Dear Family and Friends,
November 15, 2006
The summer has flown by and we are deep in the midst of autumn
(early winter) in the Rockies. October was one of the
wettest on record: over 50” of snow (according to my local meteorologist
friend) that came in two large snows and a few smaller ones along the way. We
spent a good portion of the month on out of town trips, so our October
experience was largely mud. Our local ski area,
Eldora, is a thousand feet higher
than we are and they’ve been adding man-made snow to what has stuck to
the ground up there; they plan to open in three days. (As I write this,
another 4” snow squall is winding down, covering the mud and melt in
our area from the past week. The ground is really much prettier covered
in a white blanket.)
I. Health Update
It’s been four months since my last newsletter and
many of you have called, written, sent cards, or emailed Judy about her
cancer. Some have sent books or DVDs on a variety of related topics.
Believe me, that interest and concern is supportive and appreciated,
your words often bringing her to tears. As you can imagine, we’ve been
sticking pretty close to home, arranging our lives for the summer
around Judy’s doctor visits, radiation therapies, and recovery. She is
a remarkably strong person, and the fact that she has for years kept in
good physical condition, exercised regularly, and followed a
nutritional, semi-vegetarian diet has no doubt helped her recovery.
She is now planning to return to her former level of competitive
running (see below for race results from Puerto Vallarta) and has begun
working on a strict nutritional regimen to prevent remission. She has
not lost weight, and her muscle strength and skin tone and other
outward features show nothing of her cancer or effects of treatment.
Except that her 5K time is a couple of minutes slower than last spring,
she still runs faster than 99% of other women over 60!
She joined two cancer support groups and has
continued to meet with them weekly. On Tuesdays she walks in Boulder
with a small group of women who are survivors or are going through
treatment. The hour is at the pace of the slowest member and is a good
source of information, support, and camaraderie. She also attends a
two-hour support group meeting led by a counselor in the offices of her
Boulder oncologist. These meetings also have been a great source of
support, information, and inspiration. Both groups have helped her
through some difficult times and it’s likely she’ll continue to meet
with both groups for some time.
Judy’s brother and his wife came out for a visit. In
spite of Judy’s incredibly busy schedule of doctors and hospitals, we
were able to enjoy being with them afternoons and evenings for the
better part of a week in August.
II. In Addition…
We’ve actually been able to do some traveling this
summer and early fall, working around doctor’s and therapy schedules.
• A California Wedding
The widower of one of Judy’s high school girlfriends
who passed away a year ago remarried a terrific woman. They have known
each other for a long time—even working at the same company for a
while—and she lost her husband a few years ago. We had the opportunity
to meet her when they traveled to Colorado in August to visit his
sister in the Denver area and spend a couple of days with us here in
the mountains. Their renewed friendship blossomed and they married in
September in southern California. We were delighted to attend the wedding
festivities along with Judy’s other high school girlfriend and her
husband who drove down from Washington. What a festive occasion and an
excuse to get out of town for at least a short while.
• Steamboat Springs
Last winter we made plans for an early fall getaway week at a resort
in Steamboat Springs, about four
hours west of here. It’s one of our favorite areas of the state that we’d
visited twice in the past. Fortunately the week we planned fit with Judy’s therapy
schedule (the supervising oncologist was on vacation that week). So we packed books,
movies, hiking boots, running shoes, and our Visa cards and spent a very relaxing
week reading, hiking, eating well, running, and shopping leisurely at a time of the year
when the skiers hadn’t arrived and most of the golden aspen leaves were still on the
We ran a few miles most every morning on the bike
path that parallels the Yampa River as it goes through town. We hiked
through the Mt. Zirkel Wilderness Area north and west of town. Judy got
a screaming deal on a new classic cross-country ski package (shoes,
bindings, and skis) at a pre-season sale in Steamboat (and with all the
snow we’ve received, she’ll put them to good use right away). An old
hometown friend of Judy’s who currently lives in Avon, Colorado, drove
up for a day of conversation and a Sunday dinner. We returned home
completely rested and refreshed: Judy completed her radiation therapy
after we returned and prepared for her second second opinion two days
Judy flew to Boston for a consultation with a
specialist in her particular type of cancer at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute,
a well-respected medical and research facility associated with
Harvard. In the course of her meeting with Dr. Campos, she was reminded
that there is precious little data for understanding and treating with
confidence her particular cancer, but that the course of treatment she
completed here in Boulder has been standard practice among most
oncologists. While this gave us both a sense of assurance that she has
had proper treatment, there are still so few controlled studies of
treatments and prognosis that the only medical course of action at this
point—now that she has completed her radiation
treatments—is to monitor her condition vigilantly and regularly. In the
short term, she will go for testing here in Boulder every three months.
Judy’s trip to Boston was combined with a visit with
our daughter’s family. She was in time to see our quickly growing up
granddaughter get ready for her first real “dress-up” event.
Griffin played the electric bass for her, and she and Debra shopped a bit
together and worked on a fund-raiser at Julia’s school.
• Puerto Vallarta
Another trip we had planned earlier in the year was a week with
Michael and Cindy (who have refined the art of relaxing on the beach) at our
favorite Mexican resort. Again, our goal was to relax our bodies, refresh our spirits,
and enjoy each other’s company in a place of warmth and beauty. We left at
the end of October in the aftermath of a two-foot snowstorm and arrived on the
Pacific shores to 90° temperatures (and high humidity to match). “Our”
resort has plenty of palm trees and swimming pools to keep us cool, as well as
several hundred feet of beach. We returned to only one of our favorite restaurants
(Tino’s) and discovered five others we
had not been to but have put on our list of favorites: Ocho
Tostados and La Longosta Feliz
(“Happy Lobster”" both out-of-the-way, hard to find neighborhood
restaurants; El Brujo and
Joe Jack’s in the “Zona Romantica;”
Cilantro’s, a downtown gourmet restaurant with
a decidedly continental emphasis; and 100% Natural,
a small health food restaurant across from the Sheraton. For the first time we did not
eat at one of our very favorites, Pipi’s,
nor did we splurge at one of our favorite rooftop restaurants (e.g.,
El Palomar, Ah Caramba,
or La Panorama). It’s amazing how good the food
is in Puerto Vallarta and how many choices you have of places to eat.
Judy and I took a day trip to the mountain
town of San Sebastian
del Oeste, a once prosperous and populous silver mining town (30,000 people in the late
1890s) that has dwindled to a few hundred souls living 45 miles inland from the coast. Most
of the road was paved, though the last nine miles was rough dirt and the streets in town were
the original cobblestones laid down 150 years or more ago. We stopped at a small family run
tequila distillery to learn how the drink was traditionally made (by hand) and how it is
best enjoyed (reposado—aged about 60 days—is preferred for sipping over the
longer aged and more expensive anejo). We also stopped at a small, family run coffee
plantation just outside San Sebastian.
We had a tasty traditional lunch at La Lupita on the edge of town followed
by an hour or so of wandering through the town, visiting the historic Church, and meeting
Dona Conchita at her museum filled with photos and artifacts from the town and her family
which has been there for many generations. Though there are three hotels in San Sebastian,
souvenir shops and tourist retail have not yet found their way to this still remote area,
though when the road gets completely paved the town will likely become a more popular and
accessible destination for tourists.
We had planned the timing of our trip to coincide with
“Day of the
Dead” festivities at the beginning of November. We did not fully appreciate the background
and traditions of this very important holiday period as celebrated in Mexico. Kids (with their parents)
were out in force all evening on Hollowe’en night on the Malecon in full costumes with their
bags or containers asking for candy or treats by holding up their empty bags or plastic pumpkins
saying/asking “Hallowe’en” to all who passed by. The next few days family members
who had died were remembered by their relatives either at the cemeteries or with displays found in
front of homes, public buildings, and elsewhere that feature photos, foods, and other items. Cemeteries
blossomed with lavish bouquets of flowers—marigolds are the traditional flower of this period.
• A Puerto Vallarta Bonus
We added three extra days on to our usual week so that we could participate in a
5K race in town. Judy was
reluctant to run since she had not been in training since May and had not run competitively since June.
However, with a group of Boulder Roadrunners
coming down for the race, she gave in and agreed to “participate” (which is what
I do). We moved out of the Krystal and down to the Costa Club that is just a block from the
municipal sports complex where the race would begin.
Runners in the half marathon race started at 6:50 am,
before the sun came over the mountains, and ran north for six and a half miles on the
main road past the airport. Led by a half dozen Kenyans (there was, apparently, enough
prize money and probably free accommodations and transportation to entice them to forego
the Chicago Marathon that was run the same day) about 500 runners took off to face the
heat and humidity that would only increase before their race was over at about 8:30 or so.
Those of us in the 5K left a little after 7:00 and endured the heat for less than half an
hour. Still, it reminded us of afternoon runs in the Ohio summers when we lived there.
Judy, to her surprise and delight, took second in her age group (“Veterano Plus”)
and received 700 pesos for her efforts (seen on the right being congratulated by race director
Carlos Arceo). I, on the other hand, wound up with a very sore knee (and will have arthroscopic
surgery to repair a torn meniscus next Tuesday!!). However, we had a terrific time and may try
to return next year at the same time for another race.
I continued to work Tuesdays at the Visitors Center
on a fairly regular weekly basis during the early fall, usually in the
middle of the day—leaving after Judy had gone for an appointment in
Boulder and getting home about the same time as she did. Now that our
busiest tourist season is over, the Visitors Center is open only on
weekends. I volunteered for the Saturday morning or afternoon shift,
depending on which is needed.
Thursdays continue to be rehearsal nights for
McGinty’s Wake, the Celticgrass group that lets me play with them. We
had some paying and non-paying gigs over the summer: a wedding in the
Denver area that was not a highlight of our short but energetic career
(wrong music for the occasion); a contra dance in nearby Gold Hill (we
were sensational, playing essentially the same stuff as we performed at
the wedding, but the venue and expectations were very different); and
an annual end-of-season yacht club shindig that we’ve played the past
two years and they continue to invite us back (never mind that two of
our group are club members and they pay us in food). We’re currently
rehearsing for a return engagement at the Nederland Holiday Art Show
the first weekend in December (we add some carols bluegrass style) and
another contra dance in the Denver area in January. One of these days I
hope to put the word out that we have a CD “available”
(i.e., for sale). Won’t that be a hoot!
Thanksgiving will be at our house this year, especially since
Michael and Cindy are in the throes of remodeling their kitchen as I write.
But it’s our turn anyway. Judy’s counsin Carol and husband Ken
will drive down from Milliken (an hour and a half north and east of us) to
join us, and maybe our neighbors, Brian and Tracy, will be here as well.
In any case, I won’t be very mobile this Thanksgiving recovering from
surgery two days before. I suppose I’ll be forced to sit in front of
the TV football games all day—sigh—and supervise those who will
be scurrying around getting the meal prepared or doing clean up after.
Happy Thanksgiving to each of you and your families. You are in
our thoughts. We really do think about our friends and family who are not
close—especially around this time of the year.