Friday, February 14, 2014

Where the Magic Happens

"This where the magic happens."  These words have been swirling around in my head since the moment we landed in San Diego last Saturday.  I give full credit to a lovely friend (you know who you are, you wonderful lady) who told me how proud she was that we were willing to listen to our instincts and pursue the treatment that felt right, and for being brave enough to step outside the societal norm.  As she so sagely put it, that's where the magic happens.  I am so very grateful for the surge of light and confidence I feel every time I feel these words.  

During our brief visit with my dear college friend in San Diego, she drove us to the mountains where we picked wild oranges and ate them fresh off the tree, then took us to see the sunset over the Pacific...where the magic happens.  

Upon arrival at Angeles Hospital, the staff and physicians have been the perfect blend of competence and cheerful kindness, working to set my cells straight and offering me confidence that I'm going to be a great patient with remission so close in my sights...where the magic happens.  

With each of the treatments I've received so far, I can feel they are doing their part to either weaken those confused, useless cells or mobilize my immune system to do its job, all without making me sick or weak...where the magic happens.

I can't believe it's been nearly five days since our arrival, and I'm happy to say that the hospital is spotless, with an extremely attentive staff, and we haven't wanted for anything.  Each treatment has gone well with no complications.  The only discomfort has been from the catheter they needed to install into my main artery for the IVs and blood draws, but that's starting to feel better already.

So far I've had two of four doses of Insulin Potentiated Therapy (IPT), a targeted low-dose chemo therapy. The oncologist used my tumor chemistry to determine which chemo drugs would have the best effect and introduces it with insulin to lower my blood sugar, effectively making the cancer cells - and only the cancer cells because they thrive on sugar - hungry so they gobble up the chemo. This has the benefit of going straight to the cells we want to remove and prevents the healthy cells from taking on the toxins.  

The analogy the doctor used was this: Think of your cells as living behind the doors of the rooms in this hospital corridor.  The rooms with cancer cells in them have several locks on them, where the normal cells may only have one lock.  Conventional chemo floods the entire hospital cooridor from the floor to the ceiling, wall-to-wall, betting on the high dose either breaking down the locks or the eventuality that the cancer cells will get hungry enough to open their doors and partake of the little toxin picnic.  Unfortunately, the normal cells get hungry in that time too, and they also take in the toxins, with what's left over still floating around in the body.  This is what results in the side effects, ranging from hair loss to nausea and vomiting to numbness and aching and so on.  

With IPT, they're able to use only 10% of the drug levels, reducing the toxicity.  Further, by coupling the chemo with the insulin, the cancer cells become so starved they rush out to get it, amplifying the effectiveness of the drug and leaving the healthy cells unharmed.  And all of this happens in about 30 minutes from start to finish for each treatment.  

Those who know me well are aware that one of my life goals is to avoid vomiting at all costs (sometimes it truly is a matter of my stubborness, but I'll do whatever it takes; even Charlie was willed into submission during his nine month stay at Hotel Kelly), so you can imagine how thrilled I am to have had no side effects from the IPT.  In the meantime, I'm picturing the "happy juice" swooshing about melting the miscreant cells away while my immune system gets pumped up and ready for its own Battle Royale.

In addition to the IPT, I've had IVs of selenium and tracefusin, which are immune boosters.  I've also had the first of several systemic ozone therapies, a process designed by Dr. Perez himself to introduce ozone and oxygen into my blood stream to break down the cancer cells.  This too was a simple IV procedure using my own blood mixed with the compounds and reintroduced through my catheter.  Another lovely short procedure with no side effects.

In addition to the doctors leading my protocol and the oncologist, we've seen a surgeon and the nutritionist.  The good news is that the restrictive diet I've been following at home has been extremely close to what they recommend (I'm sure some of you are cringing at my use of the words "good news" and "restrictive diet" in the same sentence, but the overachiever in me is relieved to already have the protocol down.  It's like getting an A on the pre-test, and yes, I'm a total nerd).  

In essence, they recommend an all-organic very low sugar, gluten-free, dairy-free, low-carbohydrate (whole grain) diet with plenty of vegetables and lean protein (wild caught fish and and hormone-free chicken, which are my preference anyway).  I can still have fruit, but given the love affair cancer cells have with sugar, even fruits are rather limited.  Unfortunately, my own life-long love affair with sweets appears to be at an end.  While it makes me a little sad to think of a lifetime without much of the sweet stuff, I'm trying to think of it as if I'm walking away from something (or someone) that was a good time but that I always knew wasn't really good for me anyway so I can focus on everything that is truly best for me.

All of the doctors have been clear that making these changes part of my lifestyle for the long run will give me optimal health and wellness, but that I do need to live a normal life.  As they put it, it's good to have a glass of wine on my birthday (though not this year, as I'll be getting IVs instead) or cake at our son's birthday party.  The key is to maintain the healthy lifestyle and not let the treats become the norm.

In practice, the nutrition plan has meant for mostly very good meals (aside from the fact that they served me salad for breakfast today; I mean, I love my veggies and all, but salad? For breakfast?).  I've had fish with asparagus and wild rice, tuna over veggies and greens, lentil soups, a veggie omelet and even a turkey sandwich on gluten-free bread. They bring me three squares a day with three snacks (one of which is a rather unpleasant drink consisting of grainy protein powder mixed with water and a couple of berries, but down the hatch in the name of good health).  Other snacks have included guacamole with whole grain gluten-free chips, celery with almond butter, roasted nuts and green juices. 

Dave - who by the way has been the best cancer camp buddy and Waterboy I could ever ask for, always making sure I'm comfortable and have everything I could possibly need - also has been fed very well.  While he's not getting my special organic cancer diet, the regular hospital food they've been serving him is leaps and bounds above anything we've ever seen served in a hospital back home.  He's getting fresh fruits and veggies, lean proteins and whole grains too.

To fill our time during and between treatments, we've been doing a lot of reading, working on crosswords and watching some Netflix, which has suited me well the past few days, as I have been taking it easy while the catheter soreness subsides.  We have, however, been able to get out to enjoy some sunshine in the hospital's courtyard, and after the brutal winter we've had up north, it is luxurious. Frankly, something as simple as feeling the sun on my face and catching a whiff of the sunblock on my skin is pretty intoxicating after feeling like my nose hairs were frozen for most of the month of January.

All around, I am just so incredibly blessed to be here and am confident we are in the right place for my treatment.  The magic is happening, people. I can feel it.

So Happy Valentines Day to all of you, my lovies!  My gift this year is the love I know you're sending me from near and far away.  It fills my heart near to bursting.

Much love and magic to you all!


Jason said...

I'm so happy to hear everything is going well. Sandy and I send our love and prayers. If you need anything just let us know.

Wendy OldTownHome said...

Thinking about you and Dave, and sending much love to you from NoVa!

Margaret Thresher said...

Thank you for sharing your journey with us, Kelly! The sun is shining bright back here in Ohio and I am thinking of you.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing all of this with us. Think of you everyday! The groupies at the club all ask about you and I can tell them thanks to this blog you share. Hang in there...keeping the prayers rolling.
xoxoxoxo Karen

Ali T said...

I'm proud of you too Kelly! Glad to hear all is well. I'm with you on the salad for breakfast though! Sending my positive, happy, healing thoughts your way! love ya!

Anonymous said...

We love you Kels! So glad you guys are there doing well an getting weller (that's a Debbie word). Hugs snd kisses, we'll update you of the trip later!

-Debbie Z and fam

Anonymous said...

Thinking of you and enjoying your updates. I had to share the I love you picture of Charlie with our team. it was so cute and very thoughtful of the person who sent it to you. We miss you here know you are doing what you need to get back to 110%. And the food sounds really good actually. Love, Terri

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