Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Just Say...Yes?

This week I'll be starting IPT again. This is the low-dose chemo-cocktail that wrought havoc on my white blood cell count and was put on hold for the last two weeks.

My initial reaction was hesitation and fear. I've been feeling so good lately that I hate the idea of going back on the drugs. I hate the idea of doing something I know my body reacts poorly to.

But if I'm really being honest?

Honestly, what I really hate most is the idea of losing what little hair I have left.

How vain is that? And what a stupid fucking reason not to do something. Seriously, this stuff has proven to kill cancer cells—my cancer cells. After all, that is the reason I'm here -- not to win some beauty contest.

Do I worry about the idea of consistently having a low white blood count, putting me at risk for infection from the mere cough of a stranger? Of course. Am I thrilled about the idea of IPT repeatedly compromising my bone marrow? Of course not.

But no one said the journey to cure cancer comes without compromises.

Look, as long as I losing Little Hodgy, then great.

If it means I must lose my hair, then that's one compromise I'm willing to make.

Friday, February 24, 2012

March 16th or Bust

Today marks the date of my original departure.

When I first found out that the doctors wanted me to prolong my stay, I didn't handle it well. I was angry. I cried. I even doubted my decision to come here. But once I stopped being a total drama queen, I realized staying longer was the right decision.

Two weeks ago, I stopped doing IPT. Apparently my body does not react well to chemotherapy, even in small doses. My white blood count was consistently low, my bone marrow was being compromised, and as I mentioned before, my hair was (and still is) falling out by the handful.

In order to increase my white blood count, I was regularly receiving neupogen shots -- a solution that in itself is dangerous and can lead to leukemia if given too often.

I was sick and exhausted and my body was spending all its energy reacting to the chemo and not fighting the cancer. Having a healthy immune system is kind of a crucial component in kicking cancer's ass.

I was nervous going off IPT. Would I still make progress? Would the other therapies be strong enough? And most importantly -- how much longer would that keep me here??

I was assured that IPT wasn't necessary; that the other therapies were just as powerful in killing the cancer cells. In fact, Sodium Selenite, in addition to Vitamin C, might just be the future killer of cancer.

I was also told that staying a couple extra weeks could mean me leaving without a tumor in tow.

Sorry Little Hodgy, but there's just no room for you in my suitcase!

So as much as I wish I was on a plane headed home right now, I've decided to give myself three more weeks to get rid of LIttle Hodgy for good. And on the off chance that Little Hodgy needs some more ass whipping, I've found a doctor near my home that does both IPT and Vitamin C IVs where I'll continue my treatment.

Mark your calendars everyone, I'm coming home. March 16th I'll finally be boarding that plane -- but this time, hopefully short one tumor.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

40 Days and 40 Nights: Photo Montage (Part 2)

edge of the grand canyon

momma bear and me at the canyon

sunset over the canyon

blizzard at the canyon

wagon wheel



that's the grand canyon in the background...


navajo reservation

before the blizzard

raw/vegan pad thai

our first shot dehydrating! those are blueberries, sweet potato chips, and kale chips

homemade raw/vegan lasagna

40 Days and 40 Nights: Photo Montage (Part 1)

I love pictures partly because you get to see what the photographer chooses what to capture in each photo. Look in most picture albums and it is the joyous occasions that are captured. People capture the events they want to remember. These photos are no different. To be honest, these photos probably represent about 3 of the 40 days I've spent in Arizona. I could have captured a more "real" portrayal of my experience, but who wants to see pictures of IV poles, blood, and needles? Besides, I'd rather not remember those.

a rare day of sunbathing




raw/vegan quiche

desert sunset

chemo (that's ice on my head and hands)

healing in progress


representing the 313 in sedona

ghost town

sunset in sedona

route 66

wild west

grand canyon

Monday, February 20, 2012

I Am Not My Hair

You know what fucking sucks? Losing your hair.

We all knew this was a possibility. With conventional chemo, it was basically a guarantee. But one of the perks of doing an alternative treatment and low dose chemo was that I was supposed to keep my hair. In fact, the other week the nurse told me that in the three years she's worked there, she's never seen anyone lose all their hair. Well if I end up bald, at least I'll leave knowing I was the very first person to ever lose their hair doing alternative treatment. Go me…

I don't mean to dwell on the loss of my hair. It's just hair.

But it really does suck. Not just the losing of the hair, but the process of losing the hair. For the last week, I would wake up every day to more hair on my pillow. I would run my fingers through my hair and find a fistful of it in my hand. And don't even get me started about the shower. What used to be an enjoyable escape of dancing to Motown while I lathered, is now filled with dread and stress; the hair in the drain a constant reminder that I in fact, do have cancer.

I'm forced to wear my hair pulled back every day, otherwise I'll leave "pieces of [me] everywhere I go" as Momma Bear so delicately put it. Thanks Momma, but I'd rather my dead hair not be the mark I leave on this world. I was hoping to leave a more meaningful mark.

How much hair does one lose before pulling out the razor and shaving it? When it becomes painfully obvious? When bald spots start to occur? It's a delicate balance between holding on to hope that maybe I won't lose it all and just pulling the fucking trigger so I can stop eating hair in my meals.

With each individual strand being yet another reminder that i have cancer, it would almost be easier to shave it now. Even on days when I feel great and have fleeting forgetful moments of what I'm doing in Arizona, a clump of hair is a rude snap back to reality. But until I start seeing major bald spots, I will resist the razor.

But the worst part? Worse than actually losing the hair? Is the disappointment I feel over being disappointed. It's just hair. It will grow back. I HAVE CANCER. Get the fuck over the hair and move on. Stressing about it will do nothing but make it fall out faster.

Besides, if Demi Moore and Natalie Portman can both rock the bald head and look sexy, so can I.

And as the great India.Arie says: I Am Not My Hair.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

A World Without Coffee

When I committed to an alternative route, I committed to the process 100%. I'd receive all the treatments, I'd take the supplements, I'd explore the mind/body connection, and I'd follow a raw/vegan diet. When I committed to these things, I also committed to giving up coffee.

I was never one of those people who needed coffee in the morning to get me through the day. In fact, I didn't start drinking coffee until I received a Kerig one-cup coffee maker as a wedding gift. This was probably The Hubby's favorite (and most used) gift and turned me on to the joy of coffee. It is also because of this machine that I still don't really know how to make a real pot of coffee.

Once we received this wonder machine, coffee became a morning ritual between The Hubby and I. Before getting ready for the day, we'd top off our mugs, filling our loft with it's delicious aroma. Just like a Folgers commercial, I would literally wake up to the smell of The Hubby's brew. Coffee was our companion on our daily walks with Puppy. And we'd spend Sunday mornings sipping and sharing articles we'd read in the New York Times (okay, sometimes Vogue…). He drank his black, mine was creamy and sweet.

Coffee wasn't just about joint experiences with The Hubby. One of my favorite things to do in the afternoon when I needed a break from work would be to pour myself an extra hot cup of coffee (or a latte if I was feeling fancy) and catch up on my fashion blogs. In a day that was completely consumed by work, it felt indulgent and totally selfish. It was my own ritual where I would take time for two things I truly enjoyed: coffee and blogs.


For me, coffee has always been about the ritual and the experience that comes with drinking it. Some people go through withdrawal giving up coffee. They experience headaches and fatigue. My withdrawal was an emotional one - I hated the idea of losing a part of a routine I had grown to love. The process, the smell, the warmth. I knew if I was going to commit 100% to this new lifestyle, then I had to find a substitute.

I spent my first couple weeks in Arizona silently mourning the loss of my coffee routine (This was of course made harder by the lack of The Hubby and Puppy- two critical pieces). I bought enough flavors of tea to last a year, hopping to find one that would satisfy my desire. They all came up short. I tried homemade chai tea lattes with almond milk but they required too much work and I never seemed to be able to get the same outcome twice.

I actually like tea. Sometimes I even love tea. But for me, tea is a part of a different routine. It helps relax me at the end of the day. It's great in bed with a good book before I fall asleep. It's soothing. Actually, maybe it's wine that I'm thinking of…

To me, tea is not energizing. It lacks a boldness, as well as the rich creaminess, of a cup of coffee. I needed something stronger.

And then, finally, I found it. It wasn't easy. It required hours of research and trolling of internet forums. But I found my coffee substitute.

Teeccino Herbal Coffee.

Caffeine free and full of antioxidants, this non-acidic drink is made out of chicory root, carob, fruit, dates, and other natural ingredients. Honestly, it sounded pretty terrible and not like a worthy substitute. But after one cup (and weeks of searching), I knew I had a winner.

It comes in flavors like Almond Amaretto and French Roast and is packaged just like coffee. It can be made in a coffee pot, or my personal favorite, a french press. So fantastically fancy.

Does it taste exactly like coffee? Don't ask me, it's been 5 weeks since I've had any and I was never a purist with my cup of joe. But does it give me a similar experience? Yes. And just like I diluted my coffee with milk and sugar, I'll continue to dilute my teccinno with almond milk and honey, giving it the perfect sweet, creamy texture I crave. I even found a blog with latte and frapuccino recipes made out of Teeccino!

With Cancer, it's all about celebrating the small daily victories and this, my friends, is one of them.

Drinking a cup while writing this post actually made me feel as if I had a piece of my old routine back. Now if only I could get The Hubby and Puppy back too…

Friday, February 17, 2012

Mom Knows Best?

This morning, I had a revelation.

At 28 years old, I am not supposed to live with my mother.

Don't mistake this for ungratefulness. I can't adequately describe how grateful I am for the many, many sacrifices she has made for me. But when I started this blog, I promised honesty.

And honestly, Momma Bear is driving me nuts.

An hour doesn't go by where I'm not asked, "Are you drinking your juice?" And several times a day I'm reminded to take my supplements. "Am I eating enough food?" "Am I eating the right food?"

Even when I was a child, I was never grilled this much.

And this morning? Momma Bear barged into my bedroom and frantically asked if I was okay. I was in the bathroom. I can't even pee in peace.

Momma Bear has this insane amount of energy. And this child like excitement about the possibilities of the world (I now realize where I get that from...). She gets this glow, this high, from all the doors that have opened up because of my "situation." She's always had an interest in health and wellness and Little Hodgy has given her a new purpose. I'm glad getting cancer has helped her to focus on what she wants to do and how she spends her time.

But her energy can be exhausting.

She's like a shaken coke can that's ready to explode but no one will open the top. I wish I could open it for her, but right now my focus is much too narrow. My focus is on the present. My focus is on getting Little Hodgy the hell out of my body.

My focus is not on creating a documentary about alternative treatments. It is not on figuring out how to start a nonprofit to help people in similar situations. It is not on creating my own wellness center/yoga studio/raw foods cafe/magical healing center.

Right now, I have to be selfish. Right now, I can't focus on anything except my treatment.

Right now, I am stuck somewhere between being treated like a seven year old and this superwoman who is going to change the way we look at cancer treatment.

I am neither (although most parents probably view their children in the same way -- some days a little kid, other days, world conquerors).

I am one of many adults with an unfortunate diagnosis. An adult who made a decision, the best decision, for myself. I was not the first person to take this path nor will I be the last.

I am also an adult that has managed to both feed myself and stay hydrated on my own for a very long time. Imagine that -- maybe I am superwoman!

It really is amazing how much Momma Bear is gaining from this journey. She is learning more about who she is and realizing the possibilities of her passions -- passions that in the end will benefit me and my journey. I fully support and encourage this, even if I can't be on the same journey right now.

Right now, I'm on my own journey. A journey where I need Momma Bear's support but not her control. I need her to learn to let go. Momma Bear, I love you dearly, but it's time to cut the cord!

Please, keep pursuing your passions, but please, please let me pee in peace.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Chipotle - "Back to the Start"

Anyone who knows me, know I have a love, possibly even an addiction, to Chipotle burritos. Even though they are currently on my "do not eat" list, I still admire the company for their core message of bringing us real (and damn good) fast food.

Check it out:

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

A Love Letter To You

I never liked Valentine's Day. I was always the girl, without a boy, who was forced to witness others prove their "love" with chocolates and flowers.

I now realize I grew up watching one too many romantic comedies and deep down I always hoped some secret admirer would show up outside my window and express his love by holding a boom box over his head. So cliche, I know.

This never happened.

Valentine's Day always came and went and no declaration of love was ever made.

Now I could go on to tell you that eventually I met The ONE and, like so many others, my perception of Valentine's Day shifted. I could tell you vomit inducing stories of how I suddenly became loved and adored by this person and even though there was no boombox, this person did "boombox worthy" gestures on a regular basis. I could tell you how I now have so much love in my life, Valentine's Day is just another day I get to share with this person (where yes, I now get flowers).

But I won't.

While these things may be true (The Hubby will make you sick with his sweetness), that is not the point of this post.

The point of this Valentine's Day post is to not make you nausea of how spoiled I am on this hallmark holiday, but to take the opportunity to by express my own love and gratitude to all of you.

The point of this post is to say, Thank You.

My last post was a tough one for me. Even after publishing it and sending it out into the vast universe of the internet, I wondered if I made a mistake. What would people say? How would they react? I felt like I sent a love letter expressing my true feelings to a crush and out of fear of his reaction, suddenly wished I could take it back.

Part of me wanted to take the post back.

That fear of an unknown reaction can be paralyzing.

The reaction I got? One of undeniable love and support. Family, friends, coworkers, acquaintances, and even strangers, all reminded me just how blessed I am. Some people even thanked me. Imagine that -- being thanked for asking for help.

I was so caught up in my own fear of asking for help, I forgot how helpless people can feel in tough situations. I was so worried about being judged that I forgot that people want to help.

So again, Thank You.

Thank you to everyone who has sent love, prayers, blessings, good vibes, and of course, money. I feel both overwhelmed and grateful for the enormous amount of love in my life. I had no idea there were so many people out there wanting to steal the thunder back with their kindness.

But honestly, I feel undeserving. As grateful as I am, it still isn't easy to accept help from others. Being young and independent, the idea of needing help is still a daily struggle. And as The Hubby says in his own post, actually accepting help can be even harder than asking for it (I'm currently in therapy addressing this very issue, so expect more on that later).

But the point of this post isn't to address my issues. The point of this post is love. This is about the love that all of you have shown me over the last several months, and especially over the last week.

So thank you everyone for your outpouring of love and support.

I'll take that over flowers and chocolate any day.

Monday, February 6, 2012

An Unconventional Request

This is probably the most awkward post I'll write on this blog.

And maybe awkward is the wrong word. Uncomfortable is better.

This is probably the most uncomfortable post I'll write. So uncomfortable that I've been trying to write this since my first week here. That's three weeks of staring at a blank page.

Three weeks …. just trying to find the words.

How does someone who isn't good at asking for help, ask for help?

How does someone who isn't good at asking for help, ask for money?

When I chose to come to An Oasis of Healing for my treatment, I chose an "unconventional" path. I chose a path that was specific to my body and my lifestyle. I chose a path that doesn't just rid my body of disease, but teaches me how to prevent it from coming back. I chose a path where questions are encouraged. I chose an integrative, holistic path. I chose a path that allows me to be accountable for my treatment and my success. I chose a path that thrives on educating myself.

Like I said, I chose the unconventional path.

And because of that decision, my decision, THE DECISION, my insurance refuses to pay for my treatment.

It doesn't matter that it would cost them less money in both the short and long term. It doesn't matter that the exact same chemo drugs are used. It doesn't even matter that it's the right thing to do.

It's unconventional.

And because of that, I have been cast aside and am financially on my own.

So here I am, asking for help.

But I'm lucky because I don't have to ask alone. I have the most amazing Mother-in-Law who has offered to start a fundraiser on my behalf. It is because of her generosity that I finally got the courage to write this post. She has been a constant source of support, not just for me, but for The Hubby and Momma Bear as well. She is a truly admirable woman and when I'm having a bad day, she has the unique gift of being the greatest hugger on the planet (it's true -- anyone who knows her can attest to this). And unlike other people's in-laws, and all the negative stereotypes that come with that title, I am honored and lucky to call her family.

I also have Momma Bear, who has cashed out her retirement savings so that we can do what we undoubtedly believe to be the right thing. It is because of her knowledge and research and time that I was able to feel empowered to make the best decision for me, my body, and my life. When everyone else called me crazy for even thinking about going against convention, she was a rock of support. It’s because of her we are able to cover a lot of the costs now, but they keep rising, and I can’t on my good conscience let her blow away her retirement funds just for my treatments.

And of course, I have The Hubby, who is working 4 or 5 jobs at last count (granted, 3 unpaid ones – always trying to save the world!) and, a la Tim Gunn, has insisted that we’ll "make it work."  Make it work means stretching bills, bartering services for care of The Puppy, hustling for small consulting projects and calling in help and forbearance from the student loan folks at the US Government. Make it work means tightening our belts and asking family for help when we need to as well. Sometimes it's hard to Make it Work.

Perhaps all of this is a natural response to the love our family shares, but all of it is really unconventional too.

So, as hard as it is for me, I have to swallow the discomfort and ask for your help.

It can be small. It can be big. It can be for treatments or to offset that I had to leave my job temporarily. It could be to stick it to the man at the insurance company or to stay connected to some of the most important (albeit controversial) cancer therapies in the world. Therapies that could save my life and someone you know.

But, as hard as it is for me, I have to ask again: are you able to help?

If you can, I have no way to repay your generosity besides to say, I am eternally grateful. I will also continue to share my story, good and bad, in hopes that one day my experience helps someone else to make their own decision. And, just so you know, anything I raise in excess of my treatment costs, I promise to not spend on shoes, but instead donate it to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.

If you are unable to support monetarily, please feel free to simply spread the word. Or feel free to just send your love my way. Love and positive vibes are helpful too.

But, if you can do more, if you can help me, please use the Paypal button on the right side of the blog (it's safe!) or send donations to:

Dana Frost (aka the Thunder Stealer)
200 River Place Drive, Apt. 47
Detroit, MI 48207

And for helping me heal and tackle my cancer in an unconventional way, allow me to say this:

Thank you.
UPDATE: Apparently Google Checkout has a maximum contribution of $50. I have added a new Paypal donation option for all you big spenders out there.