Saturday, March 23, 2013

Bracketology, Scientist-style

For years Dave and I have enjoyed watching basketball during the NCAA tournament in March.  This started about 25 years ago, when Dave was in the hospital during March for several consecutive years for cancer surgery, and the games we a bit of distraction.  Since then we fill out brackets, and to greater or lesser extents watch and enjoy the games. 

A dear friend, a scientist at a prestigious institution out East, shared his office bracket rules with us, and it had me laughing-- it was athletic competition the PhD scientist way.  I just had to share a small section of their two-page scoring instructions:
"There will be bonus points for picking upsets...Upset bonus points will be awarded according to the following formula:
0.2 * (difference in seeds) for differences > 0
For example, a 14-seed beating a 3-seed in the first round would net you 0.2 * (14-3) = 2.2 upset bonus points...
To discourage random picking of upsets (gaming the system) points will be lost for each game picked incorrectly. ..Those who choose wisely can still probably game the system, but there will be a penalty if you choose poorly...."

What seems like a perverse math word problem to me is fun for these guys.  I guess it just goes to prove the old adage that variety is the spice of life.  Or maybe the one that says truth is stranger than fiction.  I'm not quite sure which...

Friday, March 22, 2013

Recently completed projects

Not much has been getting done around here, except for trying to keep up with life, of course.  But two little projects did get finished in the last couple of weeks.

First, I finished a little pear-shaped pin cushoin for my daughter-in-law Elsa's birthday.  I had to buy 10 pounds of ground walnut shells to use a quarter pound to stuff it, so I will have to make more of these in the future.
I also completed a baby quilt for Robert Lawrence.  I called it "A Wee Zoo for Bertie".  I designed the quilts made by the ladies in our church for Bertie's older five siblings, so it only seemed right that he should have one of his own.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Out of stock

My sweet friend Amy gave me the little tea towel above.  It made her think of me, and when she gave it to me, we both laughed until we cried. 

Indeed, as I research the side-effects and precautions for the new drug I start today, I am tempted not just to laugh at the above sentiment, but to feel very sorry for myself and cry for real.  And that never leads me to a good place. 

I think the operative words in this little saying are "that you ordered." The things we order for our lives, and what we get, are often far different from each other. The problem is that we see only a limited part of reality, and a limited part of eternity.  We make our "orders" of what life should hold based on that limited and often faulty view. When we give up placing orders for our lives, and instead learn to let God place the order for us, we can rejoice in the blessings, and believe there is purpose for the trials and suffering.  That's when we begin to understand both the brokenness of our lives and the beautiful grace and mercy of God's redemption.

I don't think it's just "sour grapes" to say that when God is ordering your life, you don't actually want what you ordered anyway.

Monday, March 18, 2013

The joy of friends

 We are currently being blessed with the company of the Dave and Amy Lawrence family on the weekends.  Visiting from maryland and staying with family in ABQ during the week, they join us for worship, fun, and fellowship in the weekends.  This family IS part of our family!
As we attempted to take the lovely family photo above, baby Robert decided to leave a gift on the front stoop instead, and a hasty out-door clean up was called for!

 Below, world-renowned space scientist David J. Lawrence (see Presenter #3 here, or see him quoted in the New York Times here), experiments at the dinner table with napkin rings, and his family follows suit.

 They are a sweet family, and dear brothers and sisters in Christ.  What a treat to spend time with them all! Look for more photographic evidence on Wednesday...

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Health update: or my life as a pelican

This was a week for my 'three month visits": I saw the oncologist and the retina specialist.  If you are interested in the details, see below. Otherwise, the short version is that I am clear of cancer, still fighting birdshot, and checking on various and sundry other avenues to help me feel better.  In short, God is good. Thank you for your prayers!

I sometimes feel like this pelican I saw in Florida: all puffed up and not wanting to move. But as I focus on the blessings God provides, I can keep on waddling.  And sometimes I can actually soar above the waves. I am trying to focus on those soaring opportunities.

For the detail-inclined:
  • No sign of cancer #2 at more than a year out (hurrah!), staying on the anastrozole, and having a base-line ultrasound of my chest wall so we can tell the scar tissue from anything else should that ever be necessary in the future.
  • Confirmed with the rheumatologist that though my vitamin D levels are low, I should NOT supplement due to the likelihood that I have sarcoidosis (though it appears to be quiescent at the moment- also hurrah!). Vitamin D get processed strangely by sarcoid patients, and can lead to poisoning.  Let's definitely avoid that.
  • Still tracking down whether to do an ACTH stim test to determine if I have adrenal insufficiency or not.  This is my oncologist's quest to address my fatigue issues.  We'll see what comes of it. 
  • The birdshot has not, unfortunately, stopped making the blood vessels in my eyes "leaky".  So despite the higher dose of cellcept, we have no improvement.  As soon as I can lay my hands on some, I will add cyclosporine (Neoral) to my daily cellcept dose.  I would appreciate prayers that we would not see side effects from that, but would see the birdshot move to inactivity.  That is what we are looking for.  Our goal is to stop the leaking/retina damage and remain stable./  If we can do that and stay there for 1-2 years, then i get to wean off the drugs and see if I can stay there without them.
  • I found out from the retina doc that there are a couple chemo-type drugs that are possibilities if the cellcept/cyclosporine cocktail doesn't do the trick before we have to move to some rather grizzly surgical options. (Particularly humira or remikade.) While I am praying not to have to go that route, I love that I have choices before the surgical one.  God is being very good to encourage me in this.
  • When I get very disappointed or discouraged with all this, and with the way I feel  on all these drugs, my sweet husband reminds me that these drug side-effects are better than having cancer or going blind.  And he is right.  I am too ready to forget God's blessing to me.  If i had lived even 25 or 30 years ago, I likely would have been dead by now.  So God must still have a use for my waddling self here, and I delight in the blessings He brings my way every day.  one of those blessings is you, Gentle Reader!  I would love to hear from you any time!