Critters, Wine and Strange Ramblings.

Yesterday our old cat got a new diagnosis: feline hypertension. Count Catula, AKA The Old Man Howler Monkey Cat has been driving us nuts crying at night, barfing, and generally looking like a scrawny, weak geezer. It took me all week to decide he needed a vet visit, afraid it might be time to say goodbye and not really wanting to spend my Thanksgiving holiday weekend that way. But, turns out his blood pressure is through the roof and a little BP medication plus some Pepcid AC for the puking might turn things around. Today, Catula’s former owner would have celebrated his 90th birthday. He’d be very glad his beloved kitty has dodged the bullet again, at least for a while.

Catula and Chuck in better days.

As for other stuff going on in the wet, grey Pacific Northwest world where I live, it’s just the usual hodge-podge. Last weekend we spent wine tasting in Oregon’s Willamette Valley with old friends. We sipped and noshed at old stalwarts like Ken Wright Cellars and Beaux Freres, inspected new digs at ROCO and made a new find: Big Table Farm. In a dilapidated farm house on a gravel road near the tiny burg of Gaston, Oregon, two passionate young people are making delightful wine and wicked good pork belly. I enjoyed tasting world-class vino in their kitchen, hound dogs milling about, chickens scratching in the dirt and buckets of rain pouring from the sky.

On the health front, my sister is recovering very well from her DIEP flap surgery on November 9th and for that I am truly grateful. We agreed we both had much to be thankful for this Thanksgiving. As this hellatious year draws to a close, all that remains for me is removal of a few remaining stitches on Tuesday, then a few months for things to settle before the newly reconstructed nipples will get tattooed.

As the holiday frenzy moves into high gear I’m feeling a bit lost. My new novel is in stuck mode. I have no freelance work. I need something new to tackle and can’t decide what that should be. Recently, Jim told me one of his friends who is nearing retirement told him that he can’t wait to retire so he can learn how to play…THE ACCORDION. I laughed at the thought of him cranking out some tinny polka music, but then I heard a brilliant jazz musician interpreting Edith Piaf tunes on the accordion. It was terrific. Maybe it is not too late for me to take up classical guitar. Better yet, classical ukulele. A nice dose of aloha with a twist.

BRCA Genes, Boob Dreams, Previvors and Survivors.

Seven nights out from the last phase of breast reconstruction surgery, propped up on two pillows to protect my new nips, I had an odd dream. My sister Anne and I were shopping for clothes in a tiny boutique where we had to share a dressing room. As I reached for a beautiful blouse to try on it hit me. I had my old boobs. Yes, the big, unruly triple D’s were back. To make matters worse I had on NO BRA. It used to be I did not even walk around my bedroom without a bra, let alone go out in public without a mile of underwire, hooks and heavy-duty strappage.

2008. Left to right – my niece Emily, me, Anne, Mom. Seated, my other niece Katherine holding her new baby.

Like most dreams, the embarrassing scene floated away without any resolution or meaningful conclusion. While I’m still working on adjusting to the new version of me, I don’t miss those old cancerish troublemaking honkers. Spaghetti straps, camisoles and other skimpy things I could never wear will be in my future.

I am certain my sister floated into that dream because tomorrow it will be her turn for bilateral mastectomy with DIEP flap reconstruction. While I am at the doctor’s office getting the bolster dressings removed, she will be on the table. I ask that you send good karma her way and hope she is spared the complications I experienced. Send some good karma for my Mom too. Two daughters going through this ordeal this year has been difficult for her as well.

My Dad fathered three girls and a boy. His daughter from his first marriage has recurrent ovarian cancer. I had breast cancer at age 36. My sister Anne is the only girl in our generation who can claim the word previvor as her own. What does it mean to be a previvor?  To me it means managing the choices of being at insanely high risk of breast and ovarian cancer. These choices include increased monitoring, chemoprevention or prophylactic surgeries. Make no mistake, all of these choices are difficult and none provide a true fix for the genetic defect.

I’m truly happy my sister Anne has chosen the route of prophylactic surgeries. Right now it is the most effective strategy we BRCA mutants have.

When we were kids it seemed like I went from being flat-chested to very well endowed overnight. My dear sister nick-named me “Saggy Maggy.” Not very nice. Over the years I endured lots of teasing, suggestive comments, leering and worse, all due to my stupid big boobs. Now I’m just looking forward to a future shopping trip with Anne, both of us free from cancer. Of course, she will still have that bubble butt and I will still have no butt at all, so there will still be other things to pick on. Some stuff never changes.

1964. Me and Anne on Halloween.





More Surgery, Pisco Sours and A Really Good Movie

Just over a week until The Great Pumpkin brings me surgery number 7 for 2012. More cut and paste is the last thing I want for trick-or-treat day, but with a bit of luck it will be the last one in my BRCA surgical adventure story. That alone is worthy of celebration. On that same Halloween day my sister will have her pre-op appointment in preparation for her upcoming DIEP flap surgery. For my family, the BRCA rollercoaster continues.

Yesterday James and I spent a lovely day indulging ourselves. We had brunch at a superb restaurant in Portland’s Pearl District called Andina. It had been far too long since we enjoyed what they describe as “novoperuvian” cuisine. It’s really a marriage of the flavors and ingredients of many South American cultures with a new world vibe.

Enjoying a Pisco Sour at Andina Restaurant.

For those who may not know, Jim and I were once the owners of a Malbec vineyard in Mendoza, Argentina. From the traditional brandy (Pisco) to the quinoa studded shrimp, asparagus with chimichurri and an alfajore for dessert, dining at Andina was like an afternoon in the tranquil wine country of Mendoza. Although we got the short end of the stick on our vineyard investment, it was a memorable chapter in our lives. I wrote a brief memoir called “The Malbec Diaries,” available from Amazon in electronic format.

The Tiny Madam Vineyard in 2007, Uco Valley, Mendoza Argentina

We spent the afternoon shopping, soaked in the tub, watched football and had a 1998 Leonetti Cabernet with our dinner of grilled beef tenderloin, carmelized onions and Brussells sprouts. Not a bad send off for my last day of consuming alcohol until after I’ve recovered from surgery #7.

We capped off this delicious, lazy day with one of themost enjoyable movies I’ve seen in ages. Moonrise Kingdom. So beautifully directed by the quirky and brilliant Wes Anderson. Ah, love.

Moonrise Kingdom – a little jewel of a movie.