A Day in the Life… My Unpredictable Cancer Days

Great news! I’m past the half way point in my chemo treatments! I have 10 more weeks to go of weekly chemo sessions. I’ll have scans after that and the doctors will determine what’s next. It could be more treatment and we’ll be aggressive!

It’s been quite a roller-coaster ride, but I’m not alone. Mathis has been telling friends that he has a front row “E-ticket” – the ones Disneyland reserved for the most exciting rides. We’re definitely on the Space Mountain rails this time!

Old Disneyland E Ticket

Old Disneyland E Ticket

What are my “Cancer Days” like?

(Chose one, several, all, or none of the following.)

  • Sleeping in until 9 or 10am – I used to get up at 6…
  • Waking up and still feeling exhausted
  • Going to the gym for a light workout
  • Going back to bed for a long nap
  • Running one errand…slowly
  • Eating small quantities throughout the day, ‘cause I’m just not hungry
  • Visiting with friends
  • Going for a walk
  • Writing blog posts for my business and nationally-syndicated column
  • Eating Mathis’ home-cooked dinner
  • Lounging on the sofa until bedtime

I am blessed that I have not had the major side effects I was warned about. And, I get to stop taking the HUGE stack of chemo-related medicine that went with the first batch of chemo. It was quite a large batch of pills, shots and liquids.

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Yes, I’ve been surprised by how tired I get, then I remind myself, “Oh, yeah, it’s chemo.” The doctors say that the fatigue caused by chemo is cumulative so I can anticipate more sleepy days ahead.

My new hobby: Helping other cancer patients and cancer fund-raising

I’ve enjoyed donating my time to two organizations: The American Cancer Society and my hospital, the Virginia Mason Cancer Institute. Recently I recorded a video that was played at a major Virginia Mason fund-raiser for their Cancer Institute; you can watch it here.

Coming up: June 13th! You are invited, no matter where you live! Join me at this year’s American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life to celebrate my birthday and raise money for cancer research. I look forward to seeing as many of my wonderful friends as possible

On August 30, I’ll be out in centerfield wearing my favorite bright green and blue as a Virginia Mason “patient hero” at a Seattle Sounders professional soccer game. So look for the bald head!

Then, of course, October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and I’ll host a team for the second time at the wonderful Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walk by the American Cancer Society. Save the date: Saturday, October 10, 2015. Last year was so wonderful and I would love an even bigger team walking together this year!

0_Mathis, Milo, Dana, Chad

Mathis, Milo, Dana, Chad

Comic relief – on the lighter side

Continuing the theme of what to say or do with cancer patients (see prior blog posts), I have identified a new “family” of gawkers. Yes, those who stare at my bald head. They’re everywhere and I understand it…a bald woman stands out, for sure.

Let me describe them for you:

  1. The stare-then-smiler. This person stares. Then, when we make eye contact, and they realize they’ve been busted, they smile at me. A classic example is of those boarding an airplane, walking down the aisle, and staring at me. I look up from my seat and they are surprised to make eye contact so they smile! It’s nice. Keep smiling!
  2. The long distance gawker. This person stares for long periods of time from a distance. They appear so shocked that they don’t know I see them gawking. Happened at the gym: a person on the other side of the gym, sitting on a weight machine, and doing nothing but staring at me! Great form of exercise, eh?
  3. The shocked child. We all know that children speak the truth. Period. So they point and ask questions. Recently a mother was walking her 4-year old daughter around our neighborhood. The daughter stopped, pointed at me, and asked her mom, “Why doesn’t she have any hair?” Her mom just looked at me imploring me to answer her. Mathis was with me and I totally fumbled the answer. I said, “I lost my hair with a medical treatment.” Yeah, right. As if she would understand that. Since then I am still stumped as to what to tell a child or her mom. What would you say? Please reply with your recommendation in Facebook or on my blog.

Quotes of the Day:

My mom, Ilse, just sent me a T-shirt that says:

YOU CHOOSE

It’s not what you do, it’s how you do it. It’s not what you see, it’s how you look at it. It’s not how your life is, it’s how you live it.

 

And my sister, Lynn, just shared this:

TO ALL MY FRIENDS AND FAMILY

that have sent me best wishes or other promises of good luck,

NONE OF THAT SHIT IS WORKING

so could you please just send me cash, vodka, chocolates, wine or airline tickets instead?

Thank you!

 

Thank you, friends and family!

I can’t express enough gratitude for everybody’s incredible support and positive energy. I thought, by now, it would get “quiet.” But, no, the visits, cards, phone calls, e-mails, Facebook comments, texts, and more, just keep flowing in from near and far. I assure you that every touch makes a huge difference.

Loads of hugs and love,

Dana

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Remembering Tracy Today

Join our family today to remember the great times we had with my dear twin sister, Tracy Frank. I’m torn between thinking that one year ago was yesterday, or many moons ago. It’s an odd feeling. For me, Tracy’s right here on my right shoulder every day, talking to me. Laughing, boasting about Milo, concerned for everybody’s health and well-being, and coaching me through my own cancer-crushing challenges.

She doesn’t want us to grieve for her, yet to remember her legacy. How she truly changed lives for the Parkinson’s disease clients she helped; how she raised a remarkable young man, Milo; how she was always helping our family before helping herself; and how she cherished her friends.

Dana and Tracy Babies_1961

Dana and Tracy Babies_1961

On this anniversary of Tracy’s passing, I believe she would want us to pause and remember some of her favorite recommendations: complain less, count your blessings every day, don’t take your health for granted, avoid the “shoulds,” and do what you believe is the right thing to do.

The Metchek Family 1982 - Tracy, Dana, Lynn, Ilse, Mitch

The Metchek Family 1982 – Tracy, Dana, Lynn, Ilse, Mitch

Today, our family remembers and appreciates the huge outpouring of love and support we all received a year ago.

Love and hugs to all,

Dana

The Cancer Game of Whack-A-Mole

The Cancer Game of Whack-A-Mole

…or what a friend of mine, W.P., calls “nuke-a-mole.” Whack-a-Mole

A lot of you have asked me, “What are your days like?” Well, my days are unpredictable since I don’t control them. I don’t control my body; chemo controls it. No, cancer controls me and chemo is being flooded into my body to control the cancer.

The challenge with chemo is that there are numerous side-effects. Head to toe side-effects.

So my medical team anticipates those (and learns from my reactions every week) and treats them with side-effect medicine. Lots of it! Pills for nausea, behind-the-ear patches, pills for digestion issues, etc.

And then when I read the labels on each of the medicine bottles, THEY have side effects!

  • “This may cause drowsiness.”
  • “Care when operating a vehicle.”
  • “This medicine will lower your ability to fight off infections.”
  • “May cause headache.”
  • “May cause constipation.”
  • “May cause dizziness.”
  • “This medicine may cause blurred vision.”

So what do I do? Just take my meds and roll with the punches. Oh, I layer on all kinds of other good things like acupuncture, chiropractic, strolling, juicing, eating healthy*, and napping.

*Okay, to be honest, I have helped myself to some less-healthy foods like my favorite Cold Stone Ice Cream.

The actual day of chemo is uneventful. I sit there receiving the infusion and Mathis sits in the same room reading or working and chatting with me! We have private rooms with windows, can order in food, play music and dance!

2015-04-20 09.28.392015-04-20 10.04.25

Managing my own expectations has been the biggest challenge.

I’ll sleep a good 12 hours, wake up, get dressed, and have plans for a few errands or going to the gym. But within an hour, chemo says “lie down and shut up!”

While the errands can wait, I do get down. I don’t want to be that fatigued, drugged cancer patient. So I’ve learned to do some guided meditation, listen to music, and just accept that this is a short-term thing. I count my blessings that I’m doing as well as I am through this tough chemo chapter. And, I get to celebrate that I just finished the toughest 8 weeks of chemo, by finishing a round of chemo called “A/C”.  Next chemo is Taxol starting May 4 through July, which should get easier (so they say).

My family and friends have been the best!

If only every cancer patient had the kind of love I have pouring in at all times of the day!

I know I don’t say “Thank you” enough, I don’t send thank-you cards, and I don’t share how much everything you say touches my heart. But it does.

During a recent 4-day trip to Los Angeles, I saw a number of very special friends and was able to spend lots of time with Milo (my twin Tracy’s son), my mom, and Mathis, of course. Friends from high school, college, early professional years cam to visit while I was “holding court” at the Beverly Hilton while Mathis worked in L.A.

DSCN3056Gabrielle, SusanVictoria and Dana

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My Virginia Mason care team has also been incredible. I can reach them any time of day or night, they are helping me physically and emotionally, and they are a part of my family.

In Seattle, I love visits so just yell when it’s a good time. Don’t wait for me to call you…I don’t make too many decisions lately.

IMG_20150408_0907562015-04-12 18.23.42

Shane is visiting from San Francisco this weekend and Chad and Milo are calling to check in all the time!

Party Time! Save the date!

We’re going to celebrate my 55th birthday and near-completion of chemo on Saturday, June 13th from 6pm – 10pm. rfl-logoAppropriately, we’ll be together at the American Cancer Society Relay for Life where we’ll honor cancer survivors, you – our supporters – and we’ll remember my sister Tracy and others who have left us. My team name is “Dana’s Gladiators“.

I’ll be making another announcement about this, but you can go here to do two things:

1)     If you live in the Seattle area, click “join my team” to RSVP that you’ll come to the event-slash-birthday party AND you can also donate, if you wish.

2)      If you don’t live in the Seattle area, then you can share your love and birthday wishes by making a donation.

If you have any questions or want to learn more about my experiences and feelings, just ask!

Love and hugs to everybody! I can’t share my gratitude enough.

Cancer-cation Memories and Things I Learned

I think about my twin sister, Tracy a lot. Especially now that I really know how she felt, physically, while on chemo. One thing my mom, Ilse, and I tried to do to cheer her up and  was to schedule trips for her to look forward to.

I’ve just returned from a vacation we had planned before all of “this” happened, and I can see why getaways are healing.

If you just want to view 10 professionally-shot photos from Cancun, here is a link:

http://share.shutterfly.com/share/received/welcome.sfly?fid=9040b916f2cb2af9bcfd7207a7b1fe91&sid=0AcM2LFq1Zt2jFgg

If you want to see all of our vacation photos (tons!), go here:

http://share.shutterfly.com/share/received/welcome.sfly?fid=d645f2f19b8313f69a16dcf07a6807f9&sid=0AcM2LFq1Zt2jFxg

I also learned a lot, faced some challenges, and I’d like to share them with you:

  • Loved: Sunshine, fresh air, palm trees, and more. There is something healing about taking deep breaths in the beautiful air, feeling the slight ocean breeze, hearing the waves crashing against the beach, and sitting outside at night for dinner.

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  • Loved: No place I “should” be. Being able to sleep in (well, okay, I do that a lot these days in Seattle, too), not have to rush to an appointment, or feel guilty that I “should” be doing something else is wonderful. I will admit it; normally when I’m on vacation, I am thinking about where we will go next, do we have reservations, etc., etc. Mom and Mathis really picked up the decision-making since I was pretty much unable to do much.
  • Loved: Feeling the sunshine… from the shade. Since I’m taking medicine and shots, I have a high sensitivity to the sun. Good news is that I have kept out of the direct sun for many decades now. But the heat still felt great. Lather on the sunscreen, spray SPF 70 over that, wear hats with 5” rims, and enjoy! No UV for me, vacation or not! Oh, did I mention the poolside service of beverages and food?

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  • Loved: Facials and massages. I don’t get them often enough in Seattle so why not in Mexico! We have a great final day strategy, too. We book services on the last day so we can store our change of clothes and use the spa facilities before heading to the airport. On this trip, Mathis and I had a “couples massage.”
  • Loved: Laughter, music, dancing. We had a special night at the first permanent location of Cirque Du Soleil in Latin America with a show called Joya.

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  • Challenge: Dragging my tush around. The 6-hour plane ride to Cancun was long and took a lot out of me. I pretty much melted down by the time we arrived and I slept through Day 1 in our room. I have learned that I will hit walls, those walls don’t come with any warning, and they get me down. I’m working on avoiding the “pity party” that comes when I bash my head against them; I just need to check out, knowing full well that there is goodness when I wake up. My oncologist warned me that the effects of chemo are cumulative so as weeks go by, my fatigue and other side effects will only increase.
  • Challenge: Yes, I got hungry, but there’s nothing worse than forking out $30.00 for a wonderful buffet and getting full after a few bites. I had some fleeting moments of a 2nd plate, but did the best I could!

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  • Challenge: Working out. I’m used to working out on vacations simply to enjoy a new gym environment and to make up for the daiquiris, piña coladas, and mojitos. I didn’t. Not once. Oh, well… Mom and Mathis did great. Good news is that my personal trainer, Lorenzo, has been keeping me working out through chemo so I felt I could don my 2-piece bathing suit.

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  • Challenge: Getting used to my bald head. It was hard to wear scarves and hats all the time, so I started to go “Mount Baldy” as the week wore on. Warning: this is where the “stupid things people say to cancer patients” invites the best and brightest… from total strangers.This really happened:<Woman at the next beach chair over> – “So, do you have cancer?”<Me> – Yes, I do. Where are you from?<Woman> – Seattle, Washington<Me>:   Oh, me too.<Woman>: Well, Seattle is the place to have cancer. Where is your care provider?<Me>: Virginia Mason in Seattle. I have a great team I have had since 2002, my first time with cancer. Then again in 2005.

    <Woman>: Wow, you should just lop them off.

    <Me>: (shocked) Excuse me?? That is a major decision and the surgery is called a double mastectomy. I had it in 2005. And if you would please withhold recommendations of what I “should” do, that would be more helpful.

    <Woman>:   I’m sorry. You’re right, that was insensitive. It’s just that my mother died of breast cancer.

    <I got up and walked away, hoping to never see her again. End of conversation!>

    Well, time to sign off for today and thank you, again, for all of the well-wishes pouring in. They really bring comfort and joy. A special thanks to Mom and Mathis for taking care of me on our vacation.

    Hugs and love,

    Dana

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Chemo Update and More Tips and Tricks for You!

Dear friends and family,

Your incredible outpour of support and love have been, well, overwhelming. In such a good way. I read and appreciate every word, every gesture, and every thought. Tonight, I thought I would give you snippets of my recent activities AND share more “Dos and Don’ts” for helping a cancer patient through this!

Many of you read Part I called “What Not to Say to a Cancer Patient”.

Here is Part II, based on more real experiences.

http://girlfriendtogirlfriend.org/part-2-what-not-to-say-to-a-cancer-patient/

Here are some anecdotes about my recent weeks:

1. “Chemo Brain” kicks in fast! At least that’s my excuse for forgetting things and blanking on certain words. Last week, I walked to the parking lot after a trip to the shopping mall. And I completely forget where my car was. So the security pick-up truck scooped me up and drove me up and down the aisles. I was even on the wrong level of the garage!  From now on, I’ll need to take a picture of where I parked or text myself the section number. How embarrassing!

Chemo Monday_0323

2. I had a wonderful visit by a Feng Shui expert, Lillian Tsai,who shared beautiful insights about healing colors I should wear, special things to change around our house, and so much more. Contact her to come to your home in Seattle or Portland!  My new healing colors are “wasabi green and golden” but I can keep wearing my jewel tones for pick-me-ups!  I’m also doing acupuncture and keeping up my naturopath’s vitamin regimen and more. IMG_20150321_185432

3. I’m halfway through the first batch of chemo, called A/C, which is every other Monday. This is the harshest type I will endure and I only have two more, on April 6 and 20th. Then I’ll move to another chemo every Monday through July. I’m doing well managing the chemo side effects and pleased when I have energy. Then I over-do it, of course, and my body tells me, in no uncertain terms, to lie down and shut up.

4. I would like to thank everybody here, but I fear that I’ll leave someone out. Such cool, fun and fabulous gestures by so many. A laughing monkey, fuzzy socks, reading materials, munchies, soups, and the biggest home-made card, personally delivered by my cousins, the Taylors. They drove up from Portland today, delivering love and hugs. ??????????

Well, until next time! My head will be completely bald the next time you see me (the buzz was short-lived), but it’s somewhat freeing, too!  A lot of heat escapes up there so I’m loaded with beanies of all types.

Mathis has been the most amazing care-giver and support every day and night and I love him for that (and more).

Love and hugs to all!

Dana

Hair Buzz Fun Today – Wednesday, March 18

Hello, everybody,

Instead of my hair falling out in clumps, we beat it to the punch. And, when my oncologist said “your hair will fall out on Day 12 after chemo”, I whipped out my calendar and got ‘er done.

A special thanks to my hairstylist and now-buzz-master, Rosanna, from the Pro Club. If any locals are having a bad hair day or need a change, call Rosanna.

Also loved having our good friends, Stephanie and Jeff, supporting me during the ‘event’. Then there was Mathis, of course, who was the D.J., photographer and comedian.

Enjoy the documentation and wardrobe change!  Over the next few days, I will be a pure bald. New trick I learned from my nurses: use those round lint rollers to remove the remaining hair. Rosanna also trimmed a wig for me so I don’t have to be the “cancer baldy” wherever I go.

Tracy was a beautiful baldy so I had an inkling of what I would look like.

Hugs and love,

Dana

Thanks, Friends, for the Visit! March 15

Well, we were planning a hair buzz-fest but my fabulous hairstylist, Rosanna (at the Pro Club) got sick so we just visited. A special thanks to all of you who brought yummy food and hugs!   Although it was a lot of work for Mathis (thank you, my love), since I just sat there, we’ll do that more often during this conquest.

Celia, Rick, Marilyn, Randy, Dana,Mathis

Celia, Rick, Marilyn, Randy, Dana,Mathis

Anna and Dana

Anna and Dana

Jeanene, Karin, Dana

Jeanene, Karin, Dana

Dana, Kari

Dana, Kari

Jen, Dana, Rene

Jen, Dana, Rene

Greg, Dana

Kathleen, Dana

Kathleen, Dana

Diana, Steph, Dana, Mariam

Diana, Steph, Dana, Mariam

Kathy, Dana, Yavorka

Kathy, Dana, Yavorka

Maddy, Dana, Steph

Maddie, Dana, Steph

Marcy, Dana

Marcy, Dana

First Diagnosis – March 9, 2015

New news: I was recently diagnosed with Stage 4 breast cancer*, my third time fighting this disease. And I will CRUSH it!

* good news: fast forward to March 13 where my cancer was gleefully downgraded to Stage 3 following a biopsy

I start chemo today, on March 9th and will be under treatment for 20 weeks and maybe other treatments later. Good news: it’s not in my liver, lungs, brain or bones…but it is in the lymph nodes and metastasized. More good news: I’m super healthy, have a great attitude about it and I’m surrounded by tons of love and support. Mathis is the main “boss of me” and caregiver. Grandma Ilse is “all-in” and Shane and Chad popped into Seattle this weekend.  Milo will be up here soon and he was celebrating his 25th birthday in L.A.

There are three things you can do:

1.  Everybody, please read this important article:

http://girlfriendtogirlfriend.org/what-not-to-say-to-a-cancer-patient/

The website owner is Angie Crowe, a dear friend and fellow cancer conqueror.

Angie Crowe, Kathleen Hogan, fellow Conquerors

Angie Crowe, Kathleen Hogan, fellow Conquerors

  1. If you are located in the Seattle area, then, let me know if you want to be on my “angel list” to help when needed.

Otherwise, boost the positive and happy prayers because they’ll make a difference! I’m in great care by a huge team of doctors and am surrounded by friends and family, too.  Mathis is taking great care of me; Grandma Ilse was here last week and she will be back in Seattle regularly. Chad and Shane flew in this weekend .

  1. Be on my fighting team.  I’m going to the American Cancer Society Relay for Life on June 13th. And you can be on my team even if you’re not in the Seattle area.  We’ll just do the 6pm-10pm portion and I’ll be lighting a luminaria for Tracy, my dad, Mitch, and others. We will light candles in honor of or in memory of a friend or loved one who has had cancer, or in support of a Caregiver.  Donate, sign-up and cheer me on!    This is our way of helping millions of others, as well:

http://main.acsevents.org/goto/DanaManciagli

Remember, I’m a gladiator and will crush this.   

No ifs, ands, or buts about it.

Sending love and hugs to each of you,

Dana Manciagli

Hello family and friends! Welcome to the Conquest

I’m so blessed to have so many friends and family to support me through this kick-butt, take-names conquest. Just nine months from the day we lost my dear womb-mate, Tracy Frank, I was diagnosed with a third recurrence of breast cancer. And I have no doubt that we, together, will all become gladiators in the war to completely disable this disease.

Tracy, Ilse, Dana_0414

Tracy, Ilse, Dana_0414

Prepare to experience many things:  celebrating all of the small and big triumphs, learning more than you may want to learn, giving back to others less-fortunate who are battling cancer, and how to just think happy thoughts and be grateful every day.

Please subscribe to this blog and feel free to forward it so I don’t need to keep everybody posted individually.

Most importantly, don’t believe you are ever an imposition. Just call, write, e-mail, comment here, and know that I will read and appreciate every drop. I may not respond but that means nothing.

It takes a strong band of family and friends to muscle our way through this and you are officially enlisted!

Love and hugs from my family and I,

Mathis, Dana, Shane, Chad_0614

Dana Manciagli

phone 206.849.1000

DanaManciagli@hotmail.com

Family at Tracy's Celebration of Life_061414

Family at Tracy’s Celebration of Life_061414