Monday, July 26, 2010

Max update

This is Max when he was a puppy.   He came from a breeder in Granite Falls, about an hour and a half north of Seattle.  We picked him up the week before Christmas, 1997, and he stayed with some friends, so he could show up under the tree that morning.  My friends had a mastiff, a huge, gentle dog named Mac, and Max bonded with him over the week to the point that when we're out for walks and run into a dog that is bigger than himself, he immediately assumes it is a 'friend.'

News is that Max did not have bronchitis but instead has bilateral laryngeal paralysis.  This is not good from a breathing standpoint because it means that unlike me, his vocal cords have frozen in an almost closed position.  So he pants all the time and when it is hot, like it is now in Seattle, he has to use extra muscles to breathe.  His heart has expanded because it is doing more work.  Here is an article about what Max is going through--it is common to larger breed dogs, unfortunately and is idiopathic (meaning they have no idea of the cause) in origin.  So I took Max to NE Vet again this morning and they are running blood tests to see if he is a good candidate for the surgery, which will tie back a vocal cord.  As opposed to my case where they did surgery to expand my vocal cord.

We wait.  He is now almost 13 but he is still a happy guy, albeit reserved as labs can be, and Scooter and Truffle love him, as do I.  His two biggest loves in the world are butter (in his juvenile delinquent phase he once stole an entire stick off the counter) and retrieving his kong.  He was one of these puppies that HATED to walk, and cried and sat down in protest when I tried to take him out.  He also, despite his pedigree, didn't get the idea of retrieving for about a year, but when he did, it came all at once and quickly became an obsession with him.  As in at least twice a day for as long as I, or the boys, could stand it.  Initially I used a white and black soccer squeaky ball about 6 inches in diameter to throw to him, but one day at the View Ridge park, he swallowed it bringing it back to me to throw.   We waited a day, but it did not exit, and as a result, this required a trip to the vet and $urgery to remove it.  Another friend's dog was hospitalized at the vet's at the same time, and she said Max was inconsolable, crying the entire time she was there visiting her pooch.  Of course, that made my guilt meter go way up when I heard about it, but it was after the fact when he was home and convalescing.  I saved the ball after it was extracted and gave it to the ex as a Christmas present.  The ex responded in kind and gave me the vacuum cleaner from his mother's estate.  Should have gotten the hint.

Max also loved to chew shoes when he was teething, specifically green leather shoes.  I lost three pair to him. No other color.  Just green.  And once he stole the roast from the counter.  Sarah got it away from him and we rinsed it in the sink and put it back on the platter and served it.  There may have been company involved. It was our special secret.

These days, before he got so sick, when we would go to the park to chase the ball, he always had to carry it back home and only relinquished it when we got to the door.  I hope that the surgery will give him several more years of chasing his red rubber kong.  He taught Scooter how to fetch, and Truffle still needs a few lessons.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Thank you Katie Couric!

Classroom cutups in law school and other stories

First a quick medical update:  I had my second paclitaxel infusion today in my second round of third line of chemotherapy/treatment.  Dr. E at Seattle Cancer Care was very pleased with the CT scans.  We showed him the written report via my daughter's IPOD Touch, and he showed us the actual scans (or parts of them) on his SCCA computer.  We talked about my continuing coughing problem and based on the information I provided him, he suggested that it might have more to do with post nasal drip (yay) than the cancer.  So I am going back to using a nasal inhalant and, if needed, cough medicine and we'll see where that takes us.  Staying on the paclitaxel is indicated given the positive scans, but it means that I will continue to lose my hair (what is left of it) at a fairly rapid rate.  We'll see how long it will last under these stresses.  I may be bald eventually.  No predictions.

The chemotherapy infusion always includes an antihistamine to guard against allergic reactions and a steroid to insure the best possible absorption of the taxol.  What that means is that I fall asleep early on during the infusion, come home and sleep for part of the afternoon, then wake up and am raring to go for the night.  So, mindful of my drug driven state of alertness (I walked around Greenlake late in the afternoon and dead headed part of  a large rhododendron while the light lasted), it seems an appropriate time to reminisce about my least favorite school again.  Why is it that the worst times produce the best stories?

I entered law school in 1973 about as naive to the law as one could be.  As the descendant of generations of physicians, I had absolutely no idea what lawyers did, aside from watching Perry Mason and To Kill a Mockingbird.  I had heard stories of attorneys representing draft resistors and challenging restrictive racial laws and it seemed to me that lawyers were a force for good in society but I was not clear, beyond this, what the practice of law encompassed.

So my first semester in law school, I learned that "Torts" were wrongful acts where the person who was harmed could recover damages and/or seek an injunction.  It didn't include breach of contract, which was covered in another course--Contracts--which I was also taking.  Four classes were mandatory for all first year law students in the fall semester:  Torts, Contracts, Civil Procedure and Criminal Law.  There were approximately 250 law students, so there were two sections of each class.  Torts was taught by two different professors--one for each section--but one professor taught both sections of Civil Procedure, Contracts and Criminal Law my first year. 

The first thing I learned in law school, was that the seat you sat in on your first day would be your permanent seat for the semester.  A seating chart was handed out, and you signed it and were expected to be in that seat the rest of the time, so that the law professor could call on you at will to answer questions based upon the cases you were assigned to read, using the Socratic method.  The Socratic method had been the ideal teaching pedagogy in law school and, in theory, in the hands of a good teacher, it could be used to teach puerile students, such as myself, how to think like a lawyer.  Here is what wikipedia has to say about the Socratic method in law school:
The Socratic method is widely used in contemporary legal education by most law schools in the United States. In a typical class setting, the professor asks a question and calls on a student who may or may not have volunteered an answer. The professor either then continues to ask the student questions or moves on to another student.

The employment of the Socratic method has some uniform features but can also be heavily influenced by the temperament of the teacher. The method begins by calling on a student at random, and asking about a central argument put forth by one of the judges (typically on the side of the majority) in an assigned case. The first step is to ask the student to paraphrase the argument to ensure they read and basically understand the case. (Students who have not read the case, for whatever reason, must take the opportunity to "pass," which most professors allow as a matter of course a few times per term.) Assuming the student has read the case and can articulate the court's argument, the teacher then asks whether the student agrees with the argument. The teacher then typically plays Devil's advocate, trying to force the student to defend his or her position by rebutting arguments against it.

These subsequent questions can take several forms. Sometimes they seek to challenge the assumptions upon which the student based the previous answer until it can no longer be defended. Further questions can be designed to move a student toward greater specificity, either in understanding a rule of law or a particular case. The teacher may attempt to propose a hypothetical situation in which the student's assertion would seem to demand an exception. Finally professors can use the Socratic method to allow students to come to legal principles on their own through carefully-worded questions that encourage a particular train of thought.

One hallmark of Socratic questioning is that typically there is more than one "correct" answer, and more often, no clear answer at all. The primary goal of the Socratic method in the law school setting is not to answer usually unanswerable questions, but to explore the contours of often difficult legal issues and to teach students the critical thinking skills they will need as lawyers. This is often done by altering the facts of a particular case to tease out how the result might be different. This method encourages students to go beyond memorizing the facts of a case and instead to focus on application of legal rules to tangible fact patterns. As the assigned texts are typically case law, the Socratic method, if properly used, can display that judges' decisions are usually conscientiously made but are based on certain premises, beliefs, and conclusions that are the subject of legitimate argument.

Sometimes, the class ends with a discussion of doctrinal foundations (legal rules) to anchor the students in contemporary legal understanding of an issue. At other times the class ends without such discussion leaving students to figure out for themselves the legal rules or principles that were at issue. For this method to work, the students are expected to be prepared for class in advance by reading the assigned materials (case opinions, notes, law review articles, etc.) and by familiarizing themselves with the general outlines of the subject matter.

I've mentioned one law professor at Kentucky who used the Socratic method to verbally abuse a female student in a criminal law or procedure class the year before I started. And it seemed  that many of the professors that I had at law school did not know how to use the technique very well, and at times descended into ridicule, if not abuse, albeit much lighter than the Crim law prof.  So many of us learned to take seats in the back of the class the first day, to better avoid being  called on, or to say "pass" when we were indeed called upon, to avoid being ridiculed by the professor when the answers that we gave were not what the professor wanted.  One tempermental professor, after receiving five successive "pass" responses  from students, stalked out of the classroom and didn't return until the next day. 

One student who used the first day sign up system to her advantage, was a first year my second year of law school.  Mikkal was the daughter of a named partner in a large Louisville law firm, and unlike me, knew well what to expect when she got to law school.  Her first day, she showed up to class with a tall potted plant and placed it on the seat next to her.  When the seating chart was passed around, she wrote her name on her seat and filled in the name, "Robert Plant" for the seat occupied by her leafy apartment dweller.  And so it stood.  From time to time the professor, looking down at the seating chart would call on Mr. Plant but would never get a response.  Finally about halfway through the semester the professor lost his cool when yet again, Mr. Plant, had not responded to his question, blurted out in frustration, "Where is that Mr. Plant?  He never seems to be in class?"  Without missing a beat, Mikkal responded, "He's feeling a little green today."

The subject matter of most of the classes that I took in law school were for the most part, deadly dull to me because they were taught as appellate court cases and seemed to be removed from real life.  It was not until I began the practice of law that I became really interested in the subject matter of my practice.  As a result, there are very few substantive learning vignettes that I have of those three years in the classroom, but one of them occurred in my Torts class when my professor, Mr. A, a new teacher, was discussing the concept of res ipsa loquitor, from the Latin: 'the thing speaks for itself.'  This is a doctrine that is used in a torts case where there is clearly an injury and clearly someone responsible for the injury but the causation chain is unclear.  Professor Awas a very, nervous, timid sort of fellow, so the example he gave to illustrate the doctrine, completely took me aback and, as a result, I have retained it to this day.  It seems that a woman went to the dentist for a significant dental procedure, one that required that she be put under anesthetic to accomplish it.  She was given the anesthetic, fell asleep and woke up some time later with the procedure accomplished, but a finger on her right hand was broken.  Neither the dentist nor his assistant would explain why her finger was broken, so she eventually sued the dentist.  In court the story came out that the anesthetic the dentist used had a side effect where the patient, right before they went under, would have muscle spasms where the muscles would contract.  In this case, as the woman was going under, had a muscle spasm in her hand and grabbed the dentist's crotch and then went out, holding his crown jewels in a vise like grip.  The dentist in a paroxysm of pain, had to break her finger to get the death hold off his balls, but was too embarassed to explain it to his patient until required to in court.  I don't remember the final outcome of the case.  Never will forget that doctrine, though.

Another time I remember is when our Civil Procedure professor had pity on our first year confusion and gave the class two hour refresher before the final, to tune up our understanding of the all the many and complex rules that govern civil cases filed in court.  My friend Katherine, at one point during the refresher, exclaimed in tears, "I don't get any of this!"  She, of course, went on to be our class valedictorian.  Some of us who were not as forthright and honest as Catherine, purchased professional course outlines published by Gilbert's as an assistance to understanding the huge swathes of cases, holdings, dissents, and what it all meant in our classes.  At one of my Rho Epsilon Hork meetings we talked about seeing if Mr. Gilbert could be our commencement speaker because obviously, who better to tell us how to pass the bar exam?

In one class, we didn't have to use Gilberts.  That was because about ten year previous, some law student had put together an outline of our Contracts class.  It was taught for many many years by Wilbur Hamm (a very, kind wonderful man), and the outline came to be known as the "HammOGram."  And even though it was fairly old by the time our class received its copies, Professor Hamm followed the outline religiously--his last words on contracts, the last day of class, were almost verbatim the last words in the outline.

There was also the absent minded Constitutional Law professor who once bumped into a fire extinguisher, put it under his coat and continued to walk down the hall.  When crossing busy Limestone Ave at noontime to get a sandwich at the local deli, was heard to mutter at the cars whizzing by, "Let it be a Cadillac...."

Then there was Professor G who practically cried in class over the death of the family gerbil.  Pat Crumm, a classmate from Eastern Ky, who was so poor that he was couch surfing with friends and hanging on by his fingernails academically, was roused by this to reply, "Ain't life a bitch?"

I also remember constructing bingo cards with classmates that had the names of all the gunners in the class--those students who really liked to answer questions--and would even raise their hands to be called on, as opposed to those of us who physically would duck, lacking the preparation and/or self confidence to withstand the barrage.  And if your bingo card filled out either horizontally, vertically, or sideways, the winner shouted in the middle of class, "Bingo!" taking home the kitty. We ran that for maybe a week, before the kitty ran out of funds.

Our seats were on risers going up 10 rows, and the professor was at the base of this, with a green chalkboard behind him (the first woman law professor at UK was hired my last year).  The Civil Liberties professor, who was quite short and had a noticeable lisp, liked to position himself below any female student who had a skirt on, and deliver his lecture there for noticeable periods of class time.  A woman I worked with after law school, who was a year ahead of me, boasted  during our  work commute one day, that when she took Civil Liberties,  she once wore her shortest skirt with no underwear to class, and that professor remained glued directly below her for the entire hour.  Then, there was the younger tax professor who was heard to say in class that women were either, "workless sexaholics or sexless workaholics."

My Property professor, Professor F, had a long hypothetical that went on for two classes about how could a hair salon owner construct a sign that would make her truly immune from liability for lost or stolen coats, or other property left at the hair salon.  Professor F left for the University of New Mexico after that year.  I am sure there was no connection.

The last classroom story from law school that I remember is fall semester, second year.  I had a friend, Stephen Hickman,  from college, who spent the night with me on his way driving from the east back to Macalester to begin his senior year (remember that I graduated from Mac a year early so we were actually only a year apart).  I offered to bring him to class so he could see what law school was like, and the class in question was Trusts and Estates, taught by Professor M, a former dean of the law school and a long time professor there.  It was first day of class and I was hell bent with good intentions to be a good note taking student, so I was there scribbling away until Steve poked me and asked, "Did you see that?"  "No, what," I responded.   "Just watch,"  he replied.  And so I did.  Professor M had a lecture style that I have simply never seen before or since.  It appeared that he played pocket pool, but more than that, he like to emphasize certain sentences by bending his knees at the end and puffing up his cheeks and emitting what can only be described as a loud, "huh!"  It was not an infrequent occurrence.   In fact the next week, several of us up-to-no-good-niks set up a new kitty.  And we all picked the number of times we thought Professor M would do his "huh" routine during one class.  I remember that my selection was somewhere in the 50's.  We assigned two people as official counters, promising them our notes from that day of class.  The total, which was an average from the counters was in the high 70's or low 80's as I recall.  Flabbergasted.

I'd love to tell you about the UCC final exam papers (or blue books) that were stolen from the UCC Professor's car our third year of law school, but I didn't take that course, so I will leave it to someone else to fill in the blanks.

Law school:  couldn't take the bar exam without it.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Friday night party

Thanks to my friend Ed for pointing out Grace Potter and the Nocturnals.  Would love to see them in concert.

Tentative ct scan results positive

This is all I know at the moment--it's a note from my Group Health oncologist:

Dear MS Cullen,

The CT scan that you had done shows improvement in the neck but with stable disease in the chest.



Wednesday, July 14, 2010

CT scan moved up to tomorrow

I had my first chemotherapy at Seattle Cancer Care Tuesday.  It went well, but took a long time.  These days, I have to start out with blood tests to make sure I am in shape for the chemo.  Then I met with one of the lung cancer oncologists, Dr. E, who told me the tests were good, so I could get the chemo.  He also asked if I could get Group Health to move up my ct scans because they would like to see how this third line treatment is coming along.  And as the last ct scan was in April, it seems reasonable to get another picture of what's going on.   Then on to the chemo and I was out by noon.  But starting at 7:15 meant a long morning.  I slept most of the afternoon but managed to wake up in time to call Group Health and reset the cat scans to tomorrow at 3pm.  So fingers crossed.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Jane Brody gets it--Lung Cancer does not always occur in smokers

Thank goodness someone in the national media is taking notice.  This is the first part of a two part series by Jane Brody in the New York Times. Thanks to my friend Jane who pointed it out to me.  The money quote for me:

As for nonsmokers who get lung cancer — about two-thirds of them women — Dr. Schiller said they “are a disenfranchised group that did nothing wrong, yet women with breast cancer get all the support and empathy.”

“It’s a sizable number of nonsmokers who get lung cancer, more than get leukemia or AIDS,” she went on. “If lung cancer unrelated to smoking was listed as a separate disease, it would be the sixth or seventh most common cause of cancer deaths.”

Smoking-related lung cancer typically strikes older people (the average age at diagnosis is 71), but it often afflicts nonsmokers much earlier, in the 30s and 40s or even younger. And because doctors rarely suspect lung cancer when people who never smoked develop respiratory symptoms, the disease is typically diagnosed too late for any hope of a cure.

To be honest, I have a 4.5 pack year smoking history, but because the last time I smoked was almost 30 years ago (October 25, 1980), I am considered a non-smoker.  Not a 'never smoker' but a non smoker.  I just thought I should set the record straight as to my own status.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

The new do, courtesy of chemotherapy

I've been blessed with very thick, very stubborn hair.  But in the past week the shedding got to the point, where I was clogging the drain up every morning and I was sick and tired of shedding worse than my black lab.  So Saturday my hairdresser, Odette, kindly agreed to come to my house and shave my head.  I could have gone quietly but I decided that I preferred going out with a bang, so I invited some dear friends from Seattle plus Pam, my friend from Chicago, and my darling daughter.  I bought two bottles of champagne and Jane made brownies and Odette brought wonderful cherries and strawberries, so we could celebrate the demise of my hair in style.  My friend, Spot, brought me a bottle of Gilmore's Hair Restorer that she found in a crawlspace of their older home when they redid it a few years ago. Last time it appears to have been marketed was in the '40's before the FDA shut them down.  Can't wait to try it!  Here we are pre haircut:

Here is Odette, determining that I did not need to go entirely bald because I had a very nice undergrowth of fine new hair we could at least live with for a while until the next round of chemo knocks it out:

And here is the finished product with glasses:

And with my daughter:

It's a number 4 buzz cut as far as I can tell. 

We go to the Mariners Game

Thursday night was a special night.  Brent Ruth at the Lung Association of Washington arranged for 4 tickets to the Mariners/Yankees game at Safeco Field plus an opportunity to watch the Ms warm up.  Thank you so much Brent, LAW and the Mariners!

 I took my two Seattle based kids, Sarah and Matthew, and my friend, Pam from Chicago, came to be a part of the excitement.  She is a Yankees fan from birth.  So we obliged by letting her team win 1-0.  But it was a very fun game.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Summer in the City

It's finally here!

Mariners v. Yankees tomorrow night at Safeco Field.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Medical update

I wish there were more to share, but had a blood draw today and the results came back all within the expected ranges.  So that was good.  We met with Dr. R at Group Health, the new young doctor who has come up from Tacoma.  She seems very capable, but my daughter (bless her heart!) has been doing yoeman's work in pulling the strings in the system and my next round of chemotherapy, which starts next week, will be done at Seattle Cancer Care.  This is good news because I will be under the care of lung cancer specialists.  Once this next round (which is three weeks of paclitaxel once a week, then one week off) is over, I will have CT scans to see if there has been any effect on the tumors in my mediastinum and in my lungs.

Fingers and toes crossed.  I still have hair, but it is wispier and thinner than before.  We will see if I can make it to my Defiance High School reunion on July 31 without a wig.  Might as well give up on trying to impress anyone these days.

Monday, July 05, 2010

The Libel Show

A spring tradition when I was in law school at the University of Kentucky, was the Libel Show.  It was generally an excuse by the law students to get drunk as lords and spout off clever, but usually not so clever, lines about the faculty.  My first year libel show experience was a rude awakening.  I was entering the place where it was being held, when a law professor, who will remain unnamed, drunkenly grabbed my boob through the sweatshirt I was wearing, all the while asking about the logo on my sweatshirt. Luckily, I was only an "A" cup, so it was easy to  push his hand away and go in to the show (for the record it was my Lourdes High school track sweatshirt from senior year and it had the Lourdes mascot--an eagle on it).  The only act I remember was a fellow first year student, Charlie Goodman, playing Torts professor, Professor Ashdown, who was called "Professor Assbrown."  It seemed to be the ne plus ultra in humor, especially if you had a number of beers in you, as most of the audience did.

In my second year of law school, the libel show was held at the stockyards in Lexington:

This is current version of  the auditorium of the Lexington stockyards.  I don't recall it being quite so nice, but my judgment was impaired at the time, and thus, so is my memory

This is the stockyards from the outside:

I admit it now, from a distance of 35 years, that I may have contributed in some small part to the mayhem of the evening.  But I had help!  A group of us decided that simply watching other law students mimic and mock law professors was not enough (and being grabbed by them as well).  There had to be audience participation.  So we went out and purchased guns.  Squirt guns.

This was delivered to me surreptitiously at law school, the day of the Libel Show by my classmate, Mark.  There were at least five of us that came armed to the Libel Show.  We also came just a bit snookered.  I remember little of the posing on the stage, but I do recall numerous gun battles,  running up and down the steps in the stockyard auditorium engaging in water fights with my other squirt gun friends. The squirt guns were a real hit.   Those in the audience, who were unarmed, wanted to get involved, particularly when they were hit.  So they used the beer in their cups.  Eventually, so did we when we ran out of water in our squirt guns (just think of what we could have done with today's super soakers!).  It was a huge, wet, smelly, stinky mess throughout the venue, in the end.  And as a result, the law school was barred from holding any libel shows at the stockyards in the future. 

Bet there aren't many other law schools out there who can boast of that feat.

The Fourth of July

I've been trying to post this since yesterday, so please consider it as  a) out of order, and b) something a bit more quiet for the 4th of July.  And thank you, Nancy, for the help in finally getting it posted!!

The Day after the 4th of July

When I lived in Lexington in the later '70's,  my old boyfriend (and still friend) Dave would have the gang of friends that continually gathered at his apartment, practice our 'oohs' and 'aahs' for several days before the Fourth of July fireworks display. Then he would direct us, like a chorus, as we gathered on blankets by the UK stadium to watch the show.

Seattle used to have two sets of fireworks to choose from--one over Puget Sound put on by Ivar's which was a traditional set of fireworks, and one over Lake Union that had music accompanying it.  My former husband and I made the mistake of venturing into the Ivar's crowds off the Sound for the 4th of July our first summer in Seattle ('81), and the noise was just like being in downtown Beirut minus the bloodshed.  Ivar's went out of the fireworks business several years ago, and it looked like there might not be one at Lake Union either this year. But concerned citizens, and government types and corporate leaders got together two months ago, and saved Seattle's 2010 big bangs.

The day after the 4th is also an anniversary of sorts for me--it's the day my marriage blew up the first time in 1991.  Though blindsided by the explosion, I worked with the ex to put things back together and the marriage maintained until it finally died on Oct. 22, 1999, three days before our 19th anniversary.  Downtown Beirut in more ways than one.

I prefer to practice 'oohs' and 'ahs.'