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Cancer Made Me a Shallower Person
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Below are the 20 most recent journal entries recorded in Miriam Engelberg's LiveJournal:

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Tuesday, August 22nd, 2006
9:35 am
Blog in the morning
Hi Everyone,

I've hardly been on the computer, though my sister says there are wonderful blog comments and she's going to print them out for me soon.

Thought I'd try to get a little done today right away before I get too tired. I made it to the movie clip party on Saturday night, amazingly, one of my goals. My next goal is to see Project Runway this Wednesday. I did get one over the bed table delivered and another is due today. Hope to watercolor from bed.

My Mom sent two fun travel books (essays about travel disasters). My eyesight is weird right now so I may have her read to me when she gets here at the end of August.

My current project -- print out some cartoons for watercoloring for an October show. I don't know... the time eats into my TV Court show times...
Friday, August 18th, 2006
10:48 pm
After Pleasanton Reading
I'm blogging while I have the energy. Thank you everyone who came! And to the great bookstore (Towne Center Books) and Judy Wheeler. Pleasanton is FAR from SF--it especially meant a lot to me that people traveled so far. They sold out because people bought multiple books -- hooray.

I don't think I could have done it without HarperCollins supplying the car service. I felt OK during the talk, glad I went despite my decrepit state, but feel quite out of it now that we are home. Glad to be back in bed. (In considering hospices if I eventually have to leave home, the TV situation is a big consideration. For now I'm glad it's home hospice.)
Thursday, August 17th, 2006
5:53 pm
Bad News
Thanks for the kind emails wondering about my lack of blogging. Yes, it's bad news. While my other scans were stable, my brain MRI was not. I'm going into a home hospice program. I'm taking steroids to make me feel better, but so far no luck. Meanwhile I'm going to try to put up a new comic of the week but it may be in black and white this time (or Photoshop color). I'm also arranging for my web designer to take over the comics of the week, so I hope they'll be going up for awhile. I did manage a new cartoon today, and am planning to do a reading in Pleasanton tomorrow for a benefit:

Towne Center Books
555 Main Street
Pleasanton, CA

Watched John Carpenter's 1982 version of The Thing yesterday, and now I'm watching the commentary. Thanks, Matt! (The problem is -- no movie is as scary as cancer.)
Wednesday, August 9th, 2006
9:10 pm
Chemo and Suspiria
Had chemo today for the first time in over a month (due to our trip and then waiting for scan results). If my lack of balance is due to brain mets, they'll do another MRI and put me on steroids. Meanwhile, I'm planning to try over the counter decongestants, but haven't decided which ones to buy. I think I'm afraid to try, because I don't think it will work.

Watched part of Suspiria (an Italian horror movie by Dario Argento in the 1970s) this morning, and finished it tonight. I'm completely confused about the plot. It was semi-scary, but I'm sure was scarier in its day. The colors and look of it are great, as is the musical score. But now I have to look it up on the web to see if I catch what the plot was.

Here's another horror movie factoid. I saw Ju'on (The Grudge -- original Japanese version) a ways back. I didn't like it that much, because of lack of plot, but it did have these creepy scenes with an odd crackling noise I hadn't heard before. But the past few days I watched a British movied, The Descent, that had the same noise, and then Monster House (with my son) and it had the same noise! After awhile it doesn't sound scary anymore.
Monday, August 7th, 2006
7:17 pm
The Descent
Yesterday I went with Matt and Elise to see a horror movie: The Descent. I didn't find it that scary, but I was intrigued by the ending which didn't make sense. I looked it up, and sure enough, the American ending had been changed (it's a British movie). I watched the original ending on Youtube.com. Much creepier!! Then I did actually feel weirded out last night and had dreams of being admitted to the UCSF hospital and that they had a really cruddy old Jacuzzi for patients. Hmm. Don't know what to make of that. "Old Jacuzzi" has never been one of my fears as far as I know.

Jim planted a tomato plant in front awhile back. It got so big it crowded out the other flowers in our box, so he moved it to another container. The plant doesn't look healthy, but it has produced 2 (count 'em) tomatoes. Here -- in the foggy sunset!! They are still green. We'll see if they actually ripen.

Aaron wanted to put up a tent today in our living room, so Jim did it for him. He's now watching TV around the side of the tent, since it takes up most of the living room. I might add that this is probably an improvement to our usual look.
Saturday, August 5th, 2006
9:41 am
The Surf Doctor
Yesterday Gayle met me for coffee and then got me to take some action in areas we'd talked about before. I made an accupuncture appoinment with Beverly Burns and read over information about this guy known as The Surf Doctor (but he is a real doctor--honest). He lives by the ocean in my neighborhood and will investigate cases to see if any angle is being ignored. I might go for it. I feel like I'm getting excellent health care, but this guy would be like a personal consultant to do research for me.

Our property manager said "no" to a cat, but for good reasons (they had a bad experience a few years ago with a tenant's cat). First Aaron and I felt quite depressed, but we've adjusted. We might get a rodent instead, like a rat. Our property manager had a stroke so the cancer card didn't get me anywhere -- duelling illnesses!
Thursday, August 3rd, 2006
7:03 pm
Scans good!
Got a phone message from my oncologist tonight that the scans came out fine: no new stuff on the CT scan and stable bone scan. Hooray! I'm still dizzy, but will now make an effort to deal with my sinus problems, which may be the problem.

My MP3 player froze as I was shutting it down and still hasn't shut off. I'll try plugging it into the computer and see if I can get something to happen through the organizer (doubtful). Ah -- technological issues. It all seems so minor. I am really into Jason Mraz at the moment, though. If if won't play through the player I'll have to actually play the CD. Very old fashioned.
Wednesday, August 2nd, 2006
5:12 pm
Don't listen to Nick Drake after a Bone Scan
You already know I'm having a gloomy day. Anyway, I did my bone scan while Jim took Aaron out and about in our old neighborhood. It started right on time and ended early, so I waited in the Nuclear Medicine waiting room quite some time for Jim and Aaron to reappear. Because I had my MP3 player with me for the scan, I kept listening to it in the waiting room. I had it on shuffle, so it randomly picked whatever I've put on it. Bad idea! I'm a huge Nick Drake fan but sitting there listening at close range on a bad day -- damn he's melancholy! I knew that, but just sort of ignored his lyrics when I used to listen at work. Than Aimee Mann came on singing about giving it up (she was probably talking about a relationship) and Springsteen came on with songs about 9/11. Finally I switched it to playing Jason Mraz who was mostly upbeat.

I've been trying to wean myself off of the Ativan I take every night, but I think I'm headed back on. I'm too stressed out right now to face reality with no drugs.

The one selfishly cheering thought I had about Nick Drake is that I've already lived a lot longer than he did (aren't I awful?). In any case, if you happen not to know his music, ignore my blog and take a listen. He's one of my favorite singer/songwriters of all time when I'm not so melancholy myself.
1:47 pm
I hate medicine!
Well, I suppose I owe the medical profession something, so I should watch what I say. I'm in a bad mood today -- had CT Scan this morning (no emergency call-back to go to the hospital, so that's a good sign) and bone scan this afternoon. My oncologist is trying to see how things are to decide on new chemo. The scans themselves are OK, but I just feel very discouraged. I've been very dizzy for weeks now and assume the worst, though it's possible that it's sinus (I do have allergies right now). Is it ever not cancer? I've become a big, old pessimist. Second opinions? Clinical trials? Don't know if I have the energy for it.

I had the thought today that I need a body double (like they have in the movies) to go through the tests for me. Or maybe to live my life in general.

On a ridiculous note, saw "South Park" the movie yesterday. (The one from 1999 -- "bigger, longer, uncut") Very profane. Very funny.
Sunday, July 30th, 2006
12:14 pm
Bad movie, Good movie
I can't remember when I blogged yesterday, so I may have already mentioned how "Strangers with Candy" was a disappointment. Jim and I are fans of the show, but it just didn't work as a full-length movie. So last night, because we still craved a real movie, we watched "The World's Fastest Indian" on DVD. Friends had mentioned it was good, or I wouldn't have watched it at all. The Indian referred to is an Indian motorcycle. I have no interest in motorcycles, but I loved the movie. It's really a character study of Burt Monroe, the New Zealand man who was determined to make his motorcyle beat land speed records in the 1960s. I found it inspiring without being sappy.

This afternoon we're all headed to my friend Judy's house. We hope at least one of her cats won't hide from us! Then maybe we'll take a walk in Golden Gate Park. Earlier today it was sunny, but that may be fading now.
Saturday, July 29th, 2006
4:30 pm
Strangers with Candy
Aaron had a playdate this afternoon, so Jim and I went on a date to see the movie Strangers with Candy (based on the Amy Sedaris's and Stephen Colbert's TV show). The beginning was quite funny, but after that it's totally forgettable. I don't have any real criticisms, just that it didn't hold my attention. There aren't a lot of movie choices right now. We could have gone to Clerks II, which is getting good reviews, but only partially interests me.

I'm headed back to finish a cartoon now, but other than that feel pretty blah about the day. Somehow on vacation I can do virtually nothing, yet feel good, whereas here at home I get the weekend blahs. Also, I'm putting off tasks that I don't want to do (like look at financial statements, that are still sealed in their envelopes). So why don't I just do them? I certainly have the time! One of life's mysteries....
Thursday, July 27th, 2006
10:19 am
Kindness in Andronicos
Yesterday I dragged Aaron away from the TV screen to go shopping at our local (and exorbitantly priced) grocery store. When we got to the produce section, I couldn't reach any of the bags, which were rolled up completely and too high for me to reach. I jumped up to try to push the roll around, hoping a sheet would detach itself -- but no. A kindly elderly man came over and said, "My wife just tried to do the same thing. Let me get that for you." He grabbed a bag for me, and later came over and did the same thing as I tried to get one for some peaches. Then Aaron and I happened to run into my friend Judy, whose cheery demeanor always makes me feel good.

Watched another Stephen King TV adaptation (about an author followed around by a creepy painting), then switched to Project Runway. I've never been a King reader, but these stories are great--so much better than the usual horror fare. I see why he's so famous. I hardly ever have conflict between shows, but now I do (I always miss the second story). Jim thinks it's time for me to get TIVO. I'm going to do a cartoon about devoted TV watching, and what it takes.
Tuesday, July 25th, 2006
6:55 pm
Finally at home
We were due back in late Sunday night, but ended up spending basically two days in various airports thanks to America West/US Airways. I'm doing a cartoon about it, so I won't go into details here or I won't feel like doing the cartoon. We had a great time in Maine, so it was worth it, but we got back pretty fried late last night. Aaron did great with the airport thing, though if you ask him now, he'll say, "It was a total nightmare!" One thing Aaron and I found entertaining was on the first cancelled flight (ah yes, there were more...). We were still naively waiting in the gate area when the America West guy announces over the loudspeaker: "After the mechanic finishes resetting...[pause]...whatever it is he's resetting, we'll start boarding." A real confidence builder.

I haven't tackled email yet. Had to start the day with a blood test very early in the morning (the one I'd usually get the day before) and then an oncology appointment. As I went into Kaiser I mourned the end of my cancer vacation and vacation in general. Next week-- a bone scan and CT scan. My doctor thinks he's going to change chemos. But I plan to be in denial about the scans for the moment, and the good part is that I only did a bone infusion today -- no Taxol. So I get another week off of chemo. Hooray!

Yesterday we came home from the airport by taxi and got a totally loony driver -- very friendly, but started in on local politics and ending up ranting away and making virtually no sense. Then he said my voice reminded him of someone he knows: "Angela -- you know, Amy's Mom." He said it like of course I would know Amy's Mom, whoever Amy is.
Sunday, July 23rd, 2006
12:26 pm
Leaving today
I hate the last day before having to leave!! We've had a great time here. Yesterday stayed in Houlton and swam in Drew's Lake.

You'd think packing to go home would be a cinch, but it's stressing me out. I'm trying to use these compression bags that you can supposedly flatten into one thin layer to make space in our suitcases, but I don't think I have the hang of it.

At least I got good news about a friend with metastatic Uterine cancer. Things looked grim, but her new chemo is working great and quickly.

I was just asked to speak at a Breast Cancer Benefit in Cincinnati, but it's a year from now (they have a speaker for this year). I'd love to do it, but will I be able to? We'll see if they're willing to take a chance on my health. I understand if they don't.

I did a few cartoons here and will bring them on the plane where I will probably ignore them in favor of trash magazines and staring blankly off into space.
Thursday, July 20th, 2006
5:31 pm
What's there to say?
Napping, hanging out, reading, doing cartoons... Tomorrow we had to Houlton to visit our friends at the lake. I hope the weather stays good. Some big storm is due.

Am enjoying Project Runway, as usual, and have been watching one of the Stephen King stories that precede it each time, too. I figure I'll catch up on the second stories later on in rerun. The two I've seen were so clever and satisfying!
Monday, July 17th, 2006
6:57 pm
Quick Update about Canada
Jim and Aaron are waiting for me to finish my computer work so we can go back to the house where we're staying. We had a great time at the Bay of Fundy in Canada. I even got to watch some Canadian TV, some of which includes pretty R-rated stuff. But my favorite thing was watching "Family Guy" dubbed into French. I wanted to see "The Simpson's" in French, too, but the times didn't work for us. (That damn nature stuff interfered with my TV watching!) More another time....
Thursday, July 13th, 2006
2:01 pm
Going to Canada
Tomorrow we are going to Canada for a few days (to some incredible Bay with very high and very low tides). So I won't be blogging or checking email until next week.

Watched a great Stephen King story on TV last night. William Hurt plays a hit man who kills a toy company owner. When he gets home someone has shipped him a bunch of toy soldiers (complete with jeeps, missiles and helicopters), who then proceed to wage a war on him in his penthouse apartment. There's not a word of dialogue spoken through the whole thing, and it's very clever. (I loved the tiny ammunition coming out of the tiny soldier's guns.)

Today picked raspberries and had home-made strawberry-rhubard ice cream at the raspberry place. The woman who owned it recognized me from my little TV appearance on the local news. That's always fun for me, especially here in Presque Isle.

I'm still stuck on my latest cartoon, but determined to finish it today, even if I'm not thrilled with it...

More next week.
Wednesday, July 12th, 2006
10:47 am
Still can't get email
I don't understand it, but the first day we were here I was able to get email over the web, and now it seems I cannot. Don't know what I'm doing wrong... I'll keep trying but if you don't hear from me, that's why.

I'm completely stuck on a cartoon about me being bored with my cartoons... Interesting, huh?

It was fun being on the local news yesterday: WAGM Channel 8.

I'm definitely feeling better here -- maybe as chemo wears off, or just from relaxation.

I'm using Jim's niece's computer. She's a pharmaceutical rep, so the house is filled with prescription drug names; the paper clips are in a Bextra paper clip holder, the tissues are in a LYRICA tissue box, etc. I get a kick out of it.

We had major thunderstorms last night, but so far today is hot and sunny -- perhaps another good swimming day.
Tuesday, July 11th, 2006
5:09 pm
Interview on local TV station
This morning Brian and Mike came from the local station and taped a short segment that is supposed to be aired tonight. This was arranged by Jennifer, Jim's niece, who called the station. I find it fun to be interviewed here in Maine.

This afternoon Jim, Aaron and I went to the Presque Isle pool, which is free. (That's not why we went, but I found it interesting.) It was a fun pool for Aaron -- gets deep very gradually -- and it wasn't that crowded despite the hot day.

I am very much enjoying being on vacation here, partly because of the relaxation and beautiful environment, partly because Aaron is having such a good time. (We just saw the baby house wrens in their nest; saw them last time we were here, too -- that is, a previous set of babies from a couple of years ago.)

I was able to get email yesterday, but today I'm on a different computer and haven't yet succeeded. So if you emailed me, please be patient.
Monday, July 10th, 2006
11:39 am
Hello from Maine
Yesterday we got up at 4:30 am to catch a 7:00 am flight. Because we were routed through Charlotte, NC, it took all day to reach Presque Isle last night around 9:00 pm Maine time. I think from getting up so early I got into quite a tired and depressed mood on the plane rather than just enjoying the time to do Sudoku and draw. Got all melancholy about the last time we traveled to Maine, when I didn't know I'd have a recurrence. That nostalgic frame of mind is always a a bad idea. I remember being melancholy and nostalgic when I was 14 about being 13. Added to my nostalgia this time was a memory of when airlines served meals and brought you pillows and blankets. In the middle of the trip I just wanted to be back home watching "Buffy." I'm working on a cartoon about being bored with myself and my cartoons, and that just added to my gloom.

But this morning I woke up feeling better, and happy to be back here with in-laws and warm weather. I got up and drank tea and read a book (!) on Margaret Ann's back porch, just like our last visit. Aaron is playing with his cousins and I'm at their house using this computer. They have a cute Boston Terrier and two snuggly cats here. And I just found out that Margaret Ann now has satellite TV in the bedroom (which she has kindly given over to us) as well as the living room. I'm looking forward to Project Runway's new season on Wednesday. One must have goals to live for...
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