C h e c k l i s t

Check to the end...

          ☑ Chemotherapy
          ☑ Surgery
          ☑ Radiation
          Maintenance Therapy
                     ☑  Herceptin
                     ☐  Anti-Hormonal Treatment

September 27, 2010

Who makes the rules?

We tossed out Sahil's milk bottles on Friday and  just to say that it has made him upset is an understatement. Many friends were advising me to do it earlier, but we were not ready, partly because that was one less thing I wanted to deal with while going through treatment, and partly because I weaned him off breastfeeding rather abruptly after my diagnosis. If the bottle comforted him then why would I take it away from him so soon. When is too soon or too late or just the right time? Who makes the rules?

One thing I can say about my child is that he is extremely feisty and strong willed, just like mommy. But I dont think I can get away with throwing my arms up in the air, stiffening my body, and screaming in your face while kicking the sippy cup, at a stretch for 1 1/2 hours at 3 AM.

I am upset too. A lot of changes I have to make, I am altering my life plan (remember I said I was a planner). I was suppose to have my second child in 2011 or 2012. Why was I not a part of this decision making? Who made this ultimate decision for me?

To add to all the other changes that come with the treatment, I am turning into a paranoid. Organic this and natural that.What has pesticides? What if my food is too charred on the grill? Is the fish farm raised (plumped with hormones) or caught wild? etc. etc. After making sure I eat or come in contact with everything that is 98% natural or organic (have you read the labels? its never 100 percent), is there a gaurantee that I am safe from the beast coming back?

I am learning it is about a balance. I know I am not going to ingest food plumped up with hormones, antibiotics. It is okay if my personal stuff has shorter shelf life because of lack of pesticides and preservatives.

Also, I am learning to be kind on myself. Dinar threw a fabulous party to mark the end of active treatment for me and many of our friends were there to show their love and support. I caved in and had a skewer of chicken kabob, a day after the party. But I am letting it slide. It is okay because seriously who is making these rules?

In case of my toddler, I recognize that we need to bring structure into Sahil's life, we need to help him to go to the next stage in his life. We need to give him hugs and kisses even though he throws the sippy cup at us. We need to be gentle yet firm and say it is going to be okay. Dudu (aka milk) will taste the same in the sippy cup and it will help your teeth from decaying.

Today, though, I am telling myself, it is going to be okay, dont be scared, do what you can do to the best of your ability, and then learn to live your life and not just survive it.

Love.Live not just survive.Laugh

 I am stealing this from a bulletin board I frequent. Please read on:

John Hopkins Update - Good Article
An effective way to battle cancer is to starve the cancer cells by not feeding it with the foods it needs to multiply..

a. Sugar is a cancer-feeder. By cutting off sugar it cuts off one important food supply to the cancer cells. Sugar substitutes like NutraSweet, Equal, Spoonful, etc are made with Aspartame and it is harmful. A better natural substitute would be Manuka honey or molasses, but only in very small amounts. Table salt has a chemical added to make it white in color. Better alternative is Bragg's aminos or Sea Salt.
b. Milk causes the body to produce mucus, especially in the gastro-intestinal tract. Cancer feeds on mucus. By cutting off milk and substituting with unsweetened soy milk, cancer cells are being starved. Bela: I have to be careful about soy products too as my cancer was feeding off estrogen in the body.
c. Cancer cells thrive in an acid environment. A meat-based diet is acidic and it is best to eat fish, and a little chicken rather than beef or pork. Meat also contains livestock antibiotics, growth hormones, and parasites, which are all harmful, especially to people with cancer.
d. A diet made of 80% fresh vegetables and juice, whole grains, seeds, nuts, and a little fruits help put the body into an alkaline environment. About 20% can be from cooked food including beans. Fresh vegetable juices provide live enzymes that are easily absorbed, and reach down to cellular levels within 15 minutes to nourish and enhance growth of healthy cells. To obtain live enzymes for building healthy cells try and drink fresh vegetable juice (most vegetables including bean sprouts) and eat some raw vegetables 2 or 3 times a day. Enzymes are destroyed at temperatures of 104 degrees F (40 degrees C).
e. Avoid coffee, tea, and chocolate, which have high caffeine. Green tea is a better alternative and has cancer fighting properties. Water-best to drink purified water, or filtered, to avoid known toxins and heavy metals in tap water. Distilled water is acidic, avoid it.
12. Meat protein is difficult to digest and requires a lot of digestive enzymes. Undigested meat remaining in the intestines becomes putrefied and leads to more toxic buildup.
13. Cancer cell walls have a tough protein covering. By refraining from or eating less meat it frees more enzymes to attack the protein walls of cancer cells, and allows the body's killer cells to destroy the cancer cells.
14. Some supplements build up the immune system (IP6, Florssence, Essiac, Anti-oxidants, Vitamins, Minerals, EFAs etc.) to enable the bodies own killer cells, to destroy cancer cells.. Other supplements like Vitamin E are known to cause apoptosis, or programmed cell death, the body's normal method of disposing of damaged, unwanted, or unneeded cells.
15. Cancer is a disease of the mind, body, and spirit. A proactive and positive spirit will help the cancer warrior be a survivor. Anger, un-forgiveness and bitterness put the body into a stressful and acidic environment. Learn to have a loving and forgiving spirit. Learn to relax and enjoy life. Bela: Yeah yeah yeah...
16. Cancer cells cannot thrive in an oxygenated environment. Exercising daily, and deep breathing help to get more oxygen down to the cellular level. Oxygen therapy is another means employed to destroy cancer cells. Bela: I like exercising.

1. No plastic containers in micro.
2. No water bottles in freezer.
3. No plastic wrap in microwave.
Johns Hopkins has recently sent this out in its newsletters. This information is being circulated at Walter Reed Army Medical Center as well. Dioxin chemicals cause cancer, especially breast cancer. Dioxins are highly poisonous to the cells of our bodies. Don't freeze your plastic bottles with water in them as this releases dioxins from the plastic. Recently, Dr. Edward Fujimoto, Wellness Program Manager at Castle Hospital, was on a TV program to explain this health hazard. He talked about dioxins and how bad they are for us. He said that we should not be heating our food in the microwave using plastic containers. This especially applies to foods that contain fat.. He said that the combination of fat, high heat, and plastics releases dioxin into the food and ultimately into the cells of the body. Instead, he recommends using glass, such as Corning Ware, Pyrex or ceramic containers for heating food You get the same results, only without the dioxin. So such things as TV dinners, instant ramen, and soups, etc., should be removed from the container and heated in something else. Paper isn't bad, but you don't know what is in the paper. It's just safer to use tempered glass, Corning Ware, etc. He reminded us that a while ago some of the fast food restaurants moved away from the foam containers to paper. The dioxin problem is one of the reasons..

Also, he pointed out that plastic wrap, such as Saran, is just as dangerous when placed over foods to be cooked in the microwave. As the food is nuked, the high heat causes poisonous toxins to actually melt out of the plastic wrap and drip into the food. Cover food with a paper towel instead.

Bela: I am putting together a snap shot of what cosmetics I am using now. Look out for that post, especially for all my girl friends and their daughters.

September 24, 2010

I am on my knees today

Cancer makes you humble and brings you down to your knees and makes you want to tread life with a lot of care. I feel like it will always make me wonder when I am very happy, if something bad is going to happen around the corner.

Once a cancer patient, always a victim. The doctors say that there is no way to tell on a cellular level if it has completly gone. My loss of innocence due to cancer has introduced me to new terminologies like "NED" which means no evidence of disease. So am I truly cancer-free as Dinar likes to put it? Who knows, but as of now I am in the NED state.

I started my anti-hormonal therapy and wow it surely does not put me in a happy state of mind. Gotto love breast cancer treatment! Woohoo!

So today I kneel down and ask the supreme power to spare us girls. Some day, may be, I will worry that my hair is too frizzy or nails to blah or where is my career going or on getting lines around my mouth and eyes like other girls do. Cancer, today I mourn the loss of my innocence, peace of mind, and happiness. Today, I have nothing to thank you for. Please spare me and my sisters of any further wrath. Yes you are a beast and we recognize that. Dont come our way and we wont come your way.

September 21, 2010

One more check box

In some ways, I think today is the day Bela has been waiting for during the past few months. It was her last radiation session today, and the last day for her active treatment. She will still visit Duke more than she would like to, but I am sure it is a welcome change for her not to be there everyday as she has been for the past six weeks.

Yesterday, we got some important answers regarding the treatment. According to her doctors, Bela is ‘cancer-free’. As with all things related to cancer, I think the tag means different things to different people. Are we back to the day before the diagnosis? Are we ready to resume a normal life forward? What is a normal life now? I don’t have answers to these questions, but just like we got some answers yesterday, I think we will figure these answers out in the days to come.

September 16, 2010

Being narcissist and shallow...

I have met a lot of new people since I started treatment and I always wonder if they will ever know what I looked like before all this began. All my life I wanted to be as tall as my mom, have a gorgeous face and complexion like my brother's, hair like my BFFs Namrata, Shree and Shilpa, nails, posture and grace like Zarina's, and the list goes on...  Today I look at my old pictures, some as old as January 1, 2010 and I see a beautiful Bela. Perfect. I would not want to change anything. I want my old self back.
12 years back with my sweetheart
Couple of years back with my sweetie

Pregnant with Sahil in Chicago, Summer 2008
Very pregnant with Sahil and at a very happy time in my life

I went for a Kundalini yoga class today and when I was meditating I felt beautiful. I felt an inner warmth and calmness and that was beautiful. But when I opened my eyes, I saw my reflection in the mirror, and I saw deep dark circles around my sunken eyes. I saw the dark burnt patch from radiation on my chest. I saw the flatness of my chest on the right side. I could not get pass the physical damage to my body and face. It made me go back and see my old pictures and show them to Sahil and tell him it is really his mummy. He looked at me  puzzled and I smiled through my tears and assured him that it really was me.

And now....Summer 2010

September 10, 2010

Shell Shocked

I recently read an article on soldiers being shell shocked and how the term was coined. "It was said that at the Battle of the Marne, east of Paris, soldiers on the front line had been discovered standing at their posts in all the dutiful military postures---but not alive" (Smithsonian Magazine, Sep 2010). "The illusion was so complete that often the living would speak to the dead before they realized the true state of affairs". "Asphyxia" caused by the powerful new explosive shells was the cause for the phenomenon according to The Times History of the War, published in 1916.

I do not have the audacity to say that I have experienced anything like what soldiers do in the line of fire. It is simply unfathomable to see other fellow humans being killed and life being wasted for political gains. In fact if anything I have witnessed efforts to save hundreds of lives, some too frail, but all too precious.

However, in my own selfish microcosm where everything revolves around my life, I feel shell shocked, I feel the PTSD setting in. I feel perhaps 1/10th of what the soldiers feel, but I do feel like my world, my microcosm, went for a high speed spin for the past 9 months and is all of a sudden coming to a jerky halt. And I quite frankly dont know what the eff just happened? I can see the aftermath, I can see that I have to define my new normal---emotionally, physically, and mentally, I know that I have changed forever and noone will understand me, other than some of my sisters who have gone through the same. I just feel people are being nice when they try to be encouraging but they have NO IDEA, absolutely NO IDEA about what just happened. I have learnt one thing that everyone means well and want to help, humans are compassionate in general, but I have learnt that I cannot go for advice to people because they dont have any good advice for me. "Stay positive, go to the gym, do yoga, surround yourself with positive people, yada yada yada".

 People shy away from talking about their mental health publicly, but if some day, some person going through cancer treatment reads this post, I want that person to know that my personal hell also included repairing my mind in addition to my body.

Well I have decided to take things in my hand to get better mentally. My little sunshine is going to help me. I have decided to send Sahil to daycare only 2 days a week and spend one on one quality time with my lil hurricane. I am planning on going for stroller walks with him, painting with him, reading books, and teaching him calculus (com on he is 17 months old born to Indian Asian parents, he ought to know calculus by now!).

Sahy Mahy, my child, I look forward to fun times with you! And thank you son for everything! For your mumma's sake always live with the best intentions, love deeply, and laugh plenty and loudly.


P.S. Medical Update: I have just one more week of radiation left. After that Herceptin infusions every three weeks for several months and anti-endocrine therapy for several years, and some reconstructive surgery a few years later.