The Candyman and Cancer

I love sugar.  My friend and trainer says it’s my crack.  It’s not just that I love the sweetness, sugar runs in my blood literally and figuratively.   My father worked for a large sugar company for many years, he sold sugar, and he was good at it.  My education, vacations, shoes, wedding, all paid for by sugar.   As a child I remember large packages from Hershey and Nestle and the Coca Cola Company arriving at our door—tokens from my father’s business contacts.  Sugar has been good to my family.   So I don’t like the haters.    But now I’m a cancer survivor and there is a truth about sugar that I have to face:  in excess—like most things—it isn’t great for you.

All cells, good and bad, need sugar to grow.  But when you’re fighting cancer, you have to be careful about the type and quantity of sugar you eat because you don’t want to fuel the bad cells.   The Caring 4 Cancer website has an easy one-pager that lays out the nutritional details and cites legitimate studies that I post it here for other cancer patients who are trying to separate fact from fiction:

This is all to say that I’ve had to cut some (but not all) of the beloved sweet out of my diet and am finding alternative ways to appreciate food (Trainer reads and jumps for joy).

The Upside of Positivity

I’ve gotten many private comments about my positive attitude.  Thank you.  I am grateful that I have the ability to see the positive aspects of this chapter, because I like feeling happy, isn’t it better than the alternative?  But just in case you thought it was all rainbows and unicorns, here’s a something that I’m feeling pretty crummy about:

Radiation.  It’s coming.  I knew it, but I have an innate ability to block out things I don’t want to think about.  I think the therapists call this denial, and I have a highly developed sense of it.   So while I’m happy that this is another step towards putting a bullet in my dead cancers head, I have been thrown back into the reality of therapy, and the ramifications that it brings.  They say I will be tired, and nauseous due to the location of the radiation, and those are only the short-term problems.  Long-term problems can be worse, but those problems are very rare, and they say that the benefits outweigh the risks.  So here I go, for three or four weeks, every day, for 20 minutes under the magic beam.

I can do it.  I can do it.  But I don’t want to.  Luckily, my father, a WWII veteran, quoted Churchill endlessly, and there is always something I can remember that reinforces my resolve:

The optimist sees opportunity in every danger; the pessimist sees danger in every opportunity.”  Winston Churchill

Hair, There and Everywhere!

Family and friends have referenced the CHIA pet more than once this week referring to the sprouting going on atop and around my head.  My eyebrows are quickly returning to their pre-cancer Brezhnev bushiness.  Na zdorovje!   

To Zap or not to zap! That is the question.

Tomorrow I will see a radiologist to discuss a possible three-week affair with radiation.  We are stuck between the disparate preferences of two of our brilliant doctors.  Doctor A thinks radiation is superfluous, Doctor B thinks it wouldn’t hurt to “spit on its grave” by undergoing a final radiation round.  This is the first time our doctors have not agreed on a course of treatment, so we are confounded.  Hoping we will get some clarity tomorrow.  Would love opinions if anyone reading this has them! 

All the Tools in the Shed please…

During my treatment I was fortunate to be introduced to Dr. James Gordon, a psychiatrist who has devoted his practice to cancer patients and learning and teaching how the integration of conventional and alternative therapies can be productive in the fight against cancer.  I LOVE the idea that no possible therapy is disregarded.  He believes that a positive mental state, Chinese medicine, acupuncture, good nutrition and standard western medicine are all useful tools for the care of cancer patients.  My father used to say when tackling a problem one should use all the tools in one’s shed.  I couldn’t agree more.  For those who aren’t lucky enough to live down the street from Dr Gordon’s office, he has written a book “Comprehensive Cancer Care, Integrating Alternative Complimentary and Conventional Therapies” and he is the director of the Center for Mind Body Medicine:   He is terrific. 

The ins and outs of the power port…..

Tomorrow I will have minor surgery to remove my “power port.”  Such a funny name, as if it should be a sports drink or computer application, but in many ways it is a very powerful device.  Implanted slightly below my collarbone, the power port allows the oncology nurses to administer the chemotherapy drugs directly into the port via a small needle, which prevents vein damage and possible burning that can occur if the chemo drugs get on your skin.    The port doesn’t show outside the skin but for a small bump you can feel if you run your hand over it.    

 I am grateful to have had this device, as it has made my journey through chemotherapy a little bit easier, but I am thrilled that it will be gone tomorrow.  It is yet another sign that my recovery is real.  Hallelujah!  Also, they give you really fun post surgical medicine and for the afternoon I will be happily asleep and with any luck, dreaming about a milkshake.