About this blog

I was diagnosed with breast cancer on June 11, 2010. As a result of my treatment, I have lymphedema in my left arm. I draw my strength from the Lord, as well as my family's Scots-Irish heritage. Our Graham's were a tough and scrappy bunch of fighters on the Scottish/English border. They came to America and continued to fight when necessary: in the American Revolution; the Civil War; and my brother is a Captain in the U.S. Army. My ancestors settled this country against all odds. My great-grandmothers on both sides of the family were pioneer women who settled the West. Along with that heritage, and the full armor of God, I am walking the walk and fighting the good fight.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

All systems GO!

I went in for my pre-chemo lab work and oncology visit.  Everything looks good.  My blood counts are excellent, even for a non-cancer patient. Thank you Jesus!  I mentioned my "female" issues and we agreed to let chemo take its course and see what happens.  It often will stop women's cycles.  There are drugs they could give me to stop them, but I'd rather avoid more medication if I can.  He said chemo can interfere with ovulation, so basically I get to live with every day as a suprise in that department.  Lovely!  If I was worried about my red blood cell count because of the periods, he said I could take an iron supplement, but my blood counts really didn't warrant that.  Spinach works, folks!  Food is medicine!

I have a new side effect.  It looks like I am in the process of losing a toe nail.  Fortunately, it is not the big toe.  It is the second nail on the left foot.  About a week ago, it started hurting. I thought maybe I had an ingrown nail. I gave myself a gentle pedicure over the weekend and trimmed it.  It wasn't ingrown, but still was irritating.  This morning, I took the polish of that nail and it was turning black.  Apparently, this is a possible side effect of taxotere.  It may fall off, but Dr. P said that would happen when another nail grows underneath to replace it. That is good news.  But it all is a bit ghoulish.

So all systems are a go for tomorrows chemotherapy round.  Round number three.  When I was coming out of the pharmacy with my next batch of Cipro, I ran into the chemo nurse.  I told her, "We have a date tomorrow!"  The chemo appointments themselves really aren't that bad.  At least they haven't been for me so far.

My afternoon was more interesting.  I went to the Women's Health Boutique to get my prostheses. It is funny because you basically get to pick what size you want to be.  I was a B cup before, so we started there.  She measured me and went and got several bras in a 36B.  I tried a couple on, and they just looked HUGE!  Maybe it was because "my" B's were saggier, but these just made me feel conspicuous.  I had brought a form fitting sweater to try on as well to see how it looked.  So we switched to 36A.  Ah.  That looked much better. Kaiser pays for 3 bras each year, and a set of foobs every 2 years.  The foobs have a 2 year warranty, so they only pay for them when the warranty runs out.  Sounds like a car, doesn't it?

Frankly, I've become accustomed to being flat.  Having something up there again feels pretty strange. Maybe its because they don't have any sensation.  I realized I've developed the habit of crossing my arms over my chest.  Now when I do that, I bump into these "things."  It is also kind of strange because you are just standing there nude from the top up and the lady is coming in and putting the bras on and off of you.  It's not that big of a deal...I've lost a lot of any shyness around professionals when it comes to my chest.  Childbirth does it for down below, now this!

The prosthetic "foobies" just slip into the bra.  You fold it up a bit like a taco and slip it in the bra itself.  Then when you put on your bra, you are putting on your breasts as well!  It gives me a new angle each morning getting ready.  Do I want to have a breast-look, or not?  I don't think I'll work out in them, although I could.  They are even waterproof!  Salt water or pool water.  All you have to do is take them into the shower and wash them off.  Wild.  They do have weight and feel of real flesh. I'll weigh them tomorrow and see how much they weigh.

The kids are a little weirded out by the new additions.  I gave Isabelle a hug after school and she stepped back with a quizzical look on her face. She isn't that keen on them at this point. Olivier is going to be weirded out on the whole thing because, well, he is in middle school.  Once again, Jean-Marc is the only one who didn't notice. He even leaned back on them while I was reading him a goodnight story tonight and didn't flinch a bit. 

Praise Report! 
I had asked for prayer about the timing working out for Isabelle's student council speech?  Well the school moved the speech time to 2 p.m.  They didn't really, because my mom got there at 2 p.m. and Isabelle was in the middle of her speech. But because of the bizarre rain storm we had today, they moved it inside to the cafeteria, so the kids had to do the speeches twice to accommodate the number of students.  I got out of the appointment right at 2 p.m. and raced over to the school.  Typical of San Diego, a little rain and people forget how to drive.  So traffic on the 78 freeway was a little slow.  Stress!  I got there as soon as I can, and literally ran to the cafeteria.  I got there with a couple minutes to spare!  I was so happy to be able to be there.  She had been so nervous this morning.  And furthermore...she won!  Here is her speech if you're interested:

Prayer Requests:
  • That I get a good night's sleep tonight.  I'm going to take the sleeping pill because I'm on the steroid now which kind of amps you up.  But still, anxiety could trump that. 
  • That this third round of chemo go smoothly.  That I don't get sick while there.  That I tolerate it well and that it does what it is supposed to do.  
  • That we have a smooth weekend.  Eric leaves on a business trip on Sunday. My plan is to lay low and take it easy this weekend.  I don't want to be tired out from the weekend on Monday when the crazy school and activity schedule starts up again.
  • That the kids who did not win one of the 4 coveted officer spots aren't too disappointed.  Its hard to put yourself out there and fall short in front of everyone.  We've been there too.  

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Busy living in training

It has been a busy week so far, so I missed posting yesterday.  Everything is going fine.  Normal, even.  Almost like we aren't a family living with cancer.  I've just been shuttling kids from school to activities, cooking dinner, and getting people taken care of.  Olivier has been functioning with a cold, but he's hanging in there.  He's testing for his next belt level in karate this afternoon.  Isabelle had her first flute lesson with the elementary school band.  She is so excited!  Jean-Marc is as cute as ever. The potty training is going well enough.  A few accidents here and there, but that is to be expected.

I've been trying to get in a workout each day.  Training sessions, I'm thinking of them.  The gym Monday, a power walk yesterday after some pilates.  Today was my Jillian DVD "Banish Fat, Boost Metabolisom" (which I will refer to as BFBM from now on).  Tomorrow mom and I are going to meet for a walk before my first appointment and I may do BFBM in the afternoon.  Friday is "chemo day" so I won't be working out then.

Cancer treatment is coming back, though. Tomorrow I go in for all of my "pre-chemo" appointments.  Blood draw at 9 a.m., oncologist at 10 a.m. and getting my "foobies" and a compression sleeve/gauntlet at 1:00 p.m.  I'm disappointed that I'll miss Isabelle's student council speech which is at 1:30 p.m.  I'm hoping that my mom will be able to go and record it for me.

I have been debating whether or not to blog about this next topic....but what the heck.  This blog is as much of a journal for myself as it is anything else.  And who knows? Maybe it can help someone else.  I've been expecting to be thrown into menopause from the chemo.  Dr. P said that because I'm young, my body might resist it.  Well, it has been resisting strongly!  I had a week or so of being impatient and irritable (I think it came across in a few of my posts).  Then a week of spotting and very light flow.  Then this week it has been quite heavy.  With no end in sight.  Enough already!   It has been so much that I'm a little concerned about my iron levels.  I've been eating a lot of iron-rich foods for the past couple of days.  I'm definitely going to ask Dr. P about this tomorrow.  It just feels like my body doesn't know what the heck to do.  So much confusion going on!  

I do feel a total schizophrenia of sorts.  In one sense, I'm in almost the best shape of my life.  Not "the" best, that was right before surgery in July.  But aside from the ability to lift weights, the best condition of my life.  I'm eating the healthiest food I've ever eaten and I'm at the healthiest weight as an adult that I've ever been.  Yet I'm battling CANCER and having pretty strong drugs pumped into me every three weeks that damage normal cells as well as the bad ones.  It is such a bizarre dichotomy.  No wonder my reproductive system doesn't know what to do.

My prayer requests:

  • That my blood draw show that everything is fine and that I can proceed with the chemo on Friday. 
  • That Dr. P have some insight into my "female" issues.  Hopefully this does not mean that I've got way too much estrogen in me...that feeds the cancer. If there is a problem, that Dr. P have a solution that addresses it.
  • That God's will be done with the student council elections.  Especially if it means that Isabelle wins!  But if she doesn't, that she be able to accept that and grow from it.  
  • That Olivier continue to battle and beat this cold...and that Isabelle, Eric and I do not come down with it. 
  • That I do not develop lymphedema in my left arm.  I've been doing my manual drainage technique after the shower each day.  I'm just kind of paranoid about this right now.  Especially with the heat we have been having this week. 

Monday, September 27, 2010

Administrative mess

The plot with Kaiser thickens!  I got yet another "Summary of Accumulation" statement for the month of September from Kaiser.  This one seemed to have my year to date totals correct, but I didn't notice that until I had picked up the phone to call their member services number.  When the representative went into my records she mentioned that there was definitely a problem.  As it turns out, they had to re-code things on their end because of the Health Care Reform Act, which ended up enrolling me into a "new" plan.  Even though things are all the same for me and my deductible accumulations are supposed to carry over to the "new" plan.  Its just that latter part that hasn't happened yet, and she acknowledged that it was all their problem.  It can take up to 30 days to fix it.  When I go in for my various appointments this week, they are going to ask me for my cost share as if I had not met my deductible.  I have a high deductible plan, so those cost shares are pretty high.  She suggested I take in the statement that I received today to prove I had met my deductible and
ask them to bill me.  By then, the mess should be sorted out.  If I receive a bill this month, I'm supposed to call them back, because they will be billing me at the higher rate as if I had not met the deductible.  

It is a confusing mess, but at least they care about what I think about their services.  I got a survey call about 5 minutes after I hung up asking me about the various elements of the call and the employee I talked to.  I've also been surveyed for various visits to Kaiser doctors and my hospital stay.  It's nice to think they care.  I've never had another doctor or hospital ask me what I thought of their service or how they could improve.  

It is HOT in San Diego this week. Thank God for air conditioning. There was no way I was going to walk with my girlfriends in this heat.  I went to the gym instead.  It was a bit of a gamble, since the last time I was there and put Jean-Marc in the Kids' Club, he cried until I got called back.  This time, he did fine.  I was able to get a much more intense workout in (30 minutes on the Stairmaster, 35 on the treadmill running sprints).  It was great!  The only downside was that Jean-Marc had an accident while in there.  No big deal, I had him in a Pull Up.  He did stay dry when we went grocery shopping. 

Olivier is on the verge of being sick.  He didn't sleep well last night.  When I picked him up from school, he was achy and had trouble concentrating all day.  I made him a coconut mango smoothie with orange juice in it and told him he wasn't going to make karate today.  I hope that a day of just doing his homework, lying low and drinking lots of fluids will help him kick this.  

My prayer requests:
  • That Olivier not get sick. That the rest of us resist whatever germ he has brought into our midst.
  • That timing will work out with Isabelle this week.  She is running for student council secretary this year and has to make a speech to the school this week.  I found out today that the speeches and election is going to be on Thursday, not Wednesday as we had thought.  I hate to miss her speech, but I have a busy day of medical appointments on Thursday.  I'm so proud of her for going for it again. She's running against 2 other boys. She was secretary last year, but ran unopposed.  It's a bigger deal this year, I really want to be there for her. 
  • That my blood work show that I am ready for round three on Friday.  That whatever chemo drugs are still in my system continue to do their job. 

Sunday, September 26, 2010


I was so blessed by everyone at church today.  Everyone was so kind and nice.  There were people who didn't know until today about my battle, and those that already knew were just so kind.  It really was a wonderful and uplifting time to have everyone be so nice.  That's not to say people at church aren't normally kind!  But seriously, the fellowship at Calvary Chapel Escondido is simply amazing.  If you are local and need a place to worship, fellowship and learn more about the bible, check it out.  It's right off the 15 freeway at El Norte Parkway.

I also met a breast cancer survivor this morning.  It was a lady that I'd met before during the "meet and greet" portion of the service where you introduce yourself to folks around you.  Hers was a familiar face, but I had no idea she had fought breast cancer.  I remember awhile back her hair being short, but was totally clueless as to why.  It's funny now how I zero in on stuff like that.  Either super short hair, or something on the head (without obvious hair).  I can't help but thing.....cancer!  But before June, I was oblivious.  It was great to make that connection.  As it turns out, she also had Kaiser.  She knew the nurse that I have (the one who is a Christian as well).  She also told me that our nurse had also taken care of our former pastor's wife several years ago. Joyce fought breast cancer for a good 3 years before going home to the Lord.  I'm looking forward to my chemo appointment on Friday to chat with the nurse about our mutual friends and sisters!

The potty training is going well, thank you Jesus!  Today there were no accidents.  He even stayed dry during church.  I put him on the big potty right as I dropped him off, and right as I picked him up.  He was a little worried about falling in, but he leaned forward and held onto me.  It's going very well!

This week is sure to be a busy one.  Tuesday, Olivier has a court of honor for his boy scout troop.  Wednesday is Isabelle's first day of band.  At some point in the next week, I need to get her a flute.  Olivier also has a "test" in karate to advance to the next belt level-something he has been looking forward to since starting in March.  He'll finally get a colored belt instead of white!  On top of that is homework, piano, and my medical appointments!  I'm sure Friday will be here before I know it.

My prayer requests:
  • That the potty training continue to go well.  That Eric and I have the patience needed to continue it.  We've jumped off the cliff, and there is no turning back.  I just pray that we don't get upset over the inevitable accidents and make the process go backward. 
  • That my blood work on Thursday show that I am healthy to go forward with chemo on Friday.
  • That any cancer cells in my body DISAPPEAR!  If they are there, that the chemo drugs disrupt their cycle and they DIE.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Gym time!

I finally made it to the gym today.  Wouldn't you know it, I was tired all morning. I wasn't sure how it was going to work.  My fatigue had nothing to do with sleep-I actually had slept well for the past 2 nights.  Strange.  So I brewed some green tea and iced it as my lunch beverage.  Maybe it was the tea, maybe it was just the energy at the gym, but I definitely kicked the tired feeling for the rest of the day.

It had been quite awhile since I tried to run, so I wanted to give it a try. I did an hour and change on the treadmill, doing 2 minute intervals.  My walking speed was a 15 minute mile on a slight incline, and my running speed was about 11.5 minute mile flat. Yeah, to you runners this is probably lame.  But it was pretty good for me. Besides, I'm short!  It felt good to do it.  I wasn't sure I could do it during the first 10 minutes.  I hit a physical "wall" and need to push a bit to get over it.  And I did.  It felt great to run a bit and sweat a lot, especially after taking it easy for the first half of the week.  I did over 4.5 miles in that time. I'll do my Jillian DVD again tomorrow and will feel like I'm back in the game.

When I'm exercising at the gym, I wear a T-shirt on my head.  Seriously.  I learned this trick at the "Look Good, Feel Better" program.  You cut a T-shirt off below the arms.  Then you can wrap the bottom part around your head like a turban.  It's cheap, and it is easily washable. I bought some cheap shirts at Michaels for $1.99, so I have them in multiple colors.

The potty training is going pretty well.  I just keep Jean-Marc naked from the waist down at home and make sure the potty is nearby.  He is able to get there in time when he needs to, and he even did #2 again tonight!  Slow and steady, we'll keep at it.

I had a scary thing happen this morning in the Target parking lot.  I was a bit stressed because Jean-Marc was out and about in regular underwear, no pull up or diaper.  We had done our shopping and I needed to get him home to sit on the pot.  I looked both ways backing out several times, but felt a bump as I moved out.  I thought maybe I hit a cart.  I looked in my mirror and saw a Target employee waving her arms and yelling.  Oh no!  I was so afraid I hit someone.  This girl was being dropped off at work by her boyfriend, and he was in a large SUV.  I got out, and I had totally backed right into him.  Geez.  I've never done that before.  I pulled back into my spot, got out with my insurance information and went to face the music.  I was wearing my wig, so I couldn't even get the pity factor in there. Thank the Lord, he was very cool about the whole thing.  He didn't see any damage to his car, and didn't even want my information.  I was glad the girlfriend had gone into the store-she was a bit more agitated.  My car suffered a dent in the back, but it could have been so much worse.  Thank you God, for protecting me against myself!

I got my lab appointment stuff worked out with Kaiser.  Still no word on the insurance/deductible mess. That one is completely on them.

This weekend should be fun.  We are celebrating my dad's birthday tomorrow at my parents' house.  I'm bringing some yummy dishes to get my bean and cabbage fix.  Dad will rotissere 2 organic chickens and barbeque some tri tip.  Mom even made an organic rhubarb pie!  Oh, and homemade strawberry ice cream. My brother and his family will be coming up, the kids will have fun playing with their cousins.  Mom and dad have some boxes down from the attic of "stuff" they have stored over the years that they want us to go through to take or toss.  It should be fun to walk down memory lane.  

Thank you for your prayers and support.  They mean a lot, and I know they are working.  There is no other reason to explain me running/walking like that for an hour in the midst of chemo! 

Thursday, September 23, 2010


I mentioned yesterday how I am just living life until chemo next week. Most of that revolves around being a mom.

I decided to jump off the potty training cliff.  I have a few days with not much going on, so I can stick close to home with Jean-Marc.  He's totally aware of when he goes, he even goes and gets a diaper when he needs a change.  It was just going to take some focus and dedication from me to get it done. My overall irritation factor has decreased over the past few days, I feel good physically (which may very well change after chemo next week).  So I decided its now or much later.

We've had 3 accidents so far today, but by far we've had more success today.  The key was just having him go without bottoms and having the little potty nearby so he could run to it when he felt the urge.  He even did it for #2!  Yippee!  We are off to a great start.

I've run into a little bit of frustration with Kaiser on two fronts.  First of all, I am always curious to get my monthly "Summary of Accumulation" statements to see how much we've spent thus far for the year and to see where we are as far as our annual deductible ($3,000 for the kids and I), and our annual out of pocket maximum ($6,000).  Last month, we had met the deductible and were $3,400 and change towards the annual out of pocket maximum.   The statement I got this week said we were only $9.74 towards both.  What??  That made no sense.  I called their 800# and had to leave a message with a girl who wasn't usually answering the phones for that department due to "an unusually high call volume."  Gee, I wonder why.  Perhaps they screwed others up as well.  She asked why I thought it was wrong.  I told her, "I was diagnosed with breast cancer in June and have been through a mastectomy and 2 rounds of chemo, so I know I've incurred more than $10.  Besides, it doesn't make much sense compared to last month's statement."  After I said the words "breast cancer" I heard her suck in her breath and go, "Oh I'm so sorry."  BAM!  Cancer bomb dropped. Kaboom!

I didn't get a call back, so I sent them an e-mail last night.  This morning, they replied that they had forwarded my message on to the appropriate places as a "formal complaint."  Okay. Whatever.  I don't want to be a complainer, but whatever.  Just fix it!

The second irritant concerns the blood work I need to get done the day before chemo.  To get a lab appointment, you have to call a number and then wait for them to call you  back.  I left the message on Tuesday and finally got a call back after hours last night (Wednesday).  They had no clue because there was no order for the blood work in the system.  So I had to e-mail my oncologist and ask that he order the blood work so I could get it done.  I got an answer this morning from his nurse that he was out of the office until Monday, but she was able to release the orders.  Okay.  So now I'm again waiting for the call back from the lab.

I got thrown a curve ball this afternoon that upset me for a few minutes.  I hadn't been to the gym or done a real kick butt workout all week.  I've walked and done pilates, but nothing that really made me sweat.  If I don't sweat a lot, I don't feel like I've gotten much of a workout.  I was looking forward to going to the gym and doing some hardcore cardio before picking Isabelle up at school.  Thursdays I don't have to pick up at the middle school, so I have time.  My carpool partner called and was stuck at work and needed me to pick up.  Well, of course I'll have to.  But I'll miss the gym!  Waaah!  I got over it, though.  Partly because Jean-Marc pooped on the potty.  But then I realized that I could do my Jillian DVD after I get home with Isabelle today (which I was planning for tomorrow) and I can do the gym thing tomorrow afternoon.  Just swap the days. I get frustrated when my plans get changed by circumstances out of my control.  You would think I would have been able to roll with the punches considering how the cancer thing has totally thrown me for a loop.

Next Thursday is going to be busy.  Lab appointment (eventually), pharmacy pickup for round #3s Cipro, oncology appointment in the morning.  Then at 1 p.m., I have an appointment at the Women's Health boutique to get my foobies and a compression sleeve for my arm.  My measurements were slightly bigger on the left arm on Monday, so the physical therapist went ahead and gave me the diagnosis of "lymphedema" so the sleeve would be covered.  Otherwise, my surgeon told me yesterday that it would have been out of pocket.  Whew.  I just don't want the swelling to increase, so I've been practicing the manual drainage technique each day that I learned on Monday. Something else to add to the daily routine.  Thank you, breast cancer.

My prayer requests:

  • That the potty training go well with Jean-Marc.  That I am able to maintain my patience and sanity over the next several days as we go through the nitty gritty of it. 
  • That the administrative issues with Kaiser be resolved without hassle.  It seems like a pretty clear mistake to me.  Let's pray that they admit it and fix it.  
  • That I continue to feel good and get stronger in the next week so I'm in shape for round 3 next week. That the chemo drugs already in my system do their job. Tomorrow marks 3 weeks since my hair started falling out.  It was 2 weeks from my first round of chemo.  I wonder if the stubble will come out now that I'm at that point in this round?  

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Mad hatter

I wore a hat all day today for the first time.

I've always liked the look of hats, but been too chicken to really wear one myself. Women who wore hats seemed to have a particular flair and sophistication. Something that I never felt I could pull off. I don't have a whole lot of choice now. This cancer thing is pushing me into zones I wasn't comfortable in before.

Another issue with hats is that there is no hairline. It can look weird (there is that word again) to have a hat perched on a hairline-less head. I've purchased a few wide headbands that I could wear to conceal that and create a line. Today, I just put the hat on my head and was done with it. It felt okay. I wore makeup and earrings which helped the confidence factor. Something about lipstick, you know?

Physically, things are going great. As predicted, I was pretty sore from the pilates on Monday. I have Exercise TV on my cable's On Demand system. There are dozens of exercise modes with hundreds of workouts to choose from. Today I did a 20 minute pilates just to get a little exercise in there. I'm going to try and do pilates 3 times a week on top of the cardio I do pretty much every day.

My taste buds are pretty much back to normal as well. That metallic taste has faded. Funny, that taste doesn't seem to make me want to eat less! I'm learning to load up on veggies and legumes and consider meat as a side dish, if anything. I wrote yesterday about how much I'm coming to appreciate cabbage. I could also devote a whole post to beans! And no, they do not give me gas. (TMI? Maybe, but that is the first thing that people mention when I rave about my new found love of beans!)

I had a funny conversation with a friend of mine, a guy friend. We were at the elementary school and a mom walked by with purple highlights in her hair...in a shade that matched her shirt. I commented that her hair matched her shirt. I also noted that I notice two things a lot lately on other people...hair and boobs. A few seconds went by and he said, "Now you know how its been with me all this time." Too funny! But its true. I can't help but notice this on other women. Okay, gals...don't feel self conscious next time you see me. I really won't be looking at your chest, I swear! I talked with another survivor who would go up to women and actually ask them their bra size as she was considering her reconstruction options. It's funny how you lose the shyness about it when you are so focused on it medically.

So I'm just living life until my next round of chemo, which is October 1st. (A week from Friday.) What a way to kick off breast cancer awareness month, eh? Speaking of that, I got a really cool travel mug today at Supercuts of all places. It's black with 4 or 5 rows of rhinestones at the top. It says "Fight Like a Girl" with pink boxing gloves on it. I couldn't pass it up. I'm a sucker for that kind of stuff right now. Maybe I'll get sick of it. But for now, I'm digging it. It's my first BCA month being "in the club" that I never thought I would be in. I think back to last October when I was looking at my40th birthday. How life can change in 12 months! I wonder what life will look like in October 2011?

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The enemy of my enemy...

It has been said that the enemy of my enemy is my friend. Cancer is my enemy. Not just my own cancer, but potential cancers in the bodies of my family.

As I'm learning about how the nutrients in the food we eat can help us fight cancer, I've discovered a new friend....cabbage.

I was never one to eat much cabbage before. I'd have cole slaw as a side dish sometimes. But since I was dieting last year, I'd even avoid that since it was usually swimming in mayonnaise. There was a good recipie on Jillian Michael's website for a Mexican coleslaw that I would make from time to time.

Get what great things cabbage can do: (taken from "The Cancer Fighting Kitchen" by Rebecca Katz)

Cabbage: Anti-inflammatory, antibacterial. Cabbage, along with cruciferous kin such as cauliflower, kale, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, bok choy, and turnips is extremely high in anticancer phytochemicals. One such property, indole-3-carbinol (called I3C for short), nearly doubles how quickly the liver can break down estrogen so it doesn't remain in the body. Cooking cabbage for the right amount of time (in other words, not too long) is important to retain a compound called sinigrin, which reacts with an enzyme to release molecules that detoxify carcinogens and inhibit the division and growth of tumor cells.

Isn't that enough reason to give cabbage a whirl? I had a 1/2 head of red cabbage that I didn't know what to do with. In the past, it would have just rotted in the bottom of my fridge until I got around to tossing it out. I found an easy recipe online that I modified a bit. It called for sugar, which I didn't add. Simply slice 1/2 of a red onion (or a whole one if its small) and sauté it in a little bit of extra virgin olive oil and a pinch of salt. Add the sliced or shredded cabbage and about 1/4 cup of apple cider vinegar and sauté until it gets a little wilted. Voila!

Now I need to get my family eating cabbage. Eric is a bit prejudiced against it, which doesn't help set a good example for the kids. I found a scalloped cabbage recipie online that he liked. I'm not sure how nutritionally sound it was, since it baked a long time. I'm going to keep trying, because cabbage is my new friend.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Winds through the stubble

I need to find another word for "weird" and "bizarre." I find myself using those adjectives way too much. But they pretty much are my life right now. They describe a new normal that I keep finding new aspects to.

I went outside (in the backyard) today without anything on my head for the first time. It wasn't for very long. In fact, covering my head completely slipped my mind. I just wanted to get Jean-Marc outside to kick some balls around. He loves doing that, and I needed to kill some time with him. If we were to stay in the house, he would start begging me, "eat, eat." It was a good hour before any reasonable dinnertime for him. So we went outside. (No worries about sun-it is a shady yard in the late afternoon).

I still have some stubble on my head, and to feel the breeze through it was...you guessed it! WEIRD!

I had a physical therapy appointment this afternoon. This was with a different therapist up here at the Kaiser facility in San Marcos. I was very happy to go, especially after the tingling arm scare this weekend. She started out by measuring my hand and arm to compare them with the measurements taken last month. They were a little bit bigger, but not by much. She wasn't really concerned about it. I just need to always keep a constant eye on my arm, wrist, hand and fingers to be on the lookout for any swelling. Especially since I wear my wedding rings on my left hand.

She went on to do some manual lymphatic drainage and described the technique as she did it on me. Its a very light touch. Calling it a "massage" is almost a misnomer. You start at your collarbone doing circular motions down and up. The idea is that you want to move the fluid away from the left armpit and towards the heart. From there, the heart can pass it to the kidneys and you basically urinate the bad stuff out. (Lovely, huh? Hey--your body does it too! It just doesn't need the help!) From the collarbone, you move down in the abdominal area, then to the hip crease/groin. Then diagonally down from the waistline to the groin, the left armpit to waist, then groin. That is the pathway that is most important-you want to show the body where to put that fluid on the left side...away from the armpit to the lymph nodes in the groin. After that, you move to the upper arm, elbow, forearm, wrist then fingers. Deep abdominal breathing helps move the fluid around as well. I'm supposed to do this 1 or 2 times a day.

She also worked on the cording on my left armpit. That was a little uncomfortable because it required her to really stretch the arm out and manipulate it around until the scar tissue would pop a little bit. I just focused on my breath and was fine. She said I had a really good range of motion and that the scar tissue looked really good everywhere. I'm glad to hear that, because it looks like a freak show to me.

I really liked this therapist a lot. She seems more low intervention than the one I saw before. She didn't think I needed a compression sleeve and gauntlet at this point. I told her I wanted to have one on hand in case the need did arise and she was fine putting in an order for two of them at the Women's Health boutique.

I asked her about using light hand weights to do some circuit training. I've been itching to get back to more upper body work. At this point, she said the weight of my own arm is enough of a challenge. (I thought...NOT!) Perhaps after all of my chemo and radiation I could start out with some very light weights. I'm just going to have to settle for getting exercise another way for awhile. I don't know if I'll ever be able to get back to the muscle tone in my arms that I had before the surgery. But at least I'm alive! Praise God for that and the strength that He has provided me.

I did some pilates this morning. Ouch. I'm going to be sore. I definitely need to do that more often. The core work is incomparable. This workout did a little bit of cardio which consisted of some ballet moves, which brought me back to my childhood doing demi-plies, grand plies, and eleves. The hardest part was the mat work on the floor for the abs. Oh. My. Gosh. It was killer. I was glad it was only 30 minutes! It was hard, but if I do it more, I'll be so strong in the middle. I think I'm going to go for it. My abs have gotten a bit soft since my surgery. I haven't gained any weight, per se. But considering I had all my breast tissue removed, I should have lost a few pounds through that. So I think I did put on a bit, even though the scale does not reveal it. I also went on a power walk with friends after we dropped the kids off at school. We didn't do the "big" hill, but it was enough to get the blood flowing.

I am definitely due for a long visit at the Women's Health Boutique. I need to get fitted for the compression sleeve, but also for post-mastectomy bras and foobies! (Foobies=prosthetic/fake breasts that slip inside a pocket in the bra.) I've been going without anything for a few weeks now. No bra, no camisole. It would be nice to have a more feminine form though sometimes. So bring on the foobs!

My prayer requests:
  • That I do not develop lymphedema. I just don't want to go there. Having to wear really tight compression garments all the time, no way.
  • That the chemo drugs are effective against any renegade cancer cells. Someone at church yesterday asked me if there was anything he could pray about for me. He has sat near me on and off for a few years. I don't think he's that involved in the fellowship-he drives down from LA a few times a month to visit his mom. I guess the scarf on the head didn't give it away, because when I said he could pray that the chemo does its job, he was shocked. It's good to know that wearing a scarf on your head for 2 weeks in a row doesn't flash 'CANCER PATIENT' in neon lights to the world.
  • That the stubble on my head just fall out. The good news is that the sores on my head have stopped appearing and it isn't irritating as it was last week. Answer to prayer, right there! Thank you, faithful saints!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Tingling...should I be worried?

I think my left arm has been tingling on and off all day. I'm concerned that this may be a sign of lymphatic fluid buildup, or lymphedema. I don't notice any swelling. Just the cold and tingling feeling. Anyone out there who has experience with this...is this a sign of it?

Maybe I'm imagining it. You know when you focus on something, you can actually start to make it a reality.

I actually took today off from working out. The kids and I worked a little bit on picking up the house today. I'll fess up...I did do a little bit of spot vacuuming and mopping downstairs. I made the kids do it all upstairs, though! The post-operative instructions I got 8+ weeks ago said not to vacuum for 6 months. But it seems like such a small and simple task to do. After all, I'm able to do so much physically. Plus, I used my right arm most of the time. But maybe I did overdo it. I don't know.

I have a physical therapy appointment on Monday to begin to learn lymphatic massage. That will help me be able to move the fluid around. I am grateful to be going so I can have the therapist check me out, take measurements, and see if my wrist arm and hand have gotten any larger since my first appointment a few weeks ago. I also have the exercises the physical therapist gave me that I can do twice a day. I haven't been 100% faithful at doing them, although I did do them last night and this morning. You can bet I'll be doing them from now on.

My prayer requests:
  • That this tingling feeling go away, that any and all lymph fluid that needs to drain from my left arm do so immediately.

Friday, September 17, 2010


Maybe I'm paranoid. Maybe I'm not as comfortable going out post-hair loss as I thought. But I feel like everyone is looking at me, giving me looks.

I notice it a lot with kids, even my own. The one exception is Jean-Marc. He doesn't seem to notice my fuzzy stubbly head. At the school yard, I see kids who know Isabelle giving me sideways, curious glances. It's normal, I suppose. Kids are curious. What do they know about cancer? Maybe they even think that they can catch the disease.

I notice it with adults too. I get a variety of looks from them. There is the "pity" look. "Oh you poor thing." I really don't like that one. I don't want to be pitied. I'm strong, I'm going to beat this thing. In a group of women, there is the look of relief. At least one in eight of us is going to be diagnosed with breast cancer. If I have it, that means 7 others are in the clear. They've dodged the bullet, at least for now.

I'm not throwing stones from a glass house. Heck, I even give myself a startled look when I look in a mirror. Mornings are the most bizarre. After a night of sleep, I stumble into the bathroom feeling like I did every other morning of my life. Maybe I slept well, maybe I didn't. It's even worse when I actually did get a good night of sleep. Then I look into the mirror and see a stranger who looks like she's been in a prisoner camp. A few deep breaths and I can go on. I just shake my head. Right. That's me with breast cancer.

Why should I care, anyway? I was at Costco yesterday and saw one woman who really deserved some looks. You see people in crazy get ups, hairdos and makeup all the time. They go out boldly like they look like a million bucks. I'm not talking about teenagers who make a point of trying to get attention by bizarre getups. At least I have a good excuse for my alternate look.

I feel petty and superficial for even blogging about this. But its something that I've been noticing and I do want to document this journey. It definitely is a lesson about how truly superficial outward appearances are.

Enough of that topic.

Today is a good day. I was able to do a Jillian DVD exactly 1 week after my second round of chemo. I've managed to get some form of exercise each day this week. Even on Monday, my "tired" day, I went for a power walk. I'm sure that keeping up the exercise is helping me get through this. I can't do what I did before my surgery, but I am doing what I can and pushing it where I can. I may have overdone it a bit yesterday with the pushups, though. I've had some shooting pains in my left incision area. So I'll back off on that for awhile. Darn!

It has been a busy week and I am looking forward to taking the kids out for frozen yogurt after school. Jean-Marc is still suffering from a runny nose. I'm thankful that I haven't had any symptoms. My taste buds are a bit strange, but that metallic taste seems to be fading a little bit. I bought an electric razor today to take care of the stubble on my head.

My prayer requests:
  • That Jean-Marc get over this cold without anyone else in the house getting it.
  • That the sores on my head go away. Let me bald gracefully, please!
  • That cancer cells be killed by the chemo. Let this all be worth what I'm having to go through to get to the other side.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Head games

My head is driving me nuts. In more ways than one.

Let's start on the outside. The hair has stopped falling out. The hairs that are left have decided to stay for awhile and flourish. I've also got itchy bumps all over my scalp. I don't know if it is a side effect from the chemo, or if it is related to the hair falling out, or if I just have a pimply head. Gross. In any event, it itches and is irritating. Kaiser gave me a resource booklet with a recipe for "itchy scalp" paste, which is basically just a baking soda paste. You mix baking soda and water until its the consistency of a brownie mix, put it on your head, and let it be anywhere from 5 to 120 minutes. It feels really good while its on. The hairs that are left have decided to grow like crazy, too. It's really weird. I took a pair of clippers to them yesterday just to tame them a bit. (Don't worry Sheila, I didn't press hard to mess up the follicle. I just lightly trimmed them without even touching the scalp much!)

It's ridiculous. I wish they would just fall out and be gone.

On the inside, I'm finding myself very impatient and annoyed. When I look at the calendar, that's not a huge surprise. I was supposed to start my period 5 days ago. I've been pretty irregular since my diagnosis, probably due to stress. Now throw chemo in the mix, and my hormones are totally out of whack. Chemo is very likely to put me into menopause, so I don't even know if I will have another period. But I've definitely noticed hormonal mood swings. I never was one to have many of them, but I've got 'em now!

Poor Jean-Marc. He just had to turn two while I'm going through all of this. He's doing what every two year old does...challenges his primary caregiver. He doesn't like the word "NO" and has perfected the art of Chinese water torture: drip; drip; drip. If he wants something, he will incessantly bug me over and over and over until I relent. But I can't do that, otherwise, he learns that is the way to get stuff. It is over the top--this morning, he wanted ice cream at breakfast! He asked me "i-seem? i-seem?" When Eric walked in, he said "Glass..glass?" ("Glace" is ice cream in French) You can imagine what that does for my frame of mind. Can you say...insanity??? I love him to pieces, but right now he is kind of difficult for me to be around. Mom took him for a grandma day today, which blessed both Jean-Marc and me.

It has been an insanely busy week as well. It's part of that time of the year, I suppose, with back to school stuff. Not to mention the kids activities. We've had stuff going on every night this week, which has really messed up family dinners. Most nights, everyone has been on their own to scrounge leftovers. I'm looking forward to a quiet weekend. Except for Sunday afternoon, when Olivier has to go sell boy scout popcorn in front of Albertsons! At least that is something Eric is going to take him on.

One of the fruits of the spirit is long suffering. God is definitely developing that in me right now!

I'm feeling okay physically. I've had some feelings of dizziness. Yesterday it was when I would be squatting down and then getting up. Jean-Marc and I went to a fun mommy and me class and I had a few times when I had to take a few deep breaths. It would have been something for the lady with the scarf on her head to hit the floor! I went to the gym today, mindful of the dizziness. I did 35 minutes on the elliptical and about 30 minutes on the recumbent bike. Before I stretched out, I tried doing some push ups. Before my surgery, I was able to do nearly 100 push ups during the course of a Jillian workout. Today, it was hard to do 2 sets of 10. But I did them!

My prayer requests:
  • That the remaining hair fall out and that these sores go away. I've come to terms with being bald. Now I just want to get there. (Gee...sounds impatient, doesn't it?)
  • That I be able to be more patient with myself and everyone around me. That my hormones find some kind of balance so I don't flip out on stupid minor stuff. For example, I got all mad at Eric yesterday because he didn't want raw cabbage in his salad at lunch! What was that all about??
  • That the chemotherapy do what it is supposed to do and kill any nasty cancer cells that are trying to replicate.
  • That Jean-Marc's runny nose stop. I don't know if its allergies or a cold. I'm not catching it, and my white blood cell count is supposed to be low right now. So it may be allergies. Regardless, he's got a runny nose and its gross, not to mention it bugs him too and makes him uncomfortable.
  • That everyone in my family stay healthy so I can recover from the last round of chemo and move forward.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Shock and awe

I made quite a splash in my wig yesterday. Thank you to everyone for the sweet comments and compliments. It made me feel great. My best girlfriend Kelly and I would joke in high school about how cool it would be if everyone were bald and all you had to do in the morning was put on your wig. You know, there is something to be said for that now having lived it! My wig is what I always wished my hair would do, but it was fine and flat and would only look that way for about an hour after leaving the salon! Who knows what it will be when it grows back next Spring/Summer?

It will take some getting used to, though. After a couple hours it did get itchy and tight. I just wanted to get it OFF. I don't want to wear it every day, I like the scarf look too. I haven't even begun to really experiment with hats. It is kind of fun to be able to dramatically change your look every day. It keeps everyone on their toes. Who knows what Tonya will look like today?

So that was the shock.

Now for the awe.

Several people have said to me in the past couple days about how well I'm doing. Even that I've never looked better. When I think about it, I am surprised about it as well. I woke up a bit early this morning and as I lay in bed was pondering about this. What am I doing that is making it not so awful? Don't get me wrong-it is not easy. I'm not breezing through this. It definitely is a daily struggle and there are physical issues that I deal with all the time. But I'm not feeling like I got hit by a truck, and a part of me thinks that I should.

Then it hit me. Duh! The reason I am doing how I'm doing has nothing to do with me. It all has to do with the Lord. HE is the one that is showering me with blessing and grace. I'm not doing anything. It's all HIM. The Bible says, "My grace is sufficient for you. My power is made perfect in your weakness." (2 Corinthians 12:9) I am in awe of how God prepared me physically and spiritually for this trial. I am in awe of how I have seen Him work in the midst of it. I don't believe in luck or coincidence. I believe in divine providence, which reminds me of what I learned during my Esther bible study a year ago. (See--more preparation!) I firmly believe that God will not put a trial in your path that he will not equip and empower you to see through. There are purposes in all of this that He wants. Purposes that are for our own good. To make us better, more like Him. We may not understand what His purposes are, nor should we. His ways are higher than ours. I'm not boasting in me, but in the Lord. All I can do is look up and praise Him for all that He is doing in my life and in the lives of those around me, even in the midst of breast cancer.

I'm also in awe about how the Lord has placed me in the body of Christ. I know I am being lifted up in prayer, supported by the saints around me. They, in turn, are being His hands and feet in this trial to bring me through.

I'm a fan of the TV show, "So You Think You Can Dance." Last summer, there was a beautiful piece by coreographer Travis Wall called "Fix You." It was based on his own mother's battle with disease. I think it was some form of cancer, I'm not sure. Anyway, the male dancer in the piece is supposed to be him, and the female, his mother. If you have a few moments, here it is. It really is beautiful. Notice at the end, how she puts her feet on her son's, and he walks her through to the end of the piece, presumably (we hope) toward healing. I feel that way about this trial, although my feet are being guided by The Son, Jesus. I can lean on Him completely and let Him guide me and trust that He will heal me. I have an eternal guarantee! Check it out:

Simply put, I am once again in awe of the Lord and His ways. My life is in His hands, and I am at perfect peace with where He has led me thus far. I trust in Him and am filled.

Love and blessings to you all!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

In sickness & in health

Today is my fourteenth wedding anniversary. Eric and I are getting to live out the vows, "in sickness and in health." Although, like I've said before, I don't FEEL sick. Not really.

I was pretty tired yesterday. It was like I was in a fog all day. When I would sit down, I just wouldn't want to get back up. I did manage to take a walk with friends in the morning, but it definitely was physically more challenging than it usually is, and we didn't even do the "big" hill. At least I got some exercise. Next round I need to take it easy on Sunday. I did way too much this time and didn't rest at all. I paid for it yesterday. Being fatigued like that brought me down emotionally as well. I couldn't help but feel a bit blue all day.

The challenging part of days like yesterday is dealing with Jean-Marc in the mid to late morning. When we got home from the walk, I had hoped to be able to put on a "Thomas the Tank Engine" DVD and lay down while he watched. (I know, I know...electronic babysitter....bad mom. Whatever.) It wasn't that easy. He is just always moving, bouncing, and climbing on me. One day last week, he even head-butted me while I was sitting there. So its not exactly easy to rest while you are in defense mode. I was able to get him to a nap around 12:30 p.m. and lay down for an hour before I had to go pick up Olivier and his carpool buddy from the middle school. Man, that hour went by fast.

A bright spot yesterday came with the mail when I received a surprise package from an ICAN friend. It was a pretty pink necklace with a handcrafted card that said "Fight Like a Girl." So sweet. A friend also brought dinner, which was wonderful as well. I'm blessed to have such people in my life. God is good to me and shows it through the kindness of friends and family.

Eight hours of uninterrupted sleep last night was very welcome.

Today is a new day. I started my 7 day Cipro regimen to ward off infections as my white blood cell count goes down. I've had the metallic taste in my mouth for a day or so. A little slice of lemon in water helps with that a lot. This morning, I feel latent sores in my mouth. Not really sores yet, but areas of sensitivity that could develop into them. I'll wash with baking soda/salt and hopefully that will keep it at bay. My energy level seems a little better than yesterday. This morning, I did a 30 minute cardio workout on Exercise TV. Its a low impact workout, but I amped it up a bit by jumping the moves. I broke a sweat, got the endorphins flowing and it felt great.

Eric and I are going to celebrate our anniversary by going to lunch today. I'm going to debut the wig. I actually have it on right now just to get the feel for it. It's a bit itchy, but that may have to do with the fact that not all my hair is gone yet. My head is itching all the time and there are little bumps on my scalp. I hope that is just from the hair falling out process. It looks pretty nasty with the bumps--no glamorous bald chick here. At least not yet!

My prayer requests:
  • That the worst part of this round of chemo is over. That my energy level increases each day, that the side effects don't get worse. That I can just go on and live life without having it revolve around cancer therapy.
  • That as my white blood cell counts go down that I do not get sick from some other infection. Pray that my immune system be able to rally as much as possible. That the kids stay healthy at school and don't bring any bugs home with them.
  • That I do not fall prey to the spiritual attacks of the enemy. Being beaten down physically is one of his ways of attacking us. I started to succumb to it yesterday. Praise God for a night of rest and new mercies this morning! But it is a daily battle-minute by minute.
  • That the chemotherapy do what it is supposed to do-kill those bad cells!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Glimpses in the mirror

I'm pretty comfortable going out now with a scarf on my head, even though it screams CANCER PATIENT! Whatever. This is what I'm dealing with, get over it people. I figure the best I can do is be in good spirits and have a smile on my face. I truly am thankful at how God is sustaining me through this trial.

I made my debut at church yesterday with the cancer look. Everyone was very nice. Everyone who knows me already knew about the cancer, this just brought it home. I am so blessed by my family in Christ. It truly is an amazing thing to be a part of His church. Being lifted up in prayer by so many people all of the time. It is precious.

Yesterday afternoon I went out to do some grocery shopping, came home and spent hours in the kitchen working on a veggie lasagna from my anti-cancer cookbook. It was a long haul because you had to make a "ricotta" cheese out of tofu and herbs, as well as cooking 2 big bunches of greens. I used rainbow chard. It also involved caramelizing 4 red onions and cooking the wheat pasta. Eric and I liked it. Olivier kind of spit it out saying it tasted more like a salad than lasagna! Good thing I was able to freeze single portions for the grownups later on!

I'm still losing my hair in dribs and drabs. Last night when I was bathing Jean-Marc, I sat on the side of the tub and would dip my hand in the water and rub it over my head to pull out hairs. I got a lot out that way. It's less painful than the lint roller method. After doing it just a few minutes, there was this fuzzy mass at the bottom of the tub. Kind of gross.

I'll be going along doing my business in the house, feeling normal. Then I'll pass by a mirror and catch a glimpse of myself. Yowza! As the hair gets thinner and thinner it is shocking. I'm just a few days away from complete baldness. I appreciate everyone's comments about how good I look. But still....it is a shock to see a bald stranger staring back at you. Who is that person, and who let her into my house??

Isabelle and I did some pilates yesterday. I figure it will help her with her riding by strengthening her core. Heck, I could use all the exercise I can get. I'm a little sore today! (I like that feeling.) I think I'll walk with my girlfriends after we drop the kids off at school for my exercise today. I don't have much more energy for anything more intense, I'm afraid. A bit tired. That could be because I was so busy yesterday. I'm thankful that a friend is brining dinner tonight.

My prayer requests:
  • That I learn to get comfortable with that person in the mirror.
  • That my energy and strength continues to be renewed by the Lord.
  • That as this round of chemo works through my system and my white blood cell count go down, that I don't get sick.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Quick update, Day 2, Round 2

Thing are okay today. I don't have a lot of time, but wanted to give everyone an update of what was going on with me today.

I slept GREAT last night, even with having to get up 3 times to go to the bathroom. 100 ounces of water had its vengeance! But I was able to get back to sleep each time. I even got to "sleep in" until 6:30 a.m.!

I want to get some physical activity each day, but thought that something too cardio pumping today might be too much. So I did an hour of yoga and it felt great. It really stretched my shoulders and chest. It also showed me I should do more yoga-I wasn't able to get into the poses as deeply as I have in the past. I did manage to get into a backbend, though!

The family all pitched in a bit this morning to get the house a little cleaner. The kids each did a bathroom, I did the master bathroom, and Eric vacuumed and cleaned the living room (where the piano is) and the dining room. I meant to get the tile floors done, but it didn't happen.

I took Isabelle to her riding lesson today and watched. She got to ride a different animal today-Ziggy, a full sized horse, rather than the pony Kowie that she has ridden recently. She had to learn a whole new set of tricks to keep Ziggy in line. But she was happy for the change.

When I got home, I was pretty tired. We had a lunch of leftovers and I heated up a can of organic black bean soup for myself. There were a couple of grocery things we needed, so I took a quick trip to the Target up the street and picked the stuff up. When I got home, I retired to my bedroom for a couple hours of rest. Eric and Olivier went to the range, the baby was napping, and Isabelle was playing her Nintendo.

Jean-Marc and I took Lucie for a walk after his nap. At first, it was just going to be going to the mailbox. But the day was nice, I had a hat to protect frm the sun, and the yoga didn't really get my heart rate up that much. So on the spur of the moment, I decided to do a longer walk with them. The walk I call "the Acacia loop" after the main street that it goes down. We also get to walk a stretch along a busy street, San Marcos Boulevard. Jean-Marc loves seeing the cars, trucks and even airplanes along the way. It took us about 40 minutes. Not bad for day 2, I thought.

I feel pretty good. I made a yummy black eyed pea recipe for myself to have tomorrow. Tonight I'm taking it easy on the cooking and making up a Dream Dinner, but adding extra broccoli. My taste buds havent' yet made a change much-a little metallic taste, but its not too bad. I have one more dose of the steroid to take tonight and tomorrow will be off of them. That may make my energy level go down. Time will tell. My prayer for myself is from Isaiah: "Lord, I want to abide in You. Lift me up on wings like eagles. Help me walk and not grow weary. Help me run and not grow faint."

Friday, September 10, 2010

Round Two in the can

I woke up this morning ready to go! The morning here getting ready was pretty smooth-I had the kids' lunches ready to go the night before. We were out the door by 7:25 a.m. I dropped Olivier off at his school, then dropped Isabelle off at her friends' house so they could walk to their school together.

I had about 45 minutes to kill, so I met my mom at Discovery Lake and we did a couple of easy laps. She took Jean-Marc from there to the Wild Animal Park for the morning. (I will never call it "Safari Park," by the way!)

I walked into Kaiser, and I'm sure everyone could see where I was headed...the chemotherapy suite! I was dressed in my battle gear: pink yoga pants and matching hoodie, my pink ribbon T-shirt that says "GOD...so much bigger than cancer!"; and a pink head scarf that I picked up this week. I even had matching hot pink toenails! That was coincidence...that was the pedicure I had a month ago. By the way, I am more and more comfortable going out with the headscarf "cancer patient" look. Own it, baby! This is what I'm going through right now, so be nice to me, world! :-)

I was able to pick my chair, so I headed right for the one by the windows so I could perhaps get a little bit of reception on my iPhone. Yep! As many of you know, I was able to update my facebook status while there.

The routine goes like this: the nurse comes over and wraps your arm in a warm towel. She logs onto the system and asks you about your meds, which ones you are currently on, and which ones you will be taking during this round. Then she puts an IV in your arm. This time, it went in a bit low. It looked like it was on my hand, but the needle inside actually reached down to my wrist. Every time I moved my wrist, it kind of hurt. No biggie, but definitely something we want to do differently next time. They start a saline wash and give you the maximum dosage of an anti-nausea pill. (Zofran for me). Then they give it some time to take effect, that was about 10-15 minutes. I was able to breeze through some back issues of People magazine. I must live in a cave, because half the people in the magazine I've never heard of! Then they come and make sure your name is the name on the bag of chemotherapy drug. You verify it, they pop it in and you sit there for an hour or so for it to pump into your body. This time, they started me off a bit slower, but faster than last time. After about an hour, they change bags with the other chemo drug you are prescribed. When it's done, they do a little saline wash, take out the IV and you are on your way.

This may sound bad, but I actually enjoy these visits. I don't have to worry about anyone else but ME. I can do whatever I want. I can read what I want. I can watch TV if I want. I can snooze. I can listen to my iPod. I don't have to worry about kids, diapers, or any of the daily minutiae that being a mom entails. I can relax knowing that Jean-Marc is having fun with Grandma, the others are in school, and its all good. I drove myself today and felt fine to drive home. I told Eric I would call him if I felt weird, but I was fine. No dizziness or nausea.

When we all got home, Jean-Marc was acting kind of weird. He had been outside and active all morning, so we knew he was tired and hungry. I made him what he asked for: PB&J. (Organic everything on whole wheat). He only ate a few bites and started crying, "pee pee, pee pee" and grabbing at his crotch. I asked if he wanted to sit on the potty, but he said "eat, eat." Okay. He just was fussy and didn't eat much. I figured he was too tired--it was close to 1:00 p.m. by then.

I took him upstairs and changed him, and he wasn't wet at all. I kissed him and put him down for his nap. He laid right down and I figured he was out for a few hours.

Mom and I went to the San Marcos Brewery. I thought the chicken tortilla soup sounded good. While we were there, I got a call from Eric that Jean-Marc woke up panicky, sweaty, and crying. He took his temperature, but it was normal. He let him play in his room for about an hour and he finally got down around 2:30 p.m.

Still, he was acting strange about food and elimination all day. I wonder if he has a tummy bug? His hives have gone away. Now this. Poor kid. When he woke up, he did have a normal dinner. One of his favorites, Trader Joes Chicken Noodle soup. Hopefully, he'll keep it down and have a good sleep tonight.

I came home and made a recipe from my new cookbook. It's Creamy Broccoli Potato soup. I've got it all blended up, it just needs to be reheated when we are ready. I hope its good.

How am I feeling? I am a little tired. But it is the end of the day, so that isn't unusual. I have moments of funky stomach. I think I'll take a Zofran before dinner. I don't feel super hungry, but I think the soup will hit the spot. Other than that, I feel pretty normal. I'm drinking TONS of water to help the chemo drugs circulate. I've easily had about 100 ounces today, and I don't feel waterlogged. In fact, I could drink more. It's great how your body will tell you what you need if you just listen to it.

My prayer requests:
  • That Jean-Marc be healthy. Its a worry when a little kid can't verbalize what is going on that is distressing them. Pray that he is okay and HEALTHY.
  • That I am able to tolerate this round of chemo as well as the last. Starting with a good night of sleep tonight.
  • That these drugs do their job. INFILTRATE AND DESTROY!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

This one is me

The photo from yesterday's post caused some confusion. It was NOT me-it was from the beau beau website. Here is a picture of me in one of my beau beaus.

I also promised a better "buzz" picture, so here is one with the older kids and I. I wear it like this around the house. After awhile of wearing something on my super short hair, it gets uncomfortable and itchy. I still may itch with it bald, but at least I won't have that discomfort that goes along with the hair loss.

This morning, I had business at Kaiser. I was so efficient, almost a professional cancer patient. And hey! Today, I looked the part. I did notice I was much less self conscious than yesterday. I had the routine blood draw at 9:20 a.m. After that, I picked up my refill for the super-antibiotic Cipro that I'll take this round. Then I met with Dr. P at 10:00 a.m. Kaiser is great about getting labs processed quickly. My results were already in for the doctor to review. He looked at them and pronounced that everything was "normal." I asked him, "normal like anyone, or normal for someone who has had a round of chemo?" Normal like any healthy person, regardless of chemo. Yeah! I'm ready to take on Round #2!

I asked him about flu shots. They have the mist shots for the kids available now. I wasn't sure if it was a good idea for them or me. He said the kids could get it anytime. If I want one (and he thought it was a good idea), I would need to wait until week #3 in this next round and get the injected version, which has dead virus instead of live. I'll try to get us all over there sometime soon to do that to lessen the chances of the house getting sick with the flu.

I've been using a lint roller to help get rid of the excess hair on my head. This is what it looks like after I do it for a few seconds. Better stuck on the tape than shedding all over the house, my pillow, in my hats, etc.

I did sleep well last night, although I did take one of the medicines that they gave me. I'm going to again tonight since today I started taking the steroid, which has a tendency to make you more awake. I want at good night of sleep tonight!

I've been incorporating recipes from my "Cancer Fighting Kitchen" book this week. I made a huge stockpot of "Magical Mineral Broth," which is a supercharged vegetable broth. I can use it to cook grains, as a base for other soups, or just sip that if I get queasy. I'm planning on making a potato broccoli soup for tomorrow night (or "chemo" night).

My prayer requests:
  • That we all get a good night of rest tonight. I want my body to be in prime condition to take on these hard core drugs tomorrow. I did my Jillian DVD and am pumped right now!
  • That I tolerate this round of chemo well, with minimal side effects. That the drugs do their job, get in like Delta Force, invade and disrupt the action of the enemy cancer cells. Bang, bang! You're dead, cancer!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Coming "Out"

Today I made my debut to the world as an obvious cancer patient. A sick person. Even though I feel great and normal on the inside.

Even though I have a wig, I don't want to get sucked into wearing it every day. Besides, I've collected a few hats and scarves that I want to give a try to as well. This morning, I chose to wear a "beau beau" scarf. This is the style of it. (That's not me in the picture, its from their website.) They are cool because they are lined and already pre-fitted. All you have to do is slip it on your head. You can leave the tail, or use the matching scrunchie to make a bun.

I was a little nervous getting out of the car at Isabelle's school. Although many people already knew I had buzzed my hair yesterday, still....this was it. But it was okay. I told Isabelle ahead of time that I didn't want her to draw attention to me. I didn't want a gaggle of 9 year olds whispering and giggling. Isabelle is a bit uncomfortable with it still, and she deals with it by being silly.

I went on a power walk with some girlfriends and then took Jean-Marc to his mommy and me class, "Moove & Groove." He had such a great time. But it was strange to see myself in the mirror. I didn't know any of the other moms, but the teacher is a friend of mine. There I was, the cancer patient. One lady asked me if Jean-Marc was my "miracle baby." I said "What?" I was thinking to myself, "aren't they all?" I later realized what she may have meant. Perhaps she was referring to a post-diagnosis baby? One issue younger women with cancer face is forced infertility. Some women harvest ovaries before treatment to do IVF later. Perhaps that was what she meant? Regardless, I felt a little weirded out. But it was a fun hour anyway. I hope to go to as many of these as I can with him. If I can't go, maybe his grandma can take him. He really does enjoy it.

This afternoon, I changed outfits for a couple of errands and Isabelle's girl scout meeting. (I'm a co-leader, even though I'm not doing a whole lot right now.) I tried a hat instead of a scarf. The hat was actually more comfortable. The stubble on my head hurts when its rubbed, and the hat doesn't do that as much. We did much of the meeting outside, and I was a little worried that the wind might blow the hat off, but fortunately it didn't.

So I did it. I "owned" it.

I've been having trouble sleeping this week. I must have some anxiety over the chemo coming up. Maybe last night it was anxiety over my impending "debut." It throws a whole new angle into planning what you are going to wear. It's not like I'm dreading the chemo-I actually am wanting it to come so I can get it over with. I remember having trouble sleeping the nights leading up to the first round. I wake up in the 2 o'clock hour and cannot get back to sleep for a few hours. I'm pretty tired today as a result. I think tonight I may take one of the Ativans to get me through the night. I want to be as strong as I can be on Friday, and sleep is key.

My prayer requests:
  • SLEEP! Eric and I both have been having problems sleeping. Eric's is because he has come down with a cold. Maybe I'll suggest he take some Ny-Quil tonight. I would love to close my eyes and not open them again for at least 7 hours. Maybe more.
  • The health of my family. Like I said, Eric has a cold. Jean-Marc's hives seem to have faded, so that is good. Just pray that everyone get healthy and stay that way as I go through this next round of chemo.
  • That my appointments tomorrow go well. I get my blood drawn and then meet with my oncologist, Dr. P. I have no idea what he will go over with me. But pray that everything looks good and that we are on the right track in fighting this disease.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Buzzed & wigging out!

I just couldn't take it anymore. Last night while in bed, I kept getting hair in my mouth because it was all over the pillow. When I woke up and wet my hair to comb it, there was a ton in the comb. There was no way I could style it, so I put on a hat. I may have had "hair" but there was no way I could work with it.

It was time.

I called my friend and hairdresser, Sheila, who was able to fit me into her busy schedule today at 1:30 p.m. My mom was able to come over on short notice and do my mommy job of picking kids up from school. All the doors were open.

Here is a picture of me about an hour before the buzz.

And here I am freshly buzzed. I'll get a better picture at some point soon. I was still reacting to the feel of the buzz, so my expression is a little funny.

Note to anyone getting such an extreme cut...close your eyes! I got a piece of hair in my right eye and it attached to my contact lens. It feels really strange to have such short hair. And that is going to come out soon. I have a lint roller that will help me get the rest out in the coming week or so.

It was such a God-orchestrated afternoon. As I got to Sheila's salon, she said her afternoon appointments just canceled. Did I want to go wig shopping? You bet! That was one of the things keeping me awake at 3 a.m. this morning...how on earth was I going to coordinate my busy schedule, Sheila's, and my moms?? I didn't have to. God did!

We went over to the Women's Health Boutique and started trying on wigs. Another God thing happened. The lady working there had appointments all afternoon and wasn't going to be able to help us much. No problem. I found one pretty quickly that I liked. The name of it is "Jolie." In French, that means "pretty." Works for me. It's a bob, very much like I have had in the past. I also bought a hat and a couple of scarves.

We took some pictures for fun, I thought everyone might like to see them.

Monday, September 6, 2010

How it goes

This is just the hair that I lost in the shower this morning. I put a quarter next to it for a size reference. I don't dare touch it or style it much because it will just fall out.

I wore a hat when I went out to do some grocery shopping and when I took it off, there was a ton of hair left in the hat.

The physical sensation is strange. It reminds me of the feel that I would have after wearing a tight ponytail for a day. Or even more accurate is this: When I was a kid, I took dance classes and once a year, we had "THE SHOW." The final act was always ballet, and we had to wear our hair in these super-tight buns. I was usually too tired to take it out at night, so when I finally did the next morning it really hurt. That is how it feels on my head.

I do want to get the buzz cut soon. I was thinking maybe I could wait until after Tuesday night, because I have to take Olivier to his boy scout meeting. But then I realized-Isabelle has girl scouts the next day, and I don't really want to be buzzed for that either. I guess its never going to be a convenient time to lose my hair! I think it's better to be buzzed than to be sadly thin with scalp showing through.

Despite the tone of these recent posts, I am doing more than obsessing over my hair--honestly! I got two new cookbooks that are fantastic: "The Cancer Fighting Kitchen" and "One Bite at a Time." Both are by Rebecca Katz. It is fascinating learning about the "culinary pharmacy" that we have available to us. I've chosen some recipies to make this week in preparation for Round Two. I'm going to make a "Magical Mineral Broth" that serves as a soup stock, as well as a base for other recipes. If I get really sick, I could even sip this on its own. I went out to my favorite grocery store, Jimbos, and bought all the ingredients I needed. There were a few new items as well-like kombu, which is a Japanese sea vegetable. Anyway, I got it all home and chopped it all up. I figured I could make it today and store it for later. I realized about halfway into it that I do not have a large enough pot! I think I'll go out tomorrow morning and get a big stock pot for soups. I think planning and cooking really good and healthy food is going to be an anchor for me this fall.

I want the rest of the family to develop healthier tastes as well. My kids do eat vegetables, probably more than most. But not enough of them. I was tickled pink today at lunch. Isabelle asked me to make some pasta, knowing it would be whole wheat. I said okay, but only if I could make her a small salad to go with it. Deal! I made them each a salad with greens, tomatoes, carrots, and strawberries. Eating the rainbow! It was great.

Isabelle and I watched a movie with Miley Cyrus in it, "The Last Song." From the ads, it looked like a teenage romance movie. It was. But there was also a storyline in it about Miley's character's father ....DYING OF CANCER! Yikes. I was able to explain to Isabelle that his cancer was not like mine, and his had spread. Mine has not spread. It was an okay movie. Obviously a tearjerker, though.

My prayer requests:
  • That the hair loss/buzz cut not be traumatic. It is a sign that the chemo drugs are doing what they are supposed to do. I need to keep that in mind and I clean up the hair all over the place. That I be able to find a "convenient" time to get it done and that it not be a sad experience.
  • That the family be healthy. I realized last night that this is another form of spiritual warfare. Last night, everyone in the family had a physical complaint! Isabelle was so tired she threw up her dinner. Jean-Marc has hives that we are trying to diagnose the irritant. Olivier had a bad sunburn from his day out with scouts. Eric was fighting the cold Olivier had last week, and I have cancer. Is that ridiculous or what? Pray that we can overcome these physical complaints and keep our eyes on the Great Physician, our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Out of the mouths of babes

I've tried to be open with the kids about my breast cancer. Eric and I told them less than 24 hours after we found out the diagnosis. I've wanted them to talk about how they are feeling, their fears, their questions. Anything is fair game. But they haven't really said a whole lot. Sure, when we told them on June 12, there were tears. But they swallowed them pretty quickly.

Tonight during dinner, I opened the subject of my inevitable hair loss. I wanted to prepare them mentally as best I could. (Ironic, since I find myself so unprepared, despite knowing that this day was coming.)

I asked them what they were thinking. Would they freak out at me being hairless? I want them to take it seriously, but not too much so. I don't think I want any bald jokes...unless I initiate it. Kind of like the "flat" jokes about my chest. It's okay if I say it. But not so much so for others.

Anyway, I had to crack up at the two responses I got from them. This was spontaneous, right at the beginning:

Isabelle: "You are going to be all face."

Olivier: "Now we will find out if you really have eyes on the back of your head."

Gotta love it. It made me crack up for the first time over the subject!

Locks of Panic

I feel a little silly. But I'll be honest. I'm kind of freaking out.

For 2 weeks now, I've lamented about waiting for my hair to fall out. Now that it is, I'm feeling a little bit of panic about it all. I'm not ready! All it takes is a little tug, and the hair comes out in my hand. It's also coming out when I brush it. I had hair all over the counter this morning. Thank goodness I got it cut short!

I know its just a few days until I can't take it anymore and will want it buzzed. I'm not quite ready to take that step just yet. I'm not ready! I don't have a wig. I have a few scarves and hats...but I'm not ready to HAVE to use them just yet. Or am I?

Maybe it won't even be a few days. Gulp. Maybe I just need to step off that cliff. After all, I would be the one in charge of when and how it comes off. That could be empowering. It does make my heart jump every time I pull out hair. But I'll look like GI Jane. I think of all the mornings, especially as a mother of young children, when I would go out without even thinking about how my hair looked. When it was longer, I spent an entire summer with it up in a clip. Or throw on a headband. I had kids, or I was on my way to the gym. Whatever. I looked ridiculous and it didn't matter. Why am I so bothered by how it looks now?

Perhaps because it is going to signal to the world something that I do not feel inside. Will I get those pitying looks from total strangers now instead of just those who "know" what is going on? I don't want those looks from anyone! I feel strong. I feel healthy, despite the fact of cancer. I'm in the best physical shape of my life...I AM NOT SICK! But the bald head will tell the world something else. It will make it "real." Funny how being flat chested with scars a foot long aren't as traumatic.

On the other hand, I won't have to go through the internal mental questioning when I talk to someone new. Do they know? Or do they not know? It will be pretty obvious now.

Anyway, that is where I am now. I need to just process this all for a day or so. Prayers are appreciated!

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Drip, drop...its starting

I mentioned some tenderness on the top of my head yesterday. Last night (exactly 2 weeks post round one) while I was watching Jean-Marc eat his dinner, I ran my fingers through the top of my head where it was and gave a slight tug and several strands came out. More than would typically. I'm pretty sure that is the beginning of the hair loss. Drip.

With my new short haircut, when I wake up in the morning it is going in all directions. I usually have to spray some water on it and brush it just to get it not to look ridiculous. I did that this morning and my head was tingly for several minutes. Drop. I've read that is another tell tale sign.

So the long awaited "milestone" is happening, albeit slowly. Strange. I can help it along by tugging it out if I want. Or I can keep the touching and tugging to a minimum and see where it comes out.

It's a mixed bag of emotions. In a way, I am relieved that it is starting. I did relatively well on the chemo round. It was almost like it didn't happen. So a little part of me was a bit anxious that I didn't get enough of the drugs, or that they weren't doing their job. This shows me that it is affecting my body. On the other hand, this will signal to the world that I have a serious medical condition. I'm going to look "sick." Really sick. But on the inside right now, I don't feel like I do. Its such a contradiction. I realize that I probably will feel worse as I progress through chemo. But I am claiming each day of feeling good by working out and doing what I can do. Who knows how the next round(s) will go? It also is going to add another layer of complexity to what I wear. To have to coordinate hats and scarves with what I'm wearing is going to be hard. I'm not good at accessorizing. Sticking in a pair of earrings is one thing, but having to consider color and print of hats and clothes. Yikes! And I don't have a wig yet.

God has really been gracious to me in all of this. He most definitely has upheld me with his strong Hand. Any comments that people make about how well I am doing...well, its not me. I'm only in the state I am because of God's grace and mercy upon me. All of the glory goes to Him, not me. If it were up to me, I'd be a quivering heap of anxiety, pity and fear. I have my moments, but that is only when I take my eyes off of the Lord. God truly is good, all of the time. He loves me, and He is sovereign.

Now the question is when do I shave it off? Or do I let it fall out little by little? At some point, its going to be necessary. At this point, it is really slow-it'll take awhile for it to look thin. I'll let this go for a few days and see how much of a pain its going to be. Maybe then I'll be ready to "take charge" and shave it.

The family is busy today. Eric has his monthly target shooting competition this morning. Olivier will be gone all day today on a Scout trip to Soak City. Isabelle had a birthday slumber party to go to last night. I get to be the mom's taxi this morning. Take Olivier to the drop-off point for Scouts, then swing back to get Isabelle from her party and take her to her riding lesson. If Jean-Marc weren't going through a separation anxiety phase, and if I weren't paranoid about him picking up germs, I'd leave him at the gym's "Kid's Club" and go to my first Zumba class in about 8 weeks. Alas, I don't think that is in the cards for me. I'll have to wait until the afternoon when he is napping and just go sweat on the stairclimber and other cardio equipment.

On the health front, neither Eric or Olivier complained about his symptoms this morning. Good sign! Perhaps they have fought off the illness?

My prayer requests today:
  • That I be able to cope with the hair loss.
  • That the chemo drugs that are in my body are doing their job and destroying any cancer cells that escaped through my lymph nodes. Better yet, that I not have any cancer cells in me--that the surgery got them all and that the chemo is just overkill.
  • That the family be healthy and not get sick, even a cold could derail my chemo schedule. I would like to have the schedule stay as it is and be done in early December.
  • That the timing of my brother coming home from Iraq will work out for everyone. Yay! He's coming home, probably before the end of October. Mom and dad will want to go and greet him in Georgia. There are a lot of things going on in that month, though. Mom is already kind of worried about it. We have our Making Strides for Cancer walk, my chemo round on the 22nd, as well as few other things that make the timing a bit complicated. I know God will work the timing out, but extra prayer never hurts!