Exercise TV May Be Gone, But the Videos Are Still Around…How to Find Your Favorite Workouts

If you’re like me, you’re still in mourning over the demise of Exercise TV. What you may not know is that some of the videos are available on You Tube, thanks to the work of viewers who saved them. Today I found one of my favorite workouts by Cindy Whitmarsh, “Tank Top Arms.” It’s actually a full upper-body workout. Can’t wait to do this one later today, and am so happy to get to share it with you, as well.

More workouts by Cindy and other Exercise TV trainers can be also be found on DVD and Instant Video on Amazon.

Saucy Balsamic Burgers

Today I have a special treat for you: a guest post by my dear friend, Deanna Morauski, who will be featured on the Live Well Network this month (see show details below). Enjoy!

Once upon a time a foodie blogger ordered a burger at a restaurant. She fell in love. She had to go home and recreate the burger. But then she was too busy. And then the restaurant closed. And she was sad. So sad that she forgot how to write a correct sentence. But then while playing in the kitchen she figured out the secret recipe. And it was good. But not good enough. So she recreated it about eight more times. And then it was worthy of sharing. And she was so happy she could cry. The end.

Deanna's Saucy Balsamic Burgers

These tasty burgers are soaked in a sweet, balsamic sauce and tucked inside a light & fluffy puff pastry with perfectly melted & herbed goat cheese (or cream cheese).

BURGER INGREDIENTS:

1/4 cup olive oil
20 ounces ground turkey
1 pound country sausage
1/2 large yellow onion, minced
Salt
Pepper
4 sheets puff pastry (or 2 boxes)
1/2 cup flour (for rolling out puff pastry)
16 ounces cream cheese, softened (or goat cheese if you prefer)
2 sprigs chopped fresh basil leaves
4 sprigs chopped fresh oregano leaves
6 sprigs bunch chopped fresh thyme leaves
1 sprig fresh rosemary leaves

SAUCE INGREDIENTS:

2 cups brown sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
2/3 cup balsamic vinegar
2 cups chicken broth

DIRECTIONS:

Defrost frozen puff pastry by leaving on the counter for 40 minutes or overnight in the fridge. Be prompt about using it after the defrost time because it comes folded and can stick together if left out of the freezer too long.

Combine ground turkey & country sausage together. Add minced onions, salt & pepper and mix well.

Form meat into 36 firm, one-ounce meatballs. A cookie scoop works great for measuring, then just press meat together until a firm meatball.

Heat olive oil in frying pan on medium-high heat.

Add a little more salt & pepper to tops & brown burgers in frying pan. It usually takes about three turns each to brown the entire meatball. You never want to ever under cook pork or chicken but in this case, there will be more cooking time in the oven so to prevent the meat from becoming too dry, just brown them for now.

Place burgers on a tray. Set aside. (Don’t eat since they aren’t fully cooked yet).

Whisk together brown sugar and cornstarch in a medium-large saucepan but do not turn burner on. Add chicken broth & balsamic vinegar & whisk all ingredients together. Add salt & pepper. Finally, turn burner on and cook over medium-high heat, stirring once & awhile so that it doesn’t burn. Cook until sauce boils and you can see that it has begun to thicken. Sauce will continue to thicken. Remove from heat and set aside..

Preheat oven to 400F. This is very, very important. If you do not preheat, things will not cook properly – especially puff pastry. It will come out soggy and limp instead of puffed and flaky so be sure to wait until the oven actually reaches 400F before placing burgers in oven.

Using a little flour & a rolling pin, roll out 4 puff pastry sheets and then cut into 9 squares each.

Finely chop herbs. Mix cream cheese together with the other half of the fresh herbs.

Place 1 tablespoon of cream cheese mixture in the middle of each puff pastry square.

Place one burger on each puff pastry square on top of the cream cheese.

Fold four corners of puff pastry up around the burgers until they meet in the middle. Press together. Close up additional openings so that the puff pastry “hugs” each burger.

Turn Saucy Balsamic Burgers over and place on parchment paper-lined baking sheet. You can fit 18 on each baking sheet (3 rows of 6).

After all burgers are wrapped, use beaten egg to brush top of each puff pastry so that they will become golden brown and shiny while baking.

Bake burgers for 25 minutes or until pastry is puffed, flaky and light golden brown.

Serve with warmed sauce and garnish with parsley if you like. These make a perfect tray of 36 appetizers.

Perfect served with a salad or fresh fruit. Saucy balsamic burgers can also be made larger for a main course.

Saucy balsamic burgers can be made in advance. Follow all steps except baking. Save burgers on the sheet pan, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate. Refrigerate sauce as well. Brush with egg wash and bake just 25 minutes before you need them ready and reheat sauce.

Serve with sauce. Recipe make 36 appetizers.

Deanna Morauski and Joey Fatone

About Deanna:

You can see Deanna on Joey Fatone’s new show “My Family Recipe Rocks” on the Live Well Network this month on October 27th. She will be making four scrumptious recipes throughout an entire episode filmed at her B&B, The Old Hen. Follow along on her Facebook page or on Twitter for updates.

Deanna’s love for baking and cooking began as she sat upon a baker’s stool as a little girl. Her love for people grew in the midst of church potlucks. She expresses her loves today creatively through speaking, writing for her foodie blog, television appearances as well as hosting guests, including celebrities, at her award-winning inn, The Old Hen Bed & Breakfast in Snoqualmie Valley, Washington.

It’s a Day of Firsts…and it’s Gonna Be All Right

Today has been a day of firsts:

…The first time in two weeks that I was able to bend over enough to shave my legs. Later, I plan to paint my toenails. Because I can. I think.

…The first day I haven’t been in super terrible pain from radiation-caused sores. I still have one little area that still hurts, and if I do too much I really feel it, but being mostly pain-free is definitely a cause for celebration.

…The first time in two weeks that I was able to move my left arm well enough to put lotion on my right arm. Isn’t it amazing what we take for granted?

…For my daughter, it’s a first, as well: She’s leaving right this moment on her first flight, which is taking her to California for the first time. She is actually with a group from our church, who will be meeting up with YWAM (Youth With a Mission) to build a home for a needy family in Tijuana, Mexico. They’ll also be putting on a Vacation Bible Camp this week, because apparently building the house will only take two days (wow!).

I had another first today, but this one was a shock. I found out — for the first time — something about my cancer that I hadn’t previously known. I was diagnosed with HER2+ invasive ductal carcinoma last August, but I’ve never understood the HER2+ part until today, when I saw this blurb on TheBreastCancerSite.com:

“….HER2+, an aggressive form of breast cancer that carries a protein that accelerates the growth of cancer cells.”

Say what?? Giving my doctors the benefit of the doubt, they may have told me that and in my shock I simply may not have heard them. But I do know it was never explained to me so plainly as this. It’s a protein that accelerates the growth of cancer cells. No wonder they wanted to get right on it. I go in every three weeks to receive an infusion of Herceptin, which is a drug that “intercepts” any HER2+ cancer cells that might be roaming rogue here and there in my body. I never knew until today why it was so necessary. To give myself the benefit of the doubt, I’ve had a rough road and perhaps I’m just now able to think clearly about all of this. But still…wow.

As a Christian, I see evidence all over this thing that God saved my life. He’s simply not done with me yet on this earth. Someday I’ll detail all of the places where I’ve seen His fingerprints, but I will say today that one of those places is on my husband. He’s the one who (figuratively speaking) picked me up and carried me to Seattle Cancer Care Alliance. (I was in denial and kept putting off getting a very large lump under my arm checked out.) It’s very possible that I might not be here today were it not for him. At the very least, I might have been heading on my way out of this life. We’re both human and have been getting on each others’ nerves quite a bit through all of this, but I am grateful for him beyond words.

I’m also reminded of another first: This is the first day of the rest of my life, but even in the dark, I can still see the light. It’s gonna be all right. That’s actually from a song by Matt Maher, and is the portion of that song that I woke up hearing in my head the day after my dad’s funeral last fall. (One of those unexplainable things that make you go “hmm.”) Here it is…enjoy.

Bored Silly…But Getting Better

Have you ever been bored? I mean really, seriously bored? Right now, that’s me.

Thankfully, I’m feeling quite a bit better today than I have over the last two weeks, but I’m…just…so…bored out of my mind.

On Monday, July 23, I had my last radiation treatment. While that was definitely cause for a “woo hoo,” it was really just the beginning of two very difficult weeks.

Receiving radiation treatments can make your skin look sunburned, but if you’ve had more treatments than some, or if you’ve also received an oral chemo (like Xeloda) that makes your side effects worse (I believe the term my oncologist preferred to use was “makes the treatment more effective“), you’re not out of the water yet.

I can honestly say that over the past two weeks, I have suffered more physically than I probably ever have, including after my mastectomy. Because quite a few nerves were cut or damaged during my surgery, I couldn’t feel all the pain I should have been feeling. Don’t get me wrong; it was still painful, but I was sewn up and on pain pills, too, so I actually began feeling better fairly quickly. It still wasn’t a fun process, which included having to empty out the three drains attached to me three times a day, but pain-wise, it wasn’t super terrible. (Or maybe my memory is just being selective right now.)

With my radiation, I endured some pretty nasty side effects. The pain of simply being burned was bad for me, but the worst part for me was the loss of patches of my skin. When you have a sunburn, your skin might peel, but you have another layer beneath it. Not being an expert, I’m not sure why I’ve lost patches of my skin, but it may have something to do with radiation burning from the inside out, while the sun burns from the outside in. At any rate, it has taken days and days for the patches to heal. The worst patch was under my arm, but I now have a new one along the bottom edge of the 10″ by 10″ square burn. Because any movement pulls on the surrounding tissues and causes extra pain, I’ve been spending the past two weeks on the recliner side of the sectional in my family room. I’ve also been having muscles spasms, which hurt like the dickens, and “weepiness” from the wounds. I’ll spare you the details about that.

This is what an average day has been looking like for me (maybe you can see why I’m bored out of my mind):

1. Wake up sometime between 9:30 and 10:30 AM. Seriously. Not because I’m lazy, but because of taking either oxycodone or Ambien the night before so I could sleep. And also because the Olympics aren’t over until midnight. NBC actually airs them all night, but I do have my limits, you know.

2. Make coffee using the Keurig my sister surprised me with a few months ago. Love that thing (and her!).

3. Clean the wounds on my chest using “Boro’s Solution” (see below), then apply an incredibly wonderful and soothing burn cream that was prescribed for me.

4. Go back to the sectional, which has been my camp-out zone since my side effects began worsening (pretty much since the day or two before my last treatment).

5. Hear teeth crunching on plastic. Remove one of my daughter’s toys from our Shih Tzu’s mouth. Say, “No, no, Rocky!” Melt when he tilts his head and stares at me with those big, brown eyes.

6. Eat something resembling lunch.

7. Watch the Olympics for a while.

8. Watch Food Network. Gain pounds just from watching Paula Deen cook.

9. Look in the mirror, where I see I really have gained a few pounds. Thanks, Paula.

10. Eat dinner. Feel frustrated because I’m longing to be able to cook again. Slip pieces of food to my dog, fully aware that I’m contributing to his doggy delinquency.

11. Watch game shows. Feel smart because I answered so many questions on Jeopardy. Feel lame because this has become my life.

12. Hear teeth crunching on plastic. “Rocky!”

13. Get up and clean my wounds. On the way back, try to bend over to pick up pieces of a napkin shredded by aforementioned dog, who — apparently — is also bored.

14. Sit down to finish watching Olympics. Take oxycodone or ibuprofen, depending on how badly my chest hurts. Try to read. Get tired and give up.

15. Prop my left arm to keep it away from my chest, cover up with the quilt that used to be my dad’s, and go to sleep.

I should also mention that my six-year-old, Bethany, has been camping out in our family room with me, and yes, keeping much the same schedule that I am. Thankfully, it’s summer, and I’ve already told her that a normal bedtime WILL resume for her as soon as I’m better. She’s insisted on hanging out with me so that she can watch over me. That, and the fact that she has become an Olympics nut just like her mother.

As time has gone on, I’ve been able to spend a little more time sitting at my computer, which makes me feel at least a little more connected to the outside world (thank you to all my friends who’ve been keeping me company on Facebook!). When I was growing up, I remembered hearing about “shut-ins” and feeling bad for them. I realized this week that I have become a shut-in. Unreal.

I hate it, honestly. I’m so glad for the care my husband has been giving me, which has allowed me to just rest, but I want to clean my house and cook meals. I want to go for a walk with my kids and my dog. I want to go shopping. I want to be able to get my hair cut (and if feels so good to say that, considering I lost it all last fall). I want to take Bethany to the park.

Being in such a helpless situation has given me a new appreciation for all a healthy person can do, and I can’t wait to get back to it. I will…soon.

* If you’re having to go through radiation yourself, Domeboro solution (also referred to as “Boro’s soaks”) feels wonderful on burned — even raw — skin. Rather than using it as a soak, I simply dipped cotton balls into it (never double dip the same cotton ball into the solution, as you’ll contaminate it), then applied the cotton to my skin. The soaked cotton balls are also excellent for removing debris from the area, such as when the old skin at the site begins to peel. This product, which is also good for other skin conditions, comes highly recommended by CrazyBusy Mama.

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Sally Dinius is writer-in-chief here at CrazyBusyMama.com, a blog created to inspire and motivate busy mamas everywhere to feel healthy, fit, and in control of their lives. Follow her on Twitter at http://twitter.com/sdinius, and come join the CrazyBusy Mama Facebook page by clicking here. And don’t forget to check out the new CrazyBusy Mama Quick Guides available for your Kindle or Kindle app!

Seeing the Things That Matter (and I Hope to “See” You This Weekend)

We take a lot for granted, don’t we? As busy moms, we get caught up in the oh-so-dailiness of life: our families’ schedules, work (whether that’s work-at-home or at an office), chores, finances, extended family drama. It can take up all of our time, from the moment we wake up until we crumple into our beds much too late at night.

I was invited to write this post, and gladly accepted because the topic really grabbed me. It’s about sight: our sight…our favorite sights…sightseeing. What it really said to me was, “Stop. Slow down. Look around you.”

Seattle is one of the best places to live in this country. I’ve always believed that. We live just south of the “Emerald City,” and there’s no end to the places to visit and sights to see. As a kid, I remember always doing something, going somewhere. Slowing down, looking around me. Taking in the sights.

While riding ferries…

visiting the Space Needle (currently painted “Galaxy Gold” to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the 1962 World’s Fair)…

going to Mount Rainier…

touring the Naval ships at Bremerton…

saying hello to Sylvester, our mummified cowboy friend at the Ye Olde Curiosity Shop…

and so much more.

When my kids were younger, we used to put the daily busyness aside and do quite a bit together, too. The past few years have been stressful and busy, but I am determined to make more of an effort to pack them all in the car (even the older two, who are 20 and 18) and visit some fun places this summer.

You, too? Then I encourage you to do the same: Open your eyes and really see your family. Spend time with them. Put aside everything trivial that clamors for your attention and go do something fun. Take a hike…ride a ferry…go to the beach. (By the way, sightseeing is a fantastic opportunity to teach your kids to be grateful for healthy eyesight!) What have been some of your favorite family outings?

If you’re in the area, consider stopping by the Washington Brewers Festival (running tonight through Sunday) and visiting the Transitions lenses “Official Sponsor of Sightseeing” booth. I know what you’re thinking — that the Brewers Festival doesn’t sound like a family event, but Saturday and Sunday are open to the whole gang (tonight it’s just for the 21 and over crowd). Stop by and visit the Transitions lenses booth, where they’re providing free eye exams for the whole family. You’ll also have the opportunity to get your picture taken in front of a scenic backdrop. You know you’ll want to put that on Facebook!

Here are the details:

Washington Brewers Festival

King County’s Marymoor Park
6046 W. Lake Sammamish Parkway NE
Redmond WA, 98052

Friday, June 15 from 4 pm – 9 pm (21+ only)
Saturday, June 16 from 11 am – 9 pm (all ages)
Sunday, June 17 from 11 am – 6 pm (all ages)

Click the link above for ticket pricing and information.

I’m not a beer drinker myself, but I’ll be stopping by for the free eye exam and to visit the nice folks in the Transitions booth. If you go and want to take your under-21 offspring, there will be a “root beer garden” and kids area just for them. And there will plenty of food, of course, so make sure you’re hungry when you go!

Learn more about Transitions lenses by clicking here.

Enter to win the Sight of the Day Photo Contest and “see” yourself on the Ultimate Sightseeing Dream Vacation.

Like the Transitions lenses Facebook page:

I received compensation to participate in a SocialMoms and Transitions lenses blogging program. The opinions and ideas expressed here are my own. To read more posts on this topic, click here.

A Long Overdue Day in the Sun

Seattle has been shrouded in dark gray clouds for weeks now. It’s the kind of dreariness that goes on and on, to the point where most of us forget where we put our sunglasses then rush out on days like this to buy another pair.

Thankfully, I knew where mine were. This was good because today…amazingly…I actually needed them.

It would have been easier to stay home and be lazy, but getting out in the fresh air is good for body and soul, so off we went.

First, with our oldest child, youngest child, and puppy in tow, we stopped at the nearby National Cemetery to “visit” my dad. That’s never easy, and usually hits me pretty hard later in the day, like it is now (it’s 11 p.m. on Sunday as I write this).

Anyway……..

We then thought it would be a good day to take the two youngins (that would be the six-year-old and the puppy) to a park after dropping off the oldest at home. Parks are like chairs…have you ever noticed that? As in too hard, too soft, just right? In our case, it was: too small with no parking, too big with way too many people, and — finally — just right.

We ended up going to a park that’s been a favorite of our kids since our teens were small (never mind that our oldest “teen” is now 20…), and it was really nice being there again today. Bethany made friends on the playground, but wouldn’t you know it — Rocky made more, of the human and canine varieties. (To respect the privacy of others, I didn’t take pictures of any new friends.)

Here’s B, posing on the slide. What is it with kids? All you have to say is “smile” and here come the silly poses. Love it.

My husband, Lonnie, with his new baby. I really must tell you the story of how Rocky came to be in our family, and I promise I will do just that…soon. I had nothing to do with it, I swear! And that’s unusual, because if a new animal arrives in our family, it’s usually my doing.

Our fluffball. One of Rocky’s new friends, a three-year-old named Evan, exclaimed, “He has no eyes!” but ran off without waiting to hear my reply. I tried to tell him that Rocky did have eyes, they were just hiding, but someone must have yelled, “SQUIRREL!” because Evan was already zipping off in another direction.

And now…it’s me, incognito. Wearing my short wig, hiding behind my sunglasses and an extremely fluffy dog. I can’t wait until my hair is ready for it’s public debut so I can show it off (it’s about 1-1/2″ long, but still a little scruffy looking).

This week, I’m heading to a few different appointments…one with the plastic surgeon, one with the radiation oncologist, and one for my Herceptin infusion. I’d like to say I’m feeling empowered by checking off all of these milestones, etc., but the truth is that I’m feeling emotionally raw. I’m cranky, I’m moody, I cry a lot, I don’t want to see people (unless I know them very well), and I just want this to all be over with. I’m scared about the future. But that’s today. Tomorrow I could feel really great and optimistic. I sincerely hope that tomorrow I feel really great and optimistic.

The emotions, I guess, are as much a part of the getting-through-cancer process as anything else. Being what they are, they need to be experienced, and not shoved down and denied, but sometimes a good escape from them is even better. Today at the park was a good day…a good escape day. I learned a lesson: to get out more. To go have fun…to breathe fresh air…to get away from the same old surroundings.

If you’re fighting the same battle (or a battle of another kind), I hope you’ll do the same. Get out. Have fun. Enjoy the sunshine. I believe in the mind-body connection…as the mind thinks, the body responds — it’s proven. More on that in another post.

Have a great Monday!

The Mastectomy Milestone…Finally Behind Me

It’s 11:25 p.m. on a Sunday night as I begin to write this post. I’ve been trying to get it written for the last three and a half weeks…honest. I think I’ve actually started it about three times.

Three and a half weeks ago was my surgery: a bilateral (“double”) mastectomy with lymph node dissection. (The word “dissection” always makes me think of my seventh-grade biology class. In this case, it simply means removal.) The surgery was performed at the University of Washington Medical Center. I won’t go into all the details now, but believe me — there are plenty of details I’d love to share with you…more than enough for several future blog posts.

But I wanted to at least get something written to let you all know I made it through and am just fine (if you’re my friend on Facebook, you may already know that). It’s been almost impossible to get it written before now. For starters, I was just in too much pain. And when I was finally able to lift my arms enough to type at my desk, there were just too many distractions and I couldn’t concentrate. Let’s hope this post makes the final cut. (If it seems really disjointed and doesn’t “flow,” you can assume I was distracted once again.)

I try not to think too much about the surgery itself. I’m constantly amazed at modern medicine, how far it’s come, and what’s ahead. I know mastectomy has come a long way from the hideous surgery it used to be, but right now — to me — it still seems pretty harsh. And when I’m in front of the mirror, I try not to look too long at those two ugly horizontal stitched-up wounds. Or at the one under my arm. But when I do, I remind myself that they’re going to look a lot better in the future and not be quite as garish. And I try not to think about what I’m missing.

This may seem strange, but the last few weeks — while kind of a surreal time for me, considering the surgery I had and why — have actually been a little enjoyable. Once the pain started to subside, that is. My little corner of the universe has been the recliner side of the sectional in our family room. My six-year-old daughter has been my constant companion, not wanting me to sleep alone. And our cat, Chico, has kept the two of us company, as well, sleeping close to (or on) the person who’s the sickest. (After I got home from the hospital, it was me, but now that she has the flu, he’s her shadow.)

Sometimes you just have to make the best of a situation that really stinks, and I’d say that’s probably how I’m able to enjoy this time. I’ve been conditioning myself for the past couple of years to think differently — more positively — and I’m seeing the fruits of it. While the temptation has been to whine (and I’ve done a bit of that), mostly I just feel incredibly blessed. I’m drinking in, every day, how grateful I am for my husband and four kids who love me and have been taking care of me. For a kindergartner who gets quite upset if she can’t camp out in the family room with me each night and loves hanging out with me throughout the day. For family and friends who’ve either come to visit or have at least checked in with me (sometimes daily) through Facebook or by texting me or my husband. For a group of friends who’ve been providing meals and household help since I was first diagnosed and plan to continue doing so for a while still (there are no words to describe how helpful that’s been). For a wonderful couple from our church who’ve loved us like family and have taken us under their wings. And for so much more.

I love the little things that have also made these last few weeks bearable. A basket I put together before my surgery, along with a black t.v. tray table from Target, holds things like my phone, Kindle (a gift from my son last Christmas), “real” books, lip gloss, hand lotion, post-surgery papers, headphones, hats and scarves, pens and crossword puzzle books, and chocolate (of course, right?). Next to me are two fluffy blankets that my cat has claimed as his own and a beautiful quilt made by a sweet friend. My Bible is next to me, as well.

My house is a wreck, but I’m able to do more and more around here each day, so I’ll get it whipped into shape soon. (Yes, there are other people who live here who can clean it, but we all have a certain way we like to do things, right?) I’m having trouble using my arms because of how certain muscles were cut into during the surgery, but I’m doing what I can each day to stretch and retrain them and am making myself do what I can around here instead of asking for help. I can’t wait to get back to “normal.” My new normal, anyway.

Thanks so much for all the kind thoughts and for all the prayers I’ve been receiving. Stay tuned — I’ll have plenty more to share about my mastectomy experience in the coming days.

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Sally Dinius is writer-in-chief here at CrazyBusyMama.com. Follow her on Twitter at http://twitter.com/sallydinius, and come join the CrazyBusy Mama Facebook page by clicking here. And don’t forget to check out the new CrazyBusy Mama Quick Guides available for your Kindle or Kindle app.

The Not-So-Lovely World of Chemo Side Effects, Part II

In part one of this article, I told you about the side effects I experienced during my first round of chemo, which involved bi-weekly doses of AC (Adriamycin and Cytoxan). I received four doses, total, which would have taken just two months but for me ended up being two and a half. I had to be hospitalized because of an extremely low white blood cell count caused by one of the doses, so my oncologist pushed my next one to the following week.

If you’ve been diagnosed with breast cancer and are facing this regimen, please don’t let my experience scare you. From what I understand, the reaction I had was rare and not expected. My medical team watched me like a hawk once I reported my fever and sore throat (which was severe…but I’m pretty sure that was rare, too). Once my fever reached a certain point, they admitted me to the hospital. I’m so grateful for the high level of care I’ve received every step of the way.

The second round of chemo that I was put on started two weeks after my last dose of AC. The new “cocktail” was Taxol and Herceptin. Only the Taxol is technically chemo, not the Herceptin. For each dose, my nurse would dress up in a protective garb (paper gown, mask, gloves) in order not to be burned by the Taxol (a.k.a. paclitaxel). It was quite a change this past Monday when she was administering my Herceptin to me (still an infusion) but didn’t have to put on the paper gown, etc.

Because I’d received the Taxol and Herceptin on the same day, one right after the other, it’s hard to say which side effects were caused by which med, so I’ll just list what I experienced:

A little more hair loss. Not so much on my head (I never did go “shiny” bald, but always had fuzz…kind of like Smeagol from Lord of the Rings…seriously), but this is when my eyebrows thinned way out and I lost most of my eyelashes. Not a morning has gone by that I haven’t been grateful for makeup!

Discoloration of my fingernails and toenails. This didn’t happen right away. I actually don’t remember when it started…maybe halfway through. The bummer is that it’s still happening. My oncologist says this actually started with the AC, but I dunno. All I know is that the damage to my nails is still going on. After the discoloration started, the pain began. My fingertips and toes under the nails became tender and hitting them against anything has been a very painful thing to experience. The tenderness in my toes is getting better, but for weeks I lived in a very comfy pair of Bear Paw boots given to me by some wonderful people.

One thing my doctor’s assistant told me was that some people lose their fingernails. It looks like I may be headed in that direction. Even though I’m done with the AC and the Taxol, the damage to my nails has occurred and it looks like I may lose at least a couple. My middle fingernails are the worst. I won’t describe them and I won’t take pictures…not today, anyway. (You’re welcome.)

Tingling in my fingers and toes. This side effect wasn’t very bad for me at all. For other women it can be much worse, even to the point of extreme pain in their hands and feet. I have to wonder if this occurs in higher doses, such as what’s given to women who receive Taxol biweekly rather than weekly. I opted for the weekly doses because the risk of side effects was lower, even though it meant having to travel to Seattle more often.

Muscle aches and fatigue. The muscle aches weren’t too bad while on Taxol. Now that I’m off of that and only on Herceptin, I feel like I’m 80 years old because of how stiff my joints feel — especially my hips. I’ve been aching all over. As far as the fatigue goes, it’s been my constant companion since beginning chemo. And lately I’ve had the energy of a slug (on the bright side, I’ve had plenty of time to get caught up on my reading).

Chemo brain. Much more than just being “forgetful.” When you forget something, you might feel that the thing you’re trying to remember is “right there,” or “right on the tip of your tongue.” With chemo brain, it’s different. The information you’re looking for is just gone, baby. Lonnnng gone. Like looking at a blank computer screen.

Heart palpitations. These can be scary. My heart’s in good condition, according to a couple of EKGs and MUGA (heart function) scans, but the palpitations were worrisome. My doctor thought they were caused by my port’s catheter “tickling” the area of my heart where it entered into it from the vein, and he may be right, but I noticed the palpitations would worsen right after each dose of chemo. Who knows.

Loss of taste. I think this was probably the worst. Well, up until now, considering how my fingernails look. The Taxol really affected my taste buds. It’s different for every woman. When this happens, some only want salty foods. For me, I couldn’t taste much salt at all, so I opted for more sweet things, which I could taste. And let me tell you, as someone who’s been a health and fitness blogger, that was frustrating. I had once been someone who couldn’t stand the taste of things that were overly sweet, but had become someone who couldn’t eat anything else without wanting to spit it out.

I could eat some savory meals, as long as they were seasoned properly. Sometimes I just had to add salt, but then too much salt tasted gross. I discovered from a cancer cookbook that adding lemon juice to soups, etc., could improve the flavor much better than additional salt would. If you’re in the same boat as me, give it a try.

Some things just also had a really weird aftertaste. This was usually made better by chewing gum or drinking juice (or whatever was near at hand). Water tasted disgusting — it had that same bad aftertaste. BUT, we cancer patients have to drink a lot of water, so what a catch-22 that was. My solution: Make a pitcher of herbal tea, sweeten it with a little honey or agave nectar, and drink that as you would your water. Be sure to switch between various flavors.

I’ve also been thrown into early menopause because of the toxic effects the chemo had on my ovaries (not sure if it was the AC or the Taxol that did it — maybe both). I honestly don’t mind it. We’ve had our kids and at this stage of our lives certainly weren’t planning on more. Also, I had monster migraines (with sharp teeth and claws) that would always coincide with “that time of the month,” and they are now completely GONE. That’s definitely a blessing in disguise. The worst part of early menopause has been the hot flashes, but for some reason, I haven’t been noticing them as much lately. My oncologist prescribed a low dose of Effexor to help with the hot flashes, but just one made me so dopey that I never took another. I’d rather fan myself or stand outside in 20 degree weather in just my skivvies than be doped up like that again. But maybe you’ll handle it better. Everyone’s different!

Last, but not least, I am also experiencing some serious hip and joint stiffness caused by the Herceptin. While not chemo, it’s still something causing side effects for me, so I’m listing it here. I can’t sit for longer than five or 10 minutes without feeling like I’m 80 and arthritic when I stand up. It’s not very painful, just makes it hard to walk. Kind of like the tin man when he needed his oil!

(Doesn’t he look like he’s just been goosed in this picture?!)

So there you have it…my side effects as I remember them. If you don’t have cancer, you may have found these two posts extremely boring, and that’s okay. But if you’re a fellow breast cancer survivor-to-be, like I am, I hope this helped you to at least know you’re not alone. The good news is that, while I may have made some of these side effects sound completely horrible, you’ll get through them. They WILL go away. And, needless to say, you may not get all of the side effects I did. I hope your experience is smooth sailing, but if it isn’t, send me a note and vent — even if you’re finding this years after I wrote it.

We’re a sisterhood and are here for each other. Always.

The Not-So-Lovely World of Chemo Side Effects, Part I

A blog about breast cancer isn’t complete without a post or two about the various side effects experienced during chemo (and even after, for a while).

One of my least favorite side effects is what Taxol has done to my nails, which, thanks to the pain, is actually making it hard for me to type this post. My most painful finger is the middle one on my right hand. Trying not to use it is resulting in a whole lot of typos — which you will not have to see thanks to my irritating perfectionist proofreading tendencies.

Starting at the beginning…

Many women diagnosed with breast cancer are first started on an intravenous cocktail of Adriamycin and Cytoxin, referred to by medical professionals as AC. I won’t repeat what the rest of us call it. It isn’t nice.

AC, which I received four doses of (one every two weeks), is red in color and just looked creepy dripping through the I.V. line toward my body. One of the first things I would notice each time it was administered was a weird taste in my mouth. Sometimes I would experience it during the infusion, but usually I wouldn’t notice it until I got home. It wasn’t pleasant and affected the way my food tasted in a bad way. Thankfully, that bad taste would go away after three or four days, which left me with over a week to somewhat enjoy how my food tasted. When I could eat, that is.

Other side effects included:

Complete hair loss on my head. I was still shaving my legs and still had eyelashes and eyebrows. I know some women lose those with the AC, but I didn’t until I started the Taxol.

Nausea and vomiting. It was bad, but not as bad as I’d expected. I didn’t live next to the toilet, but it did make me nervous to go anywhere without a plastic bag at the ready. The “good” thing about having cancer in this day and age is the many anti-nausea medications available. They can work wonders…when they work. I was prescribed a few different kinds and found the best one that worked for me was Compazine, even though I still was nauseous on it. They made me feel “doped up,” though, and I really hated that feeling. Hated it.

Constipation. This is actually a side effect of the anti-nausea meds.

Low white blood cells. After my first AC dose, my white cell count was so low that I ended up in the hospital. I learned later that it was so low they could have lost me. I was sick with a sinus infection and the worst sore throat of my life, thanks to my inability at the time to fight the infection. In the hospital I was put on Dilaudid (a pain med stronger than morphine — just getting rid of the pain was heavenly) along with antibiotics, and received one or two shots of Neulasta, which stimulates white cell production. I also received a blood transfusion. My doctor lowered my next dose of AC and, thankfully, I never did end up back in the hospital. Some people just react badly to it, and I was one of them.

Mucositis. Mucositis is a condition that develops when the chemo attacks the lining of the gastrointestinal tract. It can happen anywhere from the mouth downward, and for me, it was my throat. I had a constant store throat for months, one that only went away completely sometime in the last few weeks. Maybe I shouldn’t say completely, because some things still make my throat swell up and hurt, like red sauces and chocolate. (Isn’t that sad? Chocolate!) A sore throat caused by mucositis can be downright miserable, and in the beginning Oxycodone, ice cream, and popsicles (one right after the other) were the only things that would make it manageable. I was so glad when I was finally able to stop taking the Oxycodone and could think clearly again. Eventually, cough drops like Halls or Ricola — and Tylenol — were all I needed, along with the occasional popsicle.

Needless to say, I was glad to be done with the AC regimen, but after reading horror stories about Taxol online (don’t do that), I wasn’t too excited to begin that one, either. Read all about it in Part II, coming up.

(By the way, for an excellent resource on getting through breast cancer and living a full life after treatment, check out Living Well Beyond Breast Cancer by Marisa Weiss and Ellen Weiss. This book has been one of my constant companions.)

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Sally Dinius is writer-in-chief here at CrazyBusyMama.com, a blog created to inspire and motivate busy mamas everywhere to feel healthy, fit, and in control of their lives. Follow her on Twitter at http://twitter.com/sallydinius, and come join the CrazyBusy Mama Facebook page by clicking here. And don’t forget to check out the new CrazyBusy Mama Quick Guides available for your Kindle or Kindle app!

Spinning Like a Leaf in a Wind Eddy

Have you ever seen a “wind eddy”?

My daughter and I got one on camera just outside of Fred Meyer one day. I believe they’re also known as dust devils in some parts, and it’s not hard to imagine the caught-up debris being spun by a crazy, unseen imp vying for the attention of the easily amused.

You know, like me and my daughter.

Here’s the video:

As much as I hate metaphors, I feel like one of those leaves. Breast cancer, of course, is that little whirlpool of spinning air that I would love to break free of. Until it spins itself out, I’m stuck in it.

Stuck, but not a victim.

I figure I can either go into full panic mode because the ride won’t be stopping in the near future, or I can do what I can to enjoy it (the ride, that is, not the cancer). In fact, I even tossed around the idea of a too-long but more appropriate title for this post: “I May Be Spinning Around Like a Leaf in a Wind Eddy…But I’m Free As a Bird on the Inside.”

Speaking of being free, a word that’s been coming to mind quite a bit lately is this one:

Proactive.

Being proactive is all about making things happen instead of just letting them happen. It’s taking the darts being thrown at you and throwing them back. It’s a choice. It’s freedom.

It’s been over a week now since I finished chemo, and this morning I woke up feeling like I’d been hit by a truck. As the day went on, everything hurt from my head to my toes (which were already hurting, thanks to the effects the chemo has had on my toenails and fingernails). Like the depression I was thrown into last week, I’ve heard this can be pretty normal, too. Even expected. Those of us going through chemo are usually given steroids with each infusion which keep us from experiencing some of the ugly side effects. BUT…once the treatments are over with, the steroids wear off sooner than the chemo does, and we can start to feel very fatigued and even achy, like today.

It’s hard to be proactive on a day like this, but proactivity doesn’t have to mountain-shaking. It can be taken in small steps, too. So I made the choice to give myself permission to rest and enjoy a day of doing very little rather than sink into the dumps just because I couldn’t do everything I wanted to.

Next up, large and looming, is surgery. I’m facing a bilateral mastectomy with lymph node dissection in my left axillary area (armpit). I’m dreading it, remembering how painful just the biopsies in the same areas were last August. (I’m also dreading it for other obvious reasons.) But again, I’ve chosen to be proactive. I’m focusing on what I can do to make my recovery easier on me, and trying very hard not to focus on the surgery itself. Or the recovery.

Besides deciding on my mindset, part of that choice to do something was to go shopping this last weekend. I was told I’ll need shirts or jackets that open in the front (because it will hurt my chest to try to pull things over my head — something to do with the arm movements needed for that since they’ll be picking on my pectoral muscles, as well), so I picked up two hoodies that will work nicely. I also found a black TV tray at Target to make eating easier. And if it’s too tall to use at the sofa, which it might be, it can at least hold the things I need to have at hand. You know, just being ready in small ways for a big event like major surgery can knock out some of its teeth.

I think the best way I can be proactive is to choose my mindset. I haven’t been fabulously successful in that area lately, especially this past week, but I know it’s an option and I’m trying. At the very least, I’m focusing on not giving in to self pity and not EVER feeling like a victim. Sometimes I succeed, sometimes I don’t. But most days I do pretty darned okay.

How have you been proactive when faced with a difficult situation?

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Sally Dinius is writer-in-chief here at CrazyBusyMama.com, a blog created to inspire and motivate busy mamas everywhere to feel healthy, fit, and in control of their lives. Follow her on Twitter at http://twitter.com/sallydinius, and come join the CrazyBusy Mama Facebook page by clicking here. And don’t forget to check out the new CrazyBusy Mama Quick Guides available for your Kindle or Kindle app!