All I can Do is Smile


The gray area that I didn’t know existed

My appointment with my oncologist was moved to Wednesday and I didn’t tell anyone (except Kenji) and for that I’m low-key grateful. The appointment left me in unfamiliar territory, something I was not expecting, nor really prepared for.

By the way, before I get on with it, can we just laugh for a moment about the audacity I had in thinking, “Oh, we’ve been here before. We’ve gotten the worst news possible and we handled it. We can handle it again.” (Which is true.)


We have another curve ball. Once again, life shows me just how little I actually control.

The short answer is: I don’t have a definitive answer.

Which is how I found myself, after my appointment (and some retail therapy at Home Goods), sitting at home unable to quickly disseminate the results. Nor did I have the energy or desire to do so. With anyone. Kenji only knew the details because he was on the speaker phone for the appointment (technology, for the win!).

Which, I know, is TOTALLY FINE and COMPLETELY NORMAL. I need my own space. I need to absorb and process the information I’m given. To sit with the emotions and scattered thoughts, and allow myself to be still in that place.

Or be an absolute mess sometimes, too — whatever.

I’m still in that place. I’m restless and panicky one second; calm and collected the next. It. is. exhausting. But I’m doing okay, and I promise to start replying to your messages/calling you back soon.

So, without further ado, here’s what’s true right now:

The PET scan showed activity (uptake). Coupled with my rising CA-125 blood marker (which is at 80 now, versus 60 a month ago, and 30 the month before that) — it means there’s SOMETHING happening. However — and this is a big however — the various uptakes in the scan were classified as “mild,” which means some of the areas could simply be inflammation. The same areas as last year are lighting up though, just less than last year.

Sidebar: Want to know how a PET scan works?

In plainer English, the results of THIS year’s PET scan were BETTER (relatively speaking) than LAST year’s. Even better news, there was no activity of tumors or lesions.

But, they also could be catching it earlier than we did last year.

So there’s that.

Which leaves us with the options: treatment or no action.

Treatment means chemo. There are two drugs, carboplatin and doxol — they can be used separately, or together; we can start with one and add the other; and vice versa. We would not use gemzar because my oncologist believes that was the cause of my issues with the 2nd round of treatment,

No action speaks for itself. We keep doing what we’re doing, but with closer monitoring. We’d continue the blood marker of CA-125, and add back in the HE-4 for comparison. We do another PET in 2 months

We tried the nuclear option (chemo) last time and it almost killed me. So, I’m leaning heavily toward no action.

Before I do that, I’m getting 2nd and 3rd opinions.

The first comes from John Hopkins — my biological aunt works there and has already passed along what information I do have to an expert there. Because nothing can be easy when it comes to healthcare, I have to go to Kaiser in person to get the full scope of my medical record since the online portal doesn’t give me actual imaging.

I’ve also sent the details to Dr. Tierney, and she’s taking a look. I’m stoked she’s already in the Kaiser system, so hopefully getting her access to my records will be less of a hoop jump.

Here’s some other positive news to consider:

  1. I have no symptoms. I’m eating (and pooping, huzzah!) with no issues; my fitness is improving; and I generally feel pretty damn good.
  2. Dr. Tewari (current oncologist) was super open to the “no action” option — he has strong opinions, so the fact that this seems reasonable to him (he used those words) means I’m not totally crazy to consider it.

Here’s the other thing: I can’t (and won’t) blog in real time anymore. At least, not for this portion of the journey. I put undue pressure (read: stress) on myself because I care so much about how all of you feel. I feel obligated to make others feel comfortable at my own discomfort. It’s how I get you to like me. Believe me, I’m working through this in therapy.

But worry not! You’re not rid of me that easily. I will still share news and updates, I promise. Just a little bit later and (hopefully) with less urgency. With cancer, everything can feel like a fire drill and that’s simply not the case. Nor is it helpful to anyone.

Oh, all the lessons this stupid disease keeps teaching me. You know my first. Now, we have this: there’s no reason to get all worked up about anything.

And, just so you can hold me to it later, I promise to ask for help (in the middle of releasing control and not getting worked up).




The rollercoaster

The below post was written the day I received some not-so-great news in early February. I’ve been sitting on this news, sharing only with a few and as the weeks have passed, sharing more in person with what’s on the horizon, which essentially is a giant bag of shitty unknowns.

I told myself I didn’t want to burden anyone with the emotional rollercoaster that is my health. What I realized was I didn’t want to burden myself with the stress of having to repeat, over and over again, that we don’t know anything yet, that there’s nothing to be done, and that we just have to wait. And we know my feelings on waiting are: fuck that.

Thank you for giving me a space where I can be honest — I’m overwhelmingly grateful for the support you have provided. Fact is, the emotional roller coaster of living with cancer is overwhelming. The highs and lows take a toll. And, since we’re being honest, getting news I can do nothing about until I have more information made me turn inward, instead of outward.

No “RALLY THE TROOPS!” this time around. We’ve been here before, and while its devastating to consider a third round of treatment, that’s not what I’m facing. Yet. Or at all.  We just. don’t. know.

I needed the space to be alone with my thoughts and to sit with the feelings that come. Frustration. Sadness. Hope. Anger. Gratitude. Fear.

So much fear. Because the unknown IS fear and vice versa. So, before I share my news (which you may have already guessed is not the great), here’s a reminder from Elizabeth Gilbert, about allowing emotions into our lives, but not letting them control it.

” Fear: I recognize and respect that you are part of this family, and so I will never exclude you from our activities, but still — your suggestions will never be followed. You’re allowed to have a seat and you’re allowed to have a voice, but you are not allowed to have a vote. You’re not allowed to touch the road maps; you’re not allowed to suggest detours; you’re not allowed to fiddle with the temperature. Dude, you’re not even allowed to touch the radio. But, above all else, my dear and old familiar friend, you are absolutely forbidden to drive.”

February 13, 2018

One minute, you’re celebrating one lab result; the next, a gut punch of another. This is cancer. Hell, this this life.

Peace of mind is an illusion. It’s an imaginary space we build inside to protect ourselves from an impossibly unpredictable world.

My CA-125 levels doubled in the past month. My oncologist is concerned. The next step is a PET scan, which is scheduled March 1.

We’re hoping the PET simply confirms the accuracy of my clear CT from last month. The problem with a PET is that it shows minutia, and radiologists tend to report anything and everything they see within it.


My oncologist told me he has another patient whose CA-125 levels are over 300 (far above where mine were when I was first diagnosed) and her PETs are negative, so there are false positives. A glimmer of hope, perhaps.

As I said to my doc, it’s obviously disappointing to receive this news.

But of course, what I really mean is, this fucking sucks.

I have a follow up March 9. We will go from there.


CT results, why Trader Joe’s is my life force, and the life-long lesson of letting things go

Isn’t it remarkable how a simple test result can pivot your entire mood?

I mean, certainly, waiting for a CT result is by no means simple, but hearing the words “no evidence of disease” changes, well, everything.

I didn’t realize how much anxiety I was carrying. I knew I was on edge, but it wasn’t apparent just HOW MUCH I was worried. It feels like an enormous weight has been lifted off my shoulders.

That feeling is fleeting, because there’s always another test coming, but right now I’m basking in the glory of the results. A moment in the sunshine until the work continues.

Guess this means I’ll be sticking to keto a little longer…

Speaking of which: I reached a breaking point last week with keto.

Actually, let me back up.

I reached a breaking point in life about a month ago, when we were preparing for a house swap with Kenji’s parents. We renovated our condo with a new master bathroom and painted the entire house. All within a a few weeks of the move. If that wasn’t enough to get on with, our kitchen sink overflowed with gray water from our upstairs neighbor’s plumbing “fix” and we had to rip out and replace our flooring while in the midst of the other renovations.


And thus, brought on so. many. panic attacks.

Those close to me know I have a hard time asking for help or delegating (#becausecontrol; something I’m working on in 2018), so I acknowledge that much of my stress was self-made.

I told myself that once we got past the move, I’d be fine.


We immediately started kitchen renovations at our new place.

And were woefully unprepared for what having no kitchen (namely, the sink) meant.

Which brings me back to my original statement. Last week, I was angry at the work it takes to stick with keto. I even started telling myself that if the CT scan didn’t show any difference, I was going to blow up this diet idea and eat all the goddamn ice cream I could get my hands on.

If it hadn’t been for my incredible mother-in-law — who has been feeding us each night — I might have gone off the keto rails.

The truth is, it’s not about keto. Well, not entirely. It’s really about allowing a hundred little tiny annoyances pile up, instead of just letting that shit go. Instead, every new small annoyance turned into an immediate rage maker. (IKEA file cabinet, I’m looking at you.)

Keto has been a source of stress since the beginning. So, OF COURSE adding other stressors is going to make things worse. I mean, DUH.

We’re still another week away before we have a functioning kitchen. And as I was planning my week, which typically includes a meal plan, I couldn’t continue with “fuck it” as the answer to our food needs.

Which is how a trip to Trader Joe’s saved my sanity. We made a haul out of their frozen foods and refrigerated goodies. (Pork belly, rack of lamb, scallops & mushroom, creme fraîche, paté, chunks of coconut…)

I guess the whole point of this story is simply to remember that you can ask for help. One of the biggest reasons I often don’t is because I feel like I’m being a burden. But my people love me (and your people love you) and they want to help, more often than not.

Another lesson in all of this is to recognize the source of stress, and if you can do something about it, change it. And if you can’t, change your attitude.

No kitchen = no sink = doing dishes SUCKS = find easy-to-prepare foods. Instead of just saying “We’ll figure it out” and being mad when that doesn’t work out so well.

Also, the kitchen is starting to look like a kitchen! So that makes me happy.



Sidebar: I’d like to add, that I know this is SO #firstworldproblems. I’m lucky and grateful for these problems. But sometimes, we need to vent and self-reflect.


Life after with cancer

I know I’ve been all-keto-all-the-time the past few months (when you make a big change like that, it has a way of taking over every facet of your life). Still, as we come to the end of another year of life with cancer, I’m finding some time to reflect on how far we’ve come.

I have fond childhood memories of the holidays. So much so, that Kenji tolerates my decorating for the season, despite the fact we aren’t religious. To me, the holiday season is less about the birth of a certain individual, and more about the magic and wonder of the season. It’s about being together as a family, reading stories, playing games and laughing.


That’s a sweet Okidata 126 printer right there. It came with my first computer, a Commodore 64 (green screen and all)!

Intermingled with these recollections are adult memories of recent years passed.

Two years ago, life turned on a dime. Kenji and I went from trying to expand our family to trying to save our family.

Last December, we celebrated the hard fought battle be believed we had won.


Playing Cards Against Humanity (Olivia’s reaction in the lower right corner to one of the cards) was the highlight of the evening, in my opinion.

This December, we have much to celebrate and be grateful for, not least of which is my health at the moment, but it’s tinged with a bit of sorrow.

It’s a weird place to be in… one of limbo where your health isn’t guaranteed, but you still have to keep living your normal, everyday life. Back to our regularly scheduled program, right?

Just as suddenly as everything begins, it ends. The chemo is over. Your hair grows back. You start working again. Your cyclical routine of doctor’s appointments, cat scans, lab work, and infusions is no longer. A new routine of grocery shopping, exercise, and activities emerges and fills your life.

But, in the back of my mind, there always exists that “what if?” If I linger there too long, the feeling of despair and fear overwhelms me. It’s not something I can completely ignore, but I’ve done a lot of work the past year and a half to be able to live simultaneously for today and with a precarious future in mind.

Every single day is work. And every single day, you have to be believe it’s worth it.

2017 has been one hell of a roller coaster — for the whole world, not just my little speck of dust in the universe. If I’ve learned anything from this past year, it’s that the roller coaster isn’t stopping anytime soon. So, we better just learn to enjoy the ride, right?

2018, we’re coming for you.

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The science of why I’m doing this

In case you missed it, I published a page with cold, hard facts around why I’m doing this crazy thing.

Check it out:

And, because we have time, here’s a photo of a dogs wearing hats, courtesy of r/dogswearinghats and u/DyneDenethor, who posts photos of these three regularly.




Praise be to strawberries

Back in college, I had a “Do It Yourself Genius Kit,” which was a collection of 4 tiny books (seriously, like 1.5″ wide by 2″ high) with a different random fact on each page. For instance, Napoleon was afraid of cats, and blondes have thicker hair than brunettes. Stuff like that.

You can tell that some of it has stuck with me.

I thought of another fact while I was grocery shopping: lemons have more sugar than strawberries.

Thanks to the age of smart phones, I have determined this is not true! (Napoleon is a maybe, and blondes have more, although not necessarily thicker, hair.)

But! Strawberries are significantly less sugar than “regular” fruit.

You bet your sweet ass I picked up a clam shell of strawberries. I don’t even care that they’re going to taste like nothing since they’re out of season. Also picked up some heavy whipping cream. You see where I’m going with this? A keto-friendly dessert that doesn’t break the carb-bank and keeps my sugar monster at bay.


Oh strawberries, I’m going to eat you up so good. Strawberry shortcake! (Without the cake.)


Keto Life: The First 30 Days

Technically, it’s been 38 days, but who’s counting? Certainly not me. Most definitely not me.

We’ve hit the one-month mark and I’m not dead! Or miserable!

Well, except when we watch the Great British Bake-Off, which is essentially TORTURE, and I want to eat all the things, and I remember how wonderful bread and pastries were….

*deep breath* We should probably stop doing this to ourselves, but the people are the show are just SO FUCKING BRITISH — which is to say, they’re simply lovely, and nice, and say stereotypical British-type things like “I’m dead chuffed,” and “Bollocks,” and “Bang on.”

Note to self: must find new fluffy British show to watch. Any recommendations out there? (Francie, I’m looking at you.)

Moving along, we have hit our first milestone: 30 days. As you well know from my week-by-week updates, there has been a TON of learning that occurred this past month.

Here are the top 3 things I would have told Day 1 me:

  1. Cook the same, but make it low-carb
    If you already eat whole foods, don’t worry so much about following someone else’s meal plans. Take your favorite (and easiest) recipes and make them low-carb. Supplement with keto-friendly recipes as needed.
  2. Remember net carbs are different than total carbs
    Many vegetables I was initially avoiding have far fewer carbohydrates than I thought. Spinach is your friend. So are avocados. Calorie counting apps can only tell you so much, and can sometimes be misleading! (I’m looking at you, FitnessPal.)
  3. Drink enough water. Seriously. Like it’s going out of style.
    I read this advice over and over again, but it wasn’t until I had massive cramping in my calves each morning that I finally understood this to be true. There I go learning the hard way, again. Start drinking water EARLY in the day so you don’t have to cram it all in at bedtime and then have to get up to pee every 3 hours, all night.

Do I still want to shove my face into anything sugary or dough-like? Yes, but less than I used to. The sugar monster who lives inside of me has quieted a bit. The desire to just chuck this whole thing out the window, and consume an entire box of oreos with milk and a side of pudding (because go big or go home, right?) has lessened. So that’s something.

Onward, ho!