Thursday, April 29, 2010

Home improvement as therapy

As an engineer, I really enjoy building things and one of the things that is getting me through this chemo is that I'm healthy enough to do various home improvement tasks around the house. Over the winter we decided to tackle a redecorating project and redo our master bedroom. As all projects go, it started small, got way bigger than we expected, exceeded all time and money budgets and the initial thing that prompted the project actually got put way down on the list and ended up being the last thing we did.

We've been in our house 5 years in May and ever since we moved in we've had to see our slightly lame colored, rose formica countertop in our master bath (here's a picture after it was ripped out:)

So the initial project scope was to replace the counter top. We decided on a granite counter top but if we just put that in, the equally lame vinyl floor would look bad. So rather than get the counter top, we got distracted into putting in a glazed ceramic floor. And gee, that would be kind of cold on the tootsies in the morning, so we really need a heated floor, don't we? Yes we do! So now we've put the counter top on hold and have engaged ourselves in a combination electrical and mechanical project to put down a wiring grid on the subfloor, thin-set mortar over the wiring, run the wiring up through the wall (sheetrock work, spackle, orange-peel finish, paint), new control unit in the wall, re-wire to support the heating system, lay the tile, hope to god we haven't foobar-ed the wiring (at this point, you're talking a jack hammer to get the thin-set up to re-lay the wiring). Finally, cross our fingers, turn on the control, wait 3 anxious minutes or so, and - yes! - the floor is heating up! So that part of the project took about a month. Major props to Kyle who did a lot of the work and managed to: a.) not electrocute himself, b.) not burn the house down and c.) produce a really great looking floor:

and here is the slightly lame control box install in the wall:

and of course, once you do the bathroom, the lame master bedroom color plan (off-white) won't work anymore, so you need to completely re-paint that room (great painting work by Caitlyn on this part of the project, btw):

and import Ernie the cane tree and put in new window treatments:

and finally, 2 months and several thousand dollars later, you're (gently) reminded by the project manager that - WTF! - what about getting the counter installed? So here is the counter top for the master bath, complete with really cool vessel sinks:

And since it's no more expensive to get granite for 3 bathrooms vs 1 (trust me, this is true. Getting less than 25 sq. ft. of granite is hard to do), let's redo the two other bathroom counter tops:

hallway bathroom:

1st floor bath:

So we started in mid-December and just completed the work a couple of weeks ago. So even though I'm doing chemo, I can still do some plumbing! Which is very soothing to me, although I know that if you're not an engineer this will all seem like Work but it is really Great Fun!

Support from my soccer peeps

One of the things high up on my list of Good Things in Life is soccer. I love to play it, I love to coach it, I love to watch it on TV. Pretty much me, soccer, love. This spring I decided not to play on my men's team because I didn't want to use up a spot and I didn't want to be out there playing shitty soccer (well, shittier than I play when I'm healthy). Susan and I have been riding a lot on Sunday's as well (which has been great!), but I haven't gotten to watch one of the team's games on Sunday. All in all, it's been pretty absent from my life these last couple of months.

Tuesday the boys had a game and afterward sent me a fun picture of some of the Murphy's gang. Before you ask, I'm not sure why that one guy has his hand in his pants. If you know these guys, you can probably come to some reasonable conclusions. And if you don't, well, just don't think about it. The one guy has "George" on his t-shirt (hard to see in the picture) so this is a great sign of support from a great group of guys. My chemo won't get done until a few games into the fall season but if things go well I'll get back onto the pitch in late September and be with these guys for the 2nd half of the fall season.

Feeling great, but hey - what is that on the pillow ?

Haven't posted in a while so I've got lots to report. In general life is going great but I feel like I've got a lot of blog reporting to do.

So first item - I'm starting to lose some hair. Susan noticed it on Sunday morning and sure enough - there's some evidence on the pillowcase. it's a bit hard to see in the picture because of the pattern on the pillow case but that line at the tip of the pen isn't a stem of a leaf, it's hair off of my head:

After noticing that, I went to get my hair cut and went down from a "3" to a "2" all over. Not sure how much I will lose but it's definitely started. On the one hand, it's no big deal; the effect will go away once I stop the chemo and in some sense it's a good sign that the chemo is targeting rapidly growing cells (like hair). But it's scary to think just how pervasive this stuff is in my system and it's another visible sign of how messed up your body is by the chemo. On the plus side, my facial hair growth has also slowed way down. I've been shaving every day (modulo vacations and grunge weekends) for the last 30 years and I'm now able to go 2-3 days without getting much stubble on my face. Freaky! I've also started wearing hats when outside in the sun and wearing a helmet liner when I ride my bike so I don't get sunburn on my slowly emerging scalp.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Yup, every other Wednesday night sucks...

Another data point that Wed night looks to be the low point in the chemo rhythm for me. Last night I was just kind of "ugh..." I had a day full of sitting around doing college hire/summer intern interviews and didn't exercise last night because of bad weather. And I think I also didn't get enough water in me. Combine all of those and by the end of the day I was just feeling kind of blechy. And maybe, just maybe the 2 bike rides on Monday and big hill climb on Tuesday might have been just a wee bit too much work on top of the chemo session Monday. So perhaps a bit of chemo over-training? Never, I say! :) But whatever the cause, I was definitely feeling what the oncologist describes as a "body malaise". I was a little worried that maybe I was getting some sort of infection but took my temp this morning and it was fine. This morning I got out for about an hour walk and that definitely perked me up. Looks like the weather is clearing up nicely (at least here in South Boulder) so I will get out at lunch for another walk to keep things moving. That and a lot of water and I hope to be over the session #3 hump!

Monday, April 19, 2010

#3 in the books - things are going pretty well

Did my third chemo session today. In general, things went really well. Heart, bp, temp, Pete the Port all doing well. Some small issues as well - my WBCs are low and we talked about giving me a medication that boosts WBC production. The down side is that there's some anecdotal evidence that it can boost Bleomycin induced pulmonary problems. So far now, we're holding off on that. Going to be careful not to hang out around sick people, wash my hands a ton, stay away from (more) road rash. The other minor negative is that it seems like my port is having a small negative effect on venous blood flow in my left arm. My arm's slightly swollen at times and is a little pinker than my right arm. So I'm going to tweak my bike setup to get some pressure off my arms when I ride and also stay out of the pool to avoid more stress on the port line. Both issues could become serious but for now things seem very manageable. More good news is that my tumors have shrunk some more. And in general I'm in pretty good health, all things considered.

In about 3 1/2 weeks we're going to do a PET/CT scan. The hope is at this point that there will be no metabolic activity suggesting growth of cancer cells. We'll see - crossing my fingers on that one! I asked the dr. about the value of doing this, since there is some slight negative to getting more radiation. He said that it can affect the treatment course. If there's no cancer activity, that would suggest a more complete remission and that might indicate a bi-modal treatment that include localized radiation. It seems counter intuitive that the better your diagnose the more stuff you have done to you. I think the logic here is that if your cancer is pretty localized and responds well to the chemo they can really up your long term survival rates with radiation. If they see the cancer being less responsive or still being widespread, it indicates that your odds of getting a recurrence don't go down, because you may get a recurrence from cells not in the areas you radiate. And since the radiation does have negative side effects (can increase your chances of getting other cancers down the road), at some point the survival graphs cross and radiation isn't a net positive. So all those decisions are down the road a bit.

I also asked the dr. about my reduced aerobic capacity when I work out. He indicated that it probably wasn't an organic specific issue (so not due to the Adriamycin or Bleomycin). It might be due to a reduced hemoglobin count (less ability to get O2 to my blood cells) but that in general the chemo introduces a systemic "malaise" to your body. Basically, the chemo isn't good for you. Does a great job of killing cancer cells but your body in general is assaulted. This is why for some people they just totally crater. For me, it's been a lot more manageable but I've definitely noticed a toll in terms of my ability to work out hard. He also said that it probably would plateau and wouldn't get a lot worse than where I am now. That was really great news. If I can stick to this level of energy through the summer I will be really happy. I also got clearance to do push ups so now I have at least one upper body exercise I can do. And 6-8 weeks after I finish the chemo I should get the effects completely out of my system. Can't wait for that milestone!!!

So into the infusion room for the chemo. I talked to the nurse about a range of things I could do to keep my GI track moving in the few days after chemo. Well, the more interested I got in the topic the louder my voice got (go figure) so pretty soon the whole room was getting a blow by blow description of my efforts to get stuff to come of the bottom half of my plumbing. The funny thing was that almost every body there had the same experience. "Yup, been there, done that!" people would chime in. So we all got a good bonding moment over the joys of not being able to take a dump. Ah, the life of a chemo patient!

Also got to check in with the woman we visited with two weeks ago. She definitely looked better - more energy, a little spark in her eye. Her tumors are also shrinking which was great news. She had some good questions for Susan (Beryl has breast cancer) so it was great to see Susan be able to talk about different treatment options and the decisions that were right for her. One thing that Beryl said was that didn't have any remorse about the whole experience. It had opened her eyes to lifestyle decisions, things she wanted to do with her life. I thought this was pretty enlightened view. My knee jerk response was "hell, yeah! I have remorse. I have remorse that this damned thing happened to me and I would sure like to learn my life lessons in a much less dangerous class room!" But it is what it is, and as sensei Susan says, "the only way out is through". Wise words from my wing-woman!

So now for some fun photos from our session today. I was in a pretty good mood given the news about the tumor shrinkage and all, and that my port was working ok, so I had to celebrate with a little pole dance with my infusion pole. This is undoubtedly not what most people think about when they hear the phrase "pole dance" but it's all I got. Trex-in with the pole (private joke for the family) :

And another picture with my wing-woman bringin' a little attitude:

And here I am raiding the  bagel stash. Not quite sure what's going on with the tongue thing - readers will have to fill in the blank on that one:

After I got home, I realized that I had a safety issue to resolve! Don't want to get any more road rash, so I obviously need new mountain bike tires! Here's what I was currently riding:
And here's the upgraded tire:

Ok, one last slightly gross note. Despite the best efforts of the censor, I did get a chance to take a pic of my adriamycin induced pee. Sadly the pink didn't come out too well (bad color correction on my phone camera's software, I guess). And, it's been rated not blog-appropriate. So if you see me in person and want the viewing, I'm more than happy to oblige :)

And a brief update on the workout front - although the quality of my work outs has gone down, I am getting in a reasonable amount of exercise. 3 mile run Friday, 10 mile bike ride Saturday, 30 mile ride Sunday, 7 mile road ride and 14 mile mtn bike ride today. So the body is definitely still able to get out and move around, which is really a huge boost to my mental and physical well being.

So that's it for the 3rd session. Some stuff to work through (low WBCs, some port induced arm swelling) but in general a really good day. Off to bed now (hoping I don't have too much acid reflux!). Thanks again for following the blog - it feels good to be able to blurt about my cancer and have people care enough to read about it!!!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Really Great Weekend (by Susan)

This weekend was one of those weekends when you just abandon all chores and have fun.  Our typical weekend is full of things like laundry, food shopping, plumbing and home improvement, yard work, etc., etc. - all the activities required just to keep the infrastructure going.  George and I have wondered how we have so much to do now that the kids are gone and we only have ourselves to take care of.  How do two people pile up so much laundry, eat so much food, and make such a big mess?    But this weekend we didn't do ANY chores (except one load of laundry and one trip to the grocery store and one sink install).  We went to a friend's wedding yesterday, and it was a truly joyous occasion.  The bride and groom both had smiles so big that they just lit up the church.   And of course their joy just translated into everyone having a great time.  Isn't that why we all love weddings - because they make us remember that beautiful sense of love and connection? 

Today we went on a big bike ride with some other good friends of ours.  It was a gorgeous afternoon.  The temperature was in the high 60's and low 70', with that soft spring sunshine that makes everything look a little golden.   The trees are finally leafing out around here, and many of the woody shrubs like forsythia and sand cherries are starting to blossom.   The bike path started in Windsor, a small community off of I-25 between Erie and Fort Colling.   It wound across the prairies east of I-25 along the Cache La Poudre River all the way to Greely (about 15 miles one way).  The river is not very big and it is slow-moving along the stretch we rode.  It is lined with low shrubs and cottonwoods, and is dotted with little lakes.   All the farms along there made me remember that many people originally came out to Colorado to farm as well as to ranch.

After the ride we went out to dinner awith our friends at P.F. Changs in beautiful downtown Windsor.  We had no problem finding delicious vegan entrees (coconut curry vegetable, veggie lettuce wraps, spring rolls).  We are finding it easier and easier to eat vegan food.  In most restaurants you can find something on the menu that you can eat.  And I, for one, am starting to feel GREAT!  My energy has come back!  I have heard that you can go through a period of feeling bad because you are "de-toxifying" when you stop eating animal products and maybe that is what happened to me.  I am also limiting the amount of soy that I eat, and that is making me feel better, too.  It's really hard not to eat soy when you are eating vegan food, but I try to limit it to only once every few days.  I switched from soy milk to almond milk (Almond Breeze is the tastiest) and that also has helped.  I notice if I eat to much soy my mouth starts to tingle - kind of weird.

George was feeling great today and did well on the bike ride.  I am coming to treasure these weekends before he has to have chemo again on Monday.  We just concentrated on enjoying life and having fun.  The laundry can wait until tomorrow!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Geo is a Hero (by Susan)

I just want to say that George is a hero through all of this.  It's funny - when I was going through cancer and people called me brave, I couldn't figure out why.  I was just putting one foot in front of the other, doing what I had to do.  To me there didn't seem to be any courage involved in it.  But now that I am watching George go through this process, I feel as if he is a hero.   I see him going through all these treatments being done to him, not knowing what the future will hold, and maintaining a basic good humor and love of life.    Of course, he has his down days (we all do), but for the most part he is doing a fantastic job - going to work, riding his bike, running, doing home improvements, and taking time to make others feel better too, even as he is getting a total assault on his body with these powerful drugs. 

When he was getting chemo last Monday, he was chatting with the woman sitting next to him, and her friend who was at the chemo session with her said that it had been a long time since she had laughed or talked that much.  Geo was just being his usual effervescent self, talking and making jokes, and this other woman was just lighting up.  It is really a gift that he brings to others, even with everything he is going through and feeling himself.

Today George and Kyle did a lot of house maintenance - preparing to get granite countertops in all our bathrooms tomorrow and starting up the sprinkler system (why is it that sprinkler systems require some kind of fix every spring?)  I got a pedicure - the first of 2010! and then conked out on the couch.   My stomach has not been feeling very good today, and I'm attributing it to falling off the vegan wagon and eating eggs and cheese yesterday (see George's post below).  It's a sad story - we both lost our willpower yesterday.  I had a breakfast burrito with eggs and cheese in it, and it tasted great!  However, I wound up with stomach cramps.  I'm wondering if it's from the animal food.  If so, this means I can't even cheat and eat meat every once in a while - oh no! 

Anyhow, as usual, George is more energetic and gets more done than I do even during chemo treatments.  What's my excuse?  Could it be sympathy chemo stomach aches?  Go figure.  I think the answer is to go read some sci-fi, which I plan to do as soon as I log this post.  I'm reading a book about a post-apocalyptic future where the men are savages living in the wild while the women have all the technology and live in walled cities and use their technology to make the men think they are all goddesses.  Silly, but fun.

Falling off the vegan bandwagon

I am A Bad Man (from a vegan perspective)... It all started with some salad. Sounds innocuous, but Friday night I was just really feeling the need for some chicken. So I ordered a salad with some chicken. And it tasted Good... So yesterday morning we drove up to Breck to spend a day with a friend of ours and stopped in a nice breakfast place. And we had a breakfast burrito. With Cheese. And it Tasted Good. Then last night at dinner, the wheels completely fell off the vegan bus and I had some seared tuna. And it tasted Wonderful. And then I got home and my stomach said - WTF?!!! And I spent a bit of time feeling uncomfortable in ways that involved a trip or two to the bathroom. So  yes, that's me, standing by the side of the road, watching the vegan bus roll by.

This morning I'm feeling fine and I'm thinking that in general I'll aim towards the vegan bus line but may occasionally take side trips with the ovo-lacto vegetarian mini-van and won't rule out an occasional piece of meat. Still trying to find the right balance between being completely vegan and eating stuff to satisfy my appetite and my desire to keep up my weight and feel good while going through the chemo.

So stay tuned for more adventures in vegan (or not so much so) eating!

Friday, April 9, 2010

Chemo 2 - over the hump

Haven't posted in a couple of days so a few random thoughts to pass along:

  • Similar to the last session, days 3 and 4 (Wed. and Thursday) seemed to be the hardest days this week. Wed night I was definitely feeling in the 70s - GI tract not happy, really feeling bloated through my mid section. Laid down after dinner, watched some soccer and an episode of V, then was in bed before 10. Just kind of blech. On the upside, had a good sleep - no heartburn, no crazy dreams and woke up feeling pretty rested. Thursday I felt better than I had felt two Thursdays ago - got out for a walk in the morning, took another walk at lunch and then did a mountain bike ride after work. Then had a GREAT sleep last night and woke up this morning loving life. So it seems like Wed/Thursday following chemo will be the low point in the cycle. 
  • More on the mountain bike ride last night. It was a beautiful afternoon for a ride and we did Rabbit Mountain outside of Lyons. Managed to stay upright on my bike and really did some hard work on the bike which I think helped me sleep well last night and feel good this morning. But the crazy part of working out hard right now for me is that everything feels good when I'm working out but I just don't have the power output I had prior to this illness and chemo. My lungs feel clear, my energy level feels good, muscles all set, I put the hammer down, and -  nuthin'. I feel like my powerful V-8 has been replaced by an undersized inline four. Sort of like when you get in the rental car, it looks fine in the parking lot, you get onto the highway, floor it to merge into traffic, the engine makes a bunch of noise but you realize that you're only going 47 mph and are about to get rear-ended by some giant tractor trailer. That's how I felt on the ride last night. I was absolutely red-lined trying to keep up with folks on the uphill sections of the loop we rode. It's just the craziest feeling. At rest I feel like my normal self but when I really try to push myself physically it seems like I've suddenly been transplanted into another body I don't really understand. But of course, as a backdrop to this whiny session is the BTBD mantra. I'm still super happy I can ride my bike at all and if I have to live with a puny 4 cylinder engine that keeps going for another 30 years I'm ok with that. And of course Lance is a great, great role model to show that you can get strong again after going through an illness like this.
  • Finally, tried to drink some dark beer last night at dinner to help the GI system get back to normal. Only got through a 1/2 a glass. What a weenie! Just didn't taste appealing. Of course, I actually did order a beer, unlike someone else at the table that ordered wine. Wine? After a mtn. bike ride with the boys? That's just wrong. I may not be able to finish a beer but I can damn well order one!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Warning - very geeky dream summary, and post chemo body check

My co-workers will really enjoy this one. The rest of you - could be a yawner...

Last night I had a very powerful dream that my tumors were being packaged up as a bunch of XML fragments within a GNU compressed tar ball. My chemo manifested itself as a software publishing pipeline and it was very important to me that all the tumors get named correctly so that the publishing pipeline would be able to collect them all in the tarball and then publish them (i.e push them out of my body). I even woke up in the middle of the dream and was going to explicitly name each tumor so that it would get into the tarball archive correctly. For some reason, the naming process was one and done and I was really worried that if I didn't name the XML fragments/tumors correctly that the publishing process wouldn't find them and they wouldn't get published.

So this is an example of when your professional life intrudes WAY TOO MUCH into your dream symbolism. Sigh - what can I say. 20 years of thinking about document architectures is going to leave a mark, I guess.

On the chemo front, today has been a pretty reasonable day health wise. I felt better last night than I did 2 Mondays ago and had a better sleep (modulo weird dreams). Today my GI tract has been acting a little funky but nothing too uncomfortable. I got out for a 2 mile walk this morning and this evening I did 30 minutes on an indoor treadmill (the weather here was in the low 40s and windy so I didn't want to venture outside for a run). I've consistently found that being active really helps ameliorate chemo symptoms so although it's been a bit of a challenge to get going on the days right after the chemo I feel better when I do it so hopefully this trend will continue.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Chemo # 2 is in the books. Shrinking tumors (yeah!!!) and some minor issues.

Had my second dose of chemo this morning. Pretty smooth sailing with a few small wavelets. Wavelet #1 is that my white blood cell count is down. This is a pretty common side effect of this chemo therapy. My oncologist has put me on a prophylactic antibiotic to keep me from getting an infection in my port. Wavelet #2 is that my port is in fact trying to erupt out of my skin. Apparently Pete watched too many Sigourney Weaver flicks and is trying to come out and party. The result of this is that the skin over my port has gotten stretched pretty thin. This raises the risk that I could get an infection by the port site. As another precaution, we've decided I shouldn't swim for a couple of weeks to keep from rolling the port around too much in my upper chest. My oncologist did also notice the road rash (I wore shorts so I could ride my bike to chemo). He's a pretty casual guy but did mention that I should be really careful about getting dirt out of any cuts I could get. As a result of this conversation Susan has put me on a 1 strike and your out plan wrt mountain biking injuries. So I've got to get pretty conservative on the bike or I'll lose my biking privileges.If my WBCs are too low next time they may give me a dose of a medicine that will boost my WBCs. The down side of this is that there is some anecdotal evidence that this can raise the risk (10-20%?) of getting a pulmonary reaction to the Bleomycin. So again, it's all about trade offs. If they back off on the Bleo there's a reduced efficacy of the treatment. So my oncologist's plan (which I agree with) is to get the first 4 chemo sessions at full strength, on schedule and deal with depressed WBCs as necessary. I'm going to do my best to avoid any situations where I could be at risk for infection and then just take a day at a time. We also talked about my GI tract slowing down a bit - apparently both the chemo (Velban) and the anti-nausea drugs can cause some constipation (different mechanisms but same outcome). I've been eating granola and high roughage cereal to combat that so again, although a minor drag it's certainly been manageable so far. It's really funny to interact with these oncologists - they've seen it all before and what is a big deal to you they take as totally everyday events. Yup, that symptom is because of A, that symptom is because of B, let's do C and D, you're fine, go get healthy! I guess this is preferable to a situation where you present them with symptoms that are weird, troubling and not easily diagnosed. So I'm happy to stick with my pedestrian symptoms and have them be bored with all my reports of things that have gone on in the last two weeks.

But let's focus on the big, good news. My tumors are definitely shrinking!!! I had one in my throat area that was about 4.8 cm long 2 weeks ago and it's now about 2 cm long. A bit of that may be from post surgical swelling going away but some of it is definitely the tumors getting smaller. And I have 2 more in my neck that have gotten smaller. So that's basically fantastic news. I'm a bit bummed about the swimming but maybe the port will settle down in my chest and I can get back into the pool in a month or so.

We then went in to get the infusion of chemo. The place was pretty backed up so it was kind of a long session. I was sitting next to a women who was getting chemo for breast cancer. She'd had a pretty rough road so far - 10 chemo sessions to date, super exhausted, spending 20 hours/day horizontal on the couch/bed sleeping, couldn't work, lost ALL her hair (including eyebrow hair), skinny as a rail. Sort of your classic, chemo-as-concentration-camp-victim look. She promptly nicknamed me "chia-pet" after seeing how much hair I have. Our heart went out to her - with Susan having gone through breast cancer and my cancer we're obviously super sensitive to other folks going through a similar journey. The good news for this woman was that on Friday she'd had a sonogram and her main tumor had gone down 75% in size. And she had switched over to another type of chemo which was leaving her with a bit more energy. We talked about nutrition, thinking positively about the port (she's had lots of problems with hers and was thinking of it as a malevolent entity that had invaded her body. I told her she should name it and think of it as a tool that will help her get better. She was toying with calling hers Paula which also has good alliteration :). I hope that my positive energy and enthusiasm helped cheer her up a bit. She's got some hard work in front of her, more chemo and then some type of surgery to get after her tumor(s). I'll probably see her in two weeks and I'm hoping that she can put on a bit of weight and get back some energy. Her goal is to be able to ride her bike about 2 miles to/from her local grocery store. I didn't tell her that I rode my bike 50 miles this weekend in two different rides. But I sure was feeling lucking that at least so far, my energy level has been excellent. Trust me, there is nothing like sitting in that room for a few hours to make you feel compassion for other people with this illness and to be thankful for the positive things going on in your life.

Pete did great in his role as chemo delivery mechanism. I had one brief period where the pump was kind of screwed up and I was back flowing blood up into the line. This may sound gross but after you've been hooked up to these various machines a few times it all becomes pretty pedestrian. The chemo nurse came by and fixed things up so other than losing about 15 minutes of time with a non functional pump it was no problem.

Here's a picture of me showing chemo session #2 in progress:

Just like in the 1st session, I also peed a bit of pink urine from the Adriamycin. I was going to post a picture of my work in this area but the censors have clamped down on that. So you'll just have to use your imagination for that visual :) And it's pretty crazy to think how quickly this stuff goes through you. I had the Adriamycin and within an hour it had gone through me and was showing up in my urine. Crazy stuff...

I'm going for a walk in a bit just to keep things moving; mountain bike is in the shop for a couple of days so I will give my skin a couple of days of healing before I risk any more full contact riding!

Vegan update - one month eval complete

A month ago Susan posted this note about eating vegan as a way of improving our health and lowering our chances of getting cancer. After a month of eating vegan, here are some thoughts on the experience:
  • In general, we both like it. Neither of us were ever huge meat eaters so going without meat hasn't been a big change. The biggest adjustment for us has been cutting dairy out of our diet. I'm still eating a bit of cheese but by and large we've cut out all dairy and have substituted in various rice and soy products.
  • Our sense of taste (and smell) has definitely become more sensitive. I'm really enjoying foods that in the past didn't seem to have much taste. The flavor from dark green vegetables seem more intense, nuts seem richer and sweeter.
  • Susan's suspecting that she may have a bit of an issue with soy. We've been eating a lot of soy and she's had a few  mild reactions that might indicate an allergy. We'll have to check this out as it will obviously affect how we plan our meals.
  • It's been a bit of an education to learn new recipes that are vegan. Susan's done a great job of this and I've pretty much just been along for the ride. We're eating more nuts, legumes and different kinds of soy, rice and wheat products. 
  • Grocery bills seem to be a bit lower. This is a bit hard to characterize since we frequently buy health and personal care items at the same time we buy groceries and those costs tend to mask differences between grocery costs. But our general sense is that our grocery bills have gone down 10-15%.
  • Eating out is definitely a change. Many of the menu items that don't have meat will have a bunch of cheese so trying to find a reasonable menu that is vegan is a bit of a challenge.
So I would say that our vote so far has been that this is A Good Thing. We may end up being mostly vegan with a bit of dairy thrown in when we eat out. I certainly like the way I've been feeling on the vegan diet and if it helps our immune systems get stronger, so much the better.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Saturday Vegan Happines

Tonight another great vegan meal! (Yes, that is the sound of me climbing on the vegan soapbox. Go, vegan!)

The menu/recipes for tonight (ok, last night, but you get the idea):
  • Tuscan bean soup (about six servings)
    • 3 cup dried great northern beans
    • 10 cups water
    • 5 garlic cloves,peeled and chopped
    • 1 celery stalk, diced
    • 1 medium red onion, chopped
    • 3 fresh tomatoes, diced
    • 1 carrot, diced
    • 1 tablespoon chopped, fresh rosemary
    • 1 tablespoon chopped, fresh sage
    • 1 vegetable bullion cube
    • salt and pepper to taste
    • Cooking instructions:
      • place beans in large pot with water to cover, let stand overnight or cook on low for 3 hours
      • add the rest of the ingredients with enough water to cover and cook on medium-high for another hour, until beans open up and soup thickens
      • enjoy!
  • Fresh, homemade oatmeal-wheat bread, courtesy of our thunder bread maker
  • Spinach salad:
    • fresh baby spinach leaves
    • fresh rasberries
    • pine nuts
    • mushrooms
    • homemade salad dressing:
      • 1/4 cup canola oil
      • 2 tablespoons cider vinegar
      • 1 teaspoon sugar
      • 1 teaspoon dry parsley
      • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
      • dash of salt
  • a nice bottle of  Refosco dal Pedunculo Rosso from Friuli
And here's the presentation of this simple but delicious meal:

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Saturday stuff

Nothing to report on medically today so just a quick recap of the day. First, Susan and I managed to get out of work a bit early yesterday and did a couple of quick laps on Marshall Mesa. My camera got a bit confused by the late afternoon sunlight so here's a slightly lame picture of Susan coming down the Coal Seam trail, accessed from the Marshall Mesa Trailhead:

 Then we invited ourselves over to Susan's sister's house for a casual dinner of pizza and salad (thx, guys!)  Got up on Saturday and did a bit of yardwork and then -  yup - out for another ride. Tony did a grand tour of Boulder and I caught up with him for about 20 miles of road and trail riding in Louisville, Marshall and Boulder. It was pretty windy so the upwind portions (heading west) were a bit of a slog but overall, a nice ride and I feel like I got some good base training in. I got home and walked into the house to the heavenly aroma of home made wheat bread. Susan continues to cook us just tremendously healthy and great tasting meals. What a treat! Really looking forward to dinner (bean soup, spinach salad and home made bread. Yummy!) After getting some lunch, I did a  bit of work on both mountain bikes and there goes another great Saturday!

I realize it's been a few days since I've posted gross photos of my body, so here are a couple of more. First, the scar from the biopsy seems to be healing quite nicely. It's getting less bumpy and the color is fading a bit:

On the flip side, I think that Pete is definitely getting uglier over time. All the brusing that was inside of me from the port implant has come to the surface and despite not getting any sun exposure, Peter is getting quite dark. 

I've got an appt with my oncologist on Monday and we'll see how Pete does. As long as he's not infected and there's good flow into my vein the medical team will be happy. I'd like him to look a bit less like an alien getting ready to erupt from my chest but aesthetics definitely take a back seat to function on this one, I guess.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Team Ibis

I realized why I did the gravel slide last night. The Ibis Mojo (my mountain bike) was just trying to get my attention. I posted a picture of the Schwinn Peloton (my road bike) but the Ibis wasn't getting any blog love so it was gently "reminding" me that my mountain bike is another important get-well tool that I hope to use all summer. And that if I don't respect it, it can also be a Tool of Destruction. So here is the Ibis Mojo. I hope this calms the old boy down and my skin can stay connected to the rest of me for a good number of upcoming rides. Note the attitude - the side swagger with the head cocked to the cameras as if to say "Yeah, I'm all that. Want to make somethin' of it?" Now I just need to convince that front wheel to keep going in the general direction of the rest of the bike frame and I'll be set to go.