My oncologist-Dr. Dietrich-retires from United States Army today. He has been by my side for 6 years. Two times, he literally saved my life. I will be forever grateful to him for giving me more time to do the things I want to do in life. His kind manner has changed the way I see the medical profession. I am headed to his retirement ceremony now!
This is the final port of call-for the port. Time to scuttle the metal that has traveled with me for over 5 years. It served its purpose, delivering life-saving chemo drugs (Carbo, Taxol, Gemzar, Avastin, and various blood draws. My last PET Scan showed good news…no hyper metabolic activity. (broken rib from falling/coughing? …but no cancer)
I don’t know why….but that was it.
Dr. D and I agree it was time for my little friend to go.
I was thinking about Neo in the Matrix (go to the end of the scene-worth it!):
But the doc assured me it would not be that traumatic.
Finally, it is out! I think a necklace would be a good plan! My Trophy!
Thanks to the Kym Roley Support Team (KRST) who waited in the freezing waiting room (Ross, Lesli, and Ben.) Ben and Lesli made me a little brekkie when I got back home.
In the Book Thank God It’s Monday, Roxanne Emmerich says, “I don’t care how many hours you work, how many obstacles you hit. Just show me the baby-I want to see the result.”
The Result is now! Time to focus forward!!
Each year I choose #OneWord to focus on for the following year:
“Health is the crown on the well person’s head that only the ill person can see.”-Robin Sharma
Latest monthly blood-work shows my CA level (Cancer Antigen marker) has gone down to 6.0, the lowest it has been in over a year! I’m up for my 6 month mammogram in September (high risk for Breast Cancer).
Ten things I’m grateful for:
Travel-California, Oregon, Washington, and Mexico. Saw great friends, ate great food, drank delicious wine and Mexican-made margaritas
Friends-all of you who have been there by my side during this 5 year journey
Fight club-this rock solid group of supporters
Family-the whole crew! Most especially my husband and children. You have seen the good, bad, and ugly of cancer.
Faith-the many prayers from all over the world!
My Bullet Journal– a place to track all of my healthy habits-I’m now two years without eating red meat
#midpacific Five years ago on August 6, 2012, I had just started work and three days later was diagnosed with Stage 3C Ovarian Cancer. My school supported me through it all-the surgeries, the chemotherapy, the radiation, and recovery!
The question was…Do you call on Friday afternoon and possibly get the bad news, or wait until Monday for that same possibly bad news? Is knowledge power? Or, do you shift your paradigm and call as soon as humanly possible and hope for the best of all news? My philosophy during this entire “journey” has been “head down and power through.” I’m happy to report that my cancer number (CA125) has actually dropped from a brief uptick last month. Good-to-go until the next test in 6 weeks (which in itself creates its own form of stress)!
One of the concepts I’ve throwing around in my head is the idea that our health is not binary. We are not just a “0” for everything is perfect, or a “1” for everything is fail. You’re never “just sick” or “just well”- there is a large continuum in which we all fall.
“Just as we like to imagine that the mind and body are separate, so we imagine that at any one point in time we are healthy or we are not, and attitude that brings unexpected consequences. When we are healthy , we imagine we don’t need to pay much attention to our health. When we are sick, we imagine that we should be able to find expert information that cures us.”
It’s tough to live in the moment…neither speculating ahead or reflecting back, but right now, that is exactly where I am. Savoring this great moment! Thank you all for your continued well wishes being sent my way!
Decorate your tree and sit back and relax…..and wait for your medical appointment!
Preparing for a PET scan can be just as painless. Future you will be happy if you’ve planned ahead. Plus, if you don’t prepare properly, there is a possibility they will reschedule the scan! As usual, all my advice comes with the warning to check with your own doctor!
Let’s talk about preparing for a PET (Positron Emission Tomography) It starts 24-48 hours before the scan. The actual scan calls for injecting a radioactive tracer into your bloodstream and waiting to see where there might be areas of unusual metabolic activity (like Cancer) The PET takes place in Nuclear Imaging rather than Radiology. (I have addressed the day of PET in a previous post, but I’d like to focus on the 24 hours prior to Pet in this post.)
The PET starts 24 hours before the actual scan with a sugar free diet (as much as possible) to starve all the body’s cells of sugar. For me, it’s like the Atkins diet for Pescetarians. Cancer cells love sugar! Well….all cells need sugar!
Here is your twenty-four our hour count-down for diet and wardrobe:
T-24 Breakfast– scrambled eggs and coffee (enjoy that coffee because you don’t get it on the day-of treatment. No OJ either!)
T-21 Morning snack-hummus and veggies (no fruits–way too much sugar)
T-20 Lunch-spinach salad with the lowest sugar dressing you can find (Blue Cheese or Caesar) and hard boiled egg and cucumber.
T-16 Snacks! Lightly Salted Almonds!
T-13 No workout today-you don’t want to strain any muscles before the scan and accidentally cause a false positive. Some websites suggest not to exercise 48 hours before scan. Check with your physician.
T-11 Pack a small bag for the scan room. Usually chilly, I bring a sweater that I can wear in the scan and warm socks. No Metal anywhere though! Women, I wear a tank top under my clothes so I can wear my own clothes rather than a hospital gown. Bring something to read or your Bullet Journal for planning or a book (The Light Between Oceans by M. L. Stedman will transport you from whatever you are doing!) . I usually don’t bring an iPad. I don’t like to leave it in a locker and the hospital is not responsible for your valuables. Leave all jewelry at home!
T-10 Dinner-Salmon plus stir-fry mushrooms, zucchini, red pepper-Dessert is fresh watermelon. Did you want wine with dinner? NO-cannot-no alcohol!
T-8-Sleepy-time! Get plenty of rest the night before. No time for insomnia…(we’ll do that in another post!)
T-4 Sorry, no breakfast today. No Coffee either! Get over it! It’s for a greater good. Drink plenty of watery water this morning. You’ll want to wash that radioactive tracer out and dehydration is no fun. Wear comfortable clothing today! Today, it’s okay to wear yoga pants or leggings and a t-shirt or sweater. Steer clear of zippers and metal attachments. They cannot enter the machine and then you’re back to wearing a hospital gown.
T-2 Blood test to see if your blood sugar is in an acceptable range. This is like the lie detector test to see if you consumed too much sugar in the day prior. Safe range is 80-150 mg/dL
T-1 Injection time-the tracer will need 45 minutes to circulate through your body. Some doctors allow reading and/or listening to music, but the policy at our hospital is do nothing. I usually fall asleep in the comfy chair while waiting
Finally!-Scan time…Relax as they roll you into the tube. The tech will position you and ask if you’re claustrophobic (little late, right? I would ask your doctor for meds prior, if this is something that bothers you.) I work on meditation skills while I’m in the tube.
Then, done! Time to go out for a meal! Results are not immediately available.
What is your favorite book to make long waits short?
….So, you or someone you care about has been diagnosed with Cancer….now what? Remember how you made all those plans on January 1 to get organized? This time, it’s real. Successful treatment means being your own best advocate. It means getting the best information and the best treatment you can possibly get. This is not the time to be a shrinking Violet,afraid to offend-you must speak up. Your survival may depend on it!
Before you do this….
1. Buy this book….(I read it both times I was diagnosed with Stage 3 Ovarian Cancer)
Cancer: 50 essential things to do Cancer 50 Essential Things by Greg Anderson. Practical and important advice for the newly diagnosed and those recurring.
Get your major appointments, scans, chemotherapy treatments, radiation treatments, and tests written down in one location. You may need it in a year from now or two, or three, or 10! I like a three year calendar or even a five year calendar, because I plan to be around a long time! Miles Kimball Three Year Calendar or go big and get a five year calendar!
This is only for big ticket items…not daily symptoms or questions. Dream big! You plan to be around for a long time!
-Keep in this your list of questions for upcoming doctors appointments (even when they pop into your head at 3 in the morning!)
-Track side effects from chemo and medication
-Migraines? Track the onset symptoms and medications that work
-Find those motivational quotes that keep you going!
-Track exercise! (Yes, you still have to exercise.)
4. The American Red Cross gave me an accordion folder that I keep paper test results and informative literature and paper copies of articles on the forefront of cancer research. I used to print off articles and ask my doctor about them at appointments.
5. EVERY time you see your doctor, ask for a copy of your lab results. Every single time!
6. Don’t be afraid to ask for a second opinion! Doctors expect it. This is your life!! Take ownership of your treatment. Shed that reticence to be “that” patient. Ask for information from your doctor on why he/she wants to do specific tests and what he/she hopes to learn. Your strength comes from your willingness to speak up!! This may be your only chance. This is not a polite dinner party, but it is your very existence!
7. Bring a friend or family member to your appointments with you. Your friend can take notes and ask clarifying questions. (Bring that low maintenance friend who is happy if you talk all the way to the appointment, or if you want to be silent the whole time.)
This month is Breast Cancer Awareness and last month was Ovarian Cancer Awareness!
Please share this valuable information with your friends and family. Someone might be waiting for this article right now!
Great news!! (definitely worth two exclamation points) Another clean PET scan! Diagnosed in 2012 Stage 3C…Three and a half years later…2 surgeries, countless chemotherapy infusions, 25 radiation treatments and a year of maintenance. Finals are graded and it’s time to enjoy the family and a much needed relaxation time.
The early thrill of a new habit wears off after about a month and according to Franklin Covey only 23% of people see their resolutions to completion. Any time someone says I’m never going to do “X” again, there is a part of me that wonders how long their forever will be. When the doctor told me that my cancer treatment could be “forever,” I wondered the same thing. In college we studied Greek Mythology and Sisyphus (the man doomed for all eternity to push a boulder up a hill and then watch it roll back down again). I wonder what his attitude was. How did he feel about it? Were some days better than others? Did he have coworkers with their own rocks to push up their own hills? Did they get together on weekends to commiserate over rock pushing? Did he try to get it done first thing in the morning or procrastinate till late afternoon? How do you handle those perpetual tasks that never go away?
Today marks my 9th maintenance treatment of Avastin for recurrent Ovarian Cancer. I almost can’t imagine not seeing my doctor every 3rd Tuesday and my fabulous nurses Jacqui, Cindy, and Jodi every 3rd Friday. Jacqui is even in my “favorites” in my phone contacts. It’s like making the top ten of speed-dialed numbers!
I have my own little Ground Hog Day of doctor visits and treatments.
I have a favorite chair!
And my own little TV and blankie!
I told a coworker that I would be out Friday for chemo and she said, “Are you still doing that?” The answer is yes, but I’m pushing my “rock” in style. I may not get to choose if I push my rock but I get to choose how I’ll push it! We all have some form of rocks we’re pushing, but the trick is enjoy the journey. Plus, I get to see some pretty awesome people.
“I thought you would have something fascinating to say about Cancer.” Someone said this exact phrase to me (in writing) and it took me aback. But it’s true, I have nothing more profound than anyone else to say on the subject…except… that I have been there and done it. I don’t have the exact combination of cancer fighting drugs or herbal supplements, but I am a work in progress, learning as I go. I do have a lot of experience. If there were badges for surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, side effects, ongoing medications, neuropathy, vomiting (don’t forget vomiting) etc., I would have a complete sash. Getting sick doesn’t make you a “sage on the stage” or a life guru, but it does help to ease the path for others that are getting that cold shock of meeting an oncologist for the first time. I don’t have the cure for cancer, but I am there for those that are going through a similar events with themselves or a loved one. I can share my story and bring you along with me. I have first-hand experience with things that I never wanted to experience in the first place.
No one expects that they will get a life threatening disease. Would you handle thing similarly? Maybe, maybe not. I am simply the guinea pig that you can study and the friend you can support and pray for. You can use this article as a catalyst to ask yourself, what am I doing in my life that I want to be different. Lots of advice leans to “live in the moment” variety, but that moment-to moment living is harder to maintain than you might think. When planes are landing and taking off is when I am completely in the moment. Whether well or sick, the cat still needs to get fed and the oil still needs to get changed on the car, and someone needs to do those pesky taxes. I still get frustrated with traffic and people that take up the whole aisle at the commissary (why?). But above all that, I know the overwhelming support and love from friends (and strangers too) that has buoyed me when I have felt down. I have new networks of friends that evolves constantly including a wonderful Ovarian Cancer Support group. People I might never have met in my previous life have now become friends that I can count on for advice.
This weekend I found out that a former student had recently committed suicide. He struggled in middle school as an outcast and left the school I was teaching at under cloudy circumstances. Eventually, the family moved to a different state and I hadn’t heard anything about him until I saw the obituary. Many people tried to help him when he was a troubled 13 year old. At 16 years old, he decided that life was too painful to keep on living. Today, I am contemplative. Did he continue to turn away from help? Were others trying to reach out and connect with him? I pray for his family as they try to go on with their lives. My goal as a teacher is to reach out to each student individually, wherever they are in their “journey.” With my blog, I try to reach out to those who are struggling with the entire baggage that is Cancer. Some are just here to support and be supported, and others for advice. Fascinating? Probably not, but hopefully, helpful.
No pictures today, just thoughts. We are all here together.
Damyanti Biswas is an author, blogger, animal-lover, spiritualist. Her work is represented by Ed Wilson from the Johnson & Alcock agency. When not pottering about with her plants or her aquariums, you can find her nose deep in a book, or baking up a storm.