I'll never capitalize cancer

I have alot going on in my life, more than just cancer and chemo. Sure it's a big part of my life right now, but it's not the most important part of my life. You will never see me spell it with a capital "c".

I'm a Wife and Mom. I love my Family. I have good Friends. We do fun stuff and dumb stuff and sometimes we argue and then we laugh again. We go to work and to the grocery store and we go swimming and have birthday parties and get ready for the first day of school.

I keep saying that I don't want ovarian cancer to define me, but sometimes I just can't help it.

A good friend put it this way for me "cancer may be defining your life for the moment, but it is not your entire life. You seem to just make time for it." That made me feel better.

If you want to see it from the beginning, my cancer story begins in March.

The rest of my story is happening now.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

First Friday in Groves

I'm looking forward to seeing everyone again during First Friday in Groves. Be sure to stop by under the blue tent to sample some Spark and find out more about Advocare nutritional products and the financial opportunity.

Advocare helped me get back into shape after my pregnancy and has since kept me and my Family fit and healthy. The additional income that I have earned each month has made it possible for me to be a work from home Mom and enjoy more time with my Family.

My cancer is inherited from my Mom's side of the family. We have cancer back through at least 5 generations of Women. There probably is nothing I could have done to prevent it. But, the excellent nutrition that I get from Advocare supplements has helped keep my body and my immune system strong through this recent health crisis. And the income each month has helped keep our bank account strong, especially during these times of economic uncertainty.

I'm feeling especially good today, and the weather is perfect for some outdoor family fun. So come on out and join us.

First Friday in Groves is three full hours of non-stop family friendly enjoyment. The monthly celebration along Lincoln Avenue offers free entertainment on Friday, May 1, from 6 to 9 pm. Highlights include door prizes in honor of Mother’s Day, a Cake Walk, the Mexican Heritage Folkloric Dancers, and a Community Blood Drive.

There will be door prize drawings throughout the event. Door prizes include gift baskets, gift certificates, plants, and flowers. Entry forms available at participating shops along the avenue. Entrants must be female, 18 years or older, and present at the time of the drawing.

Val Verde will host the Cake Walk and bake sale. Beginning at 6:30 with the first cakewalk at entertainment center.

The Mexican Heritage Folkloric Dancers, group of girls and young women, will begin the Cinco de Mayo celebration by performing several symbolic dances beginning at 7.

The LifeShare bloodmobile will be parked at the intersection of Lincoln and Jefferson from 6:30 – 8:30. Blood donors may credit the community, their church, place of employment, or a family blood plan with their donation.

Healthy donors weighing at least 110 pounds are eligible to donate blood every eight weeks. Diabetes and hypertension under control will not prevent blood donation. Potential donors must have photo identification and should know what medications they are taking.

First Friday, a merchant sponsored event, is celebrated the first Friday of every month and provides free family entertainment, special sales, food and door prizes. Most stores along Lincoln Avenue will remain open until 9 and The Courtyard Café buffet line is open from 5:30 to 8.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Cutting my hair!

Cutting off my hair!

It wasn't as traumatic as I thought.

Having Brian and Abby cut it, and having cousin Kimmee and Sarah there actually made it fun.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

My Second Cycle of Chemotherapy

Dad came in from Dallas last night. Just in case you are looking, we found that the new Ramada Inn at I10 & College is clean, safe, quiet, has a pool, a gym, FREE breakfast & WiFi, and is convenient to our Home and the Hospital, and they gave us a great rate. Oh and here's a bonus, it's right next door to the Harley Davidson store.

He came to spend a few days with us and to sit with me today at the Julie & Ben Rogers Cancer Institute while I had my chemotherapy. It was a long day, but I am glad he's here.

I wasn't sure if I would be. I mean, it's not going to be a fun weekend. I'm losing my hair, I've lost alot of weight, we spent all day sitting in a room full off sick people and IV's, and it is possible that I will be throwing up all day Friday. We did get to watch some interesting videos about chemotherapy and cancer. And they fed us lunch.

Abby was in school for most of the day and my dear friend Whitney brought Abby home to play with her son till Brian could pick her up. She also fixed up some homemade chicken soup to send home with Brian.

I'm a little tired.

Dad was OK during the chemo. He got to see why I think that my oncology Nurse, Pam, is just the best. She totally knows what she's doing and explains everything as it is happening and the sticks hardly hurt. (I am fortunate that I have not had to have a medi port, today they just stuck it in the other arm) Since his heart attack and quintuple bypass, rotator cuff surgery, skin cancer and hip replacement, I think Dad has become pretty familiar with hospital stuff. And I think that if you talk about it all in technical terms, it's almost like it's not really happening right there in front of you - or to you.

Dad had his Iphone and a USA Today, I had my cel phone, my calendar & my List and a magazine. We talked in between. Anyone else notice the big elephant in the room? Dad had loaded up some special tunes for me on the Iphone and I listened to ABBA through his very cool Bose headphones.

Dr Lavalais changed my before & after meds to help control my nausea. Last time I didn't get sick until the next day, so she prescribed something that has a longer half life.

Have I mentioned how wonderful the people at the Cancer Institute are? Dr Lavalais is brilliant, and Pam is way more than capable and calm and friendly. Everyone - the RN's, the LVN's, the Aides, the Receptionist even the billing office when they call are very considerate and helpful.

Afterwards, we went to the drug store to pick up my Zofran ODT, picked out a gift for the Birthday party that Abby has been invited to and showed Dad where the Bounce Zone is so that he can take her to the party. Now we're ready for a big high calorie, high protein no sugar added Smoothie King. Then we went home for a rest before Brian's fantastic dinner.

Today was fine afterall, considering. Dad told me not to worry, he came here for just one reason - to give me a big hug and make sure that I am doing OK.

Tomorrow morning I go back to get the infamous $9000 shot! Neulasta helps my bone marrow stimulate white blood cells. Sure, why not? What's another $9000?

Then Abby will get to spend the rest of the day with Granpa.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Integrating Nutritional Supplements into Cancer Treatment Plans

Dr Judith Smith of the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston and the Advocare Sci/Med Board sent me this article that she had written about nutrition. I am going to share it with you here.

Remember that I mentioned that my blood tests were good this week, I just need to be sure to keep eating and get enough good calories everyday.

Well, I'm not a doctor and I cannot make medical claims, but for me personally, this is what I am doing. In addition to Dr Smith's recommendations, I have been trying real hard to stay away from refined white sugar and red meat. Lots of fish, chicken, raw veggies, fruit, good fats and whole grains. I also have been using Rehydrate to keep my electrolytes balanced. I have been thinking that I will try Excel Gel for my electrolytes after this next round of chemo. Keeping fluids down while I was nauseous was a problem this last time, and maybe the gel will be easier. For good easily digestible protein, I drink a Muscle Gain shake for a snack. Sometime I mix a Peaches & Cream Fiber Drink with Vanilla Muscle gain for added calories and to help keep me regular (still not pooping everyday). The branch chain amino acids in Catalyst feed my lean muscle and keep them tight so I don't get flabby. And this week, I have started adding Post Workout Recovery to my shakes because they are higher in good calories.

My Hair Has Started to Fall Out

I was wondering when this would happen.

It's not that bad really, just annoying. I thought it might come out in big chunky patches. But today it's more like you know when you brush your hair for the first time in the morning? Or when you you take your hair down from a ponytail and you just get an extra bunch of hair in your hand?

It's annoying because I was trying to rinse and get out all the loose hair, but it just kept coming.

I was shaving my legs and thought about what other hair I was going to be losing - my eyebrows and eyelashes, legs and underarms, and yes even down there. Losing my eyebrows and eyelashes will be odd, but I sure won't mind not having to shave this summer!

Abby was taking a shower with me. She already knows that I am taking really strong medicne to get rid of the big ball of skin in my tummy. And I have told her that the medicine will make my hair fall out. Really, through this whole orderal, as long as we let her know some of what is going on and don't get too weird and freak out, she just figures it's another event in life.

Abby said it was OK about my hair. It'll grow back and in the meantime, I can borrow her Hannah Montana wig.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Such a Good Day

The weather is fabulous and that certainly helps. I am feeling better than I felt before I started my chemo. I still have to take my painkillers, but the swelling from the excess fluid in my abdomen has gone down, feels like my cyst and enlarged uterus & ovaries are down, I don't have the shortness of breath from having fluid in my lungs, and I'm hungry and eating and have so much more energy.

It has been such a good day that I didn't even mind getting pulled over by the Policeman this morning. It was a goober thing to get pulled over for. He was on a motorcycle and when I turned past him, I could tell he was taking a good long look. I thought maybe it was because I was drinking and driving. I had a
Shake and was turning the steering wheel with just one hand. NOOOO, it was my inspection sticker! Hmm so that's 09/08, not 08/09? And of course I had cleaned out my purse so that I could carry Easter eggs this weekend, which means that I had taken out my BIG wallet, the one that has the proof of insurance... At least I wasn't speeding!

Not a problem, it still is a fabulous day!

Continuing on to the
Julie & Ben Rogers Cancer Institute to get some blood drawn. This is what I now know to be called my "labs". I will be getting them every week while I am having my chemotherapy. It doesn't take long. Parking is easy (it's Beaumont) I check in, they draw 2 vials... "Hello Mrs Burns" "Hi Mrs Burns" "How're you doing today Mrs Burns?" "Right this way Mrs Burns" "Your haircut is really cute Mrs Burns".

I don't want to be part of this club, but they sure are friendly.

"Don't worry this won't a bit" "Make a fist and squeeze".

Quick and easy. Now I need to go get my car inspected. I also need an oil change and a car wash so I can just get it all done in one place. Cross a few more things off my List, pick Abby up from school, have a snack, throw in some laundry, Brian's home.

"How was your day?" "What did you do in school?"

Today was Abby's day for Show & Tell, and the letter of the week is "W". We had gathered up a bunch of things that start with "W" and put them in the big Show & Tell container for her to take this morning. Sometimes you have to be creative - wig, a tiny wagon, a piece of watermelon in a zip loc, wood, wool scarf, t-shirt with a picture of a witch, whale, a picture of a web, wallet, Ariel in a wedding dress, watch, gummy worms, etc.

And, Abby is the leader this week. Which mean that she gets to be in the front of the line and lead the class whenever they go to a new activity.

Time for bed. Flossing, brushing, flouride rinsing, potty, 2 stories, prayers.

This was such a good day!

Monday, April 13, 2009

Easter Sunday

Such a great day! We went to early Mass with our Easter bonnets and white shoes, then headed out to Crystal Beach!

Sure it was chilly, but remember when you were 4? It doesn't matter, it's the Beach!!

Friday, April 10, 2009

My Neighbors

Have been wonderful. They have kept my garden lovely. Actually, it looks better than ever. They bring me homemade soups and casseroles and watch Abby when I have to run a quick errand. One woman even cut my hair so that it will not be so weird when it starts to fall out.

Today, a couple of them showed up with a fabulous card that had been signed by just about everyone in our complex. In the envelope with the card was an incredible amount of cash.

Where will I ever find the words to say "Thank You" or express how that makes me feel. Brian & I are just blown away by the genuine good spirit and generosity of the people around us.

Almost normal, and HUNGRY again

The next round of chemo will be easier because now I know that it does get better. That was seriously 4 days of the worst flu type symptoms ever. Now, I am just kinda feeling funky because I haven't eaten much for 4 days. I have kept up with my CorePlex with Iron and OmegaPlex. The Meal Replacement Shakes and Muscle Gain for protein and nutrition have been very easy to keep down as well as the Rehydrate for keeping my electrolytes balanced. I'm drinking Spark again. And even taking Catalyst, because I am losing weight, mostly muscle, pretty quickly. I will have some blood work next week and I will learn more how I am doing then.

I am getting lots of advice about nutrition. Much of it similar - stay away from red meat, dairy & sugar. Raw is best. Stay hydrated. Most appealing to me now is comfort food - homemade soups, pasta, casseroles. Vegetables are good, as well as apples, grapes & watermelon. But sweet is just TOO sweet. I think the Hydrocodone is affecting my sweet taste buds.

Dr Judith Smith at MD Anderson Cancer Center has written an article about Cancer and Nutrition. And this article about integrating nutrional supplements into cancer treatment plans. This is what Dr Smith has to say about the after effects of chemotherapy.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

The Updates

Keeping this blog updated is not easy for me. I love to write, but it comes in spurts. My wonderful husband on the other hand is a fabulous writer - everyday. I have gotten replies to some of the email updates that he has sent out. Interesting to see what he has sent. It's his perspective on this whole thing. He's a journalist, so the facts are of course accurate, but at the same time personal.

This is the email he sent out after my chemo:
Teresa went to the Ben & Julie Rogers Cancer Center in Beaumont on Thursday. Our doctor told us some disturbing news. Teresa has Stage 4 advanced ovarian cancer. He told us the cancer has spread beyond the uterus and is serious. However, it is treatable and the prognosis is still positive. To underscore the diagnosis, they started her on chemo immediately after the consultation so we spent the day with Teresa undergoing an IV drip. We return tomorrow for a bone marrow injection to stimulate good cell production. She will undergo two more 6 - 8 hour IV drips, one every 21 days and then the doctors here and at MD Anderson in Houston will consider doing her hysterectomy. They may decide to further delay it depending on her response to the chemo treatment. Please feel free to call Teresa. Your prayers and stories have done her attitude wonders and we both appreciate you all more than we can say. Abby is fine and just knows mommie is sick but the doctor will make her better. I was doing fine until trying to tell this to family members on the phone but other than that, I'm ok.
I hope to talk to you all soon. Brian

Here's the lastest:
Thanks for all your phone calls and emails... and don't stop... I think messages from all of you have meant the world to her. After her chemo treatment on Thursday, she went through everything we were warned of... Vomiting every waking moment, and horrible weakness and exhaustion. Teresa did have a friend cut her hair on Sunday. She didn't want to go through watching it fall out. And we didn't want Abby to watch that either. Many of you have asked... and yes Abby knows Teresa is sick and that she's going to the doctor to get better. A couple of our good friends here in Beaumont have included Abby in their family for a day or two at a time and it's been very much appreciated. But we're keeping her close most of the time and she's a trooper... just like her mom. I'm fine... just tired... She has answered the phone a couple of times... Our home number is at the bottom of this email. And she does check her email several times a day... I have forwarded all you have sent. It's
teresa@getadvocareonline.com That's Get Advocare Online . com For those of you who don't know, she's a distribtor for that line of vitamins and supplements. Her next chemo is scheduled for Thursday, April 23. And then again 3 weeks later. That is when her doctors will decide if it's time for her hysterectomy.
Thanks for your good thoughts and prayers, Brian

See what I mean.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Meeting my Chemo Doctors

Thursday morning I meet Dr Kong and Dr Lavalais at the Julie & Ben Rogers Cancer Institute.

Briefly, here is what I understand about what is going on :
I have a cyst about the size of a large orange near my right ovary, both of my ovaries are enlarged, my uterus is enlarged due to fibroids, and my colon and small bowel also may be involved. This is making things kinda crowded and uncomfortable in my belly. It's also crowding my lungs so i can't get a deep breath, so my lungs have fluid in them. At MD Anderson, they drained off just over 2 liters of fluid from my right lung. The pathology on the fluid showed malignant cancer cells, so I do have cancer. The cells are gyncological in origin and my CT scan did not show any nodules in my lungs, so most likely I do not have lung cancer.
I was told that cancer cells produce a fluid. The fluid along with the cyst and enlarged ovaries and uterus is adding to the distention and is why I look like I am about 3 months pregnant. It's also why I ache and can't stand up straight and have to take painkillers all day long.

I am told that the chemo will shrink my cyst and dry up the fluid so I should begin to feel better within a couple of days of my first treatment.