Monday, January 31, 2011

My daughters are the best medicine.

I'm not very good at keeping this blog up to date. It seems like I'm always a day or two behind... most of the time even longer. I've been doing pretty well since round 5. When Dr. Ellis said I may not feel well around Wednesday, she was right. I was pretty sick most of the day.Thursday was better, but I was completely exhausted and started getting body aches. I stayed in bed literally allllllll day. When I say all day, I really mean all day. I'm not sure I've done that since chemo began. Not even on my worst days. I still have the body and joint aches but they aren't really what I expected. They feel like I need a really good stretch, except when I stretch it doesn't make a difference. I've considered going to get a massage, but I'm not sure that will even help. I should do it anyway. I kinda feel like I deserve one. ;)

I have to say as tough as I've felt this whole chemo thing has been, I feel like I've gotten it a lot easier than many others. I've been reading through blogs of women who are or who have recently gone through chemo for triple negative breast cancer. They have been so sick (even hospitalized) either by the actual chemo drugs or became sick due to their blood counts being so low. I've only had to go to the emergency room one time for some esophagus pain. I like to believe this is a sign that my body is stronger than this icky cancer.

Vanessa had the day off of school on Friday. So, I wanted to plan a special day for her, Brooke and me. We started the day off going out to breakfast. Breakfast is our favorite meal to eat out. The girls almost always get the same thing. Pancakes. I too, love pancakes, but have been trying to stay away from sugar... and the syrup, unfortunately, is not sugar free. Boo! I was proud of myself, I didn't even have one bite. To not have a bite of pancakes shows my true willpower. :) Who knew turning down pancakes measured my strength. Actually, the day I turn down a brownie will be the true measure of strength in my fight against sugar.

Vanessa & Brooke having fun at breakfast.

After breakfast we hit the nail salon. The girls and I often get our nails painted. We've been doing this together since they were each about 3 years old. I've actually been making this a weekly treat for myself these days. The chemo is making my nails grow in a dark gray, almost black color. I've read where people actually lose their nails while going through chemo. I am crossing my fingers this doesn't happen to me. The thought of this is actually scarier to me than losing my hair. So far I've been able to keep my eyebrows, eye lashes and finger nails. These are the last bits of femininity I have left. Sigh... Please god, let me keep my finger nails!

Vanessa showing off her nails.

Brooke showing off her nails.

It wouldn't be a girls day without doing a little shopping. The girls got to pick out anything they wanted... and they chose hats. I am certain this is because I am wearing a hat everyday. I love that they still want to be like me... even the me with cancer. Have I ever mentioned that I have the two sweetest little girls around? We also took a walk around Pike Place Market in search of some fresh flowers. I'm a little out of the loop because it didn't even occur to me that this is winter and not a lot of fresh flowers to choose from. Woopsy! Can I blame this on "chemo brain" too? The girls were disappointed, but nothing a little ice cream couldn't fix.

                                         I passed on this ice cream goodness too. ;p

While walking through the market we came across a dancing, hula hoopin, harmonica playing, guitar playing, singing man (all at the same time). The girls thought it was pretty cool and couldn't stop laughing. There is nothing better than to see your children smile. It's the best thing in the world. I was beyond tired after our time together but we had such a fun day and I am looking forward to doing it again... and again... and again... and again... :)

                                                          I love this look on her face!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Crazy Sexy Diet

I recently learned of a very inspiration woman, Kris Carr. At the age of 31 (same age as me), she was diagnosed with epithelioid hemangioendothelioma, a vascular cancer in the lining of the blood vessels in her liver and lungs so rare that only 0.01 percent of the cancer population has it. The cause- unknown. The cancer was stage 4 and the doctors told her it was incurable and inoperable.

She was basically told to just continue living her normal life. She didn't know what normal was anymore, which I can relate to well. Because this disease was untreatable through chemotherapy or surgery, her only option was to change her diet and lifestyle. She traded in fast food for a vegan diet and swapped martinis for juicing. This is something I will begin doing as soon as I get the ok from my naturopath. I'm really excited to introduce the juicing into my diet to help me fight this cancer and to continue living a long healthy life. :)

Kris Carr has gone onto write a few inspiring books on how she's been able to stabilize her cancer by completely changing her lifestyle with food and exercise. She feels more healthy than she ever has. Below is some tips from her most recent book that we all can benefit from... cancer or no cancer.

Love List: Top 15 Crazy Sexy Diet Tips

Kris Carr Crazy Sexy Diet
Top 15 Crazy Sexy Diet Tips

1. Get back to nature and back to the garden – preferably the organic garden – when affordable – when not, try to choose fruits and veggies that are less sprayed. You can find a Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides at There are over 80,000 chemicals in our world today, eating them and putting them on our bodies is a dangerous proposition.
2. Create an anti-inflammatory diet and lifestyle. Learn about pH, the acid/alkaline balance, and say goodbye to the SAD, acidic diet in favor of alkaline raw organic veggies, sprouts, green drinks, green smoothies, enzymes, vitamins, minerals, love and oxygen.
3. Make juice not war. Green smoothies are great too. My favorite juicer is the Breville Ikon, and the best blender is the Vitamix. Instead of your morning cup of Joe, (or nightly cup of booze) try filling your day with fresh vegetable juice.
4. Drink lots of clean, purified water.
5. Decrease the amount of animal products you consume (especially dairy products) and move towards more of a plant-based diet.
6. Refined sugars and processed starches are the devil – dump them. If it’s made in a lab it takes a lab to digest. If it has a shelf life longer than you, don’t eat it. Choose low glycemic foods as much as possible.
7. Shake your booty. Your lymph system, which carries away waste, needs you! Unlike your heart, it doesn’t have a pump.  Aerobics is the pump. Brisk walking is the pump. Yoga is the pump.
8. Give your colon a regular spring-cleaning. That’s right, flood your body with alkalinity and flush it of toxins. As the good stuff goes in the bad stuff should come out – on a regular basis.
9. Use natural skincare products. Your skin is your largest organ and what you put on it you literally drink in. Everything you consume either gets assimilated or eliminated. Chemical creams and perfumes tax your body big time.
10. Stress also creates acidity, so turn down the volume on chaos and turn up the joy factor up. Find and regularly commit to activities that help you bring it down a notch. Some ideas: meditation, gratitude journaling, guided relaxation or visualization CD’s, nature.
11. Snooze. Snooze. Snooze. Optimal hours: 11-7am.
12. Chew. Your stomach does not have teeth.
13. And stop eating late so that when you snooze, your body can focus on repair instead of digestion.
14. Set boundaries so that you have the physical and emotional time to take care of yourself – it’s not selfish, it’s self-preserving.
15. Make time for fun, for love, for laughter!

Make Juice Not War Green Drink
It’s our motto and our morning beverage. Here’s what we serve in the Carr/Fassett home daily. This recipe makes almost 32 oz.

-2 large cucumbers (peeled if not organic)
-Big fist full of kale or romaine
-Big fist full of sweet pea sprouts (if easy to find)
-4-5 stalks celery
-1-2 big broccoli stems
-1-2 pears or green apples (optional)
*Other optional greens we love: spinach

Kris Carr’s Green Smoothie
Makes enough for 2 people. You can adjust the recipe accordingly. My taste buds are different than yours so don’t be afraid to play!

-1 Avocado
-1-2 pieces of low glycemic fruit: we love green apple, pear, berries & cantaloupe
-1 Cucumber
-A bit of kale or romaine or spinach
-Coconut water (or purified water)
-Stevia to taste
*You can also add a sprinkle of cinnamon and some cacao.
*You can also use coconut meat or almond butter or nut milk in place of avocado.

Round 5

I completed round 5 of my treatment on Monday, January 24th, as I started the new drug, Taxol. I also figured out why I was up all night the night before. Dr. Ellis told me the 10 pills I took prior to my appointment on Monday were steroids that cause insomnia. Awwww! I wish I would have known that before... or maybe I did and just forgot. That's been happening a lot lately. I have what they call "chemo brain" in a major way.

At my appointment, Dr. Ellis went over the MRI with me. Basically, I know the tumor is shrinking but we don't know the actual size. I also found out the lymph nodes have gone back down to normal size. Sounds like great news, but she did say she'd be surprised if they weren't still diseased when I went in for surgery. It's common for them to go back to normal size, but not as common for them to be disease free. I will have them removed during surgery no matter what.

My blood counts this week were perfect so I went upstairs and started round 5 of chemo. I wasn't as nervous at this point. I had my mom with me and we spent a lot of time talking, which helped me get my mind off it. I also had my favorite nurse who put me at ease. She spends a lot of time going over all the medications I will be getting and how they will make me feel. She too is a recent breast cancer patient, just 9 months out of treatment and had the same chemo regime as I am currently doing. So, she knows exactly what I'm going through right now. I only had one little panic attack during treatment. It was after I was given some Benadryl. I don't know that I've ever taken Benadryl before. I've never really been one to take medicine... even when I was sick. It's a big difference to the 10+ pills I take per day now. Anyway, I was given the Benadryl and soon after my eyes were rolling in the back of my head. I was asleep before I knew it. The nurse began the Taxol while I was sleeping. I woke up and felt like I didn't have any control over my upper body and panicked. The nurse came in and turned off the IV in case it was an allergic reaction to the Taxol. With the Taxol, the first couple of times the drug is given to you,  the nurse has to sit with you for the first twenty minutes the drug is adminstered and make sure I am not allergic to the medication. After talking with the nurse about my reacation, we decided it was me having a panic attack. I was able to calm down and we began treatment again.

I'm very happy to report that today I am feeling pretty well. Dr. Ellis said I may start to feel some side effects on Wednesday that may last a few days. But from what everyone is saying this drug is a lot more mild and I should be feeling much better than I have been.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Chemo is my friend.

Today, I go in for round 5 of treatment. I'm a little nervous about this treatment. Maybe even a lot nervous. I think I slept about 3 hours last night. This isn't completely out of the ordinary though. For the last couple of months, I'm typically in two states: wide awake or falling asleep.

Last nights insomnia could have been the result of a long list of things. I'm sure most of it is the unknown of what this new drug is going to feel like or it could be my aversion to the smell of rubbing alcohol and the the taste of saline. I've been at the hospital every Monday since November 29th, getting my blood drawn. This isn't just a quick blood draw. This process starts with rubbing alcohol on the skin that covers my portacath, then it's injecting my port with saline to clean it out, then onto the actual blood draw, then a few more injections of saline to clean the port again. I'm tasting the saline in my mouth as I write this. Gaggggggg! During the last blood draw, it took everything I had to not be sick on the very sweet nurse. This go round I'm going to find a nice scent to put on the tip of my nose to try and mask the rubbing alcohol smell and maybe find some sort of hard candy to avoid the saline taste. Wish me luck!

The lack of sleep could very well be from the hot flashes I just started having. I woke up at one point last night in a full sweat and no blankets on. My room is not warm. I don't turn on the heat and my window is usually open. I feel like I'm on my way to a full menopause state. Grrrr!

Chemo is my friend... Chemo is my friend... ;)

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Round 4

Round 4 was on Monday, January 10th. This was the last round of the AC treatment. Woo Hoo! I'd been waiting for this round to come to an end since the day I first began chemo. I was told by Dr. Ellis, and all the nurses I'd seen, that these first four treatments would be the hardest. And though this chemo definitely knocked me back for the last two months, it never knocked me down, and I am incredibley thankful for it.

Dr. Ellis had been doing self exams the last few weeks and felt very good about the progress I was making, but she wanted to know for sure, therefore I had a follow up MRI on my breasts and lymph nodes on Monday, January 17th.  She called me last night to give me some great news. The tumor was in fact shrinking and the lymph nodes were looking better as well. I had been expecting this news, but to hear it was so great! I will get the report when I see her on Monday and know exactly what the MRI showed. This news gave me me some much needed faith going into my next set of treatments. I will now begin 12 weekly cycles of a new chemo drug, Taxol, starting the 24th.

I found a quote that touched me and wanted to share with you all.

"When you have come to the edge of all light that you know and are about to drop off into the darkness of the unknown, Faith is knowing one of two things will happen: There will be something solid to stand on or you will be taught to fly"

From the day I was diagnosed with breast cancer I knew more than anything that I needed to have "faith." It's something I've struggled a lot with over the years... not having faith in many things. But when I was faced with something that immediately changed my life, I knew the only thing that would save me is faith. I went a few days after my diagnoses and tattood the word "faith" on my wrist, a place where I would always be reminded.

We are what we eat...

I just found this information on another blog I follow. It's very interesting and great information for all of us to know. Please read!

* There are 500 new breast cancer cases a day diagnosed in America, 192,370 cases diagnosed a year and more than 40,000 women will die of breast cancer this year (I would describe this as an epidemic - 1 in 3 women will be diagnosed in her lifetime!)

* Survivors have a 200-600 percent chance of developing a second cancer compared to others. (That's why I am getting the double!)

* Low Vitamin D3 levels (the vitamin we get from sun exposure) can increase your chance of getting breast cancer by 70 percent. One study found low D3 led to a 200 percent chance of your cancer progressing and 73 percent greater risk of death. Get your D3 tested now - it is a simple blood test and if it is below 50ng/mL do something about it - now. Test it a few times a year. You need 50 percent of your body in the sun for 30 minutes a day.

* Studies show diets high in sugar (processed sugar and high glycemic index) cause spikes in insulin and stimulate tumors to grow and can contribute to breast cancer - especially Triple Negative.

* Drinking alcohol increases your risk of breast cancer. One drink a day increases your risk by 7 percent. Alcohol increases your estrogen. A study in the Journal of Clinical Oncology found that survivors who have one or more drinks per day have a 90 percent - 90 percent! increased risk of recurrence. Medicinal marijuana, anyone? Darn.

* When you get a mammogram and they say you have "dense breast tissue" you could be at a greater risk.

* Eat: raw carrots - Harvard researchers have found young women who eat 2 or more servings of carotenoid-rich fruits and vegetables (oranges, broccoli, carrots, romaine lettuce and spinach) had a 17 percent lower risk of breast cancer.

* Green tea consumption may reduce your breast cancer risk by up to 53 percent. 2 - 4 cups a day. Make a pot - and drink it cold too in summer. Univ of Southern Cal found green tea lowered breast cancer risk by up to 53 percent.

* A few apples a day may keep breast cancer at bay - eat them with skins.

* High fiber foods lower your risk by 42 percent.

* Omega-3 oils from salmon (wild caught only please) reduce your risk by up to 94 percent.

* Flaxseed may reduce risk by 54 percent, according to recent studies - eat your lignans! Chia count too.

* 2 ounces - just half a handful - of walnuts per day reduces your risk.

* Pomegranates - of which we had a beautiful tree in the yard of our Jerusalem home - may reduce breast cancer risk by up to 87 percent, according to another recent study.

* We all know about broccoli and cancer hates cabbage! Broccoli actually kills cancer cells, according to some studies.

* A low-glycemic index diet may lower your risk by 253 percent - extra stored fat produces estrogen - glycemic foods cause a cascade of hormones. Eliminate now: desserts, candies, cakes, sweets, sodas, ice cream (ugghh!), white bread, sugar, honey, jelly and alcohol - yep, alcohol. You may ask, "Why live?" But I can tell you there is truth to this.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Round 3

Round 3 of chemo was on Monday, December 27th. I'm writing this blog just one day after completing round 4. Round 4 is my last treatment of the combo drugs AC (adriamycin and cytoxan). These two are the "big guns" in fighting triple negative breast cancer. When the "big guns" are used, you get a lot of not so fun side effects. So, to say the least, I'm very happy to be ending this portion of my treatment.

When I arrived to my appointment for round 3 the nurse immediately told me they would be lowering my chemo dose because my blood counts were not recovering as well as they'd like them to. She assured me the lower dose wouldn't effect the attack against my tumor, but would allow the bone marrow to recover the red/white blood cells. Along with this news, my blood pressure was continuing to drop. This has been a huge concern and anxiety for me since this type of chemo does cause damage to your heart. Siiiigh.

After my appointment with Dr. Ellis, as I do each week, I headed up to start chemo. Everything went well and I left the hospital that evening feeling about the same as I always do after having a treatment. Pretty groggy, but that's from the anti-anxiety medicine they give me, which is much appreciated. :)

Round 3, even with the lower dose, left me feeling more weak physically and mentally than the previous rounds. I think it had more to do with everything catching up to me rather than the actual chemo dose. The side effects were catching up to me, and I had a few pitty parties in honor of myself. But, I'm happy to say towards the end of round 3 I was feeling back to "normal" and much better both physically and mentally. My guess is this won't be the first or the last time during this process that I'll have a pitty party. Luckily, I have some great people around me that let me be sad, mad, cry and even not talk at all. Then they gather around and pick me up. :)

I found this quote that kind of represented how round 3 began and ended for me.

"Yesterday I dared to struggle. Today I dare to win." -Bernedette Devlin

I wanted to thank everyone again for all your kind messages. They all mean the world to me! I love you all!

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Round 2

Round 2 of chemo was on Monday, December 13th. My dad, the sweetest man I know, asked if he could go to this treatment with me. Up to this point he only knew the details of my breast cancer from things that Eric and I have shared with him from doctors appointments. He had questions to ask the oncologist for himself. When we got there and began talking to the nurse she had indicated my blood counts had been low after my first round of chemo and they were waiting to find out where I was currently at before they could start round 2. I'd been taking an antibiotic for the last 5 days to get them back up and was really hoping everything would be fine. I didn't want to leave that day without the chemo. My dad asked all of his questions and I think he left there feeling better about the treatment plan I was on.

When Dr. Ellis came in to talk with me, she did an exam to check the size of my tumor. To my
my complete surprise the tumor had already began shrinking. Big smiles! If there's anything positive about this type of cancer is it reacts really well to the chemo.

We were given the ok to head up to start round 2 of chemo. This round I was much more relaxed and actually slept through most of the treatment. All the meds are administered into the IV except for the actual chemo drug, Adriamycin (I've also heard this referred to as the Red Devil) because it is blood red and comes in two vials- the nurse has to carefully and slowly at a specific rate inject you with a huge vial of this red stuff. It's pretty potent and a little intimidating to say the least.

After round 2 I was equally as tired and weak as round 1. That first week was pretty hard for me. There was one particular day that stands out. It was Friday, December 17th and Vanessa's last day before Christmas Break began. I had been talking with her teacher more frequently since I told her of my diagnosis. She asked if I'd be interested in helping out in Vanessa's class for the class party. I jumped at the chance to do this since I've always had to work and never really had the opportunity before. That Friday came and I woke up feeling weak and just not well. I get a weird side effect to the chemo that causes my ears to echo and feel as if I'm in a wind tunnel. It is extremely difficult to concentrate and communicate when this happens. Vanessa was so excited for me to go into her class that day and I knew I had to pull through. When we arrived at the school I was worried I wasn't going to be able to last the hour and a half I was scheduled. I was having a hard time helping the students and communicating with the other parents volunteering. I ended up making it until the kids went to recess. I walked out of the classroom that morning in tears. I was so disappointed. I felt like I was missing out on such a special time with my daughter. I think this was the first moment since my diagnosis that I felt very effected by all this. I knew I would have bad days, but this felt like the worst.

I picked up Vanessa from school later that day and she seemed unaffected by anything that I had been feeling. She was just so excited that I was there. I felt a huge sense of relief and realized I needed to be a little easier on myself.