Friday, December 17, 2010

Keeping things in Perspective

I love this sky...but the powerlines and the transmission pole get in the way. Wait a minute, that's a defeatist way of looking at things! Is the sky any less beautiful for the obstructions? Not really. The clouds with the light are so spectacular that you don't really pay attention to them or the roof of my neighbor's garage.

Chemo is that way I think. This last week I was really tired. It seems like I can't recover until Thursday mornings. Which is a pain in the derriere. Friday, I spend most of the day in treatment or driving to or from....I admit, I make two stops at least so I COULD get home earlier but still, I come home and do a little housework, then I have to make dinner, blah blah blah. Saturdays, I'm usually spinning around like a top from the Decadron (a steriod I am given by IV to reduce nausea). That continues through Sunday....until Sunday night at 8:00 or 9:00 I crash. Mondays, I'm exhausted. Tuesdays, ditto. Think so tired that your eyes are watering. I wonder if this is because I am the least fit I have ever been in my life....coupled with the fact that I am no longer young, but middle aged. I never was like this before.

This Wednesday, I spent getting a bone scan (it takes 3 hours to get the radioactive material circulating through your blood stream, then about 2 hours for the scan and reading it to make sure there are no problems....etc.). I don't if that added to my fatigue, but I wasn't even able to watch my favorite show. I have other side effects as well. Side effects can differ...this last week I had a breakout on my scalp....imagine the worse case of acne on a teenager.....but on my head and back of my neck. Add that to the bloody noses, dry and sensitive skin, thirst, inability to taste things (I can taste salty, spicy, sour) and baldness.

Every week, it is the same. Except, on the 4th Friday, I have a blood draw to test the tumor markers, and see the doctor. Repeat. Until the end of April if it continues to work. Longer if not. ARGH. It was easier on Taxol for me because I got a 24 hour infusion once every three weeks for 9 months. At least I was able to bounce back. I was beginning to feel a little sorry for myself.

Today was treatment.

She walked in about a half an hour after I started my drips. Short, but full of style. Red coat with black trim, black pants and a wonderful "bucket style" hat in a suede look fabric with a flat bow in front. She exuded beauty. She took off her hat to reveal a skullcap like I wear at home. No eyebrows, but an absolutely beautiful face....round and cherub like. I heard her say something about her bleeding nose.

I told her what I was doing for mine and we started talking about Taxol (what she's on) and chemo and things. She's on Taxol, the drug I had before, but the protocol has changed and it has been hard on her system. She had the bone pain, but she's also had to have multiple transfusions and one time she had an allergic reaction to something and she began to feel like she was floating. She's been having chemo treatments for over a year and she, like me, comes in every week and has a treatment unless her markers are too low.

That, my dears, put things in perspective. It is easy to find things that are wrong and to have a pity party. That's OK. We deserve to do that every once in a while....but I think the trick is to realize that we must keep it to a minimum.....and that it could be so much worse. I think most of us, no matter how horrible it may seem can usually think up another worse's just that sometimes we need to have a stylish package sweep into our lives and show us the way. You Go KIM!

Monday, December 6, 2010

What to Do?

Last week, I had an interesting experience and I'm still trying to figure it out. A couple of weeks ago, I was speaking with a woman at the cancer center. She had been exploring alternative medicines as well as taking anti-cancer drugs (I later found out she was on Aromasin and Faslodex and had gone over to Zometa and wasn't taking Faslodex). She had had breast cancer and had a nodule on her collar bone. Just as the chemo nurse came out, she had me scribble my name and telephone number on a piece of paper. "I'll take you to him when I go next" she said. Hmmm.

Last week, she did just that. "Him" was an Amish herbalist. I went in and he asked me what was wrong. I think I simply answered that I had breast cancer. He looked me in the ey, placed two fingers on my left side and said. "Yes, you do." I can't remember if I had said a recurrence of breast cancer, but he said, "You had this before and didn't get rid of it." Ok..He had me hold my arm out and didn't really tell me what he was doing....I gathered after the first push that I was to resist. He tore off a sheet with a diet and a list of herbal remedies he wanted me to use.

The diet is what has been around on the internet erroneously known as "The Johns Hopkins Cancer Diet"....which doesn't have anything to do with John's Hopkins. It is a plant based diet. You are only to eat fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts (especially almonds), legumes (but not peanuts), real butter and no-salt added cottage cheese. All animal proteins, eggs, cheese, sugar, salt, white flour, peanuts and any other dairy other than the cottage cheese and butter is to be omitted. I have no problem with the diet, other than the fact that being Vegan with no eggs or cheese does take some work to make sure that you get the appropriate amounts of protein, especially for a person on chemotherapy. The diet is a good one and is very healthy for you in general...but I also didn't want to become a short order cook and I will have to cook darling daughter and dear husband animal proteins.

You are also supposed to make a quart of 50% celery and 50% carrot juice and drink it each day. It must be fresh. In theory, the celery is a detoxifier and the carrot has great anti-oxidant effects. I don't like celery. I went out and bought a juicer and made my first batch, throwing in an apple in an effort to counteract the celery. Did I say I don't like celery? I was successful last night with drinking a bit more than half. The concoction is over 6 large carrots and a bunch of celery. That's a lot of carrots and celery for someone to eat in one day's time.

While the healer doesn't charge for his appointments, you can buy the herbal remedies from him. I must say that after some research after I got him, his prices are good....but I still left a substantial amount of money....more than I should have.

The herbal remedies were Red Clover, whole apricots, Food Enzymes, Parsley tablets, and Pau d'Arco. I know that if I told my oncologist, he would probably have a bird. I researched each of the items. I immediately discovered that Red Clover, largely cited as a "cancer killer, but is something that I must stay away from. Red Clover contains isoflavones which produces estrogen-like substances in the body. More research is needed into isoflavones and phyto-estrogens, but the initial responses are mixed. I remember Dr. Bobrow saying "estrogen is estrogen and you need to stay away from it."

So....I am not going to take the Red Clover. The others seem to be more benign, but part of the problem with "herbal remedies" is that people tend to take them along with chemo and other drugs (like I am) and don't think about the interactions. In some cases, we don't even know all the interactions. After all, Digitalis (Foxglove) is an herbal remedy albeit a very powerful one . Much more research needs to be done on this topic, while in other areas it has been shown that some of the remedies just don't work.

Part of me says I shouldn't even look into this at least not right now. I will say that I can't bear the thought today of drinking any more of the carrot/celery mixture. In fact, my stomach is quite upset today.

The lady I went with had had advanced breast cancer and following this procedure and other drugs, her large tumor has subsided. Part of me says that this may work.....the other part of me says that I know that the Abraxane is working (the tumor markers fell substantially), and that perhaps any more exploration of this should wait until after I'm done with the Chemo in April. It is a puzzlement.

I do believe in the mind-body connection. Some of the other things which have been put forward are completely unfounded upon further investigation. Do I believe that this healer is trying to hoodwink people? No. He believes in what he does and some people probably have been healed. Others haven't.

I don't know how or why I happened to fall into this position, but it really is making me think. The world cancer patients live in is often scary and it isn't just because of the disease and the treatment one gets through western medicines.