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 – FINAL ROUND 12 OF 12

Monday began the final round of chemo. That makes 12 in all! Whew! Remarkable!

champagne_toast

Monday morning I went in to meet with my oncologist, Dr. Look, get bloodwork, take vitals, chemo infusion and IV fluids, like usual. The primary thing I wanted to know, a conundrum we had discussed last meeting, was what the partners said about my case. Dr. Look was confident that my case was unique because of how well the cancer responded to the treatments and surgery. He felt I may not need to go through a maintenance chemo regimen, which would have gone on indefinitely, same routine with fewer chemical ingredients.

To review:

  • My cancer tumor markers (aka Carcinoembryonoic Antogen or CEA for short) came down to normal range before my surgery in early January (hallelujah!)
  • The surgery was a neat success with clear margins (no cancer cells found in the margin of tissue removed along with the tumors)
  • I went through 6 more rounds of chemo post-surgery after I was declared NED (no evidence of disease)

I should be pretty squeaky clean. Therefore there is no baseline disease to monitor new cancer activity, and Dr. Look felt it would be of no benefit and possibly cause more discomfort and harm than good. The partners at Compass Oncology agreed. THAT, dear readers, is the best news all year.

Coming up, I will have a baseline CT scan in three weeks to compare with subsequent scans in the coming years. I will have bloodwork done quarterly, colonoscopies done annually and scans probably annually or maybe 6 months.

So with caution, I will be celebrating in the coming weeks as this final round wears off. I’m not much on celebrating my own achievements. Although I like the idea, I always feel that things could change at any time, so I feel better mushing my celebrations in with other celebrations happening around the same time, ie. holidays, birthdays, housewarming parties… just not my own celebration – I prefer just hitting the hiking trails, the kayaking, making art, just playing for a while. What to do without all those pesky doctor appointments all the time!

Although I was already drinking tiny amounts of wine between treatments (hey, when in Rome, right? And I’m always in proverbial Rome with my family), I felt that a glass would be helpful mentally and do little harm in my already struggling liver. After about a week of no alcohol, I do moderately miss it. But I have to say, I have some simple virgin drinks which I drink at night that I do love. Recipes may be shared! And from my lovely friend Bettina, now in Dusseldorf Germany, mailed some lovely, refreshing tea mixes that I binge on daily. Don’t ask what’s in them unless you want a photograph of the label, because it’s all in German.

The Tempest is over, the laundry list of complaints left over are all annoying ones. Drippy nose; bloody mucous; mild sinus congestion; unpredictable, urgent, frequent bowel movements; constipation (all chemo-driven); shingles are still numb, but only scars now; neuropathy in the souls of my feet; dry skin. What else? It all blends together, but I’m still functional!

I feel I’ve been pretty blessed in spite of this cancer event. I keep telling people that I aught to be sicker than I am, but I’ve had such good complementary care from my naturopathic doctor team, my medical doctors have been so on the ball in my case, I’ve been able to do most anything that I want, with exception of some side effect discomfort, fatigue and so on, I feel pretty energetic most of the time. Life for Matt and I has been on a good track, and we are very happy with what we have and who we hang out with! Can you believe all this can happen in the face of a devastating disease? I absolutely cannot, yet here we are. We are very grateful for the benefits life has for us right now. And I am so truly thankful for my family and friendships and all the love I feel from around the world! Even making new friends and reacquainting with old friends who are going through similar trials as me has given me new resolve to get through my own.

I cannot ask for more after this final round 12, except for a permanent state of NED!

D-DAY: Down to Business

OHSU-Kohler-Pavilion

OHSU-Kohler-Pavilion

Matt got us to the hospital on time for D-Day,

…in spite of OHSU’s confusing, hilltop campus. It’s astounding; can you believe they built a hospital up here? It was quiet, dark and cold at 5:30am. I arrived clean (inside and out, thanks to that special body soap) and dressed simply and purposefully. Matt & I were a team, at times a comical duo, and in spite of the D-Day reality of the procedure, it was little worry to us as we bustled to gather belongings we would need at the hospital for about 5 days.

wet_dog_nose

Wet dog nose

After admitting, the nurse took me back to the pre-op waiting room and gave me moist, medicated towels that I was supposed to meticulously rub over my whole body. It felt like dog nose on the skin because when it dried, there was still an invisible tacky residue. “I’ve never, ever been this clean,” I thought.

Cancer_Institute_Team

Knight Cancer Institute Team

Each one of the surgical team came in at different times to introduce themselves, describe course of action for this procedure, the potential complications and answer questions. The procedure would last 5 hours, including:

1) Resection of two tumors on the outer tips of two lobes of the liver

2) Visual exam and surgical fondling of the whole liver to check for unusual masses or spots.

3) Finally, an ultrasound of the liver to look closer and deeper into the tissue than the hand and eye can.

And then I would wait in the recovery room for an hour or more for monitoring before I could see anybody, then I will see Matt and my parents before getting moved to my recovery unit. After that I will either go to the ICU (intensive care unit) for over-night observation (pretty routine in liver cases, but not always necessary), or I will go to a regular old room. IV’s placed, then the Anesthesiologist, a big teddy bear with jovial grin, went over his whole procedure.

All set to go

Matt & I said our goodbyes, and I was wheeled gently back to the OR (operating room) where the whole team was bustling about confidently getting ready for this complicated surgery. Some were familiar from the prep room, and others were introduced to me as they helped me shimmy to the operating table, and I faded out.

Again, both Matt and I have been through this more than we care to discuss, so a whole lot of mystery has been cleared up by our personal experience. We knew what to ask, and to some extent, what decisions to make.

Later on

I learned that the procedure was simplified because there was nothing new and unusual found in the liver, the chemo and complimentary treatments shrank the tumors down so he could remove the tumors with “good margins” (tissue surrounding the tumor is taken in case cancer cells traveled outside the tumors, and still leave large portion of my liver!

OHSU-Kohler-Pavilion-terrace

Many walks along this terrace

From Recovery, I was moved into a regular old room! But I guess it was not in the cancer ward, so the second night I was moved up to be among my kin. Not a stellar view, but where this hospital is situated, all kinds of cool weather effects happen all the time. I saw a double rainbow, lots of rolling fog banks between the trees and buildings, what a great place for pictures! The food is pretty good (!!), my expectations were low, so I am very impressed. Matt stayed one more night, and the lack of privacy drove him nuts, he couldn’t sleep, and he felt a cold coming on. But he was so gung ho to be my personal caretaker! Jeez, really, there will be plenty of time for that at home, Sweetie. So, we decided the hospital could take care of me, and my husband could be his own wife and recuperate at home.

A successful D-Day down and behind me! Each day is easier, and I can see progress. As long as I can pass gas by tomorrow, I can go home.

Tee hee. Truly, that’s what I’m waiting on.

HAPPY NEW YEAR UPDATE

Hello All!

I haven’t updated publicly on where I am in the cancer treatments in a really long time. Sorry. I’ve been avoiding the FB rabbit hole while maniacally getting Hollarday preparations done. Tee hee.

Trust me, although I’ve had the month off from chemo, I’m still dealing with some medical stuff, nothing serious, just some discomforts and inconveniences!

By all accounts (family, friends, doctors) I am doing really well. I feel well; exercising, healthy appetite, seeing friends and celebrating *most* holiday events. Woohoo!

Right now I’m looking at surgery preps given by my complementary care oncologist – 4 pages of diets, supplements, etc, before and after surgery. Whoa… well it’s all good for me at least! Starting to think about what I will need after surgery.

The surgery is scheduled for Jan 8. No anxiety yet (that should come a day or two prior). Actually, it’s all going according to my plan, so I am very comfortable as things are. Wednesday, the 7th I sit down with the surgeon and finalize things. That’s it! It’s up to him after that! No pressure, Dr. Billngsley!

I’m expecting the very finest surgical work and exemplary follow-up care! I am doing my best, after all.

happy new year

Happy New Year and Ald Lang Syne

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

POUR SOME CHEMO ON ME*

*Just a little ‘80’s metal mood. 

First of all, let me tell ya –

Don't get sick in the Fall

Don’t get sick in the Fall

Don’t get sick in the Fall. Everyone you need help from is on vacation then. Just FYI.

Gawd. It’s taken way too long since the diagnosis of the cancer recurrence (Aug 25th-ish) to get a surgeon chosen, get an oncologist and to get started on the treatments. Although I was waiting a whole two weeks for appointments with the oncologists I wanted to meet due to lengthy September vacations (and who can blame them?), luck happened and late last Friday afternoon Dr. Look (my original Portland onc) called to make sure I am getting my needs met. Turns out that HE is NOT on vacation and IS available to start my treatments after an appointment the following Monday.

So today I met Dr. Look for the outlay. He says chemo will be the same treatment no matter which oncologist I opt for. He is also open to collaborating with a complimentary care physician (naturopath).

Regimen:

The combination therapy he described is 3-4 different drugs, Oxaliplatin, 5FU pump, Leucovorin, and I think FOLFOX, too. To infuse all of these, they will install a port, a small device set underneath the skin on my upper chest with a catheter that connects to a vein where all intravenous chemicals/fluids can go in and blood samples can be drawn as needed. I will wear a pump for two days after each infusion (talk about a ball-and-chain), then have it removed for the remainder of the two week cycles. At about 2 months, I take a break from the infusions, and have the surgery, then resume chemo after a healing period. The remaining duration of the infusions will be determined by results from CT scans.

Side Effects:

The first treatment is likely to be the worst, and the first few days, especially, for nausea, neuropathy (tingling and cold sensitivity in extremities, mouth), some hair loss (but not necessarily all of it), diarrhea, anemia, other unpleasantness.

When will I begin:

This Wednesday they will install the port at the hospital, I will go home the same day. Wednesday night I take a class on chemotherapy (!!) – and it’s 2 hours! Ugh, I hope they make it fun, especially since it’s the same day I have the port surgery. Then the very next morning, Thursday, I get a pump hooked up and the first of the infusions at the oncology clinic. Saturday I will have it removed for the remaining two weeks until the next infusion.

I am working out a meeting with the complimentary care physician now, and will post an update on that soon.

So, here goes!get-the-ball-rolling

SECOND OPINION FOR SURGERY

Second opinion brought to you by… Barack Obama!?

Wow, oh, wow. That was a reeeeally long week! There was one week scheduled between the first surgeon meeting and the 2nd opinion, and when you’re not having fun, time does NOT fly by.

So, the 2nd opinion meeting was with a specialist in liver surgery at OHSU, Dr. Kevin Billingsley. First impressions told us we like this doctor. He was very easy to be around, inspired security and confidence, had a slightly different approach than the first surgeon, yet it made sense to Matt and I.

~ AND get this ~

President_Barack_Obama

barack-billingsley

You can’t deny, when you talk with him for a few minutes, that he looks, acts and sounds like President Barack Obama. No kidding! The pictures do not show the resemblance like meeting the doctor face to face, but his manor is direct, attention undivided, he expresses himself clearly and thoroughly, and he has a very friendly personality. What do you think? They could be brothers! Just sayin’. Barack Billingsley… or Dr. Billingsley Obama… Heh, a little fun.

The Approach

Dr. Billingsley’s approach was slightly different from Dr. Sheppard in that he prefers starting out with chemotherapy, a FOLFOX systemic chemo for 1 ½ months. This would zap me from head to toe and get all the rogue cancer cells in hiding. Next, surgical resecting of the liver, and finally a follow-up with chemo. This approach will A) shrink the tumors making surgical removal easier and more effective, B) At surgery time he will be able to see how well the tumors responded to the chemo and change to a more effective regimen for the follow-up therapy, if necessary.

Dr. Billingsley was very reassuring and optimistic about the recovery from this procedure being much easier than the colorectal resects I had done 2+ years ago, because that was a much more complicated surgery, more parts of my system were involved, for example, and there was more risk of infection. With this liver procedure, not only will the liver fully regenerate to it’s original size and function, but the odds are better now (compared to the last time, even) that the cancer will be abolished for good. So, that’s good news, too.

Next, I have appointments with two oncologists, in separate offices, set up for two weeks from now. Honestly, I believe we need more doctors because this waiting-around thing is for the dogs. It absolutely does not fit into my plan!

Both Matt & I feel pretty comfortable with this new approach, and the Dream Team is coming together!

Also, an update on the oncologist in California – he received my formal poison pen letter regarding my missing blood test results that would have warned me earlier of the cancer recurrence, and he called me immediately. He was extremely regretful that the error happened, however he explained that the results were nowhere to be found in his office, and upon ordering a copy from the testing lab, there was no doctor specified on the records for return of the test, so it never got sent and it fell into a black hole, nobody noticed. So it looks like more of a slip-up on the lab’s side. *Sigh* again, water under the bridge, and I gotta make sure that everybody is doing their job!

GOOD NEWS OR BAD NEWS FIRST?

Which do you want to hear first, the good news or bad news?

Now that I’ve learned definitively that I have a recurrence of cancer in my liver, that I am not “in remission” anymore, that I’m facing a new episode including surgery, chemotherapy, tests, hospitals, nurses, complications, recoveries… setbacks.

“Oh my God – What the FUCK?… I mean… what the FUCK!!?” Chris, my brother-in-law, echoed the disbelief already in Matt’s and my minds when we told him over the phone of the new diagnosis. We saw him and his daughters off to the airport just yesterday, after a weekend of sunshine and great sunset meals and river playing. Everyone one was healthy and fine yesterday. Today is grim business for just us two.

Matt and I have been through this once before. Getting the diagnosis, calling doctors, family, insurance, researching everything the doctors told us for hours and worrying about what’s ahead. The difference is that this time I have WAY better insurance (thank you Obamacare!), being more familiar with the process, we are better at putting the dysfuctional worry aside. Still, at bedtime the worry and unknown inevitably come back in the dark and worms around in our minds for hours.

I always take THE BAD NEWS first:

So the back story is, per doctor’s orders, I maintain quarterly blood tests, coordinating with my oncologist in Santa Monica whom I have worked with for 2 ½ years. I saw him last in January 2014. I also maintain annual colonoscopies and CT (Computed Tomography) scans per my new gastroenterologist’s orders. All have shown good results, and to my knowledge I have been in remission for over two years. Back with the original 2012 diagnosis for colorectal cancer, I had a CT scan reveal two liver cysts which concerned the doctors that they could be metastases from the rectal tumor, yet they could also be innocuous, a normal liver cysts that lots of people have, a reaction to birth control pills or some other chemical, which are unlikely to become threatening. The 2012 PET scan showed that these spots were of no concern.

*Positron Emission Tomography (PET) is a test where a radioactive isotope introduced in the blood stream shows thermal “hot spots” where active cells appear illuminated in the results, whereas CT, or CAT, scans use a large number of 2-D radiographic images to create a 3-D image of the inside of the body.

Last week, during my second annual colonoscopy check-up, I had a precancerous polyp removed from my colon. Nothing unusual or concerning, these are common and easily removed with no further action needed. The CT scan, a few days later, showed two “nodules”, or solid masses, which were new since last year. This result combined with the most recent blood test revealed elevated CEA levels (a cancer marker), caused my GI concern. He ordered a PET scan and recommended an oncologist appointment to discuss the results. Anxiety!

The scan was on Friday afternoon. When Matt and I showed up for the exam, we were surprised to find that it was a full-body scan. Was this a mistake? The spots were on my liver, after all. But it made sense even before it was explained; of course, if the cancer could spread to my liver, then it could also spread to the lungs, the brain, the bones, anywhere. I happily did the PET, then went home thinking, this is all a big joke and they’ll see that it’s nothing! Just the same old cysts, maybe they haven’t looked at this year’s and last year’s scans side by side? I’m healthy and happy in my life now.

Then there was a bleeping holiday weekend and most offices were closed on Friday, and all offices were closed on Monday, and it was hard to get a hold of any doctors or staff to ask questions, even to make appointments. Ok, so I got an appointment with the oncologist for Tuesday, thank goodness. All we wanted to know now was what the PET results were.

liver

The PET showed very clearly hot spots where the two liver nodules were (meaning activity, meaning cancer!!). Do you know how big a liver is? I really had no idea. It’s pretty huge! Anyway, there’s one nodule on the left and one on the right. The one on the left (or my right) is 3x3x4 cm, and the other is 2.5cm.

Holy lordy lord! That sounds really big to me. Considering we are talking one year ago that there was nothing but the cysts, and the CEA level in the blood was not alarming until now, either, these nodules sound really unreasonably large. Listening to what the doctor was telling me, all the worries I’d had during the night over the past weekend were coming back, and as I tried to focus on his words, I was intensely aware of my heart rate and how sharp my awareness was. Especially for Matt, who I knew was sitting next to me sweating outwardly and panicking inwardly.

THE GOOD NEWS IS:

frowny-face-high-blood-sugarThe nodules are compact and “localized” meaning they will be easily removed with surgery, and I will “still have a lot of liver left”, said the doctor. “Oh good!” I thought, although I like my whole liver, ayayay… frowny face.

There are no other occurrences than the two liver nodules.

The cancer has not proliferated throughout the liver, in which case they wouldn’t even attempt surgery, just attack with lots and lots of chemo.

So, I guess for a bad scenario, it could be worse! The recommendation of Dr. Look, the oncologist is to operate immediately to get the cancer out, and then they will know exactly what kind of cancer they are dealing with and will design a chemotherapy for it. This one will likely be systemic rather than targeted, so I’ll be shopping for wigs and warm headwear.

Now, I do have a second opinion with another oncologist scheduled for later this week, so, more to come.

Oh, my poor Matt. When we met I was the perfect picture of health and vitality. I had few needs, was a great friend, partner, lover, playmate, I added value to his life by being his foundation, loving unconditionally and taking care of anything he needed the best way I could. Now I feel like a real bummer! A disappointment. I expected that I would be healthy and strong into old age, take care of my darling husband, my parents, anyone else who needed me, and I’m being taken care of, now, in my 40s. Although I am staying positive, it’s hard not to not go to the dark places.

What the heck is my body doing? This is completely out of the plan! Not that there was a “plan” per se. I feel alienated from my body, like it’s letting me down, mysteriously letting illnesses get in, getting weak. But it’s my body. It’s life. And just when I was getting everything back in sync, seeing a NP, a Naturopathic Physician, who is helping me reestablish an equilibrium with diet and lifestyle, peace of mind, etc. Sometimes, she said during a recent appointment, these diseases are not caused by immediate environment, or just the previous generation or two. These diseases can go back 3-4 generations to the conditions our ancestors experienced and telegraphed through the generations. Also, as was brought to my attention,that the ancient Egyptian remains show evidence of cancer.

Makes sense to me, because how could some of the healthiest people still get terminal illnesses? The answer is, it’s beyond them. This notion, at least, allows me to believe I really didn’t do anything “wrong”, and I can blame my ancestors. Hee hee. Small comfort.

Good news and bad news aside, ONWARD! A new chapter begins.

ARTICLE – Colorectal Cancer and Younger Adults

Colorectal cancer is getting more attention from the science community

colorectal-cancer-young-adult

The medical community is shining more light on the causes behind the spike in colorectal cancer diagnoses in younger adults. This article was sent to me by family friend and local surgeon, Dr. Earl Schuman. Because cancer is now a part of my life, as with some of my peers and my generation of family, it’s worth sharing:

Colorectal cancer incidence rising sharply among younger adults

By: SUSAN LONDON, Frontline Medical Communications

SAN FRANCISCO – The incidence of colorectal cancer is rising sharply among younger adults in the United States, a study showed.

Researchers analyzed Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) data for 383,241 patients in whom colorectal cancer was diagnosed between 1975 and 2010.

The results showed that the age-adjusted incidence rate of colorectal cancer fell steadily among patients aged 50 years and older at diagnosis, lead author Dr. Christina E. Bailey, a surgical oncology fellow at the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, reported in a poster session at the annual Gastrointestinal Cancers Symposium. But the rate rose among younger patients.

The annual percentage change in the age-adjusted incidence rate of colorectal cancer during the 35-year period was a significant –0.92 in the cohort overall. In stratified analyses, the annual percentage change fell significantly among patients aged 50-74 at diagnosis (–0.97), and aged 75 years and older at diagnosis (–1.15). But it rose among patients aged 35-49 at diagnosis (0.41) and especially among patients aged 20-34 at diagnosis (1.99).

The findings were similar for colon cancer separately (with strongest results seen for disease that was distant at diagnosis) and for rectal/rectosigmoid cancer separately.

A predictive model suggested that if the observed trends persist between 2010 and 2030, the incidences of colon cancer and of rectal/rectosigmoid cancer will rise by 90% and 124%, respectively, among 20- to 34-year-olds, and by 28% and 46%, respectively, among 35- to 49-year-olds.

Much of the decreasing incidence among older adults “can be attributed to the fact that screening is recommended beginning at the age of 50,” Dr. Bailey commented in an interview.

“We saw dramatic rises in the predicted incidences of both colon and rectal cancer in our younger cohort that point out that further studies need to be done to determine why this is happening and what can we do now to prevent this trajectory from occurring in the future,” she said at the symposium, sponsored by the American Society of Clinical Oncology.

Likely explanations for this sharp uptick, she suggested, include increasing population levels of obesity and physical inactivity, and consumption of a diet high in fat and red meat – factors implicated as risks for colorectal cancer.

Another possibility is that primary care physicians are now more alert for this cancer in young patients with symptoms such as rectal bleeding, which previously may have been attributed to conditions such as hemorrhoids, delaying diagnosis until an older age.

Recommendations still call for routine colorectal cancer screening only in those patients younger than age 50 who have risk factors such as familial adenomatous polyposis and Lynch syndrome, Dr. Bailey noted. And even though the incidence is rising in the younger age groups, it is still considerably lower than it is among people aged 50 years and older.

Dr. Bailey said she had no relevant financial disclosures.

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GUEST BLOG – Finding Beauty in Cancer

Friends of Kimberli – Finding Beauty in Cancer

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Finding Beauty Photo Shoot

This is a blog written by Kimberli Ransom, a professional photographer diagnosed with breast cancer. I met her because of our mutual friend Dan Betenbender. Dan told me I should connect with her, which I did through her blogsite, and possibly offer resources or support from my own experience with rectal cancer.

As with other cancer blogs I follow, Kimberli’s has a beautiful strength and openness and a desire to share her feelings, experiences and how she copes very creatively. I like her blog because she writes about a rich set of friends who share their expertise to help her express her fight. They contribute photography, fashion, poetry and other media. I think she is really giving her immediate community an opportunity to participate and learn, like a large-scale art project. An opportunity where all will come away with deeper connections with each other, and a deeper understanding of their feelings toward life and mortality. Really cool.

This post, The Real Thing Shoot, is a collaboration with her friend Paige, a photographer, shooting one of Kimberli’s chemotherapy sessions, and particularly capturing the tension, emotion and humorous moments between Kimberli and the hospital staff. Paige had had a major illness herself and had lost a family member to cancer, as well, and was particularly astute in capturing the light moments and the anxious moments. It is too big to add here on my blog, but very worth visiting her blog.

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Kimberli with staff

Teamwork very well done.

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