Monday, June 29, 2009

Green Smoothies!

I recently read Green for Life by Victoria Boutenko I was intrigued by the idea of ingesting blended greens. The premise is that if you study nature, specifically chimpanzees who are genetically simiar to us humans, you would see them digesting a very large amount of greens over each day. Greens are dark leafy vegetables, such as spinach, kale, collards, parsley and many more. The book explains that greens are so different from other vegetables, that they should be their own food group as high up on the food pyramid as any other major nutrient. Well that sounded great, I mean I'll just sit and eat 2 pounds of salad everyday right? The reason people don't get enough green is because it seems so unattainable and gross. Now what Green for Life introduces is the Green Smoothie! You can read the whole book for a lot more information, but what I took from it was get all the greens you need for a day and place them in a high-tech blender, then add a bunch of fruit to overpower the taste of the greens and blend away. I was skeptic at best, these industrial blenders run about $400. Then I found Green Smoothie Girl!! I absolutely adore her site and am working on her 12 Steps right now. I'll go into that in a separate post. Through this blog I was able to read more realistic testimonials about green smoothies, and view a youtube demo of the preparation. It suddenly seemed very simple and obvious to me, and so I took the plunge and invested in a Blend Tec. When I came home from Stanford and saw it had arrived I was giddy with excitment.
The following morning I was completely prepared with spinach, apples, bananes, and a bag of frozen berries from Trader Joes. I am happy to say the smoothie tasted so good both of my kids chugged it down and asked for seconds! The Blend Tec worked like a dream, pulverizing all of the greens until all that was left was a perfectly smooth drink... you might want to call it a SMOOTHIE. HAHA yes, ok, the point is there were no chunks, and the blender succeeded at breaking up the plant cellulose making the nutrients digestible and palatable.
As the week went on I expanded my smoothies, the kids still like them but need a little bribe to finish an entire mug. I am ashamed to say I bribed my children with Luna Bars and iCarly to finish those drinks everyday!

This is my current Green Smoothie Recipe:
2 cups water
2-3 tbsp fresh pressed flax oil ($7.99 at Trader Joes)
1/3 a bag of Trader Joes Southern Greens Blend (collards, turnip, spinach and mustard greens. $2.99)
BLEND
1-2 quartered apples, including core and seeds
2 bananas
1/2 bag Trader Joes frozen mixed berries ($2.99)
1/2 bag Trader Joes pineapple tidbits ($2.99)
BLEND twice

If it's thick, add more water and blend again.
Total cost: $5 ...and it's enough to fill 2 adult and 2 childrens cups.

It's been 1 week... my stomach is a bit smaller, and my digestive system feels great! I feel more energetic and confident throughout the day. I am able to eat less at all meals because I don't feel unsatisfied, the Green Smoothie actually tastes good and makes you full! I don't recommend running right after drinking a serving, it's a heavy drink and not one you want bouncing around inside your stomach, on run days I have it for lunch post-workout instead.

If you try it let me know!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Monday, June 22, 2009

Cyberknife Final Treatment and I'm home!

Friday morning's Cyberknife treatment was so incredibly simple I left the office just thinking "that's it?" It was almost too easy. I dozed off as the laser whirred around, targeting the tumor in my t spine we were preventatively treating. After the appointment there was nothing left to do but drive home...

I was so excited to see my babies, and they ran into my arms smelling like sweet goodness and gave me tiny little kisses allover my cheeks. Everyone kept asking me how I feel and I had to laugh because I actually feel like crap! I have the worst sinus infection and it's meant conjunctivitis, a totally stuffed nose, headaches, no energy, and a throat that is bordering on strep throat for the last several days. All I want to do is sleep... but it has absolutely nothing to do with the huge medical procedure I underwent. It's coincidence. As easy as Cyberknife was, as easy as radiating 2 tumors pressing into my spinal cord was, to come home and be knocked down by a sinus infection is just a bit ironic to me. Sometimes I just want to yell out to no one in particular... "Are you freaking kidding me!?"

So the treatment is behind me and I am free to live my life as normally as possible for another 6 months before I need updated MRIs. In that period of time I will runa marathon and go back to school, yet I know all to well how fast the time will go.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Cyberknife Day 3, Treatment Day!

After a long day of wine tasting and general debauchery yesterday, I struggled to get to the hospital bright and early at 7am this morning. I threw on my running gear and showed up at the hospital in my adorable new running shorts and a spiffy ponytail. Then I realized I didn't have to check in until 9am and slept in the waiting room on Paul's shoulder for an hour.

The Cyberknife team had already used my MRIs and CTs to develop a treatment plan yesterday. The plan for today was to radiate the tumor pressing on my lumber spine spanning L3-L4. 10 years ago treating this tumor would have meant a major surgery, at least a week of hospital time, months of physical therapy, steroids and pain medications. Surgery after surgery like that is what really tears apart the bodies of people with NF2. It's not just the tumors, it's being cut open repeatedly to take them out. I feet blessed to be treated by radiation therapy today rather than facing a serious spine surgery in a year.

So today Dr. Adler came and had me lay down in the mold we made of my body on Tuesday which had been positioned on the bed of the Cyberknife. They made sure I was comfortable, even gave me a blanket, and told me to just rest and stay still. The Cyberknife is a huge robotic arm that rotates in increments all around the target area during the prescribed treatment time. By constantly rotating but maintaining a point of contact with the tumor the radiation is concentrated as needed, sparing the healthy surrounding tissue unecessary damage. What is surprising is just how big the head of the laser is, and that thing gets very close to your head and swings around every which way. It was interesting to watch, and after about an hour it suddenly moved back into it's starting position and turned off. Dr. Adler came in and said that's it for today! I felt absolutely no pain or discomfort at all.

I guzzled some water as we drove away from the hospital and had Paul drop me off 3 miles from the hotel. I ran back in 30mn, making good time despite having just had radiation therapy! I actually tripped at one point, but just got back up and dusted myself off, then kept on running...

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Cyberknife Day 2

We awoke around 6am, groggy from a long nights sleep, but I was anxious to finish the day's appointments and get rid of this IV! I had slept in an awkward position all night, and the IV had blood in it. Paul assured me this was normal, but of course I needed to whine a bit to get the day started. I tried to dress but with my bionic arm was severely limited and ended up in sweats and flip flops. Try doing a full face of makeup without bending your dominant hand's arm, I am proud to say somehow I did it.

We reached the hospital bright and early and waited in the Radiation Therapy department for the nurse to beckon us. They flushed my IV and slipped in a contrast for the CT. They warned me I would feel warm and as though I was peeing on myself... seriously. I waited for it, but only tasted a slight metallic aftertaste in my throat. The doctors had me lay on a deflated foam bed outside of the CT. They connected a hose to it and it began to inflate and harden around me. Using their hands to push it tight against me and under my lower back, it inflated until it was hard and held me in one position for all further treatments. They made sure I was comfortable, and when the mold was complete they slid my enshrined body into the CT. It didn't last long enough for me to get a catnap before I was brought back out and shooed out to the waiting room.

At this point I was expecting to ditch the IV, but was told they needed another MRI for a closer look at a specific area. We took a tram with another lady also planning to have Cyberknife to the other side of the campus. There I had more contrast injected into my IV, and another MRI. At this point I was done, just tired and ready to go. As soon as the MRI was done the tech ripped off the IV tape and set me free. I almost skipped out of the waiting room, and even stole a copy of W magazine. I'll give it back! Don't judge me.

My Gramps and Diana drove down to visit us and we had a great lunch and nice glass of wine at a local steak joint. No I didn't have steak but I did enjoy the wine. I have tomorrow off while the Cybeknife team creates a treatment plan. Paul and I are going to take a much needed day trip to the Santa Clarita Valley to explore a few wineries. I never knew radiation could be so fun.

Cyberknife Day 1

After a long drive into Palo Alto Sunday we stumbled into our hotel around midnight. The alarm went off a bit too early at 7am the next morning. We headed to Stanford University Neurosciences Center where I met with Dr. Adler who is coordinating my care during this treatment process. As always he and his nurse were incredibly friendly and helpful. He took the time to give me a full neurological exam and noted that I am doing incredibly well.

We headed to see Dr. Gibbs, the Radiation Oncologist, in the cancer center right after I consulted with Dr. Adler. Dr. Gibbs was so informative, and answered all of my questions. She stated that with Cyberknife they are seeing positive results around 85% of the time in NF2 patients. She warned me of possible side effects such as nausea and vomiting, maybe fatigue, but promised they would prescribe something to help. She went over the possible long term effects, such as damage to healthy tissue or the spinal cord, paralysis, prolonged swelling or pain. I signed away my fears and felt comfortable trusting in this team of obviously well trained doctors to treat me.

At this point I was sent to the main hospital to have MRI's taken of my spine. An IV needed to be placed to receive the contrast for both the MRI's and then the CT I would have on Tuesday. I have teeny tiny little veins, Paul and the nurse we're laughing at my pathetic vascular system as I whined that it was not my fault. The first stab was only a prick, but the nurse could not find my vein and had to dig around a bit inside my arm. Tears threatened to fall and I just held it back until finally she looked at me sadly and said she was going to have to try again. I shrieked a bit, but one look from Paul and I controlled my outburst and stayed still for the second try. After another minute of stabbing, she sighed and took that one out as well. At this point another nurse was brought in, he grabbed my arm, jabbed the needle in, and grabbed a vein the first try. I loved him, I wanted to cook dinner for him. The MRI itself was easy as always, and we headed back to the hotel around 4:30 with my IV still in place to avoid another vein hunt the following morning.

We were exhausted from the drive and a day of waiting rooms, so we gorged on Chevy's margaritas and passed out at 6, sleeping all the way through until the next morning!

Friday, June 12, 2009

Take What You Can Get...

This weekend is starting with a bang! My first nephew, Xavier, was born this morning up at Victor Valley Hospital. I was really sad to not be present for the birth as I was with my 2 nieces from Paul's brother Freddie, but Mica is sick which forced me to stay home. We'll visit tomorrow!
Sunday is my best friend Adria's Master's graduation ceremony! She really kicked ass and I am so proud of her. Straight after the party Paul and I are driving to Stanford and staying at the Crowne Plaza for a week of Cyberknife appointments and treatments. Ironically, Paul is being seen as well by a pituitary specialist while we are there. That worked out quite nicely actually. I will be blogging daily from Stanford and chronicling my experience with Cyberknife, and still plan to run a 5K after the first treatment on Thursday. Paul and I are looking forward to a week away, even if it is to have radiation therapy on 3 spine tumors! You take what you can get when you have 2 kids!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

4 Months to 26.2

I want to sincerely thank those of you who have already donated to CTF on my Active Giving page, and really gotten the ball rolling! We have already raised $400! We have 4 more months to reach my goal of $5000 for this year. I've been going on my long runs and really focusing on training, and when I feel like I can't take another step, I remember that I am running for all of you who have supported me this entire time.

Next month, on July 26th, I will run the half marathon at the San Francisco Marathon and am excited to run across the Golden Gate bridge! San Francisco holds special meaning to me. My Gramps has lived in the Bay Area since long before I was born, and the best part of every vacation in my childhood was visiting his beautiful home and spending time with him and my Grams, and now Diana. My Gramps has been a constant source of stability in my life, and will be at the SF Marathon to cheer me on! I cannot wait to see him at the finish line. We have agreed to dedicate this run specifically to my Mom, Kari, who we tragically lost a few years ago just 3 months before her 40th birthday. She was 39 and lived in a nursing home, unable to care for her most basic needs and completely deaf. On July 22nd she would have been 44 years old. When I run on the 26th I am not just running for her, but also for my Gramps, who has suffered the loss of a wife and 2 children at the hand of NF2. Nobody should have to live through that much pain in one lifetime, and still he handles it with dignity and grace, always caring for everyone around him and wearing a smile on his face. He sets the example for me that no matter how unfortunate a circumstance, life carries on and holds happiness for us all.

CTF is making great strides in the fight against NF, and even specifically NF2. All fundraising dollars donated on my page are specifically earmarked for NF2. A specific example of how this money is used is CTF's current funding of a clinical trial testing the efficacy of a drug called Lapatanib on NF2 vestibular schwannoma. For those of you who have been on this journey with me over the years, you know it is amazing that drug therapies are now visible on the horizon for NF2 patients!

CTF has given me a focus for my energy, a way to feel as though I am really making a difference and not just waiting for this disease to take over my life. CTF is helping me to fight back, and I am asking all of you to fight back with me by donating on my Active Giving page, http://www.active.com/donate/nflongbeach2009/Olivia

Thank you for your support and *Never Give Up*

Monday, June 8, 2009

Revolutionary Road *spoilers*

Health, a roof over your head, food on the table, a solid job... what more could anyone ask for? Apparently for much of the middle class that is just not enough. They are "unhappy" and depressed, they want to escape, waste, and spend their way to happiness. People close to me know I have no tolerance for those who create their own drama. As we say in my house, even to my 3 year old, suck it up! Last night I was so excited to watch Revolutionary Road. Kate and Leo, reunited in a 50's period piece exploring the ups and downs of a classic pre-feminism marriage? I was sold at the first preview, as Leo threw her against a wall and passionately kissed her. Unfortunately, the previews were the best part of the film. Well, the previews and the acting. Kate and Leo play affluent, upper middle class parents of 2 beautiful young girls, and spend the entire movie whining about not being happy and wanting to escape to Paris. Apparently, as Kate says, they used to have a secret, that they were better than everybody, but then they found out they were just like everyone else.... oh boo hoo, cry me a f*cking river. The entire film was a cynical look at marriage which strived to prove that life is not real if you are married in the suburbs. Tell that to the other 90% of the world who do not exist in our bubble, and you'll get a lot more than a stone thrown at you. This movie represented to me everything wrong with our society. People making over 100 grand a year, still in debt. People getting divorced because its "just not working." Antidepressants with martini chasers. Separate vacations, and spending the family savings on "finding yourself." You want to find yourself, try looking in a mirror. Like a 5 year old who's parents never said no, spoiled middle aged adults tantrum their way through life with a shrink who encourages them to cry while simultaneously collecting from the insurance company. The movie ended with a suicide and a tear, and the only emotion I could muster was disgust for a silly little woman with a perfectly healthy body throwing it away on self-inflicted drama. Tonight when I do my nightly prayers, and again effusively thank God for my blessed life and beautiful family, I am also going to give thanks for the perspective that NF2 has given me. I would rather be sick and grateful, then healthy and deluded.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Happy 3rd Birthday Mica!

Mica turns 3 today! I cannot believe it has been 3 years since my precious crazy Mica Stinka came into my life. When I was pregnant, I was sure the name would be Isabella Michelle. The moment she was born Paul and I both looked at her and just said she looks nothing like a Bella! Micaela Estelle, at first Paul was skeptical, but then I said we can call her MICA and he was sold. She has been precocious from the start, growling at her visiting guests and rolling her eyes before she could walk. She has no patience for stupidity, and pushes her way around with a little Shirley Temple stomp. She still sucks her thumb, I hate to admit, and when I tell her to get it out of her mouth she laughs mischieviously at me as she wiggles it around. She tells Paul, "You're not funny Daddy," and looks off into the air as though she doesn't hear me when I ask her to do anything not on her agenda. Every night she demands a bedtime story, then we sing songs from Cinderella, and lately she has been singing the last lines... a dweem that you wish, will... come... twuuuuuuu. She is stubborn and adorable, a little ball of fire. She is perfect to me, and I cannot imagine my life without my little princess, she is my dream come true.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Musings of a 6 Year Old

JT is seriously getting theological on me. Today as we walked home from school I commented to him that he has been behaving so much better the last few weeks of school. The teacher's complaints have stopped, he has been finishing all of his work without (too much) whining. I am very proud of him. I asked him, what changed? He said he prayed to God to make him a good boy. I was so flabbergasted... yes I said flabbergasted! I never taught him to pray, and was immediately ashamed that I had not fostered his obviously natural spiritual inclination. So I told him I pray every night, and he said that he does too, as he falls asleep. I asked him what he prays, he said he prays for the morning to come, and for a plasma TV for his room... I tried so hard not to laugh, but will definitely be encouraging this newfound good habit of his.

Over dinner he told me he doesn't want me to get old and die. I told him, everyone has to be born, and everyone has to die, but I wont die for a very very long time, so eat your burrito. It didn't really work this time, worry etched his smooth brown face. He said he doesn't want to die either, and where will he go? I said I don't know, nobody knows, but I think you will get to go see God. That mollified him a bit. A moment later he asked when I was a baby, where was he? I said he didn't exist at the time. He could not grasp that. I finally gave in a bit and told him he was in my heart. I hate giving him unrealistic answers to honest questions, but he really had me backed into a corner. I can't exactly tell a 6 year old all about life and death. It would be so much easier if we were Christian, or Muslim, or Jewish... really any religion with specific answers to his questions, but I refuse to give him religion as a crutch. I'd rather give him sentimental cliches, such as being in my heart, and when he is old enough I hope he will appreciate that I never chose his spiritual path for him.

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