A Bowl of Cherries

Apparently I have a flare for the dramatics.  This is great for my writing but not so much for my friends and family.  My last post, Crying Over Spilled Milk, was quite pessimistic and dismal.  I didn’t mean to upset anyone or cause panic.  I sat alone in my apartment for a week following my last procedure and cabin fever set in.  I was going crazy and didn’t realize it.  

A silver lining has emerged.  It always does.  

As with all my blogging, I worked on Spilled Milk for several days.  I wrote, rewrote, edited, edited, edited - paragraphs were revamped and whole sentences added or deleted.  The process was somber but immensely therapeutic.  I realize now I was complaining about my situation and feeling sorry for myself.  And it seems as though I wanted everyone else to feel sorry for me too.  The night I hit submit I awoke at 2 am, thoughts flooding my head.  Allowing things to just happen to me is not acceptable, I picked up a book I started a year ago and flipped to the first page.  For lack of a better phrase, I’m “self-help” junkie - I read anything I can get my hands on about healing and spirituality.  My favorites are A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle, The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown (and everything else she has written), The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz, and The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho.  So, naturally a random book left sitting on my bedside table for year should have some answers.  I gravitate towards historical fiction and non-fiction when I have a moment to read something that doesn’t pertain to my graduate classes.  In an attempt to become a legitimate writer, I’m working on my Masters in English and Creative Writing.  That night as Lola’s sweet, kitty snores filled my ears, I began Anatomy of the Spirit by Caroline Myss.    

This book is about energy healing.  It reveals the hidden stresses, beliefs, and attitudes that cause illness.  “Every thought you have had has traveled through your biological system and activated a physiological response…. Those that carry emotional, mental, psychological or spiritual energy produce biological responses that are then stored in our cellular memory.  In this way our biographies are woven into our biological systems, gradually, slowly, every day.”  All parts of our bodies are connected spiritually and biologically through the seven centers of spiritual and physical power - the Hindu chakras, the Christian sacraments, and the Kabbalah's Tree of Life.  Dr. Myss shows how to cultivate personal power and spiritual growth through the healing of each center.  “Illnesses develop as a consequence of behavioral patterns and attitudes that we do not realize are biologically toxic until they have already become so.”  I grabbed a journal (I have a lot of these lying around - empty and otherwise - journaling is one of my healthier addictions) and started writing down my feelings and experiences and thoughts.  My "health journal," as I'm calling it, is now filled with the teachings of this book, the emotions I've felt over the past few years, the epiphanies I've had since the darkness, and all things healing related. 

A crisis, which it seems I was having, tells us “we need to break free from beliefs that no longer serve our personal development.”  Sulking most definitely doesn't serve development.  All circumstances can be changed in a moment, and all illness can be healed.  The Devine is not limited by human time, space, or physical concerns.  The protagonist in every story starts somewhere, usually a less than ideal situation.  Maybe they are poor or weak.  Maybe they are sick of having tumors and want their long hair back.  Either way, a series of events shows them a path to their powers and they emerge victorious.  At 2 am I realized I am a powerful hero.  I can heal.  I am making things more difficult than they need to be.  “Achieving health, happiness, and an energy balance comes down to deciding to focus more on the positive than on the negative and to live in a manner spiritually congruent with that we know is the truth.  Making those two commitments alone is sufficient to allow the power contained within our Diving biological system to influence the content and direction of our lives.”  I have a great amount of power and I needed to reclaim it.  Also, cookies help.  And the tree outside my living room window blooming.

Our “experiences become encoded in our biological systems and contribute to the formation of our cell tissue, which then generates a quality of energy that reflects those emotions.”  I do not want my systems flooded with cells created by negative emotions.  My personal challenges are part of a Divine plan.  I have to “let go and let God” open my healing path.  Let go of my need to know why things have happened as they have.  I am here right now;  the past is gone, the future is not here yet.  I am alive.  I have everything I need.  I must be easy on myself.  My current state of rollercoastering through emotions is probably due to the sheer volume of issues.  I can handle this and this too shall pass.  I also have to remember that I don’t have to do this alone and can turn over much of this worry and suffering to God.  A time for everything and everything in its time.  Challenging events in our lives are a form of spiritual direction.  

“The ability to choose is an active power - and the sensation of having active power is both thrilling and threatening because it makes us want to change those parts of of our lives that are no longer appropriate.  And changing those parts inspires us to challenge other aspects of our lives that are not satisfactory.”  I can’t compare myself to others.  In my dark place, envious and jealous thoughts penetrate my usually compassionate mind frame.  All my friends and family were traveling or with their significant others, enjoying their healthy lives and gorgeous hair (I’m obsessed with hair these days).  Instead of being happy for them I was covetous and I don’t have room for this poison in my mind.  "In the language of confession, these therapeutic milestones are the same as calling our spirits back from negative missions on which we have sent them."  I want a healthy happy attitude.  Only I can make this happen.

I hope I get an A+ for this book report.  I didn't touch much on the final chapters because they are very powerful and I couldn't do them justice.  But wow.  This is exactly what I needed when I needed it - connection with my mind, energy, body, and spirituality.  I don’t mean to preach, just share how I turned my negativity around… for the most part.  This is work in progress.  I am not a patient person and all I see in front of me is the need for patience.  Connecting with consciousness and all matters of the spirit is a lifetime journey.   

It’s spring, the sun is shinning, the weather is warming.  I have plans for the summer like writing in coffee shops, yoga, live music, reading in the park, baseball games, sitting by the pool.  It’s the little things.  I’m always preaching this, time to live by it.  My mind is shrinking these tumors.  My attitude is refreshed.  My Devine connection reestablished.  Annnnd I’m pretty sure the Easter Bunny is going to bring me chocolate.  Everything is A-OK.  (wink!) 

I found this AMAZING article in my lasted Psychology Today magazine.  It sheds light on living with cancer in a way I couldn't.  Click here for the link. 

Thank you to everyone who called, texted, emailed, IMed in the days after Crying Over Spilled Milk.  I’m sorry I forgot how much I am loved.  I can be a little crazy sometimes - just one of my many endearing qualities.  Hahaha!  Smiley face.

Crying Over Spilled Milk

The second half of 2014 was the biggest challenge I've faced so far.  My health, appearance, mind, and body underwent drastic changes.  I was depressed.  I was in pain.  I was terrified.  Mayo failed to deliver on it’s promise to fix me.  Some of the cancer was removed but not all of it.  For no reason they resected my spleen during surgery - which is serious given I work around children all day and it is an infection fighting organ.  Following my surgery in January of 2014, the remaining liver tumors grew while I was busy living.  I only had to go to the hospital once a month for my Octreotide injection (the only treatment option I was given) and I rarely saw a doctor.  It was great!  Hospitals are for sick people and that’s not me.  I was living the life of an active, thirty-something.  Everything fell apart at the end of summer when my blood work and scans showed it was time to act and act fast.  Reality slapped me in the face and I returned to research mode finding Octreotide is used to treat symptoms, not inhibit tumor growth.  For about 8 months nothing was done to restrain the liver tumors and things were getting out of control. 

My oncologist recommended chemo medication and I tried it in August and September. Whist enjoying the lovely antics of this bodily poison, one must have strict supervision - including weekly blood work.  During the second, two-week attempt at these pills (my first time ended, at my discretion, after one week), I received my follow-up-to-blood-work phone call and was told to STOP taking the chemo immediately.  My red blood count looked so bad they were very concerned.  I was asked if I had fallen anytime recently or if I had large bruises.  No.  Little did they know I'd already thrown those pills in the trash.  I wasn’t having the symptoms they asked about but plenty of others.  I was in so much pain and having crazy side-effects.  My body told me this treatment was not right for me.  I knew something was wrong and I wouldn’t take any more chemo until figuring out what it was.  I imagine it’s easier to launch a rocket into space than it was for me to get the help I needed.  

It took me about four months to uncover what was wrong.  No one offered me much help as I described my symptoms to multiple doctors on multiple occasions.  Symptoms were chalked up to chemo side-effects or I was told nothing is wrong after tests revealed the results were not “clinically out of normal range.”  This doesn't mean anything.  Many of the results were really low or really high - but not out of “normal” range by just the smallest bit.  Something WAS wrong.  I was life-raft floating in open water with sharks swarming.  I have never been so scared.  

Around November I diagnosed myself with a condition called Cushing’s -  extremely elevated cortisol levels persisting over time.  Cortisol is the stress hormone.  I found a wonderful, female endocrinologist who agreed with me and said my tumors are most likely the culprits.  There is no cure or treatment for Cushing’s.  The best they can do is offer you a pill which limits the amount of cortisol your adrenal glands produce.  However, this is not the cause of my Cushing’s and I found out this drug is no longer used in Europe because of its risky side-effects.  I was also the victim of untreated low potassium.  Both ailments are harrowing and cause distressing and agonizing symptoms.  

Cushing’s changed my life.  I quickly gained 20 pounds.  Not in a normal, gain-20-pounds way.  Cushing’s causes fat deposits in areas around the body.  I can’t tilt my head all the way back or lift my arms fully due to the fat deposits around my neck and shoulders.  There is a large ring around my waist resembling a swimming pool floatation device.  My legs swell and stiffen to the point of pain, making walking difficult to near impossible.  I have chronic fatigue and irritability.  Hair grew on my face and back.  While unwanted hair multiplied everywhere it shouldn’t be, the hair on my head fell out.  With this drastic thinning of my hair, I desperately sought solutions.  Shampoos, treatments, egg yoke concoctions… All I could do is cut it.  (Sad face.)  And then cut it again.  (Extremely sad face.)  I think short hair is super cute and fun.  But not if you don’t want short hair.  Fat deposits appeared on my face.  I don’t look like myself anymore.  These changes were a hard blow and they left me traumatized.  Over that 5 month time period, I became a different person.  

Perhaps worst of all was the difficulty thinking.  The combination of Cushing’s and low potassium created a fog I lived in for weeks and weeks.  I could power through work to “fade away” around 6 pm.  All I could do was go to sleep.  I couldn’t read.  I couldn’t write.  I wasn’t myself in those days.  It was difficult to hold conversations and concentrate.  My already poor memory faded even further.  With my body shutting down and my brain shutting off, I was in a state of terror.  Thoughts of death constantly crept about my mind.  I was being terrorized by the end.  

Then 2015 began and with it came some wonderful alterations.  I had a special “someone” in my life and it seemed my health was improving.  I felt better.  Alas…

Everything changed.  

The transformation in my appearance is most detrimental.  I'm shocked thinking about the last 9 months of my life.  I’m just barely starting to process what has happened/is happening.  It is an odd, indescribable feeling to catch your reflection in a window or your friend’s sunglasses and not see yourself looking back.  My vanity is Indiana-Jones-on-a-run-away-train out of check.  I’m awful.  I know everyone changes over time and we age.  I get that.  How I would love to just grow old and watch my wrinkles set in.  My changes came on fast and furious.  With all the craziness of these syndromes, I’ve gone from glittering creature of the night to mangy werewolf.  (That was a Twilight reference.)  I know the guys of the werewolf pack are attractive but I don’t know what they say about the women.  In my case, it’s the opposite.  As I mentioned, part of Cushing’s is Hirsutism, the growth of hair in women.  The picture of this on wikipeida is hilarious and gives an alternative name for this affliction: werewolf syndrome.  There is also mention of the bearded lady.  I’ve unwillingly become a member of the Freak Show.  My skin has changed, what used to be normal, human skin is now bumpy, course, and oily.  My face doesn’t look like me.  It’s swollen and puffy.  My signature long, blonde hair no longer exists.  There are fatty deposits all over my body.  I don’t even have a normal, female shape.  I am wretched for being so vein.  My looks agitate and frustrate me and then I'm furious at myself for caring so much.  I get depressed.  It's a sick cycle.  I'm trying so hard to accept how I look now.  I know I’m not the first cancer patient to deal with a changed appearance.  I know this.  So again, I’m mad at myself for thinking in this way.  

I’ve discovered I get to add to my already full plate carcinoid syndrome.  I’m experiencing symptoms such as peripheral edema: swelling in my belly/back, shoulders, face, legs and ankles.  (Yes, more swelling in my face).  As well as trouble breathing and arthritis in my knees to the point where it’s painful to stand and walk.  I’m back to full on research mode.  I’m trying to figure out what is causing what, how I can make it better, what do I do.  This is nightmare.  Literally a nightmare.  It’s all phone calls and then return phone calls to all kinds of doctors who handle each different thing.  Misery in the interim while I await test results and appointments.  The only treatment I could find is Octreotide - a medication I’d previously stopped because of my concern over it’s side effects.  I had to decide if I wanted to deal with a low functioning thyroid or the symptoms it treats.  I don’t know.  I guess the latter?  

The University of Colorado Hospital continues to make it up to me after their original botched attempt.  I’ve had two SIRT procedures where radiation beads were placed in my liver.  Four weeks later I had a scan and low and behold the doctors at UCH called me.  Normally I’m the one reading the radiology report and trying to get in touch with someone about what I should do next.  Not only did they call but they had a recommendation for another treatment because there is one little buggar who is not playing nice.  One tumor grew so we’re going back in to block the blood supply.  Almost done.  Cut this guy’s supply, let the other tumors continue to shrink, and then it’s back to normal.  Right?  I’m so over this.  So done with it all.  I just want my life back.  

I don’t even have normal hospital visits anymore.  I went to check in with my endocrinologist and during the first part of the visit where they check your vitals - blood pressure, temperature, etc - I had a heart rate of 38.  So, after meeting with my endocrinologist, I was sent to my general doctor for an EKG.  My blood pressure and heart rate were checked about more 30 times - each time the results were the same - low heart rate and high blood pressure.  I’ve had excellent blood pressure my entire life until about two months ago.  Now it’s high.  One more thing… The EKG looked normal but they didn’t want to send me away with heart rate around 40.  So, it was off to cardiology to be fitted with a 24-hour heart monitor.  One more thing…  When does it end? 

Typically I conclude these posts with some positive outlook and feel much better having sent the post out into the world.  I’m not sure how to do that this time.  Things are not good and I’m not fake.  I’m trapped in a constant state of symptoms, misery, depression, anxiety, and panic.  My life is continuously interrupted by hospital visits.  This cancer is rare and no one knows what to do.  My stress is endless, which doesn’t help my already high levels of cortisol.  My heart plummets every time I look in the mirror and don’t see myself looking back.  Everyday I wake up and try to choose happiness.  I’m currently hovering around 30% success rate if I’m lucky.  I’m struggling.  The “someone” is gone…  Dark thoughts keep creeping up on me.  Am I just to suffer for __insert time frame here__ and then die?  Medical bills are coming in by the ten of thousands of dollars, I don’t have the money to travel as I want to, I’m not married or in a relationship, I don’t have children.  My friends will be fine - they have beautiful lives full of jovial moments.  My family will tell all their favorite crazy Lindsey moments and laugh - hopefully.  We can be pretty ruthless with each other but maybe most of my unfavorable characteristics will be forgotten.    

What do I do now?  I just don’t know. 

Fruits of My Labor

After hitting the publish button I let my thoughts float into space and out of my life.  They served a purpose; a bit of therapy for me and info for my people.  I randomly decided to reread and edit some of my blog posts.  They read like a Hemingway lamentation for the ages.  Woe is me!  Cancer Chic, more like Cancer Dirge.  I briefly pondered deleting them.  I thought about deleting this blog entirely.  Instead, I made a few minor adjustments and opted to keep the posts as a reminder of where I've been.  Mentally and physically.  Phrases like, "I know this will come back" and "these tumors are expected to return" got the boot.  Interesting I'd written that because it's exactly what happened.  I can't have expectations or beliefs of that nature wafting about.  

Out with the old and in with the new.  New treatment options, new hope, new healing, new oncologist, new faith, new ideas, new new new.  I have cleaned out old ways of thinking and being.   New spirit is flowing throughout my life.  I've purged my home, work space/classroom, heart, mind, body.  Time to purge tumors.  It is time for fresh energy. 

Following my surgery my brain took the stance I was cured and done with cancer.  You can find my picture smack-dab under the word denial.  I will be smiling.  Physically I felt amazing.  I checked out of cancer-patient mode and checked into LIFE.  In my defense I was told this surgery was going to give me decades of life and basically “fix” things.  It didn’t.  But I digress.  LIFE was beautiful.  It was fun.  During my surgery at Mayo they ablated the tumors left in the part of my liver they didn't cut out.  I got to pondering why couldn't this happen again.  Lindsey, MD.  Mayo and Kaiser only offered me chemo, which would hinder the reconstruction of my body.  There is no treatment protocol for my type of cancer so I'm making it up as I go.  Dr. Eadens (Kiaser oncologist in case this is getting confusing) said ablations are a temporary solution, putting the proverbial "bandaid on the problem" and we should try a few more chemoemobliztion procedures.  (You can read about this procedure in one my previous, bemoaning posts.)  Dr. Rubin of Mayo, the man at the helm of my catastrophic meltdown last month, told me chemoembolizations are a temporary solution, putting the proverbial "bandaid on the problem."  I'm thoroughly entertained.  These two know each other!  Eadens' fellowship at Mayo was with Rubin and supposedly they have been conferring about my treatment.  They are the culprits for my current we have to get these tumors under control and I'm the only one who is doing anything about it situation.  That will be all gentlemen, you're dismissed.  But thank you.  I felt lost and hopeless and sought answers from outside of myself.  Now, my power is coming alive.  I am looking inward, feeling dynamic and forceful again.
This week the University of Colorado Hospital got another crack at me.  There is a bitter, slightly humorous post about my first trip to UCH.  I found Dr. Messersmith, the oncologist I meet when I got a second opinion at UCH last year, once again when I was calling every doctor I know last month.  I searched my inbox and located his emails.  He informed me there is now a liver-specific interdisciplinary team at UCH.  This team of doctors of different specialities meet and discuss treatment options.  I made the appointment thinking, "eh, why not, I've got nothing else to do and my insurance will cover it."  This go 'round went swimmingly.  Kismit struck when part of the team, a young oncologist, stepped into my room.  This was Dr. Lindsey Davis.  I have literally found Lindsey, MD!!!!  Her energy is magnetic, her aura delightful, laugh chipper, and voice honest.  I love her.  Nervously, I called the next day and proposed that she become my oncologist.  She said YES! The appointment continued to go well when the team told me exactly what I wanted to hear.  They are not going to ablate the tumors, but perform a procedure similar to the chemoemblizations with radiation.   This minimally effects other parts of the body and directly targets the tumors.  Chemo averted!  I do NOT have to take any more chemo pills.  My body-temple is healing.  I feel great and grateful. 

When discussing my treatment options with Dr. Smith at the University of Colorado Hospital, he concluded with, “With these treatments most people can live 5 years.”  I stopped him right there, “Whoa!  Don’t talk like that.  I plan on living for 50 years.”  I will not have anyone predicting my future.  You are not time traveler and I would venture to say you do not have a crystal ball.  We are here now and no one knows what will happen tomorrow let alone in 5 years.    

Love is bright light, Batman-signal shinning into the night, making its way from my heart into the universe.  God is making its way from the universe to my heart.  This is quite a shift from where I have been.  And where I still may go.  I will stumble and have bad days but my mind needed an overhaul and overhaul I have.  There are new healers in my life.  New spiritual group I attend on Sundays.  New plans for the next fifty years of my life. 

Raise your glass or fold your hands or lift your arms.  Here's to an outrageous amount of fortune, love, and solutions.   

Going Bananas

I have referred to my people as my army and I must summon you all to my side again.  I fully recognize you have already given so much and I simply refuse to burden anyone.   My appeal is minuscule as everyone is undoubtedly over hearing about all of this.  I ask just for a thought.  One thought/prayer/request/wish.  You may call it as you choose.

Please tell the Universe/God/Love:  these tumors are done.

Together we can blast these things into powder and watch them drift away on a faint breeze. 

September was..... interesting.

It all began at the end of July.  It was a beautiful Denver summer and I was loving my life.  Days were filled with bike rides to yoga, sun-lapped skin as I sat in the park reading books, and bathing in the love of my friends.  I felt strong and healthy and happy.  The time came for my monthly blood work.  I'm knew there had been some growth with the tumors but who could think about that when you live nestled up to the beauty of the mountains and feel like a million bucks.

I was abruptly thrust back into cancer world when my blood work came back off the charts.  August came.  In addition to the collapse of my cheerful world, I started feeling odd.  My belly was constantly swollen and I didn't feel well for hours after eating.  I lost my appetite.  I gained about 10 pounds in 3 weeks.  My legs and joints felt stiff and could no longer go to yoga.  I chalked it up to finally putting on some weight after my surgery and cancer stuff and went about my days making the best of things.  It was time to return to work after all.

School started.  At the end of August, I began an oral, systemic chemotherapy.  (Chemo pills.)  During my meeting with the oncology pharmacist about said chemo pills, he was adamant I'm to be careful while handling them.  I slowly raised my eyes from my notes and deadpan replied, "You mean you don't want me to poison myself while I'm poisoning myself?"  My regimen is two weeks on the drugs, two weeks off.  Rinse, wash, repeat.

Fine.  My I am a Warrior Goddess and this going to no big deal because it's time to blast these tumors attitude thundered from atop a snow-tipped peak and I started popping pills.

That lasted a week.

Alarmingly, my heart was beating hard and strangely.  I had horrible headaches.  I couldn't think.  How do you live if you can't think?  My mind was blocked.  I couldn't read or write.  I wasn't myself.  How do you put something in your body that makes you not you?  I could barely walk at times due to the pain and stiffness in my legs.  My feet and ankles were swollen.  I felt shaky and extremely on edge.  I had sores on my throat and tongue.  I powered through work each day to go home, sleep 7 hours on the couch, and awake to an eyes-peeled-open night of angst.  I was certain all my body systems were failing.

I stopped taking the pills.  The problems persisted so I got on the phone to all the doctors I know.  

My oncologist at Mayo dismally altered my life in thirteen minutes.  A cloud of doom settled in and I became absolutely frantic.  One thirteen minute phone conversation brought on a darkness of proportions I had yet to experience.  For thirteen minutes I was a senseless, infinitesimal human who had the gall to ask Dr. God to come down from his rein on Mt. Olympus and speak with me.  The fact  I wasn't tolerating the chemo was remotely fathomable as he barked that it was the best they have.  And his tone was not "this is the gold medal of chemo" best they have.  It was the "it's all they got" so we'll throw it at you, measly pauper, as a last resort.  I tried to ask about other treatment options to be abruptly cut off and given sharp, extremely bleak answers.  It seemed there was no hope.  I was wrecked.

Following that conversation the first week of September was spent in sheer terror.  Crippled by anxiety, my fear was so heightened I could barely breathe.  Grim thoughts invaded.  I wondered if I had even a year left.  My focus became all the things I haven't experienced yet.  Watching a game in all the baseball stadiums in the US.  Dancing on the beaches of Thailand.  Surfing in Australia.  Learning Spanish.  My brute instincts in times like this are to hide away where I can contain the spread of this black temperament.  Wrapped in darkness, envy saw it's chance and crept in.  Every person I saw performing the simple act of walking created an overwhelming feeling of jealousy as they possessed a functioning body.

This is not me.  I continued to feel that something is really wrong - this is not just chemo side-effects.

Calls to doctors continued.  The gastroenternologist who diagnosed my case had the pleasure of hearing from me again because of my swollen belly.  I told her to humor me because I thought I'd picked up a bug in Nepal when, to be polite, I ate the meat served at a wedding I attended.  She thought that actually isn't too crazy.  She ordered a bunch of blood work and stool sample.  It is now confirmed I do not have parasites.  My endocrinologist also made the list because, as I was researching, I found that my symptoms are text book for an under-functioning thyroid.  More on this in a bit.  

After my agonizing week, I woke up at 5 am on a Sunday morning and drove to the ER.  I was armed and ready with my latest editions of NatGeo, Yoga Journal and a new book.  Since it was so early, I walked in and was shown directly to a room.  The doctor was in about 5 seconds later.  Super duper!  So far so good.  I told 90's George Clooney ER Doc all my symptoms and the tests began.  Again - super duper!  They took lots of blood and I got a CT scan.  The health care system is a game.  You want results, you gotta play.  If I'd tried to get all of these things done one by one, it would have taken many phone calls to doctors, many phone calls for scheduling, and multiple visits to the hospital.  The suffering would have continued as I awaited the results of each test.  In the ER they run all the tests, you get results quickly, and I didn't have to miss work using my much coveted sick days.  It turns out, my potassium levels were basically bottomed out.  It also turns out, potassium is crazy important!!!  You learn something new everyday.  Sorry Chiquita, bananas are not enough in my case and I'm now functioning a bit better on potassium supplements.  

"I told her she must be able to smile to her sorrow because we are more than our sorrow."
-Thich Nhat Hahn

I've got a Cheshire Cat sized grin for you Thich.  The "treatment" I've received since my surgery to stop the growth of the remaining tumors is a medication called Sandostatin.  Here's why I'm smiling.....  I just read in multiple places Sandostatin does nothing to prevent the growth of tumors in cases like mine.  Essentially, the tumors in my liver have been left to their own will, virtually untouched over the past 8 months.  Each scan I've had has shown growth, and now there are new tumors.

Pause to smile more.

I was being injected with this drug on a monthly basis to stop the growth of my cancer on the guidance of my oncologists at Kaiser and Mayo - the renowned cancer clinic.  I trusted that was exactly what was happening.  The emphasis can be placed on was.  At first, I was receiving one injection but then it became two because the tumors were growing according to scans I had in the spring versus summer.  BUT, as I just read, there is no viable research on this.  I should have done my homework.  I failed but it will not happen again.  Smiling.  As I continued reading I found that this drug is used to treat diarrhea and flushing.   SO, I was being injected with something that stops me from getting red in the face, which is the definition of flushing (yeah I had to google that).  Grinning.  IN ADDITION, one of the side effects are symptoms of an an under-functioning thyroid - all of which are terrible.  The massive anxiety and fear I've been having is finally explained.  My hormones are all out of whack, another reason for the extreme terror and feelings of unease.  My puffy face.  Smile at my smile.  Because my face is so swollen, it's actually a bit painful to smile.  Also explained by the Sando side-effects:  my hair loss, irregular heart beats, and inability to think clearly.  Worst of all, the stiffness and swelling in my legs and joints - stripping me of my active life and the great love/guidance/therapy of yoga.  This medication also hinders the absorption of nutrients... my low levels of potassium maybe? 

BUT, I cannot be mad at doctors.   I refuse to sit around in huff while they are out driving their expensive cars and living in their mansions, courtesy of the pharmaceutical companies that charged me $5,000 for each shot I was given.  I will give no credence to the words of Dr. Mayo God,  evaporating them from my mind.  Instead it's go time.....  once again.   

I create my own reality.  My reality is these tumors are done.  Mid-September I made it through a full round of chemo and countdown to the next is one week.  Until then, it's living present in every moment of non-chemo days.

As I sit here in my I Heart October t-shirt, the tenth month of the year is looking pretty amazing.  I kinda want to sneak it a little kiss.  Life will be much more comfortable with the end of Sandostain, my paycheck restored to normal after months of deductions from the work I missed during surgery recovery, a new round of chemo blasts (this is not exactly exciting but if it shrinks tumors then it is what it is and I am powerful - plus I smile when I think of the chemo as a Care Bear Stare blasting the villain into oblivion, what can I say, I'm a child of the 80's), and maybe throw in a little fun too.  September, we're through.  Don't call.  Don't write.  I've got a hot date with October and its going to be goooooooood.

This post is for three of the lady loves of my life, who are undeservedly and unconditionally looking out for me:  the timeless Betsy, wonder-woman Sarah, and my wifey Shell.  I'm grateful for your acute power, dynamic laughter, untamed beauty, and astonishing wisdom.  You save me time and time again even when you don't know you are saving me.

My Cup of Tea

My brilliant sister put it best when she stated, "I was talking to some people recently and said, ‘Want to know the secret to life?  It’s gratitude.'"  Indeed, Sis.  Indeed.  I simply couldn’t be more grateful.   I think the expression goes, I could die of happiness.  Well, I’m going to live of happiness.  

I began typing this as I sat on a plane bound for Amsterdam.  Grateful.  I’ve always wanted to go to Amsterdam.  And I did.  I nearly cried as the plane took off and sat thanking God for all the gifts he’s bestowed upon me.  I teared up when my plane landed in Nepal, overwhelmed by gratitude, again, loving that I did something I've always wanted to.  And to think, just 6 years ago I could have never done something like this because I had a crippling fear of flying.  Now, I regularly gaze upwards and wish to be aboard the airplanes I see crisscrossing the skies.  Doesn’t matter where they're going. 

I’m truly grateful for ALL the blessings I’ve received.  Constantly thankful.  There are major things like the monumental love of countless people.  How loved I am.  How grateful I am to know it.   There are little things.  The front row on an airplane.  For a tall girl such as myself, this is Willy Wonka's Golden Ticket.  The aisle seat.  I can get up a zillion times, due to my water chugging habit, and not inconvenience the people around me.   Aboard Turkish Airlines we were served Turkish delight as soon as the attendants were allowed out of their seats.  An entire row to myself on my flight from Kathmandu to Istanbul.  The seven hour trek was cut down to nothing as I curled up and caught some much needed z’s utilizing the gifts given in a small travel pack from the stewardess containing socks, earplugs, and an eye cover.  It’s lazy days in bed reading, finding out my fave lunch spot is now open til 8:00 pm, iced green tea, walking in the park, always stopping to smell a rose. 

I left America on a mission to find myself.  I was going to travel alone to discover the answers to all my questions and reach enlightenment.  You are welcome to image a coo-coo clock sound effect.  Todd put it best when he said, “Lindsey, you’re trying to ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ your way around the world… but really you’re just traveling.”  So how does one find themselves?  And why do I continually think I must find myself?  Again, coo-coo clock sound effects.  Before my departure on this little journey, I had dinner with two of the most marvelous people I know, Trent and Vivek.  As we savored a Denver evening on the patio of my favorite restaurant, we talked about the power of prayer.  These two are not only friends but messengers as well.  So as my travels began, I prayed.  

My prayers were answered.  I connected with Honza, a Drahota living in Prague.  My heart instantly leapt with joy as I knew I’d discovered a kindred spirit and eternal friend.  His smile lights a room and the brightness of his spirit rivals the sun.  I think often of our short time together and eagerly await our reunion…. which will be soon.      

I prayed the night I found myself alone my hostel in Budapest.  I specifically booked this place because it promised 24-hour reception.  This is important for a girl traveling alone.  I was scared.  Next thing I know, the door swings open and in walks a very kind Russian who asks if I’d have a glass of champagne with him.  He explained it’s his last night, he’s catching a flight in a few hours and I agreed.  Thanks to Goggle Translate for some assistance, we had a lovely chat and upon his departure, the older Frenchman staying at the hostel returned.  Alone no more!  The next day I sat in the kitchen of that same hostel and in walk two Dutch travelers.  Together, we headed to the city square to watch World Cup matches with the masses.  Then we shared a bottle of wine in a park next to the Danube.  It was perfect.  And it just so happened they were also headed to Prague the next day.  

I found I don’t need to go half way around the world to know who I am.  I already know.  I completed all three “Eat, Pray, Love” parts in Prague/Budapest.  When I arrived in Kathmandu I stayed a few nights and left.  Because I can.  In Nepal I was, once again, alone.  My trust issues were at all time state of heightened awareness when I just couldn’t bare to put my life in stranger’s hands once again.  I used AirB&B to book 5 nights in Kathmandu.  When I arrived at my host’s home, he showed me my room and we took in the otherworldly views from his rooftop terrace.  We talked about his arranged marriage, politics, and Nepalese customs over a traditional meal handmade by his lovely wife.  My host's teacher friend stopped by to share our meal and once again, I was headed to see a school.  This happens in nearly all the countries I visit.  After spending the next morning in school, where the children were very happy and focused on their studies, we took his scooter to see some sights.  We had lunch in Thamel and I did a little shopping.  During our conversations he talked about moving to Europe and asked if I’d visit.  I answered sure, it was a sunny day and I was having fun.  At out next stop, The Monkey Temple, things got weird.  He chuckled to himself and when I inquired as to why, "I told them you are my wife."  They would give me better prices he explained and I laughed because it seemed to be working.  When he moved a little too close and asked if I liked being called his wife, I no longer cared about making purchases.  I requested a ride back to where I was staying and hopped a flight to Amsterdam the following morning. 

My summer trip around the world was cut short.  About ten days into my holiday, I received an email from Mom informing me there was to be an impromptu Drahota family reunion.  Everyone knew I was traveling and it was understood if I couldn't come.  My immediate response was:  I will be there.  Family first.  This is one of the reasons for my trek to Prague, to see where I hailed from and learn about my roots.  We found out about my aunt’s cancer just days before leaving.  So one July morning, I awoke in Amsterdam and around midnight that same day I landed in Omaha.  Imagine my excitement.  But the truth of matter is:  it’s people I want and need.  

My time spent in other parts of the world and my homelands of Nebraska and the Czech Republic completely revived me.  Before I left Denver, I was Eeyore about everything.  I felt sorry for myself, sad, and a bit hopeless.  After my trip, spending several days with my family, and weekend in the mountains with my friends, I feel alive again.  The look on my cousin Alicia's face alone was totally worth it.  Being four days apart, we have celebrated our birthdays together every year of our lives.  This year we wouldn't have that opportunity... or so she thought.  When I decided to come home early, I conspired to surprise her.  She had no idea.  I loved it! 

While I really love looking around other countries, the answers I seek will not be found there.  What I will find is fascinating people, scrumptious food, rich culture, compelling history, and more.  Every country I visit provides me with the oxygen I need for my lungs.  I inherit new knowledge and grow.  I find peace.  It is an addiction of the purest kind.  To "find" me I must look inward.  I look to myself and to those around me.  I am my friends.  I am my family.  I am Drahota.  I'm my grandfather.  The man I have yet to meet. The man who sat on the curb next to his demolished vehicle and said, when approached by paramedics for help,  "There are kids in the other car, go check on them."  This act claimed his life.  This act brought beauty to the world.  Here I sit half a century later, having heard this story for the first time, and have a new hero.  Drahota pride further etched into my heart as the same blood of this man flows through my veins.

I was instructed by my aunt to continue traveling this world.  That is exactly what I intend to do.  Her light and love surrounds the globe, thriving in our hearts.  We gently close our eyes, grin to ourselves and feel her warmth every time the thoughts of her constant, ever-present smile come to mind.... And it appears often.  Her smile illuminates and diffuses delight to anyone within her presence.  

For Marge

À la carte

Better late than never!  I'm finally traveling a bit!  I should have done all of this in my 20's but it never really crossed my mind.  Now, it's all I can think of.  The list of the places I want to visit grows by the moment.  I'm fairly certain Australia/New Zealand is up next (Abby).  Followed by Amsterdam (Sarah/Dick).  Then France, where I'll soon have a place to stay (Susan).  While in France I want hit Spain and Portugal.  The Mediterranean (Jenn).  Costa Rica (Bets/Jos/Todd).  Thailand (Shelley).  Israel (myself).  I guess I'll stop now before I list every country in the world, which is the ultimate goal.  Who's in?!??!!

The purpose of my travel holds great meaning for me.  Last summer I was able to stay in Turkey for a month and it was magical.  I learned and grew in ways I can't describe nor could have imagined before my trip.  This summer I've chosen Prague and the Czech Republic, the homeland of my ancestors.  Today, I walked among grave stones marked in the 1800's with Drahota and Drahotova (the feminine Czech version of Drahota).

I met Jan Drahota, a resident of Prague and relative, on Facebook.  What I found in person was a beautiful human with a compassionate heart and delightful soul.  He eagerly responded to my message about meeting while I was in Prague.  Jan introduce me to his elegant and captivating girlfriend, Lenka, took me a music festival and out to dinner (two of my favorite things!)  His generosity didn't stop there.  The following day we drove to the Czech countryside.  About 30 km outside of Prague we came to a very small village, Radlice.  We hopped a fence and wandered around a farm once owned by the Drahota family for many generations.  He spent time there as a child while it was under the ownership of his great aunt.  We then strolled through the fields my family had farmed for generations.  I've stood where my ancestors stood.  I've laid my eyes upon the same Czech countryside they tended.  It's remarkable.  It's unexplainable.  It's gratifying.

In the next village over, Horní Kruty, we walked through a cemetery.  The unnamed cemetery, which has long since been paid any attention and left to the overgrowth of weeds, sits in the shadow of an equally neglected and abandoned church.  It possesses the remains of several people named Drahota and Drahotova.  Words can't do it justice.  Quite an experience to walk among these ruins and see my name, Drahota, everywhere.

As I strolled along, taking a few more pictures, Jan heard some voices and stopped to ask the locals about "Drahota."  What he encountered was a gasp and the expression of someone completely overwhelmed by emotion.  The woman we met is a local teacher (!) and has a special of love of Drahota.  She explained to Jan, and he translated for me, his close relative had saved her life as a young child!  When she was very small, she nearly drowned but Jan's aunt came to her rescue.  She LOVED the Drahotas and told remembrances of them from her younger years.  Sadly, there are no longer any Drahotas living in the area.  She was kind enough to show me around the school.  It was a small, country school of only 21 students and 3 teachers.  I loved every moment.  

In order to afford this little venture, I'm staying in hostels.  In my early twenties, hostels would have been my Disneyland.  Late nights, partying, craziness.  Now that I'm a teensy bit older I recognize how I enjoy having my own space.  So, I splurged and booked a hotel room for two nights.  I'd like to sleep without college kids coming in at 2 am or waking to slamming doors at 7 am.  Oddly, I've observed contrary to our reputation, Americans are not the loudest, most obnoxious people here.  In my opinion.

I fail to understand how the "kids" I'm meeting have traveled so much.  How did I miss this part of life???  (I'm working hard to catch up!)  These college grads/under-grads speak of the numerous places they've been and I'm perplexed.  How do they have the funds to travel at such a young age?  I cashed in my retirement from 4 years of teaching in Nebraska in order to make this trip.  Also interesting:  they stay for a few days and then move on.  How do you grasp a sense of a city/country's history and culture from two nights of clubbing?  The major purchases I've made so far are books.  I can't get enough of the antiquity of this place.  Where I'll put these books is anyone's guess as I don't have a lot of space in my luggage.  Perhaps traveling later in life is better.....  Perhaps I should be reading these books so I can leave them behind.....  The seven-hour train ride to Budapest tomorrow should give me ample time.

I simply can't get over how British people speak.  I'm mesmerized.  Perhaps this is my grandmother Yvonne's influence.  I'm told she loved British humor and the the maternal side of my family is British.  My bag was rejected at London Heathrow Airport security and the guy searching it said 'lovely' at least 12 times making the experience enjoyable.  He then seemed genuinely sad to take my sunscreen because it was just over the legal size.  I was genuinely sad because it was organic and now I have to use some chemical-filled crap from the market (yes, I'm that girl now - you still have to love me).  He basically insisted I use some before he threw it away but I wasn't in need of sunscreen at the moment.... as I was about to board a plane.  Nice chap.  I think the next place I'll live is London.

I find it ridiculous my suitcase was searched because of sunscreen...  not the large bag of syringes I'm carrying.  I feel like if someone was going to do some harm, syringes would be a more likely source than sunscreen.  But I could be wrong.  Cancer travelers, at least this one, have the privilege of carrying mass amounts of medication.  AND I still got everything into one carryon suitcase and a backpack!  I'm extremely proud of this accomplishment.  Of course I've learned to pack smart.  I have socks, t-shirts, and undergarments that can/will all be thrown away during the course of my travels, creating space for anything I buy:  i.e. scarves.  I gave poor Trent "scarfatigue" (his term and my source of much laughter) in Turkey last summer.  I actually did make a scarf purchase about 3 hours after landing.... this couldn't be helped, it was chilly!

Traveling alone is interesting.  It is fun and freeing.  It is lonely.  Ying and yang, as with all things I suppose.  I very much enjoy doing whatever I want.  It would be nice to do what I want with someone.  My stay in Prague, already amazing, dramatically improved upon meeting Jan.  I thank God for sending me this wonderful messenger, family member, and friend.

I'm beyond humbled and immeasurably grateful.

For Honza

As Cool As a Cucumber

I'm green with envy.  And about to rant.  Hold on tight.

I'm jealous of the Hulk.  I wish I could turn into a giant green beast and tear some sh*t up when I get mad.  Because I'm f*ucking mad and there is nothing I can do about it. *

I hate cancer.  HATE. IT. **

If I had my way, and I don't like it when I don't get my way, I would Green Mile inhale everyone's diseases and exhale them into the atmosphere.  No one should have go through this.  I thought I had everyone covered.  I mean, what are the odds that anyone around me would also have cancer.  Pain-stakingly, I have learned of another person close to me with a cancer diagnosis.  NO!  No No No NO NO NO NO NO NO NO!  I envision RAGING with Hulk-caliber strength - transforming into a giant with bulging muscles that will aid me as I savagely tear through every bit of my current surroundings.... and then some.  I'm SO MAD!  Words no longer convey my emotions so I primordially growl with Jurassic Park pitches which blow back your hair.  I want to do the damage I know cancer is unjustifiably inflicting upon another person's life.  The intense pain, constant trips to the hospital, stress of medical bills, the anguish of loved ones watching on, mortality staring you down.  It's NOT okay and it's NOT fair.  

Of course there have been times before I was "sick" when I heard about such things but they register on a whole new plane of emotions now.  (In case that wasn't obvious.)  I've now walked that path and it simply shouldn't be allowed to exist.  But it does.  

Why is that?  Begin second, purposefully shorter, rant.  Cancer is big business.  Especially in the US.  I continually read about people seeking treatment overseas and there is a reason for this.  Elsewhere the FDA hasn't banned everything non-pill form so pharmaceutical companies' CEOs can continue to drive cars that cost more than annual salary and roll around in money Indecent Proposal style.  Anyone else see a problem with this?  End short rant.  See, that wasn't so bad.

Deep breaths.  Deep breaths.

My latest blood work revealed I'm STILL anemic.  This explains my fatigue and moodiness.  So, my vegan days are on hold for bit as I take in some iron.  Oh steak, how I've missed thee... let me count the ways.  My doctor recommended some pills of course, but that's not how I roll.  I immediately took to researching foods containing iron.  If there is a pill that will do something there is most certainly a natural way.  Meat is high on the iron-rich foods list.  Congrats steak, you're back in!  Not just any steak, mind you; organically (if possible) grass-fed beef.  Oysters, cherished with all my heart, also made the list as well as some of my normal bunny food like spinach.  Fortunately, all works well with the diet I'm trying which is a high fat, low carb way of eating called the Ketogenic diet.  It's shown great results for epilepsy and other diseases and research shows it's a great cancer fighter.   The premise is to essentially starve the cancer cells of the glucose they need to thrive and provide support for the mitochondrial respiration process in healthy tissues.   Trying a new diet is non-toxic.  When my glucose and blood sugar is lowered, normal cells can switch to burring ketone bodies for fuel while cancer cells are starved of the glucose they need to grow.  Makes sense to me.
Foods high in good fat are eggs, avocados, salmon and almonds, to name a few.  Plus my daily dose of leaves.  All carbs, even gluten free, are gone.  As I've recommended, read Wheat Belly.  You'll be running from anything made with "wheat" as I am.  Great read. 

Speaking of books/random side note: I'm absolutely loving The Gifts of Imperfection by Brené Brown. This is the second book of hers I've read and it's magnificent.  I devoured Daring Greatly on a four-hour flight from Denv to NYC and packed I Thought It Was Just Me for my summer reading.  Her messages of loving yourself, finding true joy and not just fleeting happiness, settling into your emotions instead of avoiding them (Hulk-raging?), and allowing yourself to be imperfect are beautiful, enlightening, and soul-changing.  

Another book I'm obsessed with is The Buddha Walked Into A Bar... A Guide to Life for a New Generation.  This book isn't solely for people interested in Buddism.  Lodro Rinzler's writing is light and inviting, putting the splendor of Buddism into easily understood language.  It has many of the same messages Brené brings to the table such as being easy on yourself, the art of forgiveness, and loving those who have wronged you.  It's sublime and grand all at once. 

Okay... rant(s) complete(ish) for now.  Instead of a Hulk transformation, I'll take the peaceful path and offer my unceasing services to the person mentioned in this post and ALL who are, as I am, working through this muck-filled cancer world.  How can I help?  A hug.  A book.  A shoulder.  An ear.  Advice.  I've been where you are and I'll be right by you in person or essence. 

*Please excuse my language. This blog is typically and purposefully PG-rated.  It couldn't be helped in this instance. I beg of your pardon.

** This attitude is a bit different than my previous post.  As I explained then, I shift in moods like the tides.  It's the Cancer in me (zodiac Cancer)

Soul Food

Happy Anniversary to me!!!  Party time!  Excellent!

Party on Wayne.  Party on Garth.

May 2, 2014 marked the one year anniversary of finding out I have cancer.  Party on Lins.

I am healing.  I have transformed my mind, soul, energy, essence, person.

"I am not what has happened to me.  I am what I choose to become."  - Carl Jung

Sometimes I'm so full of sorrow I gasp for breath, clutching anything to retain my balance as the remaining fragments of my heart collapse into one another.  My anguish-satitated chest forgetting the innate processes it's conducted since my conception.   Then, my ever-swinging life pendulum makes it's way in the opposite direction and I'm riddled with conflict as my mind ponders, over and over, a phrase bubbling up time and time again:  having cancer has opened my eyes, opened doors, opened my heart, opened the universe to me.  How pissed am I supposed to be?  For how long?  What if I'm not pissed?  What if I am?  What if it is what it is and I'm okay with that?  What if some days I'm so massively NOT okay I could tear my skin from its bones while my screams penetrate the Earth's core?  What if some days I rejoice because I no longer think and feel how I used to and revel in my own transformation?

Cancer has changed everything.  Every.  Single.  Thing.  I'm living in a bubble.  A rainbow-reflection filled, translucent bubble.  Bubbles are permeable:  people, energy, love come and go.  Sometimes my bubble is clouded.  Sometimes it's dazzling.  Bubbles create more bubbles and spread....

"She didn't try to change the world.  She changed herself and world rose up to meet her."
- Unknown

I'm still me but a new and vastly improved version of me.  My focus has changed.  I used to fixate on things I didn't have.  I now relish in what I do have, EVEN if it's the smallest of things.  When I start to feel sad or down, I immediately think of at least three things I'm grateful for.  My friends... my friends.... my thousands and thousands of friends.  My HUGE family.  Lola.  I am grateful to have such an adorable, cuddly, fat companion.  Sunshine, a day in the park, mountain getaways, walking, Brown, my Wash Park apartment, traveling, green tea, sunshine, yoga, beets....  It's so easy!   Instantly, my mood improves.  I've learned I can and will have an amazing day/week/month just by telling myself so.  I go to bed saying, "Tomorrow will be a good day."  And wake up saying, "Today will be a good day."
And it is.

When I'm stressed about plans working out or something going well, I calm myself by thinking, "Everything will work out."  And it does.

I am learning to love myself and forgive myself.  The body works in such wondrous/mysterious ways.  In the book Anatomy of the Spirit, Dr. Myss' explains how every illness corresponds to a pattern of emotional and psychological stresses, beliefs, and attitudes that have influenced corresponding areas of the human body.  Our emotions and experiences become part of our DNA.  Harboring guilt, shame, resentment towards others and myself is just as toxic as eating McDonalds everyday or smoking 2 packs a day.  Your body is the vessel you're commanding while sailing the great ocean known as life.  Just as ships do not stay pristine their entire lives, nor do our human forms.  Ocean crafts undergo heavy wear;  have dents, bruises, battering and even barnacles- things that have attached themselves for life.  It's so important to be active in creating a safe environment for your body to thrive.  This includes loving yourself and being easy on yourself.

I've learned I'm an introvert, not extremely socially awkward as I'd believed for years.  This has helped with understanding how I used alcohol to ease the discomfort of social situations I didn't have the "energy" for.  This revelation has improved my life dramatically.  Introverts aren't weirdos who hate socializing and stand in the corner during parties.  We're weirdos who need alone time to recharge our "energy."  Extroverts need to be around people to recharge.  According to an amazing book I read called The Intorvert Advantage, by Marti Olsen Laney, Psy.D., introverts only make up around 25% of the population and our society is geared towards extroverts.  Naturally, we're going to feel like something is wrong with us given the situation we live in.  As with all things, there is a spectrum.  This is true for introversion and extroversion.  At any given moment or day, I (and any/all introverts around the world) can land on the spectrum from must-lock-myself-away-couldn't-deal-with-another-person introversion to I-must-chat-with-my-friends-over-a-glass-of-wine-or-I-will-shrivel-up-and-blow-away extroversion.  Comprehending this epiphany contributes to my health greatly.  I now say "No, I just need to be home," when my batteries are drained and I need to recharge.

I have to be careful to paint an honest picture.  I certainly don't walk on golden beams while doves tie silk ribbons in my hair everyday.  I cherish the days it feels so but other days are nothing like a Disney movie.  A few weekends ago, for example, could have been a disaster.  Instead, I choose to make it great...

"I get by with a little help from my friends."  - The Beatles

My usual response to cancer bad news is:  hold up in my house, cry, sleep, cry, read, sleep and emerge 48 hours later feeling vise-pressed before finally breaking the news to friends and family.  This time though, I took a different approach.  Friday night, when my dysfunctional brain cells began to creep thoughts of canceling all plans and heading to my "Lindsey-received-bad-news-hidey-hole," I ignored them.  I drove to my nearly aborted yoga class and remembered why this is my drug of choice.  I followed my emotional cleanse with just a tiny bit of retail therapy, then dinner and dancing with Diane, Amy, and Carly (and their signifiant others).  Edgewater Live brightened the evening as we jammed along with the fellas while they rocked for a good cause.  Saturday, a splendid, sunny, Denver morning, began with coffee on the patio of Stella's with Sarah and Ashley.  I was touched with kismet on my way to the coffee shop, spotting several bikes for sale at a yard sale.  I've been saying how I want a bike and behold!  My wishes were granted.  For a mere seventy American dollars I procured said bicycle, winning the prized possession just in the knick of time.  Earlier, the kind gentleman placed the bike aside for me under the pretense I'd return with greenbacks (I never have cash on me) at the conclusion of my coffee date.  "There is she is!" he exclaimed as I approached, dough in hand.  My bike nearly went to the the open-mouthed, awestruck, and indignant women standing there as I wheeled away my new accessory.  They were certain I wasn't returning... but return I did!

Following my bike purchase I walked around the park a few times and then laid out a blanket to relax.  While the sun drenched my skin in vitamin D, I streamed a yoga podcast to my phone and found my inner peace.  An exquisite day.

I digressed just a bit there and you may be wondering what is the "cancer bad news" I mentioned.  Three days after my meeting with Dr. Eadens, he called with the results of my blood work and MRI.  Ideally, he would have had these results to discuss at my appointment but Kaiser isn't known for being that on top of things.  I don't blame Señior Eadens for how this went down, but I can (and will) make a few suggestions.  First, please don't call me at 6:30 in the evening when you're already out of the office.  I can't return your call.  Second, don't leave a cryptic message, "I've received the results of your gastrin levels and MRI and I want to talk to you about them."  This is not helpful to my state of well-being... to say the least.  That night I tried everything I could think of to calm down-- hot shower, tea, Lola cuddles.  I managed to maintain minimal freak-out mode, sliced my finger open while juicing beets, and returned his call the next day at lunch.

The MRI showed growth in some of the tumors.  One of the tumors grew by half a centimeter and two of them grew by a full centimeter.  There are no new tumors WHICH IS STUPENDOUS.  My gastrin level, the tumor marker we've used as a progress monitor, doubled since my previous blood tests in February.  Although it is far below the highest of close to 5,000, it's still concerning.  As I said, gastrin is the hormone my hormone-secreting neuroendocrine tumors produce.  A normal humans' gastrin level is below 100.  Mine is currently 628, doubled from my post-surgery 300 range.

When the injections of octreotide began, we started at the lowest dose.  Double the flavor, double the fun.  I received my monthly injection at the beginning of May so I went back a week later for another one.  Next month the dose will be doubled.  I'll have another scan and blood work first thing in August and we'll see what those little suckers were up to this summer.

"The pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity.  The optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty."  -Winston Churchill

Drahota Lives is becoming a nonprofit foundation.  I'm currently drafting our mission statement and devising the business model.  The love shall spread as we hold another "big party" and so much more.  The magnitude of love showered upon me is so great I couldn't possibly govern it all.  It will pass though me/Drahota Lives to others in need.  Stand by for more info on this little project of mine as I get things up and running.  You may be on hold for a bit as I'm traveling this summer and a horrid procrastinator.  In my mind, everything is already up and running.

I am looking at a rainbow spanning the sky as I sit here typing about this amazing day.  I swear I'm not making this up.

Sugar and Spice and Everything Nice

As it turns out, I'm not as interesting or funny in person as in text.

(Perhaps I'm neither of these things in text either.)

In the past week, I eagerly ran around blabbing how I was going to create a video post for my next blog entry.  I was super excited to catch up with every tween on the planet who regularly posts on YouTube.  I geeked out over Spring Break, went to the Apple store, and learned how to make movies.  But, my recording was so lame even I was bored with myself.

Preparing to record I was so bonkers I knocked over my favorite plant, killing yet another jade tree, anxiety-ate my weight in granola, sweated for the first time in ages (I'm always freezing) and adjusted everything 4 zillion times.  All so I could sit alone in my home and talk to my computer.  All of which could and would eventually be edited.  I'm such a weirdo.  Alright then, Universe, I will write.... not utilize my newly-acquired iMovie skills.  The Universe (or God or Allah or Buddha, whatever you prefer) has been telling me lots as of late, most of which you'll read below.  All of it was recorded but I'll spare you thirty minutes of yawning through my lame vid.  I plan to edit and spruce up my recording so it may appear here someday.  But not yet (or ever).

Before I begin all the granola-eating hippy talk, I'll give you a quick run down about what is happening with the little fellas residing in my liver.  Half a dozen tumors remain.  I'm receiving monthly injections of Octreotide aka Sandostatin.  This lovely shot is administered at the hospital via large needle to my back side.  I treat myself to vegan ice cream in a gluten free cone at Sweet Action Ice Cream Shop - my FAVE- after these special hospital visits.  If this medication does as it's supposed to, the tumors will not grow any further.  The chip on my shoulder comes from the fact it doesn't shrink or eliminate cancer, just keeps it from growing.  Personally, I'm done with cancer, ready for it to be gone, brush off my shoulder and be on my merry way.  

I will have an MRI in May to compare with the MRI from February taken at my 6 week post-surgery check up.  Tumor growth will be monitored every two months.  If there isn't growth or change, we stick with the injections, pun intended (wink).  If there is change or growth in the tumors, the plan will change at that time.

The good news is I'm feeling pretty great.  I have an addiction and it's called YOGA.  For a few weeks now, I've been able to regularly attend yoga classes of all kinds and my body loves it.  Almost as equally exciting, I went for a walk in the park recently and decided to try running.  Ready for this?  I was actually able to jog for about 3 minutes!  Yay!  Me!  I'm continuing acupuncture, of course, my other drug of choice.  In fact, as I sit here composing this non-video post, I just ate an amazing organic, gluten-free sandwich and drank a veggie juice at another of my FAVE places, Parsley, following acupuncture which was preceded by early morning yoga.  Ahhh, yeah.

Just a year ago I knew very little about what I was putting in my body.  A lot can change in a short amount of time.  Now, people are coming to me for advice about being vegetarian, gluten-free, and what herbal supplements to use.  Sadly, I'm grossly under-qualified to answer anyone's questions about diet and nutrition... but I can tell you what I'm up to.  This is my blog after all (wink).  Prepare yourself for an adventure!  You're about to go on a journey through the time continuum of my eating habits.  It's like Space Mountain at Disney World, except not fun or exciting.  However, you could wear Mickey ears while reading this and sit in the sauna to simulate Florida weather.

Juicing, smoothies, supplements, and changes in my diet are ways for me to take care of my body and ailments as naturally as possible.  Western doctors were making it rain pills.  I went to the doctor for help with digestion, but that Rx caused headaches, so I was given a prescription for headaches... which came with another set of side effects for which I received more pills.... and so on and so forth....  No thank you.  There is a time and place for pills and I'm not Rx free by any means.  I'm merely looking for balance.

Warning:  hippy talk about to commence, if you're interested, please continue reading.  If not, check ya later, man.  Peace and love.

I eat organically as much as possible.  Someday I'll grow my own food but until then, I'm at the mercy of Whole Foods.  I think about the bombardment of chemicals my body endured for nearly 30 years and it's a wonder I've made it this long.  (Actually, it's a wonder I've made it this long not just because of how I used to eat.)  Processed foods are not good.  I avoid them as much as possible.  Our bodies are not designed to digest them.  I think I only ate processed foods during my college years.... If you've never had Amigo's Mexi-fries at 2 am, you haven't lived.  In the years that followed, we all heard the negative effects of processed foods and I cut down some.  Now, I've almost completely cut out all processed foods.  Yay!  Me!  I'm not going to beat myself up when I want some fries, but I certainly won't be pulling into a McDonald's drive-thru to get them.

I've been vegetarian for years but moved further towards vegan on the spectrum, giving up diary and eggs.  Milk has been out of my life for many years, it's weird being a member of the only species to drink the milk of another species.  Looking to become vegetarian or vegan?  I'd recommend reading The China Study.  It's a great guide to all things nutrition and gives lots of info about plant-based diets (such as mine when I'm not at oyster happy hour.)  I can't help but have sea food from time to time.  It's so delicious.  But it also freaks me out sometimes.  Again, I'm weird.

I'm fairly new to juicing and it pretty much rocks my world.  Juicing is exactly what it sounds like:  you take a bunch of steroids.  Oh wait, that's the OTHER kind of juicing.  Right right, I'm not Lance Armstrong.  I was confused for a second.  Besides, my wrist bands are WAY cooler.  (Love you, cuz!)  I was turned on to juicing by Shelley and Lyndsey.  Juicing is taking the fruits and veggies you love and making them into juice (thank you Captain Obvious).  This is an excellent way to get nutrition without having to Bugs Bunny-munch carrots all day.  My favorite recipe right now is celery, apples, ginger, and lemon.  My hands and feet were swelling after surgery so I looked into it;  celery is a natural way to reduce swelling so there are stringy, green bits a-flying when my juicer is powered up.  In the beginning I was a wild woman juicing kale, cucumber, celery, apple, carrot, lemon, and ginger.  I've toned it down a little.  Since I'm notoriously late everywhere I go, I juice a ton of fruit/veggies in the beginning of the week and put it in a large pitcher.  Throughout the week I fill up a water bottle as I'm sprinting out the door on my way to work and alakzam! I have nutrition for my day.

Smoothies started when Betsy bought me a Nutribullet.  Best.  Present.  Ever.  In a (brief) moment of genius, I realized I should use the pulp from my juicing endeavors in my smoothies.  My current smoothie recipe includes apple and celery/lemon/ginger pulp, frozen berries, maca powder (this is the ginseng of South America), goji berries, almonds, pumpkin seeds, and wheatgrass.  After blending, I usually add some vanilla flaxseed milk for flavor, B-12 and astragalus for its supreme immune bolstering plus so much more.  All organic, of course.

Short and simple:  squeeze a lemon in your water.  Switch to green tea instead of coffee.  Green tea has about one fourth of the caffeine of coffee so you still get a little kick but it won't dehydrate you like coffee does.  Plus, it's badass.

I'm sure you've picked up on my gluten-free vibe by now, even though I'm so subtle about it.  I have what's known in the GF World as an "intolerance."  I'm not full on Celiac.  I can eat foods from kitchens with cross-contamination and a little bit of gluten usually doesn't bother me greatly.  If I were to eat, say, a piece of bread though, it's a different story.  The misery that ensues is pretty intense.  If you've never experienced "basketball tummy" you're a fortunate human being.  It's exactly what it sounds like:  you've swallowed a basketball which gives you the look of being 6 months pregnant and sticks around for at least 48 hours.  During these lovely 48 hours, you're not hungry at all.... but your brain tells you to eat because that's what humans do to remain living.  So, you make food or order dinner and try a bite.... only to become completely satiated after two forkfulls.  If I were a spy captured by the Russians, this is how they'd get me to break.

Gluten-free can be tricksey.  When I first started eating this way, I assumed I was doomed to the life of a bunny as salad seemed like my only option.  This is not true.  I'm fortunate to live in an urban setting where I have many options for grocery shopping and restaurants.  If you do not have this luxury, good luck to you.  Just kidding!  My experience is mostly trial and error.  I've done some research and found what works for me.  I joke about being a "granola-eating hippy," but seriously, granola is delicious.  I love granola.  Especially Boulder Granola but also Kind Granola, which is more wildly sold.  Eat it as a snack on the go or pour some almond or flaxseed milk over it for a yummy breakfast/lunch/dinner.  You can use rice flour for baking anything your heart desires such as bread or cupcakes... ummmm... cupcakes.  Quinoa and couscous are gluten free.  Both can be made with some veggies for a delicious meal or side dish.  I'm spoiled because my mama makes me bowls of quinoa with veggies and all I have to do is heat them up.  I'd recommend reading Wheat Belly for actual expert insight on this topic.

Make your own protein bars, or get my dad to make them!  He's a pro!  (He also makes homemade puppy treats so hit him up for some of those, too.  Fido will thank you.)  Homemade protein bar recipe musts-haves:  oats (gluten-free if you'd like), peanut butter, and almonds or any kind of nut (sometimes you feel like a nut, sometimes you don't).  Add a natural sweetener like maple syrup or honey - if it's from the region where you live, it can help you build an immunity to local pollens which helps with allergies.  Other ingredients to toss in:  chia seeds for fiber, flax seeds for Omegas, maca powder for energy and balance, coconut oil for thousands of reasons, dark chocolate just because it's amazing and also these reasons.  The world is your oyster here (be careful if you see me coming at you with some horseradish), add whatever you'd like.  Gluten-free?  Yes.  Organic?  Yes.  Chocolatey?  Yes.  Fruity?  Yes.

As previously stated, I'm not an expert.  I've been listening to my body and obeying it's orders.  The first time in my life I'm obeyed orders... and they were given by me.  Go figure.

Take a moment.  Listen to your body.  What is it telling you?