The last month has been hectic. One month ago I had a scan as part of the monitoring of my cancer. One week later I learned that the cancer was growing in my liver and I needed to go back to treatment. Since then, I have focused on my effort, yet again, to decide on the course of treatment and to understand my options. I have spoken with my doctor, Dr. P, and his team, with Sloan Kettering, and have gone to Houston and met with MD Anderson, so that I could make a decision about the next stage of treatment. In the meantime, the post I had planned to write about my trips to South Beach and Phoenix went unwritten. Now that I have a break from the planning, traveling, researching, and discussions regarding my options for treatment, and before I start the new chemo, it is time to write the blog I planned to write last month. It is time to focus on things other than cancer treatment.
The long weekend to South Beach was originally supposed to happen end of January and beginning of February, during Super Bowl weekend. Instead, I spent that time in the hospital and the trip was postponed. Because Alan, Joel, Alan G. and their sons, planned to ski the first weekend of March, we decided that was the weekend we should now go to South Beach. This was the first trip to that area for Mary, and Sara had not been there in some time. Jackie and I were going for the fourth year in a row. South Beach did not disappoint. The weather was great – mostly in the low 80’s during the day and 60’s or low 70’s at night. We had rain one night coming home from dinner, and it was overcast for a couple of days, but the rain did not last long. Unfortunately it was just long enough to make my wig look like a dead rat, to ruin Mary’s blow-out she had earlier in the day, and to soak the clothes we were wearing as we walked back from the restaurant. It was good I had an appointment with my wig place the following week – the wig needed the cleaning and curling.
Mary loved South Beach. Sara and Mary and I really connected and I suspect they would love to go back next year. We had wonderful meals, hung out on the beach a couple of afternoons, walked, I did yoga at Kino’s studio, and we visited Wynwood, which is a warehouse area of Miami full of street art. It goes on for miles. We loved the small part we saw, including the juice and raw food bar with delicious juices and raw bars. Mary loved the people watching and found a favorite place for coffee. She and Sara enjoyed sharing a room and Sara, of course, loved being on the beach. Jackie and I did our routine – I went to yoga, she went for a walk/run and we met for coffee. The last day we walked miles to the Fountainbleu to show it Mary. I plan on going next year, not just with this group, but on another long weekend to visit with Judy. She plans to once again rent an apartment in Miami for the month of February and perhaps part of March next year. I plan to visit her during one of the weeks she is there. My plan is to go away each month for a few days to get away from the winter weather.
When we returned from our trip to South Beach and Utah, Alan and I had two days at home and then flew to Phoenix for our firm’s member meeting and then a few days for ourselves at another resort to do yoga and hike. The dogs were not happy we were leaving so soon and were very stressed as we repacked our suitcases. I almost cancelled going once I heard that my cancer had grown and that I had to now decide the next course of treatment. I am glad I did not cancel. The member’s meetings were better than usual. My practice group meeting went well (for the second year in a row I had the meeting in a bar in the hotel rather than a conference room). I was happy to see many people from other offices that I usually do not get to see. So many members came up to me to talk with me, to tell me how much they think about me, that they read my blog, are praying for me, or otherwise have me in their thoughts. It was so lovely, and this came at the time I was feeling vulnerable after just getting the news I had to go back to treatment. On Friday, when we have assigned dinners at different restaurants, I had the luck of being assigned to an excellent restaurant, Tarbell’s, and with a good group of people. At the resort, we had a room across from the private pool for our building (Sedona), and close to all of the firm events. I also was able to visit with Dottie, in marketing, whom I miss being in my office, and with the other marketing folks I know and like.
On Sunday, Alan and I moved to the Westin Kierland for our time alone together. It was in Scottsdale, across from the Kierland Commons and Scottish Quarter – two outdoor shopping areas filled with good restaurants. The concierge was great. She made reservations for us at a number of restaurants, including Sumo Maya, Zinc, Virtu, and North. She also hikes, and recommended three hikes for us, telling us to stay away from Camelback because it is so crowded. We hiked Pinnacle Peak and the Gateway Loop in the McDowell Sonora Preserve. The hikes were beautiful – the cactus is blooming, and the Seguaro cactus, which only grow in the Sonora desert in Arizona and Mexico, were amazing. On our first hike, we passed one that had very long arms, but they were wavy rather than going up in what I will call cactus arms. We took a photo I posted on Facebook because it was such a striking picture. We also did a tour one day at Taliesen West, Frank Lloyd’s Wright’s western enclave. That was worth seeing. The tour was timely given that I had just read “The Women” which is a novel centered on the women in Frank Lloyd’s Wright’s life, his wives and mistresses. The facts of his life were fresh in my head when we toured Taliesen West. Alan and I also did yoga every morning at the hotel. Except for the first day, all of the teachers were yoga teachers rather than trainers who had learned some yoga. The level was based on who came to class. If there were people brand new to yoga, such as on our first day, the instructor went slow. If everyone knew yoga and practiced it, the level was harder. One day, at class was me and another ashtangi practitioner. Our teacher was an Anusara teacher and she really moved us along knowing that we both were experienced practitioners. I was pleasantly surprised at the quality of the teaching.
During the trip, Alan and I both noted that while the desert is beautiful and that perhaps we will spend a few days in Arizona next winter, the hiking is not as spectacular as in places like Utah. The landscape in Arizona is pretty much the same – desert and desert plants, sand and rock. In a place like Utah, the scenery is much more diverse. On any one hike, you can hike in a rocky area, in a meadow with wildflowers, by a mountain stream and in woods. We were lucky to be in Arizona when the cactus was blooming because the flowers were stunning. In fact, I was so interested in the plants, I bought a book on desert plants to remember their names. So I know we saw ocotillo, hedgehog cactus, Christmas cactus, teddy bear cholla, strawberry cactus, desert lavender, bladder sage, desert poppies (they are yellow), trixis, desert tobacco, desert ragweed, and ratany (which was the most prevalent plant at Pinnacle Park), among other desert plants. The presence of ragweed surprised me. The plants and their blooms actually made the cold I had worse by blocking me up. The hikes were hot, because even in the morning it was high 80’s. I cannot imagine trying to hike in the summer when the temperature is over 100 degrees.
We have no trips planned right now but will be going to Utah this summer, maybe twice. If I do the chemo I think I will do, it is an every three week infusion for one day. That would mean two weeks off, which is more time off than my original chemo of every other week. I do not know what the effects will be, how much it will wipe me out, or how fast I will rebound, but my plan is to rebound fast and to continue to enjoy life. Rather than having my life ruled by cancer and its treatment, the treatment will be a pause in the enjoyment, not the center of my life.