Officialy Cancer Free — er, More or Less

I just saw Dr. Gladys Rodriguez and she reviewed my blood work and CT scan from Monday, March 21. I’m officially cancer free. Well, almost. Technically, I must wait 5 years, which will be July of next year. However, when I see her next year, she won’t order a new CT scan. Presumably blood work and a chat, so it’s kind of a minor visit.

Congratulations! She said. You’re officially cancer free. After next year, you just do your normal followup with your family doctor.

Meanwhile, my husband and I have a new member of the family. Little Ann joined us 7 weeks ago. A note about pregnancy after cancer. It was one of the first questions I asked Dr. Rodriguez when we met and she said no problem because I didn’t have cervical cancer or something that could disrupt the uterus. That said, all chemotherapy diminishes the ovarian reserve. As such, we needed IVF to get pregnant. I’d suggest any woman facing chemo go get eggs frozen before doing the treatment. Most fertility clinics will put you on a fast track and take care of the procedure quickly so you can get on with treatment.

Here’s Little Ann:JustArrived





Damned Lies and Statics About Curing Cancer

According to Suzanne Somers, conventional cancer treatments are NOT improving success rates against cancer. I find this opening statement from her book incredibility suspect:  “As I finished the final edits to this book, the New York Times featured an in-depth article about the failure of conventional medicine to cure more cancers. According to the New York Times, adjusting for the size and age of the population, cancer death rates dropped only 5 percent from 1950 to 2005.”
The book is Knockout: Interviews with Doctors Who Are Curing Cancer–And How to Prevent Getting It in the First Place. It touts a non-chemotherapy solution to cancer.
According to the American Cancer Society, probably a more reputable source than the traditional media, which often mangles statistics according to Damned Lies and Statistics, “The 5-year relative survival rate for all cancers diagnosed between 1999-2005 is 68%, up from 50% in 1975-1977.  The improvement in survival reflects progress in diagnosing certain cancers at an earlier stage and improvements in treatment.”

Traditional Treatments have radically improved survival for SOME cancers.

Traditional Treatments have radically improved survival for SOME cancers.

The American Cancer Society report shows a range of significant cancers, including breast cancer as having an 80% or even 90% 5-year survival rating. I was given a 90% probability of survival for my prognosis despite having a rather advanced, third stage throat cancer, IF I did an aggressive treatment of chemotherapy and radiation. Survival rates have significantly improved.

Cancer survivability for some cancers has soared to 80% or 90%.

Cancer survivability for some cancers has soared to 80% or 90%.

So how is it that Suzanne Somers and her team are curing cancer with fresh fruit?
It appears the article Suzanne Somers was referring to an article from 2009 which also shows cancer deaths as falling, but compares them to deaths from heart disease, which has had a much overall success rate.

Comparing cancer to heart disease, an apples to oranges comparison.

Comparing cancer to heart disease, an apples to oranges comparison.

That very article begins with its dramatic statement that cancer hasn’t improved and then backs away from it with, “one reason is that groups like the American Cancer Society and the National Cancer Institute use death rates rather than something else, like the number of people living with cancer, to assess progress in fighting the disease.
The infographic on the page does show cancer death falling off, but it shows deaths from heart disease falling off more. This is what Damned Lies and Statistics author Joel Best would call and apples and oranges comparison and it is one of the most common methodologies to mangle statistics, according to his book. Comparing apples to apples, statistic in cancer survival for SOME cancers has skyrocketed. And for SOME cancers like liver and pancreatic, there seem to be no improvements.
Thus, Suzanne Somers book about curing cancer with strawberries and avoiding the most statistically successful treatments available today, chemotherapy and radiation, begins with a flawed premise, based on mangled statistics.
It’s a tragedy that this book and others like it lead patients to refuse the advice of their oncologists and risk death to avoid a few days of vomiting or other unpleasant side effects.

A Surprisingly Simple Task

On Saturday, I was too tired to train at the gym. So I grabbed the keys to the car and went out to start the car and listen to NPR while waiting for my husband to finish training. The car wouldn’t turn over and the GPS was still on. It has happened before. If you bump the GPS while its shutting down, it has a touch screen that is asking if you want it to remain on. If bumped, it stays on and drains the battery. I went back to tell my sweetie that the car was dead and I’d jog home and get the SUV. He could continue training.

 2 miles

 no water

 90 degrees

This would have been a surprisingly simple task at any other time in my life. Two miles is a very short distance for a light jog. No backpack. Flat trail. Easy day.

Of course, even as I started out, gently, I knew it was going to feel epic. I’ve been using previ-dent toothpaste and a generic prescription version of SalGen to try to fight the sense of strangulation caused by my tongue sticking to the roof of my mouth and my cheeks sticking to my teeth.

I made it. Of course, it felt like I’d run a 10k. Later my husband pointed out what I had missed. That this is the first time since treatment that I’ve run that distance without a constant supply of water. I hadn’t thought about it. I had thought that it was a surprisingly uncomfortable experience for such a short distance and with a mild and constant downhill.

So, I downloaded an iPhone app to track mileage and we ran another 2 miles this afternoon, also without water. It was also absurdly uncomfortable. But I finished it. Wednesday, we’ll try again. Tomorrow, I’ll be lazy.

The two-year CT scan was clean. Blood tests all look good. All’s well that ends well.

White Blood Cell Count Low Again

My family doctor is very happy with my blood work. Total cholesterol of 147 — lowest in my life. But the dry mouth still makes it difficult to eat, so I eat oatmeal for breakfast every day and I eat a lot of soups and salad. The salad with cucumbers and tomatoes are sufficiently juicy so the food goes down smoothly.

My thyroid is finally balanced.It went all over the place after treatment, but my recent blood work shows a normal thyroid at long last. I’ve been a Grave’s Disease patient since the early 1990s.

Oddly, my white blood cell count, which was normal 6 months ago is low again and my blood pressure, which was normal, is low again.

I’ve been trying to do short runs without a camelbak. Nothing more than a kilometer or so. I have to use a camelbak for normal hiking, jogging etc. The dry mouth is horrible. 

I’m in the gym three times a week, hiking and jogging. I feel pretty good. I’m still lacking power and shape, but overall significantly improved from a year ago.

Stumped Doctors

On tax day, April 15, was the first time since cancer treatment that I didn’t need a jacket in my office. The temperature extremes seem to be fading. I no longer feel like I’m freezing until I start sweating. There are increasing periods of time when I just feel comfortable. I went jogging — more than 2 miles in 92 degree temperature and while I was hot and sweating, I didn’t feel shockingly uncomfortable.

The exaggerated pain seems to be subsiding. This was an unusual side effect  because I don’t remember seeing it in the fine print, but other patients have reported the same complaint. I felt a shocking pain when I got my flu vaccine. I screamed several times during an acupuncture treatment; I’ve never felt pain during acupuncture.  My dentist tried to remove a temp crown and seat the permanent crown without anesthesia. His assistant was shocked how much I groaned. She said this procedure normally doesn’t hurt clients. Finally, it was my dentist, Dr. Robbie Henwood, who did the math. I explained the previous situations where I felt a sharp pain — the vaccination, the acupuncture and when the dentist suction device touched my tongue. He suggested that it might be a neurological side effect from the cancer treatment. Regardless of why I was experiencing the sensation of pain, the dental team thought perhaps they should use an anesthetic gel on me for the next treatment.

I don’t have thrush. I got in to see infectious diseases specialist, Dr. Carl Burkowitz on a recommendation from my oncologist Dr. Gladys Rodriguez because I’d had thrush symptoms from late November through March. He looked at my mouth and said this is not thrush. He explained that thrush would not be limited to my tongue. It would spread over the gums and up the wall of the cheek. I asked him what it was and he said he didn’t know, but it was more of an ENT problem. It was not a problem in his area of expertise. So, I went  back to Dr. Noorily who said, “Didn’t I say that the first time I saw this?” Yes, he did. What is it? He said simply there are a range of problems that grown on the tongue, but most cause no problems and have no cure except time. Any idea what it is? I don’t know, he said. I asked both doctors if we could do a tongue scraping and try to find out what it is. Both said the culture would just grow the natural flora and fauna of the tongue and mouth.

I continue to have dry mouth, a kind of white moss growing on my tongue, constipation and diarrhea, night sweats, sleeplessness, fatigue. I also have pain on my tongue and mouth that makes it uncomfortable to brush my teeth  and impossible to eat food with spice. It’s uncomfortable to eat food with vinegar or a tomato base.

My weight is up to 120. My body fat hovers between 20 and 24%. Dr. Finnie Mitchell estimated my Body Mass Index at 20. My blood pressure remains mildly low and my white blood cells are still lower than normal. My thyroid is still showing as slightly over medicated.

Black Sesame Paste for Protein and to Reinforce the Kidneys and Liver

My acupuncture doctor, Dr Liu, said that I currently lack sufficient electrolytes, protein and I should eat black sesame paste to recover my strength. Today, we went to the MT Asian Market in Chinatown Austin and bought some of the instant sesame paste.

When we got home, Bin handed me a small square plastic envelope. I cut it open and poured the contents into a coffee mug. It looked like fine gray ash. I added hot water from the hot water pot and stirred. Bin said don’t add too much water as it should be a paste. Like my lunch today of oil vegetable (yu-cai), green onions, tofu — a watery soup, this was bland. It tastes mildly of peanut butter and despite the runny nature, it was too dry for my dry mouth, so I had to drink water while consuming it.

Organic website says: Black Sesame Protein is loaded with an abundance of nutrients such as calcium, protein, anti-oxidants and dietary fiber- making it a nutritional powerhouse! In traditional Chinese medicine, Black Sesame Seeds have sweet and neutral properties, and are associated with the Kidney and Liver meridians. They function to tonify yin jing and blood, moisten the intestines, and help build the spirit, or shen. These nutrient-dense seeds were also used for mitigating premature gray hair, and said to help burred vision and dizziness.

Shen is an interesting concept. It is basically living essence and when you have none, you die. So, getting more shen sounds like a good idea 😉

Black Sesame Paste to recover Strength

Black Sesame Paste to recover strength.

Black Sesame Paste

Black Sesame Paste


The Thrush is Back!

For at least a week or two, my mouth felt almost normal. Then, my tongue began to get sensitive again. It was painful to brush my teeth. Toothpaste burned my tongue. I couldn’t eat anything with tomato any more. Then on Tuesday night, my throat felt gummy. It felt like there was something stuck on the back of my tongue — at the top of my throat.

The next day, ENT Dr. Noorily said, “Yes, that’s thrush.” He called in Nystatin and Fluconazole.


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