Friday, January 31, 2014

The Life He Deserves

There's been a lot of snuggling in our little cottage tonight...

The brain scan is scheduled for 7:30 am tomorrow morning. I should have a copy of the scan by 9:30 am or 10:00 am. A final readout should be available on Monday, Tuesday at the latest. 

Am I scared? Yep. Always. It's unnerving and surreal to have a mass growing in your brain. I'm starting to become an expert in a process I have no desire to be fluent. 

If I have a bad scan, we have back up plans. They aren't definitive, it has to do more with further genetic testing, but it's a start. The biggest disappointment, if they show tumor growth, will be the doubt it will create in my mind. It would, inevitably, effect my confidence and psyche. I haven't felt this good since before I was diagnosed. I'm gently driving again, and have been free of auras and seizures (knock on wood) for just shy of a year. I have more energy, and I'm all around happier. I've found a groove. 

I hope, I dream, I pray that my tumor has not grown and that I will have four more months of freedom. 

Tonight, Dan picked a funny movie to distract ourselves. Tired from a long day, I scooted over and leaned my head onto his lap. I rolled to face him, and he looked into my eyes. We sat there ignoring the movie for a few moments. I don't know what he was thinking as he stroked the hair from my face, but I was thinking about how sorry I am that he has to deal with this type of stressful life. This roller coaster of living scan to scan, never knowing if things will be okay, or if they're about to get worse. There are many stresses in cancer, and I wish I could shelter him. I just love him so very much. I wish I could give him the life he deserves. And hopefully, someday, I will.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Don't Fear The Lemons

I've been resting, and trying to crazily distract myself from the MRI on Saturday at the same time. I am a living contradiction. How human of me.

I feel calmer than normal about this MRI. I'm not feeling more confident, I just feel like I don't know what life is going to bring me. My fate. So many people have come before me, fighting cancers and illnesses, and sometimes they win, and sometimes they don't. Sometimes the people who survive aren't the ones you'd expect. I can work as diligently as possible, exhausting as many treatments as I can afford, and that is literally all I can do. And you know what, I may find that nothing will stop this monster in my brain. Or, randomly, one of these scans we will realize that he has not been growing and that all of my very hard work has been panning out.

In the meantime, I have been having so much fun. Not like I've been out doing crazy activities, but I have been really enjoying each moment. I've been driving more; I've expanded my radius to approximately 5 miles from our home. I feel free, and happy, and calm when I drive. I don't talk on my phone, or check text messages. I keep the radio on low, the vents are on low. I avoid high traffic times of the day, and I use back roads. If the posted speed limit is 35 mph, I'm plugging along at 30-33 mph. That reminds me, next time there's a slowpoke in front of you, please think of people like me. I pull over when there's someone behind me, because I'm cognizant of what it's like to be stuck behind a Sunday driver, but there are those that are scared, and just need to keep moving forward. Ignore me if I sound preachy, I was just trying to provide a different inner monologue for your next trip stuck behind a slug.

Today, I drove myself to the gym then headed all the way to Sky Nursery. I have been wanting a citrus plant for a few years, but I didn't want to spend the money. Since Dan worked so hard last weekend, clocking a good 24 hours, he said I could treat myself. Isn't he sweet?! So, he's still at work, but I can't wait to introduce him to our newest addition.....

I've been joking with a couple of friends, sending photos of our new family member, that when life gives you lemons, go out and grow your own because clearly, you are meant to have lemons. I'm not afraid lemons, or the connotation. I don't invite negativity or hardships, but I've learned that things are only as powerful as I allow them to be. And each time I look at this little guy, it makes me feel accomplished, proud of myself; I feel fearless, and grateful. It reminds me of all of the hard work I've done, the times when I had no hair, when I had trouble walking, and running, and speaking, and reading. Lemons are nothing to fear because I am resilient. I don't know what my role on this Earth is. I don't know if I'll be able to stop Hermie from growing. I don't know what happens when people die. Clearly, I don't know much about a lot of things, but one thing that I do know is that I am eternally happy with my life. And I'm grateful for the joys of this world.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

It's Deep, Not Dark

Operation MRI distraction is exhausting! 

This morning I drove to the gym only to get bored within 30 minutes of my interval run. I headed home, and since the fog had melted into sunshine, I snagged a hat and decided to detail my car. Halfway into it I stopped for pills and venom, then continued through the final hour and a half. 

When Rosemary was gleaming like new, I grabbed my garden tools, stretched on my pink garden gloves, and got to weeding. I transplanted, I trimmed, I started digging a hole to China, which made me wonder, do they say they're digging to America? As I'm sure you guessed, I'm not actually digging to China, just trying to transplant a massive dinosaur plant. With Dan working 12 hours today, and tomorrow, I have to be my own muscle maker. 

What makes me nervous is how sore I am, and it isn't even the 'next day' yet. People are always obsessed with the next day pain, but there's something about immediate pain too. That immediate stuff shouldn't be discounted.

When the sun was setting and Emma and my digits were numb, we moved back inside to clean. Then, of course, as with the episode of exercise, I lost interest and settled into the couch for a Netflix streaming movie. Somehow a documentary on the afterlife drew me in. Probably because I can't get away with death subjects with Dan. I'm curious about the concept of an afterlife, of religions, and theories; I don't find it macabre or dark, just fascinating. Not true for Dan, and I respect him, so I tend to watch those things on my own.

The documentary was pretty fluffy, I was hoping for a wider spectrum of voices and experiences, but oh well. 

I'll leave you with a photo of my first hydrangea bud of the season, a happy surprise, and a great quote I read the other day:

"The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don't have any."
- Alice Walker

Friday, January 24, 2014

Dog Day

Life is more fun with a copilot. Friends are laughing right now because I used to hate having Emma in the car. I didn't want the dog smell. Still don't actually. But, as I calm down, and just go with the flow, I end up enjoying life more. Today I took Emma with me to use a credit at Swanson's Nursery, then I took her to the dog park to sniff some bums (her favorite pastime).


We walked down to Golden Gardens because I was craving the feeling of sand beneath my feet.

Afterward we grabbed an herbal tea and a dog bone. We were rewarding ourselves for our accomplishments. Her for a dozen tennis ball retrievals, and me for my longest drive in the past 2.5 years.

This is day three of Operation MRI Distraction. I have it scheduled for February 1st at 7:30 am. Since the scheduling I have given myself a task each day. It started with driving myself to the gym for an hour long cardio session and time in the sauna. The next day I used a gift certificate for a mani/pedi buff. Today was a dog day, pushing myself to get Emma to meet new friends.

Thank you for all of the kind comments on the blog lately. I think you guys are all crazy. I'm just a middle aged curmudgeon. I don't see what you see. I'm off to do my venom. Hope you all are getting to enjoy the beautiful sunshine. It is marvelous!

Friday, January 17, 2014

The Real Story

Ha. I did it! I'm posting, and it's a Friday. Boom.

Since the beginning of the blog a few people have encouraged me to turn my story into a book. Many have recommended just pulling together some of my blog posts, probably just because it would be an easy solution, and I appreciate that. The problem is that from the moment of that first headache, I have edited my story. Big key pieces. Major details. A few friends, and of course family, know bits of the truth, but only Danny and I know everything. Of course, as I have lived deeper and deeper into this diagnosis, I have lessened my editing, but there are (what I believe to be) significant details that people need to know in order to truly understand our lives, and this journey.

I started writing my story last year, and remained with only a page and a half until recently. It has been hard to feel motivated. The whole concept was overwhelming, in fact it was emotionally draining. The catalyst, my inspiration, was my new desk. My grandma is now living in a physical rehab facility, she can no longer live alone, so I became a proud owner of a really cool roll top desk. Somehow, with all the little compartments, and drawers, and the neat way it closes to hide all my junk, I get excited to write. I even came up with the perfect plan, and it has been working. I'm writing a page each day, M-F.

The thing that people don't realize, can't comprehend (not their fault), is that this story - although I've been writing it for years - is my life. Fingers have been in my brain. Literally. A few times. It's emotional. It's shocking, and almost unbelievable. The tricky part is that you guys don't know the whole story, the truth of what all happened. When I read the first four pages the other night to Dan, I slowly spun around in my chair to see what he thought. It was dark, and all I could see was the silhouette of his head. I stared at him, confused as to why he wasn't speaking, but when I moved closer I realized he was crying. Not a sob cry, but tears streaming down his face cry. He loved what I wrote, but it was still hard for him to hear. Hard for him to relive. Painful to go back to that place. This is real, and it was big. And to relive it each day by writing it out will be taxing. For a hot minute I thought writing it all out would be therapeutic, but quickly I realized that was stupid. I don't need to go back to that time to work anything out, or process things any further. Regurgitating all of the memories, and feelings, are necessary to write the book, but not necessary in life.

The undertaking of writing this book, of putting it all in a concise story, piecing it together, is very, very tough. My goal is to finish a rough draft by the time I hit 35, which is in a year and a half.

It has been incredibly helpful to do this blog, to document, and share, but there is so much more to tell. And finally, I'm ready to lay it all out there.

My new writing nook:

And when I'm done with the intended makeover it will look somewhat like this:

Friday, January 10, 2014

Resolute This...or That

You know what I love about this time of year? The obsession with getting healthy. It's all over the media right now, and it's really fun to learn the tricks (or scoff at the laughable ones). I wish we saw on TV, year-round, nothing but healthy stories; it's very inspirational. I'm not one for new year resolutions, I mean come on, I can't even seem to do a post each Friday, that lasted about a week.

Laying in bed last night, I thought to myself, smiling, "Life is hilarious, and I am a goober." It all started in the morning with me trying to copy the TV with some floor exercises using a broom handle. It was absurd; I was ridiculous. I had so much fun, though, and my butt hurts like crazy. So that's a great sign. I don't know if you've heard this (or noticed it yourself), but our bodies are not perfectly symmetrical. Some, less so than others. I remember in college, for the first time, I looked in the mirror over my shoulder while I was wearing a bathing suit. I had wanted to see what my butt looked like (big mistake). To my horror, I realized that I had a saddlebag under my left butt cheek, but my right side did not. Major disappointment. That led me to analyze my whole body, and sure enough, my left breast (gross, I know, but necessary for the argument) is, to the naked eye, bigger, and my left foot is a half shoe size bigger. Happily, my hands seem to be the same size, along with my eyeballs and ears (huge relief). Anyway, how did I even get on this tangent? Maybe the floor exercises? Must have been. Although I love to run, I've never been into isometrics, or floor routines. They bore me. But, in the spirit of diversion, I've decided to start targeting my lone saddlebag. I'm eating healthy, and I feel great. Since I don't really want to focus too much on the actual tumor (other than the current treatments, and supplements I'm already doing), I figure I'll focus my energy on getting into the best shape of my life.

Some experts say that diet is 80% of health, and, to my chagrin, I agree. When I'm eating clean I've noticed that I can not keep fat on my body, it completely melts away - even without a smidgen of exercise. Both Dan and I have been floored by how simple it is. Even crazier is that I eat a lot of fatty foods. I eat avocado every day, a tablespoon of fish oil, handfuls of nuts, and saute all of our meats in copious amounts of coconut oil. I don't have to eat like a bunny to be healthy, which has been such a change from life before diagnosis. Once you know how to truly eat clean, the only hard part is motivation, and if you have a partner in crime, or just take it one day at a time, almost like an addiction problem, you realize it's actually doable.

If you've caught past blog posts, you'll know that I've had a real yo-yo of weight. In early high school I remember weighing 161 (too many bean and cheese burritos), finishing at around 148 my senior year. Then, in college I weighed around 138 (thanks to lots of coffee, cigarettes, and obsessively counting calories). In 2006 I hit my heaviest point at 181 (emotional eating...baaaad news). I now weigh 138. I may fluctuate a little on a week-to-week basis, but ever since I removed junk and processed foods, even healthy processed stuff like Dave's bread, grains, legumes, and such, my life completely changed - my skin is better, my energy is better (relatively speaking), and my mood is better. Now, as an aside, I have to say that I will have a week or two even, from time to time, when I eat lots of crap (think holidays), but as a good little lamb I always find my way back to the herd of the healthy. I had to throw that out there so that you know that I'm human, and normal, not a robot with superhuman willpower.

There are all kinds of diets being toted right now since the #1 NY resolution is to get healthy or lose weight. There are so many ways to get healthy, thousands of diets, of lifestyles, and I respect anyone who is trying to better themself. I don't even really care how they do it. I won't judge. I just know what works for me. It's a no fail, huge result, lifestyle. Even if you cut out all the crap for one day a week and only eat veggies, lean meats, nuts, fruits, healthy fats, spices, etc., your body will thank you.

All this sass in me today is from, literally, the best smoothie I have ever eaten in my life. And I am telling you I have made some deee-sgusting concoctions. I promise you I had one hell of a learning curve (poor Danny), so I don't feel that bad about tooting my own bike bell when I do something right.

Here some of the exciting things about this drink: it's low glycemic, high in fiber, has all 18 essential amino acids, increases HDL cholesterol (the good one that regulates triglycerides), it's loaded with glutathione (the most powerful antioxidant), filled with caroteniods (helps eyes & reproductive health), has omega-3 fats (helps the body absorb the nutrients & vitamins), lowers inflammation (due to the ginger root, turmeric & lemon), and so much more! In fact, it's such a badass smoothie that I can't even begin to list all the amazingness.

Turmeric Root
Finished Product. Get your spoon, it's thick.

2 leaves of kale (destemmed)
1/2 avocado 
5 sprigs of flat leafed parsley
1 lemon, juiced
1 inch ginger root
1/2 inch turmeric root
8 oz coconut water (or you can do regular filtered water if you'd prefer) - add extra for thinning if preferred

If you click on the highlighted ingredients, you can read about the unique vitamins and nutrients of each one.

As for diets, and foods, all I know for sure is that if there are ingredients in our foods that we don't understand, or recognize, or cannot pronounce, our bodies don't want them. Chalk it up to one more of my simple rules about life. The more I think about things, the more simple life turns out to be. I hope that doesn't sound know-it -all-y, because it definitely isn't how I mean it. I guess I just end up being surprised sometimes by how much more simple life can be when I honestly analyze things. When I don't lie to myself. Does that make sense? Like the old adage says, calories in calories out. Sure that makes sense, right?, and it seems kind of awesome (here comes two Oreos for breakfast). It basically implies that I can eat whatever I want as long as I burn it off. The problem is that it just isn't that simple. Calories are not equal, even though that's how I used to view food. When I stopped lying to myself and started excepting the basic fact that whole foods react different in our bodies than synthetic, processed foods, my whole life, and body changed. Now, this is just an observation within my own life, and I'm not trying to soapbox you, I just figured I share my experience in honor of all the health stories being tossed out there. So however you do it, whatever decision you make, good luck and cheers to you in getting healthier!

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Wishful Thinking

I haven't had the energy to write an in depth post for awhile. I'm not sure if it's the fact that I've been bone tired from the holidays and stress of travel with the added craziness of my Grandma's accident, or perhaps it's correlated with the treatments I'm doing. Unfortunately, I've been noticing an increasing amount of weakness on my right side, along with increased numbness, also more vertigo and dizziness. And I don't mean a little bit. I like to think that it's the effect of my pills, serums, and such, attacking those pesty lingering tumor cells. We will know for sure in the beginning of February. We can only schedule an MRI 30 days in advance due to insurance policy. We're planning for February 8th, a Saturday. We've gotten in the habit of doing the scans on the weekend so that Dan doesn't have to take any time off. This MRI will also be the first one with my new health insurance. I have no idea how much of it will be covered, which of course is another new cause of stress. Typically, my MRI bill is around $5500 (each). There's nothing I can do about it, though, so I have to get the scan and if it isn't covered I'll just quote Steve Carell.

Am I scared with the changes in my body? Sure. You bet. But what can I do? All I can do in times like these is keep chugging along, take things one step at a time. Live day by day. My life might be unique to the general population, but it's not unique in the cancer world, and certainly not the brain tumor world. Sometimes that fact alone gives me inspiration. There are so many fighters out there, and even with the fear of another tumor, I know that I want to enjoy my life, each moment. My new favorite thing has been cooking. It's always healthy foods, brain tumor fighting stuff, lots of veggies, lean meats, and lots of healthy fats (think avocados). There's something about exercising, too. It brings me closest to my version of heaven, engulfing me in an elated bubble. Takes me to a world where I can conquer anything, least of all a silly brain tumor. Exercise equates life for me. Our bodies are meant to move, to stretch, to sweat.

My one wish is that I wasn't so tired all the time. My biggest regret in life is the fact that I don't have enough energy. I struggle, deeply, with daily tasks. Even without pushing myself I get exhausted by the most minimal activities. Maybe that's why I adore exercise. It makes me feel alive, and the physical exertion followed by the soreness makes sense. It's one thing that I can count on. It's logical, when so much of my life doesn't seem to add up. I don't know why people get the battles they do. I don't know why some have harder challenges. I don't know the meaning of life. I don't know my purpose. I don't know why some tumors grow and others don't. I don't know much, in fact. I know that I am beloved by Dan, and I deeply love him in return. I know that I have several close friends who truly understand, to their best ability, what I'm going through and they are unimaginably gracious to me. I know that I laugh every day. I know that I love every day. Sometimes life can seem so complicated, but when you break it down, it turns out, it's actually pretty simple.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Sorry I didn't do my Friday post, I've been bone tired. In fact, I'm headed for a nap. Good thing Bingie is assisting Dan at organizing his tool box. I can rest easy. 

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