Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Stupid Cancer.

This is what Bella has:

Hemangiosarcoma (dermal or subcutaneous forms) - Hemangiosarcoma tumors that arise in the skin are different than other types of hemangiosarcoma. The skin form of
hemangiosarcoma is the most easily removed surgically, and thus have the greatest potential for complete cure.

It's skin cancer. Usually dogs who get this are short haired or white. She had it on her back leg, where her fur is thick and black. I can't believe this. Now we watch and wait and hope it doesn't come back. The only treatment option is radiation, and we'd have to go to Santa Cruz. She'd have to be put under for every treatment to keep her still. The good news is this type of cancer rarely goes internal. We saw a different vet in the same office (our vet works part time) and he is a colon cancer survivor. There we were, the three of us, all with a cancer experience. The vet and his twin brother both had colon cancer, and they had tumors in the exact same locations. Weird.

I was watching Brian Williams last night and caught the tail end of a story about the Pill and Ovarian Cancer. They now think the Pill protects women from Ovarian Cancer, and if it's taken for 15 years or more it reduces your risk by 50%. I have pretty much all of the risk factors for this disease: started menstruating young, infertility, infertility drugs, never took the Pill. I posted a question on the Ovarian Cancer Alliance and this is true for many of us. How stupid and unfair is that - denied babies and given cancer instead. Hey universe, that is really f'ed up.

And now my beautiful dog has cancer, too? I'm feeling a little angry this morning.

I also posted a question about clothing. Since my first two surgeries, jeans have not been comfortable. In fact, most pants are not at all comfortable. I live in yoga pants and dresses. I love the online communities I belong to. It helps to know other women are having the same problem. I got tons of responses, and they all said "I thought it was just me!" I had a thing about elastic on my waist all my life - can't abide it. Now I can't stand a waist band, either. I have two pair of stretchy dress pants that I can wear, and that's it. Black pants are not a great idea in A-town in the summer, fall, and parts of spring. Too hot! This has become more of an issue since surgery #3, so I'm going to need a dress buying trip to Macy's before I go back to work in August. Many of the online women have resorted to maternity pants...I am so not going there.

For you teachers who have been on vacation and missed my recent news: My CA125 went up instead of down. It went from 31 to 56. This may be due to the cyst, and if so it will be back down next time. It has always been an accurate indicator for me, though. When it went from 11 to 22 in March of last year, it was back. So, I will be starting radiation therapy soon. I have two appointments this week. I will see the doctor again and they will put me on the table and so some sort of dry run. I will have a 3 dimensional CT scan. They have to know exactly where my organs are so they can protect my kidneys and my liver. If they radiate them it could kill me. Since they removed my omentum (layer of fat that protects your organs and keeps them in place) apparently my organs are sort of free floating. I will go in 5 days a week for treatment. Depending on how well I tolerate it, the treatment will last between 3 and 6 weeks. Side effects include fatigue, nausea, and diarrhea. How fun for me! I am dreading this, but not as much as I would dread another surgery.

So, now the mantra is zap all remaining microscopic cancer and get that CA125 down to a 7!

Here I am, last summer, blissfully unaware my cancer was back, sitting on the beach at Joyce's house:



Saturday, April 23, 2011

I Need Yoga to Kick Cancer's Butt & Who is John Galt?

I thought that I felt bad because the San Francisco trip wore me out. I was wrong. It was the lack of yoga that did me in. I started feeling bad Saturday, after 3 days without practicing. I went into my last chemo treatment feeling weak and tired. Yoga with Cathy the next day perked me up and I briefly felt better, but then I went another 7 days without practicing. Casey would ask me to join him while he practiced, and the thought of even a down dog seemed like too much, given the nausea. I didn't go to Cathy's Tuesday class, and I now realize that was a mistake. Friday Jean and Rachel came to the rescue. Without them I would have stayed in bed and had another nauseous day. This morning I went to jean's class at Yoga in the Vines. I admit it, it kicked my butt. I was sweating, panting, breathing hard...ridding myself of toxins, deepening my practice, striving for enlightenment. The focus was arm balances, and Jean says if you achieve the balance on one you can do them all, that a door will open. The door cracked a bit for me today. Jean helped me into an arm balance whose name I don't recall - half a firefly, maybe?? :) For the first time, I felt what it feels like for my body to be in that shape. Over and over, with both Cathy and with Jean, this has happened. They put me there, I feel it, and it puts me closer to achieving it. Anyway, message received, universe. It is, indeed, the yoga that keeps me feeling healthy, strong, positive, and gives me what I need to kick cancer's butt. Casey is developing his practice, my brother and sis-in-law are practicing like crazy...it makes me very happy. I love yoga!!

I finally went to our brand new movie theatre today. Katie Scroggins (former star AVID student of mine who is, as of today, officially going to UCSD in the fall!!!) to see Atlas Shrugged, Part One. I didn't even know they made it into a movie until day before yesterday, and I was thrilled to discover that Katie read it in English at AHS. It's pretty ambitious to teach Ayn Rand to high school kids, even college bound honors kids, so kudos to Ms. Harrison! I told Katie I couldn't think of anyone else I know who has read the book and would want to see the movie with me. Hooray for smart kids and good English teachers! If you haven't read the novel, and The Fountainhead, you should. Loved it, can't wait for part two.

This is the T-shirt for the "It Takes a Village to Kick Cancer's Butt" fundraiser at Pomar Junction Winery next weekend: I love my village!


Friday, April 22, 2011

CA125, Radiation, and Epic Yoga Teachers as Props!

Casey and I went to see the radiation oncologist yesterday and he had my CA125 results. You don't want a picture of my face on this one, Autumn. It went up to 56. This may be a result of the cyst they drained last Wednesday, so I'll do another one before we start the radiation treatment. I was so confident that I would get a 7 or lower and that I would be done with treatment. Apparently this is not in the universe's plan for me. I confess I was bummed afterward and spent the day in bed.

I have felt nauseous and lethargic since the SF trip. I have only had one private session with Cathy, which was the day after the chemo. So, I went for 8 days with no yoga at all. It's pretty clear to me that it's the yoga that keeps me feeling well, keeps me strong, gives me energy, keeps me positive...these things have been lacking this past week and it feels good to feel good again! I will go to Jean's class at Yoga in the Vines tomorrow morning, he'll be back Monday morning, and I will be back on track. Yoga really is saving my life. Today I will post pictures of some of what we did today. Rachel, Jean's beautiful girlfriend and also a yoga teacher, participates and they are often my yoga props! You'll see what I mean in the pictures.

This is Jean, using me as a backpack! This stretches out my belly and rids me of my scar tissue:

The benefit the teachers are giving us is one week from tomorrow! I feel excited and so, so blessed. IT will be so good to be with all of them again. I miss my AJHS/AUSD community. MY brother and his family are coming and so is Casey's mom and sister. Fun!

Bella is feeling more like herself and so am I. Yay!

This is me, doing a modified hand stand, stretching Rachel's back out:



Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Needles, Attitudes, and Redwoods

We made it through Bella's surgery, and now it's my turn for a procedure. I will be at French hospital this morning, where I will have a CT scan during which they will drain a fluid-filled cyst that's at my surgical site. Yes, that means a big needle going into my belly. I remember when needles scared me. I have gotten very blase about them. A needle in my arm, a needle to numb the spot, a needle to extract the fluid...whatever. I've come a long way from the little girl who screamed whenever she saw a man wearing white in public because that meant needles!

Last night I dreamed I was living in a walled enclosure on an island, where everyone had cancer. I wasn't unhappy to be there - it was beautiful. I was noticing that there were two kinds of people there - those who remained positive and lived each day fully and those who dissolved into the "poor pitiful me" attitude. In my online connections it seems to be true that people are one way or another. Cancer is awful enough without adding a pity party to it. In my opinion, self pity gives power to the disease and just makes you miserable. There is always someone worse off. Cancer has taken enough from me. I refuse to let it take my happiness.

I'm not thrilled about leaving Bella home with only Ben to look after her, but we should be home by noon. She'll probably appreciate the quiet house and just sleep. I see the vet Monday for her bandage removal and biopsy results. I should have my recent CA125 results sometime tomorrow. I can check it online!

I'll be glad when today's procedure is over so that I can have something to eat and some tea! Remember, Bella's lump is just a lump, my CA125 is a 7, and all is well with us.

We have two small redwood trees in our yard now. I miss the redwoods:



Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Love for Bella on her Biopsy Day

Today it's Bella's turn to go in for a biopsy. It's making me very anxious. She is terrified whenever I take her to the vet, even though her vet is a sweet, wonderful woman and nothing bad has ever happened to her there. She shakes from head to paw and drools like crazy. I know she will be fine, but it upsets me when she is frightened or upset. I told her I'm going to the hospital tomorrow to have a biopsy of my own, that I've had several, that it's not so bad...I am trying to stay calm so she doesn't sense my nervous energy. She keeps walking over to where the water dish is and looking at me funny. She can't have any water and I feel mean. I put her outside and gave Ben some when she wasn't looking!

Even though he wants me to see the radiation oncologist on Thursday, my doctor thinks I'm probably finished with treatment. He talked about the ports coming out soon. There is a risk of infection with them in, and I am ready for them to be gone. I'm ready to begin the detoxing and the strength building.

Please send Miss Bella some love today - for her fear, and for a negative on the biopsy. Here she is:



Monday, April 18, 2011

Sleeping for Days...

I Feel like Rip Van Winkle. I got into bed when I got home from Sue's on Friday, and here it is Monday and I just got up. I slept pretty much around the clock all weekend. When my belly is full of poison, my body just craves sleep. The pain, nausea and discomfort mean the chemo is doing its job and those cancer cells are dying painful, horrible deaths.

Despite my housekeeper coming the day before I left for SF, my house is a disaster. I have many piles of laundry to attend to, I haven't unpacked, I need to wash all the sheets and towels...time to get busy! I desperately need some yoga, a walk, and some fun, perhaps! I haven't played my guitar in days, so that's a priority. I'll listen to Franti to make these chores fun - except for when I'm practicing my guitar, that is.

While I was briefly awake yesterday I watched "The Way we Were." I saw it in 1973, but not since. Interesting. Is it only an iconic film because it's Streisand and Redford? There's not much of a plot and it's pretty slow going and simplistic. I think it would flop if it were made today! I also watched the remake of Karate Kid. I liked it. I liked Jaden Smith.

OK, I've been out of the world for a few and I have nothing to say this morning. It's nice to be up and functioning!!

My tulips are blooming:



Sunday, April 17, 2011

Sarah Came to Visit!

Yesterday was a bed day for me. Casey took Sarah out to breakfast and to the airport to pick up her rental car and I stayed in bed. Both of my ports are bugging me, my stomach hurts, I'm nauseous...last chemo but it was rougher than expected.

It was wonderful, having my friend Sarah here. She lives in beautiful Fort Collins, Colorado now, but she used to live with me. I introduced her to Craig, her husband, and I performed their wedding ceremony. Now they have three year old Zoe and they are so happy! Sarah and I went to the Wellness Kitchen for a cooking demonstration and talk from the Cancer Fighting Kitchen Cookbook. It was hard for me because I was feeling pretty bad, but I really wanted to go. We stayed through lunch and missed the afternoon portion. It was lovely and informative and I would have liked to have stayed. We went back home and I rested in bed before our next adventure.

Sue and Chris Molina had the teachers over for happy hour. It was the last day of school before spring break. I had not seen many of them since September, and they hadn't seen Sarah in years. They live out in the country a ways and they have lots of animals. When we arrived there was a deer staring at us, turkeys running around gobbling, chickens, a rooster, goats, dogs...it's awesome! It was wonderful to see everyone and to be out, but it was all a lot for me.

I cam home afterward and just now got up. I asked Casey when I went to sleep, meaning what time last night, and he replied "Friday." I am still feeling the effects of the steroids this morning. This time, the steroids have almost driven me mad. I want to jump out of my skin!

Tomorrow I see my oncologist and have a blood draw. Wednesday I see the radiation oncologist for a consultation. My CA125 is going to be so low they are going to scrap the radiation idea. I have communicated with online friends who have endured it, I met a woman at the lunch who had, and received an email from a school friend who went through it. It sounds hideous and I don't need it, because me and my village have successfully kicked cancer's butt!

This is the comfy bed in our guest room where Sarah slept:



Thursday, April 14, 2011

Chemo Sick and Karma Requests

Except for my big, painful stomach ache, yesterday wasn't too bad. I am a big believer in using your karma to call things to you. I have chanted "traffic karma" while traveling (especially in SO Cal. Nor Cal traffic is mellow by comparison)and "parking karma." Mom thought it was silly until we did it together one day. We were going to see the movie "Sordid Lives" (I recommend it, very funny) at the theater in Laguna Beach. We were running late and mom was worried we wouldn't be able to find a parking place. Together we chanted "parking karma" until we arrived at the theater, located in downtown Laguna where parking is a nightmare. Guess what? There was a spot waiting for us right in front of the theater! Mom was a convert after that. I've seen it work, may times. Yesterday Casey and I were chanting "Good room karma." I added no roommate karma but Casey said that was asking too much. I persisted anyway. We have been stuck in the middle of a two person room where Casey is smooshed between the bed and the curtain all day, and we have had screaming, looney roomies. Yesterday we got the room they put me in for 5 days when I was so chemo sick in 2008. It's an isolation room, which means no roommates, huge room, two doors between us the the hallway, and a beautiful view of the garden outside. My point? Asking for what you want often yields positive results.

This is why I ask everyone to pray, chant, meditate, put me into your yoga intention, etc. My next CA125 will be next Monday, and I'll have results probably Thursday. Cathy tells me to be specific in the what and the when of what I ask for. So, I need my CA125 to be 7 or below by next Thursday. The last round brought it down 16 points and this one will show the result of two rounds. I am so not liking what my cancer sisters tell me about radiation...hoping a low CA125 will end this discussion!

OK, that's if for today. The longer I'm up the worse I feel. My face and chest is bright red like a bad sunburn. I confess I just threw up for the first time in a long while. I'm going back to bed now...

I literally have a belly full of poison. A sobering thought.

This is our kitchen, which could use a make-over from Steve Casci, my friend who makes kitchens beautiful:



Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Last IP Chemo!

I've been sleeping like crazy since we got back. Yesterday I napped on and off all day, had a wonderful massage, then slept 12 hours last night. Yup, I wore myself out. I am strong, but I am still in the thick of the battle. I played and I am paying.

Today I go in for my last chemo. One last fun-filled 8 hour day with lines going into both ports and really bad food. Casey goes out to get us lunch. Hospital food is a problem. Not only is it bad, they give you everything a cancer patient should not be eating. The American medical community needs to learn about nutrition. Doctors receive no training in nutrition. The nutritionists in the hospitals buy into the SAD (standard American diet and aptly named) that is created by the food industry. The last time I was having chemo lunch was a gray piece of very processed turkey, mushy veggies, salty broth, coffee, and a sugary dessert. It felt like they were trying to either totally gross me out (they succeeded) or kill me slowly. After surgery all you get for a week is jello, popsicles, broth...have some sugar and salt to help you recover!! Lame, short sighted, lame.

I have an appointment next week with a radiation oncologist to discuss the possibility of radiation. If it happens, I will go in 5 days a week for 6 weeks. I posted a question about it on the National Ovarian Cancer Alliance site. The responses I received were all similar: it makes you nauseous, it burns your skin, and you have to take lots of immodium. OK, CA125...get your ass down into single digits so this doesn't have to happen.

I haven't practiced my yoga for over a week now. I have felt too bad since coming home. You know I feel bad when I miss yoga. I know it will make me feel better, but all I want to do right now is sleep. I'll be in a hospital bed all day today, so that's probably what I'll do, until it's time to turn on the bed like a chicken on a rotisserie. Last time! Yippee.

This is standing in the kitchen, looking out over our TV room:


Tuesday, April 12, 2011

City by the Bay and lots of pictures

I loved my trip to SF with Sydney, but I am exhausted. Honestly, it was too much for me. I forgot how much walking is involved in visiting the City, and about how one never sleeps well in an unfamiliar bed. The bed felt like a slab of cement and the radiator hissed when it kicked in. I do not regret a moment of it, but I wore myself out. We walked a minimum of 3 hours a day, usually more. I tried to eat really well, but wasn't always successful. There were two yoga studios near our hotel, but one was Birkim and one was uphill and had no parking nearby. The hill was challenging just holding my purse. I didn't attempt the uphill walk carrying my Manduka, which is heavy and bulky. The hotel room was large by SF standards, but there was not enough floor space for yoga. Yoga keeps me strong and healthy and without it I did not do as well. I slept eleven hours last night, and I don't feel like I'm finished.

In the box watching the game:

Going to the Giant's game in the luxury box was really, really fun. So nice to get whisked up to it in an elevator from a side entrance and avoid the crowds. I would not have been comfortable in a regular seat for that long. It was nice to be able to walk into the inside part of the box to get a beverage or a snack, to walk across the hall to the bathroom with tons of stalls and no line, and to be with Dani and Boyd's family and friends, who were all great. I always have fun when I'm with any combination of the 4 Phillips sisters. They were all there except Ande and her kids, and we missed them. This will surprise many of you, but I really enjoyed the game and actually watched it. My only disappointment, besides the Giants losing, was that I was hoping to see a home run ball go splash! The highlights of our trip were Macy's shoe department and the Giants game. Hugs and thanks to Dani and Boyd. Love you!

Shani, Dani and Sydney:

In literature and in movies, sometimes the setting becomes a character, especially when it's a famous city. I've always felt like San Francisco is like that for me. It's more than just a city and has always loomed large in my mind. My dad attended Hastings Law School in SF and so he not only loved the City, he knew it well. My mom was afraid her kids would end up being hicks, so we went there fairly often. The motel directly across the street from ours was where I stayed with my mom and dad when we bought my first car in 1979. I could almost feel mom walking next to me in Union Square and in Macy's. I was there with her, many times. They took me there to see doctors when I was little. Three blood transfusions at birth because of our RH incompatibility left me with some issues. We went to San Francisco to see doctors if the ailment was serious. I remember being there with mom and dad in the '70's, and they bought me a pair of Frye boots, gaucho pants and a matching vest. New sunglasses and I thought I was smokin' hot! The pictures are funny. :) Jack and I lived in Sunnyvale for two years, and we went to the City a lot. We went for special occasions like our anniversary and sometimes just for fun. My college friend, Kiva, was living there and I spent a lot of time there with her. I remember JR fretting because his gorgeous coat was getting wet - wool? cashmere? - and I told him "Don't panic, it's organic!" I remember my daddy being at Ralph K Davies Rehab Center after his stroke. Joyce stayed with him in a family room in the hospital and I drove mom back and forth every weekend so that she could keep dad's law office open. In more recent years, Susan I have been going to Michael Franti's fundraisers for the Power to the Peaceful show and to the show itself. So, I have happy memories of San Francisco going back as far as I can remember. This trip adds to a host of memories. I love you, city by the bay!

Driving down twisty Lombard St:

We went to Oakland after the game and spent the night with Richard and Brandon. Richard was in my dorm at Cal Poly. He and I spent the summer of 1981 in Europe together. We did a multi-city tour, then we went to Switzerland for a month to visit my friend Nick, who was an exchange student my senior year and he lived with my boyfriend Art's family. Richard studied architecture in college, so he was awesome to travel with - knew everything about the art and the architecture in every city. He also knew all about the theatre and so we saw Cats with the original cast and Amadeus. Their home in Oakland is beautiful - huge, gorgeous yard and a home filled with furniture and art bought in Europe. We love them and it was great to spend a little time with them.

I probably have more to say but I don't feel every well. I'm going back to bed for awhile. Chemo tomorrow.

Today's house picture is Casey at work in his office:


Saturday, April 9, 2011

Angels Singing in Macy's

My sister-in-law, Chrissy, is right. Yesterday's picture was from the perspective of the hallway to Casey's office, looking toward the pool table room. My chemobrain is not as bad as it was last time, but it is starting to show up. Sometimes I type a word and it does not come out as planned! I cringe when I go back and read my blogs and find errors. I always do. This is why I tell my students to have someone else edit for them. We tend to not see our own errors, especially right after it's written. So, when you see an error in my blog, remember that I have cancer and cut me some slack. I'm a terrific speller but a fumbling typist. I write, I read it once and I publish. Yes, I miss errors. This may shock you, but I'm not perfect!:)

Having lots of fun here in SF with Sydney. Spent most of yesterday at the Union Square Macy's. We heard angels signing when we walked into the shoe department. It's our version of Mecca! I bought a few much needed items, like bras. Tossed the old one into the trash in the bathroom because it was done. I had forgotten that a bra can actually be comfortable! Bought some flat (Boo!) sandals where my blistered little toes are free so I can walk. Ah, relief! It's great shopping with Sydney, who has excellent taste and fashion sense. The Macy's card no longer has a zero balance!

We have not made it a yoga class. The yoga studio that's close to our hotel is Bikrim, and I just don't think I can do hot yoga with my hot flashes. Spontaneous combustion just might be an issue! I can't practice in our room because there's not enough floor space. I miss it. Jonesin' for yoga.

Apparently in my absence it has been hailing and even snowing in Atascadero. Strange April!

The living room from the perspective of the front door. There's my heart pillow! It makes a great yoga prop.


Friday, April 8, 2011

Blisters, Friends and the Living Room.

Sydney and I walked all over the place yesterday. We walked to Fort Mason. We walked back to our hotel and then walked to Union street, where we walked in and out of shops. I found a pair of boots that I loved and really wanted, but I can't picture spending $450 on foot wear! Perhaps I should, based on the state of my feet. For the past 7 months all I have worn are my Ugg boots, my flip flops and my converse. When you don't wear your shoes for that long, even the most comfy and broken in shoes give you blisters. I switched from my shoes to Sydney's because I developed a blister. I wore her Uggs that have real soles and heel. They were so cozy and comfy that I didn't realize I was getting a nasty blister on both little toes. Today we'll be driving!

The forecast yesterday was 70% chance of rain. Both of our phones, when consulted, showed it was pouring here. It wasn't. It's clear and sunny but chilly. So happy not be dealing with rain! Sydney is one of those people who is always cold, so she's wishing we were in Maui!

Jenna came and spent the evening with us (Hi, Jenna!). I know Jenna because she is a college friend of my friend Sarah who used to teach at AJHS. Jenna lives here in San Francisco. She had lots of good information for us about parking and museums etc. It always helps to know a local! Jenna is cool. She's interesting, intelligent, funny...we had fun. Love you, Jenna.

Today we're going to Union Square, to our most favorite place - Macy's! I'm excited about the shoe department alone! So much better than any other Macy's in California. This evening we are up meeting Dave, his wife and another couple before they go see Rain at the Orpheum. Dave was Sydney's boyfriend in the 80's! We haven't seen him in years and years, but he found me on Facebook. Fun!

I love Facebook. I love the connections. Recently a student from 1991 found me simply by searching FB for Jill in Atascadero. So awesome to be in touch with her! Wendy remembers things more clearly than I do, so her memories bring back mine. I pointed out to her that she's older now than I was when I was her teacher. :)

This is our living room from the doorway that leads down to the pool table room. The piano was given to us by Kerry and Aaron. Casey taught himself to play. He says if you can play one instrument you can teach yourself to play another. I'm not an expert, but I don't think just anyone can do this. Casey is very much a motivated, self-taught kind of guy. His brain is amazing. He can read dense, technical material and retain it without taking notes, highlighting or anything. He doesn't believe me when I tell him his brain is exceptional and not everyone can do these things. I do know a bit about learning styles and intelligence, and my husband is amazing. He won't like that I wrote this...love you honey!

Namaste, Jill

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Next Step in Treatment and Carpe Diem!

Casey and I went to see my oncologist yesterday. After my last round of IP chemo on April 13th he will send me to have the cyst drained. Next on the agenda is a visit to see a radiation oncologist for a consultation. He has a patient in my situation who did radiation and has been cancer free for four years. He thinks she's cured. He thought I was too, however. I love that he's so optimistic! It's not his area of expertise, so he's not sure if I'm a candidate. He wants me to ask about the level of toxicity and side effects. Radiation has side effects that can show up during treatment and others that can manifest down the road. It can cause adhesions in your intestines that cause nausea and pain, and of course both chemo and radiation are carcinogenic - oh, the irony - and can cause secondary cancers.

Ovarian cancer not only sucks, it want to hang out and return again and again. 70% of women with ovarian or fallopian tube cancer have at least one recurrence. Some recur over and over again, and endure many surgeries and many chemo treatments. In 2010, more than 21,000 women were diagnosed with ovarian cancer and about 13,000 of them died. That is a sobering statistic. Today they have the technology to trace the cancer back to its origins, and probably what they always thought was ovarian cancer is actually fallopian tube cancer. They are doing a study of 200 women in the UK where they are doing the CA125 blood test as a screening process like we do for mammograms. The test is not always reliable, gives false positives and false negatives, which is why it isn't done routinely. There are better tests in the works. One of the reasons this type of cancer is such a killer is that there are typically no symptoms until it is late stage. I had symptoms but they were misinterpreted. A reliable screening test would be huge. I think this cancer is on the rise. Why else would I know so many women who are affected? I still can't believe there are three women in the neighborhood where I grew up who have been diagnosed with this cancer. Coincidence? Maybe. Environmental toxins? More likely, but who knows? One sad fact is that since 1 in 75 women get gynecological cancer, but 1 in 8 get breast cancer, guess where the research money goes?

One thing I have learned is not to get freaked out by numbers like these. I am a statistic of one.

Did you know that in Japan, if a woman eats the traditional Japanese diet and isn't sucked into our SAD diet by patronizing the McDonald's that is probably in her town, she is not likely to get breast cancer. It is virtually non-existent if they stay away from our crappy diet. Yet 1 in 8 American women will suffer with this disease. Vegan diet, anyone?

Sydney and I are off to San Francisco later this morning. Carpe Diem!! Boy, do I need it. Our motel room is like an apartment. I'm going to live out my fantasy of living in the City and add to it that I'm a cancer free woman!!

This is the view out of the back door, to the left of yesterday's magical blooming plant. Our friend Casey McDonald took our ugly lawn out and replaced it with a flagstone patio and flowerbeds. Much prettier!!



Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Staying Happy and a Pool Table

I've been reading posts on the Ovarian Cancer Alliance web site recently. Women who have ovarian or fallopian tube cancer ask questions and communicate with each other about their cancer. Despite the supposed rarity of this cancer - 1 in 72 women as opposed to the 1 in 8 who develop breast cancer - there are tons of women on there. I personally think this cancer is much more prevalent than stated. When I was first diagnosed I read online that it's so rare my doctor may never have seen a case of it before. So, I personally know 9 women who have ovarian or fallopian tube cancer. Doesn't sound too rare to me. There have been cases of little girls as young as 5 having gynecological cancer. I had a 7th grader who was diagnosed with ovarian cancer the year she was in my class. There are three women in the neighborhood I grew up in who have dealt with it. This is not rare in my book, just not as prevalent as breast cancer so it doesn't get as much attention. They now think that all ovarian cancer actually starts in the fallopian tubes, but this is a pretty new discovery.

I read a post and many replies this morning about women who are struggling with depression and who cry all the time. One woman says she cries every time she has a treatment. Her doctor told her she needs to get on board and be a part of the team. There were about 19 replies, and every one of them is experiencing this level of depression. It makes me wonder why I responded differently. The first time around, I cried when we had to put Bella in the kennel. I never cried about the cancer. The second time, I started having anxiety attacks while still in the hospital. I started taking a low dose of zoloft and that took care of it. I recently weaned myself off of it because I no longer need it. Given that my mom died ten days after my surgery and she was far away across the ocean, and it was a recurrence, I suppose I could have easily become depressed. Maybe it was the zoloft, but I didn't. The anxiety was more about my mom than it was about the cancer. When Joyce called to say she had died, I felt like a burden had lifted. Of course I was sad, but I had been so worried about her and I was glad she was with dad and no longer afraid. She was terrified of dying.

I've been thinking a lot about battle 2 compared to battle 1. The second surgery was much worse and the aftermath was pretty awful. I still can't believe I spent two entire months in bed, and just walking in the yard felt like it was going to kill me. Even then I wasn't unhappy. The chemo has been much less awful and so have the side effects. I haven't been to the ER at all this time! The chemobrain is mild compared to last time. For whatever reason, and I think it's mostly due to yoga, I feel happy every day. Sure it sucks to have cancer, but I refuse to let it ruin my life. I'm here now and I'm likely to be here for a very long time. I will enjoy each day to my fullest ability. I do things, every day, that make me happy. Yoga is one of them and the most important. My mom always said I was simple - meaning little things make me happy, not that I'm slow!! A walk in the sunshine with Casey, Ben and Bella, a noon yoga class with Cathy, writing this blog, reading a good book while soaking in the tub, practicing my guitar, spending time with Casey, a trip with Sydney...these things make me happy. I feel more joy and gratitude these days than anything.

I feel badly for the women who are crying and I wish I could help them. I think that being unhappy gives the disease the upper hand. I feel like in taking control of my life I am also taking control of the cancer. Cancer, me and my village are kicking your butt!

This is our pool table room. Casey is a talented pool player, and our friend Rick seems to be the only person who can give him a good game!!

Namaste, Jill

Monday, April 4, 2011

Sunrise Yoga, Haircut and a Plant!

This morning I got up at 5:00, which is the time I get up when I'm working. It actually felt good! I did this so that I could attend Jean's 6:30 class at the Yoga Center in SLO. Jane and I decided, Saturday night, that we would go. She just finished yoga teacher training there. We worked together during the partner work. I love when my partner is a yoga teacher!! Good odds for that today - I believe there were 5 yoga teachers taking the class. If was a very full class, because Jean is epic, and the om at the end was powerful. Am I supposed to capitalize om?? No clue. I also enjoyed being directly in front of the window, watching birds outside as I practiced. Overall, a great experience. Jane and I went to breakfast at Big Sky with Jean and Rachel afterward. It's 9:52 and I've already had a pretty full day. Great day, so far!

I'm going to see Lizette at the Joseph Antoine Salon in Paso at 11:30. She is going to put a cellophane on my hair to deepen the color and make it shiny, and I'm going to ask her to cut it pretty short. Mom, you were right. You always told me that I should wear my hair short but I resisted. I liked it when it was growing out from my baldness in 2009. I don't want it long again, and it gets too sweaty when I practice. I want it off my neck for coolness and so it stays dry when I soak in the bathtub. I do believe I care more these days about how it feels as opposed to how it looks. This may be the equivalent of "I wear it because it's comfortable," Sydney!!

Speaking of my beautiful mommy, she always said she felt better when she could picture where I was. If I moved she felt better after she visited so she could imagine me there. I like putting pictures in my blog, but I have been running out of ideas! I think I recently duplicated one. So, some of you out there have not been to our house, so I took pictures of it to post so you can picture me where I am. Our house is funky and we totally love it. It was built in 1947 and was originally a 700 square foot house. Today it is about 2500 square feet. Various owners over the years have added onto it. It goes off in different directions, it has two living rooms, one room just for the pool table, three bedrooms (one of which is Casey's office), walk in closets in the bedrooms, and two and a half baths. We bought it when we thought my mom was going to move in with us. The plan was to convert the pool table room into an apartment. Anyway, I'm going to show you pieces of our funky house for awhile.

This to the right of the back door, near the laundry room. This plant has been with me for maybe 30 years, no kidding. About 7 or 8 years ago it suddenly bloomed, and had this long branch of little white flowers that smelled heavenly and scented the entire house. It bloomed once more, a few years later. I keep waiting for it to happen again:



Sunday, April 3, 2011


This is a lotus handstand from this morning's epic yoga party with Jean & Rachel. We were planning a yoga workshop at the lake, but changed our plans since Danny was here. I invited him to come visit and go see Casey play at Gather, so we decided to do a one hour yoga party at home and include him. Danny's first down dog!! Pretty cool. We have rescheduled our epic yoga workshop for after the trip to SF.

Last night was awesome. The beautiful girl behind the bar was Randi, who was in my class as a 7th grader. So great to see her! I actually drank two glasses of champagne during the course of the evening. I can't tolerate any alcohol or wine, but a small amount of champagne seems to be OK. Not something I should be doing on a regular basis, but it was a special night. Casey McDonald and Jane were there and Casey played drums, sometimes guitar, and sang with my Casey. I hadn't seen Jane for awhile and it was fun to catch up. She just finished yoga teacher training and was in it with Rachel. Danny and Rick came and then Mary, Rick's wife, came with her friend Modine. Modine teaches kindergarten at the same school with my friend Susan. Small place, the Central Coast! Danny sang a few songs with Casey and Casey and it all sounded great. We came home and giggled with Danny at SNL for awhile and I ended up staying up rather late for a chemo girl!

After our epic yoga party, Danny, Casey and I went to Colby Jack's for brunch. It was yummy and I ate things I shouldn't have, like pastries filled with chocolate. We sat out on the patio near the fountain and it was warm and beautiful. I saw Tiarrah, one of my current AVID students, and that was wonderful. I am probably misspelling her name but I love her and it was great to see her.

This afternoon I took the doggies for a walk while Casey went for a quick ride on his mountain bike. What a great weekend. It's nice to feel well enough to be out in the world again. It will be interesting to see if my blood work is as good as I feel. I see my oncologist Tuesday afternoon.

I hope everyone had a wonderful weekend like I did, full of friends and love and good food and dogs and good weather and happiness!



Friday, April 1, 2011

Integrative Cancer Care

Last night Casey and I went to a talk on integrative cancer care put on by the Hearst Cancer Resource Center. The speakers were Dr. Spillane, who is my oncologist, Nancy Walker, who owns the Wellness Kitchen, a nauropathic doctor and a breast cancer survivor whose names I can't recall. As we were leaving Casey said " Now I know everything you have been talking about and doing is right, and you're not crazy!" It was very good to hear them talking about everything I've been reading about and incorporating into my life: organic whole foods, yoga, meditation, exercise, detoxing baths, dry skin brushing, laughter, a positive attitude...by the way, after just a few days of dry skin brushing my skin is much softer. It makes me feel younger!! I feel very fortunate to have a doctor who recognizes the importance of alternative therapies alongside western medicine. He's an excellent doctor, and Casey and I respect him, trust him, and like him. That's very important!

The talk was from 6-8. They had food there, and I was hungry. I resisted the rolled sandwiches with meat in them, but I did eat some of the cheese. I love cheese - who doesn't? - but I haven't had any dairy at all in awhile. After the talk, Casey was hungry and it was late and he didn't want to have to wait for me to cook. I had a gorgeous salad and some cold avocado and cuke soup already made at home, but to Casey a meal has to have meat. So, we went to our neighborhood restaurant, the Guest House Grill. It's a really good place - very crowded on a Thursday night - but not very veggie. I didn't want a veggie burger or a sandwich, so I had calamari. Not veggie, but a favorite of mine. Casey had a gin and tonic. I had sips. Result of this cheese, seafood, gin sipping adventure? I felt like crap by the time we got home, right around the corner. I feel a bit hung over this morning. When my diet stays clean, I feel great. When I blow it, I feel crappy. This is all the testament I need on how important it is.

Casey heard many things at the talk he has heard from me but been skeptical about. One is organic food. Nancy made an excellent point: when your body is already fighting cancer the the effects of chemo, why do you want to waste energy fighting the toxins in your chicken? She also talked about white rice, and how they take all the nutrients out of it and then put them back in. She said to change one thing to start with, so Casey decided he will quit eating white rice and switch to brown. I've been trying to get him to do this for years! Of course, last week he bought an enormous bag of it at Costco. I suggested we donate it but he says we should keep it in case of an emergency like an earthquake. We talk sometimes about the thin veneer of civilization and what would happen in the event of a big natural disaster, or other event that throws society into chaos and leaves us without resources. Americans would not handle it was well as the Japanese have. Good to have rice, canned foods and water around all of the time. Good we have an earthquake preparedness backpack, thanks to my friend Natalie who is the director of the SLO county chapter of the Red Cross.

I saw Nancy Buck on my way out last night. Her husband is the band teacher at AJHS, I taught both of their sons, and she's an oncology nurse. She said she'd see me on the 30th (teacher fund raiser) and that she's on the clean up crew. What a great village I have!

Read a post and series of replies on the Ovarian Cancer Alliance site this morning about cancer devastating your finances, having to choose treatment options based on insurance company decisions...and it just made me feel so blessed, so lucky, so grateful and so honored. Thanks goodness I'm a teacher with excellent insurance. Thanks goodness I have so many people who love me and are willing to help. It makes me feel so happy and so positive!

MY computer doesn't seem to want me to post an image today - photo button won't work!