Sunday, February 28, 2010

Why some of us love winter more than others of us

This is Jerry, heading into the sauna as the snow falls around us. Perfect weather for that sort of thing. What I didn't get in the picture is his bare feet. What with the deer and squirrels, as well as Jerry, leaving prints, the snow looks rather as though St. Francis had been roaming our back yard.

And here he is, in the sauna. Please note the great things you can do with cropping a picture.

Finally, the piece de resistance: a chance to roll in the fresh snow. You don't get the actual picture of Jerry making snow angels, but that's just because I'm a wimp. I neither stay in the sauna as long (or as hot) as he does, nor go anywhere near the snow afterwards. You'll have to take my word about the angels.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Catching up on health stuff

I've noticed that recently the blog has had a lot of non-pancreatic cancer health things, and I'm not sure whether I feel annoyed (hey, I've got cancer, I don't need all the rest of it)or relieved (hey, I'm just like every other aging person, so everything must really be okay).

But I thought I'd bring you up to date and then next time we can talk about something more interesting.

Aches and pains: a combination of Tylenol, muscle relaxant, saunas, and Jerry's fantastic massages works wonderfully.

Ulcer: Either the new meds or the cabbage juice is working well. I'm not going to stick with the cabbage juice much longer, though. It doesn't improve with time. Besides, I think I've discovered a new weight-loss system. Remember the old cabbage soup diet? Well, a glass of cabbage juice before meals kills the appetite. I've lost two pounds in the past week. Not a good idea, though I'm still at a normal weight.

High blood pressure: have I mentioned that one? It seems to be tending upward, and though none of the doctors seems concerned, the oncology nurses have taken a great interest in it and sent me to a physician's assistant, who told me to get a blood pressure cuff and take my blood pressure for a few days to see if this was all white coat syndrome.
I bought the cheapest one, with a bulb to pump up and a dial showing the numbers. When I got it home, we tried it, following the instructions exactly -- or maybe not exactly, since my blood pressure seems to be 180/0.

We've now borrowed a state of the art cuff from friends, and the physician's assistant has a script ready for me for yet more meds, if I do, indeed, have high blood pressure. Or any.

The only pc news is good -- my CA19-9 has gone down this month from 147 to 131. It probably isn't significant, but it's definitely a cause for celebration.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Still going strong

This is the second anniversary of my diagnosis. Two years ago I never imagined that I would still be here and with generally good health and energy.

There isn't a day that goes by that I am not profoundly grateful for the gift of time I have been given.

Go -- have a drink, have some chocolate, hug the people you love. For that matter, hug a stranger. Try something new (a mixture of cabbage juice and mango juice is a possibility but I'm not sure I recommend it).


Saturday, February 20, 2010

The latest taste sensation

In my never-ending search for new and unusual recipes, I've found one I never would have tried if a google search hadn't persuaded me that this is the wonderful, new, almost-guaranteed ulcer cure.

Cabbage juice.

Recipe: Juice or Vita-mix cabbage with half as much water. Drink slowly. Believe me, this one you don't want to chug. Supposedly the ulcer disappears in half the time it takes the medicines to work. (So if I'm doing both, does that mean the ulcer will be gone in 3/4 the time? Or is my math weird?)

Jerry bought several kinds of juice to mix in instead of water and I'm looking forward to trying them. Bless him -- because the only side effect so far is that the whole world tastes like cole slaw.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Ulcerous update

We went in yesterday morning at 9:30 for the UES (upper endoscopy) and were out by 11:15, with me feeling well enough to eat some of Panera's baked potato soup. The prep, recovery, and paperwork took up most of the time between.

I was semi-knocked out for the procedure. You don't want to be just semi-knocked out if there's any chance the doctor might say "Ooops" unexpectedly, but I have confidence in Dr. Krishna. As a matter of fact, he and the anesthesiologist spent the few minutes of the procedure talking about Indian food. I seem to remember the anesthesiologist asking for a curry recipe for a cauliflower he just happened to have on hand. Or I could have been more out of it than I thought.

As always, they sent a tiny cameraman, lights person, best boy and grip down my throat to make the film. Result? The previous ulcer has healed (where the black outline is)but I have a new one (I think it's the reddish area next to the outline).

I'm now on different meds and we're waiting for the biopsy results, which should come out in a couple of days.

Friday, February 12, 2010

I don't want to complain, but did I need this?

For the past few weeks I've had increasing stomach aches and queasiness -- never enough to really worry about, but enough to annoy me and keep me popping Tums and Tylenol. On the strong urging of one of the oncology nurses and Jerry (neither of whom ever goes in to see a doctor unless there's a severed limb or blood spurting all over) I went in to see the GI doctor, Dr. Krishna, yesterday. He always remembers me as the person who takes curcumin and reminds me that his mother has always said that curcumin or turmeric will cure anything.
He thinks that the ulcer (almost certainly unconnected with the cancer) is acting up again, so next Tuesday I'll have another UES (upper endoscopy) in which he'll send his little camera down my gullet to check the stomach and then, presumably, change the prescription for the acid reducers I'm already taking.
Again, probably not connected to the cancer, definitely not H. pylori, possibly related to stress. In other words,"we don't really know why you might have this, and diet won't affect it (but the curcumin won't hurt.)"

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

But I don't do that, either

I'm getting tired of all the things that might cause pancreatic cancer that have nothing to do with me:
  • obesity
  • heavy smoking
  • diabetes
  • being male
  • being African-American or Asian
  • being a meat-eater
  • not eating veggies
  • family members with it
  • and now, drinking sodas
When are they going to get around to something that might actually explain my case?
Don't mind me. It's chemofunk day, third round of the cycle, so I'm feeling achy and sorry for myself. Tomorrow will be better.

Friday, February 5, 2010

A mundane cold is a nice thing to have, if you stop to think about it.

With all of the ups and downs of chronic cancer (I always wonder, am I feeling low because of the chemo or something worse?) it's actually rather pleasant to just have a normal mundane cold.

Besides, with a cold there's always something you can do for it. As one "cure" after another comes into fashion, Jerry and I tend to just add them on, with the result that today, besides my usual curcumin, vitamins, and other meds I took:
  • vitamin C
  • zinc
  • grapefruit seed oil (yuck)
  • elderberry extract (yum)
  • we're out of echinacea, and besides, maybe I've stopped believing in that one
I used to ask my students what they took for colds. The oddest was a garlic-and-honey tea suggested by a Brazilian student. That's one I think I'll skip. A Japanese student told me that she always had the special garlic soup her grandmother made, and when I pointed out that she could get all the ingredients here, she said, "Yes, I get ingredients, but not grandmother."

Andrea Chessman, in The Roasted Vegetable, suggests a garlic soup, though she doesn't promise it will cure a cold (maybe because it features ten mothers instead of one grandmother). Here's my interpretation:
Ten Mothers (or one grandmother's) Garlic Soup
Cut the top, woody part off 2 heads (not cloves, heads) of garlic, oil them, and wrap them in foil. Roast at 425 for about 45 minutes.
Squeeze the soft pulp into a saucepan, add 5 cups broth, and simmer for a few minutes.
Cut the stems off 4 cups spinach leaves, chop the leaves coarsely, add to the broth, and simmer for a few minutes (but not too long).
Serve hot.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Not that we're pushing the grandchild in any direction

Jerry made the marimba from scrap pieces of wood for a birthday present for Miles. It's an octave and a half, and the reason the keys aren't graduated evenly in length is that they're made of different kinds of wood with different resonating frequencies.
The things you learn.
The rock star birthday party was a great success. If we had harnessed the energy we could have closed down the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant for several hours.
At the same time, it was a very happy party. As my mother used to say, "No one cried, no one whined, no one wet." A good time was had by all.

Monday, February 1, 2010

If it's Monday it must be chemo

I think one of the hardest things to get used to in all this is the schizophrenic split between regular life and cancer life. For example, we had a busy weekend, with dinner out with friends on Friday, Miles's fifth birthday party on Saturday, Yoga Day in Keene on Sunday (yoga class, massage, henna tattoo, good friends), and dinner for Jerry's woodwind quintet in the evening, the kind of wonderful but not unusual things we have always done on weekends (and I never described the great trip to Boston last weekend to visit with Luther and Miriam, brother and sister-in-law, and go to a Luciana Souza concert). But this afternoon Jerry and I will pack up knitting and the Scrabble game and go in for chemo, and we plan for my not doing much tomorrow and not feeling really up to par until Wednesday evening.

Which is normal life?