Friday, April 29, 2016

Still Here My Dears!

Hello my friends and family! I am finally updating! Thank you to my friends out there for letting me know you wanted to hear how things were. It lit a fire under me to get moving on the blog.

Things with my health are perfect! I had scans in late January of this year and my scans came back clean-again! I repeat myself every time but it completely shocks me every time. It humbles me and re-energizes me. I am still gonna be here for awhile!

I am still getting my blood work done every 2 months and my scans every six months. I don't think that routine will change for quite a while if at all. Maybe when I am 80 or 90? Maybe for my 80th birthday I will have the courage to get my port taken out!

Everyone here in the Shanahan household is great. The kids are now 10 and 12 growing up great and being kids. Fran is working hard and running all the time all over the place and I am living and breathing and working and loving being alive! 

So this past April 7th marked the 9th year from my diagnosis. I had tumors in my liver but didn't know what that meant. I didn't know what stage 4 meant. I didn't know anything. Now 9 years later I feel like I know too much. I asked a lot of questions in the "early days" which is important and good. Always question and make sure your with the right people who will treat you.

 Through this cancer and remission experience, I am very lucky to be able to talk to a lot of folks with stage 4 colon cancer through emails that I get through this blog, and through a great organization called Cancer Hope Network. In essence, they match cancer survivors to cancer patients. I consider it a privilege to work with them. 

Through speaking to people the one main question I get asked is if I did anything with my diet or alternative medicine. I understand this question and when I was first diagnosed asked those same questions. Dr. Moriarty said that I could try alternative things in conjunction with chemo but he stressed it wouldn't do anything for the tumors. In regards to diet, all the nurses, Dr. Moriarty, along with the oncology dietitian I met with encouraged me to eat. Period. Keep the calories going in so my body can do what it needs to do. 

Now I am not a doctor and I am not qualified to give medical advice of any kind (only dental)! But I am a qualified cancer patient. I feel very passionate about this topic because there is a lot of stuff out there that preys on the very raw and ragged fears and anxieties that cancer patients have.

I never changed my diet. I ate pretty healthy before I was diagnosed. Fruits, vegetables, drank tons of water, ate lean protein and I worked out. I also had my sweets and kept things in balance. After my diagnosis I did the same thing. Except- except for when I had chemo. The first few days eating and staying hydrated was the greatest challenge. Sometimes I would barely eat and just sip Gatorade (I now despise Gatorade). If the next day I felt like eating a bowl of ice cream I would eat that. Once the chemo funk lifted I would go back to my regular eating routine. My point is I am still here. I know everyone is different and has their own beliefs. But when you have stage 4 colon cancer you are fighting for your life. There is so other way to say it. So I don't think starving yourself before chemo, or not eating any sugar etc. is going to help you at all. You are making yourself even more miserable, and depriving your body of the nutrients and carbohydrates it needs to fight back, to keep your muscles strong, to keep your immune system from collapsing. To keep you from losing your mind!!
I know people who did all different kinds of things. They followed traditional medicine protocol with chemo and added,with the approval of their doctor, alternative medicine. Some stopped eating sugar. Some people like my very dear and wise friend Don when he felt good, and his tongue could taste-enjoyed all the culinary delights the world had to offer. I know someone who refused chemo and insisted on eating a "special cancer diet" of cottage cheese, peaches, and peanut butter.
All of these brave people have passed away. My point being this late stage cancer stuff is a crap shoot. I know that sounds cold and unfeeling, but it's true. I can't say there is anything or anybody I know of who manged to get rid of cancer by diet. It is also what any peer reviewed, evidenced based medical journal will tell you.

In regards to people wondering if they should even do chemo and well meaning friends and family members cautioning them not to do it. I would not do that. Please don't tell someone who has cancer not to do to chemo. Unless of course on sound medical advice the doctors tell the patient they are too far along for help. That is a different situation, and not what I am talking about.

Chemo rots. It's rotten. It's toxic nasty stuff. But so are the tumors my friends, so are the tumors.
Chemo made me very sick. It made me bald, it made my mouth and throat full of sores. It made the soles of my feet feel badly sunburned making walking painful, it made some of my toenails fall off. It made me so nauseous and exhausted I wouldn't leave my bed all day and I fantasized about having a catheter so I wouldn't even have to get up to go to the bathroom. I was covered in pustulant, painful and sometimes oozing sores, and being in the sun made me feel like I had acid being poured on my face, my fingers were covered in bleeding fissures. Not to mention the explosive diarrhea followed by it's alter ego constipation.  But guess what? It shrunk my tumors. It shrunk my colon tumor in so far as it was not there anymore. It disappeared. My tumors which were so many, and big (8 in my liver) that I could palpate them and feel them through my stomach. Chemo shrunk them enough that I was a candidate for surgery. Something that was just a dream for so long, was now possibly achievable. All because of chemo and my bodies response to it.

Please understand I am not judging anyone who has been on chemo and has had enough or who decide they don't want to do it at all. It's not my life it's theirs. I am giving my opinion on the general questions I get asked in regards to chemo and diet. 

People say there is a big conspiracy going on and there is actually a cure for cancer! Did you know this? But too bad for us because all the doctors in all the whole wide world are hiding it from us along with big pharma so they can get rich on whatever they make from us little sicklings on chemo. Maybe one day Indiana Jones will find it deep in some jungle somewhere in special little vials guarded by a lot of booby traps.

But until that happens this is what we have. Chemo. Some people have hardly any side effects compared to me and compared to others. Everyone reacts differently.  I know of an amazing woman in Scotland who emailed me. She has stage 4 colon cancer. She gets chemo every two weeks. She also works full time as a pediatric nurse, and works out more times a week than I do, doing boot camps and kickboxing and all kinds of stuff. That is the other side of it. You may not have any side effects.

When you stop for a second and think about it, think about all the commercials we watch for Viagra, Humira, every birth control on the market. Or just look up any medication. They are loaded with side effects. Some pretty scary ones. Chemo is no different.

To the newly diagnosed, I understand it is so scary when you read all the side effects there are. But you don't know which ones you are going to get and how strong or mild they are going to be. Once you start you get an idea of how you are going to react and you can kind of plan your life around that as you go. When we are diagnosed, life is worth living and we have to try. You can do it. If there is anyone out there peddling something else that is not proven they are lying to you and preying on your fears. This is what makes me so angry, because sometimes people listen to these quacks out of fear and desperation and they die, they never had a chance.

Maybe one day there will be a cure. It is something I pray for. There are better drugs coming out all the time and who knows where immunotherapy and cancer vaccines will take us in the future of cancer.  But right now lets use what we have and try to be brave and surround ourselves with loved ones who's support and love is better than any medicine out there.

I want to thank everyone who has been emailing me and sending comments to encourage me to update the blog and let you all know I am still healthy and still in remission. God's mercy knows no bounds.

I want to encourage people to continue to email me if they want to through the contact page. I am happy to talk to you, and consider it a privilege.

Please let's continue to stop and smell the roses. Focus on your here and now. Put away the phones and be with your children. Tell your children to put away their phones and be with their parents (ha ha)! Enjoy your family and friends for who they are and where they are at, and love who God created you to be. Beautiful and perfect as you are. Time and life is precious.

All My Warmest and Best,


carmen said...

Happy to read this post with which I totally agree. Big kisses, Karen.

teresa loughnane said...

Sound words from an incredibly brave and sound individual who I am priviliged to call my sister in law. Fran really won the lottery the day he met you.... and so did we! Love you loads Karen. xxx

Michelle said...

That's encouraging Karen, I was dx with Stage 4 colon cancer last May, I've been on chemo, it started with pills, then he put a port in to start Iv Chemo, I like you, didn't understand anything, and I've been a nurse for 20+ years.I had a large tumor in my rectum, that I had dx as a internal hemorrhoid. ..Finally I stayed to see blood in the stool, I was losing weight ,5lbs a week. ..Couldn't take vomiting no more. And finally I went to the ER.. they did a lot of scans, but no one told me what was going on until the next day. .Stage Iv colon cancer with several lesions in my liver, the largest one reaction, "what's the next step" He liked at me funny and said chemo, my reply "when do we start"..that was last year, this makes 1 year with chemo, never lost my hair, matteter of fact my hair Grew, eyebrows, eyelashes, underarm etc, no n/v, sores in my mouth the first couple of months, increased energy, working out, I did become vegan, My issue is my last scan in Feb the results were the tumor was gone, 1 lesion that had shrunk to .5cm and no other lesions noted. .So today I asked the Dr for another scan, and if the results are even better, what's the plan, He stated " to keep me on chemo indefinitely to avoid reoccurence, that didn't sit well with me, and I'm considering stopping the chemo myself. ..If it is no cancer cells and my liver is clear, what is the chemo working on, killing my new cells. ..a little scared about my decision. ..Any advice

Anna Hendy said...

I live in Australia. On the other side of the world and my husband (aged 29) was diagnosed with stage 4 bowel cancer last year in June.
I spent hours initially trawling the internet trying to find hope. Which is the one thing that was not provided from us by our initial doctors.
Well we divorced those Drs and now have a brilliant new relationship with a wonderful oncologist who has worked hard with Jae and I to get him NED at the moment.
Initially, when I first found your blog, I read it in its entirety, and now I periodically come back to this page to check in with you, see how you are doing and HOPING for more HOPE.
You have provided this for me and my husband and I could not be more grateful.
I am so happy that you are doing so well and that you and your family are continuing to live and love each other.
Thank you for sharing your incredible story!! Much love x x x x

Margaret Birchall said...

Hello Karen, found your blog today. My brother was diagnosed with stag 4 colon cancer in November 2015. Told by oncologist that he was terminal and could possibly have 3 years. He started chemo and has so far had about 17 sessions. He's had positive results with his scans, his first one showed that the liver tumour had reduced by more than half and his next one showed further reduction and also a reduction in the lymph node cancer. Last week he had a scan and yesterday got the amazing results, everything is Unremarkable!! Not sure what's happening next but I will show him your blog, it is so lovely to read your news. So wonderful you are doing so well. Best wishes Margaret

Margaret Birchall said...

Hello Karen, found your blog today. My brother was diagnosed with stag 4 colon cancer in November 2015. Told by oncologist that he was terminal and could possibly have 3 years. He started chemo and has so far had about 17 sessions. He's had positive results with his scans, his first one showed that the liver tumour had reduced by more than half and his next one showed further reduction and also a reduction in the lymph node cancer. Last week he had a scan and yesterday got the amazing results, everything is Unremarkable!! Not sure what's happening next but I will show him your blog, it is so lovely to read your news. So wonderful you are doing so well. Best wishes Margaret

Lauren H said...

Hi Karen,
My husband was recently diagnosed with bowel cancer and I have desperately been trawling he Internet for some positive stories. He's yet to be formerly "staged" but the docs think it's 3 possibly 4. Thank you so much for posting your progress, you give so many people hope and it's brilliant to read your story. xx

Natalie Baker said...

Thank you for this wonderful Post on Colonoscopy. Your post makes me feel better

Jenny Lynne said...

I was diagnosed with stage 3 colon cancer in January 2014. I was very sick, because I was completely obstructed by a tumor. After a resection, ileostomy, and chemo for 6 months, I felt better. Always somewhat worried, but physically, I felt good. In July this year, I had my 2 year scans which showed a small lung nodule. I had it removed and it was a colon cancer met. Today, I saw my oncologist and he said the survival rate drops to 30%. I'm having a hard time with this information. I am almost 48, with one child who just started college and 2 more still in school. I love my life. Your last post makes me feel hopeful. I'm still scared and I know I will have times where it hits me, but I am planning on doing what you said and focusing on the here and now. Thank you for that message.

kingstonGA said...

Your post makes me feel better. Colorectal cancer is a very common cancer in sydney Australia.

Self BTrue said...

Hi, I'm glad I found your blog. I found out yesterday I have N.E.D after 8 rounds.
I'm going in for a second opinion, just because I want one.There aren't very many stage 4 colon cancer survivors out there, just wanted to connect. Now to walk hand and hand with survivors guilt & survivors gratefulness.

S. Mar. said...

Hi Karen, I just found your blog today. I had colon surgery last Thursday and yesterday my doctor call me to tell me a bunch of complicated words but 2 things were clear. I need to see an oncologist and I need chemo. I still in pain and recovering but I don't know what and when to do things. Everything is new for me. I wish there were like support groups or something where some colon cancer people meet and talk about all this here in Austin, Tx.
Keep posting when you can. We are going to keep reading. Thanks. Sylvia

Lee H Wells said...

Did you track your CEA levels? What importance did your doc place on CEA? Did they fluctuate during chemo or surgery? What is considered high or is everyone's different? Thank you.

Karen Shanahan said...

@Lee H. Wells, yes we did keep track of the cea levels. For me they seemed to follow what the disease was doing. If the tumors were growing they went up and vice versa. But that is not the same situation for many people. My oncologist used it as a guide, but a guide only. I don't know what would be considered high. I would ask your doctor. All the best to you!