Decisions have been made…and I can’t have regrets.

So after a very long and arduous debate with myself essentially, I have decided that I will undergo whole brain radiation. Yup, against my better judgement I am going to give them permission to fry my brain. What am I thinking?

This decision was not an easy one to make by any means, and I tried desperately to find another option. I reached out to many, had various medical professionals look into my case, and I even requested another MRI. Essentially, the verdict was more or less unanimous and the MRI (although they didn’t take pictures of the whole brain, just part of it for some very odd reason) did show slight progression on two lesions as well as some swelling.

There are pros and cons to whole brain radiation in this case, but what it really comes down to is that brain mets are unpredictable and can be quite aggressive in nature and deadly so the fact that even two have slightly grown is a good indicator that I cannot leave some of these guys behind. I need a clean sweep. The biggest concern is whether the radiation will actually work to get rid of all of them.

There are alternative therapies that I will need to stop during the radiation and two weeks after, but there are some things that I can do to both help protect my healthy cells while also making the tumours more sensitive to the radiation. 

Provided the radiation works, once the waiting period is over for supplements and alternative therapies, I will go super hard with trying to protect my healthy cells from mutations and radiation damage, and of course figure out how to control any disease elsewhere in the body. I have been intensely looking into German clinics at the moment. Apparently they have awesome spas in Germany too.

I will find out more tomorrow about the procedure, side effects during and after the radiation, and when and how long I will be put on steroids. Yes, I will be on roids people, which I am not looking forward to, but will most likely need them to control the brain swelling after they give it a nice dose of radiation. Look out, it’s Hulk Sabrina! 

Oh and at the request of my naturopath, I will be switching my diet a bit to a more ketogenic one. Adding tons of healthy fats, some protein, and essentially no carbohydrates (very, very little). I will still be having an insane amount of organic greens, however I am being asked to add some organic chicken and organic fish. I pleaded not to add meat (and remember this is coming from me, a girl who used to want to eat anything that moved, well okay maybe not anything), but I was shut down.  The reason behind this diet change is there has been some promising results on the ketogenic diet helping with malignant brain tumours in general. Essentially, you try to starve the cancer cells of sugar and force the body to fuel on fat (ketones) as opposed to carbs and glucose. Cancer cells seem to only survive on glucose, not ketones. I still will be eating primarily plant based foods, only way more healthy fats and the occasional addition of organic chicken, as I was already eating some fish. We’ll see how it goes.

That’s it for now folks, I will keep you posted.

I am going to have a relaxing evening with my hubby and rest my poor aching brain for a bit 🙂

Health, love and tough choices.

xo

Advertisements

When it rains, it pours.

Nope, I am not referring to the lousy, dreary weather we have had recently. As I type this, the sun is sort of out, so clearly the weather is not the issue.

I am talking about those times when you feel like bad things keep happening, you just can’t seem to catch a break no matter what.

Well this is how cancer patients or those with ailing health tend to feel every time they visit with their oncologist or medical team. The kind of phrases that circulate in the patient’s mind after receiving repeated dismal news usually begin and end with that special four letter word. No, not crap or shit. You get the point.

This is how I feel today. This day deserves a giant WTF?!

Apparently Mildred has taken her cancer party to a whole other level. She’s decided to make life increasingly difficult for me and kicked things up a notch.  It appears as though the cancer has metastasized to my brain, at least that is what the most recent imaging suggests.

Next to being told that they will stop making size five shoes, having cancer go to my brain was the worst thing I could be told.

There are still many questions that remain unanswered and steps to be taken going forward. I am currently in the initial stage of processing the information. I can tell you that things do not look good when you have cancer in the brain, that’s pretty much a no brainer, so lame I know.  However being me and representing a  complete challenge to the entire medical community, I refuse to let numbers and statistics stand in my way. I was never a numbers girl to begin with. Come on, everyone knows that people who don’t like math end up in law school, duh! And plus how much cooler would I be if I could defy the odds and live with cancer in my brain for a long time, or have it go away completely which is statistically impossible. So cool, right?

Now do not think for a second that I am not scared like hell because I absolutely am. I had my meltdown earlier and I am sure there will be plenty more where those came from. But I plan to fight like hell too. That’s what we cancer people do.

It’s not like I am Albert Einstein or Stephen Hawking, but the one thing I feared was to have cancer invade my brain or central nervous system. My cognitive thinking, thought processes, speech, motor skills, and especially my writing. Those are all off limits. There will be a lot of angry people out there if I can no longer write this blog. So despite being upset, scared, sad, confused and totally pissed off, I am also going to fight back. Oh it’s go time!

I have defied odds already, so what’s stopping me now, a little brain cancer, screw you I say!

Well at least they still make size five shoes, right? Perhaps a little leather pick me up is in order. Nothing says “things will be fine” like some new fabulous footwear. Shoe goals people.

Another perfect time to reach into my purse and pull out the good old cancer card. It was getting a little dusty.

In the meantime, now that the rain has stopped, I will wait for my rainbow.

Health, love and rainy days.

xo

New Pain ……Has the Cancer Spread?

One of the biggest fears that all cancer patients encounter is the fear that the cancer has come back or spread. Every new bump, change, or irregularity is automatically questioned and suspected. You know that feeling everyone gets when they touch or see something out of the ordinary? Well, for cancer patients, it’s that feeling, times a million. I feel like the cancer monster is always out to get me. fear I wish I didn’t question every oddity or change in my body ALL THE TIME, but I do (and will continue to do so as long as I live). For cancer survivors, sometimes this feeling lessens over time. I am not sure it ever goes away, but it can ameliorate. However, for those with “chronic” or incurable cancer, this feeling is always there. Sometimes it makes me so neurotic that I have even suspected that a pimple could be something far worse. Turns out it was just a pimple. It was a blackhead, people! Ever since I have been juicing and overdosing on vegetables, my skin has been AMAZING. So naturally, being the freak that I am, when I saw this foreign little reddened bump invade my clear skin, I was like “oh my goodness, what is this, is this a mini tumor?” A mini tumor, seriously? What was I thinking? I was thinking that I have metastatic cancer and now everything is fair game. Even a pimple. Most recently, I have been experiencing back pain. The pain is on-and-off, but it is there pretty much every day now. I have mentioned it to my oncologist so she has scheduled me for an MRI of my spine to ensure that the cancer has not spread to my spine. Although I am trying to keep positive about the situation, I really am, I also can’t help but fear the worse. Has the cancer metastasized to my spine? Or perhaps it is bone metastasis. If this is true, how long do I have? Will I be terminal? All of these worst-case scenarios flood my thoughts. I swear that these horrible thoughts are a cancer of their own. Once these thoughts begin, it’s hard to control how far they will go. Is this going to be the end? I’m not ready to die. I haven’t even seen the new season of Game of Thrones. I can’t die now, the new Beauty and the Beast movie hasn’t come out yet – I need to see that! These are the types of things that overwhelm my mind. Yesterday the pain was pretty bad, but I dealt with it the best I could. Except for my sudden outburst. While we were all watching a movie from Rogers on Demand, ” A Most Violent Year,” (sounds like the title of the movie about when I was told my cancer spread) I burst out into tears. The movie wasn’t that bad nor was it a tearjerker, it was just my emotions catching up with me. I guess I had withheld my feelings, trying to be strong for those around me, and then nature took its course. As I choked back my tears, Garrett asked if I was okay and whether we should continue with the movie. “Yes, I said, it’s a good distraction.” Although I am sure from Garrett and my parents’ point of view, the movie didn’t seem to distract me at all from what I was really thinking. It wasn’t the movie, it was me. And this would have happened no matter what I was doing or watching. It was just a matter of time. I can’t tell you how many times Garrett has had to endure me wiping my tears on his sweaters. His poor clean sweaters all mucked up with my salty tears. Or all of the times that he has had to hold me or hug me while talking me through my insanity. He finds talking about these things very difficult and would prefer not to engage these thoughts of mine, but I always seem to make him go there. And for me, he does. I am so thankful for having him in my life and I don’t know what I would do without him. IMG_3937 I am trying to be brave for him as well as for my family. I am trying not to complain or constantly talk about my illness. But sometimes it’s really difficult. I’ve learned that it’s okay to have these feelings, these outbursts, or these neurotic and negative thoughts. The trick is to have them, accept that they are there, and then to let them go. The ‘letting go’ part is hard to master. Like with anything, practice helps. Whether I worry about what the cause of this back pain is or not, it will not change the results. Unfortunately, as with all things cancer-related, I have no control over my DNA, my cells, or my body, but I can try to control my thoughts. So, I will continue to work my way towards this goal of letting negative emotions go. In the meantime though, I am going to go for a walk and stretch out my back. Love, health, and being pain-free! xo

MRIs and Cupcakes

Helloooo Blog!

Usually I have been writing about a particular topic. Instead, today I feel like writing about my weekend. It wasn’t overly eventful or anything, but it was a good weekend nonetheless. Any time my entire weekend doesn’t revolve around cancer or feeling awful, I figure life is good.

This weekend I had an MRI for my boobies. Nothing is going on with my boobies (at least not to my knowledge). However, given my insane and extensive medical history, I have a lot of MRIs of different body parts to make sure there’s no cancer hanging out. You name the body part, and I’m sure I’ve had a test done there. I really wish I could just have one full-body MRI and that’s it. Most people wish to be famous or win the lottery, I’m wishing for a full-body MRI, there is something definitely wrong with this picture. I also wish I didn’t have cancer. But don’t get me wrong, being famous and winning the lottery are pretty sweet too.

I have an annual breast MRI every October, but most recently they saw a “shadow” (I have no idea what that means) and wanted the test repeated within 6 months…..hence my Sunday MRI. I could think of about a million better things I would rather be doing on a Sunday (sleeping, going for brunch, lounging about in my pjs, not going to the hospital, did I mention sleeping? etc, etc.) However, as long as the results are good, who cares, right? I will just suck it up, like I’ve sucked up the rest of this ordeal. This doesn’t make me a sucker, does it?

Here I am looking exceptionally fashionable in my mammoth hospital gown.

Walking down the hospital runway

Walking down the hospital runway

I realize that being a fashionista is not a top priority at hospitals nor is there room in their budget for this sort of thing. But these ginormous gowns have got to go! Or perhaps they could have a range of sizes and colours. Or maybe black, it’s slimming and looks good on everyone. Red would be awesome too. Vera Wang, if you are reading my blog right now, PLEASE HELP!!! I typically love the colour blue, but this hospital hue of blue really does nothing for the complexion. And I would even settle for a gown that doesn’t leave you completely exposed. No one needs to see my bits and pieces; it’s really not necessary. Luckily the nice receptionist girl handed me two gowns to wear in order to minimize the “I’m walking around with my butt hanging out look“, and to keep me a little warmer. What’s with the arctic air that blows on you during an MRI, right? It was freezing in there!

Then I was given a contrast dye for the MRI (it helps to get a clearer picture), and thankfully the nurse got the vein on the first try! Thank you, nice nurse lady. I really appreciate you not poking at my veins a gazillion times, or leaving a huge nasty bruise on my arm, or worse yet, missing the vein completely (and you feel like the little girl in the Exorcist..“it burns, it burns”). This is an awful feeling.

I have been given so much contrast dye over the last little while that I think my body is getting a little peeved. Usually, it has no effect on me whatsoever, but yesterday, for some reason I felt a little nauseated after my test. It could have been the awkward position that you are placed in when you undergo a breast MRI, although the machines have improved over the years and are much more comfortable. At least now there is some padding on the bar you are lying face down on that is placed in-between your boobs. This used to kill before (it would literally hurt your lungs to breathe), now it didn’t bother me at all. Either the test has improved, or my tolerance for pain and annoying situations has skyrocketed. I’m guessing that it’s probably a bit of both.

Fortunately my weekend did not consist only of hospital visits. I also was able to do something on Saturday afternoon that I thoroughly enjoy. I baked cupcakes! Baking (as is blogging) is very therapeutic for me. Well, except for the times when things go horribly wrong and I become “bakezilla.” Not a pretty sight.

I made yummy chocolate cupcakes. These are not part of my healthy living lifestyle, so I didn’t eat any of them. But I was told that they were delicious. Here’s a peak at them…

Can you guess what this is supposed to be?

Can you guess what this is supposed to be?


IMG_20150425_195512IMG_20150425_151936

Hopefully you guessed “owl”. I made these cute looking owl cupcakes for my sister-in-law’s owl-themed baby shower. They were a huge hit! The shower was lovely and everything turned out wonderful.

Perhaps I will have to take a stab at a healthy version of these cupcakes one day. If I do, I will be sure to let you all know.

When you are feeling good, it’s okay that your weekend consists of MRIs and cupcakes. You must take it all in stride. Just try not to make a habit of the MRIs 😉

Love, health, and cute-looking cupcakes!
xo

Coping With Scanxiety

Scanziety image 3

Anyone that has battled cancer, is currently battling cancer, or is a close family member of someone with cancer knows this term all too well.

Scanxiety refers to the worry and anxiety associated with upcoming scans (MRIs, CT scans, ultrasounds, PET scans, etc) and the results of these scans.

It doesn’t go away.

It gets better at times, but it’s always there lingering in the back of your mind. In fact, research in Psycho-Oncology suggests that between 4 percent and 22 percent of cancer survivors have a risk of developing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) at some point during their lifetimes. Like we didn’t already have enough to worry about.

I always used to get really nervous right before a scan, not to mention the gut-wrenching stress while waiting for results. The stress can be quite overwhelming and debilitating at times. Why do they take so long for the results- maybe that must mean that everything is fine? Why are they calling me back so quickly? Why do they want me to come in to the office – it can’t be good news. I used to play all of these scenarios in my head. With five cancer diagnoses under my belt, you can imagine how much time and energy Scanxiety has taken from my life. Way too much.

I remember very vividly that ill-fated morning back in February 2014 when I was first told that my cancer had metastasized. It was the usual 3 month follow-up of my neck MRI as well as an X-ray of my lungs (to make sure there was no funny business going on in there). This was the standard protocol for my osteosarcoma: an MRI and X-ray every 3 months for the first two years, then every 6 months for the following two years, and then once a year…unless something went wrong in the interim, that is.

I was always jittery and on-edge when I had to go see my oncologist for results, but that morning, for whatever reason, I wasn’t too bad. All my previous scans had come back clear, so I kept thinking to myself that everything was going to continue this way (although part of me didn’t always believe this to be true).

That day I was sitting chatting with my mom until the oncologist came in while my cousin waited for us in the waiting area. We were supposed to go out for lunch to celebrate my good news that I anticipated receiving. Eating always made me happy.

My oncologist and I have a good relationship. She spends time chatting with me, and she had been rather upbeat on previous visits (as my prior results had been boring, just like we liked them). However, this day she came into the room with a look of despair in her eyes. Almost like a grim reaper of sorts.

She said “I need you to go and get a CT scan and then come back here and we will look at the results together.” WHAT?! Why do I need a CT scan I said, I just had an X-ray of my lungs, what did the X-ray find?  “The X-ray came back clear she said, but your MRI (which was of the neck) happened to catch the upper part of your lungs and we see some ‘spots’; I just want to make sure these ‘spots’ are nothing to worry about.”

Right at that moment I wanted to crawl out of my body. Run as far away as possible and never look back. When was I going to wake up from this terrible nightmare? I suddenly had a knot in my stomach that was the size of a beach ball, I couldn’t breathe, and I felt like throwing up.

I was shaking all the way to the CT scan area. Spots in my lungs? For sure I have cancer, what else could it be. I am so surprised that I didn’t faint. This was my worst case of Scanxiety thus far. My mom looked really worried, but like always, she was trying to be strong for me.

The CT scan took all of 2 minutes, but those felt like the longest two minutes of my life. I wanted to cry but I didn’t want the technician to freak out and come over to console me because then this thing would take longer – I just wanted to get it over with.

The technician told me to take a deep breath, and all I could think of was Lady, I can’t breathe…I am just about to get told whether I have cancer in my lungs or not, which means I could die, I can’t breathe. But I mustered up the courage and took a deep breathe. All I kept muttering in my head was please don’t let this be cancer, please don’t let this be cancer, please don’t let me die.

As we all know now, those “spots” were indeed cancer that had metastasized.

As soon as the oncologist uttered those words to me, I went numb. My chest and throat instantly tightened up. I didn’t have any words, tears wouldn’t come out either. I felt like throwing something across the room or smacking someone.

I wanted to scream in that room, like this

Scanxiety image 2

But nothing came out. Instead, I probably looked like such a bad ass, like nothing can get me down, not even some metastatic cancer. 

Of course we didn’t go out to lunch to celebrate that day, as everyone in the car felt sick to their stomachs. Eating was the last thing on our minds. I hardly said a word the entire car ride home. As soon as we got home, I ran upstairs to the bathroom, turned on the tap (so no one would hear me) and I burst out in tears. All of those built-up emotions that I was trying desperately to suppress came pouring right out. I sat on the bathroom floor while hysterically crying. I think if I had been hit by a truck that day instead, I would have felt better. Well, maybe not.

Similar to every other cancer patient out there (and their families), I continue to feel anxious every time I have a scan and am awaiting the results. This is completely normal. You are not crazy. There is constant fear – fear that the cancer has spread, fear that the cancer has gone somewhere else, fear that the cancer has now become terminal, or for those in remission, the constant fear that the cancer has made a comeback.

Although Scanxiety is quite normal, there are some things that can help you to cope with this overwhelming feeling of stress. Here are a few tips:

1. Try to surround yourself with positive people (close family and friends) before your scan and before receiving any results. Bring a family member and/or a friend with you to these appointments. This can be a good distraction, try to laugh and talk about un-cancery things (That’s not a word, I know). 

2. Do something fun that you enjoy – this can help you take your mind off of things. Recently, I have been watching movies (especially funny ones) the night before. Do yoga, exercise, dance, take a bubble bath, engage in some hanky panky – whatever floats your boat. It’s all good 😉

3. Engage in relaxation and deep breathing techniques. This really helps! Just try to take a few deep breaths whenever you feel anxious or your mind starts playing out awful scenarios. As you exhale, imagine you are exhaling/letting go of all of your stress and fears. Deep breathing will help to center you again. It’s amazing how relaxing deep breathing can be. Plus, it’s free and it can be done literally ANYWHERE!

4. Pray, meditate, and repeat positive affirmations over and over to yourself (either in your head or out loud, the person next to you on the subway might think you’re crazy, but who cares).

5. Try to schedule your appointments in the morning if possible, this can reduce waiting times a bit, which helps.

6.  DO NOT GO ON THE INTERNET AND READ ABOUT CANCER! (Unless it’s my blog, of course, that’s a given!)

7. Make sure you write down all of the questions and concerns that you would like to discuss with your oncologist or treatment team at your appointment. Having all of your questions answered can help put your mind at ease and make you feel less anxious.

8. Have faith in your treatment plan, whatever it may be. Be confident in the choices you are making with respect to your health, life, and overall well-being. Try not to second guess yourself. Trust your gut, it knows more than you think.

9. Play games on your cell phone, chat with family members, do a crossword puzzle or sudoku, or bring a good book or some meditation cards with you to your appointments to help ease stress and distract you.

10. (This one is hard to implement, but it makes sense.) Try to remember that the scans and the results will be the same whether you worry about them beforehand or whether you don’t. So, why waste your precious time and energy? Save it for something way better than cancer.

Hopefully some of these tips that I have tried and continue to implement in my own life will help all of you lessen your Scanxiety. Whether it be the stress of cancer, any other chronic disease, or hospital visits in general, we could all use some help. And please feel free to reach out to me if you would like more information or advice.

Love and relaxation to all! xo