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Tuesday
Oct262010

Back in Action

Today, I made a plan. It was time to figure out a daily schedule and to get back into a routine, and I woke up ready to do just that. I've enjoyed my days of relaxing and letting the direction of my day go wherever it wanted, but I was ready to get a bit more regimented. (Recently, a colleague who served in Afghanistan told me that I'd do well in the military. I think she might be right.) 

So, I thought of my list of things I'd like to achieve every day, and ordered them. Here they are:

  1. Rest (8 hours of sleep a night is essential, especially because I haven't really built in any time for naps (although that doesn't mean naps are out of the question. But really, do you see me as a "nap" person? Not really.))
  2. Read (I've got some incredible books just waiting for me to chomp chomp and digest them)
  3. Meditate (one of my favorite things)
  4. Exercise (morning walk/jog around my parents' neighborhood with Mom and Winston, evening workout session at Educogym with best buds Tim and Sabrina)
  5. Work on the blog
  6. Work on the book (yes, I'm working on a book. Yes, about all of this.)
  7. Hang out with my friends, colleagues, family
  8. Relax (this includes watching movies/TV, playing Lottery Scratchers, painting, cuddling with Winston)
  9. Reflect (this includes maybe a little more meditation, chit chatting with God, etc.)

Pretty good plan, right? I thought so.

Today was Day 1 of enacting the plan, and it was pretty awesome. I skimped on meditation, but I'm not going to be too tough on myself about that (I'll resolve to do better tomorrow, of course). I spent a bunch of hours at OMM with my buddies, made good progress on the blog/book, and...most excitingly... 

I WENT BACK TO THE GYM!!

My workout was fantastic. My trainer and Irishman extraordinaire, Wayne, tailored my workout so each exercise was challenging but not so challenging that I had to engage my core/gut at all. I did leg extensions (oh, to feel my quads burn again was a glorious thing!), calf raises, thigh curls (for the hamstrings), bicep curls (welcome to the gun show), tricep press, bench press, and even some cable work for my inner and outer thighs. I didn't manage to break a sweat, but that's nothing new (it takes one hell of a workout to actually make me sweat -- a running joke at the gym (as in, I taunt Wayne about how easy his workouts are)). I did manage to get each set of muscles burning by the end of each set. It was a beautiful thing. I can't wait to get back in there tomorrow, and the next day, and the next, and the next...  

I can't explain how returning to Educogym filled my heart with joy, but it did. 

It's funny, some people want to totally revamp and change their lives after getting the "wake up call" known as cancer. I just want to work hard to get my awesome life back. And do it even better this time.

Monday
Oct252010

On Working Out

Every doctor will tell you this: exercise is important. Exercise is even more important when you're waging a war against cancer. Luckily, nobody relishes working out more than yours truly.

When I was in the hospital post-op, and found out the fairly long road ahead of me which included months of chemo and another, much more physically exacting surgery, I envisioned only one person, idea, vision: 

Rocky Balboa. Come on, you can hear that theme music, right? 

Yes -- I, too, would train for my nemesis by following a fierce workout regime and would emerge victorious. Maybe I wouldn't hit sides of raw beef like Rocky did in the first movie, but, you know what? Maybe I would. I couldn't wait to get off those clear liquids to some serious protein and start pumping iron like only a champion can.  

Only...I had to wait. To put it bluntly, my gut had just been cut open and my bowels had some serious retooling done to them, so I had to take it easy. A phrase (and concept) that Rocky and I have trouble stomaching: take it easy. Obviously, Dr. Ramos and the others were right -- I needed to rest and let my body heal, and not do anything that would put that healing process in jeopardy. This included lifting heavy weights which would necessarily engage my gut muscles. Those muscles were to be on vacation for a looong time. Conventional wisdom says that by six weeks post-op, the belly area is 85% healed. I figured that meant about a month for me, but I didn't challenge anybody and tried to sustain myself with one of the least exciting forms of exercise (at least, in my opinion): walking. 

So I walked short distances. Then pushed it to longer distances. Soon, I started power walking. And when Will and my dad weren't watching, I threw a quick skip or jog into the mix. (Seriously, I need to give a lot of credit to my mom, who has fully believed in my ability to push my body within its limits and has rarely bothered me with an "Ohhhh, be careful!" or a "Hey, watch yourself!" Evidently, those phrases are saved for my male nurses.) 

I started to realize during the last couple of days that not only was my brain ready for the gym, my body was, too. 

By "the gym," I'm referring to Educogym, the incredible place that taught me how 20 minutes of pumping iron could transform my chub into some serious steel. During the first five months of this year, I was a devout member of the Educogym plan, which combined those 20 minutes of training with a stringent diet. In the process, I lost 30 pounds and became the muscular beast I am today...or, at least, the muscular beast I was when I checked in at Good Samaritan.

I've noticed that over the last month or so (it's hard to believe, but it's been 5 weeks since my surgery), I've lost some of the muscle I painstakingly worked hard to gain earlier this year. I am determined -- chemo or not, cancer or not -- to get that back and then some. I want to go through this entire process not only mentally and spiritually tough, but physically tough, too. I know that my physical strength helped me tremendously after my first surgery, and I plan to be even stronger for my next one. You know, like Rocky preparing to fight The Russian in Rocky IV strong.  

Tonight, I paid a visit to my wonderful Irish trainers at Educogym, and could be away from those weights no longer. I did three leg extensions and felt invigorated; I did a couple of bicep curls and my heart soared; I did a few tricep presses and had made my decision.  Forget November 5th, I decided -- I am going back to the gym TOMORROW. After sending some very carefully worded emails (ok, I begged) to Dr. Lenz and Dr. Ramos, I was cleared by both of them to go do my thing. I need to use excellent judgment on the heaviness of my weights and am absolutely prohibited from overdoing it, but that's just fine with me. A champ has to start somewhere.

Sunday
Oct242010

Week in Review/Week in Preview

Welcome to your first installation of Week in Review/Week in Preview, where I provide a listing of those notable things that occurred in the week past (along with a short description of my feelings about those notable things), and let you in on my plans for the coming week (with a short description about my hopes for such plans). Sunday is sort of an odd day -- some people consider it the end of the week (as in, the last day of the weekend), but I remember from school that Sunday is technically considered the first day of the week. In a sense, I've decided to split the difference -- Sunday will be the day I reflect on the past week (as if it was the end of the week) and gear up for the future (as if Sunday was Day 1 of said future week). I'm not sure if you needed all that explanation, but somebody might want to know about the inner machinations of this here brain, so I gave that unusually curious person a sneak peek. Without further ado, the lists:

Week in Review

 

  • Started Chemo -- totally easy, really nice nurses, thoroughly enjoyed faking side effects, enjoyed envisioning thoroughly dismantling cancer cells with chemotheraphy drugs even more
  • Wore my Rocky shirt for the first time -- definitely planning on channeling the Italian Stallion during this whole cancer adventure
  • Went to Mumford & Sons concert -- beautiful, inspiring music that inspired my heart and satisfied my soul, sang along at the top of my lungs (which shocked Will because he didn't realized I knew almost all the words to all their songs), Justin Long in attendance and dressed to the nines
  • Watched lots of scary movies including Pet Sematary II for the first time -- an excellent sequel
  • Made a big dent in one of the books that best friend Rhett had purchased for me called Cancer: 50 Essential Things to Do -- happily realized that naturally, and from the very beginning, I had been already doing all of the things that the author suggested about adopting a survivor mentality, etc.
  • Started exercising -- started with a 1.5 mile walk and 10 minute sprint on exercise bike and built from there, still not allowed to hit the weights yet but ITCHING to get back to the gym, decided that I will get back to hitting the weights on November 5th (a date arrived at after reconciling many suggestions by health professionals including my own)
  • Ate penne pasta made from brown rice with turkey meat sauce and other delightful, nutritious meals
  • Made awesome poops
  • Cuddled with Winston
  • Slept well
  • Went to Nick & Stef's with the family (yummy organic chicken, potatoes au gratin, mushrooms, asparagus (sorry, asparagus isn't yummy -- needed to clear that up)), then a concert at the Disney Concert hall with Will
  • Spent time with family and friends (I'm not sure I'm ready to start with individual shout-outs, but what the hell, here goes: Grandma EO, Uncle Vinnie, Nono, Angelica, Grandma K, Aunt Fran, Timmy, Anna, Nick, Dan, Juice, Ron, Aymee, Morgan -- phew, that tuckered me out a bit. And now I've set a precedent to give shout-outs. But really, it's the least I can do to show my wonderful visitors how much I love them, so this was a good decision, in retrospect. Go WunderGlo!) 
  • Watched the stupid Giants beat the Phillies and head to the World Series 
  • Went to the Aquarium of the Pacific with best friend Nick and Will -- saw lovely sea horses, waded through tremendous throngs of children, and hung out with a sandtiger shark (which was not nearly as awesome as a Great White, but still very fierce looking)

 

Week in Preview

 

  • Finish the book that best friend Rhett had purchased for me called Cancer: 50 Essential Things to Do
  • Start other books that best friend Rhett had purchased for me which also look very helpful and engaging
  • Exercise every day
  • Email slightly strange looking woman who is well versed in oncological massage and get one of those massages
  • Continue to maintain weight or maybe gain a little bit
  • Spend time at the office to commune with my fellow lawyers and best buddies (I can't be away from OMM for too long without getting the shakes (not literally, of course -- don't worry, I'm not faking an unforeseen chemo side effect...trust me, when I'm faking a side effect, you'll know it (actually, you won't know it until I tell you I'm faking but you get my drift))) 
  • Prepare for Halloween party on Saturday (yes, I'm throwing a party, and if you're interested in attending, let me know)
  • Attend childhood friend and former volleyball teammate Anna's birthday dinner (Happy Birthday, Anna!)
  • Go to the gym to at least discuss lifting weights with personal trainers and get fitness plan in place for November 5
  • Find more concerts to attend in coming months
  • Hang out with best friends Rhett and Morgan this weekend (they are flying here for Saturday's Halloween party)
  • Make sure my Halloween costume is totally perfect
  • Plan Will's Halloween costume and do all the work that comes with putting his costume together (because that's what I always do and, frustratingly, everybody always loves Will's costume more than mine and, man, sometimes it really troubles me but these are the kind of things I need to be zen about, not only now because I'm in the middle of chemo but always, so...*deep breath*)
  • Meditate (to alleviate Will's Halloween costume issue and also because it's good for me in general)
  • Drink lots of water
  • Sleep well
  • Get excited about Duke Basketball this season because, wow, the guys are looking good already 
  • Update the blog frequently with thoughtful posts -- like I'd forget about my readers! Never!!

 

Have a great week, everybody. Much love from the WunderGlo to you.

Saturday
Oct232010

Winston

Throughout my blog posts thus far, I've mentioned my wonderful doctors (Ramos, Lenz, and Sugarbaker) and my fantastic nurses (Mom, Dad, and Will), but I've failed to discuss a constant companion that is undoubtedly a key part of the team I've assembled to beat down cancer. This guy weighs 10 pounds, is always ready for a cuddle or a play session, and is a constant source of unconditional love and a tenderness that makes me wonder if he knows more than we give him credit for, considering his species.

I am, of course, talking about my Yorkshire Terrier, Winston.

Before I headed off to the ER at Good Samaritan, I had felt pretty bad for about three days. During that time, I tried to force food down -- often losing that battle -- and tried to sleep away my bellyache. Winston was a watchful eye during that entire time: resting with me, following quickly behind me each time I ran to the bathroom, and watching, wide-eyed, as I left my loft for the hospital.

During my two weeks at Good Sam, Winston wasn't in the best way. Will would visit him almost every day, and my parents also spent time with him, but Winston seemed nervous and not at peace. I was missing him, too. When I was up to it, Will brought him to the patio area of the hospital and I ventured down, in hospital gown and all, to see my little man. I can't tell you how many licks I got that first time we reunited, but they were enough to boost my spirits and fill my heart with the love that only your little animal can give.

Now that I'm home, Winston is a happy camper and has been an incredible companion. He has not once walked on or near my incision or portacath (which is crazy because he used to jump all over me), and instead of bounding over when I greet him, he sits back patiently and lets the licks fly the minute my face gets near. He sleeps with his head resting on my legs every night, and by the time the morning rolls around, he's usually chest to chest with me, waiting for the minute he can kiss me good morning. It's hard to quantify how much that sweet pup has enhanced my days with love and laughter, but it's a ton. I've come to one conclusion: Winston hates cancer and is doing his part -- one lick at a time -- to beat it to bits.

Now, if you don't mind, I'm off to spend some quality time with my little man.

Friday
Oct222010

The PICC Line Lady

Given that it's a Friday and I'm in an especially good mood considering that I've had no side effects from chemo and, more importantly, that AMC has started its FearFest (which means I've got scary movies to watch 'round the clock), I'm going to tell you a story about a lady...the PICC Line Lady.

The day before my surgery, I was informed that I'd need a PICC line inserted into my arm. Essentially, the PICC line is not as big of a production as a portacath, but is a souped up version of an IV line that is inserted under the skin and is resistant to infection. The PICC line was placed in my right arm, where it snaked into a vein and made its way into my superior vena cava (a major vein leading to the ol' ticker). The process was pretty quick and totally painless, and within a week, the PICC line was taken out and I was sent off on my merry way. 

But there was something far, far more lasting to come out of this experience: my encounter with the PICC Line Lady.

Let's get this out of the way: PICC Line Lady was highly competent, very thorough, and extremely nice. But, oh my LORD, she loved to talk. And talk, and talk, and talk. About subjects she had already broached, about things that were already said, about issues that were already covered. If you think that last line of mine was redundant, you're getting the picture. PICC Line Lady has a PhD in redundancy. In college, she majored in saying the same stuff over and over again with a minor in useless information.

You want a taste of what the PICC Line Lady is cooking? Feast on this, a very true to life rendition of what she told me as she began the process of placing the PICC line:

"This is the PICC line, which I'll insert in your arm and will be resistant to infection. I mention that I'll be inserting it in your arm because sometimes people want to know where I'm going to insert it before I actually insert it, and now I'm going to need you to extend out your arm because that's where I'm going to insert the PICC line. I also mention that the PICC line is resistant to infection because sometimes people wonder, and when they wonder, they'll ask me, 'I wonder why I need a PICC line and not just an IV?' and I tell them, 'Because it can stay in your body longer -- for up to a year -- and it's more resistant to infection.'  I wanted to add, now that I mentioned it, that this PICC line can stay in your body longer -- for up to a year. And it's resistant to infection."

It took every ounce of my energy to grin and bear it. This went on for about 40 minutes because, as the PICC Line Lady noted, "The process of inserting the PICC line should take about 40 minutes. I mention this because sometimes people want to know how long the process will take -- probably because they are nervous that the process will take a long time -- and I just tell them that it'll only take 40 minutes and they are relieved. The entire process will take just 40 minutes or so."

After the 40 minutes crawled by and the deed was done, PICC Line Lady informed me that I'd need an x-ray to make sure that the line was close enough to my heart but not too close to my heart (you can imagine how long it took her to explain what the x-ray was for). I was happy, though, when the dude came to my hospital room and wheeled me away. I hoped and suspected that that was the last of my time with the PICC Line Lady, partially because, as she had explained about 15 times, she needed to get to a hospital in Whittier within the hour and so she couldn't spend much longer with me because she had to head out to Whittier to get to a hospital there. Sigh. Got it. WHITTIER.

I got down to the x-ray room and enjoyed the peaceful quiet as the x-rays were conducted. "You can sit up -- someone will take you back to your room soon," the tech of few words noted when the x-rays were finished. I sat in my wheelchair, stretching and soaking up the tranquility. When I opened my eyes from a particularly cleansing deep breath, I saw her. Oh. God. No.

THE PICC LINE LADY! SHE WAS IN THE X-RAY ROOM! 

"Hey....I have to get to Whittier but I came down to see how the x-rays looked and to make sure the line was close to your heart but not too close to your heart. The radiologist is on his way home -- he lives an hour away -- and he won't be able to see the x-rays and give official approval until he gets home which will probably be about 30 minutes from now since he left the hospital 30 minutes ago and lives an hour away. He needs to officially approve the x-rays, but I think they look really good. I think the line looks close to your heart but not too close to your heart, but we won't have final approval until the radiologist gets home, which will be in about 30 minutes because he lives an hour away and recently left the hospital for home."

PLEASE! ENOUGH! 

I smiled and said very little, hoping that she'd shut up. Moments later, she did. But I could tell she was thinking. Oh no. She had finally realized that the PICC line discussion had been completely exhausted, and her gears were turning as she tried to think of something else to chit chat about...

"I saw that you had a colonscopy the other day, and I saw that they gave you Versed."

I nodded, praying for the dude who wheels me back to my hospital room to magically appear. He did not appear, and PICC Line Lady continued:

"You know, they call Versed the 'forgetting drug,' and that's because you say and do things while you're on Versed that you don't really remember until someone reminds you. And then you realize that you forgot what you said and did -- until, of course, someone reminded you about it. I was on Versed once and I had a conversation with a friend that I didn't even remember until the friend told me about it, which then made me remember the conversation and realized that I had forgotten it! That's why they call Versed the 'forgetting drug.' Maybe when you were on Versed you said or did something that you don't remember now but you would remember if someone reminded you of it -- maybe you forgot something when you were on Versed, too."

I managed one last smile and forced laugh, responding, "Yeah, maybe." And then the dude came into the room and wheeled me away. And that was the last I saw -- and, more importantly, heard from the PICC Line Lady.

And we all lived happily ever after.