Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow?

I woke up Monday feeling so much better! The port has healed up so it is irritating but no longer painful. Driving is even comfortable enough now! I’m taking Tai Chi and restorative yoga classes at the cancer center (free stuff is awesome!). Yesterday I did a workout at my gym. Body weight stuff only. Not impressive, but it did get my quads lit pretty good! I’m planning on workouts tomorrow then Tuesday of next week.

The big news this week is hair loss. It is starting to come out. My nurses tell me it will take a while, but I probably will not have any hair by the time of the next chemo. Cycle 2 of chemo is set for Wednesday, May 8. I will see my doc on Monday the 6th for labs and adjusting medications to deal with the side effects, which were as advertised, miserable.

This week seems  like a reprieve and I will be looking forward with great anticipation to this part of cycle 2.

Cancer Snapshot

A poem, of sorts


You will get mouth sores.

With mouth sores, drinking and eating are difficult.

Nausea, dehydration will land you in the hospital, where all the germs are kept.

Start today

8 ounces water

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking soda




4 times or more daily.



Jab 4/13/2019

*The prompt was “write about water.”

The day after chemo education

This Week in Cancer

The slate of events in honor of Chemo Kickoff Week are as follows:

Monday April 15 (tax day): Final pre-chemo workout at Power Strength Training. Just when my hamstrings were recovering from their removal from the couch, my doctors have advised that the next two weeks should not be spent pushing sleds around even though they deserve it.

Tuesday April 16: Port placement bright and early (7:30 AM, EDT). It’s a bummer but might save some abuse of my veins during chemo.

Wednesday 17: Chemo 1. We arrive at Lemmen-Holton Cancer Pavilion downtown Grand Rapids for a mid-morning appointment. Labs will be drawn, and the pharmacy will mix my particular cocktail of two chemo drugs. Before administering those drugs, I will have a course of steroids, Benadryl and anti-nausea meds. We expect this process to take four hours.

Thursday, April 18: Neulasta injection that you see advertised on TV. I will indeed be getting that same protocol administered not by arm as in the commercial, but by belly, which interferes with sleep and clothing less than the arm band placement you’ll see.

Thus ends chemo cycle one, except for the lab work the following week and the crash in white blood cells that make social contact and business as usual inadvisable due to infection risk. Should infection ensue, there will be dire consequences to chemo and my well being.  I haven’t found a way to make that funny yet. Maybe someday.

Breast Cancer, Part the Second

HR+, HER2- for those keeping score

In February, my regular post-cancer checkup began a cascade of new “chief complaints.” I am once again a cancer patient, and this time, chemo and radiation are both part of the treatment plan.

Last month I had a lumpectomy which is healing very nicely. It’s really been the easiest surgery I can ever remember having. Happily, the tumor was quite small this time, and all the margins and lymph are clear. However…

There are many appointments to come. Chemo itself will have at least two preliminary appointments (that I know of), then 4 treatments separated by 3 weeks, totaling a 3-month course. Radiation will commence two weeks after chemo is resolved. That will be 5 days a week for six weeks. After all that, they will readdress hormone interventions with Aromatase Inhibitors (maybe it will diminish my sense of smell? Jim is hopeful) and whatever else needs to happen in order to allow those drugs to be used.  It’s complicated but a problem for 5 months from now.

“How can I help?”

I’m glad you asked.

I would like to have many inputs of joy. Please share with me moments of joy in your daily life (even just one time). I would like emails, texts, responses on this blog, cards via snail mail, you name it.  Words or pictures, fun music links you’re enjoying. But let them be from you – not memes. Please remember I am unlikely to respond to some or most of these for what I hope are obvious reasons, but they will be appreciated.  I will try to put out updates periodically on this blog, as I am able and have something to say.

As for more practical/tangible help, we will have to see how things develop.  I have learned that different people react differently to these treatments, so whether I will need help with food or transportation or something else is unknown at this time.

“How can I pray?”

I’m glad you asked.

There are numerous side effects on tap for the remainder of my treatment plan, all of them unpleasant. Of most concern to me right now is neuropathy (nerve pain) in fingers. I am quite dependent on my hands to cope with stress and the world in general.

Fatigue/sleep. I am not sleeping well.

I am sad about my workout routine getting clobbered. It has helped a great deal with pain and stress. Surgery has already interrupted it and will interfere more.


This is a journey I did not want to repeat, let alone repeat with the added complications of chemo and radiation.  But, I am here and so I will soldier on.  Thanks for caring with me and for me.

Photo Op

At noon today,  I was living strong at the Y. Seven other cancer survivors and I get to work with personal trainers on circuit training machines designed for short folks (5 feet, 8 inches and under; I can get under). I have been wearing my breast cancer awareness t-shirt that says “Nope, not today” in really big, can’t miss it, letters. It is rare that I announce the cancer so boldly, and my enthusiasm for the message has certainly grown over the last year. Thank you to my dear friend who gave me my first cancer swag. My collection is growing.

Today’s gym encounter is going to prompt me to wearing my cred more.  A gentleman who had been on a piece of equipment prior to our group’s entry approached me and asked if another class member was a cancer survivor (rather an obvious guess, let’s be honest). He was trembling severely, and when I replied, “Yes, in fact we all are,” he began to weep. I said “you must have someone you love very much…” and he nodded and whispered that his mother is actively dying.  He asked if he could hug me (of course!) and apologized for being all sweaty. Have I ever hugged a sweaty male not related to me? And he asked if I would be willing to take a selfie with him.  Grateful to have worn makeup today, I smiled big for that photo!

Cancer stakes are high. I have seen scary and amazing things and people before, during and after cancer treatment. While I would still rather be shallow, it is a kindness from God to be able to share moments like these with others who suffer.

May we all look with great hope for that day when, reunited with our loved ones, we will have no need for strength, endurance, medicine, because the chesed (loving-kindness) of God the Father will be all those things for us.

The Best Kind of Waiting

A few years ago, a friend took her family of four to Disney as a surprise. How cool is that? I’d be all over it. Her older daughter, while grateful and happy, never wanted that surprise again. She told her mom that waiting for the trip, imagining all the things she was going to do and talking about it with her friends was part of the fun for her. The waiting even sparked memories of previous trips that made the prospect of returning to Disney richer and more vibrant. This young lady wanted to savor the whole experience, including the waiting.

My default position is like Inigo Montoya: “I hate waiting.” I take measures to distract myself anytime I know I’ll have to wait: yarn, reading, phone apps. But there are other types of waiting that make the reward even sweeter. Birthday presents, new albums from Mumford and Sons, planning a trip. Remember waiting for the final Harry Potter book? Savoring.

The best kind of waiting allows us to engage our longings, explore the wonders of the payoff, and settle into gratitude. Waiting is an affirmation. It says, “Yes, I want that. Yes, I’m willing to endure to get it.”

During Advent, we wait. We join with the great cloud of witnesses that waited on the Lord for the rescue of His people, of His world.

Gram’s Quilt and artist statement


Gram's Quilt, 2006

Gram’s Quilt, 2006

*The artist statement was written at the time I presented her with the quilt.  Evelyn celebrated her 100th birthday this past spring and welcomed her newest great grandaughter who was named after her the same month.  (JAB 10/24/2015)

When my grandmother, Evelyn Pike, asked for a quilt to use that would make the bed in her study look less like a bed and more like a study, the pattern “Snail’s Trail” immediately suggested inteself.  This pattern illustrates Gram’s life.  It depends on intertwining of contrast, etics and emics, in color. We remember Gramps because Gram is most fully understood in the embrace of the man whose life and work she shared.

The blues in Snail’s Trail echo the heavans who declare that God is glorious; his care for us and his majesty are expressed by Psalm 19:1-4 in four different languages significant in Gram’s life – French, Spanish, English and Mixtec.

The main body of the quilt has more than 50 fabrics and is constructed with 48 blocks, each containing 20 individually sewn patches (960 total).

The backing, not pictured here, uses Guatemalan textile motifs, significant to my life with Gram, as she introduced me to the world beyond Michigan as a young teenager in Guatemala in 1985.

It was said of Gram’s father, “Papo,” that he was a man of God who shone like the stars of the universe.  In his honor, and because her daughter carries his love of God’s people, her pillow top coordinate is quilted in stars using metallic blue thread.

It has been my joy working this quilt for Gram.  With each step in the process I experience her grace, remember her courage, celebrate her life, pray for her continued blessing from the Lord.

What Don Henley and Hockeytown Taught Me about the Pentateuch

What Hockeytown and Don Henley Taught Me about the Pentateuch

Joe Lewis Arena, Hockeytown.  Toward the close of each home game, the Detroit Red Wings are serenaded with 20 thousand enthusiastic voices acknowledging one common ancestry: “Born and raised in South Detroit.”  The PA cuts out after the preposition, leaving the masses to yell out the mythic location.  But there in the Joe, suburbanites, businessmen, union linemen all belong, participants the history and identity of the Red Wings.

Don Henley often changed lyrics (as do most bands on tour) to draw in the fans of a given town.  Instead of a “dark desert highway,” the cool wind comes from an “Arizona highway.” Every time he did this, he made a connection with delighted spectators anxious for acknowledgement (“Good night, Scottsdale!”).

And so I come to the Pentateuch.  Specifically to Numbers, more specifically to a snoozer of a passage about tribal contributions to the temple complete with weights and measures, genealogies, and repetition.  Not repetition of a key phrase, not repetition two or three times, but many verses’ worth of gifts presented in identical kind and quantity; all of it detailed twelve if-God-loves-me-why-is-he-making-me-read-this times.  Far from relevance to my life or insightful action-points to live out, this must be a joke of the Ancients.

Or, it could be exactly the same phenomenon as Don Henley’s followers and Hockeytown patrons.  They all want a piece of the action.  As the scene was described to the next generation, each child would anticipate the moment when her tribe (her uncle or grandfather) would be mentioned in the great parade to honor God at His temple.  To leave one out would wound and belittle that tribe.  Instead, each tribe got its special day to identify with “I AM.”  God knew how to build identity in a people, how to make each member feel a deep sense of belonging and mission.  This God knows my home town, knows my people, knows my name.

The Good News of Cain and Abel

King Minos was required by the Greek god Poseidon to sacrifice a particularly lovely bull.  Minos had other ideas.  He liked the bull, and swapped out the sacrifice.  All of Crete then suffered the wrath of Poseidon (Edith Hamilton Mythology: Timeless Tales of Gods and Heroes).

As my daughter reviewed the story for her history class, I found myself comparing it to the story of Cain and Abel.  The God we find in the Hebrew Scriptures (Genesis 4) also takes a dim view of having the wrong sacrifice presented.  The stories diverge greatly after that point.

What do we learn about each deity in these stories?  In both stories the human is to present to the deity that which the deity requires, without regard to their own preferences.  Both men are sloppy in withholding sacrifice and both men approach their deity cavalierly.

The Greek god not only takes revenge on Minos but escalates to abusing Minos’ people.  In contrast, early on in the Hebrew story, God proceeds by reminding Cain to get it right and to check his attitude, with no further condemnation or punishment.  Cain’s response to his God’s correction is to murder an innocent.  Even there, God does not torture Cain, but works with him to offer protection.  Cain is forced out of community, but revenge is not exacted, and the story resolves with Cain bearing the consequence of his own malice.

Even immediately after the fall, we see God working with people instead of against them.  Although God does not exonerate Cain, we see that the loving, relational Hebrew God is quite different from the temperamental, capricious Greek god.

That news is as good today as it would have been in Euripides’ day, as it was in the beginning.