Friday, July 29, 2011

6-week anniversary

To celebrate my 6-week anniversary since my last chemotherapy infusion, I got to visit my oncologist today.  Overall, the appointment was a breeze.  I had blood drawn for labwork, a physical exam, and I got to ask my rather short, but always interesting, list of questions.

Today's appointment reinforced what I am feeling; that I am doing well.  I am happy to report that my labwork results look really good!  Everything continues to be in the normal range and my red blood cell and hematocrit levels are creeping up closer to my personal baseline in February.  No wonder my energy levels are increasing.  I am not scheduled to see my oncologist again until December!

The past six weeks have gone by pretty quickly.  I have spent the summer nurturing my body and hitting all of my favorite singletrack up in Park City.  It has been nothing less than sweet!  I have also spent a good amount of time watching and supporting at bike races.  I genuinely enjoy doing this and seeing fellow racers, especially women, achieve their personal goals.  That said, I get bummed that I'm missing out on the epicness (is that a word?) of the experience, especially when I see high quality ultra-endurance events.

There were two such events that I got to watch this summer.  The first was the PC-50. This 50-mile race in Park City (part of the Utah State Championship Series) somehow found 50-miles of super-fun singletrack to link Park City Mountain Resort to the Canyons.  I've ridden most everything up in Park City, but this course found some gems that I have never been on.  Since my husband (along with 3 others) promoted this race, I got to see first-hand how tirelessly they worked with the highest priority being to make it an excellent experience for the racers.  Based on the racer vibe at aide station #2, the race was a huge success.  It should also be mentioned that the payout was HUGE and deep.  The fastest male and female went home with close to $1000 each!

Steamboat appears to be mountain living at its best

Another super cool event that Shannon and I traveled to was the Steamboat Stinger. This 50-mile race was also a first year event held in Steamboat Springs, Colorado and was promoted by, you guessed it, Honey Stinger.  The town seemed genuinely excited to host an ultra-endurance mountain bike race, the race promotion was slick, and the course stellar.  I definitely want to return next year!  Even though I didn't get to race this event, I did achieve my goal of completing a 25-mile lap with 4000 feet of climbing....rather easily.  We also had a great time staying with great people and meeting some new friends.

My attention is now turning to my final reconstruction.  Next week, I meet with my plastic surgeon to reveal (and I do mean reveal, as in I have changed my mind quite a few times and he probably has no idea what I'm thinking:) my final reconstruction decision.  Surgery is scheduled for August 15th.

and if you haven't read enough already, here is a link to a blurb that Gene Hamilton with BetterRide (skills training and coaching) posted.  I attended a BetterRide clinic last fall and it completely changed and improved my riding technique.  I continue to do my 'drills' and am hoping to see big payoff when I start racing next year. Gene found out about my diagnosis last week.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

(lack of) Hair

I did not lose all of the hair on my head during chemotherapy.  Only about 75%-90% of it:)  The funny thing is that the hair that I did keep kept growing.  It made for an interesting look for a while.  Well, I have finally shaved it (again) in hopes that my hair will grow in more even.  I am starting to see some little hairs burst from the follicles.  Very exciting stuff!

I really do not mind the simplicity of not having hair.  I'm really not a big fan of styling, and now I can seriously take a shower in less than 2 minutes which leaves a lot more time for things like.....blogging.  I even think I look pretty good bald (ok, so I exaggerate); but I definitely look more bad-ass than I've ever looked before.

Honestly, though, I am very self-conscious about not having hair.  Even though I strut around my house hatless all the time; I have not gone out in public without something on my head.   I think it is because the bald head is like announcing to the world that I have (had) cancer.  I realize the irony that I write a blog about my experience with cancer, yet I don't want to go out in public and be thought of as that poor girl with cancer.  Interestingly, I must be good at not looking like I just finished chemo as not once has a stranger asked me a question about my headwear or treated me like I was sick.  I like that!

So, without further ado, here I am:

I'm trying to look as bad-ass as I can.  Notice the rain drops and cloudy sky.

Profile of my bald head.  Notice the beautiful blue skies.  
This is 15 minutes later; storm passed, sun out, need sunglasses.

I really wanted a more professional bald photo with beautiful scenery in the background, but we haven't really had time for that, and thankfully I'm running out of bald time.  Our deck will do!

Not related to hair, but warranting mentioning, my body seems to have adjusted to the Tamoxifen.  The muscle cramps seem to have gone away.   Yeah!!!!!

I also had an incredible acupuncture appointment yesterday.  Today, I feel like a rock star.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Little White Pill

Monday I started Tamoxifen.  This little white pill will be part of my breakfast for the next five years.  I already have a love/hate relationship with this pill.  On one hand, it is very effective.  Tamoxifen blocks the actions of estrogen, and since my breast cancer is estrogen receptor positive (it requires estrogen to grow), it reduces my chance of distant metastasis, local recurrence, and new breast cancer by about 50%.   On the other hand, it is a medication, and like any medication it has side effects.  I know many women who take tamoxifen with little to no side effects (I'm hoping to fall into this category), but then again I have heard horror stories as well.  I have had significant muscle and joint cramps/aches this week.  I did get out for a nice bike ride yesterday and a good hike today; exercise seems to help.  But not for long.  I'm hoping that as my body acclimates to the new medication, that the annoying discomfort subsides.

Another new consideration is that I need to consciously avoid soy and flax products.  Both soy and flax are very strong phytoestrogens and they may compete with Tamoxifen for estrogen receptors thus reducing effectiveness.  I realize that soy is in just about everything making it next to impossible to completely avoid, but I am going to make an effort to avoid foods with soy listed on the ingredient label.  I certainly don't want to be taking this medication only to reduce its effectiveness by eating the wrong food.  This may not sound like too big of a deal, but do you know how hard it is to find an energy bar that does not have soy OR flax?  I have been scouring labels, to no avail, please let me know if you have any suggestions.

***Blog Amendment: After consulting with the nutritionist at Huntsman, it appears as though flax is potentially okay to have in my diet even though it is a very strong phytoestrogen. Although there is no current research on humans, according to an article from the American Institute for Cancer Research, flax had an enhancing effect for Tamoxifen when tested on mice***

Besides this, I have been keeping myself surprisingly busy for being off work.  or maybe I'm just good at wasting time?  I have been exercising (almost) every day and worked my way up to a nice, easy 3-hour bike ride on part of the PC-50 course last week.  My current motto for exercising is to keep the efforts at conversational pace.  This is allowing me to maintain some fitness, reap the therapeutic benefits of being on my bike, and not overtax my body as it recovers from chemo.

One of the bigger creek crossings in the PC-50

I have also continued with my plant-based diet.  Last week's theme was cauliflower and quinoa.  I now have 3 really good recipes with cauliflower, one that includes salmon (ok, so not completely vegan, but pretty close).  As for the quinoa, I did not have as much success.  One of my recipes wasn't clear on how to prepare it and it ended up being undercooked.  The other, quinoa and veggie stuffed bell peppers, was pretty good....not great.  To top it off, I finally bit the bullet and purchased a Vitamix blender today.  One of my co-workers has generously 'loaned' me hers since February.  She called me today to say that she saw them at Costco for $100 off (hint, hint).  The sale is for 3 more days, so if you're thinking about getting a Vitamix..........

This really is a green smoothie.  It has loads of Kale and red cabbage.  It also has protein powder, MILA, banana, strawberries, blueberries, and blackberries.  

Next week it is off to Steamboat I go.  I can't wait to explore some new trails.

Dizzy loves to hike.  He doesn't love to come....