Monday, July 30, 2007

Special Honor

Over the weekend I was honored with a blogger reflection award.
It was given to me by one of the most compassionate and loving people I know.
She also has taught me a lot about strength. I watched her go through her cancer treatments and she was always looking for the light and never let the worst of that horrible time get to her. Now that I am in treatment again, I look to her example that she set for me in 2005. Her name is Jen and she is a wonderful writer. I have to return the honor to her as well. Because her blog, and her loving spirit have moved me more that I can say. This is where you can find her wonderful writing http://jenstersmusings.blogspot.com/

Thank you Jen.

About the Award- it took me a couple of days to properly reflect on bloggers who have touched me. Here now are my special choices.

First, here are the award details:

This award should make you reflect on five bloggers who have been an encouragement, a source of love, impacted you in some way, and have been a Godly example to you. Five Bloggers who, when you reflect on them you get a sense of pride and joy… of knowing them and being blessed by them.


Here are the rules:

1. Copy this set of rules.
2. Reflect on five bloggers and write a least a paragraph about each one.
3. Make sure you link this post so others can read it and the rules.
4. Go leave your chosen bloggers a comment and let them know they’ve been given the award.
5. Put the award icon on your site.

Now is the really hard part - picking five other bloggers for this award. It’s not that there isn’t a plethora of deserving people. It’s that there are so many to choose from. Decisiveness isn’t one of my strong suits. But I have chosen five bloggers who, to me, embody the concepts of the Blogger Reflection Award.

Jacque is a woman I have met through this blog and also someone I have seen post on breastcancer.org. She is a warm and giving person. She is going through a lot right now, but manages to always be there for people who need a helping hand or a word of encouragement.
I am grateful I have had the chance to get to know this exceptional woman.
This is her blog: http://jacqnielsplace.blogspot.com/

Kelly is my long lost sister who I never knew existed until I started this blog. She and I have so many things in common, and she just "gets" me. She is beautiful both inside and out and is unfairly having to fight the Beast yet again. But she lives a life that keeps the Beast away and lives in the moment. She has many friends and is a good friend to many. I am so happy I have met her - she is a wonderful, insightful, and fun person- I wish I had her sparkle! This is her blog: http://www.keepingtrackofkelly.blogspot.com/

Deb is my hero. We have been through a lot together on breastcancer.org and she has shown me what kind of person I wish I could be more like. When you think of Deb you instantly smile. JOY surrounds her. Love flows from her. Her heart is huge and she gives love and hope to many. I cannot imagine my life without Deb in it. Here is her blog: http://glassylady41.spaces.live.com/

Dana is another dear sister who I met in 2005. She started a thread at breastcancer.org as a support group for all the girls going through chemo that June. I piped in from time to time to give them some of my experiences from my days in chemo. She welcomed me and made me feel like so much a part of the group that I stayed with them- the Junesterettes- til they were finished. She is a wonderful writer, a gifted artist and a true friend. She is there for everyone and always has a smile and a word of encouragement. Her blog is http://danahollis.blogspot.com/

Stephanie is a fellow tripneg sister. She has endured more than anyone should ever have to. She is going through a particularly difficult time right now but somehow she STILL has time to reach out to others and offer her loving support. She is also incredibly smart. She keeps up with all the latest research and takes care of her other tripneg sisters by always sharing what she has learned. She is a beautiful woman with gorgeous children. The way she expresses her faith has lifted me up so many times and she has sustained me in my times of crisis. I am honored to know her. This is her blog: http://stephaniebabbsplace.blogspot.com/

I would like to add so many more people, but want to stick to the rules here.

I am honored to be among you.

Thank you my sisters.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Chemo in the Summer

This is what it feels like to have chemo in the summer watching everyone else have fun, play sports, swim and just be kids again... ;>)

http://www.jibjab.com/view/168186

Friday, July 20, 2007

Here They Go Again

The following report was released this week:

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Among breast cancer survivors, adopting a low-fat diet high in vegetables, fruit and fiber does not prevent the cancer from returning or prolong survival, according to a paper in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Dr. John P. Pierce and his associates designed the Women's Healthy Eating and Living (WHEL) trial, based on evidence that plant-derived foods contain anti-cancer chemicals.

Pierce, at the University of California, San Diego, and his team describe the intervention as "a telephone counseling program supplemented with cooking classes and newsletters that promoted daily targets of 5 vegetable servings plus 16 ounces of vegetable juice; 3 fruit servings; 30 grams of fiber; and 15 to 20 percent of" calories from fat.

Subjects in the comparison group received care as usual and were given publications from the National Cancer Institute and the US Department of Health and Human Services, describing the "5-A-Day" dietary guidelines. In addition to five servings of vegetables and fruits, the diet recommends 20 grams of fiber and less than 30 percent of calories from fat.

Between 1995 and 2000, WHEL investigators enrolled more than 3,000 women who were previously treated for breast cancer. Follow-up continued until 2006. They report outcomes for 1,537 subjects randomly assigned to the intervention group and 1,561 assigned to the comparison group.

As noted, the special diet did not prevent breast cancer from returning and it did not improve survival. Roughly 17 percent of patients in each group had their cancer return and about 10 percent in each died during follow-up.

In a related editorial, Dr. Susan M. Gapstur and Dr. Seema Khan, from the Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago, compared the WHEL study findings with those of the Women's Intervention Nutrition Study (WINS). According to WINS trial results, a low-fat diet imparted significant increases in cancer-free survival, which was associated with a 6-pound weight difference between study groups at year 3.

In the WHEL study, on the other hand, weight loss and amount of daily calories did not differ between the two patient groups, and the actual percentage of calories from fat increased during the trial in both groups.

The editorialists suggest that "these results call into question the validity of some components of the self-reported dietary data," and they attribute the negative findings at least partially to lack of adherence to the diet.

SOURCE: Journal of the American Medical Association, July 18, 2007.

OK, let's test this out.

Before I was diagnosed with tripleneg cancer, I consumed a plant based diet, was very careful about what I put into my body ( except for Skittles) and generally was a pain in the ass to go out to dinner with.

Then I got cancer. The "bad" one. The one they have no clue how to prevent. Until they did the Nurse's Study and discovered that a low fat diet, under 30 grams a day, kept tripleneg cancer from recurring. They also said that ground flaxseeds helped too. So that is what I did. I kept my plant based healthy diet but really cut out the fat. It isn't easy to keep to 30 grams a day when you figure that a tablespoon of olive oil has 14 grams.

But guess what? The "bad" cancer didn't return. I am coming up on six years tripleneg free.

But the "good" cancer- the estrogen/progesterone positive cancer decided to take me on a few months after my five year mark of being a cancer survivor.

So what does this all mean?

It is a crap shoot.

I am still eating the low fat, plant based diet- but have added lamb once a week to keep my blood counts strong - that is what I tell myself- the truth is I have a thing for rack of lamb.


Next week they could tell us that Doritos cure cancer.


I can't keep up anymore.


Eat a healthy diet and die healthy.

Live it up and whistle past the graveyard.

Just ENJOY yourself. Life is too short to take these studies too seriously.

Seriously! Enough!

I prescribe a pint of Phish Food STAT.

As my mentor, Julia Child used to say:

"Everything in moderation. INCLUDING moderation."






Friday, July 13, 2007

Time


Summertime. Being a kid. Growing up when kids could still be kids.
Life was so simple then. Time had no real meaning. Certain things marked time for us, not clocks:
When the streetlights came on it was time to go home.
When the back-to-school ads started to appear it was time to try and squeeze out every last bit of summer and freedom that we could.

All that time seemed so vast in front of us when we were kids. Who could ever have imagined what being a grown up was? Who wanted to?

Childhood friends are scattered to the winds now. The vacant lots we played in have houses in them. The kitchen drawer that stored candy is now covered in a granite counter top and filled with protein bars. The movie theaters don't have the big screen with the curtain that opens anymore. Sandwiches don't taste as good as your mom's did when you make them yourself. The future is no longer full of that same promise and excitement... things have changed.

Cancer has a way of robbing you of the ability to look too far down the road now. It is too scary. And yet, it also gives us a sort of time traveling ability because we are able to clearly remember our pasts... our happy pasts when we were free and were able to be joyful without that trace of fear that catches us before we get too carried away.

I guess we should look at today as being a time to treasure too because we know that the future sometimes has unpleasant surprises awaiting us.

So starting now I will stop thinking of this as a hard stretch of chemo-time and start enjoying all the parts that are joyful. I will never be able to go back to my cancer free days, but I can try to remember what it felt like. Try to make life as simple as waiting for the street lights to go on as my sign it is time to make dinner. My sandwiches won't taste as good but I will try.

Bob Dylan wrote on the liner notes of an album (remember record albums?)

"Yeah the old days are gone forever and the new ones ain't far behind..."

I am in a new day now so I better make it count. Because today soon will be a part of my past as well and I like to be able to look back and see the amount of true happiness I had been blessed with before now. I intend on feeling that way again. October and the end of treatment seems so far away... but so did June and school being out for summer vacation when I was a kid and it was only March. I will get there.

Hey Mom and Dad, thanks for the wonderful childhood. Those memories have warmed me even on the coldest of days.

That's my older brother there in the picture above. He passed away five years ago. We all miss him but can still see his smile.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nJfQ3qhtGbw
Cut and paste if link won't work

Monday, July 9, 2007

Card Players

I have noticed a phenomenon. Women undergoing the most grueling of chemo treatments or surgeries actually fight their doctors and their families to keep on keepin on as if nothing has changed. We want to keep things as normal as we possibly can because we refuse to let cancer control or change our lives as we know them.

We still go to work.
We still make dinner for the kids.
We still do laundry.
We still take out the garbage and clean the house.
We wear a wig to make ourselves appear healthy and to retain our normal appearance.

By doing this we win small battles every day that add up in the bigger war against cancer.

It isn't easy though. I actually have dreams about my hair. I sometimes watch a shampoo commercial on TV and think I would like to try it and then I remember... I won't be using shampoo with sunflower essence and pearls for shine for a long, long time. And I have to endure the treatments, just like all my other sisters do.

Since this is my second time around with a primary cancer I have the ability to see down the road. I know I felt hopeless the first time around, as if the treatments would never, ever end and I would never, ever get my life back. But I did. And I had a normal life for five years. So this time around I just have to remember that next year at this time I WILL be buying shampoo and will be myself again.

Why am I telling you all this??? Because I want to ask you a question. Why is it that women can do all that we do and try to keep our lives as un-interrupted as possible, yet other people, with "lesser" illnesses seem to revel in the fact they are sick?

I have two examples. One is a friend who has "fibromyalgia", which the medical community looks at as a "garbage can" diagnosis. That means when the docs can't figure out what is wrong with you they throw you in the garbage can along with all the other whiners and complainers that they cannot seem to help. It has been my experience that the people who have "fibromylagia" really have something else wrong but since no one knows what it is they acquire this catch all phrase. But back to my friend. She has now made her "disease" part of her life to such an extent that she almost introduces herself to strangers as "Hi, I am Mary and I have fibromyalgia". This has now morphed into..." because of my fibromylagia I can't do anything anymore so I am going to stay indoors watching Dr. Phil reruns while my life passes me by."

I want to shake her sometimes and tell her to get up, go outside and live her life. There are WORST things to have and your attitude is your altitude. If you want to wallow in self pity and be a perpetual victim and cease to participate in life, then you are robbing yourself of precious days that you cannot see passing you by- days you cannot ever get back again.

Wouldn't any of you give anything to have a few cancer free days back? WE see how precious time is- why is so hard for everyone else?

The second example is a friend's husband. This man is a bum. There is no other way to describe him. He has never worked a day in his life and went from his parents supporting him to his wife, my friend, supporting him. He sits home all day and pretends to be this big wheeler-dealer in front of the neighbors, when in fact he has never had a job. What is worse, he treats my friend like she is some sort of dingbat housewife in front of people, shaking his head and mumbling to anyone who will listen how pathetic she is and he is the big bread winner and decision maker in the family.

He is supposedly "sick" now too. He claims to have hepatitis so that makes it impossible for him to work... as if he ever DID work. When I first met him, in the first thirty seconds of our conversation, he told me about his "hep C" and how debilitated he is.

I know people who really ARE debilitated by "hep C" - he isn't one of them. He jogs every morning, belongs to a gym and just hired a personal trainer (his wife of course is footing that bill). Does that sound like debilitated to you?

If you have read this far I suppose you have sensed I am mad. I am. The other day I asked this man a question about a neighborhood project we are working on. He has managed to mismanage it and the entire block is mad at him. I asked him something that he couldn't answer because he couldn't keep his lies straight. His response?
"Don't ask me any questions, I am sick."

There I was standing there in the throes of Abraxane side effects with a blood count of 1 and he is telling ME he can't answer because HE is sick? He stays home all day, except for his trips to the gym and buying himself clothes (which his wife pays for) and gossiping with the housewives on the street and does absolutely nothing to contribute to his home, his wife, his neighborhood, to anything. In fact, when his wife comes home from work SHE has to make dinner for him (because he is sick), SHE has to mow the lawn and rake the leaves (because he is sick), she even has to shovel the snow. And if she asks for a hand he tells her he can't-- because he is sick. He does this even as he leaves for the gym to work out.

He knows that I have cancer and am in the middle of chemo, yet he has the audacity to play the "hep C" card. In the grand scheme of the world viewed in terms of Rock, Paper, Scissors, cancer covers hep C every time. But I didn't say anything. I wanted to but I believe the man is mentally ill and a pathological liar. A person gets NO WHERE arguing with someone like that. I simply walked away, in my wig and still limping a little from the neuropathy in my foot, thinking, I may be sicker than him on paper - but thank God I am not as sick as he is in person. I will continue to fight the beast and will lose what is left of my eyelashes and brows, but there is makeup for that. I will finish my course of treatments and never let anyone else know what I am doing because to me, I have a battle against an unwelcomed visitor and I am showing it the door. My friend's husband welcomed hepatitis C into his life because it is absolutely the one and only thing he has ever accomplished in this life.

I love life and will not let cancer define me. Like a house with termites, I am calling in the big exterminators to get rid of them and I will replace the damaged wood and re-paint and still keep my garden beautiful because the termites don't define a house and cancer or ANY other disease does not define a person.

I pity the poor bastard. Living off his wife, begging for attention from anyone who will give it to him, and embracing his disease like an accomplishment rather than something that has to be fought.

Thanks but no thanks.

I will stick with my warrior sisters who fight and live everyday to the fullest... who have reconstructive surgeries, who go out on dates because the FUTURE is ahead of us and cancer is not on our dance cards. Not by a long shot.

To all of you who have never played "the cancer card" I salute you. I lift my glass to you and shout No Surrender! Because we are so much stronger than that and too cool to wimp out like my friend's husband does- every minute of every day.