Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Some Shameless Self Promotion, and Some Om.

I was interviewed on Monday for an article in the Bend Bulletin this morning about cancer, Lance and this weekend's Tour Des Chutes in Bend, Oregon. (Thanks to the wonderful Miss Heather Clark, for thinking of me and listening to my decaffeinated rambling.)  This was my second time as an interviewee (the first time was for an article in June's RaceCenter magazine, "Return of the Athlete"), and I can't say that I've mastered the arts of not repeating myself and not forgetting what I was originally asked in an attempt to formulate an eloquent answer. 

Here is Heather's article

During the interview, we talked a bit about cycling, the limits of traditional medicine and taking control of one's own care.   Looking back on my own experience with chemotherapy, I can definitely point to the moment where I started regain control of my physical and mental health.  It was when I posted the list from the naturopath on the refrigerator, ate my first dose of mega-protein and went for a walk.  

Being accountable for my own care has been something that has carried through since that day.  I can tell when I fall off the wagon and eat too much sugar and too little green food.  Or when  I skip exercising.  Or exercise too much.  It doesn't feel too great, but what does feel great is knowing that it is 100% on me to make the needed corrections and get back on track.

If  are curious about what I've been doing, keep reading.  If not, I wish you Happy Weekend. I'm taking off tomorrow for a long weekend in Bend--the Tour Des Chutes ride, some easy mountain biking and a whole lot of sunshine.

Without further ado:  My accountability list. 

Eating:  My diet has seen some major re-working in the last four months.  Although I am still getting that occasional nacho or coke fix, I am concentrating on avoiding processed foods and incorporating more green stuff and fruit stuff into my diet.  This hasn't been hard to do, as I've discovered that I like cooking (!?) and that I'm not so bad at putting together healthy and delicious meals.  I'm also very lucky that I live in a city where there is a farmer's market nearby on every day of the week.  I'm able to get fresh produce on a whim and I try to buy one item per week that I've never used before and incorporate it into a meal.  

Right now, I'm big on smoothies, green tea, meal salads and anything with quinoa.

As far as recipe resources, I get many of mine from Sunset magazine, MIX magazine, Real Simple,
Elana's Pantry, and Jamie Oliver cookbooks. 

Exercise:  I try to exercise for an hour every day.  When I first started chemo, this hour mostly consisted of walking, but due to a serious bike jonesing, a chronically crabby SI joint, and a sore ankle from a glorious hiking wipeout,  I have gradually replaced most of my walks with bike rides.  I also have rejoined my twice-weekly core strength/speed/agility class. 

I have had to bring a whole new perspective to that class.  In the days BC, this early AM class was the first of two workouts.  Class in the morning, followed by a bike workout at lunch or after work.  No problem, easy breezy.

In the days AC,  I have to use a much lighter medicine ball, and if I can make it through class without having to cut back on repetitions or sit out an exercise, I am totally killing the workout.  KILLING IT.  And if I can ride the 3 miles to work afterwards...BONUS. 

Acupuncture: I have been going to acupuncture for four years, and have been seeing my acupuncturist 2-4 times a month since my diagnosis.  She's been able to help me with the inflammation issues associated with surgery, the GI issues brought on by Adriamycin, the aches and pains of Taxol and the mental challenges of being a cancer patient. 

Massage:  I haven't been as consistent with massage, but it has been a great tool for both relaxation and for getting normal range of motion back into my affected arm.  In my ongoing battle with my right SI joint, I'm trying a Thai massage tomorrow. 

Yoga:  Developing a regular yoga practice is my latest challenge.  Lots of excuses:  Yoga classes are not cheap, I am remarkably inflexible and the the idea of having to quiet my mind and BE CALM for an hour is mildly terrifying.

All of this being said, there is a lot of material out there that indicates that a regular yoga practice lowers stress which, in turn, lowers my recurrence risk.  Since all of this accountability stuff is not only about getting rid of my current cancer, but also doing whatever I can to avoid a future cancer, seems like a good thing to incorporate into my routine. 

I've decided the best way to go about this is to work with someone one-on-one so I can develop a practice that addresses my two needs:  stress reduction and increased flexibility.  That starts this week.  Stay tuned.

Reiki:  I am seeing a practitioner that I know through Team in Training and it has been, surprisingly, one of the most effective means of dealing with my symptoms.  If you don't know exactly what Reiki is, there is a decent description on Wikipedia

I've only been to Terry twice, but have come out of both treatments with increased energy and a relaxed mindset,  and the post-chemo treatment completely relieved my body of the aches and pains caused by Taxol and the Neulasta shot. 

I've been blessed to belong to a community of people that have made much of this available to me with minimal out-of-pocket expense.   Bike people rule, y'all. 

However--if you don't have these types of resources available to you as easily as I do, I would highly recommend looking for programs that are available for free through hospitals and non-profit organizations.  For example, OHSU provides yoga classes and massage to cancer patients at little or no cost and the Cancer Centers at Providence have more patient programs that you can shake a stick at.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Me, 7. Chemo, 1.

How did almost three weeks come to pass since my last blog post?

I'll tell you--I'm a tired cookie. On my good weeks I'm trying to bill 35-40 hours at the firm and on my bad weeks, well, they're bad weeks. I'm really anemic and my white blood cell count has dipped enough where I've had to keep on with the Neulasta shots. The shots, after not really affecting me that badly during the A/C days, are really kicking my ass now. Doctor says that its likely the combination of the soreness that Taxol already causes and the fact that my body is finally needing the hard-core bone marrow kickstart that the Neulasta causes.

The shot was this morning, and I'm hoping that premedicating with Advil and yoga will head off some of the discomfort and the resulting lack of motivation to do anything other than lie around in bed watching the World Cup and the Tour. Thank god for the Tour--when I'm too tired to put on anything other than underpants and wife beaters, tuning out to Phil and Bobke is a little more dignified than MTV's "True Life: Facebook is Ruining My Relationship." (I came to the conclusion that it was Jersey, not Facebook, that was ruining the relationship.)

My eyebrows and eyelashes are currently in the throes of Custer's Last Stand. I'm awkwardly (and rather unsuccessfully) learning how to draw eyebrows and used the alien-like change in my face as an excuse to go drop $80 at Sephora this morning. Apparently you can mitigate looking like an albino bowling ball with the clever application of eyeliner and creme eyeshadow. We'll see how that goes.

I have only one chemo treatment left. One. This is a good thing for many, many reasons, not the least of which is that I am completely over this. By "this" I don't so much as mean the Franken-eye, the perpetual exhaustion and the scaring myself in the mirror in the middle of the night. What I am over is the waiting for the net chapter of my life to begin. I have a million things I want to do, need to do, and it's hard to be patient.

I had a small tempter tantrum about this a while back. I've got an ongoing mental list of things I want to accomplish in the near future. It includes some small things--like learning how to make biscuits from scratch and buying new towels for my bathroom--and not insignificant things like outlining a book, writing a business plan for something I'd like to try in 2-3 years and starting a small non-profit.

With all of the downtime I've had in the last few months, it logically (?) seemed to me that I should be using it to get some of these bigger things accomplished. Then cancer reality sets in and all I have the energy to do is lay in bed, watch bad TV and feel guilty about my utter lack of productivity.

The Mexican finally had enough of this last weekend. I can't remember, verbatim, the lecture I got, but the gist was this: You need plans and things to look forward too, and you need to follow through with these things when you are well, but not a single one of these things has to be done RIGHT NOW. You are making yourself (and me) crazy trying to be a super-hero.

As much as I hate to admit it, he's right. I have placed an enormous amount of pressure on myself to be a Cat 1 Cancer Patient. To be tough and inspiring. Putting on appearances is almost as exhausting as the treatment itself.

So here's to being lazy and vulnerable and skipping out on more productive activities in order to make, and subsequently eat, a bowl of whipped cream and watch Footloose on CMT.