Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Back to work

I made it back to work yesterday and it was wonderful! My kids remembered me and we had a great day. It felt really good to get back to doing something I enjoy and not feel like a patient. I am not working today, but will be back tomorrow. I wanted to start slow just to make sure I was not rushing things. If all goes well, I will be back Tuesday - Friday.

Thanks to all of you who have let me know that you have either seen a dermatologist or have made an appointment for a screening and the ways you are being safe in the sun. I am so happy to hear about the steps you are taking to protect yourself and your family.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Skin Cancer Awareness with Olay

Olay has sponsored the SKIN CANCER TAKES FRIENDS campaign along with the American Society for Dermatologic Surgery and Marcia Cross. This campaign allows you to get a free skin cancer screening.

Please visit and browse their website - There are videos with great information regarding skin cancer and melanoma. I encourage you to watch the three videos as well as read the articles.

Skin Cancer and Melanoma can be prevented and if caught early are curable. I started this blog to not only keep friends and family updated, but to also educate you. I am hoping that what I am going through will motivate you to get checked and to use safer practices while in the sun. Your primary doctor can look at your moles, however, you really need to see a dermatologist (once a year) as they are trained to see skin cancer and melanoma in their early stages.

If you get your screening either through this campaign or on your own, please let me know. You getting checked will mean a lot to me. Don't feel silly or uncomfortable - get checked! It could save your life.

Some pictures

Thought you might like to see some recent photos.

Here is Todd and Teya playing her favorite game, Hullabaloo. Todd is yelling in victory as he does every time he wins.

Teya and me.

Teya and Share Bear (one of her favorite Care Bears)

Teya and I were on our way to swim class when she needed to have her magic wand.

Teya in her new robe. It is pink of course!

And, a lot of you ask about my surgery incisions. Well, here you go. For reference, my hand is covering my left breast. The long one is where the surgeon went in to operate on my lung. The shorter one to the left is where my drainage tube was and then there is another one further to the left right below my hand that you can't really see in this picture where the surgeon initially went in with the scope.

As you can see there is no way to isolate this area, so as I am healing the area/muscle is in constant motion from breathing and any movement. The location of these is what has made it very painful to wear a bra. I am healing not only on the outside at the incision site, but also on the inside where the sugeon cut through my muscle and tissue to get to my lung and then cut out part of my lung. This isn't a surface cut my friends. Any pressure in this area is painful. It is just now, after 6 weeks, to the point where a soft touch doesn't hurt.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

A celebration night

I have been feeling better since Tuesday. Each day has been better and last night I got a really good night sleep. Like Sara said, 10 steps forward and 2 back. I am now back to where I was before I hurt myself. I am going to baby my right side to not injure it this time. It won't be easy to remember, but I am going to do my best.

It is picture week at Teya's school (my work) and I went in today and got my pictue taken with my class. I then stayed for about an hour and a half and had a great time with my kids. I helped with snack, craft and circle time. It felt great and I had a lot of fun. I can't wait to go back to work next week.

Tonight I made a celebration dinner for completing my first round of treatment. I wanted to have it Tuesday, but unfortunately I wasn't feeling up to it. And, last night was my cooking class. Anyway, tonight I made a garlic spinach lasagna. It was my first ever lasagna and I don't mind tooting my own horn and saying it was great. Along with my celebration dinner I had a glass of red wine. It also tasted great. It had been about 2 months since I have had a glass. It was a good night!

If you are interested, below is the recipe.
(You could add a cup of artichokes or for a non-vegetarian lasagna add a cup or 2 of diced chicken.)

20 lasagna noodles (whole grain, spelt or rice lasagna noodles)
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 cup chopped fresh mushrooms
1 cup chopped onion
2 tablespoons minced garlic
3 cups fresh spinach – chopped
3 cups ricotta cheese – (I don’t use)
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried basil leaves
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
3 cups tomato pasta sauce – (I used 2 jars of organic spaghetti sauce)
3 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
2/3 cup grated Romano cheese – I don’t use
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese – I don’t use
(Because I am not eating dairy I used a cheese substitue called Veggie Shreds. It is soy based and you can get it in the organic section of Fry's, Sprouts or Whole Foods. There is also another cheese substitute made from rice that is great, but I can't remember the name of it. Both of these cheeses have mozzarella flavoring and they taste like the real thing and melt well. For this lasagna I used a mozarella Veggie Shreds and one that was a mozzarella, romano and parmesan blend.)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).

Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add lasagna noodles and cook for 8 to 10 minutes or until al dente; drain.

In a skillet over medium-high heat, cook mushrooms, onions, and garlic in olive oil until onions are tender. Chop and add spinach. Let mixture cool.

Combine cheese, salt, oregano, basil and pepper in a bowl. Add cooled mushroom mixture. Put a thin layer of sauce on bottom of pan (a 9x13 inch baking dish). Lay 5 lasagna noodles. Spread 1/3 of the cheese/spinach mixture over noodles. Sprinkle 1 cup mozarella cheese. Spread 1 cup spaghetti sauce over cheese. Repeat layering 2 times.

Cover dish with aluminum foil and bake in a preheated oven for 50 minutes. Uncover and cook an additional 10 minutes. Cool 15 minutes before serving.


Tuesday, October 21, 2008

A step back

Well, last night was a painful one. I didn't get much sleep as my side was shooting pain. Needless to say, I was not able to go back to work today. I have been on the couch all day. I did finally get some much needed rest after Teya left for school.

I spoke with my doctor this morning and said there is fluid on my lung and a spot that appears to be scar tissue. I hate the word "appears", but I'll sit with it for now. The fluid isn't anything to worry about at this point. They recommended that I take an Advil with my current pain medication as this could help reduce inflamation as well as use a heating pad. I am now sitting on the couch with a heating pad and it feels good. This does lead me to believe that I did something to the muscle and it is not a lung issue, which is good.

I am a little depressed that I have been forced back on the couch and could not return to work. I am hoping that this will not last long, but I will get as much rest as needed so that I can get back to living.

Monday, October 20, 2008

A better day

Sunday was better than Saturday night. I was much more sore than I had been, but not unbearable. I did have to increase the amount of pain medication I was taking, but at least I could still move around without to much pain.

I had set up a play date with one of Teya's best friends Skyler for Sunday afternoon. Since I was heavily medicated, Linda came over and picked us up. We took the kids to play at the play area at the mall. They had such a good time. I was really glad I was able to go. It was great visiting with Linda and getting out of the house was just what I needed. THANKS LINDA!

I had my doctor's appointment today and all is well. I am still sore and need to use more pain medication, so it feels like a set back. I just need to take it easy for a few days. Also because of the pain I experienced Saturday night my doctor ordered a chest x-ray. He wanted to ensure there wasn't fluid in the lung. If there is anything to worry about, they will give me a call tomorrow. He did approve me to use Benedryl creme for the rash that I am getting. Thank goodness as the itch is pretty bad. Lucy - I would love to hear about any remedies that have worked for you.

Tonight is my last shot for round 1.

I am going back to work tomorrow. I am super excited as I've really missed it. Hopefully the day will go smooth.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

The pain is back

I had a really good week. Low amount of pain and minimum side effects to my treatment. The one side effect that has been uncomfortable is I get a rash at each injection site. My stomach and legs have extremely itchy rashes and I'm not talking about a pin prick rash. They are all about the size of a golf ball surrounding the injection site. I do my best not to itch them, but sometimes I forget and itch them. Itching only makes it worse. I am hoping that my doctor might have some ideas to help. Anyway, I have 2 more injections and then I will have made it through my first round. I'll then have 14 days off. I am looking forward to the days off.

I went to my vegan cooking class and got some good ideas and a great cookbook. I was even planning on going back to work on Tuesday as I felt so great. Then last night I got up around 3:15am to use the restroom and had really bad pain in my back/lung - left side where I had my surgery. It was so bad I couldn't breathe. Every breathe I took was like a knife being jabbed into my back. It eventually subsided and I was able to get comfortable and sleep on the couch. I spoke to my surgeon this morning and he said that he thinks I pulled something. It is either that or a blood clot in my lung. He said that as long as the pain gets better he believes it to be an injury. Thankfully I have been feeling better, so that is a good sign that I did in fact over work myself and injured myself. I am going to take it easy and hope to feel better. I have an appointment with my oncologist tomorrow morning, so I will discuss this with him.

I am hoping that I continue to feel better and that I may be able to go back to work on Tuesday. I'll just have to see how I feel tomorrow.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Well adjusted

I guess my body has adjusted to the drug as I have not had the severe flu like symptoms since Wednesday. The side effects I have gotten since are slight headache, sore throat and congestion. I am also tired. This is probably a combination of the drug and recovery. My insides are still really sore, but getting better each day. I had a check up with my oncologist on Monday and blood work looked good, so I got the greeen light to continue my treatment. I'll have blood work once a week to ensure my body is tolerating the drug. Cancer treatments are toxic and we need to make sure that the drug isn't harmimg my body while getting the cancer killing benefits.

I am going to try to go back to work next week. I am going to start with 2 days and see how things go. For those of you that don't know, I am a pre-school teacher and my class is the 2 year olds. They are quite active as you can image, so I'll need to see how I can manage. I hope I'm fine as I really miss my kids.

This past Saturday we got out of the house and went to a fundraising event for APFED, which is a charity to raise funds and awareness about eosinophilic disorders. CB's niece and 2 nephews are affected by this disease and we were glad to join them for fun and awareness. It was Bingo night and we had a great time. Todd and I both got a bingo and won some great prizes. Teya really enjoyed playing. She had her own card and played all by herself. She was sad that she didn't get a Bingo, but she did not go home empty handed as Todd let her pick a prize when he won. She got a really cute make-up set. She LOVES make-up!

The weather cooled down this weekend and it got down to 70 degrees over the weekend. I know all you non-Arizona folks are saying "down", but tis the life of a Phoenician. The temperature is going back up to the 80s this week. I think the weather lady this morning said it is going to get to 90 mid-week. Ahhhh, I love this time of year.

Friday, October 10, 2008

What a wonderful feeling

I had a great day yesterday with a lot of energy and not a lot of pain. I still can't lift more than 5lbs and I need to be careful of how I move as I am still healing on the inside, but it is great to not be confined to the couch. I was pretty sore at the end of the day because I moved so much. It was well worth it and nothing that a couple of pain meds didn't take care of.

I took my shot last night at 8:30pm and then laid in bed. I became a little light headed, but nothing like I had experienced in the doctor's office. I also got a mild headache, but that was it. I slept all night and woke up feeling great. It is now almost 3pm and I have felt great all day. I am going to follow the same routine tonight and I hope to have the same results.

Thursday, October 9, 2008


I began my treatment on Tuesday and it really kicked my butt. I had my first shot at my doctor's appointment just in case I had a bad reaction. Luckily that didn't happen; however my blood pressure dropped significantly, so I was there for 45 minutes while we waited for it to rise. On the ride home I got sick - nausea, weak & body aches. The body aches are actually my bones not muscles. The pain is a little worse than the body aches you get from a cold or flu. By the time I got home (20 minutes), I felt miserable. I got something to eat, which helped with the nausea, but the weakness, body aches and chills lasted the rest of the day, all night and through to the morning. The morning was horrible. It was difficult to eat or drink as I was so nauseas. Also, I was trying to make myself presentable, so I was putting on some make-up and even the bones in my face hurt.

Because of my reaction of the first shot, I went to my doctors on Wednesday for the second. Thank goodness my blood pressure did not drop as drastically as the first day, so we were on our way home in about 20 minutes. The ride home was better, but the day was worse than the first day. I was pretty much confined to the couch. I felt like I had been run over by a cement truck all day and then all of a sudden around 9pm I felt fine. It was strange how fast it happened, but I was very happy. I then felt fine all night and this morning. Yippee! I hope this lasts all day.

Due to my good feeling this morning, I decided that I will not go to my doctors for today's shot and will give it to myself. I am going to give it at night before I go to bed. My hope is that I will sleep through all the nasty stuff and wake up feeling good.

I'll let you know tomorrow.

Monday, October 6, 2008

What does it all mean?

I have been asked what it means to be stage 4 melanoma. This is a difficult question to answer. What I can tell you is this, I am stage 4 and there is no stage 5. There is no cure and no specific treatment plan for stage 4 melanoma. The treatment I will be on is experimental. There are published statistics on survival rates; however, I will not place these on my blog as I am not a statistic. I am a young woman who is living with cancer who has her own story.

After I was initially diagnosed with melanoma in 2006 my relationship with the sun changed. I stayed out of the sun or when I was in the sun, I wore sunscreen with the highest SPF available with UVB and UVA protection. I also had frequent (every 4 months) visits with my dermatologist, oncologist and had PET/CT scans. All to watch for a reoccurrence.

I did everything my medical team suggested to treat melanoma and it came back; almost exactly 2 years after my last surgery when I was “cancer-free”. In June of 2006, I got the best birthday gift; a call from my doctor telling me that they surgically removed all of the cancer. In June of 2008, I got the worst news. It was back and in my lung.

With my reoccurrence and stage 4 diagnosis, I will again follow my medical team’s advice on treatment, which begins this week. It is a year long treatment during which I will be giving myself shots for a year (14 days on –everyday- and 14 days off). I will continue to see my dermatologist every 3 months as well as my oncologist. I will also have a CT scan every 4 months and an MRI of my brain every 6 months. I will follow this regiment for as long as my medical team and I feel is necessary. I say “I” as I take an active role in my treatment.

My reoccurrence and stage 4 diagnoses was also a wake-up call for me. My body was telling me that it needed my help to fight. The one thing I did not change 2 years ago was my diet. Research has found significant links between food and cancer. I’ve done my research and have since made significant changes. In simple and easy to understand terms, I have become a vegetarian - although, I am eating small portions of meat.

Some of the changes I have made are:

1. I have cut out processed foods (for example: no pre-made food, no chips, no lunch meat, etc. and yes that means no McDonalds or any other fast food joint).

2. I have reduced the amount of animal fats (dairy and meats) by removing dairy and only eating small portions (no more than 6 oz of meat per day) of lean meats (organic or grass fed animals and wild fish). Animal fats have been shown to feed melanoma, so it is really important to me to keep my intake to a minimum.

3. I can have sugar; however I will be limiting the intake to 5 – 10 grams of sugar per serving and will be eating protein and fiber (nuts or powder are good sources) with my sugar as this combats the effect. Sugar has also been shown to feed cancer, so I want to watch my intake.

4. I will be eating large portions of organic vegetables and fruits.

With the help of CB and the internet, I have already found some delicious recipes for snacks, meals and desserts. Just in case any of you are interested in trying some of them, I will include them in future posts. Also, there is a vegan cooking class that I will be attending for the next 3 weeks. My nutritionist suggested it and I am looking forward to learning some new recipes.

Friday, October 3, 2008


My meeting with the Nutritionist, Teri Taylor, went very well. The changes that I had made were what I needed to do. I was pleased to find out that I could have soy products as well as berries. That opened up my options tremendously. I had cut out most berries as sugar feeds cancer, but Teri taught me that if I am to eat berries or any other type of sugar, then I need to eat protein and fiber along with it. The protein and fiber helps my body breakdown and digest the sugar in a way that doesn't negatively effect my body. That doesn't mean that I will be adding sugary foods such as candy, cookies and soda back into my diet, but it does allow me the flexibility to have a dessert once in awhile and not feel guilty about it. I am now armed with how to combat the effects and it feels wonderful. Especially since the holidays are right around the corner. I am happy to know that I can still have a slice of my apple pie!

She also told me that fats have been shown to feed Melanoma and accelerate recurrences, so I need to be careful about how much fat I have in my diet. This includes the good fat that comes from healthy eating. Teri provided me with the amount of calories, fat, protein, carbs and fiber that I should be getting in a day as well as a list of food and their nutritional information. I never thought I would say this, but I need to add calories to my diet. How times change.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Slow Moving

Sorry I haven't written lately. Last week one of my incisions opened and caused a lot of pain and (sorry for the following, but this is what I am dealing with) I was extremely constipated, so I was in a lot of discomfort over the past weekend. Thank goodness things have gotten better.

On Saturday, I heavily medicated myself and attended a close friends baby shower. Chris and Ang Just are having their first baby, a girl, in November. I am very excited for them and I was really glad I was able to make it. Since I can't drive, my great friend CB was my chauffeur and gave me a nice smooth ride. The shower was my first official outing since my surgery and it was great to have a reason to get out of casual clothing.

I saw my surgeon today and he said that I am healing well, but expects another 3 weeks for the majority of the pain to subside and because of this I will be on my narcotic pain meds for a few more weeks. I attempted to wean myself from my pain meds as I don't like to be on so much medication, but he said that I am not ready for that yet. He said that I need to have enough pain medication to keep me moving, which will help me heal. I do agree with him there as I have been more confined to the couch lately. With the heavy stuff I should be able to get back to moving more, which will do a lot for my mental state. I have to say it is frustrating to be in so much pain, so much so that it makes it difficult to walk.

I have a meeting with a nutritionist tomorrow. I am very excited to speak with her and get her advice as well as get my questions answered.