12 Taxol Treatments Under My Belt

It looks like I'm tolerating this stuff fairly well and it is working (hurray!), so the plan is to stay on for a while longer, possibly up to 20 times, so I should start growing some hair around Christmas.

Next week is my Taxol break and I'll have a Herceptin only day so I've scheduled my quarterly cardiac ultrasound then too to make the most of the trip to Tsukiji. S's brother and family will be visiting on the Sunday afternoon after that so I'm glad I'll have a little more energy next week.

M will be in a city-wide track meet on Sunday so I expect we'll take a picnic lunch and enjoy what we hope will be fall weather. It has been so hot that J still has swimming in gym class this week.


Invitation to Speak

M's teachers have been asking her lots of questions about me lately, trying to scope out whether or not I'd make good lesson material. She confirmed that I could probably manage to speak in Japanese and that I'm not a terrible cook, among other things. I must have qualified; I had a call today from the head of the year asking if I could participate in a general studies session/event on Sunday October 21st during a school open house and talk to the 7th grade about my first impressions of Japan and provide a recipe (and probably the actual cutting and cooking) for a "foreign" food that can be cooked over campfires behind the school and consumed at lunchtime with rice.

I suggested a big pot of minestrone soup, thinking that it might be economically feasible and epicurically (I know, it isn't a word, it just sounds like one) tweak-able to a simple enough flavor that the students won't waste the entire pot just because of too many tomatoes and a little oregano. It might not be particularly American, but neither is chili, either of which were more likely to be approved than Rocky Mountain Oysters (bread crumb clean-up is pesky and the hot oil is too scary over an open fire...even if I could find the proper ingredients locally).

They liked my idea and will be in touch with me again after they recruit a few other parents for manning the fires, chopping, stirring etc. They're hoping I can bring a few friends from other countries to talk about food and culture and things which may have surprised them when they first came to Japan too. I said I'd ask around but that most of my friends might not be available on Sunday or, if they were, might not be able to contribute to the menu. So...any takers?

The now bilingual recipe (which may just show up as gobbledygook on non-Japanese encoded computers), using local ingredients, is as follows:

Simple Minestrone Soup for 5 (100) people
5(100)人前分 かんたんミネストローネ・スープ
120 g (2.4kg) carrots, chopped 1cm角に切ったニンジン
90 g (1.8 kg) chopped cabbage適当に切ったキャベツ
1/2 (10) celery ribs, thinly sliced薄くスライスされたセロリ
1/2 (10) onion(s), chopped 1cm角に切ったタマネギ
1 (20) slices bacon, chopped 適当に切ったベーコン(optional)
3 g (60g) garlic clove, minced みじん切りニンニク
10 ml (200 ml) vegetable oil サラダ油
710 ml (15 l) water お水
1 (20) (14.5 ounce/ 411g) can(s) diced tomatoes, in tomato juice            
3 (60) beef, chicken or vegetable bouillon cubes固形スープ(コンソメ)
95 g (1.9 kg) cooked elbow macaroni 茹でたマカロニ
0.5 g (10 g) pepper胡椒
0.5 g (10 g) salt 塩

Saute carrots, cabbage, celery, onion, bacon and garlic in oil for 5 minutes. Add water, tomatoes and bouillon; bring to a boil. Reduce heat. Simmer, uncovered, for 20-25 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Stir in macaroni, salt and pepper; heat through.

A bay leaf or two and/or some oregano would be nice, but not necessary I suppose...


Busy Weekends

J is in the second of three years of junior high school. That's as far as mandatory education goes in Japan and, although public high school education is available, entry to high school, public or private, is determined by rigorous entrance exams. This means that there is a variety of schools to choose from and that most of the nice ones are a bus or train ride away. It also means that J needs to check out a few schools to see what she wants and figure out where to focus her studying over the next year and a half until the entrance exams (each school has their own $300 entrance exam so we'll try to whittle it down to a challenging school and a shoo-in). Hopefully she can qualify for and want to attend the better public schools as they only cost about $2,500 a year in tuition and other costs plus whatever the textbooks will cost that year. Private schools are three to four or more times that plus fees for uniforms.

Last weekend many schools had open house / school festival events so we went to three high schools in three days to do our scouting a little early. There were many anxious looking 9th graders checking out the schools as well. They'll be taking exams in early February for April matriculation. Of course we had to take N and L with us and there were lots of fun things for them to enjoy while we checked out each campus. Some of the classes had organized games or scare house fun.

L insisted on going through the haunted house at one school but begged me to go with him. We were handed a flash light and directed into a dark classroom where all sorts of things popped up in front of us as we made our way through, thoroughly scaring him. The "ghosts," all 10th graders, had trouble not smiling when they saw how cute he was, so it wasn't all that terrifying though. One even apologized for jumping out a few seconds too early. "Boo! ...Ooops, sorry." M didn't have track practice that day, so she came along with us and seemed to be inspired by how fun high school looked and how outgoing the students there were. She'll have to work a little harder if she wants to go there because it is one of the more competitive schools to enter around here. Somehow a picture of me in my beanie at the PTA coffee shop showed up on the school's website. Ugh!

The kids got to try tea ceremony at another school and learn more about taking trains to get around. We stopped by a station with a discount shoe store on the way home on Sunday and got L equipped for his fall season of running away from all the girls and had lunch at a cheap spaghetti restaurant where N spilled a large iced tea all over herself and the floor, prompting the kind staff to quickly mop the floor where she then proceeded to noisily drop her silverware. Wet and embarrassed, she was a perfect little lady for the rest of the meal and we bought her a new outfit at the post-summer clearance at UniQlo nearby. $5.00 for a skirt and a T-shirt and she even looked like a little lady. I carried her raggy and wet favorite sportswear home in a plastic bag.

The next day, N forgot her "handbag" on the train on our way to the Tokyo Metropolitan International High School causing a slight delay. The stationmaster told us that the cleaners would check the train at the end of the line and he took my name and a description of the dollar shop bag and advised us to stop by on our way back through the station later that day. The bag was found and placed in the lost and found at that end of the train line, in Chiba prefecture, a mere two hour detour..."Ah, I think I'll pick it up before my IV tomorrow because it is closer to the hospital and I can't be late for class today..." got a sad nod. She was having a tough weekend with all of these learning experiences...

Of course the next morning I had to leave for the hospital on a later train than usual because S was away and I had to make sure that everybody was up and ready to go off to school before I left so I decided to make the detour on my way home instead. I managed to get to the hospital by 8:30 and my doctor saw me at the reception desk on his way by so he went and got my files to approve them and send me on my way for treatment before his first appointment. I was finished by 1:00 p.m. and back on the train soon after.

A few stops, a transfer and 20 minutes or so later found me at the very far end of our train line where N's bag, complete with about $30 and her library card, was waiting for me to sign for and take home. There was also a vegetable stand right in the station selling the local produce so I bought some nice big potatoes for baking and a big bag of fresh tomatoes for a very good price. The cheap and fresh veggies made up for the extra train fare and I was back home by 3:00, a few minutes before L walked in the door from school.

N was very happy that her bag came home and only complained about a few pieces of origami paper she thought might be missing. All were happy with their baked potatoes for dinner. Next weekend we'll visit a few more schools and spend some time at the Shinto Fall Festival in the street near our house on Sunday.


Looking Goooood!

I had an x-ray before treatment yesterday and got to see the results. Compared with the early July x-ray, the spots in my lungs are much much smaller, some are even hard to find at all. It's nice to be able to breathe more easily physically and psychologically. I spent the morning at the gym swimming laps and feel full of energy now. S's elder brother (#2) and his wife and daughter will be in Tokyo for three days next month so I'm getting a little more serious about keeping off any more weight and hopefully loosing some by cutting out on sweet snacks and swimming more. Every new medication I've had so far lists weight gain as a side effect but I think I can take some of the responsibility...

I joined Skype this week because I finally got a headset with a microphone for the computer. It was fun to talk with a friend in Vermont without worrying about phone bills although we did have a few echo cho cho choes. The only other problem I see is that none of my friends or family are awake when I'm up and online...I'm sure we can coordinate sometime via advance e-mail notice....

J is off every day to a movie prop company in the neighborhood on a three day work experience for school. She was impressed yesterday with a large storage area full of nothing but samurai headgear and another room full of books in foreign languages for use on TV show sets. It sounds like most of the work she and three other classmates are doing is lifting and carrying.


Safe and Sound

The worst of the typhoon was during the night and we had no worries in our big concrete building. There was a cyclone about half a mile away from us and that neighborhood was out of power overnight because the electric company couldn't make repairs in the typhoon. The children were happy to sleep late on Friday morning and the sun came out as predicted, that afternoon.


Typhoon No. 9

Today's after-school activities have all been cancelled and the students have been sent home promptly as the edge of this season's ninth typhoon has reached Tokyo. Heavy winds and much rain are expected when the main part of the storm hits Tokyo around 7 p.m. today so I rushed out and stocked up on beer for S. The children each came home with a letter informing me that school will not be canceled but rather postponed tomorrow so they don't have to walk through the worst of the wind and rain which is scheduled to stop abruptly at noon.


Last Weekend of Summer

M has made the transition from U.S. East Coast time to Tokyo time very smoothly. We made sure to keep her awake until at least 9 p.m. and sent her to track practice the morning after she returned. She had no trouble waking up early this morning to go to a track meet with her team by train and bus. She wasn't here when the coach registered everybody so she and a few other team mates who missed a few days of practice won't actually participate, but they're expected to go to the meet anyway as "practice" for another meet that they will be in at the end of this month.

I was a little tired from the trip to Narita to get M plus the usual late nights and early mornings. I was up a little before 6 this morning to make a lunches for M to take with her and for the rest of us to take with us as we had plans to celebrate the end of summer homework pressure by ignoring the homework and going swimming with friends. The pool wasn't too crowded as most kids were probably home slaving away at their homework.

Tomorrow is more lunches and more places; M will go to the second day of the track meet to cheer the team on and we'll cycle over to cheer S on at the second half of the citywide PTA softball tournament. In the afternoon we'll pack up all the school stuff so each child can grab it and take it all back to school on Monday. It will be nice to have more space on the floor and no crustaceans in tanks among the jumble of shoes in the entryway.

We'll get all the futons out and make some dinner for S (who will be off teaching in the evening) before we leave for the evening soccer game so we can crash as soon as we get home and be ready to wake up and start the second trimester of school and the fall routine. Whew!