Friday, December 26, 2014

Holiday. More than just cancer

Appreciating this holiday. I can look away from the disease and have a little forgetting about cancer at times which is beautiful. Vacationing with friends is such a wonderful experience since we can have wonderful conversations, great peaceful experiences, and our boys have fun entertaining one another instead of needing parent entertainment. (Single child in household sometimes means parents are the entertainment.)
We are at our switch now. Been horrible Internet so far, we don't think the next place we are flying to even provides Internet (this resort had meh connection that completely died a few days ago.) sneaking in this quick post enjoying the fact that for the first time in 14 weeks I don't have to be poked with a needle. Two more right after returning but that is ok. 
I painted my fingernails. Was getting more upset and honestly obsessed by how more and more of my nail beds were  infected/weak underneath. Not that painting nails makes everything right but instead it calms me a tremendous amount to look at something that pains me (yes, started feeling sharp pains on and off in fingertips and toes) and see something somewhat pretty. 
Only had to talk about cancer with a few of the locals who were kind and worried. English speaking is good here, especially in comparison to Hong Kong. One woman bought me some local super fruit and made me a smoothie with it. Shall be investigating it further even though it didn't taste terrific. 
Thanks for journeying with me. We will miss our friends who head back tomorrow, we are off on another adventure tomorrow in another area of the Philippines. I've had a week of ups and downs with energy so hoping will just continue ups and not push myself too much. 
The fruit is at the top and one snapshot of me at resort restaurant. Hooray for hats, hair still growing out but I'm not ready to share yet. Figure when I can look in mirror and feel confident then I'll be free outside with head coverage. I see a tiny bit of my hair curling though a little just more grey than brown so far. 
Happy holidays and New Year to all. 

Friday, December 19, 2014

Update Squeaking in #14 and Heading OFF

My kiddo's art, surprised me. Love it.
So excited for the holiday!
Happy that I got into work for three days. Think that I've gotten over the weakness stigma that I was judging myself with for taking sleep medication- what a godsend it is. I really needed sleep Wednesday night after having one of those "can't believe I have insomnia it isn't the first day of school for goodness sakes" the night before...

I've really missed my coworkers. Many leave mid year, mid term, etc... it isn't that they don't love Bradbury, just the life of teaching in a school filled with many expats (many locals as well). I was so grateful for my supply teacher/substitute, she was so wonderful, organized the library with a new set of eyes, got projects done that brighten up areas that needed brightening, and took care of my wonderful staff and beautiful students... So grateful I could simply walk in and teach Wednesday-Friday. SO lucky I am. And my school.  So it was terrific to be back. I chatted with someone and agreed that the true test of my energy will be in January when I'm coming back after treatment on Saturday and work a whole week. As long as I don't feel overtaxed or such, I'm going for it, I'm working... BUT I'm watching myself carefully. Today I had to run to catch a bus and still had energy for that but never know. Grateful for every minute I have.

Debbie, how did the kids/staff react to your hair/wig? All support and respect from staff... they're lovely. Kids are brutally honest but I was ready. "Mrs. Alvarez you look so different!" "Mrs. Alvarez, what happened to your hair?" "Mrs. Alvarez, your hair looks weird." "Mrs. Alvarez I missed you, I know you've been sick, what was wrong?"
My reaction? I said to the wig/hair comments: "Well, this is my hair now and I'm getting used to it, it is what I have and part of me." They seemed to take that well enough. My answer to the what's been wrong, here's what I said to my students: "I've been sick for three stinky months. I did not like it. I'm not quite strong like a superhero yet but I am strong enough to see and teach you, so I'm happy to be here." The kids who pushed further got a "I really don't want to talk about that personal information." - I've learned over the years with sweet kiddos that you don't leave the door open for further questions, just flat out say what you feel and they'll stop. I'm respectful and redirect the conversation afterwards. Some of my students know I had cancer, they think it is lung cancer (because that's what it was diagnosed as when I left work, that's ok, do they have to have those details?) Some of my (honestly) favorites really learned the truth and handled it quite well and just asked some thoughtful questions about how I was feeling and told me they missed me... I only saw half my students this week, will catch up with the rest after the holiday.

#14 Treatment sucks as always (what's new, right?). My concern about my half-covered-with-a-bruise hand wasn't necessary since I'm alternating hands. Keeping up with the topical bruise medication... One of my favorite nurses was quite pleased with the vein she used today. Who knew veins would be exciting. My hands aren't happy presently as I'm using much much much hand sanitizer but I'm also using some terrific hand lotion from many thoughtful friends who just knew what I needed. Only one drug this week... and flying out. Can't wait. Can't wait. Talked with my oncologist further about what would happen with treatment... two more- those Saturdays after the holidays. Then a BREAK. Then radiation. He said "We hope to get rid of the rest of the cancer with radiation." I'm trying to be confident about going back into that tube. It was painful and I'm a little concerned about how my throat/bronchial tube will react to getting zapped... plus the past radiation area will be touched as well which isn't thrilling. Shall see. Then after radiation, if I'm strong and can handle it, "clean up chemo"- two more treatments just three weeks apart and then shall see if there is further prescriptions he wishes to give me. So I see a light. I see 2 more chemo rounds, radiation and 2 more chemo rounds- that means 4 more times I'll be stuck with that long needle in my hand/arm. I can accept that. I'll work hard so my body can also accept it. I'm feeling stronger this week. A little wiped, a little excited about the holiday, and happy about seeing students and staff. My administration has been respectful, bluntly honest and concerned, but respectful. I've hit them with another thing that I'll share soon enough and they've been kind and patient. I'm so so so grateful for the situation I'm in. I read about others dealing with cancer who don't have the support I do.

Grateful for all the support online, wow. I feel so lucky and loved... and grateful...

I subscribe to Soul Pancake- YouTube channel- have subscribed for a long time and LOVE it. L-O-V-E it... when I have time to watch it. I came across a new series they're putting out, below are the first two. Short 3 minute-ish videos. So honest, raw, humorous, touching... love them.
Highly Evolved Human:

Also appreciated this 60 Minutes report on Mindfulness- my mom sent my way, thank you Mom!! :)

Finally, I also read this post by a Cancer Survivor/Thriver- 13 Ways I live my life with purpose after cancer:
I agree with every single item on her list but disagree. I live my life with purpose during this triple hitter cancer experience, it is imperative to have goals and be purposeful. My husband told me the second day after I returned to work how happy he noticed I was. How much more active I was than other days... Today was a harder day (treatment sucks). I enjoyed work but was honestly grumpy and a little snappy during/after treatment. This is due to leaving my safe cocoon... I've picked myself up by looking at happy "stuff" that refocuses me to the positive... Can't live in that negative. Finding my moments...

Feeling the love from my students....

Get well card book given as well... so touched.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

White Blood Cell Increase Focus and clotting frustrations

Grateful for this crane gift from some parents at my school.
Very touched. Beautiful...
Told my husband today I'm really tired of getting stuff put in my body that is poisoning... Frustrating. I know that there is progress. I know this is important. But I hate seeing my blood cell counts all dropping. I really didn't enjoy getting a shot in my stomach to increase my white blood cells. I wonder how they'd be if I wasn't taking supplements and eating so healthy... hmm.
Read this, made me feel pretty reassured.

Had to be at my oncologist's different clinic for treatment this past Friday. There was one perk, the toilet. They had two toilets right there next to the lazy-boy chairs where you sit for treatment. So if you need to go to the bathroom you don't need to be disconnected from the treatment line. I always am concerned about getting disconnected from the treatment line because once my vein collapsed after one disconnection time...  Unfortunately, even though I got permission to get treatment in my other hand due to bruises and a hand that isn't happy with the 12 treatments from before... my right hand's vein now looks like it collapsed... the top of my hand is so blue... my nurse told me that I needed to treat it like a bruise and not worry. Ok. Shall see. Grateful that my right arm didn't swell from the medicine since it was a risk with lymph nodes being removed. But if only my blood would clot properly... shall see.

I'm certainly in countdown mode for the holiday, looking forward to work, looking forward to relaxing as well. Other things are starting up as well and I'm not quite seeing the light at the end of the tunnel with this treatment, oh well. Patience is a virtue and I'm hoping to come out the other side stronger and happier. With some hair growing out preferrably.

Enjoyed my first day back at work. Enjoyed catching up with students and staff. Have missed so many people... Having insomnia the night before didn't help... so wrapping up early to sleep... if possible, shall see.

Hope everyone celebrating Hanukah had a great first night, I also enjoyed the second night with kiddo just now. Had a great birthday celebration with him this weekend as well. Grateful for many friends helping with the event. Went thru kiddo's closet tonight and pulled so many things he's grown out of. Shocked how many things he's just had filling drawers and closets that he knew he'd grown out of... he's nervous about my next focus: going thru his toy cupboards...

Just a quick entry. Quite excited about family trip. Made some huge decisions and actions (good ones I think) that I'll share about when I can. Thanks for journeying...

Friday, December 12, 2014

Pulling Rabbits out of Hats and #13 Chemo

Feeling a little... tired of my oncologist. Think a break is in order- 8 days away. It hit me last night that I haven't been away from home for four months. I know many people don't get to travel/get away from home at all for years, but for me, I think I'm going a little stir crazy and am so excited to get away a bit.

Today my "counts" were done. Not happy. Not thrilled. Have to go back quickly tomorrow morning for an injection of Neulastim to help boost my white blood cell production. Heard it will hurt in joints, will take some medicine for that as well. I can sneak this treatment in right before my kiddo's birthday celebration...
I did gain weight, I am quite pleased with my progress. The wonderful oncologist nurse who is the most honest and helpful bluntly said to me, "You know, that could be water retention from the Taxal you're on, so let's keep an eye on that..." sigh. I'm still eating double at most meals and trying my best to get healthy food into my system. Stomach isn't always lovely but it is fluxuating.

So, I talked with my oncologist about treatment, gave him the article I'm curious about, and began my 4th round of chemo. Took a really long time, enjoyed a podcast and reading an eBook and snoozing since I was on my own this time. 8:30-2:30... (Good I was on my own though, another day of 6 chemo patients all lined up getting treatment...) I was able to catch the MTR over to my last yoga class with the instructor I like/respect. Have notes, will try to keep up with practices shared. Mindful walking is a good one that I can do anytime with a focus on breathing and peacefulness.

My oncologist pulled another rabbit out of a hat. Super frustrated but so much is unknown you never know. He said today, "So after you're finished with radiation, I would like to do two more rounds of chemotherapy if your body can handle it." I honestly squawked a little and he acted like we'd talked about this before. Hmm. (Husband mentioned that he didn't remember anything about this... Glad I'm not going nuts.) He pointed out that this 4th round is to shrink the tumor and then a 5th and 6th round would be for cleaning up any cancer cells ping ponging around in my body after radiation. Not sure about this white blood cell count going down. Shall see how I'm doing and take things carefully, no assumptions needed.

I'm honestly feeling pretty strong although a few people at the yoga session mentioned I was pale. I think anyone would be pale after sitting in a chair getting chemicals pumped into their body and then speed walking around Central to make it to a yoga class. Shall take it carefully next week. Have permission note to return to work next Wednesday-Friday working full time, then continuing after the holiday. Will take things one day at a time, can't worry about what I don't know, can't fret about energy, will just stay positive about getting to work and enjoy being around people I've missed for three months. My concern is dealing with negative nellies and having to redirect their conversation with their worries about me in every interaction. Already happening right and left and it isn't what I'd like to have conversations about... staying positive is what I want. Shall see, can't control others and their worries, assumptions, and caring concerns. Can just control my reactions, right? I know people have the best of intentions and I also know some will be assuming/wondering things like, "What is Debbie doing back at work? Is she going to faint on us? Can she handle the workload/teaching? Isn't her immune system to weak too be around a school?" I have no idea, can just have positive attitude and enjoy time there with the best of intentions to fulfill work obligations and keep my health as a priority simultaneously. My kiddo has been faithfully introducing germs my way as is my husband who works at another school, so not assuming anything, just going to be careful. Might be slipping a mask on when I see an especially sick group of kiddos, already wrote to my wonderful school nurse and asked for hand sanitizer which I will be applying throughout out the day! I already have things sorted a bit for instruction and am looking forward to catching up with students and staff.

Received this lovely scarf/hat from a wonderful friend- 
thanks Debra, perfect timing as it is getting a little chilly now.
I actually went to the store the other day and picked up a few pairs of leggings/pants since I was swimming in pairs I have and a little desperate for different selections, 
so happy to find ones that actually fit.
*Yes, I'm noticing my eyebrows and eyelashes are thinning,
part of life... Happy to be here.

Thanks for journeying with me...

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Immunotherapy and Changes

Looking forward to our family trip to the Philippines, countdown, less than two weeks. I know I've mentioned it before but I'm so grateful that we're living in Hong Kong where amazing, beautiful places in Asia are at our fingertips at a reasonable price. We are going to meet some good friends when we get to the Philippines and hope to see whale sharks while we are there... and possibly other adventures. I'll take things day by day and not push myself, happy for my son and husband to have the adventures and for me to live vicariously.
Mentally readying myself for treatment this Friday morning, happy my son's birthday is Saturday (and that I'm able to shift chemo to Friday so I can focus on my son), and excited about the possibility of returning to work soon- very carefully. I miss that purposeful time getting up in the morning, talking with students, teaching, managing the library and more. I always feel like a useful person, don't get me wrong, but actual work makes me quite fulfilled. Will continue to take things one day at a time, stay positive, and enjoy life...
I've missed art a little bit lately, so reprioritizing that so that I keep up that the outlet. Enjoying reading still but there are many books I didn't get to during this time... not much of a surprise, my "to read" pile is always growing. I've noticed that the day or two after chemo my brain cannot concentrate on reading books too well. So, audiobooks sometimes work, and sometimes tv shows are the way to go... riding the waves and keeping my brain working the best I can.

A few friends and family have mentioned I need to look into immunotherapy for treatment. It is a hopeful, promising practice.
Forbes article:

From a hospital website: Examples of immunotherapy drugs include interferon, IL-2 and Ipilimumab, which can be used for treating melanoma; Herceptin which can be used for some breast cancers; Erbitux, Vectibix, and Avastin which can be used to treat colo-rectal cancers and others. There are many types of immunotherapies that work by a variety of mechanisms.

I'm already on Avastin as part of my chemo regimine, so I'm already receiving one immunotherapy drug- two doses left in the next round of four. - this is the drug that has that nosebleed side effect I've commented about before. I'm quite grateful that my oncologist prescribed this as part of my regimine.
Shall see what my oncologist believes is the best course of action for long term drug treatment after I'm finished with this round of chemo and radiation treatment. I have many thoughts on this to be honest and working to stay positive. Already on Tamoxifen for deterring breast cancer from returning...

Thank you for all the support - friends and family, so grateful. 

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Results plus Thoughts Randomly Coming

The PET scan results were in, never thought another round of chemotherapy could be promising results but they are. They certainly are. I worked to redirect my thoughts when they went negative, worried about random pains in my body and redirected to positive every time I caught myself. It is challenging but I do think the more positive I can be, the better. Speaking of which, sometimes being around my oncologist, who I thoroughly respect, is not so positive, at all. Here's a few things that have come from him recently and in the past:
Here's another list-  Top 5 Things I Don't Want to Hear From My Oncologist:
5.  "There is a real chance the cancer could come back elsewhere, this is a long shot for being curative." - December, 2014
4. "After radiation, we will need to look at long term medication." - December, 2014
3. "There's likely to only be a 40 % of chance of success with chemotherapy." - September, 2014
2. "The results are not good, look your lymph nodes are lit up." - August, 2014
1. "You Have Cancer" - September, 2013

So, there's still a tumor on my lymph nodes in my chest near my heart. It is getting smaller. My oncologist insists that it has shrunk due to the chemotherapy, not just when the lung specialist removed a portion of it during my September surgery. There are no other areas in my body lighting up presently from the PET scan which is a good thing, a very good thing. Damn the lymph nodes, but I'm here. I have to have four more chemo treatments, two before the holiday and two after the holiday. (But I get to go have fun with family and friends and turn off the cancer mindset for a little while, hallelujah.) But I will get those chemo treatments done and then have a few weeks break and begin radiation treatment to hit those lymph nodes.

Things my oncologist said to me over the course of this year + were promising for the first two cancers, but there was a major shift when I had the metastatic diagnosis. That hasn't been so wonderful. I'm going to stay positive. My husband is not thrilled that I still have so much tumor lighting up on my lymph nodes, I agree with him, it sucks. It is disappointing. Damn cancer. But there is progress, slow but there. And I'll take progress. I'll also be happy to be done with chemo in 5 more weeks. Today's treatment was just fine. Normal one dose day with a visit and lunch from a special close friend. Was grateful. I also had many hours on my own with the kiddo tonight which I adored. We had fun planning out our evening and spending time together. Hooray for my husband getting a little time away from home to do things.
So the before is below in blue and the after is above in blue. Must it be blue?
My favorite color? Meh. You can see measuring info and such...
So, lymph node tumor right next to my heart, shrinking. I get a whole fancy binder with each PET scan.
Not the kind of book gift I want, but I'm collecting them nonetheless.
This is just one page of many many many analyzing my body scan. 

Random Thought Time:
Oh the vanity... Fully admit, working to stay positive about life... but sometimes vanity rolls thru a little.
How many of you have created odd situations in your mind and then acted them out? I've been concerned about my lack of hair and using my passport. Should I wear a wig on the airplane so that I don't need to worry about people questioning me? Would people question me?
I've thought about this to the point that I am imagining being up at the passport/visa entrance area and am asked to take off my head covering... drama drama drama. Who cares what I look like? I guess I do since I'm thinking about it. After thinking about it for a while, I chuckled to myself. I live in Asia. There are many many people who wear head coverings here. I don't believe that my little head covering is going to be an issue.
*Missing my hair. Looking at my scalp and sighing that it will be a while before hair recovers from the chemo and begins to grow in. The little bits here and there that didn't fall out have randomly started growing out, it is odd, a little curly. Shall see...

Burned my hand today a little bit in the afternoon, spilled hot soup on it. I used cold water and then my helper brought me a miracle medicine, Oronine Ointment, that helped after two applications. So relieved. Really annoyed by my klutzy actions lately. Knew the bowl was too hot so of course I picked it up a second time. Sigh. Slow down Debbie.

Actually had a pretty darn unpleasant bloody nose two days ago, will be glad to be free of medicine that has that side effect.... also noticed that one of my fingernails is now looking really unhealthy with brown above the white of the nail. Hmm. Some have mentioned that they lost their nails because of chemo side effects. Hmm. Shall see. Husband told me to put nail polish on it so that I don't worry... not exactly helpful but I get what he's saying.
I'm not so thrilled with my skin breakout on my face either. It is certainly different than the others I've dealt with in the past. My oncologist said that it is a normal cumulative effect of chemotherapy, didn't recommend anything. The nurse I talked with told me that it is worse for so many others... she shared with me a few sad stories about other patients that I really could have lived without hearing... So I suppose I'm lucky, sort of.
Oh vanity...

Read a study from a friend in the US who has a family member also dealing with cancer, found the article hopeful, will share with my oncologist next week. About new treatments helping metastatic cancer patients:
Had enough to ask my oncologist this week, here was my list:
-PET scan results
-Face breakout
-Muscle pull (pulled in yoga yesterday, odd, feeling a little better though)
-Nausea medicine
-Plan for radiation treatment scheduling

He seems to have a limit after a certain amount of minutes talking together, I respect his focus and concentration as we meet and just keep writing my lists. He doesn't get annoyed with my questions

Thanks for journeying as always...  Grateful for progress this time... Bearing up for 4 more doses.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

PET Scan and Waiting

Feel like I'm in this waiting game... My first PET scan in August was not fun and I was anxious about having it since my breast cancer diagnosis in March... I still have the memories of the revealing results after that first PET scan - third cancer, operation and more... so this one's no fun either. Waiting for results, shall see and share when I'm honestly up for sharing.
PET scan... hope no one has to deal with it themselves. Seriously.
The place I returned to today has the nicest nurse who quickly, carefully put a line into my inside elbow which was there for the next hour and a half. Having a needle in one's elbow area is actually worse than the line in my hand I've grown accustomed to for the past 11 chemotherapy cycles. Something no one should get used to by the way.
She was quite comforting as she tucked me away in a special room and instructed me to drink a LOT of distilled warm water (I finished it all)... Then a second person came. I described this last time I think as well. He has a special restricted room with special prepared glucose with a dose of radiation... he quickly told me about the process:
1. Drink a lot of water.
2. After he puts to glucose into me, wait 45 minutes to 1 hour for it to run thru my blood stream.
3. When I'm notified over the intercom that it is time, evacuate my bladder and then push the special door button to release me. (don't you love that word use? I chuckled.)
4. Carry all my belongings to the CT machine area, lay down and put my arms above my head with my fingers laced...
5. Lay still for 20-25 minutes.
Then he pushed some saline in the line in my elbow and ran to get the special needle and pushed the glucose into me as a radiation alarm went off the whole time. Not disconcerting at all...
Then wait. Note to self: next time, yank the blanket out right away, do not sit feeling cold shivering and drinking warm water. Reading books is good but being warmer is important. Don't forget to make the chair comfortable as well, lazy-boy chairs are popular in these clinics.
I had a bit of an issue having to get back into the CT machine, after two rounds of radiation, the machine is not my favorite place to be... 20 minutes of quiet, peaceful, not moving thoughts... got thru it. After they pulled me out the last time, they came over the intercom with a warning to stay still and not move that they were not done yet, 5 more minutes. I stayed still and figured out afterwards that they were going over all the scans to make sure there wasn't any extra scans needed before I was released. (English wasn't the strongest in the clinic but passable.)
The nurse met me in a small room and pulled out the needle and zipped over to dispose of it in the secure room. Then gave me a bandaid with the instructions to flush twice when I use the toilet and avoid pregnant women and children for 4-6 hours as I will have residue still in me...
Walking out I ate a banana (did I mention I had to fast for this test and was shaky/starving?) and zipped over to my favorite juice place in the IFC mall- Genie Juicery to pick up a treat for myself. Then went home to snuggle with my sweet dog and nap a little bit... then attended the chanting class I'm not too fond of but it is healthy.... then decided it wasn't enough to get juice so after family dinner, my husband and I went to see Mockingjay at the theater, that was a treat for the both of us. Actually walked 10,000 steps today! That's a big turnaround from Mon/Tues... Grateful to have a few fun things to do today... and for stamina... grateful to only have a few days to wait for results (I hope.) Now, I'll look forward to listening to the next episode of Serial in the morning...

Thanks for journeying with me... day by day.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Riding Energy Waves

Well, that last appointment with my oncologist didn't sit too well for me but oh well, not always going to go as I assume. I've certainly learned that with this journey.
Right now I'm doing math. 1+4=5 1+2+2=5  1-1 dose + 1-3 doses+ 1-1 dose+ 1-2 doses+ 1-1 dose= 5 more treatments instead of one left.
So I have the PET scan this Wednesday. My oncologist expects results back by Saturday when I have what was supposed to be my final chemo treatment. But I got more information.
If I have clear scan results, which I'm expecting but also accepting that you never know, my oncologist was pretty blatant- he said, "I hope you understand, I want you to have one more full round of treatment. This will not be as you were expecting. Instead you'll have two before your holiday and two after the holiday." Hmm. Not thrilled at all but he did say since the beginning that he expected to have four rounds of chemo and then adjusted it to three and then contingent on a clear PET scan I'd have a fourth round. I'm glad I get to escape for a while. I'm glad we planned/paid for this trip back in June before changes occurred again with this third round of dealing with cancer. Anticipating a holiday is a good distraction. Shall see how things go.
So far on Saturday after chemo I was w-i-p-e-d out. I hung out for a little bit with my family after my husband and I came back from chemo and listened to a great audiobook for a little bit and then slept and slept and slept until almost dinnertime. Then I was up-up-up until 1am with my brain in full gear. I took advantage of full brain waves by prewriting blog posts for my "baby"- The Styling Librarian blog that I've written for almost 3 years now- I started it almost 3 years ago on January 1st, 2012, a few months after that we decided Hong Kong would be our big life change. So, most of the blog I've written here in Hong Kong. I love reviewing books, interviewing authors, sharing random videos, writing about life's adventures and more... it is a good outlet and when I've prewritten posts, I'm much calmer and happier and productive. I've been a bit behind for the past few months with prewriting my posts... never have missed posting my regular things and I honestly take great pride in maintaining the blog. I am so grateful for all the connections I've made to authors, illustrators, bloggers, fellow book lovers and more. So... hooray for my stronger brain waves night that allowed me to prewrite blog posts for a while. It was a relief.
Sunday- today- has been a little odd. Sleeping in, walking the dog, missing other Sunday routines, and reading- I completed a novel, an audiobook and just finished reading an incredible non-fiction picture book as well. Plus we had a good amount of family time and watched a Star Trek flick as well... Never know how each day will go.
Thanks, as always, for journeying with me. Grateful, as always.
Reblooming orchid- makes me happy to watch the changes each day. 

Friday, November 28, 2014

Back around the corner

Right as I've found my energy and had a good three days in a row... here comes chemo... Le sigh.
Enjoyed getting to appointments, running errands, having special dinners, and even seeing a musical performance... I am happy with the outcome of the week... plus I enjoyed a few audiobooks and am in the middle of a fascinating one presently.
It is so hard to tell when I should keep my face mask on. I actually wore the wig for over 6 hours, that's the longest time for me yet. It is quite warm wearing a wig for so long. Glad I am able to do it though since soon enough I'll have to wear it for work.
Tomorrow- two dose day... shall see. Will see if I'm feeling strong afterwards enough to go see a movie... never know reactions.
PET scan is next Wednesday. Need to clarify how long it will take to get the results... Last time I had it in August it was a complete blur, just know it will take more than a few days. Last time I received a lovely bound booklet with an accompanying CD. Shall see how it goes.
Had to sort out all my vitamins, supplements, and medicine... happy to have it organized but it took over 30 minutes to sort it all out. I'm taking so many more pills nowadays.
I'm getting to the point where I'm anticipating the holiday that we preplanned/paid for back before diagnosis... I'm really staying positive about getting permission to go away for a little while... Bringing along the calendar tomorrow to see how to get extra chemo treatments in as needed.
I tried out a Yuen Method specialist on Thursday. It was an interesting process that I'm still thinking about. I received homework at the end- to watch for the next time I'm upset/angry and step back, take two long breaths and look at the situation as an observer, see how I react then. Hmm. Interesting. Know I've done that before but shall try it again.
Thanks for journeying with me, day by day... grateful for these "up" days and gearing up for whatever comes next...

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Ears a listening....

Going thru the days with a little purpose, focus... taking things carefully.
Not living in fear but awareness over the fact that I've fainted a few times and I do not want that to occur again nor do I want to be alone if it occurs.
Side effects are slightly less this week. I'm feeling a little stronger. I think... but I'm not pushing myself. My stomach totally is not thrilled with chemotherapy, it won't calm down... but I'm still consistent with medicine/natural treatment. Not so thrilled with rice water but I'm drinking it. Nose isn't happy with the medicine, dealing with many bloody noses but not terrible, will look forward to this lessening eventually.

A wonderful friend suggested I listen to a podcast and then I read about it in a magazine and then another friend told me I'd enjoy it...- that's hard because I love my audiobooks and was in the middle of a really good book. But today I was lost in the podcast- Serial - - now complete and waiting til December for the next airing, fascinating... what research and detail involved.

I'm still trying Yoga Nidra which is peaceful. The friend who has been so sweet coming every week to help me with this practice suggested I listen to a new group, so I am- Edo and Jo... Lovely voices together. A little bit like the chanting and mantras I've been getting accustomed to in the chanting and yoga class.

My hair is growing out- what there is of the hair... shall see if/when more hair begins growing. Kiddo is amused by the whisps that are growing out. I'm watching and noticing more grey than brown but what's new about that? My body has been in crisis for a while, of course the hair will be grey...

Treatment this Saturday will be 2 doses... and then I'll have a PET scan... then one more official treatment the following Saturday. Shall see what happens after that...

Friday, November 21, 2014

Number 10 Chemo, getting there

Number 10, can't believe it has been so long... or so short in terms of life journeys...
Chemo #10 is a 1 dose deal. Two more after that and then possibly more??! Shall see.

I watched a TED talk that was extremely interesting about whether what we eat can starve cancer cells. I certainly have changed my diet completely and know that it has made me feel better (mostly, sometimes I really miss certain foods) and I know it helps me overall...

I found this lecture fascinating. It mentions one of the chemo drugs I'm getting and I find that preventative is much better than reactive. I also know that cancer is NOT my fault. It is happening to me but I didn't welcome it simply by eating the wrong foods or moving to Hong Kong. It has occurred. It sucks. But if there is a way for my friends to adopt a few new foods into their diet to keep cancer from growing, heck, go for it, right?!

So, I'm doing a little better. Thank goodness. Got to appointments, admittedly shakey and weak but I got there. I also have little goals to look forward to, or are they major ones? Work, travel, family time... shall see. I am anticipating and getting over the fear of the PET scan. Not so thrilled that sugar and radiation is going to be pushed into my body again... not thrilled that I have to go hide in a room for an hour to stay away from others so that I don't poison them with the radiation going thru my body... not thrilled that my future rides on the test results... but I'm having faith that if a tumor lights up the scanner, it is due to it dying off from the chemotherapy and what is lighting up is scar tissue. That I'm healing. That this poisonous chemotherapy is doing what it needs to in my body. Having faith.

William Li- Can we eat to starve cancer?

I especially liked this chart. I take a lot of these cancer fighters into my body on a daily basis, I really really hope you dear people do as well:

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Reflecting patiently, calmly

I've been thinking recently about my energy, or lack thereof.
It is ridiculously frustrating to be so tired that when I go brush my teeth I have to sit down on the floor so that I'm not shaking... (On my worst days...)
I'm a high energy type of person. I love to dance, Zumba, work hard, play hard, and enjoy life...
I chatted with my husband the other day about this. Told him how tired I was of how me being weak is the new norm. He reminded me that it is temporary. Is it? I've been told many times that I'm not ever going to be my normal self again after this third cancer diagnosis. I look back at my past life. Think about the gym we joined half a year ago that I haven't been to since August. Think about what I'm missing at work as kids grow up and get library time without me...
It is quite frustrating. I think back to years ago when a normal day included teaching, masters class, and salsa dancing... so different now.
But then I think about how I've changed already.
I'm more open to new treatments beyond acupuncture.
I certainly have learned to ride the waves of energy/lack, etc... read signs for medication needs, dealt with not fun side effects, etc. I know how lucky I am because I'm not curled up in the corner of my bathroom wimpering as I've read others have experienced at times with chemo side effects.
I'm exploring pulling, essential oils, dietary changes, energy healing, Qigong, chanting and more.
I was told by my friend yesterday who is an energy healer that she's impressed with how open I am to energy. How calm I was during the treatment. Asked me if I've always been a calm person... I've always had a good wall up that calms me during stressful situations. Hmm. I have always been able to distance myself when there are tough things confided and help others simply by listening, is this that calm?
Did I learn to be calm somewhere?
I certainly can be calm for hours while reading. Or working on my computer. Hmm.
Did I learn to be calm during radiation treatments? Laying still even with nose itches, side pain, awkward positions because I didn't want the radiation going to the wrong place... was it a form of meditation?
I'm hit or miss on the sleeping scheme, that's how I know I'm still my normal self in a way... but I'm grateful for how I've changed in other ways. I'm certainly braver and more patient when it comes to needles and such... I'm also learning to speak up for myself and ask when I need something. Reaching out to others is less of a challenge than it was in the past.
Dealing with the days.
Happy because my kiddo is home from 2-night camp adventure with classmates which he LOVED and enjoyed learning about kayaking and dragon boating and more... lucky kiddo. My sweet dog will be picked up soon from her surgery and I can't wait to have her back as well.
Thanks for journeying with me- even on my rambling days...

Friday, November 14, 2014

Slow and steady week

Well. I've had a lovely but really slow week. I enjoyed various quieter activities through the week. Also, it was a harder week because I had to pace myself. That's not fun. I think my blood count might be down... or something... maybe a bug of some kind. My stomach isn't being kind, I'm not sleeping quite well, I feel weaker and am shaken after things that last week were simple, and I'm learning to just take it easy... speak up for myself... appreciating the little gifts of life.

Finding myself quite productive on my blog and avoiding my picture book manuscript writing. Amazing how quickly I can be productive when I'm avoiding things. I also have read a load of books this week and LOVED them. Grateful for my version of comfort food- eating books voraciously.

Fainting on Monday honestly threw me. I was chatting with my yoga instructor today about it. He pointed out that fear of fainting again probably presides over my mind and will likely slow me down if I don't relax and redirect my thoughts. Shall try. But at the same time also trying to read my body and know what my limits are... it's a whole new world learning to go slow.

Chemo tomorrow- 3rd cycle of 4 weeks, first week= 3 drugs, sigh. Not looking forward to it but do have good company, grateful.

Tried out one of the Yoga Nidra videos. Glad to learn another peaceful practice outlet, feel like I'm exploring so many things...
Got (I think) a little good news from my insurance company... I think... shall see... will get things sorted out eventually... I think. Having a little hope.
Also feeling blessed by friends and family, thank you to all... still so grateful that Sheli and Rachel visited...

Mostly, honestly, I'm just worried about my sweet dog right now. She's 14 and is my baby still. My constant companion, especially for each round of my fighting cancer... she's comforted me through recovery from three surgeries and when I look, she's watching me... or she's asleep. She has many lumps and bumps on her body... my husband and I agreed it was part of her aging. She doesn't get around as much as she used to but she's still eating and drinking fine, still hangs out with her people in whatever room we are in (although she is Daddy's girl, so mostly wherever my husband is if he's home) and seems like a pretty contented dog. I noticed last week that one big black bump was getting a little larger on her back right leg. She started licking it as well. :( Poor girl gets a little nutty once she starts licking something. Two nights ago she started chewing it. My husband brought her to the vet who said it needed surgery... but at the vet clinic their machine that puts animals to sleep is broken so we'd have to wait for TWO WEEKS before getting the surgery. We've asked for a referral to a different clinic and are looking into it because now she's wearing the cone of shame since she pulled the bandage off and chewed on herself again this morning... (it is not pretty and I'm the one who does the medication, cleaning, wrapping... which is fine but YUCK.) Plus my husband and I both lost sleep last night worrying about her chewing- thank goodness she has that collar on for this night... so I'm trying not to worry. Minor surgery. But she's not that happy presently which makes me not so thrilled either. Sigh.

Off to bed now... sleep hopefully will come and then in the morning, hooked up again to the drip drip drip of drugs.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Mental Rest and Ups and Downs

Today I learned about Yoga Nidra and appreciated a friend coming by to lead me through a session. Fascinating, relaxing, peaceful. Recommended. I'll be trying it out by youtube videos as well as looking forward to working with her on it as well. Also loved catching up with my best friend thru Skype... miss her presence here but reassuring that we can always catch up.

Dealing with insurance frustrations... don't you love it when you hear those words "Um, I'll have to call you back..." and then you don't receive that call? Meh. Not worth my energy, have things ready when I do actually receive a phone call back... Same with emails as well... out of my control, letting go as best I can.

Appreciated reading this article...
Mostly reassuring since I haven't dealt with these thoughts very often.

This afternoon it happened AGAIN. ECH. I was laying down resting and got up to go to the door to chat and pass a book to a friend. My husband was there too. I got a loud buzzing in my head and fainted. My husband caught me... such a confusing thing. I think I got up too quick. I also think that the anti-nausea medicine is the cause for this but not certain... went back to bed and rested. Doing fine now but really glad I was taking it easy... especially glad I wasn't up and taking a walk. I get that for this time I got up too quick... the last two times I was walking around for a while and then standing still for a while and then fainted. Hmm.

So, getting along, my worst day predicted after chemo, know things are cumulative, but not worst situation, grateful for that at least. On the countdown of treatments. Forgot to mention, I gained weight again this past week (woot) - I still find it funny that I'm celebrating weight gain but so be it. Part of life at this time.

Here's two Yoga Nidra YouTube videos I'm planning to make time for in the mornings. - Yoga Nidra for beginners - Yoga Nidra for intermediate

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Packing for Chemo and saving eyebrows

I sat and read thru this post:
I follow What Next on Facebook and appreciate what they have to share. Interesting that they came up with 22 things to bring to chemo... I appreciated what was shared, realistic and honest.

So... what do I pack in my bag for my chemo appointments? Hmm.

1. I pack fresh squeezed juice to drink part way through the morning. Plus my glass water bottle.
2. Some snack foods, almonds and such, banana, and other things that might be good. The clinic provides hot water, so sometimes I bring my own tea bag and cup. Sometimes I bring along my tea that I drink every day which is tumeric, ginger, mint, and green tea combined...
3. My iPhone cord charger and iPhone are loaded with at least two audiobooks, mini-iPad loaded with a new Entertainment Weekly and Oprah magazine, and headphones.
4. A friend- I've had one appointment without a friend, it was a good day to not have a companion because all 8 seats in the clinic were filled with chemo patients and it wasn't fun. I put my audiobook on that day and rested. All other days I've been lucky to have a wonderful supportive friend with me. They are warned that sometimes I snooze but we've enjoyed quality chats and quiet times alike.
5. Magazines, books, and journal. I like writing notes when I'm meeting with my oncologist, I certainly cannot write during chemo treatment (chemo enters through my left hand due to tumors almost all being on the right side, I'm left-handed!) but if I take notes in my journal, it helps me remember what he said later if I'm alone.
6. My chemo clinic provides fleece blankets, pillows, electric blankets, and lazy boy chairs so I don't have to bring the first three along but I certainly wear long pants and a sweatshirt of some kind because I get the chills while I'm sitting there, especially with the initial drugs.
7. I have a special notebook filled with all my cancer (for this round) records which I don't usually bring to the clinic but if I have any concerns or questions, I certainly bring it along. #8 I certainly brought paperwork along as I need to once again clarify and question shortfall costs with insurance, no fun to call the insurance folk but I'm following thru.
8. I try to pick a phrase to repeat to myself when I'm not so thrilled with the drugs dripping into me... "This chemo is going where it needs to and is helping me heal." "I am here." "I can get through this..." I've shared about phrases before. Some people post positive affirmations around their home, I haven't done that but I do have some fixed in my mind. I also have meditation words if I need them and deep breathing practice to naturally use if needed from Qigong and yoga.

That's it for now of what I bring...

I also have a few random traditions- wearing earrings from my sister to keep me strong, a bracelet from a friend that makes me happy, a lovely healing necklace from a former student, and other things that make me smile when I have them on...

I hit 15,000 steps on my FitBit the other day. Then 10,000 the next day, guess which days those were? I love having energy. Yes, I'm resting and taking things easy too, sleeping in, napping, and such but it certainly feels lovely to actually have enough energy to get around a little vs. being stuck in the apartment... I do so love my snuggle time with my dog though! Some days of the week suck but I have little things to pick me up and look forward to almost every day of the week. It helped to schedule Qigong, Yoga, and Chanting- they help guide me through the week but also I'm following through on meeting up with wonderful people if they ask/offer (for the most part)... it is hard to always say "yes" and harder for me to take the initiative to make the plans for some reason even though I always was the organizer in the past. I know I have many people who are there and I haven't asked yet... they're wonderful too...

Presently, my heart hurts. Having to say goodbye to my best friend Sheli was difficult... having to say goodbye to my sister is devastating... two goodbyes in a row to my lifelines who were amazing pick-me-ups sharing laughs, special moments, and getting me thru hard days is just sad. I know there are down days. I'm surrounding myself with good friends and I know I'm not alone here but man goodbyes suck. My yoga instructor Friday asked me why I had such a busy mind during the yoga session. Didn't realize he could notice that. I certainly knew what was on my mind, thinking about chemo for the next day, thinking about goodbyes, wondering why I haven't heard from some people I expected were better communicators, and more... I appreciated that my instructor spoke up and I worked to focus and quiet my mind... not an easy thing to do sometimes.

Enjoyed this video - I've Got No Hair- amusing...

A while ago I shared "save your eyebrows" from "But Doctor I hate Pink" and now when Rachel visited, we worked on saving my eyebrows. My hair is growing in on my head a tiny bit... I can see the change... bald in some areas, wisps in others... whatever needs to happen...

Here's the link for the blog: and video (below) from a blogger I appreciate - Anne from But Doctor I Hate Pink- she shared how to save eyebrows, I copied her gratefully. Never know, might keep my brows and eyelashes, my oncologist thinks I will... I'm 2/3 of the way through chemo now... no fun but I'm getting my bottom to the chair each week and have decided that is success. My oncologist and I talked about when to get the PET scan (first week of December) and side effects. I told him I was concerned whether the chemo was doing what it needed to since I'm reacting without too many side effects in comparison to others, he said I'm doing remarkably well and that you don't need to have side effects in order to have success with chemotherapy. I like my oncologist, he tells it like it is. There's so many unknowns and frustrations I'm swimming in so I'm always grateful for a straight shooter...

Thanks for keeping up with me... day by day, I'm grateful...

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Special moments

I'm officially blaming things on chemo brain now... my brain is click click clicking but it is often clunk clunk clunking... I'm mixing up days, appointments, and not remembering names of stores, etc.
Thank goodness my fingers can type quickly on my laptop to look up names and back my brain up... and when I make mistakes with appointments, people are so forgiving and flexible.
I mixed up days for the appointment to get my wig trimmed by the generous, wonderful people at Hippfish and they quickly rescheduled me for the next day. In the past I'd be mortified, especially the way I realized that I had an appointment 10 minutes before I was supposed to be there but I was still in my pajamas, whoops... but instead, I forgave myself, took a deep breath and called up Hippfish and admitted I got all mixed up. Phew. They're so kind. Plus ridiculously talented! The experts took a wig that I didn't think was really working for me and trimmed it up at the front and back making it softer on my face so that I actually like the front of the wig and then trimmed the back so that it doesn't look straggly... I now have a special place for my wig to chill out when I'm not wearing it so that it doesn't get squished, etc... Knew I loved going to Hippfish before for regular hair needs but wig needs was a different story, so happy I connected with them last Friday at the CancerLink "Look Good Feel Good" workshop... saying "Yes, thank you" is a good thing.

Love Holly Brown - yummy drinks and gelato -
great to take a break there to regain energy.

So over the past week my sister and I have relaxed, got pedicures on my crappy day, wandered around many places and did some touristy activity. I've shown Rachel many areas of Central, Admiralty, Wan Chai, Causeway Bay, Stanley Market, Peak... yet it feels like we've barely scratched the surface of Hong Kong. We're pacing ourselves so that I don't faint or crash... taking breaks and sitting down in some areas...  I'm so grateful she's here, I wouldn't get out barely at all if I didn't have such a positive, supportive person with me...  Feeling quite blessed to have the back to back visits first with my best friend Sheli and second with my wonderful sister Rachel...

A few more days with Rachel and then she's returning to Oregon. I'm loving this time we have together... Don't get me wrong, I'm dealing with many chemo side effects (besides some brain glitches) that are just no fun... the scalp is yelling at me, the nose is still bleeding- not excessively or anything, energy isn't strong, especially a few days after the treatment, the stomach is totally annoyed with me- drinking brown rice water to calm it down, and my cuts aren't healing... but honestly I'm feeling like I'm having many "normal" moments which is just a beautiful thing. *Can't blame spilling water and other liquids FOUR times on my iPhone in one day on chemo, right? My husband and sister both told me I'm just a klutz and laughed along with me... AND I just spilled again, sigh... takes talent. Really enjoying introducing Rachel to my wonderful friends here in Hong Kong... so grateful for my families at home in Oregon and here in Hong Kong. Feeling surrounded by love and support.

I was surprised when we got home from our adventures today to find a box waiting for me from a librarian friend in Oregon. Opened it and found a really cool book with vintage stories, blank pages, and a cool cover but what was special about it was the wonderful messages from my library friends from Oregon Association of School Libraries- they passed it around at a conference and also a board meeting- I miss those friends so much, loved my time throughout the year with them... the book is filled with journaled notes of love and encouragement and appreciation from friends in Oregon. Just a beautiful surprise, so grateful.
Thanks to my OASL family for the special notes!

Thanks for journeying with me... so grateful...

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Companionship and collapsed vein

Chemo Week 7. This isn't something I'm getting used to. Sure there is the routine that I'm familiar with but feeling the liquid push into me sucks, every week. Most weeks I shiver and feel quite cold as the drip begins. Two drugs this time. Meh. I wouldn't wish this on anyone.
I talked with the nurse about my veins today, no fun to do so but found out that one vein isn't viable anymore for chemo drip, it has collapsed. I knew it would be coming but I find it sad at the same time. Two weeks ago I could tell my veins were not happy and I had quite a bruise/quite a bit of pain.
So, this past week included saying goodbye after almost two weeks to my best friend Sheli who was such a godsend and wonderful companion... so grateful for the time we had together. (Thank you Sheli, love you BF, so lucky to have such a beautiful friend for over 28 years....)

Goodbye at the airport the good way, with fun photos and hugs...

Now we welcomed my sister Rachel for a 9 day visit. It is fabulous to have time together with her. She arrived just in time for Halloween and brought along some fun wigs. I loved walking around with a wig, quite amusing and fun. I know we look a little similar... we love to surprise people who know only one or the other of us and come into a place together. Was amusing at the oncologists office today when the nurses chuckled over our similarities... So we are exploring Hong Kong slowly together. I won't push it. In fact, after chemo today, we went to lunch at a great place SimplyLife, enjoyed a yummy salad there. We also wandered through the gardens but when we got to stairs for special areas I realized it was enough... so we headed home. See? I stopped. That's what Sheli taught me to do this past week. Can enjoy what we do without pushing too much.
Already brought Rachel to a bookstore, love our wigs... fun time...

My sister and I had a conversation today with my oncologist about December. He wants to do the PET scan to see how successful this chemo has been the second week in December and then wants to immediately continue with a fourth round, ARGH ARGH. This means a few more chemo sessions. But then he said he thought that I might be able to go on the family holiday trip that we'd planned. Not promising anything since much hinges on results from the PET scan... so far blood tests that do have cancer markers after the lung/lymph node surgery the cancer markers were really high but they've progressively lowered over the past month... so it's another wait and see situation. ARGH to more chemo. I knew it was probably coming, just not thrilled. Maintained weight this week, considering that a success...
Attended a Look Good, Feel Good workshop with my sister at CancerLink and appreciated the fashion, wig chat, and makeup demonstration. I really like the Hippfish Salon, talented people there- went before diagnosis, and know how generous it is that they volunteeer and donate their time to present to a group of interested people... so personable, friendly, knowledgeable, and friendly as well. I personally enjoyed many tips, especially the reminder that as a cancer patient (or just regular person) we should try to find non-scent/sensitive skin laundry detergent and quit using fabric softener... Wear bright colors vs black and white so that you compliment and accentuate yourself... Moisturize... Eyebrow tutorial was quite interesting, shall see if I need to do it, so far I haven't lost mine! But Rachel brought a transparency sheet with her so that I can trace my eyebrows so that I have a guide to draw them in if needed. Wigs... wigs... wigs... I've mentioned that I'm more comfortable popping fabric on my head vs. a wig. Wigs are expensive. I did buy a curly wig that is nice enough but I learned what makes me uncomfortable about the front of the wig. So I've made an appointment at Hippfish to get my wig trimmed a little bit by an expert and am curious to see how that works out. I want to just feel a little confident and comfortable.
Healing the past...
A friend shared this article, it really relates to what I've heard over the past few months:
Thanks for traveling through this journey, day by day... Have been distracted, in a good way, by life this past week so will say that when there's just one chemo drug pushed into me, I gain energy through the week and am honestly a little frustrated to have Saturday's treatment looming over me for that limit coming up... Part of life. Appreciating every day I wake up and can have a little fun.
Really missing work but enjoying books, books, and magazines.

Here's some of the recommended stuff from the Look Good Feel Good workshop:

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Plugging away day by day

Postural Hypotension- sounds like something interesting, right?
That's what my oncologist suggested I have after Sheli and I talked with him about my episode on Monday... he said in the future if I begin to feel dizzy, sit down, drink water, cool off. And to not push so hard... Hmm. I looked it up and it doesn't look like what I have but I'll follow directions.

Had an ok chemo session, snoozed, read, hung out with Sheli. We came home right after and ate lunch. Oh, and I gained weight! Last week I'd lost weight and I wasn't too thrilled about that but this week I'm back much better... my oncologist is surprised and has told me more than once that I'm looking better than the beginning of the chemo treatment... Hmm.

Sheli and I randomly came across a lady holding a sign about a place you could get your feet/legs in a steam thing (healthy with Chinese herbs) and then get a reflexology massage. We indicated interest and suddenly we were being directed through the streets (and closer to my apartment). I realized that we were going to get this steam/reflexology/massage treatment right that minute... Sheli was a little thrown to be brought along... We ended up in a tiny elevator going up to the fourth floor of this apartment building less than a block from my apartment.
We entered a lovely oasis of peaceful beauty. Seriously. We were immediately given clothes to change into, slippers, and went to our own rooms. Then we were given a locker to settle all our stuff but our phones. Then we went to the luxurious chairs and were given wonderful warm sacks of heaven around our necks. The woman suggested we go with the "Beauty" herbal selection since it was our first time at the place. Ok, no problem. We watched as they started up a steamer that was hooked up to this bamboo tub. There was this platform for your feet and under it was where the herbal treatment went. You popped your legs in and were covered up with a towel that went up your legs to enclose the steam. What a hot yet healthy experience! I loved it! So did Sheli. She kept threatening that she wasn't going to be able to leave. After 30 minutes of steaming, getting treats and interesting water, we received 50 minutes of massage/reflexology treatment, wow.
What a lovely surprise choice for us... I've been meaning to get reflexology done to help with the chemo treatment and also had been reading/watching how steam is a healthy treatment as well... talk about kismet.
Hong Kong Friends, interested in visiting? It is called HELA:
Located at 4/F, 15 Lan Fong Road, Causeway Bay, Hong Kong.
*Best part? Mosquito bites seem to be resolved!! (Besides relaxation and peacefulness for a few friends.)

Hooray to lovely places to visit. Hooray to friendship time. Hooray for flexible situations. So grateful for the second half of the day be so positive since the first half just never even gets me to smile. Seriously. Even with my best friend, I'm in the worst of moods... but not towards others, just can't smile.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Many Hmmms but happy moments too

Happy day, visited favorite used bookstore yesterday.
Called- Flow Books- learned that it is closing/moving soon.
Hong Kong friends, get over there now!
Such a nice owner, hope he finds a new place to move to!
One of my new hats with an old scarf and a cute blue clip...
Thanks Mom!
It is incredible what a few days extra of recovery provide a body. Unfortunately, my stamina isn't completely there... I can still last for 3-4 hours but find myself getting pretty tired after that if I'm walking around. I haven't hit 10,000 steps again, my friend Sheli has each day though... we're wandering around Hong Kong between appointments and such.
Today provided us with a relaxed morning and an adventure out to Central for me to finally take the Satyananda yoga class that is provided through CancerLink. I really appreciated every minute of the class. The instructor was patient, knowledgeable, had a good sense of humor and introduced the yoga style in an easy fashion. I found that my range of motion isn't what it used to be. Five scars on my right side certainly have impacted me but I've healed a lot in the past months, the pain has resided so much. Giving myself time to heal and being patient, as much as I can...
I've talked with doctors and more than one mentioned that chemotherapy brings back up radiation treatment reactions, yep. At least it doesn't burn but the area where I had radiation in May certainly isn't happy skin. The scalp isn't quite healed but I've completed the antibiotics. #6 of 12 chemo treatments is tomorrow. It is a one drug day... not fun but quicker.
Saw my acupuncturist yesterday, appreciate his perspective... he lectured me on how to cook the eggs I'm eating and encouraged me to eat two a day. He also has been helping me focus on letting go of worries, etc during treatment, that's pretty wonderful and helpful...
Was chatting with Sheli today about my hair as I've noticed it growing out a tiny bit. Am wondering how much will be there by #12, hair still is falling out constantly but not sure... Also curious to see the state of my eyebrows and eyelashes by then, my oncologist thinks that they won't fall out. Hmm. Taking it day by day.
Sorted out my daily supplements and medicine today and there are a lot. I chatted with Sheli about how it would be nice to figure out how to cut back on them somehow... but I just keep adding. Hmm.
Was bit 8 times the other day by mosquitoes- even though I did put on bug repellant, hmm. Glaring at insects doesn't really work folks... but I have noticed that my coconut oil/slippery elm bark mix really does help my skin calm down and mostly heal! Happy that I tried it out... not quite perfect but darn lot better than it could be!

*Received the most thoughtful video created and made by my former school's staff from Ridgewood Elementary. So, so touched. At first I couldn't believe they did it all for me... but they did. They created a lip-sync sing along video with different grade level teams competing against one another... for me to choose a winner (impossible) to show their love and make me laugh... and laugh (and cry) I did. So touched. So grateful. I want to share it here but it is unlisted and I know there could be some copyright issues and I want to keep rewatching it in the future! Thank you to my Ridgewood friends... so grateful, feeling loved on this end...

Thanks for keeping up with the journey... really appreciate all the support through this time... can't believe I'm already on week 6 of chemo...

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Quality time and new headgear

There's a lot to be said for taking it easy...
Stanley Market has a vast array of selections,
quite distracting and entertaining!
The day after the adventure ie. fainting, Sheli and I both hit 10,000 steps on our Fitbits but we paced things very carefully. It was fun to show Sheli Stanley Market and my favorite restaurant over there plus we rode the Star Ferry in the evening and met up with one of my favorite Hong Kong friends, shall share about that on my other blog though... days seem to be going by quickly. Now today I didn't hit that many steps, Sheli did, but we had quite the adventure locating a building in Admiralty so I could get to my chanting class. Found it and was only 20 minutes late (we gave ourselves 25 minutes to find it, we were really puzzled... I now know how to get there easily- phew.)

So, today was the beginning of two classes that I've registered for through CancerLink... Chanting. It was something I had very little knowledge about. The chanting class was almost like a sing along for part of it, almost like a yoga beginning pose for a while, and also lovely chanting for another portion... I have quite the packet of papers from the class and will look them over during the week. I think I honestly appreciate Qigong more. Might be because I'm familiar with it and more comfortable... The most interesting part of the class for me was the closing chant we did because I noticed it was recorded/played from Zen Master Thich Naht Hanh whom I just finished reading his book You Are Here: Discovering the Magic of the Present Moment. Funny how things are interrelated sometimes. I appreciated the instructor's sentiment, perspective, and style, shall see how next week's class goes. The other class I'm going to attend is yoga on Friday. Shall see how that goes. I love yoga, just hoping it is a style that works for me. I really miss the Iyengar yoga form that I did for years...

My mom sent me a birthday present a while ago and it took over three weeks to arrive... but arrive it did today! Was wonderful. I now have numerous new headwraps that work well with scarves and also pretty flower clips as well... what a lovely treat. It is nice to have new options, feeling a little styling... I do love my pink hat but now have many more choices and all so breathable.  THANK YOU MOM, I LOVE YOU!!! Also, thank you to Claudia for the lovely scarf I wore today with it, received many kind compliments from fellow cancer patients at the Chanting class...

For those who want to know more about the head wrap, it is a wonderful creator who makes them and sells at Etsy- Suzanne Petrosino-Goldstein, you can wear the wrap many ways, I'm wearing it as a turban but it can also be a head covering, wide headband, or skullcap. My mom also ordered for me this cooling strip for me to wear under the head wrap if I'm feeling hot... it has little microbeads that keep it cool for a while... very nice gifts to have.

Thanks for keeping up on the journey, a little quicker share this time but... just appreciating quality time with Sheli, this is quite the gift.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Fainting ie increasing stress

Just love orchids... nature's beautiful art.
So I was taking it easy the three days after treatment as usual... been warned to pace myself and that things were cumulative. Well, learned about that today. Fourth day after treatment... Thought I was doing well and for a normal person I guess what my friend Sheli and I did for the day was tiring and I didn't read my signs...

I hit that exhaustion level after 4.5 hours of wonderful adventuring around Hong Kong's Peak, the Gardens (Zoo/Plants) in Mid-Levels and then walking down... We were waiting at the bank and I was happy to finally bring Sheli there after days of missing the bank's open hours... standing in line did me in.
Sheli's gone over my triggers and we've talked about how I need to trust her and her intuition since I'm not reading myself well... she could tell it was time to go home but I was being stubborn after standing in the line at the bank, when I admitted that I was fading we were only three people before it was our turn to be taken care of... by the time I was in front of the teller I was asking for a chair, putting my head down on the counter and then Sheli and a nice guy next to me were catching me as I fell. Ech. Can't believe it happened again. Fainting... Just pushed too long and didn't read the signs. I honestly do black out. Lose a few moments of time. And then when I revive I'm normal, wanting to finish what I was doing and get on with the day. Can't explain better... I certainly needed to go home and take a nap (which we did) and taking a taxi was the order, not choice, which was good since by the time we were going up the elevator to the apartment, I was rapidly fading again.

But besides that, it was wonderful to watch how Sheli experienced riding a double decker bus up to the Peak, tried out a new restaurant, enjoyed beautiful views, rode the Peak Tram down to Central, explored and looked at gorgeous flowers at the gardens, and then walked down for a while... really great company and walking time. Just need to watch and pace things much better. Draining myself and overtaxing the body is not the way to heal. Trust me, I know this. And if I forget, I have many that are reminding me.

Enjoyed Qigong class tonight and chatting with my life coach as well. My life coach pointed out that the antibiotic I'm on for my scalp may also make me susceptable to becoming dizzy... so to be extra careful since that had to be added in this week. On top of getting three drugs this week, earlier treatment, etc...
Still appreciating the videos shared at -tonight I learned more about natural practices for cancer treatment... some really curious/interesting practices going on around the world...
One glimpse of Hong Kong up at the Peak...

Patient friend Sheli, we were almost at the bank...
Another glimpse of Hong Kong on the Peak.... love the green...

Thanks for journeying with me... still appreciating life's journey, taking it day by day...

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Friendship Boost

Been a little quiet but that's never bad.
Still watching the daily episodes of The Truth about Cancer - they're just fascinating. Good watch each day, my favorite was today- Nature's Pharmacy. Taking notes and reflecting on what is popping up on my radar. For example, I want to learn a lot more about iodine and why it might be good for anyone to add to their supplements but especially for cancer patients. I also think I need to add more watercress, seaweed, arugula, beets, wheatgrass, and kale into my diet... I also feel like I'm understanding a little more about treatments, therapies, diets and more. One thing I'm thrilled that has become a practice for me is that I'm drinking a tea made of mint/green tea/tumeric/ginger throughout the day. I think it really is helping with nausea and many other issues that pop up with cancer patients. I'm also grateful I began oil pulling with a teaspoon of coconut oil in the morning and at night. I was pretty tired of it last week but I guess I got over the "hump" and am in the routine now again without feeling frustrated about being stuck with oil in my mouth for 10-20 minutes. Anything to avoid mouth sores and keep my gums and teeth healthy. My scalp isn't healed. But I think it is starting to get a little better with an antibiotic my oncologist put me on and his liquid treatment. For now, I'm sticking with his plan because I do see a little progress. Hair is continually coming out more... but it doesn't freak me out, just part of life. I also find it funny that what hair there is on my head is growing out a tiny bit. My nose isn't terrific but is still under control with bleeding, etc... I won't mention my stomach much right now except to say I lost a little weight, sigh, but am still trying to eat well and keep balanced with food intake. I'm wearing a face mask in public and I'm being super careful. I glare at mosquitoes that buzz by me... (seriously, I do)
Sleep isn't perfect but popping my feet up the wall each night is an appreciated routine and my body seems to be getting accustomed to it.
I am feeling quite boosted by my best friend Sheli's visit. She arrived yesterday afternoon. Today is normally my "bad" day. I was grateful that I woke up crazy early and was able to say goodbye to my loves before they ran off to catch a plane. Thank goodness Sheli is a completely relaxed person who doesn't put any pressure on us to accomplish anything. Instead, I was able to get back to sleep and get moving after a few hours... I still wasn't up to tip-top form but I was surprised to realize that I only took one anti-nausea pill instead of my normal one every four hours... naps are regular and accepted, my dog is sweet and snuggly, and being able to laugh, chat, and walk with Sheli around my neighborhood was just lovely.
Missing my boys... hoping they're well and having a blast right now in Beijing. I know that there will be days where there is no wifi connections so will chill and look forward to an update soon.
My determined look I guess, can't get a smile out at treatment...
This was Thursday- three drug day...

This line hurt. I still feel where I'm bruised in my vein in my hand.
It is odd but I'm just monitoring. 

Cheese! Sheli is a fabulous walking companion...
So grateful she's here...

Recent art I did...
I am enjoying creating something once in a while that I can color in...
coloring is so soothing for me presently!

Thanks for keeping up on the journey. One day at a time, grateful each time I wake up... even if it isn't the greatest day...