Pandemic Hair!

I guess I can say that I’m thankful my hair had a chance to grow long enough before this pandemic to allow me to have proper pandemic hair.

I’ve also discovered that since going out requires a mask, I don’t even think about my hair when we go out. It is normally some version of this, as my identity is completely hidden by my mask. I mean, it is right? We are now all just anonymous shoppers when we go out to the store, aren’t we? For some reason masks make you avoid eye contact with people. Except maybe to give the stink-eye to that person half-masking. You know what I’m talking about.

Every once in a while I may get super fancy, and do a proper pony-tail, but not often. Mike says my pandemic style is his least favorite of my hairstyles, but this is staying until the world goes back to normal. This is 2020.

Not a Political post

In 2016, my son and his friends were enthralled with the upcoming election, and the discussions surrounding it. I remember being surprised by his attentiveness to what was going on. I specifically remember asking him, “What do you know about the election?”

“Trump is going to build a wall, and start World War Three,” he replied.

Wait, what? “World War Three? Where did you hear that?”

“The news.”

Now, my child was not a news watcher by any means, but that was pre-pandemic days, when we would all wake up in the morning, and ‘get ready’ to go somewhere. Mike and I would get ready for work. Nick would get ready for school. During this ‘get ready’ time, we often had the news on in the background. Mostly to get the weather and traffic forecast, but as news does, there would be other topics covered. Little did we know that those topics made such an impression on our child.

He would ask me often, “Who are you going to vote for?” At the time, there wasn’t as much unrest as there is now. My answer was simple. “I’m going to vote for whoever is going to protect the ‘pre-existing condition’ clause for heath insurance.

Being very newly diagnosed with breast cancer, this was really the only topic I had a vested interest in. I didn’t, and still don’t bother with the two top issues that most people seem to be hard over on. Pro-life/Pro-choice. Gun control. I feel these two specific issues are what trend most people toward one side or the other. Seriously folks? I refuse to hang my hat on either of these issues. 1 – The other side will not be able to change either. You should know this. And 2 – there are SO many other issues to consider. Only supporting one party because of one of these issues takes away your ability to focus on so many other things. Don’t get me wrong. I totally understand both sides on both issues, but that is not what I’m trying to debate here. For me, I had to put those MAJOR issues aside for what was, and is, important for ME.

So here is where I stood then. On September 1, 2016, I had gotten the call from my doctor that my test results came back positive that I had breast cancer. I was at work. I was in a meeting when my cell phone buzzed with a call from my doctor’s office. I exited the room, and took the call in private. My head whirled. My heart thumped. There were so many thoughts spinning in my mind, so very many things to consider.

So, when my amazing son asked me who I was going to vote for, the answer was easy for me.

So much as the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare, may have had issues in its roll-out, implementation, as well as the controversy surrounding it, there were so many things that the act put into place. Protection for pre-existing conditions was one of them.

The protection that you cannot be denied medical insurance coverage due to a previous illness. Such as cancer.

Please read that last sentence one more time. Then, after you’ve done that, let me put something into perspective for you. Listen up.

At one of my treatments, my infusion nurse (for anyone not in the cancer/chemo world, an infusion nurse is the one who administers your chemo medications, and checks on you constantly during the hours that it takes for these poisons to be administered into your body) mentioned something about a specific chemo medication that she had recently administered to a patient. (for the record, no breach of patient confidentiality ever happened.)

Another point for those not familiar. My chemo was administered via IV bags. Exactly what you would see for saline IV drips, if you’ve ever had one, or watched a medical TV show.

She mentioned that there was one specific chemo, that the one IV bag cost $50,000 per bag. (This would be your standard, IV bag drip thing I just mentioned.)

$50,000. Written out that is Fifty Thousand Dollars.

She mentioned, that when she was infusing her patient, she thought to herself, “I’ve just infused this person a Mercedes.”

Now, I don’t know how many Mercedes infusions a person may require. That was not my treatment. But to compare, I received 20 weeks of chemo infusions. Obviously, I was not infused with the Mercedes, but..what if I needed to be? What would happen to me, if years down the road, I unfortunately had a recurrence of cancer and THEN would need the Mercedes treatment? What would happen, if I was denied health insurance coverage because I had previously had cancer? What if I couldn’t afford treatments…what then? What about my family? What about my son? What? What then? Will any of you reading this set up a Gofundme to buy my Mercedes’? Will you? Will you let me die if I can’t afford it?

So. Trump’s first term in office, he tried to eradicate the Affordable Care Act. Shoot, he tried to eradicate anything that Obama put into place. He was mostly unsuccessful with the Affordable Care Act, but he did manage to make some changes to it.

Fast forward four years. I was finally cleaning out some of Nick’s old school notebooks and papers the other day, to get ready for the upcoming school year, and I stumbled across one particular assignment, that, when I read it, bought tears to my eyes. It was in his Civics folder, it was an assignment about the State of the Union Address from January of 2020.

So, there you have it. Let’s all refrain from comments about how the child did not answer the question. Instead, maybe consider how he DID answer the question.

Please know, elections are not about Democrats and Republicans, they are not about guns or abortions. Please don’t hang your hats on those items. Yes, important items. But please know, there are SO many more issues at stake. And maybe, if you can look past the ‘hot ticket’ items that the parties like to throw around, you can see there are so many more…minor issues…that are important too.

Who will I vote for? I will not be swayed by the single TOP item that the two dominate parties talk about. I will vote for me. I will vote for my family. I will vote for my life.

My dad died of cancer. My mother-in-law died of cancer. My mother is in remission from cancer. I have two aunts that had cancer. My step-mom has had cancer. Cancer has been in my house too many times.

I cannot afford that Mercedes.

OK. Maybe this was a political post.

The Celebrations Never Fade

Three years plus one day ago I was celebrating a fantastic milestone in my life.  Beating cancer.  Being declared not cancer free, but “no evidence of disease” and “complete cell death.”  The terms they like to use regarding cancer.

I never knew previously that the term ‘complete cell death’ would be such a joyous term.

I was thrilled today when my social media memories filled up with pictures from that celebration night.  I remember it with great fondness, being out celebrating life with my family and friends.  Specifically MY life.  Also their lives too.  They may not have known it, but life celebrations include all.

My heart is filled with love when I think of each and every one of them who was able to come celebrate with me that night.

I can no longer comprehend the time that makes up three years.   It’s a lifetime ago, but also just yesterday.  So much as I want to make every day count, sometimes, I just want to enjoy the days.

As I contemplate where I am today,  I am happy that I can appreciate every day that I have, and love the people in my life.

I am most thrilled by this picture, to be alive and standing next to this amazing human.  To have been granted the privilege to watch him grow.  I look forward not to the next three years, but to ALL of the next years.

 

f*cancer

National cancer Survivor’s Day 2020

So, who knew today was the day?  Lots of you did. I didn’t.  WTF?  I feel like I should have gotten some sort of notice.

Like..TOMORROW IS YOUR DAY..

I don’t know, something.

I wondered. Is it June 7th?  Is it like, the first Sunday in June?  Am I a sucky cancer survivor to not know?  I know I was aware, certainly, that first year I survived.  But, then it got fuzzy.

No matter, it’s TODAY!!!

I would like to raise a glass to toast to all of you survivors.  You did it.  YOU.  Did it.  You rock.

I honor you today.  You are amazing.

F*cancer

 

Books – Great reads

I don’t know, where are we?  A billion days into quarantine.  The world is starting to open up again, but forever more we will be distancing ourselves from our friends and loved ones.  What better time than now to crack open a great book, right?  I’d like to share some reads that I can absolutely recommend.

First are books my friends wrote.  But guess what?  They are all…AWESOME!!  I have very talented friends.  I need to step up my game.  Then some others, that I just have really enjoyed.

We’re all on quarantine, right?  Everyone has time to read.  You should absolutely check out all of these!
Locksmith at the End of the World

Part two, coming soon. 🙂

I can’t say more about this book, than I just love it.  LOVE.  Do you like (or did you like before it went all weird) The Walking Dead?  Or do you just like awesome dogs?  This is your book.  And Chester.  This is the dog I want in my life!

The Ballad of Dani and Eli

I love this book.  I love the connections with the animal spirit.  I love the writing.  And the Janis Joplin connection.

84 Paws

Story after great story of living with dogs, labs to be exact.  The alternate title to this could be Chicken Soup for the Old Dog Lovers.  There is not a person whom I’d love more to listen to stories from than Barbara!


Hangfire: An Eddie Holland Novel

I still need to read the rest of the books in this series too.  Thoroughly enjoyed this book!

This is Not a Love Scene

Great book, I really like the characters in this story.


On to others I don’t know…

Where the Crawdads Sing

This one, I just really, really liked.  It was a bookclub reading and I loved it!  I loved the main character, thought I had the book figured out, thought I DIDn’t have it figured out, was surprised at the end.


The Hundredth Queen

I love strong women!  This book wasn’t what I expected, but I enjoyed.  It was a free Prime read, trying to decide if I want to buy the next in the series…


The Body on the Beach

I liked this book, but when looking at other books by the same author, it seemed like it could be the same story line.  Liked this one though.

H2O

Might not be a great book to read in a pandemic..or at night when you are trying to fall asleep!  Any other time though…

Sleeping Giants

Sci-Fi ish.  I enjoyed it.

Don’t just sanitize, remember to moisturize!

Seriously, folks.  Sanitization and hand washing are the #1 most important things you can be doing right now.  Wash off those dreaded germs.  But don’t forget, that dry, chapped hands produce cracks that allow germs into your body.

Yes, be sure to wash with warm (not HOT) water using soap to kill germs.  That is the most important thing you can do during this pandemic.

But remember, constant hand washing will dry out your skin.  A wee bit of lotion helps to control that dry skin.  Here are my current favorites.

I LOVE these lotions, and they smell great too.

Hempz Sugarcane Papaya

Hempz Triple Moisture

This page contains links (affiliate links).  If you want to know more about it, please click here.  These links are for US based folks.

Some of my favorite feel good recipes

OK friends.  The world is on lock-down. I was making one of our favorite recipes tonight, and thought that you guys may be in need of some new recipes while you are in quarantine. Here are some super easy, super yummy, mostly healthy, kid approved meals that I think you’ll enjoy. Truly some of our favs.

For all of my recipes, I substitute bone broth (chicken or beef depending on the protein) for stock. The added health benefits are well worth it.

I made this tonight, LOVE it.  The noodles that are recommended are hard to get, I’ve only found them at Harris Teeter, but I’ve substituted Spaetzle Noodles pictured, similar to these

for the ones called out in the recipe because my regular grocery store sells them.  Nick couldn’t tell the difference.  I also add a bit of turmeric to the recipe for its health benefits.  : )  To be honest, I add about double the spinach too.  Tonight I substituted leeks for the onions, and I think I like that better.  Winner all around!

https://www.afarmgirlsdabbles.com/sausage-and-red-pepper-soup-with-egg-noodles-recipe/

 

The only adaptation I make on this one is I only use one tablespoon of chili powder, and added 1 cup of beef stock to make it a bit more saucy.

 

This, is just good.

 

 

 

My niece ate her weight in this the first time she had it.

I do this in the crock pot, and add about a cup of stock to tone it down a bit for the boys.  I also add some extra seasoning to the chicken before putting the wing sauce and stock in.  My go to spices are ground mustard, turmeric, cumin, and a bit of oregano.  I add these as well as the listed spices, just in the amounts I like.  When it’s done cooking, I shred it and let it simmer for another 30 minutes before I serve.

 

This one takes a bit more time, but will freeze and reheat well.  Perfect for lunches.

 

And for desert, Mike won a contest for this.  Super easy, make the kids do it.

Nutella – Peanut butter bars

I passed my tests!!

Seriously, Holy Shit people!!  I just got my test results.

So often, those random aches and pains, and not so great test results can cause so much trepidation and grief, the worrying, the fears, the what-ifs…BUT

I can’t be more over the moon with my recent test results.  Now, don’t get me wrong, I know for a FACT that test results don’t mean everything.  They are indicators, indicators that your doctors use to help with your healing.  That being said, I love data, I like to know numbers, I like to compare and have knowledge.

Just last year, my CA-125 levels were higher than ‘normal’ but not off the charts.  CA-125 is a cancer antigen test.  CA-125 is not specifically a breast cancer indicator, but a cancer indicator none the less.  My doctors run this test on me every year.  Due to my results last year, I had several doctor visits, some scans, and was given the ‘nothing to worry about’ after my results came in.  Sometimes, just the fact that cancer is in your rear-view mirror can cause some of these test numbers to be elevated, and that is perfectly normal.  The new normal that us cancer survivors experience.

Also last year, my ANA levels continued to be higher than “normal” but at a level that I was not concerned about.  If you’re curious as to what that means, it’s all here.

Well folks, I just got my latest test results posted from my annual blood work.

ANA Reference Range is NEGATIVE.  This is huge.  I’ve wondered often if that autoimmune thing would come back.  And here I am, four short years later, my original results were 1:1280 which was off the charts, last year I was 1:160, and now I have  a completly negative result.  That is so awesome.  I still follow many of the AIP dietary things I learned during that phase of my life, and I truly believe it continues to help me.  Again, if you’re curious about that, click here.

OK, on to the even bigger news.  CA-125.  Last year, I was at 58, Normal range = 0.0-38.1. There were several tests I had a year ago that returned these levels slightly elevated.  I suspected these were hormonal, my doctors also were in full agreement that was the case, but even fully believing that, it’s always worrisome when anything cancer related is elevated.

Well, guess what folks, the results are in, and they say – CA-125 = 10.5.  In case you were wondering, the official text in my results say

CA-125 is normal.  

NORMAL!!  Normal.   Well, BOOM.  In your face cancer antigens.  You are dead to me.

I am mini-celebrating this.

Cheers my friends.  And, never give up.

 

Radiation Skin Care

Radiation wrecks your skin, it really does.  But it’s sneaky, and does it slowly.  Another bastard result of cancer treatments.  grrr.

I was given specific instructions on how to take care of my skin, and I followed those instructions exactly.  Having dealt with sensitive skin my whole life, I wasn’t going to risk letting my skin get out of control, if I could help it.

My instructions were pretty basic, I was to use a powder in the morning, and through the day as needed.  The powder would help prevent friction – friction from my bra and shirts.  But not just any powder, my doctors recommended one specific powder, and the recommendation did surprise me a wee bit.

Zeabsorb

Seriously, folks, it is athlete’s foot powder!!  That is what they told me to use.  I found it at Walmart, which is where I bought it, but it’s also available on Amazon.  They didn’t tell me that Zeasorb was athlete’s foot powder, I found that out myself when I went looking for it on my way home from my radiation ‘training’ appointment, the day before my first treatment.

Then, in the evenings, I was to use hydrocortisone creme.  (1% medicated)  I highly recommend buying the 2 oz size, ’cause the 1 oz just isn’t enough.  I also picked the one that had aloe added, because in my mind, nothing but good can come from adding aloe to a skin care regiment that involves treating burned skin.  Aloe grows in the desert for a reason, right?

Hydrocortisone 1%


I fared very well, considering.   In the evenings I used the creme first, then dusted a bit of powder over it, just to be safe.

Then…I went rogue.  I have loved California Baby products since my son was little.  I am especially fond of their Calendula Cream for remedies of SO many issues.  I happened to notice the container under the sink one day, and decided why not add that to my regiment.  I put this right over top of the hydrocortisone in the evenings.  Then dusted.

California Baby Calendula – 4oz     California Baby Calendula – 2 oz

Seriously, I would recommend California Baby Calendula to anyone for any reason, ever.  Love the smell too, a lovely lavender, relaxing scent.  Is it possible that this add helped me fare better than others?  Possibly.

Most important, I think, is to take care of your skin from the beginning, don’t wait until it gets raw and red.  Prevention first, right?

I didn’t want to add this picture, I don’t like it.  But, I wanted to add a picture to show what radiation does to a person.  I had no idea prior to my treatment what to expect.

I tried to crop it many different ways, so that I might have a better angle to show you.  I looked for other pictures I may have taken during radiation, but honestly this is all I could find.  My armpit looks weird, I can see that ugly discolored spot on my arm, the new hair growth on my neck is unattractive, and who knows what is going on with my chin and neck…but…this is cancer.  The scar?  I don’t care about that at all.  I’m proud of my scars.  I earned them.  The rest?  This is cancer, folks.  This is radiation.  Do you see my tattoo?  My radiation tattoo?  Maybe I’ll talk about that later.

I started this blog to help people, so, I have to share my reality.  This is what it looks like.  Those stickers…I may talk about them in a different post, they stuck around for a while (haha).

IMG_3845


Towards the end of my radiation treatment, I also used this.  It was soothing, natural, and offered some comfort.

Burn Recovery Spray



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Fire stick – Tech-y stuff…

I love this little device, and I decided to write about it because when I first heard about it the whole thought of it confused me, and I really didn’t understand how it worked.  AND, if I knew then what I know now, I totally would have used one of these during my chemo days…check it out.

The one I bought is the one on the left, the 2nd Gen Fire stick.  It of course has a fancier sibling, the 4K (that guy on the right, below.)  Not sure most people would really notice much of a difference, but the 2nd Gen works fine for me, and does everything I need it to do.  I actually bought three, the first one, for my upstairs TV, one for a gift for the boy child, and one for my main level TV, because sometimes my SmartTV gets glitchy with the Prime Video App.

Fire Stick – 2nd Gen

Fire Stick – 4K

 

We have Amazon prime, so through Prime Video, I can browse movies and shows, and add them to my Watchlist.  It is super easy, there is a menu bar right under the search bar on Amazon with a link that says Prime Video.  You click on it, and can search for whatever interests you.

I can’t believe how many years I paid for Prime and never used the video feature.  Then one night, I was having a terrible time sleeping (continuation of my hot flashes/night sweats/insomnia), so I grabbed my laptop and looked for something to entertain me.  I ended up browsing Amazon, and stumbled across The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel series, then watched two episodes back to back.  The next day I asked my techie friend how the fire stick worked – we’d talked about it before, but I never had any reason to think I’d get much use out of it until I found a show I really wanted to watch more of, and not on the small screen of my laptop.

This little thing just plugs right into an HDMI port on your TV.  (Every TV we have in our house has at least 2)  Then you just use the remote to control it.  Since you order it off of Amazon, it shows up already linked to your account, or…maybe you have to add your Amazon email, whatever it was, it was super easy.  You can also set up parental controls so that you have to enter a pass-code for the more mature themes.  I generally just watch the free movies and shows, and there are some great oldies on there too.  Also, entire seasons of Spongebob are available in case you need to entertain the youngsters!  I find it easier to use my computer to search and add to my watchlist, then when I use the fire stick, all the things on my watchlist are there, all I have to do is just click on them.

So where does that comment about chemo fit in to all this?  During my treatments, we didn’t really care too much for the daytime TV offerings.  We inspected the TV in our little room one day in the infusion center, and realized there are available connections that would enable us to hook up a DVD player to it, then watch some movies that we had bought, but not yet had a chance to watch.  So, that is how we passed the time, most days in chemo – watching movies.  That is where Nick saw Jaws for the first time, on that DVD player hooked up to the chemo room TV.  Had we had a fire stick at the time, we’d likely have watched way different offerings, and with greater ease.

I’d call this an F*cancer top pick!!




This page contains links (affiliate links).  If you want to know more about it, please click here.  These links are for US based folks.