Another year, another cancerversary….

Happy two year cancerversary to me.  Wow. Time really does fly. I can’t believe another year has gone by.  I also can’t believe that I now mark time by my cancercerversary — more so than my birthday. Weird.

As I get further and further away from my diagnosis date, I’m learning some important lessons and coping skills.  While cancer (and it’s potential recurrence or mets) are still at the forefront of my mind everyday, I’ve gotten much better at acknowledging those thoughts, and then filing them at the back of my brain and carrying on with my day.

I’m not sure what changed or why I’m coping better these days. I suspect it has a lot to do with the life that’s growing inside of me! I put our daughter before myself now — even though she’s still in utero. I don’t have time to let the past haunt me.

Don’t get me wrong though, while I feel less afraid of recurrence (or perhaps more at peace with the fact that I’m not in control of whether or not I have a recurrence) this year saw a new set of issues crop up…  Recently I’ve struggled a lot with survivors guilt.  How is it possible that I had cancer, took all the steps that the doctors recommended — and it all WORKED.  I’m still NED and I’m pregnant on top of that. So much good luck and fortune smiling down on me.

Yet, I know people who did all of the same things I did, but their cancer didn’t go away. In some cases, those people are no longer with us.  It’s so hard to wrap my head around all of this.  But it’s my reality. Though I can’t help wondering why them and not me?

I don’t have the answers to any of this at the moment, I’m just slowly trudging through these waters and trying to remind myself that my feelings are legitimate and normal.  And I focus on our family – I marvel every time baby girl Sieminski kicks inside my belly. It’s such an amazing feeling that jolts me back into reality and reminds me to be happy — to revel in all of our good fortune.

Speaking of good fortune — we’re currently in Buffalo visiting our newest niece, Anna Yasodhara! She is the cutest, smushiest, yummiest love bug I’ve ever seen.  Paul is madly in love with her! I can tell he’s beyond excited for the arrival of our bundle of joy! Watching him coo over her makes me love him even more (didn’t know that was possible!).

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Our lovely sister-in-law, Sandy, is throwing us a baby shower this afternoon.  I truly can’t think of a better activity to do on this cancerversary! OH! Here’s another tidbit for you — today is not only my two year cancerversary — but it also marks the first day of my third trimester! Whoot!

Obligatory bump pic below:

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Curiosity Killed the Cat

2014 is shaping up to be a fine year — much better than craptastic 2013!

As you know, we’re finally pregnant (yay!). So many of you have reached out to offer your congratulations. I can tell that people are genuinely giddy with happiness over our baby girl.  A number of people sent me messages saying that they haven’t been this excited since they found out that they, themselves, were having a baby! It warms my heart to know that you all have been on this ride with me.  Through the bad, and now the good!

A number of people have asked me for details on the whole process. Rather than answer the same questions over and over, I’ll just list them all out for you. Here goes…..

1. Are you using a surrogate?
No, we did not have to go the surrogate route.  I had triple negative breast cancer, which means the cancer was not hormone driven. Which means I’m not on hormone blockers for 10 years post chemo. Which means I can safely carry a pregnancy. That was my belly bump in the last post 🙂

2. See, I told you you’d get pregnant when you least expected!
No, this was not a surprise pregnancy. This was a well thought out, and highly planned pregnancy. We used our frozen embryos and availed ourselves of the best medical science has to offer!

3. So IVF worked the first time you tried after cancer and chemo?
Sadly, no.  This was our third embryo transfer post chemo. We did a transfer last summer, another last fall, and then this last one — which worked — in April.

4. What changed? Why did it work?
I have no earthly idea to be perfectly honest.  I will tell you this though — after the first two transfers failed, we ditched our original IVF doctor and moved over to Dr. Mitch Rosen at UCSF. Dr. Rosen has gotten all of my girlfriends pregnant — the man is truly a genius. As much as I hate to admit this next one, I think the 6-week cleanse also helped. My body was fairly clean and in good shape at the time of the third transfer.

5. Are you having twins? So many IVF pregnancies are multiples.
We did transfer two embryos, but I am carrying a singleton pregnancy.

6. Are you having a girl or boy?
Girl!

7. When are you due?
January 3, 2015

8. Do you have a name picked out?
We have it narrowed down to two names, but that’s as far as we’ve gotten.

9. What are the two names?
Nice try! We’re keeping that secret 🙂

10. How are you feeling?
Knock wood, I’m feeling great. I’m 18.5 weeks along and, much to Paul’s chagrin, am fully embracing nesting! We’ve already started converting our guest room into the nursery.

11. Are you working?
Not in the traditional sense. At the moment,  I’m simply enjoying this whole experience. I’d say I worked pretty darn hard to get to this point, so I’m cherishing every moment of pregnancy. Come January, I’ll be a full time mommy to our daughter. I hear it’s extremely tiring, yet rewarding work. I cannot wait for my new job!

 

It’s that time again

I go to see Garrett for my three month check-up today. It seems like a lifetime ago that I sat in his office after having backslid a lot in my recovery.

Since that time in December, I’ve really gotten my act together. Completed the Mark Hyman 6 week cleanse (and continue to live by most of the tenets of the cleanse). Lost 14 pounds.  Rebuilt my stamina and endurance at the gym.

Don’t get me wrong, I still have a ways to go. For example, I’m currently clocking an 18 minute mile. lol. But that’s a hell of a lot better than before. And my heart doesn’t race anymore. So I’m winning in my book!

Hopefully my tumor markers will come back in range and I’ll continue with this new, wonderful life of NED.

In other news, I recently came across this picture of me from my senior year in high school (check out those eyebrows!)

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I’m guessing that if I didn’t get chemo curls, my hair would be approaching that length by now. But alas, I got the curls — and am embracing them!

Happy Easter to you!

Happy Easter to you!

 

 

 

Beyond the Blue Door

Paul and I recently had the good fortune to eat at The French Laundry! For those of you who know me — you know I LOVE to eat. Almost as much as I love to sleep.

Getting the last minute reservation was total dumb luck. I called two days before we were heading to Napa and got the rezzie 30 hours before we showed up to eat. The meal was so many things — intimidating, exhilarating, scrumptious, tiring, spendy, inspiring — in sum, a foodie and chef whore’s wet dream. I was in hog heaven!

Never one to disappoint my readers, I took a million pictures — just like a proper tourist should. I didn’t care that I looked like a fool — this is a meal that should be fawned over.  You should revel in the art that Thomas Keller has created.  Allow me to take you on a photo journey of our evening:

The obligatory bathroom selfie -- what? It's NOT obligatory? Harumpf to you!

The obligatory bathroom selfie — what? It’s NOT obligatory? Harumpf to you!

 

Roped Paul into a selfie. His expression is priceless!

Roped Paul into a selfie. His expression is priceless!

This post is entitled “Beyond the blue door” because the French Laundry’s front door is blue. I’m super clever, right? Little known fact (well, not so little) is that the restaurant used to be an actual french laundry — hence the name.

The blue door

The blue door

In a nod to it’s old laundering days, every napkin has a cute clothespin on it. Yes, we stole ours. Please, do you think we’re rookies at this game?

The clothespin nod

The clothespin nod

There were two tasting menus offered, one veggie, one not.  Normally I don’t eat a ton of meat (read: no rabbit, duck, lamb or red meat) — but I made an exception for this meal. I’ve included pics of both menus for you. Check out the second line from the top — our menus were personalized and said “Andrea kicked cancer’s ass”. I mean, come on. Attention to detail anyone?

Tasting Menu #1

Tasting Menu #1

Tasting menu #2

Tasting menu #2

Don’t worry if you can’t read the menu — I’ll write everything out for you below. Here we go……..

OK, I’ve already lied to you — I don’t quite remember all the details of our amuse bouche. The first was a salmon ice cream come with caviar. The second was some sort of delectable cheese puff. Honestly, the ice cream cone thingie was one of the highlights of the meal for me. AH-maze.

The amuse bouche

The amuse bouche

The second amuse

The second amuse

Oysters and Pearls: “Sabayon” of pearl tapioca with island creek oysters and white sturgeon caviar. Perfect way to begin the meal — this was the perfect balance of rich and light — if that’s even possible!

Oysters and Pearls

Oysters and Pearls

Slow-Roasted Garden Beets: Silverado trail strawberries, celery branch, pearson farms pecans, miner’s lettuce and black winter truffle “coulis”.  Another fan favorite over here. I love me a salad — and that this one was all locally sourced, made my heart sing.

Beet salad

Beet salad

Our waiter told us this next one was chef’s attempt to to take us all back to childhood.

Peas and Carrots: Sauted fillet of pacific yellowtail, english peas, nantes carrots, pea tendrils and sweet carrot emulsion.

Peas and Carrots

Peas and Carrots

Clearly, I hated this one:

hated it :)

hated it 🙂

Herb Roasted Pacific Abalone: Sacramento delta asparagus, arrowleaf spinach “panade,” satsuma mandarins, garden turnips and applewood-smoked bacon. (Neither of us really cared for the abalone — too chewy for me — but everything else was awesome).

Abalone

Abalone

Next up — Thanksgiving on a plate. By far, one of the best dishes I’ve ever consumed in my life.

Four Story Hills Farm Poularde: Black mission fig jam, Garden cauliflower, cipollini onions and sicilian pistachio vinaigrette.

Thanksgiving - and boy did I ever give thanks

Thanksgiving – and boy did I ever give thanks

This next course is where Paul and I diverge. I went with the tasting menu lamb — but Paul upgraded to the Wagyu. I read somewhere that the wagyu served at the french laundry is grown and slaughtered specifically for this restaurant only. Who knows if that’s actually true or not. Paul said it melted like butter. I didn’t love the lamb  — since I don’t really eat lamb. So Paul got a double course on this one!

Elysian Fields Farm Lamb Rib-Eye: Garden broccoli, caramelized green garlic, polenta “croutons” and “creme de morilles”.

Lamb

Lamb

Charcoal-Grilled Japanese Wagyu: Yukon gold potate “rosti,” black trumpet mushrooms, garden radishes, hearts of romaine lettuce, lava bean and “sauce bordelaise”.

Wagyu

Wagyu

“Soumaintrain”: Garden sunchokes, brown butter “beignet,” royal blenheim apricots, sunflower seeds and red russian kale. Yumm-o

Beignet

Beignet

Finally, we’re at course No. 8 — the dessert course (if you include the amuse, it’s really course No. 10). They give up on writing all this stuff out on the menu at this point b/c dessert is about 5 courses in and of itself. Died!

“Assortment of Desserts” Fruit, ice cream, chocolate and candies.

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Oh, I forgot to mention the bread! I didn’t take any pictures of it — but we were given two small plates of fancy butter to go with our bread. One was from Vermont and the other was local (I think). One was saltier than the other — and both were divine.

Alrighty, so 3 hours later, we finished eating.  It was after midnight and we were the last patrons in the restaurant. By now, we’ve befriended our waiter, and we’re having a good ‘ole time.  So I pull yet another touristy/foodie move and ask for a tour of the kitchen.  I read that you can totally do this. Our waiter was happy to oblige. We didn’t get to see any action as service was over and the kitchen was gleaming.  We did see chef (not Thomas Keller though) prepping his team for the next day. They were all gathered round the expediting table (died!).  Also our waiter confirmed that it is indeed true that there is CCTV to Per Se in the kitchen. How F’ing cool is that?

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I asked our waiter if a ton of people try to stage at FL — he said yes, but that they don’t really take anybody — some sort of liability issue.  I was sort of drunk by this point — so I don’t fully recall what he said. But wanted to include the tidbit for the other foodies out there. I tried to ask all the questions we wonder about!

Woosh. I am absolutely beat after writing this post. Hope you enjoyed it and hope each of you get the opportunity to eat at French Laundry once in your life!

xoxo

My Legacy

It’s been a long while since I’ve posted anything of substance.  I’ve not had much to say these days — so I went back into my archives and found this draft post — from October 21, 2013.  I’ve not edited it at all. I figured it was best to just post it — grammar/spelling warts and all. So here goes………….
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Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about my legacy.

Legacy is defined as “something transmitted by or received from an ancestor or predecessor or from the past”.

For me, as you most of you know, at this point, it’s very unlikely that I’ll have my own biological children. If you’ve been following my blog, you know I’ve struggled with infertility and then cancer struck. After aggressive chemo nuked my entire body, including my ovaries, there’s little possibility that I can use my own eggs for a pregnancy. Hell, I’m still technically in menopause and have no clue if I’ll ever get my period back (TMI? Don’t read this blog then!).

But, all of that said, I still think about my legacy.  When Paul and I were picking our egg donor, her family health history was very important to us. We looked for red flags, like cancer, heart disease, metal instability etc. Obviously, you don’t WANT any of that if you can avoid it. Thankfully, our donor and her family, on paper, lacked those “bad” traits. Though I’m no dummy, that shit can hit her family tomorrow. I’m living proof of that.

Now, that the dust has settled with my own treatment, I realize that my own family will have to grapple with my diagnosis as it relates to themselves and their own families.  My thoughts immediately go to my brother Bob’s daughters.  Will my darling nieces have to get the BRCA gene test? Since I was BRCA negative, will that test and it’s results even be meaningful if they do have it? Will Bob and Sarah worry every day about their daughters’ susceptibility to cancer given that their paternal aunt got it?

I also think about my maternal cousins; but I’m less worried about them as they’re grown women who can make sound decisions for themselves. What about my first cousins’ children? I realize that’s a bit far removed, but I still think about it.

Finally, we all know that breast cancer doesn’t only impact women – men can get it too. For some reason, I feel cavalier on this front. I feel sure that no men in my family will be impacted. But that’s probably stupid of me. So to my brothers and my male cousins — FEEL YOUR BOOBIES. Sorry, it is what it is.

Ugh. I’ve been so busy thinking about me and getting through this ordeal. I didn’t stop to think what sort of reality and worry my DX may have wrought on my family and extended family.

My only hope is that this starts and ends with me. That my body simply went haywire and that’s the end of it.

Geez, reality does bite.

The Fat Lady Has Sung….

…the cleanse is over!

We cheated in week 5 while we were in Hawaii — we’re only human, people!  Let me tell you, that pizza and those Mai Tai’s & Pina Colada’s tasted good!  It was easy enough to get back on track for the 6th and final week, though.

In the end, I kicked my carb, sugar and alcohol cravings to the curb (for the most part, I mean, I still enjoy life!).

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Got into a good gym routine.

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And lost 10 pounds!

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I feel so much better, have more energy and am just happier after the cleanse. So much so that I’m going to try and keep the basic tenets of the cleanse going — it doesn’t feel like a burden to me at this point. My body is totally adjusted and I’ve found my rhythm preparing 90% of my meals at home.  Only difference going forward, is that I’m not going to be as strict with myself (I can’t be a social hermit forever!) — I’ll have the occasional pizza, grilled cheese, fro yo or glass of red wine if I’m craving it.

Now that the cleanse is over, I guess I’ll have to go back to writing about cancer and fertility! Luck you, dear reader! lol

Weigh In Wednesday

We’re one month into the cleanse! I know you’re all morbidly curious — so I shall appease you:

8 pounds lost
Body water % up 1.1
Muscle Mass % up .7
Bone Mass % down .2
Body Fat %* down 1.6

*all of my %’s are now within the “normal” range for a woman in the 30-39 age range. When I started I was in the “above normal” range (Gasp!)

How do I know all of this? My amazing Vitagoods Digital Body Analyzer. This scale is the bomb. They also have an app where you can input all of your data and track your progress.

Off to the gym…..

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The Half Way Point

We did it! We survived a weekend away without cheating on our cleanse!

I’m not gonna lie to you — it was REALLY, REALLY weird to be at a concert and not drink.  It was also really difficult to be around great friends in a city that was absolutely bursting at the seams over the Seahawks playoff game — and not drink and eat everything in sight during the game. But we managed to get through it.

Honestly, if Paul wasn’t on the cleanse with me, I would’ve caved for sure. It was really helpful to have him by my side.  Also, didn’t hurt that my friend Megan is a very clean eater already — so all the food she made us was cleanse friendly.

At this point, we’re three weeks into the cleanse and have another three to go.  I feel like it’s sort of a way of life at this point. So many of you have reached out to me privately to let me know that you too have done a similar cleanse as part of an allergy elimination experiment.  What we’re doing is more or less the same thing.  We’ll add back foods slowly and see how we feel.

For me in particular, this cleanse has been great because chemo really does a number on your organs — your liver in particular.  I feel like eating clean is rebooting my insides!

OK — so the here are the deets: I’ve lost about 6.5 pounds so far. I have a lot more energy than I used to.  I’m able to go to the gym everyday (yes, I even went to the gym while we were in Seattle) for about an hour and forty five minutes.  I run errands, go to PT, cook etc. — and then I’m wiped for the rest of the day.  In all, I can eek out about 6, good, productive hours before I crash.  Hoping to see that time lengthen as we continue the back half of the cleanse.

OH! Final report for you — my heart rate, while exercising, has come down a bit in the past week. Yay!  Cardio that used to put me at 170, is now steadily in the mid to high 150’s.

All of this hard work is starting to pay off!

PS – the JT concert was amazing. It was also so wonderful to get to hang with Josh, Megan, Jess and Katie.  I made a mindful choice to be in the moment and experience our trip rather than crazily documenting everything through the camera lens on my iphone. So you won’t see any pictures in this post. Sorry….

The Real Test

Happy New Year everybody!

The new year has brought a lot of change to the Sieminski household.  The biggest one is that I am no longer working part-time at S&D and I’m back on disability.  I went back to work earlier than I originally planned — and that turned out to be a not-so-great idea for my body.  At my six month check up appointments, I was stressed out and in a lot of pain.  My chest, ribs and spine were seizing up.  So I decided to pull the plug on work and focus 100% on my recovery.

Also, as you know, Paul and I started a 6 week cleanse in the new year.  I promised I’d document our progress, so here goes.

We’re two weeks in and doing really well. Just to recap for you, we cannot have: alcohol, sugar, caffeine, dairy, gluten, the “white devil” (potatoes, rice, white bread etc), fatty proteins (beef, pork etc) or processed foods.  Which means, we are enjoying a ton of veggies, legumes, fruits, nuts and lean proteins.

In the beginning I slept A LOT (like 10-11 hours a night).  Not sure if my body was just trying to occupy itself so I didn’t have to be conscience while craving all the foods I couldn’t eat — or if I just needed the rest!  At this point, I’m past the sugar cravings and past the carb cravings. I’ve been having a lot of fun making up new recipes with me new best friend — kale. OH! and for those of you who know me — no, it’s not been that bad giving up wine. I’ve been pleasantly surprised how easy it’s been actually. Turns out my real Achilles heel is cheese.  Man, do I ever miss cheese!

You might be wondering if I’m feeling any better on the cleanse and if I’ve lost any weight. I have to admit, yes, I do feel a lot better and so far I’ve lost 4 pounds (not earth shattering, but I’ll take it).  I still have a ton of pain/tightness in my chest and ribs associated with my surgery, but I feel less inflamed in general and have slightly more energy.  In fact, I’ve been pretty good about going to the gym and getting into a routine. But don’t be fooled people — when I go the gym — it isn’t your typical gym experience.  My version of cardio these days is to walk for 60 minutes on the treadmill at a 4..5 incline and a speed of — wait for it — 3.2! Yup, 3.2 is as fast as I can go, and trust me, that’s plenty fast for me.  Turns out, fast walking at 3.2 puts my heart rate in the high 160’s low 170’s. That is DANG high.

I’m assuming it’s so high because I haven’t exercised in a long time AND my body is still fatigued from chemo.  I’m hoping that, over time, that number will come down.  In the meantime, I might go get an EKG or a stress test done to be sure I’m not causing more harm than good by pushing myself. After all, the Adriamycin did leak out of my vein and Adria is known to cause heart problems…… Better to be safe than sorry, right?

Overall, I’ve basically been a hermit the past two weeks — just gym’ing it, cooking for myself and Paul and generally avoiding any and all social situations where libations and black-listed foods flow freely. But this weekend, we’re flying up to Seattle because Paul bought us tickets to the Justin Timberlake concert for my Christmas present (great gift, awesome husband). And the added bonus is that it’s in Seattle so we get to spend the rest of the weekend visiting with all our friends up there. Additionally, the Seahawks play-off game is on Sunday — which means MAJOR libations and bar food will be flowing. OY.

So, this is the real test of our willpower and commitment to the cleanse! Wish us luck as we drink water and eat almonds at JT and throughout the weekend! lol

Hairy Situation

Last weekend we flew to LA to celebrate the beautiful nuptials of Christine and Sharam. The wedding was incredible, and their love palpable. Mazel to you both!

At the wedding, I ran into some former Fenwick colleagues who I hadn’t seen in years.  It was extremely uncomfortable when they looked at me, looked at me some more, tipped their head to the side, focused their eyes, and said, “oh yeah —- Andrea, I almost didn’t recognize you! You used to have really long hair right? ”

Ugh.

Oh, my other favorite reminder of cancer is in the security line at the airport. The ID checking TSA guy says to me “Girl, you cut your hair off!”

Double ugh.

Obviously this has been happening to me a lot over the past 6 months. But my hair is finally to the point where it actually looks like maybe I meant to have this haircut. So people genuinely think I just cut my hair off.

Initially I struggled with these types of comments and didn’t know how to reply without making the other person feel uncomfortable.

Now, I’m an expert.  I just politely nod, smile and say, “Yes. Yes, that’s right. I used to have long hair.” Then I steal a sideways glance at Paul, or squeeze his hand, or feel his hand on the small of my back supporting me. And we all move on. Just like that. Nothing too painful.

It’s just so surreal and weird to me. I don’t know if what I’m currently doing is the right way to handle the situation. But it feels right to me at the moment. So, I’m going with it.

I will tell you this, though. Every single time I hear “oh, you used to have long hair”, I have a 10 second flash back of the entire last year and all the crapola I went through.

Somebody at work recently said/asked me “I mean, you reach an end point with cancer at some point, right?” (leaving aside how obviously rude and misinformed the question is), the true answer is that, no, you do not ever reach an end point. There are constant reminders — like when you run into old friends or colleagues and they don’t recognize you at first. It’s tough. Really tough.

Well, no time to dwell on any of this. Got to go wrap a million Xmas gifts so we can get them in the mail on Monday.

xoxo,
A

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