BUILDING UP RESERVES

My current job is building up reserves…

yoga_with_adriene

“Yoga with Adriene”, I call my “YouTube Yoga” routine.

Some snapshots of cancer recovery:

May

…was great! Chemo finished exactly three months ago from today on April 29. I spent May feeling just exactly as I’d hoped: grateful, rejuvenated, optimistic, gaining energy and ready for summer activities to begin! Of course it did not last beyond that, but I still felt thankful to be done with the bi-weekly routine of going in to the clinic for chemo treatments, the bedraggled energy and sickness and restarting my fitness routine over and over again. Whew! My oncologist was pleased to release me from “maintenance” chemo obligations because of how well the cancer had responded to the treatments.

June

… I’d disappointingly began experiencing some miserable myalgia, a persistent muscle soreness from head to toe, concentrating in my shoulder/neck area, and resulting in numb hands, hot, shooting pains in my wrists, palms and fingers. The only time I could escape it was lying still in bed. It would let up for a while after exercising, especially post-yoga, but would come back in a short time.

cupping-chinese-medicine

“Cupping” – Chinese Medicine

Initially, I thought the pain was lactic acid build-up due to serious dedication to my fitness routine (walking, light biking or yoga). I’d drink more water, and stretch to alleviate the tension. I began taking a day off in between workouts; I restarted acupuncture; I asked my various doctors about it. One told me to drink more electrolytes, one recommended acupuncture, massage, “cupping” (a Chinese medicine treatment of introducing hickeys to the painful spots, which I did try), hot wet towels, supplements… Another suggested a physical therapist, a chiropractor, massage and acupuncture. And still another recommended supplements and gave me additional appropriate minerals in my nutritional IV’s. So I tried (and am still trying) all of these.

Do I get an “A” for effort?

July

I have been letting off of some physical activity, upping supplements and seeing an orthopedic doctor. Gawl! What ever is going to get this pain under control? I can say that I “get” chronic pain now! I was feeling really impatient and fatigued from the pain and stiffness, and frankly discouraged and depressed.

Finally, a recommendation from my naturopathic physician, Dr. Dickinson. She deals with adrenal, neurotransmitter, cancer rehab and PT. I should increase the amino acid supplements (and quite probably what my complimentary oncologist put in my IV as well), the pain is 85% gone! Much MUCH better now at the end of July. My muscles still require extra time to recover from kneeling, getting out of bed, looking over my shoulders, etc, but my days are now tolerable. Apparently, with the fitness, I was “using up all my reserves”. My body, still dealing with a heavy, toxic chemo load in the deep muscle tissues, was having trouble keeping up with supply and demand of aminos and minerals! Dr. Dickinson urged that just because I will start experiencing more energy, not to use it. The idea is to build up the reserves. (Never mind the 20-mile bike ride at the coast last weekend with m’dad… But still I’m feeling ok!)

I also saw a physical therapist, which pointed out a misalignment of ribs near my right shoulder. This could explain why the pain was concentrating there. Muscle myalgia would pull on the ribs and neck and with them out of alignment, would just cause misery. Thinking back, there was a bike accident where I cracked a clavicle. That was 5 years ago. That would do it, I suppose. Now we’ll see what the orthopedist says next week.

The other bit o’ good news I’ll share today:

Cancer tumor markers in my blood (CEA, which show the body’s response to fighting cancer) have been in normal range for months (0-2.5). The better news is that over the months, they continue to drop lower within the normal range (1.7 to 1.3 to 1.1)!

In late August I will meet with Dr. Look, my oncologist, and maybe spread out the tests to every three months; I also get my annual colonoscopy. Although I’ve been healthy and continually improving, each test is a stress to me and my loved ones. But, I’m on the right track.

WOW oh WOW! I feel so amazingly grateful for the gracious attentiveness shown to me by friends and family out in the world and through Facebook during this time. The love is being swallowed up by my gut and heart each day, and is building up my reserves!

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CHEMO IV

Round IV of Chemo – the lead up and follow up.

11/4/14 Tuesday

I’m anticipating the next chemo round coming up later this week. I feel very good. Not 100%, but I can do anything I need to, I can and want to exercise, I’m productive, and I’m eating healthy portions! On the other hand, I notice less energy, fatigue more easily, phantom nausea 1ce/day or so, and I’m very foggy (losing train of thought in conversations, etc). Photography is coming along as a new hobby. Even though I am fond of my images, I am still trigger shy about ordering any prints. My mind tells me that as soon as they get blown up to actual art piece size, they will turn hideous compared to what’s on my computer screen. But that’s just paranoia.

Marijuana legalized today. This is very good omen for all the dispensaries out there!

11/6/14 Thursday

Chemo Day, Round IV

Yesterday Matt and I used as a fun day! Starting with a noon-time movie at Lloyd Cinema with dear friend Frank, we saw a great movie called “St. Vincent”. Casting was excellent (starring Bill Murray), story excellent, great humor, drama, relationships and unpredictable. I love a good movie, period. Then Matt & I drove Frank downtown, and he left to do his errands, and Matt & I walked around downtown admiring the energy, buying coffees, watching and chatting with people on the street corners. Then on to dinner with my parents. We took a walk after dinner in my old neighborhood to the park to play on some fun, new playground equipment. It was really a wonderful, relaxed day, with little thought for the Chemo session the next morning.

At the chemo session I got my vitals tested and port prepped and visited my oncologist. He could already tell me the results of the blood test, and blood cell counts look low, but safe, so we could continue with chemo. We discussed the changes in the IV to avoid the nausea for this round. He cautioned that at this point (round 4) my bone marrow is getting fatigued and is not producing blood cells, red or white, as quickly as before. This will affect my immunity, so I must be extra cautious about germs in public places. I also learned from my nurse that my exuberant attempts to gain weight when I feel well and hungry are not all necessary, and this is because the IV’s I’m given are chock full of calories to help boost my energy and tolerance of the medicine. No wonder I am gaining weight instead of losing it! …Foiled again!!

11/7/14 Friday

Community Acupuncture Day! I was a bit slow this morning, the day after chemo day. Nausea started last night, but fortunately I was able to get ahead of it with a few vial puffs of the medical marijuana vaporizer pen. It makes my lungs hurt and tastes horrible, but then there wasn’t a nausea problem. Until the toke, I was kind of a waste upstairs in bed. I ate a lovely meal that Matt cooked, and we watched a really good vampire movie. An aside: Aside from the vampire theme, which I’m guessing by now everyone is tired of (at least, I can speak for myself), this movie starred some wonderful, yet lesser known, actors. The movie was surprisingly thrilling, suspenseful and sweet with good relationships; another good one! (Called, “Let Me In”). Because of a vampire/witch novel gifted to me by Bonnie Bennett, a long-time, dear family friend, I could catch Matt up on the background of vampires and witches as I knew it, which gave the movie more depth and understanding. Matt was really pleased that I knew about vampires.

Today I had acupuncture, and I felt very relaxed while there. Afterward, I learned from Dr. Look’s office that my cancer marker is down since last month. A drop from 48 to 19.2 points, so it’s dropped over half in a month! The combination of the chemo, the medical marijuana oil, the nutrient support IV therapy, the cancer-fighting supplements, all must be working! High five! Do you hear that, Mary in New York?

I feel good today, spunky, energetic, yet not up to normal. I came home from the grocery store and did some cleaning, made pancakes (for lunch. Funny cravings during times of crisis!), Matt walked in for a short visit and remarked on the aroma of food and how much he loves that and loves me. I spent some time weeding in the garden for some fresh air. Now I am writing in bed with a cup of strong tea.

No nausea to complain of to this point, but then there’s always tomorrow…

COMPLEMENTARY MEDICINE, HEALING HABITS: Week 3

Complementary medicine and other healing habits I get to try…

complimentary-medicine

The healing power of food

It’s been about three weeks since beginning chemo treatments for this liver metastases I’ve got, and nearly two months since diagnosis. The first two treatments were NOT SEXY. I did not tolerate them so well. Even with making extreme efforts to help each treatment go better, I have not seen any improvements.

It’s the nausea I’m most concerned with. The first two days of a treatment are fine, then when the chemo pump comes off is when the nausea sets in. Then I don’t want to eat or drink, which causes the side effects to be even worse. To start, I began with two prescription anti-nausea meds, plus one that was infused along with the chemo. Then I was prescribed another, I bought two herbal anti-nausea tinctures, fresh ginger, ginger tea and candied ginger. Plus I had the medicinal marijuana oil and vaporizer pen. If any of those don’t work, than the others will, right? None of it seems to work on those nausea days, so then I must wait to be productive until the chemo has settled out of my system.

Starting out, I found it extraordinarily difficult to keep a medication list because it was continually going out of date faster than I could print them out, yet it has been helpful. New symptoms, new supplements, new medications, more symptoms, medications to counteract the symptoms, etc, get it? I surrender! You know when you go to a new doctor office, you fill out patient intake paperwork, which includes a medical history, a list of current medications, etc. My medication list was just too long, so I’ve typed and printed a list of my prescription meds, supplements, how and when I take them, what dose, strength and duration. Now this handy list I print and give to the doctor will help determine which medications will conflict with which.

Also, I was getting stuffed full of pills each day, and how am I to know the ones need, which ones are working? My complimentary care oncologist went over the whole list and marked the ones I could leave out of the regimen for now, and ones that will be most helpful. That took the quantity of supplements down to a far more manageable half quantity, thank goodness.

Other side effects have included extreme fatigue, body aches (flu-like), neuropathy affecting finger tips, lips, teeth, constipation, diarrhea.

Holistic treatments to augment chemotherapy:

support_iv_cancerSupport IV therapy – infusion at Dr. Panutich’s office (my complementary care oncologist), and this contains amino acids, minerals, vitamins. It will do two things: agitate the cancer cells so the chemo acts more effectively, and nourish the healthy cells by protecting digestive lining (which tends to get burnt out from the chemo), muscle strength and soreness, dehydration, immune support.

acupuncture_needles_sticking Out from Feet

Acupuncture & Community Acupuncture

Acupuncture – two sessions per week; one with my naturopathic doctor, Dr. Shaver, and one at a community acupuncture session (Group acupuncture? Really?). After the first treatment, I did not notice a difference. After the second and third, however, I felt very relaxed, pain-free, and I do believe that with the chemo side effects, the acupuncture will work – we’ll see!

Medical Cannabis Oil

Medical Cannabis Oil

Medical Cannabis oil – a really, really potent concentrate of the leaf. Just a dabble of this makes my head spin, and I take it at night when I’m going to sleep.

vaporizer-pen

Vaporizer Pen – Medical Cannabis

The Pen – this is like an e-cigarette, except it is filled with marijuana oil, no nicotine. This should provide relief for nausea almost instantly. Again, we’ll see!

Continued exercise – strengthening, stretching, cardio, meditation. All are keeping my spirits and strength up and allowing me to feel accomplished.

Healing Habits:

I’ve been asked whether I follow any special diet, if I’m taking anything special for treatments, and yes, I am. Mostly, I am pretty moderate, but I do avoid alcohol, caffeine, sugar, grains and dairy. I drink some when at a celebration, I can’t get by without some sugar, because it makes me happy. Grains, pasta, etc, I substitute yams. Matt and I harvest from the garden for most of our food. It’s sort-of a non-strict Paleo diet, the goal is to eat nutrient dense foods. Of course everyone has their food fetishes, their “needs”, but this is a good overall lifestyle. Along with the healing food, getting some creative time, some writing, visiting with friends and family, wearing comfy clothes, “getting out”, taking naps, and…

…just a spoon full of sugar helps the medicine go down!

spoonful_of_sugar

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