Friday, April 13, 2012

Pursue: Exercise

As I talked about before, I'm working on pursuing better health this year - which inevitably means figuring out some new exercise plans!

I am not particularly athletic - I'm actually known for being somewhat of a klutz! But there are some forms of exercise that I do enjoy:

*elliptical machine
*any kind of dance

But unfortunately, most of those can't be done easily (or cheaply) in my own home. Which is kind of a requirement of mine right now. The first time I tried to work out after my surgery, I was shocked at how little I could do. As in, I tried to do one jumping jack and couldn't get my feet off the floor. It wasn't that I wasn't trying - but having your abdominal muscles sliced and diced means a whole lot of things just don't work the way they used to! So, I feel too self conscious to go out to a gym or workout class of any kind. I need my own space and time to figure out a new way to get my body to do all the things that I took for granted a couple months ago.

So, I decided that I would buy some workout videos and also commit to doing more walking (eventually jogging hopefully). After hearing and then doing my own research, I bought some of these ugly shoes -

Yes, I'm going to be a barefoot/minimalist walker. Go ahead and laugh - my best friends did when I first told them! But I hate shoes in general and there is a lot of research out there that going barefoot is better for your joints and body overall. So, I'm giving it a whirl!

So far I've been walking about 3 times a week and gradually increasing my distance and pace. I did a full mile the other day and was pretty proud of myself!

Then I also bought some DVDs to work out to in the comfort of my living room - Jillian Michael's 30 Day Shred and a AM/PM Yoga workout.

I love the yoga DVD - the stretching and breathing is great for helping me relax after a long day. Plus, yoga is supposed to be great for toning the "core" muscles - which I definitely need!

The 30 Day Shred is my nemisis though - it seems like it shouldn't be THAT hard, the individual exercises themselves aren't that complicated to do. But put them all together with Jillian's "encouragement" and I want to keel right over. But I can't deny that it is a great workout and I have felt the changes in my strength and stamina change over just a few days.

Which is exactly how long I stick with it before something distracts me. So far the longest I've done it in a row is 5 days. Two other times I've only made it two days! So, the other day I decided I needed some external motivation (other than just the getting healthier and feeling stronger - silly, I know!). So, I went back to my childhood and made myself a paper chain!

First I pulled out a magazine and found colorful advertisments. I thought about getting out the scrapbook paper, but that would have just aided in my procrastination!

Then I cut them into strips - I cut the long way and got 4 per page.

Then I began linking them up - I didn't use any kind of pattern, just put them together at random.

Piper needed to check out what was going on of course...

Once I had 28 links (I was already on day 2), I hung it up in my living room so that I can't avoid seeing it.

Also, I'm pretty sure its staring at me too.

 Tearing off those links will hopefully inspire me to keep going this time! We will see!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Old Made New

One of the best things that has ever come out of Facebook is the ability to reconnect with people from your past. I know there are those who will argue that anyone you didn't make an effort to stay in touch with before doesn't need to be in your life now. But I heartily disagree! I moved around more than once in my childhood and it was nearly impossible to keep in touch without email and free long distance.

But since the wonderful creation of FB, I've reconnected with some of my best friends from childhood. While we may not be part of each other's daily life and may not even interact often online - its been nice to see that they are doing well and share the occasional childhood memory.

And recently one of my "old" friends has become a "new" friend again! My friend Jessica, one of my closest childhood friends from Tennessee, recently moved just a couple hours from me. Her husband's family lives even closer and she surprised me by coming to visit while I was recovering from my first surgery back in November.

And a couple of weeks ago we got together again, just after my birthday! She and her little guy met me in the city where we wandered around Millinium Park, made my first trip to the Bean, and then enjoyed some Deep Dish pizza.

 ( H definitely wanted to make a new friend out of this pigeon...)

It was so wonderful to catch up on more than just a status update! I'm so thankful for my new relationship with an old friend and I can't wait to go visit her soon! Let's make it happen Jess!

Monday, April 9, 2012

Pursue: Health

Of course, once I posted about my "one word" for the year I began getting questions about what I was actually pursuing! So, here is the first thing that I dedicating myself to working towards this year:

Being Healthier

What does that mean? Well, first and formost it means taking better care of myself. More sleep, better foods, and dedicating real effort towards getting in the exercise that will make my body stronger.

And of course it also means losing some weight.

I've never been a skinny person, but I've also honestly never spent that much time thinking about my weight either. Like most women, I'd would have liked to be a smaller size but just never felt particularly compelled to change my life enough to achieve it.

But this isn't about vanity anymore.

This is about my health.

Obesity is a risk factor for Ovarian Cancer. And my body can't concentrate on its job of keeping cancer at bay if its also having to work harder at everything else because its carrying extra weight.

I also think it needs to spend less time processing unnatural stuff - so one of the first things I'm working to pursue is a major change in the way I eat. I'm working to change my diet to include more whole, easier-to-breakdown foods. So, I started with cleaning out my pantry!

I wish I had a "before" picture, but you'll have to make do with the "after" and my assurance that it used to be stuffed full of boxed meals, white pasta, and more preservatives than I care to admit. Now, its practically empty! I'm trying to keep it that way - the less stuff that can be stored for months at a time, the better as far as I'm concerned.

And my fridge went from being nearly empty, except for a few staples and usually some leftovers to this:

I do a lot more grocery shopping now - its my goal to stay far away from the "inside aisles" of the store where all the easy-to-throw-in-the-microwave or eat-straight-out-of-the-box food are stored. Now I concentrate on fresh fruit and veggies, whole grains (quinoa is my new best friend) and other less processed foods. I'm also drinking more water and less soda - this is a major downfall for me and I haven't yet committed to breaking my caffiene habit! But I have committed to drinking my 8 glasses of water a day and that is a major accomplishment!

(Recent meals - Spinach, strawberry, goat cheese salad - salmon burger, avocado, kiwi, and clementine)

I'll talk about exercise eventually, but I'm still settling into some kind of routine and figuring out what works best for my schedule and my stamina. Let me tell you, two major abdominal surgeries in three months really does a number on your core muscles! I have been seriously humbled by realizing just how much my body has gone through in the last few months.

This also means way more cooking in my life - but I'll tackle that in another post!

And I'll keep you all updated on how the path to healthier eating is going!

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Wait and See

I've delayed writing this post as long as possible because I just can't quite process what to make of Friday's appointment with Dr. R. He was great as usual, but also couldn't really offer me the reassurance I was hoping for at this point. We talked about some options and some of the potential risks. I'm not going to go into detail here because honestly I'm not ready to really talk about them.

But for right now he doesn't see any harm in waiting 6 weeks and having another ultrasound and blood test. That will hopefully give us some more information to base decisions on - either something will have changed (which would be bad) or nothing will have changed (which is good but doesn't really tell us as much).

I will admit that I am not handling this "wait and see" game nearly as well as I wish. Somehow it was easier between the first and second surgery. Maybe because I honestly wasn't prepared for this at all? I really was confident going into that CT...and then I was even pretty sure that the ultrasound would clear everything up...and I was still holding out hope that Dr. R would make it all better. But none of those things turned out the way I wanted and now I'm not sure where to go from here.

For now, I ask that you keep up the prayers. Thank goodness this all happened during my favorite time in the church year. Being at church so often has been incredibly soothing for my anxiety. And tomorrow I will rejoice in the resurrection of a Savior who suffered and died for ME (and you!). I will remember that He did that because He loves me and will protect me, even if it means sacrificing his own life for me.

He's got all of this under control...

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Step onto the Rollercoast, Everyone!

I debated about posting before Friday's appointment and originally decided not to update until I saw Dr. R, because he is the ultimate decision maker. But enough people called or otherwise checked in that I figured you all might as well know what has been going on since Monday.

First, you should know that immediately following my ultrasound I called Dr. R's office and left a message with his Physician's Assistant. I am going to call her Avery, because we are pretty much BFFs by now so she needs a blog name. I called because the idea of waiting until Friday without any other info or even knowing how worried I needed to be was overwhelming. So, I called and gave her a brief rundown of what Dr. U had said during my ultrasound.

And then I broke down and cried on her voicemail.

And because apparently everyone in Dr. R's office is amazing, she called me at 8:15 the next morning. She promised to hunt down my ultrasound report and get back to me once she was able to go over it. She then called back every couple of hours to check in with me until she had all the information she needed and we could go over the results more in depth.

Basically, she didn't really say anything much different that what Dr. U said - but she was much more reassuring about the eventual outcome. She also said that we needed to get back my blood test results before we went any further. We tracked them down (they'd been sent off site to another lab) and she promised to call today once she received the faxed results.

The reason I'm having blood tests, along with the CT scans, every three months is to monitor the levels of a protein called "CA-125". CA-125 is a tumor marker - essentially, its something that can indicate the presence of cancer in the body. Increased levels of CA-125 can indicate the presence of ovarian cancer. The problem is that testing for CA-125 is not a definite answer, only 80% of people with ovarian cancer have elevated levels. And other things can cause elevated levels - endometreosis, pancreatitis, pregnancy, a few other types of cancer, and then some. So overall, its not solid enough to be given as a diagnostic test - but it can provide more information if there are other signs of recurrence.

Today Avery called back with my results - my CA-125 level was 11.

I had to ask what the normal range was and she explained that anything under 30 is considered normal. Because I knew enough about the test's downfalls, I asked if we had any kind of baseline from back when I actually had cancer in my body. Avery had to search back through my file until she found all the blood tests that were run at the first hospital after my first surgery. Finally, she found that they had run the test way back in November.

My levels back then were over 200.

Hearing that number initially made my stomach turn. It brought me right back to the feeling that I had in the minutes, hours, and days after my initial diagnosis. The feeling of "How can I be so sick when I feel fine?". Its is very unsettling to realize that your body can be full of all kinds of signs that something is wrong...but never reveal them. Its a terrible feeling and I didn't enjoy reliving it today.

But then I felt relief. Because at least now I know that my body has produced this indicator in the past and will hopefully do it again in the future. And the fact that it isn't demonstrating it right now is reassuring. Avery agreed that it was a good sign and that hopefully it won't change anytime soon.

(It also reminded me of how very lucky blessed I was back in November that my ovary ruptured and gave such an obvious signal that something was very wrong.)

So, that is where we are tonight. Not really much closer to any real answer - but with more positive information than negative it seems right now. So, again we wait for my appointment with Dr. R to see how we will proceed forward.

Much love back to all of you, who have shown so much love toward me...

Lucky Indeed

While we wait, lets focus on better things...

Like my fantastic birthday a couple weeks ago!

I originally wasn't going to celebrate my birthday this year - I'd decided to be done with celebrating my bday after last year. Its not that I hate getting older, but the stress and planning just wasn't my cup of tea anymore.

But then I was reminded just how lucky I am to have another year behind me.

So, I decided to celebrate it!

I still wanted low-key - just my nearest and dearest having some delicious food together. I made reservations at a local tapas restaurant and planned on downing some sangria.

It was a beautiful day, crazy warm - I was able to wear a strappy sundress for the first time in the history of my technically-end-of-winter birthday! That alone made me happy - everyone should know of my love of warm weather and summer dresses.

After a quick stop at a housewarming party for an old friend (where I also got to catch up with some former co-workers that I just don't see enough of) it was off to the birthday dinner.

Only a few people had arrived when around the corner came a huge surprise:

My dear friend Lisa (mommy to these cuties) had flown in from Michigan and surprised me!

I was so surprised it took me quite a few minutes to really believe she was there! It was so special to have her there - I don't we've celebrated either of our birthdays together since I was 23! Special thanks to her co-conspirator Sarah G!

The rest of the celebration was just icing on the cake! The food was fantastic, the sangria was perfect, and being surrounded by (most of) my closest friends was exactly what birthdays should be all about!

Thank you eveyone for coming out and celebrating with me - I love you all so much!

After dinner a few of us decided to go across the stree to a piano bar - there were a ton of people out celebrating St. Patty's Day!

The guy playing the piano electric keyboard was pretty hilarious - but that didn't stop Sarah R and I from making multiple desperate requests.

Such a fun night! I am truly the luckiest girl ever!

Monday, April 2, 2012


Let's just go ahead and add "inconclusive" to the list of things that one hates to hear a doctor say.

Let's also just go ahead and add internal ultrasounds to the list of things that no one should have to indure without getting a baby out if it in the end. (My mom has joked since my first surgery, where I got a "c-section" scar that no one should have to undergo certain medical procedures without getting a baby too.)

So, needless to say my ultrasound wasn't the simple procedure with simple answers that I hoped it would be.

According to the ultrasound Doctor (we'll just call him Dr. U from now on) my ovary looks fine. But there is a "tubular mass" that appears to be filled with fluid just next to my ovary. I wish I could say that he seemed to think it was nothing, but I can't. He did say that it could just be fluid that sometimes settles in the abdomen after surgery. He also said it would be unlikely for cancer to appear that quickly after they were just in there looking around. But at the same time he said that he didn't think any other information could be learned without further surgery. And he said that if we (meaning Dr. R and I, I assume) decide not to do anything about it that he'd want to do another ultrasound in three months. I couldn't tell whether or not to interpret his solmen face as something negative or just that he felt bad that he couldn't give me any more definitive answers. So for now I'm going with the latter.

I have a follow up appointment on Friday with Dr. R.

Waiting that long seems like torture at this point.

I would really like to get off this rollercoaster now.


Just as I feared, the follow up process is already proving to be a rollercoaster.

A week and a half ago I had my first follow up CT scan. I really wasn't even nervous, it seemed too soon for anything to have changed, right? But then last Monday I got a call from Dr. R's office.

There appear to be two cysts on my remaining ovary.

The PA reassured me that it could be nothing, just a normal part of ovulation. But of course, it also could be something. Which is where the rollercoaster of emotions begins again.

Today I am having an ultrasound, which is supposed to show if they are just cysts or a more solid mass (aka tumors). I'm trying not to be nervous, I've done pretty well at convincing myself its nothing for the last week. But as the appointment gets closer, I can't help but worry.

I'm hoping to get off the rollercoaster today and not have to get back on for three more months. I don't know if I will get the results of the ultrasound today but I definitely should know by Friday when I have my next appointment with Dr. R.

But today I ask for your prayers again.

Please pray that these are just cysts and not reoccurance.

Thank you so much for your continued love and support.