Though I still have cancer, exploring new places and trying new things hasn't stopped me. Even the financial ruin will not prevent me from doing some of the activities I enjoy. This is where believing in your abilities and maintaining a sense of self sufficiency is paramount.
After being sick for so long, it's difficult to see the light at the end of the tunnel. The light is there, one just has to see and seek it.
Though the word "survivor" is used for people in my situation, we're still patients. We'll always be monitored and tested and some of us have to take pills that suppress hormones so the cancer (hormone positive types) has less fuel. I still have cancer in my clavicle nodes, but it's not as large as the original tumor. A PET scan showed that everything else was clear but the clavicle. That's the ONE spot that was inoperable. The radiation oncologist is going to have a look at it.
That's the life of a survivor. Always wonderering about recurrence, or, has all of the original cancer been killed off or removed? It complicates things when we're trying to get back to normal and try to work and enjoy our families.
One can recover from the deleterious effects of treatment and feel better. It is possible despite the loss of a "normal" life. Returning to work is crucial for us after our wallets have been demolished by the expenses of treatment and loss of work hours when we were down. I'm terrible at marketing and can't afford advertising, so very few know about the books I've written, so there's no income there.
I'll see what I can afford to do to get the word out about my coloring book, Seeking Serenity, especially since October- the "pink" month- is around the corner. Yep, breast cancer awareness= don't let this happen to you!
Sales from the book, Seeking Serenity, allow me to purchase bulk copies for distribution to cancer patients and others who'd benefit from this simple gift and gesture of kindness. Click here if you want to check out Seeking Serenity and help benefit cancer patients:-)
Breast cancer treatments can continue for a long, tedious time. It's beats the alternative.
Conventional treatments for hormone positive breast cancer typically include a year of Herceptin and, depending on one's menopausal status for women, daily Tamoxifen tablets. The tamox moderates estrogen.
No thanks to the vagaries of the internet, Herceptin and Tamoxifen seemed like a horrifying thing. The side effects sounded horrendous. Some women refused to take these treatments and preferred to risk it instead. Some friends who are serious natural medicine devotees insisted I instead drink certain herbal formulas, ingest baking soda, ingest various other things, take naps in an oxygen chamber, and/or rub certain types of natural substances on the cancery areas.
I tried that before having conventional treatment.
It didn’t work and the cancer spread.
By the time I made it to a doctor specializing in conventional treatment, things were not pretty. The natural remedies failed and I was going to die. Period. Simple as that.
As much as I like natural remedies for things and eating healthy (mostly organic fruits, veg, nuts, some seafood, seaweed, herbal supplements), that didn’t save my ass when it came to the type of cancer I had. Maybe a baking soda remedy did cure someone else’s brain tumor. Maybe the vitamin C intravenous infusions helped another patient. But it didn’t help me.
“You didn’t take the right combination,” some of my friends hinted. That’s so easy to say and it’s all unprovable guesswork. And my life was on the line. How was I to know? I dutifully tried all kinds of natural remedies and those special “cancer diets” that are touted all over the internet. I did this FOR OVER TWO YEARS before resorting to conventional treatment.
The lesson is; do your homework. Maybe an alternative treatment might work for certain cancers and maybe not. But don’t take risks with your life. Dammit Jim, I’m a mechanic, not a scientist. So what the heck do I know?
All I know is the conventional cancer treatment that my natural friends despise so much (yeah yea, Big Pharma- toxic chemicals, yada yada) killed cancer cells fast and allowed my healthy parts to prevail. Where before, the cancer was trying to take over and winning. Granted the treatments are no picnic, but it’s part of the deal. Cancer is a tough, persistent sonofabitch. But you can be tougher. Don’t let negative thoughts prevail. Past posts on this blog document how quickly the chemo took effect (tumor shrinkage the next day) and how radiation shrunk the cells (a palpable and measurable difference). I had chemo and radiation before surgery so I could actually feel and watch the effects these treatments had on the tumor. Pretty amazing.
The biggest thing that helped get me through the not-so-easy treatments is exercise. After a chemo session and you feel like garbage and just want to lie down, take a light walk instead. (first discuss this with your doc. Each patient's situation is unique). I couldn’t believe the HUGE difference a little bit of movement and exercise did along with drinking lots of non-sugary fluids.
It’s been exactly a year since the treatments began for my aggressive stage III cancer and I feel okay. Now that a nasty mass isn’t trying to take over, causing extreme fatigue and overall body pain, I can be almost be myself again. Minus one boob and less muscle.
Surviving cancer does get better. I’m not 100 percent yet, so have more energy to look forward to.. I’m still on Herceptin and seem to be less tolerant of the summer heat than normal. By next month, the Herceptin will end and I’ll just be on the Tamoxifen. It causes hot flashes, but I haven’t noticed any other terrible effect. The painful, stiff joints are due to the suppressed estrogen levels and the body will acclimate. Maybe the regular exercise helps keep this hormone therapy drug in check. The Tamox has altered my metabolism a bit and my thighs got a bit chunkier, but that supposedly balances out down the road.
Things that made a difference in facilitating healing during treatment:
-Drinking plenty of fluids.
-A positive attitude.
-Eating as healthy as you can. I still have “fun” and drink wine/beer, but in moderation.
-Get out and do stuff with friends and family. Stay active and involved as much as possible.
Ouch, Rashes all Over Back and Neck!
When first starting, Herceptin infusions caused awful rashes, especially on my back. After a few sessions, the irritation went away and I actually became accustomed to the stuff. It also made my "tumor marker" numbers drop (a desirable thing). I know, sorry, this is not a pretty or flattering pic, but neither is cancer..
There was a point during my cancer treatment where I was unable to draw, or work as a mechanic, or do much else.
However, I was able to use colored pencils and shade in the lines of a simple coloring book for kids. My hands were shaky, finger joints in pain, and it wasn't perfect, but the activity sure took my mind off the strong chemotherapy.
There's something to this relaxing, rather therapeutic craft. I was hooked! When the medicines were reduced and I recovered enough to draw and create art again, I made my own coloring book. One that could help me help others. Seeking Serenity is now available on Amazon (click here) or through my publisher page (click here). I've already started giving copies away to fellow cancer patients and it's rewarding to be able to do something positive. These books make great additions to donated care packages and patient goody bags. Visit the "Helping Cancer Patients" page to see where copies of Seeking Serenity are going. The list is just getting started...
Last week, during my weekly chemo session, I colored in a fresh, new page to pass the time and keep the mind off how the medicine, and how the whole rotten cancer thing, makes me feel.
My hands are still a little shaky, but this pretty lion is not gonna give up without a fight!
Your loved ones are the stars of this book!
An unusual, fresh take on the adult coloring book craze. Original images by award winning artist and cancer patient, Rebecca Burg. Created in her efforts to help fellow patients, Seeking Serenity includes lovingly hand-drawn portraits of real people and pets from photos sent by Burg's readers. The 8-1/2" x 11" book's coloring pages are single sided and flat bound.
"I created Seeking Serenity while I was enduring chemotherapy for breast cancer," Rebecca says. "I used coloring to ease my anxiety during the pain of cancer treatment and realized, as an illustrator, I could make my own book. It would be a way to help fellow patients, and anyone who colors for fun or stress relief."
She reached out to the public, looking for people interested in submitting photos so Rebecca could sketch from them to create interesting coloring book subjects.
"What's more fun than a beautiful image that has a real story, real meaning, behind it?"
Burg ended up with the expected; photos of people's beloved cats and dogs, and a few people. Unexpected were the interesting requests; mermaids with a loved one's face, magical scenes, and a fairy drawn in memory of a little girl. Many photos were submitted in memory of a loved one who had passed. "Drawing some of these brought tears to my eyes," Rebecca admitted.
She recalls sketching from a photo of a rescue dog, named Lucy, who'd passed away, Lucy's grieving owner was interested in the idea of getting to color her dog's image as a way to deal with the loss. She also was thrilled to memorialize Lucy's legacy as a loving canine companion in a published book for the world to see.
Below, Rebecca shares her enthusiasm about Seeking Serenity and is already planning Volume II:
Though I tried to get you, dear readers and coloring enthusiasts, to sign up via an "Indiegogo" campaign, I was approached from wildly different venues instead; YouTube, Facebook, email, in person, even in the grocery store... (Many of the participants didn't want to use Indiegogo, but I can assure you it's trustworthy and secure with your credit card info. Just so you know in case we try this again...)
Seeking Serenity, A Coloring Book with Meaning has now been released on Amazon and is also available through me (the author) on the "Projects and Store" page.
It was a joy to create. Each image was sketched, freehand, using photos sent by people who signed up to participate. Because of the hand-drawn nature of the artwork in the book, it isn't like the computer generated images that are currently flooding the market. These drawings have the charm, the small imperfections, and the unique detail characteristic of original drawings done by hand.
Part of the book's proceeds will go toward brightening the day of people suffering from serious illnesses (not just cancer or breast cancer) and part helps me afford treatments. I donate copies of this book (and my others) and coloring supplies to patients in hospitals and clinics. Coloring helps take the mind away from anxiety and stress. When I was enduring six hour chemo treatments, coloring kept my worries from snowballing and passed the time. It's also very social and other chemo patients expressed interest in what I was doing. The nurses did too....and so Seeking Serenity was born. Ah-ha! Now you know the motivation behind this book and why I did it.
It's one way a person like me, with seriously limited financial resources, can help others who are suffering from serious illnesses.
Any little thing to make a positive difference...
It must be "frog season" because these little guys are EVERYWHERE.
For many cultures, the frog symbolizes good luck or a sign of friendship. They're also a valuable part of the ecosystem; they help control insects and are snacks for larger animals.
It's just a bit disconcerting to be resting in bed with a good book only to have a wet, sticky "thing" plop onto your arm. I didn't know how that little tree frog ended up in bed with me (a fairytale prince wannabe? I didn't think of kissing him to find out!). After having a giant cricket crawl up my pillow when I was reading a week before, I wasn't too startled about the frog. He was gently scooped up and ushered outside.
That's life in a wilderness for you.
The most recent encounter was the frog that smacked into my face when I left the boat's companionway one early, predawn morning. The rubbery, suction-fingered fellow ended up in my bag and went for a ride to work. While trying to get him to kindly step outside, I took his picture. As the sun rose for another day at work in the Everglades, a third frog was clinging to one of the store's large, tinted windows. I took his photo as well while he angled his green head around, trying to figure out if I was friend or foe.
I hope the belief that frogs are lucky is true. If so, this whole little community should be showered in good fortune...