New Year, New Me!?

Wow! It has been a while. I have been busy with so much. So much. New doctors, new career goals, new energy, new meds, new strength and direction! It has taken a remarkable amount of time( I really had no clue) to feel better, really feel better! I am still dealing with my cancer but I am feeling better all the time. I was in remission for a little while. And wouldn’t you know it, when I really started to feel good my tumor markers started to go up. I don’t know if tumor markers are all they are cracked up to be but the doctors monitored them closely. I am grateful for all that. I found a new facility that offers a more wholistic approach and the doctors there are wonderful. But the best thing is… I only have to go once a month! You wouldn’t believe what a difference that has made for me. I drive 6 hours, all my tests and treatments are done in one place so after a day or two there I drive back home and basically don’t think about cancer, or disease, or doctors, or tests, for another month! It is very liberating! I get to be a normal person for a little while! While I am there I see a nutritionist, a naturopath, a mind body counselor, a chiropractor, as well as my oncologist and, the best part is,  they all work together! And on my behalf! I feel confident in the things they are doing for me so that frees me up to think about other things, most importantly, my life!

That’s me in the black!

I am living my life and following my passions. I was hired to cook and be a chef liaison for four days at New Years, working for a celebrity and all that that entails. I was able to push my fatigue aside and get it done and I had a great time! Thats not to say I wasn’t tired and sore for a few days following. But I was still happy to be able to do it at all! I am learning to trust my body again, its not quiet what it used to be, but its getting there!

I have started my riding school back up and I am teaching children how to ride and take care of horses. I have two new ponies in the barn, thanks to some wonderful friends. The barn work keeps me pretty busy but I love it. I have started riding my mountain bike again, not very far, but still! I am starting to feel like me again! Doing all these things gives me purpose and my confidence is coming back. I may have cancer, but I am not cancer!

Star Seed Salad

Just a little bike ride?

5FFC9C53-E95E-4D63-95BE-1056B4ADCB46Sunday I went for a little bike ride on the greenway. It has been years since I had been out there. What an amazing place, practically in our back yard. People come from all over the country to ride the mountain bike trails there. I went with a few friends, we didn’t go far, but I was thrilled! I am starting to trust myself again, and it feels good!

I think that sometimes when things happen to you and you feel out of control and/or overwhelmed your mind kinda shuts things off. Like I can’t deal with all of this right now, check back later. Last year was kind of a blur for me. People would say things like “Oh you are so strong, what a fighter.” I never understood what they really meant by that? I didn’t have a choice. I had to deal with it. I had to leave it to professionals that, hopefully, knew what they were doing. Uncomfortable tests and needles and poisons (chemo). Bone marrow tests, and the constant blood transfusions. Crazy steroids and medication with terrible side effects. Feeling so weak and almost passing out in the beauty salon, embarrassing and scary! I never thought I would or could ever imagine myself here, doing any of this! At the time it was either do it or die! Not much of a choice! So you just accept it and deal with it. Your hair falls out, you don’t feel like yourself, you don’t look like yourself. It seems you become a shell of who you were. Your thoughts and dreams are put aside, you are just hoping to survive. It is all pretty overwhelming. Not to mention, regular life is still going on with all its own trials and tribulations.

Of course, I tried to stay positive, but I’m not gonna lie, things got tough sometimes. Its also hard on your family and friends who don’t know how to help you or deal with you. The hair comes back, your face becomes familiar again, the constant doctor visits subside, you start to feel reminders of who you were before. I think I am beginning to understand the whole,” you are a fighter” thing now. As I mentioned before, my recent test results have been coming back good. Now is the time you have to be brave, brave enough to fight and take your life back! For some reason, actually many good reasons, my mental fog has lifted! I am alive and I am going to be stronger than before. I have new perspectives, I have a new appreciation for life. I didn’t want this article to be about my cancer, I wanted to share with you how a small shift in my attitude, my mental state, made a huge, HUGE difference! This happened last week and I can tell you for the first time in a very long time I feel like I can breathe! Now I have choices and I choose to take my life back into my own hands. I am pushing myself, working out harder, hiking, being disciplined, eating healthy again. I bought myself a new pair of hiking shoes instead of some slippers! Taking care of MYSELF the way I know how! My aches and pains have almost miraculously diminished!

I went for a little bike ride on the greenway, what a marvelous day!

Almost Over

I’m not sure what I think about 2017. It was a tuff year for sure. It had it’s ups and downs for me. People just seem so tense and there is drama at every turn. I think I will be happy to leave it behind.

For some crazy reason I carry this dread around, I have cancer. And it makes me do strange things. I think that I put it out of my mind but, its always there lurking in the back of my thoughts.  Why is this hurting, what is that from? Will I ever get stronger? Will I just have to live with this pain in my back, thigh and shoulder? I think we all know that we are going to move on one day but when you have a diagnosis like cancer it brings it a little closer to home. Maybe I should pamper myself more? Maybe it doesn’t matter if I get back in shape? Maybe I shouldn’t  push myself too hard, I might hurt myself! Damaged goods, etc., etc., etc. NOT ANY MORE!!!

This December has been a a month of tests, medical as well as personal. I am coming to some conclusions. This month I had a Pet Scan, mammography, ultrasound, X-rays, blood work, more physical therapy, and a new medicine, zometa. The medical results are in, and I am happy to report that everything looks good! Weeks of test results coming back good, more and more reassuring! This week I went to an orthopedic oncologist, the last of the tests and consults for this year. Besides his findings that most of my aches and pains can be reversed, the most important thing this man said to me was, “Live your life, if you don’t, cancer wins.” Just like that! That was all I needed to hear! This was the icing on the cake! I came home feeling revitalized, like a new person! I am not a patient! I am not cancer!

That evening I got Liz back! I started really working out! I decided to quit physical therapy, although it helped, I can do the exercises and stretches at home without wasting so much time driving to PT. I am hiking with my dogs again! I am eating right! I even pulled the old mountain bike out! I feel like me again and its only been a few days! I am looking forward to kayaking and riding the trails again. The weather here has been amazing and I will be spending a good portion of my time outside, living my life!

Enough

Do we ever have enough? Enough information, enough money, enough stuff. It seems to me that we are ambushed with too much information, at least I know I am. Everybody has an opinion. On my journey towards healing I am overwhelmed with all the different and opposing information. I think I am ready to take on some challenges but its hard to know which way to go. So I guess I have to follow my intuition and do what feels right to me.

First of all I am a strong believer in good nutrition. It is the basis for all health. I am a cook. I eat whole, real, not processed food and lots of fresh fruits and vegetables. I buy organic and local whenever I can.  I try to not eat too much sugar, that is my weakness, some say sugar feeds cancer, my oncologist says no. I almost never eat fast food. I don’t drink sodas. I try to drink plenty of filtered water. I have done lots of research on nutrition. I have been on every diet under the sun. I was even a vegetarian for awhile. And until I got my cancer diagnosis I was healthy and fit despite being overweight. I easily did 10,000 steps a day and was always active. Low blood pressure and no signs of diabetes or anything like that. I have some friends that are very strict with their diets and they seem to be sickly. Their skin doesn’t look good and they seem frail. They are always having stomach and digestive issues. They just don’t seem happy.

One of my friends told me the other day they are not going to eat out anymore because it causes them too much digestive trouble. What a shame, you can make good choices at restaurants and it is part of going out and socializing, part of the human experience. If your body is kicking back clear broth maybe you need to do something different. I have another friend who was a little crazy about what she ate, all organic, glass bottled water, no meat, etc.etc. until I found her wolfing down a hamburger one day. And another that did the whole gluten free thing for a year. She described it as the worst year of her life. Too much stress! I think we have put so much stress and emotional guilt around eating that it is almost impossible to relax, eat,  and enjoy a good meal. I don’t think it’s worth it. The information changes all the time. I think we all start out with good intentions but I think you can take anything too far. Too much of a good thing. An example is some people that do animal rescue, a wonderful thing, until they get too many and become animal hoarders that can’t possibly take care of all they have taken on.

I am a foodie and food and eating and entertaining is such a huge part of our life. I want to enjoy my life. I want to experience delicious food. I want to embrace health. I just can’t imagine restricting myself to the point of misery. So I am going to eat real food, in small amounts and move around more. For now, that’s all I can do. It will have to be enough.

Just a little update

Yesterday I had to go to get my blood work done and have my port flushed. It is always a yucky reminder of my illness, this cancer thing hanging over my head, ugh! I really try to focus on the positive and how lucky I am. My blood work looked great! Gets better every time I have it checked. But every month there is a little apprehension leading up to my appointment. I am feeling better but, I hope everything is ok, I hope the tumor markers are staying low, etc. I think this will all get easier as time goes by. Everything was good yesterday!

I am feeling stronger all the time, mentally as well as physically. Sometimes I am amazed at how far I have come and other times I am disappointed that I am not 100% yet. I know these things take time. Cancer is rough. Chemotherapy is tough. It is all very hard on your body. I am having trouble with entire body aches and pains in my muscles and bones. And the hot flashes and night sweats SUCK, especially in this heat of Florida that I live in. These are side effects from the medication I have to take. I could go on and on about how all this sucks. I could sit back and whine and complain all the time. I could accept this as my new normal. I could get on disability. NOPE!!! Not me! I will never give in. I think you create your own reality and I am not going down without a fight!

Somedays its hard to get out of bed, but I find that I get better with movement. As always I am taking it upon myself to make the best of my situation. So I am trying to exercise every day. I am back to my mile long walks with the dogs, yay! And on days I don’t get to do that, I am practicing Tai Chi. I can go a little further all the time! Soon I think I will be adding some weight lifting back in to regain some muscle that I have lost. And I am hoping that by the fall, when it cools down a little outside,  to get back in the saddle again. So I know I am getting better. I am trying to support my body in any way that I can to help with my healing process. First and foremost I try to have a good positive attitude. Somedays this is easier said than done! Second I try to eat healthy nutritious food. Don’t get me wrong I indulge sometimes, thats just part of enjoying life, which is very important! I do take supplements.  A good whole food multivitamin, just because. Iron to help support my blood, I still can’t believe how anemic I was. Vitamin K

to help support calcium absorption. Calcium to counteract the Xgeeva injections. Vitamin E to help with this painful burning neuropathy in my thigh. I am also taking Turkey Tail mushroom, there are lots of studies being done on this right now for fighting cancer. And I just found out about Lions Mane mushroom for nerve pain, I just ordered some! I will let you know how it works out.

Here’s to a healing journey! Listen to your body, support it and help it heal!

Relax

Today is a good day. I am happy to say I am feeling really good in a kinda relaxed familiar way. I have been very busy to say the least. I think I may have been over compensating for what I perceived as lost time during the active phase of my illness. I felt kind of “out of control” wanting to get back to “normal” and do all the things I hadn’t been doing for the last 8 months. I have a bad habit of forcing things, making stuff happen! But sometimes, as I am learning, you just have to let things run their course. So in the last few weeks I have been going like crazy, doing this and that. Go, go, go! The puppy keeps me busy, in, out, in, out, play, play, play!  Jerry left for Puerto Rico, so everything is my responsibility, yikes! I have started painting again, with many more cool projects piling up. I have been yard saleing. I have been playing my cello, even jammed with some friends! I have been cleaning and organizing my house and getting back into doing some much needed yard work. It has been crazy steamy hot here, of course it is summertime in Florida! I have been walking and doing Tai Chi. Promoting my artwork again. I have been eating healthy and taking care of myself. Researching all kinds of stuff. Back to doing farm chores and horses. Wow!

Don’t get me wrong I am thoroughly enjoying myself! I oftentimes look back and think I couldn’t have done this six months ago. Just walking to the barn was all I could muster! I am beginning to recognize myself again. I feel more like the old familiar me! My strength is coming back, my hair is coming back, I think it’s actually thicker than it was before! I now have eyebrows and lashes! I have researched, got approval from my doctor, and have started taking a supplement called Turkey Tail Mushroom. It has had some very promising results in supporting the immune system in post chemo patients. I am still dealing with some side effects like this crazy burning in my thighs if I stand up for too long and hot flashes and night sweats from the hormone therapy. Bone and muscle aches and pains, some mornings I’m not sure if I can get out of bed! But these things are getting better and I can live with them.  And I am finding that the better I take care of myself, eating clean and gentle exercise, the better I feel, mentally and physically, surprise!

So now I am beginning to feel like I can calm down, rope myself in a little bit and find some balance. Work, play, RELAX, repeat!

 

Hair!

IMG_2129I must say today I am grateful for hair. It’s a funny thing how people just don’t appreciate what they have until it is gone. So funny, I never really thought about my hair that much before. I never spent a whole lot of time primping and curling or straightening and perming. I pretty much kept it kinda short so I could wash it, put some product in and go! When it went away, I found myself looking a lot at peoples hair. I would notice things like all the nurses in the infusion center had gobs and gobs of hair. I mean lots. Weaves and wigs or whatever! But they all seemed to have a whole lotta hair! Maybe because they worked with hair challenged people all day they really went above and beyond with their own!

My hair is really starting to come back in now and it is so cool. The color looks just like my puppies coat, so right now I am sporting the Griff look! Down the road I may try some  color, blue or purple or maybe both! It is still really short but oh so thick and luxurious! Lol! It’s kinda like a new toy running my fingers through it, is so much fun! I was really surprised how much hair regulates your temperature. It really does help keep you warmer in cool weather and, I believe, cooler in warm weather. It is kinda cool seeing the changes and transformations it is going through. I’m just leaving it alone and seeing what its gonna do right now. Someone even gave me a compliment on my hair yesterday! One of the hardest things for me through my treatment was losing my eyelashes and brows. That was just weird and hard to pull off. But thanks to Wink, my eyelashes are coming back thicker and darker than before. My eyebrows are looking great, almost totally back! Thank you, Wink! I absolutely love this product and this company!

ALL my hair is coming back! Hair I didn’t even realize I lost, nose hair, arm hair. Its all coming back! I did enjoy the nice break from shaving my legs and arm pits but I’m not gonna complain! I was actually threatening to never shave again and just embrace ALL my hair! But on second thought, I just don’t think the Grizzly Adams look would work for me. It feels really good to be getting  back to normal even if that means shaving every night. It sure is nice to start recognizing the person in the mirror! Looking more like myself makes me feel more like myself and that makes me happy. Summer fun here I come!

Hair it comes

Wow this stuff really does work! I have been using Wink on my eyelashes and eyebrows for 12 days. I have been applying it every night before I go to bed and every morning they look so much better. It’s so easy to apply you just twist the pen and oil comes up on the brush, you just brush it across your brows and the hairline of your lids. I haven’t had any issues with irritation or anything. My eyelashes seem to be coming in thicker than before and I don’t really think I need to pencil in my eyebrows anymore. They are still short but seem to be growing more as you are reading this! My eyelashes are about 2-3 millimeters and my brows are about 1-2 millimeters already, now remember I started with nothing. I love supporting a wonderful company like this. And I definitely recommend this stuff http://www.AmalieBeauty.com let me know what you think. Wink!

The days of not having to shave my legs is almost over. Yay! Just in time for summer, ugh.  It was a nice break. Now that I am on this estrogen blocker I may be having to shave my beard and mustache and chest as well, ya never know, I am Italian! The hair on my head is finally getting thicker and darker, I was beginning to think I would look like that albino cactus forever! It is still really, really short, I’d say about ½ an inch or so, but thats ok no more need for hats. I am feeling pretty brave! I am really interested what color it actually will come in as I’ve heard people say it can come back in a completely different color than you had before, I wonder if I can put in a request!

It is pretty crazy the way your body tries to heal itself if you just give it the chance and maybe a little support. I have learned to love my body in a whole new way.

Whatever I Want

I am pretty sure my doctor has no idea, but one of the best things she told me was to eat whatever I want. Of course I was happy with my latest test results, that the treatments were working, and that I wasn’t dying. But to someone that has struggled with their weight all their life, this was amazing! I have always been so strict, eat this, don’t eat that. Exercise, exercise exercise. Judging food all the time. I love food, I cook and bake and limit and control. A terrible life long battle where weight gain always seem to win! I was a vegetarian for five years, mostly because cows live on our road and they are beautiful, kind creatures and seeing them every day just made it hard for me to eat them. But also because it seemed healthy and I might, just might, lose some weight. Nope not me.

About six years ago I was told I had a thyroid issue. Yes, finally a reason why I don’t lose weight! I was prescribed some medication. I took it for a year. I didn’t lose a pound! I joke with my friends that if there was ever an apocalypse or food shortage my horse and I would be the last ones standing, she has a weight issue too, that poor girl lives on air!

When I got diagnosed with cancer, friends and family and books on cancer were telling me to eat this, don’t eat that. No sugar, lots of meat, no meat, limit the carbs, watch out for salt. Apricot kernels and alkaline water, thats what you need! Sounds wonderful! Not so much! I was still reeling from the whole diagnosis thing and what I faced. I was angry that I had tried to eat healthy, and take care of myself all my life and I still got cancer! The last thing I wanted to do was have an even stricter food regimen, I just didn’t have the energy! At the time I had no appetite. I was not very interested in food for the first time in my life. I had lost 12 pounds. And my doctor said, eat whatever you want, live a little.

What? You mean its ok to eat a cupcake? A hamburger? Some mac and cheese? It was so liberating! My body took a huge involuntary inhale/exhale and relaxed thankful for the permission, for the first time in my life, to not worry about food. Just eat what you want when you want it. Wow I have never done that, I don’t even know what I want! Cupcakes! I think I ate three cupcakes the first week and believe it or not I was still alive and I didn’t want anymore cupcakes!  I had some mac n cheese, it was all I had for dinner one night and low and behold, I didn’t want any more mac n cheese! I also had a few Mountain Dews, real sugar of course, but after just a few days of allowing myself this treat, I wanted no more!  These were things I would just not allow myself to eat before, I almost felt naughty! As time went on and I allowed myself to eat whatever I wanted, and listened to my body, I realized I wanted and craved healthy food, fresh fruits and vegetables, healthy smoothies, nuts and small amounts of lean meat. You are what you eat, and thank goodness I don’t want processed, fake, junk food.  Maybe just a little, once in a while!

Are You What You Eat?

IMG_0725As long as I can remember I have always been a “health nut” call it what you like, but I have always been health conscience. I think its because I grew up with a very sick Mom, she was always in and out of the hospital, she had 36 major operations. I have seen her in ICU, I have heard how she died on the operating table for 3 minutes, I have seen her hooked up to all those machines, pretty scary stuff for a little kid! As I got older I witnessed many mistakes and wrong doings at the hospitals, even misdiagnosis of major things. I do think it was the doctors that finally did her in, but all that is for another story. However I believe it really influenced my health choices. One of my favorite memories of my Mom is going to the health food store with her. Now back in the day these were always little cozy places tucked away from the mainstream with strange smells and all kinds of interesting bottles and potions. Delicious things like honey and bee pollen, ginseng tea, granola, herbs and spices from far away places.The people there always seemed a bit different, very friendly and wise. It was like no where else I had ever been. A tiny place that you could wander around in for hours and not see everything! Now remember there where no Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s back then, so this was a special place! After we bought our vitamins and some new exotic spices I was always allowed to get something, usually a honey filled bit of candy. Very fond memories!

And so it began… my life long goal of taking care of myself, treating my body with some respect, and trying to make good food choices, since before it was mainstream and cool. My Mom was a wonderful cook, you could find her at the grocery store on her way home from a hospital stay, preparing for the next delish thing she was going to feed us! Don’t get me wrong, I am not a strict fanatic. I enjoy a good burger just like the next guy, but I think it’s really important to eat good food, made with love. It’s what I was raised on!