Cancer is back… and it’s more aggressive this time. I had a biopsy done on August 30th. My friend Roxanne was at the house by 5:45 AM (such a good friend), drove me to the appointment, and stayed at the hospital until the biopsy was done. We were out of there and back home by around 10 o’clock…which was a good thing because Rox had to go to work around noon.
The procedure was slated for 6:30, but of course the nurse (mine was a male nurse named Larry) has to get you prepped, take your pulse, blood pressure et al, stick EKG monitor stickers on you, and put a line in a vein. Larry was great, and was able to find a vein that was cooperative on the very first jab.
The doctor, Brandon Doskocil, came in to say hi and to let me know how the procedure was going to go: they’d give me lidocaine and “happy drugs” before doing anything, and keep me semiconscious because I had to be able to follow the instructions of the CT machine. I’d go into and out of the machine a few times while they found the right spot to send in the puncture biopsy instrument. Then the doctor would extract two samples, one from the lesion and one from an adjacent lymph node. Okee-dokee.
I get wheeled into the CT room on a gurney and then have to transfer over onto the scanner bed. Once they got me situated on the scanner bed the way they wanted me, I asked for a pillow under my knees, but they could only use a shallow one because if my knees were bent up too high in would interfere with the biopsy. So, once I was settled and feeling relatively comfy, I got shot up with lidocaine in my hip joint, and was given the “happy drugs”. Those drugs were great, I didn’t care about anything…even when, during the procedure, the doctor hit the femoral nerve. I screamed – but then laughed because everyone else in the room screamed, too, and said “hit a nerve” in unison. That whole process took about 20 minutes.
Then it was back to the gurney and into a small area where I could get dressed again. But the drug were making me stupid and I put my shoes on before I put my pants on and basically forgot how to dress myself. Larry helped me pull my pants up. As he was wheeling me out to the parking lot in a wheelchair I thanked him and told him he had done a great job. He squeezed my shoulder and said, “thank you” in my ear and there was so much emotion in his voice; like no one had thanked him before. Awww.
Roxanne was right at the curb as Larry rolled me out of the hospital, and she drove me back home. Lots of anticipation and anxiety over “nothing”. We’ll see how I feel when the drugs wear off.
On September 3rd, I got a call from my oncologist, Dr. Suby, letting me know about the results of the biopsy. My cancer is back, and it seems to be in a more aggressive form than it was previously. *Sigh* The cancer cells aren’t well defined, so they can more easily metastasize to other cells. Not what I wanted to hear, but was what I was sort of expecting.
I have a video visit with a neurologist on the 7th, and I should have a PET scan scheduled sometime soon. I’ll let you know if anything comes of them.
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I got up around 5:30 this morning, and gave Esteban his breakfast before we both headed out to the Cosumnes River Preservebefore the day’s heat rolled in. It got up to 104º today. And the super-high temperatures are supposed to last through this week and into next week.
I just needed to get out somewhere; I was going a bit stir-crazy in the house, not having been out in nature since Saturday because of pain in my leg and the heat. Oh, the heat. My left leg was aching a little bit, but not bad. When I take Esteban with me to places like this, there are a lot of areas where pets aren’t allowed, so I have to restrict my explorations to places where he can go. He did really good on the whole trip.
There is virtually no water at the preserve. I saw one pond filled, but everything else was bone dry. The Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge posted information about the fact that they were only allowed to operate with 40% of their normal water allowance this year, and I’m assuming the Cosumnes Preserve was likewise constrained. Some of the rice fields, also owned by the preserve, however, were full of water. That’s “farm” money, not preserve money.
No one really knows how the migrating birds coming through these areas for the next several months are going to react to the extreme lack of water. They may fly off to somewhere else, and they may all collect in the few filled ponds and fields available to them. That would mean the birders and photographers might get to see a lot of different birds in a very small area… but it might also mean that the birds, confined to smaller areas, all pooping and peeing in the same water, might be subject to a lot more disease – like bird flu or cholera. Not good.
I looked at the Valley Oaks along Desmond Road to look for galls and also checked out the trees by the now-empty pond near the boardwalk area. Found clusters of Red Cones, Yellow Wigs, and Club galls but nothing out of the ordinary. What seemed to be conspicuously missing were the honeydew galls. They provide extra sugar to ants and wasps in the summer months when most of the flowers have died out. I only found one of those galls.
I did find a new-to-me spider, a Humped-Back Orbweaver (Eustala sp.), and that’s always fun.
I didn’t see a whole lot of birds, even in the few flooded areas, but I did get to see both a Red-Shouldered Hawk and a Red-Tailed Hawk on the telephone poles along the road. On my way to the preserve, I actually saw five other hawks, so it was a pretty fair raptor-sighting day.
It was also fun to see Cattle Egrets in among the cattle in the fields. When the herd of cattle ran off to the back of the field, one mama stayed still because her calf needed to nurse. So cute!
I was out for about 2½ hours, and was feeling pretty good for quite a while after my walk.
Aphid, Woolly Oak Aphid, Stegophylla brevirostris [lots of white fluff, honeydew]
Ash Flower Gall Mite, Aceria fraxiniflora
Ash Leaf Curl Aphid, Prociphilus fraxinifolii
Black-Necked Stilt, Himantopus mexicanus
Brewer’s Blackbird, Euphagus cyanocephalus
Canada Goose, Branta canadensis
Cattle Egret, Western Cattle Egret, Bubulcus ibis ibis
Cattle, Black Angus, Bos Taurus var, Black Angus
Club Gall Wasp, Atrusca clavuloides
Downy Woodpecker, Dryobates pubescens
Flat-Topped Honeydew Gall Wasp, Disholcaspis eldoradensis
I got up around 5:00 AM to get ready to head out to Ice House Road with my friend and fellow naturalist, Roxanne. It was cool and breezy all morning; got up to about 88º in the late afternoon. I like weather like that.
I had been looking forward to this excursion all week. I was hoping to see different galls on the oak trees, willows, and other plants up there. In 2021, we saw Fireweed in bloom and gooseberries fruiting around the end of July. CLICK HERE to see last year’s album.
Although the galls were few and far between (not a lot of oak trees up there; it’s mostly a conifer forest), we ended up finding quit a few things I had never seen before, so that was fun! The only oak trees we found were Black Oaks, and the only gall I saw on the oak was a Ruptured Twig Gall.
One super-cool find on a Black Oak was a little family of Oak Treehoppers. Mom was the “spotted” version of the species. (There’s also a turquoise striped version. Some of the stuff I read about the species is that the spotted may morph into the turquoise version later in the season.) The babies looked like tiny African masks painted red, black and white with black “horns” sticking out of them.
The mom we saw refused to leave the branch her babies were on, even though she was winged and could have fled if she wanted to. She also stuck close to her kids, and some of the photos we got seemed to show her “kissing” her babies.
According to the University of Florida: “…Beamer (1930) even observed maternal instinct in females of Platycotis vittata on oak in California. Females were observed to ‘stand sentinel’ between their respective colonies of nymphs and the body of the tree. A female would allow herself to be picked up rather than fly away from her perch. Beamer watched one female repel a small vespid wasp approximately a dozen times from her colony of nymphs. After the vespid apparently grew discouraged and flew away, ‘…the membracid flew to her young, crawled over the spot where the vespid had alighted, apparently examined to see that they were uninjured; then making sure all was well again flew to the twig just below the nest, turned her head toward her young and stood immobile.’…” Awwww!
According to the North Carolina State University: “…Females mate more than once, but only the sperm of her last suitor is used to fertilize her 40 or so eggs. This insect overwinters as females in leaf litter. They emerge and lay their eggs the following spring. When the eggs hatch, the new nymphs gather around a slit in the bark made by the female. The Nymphs apparently feed at the slit and the female broods over them. Females definitely protect their nymphs by bumping predators. Second generation eggs are laid in August and these hatch and develop into the overwintering forms. Nymphs have two tiny ‘spikes’ on their backs and they tend to be contrastingly marked with white, black, and red…”
AmericanInsects.com reaffirmed the information from the NCSU but offered some more clarifying details: “…Wood, et al. (1984) noted that many females of this species mate more than once, with the first mating often taking place even before the female’s ovaries are mature. The sperm of the last male to mate with a female, however, is the sperm that is used to fertilize the eggs. Wood and his colleagues reasoned that the early matings were ‘insurance,’ with the sperm stored for possible use after the ovaries have matured. This ‘insurance mating’ is necessary because males tend not to live as long as females, and females may not be able to find a mate after the ovaries are mature. However, if the late season mating does take place, it is with a male that presumably has superior genes for longevity, and these are the sperm used to fertilize the eggs. Mating may last up to 24 hours, with the males apparently dragging out the process to prevent another male from mating with the female. Platycotis vittata also has an unusually long ‘waiting period’ between mating and oviposition, ranging from an average of 29 days for females who mated more than once, to 39 days for females who mated just once. Females lay about 40 eggs each…The Spring-hatched treehopper females oviposit in August and the nymphs hatch out in September, in time to feed as the tree sends nutrients from the canopy to the roots…”
That the second season would happen when the sap was flowing DOWN the tree to the roots for the winter, is sooooo interesting to me. Nature thinks of everything and wastes nothing.
Other new-to-me species included some small, pouty, yellow Keckiella flowers; some spidery, white White-Topped Aster flowers; a striped Sierra Dome Spider; a bristly yellow-footed Tachina fly; some different Manzanita galls (apparently there’s one species of aphid that makes three kinds of galls of those trees); some frilly, purple Sierra Lessingia flowers; and many, many Bush Chinquapin trees with their hedgehog-like-covered nuts on them. And I think I spotted some flower galls on the drying-up male flowers. So cool! It’s always fun to come across surprises like that.
Among the other insects we saw were some California Sister butterflies (which I get mixed up with the Lorquin’s Admirals all the time), a few Acmon Blue butterflies, an Urbane Digger Bee, and a Weevil Wasp (feeding on buckwheat flowers).
Another surprise was to see several bright green examples of the “witches broom” phenomenon on what we thought might have been bitter cherry or chokecherry trees and twigs. Rox spotted a tree covered with them, so we pulled off to the side of the road to get a closer look.
“…Witches’ broom is a common affliction of many trees and shrubs. It can be caused by several different vectors. Witches’ broom earns its name by producing a plethora of small, distorted branches that grow very close together, giving these clumps of branches the appearance of a witches’ broom… Though witches’ broom on a cherry can develop from any damage, it can also be caused by a fungal pathogen known as Taphrina, specifically T. cerasi or T. wiesneri. This fungal disease causes close bunches of quick growing, small branches to form on other cherry tree branches. If left alone, these new branches usually bloom and drop their leaves earlier than other branches of the tree…” [GardeningKnowhow.com]
Although we didn’t see many birds or mammals around, we did get to see a couple of chipmunks. We don’t have those down here on the valley floor. Cute little buggers.
We were out for about 8 hours, but that included travel time and a stop for an in-the-car picnic lunch. It was a long day, but I learned a lot and saw a lot of things I wasn’t expecting to see. Fun!
Acmon Blue Butterfly, Icaricia acmon
Bare-Bottom Sunburst Lichen, Xanthomendoza weberi
Bee, Urbane Digger Bee, Anthophora urbana [gray and black, bluish eyes]
Bigleaf Maple Tree, Acer macrophyllum
Bitter Cherry, Prunus emarginata
Bitter Lettuce, Lactuca virosa
Blue Elderberry, Sambucus nigra cerulea
Boreal Button Lichen, Buellia disciformis [pale gray to bluish with black apothecia on wood]
The temperature rose up to 102º today. Plah! I got up around 5:30 AM so I could get the dogs fed and pottied before I got myself ready to head to the River Bend Park with my friend Roxanne while it was still relatively cool outside.
I was hoping to see some new-ish galls on the oak trees, but the Live Oaks seemed to be covered with little more than tiny Pumpkin galls and a handful of Live Oak galls. We did find a few more, mostly on the Valley Oaks: Red Cones, Ruptured Twigs, Spined Turban, and some Rosettes, among others.
The highlight was being able to show Roxanne some Lace Bugs on coyote brush and telegraph weed. She’d seen photos of them, but never saw them live before. A “lifer” species for her. I was so happy that she got to see them.
According to Wikipedia: “…Lace bugs are usually host-specific and can be very destructive to plants… Each individual usually completes its entire lifecycle on the same plant, if not the same part of the plant… Most species have one to two generations per year, but some species have multiple generations. Most overwinter as adults, but some species overwinter as eggs or nymphs. This group has incomplete metamorphosis in that the immature stages resemble the adults, except that the immatures are smaller and do not have wings. However, wing pads appear in the second and third instars and increase in size as the nymph matures. Depending on the species, lace bugs have four or five instars…”
On the telegraph weed, we were able to see about four instars. Very cool. You can see many of them in the video below.
We walked for about 4 hours, until it got too hot for us to stay out anymore. This was hike #48 of my #52HikeChallenge for the year.
Acorn Woodpecker, Melanerpes formicivorus
Amaranth, Family: Amaranthaceae
Black Walnut, Northern California Black Walnut, Juglans hindsii
California Black Walnut Pouch Gall Mite, Aceria brachytarsa
California Buckeye Chestnut Tree, Aesculus californica
California Ground Squirrel, Otospermophilus beecheyi