Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Bad Chi

"Qi(Chi) is believed to flow through pathways (meridians) in your body. These meridians and the energy flow are accessible through more than 350 acupuncture points. Illness results from an imbalance of the forces. By inserting needles into these points in various combinations, acupuncture practitioners believe that your energy flow will rebalance."

Well apparently my Chi is messed up. I went to an acupuncturist during chemo to help with the bone and joint pain that I was having. I had never even entertained the idea of doing acupuncture, but was in enough pain after my first chemo that I was willing to try just about anything. To my surprise, it worked! The bone pain for rounds 2,3 and 4 was significantly lower than the first round.

Having had a successful experience with that pain, I decided to try acupunture for the relief of night sweats and hot flashes which has been fairly well documented as having a high success rate. I went once in November but it was right before we went on vacation and I didn't go back because I was feeling pretty good. Since I am still having night sweats and hot flashes (don't you just love menopause??) I decided that I would try it again.

I went in today to the same highly recommended Chinese woman doctor to see if she could help me out with these problems. She remembered me, asked me several questions about chemo, radiation, my general health etc and then asked to look at my tongue. She looked at the underside of my tongue and declared my Chi is definitely out of balance.

She ushered me into a nice quiet, warm room with a comfortable massage type table. I laid on my stomach and she started to feel her way around my back. To my surprise, she found some very sore spots that I didn't even know I had! Blocked Chi apparently...

She told me that she was going to do "cupping" therapy on me to help release the toxins, alleviate inflammation in my body and rebalance my chi. After chemo and radiation, a daily dose of Tamoxifen, I imagine my body is chock full of toxins so I didn't argue.

I now have some very colorful purple circles on my back and neck and a couple on my legs as well. I don't know for sure that it is going to help with the night sweats and hot flashes, but I'm willing to give it a try. I will go back next week to see if my "Chi" has improved any. I am lucky that my oncologist is fully supportive of acupuncture as a compliment to the traditional medicine and treatment that I have participated in.

"We treat whole body" this acupuncturist tells me. Let's go for it, I say. My whole body has been under attack for just under a year. If the calvary comes in a diminutive Chinese package with needles and glass cups, then bring on the calvary.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Lucky 13

Today is my 13th wedding anniversary. Since I started writing this blog, I have never had trouble coming up with what to say to express my feelings, but somehow trying to find the right words to express how I feel about my marriage is proving difficult. Not because the feelings are difficult, but because the words seem rather trite. I could write about how we met, or the day we were married. I could write about the ups and downs that go with any marriage or the lessons we have learned over the last 13 years. I could write about how incredibly fabulous my husband has been through the entire cancer journey or how he loved me through baldness, scars, chemo, surgery and plenty of tears. I could certainly write about how much I love him.

But maybe the best way is this picture. I had to go back 3 years to find a picture of Larry and I. This particular picture was a picture of us at my birthday in 2006. Larry is rarely in our family pictures because he is always the one taking the pictures. He is always the one being proud of me or of the girls. He is the one being supportive. He is the one who takes hundreds of soccer pictures. He is the one who let me cry in his lap after every single chemo. He is the only one I spoke to of being afraid to die and leave my children. He is the one who does all the little things like making sure we have batteries in the house and oil in the car. He is the one who is proud to go to work every day because it allows him to support his family. He is the one who stands with all of us through everything.

He is the one.

Thursday, April 23, 2009


As far as eyelashes go, we are pretty blessed in our family. I have long eyelashes as does my husband so both of my children have great, long, dark eyelashes. When I was going through chemo I lost my hair, but was able to keep my eyelashes and eyebrows throughout the entire process.

To my surprise and disappointment both my eyelashes and eyebrows took an abrupt leave of absence about 8 weeks after finishing my last round of chemo. Adding insult to injury, this happened right when we were leaving for Hawaii so just as I was starting to feel "normal", I looked like cancer girl-bald and lashless.

The good thing about losing eyelashes is that they start to grow back almost immediately. Since I have dark eyelashes, you could see them within a week which was great, but I missed my long eyelashes.

Unlike the hair on your head, eyelashes apparently go in cycles which is why we normally lose one or two each day and not the whole lot. Chemo resets this cycle meaning that they all fall out at the same time. My understanding is that it takes awhile to reset this cycle so that each lash is on a different cycle. Unfortunately what this means is that eyelashes continue to fall out long after chemo. Mine fell out the first time and then I had another round of serious thinning but not complete loss.

The other day was a beautiful sunny day in Seattle so I put my sunglasses on. As I was driving I noticed that every time I would blink, my eyelashes hit the lenses of the glasses. I promptly ripped my sunglasses off so I could take a good look at those eyelashes. 7 full months after my last chemo, my eyelashes are finally back to their original length. I think I will wear my sunglasses every day, just so I can realize that having your eyelashes brush against the lenses is a good problem to have.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Too Young

I just read about a 10 year old girl who has just been diagnosed with Breast Cancer. 10 years old!! I thought I was too young at 43. Having a 10 year old daughter myself as well as an 11 year old, I just cannot imagine how these parents are feeling. It is completely unfair. Enough is enough already! 10 is just too young, 20 is too young, 30, 40, 50, 60, 70, 80 is too young. As I have said many times before, it is time for Breast Cancer to go away.

I will be praying for this little girl (Hannah is her name)and her family and hoping that all of the great research that has been done for breast cancer can help this family as well. They are in the LA area and I hope that they will find brilliant doctors who can help heal her physically and mentally.

10 years old is just too young!

Thursday, April 16, 2009


Yesterday I had the chance to do several thing and it turned out to be a great day. In the morning I had an appointment with my oncologist. Just a regular check up appointment. I realized that when I was diagnosed, the first oncologist that I talked to had told me I was in for about a year of treatment and recovery. I was diagnosed in May 2008. Yesterday my oncologist told me there was nothing to report. I looked completely healthy, my blood levels are back to normal and she doesn't want to see me for another 3 months. I felt like I had come full circle-I was healthy last April and I am healthy this April.

I left my doctor appointment to go walk around Green Lake with Annie. Annie is a colleague from WaMu that I met via the 3 Day walk. Soon after I was diagnosed, I found her on the Susan G. Komen 3 Day website as one of Washington's top fundraisers for 2008. I approached her to thank her for the work that she was doing and a friendship bloomed from there. I was lucky enough to work for Annie for the last 6 months at WaMu so have had the chance to see her in varying lights-all of which she excels at. Yesterday instead of encouraging her about walking and having her encourage me about pushing through treatment, we got to help each other train for the 3 day and enjoy a beautiful day in the process.

Finally I had the opportunity to meet with several women that I have "met" through the message boards at I have been prowling these message boards for almost a year, finding answers to questions, finding more questions, and finding many brave women. I started a thread for people in Seattle because I knew there must be more than just me here so about 6 of us finally got together to meet in the real world.

I was a little worried about this meeting. How much fun can it be to have a bunch of women talk about how sick they are and how cancer is miserable? I thought it might be somewhat depressing but it wasn't in the least. We are all different, with different diagnosis, different lives, different treatments and we certainly talked about those things. But then we started finding out other things and closing other circles. Two of us found we are from the same town. Some of us have the same doctors, we are all close to the same age. Two of us are walking in the Susan G. Komen 3 day. I even found that one of these women has been following this blog by way of my friend Annie for some time now and has even commented on my blog before. Of all the exchanging of information and realizing our differences and similarities, what did we do the most of? We laughed. Not because we have cancer, but because we are still able to enjoy ourselves despite the hell we have been through or are going through.

To my new Crazy, Sexy, Cancer in Seattle circle of friends; Robin, Susan, Carol, Gina and Kristina-Thanks for the laughs.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Happy Easter

Today our Easter was rather quiet. My parents are out of town (we missed you!) and we had brunch with my sister and her kids. We made a fabulous stuffed french toast and all of the girls were near explosion level with strawberries and whipped cream.

I am thankful for simple things today. The laughter of my kids as they searched for eggs, the whipped cream smiles of my daughters and my nieces, the smell of sausage and syrup, the ability to smile and be happy knowing that my whole family is healthy and happy, my husband cooking on the griddle (he is the king of breakfasts in our house) and just a little champagne to celebrate.

Happy Easter!

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Happy Birthday

Today is my dad's birthday. He would have been 68 years old. Unfortunately not only did he not get to see the 60's, he never even got to see the 50's. He died of pancreatic cancer at 48. His death was the only cancer death I had ever known until recently. It is his experience that shaped some of my own actions with my cancer diagnosis.

My dad was "follicly challenged" and didn't have a lot of hair to begin with, but I remember watching him pull it out by the handfuls after beginning chemo. It was for this reason that I decided to shave my head instead of waiting for my hair to fall out. I didn't think I could emotionally handle the devastation of seeing my hair come out in my hands or on my pillow. Even though shaving my head was extremely difficult, it was the right decision for me. It gave me a certain amount of control of a situation that I would have rather not been in.

Pancreatic cancer can sometimes be related to ovarian and/or breast cancer. It can also be somewhat related to lifestyle and my dad was not a very healthy specimen. My dad's brother passed away of brain cancer last year and his son (my cousin) currently has throat cancer. This was enough cancer risk in my family for me to decide to be tested for the BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene mutations which I thankfully do not have.

My dad died on my mother's birthday when I was 24 years old. I had seen him the day before his death and knew without a shadow of a doubt that he was not going to make it. It was a devastating blow to me and my first experience with mortality. It was his death that made me realize that people really, truly die and don't live forever. That same year, his mother (my grandmother) died as well cementing that realization for me.

It is unfortunate that many of the things that I remember about my dad have to do with his death and the impact that it had on me. There are plenty of other things I remember as well; making him the biggest sandwich I could fathom, his ability to paint a holiday scene on our windows, the way he smelled, the tattoo on his forearm, his all-consuming love of his children, his belly laugh, his absolute refusal to drink coffee, the proprietary way he felt about Mt. Rainier. I wish, wish, wish he would have been alive to see his grandchildren. I think he would have been so proud that he would have nearly burst.

There are so many moments that he missed so here is one for him. The first day of school for both girls when we moved to our new house. Happy birthday dad....from two of your 5 beautiful grandaughters. We love you.