Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Chemo Conquered!

Final Chemo - Happy Spring!
This week marked the official start of spring, with some welcome sunshine and warmer temps, (although more snow and cold is due this week!), and my sixth and final infusions of Taxotere and Carboplatin.  I still have twelve shorter infusions of Herceptin,  on the same 21 day cycle, but  it is more like a smart bomb and just heads for the estrogen positive cells and doesn't bother making your hair disappear or ruining your appetite.

Round five was pretty uneventful, and definitely the least horrible.  I bounced around the next day on my steroid high, and when it wore off, I went to bed and mostly stayed there for about four days, coming up to drink as much water as I could and pop an anti-nausea pill.  I didn't have the fire belly, but I had no appetite - it pretty much always felt like I was full, and it lasted pretty much the entire three weeks.

I've still managed to put on about five pounds, which people helpfully try and blame on the drugs, but I'm not kidding myself that it's self inflicted.  They don't put as many Girl Scout cookies in those boxes anymore and it seems silly to not finish the sleeve when you open it. Among other less than stellar dietary choices I've made.

I succumbed, thanks to a 30% off Kohls coupon, and just bought some bigger clothes for now.  Once I get back on my regular gym schedule (I was so happy to at least get 30 minutes each day this week on the bike after nearly two months off), and return to a normal diet, it'll go away.

So while the end of chemo and it's crappy side effects is definitely reason to cheer, it's only like completing one leg of the Iron (Wo)Man race.  Swimming is done, but I still need to bike (7 weeks of daily radiation), and run (12 more Herceptin infusions).  And in my spare time get another ultrasound, mammogram, and heart echogram, and further contribute to my support of the medical system which is heading towards the three quarters of a million dollar mark easily.  (Why is there no cure for cancer?  Simple - it's a freaking cash cow!)

On the upside, my eyebrows and lashes have hung on like troopers, and it looks like I may keep them. On the downside, my seasonal allergies have returned with a particularly nasty vengeance. I can only imagine what my itchy, swollen eyes would look like sans lashes and brows. 

I lucked out and have not gotten mouth sores, although I did have a little fever blister last round, which is not usual for me.  I did not get the numbness and tingling in my hands of feet, and although I was a little afraid this was starting, my nails have not lifted and fallen off.  I can not seriously imagine attempting to cook in gloves with no finger nails.  Shudder....  

All in all, it wasn't a whole lot of fun (obviously, duh), but it could have been a lot worse.  I am a little afraid of the side effects from the radiation.  I've talked to people who couldn't finish the schedule due to the skin burns, and I am not looking forward to any more cumulative fatigue.  I'm tired of being tired, frankly.

So I am ready for spring.  While my stylists may think I overdid the accessories, I couldn't resist busting out my watering can purse because it went perfectly with this awesome spring hat sent to me by Patti Anastasia.  Also pictured is Tom Noe, of Exploring Food My Way. Check out his blog for the photos of the Dinner in the Dark that was my pre-chemo last supper.  Tom and Edsel, who took this picture, have far better cameras than me, so I just ate and enjoyed.

Photo courtesy of Edsel Little

Monday, March 7, 2011

A Little Wood Pulp for Breakfast?

Freshly Made Wood Free Bread

I ran across this article yesterday, and I have to say I was a little surprised.  It reveals a variety of fast food and packaged foods that contain cellulose, which is basically wood fiber.  Turns out the FDA says it is perfectly safe to add it to food, with no limit on how much except in meat.

The food manufacturers love it because it's a cheap extender for products and it extends the shelf life.  Well sure, unless you have a termite attack you can probably keep some of this stuff in the pantry forever.

As a fallen member of the Weight Watchers flock, whose mantra until the recent change to allow fruits and veggies to be consumed points free, was 'Fiber Up!', I now realize I had been buying packaged bread whose labels proclaimed "Double Fiber!", "Triple Fiber", and "No High Fructose Corn Syrup", only to be served a heaping helping of cellulose.  Good grief.

So here's a reminder that it just takes a little planning, and virtually no work, to make your own no knead bread. 

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Pork Tenderloin Stir-Fry with Tangerines and Chili Sauce

Mise en Place
I knew when I first saw this recipe for Pork Tenderloin Stir-Fry with Tangerines and Chili Sauce that it was a perfect winter combination of bright citrus paired with the crunchy baby bok choy and a little kick from the chili sauce. 

When I managed to get my hands on a freshly butchered pork tenderloin from Brunty Farms this weekend, I knew that I wanted to make this dish for my "Last Supper".  There will be another pig butchered in a few weeks if you want your chance to get your hands on some lovingly raised, unadulterated, delicious pork.  

One of the cruelest things about chemotherapy for someone who loves food and cooking, and cooks for a living, is the post chemo week when food, with it's normally beautiful textures, flavors, and aromas, turns completely on you and becomes the enemy.

The last six weeks haven't seen me, usually at least a three to five day gym, regular, there more than a couple of times.  They were even nice enough to cut me some slack on my fees.  Coupled with that,  I discovered the half price Halloween candy stash, an 'Entertaining" collection of Pepperidge Farm cookies, to whom I was the only guest invited to consume the entire package in a few short days.  Easter is shaping up to be my favorite holiday since eggs and sweets seem to be things I am craving the most.

I managed to tip the scales with a five pound weight gain this round, and I am still ambivalent about eating whatever I feel like, when I feel like it,  knowing that it's going to be harder to get rid of it than to pack it on.  Plus I am a little afraid that even entertaining that thought will bring on a fury of nausea and appetite destruction that will strip me of the five pounds in the fastest, but most unpleasant way. 

Since it's hard to predict how long post infusion the effects will last, I make it point of having, preferably cooking, a nice meal the night before, and I have to say this was one of my favorites.

Pork Tangerine Stir-Fry with Tangerines and Chili Sauce
The peels are left on the tangerines; some people aren't going to like that, but I enjoyed the extra pop of texture with punch of citrus.  I did cut them smaller than the recipe called for, though.  I used Ginger People Sweet Chili Sauce and Dip.  It added a little kick, but wasn't overpowering.  I'd double the sauce when making this again.

Ginger People Sweet Ginger Chili Sauce
The night before I'd made some coconut rice to go with a Turkey Snow Pea Stir-Fry (that used some leftover roasted turkey from the night before), and it was perfect with this dish.

I had leftovers today during chemo for lunch and leftovers for dinner this evening.  Tonight I added a quick stir-fry of chopped Napa cabbage in sesame oil with salt and pepper, which will probably be the last crunchy, green thing I find palatable for awhile.