Thursday, March 27, 2008

How Am I Feeling?

I had a blood count yesterday, one week after my first dose of the new chemo regimen. All my counts were good, so it looks like the new chemo's not as damaging to my blood as the last one was. My doctor says it's too early to tell whether it's working or not. I thought the big bump under my collarbone was a bit smaller, but she was still able to see it protruding. The other bumps are still there and the red splotch in the center of my chest is a bit bigger - about 9 millimeters across and raised about one millimeter above the skin's surface.

People keep asking me how I'm feeling. Weak. Weak and tired. A seven-year-old girl beat me at push-ups. She did five; I couldn't even do ONE. I have trouble blowing out a candle. I can't walk up five steps without getting breathless. My neck feels so weak at times, I feel like a newborn baby that can't hold its head up. It takes me over an hour to finish a meal sometimes because I'm just too weak to eat. That sounds just plain silly, but I get physically tired while eating. And if I push it, I start to cough and then I can't talk or breathe, let alone eat.

Last Sunday, some friends took me to my favorite brunch at the Ritz Carlton Hotel. It had all my fantasy foods: fresh Belon oysters, REAL caesar salad, foie gras (very un-P.C.!), grilled lamb chops, a huge selection of cheeses, chocolate mousse, creme brulee, and champagne. I went completely off my diet and had everything except the champagne. But even then, I sat there for three hours and managed no more than a few mouthfuls of each item.

For the last week or so, I've had muscle aches throughout my upper torso, arms, and legs. My doctor says this is because I've lost so much weight, the fat and muscle that normally pad the vertebrae have thinned out, and that, coupled with the natural wearing out of the discs, is putting added pressure against the nerves along my spine.

That's the physical part. The other bits? I feel surprised, annoyed, a little alarmed. I'm surprised that eating can be so hard. I'm annoyed that I can't just make my body do the things it used to. I'm alarmed that I might die like an elephant. Elephants have no natural predator because of their sheer size and their thick skin, which even a lion's claws and teeth can't penetrate. So unless they're killed by man, they die of starvation because the muscles in their trunks slowly waste away and they can't bring food or water to their mouths.

Sitting in front of a TV and snacking on fatty foods all day might be some people's idea of a good time, but for me, it's a punishment. I'd give anything to be able to go for a run right now. I have too many things to do and not enough time, so I can't just sit and rest. And I don't want to eat sugary dairy and animal protein foods because they'll only help my cancer cells thrive. But I've got to fatten myself up or there won't be much of me left for the cancer cells to get to.

It had never even occurred to me that starving to death could be a side effect of cancer. This disease is just full of surprises.


leighbee said...

So many mental and physical emotions are shared with us by you.......thankyou. It is so hard for anyone not in your position to even condider how you must feeling and for obvious reasons we don't like to ask CONSTANTLY. Your open blog helps us to try and be less ignorant and hopefully in turn a bit more helpful/considerate/thoughtful...
I love and respect you so dearly.

Carol said...

Bet you already know this but sounds like some high calorie protein shakes throughout the day are in order. Sometimes it's easier to drink rather than chew and to have frequent small amounts rather than trying to get down whole meals. Munch on almonds throughout the day followed with some sips of shakes and bulk up!

I wish I could take away all the aches and worrry. I wish it was me not you. Stay strong sweetheart. I love you.

Anonymous said...

Hi Shin,
Been wanting to write something on your blog but felt so helpless not able to contribute much to all the medical terms... can only follow your blog and pray for you. Today is Goddess of Mercy's birthday, I went to the temple to pray for you becoz I was so worried coz you stop writing since Sunday. Thet was kind to update me, she told me I could call you the last time, but I know you're too weak to answer the phone .Don't know if liquid food would be helpful? I will go to the Organic shop to ask for you any liquid food. Please don't give up! Please.. Please... Please.... Love you. Mandy

Hope and Faith said...

Keep on fighting, Shin!

I have CLL when I was 25. I am turning 27 this year. It's good to be alive. And we just have to cherish every moment of it.

Good luck and take care.

Rosalind Ng said...

Shin, I just read this update & I feel so helpless that I don't know what I can do for you. We all haven't seen you for so long & miss you and your cheery face very much. Then I read your Sunday's blog, & how you felt frustrated about not being able to order groceries online. Can I help you on that?

If you have anything that you want to find, I can go to the shops for you to get it. Just call 97947394 or sms or email me. I can deliver it to you. Just ask.

Anonymous said...

Hi From Paris,
Wanted to let you know from this corner of the world that we are watching you and sending our prayers. I find that yes, tired is a challenge, the truth is that excercise will help to give you energy. I'm not saying to go out and jog, but since you are so weak at this point, try some simple warmup excercises, neck rolls, arm exercises, anything upperbody. This is really important to do many times a day if you can.
Whey isolate protein is important for cell structure, it is easy to digest. Try spirulina several times a day, it maintains weight, doesn't taste that great but is super good for you and giving you energy.
Have you tried funny movies? This is crazy but it really does a body good!
At one point in my cancer history I could give myself a 1% energy rating, walking was extremely tiring, etc. I found a few things like exercise and micronutrition that helped me get my body back, now after 3.5 years of chimo I feel great, I don't care what they tell me, I feel 99% great and the more I focus on that the better I feel. Half of it is mind work, but it does take work.
Be brave little fighter!

LEIGHBEE said...


Breast Cancer
Nutrition Suggestions for Breast Cancer Patients

Attempt to maintain weight during treatment, minimizing weight gain and loss. Once chemotherapy and/or radiation treatment are finished, achieve a realistic weight.

Do not try to “diet” during treatment.
Achieve sensible weight loss, if appropriate, after treatment is completed.
Consume a low-fat diet (20 to 30 percent of calories from fat).

Make healthy, good choices and read food labels.
Be realistic about counting fat grams.
Try to increase your daily intake of dietary fiber (20 to 30 grams).

A diet rich in fiber helps you feel full.
Remember to drink plenty of fluids.
Eat five servings of fruits and vegetables daily.

Fruits and vegetables are an excellent source of fiber, vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals.
Sometimes temporary food aversions to certain fruits and vegetables may arise during chemotherapy, so be realistic in your choices.
Fruits and vegetables are high in phytochemicals. The most colorful and darkest have the highest content of phytochemicals, which have cancer-fighting substances.
Try to include cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage) in your diet one or two times per week.
Miscellaneous diet tidbits to help you during treatment:

A multivitamin is appropriate, but do not take excessive doses of certain vitamins or minerals unless approved by your oncologist.
Coffee and caffeinated beverages need to be kept to a minimum. Coffee has not been proven to cause breast cancer, but caffeine may promote lumpy breasts. Also, hydration is extremely important during chemotherapy. Coffee acts as a diuretic, so if you drink coffee, be sure to offset it with plenty of water.
Try to include in your diet foods that are high in omega-3 fatty acids such as salmon and white tuna.
Flax seeds are also high in omega-3 fatty acid, which may help fight cancer. Flax seed is also high in fiber.
Avoid the new synthetic fat substitute that impairs absorption of both fat-soluble vitamins and phytochemicals.
Try to eliminate or reduce alcohol. If you do drink, choose a red wine, which has a higher phytochemical content.
Try to increase your intake of green tea.
Use extra-virgin olive oil or canola oil in your cooking. These are the oils highest in monounsaturated fats, which may or may not offer protection against cancer, but do not appear to be potentially carcinogenic as omega-6 fatty acids (vegetable oils) are.
Liberally use herbs and spices (rosemary, turmeric, garlic, mint, thyme) to flavor your foods and to improve your intake of phytochemicals.
Consume soy products. Soybeans have many anticarcinogenic compounds. Look for isolated soy protein on the label. Don’t go overboard though, since a large amount might be potentially harmful due to the phytoestrogens, especially if you are taking tamoxifen.
Notify the doctor or dietitian if you are taking any herbal products or supplements. Just because something is natural doesn’t mean it is safe, and herbal-pharmaceutical interactions do occur.
These suggestions, based on diet research, may help prevent the recurrence of breast cancer. It is not essential that the recommendations be followed exactly during stressful periods of time. There is no such thing as a cancer prevention diet or a diet to prevent recurrence of breast cancer once treatment ends. However, the perfect posttreatment therapy may be a very healthy diet.

Anonymous said...

많은 어려움 속에서도 꾸준히 올리시는 글들을 통해 정말 많이 느끼고 배웁니다.
용기 잃지 마시고 힘든 상황들을 꼭 이겨내시길 간절히 바랍니다. 힘드시겠지만 운동도 꾸준히 하시구요. 이번 항암 치료가 꼭 효과가 있길 기도합니다. 존경하는 마음을 가득 담아 이 글을 남깁니다.

동민 엄마.

Anonymous said...

You said :"It had never even occurred to me that starving to death could be a side effect of cancer."
This is absolutely right, somewhere I read that 40% of cancer deaths were nutrition related, from loss of appetite, improper nutrition, loss of energy, etc. There is a word for it : cachexia. This is when people waste away, deprived of their life force.
Something that really opened my eyes, and helped me focus on learning how to regain my energy and life force and has helped me to keep up with a strict routine.
I do wish the best for you, and hope that your researches are fruitful, knowledge is power.

ice said...

take care shin, n b strong.

Anonymous said...

I am a colleague of Tony's I think you are so very brave... I hope and pray you can fight this horrid disease. My thoughts are with you and you family.