Hello out there. I’m happy to say I’ve made it through a weekend of gnarly nausea. It was most persistent I’ve encountered and it was not fun. But its over! Woohoo! In other news, you may have been wondering the status of my hair. Is it still growing? How long? What color is it? Unfortunately, I have some sad news for you. It’s falling out again! Bummer! To answer the questions that I imagined you asked, it’s grown almost 2 inches long with both brown and white hair. But the exciting news is that I think it is growing back curly! The hairs that have been falling out totally have some kink in them!!! Or at least I’ve convinced myself this is true! I’ve always wanted curly hair so my fingers are crossed for at least some waves! Last night Steve and I were joking about it and it inspired me to make this animated GIF!
In case you coulnd’t tell, that’s me with my current hair at the end. People always used to tell me that I look like Sarah Jessica Parker from Girls Just Wanna Have Fun which happens to me one of my favorite movies from growing up!
My cousin Adrienne is visiting this week which is super fun! She literally sends me 1-2 presents a week (which is amazing) so it’s nice to get to spend some quality time with her! We just ate at Candle 79 which was delicious as usual. However, I asked for a peppermint tea and didn’t realize that I was actually drinking Green Tea!!! I was feeling fatigued and out of it but remember thinking when I took my first sip, “this is amazing peppermint tea.” Then, after drinking it for awhile, I remember noticing that it was bitter and I don’t remember the exact thought process but I know it involved realizing that peppermint tea should not be bitter and that I was drinking green tea and I nearly had a panic attack. At Sloan they say not to drink because it can interact with chemo plus it was 7pm so I hope I’m not up all night! Another illicit beverage that I am planning to indulge in is….KOMBUCHA! I’ve now met with two more nutritionists and 2 out of the 3 say it’s ok to drink it. That should be a tag line: 2 out of 3 nutritionists approve Kombucha! It will be a momentous occasion. I may write a sonnet or a poem about the experience. I haven’t had it since before I got sick back in April! That is 7 months ago! I’m already salivating! But, don’t worry, I will drink responsibly. Haha.
Finally, I found these amazing socks in my Mom’s sock drawer and she said I could have them. I have no idea how I’ve never seen them before. I’m a lucky lady!
Catch you on the flip side! xoxo Lauren
Hello out there. So yesterday my double digit chemo experience was pretty rough. Warning/Disclaimer: This post contains ranting and TMI (too much information) so please be warned.
The day started off quite well. Overall waiting time was much less and I got into my chair at 11:30am instead of the often 1pm after waiting 2 hours for bloodwork/registration, etc. They told me my nurse would be Anna who I knew sounded familiar but as we walked back a nurse named Diane I had never met came to greet me and told me she would be taking me since Anna already had two patients and she only had one. From the moment we got to the chair, I noticed there was something off about her in the way she reacted to me telling her that I have been having trouble with my veins lately and that depending on the results of my upcoming scan I would be getting a port put in. She kinda rolled her eyes a bit and seemed dismissive. I would say something to her and she just wouldn’t respond. So we got started and she was able to get an IV in on my left wrist. I wasn’t crazy about that spot because its a sensitive area but I was relieved that it went in easy. But during the pre-meds (which take over an hour) it started to get irritated not just at the infusion point but further up my arm. This happened on the right side too and later caused phlebitis (inflammation of the vein) so I was starting to worry but waiting a little more to see if it would pass. But when she started to infuse Benadryl, which often causes extra burning, I broke into a rash and dark spots were showing up on my arm where I felt the sensitivity. She kept testing the blood return on the IV saying “it’s working fine” but eventually accepted that the site was not not good. So she called in one of my favorite nurses Jennifer to try another spot. That spot turned out to be sensitive so another nurse named Jennifer that usually works inpatient tried out a different spot on my left wrist next to the first failed spot. I have no idea what happened but as she put the needle in a sharp, shooting pain ran up my hand to the tip of my middle finger and I screamed in shock. I had never felt anything like it before in my life. So that point wasn’t going to work because when you tense up like I did from the pain, the vein “blows,” whatever that means! So things were not looking so good but a previous treatment day we had to try 5 spots before we found a good one so I wasn’t anywhere ready to give up. One of the Jennifer’s noticed that my AC line (which is the one in the crease of your arm where they draw blood) looked really good but they don’t typically do chemo infusions there and some nurses refuse to do so. Plus one of my drugs, Taxol, is especially sensitive on your veins so they rarely use that line for that drug. At this point Diane was telling me how I had to give up and go home. She kept saying how I had to have a port put in and how it wouldn’t “be in my best interest” to continue to try more veins. Excuse me? Not in my best interest? Is she my doctor? Does she even know my diagnosis or my history? I am fighting for my life here so I think getting this chemotherapy infusion is certainly in my best interest! Plus, my scan is next week so there was no way I wanted to delay that. So I insisted that she talk to my doctor and let him make the call. Somewhere in the midst of all this chaos, I asked my mom to talk to a supervisor and transfer me to a new nurse. Diane was not only negative but passive aggressive too. At one point during all of this, I was trying to relax so the nurses could get the IV in and she was playing this terrible pop music at her desk which was right next to my chair. My mom asked her if she could turn it down because I was trying to relax and she just ignored us. So the other nurse Anna turned it off and a few minutes later, Diane turned it back on and made it louder! How does this woman possibly work with cancer patients? Has she lost her mind? Also! Right after my third scary IV point that sent that pain shooting up my finger, the woman in the cubby next to me started having an allergic reaction to Taxol (it was her first infusion ever) and started screaming and moaning that she couldn’t breath and was having back pain. It was so scary! All the nurses attended to her immediately and gave her more Benadryl and she got better but it didn’t help me relax! I just kept taking deep breaths to stay afloat. My mom then returned with this other nurse who told me that this nurse Julie (who I had IV luck with before) had a chair for me on the other side so I could move there. But on the way, I passed by my favorite nurse Jennifer who answered the call from my doctor who said he wanted me to get the infusion and approved the use of the AC line and she told me to stay with her because she had a chair for me. So everything turned out OK in the end. The AC line was super easy and I felt no pain or discomfort. The only problem with the AC line is that you have to keep your arm straight the whole time so the drugs don’t get stuck in the line if it bends. So that whole arm was out of commission. And my left arm was so sore from all the failed IV attempts that I couldn’t bend my wrist without pain. So I had no free hands for the day! Here comes the real TMI part: my mom not only had to come to the bathroom with me (she usually does anyway when I get drowsy from the Benadryl) but she had to pull my pants down for me and you can figure out the rest. She also had to feed me my lunch of pureed broccoli soup like a 1 year old child. What would I do without my mom? Those moments made me feel grateful for the things I do have including the use of my hands and my loving and supportive family. The woman who was having the allergic reaction was all alone and that made me sad. I think her son was there earlier but had left. Oy vey! Have I exhausted you yet? I warned you this would be ranting, long and TMI. So I am going to file a formal complaint about Diane not out of spite but because I don’t want anyone else out there to go through what I did. I feel good about standing up for myself but I shouldn’t have to do this at the chemotherapy suite. I know this may seem like a stretch but it sort of felt but Diane telling me to give up on the infusion felt equivalent to her telling me to give up my fight against cancer. So despite the negative experience, I gained confidence in myself that I really am a fighter and that I can win this battle if I stay positive and not let any negative person get in my way. As in the lyrics of good ol’ Tom Petty, I won’t back down.
So I’d like to end on a fun positive note! Here’s a picture from when Steve and I were FaceTiming the other night.
Where else would I want to be but snuggled up with my stuffed animals. I’d like Steve to be there too instead of in the virtual box on the top right. But soon enough! He arrives for a week from tomorrow and he’ll be here for a whole week! Woohooo! Ok, I hope you all enjoy your weekend. xoxo Lauren
So I don’t have a ton of time but I wanted to write an update for any of you out there who may be worried about me! I realized that my last post was a little intense and didn’t want to leave y’all hanging on how I am feeling! So yesterday I felt pretty darn bad. Despite the distraction of traveling to Boston, I was worrying like a real Nervous Nellie (wink wink, Mauuuuura). But then like so many other times before on this chemo journey, my symtoms (while not totally gone) are much better. I really don’t understand it at all. The big lesson for me is to remember that even the most persistent and scary symptoms can end up going away or lessening over time. I did end up moving up the date of my scan to a week from tomorrow but there’s no harm in that. The lecture by Joshua Rosenthal was inspiring and it felt nice to be there in person instead of watching from an iPad. Because of my worrying, I wasn’t in a very outgoing mood so I didn’t really talk much to other classmates and graduates. I could have done a big group share and told my story to the hundreds of people there but there is time for that. I was kind of worried that I would burst into tears. I think I’d rather do that at home with my stuffed animals. Haha. But the lecture did help me to clarify who I think my target market would be and I had time on the train to finish this week’s module and catch up on the workbook. Joshua encouraged us to pick a health issue that we have had success in overcoming and make that our target market. So, I don’t know if I can officially say I’ve successfully overcome metastatic cancer but I’m working my ass off to at least live with it and be the happiest I can be. So I decided that I want to work with young adults (aged 20-40) living with metastatic cancer to help reduce stress/anxiety, eat healthy, learn about integrative care (like massage and acupuncture) and enjoy each day. I want to apply for grants so that my coaching service can be free of charge! I know that Rachel did that when she was studying with IIN so I’m sure I can find a way to do so myself! Alright, well, I’m off to acupuncture and massage in prep for chemoland tomorrow. We’ve hit double digits! Number 10! And if you are wondering, the picture above is from the Children’s Book show at the NY Public Library. My mom and I went last week! It’s the pattern they use on the spine of Golden Books! Toodeloo! xoxo Lauren
Apologies for my blog writing delinquency. I know you are all hungry for updates but I’ve been trying to stay away from my computer lately because often when I sit in front of it, hours go by and I have no idea what I have been reading or looking at. Let’s just say it is not the ideal use of time and I’m sure you’ve all experienced this at some point. Anyhoo, I’ve been struggling with negativity, anxiety and fear these days. Tomorrow marks the two week countdown for my next scan and I’m pretty scared. I’ve been feeling weird pains in my pelvis that make me a big old worry wart. I’ve talked to my doc and nurses about it and they don’t think it’s anything to worry about but it’s SO HARD not to worry. It’s totally possible that what I feel is more tumor death/shrinkage or as the docs say just “treatment related” aches and pain that are normal. While progression isn’t likely based on how good my scans have been, it is not impossible so it’s hard not to obsess over it. I’m doing my best to manage my worries with Kundalini yoga and it has really helped me flip my negativity at moments. But when I feel the physical sensations in my pelvis, a lot of the effort flies right out the window into the cold New York air. Also, I’ve realized that I’ve definitely been researching cancer information way too much and that I need a break. Through my research, I’ve come to realize that the only way that my body will rid itself of cancer is through the immune system. Which is why I place a lot of hope in the new drugs out there like PD-1 and CD-47 which are designed to help the immune system identify the cancer cells and destroy them. I’d say that’s some integrative medicine right there!! But I’ve also decided that more specialized nutrition and chinese herbs are something I want to integrate with my healing regimen as they too can boost my body’s own defenses. Stress of course is a huge burden on the immune system so I’ve got to work on that too. I’m going to meet with this new acupuncturist/MD who specializes in herbs and nutrition next Saturday. Plus, she works in both LA and NY! Score! In my research I also found out about this woman Kelly Turner who offers Integrative Cancer Consulting but she is currently on maternity leave. She got her PhD at Berkeley in 2011 and wrote her dissertation on the Spontaneous Remission of Cancer and you can even download it and read the whole thing! I started reading it last night and was very inspired by importance of mind-body connection for healing.
But let me get away from all that because as I already said, I need a break from cancer-related information. Last night my friends Aurora and Sam came over and we made some amazing chili from the Crazy Sexy Kitchen cookbook. I added some seaweed I ordered to it too! Oh yeah, I ordered an obscene amount of seaweed from Maine because I read that it can help fight cancer (am I crazy?). And the night before, my mom and I went to some friends’ house who made lobster! So I’ve been eating well! Here’s a shot of the chili!
And you may have noticed in the first picture that I got some fancy new glasses from Warby Parker. They look a lot like the glasses my Dad wore when we were little.
Well, I suppose I will go read a book now. A book that has nothing to do with cancer! It should be like on Pee Wee’s Playhouse when someone says the secret word of the day and screams! Cancer! Ahhhhhhh!!! Hahaha. Oh yeah, on Tuesday my mom and I are going to Boston for the night so I can see the founder of Integrative Nutrition, Joshua Rosenthal, speak! He’s such an inspiring, comforting person so I can’t wait to see him in person. Well, I hope you are all warm and cozy out there! xoxo Lauren
Yesterday afternoon my mom and I went on a walk in Central Park. It was around 5ish and the light was magical. It was the kind of light that one must experience and that no iPhone could capture. A fancy camera might have been able to do so but I didn’t have mine with me. Here’s a shot of the sky hitting some 5th avenue buildings.
The buildings looked more green in person making me wonder if Ghostbusters 3 was about to start. Then we got home just in time for fireworks in Central Park for the marathon. Again, photographs couldn’t really capture how pretty they were but the picture at the top of the post makes it look like someone sprinkled magic fairy dust over Manhattan. I haven’t been outside yet (shhhh…don’t tell anyone) so I can’t tell if anything is different. Haha. I’ve been at my computer all day so far trying to make some updates to this blog! I’ve been wanting to do this for so long and it’s still a work in process. You will notice some new pages including a short (soon to grow) Recipe Index page and a Resources page where I share some useful links and info. And then!!! I created some social media buttons and figured out how to add them to the sidebar! It was way easier than I thought it would be. My amazing friend Megan who is a web designer was going to help me but then I realized I could do it! I also added a picture and bio on the sidebar. I feel like my blog is starting to look like a real blog and for whatever reason, it makes me happy! And I forgot how satisfying it is when you can code something yourself! Yeah! Moving forward I want to add pages about the icon project that I plan to keep working on. I’ve fallen super behind on that. So to get myself inspired, I created a prescription for healing for myself to post on my actual bulletin board in my room.
I made the stamp kit back in 2009 when I was at Yale. Who knew how relevant it would be for my life right now! In other food news, I have a new form of crack and I’d like to give you a recipe! It’s for a beet pesto that the amazing Rachel adapted from this recipe.
Vegan Beet and Walnut Pesto
2 cup red beets, chopped and roasted
1 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1 cup walnuts, roasted
1 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
Salt to taste
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Wash and scrub the beets and pat dry. Chop into ½” cubes and place it on a sheet of foil. Wrap the chopped beet in foil, making a foil packet. Place the packet on a baking sheet. Roast in the oven for 50 minutes, or until beets are soft and juices are seeping out. Allow beets to cool completely. Add all ingredients except for the oil to a food processor or blender and pulse several times. Leaving the food processor (or blender) running, slowly add the olive oil until all ingredients are well combined. If the pesto is too thick for your blender to process, add a small amount of water until desired consistency is reached.
Here you can see the bright color of the pesto next to some other antioxidant rich foods!
Let’s just say I was eating well this week despite the fact that I had to have another painful oral surgery procedure. It wasn’t another incision but something to try to prevent future infections. He said it wouldn’t be that painful but Thursday night I was in an extreme amount of pain and ended up having to dip in to my stash of leftover narcotics. Haha. I also utilized some amazing guided visualizations by Ramdesh Kaur. Wow! She actually has a post on how to relax in the dentist chair. If only I saw this before I went in for the procedure! This is the CD that I’ve been using. I highly recommend it! Well, I should really go outside. It’s supposed to be lovely! Tonight my mom and I are going to see this play written by Amanda Peet starting Sarah Jessica Parker and Blythe Danner. When I was eating lunch I read this NYTimes article about it. Seems pretty cool! Well, I will catch you later! xoxo Lauren
So Halloween was always a big holiday for me as a kid. I love all the decorations and just the fun, creative vibe associated with it. I haven’t really made a plan to dress up or do anything this week but my mom pulled out some old decorations from my childhood to put in the hallway for the trick or treators on Thursday. I think I even have a vague memory of buying these guys at State News across the street!
I’ve had terrible fatigue and body aches since Sunday and have been in a little bit of a brain fog too. I know Halloween isn’t a holiday that one typically makes wishes on but I’m going to do it anyway! My wish for this spooky week is to set concrete goals for creative projects, health coaching, self-care, and general organization!
One goal this week is to create a few resources pages for the blog so as a preview for that, I want to share a few of links/resources for you out there that I’ve been enjoying this week. Here goes!
-My friend Stina commented on a post last week with a link to the author Rebecca Katz who wrote this amazing book called the Cancer Fighting Kitchen. Rachel got a copy too so we are definitely going to make some healthy, delicious recipes I was really impressed with all the useful information the book was filled with in terms of cancer-related information. For example, if you don’t eat enough protein while on chemo you can get dehydrated which leads to fatigue and cramps! Which explains why I have been feeling better since I’ve been eating more fish and chicken! It’s definitely a must-get book for anyone on chemo! For reals!
-I’ve also picked up the Anti Cancer book again and have learned some really amazing facts. This book is an unbelievable resource for anyone with cancer. I got freaked out when I was reading it back in July just because I was scared to read about some of the mechanisms of how cancer works. But now I am more comfortable with the subject and am excited to read more in this book! My diet feels close to what he prescribes for cancer-fighting but I want to understand it even more.
-Last night as I laid in bed with super bad fatigue, I started watching the IIN videos for the week. Andrew Weill is in this week’s module and I was BLOWN AWAY by how amazing his lecture was. I wish you could all watch it! One of my favorite things he spoke about was the body’s innate ability to heal itself. He even wrote a book about it that I want to buy! Everything that I am trying to do in my self-care is to create a healing environment in my body and so far it seems to be working. One thing he said last night that was really interesting was how antibiotics are effective in killing bacteria and many people think that it’s the antibiotics that did all the work. But instead, the antibiotics just started the mechanisms that allowed the immune system to do what it couldn’t do before because it was overwhelmed. I like to think of chemotherapy in a similar way.
Man, I just got riled up with ideas and things I want to write about but I am off to acupuncture now! Time to kick this fatigue in the butt and have a productive week. I hope you have one too! xoxo Lauren
Oh man! Do I need to say more? California is a golden empire of wonderfulness. And I’d really like to watch more of Huell Howser‘s show called “California’s Gold” as well! That guy is filled with good vibes! But back to the wonderfulness, I just love being there. I’m so grateful to be able to go on a mini vacation between treatments. And boy was it great to be with Steve! Check us out lounging in the park next to LACMA in a photo taken by my friend Kate.
After this photo was snapped, Steve and I went to eat at AOC Wine Bar where I had been wanting to eat for a long time. My mom and I went to Suzanne Goin’s restaurant Lucques back in February which was also great. We didn’t have a reservation so we just got there early and ate at the communal table. The item that most popped out to me was a roasted chicken platter called “Ode to Zuni” which is a restaurant in SF that has amazing chicken. My mom and I ate at Zuni when I first moved to California and was living in SF but I was a vegetarian at the time so I was not eating chicken. I vividly remember them sitting us at the spot that was perfectly positioned to watch them chop up the succulent chickens into quarters and trying my best to maintain my vegetarian stamina. But now I’m eating meat again and lately I feel like it’s helped make me stronger so I was all in on Zuni chicken! And let me tell you…WOW! It was seasoned perfectly and served over this amazing bread that just absorbed all the juices. It also came with the fruitiest olives I’ve ever tasted! We also got some amazing salads and veggie side dishes plus a heavenly chocolate mousse-style cake for dessert! (I indulged in some sugar over the weekend…I was on vacation, remember?) Anyhoo, if you are in LA, I highly recommend it. They have a cookbook coming out next week too if you are so inclined! As we were eating the meal, I knew I would savor the experience for a long time. I’m a little nauseous at the moment from a short course of Cipro I just started for an unpleasant infection that popped up over the weekend. But nonetheless, I’d devour that meal right about now if I could. Maybe not after tomorrow when I get chemo but I can still savor the good feeling it left me with.
Steve and I also went on a great hike in Topanga. The air was so cool and fresh, like drinking a crisp glass of water! Here I am at a nice overlook!
So, I should get to bed to prepare for chemo round 9! It’s hard to believe that I’m getting my 9th treatment! Fingers crossed I don’t get too nauseous. But before I go, I’d like to share with you the article I wrote about living with cancer for YouBeauty.com. Here’s a screenshot of the article on their homepage that makes me giggle. Whenever possible, I prefer to look like a goofball! It’s good for the soul.
I’ve already received a few incredibly moving responses that make me so grateful for the opportunity to share my story. If I can inspire or heal one person, then I’ve accomplished my goal and I will continue on my path to help more people! It’s what the nurse at the oral surgeon’s office predicted. She told me that I would inspire other women with my story and she was right. Yay! Sending love and positive vibes to the world! Thank you! xoxo Lauren