Daily Archives: August 10, 2011

Food & Fitness

Remember when this was a food and exercise blog?

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Well I still do those things! Just on a much, much smaller scale.

Even though I whine about getting cancer despite all my healthy habits, I must say, it hasn’t all been for naught. My chemotherapy side effects haven’t been that bad. Not nearly as bad as some of the horror stories I’ve seen and heard. I credit my pre-cancer lifestyle for my ability to stay strong and withstand the powerful chemo poisons. I also hope my healthy body will be able to help the chemo work its magic faster!

Everyone told me to rest during treatment, but eventually my body started getting weak from lying around all day. I decided I wanted to try to stay active in order to keep my body strong. Then I read this New York Times article which says:

For those who can handle it, though, a light or moderate exercise regimen could help reduce some side effects of treatment, the new report stated. Studies have shown, for example, that arm extensions and other range-of-motion exercises can help relieve lymphedema, a painful swelling of the arm stemming from breast cancer surgery. It can also help patients who gained weight during treatment slim down and regain some physical function, and combat some of the exhaustion stemming from chemotherapy.

On top of that, the study showed that exercise could reduce a breast cancer patient’s risk of dying by 40 percent and 30 percent for a person with prostate cancer. They’re not kidding around!

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Honestly, when I first read that I realized that there really no longer exists any excuse not to do some kind of exercise. Then, I promptly hopped on my dad’s recumbent bike.

For over a week now I’ve been taking care to get 30-60 minutes of light to moderate exercise almost every day. The usual mix of cardio, strength, and stretching. Cardio has to be monitored because the most active part of the cancer is around my superior vena cava, the main vein that goes into my heart. So nothing more than 65% of my max heart rate. Strength on the other hand is difficult because I’m recovering from surgery on BOTH arms now. One side is my elbow, the other side from getting a lymph node removed (with mild lymphedema as mentioned in the excerpt above).

It may seem counter productive to exercise when my biggest side effect is extreme fatigue (think run over by a mack truck x1000). However, working up a little sweat helps me bust through the fatigue and provides a big boost of energy!

In terms of food, I’m finally making the switch to organic.

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I’ve always been too cheap to do this in the past. Especially when I couldn’t measure any concrete benefits from doing so.

Well it’s no longer a matter of preventing myself from getting cancer when I’m 64. It’s matter of getting rid of cancer today and making sure it neverever comes back. I now know I’m one of those people who are more susceptible to developing cancer. Suddenly the extra dollar for a can of garbanzo beans doesn’t seem so steep.

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On top of going organic, I’m attempting to cut back to one serving of dairy and one serving of meat a day. Experimenting with some new products for fun!

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Fresh fruits and veggies may sound like the easy go-to, but chemotherapy actually makes this the difficult part. I am a bacteria-free zone, and produce is crawling with it.

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I joined an organic CSA before I was diagnosed and without it, I probably wouldn’t feel the pressure to eat any vegetables. So for this, I’m thankful.

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I know a lot of people praise the benefits of raw vegetables, but I’m instructed to cook them down to kill any nasty stuff that may be lurking on them. And thanks to chemo deteriorating my stomach lining, green mush is a lot easier to digest.

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Stir-fry with a blackened chicken breast. Sauce made with goat yogurt. It’s what’s for dinner.

Suddenly food and exercise aren’t just for my general health anymore, they’re for my LIFE.

The Shedding

It’s official. My hair is falling out.

I’ve been waiting for this moment ever since I started chemotherapy just over three weeks ago. Even though I’ve been kind of excited about getting a wig, I still freaked out every time I noticed a spare strand. It turned into a paranoia. Whenever I picked a hair off my shirt I would ask “Is this it? Is this the beginning of the end??”

Well, the end is nigh my friends. What started with a spare few strands on Monday, has turned into many more strands when I touch my hair. After waiting three weeks for The Shedding to begin, everything suddenly seems to be happening so quickly. Cool wigs are fun and all, but shedding more than my dad’s cat Cashew? Decidedly not cool.

Enter best friend.

I should add “more stylish best friend who had a Conair intervention with me two years ago.” I knew she could be trusted to help me find my new cancer ‘do.

I’m not entirely sure of my plan of action now that The Shedding has begun. I think I will just leave it until I become uncomfortable enough to want to hide it. Apparently shaving your head can stop the hairs that want to fall out from actually from falling out, so keeping a little bit of length may help the process. I can’t bring myself to wear a bandana or one of those funny homemade caps. I think they scream “Cancer Patient” more than a bald head!

For today though, I still have too much hair to fit a wig over. Which is why the wigs in all these pictures sit high on my head. They’ll fall down closer to my head when there isn’t as much bulk underneath. The doctors say my particular chemo cocktail will almost certainly cause me to lose my hair, and the “wig specialist” at the salon said it may only take days now that it has started!

Erika and I started at the Canadian Cancer Society where wigs are donated. But their styles were suuuuper outdated. Think 1980’s housewife in tapered stirrup jeans.

So we ended up at this place called Martinique in Moncton that specializes in this sort of thing. They were nice enough to let us in without a fitting appointment. They had TONS of styles to choose from that were much more modern looking.

Their wigs are all made out of a fine Japanese synthetic fibre that can be curled, straightened, and parted on any side. I tried on a few shorter ones and thought they looked too awkward sitting perched on my head. I really like the idea of a darker wig, but know it will look funny if I lose my eyebrows.

In the end, Erika and I both agreed on this medium-long dark blonde highlighted one.

I’m going to get the bangs cut straight across to frame my face more. Mostly because my natural hair has always been too wavy to pull off nice bangs. I’m told hair often grows back more red and curly after chemotherapy, so straight and blonde before that happens feels very appropriate!

Cost of the wig is coming directly out of The Great Fundraising Act fund (and may even be tax refundable so I hear), so I want to thank you all who donated for helping me out with my new ‘do!! A nice wig definitely doesn’t come cheap, but I know it will be irreplaceable for keeping my spirits up over the next several months. Totally worth it.

Also worth it, the much cheaper, much more fun pink wig I’m ordering off Etsy. Ohyeah. I’m going there.

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