Friday, July 24, 2009

A beautiful dance

Nolo, Luis's brother, passed this video on to me. I don't watch So You Think You Can Dance, but this show is worth it.
On Wednesday's episode of "So You Think You Can Dance," contestants Ade and Melissa performed a contemporary routine inspired by breast cancer to Maxwell's cover of Kate Bush's "This Woman's Work."

Before the performance, choreographer Tyce Diorio explained, "I just felt compelled to talk about breast cancer and a friend who was faced with it." The piece moved the entire judging panel to tears. Nigel Lythgoe proclaimed that it reminded him why he loved dance so much and, "If this isn't a [an Emmy] nomination next year, I'll be hugely surprised." Nigel called the powerful lifts and leaps amazing, and admitted he completely lost it when Melissa pounded her fists against Ade's chest.
The anger and frustration portrayed in that one move was all too familiar for Nigel, who has several friends who have fought and are still fighting cancer. Funnywoman and guest judge Ellen DeGeneres felt privileged to have witnessed the performance, and Mary Murphy praised the couple's beautiful dancing. Emmy-winning choreographer and judge Mia Michaels, who was visibly moved by Tyce's routine, was reminded of her own father's battle with cancer and said, "It was really not about the dancing, though it was a perfect portrait of what was being said."
So, in honor of all you women out there who want to see the pain and fright we feel every day represented in a gorgeous dance, here you go:



Via Yahoo TV Blog

Thanks Nolo!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Deathwish?

Nothing much to report today. Chemo uneventful. I have started a countdown. I have 22 more chemo sessions to go (once every three weeks!). I do get herceptin once a week, but as that is not technically a chemo and its side effects are minimal, I don't count that.

Luis and I are going house hunting again on Saturday, just a little further south of Dallas this time, which would result in a 15 mile commute for him, but still allow me some country feeling:)

Saw a lot of people texting and driving today on the road. I will start txts at a stoplight, but I will put down my phone and wait for the next light when the light changes and my foot is no longer on the break.

I think txting and driving is a horrible habit, and I believe it is akin to drinking heavily and driving. At least when you are trashed and driving you are looking at the road in front of you because you know you are trashed. Txting you aren't. And the more often you get away with it, the more you trick yourself into believing that you are a good "txting driver," and will do it more and more.

Same thing with screwing with your ipod. Gosh I can't wait until those things are voice activated! I know that I am one of those annoying people that get into my car at the supermarket parking lot and sit in my car 60 seconds while people are waiting for me to get out of my spot, but I am checking my phone, setting up my ipod, and getting on my glasses so I am driving without distractions. I did not do all the cancer treatment just to end up smashed on the side of the road cause I was responding to a txt while driving.

Found this cartoon by Judy Breck on the subject, and thought you might enjoy it.


Via LifeHacker, and the Washington Post

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Complications . . .

Sorry I haven't posted lately. Been busy with not doing anything like usual. Okay, here's the medical news:

Even though I got a clear PET scan, my doctor wants me to be on chemo for a year. This sucks for several reasons, but a major one is no hair, eyebrows, or eyelashes for a year. I look weird. I need a job, and I look weird going in for job interviews. Even if I wear a wig, when someone doesn't have eyebrows or eyelashes, it throws people off. The whole Monalisa look is just strange. Would you hire her? ---> A year . . . ugh . . . I know, I know, at least I am alive, but man, I was hoping for a trip to Brazil soon! Guess I am going to have to put it off until 2010 . . .

Second, I was driving around with both arms on the steering wheel, and I noticed one wrist was a little swollen, and then it was all downhill from there. I went to my physical therapist, and was diagnosed with lymphedema. This really fricking sucks. I would rather have chemo for a year than lymphedema, but I guess I get both :)!

I knew I was at high risk because they took out all my lymph nodes, but I was hoping to avoid it. Some people don't develop it for decades after their surgery. It only took me a couple of months. The lymph nodes return fluid that has built up in any part of your body to the blood stream. However, I don't have this, so my lymph fluid just stays. Why did I start building up lymph fluid in my arm? The heat? Carrying Neecy around? Carrying my purse on my left arm? Who knows. We aren't sure what triggered the fluid build up, but it happened.

The only thing I know now is arm is swollen. There is no cure, but it can be managed. I get to wear this ridiculous thing on my arm and hand for two or three months (which is just FABULOUS in 105 degree heat). I can't take it off, even when I go out to dinner or try to look nice dressed up.

It doesn't seem like a big deal, but if I were to do nothing, this is what would happen:
Yeah, not so happy.

Would much rather wear the garments I guess. Well, the clear PET scan couldn't have come with no new challenges. Cancer is always keeping me on my toes!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Quick Sum Up

I had a fabulous fabulous weekend.

Friday: Watching a movie with my hubby on the sofa. We watched The International. It had a very weird rhythm. Guns fights lasting a little too long . . . Climax not happening soon enough. But it was okay.

Saturday we slept in and then went to brunch with friends to Cafe Brazil, which does not offer one bit of Brazilian food, but whatever. Then we looked at houses and properties, came home, and Neecy was dropped off to spend the night with us.

Luis went to the gym and I took her to Alberto and Marta's house to play in the pool in the 105 degree heat, and then we went to Taste of Dallas, where all the restaurants set up booths and offer little dishes for 3-6 dollars. Everything had meat in it, but I had a great time anyway, especially watching Neecy and Alejandro enjoy the rides!

video

We slept in and then got up when Neecy did at 8:30 and got ready to go to another brunch at a friends house, who brought in a chef who cooked AMAZING food. They had tons of vegetables and whole grain bread for me, along with pasta, fish, fresh fruit, and then tons of food I couldn't eat but looked fabulous! We stayed there from 11-5, opening bottles of wine, making fun of each other, and just laughing a whole lot.

Then we took Neecy home and saw Bruno. It is a must. I laughed so hard, and felt so uncomfortable doing so. It was great. This guy is a brilliant brilliant brilliant comedian.

Friday, July 10, 2009

The China Study

My friend James DiPadua suggested I read a book called The China Study. I just finished it today at it was fabulous. One of the most amazing books I have ever read and should be REQUIRED reading for anyone and everyone.



I went to breastcancer.org discussion boards to find out what people thought about it. Not many people have read it, but there was one thread, and I wanted to post what I wrote in case people were wondering about how I was doing on the whole vegan thing.

I just finished the China Study last night. Two months ago I went vegan (I get flexible at restaurants and will order soups with fish sauce or eat fish at friend's houses). I had Stage IV (mets to distant lymph nodes) and my first pet scan showed my treatment had less than a marginal effect. My second pet scan after going vegan was clean. I have no side effects from chemo or Herceptin except from being a bit tired and a dry mouth for one week after treatment. I no longer need nuepogen shots every other day. Bowls are fabulous (2 to 3 times a day).

Anyways, I feel fabulous, I have a full appetite. I unfortunately lost a bit of weight (I am at 127 and I am trying to stay around 130), but I can't eat 24/7, so I just eat when I am hungry, and make sure it is plants not animals.

I am also reading more about the importance of the pancreas and raw foods in helping with enzyme supply so enzymes are spending time breaking down food, but destroying cancer.

Psychologically, it feels wonderful to feel like you are in control again. The emotional boost from that power is invaluable when you have been made so vulnerable by cancer.

I have lost all taste for meat, and don't crave it any more (that took about 8 weeks). Soy milk has been a wonderful substitute for milk, and the only things I miss now are ice creams on hot days in Texas and cheese and sour cream (on chili and baked potatoes, yum!). But I think those cravings will also pass in time. I would rather be alive and in control.

If you read the China Study (for the skeptics about the link between diet and cancer), he explains very well why the information has not been pushed by any of the health organizations or by the US government. It is a fabulous read and probably one of the most important books I have ever read.

So I did this quiz, and here are my results. I found it via Book of Joe. If you are a blogger, I recommend you take it. It is pretty funny.

67%How Addicted to Blogging Are You?

Created by OnePlusYou - Free Dating Sites



Via Digital Digressions

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Vaccine for Breast Cancer!


Afternoon peeps! I didn't mean to go all political on y'all yesterday, but I just get so frustrated. My darling husband reminded me nicely that many people that read my blog are Conservative. I know that.

But I just hate stupid Conservatives the way I assume that you, my dear conservative readers, hate stupid liberals. You can't possibly think all liberals are stupid, and nor do I think all Conservatives are stupid.

To clarify, when I say stupid, it really means "lazy" and refer to people who do not form their own opinions by looking at information and engaging in intelligent discussion, but instead sit around all day and send forwards to each other all day about how Obama is going to set up concentration camps for white people.

So, my point is, sorry if I offended you, but sometimes talking politics is healthy way to blow off steam. And you really can't get mad at me. I am a cancer patient ;)

So, I wanted to bring to the attention of all those who are HER2+ or interested in this drug is that there is a vaccine that is currently being tested that so far seems like it works. Although HER+ postive breast cancer patients love Herceptin, we know that 40% of people don't respond to it, and many people grow resistant to it. So while it works now, it might not work later. In Phase 1 clinical trials of this new vaccine 70% of patients had a response. Now those are statistics I like!

It works like this: Normally, our bodies doesn't respond to the HER2 protein receptors that are overexpressed on the cancer cells that we have. There are way more than normal on our cancer cells of course, which is why we are considered HER2 positive, but not enough to make our immune system notice.



The vaccine is just a boatload of the naked DNA gene that produces HER2 . It makes your body produce tons of HER2, enough that your immune system wakes up and says, HOLY CRAP WHAT WAS THAT, and it sends of a gazillion killer T-cells that start killing anything that expresses HER2, including your sneaky little cancer cells :)

Basically, the vaccine teaches your immune system to attack your cancer, not ignore it.

No side effects, and after 6 months after taking the vaccine and not being on treatment, subjects are showing no sign of cancer progression. So if this gets cleared, it means I (and anyone/everyone else) won't have to be on Herceptin for the rest of our lives.

They have had so much success with the pretrials, they have already started the process with an improved vaccine, even though the first vaccine is still recruiting for its clinical trials. Here is the full article.

So HER2+ people, if you don't have any sign of disease and you want to join the trial, there are tons going on right now. I am not going to because I want more flexibility right now in my treatment to add and take away different drugs, but I am going to get me some of that vaccine when I am done with this!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Positivity


I am making a concerted effort to surround myself with happiness and positivity. It is generally easy to do, except that my husband has decided to try to understand crazy ass Conservatives by watching Bill O'Reilly and Hannity and Glen Beck, and watch them EVERY NIGHT. I mean, regardless if you agree with the conservative psycho agenda (do you have any question as to where I stand?) or not the shows are:
  • Angry
  • Mean
  • A pathetic charade of journalism and reporting
  • in general a good demonstration of how humans should NOT act toward their fellow man.
I have no problem with smart conservatives. One of my closest friends is the hardest-core conservative I have ever met (and he isn't a watered-down neo-con, he is a conservative a la 1890s) and I adore listening to him and arguing with him because he teaches me a lot, makes me think of things that I wouldn't think of, and makes REALLY good points that I often concede to him. His is a conservative that thinks, looks at the other side, forms structured arguments, and then argues logically without emotion or talking about Christian values.

However, people that say they are conservatives that just like to regurgitate O'Reilly, Hannity, and Beck without actually thinking for themselves really frustrate me. Like the lady that sat next to me during my pedicure yesterday and said, "Obama is turning this country Socialist." I can't even begin to discuss that, because first, she obviously has no idea what a real socialist economy looks like because then those words would never cross her lips.

It's like trying to argue with a 2 year old or with someone insane. If you are operating on two different planes of reality, there will never be a commonality. So you just sigh, and try to distract them with candy, and let them calm them down. And yes, that is how I deal with most conservatives (at least in Texas).

Anyway, the real reason I brought up happiness and positivity is because I am listening to the greatest book! It is called City of Thieves. It seems like it would be depressing, taking place in Russia in 1941 when the attack of the German's is starving the entire country during a bleak and bitter winter, but it is really funny. I took a walk this morning and I started giggling to myself because one of the main characters, Kolya, kept making this hysterical quips. One of the reviewers on amazon described him as: a dirty minded Bugs Bunny come to life as a 6ft tall, Blond hair Blue eyed Russian. That pretty much sums it up!

And your cool vid of the day via Book of Joe:

"A fortuitous orbit of the International Space Station allowed the astronauts this striking view of Sarychev Volcano (Kuril Islands, northeast of Japan) in an early stage of eruption on June 12, 2009. Sarychev Peak is one of the most active volcanoes in the Kuril Island chain, and it is located on the northwestern end of Matua Island."




Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Temps back down!

First the complaints (sorry, this is my venting forum, people):

Chemo has exhausted me
so much I am sleeping 10 hours a night, which is great, but I am too tired to do anything. My tear ducts have swollen shut, so rather than the tears just filtering down the back of your throat like normal, they just pour out my eyes like I am cutting onions ALL THE TIME. My feet have swollen because of the chemo, so I am no longer a size 9, but a 9.5. Which sucks cause I can't wear any of my shoes, and I am not making money so I can't justify shoe shopping. BUT, it gives me a great excuse to dress like a scrub and wear locals slippers all the time.

I actually don't like locals that much, I prefer the plain black rubber kind with the little musical notes on them because they are softer, although they don't provide as much protection from the kiawi thorns as locals do.

So I was driving to Asian market yesterday, and this black guy in a dark green lexus was in front of me. We were waiting for the left turn signal to change to green. He was drinking a sprite, and I watched him down it, then toss the sprite can out the window! WTHECK? I couldn't believe it!

I mean, littering was so 80s! Who does that anymore?

I mean, he isn't 18 and stupid and trying to show off. If he has a Lexus, I assume he has a home with a trash can, and he could probably wait the whole 15 minutes it was going to take him to get it home, where he would have the option of recycling it in the FREE BINS provided by the county. But he just tossed it out the window!

I almost called the police, but 911 for littering seemed a little much. If it hadn't rolled down an embankment I would have gotten out of the car, picked it up, yelled at him, and then taken it home thrown it away in my own recycling bin.


So, I got home, and uploaded the photo I took of his car and the picture on ZAPTAG.com, which is a fabulous site where you can vent about how crappy drivers are and post their license plates up online (and yes, search for your own!). While I know it did nothing, it made me feel better publicly complaining about him. Weirdly, there are a lot of people from the Aloha State on this site.

I encourage people to post bad drivers on this site so there is some kind of public watchdog because obviously people's own morality and sense of social responsibility don't suffice.

The picture of the hapai lady on my profile pic is a default photo (I know, weird), so not keeping any big secrets from you all!

The temperature is back down to high 80s, which means we don't need the air on and we can cook in the kitchen without dripping sweat. I made a very yummy hearty millet and butternut squash soup yesterday. Luis and I have been trying to cook more with whole grains because we have both noticed that our gastrointestinal system functions BEAUTIFULLY when we eat more of them.

So, what is millet? It looks like bird seed. Actually, I think it honestly is one of the ingredients in bird seed. It is one of the oldest grains in the world. A very biblical grain. I actually made my own vegetable stock from the ends of vegetables I have been saving for a month in a freezer bag, and used a butternut squash that has been on our counter for two months. Just boiled the millet for 30 minutes, added cubed butternut squash for another 30, through everything into the blender, and added some chives and homemade pesto. Tasted awesome. For those interested in the nutritional value, a serving supplies 400% of you requirement for vitamin A, 70% of vitamin C, and 7g of protein!

Saturday, July 4, 2009

My New Classification - STAGE IV-NED


I haven't posted for a while because I was too nervous about the PET scan, and then when I got the results of NED (No Evidence of Disease) on Thursday morning before chemo, I was almost too relieved to post. Putting it down in writing, while making it seem more permanent, also scares me. Several months ago, when a different cocktail made my tumors in the lymph nodes in my neck disappear, they popped right back up as soon as I got off the chemo to prepare for surgery. I just don't want this to be temporary too . . . I am totally bored of cancer. It was interesting, but honestly I am really over it.

For those who can't remember the difference between PET, CT, and MRI scans:

CT scans show structure by looking how fast dye is absorbed, but it looks at it structurally. I can see a tumor, but can't tell if it is benign or not, for example.

MRIs can tell the difference between diseased and healthy tissue. So if we know that you have a tumor in your breast, but want to see the exact shape and size and how far it has extended toward the chest wall, we give you an MRI.

PET scans are cool because they measure how active cells are. They can tell the difference between dead tissue and live tissue, and cancerous (very active cells) and non cancerous tumors. They can also do 3-D images.

They can only detect cancer cells that have amassed in over a millimeter thick, wide, square, whatever. For us non-metric people, a millimeter is about 1/17 of a dime. Still visible and tangible, but small.

However, having a PET scan show NED is important emotionally and physically in so many ways.
  • This is the first good news I have received. I can actually tell people that I am getting better rather than saying, "I hope I am getting better."
  • I can now start my clear PET scan calendar as of July 2, 2009 and say, I have been clear for 3 months, 2 years, 5 years, 10 years (now we are getting into hopeful territory!), 20 years. A lot of woman start this calendar from diagnosis, but I would feel much safer with the aggression of my tumor to start from the first clear PET.
  • Something is working on me. Hopefully it is the Herceptin because I can get that long term (year or two!) while the Taxotere is a chemo therapy and reduced quality of life somewhat.
  • I have time. To be honest, I didn't know how much time I was going to have if this thing kept spreading, but now, I know I am going to be around for a little while! You will be forced to keep reading this blog for a bit!
However, this isn't the beginning of the end of treatment, as my doctor explained to me. We have to stop the cancer from coming back.

The information I am posting next is NOT meant to be a downer or depressing. It is a small sample of 100 woman (which medically, no one would take seriously), with nothing about age, attitude, life style changes factored in. However, it does show that we are just beginning.

There was a study published looking at 100 woman exactly like me, Stage IV-NED:

10% of women with metastatic breast cancer have a recurrence of their disease as an isolated lesion (local, regional, or distant). These are patients with stage IV breast cancer with no evidence of disease, or stage IV-NED. So I have a 1/10 chance based on this study of getting cancer again.

Patients and methods: Ninety-six patients with isolated recurrence of stage IV breast cancer were analyzed retrospectively. Prognostic factors were analyzed and correlated with disease-free survival (DFS) (this is the group I want to be in!) and overall survival (OS).

Results: Five-year DFS and OS for the whole group were 29% and 49% respectively. DFS was also significantly better for patients receiving systemic therapy after local treatment (31% vs. 19%). Remember, these statistics ONLY APPLY IF I HAVE A RECURRENCE.

Conclusion: Patients with stage IV-NED have poor prognosis due to early development of metastatic disease. Absence of axillary nodal involvement at the time of mastectomy and systemic therapy following local management is associated with improved DFS and OS (I did have axillary nodal involvement, boo). These results suggest that systemic therapy after local treatment in stage IV-NED is indicated (which is what I am getting, lots and lots more chemo!).

So, my goal is NOT to get cancer again cause then statistically I am in the shithouse and I will have to figure a way out again. My next post is going to be about how I am going to take control of that and make sure that doesn't happen!

So give me all the chemo I can handle, all the herceptin I can take, and all the supplements I can stomach. Still off of meat, cheese (MY FAVORITE), and wine (although to celebrate I had a glass of malbec and champagne last night). So have a glass of wine for me, eat some cheese, and I hope I get to see you all soon at some point! Love to you all! - Dana

PS - Gonna start video blogging soon! Will update as soon as I get my Flip HD Camera!