Thursday, April 30, 2009

Chemo weight gain: Snacks

I do love my snacks! I’m trying not to go more than 2 hours without eating something, so I need to have lots of snack food on hand to keep me going in between meals. Fruit and raw vegetables are great, but I still crave sweets and carbs.

Some other snacks that I enjoy are:

· Special K bars. I like the ones with nuts (almonds & peanuts I think). 2 WW points each.

· Pomegranate applesauce. They come 6 tubs to a sleeve & you find them with the puddings. 1 WW each.
· Low fat cottage cheese & fruit. They are in the cooler & come 4 tubs to a sleeve. A bit pricey, but a nice treat. 1 WW point each.
· Orville Redenbacher Smart Pop mini bags popcorn. 100 calories. 1 bag = 1 WW point
· Triscuits 50% less fat, 100% whole grain. Very hard to find. Loeb had them for 2 for $5 recently and I bought 6 boxes. 5 crackers = 1 WW point.
· Grissol Canape Melba Rounds, 12 grains. I sometimes put 7 on plate, dab a bit of salsa and fat free sour cream on each & microwave for about 15 seconds. Not exactly nachos, but I like them. 7 crackers = 1 WW point.
· Dare Simple Pleasures cinnamon snaps. I like to dip them in tea. They come in a single sleeve in a long box, usually at the end of the cookie aisle. (Note: the Dare ginger snaps are good, but they are higher in fat & more calories). 2 cookies = 1 WW point.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Chemo weight gain: Products I find helpful

While I am trying to stay away from too many processed foods, there are a few things that I like to have on hand that make following my food plan easier when I’m in a hurry. Before I put my groceries away, I take a sharpie and mark the WW points per serving on the front of the packages.

Here are some things that often end up in my grocery card:

Weight Watcher products
· Tortilla wraps (about 1/2 fat & calories of regular). I make a salad and roll it up in 2 or 3 wraps. I could eat a few every day and don't get tired of them. With a boiled egg or some other protein, it makes a good lunch. 1 WW point each.

· WW bagels. They are a bit smaller than regular & have less than 1/2 the fat & calories. They freeze well. 2 WW points each.

President’s Choice (PC) products

. Thin hamburger buns. I forget the name of the PC brand, but there’s also another brand called Thintini. They are pita bread type buns, found next to regular hamburger buns in the bread aisle. Great for sandwiches & they freeze well. 3 WW points each.
. Blue menu breaded chicken breasts. I cook two at a time and have one on a thintini bun the next day. They seem expensive (over $16 a box) but you get about 6-8 per box. 4 WW points each
. Blue menu meatballs. They heat up quick in the microwave and are great rolled up in a wrap or in a tomato sauce. 6 meatballs = 4 WW points.
. Ancient Grains crackers. I like them on soup and even crumble them on top of salad for a weird version of croutons. 10 crackers = 1 WW point.

To be continued...

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Anka's back!

I've been waiting all winter for my friends Anka & Fred to get back from Florida, not just because I missed their company (which I did!), but also because I knew that Anka could work miracles on my damaged toe nails. The chemo drugs made them gray and lifted them painfully from the nail bed, so Anka had her work cut out for her this morning. After a long session of soaking, digging, filing & painting by my favorite pedicurist, my feet are feeling better and now ready for sandal weather.

Chemo weight gain: Breakfast, soup & eating out

As of this morning, I have lost 20 lbs since Feb 1, of which at least 1/2 was chemo weight!

Here are a few more tips that I have found helpful:

. I eat the same breakfast every day: oat bran, ground flaxseed & blueberries (6 WW points). I measure 1/3 cup oat bran, 2 Tbsp ground flaxseed and a handful of frozen blueberries into individual containers & put them in the freezer. In the morning, I dump a container into a bowl, add 3/4 hot water & microwave for 1.5 minutes. Your body can’t absorb the oil from the flaxseed with the shell on, so I grind it fresh (in a coffee grinder) every few days. The leftover ground flaxseed freezes well and it stays granular.

· I've been making soups using lots of vegetables and whatever else I have on hand. I might add barley or lentils or mini pasta & some canned mixed beans (rinsed). Sometimes I add a can of minestrone soup as a base but I often make my own vegetable or chicken broth. I make my soups thick so they are a meal in themselves.

· Rinsed canned beans and cooked rice freeze well. I usually freeze them in small containers (single serving size). Drop the frozen serving in soup or pop it on a plate in the microwave.

· Eating out is my most difficult challenge but in a pinch I will get a turkey sub from Subway with low fat honey mustard dressing. The Works has an elk burger that is about 1/3 the calories & fat of beef. They charge $3.50 extra, but it's a nice splurge.

To be continued...

Monday, April 27, 2009

Chemo weight gain - Eating my veggies

This post is a continuation of one I started yesterday, in which I said I'd share ideas that I've found helpful for getting off the chemo weight.My naturopathic doctor said to eat as many fruits and vegetables as I possibly can. I've done a good job with the veggies but not so much with the fruit. Here are some ideas that have worked for me.

· I routinely go through my fridge & wash & cut up vegetables, usually just after I buy groceries. I shred carrots in my food processor, cut other veggies into small pieces and store them in stackable plastic containers in the fridge. I can quickly put together a salad by opening all my containers and grabbing a handful from each.

· When I'm chopping up all of those veggies, I sometimes throw the peelings into a strainer. I rinse them well; dump them in a large pot with a bunch of spices, boil & simmer. Strain and you have vegetable stock for soup.

· If I have left over cooked vegetables, I sometimes puree them and freeze in small containers. I add the puree to things like ground turkey burgers (instead of egg), tomato sauce (depending on the veggies - sweet potato works well), meatloaf, zucchini loaf and other things I might make. I got the idea from Jessica Seinfeld's book Deceptively Delicious. This is one of her recipes: Gingerbread Spice Cake.

. Because my back yard is all deck, I don't have a place for a composter. So sometimes, if my food processor is already dirty because I've been shredding carrots or pureeing veggies, I dump the peelings into my food processor and chop them really fine. I stir the result into a large bucket of potting soil I have on my deck & put the lid on tight. It doesn't take long for it to disappear into the dirt and I have rich soil for potting. This year I'm going to try to grow some vegetables in pots.

Maybe I should try eating an apple a day, like my friend Mary Lou. She is using the apple stickers to create art on a piece of paper stuck to her fridge. Here is her masterpiece: a work in progress.

To be continued...

Chemo weight gain

As if nausea and fatigue aren’t enough!

I read online that 96% of women in a study of 237 on chemo for breast cancer gained weight. I’m not surprised. While I have met a few who have lost weight during their treatment, the majority of women I know gained. I was up 17 lbs after first round of treatments and I decided not to weigh myself this time. I would guess that I gained well over 10 lbs during this last round.

One doctor I asked thought that some people’s bodies interrupt mild nausea as hunger pains. I used food as a way to control my nausea, feeling best with a full tummy. Also, there are the steroids. To use one of my Mom’s sayings, I could have “eaten a horse and chased the rider” on the steroids days. And of course, for those of us who eat to self-medicate, it’s a time when we turn to food for comfort.

So, when the Taxotere ended, I was left with unwanted weight and a closet full of clothes I couldn’t fit into. My wardrobe consisted of stretch pants and baggy sweatshirts. Unless I wanted to go shopping for spring muu-muus, I had to do something.

I’m happy to report that, since the beginning of February, I took off the chemo lbs and a few more to boot. I’ve been counting Weight Watchers points, which ensures that I am eating lots of vegetables. Raw veggies help me stay within points without being too hungry. More importantly, they are giving my body the nutrients it needs to stay strong and fight the cancer.

A friend suggested I post some tips I’ve been learning about eating healthy and staying on my plan. I made a list and it’s long, so I’ll try and post it in pieces over the next few days. Because it’s an ongoing struggle and I have more lbs to go, I’m a bit embarrassed to be giving anyone weight-loss advice. But maybe writing about it will not only help someone else, but will help to keep me on track too.

So here it is, tip #1.

A friend and I have been writing down everything we eat since the beginning of February and send the list to one another in an email every day. It makes me accountable to someone else and keeps me on the plan. I know if I go on a binge, I have to answer to my conscience (aka Anka).

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Julie Mason - The Ottawa Citizen

Although I previously posted a link to a story in the Ottawa Citizen written by Julie Mason, I wasn’t aware that she is writing a regular column about cancer. It appears that they are being published monthly.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Waiting for results & Estrogen therapy

I had a CT scan of my lungs and abdomen this week and probably won’t get the results until my mid-May oncology appointment. I could call and ask for the results before then, but I’d rather just put them out of my mind for now.

I think I’ve come to accept that I will have good results and bad results along the way and I don’t expect either to drastically change the outcome. I don’t mean that in a pessimistic way; it’s just how advanced cancer treatment works. You go for a period of time where the drug you are on is working and, when it is no longer effective, you move on to something else. I’d rather spend the time when the drugs are working enjoying life, rather than worrying about what’s next.

Not worrying about what’s next is different than not thinking about it. I’ve been reading about a study using hormone replacement therapy (HRT) for some women with advanced estrogen positive breast cancer, which is my situation. HRT has always been a big no-no for anyone who has, or is worried about getting, breast cancer. But for those of us who have become resistant to aromatase inhibitors (AIs), estrogen therapy may offer an opportunity to reverse that resistance.

In a study conducted by Washington University School of Medicine, they found that estrogen therapy can sometimes stop the growth of tumors for a period of time and even cause them to shrink. The estrogen can even improve the quality of life by reducing hot flashes and other symptoms of menopause.

The best part is that the estrogen can possibly return metastatic tumors to a vulnerable state. Resistance to AI therapy was previously thought to be permanent, but the estrogen can make it possible for AIs to work again in some cases.

Because I have become resistant to both Femera and Aromasin, I definitely plan to talk to my doctor about this study at my next appointment.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Happy Earth Day

Starting today, Loblaws will charge $0.05 for plastic grocery bags. I keep a supply of reuseable bags in the car, but my challenge is to remember to bring them with me into the store. I've found myself, with a cart load of groceries, having to dash out to the parking lot to get my bags before going through the checkout.

Loblaw Launches National Plastic Shopping Bag Reduction Program

More ideas on the WWF-Canada website

Have a Happy Earth Day!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Susan Boyle

I just caught the end of a piece on CBC Radio about Susan Boyle, the recent Britain’s Got Talent sensation. There was a lot of discussion about how we judge people by physical appearance; ageism, sexism and even single-ism were all mentioned. (She’s 48 and “never been married, never been kissed”).

Of course, that judgement isn’t so much about the person being judged, but about our own insecurities. (i.e. I may not like how I look, but at least I don’t look that bad. I might not be so attractive, but at least I wasn’t 48 and never married or kissed. I might not be able to sing, but at least I’m not as bad as some of the people who audition for these shows).

What gives me hope is that I believe that something deep in most viewers, even if it was at a subconscious level, wanted her to surprise us and prove us wrong. People stood, cheered, and even cried when her voice totally exceeded our wildest expectations.

It would have been incredibly sad if her talent had been overlooked because of her appearance and presentation. Seeing that she’s 48 and just now discovered, I suspect that has happened in the past, but she is now not only being recognized for her talent, she has become a hero for the underdog and has reminded us all of what our mothers taught us: Never judge a book by its cover -- and, more importantly, never judge a woman by her eyebrows!

For the 1% of you who have been on vacation on a remote island or in a coma and haven’t seen the clip, here is I Dreamed a Dream

I think her version of Cry Me a River is even better.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Happy Birthday to Sue!

My email pal, Sue, and I have been writing back and forth on a regular basis for some time, comparing our treatment experiences and sharing life observations in general. So, even though I had only met her in person once before, I was happy to drive to Kingston yesterday to attend her birthday celebration. I invited Jennifer (an extrovert who has no problem blending in with a room full of people she doesn’t know) along for the drive.

It was wonderful to meet Sue’s friends and to see what a great support network she has. Her condo was lovingly decorated with purple balloons, banners and flowers. People brought a wide assortment of delicious finger foods and Happy Birthday cupcakes.
Jennifer took this picture of me & Sue. As you can see, Sue is wearing her Fuck Cancer hat, which really just says it all.

You can read Sue's columns in the Kingston Whig Standard by clicking on Sue Hendler after Labels below and following the links.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Asparagus article

An article has been circulating for some time about taking pureed asparagus as a cure for cancer. says that this claim has not been substantiated.

The good news is that you have nothing to lose from trying it. Asparagus is good for you, regardless of its ability (or lack thereof) to ‘cure’ cancer. It has high levels of glutathione, which has cancer fighting properties.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Looking at my disease as part of the environment and its mystery

In preparation for next Wednesday’s Earth Day, Sue Hendler looks at cancer from an environmentalist’s point of view in this week's Kingston Whig Standard column.
You can read other columns by Sue Hendler by clicking on her name below after "Labels".

Friday, April 17, 2009

Ongoing adventures of Adam & Tara: Copenhagen

Adam & Tara's latest weekend ‘European vacation’ was spent in Copenhagen, where they visited the Tivoli Gardens. They also went to Elsinore and Malmo, Sweden.
Adam hasn’t posted any pictures of himself from the trip (probably because he's worried that his mother will post them on her blog...) but he did post a picture of an old beer bottle.

Notice the swastika? According to Adam, Carlsberg used to have it on their label before WWII.

Next they are looking forward to Berlin and Turkey… and my visit of course!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Other Blogs

I love to get recommendations for good books… and good recipes. Send me yours and I’ll post them on one of these blogs.

Books on the Edge
Edgy Recipes

Also, I try to post any updates on our Saturday W.R.A.P (Walking, Running and Poling) group each week. We welcome newbies or used-to-be’s.

Another month, another jab

I had my 3rd injection of Fulvestrant today. So far, so good, but the results of the CT scans I’m having next week will reveal if it’s working or not.

I have to call the airlines to see what I have to do to take my June injection with me to Holland. It comes in an injection kit, complete with needle and syringe, so they may have some concerns about me putting it in my carry-on. Also, it has to be refrigerated, so I’ll have to have it in a cooler bag with ice packs. I plan to go to a clinic in the Netherlands to have the shot.

The side effects are minimal (especially compared to Taxotere!) but I'm still having a fair bit of bone and joint pain.

Sunday, April 12, 2009


I have 30 friends on Facebook, even though I basically use it to see pictures that my son and his wife post. Maybe it’s my age but I don’t really get why Facebook has become so popular.

You log on to your email account and see that someone has sent you a message in Facebook. You click on the link and then have to log onto Facebook to read the message. Why not just send the message in email? It seems like online small talk -- and I’ve never been good at small talk.

I spent some time last night on the phone helping my Mom get set up on Facebook. I just checked and she already has 12 friends!

Now I just have to figure out why I’d want to tell everyone what I’m doing on Twitter

Christine is: going to take a nap.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Soundtrack of my life

When I was a teenager, Black Sabbath, Jethro Tull and Alice Cooper were all popular, at least with the crowd that I hung out with. Although I badly wanted to be a ‘hippy’, music and culture had moved on to hard rock. I listened to the head-banger music with my friends, but when I was at home alone, “Sweet Baby James” by James Taylor and “Tumbleweed Connection” by Elton John were my albums of choice.

James Taylor came to Ottawa in the late 90's and I desperately wanted to get tickets, but I didn’t know anyone who was really into him. My son Adam offered to go with me. Not that he was a fan, but he grew up listening to my music and knew most of the songs -- whether he wanted to or not. (Hey, I listened to Rafee and watched Polkaroo, so he owed me).

When James Taylor came out on stage, balding and no longer looking like “Sweet Baby James” (but he did play the song), tears came to my eyes. I had wanted to see him live since I was about 14, and here I was, about 30 years later, in the same room as SBJ (along with a few thousand others).

When Adam first moved to Calgary he worked part-time at a music store. Staff took turns choosing the albums they played in the store. Adam told me that he occasionally would put on James Taylor and someone would ask “Who put that on”? Adam said he played it because it reminded him of his mom and of home.

The other person I always wanted to see live was Elton John. I got a call from Jennifer this morning saying that she had 2 tickets and did I want to go. They aren’t cheap, and I’m watching my pennies since going on LTD, but I couldn’t pass up the opportunity. So I’m going to see Sir Elton on June 1. Yahoo!!

As for Canadian artists, Colin James is ‘the man’. And by the way, whatever happened to ‘my boy’ Remy Shand? He made one great album and then seems to have disappeared.

(The fabulous picture of Sweet Baby James was done by my talented niece Erin, on the front of a postcard she sent me.)

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Not Just About Cancer

I knew about Laurie Kingston’s book launch on May 7th, but didn’t realize that the content from the book comes from her blog Not Just About Cancer. I wonder if there are others out there in Ottawa with advanced breast cancer that are bloggers...

Earlier this year Laurie went to Dallas to attend a
Conference for Young Women Affected By Breast Cancer. In one of her posts called Living With It, she lists some of the comments that resonated with her from the conference sessions she attended.

Because some of the items on her list also resonated with me, I thought I’d comment on the comments she noted (if that makes sense).
  • It's hard to explain to people that we will never be "done with treatment." I agree, this can be hard for others to understand. They ask me how many treatments I’ll have and when I’ll be finished. The reality is that I’ll probably be on some sort of treatment for the rest of my life and there is no way to predict how long each one will last. After an undetermined period of time the cancer will start to become immune to a particular drug. When that happens, you move on to another drug and start the process again.

  • "Coping is temporary. Adapting is permanent." I think this is what Sue Hendler wrote about in her column, Getting used to the 'new normal' takes some time. You have to learn to adapt to the new normal and continue on with your life as best you can.

  • Talking about our cancer "takes the power out of it. It's like deflating a balloon." For me, as an introvert, talking with the right people is good; writing about it is even better. (See Bloggin' is good for the Noggin).

  • Strike a balance between hope and acceptance - "hopeful acceptance." I really like this term – hopeful acceptance. I’m not in denial, but I’m open to the possibilities that every day brings my way.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

My Bucket List

No, I haven’t seen the movie… but I decided to write a bucket list anyway. Here is my dream list of things I’d like to do (in no particular order).

- Return to Nepal
- See the Grand Canyon
- Write a book
- Get a dog
- Swim with dolphins
- See the pyramids
- Spend time with Adam & Tara in Holland (I'm there now!)
- Visit Northern Vietnam, Cambodia & Laos
- Spend a week at a cottage on a lake (again)
- Attend a screening of Oprah (no judgement please...)
- Organize a retreat for women with metastatic cancer
- Write a children’s book (for my future grandchildren)
- Grow my own vegetables
- Vacation on a tropical island
- Go dog sledding
- Ride in a helicopter
- Visit San Francisco
- Learn to ride a motorcycle

I attended an event at Bushtukah tonight and one of the speakers said that her goal was to die happy. I’m blessed to have already done so many things in my life that everything on my to-do list would be just icing on the cake (except for spending time in Holland with Adam and Tara – that’s a must!). Here are some of the things that I can check off as ‘done’.

- Saw the Taj Mahal (India)
- Learned to ski (well OK, I'm still learning, but I started in 1990)
- Went parasailing (Florida)
- Saw Adam graduate from university
- Went trekking in Nepal
- Rode an elephant
- Had laser eye surgery

- Went on a kayak trip (Georgian Bay)
- Traveled to Australia
- Had a long-distance “fling” with an Australian
- Went snorkeling (Mexico)
- Traveled to Vietnam
- Visited the Great Wall of China
- Went on an African safari
- Rode a camel (Tanzania)

- Spent Christmas is a warm climate
- Slept in a yurt - in the winter! (Algonquin Park)
- Had professional photos taken of myself
- Organized a retreat for breast cancer survivors
- Rode in a hot air balloon over the Serengeti
- Bought a house on my own
- Started a blog
- Attended a James Taylor concert
- Attended an Elton John concert
- Saw Neil Young (with my son Adam)
- Went on a road trip with Adam (through the Czech Republic)
- Completed the 150 km MS bike tour
- Ran a 10k
- Joined a breast cancer survivor dragon boat team

At first, cancer centre seemed foreign: by Sue Hendler

We’re lucky to have a great cancer centre here in Ottawa. But as Sue Hendler states in her latest Whig Standard column about the Kingston Cancer Centre, it’s the people that make it work.

If you would like to read other columns by Sue Hendler, click on her name below after "Labels".

Saturday, April 4, 2009

I'm in love!

I've been on the web looking at dogs that are up for adoption (it's kind of like internet dating!). Check out this cutie. People have been telling me that beagles aren't the best choice, but how can I resist those eyes?

Here's the write-up on Lady Gwenevere:

This ol'gal is ready to start a new life with a family that she can call her own... forever. She is a sweet lady who wants nothing more than a nice soft spot to curl up in and nap in between watching her soap operas. Gwen is quickly picking up on house training, is very food motivated (good beagle!) and is eager to do whatever you're asking if there's a treat involved. She loves leashed walks but is not a good candidate for off leash hikes as her hound nose will quickly lead her away from her people.

Gwen sleeps peacefully right through the night nested in her kennel. She will protest a bit if she's asked to have kennel time during the day when there's other activity going on around her but we're working on that skill. This little hooked tail gal will need a plastic kennel as the metal crates are a danger to her tail getting caught.

Gwen currently has infections in both ears that are getting treated. She is great about receiving her ear drops and is tolerant of all the handling I've put her through (bath, nail trimming, bushings, teeth brushing). Gwen has been tested with cats and seems to just ignore them. She is okay with children but is more of a couch potato than a playmate.

Friday, April 3, 2009


I couldn't resist sharing this picture of my great-nephew Brady. Isn't he adorable? He is the apple of his grandpa's eye (aka my brother Darrell).

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Minor ailments

I'm just over a bad cold and now I'm nursing a bad back. Here I am helping out at a dinner party at a friend's. One of the other guests is going through chemo so I wore a mask & gloves to avoid passing on my cold. It turned out that she got one anyway, I just hope it wasn't from me...

I decided to have a massage yesterday morning because my lower back and hips have been sore on and off for awhile. It turned out to not be such a good idea because I ended up in a lot of pain by the end of the day. So I've spent this lovely sunny spring day lying flat on my livingroom floor. I'm trying not to whine because these things are a day at the beach compared to chemo!