Sunday, March 11, 2012

stories of kindness and generosity

mom with kids.  seven out of eight chemo sessions done.
I had never intended to write a blog about cancer or about getting through cancer treatment, but that's the major thing affecting our lives right now, and what consumes the majority of my energy and Gita's.   I think we reached peak personal energy a week or two ago, about the time I wrote my last post.

We've rebounded a bit in the last two weeks, and situations that seemed pretty dire now are not so much so, due to the help of family, friends and some complete strangers.

If you read last weeks' comments, you know that a Canadian reader of this blog, Ruben, contacted his friend Tom in Portland, who happened to be visiting the UK, but who also happens to have spent time in St. Paul, and who has numerous friends still in our city.  He arranged for at least one person, Rebecca, to drop off food for us.  And what delicious food!  A fresh green salad with homemade dressing, polenta lasagna and fresh rolls.  It was fantastic.  My intent with the post was never to make readers feel as if they had to bring us food.     But I'm not complaining.

And I was touched that someone would do something so kind for someone they didn't know.    We've had a few other experiences like that over the last two weeks that have put the wind back in our sails.

Most hopeful is the fact that this round of Taxol isn't hitting Gita as hard as the previous one.  The last left her completely bedridden the day after, and aching and miserable for a few more.  In retrospect it was probably the remainder of the flu that the kids and I brought back from a relative's birthday party.

She's not as perky as her normal self today, but at least she's able to function somewhat normally.  She's taking a hot bath in the other room now, and I'm playing some relaxing meditation music on the computer, loud enough for her to hear.   The kids went to bed without any trouble, and we have a quiet hour or so to ourselves before bed.

It's a small thing, but an important one.

This weekend, we had several visitors- friends and family, all of whom brought tasty food and some who watched the kids.  My parents came for a day, an old friend of Gita's dropped in,  as well as one of her co-workers, and a co-worker of mine with his wife and kids.

Gita's co-worker Maryann was particularly inspiring.  Her husband was diagnosed with lung cancer in the early 1980's, had treatment which wasn't very effective, then was given six months to live by his doctor.

According to her, after they left the doctor's office, he looked at her and asked 'well, what's plan B?

They looked into all the alternative therapies that we've also looked into, and decided to go macrobiotic.  They ate solely a macrobiotic diet for four years, and changed their lifestyles- to the point of opening an organic bakery in St. Paul.

Her husband is still alive, 30 years later.

It's one of those stories, if I had heard it on late-night TV, I wouldn't have believed.  But she was very real, and looked us in the eye as she talked.  And she looked about 20 years younger than she was.  An amazing woman.  Not trying to sell us on a diet plan or a boxed set of audiotapes either.  She just wanted to tell us about her experience and offer to teach Gita about macrobiotic cooking, if she wanted to learn.

My parents, who were just going to watch the kids on Friday while a friend drove Gita to Mayo, ended up making dinner for us- it felt like Thanksgiving with all that they had made. Not macrobiotic, but absolutely delicious.  And we were thankful for their making us and our kids so happy for a day.

And the renter who I was concerned about stiffing us on rent for this month and last is paid through the end of March, without my having to resort to anything heavy-handed at all.

The branch that fell on our roof didn't cause any damage either.  I went up on the roof (our 32' foot ladder paid for itself that day) over Gita's objections, and found a lot of marks on the shingles, but no visible damage to the structure.  I'll wait to pass final judgment until we have our first good spring rainstorm, but so far, it looks OK.  With a bow saw, and some elbow grease, I was able to cut the thing up while on the roof and toss the pieces down.

So we have a nice pile of wood now, enough to last us for our bonfire and grilling needs for at least one summer, maybe two.   My dad stacked it all in the yard the day they watched the kids, telling my son that bunnies were going to come and live in it.  He's been watching for bunnies since then- going so far as to stop me from burning too much of the wood. "That's for bunnies, daddy", he told me.

when life gives you lemons you can make some darn good lemonade

I am grateful for all of these things.  Last week we had a lot of lemons, now it feels more like lemonade.

The weather is changing too.  We spent a lot of time outside this weekend, burning some of the wood, splashing in puddles.  I was able to get some good work done at the rental place, taking some of that load off of my mind.

Spring is here, inside and outside.  With the change to daylight saving time, I'm hoping I can get out in the yard after work to cut down last year's kale and rake the leaves off of the strawberry patch to let the sun warm it up.  Maybe I'll rake the leaves off that are insulating the roots of the sweet cherry and the magnolia.  With luck, I may even be able to set the banana plants out for a day or two, to get used to the outdoors.

Happy spring.  Enjoy the beautiful week on the way.  I will.


  1. It is really good to feel the kindness of the people these days. You are blessed and your family will be healthy and happy.

  2. Excellent to read your "lemonade" news. And trying to picture 'Grandpa Z' saying the woodpile is for the rabbits. :-)

  3. I'm glad things are looking up in all areas of your life.

  4. Hi Jeff. Didn't expect to find cancer on your blog. I hope your wife gets well soon. I watched a documentary called The Gerson Miracle on cancer on Netflix. I would recommend watching all alternative healing documentaries on Netflix based on cancer. Its a different way of looking at things; I was shocked about a lot of things that I discovered. Apparently our diet dictates our health and the right type of food can work wonders. I think documentaries on food deal with similar problems. I am not in a position to guarantee anything because I don't have the expertise or any experience.I simply wish your family well. Hope you find what works best for her.

  5. Hello, Jeff and family. I wandered over from the Kunstler site and was admiring pictures of your garden when I saw the news about a family member's ca. I'm sorry to hear of this. I was recently diagnosed myself, had surgery and a postop infection and going to get my chemo port installed next week. My primary doctor, who I respect a lot, was mentioning that she knows people who have done well on macrobiotic diets. My best wishes for good health to you all. Pat/47ronin

  6. Hi Anonymous and Pat,

    I will look into the Gerson Miracle- thanks for the tip. We are both very motivated to make changes to our diet right now, so suggestions are appreciated. Macrobiotics is what we're looking into right now- I'm really not sure where we're going to land.

    The funny thing is- our diet is already pretty healthy by American standards. I don't know that diet was the factor that caused my wife's cancer, but we figure it can't hurt- and if it prevents cancer in me or our kids, it's well worth it.

    Pat- I'm sorry to hear about the post-op infection. My wife had a double mastectomy on Tuesday (and we're headed back today for the post-op consultation). I now realize how scary something like that can be. Gita has avoided it so far. I'll blog about the surgery in a day or two. The last two weeks have been too hectic for much of anything beyond day to day survival. I wish you the best of luck and hope for a quick and full recovery. I also hope chemo goes well and does its job. It's no picnic, but well worth it if it kills the cancer.

    1. Jeff Z and family: thanks for the kind wishes. The thing I hated the most about the bilateral was the Jackson Pratt drainage tubes - make it impossible to sleep on your side. I also didn't eat or drink enough water post op and got severely dehydrated, so I'll know to avoid that with the reconstruction surgery. This wasn't our first experience with the joys of chemo: #2 son was diagnosed with leukemia at age 8 and did 2.5 years of hard time. We were worried about needing a BMT, since he's a Japanese/Irish hybrid and I didn't know if we could find a match.Luckily, he got through it on standard chemo, and is now a snarky 16-year-old and officially home free. If I find any good macrobiotic sites, I'll forward them. Pat