January 31, 2011

Navelbine Round 2

I am just back from getting my second dose of Navelbine. I'm a bit tired, so plan to take a nap, but otherwise feel fine. I also got Zometa, the bone strengthener, today, so I spent a little longer at the Cancer Institute but had lots of good company.

Now it's time to snooze!

January 27, 2011

Finding me on the web

There was a good article in the recent Costco Connection about how to get your website noticed. I took advantage of several of their tips and submitted my blog site to Google, Yahoo!, Bing and dmoz.org (the Open Directory Project). Then I tried to "meta tag" my blog but I am afraid html code is way above my current level of understanding. Then I took advantage of the new fonts available through Blogger. Last, I messed around with key words but didn't really get anywhere.

If any of you have suggestions on how to improve my blog's visibility, I'd be open to hearing them. What do you think of the new fonts?

January 25, 2011

Must have these....

I saw these amazing shoes in an ad in Vogue Magazine. (I know, you wouldn't think I'd read Vogue, but it was a free subscription from expiring airline miles.)

I could never afford them, but aren't they gorgeous?! From Prada's spring/summer 2011 collection.

The latest

I just realized I haven't posted in a few days. I've been well, just busy. Here's the skinny:

On Friday I woke up with some back pain, so didn't go to yoga. We enjoyed a great Shabbat dinner with friends. I went to bed with a slightly queasy tummy, perhaps related to the second dose of Navelbine.

By Saturday my back was much better so I went to shul. I felt a bit faint in the morning but fresh air helped. After a two-hour afternoon nap, we got a last minute dinner invitation from friends. Even though I wasn't hungry, it sure beat cooking! And I have to eat, to keep my weight stable while on chemo, especially if I have little appetite.

Friends joined us for Sunday brunch (Eltana bagels, lox and cream cheese; artichoke-mushroom-cheese strata; coffee and OJ and delicious fruit tarts from a small bakery in Bellevue). We shmoozed our way into the afternoon, and then I pooped out.

I was late to my Monday morning meeting. Still feeling tired, I also had my blood drawn in preparation for today's appointment with Dr G.

Today it was even harder to get started. My usual 30 minute walk with the dog took 40 minutes and I was out of breath going up hill. When I saw Dr G, he told me that the Navelbine's effectiveness is unclear: my tumor markers had continued to rise. But still, it's much too soon to make any treatment changes. I will continue onto the second cycle of Navelbine, with two doses one week apart and then a week off. Then I'll have another blood test to check my tumor markers and we will re-evaluate.

In the meanwhile, I am slightly anemic. That would explain my fatigue and shortness of breath. It's either from the Navelbine or from the Neulasta shot I had last week. I plan to increase my consumption of iron-rich foods such as spinach, red meat, dried fruit, etc. I also see the naturopath next week and he may have other recommendations.

I am still hoping for this treatment to be highly effective, well-tolerated and with minimal side effects.

January 21, 2011

Little girl has breast cancer

I read about this very young girl who was diagnosed with breast cancer at age two. At three she had a mastectomy. She's now four years old, and her doctors say her prognosis is good. She will have reconstructive surgery at some time in the future. Aleisha Hunter was on the Today show yesterday with her mom.

How can such a small child have breast cancer? An article in Canada's Globe and Mail reported that Aleisha has juvenile secretory breast carcinoma, and that there is no support for a trend of increased cases of breast cancer among children.

January 20, 2011

Tu B'Shvat

Perhaps one of our least widely-celebrated holidays, Tu B'Shvat is the Jewish Arbor Day. It's the time (in Israel) when sap begins to flow in the trees and you know spring is on its way. Check out this article on Tu B'Shvat and environmentalism.

Yesterday I was at Costco buying dog food, among other items, and saw small trees for sale. I purchased two genetic dwarf Meteor sour cherries. The tag reads "a natural genetic-dwarf tree with medium size, bright red fruit with tart flesh that is great for pies, jellies and preserves. The tree is very hardy, productive and resistant to leaf spot. Ripens late. Self-fertile."

What does all this mean?

It's a short tree, so that when he picks the fruit, Rik won't fall out of it from too high a height. (In his tumble from our plum tree a couple of years ago, Rik fell fifteen feet from the top of the tree to the ground, and thankfully he hardly had a scratch or bruise.)

It will give sour cherries, for making cherry pie, which are so hard to find, even at farmers' markets.

I didn't have to buy two different kinds of cherries in order for them to cross-pollinate with each other. I did buy two trees because two sour cherries means we should get twice the amount of fruit!

And the two cherry trees will help replace the dead tree we had to cut down this summer and the plum tree that fell over in a recent windstorm.

Of course, we will also celebrate Tu B'Shvat by eating some of the seven fruits of the land of Israel: wheat, barley, grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives,  and dates. I'm thinking pasta with olive oil and a glass of red wine. And I plan to bring both a pomegranate and a bar of World Market pomegranate dark chocolate to tonight's meeting for everyone to share.

January 18, 2011

The New York Times gets it right

The New York Times ran this great article about metastatic breast cancer yesterday. In "A Pink-Ribbon Race, Years Long", journalist Roni Caryn Rabin eloquently conveys many of the fears, frustrations and concerns of women living with metastatic disease.
"Since it is metastasis that ultimately kills, some advocates want more resources devoted to its study and treatment. Even though many cancer drugs are initially tested on patients with advanced disease, Danny Welch, an expert on metastasis, says only a few hundred scientists in the world are trying to understand the process.
“It’s responsible for 90 percent of the morbidity and mortality, but gets less than 5 percent of the budget,” said Dr. Welch."
This is a great reason to tell those who count -- your Congressional representatives, Komen, American Cancer Society, etc. -- to increase NIH funding specifically for metastatic breast cancer.

Navelbine #2, day 2

Things took a little longer than expected yesterday. Due to the MLK holiday, there was very little parking in on the street and we drove around a while looking for a spot. My appointment was later in the morning, and so the lab and the Cancer Institute in general were busier. Still, the lab finished my blood work in relatively quick time, and I was sitting in the chemo chair only a half-hour later than my appointment. Then the pharmacy never got the fax from the lab, indicating that they should make up my drug. The nurse realized something was wrong and 45 minutes later, I was getting the Navelbine. By the time I was finished, many of the nurses were extremely busy with other patients, so I had to wait. All in all, we left the Cancer Institute at 1:45 PM and went straight to get some lunch at Mediterranean Kitchen. Then we ran one errand downtown.

It was almost 4 PM by the time we got home, and I collapsed on the sofa for a nice, two hour-plus nap. It was a good thing Rik and I had both eaten that big, late lunch, because I didn't really want any dinner. We relaxed for the rest of the evening and I woke up this morning feeling fine. My cold feels almost over!

I'll be off to the Cancer Institute today for a shot of Neulasta, a drug that will keep my white blood cell count up. Although my counts weren't especially low yesterday (right on the border for normal), Dr G doesn't want to take any chances that this second dose of Navelbine will drop the counts further.

Next week is the week off, so no chemo then. Here's hoping for highly effective, well-tolerated and with minimal side effects.

January 16, 2011

My orchid

My orchid now has three blooms!

Navelbine + 1 week

It's been a week since my first dose of Navelbine and so far, excellent. I had only one side effect for a couple of day (constipation) and prune juice took care of that nicely.

However, I came down with a cold on Tuesday, and by Thursday it was at its worst. I spent much of that day napping, making chicken soup, and then eating the soup. Feeling better on Friday, I went to yoga, and then felt fatigued again. (More soup.) I went to shul on Saturday, relaxed for the rest of the day, but didn't sleep well. (Soup again.)

Our No-Knead Bread
This morning I was so pooped from walking the dog that I desperately needed a nap. After an hour's sleep, I felt refreshed and energetic enough to visit with a friend, make some no-knead bread, and post to my blog.

I'm assuming that my fatigue has been related to the cold, as well as the runny nose and coughing. Tomorrow's lab work will let me know if my counts are low; that could also contribute to feeling fatigued. The real reason I think this is the cold and not the chemo is that Rik has been sick also, with the same symptoms. Hopefully we are both well on the road to recovery!

January 14, 2011

The Jewish Zodiac

This is too funny to not share. You'll find the list, complete with birth years, at the bottom of the post.

A Jew Walks Into This Chinese Restaurant
Posted on September 28, 2010 by Seth Front

People often ask me how I came up with the idea for the Jewish Zodiac and I tell them it all started at a Chinese restaurant.

I had been working on a screenplay at my office, struggling really, and it was just about noon and I had a hankering for Chinese food. So I went to my local Chinese restaurant and ordered lunch. As I waited for my Mongolian Beef to arrive I started reading the Chinese Zodiac placemat that served as my table setting. Then I looked around – most of the people in the restaurant were Jewish.

I said to myself “If they really want to cater to their audience, this should be a Jewish Zodiac placemat and not a Chinese one.” A Jewish Zodiac? What would a Jewish Zodiac be? It wouldn’t be Year of the Dragon or Year of the Ox. It would be Year of the Bagel and Year of the Lox. It would be deli food. And that’s when the light bulb went off, or should I say lightning bolt.

Now I don’t consider myself a deeply religious person, not in the traditional sense, but there have been a few times in my life when I’ve felt a connection to a higher power. And this was one of those times.

These moments – which I can count on one hand – have all occurred while in the creative process. I consider these “white light moments,” episodes when all sense of time and space dissolve and I suddenly tap into a higher source. During these times, I’ve felt like a conduit for ideas that seem to come from outside of myself and gracefully flow through me onto the page fully realized, as if from God, or a Muse, or the collective unconscious of the universe.

That’s how I felt when I came up with the Jewish Zodiac, or should I say when the Jewish Zodiac found me. Why me? Why not me! Who better than a rabbi’s son and comedy writer to create a deli food parody of the Chinese zodiac?

The creation of the Jewish Zodiac reminds me of something I learned in a Kabbalah class I once took. The teacher said, “God has already created everything in the Universe – he’s just waiting for Man (and Woman) to discover it.”

I think that’s true. And sometimes God has a way of finding us in the strangest of places, when we’re least expecting it.

Copyright 2010 The Jewish Zodiac, LLC.

Seth Front is the creator of the Jewish Zodiac®, a deli food parody of the Chinese zodiac, and a screenwriter (“Nickel and Dime”) who writes about his seriocomic Jewish life at

The Jewish Zodiac

The Year of:

1907, 1919, 1931, 1943, 1955, 1967, 1979, 1991, 2003
You're a healer, nourishing all whom you encounter. We feel better just being in your presence. Mothers want to bring you home to meet their children - resist this at all costs. Compatible with Bagel and Knish.

1908, 1920, 1932, 1944, 1956, 1968, 1980, 1992, 2004
You've got a devious personality since you're made with neither eggs nor cream. Friends find your pranks refreshing; others think you're too frothy. Compatible with Blintz, who also has something to hide.

1909, 1921, 1933, 1945, 1957, 1969, 1981, 1993, 2005
People either love you or hate you, making you wonder "What am I, chopped liver?" But don't get a complex; you're always welcome at the holidays! Bagel's got your back.

1910, 1922, 1934, 1946, 1958, 1970, 1982, 1994, 2006
Creamy and dreamy, you're rightfully cautious to travel in pairs. You play it coy but word is that, with the right topping, you turnover morning, noon and night. Compatible with Schmear.

1911, 1923, 1935, 1947, 1959, 1971, 1983, 1995, 2007
Working class with a grating exterior, you're a real softie on the inside. Kind of plain naked, but when dressed up you're a real dish. Compatible with Schmear's cousin Sour Cream.

1912, 1924, 1936, 1948, 1960, 1972, 1984, 1996, 2008
You're pliable and always bounce back, although you feel something's missing in your center. If this persists, get some therapy. Compatible with Schmear and Lox...Latke and Knish, not so much.

1913, 1925, 1937, 1949, 1961, 1973, 1985, 1997, 2009
You're the perfect sidekick: friends love your salty wit and snappy banter, but you never overshadow them. That shows genuine seasoning from when you were a cucumber. Marry Pastrami later in life.

1914, 1926, 1938, 1950, 1962, 1974, 1986, 1998, 2010
You blend well with others but often spread yourself too thin. A smooth operator, you could use some spicing up now and then. Compatible with Bagel and Lox. Avoid Pastrami - wouldn't be kosher.

1915, 1927, 1939, 1951, 1963, 1975, 1987, 1999, 2011
Brisket's hipper sibling, always smokin' and ready to party. You spice up life even if you keep your parents up at night. Compatible with Pickle, who's always by your side.

1916, 1928, 1940, 1952, 1964, 1976, 1988, 2000, 2012
Kids love you, but make up your mind! Are you black or white? Cake or cookie? You say you're "New Age," all yin & yang. We call it "bipolar." Sweetie, you're most compatible with yourself.

1917, 1929, 1941, 1953, 1965, 1977, 1989, 2001, 2013
Flaky on the surface, you're actually a person of depth and substance. Consider medical or law school, but don't get too wrapped up in yourself. Compatible with Pickle. Avoid Lox, who's out of your league.

1918, 1930, 1942, 1954, 1966, 1978, 1990, 2002, 2014
Thin and rich, you're very high maintenance: all you want to do is bask in the heat, getting some color. Consider retiring to Boca. Compatible with Bagel and Schmear, although you top them both.

January 11, 2011

Navelbine - the day after

So far, so good: The Navelbine hasn't yet affected me in any way. Although I went to bed and woke up with a scratchy throat and a cough (most likely due to a cold - Rik feels the same way), I had my usual amount of energy today.

Since it was dry this morning, I took Bobka the dog on the long walk. I went to a support group in the early afternoon and to a meeting at the synagogue later. I'm planning to make spaghetti with meat sauce and sauteed eggplant for dinner, maybe some garlic bread on the side. And on Tuesdays we watch NCIS, so it will be "date night" with Mark Harmon, Pauley Perrette, Sean Murray and Cote de Pablo in our household tonight.

Here's hoping for a similar high energy, low side effect day tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow....ad infinitum. Plus high effectiveness, of course!

January 10, 2011

Navelbine #1

We got up extra early today in order to be at the Swedish Cancer Institute by 8:30 AM. The car was frosted over but thankfully the doors hadn't frozen shut overnight. A few snowflakes fluttered around but nothing stuck.

Things went very smoothly. Charge nurse Linda handed me my lab orders not five minutes after we arrived. There was no waiting at the lab. It took only 30 minutes or so to get my results and then I was sitting in the chemo chair, getting hooked up to some saline.

Dt G had not written orders for an anti-emetic (anti-nausea) drug to be given with the Navelbine. The chemo nurse wanted to confirm this was correct, so we waited a few minutes for his answer. Of course, I have plenty of medication at home if I get a queasy tummy at any point.

After getting saline for 30 minutes, the nurse sat with me for the six minute Navelbine "push" -- injecting the chemo straight into the IV line by hand, instead of infusing it with saline over a longer period of time. I got 30 more minutes of saline and we were done -- just in time to want a second breakfast at Eltana's.

In by 8:30 AM; out by 10:45 -- now that's the kind of efficiency I like!

We came home and had a cup of tea, then I took a four hour nap. Well, I don't particularly feel as though I slept heavily, but I sure was comfortable wrapped in a blanket and with the dog on my feet, so I didn't want to move.

I've been warned to expect some constipation as a side effect of the Navelbine, and to report to Dr G any numbness or tingling in my fingers or toes (the beginnings of peripheral neuropathy). I did not have this common side effect with Abraxane, so perhaps it will pass me by again. And there is plenty of prune juice, senna and Smooth Move tea in our kitchen!

January 06, 2011

Positive word about Navelbine

An online friend told me that she was on Navelbine together with Avastin for about a year and a half with great results and almost no side effects. The Navelbine and Avastin stopped the cancer in its tracks and got her to stable disease. She found it to be very tolerable, the easiest regimen of any she'd been on.

Dr G has never mentioned my taking Avastin. You may have heard that recently the FDA removed Avastin as an approved drug for metastatic breast cancer.

I certainly hope to experience some of these same results. Please join me in my chemo mantra: very effective, well-tolerated, with manageable side effects.

January 05, 2011

Stressed is desserts spelled backwards

I guess I must feel more stressed than I realized, because last night I wanted comfort food and the pasta puttanesca with green salad, the glass of malbec and the piece of dark chocolate didn't quite cut it. 

From the freezer I retrieved the last container of Graeter's mocha chocolate chip ice cream, sent from my family a while ago, and chowed down on about half of the pint. I couldn't stop eating it -- the chocolate was so good, the ice cream so creamy. Even after I felt full I couldn't stop eating. Finally I realized that I wasn't even enjoying the taste any more but was eating it because it was in front of me. So I put the half-empty carton back in the freezer and cuddled with Rik.

Did you know "stressed" is the word desserts, spelled backwards?

January 04, 2011

PET scan results: more chemo

Today I got the results of last week's PET scan and they were as expected, active cancer in the bones and liver. I'm sad that the Faslodex didn't work, but what can you do? Move on to the next treatment.

Dr G says I will get Navelbine weekly for two weeks, then have one week off. I start next Monday at the Swedish Cancer Institute.

Navelbine is an IV push, not an infusion, but is given with saline, so will take about an hour from start to finish (plus an hour or so waiting for the labs). It's not given with sedatives, so if the first treatment goes well, I should be able to drive myself to and from treatment each time. Rik will accompany me next week for the first treatment.

Navelbine is the chemo recently studied in the Journal of Clinical Oncology that is as effective for metastatic breast cancer and has fewer side effects.

This news is what I expected to hear and I am fine with starting chemo again. As I have said many times, life with mets is a merry-go-round; I move from one treatment to the next and have been doing so for the past eight-plus years. It can be easy to focus on how well I have looked and felt for much of that time, and ignore the fact that chemo is inevitable.

Dr G says he is proud of my ability to cope so well. Better living through chemistry, I say.

January 03, 2011

Treating bone mets

Today I had my regular dose of Zometa, a bisphosphonate (intravenous bone strengthener). I've been taking one or another bisphosphonates since my leg broke from the mets in 2002 anf they do seem to work. Because I've been on high dose Faslodex for the past few months, I've been able to get treatment at Swedish's Cherry Hill Ambulatory Infusion Center and see the nurses who've been taking care of me from the beginning of my mets journey. They are wonderful women and all caring, compassionate medical professionals.

A new drug, denosunab, was recently approved by the FDA for prevention of skeletal complications in patients with bone metastases from solid tumors. I plan to ask Dr G if he wants to switch me to Xgeva (denosunab). It's a monoclonal antibody and was found to be superior to Zometa.