Tuesday, May 16, 2006

What happened to the 1300FE?

I was talking to Nessie last night and we got on the conversation of good gas mileage cars. I told her about my first new car: a Honda Civic 1300FE. I wonfer what happened to that engine technology and why we are no longer seeing cars with that type of efficient design.

You see, the 1300FE was extraordinarily economical to run. My car gave me about 45 MPG in the city and about 70 MPG in the highway. I once drove from Upstate NY to Chicago, IL on 1.25 tanks of gas. I remember having to gas every 2-3 weeks during normal use; I lived in a small city, close to work, and not far from shopping places. However, I also drove to emergency calls as an EMT and Firefighter. I think the car was used in what could be considered average conditions (it was neither abused nor was it babied).

I loved that car and I wish I could find one like it today. Most importantly, I wonder why Honda and other manufacturers are not making more economical vehicles. Today's "oil crisis" is much worse than the one we suffered in the 70s (please see The Oil Age for more information). Not only do we need more fuel-efficient vehicles, we need to support the use of other types of fuels. Water is now being used successfully as fuel for many applications (including cars and military vehicles). Why is this not being made available to the public?

Pictures of Reality

I am looking at a picture and I think there is something wrong with it. Maybe my eyes are suffering from old-age syndrome, or maybe I am actually seeing a severe distortion in reality. The US Congress was recently considering passing S.1955, a bill that, amongst its many hidden items, contained language that would allow insurance companies to eliminate coverage for preventive tests such as mammograms. The language was clearly focused on eliminating coverage for examinations that can detect and minimize the effects of cancer. Fortunately, S.1955 was defeated thanks to the efforts of the American Cancer Society and many other organizations that saw the destructive effects of this bill. I am sure insurance companies will try again, burying language in another bill just like S.1955, and they may eventually get their way. After all, they have the deep pockets that can buy support in Washington.

Monday, May 08, 2006


It happens sometimes that we find strays that change our lives, even if we only handle these animals for a short time. Several of them come to mind: "Tiny" and "Coco" are two of the dogs that we actually named.

This morning, as I drove the kids to school, this little dog was confidently walking in the middle of the road. Cars were struggling to get around him. We stopped and it struggled to follow me, but calmly got in the car and settled on the floor. The kids immediately took to him and he was named "Angel." I took him home but he would not stay in the back yard despite the yummy food I set in front of him. He wanted to be with his humans. Tracey and I left for radiation treatment and he tried to follow us. We thought he had moved on.

After dropping Tracey at home, I headed to work and came across "Angel" once again. He was walking towards me in the middle of my lane, acting as if he had recognized me and was happy to see me. So I put him in the car again and took him to the county shelter. I hope his owners (if any, since he did not have a collar) will find him soon. He is definitely deaf and maybe somewhat blind. Despite his age he moved well and showed himself to be very docile. He could make a great companion to someone. Good luck "Angel" -- best wishes to you for a safe journey going forth! Thanks for coming into our lives -- I am sure there was a good reason for your visit.

Life's Heroes

Attitude is such a valuable intangible in our daily struggles with life's issues. On Friday we met a gentleman in the waiting room for Tracey's radiation. He appears to be in his 60s. His wife is struggling with breast cancer which started two years ago. She is still undergoing treatment. He humbly told us how he developed stomach and prostrate cancer, which quickly spread to other parts of his body until the doctors could see lumps on his neck. He, without complaining, told us how he is undergoing this extremely intense chemo therapy. And he still takes care of his wife. His attitude exuded positiveness. He walked with pride and strength in every step. This gentleman is not only helping his wife with a life threatening disease, he is valiantly facing his own battles. I do not know his name, but from this day forth I will remember him as a one of life's true heroes.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Counting our blessings

When Tracey's radiation session finished this morning, we stopped to talk to a lady in the waiting room. It turns out her husband has lung cancer and he has been given six months to live. She told us how they are struggling. His health is deteriorating quickly. He can no longer drive and they have a difficult time getting around (she does not drive either). His medications are expensive: one of them costs $19,000 per month OUT OF POCKET! She told us she has their camper for sale to pay for this month's medication and their home is now for sale to pay for future expenses. This couple is in their mid 60s to early 70s. Here they are, in what is supposed to be their golden years, facing complete financial disaster, not to mention the imminent loss of your spouse. We encouraged her to contact the hospital Social Worker and get assistance -- both financial and support for what they are both going through. Looking in her eyes you could tell she was perishing along side her husband.

Misunderstandings, chemo and memory

Yesterday we learned that there was a misunderstanding concerning the ability of caregivers to attend the support group sessions on Wednesdays. Tracey somehow misunderstood what was being said during the meeting. Yet another gift from chemo, as is the loss of her short term memory. I cannot even begin to tell you the effects of these losses on her confidence, happiness, and over all well being. Tracey used to be proud of how, as a Paralegal, she could not only understand huge amounts of information thrown at her in a short period of time, but also how she could remember minute facts many months after each case was completed. Today, she tells me something in the morning and then repeats the exact same facts (verbatim) in the evening as if it was the first time she ever had the conversation with me. It is very frustrating for her and scary for me as I see the effects of chemo (from almost 2 years ago) on her. Is it any wonder that she is less than enthusiastic when anyone mentions chemo as a possible course of treatment for this reoccurrence?

MacKenzie's Dress Code

When it is a bit cool outside, there is no sense wearing a shirt under your jacket -- is there?

Not according to MacK. Last Tuesday, just as we were ready to head out the door to go to school , she was told that it was a bit nippy and to put a jacket on. So she went back to her room and came out a moment later with her jacket on. Off we went to school without much else to comment about.

As Tracey picks the kids, she sees MacK wearing a school t-shirt. She asks her why she is wearing that. Here is the approximate conversation:

MacK: Because I did not have another shirt to wear.
Tracey: What are you talking about?

Tracey (talking with teacher and MacK):
Tracey: What happened this morning?
Teacher: When MacKenzie arrived in class I asked her to take her jacket off and hang it on the hook. She said:
   MacK: "Ma'am, I can't do that because I don't have a shirt under my jacket. I was told to wear a jacket because it was cool outside."
   Teacher: "Quit fooling around MacKenzie and hang your coat."
   MacK: "I can't do that Ma'am because I don't have a shirt under my jacket."

Needless to say, Tracey was embarrassed to no end. I was killing myself laughing when I heard the story, and now we have to:
a) be very careful of the instructions we give MacKenzie so that there is little room for misinterpretation; and
b) check her before she leaves the house to make sure she is wearing all needed clothing (and we are not to assume anything!).

Another funny story for the archives!

Monday, May 01, 2006

I saw a rainbow today

I was driving back to the house this morning and I caught a glance of a rainbow. From that vantage point, the rainbow appeared to be right over our house. Could this be a sign?

A few minutes later I saw that rainbow again — this time it was in front of me in the horizon, as if to say that there are beautiful things ahead. My heart filled with hope.

It is silly what the sight of a rainbow can do for us. ;-)

I hope you catch a glance of a rainbow soon — may it also fill your heart with hope!

Just caregivers

I am catching up with blog entries so forgive me if this is a bit outdated (by a week).

Last Wednesday Tracey and our friend Nesa (also a cancer survivor) went to the Cancer Support Group. At one point over 18 months ago I understood that this group was open to patients and their family. But late that night, I was told that caregivers are not welcome at this group meetings. One of the reasons given is that patients/survivors would sometime not feel comfortable sharing their feelings if their caregiver was there. Hmmm ... it sounds like there are unresolved issues that need to be addressed between these folks.

The comment ("caregivers are not allowed to come to the support group meetings") left me angry and bitter because I perceived it as if we were told: "You are just the caregiver and you need to deal with whatever is coming at you in whatever way you can — you do not need any help from a support group like ours." I was also told that they are "considering" having a support group meeting when caregivers can join once a month.

Well, let me tell you, those of us that have loved ones fighting cancer are not just bloody caregivers that can handle anything and everything. We have feelings and fears and anxieties. We have hearts that break everytime we see our wives, mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, friends affected by this damn disease. Ironically, we may feel we cannot share ANY of these emotions with our loved one because they are already dealing with so much themselves. So we swallow it, smile, and try to continue with life the best we can.

And, yes, cancer sucks and I hate it. :(

Not "our" fight

Last week (was it last week? days seem to run together in the worst of ways) Tracey and I met with Chris Gibson of Lexington Medical Center. Amongst many other duties, she manages the Cancer Support Group that meets at the hospital every Wednesday morning.

During the conversation it became clear that I have been making a mistake all through Tracey's cancer treatment. From the beginning, I have referred to it as "our" fight against the disease -- meaning that Tracey was not alone and that the kids and I were fighting with her. What I learned last Tuesday is that this took away a great part of the disease ownership from Tracey. So I must stop referring to this as "our" fight.

May this be a lesson to any one that is a cancer patient caregiver: make sure you do not inadvertently take away ownership of the fight against cancer. Some people may prefer having you fight with them side by side and call it "our" fight, but some may not.