Thursday, September 30, 2010

One Day at a Time

This is my motto from now on~"One Day at a Time".

It is all we have really, all of us have this moment in time-nothing else.
I always made this thought a big one when I taught my cooking classes but it has now taken on a new meaning.
Lots of little things have changed in my life along with the big things. I find myself asking how each thought will effect me and if is it negative I delete it, somewhat like the delete button on your computer! I have also fine tuned this practice to include"empty trash" too! I don't want that negative thought back so I make sure to really get rid of it! Guess what? it works! Try it... next time you have any negative thoughts use the words"Cancel Cancel" or Delete and then empty the trash can of your mind~ get rid of any thought that does not serve you in a good way~ you will be surprised at how much this works!

I had my second infusion yesterday and true to form I was in a wonderful mood. How can that be you ask? Well I decided that I can go through all of this in the way that I chose to. I can't change what I have to go through although I have to say that every once in a while I am tempted to drive to the airport and hop a plane to Rome or Seattle instead of heading down to Jeff for my treatment. It is a fleeting idea but one that I can smile at and know that I'd be better off going to Jeff at this time in my life. I'll get back to Rome and to Seattle and to everything that makes me happy soon.

We went down for  8AM appointment. Crowded as usual but I was taken in a timely manner. Blood was drawn and sent down to the lab, I was weighed. This is really funny because I always profess not to have a scale at home and whenever I would go the doctor's office and they asked if I wanted to get weighed I said NO!!! It was never my favorite thing to do and I always say that you know if you gained or lost weight~ your cloths tell you that! so that number never had any meaning to me. Now I have the pleasure of getting weighed every week whether I like it or not! My weight has been steady, I am doing OK ... must be all that good food everyone is leaving on my doorstep~Thank you for that!

My chemo doctor went over all my side effects last Wednesday and prescribed some antidotes for them.... oh goody more drugs! but I have to say they helped. Magic mouthwash for the mouth sores, Emend, a very expensive drug for nausea to be taken with the chemo along with the other anti nausea meds they gave me. These drugs do not take away the symptoms ... just make it easier to live with them. They are working.

It was a long day yesterday we came home by 7PM, tired, grumpy and hungry and with a chemo bag hanging on me for the next two days. Dinner on my doorstep along with flowers! I have the best friends, neighbors, clients and family!!!

This morning, waking up to a rainy and stormy day allowed me to stay in bed without guilt! It is a perfect day to stay under the covers and that is what I did, but always being a busy person I felt the need to get up and do something!!! I do it in slow motion... no more rushing around for me.

I am taking one day at a time, one minute at a time and you know what~ it is a wonderful way to live. Now I am not saying not to make plans for the future.. I am a big goals person too but just take a moment to listen to the sounds around you, the rustling of leaves, the pitter-patter of rain drops, the singing birds outside your window. Tune into life.. it is all around you. We live in such a busy world we sometimes forget to pay attention to the small things that make up our daily life. We take so much for granted. Our health, our family, our home~ take a minute to be thankful everyday for what you do have and what you know! These thoughts will enrich your life and allow you to realize what you do have ... probably everything you need!!!

So I went through this second infusion with a thankfulness that I am getting better and that this high- tech medicine is available to me and that I am surrounded by love and white healing light and family and friends and so much support it is humbling and overwhelming... two word I have been using a lot.

I feel OK. Not 100% but with all those drugs in me what can I expect? I will rest and take good care of myself and day dream of Rome and Seattle and all the place I want to visit when I get back to being my energetic self!

Thank you for all your prayers and wishes, e mails, cards, flowers, thoughts and love. I feel it everyday and it makes me so very happy!!!!!

Clint taking his chemo snooze!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

A Sundry of side effects

With all good chemo drugs come side effects and to read a sheet, two, actually of all the side effects that are possible when I get infused is more than a little scary.

We have all gone through this at one time or another. Pick up a prescription from the drug store and you come home with a list of all the bad things that can happen. Funny that some of them sound much worse than what you already have!!!

My list for the four drugs that I get read something like a horror movie. Hair loss, decreased hearing~what did you say???? loss of balance, ulcers in the mouth, constipation, diarrhea??? what both??? tingling, weakness in the fingers and toes, depression ( yea~ reading these side effects) irritability, increased risk of infection, fever, chills, blood clots, skin rash, weight gain, weight loss (I wish they would make up their minds) severe fatigue, a extreme sensitivity to cold, I actually saved the best for last.... one of the symptoms for this chemo is CANCER!!! can you believe that!
Oh, I forgot to mention chemo brain~oh good between that and menopause don't expect me to remember anything soon!

I met with the doctor today and suggested to him, he is the chemo man after all, that he should work to change the side effects to sheer exuberance, fits of laughter, happiness, an ability to learn Italian in a day or two and maybe the desire to have vigorous sex! I can think of a few others that would be a whole lot better than what I am reading!

Well as you can see I still have my sense of humor through all of this~thank goodness!!

I had a wonderful day last Wednesday, it might have had something to do with the fact that they infused me with not only an anti-nausea medicine but a steroid before the actual chemo. The nurse told me the steroid would make me jittery or full of energy and it did just that. I had energy and felt good through that long day but Thursday morning brought mouth sores, a headache, sore throat, tingling in my hands and feet, nausea, queasiness (probably the same thing) and a general feeling of not feeling- good.

I was extremely tired. I felt like a bag of potatoes, ton of bricks, sack of sand, I felt like I had on cement shoes and was on my way to meet Tony Soprano, well you get the idea. After 8 hours of sleep I woke up feeling like I had never slept. I did what the doctor told me to do "Listen to my body"
I slept, rested and slept some more.
These symptoms lasted until Tuesday, all but the mouth sores and sensitivity to cold which I still have. I woke up Tuesday morning wanting a cup of coffee and I knew the worse was lifting, just as he said it would.

My appointment was Wednesday~ a week from the infusion and and 5 days after they disconnected me from the chemo pump I came home with.

OK, not bad- I did it, I got through it. I came to his office early for a 9AM appointment. We sailed downtown in rush hour traffic. That is a feat by itself!
He took me early. (This too is a first~it was my lucky day!) As I sat and went through what I had experienced, this kind doctor listened intently and nodded his head."You are in excellent health"(except for this pesky Cancer). "You will feel good the rest of the week."(Yea!) We will adjust the medicine for all your side effects and it will take you longer to recover each time you get infused. He again emphasized to "listen to my body" rest when I need to, eat what appeals to me, take care of myself and oh yes try to live a normal life as possible, do what you can do.

We were out of the office by 9:20, got our parking validated and paid nothing!!! Wow- today was feeling kind of lucky!!!

I talked to Clint about maybe driving to some Farmers markets in New Jersey, as we crossed the bridge I looked over and said "How about a ride down the shore" and off we went to have lunch at the famed Lobster House in Cape May. We drove the back roads through he beautiful farmlands of Jersey, the scenery touched by Autumn colors, enjoyed a nice lunch, walked the shore, strolled through the stores, bought some fudge for my mom and oh yes bought a chance on a car from Our Lady Star of the Sea Church~ it is a lucky day after all!

It was a wonderful day filled with hope and love and sunshine and warmth. A day spent with my husband, a day of listening to my body and knowing that no matter what ~it will be OK. My biggest lesson is learning to take one day at a time. Living in the moment. Enjoying what and who is around me.  It is a lesson for all of us really.

Each of these days, good or bad are part of our lives. So I will take it as it comes and listen to what my body is saying and enjoy my life NOW!
Oh by the way, we stopped and bought lottery tickets on the way home~ hey- why not It is my lucky day!!!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

An open heart

Opening the heart is about loving others AND receiving their love. The giving can be easy, the receiving is a little harder sometimes. We all want to be strong and capable and responsible. We brace ourselves so we can take on all that life asks of us. But sometimes we need to soften up a bit. To melt into the care of others. And that is not so easy. It feel vulnerable and weak. But that’s just what our mind wants to tell us. Receiving love is as much a gift as giving love.  Receiving love cracks our hearts open in ways that giving love cannot.

Someone sent this to me a few days ago and It came at just a perfect time for me.

How do I begin to THANK each and every one of you for all the love and support and prayers and energy sent my way? Is it even possible to put into words what I feel?
For once in my life I am almost speechless!!!

This journey has not been an easy one for me... not only because it means that I am sick but it also means that my life has changed drastically, it is on hold... all I know and all I have ever known is not what is in the forefront anymore. I wake up to an entirely new outlook everyday.

I was the one who organized, planned, cooked, created and gave. Now the flood gates have opened and so much is flowing my way. I am startled, humbled, overwhelmed by love and generosity.

Friday night was the accumulation of that love and giving.

If Cancer has a good side it is my ability to see just how many people care for me, how the last 25 something years of my life really did make a difference. In one room, in a beautiful space filled with fall flowers and candles and smiling happy family, friends and clients gathered together to support me in any way they could.
It gave me the chance to see my children and how much they are really like me, my daughter Tina with her fabulous skills at organization and detail, who took on this awesome task of hosting this elegant and classy party for over 250 people. (A huge event even for me an experienced caterer). Her husband Rick who with his gift of gab, showmanship and sparkling personality brought people together in my honor. My son Dominick who flipped his tie over his shoulder and took to the task of catering, being the man behind the scene. Carrie, his wife who helped Tina organize the oh-so-many gifts that were donated.

My dear friend and neighbor Patti. What can I say about Patti? she is with me when I laugh and when I cry, she has been by my side with smiles and tears in her eyes to love and support me in any way she can.

All the girls who were part of the many meetings that took place to plan this event. Eileen, a dear friend for many years, helping Tina with every aspect of this huge event. Megan and Peggy, my cooking class girls, greeting all the people coming in the door.(I am sure they knew most of them from classes!) cheering me on every inch of the way! My oldest friend from High school, Stephanie. We have been through so much together.

So many of you, coming that night to help, to lend a hand, to bartend, to serve, to be a part of this huge party. A part of my life. To show your support and love.
With tears in my eyes and love in my heart, I thank you!

I have another family, one that is exactly like my big Italian family and that is the wonderful people at SPRINGFIELD PASTA COMPANY. Robert, who taught so many classes in my home with his Aunt Angelina, Grace his mom, Corrado his dad, Claudio his uncle. They took on the huge task of feeding everyone. They came with open hearts full of love and filled the kitchen with the aroma of Italian comfort food.They gave of themselves all night long and without question. I am brought to my knees with their generosity and love.
To Lisa Canterino and her husband Jimmy for donating all the produce and making all the delicious salads. To all who made the wonderful desserts and cookies~Thank you!

So I am opening my heart and receiving your love and it is healing to me and will carry me through this journey and I will come out the other side a stronger and much better person that I can even imagine.
I thank all of you so much for all your love and support! My heart is open to receive the love you are giving.You are the magic stones and the stars that I wish on in the middle of the night.  You are a gift to me!!!
I love you!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Infused and Confused

As we walked out of the infusion center around 6PM last night, Clint asked me how I felt.
"Infused and Confused" was my answer, then I started laughing. I thought this was the funniest answer in the world! Because it was true!!!

It was a long day. We left the house a little after 7AM to drive downtown to Jeff.

When we arrived we had to go to the 2nd floor to check in a get my labs and blood work done. I signed in at the desk and tried to find a seat. It was mobbed. People did not stop coming in! Every time the elevator doors opened more people filed into the office, standing room only with folding chairs lining the hallways to seat the excess.
I looked around~"it's a epidemic!!!" I said. Everyone has Cancer. I was floored with the number of people I was waiting with, young, old, healthy looking, sickly and everything in between. I was in a lot of company.

I started the day with getting my blood drawn and signing forms and answering questions. Then I went up to the 4th floor to meet with my oncologist. He went over everything again, including the list of nasty side effect. He told me they would start me on a certain dosage of these drugs and then tweak it from there according to my symptoms and reactions. I would be closely monitored.

Back down to the 2nd floor for the infusion.

I was assigned my chemo nurse, put in a cubicle, one of about 40 partitions, with a lounging chair and a TV and a seat for the nurse and a seat for Clint. These cubicles were in a large well-lit room filled with the pinging noise of machines administering chemo and loud with the sounds of TV's.

I looked around and realized that all those people in the waiting room would be in here soon. 

More paper work to sign, doubling checking my wrist band, my birth date, my name and my meds. They hooked me up a little before 11:30. Each of the medicines would go through the IV separately. First a pack with several anti-nausea medicine, then a infuion lasting 1/2 hour, another lasting almost two hours, one for 15 minutes, another for two hours and so on. Ellen, my chemo nurse looked at me and said I would probaly be here until close to 6 PM. I was shocked. What would I eat?? I was starving! I had a bagel for breakfast but now at 11:30 I was ready for lunch!

Now I tell you this beause it is a good sign when I am hungry and thinking about food!
I was just about to send Clint down stairs to get me something to eat when Ellen mentioned that they had a food service table in the corner. YEA food!!!
Clint came back with a tuna sandwich, some chips and a cup of warm water. No cold stuff for me.

One of the chemo drugs I will be receiving has a big reaction to cold. I am not allowed to have anything cold, no ice cream, no ice in my drinks, no cold drinks, no going near a freezer or fridge. I am to wear gloves and breath through a scarf if it is cold outside. I asked the doctor if that meant~ No Frozen Maragarita and he laughed out loud!

So all in all it was a good day. Long day but very pleasant. The nurses couldn't have been nicer. Explaining everything over and over. Answering my questions with calm and reassurance. Making this as pleasant as they possibly could.
I was there a long time, seeing new patients come and go. Clint took a little snooze, he can sleep anywhere! His years as a shift worker for PECO taught him to sleep anywhere. I fiddled with my phone and read and ate of course!!!

The room was filled with pings and beeps, nurses bustling around changing chemo bags hanging on poles, escorting patients to the bathrooms... all that liquid they pump in has to go somewhere!!!

As my day wound down I realized that what they say is true. Your thougths about something are most often worse than what really happens.

I know by checking my phone and messages that everyone was sending thoughts and prayers my way ... I have to say that your energy carried me through this day of drugs and anxiety. I was on a cloud and surrounded by Angels. I was in a great mood- laughing and joking with the doctors and nurses and people around me. You all helped me through this and I thank you!!!

I came home a little"SHUNGOD"(I know that is not the spelling) as they say in Italian... goofy, light headed and maybe a bit confused.
But, my spirits were up and I know that is because of all your prayers and good energy! I do believe in that!
I came home to dinner on my doorstep, flowers on my porch, cards in my doorway and packages sent in the mail. I came home to realize that I am so lucky to have so many people who care for me in my life, who are on this journey with me, who lift me up and send me healing energy. I am lucky indeed!!
My kids tell me I use too many exclamation points when I write but you know what???
I have to because that is me and exclamaiton points are a good sign that I am feeling good!
Thanks you everyone! I am so grateful for your thoughts and prayers adn support.
I can do this, I AM doing this. I will be OK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

New Day

Yesterday's blog was filled with fear.
I realize now that right before testing or a new step in this process I am on edge. I don't want to hold those thoughts and feeling in so I try to let them go in hopes of getting a clear mind in the process. So yesterday was a time of venting and letting go of my feelings.

So many people responded to me by email and comments and calls.
I am not alone. I go into this tomorrow with thoughts & prayers and white light and good energy.
I am being carried by the grace of my family & friends and I thank you.

A good nights sleep always helps and this morning I am refreshed and ready to take on whatever is in store for me.
I am not alone and I am strong. I have my health, my exuberance and my gusto for life on my side. I feel better today. Stronger and ready to do this.

One day at a time. Forget about all those nasty side effects, I will deal with them when and if they come along. I am willing myself better. I am breathing deeply with healthy thoughts. I will worry about it when the time comes. Today is the day I will enjoy.. each and every second.

The power or prayer and white light is so strong. It carried me through yesterday's fear and made me realize that I am not alone and that I can do this and yes, it will be all right... no matter what.

It is a beautiful morning and I will enjoy my life one day at a time.

I am so thankful for everyone and everything in my life. I am enjoying this moment in time!

The present~it is all we really have. Life is a gift given one day at a time!

Monday, September 13, 2010


I can only escape for so long.

When I saw the doctor last week I told him I had this urge to escape. He said that it was quite normal and I should take advantage of escaping whenever I could.
I did just that over the weekend.
I headed to Florida with my son and his family. They whisked us away for 3 days to sunny Marco Island.
I tried to keep a clear mind and just play with the grand kids and not think.

The trouble with escaping is returning to reality. Reality came to me with a packet of literature that I was given last week describing the drugs that at I will receive on Wednesday. I chose not to look at them or read them until this morning. I didn't want to have this information running inside my head all week. Thank goodness I did that!

This morning as I went through the paperwork I felt a cold fear in the pit of my stomach. Somewhat like a feeling you get before you take a big test, make a speech in front of a million people or go on a roller coaster ride. My first thought was" I don't want to do this." Actually it is my thought right now as I write this. I know not doing this is NOT an option but I am thinking it non-the-less.

I am trying to prepare myself for the next few months, I am not sure if I can prepare physically but I am preparing mentally. I am trying to live in the moment, trying to breath deeply, trying to mediate, trying to laugh, trying to think positively. It works most times but the middle of the night is a lonely and scary time.

I do realize that all the side effects described may or may not happen but just the fact that they are giving me something so potent and so dangerous scares the hell out of me. I have never even taken an aspirin if I didn't absolutely need it. Not even vitamins, although maybe that was my problem!
This is so hard for me because I am such a healthy person, never sick, never tired, never anything but happy and glowing and full of energy.

This blog is hard to write today. I am sitting here staring at the screen, trying to remain optimistic, not dwell on the negative, trying to squash that feeling in the pit of my stomach.

I have a day and a half to keep busy and keep reality from gripping me with sharp teeth. Tears lie just below the surface, welling up quickly and unexpectedly.

I go in for my first treatment at 8AM on Wednesday.
Please send me some good energy!!! I think I'll need it!

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Dr. Seuss says it best

"I have heard that there are troubles of more than one kind. Some come from ahead and some come from behind. But I've bought a big bat. I'm ready you see. Now my troubles are going to have trouble with me" Dr. Seuss

A dear friend sent me this quote. I have it taped to the wall in my office.
It seems to say what I feel right now.
We went downtown to Jeff yesterday to talk to the oncologist. The visit was a real eye opener as they say.

I have Cancer. A cancer that metastasizes to another organ is a formidable opponent you see. Much more serious then if it had just stayed in my colon. They are bringing in the big guns! A chemo cocktail comprised of 3 or more different types of heavy duty drugs. Drugs with a list of side effects as long as my arm!~Maybe both arms!!!

Our visit was a pleasant one, if you can say that. My 10:15 appointment had me in the office for over 2 hours, discussing my options, answering our questions, going over what the next few months will look like, feel like.

My doctor is a compassionate one. He is soft spoken but does not sugar- coat what is happening.
He told me like it is. I have to live my life one day at a time. I have to learn to manage this Cancer. I have to learn how to live with this Cancer. It is a Cancer that does not go away. It is not a curable Cancer. I am learning the word Cancer and Cure are not used in the same sentence.

This is an evolving illness, he said. Things can change, treatments can change. I am OK with all of this as long as I have a plan. I am a girl who loves to make lists and cross off what I did. So I need a list, a plan. It makes me feel better. It makes me feel like I have some sort of control. I am not sure if that is true but it makes me feel better to have a plan.

This is the plan. On Wednesday September 15th I start my second round of Chemo. I go down to Jeff to be infused for 4 hours and then go home with a little fanny pack of more chemo that goes in my system for the next 46 hours. This is done every two weeks for up to 6 months. They are not sure of the length of this treatment. It depends on how well my body handles it. As I said, the side effects are enough to send me running to hide in a cave!

On the positive side, and God knows I am looking for the positive side! I am strong, I am healthy other than this Cancer (ha ha) ~funny but true!!! I handled the previous chemo and radiation like a trooper. So chances are I will do OK.

His advice? "Take one day at a time, do what makes me feel good whether it be exercise, a walk, a massage, a nap." Listen to my body. Don't look too far ahead. This is all very good advice.  Actually for all of us not just me.  None of us are given a promise of tomorrow.  We only have this moment in time, the present.  Now ... here and now.

This has been my philosophy all my life, now I just have to fine tune it.

So I'll pick up that bat and fight this trouble and live my life each and every day and be so very thankful for all that I have.  And I do have a lot.  My family, my friends and clients who support me with so much passion and so many prayers.  I am surrounded by love and I am so very very lucky.

I am not in this alone, so many of you have seen to that.  It gives me strength and hope and makes this journey so much easier on me and I thank you all for that!

Now let me go find that bat...hope it is a BIG one!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Pick myself up, dust myself off, and start all over again!

This week was tough. I should say that Monday was tough. I had been trying,very successfully to keep busy and keep my mind off of all the new developments and tests and results. I would fill my days with grand kids and family and friends and outings, falling to a deep sleep at nigh time from pure exhaustion.

On Monday I woke up with a killer headache and tears in my eyes at 5AM. The feelings, fear and uncertainty found me. I was a weepy mess all day long. I was afraid to go out because if someone asked me how I was doing they were going to get a very weepy response. By noon I realized that I had to let myself cry and mourn. I had to get it out. Ask all those questions that had no answer. Why? How? What next?

I was waiting for the oncologist to call. I was waiting to find out what was in store for me. What did all those high tech tests show? He did call and told me that there were just too many spots in both sides of the liver to operate at this point. What??? the spots were like mushrooms they growing so fast! Jeeze!

He told me that he discussed this with my colon surgeon and the liver surgeon and they decided, all three doctors that I should now go on a very aggressive type of chemo, a chemo cocktail. Not the wording I would use when describing a cocktail~that's for sure!

So just as I was getting use to the idea of an operation or two, we changed direction. He talked about priorities, he talked about my life as a priority. Well it always was to me!
So with this news came a whole new set of feelings.
Fear, that this Cancer is spreading fast. Fear that this is taking longer than I thought, fear that things can change in an instant. Monday was the day that all this fear showed up at the doorstep of my mind.

I took that day for what it was. I did my crying, I really couldn't do much else. I went to bed, I really just wanted to crawl into bed and pull the covers over my head. I gave into all those feelings~ for that one day!
I woke up on Tuesday morning determined to move on. I started my morning with writing, that always makes me feel better. I went on to do some stretches and just sit in the quiet of the early morning, knowing that I am strong, that I have so much support, that I will not go this alone. I went outside and watered my plants and flowers, turning my face to the sunshine and enjoying my day.
I picked my mother up and we went shopping and out to lunch. I cooked, I read and I realized that I will be OK, that it is OK to cry sometimes, that I will get through this with support and love, that I am not alone.
Now that song is going through my head... just pick myself up, and dust myself off and start all over again!!!
I see the oncologist on Friday to find out all the little details of this new chemo cocktail and what is in store for me. I hope he adds some vodka to that cocktail! I sure could use it!