February 28, 2014

Time Well Wasted and Coconuts

It's been an entertaining past few weeks for me. My younger brother is visiting and helping to fatten me up with his great homecooking despite my gluten-free, vegetarian (except for seafood), low dairy and low sugar diet :).  The Olympics have taken up the majority of my free time in the past two weeks and I enjoyed every minute of it! Yay Canada!!! 'Twas truly time well wasted and a great way to forget about cancer. Another great way to forget about cancer? YouTube. Laughter is the best medicine. One of my friends suggested I search YouTube for Jim Gaffigan. I spent that day watching this comedian joke about food, a favourite topic of mine, especially ones that I should definitely not eat... Hilarious! Eventually, as so frequently happens when you are on YouTube, I also discovered Celebrities Read Mean Tweets (apparently I am missing out). If you are in need of a good laugh and/or a pick-me-up, check it out. Thanks SK for getting me started :). 

The Iressa side effects of random diarrhea (yay), and terribly dry, scaly, cracking, itchy skin continue to bother me. Searching for new ways to cope with these continuing side effects, I discovered all the health benefits and uses of coconuts! Coconut water is a much better way to rehydrate than water or sugary sports drinks. Coconut oil is a healthy substitute for butter; makes stirfries taste terrific and adds a new dimension of flavour to gluten-free baked goods. Thanks to my massage therapist, coconut oil is also great for your skin! It has worked so much better than any lotion I have tried so far and I smell delicious! Virgin, unrefined organic coconut oil is a solid at room temperature; just scoop out a small amount and it will quickly liquefy in your hands. Even better, I use an all natural skin lotion first then seal with coconut oil. Warning: it does leave you greasy for awhile so best to use before bed. 

Despite these drug side effects, life has been good :).  Thank you Iressa!! I have noticed a significant improvement in my symptoms since I started gefitinib about 7 weeks ago. I am finally able to sleep through the night (it's been over a year!).  I can now walk further and faster. We went snowshoeing a week ago and, despite a fairly steep trail, I finished with energy to spare. I recently started running again; indoors only and just for short distances. And I can finally do a downward dog without pain... Yoga here I come! But a caveat: my trainer informed me that it's good if I feel energized after an exercise but it's not ok if I am exhausted after a workout; that means my body has been overworked and hence my immune system will be compromised. Hmmm... Being the self-competitive person that I am, I have to make an effort not to overdo it.  To be honest though, my shoulder pains have not yet completely resolved (why am I always in a rush to recover?) but it is much less bothersome now than a year ago and I am slowly getting back to doing the things I love. 

February 3, 2014

For Every Negative, There is a Positive

So S and I have assembled my cancer recovery team: medical oncologist and nurse, cancer clinic pharmacist, acupuncturist, massage therapist, life coach/trainer, lung cancer therapist and nutritional therapist.  Needless to say, my days are full. Most weeks I have 3-5 appointments and have to keep up my daily routine of proper nutrition, exercise, rest and catching up on emails/ texts/ calls. I am telling you all this so you won't worry if I take awhile to share new posts on my blog ;).

We met with the oncologist last week.  He reassured us that, based on the PET scan results, the cancer is contained within my left chest cavity; still a stage IV because it is also outside the lung but it has not metastasized anywhere else (brain, bones and other organs intact :). I am tolerating the Iressa well, despite some mild lingering side effects (acne and dry skin).  As long as I continue to feel well, Dr. B doesn't want to see me for another 2 months, which is when my next CT scan will be to determine how the tumours have changed.  In the meantime, I will continue imagining the tumours shrinking :). 

We met my Nutritional Therapist last week.  She's great. She confirmed what we thought all along: The cancer centre dietitian doesn't know what she's talking about.  For those of you wanting to improve your nutritional health, consider this. Don't follow Canada's food guide; there's a conflict of interest as to who are revising those guidelines (meat council, sugar council, dairy farmers, Kelloggs, Weston Bakery, etc). Gluten, sugar and dairy are drivers of inflammation. Avoid alcohol and caffeine.  Stay away from processed foods.  Instead eat whole foods; that is foods that are as close to their natural state as possible. Eat organic whenever possible. Drink plenty of pure water. Juicing (especially dark leafy greens and colorful vegetables) is a great way to boost your intake of nutrients.  The jury is still out on meats.  Our nutritionist says it's ok as long as it is organic, grass (not grain) fed and free range.  Books we have read say to stay away from meat altogether.  Most insightfully, she talked about developing a routine, eat slowly, enjoy every bite and believe that what you are eating is nourishing you in a healthful way. Giving into the odd craving is ok as long as you enjoy the food, not feel guilty about it. Doing this will reduce the chances of upset stomach, indigestion, acid reflux, etc., thus maximizing your body's absorption of nutrients. We were given a customized nutritional program (to make sure we got a good balance of nutrients) and her published book (with more tips on healthy food sources and recipes).  S and I adopted our new diet and eating habits easily... Knowing it will help me heal.  

My nutritional therapist (she was trained in many areas) also helped me to release grief. Interestingly, grief is held in the lungs. That is why you feel your chest or heart aching when you are emotionally distressed.  What I learned from that session: for every negative, there is a positive.  You can linger on all the negative aspects of an event or you can turn your thoughts around and focus on the positive changes/outcomes. Yes, my cancer diagnosis was devastating. But it forced me to learn so much about all aspects of my life. I am taking better care of myself (physically, emotionally, spiritually).  Cancer has brought us closer  to our family and friends.  The bond that S and I have is stronger than ever.  It made us realize that we should not take life for granted; Carpe Diem! (we are looking into getting that puppy we've been talking about for years:). There is now more peace in my life.  In fact, sometimes I don't feel like I have cancer at all.