Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Less is More

Finally, in the midst of all this madness, some good news...

According to the results of my PET Scan, my tumor is shrinking! Take that Little Hodgy!

After only one week of treatments, all of the tumors have shrunk. In my original scan back in December, my largest tumor in my chest was 7.7 x 5.3cm with an SUV of 15.2 (healthy cells have an SUV around 1). It currently measures 6.0 x 3.8cm with an SUV of 11.7. My neck tumor went from 6.8 x 2.5cm with an SUV of 10.5 to now currently measuring 5.8 x 2.2cm with an SUV of 5.9.

That's a lot of numbers, I know. But the real take away? Cancer is losing this battle and that makes all this shit worth it.

Sunday, January 29, 2012


Ever have one of those weeks, where at the end of it, you think to yourself: I'm sure as hell glad that's over?

This was one of those weeks.

So much so that I really don't even want to write about it. But, alas, I'd hate to keep my fans waiting...

On Monday, I received a PET Scan to get a baseline view of my tumor so I can see how I respond to all my treatments over the next several weeks. PET Scans themselves aren't too bad. I get the radioactive glucose, lie down in the imaging machine, and 30 minutes later I'm good to go. The bad part? The waiting. The wondering. Wondering, did my tumor grow between my first scan in December and now? Did my tumor shrink after doing a week of therapies? Is it worse? Is it better? Somebody tell me something! Anything!

Yep, the waiting is the worst. And no, I still don't have my results. I'm still waiting...

On Tuesday, I got a PICC line. After being poked with needles about 25 times in the previous 10 days, I decided a PICC would be a worthwhile procedure. Actually, my veins decided. I wanted to tough it out to avoid another procedure, but my normally good veins decided to start disappearing whenever a needle was near. I guess being stabbed every day will do that. I was also told that if I decided against the procedure, I would be the only patient to ever successfully finish treatment without a PICC or a Port. My pride wanted that title. My veins did not. My veins won.

Putting in the PICC is supposed to be a very routine, easy procedure. Numb the arm, stick a tube like thing into the vein, all the way up your arm from your elbow to your shoulder, insert line and you're done. But as I'm starting to learn, my body tends to reject routine, easy procedures (please refer to my bone marrow post).

My first week at An Oasis, I was told repeatedly by several nurses how great my veins are  and how easy a PICC line would be. After three failed attempts to feed the line up my arm by an outside nurse, I was finally told to "cross my fingers and hope it's good enough." Great. I've never really settled for "good enough" before, but unless I wanted head to the hospital to have this done with all sorts of fancy machines (read: lots of money), then "good enough" had to be enough. So far, the PICC has done it's job but it looks like yoga is now out since I can't fully straighten my arm without the risk of pulling out the PICC. Hot tubs, pools, rainy day puddle jumps and comfortable showers are also out since I can't get the line wet.

As if Tuesday wasn't bad enough, Wednesday was even more traumatic. One of the other patients stopped breathing and after about 20 minutes of CPR, was taken away to the hospital. Unfortunately, she didn't make it. I could try and justify it and say things like it was her time or she lived longer than anyone said she would in her condition. The reality is, she had an advanced stage cancer and couldn't breathe without an oxygen tank, but it's hard to justify anything when you witness someone die in front of you. I'd watch her come in every day with her daughter, struggle through her treatments, and leave. She rarely talked to anyone. She couldn't. Seeing someone not only lose their life, but seeing a daughter lose her mother, is hard. I didn't even know her and it's hard. And as cliche as it sounds, it definitely puts things into perspective when it comes to my own health and life. Don't take life for granted. This whole process is hard, but someone always has it worse. Carpe fucking Diem.

Thursday was a breeze compared to the day before. Structural Integration and IPT and I was done. Shortest day since I started treatment. I was also on Day 9 of my juice fast, or as they call it, feast. But I was starting to feel pretty bad and decided my 14 day fast would become a 10 day fast. I don't think I'd ever gone 10 waking hours without food, so still a good run if you ask me.

By Friday, I was exhausted. I had a jam packed schedule of therapies and a migraine to top it off. The treatments were really starting to effect my energy level and found myself dreading them more and more. I had one more day of the fast, but could no longer drink the juice. Mentally and physically I was over it.

At the end of the day, I decided that the only thing that could pull me out of this rut was a little retail therapy. I headed to H&M, where my unemployed dollar stretched the farthest, in order to add some color into my life. Apparently the universe wanted me to save my money because I ended up fainting in the dressing room and being carried out on a stretcher and taken to the hospital in an ambulance. All sorts of tests were run and as I suspected, I was just dehydrated (I knew I should have listened to Momma Bear and had more juice). After a couple hours I was discharged and immediately went home to break my fast with pureed soup that resembled baby food.

Out of all my therapies, who knew retail therapy would be the one to put me in the hospital?

Here's hoping to a better, and less eventful, week!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Cancer Therapies

Man, beating cancer is time consuming.

I thought, a little naively, that coming to an Oasis of Healing would be more like...well, an oasis. Go to the spa, cure a little cancer, maybe get a mani/pedi -- with non toxic nail polishes, of course.

Turns out, curing cancer is a full time job, leaving little time for spa activities (the nerve!). Here is a list of all the treatments I am participating in during my stay (I've linked each therapy to additional pages with more information):

Insulin Potentiation Therapy (IPT): This is a low dose targeted Chemotherapy. This involves starving the cancer cells by lowering my blood sugar and then injecting insulin with the chemo drugs. Since cancer cells use 19 times more sugar than normal cells, it helps direct the chemo to those greedy little bastards, minimizing the destruction of my healthy cells. I also get to rock this awesome ice helmet while I go through IPT. This helps protect my hair follicles and reduces the risk of losing my hair. Not going bald would be a huge perk. To most people in the world of traditional medicine, IPT, although controversial, will be the reason I'll be cancer free. I receive this therapy twice a week.

Vitamin C Therapy: Studies have shown that high doses of Vitamin C not only improves the immune system (a necessity when trying to rid your body of cancer), but also kills cancer cells. Essentially, Vitamin C is good for the healthy cells and bad for the cancer cells. Win win. Without a PICC line or a Port, this takes FOR-EV-ER. 2-3 times a week I am hooked up to an IV for hours while 50-100g of Vitamin C is pumped through my blood.

Oxidative and Oxygenation Therapies: Oxygen plays an important role in keeping our body healthy. We all need oxygen to live (duh). Cancer cells, however, like to live in a world without oxygen. There are a number of therapies that increase the amount of oxygen in the body (click on the link to read about all of them). One of these therapies involves taking out some of my blood, inserting oxygen into it, and then putting it back into my body. You'd think just taking in giant, deep breaths would be sufficient, but apparently this is more effective. I have yet to do this, but apparently you feel like you can conquer the world with all that extra O2 in your body.

Lymphatic Decongestive Therapy/Massage: Our lymphatic system is a critical part of disposing toxins and waste in the body, including cancer cells. Oftentimes our diet and lifestyle lead to a stall in this flow. The purpose of this therapy is to get your system moving again to help detoxify the body. The process of this therapy involves me laying on a massage table while the therapist waves little glass wands over my lymphatic system. Basically it feels nothing like a massage and more like moving a vibrating light bulb over my body. I do this about 2-3 times a week, typically after IPT days.

Structural Integration Therapy: This is my favorite therapy. The other patients call it the "hurts so good" therapy. This basically realigns the connective tissue (also known as fascia) by massaging the tissue back into the correct alignment. For me personally, my left leg tissue is totally out of whack, most likely from the all the scar tissue from a childhood injury. Because of the way the tissue is in this one strand, it has thrown off the entire alignment in my body. Also, my ankles are too tight and the tissue needs to be lengthened so that my feet have a full range of motion (which will also improve my poor circulation). The coolest thing? This therapy will fix my bowlegs! Although apparently Kate Moss is also bow-legged so maybe I should leave them alone. The best thing about this therapy? Once you've fixed the tissue, it stays like that forever. I do this about two times a week.

Infrared Sauna Therapy: Another therapy I can get on board with. Basically, I sit in a sauna. The combination of the heat and infrared helps to eliminate toxins in the body. In addition to oxygen, cancer also hates the heat. Maybe I need spend my winters on a tropical island to keep my cancer away? Hubby, are you listening? It's for my health...

Colon Therapy: Oh, the joy of having cancer and choosing a non-traditional path of treatment. I think we all know what is involved here, but if not, I lay on a table while water is flushed in, which then flushes the, um, waste out. Pretty shitty way to spend the hour (pun intended). Just another way to eliminate the crap (oh, I crack myself up) in the body. Someone told me a story of a woman who hadn't eaten corn for over 15 years because of health reasons. During her colonics, they found a kernel of corn. That's how long your shit can stay with you. It's time to let it go. Unfortunately, I have to do this 2-3 times a week, but this will decrease in the upcoming weeks.

Coffee Enemas: This is "do it yourself" version of a colonic. Except instead of water, you use coffee. Yes, coffee. Apparently, the caffeine helps stimulate and cleanse the liver and gall bladder. This is especially important during cancer treatment because of all the dead cancer cells that end up in your body. The enema helps get it out. And no, drinking coffee does not have the same effect. I asked. I'm supposed to do this every day, but so far, I've managed this once with the help of Momma Bear. Talk about a bonding experience.

Yoga: Another therapy I love. Yoga. Calms the mind, exercises and relaxes the body. There are a million articles showing the health benefits of yoga for everyone, including cancer patients. But really, I just like starting my day in a warm room, lit by a fireplace, where at any point I can lay on my mat in child's pose. I do this pretty much every day.

Raw/Vegan Diet: Probably the most important part of this process is my diet. Until I am cancer free, I'll be on a very strict raw, vegan diet. The idea is to strengthen your immune system so that your body can start ridding itself of toxicities, including the cancer cells. This post from another blogger sums it up best. If you want to know what I'm doing and why, definitely read it since it's pretty spot on.

Juice Cleanse: This involves a 14 day fast where I consume nothing but fresh juiced veggies (and minimal fruit). Yep, you read that right. 14 days. Again, we're trying to rid the body of all the toxins that have been building up over the years. I don't care what it does, fasting for two weeks when I'm already a twig seems nuts (mmmm, nuts...). Nevertheless, I'm now on day 5. And like some sick masochist, I've spent the past 4 days looking up food recipes on Pinterest. Who does that? Everyone keeps telling me that Jesus and Ghandi fasted as if that's supposed to help me. Last I checked, I had very little resemblance to either of these men.

So that's it. Piece of cake, right? All of this keeps me so busy, I haven't even had time for retail therapy!

Monday, January 16, 2012

Guest Post: The Solidarity Project

This next guest post is from an accidental Thunder Stealer. No, not the cancerous kind, but the kind that has a life so impressive, he accidentally steals everyone else's thunder. To quote his best friend's father: "He's the kind of guy that comes out of the womb, steps in shit once, and doesn't step in shit again for the rest of his life."

His life is that good.

He's the guy that decides to dedicate a year of his life volunteering at food banks and improving national parks in AmeriCorps while the rest of his friends are dedicating their time improving their beer pong skills in college. When he does go to college, he receives straight As, but no one is aware of this until graduation when he receives several academic awards. This is a shock to people not because his intelligence isn't obvious (it is), but because he is so outgoing and fun, no one can imagine being brilliant in both social situations and the classroom.

And did I mention his good looks? And that he's nice? Talk about stealing everyone's thunder and winning the lottery of life!

He's the guy that could have made a fortune working at any company in the world, but chose a non profit fellowship in Detroit. And then could have moved on to other positions and other cities, but stayed.

He is the guy that then somehow managed to convince a goddess to not only move to Detroit, but to marry him! And let me tell you, this girl is a catch!

I should know. That goddess is me.

So this guest post is from The Hubby. The guy who has the perfect life and then his wife, me, goes and steps in shit.

Hubby here: Oh hey everyone.
Where oh where to begin?
I guess here: imagine this. Imagine you’re in a hospital room. Imagine the one person you love more than any is holding your hand. Imagine the one person you’ve chosen for all time is told the following words: “We’re sorry, but your tests confirm: You. Have. Cancer.”
Imagine that.
Now, I’ve been waiting for this moment for a long time. No, not that one in the hospital, but this one.  Since our little Hodgy gave birth to our ever sassy and even more fine Thunder Stealer, I’ve sat in awe at how liberating a little F*Bomb can be for sharing the depth of how we’re feeling. And especially for sharing really sh***y F***ing news.
Well, a little about me then.  First, for those who don’t know me, suffice it to say that I’ve long thought I was the one who wore The Thunder in our family. (What a Fool!)
See, I care a whole sh**-ton about “serious things.” Well, yeah, serious thinks like social justice and the American dream (shameless I know, but you’re famous love!). I truly believe these things, and other winners like “constructive problem solving” and community development, and race relations in America remain some of the world’s biggest BFDs. I make no apology about that.  But this experience has really helped me realize how at times I mistook passion for serious things for taking myself too seriously.
So, here’s a tip. If you think you’re somebody, then you’re just thinking too hard. And, if you’re looking for anything to put what really matters into sharp relief, imagine this: You have cancer, or worse: She has Cancer.
But enough about me!
The point is this, F*Bombs help us cope. Being sassy helps one to own the moment. Taking ourselves too seriously (Hubby’s problem) or feeling like we’re victims pose the real risks to actually living life the way we’d hope we can live it.
So, we’ll get to my moment soon enough.
But I am going to take this chance to share my thoughts on my Thunder Stealer’s Cancer, little Hodgy, The Decision, and ultimately why I see my role as trying to embody solidarity for my wife. Whether near or far, that is my job. My job is the Solidarity Project.
See, when you’re as in love as we are you eventually just begin to wonder: when? When will this all be challenged? Then you wonder: what? What will it be? Then you wonder: how? How will we respond?
So, as a man. As Her husband. How am I supposed to respond?
Honestly, it’s been extremely hard on me. I could pretend it’s not. I could write F***ing sonnets or something instead. But no sonnet could replace the rage I’ve felt, the fear seeping inside me, or the triumph of love I’ve witnessed already. I don’t hide that it’s been hard, but I’m not too good at being un-sassy and un-stoic myself about the raw terror that creeps up sometimes: what if this is it?
Drama queen, I know.
But, the loneliness—of walking into our eerily silent and pitch black home the other night after spending the day carting Puppy around to daycare like some newly minted single father—that feeling makes you realize how fragile any of this can be. That moment shook me. I felt shocked. For almost every day for 6 years I’ve come home to our perfect little life. To Puppy. To noise and lights. And to Her.
And I’d only taken her to the airport that morning.
Literally 7 weeks and 12 hours earlier I woke up alone after her night in the hospital when we were trying to diagnose her disease. As morbid and twisted as it sounds, I was in the shower and, for the first time since knowing each other, this thought came to my mind: what would you say at her funeral?
(And it was at that moment that I understood where most divorces must start. Seriously, this question should seal the deal on whether you’re in for life or not: what would you say at their funeral? I know, twisted. But I literally laughed out loud!)
And then it hit me: My Love, she knows how to live better than anyone else I know. She’s joy. She believes in Santa. She’s adventurous. She’s magical. She’s unconventional. She believes in love stories. She’s just imperfect enough to make me feel worthy as a man. She’s Thunder. She’s everything I want and more than I ever imagined was possible.
It was then that I understood my job. Help her live through this the way she needs, no matter what.
No matter what?
No matter what.
Whoa, people, trust me, that’s F***ing hard to do!
See, the truth is, The Decision was the only thing I knew had to be hers and hers alone. I had an opinion I shared freely, her Mom had hers, and countless others have theirs. But, if I know anything about my love, it’s this: when she decides, there is no doubt.
When she decides, there is no doubt.
Now, it takes balls to tact away from the medical community for an integrative treatment center 2,000 miles from your home without any insurance to support your very expensive therapies. But I think even if she’d told me she was just going to dance and sing and love and just see what happens; even if she’d said I’m going to do 5,000 jumping jacks a day to bounce the Little Hodgy out; hell, even if she’d said I’m not doing anything, I would have ultimately supported her.
I support her because you know what? It takes balls to be with a man like me in a city like ours and to live life like you’re the only one in the world that really gets it. I support her because, what can I say, that’s my girl!
So, my job? From 2,000 miles away? Simple: prepare our home, our life and our future for when she gets home. Clean out the fridge; learn to prepare meals she’ll need. Take care of myself – exercise, eat and live exactly like you’re going to need to when she gets home. Take Puppy to Daycare. Spend less. Save more.
And, of course, do the F***ing dishes!
That’s the Solidarity Project.
Aurora Morales once wrote: "Solidarity is not a matter of altruism … [it comes] from the recognition that, like it or not, our liberation is bound up with that of every other being on the planet."
I’d say Solidarity is a way to love.
Solidarity: support her decision. Treat her like every day is the day you’re going to propose to her. Commit to her health. Commit to your health. Commit to your whole future together.
And trust. Trust that although she’s away right now and it’s totally F***ing scary and just plain tough to handle, that she decided.  And remember to trust her ability to live better than anyone else I know. And remember to trust the core truth about her: When she decides, there is no doubt.
And remember the awe you felt the first time she penned those beautiful words and liberated herself from the psychological hold Cancer or anything like it can have.
And she did it in a matter of hours … she told Cancer to “F*** Off” only a few short hours after it announced its official arrival. She stole Cancer’s thunder for the entire world to see and, in that moment, she was as beautiful as any (and every) other moment I’d ever seen.
That moment told me everything I needed to know about Little Hodgy. It told me this was a gift of sorts, a chance to somehow love each other even more deeply and to live even more fully together.
Little Hodgy. Cancer. The Decision. They’re all a chance to let go of living in fear. They’re also a gift to me. They offer me my chance to stop taking myself too seriously because, you know what, it’s F***ing real: what if this is it?
Ok, I’m ready now. I’m ready for my moment.
But Baby, I’m not letting Cancer steal this thunder.
Screw Cancer.
I Fucking Love You.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Sugar, Oh Honey Honey

I feel like an addict who's going through withdraw.

I’ve spent three days on a completely raw, vegan, sugar free diet and all I want is a cheeseburger.

And a milkshake.

And I would seriously consider giving my left arm for a Starbuck's Chai Tea Latte. And my right one for a Chipotle burrito. It wouldn't even matter that I would no longer have arms to eat the burrito. I'd dive face first into that burrito and devour it like a champion in a pie eating contest. 

I'm literally addicted. And when you give up an addiction, the first three days are the worst, right?

That's all bad food is to most of us: an addiction. We get addicted to the sweet high of fructose corn syrup (mmmmm, Sugar); to the excess fat in our burgers (mmmm, saturated fat); to all the processed packaged crap that fills the majority of the aisles in grocery stores. 

But we're not just physically addicted, we're emotionally addicted as well. 

Just think about it. What would Thanksgiving be without turkey and mashed potatoes? And how many times have you gone through a break up and immediately reached for that pint of your favorite ice cream? And when you hang out with friends, how often do you meet in a restaurant, catching up over dinner? So much of our experiences, traditions, and social norms revolve around food. 

When you give that up, your body doesn't just go through physical grief, but emotional turmoil as well. 

I have to admit, I have a hard time thinking about not having turkey on Thanksgiving. But that's how it works when you give something up. You mourn the loss in your life. You think about all the good times you had together. You think about how satisfying that McDonald's double cheeseburgers was after a night at the bar. How delicious that pizza and beer tasted during the championship basketball game. How these foods were always there to satisfy or comfort you in your time of need; in your time of want.

And then you get over it. You remember you have cancer. You remember why you committed to this lifestyle change. And you remind yourself that we are talking about your life. A life that you intend to live a lot longer than the 28 years you've had so far. And if you want to make it to your goal age of 94, you better start finding another way to satisfy those cravings and realize it's just fucking food.

The cravings actually weren't so bad the first couple of days. Since "checking in" to An Oasis of Healing, I had my meals delivered to me by a professional raw foods chef while I was busy with my other treatments. Honestly, there wasn't much time for the cravings. Or maybe I was too nervous about the unknown to worry about things like cravings. Either way, it helped make the transition to this new diet relatively painless. I actually thought this will be easy. 

Oh how naive.  

Then I had a free day. A day without my own chef to prepare my meals. A day where it was on me and only me to eat meals that had no meat or dairy or gluten or sugar (not even fruit sugar!). And once I found these rare, “un-American” foods, I couldn't even cook them above 115 degrees. (Is it even possible to be on a raw food diet in the Arizona summers? Your food gets hotter than that sitting outside in the farmers market stalls).

As much as I was looking forward to a free day from IVs and tests, my first one, day 3 on the diet, was tough. The treatment at Oasis includes all fresh green juices and meals Monday through Friday. Which means by the weekend, I'm the only one holding myself accountable (well me and Momma Bear who is also sticking to the diet).

On the weekends, it is so easy to cheat. And it would be a lie to say I didn't think about it. A lot. In fact, this is a pretty accurate example of what is continuously going on in my head:

Mmmmmm, SUGAR.

But instead, I cut up another avocado and add it to another pile of greens. Then I start gnawing my arm just to remember the taste of flesh.

They say the third day is the worst, right?

But when you're life is on the line, you put down the chicken wings and decide to value your life more than a bunch of empty calories. Then you grab yourself a wheatgrass shot and cheers to your upcoming health. And then you pray that you have the willpower to stick to your commitment. 

But if there's one thing I know about my stubborn, persistent self, it's that I have serious willpower.

When I was in middle school I became a vegetarian. At the time I told everyone it was because I loved animals too much and could no longer eat these innocent creatures. Also, I had a friend -- a much cooler friend – who was also a vegetarian. I guess I figured that I too could be just a little bit cooler if I became a vegetarian. 

The reality is, I did love animals and I did have a desire to be cool, but the real reason I became a vegetarian? The hard truth? Momma Bear's pork chops (sorry mom!). I hated them and refused to eat them. And in the typical parent response, Momma Bear said to me, “If you want to get up from the table, than finish your dinner.” But I had made up my mind. I wasn’t going to eat these pork chops. And the only logical way out of it? To announce myself a vegetarian. So I did.

And I stayed one for TEN fucking years. Mainly because my whole family, sitting at the table, witnessing this act of teenage rebellion, all told me I wouldn't last a week. It wasn't until I graduated college that I finally felt I had proven myself and started eating meat again. 

Cancer? That's a good fucking reason to prove my persistence and give up meat. And dairy. And sugar. And cooked foods. Because as much as I love that chipotle burrito, I'm pretty sure I love my life more.

Besides, I hear day four is a breeze.

(Not exactly a chipotle burrito, but surprisingly good zucchini alfredo)

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Arizona: The Quirky State?

When I was younger, my family used to take regular road trips from our home in Northern Virginia down to Florida. Not so much because we loved road trips, but because we were broke and you could stuff 3 kids, a dog (or two), your mother AND your grandmother into a mini van all for the price of gas (which was pretty much free back then). And not just any mini van, but a hunter green mini van with fake wood paneling. A hunter green mini van with wood paneling and the license plate "WR42N8." And yes, folks, this was also my very first car in High School. Oh, how fortunate I was. And you wonder why I wasn't prom queen.

My mom was always a good sport and loved these car rides (or so she claimed), always staying upbeat as she loudly sang "Country Road" out the window. But we, the kids, the backseat passengers, hated it. This was before every mini van came equipped with flat screen tvs, a wii, and surround sound (although once we did try to prop our mini tv/vcr combo between the two front seats and mcguyver the wires through the cigarette lighter in order to watch movies. This was back when cars had a cigarette lighter instead of an iphone outlet).

No, we had to rely on...wait for it...our imaginations to entertain us.

"Moooooom, I'm bored!"


Basically, every kid's nightmare. I'm not sure any kid is imaginative enough to stay occupied for 3 straight days of being confined to the back seat of a mini van, no matter how "42N8" we were. And let me tell you, the Alphabet game gets pretty boring around mile 10. So this usually resulted in someone getting punched and someone else in tears while my mom decided that her way of coping would be to just sing louder.

Like I said, we hated these trips.

But for me, the redeeming quality of these dreaded rides was the holy grail of pit stops -- the one, the only South of the Border.

For those who have never been, get in your car and go now. And for those of you who have been, you can stop screaming "Don't Go! It's not worth it!" Everyone is entitled to their own opinions. And for whatever reason, this tacky, fake Mexican pit stop south of the North Carolina border made the 1000 mile trip completely worth it. Don't judge. I'm a sucker for kitsch.

To me, Arizona is like South of the Border.

Ghost towns and flea markets and rodeos, oh my!

The lights of the casinos are blinding in the middle of the arid desert. It's a state where you buy both bullets for your pistol and crystals for your chakras. Steak houses and vegan restaurants neighbor each other in harmony. You can even visit a meteor crater, dinosaur park, and Bedrock City (yes, home of Fred Flinstone). All in one state!

Even their town names are full of quirky awesomeness: Bumble Bee. Surprise. Happy Jack. Inspiration. Why (I don't know, but I plan to go here and find the answer).

To me, Arizona is South of the Border on steroids.

I keep being told to find the Joy. Laugh. Remove the stress from my life (Let's remember, I have cancer). Is it possible to live a stress free life with cancer? I can't think of a better place to try. Well, maybe Bora Bora. With The Hubby. And dog.

But Arizona is a close second. And I plan to see as much of this chintzy, eccentric state filled with juxtapositions, as I possibly can.

The 15 year old inside of me is constantly screaming at every attraction, "Mom, can we go?! PLEASE!"

And you know what? I think she just might pull over.

Because the joy I find in this crazy, weird place just might make this thousand mile trip worth it.

And at the end of it all, hopefully I'll look back and remember the kitsch instead of the pain of a long grueling trip where I got punched in the face.

Monday, January 9, 2012


Remember when Lebron James, a.k.a. “King James” made a mockery of all of us with his quest for the right team...with his fucking Decision? Sorry, I mean, THE Decision.

Well, researching cancer treatments, for me at least, has felt like a similar quest (minus demanding an hour long news special announcing the final verdict).  But This Decision isn’t really one I want (although ESPN, feel free to cover this if you're so inclined).

No, This Decision blows. It's a full time job, and not the one you want, but the one you're forced to take.  And, no one is giving me 15 million dollars for my decision.

Actually, it truly has become my full time job. Sadly, I recently stopped working so that I could focus fully on getting healthier. This wasn't something I planned on. It’s not like I got Cancer and said, "hey Little Hodgy, let’s stop working."  Even Hodgy knows this girl loves me some new shoes. But my treatment plan just leaves no time for work. At least not right now.

So after weeks of searching for the right treatment plan, deciding on the plan, and then changing my mind about the plan, I finally made THE Decision (I think).

I've actually made several "final" decisions already so until I start the actual treatment, there's no guarantee I won't change my mind again (sorry Hubby, I'm indecisive until I'm not. You dated me, you should know!)

But I feel confident that this is it. So confident in fact, that, “dunt-dunt-duh!”  I'm announcing THE Decision to all of you.  After endless hours of researching and countless emails and phone calls, I've decided to take my talents and head to...ARIZONA! To a treatment center called An Oasis of Healing.

I ultimately decided on An Oasis of Healing because it focuses on an integrative approach to getting rid of cancer. Rather than just poisoning my cells with chemo, I'm taking a gentler approach for my body. As I've mentioned before, chemotherapy leads to a host of short and long term side effects, including fatigue, infertility, thyroid malfunction, heart problems, and other more serious cancers.

At An Oasis of Healing, I'll be receiving Insulin Potentiation Therapy (IPT). This is a low dose chemo that uses insulin to direct the drugs directly to the cancer cells. This allows the chemo to keep most of the healthy cells intact and reduces most of the side effects of conventional therapy. In addition, I will participate in other complimentary therapies such as yoga, nutrition, supplements, and if I'm lucky, courtside tickets to a Phoenix Suns game (Hey, I girl can dream can't she? Did I mention I have cancer?).

The goal at An Oasis of Healing is to not just get rid of the cancer, but to learn how to keep it away. Kind of important when you're only 28 and promised The Hubby you'd live to be 94.

When I asked my oncologist about IPT, not surprisingly he told me he wouldn't do it because "it may be dangerous." Last I checked, chemo wasn't exactly safe.

So am I taking a risk by going against my oncologists advice? Absolutely. Just like Lebron took a risk in alienating all his fans and pissing off the rest of the world. But it is THE risk That I, Cancer Girl a.k.a. The Thunder Stealer -- need to take. Otherwise, 5 years from now I could end up with breast cancer from the radiation and I would hate myself for not at least trying a different route. And maybe Lebron felt the same way. It may be the unconventional road, but sometimes you just have to take it to avoid your own "what ifs."

Will a lot of people think I'm crazy for going against the doctor's advice? I'm sure of it. Like Lebron, I'm sure that I too will have angry fans pissed at me for switching directions and going against what's been comfortable for us all. This team works. Why risk switching to another? But also, like Lebron, it's MY decision.

In fact, You can google alternative medicine, including IPT, and will get hundreds of negative articles to confirm my so called insanity. FYI, I've read them all, so please don't flood my inbox with hate mail. Unlike Lebron, I can't handle the negativity.

But at the end of the day, I have to be the only one that is comfortable with my decision. And this is THE Decision I believe in.

Hey Arizona, You Win!  The Thunder Stealer is Coming Your Way!

Someone tell ESPN I'm ready for my close up.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Love (and Cancer) is a Battlefield

Let me tell you, Cancer is hard. Actually, let me rephrase that. Cancer is a bitch. And not just physically on the body; that part has been surprisingly easy so far. Turns out, Cancer is also hard on relationships.

I have the best husband in the world. Seriously, I lucked out big time. He's supportive of everything I do, he challenges me, makes me laugh AND will dance with me even though he thinks he looks silly doing it. But he does it because I love it. Ladies, you want a real man, find one who isn't afraid to look silly for you. That's true love.

But Cancer tries to bring out the worst in people. And on our bad days, it succeeds. The Hubby doesn't wash his dishes (so cliche, I know) and I blow up. And I get mad. And storm out.

And even though I won't admit it at the time, we both know this is not about a couple of dishes in the sink. I have cancer. And as much as I try and avoid being angry at that, sometimes I am. And rather than say I'm pissed about Little Hodgy, I yell at The Hubby for not putting his dishes away.

And in an unexpected twist, The Hubby gets pissed back. He's furious at my reaction to the dishes. He yells. Then ignores me. Then we spend the rest of the night not talking because we're both too stubborn to make the first move.

Turns out I'm not the only one that gets pissed about me having cancer. And rather than getting upset at something beyond our control, like cancer, we fight with each other. And then Cancer wins. 

And that's not all. When you have cancer and you avoid the conventional path of treatment, there are a lot of decisions that have to be made. I am not a decisive person. In fact, I hate making decisions.

What can I say, I'm an avoider.

I blame it on being the middle child and constantly compromising. But when it's ME who has cancer, it's ME who has to ultimately make the decision. This can be infuriating to The Hubby who wants nothing more than to support me, but is unable to do that because I can't make an actual decision for him to support. So again, we fight.

Marriage is hard. Even with The Perfect Hubby.

But marriage with cancer as the third wheel is even harder. I'm just lucky that I have a marriage that is able to survive something as small as the dishes and something as big as Cancer.

And when I absolutely refuse to let go of the anger first, I know he'll take one for the team and come dance for me. Because I'm lucky and found a man who's not afraid to be silly for me.

And because of that, Cancer may win the fight, but will never win the war.

Roll your eyes if you want, I know I would, but hear this: Love is a battlefield and love conquers all. Just make sure you do the dishes!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Just Do It

To show how much I believe in David's previous post, I have signed up for the Detroit Free Press Half Marathon this October. Get your jaws off the floor -- it's true.

For those of you who know me, you know I am not a runner. In fact, this image pretty accurately describes me:

But when you have cancer, nothing seems like a big deal anymore. What's a little run after you've been through chemo? If I have the endurance to beat cancer, I certainly have the endurance to run a half a marathon. Besides, in my glory days I used to be a pretty good athlete. Beer Pong counts as a sport, right?

I thought about  signing up for the whole damn thing, but I figured between all the juicing, raw food preparing, and yoga, who has time for a full marathon?

To hold me accountable to this, I have decided to run on behalf of the Make-a Wish Foundation. I'll be fundraising over the next nine months, so if anyone would like to support both me AND a good cause, you can donate on my page here.

Come on people, support the children.

Just Do It.

Let's Get Physical: Guest Post

Recently, a fellow cancer blogger, David Haas stumbled upon my blog (and here I thought my mom was my only reader) and wanted to be a guest poster. David is a cancer patient advocate for the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance and is a regular contributor to their blog. As someone who deals regularly with other Thunder Stealers, and frankly has way more experience than I do, he offers some valuable insight on the importance of staying active before, during, and after treatment:

Cancer and Physical Fitness- Exercising Helps

Many doctors now advise that cancer patients enlist physical fitness as one possible option for feeling better before, during and after cancer treatment. Whether you're fighting mesothelioma or any other type of cancer, you might find it hard to believe that exercise is recommended, especially when you often feel so tired. But the benefits of exercise have proven to be great for those who have received their doctor's permission to enjoy exercise. Here are a few types of exercises you can participate in and the way in which they can help you.


Bicycling is an effective, whole body workout that has benefits beyond the obvious aerobic activity. Thirty minutes, five times per week on a bicycle improves heart health and helps maintain your physical condition. But biking also gets you out of the house, into the sunshine and around other people, both of which are good for your emotional state, too.


Because the buoyancy of water supports your body's weight, swimming is an effective exercise if you need to avoid standing for long periods of time or can't participate in exercises that involve impact, such as walking or jogging. Thirty minutes of swimming is equal to approximately one hour of jogging, so you can do less, if you need to.


Choose to walk outside and you'll reap the same benefits you do when bicycling, but at a slower, gentler pace. Take a walk through your neighborhood or town to incorporate some socializing into your exercise routine.


This peaceful form of exercise helps create a mind-body connection that has benefits that go beyond increasing balance and toning muscles. Practicing yoga can reduce stress and help calm you before going to sleep.

Weight-Bearing Exercises

Lifting lightweight dumbbells helps build and maintain muscles to keep your stamina up and help you endure side effects of cancer treatment. Additionally, working your muscles helps you maintain your range of motion so you can move about freely with pain.

The National Cancer Institute states that
physical activity does more than maintain or improve physical conditioning. It also benefits the mind and emotions, often making it easier to work through with the difficulties of dealing with various types of cancer from breast cancer to mesothelioma, while reducing negative side effects. As studies continue in this area, more and more doctors are making the recommendation that their patients participate in regular exercise activities, as much as they're able.

Thanks for your contribution, David! Now all you Thunder Stealers, pull out your sneakers and get moving!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

New Years Resolutions

With the start of a new year, naturally people start making resolutions: exercise more, eat less, do more charity work, be a better person.

Obviously, my new years resolution is to beat cancer's ass (while being a better person, of course). And with that goal, comes some necessary changes.

According to a woman I've been speaking with at BeatCancer.org, here is my list of resolutions:

I will live a non toxic, organic lifestyle.
I will take a 15 minute break for every hour I spend at the computer.
I will dance more.
I will walk at least 30 minutes a day.
I will do yoga.
I will drink more water (at least half my weight in ounces).

In addition to these lifestyle changes, I will follow a strict, but beneficial diet, including:
No Wheat.
No Corn.
No Dairy.
No White Products.
No Sugar.
No Caffeine.
No Microwaving. Ever.

Sounds nuts, huh? And I know what you're thinking. "What can she eat??" But oddly enough, I'm looking forward to taking on this challenge. Besides, I was a vegetarian for 10 years just because I was told I wouldn't last a week. If I had the persistence to do that at 13, I certainly can do this now with more at stake than just my pride.

All while being a better person, of course.

Happy New Year Everyone!