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Monday, August 17, 2009

Cancer Free....Seriously....Now what??? (Blog 21)

Blog 21: Okay Really, Now What???


The following week of June 15th was typical in that I felt as capable as I did idiotic. In other words: A usual day for Sarah involving as much confidence as wild, pathetic guessing. On Saturday, the day before Mother’s Day, Mama Jackie called me to say that she had received my bouquet of yellow roses yet she emphasized how unnecessary the gesture was while I cried (literally) about how necessary it was for me to attempt to demonstrate my love of--and gratitude toward--her. After a few minutes of reassuring “you didn’t need to do that” combined with a few glasses of wine and “yes I did; you’re the best Mom ever” sentiments, I felt confident that she understood the emotions I had attempted to convey via a $50 bouquet.

The next day, I called the veterinarian. Lola has been acting like a teenager for months and I had met my limit. NO MAS!!! I had lately come home from work to find a present awaiting me at the porch, in my bedroom, or outside the guestroom. It never failed. The vet tech explained that, given her age of nearly 10, she may be experiencing a physiological problem. I left work early that day to take my little queen bee to the vet, during which they examined her, took blood, fecal samples, and urine and then told me that she likely has fatal renal disease given her age and sudden behavioral problems. They would have more tests later but, until then, I was at least allowed to take her home with me that night. Instead of thinking about my new job, family matters, or attempting to start working out by way of a half-hearted power walk, I held her in my arms at home while we both fell asleep.

The next morning, after rushing a fecal and urine sample to the vet on my way to work, I noticed a missed call from Dr. Wilks. She told me to call her back “ASAP” with regards to some blood results that need to be addressed.


Oh God. Lola is dying of kidney disease and my cancer is back.



I called the clinic number but, despite the fact that she had already called and told me to return the call at that number, the answering service responded. Yeah, to answer your question, I was ABSOLUTELY FREAKING OUT.

I made it in to the office with a carafe of coffee in hand and a bundle of nervous energy. I recall dealing with the following: An angry patient, a newly proposed managed care contract, and a high-strung doctor who wanted me to address the dictation issue ASAP. I FINALLY received the much anticipated phone call from Dr. Wilks herself explaining to me that my Vitamin B was pretty low and that I needed regular injections. (Seriously? That’s all? Good lord, doctors need to learn some message-leaving etiquette.) With a MASSIVE exhale of relief, I agreed to make arrangements and I called my mom to calm her anxiety (of COURSE I had called her on my way into the office after receiving that seemingly fatalistic message). I felt somewhat relieved but my focus then shifted to my much-awaited response from the vet: Tell me I’m dying again and I’m relatively okay; tell me my dog is sick and I’m a mess. Later that afternoon, the vet called and explained that her tests revealed that Lola is old (duh---I adopted her at 7 weeks old in 1999) and has a highly treatable form of colitis and exhibits the early stages of hypothyroidism. In other words: she is fine and just needs a course of antibiotics and a new brand of food.


On Friday, June 19th I left work at noon and returned home to find Mom coddling sick little Lola on the couch. Mom was my designated driver seeing as had been prescribed a large bottle of white liquid chalk (barium) for lunch on the day of my 3 month CT scan. Note: I had previously experienced this culinary delicacy the night prior as a post-dinner nightcap. It was berry flavored and it was vile. At the clinic, I undressed from the waist up, donned the gorgeous cotton gown, and was scanned from the top of the neck to the bottom of the pelvis.
Bari-YUMMY

As per usual while laid flat—not seductively, sorry to say--in a plastic tube, the entire event seemed completely pointless given its fast in-and-out nature followed by a handsome bill. Indeed, a few minutes after being scanned, I dressed and we left, ready to have a glass (or 5) of wine before going to dinner. For the next few days we decided to eat out as much as possible, clean house, and run essentials errands a la Pier One, HomeStore, Best Buy, La Cantera outdoor shopping mall, and Target. In other words: I had energy. No, seriously: I was able to make it through a full day without stopping, napping, or bitching whatsoever. Mom and I accomplished what we needed without incident and we both commented in the car that I was remarkably more energized than she had seen me in a year. I was happy, I was healthy, I was gleeful. While at Francesca’s, an outrageous knockoff store in The Rim, it occurred to me that I was filled to the max with both RED and WHITE blood cells….so hot. But seriously, I had a great time trying on ridiculous plastic rings and huge pins while Mom laughed and imagined me approaching my MD specialist boss—wearing said massive, obscene faux jewels-- while casually tossing an invoice or EOB in his direction. Neither of us could keep a straight face. “Ummm…..Dr. B? Yeah, so we need to talk about this Medicare refund request…?”*BLING!* We had a great time and we both acknowledged that this was a new beginning. A new me. A new Sarah.

The following Friday morning I returned to the clinic for my early morning CT results. As soon as I arrived the receptionist told me that Dr. Wilks wanted to see me “immediately.” With trepidation, wringing hands, and sweaty palms, I inquired as to WHY my cancer doctor insisted on convening with me at the earliest possible time. “Oh, she has a meeting later in the morning,” she responded quite casually. I exhaled a huge sigh of relief. Only moments later, Dr. Wilks bound into the exam room: “Sarah?” she asked. “You’re here……” followed by: “Ummm….Why are you here?....Oh, because of your B-12?” she asked.

“Ummm…..I had my 3 month CT scan?” I informed her most nervously.

“Oh, you did? When?” She said, flipping through my enormous chart.

“Last week? The 3-month scan?” I offered again.(Allow me to interject here: my senses tell me not to worry while my environment tells me that everything is ALL effed UP!!!)

Dr. Wilks thumbed through my chart feverishly and then…….recognition!

“Your scans look GREAT!” She said.

“Really?”

“YES! Your lungs are looking pretty good and the spots on your lungs are indicative of scar tissue. Everything still looks good!!!”

I continued to the nurses’ station whereupon I was showered with love and hugs from five of my favorite people. They gushed that my hair was growing in “beautifully,” (even though it wasn’t) and that I looked great. To Shannon, Maxine, Ann, Ann, Marion, and the others: Thank you for your love and encouragement.

Dr. Holt, my former employer, had purchased a gift for me that would finalize my entry into the World of Healthy People. She arranged for me an appointment with a local Natural Healer. I had no idea what that meant but I willingly drove myself to a surprisingly sophisticated part of SA on Saturday morning (let’s be honest: I was expecting a hippie-dippie commune with fairies and gazing balls gracing the front yard). The woman there ushered me in and proceeded to conduct a “healing session” on me. She was awesome!!! I am not exaggerating when I say that my limbs were reverberating against something static: I was rendered an unwitting slave to the massage table. She didn’t make weird noises, she didn’t burn incense, and yet her hand motions a foot above my flesh caused my whole body to vibrate. I am not kidding. By the end of the 60 minute session, Gail told me that my chakras were surprisingly open and healthy, but that my circulation may be compromised (how did she know that I was having neurological issues?). I thanked her and left, feeling physically rejuvenated but still emotionally cautious about the entire experience.

That Thursday, I attended an LLS support group at La Madeleine. My new friend Clarisa told us about her long, horrifying experience regarding a potential bone marrow transplant, lung tumor biopsy THROUGH BONE, and questionable doctor who refused to take the advice and expertise of other MDs, namely an interventional radiologist and MD Anderson lymphoma-specialized oncologist. All signs pointed toward RECOVERY but this doctor tried to convince countless specialists—and the patient herself—that she was dying and needed further treatment. In my world of healthcare administration, being cautious is called Defensive Medicine. In this case, it was just excessive and unnecessary. At the behest of family and friends, Clarisa journeyed to MD Anderson for an in-person consultation to make more sense of this controversy: her oncologist tells her that she requires a serious bone marrow transplant and invasive, painful biopsy because the treatment is failing and yet every other doctor who has been consulted furrows his brow, scratches his head, and says that her scans and labs look great. Everyone involved agreed that her Hodgkins was responding well, that she was in remission, and no further treatment (aside from finishing the standard ABVD protocol), was needed. Clarisa thanked them and quickly agreed to stop seeing her quack of an oncologist. WTF was this woman—her doctor--thinking????

Also that night at LLS Happy Hour, the LLS reps informed the Hodgkins kids that we can never, ever go scuba diving or involve ourselves in similar activities that require oxygen saturation level changes. Most Hodgkins patients have been exposed to Bleomycin, the chemotherapeutic agen that often compromises lung function. One scuba session and we could be history. Sad and interesting….. In a weird twist of fate: It is fortunate that I was highly allergic to Bleo and was taken off of it midway through treatment.

On Friday night, as I was hanging out in bed and checking e-mail, I discovered that the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Team in Training program was having an informational meeting on Saturday at my church. I knew the time and the place and therefore had no reason not to attend: I was guilted into going. While there, the program quelled any hesitation regarding whether or not to join: Raise money for an amazing cause, have access to expert coaching/training to get into shape, and meet amazing people. Two hours later I was hooked, and by Sunday night I had committed to doing the San Antonio Rock ‘N Roll ½ marathon. 13.1 miles = huge, huge imposition on Sarah’s daily schedule and massive challenge to her current physicality.

Jazzed to start this new venture, I shouldn’t have been surprised when, at the grocery store checkout line, an epiphany led me to believe that now is the time to start going wigless. Sayonara Veronica and Noreen: Now it’s just Sarah and her (albeit short and spunky) hair. I recall standing in the checkout line seeing people around me of varying shapes, sizes, abilities, and follicular lengths. I then dreaded the idea of wearing an itchy, synthetic wig for another hour, much less another day. Still in line, my phone rang and I talked to Mom, explaining that I think I just made up my mind: I was done with the head coverings. She summed it up so simply: “It’s a new day, a new week, a new month, and a new dawning for you: This is the time to do it. I think you’ve made up your mind!” With that, I had a new resolve: I was no longer a slave to my hair—or lack thereof--anymore.

With trepidation on Monday morning, June 1st, I walked through the back door of my office nervously anticipating a reaction. One of the doctors (a young, cool female) has an office near the back entrance and is usually there early after dropping off her kids at school. We said hello and I tilted my head in embarrassment, subtly pointing go my short, spiky new ‘do. “Oh! I thought your hair was pulled back! I forgot that you were wearing a wig before. Wow!” Huh??? The day continued in a similar fashion: medical assistants, nurses, doctors, and pharmaceutical/medical device representatives stopped short when they saw me and then explained that my hair looks great, they hardly noticed, etc. It was so sweet. But, the best part was that I would frequently pause my day to acknowledge the fact that I felt FREEEEEEE! I was no longer finger-combing through nylon hair that had gotten tangled, no longer itching my scalp, and no longer adjusting a wig that had a tendency to ride up, slip back, or otherwise fall out of place. I felt liberated.

On Wednesday, June 3rd, Dr. Edwards came back into the office after a few days off for vacation. As usual, he stopped at my office door, began to say his hellos, and then stopped short. His eyes dilated into saucers and he said, “Wow….your hair!”

“Oh my gosh. I am so sorry that I didn’t warn you. Yes, I guess the secret is out: I’ve ditched the wig!”

“It looks great,” he said. “You look like a French movie star!” With that, I blushed, accepted the compliment (I think it was a compliment anyway?) and moved on. I had clearly crossed into new territory: That of a Short-Haired-Girl-Who-Could-Almost-Look-Butch-But-Was-Clearly-Feminine-Because-She-Wore-Makeup-and-Jewelry-and-Girly-Clothes. What to do with that??? I needed some time to adjust to my new dichotomous look and frequent trips to the bathroom would reassure me that I could NOT be mistaken for a 12 year old boy.

A few days later, Nicole Bell from LLS called and asked if I would agree to be this season’s Team in Training Honored Hero. Taken aback, I of course said that I would, understanding that my responsibility would entail attending certain team events, sending notes of encouragement to participants, allowing my picture to be plastered on various materials, and be otherwise available to the Team. Within moments, an Honored Hero questionnaire made it to my e-mail inbox and I completed such self-indulgent queries as “What do you like to do in your free time?” and “What is your favorite movie?” And yet, on Thursday June 4th while making dinner, my phone rang. Sheri asked if I would be this season’s Team in Training Honored Hero. Wait…what? I told her that Nicole had already approached me and she laughed at the coincidence: “Nicole asked you on behalf of the organization and I, as a TNT Mentor, asked you as a personal friend!!!” Seriously….I’m truly HONORED. Why would I get special attention for having cancer? I did not CURE cancer. Nor did I rescue a child from a burning building or invent something worthy of a Billy Mays infomercial (R.I.P). I cautiously informed Sheri that I had made plans to actually COMPLETE the ½ marathon and she told me that, not only could I maintain my status of Honored Hero, but that my participation (ie: struggle) with the team would be even more inspirational.

I attended the seasonal TNT Kickoff party on Saturday, June 6th whereupon I learned that my training mentor would be my dear friend Heidi and I met my other teammates. The TNT colors are purple and green and—let me attempt to convey this accurately—there was a WONDERFULLY ABSURD amount of clothing, hats and other accessories, confetti, and d├ęcor decked out accordingly. It was like a G-Rated carnival. The speakers introduced me along with the other honored teammates (Clarisa being one of them!) and a few people approached me afterward telling me that they would need all the inspiration they could get as they took on this unbelievable personal challenge. There was a lot of clapping, cheering, and chanting “GO TEAM,” and I left feeling recharged. Not only was I there to motivate, but I was there to DO IT. Here goes nothing…..

On Monday, June 8th I hit my gym and managed 20 minutes on the elliptical machine at a Level 1. I think I burned off a stick of gum, and yet, I sweated my arse off and panted until my lips cracked (again, not in a good way). The adventure begins!

Armed with a PURPLE folder stuffed with information on the following: Training schedules; Training tips and tricks; Nutritional, Injury Prevention, and Gear Clinics; and info sheets on coaches and mentors, I marched into UNKNOWN FOREIGN TERRITORY (Read: Academy Sports & Outdoors). I had a mission to purchase dry wick shirts, shorts, hat, and socks, fuel belt and bottles, sunscreen, and interval training sports watch. Two hours of hemming, hawing, and total confusion later, I paid my $200 transaction and left feeling inept and intimidated. Still, this was one for the books: Sarah Brannon shopped at Academy. My stepdad Gary will be so proud!!!

With absolute trepidation, I attended my first TNT practice on Wednesday night, June 10th at the San Antonio zoo (how fitting). We were doing 2.5 miles and I looked to my mentor Heidi (yes, that Heidi from book club and my benefit) with dismay. She just nodded with confidence and turned her attention back to the announcements, conveying to me that it was allllll good and I was in excellent care and could DO IT. I began my maiden voyage speed walking and enjoying the absolutely gorgeous scenery around me when I encountered a familiar face from the kickoff. I saw that her jersey was already blinged out with her name, and I made casual conversation with her. Amanda and I quickly became friends, bonding over healthcare (she works for an imaging facility), girly stuff, and TNT. In mere moments she informed me that she runs intervals. Oh….God. As her first running interval approached I agreed to try it, testing whether or not I had it in me to follow through. Afterall, I was healthy but unathletic prior to my illness, unhealthy and incapacitated during my illness, and now relatively healthy and semi-capacitated afterward. Which means…..what? Suddenly, the interval was upon me and I was running….and feeling the slight (nearly nonexistent) breeze in my face….and my muscles flexing……and the sweat beading upon my forehead. Was I really doing this??? We continued the 4:1 program—4 minutes walking followed by 1 minute running. Not FloJo-worthy but a win for me! Along the way we engaged a fellow TNT teammate in conversation. She had kept up with us and we learned that her name is Diana: thus developing the Trifecta of Amanda, Diana, and Sarah: SPWOGGERS United.

Amanda said that last year she and her pace partner had described themselves as Woggers, as in Walkers/Joggers. This is meant to differentiate themselves as hardcore walkers aspiring to running status. And yet, I decided that our sweat accumulation, motivation, and athletic prowess propelled us to SPWOG status. We are now SpeedWalkers/Joggers. (NOTE: From this point on Spwog will become a common reference, if not yet referenced by Merriam-Webster). As we spwogged, we also encountered long-time TNT supporters and hardcore runners along the way. As these people proceeded to SMOKE US, I still felt invigorated by their calls of encouragement: “Good Job” and “Go Team!” and “Yay Sarah!”

The entire team met up at the original starting point to stretch and bond, during which I informed my new friends that I would miss the first Saturday practice to attend my annual family reunion. Everyone was supportive and positive and I left feeling empowered as I called Mom to explain to her that I just completed 2.5 MILES!!!! 3 months after inpatient hospitalization!!!! CAN YOU BELIEVE IT???!!! Yes, she could. She was so excited for me and supportive of my pathetic attempts to become fit. By the time I got home and checked Facebook, I saw that my new friend Amanda had decided to announce that, from now on, she would formally spwog in honor of me: Her new friend Sarah Brannon. I was humbled once again. I couldn’t help but brag to my own Facebook crowd about the amazing experience I had with TNT. It had only been a few hours and I was hooked!



To prepare for my annual family reunion, I left work early on Friday, May 12th, and headed to my brother’s south Houston home in time to have dinner and go to bed--an evening characterized as both pathetic and delightful all at once in Sarah’s world.

Actually, we had dinner at a local Mexican restaurant and retired to bed predictably early, irresistible 2 1/2 year old nephew nugget & all. Brannon Christopher Gay had rocked the restaurant booth with his baseball, dinosaurs, and kazoo in tow and, while the food was mediocre, the company was primo and rendered us all exhausted.

Let me state this plainly: The Somers family reunions are pretty lame by conventional standards. We secure a room at a suburban Houston conference center, load four tables full of food, inhale said food and make polite conversation, and leave four hours later both bored and uncomfortably full (or hungry if you refuse to eat deep-fried everything). We milled around for a few hours hugging each other, reciting our past-year accomplishments/troubles, and paid extra attention to the babies and toddlers of the group who were too young to defend themselves and tell us to back off. Yet, during the blessing and announcement I felt strangely compelled to speak up and thank everyone for their love and support. Most of my relatives who attend the reunion are elderly and thus on a fixed income, so I thanked them for their dedicated and heartfelt phone calls and cards while I was in the hospital as it boosted my spirits and helped me to get through the most difficult time of my life. Suddenly I was tearing up and wondering where this emotion was coming from! Sniffles and tears abounded and, with that, we broke for food and I felt yet more resolution. If I haven’t said it enough I’ll say it again: Thank you to my sweet family who prayed for me. I love you.

Arriving home the next day, I shifted into mania mode as I did dishes and laundry, took out the trash, ironed, and made dinner: Preparation for a full week of staffing, managed care, and TNT training challenges. And yet, I started the week knowing that it would be a short one as Mom was due on Thursday and I had a scheduled surgery for Friday: I was getting my port out on June 19th. On Thursday night we had County Line BBQ and on Friday morning, at 6:30 exactly, I woke up to “SARAH!!! It’s 6:30.”

“Yeah….”

“NO….It’s 6:30 AND WE HAVE TO LEAVE AT 7:00!!!”

“Uh-huh.”

“GET. UP. NOW.”

10-4. Go Away.

I checked in at 7:30 as requested but was told that the interventional radiologist performing the procedure was running very late. I commenced a text message marathon and moaned about my lack of coffee and water (NPO before surgery) and was finally taken to a room in Cardiology at 9:00, whereupon we settled into a bad court TV show marathon (“I’ve missed you soooooo,” I mused while gazing into the wall-mounted television set). Sidebar: I was in Cardiology because that’s where the equipment needed to do my surgery is located. At just before 11:00 the murse (read: Male Nurse) arrived to discuss the procedure and at 11:30 the doctor arrived to repeat everything he said.

“Ummm…..excuse me but I have a really crazy, morbid question,” I said to the doctor.

“I’ve heard it all. What do you need?” Dr. Rohweter said.

“Okay, so I’m sure you’ve had a lot of absurd, nutty requests from patients so this won’t be weird at all. Buttttt…………..as I was telling the nurse here….ummmm…..I have my camera. And I’d really like you to take a picture of my port when it’s out.”



Pause.



Pause.



Pause.



Breaking the silence: “That’s not weird, is it?” I asked. “……Is that weird?”

“In all my years of practicing medicine I’ve never had THAT request,” he insisted.

“Awww COME ON!!! You’ve never had anyone ask to take something home or take a picture?”

“Well, I once had a guy ask for his gallstone but—I mean—that was IN HIM for months! Why wouldn’t he want to see it?”

“But I had my port in me for over 9 months and it helped me get through the chemo that saved my life!” I argued, quite desperately.

“I’m at a loss for words,” he said. “You are right. I hadn’t thought of it that way.” Dr. Rohweter explained that this is an extremely straightforward procedure and that the easiest part is getting it out. “Once it’s out, it’s out,” he said, quite poignantly. “The hardest part is cleaning out the pocket that the port was in…most of the time will be spent making sure we avoid infection.”

With that, I was wheeled out of the room. We paused in the surgical waiting area and the murse tried to make idle chit-chat with me, telling me that he was a Baylor student during the Waco Standoff against David Koresh. Awesome, but not exactly appropriate conversation, considering….

Eventually I was in a surgical suite as techs prepared for my procedure. I was awake but sleepy, aware but indifferent (I had been through worse), ready but cautious. Doctor Rohweter came in and they discussed with each other details about my procedure as in preferred equipment and doses. I was told that the worst I’d feel would be the lidocaine shots but that everything after that would be painless. I recall recalling nothing from my port implantation (during which I underwent the same conscious sedation and had absolutely, positively no complaints) so I wasn’t worried about feeling and/or remembering any pain. Of course, you’ll recall that the anesthesiologist that day had told me that I was a very expensive date and needed a LOT of margarita meds….more than they could ever have expected. I don’t like to brag, but yeah……..Within moments they were apparently doing the procedure and asked me multiple times how I was doing. I was later told that I responded “okay,” then “just fiiiine,” and eventually, “great,” until I actually said, “Ummmm….I’m okay but I think I need more. Can I have more?” He responded with, “Do you feel us working on you?” I was on a sedative that is also known as a truth serum (I guess the part of your brain that registers stress is also suppressed from lying, or something???). I answered, “No, but I’d like more.” I guess they blew me off. Later, when asked how I was feeling, I asked again for more. I remember this clearly and someone responded with: “No, honey. You’ve had enough. We’re just about finished.” I felt deflated, as though the bartender cut me off and told me that they were closing soon. IT CAN’T BE 2 AM ALREADY!!!!

Going.......






Going......


g o n e.



et voila!

At one point I was wheeled back into my room and my Mom was brought back from the surgical waiting area. I wanted water, water, water, water, water and, since it’s after 1:00 and I hadn’t eaten for 19 hours, perhaps food. When they presented me with a paper menu and asked what I wanted I remember thinking that the chicken salad sandwich was edible from my lengthy stay last March. I was brought some chicken goop on white bread (I only eat wheat) and Baked Lays, thus constituting “lunch.” A few minutes after my tray was removed, the murse emerged.

“How are you feeling,” he asked.

“Super!” I said.

“I know,” he said with a smirk. “We asked you in surgery how you were feeling and you said you were on a hammock in Cabo. That must have been good.”

“Shut UP!!!!!!!! Did I say that?..........Whatever!..........No I didn’t!”

“Yes, yes you did. We’ve heard worse but we got a lot of humor out of it.”


That night, we ate a quick dinner and I retired to my bed. Yet, I couldn’t sleep. Dr. Marks (“David” now) called at just after 8:00 to make sure that I was okay. I thought it very sweet and chivalrous of him.

“Do you need anything?”

“Yes, just some verced.”

“I’ll be right there,” he said as I silently gushed and laughed, barely conscious.

I lazed around all day Saturday while Mom ran errands and left on Sunday during the early afternoon. As usual per my OCD self, I completed my chores despite feeling half-drugged, and returned to work on Monday.

While most of my staff was oblivious that I was even absent on Friday (not feeling the love), a few asked how the surgery went and how I was feeling. I was exhilarated to be metal-free and ready to take on the world as a CANCER SURVIVOR. For some reason, this now made it official, as if the doctors did not expect it to ever return. Life was awesome and I was ready. Bring it…

The subsequent weekend and following weeks were much to be expected as I felt largely intact and healthy with only a few twinges of pain here and there, easily managed by Tylenol. On Thursday, July 2nd I arrived home from work to pack for a long weekend in Rockport and yet on Friday, July 3rd I woke up with a raging headache--borderline migraine--and opted to ingest a muscle relaxer as I was forced into a deep sleep. I managed to wake at noon, leave by 2:00.

When I arrived around 5:00, no one was stirring and I grew tired, so I lay down in my bed….the office futon, to be exact (whilst Brannon lazed in the guestroom crib and thus claimed the entire guestroom as his OWN), and read my book. Before dinner, I entered the kitchen to find my nephew, Brannon, stating to the world that he was, in fact, looking at a STRAWBERRY in the KITCHEN. I’m sure in toddler talk that meant something significant. Upon laying eyes on my 18 month old boyfriend, I scooped him up, phlerberted on his belly, and told him how much I missed him. We ate ribs that night (I believe Brannon had his constant diet of chicken nuggets and fries—don’t get me started), and went to bed early. On Saturday my big brother Scott, sister-in-law Sarah, Mom (Mimi), and I met Gary (Poppy) at the Rockport Marina for some fishin.’ Gary baited Brannon’s plastic CARS (or was it Transformers?) fishin’ pole with shrimp as we watched the boys pull in some 1/8 pound whoppers. Have no fear, PETA people: They all lived to see another day.


We smiled into the camera, squinting into the sun, and enjoyed our 4th of July realizing that the majority of the day would be spent indoors given the blazing sun and penetrating heat. At the annual 4th of July party, my Nugget Brannon swam with the other kids and I was overjoyed to witness the simplicity of life as a little kid. If I had a bathing suit—and didn’t fear inducing mass chaos when the other partygoers saw their first beached whale—I would have jumped in with him.



We all progressed to the marina and then to a friend’s huge boat while we watched the fireworks. No explosion was too great for Big Man Brannon.


I woke up fairly early and left by 10:00 AM with a sendoff kiss from Brannon. I love my nephew so much and he will never understand how much he inspires me to keep up my strength..

I did make it home relatively early and was able to complete my chores (laundry, water plants, wash and empty dishes, etc, etc, etc, etc, etc) before imbibing. Wine is my savior and I enjoy it immensely.