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Food for the soul.
October 25, 2015

II started my treatment again last Monday, October 19. My neutrophil count a.k.a white blood cells came back big time.

It is amazing what one more week of being off chemo and proper nutrition can do. During the week loaded up on smoothies, veggies, and salad and it helped. My neutrophil count were three times above normal.

My friend ChrisL think I should write a nutrition book. I would just write: eat fresh fruits and vegetables it is good for you. Eat organics, even better. It works. My mom would be a better candidate for writing a book about nutrition and cancer.

Ever since I got sick she would tell me to drink this native leaves, or put this in your food, or go stand in on one leg (not true). I just spoke to her and this time she says; I read that turmeric is good for cancer, you should drink it. Or she insist: put two tablespoon lemon juice, half teaspoon baking soda in water and drink on empty stomach. Really? That’s my mom. Like a good son I will think about it.

She means well, like all of you, I appreciate it. It helps when I have episodes of weariness and depression. I wish it is just as easy as drinking a get well drink. There is no shortcut to this disease. It takes you slowly.

For this cycle, my doctors have reduced the dosage of my treatment. They feel I am not recovering within the normal cycle of two weeks, so they reduced it. Frankly, I don’t notice a difference. Chemo is still chemo to me: in tablet form or infused. It still makes me sick not matter what. Anyway, I got five more days of treatment, then two weeks off. So close and yet feels like a long way.

Cheers.

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Unchanged but neutrophinic

October 13, 2015

YYesterday, was good news bad news day: my recent CT scan showed my tumors were “unchanged” or stable, and I can continue with my current clinical trial.  Woohoo!  But (there is always a “but” isn’t it?), my blood test showed I am neutrophinic.  It means I have low levels of neutrophils or white blood cells (WBC), essential for fighting infection.

Low neutrophils is common among cancer patients undergoing chemo treatments. The bone marrow, which produces WBC, takes a hit during chemo.  This is not the first time I became neutrophinic with my current trial; no worries, I just sit this one out.  My doctors expect me to bounce back after a week.

What to do?  Eat more green vegetables rich in vitamin B.  As you can see nutrition is really important when in treatment or just being healthy. Every green leafy vegetable counts.  They are critical in providing essential nutrients to the body.  I must admit I had poor eating habits before being diagnosed with cancer.  Then I made the change and transitioned to become vegetarian.  Now, I love fresh fruits and vegetables in all forms and organic: salad, smoothies, juice, raw, etc.  It takes time, like all good things, but it is worth it.

So eat your vegetables.  It is good for you.  Go Cubs!

Cheers.

P.S.  My doctors told me that the clinical trial drug I am currently taking, TAS-102, was recently approved by the FDA.  I am glad because others can benefit from this drug.

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All in
September 20, 2015

Ihave been eating salad, soup, crackers, and hummus for the past few days since I started my third cycle of treatment again. It helps me balance my system to minimize the chemo side-effects of nausea and constipation.

Sometimes I get tired of it especially after coming from our Alaska cruise where the food was non-stop and the service was excellent. I still ate vegetarian meals during the cruise but it is different when it is being prepared in different ways by culinary chefs and served by attentive servers.

I still have the Alaska hangover after two weeks. Alaska as been described as magnificent and majestic, and it is true. The place is like being in the presence of God. Perfect. Peaceful. Blessed. The natural beauty of Alaska makes you pause and appreciate what life has to offer. You see the bounties of life represented by whales, bears, glaciers, eagles, crabs, mountains, etc. You can also see the fragility of life too; that all this beauty could end.

As I continue to masticate the earthy taste of kale salad in my mouth, I keep on thinking back to Alaska and wishing that I was back there or some place else. Any place than being in the chemo hole again. I should be use to this but life is such a tease. It forever torments you of the things you don’t have or could have after making you experience the beauty of life.

Why eat kale or hummus, when there is steak and lobster.

Life can be experienced even if you are eating kale or broccoli. Some have found a way to fully embrace what others could not. It is a matter of acceptance and being all in.

Munch…munch…munch.

I have found a way to appreciate life during chemo. It is hard. You just have to have faith you can do it.  Think positive.

Travel Notes:  The majestic and magnificent Alaska

These two words are the most over-used words to describe Alaska. I could not help use it myself in seeing the (magnificent) glaciers and (majestic) mountains.

Wait there’s more: there’s the whales, salmon, crabs, eagles, bears, otter, shrimp, etc. Then there’s the people themselves: the natives, fishermen, loggers, artists, transplants, and Sarah Palin.

I came to Alaska as a tourist with every intention of enjoying the place. Also, it does not hurt that cruising to Alaska is the way to complete the experience. Cruising primes all your senses by getting pampered and fattened on board, and then see Alaska. Boom.

We took the ms Amsterdam by Holland America Lines from Seattle, WA with about 1300 passengers on board. It is a relatively medium-size boat with a crew of about 600. Most of the passenger were retired but active. This boat does not cater too much to kids, which most passengers like since it is quite. I belong to that group. The idea is to relax and see kids running around. If you want fun for kids, go for Disney cruise or Carnival.

The service staff were mostly from Indonesia and the Philippines. I got to meet fellow “kababayans” (countrymen). The trip was smooth except when we hit the open sea going to Sitka, AK. There was strong winds and I vomited in my room. I am use to vomits but there goes my dinner.

Here are some pictures we took.

Cheers.

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Banquet of life: It is free.
August 15, 2015

At mass, the priest told the story of an immigrant family on a ship bound for the US.  The father and his family kept to themselves in their cabin with their food and belongings.  Until the son ventured outside and found himself in a banquet of food, eating to his heart’s content.  The father found the son and was worried how he was suppose to pay for all the food his son ate, and the possibility of jail sentence.  The son saw the worried look of his father, and said:

Father, it is free.  It is part of our passage.

Life has many things to offer and it is free for us to enjoy.  Everyday we wake up is a gift, as many have said.

That gift was recently enhanced by the news that my CT scan last August 7 was good and I can remain in my current clinical trial.  I know I should have written much earlier as some of my friends have already sent messages asking for news.  I am sorry but I was busy in a banquet.

Stable was in the medical impression.  It means my current clinical trial is containing the tumor growths in my lungs and liver.

Unfortunately, my white blood cell (WBC) count took a hit, and I was not allowed to started my third cycle last August 10th, Monday.  A low WBC makes me susceptible to infection and further treatment would make it worse.  My doctors delayed my next cycle for a week to August 17.

So I have been busy eating any thing that will increase my WBC.  I can almost hear my mother prescribing the latest herbal diet she heard of to increase white blood counts.  Stop it, Mom.

There are drugs out there that can boost your WBC, like Neulasta, which is injected under the skin.  It is painful, expensive, but it works.  However, I am in a clinical trial program and cannot take it.  Instead, I am eating my way like a rabbit: kale, spinach, broccoli, hemp., etc.  More kale, spinach, organics, etc.  You know what I mean.  I am also keeping active by walking and yoga.

Living with cancer, and restricted by the clinical trial rules, is not exactly easy but I am not complaining.  Right now, this drug has given reprieved in the growth of my tumors and gave me another week of chemo holiday.  However, I am not naive to say I am cured only that I am still here.  I know how this works.  It is a matter of time that my cancer will adapt and I myself would have to adapt as well.

In the meantime there is the banquet of life to partake of, and it is free.  Come and enjoy it with me…in appreciative moderation.

Cheers.

P.S. My doctors warned me that they might have to reduce the dosage of my treatment to help maintain my WBC.  Huh?  This is like winning fight by a draw resulting from a stable scan but next time they tie one hand to your back because your WBC is low.  WTF.  Later in the week they double-checked the counts and said, there was no need to reduce my dosage.  I was .02 above the limit.  Whew.  I am glad .02 is not the alcohol-limit test otherwise I would have been in jail for drunk driving.

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It is official:  I am out.

March 1, 2015

I

I am officially out of my current clinical trial because they have determined I am (again) no longer responding to the treatment.  I have exceeded the growth threshold.

Now, we look for another one that I can enter.  Needless to say this journey is just frustrating.  I have traveled far and long with this cancer.  I have had victories and defeats, lately, it is more of the later.

I will meet with my doctors again this week to discuss my other clinical trial option.  We have stopped my treatments and will not expect to have one in the next four weeks.  This is to wash out the trial drug in my system before entering a new trial.

I should be rejoicing, especially since they are stopping my chemo.  You have heard me say before: I hate chemo.  Now it stopped it feels weird, awkward, like a break-up.  What do you say after?  It is as if somebody took my security blanket.  I am lost.  I am hanging untethered for the next four weeks. Hopefully, I find the answer in Jerusalem and Rome, if not peace.

Cheers.

 

 

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Lenten Season: Journey to Calgary

February 18, 2015

TToday is Ash Wednesday, the officially start of the Lenten season for Catholics.  Yesterday was Fat Tuesday, pig-out day before the fasting starts, and it is Mardi Gras time in New Orleans and Rio de Janeiro.  My office-friend, Mary AnnG, told me she was going to go to her church’s Shrove Tuesday or Pancake Day.  That should be fun.

Looking back to last year’s Lenten season I marked it by attempting to become a vegan.  The experiment for Lent was to give up my favorite Japanese ramen but along the way ended up as a vegetarian.  I already gave up eating beef and pork long time ago, then I took out poultry meat and its associated products, and then the hardest was to give up because it was my favorite: fish and seafood.  As vegetarian I made an exception to cheese because of runner’s power food, pizza. Then of course, it would not hurt to indulgence once in a while on brie, camembert, and blue cheese.  Yum.

The intention then was to prune and grow.  Give up something to make room for new and better things.

Better things: it is relative.  It is anchored on what each of us value most.  My journey  with cancer puts me in a different category that only fellow cancer survivors would understand.  However, I must acknowledge I have bouts of “buyer’s remorse” or episodes of regrets.  I gave up many things, at times reluctantly but mostly willingly, for a long shot, a chance, a moment, to live life without cancer.  Then, when it does not workout as I expect it, I sulk.

Remind me again: Why I did gave up steak or fish or coffee or half a liver for what?”

Looking ahead, I am looking forward to our pilgrimage trip to Jerusalem and Rome.  It is not only for the chance to run a half marathon in Jerusalem, it is more solemn than that.  The trip coincides with my 7th year anniversary of being diagnose with cancer.  Thus, for this Lent I am not going to pledge or give up anything to grow; technically, I have been fasting by not eating meat for a long time now.

“You got to have an intention for your practice”, my yoga teachers would say.

For this Lent, the intention is to accept the cross I am asked to carry.  Do the 14 Station of the Cross or the via Dolorosa in Jerusalem by carrying my cross all the way to Calgary (Golgotha).  I want to experience the struggle of Jesus at the Garden of Gethsemane: Why was Jesus asked to carry the cross to certain death?  Why am I being asked this?  Perhaps after understanding it, I can shed off my agnostic feeling towards religion.  I am not perfect but I am being asked to do something I cannot fully comprehend or accept when others live fully without remorse.  It is not bitterness that I feel, perhaps anger, but in the end it just does not compute.

Cheers.

P.S. Today at the hospital, a chaplain came to my room to give me ashes on my forehead.  An ashen cross marks my forehead to start my Lenten journey.  Good luck! – a common meaningful greeting among cancer patients and survivors.

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The uncertain future.
January 25, 2014

Tomorrow is certainly going to come but sometimes I am not certain I will be there.  The promise of tomorrow is always just hours away and there is certainty in its arrival. With such certainty and hope I find myself lost at times.

 My tumor is active again, specifically the right one in my lung: a stubborn one.  For now, it is not enough for me to get bumped off my current clinical trial its growth is still within the 20% limit.  Besides the other nodule, the one on the left, exhibited minimal decrease in size, so for now I am considered “stable.”  Whew.

Stable is a temporary state.  It is not permanent.  It is more like a goal (like finding stability) that is very hard to achieve.  When threatened, there is uncertainty and anxiety: not fun.

My state of stability was recently shaken when my clinical trial doctors broached the subject of other clinical trials that is open for me, and those that are coming down the pipeline.  I can tell right away the muted concern they have no matter how delicately things are explained to me.  I know.  So the net is, it is a matter of “when” I will move not “if” I will move.

Hope is a very precious commodity when stability is challenge.  I have been in this situation before.  The easy part is the move, it is what changes or what you give up as part of the change that is harder to accept.

When to move?  Hey, I am a gerbil spinning on a wheel stuck.  Where do you think I am going?  I am stuck and unbalanced.

Cheers.

P.S.  Wednesday, January 28, is next treatment.

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