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3:30pm In Recovery

May 9th, 2008

The ovary and uterus were removed, and no other organs. She’s in recovery right now. We will have other updates later.

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Update on Kathleen

May 8th, 2008

Kathleen had to cut her Ireland trip short and fly home May 6th, due to ovarian pain and some organ blockage due to the size of her ovarian growth.

Kathleen will be going into surgery Thursday, May 8 at 11:30 AM at the Dominican Hospital in Santa Cruz.

She will have the ovary removed that has a large growth on it, and her bladder scraped for testing.

We will update the site after the surgery. Thank you for all your kind healing thoughts, and prayer – and your continued support through Kathleen’s battle.

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HOORAY ! HOORAY!! Hallelujah ! AND THANK YOU GOD.

March 18th, 2008

Kathleen called this morning and had the result of the blood test. It was great ! Her count was below 500 and that is very good. The immune system has kicked in and is working and with most certainty will remain working. She doesn’t need any more treatments in Germany or injections. As you can imagine, she and Howard were ecstatic with happiness. Now they can go on to Italy and really relax and have a great vacation.There are still signs of the cyst on the remaining ovary and she has some fluid in her abdomen so the Dr. suggested that when she returns to Ca. to take a very low dosage of the chemo pill. It shouldn’t leave any side effects as it will be a very low dosage, and periodically have an MRI.

The lady she met from Carmel and who was going thru the same treatments at the same time as Kathleen was there also with her husband . She was also given very positive news. Her count was not as low as Kathleen’s but she has been battling cancer for 10 years and it was much more serious. Her immune system is staying up also so she was extremely happy and relieved.

I can’t thank all of you enough, no words can express my gratitude for all of your support and concern over the past 2 1/2 years, and most importantly, all the wonderful prayers for Kathleen’s cure. She has been so fortunate to have so many wonderful friends and family praying for her and pulling for her. I feel God’s got something special in mind for her to achieve here.

Thank you so very much,

Diane

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Email From Howard

March 18th, 2008

now mondaz night here, daytime in the states. the clinic visit went well todaz – as well as we could have hoped! but we still await the test results and consultation tomorrow, so keep her in your prayers – appointment is 2:30pm our time, which is 9:30am on the east coast, 6:30am west coast.

dr. kübler, his wife, the nurse, and the receptionist were all in good moods and happy to see kathleen (and me, too, it seems). k´s veins cooperated and the blood draw took less than 2 hours, and was fairly uneventful except for the pain of the needle going in and out. we read a bit about venice and visited a bit with her fellow-patient from carmel in the next room, going throgh the same process (we had dinner with them Saturdaz night, too). dr. and frau kübler seem optimistic. k is still having pain in her abdomen, and maybe that will cease if/when she can stop the medication she was presc ribed months ago.

weather is still cold and damp. we had 1 good daz, saturdaz was sunnz and warm, and we took advantage, getting up earlz and taking a train an hour and a half to the south and the alps, then a series of trains and gondolas up to the highest point in germanz (right at the border with austria, from the peak we crossed over to austrian soil, i mean snow). tons of skiers up there, quite a scene. we walked around and took photos. the pig was with us there, as everywhere, and we have the photos to prove it!

spent sundaz in the museum full of classical art, from late medieval and renaissance through 18th centurz masters. i liked the Dürer and we both like the oldest works, e.g. Giotto, Fra Angelica, Breughel. Some nice Rembrandts here, and tons of Rubens – highlz recommended if you#re into Rubens and Van Dyck…

gotta run. thanks for your replies (hugh, tony, max, karen, diane). more so on! k will also have tomorrow#s news posted to www.kathleenflowers.com by her brother.

love to all, kathleen and howard

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Oh, no! Another trick!

October 31st, 2007

…treatment.

I don’t know what hapened, but looks like my blog entry got chopped! Usually, I write them on a word document and then paste them into the blog–but of course, this time I didn’t so there’s no saved copy of the next 4 paragraphs that tell of my brother and his family’s fantastic visit, the San Diego fires, the Halloween Parade at DeLaveaga, etc.

I’m sorry, it’s too late and I don’t have the energy to write it again.

Just know that I love you all and am so excited to be coming home tomorrow!!!

Hug you soon,
Kathleen

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Taking a Plane Instead of My Broom…

October 31st, 2007

Flying home on Halloween! I almost got a trick instead of a treat: good thing I checked my reservation. US Air had added an extra stop in Las Vegas with an extra 4 hour layover but fortunately, a nice woman in their service department got me back on my original flight with just the one stop in Philadelphia. Phew! It has been 3 1/2 months since I’ve been home–isn’t that long enough to wait?!

I had my last treatment at the clinic on Monday. It went smoothly. My bed was right by the window so I spent the time just gazing out at the autumn leaves, the rare presence of blue sky, and gave many thanks for the incredible opportunity to receive this very speial

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Brrrr! 6 Degrees Celsius…

October 20th, 2007

…which converts to a balmy 42 degrees Fahrenheit! There’s an apotheke (drug store) on the corner I check on the way to the swimming pool for a digital reading of the time and the weather. My guess was way off today: I thought it was at least 12 degrees Celsius. Just three months ago, Howard and I were in Italy forcing ourselves to eat gelato every day to combat the heat: high 30’s to low 40’s Celsius (90’s-100 + Fahrenheit)! Each month, I’ve watched the thermometer inch down: in September I was surprised by the steady decline into the 20’s, and now in October, along with the yellow and red leaves, the temperature has fallen another 10 degrees! My mom said, “Maybe it will snow before you leave…”

Luckily, my mom and my niece, Ella, got some of the warmest and driest weather I’ve experienced this fall in Munich. It was even sunny and 70 F the last two days they were here.

On the first day of their visit, we took a double-decker bus tour of the city (roof open for the first part) that cruised by many of München’s major attractions, including: several museums, the National Theater, Opera House, New City Hall with famous chimes, the outside of a beer hall, the Palace of Nymphenburg with Royal Gardens, the Olympic Park, and even the neighborhood where I’ve been staying: Schwabing, which has been called the Greenwich Village of Germany with its artist district and open air cafes.

Then Saturday morning we took a 3 hour train ride to a Berchtesgaden, a lovely town nestled against the Alps, famous for its salt mining, situated not far from a gorgeous lake, the Königssee, only 20 km from Salzburg, Austria. We didn’t have enough time to take the salt mining tour or to visit Austria, but we did hike the wooded trails above town, ate hearty Bavarian fare, and took the 2 hour round trip around the lake in a silent, environmentally clean, electric boat. When we got to the middle of the lake, they cut the engine and the tour guide stood on the edge of the boat and blew a horn. After each line of the song, he would pause and let the mountains echo the melody back. It was a most extraordinary duet!

Monday, I had my treatment—my last blood-letting! Hurrah!—so Ella and Mom spent the day shopping. They got home just as my side effects were winding down and entertained me with a show-and-tell of the booty they had acquired. Then I made the mistake of suggesting we watch an episode or two of “24”. Just as I had been, they were instantly hooked. Don’t tell my doctor, but we stayed up until midnight that and the next two nights trying to squeeze in as many episodes as we could before they had to leave.

Tuesday, we took the tram out to Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial Site, only half an hour ride out of the city. As you can imagine, it was an incredibly chilling experience to step on the very ground where so many unspeakable atrocities against innocent people had been carried out over a12 year duration. We each had an audio guide that not only described the different buildings on the site and how they had been used; but, also included personal testimonies and recollections shared by survivors of the camp. There was a film shown in different languages and lots of photographs, historical background, and information in the museum. But even with all this realia, how can one begin to comprehend the magnitude of the suffering, the devastating ripples sent out across generations, families, communities, the world? As one of the memorials so simply but powerfully put it, “We must never forget.”

And once again, trying to grasp such unimaginable loss, I am overwhelmed with emotion and gratitude for all the resources and technology, for all the prayers, concern and support that have been showered on me to help save my singular life. May I use it to be of service, to bring some good. I shall never forget how lucky I am.

The last afternoon of Mom and Ella’s visit was spent strolling through the English Garden, admiring the autumn leaves, the meandering river, the little children riding their wooden bicycles, the couples picnicking on blankets on the grass… My visitors drank their final Bavarian brew and we shared a gargantuan pretzel at the beer garden on the lake. Our table was so close to the water, Mom befriended a handsome swan that could almost stretch its neck to the height of the table and help itself to our snack!

Needless to say, I was so happy to have them here! Their enthusiasm and curiosity for the many novelties of another country, culture, and language were contagious and many of the sights became new again for me through their eyes and exclamations. Ella kept saying, “I can’t stop smiling!” A beautiful sight indeed! In fact, I’ll try to load some of our photos so you can see both of their gorgeous grins!

They’ve only been gone 36 hours and I miss them already; but, don’t feel too sorry for me because my brother, his wife, and 5 year old daughter arrive Sunday morning! Let the festivities continue! And the flu shots, too!

Love to y’all,
Kathleen

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THE BIG COUNTDOWN

October 10th, 2007

On Another Continent

Afraid of missing you so much I’ll miss
what’s here before me, I secure blinders
against my longing and quip, It’s Zen
to stay in the present
, all the while
bumping into dullness.

But when I let myself yearn for you,
I become this city with all its bells
in all its churches ringing all at once––
their big, brass hearts bonging along
with mine in a cacophony of exuberance.

When I risk a loneliness I might not
be able to bear, I become instead
sudden rain splashing the drowsy lake.
I become all its waves and ripples
radiating out across its shivering surface.

I become the ducks turned upside down,
feeding on every morsel of every memory.
I am the geese and their inelegant honking,
running upon the water, soon flying back to you.

©Kathleen Flowers, October 2007

It’s the big count-down now: only two days until my mom and niece, Ella, arrive for a visit. In less than two weeks, my brother, Brian, his wife, Meg, and their daughter, Breegan, will be here. Then, three days after they leave, October 31, I fly home! Having my loved ones here is going to be so much fun! There are so many things I want to show them and do with them. I know the time will just whiz by!

Just as the other women from the clinic, that I’ve talked to, have said, the after-effects of the treatment are becoming easier each week. I think I’m over the worst of it. Hallelujah! Next week is my tenth and last blood draw! After that, I have two more appointments where I just receive the dendritic cells and the flu vaccine. When I go home, the clinic over-night expresses more vaccine made from my blood (packed on dry ice!) to inject once a week for several weeks. After that, we wait for all “the good guys to hunt down and destroy all the bad guys”. Around February, I return to the clinic to have my blood tested again to see where my numbers are. The goal is to get every thing under 500 which cancels out the threat of any new metastasis. (More prayers, more prayers.)

What an extraordinary experience this has been! I feel so incredibly fortunate to have been given this chance to heal, to have received TONS of encouragement and care from family and friends since I’ve been away, and to have so much to look forward to once I’ve returned home!

Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

I love you all so!
Kathleen

P.S. My sincerest gratitude goes out to Amber Sumrall for doing numerous and very close readings of the new poems I’ve been writing here in Munich—including the one above––and for giving me invaluable suggestions for revising them. This collaboration has been potent medicine and great FUN!

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Proust!

October 4th, 2007

OK, a medical update and then we’ll get to the real business: Octoberfest!

My “naughty” veins reverted on Monday and it took the good doctor 4 tries before we got the blood going! Even so, the machine’s alarm kept sounding because the flow kept stopping. Argh!!! Just when I thought that bit of stubbornness was behind me. But in the end, the lab got the “stuff” they needed and I got my dose of natural killer cells chased by two flu shots.

I celebrated by having lunch afterwards with another patient who is from San Francisco. She was very kind to talk to me at length about her experience at the clinic back in May when I was doing research on Dr. Kübler and his treatment. Without divulging too much of her confidentiality, I think it’s OK to tell you that her results at the clinic have been VERY positive. I also had breakfast with another patient from the clinic the previous week who was back to have her blood count taken after finishing her treatment in July. She emailed me when she got home to say that her results were GREAT—the specifics: I’m still waiting to hear. I am so happy for them and so encouraged for my own case.

Something very real is happening at this clinic and I just wish the American doctors would get interested or probably, more accurately, that the FDA would stop stalling around and make this treatment available in the states. In fact, the machine they use to filter our blood is manufactured in the US! Supposedly, the treatment is completely non-toxic and works on the premise that the body wants to heal itself and sometimes just needs a little help. And one of the amazing things about it is: once the natural killer cells learn to recognize the tumor cells and start fighting against them, they never forget and that information gets passed down from generation to generation of immune system cells. Now that’s what I call education!

I hate to sound too cynical, but from the reading and observing I’ve done, I think the barbaric nature of and dismal cure rate from cancer treatment in our country has less to do with the unwillingness of doctors to look into alternatives and more to do with the pharmaceutical companies. Maybe if they could find a way to make as much money off of using a patient’s own cells as they do using expensive chemotherapy drugs, we’d see this treatment suddenly become available in the US…(And, I haven’t even gotten to see “Sicko” yet!)

OK, enough politics and on to some good old-fashioned Bavarian fun: Octoberfest–or as it is called here: die wies’n (remember: pronounce the “w” like an English sounding “v”: Dee Veesen)! I tried to follow all of the “Octoberfest Tips”, posted in last week’s blog, that were passed on to me by Silke, the generous woman who is letting me stay in this apartment in Munich:

-don’t go alone
-don’t go on the weekend and if so then really in the morning (10:00)
-only go if the weather is nice
-eat a haehndel
-only go when you are in a good mood
-expect many drunk people
-HAVE FUN!

I went yesterday, which was a Tuesday, at 11 am, with Frank and his almost one-year-old daughter, Lola. It was perfectly sunny and warm, I was in a fantastic mood, and I left before I saw too many drunk folks—or became one myself! Frank is a good friend of Angelika’s (my Santa Cruz friend who invited me to spend several days at her parents’ home in Northern Bavaria that really kicked-off my time here at the beginning of the trip).

(For Octoberfest visuals, go to: http://www.kodakgallery.com/I.jsp?c=4qxwvo0u.2zy706u6&x=0&y=-ibjpp5 which is a Kodak sight where I have put the Octoberfest photos I took yesterday since I haven’t figured out how to program the camera or the computer so that each photo uses only 2 megabytes or less—the limit of what this blog can handle.)

Silke also wrote to let me know that die weis’n is not located outside of town, but in the middle of the city. I found this out yesterday when I took the subway and it was only 6 stops from home. Speaking of the subway, the first 2 photographs were taken while riding the escalator up from the subway station. I turned around and snapped them just before being dumped into the middle of the Octoberfest extravaganza. I have to say that the subway ride to the event was an experience in and of itself.

The train was packed when it came into the station so I just followed the others and smashed my way into a car that already looked like it was busting at the seams. I was literally nervous the doors were going to take off my nose when they closed. I counted almost 50 of us just crammed into the space between where the two sets of facing doors are. (When we got to our stop, I swear I left with someone’s embroidered lederhosn tattooed to my bare arm!) Actually, everyone in the subway car seemed to be laughing and joking. And because a good majority were decked-out in the authentic Bavarian dress–suede and embroidered short pants and suspenders—lederhosn–for the men and pretty, apron-covered, bust-adorning dresses for the women (the secret of which, I’m told, is to buy the blouse a size or two too small…)—dirndls–for the women—I had plenty to admire while I was praying that I wouldn’t suddenly become prone to claustrophobia. The fun thing is that the “locals” don’t reserve these special outfits just to wear to die wies’n. You see people dressed this way all over town during the two weeks and three weekends that Octoberfest is held. If I were Bavarian, I’d be sporting mine proudly!

I always thought that Octoberfest happened all over Germany; but, in fact, it is a tradition that began in Munich when one of its princes got married (I hope I’m remembering this right) and decided to share the celebration with the whole town by making a party and giving out beer and sausages and pretzels to all. Everyone had such a great time that they decided to do it again the next year and so the tradition has continued and expanded for how many years? A long time—by American standards, anyway. So, of course, it’s not just the Munich people that come out for Octoberfest, but there is significant representation by American, Australian and Japanese tourists (to name a few) as well. Something like 10 million people participate in the Octoberfest each year!

So, a few comments about the other pictures you’ll see if you go to the aforementioned website:

• Octoberfest looks a lot like a county fair in our country, with lots of food and souvenir booths. I just had to take a photo of the booth that exclusively featured one of my all time favorite foods: pickles! (Next to this booth, there was a haunted house that was playing salsa music setting up a nice competition with the ubiquitous Octoberfest polka music. You gotta’ love it!)

• There are all kinds of rides. The carousels were my favorite. Not only did they have the prettiest ones I’ve ever seen for children, but they have adult versions that rotate incredibly slowly, in which people are sitting on stools at little tables drinking—you guessed it: beer!

• There are a lot of stands selling elaborately decorated, heart-shaped, gingerbread cookies that are decorated with German words I couldn’t quite translate. I asked my trusty wies’n tour guide Frank about it and he pointed out all the couples walking around wearing these cookies hanging from ribbons around their necks. Supposedly, they buy them for each other to profess their love. Ahhh….isn’t that sweet?

• Not only was it Family Day yesterday, but it looked like it was Class Day, too. I couldn’t help but take a picture of a teacher leading her class around. Don’t worry, they seem to restrict the children’s tour to the rides—just BIG kids in the beer tents.

• Did you notice that I got a photo of Bill Clinton in lederhosn?

• OK, you’re gonna’ see a picture of me enthusiastically biting into the biggest pretzel you’ve ever seen and hoisting a liter stein of brew, but, whereas I was eating the first with gusto, I was only sampling the second to see what all the fuss is about. Pretty vunderbah suds, I have to admit. (Only beer made here in Munich is allowed to be sold at die wies’n. No Coors, no Corona.) And I did eat a haehndel (half a roasted chicken: prima!).

• Check out the man waving a gigantic pretzel over his head—he’s calling his friends over, not alerting the authorities that he’s run out of mustard!

• And then there are a lot of photos of the so-called “beer tents”. I’m here to say, they are nothing like the hastily constructed Quonset Huts for drinking tournaments I was imagining. As you can see, they are quite creatively designed on the outside (the lion below the Lowenbrau insignia is animated and is roaring: “Looow-eeennn-brauuuu”) and breathtakingly decorated on the inside. Frank said it takes them two months to construct all these buildings with their adjacent beer gardens. There are at least a dozen of these “tents”, some with second stories for additional seating, and each with a separate raised area for the live band. They looked to me like they each seat hundreds of people. Frank assured me that when we were there at noon it was half as crowded and rowdy as it would be that same evening and NOTHING compared to a weekend night. I’ve heard that the tents get full at some point in the afternoon and then they close the doors. That’s when the REAL party begins with people standing on the benches, arms linked and swaying like some massive and lurching kelp bed, singing their favorite Bavarian songs along with the band! If only I was brave enough for such revelry…

• I could still go back this weekend…

• Another thing Frank told me is that a lot of offices bring their employees to die wies’n each fall. He also said that some employees look forward to bonding with their colleagues at Octoberfest even more than the annual Christmas party… (It’s not a cheap party either since it’s customary to wash down your chicken and pretzel with 2-3 steins of beer! To give you an idea: one stein of beer costs over $10 and the chicken costs about the same. Pretzels are only $5. You do the math.)

• And finally, a word about “mein klein schwein”—or the little pink pig that keeps popping-up in photos—from the Alps to our wedding altar! Howard “adopted” him a number of years ago at a garage sale and for some reason, when we started dating, the pig would show up in the darndest places: in the empty seat next to me at a jazz show in San Francisco, beside the salt and pepper shaker at a nice restaurant, peeking out of Howard’s shirt pocket as we rode The Big Dipper at the Boardwalk…One thing led to another, and soon, the pig was taking trips with us. In fact, we took so many photographs of him, he should have his own photo album! Howard wanted me to keep the pig in Germany but I didn’t think I could handle the responsibility. I politely declined until the day I took Howard to the Munich airport for his return flight back to the Cruz, when, at the very last moment, I yelped, “I NEED the pig!” So, now “mein klein schwein” can boast of not only having seen the leaning tower of Pisa, the great carved doors of the duomo in Florence, the Sistine Chapel and the Pantheon in Rome, but, he can also heave a sigh of relief for not being roasted and turned into a sausage sandwich at the Octoberfest!

When next I write here, my mom and neice, Ella, will be here visiting!!! More tales to tell!

Proust! And love,
Kathleen

P.S. I want to apologize to any native Muchenites for the many errors I’m sure I’ve made in my innocent attempt to share what I’ve learned about Octoberfest. I truly had a delightful time and would like to come back next year—just under different circumstances—and bring all my friends. But, we’ll need to brush up on our German drinking songs first!

Other

Did You Know that Octoberfest Happens in September and Isn’t Called Octoberfest in German?

September 28th, 2007

I just got this and had to include it in this week’s post!!!

Octoberfest Instructions to a Naive Tourist from a Native München:

Don’t go alone
Don’t go on the weekend and if so then really in the morning (10:00)
Only go if the weather is nice
Eat a haehndel
Only go when you are in a good mood
Expect many drunk people
HAVE FUN!

Some friends of Angelika, who live by the fairgrounds outside of town where the Octoberfest is held, have offered to take me. They, too, suggested going on a weekday, in the morning. Maybe for the next blog I’ll have some wild stories to report…

For this week’s report, I’m happy to say that my treatment went well again! And as Howard calls it, I also got through the “Big Sweat”, no problem. The symptoms actually came on later, lasted for less time, and were a bit less intense. So, maybe I’ve turned a corner.

For the last week, I have been feeling under the weather though. I haven’t had a lot of energy and not much appetite either—which if you know anything about me, is just not right! I asked the good doctor about it but he wasn’t in the mood for questions and grumbled something about it having to do with the Protocel. I don’t know. I haven’t taken that since mid-July. I prefer to think that it’s the dendritic cells hitting critical mass in my body, causing large cancer cell casualties. I want to believe that there’s a big change happening in my system and wouldn’t it be odd if I didn’t feel any differently? I’ve still been swimming and going to the park and it’s still raining––with little sun in sight.

Sadly, I don’t have any great adventures or sightseeing trips to report. Mostly, I’ve been working on poems, which for me, is a favorite form of psychic spelunking! Speaking of poetry, I really blew it! My critique group, The Emerald Street Poets, just published an anthology of our poems called, Harvest from the Emerald Orchard, and had a reading at the Louden Nelson Center this past Tuesday night. I heard there was a great turn-out and that it was a festive night of verse! I so wish I had had my wits about me to have invited you. But, you can still hear several of them on KUSP this Sunday night from 8:00-9:00 pm (or listen on the web pod cast afterwards, at your own convenience) talk about what it’s like to be in a critique group and perhaps read some poems, too. Oh, how I miss my poetry community! Santa Cruz must be the best place in the world to live if you happen to aspire to versifying!

I spent the morning learning how to add photos to this blog. I ran into some limitations but I did end up posting a few photos from our wedding in July. You can find them in the “Wedding Album” link on the upper right side of this page. There’s another album called “Honeymoon” but I’ll need to take a break from such technical feats before I attempt posting more photos.

In just a little more than a month, I’ll be home and wanting to see all your sweet faces and it will be your turn to catch me up on your lives. Howard and I are talking about having a big party to celebrate this new life we starting, so stay-tuned in November for date and time. Of course, you’re invited!

I guess I’ll leave you for now with a big virtual hug and with a seasonal poem-in-progress.
Kathleen

THEY’RE DOING IT AGAIN

Overnight they slipped out of their
Shimmering green summer gowns.

We carouse now in their wine and cognac-colored
Lingerie that splashes and pools around their narrow feet.

Soon the trees’ only embellishment
Will be bare shoulders, curves and knees.

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