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Sunday
Aug252013

Chemo Round 56 

Well, the rounds keep coming and 56 was no exception. To summarize, it was a good round for many reasons and a bit of a challenging round, too. But more good than challenging, so worry not.

First off, the things that made it a good round:

  • Infusion went very well. I got one of my favorite oncology nurses who always does an amazing job accessing my port, changing my meds, and getting me all set up with my bag o’ chemo. Plus, I had a blast with Dr. Lenz and Taline. Always a great time at Norris. 
  • I think we’ve really got the pre-med cocktail down perfectly. I used to have a pretty crushingly gross headache by late Monday night, and I also used to get this thick saliva grossness by Tuesday and Wednesday which I’d lovingly hack up instead of letting it just chill in my lower throat area. Both of those are things of the past because of the pre-med adjustments that we’ve made. That makes the chemo life a little easier. 
  • My headache, which is always inevitable, went away pretty quickly this time – by mid-day on Wednesday and maybe even earlier. We controlled the headache better that ever because of…wait for it…the CHILLOW. Have you seen the infomercials for this thing? It’s like a perpetually cool pillow – hence, the clever naming. I was sort of licking my lips at the prospect of freezing my head during these chemo headaches and, soon enough, my mom and I pulled the trigger and bought one. My mom was super clever and got it from Amazon which meant we’d get it in like a day or two, and we did. Just in time to freeze the ol’ head out every time I’d feel the sick headache coming on. Let me just tell you, fellow warriors, the CHILLOW is for real. I can’t even say the name without using all caps. The CHILLOW, babyyyy!! I’m even using it during my off chemo weeks. I think the CHILLOW people should hire me to be their spokeswoman. I am a serious fan of this product. CHILLOW. 
  • I actually ate decently well this time around. It’s not hard when your parents are constantly making 8-12 varieties of food and giving you the pick of the litter. So I snacked on some things, gulped down others, and generally did a good job of keeping myself going with some solid nutrition. 
  • The usual chemo side effects of generally feeling gross and headachy were gone by Thursday morning.

Why it was a challenging round: 

  • Everything is challenging when you have a massive clot in your lung 
  • Seriously, guys, I finally read the CT Scan report that described the clot. I started laughing when I read it because, in all honesty, this puppy should have done me in. As in, killed me. But I will have none of this death stuff, apparently. 
  • The Zaltrap I’m taking (in place of Avastin) is really frickin’ tiring. Even though I felt much better on Thursday, all I wanted to do was chill in bed. Of course, I had my computer with me and could work, but man, I was not in the mood for being active. That persisted into Friday, too. So yeah, Zaltrap, thanks for tuckering me out. I expect you’re tuckering out those cancer cells even more, so I’ve still got love for you. (Apparently, now I talk to my chemo drugs. Not surprising, really.) 
  • Those are basically the only reasons it was a challenging round. 

So all in all, Round 56 was a good one. I can tell my breathing is getting better and so is my appetite. I’m not too interested in gaining weight at this point, however, because I recently bought my first string bikini and your pal WunderGlo is looking goooooood in it, but I do need to get some of my muscles back. My biceps have weathered the storm pretty well but these quads are looking sad. Since I’ve got another week off chemo (I’m going to credit my successful negotiation skills in getting this extra week off to the one Stanford Law class I took in negotiations plus everything I’ve learned at O’Melveny), my goal is to hit the gym every day this coming week and to make gains in getting back to beast mode status.

Just in time for Round 57.

That’s life for a cancer warrior, and I am living it with as much gusto as possible.

Thursday
Aug082013

Round 55 and Deep Thoughts

I actually had to look up my last few blog entries to make sure this was Round 55 and not 56 or something. You know you’ve been in treatment for a looong time when you start to lose track of these kinds of things.

It’s true. I have been in treatment for a long time. I was diagnosed on September 19, 2010, and started chemo in mid-October of 2010. Almost three years of cancer fighting. I won’t lie – there have been some challenging times. Not really so much in the beginning – the exhilaration of fighting such a potent cancer and showing it who is actually in charge carried me through my first several rounds of chemo and even through the wild and crazy Sugarbaker surgery (also fondly referred to by yours truly as the “pick it out, pour it in” procedure). I guess I’d say recovery from the Sugarbaker surgery was hard – waking up with 13 tubes in my body and then having them all pulled out with varying degrees of pain (from “wow, that was pretty easy” to excruciating) wasn’t exactly easy. But really, the toughest and most challenging part of this cancer battle royale of mine is running the marathon that is extended treatment.

Some people – not the well informed – often ask me: “So, when will it be over?” or “How many rounds do you have left?” I usually say, "When cancer gives up...because I'm certainly not."

The truth is: it’s not going to be over for a while. Potentially for a really long time. It may never be over.

I believe that there are drugs – drugs that are being developed, will be developed, or are actually in the pipeline – that can cure me. I believe that there are combinations of drugs that can cure me. I mean, that’s the whole point of The Wunder Project, right? I don’t believe that this Stage IV colon cancer diagnosis is a death sentence. I never have. But it is, for now, a chronic disease. It is, for now, a disease that is trying its best to kill me. And because of those facts, aggressive treatment is a must. Aggressive treatment is a constant. Because I’d rather be alive than anything else. I don’t care what it takes or what I need to endure. I want to be in this world, with all of you. I know that I have an army of supporters – family, friends, colleagues, fellow cancer warriors, doctors, blog readers, and people who are cheering me on even though they’ve never emailed me to tell me about it. I know you guys are there…and in droves. And I promise you that I will not leave your side. I will fight, I will live, and I will endure. There’s no question about that in my mind and in my heart.

These blood clots in my lungs have not been cool. The fact that I can’t play full court basketball right now makes me crazy. And when I eat a reasonable amount, I can feel the blood draining away from my brain into my belly and that makes me tired and not in the mood to eat. So – and maybe you could have already seen it in my pictures – I’m losing weight. I am doing my best to eat enough healthy and nutrient-rich foods to maintain my weight, but I’ve been dropping pounds. I really believe my blood thinner medication (I switched from Lovenox to some fancy new and improved version) is working and will resolve these clots, but it’s a slow creep toward 100%. And being patient and at peace with that slow creep is part of the marathon…it’s part of dealing with this disease and its complications in a tough, focused, and positive way. I am comfortable in this newly-sleek (honestly, I look pretty damn good) body of mine that huffs and puffs after a flight of stairs. I am comfortable with the fact that I need to take a break after walking up the inclined street to my front door with a heavy backpack on my back. I am comfortable with the fact that I can lift weights and shoot hoops and that’s about it for the moment.

I am comfortable with running this marathon. And I know I’ll complete it.

So Round 55 is just a little part of the bigger picture. It was a solid round – infusion was easy, my headache wore off by Tuesday, and I was back in business by the end of the week. This week, as all off-chemo weeks, is packed with activity – both work and fun. These are just a couple of legs of the grand marathon, and I cruised through them.

More importantly, I am primed and ready for Round 56. And Round 57. And Rounds 150 and 200.

I don’t care how long it takes or what it takes. I will beat this disease. I will survive. And I’ll do it with all of you, my army, behind me.

Sunday
Jul282013

Summer Fun 

You know by now that I like to have fun. Yes, it’s true that I work hard – at killing cancer and at running The WunderGlo Foundation and The Wunder Project – but I’ve made sure to mix in some good times during this summer. That statement couldn’t be truer when you consider what I did during my off-off chemo week.

By off-off chemo week, I’m talking not just my normal week off chemo (as you know, I get treatments every other week) – this was another week off, because I had serious business to attend to on what would have been chemo Monday. But before we get to Monday, I’ll tell you a little about last weekend.

On a whim, I decided it was time to go to Vegas. Well, it was partially whim…it was also partially the fact that Counting Crows and The Wallflowers were going to be playing at the Mandalay Bay. I’m a huge fan of the 90s (seriously, I want to bring back flannel and overalls) and, as a music lover, I’m obviously very into 90s music as well. When I heard that two powerhouses of the 90s were going to be in Vegas – well, it was a no brainer. My mom and Will and I took off on Saturday and were there in plenty of time for the show. About 5 minutes before the show started, though, it was cancelled. An outdoor venue plus an impending storm/flash flood warning thwarted my plans to get my 90s on. Deep sigh. Oh well. It was still Vegas and we had a blast.

On Monday, my mom and I headed to San Diego because I was the featured speaker at Bayer’s big regional meeting. The Bayer folks were insanely awesome and kind – they even gave me a standing ovation after my speech! I foresee a pretty solid relationship between WunderGlo (the Foundation and the person) and Bayer. They even took me on a boat for dinner – how did they know I’m a sea-farin’gal? No shark sightings while on board but it was still awesome.

The next day, my mom and I ran around San Diego trying to secure silent auction donations for our big event coming up in September, and then treated ourselves to lunch at the famous Hotel Del Coronado. Not only is this hotel beautiful, it’s also haunted. If you know what a scary movie/paranormal stuff lover I am, it’s not hard to guess what kind of a time I had there. We made it back to L.A. just in time for me to go to a great show at the Hollywood Bowl with one of my best friends, Nick.

On Thursday, I headed to Nick’s house and relaxed by his pool – at night, we went to see The Conjuring (my second time seeing it, highly recommended, very scary). On Friday, one of my other best friends (Tim, you can call him Timmy) and I went to a casino (and had a shockingly delicious vegan dinner at the steakhouse in the casino). And yesterday, I went to a Duke-sponsored pool party way way up in the Hills (I think was technically the hills above Beverly Hills but it wasn’t far from my house which made it seem like the Hollywood Hills). Obviously, I’ve gotten plenty of Wunder Project work done this week, but I made sure to throw heaps of fun into the mix, too.

The point of this recap is not just to let you know about what I’ve been up to…there’s a moral to these stories, too. And here it is. Regardless of what cancer and its attendant complications (like the blood clots in my lungs) try to do, it doesn’t really matter to me. I continue to live life the way I want to, on my terms, with my goals clearly delineated and a huge smile on my face. Sometimes, like this week, my goals require an equal amount of work and fun, and I indulged in some awesome times with some of my favorite people. Chemo Round 55 is tomorrow, so I’ll be back to work at actively killing cancer…but the truth is, just living my life and refusing to let cancer hold me back is a form of killing cancer, too.

Wednesday
Jul172013

Chemo Round 54 and CT Scan Results

Well, the chemo rounds keep rollin’ in, don’t they? When you live in this body of mine, that comes with the territory. This cancer-killing adventure of mine has gone on and on, but there are many others who have been in the fight far longer than me and have struggled more. I remind myself of that when people remark on the number of rounds I’ve endured and the just how long I’ve been in treatment (we’re closing in on the 3 year mark). More than anything, I remind myself that hanging in there is half of the battle. The other half is being at peace with hanging in there. And I think I’ve gotten a pretty good handle on both.

Chemo Round 54 has been the easiest that I’ve had with my new combo of Zaltrap + FOLFIRI. As usual, my time at USC on the day of chemo went well. Infusion at Norris was made even more fun when one of my Duke buddies, who also happens to be a professional basketball player for the Los Angeles Sparks AND the best women’s basketball player to ever play at Duke – Alana Beard – came to hang out for a bit. A.B. is an awesome athlete and an even better person. We spent a couple of hours together catching up, talking hoops and cancer, and reminiscing about our time at our alma mater. That Duke bond is a strong one, people!

For the rest of my chemo week, I took it easy, napped solidly, and ate a lot more than usual (my appetite has been very shaky during the last several chemo weeks and I’ve lost some weight as a result – but I look pretty sleek so I’m not complaining). I kicked that gross headache earlier than usual and rested peacefully until I was back up and running by the end of the week. I really had the Avastin + FOLFIRI regimen down to a science in terms of dealing with side effects and bouncing back, and I’m slowly getting there with the new tweak in treatment. I have found that Zaltrap fatigues me more than usual, so Thursdays are a bit slower than they were before. But, still, I can’t complain. This body of mine is tough as hell and I’m grateful that it’s carried me this far…and I have no doubt that it will carry me across every finish line in the future.

So, my CT scan results. I know you saw it in the title of the blog post and were waiting for it, so here it is! The disease is stable, which is good news. I’ve got a few small sick lymph nodes in the belly and the radiologist likes to speculate about tiny things in my lungs (that I know is a bunch of crap and NOT cancer), but everything is holding tight. Cancer is like a sitting duck at this point. Considering where I was at the time I was diagnosed almost three years ago, this is pretty damn miraculous. I’m a happy camper and I know it’s just a matter of time before I blast the hell out of this disease.

One thing that was not so great about the scan: I’ve got some blood clots in my lungs. Now, before you freak out, let it be known that this is not my first blood clot issue and not even the first time I’ve had a clot in my lungs (which is also known as a pulmonary embolism). My dear readers, I’ve been having blood clot issues since October of 2010 and not one of them has licked me yet – quite the opposite! And if you think this just came up out of nowhere, that’s not true either. My hematologist tried switching up my blood thinner medication from shots (Lovenox) to pills, thinking the pills could be even more effective. Well, I’m pretty sure he was wrong on that one. So I’m back on Lovenox – two shots a day – and I know that my ‘nox will shrink these bad boys and resolve them. In the meantime, I have to take it easy and not exert myself too much since I get winded easier than usual. I’m doing that, although I will be making a return to the gym this week for some weight lifting.

As I’ve learned with this post-diagnosis life of mine, weathering every storm, keeping calm during ebbs and flows, and not getting too high or too low is essential to surviving this bastard of a disease. And, because of time and effort and my gut instincts, I know exactly how to do those things. And I’m quite grateful for that.
Friday
Jul052013

Chemo Round 53

As usual, I’ll start this blog post with an apology for the delay. Remember the good old days when I’d post every day? Ah, the early days of my Stage IV cancer-killing adventures when taking my medicine and writing blog posts and taking care of myself and beating the odds were my only daily tasks. Not these days, my dear readers. Anyway, enough reminiscing – let’s get down to business and talk about Chemo Round 53.

Round 53 was a definite improvement compared to Round 52. The slight tweak in my chemo regimen from FOLFIRI and Avastin to FOLFIRI and Zaltrap knocked me back a bit last round, but I got back to my fighting form this time around. Major, major props go to my parents for their round-the-clock offering of food and drink and back rubs. Infusion went smoothly, but almost immediately after I left Norris, a gross headache began to roll through. This wasn’t too different from the usual “holy crap my body just took in a ton of medicine” headache, but was slightly worse. As time wore on, I just felt grosser. As I rested at home, my parents suggested that I go over their place for this round. Chemo side effects are made even worse when I’m hot or in a stuffy place, and my house is practically all windows which makes keeping it really cool in 100 degree weather not the easiest task on the planet. Plus, why not take the opportunity for a little parental R&R?! So I accepted. Turns out that it was a very good call.

My parents kept the house ice cold, cooked up the best food that even a chemo-guzzling warrior with a limited appetite wanted to eat, and took care of every sore shoulder or lower back ache. I felt pretty gross on Monday night and on Tuesday morning, but when Tuesday night came around, the headache lifted. I was still fatigued, but not having to contend with the headache made eating, resting, and emailing a lot easier. The headache stayed gone, and I got through Chemo Wednesday without any issues. By Thursday, I was up and running – we did a special film shoot for The Wunder Project (a very short film that I’ll be unveiling soon) and I was up to the task of looking into the camera and doing my thing.

Since then, I’ve been on a roll – taking care of Wunder Project business, enjoying the 4th of July in my kiddie pool, and generally making cancer feel like an underachiever. After nearly 3 continuous years of surgery/chemo/surgery/chemo/surgery/chemo/radiation while doing chemo/chemo, this cancer-killing adventure of mine has been a marathon but, luckily, I’m a bit of an Ironwoman.

In this boxing match between me and this disease, when there’s only one of us left standing, best believe it’s going to be me.