Category Archives: Cancer

Lung Update + Will It French Toast Round 3

Good news friends! I (finally) got to meet with a respirologist yesterday, who said my lung function is almost back to normal!

You may recall that two months ago I found out one of my chemo drugs was poisoning my lungs. A side effect called Bleomycin lung toxicity. It’s pretty serious. It can cause permanent damage and even be fatal. At the time I did a pulmonary function test that I could barely get through thanks to my inability to take a proper breath without coughing. But the test I took last week showed my lung function has improved by 100% in some areas!

Clearly, I knew I was doing better just from how my lungs felt throughout the day. But I’m no doctor, so it was nice to have confirmation from one. My biggest fear was that I’d have lung damage that would prevent me from exercising in the future, but the respirologist said my lungs are in good enough shape to run now if I wanted to. My oncologist however won’t let me until I’m done chemo, which I guess makes sense. But I so badly just want to pick my feet up off the ground and move fast when I’m out on my walks every day. I’ve got a need to run run run.

I also got to watch the respirologist pull up my scans and x-rays from over the past 5.5 months which was both neat and surreal. No matter how many times I talk and think about a giant mass in my chest, it is still weird to see a picture of it clouding around my skeleton. Everyone is impressed by how fast it’s shrinking (thank goodness, because they were also horrified by how large it was). Fast to grow, fast to shrink maybe?

Here’s hoping it’s gone by the time I get my PET scan next month. I’m getting nervous I may need more chemo.

Blathering about my health aside, I have a decidedly unhealthy breakfast treat to share with you today.

Well, it depends on your version of unhealthy. Croissants? Okay, kind of unhealthy (read this post to find out why). Turning croissants into French toast? Okay, maybe still kind of unhealthy. But in order to “balance” things out, I cut them in half and soaked them in egg whites and cinnamon. Straight up protein to my butter and pastry. And treating yourself to something delicious? Healthy!

Add this to my ongoing list of “Will it French toast?” experiments. The result was FANTASTIC. So buttery. A great way to use up croissants that are going stale. I think this would be a fun treat to add to the Christmas breakfast lineup this year. I would recommend not over-soaking the croissants, as the dough can easily get mushy. And don’t cook them in a overly hot pan, as the outsides are more likely to brown.

With that, I am off. I’ve been a bit of a busy bee these past few days because I’ve been feeling so well. But today I’m laying low to recharge and save up some spoons. Have a good one!

One Bright Birthday

Sometimes I feel like I am in the minority of cancer patients in that I don’t often get very upset about my situation.

I mean, I am upset. I just don’t get upset. The only time I’ve cried throughout this experience has been the result of additional stresses in my life that have nothing to do with the cancer. They just upset me more easily because I’m full of cracks from the cancer.

There are moments however when I do feel really sad about what has become of my life. As a young adult, I was guilty of thinking I was invincible. Of assuming I had a lifetime ahead of me to do things. Not that I don’t think cancer is going to cut any of that short, but the word “if” is used a lot more these days instead of “when.”

My friend Lauren reminded me the other day of my favourite Leonard Cohen lyrics, which I’ve shared on this blog before:

“There is a crack, a crack in everything/That’s how the light gets in”

Without the cracks caused by cancer, I wouldn’t have some of the light they let in. Hands down, the brightest light of this whole thing has been BUSTER!

Call me a crazy dog lady all you want, this little pooch makes me one happy girl. The opportunity to get a dog has easily been the best thing to come out of this crazy cancer experience. Even when he mistakes the kitty litter for a playpen, or insists on going for a walk at 10pm.

And today my little Buster Bartholomew is one year old!! I got him from another owner when he was 10 months old. I guess he is now officially an adolescent dog, despite his scrawny puppy-like looks.

Please excuse the hack icing job. I whipped it up this morning while chugging back my coffee.

If you’re interested, here’s what went into the dog-friendly microwave cake:

  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1/2 tbsp baking powder
  • 1 flax egg (1 tbsp ground flax + 3 tbsp water)
  • 1 tbsp peanut butter
  • 2 tbsp applesauce

All mixed up and cooked in a greased bowl for about 3 minutes in the microwave. Topped with a quick icing that got licked up immediately.

My little Buster however is a very special snowflake and isn’t blessed with the iron stomach of many other dogs. So he didn’t get to have all of his cake in one sitting.

One little piece at a time! I call him my “Dust Buster” because he likes to hoover the crumbs up off the floor.

Buddy the Boxer is here too and got to reap the benefits of the birthday celebration. My step-sister watched from the sidelines with her human baby boy, laughing at the lengths I go to celebrate my non-human child.

Call me crazy all you want, I refuse to let the light of those cracks let slip through my fingers. Without them, things would get pretty dark around here.

Happy birthday Buster!!

I’m Fine

…Two words I’d be happy to never have to utter again.

This is a topic a lot of people have written about and I heard of after first getting diagnosed with cancer. I laughed at it, but now that I am in the thick of things, I truly understand it. So I’ve decided to throw my own two cents in. I don’t think it could hurt to remind people on the outside for the gazillionth time that I am actually quite fine.

Since first being diagnosed with lymphoma, I’d say 30% of the words that come out of my mouth have been used responding to the question “How are you?” Everyone wants to know. I know it comes from a place of concern and caring, but I would like to point out that answering this question is exhausting and frustrating for a sick person. And who wants to exhaust a sick person?

I am not sure what kind of response people expect from such a loaded question. For one thing, I am 25 years old and getting treated for cancer. That really sucks. Should I say I woke up feeling like I’d been put through a car crusher? Should I say I haven’t been to a bar in 6 months and I could really go for a drink? Should I say I’m scared I won’t be able to run again? Or that I thought a lot about death today?

Overall though, despite everything, I AM FINE. You’ve heard it before, and I will tell you again, human beings have an amazing ability to deal with things. I’ve heard people say they could never go through something like this, but yes, yes you could. Because when your only choice is to live through it or die, you suck it up and choose the former.

That is why I am honest to goodness just fine. Because I wake up every day, yes feeling like crap, but still happy to be alive. You don’t want to hear about my aches and pains or how many times I thought I was going to barf. I woke up and still had a life to live. It’s not “great” because I’m still not happy about this cancer thing, but overall it’s a solid fine. There are still a lot of enjoyable things in my days as well.

I have complained about this enough that my friends and family have nicely stopped asking me so much. I tell them that no news is good news, and that if I’m not outwardly complaining or talking about my health, then assume nothing has changed.

It’s not answering the same question over and over that irritates me. It’s that the question itself is a constant reminder that I’m sick and in this situation. It’s like one of my other most hated questions – “On a scale of 1 to 10, how would you rate your pain?” I hate that because it forces me to focus on my current pain and then try to attach a measure to something I always considered to be immeasurable.

Sometimes a simple “How are you feeling?” can be a harsh reminder that I am not feeling well, and force me to trivialize the severe situation I’ve found myself in.

So in other words, “I’m fine” is my way of brushing the whole thing off.

Instead I much rather talk about things like current events, movies, music, food, and cute things my dog did today. So how about we finish this off with some food?

Butternut Squash Sauce

The photos of this sauce are a little misleading, but I will get to that. What is Squash Sauce you ask? A creamy, garlicky pasta sauce made with pureed butternut squash. Created because my food restrictions were getting me down, I’m still craving homestyle foods, and I wanted a way to sneak more veggies in.

Ingredients:

1 large butternut squash

1 head of garlic

2 tbsp butter

1 onion

1 cup 10% cream (milk works too, but I haven’t tried it with non-dairy)

2 tbsp flour

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp pepper

1/2 tsp ground nutmeg

Directions:

Pre-heat oven to 425F

Slice the tip of the head of garlic off like you would slice the end of an onion off. Wrap in tinfoil with a little oil.

Wash, peel, and cube the butternut squash, spread on baking sheet with wrapped garlic and put in oven for about 20-25 minutes or until browned.

While squash and garlic are roasting, chop onion. Heat a medium sized pot to low-medium heat, melt butter, and slowly cook onion until soft (about 15 minutes).

Add flour, spices, and cream to pot and whisk non-stop (making sure to scrape the bottom with whisk) for about 10 minutes or until thick like a gravy.

Once everything is ready, put it in a blender (including ALL of the garlic, peeled of course) and puree. Makes about 2-3 cups of sauce.

Now I can tell you I cheated taking the pictures. I always make my food for dinner when there’s no sunlight, so I photograph the leftovers the next day. And here you can totally tell! It was much creamier and dreamier the night of serving, although did still hold up well the next day. The texture just changes a bit in the microwave, much like mac n’ cheese or alfredo.

I served mine with egg noodles, salmon, and a whack of veggies, but the butternut squash sauce got lost a little. I would recommend tossing it with fettuccine or fusilli, then serving it as a side to something like chicken or tofu with steamed veggies. That way the flavours really get to shine. I can’t wait to make this again with maybe homemade pasta!

Now I am into the “good” two weeks of my chemo cycle where I am free of any additional poisons for a while. My body is getting to recover and I sometimes get a small glimpse of what it’s like to be my old self again. So yup, in case you were wondering, I am totally FINE.

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