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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.

Modern vs. Natural

I have to admit, yesterday’s post about my new drug schedule was actually a bit of a lead up to this one. I haven’t spoken too candidly yet about my decision to take the drugs I am on, and I decided now would be as good a time as ever to address it.

There is a world of information out there about ways to treat cancer, and the world seems to be divided into two camps: those who treat it with “modern” drugs and those who treat it through a more “natural” approach.

Source

 Anyone who has ever been diagnosed with any form of illness can surely relate to the amount of information available in both areas. On one hand, our doctors tell us to try certain kinds of treatments, on the other hand there are books upon books out there saying that modern medicine ignores treatments that have been used for centuries.

When I was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, a cancer of the lymphatic system, the green tea started flowing. A lot of people said I needed to get a juicer immediately, eat more “sea vegetables,” and start taking supplements.

I think a lot of this is inspired by what we see in the media. It’s in documentaries like Crazy Sexy Cancer, where a woman with a slow-growing incurable cancer virtually stops the growth of the disease through lifestyle and diet. We often hear more about the miracles on TV than we do about the everyday treatments.

What some people miss however, is that there is a big, BIG difference between someone like me and someone like Kris Carr. Her cancer is “incurable” and mine is “curable.”

Hodgkin’s disease is one of the first types of cancer they tested chemotherapy on decades ago. It is one of the most responsive types of cancer through chemo, and one that actually goes away with modern treatment. A significant number of people diagnosed with Hodgkin’s in their 20s live into their old age because of aggressive chemotherapies, despite the treatment poisoning the body in the process. This book was invaluable for educating me on chemotherapy and its purpose.

I read articles in the New York Times and LA Times yesterday about how Steve Jobs put off surgery for nine months after his pancreatic cancer diagnosis in lieu of “Eastern therapies.” At the time of diagnosis, he too had a possibly curable disease, and putting off surgery and chemo may have changed that. Reading this made me angry. When a doctor presents you with something that will save your life, no matter how harsh, how can you look the other way? How is your life not valuable enough?

My point, is that given the choice, I will always choose the treatment that is proven to work best. I was lucky to get a common cancer with a well-known treatment. There really was no debate or need for a bunch of extra opinions because my diagnosis and treatment is so cut and dry.

For now, my focus is on taking my chemo drugs and hoping they work their magic. My oncologist says I will always have a little piece of cancer sitting on top of my heart, so I imagine I’ll invest in that juicer just yet. Because when the chemo is done and I’m left with a poisoned body, I will continue to do what’s proven best to halt further cancer growth and make my body healthy again. I’ll just make sure to do it on the advice of my doctor first.

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