Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year! So Happy to be in the year 2015!
I have a really long "to do " list for 2015, that's regardless of what scan, doctor, or statistics may say.
So my lungs better behave, and my chemo brain better cooperate.
First on the list of course is to move my healing forward. I can't go on chemo forever, no one does. My oncologist expects the chemo to either stop working or I will give up. Giving up will mean my body can't tolerate the toxicity anymore. The strain has started to show itself in the past 3 chemotherapy sessions I've had, my veins are starting to resist the treatment, putting a cannula on me is becoming a burden on myself and the nurses, and I'm starting to bruise really bad where the needle was. Having said that though, my oncologist said he hasn't seen anyone go on chemo for as long as I have and do so well! I'm mapping out my next line of action and I will talk about the modalities I've chosen in the next weeks.
The cancer will obviously still take center stage. Let me rephrase that, I will put myself at center stage this 2015. Cancer is a call to put myself there, it tells you that you need to let yourself be the star once in a while. It's a calling to reboot myself, although I wish it's as simple as hitting a button.

This can be really overwhelming and I can't allow it to consume me so I've written down a bucket list of things to do when I'm not on treatments, meditating, or doing research. What type of bucket list can a cancer patient make? One that doesn't require commitment!  My list is a mix of fun, challenge, relaxation, and will probably involve a lot of mess. It will all be short term and can be abandoned on demand except maybe for one, the photography site I want to relaunch on a much smaller scale, still debating on this one. Taking a Spanish language class is on my list. We recently hired a Cuban cook and trying to communicate with her with the little Spanish I can muster inspired me to revisit these classes I used to abhor, Mi Ultimo Adios, no more! This one goes on the do something challenging list, along with sewing and cooking classes.
It will be living with Cancer - Extreme! Don't worry, I'm aware of my limits, chemo and side effects and cancer will get in the way. That is why first on my list is Nourishment. I will do everything to get my diet and supplements right, I know this alone will help me bulid up.
I haven't really followed through New Year's resolutions of years past, but I make them every year. In my situation, it is a must, I simply must stick to it and do it! Every year, even if we don't write them down we've all got lists on our minds when the new year comes. Be it improving on a skill, starting a new career, getting relationships in order, etc. We all get a chance to pause and redirect our lives, how many more chances will I get to make these resolutions and carry them out, I wonder. I can't definitively say, there's always next year but all of you who are reading this, don't miss out on these chances - no pressure :)
I wish and pray for fortitude and stability in body, mind, and spirit to get through another year.
A Happy, Healthy, and Prosperous Year to all!

Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Merry Christmas: I come bearing presents!

Christmas takes on a deeper meaning when you're living a life with Cancer. You always think, is this going to be my last Christmas? You make every effort to make it special, or at least more profound. Last Christmas I was strapped to a breathing apparatus the size of a suitcase with meters of cannula, tubes of plastic that I have to drag around the house, into bed, the shower, it had to be everywhere, or I stop breathing. Did that stop me from having Christmas? I didn't let it! I couldn't go out shopping, or watch the wonderful store displays, or do my favourite holiday thing, browsing the Christmas markets, but, thank goodness for the mighty internet, Christmas got sorted and delivered. Family came which made it the occasion it should be. A true Christmas.
This year, confident as I am in my healing protocols, there is still that haunting question in my mind, will I be around next Christmas? It's just a question you can't help but ask when you're as sick as I am, sorry if that came out upsetting.
I love Christmas trees. I vary and change my theme every year, setting up the tree kick starts my Christmas frenzy. We are moving in January and I have put our tree in storage by mistake so we just have the small one that used to go in my daughter's room. I had a theme in mind this year and I had bought some ornaments, celebrating the fact that I can actually hand pick them in store. Liberty, Harrod's, Fortnum and Mason, and the Christmas Markets had the best ones. I decided to stick with the little tree this year, save the ornaments for next year, that would hopefully send a message to my cells, "we've got to stick around for that tree!"
Growing up in Manila where holiday music starts playing as early as September (no kidding), it's not a wonder it's my favourite season. I have spent Christmases in different parts of the world but nothing matches Christmas in the Philippines. It's an amazing package of love, spirituality, and gluttony, and if you're not careful, bankruptcy :) My Christmases were always filled with joy back there. I try to relive that wherever I end up spending Christmas in. Wrapping presents is my thing, I know some of you are like "what?".  I love it, when wrapping Christmas presents, I set up the mood. I play holiday music while sipping eggnog (chamomile tea this year) and home made cinnamon cookies. My husband and kids will never get to the level of Christmas I know, the kids used to hop in on all the hysteria but they don't join me anymore. They don't get all the ballyhoo that comes over me at this time of year. But, they love the presents nevertheless, funny.
This Christmas again is filled with gratitude, thankful that I'm even around to take part. I will look forward to the next one.
I searched through some Ezines I used to write for that still had my articles and photographs and found this, the Irish Coffee recipe I wrote for The Vancouver Observer, perfect with Cinnamon Cookies on cold Christmas nights, or just to put you in the mood. Consider it my gift - you're welcome!
Cinnamon Cookies
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
2 cups granulated sugar
2 eggs
2 3/4 cup all purpose flour
1/3 cup ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. salt
Cream together the butter and sugar. Beat in eggs until fluffy. Mix in the flour, cinnamon, and salt. Knead until cinnamon is well incorporated evenly. Wrap dough in plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for at least an hour or overnight. Roll dough into floured surface, cut dough with your choice of cutters. Place 2 “ apart on lined cookie sheets. Bake at 350 for about 15 minutes or until done. They’re good plain or you can frost and decorate them. Your house will smell of Christmas!

I hope your Christmas is filled with love and meaning this year, let it flow with gratitude! Look forward to the blessings of another year. Do watch the cream and alcohol though (just one Irish Coffee will serve the fix)

Merry Christmas everyone!
 click below for Christmas music to set the mood..

Monday, 1 December 2014


Well well Happy 50th Birthday to me! I'm vintage. And, I barely made it here. I pictured my 50th birthday basking in happiness, prosperity, and good health. I certainly did not envision myself to be the face of cancer at 50!
I have looked forward to this golden year, I associate turning 50 as the year to start reaping the glory of your life's efforts of the past 49 years. I see it as a time when you will be wiser and in control. When I'm 50, I used to say, I'm going to slow down and enjoy life more. Now I have to enjoy whatever's left of it.
About the only thing  that comes to us without effort is old age, except when you're me. I had to fight so hard just to make it to 50 and whoa I just made it. When I was given the bleak prognosis I thought I will never see my 50th birthday. Actually the deadline they gave me was 48.
December 2, 2014 is my 50th Birthday and I feel a deep sense of gratitude. I already got a two year bonus, and counting. I had hoped for a better scenario but I'm not going to let this cancer dampen my hopes of having more birthdays to come. I fought so hard to get here, I will keep going to stay here.
I dreamt Big. It's still all in my mind, on hold, until my cells decide I can proceed again. They say having cancer stops all your wishes, all your dreams, and ambitions. Having cancer dictates your destiny. You can only plan days, not weeks, not years. Maybe it does dictate your destiny up to a certain point. But why stop, what's the harm in dreaming? If anything it can motivate you to fight even more when you want to get there so badly, and if you don't, hey you gave it a fair chance. It's free and a good workout for your brain. One can only dream, as they say. Isn't it good to keep hopeful. I think dreaming and wishing keeps your communication lines to life open "hello universe, I have yet to do the following........, my bucket list is long and deep". You're not masking reality, you still face your challenge everyday, but you're not putting a lid on life either. You never know maybe the constant asking will open up a whole new universe for you.
As I look back to the past 50 years, I'm thankful for the wisdom ripe age does impart. I have reached my golden year broken physically but stronger in spirit. I wish I can get more time to use that hard earned wisdom though.
My birthday present? I made 50 bags of warm weather accessories that I will hand out to 50 homeless people in London. I didn't go through shelters and organizations because I want to reach people who, for some reason, refuse to seek help. I see them every time I go out, even in posh Chelsea. A lot of them have dogs too, we've got one and my heart melts when I see them. Back in Vancouver, a group of homeless youngsters hang out outside of a Mcdonald's near the supermarket I go to. When I'm not rushing I buy them happy meals, or coffee, depending on my budget, and how many they are :), they have dogs as well. So, I'm packing dog food too. My way of thanking the universe for my continued strength (and existence). My way of letting 50 people know that someone cares. On my birthday, I want 50 people, complete strangers to feel touched and loved. I'm posting this a day ahead, because as you know now, I will be out distributing these goodies. I would have made more but I don't think my crappy lungs can handle too much walking.

Here's some Birthday quotes.......

Few Women admit their age. Few men act theirs.

Age is something that doesn't matter, unless you are cheese. - Billie Burke

Nice to be here? At my age, it's nice to be everywhere. - George Burns

I'll keep swivelling my hips until they need replacing. - Tom Jones

You can't turn back the clock but you can wind it up again!

Children are a great comfort in your old age, and they help you reach it faster too - Lionel Kauffman

When grace is joined with wrinkles, it is adorable. There is an unspeakable dawn in happy old age.  - Victor Hugo

Please don't touch my wrinkles. It took me so long to earn them - Anna Magnami

Nature gives you the face you have at 20, but it's up to you to merit the face you have at 50 - Coco Chanel

Saturday, 15 November 2014

November is Lung Cancer Awareness Month!

 White Ribbons for Lung Cancer!
This is my month, lung cancer awareness! I haven't been blogging, I have been really busy, good busy! But, I cannot let the month go without posting something to help advocate for patients and raise some sort of awareness in my little way through my little blog.
I have never smoked in my life and I got lung cancer, go figure. The few months after diagnosis, an advocacy group interviewed me while on chemo, and asked what message I would like to relay to the public and the medical community about lung cancer. I told them that  when I first came to see a doctor about breathlessness, it was dismissed as possibly being out of shape, and was asked to exercise more, make changes in my diet, 3 years later, it's late stage lung cancer! Should we have looked then? I knew myself, maybe my diet goes adrift from time to time, but it was always in moderation. I walked everyday for at least an hour and I'm always on my feet at home, the lack of activity did not fit at all. But, I still trusted the doctor's expertise, or maybe I shouldn't have and insisted on further tests. If your current care provider won't fund your tests, it's worth getting a private one done, for your piece of mind. May I also suggest, regular full profile blood tests, this will show you where you're at, what minerals you are deficient in, your cholesterol, sugar levels, etc. We got the whole family tested, then went to a herbalist and now we're not guessing which supplements to take as the concoction is custom made based on the blood tests and what we're feeling. So my message was that doctors should realize that lung cancer does affect non smokers, something I'm sure they all know, and patients that come to them with symptoms should be checked just as much as smokers. After all, smoking is not the only cause of lung cancer. There's radon, environmental pollution, chemicals right in your own home, soap, shampoo, etc.
To everyone, be proactive in following up symptoms you may feel, you don't have to be paranoid, but trust your gut feeling, because you do feel it when something's not right. I felt it, but dismissed it and took the doctor's advice as gospel. My symptoms were breathlessness on effort which I started to feel as early as three years ago, I thought this was all a part of aging initially. The breathlessness became progressively worse leading up to the diagnosis, then the cough that won't go away for 2 months eventually urged me to insist on further testing. Time is something cancer patients would be blessed to have, so finding out as early as possible provide for a better scenario as it gives you a better chance at designing a healing protocol after all the research you'll have to do!
Here's an article from Dr. Andrew Weil on Lung Cancer and its symptoms
10 Signs of Lung Cancer - Dr. Weil's Daily Tip

Friday, 29 August 2014

My Summer Song : These Are the Days

Out and About London with Cancer

When I had my travel website, I wrote about tips and recommendations to help make hassle free family vacations. I realized I never once wrote about accessibility, what a shame.
Getting around London in a wheelchair is hard, not all roads have ramps, and a lot of the ramps are so badly made, we have had to lift the wheelchair most times anyway, and that's if some car is not blocking the ramp! London is not known to be access friendly, or stiletto friendly for that matter, especially through cobbled roads.
Advance planning is the key to a convenient time around the city when you need special access. Google Earth is a great tool to see the actual place you're going to so you can go check for visible ramps and various access, see if there are steps. I can manage to walk a bit, seeing the place ahead gives me an idea if I can handle the walk and leave the wheelchair. When booking an attraction, check the website for access information, if there isn't any, call ahead and ask. At Madame Tussaud's for instance, you are required to book ahead as they limit the number of wheelchairs per hour, and understandably so, it gets crowded and navigating the exhibit an inconvenience. Use your cancer perks, if they offer anything that would make it easier for you and your family, take it! Disabled people and their carers can go in free at some attractions where viewing is otherwise limited and not accessible for wheelchairs. London is an old city, fitting my wheelchair into old small lifts posed some problems for us. The best part is, in most attractions, you actually jump the queue. During our cruise, I decided not to take my chair, and we regretted we didn't as we could have gotten the best seats and skipped the lines. At Buckingham Palace, the kids were thrilled that we entered through the front gates and saw up close the royal guards, not everyone gets that. Eating out presents its own set of predicaments, for one, most restaurants in London have their toilets a floor below or above the restaurant with no lifts, very few disabled toilet facilities unless you stick to malls. I can manage a few flight of stairs but I can imagine the hassle for someone who can't walk at all. I thought London would be a pioneer in Vegan cuisine but I find that not to be the case, unless of course you specifically go to the specialty restaurants which you can't do every time especially when you're touring with kids. Most restaurants idea of a vegan meal is dumping cheese on vegetables like cheese would just make it gourmet. The wheelchair can be folded and fits into a car and taxi easily and most drivers help you get settled, there is no need to call ahead for a special ride. The other challenge with getting out and about is dealing with crowds, with a low immune system like mine, I have to protect myself from catching anything, wild events like concerts - not a good idea!
Plan ahead, know the venue, ask for help.

Thursday, 28 August 2014

A Summer to Remember with An Update

Summer is my favourite season of all time. Last summer was probably one of the worst one on record. The beautiful Costa del Sol coastline didn't help raise our spirits as I lay almost dying at the hospital in Marbella. This summer was extra special. It's special because I shouldn't even be here.
When I went in for my 17th chemo cycle, the oncology team came in to congratulate me. It's been one full year since I started treatments. My oncologist said if someone were to ask him one year ago if I would be around for the summer, he would say no. he thought I was lucky to get past the third cycle. He said I should celebrate, I said I celebrate everyday I'm given. One of the first things I did when I got diagnosed was take my websites down, one of them was my photography site. My doctor asked if I am planning to have that back up again and he'll take a look, to me that was more like, go and live again! My disease is stable but I still have a long, long, long, way to go! Now back on research and in the middle of planning my next supplementary treatments like colonics, chakra healing, diet changes, etc.
Having recouped some of my strength and now that I'm off oxygen, I was determined to make the most out of the summer. My brother and sister in law flew in from Jakarta, and then my niece gave me a big surprise with a visit from Vancouver. A nephew from Isle of Man joined in to complete the cast. Wheelchair in tow, we braved the London crowds having afternoon tea, museum hopping, watched plays, did street art, attended a 70's celebrity event. The pictures here are from the cruise we took. It felt good booking the tours. It was like I'm booking these events and proudly saying I'm going and I can. I had a really special time with family. So, when my oncologist encouraged me to get out and celebrate, he doesn't know half of what I did this summer!

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

The Wig Man

You have got to find ways to humour yourself and have fun, even with Cancer. Although I didn't really lose my hair and can get away without a wig, my hair has thinned out and somehow getting new growth as well, it's starting to look weird. I did plan on having it shaved to thicken it a little bit, get the small wispy hair to catch up, so what better time to do it. I asked the nurses for advice and it turns out I am actually eligible for a free wig, another cancer perk! They organised my meeting with Peter - the Wig Man.
I arranged to meet Peter at the hospital. My daughter tagged along as my "consultant." I had picked two hairstyles previous, one long and one medium length. Mr. Wig Man is a very well mannered, really gentle man. He talks to you like you're a kid, but it's sweet. He brought the long length wig with him in a dark brown colour. He fitted the wig on me and then gave me tips and instructions on how to care for them. I never really had thick hair so it was shocking to see myself with all that hair, hilarious! It felt strange like there's a weird looking object on my head. My daughter liked it, Peter said it suits me, but I just can't put my face and the wig together, like looking at someone else in the mirror. 

I gave it a test run and wore it at dinner in a restaurant. I haven't shaved my hair yet, I wanted to get comfortable with the wig before I commit to losing it all.  At dinner, it felt like everyone was looking at my hair, I know that's just paranoia on my side but it feels like that, plus I was trying to make it lodge into my head better so I kept touching it. It was a windy night, on the walk back the wind moved it out of place, so I just took it off. The vision of us chasing a wig is terrifying and hilarious at the same time, best to avoid it. I'm tiny and it may be that the wig is just too big for my small head or it slips because I still have hair. The wig conundrum will be solved! 

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Living with Cancer

I haven't written in a while. I've been busy living with cancer rather than dying of it, which of course is a good thing. That, and then there is this challenge with chemo brain, It has been really foggy up there! but I am keeping focused. I pace myself and I can't do as much as I would like but I'm happy with what I'm able to accomplish. There are times I actually forget I'm sick and I try to do more, until pain and fatigue hits me hard, then I regret pushing myself. Cancer moved in and I have to learn to live with it. Before coming home from my first chemo I was taught how to deal with breathlessness and saving my energy while doing everyday tasks. My bath and kitchen were reconfigured, honestly, the whole house almost, and it's still a work in progress. A chair was fitted into my shower, the layout of the kitchen changed for my convenience, the bedroom rearranged to accommodate my oxygen tanks and concentrator, my bedside table now holds my meds. A list of important numbers plastered right above it. We live in a two level house, the first few months when I was so sick I infrequently came up, we bought a small fridge for the bedroom so I don't have to come up for snacks and water. All my meals were brought down to me.  My daily routine now includes blood thinner injections at 7 pm. My social life consist of visits from district nurses and volunteers from the hospice, they are lovely, I do appreciate the interaction. The kids were apprehensive at first but they eventually joined me at art therapy at the hospice and we all agree it was a worthwhile meaningful time together. My GP made a home visit, I call that a cancer perk. I talk to cancer patients at my house and through forums.When I got a bit stronger I would plan my day well, literally packing things in a small bag like books, toiletries, etc. so I don't waste my energy going up and down the stairs which I barely managed with my crappy lungs. As my health improved, I slowly reintroduced the routine I'm used to like cooking and baking. The kitchen is the heart of my house, I didn't see my kitchen for 3 months and I was missing my meals done my way, taking back my kitchen was symbolic and felt like winning something. It was in a disgusting state, the maid knowing that I'm not strong enough to check there didn't really make an effort to keep it the way it was so I'm still working hard on it but it's becoming my kitchen again. Since I will be cooking with my oxygen on, we had to buy an electric stove or else I could explode! When you've got lung cancer, practical adjustments need to be carried out on all aspects of your life. You look for the tools that would make living with the disease easier. I was chained to that oxygen 24/7 for 8 months, with a wheelchair to complete my gear. Although my trips were mainly to the hospital and the hospice, lugging an oxygen concentrator and finding someone to push my wheelchair required advance planning, everything I do needs to be planned, gone are those impromptu outings. I like watching live theatre and I couldn't do that, my concentrator is too loud, it will ruin the ambiance. I have to always bring a back up tank in case I run out and I can't charge or in case the concentrator malfunctions. When you've got cancer, you're advised to avoid crowds, your immune system is low, you can catch a cold and when you're weak even that can be fatal, so I stayed off and stayed home most of the time. I successfully weaned myself from oxygen, I can breathe on my own now and able to get out more without that big clunk of lung support. I still need my wheelchair but I can walk short distances, like the shop next door, which unfortunately is probably one of the most expensive shops in the world. We shop online a lot pre cancer but since I was stuck at home, everything is done online, our whole Christmas, including dinner, gifts and even wrappers were all planned and bought online, I should seriously think of getting Amazon shares :) Everyday you survive cancer, you feel blessed and grateful. Living with cancer everyday is not easy, managing the physical challenges is one thing, the emotional and mental burden is another story but you still look forward to every single day because each day gives you hope, hey I'm still alive, you say to yourself.

I'm still learning to live with cancer. I suppose when the going gets tough the tough needs to keep going. I have adapted to this new reality, concentrating not on what's missing but what can be used. Like Darwin theorised - we evolve! Resilience, Perseverance, and Faith are virtues I call upon as I find my way into this new world I'm in now. I get good and bad days. I compromise and modify where needed on bad days and I take full advantage of the good days, spending it best with my kids. Cancer changed how I live my life but as long as I'm living with it - I'm all good!

Thursday, 22 May 2014


I started chemotherapy at the same time I started cannabis oil, lung cancer don't have markers to check my progress so it is difficult to see which one is working, I kept on the chemo as I feel it could work synergistically with the cannabis. The moment I feel toxic, I will stop chemo.
Alternative cancer treatments were what I was aiming for. I have read scary stories about conventional cancer treatments and how toxic it is. Patients die from the side effects and just the body not being able to take all that poison. But, these cancer cells are aggressive and needs to be stopped from spreading asap, I nearly died in Spain and I will do whatever it takes to keep living. I check in to the hospital for Chemotherapy, August 2013. They needed 2 days to stabilise me with steroids, and then we were ready. The nurse presented me with my very own - chemotherapy book. It will hold the records of my chemotherapy cycles and there is information on the side effects and when to call the hospital or go to A&E.  The goal clearly read "to prolong life and/or improve the quality of life".  There is no cure and it's palliative care I will be getting. As I watch the drip flow through my veins I try to convince myself, this is going to work, they have studied this, they must know what they're doing. I have friends who had cancer, they went on chemo and are now in remission, they didn't have lung cancer but it gives me hope.  I am getting 600mg of Permetrexed and 90 mg of Cisplatin in 4 cycles three weeks apart. How my body reacts to the chemo will be crucial. During one of our discussions, the oncologist's sentence started with "If you make it to the third cycle….." The team was not feeling confident coming into the treatment, for one, I was really weak, and they think I waited too long to get the treatment. What happened in Spain also made my condition worse than it should have been.
Chemotherapy is a type of cancer treatment used to kill cancer cells. The aim of the treatment may be to cure cancer completely, help make other treatments more effective, reduce the risk of the cancer returning, and to relieve symptoms. It is given in tablet form or through an IV which I had. My concern is that chemotherapy does not distinguish the good and bad cells, they just attack them all.
I stayed at the hospital for another eight days, that seems to be my magic number. I was too weak, they needed to keep me in. The hospital made arrangements for my home oxygen to be delivered ahead of my coming home. It was a long week, I slept whenever I can, it was hard as people kept coming in, doctors, medical students, the chaplain, the mobile shop, nurses, support groups. I was on steroids and pain relievers. I was getting moved around the hospital too on my bed, the CT scans, X-rays, ECGs seem endless. When I finally got clearance to go home, I felt relieved. While at the hospital I was still parenting, I would call to check if they've done schoolwork, if they've eaten, one time I ordered them dinner from my phone. I am very hands on, we home school, this new situation is very challenging for my kids too and I feel so guilty. It feels like I'm forcing them to grow up and mature now rather than on their own time, it's unfair. I was still very weak when I got back but I was happy to be home. My husband had to go to Hungary for business but luckily a friend came to stay with us for a week. I don't know what I could have done without her, thank you so very much G. She took care of me and the kids for a full week, even unpacking our luggage from the Spanish trip, training the new help we hired, and just being there for moral support, and to watch that I actually rest and not try to do stuff. I could not even manage the stairs, food had to be brought to me. At this point, we had to hire a full time maid too and a tutor for my daughter. I hardly stay in my room before all this, I was always up on my feet even at home. But, I'm stunned by my own weakness I had no choice but stay in bed. The first week was the worst and I hope that really was the worst of this wretched disease. I was so weak I only managed two full showers in a week. I was in bed most of the time, too weak to even read, the sound of the oxygen concentrator my only reminder that I'm still alive. The next two weeks, I slowly regain my strength but only just. Luckily, my side effects were manageable, my legs hurt, I feel tired, my eyes are teary and blurry, but none of the horrible things I hear like nausea and bleeding, thankfully. The second cycle was a breeze, I was cleared to go back home after chemo but I was still very weak and useless at home. But, at least I can now read and get back on to the University of Google for more research. The third cycle however was a defining moment. I had pleural effusion. A pleural effusion means that there is a build-up of fluid between a lung and the chest wall. The pleura is a thin membrane that lines the inside of the chest wall and covers the lungs. There is normally a tiny amount of fluid between the two layers of pleura. This acts like lubricating oil between the lungs and the chest wall as they move when you breathe. A pleural effusion develops when this fluid builds up and separates the lung from the chest wall. They had to drain this fluid so I can breathe better. A tube was inserted on my back. Let me say that this was more painful than childbirth, seriously. I was moved to a special monitoring ward for patients with advanced lung illnesses. I had gadgets attached to me and a nurse there to watch 24/7. I had that drain on for 24 torturous hours, I couldn't even walk to the toilet, I had to use a bedpan! and even that was excruciating. When I stabilised they moved me to a private room for some much needed sleep. Again, I was confined for 8 days. Things started to get better after the 4th cycle and my scans have shown a reduction in the size of the tumours, hip hip hooray! You can't have too much of this poison so they told me this is the last full cycle and I will now get maintenance chemo which is 600mg of Permetrexed every three weeks. I just had my 10th last week. Making it all the way here was a long, hard, trying, painful process. The cast of characters at the chemo ward constantly change, I don't dare ask what happened to them. I have nothing but adulation for the nursing staff, they are all genuinely sweet and nice and so committed to their work, thank you for looking after me so well and with dignity. 

I was told that chemotherapy will eventually stop working. The next plan is to join a clinical trial for more targeted therapies aimed at controlling my mutation. There is no known cure for my rare exon 20 insertion mutation so this is the only chance I have, or natural treatments which I will be exploring. I am now going for an integrative approach. Wish me luck!

Monday, 12 May 2014

Coming Home

My last night in Malaga and I couldn't sleep. I look back at the eight gruelling days I've been confined, the eight days I fought for my life. The doctors who looked after me had all come to wish me well, one of them gave me a hug and told me I am a miracle. As we drive to the airport, I view and admire the Costa del Sol coastline regretting that I didn't get a chance to take photos or take the kids anywhere educational which I always do when we travel. My brother had rented a big van with panoramic windows, it was a relaxing scenic drive. London is only 2 and a half hours away but travelling with a portable oxygen can be worrying. What if the flight is delayed, what if my oxygen breaks down? It's supposed to last 6 hours with a fully charged battery. I find myself constantly checking its power level and I realise travelling will never be the same again for me and the family. As soon as we landed at Gatwick, the oxygen went off, out of power. We alerted the flight attendants and we were let off first so we can get to the nearest plug to charge, what a scare that was.
Hospital Quiron in Marbella gave me clear instructions. When you get off the flight, check in straight to your hospital.  It was almost 7 pm when we got home, I'm tired, still stressed from the oxygen failure incident, I told my husband we'll go in the morning. I needed to feel the comforts of home even for one night. As soon as I walked into the house my Mom eyes start working "What have you guys done to the house"? I scream as the kids scurry off to their rooms. I was in Spain for 6 weeks, a maid comes in to clean for them but the house was still a disaster. They had left lights and the air-conditioning on, there was left over food out, a lot of snack wrappers and dog food on the floor. I was weak but I noticed all the mess. I would typically get things in order but I knew I had to teach myself to ignore them, that's not important now. Since I got diagnosed I realised I have some basic life skills I still have to teach my kids. You just always think you will be there for them all the time, that gradually these skills will develop and get instilled in them as you go through life together. I panic at the thought of not having time to impart basic skills to my precious children.
The next day I went to see my oncologist and his team. They had warned that we might have waited too late for the chemotherapy to work but hey, here I am ready to try anything to stay alive longer. Seeing my scans from Spain, they were astonished that I made it back. I was in terrible shape. They lost no time in getting me a room, I was going to be there indefinitely.
Photo courtesy of Mary Reyes Photography


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Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Cannabis Oil

If there is one supplement that I cannot do without, it is Cannabis oil. This is my holy grail. My most potent force against cancer cells. I can't say I have achieved NED (no evidence of disease, equivalent to a state of remission for other cancers) but I know for sure there is hope, and it's because of cannabis. Unfortunately it's got a bad wrap, a bad stigma attached to it. People are missing out on this gift from nature because they refuse to learn the truth or they believe in hearsay without finding out for themselves. When you trace the history of cannabis, you will know how good it is for so many things, all parts of the plant can be used for something. You will get mad that this is not being made available to us now as it was in the past. I was skeptical too at first. I didn't trust the thing till two weeks of taking it, I was always vigilant when I ingest it, and I make sure my husband was close by in case I react badly. Having come from Vancouver British Columbia, I have been exposed to marijuana culture, I didn't even take it recreationally back then, but I was made aware of the benefits. I was more interested with the beautiful fabrics from the plant, and the bath products made from Hemp. When we went to Amsterdam, we went to the Hemp Museum with the kids. Little did I know I was the one to benefit most from all this exposure. Had I not been privileged to see all this the way I did in the past, it would probably be difficult for me to avail or consider taking this wonder cure. When I went for treatment in Spain, I did not have access to cannabis and I got weak, I couldn't sleep. Cannabis relaxes me and makes me sleep which is so essential in healing.
To fully appreciate this miraculous plant, we need to go back at the time when cannabis was main stream, when it was used and regarded as medicine and raw material for so many things. Watch this.

What is Cannabis Oil?
Cannabis Oil is a thick, sticky resinous substance made up of cannabinoids, such as cbd and thc that is extracted from the cannabis plant. This is done by separating the resins from the cannabis flowers through a solvent extraction process. Strains used are indica sativa or cannabis indica. Cannabis Oil is also known as the Rick Simpson Oil (RSO), marijuana oil, hash oil, full extract cannabis oil (feco).
Cannabis Oil is the most potent of three main cannabis products which are the cannabis flower (marijuana), the resin (hashish), and oil. Cannabis oil is the most concentrated and therefore most potent.
Cannabis Oil can be ingested orally, vaporized into the lungs, or applied topically. It's been used for conditions such as diabetes, fibromyalgia, cancer, and just so much more.
Chemotherapy targets all cells, healthy and not, that's where cannabis oil is different, it only targets
the bad cells and that's why it is so safe. So how does it work on cancer? Watch this.
I started with oil the size of a grain of rice a day for a week. I haven't taken any recreational substance in the past, I don't smoke. So that little bit of oil hit me fast. You have to build up your tolerance to the substance. I tried to up my dose too quickly and I threw up.
For most people it will take about 60 grams to kill the cancer and on average will take about 90 days. Build up your intake to 1 gram a day.
The main side effect of cannabis oil is sleepiness which is a good thing for your healing. I take a smaller dose during the day and more before bedtime. It gives you a "high" and affects you mental alertness, but it is relaxing which is what I haven't been able to achieve for years. Cannabis may also lower your blood pressure. When the oil starts kicking in, it may be scary for the first timer, but don't fight it, just relax, go with the flow and sleep. Cannabis is completely safe.
Making Your Oil
Here's a link to detailed instructions on how to make your own oil.
Watch Rick Simpson's run for the cure video.....
We are slowly getting the message that Cannabis should be brought back to where it used to be, a truly amazing gift from nature. I know this post is video heavy but watch this video by Sanjay Gupta
of CNN.

For more information about Cannabis oil and its healing properties. Check out these links.

Monday, 28 April 2014

Sunny Spain : Marbella

photo courtesy of Mary Reyes Photography
We spent three more days in Malaga, showed the kids around. Then, we were off to Marbella. Marbella is a popular destination for the rich. The posh shops and yachts reflect that. A shop owner told me Michelle Obama just vacationed there. It was quiet though and again the shop owner was quick to point out that business is not the same because of the recession and that's everywhere in Spain. We travel a lot as a family but it didn't occur to me that my kids and my husband can't pack. I do it for them because it's quicker and I like being organised. They came with a big suitcase of nothing, so we had to go shopping, again. Temperatures were rising so we had to look for a groomer for the dog and had him shaven. How I wished we were just there for a holiday and not for treatments. Marbella is just an hour from Malaga but here they speak English. My brother and sister in law were coming to join us all the way from Jakarta, I was excited. The kids were writing an itinerary. Into the second week there, I started feeling ill, increasingly breathless, sleeping was getting harder. I woke up one day and I just knew I was not well, I asked my husband to take me to the hospital. The taxi brought us to Hospital Quiron, a private hospital about 15 minutes from the hotel. After checking my saturations, I was put on oxygen immediately. Then, they did a scan. I was in very very bad shape. Apparently the treatments I got in Malaga dangerously inflamed my lungs. In fairness, the clinic actually asked not to do a scan yet as it won't be an accurate marker for what I've achieved. But, the doctors were convinced that their treatments were not safe and obviously not well studied. The goal now was to rehabilitate me, bring me back to life. I was given an IV of glucose. This is the first week of August, three months after the diagnosis, they gave me 2-3 months, I cringe at the thought but regain my composure and pray. I asked my husband to bring me my notebook where I had written letters for them. The doctors called my husband in for a meeting, and I knew it was not good news, he came out teary eyed but refused to talk about the scan. he admitted later on that they told him I only had a few days, maybe 3 to live. Get this though, on the third day, I got up and took a shower. My brother and sis in law were arriving that day, I didn't want to be in a stinky mess. It was good to see them, wished under different circumstances but, it was good. I prayed a lot at the hospital, I needed a miracle. The doctors suggested emergency chemotherapy, they did not think I would make it through the flight back to the UK unless I take a medical plane with proper equipment and oxygen. I quickly regained my strength though to their surprise, and by day 5 we were booking our flights back to the UK. The next thing was to buy a portable oxygen concentrator for the flight, the hospital ordered it for us. I was confined for 8 days, literally almost died. Praise God I was spared. We had planned an itinerary with my brother and his wife but we had to go back and leave them there to explore on their own. Thank you for coming to see me.
The alternative treatments did not work for me but I know it has for some less aggressive cancers.

Sunny Spain : Malaga

Photo courtesy of Mary Reyes Photography
I will have to break up this post into two parts, this is a long chapter. I was in Spain for 6 weeks. I apologize if this get text heavy.
At this point, we haven't told the kids. School is almost over, we had planned on going to Sweden, Norway, and Switzerland for the summer, my daughter's pitching in a visit to Vancouver too. As I packed my bags for Malaga, I told them Mom needs to get her lungs fixed so there will be a change of plans as far as summer and that they will be joining me instead in Malaga, and then we'll stay in Marbella for the rest of the summer, see more of Spain from there. My sister in law came down to London as soon as she found out I had cancer to offer any help she can and just to be there for me, she's offered to look after my kids while we're in Spain, she's got kids too so I am forever grateful.
It was late at night when we arrived in Spain. This is the first time I'm going to be away from the kids this long. I was missing them but I was not worried, I know they were in very capable loving hands. Finding the taxi stand, I soon realize I will have to squeeze out the little Spanish I know. "Donde a la Señora", meaning, Where to Madame? the taxi driver asked, I answered in English and he said "huh?" so I go "Para dos personas" (for two people), then I showed the Spanish address of the hotel we're staying for the night. Feeling the hot breeze and the sweat on my back, I also realised I did not pack the right clothes, so much for someone who used to be a travel writer and packing advisor, clearly I'm not in the right frame of mind, hilarious.
We were told to report to the clinic at 9:30 am. The Johanna Budwig Protocol was a highly recommended treatment for advanced lung cancer. I searched online for a centre that promotes this and that's how I found this place. We were greeted with warm hugs and kisses by the staff(nurses) and two doctors. Bound booklets were handed out containing all relevant information about our stay, the whole protocol, tips, resources, recipes. Then we were led into a waiting room equipped with medical gadgets we can operate ourselves while waiting for our individual treatments such as the Rife machine. Patients were allowed one companion. We introduced ourselves. There were 6 pairs. A university professor from New York, she's Jewish, she has breast cancer, there with her friend, Then the couple from Malaysia, Muslims, the husband has neck cancer, he's a university professor as well, his wife came with him. From Devon UK, Jehovah's witnesses, she had breast cancer, there with her husband. From Israel came a couple, the husband has pancreatic cancer, he was a businessman, his wife was there for him. Then a young lady from Melbourne joined in with her mom, they're catholics, she has brain cancer. The age range is from late 20's to late 50's, very young. I mentioned the different backgrounds to show how cancer has become a worldwide epidemic. We came from all over the world with one goal, fight this disease. From the get go, we knew we were with a good group. We compared notes, assisted each other in any way we could during treatment times, we even went out to catch some Catalan Opera. This was a very knowledgeable group, very intelligent, no conversation was ever dull in that room. We learned a lot, it was a blessing to be in this batch. This day I was also introduced to a wheelchair, they gave me one to use while we're in Malaga as I was getting increasingly breathless everyday.
The first page of the handout gives you the recommended daily schedule, instructions, and routine for the diet as well as exercise. Following an initial consultation with three doctors, where only one spoke English, we were shown the treatments and the machines we'll be using. Here are some treatments I received.
Full Body Hyperthermia. They say cancer cells can't survive on extreme temperatures. This machine induces the body to reach that temperature and encourage apoptosis (cell death)
Hydrocolon therapy. It is a gentle infusion of warm, filtered water into the anal canal which safely cleanses the walls of the colon with no use of chemicals or stimulants. The procedure is painless, relaxing and effective cleansing the bowel.
Ozone Therapy. Cancer cells die when exposed to oxygen (cancer cells are anaerobic). There are many oxygen and ozone treatments, two of the best known and most effective "Stage IV" treatments - infusion bottle and ozone I.V. Ozone therapy using an infusion bottle involves removing part of the blood from the body, saturating this blood with oxygen (i.e. ozone - O3), then putting this oxygen rich blood back into the body. An ozone I.V. simply injects a fluid saturated with ozone into the blood. Both treatments work by getting oxygen into the body.
Regressive Psychotherapy. Anatheoresis is defined as a regressive psychotherapy with a perceptive component which considers the illness as a physical or psychic dysfunction with emotional causes. The therapy induces in the patient a simple but profound relaxation without administering drugs or using electronic components. It induces a non-ordinary state of mind called IARS. In this state of mind we can dive into our subconscious to find the emotional damages created in the past since our intrauterine period, our birthing and our childhood (between the age of 7 and 12 approximately). Thus we can establish a profound and analogical link between our past damages and our present physical and emotional dysfunctions. When we literally pull out these past negative events and bring them to the present, we clear them out through the understanding of the reason why we are suffering. This way a great discharge of our inner burden is set free, the causes of all symptomatology are dissolved and therefore the illness and its effects are eliminated.
This was one of the treatments that was beneficial to me. The Psychotherapist actually singled me out as the one he needs to spend more time with. He said the trigger of lung cancer is sadness. I have also read it's being scared of death, which I'm not. The whole experience was soul searching and emotionally draining, had to take headache pills after the sessions too. It was difficult to write and talk about life's issues but when you finally release and let go, it feels light.
Laser therapy. The new techniques to apply laser via intravenous, intraarticular, interstitial or using optic fiber allow the laser beam to get to deep areas of the human body in sufficient concentrations and with high effectiveness. Along with red and infrared beams, we have available green and blue laser beams which do not have deep penetration levels. This was meant to boost your immune system.
Here's a link to the rest of the treatments available at this clinic. http://www.biomedicenter.com/
We had a good day 1, everyone seemed hopeful, I was feeling good. Maybe it's the sun. Accommodations for the two week programme is included in the fees, as well as your basic organic ingredients for the protocol, and supplements. We have travelled the world but we like travelling light. The first place we go to and I really enjoy is the local grocery store for supplies. Supermarkets give you a fascinating glimpse of people's lifestyles. Under the blazing sunshine, we head out to El Cortes Ingles Supermarket. This gave me a chance to learn how to manoeuvre the wheelchair too. I grew up on a lot of Spanish food, seeing all the familiar ingredients and scents sent me down memory lane, they even had that Spanish cologne and bath soap I used to love. Upon learning I have cancer, I went vegan overnight, so while browsing the aisles, I literally had to stop the wheelchair to stare and admire at the impressive selection of Spanish hams and chorizos, torture! Don't even ask me about the selection of pastries. I stay focused and pick up the organic vegetables and fruits we're meant to get. My husband picks up some fish, meat, Iberico ham, pickled chilis, and Spanish beer, lucky guy. The apartment was a two bedroom, two bath and well maintained circa 70s unit. It was clean enough, well furnished, but no air conditioning. This was late June so the electric fans were good enough with the windows open. In Malaga, a lot of the condos have this weird layout where you climb a set of stairs to get to the lift, what's the point, right? I'm reserving my energy so I make sure that when we come back to the apartment I commit to stay up there till the next day. Now, in Spain they have two hour siestas and they take that seriously. I can't manage the steps twice so we just use the siesta time to eat out which is a challenge in pork loving Malaga. I did eventually find a place that has good vegan paella, yum. The next days of the first week, after treatments, we went to the beach, saw Pablo Picasso's home and exhibit, walked down the quaint town and the promenade, listened to a live band. The food was amazing, according to my husband, I'm sure it was. There was an organic shop near the apartment too, they don't speak English but you should know your fruits and veg enough anyway. I marvelled at the selection they have, never thought I'd get excited over gigantic watermelons and the variety of squash they had. The first hot and lazy weekend there, we went to town for shopping, sampled the famous Malaga grilled sardines at the beach and then headed off to the beaches and more shopping in world famous Puerto Banus, wheelchair in tow. The last thing I would think of doing was go shopping, but I did not pack well and had to get more comfortable warm weather clothes, loved shopping here though. I'm on a strict diet but you cannot come to Spain without at least sampling the authentic tapas, they were so good.
The most important part of the programme is learning the Budwig protocol. This treatment was specifically designed for very advanced cancer patients who need to have an alternative cancer treatment which starts to become effective within days, not weeks or months. This protocol is based on a combination of two of the fastest acting alternative cancer treatments available. Both the Cellect protocol and the Budwig protocol are known to become effective very quickly, plus they avoid creating inflammation and swelling. In addition to the two main treatments (Cellect and Budwig) the protocol includes several other treatments which are very effective in getting rid of cancer cells, re-balancing the body (i.e. the "inner terrain") and eliminating
toxins from the body. For more information on the protocol go here http://www.budwig-diet.co.uk/
By the end of week two we felt like I could benefit from more treatments so we booked two more weeks. My husband had to get back to the UK for business but my sister in law stepped in again to stay with me. The clinic recommended our teeth gets checked for amalgams, root canals, and mercury fillings. The husband and wife dental team were the sweetest, most pleasant couple. The heat was getting unbearable by this time so we moved to a hotel. I have lost a lot of weight and I'm beginning to question the sanity of my decision to go vegan overnight. I was getting more and more breathless too and I know those tumors are getting aggressive. My sister in law was going back and my husband, kids, and the dog were joining me. I cherish the time I've spent with her, we don't really get much time bonding because we're both unbelievably busy moms.
I learned a lot at the clinic. In retrospect though, I think the home programme is sufficient if it's the Budwig protocol you want. The information is all in the booklet. What you get at the clinic are the machines that were put together from researching what's available in alternative medicine, but it's not targeted and there's very little effort put into which ones work for which cancer and which ones may pose danger. Patients were noticing that it wasn't very sanitary, the nurses were sweet but we didn't see them practice expected clinical etiquette. I had to get off the Hyperthermia module when I couldn't breathe, and the oxygen they had didn't work, luckily I recovered from that. Over all what made it worthwhile is the exchange of advice and tips from the other patients, and the information on the booklet. My last day at the clinic, I brought the whole family, fresh from London.

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

After the Shock

I was in a state of shock after hearing that I have cancer. The initial reaction was like, this can't be, there are so many things I have yet to do, places I'd like to see. I can't go, who's going to look after my kids. Not at this time, please! What about all my plans for myself and for my precious kids. My deadline can't be up already. It was not a good place to be, and I had to quickly rise above that. It is a hard process and I'm still dealing with it from time to time.
I knew I had to stay strong in body, mind, and spirit. Instead of dwelling on what I can't have, I focused on arming myself with knowledge, fortify the troops with the right ammunition to fight this big C that threatens to take a mother from her children.
At this point, we only know that I have cancer and they have yet to see if the primary is the lung or thyroid. We were hoping it was thyroid as it was easier to treat, chances of survival is better. They could not get enough sample from the bronchial wash so I was asked to come in again for a biopsy. I'm told they are more inclined to say it is Thyroid cancer but they need to send my samples to a pathology expert at the Royal Marsden, a cancer hospital in London which is on the same street as my hospital. What happened next is my first taste of real pain from this dreadful disease. The doctor took the samples raw from the nodules on my left shoulder. It was so painful, I couldn't even scream but I felt the tears down my cheeks. What the heck is he doing taking a sample without anaesthesia. Despite the pain, I felt happy they're saying it's likely to be thyroid and not lung cancer. So, after all that, I was again booked for a biopsy. They needed more samples and this time it will be done with anaesthesia and by an expert from the Marsden. This is the 4th attempt to get a proper biopsy. What's frustrating is there does not seem to be a sense of urgency given that we know this is late stage cancer. It's been 5 weeks now and we still don't know what cancer and stage I'm in. I had an appointment cancelled once, the doctor was on holiday. I met with a thyroid cancer expert from the Marsden and was told we will continue treatment there if and when we find out it is Thyroid.
While waiting for test results, my husband and I went into research. We have been homoeopathic for years so it was an organic choice to go alternative. Reading about how toxic chemotherapy and other conventional cancer treatments are, I was determined to go the natural way. The information on cancer is unbelievably colossal. I cried in frustration one night, staring at my computer and thinking how one can possibly search, read, absorb, and validate all these. I went to websites, forums, blogs. We bought books too, so offline I was still learning about this new guest I have, cancer. I then enlisted the help of family and friends. I gave them different topics I needed research on. By seeking help I gained more time to sort out my game plan and more importantly save my energy. Thank you everyone who stepped in, it really helped start off my journey. I've got family in the medical field too, that was a bonus as they knew where to get information I probably could not access myself or know where to look. The hardest thing is finding out what is legitimate material and advice. It was very hard to weed out the best treatment. Deciding which supplements to take was a mind boggling, migraine inducing task. We found a lot of promising alternative treatments. Which one? I am on blood thinners and I have to be careful that what I will be taking does not contradict this. A lot of the natural supplements also have blood thinning properties and should be taken with caution. Initially, we bought graviola capsules, aluminium free baking soda, colloidal silver, dmso, apricot kernels, guanabana juice, vitamin C, naturally chelated iodine, alpha lipoic acid, carnivora, cellular oxygen elixirs, and cannabis oil. I survey my new collection and put them on a tray. This tray used to hold my make up. I write a schedule and I tape it on. Then I ordered a masticating juicer and books, lots of books and DVDs. I start reading the Gerson Therapy books and watched their DVDs. I start research on alternative cancer clinics around the world.  I now realise this is going to be my life for quite a while. I take down my websites, I would not have time for it with all these going on. It was a sad time as I was planning to keep the sites up notches this year. This year I had planned on taking my travel writing up a level, I got a writing job that will pay for my holidays as well as the articles and photographs. My first assignment was Panama, I turned it down and informed them that work will have to wait. 2013 was supposed to be the year of extensive travel, leisure and getting back on the workforce, for myself and the kids. I had business plans in the works.
I was starting to get impatient with how long it's taking for the results. Finally, after about 6 weeks, we get a call to come in to discuss what they found. It was not what I hoped for, they confirmed that it is not Thyroid but indeed the dreaded Lung Cancer, stage 4! my heart sank. They wanted to start chemo immediately. Chemo is the only option I have, because of the metastasis on my left lung and lymph nodes and just the sheer number of tumours, I'm inoperable, and radiotherapy was not an option either. I asked how long I have, and he said 2-3 months without treatment. As soon as I heard that, that's all I hear in my mind "2-3 months, 2-3 months" over and over again, NO! I did not just hear that. I know I'm sick but was I that sick? - obviously. How did they take 6 weeks to find out about my cancer and then tell me I've only got this much left. I need more, I cannot end like this and this soon. There is no cure, they said, and whatever I will be receiving is to improve the quality of my life and prolong my life. Palliative care is what I'm getting. I had to really really recompose myself and not panic. My mission now is to find that holy grail and in the quickest time because I refuse to confirm that there is no hope.
I declined chemo and decided to take on the Johanna Budwig protocol. There's a cancer clinic in Spain that specialises on this diet and more. I will write about my experience there on another blog post.
Here are some useful links that I used for my research.
cancertutor.com - a good place to start when you're looking for alternative treatments
inspire.com - a very good forum for cancer patients and their caregivers. I got a lot of helpful tips and encouragement from the members, or if you simply want to vent out, it is a safe place for it.
cancergrace.org  - another good forum
I will post more links as I get on with the blog

Thursday, 17 April 2014

Happy Easter!

photo by Mckenzie Loughrey
I always look forward to Spring. This season brings forth a season of new beginnings, of renewal, of hope, and a fresh start! The crisp mornings, the blooming flowers, the newly cut grass, lovely. As we walked to the park today, I felt a sense of rejuvenation. Coinciding with this wonderful season is the fact that I have been scoring major strides in my battle. This week I went out without my oxygen for the first time since I had it in August. I walked the dog around the block, by myself sans the wheelchair, even he gave me a bewildered look. I went shopping with my daughter. When you're sidelined to your home for almost a year, you learn to appreciate every bit of sunshine that touches your face.
It's Easter and I hope to be granted my own resurrection, my own fresh start! a chance to live again. This Easter I want to thank everyone who cheered me on, everyone who pushed me not to give up, everyone who thought and prayed and is still thinking and praying for me. I'm not alone in this battle. In fact, my strongest arsenal is not something that comes out of a package, or an IV, it comes from the heart, it is Prayers. I wouldn't call myself religious, but I can say I'm spiritual. I know that someone up there is looking after me. When I first announced that I have cancer, family and friends old and new rallied behind me. The outpouring of support in thoughts and prayers were truly touching. You are the team that kept me going. Cancer patients are sometimes too weak to even whisper a prayer, who prays for them then? This is why I feel so blessed to have you all. I know that even when I'm too weak to ask God for strength, you will. During one of my hospital stays, they had to put me in this ward specifically for women with lung problems, it had special monitoring equipment. You can draw curtains for privacy but you still hear every word spoken. There was one patient who was always miserable, she would shout at the nurses, she screams in pain, demands so much attention. She was annoying especially when you're trying to recover and get some sleep. I was in that ward for 3 days and in that time I found out, she lives by herself, she has no family and just one friend. They were training her to work around her condition so she can go back home and live independently. I felt so bad for her, she had so much anger, pain and resentment. Dealing with physical challenges and then having all that negativity behind you is not ideal for healing or for sanity. Whether she chose to be alone, I will never know, but by her demeanor, it was clear she was not happy. I've got prayer brigades all over the world and she's got nothing. I prayed for her that night and whenever I remember.
The support I get from family and friends is just amazing but not surprising, I already know I've got a good bunch behind me. You give me the vigor to keep going. I thank God for all of you. My heartfelt thanks and love. Happy Easter!

The next article is something I wrote 3 years ago for hub pages, it's about Easter Traditions, and I know it has nothing to do with cancer but since I have this special Easter post, thought some of you might be interested.

Easter Food and Traditions
As a child I have always looked forward to Easter, not only in commemoration of Christʼs Resurrection but the family Easter Brunch and Treats. Easter chocolate eggs or egg shaped plastic candy containers were not as popular then, so weʼd boil eggs and paint them with food color for the Easter Egg hunt. My kids look forward to Easter too, apart from Halloween and Valentineʼs Day, Easter offers an astounding array of confectionery selections, another excuse for sweet indulgence.
Like all other holidays observed through the year, food becomes center stage in many celebrations, but none more symbolic than Easter. To get into its symbolism, letʼs trace back its history. Although associated more with the Christian faith, Easter did not originate with Christianity. Easter was taken form the word “Eastre”, the goddess worshipped by the Saxons of Northern Europe. They held festivals at this time of year to celebrate the Spring Equinox which they believe ensured fertility for their land and its people. The Jewish faith celebrates Passover around this same time of the year in commemoration of the Exodus, the freedom from slavery from ancient Egypt. Passover is celebrated for seven or eight days, and coincides with Spring when Easter is celebrated. The two holidays have been entwined since and the word Pasch (Passover) came to mean Easter as well. Christiansʼ celebration of Easter Sunday is a special day of rejoicing Christʼs Resurrection and the end of the Lenten fast.
How we celebrate Easter may come from different origins, but they share common traditions and symbols that we still use today.
Easter brings with it the season of Spring, which brings a concept of rebirth and rejuvenation.
Easter Eggs - Long before Christian times, the egg was regarded as proof of the renewal of life and used to symbolize rebirth in pagan Springtime festivals. Even then, eggs were colored and exchanged as part of the rites to welcome the season. Christians adopted this symbol of renewal, and of immortality as Jesus rose from the dead. For centuries, eggs were among the foods forbidden during Lent, so it was a treat to have at Easter. Traditions were drawn from this symbolism. In Yugoslavia, they write “XV” on the eggs for “Christ is Risen”, a traditional Easter greeting. Slavic countries get their eggs blessed on Holy Saturday then taken home for Easter breakfast. Central European countries are known for their long tradition of elaborately decorated eggs and giving them as gifts. In certain areas in Germany, eggs were hung on trees and bushes. Variations of the egg include fabrications with a hidden surprise inside, the most famous of which is the Nuremberg egg, which is actually a portable watch. The Russian royal family took it to great lengths, they gave out exquisite jeweled eggs made by goldsmith Peter Carl Faberge, still very much sought after by collectors today. The Tsar commissioned the jeweler to make an Easter egg for his wife, and designs became more elaborate through the years. Nowadays, Easter eggs are interpreted mostly with candy and chocolate. The Easter egg hunt came about from the early days where they are regarded as treasures, and finding them, identified with riches. Hens were not confined and these treasures were deposited in unexpected places, hence the hunt. Todayʼs Easter egg hunt is the highlight of many celebrations, along with giving Easter baskets. Catholic churches hold Easter egg hunts after the Easter Sunday mass. With commercialism jumping in, shopping malls hosts Easter egg hunts too, and thereʼs no shortage of restaurants that offer Easter meals. 

Easter Breads
Bread has long played an important role in religious ceremonies, and Easter being celebrated around Springtime festivals, presents us with an overabundance of this staple from different cultures around the world, all steeped in history, symbolism, and folklore. These festive breads are carefully prepared and are often ornate - like braided bread. They will often be laden with luxurious ingredients like saffron, candied fruits and peel, sultanas, eggs, etc. The more famous ones are Hot Cross Buns and Simnel Bread (England), Kulich (Russia), Babka (Ukraine and Poland), Tsoureki (Greece), Houska (Czech Republic), Folare (Portugal), Hormazo (Spain), Paska (Poland), Paastol (Dutch), Pane di Pasqua (Italy), Osterhasen aus Hefeteig (Germany), and so much more. Now we can add cakes, cupcakes, and all Easter themed baked treats.
Chocolate Easter Eggs
The tradition of giving Chocolate Eggs at Easter started in the 19th century in France and Germany. They are given as gifts to bring good fortune to those who receive it. 

Easter Ham
Serving Ham at Easter goes back in the early days when there was no refrigeration. Meat was slaughtered in the fall, and pork not consumed during winter was cured to be eaten for spring. The curing process took a long time and the hams would be ready around the time of Easter, so it became the celebratory dinner.
Roast Lamb
Roast lamb as Easter dinner goes back to the first Passover where the sacrificial lamb was roasted and eaten, together with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. As Hebrews converted to Christianity, they brought their traditions with them and these traditions merged. Christians refer to Jesus as the lamb of God.
So, what about the Easter bunny?
The Easter bunny, like the eggs traces its origins to pre-Christian times. The ancient saxons celebrated the return of spring with a big festival. The rabbit, known to be extraordinarily fertile, symbolized this season of rebirth. Although there is no direct reference to Christianity, because this is celebrated around the Christian Easter, the tradition was adopted. The rabbit was interpreted to deliver eggs on Easter Sunday. They would be wrapped in gold leaf or boiled with flowers, and other plants to achieve bright colors to symbolize the Easter sun. These eggs were given as presents on Easter morning, much like Father Christmas, the decorated eggs were delivered by the Easter bunny to good children.
There's your Easter trivia, hope that was fun to read as it was writing about it. :) I've posted this a few days ahead of Easter, we have friends over for Easter and I promised my daughter we'll be making cookies.

Saturday, 12 April 2014

What is Cancer?

Cancer happens when cells divide uncontrollably and are able to invade other tissues. Malignant cancer cells can spread to other parts of the body through the bloodstream and lymph systems. This is known as metastasis, a word no cancer patient wants to hear. There are over 200 known cancers and more being discovered. Most cancers are named for the organ where they started or after the type of cell. Not all tumours are cancerous, benign tumours do not invade tissues and they do not spread.
All cancers begin in the basic unit of life, cells. Typically, cells grow and divide to produce more cells, and when they are damaged or die, they are replaced with new healthy cells. Sometimes though cells go out of control and they produce mutations that affect normal cell growth and division, they do not die but form a mass of tissue called a tumor.
There are four main categories in which cancer types can be grouped in. Myeloma and Lymphoma begins in the cells of the immune system. Central nervous system cancers begin in the tissues of the brain and spinal cord. Carcinoma begins in the skin or in tissues that line or cover internal organs, subtypes are adenocarcinoma, basal cell carcinoma, transitional cell carcinoma, and squamous cell carcinoma. Sarcoma begins in bone, cartilage, fat, muscle, blood vessels, or other connective or supportive tissue. And finally Leukemia, cancer that starts in blood forming tissue such as the bone marrow and causes large numbers of abnormal cells to be produced and enter the blood. Immune system cells come from the bone marrow as well, that's incongruous.
The causes of cancer are diverse and complex. I seemed healthy. There was no history of cancer in the family. At the chemo ward I have seen healthy looking young men go on the treatment. I couldn't fathom being the face of cancer when I was first diagnosed, but seeing these young men and women get cancer, I know no one's exempt.
Your immune system is what you have to look after when you get cancer and when you don't as a preventative move. What is the immune system? It is a complex network of cells, organs, tissues, and the substances they make that help the body fight infections and diseases. They include white blood cells and tissues and organs of the lymph system, such as the thymus, tonsils, spleen, lymph nodes, bone marrow, and lymph vessels. They are your security guards. They ward off the bad things you put in your bodies. When your immune system fails to do its job, you get sick, or worse, you get cancer.
Now, if you ask me what cancer is, I would say Cancer sucks! Yes I do advocate finding the good in every situation, but let's be honest, no one wants a nasty, dreadful disease like cancer. Nobody wants to be sick, nobody wants to impose caregiver duties to family. You don't want to be stuck to a wheelchair with oxygen. Cancer can make you stronger or it can break you, but you have no choice but to face it. Cancer puts your life on hold, it affects not just you but the whole family and everyone who cares about you. I'm a planner, I even said I'm going to make my daughter's wedding cake, now I can't even plan her next birthday. Cancer can put you in a good place, it can give your life a renewed perspective, but I believe you can get that some other way too, getting cancer to wake up and to realize what you want in life is a bit harsh, don't you think? But, it's here, and I'm not one to meet this with anger and bitterness. It's been given, and it's up to me to squeeze out the goodness I can from it. I buried my head into research when I got the news, they say you have to know the enemy to ensure victory. But, is cancer really the enemy? Cancer just told me I have to look after myself more. Cancer just told me to slow down. Cancer just showed me what is important. Cancer taught my family about love. Now, that doesn't sound like an enemy does it? 

Thursday, 10 April 2014

Clarity and Acceptance

Cancer. Why me? I had a good cry when I found out my unfortunate fate. I did go there, I asked, why me? I never smoked, don't have vices, I look after myself, I never hurt anyone intentionally. I have got enough to deal with, why is life so unfair? Then I thought, why not me? Who am I to say I should not be sick, who am I to say who should be. When faced with adversity, I always tell my kids to step back and look at the bigger picture and surely, I say, you will find something to be grateful about, and something to learn from and if you find that, then all is not lost. Crying and getting mad was a normal reaction but I knew I can't stay there, so I stood up to face it.
Cancer came to me like a slap in the face, it's like in the movies where someone goes into hysterics and delirium and needs to be slapped back to his or her senses. It took cancer to make me see my life clearly, not that my life was in pandemonium but it was not as orderly as I want it to be, let's put it that way. When my world got shifted, I was transported to this special vantage point where it was easy to see what really really mattered. All of a sudden, certain things become just trivial, and my attention turns to what is important. By having cancer, I found the clarity that I've been searching for. Clarity in my life. Paradoxical almost, but I will take it. It's what I'm being given in return. It's so amazing that with cancer, I found peace in my heart and mind. Cancer showed me what I wanted in life. I'm finding more time now that I see what I should be spending it on.
I know I can't go on without acceptance, and that's where I turned my focus on, accepting that this was given to me. In accepting my fate I can turn things around and maybe this does not have to be unfortunate but instead, dare I say, a blessing. Getting news that you have cancer is devastating, being told you have 2-3 months to live puts you in panic mode. Whatever happens, I know my time could not be more precious than now. I knew I don't have time to lament for so long. Accepting it sooner gets you that time to do what you need to do to face this challenge. This will not go away and I need to face it with my whole body, mind, and soul in unison! and in full capacity. It was a process, but hanging on to that clarity makes me want to fight this even more. With this newly acquired calmness, I want to reach that place that I see from that special vantage point, I want to go there and stay there.