Thursday, April 10, 2014

Just A Salad

Last week I finished the first salad I've had in months. Of all things this is the last test you'd think of as a measurement for metastatic breast cancer. But it's just one of the many ways this disease can impact the lives and health of the women and men it strikes every year.  As with primary breast cancer, you can take two different women with exactly the same breast cancer and how it manifests itself will vary.
      The salad itself was simple. Measly even, compared with the vegetable-laden salad bombs I used to toss together. It was all spinach, with hard-boiled egg, some chunks of chicken, mushrooms and a smattering of some excellent French feta (don't ask me who did the labeling on that one) DH picked up at the market. DH had made the salad himself, in fact, after his internist not so gently suggested he make a concerted effort to work more "green stuff" into his diet. He was out cycling so I figured if things did not go well he would be spared knowing that his creation, like so much other food, was quickly spit out by my digestive system.
       That's been the problem. After my initial mets diagnosis and accelerating through the summer and fall I continued to lose weight from nausea and vomiting. Blergh. It took my energy and my strength. Suddenly I empathized with pregnant women suffering from morning sickness. I took ginger in every conceivable form, threw that up, carried saltines in my purse, and ate teeny little meals. My nutritionist at MD Anderson became my inner cheerleader. Yes! I could eat every two hours! I would eat nutritionally-dense foods! I would add peanut butter to everything! I could do this! But when DH returned from the grocery with a carton of Ensure I suddenly felt like we were in the middle of a senior citizen sitcom with a lousy script.
      During this time I learned another rite of passage of the metastatic underworld: familiarity with emergency rooms. Emergencies in metastatic illness can happen quickly. Ultimately I did not wrestle with this fact but learned what I needed to do. Dehydration from vomiting can send you down a bad path. When the nurse scolded me for waiting too long before coming in I was about to turn pissy on her until I realized that what she was telling me was that witnessing suffering is hard. It didn't have to get this bad, she was telling me. The next time it didn't.

* * *

Beginning in June my regular oncologist was taken up by meetings, conferences and vacation.  DS (darling sister) and I joked about this upset by calling the substituting oncologist Dr. Today.  Unlike my regular onc, Dr. Today did not come into the exam room prepared. She usually appeared sleepy.  Or bored. Or both. I was convinced my cancer bored the hell out of her. Since I was on the vomiting end it was not all that boring to me. Not surprisingly, when my regular oncologist returned we talked for less five minutes before we had a GI consult arranged. 
      That brings me back around to my salad. As you know, metastatic lobular cancer was found in the lining of my stomach at the end of October. My oncologist told me that the aromatase inhibitor I was on, the formerly $4-now-$22 letrozole, would work at eliminating the cancer but it would work more slowly than chemotherapy.
       He was right.  It has been worth the wait.
       It was a year ago today that I was lying in the ultrasound suite at MD Anderson waiting for the results of a lymph node biopsy from my neck. You know the rest of that story, but the one I just told you is new.  There will be many more. As of now all systems are go in a gentler, slower way. Yesterday I just returned from five days in San Diego as part of AACR's Scientist-Survivor Program. I managed to practice self-care AND fully participate in the program.  No, I didn't get to the 7 am "Meet the Expert" sessions I wanted to attend, I missed some lectures, and I put up my feet instead of putting on heels for a late evening reception. When the mental fatigue and fog set in I remembered to keep my eye on the prize: learning, educating and advocated for women with breast cancer.
       And believe me, did I ever enjoy my salad.  Dear God, few things have ever tasted so good.



Anonymous said...

Love, love, love to you my friend!

Elaine Schattner, M.D. said...

Glad to read this, Jody. Wishing you many more enjoyable meals!

Debbie said...

Yea Jody! Let's hear it for yummy salads! I am glad you are practicing self care AND still getting to do the things that you are passionate about. I think about you all the time. It was nice to read this and hear your voice in my head. Much love to you.

Facing Cancer Together said...

May many, many, many yummy & well tolerated meals come your way. I am so glad to hear it is working. ~Catherine

Nancy's Point said...

Hi Jody,
What a year it's been for you, right? The impact of metastatic disease is profound. And yet you are still advocating and working hard on the behalf of so many others. I'm sure balancing things is no easy task at times. But you are doing it! Sending tons of love and many hugs. And you will be on my mind when I eat my next salad! xxx

Jody said...

We all must eat salad! Thank you all for your comments. One of the many things I've noticed this year is how isolating it is when you can't share a meal with friends. It was a constant struggle and I ended up feeling so different. Many men and women with metastatic disease will tell you the same thing. I'm simply glad to be back to a place where I can enjoy a simple meal with people I love.

Thanks so much for reading. It's good to be back.

Anonymous said...

You are amazing Jody. I am in awe of your incredible dedication with your advocacy while you deal with treatment for metastatic disease. I am sorry you have been having vomiting issues and so glad you were able to enjoy that salad. I hope the GI consult helps heal this problem as I know how horrible it is not being able to keep food down. Love and Hugs - Susan

tccomments2013 said...

dear Jody,

welcome back, and happily fortified with that yummy salad. it's good that we consider never taking the slightest thing for granted; and I am so delighted for you to be able to enjoy the tastes and fellowship of a meal shared with those you love.

much love and light and many more happy salad days,

Karen xoxo

Anonymous said...

Here's to eating a salad after a long time. HUGS ~D

Dr. Michael A. Wosnick said...


You made me smile inside and out :)


dorisann said...

Here's to many, many more salad days ;-) — May the joy of regaining your weight and strength continue to be a sign that the Letrozole is doing its job!

I feel the same way about my Kadcyla (tDM-1), the new drug that I have been taking for 5 cycles…and has been shrinking the lymph nodes that were blocking my digestive process. Thankfully, I too have regained some weight (9 pounds!) and can finally eat solid food like yummy salads (joyfully) again!

Love to you, dear Jody <3

Unknown said...

Just wanted to send you some smiles, I so enjoyed reading this... here's to many more salads, and peanut butter, yum. :)

Sherman Morrison said...

Jody: It's always a pleasure to read such good writing from someone like you who is bravely facing metastatic cancer. When my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer, it was thankfully caught very early and she had a double mastectomy and has been cancer-free in the years since then. It really bothered me at the time when I was looking into breast cancer treatments how it seems that not much has changed in a long time for those fighting METS. What do you think has been missed by all the research along the way? It's a questions that continues to bother me. -- Sherman Morrison