What to Eat – One Pan Garlicky Chicken

One Pan Garlicky Chicken

As I’ve said before, most of the food that tastes decent has a lot of natural flavor, so the onions and garlic are important ingredients in most anything I eat. They tend to cover the salty/metallic taste of the chemo drugs. Even the targeted therapies leave a weird taste, unfortunately. The good thing is, though, that I’m eating a lot healthier than I did before all of this started. Spi

I really liked this recipe. It made a nice meal that tasted great and was quick and easy.

Ingredients

  • 1-1/4 pounds small red potatoes, quartered
  • 4 medium carrots, cut into 1/2-inch slices
  • 1 medium red onion, cut into thin wedges
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme, divided
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons salt, divided
  • 1 teaspoon pepper, divided
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 4 chicken drumsticks
  • 4 bone-in chicken thighs
  • 1 small lemon, sliced
  • 1 package (5 ounces) fresh spinach

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 425°. In a large bowl, combine potatoes, carrots, onions, oil, garlic, 1 teaspoon thyme, 3/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper; toss to coat. Transfer to a 15x10x1-in. baking pan coated with cooking spray.
  • In a small bowl, mix paprika and the remaining thyme, salt and pepper. Sprinkle chicken with paprika mixture; arrange over vegetables. Top with lemon slices. Roast until a thermometer inserted in chicken reads 170°-175° and vegetables are just tender, 35-40 minutes.
  • Remove chicken to a serving platter; keep warm. Top vegetables with spinach. Roast until vegetables are tender and spinach is wilted, 8-10 minutes longer. Stir vegetables to combine; serve with chicken.

Nutrition Facts

1 piece chicken with 1 cup vegetables: 264 calories, 12g fat (3g saturated fat), 64mg cholesterol, 548mg sodium, 18g carbohydrate (3g sugars, 3g fiber), 21g protein. Diabetic Exchanges: 3 medium-fat meat, 1 starch, 1 vegetable, 1/2 fat.

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30-Day Breast Radiation Follow-up

September 20, 2018

I had my 30-day follow up after completing my 7-1/2 weeks of radiation for my breast and chest today.  My skin looks mostly normal again. The Radiation Oncologist said that she can hardly tell they did anything to me. Believe me when I say that I can. Radiation affects the muscles, ligaments and tendons under the arm where the lymph nodes were removed, so I’m still doing a lot of stretching to get and keep my range of motion and prevent lymphedema. I’ve still got about 10 days of recovery from the Cisplatin so I’m still tired and working through the side-effects from that as well.

The follow-up PET scan will be scheduled in about 3 months. They don’t want to do it sooner because there will still be a lot of inflammation from the chemo and radiation treatments, as well as the radiation needing time to complete its work, so it’ll be harder to tell what’s going on. I’m good with that. I’m not a huge fan of the prep for a PET in the first place. There’s a pretty strict high-protein diet that excludes all carbs, sugar and caffeine for about a week before the scan. Before all this started, I could drink a gallon of black tea a day and not have a problem sleeping. That’s all changed. LOL All the chemos make sweet stuff mostly taste bad or be really rich, so that’s less of an issue. The real problem for me is making sure there’s no sugar in anything else, like salad dressing, or making sure I’m not eating starchy vegetables like carrots or peas. And… the one thing I can usually drink has a little bit of sugar, so I have to go back to plain water for that week, which on chemo is hard.

So far I’ve had no really good news from any of my scans. I am working on visualizing myself healthy for these new scans in December. This is really hard when you’ve done all you’re supposed to do and the treatments aren’t working the way they’re supposed to. New tumors aren’t supposed to show up in the 6 weeks between between surgery and radiation. The 2 targeted chemos I’ve been on the past 7 months were supposed to prevent that from happening and they didn’t. Not happy with that at all.

Now I’ve got a pile of issues that feel like they’re related to chemobrain and not healing right after finishing chemo and radiation, and my oncologists want me to have a brain MRI. I don’t need any more bad news.

 

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What to Eat – Seasonal Treats

Seeing as we’re getting into the holiday season, I thought I’d share some seasonal treats that I’ve found that aren’t awful on the taste buds when on chemos or other drugs that alter taste. Different chemos cause different taste issues, and everyone’s experiences are different. For me, sweet things are now even more intensely sweet and/or rich than they were before. Chemo dulls some flavors and intensifies others. For me, the chemos I’ve been given make food and drinks taste salty, metallic and now soapy.

Starbucks

Note: The website will give you the base nutrition information about the drinks, and I found that it’s not inclusive of all that’s on the menu without doing a search of the site. The mobile app, however, is up to date. The only thing it doesn’t do that I’d like it to is tell you the nutrition information after you’ve selected the customizations (i.e., dropped the amount of syrup or eliminated add-ins.)

Confession. I don’t drink coffee. I like the smell of it but can’t stand the taste. So all of the drinks I’m going to tell you about are not going to have any coffee in them. If you’re a coffee person, and it’s still working for you, you’ll have some additional alternatives.

The main thing to keep in the back of your mind about Starbucks is that their main purpose seems to be foo-foo drinks that are laden with lots of extra calories and a ton of sugar. While they will sell you a straight cup of coffee, their bread and butter are all those lattes and macchiatos.

Full Disclosure: As a life-long tea drinker who takes it straight up with no sugar, who more or less cut out sodas many, many years ago, I’m not a big fan of all the extra sweetener that goes into the majority of their drinks in the first place and generally have them skip or significantly reduce the amount of sweetener they add to everything. Diabetes also runs in my family so I’ve always paid extra attention to the amount of carbs and sugars in a lot of foods well before the chemo aspect was even a consideration. The chemo side effects have just made this process more necessary.

  • Grande Caramel Apple Spice – Steamed, freshly pressed apple juice and cinnamon syrup. Topped with sweetened whipped cream and caramel drizzle.
  • Made the way that it’s on the menu, it’s 380 calories and includes 77 g of carbs and 71 g of sugar. How I order it: I don’t get the point of putting whipped cream in my apple juice, and I’m removing so much of what makes this drink what it is, that I’m paying for a lot that I’m not getting, so… I no longer order the actual Caramel Apple Spice drink. I’ll order the Steamed Apple Juice below with a couple of adds instead.
  • Grande Steamed Apple Juice – Without anything in it, it’s 220 calories with 55 g of carbs and 50 g of sugar. That sugar is coming only from the apple juice, so theoretically, it’s better for you. How I order it: Add 2 pumps of cinnamon syrup with room. I’ll then ask the barista making the drink to add one little drizzle line of caramel, This little bit of caramel adds just enough flavor and sugar to balance out the flavor of the cinnamon syrup. If  Then I go to the drink station, add 2-3 shakes of cinnamon powder and a dash of nutmeg. At this point, taste it and make sure that the concentration works. If it seems too much, add a little water. This option is also just a little bit cheaper, too. Be careful how you order the caramel drizzle. If you tell the person taking your order that you’d like the caramel sauce, you’ll get charged the whole price for the tablespoon or two they put on the other drink. Part of my point in ordering the steamed juice was not to pay for all the extra add-ins and still get a decent tasting drink.
  • Grande Peppermint Cocoa – A classic holiday hot chocolate. Made with chocolate mocha sauce, peppermint-flavored syrup and steamed milk topped with sweetened whipped cream and dark chocolate curls.
  • Made the way that it’s on the menu, it’s 470 calories and includes 68 g of carbs and 61 g of sugar. It’s already made with 2% milk, which is fine with me, but you can order it with a milk alternative, or go whole hog and have them use whole milk instead. None of those add to the sugar significantly. They do add fat, which helps metabolize all that extra sugar, and it’s probably more like the hot chocolate we had as kids. How I order it: 2 pumps of mint, 2 pumps of mocha and 1 pump of vanilla syrup. In this case, it’s the vanilla syrup that balances out the mocha and mint flavors, so I leave it and tweak the other two. Give it a taste, and if it’s not how you like it, have them add another pump of either the mocha or the mint, whichever is to your liking. This doesn’t take a ton off the amount of sugar that’s in it, but it does help.
  • Grande Peppermint White Hot Chocolate –  A sweet twist on holiday hot chocolate. Made with white chocolate mocha sauce, peppermint-flavored syrup and steamed milk topped with sweetened whipped cream and dark chocolate curls.
  • Made the way that it’s on the menu, it’s 520 calories and includes 75 g of carbs and 74 g of sugar. Same thing on the milk with this one as the one above. How I order it: 2 pumps of mint, 2 chocolate syrup. Give it a taste, and if it’s not how you like it, have them add another pump of either the chocolate or the mint, whichever is to your liking.
  • Grande Gingerbread Hot Chocolate or Gingerbread Creme – Warm, steamed milk infused with the sweet spiciness of gingerbread flavors, whipped cream and a sprinkle of ground nutmeg. How I order it:  2 pumps of gingerbread syrup.  If I order this a hot chocolate, I order it with 2 pumps of mocha and 2 pumps of gingerbread syrup. The whipped cream negates the need to add vanilla syrup to mellow the flavors.

Hot Teas 

Starbucks has a number of Teavana hot and cold teas available. All of the hot teas by themselves have no calories and no extra sugars. Iced teas can be ordered without any sweeteners. It’s when you ask to add syrup to it that you get the extra sugars.  Also, when ordering hot teas, most Teavana tea bags/sachets can be brewed multiple times, so don’t be afraid to ask for 1 bag and the 2nd bag on the side. You should be able to get at least 4 Venti cups of tea for the price of one this way.

I noticed this year that they are offering some new wellness teas that I don’t remember seeing before like Comfort Wellness Brewed Tea, Citrus Defender and Defense Wellness Brewed Tea. I would talk to my oncologist before ordering these as some of the herbs in them might interact with chemo, radiation or other medications. If they say it’s okay, and you’re into these, they’re a calorie and sugar-free alternative to other drinks offered.

  • Grande Matcha Green Tea Latte – Smooth and creamy matcha is lightly sweetened and served with steamed milk.
  • Made the way that it’s on the menu, it’s 240 calories and includes 34 g of carbs and 32 g of sugar. Same story on the milk with lattes. You can leave it 2% or change it to something else. There is an inherent sweetness to this drink between the milk and the matcha powder, and there aren’t any added syrups to this one. I’ve ordered it with both 2 and 3 scoops of matcha, and it didn’t really make that much difference sweetness-wise, so it’s all about preference for this drink.
  • Chai Teas and Lattes – I know a lot of people love Chai teas. I’ll have one once in a blue moon. When I’m ordering these, I’ll do the same as the other hot drinks with syrups and knock the syrup down by half.

Bakery Items

These items are for the most part, holiday offerings and these particular flavors tend to work better than some of the standards when on chemo. Because they are more location-dependent and you just buy them from the case without needing to change anything, so I’m giving you the list without links to each one individually.

  • Apple Cider Donut
  • Cranberry Bliss Bars
  • Gingerbread
  • Almond Croissants
  • Peppermint Brownie Cake Pop
  • Iced Lemon Loaf Cake
  • Maple Pecan Muffins – Want a special treat? Mix this into some plain oatmeal for breakfast.
  • Sugar Cookies

 

Ice Creams

There are a lot of holiday ice creams that are really nice for people on chemo with taste issues. I tend to like mint and peppermint all year round, so those are my first go-to this time of year.

  • Haggen Dazs has a new limited edition flavor called Peppermint Bark. Celebrate the season with our rendition of this holiday classic. Rich white chocolate ice cream is blended with crunchy chocolaty peppermint bark and peppermint candy pieces.
    Available in 14 oz and in bars. My local grocery stores all carry it.
  • Recipe: Peppermint Bark Ice Cream Float
  • FatBoy Peppermint Sandwiches – Here in the Pacific Northwest, we have FatBoy Peppermint Ice Cream Sandwiches and bars. They’re a really nice treat and an alternative to the standard mint chocolate chip sandwiches. They are 230 calories, 37 g of carbs and 20 g of sugar, so a nice little dessert after dinner to cleanse the palette.
  • Blue Bell Peppermint Bark Ice Cream – A smooth mint ice cream loaded with luscious dark chocolate chunks and tasty white chocolate chunks containing crushed peppermint candies. There’s good news and bad news about being able to get your mitts on this ice cream. Your local store isn’t going to carry it if you’re not mostly South of the Mason-Dixon Line. The good news is that they’ll ship it direct. 😀 Don’t get freaked by the notice about Thanksgiving shipping. They ship all year round.

Limited Edition Candies

This is the time of year for holiday candies, too. Mostly those with peppermint or candy cane flavors are things that I’ll look for because a tree-shaped peanut butter cup is still a peanut butter cup. If it came with toffee or hot buttered rum I’d get more excited.

There are lots of other localized treats that I’m sure can be found that will work and satisfy any sweet cravings.

Cookies

  • Trader Joe’s Cookie Thins Triple Ginger Thins & Ginger Snaps- Trader Joe’s carries these all year round. They are good a nice, light dessert. Unfortunately, you won’t find anything about these on their website, so you’ll either have to go to a Trader Joe’s or order them from Amazon.
  • Anna’s Ginger Thins Swedish Cookies -A wonderful mixture of spices: cinnamon, sugar, and cloves. They are still carefully crafted, always using traditional baking trays which gives the Swedish Thins their delicate crispness.
  • Anna’s Almond – Annas Almond is the classic Swedish ginger thins with a hint of almond. It’s the perfect choice for parties and traditional festivities or as an enjoyable treat any time.
  • These cookies are very similar to the Trader Joe’s Triple Ginger Thins and are available in other stores, including Walmart, Target, Rite-Aid, Walgreens and most grocery stores.
  • Pamela’s Gluten-Free Pecan Shortbread Cookies – I picked these for the list because they were 100x better than the Keebler version, which used to be my go-to. Aside from that, there are a number of holiday cookies that are essentially shortbreads. Like Russian Teacakes or Mexican Wedding Cookies. If you’re not up for making cookies, these are a good alternative if your store carries them.

Cakes and Cupcakes

This time of year there are a few places that carry spice cakes that are a nice change of pace from the typical flavors. Here are a few that my local custom cupcake stores are carrying.

  • Almond Amaretto
  • Apple Spice
  • Apple Crisp
  • Apple Cider
  • Caramel Apple
  • Caramel Apple Cupcakes with Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting
  • Carrot Cake with Spiced Buttercream
  • Cranberry Orange
  • Gingerbread
  • Chocolate Gingerbread
  • Gingerbread Hot Chocolate Cupcakes
  • Eggnog
  • Chocolate Mint
  • Creme de Menthe
  • Chocolate Orange
  • Peppermint Stick
  • Peppermint Hot Chocolate
  • Chocolate Peppermint Cheesecake
  • Pecan Pie
  • White Chocolate Cranberry
  • Mexican Hot Chocolate
  • Hot Chocolate Cupcakes with Marshmallow Buttercream
  • Chocolate Bourbon Pecan
  • Lemon

Happy Holidays!!

 

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Seeing the Forest for the Trees

September 19, 2018

I’ve worn glasses since I was in 3rd grade.  Every couple of years I need a new pair with a stronger prescription. I’m pretty much blind as a bat, my glasses have mostly been like Coke bottle bottoms since high school. My eyes are so bad that I’ve met only two people whose vision is worse than mine in my entire lifetime.

When I first started wearing glasses, they came with glass lenses. They were heavy, slid down my nose a lot and once in a while gave me a headache because I’d be holding my ears back all day to keep them on my face. I can’t tell you how thrilled I was when they came out with lightweight plastic lenses. That meant I could wear them around the house more often without getting a headache. Because the glasses were always so heavy and a hassle, I started wearing contacts back in high school because they are more comfortable and I can actually see better with them than glasses. Plus, I don’t have good peripheral vision when I’m wearing glasses, and I don’t wear them enough to drive that my eyes make that adjustment, so if I am leaving the house, I’m wearing contacts.

I still have a pair and a spare of glasses that I generally wear between the bathroom and the bedroom and also to give my eyes a break from the contacts once in a while. When I got my diagnosis last year, and was on shitty chemo, I started wearing glasses at home more often than contacts.

A couple of years ago, I decided to try bifocal contacts. I couldn’t see well enough either for distance or reading, so I went back to regular single vision contacts and wear readers for the closer stuff. A lot of people think that’s crazy, but when you’ve worn heavy, expensive glasses most of your life, a pair of $40 readers that don’t weigh anything are kind of priceless. Anyway, during this whole process, I ended up with a different brand and prescription for the contacts, which now meant my glasses and contacts were further apart. This is important because your eyes have to adjust back and forth between contacts and glasses anyway, and the bigger the gap, the less adjusting your eyes really want to do. There wasn’t a big enough jump to warrant buying new lenses right away, plus my insurance only covers a new pair every 2 years. So… knowing my eyes would change enough again in another year or so, I was just pretty much biding my time until my next exam, which was early this summer.

I wasn’t happy with the service I was getting from either Lenscrafters or Pearle Vision, so I was doing some shopping around and taking my time. I was looking at online retailers, hybrid online/brick & mortar stores and a couple of others like Costco. Pretty much taking my time to decide the best place for me to buy. In the meantime, I’d started walking into things and having trouble navigating uneven pavements and things like that on a more regular basis. I have a certain level of astigmatism that isn’t corrected by contacts, so I’ve shoulder-checked walls and doors walking around corners my whole life, so this wasn’t anything new. It just seemed to be happening more often. I figured that I should get the new glasses sooner so that the contacts and glasses would be in better agreement with each other so my eyes didn’t have to adjust as much and those issues would go away. I ramped up the shopping process and ordered new glasses.

I’ve been on some pretty heavy duty chemos over the past year, including Cisplatin. My body’s starting to feel the effects and is protesting. My last post talked about the bruising. They aren’t taking significantly longer to go away, but I am getting them a lot more easily than I used to. For example, I’d been keeping the vacuum cleaner in front of my bedroom door to keep the pups off my bed while I was at the office or out running an errand. I’d tiptoed around that stupid thing all week. After the dogs went back home and I’d vacuumed the floor in my room, I put the vacuum back out in front of the door in the hallway because I was going to vacuum the rest of the hall. Well, I forgot it was there, didn’t see it, and snagged my toe on it hard enough that I thought I broke it. That prompted a call to my Oncology Nurse. I asked about my risk for getting a blood clot from the chemo. She called back with a bunch of questions, more about the bruising, thinking that maybe there was a lingering problem with my platelets after chemo. I told her that I was legitimately running into things, but I thought it was more of a chemobrain thing than a platelet thing because I was noticing some processing issues lately, too, like that I couldn’t read my tablet with my glasses on at the end of the day, which is when I normally read for pleasure, so my eyes were getting seemingly more tired at the end of the day than they were before chemo.

Then, that night, while I was watching TV, I started seeing pulsating colored lights in both eyes. At first, I thought there was an ambulance or something outside or that there was something flashing somewhere else in the house. Then I realized it was me. I’ve had migraines before but never had the aura a lot of people talk about. I figured that these lights were what those people were experiencing. For me, this was new and concerning. There was already a dialogue going with the Oncologist, I emailed the Oncologist again letting her know the timeline and these new things that were happening. She’s ordering an MRI of my brain just to rule things out. It’s scheduled for the same day as my 30-day radiation follow-up, which happens to be tomorrow. I’m still figuring this is an effect of chemo brain and is tied to multi-tasking, which I really haven’t been able to do for months. I guess we’ll find out more tomorrow.

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What to Eat – Apple Dumplings

Apple Dumplings

When you want something like a piece of pie but don’t feel like making one, apple dumplings are a good substitute.  They’re relatively quick and easy, and not horribly messy to make. The best part is that if all you want is one, you only need to make one.

I made mine with puff pastry. You can also use Pillsbury Crescent dough or a refrigerated pie crust.

You can use whatever apples you like. I used Honeycrisps the first time and Granny Smiths the next.  Just remember that a softer and sweeter apple will have more juice, so your bottom crust will be soggier, and you might want to keep an eye on how much sugar/sweetener you add so they don’t get overly sweet. Unless you like them that way, then press on!

I used the Ree Drummond Food Network recipe linked in the title as my base. I liked this one because it calls for about half the sugar as the rest of the recipes I looked at. Since starting chemo last year, anything sweet tastes so over the top sweet that it just gets to be too much to eat.

Another great thing about a recipe like this is that you can eat them any time of day – breakfast, as a snack or as a dessert. Apple Dumplings are another good thing to mix into your oatmeal in the morning, too.

Back to my apples. The Honeycrisps I used were the size of softballs. This wasn’t a bad thing. I made only two, and I just didn’t bake them long enough the first time, which meant that the apples were still pretty firm when I took them out. When I went to eat the 2nd one, I put it back int he oven for about 30-45 minutes, and that worked well. Just keep an eye on it so the crust doesn’t burn.

Alterations I made

  1. I left my apple peels on. I didn’t see a point in peeling it because the peels get soft when they bake, it’s going to help hold the apple together with all that sugar boiling inside it, and it’s good for you. However, if you want them peeled, by all means, peel them.
  2. I am not a huge fan of raisins in much of anything in the first place, so I left those out.
  3. I added a tablespoon or so of flour and also about a tablespoon of regular white sugar and a little nutmeg/allspice to the sugar/cinnamon mix. This is more like a pie spice mixture. My thought process was that the flour would thicken the sauce a little so it wasn’t so runny, and that the sugars would carmelize differently, especially since I was already putting an actual piece of caramel inside the apple. This part may be all BS, but I did it anyway.
  4. I put pecans in mine instead of walnuts. I like both, but just wanted pecans instead.
  5. I have some Caramel Apple Wraps here, so after putting the cinnamon mixture into the apple, I rolled up a wrap and stuffed it inside the apple. In hindsight, I probably should have wrapped it around the apple, then put the crust over the top of that. Next time.
  6. I didn’t bother with an egg wash of the crust. I *might* do that next time, but my top crust turned out just fine without doing it.
  7. I also didn’t bother with the powdered sugar glaze. Again, too much sweet ruins things for me these days.

Bon Appetit!

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I Am a Walking Bruise

September 16, 2018

Some chemo drugs affect vision. Cisplatin is one of those. My peripheral vision has sucked since about week 2 of this drug, which means that I’m doing a lot of walking into walls and things and acquiring an impressive set of bruises.

Last week, I walked straight into the corner of the kitchen island with my forearm. From that one I have a nice 4″ wide bruise. I have another weird long bruise on the inside of my elbow on that same arm. I sort of remember hitting it on something, but I don’t remember what. I’ve got a bunch of new little scrapes and bruises on my legs from almost tripping over the vanity drawers in the bathroom. I dog sit for some friends once in a while. I’ve finally, I think, convinced them that I do it for me more than than them. The other night, the Stubborn One was pulling me across the sidewalk to mark something or other. I was looking at her instead of where I was going and I walked smack into a pickup truck’s mirror with my chest. I don’t see a bruise there, but I can feel one. Then, last night, as I was vacuuming upstairs after sending the pups back home, I jammed one of my toes pretty good on the vacuum cleaner. It’s a lovely shade of purple now and hurts like a son of a gun. I know there’s not much anyone can do for a bruise or a broken toe, but I’m worried. This is a lot of clumsy, even for me.

Not long after starting chemo, I learned about a coworker who was also going through breast cancer treatment. One of the things she told me was that when she was going off Taxol and onto AC chemo that she was the clumsiest she’d ever been. She’d broken more dishes in those few months than she had in 20 years of marriage. I didn’t really experience that with my neuropathy and Taxol. I am now with Cisplatin. It’s not dishes I’m breaking, but myself. This is crazy.

After a year of being on 3 different heavy duty chemo drugs, I’m starting to wonder what these chemicals doing to my body. How long with these effects last? How many and which ones will be permanent? Sadly, I won’t know about the most obvious side effects – the neuropathy, hearing issues, chemo brain, etc., for at least 3 months. But what of the ones later? One of the things I’ve had going for me this whole time is that other than cancer, I’m pretty healthy. I don’t have diabetes, heart problems, high blood pressure, chronic pain issues, or anything that will lead me to osteoporosis. The one thing I do have, and I want to do something about, is being overweight. That said, which one of these drugs will break the camel’s back, though, and cause more issues that take me back more steps than I can go forward?

Like I said… I’m worried.

 

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How Many Times a Day Do I Think About Cancer?

The short answer is a lot.

When I look in the mirror in the morning and at night and I see my silver grey hair that’s only a little more than an inch long. My hair was never super long, but it was my hair in a style and color I liked. Now I’m getting used to a different look that I didn’t choose. It doesn’t matter to me that I “rocked” being bald. I have more hats and beanies than I’ve ever owned before in my life. Long gone is the teenager who used to go to the bus with wet hair at -20 F. I now have to wear a hat of some sort in the spring and fall to keep my head warm. Some of it’s because of chemo and some because my hair’s just growing back.

There are the scars on my chest from a surgery I’d never have chosen for myself, and the perpetual numbness under my arm where a pad of 20 lymph nodes were removed. The numbness will never go away.

I feel my skin pulled taut where the radiation has burned and damaged my skin. It rears it’s ugly head when I try to stretch the arm on the tumor side of my body because a combination of surgery and radiation have forever changed the way those muscles attach and stretch.

I notice it every time I move my feet, put on shoes or walk any distance. My feet are perpetually cold, mostly feel numb or sometimes kind of tingly. It’s sort of like having slippers on inside your feet. I have similar numbness and tingling in my fingertips. Sometimes it affects my typing because I can’t feel the nubs on the keys to tell me where home row is anymore.

I am reminded that I am sick every time I try to clean my house because I don’t have the energy to keep up with it all anymore. Vacuuming leaves me exhausted, and sweeping or mopping the floors are no better. I sometimes need a break while making my bed or cleaning my shower.

I am reminded when I am winded walking up the stairs to swap the clothes from the washer to the dryer or even just walking to the mailbox.

Three or so times a day when I look in the refrigerator I am reminded that nothing tastes good anymore. And that for a little while longer, not much will taste even tolerable. Then there’s the fact that I have no appetite to speak of and am eating just to make sure my system has enough calories and protein to do all the healing it needs to do. Except when I’m taking steroids. Then I feel like Garfield around a lasagna and there is constant eating. These food swings aren’t me. They’re the disease.

I am reminded when I remember something I was going to do hours or sometimes days or weeks after I thought of it the first time. Or that I can no longer remember a list of anything in my head. I have to write everything down and set a reminder to go back and either look at it or do it.

Then there are all of the reminders on my calendar to do what used to be trivial things. Like needing to find a number or to start or finish a task. The one that bugged me most was needing to set an appointment to check my calendar at the end of the day in case I had a meeting the next morning so I’d remember to get online to attend. Otherwise I’d forget I had a standing meeting with my boss.

Every time I pick up a book or try to read, either for work or pleasure, and I have to re-read sentences over and over because I can’t keep my place on the page. Nor can I recall most of what I just read only an hour later. Then there’s not being able to follow multiple characters or plots because my memory can’t keep up.

Believe me, I’d love to forget for more than 5 minutes that I have cancer and how much it’s impacted my life over the past year. Cancer’s just not intent to let me do that. At least not yet.

 

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