Been There. Doing That.

Been There. Doing That.

This post is just proof I’m still kicking…actually, the past few months have been a total blur! Get busy livin’ or die trying (as they say)!

In July, Justin and I adopted our first fur-baby, Indy, and we’ve been having fun being cat parents and learning how to be responsible for another tiny life. He’s the sweetest and it’s ADORABLE to see my husband be a “cat dad.” We also got to see Jack Johnson’s Kokua Festival with our friends. There’s just something so nostalgic about Jack’s music that always brings me back to simpler times. All the feels!

August started off with a visit from my whole, wonderful fam! It may have been slightly interrupted by a few of us catching COVID, but we did our best to have a great time all together. I love hanging with my nephews and nieces and seeing them grow into the coolest kiddos.

After two and a half years, I officially completed my mat Pilates certification. I hope to be teaching some group classes in the near, near future (stay tuned!). Being the crazy person that I am, I jumped right into the Pilates equipment training (unplanned), and eventually I’ll be able to teach on the reformer, Cadillac, chair, and all the other wild equipment invented by Joe Pilates 100-some years ago. I’m extremely grateful to Pilates O Ka La owner, Chelsea Peck, for her guidance and patience with me as I navigated training through my diagnosis and treatment in 2020. I don’t really believe in coincidences, and I know that having the mat routine to keep me active during treatment was more than just chance. If you’re ever on Oahu, go take a class at Chelsea’s gorgeous studio!

Then, just in case I didn’t have enough going on, I also started on adjunct faculty at Hawaii Pacific University’s new Doctor of Physical Therapy program. I assisted with cadaver lab (yes, I dissected human bodies). It is and always has been a very humbling experience to learn from these donors who so graciously give their earthly bodies to those of us learning. I learn so much more now that I’ve been practicing for several years, and I also realize how much I still don’t know! I’ll be helping with their labs in October as well, and I look forward to facilitating the next generation of PTs.

September has flown by, too, but Justin and I were able to sneak up to the north shore for our 4th anniversary. We spent the whole weekend camping by the beach and it was just magical. There’s so much to be said about spending time in nature with no agenda and NO cell service! Highly recommend. Cheers to our year 5 and all the new adventures that will bring! Hopefully a trip abroad…

At this point in the year, I’m always looking forward to the holiday season, but in the present moment, I’m grateful that my hair is now officially long enough to pull back into a bun, several of my friends are about to have sweet babies join their families, and my work has been consistently fulfilling.

In the cancer realm, it’s been one of those weeks. The kind where my recent scans were squeaky clean and we celebrate, but also the kind where you learn that you lost a friend to this awful disease. The kind where another friend’s miracle post-cancer baby passed away shortly after birth. The kind where a new friend got the same diagnosis as you had. So, I just pray because what else can you really do? Give it to God and put lots of love out there.

As my friend Kate says, “If you’re very lucky, life goes on…”

And so it does.

Current hair update – 23 months post-chemo (at my new home away from home!)

As Breast Cancer Awareness month rolls around in October, please consider donating to organizations that fund breast cancer research like the Triple Negative Breast Cancer Foundation, Metavivor, or the Breast Cancer Research Foundation. If you’d rather, you can donate money directly to someone going through treatment. Or take them a meal. Or pick up their kids from school. And if you have a survivor in your life, tell them you love them and you’re happy they’re here.

Wishing you all a great week ahead – will be in touch again soon…er or later?!

Aloha ❤

How life goes on…

How life goes on…

I’ve been meaning to make some time to write, but it’s been busy around here! 2022 feels a bit more like the pre-pandemic rat race, and I’m trying my hardest to stay present through the madness. Recently, most of my focus has been on treating patients, and though the days can be long, the weeks fly by and I’m not totally sure how it’s already nearing the end of June.

To describe a typical day at work, I usually see about 7-8 patients. I get to help people who have:

  • bladder issues (incontinence, overactive bladder, bladder pain)
  • bowel issues (constipation, fecal incontinence)
  • pelvic pain (including endometriosis, vaginismus, or vulvodynia)
  • conditions associated with pregnancy or postpartum
  • musculoskeletal, neurologic, or lymphatic conditions after breast and prostate cancer
  • dizziness/vertigo or other vestibular conditions

Did you know physical therapists can treat those conditions?! Now you know!

Despite being over 18 months out of treatment, I’m still doing a lot of healing. Some of the things I focus on include:

  • Therapy
  • Meditation/EFT Tapping
  • Exercise
  • Acupuncture
  • Infrared Sauna
  • Spending time outside
  • Connecting with friends
  • Connecting with other survivors
  • Having fun!

Because I feel like I lost a lot of strength during treatment and during the pandemic, I recently joined a 6-week women’s empowerment strength training program run by a friend that I met through a cancer fundraiser way back in 2020 (but this is the first time we’ve really met in person – isn’t that crazy!). My one fitness goal this year is to get really strong again! I also plan to participate in a 12-week exercise study run through University of Hawaii and Rehabilitation of the Pacific later this year.

Overall, things are going well. I will have some annual screening scans at the end of July. Justin and I have plans to see Jack Johnson in concert shortly after (obviously to celebrate clear scan results). Even though I’m “pretty far out,” the scanxiety still gets me so I do appreciate prayers for squeaky clean pictures when the time comes.

A few weeks ago, I’d been feeling a bit down. My body felt achy and I had little motivation. There were actually several days when I had to nap after work beause I was just exhausted. I recognized that this was unusual for me.

First, I realized that much of the overwhelm I’d been feeling was partially related to some PTSD. Trauma memories can be stored in the body and can manifest as pain and emotional distress. I finally realized that June 9 was actually 2 years from the day when I had my first chemo. So, even though I wasn’t fully aware of that “cancer-versary” this year, my body remembered. It sounds wild, I know, but I promise there’s a bunch of research to support it. If you want to learn more I suggest reading The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel van der Kolk, MD.

Second, I had my thyroid re-tested recently and my levels were way off. I adjusted the dose of my medication and it’s been a game changer! I feel significantly better in terms of energy so I’m hoping it will stay stable. If you don’t know, the thyroid gland is a small gland in the front of the neck that regulates thyroid hormones which maintain the body’s metabolism and affect every body system including the brain, eyes, skin/hair/nails, GI system, stress response, etc. etc. etc. It’s a tiny little organ with a very big job!

So all that to say that I really am still healing. I don’t see it as a finite process. I’m not following a well-illumined path forward, but rather zigzagging through the woods trying to find a clearing. There are ups and downs, but mostly all is shifting toward wellness.

I do have some plans to sit down and cut out time to blog more regularly. I love sharing information with everyone and hope it can help others in their own healing, too. If there’s anything you’d like to learn more about in terms of cancer diagnosis, cancer treatment, pelvic floor rehab…. send your requests my way!

Aloha ❤

Another Trip

Another Trip

Today it’s been two years since I read “consistent with invasive ductal carcinoma” on my biopsy report. The time and space between then and now is unfathomable to me. Like 100 years wrapped into 730 days. I’m both surprised at how quickly I’ve jumped back into “normal” life and at how the memories of having cancer are still woven so carefully into my daily thoughts.

It probably doesn’t help that I work with other survivors on a daily basis so I’m constantly educating and supporting those people. But it’s not just that – my port scar, the faint tan from radiation, the tightness in my chest and shoulder are all physical reminders that keep me living with one foot in regular life and one in cancerland.

The healing doesn’t end when treatment ends. I am seeking out ways to calm my grief and anger over the fact that I went through something so life-altering at 30 years old. I am healing physically and trying to regain a lot of strength. I have residual pain from treatments, and my body physically reacts with anxiety any time I get a scan done. I am learning how to navigate new and old friendships without oversharing or totally withdrawing from the situation.

It might sound like a lot, and it is, but I promise that I do my best not to dwell on the hard parts of survivorship. I’m thankful to have more days to continue experiencing lovely things and connecting with my favorite people. If you want to read a more about my experience in survivorship so far, you can read my essay “Trusting the Redirection” in Wildfire Magazine’s Cancer Culture Issue from February/March 2022. Use code ‘FRIENDSANDFAMILY’ for 15% off.

I also had my annual mammogram and an additional ultrasound yesterday. The results came back clear, besides the ever/never-shrinking hematoma (so dramatic!) that I developed after my MRI biopsy in November. So all is technically well, and I’ll keep celebrating these results and anniversaries for a long, long time I hope.

I honestly thought I’d have more to say when I sat down to write this, but I think I’ll just keep it short and sweet. I wish you all health and happiness and I hope you have a great week!

Aloha ❤

Family Planning After a Cancer Diagnosis

Family Planning After a Cancer Diagnosis

As I’ve written many times before, life as a young adult cancer survivor comes with a whole host of unique challenges! One of those, specifically, is the fact that many adolescent/young adult (AYA) survivors have to face possible infertility after their treatments. Though the road may be a bit more winding, there are many options for survivors to have thriving families beyond their diagnoses. I understand that having children isn’t for everyone, but for those of you who do want kiddos, keep on reading to learn more!

*FYI – for this post, I’ll mostly focus on options for those assigned female at birth who are undergoing or have undergone cancer treatment, but know that there are also options for those assigned male at birth as well!

Before and During Treatment

Upon diagnosis, many doctors now recommend fertility preservation prior to treatment. There are a few options and you could choose either or both if recommended by your MD. The first type of fertility preservation would include freezing eggs or embryos before treatment. This is usually done by a reproductive endocrinologist and may require blood work, ultrasounds, and outpatient procedures for egg retrieval itself. Oftentimes, treatment can be delayed just long enough for egg or embryo preservation to allow for future family planning options. These procedures are usually timed with the menstrual cycle for the best results, but it can be done any time if you’re worried about delaying treatment too long or if you’re not cycling regularly!

During treatment, your oncologist may also recommend anti-hormonal treatments (like ovarian suppression) during treatment to try to minimize damage to the reproductive organs. This type of medication can put you into “medical menopause” which is usually reversible once discontinued, but can have side effects similar to those you’d experience during actual menopause (i.e. hot flashes, joint pains, weight gain, etc.).

If you’re newly diagnosed, be sure to ask your doctors about these options and weigh the pros and cons for your unique situation. Remember, there is usually adequate time to figure things out before starting treatment if it’s something that’s important to you!

If you’d like to read more about my personal experience with fertility preservation, click HERE!

Family Building after Cancer Treatment

It’s important to remember that, no matter what happens, there are always options for starting or expanding a family after a cancer diagnosis. Whether you never come out of medical menopause, your eggs/embryos weren’t viable, or you didn’t have time for fertility preservation before treatment, there are many ways to grow your family. Below are a few of the options that many cancer survivors choose. The decision is very personal and there are plenty of reasons why some would choose one option over another.

In-Vitro Fertilization (IVF)

IVF is a type of assisted reproductive technology. A physician would use fertilized eggs (embryos) retrieved prior to cancer treatment and then implant them into your uterus for you to carry your own pregnancy. Of course it’s much more complex than that, but I’m not a reproductive endocrinologist (learn more HERE)!

Partnering with a Gestational Carrier (Surrogacy)

For some who can’t carry their own child, using a gestational carrier can be a good option. Learn more about gestational carriers and surrogacy HERE. This site has a great breakdown of the whole process and outlines the difference between traditional surrogacy and gestational surrogacy!

Fostering/Adoption

In case IVF or partnering with a surrogate aren’t good options, you can always consider fostering or adopting a child. There, again, are many options down this path and each agency and state have varying rules/regulations. HERE is a good overview.

Financial Assistance for Family Building

One of the biggest road blocks in ALL of these processes, however, is the actual cost. For many, the out-of-pocket cost renders nearly all of these options to be out of the question. Most insurances do not cover fertility preservation as the patient (who is otherwise “healthy” – you know, besides the cancer thing) does not have a diagnosis of infertility. Some (but not all) insurances will cover the cost of IVF if a true diagnosis of infertility exists. So then, what?

Many organizations do offer some financial assistance or grants for cancer survivors seeking options for family planning around their diagnosis. Here are a few to look into:

Alliance for Fertility Preservation

A Damn Good Life (For those seeking support during their surrogacy journey)

I personally benefited from the Livestrong Fertility Program and The Heartbeat Program which discounted my fertility preservation costs and covered the costs of the medications required for my egg retrieval ❤

For those considering adoption, there may be grants or loans available as well. Check with the adoption agency you’re using or use THIS site to get you started. Know that there may be more local resources for you as well!

Virtual Family Building Panel – February 2022!

Finally, on February 17, 2022, I’m collaborating with Breast Cancer Hawaii on a virtual Family Building after Cancer Panel to bring information to AYA survivors on options for starting or expanding their families after treatment! (HOW LUCKY AM I?!) This will be a great intro for anyone who is newly-diagnosed, in active treatment, or who’ve completed treatments. We’ll have experts in oncology, reproductive medicine, fostering/adoption, and surrogacy on board to give us the details on what family building after cancer may look like for us survivors! It will be a bit heavy on options for those of us living in Hawaii, but all are welcome to join us and ask questions. For more information, please check out our Eventbrite link HERE!

The Year in Review

The Year in Review

For me, the turn of the year is a time of reflection, introspection, and setting my sights for the year ahead. If I’ve learned anything the past two years, it’s that you just can’t ever know what to expect, but I think it’s still important to have a vision, even if it’s just to be more intentional in your day-to-day life.

2020 was hard. That’s no secret, and I’m honestly still coming to terms with a lot of it.

2021 started with the last chapter in my treatments: radiation therapy. I will never forget the upheaval of emotions I felt on my last day of radiation in February. I had no idea how much I’d been holding my breath, unsure if it was all real or just a terrible nightmare. Well, turns out it was all very real, and I’m still working through it. I’m thankful to have found a good therapist who I trust to help me navigate the many emotional struggles that come with having cancer. I’m sure some things will get easier with time, but for now I’m just trying not to sweep it all under the rug like I’ve done with so many things before. I thank those around me who’ve been patient with me as I barely can get through a social situation without it all coming up.

Beyond all that, this has been a really excellent year. It was great to be able to travel again and Justin and I were able to get to Maui, Montana, Washington, Big Island and Kauai. Even before the pandemic, we’d been putting off these trips. Now, with best practices and consideration of others (because we still are in a pandemic), I just can’t and don’t want to postpone things anymore. Having cancer will do that to you. It’ll make you want to do all the things you’ve been “too busy” for.

I also went back to work and have had the opportunity to help many others thrive beyond their complex diagnoses, too. My job is truly so rewarding and I’m grateful that people have trusted me in their healing. I have always given a lot to my patients, and while I don’t believe in half-assing anything, I am still working on the finding the balance in being a patient advocate and staying on top of my own mental and physical health.

Besides that, Justin and I celebrated our 3rd wedding anniversary, moved into a new condo that has exceeded all expectations, and had my dad here visiting for three weeks. We stood by friends going through triumphs and hardships, celebrated new babies being born, and spent quality time with family and friends.

The only thing constant in life is change. Not all change is good, but it’s definitely not all bad either. Last year I chose “joy” as my intention for the year. I think I did okay with finding joy wherever I could. It wasn’t there every moment of every day, but in each day, I found a little. Looking forward to finding more in 2022.

I actually think there will be a lot to look forward to this coming year! We have some more travels planned and I’m prettyyyyyy sure there won’t be any restrictions by then (right?! please pray and cross your fingers we can still go!). We have friends and family getting married and more babies on the way. I have some personal and professional goals I’d like to hit.

For 2022, I’m choosing “strength” as my intention. Strength of body. Strength of mind. Strength to uphold my boundaries under pressure. Strength to really show up in my relationships. Strength to remain present when distractions abound. Keep me accountable, will you?

With all that said, I hope you all celebrate safely this weekend! Another day is another something to celebrate. I wish you all health, love, and joy in the New Year, come what may!

Aloha ❤

Aerobic Exercise during Cancer Treatments

Aerobic Exercise during Cancer Treatments

Aerobic exercise (a.k.a. “cardio”) has many proven benefits for all humans. Cardio relates to cardiac, meaning it’s for the heart! For cancer thrivers, aerobic exercise can have many excellent benefits (including improved survival rates and decreased rates of recurrence!) and should be recommended for all oncology patients. Read on to learn about the benefits and general recommendations for aerobic exercise during cancer treatments.

Benefits of Aerobic Exercise

  • Increase your sensitivity to treatment = better tumor cell destruction!
  • Prevent muscle loss and build strength (including your heart muscles)
  • Reduce treatment-related side effects
  • Reduce depression and anxiety
  • Improve your sleep
  • Reduce your recurrence and mortality risk significantly (up to 50% for some)
  • Improve your quality of life

Psstttt… if you’re not convinced already, I’m not sure what will get you on board this point!

Types of Aerobic Exercise

  • Walking
  • Riding your bike
  • Running*
  • Interval Training
  • Swimming**

*If running was part of your pre-treatment routine, it may be ok to continue, BUT as some treatments can put you at risk of cardiac dysfunction, it may be best to stick with more gentle cardio until your heart gets stronger. Always check with your doctor or physical therapist!

**Avoid swimming in the ocean or public pools if you are neutropenic, have recently had surgery, or have open wounds/blisters from radiation therapy due to increased risk of infection!

Aerobic Exercise Guidelines

We’ll use the FITT principle for aerobic exercise guidelines:

  • Frequency: 3-5 days per week
  • Intensity: RPE 2-3 – keep it light for cardioPROTECTIVE benefits!
  • Time: 10-60 minute sessions for total of 150 minutes per week
  • Type: Choose your favorite from those listed above!

What is RPE, you ask? RPE, or Rate of Perceived Exertion, is a measure of how hard you feel you’re working. Use this Modified Borg Scale to guide your intensity during your workouts!

Modified Borg
Scale
0RESTING
1VERY EASY
2SOMEWHAT EASY
3MODERATE
4SOMEWHAT HARD
5HARD
6
7VERY HARD
8
9
10VERY, VERY HARD

Special Considerations

  • Understand if the chemotherapeutic agents you received can cause cardiotoxicity. If so, be sure to request a baseline cardiac workup. Know that low-intensity exercise may have a cardioprotective effect during treatment!
  • Monitor your vital signs!
    • Use your fitness tracker to monitor your heart rate OR here’s a video on how to check your heart rate manually!
    • Report any significant or unusual shortness of breath to your physician.
    • Watch for swelling that may be early signs of lymphedema or cardiac dysfunction.
  • Monitor lab values! Generally, if your lab values fall in the following ranges, you should check with your provider before exercising:
    • Neutrophils (ANC) <1.5 x 10^9/L
    • Platelets < 20,000 cells/uL
    • Hemoglobin < 8g/dL (anemia)
  • Be cautious if you know you have any of the following:
    • Bone or lung metastasis
    • Osteoporosis
    • Abnormal sensation or dizziness/imbalance which may increase your fall risk

Now you know some general guidelines for aerobic exercise for cancer patients! By the way, these general guidelines apply to those without cancer as well! Always seek medical advice before starting a new exercise program and remember: All information shared on this page is for educational purposes only. If you are thinking of starting an exercise program, consult with your physical therapist or physician to determine what is right for you!

Aloha ❤

Resistance Training during Cancer Treatments

Resistance Training during Cancer Treatments

You’ve probably heard the old saying, “If you don’t use it, you lose it,” right? Well, it’s true! For oncology patients in particular, resistance training is an important way to maintain strength, balance, and quality of life during and beyond cancer treatments.

Benefits of Resistance Training

  • Maintain functional STRENGTH to continue to do the activities you love
  • Improve or maintain MUSCLE mass
  • Improve or maintain BONE health
  • Improve QUALITY OF LIFE
  • Reduce MORTALITY risk by 33% [Hardee, et al, 2015]

Types of Resistance Training

  • Bodyweight Training
  • Pilates
  • Yoga
  • Weightlifting (free weights, machines, resistance bands, etc.)
  • TRX / Suspension Training

*Pro tip: Choose a type of exercise you enjoy to make it fun and something you look forward to!

Resistance Training Guidelines

  • 2-3 days per week
  • Focus on major muscle groups
  • Moderate Intensity
    • 40-60% of maximal effort
    • RPE 3-6

What is RPE, you ask? RPE, or Rate of Perceived Exertion, is a measure of how hard you feel you’re working. Use this Modified Borg Scale to guide your intensity during your workouts!

Modified Borg
Scale
0RESTING
1VERY EASY
2SOMEWHAT EASY
3MODERATE
4SOMEWHAT HARD
5HARD
6
7VERY HARD
8
9
10VERY, VERY HARD

Special Considerations for the Oncology Population

Take extra precaution AND work with a specialist if you know that you have:

  • Bone Metastasis
  • Osteoporosis
  • Abnormal sensation or dizziness/imbalance which may increase your fall risk!

Now you know some general guidelines for resistance training for cancer patients! By the way, these general guidelines apply to those without cancer as well! Always seek medical advice before starting a new exercise program and remember: All information shared on this blog is for educational purposes only. If you are thinking of starting an exercise program, consult with your physical therapist or physician to determine what is right for you!

Aloha ❤

BCAM is BACK!

BCAM is BACK!

I know I’ve been terrible at keeping y’all up to date on my life lately, but that’s because I’m just busy living right now. When I look back on my life one year ago, I still have a hard time believing any of this actually happened. Cancer treatments consume your life for nearly a year (or more for some), and then you’re just done? When chatting with other survivors, we all seem to comment on how none of it seems real. We were in survival mode for so long, and when the dust finally settled, we had to come to terms with the fact that, yes, indeed, we did have cancer. What a trip!

Every day gets easier, but some days all the feels creep up and you don’t know whether to be sad or angry or go hide in the corner until it passes. I try not to take anything for granted, but I’m just human, too, and I often get sucked back into the usual work, sleep, eat, repeat. With that said, I’ve been making a concerted effort to go for walks by the beach, do yoga, hit up weekly farmer’s markets, and get together with friends when I can. Those things help. A lot. Make time to do things that bring you joy.

On Monday, I had my annual MRI – just a follow up scan to keep a close eye on things. Thankfully, all looks clear. There is a small area of enhancement in the same area where I mentioned I needed a biopsy back in July which already came back benign so here’s hoping I don’t need another biopsy! In my professional opinion, I’m right in the middle of tissue healing from radiation therapy, and there’s a lot of scar tissue forming right now. With that comes a lot of tightness and discomfort in my left chest wall, and I think that friction is creating a small cyst in that region.

Again, the survivorship game is not all sunshine and rainbows. While everything is technically “all good” now, sometimes it isn’t. There are a lot of things that I still need to work through, but I just choose to take it one day at a time.

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month

This brings me to the main point of this post which is that Breast Cancer Awareness Month is back! I personally choose to refer to BCAM as “Breast Cancer ACTION Month” as I think it’s a great time to donate to breast cancer research, reach out to family/friends you know going through cancer and offer your support, and speak up to lawmakers and organizations with power to make change in medical care for cancer patients.

October is a time of pink ribbons and shameless promotion of products that support breast cancer. Breast cancer thrivers have coined this “pinkwashing” and want to remind you to be mindful of any products you purchase this year. Any major company that claims to put proceeds to support breast cancer better be donating at least 20% of their profits to organizations that fund breast cancer research. And, if you choose to make a donation to breast cancer organizations, choose one or two that fund research primarily or that you know directly supports thrivers with care packages, financial support, or practical support (like providing free wigs, offering transportation or house cleaning, or fertility preservation assistance).

Here are a few of my favorite breast cancer organizations to support:

My BCAM Action Plan

This October, I’ll be focusing on holding the American Cancer Society accountable for their recent change in recommendations to delay annual mammogram screening for those age 45 and older. This is a recent change in recommendations and adds insult to injury to prior recs that both breast self-exams (BSE’s) and clinical breast examinations are not indicated for early detection of breast cancer. These recommendations are based off a study out of Shanghai in 2018 that indicated that more benign lesions were found on BSE’s than malignant ones, and therefore led to unnecessary procedures like imaging and biopsies. In case you can’t guess who benefits from these recommendations, let me spell it out for you…INSURANCE COMPANIES.

For adolescent and young adult (AYA) cancer thrivers (ages 15-39) who are ineligible for annual mammograms, the only way for us to detect cancer early is through BSE’s. The more frequently we do these screenings, the earlier we can seek care for any abnormal findings, and the better our prognosis if we should be very unlucky to find a malignancy. I found my lump on a BSE and it saved my life. I will advocate for BSE’s until my lungs give out. Should you feel so inclined to support this cause with me, please reach out to the American Cancer Society via phone/chat or social media to let them know how you feel about this!

I’ll also be sharing a bit on social media about how PT can be helpful before, during, and after cancer treatment because October is also National Physical Therapy Month. Follow me on Instagram for more – @bri.d.pt!

Beyond that, October is my favorite month, so I’m going to get some Halloween decorations out and get ready for Spooky Season! Maybe I’ll pull out the old purple wig for Halloween this year, too! Stay well, friends!

Aloha ❤

Oh, hey!

Oh, hey!

It’s officially been a minute (or a few months, but who’s counting?)! I had every intention of continuing to write, but in all honesty, I just needed a break from the cancer updates and info sharing.

Recently, Justin and I have been super busy! We were finally able move into our new home a few weeks ago (thanks, mom & Malia!), and then we immediately left on vacation to Montana and Washington, leaving our cute new place a mess with unpacked boxes and mismatched furniture. We are so grateful to have a new space where we can start fresh after navigating so much uncharted territory in 2020. I’m looking forward to lots of memories made here ❤

While traveling, we were able to visit with all of my family, celebrate the 4th of July in Butte, America (there’s no better place to be on the 4th – don’t knock it til you’ve tried it!), catch a few fish on the Big Hole, reconnect with our best buds from PT school, and even witness one of them get married (Congrats, Riki & Anthony!). I was so elated to be able to hug everyone and see all my favorite kiddos. Hawaii is great y’all, but it’s times like this when you realize living on an isolated island in the Pacific isn’t always all it’s cracked up to be! I cried so hard before we came back home because I know I truly have such special relationships with all of you.

Besides our recent adventures, all is well down here. I’ve been working heavy part-time and I’ve realized that I’m now able to help my oncology patients on a much deeper level. I’ve always tried to empathize as much as I could, but the reality is that, unless you’ve gone through cancer yourself, you probably can’t relate. This isn’t to discourage anyone from working with oncology patients, but rather a reminder that what they’re going through is far more than just physical discomfort.

As far as my health goes, I had an ultrasound on my left breast a few weeks ago due to a suspicious spot I found while doing one of my way-too-frequent self-checks. It turned out to be just scar tissue (as expected), but they also found a small cyst-like area above it, and I’ll go for aspiration next week just to be safe “because of my history.” I wonder if it will ever get easier hearing that, but likely not…

I’ve continued to work with my naturopathic doctor to get to the root cause of my autoimmune thyroid dysfunction. I completed a urine test to determine heavy metals toxicity and the results indicated high levels of mercury and platinum and moderately-high levels of lead. Mercury is linked to many environmental sources, but is primarily associated with high levels of dietary fish. The platinum levels are residual from the platinum-based chemotherapy (Carboplatin) that I received over 12 weeks last year, and lead is also find in many environmental sources including water, pipes and paint. So I will treat it with a chelating agent which will strip the metals from their sneaky hiding places in my body….after I eat one last giant poke bowl!

I also completed a food sensitivity test and will get those results back in a few weeks. Again, I am a huge believer in holistic care. If there are things I can do to optimize my health going forward, then it’s worth a shot to me. I still go to acupuncture about once a month and have continued seeing a mental health professional. It truly takes a village to make it through a cancer diagnosis, and you are all part of that team for me!

I’ll try to be more consistent at posting updates and sharing helpful information, but for now, I’m just going to keep focusing on LIVING and finding joy in each day. Sending you all my love!

Aloha ❤

Chemotherapy: Stretches for Health

Chemotherapy: Stretches for Health

Before beginning any exercise program, please check with your physician or physical therapist! Not all exercises or stretches are appropriate for everyone – please read my full medical disclaimer here before trying any of the exercises listed below.

It’s no secret that it can be difficult to stay active during chemotherapy. While exercise has been proven to have many physical and emotional benefits during cancer treatment, some days it’s just difficult to get moving. I’ve designed this short stretching compilation to stretch the spine and major joints of the body to promote mobility and circulation on even the most difficult chemo days. Make these stretches part of your daily routine or use them to loosen up after a nap or before bed!

Watch the video for a full demonstration:

*Note: Video plays at 2x speed! Take your time when you’re stretching!

Child’s Pose

From a kneeling, or seated position, slide the hands forward until you feel a stretch in the shoulders and lower back. Hold for 30-60 seconds as tolerated.

Modifications: For greater stretch of the side body, walk the hands to the left or right.

Cat/Cow

Begin on hands and knees in a neutral spine position with hips stacked over knees and shoulders stacked over the wrists. Inhale and slowly drop the belly to arch the back, lifting the breast bone. The, exhale and round the back from the tailbone to the neck, broadening the space between the shoulder blades. Alternate moving into each position for 5-10 repetitions.

Modifications: Perform in a seated position, reaching forward as you round the back, and allowing the arms to reach behind you as you lift the chest.

Hip Flexor Stretch

In a kneeling position, square your hips and tuck your tailbone until a gentle stretch is felt across the front of the hip. Perform deep breaths. Hold 30-60 seconds as tolerated.

Modifications: Perform in a standing partial lunge position, hold onto something for balance. To increase the depth of the stretch, sidebend the body away from the bottom/back leg.

Hamstring Stretch

In a kneeling or seated position, stretch one leg out in front of you. Square the hips and straighten the knee as you hinge from your hips to deepen the stretch along the back of the leg. Try not to round the lower back to allow for the best stretch. Hold for 30-60 seconds as tolerated.

Modifications: Lie on your back and use a strap/towel to pull a straight leg up toward the ceiling. Flex your foot to deepen the stretch.

Butterfly Stretch

Sit with the soles of your feet touching and knees dropping down toward the floor. Perform deep breaths. Hold for 30-60 seconds as tolerated.

Modifications: Place pillows or yoga blocks under the knees to reduce strain on the hips, lean forward to deepen the stretch.

All stretches are designed to be gentle, but can be progressed if they become too easy. Stretches can be performed 1-3 times per day as needed.

Happy stretching!

Aloha ❤