Solitude, Mostly

I had taken the precaution of painting two of everything–one for him and one for me. I’ve discovered that often people don’t really value a little painting that comes naked and unceremoniously in the mail, so I always make one for myself.

Here are a couple of passionate visual descriptions of our 2,000-mile-apartĀ  love affair. I’ll putĀ  all fifteen on their own page when I get to it. They seem to describe my life as much now as then, even though I’m no longer in a committed relationship. I’m calling the series “SOLITUDE, MOSTLY.”

We’re still phone friends, at least I hope we are (do forgive me…you know who you are), and I did find the picture I’d been looking for, finally, after also discovering a bag of original watercolors for my next book and a lost recipe for oatmeal.

Click on an image to enlarge it.

Imagine That!

So I’m putting in the first version I couldn’t stand, and now the second version that I really like. I thought I couldn’t alter the early one, as I had varnished it, but after a good sanding, it took new paint just fine. Then I added a little something playful and changed the title. Voila.

Matted and framed, the piece measures 12 x 16 inches. Click on the images to enlarge them.

At last, a New Fish Painting

The problem was a too-rough surface–my reds/yellows/pinks/oranges weren’t blending, and the shading just blobbed. I’d painted over the pleasant mountain scene originally contained by the frame so I could paint something I thought would go with the wonderful carving. But it was on plywood, very hard, very rough.

I was complaining about this recently to an artist friend who, off the cuff, suggested I cover the whole thing with a transparent medium and then paint on that. What a great idea! It gave me a more versatile surface, and although the painting never did look like the one in my head, I like it.

The picture, including the frame, measures 25″ x 16″.
Click on the image to enlarge it.

A Touching Encounter

They were unusually beautiful, several different colors, half-open in perfect blooms, long sturdy stems visible through the glass vase. I said to him, “What incredibly lovely roses!”

And he said, “Today is my wife’s first chemotherapy treatment. There are two dozen roses here. Twenty-four. That’s how many chemo treatments my wife has to endure. Each time I will bring one less rose, so next time I will bring twenty-three roses, until there is only one.”

I thought it was one of the most wonderful things I had ever seen.

Click on the image to enlarge it.

Keeping On Keeping On

There are things to work through after fighting cancer, things that blind-sided me. Finishing treatment was kind of like having a baby: I’d studied up on the pregnancy and birth process, knew what sort of pain to expect when, so it wasn’t too scary when my experience matched what I’d read. And I had all kinds of support, at the hospital and from my husband and staff at work (I was the director of a county public library system) especially. But when we came home with a baby, I was completely flummoxed: Now What? Overwhelmed by a new sense of personal vulnerability and responsibility, I experienced a flood of unexpected emotions, not all of them positive.

Coming out of a cancer fight fairly intact, I felt triumphant and grateful, but after a few months, I thought I should be getting over it a lot faster than I was getting over it. (And I also thought friends and family agreed, i.e. enough already.) but it’s a grief process, and it takes time. If you’re lucky, you have a companion who will listen to your story told repeatedly until you’ve healed. It’s not something most people are comfortable enduring.

Since I finished my treatments last April, I’ve been hit with sometimes crippling side-effects to three different medications, but I am finally able to walk my three miles again after quitting Arimidex two months ago, although I am still very stiff after any period longer than ten minutes of inactivity. I quit Prevacid, which promptly ended two weeks of depression and inexplicable weeping.

But once I got sucked into the “health care” system, I got tested for everything, so new stuff shows up: high cholesterol (doc wants me on a statin), osteoporsis (doc wants me on Fosamax)….I resist everything. From what I’ve been reading, none are good for breast cancer survivors. So this has become my anti-recurrence lifestyle: I eat a lot of oatmeal, cinnamon, flaxseed, fruits, vegies, and fish. I walk, lift free weights, get a weekly massage. I do my volunteer work, party, travel. I follow my heart. I have fun.

Which reminds me: I’ve been accepted as an artist in residence at an art community in Costa Rica. So if you can’t reach me at the usual addresses or numbers, email me at

Side Effects, Side Effects

Several weeks ago, one of my doctors put me on a daily Prevacid routine to prepare mystomach for the apparently very acidic Fosamax (to counteract incipient osteoporosis). Although I have never been particularly allergic to anything, I seem to be one of those people with a hypersensitivity to the recent wonder drugs. Still, an antacid didn’t seem like something to worry about, since I never had a problem with Tums or Pepcid AC.

But slowly, I became exhausted. I would walk for a couple miles and then want to rest for hours. I couldn’t concentrate. It was subtle at first, but then I became very depressed and after a week, I couldn’t stop crying. I didn’t want to go out, and would break down uncontrollably if anyone asked me how I was. So I began to lie, saying I was fine. I must have looked awful because a look of disbelief would appear in my questioner’s eyes. I withdrew, turning down invitations I would normally find welcome. I did not have the energy to be with people for very long.

Finally, I called a nurse who, of all the astonishing number of health professionals I’ve seen in the past year, I felt most comfortable with. She insisted I come in immediately. She’d never seen me like this, even through our daily contact for two months while I went through radiation. She thought it might be caused by a mild case of Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome, or a grieving for an accumulation of losses. She recommended I see the therapist I used to see years ago. Maybe ask my doctor for an antidepressant.

That night I called a chemist friend of mine who works in the world of pharmacuticals, and he asked if I was taking anything new. That’s when I realized I’d been on Prevacid for two weeks. So we looked it up on the internet and we could not believe the list of side effects we found for Prevacid including all of mine. Since I didn’t feel a need for the stuff in the first place, he suggested I quit.

So I got off Prevacid and the next day I was fine. It’s been four days now and I feel like myself again. My good nurse friend was right, too, that I still have much to deal with, but I feel now that I can, that in time I can work it out. But right now, The sun is shining out there, my head is clear, my brain is functioning again, and I’m going for a walk.