Saturday, December 23, 2017

Fifth Chemo Session

Good News!

The PET scan results showed “no new evidence of the disease in the body.” The oncologist said I am doing fantastic and will continue the treatment as planned. That means I have two more chemo infusions. Six weeks after my last infusion, I will have another PET scan; if the results are also good, then my infusion port will be removed. YAY! There was another piece of good news; my white blood cell count was up, so I did not require another injection of Neulasta.

Project Partners

There are large flat screen televisions hanging from the ceiling at the infusion center to help patients pass the time while sitting there. Two of the shows I have been watching are about married couples renovating houses–home improvement. I enjoy watching the old made new again; it appeals to the recycler in me. The other thing that appeals to me is watching how well the couples work together on these projects. They do it right.

Effective Negotiations

I am impressed by how well the married couples negotiate and compromise. They have many decisions to make about cost, location, time, money, design, and resale value. They do not always initially agree on everything, yet they always come to a compromise that they both can live with. They remind me of my husband and me. Jack and I have always worked well together on projects because we practice effective negotiations.

We have owned three homes so far. We did a major renovation on our first home and had our third home custom built. In both cases, we had decisions to make about cost, time, design, etc. We presented our ideas and discussed them respectfully. We do that in all our joint projects, large and small, which makes working together a truly satisfying experience.

Recently we decided to redo our front yard lawn, flowerbeds, and sprinklers. We hired a contractor who scheduled us for the first week in January. He called last Monday, said he had a cancellation, and asked if he could start the job on Tuesday. I was feeling up to it so we said yes. Tuesday morning, Jack and I sat at our kitchen table with a sketch of our front yard and a book of outdoor plants and decided on what we wanted in the flowerbeds. Then we went to the nursery, and with the help of the knowledgeable Lynn, got everything we needed for our landscaping project. Jack and I did not initially agree on every little thing, but we negotiated and compromised. In the end, we got what we wanted. We both won.

The Big Mystery

All this makes me wonder why the Democrats and Republicans cannot work well together. Why can’t they negotiate and compromise in such a way that is a win for everybody? “I win­–You lose” is the most ineffective leadership imaginable, and yet, that seems to be both parties’ goal. The Democrats did it with health care, and in retaliation, the Republicans did it with tax reform. I just don’t get it. I think every member of Congress should be forced to watch these home improvement shows to see just how rewarding it is when two people with different opinions find a way to get along. Drats! I can’t remember the names of those shows. Oh, well. I have one more infusion session left. I will take notes.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

A Cancer Journey ~ How to Help Your Body Fight Cancer

Two of the well-known side effects of chemotherapy are nausea and loss of appetite. Small wonder. The drugs used in cancer treatments are designed to attack rapidly-growing cells, both cancer cells and normal cells. The cells in the mouth and stomach have a quicker growth cycle than some other cells in the body. When the chemotherapy "bomb" goes off, the normal cells are collateral damage.

I decided before my first treatment that I was going to give my body super-foods to help it recover. I figured that if I was not going to feel like eating (1) I will eat anyway and (2) the foods I ate would build health. So here are my power foods.


  • one bowl of Cheerios with milk (no sugar)
  • organic whole grain toast, buttered
  • one bowl of oatmeal

Mid-Mornng: Kale-Blueberry Smoothie

  • one-half leaf of fresh kale, without the stem
  • one-half a quarter-size slice of fresh ginger root
  • one-third of a banana
  • two shakes of organic ground turmeric
  • one-half teaspoon of olive oil
  • one-half cup of frozen organic blueberries
  • one-fourth cup of vanilla almond milk
  • one-half cup of milk

  • three or four stalks broccoli and three or four cauliflower florets, steamed
  • one apple or pear
  • one-third cup of cottage cheese
  • one boiled egg (hard or soft)
Mid-Afternoon: Plain Greek Yogurt

  • Vegetables and Protein, such as beef-vegetable soup, legume soup, grilled salmon or chicken, chicken soup, shepherd's pie, etc.
  • a glass of milk and two or three ginger cookies (the Swedish peppar kakor are the best.)
  • One of the side effects of the chemotherapy drugs is constipation; the fruit and vegetables help provide natural fiber to promote regularity.
  • The ginger helps alleviate nausea.
  • Some of the drugs induce osteoporosis; the milk, cottage cheese, and yogurt add calcium.
  • Another side effect are canker sores in the mouth and on the tongue; the yogurt adds natural B vitamins which may reduce the eruption of canker sores.
  • Blueberries contain anti-oxidants, which help fight cancer.
This is what is working for me. After each chemotherapy infusion, I feel terrible. Like I said, the drugs set off a bomb inside my body from which it has to recover. After the first infusion, it took fifteen days before I felt tolerable. The next time, it took fourteen days to recover. The next two recovery times were eleven days and ten days. I attribute the decreasing recovery time, in part, to the diet I have been following. By faithfully eating the power foods (whether or not I felt like it), I have been giving my body something good to worth with.  I share my food list in the hope that it might help others whose bodies are going through a difficult time. Here's to good health.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

A Cancer Journey ~ Chemicals

I can't get over the chemicals. I don't do chemicals. I am organic, natural, free-as-the-wind. Yet every three weeks, my body is pumped full of chemicals. How many chemicals? Imagine enough to kill you, and then back it off a little.

The only good thing is that the cancer hates the chemicals as much as I do. Otherwise, I think years from now this whole chemotherapy ordeal will be viewed as barbaric. What would Dr. McCoy say? He would probably be appalled. Of course, the last time I looked, he was also using chemicals.

It always amazed me that no matter what desperate situation the crew of the Enterprise was in, no matter what planet they were on, Dr. McCoy always had something in his bag that could fix it–the illness, I mean. In one Star Trek movie, he even had a pill on him that grew a new organ in an old woman (I think it was a gall bladder.) Think of that! Of all the organs in the body, Dr. McCoy had the right pill for the one the woman needed. Good old Dr. McCoy.

What got his goat was not chemicals; it was surgery, cutting into people with sharp instruments, rooting around, and sewing them back up again. He thought that was disgusting, barbaric. He preferred chemicals.

I don't care much for chemicals. If the future still depends on them for health, then we still have a ways to go. I think it would be better if we learned how to contact our bodies, make friends with them, and persuade them to stay healthy.

You there, little cells! Yes, you! What are you thinking that you went haywire? Don't you realize how unhealthy–not to mention inconvenient–that is? Come on, guys, let's work together. Other wise, it's chemicals, and I know you don't want that. I don't care what Dr. McCoy says, chemicals are not the way to go. Except that right now, they are.

(Note to self: Be grateful for the chemicals today; they are trying their best to help you. In the meantime, enjoy this photo of driftwood attempting to look like an elephant.)

Saturday, December 2, 2017

A Cancer Journey ~ Fourth Chemo Session

Over the halfway mark–after this, only two more to go. After this session, I will undergo a PET scan which my oncologist is expecting to show clear. I pray it is so. My white blood cell counts have been decreasing after each session so the doctor is going to give me a shot of Neulasta. This drug acts like a protein in the body to stimulate the growth of white blood cells. The lower the count of white blood cells, the greater the risk of infection. There are a few days of nasty side effects from the drug, but an infection would feel even worse. So gimme the drug; what's one more right now.

While at the infusion center, I briefly chatted with Peggy, another cancer patient. Today was her last infusion. YAY! We exchanged notes on our experience with cancer so far and found a few things in common. The first was regarding food. Very few things taste good. We are always getting asked, "What would you like for dinner?" And our response is, "I'll let you know five minutes before." We just cannot know in advance what will appeal to us. I picture various foods on a conveyor belt, like the kind they have at a dry cleaners. I run the belt with the food swishing past until I spot the one that sounds the best at the moment. "That's it! That's what I'll have for dinner. Now!" I go for it right away because the mood could quickly pass, making me run the conveyor belt over again,

The other thing that Peggy and I agreed on is that people who have not gone through the cancer experience do not really know what it is like. Before I had cancer, I certainly empathized with those who did, but I never could sympathize from a shared perspective. I think it's the same with everything that humans endure, all the pain, sorrow, and suffering. Until we experience the same things ourselves, we remain at best sympathetic observers. However, those sympathetic observers are wonderful supporters.

Our conversation reminded me of something one of my students told me. She confessed one day that she couldn't concentrate on the mathematics we were studying because of issues at home.
"Mrs. Hart," she said," You just don't know what it's like."
I acknowledged that was true, and I determined that my classroom would be a safe haven, a place where teenagers would not have to deal with distracting issues. I did not know what it was like in her home, but I remembered when there were issues in my home, trying times that made algebra and history and chemistry seem meaningless. All I could do was give her a space to be.

Going through cancer treatment has rendered some things meaningless. There are issues that used to rile me that I now ignore. Just let me get through my last two treatments, let my body recover, let my hair regrow, for crying out loud, and then maybe I will cry out loud about something else. But not right now. I'm the NOW girl.

(Note to self: One more thing we agreed on is that the actors in cancer drug commercials don't look sick enough–they even have all their hair.)