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Tidbits

1. I finally felt well enough to make holiday cookies!

It feels like a while since I last baked, which is all kinds of wrong seeing as Christmas is so near. I’ve been taking chemo pills every day since last week which really drag me down, but I knew I had to get my hands in some butter before chemo #12 this week.

Donned one of my favourite aprons made by Tanya! It’s to protect me from the icing sugar that was flying around the kitchen as I whipped together some shortbread cookies. If you haven’t made all your cookies yet, you MUST make these. They melt in your mouth.

Recipe comes from the back of a Canada Corn Starch box:

  • 1/2 cup corn starch
  • 1/2 cup icing sugar
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup softened butter

Sift together corn starch, icing sugar, and flour. Blend in the butter with a wooden spoon or mixer until a soft crumbly dough forms. Shape dough into 1 – 1 1/2 inch balls, place on greased pan, and gently flatten with a fork. Place in fridge for 30-60 minutes then bake in a 300F oven for 15 minutes. Makes about 20 cookies.

I topped my cookies with a regular buttercream frosting made thicker with extra icing sugar and half a maraschino cherry.

For real, make these.

2. Archie is going to live!

My mom’s poodle is going to be 15 years old in February. He’s got lumps on his body and has been coughing a lot lately. My mom brought him to the vet yesterday, and he believes the lumps are benign fatty tumours and the coughing is a partially collapsed trachea. Neither of which are currently life threatening. Vet said he could live for another couple years!! Hopefully he learns to like Buster in that time. Archie is the, ahem, jealous type.

3. I’m playing guitar again.

I’ve been playing guitar on and off for 12 years now, but could no longer do it when I broke my elbow last February. The break prevented me from twisting my left wrist so my palm could face the ceiling, or enough to wrap my hand around the neck of a guitar. But over the past several months, I’ve slowly gotten that range of motion back. It still hurts to twist my wrist for long periods of time, so practice sessions are still short. I’m also horribly out of practice. It will give me something new to work on.

5. This is just a really cute picture. 

My Baby Bear sleeping with his bear. I love when he smiles in his sleep <3

6. Hamburgers are the official food of chemo.

My food sensitivity was particularly bad after my last chemo. Even toast and almond butter sounded gross. But hamburgers ALWAYS sound good. I could eat hamburgers for Canada by now. For you Moncton folk, the above comes from Bridges in Riverview. Come to the dark side, come to Albert County for your burgers.

7. TODAY IS MY LAST CHEMO.

Maybe. I still haven’t had a PET scan to see if there’s any active cancer left. It’s just the last chemo on my original treatment plan. But I’m elated to think this may be the last time I have to go through this. Wouldn’t that be fantastic?

8. I’m lucky in some ways. 

Because I kept my eyelashes and eyebrows. Sorry for the creepy eye shot. Both have definitely thinned, but both were thick to begin with. Volume mascara and a little eyebrow pencil make me look normal. It would be so cool if this was my last chemo and I got away with keeping my eyelashes and eyebrows.

The hair on my head is already a goner though.

9. I’m going to get better!

As in, getting better is not such a long term thing any more. If today is indeed my last chemo, then my recovery time will just go on and on until I feel like my “normal” self again. No more chemo sessions to bring me down again. I know that is a simplistic and obvious notion, but at this point it kind of blows my mind.

I foresee more sessions on my recumbent bike, more weight training, outdoor activities, and yoga!

I still won’t ever be able to do downward dog because of my bum arm though. I’ll leave that to Buster.

10. Santa tried to throttle my dog.

Yes, I realize getting my dog to pose with Santa has me edging closer to the crazy dog lady line – but I couldn’t help myself! I thought it would be so cute and not very harmful. Except, somehow my Santa shot looks like Santa is pulling a Homer Simpson on my Bart Simpson. “Why you little…!!”

I tried to take some cute Chrismassy photos of my little bear at home, but he was playing aloof.

And with that, I am off! “The Great Balancing Act” is on official Christmas holidays, to return sometime next week. Besides recovering from what may be my LAST chemo, I’ve got out-of-town family to see, cookies to eat, gifts to wrap and unwrap, and a puppydog to keep out of the poinsettias. Have a great holiday!! xoxo

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!

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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