Monday, August 30, 2010

Surgery Update & Social Security Disability

So my surgery date is set for September 29th. The docs scheduled it on my brother Shane's birthday. And interestingly, after my last surgery, my oncologist restarted my chemotherapy on my birthday. How weird is that? My other brother Steve has a birthday in March. I wonder what's going to happen on that day.

When meeting with my surgeons on Friday, they gave me the low-down on what to expect before, during and after surgery. There's one correction I need to make from last weeks post. They will not be operating on my left lung. Since they are not sure what is there, they're opting to just monitor what was found on the next follow-up CT or PET scan. If the spot in the left lung has grown, it will "light up" better on the scan and the docs will determine if it is cancer. If it never grows, then it's not cancer. Leaving these unknown spots in my left lung is not a very comforting thought. But the surgery on my liver, right lung and ostemy bag will be about 6 or 7 hours, long enough without having to go into my left lung as well.

I set up an appointment with Social Security today. Back in October when I started my chemotherapy treatments, the head nurse there told me that cancer patients are not eligible to receive disability. So I took her word for it, thinking that she should know. Well, it turns out that she is wrong! Recently a friend told me otherwise, some cancer patients do qualify. Why it took so long for the truth on this matter to be revealed to me, I know not. I now have a phone interview set up for later this week. We'll see if I am eligible or not.

I just finished eating my daily asparagus. Now I sprinkle cayenne pepper on it, not for the taste, but for the hope of healing properties of capsaicin. Someone should market asparagus with cayenne and other peppers to the cancer community. I'm off now to get my blood drawn at the hospital, chemotherapy tomorrow....

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

My Long Awaited Surgery, A Big Thanks & More Cancer Prevention Consumption Advice

My Upcoming Surgery:
It looks as if I will finally be scheduled for my long awaited surgery. I should know the exact date by the end of this week. The delay in setting the schedule is because two surgeons will be involved. It seems that they can operate on both my lung and my liver at the same time. What an answered prayer! My oncologist at Womack Army Medical told me more than once that the double resection would probably not be possible. I pushed her to send my request for both to be resected at the same time anyway. And as far as I'm told, my oncologist submitted my request as such to the surgeon. My oncologist really is a great doctor. She knew it was the surgeons call and acted as such. If there's one thing I'm learning through all this, is that you have to follow your instinct and not be intimidated to push your requests through, even though the whole process leaves you feeling quite helpless.

The decision to operate now came from results of a CT scan taken about a month ago. The scan showed that the tumors are "relatively stable," meaning that the growth was slight over the prior two months, since the last scan, only about one or two millimeters growth in one tumor. And no measurable growth in the other. Switching my chemotherapy regimen from "Full Fox" to "Full Fury" seems to have worked. It virtually stopped the growth. That's the good news, the very good news, as now I can have surgery. But of course, something else came up....

The UNC doctors had their radiologists analyze my CT scan from last month, and they commented on two spots found in my left lung. They don't know what the spots are; it may or may not be cancer. The spots are about 3 mm in size. The nurse practitioner who I spoke with about it said that she believes the pulmonary surgeon will go through my left lung as well my right lung to take out what was found there, whether it is cancer or not. So my surgery is going to be quite complex, resection in my liver, in both lungs, and once and for all, removing the dreaded bag. After surgery, I should have about 3 or 4 more months of chemotherapy. And if they've removed all the operable cancer with this upcoming surgery and no more tumors appear. And if the chemo takes care of all that is inoperable, then I should come out the other end of this cancer free. A lot of "ifs" so I will need all your continued prayers.

A Big Thanks:
That leads me to the topic of support. I was soooo encouraged last week when I went home to MA for a much overdue visit. I hadn't been home in over two years. My life long friend, Lee Green, decided she wanted to throw a Silpada Designs jewelry fundraiser for me. Even though my medical bills are covered (thank God) through Army benefits, my financial challenges are still great, though my husband may not see it that way. And given my pending surgery(ies), which keeps getting postponed, I've been hesitant to find a new job. (Not to mention my chemo schedule). Now my husband, despite my cancer, has me on a tight budget, and states, "My needs are met." Not to man bash, but the simple fact is that guys just don't get women sometimes. Adding the emotional needs of a cancer patient to the man vs. woman equation can complicate matters or perhaps make them simpler, depending on the couple. Unfortunately, in my case the matter is complicated. But I digress, back to gratitude for my friends. So Lee threw me this fundraiser. I felt the love in so many ways. Thank you to all my friends, old and new, who supported that event. A special shout out to Lee (of course), Marlo White and Lisa Curley who worked behind the scenes to make it a success. For her efforts, Lee got some free jewelry to show at her next Silpada Designs party. For anyone interested in the Silpada jewelry line, visit Lee's website and contact her at (a shameless plug for my old friend, lol).

Cancer Prevention Consumption:
I also want to share some news for cancer prevention consumption. Recently, I visited a health food store on the advice of a friend to investigate some supplements. I also got advice about them from my oncologist. Here is what I discovered. Not surprisingly, my oncologist could not recommend the mushroom based supplements, nor red clover, as they might interfere with the chemo’s effectiveness. However, she did say that one of the supplements I discovered seemed benign. That supplement is called "Graviola." The health food store owner who recommended it to me showed me a brochure promoting this supplement for cancer patients who are in the midst of chemotherapy. There's a university in PA that backs this product, and claims Graviola actually makes chemo more effective at beating cancer. I should also note that my oncologist seemed to approve of eating asparagus, as mentioned in a previous post, as well AHCC and Maitake (the mushroom based supplements) and red clover, which are all okay after chemotherapy is done.

Another discovery comes from a bulletin titled "Fire in the Belly" in the June issue of "Men's Health" magazine. It states, "A recent Korean lab study found that the compound that makes chilies spicy, capsaicin, can help kill colon-cancer cells.... The Scoville scale measures capsaicin content; the more capsaicin in the peppers you eat, the greater the benefit (and the hotter the burn)." The bulletin also cites a metabolic benefit. The Scoville scale is as follows:

Type / Scoville Heat Units
Pure Capsaicin 15,000,000
Capsicum Oleoresin (used to make pepper spray) 1,500,000
Bhut Jolokia (hottest known chili variety) 1,000,000
Orange Habanero 210,000
Tabasco (Chili) 120,000
Thai Hot 60,000
Ground Cayenne 40,000
Serrano 25,000
Chipotle 5,000 - 10,000
Jalapeno 5,500
Pasilla 4,000
Tabasco Sauce 3,750
Pablano 1,500
Mulato 1,000
Bell Pepper 0

Now I'm not about to go squirting pepper spray in my mouth, I don't like too much spice. But for the first time ever, I willingly put some Tabasco sauce in my stew last night. I'll see if I can't work my tolerance up the Scoville scale. And yes, since I've posted that email about asparagus, I've been eating that on a daily basis, well almost daily. So if I do beat this cancer, we won't know what did the most good, chemo, asparagus, Graviola, capsaicin, or what. But I will certainly Thank God.

That's all the updates I have for now. More to come once I've met with my surgeon(s).

Much Love,