Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Remission is a Magic Word

After three years of monthly shots, quarterly cat-scans and blood tests that were eventually reduced to semi-annual blood tests, I have heard that magic word -- remission.

My oncologist announced at our April 11, 2014 meeting that my cancer is in remission. Although my monthly shots will continue for the rest of my life, I'll only have to see my doctor annually with no more regularly scheduled cat scans. The semi-annual blood test is to monitor my blood chemistry to make sure my cancer is still in remission.

Other than those changes, I keep doing what I've been doing. Which is eating NO processed foods. Eating mainly fresh, alive foods, get plenty of exercise, and maintain my positive attitude.

I still maintain that cancer hates exercise so I'll continue doing what I can. Mainly that of working out here on the ranch. I've gotten back into building my gardens. First I'll weed my vegetable garden, then finish building the aisles. That way we'll have those fresh, alive foods to eat.

Then I'll get back into building my pollinator garden. The more pollinating plants the bees have, the more honey we'll have. I"m adding a third hive tomorrow. The queen is in the basement awaiting her freshly painted hive. As soon as it's dry then I'll split hive B. It's bursting at the seams.

Hive A has a new nuc in is and seems to be doing well.

I'll keep you posted on our bee activities through one of my other blogs

In the meantime, if my experiences have helped you in any way, please continue to eat well. Eat as though food is your best medicine. 

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Surgery Sucks Anyway You Look At It

Editors Note: This article was originally published on the Nubian Dairy Goat site on May 2011 shortly following my March 2011 cancer surgery. It has been removed from that site and published here.

The drugs help but ... they can't make up for clean cotton sheets, country fresh air, pet chicken fresh eggs. soft curious nuzzles from beloved pets and a loving family watching every move I make: they are the wind beneath my wings.

While only one person may go through the surgery, the entire family feels the pain.

I was struck by the hospital room's odors: vinyl upholstery, plastic mattress cover, plastic cups, and of course the ever present IV drip.Whatever that liquid transportation system dispensed into my system, it transferred needed medications without the need of 'sticking' me any more than possible. But it also tethered me to an extension cord that was six inches too short to comfortably maneuver in the room and making going the a bathroom a marathon event. Often requiring a team.

My senses were overwhelmed. The odor of the medications, the IV altering my taste buds, my numbed bottom from being able to lay in only one position. Fortunately, I could relax my eyes by glazing outside across at the rooftop gravel and tar studded vents; to glimpse the tree on the horizon. Thank you dear Lord for that tree. In my medicated state, that rooftop turned into a zen rock garden and the heloport wind dopplere became the crest of arms protecting me. It's what you make it.

LiveSTRONG at the YMCA -- Reflection Question

Our most recent reflection question was "Where is your favorite place?"

We all thought for a moment then started the round of answers. Most of us said the beach, any beach; one said a local lake, while another was more specific and said a lake in Vermont. I found it interesting that their favorite places were centered around water, lots of water. Group-wide their favorite places was almost unanimous, the beach. Well, almost ... . Then it was my turn.

My answer, on the other hand, was, is, and will always be my home. My husband and I have lived here for more than twelve years and have molded it to fit our needs, wants, and dreams. It's where all the things I love live. Why would I want to go somewhere else to fulfill my dreams? They're right here.

Someone in the group asked if there was a special place on the ranch. That group moves kind of fast so I couldn't take too long to think about it. I thought for the whole minute they gave me then said that if there was such a place, then it would have to be our barn, mainly because it's where our horses and baby goats live, even though it's the place that requires the most work (aka mucking, if know what I mean but we moved out here to get physical exercise).

We moved to the county in 2000 so we could have two horses and live happily ever after. In 2009 we got our first horse (finally) then in 2011 we got the second one. So far ... so good but we have much to learn. Learning is most of the fun. We look forward to it.
It's taken a while for us to acquire the head-stalls, collars, and saddles but we have them now. Please know that when we started, neither one of us knew what a head-stall was, nor did we know what gullett or rigging meant. Sigh ... those are critical elements in saddles so we had to learn what they meant before we could even come close to purchasing our saddles. Who knew that saddles come in different sizes? Who knew that bits do different things to different types of horses? That would be us -- owners of two first-time-ever-in-their-lives horses. Yep. Got all that figured out now.

We have a few trails in place and plan on cutting through the property at some point so we can have more trails. Fortunately, one of our neighbors said we could ride on his property any time we wanted. Although, I'll call first because he enjoys target shooting -- just to check in.

But that question "Where is your favorite place?" stayed on my mind all day. It was on my mind as I worked my way through the day's activities. Then I noticed the cats.

Most of the cats lounged throughout the house (we have four indoor and one outdoor cat who has apparently moved inside for the winter); some were napping while others were chasing each other; and one is always bird watching out the dinning room window. (That's why I put the bird feeder outside the window, not to frustrate the cats but to enjoy the birds. Ah hummm ... that's why we have indoor cats ... so we'll have alive wild birds.)

I don't nap often but when I do John and Ms Kitty lay on top of me so we can keep each other warm. Then all three of us start purring. Who wouldn't go into deep rim sleep with a purring cat on your chest and another at your feet? It is so blissful that I look forward to an occasional nap. John and Ms Kitty must like our like naps too because they're always close to me.

The dogs are either asleep on the sofas, in their crates, or playing in the back yard. Interacting with them throughout the day, every day is enriching. Between household chores, we'll sometime work on sitting or staying (of course we need hotdog treats). Recently we started walking down the driveway and back (it's about half a mile one way). I walk one dog at a time so we can have one-on-one time with each other. That's probably the second most relaxing time of my day following the cat-purring nap, of course.

Goats are the most incredible creatures on earth and I'm honored to have had the experience of living and working with them. Each has its own personality, likes, dis-likes, and behaviors. Most are loving but some are honery and stubborn. I now the difference between "I don't think so" and "NO'. It's the intensity of the kick. Trust me on this and you'll save yourself a few bruises. Call me if you want details. Drinking their milk is worth all the work and affection. It is without question the most delicious drink I have ever had. I also use their milk to make soaps and lotions because it is healthy for our skin. Goat milk is as good for your outside as it is for your inside.

Then there's the chickens. They always have agendas; chasing one another; catching bugs; grazing; scratching; or bathing in the dirt. We keep them as healthy and clean as possible because they give us delicious fresh eggs every day and their poop, aged of course, goes into the compost pile.

Ah ... my compost piles, I have several. There's poop mountain, which is a mixture of horse and goat waste from both barns; it's in two or three different piles depending on it's age. A good poop pile is like fine wine, the older it is, the better it is. Since we have plenty, I only use the oldest, best, most aged compost, five years or older, depending on where I dig.  (My secret spot, shhhhhh.) Digging and turning poop mountain gives me another excuse to play with my tractor. Although I enjoy its power and go-anywhere-ness, my favorite thing is the front bucket. With it I can literally move mountains and enjoy it. UGH power! Did I mention that I love mowing with my tractor?

There's the chicken poop; it's loaded with microbes. I recently dug out at least three years of chicken waste from the chicken coop. Whoooeeee. Now I keep it moist, let the chickens dig for bugs and we're in business.

Their little feet scratch and seek out bugs much better than I ever could. Besides, having some one else break up the soil is a good thing. The more they dig and peck the compost, the better and richer it becomes. We recently bought sixteen baby chicks so our flock has grown from four to twenty. We'll have plenty of poop. Perfect.

Then there's the vermicompost pile for our kitchen waste. Years ago I bought several hundred red wigglers and never looked back. Those little guys make the most p-r-i-m-e   compost. Last year I built a garden made of up this compost and the veges exploded with color and fruit.

Oh my goodness. My vegetable garden. This year is it's second year so I can hardly wait for the right time of year to plant the veges and companion plants. I'm expanding the garden this year by surrounding the existing rows with straw bales. That'll be fun having more fresh food. Last year I planted mostly annuals and only had a few perennial vegetables but have added more blue berry, cranberry, and muscadine plants. 

This is my first vegetable garden, ever. And being a city girl, admittedly I had no idea how much work was involved. But more than that I had no idea how wonderful the fresh food tasted. It's the shortest distance I've ever traveled for food and we're spoiled. Besides digging in a garden made of rich soil full of red wiggles makes me aware of Mother Nature and her complex organisms. 

The bees are next to the vegetable garden -- facing southeast so they can get the morning sun. The bees and I usually work the garden together -- most of the time. However last year one lady did run me out of the garden. It seems as though she was much more interested in gardening than I was so I let her have it. If she wants to pollinate a few flowers instead of letting me weed, then that's OK with me. I can come back later. We've only had the bees one year so we're still learning about them. Again, we look forward to it.

The pollinator garden is almost ready for it's flowers. It's located behind the bees and next to the vegetable garden, near the well. Again, this garden contains the best soil our aged poop mountain can offer. I'm planting it mostly with flowers that bees enjoy but if a few butterflies and other beneficial insects want to settle in, that's a good thing.

So, what's my favorite place? It's my home because that's where all the things I love live -- most especially it's where my husband and I live together. We do these chores together; we enjoy the ranch together. He's helped me deliver baby goats (although he's not keen on milking), clean barns, walk dogs, clean cat cages, plant fruit trees, bury goats, and build outbuildings. He's in charge of the TV remote when it doesn't work, all electrical issues, some plumbing, automatic waters, doing the dishes, and tucking in critters at night all after working all day long. He's incredible and the love of my life.

The real answer is that my favorite place is where my husband is. He is my home. It doesn't matter where we live, just so we're together.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Living STRONG at the YMCA with Cancer

In early February 2013 I was approved for a program called LiveSTRONG at the Y. It’s designed to help cancer survivors rebuild their lives, their bodies, and their spiritual strength with careful planning and assistance from experienced physical exercise professionals.

LiveSTRONG at the Y, associated with the Lance Armstrong Foundation, partners with the YMCA in offering a twelve week full-family YMCA membership so the entire family can use the Y’s facilities to strengthen their mind, body and spirit together.

Our first meeting was an overview of the program and our introduction to each other – thirteen cancer survivors who would be united for twelve weeks in strengthening their lives.

We introduced ourselves by mentioning one thing about our lives that we wanted the group to know. Every person has a different type of cancer, and a different prognosis. Some are now cancer free; others are continuing their treatments; still others have incurable cancer and will live with it forever.

We were led through a series of questions that revealed even more about our feelings and emotions. Using a set of photographs we selected pictures that reflected our feelings about what our lives were like before cancer; what we felt like when we first found out we had cancer; and what we want our lives to be like from now on.

Thirteen different experiences and points of view crossed the emotional spectrum from laughter to tears. Our lighthearted beginning laughter gradually grew to emotional tears because each of us realized that our lives and the lives of every family represented in this room have forever been affected. No one in this room would ever be in the world without cancer. No one’s life would ever be the same as before.

These icebreaking techniques were light, entertaining, and helped each of us to slowly and gracefully reveal how we felt when we first learned that we had cancer. For instance, my cancer surgery was in March of 2011, (I’m pretty sure that each of us remember their surgical date.)Some of those emotions have been glossed-over or forgotten. The exercises helped me bring many of those thoughts back to the surface so I could deal with them. Might as well, I'm one of the incurable ones.

Some of us are more aware of our fight than others. For instance, one of us missed a session because his chemotherapy treatment had made him so ill that he was in bed for four days. His first day back he was pale and moved slowly but he seemed to complete his exercises and even passed me on the track; and I thought I was moving faster than usual. I have personally met a true fighter and an honored friend.

LiveSTRONG at the YMCA is the only cancer survivor group I’ve been in and I find it engaging. I find my mates to be strong, inspiring, helpful, and spiritual people. Spirituality comes to the forefront when you’re life depends on successful surgeries and continued medical care. I've always been a deeply spiritual person although not necessarily a Christian. Oddly, before surgery I prayed to and accepted prayers from every source. It worked because I'm here today. Now I live in a state of thankfulness.

The only cancer support group available at the Cancer Center is for breast cancer survivors. It breaks my heart that there are so many breast cancers but more than that my heart breaks because there are so many types of cancers. I had no idea -- that is before I became one of them.

Before we began the LiveSTRONG program each of us was given a questionnaire about our cancer, medications, and over-all health. Our responses helped the YMCA instructors get to know us, our medications, and our relationship with cancer.

Our second meeting was when the work began. With information garnered from our questionnaire the Y instructors created workouts for each of us that would benefit our individual physical levels; they took into account our medications and physical activities.

For the next twelve weeks we will meet on Tuesdays and Thursday in the second floor Conference Room where our pulse is noted on our charts. Next we will do a warm-up exercise then we go to work. Half of us head to the track for our prescribed walk, while the other half goes to the weight room.

Did I mention that at least one Y instructor, usually two or more, is with us at all times? Yes, we are in excellent hands. I’ve never had such a feeling of care at an exercise facility before. We have to be on our toes too because they’ll randomly stop us to take our pulse (and note it) so we can see how we’re progressing. The instructors are always present to help us adjust equipment, to offer exercise advice, to talk with us to make sure our breathing is appropriate, and to take our pulse (I seek out the Warm-Handed One whenever possible.)

So far we’ve warmed up, walked the track, worked out on the cardio equipment and weights then stretched out to cool off. We close each meeting with a reflection question helping us to slow down mentally as well as physically.

We’ve been working out with weights but next week we’ll exercise in a different way. Our instructor explained that we would meet in a different exercise room and that we would be doing the Zumba workout followed by an extended stretch out session. A voice from the crowd said, “Is there a pole involved?” Following a long deserved choir of laughter we were assured that "there was no pole involved."

Over the past few weeks I’ve noticed more laughter among the group. This tells me that we’re getting to know each other. We’re all more playful and more relaxed with each other.

Clearly our sense of humor is intact. Everyone needs to maintain a sense of humor when cancer is involved.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Living the first year with cancer

It's been over a year since I was diagnosed with stage four carcinoid cancer. So far the lesions in my liver have been stable. By that I mean that no new growths have been detected nor have the existing lesions changed. All my doctors tell me to keep doing what I have been doing, with one exception.

I still need to lose fifty pounds. For one day, not too long ago, I was almost under 200 pounds. I swear that I saw 199.9 on the laundry room scale. But the next day that 200 mark was there -- again. Sigh ... . I probably rejoiced in my old fashioned way by celebrating with food. I'm not sure what happened, but the next day I was back to 200. That depressed me and before I knew it I was back up to 210. Sigh ... . Now I'm back to 200. One day at a time.

I do remember feeling like I was losing myself by being thinner. I was losing myself. Even though I have fifty pounds to go, thirty-eight pounds have already disappeared.. My clothes are way too big, they're baggy and I'm constantly pulling them up. Yet I refuse to go buy new ones. After all, I still work in my beloved barns. Suspenders  for my barn jeans would be just fine. And I enjoy wearing slightly loose clothing when we go out.

Other than losing weight, life pretty much goes on as before. Well except for the massive eating changes. My husband and I no longer eat processed foods. Gone are the hamburgers, frozen dinners, frozen pizza, processed meats, and bottled dressings. Yep, he's still losing weight, too. He won't tell me how much (He'd better not.) but his clothes are loose, too. Gone are the carbonated drinks and I don't miss them one bit. Filtered ice water is delicious, as is Gatorade, 100 percent fruit juice, Ensure and green teas. Nope, lost my taste for coffee during my hospital stay. What they serve was not coffee; not the way I make it anyway. Then when I got home, I just didn't want it any more. Sigh ... .

I did start a garden. By starting a garden, I mean I am building it. The location is on a slight hill so I decided to build raised gardens. So far I have four 4 x 8 plots. Each one of those four had to be leveled, front-to-back and side-to-side. My handy cultivator helped me dig out some areas while building up other corners. Neighboring rocks and a few bricks helped level some spaces.. Getting those hummers level was a job but they look terrific and will forever get full sun.

I used a compass to make sure they were dead-on facing north and south; and, a level to make sure they were level in all directions. Being anally-retentive in some areas is OK. It was kind of fun. But I drew the line when it came to leveling the aisles. They're four feet wide but have a slight slope to them. Perfect. As long as a wheelbarrow fits between them, I'm happy.

Speaking of compasses, the bees are facing south-east -- perfectly. They get the morning sun to help them wake up and get beeeeeeezy. We should have honey in the fall and beeswax for making candles.

So, when I say I've built a garden, that's really just the beginning. Now I'm studying more about the seasons, the stars and when to plant or weed, and companion planting; learning which plants do well next to each other. There is so much to learn. And while reading about those topics I learned something else new -- row hedging. As I understand it, row hedging is collection of plants that attracts beneficial bugs. No, there is no end to learning. Perfect.

Bob and I eat more fresh lettuce than ever before. I just walk to the garden and harvest a head of lettuce around supper time. Any non-beneficial worms I find on the plants go to the chickens on the way to the house. Naturally, the weeds go to the goats. They watch every move I make when in the garden. Expecting morsels that I pull from the vegetable plots.

Bob and I will be glad when the broccoli is ready and a few tomatoes are starting to grow.Speaking of which, that reminds me. The two tomato plants in containers near the front door that aren't doing so well so I'll plant some garlic with them by the end of this day. It rained yesterday so the soil will be nice and soft.

Did I mention that I used five-year-old compost as the foundation for my garden beds. Aged complete with hundreds of worms is magic soil that comes from our Poop Mountain. Thanks to our goats and horses, we will have an endless supply of this black gold.

Keep Smiling.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Got a good report from my oncologist yesterday

My Stage Four affected liver (can't live without a liver) lesions are stable and all the blood test 'numbers' are in the right place. We stay with the monthly Octreotide shots and MAY be able to reduce some tests from every 3 months to something less frequent. 
Since there is no cure for carcinoid tumor cancer, this is REALLY good news. Be aware of the symptoms of neuroendocrine tumor cancer or NETS.The S is for syndrome. I don't have that. Thankfully. I have enough to deal with.
I also lost a few pounds -- due to my eating habits not due to the cancer. The main changes are NO processed foods, loads of fresh foods, high protein, and eating foods that fight all cancers. 
My gurus are Andew Wiel with his food as medicine approach, Dr. Oz, of course for his 'stay informed' approach, and Deepak Chopra for his meditative approach. Eating food and staying informed are much easier than meditating. I just cane seem to make the time to meditate. Shame on me. But this is my busy season so I'm focusing on making goat milk soaps for the upcoming festivals. Yes, I know meditation is good for me. I'll work on finding time.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Altered eating habits this weekend ...

... and uhhh can we tell a difference. Husband and I have been eating simply prepared foods: fresh veges, grilled or baked chicken or fish, and ton of salads and juices, and feeling great. I'm lucky that the husband is supportive and willing to eat salads.

But this weekend I needed a kitchen quickie so I bought some KFC. A BIG bucket. We pigged out Friday night on fried chicken, cole slaw and beans. Delicious that night.

The next morning we paid for this indulgence. Bob and I both felt bloated, fat, and full for hours. We didn't care and had more chicken for lunch. What a treat.

Again, that night we paid the price. We could feel the grease in our systems sloshing around.

Soooooo, last night we finally got back on track and had whole wheat penne, grilled chicken dish with tons of tomato sauces. It is so easy to make our own spaghetti sauce we just can bring ourselves to buy prepared sauce any more.

Sometime I need a kitchen quickie but next time I won't buy as much. My eyes are still bigger than my stomach. Yes, I'm working on this.