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Friday, April 30, 2010

Vote for Heather...

Heather is a long time friend of mine, from back int he days when BG has a robust LLL. She has since moved away and undertaken a different type of journey.

Here's what she just posted to my FB wall...

Please take a moment to vote for me for being a FAB Over 40 Woman! As a breast cancer and ovarian cancer survivor I would like to use the publicity (and/or Prize money) for my upcoming charity expedition to row the atlantic in Survivorship!!! You do have to take a moment to sign up, but it will be well worth it! Thanks for your support! http://www.more.com/13752/18734-heather-c-swift

Please note, you can opt out of receiving any more emails when you register:)
I'd love to see her win!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Some thoughts way more important than my life with cancer

Earlier this week, the son of my friend Katie Granju , overdosed and was brutally beaten. Henry is 18.

Knowing the stupidity that my own teens are capable of, it seems that adolescence is, as one person earlier today put it, equivalent to the trip that baby sea turtles must take from egg to ocean. Sadly, sometimes our babies get a glimpse of a street lamp and wander off course. Sometimes, they run into predators and the outcome isn't pleasant.

Having witnessed the poor decision making of my own adolescents, and knowing some of their friends and what they have done, I think that's a great analogy.

Hold your baby turtles close, people. Tell them you love them. Forgive them their minor indiscretions with grace and patience. Don't sweat the small stuff, because, contrary to popular belief, it's not all small stuff. There's big, scary stuff out there.

And, please keep Henry, Katie and the rest of the Granju-Hickman family in your thoughts and prayers.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

An indicator of fatigue

It is very common for those of us getting radiation treatments to experience fatigue. In fact, it is considered to be the most common side effect after redness of the skin. I became very well acquainted with fatigue near the end of my first 6 chemo treatments and during nearly all of my last 4 rounds.

My first inclination that I'm starting to experience radiation related fatigue is that I started saying, "I'm tired" a few days ago. I've also taken a couple mid-day naps this week. Then, there's the waking up before my alarm in the morning and being unable to go back to sleep, but also feeling unable to really move.

However, the biggest indicator has to have been today, as evidenced by the prolific number of posts I've had on facebook. When I haven't been in the car, at radiation, or walking at the community center, I'm right back in my recliner. I'd have the TV on, but I'm too tired to either get up and turn it on or find the remote. But hey, all three boys are home...one of them can do that for me.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Eating Fish

On the suggestion of Pancake Goddess, I made fish tacos. I didn't quite have enough fish (cod), so I added some boneless, skinless chicken breast.

EVERY. SINGLE. MEMBER. OF. MY. FAMILY. ATE. MORE. THAN. ONE.

Yes, that was a yell. At least two members "hate" fish and those same two "hate" anything different, yet they ate it with gusto.

OK, maybe not quite as much gusto as usual. They only ate two and four respectively, but that was enough to not have leftovers:)

Monday, April 19, 2010

One HUGE sign the Smackdown is nearly over

I'm not ignoring the fact that I still face some potentially debilitating fatigue in the latter weeks of radiation, which could last as long as a year, or that I still have at least one surgery, possibly more ahead, yet tonight I realized yet again that I'm coming up from the Smackdown.

Tynan asked me if he could be homeschooled next year, and I am actually considering it. It doesn't seem overwhelming, nor does my teaching schedule seem to pose problems. Two weeks ago when he asked, I was totally opposed. It didn't appeal to me at all.

If we do decide to homeschool him, his experience will be much different than his brothers' at the age of 10. For starters, I don't have the energy that I had a decade ago. Nor am I willing to go back to teaching evenings and homeschooling days, and ultimately burning the candle at both ends. That was only good for a finite time, and that time is long past (and probably should have ended sooner than it did).

He'll have to do a lot more bookwork than his brothers did, just to simplify my life. He'll have to be a lot more independent.

He's willing to do maths and science this summer to prove to me he can do it. I'm willing to seriously consider it.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Two weeks . . . of success

Two weeks ago, 14 full days, I started to seriously try to incorporate a full hour of exercise into each day. The American Cancer Society recommends at least 30 minutes a day, five days a week. There is other evidence that an hour a day is optimal, especially too reduce the risk of some cancers, including breast cancer. For women to NOT gain weight as they age, the current recommendation is an hour a day, seven days a week.

How this will work out when I go back to work, I have no clue. There are still several months to figure that out. However, for the past two weeks, on most weekdays, after my radiation appointment, I've gone to the Community Center and either walked--at least 3 miles at 15 or fewer minutes per mile--or done the Couch to 5K running program--finishing up a full 5K walking after the "running" is finished. I've attempted to be there and sweating for at least an hour a day. A couple of times, I had to cut the time short due to other conflicts; one day, for instance, I had to go before I went to radiation and I forgot to wear my compression sleeve, and going home to get it cut my time short. In general, though, I've been getting about an hour a day of exercise and have completed two weeks of the C25K program.

I can't say I like it. In fact, I pretty much detest it. I wish there were a magic exercise pill.

But there isn't.

I've tried exercise videos, but those don't work so well for me. It's too easy for me to quit, go half-assed, or procrastinate. Plus, my house doesn't lend itself to exercise in front a TV. The ceiling fan in the family room is inconvenient for over-arm movements, the floor has to be clear--which means I have to nag people to pick up their crap, and in the living room, there isn't room near the TV. Walking outside is fine, but with the peripheral neuropathy I have in my toes, the unevenness of sidewalks and curbs an issue.

I'm actually quite surprised at how much I prefer walking in circles at the Community Center. For starters, I'm pretty competitive at times, and I compete against myself with the timer. There's nothing like knocking 10 seconds off your previous lap. Second, I am in love with the little silver lap counters. I can't wimp out when I can increase that number. Today, I'd only intended to walk 4.5 miles, but instead did 5.0 miles just to make an even 40 laps. Third, the temperature remains relatively consistent, and that makes me happy. Fourth, I get excited when the fan by the weight area is on and I get that brief blast of air--on the days we go clockwise. If you had asked me two weeks ago if I'd want to walk laps indoors, around and around in a circle, for an hour or more a day, I'd have scoffed in your face. But I do rather enjoy it, I'm almost embarrassed to say.

I've been waiting for my blood counts to come up and to see what kind of skin changes I'm going to have from the radiation before I venture out to the weight or cardio machines. The last thing I need is to come in contact with MRSA right now if I can avoid it. Since I struggle with diligence, it's just best if I don't even take the risk for now. Once I'm finished with radiation, though, I'll have to reconsider.

Meanwhile, I'll keep plodding away for an hour a day, most days, round and round and round the blue track.

I will admit I'm sleeping better, have more energy, and am hating it less than I did two weeks ago. Maybe some day I'll even enjoy it. Maybe some day I'll look forward to it?

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Continuing to Crawl Out of the Hole

I just realized today that I haven't really watched any TV for a few days and much of what I have seen has bored me. This is yet another indicator that I'm crawling out of the chemo hole.

The smackdown appears to be over! I have more energy and more inclination to be involved in life. This either bodes well or not so well for my children:) They are pretty used to minimal involvement at this point. Tynan will be happier, but I'm not so sure about the feral teens.

Also, while I don't enjoy it, the idea of exercise doesn't seem overwhelming right now. I actually finished 3 days (one week) of the Couch to 5k program this week. Day one sucked big time. Day 2 was pretty bad, but today, day 3 wasn't horrible. That's about the best I can say. It wasn't horrible.

I hope it gets better. People have told me it gets better. I've read testimonials that say it gets better.

When do the endorphins kick in?

I watch my kids run and I think, "Why do my legs not move like that?" It looks so easy when they do it.

Friday, April 9, 2010

New American Plate

Many months ago, I mentioned the New American Plate way of eating. Sometimes I manage. Other times not so well. However, tonight's plate looked pretty well proportioned (I'm still not eating dairy or grains).


Menu:

Grilled Salmon with Tomato, Olive, Caper, Jalapeno Sauce
Roasted Asparagus

Roasted Broccoli

Garlicky Greens
I also accomplished Week 1, Day 2 of C25K today and after the cool down was over, I was so close to actually having covered 5K of ground that I continued walking until I did, about another 1/2+ mile. My thighs are a little sore, but otherwise, I feel good.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Latest Freak Out

I fear my hair will never re-grow. It's not making any progress in that direction right now.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Forget what I said before

about a "modicum of being in shape." I lied. I flat out lied. I started the Couch to 5K (C25K) running program today.

Oh. My. Goodness.

Nothing can make a person feel more out of shape than getting out of breath during a 60 second jog. I seriously didn't think I'd make it to the end of the first 60 seconds. When those chimes rang and I heard the command to "WALK," I'm not sure I've ever been more relieved. I thought I was going to cry, to throw my ipod, to just out and out quit when I heard that the workout was half over. ONLY HALF OVER!!! What the hell?!?!?! I actually briefly thought that perhaps my ipod had been paused for a while or something. It had to nearly be OVER, not just halfway over. I was dying.

I did it, though. For the entire 30 minutes. In fact, by the end, I was kind of surprised that it was time to stop. It sure felt like it.

But I stuck it out. And when my ipod told me that it was cool-down time, I was actually a little surprised. That second half, like the second half of a tank of gas in my van, went a lot faster than the first half.

I won't lie and say that it felt good. But it did get a little easier. I still ached longingly for each "WALK" segment. The running never felt easy, but it did become less horrific. Still bad. I actually hate it and nearly always have, but I did it.

I'm pretty committed to finishing the entire 9 week program. I'd like to like running. I used to say the same thing about fish. I wanted to like fish. I tolerate it now. I've found some enjoyment in it. I've started to look forward to it and choose it as a food option over other foods that I've always liked. This experience with fish gives me hope for running.

Day 1 of Week 1 of the C25K program done. If nothing else, I'll not have to do it again:)

Update: right after originally posting this entry, I was playing Majong at www.pbs.org, and uncovered the most appropriate quote from The Buddha:

There are only two mistakes one can make along the road of truth: Not going all the way, and not starting.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

One reason you never hear for maintaining a modicum physical fitness

That just might be my longest title on a post yet:)

We've all heard that we must exercise to help keep our hearts healthy, to keep our weight down, to help prevent diabetes and osteoporosis, to decrease depression, to help prevent cancer, yadda yadda yadda. But an excellent reason, one that I've never heard expressed, is that when you are at least minimally fit and/or active, it is easier to rehabilitate after periods of illness.

As you know, I've done nothing but sit on my arse since December.....mostly just sat on my dupa before that, too, at least since my blood counts bottomed out and, hence, my fatigue levels sky rocketed sometime in October; however, most specifically, since surgery in December and then the four rounds of chemo that I started in January and ended 3.5 weeks ago, I've not done much of anything physically.

However, the time has come for that to end. One of the side effects of the chemo drugs I've been on is peripheral neuropathy, which manifests in many ways, but one way is in muscle weakness and aches. Add to that my overall lack of activity, and I'm a flabby mess.

I'm still feeling quite a bit of fatigue, and I never know when it will hit. It seems like I crash mostly in the late morning and/or late in the day. When I say crash, I really do mean crash, very much like a teenager (I have the opportunity to observe that phenomenon nearly daily). That makes it hard to plan to exercise...I still feel like I need to pace myself. I still feel like I rejuvenate by sitting in the sun for hours. On some days, even that is tiring. Take yesterday for instance...after sitting in the sun in the front yard for an hour, I was so tired, I napped in the backyard for an hour.

Flabby + fatigue + the fear of fatigue = hard to motivate to exercise.

So I've decided that for this week, I'll walk each evening after dinner. Earlier this week, walking less than a mile made me out of breath and made my leg muscles shaky. Tonight, walking 2.3 miles felt awesome. I wasn't going at any speed by any means. My arms weren't necessarily pumping, but I felt great.

I can't imagine how frustrating and difficult this all would be if I hadn't been walking 5 miles every few days before I hit the wall of fatigue late last fall or if I hadn't been doing my best to stick with yoga before and after my surgery, regardless of my fatigue levels.

I have a long way to go with upper body work....between lack of use and age, I haven't had much upper body strength in years. It was never my forte. Now, though, it's embarrassing. I'm not too sure what to do about that, since I have to worry about lymphedema, which can be exacerbated by exercise but also may be helped by exercise. Actually, I love swimming, but the options for that are so limited in this area, especially with my previous teaching and childcare schedules. Now would be an ideal time to swim, but it's not recommended during chemo due to the potential germ exposure, not recommended during radiation due to needing to avoid anything drying to the skin, and prohibited for at least six weeks after surgery/reconstruction. That all means it's out for me until sometime in mid to late summer, I guess, if everything goes as planned. Once school starts in August, who knows how it will work with my schedule.

Meanwhile, I'm just happy that I'm able to feel stronger each day and that I at least started out, back before this whole stupid cancer thing started, with the ability to walk fairly long distances. With 20/20 hind site, I'd probably have put more emphasis on exercise so that crawling out of this cancer shit hole was easier.

I still feel like an old lady, and there are quite a few old ladies who are more spy than I around, but at least I'm out there moving, which three weeks ago seemed like it was never going to happen.