Dark Clouds, Yes — But Don’t Overlook the Silver Lining

16 08 2011

Photo courtesy of: jittajack.blogspot.com

This is Week 2, Round 8 of chemo. That means I’ve now sat through 30 infusion days — and 120 total infusions — since chemo began Feb. 1, 2011.

Ugh. Yuck. Blech. Ewww. That’s how I feel after today’s chemo. I often have trouble with word retrieval in the hours following my infusions. My Chemo Buds notice this on Tuesdays — my hard chemo days — as the second infusion, Gemzar, makes me go pale and honestly, a little loopy. I sometimes slur my words and feel like a drunk who never had the pleasure of the cocktail — the chemo cocktail, yes, but not the Whiskey Sour that’s my standard order.

It feels like a bout of the flu coming on — headache, body aches, nausea. But I slept for a couple of hours this afternoon after I got home and it recharged me enough that I could eat a few slices of bread and a couple of peaches along with the antioxidant green tea that is super good for me and that I am drinking by the gallon daily. This little hiatis won’t last long — I need to hit the sack shortly. But first, some silver linings to share with you. A few of my favorites:

1. Support of Friends and Family. I keep waiting for chemo to be fun (I’m the eternal optimist), but so far, it’s disappointed me. I CAN say that it is really reassuring and supportive to have the many loving family and friends in my life who show up on time, drive me to chemo, sit there beside me, drive me home and tuck me into bed. Today, my Chemo Buddy was my bff Elaine Schultz. I enjoy the conversations with each of you and treasure you and your friendship. Not only that, studies PROVE that cancer survivors who are surrounded by a loving network of their peeps have much higher rates of long-term survival. Thank you.

2. Positive Test Results. My tumors have remained stable and/or shrunk every time since February that I’ve had a CT Scan. The latest one taken in the hospital mid-July showed the same results. That’s a LOT to be happy about!

If that isn’t enough, the way I FEEL is! The coughing linked to the tumors in my lungs stopped two months after chemo began; three months later, Don noticed that my stamina had dramatically improved, and honestly, I am feeling terrific. People have been noticing — people who haven’t seen me in two or three months. They’re surprised.

“You look really good,” they say.

I shrug it off and say, “Maybe it’s the tan?”

I mean, that seems like a reasonable explanation.

Nope. They’ve already taken that into account and they are sure I look better, healthier than just two or three months ago. Waaahhoooo!!!!!!!!

3. Amazing Blood Counts! This is a biggie. For the first time in many, many months, my blood counts were SO good today that I don’t have to do those awful, painful Neupogen (white blood cell booster shots) this round! They are worse than chemo, as I’ve said many a time. Very painful side effects in my bones (think rib bones that THROB) that last for 24 hours per shot, and the regimen calls for five days of shots. So, hooray for a small victory that is actually quite BIG!

My doctor attributed it partially to my changeover to a more healthy diet. It’s a slow but sure process, but I’ve already whacked most of the refined white sugar from my diet — replacing it with natural Blue Agave (available at most health food stores and quite good) that does not cause blood insulin levels to spike. I’ve got to keep my glycemic index in check. (For more on the glycemic index and cancer fighting foods, etc., see David Schreiber’s book, Anti-Cancer: A New Way of Life. I can’t recommend it highly enough.)

I’m also eating tons of fresh peaches now in season from our local orchard, raw veggies, whole grains, tomatoes and fresh green beans (raw) from my garden, and EEEK! I ate a mushroom yesterday. For those of you who know me, I’ve had a lifelong hate-relationship with mushrooms. They are one of the only foods I cannot stand to eat.

But.

But they are extremely beneficial cancer fighters — lots and lots of great, healthy properties. So, I’m gonna find a way to get them down. Eww. Ick. My close friend and Theo’s godfather Ken Bagnall tried to lessen the pain of my palate yesterday by covering a raw mushroom in spinach dip.

Still yuck. I nearly hurled. I compare it as being on equal footing with the one time I ate a huge, garlic and butter sauted escargot. That was 20 years ago and I swear, I need to bring it up in a counseling session sometime.

4. Back on Track. It is a victory in and of itself that I was finally able to get through a full round — four sessions — of chemo after all these weeks. I’d been off since the end of June due to low blood counts and the infection that hospitalized me. I am so grateful that I am back on my regimen. That really is a silver lining!

5. The End of Chemo is Near. Nope. I’m not holding out on you. I still don’t know when the end of chemo will come. No one but God knows that. But I do know that getting back on schedule means that I’mmmm bacccckkkk and heading in the right direction, AKA The Finish Line.

Let’s get this chemo thing over and done with ASAP so I can return to my regularly-scheduled life, shall we?

Copyright 2011 Amy Rauch Neilson

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19 responses

16 08 2011
Rita P

Fabulous outlook and great news!! Much love to you.

16 08 2011
Jennifer Wolf

Bwah ha ha ha ha! You ate a mushroom? As if fighting cancer for a second time and dealing with chemo and being sick weren’t enough, you had to go and break down and eat a mushroom? Where is your resolve? You’re goin’ soft on me, Aim, you’re goin’ soft. 🙂

16 08 2011
kiapet51

Sounds like you have a plan. Let’s stick with that. If….and only if…you are still getting chemo by the time I get home….I would love to be one of your “chemosabe” buddies, but before I jump the gun…I have to get a car first. Time will tell. Keep eating those healthy foods……you are making them sound so good to me.

16 08 2011
Susan Maciolek

Do you have to have the mushrooms raw? If not, trying slicing them and sauteeing in butter, add a little garlic if you like it. Unless, of course, butter isn’t on your new diet list :-))

17 08 2011
Amy Rauch Neilson

Susan, I’m not sure on that. Still reading and researching. I think I could tolerate the mushrooms in miso soup. Wonder if it matters is I swollow them whole or must I chew them?

16 08 2011
Maija Kibens

Yay for Amy! So many silver linings–pure gold!!

17 08 2011
nicole

AMY!!! Girl you are soooo freaking amazing and awesome!!! love you love you love you… now get healed so you can come play with us crazy o’connor’s!!! much love and prayers,
nikki

17 08 2011
Cheryl

I’m sooo happy you read Dr. Schreiber’s awesome book, and that you are trying to change your diet. Way to go with the sugar, I know how hard that one is! I’ve always felt the same way about mushrooms as you do, after my cancer diagnosis, my husband was determined to get them in me, so he’d cut them up real small and put them in everything. I’ve finally come around and actually usually like them, even sliced really thin raw in salads. I doubt if you have to chew them, just get them down any way you can. Keep up the green tea habit too. I’m really glad to hear the doc’s thinking your diet is helping, I often lament that they over look the importance of diet, and don’t educate us enough or help integrate it into our wellness plan. I’m sure some would disagree, but be sure you get enough red meat too while on chemo, helps keep those counts up!

17 08 2011
Maureen

A wonderful post and entertaining, to boot! I’m with you on the mushroom thing, though. How about just cutting them up and popping them like pills? Or the soup thing sounds almost doable. How is it people can eat them like they’re actually TASTEFUL and others can’t even get past the texture? LOL! Welcome back, Sparky.

Love eeeeewweeeeee! CP

17 08 2011
Angela

Your optimism is so inspring, Amy. I second the suggestion to saute the mushrooms. If not in butter, how about olive oil? Add garlic and thyme. Yum.

17 08 2011
Gale Maleskey

Amy, don’t eat mushrooms raw, and be vey careful when eating raw produce when you are immunocompromised. Gale Maleskey, MS, RD

17 08 2011
Amy Rauch Neilson

Gale, this is very good info that I wasn’t aware of. so cooked in a soup would be ok? Cooking them is ok?

17 08 2011
Amy Rauch Neilson

ANY raw produce??

17 08 2011
Lori

January! Love you a bit

17 08 2011
Amy Rauch Neilson

I did indeed send my cancer cells an “Eviction Notice” for Dec. 31 — GET. OUT!

Thanks for the reminder.

Love you a bit more.

17 08 2011
Cathy P

Hi Amy,
You don’t know me, but I read your blog daily…with fascination, empathy, heartache, joy, curiosity, sadness and so much more. You give me strength, inspiration and hope….just to name a few. There are so many times I have wanted to respond, but have hesitated probably because we have never met. I think it was Chris Edwards who “introduced” you. I wish I had dones this earlier, but better late than never. When you were writing about your scary hospital stay, I could totally relate as I was hospitalized last May for 16 days..an emergency situation as well. On a lighter note, about the mushrooms, if you puree them in a flavorful soup, you may not taste them quite as much. I just made a cauliflower mushroom soup that no one in my family will eat (yuck they all say) but me. I know this sounds horrid, but even pop a few in a smoothie – I swear you won’t taste them, but you will still be getting all the good benefits! Sorry to ramble… Cathy P

17 08 2011
Laura

Amy–What about a mushroom tincture? I myself have been drinking drops of Maitake-D in tea because at some point I, who love mushrooms, found I could not face another one–it kept hovering on the fork outside my mouth, refusing to enter. If you email me your address (yes, again–I can’t keep things straight around here–but did mail books!) I’ll have some sent to you, as I need to refill my supply, too. However, I don’t want to encourage anything on you your doctors might not like! xoxoxxL

17 08 2011
Laurie Horn

Yes, I agree. Let’s get back to your regularly scheduled life. Love the mushroom tale. As you know, I feel the same way!!! Yuck, ick, ewww. I’m proud of you for getting and keeping it down.

23 08 2011
Val R.

Hi Amy – I’m so glad that I’ve started reading your blog, you are an amazing writer. I think about you often, and pray that you can get back to your regularly scheduled life. I think I’ll have a cup of green tea tonight.

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