Thursday, November 27, 2008

The Half-Way Mark!

Today was the mid-point for my chemo regime - fortunately, no major sickness yet.....nor will there be since, I have affirmed there will not be. The only thing that plagues me is my homesickness and I suppose I must start thinking more positively about that as well. Who in their right mind would trade Redwood City weather in February for Birmingham, Michigan? Yeah, I gotta re-think this state of mind!

I am enjoying a most lovely time having my two daughters from NYC with me these past few days - one leaves Friday afternoon, the other early Saturday morning, so not much longer. After they leave, I will tell you about the best birthday celebration I can remember this past Saturday, but right now I am unable to sleep because of the chemo and can think of nothing else quiet to do in this little cottage which will not disturb at this time of the morning, except typing in the dark.

Tomorrow we are supposed to walk with my fitness group for 3 miles at 7AM, if I get to sleep before then. The girls are making Thanksgiving dinner - Mama has been delegated the kale salad only which is just fine with me. I taught them well (along with a little help from Cordon Bleu Paris) and lots of major parties over the years at home, all prepared by me with their help. Thanksgiving has always been our favorite holiday and this year we are altogether and have so much more to be thankful for.

My best holiday wishes to all of you!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Sicky Poo

Well, I guess it's been a few days....I have not been feeling so well, mostly just really tired, but my eyes watered constantly for about two days and then a gigantic cold sore popped up on my lower lip, my belly has been killing me, but tonight I am feeling again more or less "normal".

Saturday again we had our weekly outing into the City. One of my cousin's favorite restaurants in "Yank Sing", the #1 choice of dim sum in the "Best of" category. I didn't feel much like eating, but I did enjoy the pea pods and my favorite, their perfectly dressed cole slaw.....YUM!

The day was perfect, a cloudless 82 degrees. Views of the City from Ft. Baker were magnificent; however, this weekend I suffered some of the worst homesickness I have ever felt - I don't miss cold, dreary weather, but I do miss Papa Joe's, Plum, Pita Cafe, Whistle Stop, my cute little house and all of my dear friends. Despite this beauty, March cannot come soon enough......I want to get on with my life.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The idea of calm exists in a sitting cat. -- Jules Renard

And this is what I will think about today.......

Round # Three!

Good Morning, Everyone!

Fall has arrived in Redwood City. It's chilly here this morning - no sun yet, maybe later, but there are still roses blooming. A beautiful yellow one is spreading its petals outside my bedroom window with more buds on the way. I must say, this environment sure helps the medicine go down a lot easier.

Today is round #3 of the adriamycin and cytoxan and I have already drunk one liter of water and hope to get another down before I go. Last time my veins were playing hide and seek which was not a fun game. This time I decided to increase my fluid intake, go for a walk which I am nearly ready to do and repeat over and over in my head, positive affirmations.....I do NOT want a port! The nurse assured me last time that my veins would make it through this, but I have decided to do everything I can to make sure that is realized.

I look forward to completing this round and to being that much closed to going home. Rolling and stretching this evening....Birmingham here I come!!

Saturday, November 8, 2008

A Little More Info, plus a Bit of a Rant......

A good day for the most part yesterday, afebrile. I researched chemo and fever and came up with something I had not heard of before - chemo itself can illicit flu-like symptoms without a white cell drop (neutropenia) and of those chemo patients experiencing fever, a definite source of infection is found in only about half.

This is interesting for several reasons: (1) Even before I researched this, I told my cousin yesterday that I felt the fever was somehow directly related to the chemo, because ordinarily if I have ever in my life had even the slightest fever, I remember always feeling miserable - with this fever I didn't feel sick at all and that made no sense to me. My skin hurt a little, but 102 fever and no feeling of sickness? Weird. (2) Again, no information from any of my docs that this could happen....and in fact, not even one word about the possibility of neutropenia and its consequences. I only knew because of the experience I had years ago with my mother.

Before anyone gets huffy about my comparison of California vs. Michigan medicine, let me make one point perfectly clear, unfortunately, they all have one thing in common, they keep the patient in the dark most of the time. I have had to do all my own research on chemotherapy, diet and exercise, and now the possible side effects of chemo.

Not one doc has yet told me anything about my left arm being at risk for lymphedema. If I weren't a lymphatic therapist, I would have no idea. The most said, and only by my surgeon in MI and also my surgeon here, is that they didn't want me to do "too many" exercise repetitions with my left arm - that's it, nothing more...shocking! I have not probed deeper on this topic, because for my own "research" purposes, I want to know what information is given the typical patient. (None of them know my background - that I have worked for years with cancer patients, that I am a CancerGuide, a lymphatic therapist and have developed my own movement and laughter program for cancer survivors.)

I also found it sad and pathetic that I had to bat lab techs and nurses away from my left arm the other night at Stanford - they were determined to draw blood, start IV's or take BP's from it. I feel like having "DO NOT EVEN THINK OF TOUCHING THIS ARM" tattooed on it (of course, I will leave the tattooing only for my eyebrow which also are falling out fast!)

I can only say working with cancers survivors and being one are two completely different things. Perhaps this is what I needed in order to be truly effective and therapeutic in my approach.

Reality Check

I have been having chills, usually in the evening after I take off my wig, for the past couple of days. I have also been pushing myself to walk further and further every day. Last evening as I undressed, I noticed my skin hurt - my eyes had also been watering all day, my nose dripping. Since I am never sick, it didn't even occur to me that maybe I had a fever. So I went back to my cousin's, asked for a thermometer and sure enough, 100.4. I know about the neutropenia possibilities, so rang up the doc who sent me to Standford ER - it spiked to about 102 there. Everything else was negative, so they put me on two antibiotics and we await culture results. I think they will be negative.....I guess I'm just one hot mama, hahahaha!

I feel great this morning and think we will more than like have our weekly trip into the City which is always a great thing to look forward to.

In the meantime, I had planned to "escape" to Michigan the second weekend of December to put some things in order, a plan which changed last night. It's hard for me to accept that I cannot live as I have been accustomed to - "normal" is not my normal for the time being, but for those of you who know me, I never was very "normal" anyway! Being shut up in a plane for hours with lots of bacteria floating around is not something I can manage right now, boohoo!

I have to tell you about California and its medical system......VERY different from Michigan. You would NEVER walk into University of Michigan clinics or hospital and see things "junked" up nor would you see that at Beaumont in Royal Oak and most certainly not at Kettering Hospital in Dayton; however, that's all I have seen here.

The ER at Standford was just a tiny step above third world, junk everywhere. The portable x-ray machine looked like it was out of the Ark, BUT the service was topnotch - the staff everywhere have been incredible, competent, caring, intelligent, never better. They even faxed my Rx to Walgreen's last night without me asking.

My oncologist keeps her King George puppy in her office and was holding and petting it as I talked to her when I left last time. We Michiganders apparently are focusing on appearances more than on service - we are uptight and anal. It's too bad the medical community back home can't experience this. I must admit my first impression was not so favorable and I wondered what I had gotten myself into. Not to say that appearances are not important, they are, but that should not be the primary goal. We need to lighten up...hmmmmmmm, maybe it's the weather....or is it something in the water?

Discussion to be continued.........!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Monday, November 3, 2008

Life delivers Roses.....

My first "rose"....a call from my surgeon Friday saying my genetic testing was negative! I have always felt my mother's cancer was a result of her polio and all of the ensuing medical interventions. Even though I am at the high end of the risk chart, genetics did not have a hand in it. I was overjoyed to pass the good news on to my girls and their father.

The second "rose" haircut early Saturday. Even the "bad" stuff seems to make me feel better, like I am getting that much closer to being finished with all of this. I didn't want to watch, although my cousin took photos I have not yet looked at. My wig which looks very much like my own hair was immediately placed on my head and I didn't remove it until about 12 hours later.

Brrrrrrrr, I had no idea how cold a bare head could be. I was glad I had purchased a little beret, but today I realized that a tight-fitting hand knit cap sent by a good friend in Michigan kept me much warmer. Scarves are okay, the wig will have it's place, but I think I am about to embark on a knitting and crocheting frenzy. There are so many great patterns out there....caps are more comfortable and less trouble than anything else. What do I care if people realize I am bald or if they wonder whether I have cancer? I am more than happy to talk to anyone about what needs to be done to stay healthy.

And the last "rose" of the most beautiful full rainbows I have ever seen greeted me as I rounded the corner on my way for juice this morning. From now on, I will take my camera with me. Not a tear was shed over the loss of my hair, but I must say the rainbow brought a few. It felt like a promise from God that this will never again happen to me.....and if I believe, it will be so.

Yes, I am having difficulty sleeping tonight, but all is well!

PS These beauties are some I can see from my bedroom window. Nice, huh? The camellias will be blooming soon.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Halloween!

I heard from my younger daughter in NYC that they make a very big thing of Halloween there....everyone was dressed up, including babies and dogs. It seemed pretty calm here in Redwood City - in fact, the doorbell rang only twice all evening. My cousin and I busied ourselves today making things for her daughter's Halloween party which I am sharing with you - deviled spider eggs, tomato pesto eyeballs and cheddar witches fingers, yum!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Friends back East, Eat Your Hearts Out!

I am so lucky to have wonderful cousins who do so many thoughtful things for me. Every week they take me somewhere special, usually into the City, always to a special restaurant and absolutely always we have a glorious taste of Nature. I took these photos a few weeks ago from Sausalito looking toward San Francisco which was pretty much fogged in. My greatest "high" is from natural beauty. It fills me up so much, there have been times my chest felt like it would burst.

The hills of San Francisco are beautiful, but next summer I want to be walking and biking through the hills of Tuscany with my daughters....hairless, but happy!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Today was the day....

Sorry to report the power of wheatgrass juice was unable to save me from the hair loss...and I was so hoping it would. As I was combing my wet hair after my shower this morning, I noticed a massive amount of hair in my comb, so I carefully diffused it dry and let the curls takeover. Several times I put my hand to my head and pulled out a fistful of hair - it wasn't my imagination, it was the real thing. My hair was truly going.

I think the most difficult thing for me throughout this entire process so far has been wrapping my mind around the idea that there is actually something wrong with me - me, who according to my ex, is as "healthy as a horse". I can't remember my last fever or the last time I vomited. I was never sick for a minute during my pregnancies....I'm the person who takes care of everyone else. This is not a role I am comfortable playing, but one I am trying to graciously adapt to; however, when my cousin tried to feed me ice during my adriamycin today, I let out a big, "No way!"

It's bedtime here in California and it's been a big day. Chemo took more like three hours, rather than one and a half, because my IV infiltrated. I volunteered myself and my cousin to cater her daughter's Halloween party Friday night, so there was shopping to do after chemo.

And then we decided in addition to our two hours of personal training every week, we should sign up for the roll and stretch class every Wednesday evening which means every other Wednesday it will follow chemo. I was concerned I might not feel well, but other than my chemo headache, some sweats and a little shaking, all went well. The rolling and stretching took my mind off imagining other possible symptoms, but I gotta say, especially to those who know Laughter Yoga, I would much rather laugh through the painful rolls, rather than just breathe. Which gave me a good idea...I want to include a similar class when I open my cancer retreat in Bloomfield Hills called, "Rolling with Laughter!"

If I remember correctly, it was in "The Secret" I read, in order to truly believe and think positively, one's affirmation must contain no negatives of any kind. Thinking to myself, "I hope I won't be sick tonight", won't cut it. "I will be well tonight", will.....and I will be!

Good Night Hugs and Kisses to All!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Time for another Chemical Cocktail......

I am doing something I vowed for the past 20 years I would never do, take any form of chemotherapy. For maybe the first two weeks after my diagnosis I was pretty much convinced that I would not allow anyone come close to me with chemo.....and now I am ready for round two.

Although the depression I suffered following my divorce 7 years ago had greatly improved ever since I began laughing, it still had a way of taking control, so initially the thought of cancer sounded like an easy way out for me. At the time, I really didn't care whether I lived or died - I just wanted all of "this" to be over, but that would have been way too easy.

Suddenly life had handed me a major challenge and it didn't take me long to realize, despite my former feelings about chemo, that I needed to put my full faith and trust into the medical profession. What I also realized is that I did want to live....and not just live, but live better than I had in a very long time.

So, here I am outside of San Francisco surrounded by everything I need to realize that. This is not the end by any means, but the beginning of a very new and wonderful life.

I still am not convinced that chemo is the only way to go, but at this time, I can't argue with research statistics - Chemo #2, here I come!

Monday, October 27, 2008

A Walk on the Green Side - I am in California, right?

I will elaborate on the benefits of raw, living food more later, but let me say, I saw firsthand many years ago after my mother went to Hippocrates Clinic in San Diego what a positive effect consuming raw foods can have on a body. My mother had polio at age two and her life from that point on was a continual whirlwind of doctors, surgeries and medications. Never had I seen my mother with rosy cheeks.....and I can still see her face as I saw it then, glowing, radiant and full of life after three weeks of raw foods, along with a shot of wheatgrass juice every day. Regardless of all the negative comments you might hear or read online, I know what I saw was actual.

So, these days I walk a little more than half a mile from here for my wheatgrass "fix", one ounce of green, liquid "gold". That along with a 24 oz. glass of fresh beet, carrot, apple, celery, and ginger is my breakfast each morning, something I started about a week before my first chemo. I feel great!

I am trying to stay primarily raw, but hot veggie soup has been calling me lately. I figure if I drink my fresh veggies every morning that should do it for the day.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Hair today, gone tomorrow......

A lumpectomy followed in Michigan August 22 without complication. The surprising thing about all of that was none of it really hurt. The idea of having many needles of various sizes stuck into my breast was not a welcome thought. Had I known beforehand, I would have been even more resistant - it was a good thing to not know.

After much deliberation, I called my cousin in Redwood City, CA to ask if I could live in her cottage behind her home while I went through chemo, etc. Leaving home was difficult, but not having anyone with me during this ordeal would have been even worse.

So, here I am! The photo below was taken from behind the cottage; the one above is of my little living room. It's cute and cozy - a safe haven while I make my way through all of this.

Chemo, 4 cycles of Adriamycin and Cytoxan and another 4 cycles of Taxol, began Oct 15. My oncologist promised complete hair loss 2-3 days after my second treatment which is this Wed....I am prepared. The wig is ordered, my hair is cut, but no fall-out yet! Maybe it's the wheatgrass juice I have been having every morning!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

From the Beginning....

Birmingham, MI, late July 2008.....The nagging, painful ache encompassing my left ribcage had reached such a point that I thought perhaps if my fingers traveled over the area, I could find the source of this discomfort....and I did. Under my fingers at the edge of my left breast was a well-defined, firm mass...or was it just my imagination?

It had to be my imagination, because I certainly didn't have time for anything else. In fact, I had not even had time for a mammogram in more than four years. Yeah, yeah, I know, where was my head, what kind of nurse am I? My mother had had a miserable existence during her 17-year battle with breast cancer, died at age 59, exactly my current age. I knew the statistics, knew I was at the highest risk for developing it myself, but stubbornly and stupidly I chose to follow my own path and ignore it all. My divorce had been brutal, my depression severe...I didn't care and despite knowing everything I should do for my health, did nothing.

Initially I tried to convince myself I had felt nothing, because we all know what we ignore will go away....not! I checked in on it several times a day - it was going nowhere and in fact, seemed to have a smaller companion right next to it. At least three weeks must have passed before I was convinced it was real and summoned the courage to call my doc. I learned that when you mention "lump", things move very quickly.

August 12 I had my exam, August 13, a mammogram, ultrasound and subsequent biopsy and the following day the phone call no woman ever wants to receive, "Sue, I am so sorry. You have ductal carcinoma." My head was throbbing, my ears were burning and my chest was aching worse than ever. My younger daughter (the one responsible for setting up this blog for me) was sitting next to me and if she hadn't been, I know I would have boohooed longer and louder.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

An Apple a Day...

I thought I would post some interesting quotes on health and well-being, most of which of course celebrate a well-rounded health and natural healing. I think the bottom line is that deep healing comes from within oneself, not just from without. I thought you might like the one Irish proverb especially because it talks about laughter!

I love you!

"Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity."
~World Health Organization, 1948

"He who takes medicine and neglects to diet wastes the skill of his doctors."
~Chinese Proverb

"A good laugh and a long sleep are the best cures in the doctor's book."
~Irish Proverb

"Fresh air impoverishes the doctor."
~Danish Proverb

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Meditation Exercise No. 1

From the Relax Deck: "Reaching Your Goal"

"By setting achievable goals, we can avert the stress of failure and bring the joy of success within our grasp.

Visualize yourself at the bottom of a staircase; now, carefully mount the first step, pausing to steady yourself if you feel apprehensive; then slowly but surely, make your way to the top.

You have reached your goal--you feel elated and fulfilled. Now open your eyes and resolve to take your first real step up that staircase today."


This blog is for my lovely mother who is in California, far away from her daughters in New York. You can use this site to post pictures, updates and your activities so that we don't feel so far away! I want to know that how you are feeling, what you are eating, what you are doing and what you are thinking! We will also use this site to share information about wellness and cancer treatment with each other and anyone else who might happen upon this blog. To start, I've posted a picture of my tiny little apartment in New York (which you've seen) so that you picture me sitting on that bed writing to you right now, and so that you remember how I want to see where you are living. I love you Mumsie!!