Click on picture to read Chaco's poems

Monday, August 31, 2009

Back From Caddo Lake

Sheila on the dock behind Duckweed Cabin

Lily pads on Caddo Lake

Sitting on Dock Bench among the Cypress and Spanish Moss

Sheila's Miata in front of Duckweed Cabin

We just got back from a relaxing weekend at Caddo Lake. Many things have changed since we used to go there paddling and camping or staying at one of Dottie's cabins. many area restaurants and small grocery stores are closed down. The bad economy and several business owner's deaths have cause most or our favorite places to close or change hands. The Shady Glade Cafe was still open although with new owners and it is just not the same and WAY too expensive for small town meal prices. The Caddo Grocery was closed due to the owner's death and the whole building has been moved down the street and stands abandoned for the new owner maybe open at a later date. Another restaurant under the Highway 43 bridge was just gone! The entire building just vanished! Many other changes and none for the better. Dottie's cabins are still the same and as always a great place to get away. we did nothing, just sit around and relax. Hate to be back in the DFW area again! We stopped by the Cancer Center on the way home and had Sheila's dressing changed and ports flushed. Now she is free until Thursday when we see the doctor again.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Goodbye Dallas!!

Today we had no treatments or anywhere to be and Sheila's doctor will not start any additional rounds of chemo until her blood counts climb back up. So.....instead of sitting around the WE CARE, Inc. house until Tuesday when she has to have her CVC ports flushed out we hit the road in her Miata! Our plan was to go to Caddo Lake in east Texas and stay at Spatterdock Cabins but Dotty the owner of Spatterdock did not have any openings with such short notice. She did call us back and said she had a cancellation for Sunday night and that we could have the Duckweed Cabin on that night if we wanted it. We took it! This is the first time we have gone to Caddo with out kayaks and all the paddling gear. We just want to sit around the cabin, walk on the docks and eat at the Shady Glade Cafe. Just to get away from all the treatments and doctors and patients will be a treatment in itself. We may even splurge and go on a steam powered paddle boat ride just like all the other Dallas tourists we used to see while we paddled out on the lake. Right now we are in Marshall, Texas about 20 miles from the tiny town of Uncertain where the Spatterdock Cabins are located. We got a room for the night and will head to Duckweed Cabin sometime tomorrow....after we sleep in late! Looking forward to getting back to the swamp and woods and mosquitoes and nosies of the lake as opposed to the noisy cars and traffic and rude and self absorbed phonies of the big city!

Video Link Caddo Tour (see if you can spot the gators!)

Caddo Cabins and Lake Houses Tour (strange but cool at the same time)

Above pic is our camp on Goat Island deep in the swamp at Caddo Lake, and NO.......our bivies are NOT alligator proof!

Friday, August 28, 2009

Shot Full of Holes and Doying - Part 3

That’s when it happened, she went down hard! I could see by the scared look in her eyes that she was hurt. “Are you OK?” She did not say anything! She did not come down that last slope. “How bad is it?” “Give me a minute” I gave her 10 seconds. “How bad!” “I don’t know!” “Well what do you think!” More tears, more shaking. “Do you think it’s broke!” “I don’t know!” “Well what do you think” “Give me a minute!” “What do you need me to do?" " I don't know" She just stared at me, her eyes filled with tears and she started shaking, holding her left leg. Now I was scared! I was already mad at myself for being distracted and not watching her come down that last slope. What do you want me to do!?” “ I don’t know!” “Can you put weight on it?” “ I don’t know” “Let me help you up!” “Give me a minute!” It went on like this while we both tried to understand what just happened. We then decided to just sit there awhile and see if the pain went away or if it would start to swell. If she could not walk on it we were in trouble being this high up on a ridge with actual climbing, not just walking to get back down to lower elevations. I then noticed that we were sitting right on the border of New York and New Jersey. There nailed to a tree was an AT trail register box. It is a box painted with the AT logo and contains a register log that hikers are supposed to sign into stating their names, number in the hiking party and other information to help trail officials, ridge runners and even police in the case a hiker disappears or to report trail conditions that might be of interest to them. It is also a way communicate to other hikers up and down the trail. I decided to sign in and leave the information that Toesocks had fallen and injured her leg and that we would be “limping out to the nearest road crossing to get help”. I also knew that the hikers behind us at the shelter the previous night would be coming our way and would learn about our situation. They could be counted on to help us if we needed it. Hikers on the AT look out for each other and will help you if there is any sort of emergency. I also checked our data book and learned that we had about five miles of very rugged terrain to get out to the nearest road. After we looked closely at her ankle and saw that the swelling was not too bad we wrapped it tightly in an ace bandage and she tried to get up and put some weight on it. We did not think it was broken, maybe just a bad sprain. Toesocks would not let me carry her pack, though I did lighten it by dumping her water and taking the food she had in it. We started for the road crossing limping slowly and taking it very slow. We knew that the fastest of the hikers from last night would be catching up with us anytime now. Toesocks was limping along with stops to sit down and cry. I started thinking that we would be spending the night in the rocks and not make the road crossing before dark. There was no way we were going to be carried out! In some places we had to climb down sheer rock faces using both hands and feet with Toesocks handing her pack and poles off to me before I had to help her up or down a tough section. In some spots she had to use me as a ladder to step up or down on, my shoulder or knee acting as a step for her to make it through the maze of rocky obstacles. We made it to a tenting area and took a break using the log benches around the fire ring. Soon we heard hikers coming up the trail in our direction. It was Sunny and Share followed by Low Impact who we met in Virginia and a hiker from Italy we had met the day before. They all knew what happened by reading the trail register and offered to carry Toesocks and her pack all the way out to the road crossing. We told them hopefully it was just a sprain and that if we could make it out to the road we would call Anton’s on the Lake, a local motel to come and pick us up. There would be a phone at the Bellvale Creamery near the road crossing according to our data book and there would also be ice cream! After a day or two of rest at the motel we planned to be back on the trail. As the other hikers dumped their packs to take a break with us we learned of the events the night before that had them packing up and moving out of the shelter in the rain. Low Impact told us that after they were settled in the packed shelter a section hiker called Disco Dancer came in and they made room for him. Earlier as Toesocks and I were setting up our tarp we noticed him stagger into the shelter area. He came crashing through the woods and not on the trail. He was overweight and over packed and very over heated! He looked like he had tried to break up a fight between angry porcupines! Scratched and breathing heavily he told us that he was too tired to set up his tent. He said that somehow he had lost the trail and was just relieved to have found the shelter! The last we saw of him was when he headed for the shelter full of thru-hikers. It was now late at night and the rain was pounding on the roof of the shelter. The hikers were all asleep, dry and cozy as the first signs that something was not right started to appear. It began like someone turning over in their sleeping bag, a soft rustling sound. No one awoke. Then began a trashing sound, like someone having a bad dream, moaning and groaning but not waking. A few of the hikers were now stirred awake. They whispered that Disco Dancer was dreaming about being lost on the AT that day and chased by a hungry bear. He seemed to be running from it still as they laughed and tried to go back to sleep. It was not to be. Disco Dancer looked like a newly landed trout flopping around inside his sleeping bag, kicking the wall on one side and the startled hiker on his other side. He was heaving up and down and side to side like if you awoke to find a copperhead sharing your sleeping bag! Groaning loudly now and pounding his feet against the floor and wall of the wooden shelter ,and the hiker sleeping next to him, every hiker was awake and growing angry. The small shelter had everyone lined up tightly side by side to fit in safe from the rain. It has been known on the AT for everyone to have to sleep on their sides to make enough room in the shelter for a hiker in the rain! The thrashing now got more violent and to make it worse he was the only one sleeping! They had enough of this sleeping “disco dancer”! They decided to shake him awake and ask him what was wrong! Was he having a bad dream or did he have some kind of serious sleep disorder? No one had seen anything this strange in 1300 miles of sharing shelters. This had gone way past being funny! Some were concerned for his safety. This could be some kind of seizure! Maybe he was an epileptic? When he was jostled awake and told of his disturbing midnight dancing he said that he did indeed have a “slight” sleep disorder but had been so tired that he failed to take his medication. “Failed to take his medication”? He knew he had this problem and still decided to squeeze into the crowded shelter. This bit of information did not go over well with the tired hikers. Thru-hikers are by nature a very tolerable lot but this was a serious violation of shelter etiquette. Some voted he should be tossed out into the rain. He did have a tent after all! Others said it was a medical condition and not his fault, though he should have known not to use a crowded shelter with this kind of problem. To make matters worse he didn’t even seem aware that he had done anything wrong. The disgusted hikers just got up, packed up their gear and dragged their sleeping bags out into the rain to find a place to tent out. They left him alone on the dance floor! Sitting around the campsite now we told them what he had said about being too tired to set up his tent. This made them angry all over again and they wished they had chewed him out more for being lazy and inconsiderate! Toesocks and I had a good laugh hearing this story because we had slept soundly and dry under our tarp not knowing of their miserable night in and out of the shelter. Then we all had a good laugh about it. It is just the way of the trail, you cannot fight it, you just have to adjust to it. After checking that we would be alright they threw on their packs and hiked north. After all, ice cream was only a few miles away! Ice cream on a long thru-hike can be a big motivator, even with an injured leg. We envied Sunny, Share, Low and the Italian as they hiked out of sight. They would be enjoying ice cream hours before us, that’s if we even made it out to the road before dark. I calculated that we were "hiking" less than one mile per hour, but at least we were out of the high rocks as the trail started winding down to slightly more level terrain.
(to be continued)

The pic above is a sign posted along the AT during part of our 2008 hike by District Rangers. Several people lost their food to bears along the trail but we had no such encounters.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Lunch with the Grandkids

Jack, Rhonda and Jane

Sheila, Jack and Rhonda

Mazie, Sheila and Jack enjoying a fine lunch from Mickey D's. This is the first time Sheila has seen her grand kids since we left to hike the Appalachian Trail in June.

Today we went to the Infusion Center for Sheila's antibiotic treatment and then went to see her daughter Rhonda and her grand kids, Mazie, Jane and Jack. Sheila has not been able to see them due to her very low white cell counts and a fear of getting an infection. I went out to run some errands and pay bills while Sheila visited and then when I was done we went and got McDonald's to take back to the kids for lunch.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Quick Update

Well its been a few day between updates because not much is new. We go to the infusion center every day this week for a round of antibiotics and have Sheila's blood checked twice this week after the transfusion of blood and platelets at the hospital. Today we did go to see the surgeon and he said her arm is looking so good that we could discontinue the application of Regranix (the 3 thousand dollar gel) and to start using just Neosporin on it once a day. It seems the Regranix is actually growing little bumps on it and is no longer needed. He also does not need to see her for another month! So that's about it, everything is going as good as it can be. I sure hopes this continues.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Just When You Think You're Out .....They Pull You Back In!!

So this morning we went to the Arlington Cancer Center to see the Oncologist and he said as expected after a round of chemo, her blood counts were all way down. Platelets, Hemoglobin and White Cells all VERY low and he said Sheila would need to go to the hospital for 2 units of whole blood and 1 unit of platelets. That was round 3 of chemo and even though she was taken off of a week and a day ago, the counts will continue to drop for about a week. The danger is with counts that low, bleeding or an infection is a serious concern. Before we went in to see the oncologist she always has to go to the infusion center and have blood drawn and the resulting report has to go to the doctor before she goes in to see him. So now he sends us BACK to the infusion center for more blood work so they can "type and cross check" her before they can give her the blood and platelets at the hospital. We get to the infusion center and they have no one qualified to take her blood from her CVC port. They call the doctor's office and then decide to send us to the lab for the "type and cross". The lab draws the blood and gives it to us to take to the hospital for the hospital to run the "type and cross". We get to the hospital room where they give blood and platelets and they tell us we have to go to admissions first (we have never had to do this before I tell them). A tech takes us (Sheila in a wheel chair ) to admissions and on the way through the lobby an elderly lady with a walker has fallen down and a crowd of nurses, doctors and what I could only describe as admin/legal types from the hospital and all hovering over her! We get through admissions and they take us up to the 3rd floor (where Sheila spent a month in the hospital) to have the blood and platelets administered. So when we get to the room the blood work finally goes to the hospital's lab and so we sit......for three hours! After 3 hours they hook her up for the platelets (which require no "type and cross") Now it is 6:30PM and the platelets have run and still NO word from the lab or when she will get the whole blood! This little adventure started at 10:30AM .......and here we still sit!

Update: 8:45PM They finally started the whole blood and unit number 2 is now half empty.......maybe we will get outta here before 10PM!?

Cover Pic today is my daughter Ashley paddling through Red Belly at Caddo Lake.

Friday, August 21, 2009

August snow reported in Michigan

After what was to be the coldest July on record in Michigan it has just been reported recently that snow has fallen for the first time there in the month of August. It has also been observed that all the four winged humming birds have started their southerly migration to ..........the planet Adnolu. Yes folks, the lady who first shocked the birding community with reports of four winged humming birds is out of the hospital after spending several weeks under observation. She now states that the whole story was fabricated to cover up the fact that she had been abducted by aliens. She further states that she has proof positive that the world climate is not warming but in fact is getting colder! When it was pointed out to her that she lives damn near the north pole, all she could say was, "By God, just look out the window, it's snowing I tell ya!" She went on to say that aliens had dropped into her farm to refuel, it seems their mothership runs on maple syrup and that they befriended her when she offered them some of her "famous" pecan pie. They brought the humming birds with them to leave at the northern most parts of the country to make people think the climate must be getting warmer she went on to say. Apparently they didn't know that humming birds on earth have only two wings! She believed they were also introducing fish into her "fish" ponds that previously "contained no fish". When asked where their home planet Adnolu was located the best she could respond was, " I am not exactly sure but I think it is below the bridge somewhere".

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Went for a Hike Today

Well OK, not really a hike but we did go for a short walk around this neighborhood. We had no appointments or treatments and so we went to JJ's for lunch then this afternoon went on a very short walk. Sheila is feeling stronger everyday she is off chemo and tomorrow we may see the movie Inglorious Bastards. I have no idea if it is any good but I did sit through Julie and Julia so I guess I can handle this one. That's about it for now, nothing exciting going on.

Picture today is of Sheila and Alaskan Kayak Guides Gillian and Chris enjoying dinner under a wet tarp. It rained constantly for five days but that didn't put a damper on our kayak camping trip into the Misty Fjords.

Here is a link to their website:

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Lab and Bloodwork Today

Just back from the Cancer Center and we waited around to get the results of the blood work. Everything looks good was the answer, so no nothing to do till Sheila sees the oncologist on Monday.

Top picture of Sheila is one of our motorcycle trips, this stop was at Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo, Texas. Here is a link with more info:

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Unsociable Insecurity

So this morning we went to breakfast at IHOP and had a good breakfast, then the real fun began. We had no doctors or lab appointments so we went to the Unsociable Insecurity Office to apply for Shiela's retirement benefits. We logged into the lobby's computer and were issued a printout with a number to wait to be called. After waiting only about 30 minutes (we got there fairly early) we were called up to a window where the lady took all Sheila's information and then proceeded to tell us we had to once again go have a seat and wait "about 2 hours" to be seen by another person. I told her that Sheila had leukemia and could not sit and wait that long. She said in that case she could set up an appointed time to be seen by someone. "OK, make us an appointment and we will come back", I said. She looked through her computer and then told me that they were booked up the rest of the month. "OK, make us an appointment for NEXT month", I said. "We cannot make appointments THAT far in advance, you will have to just call us or come back NEXT month to make an appointment" THAT far in advance?.....NEXT month is two weeks away, I can make a damn dentist appointment a YEAR in advance, the FEDERAL government cannot make an appointment 2 weeks out!!??? This is the kind of idiotic, incompetent bureaucracy we have to deal with at ANY level of government! Why should I be surprised? We took the phone number down but will try and do this on the SSI web site. And they now want to take over and run the entire health care system? The ONLY thing this government can do efficiently is waste our tax dollars and rob us blind!

Monday, August 17, 2009


Well we just came from the oncologist and it is official......Dr. DiStefano used the "R" word for the first time! The leukemia is in remission! Sheila's blood work all looked excellent, though the counts nose dive during rounds of chemo, they quickly bounce back to normal counts afterwards! This should ward off any thought of a bone marrow transplant. The next step is more rounds of chemo a few weeks apart of a slightly different type and schedule. These follow up rounds will be very potent but they should also extend the time between when they are given. No word yet on how many more rounds, we just have to wait and see how she does each time and take it from there. Right now all Sheila has is lab work once or twice a week and to see the surgeon about her arm healing. The arm is doing outstanding and the wound is now just about half of it's original size and rapidly closing up. It is no longer deep, and the entire area looks pink and healthy. Tell me she is not one tough little lady!!!!

Above picture is Sheila at Fort Adams, Newport, R.I. We rented kayaks and paddled from the Amoury on Thames to Kings Park, Ida Lewis, then Fort Adams and back.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

"Shot full of holes and doying" part 2

Something was not right here. I thought about this as we hit the trail. We crossed a road after hiking a short time and the rain was now intermittent as we hiked through a boggy area, first on boardwalks then up to our ankles as our sandals sunk into the mud. Though it was wet and muddy and the mosquitoes were enjoying the breakfast buffet of me, with an order of Toesocks on the side, we were in fact walking through beautiful lush green vegetation and the ferns were waist high on both side of the trail. Because we left the shelter so early we were also the only ones on the trail so far as we could tell. Soon we were gaining elevation as the trail took us high up on the rocky ridge of the Appalachians. The wet rocks were proving to be very treacherous and we both slipped many times trying to scramble up the slick rock surfaces. Luckily neither one of us had fallen, but behind me I could hear Toesock’s trekking poles scraping rock frequently as she tried to find purchase with the thin carbon fiber sticks. I soon began showing her where it was extra slick and to especially watch out for the black colored rock surfaces because they were just like ice! Several places we had to climb with both hands and feet and she would hand off her trekking poles to me to free up both her hands. I usually hiked without any poles and I loved to scramble on the rocks. We were walking up, over and then down massive slabs of rocks that reminded me of a dinosaur’s back, a very big damn dinosaur! The downward side was where a fall could prove disastrous. Many places I held Toesock’s hand or stood just below her on the down slope in case she started to fall. We went on like this slowly and carefully for a couple of hours and I was growing annoyed because we were not making very good time. I hated it when I thought like this because we had all the time in the world. But the trail does that to you, it makes you think…..”miles…..we gotta make our miles today!” I often had to force myself to relax and not fight the trail. I think it’s a guy thing, and I knew Toesocks didn’t like it. In a short time we would hit the New Jersey/New York border and hike into our eighth state. Soon after that we would also tag the highest point in New York State. Then I saw it! Right there, just ahead of me, I saw NJ/NY painted on the wet rocks! We had hit state number eight! I turned around to holler at Toesocks, “WE”RE IN NEW YORK!” That’s when it happened, she went down hard! I could see by the scared look in her eyes that she was hurt. “God-damn it, are you OK?” She didn’t say anything! She didn’t get up. She just stared at me, her eyes filled with tears and she started shaking, holding her left leg. Now I was scared! I was already mad at myself for being distracted and not watching her come down that last slope. “How bad is it?” “Give me a minute” I gave her 10 seconds. “How bad!” “I don’t know!” “Well what do you think!” More tears, more shaking. “Do you think it’s broke!” “I don’t know!” “Well what do you think” “Give me a minute!” “What do you want me to do!?” “ I don’t know!” “Can you put weight on it?” “ I don’t know” “Let me help you up!” “God-damn it!” “Give me a minute!” “God-damn it!” It went on like this while we both tried to understand what just happened. We then decided to just sit there awhile and see if the pain went away or if it would start to swell. If she could not walk on it we were in trouble being this high up on a ridge with actual climbing, not just walking to get back down to lower elevations. ( be continued)

The cover picture today is my old kayak "Ah-Notta-Hey" deep into Caddo Lake on Goat Island. Sheila and I often paddled out deep into the swamp where no one except us, the otters, beavers and alligators were and camped for the weekend.

Toesocks goes wireless......

Well we just left the Cancer Center and Sheila had the chemo pack disconnected and she is once again unhooked and wireless! They also changed the dressing on her IV port and we got right in and out because it is Sunday. Right now we are back at the house and have ordered a Domino's pizza online for the first time. You can actually track it while it is being made and the site shows a load bar and each step as your pizza is made. I ordered it for pick up and it will be ready in 20 minutes. Pretty neat! Tomorrow we go to see her oncologist Dr. DiStefano and have her lab work done to check all her blood counts.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Life is Good

Today we had another day of no treatments so we went out to breakfast at Cracker Barrel then went to check our P.O. box. There we found a package from my sister Sue with a card and two T-Shirts her and Mike bought for us while they were in Newport. They were "Life is Good" T-Shirts with hiking scenes on them. Here is a pic also showing off our matching "chemo" haircuts.
Tomorrow we go to the Cancer Center to have her chemo pack disconnected, then Monday we go to see the oncologist for blood work and to see what they throw at her next. The last word we got was that hopefully her treatments will be over before the end of the year. Alot depends on how her blood counts do between chemo rounds. They cannot do a folllow up chemo round until her counts come up to a safe level from the past chemo round.

Today's cover picture is of my daughter Ashley paddling at Caddo Lake in East Texas. It is the only natural lake in all of Texas and is full of cypress trees, spanish moss, spatterdocks, beavers and alligators.

Friday, August 14, 2009

A Real Zero Day

Today Sheila is on day four of round three of chemo. She has been feeling pretty good but today slept the day away and also has felt nauseous. Mike and Graig our housemates left for the weekend to visit Mike's sister in Springtown, Texas. Graig is getting a weekend break from his chemo treatments. Did nothing today except picking up Sheila's prescription at Walmart and getting us dinner at Jack-in-the-Box. I have been thinking......hell I've had lots of time to think lately.......about writing about our Appalachian Trail hikes and all the other things that have gotten us to this point. The trouble I have had is how to put it all down in writing and where the hell to start. Do I start where we first started planning to do the trail and go from there? I can't imagine having to read all that to get up to where anything interesting happened. So today I decided to start it where we had to finish it, then go back to all the how and why stuff. Hoepfully it will be halfway intersting and maybe someone may even want to read about it all. So here is my first feeble attempt at starting our story:

Chapter 1

“Bulletproof or Shot Full of Holes and D-o-ying”

I awoke to the beat of a hard rain’s drum roll on the roof of our tarp. It had been raining steadily all night and as we peeked out from under our tarp we could see that most of the hikers who had been sleeping in the nearby shelter were now tented out everywhere in the surrounding woods. Why would they leave the shelter in the middle of the night, in the pouring rain, to set up their tents? We had heard no commotions from visiting bears or anyone yelling, “snake!” but there they were all around us, sleeping in the rain. No one was awake and as usual Toesocks and I packed up our gear trying to be quiet and not disturb the sleeping hikers. We got on the trail before it was fully light and started out for what was to be another twenty mile day on our Appalachian Trail thru-hike. We had no way of knowing that it would be five or six hours until we learned what happened in the shelter during the night and that it would also be our last day on the trail. We had hiked 1345 miles of our 2175 mile hike. We were now making twenty mile days easily and feeling bulletproof! During our hike when one of us asked the other how they were feeling the answer had become “bulletproof” if we felt great, or “shot full of holes and doying” if we felt terrible. We had somehow picked up these sayings from movies we had watched before we left home and they comically conveyed how we were feeling. Early in the hike it was mostly “shot full of holes” but after three months and 1300 miles it was almost always “bulletproof”. On the way out of camp I caught sight of one lone hiker in the shelter still asleep? Why the hell was he the only one in there? Something was not right here. I thought about this as we hit the trail. We crossed a road after hiking a short time and the rain was now intermittent as we hiked through a boggy area, first on boardwalks then up to our ankles as our sandals sunk into the mud. ( be continued)

Cover picture today is of Springer Mountain Georgia, the starting point of the Appalachian Trail if you are hiking north to Mount Katahdin, Maine. Maine is only five million steps, 2175 miles and four or five months of walking away!

Thursday, August 13, 2009



Living Room

Dining Area


Living Area

Sheila relaxing in the living room

This is the house we are staying in while Sheila undergoes cancer treatments.It is a little further away from the hospital and the Cancer Center than the first WE CARE house we stayed at but it is nicer and there are more stores and other services around here. It is run and owned by a lady named Carol who is a cancer survivor herself and bought these houses after she was well enough to help other people have a nicer place to stay than a motel. People come from all over the world to be treated at the Arlington Cancer Center which is right next door to the Arlington Memorial Hospital. There are 4 bedrooms one of which has two queen beds to provide several people and/or their families a comfortable place to stay. The house has everything you would need and even the little things like bath towels are like you would find in a fine hotel, thick and large. There is cable TV in all the bedrooms and also WIFI throughout the house. Right now there is another couple from Kansas who are also staying here, Mike and her husband Graig who is sick with bone cancer. They are a really nice couple who own a ranch in Kansas.
Today Sheila is on day three of a five day course of chemo. It is administered through a waist pack that she can take around with her. It will be taken off on Sunday when this round is complete. Then we should have a week or two of no chemo until the next round is scheduled. Her arm wound is healing nicely and it must partly be due to the very expensive gel we have been putting on it. It is made with human platelets and has to be kept refrigerated.

The cover pic today is of me and Sheila paddling in the Misty Fjords. We are looking around the many small islands in the Behm Canal where we saw the Orcas hunting seals. The seals were all bunched up on the small rocky island and were afraid to go into the water.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Michigan Woman First to Discover Four Winged Humming Bird

date- 08-11-09
associated press release

In a far north corner of Michigan today, a woman trying to attract more humming birds to her backyard feed shocked the world of Ornithology by her claim to have seen "numerous" four winged humming birds around her feeder. The woman, a local travel agent and bean picker had tried a new homemade concoction in her backyard feeders. While she refused to say what ingredients made up her home grown humming bird solution it was suspected by the overpowering odors around her home that it may contain one or more of the following ingredients: smoked fish of unknown species, pickled meat of some type, possibly bologna, maple syrup and lots and lots of beans! When asked how she came up with this magical potion she said it was really just trial and error. "One time all it did was attract bats!", she was quoted as saying and...... "the second batch just last summer got rid of a visiting freeloading boyfriend of my sister's!". When a team of visiting Ornithologists from the University of Michigan came to her home to verify the sighting of the four winged birds she was nowhere to be found however. A neighbor said she liked to frequent the nearby bars and gambling establishments. She was eventually found in one of her farm's many outbuildings, one she called, though her speech was slurred, "the sugar shack". There she was found in a stupor with a giant jug under her arm saying over and over, "BY GOD I TELL YA, THEY HAD FOUR G*#DAMN WINGS!!!" She could also not explain the exceedingly strange looking type, of what could only be described as a birdwatching hat, that she was wearing. The visiting ornithologists got the idea that she thought this strange hat, which she said her "sister" mailed to her, had flight properties of its own and would enable her to "take flight" with the next visiting group of humming birds. At the time this report was posted she is was in isolation and being evaluated as to her mental stability. "No comment" was the only answer that relatives who could be located would give.

The cover picture today is of world reknowned adventurer, survival expert and ornithologist , Professor Steve "Mile-or-Two" Chase glassing the hills of Alaska for the bird that was to eventually to earn him his nickname MILE-OR-TWO. He discovered this elusive avian wonder while on a kayak trip in Alaska's Misty Fjords. It is a duck-like bird, who while in the frigid Alaskan waters, ducks its head underwater and whistles through it's ass. This mating whistle can be heard for a mile or two!

Monday, August 10, 2009

Bone Marrow Biopsy and Ton's Mongolian Grill

Today we had to go to the Cancer Center for Sheila's bone marrow biopsy. Before we went there we had to stop at the lab and get her blood work done. Dr. DiStefano said her blood counts were all looking good right now, her white counts have doubled everyday since Friday when we saw him last. Her platelets are fantastic and her red cells were all good. This means its OK to start chemo again tomorrow morning. This round of chemo will be given on the same schedule as the last one. Two days of one kind of chemo and at the same time a five day drip from her chemo backpack of another kind of chemo. It is called a 2&5. He also did the bone marrow biopsy, I think this is number 6! While doing the biopsy he was telling us that he has a dog at home that is also getting chemo and how much cheaper dog chemo is than for humans! Hmmmm, maybe we can change Sheila's name to Princess or Lady!?? This biopsy went better than the last one for Sheila, it was less uncomfortable.
After all this we went to Ton's for lunch! This is one of our favorite places to eat and we have taken anyone who visits us to go eat at Ton's.
Also last night Mike and Graig came back to the house after being home in Kansas for a week or so. They were surprised seeing the quart of real Michigan maple syrup that Harvey and Ulonda, Sheila's brother-in-law and sister sent down to them. They make right there on their farm in Kinross, Michigan. We have had the house to ourselves for all that time. Carol, the lady who own' s these houses did bring another couple here but they decided to stay at one of her other houses. We saw them today as we left the Cancer Center. When we went to the post office today we also received a very nice card from Rene "She-Dino" Swicewood, a hiker friend of ours. Thanks Rene and everyone else for all the cards, thoughts and prayers!!!
The cover pic today is of Sheila "Toesocks-Survivor woman" Black on our 2008 AT thru-hike. We had tented out the night before and after hiking about 5-8 miles the next morning started to realize that we had just dodged a major storm that same night. There was miles of fresh leaves all over the ground from what we could only assume was one hell of a hail storm. Then we started seeing branches and entire trees down on the trail! That night we had a little rain and heard distant thunder but really got lucky that we didn't have to ride it out under an eight ounce spinnaker tarp!

Sunday, August 9, 2009

"beware the hobby that eats" - henry david thoreau

Well today was a repeat of yesterday, big surprise.........did almost nothing! We did go to Cracker Barrel for a late breakfast then Sheila took a rest while I met my youngest daughter Jacki and her boyfriend at McDonalds for lunch. After lunch I did one of my most favorite things in the world, second only to sticking a red hot sharpened poker in my eye......I went to Walmart on a weekend!! We only needed a few things. It was a real test of my well known patience to work my way around the hords of slow moving overweight waddlers pushing their overloaded carts of sugar laden treats for their misbehaving obese offspring! Then of course there are the herds of electrically propelled chuck wagon drivers who think pedestrians inside a Walmart have no right of way and that we are only delaying their next chowing down. I am not talking about the elderly or truly handicapped people that actually need an electric cart. I am talking about the gravitationally challenged "people" who because they had an ingrown toenail or a bad hair day somewhere back in their one branch family tree and talked a pill pushing "Dr. Phil" into giving them a handicap sticker for their car. These people need a real doctor to tell them "HELL NO, I'm not giving you a handicap sticker, you in fact need to park five miles from Walmart and walk to your next week's supply of food!" Its not like anyone these days needs to actually go out and grow something or find something to kill to eat! OK, OK....don't get me started on the people in Walmart! I know.. too late!
Anyways Sheila goes in for bone marrow biopsy number 6 tomorrow.....she likes them about the same as I like Walmart. I think it would be less painful for me than Walmart. I hope I never have to find out though! Her arm is really starting to look like it's actually healing now......I hope the surgeon on Wednesday doesn't plan on cutting on it anymore. Tomorrow we should also find out if chemo starts again on Tuesday, chances are it will. A day at a time I guess, a day at a time.

The cover picture today is of "tent city" on board the Alaska Ferry Malispina on it's way through the Inside Passge.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

An Update for Ulonda

This is how Sheila's arm looked one week after second surgery
This is how Sheila's arm looks tonight

As you can see her wound is now much smaller and her arm itself has gained much more weight in the bicep area. It still has a long way to go but I think when we see the surgeon again on Wednesday he will let us know if it will require more surgery or a graft or if it will heal up all by itself. Maybe the 3 grand gel is doing some good, who knows? We still change the dressing daily and apply only the REGRANOX gel to it. She still favors that arm but I think she is using it more and more each day. I think this whole ordeal would have been much easier for her if not for this damn infection from an ambulance IV needle!

Oh yeah...the cover pic today is Sheila paddling past some of the thousand of waterfalls in Alaska's Misty Fjords.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Weekend Off!!!

We just came from the Arlington Cancer Center and Dr. DiStefano said Sheila's white count was 800 (it was just 600 last time we saw him) so it is on its way back up slowly. Her platelets are WAY up...... something like 160k, and her red cells are good. So now.....Monday another bone marrow biopsy and most likely with counts on the rise, 5 days of chemo just like round 2. This means 2 days at the Infusion Center for one chemo drug and 5 days with a chemo backpack of a second drug. Wednesday we also see the surgeon again and Dr. DiStefano, who looked at her arm also today says it looks good but he thinks it will require some type of medical procedure to close up the wound. Of course Dr. Bowers the surgeon has final say on that but I also think the wound is still too wide to close up on its own. We will have to wait and see. All and all things are going as good as they can with all this. So now we have the weekend with nothing to do but take care of her arm and see the oncologist on Monday to see if chemo will in fact be started. I guess it will depend on today's blood work and Monday's biopsy.

Pic today is me and Toesocks on Max Patch a "BALD" on the Apppalacian Trail. Scientists are still trying to determine how balds were formed and they date back to before settlers came to the region. Today they are slowly disappearing due to woody invasive species of plants brought to this country. I also recently read in JOURNEYS, the magazine of the Appalachian Trail, that they are now using herds of goats to graze off the woody plants because goats prefer them to "grasses". This hopefully will help save these balds and the tremendous views from atop them.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Ripleys' Believe It Or Not!

Well, today after going to the Infusion Center for Sheila's daily dose of antibiotics we went to Walmart and picked up the $3000.00 tube of ointment. It is only 15 grams (about the size of a travel size toothpaste tube). It has to be refrigerated and is made from human platelets. Anyways to make a long story short we put the medicine on her arm a few hours ago and low and behold........her arm is miraculously all healed, her leukemia is gone, her hair all grew back long and blond and right now Sheila is out on a five mile run! When she gets back from her run we are packing up the Miata and driving up to New York and finishing the AT and the Long Trail! OK..... that's what I expected for fifteen hundred dollars an ounce for a damn ointment!! Back to the real world.......after we left the Infusion Center we did go to Walmart and get the prescription filled for the REGRANEX gel. I have just now, at 7:22PM finished putting the ointment on her arm after she has showered and cleaned the wound. It says to put a small amount to cover the wound with a 1/16 inch of the ointment. Then we are to cover it with a moistened gauze and leave it on for 12 hours. After 12 hours we are to clean the wound and rinse off any remaining ointment and dress it with only a clean gauze. Next Wednesday we go back to see the surgeon and see how it looks. Tomorrow (Friday) we go to Arlington Cancer Center to have lab work and to see Dr. DiStefano the oncologist to see if the antibiotic IVs will continue and to see what her blood counts are, and also when the next round of chemo starts. I also bought a pair of sneakers today (the only real shoes I have since leaving New York...we have been wearing our hiking sandals everyday) so I can start running again. All this sitting around is not good for me physically or mentally, I need to get outside and burn off some calories!

NOTE: The cover pic today is of Sheila at the summit of Mt. Roberts in Juneau Alaska. She is leaning against Father Browns Cross taking in the view through the cloud cover of Juneau far below. We saw our very first black bear up close and personal on our way to the summit. We were the first hikers of the day up there and he was sleeping just off the trail in some heavy cover. When we hiked by he woke and jumped up about 50 feet from me. We backed off slowly to give him room but he decided instead to come right down onto the trail with us! Then he just looked at both of us and slowly walked up the trail away from us. We waited about 30 minutes then went the same way as him to the summit.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Three Thousand Dollar Ointment?!!!!

At 9:00AM we went to have Dr. Bowers the surgeon look at Sheila's arm and he said it looks good and is healing. This time he actually scrubbed on it a little and showed us that when we change the dressing we need to "not be gentle" and to rub the open wound with gauze until it is all pink and fresh looking tissue, even if it bleeds. He also said to even try a soft toothbrush on it to get it really clean. He then gave us a new prescription to put on it and said we "may" have a problem getting Sheila's insurance to pay for it as it was "alittle" expensive. We found out just how expensive when we went to the Walmart Pharmacy and the lady said it had to be special ordered and would be in tomorrow afternoon.....and it cost THREE THOUSAND DOLLARS!!!! This for an ounce or two of ointment!? What the hell does $3000.00 dollar ointment do???....grow a new arm?!! Luckily Sheila had called her insurance company first and they said our cost would be just $50.00! Anyways we go back to the surgeon in a week for another checkup, meanwhile it is to the Infusion Center everyday for her antibiotic IV.

The picture above is of Sheila in a Forest Service rowboat on Punchbowl Lake in Alaska's Misty Fjords. We had hiked up the mountain behind our kayak camp to a lake. In the lake was an island and in the island was another lake. The Forest Service had built a three sided shelter on top of the mountain and airlifted a canoe and a rowboat for people to use. I told Sheila she looked like Katherine Hepurn in The African Queen. I called this picture the Alaskan Queen!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Antibiotics and Pizza!

Not much new today, we went to the Infusion Center and Sheila did her antibiotic infusion, It only took about 30 minutes, then we went to Pizzaiolo's to have pizza. We have not been there since we left for the trail and they wondered where we have been. We filled them in on Sheila's new adventure and she showed off her new hair style! That's about it, the rest of the day we have just hung out at the house. Tomorrow we have a busy day with the surgeon, the oncologist and lab work.

The above pic today is of a 12 meter boat, I think it was Courageous from a past America's Cup Race. It was anchored off Fort Adams and I took the pic from the top of the Block Island Ferry as the sun was setting.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Lab, Doctor, McDonald's, Hospital

So this morning we went to see Sheila's Oncologist Dr. DiStefano. They took her blood at the lab and her platelet count was way down to 600. The doctor said it should be about 100,000. So that means another trip to the hospital to get an infusion of platelets. Platelets are the component of blood that makes your blood able to clot and without a good platelet count even a minor cut or scrape or mouth sore could turn into something serious. He also told us that because her white count was also low, and we knew it would be coming down after the second round of chemo, that she would need to come to the clinic every day until Friday to have an IV of antibiotics. Dr. DiStefano also told us that her 3rd round of chemo would not be for a couple more weeks to enable her counts to come back up.
He also informed us that if all goes as good as its has until now that she should be done with all chemo treatments by the end of the year! That sure seems like a long time when you are taking it day to day!
Here is Sheila's schedule for the rest of this week:

Tuesday - Arlington Cancer Center- 1PM infusion of antibiotics

Wednesday - Arlington Memorial Hospital - 9AM check up of arm with Dr. Bower, surgeon
Arlington Cancer Center - Anytime - infusion of antibiotics

Thursday - Arlington Cancer Center - Anytime - infusion of antibiotics

Friday - Arlington Cancer Center - 10:30 Lab for blood work
11:30 Dr. DiStefano
Anytime - infusion of antibiotics

Today's cover shot is of Orcas (Killer Whales) just off Sheila's kayak bow. They had shot right under our kayaks after chasing all the seals up on the small islands of rocks in the Misty Fjords of Alaska. We has been sitting in our boats watching as this small pod of transient orcas were going right up on the rocks trying to pick off the terrified seals! The big male had a dorsal fin about six feet out of the water! We learned that day that these were 'transient' orcas that ate ONLY mammals while other pods were 'resident' orcas and ONLY ate fish. There is also another group called 'offshores' and scientists don't really know what they eat...we were hoping it wasn't kayakers!!!

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Lazy Sunday

Nothing to write about today.......had nowhere to be and nothing to thats exactly what we did...NOTHING. Have to go see Dr. DiStefano tomorrow and Sheila also has some lab work to have done. Hopefully after yesterday's transfusion her bloodwork will all be positive. We should also learn exactly what the future chemo schedule should be.

The above pic today is of Sheila relaxing near a waterfall on our 2008 AT thru-hike.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Can I have seconds on whole blood please?

We are right now at the hospital getting Shelia's transfusion. The room is not unlike the Infusion Center's room where she had her second round of chemo and where we go for her frequent blood work at the Arlington Cancer Center. It is a big room with about a half dozen recliners for the patients and other chairs for the visitors. Right now there are three adults and one young girl getting blood or platelets or other treatments in this room with us. One of the nurses , Gerry Ann, Sheila remembered from her one month stay in the hospital. Another nurse who we had not met, but heard about is Fatima. She had the tragedy of having her son shot and murdered while Sheila was in the hospital here. My daughter Jacki had told me of a shooting in her Mom's neighborhood in which a boy she knew shot a brother of a girl he was dating. It turned out to be this Fatima's son! Fatima is from Jordan and was having problems raising her teenage boy herself and was saving money to send him back to Jordan to live with and be disciplined by the male members of her family there. Needless to say he did not make it. The kid who did the shooting has been on the run ever since and I still don't know if they have caught him. What a shame that now two mothers have lost there sons at such a young age due to teenage problems that are getting more and more common.
It is now 12:17 and Sheila is more than half way through her second unit of blood. It takes about and hour and a half per bag of blood to work it's way into her IV port. These units of blood should help with her fatigue. 12:23 now...they are unhooking the IV and she should be able to leave pretty soon. They served her lunch but all she ate was the fruit cocktail. Gotta go Sheila is done!
3:22PM OK......home now, went out to eat at Grandy's and looked for a pair of running shoes for me at two stores but no luck, will try again after the weekend......too many crowds of people milling about not knowing what the hell they came in the store for!

Today's cover shot is of Sheila having a good Ramen Noodle lunch camped out on the deck of the MV Malaspina of Alaska's Marine Highway Ferry system. After a week of kayak camping out in the Misty Fjords we hopped on board the ferry and duct tapped our tent to the deck so it wouldn't blow over board and then just camped out and watched Alaska's Inside Passage go right by our tent door! You can get on and off where you want and see Alaska much better and CHEAPER than on any cruise-ship type cruise.