Thursday, December 16, 2010

Bitchin' Cold at the Beach Last Week- But Big Fun!

Hello gang-

Just a quick update before I head to Cincinnati tomorrow for the holidays.  Looking forward to spending time with my brother, nieces, their husbands and kids.... 4 of 'em under the age of 5.  Dom will be driving up next week.... he wants to have a quick escape route (car) in case the kids get too wild!  LOL

Meanwhile, friends from Louisiana are going to move in for a couple weeks to take care of my kitties and have Christmas in the country.  Good deal!

We headed to PCB on Saturday.  Did a little shopping at Pier Park 
Then enjoyed lunch at Tootsie's. 

Once again, you could have shot a cannon down Front Beach Road.  The town is deserted... extremely windy and very cold... Dipped down to 23 degrees.  Brrrrrrrrr.  And the biggest waves that I've seen.  Very rough seas.

Had a fun visit with our favorite bartender, Donn.  Also got to finally meet his wife Linda... lovely gal.  Donn turned me onto my new favorite...  Godiva chocolate/raspberry Vodka.  OH MY GAWD.  What a fun martini!  And a heck of alot less calories than what I used to make.... Vodka, Godiva White Chocolate and Chambord. 

Sunday was non-stop fun.  Walked over to our sports bar, "Benchwarmer's" and snagged a great seat for our Saints game. Ate some hot wings, drank some draft beer and had fun with 4 other New Orleans fans.  Who Dat, baby!

Stopped at our joint on the way home for a martini.... DONN-  you've created a monster!!!!

Basically just hung around the condo all day on Monday.  Walked across the street to visit himself... He loaded up Dom with a bunch of neat stuff for our bar, and packed up a set of 6 martini glasses for the condo.  At that point, I felt obligated to have a martini.  Hee Hee!

Came home on Tuesday morning.... did some packing, some running around, and now ready to head North.

Wishing all of you a WONDERFUL Christmas!

Friday, December 10, 2010

A Word to the Wise regarding Warfarin and Vitamin K

Hi Gang-

Hope this post finds everybody getting into the holiday spirit with good health and spirits!

Dom and I went into NOLA for his monthly infusion of Zometa yesterday.  Before administering the drip, they run a CBC on him to be certain that he's OK.

Bloodwork was great.  I'll post the latest numbers after this story.

There was one number that stuck out like a sore thumb-  His INR numbers were through the roof.  His post-transplant nurse was shocked and asked if he was eating alot of green leafy veggies.  "NOPE".  We told her that we realized that Vitamin K negates the effect of blood thinners.

So, she changed the dosage, and is having him come back next Friday for an INR lab visit.

When we got home, I started doing some snooping around on the internet.  (Google is our friend!)  I figured it out...

A couple of months ago, Dom was complaining to one of the infusion nurses that he gets weak and dizzy fairly often.  She asked him about his eating habits, particularly breakfast.  He told her that he enjoyed toast and oatmeal, sometimes waffles or pancakes.  She remarked that all of those carbs were causing him to crash shortly after eating.  She stressed the importance of PROTEIN with his morning meal. Recommending eggs, sausage, bacon, etc.

OK- so "Dr. Nanette" didn't want her patient to eat all of that cholesterol. (He's on high blood pressure medicine and there's heart disease in his family.)

I bought him loads of "fake" bacon and breakfast sausage from Morning Star Farms.  A soy-based food with no cholesterol.  Also Egg Beaters.

BINGO.... there lies our problem.....  Soybeans are LOADED with Vitamin K! 

The above site was very helpful to me.  They also have a link for a great PDF file that goes into more detail.

Now we have to discuss with the Cancer Center folks which is worse-  Increased Warfarin dosage or High Cholesterol?   This is a really crappy time to change up his diet, because they'll want him to come back weekly for tests until his numbers are right.  We're both heading up to Ohio for the holidays.

Soooo... we've (I) decided to stick with the increased blood thinners, stick with the Soy protein until after the holidays.  We have our 18 month doctor appointment in another month.  THEN we can figure out what to change.  (Doctor visits are now every 3 months).  He feels great, and I want him to enjoy vacation.  We can re-do his diet in January!

Here are his numbers from yesterday.  The Tulane Cancer Center is still very pleased.


WBC:    4.5
HCT:     34.9
ANC:   2700

Friday, December 3, 2010

MMRF featured on yesterday's TODAY SHOW....links

Hi guys...

I know that some of you missed yesterday's MM piece on the Today Show.  Theoretically, here's a direct link to the video.  I say "theoretically" because I have a stupid slow dial-up connection and can't watch videos online!

If the above doesn't work, you'll find a link on the MMRF homepage-  bottom left "Spotlight":

It was a wonderful segment and certainly gives us all hope!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation to be Featured on Thurday's TODATY SHOW

Dear Friends,
We are writing to share some very exciting news. The MMRF will be featured on NBC’s Today Show this Thursday morning!
This special segment, which includes Ann Curry’s up-close and personal interview with our Founder and CEO, Kathy Giusti, will highlight the powerful progress the MMRF and its partners have made in bringing patients new, life-extending treatments and closing in on a cure.
Don’t forget to tune in on Thursday!
The Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation

This Actually Works!!! Absolutely Amazing!

You'll be surprised at how this works.  BE HONEST and don't look at the movie list till you have done the math! 

Try this test and find out what movie is your favorite.  This amazing math quiz can likely predict which of 18 films you would enjoy the most. GUARANTEED!!

Movie Test:
Pick a number from 1-9.

Multiply by 3.

Add 3.

Multiply by 3 again.

Now add the two digits together to find your predicted favorite movie in the list of 18 movies below.

Movie List:

 1. Gone With The Wind
 2. E.T.
 3. Beverly Hills Cop
 4. Star Wars
 5. Forrest Gump
 6. The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly
 7. Jaws
 8. Grease
 9. The Defeat of Obama in 2012
10. Casablanca
11. Jurassic Park
12. Shrek
13. Pirates of the Caribbean
14. Titanic
15. Raiders Of The Lost Ark
16. Home Alone
17. Mrs. Doubtfire
18. Toy Story

Monday, November 29, 2010

A Very Pleasant Thanksgiving

This was Ping's first American Thanksgiving, so I tried to "wow" her.  Broke out the fall decorations, polished the silver, dug out maw's turkey plates, washed the champagne flutes and put together our menu.

*22+ # Turkey.... cooked Martha Stewart style...covered in cheesecloth and basted all day with melted butter/white wine and drippings.  Makes a delicious gravy and a moist bird!
*Homemade cornbread/sausage/cranberry and pecan stuffing
*Mashed Potatoes and Gravy
*Niece Jennifer's Corn Souffle (Dom's favorite)
*Sweet Potato Casserole with Brown Sugar/Crunchy Praline Topping
*Fresh Caramelized Balsamic Pearl Onions
*Stouffer's Spinach Souffle
*Frozen Lima Beans

Joe and Ping drove in from Pensacola on Wednesday afternoon.  Ping is an excellent cook, but Joe wanted her to see how to cook a turkey.  So, she hung out in the kitchen with me on Wed night, making the stuffing and parboiling/peeling the pearl onions.  I hadn't planned on any dinner.... as maw would say, "You must fast before a feast".  The four of us nibbled on some of Ping's egg rolls and a frozen pizza.

On Thursday morning, Joe and Ping took a ride on the 4-wheeler around the property and tried their hand at fishing...with no luck.  Saw plenty of bass, but they were elusive.

Watched our Saints win, then sat down to eat after the game...around 7pm.  Ate by candlelight with "The Nutcracker" playing in the background.

This year, the entire concept of "Giving Thanks" really hit home for Dominic and myself.  We're most thankful for Dom's complete remission from his Multiple Myeloma.  We're also thankful for our happy marriage/fun life together, as well as our growing friendship with Joe and Ping.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Ping's Wonderful Dinner and Housewarming Gift

Her dinner was just great.  She stuffed fresh jalapeƱos with a mixture of ground pork, finely minced fresh ginger, onion, garlic and mushrooms.  Dipped them in an egg wash, then fried on a high heat.  Talk about a fun idea for football nibbles!

Also cooked up a couple of pounds of Salmon filets and asparagus.  All served with a wonderful sauce and white rice.  She knocked us out.

She's also quite the talent when it comes to making artificial flowers.  She put a lovely arrangement together for us, and made a few more to zip-up some greenery that's in the condo.

PCB in the Winter- Deserted and Just Heavenly!

We had a great week.  Left here on Wed. morning and headed to the beach.  Much to our delight, PCB was empty.  You could've shot a cannon down Front Beach Road.

Water was gorgeous, temps around 70 degrees.  Nobody at the indoor pools.  Perfect for walking on the beach. 

Our favorite local bartender, Donn, met us over at Coyote Ugly on Wednesday afternoon when he got off of work.  We had a couple of beers with him.  We've made a marvelous new friend.  Donn, if you're reading this, we love you, man!  (And enjoy your friendship).

The Majestic Beach Resort was empty.  There were more guys power washing and painting balconies than there were guests at the joint.  Can you imagine doing this at 22 stories?  Yikes!

Joe and Ping joined us on Friday afternoon for a couple of days.  Had a ball. Ping cooked us a yummy dinner on Friday night.  On Saturday morning, Joe and I walked to the County Pier a mile away.  Struck up a conversation with a retired Canadian.  Enjoyed watching the guys and gals catch flounders and octopus.  It never occurred to me that there were octopuses in the area.  

Later, we went over to Rock-it Lanes, sat in the sports bar, and had a great lunch.  Dom headed over to visit Donn, while Ping, Joe and I bowled 10 frames!  The first time I've bowled in 33 years.... my 158 average has dropped to 85.  *smiling*  Yet, it was enough to beat those guys!  What great fun we had! They snuck out while we were still sleeping on Sunday morning.... like two thieves in the night!

The Saints game was not televised locally, so we strolled back to our sports bar and watched the game on a big screen in HD.   Who Dat, Baby!

Dom dragged me home-  kicking and screaming-  on Monday morning.  After loading up a gorgeous Miller Lite neon light from our Donn. 

Friday, November 12, 2010

Dom's Eyes Have Improved Post Transplant!

Hi gang-  It was another busy couple of days at Tulane.  Had a mid morning appointment on Wed., then headed over to Chris' house to spend the night.  (This saved us about 150 miles round-trip the next day).  We had a pleasant visit, drank a little bit of beer, watched Survivor and ate some Red Beans and Rice with Rouse's hot sausage on the side....good stuff.

The both of us had a Thursday morning appointment with a Tulane Ophthalmologist, Dr. Peter Kastl.  (Who quickly turned into ANOTHER favorite doctor!)  Dom had been claiming that his eyesight had drastically changed since his Stem Cell Transplant, hasn't been wearing his glasses, and wanted a check up.

My mother had suffered from (was blinded by)  Macular Degeneration.  In recent years, I've noticed floaters, light flashes and an occasional gray spot in my line of vision.  So, thought it would be a good idea to have my own eyes checked.

It was pleasant.  They took us in the same room.... like a buddy-system.  After a normal eye test, they dilated my eyes, shot some flashes into my eyes and took pictures of what was going on BEHIND my eyes.  Thankfully, NOTHING.  No leakage.  No sign of Macular.  No problem.

When checking for glaucoma, my pressure was a little high.  Normal is 13-20.  I'm at 22.  He isn't terribly concerned, but going to keep an eye on it.  Pun Pun 

He gave me a prescription for a pair of glasses that I probably won't get... think I'm about 25/25.... as long as I can pass my eye exam when I renew my drivers license, I'm happy.

As far as Dom goes, the rascal was correct!  His vision is about 20/25.  Has no need for glasses.... gave him a mild prescription, too.  We're headed to the Biloxi VA Hospital for an appointment on Monday.  If they give us the glasses free, we'll take 'em.  Otherwise, we'll be happy with our 15 pairs of reading glasses that are in every room of the house and condo!  LOL

Dr. Kastl did notice a "thinning" of Dom's retina.  He said that if Dom starts seeing flashes and stubborn floaters, to make an appointment.  Otherwise, he'd see us in a year.  Nice, nice guy... loved him and his staff.  Have I ever mentioned how crazy I am about TULANE?

When we left Kastl's office, we walked over to the Cancer Center for Dom's monthly infusion of Zometa.  That went smoothly.  We are now finished with TULANE for 4 weeks.  Hotcha.

Good looking numbers yesterday:

November 11th, 2010 :

HCT   32.8
WBC   5.4
ANC   3100

When we finally got out of there we headed home.  Stopped at the Applebee's in Slidell for their free Veterans Day dinner.  Dom had a huge plate of Panko breaded fried shrimp.  We paid for my bacon cheeseburger.  I was very impressed with the experience.  I can guarantee you that the next time it's a toss-up between Applebees or a competitor, I'll be spending my money with Applebee's.  Excellent public relations...  The place was mobbed, they gave away alot of free food, but I guarantee they made alot of money and earned alot of respect.

That's about it, gang.  Looking forward to college football tomorrow (ROLL TIDE!!!).  There's no Saints game on Sunday, so I'll be cooking some teal given to me from my Cajun pal, Vickie.... gonna smother it like they do in Breaux Bridge.

Have a delightful weekend, friends and family!   

Thursday, November 11, 2010

A Bit of Humor from my Dear Graybeard! HA HA HA!


The flood of American liberals sneaking across the border into Canada has intensified in the past week, sparking calls for increased patrols to stop the illegal immigration.  The recent actions of the Tea Party are prompting an exodus among left-leaning citizens who fear they'll soon be required to hunt, pray and agree with Bill O'Reilly and Glenn Beck.

Canadian border farmers say it's not uncommon to see dozens of sociology professors, animal-rights activists and Unitarians crossing their fields at night.  "I went out to milk the cows the other day, and there was a Hollywood producer huddled in the barn," said Manitoba farmer Red Greenfield, whose acreage borders North Dakota .  "The producer was cold, exhausted and hungry.  He asked me if I could spare a latte and some free-range chicken.  When I said I didn't have any, he left before I even got a chance to show him my screenplay, eh?"

Officials are particularly concerned about smugglers who meet liberals near the Canadian border, pack them into Volvo station wagons and drive them across the border where they are simply left to fend for themselves.
"A lot of these people are not prepared for our rugged conditions," an Ontario border patrol officer said.  "I found one carload without a single bottle of imported drinking water.  They did have a nice little Napa Valley Cabernet, though."

When liberals are caught, they're sent back across the border, often wailing loudly that they fear retribution from conservatives.  Rumors have been circulating about plans being made to build re-education camps where liberals will be forced to drink domestic beer and watch NASCAR races.

In recent days, liberals have turned to ingenious ways of crossing the border.  Some have been disguised as senior citizens taking a bus trip to buy cheap Canadian prescription drugs.  After catching half-dozen young vegetarians in powdered wig disguises, Canadian immigration authorities began stopping buses and quizzing the supposed senior citizens about Perry Como and Rosemary Clooney to prove that they were alive in the '50s.  "If they can't identify the accordion player on The Lawrence Welk Show, we become very suspicious about their age," an official said.

Canadian citizens have complained that the illegal immigrants are creating an organic-broccoli shortage and are renting all the Michael Moore movies.

"I really feel sorry for American liberals, but the Canadian economy just can't support them," an Ottawa resident said.  "How many art-history majors does one country need?"   

Friday, November 5, 2010

Another GREAT read from Scott Nicholson- "DISINTEGRATION"

 Hello again, gang-  I want to introduce you to one of my favorite authors:

I've read most of his horror stuff, and just finished his new "psychological thriller", DISINTEGRATION, which is just as frightening as any of his horror novels.

It's available as an Ebook, and I highly recommend it.  I love this guys' stuff.... as long as he keeps writing and publishing, I'll keep reading!

Still COMPLETE REMISSION 15 months Post Transplant....and Dom's ROAD TRIP

Great News, gang....  Dominic's M PROTEIN was once again ZERO.  He remains in complete remission 15 months post Stem Cell Transplant!  We're absolutely tickled.

Haven't really posted anything, as there's nothing going on here.  I stayed home to man the fort (only left the house once in 14 days) while Dom took his Corvette up to Ohio for a couple of weeks.  He spent a couple nights with my bro in Cinci, then about a week on the West Side of Cleveland with his childhood best friend, John.  Then, off to my hometown of Newbury for a couple of nights with Amy and Kirk, finally heading back up North to Rock Creek to spend a night with another lifelong friend, Lor.

I really enjoyed the solitude, but am delighted that he's home, safe and sound.

Ran some errands today, then pigged out on Chinese.  Returned home, dragged the calendars out, made a couple of doctor appointments, and have the next couple of months figured out. Between the VA Hospital, Tulane Cancer Center appointments, a few specialists at Tulane Medical Center, monthly infusions, mail-order Thalidomide..... it takes alot of strategic scheduling.  It gets mind-boggling at times.....not to mention the Holidays, the Condo, Family and Friends.... whew!

Looking forward to a relaxing weekend of good football:


Wednesday, October 20, 2010

October Has Been a DELIGHT! Wonderful Health and Dear Friends!

Hello gang!

I'm happy to report that the month of October has been wonderful.  Much fun and great news on the health-front.

At the beginning of the month, girlfriend Wendy and I went to the condo for about a week.  We've been friends for 30+ years.  Circumstances caused us to drift apart for quite some time.  We both realized that it was time to reconnect.  Wowie Zowie.... did we ever!  

Had an absolute blast at the beach.  The water was COLD, the air temperature was in the low eighties.  Perfect for strolling on the beach, walking to restaurants and bars, and catching up on life.  I'm tickled that she was able to get away to play for a week.

Upon our return, it was time to head back to Tulane for Dom's monthly infusion of Zometa and complete blood work.  From the infusion room, we strolled down the hall for our first doctor appointment in 3 months.  They were absolutely delighted with Dom's numbers:

HCT:  35.4
WBC:  4.9
ANC:  2800

All of his other numbers were great, as well.  The ones that weren't in the "normal" range, were all close to normal, and moving in the desired direction, either up or down.  I'm telling you, gang.... he's like a "superstar patient" at Tulane!  They drew extra blood to check the Myeloma Proteins in his blood.  (M-SPIKE number).  Was hoping to hear the result earlier this week, but we got a phone call that they lost the vial of blood.

On Saturday, our friend Chris came over for the weekend.  Great fun ensued.  I played designated driver on Saturday.  The 3 of us first went to a great dingy dive bar in Bogalusa... "Crystal's Trip".  Hadn't been in there for many years.  It's nothing like the mellow L&C crowd.  A little bit of a rougher place.  Our bartender had a huge black eye from a huge brawl that had broken out the night before.  Got nailed with a pool cue.  Fun place!  LOL

Wendy met us there for a little over an hour.  She and Chris hadn't seen each other for probably 20 years.  We had a great time.

The 3 of us then ventured to our favorite Chinese joint for a late lunch/early dinner.  Chris and I both managed to eat our weight in boiled shrimp.  You can almost feel the *cringing vibes* from the management as we're refilling our plates full of beautiful big shrimp.  Yum!

Home then for my Crimson Tide game.  BAMA slippers?- CHECK!   BAMA beer huggy?- CHECK!  BAMA do-rag?- CHECK!  BAMA sweatshirt?- CHECK!   Roll Tide, Roll!!!!!!!!  And did they ever.  Geez, I have such a crush on Nick Sabin....  LOL

Sunday was much more low key.  The 3 of us ate Buffalo Wings and watched our Saints return to how they looked last season.  We could do no wrong.... other than our stupid kicker.  Time to get rid of the kid.

Finally, Dom and I headed back to Tulane yesterday.  We were parked, in and out in less than a half an hour.  Looking forward to cofirmation of COMPLETE REMISSION.

So, gang....  It doesn't get much better than this.  Life is good.  Dom is presently packing up his Corvette for tomorrow's road trip to Ohio for a couple of weeks.  It will do him a world of good to catch up with lifelong pals and get away from his nagging wife!

We love you guys!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Caring For Someone With Multiple Myeloma – Part 3: The Toll Of Caregiving

This is the end of the series, gang... hope that it might have helped somebody out there!

By Christine McLaren and Funmi Adewale
Published: Oct 6, 2010 4:01 pm

This article is the third in a three-part series about caring for a loved one with multiple myeloma. The first article provides an introduction to caring for a cancer patient as well as resources for caregivers. The second article provides practical tips for caregivers, and the third article explains the tolls of being a caregiver.

When Nan Manzo’s husband Dom was diagnosed with multiple myeloma in 2008, their family doctor shared some advice about how to deal with the ups and downs of dealing with cancer. “Ants will show up at this picnic. Just brush them off, and keep focused.”
“I can’t begin to tell you how many times we laughed about the ants,” said Nan. “They certainly did show up – repeatedly!”

Many people find that humor can help ease the stress and worry associated with a cancer diagnosis, but caring for someone with multiple myeloma can certainly take an emotional and physical toll.
As your loved one battles cancer, you may experience a range of emotions such as anger, worry, fear, guilt, resentment, and grief. Under the constant stress of supporting your loved one, it is not uncommon to find yourself mentally and physically exhausted.
However, understanding the stress and emotions you are experiencing can help you cope with them.

Financial Implications

When Lori and Dave Puente found out that Dave had multiple myeloma in 2008, Lori quit her job to be his caregiver. She handled his treatment, the payment of medical bills, and communication with insurance providers. “It took a big hit on our finances even though we had insurance,” Lori said.

Chronic illnesses, such as multiple myeloma, can have a significant impact on a family’s finances. People with myeloma may be unable to work as consistently as they had before, and caregivers may leave their jobs to devote their time to caring for their loved one. At the same time, their bills grow due to hospital and treatment expenses. In many cases, it is the caregiver’s job to handle the payment of bills, insurance coverage, and resources that will ease the financial burden.

A study presented at the American Society of Hematology’s 2009 meeting evaluated the financial burden of different myeloma treatment options on patients and their caregivers. Out-of-pocket expenses were calculated to be at least $3,000 annually.
Luckily, aid is available in the forms of health insurance, pharmaceutical reimbursement programs, and other services. Consult with your insurance provider to determine what they cover. If your loved one receives coverage from Medicare, you can receive free one-on-one assistance and advice from the State Health Insurance Assistance Program or from the Medicare Rights Center.

Beyond health insurance, a number of pharmaceutical companies offer reimbursement programs. These include Celgene, the manufacturer of Revlimid (lenalidomide) and thalidomide (Thalomid), and Millennium, the manufacturer of Velcade (bortezomib). For a list of pharmaceutical reimbursement programs, visit the Beacon’s Drug Reimbursement Information links. A number of nonprofit organizations also offer reimbursement. For a list of nonprofit financial assistance programs, visit the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation website.

Many chemotherapy agents and steroids are no longer patented, and generic versions are available at a fraction of a cost of the branded version. Ask a doctor if a less expensive generic option is available.
Participating in a clinical trial may be another way to reduce the financial burden of treatment and a way to be involved in the process of bettering myeloma treatment for the future. Ask your doctor or visit the Beacon’s list of Clinical Trials links.

Certain non-treatment expenses, such as home care assistance and medical supplies, may also be covered by Medicare or other insurance companies. Be sure to check with your insurance provider.

Mental Health Effects

Watching someone struggle with myeloma can be a very emotional and difficult time for a caregiver. Caregivers usually experience high levels of stress, and according to the Family Caregiver Alliance, between 40 to 70 percent of caregivers have symptoms of depression. These symptoms include changes in eating and sleeping habits, fatigue, loss of interest in people or activities, and ongoing physical symptoms that do not respond to treatment.

While it is natural to feel sad and anxious, if you think your symptoms are more severe, you should consult a doctor. It is important to treat depression properly so you are in the best condition possible to help your loved one.

Although Nan did not suffer from depression, she knew the devastating effects her sadness could have on Dom: “I tried to keep my chin up in his presence, but there were many times that I would cry. I tried to never let him see that. I always tried to remain completely positive.”

In addition to suffering from symptoms of depression, feelings of grief (the process of reacting to loss) are also normal. As a caregiver, you have been involved in all aspects of life with myeloma, so your grief may come and go with each loss and success. You may grieve more as the disease progresses.

Another type of grief – anticipatory grief – may also occur as the disease progresses. This is experienced when caregivers await and anticipate future grief. Grieving is a natural coping mechanism, but do not forget that there is still time to enjoy with your loved one.

Grief will vary from person to person. Bereavement (a state of sadness, grief, and mourning after the loss of someone you care about) may include physical as well as emotional pain. Each person will experience this pain for a different length of time. Some mourn for an extended period of time, others work through the grief process as their loved one’s health declines, and although others mourn, they may also feel a sense of relief that their loved one is no longer suffering.

Some people deal with grief by connecting with family and friends, by reaching out to other caregivers who have dealt with loss, or simply by working through things on their own.

Regardless of your coping strategy, help is available. Ask for advice from your doctor, family, friends, and a support group.

Coping With Lost Responsibility

Of course, the hope is that your loved one will respond favorably to treatment for their myeloma and ultimately be able to resume life as it was before their cancer diagnosis.

If your loved one responds to treatment and as their condition improves, he or she may want to have a more active role in their health care and retake control of some tasks that they passed to you soon after their diagnosis and during their treatment.

Despite being happy about your loved one’s improved condition, it can be difficult coping with the loss of responsibility as your loved one becomes less dependent on you.

Dave and Lori were lucky enough to learn that Dave responded well to multiple myeloma treatment and is in complete remission. As Dave regained strength, he started making his own decisions about his medicine and treatments, things Lori normally had done as his caregiver.

After Dave expressed his desire to take over, Lori found herself feeling lost and not needed. Over the course of a few months, Lori adapted to a new routine by reconnecting with childhood friends in California, visiting her children on the East coast, and thinking about working again. “Now I’m feeling a little bit more ready to go out and look for a job,” she said. “I feel really good now, but it took awhile. It took me months.”

At the same time, your loved one may experience feelings of abandonment if the switch from caregiver to companion is abrupt. Lori advised letting your loved one make their own decisions while continuing to offer support. “Make sure they don’t feel abandoned,” she said.

With Dave back at work, Lori makes sure that she is always available to help Dave when he asks. “It’s a delicate balance,” she said.

But Dave and Lori are thankful for Dave’s remission and that they can now move forward with their lives. “Since he’s being so closely monitored, we can put [myeloma] out of our minds and live our lives,” said Lori. “If it comes back, [the doctors] will tell us, and we’ll deal with it. If it’s not there, we’re not going to sit around worrying about it.”

For more information about caring for someone with multiple myeloma, please see Part 1 and Part 2 of this series.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Caring For Someone With Multiple Myeloma – Part 2: Practical Caregiving

By Funmi Adewale and Christine McLaren
Published: Oct 1, 2010 1:12 pm

This article is the second in a three-part series about caring for a loved one with multiple myeloma. The first article provides an introduction to caring for a cancer patient as well as resources for caregivers. The second article provides practical tips for caregivers, and the third article will explain the tolls of being a caregiver.

When Lori Puente’s husband Dave was diagnosed with multiple myeloma in 2008, she decided that she would need to take time off from work and her activities in order to give Dave the best care possible. “It was a full-time job with a lot of down time,” she told the Beacon in a phone interview. “Dave would be up at 2 a.m. hungry, and then asleep from 10 a.m. until noon. Whatever his schedule was, my schedule was. It required major adjustments and flexibility.”

For many caregivers, taking time off from work is not feasible. Balancing work and other responsibilities with caregiving is no easy task, so the Beacon has provided practical tips to help busy caregivers manage their time, communicate with health care and health insurance professionals, and prepare for emergency situations.

Making Yourself A Priority

In order to fully perform your responsibilities as a caregiver, you must keep your body and mind healthy. While it may seem that the only option is to devote all your time and energy to combating myeloma, you must focus on yourself as well so that your loved one can continue to rely on you.

Balancing doctor appointments, treatment regimens, and household responsibilities on top of a full-time job may be overwhelming. Caregivers often take time off from work to focus on the patient’s needs. Dianna Allred was able to take nine and a half months off from work to care for her husband, Mark.

While taking time off from work may allow you to spend more time with your loved one, without a job, the illness may completely engulf all aspects of your life. It is important that you monitor your own health by visiting your doctor for routine check-ups and watching for stress-related symptoms.

Symptoms of stress include headaches, back or chest pain, high blood pressure or heart disease, upset stomach, difficulty sleeping, anxiety, depression, irritability, lack of focus, over- or under-eating, or increased smoking or drinking. These stress-related symptoms can make it difficult to concentrate and can make your body susceptible to viruses such as the common cold.

Other ways to stay healthy include eating a balanced diet; exercising for at least 30 minutes a day, four times a week; and striving to sleep eight hours a night. Nan Manzo tries to walk outside to stay healthy, so that she can take care of her husband Dom.

Taking breaks to walk outside, watching a few minutes of television, reading, or indulging in a hobby are useful ways to increase energy and concentration. Little breaks will help you clear your mind and refocus your energy on caring for your loved one. “I took up knitting, which I hadn’t done in years,” said Lori.

With its positive mental and physical aspects, yoga may be a valuable activity to adopt. It is said to improve balance and coordination, reduce stress, and improve concentration. Students of yoga are encouraged to be completely conscious of and love themselves in order to make challenging decisions and to help others. More information about yoga for caregivers can be found at the following sites: Empowering Caregivers and Yoga For Caregivers.

Delegating The Responsibility

Although many caregivers take on caregiving as their full time job, it does not need to be a job for just one person. If another family member or friend offers their assistance, accept it. Sometimes friends and family members may want to help, but may not offer because they are unsure of how to ask and how they can contribute. Have a one-on-one conversation with anyone you think may want to help to let them know what they could do; having a list of specific tasks is particularly helpful.

Delegate responsibility. For instance, as the primary caregiver, you can schedule and attend doctor appointments, research the disease and treatment options, and remind your loved one when to take their medications; Arrange for an assistant caregiver who takes care of the grocery shopping, laundry, house cleaning, lawn care, and other chores around the home.

When you allow and encourage others to help, everyone benefits. Most importantly, the practical and emotional support of others can help you feel less overwhelmed.

Another way to share the responsibility of caregiving is to hire help. At-home nurses or respite helpers can offer the valuable extra set of hands necessary for you to balance the many responsibilities in your life. However, finding a reliable person who gets along with you and your loved one can be difficult. Fortunately, there are many agencies that specialize in locating at-home nurses and aides. “If you’re not happy with the person, ask for someone else,” advised Dianna.

Find out how your loved one feels about receiving care from a hired aide, and ask friends or members of a local support group for references.

Communicating With Health Care Professionals

From diagnosis to treatment and follow-up, hospital visits become a routine part of life for people living with multiple myeloma. Interacting with hospital personnel can be intimidating, confusing, and exhausting. At times, myeloma patients may be too distracted by worry or fear to take control of the situation. Your role as caregiver includes advocating on behalf of the patient by coming to appointments, asking questions, and speaking up for them.
“One of the most important things a caregiver needs to realize is that they need to empower the patient as much as the patient wants to be empowered,” said Lori. During Dave’s treatment, Lori handled everything: filling prescriptions, contacting insurance companies, talking with health care providers, and more. She verified her actions with Dave at each step to ensure he was comfortable with her decisions.

To guarantee the best medical care, you should keep doctors and nurses informed and up to date on your loved one’s condition. Come prepared with lists of the patient’s allergies, recent side effects, and current medications, including dosages. If you are visiting a hospital or doctor for the first time, bring copies of your loved one’s medical history, including previous test records and results to help facilitate the administrative process. Feel free to ask the staff at your regular hospital for copies if you do not have these records.

If you have specific questions for the oncologist, write them down and prioritize them. Nan has found this strategy to be very useful when she goes to doctor appointments with her husband. “I go in with a list and take notes” she said.

If the doctor says something confusing or unclear, make sure to ask for clarification. One way to make sure you understand everything correctly is to state what you think the doctor said in your own words and see if he or she has anything to add. You can also ask for permission to use a recording device.

When the doctor finishes speaking, let him or her know that you have questions and begin with your most important concern. If the doctor does not have time to answer all of your questions, you can ask other medical staff. Nurses can be a great source of information and support, since they are usually responsible for implementing the doctor’s treatment plan.

If you are unsatisfied with a physician’s medical advice, say so. The patient-doctor relationship works best as a partnership; both the patient and the caregiver’s inputs are valuable. Be courteous, yet persistent, to successfully communicate with medical personnel on behalf of your loved one.

The same principles hold true when engaging with insurance providers. Prepare for the conversation by having the patient’s birth date and insurance policy number ready. If the question is about a specific bill, have ready the name and address of the organization that sent it, the total amount, and the diagnosis code listed on the bill. Writing down the questions you would like to ask ensures that you will not forget about any important inquiries.

When the conversation begins, be sure to take down the name and telephone extension of the person with whom you are speaking in case you need to call again. Present your question or case clearly and briefly, and tell the representative what you need and expect. Taking notes as they respond may be helpful. Dealing with health insurance providers is often complicated and time-consuming, so be patient, considerate, and assertive.

Emergency Situations

Multiple myeloma can cause a number of serious health complications such as kidney failure, bone fractures, reduced blood cell counts, and an increased susceptibility to infections. As a result, caregivers should be prepared to deal with emergency situations that require them to act quickly and confidently.

Dianna experienced such a situation after Mark’s second stem cell transplant. “I left [home], and I had only been gone for an hour. When I left he was fine,” she described. “When I got back, he was burning up with a fever. That’s how quickly it can come on.”

The first step is recognizing an emergency. For cancer patients, something as simple as a fever can warrant a trip to the emergency room. Dianna knew the warning signs of a serious problem, thanks to a booklet and a short educational class provided by her clinic. Ask your health care team if they offer any informational publications and classes.

The more information you can bring with you to the emergency room, the better. Be prepared with the same documents you would carry along to a normal doctor appointment: your loved one’s medical history and records and a list of their allergies and medications. Also include the contact information for your primary oncologist and treatment center. These documents contain sensitive information, so keep them in a private, yet accessible, location, such as a lockable drawer.

Another written document to consider bringing is a durable power of attorney. This gives you or whoever is designated the legal authority to make decisions on behalf of the patient in the event that the patient is no longer able to do so. A durable power of attorney form can be obtained at the hospital, from an attorney, or at a state attorney general’s office. Copies of the completed document should be provided to hospital personnel. If you or your loved one is unsure whether this is essential, speak to your doctor or lawyer. It is best to discuss and prepare for every situation beforehand in the event that a crisis occurs.

If you believe your loved one requires immediate medical attention, call 911. Upon arriving at the hospital, find out who the attending physician will be and collect his or her contact information. Make sure you understand what the doctors and nurses are proposing before making a decision. You can use some of the strategies presented above for talking with health care professionals, such as repeating what the doctor or nurse said in your own words.

Your loved one will probably be assigned a hospital social worker or case manager. When possible, sit down with this person and plan for your loved one’s discharge from the hospital. Be proactive about getting information from the physicians, nurses, and other personnel involved in your case.

Another thing to remember is that all situations are best dealt with calmly, and it is important to always keep the interests of your loved one in mind. Emphasizing the need for good communication between caregivers and patients, Lori said, “Everything I do with [Dave’s care], I have to keep in mind who he is.”

Friday, October 1, 2010

Caring For Someone With Multiple Myeloma – Part 1: Introduction To Being A Caregiver

Hi gang-

Thought that this might be of interest to some of you.  The Myeloma Beacon is an online fountain of information, and has been VERY helpful to me... a "caregiver".   Funmi interviewed me for this article several months ago.  Thought I'd share it with you guys....

By Funmi Adewale and Christine McLaren
Published: Sep 29, 2010 3:20 pm

This article is the first in a three-part series about caring for a loved one with multiple myeloma. The first article provides an introduction to caring for a cancer patient as well as resources for caregivers. The second article will provide practical tips for caregivers, and the third article will explain the tolls of being a caregiver.

In October 2008, Dianna Allred’s husband, Mark, was diagnosed with multiple myeloma after suffering a severe spine fracture.

As Mark’s pain increased dramatically after the fracture, Dianna took action. “I called the doctor and told them we needed an MRI. Something was just not right,” she described in a phone interview with the Beacon. An MRI and a CAT scan later, Mark’s myeloma was diagnosed, and in Dianna’s words, “The ball started rolling from there.”
Immediately, Dianna assumed the role of Mark’s primary caregiver, the person who would help him cope with cancer.

A study by the National Alliance for Caregiving in collaboration with AARP, called Caregiving in the U.S. 2009, estimated that 65.7 million adults in the United States (29 percent) provide care for loved ones with a range of special needs.

While there is not a single specific type of caregiver, the study determined that the average age of a caregiver is 48 years old, and 66 percent are female. The study also found that caregivers provide an average of 20 hours of care a week. Constantly on call, a caregiver’s work varies from managing prescriptions to being a companion in times of emotional hardship. It can be an overwhelming task, especially if the caregiver has a full schedule of his or her own.
Fortunately, there are resources for caregivers who are looking for advice or wanting to connect with others in the same situation.

First Steps For Caregivers

Prior to diagnosis, most people have never heard of multiple myeloma. This was the case for Nan Manzo when her husband Dom was diagnosed in the spring of 2008.

“We had never heard of it,” Nan said in an interview with the Beacon. “All we knew was the big C: cancer. We were just absolutely shocked. And then [the doctor said], ‘All is not lost. You’re a good candidate for a stem cell transplant.’ Our mouths dropped even further, ‘What is a stem cell transplant?’ It was just so much information at once. Our heads are still spinning.”

For Nan and Dianna, the first step after learning of their husbands’ diagnoses was to educate themselves about the disease. Caregivers can learn more about multiple myeloma through physicians, nonprofit organizations and foundations, reputable websites, and blogs written by myeloma patients.

It is important to be careful when researching on the Internet because not all the information is credible. Keeping a journal of informative websites or questions to ask at the next doctor appointment may prove helpful. Important topics to research include treatment options, side effects, and clinical trials.

The amount of available information can be overwhelming and paralyzing, making it difficult to know where to begin. As a caregiver, remember that you do not have to know everything.

You can start by connecting with more experienced patients and caregivers, just as Mark and Dianna did. Through a chat line provided by their treatment center, they met Doug Carlsen, a multiple myeloma survivor.
“He was wonderful. He told us what to expect when we first found out about myeloma. We got his name from the hospital, and we just called him up and talked to him. He walked Mark through this. It calmed our nerves just to be able to talk to somebody who knew what we were in for,” Dianna explained.

While learning about multiple myeloma, it is also important to learn how to care for someone with cancer. Similar to learning about the disease itself, you can gather more information about being a caregiver from the Internet, brochures, and books.

As you educate yourself about the disease and your role as a caregiver, remember to take one webpage and one topic at a time. And take breaks! There is no possible way to learn it all in one day, so pace yourself. Although researching takes time and energy, information can be empowering and can contribute to greater peace of mind.

“Knowledge is power,” Nan advised. “Ask questions, take notes, and go home and research. It makes it a lot easier to comprehend and understand what they’re doing when you know how the whole thing works.”

Resources For Caregivers

There are a number of websites specifically for caregivers, such as the Family Caregiver Alliance, National Family Caregivers Association, and National Alliance for Caregiving, which provide information and advice, chances to connect with other caregivers, and research on caring for a loved one. Some websites for caregivers, such as Everyday Health, specifically provide information for multiple myeloma caregivers.

Check with local branches of patient advocacy groups for seminars and workshops offered to caregivers. The American Red Cross has a training program, called Family Caregiving, that covers topics such as caregiving skills, healthy eating, legal and financial issues, and caring for a caregiver.

While caregiving websites can provide general advice, blogs can provide insight into life as a caregiver. The Beacon’s Links section lists many blogs written by patients and caregivers, including Dianna and Nan and another caregiver Lori Puente. These patients and caregivers write about their progress, setbacks, treatments, emotions, and personal thoughts.

It is important to remember that you are not alone throughout this process. Connecting with other caregivers can help you learn more quickly about myeloma and being a caregiver, and it may be comforting to be able to share with others during the ups and downs of life with myeloma.

If you can, take a couple of hours each month to participate in a local support group. The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, International Myeloma Foundation, and the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation can connect you with support groups in your area.

If you do not have the time to attend support group meetings or if there are not any nearby, you can participate in Internet discussion boards, such as the Beacon forums, from the convenience of your home. This approach allows you to connect with other caregivers over great distances. There are also a number of forums and public chat groups for myeloma patients and caregivers available through the myeloma foundations, treatment centers, and also many e-mail servers, such as Yahoo!, AOL, and MSN.

For more information about caring for a loved one with multiple myeloma, please check back for Part 2 and Part 3 of this series.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Politically Incorrect "Wetback" Joke......Thanks, Graybeard!

A preacher said, "Anyone with 'special needs' who wants to be prayed over, please come forward to the front by the altar."  

With that, Juan got in line, and when it was his turn, the Preacher asked, "Juan, what do you want me to pray about for you?"

Juan replied, "Preacher, I need you to pray for help with my hearing."  The preacher put one finger of one hand in Juan's ear, placed his other hand on top of Juan's head, and then  prayed and prayed and prayed.  He prayed a "blue streak" for Juan, and the whole congregation joined in with great enthusiasm.

After a few minutes, the preacher removed his hands, stood back and asked, "Juan, how is your hearing now?"

Juan answered, "I don't know.  It ain't 'til next week."

Friday, September 17, 2010

A New Car, an Old Friend, a Healthy Husband....What a GREAT WEEK!

Hi Gang!

Happy Friday to all of you.  It's been a wonderful week... very busy, but nothing but good stuff!

Had a very pleasant weekend.... went to our local Chinese Buffet which features shrimp on their weekend menu.  Somehow, I managed to eat my weight in boiled shrimp, fried shrimp and coconut shrimp.  Dom jokes that they're going to start locking the door when they see us pull in.

The rest of the weekend consisted of watching football, cooking and relaxing.

Wednesday was fun, fun, fun!  After emailing Bryan Mitsubishi back and forth awhile, Dom and I took a drive into Metairie, LA to look at cars.  My original intent was to order a 5 speed manual.  However, I feel in love with one on the lot.  I don't remember what they call it, but you can drive it as an automatic, or drive it as a 4 speed.... it's not a paddle shift, but similar.

SOLD!  We couldn't just write 'em a check.... otherwise they'd have to hold it for 10 days.  Nanette needs INSTANT GRATIFICATION....  so, off we went to get a Cashiers Check.

We had a couple hours to kill before they were done detailing it, so we met dear longtime friend, Chris, at the Shimmy Shack in River Ridge.  Had a fun visit.  The boys loved their catfish.  I was a little disappointed in my 1/2 ground meat  1/2 hot sausage patty.  It knocked me out the last (and first) time we ate there.  Alas, the thrill is gone...back to my RiverShack next time!

Went back to the dealership and picked up my little beauty.  God, how I LOVE this car.  It's so much fun to be back into a sports car once again!

On Thursday, we took the Eclipse to the VA Hospital in Biloxi.  Dom was scheduled for his 3 month visit to his Oncologist over there.  As he had changed his appointment date, we ended up being seen by Dr. Roger's Nurse Practitioner. Her name was Becky, and she was as sweet and helpful as could be.  We're really impressed with the Biloxi VA.  She wished us a Happy Holloween, Happy Thanksgiving, Merry Christmas, Happy New Year and sent us on our way for 3 or 4 months.

On the way home we stopped at our favorite bbq joint, The Shed.  I told Dom to go ahead and have a beer or two, but I was drinking Diet Coke.  He looked surprised.  I explained that I'd be "Wildly Careening" through the curves on the way home, and didn't want to have beer breath if I got pulled over in our dry County.

Did a little running around today.  Dom is looking forward to spending Sat. night in Metairie with Chris.  They're going to a Gun Show.  On Sunday, he's going to a Custom/Restored Car Show with Dennis and spending the night with him.

Nanette is looking forward to solitude, football, corned beef and beer!  Have a great weekend, everybody!

Friday, September 10, 2010

A Neat Spiderweb Yesterday Morning

Dom's August and September Numbers

 Headed to Tulane yesterday for monthly infusion of Zometa along with round 2 of his childhood immunizations.

Dom's bloodwork is looking GOOD!

AUGUST:   HCT:  33.4
                 WBC:   4.7
                 ANC:  3400
                 PLATELET:  194

                  HCT:  34.2
                  WBC:  4.7
                  ANC:  2800
                  PLATELET:  190

Downtown New Orleans was electrified yesterday....Besides the season opener hosted by the Saints, there was a "Welcome Home Saints" parade in the French Quarter.  You could feel the energy in the air.  Too cool. 

We headed home late afternoon, watched the Saints win........WHO DAT!!!  Drank beer and Dom made his killer Buffalo Wings.  A great day.  Pierre Thomas must be on cloud nine today... the dude really came alive in the 2nd half!

Scenes from Labor Day Weekend

I forgot to mention the fireworks display in my earlier post.  It was GREAT.  They shot 'em off of a big barge right outside our balcony.  The light show lasted over 30 minutes. 

Labor Day at the Beach

Hi gang!

I trust that everyone had a relaxing Labor Day Weekend.  We went to the condo for 5 nights and had a blast.  The water was pristine.  The beach itself was MOBBED on Sat. and Sun.  Monday, it was like a ghost town.

I was on the beach everyday.  Dom watched his drag racing-  US Nationals on Sunday and Monday...for years he'd meet my brother and other family members in Indy for the race.  Now that he's in remission, I think that he'll probably get back into it.  I'm sure encouraging him to.

Found a NEAT local joint....just a short walk from the condo.  Conveniently next door to Coyote Ugly which has a great happy hour!  Dee's Hangout.   It's a very small place with just a handful of tables.  We sat at the bar.  Everyone seemed to know each other.  Had a great time.  I had a dozen raw oysters, as well as a dozen baked with loads of cheese.  Dom thoroughly enjoyed a large smoked sausage po boy with grilled onions and peppers.  We shall return!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Back to the Beach....and an Unwanted Visitor

Hi gang-

Now that Dom got rid of his ma's home, he's all smiles.  It was difficult to keep up with cancer, 2 homes,  a condo and his 3 nagging women.... (myself and the 2 cats)

Much to my delight he's all for heading back to PCB tomorrow for a long Holiday weekend.  Weather report looks great.  Friends tell me that the water has cleared up.  Fireworks on the beach both Sunday and Monday night.  Can't wait.

I used the riding lawn mower today to spiff up the yard.  I was zipping around when I hit the brakes for what was a beautiful snake.  We looked at each other for a few seconds.  I was tempted to let him go, but was afraid that he was poisonous.  So, I lifted my legs high and ran him over.  Yuckers.

Dom came out with a shovel and knife to put him out of his misery.  He chopped off his head and sure enough....It was a copperhead... retractable fangs.... rubbing the back of a knife in his mouth caused the fangs to come out.  Creepy.

Told Dom that I felt bad for killing him, but he might have gotten my kitties.  Dom said, "Eff the cats....I was just weed-wacking here the other day!"   LOL

So....thought I'd post a picture of his twin brother.

Have a WONDERFUL holiday weekend, gang.  We love you guys!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Dr. Suess on 2010- Thanks Glenda!

I do not like this Uncle Sam,
I do not like his health care scam.

I do not like these dirty crooks,

or how they lie and cook the books.

I do not like when Congress steals,
I do not like their secret deals.

I do not like this speaker
Nan ,
I do not like this 'YES, WE CAN'.

I do not like this spending spree---
I'm smart, I know that nothing's free.

I do not like your smug replies,

when I complain about your lies.

I do not like this kind of hope.
I do not like it. nope, nope, nope!

Go green -
recycle Congress
in 2010!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

It's Good to be Home!

Hi gang-

Spent a week in PCB... returned home on Monday. Dearest childhood best friend, Amy flew in on Wed. for 4 nights. The brand new airport is only 17 miles from the condo.... and tiny...with no traffic....heavenly!

We ate out for the most part. Whooped it up pretty well..... even managed to have security ringing our bell and banging on the door.... we were feeding seagulls... shrieking and screaming with delight... didn't know that there was a rule against it.... apparently, when over 100 seagulls go into a feeding frenzy, they crap all over the place. It took a few months and a visit from Amy to get "in trouble". LOL Go figure!!

The highlight of the visit was partying with a gang from Montgomery, Alabama. They were great fun and good company.

Water was decent Mon-Thurs, then turned to shit on Friday and Saturday. Much to my dismay, the water looked gorgeous on Monday morning. Just in time for me to go home. *pouting*

Anyway, had a grand time, and now it's back to reality.

Going to the closing on Dom's mother's home tomorrow. Then 3 weeks of Cancer stuff.... another round of all of his childhood immunizations, Aredia infusion, and a visit to his VA Oncologist who we really like...Ginger Rogers, MD. Yes- Ginger Rogers. *smiling*

Dom is beginning to plan a road trip up to visit his childhood best friend in Westlake, Ohio. Taking the Corvette. Nanette shall hold down the fort here. The guy needs some fun, so I'm all for it.

That's all that I know for now.... will finish by uploading some pics.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

PCB- You've seen Stingrays, Schools of Fish and NOW "June Grass"


Hi guys... The locals call this stuff "June Grass". I call it slimy algae. It wasn't too bad- after you waded through it, the water was crystal clear. Hope it's outta there before my return on Monday. (Threw in a flock of seagulls for fun.... neighbors were feeding them....note his hand hanging off of the balcony in the top photo)