Thursday, May 9, 2013

Mt. St. Helens with Rick and The Brazilians!

Rick is one of my most respected friends. He was the chair of my Doctoral Committee and basically, he  stepped in when I was in a bad place and helped me finish my Ph.D. He is awesome, and wise and in quite good shape! He's a competitive cyclist and loves to bike in Europe. We decided to climb Mt. St. Helens last September and I thought I should post some pics of this action packed day. 

 It was a perfect day for a climb.
 It was long and arduous, but we were persistent.
 I had to snap a shot of this group descending. Check out the pup who is along for the ride!
 We finally reached the top at 3pm after a slow climb up, which was a bit concerning to me. The climb down is no picnic. There was no snow either, so we couldn't glissade down and save any time.

 We celebrated a bit, caught our breath and then hurriedly started our climb down. I was nervous.  This was when the most beautiful Brazilian Angels came to our rescue. We had seen this group of five youthful, smiling, and uplifting individuals on our climb up. They were also taking their time, snapping brilliant photos, and stopping to enjoy the plentiful views. Once we got to the top, they were the first to congratulate us, and specifically Rick, on his accomplishment. I could also see their concern for our hike down and they had said they would climb down with us, even though I insisted that they go at their own pace, especially since they had planned on driving back to Seattle that night!

  The views were amazing and the Brazilians were always in front of us, looking back to check on us. I have to admit, I was so relieved knowing that they were in front of us, but as darkness fell (and we only had two small flashlights), my nervousness hit an all-time high. We were hiking down a mountain, on boulders in the darkness and Rick's legs were very tired, as were mine. I thought for sure we'd be sleeping on a boulder that night, when in the darkness I heard screams from below. The Brazilians (Karol, Maiza, Rafa, Norton and Priscila) hiked back up and physically helped Rick climb down the boulders, giving me a much needed break. The physical demands of assisting him and the mind-numbing worry that we might have an injury or have a long cold night sleeping on the mountain, were very overwhelming for me and my dismantled coping skills. They took turns escorting him down the mountain and kept me smiling and happy by entertaining me with various top 20 American songs. I know that these five amazing individuals all have personal relationships with the Lord, and honestly, if all Christians were like these 5 Brazilians, more people would accept organized religion. They were all symbols for love, acceptance and faith. Not only was I happy that they were there to save us, I was also happy that my path crossed with theirs, because I felt like a better person for knowing each one of them. I was feeling sad about many of the atrocities in our world, but these individuals made me love humans again. Oh, and they ended up having to get a hotel nearby after escorting us down. Their selflessness was beautiful. Thank you my Brazilian Angels!
I snapped this shot with one of their Iphones. It may be one of the best pics I've ever taken! Love you guys!!

Friday, April 12, 2013

April 12th, 2012

It's been one year since my surgery.... Feeling some serious gratitude for my good health. Never take anything for granted!

I filled the back of this picture with intentions for the future and sent it off into the universe. Feeling empowered and free all at the same time.  Good Stuff.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Becoming a part of the cancer club....

Today is my one year anniversary. I was diagnosed with Cancer on this day last year. Since then, my life has fit into two categories; before cancer and after cancer.

My ENT called me while I was at work to give me the results of my biopsy and stated that it looked like we had some 'Trouble'. I will never forget that moment. In 2 seconds flat, I felt a warm rush ravage my body from the top of my head down to the tips of my toes. I sat at my messy cube desk, barely able to hold myself up long enough to listen to the remainder of our call. I was in complete disbelief. During my biopsy appt, he confidently expressed that he thought the red tissue was just abnormal scar tissue from my tooth abrasion. I left that appt not thinking I had cancer. That was why the news was so devastating. And so it began from there.
This all started last summer. I was eating an organic flaxseed cracker from Costco and distinctly remember the bite that chipped my upper left molar. It left a sharp edge that I waited TOO long to have fixed. I had a lot going on in my personal life and it seemed that everything else was more important than my sharp tooth. The funny thing is that this sharp tooth slowly pierced a little hole in my tongue over the course of the next 6 or 7 months. It doesn't help that my dentist is in another state, but I take full responsibility for not making myself a priority. Lesson Learned. 

When I finally made it to the dentist to have the tooth ground down, my hygenist suggested I have my tongue biopsied if it didn't heal 30 days after having the tooth fixed. I didn't think much of it. It didn't heal and I decided it was time to schedule an appt. I had a PA at first who referred me to my ENT (Ear/Nose/Throat specialist). I ended up seeing him first, then coming back a week later for the biopsy procedure, which was no picnic. My ENT told me he thought it was scar tissue from my sharp tooth hole and that he thought I DIDN'T have cancer. I figured I was just being safe and the pain from the biopsy was enough activity for me. 

Well, he called me 5 days later when I was at work and my life changed at that moment. The next 5 days were hell. The day after hearing that I had at least stage 1 squamous cell carcinoma on my tongue, I had to have scans done to see if this was the only cancer in my body. At this point, I had no idea how serious this was and if I was going to be full of cancer. I had the scans that Friday and would get results on Tuesday. I had a trip planned to Seattle that weekend to have some dental work done. My ENT told me to keep my appt and have my dentist check for any sign of infection because I was going to have surgery soon and my mouth needed to be in good shape. I would also use this opportunity to tell my family about my cancer. I was so nervous about telling my Mom, even though she was a rock. Mom returned to Portland with me and went to my appt. the following Tuesday. The news was good and bad. The scan results didn't show any other tumors in my upper body. That was fantastic. They did show that I had a few swollen lymph nodes that indicated that the cancer may have already spread to the lymph nodes. They also had more information about the type of tumor I had and it was considered a very aggressive tumor.  I was also tested for HPV, because this is what is causing this type of cancer for many young adults these days. I was negative. I didn't know why I had this cancer in the first place, but it didn't matter. The next order of business was having that bi-atch taken out. I had to wait almost a month and it was brutal. 

This was when I felt more support than I have ever felt in my life. My family and friends swarmed around me and filled me with love. It was amazing. I had them lighting candles and visualizing healthy nodes and they were wonderful. So my surgery day finally arrived and I was nervous, but happy to finally have the tumor removed. HEX BE GONE! (I named my tumor Hex)

Here's a pic of Mom and I waiting for my name to be called in the waiting room. I didn't get emotional until I was in the prep room. I remember texting Des and Bill and getting emotional, as I felt my fear take over. Luckily, this time would go by quick. They wheeled me into the OR, where an extremely attractive male nurse anesthesiologist asked me what I did for a living. I was able to get Multnomah County out, and then I was out. I woke up in the recovery room to a nurse that was freaking out about a hematoma I had on my arm. I couldn't attend to that just quite yet, because I couldn't swallow. It was a very unsettling feeling. After waking up a bit more I lifted up my arm to see a bump that was raised nearly 2 inches off my arm. Something had gone wrong and the nurse was freaking out, which made me freak out. She then gave me pills to swallow. HA! seriously? I then tried to tell her(very unsuccessfully since I couldn't talk because my tongue was so swollen from having a large portion of my tongue cut out!). She eventually figured it out and gave me Morphine in my IV. AAAaaahhhhhhh.... I know why people are addicted to that stuff. It helped with the pain immediately and just yeah..... good stuff....
Here's a pic a couple of hours after surgery.
Here's a video Bill took that evening. He was trying to make me laugh, but I was feeling too bad to find humor in anything. I was sucking on a sponge, which was the only way to wet my mouth. I couldn't drink, or swallow and had to carefully place liquids in the opposite side of my mouth using a sponge. This was kind of a miserable time for me. The little pouch I hold up in the video is my bag of blood and lymph fluid that was draining out of my neck. Yummy.

My Mom stayed in this chair for 5 days straight. She never left the hospital until I did. A mother's love is very powerful. Thanks Momma.
I had a team of peeps that helped me get through this 5 days. Erica and Bill were there everyday, just sitting with me as I slowly improved. They made me laugh and held my hand when I felt like shit. Erica also did Reiki before and after my surgery that helped in ways I can not express. She is so talented. 

I was kind of obsessed with how my blood to lymph fluid changed over the course of the 5 days. 
This was a pic right before the doc pulled out my tube on my discharge day. 

A few hours before I was set to go home, my surgeon came in and handed me some papers. He was smiling and said we had good news. My Margins were clear and my lymph nodes were also clear! I would NOT need chemo or radiation!! I started crying immediately. Mom was on the phone with Erica and it was almost like she was there in that moment too. I had SO MUCH to be thankful for at that moment. This meant I was likely to have a happy, healthy and long life! 
No words to express how joyous this time was for myself and my friends and family! Thank you all for your prayers and healing thoughts! I had thousands of people praying for me and I could feel the love.

Before going home, I recorded Billy cracking me up one last time. He was doing an impersonation of my swallow. His portrayal is accurate. Nothing was going down the left side of my throat since my incision went from mid-tongue to pretty far down the back of my throat. Swallowing was my worst nightmare while in the hospital. Bill's humor helped a lot. 
After 5 days in the hospital, I started my 3 weeks of rest at home. It was nice actually. This was when I started my research on healthier lifestyles and also anti-cancer diets. My results from surgery were the best they could have been, but I was acutely aware of the fact that it could come back. I wanted to start doing something to keep it from coming back.
Erica, Bill and my Mom were there everyday for the entire recovery period. I also had visits from Laurie, Betty and Tammi. Here's a video I recorded shortly after getting home. I was pretty emotional and on A LOT of pain meds!

Even though I look like a mummy in this pic, I was stoked because I was about to take my first shower. It had been nearly 11 days!! 
Post shower bliss!

Took off my stiri strips. Progress is speeding up!
Did I mention that having tongue surgery makes eating difficult? I didn't eat much for the first week, but when I got home, Billy got creative. I had been drinking only juice and protein shakes, but upgraded to blended soups. Hooray for salty concoctions! 

I was really living large with this meal! Blended spagetti with marinara and cheese. Again- props to Bill for making me delicious and easy to eat meals. 

Here are a few other videos I recorded. I get kind of chatty, but wanted to be able to hear my progress. I was going to speech therapy and trying hard to speak without sounding like I had an apple in my mouth. Even now, I still have certain words that are challenging to pronounce. 

I have spent the last year trying to figure out why all this happened to me. I've done a shit-ton of research on nutrition and balance in the body. One cause that resonates with me is the presence of toxins in my body. It was only a couple of days after receiving my diagnosis that I felt a special connection to the planet. This will sound a bit weird, but when I was diagnosed, I felt like my body was  polluted and imbalanced. I felt like my body was a small earth. I felt a direct connection to the destruction and disrespect that we as humans have for this planet. I had the same relationship with my body. That has stopped. This has started me on a new journey to treat my body with love so that it will carry me on this path for as long as possible. I will be posting on lifestyle changes that I believe are good for our bodies and good for the planet. We have a lot of work to do people! 

BE WELL and thanks for reading! Ps. when you go to the dentist, make sure they check your mouth! Oral cancer is growing at alarming rates. The earlier it is caught, the better your chances for survival are! Along with that advice, please stop eating processed foods, consider a vegan diet, and no matter what you do, eat more vegetables! 

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Willamette River Clean-Up

On a chilly day in October, Erica and I signed up for the Willamette River Clean-up through the Willamette River Keeper Organization. It was our first time and we weren't sure what to expect, but it turned out to be an awesome experience! Thanks Stephen for seeing us off and taking these pics! 
Here we are, about to leave Willamette Park in our journey across the river to a small island that was full of trash! It was an eye opening experience.
 It was a windy day! We made it though!
 We were part of a large group at our location. There were several large groups of people along the 187 mile stretch of the river.
 Erica with her first bag-o-trash of many.
 I found a huge metal pipe and thought I had found the largest piece of garbage on the island. Boy was I wrong!
 There was a group of guys who were wading in the shallow water and found this pile of garbage. Really? a push mower? How does somebody decide this is an acceptable thing to throw in the river?
There were a few unexpected finds, like this wilted rose....
I also found this little guy growing in a downed tree.
We are about to head back with our garbage, and while it doesn't look like a lot, it was and we felt super excited about it!
 Canoeing in the city....Portland is awesome!
Here's what our group collected from the island. It was a lot!

 We went to the after party and won raffle gifts! I won a $50 gift certificate for the! Hooray! Let the good karma begin!

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Dad comes to Portland!

Rather than having my Dad visit for my surgery, I asked him to come up when I was feeling better so we could spend more time together. I'm so glad I made this request because we had a wonderful time hanging out!

We had a great trip to Silver Falls.

We also managed to stop and see Angie jump horses in Wilsonville. I made a new friend.
I talked Dad into drinking wheat grass shots and also eating tons of other super healthy foods. He was a great sport.

French pastries from Saint Honore Boulangerie.
Freaking delicious!
...... and now we're in line for VooDoo donuts.... yeah, we ate a lot...

I ate 1/3 of mine and gave the rest away to a hungry mouth.
Waterfront photo
And Dinner at Saburos. This is my favorite place to eat sushi in Portland. The dish above (Spicy Tuna Salad) is so good I can't even tell you how good it is. Sadly, this was my last sushi meal with fish or any type of meat. It was a good one though!

We took a gorge tour. It was fun!

Was pleasantly surprised to see this rock formation on the Columbia. I live in such a beautiful part of the world!  Thanks for coming out DAD!!!!