Friday, October 30, 2009

The Greek Theater

Friday April 26, 1991

I am out shopping and banking most of the day. The weather has been beautiful lately.

Frank arrives home with 4 tickets to the Greek Theater, an outdoor theater in the Hollywood Hills. The Kentucky Headhunters are performing. After several phone calls to friends Robbie and Dolores are going with us.

Unfortunately the music at the concert is not really country western. It's more rock style and too too loud! We leave early to console ourselves with a piece of pie at Bakers Square in Sepulveda.

It's great to be normal and out for the evening.

Mom and Frank enjoyed going to concerts and country western was their favorite. Not being a country western fan myself, I have never heard of the Kentucky Headhunters. The Greek Theater, pictured above, is located at Griffith Park in Los Angeles, California. Originally built in 1929, this amphitheatre was built in the style of a Greek temple.

Spaghetti Dinner

Thursday, April 25, 1991

Today I meet Frank at the Granada Hills office of Dr. Russack. Dr. Russack is my regular MD. He is the doctor that was on duty in the emergency room the night I checked myself in. My neighbors Doris and Helen had driven me to Woodland Hills and dropped me off. Frank and Gary were skiing in Mammoth. I called Frank that night and he and Gary rushed home the next day.

Dr. Russack wants to know all about my condition and treatment. He checks me over in general and is pleased. He too is young--35 or so. He's very nice. I like him alot.

We arrive at Frank's folks house for dinner at 6:00. They are thrilled to see me so well. They have been very worried and praying alot. We have a wonderful spaghetti dinner.

Frank's family is Italian and his mom was a wonderful cook. Our family get-togethers usually consisted of loads of pasta with homemade canolis for dessert.

Don't Recommend This Diet

Wednesday, April 24, 1991

Frank loved my new bathing suit so I'm off to Penneys in Thousand Oaks to find another. I do. Then I check out May Co. They are having a great sale. Four hours later I am heading home with several new outfits, size small.

It's really odd. I'm suddenly wearing size 12 instead of a 16 and many size small instead of large. It's like I skipped right over size 14 and medium. I actually look good in flowered pants after years of only black and dark colored pants to look slimmer. I love my new figure. I still should lose another 15 pounds to look better yet but I'm supposed to eat well to keep my strength up in order to fight the cancer so I must be careful.

As mom began her battle with cancer she quickly lost 17 pounds. She battled with her weight all her adult life and she passed this battle on to her daughter. For me it was having my foot in a cast in 1990 that caused me to gain 35 pounds, skipping right over size 16 to a size 18. Mom was concerned with her weight even in her last days. I remember her stating that she was happy to have lost 20 pounds right before she died. She was resigned to dying by then, and I think she wanted to look good in her casket. We women are so obsessed with our body image, no matter our stage in life!

Monday, October 26, 2009


Tuesday April 23, 1991

I am sleeping very well these nights and waking about 7 a.m. At 10:30 a.m. I am at Kaiser to have my blood checked to see how I am accepting the chemo drugs. When I talk to Dr. Bix she is very pleased with the results and how well I'm doing. I ask about her life and we get to know each other a little. She's never had time to marry, is 34, and has 2 dogs.

I treat myself to a stir-fry chicken pita at Bakers Square Restaurant and then buy some new square dance clothes. At Penneys I finally pick up my new glasses and buy a new bathing suit for Hawaii.

My appetite is almost back to normal; no longer losing weight. I have an occasional little pain here and there in my belly. No problem. I feel great.

Didn't I tell you mom loved to shop? As soon as she was feeling up to it, she was buying herself yet another square dancing outfit and a new bathing suit.

Mom was always interested in people. She loved to study them from a distance and engage strangers in conversation. No way was she going to have a doctor who did not share her personal life.

Square Dancing

Monday April 22, 1991

How wonderful, the Mexican food did not disturb my stomach last night. We arrived home at 10:30. It was a very long day and I did very well.

My strength is rapidly returning. Today I did several loads of laundry and made many trips up the stairs. I finally make it outside to water all my plants on the patio. It's a beautiful day.

I feel well enough to go back to our square dancing class tonight. Everyone is so surprised to see us. I get lots of hugs. Everyone wants to know how I feel. I feel loved! We leave 15 minutes early because Frank is tired!

Frank tells me I looked young and very pretty tonight. We make love.

After mom retired she and Frank joined a square dancing club. They danced twice/week and made a wide circle of friends. Mom loved to shop for clothes and had four closets full. She had a separate rack of square dancing clothes. I think wearing the beautiful clothes was part of what appealed to her. In fact she wanted to be buried in her favorite square dancing outfit.

Closer to God

Sunday April 21, 1991

This morning I tell Frank, my Catholic husband, that I want more than anything to go to church this morning with Chris, Ric and Justin. I mean, of course, the Methodist Church where we have gone for Christmas Eve Services. He, of course, agrees to go.

I weep alot during church. Each song and prayer seem to pertain to me at this time. It is wonderful being there with my loved ones. I love going to church. The sermon is about gossiping, which we don't do.

After church I feel so good, we call Paul and Judy--we want to drive to Palmdale to see them and baby Tayler. I feel like I have lots of wind in my sails today. I feel slim and beautiful.

Tayler is a beautiful baby and destined to red hair like her mom. I love holding her, a new life, only 3-1/2 days old!

Later at Deb and Phil's, Joey gives me a large card he had made for me. I love it! Sara gives me hugs.

We eat Mexican food out.

Mom's faith was very personal. I never saw her pray or read the Bible, and she only went to church on Christmas and Easter. How I wish we could have prayed together during this time.

Palmdale is on our way home to Northern California so we take separate cars and continue north after our visit with Frank's son Paul, his wife Judy and their new baby Tayler.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Pancakes for Breakfast

Saturday April 20, 1991

I wake Frank up with "I want pancakes for breakfast!" The nausea is finally gone. I'm alive! Still a little weak from the 17 pounds I've lost. I manage one pancake and a little scrambled egg. It actually tastes good! No more jello! Go slow--don't rush it!

By noon I feel good enough to go shopping with Chris for a card and gifts for Tayler Rae. We're gone an hour. I'm tired when we get home.

Gary, Maria, Junior and Joseph have arrived. They brought tri-tip roast and fresh strawberries and a birthday cake for Chris. Gift clothes they give Chris Don't fit so we go shopping again for 2 hours. Feels great to be out and about. I have no pain at all.

Gary and Maria and Chris and Ric are talking about when and where to get married and about babies they want. I have alot to look forward to.

We have a grand and glorious day! Friends from square dance bring me a plant from the club.

Mom and Frank were supposed to visit me in Sonoma County on my birthday April 9. Instead mom was checking herself into the hospital that day. 11 days later I was visiting her after her cancer diagnosis. That was sweet of my brother Gary and his wife Maria to bring a belated birthday cake. Gary and Maria did get married the following year in June 1992 and Ric and I got married a week later on June 15. Besides her beloved grandson Justin, mom did get one more grandchild before she died. Derek was 10 months old when she died, so he never got the chance to know her. His brother Ryan was born two years later and Gary and Maria's twin boys Austin and Robert were born in 1996.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Justin My Love

Friday April 19, 1991

Chris and Ric sleep in but Justin my love is up early watching TV. I give him a love then set out the milk and cereal he loves so much.

Soon Chris and Ric are up and I realize my nausea is half gone. I feel alot better but not yet hungry. I decided not to take the rest of the antibiotics. Maybe that's what's been making me sick.

We have a good day of visiting. Chris has brought me a plant from a lady in the office that I've talked to occasionally. How sweet! Chris has bought a card for me with such loving sentiment it makes me cry a little. Ric is sweet-running to the store. Justin loves me and is concerned.

Frank is home before we know it, busy fixing dinner. I can stand the smell tonight. We play some board games.

What a wonderful grandma she was for Justin, seen above in 1991 at 10 years old. From the time he was 5 years old I would drive him to the airport to fly down to see Grandma in Southern California for two weeks every summer. She would meet him at the airport and they would spend their time together playing games, visiting museums, going to the beach and he even built a bird house with Papa Frank. Three times each summer we would go camping with grandma at Lake Don Pedro near Modesto and camp on the shore, getting up early every morning to go water skiing while the water was glassy.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Tayler Rae is born

Thursday April 18, 1991

Today I feel awful again. The nausea has returned. I can't eat. I'm still losing weight.

Chris, Ric and Justin are coming tonight. They should be here about 8 p.m. Yesterday I told Chris how good I was feeling and looking forward to their visit but today is another story.

More cards, letters, phone calls, prayers and a lovely floral arrangement from our neighbors, the Mutals, who own a flower shop. I feel so surrounded by love and protected with prayers. I just know I'm going to win this battle with cancer. I must convince everyone else that this is so.

Chris and Ric have car trouble and arrive at midnight after we are in bed. Key is under the mat.

Paul called this morning. Tayler Rae was born at 9:30 last night. Judy and baby are fine. She's 6 lbs 12 oz and 19".

I am fortunate to have a work schedule at Pacific Gas and Electric where I have every other Friday off. This is my 3-day weekend, so we leave after work Thursday with my son Justin, mom's first grandchild, to make the 400 mile drive to Simi Valley. Frank's son Paul now has a baby girl, a petite red head like her mom Judy.

A New Baby on the Way

Wednesday April 17, 1991

I awake at 7 a.m. Can this be? I don't feel so nauseated. I have a little toast and juice. As the day progresses so do I. I wash a few clothes, pick up the house and clean the bathroom. My incisions feel alot better.

Frank comes home from his first day back at work and reminds me I have forgotten to take the antibiotic they gave me when I left the hospital. I take 2 before bedtime and one during the wee hours.

Judy is in Antelope Valley Hospital with Paul and Debby. Her water broke at noon in a garden nursery. She's still in (inducted) labor at 8:00 p.m. We go to bed wondering and worried. I can't sleep all night thinking of Judy, praying for us both.

In spite of her own battle with a deadly cancer, mom is up all night worrying about her daughter-in-law who is labor with her first child.

Monday, October 19, 2009

First Chemo

Tuesday April 16, 1991

We arrive for my first chemo therapy at 9 a.m. I am assigned a nurse that will stay with me for the entire hour or so. Frank can stay. There are lounge chairs but I'm even more nauseous today so ask for a bed. I feel better lying down.

Yesterday they took more blood to compare with other blood tests each month in the future. First into the IV in my hand goes a tranquilizer, then an anti-nausea medication, then the chemo drugs--Cisplatin and Cyclophosphamide. The hour goes fast. I think I slept some. Frank watches me and some TV above the bed. We go home.

I am drowsy in a chair at home the rest of the day. Still not interested in food but trying to eat something. 7 Up and sherbet still tastes best.

According to the National Cancer Institute website Cysplatin is approved to be used to treat advanced ovarian cancer in patients who have already had surgery. Mom was participating in a study to determine if ovarian cancer was best treated with chemotherapy before or after surgery to remove the tumors. Mom had several large tumors and the cancer had metastasized throughout her abdomen. Her part in the study was to have chemotherapy before surgery. The chemo had alot of work to do to catch up with the damage already done.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Frank is an Angel

Monday April 15, 1991

Frank has extended his one-week vacation. Today we went to see my Oncology Dr. Bix. She is young, thin, and blonde. She doesn't seem very warm. We get off to a bad start because she doesn't have my medical records and wants me to tell her everything. I am upset; she should know. Dr. Beinstock arrives with the records. He tells me what he found inside me. It is disturbing to hear.

Dr. Bix explains what will happen with chemo and we decide to start it tomorrow morning at 9 a.m. I'm very anxious to get started.

We won't be going square dancing tonight, again. I'm still nauseous.

The cards and letters are coming in the mail now and still more phone calls. Frank is an angel--for real. He's taking charge of everything and can't do enough for me.

Mom and Frank joined a square dancing club shortly after mom retired. She was blessed to be able to take an early retirement from her job as a purchasing agent for a medical supply company. Frank continued to work for the City of Los Angeles. They danced every week and made a new circle of friends. They even went on camping trips with the square dancing club and bought a new fifth wheel trailer. I am so thankful that Frank stood by her side every step of her journey with this disease. Not only did he extend his vacation but ended up retiring from a job he loved in order to take care of mom.

My parents divorced when I was 19 and mom met Frank 2 years later when she and I were taking dry land ski lessons. At our last session of lessons we went to a park where a small hill was covered with crushed ice to give us the sensation of skiing on snow. Frank was there with his class and he seemed like a friendly guy. I liked him right away. Mom and I were driving away from the park and I encouraged her to get Frank's phone number before we left. She rolled down her car window and they exchanged numbers. He lived in Newbury Park. We lived in Mission Hills, a distance of 35 miles. They started a long-distance relationship which lasted 8 years, spending weekends together while Frank raised his 3 children. Finally in 1982, with Frank's youngest daughter off to college in San Diego, they were married in their brand new home in Simi Valley.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Best Friend Donna

Sunday April 14, 1991

I'm up and around today but still nauseated and losing weight. I've lost 13 pounds in 2 weeks. I try to eat but can only manage a spoonful or two of toast, yogurt or jello still.

The phone rings alot. Everyone wants to know how I'm doing.

I received a beautiful floral arrangement from Paul and Judy on Friday. Yesterday the florist delivered one with lots of balloons and flowers from Phillip and Debby.

I've spoken with my best friend since Jr. High, Donna, a couple of times. I hated to tell her--this time I have cancer. She had breast cancer and a mastectomy 6 years ago. She is very upset for me, and Bob is too.

I have many relatives and friends to call. I want to share this with everyone who cares about me. I need all their prayers.

Paul and Phillip are mom's stepsons. Judy and Debby were their wives. Mom was the one who did most of the work to merge Frank's family and her family when they married in 1982. She kept in touch with all the kids and hosted all the family holiday get-togethers. I'm so happy that her friends and family, including her stepchildren, rallied around her and especially proud that she wanted to share her news with everyone who cared about her and ask for their prayers. She believed in the power of prayer.

Donna was like part of our family when I was growing up. Our families did everything together. We all prayed for Donna when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Donna and I both drove to Woodland Hills to be at mom's bedside in the hospital. Donna lived east of Sacramento in Pollock Pines. I lived in Windsor 70 miles north of the Golden Gate Bridge. Donna was the one person I wanted to call when mom passed away. I knew she would be devastated more than anyone outside the immediate family and I wanted to be the one to give her the sad news. Her husband Bob told us Donna said not one word the entire drive south for the funeral, a 7 hour drive.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Home Again

Saturday April 13, 1991

Awoke in my own bed today after 3 days and nights at Kaiser Hospital, Woodland Hills, where I had excellent care. I really like all four of my new doctors!

Paul, Gary, Frank's mom and aunt and uncle were there with Frank during my 90 minute exploratory surgery yesterday. Frank, Paul and Gary all hugged and cried when Dr. Beinstock came out to confirm the cancer is malignant. One tumor is orange size, one is tangerine size, and many the size of raisins scattered within my abdomen. I will have chemo first!

The first thing I remember, I am back in my room with Frank, Gary and Maria. The nurse is saying I must go home now. I am amazed. I can't even keep my eyes open. I feel my stomach. It is flat again. Praise the Lord the fluid is gone. Instead there are bandages, small incisions, 2 below my belly button. Gary and Maria followed us home. It's 11:30 p.m.

Frank is mom's second husband, Paul is his son. Gary is my younger brother and Maria is his wife. The situation sounds kind of like giving birth. You go in with a big belly, come home with a flat one, and they make you go home the next day. Even though mom was exhausted after her surgery and the ordeal in the hospital, she was committed to making an entry in her journal every single day. The set of 6 journals were a gift I had given her for Christmas the year before. I never suspected they would be used for this purpose.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

The Envelope Please

Friday April 12, 1991

I slept well after finally managing to drink that gallon of awful stuff which will cleanse my bowel in case they have to remove some of it today in surgery. They will do a laperostomy and a biopsy, then draw an envelope. Inside will be the decision to remove the cancer or wait six months and have chemotherapy first. I would much rather have chemo first.

Last night I talked to my mother, my daughter and my son and other family members who love me. They are all praying for me. That means so very very much to me.

God and I talked alot and I felt Jesus was right there with me. I am very much at peace with my cancer. I'm not worried or sad. I feel challenged to a fight and I'm going to do my best to win.

My stomach looks like I'm going to have a baby as I'm wheeled into surgery.

Mom told us right up front that her chances of surviving Stage III ovarian cancer were very small. She felt like being part of the study meant that her journey would mean something for future women receiving this diagnosis. I recently went to a seminar at Kaiser Permanente as well as consulting with my gynecologist. Unfortunately, screening for ovarian cancer has not improved since mom was diagnosed in 1991. She had abdominal pain for 2 years and every time she went to the doctor about her pain she was told it was probably indigestion and to try taking Maalox. Finally, her belly swelled so much she looked like she was 6 month's pregnant. She went to the emergency room and told the doctor there she was not leaving until they found out what was wrong with her.

I am so happy that mom felt Jesus was right there with her and she was at peace with her cancer. I remember the day I got that phone call and I was definitely NOT at peace. I cried for 3 days. I was already grieving for her.