Monday, September 26, 2011

Doing too much with too little.

A fellow cancer assassin and I had a short conversation on facebook this morning about feeling tired and lethargic from treatment and wanting to do too much.  This is something that is always on my mind and I thought it would make for an excellent blog post, so here goes.

I have always been proud of my ability to get things done.  I am a multi-tasker at heart, an organizer, a cleaner (love a clean home) and just a "doer" in general, often trying to fit in a hike or climb in with all the rest of my daily "chores".  Basically I think that when I was diagnosed last March and knew that the statistics for my survival of even one year didn't look too good, something inside of me shifted.  I had this deep down feeling that I just had to do it all, see it all, experience it all, not missing or letting slip by one single second of my life.  I wanted to take it all in and hold onto it, there were still so many things I wanted to do in my life, so many things I wanted to see, smell and hear.  I went on a binge trying to fit everything in, not wanting to miss a second of it.  Keep in mind this was on top of everything else going on: research about food/cosmetics/household products, or about therapies and treatments that could help me kill the cancer that had all of the sudden become the most prominent thing in my life.

One day I came into the Center for Traditional Medicine for my regularly scheduled nutritional IV, my friend Susan (another fellow cancer assassin) was there and as usual we started talking about all the things we were doing etc.   She realized that I was completely exhausted (something that I am not good at telling myself) and suggested that I slow down a bit.  At first I was like "No way! I've gotta see it all before it's too late!" It was at this point that Susan gave me a little bit of advice that has completely changed the way I look at my time, energy levels, and priorities. I want to share it with you all, even if you don't have cancer, because it is so worthy of sharing.  It goes a little like this:

Susan explained that I should look at my day and energy levels much like a tank of gas.  I know that I have a certain amount of energy each day that oscillates wildly when I get chemo or an IV (less energy then).  From this I can sort of plan the things that I want to do that day.  Prioritize the most important things or the things that you really want to do (don't forget that even having FUN expends your precious energy too) and do those first.  If you have any energy left over after that then you can decide exactly what you want to devote that energy to.  Simple huh?

For me, I know how much energy I will have to do things each day.  Usually for me preparing food and the regular duties take quite a bit of energy, especially after chemo.  I know that I want to get to the climbing gym or out on the crag so I save some energy for that (perhaps blow off vacuuming or dusting that day for some fun instead).  Basically I think that this bit of advice helps me to know that I do indeed have a limit.  As much as I don't want to admit it, and as much as I want to do it all, I just know that if I do I will be paying for it the next day as I lay on the sofa until 2 or 3 in the afternoon completely exhausted, OR my liver is hurting and most likely it came from overdoing it the day before and not taking some of my energy and time to take care of myself first.  I know just how important it is to have the energy to fight this stupid cancer and if I use it all up cleaning the house or doing other things I wont have any left to fight.  That is just not acceptable in my world.  I truly feel that my cancer was partly caused by too much stress (or at least amplified by it).  Chinese medicine says that the liver is where we hold resentment, anger and stress, no wonder mine ended up compromised!  So these days I try to live as stress free as possible, for my own sanity and for my health.  I realize that I have a certain amount of energy every day and I try to plan accordingly.  Sometimes I still overdo it, but at least I can now realize when that happens and try to prevent it from recurring.  I still get frustrated, VERY frustrated that I cannot do all the things I want to do and that my brain has turned to mush from chemotherapy.  I cannot concentrate on anything most of the time (even 1/2 hour sit-coms on tv) and I constantly lose my train of thought and for the life of me I can never ever seem to find the word I am looking for.  Those things frustrate me more than I even know.  But out of all of this crap, this is the golden nugget that I have come away with.

I deserve to be healthy.
I deserve to live a stress free life as much as possible.

I try to look at these frustrations and find something good in there like this:
I now have the time for myself, time to rest as much as I want, time to take care of me.  So what if I can't remember things sometimes, that just keeps it from getting old and hey, I save a ton of money on movies because I don't remember watching them so they are all like new releases to me :)

It is easy to get lost in all the overwhelming things that cancer brings into your life and to feel so very deflated, defeated, lost and alone.  I am not going to say that this doesn't happen to me, because it does.  I throw myself a huge pity party from time to time and I am not ashamed to say it.  It feels good to get it out and rant and cry and scream at the unfairness of it all and THAT is important.  Getting it out prevents me from "holding it inside" and creating more avenues for cancer to thrive inside me.  I am not saying that anyone, including myself, needs to go around with a smile and nothing but positive things to say, that is not only absurd and ridiculous but it will eventually backfire and leave you feeling even worse later.  I am only suggesting to slow down, enjoy what you enjoy, no one can do it all at once.  All those things you didn't get to will still be there tomorrow, and who knows, perhaps the extra time will make doing what ever it is that much easier later.

I hope everyone is having a wonderful Monday!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Another great article about mesothelioma from Allison Kahan

So I must be on a roll today, getting to all those things that I have been neglecting.

I used to work for a municipal water department where we often dealt with asbestos concrete water pipes (yes your water most likely travels through an asbestos pipe, makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside doesn't it) so I always had concerns about asbestos.  We had to suit up in these white suits to handle the pipe and always keep it wet so the little particles didn't become airborne and float into our lungs.

This is a great resource and article written by Allison Kahan from regarding mesothelioma, cancer, nutrition and other therapies that help than just the "chemo" "radiation" route.  These are important to us not only for our direct health benefits, but also important for our mental and spiritual health too which plays a huge role in our recovery and fight against cancer.

I hope you enjoy.  Here is the link to for you to peruse.

Here is Allison's article, I hope you enjoy it and find it informative.

When Laura asked us to contribute a blog for her website I was more than excited!  Laura’s story is extremely inspiring!  I’d like to start this blog entry by congratulating her on such an impressive and miraculous victory against cancer!  Laura, you are a fighter! But, most of all, you are a survivor!
Cancer comes in many forms, stages, and sizes but some things are the same throughout - the experiences endured are scary and life changing.  Some say it’s situations like this in life that really open our eyes and make us appreciate everything even more than before.   In her “About Me” section that states, Laura asks “Why is it that only when we are faced with death that we truly begin to live?”
Laura was able to beat her battle against cancer by going back to the basics.  She turned her life around by eating organic, non-processed foods; taking supplements; exercising; and focusing on being as healthy as possible.  Alternative therapies are beneficial in coping with all kinds of cancer, not just liver/bile duct cancer like Laura.  Mesothelioma, another rare kind of cancer, has also been known to use alternative therapies to help with the pain and general health associated with this cancer.
Different forms of alterative therapy include:
·       Acupuncture
·       Aromatherapy
·       Chiropractic care
·       Massage
·       Meditation
·       Yoga
·       Supplements
·       Pet Therapy
·       Tens Therapy

Many times, acupuncture and massage are used for mesothelioma patients as “complimentary medicine.”  This kind of medicine is used more to treat the entire person as a whole and not just one problem.  It’s a routine of different therapies that hopefully in combination with one another will help heal the condition at hand.  This is very much like what Laura did to help her body fight against cancer.  Lifestyle changes are becoming even more imperative than just taking medicine and hoping you will get better.  Many doctors are now encouraging their patients to try this type of healing in hopes that it will help in conjunction with the medicines they provide.

Nutrition is not only important for the average person but even more beneficial for cancer patients.  In some cases, nutrition can help improve a patient’s prognosis.  This is not always easy in light of the nausea associated with chemotherapy treatments and/or surgeries.  High protein, nutrient-dense diets are best for mesothelioma patients; they should avoid highly processed foods with sugar and preservatives.  Additionally, taking supplements are also a great addition to the altered food choices.  A few of the most important supplements include vitamins, minerals, herbs and amino acids.  Ginseng, flaxseed, garlic, grape seed extract and St. Johns Wort are a few of the most popular forms of supplements used.

Our website offers an extensive listing of information regarding alternative and complimentary care for cancer patients.  We are constantly updating our Twitter and Facebook with stories and news articles related to asbestos/mesothelioma.

Exercise and Cancer: A great article written by David Haas

I must say I have had this article for a few months now, meaning to post it but just either forgetting to or having so much going on in my life that I didn't.  Today is the day!

A blogger friend sent this to me and it is so very true and actually a great resource for those who are struggling with cancer.  I want to also say that I know first hand that it is hard to always get exercise, especially when you are not feeling good from treatments etc.  But it is so very important.  There will always be those days when you cannot peel yourself off of the bed/sofa but that is OK.  On those days where you do feel good enough to get up try to get even a little exercise.  Go for a walk, do a little yard work or house work.  Even the smallest of things can get your body moving and feeling good or at least a little better.

And for those of you out there who haven't been diagnosed, exercise is just as important! It helps prevent cancers or at least keeps you healthy so that your body is able to fight it off. Keeping ourselves as healthy as possible (cancer or no cancer) is oh so important to our overall health.

I hope you enjoy this article as much as I did.  Kudos to you David and thank you for sharing this important piece of information with us all!  I have also posted a link to David's blog for you to enjoy.

The Power of Fitness

According to research presented by the National Association of Physical Activity and Health, an active lifestyle may prevent cancer deaths in men. Similar studies suggest the same is true for women with certain types of cancer. In fact, the American Cancer Society contends that exercise, even in small amounts, may be beneficial. As helpful as a fitness routine may be, it is not meant to be a substitute for regular cancer treatments.

Exercise may help with some of the possible side effects of some types of cancer such as lung cancer,
liver cancer, breast cancer, and even a rare and usually terminal cancer such as mesothelioma. Even just walking around may prevent blood clots in the legs. Exercise may also reduce fatigue in cancer patients. Patients who exercised on a regular basis before their diagnosis should continue to do so after their diagnosis with consent from their doctor. Many doctors believe that exercise can help improve one’s life expectancy.  For example, Mesothelioma life expectancy is typically 1-2 years after initial diagnosis, but some patients live five years or more from the time they were first diagnosed. A European study found a link between reducing consumption of red meat and a reduced risk of colon cancer. The study suggests a diet rich in vegetables, fruits and whole grains to reduce the risk of prostate cancer.

Some studies suggest a link between physical exercise and a lower risk of rectal and colon cancer. Exercise has also been shown to display a reduced risk of
ovarian cancer in certain studies. It's hard to confirm a definite link between fitness and cancer because so many factors are involved, but several studies have found several health benefits of staying in shape or starting an exercise routine. Additional studies have found a correlation between exercise and a reduced risk of breast cancer, prostate cancer and lung cancer.

Adopting a fitness routine may also be beneficial
following cancer treatment. There is significant evidence to suggest exercise may help prevent various types of cancer, but studies show a steady fitness routine may also help recovering cancer patients’ deal with the side effects of treatment. Cancer patients who have recovered may also benefit from regular exercise. Recent studies suggest a connection between regular exercise and a reduced chance of recurrence. General benefits of exercise include improved mood, increased self-confidence, reduced fatigue, lower risk of cardiovascular disease and reduced risk of diabetes. Patients should talk to their doctor before starting a regular exercise program.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Today is a good, good day!

Last night, for the first time without actually having to, I set my alarm clock for 7am.  Usually I just hit the snooze button a time (or ten) before I actually get up.  Luckily I was using an alarm clock that I was not used to and couldn't find the snooze button, so up at 7am I was.  I made my usual cup of Earl Grey and decided to wake up a little by pulling some weeds in our very neglected front yard.  That actually did the trick and what a way to wake up, smelling all those broken green weeds.  I love the smell of plants, especially tomato plants!

Anyway, today I have an appointment at the Center for Traditional Medicine and it happens to coincide with my friend Susan's appointment and I am so excited to see her!  We have kind of a "girl" day planned. After our appointments at the CTM I will be accompanying her to some more doctors appointments. That is what happens when you have cancer, always some doctors appointment, always.  As a matter of fact your doctors appointments and chemo and IV's etc are what you revolve your entire life around.  Someone says "Hey! What are you doing tomorrow/next Tuesday/next week/etc. and you can't really say if you are going to feel good enough to do anything, that is IF you don't actually have an appointment that day.  It is strange as you watch yourself deteriorating.  Your memory going south, you can no longer multi-task or even single-task because you forget that you were even doing anything at all.  You are all of the sudden that "flaky" friend that gets on everyones nerves because you either forgot (chemo brain) that you had a date with someone or you didn't anticipate feeling like crap so you have to cancel.  Even your partner/caregiver gets annoyed because you are not the same person you used to be...

At least if you had dementia you wouldn't know you were so flaky and that your brain is turning to mush and your emotions are all over the chart most likely in big part from the all of the drugs coursing through your body, but you also wouldn't be able to notice that you are slowly going crazy.  But actually knowing and seeing yourself become this person (moody/flaky/etc) is a hard thing to handle, especially if you used to be proud of how well you could handle complex situations and your organizational skills.  Gone...Now I am a moody, flaky person who somehow always is able to see some positive in even the nastiest of situations, cling to it for dear life, and make even the most trying of days in to really good ones.  You have got to, otherwise you would just fall down into a deep dark bottomless hole, and climbing out of that would be even harder.  I think I will chose to step around it.  Maybe one day this hole will be filled in, covered up, boarded up, and "KEEP OUT!" signs placed all around.  Or perhaps one day this ugly hole will fill up with flowers and those yummy smelling plants I love so much.  Yeah, that is what will happen!

As a good friend of mine says, "Today is a good, good day!"
Love you Bills!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

I'm an anomaly...great! Someone told me that ALL miracles are anomalies!

Well, the appointment with my oncologist Dr Shao was a little disappointing and bubble bursting...
He is not convinced that all of the cancer in my liver is dead.  His comment was that CC is super slow growing so it is not surprising that it did not show up on the PET scan.  I am all in agreement that I would much rather be safe than sorry so I am continuing to get my normally scheduled chemotherapy treatments every other week (although I do have a 3 week break right now, woot!) and in 3 more months we are going to do another scan to see whats going on.
In the meantime, I will be speaking with all 3 oncologists to see why each one has a differing opinion...That will be interesting.

So I guess that that piece of paper from the official PET scan report that said "IN REMISSION" was just a teaser after all....It is NOT official yet....But in my mind I KNOW that I am kicking some cancer ass.  Just because they have never seen anyone react so positively before and just because NO ONE has ever cured themselves from stage IV INCURABLE, INOPERABLE cholangiocarcinoma, my job has suddenly gotten a lot harder.  Not only now do I have to kick cancer ass, but I also have to convince the medical world that it can be done.

I've got a message for them and for stupid cancer.

I AM JUST THE WOMAN FOR THE JOB! some (most) believe it can't be done, that is my motivation to prove them wrong

My mom knows this well enough...

If you want me to do something, DON'T keep asking me to do it
If someone tells me 1 million and one reasons why I can't/shouldn't/it wont work/you'll never make it/etc then you are damn straight that I will make it my personal mission to prove them wrong.  This is no exception.

Like I have said before,

Cancer Can Suck It!

...and by the way, it has been quite the emotional roller coaster hasn't it?