Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Medical Update

Today, Derek and I went up to meet with my oncologist up at UCSF! It was a fairly exciting trip because we already knew that since I have been blessed with great news on all the scans that I had taken since last July, that this trip was to now discuss what we were going to make as our "game plan" from here on out....

Today was really busy at UCSF. Each time I've gone, it's been on many different days, it had never been this full of people in the waiting room. It didn't create a problem by any means, it was just a little alarming. A reminder of how many people were dealing with cancer, and that was just a Wednesday at 11:30am in a San Francisco center. Agh! If that doesn't put a different perspective on it... Still, I have to say, things went smoothly. I had to wait a little longer, but not by much. I really love this hospital. Whether it's busy or not, things seem to run smoothly and calmly. Call me selfish, but I personally need that when I'm about to delve into some life altering issues. So, if you're listening UCSF...thanks, I appreciate it!

The meeting itself was only about 30 minutes or so, but it felt like a whole lot was accomplished. It felt like there was a lightness in the air and that we had stepped over this big bump in the road and we clearing our path for the rest of the trek. First, let me back up a little....

Last I left it, I was waiting for clarification on how the last scan report (in Sept.) was reading and the various "new" spot(s) showing up...(read in my Sept. "medical update" entry).

It was finally made clear (in lemans terms) that basically everyone has random "spots" throughout their body and these scans detect ones that may appear to have some abnormalities. Being that I have had cancer already, these spots need to be really closely monitored. However, the scanning process can be a little tricky when reading results because it is very sensitive to how the imaging lasers catch each section of your body. A minute shift in body positioning can alter what is picked up on the image. But basically, the size of the findings (spots) are too small to be significant and so therefor we were continuing to monitor them by re-scanning every 2 months.

Well I had another scan done in November and once again things appear to be unchanged!( Woo hooo! ) (read in my last "medical update" entry). This was the last scan in the series of scans that I was doing. Now that it has come back once again with good results, a new decision was made to now spread the scans out further...instead of every 2 months, every 4 months for now. At that point, if I'm still getting good results, then maybe every 6 months, and so on. Basically, there's a plus and a negative to taking these scans. A plus because you are keeping a watchful eye on things...a negative because your putting your body through alot of radiation which can have negative effects on your body. So essentially, you're damned if you do, and damned if you don't;) All we can continue to do is pray and hope for the best. The way things have been going so far, I think I'm doing pretty well;)

I will also be getting yearly colonoscopies (the next one starting in March of next year) which are pertinent in detecting any signs of colon cancer again. Not looking forward to it, but I can honestly say that it's a fairly easy (out-patient) procedure. And knowing that it aided in essentially saving my life the first time, I am all for it again. If anyone out there is contemplating the idea of getting one but maybe are unsure, or understandably nervous about it, feel free to talk to me:) I'll help you through it!

We left the 4th floor Oncology Dept., and headed up to the 5th floor Infusion Center. Don't worry...not to get an infusion, but better yet, to meet a little angle of mine who works there. You may remember me mention Mairead Shaw, who had found me through the benefit party that I was an honoree of back in May. She is an oncology nurse there at UCSF and was essentially my bridge to the care I found at UCSF. Up until this point, we had never met in person. All of our conversations were over the phone and via email. At the beginning of this process of beeing seen at UCSF, we were in contact almost every day. As the months have rolled on, and things have started to smooth out a little, we were less in touch on a daily basis, rather just the occasional email correspondence over my regually posted "medical updates". Today, I knew I had do go and officially put a face to a name and share with her where I am at today. I'm so glad I did! She is awesome and adorable....I'm serious, I wanted to pick her up and put her in my pocket!

To top it off....the sun was shining in San Francisco.... I love when that happens!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Turkey Trotting towards Turkey Dinner!

Ahhh...Thanksgiving morning! I can almost smell turkey roasting in the oven...dressing cooking on the stove...and I can't wait to have round 2 of Thanksgiving dinner! However, first things first. I signed up to run in the Silicon Valley Turkey Trot this year. The event was a 5k (3.1 mile) walk or run or a 10k (6.2 mile) walk or run. It'll be the first year I've participated in it and I was looking forward to it. A few new friends of mine that I have met through TNT were also participating in it, and to be honest, without them, I wouldn't have done it. I wasn't going to do it alone, and no one else I know particularly likes to run like I do now, so it's great to have them on my team;)

The race was starting a 9am in downtown San Jose. The plan for me was to wake up at 6am and give myself a little time to do the usual routine before any run... eat, drink, release;), and this particular morning I wanted to use the foam roller on my calves because they were in knots. Light stretching is usually done right before I start running, (deeper stretching after). Not a big deal since this was only 6 miles this time. My friend Carla was picking me up 7:45am and we were going to head over to another team mates house to pick her up.

The night before, I get to bed late as usual, it never fails...I have a hard time going to bed early. But none the less I set my alarm and get into bed and go to sleep. Well, the next morning I open my eyes to the clock reading 7:15am. What the *^!-'# ! I can't even tell you what happened because I don't even know. This is another thing that seems to never fail...when I have somewhere really important to go to, my alarm mysteriously doesn't go off on time. I'm done fighting it...we won't even go there...

However, I QUICKLY get myself together, not able to do any of the routine except get dressed and washed up, and get picked up by Carla and Nicole(she is another Team friend who was coming to support instead of run because she was running in the Seattle full marathon that Sunday). We get over to Stephanie's house and all of us pile into her car and make our way to the event downtown. I'm starting to learn that these running events are all pretty much the same in the fact that you get to the location while everyone else is getting to the location and you run into some people you know, a lot of people you don't know and then roam around for a little bit and then wait to start. Oh, wait, I forgot...most-likely you stand in line to wait to use the porto-pottys before you start running;)

Ok, so at about 9 something we cross the start. Carla, Melissa and I start out together... Stephanie had decided to walk this time with her daughter and grandson, so she was with that group. Then quickly into it, Melissa has past us and it's just Carla and I, and a bunch of people we didn't know:) We started near St. John Street and headed North up onto Market then Taylor....and through the Guadalupe River Park. The weather was perfect, nice and crisp and the sun came out a bit:)
I'm so grateful to Carla for running with me and keeping me at the 10 minute mile pace. I struggled a little since I was relying only on the water stops and didn't really have much fuel with me that day. The trail was nice but got a little crowded at the points where the walkers and runners would coincide. If the trail or pathway was narrow at that point, than the walkers tended to spread out and get in the way of us runners who tried to pass on the left. Once you're in a groove with your running, it's very hard to stop, especially for people getting in your way, hahah.
So we make it through and round up onto Julian St. then onto Santa Clara and finished a little past HP Pavilion/Shark Tank! We crossed the finish at 1:03:01...woohoo! We were greeted by Nicole with camera in hand:)

Derek was so close to getting to the finish before we crossed but of course parking was crazy down there. So he arrived minutes later to walked around a little while we got all of our "finishers chochski"! We didn't stay long because it was Turkey Day after all and
we had to get ready to head up to San Francisco for the family celebration!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

"A person without any friends is like a tree without its roots." -Unknown

"The language of friendship is not words, but rather meanings. It is an intelligence above language." -Thoreau

This year was the 6th Annual Friendship Thanksgiving at Casa de Morello's. Otherwise known as Chris, Christina, and Riley's house! Wow, six years...although Derek and I hadn't been apart of all of them in the past, we have been honored to be apart of at least the last few. Last year the both of us got sick off the family Thanksgiving dinner that we had a couple days before friendship thanksgiving, so we sadly skipped out. This year the celebration was the weekend before the traditional holiday so we were really excited to join the crew again and have a blast! And that we did!

So many things to be thankful for and many of them were in that house with us that night. First off, Chris and Christina, our hostesses extraordinaire, did such a fabulous job, once again, on creating such a warm, and festive atmosphere. Starting with a transformation made within their garage. Fabric softened the walls, while small white lights brightened the space with a just enough glow. A long 10 foot table was draped with Harvest time inspirations and a splash of sparkle here and there.

The minute we walked into the house, we could feel this great energy coming from all of our great friends...there was lots of talking and laughing and catching up going around. Everyone mainly congregated around in the kitchen and natural dinning area, so it was nice to also be in the midst of the final cooking preparations:) Smelling all of the different, yet complimentary aromas wafting from the oven and stove...mmmmm! The main course was the herb-rubbed turkey which was prepared by our lovely Christina. It was yet again DELICIOUS and not a bit dry. However, I'm always more partial to the dark meat, especially the drum leg! I refuse to play around in this situation...

In addition to the beautiful bird, each one of us ladies prepared a side dish or two. It doesn't happen very often in groups where you get together with different contributing dishes and everything works and is so good! Well, once again it happened here in this group! Everything was fantastic! I also made a beautiful salad as my dish. It was a pear and blue cheese salad with arugula and watercress, toasted walnuts, and a sweetened mustard vinaigrette=yum!

The rest of the evening was all about spending time with each other, laughing like crazy, warming up with the tradional pumkin pie shot, made by Mr. Morello himself, and just having a great time together! There were many kids there as well, sons, daughters, nieces, etc. and they had just as much fun as we adults did. Riley is such a natural character that he entertained some of us up until it was time to say goodnight. Maybe all these little ones will grow up one day and have a friendship thanksgiving of their own together...


...for these things I am THANKFUL!

"People may not remember exactly what you did or what u said, but they will always remember how you made them feel." -Unknown

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Medical Update

So today I went up to UCSF to get the last of the PET scans (Positron Emission Tomography, (in case you wondered)) of the series. Since July, I had been going in every two months to take these scans to monitor my progress in being "free of cancer". These particular scans take images of the entire body from scull to thigh. PET scans are particularly effective in identifying whether cancer is present or not, whether it has spread and/or if the person is responding to treatment. Back in April, the radiologists first detected a suspicious spot on my liver and they were concerned that it could be a metastasis of the colon cancer that I had removed two months prior. Therefore, I needed to make sure that we monitored this really closely and frequently. Hence the series of scans.

Well so far, so good. Each scan that I have taken has come back reporting, 'steady and unchanged'. This means that the spot (s) that are showing up in my body are not behaving like cancer. They hadn't grown or spread! Therefore, they are most-likely not cancer! And I say most-likely, only because I'm am aware of how randomly cancer likes to rear it's ugly head, and
at that point in time, it was gonna take a few more scans to convince me ;)

It was to my surprise to get the results back today, the same day, from the radiologist. Usually it takes a few days. A few looong days. But not this time, and that was cool! Tom, who is the nurse practitioner for my Oncologist, emailed me the good news, that once again, the report reads that things look 'steady and unchanged' ! OH THANK YOU GOD!...

So now that the final scan of this series is done, and everything looks good, then I will sit down and discuss with my Oncologist, what the plan should be from here. I will still need to monitor with future scans of course, but they just wont need to be as frequent. Roughly every six months is what I hear is common. Hopefully I will meet with my doctor within this month, but if not than in December.

Maybe even in time for Christmas!

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Tyler's Ultimate!

Last weekend, my girlfriend Nicole and I went down to Santana Row to check out one of her favorite American chef's, Tyler Florence. If you watch Food Network, I don't need to tell you who Tyler Florence is, but if you don't, he has hosted a few different shows on Food Network but now is primarily known for his show, Tyler's Ultimate. I've watched him several times before and also always like what he prepares. His cooking style is mainly contemporary American as well as Italian. That night he was doing a cooking demo in the courtyard and a book signing at Sir La Table. Nicole had already bought one of his newest cookbooks, Stirring the Pot, which she wanted signed. I was just there for the experience!

The cooking demo was cool, however I don't know how he really even saw much of what he was doing...the lighting they had set up for him was pretty weak. Needless to say, like any other professional, he made it look flawless. He prepared a filet mignon topped with a bordelaise sauce, along side a saute of mushrooms, brussel sprouts, bacon...mmmm.

After the demo, everyone headed over to Sir La Table to wait in line to get into the store, where he was doing the book signing. And oh did we wait, and wait... we waited for about an hour, in line, in the cold. Then when we got inside the store itself, we waited a little longer... but really, no big deal, it was our old pal Tyler, after all;)

I had never been to a book signing before, so this was interesting. I always wondered if they would ever have the nerve to call a, TIME OUT!, or better yet, SORRY, I'M DONE FOR THE DAY, because their hand cramped up. Signing book after book after book...and because there always has to be that one person who buys like 10 books and wants something different written in each one. I kid you not, that lady was right in front of us...hahah! But I swear she had like 15 books. Poor Tyler;)

Friday, November 7, 2008

NASM certification

So I'm back in school! Well "home school";) I started the NASM (National Academy of Sports Medicine) personal training program at the beginning of last month. Most of you may know that for awhile now I had been entertaining the idea of becoming a personal trainer.

Over the last two years, I have been more and more focused on getting into a healthy physical state and have loved all of the many progressions that I've gone through. Challenging myself a little more at each phase, and started to feel like maybe I could somehow be involved in the fitness industry....hmmmm. Is this really coming from my mouth?? Someone who had always struggled with her own weight... someone who never thought that she could ever really change her body... and someone who, never hated exercise, she never seemed to be able to make it apart of her life on a regular basis. Ever! An infamous Yo-Yo dieter, a Yo-Yo exerciser, which meant a Yo-Yo weight control-er! Agh, enough already! To make a long story short, in March of 2007, I reached my weight loss goal of 50 lbs. with the help of the God-sent Weight Watchers program! It also started a new found love and respect for health and fitness. I started incorporating many forms of exercise from cardio and strength training classes, to biking, to hiking, to running.

Could I somehow be apart of the fitness industry?? I think so...

My goal now is to become certified as a personal trainer and work with individuals on a one-on-one basis to help them achieve their own physical fitness goals. The body is a fascinating machine and although I'm starting to find out just how complicated our machines are, as I'm trying to learn about them, I hope to find an even better appreciation for my own:) Stay tuned to hear more...

Tuesday, November 4, 2008


Aahhhh! I'm elated! Honestly, I knew in my heart that Barack Obama would be our next president, but I couldn't help but hold my breath until the press finally announced the poll results. Until, it was official, I couldn't completely exhale. I tried to stay as close to the television as possible that day, to keep an eye on the numbers and the progression of the race. It was so exciting! Never before had I ever, I mean EVER, been so excited about a presidential race. Politics were never anything that I payed much attention to, and never really cared that much about. In fact, this was the very first election that I had voted in. I know, I know...! It pains me a little too that I never put the effort into getting involved. I do feel that as an American citizen, we are privileged with the right to vote in these elections, and that we should take full advantage of that right. Why I never did in the past?? I obviously didn't care as much. I had registered in the past, however, for whatever reason, never made it to the polls. This year was going to be different though, no doubt!

Derek and I hung out at home that night to make sure that we were up close and personal to watch the announcement of our new president! I made us a special dinner, pork chops and a salad with a bottle of one of my favorite white wines.

We had both TVs on in the house, tuned into two different stations. Current TV was playing in the living room where we sat. As soon as Obama had surpassed the number of electoral votes needed to win the election, there was a ticker that had stated that they announced the winner. Derek and I ran to the bedroom where ABC was reconfirming the win. We were sooo EXCITED!! We hugged and kissed and were grinning from ear to ear, starring at the TV...soaking up all the glorious news!

The rest of the night, we exchanged text messages and phone calls with family and friends, and watched closely at the 1st official speech of our next president....what a wonderful night it was...(EXHALE)!