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August 30, 2011

Xina, Warrior Juice Princess...

Today is 14 days post Warrior Juice and I am sporting the new anti-hairdo!  In typical overachiever style, my hair began to fall-out on day 13; the usual hair loss time frame for this type of Warrior Juice is 14 – 17 days.  Monday (August 29, 2011), I was speaking with my husband and I ran my fingers through my hair only to discover a handful of hair cupped in my hand.  I thought huh, that is strange.  I ran my fingers through my hair again…out came more hair.  I started to tear-up and said well, I guess it is that time.  As the family sat around the dinner table, I made an announcement to the boys that my hair was falling-out.  I then removed my bandanna and ran my fingers through my hair; not quite sure, what prompted the demonstrative evidence.  The boys looked mortified!  They kept saying, “Mom, stop pulling your hair out!”  I laughed and continued adding to the pile of hair on the floor exclaiming, “boy’s, I am not pulling it out, it is falling out!”  I next declared that it was time to get out the clippers.  Carlos pleaded with me to wait, “mom you have a lot of hair.”  My response, “yes, I know and this is why I must shave it now or I will be leaving a trail of hair everywhere I travel.”  Carlos remarked, “We will always be able to find you.”  I excused myself from the dinner table and went into the bathroom, set the clippers on the counter, and looked at myself in the mirror; I began to tear-up.  I said aloud, “no, it is time and I will decide when my hair comes off – I choose.”  I turned the clippers on and stated shaving my head.  Curtis and Carlos stood silent and watched.  They had both offered to shave my head; I refused.  It was empowering to shave my head.  Carlos, my apprentice haircutter in the house, made sure I did not miss any spots.  Taking a shower and not having any hair was an odd feeling.  Now, I am sporting the GI Jane look and lov’n it!

Update on my last post – I am pleased to report that after five days of being completely locked-up I successfully evacuated my bowels!  Seriously, I expressed an enormous amount of joy post evacuation through verbal expressions and dance.  LOL~

My mind is quietly returning to some type of normal, either that or I am unknowingly embracing my newfound chemo-brain syndrome.  My memory is not intact fully and, at times, I find it challenging to form a coherent sentence or complete an entire thought.  Nevertheless, I keep on going!  Let me give a shout out to my new visitors for at least the next six months – fatigue, and hot flashes (forced into early menopause).  How awesome is this?  Awe yes, cancer treatments, the gift that keeps on giving.  I have not lost my sense of humor and I remain positive and hopeful.  I continue finding humor as I encounter many unique scenarios.  I drafted the following, in response to one such scenario:

Dear well- intended lady with the pink shoes,

            It was thoughtful and kind that you accompanied your elderly mother to the oncologist office for her warrior juice treatment.  The uninvited interruption into my conversation with a fellow warrior juice recipient (Angela) was interesting.  Apparently, it was overlooked that Angela barely had her footing and was gently swaying back and forth, as she stood in the waiting room.  Her cell counts were low, fatigue was marked, she did not have a companion accompanying her, and chemo-brain was large and in-charge.  Similarly, my fatigue was in full swing and chemo-brain was large and in-charge.
            Your rapid fire verbal rattling of fun facts, with a twist of warnings, rendered the minds of two warrior juice recipients, nearly useless.  You noted that Dr. Oz proclaims, a sweet potato a day keeps the cancer away – if he says something, we need to listen, using morphine to control pain will really mess with your brain, sugar feeds cancer, eat a daily dose of fiber, and eating fresh fruit – not a good choice!  I am quite confident the list is not complete – to that end, I declare chemo-brain.  If my brain could have processed your words at my typical rate of speed, I would have shared the following fun facts, with a twist of warnings with you.
            Shut Up!  For the love of everything holy, shut up!  It is wise to know your audience, warrior juice recipients + oncologist waiting room = Chemo-Brain.  Slow your speech pattern down, way down…you talk entirely too rapid.  Chemotherapy really messes with your brain – a morphine pill, post chemotherapy is not going to further mess it up.  Dial down the fun facts – keep your sweet potato remedy to yourself.  Senekot S, Colace, Miralax, stool softener, liquid poop juice, in addition to one’s daily fiber intake, was necessary to finally take a shit after five days!  Lastly, God gave you two ears and one mouth, take heed.  Enough said.

You really rocked the pink shoes,

Xina, Warrior Juice Princess

            Looking beyond cancer, I observe the beauty that continues to blossom; it is a delightful site.  Vanessa Raanes is an astonishing woman!  She made the most delicious dinner of lasagna, salad, and bread for my husband and children.  She is one of my biggest cheerleaders who naturally will incite smiles and belly laughs.  Vanessa, I love you sista’.  Leslie Brittell is an authentic and loving woman.  She sends me packages filled with handcrafted jewelry – my good-luck earring supplier.  We share a friendship that will forever remain a cornerstone of my foundation.  I love ya sista’ from another mister.  I am a fortunate woman!  To everyone, please know that each word of support on the phone, text message, blog comment, email, voice message, and note is appreciated; your words lift me up and allow me to remain hopeful.  Many thanks for loving and caring about me.  Today, I am hopeful.

August 20, 2011

Warrior Juice Number One…

I asked Curtis to take my picture prior to departing for my appointment.  I picked out the cutest outfit…I mean it is a first, therefore one must commemorate it with a photo…right?

August 16, 2011 is in my rearview mirror; the date will forever mark the first day of chemotherapy.  Moving forward, when referencing chemotherapy, I am borrowing the verbiage “warrior juice” from a recent supportive email from an exceptionally wise woman; it is much more uplifting than poison or chemotherapy.  This date is an exciting date for two of my sons as well; Kenneth and Carlos obtained their drivers licenses.  Vanessa Raanes, a dear friend picked me up at the Department of Motor Vehicles office, just down the street from my oncologist’s office.  She and I arrived early to my appointment; we sat in the lobby and swapped stories for nearly an hour.  We laughed and we cried.  As my appointment time approached, Curtis and Carlos joined us in the lobby; Carlos presented with the most pure, delightful, and joy filled smile across his face.  Yes, he passed his driving test!  We made our way up the stairs to my appointment. 

Warrior Juice Treatment #1
My blood was drawn to test my blood cell and platelet counts; everything was within normal range therefore we were ready to proceed.  I swallowed an oral anti-nausea and headed back to the warrior juice room where I met Angela.  She is a warrior juice recipient as well.  She has breast cancer and is in her late 40s; she is nearing the end of her treatments.  She was great!  She provided a plethora of information, Real Talk style, and added levity to the pitfalls of the warrior juice.  The Smart Port worked; the nurse flushed my Smart Port and delivered an IV anti-nausea medication.  The nurse prepared my cocktail of warrior juice; I declined the steroids.  First, to be delivered was the Cytoxan followed by the Adriamycin (AKA The Red Devil).  Delivery of the warrior juice was complete by 12 noon.  After consuming four 16-ounce bottles of water, I needed to tinkle.  I was delighted to see that The Red Devil was making its way out of my body so quickly. 

Nearly an hour after arriving home, I began to feel extremely fatigued, dizzy, light-headed, nauseous, and shaky.  I looked at my husband and barely had enough energy to mutter, “I don’t feel so good.”  After fasting for nearly 60 hours, it made sense that I was not feeling well…oh, and the pesky warrior juice!  I was able to consume some food and continued to hydrate myself.  The fatigue was incredibly debilitating.  I would gather enough strength to walk to the bathroom only to find myself unable to wash my hands without collapsing to the bathroom floor from sheer exhaustion.  At one point my husband leaned down and said “Hun, do you know you are lying on the bathroom floor?”  I responded with a weak “yes.”  He asked me if I needed help however, I let him know that I was thinking about getting back into bed, I just needed a minute.  I am unclear how many times he watched me crawl on all fours back to bed.  I felt horrible.  In between taking anti-nausea medication, eating, and going to the bathroom, I slept until the next morning.  My memory of all the events is foggy at best; it was traumatic.

Day #1 Post Warrior Juice
As I awoke, I thought to myself – today is definitely going to be a better day than yesterday.  It was.  I garnered enough strength to take a shower and pull myself together to travel to the oncologist’s office to get my shot of Nuelesta (helps build my white cell count).  I spent nearly an hour trying to evacuate my bowels; it was a slight success.  As the day continued, I remained fatigued.  I developed a headache, which I believe is the culprit for the increased nausea.  I went to sleep around 9:00PM.

Day #2 Post Warrior Juice
I awoke around 10:00AM, my headache had intensified overnight, as did the nausea.  I was extremely fatigued.  My knees and ankles started to ache a bit so I wrapped them with ace bandages to apply some pressure; it relieved the achy feeling.  I was able to eat and continued to hydrate myself.  In the evening, I indulged in a pain medication – hell, I should have done that earlier.  Within a couple hours, my headache and nausea was bearable.  I went to sleep early, around 9:00PM.

By day three, I was feeling much better.  I continued to go to sleep around 9:00PM and wake around 10:00AM.  I remain fatigued but am able to eat and do small tasks for a short time; I tire quickly.  My husband and boys have been terrific!  It is challenging to see mama down for the count however; they seem to be taking it all in stride.  My memory is questionable at this point and I am unclear if I can declare “warrior juice brain” but something has shifted.  Speaking of shifting – I am on day four of being unable to evacuate my bowels.  Already taking Miralax, the doctor has added Senokot-S and Colace to the mix.  Someth’n had better start moving!

Today, I am hopeful.

August 15, 2011

Live, Laugh, Love ...

Whew, the time has come; chemotherapy begins in approximately 12 hours.  I am unable to put effectively, into words, how I am feeling.  I do know this: I have been fasting since Saturday evening at 9:00 pm, 48 hours and I am hungry!  LOL!  Oh, what I would not do for some fresh cherries, blueberries, raspberries, raw almond, cashews, and a smoked salmon Caesar salad … not all at the same time of course.

Strangely, I do not feel panicked, anticipatory, fearful, nervous, or anxious about tomorrow.  I am clear that I am not in a state of denial but rather a state of acceptance; I have an aggressive form of breast cancer.  Equally, I am embracing the depth of sorrowful emotions I am frequently experience.  Humiliation is the first word that comes to mind as I write.  This cancer is systematically changing the landscape of my physical body.  I told myself, a lumpectomy will only remove the tumors and my breast would remain somewhat in tacked.  Real Talk – When looking in the mirror, there is a quarter of one breast missing, I cry.  I tell myself that the best health choice is to undergo a bilateral mastectomy after chemotherapy.  Real Talk – I weep nearly every time I envision losing my breasts.  I tell myself, hair is only hair…it will grow back.  Real Talk - it does not relieve the sting.  Cancer is cruel.  Treatment is harsh.  The cure is unknown. 

Live, laugh love … I do all three Big, Texas Big!  Too many individuals take life entirely too serious and forget to enjoy life; this includes the highs and lows.  Life is a bit bumpy, if it were smooth, I fear we would all grow bored.  My life may appear chaotic to observers, but I would not have it any other way.  Real Talk.  My life is not chaotic, it is filled with challenges, beauty, compassion, accountability, conflict, growth, and love; every day is a miracle.  I am amazed by the resilient nature of all my children. Triumphs uniquely measure; the enormity matters not, it is progress and worthy of joyful expression.  I love all my children, just where they are at. 

I remain positive and hopeful as I look at the bright side of cancer.  Guess who will not need to shave for about six months?  Yep, me!  No need to worry about blow-drying and styling my hair; I will adorn my baldhead with beautiful scarfs or my foxxy new wig.  Whoop whoop.  There is great beauty when we allow ourselves to look beyond the cancer.  I have fabulous friends, family, and newfound friends whom offer support, love, care, compassion, encouragement, kind words, and thoughtful expressions.  I am fortunate.  Today, I am hopeful.

August 13, 2011

The date is set…

August 16, 2011 is the day the chemotherapy will begin.  As The Date approaches, I find it increasingly challenging to accept this cancer.  It was an incredible blow, to hear a doctor inform me that I have an aggressive form of breast cancer; it carries a poor five-year survival rate.  For my boys, the reality that mom has cancer is beginning to resonate.  When I look into their eyes, I see fear, a sense of helplessness, disbelief, and sadness with a twist of lingering denial that mom has cancer.  Real Talk, my appearance is going to change – my hair will begin to fallout in two–three weeks and my energy level will decline.  My intention is not to be afflicted with all the other nasty side effects of chemotherapy.  At times, the night is rough and filled with many emotions.  My sadness is deep and my emotions raw.  I know my children hear me painfully weeping; “I just want this to go away!”  This is tough. 

I remain hopeful and positive despite my amplified crying person status; my sense of humor seems to be undergoing an amplification of its own!  For example, as I climbed up onto the acupuncturist treatment table and began to roll-up my pant legs, I began apologizing for the overgrowth of hair on my legs.  I remarked, “I can’t shave my legs with a regular razor and the electric ones don’t get the job done – it’s only going to get worse!”  She kindly smiled; I then remarked, “Wait a minute, my hair is going to fall out…never mind, my legs are going to be smooth before you know it!”  She giggled.  Another example, spanning the last five days, I declared, “I need to get fat!”  Who would have thought?  As with most things, this ideological goal is three pronged – enjoy spicy food prior to chemotherapy, gain a few pounds that I could shed without falling to low in weight, and enjoy the taste of food before it alters.  My best efforts have failed to add the poundage I was looking to achieve…dang it all.  Gave it a good whirl though. 

Western medicine offers surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation to treat TNBC.  The End.  Out of necessity, I preformed exhaustive research to design thoughtfully, my personal integrated modality toolkit.

1.  Chemotherapy:  Cytoxan and Adriamycin AKA The Red Devil – four course every three weeks followed by Taxotere every three weeks – four courses. 
2.  Fasting, consuming water and perhaps fruit juice, 48 – 60 hours prior to chemotherapy followed by fasting 24 hours post chemotherapy.
3.  Daily supplements: Nature’s Immune Stimulator, Suma, Vitamin E Complete with Selenium, and Vitamin D3.
4.  Weekly acupuncture
5.  Weekly Dahn Yoga energy work, meditation, relaxation, and breathing training
6.  Daily positive affirmations
7.  Writing

There you have it!  I am ready to conquer this TNBC.  I want to live.  I need to live.  I am at peace, each kind word, thoughtful act, unknowing smile, card, meaningful text, voice-mail, emails, and blog postings received by those around me, truly lift me up when I am emotionally and physically fragile.  Many thanks for the overwhelming love, support, and encouragement.  Today, I am hopeful. 

August 3, 2011

Officially overwhelmed…

My capacity to balance effectively the string of “not so good news” with positive thoughts and optimism has far surpassed it bounds.  I am on day number three of an emotionally draining and thought provoking mood; I have begun to ask why.  Last night as I sobbed uncontrollably, I expressed to my husband that I was pissed…this triple negative breast cancer, TNBC makes absolutely no sense!  Cancer is a humiliating and unusually cruel creature – I must choose to pump poison through my veins; I do not know if the poison will kill any residual cancer cells.  What I do know is that the good healthy cells will be annihilated.  My hair, eyebrows, and eyelashes will crumble due to the toxic poison, and finally I must have body parts chopped off.  Why?  Why is this happening; I am 5’3 124 pounds, exercise regularly, and eat healthy [pesco-vegetarian].  I would not wish this disease on my least favorite individual in this world.  The cruelty is multi-pronged; primarily, in this moment, my thoughts focus on the ways in which cancer will change the intimacy between my husband and me. 

My husband would love, adore, and declare me to be the most beautiful woman no matter how many body parts are missing; I know this to be true without question.  His support and love is unending.  He is patient, comforting, encouraging, loving, and supportive.  He always tells me “you are doing a great job babe!”  He sits with me when I erupt into unbridled raw emotion.  When I awake at night and cannot sleep, I reach to hold his hand and he gently squeezes back.  He sees my pain and my fears.  Words are not necessary for him to know my heart; he looks into my eyes and somehow he just knows.     

I believe that nothing happens by accident.  One of my sons just collected the mail and I received two packages and letter.  Prior to moving to Texas, Curtis and I lived across the street from the best neighbors ever, a retired couple, Dick and Bobbie Barnhouse.  They sent me two b-dazzled baseball caps to wear once my hair falls out.  This made me smile.  The next package was from my little brother Sammy (Sam).  Knowing I was more distressed about losing my eyebrows then losing my hair, he found an online company that sells 100% human hair stick-on eyebrows!  Yep, you guessed it; I just peeked at the new eyebrows.  This made me giggle.  The card was from a dear friend offering words of encouragement and reminded me of how strong and positive I am.  She gently reminds me that I am not alone in this journey.  This made me tear-up.  This is the beauty beyond the cancer that I always write about!

It is okay, that at times, I have reached the capacity to cope and become overwhelmed.  TNBC is overwhelming!  I may need to heed my words – “I would be a concerned if you were not a bit overwhelmed at times!”  LOL!  Cancer sucks, oh yes it does.  However, what is so incredibly beautiful is that with the support of those who love me, I am free to grieve that I have cancer.  This is okay, it is perfectly normal and expected.  I AM officially overwhelmed yet I move through this in order to acknowledge; today, I am hopeful.  

August 1, 2011

The weirdo trifecta...

Today feels uncomfortable, but not in the traditional way, one would envision discomfort.  I did not sleep well last evening and when I finally dosed-off around 4:00 am I continuously awoke myself as I kept talking in my sleep.  My mood is unexpected, eccentric at times, and disquieting; a weirdo trifecta I would rather not revisit.  To express it in the most simplistic and perhaps irreverent terms – physically I feel good with only slight discomfort from the surgery [AKA quarter breast chop chop] and insertion of the porta-catheter.  Yet, I am in this chemotherapy countdown mode, the day I willingly inject poison into my body.  I understand and am aware that something really bad and ugly is about to happen, each day brings me closer to this dreadful place I would rather run away from.  Awe yes, THIS is the not so pretty side of triple negative breast cancer!

I choose not to linger too long in the weirdo trifecta, as this is a temporary stopping point not a chosen destination.  My belief system includes the ideology that nothing happens by accident.  A dear friend called just at the right moment and we laughed together, solved the problems of the world, expressed our mutual appreciation for our friendship, and spoke of many outrageous ideas bringing us to unbridled laughter.  A sweet text message from one of my son’s former girlfriends touched my heart.  Ironically, my phone just alerted me that a text message awaits me … it reads, “When my sister came back from chemo, she always felt like shit!”  LOL!!!  My response “awesome, great news, LOL” Oh dear … that is the way it is folks; the good, the bad, and the ugly side of cancer.  I find that having a good sense of humor even through these difficult times, keeps me laughing, positive, and reminds me to look beyond the cancer to see the beauty that is blooming around me.  Today, I am hopeful.