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David D. Levine
31 August 2015 @ 08:56 pm
Just a brief update to let you know what's happened with Kate since she got out of the hospital on Sunday August 16.

First the bad news: while I was at Worldcon, Kate tripped and fell on an uneven bit of sidewalk near the library. Her face and knee got pretty banged up, and they gave her a CAT scan to make sure nothing was wrong inside her head. She also had to have some teeth splinted; the splints will stay on for 6-8 weeks and there might be more dental work needed after that. I have to emphasize that this was nothing Marc could have prevented, and I'm sure it would have gone down exactly the same way if I had been there.

Now the good news: Marc and Kate were kind enough to not call me about the fall until they knew she was stable and I wouldn't have to come home early from the con. Kate is healing up nicely; the stitches have come out, and the bruises on her face are almost all gone.

She has done very well learning to monitor her blood sugar and give herself her own insulin shots. Her blood sugar numbers are pretty much under control now, and the various symptoms of high blood sugar are almost completely gone. She is definitely done with chemo! And we just got the results of her most recent MRI, and what's inside her head is stable or somewhat improved (one spot of enhancement we'd been keeping an eye on seems to be gone). From here it's just a matter of taking it easy and healing, with MRIs every two months to make sure everything is okay.

Thank you to everyone for your support, both practical and psychological. You have no idea how much you have helped already, and continue to do so.
 
 
David D. Levine
17 August 2015 @ 05:15 pm
Following several days of thinking that the Worldcon was increasingly unlikely for me, followed by the unhappy certainty that I would not be able to make it, a generous friend has stepped forward and I can attend the convention after all (though without Kate). And I got back to the program committee before they deleted me from the schedule, so here is where you can find me at the con:

The Best Writing Advice I Was Ever Given
Wednesday 12:00 - 12:45, Bays 111A (CC)
What writing advice have you received that you'd share with others? How did it help make you a better writer?
Bobbie Benton Hull (M), David Gerrold, P. C. Hodgell, David D. Levine, Derryl Murphy

Autographing - Elizabeth Bear, Patricia Briggs, Wesley Chu, Tanglwyst de Holloway, David D. Levine
Wednesday 14:00 - 14:45, Exhibit Hall B (CC)

Reading - David D. Levine
Thursday 13:30 - 14:00, 303B (CC)

Steampunk: Aesthetics vs. Content
Thursday 15:00 - 15:45, 302AB (CC)
Steampunk is known for being pretty, but what about real content? Is it that dramatically different from other genres? Or are most steampunk stories like one genre with a veneer of steampunk?
David D. Levine (M), Matthew Dockrey, Sarina Dorie, Grá Linnaea

Writers Workshop section 05
Friday 13:00 - 16:00, 201A (CC)
Fifty-plus entrants submitted speculative fiction manuscripts in advance to be constructively criticized by industry professionals. In this section, a few of these entrants go on the hot seat to hear what the pros have to say. All workshop sections are closed to non-participants.
David D. Levine, Madeleine Robins, Diana Pharaoh Francis

Kaffee Klatche - David D. Levine
Saturday 13:00 - 13:45, 202B-KK3 (CC)
Join a panelist and up to 9 other fans for a small discussion. Coffee and snacks available for sale on the 2nd floor.

Game of Thrones: Expectations of Gender and Sexuality
Sunday 12:00 - 12:45, Bays 111A (CC)
After five seasons, we have expectatons of Game of Thrones as having a lot of female nudity and graphic violence. But, at the same time, it has some very strong female characters, and, among some of the characters, a more modern view of sexuality. Do these contrasting views work against the show or enhance it? What are some of the bigger surprises?
Perrianne Lurie (M), David D. Levine, Lauren Roy, Valerie Estelle Frankel
 
 
David D. Levine
STOP PRESS: I WILL BE AT WORLDCON!

Extremely generous friend Marc Wells has just stepped forward to take care of Kate while I take his wife Patty to the convention, saying "you and Patty need to be there, I don't." Marc has the experience to help Kate with her insulin and I trust him completely.

This is so overwhelming I am in tears. But I will be at the convention.

Original post follows:

The short version: Kate spent four days in the hospital last week, coming home Sunday, and we won't be able to attend the Worldcon.

The long version: This started over a week ago, with tummy troubles that came and went. Thursday at 1am it was back, even worse, to the extent that I called 911 at 5am; paramedics came, gave her an intravenous drug for nausea, and took her to the ER.

At the ER she got more intravenous drugs and a CT scan, which showed some bowel irritation but nothing major. With the drugs she perked up pretty quickly, but the doctors decided to keep her overnight for tests and observation. They also gave her injections of insulin to bring her steroid-induced high blood sugar down. (We had just started metformin, an oral blood sugar medication. As long as she was in the hospital they decided to use the stronger stuff.)

She stayed in the hospital from Thursday to Sunday. Each day she felt better than the day before, but every night she had trouble in the early AM. Tests for C. Diff, norovirus, Shiga toxin, bacteria, and the most common virus for stomach bugs all came back negative. Finally the enterologist suggested that the symptoms were consistent with "autonomic diabetic neuropathy" -- basically, high blood sugar weakens your sympathetic nervous system so that your GI tract doesn't work right, especially when you've been sleeping for hours.

Getting her blood sugar down (from 408 Wednesday to 149 Sunday; normal is 140 or less) and giving her Imodium brought the trouble mostly under control, and she went home Sunday. But her sugar has been so high that metformin isn't going to cut it, so we will have to inject long-acting insulin every morning, and test her blood sugar and inject the appropriate amount of regular insulin before every meal. Also we need to change our eating habits -- reduce carbohydrates, increase fiber, eat more smaller meals, you probably already know this drill. We were already doing pretty well on this score but will need to do even better.

Kate is absolutely not up for travel this week. We considered whether I could go to the Worldcon without her, but with this new and complex drug regimen to manage, plus follow-up visits with the doctor, it doesn't look as though I can go for even one day. Kate can't manage this by herself right now, it isn't something I could ask a friend to do, and I don't want to leave her with strangers (we would have to find, interview, and hire someone in just a day or two). It might be different if we were more experienced with the routine of blood, drugs, and pointy things, but not in the first week.

So... no Worldcon for us.

To say that I am disappointed would be a severe understatement. Shattered, more like. Also angry, sad, and resentful. Not at Kate, but at the terrible situation we both find ourselves in.
 
 
David D. Levine
04 August 2015 @ 04:46 pm
As faithful listeners will no doubt recall, Kate's treatment consisted of surgery, six weeks of daily radiation and chemo, a month off, and six months (or more) of monthly chemo. Well, she just finished up her sixth round of monthly chemo and at the moment it looks like that will, indeed, be it. Which is a good thing, as the nausea and fatigue, while never completely debilitating, have been getting a little worse each round and this one was pretty bad. So, even though we're not out of the woods by any means, we can celebrate the end of treatment for the cancer per se. I hope that as we get further away from chemo Kate will see her energy levels increase and spend less time napping.

This month, though, we learned that steroid-induced hyperglycemia (aka steroid diabetes) is a thing. Diabetes, it turns out, is a condition with multiple causes. Type 1 and type 2 (formerly known as juvenile and adult-onset diabetes) are basically two different diseases, and gestational diabetes is the third well-known cause of the same condition. But there are many other causes, and apparently taking "pharmacologic doses" of dexamethasone for a long time is one of them. This explains Kate's headaches, dry mouth, and some other symptoms that have cropped up recently.

As with gestational diabetes, usually steroid diabetes goes away along when you stop taking the steroids... but that isn't likely to happen any time soon, so the oncologist suggested using diet and exercise to try to bring her blood sugar down. We met with a dietician, who recommended whole grains, plenty of colorful vegetables, and a good balance of carbohydrates, protein, and fat in every meal and snack... which is basically what we were already trying to do. As for exercise, that's difficult because of chemo fatigue and steroid-induced muscular atrophy. We will just have to try to be more consistent in eating right and exercising, and see how it goes.

I mentioned last month that we were working with a physical therapist, occupational therapist, and speech therapist. They were all helpful, but all those appointments were tiring, so we decided to discontinue the speech and occupational therapy and continue with the physical therapist every two weeks. (Did I explain the difference between physical and occupational therapy? The line is fuzzy, but basically occupational therapy covers anything you do with your hands and physical therapy is everything else you do with your body. Both occupational and speech therapy can include cognitive stuff.)

However, life continues. We have signed with a contractor to properly bolt the house to its foundation for earthquake resistance; we visited Seattle to hang out with friends and attend a Clarion West party; I've been soliciting blurbs for ARABELLA OF MARS (some awesome ones have come in already) and plugging away on writing the sequel; and I recorded an Act of Whimsy video for a charity fundraiser which required having a fabulous English Regency men's outfit made. I'll be wearing that outfit for my readings when the book comes out next year.

The bottom line is... we keep on keeping on. Kate is weak, wobbly, fatigued, and has some memory and cognitive issues, and I'm kind of fatigued myself, but we are doing our best to take care of ourselves and each other. Anything you can do to help would be appreciated.

Thanks to Janna, Mark, Cynthia, Kate & Glenn, Hal & Ulrika, John, Shannon, Tempest, Elsa, Elizabeth, Cole, Melissa, Michelle, Len, John, George & Brian, Page, Tina, and everyone else who came for a visit, helped with a task, or joined us for a meal. It may not seem like much, but it really helps.
 
 
David D. Levine
28 July 2015 @ 08:26 am
A couple of months ago, my friend Mary Robinette Kowal contacted me for help. Nora and Bob, friends of hers from the Oregon Regency Society, were involved in a horrific car accident far from home. They both barely survived and wound up in the ICU, with terrible fractures and multiple surgeries. They have insurance, but obviously neither of them is able to work and they will certainly burn through the insurance money before they are well. So their friends set up a fundraiser at http://www.gofundme.com/Nora-Bob.

Mary asked me to help publicize the fundraiser by contributing an Act of Whimsy -- something to amuse Nora and Bob, make people laugh, and engage the community. She suggested that I read a scene from my Regency interplanetary airship adventure novel Arabella of Mars (coming from Tor in June 2016). I considered reading it wearing a Regency dress, but after some discussion with Mary and ORS member Julia Grim, we thought that might be disrespectful. So Julia very kindly donated her labor and made me a complete Regency gentleman's ensemble.

It all took a while, but now the ensemble and the video are done, and you can see them both right here (YouTube link: https://youtu.be/HLMV0eH-9hg).



I hope you enjoy the video, but more importantly I hope that you donate to help Nora and Bob at http://www.gofundme.com/Nora-Bob. Thank you for your consideration.
 
 
David D. Levine

IMG 4589
This weekend I took a hard-hat tour of the former Blue Heron Paper Mill in Oregon City.



Click for tons of photosCollapse )
 
 
David D. Levine
At the Oregon Writers Colony Literary Lounge on July 15, 2015, authors David D. Levine, Cindy Brown, and Angela Sanders will discuss and answer questions about writing a fiction series. They will also talk about working with big publishing houses, small presses, and self-publishing. Ed Goldberg of All Classic Radio will moderate.

The event happens from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. July 15 at the June Key Delta Community Center, 5940 N Albina Street, Portland, Oregon.
 
 
David D. Levine
What with everything else that has been happening, I have been absolutely terrible at posting my writing news lately.
  • A new hard SF story of mine, "River of Ice," was published at the Chinese website SF Comet in Chinese and English.
  • My Bigfoot story "Primates," which originally appeared in Asimov's, was podcast at The Overcast, read by me!
  • My dog story "I Hold My Father's Paws," which originally appeared in Albedo One, has been reprinted in the furry anthology ROAR 6.
  • My Venus Noir story "The End of the Silk Road" was requested by the StarShipSofa podcast, also to be read by me, and will appear there some time soon... once I finish editing it.
I suppose the good news here is that things that would have had me over the moon when I was starting out as a writer now happen so frequently that I can forget about them for weeks at a time. I'll try to be better about posting writing news when it happens.

Speaking of which... did I mention that I have a publication date for Arabella of Mars? I do, and it is June 2016. This is a much longer lead time than usual, to accommodate my life circumstances, and because we have so much time until publication Tor printed up some bound manuscripts to send to writers when requesting blurbs. (And the blurbs are coming in now, and they are fabulous, and I can't wait to share them with you.) These are even earlier and cruder than Advance Reading Copies (ARCs); they are just my own un-edited words, printed and bound in plain paper covers. But still... real books! And I got five of them!

CJXAzyzXAAAnhxs

Given that the book doesn't come out for an entire year, I'm not sure how to use these bound manuscripts to publicize it effectively. Any ideas?
 
 
David D. Levine
08 July 2015 @ 03:58 pm
IMG 4552Things are going pretty well around here. In the last two weekends we attended the Locus Awards in Seattle and the Westercon in San Diego, and both were fun, if quite laid-back for us. I was on a lot of programming at the Westercon; Kate attended a couple of program items a day and spent much of the rest of the time napping or relaxing in the room. But we had many fine meals, hung out with friends, and enjoyed the weather (paradoxically, San Diego was a refreshing 68 degrees and overcast while Portland was an unpleasant 90+ degrees and sunny).

Kate had another bi-monthly MRI, which was almost identical to the previous one. Although we had hoped to see some healing, given the typical behavior of this type of tumor "no news" is definitely good news. She has also completed another round of chemo -- round 5 of 6 planned monthly doses, and at this point the doctor still thinks we will stop after round 6 -- with minimal side effects. Her biggest problems now are muscular weakness (from the steroids), fatigue (from the chemo), and memory issues (most likely from the radiation), and we're working with a physical therapist, occupational therapist, and speech/cognitive therapist to try to improve those. Her speech and right-side weakness seem to be better than in previous months, but it's hard to say... the improvement is very slow and subtle, and not on a constant upward slope.

In general, it's hard to say whether she's doing better or worse overall. By comparison with the first few months after the surgery, her energy, mood, and ability to communicate are substantially better. But the fatigue and weakness are worse, the memory problems are new and frustrating, everything varies depending on time of day and energy levels, and we don't know whether or not to expect them to get better. What progress there is, is sometimes hard to observe. We persevere.

Thanks to Geri, Janna, Mark, Cynthia, Teresa, Ariel, Page, and everyone else who's come by for a visit. We are almost always open for callers. Also, Kate would love to get out of the house more, so if you can come by to take her to a park (in the morning when it isn't too hot) or shopping or any such thing, please do contact me.
 
 
David D. Levine
"Managing Mailing Lists with Mailman," the second of two video courses I recorded last month for lynda.com, the online training company, has just been released. Here's the course description:
Mailman is an open-source alternative to commercial mailing list managers and it's administered through an accessible web-based interface. This course will show you how to administer and operate Mailman, and start maintaining subscriber lists of your own. Author David D. Levine covers navigating in Mailman, configuring replies and notifications, adding and removing subscribers, and setting up the interface where subscribers view their list options. He also covers adjusting privacy controls, moderating posts, controlling archiving, and managing lists via email.

Topics include:
  • Creating lists
  • Setting basic list attributes
  • Managing mass subscriptions and renewals
  • Sending and receiving lists messages via email
  • Using Mailman's digest mode
  • Viewing and managing archives
  • Setting max message size and other options
  • Controlling bounce processing
  • Approving and rejecting posts by email
  • Managing attachments and formatted messages
If you or your employer or institution are a lynda.com subscriber, you can watch the whole course as part of your subscription. If you are not yet a subscriber, you can can watch a half-dozen chapters for free, and sign up for a free trial of the whole lynda.com training library, here:
http://www.lynda.com/Hardware-tutorials/Managing-Mailing-Lists-Mailman/360737-2.html
 
 
David D. Levine
I have been invited as the "celebrity judge" (?!) for the Fiction First Chapter category of the 2015 Oregon Writers Colony Writing Contest. The contest is open to both OWC members and nonmembers, regardless of state or national residency, and the deadline to enter (electronic submission or postmark) is June 22, 2015.

The contest has four categories:
  • First chapter, fiction, up to 3500 words
  • First chapter, narrative nonfiction, up to 3500 words
  • Short story, fiction, up to 2500 words
  • Short story, narrative nonfiction, up to 2500 words
Cash prizes will be awarded in each category! See http://oregonwriterscolony.org/writing-contest/ for more information and the entry form. Good luck!
 
 
David D. Levine
Year s Best Military SF and Space OperaAs you may recall, my "Venus noir" story "The End of the Silk Road," set in the same universe as "The Wreck of the Mars Adventure" and my forthcoming novel Arabella of Mars, was selected for The Year’s Best Military SF and Space Opera. Well, the anthology is now available! You can get it from Powell's, Amazon.com, and everywhere else books and ebooks are sold.
With an introduction by best-selling military science fiction author David Drake and selected by editor David Afsharirad from the top short story markets in the field, here are the most thrilling, pulse-pounding, and thought-provoking stories of the past year. Stories of future military men and women, space opera on a grand scale, and edge-of-your-seat adventure tales in the pulp tradition, from giants of the genre to brilliant up-and-comers.


To celebrate the release, the Baen Free Radio Hour podcast is offering an interview with the editor of the anthology and several of the contributors, including Matthew Johnson, Derek Kunsken, Linda Nagata, and Michael Z. Williams as well as myself. You can listen to the episode here, or download the MP3 here.

Been is also trying something new with this first annual Year’s Best Military SF and Space Opera -- it is not only an anthology but also the shortlist for the first annual Year’s Best Military Science Fiction and Space Opera Award, which comes with a plaque and a $500 prize. And the winner will be selected by you, the readers! You can vote online here (or, if you prefer, you can send your vote by mail to an address found on that same page). Voting closes August 31, 2015; the winner will be announced at DragonCon.
 
 
David D. Levine

Last month I traveled to Southern California to record two more video courses for lynda.com, the online training company. It was an enjoyable experience, as always, and I'm pleased to say that both of the courses will be released this month.

The first, "SED Essential Training," is already live. Here's the course description:

SED is the one of the original command line tools for parsing and transforming data on Unix, Linux, and Macintosh machines. David D. Levine helps you unlock the power of SED's compact syntax in these lessons, which cover extracting, transforming, and manipulating data in files and data streams. He reviews the basic commands, including one you'll never want to forget, and shows how to work with regular expressions. The course also covers SED's more advanced programming features, which allow you to write simple programs and manage multiline pattern space, flow, and the hold buffer with a few simple keystrokes. Start here to learn the essentials of this versatile tool. Topics include:
  • Understanding input, output, files, and pipes
  • Modifying the "s" command
  • Using character classes and quantifiers
  • Controlling printing
  • Reading and writing files
  • Appending, inserting, and editing entire lines
  • Writing programs in SED
  • Using advanced programming commands
If you or your employer or institution are a lynda.com subscriber, you can watch the whole course as part of your subscription. If you are not yet a subscriber, you can can watch a half-dozen chapters for free, and sign up for a free trial of the whole lynda.com training library, here: http://www.lynda.com/course-tutorials/SED-Essential-Training/359472-2.html
 
 
David D. Levine
05 June 2015 @ 08:27 pm
It's now a little more than six months since Kate's surgery, and she's doing pretty well.

Her progress has not been uniform. We haven't messed with the steroid dose, so there has been no significant backsliding, but at the moment the aphasia, weakness, wobbliness, and lack of stamina are a bit worse than last week -- though not nearly as bad as they were in the first couple of months after surgery. She's just slow, and tires easily, and sometimes has trouble finding words. We think that what we're seeing now is likely fatigue from last week's chemo (the fourth of six planned monthly rounds). She hasn't had any serious chemo side effects, but the fatigue is definitely there and tends to hit hardest in the week after the dose.

One issue that is new since last month is what she describes as "holes in her head," or general memory and cognitive issues. We were warned that there could be short-term memory problems appearing some months after radiation. We've started working with Laurel, the speech therapist who was so helpful earlier, on this; she does general cognitive therapy as well as speech. We also have appointments with physical and occupational therapists next week, to work on the weakness and wobbliness. We're also trying to take lots of walks and do exercise, on the naturopath's advice that "the more energy you expend, paradoxically, the more energy you'll have."

But life is more than just a litany of symptoms. We attended the annual gay square dance convention in St. Louis over Memorial Day weekend, and that was good. Kate wasn't able to dance, but I did, and we hung out with our friends and had many fine meals. (Our food karma was surprisingly good, given how unprepossessing the neighborhood around the hotel was; I'm very glad we decided to rent a car.) Kate has been industrious about decluttering the house, clearing out all kinds of old sheets, clothes, books, and papers, and has been reading a lot. We've also seen some movies and some excellent local theatre, including THE LION and THREE DAYS OF RAIN at Portland Center Stage (both are still playing and are recommended!).

As for me, I traveled to Southern California for a week to record another couple of courses for Lynda.com, one on the "sed" text processing language and the other on the Mailman mailing list manager; those will go live in June. I've been plugging away on the sequel to ARABELLA OF MARS -- the draft stands at nearly 50,000 words now, out of a planned 90,000 -- and beginning to lay plans for the release of book 1 in June 2016. One thing I need to do right now is solicit blurbs for the cover. Whose endorsement would make you more likely to pick up a science fiction book with a historical setting?

The bottom line is that things are generally not too bad, though emotionally we are both occasionally down. One thing we need to do more of is to get together with friends. In the first few months we had house guests and visitors galore, but lately it's been just us more often than not, and that can be kind of isolating. So if you can come by for a chat, or join us for a meal, or go out for a walk in the park, or anything like that, please drop me a line and see if we can find a time that works for everyone. If you're not local, a card, letter, email, or phone call would be welcome too.

Thanks to Mary Kay for helping Kate while I was in California, and to Amanda, who helped Kate when I took a brief respite trip to Seattle. We also got visits from Zoe and Patty, Debbie and Alan (who brought a delicious casserole), Ariel, Mark, and probably others I'm forgetting, and moral support from Janna, Greg, Mary, Shannon, and many others. Thank you so much for your continued support.
 
 
David D. Levine
20 May 2015 @ 10:07 pm
The Lion at Portland Center Stage is a very powerful one-man musical -- or long autobiographical essay told largely in song -- about a thirtysomething songwriter who's survived a hell of a lot in his short life. It was very good and full of surprises and emotionally draining and yet managed to pack in a lot of laughs. If it's coming to your area, I recommend it.
 
 
David D. Levine
28 April 2015 @ 10:30 pm
It's been kind of two steps forward, one step back this month. Kate woke up one morning with chest pains and we went to the emergency room. They kept her in the hospital overnight for observation; it turned out not to be a heart attack, but was still a stressful and exhausting experience.

We also tried reducing the steroid dose again, and again this resulted in a return of the aphasia and other symptoms so we went back to the previous dose. She's much better now, but after all that I feel that we're basically back where we were at this time last month. We won't be trying that again any time soon, unless there's some solid evidence that she doesn't need the higher dose any more.

We did get another MRI this month. We were both pretty nervous about the results, but when we saw the scan it was were pretty much the same as the last one, with some improvements. The areas of "enhancement" are a bit smaller, one of the spots went away completely, and there’s no indication of increased blood flow (associated with tumor growth). This is good news.

Also good news: we took a trip to Las Vegas, which went well. We saw three shows, ate many excellent meals, visited the Mob Museum, and goggled at the architecture. We did not gamble at all. It was a pretty laid-back trip by our usual standards, but we were exhausted when we came home; I'm really not sure whether or not we will be up for the square dance convention in late May. We'll play it by ear based on our energy levels.

All in all, Kate is generally doing well. She can’t drive and can’t walk very far or very fast, but she’s been cooking and today she even took a trip on the bus while I was at yoga class. We hope for continued improvement in the months to come. If you can come by for a visit or send a card or some cookies, please do so.
 
 
David D. Levine
14 April 2015 @ 07:06 pm
As you may recall, I had a small spot removed from my nose two weeks ago. Well, I got a phone call from the dermatologist's office yesterday, saying only "call us." Unfortunately, I didn't get the message until after the office was closed.

As you might guess, I didn't sleep well. At all.

The news, when I finally got it this morning, was not what I'd hoped to hear but not nearly as bad as I'd feared. The spot is an "in-situ squamous cell carcinoma," in other words a type of skin cancer. But it is not malignant, and is easily treatable: it's a 15-minute procedure in the doctor's office, with a 98% cure rate. Basically they just "scrape and burn" until they find healthy tissue. This a very common procedure; one in five people gets skin cancer at some point in their lives.

So, all in all, not too bad. But, seriously, this can stop any time.

Hug the people you love. And wear sunscreen.
 
 
David D. Levine
08 April 2015 @ 04:17 pm
Kate woke up at 5am yesterday with chest pain, and we went to the emergency room. Initial tests indicated it wasn't a heart attack, but they kept her overnight for observation and more tests. Those tests also showed it wasn't a heart attack, though it took until noon today to get a doctor to sign off on that and let us go home. :-(

It's tough for the doctors to tell what the cause of the pain actually was, but it was likely heartburn from the steroids. Kate was already taking an anti-heartburn med (Pepcid) for that, but we got a prescription for a stronger one (Prilosec). We will also be seeing our regular doctor on Friday to follow up.

Hospitals make you "sick." By which I mean that the simple fact of being in the hospital takes away your agency and turns you into a "sick person," an object. Your clothes are stripped away and you are given a stupid gown that does almost nothing to protect your privacy or dignity. You sleep, eat, and drink on someone else's schedule, and none of it well. You are forced into a horizontal position in which everyone literally looks down on you. You are poked with needles, given drugs which often make you feel worse, and forced into inactivity even if movement and exercise might make you feel better. It's all done out of kindness and for the best of reasons, but the whole thing seems engineered to make you powerless and miserable.

The whole episode was time-consuming, anxiety-inducing, and exhausting, but at least it won't cost us anything in cash -- we've already hit our "out of pocket max" for the year. In the larger scheme of things, this was just a bump in the road.

Thanks very much for your support, especially Nancy, John, Dave, Merilee, Bo, Don, Janna, Mary, and Teresa, all of whom came by to keep us company and let me get away from the room when necessary.

Onward.
 
 
David D. Levine
31 March 2015 @ 01:32 pm
Things are going pretty well here. The last time I posted about this, we had tried reducing Kate's steroid dose and the aphasia came roaring back, and we were just about to begin the second round of chemotherapy.

The chemo -- five days of pills, with a doubled daily dosage -- went off with almost no side effects, and the increased steroids have worked well. She's gone from "can barely get a full sentence out" to "some hesitation and occasional wrong words." The steroids do carry some undesirable side effects, including facial swelling and tremor, but for now we will just have to live with them. The next round of chemo begins later this week.

At the moment Kate's biggest problems are strength, stamina, and balance. But those are all better than they were, and her mental energy and concentration are improved; she's being all ambitious and proactive in a very encouraging way. She does have some memory issues, which may or may not improve with time. But she's been cooking and decluttering and doing crossword puzzles and knitting (slowly) and just generally being more Kate-like. She can walk faster and farther than before, and doesn't have to take several naps a day any more. Still not driving, though, and I don't think she has the stamina to take the bus, so when I go out of town I still want someone in the house to help her. We both hope that won't last forever.

We have continued trying to walk a lot, exercise several times a week, and eat right. Spring is definitely here (we're well past crocuses and daffodils and into tulips and cherry blossoms), which makes the walking easier and more fun. And Kate has started working with her trainer at the gym again, which can be exhausting and sometimes kind of discouraging but a very good forward step. We could both be exercising more than we are, but what else is new?

I've been doing pretty well myself. Progress on the novel continues, I've seen some short story reprints, and I've been working on a novelette that I hope to be able to tell you more about soon. I've been doing weekly yoga and got a couple of days out of town on my own. I also got a small spot removed from my nose ("It's probably nothing, but let's take it off and have it analyzed") and finally got a clean bill of health on my lungs, which we've been watching for possible sarcoidosis for the last year and a half.

Thanks to Janna, Andi, Dave, Will, Brenda, Ariel, and John (and possibly others I've forgotten), all of whom came by for a short or long visit. It's greatly appreciated, because we haven't been able to go to a convention or square dance for months. However, we are trying to get back to dancing (we'll see how that goes) and will visit Las Vegas in late April. This trip is a bit of an experiment, which will help us figure out what we can and can't expect to be able to do on future trips. In May I will fly to Southern California for a week to record some more technical training videos for lynda.com, and we hope to attend the annual square dance convention in St. Louis. After that, who knows?

Thanks for your visits and cards and letters and emails. This is a marathon, and your cheers help keep us going.
 
 
David D. Levine
04 March 2015 @ 08:00 pm
As you may recall, Kate finished up her daily radiation and chemotherapy treatments on February 3. The month of February was a month off from treatment, and we largely spent it relaxing. Though we were not able to attend Potlatch because of the risk of "con crud," we did spend a weekend at the Sylvia Beach Hotel, a book-themed hotel at the Oregon coast (we had the Amy Tan room), and I ran off to the Rainforest Writers Village writing retreat, where I wrote an unprecedented-for-me 15,000 words on the sequel to "Arabella of Mars." It was in general a very productive writing month for me... I also wrote a short story for a Chinese website and a novelette in the Wild Cards universe, about which I'll have more news when they get closer to publication. We also saw five Portland International Film Festival movies.

During the month we had Tom and Karen, Sue and Alex and Cheyenne, and Mary Kay as house guests, for which we are very grateful, especially to Mary Kay who spent a whole week with Kate while I was at the Rainforest. Lots of other friends also came by to visit, and many of them brought food or helped with errands. I am also very pleased to say that we've begun cooking for ourselves again, at least some of the time, which is extremely satisfying.

For most of February Kate was getting gradually better, with the fatigue lessening and the aphasia very manageable, though she was still rather tired and wobbly. She was doing so well that we tried to wean her off of the steroids, which reduce brain swelling but have other, undesirable side effects. By the end of the month she was down to one steroid pill a day... but unfortunately the aphasia came back in spades, to everyone's intense frustration. We just met with the doctor today and we are raising the dosage to two pills per day, effective immediately. Based on previous experience that should reduce the aphasia within a week.

Also at today's doctor appointment we reviewed the MRI (brain scan) taken at the end of February. As we had been warned might be the case, there is quite a bit of "enhancement," or tissue that absorbs a lot of the contrast material, at the edges of the place where the tumor was removed. There's no definitive way to tell from the MRI what this is, but the blood flow in the area and the timing (three months after a successful surgery) imply it's radiation damage, which often heals by itself, rather than new tumor growth. Again, this is something we'd been warned about beforehand, so we are not yet overly concerned about it. We will continue to use steroids to treat the accompanying swelling, and hope for the best.

But we are not just hoping. On the advice of the oncologist, naturopath, and other professionals we are trying to eat right (lots of vegetables, lots of fiber, mushrooms and active-culture yogurt every day, and few refined white carbs) and get as much exercise as possible. The steroids have caused Kate to lose a lot of muscle, so we are starting with just 15 minutes of gentle exercise 3 times a week, aiming to bump that up by 10% every two weeks. Exercise has all kinds of benefits, including reducing those steroid side effects and the chance of cancer recurrence. I'm trying to get more exercise myself, including yoga once a week and plenty of walking. The weather is improving, which will make this easier.

The second round of chemotherapy begins as soon as we can get the drugs from the special pharmacy, likely this week. This is the same drug as before, Temodar, but at about twice the dose. There's a greater risk of nausea with the higher dose, but as Kate had no nausea to speak of in the first round we hope that it won't be a problem this time either. Despite the higher dose, many patients find this second chemo round to be much easier than the chemo + radiation in round 1.

Kate will take chemo pills for five days, then have 23 days off, then repeat for the next six months or so. We can expect fatigue, but few other side effects, so we hope to be able to do some travel, even international. We'll know more next week about how well she tolerates this therapy.

All in all, apart from the current aphasia (which we hope will clear up soon), things are going about as well as can be expected. Your help is greatly appreciated and will continue to be needed going forward; if you can come by with a home-cooked dinner or to do laundry or dishes it would be wonderful.

Thank you all very much for your help and good wishes. They mean more to us than I can say.