I am house sitting a bestie’s house this weekend and I just love sitting in the recliner in the big bay window looking at the sun seep into the house. The two dogs (whom I had to fight for bed space last night) are soaking up the rays as well. Being trapped inside because you don’t feel well can play tricks on your mind, but being trapped inside because you don’t feel well while the temperature outsid in the negative and single digits can really be a huge disappointment. I know I am one of those people who need a daily dose of the outdoors to perk me up, but the feeling of exhaustion I have everyday mixed with such cold weather doesn’t even allow me the opportunity to stick my foot outside. Being cold makes me especially miserable (the next time I have a hot flash I should run out there then maybe it wont be so bad). A lot of women who have done chemo have told me (or rather warned me) throughout the past few months that the treatment is accumulative. Now I understand what they mean. It means the side effects of the chemo get more intense as you continue and they last longer. For me it has been the exhaustion. I have also been warned it will take some time, months, before you can feel like you’ve got back your normal level of energy. My normal level has been nonexistent for a few years because of living in a tropical country where exercise wasn’t exactly part of people’s daily habits. Walking to nowhere for no reason just doesn’t make sense. If I went for a walk, just to walk, I would have to make up a fake reason, like “I’m going to the grocery store on the other side of town”, so people wouldn’t think I was weird, or get up at 5am, before the sun rise (when it was much cooler), to walk in the dark before the town woke up. During the day, it was so stinking hot that any motivation I had would be blown away by my electric fan (I would cry sometimes when the electricity would go out, which happened sometimes 5 times a week without warning). I jealously remember those days when I couldn’t wait to set out for a run, or hike to my favorite spot. I’m jealous of my old me. Thankfully, the road to recovery and health is in sight as I was awarded a scholarship to attend a health spa for three weeks.
In April, I will go to the Hippocrates Health Institute in West Palm Beach, Florida. It is interesting to think about how I discovered that place, a few months before I even knew I had a tumor. During the last few months of my Peace Corps service, I was feeling run down and defeated. My energy was low and I battled headaches. Again, no one could figure out why. My thyroid was functioning normal, and all my blood work indicated things were fine. Maybe this is where the MTHFR gene mutation comes into play, it certainly would explain a lot. Or maybe it was the fact I had cancer in my lymph system but hadn’t discovered it yet, but I don’t know. I had got my hands on a documentary called Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead. (In PC we swap external hard drives and steal all the movies and TV shows we could to kill boredom, so in the end we all end up watching the exact same things. I never watched so much TV in my life before PC) I watched it with my friend, Laura who lived near me and it sparked my interest to find out more. Next thing we know we are watching all kinds of documentaries about food and health on my little netbook often times in the dark during a brownout praying my battery doesn’t die. Laura and I decided to do a raw food smoothie challenge for 5 days, which became tricky when in the middle of the challenge we had another brownout. It's kind of hard to make smoothies when you have no electricity, so we turned into just a raw food challenge (which consisted of mostly mangoes and pineapples). I then started to download "cook" books on raw foods and reading about how to make things like raw cheesecakes and raw crackers, of course things that were impossible to make over there because of the lack of ingredients and equipment needed. Then I started researching places to go to learn about living foods and how to prepare them. It was my way of day dreaming about getting back to a healthy me, and that research had lead me to the Hippocrates Health Institute, among other places. It was quickly apparent the Hippocrates Health Institute was great place for people who had a serious illness, or was recovering from a serious illness to reclaim their life, so I continued to search for a place that was less expensive and not as intense. At that time, I was basically looking for a raw food cooking class, but then I found my tumor.
I have now met people who have gone to HHI. Right after my biopsy, my mom and I took a detour home to find the only raw food cafe in VT. The women who owns the cafe knew all about that place and gave us an armful of free magazines that HHI publishes. She also put me in contact with a women that attended who told me about the scholarship program. And lastly, my primary knew about the place and agreed it was an excellent place for me to go. So, I applied for the scholarship and was granted an 80% discount on their 3 week program! I’m really good a proving how poor I am, thank you Peace Corps!
So I’m going to Cancer Fat Camp, as it is known to me, and I cannot wait. I admit I’m not super excited about quitting coffee as I know there will be none there for the entire 3 weeks, but I will start weaning myself now. It is a small price to pay to get my health back. I will be attending healthy living classes everyday and my health will be monitored by doctors and therapists. They have a variety of exercises classes I can attend on my “off” time as well as a pool and bicycle to peddle around campus. They also have a spa where I can add additional services like manicures and massages (I think I get 1 massage a week included though). My mom will attend for a week with me so she can learn the basics to not only help me, but to benefit herself, although she’s a little nervous about all the restrictions (we have to bring only all natural products, like deodorants and lotions). The news about the scholarship came at the perfect time as I am about to end the phase of my cancer treatment and start the next.
On Monday, January 28th, 2013, I will have my last chemotherapy infusion, 106 days after I got my first infusion on October 15, 2012. It is an extremely exciting time for me, but it also means it is time to make some difficult decisions as I move towards the surgery phase of my treatment. I have a lot of unanswered questions still, which I hope to get answers for in the next 2 weeks. Whatever I decide to do, I’ll have about a month without any cancer treatment before my surgery and that means a month of looking for any signs of hair growth :). I’m told it will take some time before I see any significant hair, but it’s exciting to think about the day when I notice my first sprouts.
Since I’m on a roll of good news, yesterday I was notified that my workman’s compensation claim with Department of Labor has been accepted. This means for the rest of my life, anything to do with the cancer i currently have will be covered, meaning if 5, 10, 20 years down the road I have a recurrence, I will not have to worry about how to pay for treatment. This is great news, especially if I have crappy insurance; however, if I get a new breast cancer that is a totally different ball game. This news is one more thing to put my mind at ease. It’s sad we have to worry about inadequate medical insurance in this country. It doesn't seem right that people have to worry about how to pay for things like life saving chemotherapy and surgery. I believe, now more than ever, that health care is most certainly a human right.