Thursday, July 29, 2010

Love your doctor

Mom and Dad live in a small town. For this reason there are only a handful of oncologists. Mom selected hers during her first battle with breast cancer. Four years later when Dad was diagnosed with cancer, he went to the same oncologist. And two years after that when Mom's cancer returned, she too went back to this same oncologist.
As Dad's cancer progressed I fought with him weekly to find another oncologist. I was certain this guy didn't know what he was doing. My sister and I both offered to drive him to John Hopkins, or the Cleveland Clinic. Dad did eventually go to both of these famous hospitals, but only when his oncologist had referred him to a friend of his there. Every time I brought it up to my Mom she would smile and say "oh I could never do that to him, I could never switch to another doctor".
During the last year of his life Mom and Dad had joint appointments. They would go in together in the same room, talk about Dad and then talk about Mom. Then they'd walk over to the chemo room always together.
It wasn't until about 2 months after Dad died that I finally understood. I had called Mom to ask her how her appointment had gone. She told me it was so hard, and when I asked her what was wrong she said slowly "well, it was the first time I had ever been in that room without your Dad. I got in there and sat on the table and could not stop crying. Dr Red* came in and immediately got the nurse and she held me as he got me a glass of water. Then he talked to me for a good 20 minutes about how it would get easier and it would get better, and I just had to keep pushing myself forward one day at a time. And he's right, and he was so helpful".
It wasn't until that point that I finally understood that Mom and Dad trusted Dr Red. And that is the most important thing to have in a relationship with your doctor. If you don't trust them you will not be honest with them, and then you will never get the health care you need. You need to be able to be open and honest with your doctor and feel comfortable talking to them about anything and everything. And then you need to do it.
I love both of my doctors. I love my oncologist, he is by far the best doctor I have ever had. He has a wonderful sense of humor, and a positive outlook, yet he can be stern and is not afraid to tell you the bad news straight out. The first day I met him he told me, "you are going to hate me, and then you are going to really really hate me, and then slowly you will like me again". Not only do I like him again, I actually look forward to seeing him, and to going to appointments!
I feel the same way about my diabetes doctor. He treats me like an equal, and always takes the time to explain to me in detail whatever questions I have. He is always up to speed on the new treatments that have come out, and the new devices, and he always backs his opinion up with facts. My appointments with him always put my mind at ease, and help me to feel more educated on my medical issues.
It's important to form a medical team that you trust, and that you feel help you to feel and be your best. Don't settle for someone you don't like.

It's your health, don't take it for granted!
*names changed to protect the innocent.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The calls you never want to get

"Hi Jenny it's Sally*"
"Hi! How are you?!"
"I've been diagnosed with breast cancer, and I have questions, do you have a minute?"
"I'm so sorry. Yes, of course, I have all the time in the world."

Sally is a good friend, loyal wife, mother to a two year old girl and a 3 week old son. Yes, you read that right, a 3 week old son. She's 37 years old, and very healthy. To say this call brought me intense sadness is an understatement. But I know that she is strong enough to fight her way through this, and although I was sad to hear her news, I was happy to be able to answer questions and help in any way I could. In case you are out on the internet looking for answers for a friend, family member, or yourself - here are my tips for breast cancer surgery.

First and foremost, the week of surgery take time to take long showers - get some really nice soap and shampoo and wash up and remember it all, enjoy it. You wont be able to lift your arms up comfortably to wash your hair for awhile without pain, trust me on this one.
While your in there shave well. Shaving is not allowed until everything is 100% healed. Nuff said.
Go out and get yourself some Avon Skin So Soft - liquid, not lotion. One of the most painful things for me was getting the surgery bandages off of my swollen breasts. I found out much later if you soak the bandage with the Skin So Soft it comes off with no pain. (And it's in an easy spray bottle!)
A few days before surgery typically the hospital will call you and ask you about 15 minutes of questions. Be ready for this. Have a list of all medications you are on, all pills and dosages you take - even vitamins. And any procedures or surgeries you've had. If they tell you to not take something you think you should, contact your doctor after the call and ask. You are responsible here, follow your instincts.
Go out and purchase tops that are loose, soft, and open in the front. You can't pull tops over your head - they need to button up or zip up.
Make sure you have some ice packs and go ahead and put them in your freezer.
The day of surgery wear something you can get into with little fuss. I was in so much pain Brad had to dress me. Make it easy for them to help.
And this is a given, but take your meds. Take the pain pills. Keep taking the pain pills.

And then the second call/text, yesterday a text from her friends:
"What can we send Sally? Are flowers OK?"

So of course I have suggestions here too. I love flowers, but I don't need 5 arrangements, and flowers are typically sent by the office, if the person works outside of the home. So if you think someone else is probably going to send flowers then skip it.

Cookiegram - a bouquet of cookies - really really good cookies
Fruit bouquet - if they are healthier and wouldn't eat the cookies, the fruit is delicious and still a wonderful display of cheer
Pajamagram - my sister sent me this, and I loved it. Remember to get the kind that opens in the front! There are even breast cancer PJ's with the word Hope on them.
Movies or DVDs - my girlfriends from work sent me 3 DVDs of Kenny Chesney :0)

And just offer to help. I didn't let people help me. But a few friends made me let them. They just showed up and wouldn't leave. LOL. But the laughter they brought me those few days after surgery were just what the doctor ordered, and helped me more then anything else.

Except maybe the cookies....mmmmm....they were good! :0)

*Sally's name has been changed to protect her private information.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

10 Minute Solutions Wii Game

When Shelley and I were at the bloggers conference a few months ago we had the pleasure of meeting Jessica Smith, one of the fitness leaders in the 10 minute solution dvd's. She was warm, friendly, and very excited to tell us about her new Wii game coming out this summer. Shelley and I both have a wii, so we were excited to hear about new games coming out geared more for us. Yeah! We signed up, and to be honest I forgot about it.

Well, last week I got a free copy of the new game in the mail! How exciting!!! It's called the "10 minute cardio workout for a knock out body" and it's for use on the wii (made my nintendo.)

Here is the description:

10 Minute Solution is an exercise program for use with Wii. The software offers activities and workouts involving stretches, aerobics, and sports, broken into ten-minute routines. Most exercises make use of the Wii's motion-sensitive controllers to monitor the workout, and many of the activities are compatible with the Wii Balance Board, as well. Users can customize a in-game character and set-up their own personalized routines. The game also offers diet tips and suggestions for healthy lifestyle choices. ~ T.J. Deci, All Game Guide

When you go into the game you set up a profile, which only takes a few minutes, and then you can pick from a few different workouts. Mainly, one they have already set up for you, or you can pick which moves are your favorite and then tell it to give you only those moves. For both you can pick your scene - choices are things like Venice, a beach, or a gym. And you can also pick your music. Each time you start something new the game makes you practice or listen to an instructor as he tells you how to do the moves. (You can pick him too LOL) Then once you have mastered his moves you are released to play the game, and the instruction is only enforced the first time you go into it. You can also use the balance board with this game, which makes it interesting as it measures how you duck the punches as well as how you throw the punches (you use the numb chuck also).

So I've piled up the positive remarks because now I have to admit, I really didn't love it. Now, keep in mind, I don't play wii every day. I play when I'm around people who love to play, and I hardly ever win. My favorite game, and to date the only one I am any good at is the hula hoop. :0) So I could not get this one to work for me. I was throwing punches like a lunatic and ducking like there were bombs going off in my living room, and all I got over and over was my nice young trainer telling me "oh (sigh) try again" yes, he actually sigh's! So after 10 mins of this I was so frustrated I was ready to punch the TV and throw the numb chuck out the window. So in comes Brad to my rescue. And it did work for him. But not well. He managed to get the game to register his punches, so he advanced out of the training guide portion of the game and we were able to see some more of your options. The scenes are nice, but the music wasn't that great. It was all kinda corny dentist office music. I don't know about you but if I'm punching someone I want to hear some Eminem. LOL.

But in all fairness I know that I am not a good wii player, so I am going to pass this to my niece and nephew, who play wii for several hours each day and have mastered all controls and boards and remotes. And I will get back to you with a better review of this game once they've had a chance to show there Old Aunt Jenny how you are supposed to do it.

For now I will stick with hula hooping!! :0)

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

What Manny taught me

So yesterday I went in for my echo cardiogram, EKG, and then appointment with my oncologist. Quick update - heart is good, pumping at 65%, which is good for someone with as much chemo as I have had. I've had a lot of odd bloating, inconsistent with anything I have eaten, or the heat outside, or even my sugar levels, so they think this might be a side effect of the drug. To be sure I am to document everything very clearly each time it happens.

Now, for a little heart lesson I learned yesterday from Manny, my echo cardiogram guy. Below is a picture of what I could see on the screen when he did the test. It is a picture of what your heart looks like, the bottom parts being flaps that open and close as your heart beats. What happens then is the whole circle collapses and expands, kinda like if you make a fist then quickly hold up your hand like you are showing the number 5 on them. (Or doing a high five.) This shows how effectively the heart is pumping the blood. Mine collapses and expands symmetrically, which Manny tells me, means it's a healthy heart. When someone has a heart attack, typically one whole side of this picture "dies" and it no longer collapses and expands, leaving the other side to try and do all the work. And in effect, blood is no longer pumping efficiently. Cool eh? Big thanks to Manny!

Now I'm off to the gym to keep it pumping strong! I will say it again.......

Don't take your health for granted!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Switching it up....

I typically run 3-4 times a week. And I typically run on the Mount Vernon Trail that runs by my house. The above picture is taken on one of my daily runs, beautiful isn't it? Yet I have been running the same exact route for probably 7 months. And slowly it has become boring to me. So this weekend I was at my Mom's house out in the country. I was tired, it was Sunday morning, and it was hot. There were so many reasons to skip working out. Yet I know that I feel better when I do work out, and I feel guilty and lethargic when I skip my workout. So with this as my only motivation I suggested Mom and I go to a new trail system that has just opened near her house. She was excited to go and said she would walk with her dog Hans, while I ran.

The trail is a Battlefield park, typical in Virgina, it had a trail system that lead you around all of the major battles of Winchester with very nice signage explaining where the fighting was, and what the Generals were trying to achieve. I'm not a big Civil War buff, but the trail looked nice, so I strapped on my pedometer and started running.

I was tired, I didn't want to run, it took everything in me to keep going those first 5 minutes. But then a wonderful thing happened. The cows in the pasture next to me started moo-ing very robustly and anxiously. It was so loud and funny it made me laugh and start to watch them. They were chewing and mooing and walking and enjoying there morning hay. Then I approached a really great little stream with a wooden bridge over it, as I ran over it I noticed the cat tails and beautiful wildflowers that flanked each side of the creek. I noticed the fantastic electric blue on the dragon flies flying close to the water's edge, and just up the stream a line of baby ducks swimming behind their mother. As I ran up the hill I entered a large field that had just been mowed. It smelled wonderful, and the straight lines of huge round hay bails made me smile. As I ran on I watched all of the nature around me and noticed all the things I never see on my morning "city" run at home. It was beautiful, and when I looked down at my pedometer I had gone 5 miles. I headed back to the car sweaty, and feeling great.

Running is a wonderful way to stay healthy, and feel great. But what I learned is, if it's feeling like a chore maybe it's time to mix up your route, and find a new place to run. I am inspired again to find a new route here at home and not take my same route. To see something new, and continue to explore on foot.
So don't give up, if you're not feeling it try a new route, you may be surprised at how inspiring this little change can be.
The picture below is my country run....

Thursday, July 15, 2010


I'm a horrible relaxer. I've never been able to do it successfully. There is always something else I can think of that I "should" be doing. I never just sit. I never lay around in bed and watch TV. I can't remember taking a nap in the afternoon, or just doing absolutely nothing for more then 10 minutes.

I know this is one of my weaknesses, and I realize that it's unhealthy. So with this in my head I tried harder. Yep, I tried harder to learn how to relax. And I'm happy to say, I got better. LOL. Last week I was on vacation with my husband, niece and nephew at Smith Mountain Lake. We had beautiful weather, and a wonderful time. Instead of me organizing meals, and organizing outings, and planning each day - I just didn't. And shockingly the trip was amazing. We all ate whatever we wanted for dinner - even if it meant 4 different meals being cooked at the same time in one small kitchen (who cares?), we swam, we jet skiied, we tubed, we putt putted. I took time each morning to run or go to the Y and work out. Most mornings my niece went with me. One day when they were all going out on the boat and I didn't feel like it, I told them to go ahead and I just sat on the dock and read a book. Gasp! Never before have I done something like this. But what a difference it makes!

Instead of coming home feeling tired and drained and "needing a vacation from my vacation" I actually feel better, rested, and restored. And so I have learned late in life, that you don't have to organize everything all of the time. You don't always have to have a plan. And sometimes it's OK to say no, let the others go, and just do what you want.

Be true to yourself, and happiness will fill your life.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Lessons learned

Mom is here this weekend, and she said something to me today that although I knew it was the truth, floored me. She said:

"This is the first summer in six years someone I love isn't going through chemo. I'm going to just take the summer and relax the rules and enjoy life."

Lesson learned Mom, lesson learned.

Enjoy it!

Friday, July 2, 2010

When I was diagnosed with cancer, I found out on the phone and I was at home, alone. A few days later Brad and I went to meet with the oncologist. As he rattled through lots of facts about my cancer, it's size, it's stage, and my treatments Brad got pale. I asked question after question and he sat there not asking any. At the time this upset me, and I told him not to come to any of my appointments after that. I simply was not afraid, and I was focused on getting through this and getting better, and I was positive and upbeat and so were my doctors - I decided I didn't need Brad to sit there and "be bored".

This past week I learned how wrong I was on so many levels.

As I have said before my dog Jake has cancer. He lost his front leg to a large tumor, and now he has another tennis ball sized tumor on his back leg. He's still happy go lucky though, so we don't worry about it. Until two weeks ago when he started falling down. He'd be walking along and his front leg seemed to just give out and down he'd go. It just broke my heart to see this happen, so I took him to the vet. The vet looked him over and pressed here and there and lifted here and there, not saying much. Then she looked at me and asked both Jake and I to sit down. She then told me Jake had lost all of the feeling in his paws. She then said that this had happened because he had an inflamed spinal cord. She decided that she would give him pills to see if they helped, and we were to give him the pills for two weeks and stay positive that they might help. Then she lowered her eyes, and her voice, and she told me very softly that if they did not help then it was more likely that he had something pressing on his spinal cord which was causing this effect. She then went on to tell me that it was most likely and her best guess, that Jake had another tumor that was growing inside of him, that was causing this, and that he was not strong enough for another surgery to remove it.

It took everything in me not to throw up. I could hear her telling me how sorry she was, and I could feel the tears stinging in my eyes, as I was trying very hard to breathe. Jake and I thanked her and walked out to the receptionist, and she looked at me with great concern and said "Are you ok?" and I realized then and there that I had the same look on my face as Brad did that day in the oncologist office. I learned that day how much harder it is to hear someone you love has cancer.

I made it to the car before I started crying and I called Brad. He was positive the pills would work. There was no doubt in his mind, and he told me not to cry. And I realized again, how strong he is to go through this time and time again with me and with Jake. And how very wrong I was to exclude him from all of my oncology appointments. I realize now, he was not bored he was just trying not to throw up.

We are on week 2 of Jake's pills and he has improved dramatically. I am relearning each day that life is very fragile, and something you can never take for granted.