Monday, March 28, 2011

Been busy

A few samples of what we've been up to. Resting at home a lot, but we did do some picture-taking things and this week is more down to business.

Early Saturday afternoon we went to Glenwood, NM, about 60 miles west of Silver City, for the annual Dutch Oven Cook-off. Great family event ... didn't see any drinking, no second-hand smoke, good time for kids. Some folks gussied up their cooking set-up and there were some beautiful dishes produced!

That night we took in the Slide (Ireland) show at WNMU Fine Arts Center Theatre. Five lively young fellow from Ireland, who interacted well with the audience ... lots of clapping and cheering.

This morning we went back to the theater to see the same group interacting with hundreds of school kids. We are really impressed with the way the Mimbres Region Arts Council not only brings good groups like Slide (Ireland), but also adds an educational component to the visit. Visual arts and music are alive and well in Silver City! tv

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Great way to begin Year Four!

We're still recovering from being away for a week, the stress of the medical stuff, the reunion with the varmints (cat yowling at 4:50 a.m.!) and so on. Taking it slowly.

Yesterday was our third wedding anniversary, celebrated quietly at home. In the long run, the most important event was the phone call Sandy received from the Mayo: They got it all!

There were no cancer cells found in the marginal tissues around the section that was removed. That, with the discovery at the time of surgery that there was no involvement of the lymph nodes, means NO follow-up surgery will be needed, no mastectomy!!! Great news, a great relief.

They also moved up and consolidated our follow-up visit, so we go back to Scottsdale on the 12th for appointments on the 13th. This will only be a 3-day trip, instead of the 4-day planned earlier. At that time, we should learn definitively about what follow-up treatment will be needed, radiation and/or chemo.

Plus, we got word that the pictures we submitted to the Mesa Verde Association a year ago have finally been approved and we will be providing our keepsake photo cards to them for sale at the Mesa Verde National Park outlets. Nice plus for FeVa Fotos!

The sun is finally coming up, after a night with temperatures that approached freezing and it should be a beautiful day. And we have tickets for the Slide (Ireland) music show at the WNMU Fine Arts Theater tonight. Should be lively and fun! Life is such a good thing! tv

Friday, March 25, 2011

Our third anniversary!

Just a few words to say how deeply joyous I (Tom) am to have been married three years today to the woman shown above (Sandy). Even on the eve of surgery for breast cancer, she was out with me on photo safaris, experiencing the joy of the world around us and the photo opportunities it presents.

She helps me see the roses we are surrounded by and enjoy them from all angles. She fills in the gaps my poor brain has, pointing out things I'd never see or think of. We delight in sharing the cooking, seeing what new, never-to-be-repeated dishes the leftovers prompt to whoever's in the kitchen. We share the joy of finding new eateries, watching kids in parades down Bullard Street and the everyday antics of the three beasts that live with us, plus the deer herd that comes around to trim the grass.

We've covered tens of thousands of miles together in the old Jeep tin can on wheels, always seeing new things to share and remember.

I'm looking forward to many thousands of miles more together, Sandy, along with many thousands of photos taken together ... and millions of hugs and kisses. I love you, and am so glad you're part of my life! Tom

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Good news!

Sandy's lumpectomy went smoothly this morning and the surgeon said the lymph nodes show NO cancer! This is a great relief and bodes better for a quick recover. She will need to have radiation in about three weeks, but the chemo, which we had figured would surely be part of the picture, may not be necessary, depending on the analysis of what Dr. Wasif took out this morning. If so, we're ready, but that's a more positive outlook than we had been expecting. And the fact that it hasn't spread through the lymph system is wonderful!

Back to Silver City tomorrow; one day at a time. tv

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Pre-op day

'Twas a windy day yesterday, with rain most of the way back from Tucson to Mesa. But, we got to see cousin Karen English and had a good visit to the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum and we got back in time to dine at the nearbly Olive Garden before the lines started forming.

Today we get down to business. We have the morning off, so to speak, then an afternoon of tests and pre-op exams for Sandy at the Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale. Tomorrow is the big day, so no food after midnight. Fortunately, she reports to the Mayo Hospital in north Phoenix at 5:30 a.m. tomorrow, so she won't go hungry for long. That means we're getting up at about 4 a.m., though! (Don't forget Sandy's blog, "One Day at a Time, With Gratitude," at

There were lots of photo opportunities at ASDM; it's beautifully laid out. Just a few were the business end of a barn owl, a sepia maze of cholla needles and a rather grumpy-looking male Anna's hummingbird, displaying his iridescent fringe. tv

Monday, March 21, 2011

Went to (and going to) the zoo, the zoo ...

So, moving through the days till we do pre-ops on Tuesday and surgery on Wednesday, we've kept the room in Mesa ... a bit of a drive to the Mayos, but an excellent rate, good accommodations, close to a variety of good restaurants (McD to Outback and Red Lobster) and adjacent to the Superstition Springs Mall. And reservations are scarce in that area, a combination of spring training and spring break has motels packed. Restaurants typically have half-hour waits at 6 p.m.

Saturday we did the Phoenix Zoo. All day long. And it was a zoo! Families everywhere, having fun on spring break. The temperature was pretty comfortable, but these oldsters were pooped by the time we got back to our motel room. Faced with a half-hour wait at Olive Garden, we delighted in huge root beer floats at Baskin Robbins and slept the sleep of the ... frazzled.

Sunday morning we passed meeting with Friends at Tempe Quaker Meeting, then went to visit and have lunch with our Durango Friends, Bob and Nancy Dolphin, who winter at Friendship Village. They have wonderful buffet lunches there! Afterward, I felt like that fat prairie dog in the sun.

Then we joined 589, 365 other cars on I-10, heading for Tucson. We stopped briefly for our first Trader Joe's experience, then went on to my brother- and sister-in-law's place in NE Tucson. Sherrie gave us a tour of her latest encaustic art projects and we went to SE Tucson to dine with Mike and Beth and Abby and Karen. The oldsters were dead to the world by 9 again!

The tractor picture is just to show how old I am. The idea of tractors as playgrounds is a new one to me ... they were work implements when I was a kid!

The Sumatran tiger was clearly the star of our photo safari ... gorgeous! And we considered ourselves lucky to see the two koalas before they went home at the end of the month ... but they sleep most of the time!

Today we're heading for the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum in SW Tucson and then back to Mesa and our motel room, probably to once again sleep the sleep of the frazzled. During the day, we should be pinning down our schedule for Tuesday and Wednesday.

More when we know it. tv

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Been there, done that!

No pics today, just update. Go to Sandy's blog for the inside story:

You'll see this there, as well as here:

Dear All,

Without getting too Rumsfeldian, I'll just say it's a relief to have the fog of uncertainty parted at least a little and have the way ahead clearer.

We did our initial Mayo thing yesterday afternoon. Everyone was wonderfully gracious, helpful and on the same team, which is reassuring in itself. The key contact was, of course, the surgical oncologist (or is he an oncological surgeon?) Dr. Nabil Wasif. Pleasant, easy-to-understand and very good at laying out the situation. The initial meeting led to a hurry-up mammogram, which we were then able to discuss with him about an hour later and lay out what will happen next.

The point of the mammogram was to clear up his questions about what else may be in there besides the marginal cancer at the 6 o'clock and 9 o'clock margins of the sample removed in Silver City. Yesterday's views shows that there is calcification at each end of that sample that needs to be addressed, too. There is also the question of checking the nearby "sentinel lymph nodes" to see if there is any indication of the cancer spreading.

So, we are on track for Sandy to have a lumpectomy at the Mayo Hospital in Phoenix sometime Wednesday. Some preliminary steps will have to be taken the day before at the Scottsdale Clinic; we're also not sure of the timing on that. We're to be called Monday with the exact schedule. That leaves us a little uncertain as to how to play the next few days, but we've pretty much decided to stay in AZ, rather than trekking back and forth to Silver City. We came prepared to stay into next week and we'd rather be closer than five hours away. Today will be zoo day!

I think Dr. Wasif was very good about laying out options and risks. While this is not something there can be guarantees about, he was very clear that Sandy's chances are very good ... the lumpectomy has a good chance of taking care of the problem, and it leaves mastectomy as a fallback procedure if necessary. As I understand it, the lumpectomy will have to be followed by both radiation treatment and chemotherapy, but he was confident that both of those can be handled at the Cancer Center in Silver City.

In the end, both of us are glad we came to the Mayo and reassured that Sandy is in good hands!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Arizona, here we are!

We made it!

Parked the dog at the Pet Palace and wandered out of Silver City mid-morning. MapQuest and the TomTom insist that the best way to get from Silver City to Mesa (where our motel is) is to go to I-10, take it through Tucson to Phoenix and then cross Phoenix. Blech!

So, we went out through Cliff and Buckhorn and then turned left toward Safford, AZ. Beautiful country, shorter in miles (which saves gas, as does not traveling at freeway speeds!), good road and very little traffic.

We were hoping for spring wildflowers, but that cold snap this winter and the dry spring have retarded the blooms. It wasn't till we crossed a divide southwest of Superior that we began to see blossoms. There was a kind of yellow poppy and some pinkish pentstemons and globe mallow growing in abundance along the roadside.

Actually, it's interesting to see all those thorny bushes and succulents preparing to bloom; it's easy to get distracted by the showy blossoms. For example, the stalks of the ocotillo are greening up with clusters of tiny leaves, but the thorns are ferocious! The armament on a barrel cactus is pretty formidable, too; no way to get through THAT defense!

Maybe when we return next week, the buds on the prickly pear and the cholla will be opened into showy blooms. We'll see.

In the meantime, we found our motel in Mesa (Thank you, TomTom!), which is right on the edge of the Superstitions Springs Mall. So, after getting our Outback fix last night, we got our exercise by doing a little reconnaissance tour of the mall.

Today is the big day. Sandy's first appointment at the Mayo is midday and we hope clarity about her cancer will emerge rapidly after that. At least, by the end of the day, we should have a clearer idea about the length of our stay and the agenda while we're here. We'll keep updates coming. tv

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Morning of departure eve

It's a bright sunny morning on our hillside north of Silver City and we're getting ready to trek westward to Scottsdale tomorrow for Sandy's appointment at the Mayo Clinic. It's kind of a trip into the unknown ... don't really know what will happen, what we'll find out, what will need to be done there, how long we'll be there ... all will be made known in due time.

In the meantime, the garbage is out and life goes on. Got the Jeep serviced for the trip (plus a little more rebuilding of the old 2003 Grand Cherokee Laredo with about 230,000 miles on it). Tax stuff is assembled, collated, conjugated, transmitted to accountant. PT exercises for neck and back occupy a boring half-hour twice a day. The Susan Love Breast Book finally arrived, so we can take that with to help translate what the doctors tell us ... and to read if we have trouble going to sleep.

The response to Sandy's blog (One Day at at Time, With Gratitude - has been very gratify to her (and to me). She illustrates it well with snaps from around our life ... the deer, the forsythia, etc. Yesterday we saw the first open blossoms on a fruit tree in front of the house and leaf buds are opening all around us. Spring is rushing toward us!

We have done a couple of fun things. Saturday evening there was a cowboy concert at the Silco Theater ... that's Alan Chapman from Texas pictured.

Monday noon we sat in on the brown bag lunch program sponsored by the Silver City Museum. Yes, I love Bayou Seco! Jeanie and Ken are such a delight, always with a smile and a twinkle in their eyes and music to set your feet tapping. This program was about a Smithsonian traveling exhibit they worked on that featured New Mexico folk music. They started off with two tunes recorded in the 1920s from someone who lived in the Luna area, on the NM/AZ line west of here ... they sounded like something I would have heard in a country dance hall in northern Wisconsin in my youth. People took their musical talents and traditions and modified them in new surroundings, like the violin they showed that was made in Santa Fe ... by a Swede!

Okay, time to get crackin' on the day; lots to do. We're going to go a sort of back route tomorrow, through Safford, AZ, on the way to Scottsdale. Haven't ever been there before, but it looks more interesting than I-10 traffic! tv

Monday, March 14, 2011

Taxes and Other Fun Activities

We have really been working on getting our taxes done. Which doesn't mean doing our taxes. It means assembling paperwork and putting together information so that it can be sent to our accountant and he can do our taxes. Our part was not easy. We had moved from Colorado to New Mexico. We still have boxes of paperwork, as well as other various and numerous items, that are filling about 1/3 of the garage. I am amazed! It looks like we found all of our records and are close to success. Yipee! I tried to find a few photos to insert in the blog to show that we do believe in the old saying about all work and no play. We have enjoyed the sunny warm weather and a few local events. I am braceing myself for the weeks ahead dealing with health issues but the forsythia bush bloomed this week. Is that a good sign? sf

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Sandy's new blog

Sandy has begun a blog of her battle with the invasive critters. She is SUCH a good, feeling, insightful writer; please visit her blog at "One Day at a Time, With Gratitude." tv

Thursday, March 10, 2011


Well, politics as usual around here, plus a fire, plus getting ready to go to the Mayo Clinic.

A big issue around here, as in Montezuma County, is the access plan being floated by the local national forest, in this case the Gila. The USFS preferred alternative would close some routes to motorized travel, ones that have been open in the past.

We looked in on a group of about 80 folks Friday evening who were in favor of the USFS proposal (bottom pic). The next morning the other side had their rally, led by US Rep. Stevan Pearce. As you can see, the parking lot was full ... an estimated 700+ attended that one, coming from as far as Albuquerque on the east and Reserve on the west, with a sizable turnout from regional Tea Party groups. Too bad our Congressman didn't appear in front of both groups, but he seems to stay in an echo chamber. Or maybe it would be more accurate to say there are dueling echo chambers.

It's a lot more fun to go hear Bayou Seco and the Fiddling Friends at Diane's Parlour on Fat Tuesday. Ken and Jeanie play wonderful, lively folk music from Louisiana and other places and they are like a kindly Grandpa and Grandma, introducing these young fiddlers to the joy of music and giving them a chance to perform in public.

A pile of garbage bags? Well, there was this grass fire. It started in all that dry grass left over from last year's lush summer SW of Silver City and 45-50 mph winds from the SW swept it along the southern border of the town Tuesday evening. They're still not calling it 100% out, but 1,700 acres were burned and about 60 structures (13 homes, I think) burned. The community is responding superbly, offering food, money and clothing for those who've lost their homes and belongings. That pile was at the Chamber of Commerce's visitor center yesterday afternoon. tv

Saturday, March 5, 2011

First Friday in Downtown

First Friday evenings in downtown Silver City are a fun place to be and we try to walk the art galleries and downtown when we have the chance. Here are a few of my favorite pics from last night. The tops of the colorful facades in the old downtown are the favorite hangouts for pigeons and not unlike the deer that visit us daily, I cannot resist pigeon shots when I should be focusing on the historic buildings. But I go where my lens leads me. . .sf

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Ok Tom. . Me and the Big C

Actually it was(is) not that big a spot of "C" and most of it is gone as of my second biopsy last Tuesday. First of all my apologies to those of you who are good friends that I have not told personally. I thought that I am tough and I can just quietly get through this without sharing the burden with others. Of course, Tom was going through the last month of tests and waiting, and more tests and more waiting so he was having to share the bad days as I waited for diagnosis with me. And then I talked to my sister Vel about it because she is a kind heart and I knew that she would make me laugh. She did. And my brother Leslie who has spent his life in cancer research and I knew he could give me good answers to my questions. He did. And then I woke up one morning and realized I wanted to continue doing some of the things I am truly enjoying with some of the people that I like being with and that they needed to know. And that by sharing my diagnosis with those in my life, there may be those who are reminded to have that neglected screening a little earlier and catch their own problem earlier instead of later. Lemonade from lemons? Yes, cancer is a bitter lemon and I know the next few months will be tough. But the good news is, hopefully to be confirmed by Mayo Clinic at my coming appointment, is that it is curable with additional surgery, chemo,and radiation. So I have invasive ductal carcinoma (breast cancer). I am not the first to fight this battle and, unfortunately, will not be the last. I think I am beyond the shock of going from a extremely healthy 68 year old to being an extremely healthy 68 year old with the exception of my left breast. So this is my story. I had told Tom that I would share it in a blog and it wasn't as easy as I thought. I am planning on setting up a separate blog prior to going to Mayo and starting treatment just to keep family and friends posted and once I have that done I will post the link here for those of you who would like to take the journey with me. This isn't my favorite blog post but I will share some beautiful flowers that came yesterday from good life friends in Newberry, Mi. and they will brighten this not so bright post. Hugs, Sandy

Waiting for Sandy ;-}

I thought maybe Sandy was going to be the next to post on this blog, but time and the river run on ... ;-}

We took in the Caroline Herring concert at the Opera House in PiƱos Altos Saturday night. She's from Mississippi by way of Texas and Georgia, and shared a lot of insights she gained from doing folk music research in the rural areas of Mississippi.

She made a couple of comments about the altitude and needing oxygen (Slaid Cleaves made similar remarks). I learned later from a Mimbres Region Arts Council staffer that they actually do have an oxygen bottle backstage for performers who aren't used to the 7,000-foot elevation. Seems odd for me, having moved here from 7,200 feet. Good thing those folks aren't booking into Silverton, Telluride or Leadville!

Yesterday morning was the second session of my Western Institute of Lifelong Learning class on Landscaping with Native Plants. It was a field trip and we were allowed to bring friends, so my BFF Sandy and I had a nice walk around a section of Silver City that has several parks and parking lots landscaped with drought-tolerant plants, mostly native. It was a wonderfully warm morning and the explanations by Trish of Lone Mountain Nursery were very helpful.

Followed by lunch at the Curious Kumquat. I know, it's a strange name and we were a bit hesitant about it ... it's now our favorite lunch spot. Always good, and often with unusual combinations of ingredients. And the desserts are ALWAYS scrumptious (and usually VERY chocolatey).

By the time we got done with all of that, plus going to Albertson's to take advantage of the 10% discount they offer senior citizens on the first Wednesday of the month, we called it a day and stayed in to watch American Idol last night (instead of taking in a musical duo at Yankie Creek Coffee House and then trivia at Isaac's). After all, we're retired! tv