Another Year Wiser

Warrior kicking butt on my birthday!

It’s official, I am in my late 30’s! 38 to be exact. Never in a million years would I have thought 37 would bring so many challenges and life lessons. But I have learned some much along the way – especially about my body and mind. It’s crazy there is so much we don’t know about ourselves – especially within our genes and metabolic pathways.

When I was diagnosed I learned I had the CHEK2 genetic mutation that increases your risk for certain cancers. I also did the 23&Me and 24 hour hormone tests and they showed that I had heterozygous MTHFR C677T and COMT mutations. I am scratching the surface on what these actually mean, but the MTHFR is a critical enzyme in the body and required for a metabolic process that repairs DNA. At a basic level my body has a hard time detoxifying and over time this damage can also result in cancer. I’ve had an initial meeting with my integrative medicine doctor to understand supplements, lifestyle factors and nutrition that will support my body to more efficiently detox and process toxins (including eating a lemon a day, dry skin brushing, taking DIM) but this will continue to be one of my focuses in the future.

I’ve also returned to the sauna. After surgery I started to learn more about the risk of lymphedema and the general recommendations are to avoid drastic temperature changes and to wear my compression sleeve if I am flying or in high altitude or doing exercise over and above what my body might be accustom to. So I gave up on the sauna until I had another consult with an integrative oncologist to learn about the medications I am prescribed to take following radiation. During this consult the doctor provided additional education to me about how radiation can damage DNA (and I am already at risk of DNA damage because of my genetic mutations) and things like sauna and the ketogenic diet can help protect healthy cells while putting the cancer cells at higher risk for apoptosis (cell death). So I started getting back into the sauna and am hoping that my self-prescribed regimen of sauna, then swimming (natural lymphatic massage) and dry brushing will help prevent lymphedema. For me it’s worth the risk, especially after reviewing all the studies on how sauna helps extend lifespan – look it up!

my hair is starting to grow! Yippee

I am also excited to be ¾ of the way through radiation. I have 33 treatments total and I am at number 22. The process of radiation itself has been pretty easy – I just go in, lay on a machine for 15 minutes, and then go home. The technologists said I am their most technologically advanced patient since I asked if I can bring in my wireless headphones and listen to podcasts. I’ve also made friends with a lot of the other ladies in the dressing room that I see on a daily basis – we share stories about my kids and their grandkids. My skin is starting to turn a little red, but it’s not painful at this point. For me, the hardest part has been following the ketogenic diet. I did this during chemotherapy and didn’t really notice the side effects because I was already and tired and nauseous. But this time around, it really kicked my butt in the beginning. I got what someone termed “the keto flu” and it got even worse when I tried to “shoot” MCT oil to up my blood ketones. However, now my body has gotten accustom to it and my GI symptoms have greatly improved. But I have noticed my body doesn’t move into ketosis very easily – even if I fast for a day+, it’s hard to keep my levels above .7 consistently. And being mostly vegan and almost no dairy provides quite the challenge to eat enough fat throughout the day. So I am looking forward to being doing with radiation and going back to intuitive eating. And Allison’s GF carrot cake!

Back in the summer I put out a challenge for myself and my friends to doing the Sacramento Spartan Sprint race. This year it fell on my birthday and seemed like a good thing to train for after surgery and to look forward to at the end of this crazy year. I am happy to report the #sarastrong team rocked it, and for me personally I was able to complete all the challenges and didn’t have to do any burpees (well I did have some help on the inverted wall). I was nervous that my upper body strength would be more compromised after surgery, especially after the lymph nodes were removed. But I’ve been training at a new gym, taking it slow and steady, and I was proud of myself to climb over all the walls and all the way up the rope! For me, I always like to have something ahead to look forward to – a vacation, a race – and I am so thankful that my body has been able to weather this storm the warrior in me can continue to kick ass!

Team #SaraStrong

And before I end this blog post I wanted to put out another PSA for self breast exams. Unfortunately another friend of mine was just diagnosed with breast cancer. She was also too young for mammograms and found it by checking herself – and thankfully she caught it early which I am so thankful for. She said reading my blogs and following my story was encouraging her to be more persistent with her self exams! So ladies, check those tatas!! And know your risk – there are new genetic testing options like Color that can help you understand your risk for different cancers. And while most cancers are more environmental, knowing your risk can help you understand how aggressive and proactive you need to be be with your body.