Happy Cancer Girl

A Happy Girls Journey with Cancer

Chemo #9 and #10

Hey everyone, I hope you have been out enjoying some of the great summer weather we have been having! I wish I could say that I have been, but it wouldn’t really be the truth. On the hot days I have to hide in my basement because the heat gives me really bad hot flashes and also makes me feel sick. I hope this is just a chemo thing and not a menopause thing because I have always enjoyed hot days!

With the completion of chemo #9, I am officially halfway through! That’s pretty exciting for me. Owen bought me a nice pair of earrings to celebrate making it this far. Chemo #9 was a rough week and not because it was a double drug week, in fact it was only taxol. As I have mentioned before I seem to be growing increasingly tired, this week was no exception. In fact I was so tired that I had to have naps after completing the smallest of tasks. I baked a friends wedding cake, I was glad I was able to do it for her. I was able to attend her wedding, but had to leave before dinner because I felt really sick. It was a long week and I wasn’t looking forward to chemo #10.

The morning of chemo #10 the hospital called and told me my blood counts were low and I was going to receive a blood transfusion with 2 units of blood. They told me to be prepared to be there all day because I was still going to have chemo. This was a double drug week which takes longer then just the taxol week, so I ended up being at the hospital from 9 until 5:30. It was a pretty long day.

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The fact that I can still look happy while having a blood transfusion amazes me!

The new chemical free blood was such a help. Yes I was tired because I always am during this week. The zofran (nausea pill) makes me sleepy so I had a nap everyday. But, on Thursday I was able to go out with my mom for a bit and Friday I was able to do a little shopping. Saturday I went to a pool/dinner party and was able to eat. Sunday Owen’s family came to visit and I made a rhubarb vinaigrette and a Waldorf salad. I had more energy then I’ve had in a long time, it was wonderful.

I bought a book on knitting (it’s on my list for living) and have actually completed a small bag (for my niece) and a cell phone case (that I did a horrible job on) and am now working on a tablet cover (which is looking super awesome).

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Have you heard of The Color Run? It’s a global 5K run and it looks like a ton of fun! I am going to add it to my list for living and hope that it is something I can do next summer. Check out the video, there is likely a Color Run at a city near you!

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Chemo #2

I had my second round of chemo on Monday. This treatment was only one drug (Taxol), and I’ve been feeling good since the infusion. Taxol is the drug that is causing my hair loss, so my scalp feels like it has goosebumps. My hair hasn’t actually started to fall out yet, but it probably will within the next week or two. Speaking of hair loss, I got an awesome package in the mail on Monday that I am going to blog about tomorrow!

I wanted to give you all an update on my first chemo session. The last time I wrote I said I was feeling pretty good, and I was at the time. I swear as soon as I was done posting, I put my laptop away and realized I was feeling really ill. I ended up being in bed and unable to eat for a few days. I am taking an anti-nausea drug called Zofran, so it helps me to not vomit, but it doesn’t stop me from feeling the nausea. Another unfortunate symptom is constipation, so I have to take laxatives every other day and then the laxatives give me stomach pains. Not fun at all! After spending a few days in bed last week I was really weak and found walking up a flight of stairs to be really tiring. On Sunday I begged Owen to not make me continue with the chemo (I think I was joking), but of course he said I had to keep going. But, like I said this second round isn’t bad so I’m sure I can handle feeling crappy 1 week out of every 3.

I am taking heavy doses of steroids every week before my treatments. I’ve never taken steroids before and didn’t really know what they would do to me. I’m still not 100% sure of their effect on me, but they are certainly causing me to have a very flushed face and terrible hot flashes! I have read that some people ask their doctors if they can lower the dose of the steroids, so when I see the oncologist again in a couple weeks I will check with her.

I have even felt well enough to dance a little bit around my kitchen yesterday. I’m loving this song, I hope you enjoy it!

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My Chemo Cocktail

I have a spare hour so I thought I would finally write another post to keep my awesome followers/supporters up to date on what is going on with me. I needed some kidlet time so I went to my parents last week so I could spend time with Karston and Marlee (my sister’s children). For me it seems that no matter how bad I feel, or how sad I am the faces of the children that I love always picks me back up and gets me on my feet. I was a little down last week because I have found the back and forth between my Halifax surgeon and my Saint John oncologist to be extremely frustrating. Spending time with the kids didn’t change my situation but it did help me forget about it for a while. I was also able to have an early Easter dinner with my parents which was really nice.

*Side note – I am currently at Starbucks and am sure that the girl sitting beside me just moved to the other side of the room because I am typing too loud!!!

I returned back home in time to spend a couple free days with Owen, which was also really needed. He has been working really long hours, so most of our time together lately has been spent at the hospital. The weather was wonderful so we were able to spend time with our neighbours (we’re kind of like the Cul-du-sac Crew on Cougar Town with much less wine) and we also had a lovely Easter dinner with the Addison’s (thanks guys it was greatly appreciated).

Monday brought rain and a 24 hour urine collection (yup it’s as gross as it sounds). I couldn’t really go anywhere because I wasn’t about to bring along a jug of pee and a gross plastic hat to collect it in. I had to go to the hospital again yesterday to hand in my urine and get more blood work done. Once I got there I was told the doctor wanted to see me. Never a good sign! Turns out the oncologist talked with my surgeon and the surgeon and her team of oncologists have recommended two chemo drugs for me, carboplatin and taxol.

I will now have chemo every 21 days which will consist of both drugs and then once a week with just taxol. For the next 20 weeks I will be connected to poison that will hopefully kill any tiny cancer cells left in my body. Unfortunately with chemo it comes with a whole host of side effects that are mostly short term but will probably suck while my body is drinking up the chemo cocktail.

Very likely side effects that I will experience are:

Risk of infection – This is really important, or will really impact my life as time goes on. The carboplatin reduces your number of white blood cells. White blood cells fight infection and because of this I will have to monitor my temperature and will have to go to the hospital if I have a fever of 38C or above. I have a card that I have to carry to give to the ER staff if I go to the hospital with a fever after hours, that way I will get in to see a doctor in a timely manner.

Bruising and Bleeding – The drugs will also impact my platelets which help your blood to clot. So no contact sports and I need to be careful when handling sharp objects. If you know me personally you know that this is going to be an issue for me. I am clumsy! I fall on ice often (thankfully winter is over), I drop knives almost every time I use one and I get paper cuts more often then not! I will have to learn to be a little more careful with my body.

Nausea and Vomiting – I think this may be a side effect of all chemo drugs. I have been given steroids to take before I go in for my taxol treatments, to help with the pain and I will also be given drugs to help control the nausea and vomiting.

Fatigue – I will likely be tired, but I hope that short walks in the fresh air will help with this.

Hair loss – It’s true…in a couple weeks I won’t have any hair. I have hats and scarves and I may get a wig, but because it is going to start getting warmer around here I’m unsure about the wig. I’m already warm because of menopause I don’t think fake hair on my head would help cool me down any. I think I’m ok with the hair loss as I have had months to prepare for it. It sucks a little that last week the doctor said I wouldn’t lose my hair and this week I was told I would, but I will lose my hair for the extended living I will get to do.

Sore mouth – There is a chance my mouth will be sore, or get sores. Thankfully I drink a lot of water so this should help.

Diarrhoea and Constipation – Yup, both…gross! However I hope that it can be controlled by eating the right types of food. I know they have drugs to help, but if I can control it on my own naturally that will be much better for me.

Numbness in hands and feet – This is caused by taxol. People get pins and needles in their hands and feet and this is one of the most concerning side effects to me. This is one of the side effects that can be long term, but in most cases the pins and needles goes away a few months after treatment is complete.

Pain in joints and muscles – This is also caused by taxol and the pain usually lasts for a few days after treatment and then goes away.

The drugs are hard on your kidneys and because of that there is lots of blood work done to make sure your kidneys are functioning properly.

So this is what I am up against. I will be at the hospital a lot over the next four months, chemo treatments, doctors appointments and lots and lots of blood work. On the plus side I won’t need to have any hair appointments or take time in the shower to shave my legs!

My free hour is just about up, I have a jam packed day. I had a nice visit with Bruce this morning, my hour to write this post, lunch with friends and then off to St. Stephen to get Owen’s taxes done and St. Andrews to drop of medical documents. Tomorrow I get to go back to the hospital..yay me! But this afternoon will mostly be driving in the car…that means music!

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Sacrifices I Have To Make

As I mentioned in my last post I am having a hard time healing. I have never had an incision so big to heal and didn’t think that I would ever have any issues with healing. So I did what I often do, I scoured the internet to find information on wound healing. I found information on protein and how eating more protein will help you heal faster. I am a plant based eater, I haven’t eaten meat since August 2011 (with the exception of turkey at Christmas). I don’t think you need animal protein to survive, but my body is in need of animal protein to heal. I’ve had chicken soup, chicken breast, fish and steak over the past week and let me tell you I am healing so much better. It makes me feel guilty because I think eating plant based is really good for me but, I have to eat meat right now to make myself better.

My weekend was packed full of company. Owen’s birthday was on Friday so we had dinner out on Friday night. Saturday was spent with Owen’s family and then Sunday was spent with some of my mom’s family. It was wonderful to see so many people and spend time with people who care about me. It was the most time I’ve spent with anyone besides my parents and Owen since I left the hospital. Sunday night I had to go to bed early because I was really tired, but it was wonderful to see so many people.

I received a quilt from St. Leo’s Catholic church last week. I was so surprised and overwhelmed by the generosity of the quilters, women who probably don’t even know me. I look forward to finding them the perfect thank you card to express my gratitude.

I have one more week until my next appointment with the oncologist. One more week to wait to find out what my next steps are!

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Happy Valentine’s Day

It’s that time of year again when everyone expresses their love for one another! I haven’t really been a big fan of Valentine’s Day in the past. I don’t think there needs to be a special day to tell someone you love them. But, Owen and I do recognize it as a day to buy each other a card and to have a special meal. Once a year we have cheese fondu, it’s so delicious and decadent that we choose to only have it on Valentine’s Day.

I hope you all have a good day, let your family, friends, spouses and children know that you love them.

Owen, I love you and I’m sure I love you more today then I ever thought possible. You are my rock, the constant in my life, my compass when I’m not sure what is right. With your love and support I know that I can survive this challenge in my life, thank you for being my one true Valentine!

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Root Beer, Mushrooms and more!

I hope you all had a great weekend, I had a fantastic weekend. It was like the stars aligned and I was able to just let everything go and be in the moment and not think too much about everything else that is going on.

On Friday a woman from the QEII called to tell me my surgery has to be rescheduled. The surgery was supposed to be on Feb 15th, now it’s going to be Feb 20th. Not a big change, but enough of a change for me to have to re-arrarange plans…but also gives me a chance to make new plans. I was going to have to be in Halifax on Valentine’s Day, now Owen and I can do something instead of worry about surgery.

I went grocery shopping with a friend on Saturday, all I had to pick up was mussels for dinner. I managed to buy a whole cart load of food and forgot all about the mussels. I picked up two bottles of Root beer and told Owen we should have a taste test.

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As you can see in the picture we tried Dad’s Root Beer and Stewart’s Root Beer. When we first opened the bottles we gave them a sniff, Dad’s Root Beer smells so good! It has a nice spicy smell that you would expect from a good Root Beer. Stewart’s Root Beer had a slight smell, but nothing to get all crazy about. We then poured the root beer into wine glasses (yup cause we’re that classy), Dad’s didn’t have much fizz to it, while Stewart’s had a lot of bubbles. Then the moment came where we put the glasses to our lips and had our first taste of Root Beer. Dad’s Old Fashioned Root Beer is kind of flat (which we figured because it didn’t have a lot of fizz to it), but it also tastes like medicine. Stewart’s Root Beer was really good, it had the right amount of fizz and flavour to entice your tastebud’s! On a scale of 1-5 I would give Dad’s a 2 as I’m sure there is worse out there, and I would give Stewart’s a 4 because I’m sure there is better out there!

So…Root Beer reviews, who would have thought? Seriously I only added the Root Beer taste test because Owen wanted me too, and he seems to think that I will get all kinds of hits because people LOVE Root Beer. Owen…I love you, but I don’t think this is going to be my top post. 🙂

Ok so onto the rest of my weekend. Owen and I went to a friends house and watched Avatar in 3D. I love that movie. I’ve only watched it a couple times because it’s so darn long, but I was very grateful for the chance to watch it in 3D…the graphics are amazing!

We also enjoyed a couple bottles of wine this weekend, one from Gaspereau Vineyards and one from Benjamin Bridge. For the last couple of summers Owen and I have gone to Wolfville and toured some of the winery’s and of course we buy a ridiculous amount of wine while we are there. I had no idea that the wines from Nova Scotia were so good and am glad that my sister-in-law introduced to me them!

If you are going to drink good wine, you need to have some good food to go with it. I made stuffed mushrooms and mussels and green salad to go with our delicious wine.

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These mushrooms taste so decedent! They were stuffed with a mixture of goat cheese, garlic, fresh parsley and fresh baby spinach. Put some olive oil on a pan, pre-heat the oven too 400F and bake for 20 minutes. I had no idea stuffed mushrooms were good until girls night last weekend (thanks Steph), and I’m sure they will become a frequent appetizer to have at dinner parties (or just for Owen and I to drink nice bottles of wine)!

The Superbowl was on last night…I didn’t watch it, but I heard the Ravens won. The only thing I know about the Raven’s is that guy Michael (the one who’s life story was told in The Blind Side with Sandra Bullock), plays on the team. I did watch the half time show, was Beyonce amazing or what? If you didn’t watch it, you should check it out. Beyonce is one of those singers that I always say I don’t like, until I hear something from her and then I remember that I do like most of her stuff. Have a great day!

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Let Food Be Thy Medicine

I want to say thank you for the amazing support and response I received yesterday! So many people shared my blog and I had more views that I would have even dreamed of.

When I first got my diagnoses all I could think about was how to fix this. Sure the doctors gave me options and yes we are in modern times so I will have surgery and I will let chemo poison the rest of the cancer cell’s, but what else can I do? I went to Chapters and I bought books (I will review the books in later posts), and I searched the internet.

Hippocrates once said “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” We live in a world where it is acceptable to engineer foods and modify them so that they grow in all weather and strange conditions. The animals that we eat are treated horribly and are given medicine and hormones to keep them alive. When Hippocrates was talking about food as medicine, food was good and home grown and not likely chemical ridden.

I have struggled with my weight for as long as I can remember. I don’t think being over weight has given me cancer, but it does put a strain on one’s health. So with my tail tucked between my legs I went to see Bruce Sweeney at Simply for Life. I told Bruce that I have cancer and that between cancer, chemo and menopause, I have no idea what my body is going to go through. I need nutritional help and he’s just the man to help me.

I have been eating a plant based diet for about a year and a half now. One would think that I would be healthy because of that, but it’s really easy to be a junk food vegan who eats way too much pasta! With Bruce’s expertise I will make my plant based diet better for my body and I will let food be my medicine. This for me means buying more organic and staying away from genetically modified foods. I will share with you what types of foods I am eating in future posts, but in the meantime if you are foodie (or just interested) you should check out my pinterest board, I have a ton of recipes that I have found on the internet: http://pinterest.com/reneebuerkle/

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