Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Cholangiocarcinoma awareness month comes to an end.

The month of February is Cholangiocarcinoma Awareness Month and fittingly it is ending with today also being Rare Disease Awareness Day.  Being a rare disease cholangiocarcinoma has a 5 year survival rate of only 30% and only 20% of cholangiocarcinoma is found at an early stage.  If it has spread from the bile duct (cholangiocarcinoma originates in the bile duct) then the 5 year survival rate decreases dramatically if the cancer has spread outside of the bile duct and into the liver, other organs, or other parts of the body (as mine has).

Here is everything you ever wanted to know (or not know) about cholangiocarcinoma, and if you haven't found them yet I recommend checking out the site, but please remember that some of the information found here can be depressing at best, so it is advisable to take this page with a grain of salt and remember that YOU make your own statistics.

On March 12 I return to the clinic for my 3rd PET scan since diagnosis day.  This is what the first scan looked like a short time after I was diagnosed.

You can see the giant black mass in my abdomen actually protruding out.  There were so many active tumors that the contrast did not even reveal my heart or kidneys (places where cells are very active).  You can even see how the gigantic tumor mass in my liver is pushing my stomach out, this was because at that time you could literally feel the mass and my tummy looked like there was definitely something wrong.

My liver function values were through the roof at about 280.  Everyone looked at me and said that they did not know how my liver was actually still functioning (normal values are in the low 100's).  I was a walking anomaly.  I even had one doctor tell me "You know you better get straight with god because you don't have long to live".  I fired him.

This was the PET scan I had done last August.  My second one since diagnosis.  You can easily see the difference in the two.  Now the tumors are (according to the report) no longer active and there is plenty of contrast left so that my heart, bladder, and other glands are clearly visible.  This was the report that actually said "complete remission from disease".
The gigantic black mass in my liver area is pretty much non-existant in this picture isn't it? I am also a lot skinnier, but chemo will do that to you.

This is the scan that the doctors couldn't believe (and still don't).  I got asked my one very interested oncologist "How did you do it? No one has ever just gotten rid of severe and extensive cholangiocarcinoma in only 17 months before!"

Like I have said before, you make your own statistics! If I had listened to the grim prognosis of the doctors then I might have just given up, I might not have fought as hard.  I might have just accepted that I could be dead in months.  I, instead, used this as motivation.  I fed on it.  I knew that I just had to find every single way I could attack this cancer on my own through my diet and lifestyle.  I literally did everything I could afford or find.  I got acutonics, massages, acupuncture, nutritional IV's, read all kinds of books about how to eat, think, meditate, and stay grounded.  I took endless supplements to support my body while going through nearly 2 years and over 40 chemotherapy treatments.  In short I wanted to control everything I possibly could especially since everything seemed so out of control.  I felt that somehow I had gotten myself into this pickle and I was the one who had the best chance of getting myself out of it. It was my goal to prove them all wrong.

For many years I have had an interest in plants and natural medicine.  I used to say that "for every disease out there in the world, there is a plant that can cure it".  Those words I spoke so long ago rung in my ears after my diagnosis.  I knew that it was time for me to walk my talk.  The first words out of my mouth after the doctor told me I had cancer were "tell me everything, I need to know every angle to fight this from".  Little did I know just how profound this was.  Knowledge is power! With knowledge we can make better decisions not only about our treatments (which is vitally important to our health) but also about our own responsibility to our bodies, especially when/if they are compromised.  Better yet, our knowledge can literally help prevent us from becoming sick in the first place.  I also completely understand we can't always do something about "bad genes" or exposures to chemicals in our air and water...but we can reduce the risks of bad health by taking steps to create a healthy environment.  Here are a few things I have learned in the last few years and I want to share them with you.

Read ingredient labels on your food!

One thing I have found is that I purchase less food that I have to "read".  I mostly eat organic produce (no ingredient labels there).  You know exactly what it is, what it is made need for an ingredient list.  When I do purchase food that has "ingredients" I read the entire list making sure that I know what those ingredients are.  If I don't know what it is I don't purchase it, that simple.  I may come home and look it up to see what it is and then determine if I want to purchase it on my next trip to the market.  I used to be fooled by the labels declaring "all natural ingredients" or "made with natural ingredients" but upon closer inspection of the actual ingredients I found that there were some "natural" ingredients but that there were also lots of unnatural ones as well.  This is how they fool you.  It is just easier (and it is also a rule of thumb) to do your shopping around the perimeter of grocery stores.  The aisles are where all of the processed foods are and I tend to avoid those.  Other things to watch out for are labels that say "made with organic ingredients".  Yes they may have some organic ingredients in there but most of the time there are only a few organic ingredients with a bunch of non-organic ones.  Most all processed and packaged foods contain derivatives of corn and/or soy.  Most corn and soy are all GMO and we all know how bad those are.  Also nearly every food we eat has corn and/or soy in it.  These ingredients are not meant to be consumed at every meal.  They actually add to our poor health.  I challenge you to read your labels and see if you can go for just 3 days without eating any corn or soy products.  Remember to investigate the ingredients that you don't know.  Hint: Xanthan gum is a corn derivative.

Fight for a healthy environment!

Our national parks are little pockets of wilderness the way it used to be.  They are places of solitude, imagination, awe, inspiration, excitement, and a much simpler time.  They are your public lands.  They can only remain healthy with your support.  Please consider purchasing an annual park pass for your favorite park or an annual pass for all parks.  They are some of the best ever places to go to feel connected with nature, release stress, breathe in fresh air (even though that is being compromised by coal plants, mining and other activities) and just take a load off.  If we neglect our parks (yes we all pay for these) they will be lost forever, and that makes me very sad.
Arches National Park, Utah
Vote to end various forms of pollution, from shutting down coal fired power plants to banning plastic bags, to stopping fluoridation of public water supplies.  I know that you are only one person, but so is everyone else.  If all of us took steps to clean up our environment just think of the impact we could have!  Change is always initiated by the power of one!
As for you home, purchase some plants to clean you air.  Here are the top ten houseplants that can help keep your indoor air clean.  An air purifier is a must! Mine runs in my home 24-7 and it's benefits are very noticeable.  The air is much cleaner and it actually smells nice too!  I have one with a washable filter so that I don't have to toss old ones and purchase new ones.  I also use Himalayan Salt lamps around my home.  Not only are they pretty to look at, they also emit negative ions that help purify the air by removing dust, allergens, smoke, bacteria and a lot more! I keep one right beside my bed, and one in the living room.  The only time I ever turn them off is when I go to bed.  They work wonders!

Read the labels on your health care products!

I have said this so many times already but it is so important that I feel that it cannot be said enough.  Our skin is the largest organ of our body.  It soaks up everything we put on it, from lotions, to shampoos, to nail polish.  It only takes 28 seconds for our skin to absorb what we put on it.  After that it travels to our liver to be processed.  Is this making sense now?  The word "fragrance" alone has so many chemicals in it your head would spin.  I can't begin to count how many products I though were good (because I of course got fooled by the packaging touting "orgainc" ingredients) but once I read the labels I found many ingredients that I couldn't pronounce or I found them all to be decent except for that one word at the bottom of the list, "fragrance".  This is another place where you have to be diligent about your label reading and if in doubt, either toss it out or do not purchase it.  There is a great site called The Cosmetics Database by the Environmental Working Group, where you can go and look up a product or ingredient to see exactly how toxic it is and why as well as a rating on the safety of said product.  If you are looking for some really awesome place to get started on finding toxic free beauty products I recommend trying Ava Non-Toxic products.  She gets rave reviews about her stuff all the time!
I used to love painting my nails!  I had a very extensive collection of nail polish (my girlfriends will attest to this).  I loved getting mani's and pedi's.  I don't do that anymore though.  I do my own mani's and pedi's at home sans polish.  I know, I know, you are probably saying "there are less toxic polishes out there, they even sell them in the natural cosmetics aisle".  Here is my beef...Paint is paint.  There is no way that that can possibly be natural.  When we put paint on our nails guess what? It soaks into our blood.  And how do we get that paint off? With more chemicals, right?  Flip that bottle of polish over and read the label.  Are those ingredients natural?  I was walking by a nail salon the other day and felt that old feeling in me longing for my half an hour of pampering and cuticle trimming, sitting in that massaging chair while someone waits on me literally hand and foot.  Then I saw a young girl, no more than 10, emerge from fumes of the open door to the nail salon.  The little girl had her toes and fingers painted bright red.  She was very obviously pleased with her new nails.  I actually felt sick to my stomach right then and there.  I wondered that if this mother knew just how toxic that stuff was that she paid money to have put on her child, let alone sit in toxic fumes for at least half an hour.  I wondered if the day would ever come where she stopped to think about how something as seemingly innocent and harmless as nail polish could actually be contributing to hormone imbalance and potentially deadly chronic conditions in her or her child.  Please don't paint your nails.  Please?
Same thing goes for perms, most all hair dye, brazilian blowouts or any other hair straightening.  Not only does your skin soak all these chemicals in in 28 seconds, but just think about the fact that you are actually putting them on your head!

I realize that we cannot control everything in our worlds, but we can control more than most people think we can.  Remember, knowledge is power! It is time to take your power back, become an informed consumer and remember that you are a powerful,  powerful decision maker in your own health and wellbeing.  Wield that power responsibly and be educated about your choices!  This will not only create a better future for you, but for many generations to come.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

As if cancer wasn't hard enough...

Anyone who is diagnosed with cancer has it hard.  There are so many things that used to come so easily, and so many things that were taken for granted that are now things that a cancer patient struggles with on a daily basis.  Before I found out I had cancer I thought the hardest things I would struggle with in my near future would be finishing my 2nd masters degree, finding an awesome job that I loved, paying my bills, and saving money for the future.  At the time I was also 2 years into struggling with my previous place of employment over a serious back injury that left me completely couch ridden for months on end.  I thought that was hard...hiring lawyers, court appearances, letters and meetings with the bureau of industrial insurance, trying to prove that I was injured and continually getting sent to shady washed up physicians whose job it was to prove me wrong.  Even though I could barely stand to brush my teeth or wash the dishes, even though I was in constant, agonizing pain, the independent medical examiners kept saying that I could definitely return to my old job of digging ditches, repairing water mains, and installing and replacing fire hydrants....yeah right.

Everything was starting to move was scheduled for mid April 2010, I was ready to start feeling better, had my intake forms all filled out and was ready to roll, or so I thought.

WHAM!!! Guess what? You've got cancer.  A really bad cancer that people usually do not live long from because once they find this cancer it has already progressed extensively in your body.  I cancelled my surgery per oncologist's orders and prepared for a barrage of tests, biopsies, port placement, PET scans, CT scans, endoscopies, colonoscopies, mammograms, any orifice that could be poked or prodded or scanned was thoroughly checked.  As a result I completely detached from my body, almost like my head and mind were a complete separate entity from the rest of my physical self.  My body was what they did things to.  I began to not even recognize myself in the mirror.  Honestly I did not even want to look at my body because every time I saw my reflection in the mirror I looked thinner and sicker.  I would sit and stare into my eyes (the only part of my body I wanted to see) to try to find something in those brown irises that I missed, some indicator that I was sick and had cancer.  I analyzed every little speck and variance in the colors wondering why they did not tell me sooner or why I had failed to see it before it got out of hand.  Nothing....just myself staring back at me, eyes filled with guilt about how I could have possibly let it get this far.

In the following months, while I was waiting to be approved for state health insurance, I was bombarded by phone calls from clinics, hospitals, and collection agencies wanting to know when they would be getting paid the tens of thousands of dollars I had racked up in various labs, scans and tests.  I even had hospitals (The University of Washington) calling me wanting money for an appointment that I had cancelled two whole weeks before the date of my appointment. They wanted over $200 for services that never even took place!  Talk about scammers!  I told them I would be dead before they ever got money from me.  They have not contacted me again.

Once I completed my graduate studies the time came for student loan repayment.  Again, letters, phone calls, etc.  Luckily most of my loans were through the federal government and are in the process of being forgiven for permanent and total disability.  Unfortunately, I had foolishly taken out a private loan that I had to get my father to cosign for.  Now I am battling AES and Citizens bank trying to figure out how in the world cancer girl here is going to be able to pay off 22K.  It sucks that because of my bad judgement my retired father is going to be held responsible for this debt.  I have no idea how this one is going to work out yet.  I am pretty certain that he is not too happy about it.  Luckily my grace period is extended until July buying me a little more time to try to come up with a plan.

I received chemotherapy treatments for over 20 months.  I calculated that I have gotten chemo at least 40 times.  The toxic cocktail was gemzar and cisplatin, drugs that were shown in studies to have the largest effect on cholangiocarcinoma.  These come with all kinds of physical side effects:

-damage to veins
-damage to kidneys
-hair loss
-chemo brain
-aching in bones and joints
-constant itchiness
-vision problems
-mouth/gum problems
-thinning of skin
-horrible fatigue
-metal mouth/dry mouth
-low blood counts
-shortness of breath
-burning/numbness/tingling of the hands, arms, legs and feet
-hearing problems
-loss of taste
-mental or mood changes

I experienced all of these side effects.  I am actually still struggling with some of them (the highlighted ones) which brings me to my next point.

It is often overlooked and discounted that people have mental issues, mood swings, and unstable emotions when they hear that they have cancer, and exacerbated by the toxic chemo cocktails coursing through their veins literally eating away healthy cells in their bodies and in their brain.

Trying to deal with a cancer diagnosis emotionally is damn hard, toss in some toxic chemicals and it becomes exponentially harder.  I found myself crying at the drop of a hat.  The little bumps in the road became Mt Everest for me, impossible to get past.  I found myself angry at strangers as I watched them drink their healthy livers away in the bars that my boyfriend liked to frequent.  I was angry that I had a next to impossible time finding any restaurants that I wanted to eat at, as they all seemed extremely unhealthy to me (fried food, butter, cheese, milk, sugar) and I wanted to know exactly what I was putting into my mouth.  Food and what went into and onto my body became the only way I had any control over what was going on in my world and I damn sure wanted to have some control.

In September some members of boyfriends family moved in with us.  Two adults a two year old and a 3 month old who just moved from another state and had very little money, boyfriend wanted to help as much as he could of course, family is family.  With the new house guests came a new set of problems and I soon found out that one of our new house guests had a severe drinking problem.  This was the last thing I (with liver cancer) needed to have to deal with.  Boyfriend was in school or studying or unwinding at the bar most of the time and since I was constantly home fatigued from chemotherapy, I was the person who got to deal with most of it (screaming 2 year olds with stompy feet and crying babies).  Needless to say this situation created quite a rift between everyone.  That was about as dysfunctional as it gets.  Anyone who knows me well at all knows that I have a hard time keeping my mouth shut when it involves unfairness and injustice especially when I am forced to be a part of it.  Ultimately house guests ended up moving out and returning to their previous home.  Boyfriend was angry with me for "not handling the situation well" and didn't know if he could be with someone who didn't get along with his family.  To this day I still can't figure out how anyone with any ethics at all could think it was a good idea to move in with a cancer patient undergoing chemotherapy unless they were there to help that person.  The rift grows even larger...

In the year and a half following my diagnosis I did pretty well holding it together in spite of the difficulties.  My boyfriend confided to me (after much asking "what's wrong" on my part) that he did not find me attractive any more because I was so very thin from my treatments.  We began having serious issues communicating with each other.  Perhaps it was from his fear of losing me that caused him to become distant and non-communicative.  Maybe it was my mood swings or maybe it was because in his eyes I was not quite as perfect as he once thought pre-cancer.  Maybe we just grew apart for other reasons.  Money was also becoming a huge issue for us.  I had spent all of my savings on my naturopath and started receiving government disability assistance, not nearly enough to pay the bills.  My only choice was to move out and seek government housing.  I asked him if this is what it was really coming down to as we couldn't agree on a way to make it work and his reply was "If that is what you want to do".  This literally broke my heart.  I felt (and still feel) completely abandoned by him.  Granted I know that he has a mortgage to pay and bills of his own, but aren't two people who are in love supposed to try to find a way to make it work together?  He now has a roommate who gives him the money I cant.  We hardly ever see each other anymore.  We usually correspond via text message.  I don't even remember the last time he told me he loved me or showed affection.  I guess I am silly for wanting to make things work out and for continuing to hold onto the tattered scraps of what was once a truly awesome relationship where we told each other every day how lucky we were to have found the other.  Maybe neither one of us wants to let go, after all we have been through so much together one would think that all of that adversity would have made us stronger and that cancer would have made each day just that much more precious.

So here I sit, 39 days from my two year "cancer-versary" in a shitty government housing (with other "disabled" people who most likely did too much crack or meth) that smells like cigarette smoke, unchanged old man diapers, and greasy food while garbage trucks "beep! beep! beep!" incessantly at all hours of day and night outside my window that I always leave open for the fresh air wondering how in the hell it ever got to this point.

Most days I am able to distract myself from all of the less than desirable things going on in my life.  I am usually pretty good about finding that "silver lining" in even the worst cases.  I am a glass half full kind of person, usually eager to smile and be a dork.  I still am.  I am just extremely frustrated that there is just always some new bag of shit at my doorstep that I need to deal with.  I am convinced that there is a lesson in all of this that I have not learned yet and that is why I keep not being able to find the bottom yet, get my feet back underneath me and climb the hell out of this gigantic hole I seem to have gotten myself into.

It is times like these that I constantly remind myself of my own advice and give myself an attitude adjustment.  After all, people are dying all of the time from cancer...what to I have to complain about?

My advice to myself:

What you focus on expands.


Thursday, February 9, 2012

CA19-9 tumor marker test

I got the phone call 2 days ago, the reminder call that I had an appointment with my oncologist today.  I had planned to go skiing but I hadn't been to the oncologist for nearly a month so I felt that it was important to go.

When I arrived I was told that the doc wasn't in today and I would only be getting a lab test done.  My appointment with the doc wasn't until next week.  Thinking it would be silly to get stabbed twice for blood draws I asked what all the hubub was about.  The receptionist then told me that I was scheduled for a CA19-9 tumor marker test today.  It is the first one of these tests I have ever had.  I have had another type of tumor marker test (AFP I think) but that was long ago.  I find it interesting that I am just now getting this test, but hey, I am glad I am getting it.

I have an appointment next week to see the doc and discuss the results of the test and to schedule a PET scan.  I was told by the nurses that I could call in tomorrow to get the results of the CA19-9 test if I wanted to.  You better believe I am!  I will keep you all posted.  I am certain that it will be good news! Focus, focus, focus! Good news!

Many healthy blessings to all!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

What it all means

I am psyched!

Exploring at the beach
It has been 69 days since my last chemotherapy treatment.  I think I have had roughly 40 infusions in the 20 months since I was diagnosed with cancer.  I stopped chemo at the end of November.  I can say that I honestly can't tell a difference from how I felt yesterday, but I can tell that I feel better than I did a month ago and a lot better than I did 2 months ago.  I think that I am still only operating at about 40% capacity both mentally and physically with emotionally being slightly better (more around 50%) because I just do not feel like myself yet.  The small things fluster me, any sort of thing that I need to concentrate on becomes a gigantic undertaking but when I finally do accomplish them it feels really good.  I've been spending a lot of time in my apartment, organizing, manifesting, sending out mindful intentions of what I need to be healthy and happy.  I had a wonderful 2 hour Skype conversation with a beautiful friend of mine.  I have been doing really well with my two alternative treatments, remembering to take them every day and not hating it when I do.  It is easy to not hate them, they have had absolutely no side effects at all for me (HURRAY!) and if anything I think I am sleeping much better.  I actually have been getting up at my usual time of 6am as opposed to the "anywhere between 11am-1pm" routine I adopted while undergoing chemotherapy.  The side effects of chemotherapy and all of the drugs I ingested to combat those side effects really have done a number on my body and mind, but it feels so good to have some kind of normal sleeping routine again (even though it might be the only thing that is normal).

I've been wondering exactly how long it takes to get over the majority of the chemo side effects.  I am pretty sure that it has most likely done some irreparable damage to my body and have heard many stories about people who have had chemo over 10 years ago who still fight with it's effects.  Of course doctors of modern medicine will not tell you this.  They tell you that when you stop getting chemo the side effects (nausea, ringing in ears, neuropathy, chemo brain, etc.) will all go away, just like that.  Poof!

They LIE!

They also lie when they tell you that it is ok for you to eat an entire pint of ice cream, a bunch of meat (even though you can get iron and protein from plants and legumes), ginger ale for nausea, etc.  Yes, I was actually told these things, which brings me to the point of today's blog.

The reason I quit chemotherapy was not because the regime was finished and it was my last session.  My oncologist told me that I would be receiving chemotherapy until the day I died.  That was not ok with me.  I have been really confused since last August when my oncologist sent me in to see a surgical oncologist to see if I could have my tumors surgically removed.  She ordered a PET scan, looked it over and said that she couldn't remove them because it left me with virtually no liver left and many of them were in places that they couldn't remove.  I was still not an option for a donor, living or deceased. So she referred me to a radiological oncologist who reviewed my PET scan and arranged an appointment with me.  He had a miracle treatment for people who have cholangiocarcinoma that was very promising.  The treatment was called Y-90 (Yttrium-90) and it consisted of injecting radioactive beads the size of a grain of sand directly into the tumors via a catheter inserted into a vein in the groin.  It was supposed to have minimal side effects and be pretty painless.  I was the perfect candidate, young, no other health problems, otherwise healthy etc. and I was very excited about it.  He walked through the door to the exam room, introduced himself and then said that he would love to help me and that he was excited to do the procedure on me but upon review of my PET scan he couldn't.  He said the reason that he couldn't do the procedure was because the PET scan showed NO EVIDENCE OF DISEASE.  He then proceeded to say how honored he felt to meet me, how in the world did I do it!?  He said that no one has ever had such extensive CC and in 17 months had a scan that showed no living cancer.  He couldn't do the procedure because he could find no living cancer to target.
Pumpkin and honey moisturizing
and firming mask makes your
skin feel oh so good!

I was excited to see my oncologist and tell him the news.   I thought he would be excited, thinking that he might give himself a pat on the back for prescribing the right treatment for me.  He was less than enthused.  He said that CC is so slow growing that there are most likely still cancer cells there that the PET scan didn't pick up.  The thought of stopping chemotherapy did not even present itself.  Even the radiological oncologist thought it would be a good idea for me to do at least one more chemo regime just to make sure.  I stuck it out for 6 more treatments.  I really feel that chemotherapy was the best choice for my predicament.  My cancer was so extensive that I think I made the right choice, knock it back some so that I can let my body do the rest was my plan.  Then I got to where I was feeling worse, day by day.  I was losing a LOT of weight, at one point down to 111 pounds, which for me is pretty thin.  My brain was turning into mush, literally.  I was in complete emotional distress (although events that were happening then would not have been easy to deal with regardless of chemo) and had severe mood swings.  I couldn't think.  I would get lost trying to keep up with a sitcom.  I had come to the point that I knew I needed to stop.  It was an emotional decision, the uncertainty of making the right choice hung heavy over me.  So what does this all mean now?
Steel cut oats with blueberries
cranberries, cinnamon,
walnuts, honey,
and almond milk.

What it means is that even though I am not being pumped full of toxins I still have to be vigilant about my choices, especially what I eat.

During the latter part of my chemo treatments, when I was losing all the weight, I abandoned my mostly vegetarian diet and started eating meat and dairy again, things I highly avoided (along with sugar) previously in an attempt to gain weight.  When I quit chemo I was still eating meat and dairy and my sugar intake had gone up from the sweet tooth cravings I got when I ate meat.  Luckily I caught myself.  This realization came when my jeans would not button one morning.  I have been super vigilant about what I eat, more like the diet I adopted after I learned I had cancer.  I eat a LOT of vegetables and legumes.  I make a green juice nearly every day, sometimes two.  I eat things high in phytoflavinoids such as blueberries, raspberries, pomegranate juice, strawberries, cherries but I do not eat a lot of other types of fruits as they have a lot of sugar in them which anyone with cancer does not need as it actually excels it's growth hint, hint.....

Being mindful about what we eat is how we can take control of our health.  Ironically it is also how we can take control of a lot of problems our world is now facing.  It takes so many more resources to produce one pound of meat as it does to produce one pound of produce or grain.  On top of all of that our meat is coming from sick animals that have not been fed a proper diet and injected with all kinds of toxins to prevent them from spreading disease.  Don't get me wrong.  I grew up eating meat.  My dad was a butcher for many years and we depended on it for our family's survival.  I have always liked a medium rare steak, rib eye was always my favorite.  If it didn't make me sick and our world sick and result in the mistreatment of so many animals then I would eat it.  It has actually been proven that a diet high in animal protein (20% of your diet is high, this includes dairy) actually highly contributes to the growth of cancer, especially in the liver and that a diet high in plant and legume protein (less than 5% animal protein, this includes dairy) has been proven to halt cancer growth!

So again, what does it mean?
Shiitakes smell and taste delicious!

It means that no matter how much you love that steak, ice cream, milk, chicken, fast food, or whatever that is animal derived you are actually willingly, consciously, and intentionally creating an environment in your body where cancer can thrive.  Not to mention that your cholesterol will most likely also go up. This applies to organic meats as well.  Meat is meat, some have added toxins, but all have the ability to enhance cancer growth.  This is why I eat a lot of vegetables.  I don't want to die.  I assume that neither do you.

It means that I have to be vigilant about my diet, which isn't hard.  I walk by the meat case occasionally just to see if anything can tempt me but nothing ever does.  It actually kind of grosses me out.  Meat didn't look like that when I was a kid.  Meat didn't taste like that when I was a kid.  I know how it is going to make me feel if I do eat it (bloated, indigestion, lethargic, constipation/diarrhea, all those wonderful things) so that is enough for me.  I walk away and find the tempeh instead.  I never eat processed foods.  Well, ok, I am pretty sure that the almond milk I buy is processed.  There are a lot of unneeded ingredients on that label and the box it comes in is neither healthy for me or for the environment.  This is why I am going to start making my own almond milk and rice milk (horchata's baby!).
Honey roasted spaghetti squash with
green beans, tempeh, and shiitakes

What it means is that now, more than ever, I need to take control over my health using food as my medicine as we all should.  Even and especially if you are going through cancer treatments such as radiation or chemotherapy.  It is so important to fuel our bodies with nutritious foods rather than empty calories.  Use those ovens or purchase a toaster oven (you can find awesome ones at the Goodwill by the way) and take your microwave to haz mat where it belongs.  Microwaves literally kill your food sucking every single nutrient right out of them leaving you with a useless meal that you will only be hungry from a short time later, leading to more eating...get the picture?  I have not used a microwave in over 3 years and I do not miss it one bit.  I am ashamed to say that at first I actually had forgotten how to heat up food on the stove or in the oven, but it quickly came back.  It is nice to sit in the living room and smell the aroma of a baking sweet potato knowing that I will soon be eating it.  It actually makes the experience better for me and the beauty is that for about an hour I can just read or watch tv or do a load of laundry and I don't have to stand there and cook.  Microwaves are the ultimate "instant gratification" machine.  We just can't wait, or we are too busy.  With just a little planning ahead you can pop your meal into the oven and by the time you have relaxed a bit from your day you will be eating your healthy and delicious meal that you got to enjoy the smell of while it was cooking.  What could be better than that?

Make juice not war
I am not meaning to be preachy or condescending at all.  I just know that I want you all to be healthy and sharing the things that have been making me healthy in spite of extensive, aggressive cancer and  20 months of chemotherapy is one way I can share the resources and knowledge that I have spent so much time committed to gathering since D-day.  This stuff has been proven time and time again, but our society has its interests so mixed up that the higher powers will never tell you these things, the simple things that can lead to a long and healthy life.  They want to keep you sick so that they can keep making drugs to treat you with.  Pharmaceuticals are big, big money.  We all know that.  I also feel that they can have an appropriate time and place.  I certainly think that the chemotherapy in combination with the other natural therapies I have been getting have paid off for me.  The time did come though that I felt that it (the chemo) was doing more harm than good.  For me, if I don't feel good about something there is no point in doing it because I will only focus on the bad and if you are only focused on the bad what good can come?

Please eat more plants.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

It's beginning to look a lot like spring...

Spring in February
...well, at least here in Portland it is.  The grass is green, the sun is shining, the trees are blooming, and the birds are singing.

I came back from a visit in Seattle where my plans were put on hold for a while due to the snow event in town.  I got a lot of good visiting time in with my mom and a friend from out of town.  He brought along his son Ben and we made some really awesome Mentos & Coke rockets.  It was a fun time!  Then I got to go up to Crystal Mountain for two glorious days of skiing and more visiting old friends of mine from my years at the mountain back in the early 90's.  The first day was filled with little powder stashes off piste and softly falling snow.  The next day was gloriously sunny! The summit of Crystal is only 12 miles from the summit of Mt Rainier and the mountain was out in all her glory that day as I had lunch at the summit house restaurant with my friend Liz, her husband Lyle and two other friends I haven't seen in years.  Liz and Lyle graciously offered up their guest room for me the night before, made me dinner and breakfast AND even let me use her awesome jacuzzi tub after my day of skiing.  Thank you Liz and Lyle!!! I really needed some mountain air and your good company.

When I got back to Portland at the beginning of the week I have to admit I was a little apprehensive.  I didn't want to have that feeling when I walked through my door into the apartment.  You know, the one where you'd wished you didn't have to be home.  But to my pleasant surprise I was quite relieved and a little amazed to find that it actually felt good to be home.  That was a great victory for me! I wasn't repulsed and that was a good thing.  Another surprise I got was that there was a letter from the housing authority in my mailbox stating that I qualify for section 8 housing.  I just needed to return some paperwork and the process starts, complete with an "orientation" sometime soon that explains exactly what the hell section 8 housing is....apparently it is entirely different from "public assisted housing" which I am living in.  Both are through the state so it seems only efficient and entirely less confusing if the same organization that handles both would inform you of all of your options and place you on all of the housing lists and availabilities or at least make them not quite so murky to navigate.  Actually I looked into this many months ago and even spoke with a representative who told me that she "didn't know what to tell me because she didn't know what I wanted from her" and that "I would be waiting for a long LONG time before I even heard from them because (her exact words here people) It's the government and they have thousands of applications and it takes forever, years sometimes infact".  She was incredibly rude and left me with the excuse of why she wasn't going to help me because it is the governments fault.  She is the government worker, isn't it her fault? Her fault that people cannot get any useful information what so ever about the differences and procedures for each different type of housing assistance?  One of my pet peeves is when someone doesn't want to do their job and you have to do it for them, OR when they don't do their jobs and you end up with cancer (that ones for you Swedish, Group Health  Death, and 45th Street Clinicl, thanks for NOT doing your jobs either, IBS MY ASS! more like liver cancer to me)...ahem....bitter a little? :) not really, just venting...

Beach Treasures!
Tomorrow the world will be watching the Super Bowl, glued in front of their televisions and eating bad food.  Me?  I hate football.  It's just too much testosterone for me, just guys trying to be cool and beat the living crap out of each other.  I could just never get into it.  I'm more of a baseball gal.
I thought I would take advantage of this opportunity to get out of town and head out to the Oregon coast toward Manzanita.  I just love that place.  Nice and quiet compared to all of the other touristy towns nearby like Cannon Beach or Lincoln City.  My girlfriend and I are going together with her pup Dusty.  It is an agate hunting and driftwood gathering day and it is also supposed to be sunny.  BONUS! If we are lucky the wind might not be blowing as hard as it is here in town. I think I need to charge my camera.

Urea before mixing

I had a nutritional IV on Wednesday and got to see my naturopath.  He had my order for the new treatment I am starting, a giant whopping jug (2.5Kilos) of Urea.  It looks like coarse salt or sugar.  I take 25 grams every day in juice high in phytoflavinoids such as berry or pomegranate juices. I have been using blueberry and/or pomegranate and I mix half water with half juice because the juice is just too tart for me straight, plus it makes the juice last longer as most berry juices are pretty expensive and the organic ones are usually around $1-$2 more.  It really doesn't have a taste thankfully.  If it does the tartness of the juice disguises it really well.  Here is more about Urea if you missed my last post about it's cancer fighting properties. 

Mixed w/blueberry juice and filtered water
As far as what is up with me, well its been getting better.  Let me sum it up:

1. I wasn't disgusted to be home. It actually felt good. Hey! Im running with it :)

2. I am going to be volunteering at the Audubon Society in Portland soon.  I am very excited about this!  I am thinking that it will help me get my feet wet again in the "real world" and give me some idea if I will be able to handle working on a part/full time basis anytime soon.  PLUS I get to hang out with the birds! And who knows, it just might open some doors to a career or at the very least I will get to meet some new awesome people.

3. Mentally I am feeling a little more clear headed all the time and that is good.  I can't really tell a difference from the day before but I can certainly tell a difference from a month ago.  I ordered a book called "Totally Tangled" to help me out a bit.  It is like yoga for the brain I have heard.  I am very excited to get it in the mail. Powell's books had a free shipping weekend and I had a credit from some of the books I sold to them so this was perfect!  It certainly looks like something that I am going to love!

Ear to ear perma-powder grins
4.  I got to go skiing at Mt Hood Meadows on Thursday.  It was ABSOLUTELY EPIC! Seriously, one of the best SKI days I have ever had! Boyfriend convinced me to go into the backcountry (well, for Meadows its more like sidecountry) The wind was just whipping over the ridge! It was like battling a hurricane to get some untracked powder but oh boy it was worth every painful moment!  I swear it seemed like about a 60 degree pitch, oh so steep and just one vast expanse of powder just begging for me to make the first arc through the soft snow.  My cheeks still hurt from smiling so much.  We did 3 top to bottom runs through the backcountry in under 2 hours, somewhere around 15,000 vertical feet.  It was one of those days where you are just dead dog tired but you just can't stop because you are just having too much fun.  The sun was shining all day long.  We came in for lunch and both inhaled it as if we hadn't eaten in days.  We usually relax for a bit before making our after lunch runs but this time we didn't.  It wasn't ever really spoken out loud, but we both read each other's minds and no sooner had we swallowed our last bites and washed them down with some water before we said, "bathroom break, meet you back here in a few" before we were off to take care of business, eager at the thought of stealing some more fresh tracks in a new spot on the mountain.  I am absolutely LOVING my new ski set up.  The skis are a few years old, I had them set up for telemark but the back injury put a damper on that activity.  They sat for an entire season unused mostly because I was too weak and tired to venture into the backcountry, but also because I was spending most all of my time on my downhill skis which were feeling a bit too small for me.
BD Joule skis with Dynafit AT bindings
Boyfriend bought me some new AT bindings for christmas (along with my season pass) and I just LOVE THEM! Especially in combo with my skis.  Now I can skin into the wilderness and ski some fresh powder stashes on my way back down with out having to be a tele-expert.  Freedom!

5. My dad is moving back soon! Which reminds me, I really need to give him a call.  He is buying my plane ticket back to TN and I am helping him pack and drive out.  It will be so much fun!!! We aren't bringing much from TN, just a truck with canopy so the drive will be cake.  We are also stopping along the way at things that interest us, perhaps we will do some rockhounding...what am I saying? OF COURSE WE WILL :)  I am going to be happy to have my father around closer.  Tennessee is a long way from the PNW.

I haven't taken a pharmaceutical (other than hormone replacement therapy while my body gets back into sync) in over a month.  It feels so good! My last chemo treatment was on Nov 30th and that also feels good.  I'm gaining weight (125# now, that's 10 pounds!) but in all honesty I can stop now.  I will have to get new clothes soon if I don't and I can't afford that nor do I want to.

The best juicer ever!
I am drinking green juice every day along with aloe vera, coconut water, my urea, eating mostly all vegetables with occasional piece of meat like chicken or fish, eliminating dairy and all sugars and eating healthy snacks such as home made kale chips, or raw nuts and dried cranberries.  Something I noticed a long time ago is that the more I eat meat, the more I crave sweets.  I read about the chemical reasons why this happens but I forgot it now.  There is a direct correlation though.

To be very honest once again it has been hard.  The hardest part was changing directions, from chemotherapy, fatigue, nausea, and all those other nasty side effects to a natural, holistic approach to treating my cancer.  It was scary and very uncertain.  I have a PET scan in March to see what's going on on a cellular level.  I am banking on the FACT that it is going to look awesome!
Neptune & I in Cabo
I have been day dreaming about employment.  I've been sneaking peeks at the positions open for the state parks, forest service and national parks.  Envisioning myself in a little cabin in the woods somewhere interacting with happy people out for the fresh air and scenery.  It is difficult to know where to go at this point.  Still feeling a lot like I am in limbo land, somewhere between healthy and sick, in the land of the forgotten, the land where people who have cancer and are tired of feeling like it is controlling their lives are trying to get back to something resembling normalcy again.  For the cancer patient/survivor there will never be a "normal" again.  Every day is unique and every day is a blessing.  It is just best for me to not try to think so much about the uncertain future and concentrate my energy on what is here and now, being mindful about what I ask for and thankful for what I receive.  Today is tomorrow, all we have is what is here, now, in this moment.