of energy. But I eventually get over it. It’s tedious, and folks who haven’t been through cancer treatment — including my breast surgeon — don’t really get it. But after three years, I’m used to that. 

Chronic, long-term pain and weakness can also sap your energy. So, I’ve been trying to make the effort to address my shoulder and chest pain ..."
She goes on to outline, from a research paper, all the possible shoulder and arm problems (including my frozen shoulders) that might occur after breast cancer treatment. The information is very useful. Click on the link above for this excellent resource.

One Becomes Two

I had planned on using the Farm Fresh fabric I won to make a baby quilt. Emphasis on "a". If you've been following along, you know the issue I came up against. The instructions said make 4 stacks (strips) from the print fabric ... which I did ... but it turned out that there was just a little mistake in the instructions and I only needed 3 stacks (strips) to complete a baby quilt. What to do with the extra strip? I already had other ideas for the back of the quilt so I didn't want to use it there.

So here's what I did. I made another baby quilt! It worked out just right. At first I didn't think of making another one because I had used ALL the critter fabric for the 4 stacks and I didn't have any left to use in the two additional stacks needed to make another quilt. But then I thought, who says I need to use more critter fabric? I had deliberately NOT used ... but cut ... the coordinating fabric with a pink background and little flowers. I avoided it just so that the quilt would be really gender neutral. So, I opted to use that fabric and some of the extra bits and pieces of cut pieces to complete the two addtional stacks necessary to make a second (more girly) baby quilt top. (Click on the photo to see a bigger image). I'm very happy with it. And with all the cutting already having been done and one stack already completed, it was a very quick project. I only have enough little bits of fabric left to, perhaps, make a matching doll's quilt. We'll see if I'm so ambitious.

Of course, just because I have the tops done doesn't mean I can rest on my self satisfied laurels. I now have the challenge of acquiring batting and backing and then coming up with a way that will work to make these tops into actual quilts. Stay tuned. Tonight I hope to buy the fabric for the back and I've already ordered more of the red dot fabric to use for binding.
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Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The Effectiveness Of Estrogen-Blocking Drugs In Breast Cancer Confirmed By PET Scans

This is an interesting new study in which PET scans were used to determine the effectiveness of estrogen BLOCKING drugs (Tamoxifen that I'm on now) versus estrogen DEPLETING drugs (aromatase inhibitors such as the Arimidex I was on that caused me such awful joint problems). It appears to be suggesting that Tamoxifen is superior, which (if true) will be great comfort to the many women, myself included, who have been unable to tolerate the aromatase inhibitors. I was told that for post-menopausal women (breast cancer treatments MADE me post-menopausal - prior to diagnosis I was pre-menopausal) aromatase inhibitors are more effective. Is it any wonder I'm often confused?

The Effectiveness Of Estrogen-Blocking Drugs In Breast Cancer Confirmed By PET Scans:

PET scans, taken before, during and after hormonal therapy, confirmed the superior effectiveness of estrogen-receptor-blocking drugs such as tamoxifen and fulvestrant over estrogen-depleting therapies such as aromatase inhibitors in blocking the estrogen receptor in cancer cells. The study also confirmed that tamoxifen is superior to fulvestrant in blocking estrogen.
Read more about the study at the link above.

Blueberries, Sweetpeas, Quilts, and Staying Cancer-FREE!

Sunday turned out to be a non sewing day even though Kevin was still at the lake. I needed the day to think more about what I wanted to do with this baby quilt and, to tell you the truth, our house was a bit of a disaster and I really needed to do some tidying at the very least. And I also had a big ... and I mean BIG ... box of fresh picked wild northern blueberries (!!!!) that I needed to wash and freeze.

This is just one cookie sheet full of them and there were four more of these! Blue medicine. It's unlikely that organic northern blue berries and supplements and fibre and omegas, etc. will ensure that cancer won't return but I do think it increases my odds of staying cancer-free for longer and even if it just helps my sense of hope, it's worth it. One of the most difficult adjustments after finishing treatments ... and I wasn't prepared for this aspect of the ordeal ... is dealing with the constant spectre of cancer returning. Knowing it could be growing in your body just like the previous one and not knowing it's there. Just like Jack Layton's second cancer. The one that, sadly, took his life. Every little ache or pain takes on a new meaning and, unfortunately, I have more of them than I had before cancer and the ones I get now are sometimes the type I can't attribute to anything. They're mysterious. Like cancer. So ... if fresh, untainted berries (thanks Carl and Denise), and other things make me feel like I'm increasing my odds of living cancer free, it's a good thing. They're delicious, too.

Notice my sweetpeas? I DO love sweetpeas! This is the first year since I can't remember when that I actually have an abundance of them. Well, you can't have too many sweetpeas so by abundant, I mean enough to make me happy.

Kevin got back from a stellar fishing trip with "the guys" last night. He brought some lovely pickerel for the freezer.

Tonight I got the vertical sashing done on the baby quilt. I opted for three panels because four would be just too wide for a baby sized one. While I contemplated narrowing the stacks so that I could use 4, I dismissed that idea because there was no good way to narrow the fabric with the large critters. Thanks, everyone, for your ideas and suggestions. It was very helpful. I heard from Elizabeth, who wrote the instructions, and she said there was a mistake and that she would fix it. So if you want to use that tutorial, it should be correct now.Tomorrow night I hope to add the top and bottom borders and then the top will be done! YEAH! That means I have TWO quilt tops. The actual basting, quilting, and binding will be a whole new adventure.

Because I have my mind set on using flannel or Minkee (that REALLY soft fabric) on the back of the quilt, I won't use the extra panel there. I think I'll order a bit more of the same fabrics and make a second baby quilt.This design is stress free and suitable for my limitations.
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Saturday, August 20, 2011

Baby Quilt Progress

Here's what I accomplished today. I got all four stacks done. Tomorrow I'll cut and sew the sashing strips between the stacks and around the perimeter. Then the quilt top will be done.

I do have to make a decision, though. Something doesn't add up in the instructions for the baby sized quilt so I've sent an email to ELizabeth (the designer) for clarification. The problem is that the quilt top is much wider than the instructions say the finished quilt will be. With the sashing and borders, it will actually be slightly wider than it is long. If I remove a stack and have only 3 instead of 4, the dimensions are about right. That's probably what I'll do but I'll sleep on it first.

Meanwhile, if anyone has any suggestion about what I should do with that leftover stack, fire away. I have leftover fabric but I'm not sure I have enough for another baby quilt. Maybe I do.

I have figured out more about my machine. Part of the problem with the machine is that the way the feed dogs are situated, for me to get a quarter inch seam, the edge of the fabric has to run right along the middle of one of the feed dogs and I think that's why the fabric wants to pull. Adding to the difficulty is that I don't have a proper sewing table that the machine drops into and so I'm sewing up on a ledge which makes it harder to keep the fabric straight as it's feeding through. The platform of my machine also had a little dip where the bobbin plate is so even on top of the machine it's hard to hold the fabric flat as it feeds into the machine. So now I know I need a new machine AND a proper table for it. I will definitey not tackle any matching seams until I have a new machine. Until then, this type of quilt design allows for some inaccuracies. My dreams of dresden plates, flying geese, and half square triangles will have to wait until I have new tools.

And now, I'm beat. And my back is sore from cutting, sewing, and ironing in unergonomic positions.
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Friday, August 19, 2011

Look What I'm Up To Now

I recently won this cute collection of Riley Blake fabrics from the online fabric shop The Intrepid Thread, which is operated by the lovely Julie! She has a very nice shop and I've been a follower of her blog for a long time. Through Julie a steady stream of new fabric visits my computer screen for me to ogle and sigh over.

I think these farmish fabrics will make a sweet baby quilt so that's what I'm hoping to tackle this weekend. I think I found a pattern that I can manage without TOO much precision so I can use my old sewing machine. Of course, I said that last time, too, didn't I? Only to learn that there are ALWAYS seams to be matched somewhere. But, with this pattern, I think they'll be even less so.

The pattern I'm going to try is called Sliced Coins and Elizabeth at Don't Call Me Betsy has a nice tutorial and some beautiful examples. Check it out. Doesn't that look relatively easy for me? While you're at Elizabeth's blog, take a look at her other finished quilts. They're beautiful! She's very good!
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Bye Bye Luke

Don't you think Luke looks just a little bit sad in this photo? This is taken at 4:00 a.m. Tuesday morning just before he left and after only 3 hours of sleep. There is the possibility that his look is more, "I WOULD RATHER BE SLEEPING" and less "I DON'T WANT TO LEAVE MY MOMMY", but I'm free to interpret his expression any way I choose.

He could have been sleeping if he'd known his flight was going to be cancelled and that he wouldn't actually leave the city until 2:30 in the afternoon. Maaaaaan.
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FDA Approval For Ovarian And Breast Cancer Vaccines Received By Mayo Clinic

With the fear of recurrence constantly hanging over the heads of those of us who have had treatments for breast cancer and for which the only way of knowing if the treatments worked is if tumours DON'T resurface in our breasts or brains or livers or bones (no simple blood test to tell, my friends) ... it's nice to know that there is hope on the horizon. What side effects these vaccines might come with, I have no idea but I'm excited to hear about this study. Hurry up, researchers! HURRY UP!!

FDA Approval For Ovarian And Breast Cancer Vaccines Received By Mayo Clinic:
Mayo Clinic has received investigational new drug approval from the Food and Drug Administration for two new cancer vaccines that mobilize the body's defense mechanisms to destroy malignant cells. The vaccines are among the first aimed at preventing cancer recurrence. The approval clears the way for Phase I clinical trials with women treated for ovarian or breast cancer.

"People who've had cancer are at high risk for relapse, and later rounds of treatment can become more difficult," says Mayo Clinic immunologist Keith Knutson, Ph.D., who developed the vaccines with colleagues at Mayo Clinic. While most cancer vaccines to date have been developed to fight patients' tumors, Knutson's group is interested in immunizing patients immediately after therapy, when they're healthy, to protect against relapse.
Read more at the above link.

Vitamin D Council - New Research On Vitamin D and MS

Does anyone care to speculate on the prevalence of MS in our neck of the woods AND our relative low levels of Vitamin D due to our extended winters, our general "indooredness", and the use of sunscreen, which prevents the absorption of Vitamin D from the sun?

If you haven't done so already, DO get your Vitamin D levels tested - just ask your Doctor if he/she hasn't recommended it yet. And don't settle for "within normal range". Tell your doctor that you want to aim for "optimal" and supplement accordingly. This will require testing again after a few months to see how much your levels have come up. I've been taking 5,000 to 6,000 international units (IU) per day for more than a year and I still haven't reached optimal. My doctor said to keep on doing what I'm doing.

Less than optimal levels of Vitamin D in our bodies is associated with not just MS but various cancers and other diseases ... even colds and flues. When do most people catch a cold or get the flu? Would that be winter? When our Vitamin D levels are likely to be at their lowest? Hmmm ...

Just sayin ...

Vitamin D Council News:
"While for years scientists have noted an association between levels of vitamin D in a person’s body and the person’s ability to resist or minimize the effects of multiple sclerosis (MS), the mechanism involved has not been established. However new research by Sylvia Christakos, Ph.D., of UMDNJ-New Jersey Medical School, Sneha Joshi (a UMDNJ Ph.D. student), and colleagues (including Lawrence Steinman, MD, of Stanford University) appears to have uncovered that process."
Read more at the above link.


Monday, August 15, 2011

Wasn't That A Party!

With both Luke and Arden leaving tomorrow morning (before the sun comes up) for Louisville and Jared having just arrived home from Vancouver today, Dave and Christa had the boys' friends over for a BBQ. And us, too.

It turned out to also be a great night for storm watching! For a minute we thought it was the fireworks from the Ex before we remembered that the Ex's last day was yesterday. Hail so loud we could hardly hear each other talking even in the house! Kevin and I went home about an hour after the storm was finished and were very surprised to see the "hail banks" in our back yard. Isn't that strange? How they're just piled up there like that in the grass? Wierd! I think a lot of flowers met their end. Oh, the drama!

I got a couple photos of Luke and Arden together. We have so many of them like this we could paper a wall.

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Sunday, August 14, 2011

Garden Tour and Other Stuff

The last of the lilies to bloom. They're so pretty! And poppies, sweetpeas, hydrangeas, nasturtiums, globe thistles, and more.

The Virginia Creeper has started to turn red ... a sure indicator that summer is nearing its end ... bah humbug.

The fungus growing on the birch tree stump in the middle of the yard has grown another layer. Fascinating, I think (scroll down to see the photo near the bottom of this post).

And don't you think the bit of stump that we use as a plant stand on the deck looks like one of the characters from The Nightmare Before Christmas?! I love it! The photo is at the bottom of this post.
To tell you the truth, our garden has been quite badly neglected this year, we've been so focused on house painting and other things.

This week I also got to see Wicked, by the way! I really enjoyed it. I had read the book several years ago, long before it was ever made into a Broadway musical. I still recommend the book.

I also just finished reading "The Help" and I look forward to seeing the movie. Good book. Probably pretty stereotypical characters for the most part but an interesting and stunningly awful part of history.

I'm satisfied that Luke and I got some quality time together before he has to leave. We ran a few errands one day to get him some back-to-school basics and enjoyed talking and laughing while we drove from place to place. I need that bit of depth with my kids from time to time. We didn't get to see Harry Potter together as planned. Oh, well.

And I lost about a day and a half being sick ... as in sick to my stomach for no apparent reason ... meaning not likely something I consumed nor a flu. It was just like that time about a month ago where I was so sick. This time, at least, I recognized it before I lost it and just stayed still. Eventually it passed without me losing it but it was a bit of a battle and it took me several more hours of sleep and some additional rest before I felt able to function again. And then there was a bit of exhaustion. It's been a busy time.

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