Category Archives: fungi

Cancer Surgery Knocked Me Out in January 2022

Well, I pretty much lost the month of January. What a weird way to start a new year. Hopefully, we’re now “pre-disastered” for 2022 and the rest of the year will be better.

On Friday, January 7th, I went in for surgery to remove a cancerous tumor from my lower left abdomen, a cast-off of Wilson, the grapefruit-sized tumor removed in 2019. I had my pre-op stuff to do at home around 3:00 AM, for a surgery that was supposed to start 5:45 AM. My sister Melissa and her son Brian accompanied me to the hospital but because of COVID restrictions, were unable to come in an wait with me in the pre-op area.

I don’t remember anything of the pre-op stuff, so I’m assuming they knocked me out pretty quickly. According to my oncologist, the surgery took about 4 hours, and took as long as it did because Wilson Jr. (the tumor) was tough and pretty big. (Three fingers deep on the longest part.)

The tumor was gray and “bubbly” on the surface and had grown into the psoas muscle, with tendrils wrapping into the femoral nerve and starting to move into the surrounding vascular tissues. Because it was so embedded, the doctors (my doctor and the neurosurgeon) couldn’t get it out whole, so they cut off its head and then scraped it out layer by layer. My doctor had to scrape into the muscle itself, but is pretty sure they got it all out… but she wants me to see her every 3 months or so to make sure this “Wilson Jr.” didn’t toss out any other cell-babies while he was in there.

I can remember coming out of anesthesia after the operation in excruciating pain, moaning a lot. Melissa had warned me that the doctors cutting up into my abdomen would be more painful than any pain I’d felt before, and she was right. The doctors cut me open from my pubic bone to above my belly button; the slice was over 8 inches long. Good lord, the pain!

At one point, when I woke up a bit, I asked the nurses to help me to sit up a bit more, and they jerked and lifted me up so quickly, I literally screamed in pain. My doctor was in the room when that happened, and she stepped back away from the foot of the bed, startled by the noise. The nurses kept trying to push a binder on me — a girdle-like thing to hold my belly in tight — and I told them loudly, “NO! I literally can’t breathe with that thing on!” So…thankfully, no binder.

For the first part of my stay in the hospital — which lasted from Friday to part of Monday — I was in a private room. It had a large window that looked out on the roofs of the surrounding buildings and a single little tree. I was sleeping for most of my stay, but was awakened by nurses who needed to take my vitals, or offer me food, or help me get out and back into bed. I slept with one pillow under my head and another against my right side. I told the nurses that, at home, my dog usually slept there against my right side, so it was comforting.

The hospital was offering me food like Jell-O, soup, oatmeal, and tea. I wasn’t eating much, though — no appetite and I usually vomited up what I did eat. Being able to eat and keep the food down was a milestone I had to meet before I could go home.

On Saturday, the 8th, I got a call from Melissa, checking in on me. Apparently, the hospital wasn’t answering calls or routing them correctly, because the only way I got this call was when the anesthesiologist came into my room and transferred the call to me through his cell phone. I don’t know how lucid I was, but Lissa and I chatted briefly. Later that same afternoon, a gal from Physical Therapy (PT) came to the room and gave me some tips on how to move more easily, and “logroll” out of bed. She also said she’d put in a request for a walker and bedside commode to have at home. My insurance covered the walker completely, but I had to pay a co-pay for the commode.

Around 3:00 AM on Sunday morning, an intern came in and said they needed the room for COVID patients, so he wheeled me bed-and-all to a shared room. There were three other women in the room they took me to. One was moaning loudly, “Noooo…noooo…noooo…. Ahhhh, ahhhh, ahhhh…” on and off all day.  Another one of the women, was muttering repeating nonsense phrases to herself when she was awake between naps, “Yes, yes, yes, yes, b-b-b-better, better, ma-ma-ma-ma-ma…” Gad. The noise was never-ending. And the muttering woman had her television on as well. Guh! The third woman in the room with me was one who was getting ready to leave on Monday afternoon.           

Somewhere in there, I thought I heard the nurses say the moaning woman was from Texas and had come in for COVID. That cinched it, in my mind. I needed to get out of the hospital as soon as possible. I might still be in a lot of pain and bed-bound, but I could do that home as easily as at the hospital. The next time I saw my doctor, late Sunday afternoon, I told he I wanted to go home. She said she wanted me to stay the night, and she’d consider my leaving on Monday afternoon, even though she wanted me to stay longer,  only if I met certain criteria: (1) I had to eat and keep my meals down, (2) I had to be able to walk up and down the hall with the walker, and (3) I had to be able to pass gas, and (4) urinate without a catheter, and I had to get my blood ox up over 90. I was determined to meet those criteria.

Apparently, they’d had some trouble getting and keeping my oxygen level up over 90, so I was on supplemental oxygen. Part of the reason for that, I’m sure, was because my whole torso hurt from the surgery and it was hard to take in deep breaths. Once I realized that oxygenation was an issue that might keep me in the hospital, I made sure to take in as many deep breaths as I could — especially right before a pulse-ox measurement was taken.

On Monday morning, the 10th,  the catheter was removed and I was able to walk to the bathroom and pee with the walker. I was told to order a full lunch, eat as much of it as I could, and keep it down. So, I ordered tomato soup, a sliced orange, small slice of angel food cake, and some tuna salad. The tomato soup was the best I’d ever eaten, so, I ate the whole cup of it. The tuna salad tasted okay but was pulverized down to a paste; not to pleasing on the tongue. I only ate a few slices of the orange and took some bites of the cake… But I made sure I kept it all down.

In the afternoon, the nurses told me that my doctor was releasing me to go home. Yay! Melissa and Brian were waiting outside in the car in the pick-area, and a male nurse rolled me out to them in a wheelchair. Brian was driving, but I didn’t think anything of it. He also helped me get myself into bed once we got home (around 3:15 PM). Then I kind of collapsed for the day.

The next several days into-weeks were kind of a blur between trying to sleep, using the bedside commode for potty when I couldn’t make to the bathroom, dealing with the pain of the surgery, and barely eating. I lost about 10 pounds (but I’m sure I’ll gain it back eventually). I also had to teach myself how to walk again, and start to work myself up to being able to get into and out of a car, use the treadmill, and walk on the sidewalk and lawns…

Brian was a fantastic help through all of that. He’d listen for the sound of the walker and then get to my side before I could even say anything. He helped me get into and out of bed, and rearranged the blankets for me; he’d bring my meals to me at the kitchen table or to the little table on the back porch… On the 15th I tried to take a shower and almost fell over from exhaustion within about 2 minutes. Had to have Brian turn off the water for me; I just couldn’t stand up anymore. And then he helped me back to bed before I collapsed entirely.

Brian also bought some in-home COVID tests for us to take, to make sure everyone was safe (after both Melissa and I had been exposed to strangers in the hospital). We tested negative, as expected, but it was a relief to know for sure.

On the 16th, I got Brian to pull some mushrooms up from the woodchips in the backyard at lunchtime, so I could do my naturalist thing. He was sooooo accommodating. 

On that same day, he helped Melissa set up some wire fencing to go along the street-side fence in the  backyard. That part of the fence is falling apart and Melissa wanted it reinforced a little to keep the dogs from getting through it to the street.

On the 18th, a gentleman came to the house from Advanced Home Health and did an assessment of me for at-home physical therapy. After the assessment, he said I was eligible for four sessions (one per week for four weeks) that would be no cost to me; Kaiser would pay for them as part of my post-op care.  I’ll hear from someone next week to set those sessions up.

On the 20th I had a Zoom appointment with my doctor. She thought I was doing remarkably well, all things considered, and was glad to hear I was able to get off the opiate pain killers and manage on just Ibuprofen and Gabapentin. We talked about the surgery itself, and about the fact that part of my psoas muscle was now gone… But both of us were happy that the surgery seemed to correct the nerve pain I was feeling in my left hip and thigh. The thigh still “buzzes” a little bit, but otherwise doesn’t hurt. Yay! I’m looking forward to being able to walk more normally again. I’ll see my doctor again on the 27th when I get the staples out.

This same afternoon, I got a call from the office of my GP. She said the in-home health assessment showed my blood pressure and heart rate were too high, so she’s prescribed Lisinopril for that. I’m supposed to take one pill a day and track my BP and pulse every day to see if there’s any improvement. I’ve been in pain for so long, I think my body got used to being “tensed” all the time…

I’m in less pain now than I have been in a long time, but still too uncomfortable to wear a full set of normal clothes. I spend my days in nightgowns and slippers. My friend Roxanne said she doesn’t care if I’m in a nightie; we could go somewhere where I wouldn’t have to get out of the car — look at nature through the car windows. Hah! That’s actually pretty tempting! I miss my nature walks sooooo much! 

My target is to be back outside, fully dressed and walking, by mid-February.  We’ll see.  Wish me luck.

Post-Christmas Deer, 12-26-21

I got up around 7:00 AM and headed out to the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve. I was hoping to take advantage of the early morning sunshine. When I got to the preserve, it was cold(37º) and breezy but the sun was shining. Within about 20 minutes, though, all the clouds moved back in threatening rain. Luckily, the rain didn’t start until after I was done with my walk and had gotten back into my car.

California Sycamore, Western Sycamore, Platanus racemose

The highlight of the walk was all of the deer I saw. I counted 22 along the way. Most of them were in small  groups of two or three, but the largest concentration I saw was 10 in one field, six does and four bucks including a handsome four-pointer, and the one with the wonky antlers.

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

They were close enough to the trail that I could smell the boys’ heady musky scent. I love that smell: a sort mix of burning wood and horse manure. All of these deer were laying in the grass except for one of the bucks who stood up when he saw me coming down the trail and kept in eye on me.

I’m used to seeing the Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus, with their large mule-deer ears (right). But on Sunday, I found some deer with shorter ears (left). I wonder if they have some Sitka, Odocoileus hemionus sitkensis, genes in there.

The Sitkas are another subspecies of mule deer that are usually only found in coastal areas of the Pacific Northwest and in British Columbia. They have shorter ears and spotted coats. I suppose some cross breeding has been going on, or, more likely, the short ears are from throwback genes in the black-tailed deer gene pool.

There were lots of puddles on the trails from the recent rains, and I checked those I passed for any sign of hairworms. Nada. It might be the wrong time of year for them.

Rio Grande Wild Turkeys, Meleagris gallopavo intermedia, and puddles along the trail.

I found quite a few different mushroom species, but nothing outside of the norms.

I also found some pinkish/flesh-colored slime mold on the underside of a log. It was too early in its fruiting body stage to tell exactly what species it was, but it could have been Red Raspberry Slime Mold, Tubifera ferruginosa, or (more likely) very early stage of Carnival Candy Slime Mold, Arcyria denudata.

I walked for about 3 hours and then headed home, stopping at Donut Time for some donuts and a Vietnamese coffee. This was hike #92 of my annual hike challenge.

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Donate $5 to buy me a coffee so I have the fuel I need to keep exploring and bring more of nature to you. Thanks!

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Species List:

  1. Acorn Woodpecker, Melanerpes formicivorus
  2. California Camouflage Lichen, Melanelixia californica [dark green with brown apothecia, on trees]
  3. California Sycamore, Western Sycamore, Platanus racemose
  4. California Towhee, Melozone crissalis
  5. Carnival Candy Slime Mold, Arcyria denudata
  6. Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus
  7. Common Bonnet Mushroom, Mycena galericulata
  8. Deceiver Mushroom, Laccaria laccata [reddish-tan, dimpled, goblet shaped]
  9. Fragrant Funnel Mushroom, Clitocybe fragrans
  10. Gem-Studded Puffball, Common Puffball, Lycoperdon perlatum
  11. Giraffe Spots Crust Fungus, Peniophora albobadia
  12. Gold Dust Lichen, Chrysothrix candelaris
  13. Green Shield Lichen, Flavoparmelia caperata
  14. Hooded Rosette Lichen, Physcia adscendens [hairs/eyelashes on the tips of the lobes]
  15. Jack-o-Lantern, Western Jack-o-Lantern, Omphalotus olivascens
  16. Lilac Oysterling, Panus conchatus
  17. Lords and Ladies, Wild Arum, Arum italicumm
  18. Miner’s Lettuce, Claytonia perfoliate [first leaves, just starting to sprout]
  19. Oak Mazegill, Daedalea quercina
  20. Pleated Marasmius, Red Thread, Marasmius plicatulus
  21. Rio Grande Wild Turkey, Meleagris gallopavo intermedia
  22. Ruby-Crowned Kinglet, Regulus calendula
  23. Silky Pink Gill Mushroom, Nolanea sericea (Entoloma sericeum ssp. sericeum) [very dark brown cap with a nipple on top]
  24. Spotted Towhee, Pipilo maculatus [heard, glimpsed]
  25. Tule, Common Tule, Schoenoplectus acutus
  26. Valley Oak, Quercus lobata
  27. White Horehound, Marrubium vulgare
  28. White Stubble Rosegill, Volvopluteus gloiocephalusi [white or gray mushroom, slick cap with colored center, pale pink to gills, papery volva]
  29. ?? Grey mushroom with white gills on wood, Hydropus sp.
  30. ?? Pink-tinged fungus, Chromelosporium sp.
  31. ?? white mold

Fungi in the Fog, 12-17-21

I got up a little before 7:00 this morning, fed and pottied Esteban, and had some breakfast before heading out to Mather Lake Regional Park. I usually don’t go out that late (around 8:00 am), but it was SUPER foggy this morning, and I wanted the sun to come up a little bit more so I could see where I was going.

You can normally see across the lake to the opposite shore. Not so much today.

I hadn’t been to the lake in a while, and I was anxious to see what I might find there. When I got to the park, the fog was still heavy, dragging its belly on the ground in most places, and it was a finger-nipping 37ºF. I was dressed in three layers (my shirt, the vest my naturalist students had given to me, and my hooded jacket), so I was relatively warm…-ish.

The fog makes it difficult to take photos because the camera doesn’t know what to focus on. I like the “diffused” look of some of them, though. The fog would split open periodically to let the sun in, then close up again.

Mostly Mute Swans, Cygnus olor

The first thing I saw was the white bodies of Mute Swans floating on the water, looking otherworldly. They seemed to dominate the lake this morning; I think they’re pairing up for the breeding season and setting down their nesting spots. I saw a couple of them bullying a pair of Canada Geese out of their resting place.

Among the Mute Swan, I saw one Tundra Swan.  I watched it as it flew in, its wing-flap pattern different than that of the Mute Swans. It circled once before landing softly on the water.

With all the moisture in the air, the lichens were wide awake, some of them reproducing, showing off their suction-cup-looking apothecia.

CLICK HERE to see the full album of photos

There were also a few fungi I didn’t expect to see, like Shaggy Mane inkcap mushrooms, Layered Cup fungus, some Brownflesh Bracket,  and a couple of Pungent Slippery Jacks (which were new to me) among others.

I was hoping to see otters, and I saw one, but it was so far away, I couldn’t get any really decent photos of it.  It was swimming back and forth in a tight formation as though searching a specific area for fish. I didn’t see it catch anything, but it was very persistent.

As always, I reported it to the Otter Spotters website.

It also looked to me like the beaver’s den had some new branches piled onto it. I’ve never see the beavers there, but I’ve seen the trees they’ve felled and they seem to maintain their den pretty well.

Beavers den

What surprised me was the number of new Coyote Brush flower galls there were on the bushes (and it looks like they like the female bushes more than the males, but that was just a cursory observation). They usually don’t show up until the spring, but here they were, some bushes covered in them. It was very curious.

Because of the damp and cold, I only walked for a little over 2 hours.  This was hike #91 in my annual hike challenge. I’m pretty sure I’m not going to make my goal of 104 hikes this year but I’m pretty dang close.

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Donate $5 to buy me a coffee so I have the fuel I need to keep exploring and bring more of nature to you. Thanks!

$5.00

Species List:

  1. Azolla, Water Fern, Azolla filiculoides
  2. Beaver, American, Beaver, Castor canadensis [den]
  3. Brown Parachute Mushroom, Collybiopsis villosipes
  4. Brownflesh Bracket,  Coriolopsis gallica
  5. Callery Pear, Pyrus calleryana
  6. Common Button Lichen, Buellia erubescens [small black dots on wood, by themselves or on a background of white, gray, etc.]
  7. Common Sunburst Lichen, Golden Shield Lichen, Xanthoria parietina [yellow-orange,on wood/trees]
  8. Coyote Brush Bud Gall midge, Rhopalomyia californica
  9. Coyote Brush, Baccharis pilularis
  10. Double-Crested Cormorant, Phalacrocorax auratus
  11. Elongate Springtail, Order: Entomobryomorpha
  12. European Starling, Sturnus vulgaris
  13. Fremont’s Cottonwood, Populus fremontii
  14. Gold Dust Lichen, Chrysothrix candelaris
  15. Golden-Crowned Sparrow, Zonotrichia atricapilla
  16. Green Shield Lichen, Flavoparmelia caperata
  17. Hoary Rosette Lichen, Physcia aipolia [hoary, brown apothecia]
  18. Hooded Rosette Lichen, Physcia adscendens [hairs/eyelashes on the tips of the lobes]
  19. Horse Mushroom, Agaricus arvensis
  20. Layered Cup, Peziza varia
  21. Magpie Inkcap, Common Inkcap, Coprinopsis picacea
  22. Moss, Wood Bristle-Moss, Lewinskya affinis
  23. Mute Swan, Cygnus olor
  24. Northern Mockingbird, Mimus polyglottos
  25. Oak-loving Gymnopus Mushroom, Gymnopus dryophilus [tan-orange with pale gills; cap can be flat or curved up as it ages]
  26. Oyster Mushroom, Pleurotus ostreatus
  27. Pied-Billed Grebe, Podilymbus podiceps
  28. Pin-Cushion Sunburst Lichen, Polycauliona polycarpa [bright orange, apothecia, close, piled]
  29. Poison Oak, Pacific Poison Oak, Western Poison Oak, Toxicodendron diversilobum
  30. Poplar Sunburst Lichen, Xanthomendoza hasseana [sunburst on Cottonwood]
  31. Pungent Slippery Jack, Suillus pungens
  32. River Otter, North American River Otter, Lontra canadensis
  33. Rosy Navel Mushroom, Contumyces rosellus
  34. Ruby-Crowned Kinglet, Regulus calendula
  35. Scurfy Twiglet Mushroom, Tubaria furfuracea [small, pale tan/ orange, wide gills]
  36. Shadow Lichen, Family: Physciaceae
  37. Shaggy Mane Inkcap Mushroom, Coprinus comatus
  38. Silky Pink Gill Mushroom, Nolanea sericea (Entoloma sericeum ssp. sericeum) [very dark brown cap with a nipple on top]
  39. Song Sparrow, Melospiza melodia
  40. Trembling Crust Fungus, Merulius tremellosus
  41. Tuberous Polypore, Polyporus tuberaster
  42. Tule, Common Tule, Schoenoplectus acutus
  43. Tundra Swan, Cygnus columbianus
  44. White-Crowned Sparrow, Zonotrichia leucophrys
  45. ?? Felty Mouse Ear, Order: Pezizales

Mostly Lichen on a Frosty Morning, 12-10-21

I got up around 7:00 am and headed out to the American River Bend Park again. It was 34ºF when I got there.  I went to a different part of the park today than I did earlier in the week — still seeking fungi. The area I chose went from oak forest to a grove of buckeye trees.

Buckeyes are notorious for being poisonous. “… It is toxic to all classes of livestock and wildlife. The bark, leaves, stems, fruits, and seeds all contain glycosidal compounds which cause haemolytic action on red blood cells and depress the central nervous system when ingested…” So, I wasn’t sure I’d see much of anything around them.  I did find quite a few lichen on the trees but no fungi there.

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

Because I wasn’t seeing much, I cut my walk short and only did 2 hours. My sister was really surprised when I came home so early. Hah!

This was hike #90 of my annual hike challenge.


Buy Me a Coffee!

Donate $5 to buy me a coffee so I have the fuel I need to keep exploring and bring more of nature to you. Thanks!

$5.00



Species List:

  1. Bewick’s Wren, Thryomanes bewickii
  2. Boreal Button Lichen, Buellia disciformis [pale gray to bluish with black apothecia on wood]
  3. Bufflehead Duck, Bucephala albeola
  4. California Mycena, Mycena californiensis [red, like the Bleeding Fairy Helmet, but they bleed orange not red]
  5. California Pipevine, Dutchman’s Pipe, Aristolochia californica
  6. California Wild Grape, Vitis californica
  7. Collared Parachute Mushroom, Marasmius rotula
  8. Common Button Lichen, Buellia erubescens [small black dots on wood, by themselves or on a background of white, gray, etc.
  9. Crawfish Lichen, Ochrolechia parella
  10. Deer Mushroom, Western Deer Mushroom, Pluteus exilis [heavy, dark cap and white stipe and gills]
  11. Doveweed, Turkey Mullein, Croton setiger
  12. European Starling, Sturnus vulgaris
  13. False Turkey-Tail, Stereum hirsutum [thin, flattish, brown underside]
  14. Farinose Cartilage Lichen,  Ramalina farinacea [like Oakmoss but very thin branches]
  15. Frosted Rim-Lichen, Lecanora caesiorubella [white with white apothecia]
  16. Green Shield Lichen, Flavoparmelia caperata
  17. Hoary Rosette Lichen, Physcia aipolia [hoary, brown apothecia]
  18. Hooded Rosette Lichen, Physcia adscendens [hairs/eyelashes on the tips of the lobes]
  19. Horsehair Fungus, Gymnopus androsaceus [thin black stipe, on leaf litter]
  20. Interior Live Oak, Quercus wislizeni
  21. Lace Lichen, Ramalina menziesii
  22. Milk-White Toothed Polypore, Irpex lacteus
  23. Miner’s Lettuce, Claytonia perfoliate [primary leaves showing]
  24. Moss, Capillary Thread-Moss, Ptychostomum capillare
  25. Northern Flicker, Colaptes auratus
  26. Oak Titmouse, Baeolophus inornatus
  27. Pin-Cushion Sunburst Lichen, Polycauliona polycarpa [bright orange, apothecia, close, piled]
  28. Pleated Inkcap Mushroom, Parasola plicatilis
  29. Poison Pie Mushroom, Hebeloma crustuliniforme
  30. Powder-Edged Speckled Greenshield, Flavopunctelia soredica
  31. Rio Grande Wild Turkey, Meleagris gallopavo intermedia
  32. Rosy Navel Mushroom, Contumyces rosellus
  33. Shrubby Sunburst Lichen, Polycauliona candelaria
  34. Silky Pink Gill Mushroom, Nolanea sericea (Entoloma sericeum ssp. sericeum) [very dark brown cap with a nipple on top]
  35. Speckled Greenshield Lichen, Flavopunctelia flaventior
  36. Strap Lichen, Western Strap Lichen, Ramalina leptocarpha [without soredia]
  37. Tall Psathyrella Mushroom, Psathyrella longipes [tan cap that often splits, dark tan gills]
  38. Turkey Tail Fungus, Trametes versicolor
  39. Valley Oak, Quercus lobata
  40. Yellow Fieldcap Mushroom, Bolbitius titubans
  41. ?? Rim Lichens, Lecanora sp. [green interior on apotheca]