Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Coming Soon...

...Let's talk about...

Ok, so what exactly are "remissues"?
The simple answer: remission + issues = Remissues

This is the term I like to use to describe the crazy, chaotic, ultra-confusing life of Remission - a VERY MUCH appreciated life after remission but one that also comes with some struggles of it's own.

See you soon.

love&lyrics,
- LISA -

Monday, June 8, 2015

27 and Menopausal


     Something I struggle with on a daily basis is the wonderful world of "premature menopause" {PMM} &, in my opinion, it's something that is not talked about enough in the young-adult cancersphere...so I thought I would tell you my story, my secrets, & my PMM tips & tricks. So, let's go!

    To begin, let me give you a little meno-411...according to the web, the term menopause is described as "a normal condition that occurs when a woman stops producing eggs & estrogen". It also says the "average" timeline for menopause is around age 51 & can last anywhere from 2 to 10 years. Sounds rad, right? Oy-vey!

     For me, during the very first week of treatment (at my very first visit actually) my Radiologist, Dr. S, told me that my impending 28 pelvic-radiation treatments would completely obliterate my ovaries, not only making my monthly periods stop (not gonna lie - I didn't mind this part so much!) but, ultimately, leaving me sterile & unable to ever have children. When my first surgery rolled around about 3 months later in August 2010, I had the discussion with my surgeon, Dr. B, as to whether or not to remove my ovaries then however we both decided that since this surgery was already going to be incredibly invasive (tumor removal, multiple lymph node removal, rectum resection, & permanent colostomy) we decided that we would hold off until we thought it was the right time. As usual, life had a different plan. In July 2011, I had a recurrence & after being referred to a specialist in Pittsburgh, a complete hysterectomy was added to the to-do list. So on September 21, 2011, in an 8 & 1/2 hour surgery, I said goodbye to my ovaries & uterus (as well as a handful of other body parts, haha!) & hello to premature menopause at the age of 27. The effects were immediate...& I mean IMMEDIATE. My hot flashes began while I was in the ICU only hours after surgery & continued throughout my 11 day stay at UPMC in Pittsburgh...in a room where the air-conditioner was not putting out cold air. Not even lying! There isn't a lot I remember from that hospital stay but I do remember Chad literally wetting washcloths & laying them on the vents of the air conditioner to cool them off as much as he could & them putting them all over me from the chest up. I also remember going in with my ever-present Colorectal Blue hair streak but because of my hot flashes & the ridiculous amount of sweating that accompanies them, I left the hospital with lilac hair & a blue-stained neck. 
     As time went on, menopause made itself more & more obnoxiously known: unpredictable & unmanageable hot flashes, night sweats so bad that I would be up changes my clothes & sheets 3-4 times a night (I eventually figured out that putting a dry towel on top of my sheets would turn out to be a life saver as was my cooling gel pad that I ABSOLUTELY recommend), & most recently, cystic acne which I cannot figure out for the life of me. AHHH! It all can be incredibly frustrating! 
     Ultimately though, I think the most difficult issue I had - physically & mentally - was was with my weight. In addition to Xeloda (my last type of chemo), menopause also wrecked my metabolism & the ability to have any sort of control over my weight. I ended-up gaining over 50+ lbs & topping off somewhere around 185...at 5'0. Because of my age & the fact that I have already had 1 recurrence, I wasn't & still am not able to take any sort of hormone-replacement therapy so my body is literally producing ZERO estrogen, which can be problematic is various ways (estrogen replacement is said to help with hot flashes, skin issues, & weight problems to mention a few). 
     Over the past probably 2 years I had been slowly losing weight but plateaued around 140 for the longest time...then one day I came across "Estroven". It's an over-the-counter soy-based, herbal supplement  which you take twice a day to help manage menopausal systems. I chose the "weight management" option which not only helps with hot flashes & night sweats but also does just what you think...helps maintain weight. I started taking Estroven on March 22 & have noticed SUCH a difference. Not only do I have more overall energy, as of yesterday I am down to 127 lbs! Of course, I know not all of my weight loss is attributed to Estroven...I have also tried my best to change my diet  as best as possible, including only "Zero" sodas so I can still get my caffeine fix without the calories or sugar & "Ice" Sparkling Water drinks (Strawberry Watermelon is my jam) thanks to the recommendation from my dear friend RJ but I really do think taking Estroven has been a HUGE factor is helping me regain the ability to maintain & control my weight. I am feeling more confident & less self-conscious about my body, which is a strange but incredibly liberating feeling. I still have a way to go until I completely satisfied & happy with my body but I'm getting there - it's just going to take a little more time & effort. 
     As for my hot flashes, yes I still have them but they are definitely not as intense as they once were...I can deal with that. If you're looking for something & you can't do anything estrogen-based, I sincerely recommend trying Estroven...they have so many different types to chose from so you should be able to find whichever you think is best for you...and no, this post is absolutely NOT sponsored in ANY way. I truly believe in this brand & it is a part of my everyday Cancer Survivor, Premature Menopause life. 




     

Sunday, May 10, 2015

5 Things People With Cancer Want You To Know {share}

I came across this article on Tumblr & it really resonated with me so I wanted to share the link of the original article with all of you but I also wanted to add a few personal reflections as well.


1.) Cancer doesn't always end when treatment does. 
For me, personally, this is a BIG one. I often refer to remission-life as "the fight after the fight" because it can be crazy, chaotic, & confusing as hell. In one sense, you know how incredibly lucky you are to beat a disease that doesn't want to be beaten; you - for some reason or another - have been given another chance in this world, in this life that thousands of other people are not given. It can be a heavy task to swallow, to understand, & to accept. I'm very open about my struggle with "survivor's guilt" & the pressure that comes along with be a survivor & it's something I deal with on almost a daily basis.
I think this also applies to the equally as crazy, chaotic, & confusing physical side-effects that we experience days, months, & even years after treatment has "commenced". It was only within the last month that I have completely weened myself off pain-meds but I still struggle with random body & joint pain everyday. I've been dealing with early-onset menopause since I was 27 & chemo brain is an absolute pain in my cancer-free ass. 

2.) Cancer doesn't look the same on everyone. 
WORD! Sometimes we don't lose all of our hair with chemo, sometimes we gain weight, sometimes we lose weight. 

3.) Some days are just hard.
No personal explanation needed. :)

4.) Just because I don't look sick doesn't mean I'm not.
This picture was taken less than 2 months before I was diagnosed with Stage IIIb; I was literally dying in this picture & had no idea...would you?

5.) I am so much more than my disease.
As I've said multiple, multiple times...cancer forever changes you & your life but it doesn't have to define you or your life. We are, in ways, the same people we were before we found out about our disease & we will continue to grow into a new version of ourselves post disease.
 Please don't let it negate who we are as individuals.

What do you think?

love&lyrics,
- LISA -


Friday, May 8, 2015

5 Years

Yesterday marked 5 years since I was hooked up to a fanny pack & had my very first chemo infusion & radiation treatment. 5 years! What?!
     Looking back over the past 5 years is a super-crazy ride for me; cancer has changed my life in so many different ways that I could never fully explain. I lost some people who I never imagined my days would be complete without but - on the flipside - I also gained other people who I know with all my being were meant to be a part of my life ...& that's because of this disease. That's life I suppose, right? You have to take the good with the bad to be able to appreciate the happy after the sad. Now, in about a month, I will be celebrating 3 beautiful years of remission, baring no hold-ups with my upcoming CT scan & blood work, but for the sake of my sanity I'm being optimistic! :)
     I've been thinking lately that I really want to start blogging more; I know I say that A LOT but I really think it's time. Usually my blog breaks happen because I can't decide on any specific content to write about but then I realized why does there have to be a specific topic?...& I don't think there necessarily does. I think I, unknowingly, put some pressure on myself to keep GDHC cancer-related in some form, but that's not all my life is so it may start getting random at times around these neck of the woods. Yes, a percentage of my life is & always will be connected to cancer but I also have a lot more to talk about & let you in on so I hope you're down. Until then...

love&lyrics,
- LISA -
    
     

Monday, March 30, 2015

...brb...

Working on a pretty rad post for you! 
See you soon.

love&lyrics,
- LISA -

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

2 Years, 9 Months, & 7 Days.

     2 years, 9 months, & 7 days...that's how long I've been in remission round #2.
     2 beautiful years, 9 glorious months, & 7 wonderful cancer-free days have been given to me to live on this Earth. Some days were better than others, some hurt like hell {inside & out}, & some felt too good to be true...but all were very much appreciated; much more than I can make palpable with my words that's for sure. I don't think you can ever get too comfortable before a scan or a blood test; how could you?...you entire life & the lives of those around you, are all resting on the results. That's pressure!!! Thankfully, my CEA (tumor-marker level in my blood labs) dropped from around 2.6 to 1.3 which is AWESOME!
     In between my first surgery in August 2010 & my 2nd chemo regimen that would follow, we made the decision to switch oncologists from FGH to The Mary Babb Randolph Cancer Center in Morgantown, WV. I can honestly say that is the 1, no-doubt-about-it reason why I am still alive. Although not a colorectal specialist (because apparently, we don't have those in WV...yet), Dr K. completely took me & my family under her wing. She made me feel comfortable in the most uncomfortable of life situations. When my recurrence happened in mid-2011, you could see the disappointment on her face but she was also quick to reassure me that we would also win this round...& we did just that. She's been the most proactive,  let's stay one-step-ahead of another possible recurrence, kick-ass doctor & I'm so thankful to have her in my cancer-free life. ❤
     With good news comes a little sad news...our family said a final goodbye to our beloved pug-mix "Buddy" on March 9, 2015. He was 13-years-old (91-years-young in dog-years) & had been battling diabetes & occasional seizures for the past 7 months. He had been with us through our highest of high's & lowest of low's & was truly an integral part of our family. He is already incredibly, incredibly missed & will never be forgotten.
We'll love you forever, Budman.
Buddy Johnson
September 04. 2001 - March 09, 2015
"We give dogs time we can spare, space we can spare, & love we can spare. In return, dogs give us their all...it's the best deal man has ever made."

love&lyrics,
- LISA -


Sunday, March 1, 2015

Colorectal Awareness Month!

March is here, which means it's officially COLORECTAL AWARENESS MONTH!
All month long I will be participating in #31daysofstrength, which is a daily photo challenge created by fightcolorectalcancer.org


Today's theme is a quote & I chose one by Cassandra Clare & it's one that is very dear to my heart & I was able to breakout my warpaint, which is always a plus.
Day #1:

See you tomorrow!

love&lyrics,
- LISA -