Archive | October, 2010

I am pinkified . . .

29 Oct

I just realized that all of this pink has caused me to be emotionally nauseated. Not actually physically needing to throw up . . . but, just sick somehow . . . like I wanted to throw up in my head . . . (now you’re probably thinking I am really looney). I have decided that I kind of despise October. October used to be candy corn and orange and black and pumpkins and bags of individually wrapped candies . . . it used to simply be Autumn.

Now, it is just pink.

It has taken me a while to realize what has been making me feel so down these past few weeks. The sea of pink. The “would you like to donate to breast cancer research” every time I am at the check out stand of the grocery store. The displays of pinkified products practically blocking the entrance to my local grocery store. (By the way, this is all junk food mind you . . . not a single food item with pink on it that doesn’t contain something nasty for you in it – but, that deserves its own blog post).

This putrid, every-where-pinkification just doesn’t work for me at all. I get it, I know it is important that we all are aware of breast cancer. But, trust me . . . I AM aware of it and there is no doubt that everyone I know is also painfully aware of it too.

I have had my own awareness, thank you. My family and friends have all had this awareness too. I have not written in a little while. Mostly because I had nothing to say, well . . . nothing I wanted to share. I have been angry, I have been sad, I have cried a lot in the past couple of weeks . . . something I thought I was done doing. Apparently not.

Today I suddenly realized what I think is at the root of my recent emotional rollercoaster . . . it is all of this awful pink. It is just everywhere . . . I cannot escape. I am forced to think about it . . . about breast cancer . . . constantly.

I shop almost everyday . . . I do this because I try to eat fresh food and so most days I am running up to the grocery store (it is just a few blocks from my home). I think the grocery store is the worst place to go during October. An online friend, and fellow HER2+ breast cancer patient, has been posting photos of pink products on her facebook page and has encouraged others to do so too (you can see her blog here: http://www.chemobabe.com).

It runs the gamut from breast-cancer-awareness duraflame logs and household cleaning products to pinkified hamburger helper. Duraflame logs are not healthy to burn in your home . . . really. And, don’t even get me started with the chemicals in a box of hamburger helper.

Thanks, but, this isn't the kind of help I need

At first these pinkified products were funny, entertaining. It became a game to find the most bizarre pinkification. I even started taking pictures of pink products when I was at the grocery store. But, that was then . . .

Sometimes all of this pink just feels like salt on my wounds

Now? Well, all of this “awareness” has given me a month long head and stomach ache. I don’t want to live and breathe breast cancer. I am still recovering from my most recent surgery. I am still battling this disease, and the reality of an uncertain future, in my head. I am still facing frequent doctor appointments, tests, blood work . . . I am booked with medical stuff well into December already. And, there seems to be no end in sight. But, it is what it is. I deal with it and I hope and believe that one day I will go for months without doctor visits, needles, pokes, prods and scans . . . I dream of having years at a time free from all of these constant physical reminders of what I have been through.

And I know that I will never really be truly free of it . . . not unless and until I forget what I used to look and feel like – that scar free, pre-cancer self . . . not unless or until I regain enough of the old Lisa that I don’t miss her anymore. You see, I simply do not need all of this pink. I AM aware.

Fortunately, Pinktober is almost over. I look forward to saying goodbye to this pernicious pinkification . . . at least for another year.

Love and peace,

Lisa

Sleepless Friday/Saturday . . .

23 Oct

I had a lot to do today and I was able to get most of it done by simply shutting off my cell phone for the day. i had to, I am so easily distracted and lose focus that I just couldn’t afford to risk it today. The whole week has gone by and it seems my list of things to do (that I started the week with) only grew . . . nothing got done . . . until today (well, now it is Saturday morning, but, I mean nothing got done until Friday). So, finally I tackled my list.

I have a lot of medical appointments coming up. And, I need to spread it out so that I do not have too much to deal with in one day or one week.

It is pretty surreal to think that this is what my life has become like. Until breast cancer I enjoyed excellent health. And, I truly, truly enjoyed it. I never got sick (well, okay, I rarely got sick) and I never felt that I had any physical limitations whatsoever.

Those days have changed that is for sure. So weird really.

I have scheduled most of my medical stuff, but, still have a couple of things to schedule.

Here is what I have coming up:

I have a ct scan (of my chest), a colonoscopy, an endoscopic exam to take a look at a cyst in my esophagus, an ultrasound to look at a couple of ovarian cysts, an eye exam (now at least that is normal). I also have follow up appointments with my reconstructive surgeon up at Cedars Sinai – Dr. Sherman, and my mastectomy surgeon – Dr. Coleman (she was the first doctor I saw after I was diagnosed in 2009). And, I also have to see a gastroenterologist before I can have the colonoscopy and endoscopic exams. So, fun times! 🙂

I feel like I am leaving something out, but, I can’t think of it. So, maybe that is it.

Oh yeah, forgot, also seeing a dermatologist for an assessment. It is part of the protocol post cancer – to be very vigilant about my skin.

It is hard to remember what it was like to have months of no doctor appointments (heck, years would go by, except for the annual stuff).

Maybe some day I will make my way out of this stuff. I look forward to that.

I got a lot done today – I got most of the medical stuff arranged for and I made a dent in clearing off my desk. I have to have a workspace ready for the busy time that is coming up for me in the middle of November. Well, I hope it is busy 🙂

I am pleased to see that I can focus and mentally work the way that I used to . . . as long as I don’thave my cell phone on, that is 🙂

Love and peace,

Lisa

Thursday . . .

21 Oct
Pastinaca

Parsnips - these are going into my stew 🙂

Well, I had two straight days without a headache. But, now it is back. Dang. It just wears me out. I am really getting tired of this whole thing. This roller coaster ride started 20 months ago. For the past 20 months, I have been in some kind of physical pain every day, it is just a matter of degree. I don’t like to focus on it. It is somehow harder now as I realize that there just simply is not some bright line date where it is “over”. I am still recovering from my last surgery, so I know I should not presume that this is how it is going to be . . . eventually I will be healed from the surgery and that will certainly account for some improvement. But, I am so sore all of the time, my bones ache and I am told that is likely from the chemotherapy. And it may not improve. So annoying. I am, was anyway, a very active person. Right now, just doing the simplest things wear me out. I went to the grocery store to get ingredients for a vegetable stew that I want to make. I found a slow cooker recipe for a root vegetable tagine – it looks very good. Anyway, by the time I got home from the grocery store, I was too tired and in too much pain to do anything.

I am sure my energy level and pain level (God, I hope so) will improve. It just has to as this is really not such a great way to live. I hate this so much, hate writing it, hate feeling it. I have not had a normal nights sleep since my first surgery back in August of 2009. I am hoping that with physical therapy (which I am supposed to be able to start in the next few weeks) that this will improve. Right now I can only sleep on my back. The trouble with that is that my arms do not lay flat, or, I guess it is my shoulders actually (in particular, my right shoulder) that does not lay flat when I am on my back. So, it is painful to lie down, but, obviously necessary. I try to prop my shoulders and arms up with a pillow so that laying on my back doesn’t force my shoulders back in a painful way. But, inevitably I move in the night and so I am never asleep for long.

In the scheme of things, this is nothing. Nothing compared to the months of chemo and radiation. But, somehow, this stuff is harder for me to take now . . . maybe it is because I expected things to be over with by now, maybe I expected to be better, feel better and to truly be able to get back to my life. I am having doubts about working full days. I want to, I need to . . . but, things like cleaning out my refrigerator are too physically taxing . . . clearing off my desk (which I so desperately need to do) is too physically demanding. I have to make choices throughout the day . . . do I do this or do I do that? Because I know that either one will leave me in need of having to go back to bed for a while. I am SO sick of my bed.

Well, I am sure things will get better. I am just getting a bit fed up and I am feeling pretty impatient I guess. Maybe that is a good thing. I don’t know.

Wish me luck 🙂

Oh, and here is the recipe for the Root Vegetable Tagine . . . I am going to add organic beets to this recipe . . . I will let you know how it turns out 🙂

Slow Cooker Root Vegetable Tagine

Ingredients

  • 1 pound parsnips, peeled and diced
  • 1 pound turnips, peeled and diced
  • 2 medium onions, chopped
  • 1 pound carrots, peeled and diced
  • 6 dried apricots, chopped
  • 4 pitted prunes, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
  • 1 tablespoon dried parsley
  • 1 tablespoon dried cilantro
  • 1 (14 ounce) can vegetable broth

Directions

  1. In a slow cooker, toss together the parsnips, turnips, onions, carrots, apricots, and prunes. Season with turmeric, cumin, ginger, cinnamon, cayenne pepper, parsley, and cilantro. Pour in the vegetable broth.
  2. Cover, and cook 9 hours on Low.

Love and peace,

Lisa

24 hours without a headache!!!

19 Oct

Today was the first day that I have had a full 24 hours without a headache since the end of August. Finally an actual break. I think I have not gone for more than a few hours without a headache. So, hopefully I will continue to be headache free. I hope to be writing here in five days reporting that I am still headache free.

Here’s to that . . . wish me luck 🙂

Love and peace,

Lisa

October 17th . . .

17 Oct

Thirty one years ago today, we lost my grandmother. She was brutally raped and murdered on October 17, 1979. I will never forget the phone call, watching my mother slump to the floor over hearing the news. Our lives forever changed that day.

Some events burn so deep into your consciousness, so hurdle your reality that virtually all things as you once knew them simply stop and are never again the same.  The memory of that day will never leave me. The knowledge of that kind of evil never leaves you. And, it forever shapes the way in which you think, plan, fear, grieve, or even just do.

But, today instead of thinking of how my grandmother lost her life, I choose to think of the beauty that was my grandmother. She was a beautiful human being. She was a school teacher, a mother, a sister, a friend, a grandmother, an incredible seamstress (she designed and sewed clothes for us). She was so many things. She was wise. She was kind. She did things for others without drawing attention to her generosity and kindness. She was humble. I remember after her death seeing checks that she wrote every month to different charities. She was an amazing woman.

She is always missed.

When is a headache just a headache . . .

17 Oct

 

A Vekoma Boomerang roller coaster at Wild Adve...

Image via Wikipedia

 

I don’t like to write about these worries, but, a big part of why I even write this blog in the first place is to get things off of my mind. To dump. I realize that many loved ones read this blog and so I worry about causing worry.

But, I need to write sometimes just so I can go on with my day and function.

I have had headaches now – more days than not – since early September. As a result, I will probably have a scan soon (I will already have a chest CT scan soon . . . I could have it as early as this week . . . if I wanted to . . . BUT . . . I do NOT want to . . . so I am going to wait another week before scheduling it. I need a little more time before I enter that world of waiting for results again). Besides, my oncologist may add another scan (because of the headaches). If she does, I will want to do both on the same day. So, I am going to wait to hear what she has to say about my headaches and whether or not it warrants getting an additional scan. Ugh. I hate this part of the cancer roller coaster – wait, that sounds like there are parts of the cancer roller coaster that I like . . . hmmm, not really 🙂

Well, this morning I discovered a new symptom. Etiology unknown. But, thanks to the internet, within seconds I can discover all kinds of horrific reasons for why I have this symptom. I am choosing to go with the least worrisome reason – hemorrhoids – yeah, isn’t this lovely talk for a Sunday morning? Aren’t you glad you clicked on my blog? Sorry. I should put a warning label of some kind preceding posts like this one.

So the symptom is rectal bleeding . . . just a little. I can’t believe I am writing about this. But, if I am to be honest about all of this cancer crap, then I have to write about all aspects of it, not just those that I think people can stomach. There can’t be the parts that we can’t discuss or share because it is not politically/medically correct . . . right? Otherwise, it would be misleading.

Most every cancer patient experiences intestinal problems due to chemotherapy, pain pills, antibiotics etc. All of these medications wreak havoc on your intestinal tract (not to mention, causing other problems elsewhere in your body).

I am presuming that this new symptom is due to either fissures or hemorrhoids . . . and not due to colon cancer. I wish it were Monday already. If it were I would go straight to my doctor and get something done about this. But, instead, I need to wait until tomorrow. And, yes, worry about it. Damn you cancer. Damn you for making any little thing potentially enormous. F you cancer for doing that to me, to everyone who gets this disease and to their loved ones. Sometimes I think it is just best to keep my mouth shut (except for telling my doctors) because quite frankly what is the point in alarming my Mom, for example? But, I can’t exist in this medical vacuum where I shelter everyone in my life from “it” and the possibilities “it” brings.

I also can not dwell on those possibilities. And, for the most part, I do not. But, it is hard when you are sitting alone – battling a ten day headache and trying to just work through it – to not think about those possibilities. It is, after all, so much easier to think you are well when you actually feel well.

Here’s to feeling and being well.

Today I took charge and put myself back on a more stringent diet – like the one I employed during treatment. If nothing else, it makes me feel like I have some say, some control in this nonsense.

Please continue to keep me in your prayers. I thought I would not need those prayers so much by now. But, I realize I am not, at least mentally I am not, out of the woods.

Thank you for your continued love, support, prayers and positive vibes.

Love and peace,

Lisa

A big day . . .

14 Oct
Sailboats in San Diego, California at 4 am

Image via Wikipedia

Today I worked a full day . . . the first full day since I don’t know when . . . a really long time. I have friends that have been on the same cancer roller coaster as me (we were bald together, red together, tired and exhausted together, recovering from surgery together). But, for some reason, I took a few hits with the first two surgeries which took me out for quite a bit (no working, too sick, too tired or too out of it to keep up). And, since I was/am a business owner, it wasn’t like the business would keep on running if I was not able to come in to work for a couple of months.

So today was a big, big day. I put in what would have been considered a pretty normal “long” day. I worked early this am. Then had a client meeting (which required significant prep time) in San Diego. So, a long drive, a lot of prep and a long meeting. And . . . the meeting went great. I was back in on top of my game. Don’t get me wrong . . . my arm and right side were pretty darn sore during the meeting . . . but, my client never knew. I got through it. It felt good . . . okay, well, it felt good for the most part . . . as in, I definitely did not feel physically well afterwards . . . but, it was a lot to handle in one day.

The huge thing is that I got through it without a hitch mentally. I didn’t jumble up words, I didn’t walk out of my house four times forgetting something and going back inside to retrieve it only to forget (once inside) what I had forgotten . . . I didn’t do that ONCE. I simply made my list of things to do and bring and I actually left the house with all of it done right.

The meeting went well, my client was happy and completely unaware that I had ever been sick.

My brother lives in San Diego, about 25 minutes from where I had my client meeting. So, I made arrangements to stay over night . . . I knew that I would not be able to make the roundtrip drive to and from San Diego in the same day. I got to my brothers house and slowly made my way up to his place . . . moving slow after pushing it all day long.

And then my nephew Matthew met me at the door . . . excited to see me and gave me a big hug . . . I felt less tired and less aware of my aches and pains.

It was great spending time with him. He said the sweetest thing to me tonight . . . it was past his bed time and I was talking with him in his room, trying to get him to go to sleep and he said to me: “I just don’t want this conversation to end”

Precious.

He just turned eleven. He is a delightful boy. We had a wonderful evening. I have missed him so much this past year plus. Cancer really got in the way. It was so great to reconnect with him.

It really made the worries and strains of the week melt away. And, today was a bit worrisome on the medical front as I got a call from my oncologist’s office telling me to go get a CT scan. I am supposed to have a chest CT . . . and, possibly other scans, not sure. I told the woman that called that I have been having headaches for some time now. She asked me how often and really pinned it down with her questions . . . she came to the conclusion that I have been having headaches at least five days out of every seven . . . and said that my oncologist was definitely going to want to know that. So, I am supposed to hear back soon as to whether I will have to have that checked out. I am so afraid of that, having scans, waiting for results. I just want to be fine, I just want to get through this and be able to move on with a cancer free life.

It is like being woken up from a fog . . . having had cancer . . . I don’t know for sure whether having had cancer has made me appreciate things more as much as it has simply given me a very different appreciation. The joy that I have spending time with my nephew for example . . . not that I would not have enjoyed it before, but, I truly cherish it now in a way that is richer than before, deeper, more meaningful. So, I don’t want to lose that. I don’t want to be his aunt that he used to know as a little boy . . . you get my drift.

Everything that was sweet before is so much sweeter. So, I guess I do appreciate things more now. And, everything that was a nuisance before . . . I no longer tolerate to the same degree as before . . . I get rid of it, work around it, dump it . . . because all “it” does is prevent me from having more of those precious, meaningful moments.

So, yes, I do appreciate things more. And, I am so grateful for having time with my nephew Matthew today  . . . grateful to have some time with him and to joke with him and to learn how much math he knows these days – we made up a math game tonight, it was fun.

Well, time to go to bed.

Please say some prayers for me. I greatly appreciate it.

Love and peace,

Lisa