Heal in Sneakers

It was my last day of summer 2014 with my son.  Technically, for my son, his school does not start until after the Labor Day.  But for me, my teaching is starting from Monday and Tuesday.  Wednesday, I will have another cycle of chemotherapy.  Then the rest of the week, I know I will be in bed for sure.  Today was my last day of summer 2014.  (Japanese translation at the end. 日本語は英語の後にあります。)

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Heal in sneakers: We decided to go for a hiking to refresh my first chemo weeks before the next cycle.  My physical strength is back to normal.  Nobody can really tell that I am under the chemotherapy.  Full energy.  We were talking each other a lot on trails, we made jokes, found frogs, lost our way a little bit, and talked about where to have some ice cream after the walk.  What a wonderful family time, I had!  I did what I wanted to do before the next cycle.

 

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On the top of the hiking trail with great view!

 

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[physically]  Day 18. Every morning these last 2 days, as I wake up, I look at my pillow.  WOW, so many pieces of hair.  This morning, I probably picked up about 50 pieces.  No nausea at all.  My taste buds are fully recovered, food taste as they supposed to.  My left arm, I still have some pulling sensation from here to there.  The movement is not completely back to me.  Back to normal completely otherwise.  My scars look great (a strange word to express scars, but honestly as scars, they healed great).

[emotionally]  I knew about my hair to fall, I was emotionally prepared, almost.  One of the first things I thought after discovering my breast cancer was loosing my hair, and most of the doctors I came across did not forget to mention about it.  I still had a really long black with a little high-light straight hair style back them.  I was prepared for it.  Not sad, it is rather strange and someway, interesting.

I am really thankful to my friends and my son’s friends for arranging a lot of play dates over this summer.  I feel big relief to see my son is having such fun and special summer while we are staying here all the time.  We had a family house guests last 2 nights, our friends that I had not seen since 4 years ago.  She did not want to bother me for sleep over, but I insisted them to stay.  They live far away and I don’t have much chance to see or talk to her often.  So many things to catch up.  Kids set up a tent in our yard and constant laughter.  I had a lot to catch up with my close friend.  Tonight my son is having another sleep over at friend’s home.

本日 私と息子の最後の夏休みの日。息子の学校は9月にならないと始まらないけれど、私の授業は明日から。月曜日 火曜日と教える。水曜日は、抗がん剤治療2回目。木曜日以降は、ベッドに沈み込んでいると思われる一週間。今日が 2014年最後の夏休みの日。

今日は、体調もいつもの私のエネルギーに ほぼ戻っているので、ハイキングに出かける。次の抗がん剤のためにも、自然のエネルギーをいっぱいもらって、第一回目の抗がん剤後の副作用で寝ていた分を少しでも取り戻したい。ほぼ通常どおりなので、たぶん私が抗がん剤治療中だとは、いわなければ分からない。ハイキングの道々、家族での会話が盛り上がる盛り上がる。冗談を言い合ったり、かえるを見つけて名前をつけたり、道に迷ったりしてあせったり、帰りのアイスクリームはどこで買おうかと話したり。素敵な家族時間となる。最後の夏休みの日に ふさわしい一日に。もう、遣り残したことはないから、次の抗がん剤治療、受けてやろうじゃないか。

[体調] 第一回抗がん剤終了後 18日目。ここ2日は、起きるたびに 枕を見ずにはいられない。今日は50本ばかり枕についている。気持ち悪さは かすかにあるかな~?ぐらいでほぼなし。食べ物も 記憶している味わいがする。左腕は、まだ 動かすと あっちこっち引っ張り感がある。無感覚の部分は、神経が切れていて無感覚のまま。全摘出後の傷口が、傷口の割りにとっても綺麗にくっついていている。

[心理] 髪の毛が抜けると言うのは、乳がんになったと宣言を受けて 一番最初によぎったことのひとつ。その上、会う先生会う先生が、全員口をそろえて、残念そうに 髪の毛が抜けますよと 忠告をしてくれていた。当時は、ストレートのハイライトを内側に入れているロングヘアーだったから、よっぽど髪の毛を伸ばしてきたと言うのが どの先生も見たとたんに思ったんだろう。きっと私の心の準備は出来ているはず。髪の毛を見ても、とうとう来たか このときが、と思う。抗がん剤の効き目の恐ろしさと同時に、興味深いと思う。悲しくはない。

私の友達、息子の友達にいつも感謝している。この夏中、ことあるごとに、一緒に遊んでくれている。この2泊、4年ぶりに会う私の大切なお友達が泊まっていってくれた。遠慮して、日帰りと言っていたけれど、はるばる遠く来ているし、私のこの経験したことや彼女の経験したことを語り合うのに、日帰りでは到底無理。体調も良かったから、ぜひにと泊まってもらった。息子達が仲良くて、ずーっと笑いが絶えなかったし、昨晩は、庭にテントを張って、2人だけで冒険冒険と庭で寝ていた。二人とも寝不足に違いない。今晩も、息子はお友達の家に泊まらせてもらって、息子が楽しみに出かけていった。友達の家でのお泊りは、この夏2回目です。息子が楽しい時間を過ごしていると分かると、私も安心して 思う存分治療をがんばろうと思う。息子の夏休みは、友達と濃密な時間を過ごして、私たちが家にいながらも経験値をたくさん積んでいる。ありがとう。

Good Nutrition, When I Can

Balanced meals with lean protein and a lot of varieties of veggies and fruits are the good approach even during chemotherapy.  Many breast cancer patients gain weight because patients become less active during chemotherapy, while they eat the same amount of calories as they used to have.  Or it is also being said that patient’s friends and families bring over food to help her out.  (Japanese translation is at the bottom. 日本語は英語の後に記入してあります。)

My tonight dinner was perfect for me, an ideal one and it is food that I grew up with (almost).  Thanks to my parents who set some of them aside in freezer in advance.  For some of these, all I had to was to defrost or heat up.

1. black bean rice (whole grain)

2. Tofu with Myoga (Japanese herb)

3. Eggplant from today’s farmers market with Bonita fish flakes

4. Hijiki (seaweed) with Fried Tofu

5. Burdock with Sesame

6. Zucchini Pickles with Kombu Seaweed

7. Chicken Lever (for a source of iron)

8. Salted Salmon with Shiso Herb

9. Miso Soup with Wakame (another kind of seaweeds) and Radish

10. Fresh Corn from Farmers Market

I know that was ideal meal during chemotherapy for me – I mean with the quality of nutrition- it did not have to be Japanese meal.  However, most of the time, I could not prepare or have meals in this way.  During 3 weeks of in-between chemo cycles, for about 2 weeks, either feeling sick to cook, or having completely no appetite and what ever served, I ate as I could.  Food became low on my priority list.

On top of this meal, today, I received a surprise delivery.  More great nutrition source came in just in time before the next cycle, which I cannot eat much at all for another 1 week.  A beautiful bouquet of fruits from my relative lives at a distance (so many thanks!).  Just looking at this gave me some positive energy.  It was so fresh and sweet.  This is the very short period that I want to catch up with my vitamins and minerals for healing from chemo and especially for my pimples, and for preparing for the next chemo.  It was a perfect timing for me.  I was feeling good enough to enjoy eating.

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[physically] great. Minor nausea, very minor.  I was very active, before my next cycle.  Farmers market in the morning.  I took my son and his friend to fishing in the afternoon.  They setup a tent in the backyard for a sleep over in the tent.  I was thrilled to see my son having so much fun and enjoying a little piece of summer 2014.

[emotionally] Feeling great.  As next Wednesday seems to me right there, I felt like no time to waste…

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Day 16: Oh, oh. My hair…

Day 15 after my first chemotherapy -yesterday night-…  At night, I just noticed something a little bit unusual.  Many hair in my underwear, and on toilet paper.  Oh, oh.  did it finally start? (Japanese translation is at the bottom. 日本語は英語の後に記入してあります。)

Day 16 after my first chemotherapy -Today-… Now as I run my fingers through my hair, two to three pieces of hair come out.  It is surprisingly no physical sensation what so ever when hair comes off.  I don’t even notice them.  When I wash my hair, I close my eyes, I cannot tell how much is coming off.  I just don’t feel a pull at all.

My experienced nurse at oncology office told me my hair would fall off after my 2nd chemotherapy.  I figured my first week of teaching, I could show up with my hair, at least once.  Oh, oh… that will be 4 days from now.  I really hope my hair will be intact until then.  I can shave it off or what ever after that.  Please stay on!

I took a shower tonight.  I washed it as if I am washing something so fragile. I did not towel dry my hair, nor combed my hair.  Please stay on.

[physically] Feeling totally normal.  Very very mild nausea.  I do what I can while I can move around before Wednesday, the next chemotherapy.  My period is still spotty.  Hair started to fall down.  I experimented by pulling out my hair in my leg, it harts, and it did not come off 🙂 !

[emotionally]  I beg my hair to stay on for another 5 days until my Tuesday teaching will be over.  Then I will surrender completely.  I just became anxious about this.  I know it was totally expected, and I think I am ready for this.

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Breast Cancer in Summer 2014 with a Kid

For the last 3 days, I was doing fine.  Not great, but just fine.  Nausea had it’s peek on 2nd to5th days after the chemotherapy.  Today, not much.  Occasionally, there was some moments I was thinking, “oh, I can feel it.”  It is extremely mild today.

Once as I feel recovered, almost!, from the last one, now I can see my next chemotherapy 2/6, second one out of 6, coming up on Wednesday, August 27.  Now I know how I will respond to it, I started to prepare for it, mainly 2 things I have to do before next Wednesday.  1: prepare for my fall semester teaching material.  2: Give my son some summer treat.

Being a breast cancer patient while kids are still young, it is difficult to find a good balance.  Here I need to focus on me, while it is recommended to maintain a kid’s life as “normal” as possible.  How do I do that?

1. Keeping up with daily routine schedule for a kid (my son 8 years old)

I could not do it alone!  If you are the one who manage, kid’s scheduling, it is a good time to give the schedule to husband/partner/sitter ahead of time.  Assure him/her to trying to keep it up with the daily routine as scheduled.  Well, I still do participate, because I care about it a lot.   But there were times, when I devoted myself studying about my disease and treatments.  I also had to look for professionals whom I can trust.  I needed to discuss or just talk with my family and friends over coffee or the phone for hours (in total) to search for different opinions or just for comforting me.  I need to rest and recover.  It has been so helpful when friends take my son out for a play date.  Meanwhile, I can focus on me, not being a mother.  No worries about snack or screen time.

Keeping up with daily routine schedule for a kid can provides him/her a good security feeling.  His mother might be fighting with cancer, but his life does not change, the same as before.  The same old time.  Kids can be also scared when their mother face possibly deadly disease.  Mother’s appearance may change, not being able to move around, or hair loss.

2. Planning play dates with his friends

It looks to me he enjoys a lot to be with friends.  Seemingly worrisome issues are discussed over the phone with specialists, insurance companies, and friends at home, when he has somebody accompany with him, his focus is on the play date.  I made a lot of play dates during this summer.  I could not really go for swimming while my son loves swimming, some friends took him for a pool.  Those play dates have been helpful.

3. Unfortunate summer 2014.  Mini trips, instead, when I can.

We were initially planning to visit his grand parents in Japan for 6 weeks.  We had a plan to sending him to a Japanese public school for 3 weeks.  Unfortunately, I needed to cancel the trip.  Instead, I had to face the cancer.  I know that it is purely a social pressure, but when I hear other families go for VACATION, I felt sorry for my son.  All 9 weeks of summer break, we are in town, wait, almost.  I had my left mastectomy 4 days before my son’s summer started.  We just had to stay around.

I wanted to take him out for some trips.  When I felt good, I tried to take him out for mini trips.  Some highlights are: We visited our friend’s home in beach, a day trip.  We took him out for a theme park. I took him out yesterday for an off-broadway, “iLuminate Artist of Light”.  (So much fun, I really recommend it.  Visually so appealing.  http://iluminate.com/artist-of-light/ ) Maybe this weekend, we will take him out for a hiking (before my next chemo and it is our last summer weekend).  We enjoyed a lot.  I just really wanted to provide him some summertime feeling.

At least, it had been so helpful that my parents from Japan were here to help us out for about 6 weeks.  That was fun for my son.  Thank you, my parents!

[physically]  For the last 3 days, nausea had been almost unnoticeable.  It is there though. Well… once I thought my period was over, it has still going on, very very light.  It has been over 2 weeks.  Pimples are there on my face.  I gained back weight as my appetite is back.  My left underarm has been numb since the surgery and it bugs me.  I keep touching there lightly, hoping my nerve to come back some sensation.

[emotionally] Sort of steady… I now started to feel annoyed that my next chemotherapy is right around the corner… Next Wednesday.  My teaching is coming up next Monday, I am getting ready for it!

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doing fine

I just wanted to drop a line, just in case some of you may wonder about me.  I am doing fine for now.  Once I started feeling normal, then now I can see my next chemotherapy is coming up next Wednesday.  I will write a blog post later when I have a bit more time.

後ほど もう少し長いブログをつづる予定ですが、時間がないけれど、心配してくださる方があるかもしれないと思い、短い現状報告。今の今は、調子良く生活してます。やっと調子よくいけてるかなと思えば、すでに来週水曜日に次の抗がん剤治療。どうなるか分かってしまっているだけに、気分が陰鬱になってきました。後ほど時間を作って、ブログを書きたいと思っています。

My Treatment Timeline

My treatments planI wanted to share my treatment time line for a reference.  (Please read “important” at the bottom, if you are diagnosed breast cancer.)  As many of breast cancer cases, I did not feel a pain or sick at all.  I felt perfectly healthy, in fact, I thought I was one of the most healthiest, or the most health conscious person around me.  One major different thing about the cancer from other illness is that removing cancer with surgery is only the very first step (note: some cancer requires chemotherapy before surgery).  Many other treatments to follow in breast cancer.  When I found about about the length of the treatment I had to have, I was daunted to face that fact.  Previously, I never had surgery, I did not take any medications regularly, and I even did not take any vitamins because I self-studied nutrition and my meals provided me balanced vitamins and minerals.

Day 11:  Almost normal.  I took a long nap in the afternoon.  I also did another bike ride!

[physically] I can feel a mild body ache from yesterday’s exercise.  I need some exercise.  Mild nausea, but I did not take medication.  I wake up feeling normal, but gradually my nausea reminds me that I am under chemotherapy treatment, (this is an improvement.)  I had head ache and took Advil.  My pimples are healing.  I don’t digest food well, food comes out from me recognizable (I tried not to be very descriptive).

[emotionally] Very steady.  I can predict the next cycles.  Not knowing what will happen to me was a big fear.  Next cycle, I might be a little better to handle the cycle emotionally.

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Day 10: Feel almost normal

Day 10 after my chemotherapy.  I feel almost back to normal today.  Yes, I still have mild nausea, but not that noticeable.   In fact, I thought I needed to start some exercises.  My husband is a dedicated runner, but I was not sure if running was my best exercise today.  I asked him to tune up my bicycle.  Bending over to reach ground makes me nauseated, I could not do it myself.  I went for a bike riding while he goes out for running.  I had to stop occasionally when I felt nauseous, but otherwise, I felt good about getting some exercise done.  We were out for over 1 hour.

My appetite came back as well as my taste buds.  I quickly started putting some weight now.  Wow, now it is the time to focus on what I eat, finally.  I don’t get hungry today, I believe because I eat small amount more frequently.  I felt lack of vegetables in my diet for the last 10 days, I craved for vegetables.  My friend brought me my favorite carrot dressing with ginger and honey.   I am set for vegetables!

When I was on a bike, we passed by a store that sells felafels.  I started to explain how to make felafels to my husband as I was riding the bike.  I was excited to find out that “I am thinking about food!”  I greeted myself “Welcome back, Yoko!”

[physically]: Almost back to normal (Oh, thank you!).  I felt some nausea from time to time.  When I am destructed, I forget about it.  A pimple popped out, but nothing noticeable happened for now.   I was afraid that being lower white blood counts could cause some situation, not today.  I don’t notice sore mouth today.

[emotionally]: As I felt normal and did some exercise, I felt great and thankful.

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Day 9: Some energy toward evening

It started out slowly this morning.  I wake up having mild nausea very similar to yesterday.  We visited a farmers market and bought a few vegetables.  I was not sure how much cooking I will do for a week.  So far, I did not cook at all, but heating up prepared food from time to time.  But it was good that I had motivation to go out.

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Those are so cute!  Not only pies are homemade, but the packages are also hand painted.

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I spend reading a book most of my time until 3 PM.  When a friend of mine called me at 3:30, when I was taking a nap.  A get together dinner invitation at a Japanese restaurant made me think of what I wanted to eat for the first time since I had my chemotherapy.  My appetite is getting back on track, a bright news to me.  Just in case, I took an anti-nausea medication before the restaurant.

I could not imagine how much I ate.  I ordered Tempura so that I could take some home in case I did not finish it, but I ate everything.  Somehow I started to taste food better again.  Having a good accompany distracted me from thinking about being nauseous.  The dinner replenished my energy up again.  Once I went home, I started to clean the house that I could not do before.  Oh, I felt good.

[physically]: Constant very mild nausea, a lot of burping.  Not much fatigue.  Appetite is coming back!   Food started to taste as it supposed to be.  Pimples are persistent on my face.  Sore spots in the mouth.  A red rash spot at my throat.  My period seems to be over, finally -12th day of my period.  Itch scalp.

[emotionally]: Fine.  Things look more optimistic.

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Day 8:Thoughts about being constant nauseous

Day 8:  Even better than yesterday.  I was slightly nauseated, milder than yesterday…  the level of nausea is like morning sickness.

I remember having this similar nauseous condition 9 years ago, when I was pregnant of my son.  Yesterday, our son’s piano teacher called me to check on me.  (Thank you!)  Her daughter and daughter in law went through breast cancer recently.  She described me “just like morning sickness, isn’t it?” when I mentioned about my nausea.  That reminded me a nurse with my oncologist had already told me about that, too, on the day of my chemotherapy.  At the hospital, there are 4 specialists stopped by and gave me so many facts and tips.  I totally forgot about that comment.  Yes, now it is like morning sickness.

This made me wonder a difference between a morning sickness of 9 years ago and chemotherapy nausea today.  9 years ago, when I felt my morning sickness, I felt sick, but there was joy underneath.  “Op, this is what it is like!”  I did not like it much, but I knew there was something precious I was growing.  I wanted it to be growing well.  I wanted to get over with it and wanted to meet our baby later.  Today, it is true… I have “Op, this is what it is like…” a very same impression, except tone is different.  I try to look for something to look forward to to go through this.

Once I get over this nausea:

1. “I will get back to my normal life!”

2. “I will taste my favorite food as it supposed to taste!”

3. “I will feel a big relief.”

I thought listing up would help me feel better, and had better attitude today.  Well, I have a mixed feeling about this.  I may succeeded to list up something positive, but at the same time, the things I am looking forward to are what I used to already have.  I don’t have them now.  Then… I look like victimized… and maybe I am a victim of the cancer…  mmm, Bummer.

[physically]: Constant nauseous.  Not much of fatigue, but I took a nap.  Some appetite is coming back!  11th day of my period. Around my nose and mouth, many pimples.  Edges of my mouth started ache, some small cut openings.  My mouth is sore with one white spot started to show up.

[emotionally]: Stable.  Some motivation started to come back to me again, which made me happy.  Started to concerned about my hair loss.  Will I be able to put together something look good on me with my new area of fashion: bald?

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Day 7: A short trip to NYC

A week ago, I had my first chemotherapy.  Today, I felt even better than yesterday.  It was best among the last 5 days. I wake up with a slight feeling of nausea, but very mild.  It was like morning sickness.  (My posture has been pretty good.  When I am nauseated, I noticed I walked in bad posture, but I could not help it.)

After a breakfast, friend’s homemade banana muffin and scrambled eggs, I went back to watch a movie; “Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has to Travel.”  A story about a woman who used to be an editor in chief of Harper Bazaar, Vogue and head of The Costume Institute of Metropolitan Museum.  That made me think of different head piece solutions I have to think for near future.  I wanted to go to the NYC.  My husband wanted to come with me to make sure I would be OK.  I really appreciated about it, I myself was not confident either.  We made a short trip, 2 hours stay in the city. Oh, I was happy.  I felt nauseous but when I was looking into different hats, I was not thinking about nausea.  A brief moment of nausea-free without medication!  Bravo, fashion.  I had some inspiration, and I will make some, too, when I can.  Soon to be seen here, I hope!  (Or not hope… I am talking about after my hair falls off.)

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[physically] My weight hit the lowest record ever I remember since I am at this height.  A mild nausea, consistent but tolerable.  I could eat more today.  No appetite.  Burping.  Not much fatigue.  My face still has pimples for the last 3 days.  My period still goes on.  A nurse called me and told me that it could be irregular during chemotherapy.  She did not sound concerned about it.  Every night, nausea gets worse.

[emotionally] Very steady.  It may be still too early to say, but the first week of the chemotherapy is rough and tough.  If that is the case, 5 more weeks of that to overcome.  I have 6 cycles every 3 weeks, that makes it about 4+ months.  It is not like 5 months of rough and tough time, more like 5 weeks in total.  That way, emotionally it is easier to cope with this.  In the train heading back home, I exercised an “escape” that my physiotherapist had told me how to calm me down.

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