Monday, February 28, 2011

Yoga, IP Chemo, and Michael

As usual, yoga is making me strong and preparing me for the next three rounds of chemo. I went to Jean's class at the studio Saturday. It was so good to be there, to see some friends, and to practice with Jean. I have had sore legs ever since! Cathy is coming today for a private, I'm going to her class at YF tomorrow, and Jean will be here Wednesday for a private before I go off to do the IP chemo. I have been eating as well as I can, meditating...basically preparing physically, mentally and spiritually.

I am a bit nervous about this chemo. The line that goes into my port (located below my ribs on the right side) is encased in a bigger line (more like a hose) with warm fluid in it so it's the appropriate temperature going into my body. There is literally a hose coming out of my belly, connecting me to an IV apparatus. It's freaky to look at, and scary to get up and walk to the bathroom, dragging the pole in with me. For much of the time I am turning from side to side and front and back, to slosh that chemo all around and make sure it goes everywhere. The last time I did this it was so soon after the surgery that I couldn't turn onto my stomach and had to be up on all fours. I stay in each position for 15 minutes, and hands and knees for that long is not fun! It also felt like pouring acid onto an open wound, which is basically what was happening the first few times. It made me violently ill and sent me to the ER twice.

It will be different this time. I am six months past surgery and yoga strong. Last time this involved Taxol in my port and in my veins plus cisplatin (I believe that's what it was) also in my port. This time it's only taxol in my port and I'll be there for about four hours. It was an overnight stay last time. I know it will not be as scary, I know I will not get as sick, and I love and trust my nurse. Still...I am apprehensive.

Think of me Wednesday sometime between 10:00 and 2:00 and send me cancer killing but no puking vibes!!

Photo is Michael Franti onstage, because he inspires me, and because I love him, I love him, I LOVE him:


Saturday, February 26, 2011

Crazy Sexy Cancer!

When I was first diagnosed, I started researching fallopian tube and ovarian cancer online. It scared the hell out of me. I quit and never went back - I am not a statistic! Someone told me about the Crazy Sexy Cancer books by Kris Carr. Kris is the original warrior goddess and inspires cancer patients everywhere. She was diagnosed, in 2003, with inoperable tumors on her liver and lungs. I believe she has 13 of them. No treatment, either. Hers is an extremely rare form of cancer. She was in a lot of pain and there was nothing to be done. She fought back. She has educated herself about diet and lifestyle and 8 years later, despite those tumors, she is the picture of beauty and glowing good health. There is also a Crazy, Sexy documentary film. She tells her own story and the stories of other women who have survived cancer through their lifestyle choices. The Crazy Sexy web site is a great resource for information and for connecting with people who have the same cancer you have. I connected with my dear friend Bonnie there. Having a friend who is going through almost exactly what you are is very helpful. If you know anyone who is newly diagnosed with cancer, I recommend sending them these books. I could have believed the statistics and gone the way of despair, but she taught me to believe in myself and in the choices I make. In her books and movie, I found my inspiration to deal with this disease.

Kris just published Crazy, Sexy Diet and I just started reading it. It's not a "diet plan" although there are recipes in the back. It is similar to the Anti-Cancer book in that she advocates a plant based, organic diet. She is vegan, but realizes that is a hard choice for most people and so recommends cutting back on meat and dairy products and buying organic and grass fed.

Bottom line: we have been fed lies all our loves about what food is healthy. It's no coincidence that the acronym for the standard American diet is SAD. Since I started getting food from the Wellness Kitchen (YUM!) I have been gradually altering my diet. I have not been eating meat, processed sugar, or dairy. When I eat something that isn't good for me my body reacts and I feel bad immediately. Casey was eating organic french fries with bar-b-que sauce the other day and I indulged. The sauce, of course, was full of sugar (1st or 2nd ingredient in all processed foods) and chemicals. My body said Hell No!! Thursday night I took a sip of Casey's wine and it was delicious. I thought...well, I haven't had chemo in three weeks, why not? I had less than a half a glass and woke up with a headache Friday. There is a reason it's called intoxication - it's toxic. If you have ever over-indulged and woken up with a full blown hangover, you know you have been drinking something that poisons your body.

I feel so much better when my diet is organic (organic tastes much better, too), plant based and full of omega 3's. I agree with my oncologist - cancer treatment should be an integrative approach.

I wore my Crazy, Sexy Cancer T-shirt for courage on 2/15/08 - the day after my hair started falling out (Yes, I was crying in the shower on Valentine's Day) and Shannon, my wonderful nurse, shaved the rest of my hair off. It falls out in big clumps and leaves you looking like a deranged zombie...this photo is right after the hair came off:

Namaste, Jill

Friday, February 25, 2011

No Gray and a Day with Friends

This photo reflect two fun things that happened yesterday. First, check me out - no more gray! I bought non-toxic, ammonia free hair color, took it to Lizette, and it worked! The sleek hair style is something I can't reproduce, but I love it when Lizette styles it. It will be back to the sheep dog look soon! All that gray on top of my head was really making me feel like Molly's twin! (Molly Jones was my old English sheepdog & lab mix. Gray, shaggy, and beautful!) So, it is possible to color your hair without using potentially cancer causing chemicals. Once you have cancer and chemo, your risk for a secondary cancer increases. I am committed to avoiding everything I can that could potentially cause a recurrence or a different cancer. Brown hair dye is associated with liver cancer.

The second fun thing is the purse I'm holding! Jennie sent me a package yesterday. Jennie and my sister Joyce were best friends growing up, and she is married to Chris, who was my brother's best friend growing up. Unfortunately Jennie lost her mom early and Chris lost his dad. They are my unofficially adopted siblings. Mom and dad were always taking people into their home and family. We have a large extended family, but Jennie, Chris, and Tommy are the three I view as my other siblings. Tommy lost both of his parents. Anyway, Jennie sent me two jars of honey from Chris's bees (Casey is happy about that!), a gorgeous hippie purse, and lots of skin care products and make-up. I came home from getting my hair done, feeling so happy, and then found a gift on the porch. Christmas in February!! Yesterday was a most awesome day. Big love to you, Jennie and Chris. Some day Casey and I are going to Alaska to eat in your restaurants - oh, and to see Alaska, too!

This morning I discovered that my computer battery is DEAD and I have to be plugged in. $150 for a new one. Casey's jeep is in the shop and that is going to be about $1500. Ah well, the universe provides. The teachers offered up 5 furlough days to help close the budget deficit. For some reason, we kept the days but got paid for them also. That check arrived on the 10th and it's just a bit over those two amounts. I often find that the universe gives us exactly what we need.

Today I'm going to Morro Bay to see Susan. I plan to go to Central Coast Music and look at a guitar. I saw it in there about a year ago and it motivated me to start playing. I looked it up online, and it is a Luna guitar, designed especially for women. It's purple and has a lotus flower around the center hole. (Google it, Joyce!) There is also one that has moons in mother of pearl down the neck and around the hole. Hmmmm....anyway, I'm going to look at it today. I'm rather embarrassed to "play" it, since all I can really do so far is awkwardly stumble between chords I can sort of play. Having cancer is all about no fear, so here I go!!

Sydney is arriving tonight. So excited to see her. I hope your day is as wonderful as mine is going to be.

Namaste, Jill

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Beyond Epic Yoga

This is Jean and his girlfriend Rachel, who is currently in the yoga teacher training program at Yoga Center in SLO.

Casey and I had an epic yoga experience this morning. Rachel joined us, so we had two teachers to help us with our alignment, and we also benefited from the information and explanations Jean gave Rachel. Talk about a blessing!! We are so lucky to have Jean, and now Rachel, in our lives.

I told everyone I was going to Jean's 9:00 yoga class last Saturday morning and then I didn't go. I apologize if you went, hoping to see me! My friend Danny came to town, and I didn't want to leave him, so I stayed home and cooked breakfast for all of us. This weekend, I am going, I promise. Sydney is coming Friday night and she will come, too. So will Casey, hopefully. Please come if you can!!

Yesterday Casey and I decided to do some yoga together, without a teacher, for the first time. I played teacher. It was fun and good for us, and I discovered how difficult it is to practice, talk, tell someone when to breathe, and breathe myself! Casey said he saw elements of both Cathy and Jean in my "teaching." When I practice by myself, I hear both of their voices in my head! They are both so important to me.

Hope everyone's day is as wonderful as mine!!

Namaste, Jill

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The Next Phase of Treatment

Forgive me for repeating yesterday's news about my test results. I'll give you more detail this time! It was a great visit - not long in the waiting room and the doctor came in right away. I was grateful because I forgot my book! Kristen, who has been Dr. Spillane's nurse from the beginning, told us she is leaving to go to an office in Templeton. She has a family and she lives in Paso. We are fond of her and will miss her, but she is going to my gynecologist's office so we will see her again. We looked at both the PET and the CT scan. They are very interesting. It starts at your toes and moves upward in small slices. Very amazing to view the innards! In the PET scan, the radioactive isotope causes any cancer to light up and sort of glow. The scan I had in August showed three distinct, glowing spots. There are places that always light up, like your heart. My bones all light up because the chemo affects the marrow. We could see the cyst, but it is not lit up. There are also little white spots he called "clips" from the surgery and are probably pieces of titanium. There is no evidence of any cancer!! We saw the entire inside of my body, from my toes to my head. Pretty cool! He thinks the cyst might be causing my CA125 to stay elevated. If it's still too high after three rounds of the IP chemo, they'll do a CT scan and drain the cyst. The fluid will be sent to a lab. Yes, it means a needle in my belly, but I have endured far worse during the course of my treatment!

The IV chemo I just finished goes into my veins and is systemic. That means it affects my entire body and all of my systems. The chemo I start next week is IP, or intraperitoneal. That means it goes into a port in my stomach which has a line that goes down into my pelvic region, where the cancer was. This chemo is topical, which means it only affects my abdomen and doesn't go throughout my body. This is why Dr. Spillane thinks I will keep my hair. Last time I did IP chemo it involved an overnight stay at French hospital and I had both IV and IP chemo. Since it will only be taxol in my port and nothing systemic, he thinks I won't get violently ill like I did last time. I certainly hope he's right! IT will involve about four hours in the hospital. I will have my first round next Tuesday or Wednesday, and there will be three rounds total with three week breaks between sessions. Every time I did the IP chemo last time Shannon was my nurse and I asked that he schedule my appointments when she is working. We love her and I feel comfortable with her and trust her completely. As usual, nurses are angels!

Casey always shares his fears with me after we get the news. He was terrified that the scan wouldn't be clear. I hate that he worries so much. I honestly don't think about it much, and I go in fully expecting good news.

The first thing I did was go to New Frontiers and buy some non-toxic, natural hair color. The gray has grown out so much that I no longer want to leave the house without my cute blue hat. It's a good things it's such a cute hat! I'm going to see Lizette to have her apply the color - we'll see how it goes! If anyone can make it work, Lizette can.

I have probably said this before, but I know I will kick this cancer for good and it's not my time to go yet. I feel that I have lots of kids left to teach, and I want to find a way to help cancer patients. I want to become a yoga teacher, which is also about helping people. I want to give back, and do for cancer patients what Cathy and Jean have done for me. I want to spread the love through literature and yoga!! Pretty corny, I know.

For some reason, I am unable to download a picture today.

Namaste, Jill

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Mantra: Clear scan, CA 125 at 7 or less, cancer gone for good!

I'm sure you noticed the big "donate" button when you clicked on my blog. The teachers and Chris wanted something online for people to donate who attend the fundraiser. We decided to keep the two fundraisers separate, so there are two online sites now and two fund raisers. Have I mentioned that I feel blessed? The kindness just goes on and on.

Danny stayed until yesterday morning because he was "sleeping so well" at our house. Our guest room bed is a very comfy queen, and it stays very dark in there. It was great to have Danny and his happy energy around for a few days. He pines for his son, Grayson, who is four, so it's a treat to have him stay for so long. Danny has been a great friend to me for 30 years, and he's that rare guy who stays in touch with his friends. He is the glue that keeps our old Rock n' Roll gang in touch, and we love him for it.

Everyone is well at Susan's house! We are going to see each other Friday, which is her day off. I plan to go to Morro Bay unless my doctor has set up a treatment for me this week. In that case she will come to my house. Sydney is finally almost well and plans to come Friday night. I hope I don't have another treatment until next week. I would like to be feeling good and out of bed this time while Sydney's here!

A few people have asked me if I'm nervous or anxious about seeing my oncologist and getting results today. The answer is no. I tend to think positively until there is a reason to think otherwise. My scan three rounds ago was clear, so there's no reason to think it's anything but clear now. My CA125 went down 40 points from after surgery to after three rounds. I'm positive it went down, the only question is how much? I have no idea if Dr. Spillane will tell me I'm finished with treatment if that number is low enough...but I kind of doubt it. I'm thinking he's going to want to do the IP chemo as an extra precaution. I would love to be finished, but I also want to do everything possible to make sure it is gone for good. I am looking forward to hearing the fate of my hair - do I shave it off or do I look for natural hair color?

I have been reading the List Serve again lately (written by women who have either ovarian cancer or fallopian tube cancer) and I've noticed two things. There are plenty of women who had a recurrence a year or so out, and now have gone ten years or more cancer free. Inspiring. I also noticed that some of them make reference to the fact that they are clear "for now" or until "next time." One woman commented: "I'm in remission for now, we'll see how long it lasts this time." I can see how one can get this attitude, especially if there are multiple recurrences or secondary cancers. I really think it's a counterproductive attitude. Every doctor I see and everything I've read speaks of the positive attitude being a key factor in recovering for good. I do so much visualizing and so many people are praying, meditating, etc for me...I don't see how the outcome could be anything but positive!

This is how I may look again soon:

Namaste, Jill

Monday, February 21, 2011


This is my happy Buddah, who sits on my bedside table. I have another one in the bathroom. They remind me to begin each day feeling happy and filled with joy. I am not Buddhist, but we do have images of him all over our house. He's just such a happy, peaceful, non-judgmental symbol. I believe that happiness is a choice that we make, every day. It's not a bad idea to have something visual to remind you of that. Some people write affirmations on their mirrors. I have a red pen I got at the Next Step Challenge Day workshop that is designed for writing on mirrors. The mirror in our bedroom, which I don't change often, says: "I 'heart symbol' Casey" and "I'm going to kick cancer's A**." Whatever works, right? The important thing is to stay as happy and positive as possible, otherwise what's the point?

I have come to love hitting milestones or turning corners in my life. Recovering from surgery and from chemotherapy is all about milestones: The first day you get out of bed and walk, the first time you sit up at the table for a meal, and so on. In my yoga practice, it's lovely when a pose that used to feel uncomfortable suddenly feels yummy. Or a pose that used to scare me is mastered. Yogaflirt is also all about milestones. Mastering a spin, the sliding dog tilt, getting closer to going upside down...these things are accomplishments and make me feel proud of myself. As adults sometimes we tend to stay with the things we have always done, and we lose that confidence boost of mastering a new skill or subject. Last night, for the first time, I could remember which chord was which (only working on C,D and G), I could play all three of them without any of the strings sounding off because my fingers are clumsy, and I was able to move between the three chords fairly well. I still have to look at my left hand to do it, but I'm sure that will come soon. I got to this level much faster than either Casey or I thought I would. So, you can teach an old teacher new tricks. I can't wait until I can play a song, and Casey will be ecstatic if I ever write one. I just feel proud of myself for taking on the challenge, for sticking with it, and for beginning to feel successful. Great happiness booster!

I see my oncologist tomorrow at 11:15, so remember the cancer gone forever, clear scan, CA125 at 7 or less mantra!!

Casey is having me learn on his old Fender:

Namaste, Jill

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Baking and Taking it Easy

Yesterday morning I made muffins with blackberries, blueberries and raspberries in them. I used all organic ingredients and sweetened them with stevia. Stevia is a plant, so it's not an artificial sweetener but it has no calories. The muffins were delicious. I think we all - Danny, Casey and I - had 5 each. Yesterday afternoon I made peanut butter chocolate chip cookies. I used blue agave syrup instead of sugar. The cookies were yummy but in the future I'll stick to stevia for baking. It's cheaper and calorie free. I like the agave syrup in my coffee with my rice milk, though. It got me off my shot of coffee mate, which was not a good habit. I'm grateful for healthy alternatives to processed sugar. My Kitchen Aide mixer, a wedding present from the Librizzi family, makes baking easier and it makes everything taste better. It also makes really good bread, and I have been thinking about baking bread for two days. I'm working up to it!

Yesterday I had a phone conversation with Jack Hayward, my ex-husband. We had not talked in quite awhile, and it was really good to hear his voice. We parted as friends and still care about each other a great deal. It was a nice gift. Apologies to the woman who has my old land line number - she gets lots of calls for me, apparently, and she is not amused by it!! I'm always tempted to call her and ask if I have any messages but I don't quite have the nerve!!

Danny is off golfing with Rick and some other buddies and Casey just left to go climb a mountain on his bike. The sun is out and the world is sparkling. Casey and I took the dogs for a walk a little while ago, so I am going to give myself permission to read my book and take it easy for the rest of the day.

Danny and I this morning:

Namaste, Jill

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Gratitude and Friends

I continue to be grateful for how kind and considerate people are. Last week I received a hand written note from my gynecologist, Lauren Prewitt. She did my hysterectomy and discovered the cancer. I was a new patient and she had not been practicing long; I think it likely that I was her first cancer patient. I owe her a lot. Instead of attempting to deal with the cancer herself, she called Dr. O'Hanlan in Redwood City during the surgery. It is crucial with my kind of cancer that a gynecological oncologist perform the debulking surgery. Although it meant two surgeries within a month of each other, it probably saved my life. She cried with Casey when she told him it was cancer. Anyway, when was the last time you got a personal note from a doctor? Pretty cool, I think.

Yesterday I received a beautiful bouquet of flowers from my dentist, Ron Barbieri, and his staff. He has been my dentist since 1979. I canceled my appointment for next Tuesday because during chemo you aren't supposed to get your teeth cleaned. Risk of infection, I guess. Plus I'm a wimp and I have nitrous for cleanings and it would make me sick right now, I'm sure. Anyway, it's nice to have doctors who care about you and see you as a person. I first went to Lauren because my previous doctor looked at me during our last visit and said: "Have I ever seen you before?" He had been my doctor for ten years. He would never have sent a personal note, and I doubt he would have called Kate O'Hanlan.

My friend Danny McRenyolds came to visit this weekend. He and I were roommates in San Luis Obispo in the early 80's. The two of us and my cat Duder, that is. Danny grew up in SLO but moved to the Bay Area in the late 80's. When he's here he likes to drive around and reminisce, so that's what we'll do today. We'll go out to Avila and Port San Luis, SLO town, maybe Morro Bay. I told him I'm fine to drive around, but if the rain stops and we end up walking around a lot I'll be too tired to do anything tonight. Tonight we're planning to have dinner with Rick and Mary, who live in Atascadero and grew up with Danny, and then the boys will play pool. we have a pool table that came with the house. Casey loves pool and he loves to play with Rick, who is a worthy opponent.

When I started writing this, it was pouring. Then the sun came out. Now it's sprinkling. I would be rooting for rain all day if it weren't for our leaking roof and flooding basement.

Danny, Casey and Troy the day after our wedding. Danny is on the left:

Namaste, Jill

Friday, February 18, 2011

Tests and the Mantra

So, my PET/CT scan and blood test are behind me. Tuesday I see my oncologist for the results. My intention/mantra is: Clear scan, CA125 a 7, cancer is gone forever. Please add that to your prayers, intentions, mantras, thoughts...whatever is meaningful to you. I do appreciate it. Don't forget the gone for good part. I have learned many lessons and received many blessings, but I'm ready to move on with my life and be done with it. Tuesday I'll find out the fate of my hair. I haven't done anything to it since August. It looks pretty bad at this point! If I'm going to keep it I need to find some natural hair color and go see Lizette! If it's going it's time to purchase that wig Jennie and Chris sent me money for.

I've been home now for 5 months. I am amazed by how fast the days go by. I'm surprised that I rarely get bored. I always tell my students that if you love to read you are never bored, and it's really true. So many people have given me books that my "waiting to be read shelf" is satisfyingly full. Kimberly tells me she's sending more soon, and she always sends great books. I have read three non-fiction books now, and that's new for me. I am working on learning to play the guitar, and that's new for me. It's good to stretch my brain in new ways. Chrissy gave me jewelery making supplies for Christmas and I plan to attempt that soon, and my cousin Debbie sent me the paint by numbers Van Gogh that will be fun! So, although I miss teaching, I miss my students and I miss my colleagues, I am not miserable staying home. It's good to know that I'll be able to handle it when I retire. I'll teach yoga, read like crazy, have more time to see will be great! It is quite a ways down the road, but this year definitely gives me a glimpse into that life.

Our warm, sunny weather has left us and we have blustery, rain is on the way days now. I'm glad, because it was too warm to wear the beautiful hat Kimberly made for me!! I not only love the hat, it covers the gray that is living on the top of my head.

I am, as always, grateful for the things friends send me and their kindness. Before the blood draw yesterday, to ward off the "anticipatory nausea" I get when I go to the doctor's office, I wore an aromatherapy patch that Debra sent me. It is to reduce stress. I also took ativan and had a coconut candy in my mouth to lessen the smell of the antiseptic. It worked. I also took a bath and used the anti-stress aromatherapy bath salts that Susan sent me before I went. Susan also sent me a very sweet Valentine's Day card. Susan lived in my neighborhood in Eureka and she and her sister have been through cancer. Thanks Debra and Susan for keeping me in your thoughts and for reaching out so often. The kindness of my friends and family make this journey so much easier to bear. I feel very grateful and blessed to have so many wonderful people in my life.

This is the houses across from our house, with the full moon behind them:

Namaste, Jill

Thursday, February 17, 2011

How Jill Got Her Vinyasa Back

The biggest gift that has come out of my cancer journey is my yoga practice. One on one instruction from Cathy and Jean has improved it immensely. Both of them have commented in the past week about my poses and my alignment and how much better they are. Up until this week, I had to go to my knees to do a vinyasa. I would do a mini push up to strengthen my arms so that I could one day do it correctly again. Jean had me do one and told me he'd spot me. He really just put his fingertips on my hips and guided me, and I realized that it was not my weakened muscles keeping me from lowering down from plank pose, it was my fear. My stomach and pelvic muscles were sore for so long, and I couldn't sit up without doing it from my side. It hurt to sneeze, cough and even laugh. Once Jean helped me twice I was able to do my vinyasa myself. He commented that it is actually better now than it was before! Cathy clapped and did a happy dance when I showed her! She says she is loving watching my practice grow and that my body has changed since she first met me in 2007. The power of yoga!!

In the beginning of my practice in 2007, there were poses that were uncomfortable, where I would long for Cathy to say to come out of it. It's an amazing feeling when you do a pose that used to feel awful and realize it has begun to feel good. The poses I once dreaded become favorites. I'm to the point now where I can not practice for a week and it still feels good and my hands will easily reach the floor. Pretty much every pose feels "yummy" as Cathy would say. As I'm practicing and thinking about how very good it feels, I think that if everyone knew how wonderful it feels and how much good it does your body and spirit, everyone in the world would practice, every day. When I think of yoga, I feel my heart expand with love. I look forward to one day doing teacher training and becoming a yoga teacher myself. The universe not only sent me two yoga teachers when I needed them, it sent me the best. I have so much love and gratitude in my heart for Cathy and Jean.

I am going to Jean's 9:00 class at Yoga in the Vines Saturday morning, if anyone would like to join me. I guarantee it will be epic!

This is me, at Cathy's studio in 2008:


Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Conscious Eating

Before my initial diagnosis in 2008, I had been a "pesco-vegetarian" (Meaning I ate fish but no other meat) for about 15 years. I started eating meat during treatment because I was anemic ans because other people were cooking for me. I was not a vegetarian for moral reasons. I was hoping to avoid having a stroke or a heart attack, which are prevalent in my family, and the vegetarian diet seemed the best way to stay healthy. I have continued to eat meat, although I buy organic, grass fed beef,organic, free range chickens and eggs. I was deluded into thinking these animals had the "happy lives" the television commercials would have us believe California cows are living.

My niece told me she was reading Eating Animals by Jonathan Saffran Foer. I bought it because I wanted to read what she was reading. It's an important book, and everyone should read it, whether they eat meat or not. When the author's son was born, he was concerned about what type of diet would be healthiest for him. He set out to investigate the factory farms in the U.S. and how the animals fare in that system. He writes objectively and he presents all points of view. The book has letters written by animal activists and factory farmers alike. At times it is very difficult to read. The suffering these animals endure is beyond awful. They suffer in pain and misery all their lives, and the slaughter is worse than you may have imagined. I can't help but think if you eat animals all your life who have suffered so much it is bound to affect your psyche and your health.

I have watched the documentaries, and I had some idea about factory farms. What I didn't know is that when I buy "free range" chicken or eggs that designation means very little. They are not any better off than their counterparts in the factory farms. Organic, grass fed beef is better for you, but they are trucked in appalling conditions to slaughter houses where they are fed corn to fatten them up because without food and water on the trip they lose weight. Their fate at the slaughter house is the same - unbelievably cruel.

These factory farms operate under a veil of secrecy. Most Americans still think animals live on a family owned farm, happily grazing in the pasture. Chickens scratching around the barn yard, and a farmer who cares for them and sees them as individual animals. The reality is genetically altered animals who are packed into small places, covered with feces and filth. Dead animals are among the living, and sick animals are given antibiotics and other drugs so they can become our food. The feces they are covered with makes its way into your food as well. The meat we eat is contaminated with antibiotics, growth hormones, feces and suffering.

I will never look at meat the same way, even if it is organic and "free range." Whether it's meat, milk, or eggs, the animal it came from suffered. Not only do they suffer, they suffer unbelievable cruelty. If you don't have the stomach for the book, read about it online. More and more people are becoming aware. The food industry is strong and our politicians are not going to change it. Only we can, by eating and buying consciously. Not only are the animals suffering, this type of farming is seriously harming our environment. The section on pig feces and the lack of regulations is shocking - it's going into the ground water. Scientists warn that a pandemic (epidemic of global proportions) is long over due, and will be caused by food born illness.

If you feel you must eat meat, learn the facts. Honor the animals by learning what the real cost is when you eat a cheeseburger, chicken breast, eggs, steak, fish, isn't pretty and I guarantee it will change you.


Monday, February 14, 2011

Valentine's Day Gratitude

It was wonderful, having David and Cate here this weekend. We got to enjoy lots of sunshine, and Cate gets to practice driving home in the rain. Saturday we had lunch at Taco Temple in Morro Bay and then went to Cayucos to walk on the beach. Ben chased sticks, swam in the ocean, and sniffed a greeting to every dog he passed. Bella wondered why she was the only dog on the beach who had to wear her leash, and trembled in fear if the water got too close. We ran into a couple who had a pure bred great pyrenees and one who is GP mixed with shepherd. They were off leash, playing very nicely and being very obedient. Hmmmm.. It was gorgeous and warm and we all had fun, even poor leashed Bella. So tempting to set her free and let her run like she is meant to...but too risky. Later we watched part of The Wizard of Oz and Gone With the Wind. I made it through three hours of GWTW, but David and Cate watched the entire movie. More movies on Sunday, and we sat outside and enjoyed the sun for awhile David brought his chain saw and cut up the big branch that's been down in our back yard for awhile. Cate gave me a pedicure, so now I have blue toes again!! I love them, so was a great weekend. Thanks for the yummy beans, Chrissy!

This morning I had my PET/CT scan. It's such a pleasant scan. The valium makes me mellow and sleepy, and the scan table is comfy and cozy. It's like one long, relaxing savasana, and I must sleep in there because it's over before I know it. Before the scan I have to sit and wait for the isotope to go through my system, so I am in a darkened room in a recliner for about 45 minutes. I got smart this time and had my earphones so I listened to Franti and the time went quickly. I listened to Michael and repeated my mantra in my head: "I am cancer free and it is gone forever."

I am not allowed to eat before the scan, so Casey took me to Colby Jack's for breakfast afterward. Katie Scroggins was pulling into the lot right behind us, so she had breakfast with me, too. What a special Valentine's Day treat! I got to see my wonderful, amazing niece in the morning and all weekend, then I got to see my wonderful AVID girl, Katie. I love them both dearly and it made my day to spend time with both of them. I'm so proud of them both! I may not have a daughter of my own, but I feel like Cate and Katie are at least partially mine.

I woke up to roses on my kitchen table and a beautiful love poem written in the card. I haven't written Casey's card yet, and now I feel pressure because his is so awesome! He is such a thoughtful, considerate husband. The love continues to grow!

Today's picture is our yoga session with Jean Saturday morning:

Namaste, Jill

Friday, February 11, 2011

Night Out

Yesterday I received a package from my Cousin Debbie in Little Rock. Her dad and my mom were siblings, and mom always said that Debbie was more like her than her own kids. Debbie has my mom's sense of humor and her mannerisms. She sent me several books by her favorite authors, and it amused me to see that they were also some of mom's favorites. She also sent me a little leather wallet. On one side is a picture of my beautiful mom at around the age of 15, I'm guessing, and on the other side is a picture of mom with my grandmother. In addition to the books and the wallet she sent me a "create your own masterpiece" of Van Gogh's Sunflowers and a generous donation. We talked yesterday and she said to make sure I write about our evening out today so she can experience it vicariously. She had back surgery a few months ago and although she's back at work, she's tired in the evenings. Plus she lives in Little Rock in the winter...anyway, this one's for you, Debbie. I love you and your mother dearly.

Last night was magical. I can't begin to express how good it felt to put on high heels, make up and jewelery...pretty much in that order! I had to force my earrings through my ears and I discovered my pants all have dust lines across the hangers where they haven't been worn in months. We drove to beautiful Solvang, which looks beautiful at night with white lights in all of the trees. We had Chinese food, and realized neither of us has had Chinese food in years, and we've never eaten it together before! The food was excellent, the service attentive, and we had an excellent time. Next we drove to the Casino, and as we parked in the parking garage a golf cart style vehicle drove up and drove us right to the door. Two minutes later we were seated and Sarah was singing her first song. The auditorium is beautiful, we had decent seats, and the chairs were comfortable. Sarah is a great performer. I always enjoy it when the artist talks to the audience and she did a lot of that - she even had a question and answer session where she answered questions people in the audience had written anonymously. It was "Sarah McClachlan and Friends" and she had two other women singing with her. They both did two of their own songs and were really good. Sarah sings like an angel, and the concert lasted two hours but seemed much too short. Everyone around me seemed healthy, we were seated on the aisle, and it was all good. We were home by midnight.

This evening my brother David and my niece Cate arrive, and they are staying until Monday morning!! I am so excited to see them both. I didn't sleep well again last night, and Bella insisted I get up this morning early. I'm going back to bed now to watch Charmed (which just finished and started back at the beginning again) and last Night's Idol and hopefully sleep some more so I'm not a zombie tonight.

Here's Casey and I before the show last night. He hates having his picture taken!!

Namaste, Jill

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Overdoing it

Yesterday I was out in the world, feeling like a regular person, running errands. I was, perhaps, unrealistic about how much I can do. I went to sign the papers for my PET scan, I went to Target and then to Trader Joe's. After lunch Casey and I took the dogs for a brief walk. These simple things exhausted me. I spent the rest of the day in bed. One of the side effects of chemotherapy is fatigue, and I think it doesn't affect me all that much, except when I try to do too much. So much for feeling like a regular person. I did not make it to the Reiki Healing Circle. As much as I wanted to go, I was just not up to it. I hope they have another one soon.

I was exhausted and sleepy last night, yet insomnia struck. I was awake until around 1:00, and I woke up before 5:00. The early wake up may be because of our neighbor's charming dogs, who were barking then and are barking now. We are not very fond of our neighbor's or their dogs. The dogs bark quite a bit, and when they get out they're scary. Casey once had to go out and rescue a woman walking with her baby in a stroller who was terrified of one of them. To make it worse, the most obnoxious dog is named Casey! Their owner's solution to the barking, when she's home, is to scream out the window at them. It's lovely when she's screaming "Shut up Casey!!"

Based on yesterday, Casey's worried about taking me to the concert tonight. It will be the longest outing I've been on since September. I think it will be OK since it mostly involves sitting, but I'm sure I will be very tired afterward. I plan to take it easy today and rest up, maybe even try to nap... if that stupid dog ever stops barking.

I bought this yesterday at Target - it's my Valentine to myself:

Namaste, Jill

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Venturing Out!

I am actually going to venture out in the world a bit in the next few days. Other than a few meals out and a few yoga classes, I have not been out in public. I am advised to stay home and avoid germs while my blood counts are low. I've been very good about that, and friends have been very good about staying away when they are sick. It's risky, I guess, but I'm getting cabin fever. So, tonight I'm going to the Earthtones Gallery in Paso Robles for a Reiki Healing Circle. I've never experienced Reiki before, but I've been wanting to. It's also sort of a trial run before our Big Night Thursday night.

Casey and I are going to the Chumash Casino to see Sarah McLachlan. Casey loves her and really wanted to go. I love her, too, but I mostly just want Casey to have some fun! I will wash my hands a lot, breathe toward Casey and take hand sanitizer in my purse. Hopefully no one seated near me will be sick. This is a big deal for me because it involves probably three hours total driving time, plus the show, plus we'll have dinner first. Whew. Makes me tired just thinking about it. This is when it's nice that Stella Blue has a bed in the back and I can sleep if I need to!

Friday my brother David and my niece Cate are coming to see me. I'm so excited to see them! Chris may be coming, but I have the feeling she's still sick. Probably Coal Pit, David's lab and duck hunter extraordinaire will come, too. We love him, too and enjoy it when he comes.

It's good to have a few fun things to look forward to!

David, Cate and I getting silly with Photobooth:

Namaste, Jill

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Bella the Houdini Dog

Yesterday I was outside enjoying the sunshine with Ben and Bella when Bella crashed through the fence again. A woman and her border collie were walking by and she got excited. She had been lying down and I could see her from where I was sitting, not far away. The minute she jumped up, ran and started barking I gave chase and yelled "No!" She was through that fence in less than a second. I ran through the house, calling for Casey. Fortunately he hopped on his bike, chased her down, cornered her and she was quickly home and safe. When this happens, Casey starts talking about finding her a new home. He feels that we can't keep her safe and that she's a liability. I love her too much to consider this, and it's my feeling that once you adopt a dog it's forever.

I spent some time yesterday researching, reading message boards, and emailing questions. Laurie from the Great Pyrenees Rescue Association promptly responded. Typical GP behavior, she said. Once they escape, the world is theirs and they "lose the word come from their vocabulary." They gallop like horses and can cover ground quickly. This certainly describes my Bella. She will look me in the eye, give me a doggy grin and run in the opposite direction. Laurie suggested planting bushes along the fence line since we have taught her to respect landscaping boundaries.

In August we are going on a trip to Humboldt and Del Norte Counties. We'll be gone for two weeks, and I don't want to leave Bella in the kennel. We are renting a cabin with my brother and sister-in-law for a week that allows dogs. Casey thinks Bella will escape, get lost, and disappear forever. I feel confident that I can keep that from happening. I have never been a person who cages my animals, except for fencing the yard to keep them safe. I've lost four parakeets out the door because I let them fly free in the house. To me, a life lived free with the risk of escape is better than a life in a cage. In hindsight, I probably should have clipped my parakeets' wings. I had a small bunny that lived in the house and hopped free. He sometimes used the litter box, but I spent a lot of time following him around, cleaning up what my brother called "coco puffs" with a dustbuster. Before I adopted Bella, I had Molly Jones, an old english sheepdog and black lab mix and Margarita, a border collie and australian shepherd mix. They were both fine off leash and could, and did, go anywhere with me. I want this for Bella, too.

I sometimes wonder how much my cancer has affected Bella. In the three years she has been my dog, I have been sick for two of them. She's seen me spend a lot of time in bed. Our initial training was interrupted by my original diagnosis and surgery. She was also traumatized by her previous life and her time spent first at the pound and later at the humane society. I undoubtedly need to get back to spending time training her, every day. Still, her tendency to escape and not respond to the come command is inherent in her breed and may not be fixable.

I love my Bella. Right now she is lying beside my chair, calm and submissive. It's my responsibility to keep her safe, and I intend to do so.

Bella playing with her friend Brodie, the labradoodle:

Namaste, Jill

Monday, February 7, 2011


I'm finally out of bed today. It feels good to be out of my bedroom on a bright, beautiful, sunshiny day. I feel tired, which is normal after a chemo round and four days in bed. I have a sore developing from my anti-nausea pressure point bracelets, so I'm glad I feel well enough to take them off. I've lost 13 pounds since my visit to the doctor at the beginning of this round. This is surprising. I didn't eat much for two days after the treatments, but otherwise I have been eating well. The food from The Wellness Kitchen was delicious! I'm so happy to have this resource.

Cathy and I were talking the other day about how neither of us is the same person we were in our 20's, and for me the same goes for my 30's and 40's. In my 20's, first as a college student and then as a graduate, I thought I was all grown up and knew a lot. When I turned 30 I felt like I was starting to get old - ha! I did many foolish things during those years. When I turned 40, I started to actually become an adult. I remember thinking I felt more powerful, and that if I was somewhere I didn't want to be I would leave and if someone asked me to do something and I didn't want to do I would simply say no thank you instead of making up an excuse. Turning 50, especially after dealing with cancer once and being in the midst of battle number two, made me feel old. Wiser, less prone to doing stupid things, but old. This is on my mind because of yesterday. Over the years, I have been to many Super Bowl parties where I read my book during the game because I thought football was boring. Yesterday I watched the entire game. Casey watched bits and pieces of it, but I watched it all. For the first time I found the game more interesting than the commercials! This comes from watching pieces of games with Casey, the Chargers with Sydney when she's here, and memories of watching with my dad. Life is all about growth and change, and it's gratifying to look back on my life and see growth. By the way, the best commercial, in my opinion, was the VW beetle. I am biased since I am on my third VW Westie, but Casey and I both cracked up at that racing little beetle. I also thought the half-time show was awesome. I loved how big and colorful it was - the dancers forming hearts etc, and I love The Black Eyed Peas, Fergie, Slash and Usher. I'll bet it looked amazing from the stands!

So, today I will stay out of bed hopefully all day. I'll get a few things done around the house and I'll take a walk in the sunshine. My first day up I always feel weak and I just manage what I can. Today is the first day of my break from chemo!!

Me and Sydney before the wedding. Get well, my BFF football watching buddy!


Namaste, Jill

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Thoughtful Moments

This is a photo of my AVID class, doing some team building exercises. We have a lot of fun in AVID, and we bond in a special way. I start with them today because they did something so sweet for me yesterday. They got together and passed around what I assume was Angelica's phone, and they each sent me a text message, telling me they love me and they miss me. I have been feeling so disconnected from my kids and my classroom, so it meant a lot to know they are still thinking of me. This class stays together for two years, so we already spent a year together. We play team building games on Fridays and we go on field trips. These experiences make us closer. Last year we went to Stanford and to UCSB together. This year Meg, Amelia and Kara stepped in for me and took them to CSU Monterey Bay and to the Monterey Aquarium. I love all of my kids, but I get especially close to my AVID kids. It made my day to hear from them yesterday, and that was their goal.

Later on in the day, two packages arrived on my doorstep. Debra, who recently sent me flowers and made a difficult day better, sent me a beautiful yoga/meditation CD that will be wonderful for my private classes. She also sent me aromatherapy patches to help with stress, energy, sleep...what a thoughtful gift and a wonderful friend. She also emailed me pictures from the 1980's - one of Sydney and her sister Ande and one of Debra and I at my parents' house in Eureka. We all had the curly, Bon Jovi inspired hair do!! They made me smile.

Last night Patrick, my boyfriend from 1981-1983, posted the Paul McCartney and Michael Jackson video "Say, Say, Say" on my wall. The video was filmed in Los Alamos in 1983. Patrick and I went down there after Troy heard about it on the radio and told us. They had been filming for three days but we were only there for the last day. We were having breakfast, trying to decide how we were going to get in to see Paul, when a woman approached us and asked us if we wanted to be extras in the video. I had just been hired to work in the office at the Cal Poly Book Store, and I blew off my first day for this!! I spent the day staring at Paul, completely star struck. At the end of the day they gave us each $50. I couldn't believe they were paying me for the best day of my life!! I called Sydney when I got home and I completely lost it - I was crying hysterically and she thought someone had died. I was just beside myself with joy!! You can see me briefly in the video if you don't blink. Linda McCartney yells "Fire!" and we all rush out of the building. I am wearing a green and yellow plaid dress (wardrobe - not my choice)and I'm on the far right of the screen. It's about 4 minutes and 17 seconds in. Seeing that again also made my day. It was so thoughtful of Patrick to find it and send it to me. I really appreciated it.

So, yesterday was a pretty bad day for me, in terms of how miserable I was feeling. My AVID kids, Debra, and Patrick made it better. I'm so grateful to have so many loving, thoughtful people in my life. I'm glad that I tend to keep friendships for years - Debra and I will always be friends - and that I have old boyfriends I'm still in touch with. Sydney laughs at me, but I'm in touch with most of them! I'm extremely grateful for my wonderful students, who send me text messages, Facebook messages and emails of encouragement. These are the things that make me strong and help me to get through the difficult days. I am better today, but will probably still be resting and recovering in bed through the weekend.


Thursday, February 3, 2011

21 Days and My Village

The online fund raiser is now up to $2050! I feel so honored and so blessed. I've had a few requests for the URL, so here it is:

Apparently if you cut and paste it into your browser it works better, they tell me.

Yesterday I felt great for the first time in a week. My energy was good, and I did a fairly vigorous yoga class with Cathy. I was dripping sweat all over my mat and getting toxins out! It was great. I started feeling nauseous the closer it came to time to go in for treatment. The closer we got to the doctor's office the worse it got. I told the nurse I was experiencing psychological nausea and she said it's called "anticipatory nausea" and it's very common. I struggled through my treatment. Dry heaved a few times and came very close to losing it. I threw up a few times last night, but small amounts. I hate the night after treatment - I hate tasting it. This time I felt like I had swallowed a bottle of Vic's Vapor Rub. In short, I was pretty miserable. Better today, and going in for the Neulasta shot didn't seem to have to same effect.

Here's the good news: I have a PET/CT scan scheduled for the 14th, a CA125 blood test on the 17th, and I see my doctor on the 22nd. That means no treatment until after I see him. Starting today, 21 days with no treatment!! I am so happy. I plan to practice yoga like crazy, meditate, talk lots of walks with my dogs and Casey, and eat only organic, cancer fighting food. The food from The Wellness Kitchen is yummy, inexpensive, and overall wonderful! I will also need another massage at some point, too. I'm sure my PET/CT will be clear, since the last one was. Now the focus is to get that CA125 down from 57 and into single digits. That will be my yoga intention and the focus of my meditation: CA125 in single digits (7 would be nice), cancer vanquished, gone forever. Please help me out by putting that into your yoga intention, meditation, or prayers. There is power in the collective consciousness, and the more people who ask the more likely we'll get the desired outcome. Thanks for all of the love, support, hard work on the fund raisers and generous donations. I love my village!

This is Chris and Sue Molina, who are organizing a fund raiser for me, with the help of the AJHS staff, at The Pomar Junction Winery, Saturday, April 30th 5-10 pm.

Namaste, Jill

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

My Yoga Angel

I wasn't sure I had anything to write about this morning, but then I read my Yogaflirt newsletter. Cathy is, indeed, my yoga angel. A lot of the newsletter is devoted to the upcoming Yogaflirt fund raiser on my behalf. Cathy and the other flirts started planning this before I knew that my pay was going to be affected. She said they decided they wanted to do this for me, and that if we didn't need the money we could use it to take a vacation after my treatment is over. Cathy has done so much for me, and continues to do so much for me, it's difficult to even fathom. The day I walked into her yoga studio was the luckiest day of my life. In my arsenal of weapons to fight cancer, Cathy is one of the strongest. If you are interested in donating something to the auction that is part of the fund raiser, you can contact her at If you are a woman who lives in SLO county, I encourage you to give Yogaflirt a try. Not only is it fun, it is a growth experience and a very bonding experience being a part of the Yogaflirt community. I can't wait to be well enough and strong enough to resume my Yogaflirt journey!!

Today is the first day I have felt good since last Wednesday's chemo. Usually I'm OK by Monday and I have two and a half days of being up and feeling well. Yesterday I was too nauseous to go to Cathy's yoga class, and I struggled not to throw up again while I had my blood drawn. I spent the day in bed. My body feels toxic and maxed out on this IV chemo. I am so grateful that today's treatment is the end of this type. I have an appointment with my oncologist on Valentine's Day to discuss the next step. I'll have another CA125 blood test to see how successful these six rounds were before I see him. It looks like I will have two weeks off before whatever comes next, and that is an exciting prospect! I'll have two weeks to do lots of yoga, eat very healthy food, meditate, and get myself geared up for the next phase.

We picked up food from The Wellness Kitchen yesterday, but I have only sampled the broth so far. Julie and Jody came by with their yummy enchiladas and I had to have some. The last time we had them I was too sick to eat them and Casey ate the entire pan in two sittings! They are delicious beyond description. Julie also brought me some books from our mutual friend Natalie. I love getting books! I like for my waiting to be read shelf to be well stocked. I finished the Julia Child book yesterday and I loved it. What a woman! What a life!

So, after today's treatment I will probably be in my bed until next Tuesday or Wednesday. Then I will get up and feel like a normal, healthy person for awhile. I wish I could go back to work, but of course I can't. I miss my kids, my colleagues, my classroom, my routine...I miss my life and I'll be so happy to get back to it one day.


Today's photo: My yoga angel and her handsome husband!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

This is how I look this morning in my beautiful new hat that Kimberly made for me. We turn our heat off at night because of my HOT flashes, so it's pretty cold when we get up. Casey and I are both wearing hats this morning, but mine is much cuter than his!! I just love the daisies!

I only managed to stay up until about 1:00 yesterday, but I did take a walk. I did no housework, so unless I want it to get out of control I really need to at least do some laundry today. Today is a blood draw day, tomorrow is the end of round 6 and IV chemo, and Thursday is my neulasta shot. My fingers are crossed that I get a two week break before we start the IP chemo. Two weeks to feel like a normal person again sounds heavenly. I think it's a good idea for me to get as strong as possible before doing the more intense, harsh chemo. Right now my tongue is white and has cracks in it (sign of illness) and my skin is pale. This is because my blood counts, both red and white, are low. I did not feel as good yesterday as I usually do on a Monday following treatment.

I woke up this morning after 11 hours of sleep and decided to have as normal a day as possible. I had some coffee for the first time since the last treatment. I drink low acid coffee from Trader Joe's because cancer likes an acidic environment. I mix it with a cup of heated coconut milk. Coconut is a cancer fighting food, and my oncologist told me I should not be drinking milk. In a little while I'll make a pot of green tea, also cancer fighting. This afternoon I will pick up my first order of cancer fighting, local, organic food from The Wellness Kitchen. It's all about vanquishing the cancer, for good!

I've been reading about Julia Child in Paris. Actually, they just moved back to the states and I feel sad for them. They loved Paris so much! I told Casey yesterday that someday we are going to Paris together. I've been there with Richard and with Sydney and it was wonderful, but you need to see Paris with someone you are in love with! I also love that city. The book is making me very happy!!

I have finally reached my limit with Charmed. I've seen each episode so many times that I just can't watch anymore. I'm sure that will change after I take a break for awhile, but for now I'm done. Casey and I have been watching Battlestar Gallactica, which was recommended by Janice. I think Casey likes it even more than I do, which makes me laugh! He has no patience for Star Trek, but he loves this one. He keeps watching it at night, I fall asleep and then watch it during the day to catch up. I'm glad the reruns are coming to a end and new shows will be on again. I am so ready for a new Glee! I have never watched this much TV, but it keeps me sane on my days in bed.

I hope everyone is feeling good and doing well. Much love to everyone!

Namaste, Jill