Conversations with Strangers

Lately, I’ve been experiencing glimpses into who a used to be. A younger, innocent, more naive me. A me not in my 30’s. Occasionally I’ve attributed this to maintaining long-term friendships and seeing old parts of me reflected back, but I’m starting to think it’s this new thing I’ve been doing.

Last Wednesday, I was at the grocery store to pick up a few things to get us to the weekend, and throughout my short visit I had three meaningful relationships with complete strangers.

The first was the friendly pizza sample lady, aka “the top seller in the region” as she boasted. Who, after a few connections shared some extremely personal health details she is worried about. Another, in the checkout lane was a dark man, wearing a leather hat, with even fewer items in his cart than mine. He asked me to read the price on a WWI magazine to him. From there, we started talking about the civil war and some other facts I had recently learned. Then, as I was checking out, I talked with the cashier, a junior in high school who was stressing about the ACT and starting to face the realities of growing up.

So what was it that lead me to really start talking with these strangers. I think back to my 20’s, and I was so open. So, happy.

I’ve started a new supplement / health program. My first two weeks I shed 10 pounds (and have kept them off). I’ve had more energy to finish chores. I feel sharper and clearer at work. I’ve been more happy and goofy in all aspects of my life, apparently even at the grocery store.

With my health history, I’ve tried several health trends. I was ‘athletic’ through high school and college. I got into distance running in my mid-twenties which led to a lot of knee and hip pain. I switched to a diet containing mostly juice and fresh vegetables when I was diagnosed, which left me weak enough I could hardly play sand volleyball, and led to sharp pain in my joints. I got into essential oils, and found only limited results compared to the prices charged. I have a cabinet of multi-vitamins and probiotics, which never really made me feel better, but did cause my pee to turn neon yellow. I spent almost a year home-brewing my own kombucha, and then read about how dangerous the bacteria growth can be, on top of not really feeling any different. Earlier this year, I was practicing fasting days, which usually involved me curling up in bed by 8 pm with no energy.

Now, just a week shy of starting this program, I can feel and see a difference. When picking out outfits, belts fall from my waist to my hips, skirts I ordered online that I failed to return after deeming them too tight actually fit.

So what is this program? From a high-level, it’s meal replacement shakes 6 days a week, and a cleanse day once a week (you don’t have to strictly adhere to this program). While being able to pull back on calories is a major player in the weight loss side, the program is about feeding your body nutrients to keep it balanced.Many studies are testing the quality of foods we eat now, and finding they just aren’t as rich as they probably once were. This program strives to re-add these missing nutrients. Throughout all my health endeavors, I’ve just never been able to get it right on my own. All these healthy things I thought I was doing weren’t making me feel any better.

The cleanse days are to give your system a rest to detoxify. Every day, there is an “elixir” – a shot of nutrients to feed your system. Sources of nutrients is important to the company, with the back of the bars boasting the products came from “happy cows”. There are bars and snacks to eat throughout the day to stay satisfied.

Are the product perfect? I don’t think so. But they better than me eating pizza and mac and cheese and adding a side salad so I can tell myself I ate something healthy. Do they have sugar? Yes, but less than a single-serve container of yogurt, and many granola bars. Do they taste good? I think so! But I’ve never been one to hop on board with a supplement/shake program like this.

It’s also been a burden off my shoulders to not worry about food. Getting groceries, planning recipes for every meal of the day. Prepping leftovers. Products ship right to my front door on a recurring cycle. I don’t get distracted by junk food at the grocery store, and know exactly what my budget is for the month. It keeps me accountable to not eat snacks throughout the day. If anything, it’s let Blake and I focus on enjoying our one meal a day together. We actually get excited to pick something and cook together, or cherish something new at a restaurant. I savor food, rather than trying to just satisfy hunger.

I would highly encourage anyone looking to feel better to consider trying this system out. Please reach out directly if you are interested!

I do have a website through this company to order from (prepare yourself for some tacky marketing pieces here). But please contact me first prior to ordering anything! I want to help you get the best deal and setup for your first go-round. Learn more and place an order online.

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My First Oncologist Meeting

Overall, it was pretty uneventful. Nothing ground breaking was introduced, and no start date was set. Mayo had failed to send my files on, so they made copies of mine to review. My doctor had the summary of everything that happened, but wanted to fine comb through the details.

Here’s the general facts:

General Treatment
Lasts six months, with treatments every two weeks using the FOLFOX approach. There are three medications involved: leucovorin, fluorouracil, and oxaliplatin (the big one). The biggest health concerns are limb numbness (most cases it goes away after treatment), mild-severe hair thinning, dehydration (in my case, she would basically allow me to get fluid treatment whenever I feel necessary due to dehydration also being caused by my surgery – a double whammy), and low blood counts (fatigue, weakened immune system. I have to avoid babies during treatment, sorry Austin and Katy! I’ll have to soak up the cuteness and get my fill this week.)

Treatment Time
It is strongly recommended that a chest port is put in. This plug lives under the skin, and has a catheter that runs into blood vessels near my heart. This is beneficial for a variety of reasons including eliminating the potential for the drug to leak into my tissues which would cause a lot of damage, and allowing me to receive treatment remotely when I receive the 48-hour cycle. According to my doctor, people wear fanny-packs all the time so it won’t be noticeable. 🙂

The biggest benefit to me is that they won’t have to run IVs and attempted to draw blood from various veins every other week. All my treatments and blood draws will come from my chest port, which starts with a plug they poke the needles directly into. My bruises from my hospital IVs from three weeks ago are still healing.

The first three treatments, my doctor wants to see me on person to ensure everything is going okay. After that, I can opt to receive treatment at St. Elizabeth’s in Lincoln. I probably won’t decide until I can gauge what my recovery will be like.

Clinical Trial
There is one trial I may be eligible for, after my doctor fine combs my files. In short, it would cut my treatment down to three months, as opposed to six. However, the side effects may be worse during treatment, but my recovery and long term effects would be cut since I was under treatment for a shorter time. This would also help ensure I can continue the entire duration of treatment, as many peoples bodies can’t endure six months and have to end treatment early.

But, it is a trial. What if three months isn’t long enough and I go into remission and have to do the entire six month treatment anyway down the road? The treatments are a little different, and what if they aren’t as effective in my case? Do I really want to take that gamble? When I asked what the biggest benefit of doing this would be, she responded “it’s best for the health care industry.” Not really the glowing recommendation and confidence-building answer I was looking for.

I think I’m just reaching decision-making fatigue. Every choice seems like it has so many consequences or unused opportunity. I mulled over the surgical procedure for weeks before picking one an hour before they put me under. I’ve met with do many doctors and just get the same information fed to me over and over. I just want to have all these choices picked so I can start.

Speaking of starting, she is leaning toward waiting until closer to my six weeks post-surgery. This makes me nervous, but I do understand i need as much energy, stamina, confidence, and strength as I can possibly get. I have been so concerned about how fast this developed, but she did a great job putting those fears at ease.

Colon cancer is very slow growing. So much more could have been going on beneath the surface than what the first colonoscopy revealed. Even other surgeons told me that – there is no way to stage this cancer until it is out and can be examined. The lymph nodes could have been involved much sooner, but since nothing has formed yet, this is a good sign.

I didn’t realize how much I was relying on my own conclusions and assumptions.

We didn’t talk too much about her preference in monitoring growth or lack there of. I have mayo’s recommendation which included blood testing every three months for five years, as well as CT scans every six months.

I’ve decided I need to “bulk up” and build as much stored fat in my body for when I start chemo. Over and over i hear that it’s hard to eat and my energy will be so low.

Surprisingly, building up this weight has been tough. Since my first diagnosis in April until now, I’ve dropped 25 pounds. Hi there, high school weight. After my first week back home, I gained three back. As of yesterday, and after a week of eating my aunts pies and cookies, I dropped off those three again.

I feel like my most pressing needs on a daily basis are where can I sit down next, and when can I eat again. I have to eat at least every two hours. And not a small snack. Yesterday noon until dinner I ate an enchilada, a CLIFF bar, three chicken strips, 2.5 pieces of pizza, and a bowl of ice cream (I juiced in the morning, so I got my veggie dose!). I woke up starving this morning.

Not that I’m throwing all caution to the wind and eating the most caloric foods and fattening, though yesterday kind of seems like it. I’m finding balance in my meals, but am trying to absorb as much nutrients and calories as I can to continue healing and so my body is prepared.

Plus, it seems like eating will be my enemy for a while, so I might as well enjoy it while I can!