Saturday, January 30, 2010

Eating My Way Through a Bucket List

I'll tell you this much: I'd much rather be talking about bucket lists on my food blog than on my cancer blog.

Read about what happens when restaurants kick the bucket at Open Mouth, Insert Fork.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Let the Sun Shine In!

After a week of soup and stew weather, the clouds have parted and it's time for a celebration of citrus.

Wander over to Open Mouth, Insert Fork to find out how I've been using the back yard citrus.

Friday, January 22, 2010

It's Raining, It's Pouring, but Food Isn't Boring

Energy is returning, appetite is back and the kitchen's been getting a good workout. (I've even gained four pounds in the last two weeks.)

See what's cooking at Open Mouth, Insert Fork.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Non-Chemo "Chemo Brain"

My brain is a very fickle creature.

Today I went to City of Hope for my fourth of five "chemo brain" tests. I'm part of a clinical study that's tracking my cognitive functioning from pre-stem-cell transplant to three years post-transplant. And, not to brag, but in some areas, I'm as sharp as a tack. "Wow! Noone has ever gotten that far before," gushed the test administrator. Or, "You're the first person to complete that entire section." Just don't ask me for directions to the restroom.

And I have an uncanny ability to hear a list of up to nine scrambled digits and letters and repeat them back in numerical and alphabetical order. I even amaze myself. But don't dare ask me for my office phone number.

I guess we're all like this. We have our strengths and we have our weaknesses. And how much of the weaknesses can be pinned on chemo or aging or peri-menopause or post-menopause or just the way we're wired is anyone's guess.

That's why the City of Hope is looking for a non-chemo control group to enroll in the same cognitive study.

If you're between the ages of 18 and 75, the series of 90-minute tests could be an excellent way to test your memory, focus and mental agility. The administrators do not share the results of the tests, but it's easy to gauge how you're doing. And, if you're really concerned about your performance on a particular test, the neuropsychiatrist who is the principal investigator will talk with you. (As she did with me last year when I cried out, "I've gotten stupid." She assured me that I had not.)

As a little token of appreciation City of Hope will give you a $20 Target gift card for each of the five tests.

Email me at susancarrier AT if you'd like more information or if you'd like to participate.

After all, a mind is a terrible thing to waste.

Recommended Reading: Your Brain After Chemo: A Practical Guide to Lifting the Fog and Getting Back Your Focus by Dan Silverman, MD, PhD and Idelle Davidson

Sunday, January 17, 2010

A Roll in the Cabbage (Old Fashioned Cabbage Rolls)

I still have a few pounds to gain back and, lucky for me, I'm hungry. Check out one of my favorite comfort foods over at Open Mouth, Insert Fork.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

What's in Store for 2010?

For the last two years, I've started the New Year brimming with optimism. In 2008, right after my successful auto stem cell transplant, I was giddy about the endless "what if" possibilities of the new year. I followed up with musings on the challenge of "rebuilding." A few days after toasting to health and happiness, I landed back at the City of Hope. That was the same year that I became debilitated from the high eosinophil count in my blood. And the year that my crinkling skin was diagnosed as cutis laxa. And the year that I made a difficult personal decision.

In 2009, I lived a charmed life for the first few weeks of the year. I vowed to live simply, drink more Champagne and sparkling wine and find the ultimate crab cake recipe.Very little effort on my part seemed to produce effervescent results. But by late-February, 2009 had lost its fizz.

And 2010? PPFFBBTT! That's a giant raspberry to the New Year. I woke up on January 1, sick and alone. I went on to get dumped and then thrown (cough, cough) out of a New (cough, cough) Year's open house party. (The two incidents were unrelated.)

I saw Dr. Forman last Thursday and learned that I've dropped 8 pounds in 4 weeks. That's in addition to the 8 pounds that went missing between Halloween and Thanksgiving. The 16-pound loss brings me down to a scrawny 114 pounds on a 5'10" frame. I felt dizzy because my blood pressure was a ridiculously low 80 over 36. I still have to pace my days because I become fatigued easily. The reason for this? We haven't a clue. I just know that, for the third year in a row, I'm back to "rebuilding."

This all sounds dismal, but one advantage of having a blog is the ability to look back. Yes, I had that little unplanned 11-day stay at Hotel Hope. But I bounced back and, just a few days after my discharge, took a solo trip to SF to visit my ailing friend Bob at the Veteran's Hospital.

And, yes, the eosinophils laid me lower than the chemo from a stem cell transplant, but that didn't stop me from taking two trips to SF to be with Bob that summer. My friend Kiki and I even got to see him on his last day on earth.

And I recovered in time to see my brother and his bride Bonnie get married at our house and garden in September.

I'm writing all of this to give me perspective. I was tempted to write off 2008 as a terrible year punctuated with illness and "rare" disorders and 2009 as a stressful one peppered with uncertainty. I'm already set to pop 2010 into the dumpster. And I'm always ready to belittle myself for not bouncing back more quickly after an illness, until the blog makes me realize that I was doing the best I could each step of the way.

Looking back, I see that our years and our lives are a a frustrating blend of good and bad, charmed and cursed, memorable and forgettable.

Now let's take a look at 2010, the year that I'm trying to salvage from the dumpster. I think life owes me a great year of health and happiness in 2010, especially since it's starting off so lousy. Don't you agree? That's what I'm hoping.

Truth be told, I don't know if life will continue to throw curve balls in 2010 or give me a breather on the bench, but I do know this. I'm strong enough to deal with whatever the year has in store. More important, at my weakest or my strongest, I could never make it without the love and support of my family and friends.

That reminds me of the second day of 2010, when I spent the afternoon with an old friend I've known since she was a toddler. She, her husband and two preschool children were here for the OSU Rose Bowl game, so I jumped at my first chance to see her since her wedding seven years ago. Our strong bond of reconnection more than made up for feeling like a social pariah just the day before. Good and bad. Charmed and cursed. Sometimes they're in the same day, sometimes in the same week, often in the same year.

Looking forward to a year with endless, positive possibilities. And a lot of resilience.