Saturday, May 28, 2011

Aqua Delight - Contest

While I'm waiting for my biopsy to be scheduled, I figure I'd tell you about a product I found.

Ever since I became a world-famous blogger, companies contact me to try to get me to promote their product on my blog.  Most of the time, I don't do it, but once in a while, I find the item worthwhile, as in the case of Sheryl Crow's cookbook. When they ask, it is important to me that the product add value to a cancer patient's life and not merely be something pink.

It's been a year since I finished chemo, and most of my  memories of it are - surprisingly - good ones.   Maybe that's a result of chemo brain combined with my natural optimism, I don't know.  I made unexpected friends, I had an experience many don't have, and most importantly, I had time to myself that few mothers get. When you are sitting in the chemo chair, nobody is asking you to make them a sandwich.

But, some parts were difficult. Hair loss: obvious.  Exhaustion at the end:  grueling.  Bad taste in my mouth?  The worst.

And, now I might have to do it again, so I'm happy I found this new product. It's kind of unfair that everything tastes like sewer when it's the one of most important times for you eat and drink healthfully. I have said numerous times on this blog and online, that the very best thing you can do for yourself when undergoing chemotherapy is drink a lot of water.  It flushes your kidneys, hydrates your system and keeps everything moving that should be moving.  Without a doubt, my large water intake contributed to the fact that I have fond memories of my chemo days.  And, if I end up doing it again, I will be sure to keep in place the things that worked before.

But, I know not everybody can do it.  I can't tell you how many times I've heard women say, "I know I should drink more water but it tastes like slime."  And, those same women are the ones suffering from constipation, nausea, bone aches and other typical chemo side effects that I believe are helped with super-hydration.  I was able to discipline myself to drink 64 ounces of water per day, despite it tasting like a goldfish fish tank that hadn't been cleaned in 8 years, but it wasn't easy.  Yet, because I did, I suffered few side effects .

I still drink water. In fact, I'm one of those women who never leaves their house without their cell phone and bottle of water. So, when I came across the product, Aqua Delight, during a search for chemical-free water bottles, I was intrigued.  Not only was the container BPA free, and the water pure, but it also claimed to help with metallic taste during chemotherapy.

A water made especially for chemo patients?   Isn't that kind of a dream come true?

I was so interested that I contacted the company to find out more.  They generously sent me a water sample so I could try for myself, which I did.  Of course,  I no longer have that metallic taste, so I can't personally attest if it really helps with that.

On their website, they do have video testimonials from cancer patients who say it works, including a video from a breast cancer survivor, so it does have some properties that will help. But, as a water addict, I can tell you that this water is special.  It tastes delicious - clean and airy. It's different than the every day water that I buy.

Because of that, I can imagine that it will help with metallic taste.  According to their website, it is goes through a long purification process using carbon filters, osmosis, steam distillation, UV exposure and ozone and other stuff you need a chemical engineering degree to understand, but which apparently gives it that fresh flavor.

I was impressed enough to contact the company again and asked them to run a contest on my blog, and they generously agreed to give away a case of water so one of you can try it.

For this particular contest,  I would encourage you to tell your friends, post it on the cancer blogs, and tweet this out.  I would love for somebody who is doing chemo to win this, because, I firmly believe that drinking lots of water is the key to having the easiest time possible during chemo, and second, I'm curious to know how much it helps.  If this product will enable one cancer patient to drink the water they need that they might otherwise have not, than I will know I have helped somebody.   And, maybe the winner can share some water with others doing chemo and get the word out about a product that has the potential to make a difficult time in our lives a bit easier.

Because it's pure water, in chemical-free bottles, it's good for post-cancer patients too.  We all need water for health.  Aqua Delight will ship out a case of this water to the winner of this contest.  All you have to do is "like"  their facebook page and then post a comment here on the blog.  If you are a chemo expert, please post a tip that helped you get through treatment and if you are new and just starting your regimen,  please post a question or fear you may have so that somebody can help you. If you have liver mets, that's a plus for me!

And, I want to add a personal note - the man who runs this company has been extremely kind to me - I asked him for things and he showed a lot of caring, and has offered me water too because of my new diagnosis.  So, these are good people.

The winner will be announced one week from today, June 4th.

Good luck.

Me with my cell and Aqua Delight on a rainy day

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Looks like mets

This might be the first time I'm at a loss for words on this blog. So, I'll let my path report speak for me:

There has been interval (since December 10) development of a subtle ill-defined hypodense lesion within the right hepatic lobe. This lesion measures 2.8 x 2.4 cm in size. In the hepatic dome in the lateral left hepatic lobe there is a new hypodense lesion which measures 2.0 x 2.0 cm in size.

(There are domes in your liver???)

Then there is a bunch of other stuff about my innards, all which are mostly normal - a cyst here, a misshapen uterus there....

Impression: Interval development of two ill-defined hepatic lesions measuring 2.4 and 2.0 cm. Although nonspecific these lesions are concerning for metastatic foci.

My oncologist said we have to assume they are cancer until proven otherwise. They are setting me up with a liver biopsy - I have the pre-op blood tests for it tomorrow. After that, we'll do a PET. If the only cancer is the two spots in my liver, than I'm "salvageable" which was his word.

Oh, don't get huffy, he's a good doctor and a nice person.

I am extremely nervous about this left-side pain now. It's been there for six months, and now that my shoulder doesn't hurt so much, I notice that it has gotten worse. That pain may mean I can't go to the salvage yard, and have to be crushed instead.

Considering these lesions were not there five months ago and are now 2 plus centimeters, I think the only logical assumption is that HER2 is doing its thing. I can still hope it's something I don't know about - something that grows quickly on the liver of cancer patients that isn't, you know, cancer.

But, I won't hold my breath.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Mom's Reconstructed Chili Recipe - from Sheryl Crow's Cookbook

In keeping with my Keep Calm and Carry On theme, as promised, I will post a recipe from Sheryl Crow's book.

Below is the recipe I was given by the editor to share with you. For those of you who don't want to eat soy due to your ER+ status, you can substitute ground turkey or chicken. I don't think you have much to be worried about in the way of soy eating though, studies seem to show its okay. Do your own research, of course and do what is comfortable to you. I did make this with ground chicken and it was delicious and not only that, my kid had no idea it wasn't ground beef.

To learn more about the book, click here:

Mom’s Reconstructed Chili

CHUCK: I learned to make this big-and-bold-tasting chili from my mom, who made it often when we were kids. Both my mom’s family and my dad’s made this chili, and so it’s no surprise that my sister, Jackie, and I follow the tradition now that we are grown. Of course, when we were young, Mom and Dad made it with beef, but because I am a vegetarian and Sheryl likes to eat as healthfully as possible, I switched out the beef and substituted ground soy. Guess what? You can hardly tell the difference. Made with soy, the chili tastes just as robust and intense as beef-based chili. Serves 6-8.

1 tablespoon canola oil, preferably expeller-pressed
1 large yellow onion, diced
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
1 pound ground soy burger alternative
2 teaspoons cumin
1 ½ tablespoons chili powder
½ teaspoon smoked paprika, optional
½ teaspoon dried red chili flakes
One 12-ounce can light beer, at room temperature
1 ½ tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
Two 14- to 15-ounce cans chili hot beans with can juices, preferably organic
Two 14- to 15-ounce cans pinto beans, preferably organic, drained
Two 14- to 15-ounce cans fire roasted diced tomatoes, preferably organic
2 bay leaves
2 teaspoons dried oregano
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Fat-free saltines or cornbread for serving, optional
Hot pepper sauce, for serving, optional

1. In a large pot, heat the oil over medium heat and when hot, sauté the onion and garlic for 3 to 4 minutes. Add the ground soy and cook for 1 to 2 minutes, stirring with a wooden spoon to break up the soy further and encourage even cooking. Add cumin, chili powder, paprika, and chili flakes and continue to cook, stirring, until the spices are slightly toasted and fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes.
2. Using a wooden spoon to prevent sticking, stir in half of the beer and the soy sauce. Add the rest of the beer and stir to mix.
3. Add the chili hot beans, pinto beans, tomatoes, and 1 cup of water and mix well. Add the bay leaves and oregano and stir to mix.
4. Bring the chili to a low boil over medium-high heat and cook for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes or so until the stew is well blended. Reduce the heat to low and simmer gently until cooked through, 30 to 40 minutes, until the flavors blend. Stir the chili occasionally during cooking. Adjust the heat up or down to maintain a simmer. Serve hot, with crumbled saltines or cornbread, and some extra hot sauce, if desired.

Monday, May 23, 2011


I spoke too soon. It's true that no news is good news, but I arbitrarily made up the date when I thought no news would actually BE good news.

I was just a teeny bit off.

I got a call from my oncologist's office today, wanting to set up an appointment. I asked his secretary if it was my ovaries, and she said no, that they'd found a spot on my liver.

I have an appointment at 10:45 on Wednesday, and I have no idea what to expect or what's next.

Here's the thing about being a cancer vet. I was a lot calmer hearing this news - even though it could mean a stage IV diagnosis - than I was when I heard the news the first time. Yeah, I was freaked out and my heart was pounding and I was shaking, but only for about five minutes. Then I went back to work. I calmed down and soldiered on.

(I used the word soldier instead of carry to keep the battle/breast cancer cliche's going. Didn't want you to miss that.)

Now, tomorrow I might go in and I may discover I spelled the name of the Superintendent of schools wrong in the email I composed to her, or I may find I accidentally cancelled all my subs, or maybe set something on fire. But, to the best of my knowledge, after the initial freak-out, I'm okay.

They found a spot on my arm once too - it was nothing. This could also be nothing. Cysts happen on livers too, and we all know that I'm a cyst making machine.

I was going to post the recipe from Sheryl Crow's book, but I find I've lost my appetite. I know you have too. I'll do it tomorrow.

Wish me luck.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Announcing the Winner of the Sheryl Crow Cookbook

I'm happy to annouce, via video, that the winner of Sheryl Crow's cookbook is:

(If you didn't enter the contest, watch the video anyway. There is a surprise ending. :) )

Tomorrow, I'll post the consolation prize recipe. Tell all your friends to check in - my new contest will start soon and it's an important one for those who are starting chemo.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

No News is Good News - and News about Frozen Shoulder

My CT scan was Monday, today is Saturday, and my phone has not rung. Since my doctor said he'd only call if there was bad news, you know what that means - time to exercise.

Wait, that is bad news.

At least I'm not spending today fighting demons. That would be really bad news.

On the orthopedic front, I finally got my long-awaited cortisone shot. You remember, the one I'd requested four months ago? Instead, they got side-tracked digging for more cancer and sending me for MRI's and arthrograms. Four months of agony later I finally got the shot I should have gotten in the first place.

Such is the life of a cancer patient, nothing is simple anymore.

That shot was not a pleasant experience either. But, the pain has lessened, to the point where I've become annoyed at the inability to move my arm. (Before, I didn't care, I just wanted it to stop hurting). He said in three days I can do some gentle PT with it, and I have another appointment in six weeks, for possibly another shot if I'm not cured by then. Since it's been frozen for six months, I am not optimistic it'll be quick but at least the terrible pain is reduced.

You know what I fantasize about? What my fondest wish for normalcy is? I want to push the blankets off me when I sleep! Because it has affected my right arm and is truly frozen now, I am only able to sleep on my left side - even my back is impossible. I get into bed, pull the covers up and go to sleep. A hot flash will strike (thank you tamoxifen) and I wake up, steaming, in a pool of sweat, sheets getting damp. All I want to do is throw the blankets off, but I can't. My right arm doesn't work. So, I lie there, half awake, helpless, feeling the heat and dampness surround me, like a Mississippi flood. Repeat that ten times in one night.

I also dream about sleeping on my stomach, or I would if I could stay asleep long enough to dream. That is the way I've slept my entire life and it's been a few years since I've been able. What a luxury that would be! Maybe my backache would go away.

I'm going to have to work for it though. Never my strong suit.

One very interesting thing that I was told about Adhesive Capsulitis - Frozen Shoulder - is that many of the online articles about it are incorrect. Even ones from legitimate sites, like the Mayo Clinic. Every article I read said that it would eventually heal on its own, in stages, over the course of months or years. Reading that on every site and in every citation, I really didn't push hard to get treated. I kept thinking, "any day now, the pain will be gone and I can start PT."

My doctor told me that is not true for people who get this as a result of trauma, as I did. They said they find that the pain does not go away in these cases and it doesn't follow the normal progression as it will in idiopathic frozen shoulder. I am putting this down with all the keywords I can muster, because I hope that anybody who has frozen shoulder post-surgery, post-trauma, post-mastectomy, finds this, goes to a doctor and gets treated. It may not heal on its own at all, and I have just spent months in severe pain when I didn't really have to. Once my MRIs came back cancer-free, I should have gone back in and gotten the shot, but the Internet led me astray and I didn't.

And suffered for it.

Also, I can't say this enough - ladies, if you have just had your mastectomies - get out one of those brochures they give you and check out the back. See those exercises they tell you to do, that you think don't apply to you because you feel fine?

Do them.

Tomorrow morning I will annouce the winner of the cookbook. The contest is now closed for it and I will draw the winner later today. Thank you for your participation.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

If it makes you healthy - WIN Sheryl Crow's new book!

Breast cancer is an equal opportunity disease.  The rich, famous, and talented are as likely to get it as is a school secretary or stay-at-home mom.   Nancy Reagan and Maura Tierney (who was HER2+) are just two of many famous women who survived breast cancer.

In some ways, it would be harder on them.  None of us want to lose our breasts or hair, but for a woman in the public eye, who makes her living on her body, these things can mean a loss of income and possibly even a loss of career.

In same ways, it's exactly the same.  Fame and money can't protect them from the worry of relapse, for the monitoring and scans that will go on for years.

In some ways though, they have it a bit easier.   The money that comes with a successful entertainment career can buy things that most can't afford.  Sheryl Crow has always had a personal chef, but now she is able to have him make her very healthy cancer fighting meals in the hopes of preventing a relapse.

While few of us have the money to hire a chef, we can cook healthy and there is no better time to begin than post-treatment.  Sheryl Crow and her chef, Chuck White, have published a cookbook full of meals that are healthy for everyone, and they consulted a nutritionist, who made sure that the recipes are balanced for cancer survivors.

I was given a copy, and have made several of the recipes.  The recipes in this book are exactly the way I like to eat.   Each dish is wholesome, full of flavor, and has farm-fresh ingredients that are easily found in every community.  Best of all, most are not time-consuming to prepare, and are kid friendly.  Cheryl Crow is a mom before an entertainer, and it shows in the recipes selected for this book.

The book is filled with over 125 seasonal, locally grown and delicious recipes.  Also included are photos, stories about life on the road as an entertainer, as well as being a mom.

Recipes are organized by season, so you are assured to have the right ingredients when they are fresh.

I've read this book from cover to cover, and have made several of the recipes. I highly recommend it.

And, one of my fantastic, wonderful readers can win one!

All you have to do is post a comment about whether your eating habits have changed since your cancer diagnosis. Or if you have not been diagnosed with cancer, maybe share a healthful recipe or link to one. I will randomly select from one of the comments, and St. Martins Press will ship out a book to the winner.

This contest is open only to US and Canada residents.

It's a good book. I promise. Sheryl sounds like a nice person.

And, since there can only be one winner, the rest of you will receive an exclusive recipe from the book!

Post your comment below by Saturday, May 21st, and I will announce the winner on Sunday as well share the recipe. Good luck!


Friday, May 13, 2011

They should have told me...

Once you have cancer, they are always prospecting for more.  Cancer doctors are like miners. They strike gold once and never stop looking for the Mother Lode.

Yesterday, when I went to see my oncologist for my three month checkup, he found an excuse to go cancer hunting once again. The fact that I have gained about 7% of my total body weight since my last visit, all in my abdomen, is that little glimmer in the riverbed that makes him want to dredge.

He declared my symptoms "frightening" due to my HER2 status, and ordered me another CT scan. (I'm not sure it's a good thing when your oncologist admits your symptoms are frightening.)

The scan is scheduled for Monday. I'm so bloated, I hope my belly fits in the machine.

Oh, don't freak out, there is no way an unlucky girl like me is striking gold.. Odds are, I have a hormonal problem, or menopause has caught up to me and I'm finally getting fat after 53 years of being super skinny.   My doctor said he'd call with the bad news and if there was none, he'd see me in three months.  I'm going to guess that any phone call will come before Friday, if one does, which I don't expect.

I fear I'm going to have to face the fact that middle age spread is here.

He also told me that he didn't think my frozen shoulder would heal without surgery. And, frankly, I cannot stand the pain anymore. In the unlikely event that I am harboring a vein of gold, there are lots of positions they like to put you in for tests and surgeries that I cannot do. So, I made another appointment with my orthopedist for Wednesday.  If he agrees I need surgery, I'll schedule it for as soon as school is out.

I sure hope it all pans out.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

She Went out with Dignity and all her Hair - Good-bye Carcinista

Every so often, you find somebody that is totally sympatico with you. You are are instantly on the same page with this person, their thought process mirrors yours, they have the same interests and same way of looking at the world, and you become friends. In the day of the internet, this can happen without ever meeting the person, and so it was with me and Sarah.

I first became aware of Sarah Feather, the Carcinista, when she sent me an email right after Christmas in 2009:

"I’ve just discovered your blog and I think we might be related. I’m not sure I’m as funny as you are, but I’m kicking cancer’s ass and laughing about it, too. Ovarian, since 2006, two boys (5 and 7) and a shell-shocked husband also. Blogging and looking for like-minded wise-asses who don’t let their baldness get them down.

Anyway, love your blog, adding you to my blogroll, hope you enjoy the lack of shaving and blackheads that hair loss affords. I’ll be reading you!"

Her humor and personality were obvious, and I clicked on her blog and read a couple of entries.

I wrote her back.

Hey girlfriend!

I gave your blog a quick once over and love it. Will sit tomorrow and read, but husband is screaming at me to come watch TV with him. I already know you are worth a link - and staying in touch with.

More later!


Over the course of the next two years, we stayed in touch, via emails but mostly through the blog. It was an easy relationship. I called her my blogging sister and I really feel that in some way, we were sisters.

She has relatives who live in my part of the world and we'd hoped to meet up, but her last visit out was short and she wasn't up to it, and frankly, I probably wasn't at the time either for different reasons. I wish now that we had managed it though.

I thought highly of Sarah's writing skills. She mentioned wistfully once that she had never been published, which was amazing given her talent. I have an acquaintance who is editor of an large online network for women, and has been the founding editor of a national magazine. So, when Pinktober was on the horizon, with the pink flag-waving and perky pink joggers and pink items in the stores, I thought of Sarah and how she must feel during this month. I pitched an idea to my editor friend suggesting that Sarah write for their publication on how it feels to be an Ovarian Cancer survivor during the pink festivities. I didn't want Sarah to know I was involved, I was hoping this could be a secret, although it's definitely not the way things are done in the publishing world. My friend said she'd take it to her editorial board and get back to me. I really wanted to give Sarah the gift of a publishing credit.

When Pinktober was halfway over and nothing happened, I realized that it probably wasn't going to be a fit for their readership, who were probably largely rah-rah women who never had to experience cancer, except by putting on a pink hat that made their ponytail swing. So, I asked Sarah to write the piece for my blog.

She did:  Pinktober from a Teal Point of View

It is the 2nd most popular page on my blog. The first, of course, being the one about free goodies, which would make Sarah laugh.

You read the blogs of people like Sarah, knowing how it is going to end, but hoping, praying, that it won't. That the miracle will come for her, because anybody who has accepted her fate with such determination to make it easy on those around her, with the grace and dignity that she demonstrated - well, it just shouldn't happen to people like her.

My last contact with Sarah was about two weeks ago. I've long planned to start a 10 questions type feature on my blog and interview cancer survivors. When I read her latest post about ending treatment, I knew that she had to be my first interviewee. She, in my mind, is the definitive cancer patient, the one who handled it best. Naturally, Sarah, ever giving, agreed.

I didn't know at the time that she thought she only had a month to live. I figured she probably had at least three months, maybe six, so I knew I couldn't delay too long with the questions but didn't think I needed to rush. My shoulder is now nearly completely frozen and typing and mousing is hard and extremely painful, so I have to do writing in batches and on weekends. Today was the day I was planning to finish and send them.

Today, Sarah is gone.

But, Mr. Wonderful, her husband, is not. He has graciously offered to answer the questions for Sarah, even in the midst of his devastating grief. I know why they were such a great couple now, and why she named him what she did.

Sarah, thank you for light and laughter in such a dark place. Thank you for reaching out to me, and making me smile and want to steal your jokes for the past two years. You will always live on in spirit, in your boys and in the story you so very graciously shared.

Rest in Peace.

Sarah asked that, in lieu of gifts or flowers, donations be made in her honor to First Descents or Ovations for the Cure