Saturday, October 31, 2009

I'm SO Looking Forward to Tonight

Tonight we're going to a Hallowe'en event at the Orpheum Theatre. They're preventing Nosferatu (the original Dracula movie filmed in the 1921 in Germany --- a legendary film) accompanied by the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra! I think it will be great and kind of scary. Doesn't Max Schrek make a very scary Count Orlock (aka Dracula)?

Hannah and some of her friends are going, too. A perfect way to spend Hallowe'en, though I will miss handing out treats in our neighbourhood and seeing all the little ones in their costumes. Next year. Get ready, Laurel, for the onslaught! Erin can prep you. At our place, just around the corner, we're lucky if we get 40 kids!


Sidewalk Decoupage

Wet, colourful leaves are EVERYWHERE! Mostly on sidewalks. I'm fascinated by the different leaves and colours and the way they're scattered about. I have to be careful not to walk into poles.

I spent much time yesterday in the hotel room. Hannah was at school until after lunch so I decided to stay put and rest up while Kevin went on a morning excursion. We later met up with Hannah and did "stuff". Poked about ... a little of this and that ... and then back to our hotel room for a relaxing drink (two sips of wine for me before I forgot it was there).

Hannah had tickets for a dance/music club event last night at a place right next door to our hotel so she went back to her place to regroup and get ready for the evening while Kevin and I both fell asleep. The difference is that he woke up when his alarm went off and I wouldn't wake even up after he tried half a dozen times to wake me. I was OUT! That NEVER happens with me. I finally woke up ... very groggy ... just when he was about to give up. In fact, he'd already left a note. I became just alert enough to understand that he was meeting Hannah and friends for dinner and did I want to come. No. I went immediately back to sleep and was out for another hour or more. I guess I needed that. They came back after dinner and brought me some. Kevin then joined Hannah and her friends for some fun next door while I watched movies, explored quilting blogs, and kept my feet up. I'm better for having taken a slower day I think. I feel good this morning and am so bold as to wear a skirt this morning! A skirt may be a bit premature with my ankles but I was getting sick of the bottoms of my pants being soaked. And my ankles aren't so puffy this morning. A bit but not awful.

We're meeting Hannah (and friends?) for breakfast soon.
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Friday, October 30, 2009

Rain Rain Go Away!

Then again, this is Vancouver and I don't think chanting works or someone would have figured it out by now.

There was so much rain yesterday. The beginning of monsoon season. Hannah says you can just feel a general crankiness set in over the city not so much because of the rain but because the rain signals the beginning of what is typically many days of rain and no sunshine. It certainly was dreary and wet yesterday. But we were warm and happy while dining at Grub, a restaurant on Main Street. The food was really wonderful ... so flavourful and prepared to perfection. We were all smiling. And then we went to a movie ... The Invention of Lying ... not SO good but had a few funny moments.

Ankle status: still puffy but not as bad as in Saskatoon. I'm still getting around, though I'm slow and have limited endurance. It's good I have no reason to rush.

Here's Hannah waiting for the cab on our way to Grub.


Thursday, October 29, 2009

Hello From Vancouver!

Last night's sushi was so pretty! Not that I ate any ... I'm not into raw fish even if it is pretty! Kevin and Hannah thoroughly enjoyed it, though, and there were other alternative dishes for me to enjoy. The atmosphere was warm and relaxed ... just lovely. Hannah believes her stomach is Japanese.

After a long trip (delays, of course, and sitting on the plane for extended periods of time), we got here. My legs were maximum puffy but they weren't so slender when we started so no big surprise. Before we left, Mom phoned and recommended compression socks. I don't exactly have a supply of those on hand, so Sylvia picked some up for me and brought them with her when she drove us to the airport. I hadn't thought of compression socks, so thanks Mom and Syl. Maybe they helped? I don't know.

Anyway, we got here and met up with Hannah at our hotel, which is only 1 block away from her apartment. We stopped by and saw Hannah's very cute and cozy place. The windowsills are so wide that she's made one into a comfy window seat where she spends a lot of time reading. How nice! We then went to a new trendy bar ("Be Calm And Carry On") across the street where ... get this ... I had my first boozy drink since at least before the chemo began! I even had TWO! How decadent! It was so nice to sit there in a booth with my feet elevated, with drinks and, best of all, with our daughter! Ahhhhh ...

Yesterday morning, while Kevin went conferencing, Hannah and I took the bus to gas town and poked around in some favourite shops. We had lunch and stopped at Finch's for tea and a snack. Finch's is where Hannah has worked since she first moved here. It's a popular and cozy little cafe in gas town ... very rustic and organic ... just 1 block down from McLeod's, the famous used book store in Vancouver where Yann Martel recently had a photo shoot for a magazine. I can't remember which one.

We picked up Kevin when he was done conferencing and took a cab to 4th Avenue in Kitsalano, which has some of our favourite shops. We ogled shoes at Gravity Pope and browsed a couple of other shops before making our way to Zulu Records where Kevin and Hannah found some tunes. By then, I had way over extended myself. I was fine, really, until I got out of the cab on 4th Ave. Still, I managed okay until we got to Zulu Records and then I was totally toasted. I wend back to the hotel to rest while Kevin and Hannah met Leah for before dinner drinks.

On an encouraging note, when I got back to the hotel, I took off my compression socks (I wore them all day) and my ankles were the least puffy they had been for the past week except for first thing in the morning. I was very happy about that. I don't know if it was the lasix, the compression socks, or just time itself. Either way, I'm GLAD!! After a little lie down and a nap, I felt better and we took a bus to one of Kevin and Hannah's favourite Sushi restaurants and we had a lovely time! It started raining in the evening, though, and I have a feeling it will keep raining this whole week. I forgot my only umbrella at the restaurant, of course, but Hannah was able to give us one from the collection she has amassed.

After dinner I went back to the hotel to go to bed and Kevin and Hannah went to her place to listen to their new music. I think some of her friends showed up to meet Kevin. I'll get the scoop later.

Today, Hannah has classes until late afternoon and Kevin has conferencing. I'll just pace myself. I'm so happy to be here. I see my ankles are puffier this morning than they were last night. What's with that?!
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Tuesday, October 27, 2009

I'm Leavin' On A Jet Plane ...

I'm packed and ready to go. Dinner with Hannah tonight!

I had bloodwork done early this morning, I came home and packed and, for the last hour, I've been on the couch with my feet elevated. My ankles are wider than the widest part of my foot and my feet hurt from the pressure. They're a little better after elevating my feet. I'm taking the lasix but I'm not seeing any difference. Hopefully it will kick in. Hopefully. Man, oh man, I wish they would go back to normal.

Regardless, I'm going. Today! I hope to update while I'm away, since I'll probably have to spend a certain amount of time there laying around with my feet in the air.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Afternoon Status Report

I feel better about things after seeing my doctor and getting some tests done. My chest x-ray is clear and no problems showed up on my ECG. I've been put on a stronger dose of lasix. There's still no understanding of why my heart rate is up and why I have edema but I'll be having more bloodwork (with some additional things being tested) tomorrow morning. My doctor thinks the problems are from the chemo or the prednisone.

I'm to continue taking my pulse regularly and weigh myself every day. I should be able to accommodate that while I'm in Vancouver. My doctor said I should be fine to go. He would have recommended against travel if I were going out of the country, but Vancouver should be okay. YEAH!!

I'm relieved to be at this point, at least, today.

What I feel badly about is missing my lunch date with Lou. I totally forgot. I think I was a little caught up in my alarm over these recent health issues and the fear that they might interfere with my leaving tomorrow. SO SORRY, LOU, to have stood you up!!

Status Report

I'm off to the Imaging Centre for a chest X-ray and then for an ECG this afternoon at the Doctor's office. I feel a little encouraged, at least, that we'll get this figured out before tomorrow.

Under Pressure Today

Tomorrow afternoon we leave for Vancouver. I AM SO EXCITED!! There is no way I'm going to miss this trip. That means today I have to sort out the problem with my elevated heart rate and my edema.

Within an hour of being out of bed this morning, my ankles have already gained weight! I took my last lasix pill half an hour ago. Very discouraging. My heart rate was 128 before I went to bed last night and at 4:30 this morning it was 104. After leaving a message for my oncologist this morning, I got a call back telling me to see my family doctor, even though this must all be related to my cancer treatment. I now have a call in to my family doctor who is completely booked today. I think he'll call me and fit me in somewhere but it's a waiting game and, even then, I'm not sure what they'll do. I feel very out of touch with this heart-rate problem in that nobody has told me WHY it's elevated or what it means or how much I should or should not be concerned. Same with the edema. My oncologist wasn't going to give me medication for it. He said it would go away on it's own now but even with parking myself and elevating my legs and taking lasix, it persists. I'm getting a little anxious. Correct that. I AM a little anxious.

I had a nice visit with Nora when she stopped by yesterday! Thanks for the lotion, Nora. Still laughing at "kipper tits"! Carol and Alyssa popped in, too. It was nice to have company to pass the time before Kevin came home at 6:00.

Our Luke Shrine

Kevin came home last night from Regina where he accepted the Russell Slobodian Memorial Award (Saskatchewan Lacrosse Association's Athlete of the Year Award) in Luke's behalf at the annual banquet. Here's the award perched among Luke's other lacrosse honours from this summer. This is our shrine to Luke. His academic honours are in his file. They're not so visible, though at least as important. Previous years awards and medals have all been moved upstairs. Perhaps we should build an addition to house them all.

Kevin thinks Hannah needs to step it up. Kidding, Hannah. KIDDINNNNG!!

Post note: Hannah, upon hearing this challenge, said, "My achievements don't manifest themselves materially". Perfect way to put it, my dear.


Sunday, October 25, 2009

Know Your Breast Density Classification To Understand Your Risk

After age, breast density is the most significant risk factor for breast cancer. Your breast density is evident in the results of your mammogram.

All you have to do is ask the radiologist or your doctor what the mammogram indicates about your breast density. You can even ask to look at the images. It's probably good to know your level of risk.

Mine were categorized as "very dense". But I didn't learn this until after I was diagnosed. If I had known this earlier and the connection between breast density and breast cancer, I most certainly would have pushed my Doctor to send me for a mammogram when I first found my lump.

Here's a link with visuals to information about breast density. And this article explains my question about what it is about breast density that is associated with the actual risk.

Small or large breasts can be dense. I'm told you can't tell by feel or sight how dense they are, though I've seen many accounts of dense breasts being more solid and "perkier", which makes sense and is my experience.

Also worth noting, if you do have dense breasts, the new digital imaging mammograms are the way to go. The older technology is not as good at finding lumps in women with dense breasts because breast density shows up as white and lumps also show up as white in the radiograms. I see that the screening centre in Saskatoon just announced that they now have digital equipment. Good to know.

Read At Your Own Psychological Risk

I thought for a while before deciding to post the following observations and speculations as they are quite personal and not necessarily something I would talk about with everyone except the closest of confidantes, but because these relate to my breast cancer and treatment experience, I think it's important that I honour my philosophy about this blog and post these thoughts. Maybe they will be helpful to someone else out there. Even if the following information isn't necessarily useful (and I'm sure it's not), it might provide some comfort even if to say to someone "you're not alone". I haven't seen these observations discussed anywhere else, so I'm going to put them out there because they're for real. STOP NOW IF YOU DON'T WISH TO KNOW ME ANY MORE INTIMATELY THAN YOU ALREADY DO!! (As if you could stop now!).

Observation No. 1

I have toe knuckle hairs. Just on my big toes and I have always shaved them off when I shave my legs. Before I had chemo, I mean. I haven't had a hair on my legs since I lost my hair during that first chemo treatment. I even lost the hair on my toe knuckles. But, interesting to note (to me anyway), is that my toe knuckle hairs have grown back while I've been on taxotere (the chemo drug for my last 3 of 6 chemo treatments). Hair didn't grow back anywhere else. Legs and arms are still completely bare, so I wonder if it didn't grow back on my toes because of wearing the ice boots? Since I don't have hairy hand knuckles (honest, I don't), I can't say if the ice gloves would have had a similar effect.

I'm going to assume that confessing to toe knuckle hair is no big deal. I'm going to assume that many other people have toe knuckle hair but that's it's just something we don't typically talk about. Right? Don't worry, I'm not asking you to fess up. I'm confident that I'm right about this. No need to out yourself, too.

The hair on my head IS starting to grow back, by the way. Fine little ones that stand up when I run a washcloth over my head. I think some are long enough that they're starting to curl a little ... just curving a little at the tip. Some might be about 3/4 of an inch long ... some dark, some light. How exciting! I'm a little nervous, though, because there's a patch at the front of my head, right in the middle, where nothing has started to grow yet. Not good but I'm not alarmed ... yet. I haven't dared to look at the back of my head. Generally, I still find looking at my baldness upsetting ... especially if I linger.

Observation No. 2

First a confession, which holds some relevance in terms of timing, though not as personal as confessing to toe knuckle hair. Yesterday, I stayed in my pajamas ALL day. I did NOT have a bath. The closest I got to the sink was hand washing and teeth brushing. That means I don't know if the following happened only today or whether it was yesterday.

This morning I gave myself the spa bath treatment. It felt great! When I was toweling off, I noticed with some surprise that my right breast was suddenly slumping! Two days ago it wasn't like that. I would have noticed because it wasn't something gradual. The slump is rather dramatic compared to what it looked like previously. Not only has it slumped, but now it's all squishy and soft instead of solid and firm. A very marked change.

It raises some questions for which I have no answers. Curiosities more than anything.

Once I learned that my tumour was estrogen fed and that it had low levels of progesterone, I learned about "estrogen dominance". My understanding (and I'm no clinical researcher or doctor so don't quote me on my understanding) is that estrogen dominance can cause or contribute to breast density. I confess to having been rather proud that while at 50 years old, my breasts, which had grown considerably since my early 40's, hadn't drooped. They sat quite high and round on my chest. I had never had cleavage in my life until my mid-40's and that they were "perky" was a bonus. I could still go bra-less and not look silly.

In my research I read that women who have perky breasts in their 40's and beyond should be aware that this could be a sign of high breast density and that, after age, high breast density is the 2nd leading risk factor for breast cancer. That was news to me. Both "breast density" and it being a "risk factor" were news. And, in fact, my surgeon told me that my breasts were very dense. Now, I can't say for sure WHY breast density is a risk factor. Is it because it signals estrogen dominance (estrogen not being balanced by progesterone and/or other hormones and with estrogen fed breast tumours being, by far, the most common) or is it because it's harder to detect lumps in dense breasts? I'm not sure. Maybe it's both.

Now, back to my suddenly droopy boob. Why is it suddenly so droopy? I've only been taking Arimidex (the estrogen blocking drug I take for the next 5 years) for 3 days. Could that have already blocked enough estrogen to make my breast slump? I just find it very curious! If anyone knows anything about this, I'd be most interested to know. I haven't done any thorough research on the topic but I will do a little digging.

Oh, and if you're wondering why it's just the right knacker I'm talking about, it's because what's left of my mutilated left breast is already smaller and has it's own directional course due to the incision, scar tissue and such. It's not much of a gauge.

This really is more information that I would normally share but these are things I don't understand and they're actually happening. It seems to me there should be reasons.

Sorry if I've scarred you for life. Join the club!

Note: I just did a quick Google search ("breast density" droop) and found this article, Drop in breast density means tamoxifen is working (Dec 12, 2008). Some quotes from the article:
In women at high risk for developing breast cancer who take tamoxifen to help prevent the disease, a reduction in breast density as seen on mammography is a strong indicator that the drug is working ...

"Our findings suggest that the impact of tamoxifen on risk reduction is predictable by the changes it induces in breast density after 12 to 18 months of treatment ..."

"The women who had a 10 percent or more reduction in breast density -- and that was a substantial number, over 40 percent -- they had almost a two-thirds reduction in breast cancer."
That sounds like very positive news about my now droopy boob. But could that really happen within three days of taking an estrogen blocker? That sounds a little unlikely, don't you think? The study used a timeline of between 12 and 18 months. But how else to account for my droop?

When, Oh When, Will Chemo Be OVER?!

I did so much better yesterday than on Saturday. I spent a lot of time with my feet elevated. I watched both football games and a couple of movies and flipped through bunches of cook books looking for legume recipes. I didn't feel so all-over crappy.

Lynne came over in the evening for a visit, which was wonderful. She brought a quinoa (keen-wah) breakfast dish for me try. I had some this morning and it was really very good. Not at all like oatmeal but good. There's fruit in it. I added a little brown sugar and milk. She couldn't have known that I've been looking at "grains" recipes and have been interested in trying some of the other grains that are less familiar to us, including quinoa. Grains and legumes. They're tops on my list of things to try adding to our diet.

Even though I spent so much time with me feet raised yesterday, the swelling in my feet and legs still increased during the day and was quite uncomfortable by the time I went to bed at midnight. That's a little disconcerting considering I only have 2 lasix pills left and I'm going (I AM going) to Vancouver on Tuesday. And then, to top things off, my numbness increased yesterday. Instead of just my fingertips being numb, they're now numb right down to the top most knuckle and right through to my nails. In fact, my middle nail on my left hand is actually tender. Same with a left toe nail ... the one beside my littlest toe. YIKES!! Even my back feels numb. I notice it when I put my shirt on or if I pull my shoulders back. It just feels very strange. I had thought these side effects would me minimizing by now instead of MAXIMIZING! What's with that?!

This morning my edema is down from what it was last night but I still have elephant ankles. Downer. I hope it doesn't behave like yesterday and continue to get worse. I took my lasix pill. DO something already, lasix pill!!

Sylvia took my pulse again in the evening and it was up to 106. Doesn't it seem that perhaps it's moving up and down with the edema? Hmmmm ... By the way, she also had a difficult time finding my pulse last night. She would find it every now and then and then it would disappear. Next time she's going to bring a stethoscope. She tells me I'm NOT stupido for not being able to find my own pulse. Isn't she kind?!

I'm not at all happy about feeling this way now, especially when I'm leaving for a vacation from cancer on Tuesday. Now it looks like cancer will be joining us. It wasn't invited. Then again, it never is. Cancer isn't for everyone, you know.

Tea - It Will Take Some Getting Use To

Anyone who knows me well, knows I don't drink tea or coffee. I'm a water girl. And if I need a caffeine kick, I reach for a diet coke. After I was diagnosed and I read more about the value of green tea, I tried it. I didn't HATE it, but it's something I have to MAKE myself do. While on chemo, my oncologist didn't want me drinking green tea in case the antioxidant effect interfered with the effectiveness of the chemo. But now I've decided that since it's more than 3 weeks since that last chemo treatment, it's time to start rebuilding my body to prepare for radiation.

Since the nutritionist recommended looseleaf tea over tea bags, I bought myself this little 1-2 cup tea press and chose a few different flavours of green tea from McQuarries on Broadway. What a selection of teas they have! Kevin and I just smelled some and chose a sampling. Yesterday I tried the cherry green tea, which smells heavenly but still tastes like ... tea. In other words ... meh! Part of my problem with drinking hot beverages is that there's a VERY small window of opportunity when it's the right temperature to drink. Initially it's way too hot and often, by the time I remember that "oh, yeah, I have tea to drink", it's too cool. It will take some getting used to. And then there's the act of making it, which takes a lot longer than getting a glass of water. I'll quit whining now and I'll just drink the damn stuff.


The Whole Run For The Cure Bunch!

Carol just sent me this photo of the whole Run for the Cure bunch! Aren't they a beatiful sight?! They sure are to me. Thanks so much everyone, for being such active team members. I love this picture.

Click on the photo to see a bigger version of it.

What A Game!

Wasn't that a nail biter?! I felt just sick when Luca missed that field goal.

Now don't you wish you'd been watching the game with these fan?! I do. This is my Uncle Norm and some friends. Uncle Norm lives in Nanaimo and is a REAL GENUINE LONG-TIME RIDER FAN! Big time. As you can see, he has all the gear including the "beer helmet". And, being the collector that he is, he has a lot of cool Rider memorabilia including a chunk of turf from the last game the Riders played in the old BC stadium and the turf is cut into a Rider "S" and framed. What a guy. I so like to party with him but have never had the pleasure of watching a Rider game with him. I doubt I could keep up!


Saturday, October 24, 2009

I Have No Pulse This Morning? Is That a Good Sign?

Try as I might this morning, I could not find my pulse! What's with that?! I found it instantly last night before bed but this morning I'm embarrassed to say how much time I spent looking for it. I still can't believe I couldn't find it. The wrist is not such a big area to scout and I knew to look at the base of my thumb. Sometimes I would feel a little flicker but nothing I could count. I then tried finding it in my neck with Kevin instructing me by phone and I couldn't find it there either, though I gave up pretty easily on that one. Maybe I'm dead?!

I meant to take my pulse this morning and THEN phone Sylvia with an update. I wanted to phone her asap so she wouldn't worry about me because she knew I was feeling lousy last night and was alone at home, but I gave up and phoned her anyway. She just arrived here in her guise as Nurse Cratchet and she took my pulse. It did take her a while to find it, too, and, perhaps to make me feel less stupido, she told me I have a tricky one to nail down.

The happy news is that my pulse is down to 96! Under 100 is what I've been aiming for. Hopefully it will drop even more.

Doesn't it seem that there is a direct correlation between my heart rate and this edema? It seems that way to me and to Sylvia. I'm surprised, then, that my oncologist and nurse immediately dismissed the edema as a cause.

Hmmmmm ...

My ankles are now starting to swell a bit so I'm going to elevate them right away and try to keep things in check. I'll look for a movie to watch since I don't feel like sleeping and because I feel SO MUCH BETTER!!

It's a Better Morning

I think last night was the worst I've felt since my last chemo treatment. I just felt awful. My feet were so tight with edema they hurt. My resting heart rate remained at 120 throughout the day and was the same when I went to bed. I had a low grade fever in the evening and I just felt generally awful through and through. Very disheartening.

Part of the problem, I know, was my own stupidity! At about 4:30, while talking on the phone, I noticed that there were 4 pills in the lasix bottle when there should only be 3. After initial disbelief, I mentally retraced my steps and determined that I did NOT, in fact, take my lasix pill!! ARGH!! It is almost identical to the Arimidex pill I just started taking, so perhaps I confused it. No wonder my feet and legs kept getting bigger and bigger during the day!! What an idiot I am! So I took my lasix pill at 4:30, parked on the sofa with my feet raised and slept for a couple of hours.

There was not much difference to show for it when I went to bed but this morning ... BIG difference! My ankles are not back to normal yet but they're much better. And I did take a lasix pill this morning. I lost 5 full pounds during the night! No wonder I feel better this morning! This is the emptiest my stomach has felt in 2 weeks! It's such a strange feeling to not be bloated and yet I think I still am ... a little bit.

The photo is of the rose given to me by the Saskatchewan Cancer Agency for participating in the C95 Marathon. So pretty!


Friday, October 23, 2009

Let Me Know If You Want This ...

I don't see any way to upload Word Documents to my blog, so please let me know if you want a copy of this Weekly Nutrition and Supplement Log that I made for myself. This isn't actually mine, of course. Mine has a lot more supplements (see the post two down from here) and I include the amounts in mine. My Naturopath approves of my list and even asked for a copy of my log. The only change she made to the food part of the list is to increase my intake of cruciferous vegetables to 1 serving per day.

But if you want me to send you this that you can edit for yourself, just comment or email me and I'll send it your way.

I knew that to keep myself on track I would need a log where I could check off requirements as they're met. I'll stick it on my fridge.

You should know that at the end of this log, I've also included the list from my blog that explains serving sizes for each of these categories.
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Guess What? I GOT A TATTOO!!

Oh, yes I did. Two of them! But sorry ... no photo. They're discrete tattoos!

I had a CT Scan this afternoon and got "marked up" for radiation. They have to give me two little freckle-sized tattoos so that they'll be able to line me up for radiation in precisely the same position each time.

On Tuesday, November 3, I get my mole removed and after the stitches are out (approximately 1 week later), I'll start radiation. Every day for 5 or 6 weeks. I was initially told 7 weeks. I was later told 6 and, last I heard, it might even be 5. If I wait a little longer, maybe I'll only need 1! No matter what, I WILL be done by Christmas. Woohoo!!

Mostly I feel tired and dragged out today. I've decided not to go to Regina this weekend. Best, under the circumstances, to stay home and focus on feeling better for Tuesday's departure for Vancouver.

My heart rate is still higher than it should be. As instructed, I phoned the Champion Centre to let them know that it's still high but my oncologist wasn't there today and neither was my oncological nurse. So, I spoke with another nurse and her feeling is that "it's not their problem", though that isn't what she said, of course. She suggested I should call my family doctor but, if that's what was intended, why would I have been told to call them if my heart rate doesn't come down to normal? It was this nurses feeling that it couldn't have anything to do with the chemo but heart issues are one of the main side effects of chemo and, in fact, they make sure you have a MUGA heart test prior to chemo to make sure your heart can stand up to treatment. As it stands, I'm to monitor my heart rate over the weekend and wait to hear from my oncologist on Monday unless things get worse and then I should go to Emergency. Both my oncologist and naturopath agree that the edema isn't likely to have caused the elevated heart rate and my naturopath believes it's directly related to the chemo. Wait and see, I guess.

Having an elevated heart rate, anemia, and edema probably all explain why I'm feeling generally crappy. I feel so tired and drained. I can't walk very far without feeling winded and my legs feel very heavy. I generally feel kind of lightheaded (and have felt this way for a couple of weeks) and "on the verge" of dizziness. When I move my eyes to look at something it's as if my vision takes a few moments to catch up with my eyes. It's not just focus, it's a strange visual delay.

So, tonight I'll kick back and take it easy. Watch tv and get some sleep.

On the positive front ... and quite literally "on the front" ... my chest is normal skin coloured for the first time in 5 months!! Even when my face and neck haven't been red, my chest always is and suddenly it's not! Up until today, it's looked like I've had a nasty sun burn on my chest! It's a little sign of leaving chemo in the dust. Even little signs are uplifting.

Healing and Helping My Body

For the first time in my life, I met with a Naturopathic Physician. It was a very positive experience. What I learned really supported what I had already read while researching nutrition and links between nutritional deficiencies and breast cancer. Still, reading and deciding what is safe and useful to take and in what quantities is nothing I feel comfortable determining for myself. I am very relieved to have someone caring and knowledgeable doing that part for me.

My Naturopath really looked at my individual situation, my pathology report, my recent and pre-treatment bloodwork and made some recommendations. She took into account that some supplements can interfere with radiation while others can contribute to its effectiveness. She noted that I'm anemic and that other things in my blood work are either lower than normal or at the low end of normal. No wonder I'm feeling so tired and drained. So, the photo above shows what I'll be adding to my daily routine to help heal my body and prepare it for radiation therapy. Included here is an iodine testing kit that will be sent away to a testing centre in the United States since testing isn't done in Canada. My Naturopath told me that the World Health Organization has noted that only 25% (or something like that ... don't quote me) of people in the world have adequate amounts of iodine in their systems and that is mostly Asian people who are more likely to eat kelp (seaweed). And what she told me about the link between breast cancer and iodine deficiency supports what I've read in the research literature as well.

She's also recommending thyroid and insulin tests because irregularities there are also linked to breast cancer. Again, this supports what I've found in the literature. I can't remember which of these supplements is for what in most cases but I know one of them is to support thyroid. Radiation can bring on thyroid problems so it's good to start supporting my thyroid now. She also recommended I get my Vitamin D levels tested but, in the meantime, she's recommending 4000 IU per day for me.

She also recommends increasing cruciferous vegetable (cabbage family, broccoli, cauliflower, etc.) intake to 1 serving per day instead of 3-5 per week and she strongly recommends a primarily vegetarian diet and to restrict animal products to organic only, particularly because of my already compromised immune system. With my tumour being estrogen fed, she says I don't need any more hormones added to my system via non-organic animal products. Based on my family medical history as well, she recommends trying a non-dairy diet. Since Soy isn't recommended for me, she suggests rice milk (there were others she suggested but I can't remember them) or that I make my own almond milk for use on my cereal. It sounds easy to do and I recently read how to do it.

I forgot to ask her about H1N1.

I meet with her again in the middle of November. Once I'm done radiation, some of these things will change and some things might be added.

I feel very good about what I learned from her and about what she's recommending. It feels like taking some control over my body and my future life whereas so much of what I've experienced lately has left me feeling at the mercy of cancer and the treatments. This feels like such a positive step toward wellness and something that the medical community, beyond treatment itself, hasn't offered even when asked.


Thursday, October 22, 2009

The C95 Radio Marathon

Today I participated in the C95 Radio Marathon. See? That's me, MoonFace Buffalo Hump, with the C95 Crew including Lisa Rendall on the far left. I hesitated when initially asked to participate but after a second phone call on a day when I was feeling very good, I agreed. I wasn't feeling so up for it today but I waddled out of the house on my elephant legs and got myself there anyway. The money they raise stays right here in Saskatchewan, supporting research. It's an important event.

The C95 Radio Marathon: Thurs Oct 22 & Fri Oct 23 - FROM 6AM THURSDAY TO 6PM FRIDAY. CALL WITH YOUR DONATION AT 306-374-GIVE.

I was pretty nervous about being interviewed because I started crying in the car on the way there listening to the sad stories of other people's experiences and wondering where they find the strength, especially those who are much younger than me and whose cancers are more advanced. And then I started crying as soon as Miriam, the social worker who had called me in the first place, asked me how I was doing. When I cry, I can hardly talk. And there I was, constantly dabbing tears right there in the middle of the mall. EEK!!

Then Ramblin' Dave (YES! RAMBLIN' DAVE!!!) chatted with me for a bit so that we were both on the same page for the interview. What a nice, intelligent man he is. Then, before the interview, I met Rob and Shauna, too!! (OH, YES I DID!). I had a chance to watch them all in action for a while and I marvel at how they just free-style chatter on the radio like that. It is a special talent.

During the interview, I lost my grip a little bit when Dave asked me what it was like having to phone my kids and tell them I have breast cancer. Those were tough moments to talk about. I'm way wimpy about our kids.

The thing I wanted most to stress during the interview was the importance of getting ALL lumps tested. Even if they turn out to be just cysts or benign thingies, getting a solid confirmation of that is better than blithely carrying on, as I did, for almost two years with what I was told was nothing more than an annoying cyst. I also wanted to stress the importance of family and friends in my getting through this without ending up little more than a blob of quivering jello in my bubble. And this blog. For me it's turned out to be therapeutic. I hadn't expected that, though I look forward to the day when I have other things to do with my days.

After the interview I had the pleasure of meeting and speaking for a while with Lisa Rendall. She has her own website here. What an inspiration she is. Ten years after her diagnosis she's looking great and she's still undergoing treatment. You can just feel the positive energy emanating from her.

On the way home, I stopped to see Alanna. She had dropped off one of her favourite cookbooks for me last week and so I dropped off one of my favourites for her. She is such a busy person and the level of stress in their home ... well, I can't even imagine. Everyone please say a prayer for Alanna's husband, Ron, who is working through treatment for a very nasty cancer diagnosis.


Another Book Read

Last night I finished reading Michael Ondaatje's, In the Skin of a Lion. Hannah gave me this book and, in fact, had started reading it to me while I was in the hospital in June. That alone makes the book especially dear to me. But, of course, Hannah would only give me especially good literature to read, so it also happens to be a very beautifully written story.

The descriptions of Toronto in the early 1900's brought to mind Mark Helprin's book, A Winter's Tale, which I read at the beach one summer when Hannah was a toddler and it's a one of my favourite books. I was enchanted by it.

Fibre for Get Up and Go

In that list of nutritional recommendations from Leslie Beck that I provided earlier, eating an adequate amount of fibre was one of the recommendations. That I should be getting at least 21 grams of fibre is vague to me. I don't know how to determine how much I'm getting. I've just figured it out and maybe this will be useful to you, too.

Fibre intake goal:

Males 19-50 - 38 grams per day
Males 50+ - 30 grams per day
Females 19-50 - 25 grams per day
Females 50+ - 21 grams per day

Here is a link to a list of fibre rich foods and the fibre counts and serving sizes for each. I'm going to print this list and tack it up on the inside of a cupboard door for easy reference.

While you're at it, you might also be interested in the fruit list and the vegetable list. There's also a list that categorizes vegetables, which you might find useful.


Fun and Games in Breast Cancer Treatment

What a beautiful rose this is! It's from Sylvia and Don in celebration of my decision to not have further surgery. It's opened up so nicely.

Yesterday marked a full 21 days (3 weeks) since my last chemo treatment. Frankly, I had hoped to feel better than I do today. Still, I know it will get better. I know it will. Soon.

I think the edema made me feel kind of crappy yesterday. It got worse as the day progressed and maybe had something to do with my elevated heart rate. My ankles and legs are still puffy this morning so, rather than wait any longer, I took a lasix pill today and hopefully that will make a difference.

I almost wish I hadn't made any plans for today. It's not easy getting out and about and walking when your shoes are too tight and it's not exactly slipper weather. Kevin's feet aren't much bigger than mine, so I might "walk a mile" in his shoes today. Well, not a mile, but from the parking lot to the food court. With this edema, my inclination is to waddle like I'm 9.5 months pregnant.

I had agreed earlier to participate in the C95 Breast Cancer fund raising event. I have to be at Circle Centre Mall on 8th Street at 1:00. I'm not really feeling it today, which is disappointing. I think I want my prednisone back since my face is still ballooned anyway.

I'm starting my 5-year stretch of Arimidex (estrogen blocker) today, too. I read the list of side effects and the most common ones are hot flashes (even if you haven't previously had any), nausea, fatigue, joint and muscle pain, bone loss, shortness of breath, thinning hair (that's a laugh). Less common (but not rare) side effects are trouble sleeping, depression, swollen arms and legs, vaginal bleeding, stomach upset and loss of appetite, bowel issues, rashes, blood clots, and high blood pressure. Rare side effects include, numb fingers and toes, allergic reaction, fever, low white blood cell counts, pain, pale skin, weakness, anemia, and abnormal liver function tests.

Since I'm already experiencing most of the above side effects, how will I know which is a lingering chemo side effect and which is a new Arimidex one? Fun and games in breast cancer treatment. Cancer isn't for everyone, you know.


Wednesday, October 21, 2009

A Busy Morning

I've run out of beautiful flowers. Fortunately, my Uncle Norm in Nanaimo likes to rub it in that they're still getting new blooms. Here's one from his yard.

Today I met with my oncologist and I'm very happy to say that he brought up the idea of my taking an aromatase inhibitor instead of Tamoxifen. All along he's only referred to Tamoxifen and that was causing me some concern. But today ... today ... he has started me on the aromatase inhibitor, Arimidex. Apparently I'm not the only one who is in unsure as to whether I'm pre or post menopausal. They were testing my hormones again in today's bloodwork and will test again next month but, based on previous testing, they're going to assume that I'm post. Even though I haven't had any hot flashes or other discomforts associated with menopause, this drug might cause them. We'll see. The Arimidex also takes a hit on bone density so I'll be going for a bone density test and have been prescribed Vitamin D and Calcium.

I also got some lasix for my edema, which he feels will go away on it's own now that I'm done chemo. I only have the lasix for if the edema moves up my body while I'm away. It's a "just in case" prescription. My ankles and legs are very hefty today. Not the kind of look one wishes for. My shoes were tight.

The only other concern is that, for the first time, my heart rate was elevated. It was around 135 beats per minute, which is very high for me. I'm to get my heart rate tested daily for the next couple of days and if remains over 100, I'm to call my oncologist. Strange.

I picked up copies of medical reports from my doctor's office after leaving the Champion Centre and picked up a few groceries to tide us through to the weekend. And now I feel exhausted!

Thanks, Syl, for last night's delicious meal!

My thoughts are with Dwayne and Shelley and their kids today.


Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Prepping For Tomorrow's Appointment

Tomorrow I meet with my oncologist. This will be the last time I see this particular oncologist because he's moving to Arkansas next week. I'm glad he stuck around until my chemo was done. That was mighty good of him, don't you think?

Tomorrow we're to talk about Tamoxifen, the estrogen-blocker I'm to take for the next 5 years ... one pill a day. My tumour, like most breast cancers, was estrogen fed so the idea behind Tamoxifen is that it will reduce the chance of a recurrence by blocking estrogen. My research, though, is recommending that aromatase inhibitors are, perhaps, better than Tamoxifen so I have some questions about them. They also counter estrogen but in a different way and they supposedly have fewer side effects. The catch is that the aromatase inhibitors are only good for post-menopausal women and that's where I'm confused because I think I'm in that grey area where I'm not sure if I'm pre or post. Would someone just tell me already! I also wonder if the aromatase inhibitors haven't been previously mentioned because, perhaps, they're not covered by Sask Health. I'm not sure about that but I wonder. The aromatase inhibitors are considerably more expensive than Tamoxifen but if they have better results and fewer side effects and are appropriate for my stage of life, I definitely want to know about them.

This distrust of the medical system is warranted. If something isn't in our protocols here, they typically aren't even mentioned even if you might benefit from them. When I read about women from other countries and their breast cancer treatments, they often mention PET scans as standard testing. I asked my surgeon about PET scans and he said they're not part of our protocol here, though he thinks they are the way to go "in the future" ... and I'm sure they're not now part of our protocols simply because we don't have a PET scan in Saskatchewan and because to get one out of province is very expensive. The thing is "the future" is now in other places. Why shouldn't the future be NOW for Saskatchewan patients, too? The only reason I knew about PET scans was because I had to research them for a legal file a few years ago. Not a single medical profession has mentioned PET scans to me.
From PetScan Vancouver ...
Positron Emission Tomography or PET is the most advanced medical diagnostic imaging technology available today for the early and accurate detection of cancer and its recurrence.

A whole-body PET scan provides information about the body’s chemistry and cell function (metabolism) rather than pictures of the body’s anatomy or structure as shown by X-ray, ultrasound, CT scans, or MRI. As a result, PET scans may reveal abnormalities or tumours that would otherwise go undetected. In more situations than with any other imaging modality, a PET scan is key to the early detection and accurate treatment of cancer.

  • Detects tumours early and accurately.
  • Assesses tumour aggressiveness and monitors success of therapy.
  • Determines whether a suspicious site is benign or malignant.
  • Scans the whole body for detecting spread of cancer (metastasis).
What I find annoying is that there are drugs and tests out there that might really be to your benefit but you're not even told they exist. I find that disconcerting. It really means you have to do your own research, ask questions, and sometimes really push, trust your gut, and even pursue things independently. You essentially become your own doctor without the training. Something's wrong with that.

Anyway, tomorrow ... oncologist and bloodwork. I hope he gives me something for this edema. It's worse today. Just call me elephant ankles!

I'm Having a VERY Good Day!

The timing was perfect! Elaine phoned this morning to say she was in town and would I like to go for lunch?! WOULD I??!! And so Elaine picked me up and took me to McNally's for lunch after which we spent some delicious time in the children's section selecting books for her 9 grandchildren! How fun is that?! Elaine is getting started on her Christmas shopping and she now has the book shopping done.

Then, because Elaine will be vacationing for a couple of weeks this winter, we perused my own shelves and I was able to send her home with a selection of titles she hasn't yet read.

Thanks, Sylvia, for the very pretty rose! The colours are magnificent!

Thanks, Alanna, you silly woman, for dropping off this recipe book. You have way to much on your plate to be doing this, you know ... and I know. The book looks great and I look forward to trying some of the recipes. Good luck to Ron. I'm thinking of you both constantly.

And what do you think I just found in the mail?? Well, it's a "happy hallowe'en" card from one princess to another. That would be from Meghan to me, in case you didn't already figure that out. She included a photo of herself and I wearing our princess hats. Fitting. Thanks, Princess Meghan!

Thanks, too, everyone for your celebratory emails and phone calls! I'm so excited about being able to skip the surgery phase. It puts the end of this ordeal closer in sight! I can almost imagine ...

I'm obviously having a super day with more warm fuzzy attention than I deserve!
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H1N1 ... Include Vitamin D in Your Arsenal

Even though it wasn't on topic, at last Thursday's presentation by Leslie Beck (the nutritionist) someone asked her about how to protect against H1N1. Leslie suggested making sure your Vitamin D levels are adequate. For almost all of us, this means taking a daily 1000 ml Vitamin D supplement. She encouraged people to ask their Doctors to test their Vitamin D levels to determine if they might, in fact, need more than that.

Leslie's suggestion echoes what I've been reading elsewhere ... that Vitamin D is the BEST defense against H1N1 and other flues as well. The rational makes sense even though I don't know that it's the only answer. Why is winter our "cold and flu season"? Could it be because it's when we are the least exposed to sunshine (which is our main source of Vitamin D)? Hmmmm ... Even if the link to Vitamin D and H1N1 resistance isn't confirmed (and it isn't without controversy), it certainly can't hurt to make sure you're covered in the Vitamin D department.

Not to mention that recent studies have found that women with higher levels of Vitamin D were significantly less likely to get breast cancer! They are now testing to see if Vitamin D might be an effective defense against other cancers. There are already correlations between low Vitamin D and heart disease, MS, and many other diseases.

I'm going with Vitamin D and I was happy to hear from a nutritionist how important it is that we get enough of it.

Follow the link the the CBC News story about Vitamin D (Feb 2009).
Read this article about Vitamin D and H1N1, specifically.

As an interesting aside, I see that one of the leading researchers of the H1N1 strain (and with previous flues) and a proponent of world-wide vaccination has had his motivations questioned in the journal, Science. There is some suspicion that he might be fueling the H1N1 pandemic fears because of his own corporate interests in the vaccine. While speculation might not be surprise under the circumstances and rumours might be expected (though nothing has been confirmed), to have it actually published in such a respected journal gives one pause. Note that there is no significant corporate interest in Vitamin D.

Remaining and Emerging FX

It's as though my orchid KNEW there was a reason to bust out in bloom yesterday! This is an orchid I got from Mom 2 years ago. I keep thinking it's dead and keep watering it anyway ... just in case ... and it's a good thing I do because it's fooled me twice now! Yesterday this beautiful bloom emerged.

Since my prednisone ended, I have a few side effects emerging. I had hoped to be done with side effects with tomorrow marking day 21 since my last chemo treatment but I guess that cumulative effect is still to be contended with.

I still have the numbness in my fingers and toes and I notice when I do my upper body weight training that the skin on my back is also kind of numb. It feels weird.

And there's the fatigue, of course, which is amplified since the end of prednisone. I expected that to some extent.

Yesterday, though, my skin became tender to the touch. Mostly on my legs and arms but I also notice that a hug hurts a little bit through my ribs and back. It's not bad pain by any stretch but it's there.

Last night I had some nausea. That has been on the rare side with this chemo treatment and I think I have the prednisone to thanks for that. But last night at 5:00 a.m. I was in the kitchen getting some toast to settle my stomach.

My ankles became puffy yesterday, too, and they're not much thinner this morning meaning the edema is back. I see my oncologist tomorrow so I can talk to him about that and see if I need more lasix.

Soon, though, soon ... these side effects will be a thing of the past. At least I hope they all are. I know some nerve damage can remain but if this bit of numbness is all I have to contend with down the road, it's no biggie. That I can deal with.

I'm still floating on the relief that the decision about surgery has been made and I'm very happy with my choice.


Monday, October 19, 2009

Decisions. Decisions. Decisions.

Well! Another decision made. No turning back.

Kevin and I met with my surgeon this morning. I know my surgeon personally and I really trust his opinion. With my initial surgery, the margins were clear, though there was a 1 mm margin in one place. Because of that one narrow margin, the majority of the doctors in the team he meets with felt I should have additional surgery. My surgeon is of the mind that a margin is a margin is a margin and was not necessarily a proponent of additional surgery.

Today, we first ruled out having additional lymph nodes removed. My surgeon feels that the chemotherapy should have burned the lymph nodes out and, if it didn't, the radiation therapy should. Considering the long term risks association with having all of the lymph nodes removed weighed against the benefits, I quickly decided against having them removed. I'm very happy with that decision and I know it was strongly supported by my surgeon. I truly feel that having my lymph nodes removed would have made me a stronger than average candidate for lymphodema, for which there is no cure and which takes time and trouble to manage.

The next decision was not quite as clear and more difficult for my surgeon to advise on as well, but ultimately I've decided NOT to have any additional surgery. My surgeon explained that a lot of my decision regarding the additional breast surgery will be a psychological one. Some women will only have psychological relief if they have more tissue removed or the whole breast removed. I've decided, after all of my research and after talking with my surgeon, that I'm okay with having no additional surgery, trusting that the chemotherapy and the radiation will do the job and knowing that we will be carefully monitoring me with mammograms and, down the road if I choose to, some additional tests that I can access out of province or out of country.

A lot of my reading of the research suggests that the likelihood of my cancer returning either in the breast or in my bones, brain or liver is more to do with specific genetic markers or proteins that could prevent the treatments I've already had and the radiation therapy from being effective. Having additional surgery won't change that. And the genetic markers aren't tested for. So monitoring is my best bet and, if the cancer does come back, then we'll cross that bridge when we get there. I don't believe additional surgery now will be what makes the difference. Surgery or no surgery, there are no guarantees. My surgeon knows that. Kevin and I know that. It's a crap shoot really.

So, we'll skip Phase III of treatment and move straight to Phase IV, which is maximum radiation. First, though, I have to have a mole removed from the left side of my upper rib cage. My radiation oncologist felt that would be in my best interest.

It feels good to have made the decision about surgery. I was a bit of a basket case last night but felt strong this morning and I feel I've made an informed and reasonable decision that is supported by my surgeon who cares about me not just as a patient but as a family friend as well. Nobody WANTS to undergo surgery, but I wouldn't hesitate to have additional surgery if there was good reason to believe it would make a significant difference.

I'll try to improve my odds of preventing a cancer recurrence by making some lifestyle changes and I'm hoping my naturopathic doctor will be able to make several recommendations in that regard.

It would be nice to think I could be done radiation treatment by Christmas. Maybe. Maybe.

Do you like the way the hydrangeas have dried on the stem and turned a burnished bronze colour? We've cut them and have them in the house ready for arranging. Patio taught me that.


Sunday, October 18, 2009

Flying Without Wings

Since yesterday I've been flying without wings, meaning I'm no longer on prednisone, the "happy pill". Maybe I really have been "inappropriately happy" for the past couple of weeks. We'll see if I become a whiney, grumpy bum now that I'm drug-free. For now I'm just tired, but that could be because of my busy social schedule the past few days. Today will be a slow day. A home day. A quiet day.

Last night was fun! We went to a Rotary Club fundraising event as guests of Ron and Patty, along with Lou, Neil, Glenna and Dave. I knew Ron was a motor mouth but now it all makes sense! I didn't know he was also a real, live auctioneer! COOL! The meal was great, there were some super items and events to bid on, raising much moola for the Rotary Club's charitable works, and ... best of all ... the company was fabulous!

The photo is of my clematis, which still looks so pretty even after the snow and frost. Sorry about taking the picture into the sun but I didn't have much choice. Maybe I can get a better one today.


Saturday, October 17, 2009

Yard Bird

Here's Kevin pretending he just cut off his finger while cutting back plants and preparing the yard for winter. Isn't he funny?!

Last night was a social night and a nice time at the Scorpions Lacrosse Fall Banquet. The boys made such good speeches. A lot of thought was put into them and there was much appreciation expressed to the coaching staff without whom there would be no field lacrosse program in Saskatchewan and who have given many boys opportunities they could never have otherwise realized. Our Luke, for one.

Today Carol took me for breakfast to the Broadway Cafe and ... what an amazing surprise ... she arranged a whole parade to go by for me with marching bands, bagpipes, people waving, slow moving cars with banners ... the whole shebang! She claims to have had nothing to do without it, but she's modest that way. I know it was her. And the parade was just for me. It's so like her! And thanks, Ross, for the hand-picked tomatoes. I'll make something healthy with them.

Tonight, this social butterfly and my 9-fingered husband have been invited to a dinner at TCU Place by the Loopkeys, who are hosting a table at charity event. It's a dressy affair and I just hope I have something dressy to fit over my steroid plumped and puffy body. I don't think my yoga pants will be appropriate. And I don't have a moo-moo. I have a very big pashmina and will just have to find something as a base. Hmmmm ... stepping outside my bubble isn't so easy anymore. Still, it will be nice to be out.

I feel like I'm joining the land of the living. We'll see if I still feel that way after a day without prednisone.
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Friday, October 16, 2009

My Last Day On Prednisone

These are more slippers from Gail's boys. I imagine them as critters who are about to go looking for Nora's yard so they can make a home under her deck where they'll feel safe under Nora's care and where they'll find other friends of various species. Kind of a Wind In The Willows scenario.

I feel good this morning and had a good night's sleep. No sleeping pills. Again. Yeah!

A friend from high school, Laurie, just phoned and we had such a nice chat! I hadn't talked to her for so long and it was positively cheering to hear from her.

I will now do my arm weights and get ready for the sun to shine. It IS supposed to shine today. Laurie said it had finally just emerged at Elrose, so hopefully here, too. Soon.

Tonight we have the Scorpions Lacrosse banquet. An outing to look forward to and that I fully expect to feel up for.

Today is my last day on prednisone (steroid). I have no idea how much the prednisone has had to do with my handling this last treatment better than the previous one but if things start to slide in the next few days, I guess I'll know why. Still, I'm hoping ... hoping ... hoping ... that I just continue to feel better and stronger every day. It could happen.

Have you had your berries today? And your Vitamin D?


Thursday, October 15, 2009

Thoughts on Edgar Sawtelle

Comment on the book, The Story of Edgar Sawtelle, by David Wroblewski.

I loved the writing and enjoyed all of the book except I completely disliked the ending. Think Hamlet. I won't elaborate in case you choose to read the book. I will say that what I liked most about the book and in a big way was the writing itself. I wish I'd bookmarked some of the sentences I most loved.

Foods That Help Fight Cancer by Leslie Beck

This was an incredibly well-attended presentation and was very informative. I'm so glad I went. The guidelines make it easier, I think, to implement some little but very positive changes for all of us.

Highlighted Recommendations:
  • Leafy Greens - 1 cup raw or 1/2 cup cooked per day
  • Cruciferous vegetables - 3-5 servings per week (serving = 1/2 cup)
  • Processed Tomatoes - 5 servings per week (serving = 1/2 cup tomato juice or 2 Tbsp tomato sauce)
  • Berries - 1-2 servings per day (serving= 1/2 cup)
  • Citrus Fruit - 1 serving per day (serving = med orange, 1/2 grapefruit, 1/2 cup juice, though whole food better than juice - don't forget to use zest at every opportunity)
  • Whole Grains - 3 servings per day (1/2 cup steel cut oatmeal, 1 slice bread, 1/3 cup brown rice or quinoa)
  • Fibre - 21 grams per day (for my gender and age), including soluble and insoluble fibre.
  • Flaxseed - 1 - 2 Tbsp ground flax seed per day
  • Legumes - 3-4 servings per week (serving = 3/4 cup)
  • Soybeans and Soy Foods - 3-4 servings per week (serving = 3/4 cooked). Exception is AVOID SOY FOODS IF USING TAMOXIFEN, which means no soy for me.
  • Garlic - 2 cloves per day (raw is best - can substitute some servings with anything from the onion family).
  • Green Tea - 2-5 servings per day. Loose leaf tea better than tea bags. It can improve survival and prognosis for breast cancer survivors.
  • Maintain a healthy bodyweight and BMI.
  • Physical Activity - minimum 30 minutes per day - ideally an hour. Brisk walking is just fine.
  • Eat a Plant-Based Diet - Eat a combined 7 servings per day of fruits and vegetables. Steaming vegetables is better than microwaving or boiling. Lightly cooked or raw vegetables are best, for the most part.
  • Limit red meat to no more than 18 oz per week and avoid processed meats. The nitrates in processed meats are carcinogenic.
  • Limit alcohol to no more than 1 drink per day for women, IF AT ALL.
  • Reduce sodium to less than 23 mg per day, ideally around 1300 mg for my gender and age.
  • Adults over 50 should take a B12 supplement, which you should be able to get as part of your daily vitamin.
  • Take a multivitamin daily, just make sure it includes .4 mg of folic acid.
  • Vitamin D - VERY IMPORTANT to be taking at least 1000 IU supplement per day. Ask your Doctor to check your Vitamin D level because you might need more than 1000 IU to bring your levels up to optimum.
  • Calcium - supplement if you're not getting enough calcium for your age and most people aren't.
  • Fish Oil - if you're not eating enough fish, take a fish oil supplement, approx 500 mg per day. It's important in prevention of heart disease.
If other attendees notice something useful I missed or any mistakes, please let me know and I'll make additions/corrections.

Dumbells Are Me

Another step to recovery taken.

Following an old video I have, I put together an upper body strength training workout for myself and I went through it for the first time today. I'm definitely wimpy. No push ups for me until after I make a little progress first. It's a start.

When I get back from Vancouver, my official walking program begins provided I'm not moving right into surgery.


SpongeBob Memories! Ready Eddy Eddy!!

Splurge Club Gail passed on to me a few pairs of her sons' outgrown slippers to compliment my wolfy ones from Splurge Club Bonnie. Thanks, Gail. These are my favourites! They remind me ever so fondly of our trip to Mexico. Every night Hannah, Luke and I would get into bed and watch English language cartoons ... mostly SpongeBob. It was fun and became something we looked forward to each night. In Mexico. Who knew that would be a highlight?

I started feeling less well as the evening progressed last night. But this morning (afternoon, I guess ... my sleep patterns are now royally screwed up), I feel quite well again.

I also slipped into a nasty gut and mind-gripping funk of fear yesterday. While I used to be saddened when I read in the paper about a woman having died of breast cancer, now it has a much deeper impact and I wasn't prepared for that. It sets off a panic of frightening questions that I can't possibly know the answers to. So, like we humans do, it's a matter of finding a way to better process the difficult information you know you're going to have to deal with from time to time. I'll do that, of course, but in the meantime I will stop reading that section of the newspaper.

I'm looking forward to the presentation tonight, partly for the presentation and partly because it means an outing with Erin! And bonus, I know I'll see some other friends there.

Sending a extra firm hug to Patio and to Alanna.


Wednesday, October 14, 2009


I thought I would be feeling worse by now. I'm happy to say I was wrong!

The plumbing issues have been resolved. No drama. No drama is good in the personal plumbing department.

My feet and fingers are still numb but that's not painful and only requires a wee bit of caution. There are no knives in the sink when I wash dishes, for example.

The redness on my chest, neck and face is there but is not uncomfortable or severe, like last time.

I had a good, long sleep last night. Ten hours, think.

I believe I'm on the train that is now leaving the chemo station. Next stop ... surgical ward.

Surgery is where my head is at now. Surgery and helping my body recover as quickly as possible.

Here's my view of the surgical scenario:

After my last surgery (a sentinel node lumpectomy), where my surgeon removed the lump (3 cm - size of elongated golf ball) and two lymph nodes, the pathology report indicated that the margins were clear but very close in one area and there were micrometastasis in both nodes.

After that, my surgeon met with a team of specialists that he regularly meets with where they discuss cases and decide as a group what the best recommendations are for future care. In my case, the majority of the group felt that my margins were not clear enough and that I should have additional surgery to remove more tissue and more (all, I think) lymph nodes on my left side. As I understand it, not all of the group felt that additional surgery was necessary.

And that's where I'm at now until we meet with my surgeon on Monday. As the day grows closer, I am more and more considering that "no additional surgery" might be an option. Of course, if my surgeon recommends surgery, that's what I'll do, though the extent of that surgery is yet to be determined. I think there might be a chance my surgeon might support the "no surgery" option. It will all be a matter of weighing risks where there are no guarantees and little else but statistics to base a decision on. What are the odds that the chemotherapy took care of the micrometastasis? Can we expect that the other nodes are clear now? Is there a chance that some cancer cells are still in my breast tissue because of the margin having been so close? What are the odds of the chemotherapy having zapped those? Would radiation take care of anything the chemotherapy missed? ARGHHH!! Questions. Questions. And mostly questions with no solid answers.

I expect a very difficult decision and I really hope my surgeon is willing to provide some authoritative as well as personal guidance.

This is where my head is at today.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Presentation - Foods That Help Fight Cancer

Provided I'm feeling good, I plan on attending the Thursday night presentation being given by Leslie Beck (a nutritionist ... see right). Thanks to those of you who thought to bring this to my attention because this is exactly what I'm exploring right now.

The Canadian Cancer Society and the Women's Mid-Life Health Centre of Saskatchewan have teamed up "to bring Beck's nutrition and cancer presentation to Saskatchewan".
Beck says, "... more studies are linking diet and food to cancer prevention".

"Research shows that 30 t0 35 per cent of all cancers can be prevented by eating well, being active and maintaining a healthy body weight. Small changes in your diet can make a difference", sayd Donna Ziegler of the Canadian Cancer Society.

Leslie Beck / Foods That Help Fight Cancer
Thursday, October 15, 2009
Elim Tabernacle / 3718 8th Street East at 7:00 p.m.

Admission is free.


Adventures in Plumbing

Sylvia outdid herself last night with her Thanksgiving meal. It was wonderful and I seem to have an especially hearty appetite, which I am somewhat attributing to the prednisone. My increased hunger is unusual and that I so soon am hungry again after eating plenty is also uncharacteristic. I'm attributing this to the prednisone and I try to ignore some of my hunger knowing it's not "real" and I don't want to suddenly gain a bunch of weight. Then again, if I don't put something on my stomach when I'm hungry, I start to feel sick.

For the past few days, my upper abdomen has become increasingly extended and uncomfortable. With no lower abdominal pain to signify, to me, plumbing issues, I kept checking my ankles but there's been no edema to account for it. Finally, common sense kicked in and it occurred to me that a human body can't continue adding at the intake end without some action on the other end. Duh! So, I took some medication for that particular issue last night and I the grumblings, rumblings and shiftings suggest I'm on the right track. I was up from 4:30 a.m. to 8:30 just because it all felt so weird. Some definite shifting going on and some relief at the upper levels so things must be moving. I'll await the avalance. Sorry for the plumbing talk. It and cancer aren't for everyone.

Another strange thing ... as the pressure eases on my upper abdomen, my skin has become numb and it feels very, VERY strange.

Luke didn't end up with a turkey dinner after all, but despite having to write a mid-term on Sunday (huh??), he's had a fun weekend cutting loose with friends. Hannah got together with friends and they cooked the full meal deal one night. She made a pumpkin pie from scratch and I mean from scratch. Well, she didn't grind grain for flour, but she did roast an actual pumpkin. And then she wrote an essay.

Thanks for such a wonderful Thanksgiving dinner last night, Sylvia. All your work and talent is much appreciated. I wish Hannah and Luke could have enjoyed it, too, and I know they wish they could have been here with us all.

Thanks for the beautiful golden flowers, Erin! I'm glad to still have flower photos to post and real flowers to enjoy.


Monday, October 12, 2009

My Rodesian Ridgeback Head

There. I said it. That's what my bald head looks like. Not pronounced, but there. It was the first thing that came to mind the first time I really looked at my own bald head but I never said it out loud. It took my brother, Jack, to say it. That was his comment when he first saw my head. I was slightly taken aback but later I was able to laugh about it because he was entirely correct and I'd had the same thought myself. There's no fighting the truth. And no, I will not be posting a photo of my head here. I've been waiting to see if I'll get there but I don't think I will. I still do a shocked double-take when I catch sight of my unadorned scalp in a mirror. If I'm not used to it now, I doubt I ever will be. I'm becoming especially eager to have hair grow back. Now. By the way, since I degunked my scalp's surface, it's so shiny under the bathroom lights that I can hardly open my eyes to look at it ... the glare is blinding!

My hairless head is a curiosity to me. I now understand why I was never good at balancing a book on it, which is something Mom had all of us kids do from time to time in order to encourage good posture. We'd balance books on our heads and then, under Mom's direction, walk with our toes properly following the kitchen linoleum seams to prevent our becoming pigeon-toed or duck-footed. I don't know if any of that worked. We are what we are. Anyway, no wonder I couldn't balance a book on my head. A cushion of hair was my only saving grace in that department.

Today, after my long, reclining soak in the tub, I tried balancing things on my head ... a talcum container, a body butter container ... with no hair, there's not even a hope. I have a starfish that sits very nicely on top, though.

Thanks and No Thanks!

I'm thankful that I woke up this morning. It's better than the alternative! I'm thankful that I feel no worse than yesterday and yesterday wasn't so bad. Holding, for now, is good. I have to remind myself to be thankful for chemo. But I am thankful for it. I think. I hope. I am not and never will be thankful for cancer! Undoubtedly, I will ultimately learn some valuable lessons about life through this ordeal ... and I already have ... but I will not thank cancer for this. I would rather have done without ... no thanks VERY much!

Mostly, I'm thankful for family and friends. I truly am. I raise a glass of water to everyone out there and I'm thankful for all the bounty we have in our lives. But no ... no thanking cancer. Nosireebob!

This is the pretty bouquet from Lou.

Happy Thanksgiving Day, everyone! Football! We'll be at Don and Syl's for what will surely be a stellar meal!


Sunday, October 11, 2009

Sunday Night Update

Sylvia dropped off this gorgeous arrangement today. She put it together herself with a mix of her own flowers and some store-bought ones. She really has a gift, doesn't she?! Thanks, Syl!

It's been nice having Kevin home for a long weekend and as frustrating as it might be for him to be thwarted by weather from doing a big yard clean up, I'm just as glad for him (and me) that he's been able to kick back with me for a bit. Kevin, being the more restless one, makes sure we get out of the house even if only for a drive. Today we went to Lawson Heights Mall to pick up fish food and a few groceries while we were there. Then we stopped by Rex and Erin's for a halooo before going to Jim and Lynne's for a wonderful roast beef dinner. Note to self: eat more beets. Lynne's garden beets were delicious! Well, everything was delicious!

Jim's been test driving a smart car so he drove me home in it! I had never been in one before. It doesn't feel so small from the inside. It's when you step out of it and look back ... you marvel that you were actually in something so odd looking and so TINY! The particular model he's reviewing is the "passion coupe convertible". Very cute. Red and black interior. So passionate! We kept the top up.

Today I feel more side effects creeping up. My face, neck and chest are more and more red, though I'm not feeling much of the heat yet. My fingers and toes are more numb ... and not just numb ... tingling and the ends of my big toes hurt just a little bit. Tonight as well I can feel the "tissue tenders" starting. My skin is a bit tender to touch all over. It started with my cheek bones and jaw, but it's now my chest, back, arms ... pretty much tender everywhere. I don't feel miserable but I'm guessing that this is the start of what will be something worse. Whatever. At least there will be no returning to this kind of thing.

Luke did the Run For The Cure yesterday with his lacrosse team. He was blown away by the number of people there and he said it was a good time. I told him that I was sorry he wouldn't be getting a turkey dinner there in Kentucky but he told me that some girls were thinking of making a bunch of the Canadian boys a real Canadian Thanksgiving dinner! Nice girls! Of course, I like to think that our boys are a little more "new age" and might tackle such a meal themselves ... had they a kitchen.


The LAST Neupogen Injection

Here is Nurse Cratchet happily displaying the box of used needles she can finally drop off for proper disposal! Today was my last neupogen injection. Not that they were awful and I am so grateful that Sylvia was more than willing to take time out of her days to do them for me. Don't read too much into that. I KNOW she didn't like poking me but I KNOW she was happy to be able to use her most excellent nursing skills to help.

Another milestone to mark off my list.