Round 10

Round 10

Happy Thursday, everyone! Chemo day has rolled around again, BUT today is another celebration! I am halfway through my paclitaxel/carboplatin treatments which means there are only SIX total chemos left for me. Six weeks seems so manageable after already having made it through 14 weeks and 10 treatments so far, and I am feeling some relief and lightness today that I haven’t felt for a while now.

The longer treatment goes on, the lower my energy levels go, so I’m really working hard to motivate myself to continue to cook healthy meals and exercise at least 3 days per week. I am still teaching Pilates on Zoom weekly on Wednesdays (reach out to me if you’d like to join us!), and I try to walk down to the closest lab to get my blood drawn every Tuesday.

My white count is still barely hanging in there after each treatment, so I continue to need 2 Zarxio injections to boost them back up again each week after chemo. I’ve been having them done in the oncology office, but I just found out I can do them myself at home which I am sooo stoked about…it’s the little things, my friends. Seeing as how I had to do many self-injections prior to my egg retrieval in June, this should be no sweat and will save me two trips each week. [P.S. more on that egg retrieval process coming soon!]

I’m still eating primarily vegan, but because my red blood cell counts have been low, I’ve started drinking some bone broth and eating a few eggs here and there to get more iron and collagen to build up my connective tissues and improve the oxygen-carrying capacity of my blood. We also like to cook in our cast iron pan which gives us a bit more iron as well. I personally don’t like to take iron supplements because I basically puke it back up, and ain’t nobody got time for that during IV chemo!

I am going to acupuncture weekly now, and I feel like this is my most successful tool during chemo. Each week my acupuncturist works on parasympathetic nervous system stimulation (rest and digest), liver support, lymphatic drainage, and peripheral neuropathy symptoms. Occasionally, I will leave chemo with tingling in my toes and once in my thumb and forefinger (yikes!), but each time I leave acupuncture it’s completely gone. How amazing is that?!

As I near the end of my chemotherapy, I’ll repeat my scans including ultrasound of both breasts and a breast MRI. I likely won’t repeat a CT scan or bone scan as there were no areas of concern prior to starting treatment. I will also consult with my breast surgeon and radiation oncologist after that to make a plan for the rest of my treatment. I definitely won’t be out of the woods completely with chemo out of the way, but I’m looking forward to the next steps.

Celebrating our 2nd anniversary at home (COVID-style!) – Love this man!

Having triple negative breast cancer is a bigger burden in the breast cancer world. There are no targeted hormonal treatments that doctors can use for long-term management or prevention of recurrence like they can use hormone-receptor or HER2 positive cancers. This means that I need to treat my tumor as aggressively as possible now to achieve the gold star — “no evidence of disease” — so I have less chances of recurrence in the future.

I am an eternal optimist as always (especially knowing that my tumor has significantly reduced in size based on my own diligent breast-exams), but it’s hard some days not to be fearful of what the future could bring. Having cancer has been my greatest lesson in patience and living in the present. It’s easy to become overwhelmed with daily stresses, but it’s honestly just not worth it. None of us can know what each day might bring, so look for the good in everyone and everything. Ok…I’ll get off my soap box now!

In other news, Justin & I celebrated our 2nd anniversary last week with a nice homemade dinner and music on our lanai (that’s a patio for you mainland folks). We re-watched our wedding video (check it out below) and went through some old photos together. The last two years have really been so eventful and wonderful for both of us individually and as a couple and I’m looking forward to a longgggg life of adventures with my guy.

Side note: We should’ve been in Yosemite and Sonoma last week, but seeing the photos with all that smoke from the forest fires really drove down my FOMO (“fear of missing out” in case ya didn’t know!). Please say extra prayers for those firefighters and the people displaced from their homes all along the West coast.

It was the best day marrying my best friend!
Video credit: Eterna Films (Bozeman, MT)

Our COVID stay-at-home order also got extended for 2 additional weeks so….I’ll be home if you need me! I have loved receiving calls, texts/messages, cards and gifts from many of you – I truly feel so grateful and loved. I hope all of you are doing well and staying healthy!

Aloha ❤

Food for Thought

Food for Thought

This blog post is going to open up a whole can of worms for me. I feel so passionately about nutrition and I have soooo much to say so I’ve delayed writing this post because I wanted to do more research before I put just any old information out there.

Before I dive in, I want to give you a little history about my diet and health pre-cancer. I’ve been vegetarian (…well, “flexitarian”) since 2010. I chose this out of personal preference but also because there’s some decent history of heart disease in my family and I (always) like to be proactive.

“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

Benjamin Franklin

Last February, I also went off my birth control pill which I had been on for 12 years (OMG, I know!). I have always suspected that I had polycystic ovarian syndrome, or PCOS (symptoms can include irregular menstrual cycles, infertility, acne, excessive hair growth on the face/chest/back, and weight gain), since high school and the pill helped me to manage most of those symptoms for a long time. PCOS also goes hand in hand with insulin resistance as it is primarily a condition of hormonal imbalance.

This is where it gets juicy, guys. Insulin is a hormone that lowers our blood sugar and helps us to use those delicious carbs that we eat as fuel.
If a person has insulin resistance, their body has difficulty using blood glucose for energy/metabolism and blood glucose levels stay elevated or we begin to store it as fat. When blood sugar keeps increasing, the body produces more insulin, and on and on we go….

It sort of works like this:
If I eat a donut, or a bowl of pasta, my blood sugar increases. Then, my insulin levels go up to try to reduce my blood glucose. If my body has a limited number of insulin receptors in certain cells, the blood insulin level stays high and, in the long term, can increase my risk for developing diabetes (if I don’t already have it) or obesity.

Borrowed from:

There have been many studies about the link between insulin resistance, especially in people with diabetes or metabolic syndrome (yes, we’re talking about the same insulin), and cancer. As it turns out, those with high blood insulin levels are at an increased risk for tumor development and for more rapid tumor growth.

Here’s the funny thing, though – this doesn’t only happen when we eat carbohydrates (FYI all “sugars” are carbohydrates). It can also occur when we eat animal products like meat, dairy, or eggs because those foods have something called insulin-like growth factors which are similar to insulin in that they have some ability to lower blood glucose, but they primarily promote cell growth.

Now, for someone with cancer, their tumor/s, just like every other normal cell in their body, also have insulin receptors (IR) and insulin-like growth factor receptors (IGFR). It seems that for those with insulin resistance, the IR and IGFR are more sensitive, and the tumor can grow more quickly dependent on what we eat!

If I haven’t bored you to death already, then you may be starting to understand why Justin and I have chosen to be very strict about diet during my cancer treatments. We are eating primarily vegan (no dairy, no eggs, no meat, no poultry), limiting the “bad fats,” and eliminating alcohol and processed sugars. We are far from perfect at this, and I do occasionally sneak a dark chocolate peanut butter cup from Trader Joe’s, but if I am going to kick cancer’s butt, then I need to make my body the most inhospitable place for it to live!

I’ve also been doing intermittent fasting (I fast for 16 hours, then eat all my usual daily calories in the remaining 8 hours) to help regulate my blood sugar and metabolism. I’ll save you and write about the benefits of intermittent fasting in another post!

We’ve been working with a local MD who specializes in nutrition and has recently moved his practice toward working mostly with patients with cancer.
Check him (& his delicious cookbooks) out here:

I’ll let you digest this totally fascinating information, but before I do, I just want to mention one more time how important it is to know your own body! Be curious, ask your doctors questions, and if something doesn’t seem right check with your doctor – your life could depend on it!

Thanks for coming to my TED talk!