As we fast approach its halfway point, 2018 has been a roller-coaster-ride for me. Lots of highs and lows, lots of twists and turns, and more to come.
I started 2018 dealing with persistent, sometimes debilitating back pain that I was trying to manage with physical therapy and massage. Nevertheless, things have to be done and life must go on. And that, in fact rather a lot of that, has happened.
On January 6th, my Women Of Wine (WOW) culinary team and I cooked and served the WOW wine dinner at John and Julie Cogan’s home on North Blvd. My two favorite courses were the Escargot over Mashed Potatoes and the Delice de Bourgogne Ice Cream with homemade (courtesy of sous chef Denise Ehrlich) ginger snaps. Pure decadent deliciousity. And, thanks to generous auction buyers, a good bit of money raised for a great cause (The Houston Area Women’s Center).
Tuesday and Wednesday January 16th and 17th brought the annual Mostly Cru Classé Bordeaux tastings (this year featuring 2015s) in Houston and Dallas. Well, almost. The Tuesday Houston event was postponed “day-of” due to what many referred to as the “Houston Ice-pocolypse” (or as it would be known in Chicago – “Tuesday”). The Wednesday event in Dallas was perfect and all the 2015 Bordeaux wines showed beautifully. That Thursday brought me my extremely positive first experience riding Vonlane’s Dallas-Houston luxury bus service that beats the heck out of driving or flying.
On January 29th at 6am, Carol drove me to the “Chick-Fil-A” Methodist emergency room with what I thought was appendicitis … only to find out I had stage-4-colon-cancer. I was immediately admitted to Methodist Hospital in the Medical Center where at 4pm on January 31st, their colo-rectal surgeons removed a tumor that was bigger-than-a-baseball-but-smaller-than-a-softball. I awakened after this four-hour surgery to find I was equipped with an ostomy bag as they had disconnected my plumbing to give my colon a chance to heal. In removing the tumor and some intestine, my appendix (why not?), and a few lymph-nodes, the surgeons had gotten all the cancer except for two small tumors in my liver. Silver lining: When the big colon tumor was removed, my back pain went away. Apparently the tumor was pushing on my sacrum which was the source of my back pain – maybe stretching back over a couple of years.
On Febraury 1st (the day after surgery), I walked 4 laps around the 8th floor of Dunn Tower. By the time I checked out on February 8th, I was walking over 2 miles a day. On March 3rd, I walked the 5K for the Houston Area Women’s Center’s Race Against Violence (“run” is no longer in my vocabulary).
On March 6th, I hosted the rescheduled-from January 2015 Mostly Cru Classé Bordeaux tasting at the Crystal Ballroom at the Rice in Houston. Another smash success although a bit of a load on me considering the recent surgery, etc. Many thanks to all who helped.
A week later on March 13th, I had another surgery to reconnect my plumbing and get rid of the ostomy bag. A joyous day. The next day I walked over 3 miles at a good pace in three sets of 10+ laps each (all on the 8th floor of Methodist’ Dunn Tower).
On April 1st, I flew KLM from Houston to Bordeaux for my 22nd trip to taste the new vintage en-premiere. Ten-plus days of tasting delicious, fresh, 2017 barrel-samples from all over Bordeaux with young-up-and-comers from Spec’s (Tom Dobson, James Barlow, and Alan Dennis – all of whom make fine traveling companions as they tolerated my very-eclectic-driving-music-mix that ranges through country, western, swing, Americana, mariachi, salsa, some torch songs, ranchero, rock, rock and roll, blues, jazz, gospel, hymns, classical, and French- German-Mexican-and-even-some-American pop).
I returned to Houston on April 14th and started my first chemo session on Monday, April 16th. That first session offered relatively few side effects that pretty much cleared up by the end of the second week. I thought it was going to be that easy. If you want to hear God laugh, tell Him your plans.
At the end of that second week on Friday April 27, I was feted by the Houston Area Women’s Center (HAWC) as their community honoree at their annual gala. I felt honored and humbled and loved. Good people doing good work.
On Monday May 7th, I got my second chemo infusion and then was driven by Abdulatefe – The Singing Nigerian Uber Driver (he got a five-star rating and a good tip) – to the airport (IAH) to fly to London via Mexico City for my annual customer trip. This unusual routing was courtesy of the striking workers at what I now call Air Chance as there is only a chance your Air France flight will not be cancelled. This trip saw us visiting sparkling wine producers (“British Bubbles” – it’s a thing) in the south of England before flying to France to visit chateaux in Cahors and Bordeaux. I returned to Houston on May 19th. Despite heavy chemo side-effects (especially hand-foot syndrome and a pretty much constantly unsettled GI tract), this was maybe the best consumer trip I have ever led. (Next year: Port and Spain).
Tuesday, May 29th brought chemo-session-number-three before the side effects of chemo-session-number-two had cleared-up. Side effects in session three were so bad my oncologist gave me an extra week between chemos to let them abate. They finally did abate enough that these last few days (Friday, Saturday, and Sunday) were what now passes for normal.
On June 11th, I competed in my 2nd Women Of Wine Sangria Throwdown. We hit-for-the-cycle: 3rd place in Most Creative, 2nd place in People’s Choice, and 1st place in Judges’ Choice. Thank you Denise Ehrlich and Women of Wine for a super well-run event. Thank you to my team of Joan Sokol, Deborah Touchy, Ned Thorn, and especially Carol Dalton for making Carpe Sangria(my cucumber-melon-citrus, cilantro, ginger, white vermouth-based Sangria) possible.
The last two Thursdays (6/14 and 6/21) brought scans at Methodist hospital (including an-hour-and-a-half in the MRI tube this last Thursday) and those scans showed that both liver tumors are shrinking substantially due to the chemo. Which is fabulous news. Hopefully, this will help get the liver procedure (hoping for Radio Frequency Oblation) scheduled sooner rather than later. Radio Frequency Oblation entails putting a needle into the tumor and blasting it with radio waves to burn it out. I’m thinking a little death metal (not on my playlist) should do the trick.
Last Thursday also brought a phone call from Cathy Moore of ECHOS (Epiphany Community Health Outreach Services) informing me that I’ve been chosen me as their community honoree for the ECHOS gala chef’s dinner on September 20th. ECHOS is an organization working with a largely immigrant, very low-income population in southwest Houston to aid with healthcare, food, facilities, counseling, and more. Like the Houston Area Women’s center with whom they work closely, ECHOS does yeoman work. I am humbled to be offered that honor.
This last Saturday brought a new addition to our family as Sergeant Scout found a kitten (cute little thing, a “Lynx Point Siamese” saith Cat-Lady-Carol) in our backyard. We already have three cats (two foundlings and Carol’s late mom’s cat) and rescue dog Scout but I guess we need another kitty. It’s a boy, probably will be called “Nicolas.” Carol pronounces the “S”; I’m going with the French pronunciation (Nic-o-lah). Here’s hoping it bonds with Scout.
On Sunday, I got a week-late Fathers’ Day celebration with both boys (and Miss Carol!) at church followed by lunch with them at the new Black Bear Diner in Katy. Black Bear Diner is my go-to-breakfast spot in both Napa and Sonoma. Best patty sausage ever. The new Katy location did not disappoint.
Sunday night we had my home-made, fresh-squeezed Margaritas because I knew this fourth round of chemo will eliminate all cold drinks for at least the next week due to cold neurapathy.
Which brings us to today. I write much of this as I sit in the chemo chair getting chemo infusion number four. And so restarts the cycle of chemo and side-effects. I can feel the neuropathy returning even as the drip continues.
I am finishing and posting this from home very early Tuesday morning as I can’t sleep now due to having slept for over 4 hours after the infusion Monday.
Lots of ups-and-downs this year but through it all I see and feel the Hand of God holding me and protecting me, giving me His peace and comfort and His strength to meet each day. Sometimes that Hand looks like a doctor or a nurse, sometimes like family or a friend who calls or emails/texts or visits at just the right time. Sometimes it is John or Lindy Rydman or one of my Valeries or Scarlet or others from Spec’s and the larger wine world (including friends in France, Germany, England, Spain, and California). Sometimes it looks my Gang-of-Pour or other Wine School friends. Sometimes God’s Hand looks like a Facebook comment or “like,” or like Scout’s big doggie head resting in my lap. Often God’s Hand looks an aweful lot like Miss Carol. The cancer has been a big inconvenience and the chemo is kicking-my-ass but, while I am not yet out-of-the-woods, I can at least see the meadow through the trees. 2018 has been a continual learning opportunity, an often-daunting challenge, and a generally humbling experience, even as I have been lifted up in prayers and love. Highs and lows, twists and turns; we’ll see how the second half goes. 2018 may turn out to be the year of the Bear; it is most certainly The Year of Our Lord.