Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Make Yourself at Home, Girls!


Greetings to all who have come to our blog site this holiday season 2012. If we had all the time in the world we would have updated our site since July. I'm embarrassed that it's been so long.Where does the time go?

To get you to where we are now:

I had elective carpal tunnel surgery on my right hand two weeks ago. I'm healing. I'm also tapering my steroids since my adrenal tumor surgery and am  close to being done with them -- just waiting for the remaining adrenal glad to kick in and do its job. It has not been easy. Lots of aches and pains and fatigue. She's heading to Kentucky to visit with her mom and brother for the Christmas week.

Gil gets up in the dark each morning to go to the YMCA to swim laps. It helps to set his metabolism for the day, burns the calories and gets him on the road to work early enough to beat the commuter traffic. He's on call many of the days this holiday season which is appropriate since we were in Hawaii last year for the week.

Adam just turned 30 and left LA today to head to Sun Valley with Laura for his 30th celebration. After that, he and Laura head to Boston to celebrate the holiday with her family. Then they head to Chicago for a friend's wedding over New Year's. Laura will head back to LA for her job, and Adam will come to Michigan for a week to visit with us.

To the best of my knowledge, Evan will spend the holiday working at the hospital. He may have other plans but he hasn't shared them with us.

Marika will visit friends in Michigan during the holidays and take a crew to Chicago to meet up with Adam and Laura to ring in the New Year.

The pups are filled with high energy these days and would gladly accept our attentions 24/7 if we would oblige them. They have a wonderfully landscaped three acres to run on and seem very happy. Sedona is still a puppy at 8 months of age but is very dependable and trustworthy.

All for now. Hope your holidays find you in good health, good spirits and good company.



Saturday, July 7, 2012


Hello all. Our new puppy is nine weeks old. Her name is Sedona. No special association with her name. We just liked the sound of it. And she looks like a Sedona! (She's waving!)

Willow has taken to her beautifully and I believe Jamie would have endorsed Sedona as the perfect companion for wily Willow.

Our summer is half way through. Days are getting shorter. Still, it's light until nearly 10 pm every night in Michigan. I had to put black out shades on our windows in the bedroom to keep the light out at night.

Adam and Evan both started their intern year last month. They're learning how to put all their academic knowledge and basic clinical skills to the test. I remember so well as a nurse having to work closely with the new interns each year. It was always fun to have a new group of fresh doctors to orient and educate and admire.


Marika, Adam and Laura went camping in Yosemite for a week in June. Then Laura returned to work, and Adam and Marika headed up the California coast for a week of day trips.

They went to Santa Barbara, San Francisco, Napa Valley and Tahoe.

Then Adam returned to LA and Marika went to visit college friends in Santa Barbara for a long weekend.

All the while Evan was in Paris and Greece. (We have a family that loves to travel.) 

Gil and I stayed home -- and all we got were postcards from our adventurous kids!

Marika is in Traverse City again for the month of July at Horseshows by the Bay. She is working and competing so will have a wonderful month before she starts medical school on August 6th.

I am slowly recovering from my adrenal surgery. It sure has been difficult to taper the steroids I'm taking while waiting for my remaining adrenal gland to kick in. In fact, I haven't made any progress in that department at all except for some minor weight loss. My endocrinologist asks for patience as it has taken others up to two years to get back to a normal state.

Gil is doing well. Studying for an Echo Board exam. Enjoying having a new puppy. And making headway paying off the kids' college loans! He's been making some wonderful vegetarian meals for us. I wish I could claim that the vegetables were from my garden but I only have herbs and tomatoes this year. So the Farmer's Market will have to suffice.

Haiku:
Puppies test patience
Give unconditional love
What more does one need?

Monday, June 18, 2012

Our Beloved Jamie's Passing


Jamie, our 13-year old border collie

Our new pup, as yet unnamed  


How to begin this blog entry? We lost our beloved 13-year old border collie, Jamie, this past week.

We came home from a late evening Radiohead concert and found her unable to get up to greet us as she had always done. She was responsive but not her usual self.

I slept on the kitchen floor with her that entire night.

The next morning we took her to the vet.

She had been treated for a leukemia diagnosis for the past six months but we didn't think this was her current acute health issue. She was absolutely fine when we left for the concert six hours earlier.

At any rate, we had to make the difficult decision the next morning at the vet's to put her down. She wasn't in distress. She wasn't in pain. Her acute episode -- a bleed into her abdominal cavity confirmed on X-ray -- let us know that she was not going to recover.

We miss her terribly. Willow, our 2-year old border collie, misses her terribly. Our hearts are broken.

We thought that the only way to help heal the holes in our hearts was to find another border collie to bestow our love on. For our own healing and for Willow's healing. To honor Jamie's contributions to our family.

We found a border collie breeder in Western Michigan and made the trip over the weekend to pick out a female pup from the litter. We chose this frisky little thing pictured above from the three females available.'

Yes, it's bittersweet to lose one companion while making plans to bring another one home.

Jamie is not being "replaced" -- because she is irreplaceable.

(Our next blog entry will share our experiences with bringing a new puppy home and our puppy naming adventure.)

Haiku:

Haley and Jamie
Two of our border collies
Frolic in Heaven.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

From LA to Chimayo ... and in Between!





We traveled to LA a few weeks ago to celebrate the boys' graduation from Keck School of Medicine at USC. What a great experience! They were both in the same graduating class even though they are two years apart in age. Adam detoured to get his PhD. Evan detoured to get his MHA. And by coincidence, they both finished their fourth year of medical school together this year.

(Soon we will have four MDs in the family when Marika finishes medical school. I feel like a real "underachiever!")

From LA, Gil and I stopped in Albuquerque to visit friends and throw a 60th Birthday garden dinner party -- for me -- at our friend Terry Lee's house. It was great to see so many cherished friends again. Those are the memories worth creating and remembering! For those of you we didn't get a chance to see, you're on our list for "next time!"

While in New Mexico, we visited friends in Chimayo. It was a beautiful scenic drive through northern New Mexico to arrive at their rural but perfect home. The final photo I've attached above shows Gil and our Chimayo friends walking along one of the roads in the mountains.

All three of our kids have time off between now and their next commitment -- Adam and Evan each start their internships around the end of June. Marika starts medical school in early August.

Adam, Laura and Marika have a reserved camping spot in Yosemite for the first week in June and will get to see the splendors of that national treasure. Then Laura returns to work while Adam and Marika travel up the California coast visiting friends and favorite places -- like Santa Barbara.

Adam will return to LA in time to start his internship at Kaiser Permanente - LA.

Evan is headed to NYC, Paris and Athens tomorrow with a friend. He'll travel and get back to LA in time to move into his new apartment near Pasadena where he'll be working at Huntington Memorial Hospital.


Today marks one month since my adrenalectomy. I've been released by my surgeon to resume my normal life. I remember thinking during this past year: "I can't wait to get back to my normal life!" 

But on reflection, I think I'd like to move beyond what was my normal life. 

I'd like to move towards the life that I'm meant to have. I just need to be quiet and listen for the clues!


I'm going to be tapering my supplemental steroids over the next few months until I reach an equilibrium. My endocrinologist is working closely with me. I don't know quite what to expect during my recovery this coming year but am feeling better than I have in a long time.

Gardening is still one of my greatest pleasures!


Haiku:
Much to celebrate.
Our family has been blessed.
Gratitude expressed.


Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Out with the Cushings!


Karen had her left adrenalectomy yesterday (electively) and is going home today. She is looking forward to a new body habitus ASAP.

Judging from the first day, I'm hoping we will make our scheduled trips to California May 10 for Adam and Evan's med school graduation at USC, and following that to Albuquerque May 14 for Karen's birthday celebration.

Not seen in this photo is Marika who has been doing subintern duty at the bedside. She is starting her med school career here at University of Michigan August 6. I've been roaming the hospital talking to friends and appreciating the beautiful artwork and general spanking new environment. I did my residency here 30 years ago at the old hospital (torn down, only the front stairs remain.) Gone are the open wards with only curtains in between and absence of air conditioning. Some things are better left to nostalgia.

Gil


Thursday, March 22, 2012

Cushing's and Match Day and Other Celebrations



Hello all. It looks like this is the first post for 2012 for me! I've purposely delayed posting anything as I waited for more information to share about my Cushing's Syndrome workup.


The first photo above shows Gil and me at a restaurant in Ann Arbor recently. The second photo shows Adam and Evan holding their "envelopes" which contain their matches for their residency programs -- explained later in this post.


And now a health update: After months of tests and scans, it looks as if the adrenal tumor we knew I had (which had not been causing any trouble so were just watching it) is the lone cause of the excessive ACTH and cortisol levels in my body. I am scheduled for surgery to have the tumor removed -- laparoscopically hopefully -- on April 23rd. (I'm told the most of these tumors are benign and are very rarely cancerous so my fingers are crossed.)


I'm hoping that once the tumor is removed, and my metabolic and hormonal balance is restored, I can lose the extra 20 pounds I've gained over the past year due to the Cushing's and that I can soon start feeling like myself again!


Another highlight of our year was Match Day for medical residency programs for Adam and Evan which occurred last week. Adam will be doing his Dermatology residency at Harvard. Evan will be doing his Diagnostic Radiology residency at University of Michigan. Both must complete a year of internal medicine residency prior to entering their chosen fields. Both will be doing that year in LA -- Adam at Kaiser Permanente Los Angeles and Evan at Huntington Memorial Hospital in Pasadena.


Since Evan will be in Ann Arbor in another year (July 2013), Marika has made her decision to attend the University of Michigan medical school this fall. She is thrilled that she and Evan will be in the same city for a few years together.


I spent a long weekend in Chicago a few weeks ago with a couple of gardening girlfriends at the 2012 Chicago Flower and Garden Show on Navy Pier. It was inspiring and we came home with some good ideas and garden sculpture art. (I had been looking for years for "just the right" garden Buddha sculpture and found it from one of the vendors.)


I've joined a wonderful yoga studio in downtown Milford just a few miles from our home. I'm loving the level of activity and the meditational aspect of the practice and find I am going nearly five days a week. It's restful and focusing as those of you who have tried yoga already know.


Gil is doing well with his health. He would love to be exercising more -- who wouldn't? We continue to meet every couple of months with our Karmanos friends which is socially rewarding and reaffirming for the gratitude we feel about the lives we've been fortunate to live since the stem cell transplant -- almost 2-1/2 years ago.


Our next trip is to LA in May when both boys graduate from USC medical school. We have a big weekend of celebration planned.


We'll celebrate all the good fortune from the first half of this year.


Medical school graduation for the boys in May.
Marika's attendance at the University of Michigan's medical school.
Karen's 60th birthday.
Gil and Karen's 33rd wedding anniversary.
Adam and Laura's one year wedding anniversary.


And so it goes!


Hope all is well with you and yours.


karen.raff@gmail.com
Cell: (248) 830-0517


gil.raff@gmail.com
Cell: (248) 762-4652

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Kauai Holiday


Lucky us. Here we are in Kauai for the final week of 2011. We celebrated the holidays here and will be back in the continental USA on New Year's Eve. We'll have seven days in paradise.

The photo above shows "the kids" (Laura and Adam, Marika and Evan) with their paddle boarding instructor just prior to launch on the Hanalei River which, 100 yards to the left in the photo, empties into the Pacific Ocean.

After an on-land lesson to learn how to stay upright, they ventured into the upstream current for some ferocious paddling and, when they got to their destination, enjoyed a more leisurely float back to their starting place -- doing yoga on the boards, lying on their backs watching the sky float by overhead and enjoying a new way to spend time in the water.

(As an aside, they met Laird Hamilton -- the very famous surfer -- on the river when their instructor said "hi" to Laird and introduced the kids to him as they were passing.)

See for yourself how incredible and record-breaking Laird is: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pYQQtxb8wv0

On our first day to Hanalei Bay, we spread our towels out on the beach and discovered we were sitting less than 20 feet away from Kevin Bacon and Kyra Sedgewick. (So there was less than six degrees of separation if you get the point!) We've had more "Hollywood" sitings so far than if we had been in Hollywood itself.

(Please excuse the indulgent name-dropping but -- hey -- it's way cool!)

As I've said in previous blog entries, it is too rare these days to have all six of us together for these kind of vacations. This week has been incredibly rewarding for our family.

The kids have scheduled themselves for all the island activities they can sign up for. Each activity involves lots of exercise -- hiking, paddling, kayaking, running, etc.

Gil and I try keeping up with them but find ourselves enjoying the quiet times reading and photographing and hanging out in the solitude that Hawaii offers.

I'm reading The Thinking Life: How to Thrive in the Age of Distraction by P.M. Forni. Hawaii is the perfect place to shut out the "distractions" in order to concentrate on the book's contemplative lessons.

On the more technical side, I'm also reading the manual for the new Lion operating system for my Mac and the iOS5 manual for the iPhone and iPod. So many new features and I want to know all the device capabilities so I can stay current!

Gil is reading the #1 New York Times Bestseller Inside of a Dog: What Dogs See, Smell and Know by Alexandra Horowitz. He's also reading Annie Leibowitz Pilgrimage which is a book of her photographs with an introduction by Doris Kearns Goodwin and which is filled with incredible photographs.

And we can't keep him from reading several books he brought with him on trading in the financial markets -- a perennial favorite of his at home and on vacations.

We're eating all the fresh local fruits and catch-of-the-day fish for our mealtimes. Washing it down with tropical island drinks and locally brewed beers. It's easy to have such a healthy lifestyle when you spend so much time outdoors.

We're savoring the fresh salty-sea air and the views from our timeshare unit and closeness of our family.

Haiku

Lots of memories
Being made on this island
Family counts most.