Fox and Broom

A mom's adventures in keeping healthy, keeping her sanity, and making stuff.

Archive for the category “Health and wellness”

Changes

It has been a really long time since my last update. My world has been full of lots of changes since my October posting. Some good, some not so good, some heartbreaking.

I started a new treatment called Xeloda in October (or maybe September). This has been one of my favorite treatments so far. I feel so much more normal than I have in the two and half years since I started treatments. It does have a side effect called Hand Foot Syndrome. It dries out the skin on the hands and feet and can cause cracking and sore appendages. I had to have my dose lowered due to having trouble walking. My feet had developed very dark markings. I had thought they were bruises because they were aching so badly. The pain only last three days, but the marks remained. I found out later that the darkening is a common thing among people using Xeloda. I saw it was mostly hands and fingers, but feet are in there also.

One of the funny side effects of Xeloda is that it promotes hair growth. My hair is definitely not long, by any means, but it has been growing much quicker than it ever has in the past. It seems to be a little thicker. I thought that was in my head, but my stylist agreed with me when I had her shape my hair a little. I had a natural fauxhawk going on for me that I didn’t much mind, but my the hair in the back was starting to look more like a mullet. Sorry to the mullet-lovers, but the look doesn’t suit me. My hair has gotten longish enough that it now lays down a bit better. I kinda miss my hawk. I got a few compliments on it from random strangers.

No matter how much I like Xeloda, nothing lasts forever. Especially with my treatments. I will be moving on to a new treatment by the end of this month. My scans have been showing as stable, even showing a bit of regression on my bone scan, but my CA 27.29 (cancer antigen marker) has been moving slowly higher. It is still much, much, much lower than it was at this time last year, but it is starting to concern my oncologist. Sometimes, there is action going on in the marrow of the bones that the scans can not see.

Another big change was moving. We sold our house and purchased a much larger house with my in-laws. Much larger. It is twice the size of my old house. I know it seems weird to move in with the parents, but it is a mutually beneficial move. They are not getting younger and my disease will never go away. In this way, we can take care of each other. Our new house has three levels. Three of my boys live on the top level, the grandparents are on the main level, and Gabriel, Max, the dogs, and I live in the basement. It’s a really nice basement. We have access to the backyard and a very lovely patio. Our area is closed off from the main level, allowing a bit of privacy. Nothing is totally private with four kids. I have my own laundry room and a coffee/tea table. The new schools are very nice. I kept Eldest at his old school as it is his last year there before high school.

Some of the changes have been sad. Last summer, I found out that my personal trainer had passed away. Mike was one of those people who makes your life brighter. I hired him because he had just finished treatment for leukemia and I had just gotten over most of the sickness from my pregnancy and birth of Max. I figured he would understand getting over an illness. Mike helped me find my strength and empowerment again. Even after my training sessions were done, we kept in contact and would visit at the gym. He was one of the first people I talked to when I got my diagnosis. I went through the dark time and when I was able to move again, I went back to the gym to get my legs and arms working better. He would take me aside and pray with me. I also did the same for him, but I didn’t tell him that. Last year, he had started to look sick. He didn’t talk to me about it, but I saw it. The last time we chatted was when I ran into him at the Cancer Center after my final round of radiation on my right eye orbital. I found out he passed away about a week later. Fuck cancer.

One of my best friends lost her mother to brain cancer. She was diagnosed last summer and passed in January. It was so aggressive and fast. It honestly scared me at how quickly it took her. Fuck cancer.

On March 5, I found out that Bekah passed. She was the person I had termed (in my head) as The Other MBCer in town. She was too young. She was kind and motivated. She was inspiring. Fuck cancer into infinity. Her husband wants to set up an MBC Foundation in her name for local people and eventually have it reach people across the state. Her GoFundMe is still collecting if you want to help with her funeral costs and to help him attain the funds for the Foundation.

On a more positive note, I have a lot of adventures planned for the rest of this year. Gabriel and I will be going to Greece in less than a week. We had a little bit leftover from our house sale and threw a mental dart at a world map.

Two weeks after we get back, I will be taking Sam to Orlando to experience Disney World and Universal Studios. I have been saving up for this trip for two years. As of right now, he has no idea we are leaving. He only knows that he has an “appointment” during Spring Break. He asked if he was going to have to have shots or a blood draw. I said yes to both because I am an evil mother.

My sister, Danielle, will be coming to visit me in May. I am super excited about that. I am trying to plan a trip to her area this summer.

We also have camping and family outings in the works.

Before I end this blog, I had an unbelievable change happen in January. Sam’s whole exome genome testing was finally approved by my insurance company. I have been fighting for this test for about four years. I understand that the insurance company is reluctant to approve this type of testing due to the lowish findings rate (30 – 40%), but I am at the end of my options. Our next step would be a muscle biopsy, which is twice as expensive and way more invasive. For those not in the know, Sam was born with a congenital muscular disease. For Sam, it means that he gets tired more quickly and isn’t as strong as his peers. For us, it is constantly worrying about his weight, his social interactions, working on his gross motor skills. He is currently in physical therapy and is testing out as around a 5 to 6 year old in physical skills (he is 8 right now). I am hoping for a diagnosis that can let us know if there is anything more we can do to help boost him up. His DNA was already on file and he did not have to add anything more to it. Gabriel and I flew to Seattle to put our DNA into the batch. Whole exome means that the parents are involved and it will look into our separate genetic lines for answers. Please cross your fingers for us that this will lead to something. We will get answers in three to four months.

One final thing. Of all the things I have learned this year, the hardest and the best thing is to not put off your dreams. Some dreams are expensive, but dammit save your pennies for it. Some dreams need a little extra time. Make time. Don’t put off what makes you happy.

And again, fuck cancer.

The Day

I have been working on blogs about my Paris adventure, but I wanted to put up a quick post for today.

A year ago today, I found out that my pain was definitely not caused by a pulled muscle. A year ago today, my life turned upside-down. A year ago today, Dr. C told me that I had metastatic breast cancer that had spread to my bones. Stage IV. No cure. A death sentence.

It isn’t an anniversary that I want to remember. I was in agony and losing weight. I had gotten to the point where I was having trouble walking. I was exhausted. I was angry.

My first thoughts were for my kids. I couldn’t leave them. Not yet. I very much want to see them grow up. I very much want to see what kind of humans they become. I also, maybe selfishly, very much want them all to remember me. Really remember me. Not just hear about me from other family members or friends.

After my diagnosis, I went downhill fast. I honestly thought I wasn’t going to make it to my birthday in October. I believe my children and my anger brought me through that time. The radiation treatments helped with my pain and my hormone treatments helped to get my cancer somewhat under control, but it was my children who got me through the other things. I thought of them as I forced food down my throat. I thought of them as I forced myself to reclaim my muscles and start walking again. I thought of them as the worst of my symptoms started to fade and now, a year later, I am not the skeletal, sickly, creature that cancer wants to make me.

Now, I enjoy eating again. I have been working on taming my garden that went out of control. I walked miles and miles in Paris. I took my oldest son to Disney World and Universal Studios. I walked a 5K, which I didn’t think I would be able to do again. I have hope that I now have years instead of months. I have met a lot of the goals that I set for myself last year at this time. Every time I cross one off, I get a feeling of vindication. Fuck you cancer.

Living with cancer means fighting everyday. I am a warrior.

This was not how I wanted to meet a goal.

I have had a struggle with my weight since I got pregnant with my firstborn. I just could not get below 164. In the eleven years since, my weight has fluctuated between 164 and 180. Well, except during my pregnancies. I just don’t count those periods of time.

I have tried to eat healthy and exercise. Turns out what I needed was a debilitating condition. After 11 years, I have met my goal weight. I lost a ton of weight during my last pregnancy due to illness and HELLP. Somewhere around May, I started to lose my appetite, have random fevers, moments of dizziness, nausea, and weakened and hurting muscles. I lost that last bit of weight and met my goal… but I feel so weak and I hate it. I wanted to get there and be strong. I have always been proud of my strength.

I have started to see a physical therapist and I will be seeing my general doc and my OB. I don’t think this has anything to do with Baby Max’s birth 7 months ago, but I figured I could talk to the doc and see what he has to say on the matter. In the meantime, I am doing my stretches and I have started to swim more. I don’t feel pain while I am in the pool, but getting out is awful.

Holy Crap. Or my second trainer experience.

On Monday, I met with my trainer for my first actual session. The other first session was just an orientation. He got me working. Hard. I could hardly walk down the stairs for two days. So, I went jogging today. You know, just to add to the sensation.

He had me doing planks, step-ups, farmer walks, bends, and leg lifts. I was sweating a ton by the time I was done. The actual pain didn’t hit until the next day. It was all good for me. And I feel good about doing it. I had trouble with the leg lifts. My abs are really in sorry condition. So, now I have a goal – to be able to do lifts.

Today, I did Week 1 Day 1 of C25K again. And I was able to do all of the running parts. All joking aside on the pain, my legs do feel a lot better now. It was really encouraging. I am really looking forward to my next jog.

Rawr! Or my gym trainer experience.

I met with my trainer for the first time today. I think I found the perfect trainer to help me get back on track after losing so much muscle. He is recovering from leukemia and is also working on regaining muscle that he has lost. He has been a trainer for 17 years and has a pretty good knowledge of what steps to take in cases like this.

He is also merciless.

Which I need. The exercises he has me working on are ones that I can do. But boy. I am feeling it. Heh. He didn’t really have me doing anything strenuous. A lot of bends and stepping up onto a platform. At the moment, I feel really good and I am looking forward to my next appointment on Monday.

 

A New Venture: Couch 2 5K

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I’ve done C25K in the past, and I was fairly successful. I decided to start it up again as a way to gain muscle strength and get healthier after my birth experience. I had to wait until my blood platelets were back to normal and for Max to be old enough to stay a few hours away from me. I have also scheduled an appointment with a trainer to really help me get on track. I have gained back a lot of my muscle, but, every once in a while, I try to lift or move something that was easy peasy before and I am not able to move it or move it easily.

Week 1 Day 1

Part I…
I will be redoing today’s run. I like to keep working on a workout until I can finish jogging in all of the jogging portions. I missed one jogging part. I should be able to move on to Day 2 with my next workout. It was a start and I actually do feel good about just doing it. I will never be a real competitor in running, but I do like the way it makes me feel.

Stats:
1.87 miles in 30 minutes

 

If any of my readers are interested in joining me, I use the Active Couch to 5K app, however there are a ton of really great C25K apps available. I like this one because my “trainer” is Johnny Dead. Who is a zombie. And randomly says, “Braaaaaains.”

Active Couch to 5K program. http://www.active.com/running/couch-to-5k

 

Frustration

It’s been a long, long time since I last posted about my middle son, my Little Owl. He was delayed in his gross motor skills probably from birth, but it was not noticeable until he was 4 months old. He is now 4 years old. And he is still slightly delayed. And we still do not know why.

We just made a trip to a neurologist in Seattle. Who pretty much told us that, yes, there is something going on with Little Owl, and no, we still do not know why. Which is all stuff I already knew. We just spent $100+ (with help from the in-laws) on a trip to hear stuff we already knew. It is really becoming ridiculous. The docs in Seattle want to see us every 3 to 6 months only to tell us the same goddamn stuff every time. Just call me on the phone and bill my insurance for your time. Save me the gas, food, and lodging.

The neurologist IS ordering a slew of new tests. Which I am hoping our new insurance will cover. They have already denied the genetic test ordered by Little Owl’s biochemical geneticist. I’m not sure they are going to approve an MRI and a spinal tap.

Now, I see the improvements Owl has made. I just want to make sure he keeps improving. We do not necessarily need a diagnosis, but it would be handy to know what we are dealing with. Is it something that we are already treating correctly with the vitamins we are using? Is it something that could be helped with other medications? Are the vitamins actually doing anything? Could a change in diet help? These are questions we can’t answer because we have no clue what we are dealing with. It could be Congenital Myasthenia Syndrome. It could be a slight variation on Mitochondrial Disease. It could be a number of things.

Don’t get me wrong. My Little Owl is wonderfully perfect in his own way. His hypotonia will be with him for the rest of his life. I just want him to be able to understand it and be able to live alongside it. When his weakness hits, it hits hard. There have been times when he will lay down in the middle of a grocery store simply because he is so exhausted. He will literally play until he drops. I do not know of any other four-year-old who will ask for permission to take a nap (“Mommy, I am so tired. Can I please go lay down?”). And yes, I see you. You, right there. I have seen the judging looks you give to my child when he lays down in the store. When he wobbles his way up the stairs to go down the slide he loves to play on. I have learned a lot in living with Owl. I have learned not to judge too harshly or too quickly. We are getting better at living life in the moment, because the next moment may simply be exhaustion.

Veggie Shish Kabobs

Healthy + cheap are two words that most people don’t seem to think can go together. I started my Healthy Eating For Poor People series in an effort to quash that thought process. Not all of us can afford the current trendy organic, free-range bison meat. BUT, most of us can afford simple vegetables, beans, learning how to shop smart, and learning how to make your food in healthier ways.

Fox & Broom|Veggie Shish Kabobs

Fox & Broom|Veggie Shish Kabobs

The veggies I bought for this meal cost me under $10.00. The receipt is a little misleading since I did not use ALL of the vegetables I bought. I will break down the actual cost at the end of this post.

A meal for 3 - 4 people for under $10!

A meal for 3 – 4 people for under $10!

This was one of the simplest recipes I could think of (aside from a salad).  The ingredients can vary, depending on what you like. I’m not a huge fan of tomatoes, so I didn’t use as many as my husband would have. Gotta say – these tomatoes really were spectacular.  Now, there are some additional costs involved with this recipe: marinade and skewers. I already had marinade in my fridge, so that is what I used. I also already had skewers from kabobs a few months before this recipe. I paid about $2.00 for the skewers and $4 for the marinade. A pack of skewers will last my family at least a year. Less if we eat more kabobs. The marinade I used in this recipe is also my favorite chicken and steak marinade. From the size bottle I used (I can sometimes get a bigger bottle at Costco), I get about two – three uses out of it.

Fox & Broom|Veggie Shish Kabobs

Ingredients:

2 Yellow Squash
1 Medium Onion
2 Small Tomatoes
2 Bell Peppers
2 Zucchini Squash
Marinade: enough to coat the kabobs and leave about 1/2 inch in the bottom of a cake pan. I think I used about 1 1/2 cups.

Items needed:

skewers
cake pan/dish to let kabobs sit
grill

Instructions:

Cut all the veggies into decent sized chunks. Not so big that they take up the whole stick, and not so little that they will just fall off. Approximately 2 inch cubes. The onion I cut into largish strips.

Slide the chunks on the skewers in any order you like. Since I had some veggies with really nice colors, I tried to display those colors as nicely as possible. I also made sure to add a bit of onion to add a little more flavor to the other vegetables.

Fox & Broom|Veggie Shish Kabobs

Place the skewered vegetables into a cake pan or deep dish. Pour marinade over the top of the veggies. Make sure they are all well-coated. Cover and let soak for at least an hour. I mixed mine around so all the skewers would have a chance to soak in the marinade on the bottom of the pan.

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Light up your grill and let it heat for about 10 minutes. If you do not have a grill, preheat your oven to about 425º F.

Fox & Broom|Veggie Shish Kabobs

Once the grill has warmed up, place the shish kabobs on it and let cook 10 – 20 minutes. Be sure to turn them over.
If you are using an oven, place the shish kabobs on a cookie sheet. I would spread the marinade left on the bottom of the pan on and around the shish kabobs. Check them about every 5 – 10 minutes. Be sure to turn them over.

Fox & Broom|Veggie Shish Kabobs

I like my veggies a bit crisp. If you want yours not so crisp, you may need to cook them longer.

This recipe made about 7 skewers and fed three adults and one child. It was surprisingly filling all on its own, though if you want to have more protein with your meal, you may want to finish it off with yogurt, have a side of cheese/quinoa/beans.

Fox & Broom|Veggie Shish Kabobs

Total cost:

2 Yellow Squash: $1.31
1 Onion: $0.28
2 Tomatoes: $0.82
2 Green Bell Peppers: $1.98
2 Zucchini Squash: $1.21
Marinade: Approx $2.00

Total: 7.60 ($1.90 per person for four people)

Nutritional Information (per serving for four people):

This is an approximate estimate. I have no idea exactly how much marinade stays on the kabobs. And, it turns it, my marinade is pretty high in sodium… I expected the fat, as it is an oil base. The salt did surprise me.

Calories: 203
Carbs: 37
Fat: 5
Protein: 3
Sodium: 1981
Sugar: 27

Overall, very simple, fairly healthy (depending on your marinade…) and CHEAP.

Shhh! I have maybe 10 minutes!

The baby is sleeping, the middle guy is zoning out on tv (bad mommy moment – don’t judge me), and eldest is playing with his girlfriend err friend.

I have started up the C25K program again. I know, I know: I’ve started it like 5 times now. At the moment I am hoping to train up for the Bloomsday race in May. And getting myself back into shape. I managed to gain back everything I proudly lost over the summer. Bleh. Now, I know I can do it, so I am going to do it. When I have a little more time, I will post up my weekly plan (that I have been keeping to, except for yesterday when I had a sick child), my goals, and my rewards for meeting goals.

Ok. Gotta run. I get the fun task of waking up a baby to drive out in icy weather to take eldest to a class.

Tummy Troubles

I am totally ready for my tummy to be back to normal. Thursday at about 4:30 am, I started yakking up uncontrollably. TMI. It sucked. I was also up at that time with baby and didn’t have time to put him down and run to the bathroom. So I held him while I hugged the porcelain god. Thankfully, the hubby woke up and took him from me. It was a miserable day. Water wouldn’t even stay down. I was starving and super thirsty by the time I could finally get a few sips to stay down.

It is now Saturday night and I still have very little appetite and the tummy is still twisting ominously. I made Chex mix in hopes that might spark something. It is one of my favorite snacks… But no. The smell totally turns me off right now.

And, before you ask, I am not pregnant. I’m actually pretty sure this is food poisoning. Yay!

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