Sunday, September 17, 2017

What Have I Been Up To?

Well, I just realized it's been several months since I posted.  Life has been BUSY!  Let's see if I can give you some updates....


Back in May, I discovered another lump in my right armpit, where I originally found cancer.  The Oncologist and I agreed to keep an eye on it to see if it grew.  It was hard and fixed in place, and the doctor suggested that it's most likely cancer.  Because it was still there in July, we agreed to do a PET Scan to see where else cancer may have spread.   Turns out, it was scar tissue and there is NO CANCER in my body.  Even the tumor that used to be in my left shoulder is gone!  






During this time of worry, my boyfriend talked me into putting in an above ground pool for the kids.  It would help us ALL relax....  And in my brain, I'm thinking I'll just put it all on the credit card because I'm going to die from all this cancer anyway.  Yes, I realize this wasn't a great idea, especially because it turned out to be scar tissue, but it made sense at the time.  My kids wanted to have some summer fun, and this inflatable was not what they were looking for. 




But what I didn't realize was, my medically fragile child, Eliah, would make HUGE strides in learning to use his body in the pool.  I have been so proud that it brings me to tears.  He loves the freedom, and he tries so hard to move and swim.  He can even hold his breath under water!  

Here's what the pool looks like, and video of Eliah trying to swim is included.  I still have to build a bar top, but that will probably happen next year.  Who knows, I might even put a surfboard up there as the bar.  We'll see what I come up with.






My swimmer!  It takes him a long time for his brain to move the right parts of his body, but he is trying to figure it out.  It's exciting, because it's the ONLY time he is not restricted by a chair, floor, weight of his body, or someone holding him. 




We even installed a lift to get him in and out of the pool.




I also tried gardening again this year.  FAIL.  My tomato plants turned out to look Charlie Brown Christmas trees.  I will admit it wasn't a priority this year.



Now, on to my other projects this year.  Christmas day last year, I decided that I needed the wall down between my dining room and kitchen.  It's a small dining room that only gathers mail. And I would rather have a huge kitchen than a small galley kitchen and small dining room.  So, without asking, I volunteered my supportive and patient boyfriend to help me.  He was not too sure about doing this on Christmas....




Nevertheless, construction started, and we both worked really hard to turn this into a modern kitchen.  I sold the dining table, an armoire and an aquarium, which paid for some new cabinets.  The rest of the cabinets were either already there, or I got them free from my old work.  Pretty much everything stayed where it was in the kitchen, and I just added the island top, new floors, and new lighting (which I installed all by myself with the help of youtube videos).

Here are the before pics...







And here's the after pics....








Needless to say, I LOVE cooking in the kitchen now.  We did all the work ourselves, with exception of scraping the popcorn ceiling and laying the floors.  By that point, I was done messing with it and hired a neighbor to do it.  But I think overall it's a huge difference, without having to spend a whole lot of money.  It doesn't hurt that it increased the property value.  In the six years I've been in this house, I've gained about $100k in equity with the market and improvements.  That's exciting!

Now on to the people in my life...

Natalie is now 13years old and in the 8th grade.  Not sure how that happened so fast, but I'm so proud of her.  She works hard, reads lots of books, and is one of the kindest souls I've ever known.




Eliah is now 10years old and in the 5th grade.  He LOVES school and his teacher.  The best part is that they see how smart he is and work with his skill level.  They don't talk around him, they talk to him.



I got to see my dad, stepmom and niece a few weeks ago.  It's hard to believe it's been three whole years since I've seen them!



My boyfriend, Tim, and I have been going strong three whole years.  He's been working so hard at building business, and I love seeing him take advantage of all of his potential.  He is an architectural designer, home inspector, investor, saxophone player and apparent kitchen remodeler.  He loves my family, and always makes me feel special.  I think I lucked out big time with him.



To see some of his cabin designs or to go like his home inspection page, look him up here.

And me, I'm having a good year I believe.  It wasn't my favorite starting out, because I hated my job as a hospice rep.  HATED IT!  Part of it was because the company I worked for didn't have a clue what they were doing.  And part of it was because I just didn't enjoy the work I was doing. I was miserable.

But I recently started a new job, back in the world of industrial supplies.  I work for an interesting company that sells fasteners and industrial supplies to large manufacturers (BMW, Michelin, GE, Etc).  And so far, I really enjoy it.  Ever watched that show How It's Made?  I get to go see production lines in person.  I went to a Kayak manufacturer the other day, then saw how fuel tanks for cars were made, and next week, I get to see how dishwashers are made.  It's actually pretty cool!  

This is the little milk truck they gave me to drive every day.  My daughter is none to thrilled about being dropped off at school in it.



I also reached another milestone.  I am now a four year cancer survivor!  How on earth did these last four years go so fast?   I still take my supplements every day.  My blood work looks fantastic.



And, if you don't recall, I posted a while back about weight gain. Well, I finally got a handle on the weight gain after chemo.  I had too much estrogen, few too many carbs, and I was miserable from my job.  I also discovered that not all calories are created equal.  After four months on the Ketogenic Diet (which is also good for cancer survivors), I'm down about 30lbs.  I'd like about 10 more gone, but this has been a good start.  I have so much more energy, great bloodwork, and I still get to eat bacon.   This is kind of embarrassing, but here is a before and in progress pic.  Note the stomach area in the before pic (yuck).  The before pic was actually after I had lost 8lbs.  Geesh.



Anyway, that's about all that's been going on this year.  I will try to do better in keeping up.  I know I always worry when a cancer survivor that blogs goes silent.  But I'm here, very healthy, and doing my best to keep up with life!  

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

You Know How I Love to DIY

With my son Eliah growing, and recent discussions of how to affordably bathe a special needs child, I decided to take matters into my own hands and build a bath. You know my motto, "If someone else can do it, so can I".   I mainly did it for two reasons.... One, to make it easier to bathe Eliah.  And two, I wanted to prove it doesn't take a fortune to make this possible.

So I looked online and found this bath.... for $1700.... (holy moly that's a lot)


But when you look at it, it's just PVC.  And if you know me, you know I love to work with PVC to make projects for Eliah. It seemed doable.  Besides, there's no way I could or would pay $1700 for one.

The main thing I needed to remember was, I don't have an 8ft long shower to roll this in, so I needed to make it a manageable size.   Eliah is tall, but there are ways to make it workable for him.  Eventually, when he is an adult size, I will probably make something that he sits more upright.  There's really no need for him to lay completely flat. There's never going to be room for a full-sized gurney in my house.

Anyway, I started with 1 1/2" PVC and made a frame.... And remember, I've never done this before, so don't be too judgmental.  I gave up on making an exact replica of the above bath, and I just made it up as I went along.  It's very sturdy, and it's held together with PVC Cement and screws.



Then I added two layers of foam rubber flooring, so that it will be padded for Eliah.


Then I added flexible plastic around the edge of the tub area, so that the sides will be firm for the liner and hold in water.  Even Natalie got in on the build!


Next, I added locking casters to the legs.


Then, I debated on how to make a water liner.  I originally bought a pond liner for $49, but then after thinking outside the box, I decided to use a commercial grade shower curtain.  It's thick, easy to clean, and easily replaceable if it gets dirty or worn out.  It also has grommets on one end, so I used those to keep the liner in place.  I just used screws on the pvc to act as hooks for the grommets.  When done with the bath, I unhook the grommets, drop the shower curtain down, and drain the tub.

I considered adding a real drain, but makes it much more difficult to replace the curtain.  It's a possibility for the future, but I really like to make things easy and changeable.




Grommets hooked on screws to keep liner in place

After unhooking the grommets, I can drop the curtain and let the water drain

That was it!  The bath was done.   In total, it was $265.  And if had known what I was doing to start with, I could have done it for less because I wasted some PVC with mistakes.  Total time to build was about 6-8 hours.  Not bad for saving so much money.

I appreciate that I chose to buy an accessible house with roll in shower.  And the bath fit right into the 5ft shower.  But, in saying that, if I only had a bathtub, I would have designed and built something to work with that as well.  Anyway, the bath measures 54", so I lucked out.




Next step was trying Eliah in the bath....

The lift rolled right up to the bath, and I was able to drop him right in place

I added a pad in the tub so he wouldn't be directly on the cold plastic

I'm pretty sure Eliah loved it...

It was the perfect height to bathe him, no bending over.  And my clothes didn't get soaked.

I made it so water level didn't go above about 2 inches. It's adjustable though.
(Natalie is doing Sudoku on the toilet while Eliah relaxes)

video


After he was done with his bath, I let the water out.  I kind of forget that the shower is only slightly sloped, so it did go all over the bathroom.  But in the future, I will remember to let it out slowly.

It didn't take long to get the water out, and then I buried him in towels.


I was able to dress him in the now dry bath, and then back in the lift to head to the living room.  It was great for all of us!

Overall, I'm really happy with the result and proud that I wasn't intimidated with this project.


Edited to add:  I decided to put in a drain since it's hard to control the flow with just the shower curtain.  I bought a sink drain with plug and used a piece of stiff plastic to support it under the liner.  It just goes in between the PVC rails.  I used a washing machine hose to attach to the bottom of the drain to divert the water on the floor of the shower.  Works perfectly!





I also added a padded headrest for Eliah to keep his head above the water level.  It's a combination of foam on top and rubber flooring underneath.  It's curved to fit around his neck.

The bath has been working great, and I'm so happy this was an option! 

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Susan G Komen #MORETHANPINK Campaign

Susan G Komen Foundation has asked me to do a video for breast cancer awareness. I need you to share it anywhere you can! It's real, it's personal to me, and it's a little twangy with my accent.  So exciting! 

Susan G Komen wants to know who your hero is.  Share your story and hero with the hashtag #morethanpink  


Thursday, September 1, 2016

The Unspoken Side Effect- Weight Gain After Chemotherapy

Every six months, I visit the Oncologist to go over bloodwork and make sure cancer has not made a reappearance.  And I'm coming up on being a 3 Year Cancer Survivor within the week.  Yay! I'm excited to be healthy, have great bloodwork, and to get another year under my belt.  But...

There has been a notable downside of going through chemotherapy.  Most cancer survivors I read about have the big issue of fatigue for years following treatment.  And I can definitely see that as a problem, but my issue is something different.  For the past year and a half, I've steadily gained weight.  Not a lot at a time, but a pound here and a pound there.  About 10 pounds up, I asked the Oncologist about it.  His response was that it wasn't a big deal, and I had it in all the right places.  Obviously, that did not put my mind to ease, because I could see the difference in the mirror and the way my clothes fit.

Although I didn't have a "workout" routine since starting full-time work a year ago, I did get exercise throughout the day.  In one year's time, I had given 550 tours of the assisted living community, not to mention all the times I walked the building in anticipation of those tours.  I was getting a good 10,000 steps in daily (in high heels!)  In addition, I ate well.  I never drank sodas, I didn't overeat, and I focused on healthy choices (with dessert sometimes).  Yet, the weight continued to creep up.  And to top it off, I noticed that my body composition had changed.  Cellulite? Sagging skin? Low muscle tone?

It's not that I think I
 look bad, but more about
how my old clothes fit me
By the beginning of August this year, I had gained 22 pounds from the date of cancer diagnosis 35 months prior.  And I had no real reason for the gain, as I refused to believe that it's my age to blame, so I started to research (as you know I love to do). Turns out, weight gain after chemotherapy is a thing.  Apparently it's quite common for women to gain weight 1-2 years after cancer treatment, and it's not due to overeating (see study here).  No wonder my Oncologist was so dismissive about the whole thing.

In addition, it's also common that body composition changes after chemotherapy.  Loss of muscle, loss of bone mass, and an irregularity of insulin, causing insulin resistance, are all expected changes.  Why aren't we told these things up front?  Regardless, what's done is done, and I'm on a mission to fix the issues.

There isn't a whole lot of research on HOW chemotherapy changes someone metabolically, but I can tell from my own body that, despite food intake and physical activity, I will have to do more than just "diet" to make a difference. Knowing that the body's insulin is affected by chemotherapy, I'm also guessing that how the body processes Triglycerides and fat retention is also affected.  I really wish there was more research on these effects.

Anyway, around the middle of August, I started a new regime for getting my weight and skin under control. First, I joined Sparkpeople to track my calories during the day, trying to keep around 1200 a day, with one cheat day a week (so my body doesn't think I'm starving).  Daily, I use organic plant protein meal, organic superfoods, and collagen peptides full of amino acids that spark HGH (human growth hormone) in my morning coffee...along with my supplement regime to include Silica now.

Then I use two things about an hour before lunch and dinner; one is Garcinia Cambogia and the other is Glucomannan.  First, the Garcinia Cambogia keeps your insulin low while you eat, preventing your body from retaining fat.  And second, the Glucomannan is a soluble fiber that has digestive enzymes, probiotics, and helps fill your stomach so you don't eat as much.

Then, when I do eat lunch and dinner, I take CLA and L-Luceine.  The CLA aides in fat loss and L-Luceine helps your body retain muscle mass while losing weight.  I have a tendency to forget the ones before meals, but usually remember to take these two fairly religiously.  I also try to get back to reducing carbs, eating more veggies, and taking a break from dessert, although I do have dark chocolate occasionally, so I don't feel deprived. It really just depends on what my calorie count is for the day.

Now, I realize that this regime seems somewhat intense with regard to pills, but apparently that's what I needed to jump start weight loss now that I know I'm fighting a cancer treatment battle.  And this may not be sustainable in the long run.  But the goal is to get the weight off, build the muscle, and maintain a healthy lifestyle....all without being miserable from not eating the things I enjoy.

So now, 19 days in to my new treatment for metabolic homeostasis, I'm 9 pounds down, and there is a very noticeable difference in my skin.  That's 3.32 pounds lost a week, and my skin is starting to look tighter on my face and thighs, and even my hair and nails are looking better.  I'm hoping to continue this routine for another 20 pounds, and I'll be setting myself up for better success in beating cancer long term...as we all know that obesity is linked to higher cancer rates.

We'll see how it all goes, and I'll keep you updated on the progress!

UPDATE 9/5/16: I'm down 12 lbs!!

To read more about weight gain after chemotherapy, just type this into your google search box...
weight gain after chemotherapy treatment pubmed