2010 Breast Cancer Survivor Update

I am happy to report that as of halfway through 2010, I am stronger than I ever remember, which isn’t saying too much since these days I don’t remember as much as I used to. Still, I bought a house that has steep stairs to the second floor, more stairs to the basement, and a nice little hike out to the studio. I have been doing things I can’t remember (again, who knows?) ever doing, like mowing the lawn, shoveling a substantial driveway, hefting boxes of books and 40-pound bags of fertilizer. Good grief! I never thought it possible.

Ten years ago, when I moved to Bay City, Michigan, from Beaver Island, I was in terrible shape, having suffered two rotator cuff injuries, a frozen shoulder, acute tendonitis in both wrists, a bad back, etc etc. When I moved to Bay City, I couldn’t lift a half-gallon of milk. But last year I finally joined a health club and started working on various of those complicated-looking machines and by gum, I started to get stronger. I went very slowly, but after a year of treadmill and throwing and pulling and biking, I must have done something good, because I was able to move boxes like I was twenty. Or so it felt.

Of course, five years ago I was diagnosed with invasive breast cancer and went through the usual treatment of 34 doses of radiation. (I think today there are some new techniques that are much quicker and safer.) I did not require chemo and did not take Tamoxafin after a disastrous six months of Arimidex, which I quit.

So now, five years out, I seem healthier than ever. I say “seem,” because with cancer you never know. You can feel on top of the world and be carrying around a tumor. But every minute of this respite is a gift to me and I continue to feel extraordinarily grateful.

I decided that there’s nothing magical about 12 months and decided this time to wait 18 months for my next mammogram, which I plan to have somewhere besides where I had it last year. I am not waiting weeks for results this time and I’ll drive wherever I have to to get a same-day reading. Medicare pays for everything as of January 1, 2011—checkups, lab work, mammograms, so my checkup isn’t until January 3rd.

My health club now is my house and garden and driveway, as well as a bicycle which I bought when my feet started to give out after walking a couple of miles. Biking is much more fun, I’ve discovered—I can see so much more, go farther, and I even go mushroom hunting by bike. As for my diet, I quit the vegan thing because my plumbing couldn’t handle all that fiber and I missed protein. I just eat lots of colors and try to follow Michael Pollan’s advice: Eat food, not too much, mostly plants.

That’s it for now. With any luck, I won’t have anything more to report until 2011.

2010 Catch-Up

As evidenced by my lack of attention to this website, I haven’t done much more in the last six months than move home, office, and studio and try to get set up before fall. Progress is being made, but the best use so far of my heated, insulated, three-car garage—which is also, fortunately, air-conditioned—has been many a passionate game of Ping Pong. The Ping Pong table has been put to other uses—card-building, packaging and scarf-cutting—but I haven’t done too much painting or writing in there yet.

Last week, however, I did a watercolor of a Manistee beach for a client who liked the print I had on my website but wanted an original painting. I did three paintings before it became clear to me that I can’t copy a watercolor—watercolor has a mind of its own and if I pay close attention to it, sometimes I can follow it someplace interesting. Anyway, I chose the one I liked best to send along, but the others came out pretty well, too. They are now available on the art page.

Now that I don’t work in an apartment in a Victorian house, and in fact have a separate work space, I can finally paint with oils. I look forward to this adventure. My only formal art class was about fifteen years ago at Ox-Bow, the summer school in Saugatuck for the Chicago Art Institute. It was a one-week class in oil-painting which taught me the basic materials required and how to mix paint, an incredibly useful class which has helped me in all my artistic endeavors.

I’m hoping to set up some small classes for fall and winter and will put out some sort of brochure or email when I figure out what might work. Meanwhile, I am attempting to illustrate Yoo Hoo Moon—my most successful children’s book—and republish it with my own art. Other projects are in the works as well, but right now so many things are calling for my attention that it seems easiest not to do anything at all. It’s summertime, and a real firecracker of a summer it is, too. I have a garden for the first time in about 20 years and what could be more important than a sunwarmed, just-picked tomato?