Thursday, June 26, 2014

Now You C it/Now you don’t

It’s the diagnosis no one wants to hear…carcinoma/cancer.  Mine came on October 8, 2013 following the discovery of a lump in my left breast during an annual wellness exam.  I had felt it prior to the doc’s notice of it but dismissed it; I’d lost a fair amount of weight and thought it was dense tissue that was just now palpable. What a stupidhead!  The doc did not take it so lightly and had me in a diagnostic workup the next day, followed by a guided needle biopsy. I watched the biopsy to keep from being nervous (thank God for deadenin’ stuff); it was fascinating and only painful when they clipped a bit of tissue from the lump. Of course, when you’re waiting for results of a BIOPSY, time stands absolutely still. With previous surgery for a lump many years ago, I was convinced it was a benign ‘being’ and we’d deal with it post haste. NOT. Things moved pretty swiftly from there…and within a few days I was in the hands (literally) of a gifted, skilled and pretty damned funny oncology surgeon, Dr. Phillip Ley (forever now known to me as 'Doc Solid'). He validated that my tumor was very small, caught VERY EARLY and the most curable of breast cancers. I was mostly oblivious to any really fright following that UNTIL he said something to the effect of “I think I can save your breast”. THAT got my attention…the thought of losing my breast had NEVER entered my mind. The choices were a lumpectomy followed by radiation and a 5 year program of a preventative medication (such as Tamoxifen or Aromasin) OR removing the breast with reconstructive surgery. I opted for the lumpectomy as the tumor was small and my risk factors for recurrence were extremely low. So, about a month later, I had the surgery on an out-patient basis; went well and I was up and at ‘em pretty quickly. Radiation began after I was healed up and lasted 6 weeks (5 days a week). The folks at The Cancer Center of St. Dominic were just awesome, caring and compassionate.

I had a chance to discuss my eating lifestyle with the Registered Dietitian at St. Dominic and since then we have become pretty good buddies. She’s sent me some good resources for protein and we have swapped some recipes as well. If nothing else, everyone’s awareness of how healthy a vegan can be has been raised. Like the Radiology doc said, “(You) sailed through this treatment like I thought you would.” I had none of the fatigue or ‘sinking spells’ that were possible (especially toward the end of the 6 weeks), went straight from treatment to the gym and was determined not to miss a beat.

I did have a bit of a burn where the rays were aimed and on my last day, the doc prescribed Silvadene ointment/salve for me. Most of you have heard this story but in case you haven’t….here goes.

Big Solid and I were going out for dinner with friends one evening so I thought I would apply my Silvadene, sit in my robe for a while and let it sink in before getting dressed.  So, I slapped it on, donned my robe and sat down to read for a bit. The area started kinda burning and I thought “hmmm…must be working well”.  About 15 minutes later, I figured all of the salve had sunk in and I could get dressed.  Well, I took off my robe and saw that the cream was still very present and had not been absorbed AT ALL.  Then I looked down on the counter of the vanity and noticed that I had applied TOM’S TOOTHPASTE instead of the Silvadene.  Once again, the thought of ‘what a stupidhead’ ran through. I washed off the toothpaste (along with about 3 layers of skin) and re-applied the CORRECT STUFF!

Through all of this, Big Solid (Larry) was like my bestest care-giver EVER. He didn't hover but he was always there. It's sometimes hard to remember that the spouses and loved ones of folks with cancer have pretty intense feelings and struggles of their own. One of the things we did that I think helped us out a LOT was to talk about what we were feeling. It was nice to be able to ask "what are you feeling about all this?" and have an honest and sometimes emotional talk.  Big Solid isn't called Big Solid for nuthin'

I am convinced that the plant-based eating regimen had a significant impact on the rapid healing and the sustained energy levels.  Realizing that not everyone is geared up to be vegan or vegetarian, I can only suggest looking at the data and research on the benefits of plant-based eating and then try a day or so a week. It’s a personal decision but one that can have significant health rewards for you.

I can tell you that I am one of the truly lucky ones and will NEVER put off another mammogram. Please don't yourownself...get 'er done.
I recently made a trip to Memphis, TN to visit an old friend, Wilma Davis. Whenever I am in the area, we LOVE to eat at Imagine Vegan Café and this time was no exception. Located at 2299 Young Avenue in ‘mid-town’ Memphis, Imagine Vegan Café takes comfort food to the vegan level.  With a menu that boasts old southern favorites such as Beef Tips over Rice, Shrimp Po-Boys, Eggplant Parmesan, Chicken and Waffles and of course, BBQ Memphis style…it’s hard to ‘imagine’ that everything on their ambitious menu is vegan. YET IT IS!! It’s often a great way to introduce people to the fact that vegan food does not mean the end of flavor or ‘food as you know it’.  This often does not set well with some vegans (many tend to disparage even the attempt at food that is non-vegan such as faux meats or dairy). It’s a personal choice. For me, it’s a fun and funky place to eat and their DESSERTS are to die for! You’d NEVER believe they were vegan either...just look at some of the pictures on their website (link is posted below). In the dessert cooler the night we were there were:  Chocolate Cherry Bread Pudding, Almond Joy Cake, Chocolate Whoopie Pies, and an assortment of cupcakes that could be presented on Cupcake Wars. 

Since we had a late lunch, I selected the ‘chicken’ and ‘bacon’ sandwich with a side order of garlicky kale. Wilma had the Shrimp Po’Boy which she said was delicious.  We could have done with slightly less ‘dressing’ on the sandwiches but the bottom line is that they were quite tasty and very filling.

The Imagine Vegan Café is located in an old house and has 3 small dining rooms. This often lends itself to ‘getting to know your dining mates’ and this trip was no exception. We chatted with a woman and her daughter from Arkansas (their first trip to Imagine Café) and a mom and her son who was visiting from the San Francisco area (which is fraught with vegan opportunities)—it was their first visit as well. Before we left, we were all good buddies!

So, if you are ever in Memphis and want to try a good vegan comfort food and dessert place, by all means go to the Imagine Vegan Café. You can scope out the menu at this link and see for yourself all the goodness of southern comfort food that is all totally vegan.

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