Blog Archives - The Funny Thing About Cancer
 
That's the sound of me falling off the wagon.

The Crazy, Sexy Diet wagon.

I was doing so well.  Then I went to visit family.  And family came to visit me.  And there are only so many ways you can make salads before your guests go "seriously, stop it with the salads!!!"  OK my sister in law didn't actually say that... but I felt bad offering her nothing but lettuce during her stay.  Especially since she's been helping out getting some home improvement projects done.

Somehow in my head, good, hearty food is a better payment than leafy greens.

Or maybe I was just craving junk food so I'm using my sister in law as an excuse.... maybe...

So I'm relishing a few days break from my diet.  I'm sitting here drinking coffee, eating a sugar laden muffin and avoiding vegetable juice for a day or two. 

And to be honest... it's almost orgasmic.  I'd forgotten how good coffee can taste.  Although after 2 weeks without caffiene, a LARGE coffee was probably a poor decision.  Since I now feel like I should run around my office at least 4 or 5 times to get out some of this energy!!!!! 

WOOOOOOOOOOOOOHHHHHHHOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

I might have to write another blog this afternoon when I crash from this caffiene high... but for now I'm just going to enjoy myself :)

Why does being bad always feel so good?!?!?!
 
Warning:  I'm about to get all scientific on y'all.  So strap on your thinking caps before reading this blog. 

How often have you thought about your body's pH?

If you just said "never", then you're totally normal.  I never once gave my body's pH balance a single thought.  pH balance was some catch phrase I heard in deoderant commercials.  But I never gave a single thought to the fact that my body had it's own pH and what that might mean for my health.

Just in case you forget what pH means, here's a little refresher.  pH actually means "potential Hydrogen".  Basically what it's measuring is how many Hydrogen ions are in a solution.  But this is better known as a measure of acidity.  pH is measured on a scale from 0 (acidic) to 14 (alkaline).  7 is considered neutral.  Water is neutral.

So what does this have to do with health?  Well, our body is designed for a very narrow pH window.  Ideally, our blood pH should be at about 7.365.  So, we should be slightly on the alkaline side of things.  That is where our body operates at it's best.

When we deviate from this number and veer into more acidic territory, our body starts to get a little upset with us.  Many, many, many chronic illnesses have been traced back to acidosis (being too acidic).  Here are a few: heartburn, eczema, arthritis, chronic fatigue, irritable bowel syndrome, auto-immune diseases, AND possibly cancer.

I know.  I thought the same thing.  Being acidic can make me have cancer?  You have GOT to be kidding!  I thought cancer was simply cells that grow out of control!  Well, back in 1933 a scientist named Otto Warburg was awarded the Nobel Prize for discovering that cancer thrives in an anaerobic environment.  English translation: the less oxygen in your system, the friendlier it is to cancer. 

Or otherwise stated: healthy cells grow well in an environment with lots of oxygen and cancer cells grow really well in an environment with less oxygen.

OK.  Now for the hard part.  Drawing the line of logic from Dr. Warburg's discovery to your body's pH levels. 

We all know that our body is made up largely of water, yes?  Above, I also pointed out that water is neutral (pH of 7) and has a chemical signature of H20.  This means 2 hydrogen molecules for every 1 oxygen molecule and could be otherwise written as HOH.  Water breaks down into H (hydrogen) and OH (oxygen+hydrogen).  In very simple terms, an acidic environment contains more H than OH, thus it has less oxygen.  An alkaline environment contains more OH than H, and therefore has more oxygen.

So, if cancer thrives in an environment where oxygen levels are low, it would thrive in an acidic environment.

Confused?  I hope not.

So assuming you're still with me, we've figured out that an acidic environment means lower oxygen levels in your blood.  And this, in turn, means a nice comfy home for cancer to grow in.

I'm hoping your next question is "Cynthia, what makes my body acidic?"

Well, there are lots of things that can contribute to this.  Stress, lack of exercise, drugs, cigarettes, anger... and food!

Food is a major contributor to our body's pH levels.  Foods like sugar, alcohol, meat, and dairy are all acidic foods.  Veggies and whole grains are generally alkaline.  So think about the normal American's diet.  We eat eggs, toast and bacon for breakfast (unless you're eating multigrain toast, this is all acidic).  Then for lunch, we get a burger and fries and a soda (again, all acidic).  Dinner might consist of a meat (acidic), a starch (probably acidic) and maybe a side salad (alkaline).  We feed our bodies acidic foods ALL DAY LONG!

And by "we", I really mean "me".  I ate that diet every day of my life.  Vegetables generally don't touch my plate.  Even when I would go on a "health kick", what I really meant was "low calorie".  I'd eat fish and brown rice.  Or chicken and whole grain pasta.  I had some of the basics there with my whole grains, but I completely ignored vegetables. 

For the last 18 months years of my life, being a full time working "solo parent" with little time to cook, I have done nothing but eat junk.  I'm sure my body was like the luxury, 6000+ square foot apartment in Times Square for cancer.  It was cancer's dream home.  Throw in my family's genetic pre-disposition for cancer and it's no wonder I'm 30 years old and a cancer survivor.

So, in the interest of continued good health and making my body as undesirable for cancer as possible, I'm makin' some changes 'round here. 

Step 1 was to get rid of coffee and soda.  So far, I've been doing pretty well.  I've cut back severely, but I won't lie and say I've eliminated it completely.  I'm looking to the long term and know if I don't indulge occasionally, I will never be able to stick with this.

Stop 2 was to decrease my alcohol intake.  But since alcohol and chemo didn't mix for me, this wasn't much of a change.

Step 3 has been to introduce more vegetables into my daily diet.  I've started eating at least 1 salad a day for a meal.  I've also started juicing (juicing vegetables, not taking steroids).  I'll write a blog soon about juicing because it's been... ummm... interesting.

My next step will be cutting back on sugar.  So stay tuned for that amazing and fascinating blog that talks about sugar and cancer... seriously, it's riveting stuff.  And it might be the step that causes me to lose my mind... because sugar and I are like peanut butter and jelly, we're meant to be together.

*sigh*  No pain, no gain, right?  RIGHT!?!
 
OK, so maybe saying I'm like a super model is kind of like comparing vanilla pudding to creme brule.

BUT, here is what I mean.  You know how you look at models in magazines and think, they are SO BEAUTIFUL!  And then you remind yourself that they actually have a team of professionals that make them that beautiful?

Here's an example:
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That's Tyra before and after makeup.  Before, she's cute.  After, she's stunning.

Being a cancer patient is kind of like that.  The other day Chris and I went out on a date.  My eyebrows are thin, my eyelashes fell out, I have no hair... so I had a little work to do.

First I put on my make up and darkened my eyebrows, then came the fake eyelashes... and then the fake hair.  And suddenly I looked like a normal girl again!  And I thought to myself, this must be how those supermodels feel.  You sit down in a chair looking pretty and 2 hours, lots of fake hair and makeup later, you're a knockout!

Here's an example of my transformation (excuse the lousy photography):
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Just goes to show that with alot of make up and some fake hair, just about anyone can go from drab to fab! :)
 
Seriously.  I feel like I'm currently smuggling baseballs in my bra.

Well... I haven't worn a bra in 3 weeks, so I guess that statement isn't quite right, but you know what I mean.

If you don't, let me say it like this:  Tissue Expanders are not soft.  They don't feel anything like real boobs.  In fact, they feel like baseballs under your skin.  Thus, I feel like I'm smuggling baseballs.

On the upside, my boobs haven't been this perky in... actually I don't think they've ever been this perky.

I'm not complaining.  It's just a very odd sensation.  Since they stick straight out, I have boob in places I've never had boob before.  Normally when doing things like typing, my inner arm would press against my boob a little bit... and my boob would compress/move with my arm.  And now, my boob presses back against my arm. 

It's like my arm and my boob are having a full out wrestling match and my boob is winning.

Totally wierd.

I also had my first "fill" yesterday.  This is where the doctor sticks a needle into my tissue expander and pumps in more saline to fill up the expander.  This was a very interesting experience.

First, the doctor sticks a needle in THROUGH my muscle (because the hole in the expander is at the top of my boob), and that's just a very ODD sensation.  Not painful, just really wierd.

THEN, the thing that they use to pump saline in... is a caulk gun. 

I shit you not.

They load a huge syringe into a caulk gun and then the nurse sits there and squeezes the handle repeatedly until the appropriate amount of saline has been added to your boob.  AND the caulk gun looks really old.  The paint was chipping off and it just looked like they had bought it from a plumber that had used it for 40+ years.

I hope that wasn't the case, but that's what it looked like.  Maybe next time I will sneak a photo of it before the doctor comes in so you can see what I mean.

So that is my current state of affairs.  I'm a rock hard, caulk gun filled, perky boobed girl.  And feeling awesome!

PS  In really great news, I'm also now drain free!  I had my last drain removed yesterday!!!!  YIPPEEEE!
 
So the second part of suckiness that comes after surgery is the limitation on how much you can lift. 

Doctors orders:  do not lift more than 5 lbs.

So basically I can lift a can of soda (if I drank soda anymore).  Or maybe a sandwich.  And I can definitely lift a candy bar.  Which might be why I've gained about 5 lbs since surgery :)

But I definitely cannot lift a 30 lb 2 year old boy named Caleb.

Luckily for me, Grandma and Papa Ericson agreed to take Caleb for us for about 9 days.  I WOULD say that he was sad about it, but he wasn't.  He got to drive a boat, a lawnmower, a 4 wheeler, a gator, and basically anything he could convince his Papa into letting him drive.  He had a blast.

But then he came home.  And realized he missed his mama.  And THEN realized that I wouldn't pick him up. 

Let's just say it's been a bit of a transition for us.  It's gone more smoothly than expected, but still not much fun.

And I'm supposed to not lift anything more than 5 lbs for SIX WEEKS!!!!

I've been doing my best to live by this, but it's been difficult.  When Caleb is about to fall over, I just can't help myself from reaching to stop him.  And he's a boy, so he falls like once every five minutes. 

But I knew this was coming, so we tried to prepare as much as possible.  I taught Caleb the following things:

1. How to both crawl INTO and OUT OF his high chair.  The "into" portion he mastered many moons ago, but the "out of" part of it is a very new development.  And makes life a whole lot easier for me as a mom who can't lift anything.

2. We're potty training, so there aren't many diapers, but we do diaper him for naps and bedtime.  So, Caleb now knows how to lift up his own little hiney when I need to slide a diaper under it.  It's both cute and "post op" friendly :)

3. We did get into the habit of reading stories in his bed.  He'd lay down in his toddler bed, I'd lay next to him (which is a funny sight, I'm sure) and I'd read him his bedtime stories.  I think we need to upgrade to a twin bed soon...

Even despite all my heroic efforts at teaching him to not need to be lifted, it's still hard.  REALLY, REALLY HARD!  When he falls and skins his knee or hits his head or just wants to be held, I have to sit on the ground with him and give him hugs.  He's even learned a new phrase out of all of this.  Before when he wanted to be carried, he'd just say "HUG!"  Now that "HUG" doesn't work (he literally just gets a hug from me now) he says "CARRY YOU!"  I think that comes from me saying "Mama can't carry you". 

Isn't that just sad?

OK, so enough with my little pity party.  Like I said, this is the hardest part of the whole surgery thing.

If you are a mom of a toddler that's about to go through surgery, definitely find someone to help out.  It's hard.  But if you do happen to "overlook" the rules and lift too much, your body will continue to produce lymphatic fluid at your drain sites... and the drains are equally if not MORE annoying that not picking up your child.  Plus, it's just bad stuff to have tubes hanging out of your body (healthwise).  Just remember, this is a sucky time but your child will not be emotionally scarred forever if you can't pick them up for 4-6 weeks. 

At least that's what I keep telling myself.
 
I can honestly say that the above sentence isn't one that I thought I'd say to my husband... ever.

It never even entered my mind that I would utter those words to anyone. 

But, about a week and a half ago, those words entered into my marriage.  It turns out when you have had surgery, and have drains and other tubes hanging out of your body (which end in bulbs/balls) AND you want to shower/clean up/change clothes... those words WILL come out of your mouth.  Chris was wonderful and didn't even cringe when I said it... but I chuckled quite heartily at my little unintended pun.

So what balls might I be referring to?  Well I had 2 different types, drains and something called an On-Q pump.

First, the drains.  Having had a mastectomy, they put in drains to help drain fluid away from the surgery site.  So I have one drain on each side.  Here is what a drain looks like.  First where it comes out of your body (it's bandaged so I don't think the picture is particularly gross).
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The tube you see coming out of my side ends in a bulb.  To keep the drain going, you squeeze it flat after emptying it and the fluid drains into it over the course of the day.  At first, I had to empty it twice a day, but now I'm down to once.  I had a drain on each side, but I've already had my left side drain removed.  Here is what the bulb looks like.
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If you're curious as to how I carry the balls around, this can be achieved in a variety of ways.  I think I've tried them all.  First, they make camisoles that have pouches for the drains.  I tried this, but the strip where the drains velcroed was right on top of where the tubes came out of my skin, and that was uncomfortable, so I didn't use my camisole more than twice.  Another option is pinning the bulbs to your clothing.  I did this for awhile, but it puts those bulbs right at eye level for curious 2 year olds.  So I used a little nylon bag to put my bulbs in.  I wear it like a messenger bag and I just tuck my drains into it.  I can wear it low enough that it's even with the bottom of my shirt so there is little tugging or pulling and little to no tubing showing.  This has been the most comfortable option for me.

This is a picture of what I look like on a regular day.  I've been wearing camisoles that have no bra top in them (so nothing squeezing my drain sites).  My little black nylon bulb bag peeks out from below my jacket or hoodie.  It might be the middle of summer, but the hoodie keeps the bag close to the body and no one really notices it.
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Those were two of my balls.

I had a third ball too.  And it was my favorite ball.

This ball was filled with a local anesthetic and it was connected to two little tubes that went into my body (like 1mm in size apiece, so teensy tiny).  These little tubes were kind of like the seeper hoses you'd use in a garden, only instead of letting water seep out, they distribute this local anesthetic along your incision lines.  Can I get a "THAT'S FREAKING GENIUS!!!"?

I mean seriously, why didn't anyone think this up sooner?  My pain was very limited/non-existent.  I attribute this largely to this On-Q pump (what the device is called).  So over the course of 5 days, this system pumped out 4ml of local anesthetic per hour.  I used Tylenol with codine for about 3 days, then transitioned to regular tylenol for about 2 days and I was off painkillers completely.  I don't like lots of painkillers, so I'm excited that I managed my pain so easily.

I don't have a picture of this ball because I wasn't smart enough to document it, but here is a picture from their website.
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So this is what post op looks like from my perspective.  Lots of balls hanging out of my body.  I will feel much more like me when I can get the last drain removed, which I hope is next Tuesday at the latest.  And THEN, I just have to get back to a point when I can lift up objects that weigh more than 5 pounds and I will be a happy, happy person, but that's a topic for a whole 'nother blog.

In summary, if you ever get a mastectomy, be prepared to juggle some balls :)
 
Surgery is over.  I'm at home.  All is well.

And... surgery did not suck as bad as I thought it would!

So here's the short version of surgery.  Chris and I arrived at the hospital at 5:30 in the morning.  We checked in and actually headed into surgery on time.

Chris' favorite moment was when I was being wheeled in.  They give you a little something to help with axiety.  As the anesthesiologist put it, it will make you feel a little tipsy, like you've had 2 or 3 drinks.  So when they first injected it, I didn't feel anything.  Then it hit me and I was all "whoooooo, that's some good stuff!"

Then in the OR, I got moved onto the table and they gave me my general anesthetic.  Right before I passed out, I heard "Pick out a nice dream..."  I thought that was a nice thing to say before sending me off to dreamland.

I was in surgery for 8 hours! 

EIGHT HOURS!

I was a little shocked when I woke up in recovery and the clock said that it was almost 5 pm. 

Compared to my lumpectomy, recovery was a breeze.  I woke up, did some deep breathing for awhile (to clear out my lungs) and was wheeled into my room.

And my roommate was awful.  I think she motivated me more than anything else to get the heck out of the hospital.  That woman did not have one kind word for anyone that came near her.  And I honestly just don't do well with that kind of negativity. 

So in record breaking time, I starting using the bathroom on my own, started eating solids and got myself off the IV and onto pill form painkillers.  By noon the next day, I was ready to go!  And honestly, I didn't just push it because of my roommate, I honestly felt good enough to go home.

We were home by 5 on Friday evening.  And I've spent the last 2 days napping and relaxing with movies and books.  Honestly it's been a little heavenly because the pain has been minimal and I haven't relaxed this much in any recent memory.  I'll enjoy it while I can.

OK, maybe that wasn't the short version.  But I'm doing well, recovering well, and virtually pain free.  I guess I should've listened to everyone when they told me it wasn't that bad :)  Thank goodness y'all were right.

So thank you all for your prayers and thoughts this week.  I truly appreciate it.