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treatment

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In All The B’s

*Written somewhere over the midwest, as I flew home from NYC late last night.* I never anticipated growing up. I mean, who does, or we would choose to wear sunscreen at age 4, and I’ve never seen a child apply SPF by choice. When you get this crazy diagnosis it’s like living in an alternative universe; you’re instantly catapulted into the raw threads of life. You’re 29 and 99, all at once, wondering where your life went. My favorite part of cancer is that there’s people whom I’ve fallen in love with. They’re kind, they’re gracious, they’re real, and explosively smart. They’re honest, we quip, tease, and I can’t believe that somehow my life collided with theirs. I know that I would have crossed paths with other people in my sliding doors life, and they would have been deep, and knowing, encompassing, challenging, hilarious, so I know you don’t have to be a cancer patient, or caregiver, to be “enlightened” – yuck, I don’t even like that word in the context. I’m swirled with people of all backgrounds, different histories, and the longer I live, the happier I am – if that’s possible. Who would pick cancer? Not me. And I’m not convinced that I needed to get cancer to meet these souls. We could have met when we were in a shared taxi, at a resort, on a hiking trail, in a public bathroom. I mean, come on, you guys know me – a person is just a friend I haven’t met yet. I’m expected to do another brain surgery in Oct, and that was put off from May. I kinda want to point out what a bad girl I am, but it’s not that simple. I needed proof to make sure that when they saw into my skull…

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Abbreviated 18f-DOPA PET Results

It’s a long story, and I’m pretty pooped, but here’s a basic overview. The “scan was concerning for active disease”. It really isn’t the biggest deal, it could have quadrupled in size. There’s still questions surrounding imaging possibly being effected by treatments – not likely, but I won’t rule it out, I’m always hopeful. We’re trying to decide what our next step is (stopping treatment, skipping treatment, adding treatment, etc.). I’m surprisingly pleased with the results. It’s not the best news. As our neurosurgeon says, “It’s trending toward recurrence”(there are two “nodules” they’re watching). She wanted surgery, but we asked for a little more time. I’m not ready for the risk. I’m too scared. If the area is worse in October, we will revisit our options which include the usual suspects: surgery, radiation, chemo, or a combination. Apparently even my happy kitty socks couldn’t save the day, but they made me and my TSA pat down lady happy, so there’s that. Sorry that I won’t be letting people know individually, but as you can imagine, it’s overwhelming to reach out to all you lovely friends, I’d be on my phone for hours. I’m hoping to give a better explanation about the situation in the coming days.

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Germany Again? Excellent!

I’m home; I am resting after flying out to NYC for treatment (yep, what a week). I was able to get my immunotherapy shot, but was also informed that I am dangerously low on my dendritic cells (the part of the white blood cells that boost the immune system and that they use for my treatment). That means I need to head to Germany to engage in an another leukaphresis where they separate my white and red blood cells for harvest. I emailed the clinic just to verify, hoping I could squeak out a few more months before travel, but was graciously informed that it’s best to head to Germany ASAP. So, although Dan took off some time for filming, and a few other random days this month, we are hoping that he can take off more time in the next couple of weeks so that he can accompany me for treatment. I kind of see it like a super sexy medical honeymoon. Because there’s nothing sexier than life, am I right!? I’m still on cloud nine from the surprise wedding, and the whirl of my awkward self, filming to share our story. A couple of people have thought I was crazy for being filmed, but I see it as an honor. Our journey has been loud (if you read the blog anyway). It has been hard, and fun, and beautiful, and unexpected, but most of all, it has been an example of following our hearts, of being strong, and true. When we were approached for filming I was hesitant for a little bit, then I thought of the good we could do by sharing what we’ve gone through. When you get diagnosed with cancer it’s like being thrown into a burning ring of fire, and sometimes you can find…

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Moving Up The MRI

Oh man, my face has broken out into blisters. Good grief, I am a ball of stress. This always seems to happen in the days/weeks before an MRI. Seriously, sometimes I feel like I’m a woman trapped in a neurotic miniature chihuahua’s anxiety problems. Between the seizure and my skin, I am getting some major warning signs that I need to get this MRI over with. I’m scared, like usual, and no matter what I do (nap, meditate, walk, garden, clean, work) things do not seem to be getting better. Last night I was texting back and forth with my bro, and I sent him this quick pic to make him laugh (and illustrate the blisters). What is it with skin; when you have skin problems it cuts you to the core. And hell, it isn’t even necessarily the vanity, these suckers hurt. To try and abate the issue, I just called University of Washington to push up the scan schedule. I should be getting a call back within 24-48 hours to see if I can just get it over with on Saturday (it was supposed to be April 4th). That would give preliminary results on Monday. As you guys know, I get my brain scans here in Seattle, then I mail the disk to UCLA and they usually submit to the tumor board. I tend to get their results in a few weeks, but since the scan takes place at UW, I can head to the UW medical records department and get a copy of the radiology report. That would give me the results I need. Good or bad. Scary or not. I could have answers by Monday. Monday. Wow. That just made me lightheaded. Isn’t it weird how scary it is to get an MRI when the truth…

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We’re Not Just Standard

I love this man, this doctor, Patrick Soon-Shiong. Granted, I don’t really know anything about him other than this video, but I love what he’s doing. I love his brain. I love his basic statement of question your treatment. Question the standard. Don’t just do what your doctor tells you, ask questions. Double check the research. Is that a lot of work? Of course it is, but what is the price of your life? You deserve the best. You deserve to live. When you get diagnosed with cancer it’s overwhelming, and exhausting, and everything happens at once, but things level out (usually), you just have to push through and give all of your energy to figuring out the best path – then maintain. It seems crazy to have to research what your doctors are recommending, but man is it worth it. Doctors often have different opinions about dosing, about treatments, about what is best. Also, in my experience, and in talking with cancer friends, they downplay short and long term side effects. Anyway, I’d better hop off my soapbox or you’ll end up being turned off of the video and that would be a serious tragedy. This man is incredibly exciting. I am so grateful for private cancer businesses. Heaven forbid we have to rely on the government to save us; we all know how bogged down it is. You guys, cancer is a multi-billion dollar industry. What we don’t realize is that we’re customers, that we can drive demand. We have power if we start speaking up with our pocket books. Yes there’s the issue of insurance, and that makes it tricky, but this is and isn’t about money. It’s intrinsically intertwined, but it’s more than that. We have to stand up and get off the assembly line, and…

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Working With A Governor

You know what’s crazy? You get diagnosed, you go through surgery, you recover, then the real test comes in living your life knowing that you have tumor cells in your brain, that the tumor (always) comes back (according to your doctors) then you start over again. Each time they dig in your brain you hope you wont die. You hope that the majority of your brain, the stuff that makes you you, will remain after they fiddle. That you won’t be too damaged. You know before hand that you’ll never be the same, no one ever is, but all you can do is hope that it’s a minor shift. You go home, you fight, you research, you add treatments, you change your diet, you work incredibly hard. And at the same time, even though your whole life has been derailed, all of your dreams put on hold, except for a twinge of sadness here or there, you’re just thrilled to be alive. You live your life revolving around scans and treatment, knowing each scan could be all it takes to devastate, that each treatment may not be enough. You battle fatigue, you battle the horror of seizures. And all the while, through it all, you’re just happy to be capable of reading, and writing, and walking, and running, and laughing, and recognizing the beauty of each moment, of everything around you and most of all that you’re able to fight. Cancer has a way of stopping the world from spinning. Everything happens at once, then not at all. Tomorrow morning at 8:00 am is the MRI scan. Again they poke, jerking that needle into my vein, readying my body for the contrast dye that will tell all of my brain’s dark secrets. Each MRI, each scan, is the biggest test…

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Just The Facts

Sorry I’ve been MIA (I love you SoCal – I’ll call soon!). Between the IVs, the homemade sulforaphane pills 6-8 times a day, researching the top experts on high dose IVs and dendritic cell therapy clinics, trying to keep up with exercise, corresponding with clinicians, and experts – like my friends who have beaten their brain cancer, etc., my head ends up spinning, and by the end of the day I fall into bed late at night, exhausted. Some days, like Thursday, I’ll lose the fight with discomfort after hours of restless sleep, run to the bathroom and lose the homemade sulforaphane pills from both orifices. Yep, I know, it’s disgusting, but sometimes it happens. The amount of pills that I’m ingesting, are very tough on my body. I have a lot to say, and wish I had the energy and time to do a post every day, but I keep finding myself needing to research my current protocols to verify that I’m getting the proper treatment. I have to double check the reputations of my doctors, and the validity of their recommendations. I don’t trust other people to have my best interest at heart – medical professionals anyway. I’ve been burned already, and I have to make sure that I’m getting the treatments that I’m paying for. Long story. I am completely overwhelmed trying to verify things that I’m using in my protocol. For example, there is an internet article stating that high dose vitamin C can spread astrocytomas. I can’t find the research to back it up though. In fact, I’ve found a researcher from Kansas University Medical Center who seems to be the leading expert on the subject and has the complete opposite opinion – with facts to back it up. She uses high dose vitamin C…

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Chemo Concoction

Danny and I took off for the Memorial Day weekend. We packed up Emma and Bingie; Emma in her crate in the back of the truck, and Bingie wandering the cab, finally settling onto my lap. We braved the crazy traffic, and headed east over the mountains. My parents gave us their house so that we could get out of town, knowing that we need a kitchen in order to function with our crazy chemo phase. It was so much fun getting away from the routine of our life. We needed a break, a change of pace, a different view, new scenery, and a mild adventure.  Above are photos of the chemo process. On Saturday night, Danny and I made two batches. These new little gadgets are making things so easy! After the drink had cooked for three hours at 100 degrees, I hunkered down. It took me an hour to ingest an entire glass, five large sips every 20 minutes, which is pretty typical. I can’t drink it fast or it causes almost instant projectile vomiting. After my last sip, I was able to hold the drink down for one hour, then, after gently pacing, and doing some deep breathing, I had a wave of nausea so severe that there was nothing I could do. Neither my desire nor thinking of warm beaches, butterflies and bunnies did it either, I went to say something and vomit shot out of my mouth. It was seriously like something you’d see in a horror movie. The worst part about vomiting, other than the fact that I need my body to absorb the sulforaphane, is that one drink costs about $40. So, it’s practically liquid gold. I don’t care about the cost, as long as it gets into my body. I’d pay anything…

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Not Mutually Exclusive

Good morning world. I’m feeling wonderful after two consecutive days of napping. Yesterday I even napped twice. Today, apparently, I was still pretty pooped, I slept in until 10:00 am. That is a straight up miracle since I had been waking up in the six o’clock hour all week. Danny and I have been hitting the weights pretty hard, keeping up with the running, and it’s causing a delicious exhaustion of my body. It’s a great feeling. It makes me feel so alive! Last Wednesday I did 90 squats with the weight bar bearing 5 lbs on each side. I don’t know exactly how heavy that is, but it felt punishing. I probably sound weird, but it’s thrilling to push my body. While exercising, I often flash back to the days in the ICU, and then the weeks, and months when I couldn’t run or lift weights. At the time when you’re unable to push yourself for fears of seizures, or just flat out pressure on your brain, you feel like you may never get better, that you might not recover. Each time I get to push myself, each time I sprint in the final strides around Green Lake, I end up panting with deep breaths, elated, almost giddy at my abilities. I tell myself, as I wind down into a slow walk, “You just kicked ass!” There’s something about really pushing your limits, and I think it’s okay to fluff you own feathers. When you get off your butt and challenge your body, you should be proud! There’s no shame in that. It’s Monday, so I’m back on my high doses of pills. Today, I thought I’d share exactly the brands that I use, and exactly the what the doses look like. It’s 4 pills from each bottle, taken…

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