Cannabis Wonderfulness

Never in a million years did I think I would venture off into the world of medical marijuana (MMJ) or medical cannabis.  Never in a million years did I think it would be so effective and never, Ever, EVER did I think I would write a blog post about it.  But I also didn’t think I would ever, ever have cancer.

In my very first blog post, I mentioned medical marijuana to try to keep things light and make readers chuckle. I thought that would be the end of it. But after chatting with some fellow cancer patients, my oncologist and advocates for medical cannabis, I thought, why not apply for my MMJ card? For those who aren’t familiar with medical cannabis, the state of New Mexico allows citizens with certain medical diagnoses (such as cancer) to apply for and obtain a special card (kind of like a driver’s license) that allows them to purchase cannabis products from qualified dispensaries.  The process can take up to 45 days, so early in my journey I applied.  I figured that if I was going to explore cannabis as a treatment option, I wanted it to be on the up and up. I’m a mommy, a wife, a professional and quite opposite of a pothead.  If I was going to purchase cannabis I wanted to know exactly what I was purchasing and that it hadn’t been sitting in someone’s closet for three years.  I don’t want my money supporting cartels or to live in fear of having an illegal substance in my house.

A couple months ago, one of the two anti-nausea meds that had worked so well in the winter started to give me side effects. Now, I really struggle sharing this with my blog audience–I am a lady after all–but it made me constipated, okay? Like really, really uncomfortably backed up. Whew, I feel better admitting it.  Now, not only was being backed up a problem, but I have liver cancer. Keeping the body flowing is important for everybody, but even more important for someone in my compromised health situation.

So, I decided to purchase medical cannabis edibles since I wasn’t fond of sneaking outside to puff away.  The last thing I wanted was for my son to see or smell that.  The first month I only ate a small square of chocolate when I had three to four symptoms at once, and only when my son was in bed.  The last thing I wanted to be was a high mommy.  I quickly noticed that the chocolate edible relieved ALL of my symptoms; nausea, pain, anxiety, and was an appetite stimulant. The only real side effect was being happy and occasional silliness.  And is that really a side effect?

One Saturday night when I thought my son was asleep, I ate some chocolate, but to my surprise he was awake.  After spending an hour of 100% mommy/son quality time where I was engaged with him and not dealing with pain or nausea, I realized that I needed to get over my fear of medicating while he was awake.  It was the first time in months that I had really been present with him.

The main symptoms I struggle with are nausea and vomiting.  Without meds I would throw up 75-90% of all meals. And it’s slippery slope into a vicious cycle. Since most people don’t have this problem, let me try to explain how it works.  I wake up and have approximately thirty minutes to eat before my body starts to self destruct.  I get shaky, my stomach aches and I get nauseated.  If I eat in time, I have about a 50/50 chance of keeping it down.  The same thing happens about 5 more times through out the day.  Now let’s say I don’t keep one of the meals down.  I get tired, my appetite sucks, my body gets dehydrated, my mind starts to become less sharp. Out of fear of throwing up again, I skip the next meal. That just leads to more fatigue and leaves me more brain dead. Get the point?

Because of that vicious cycle, I started upping my consumption of MMJ to stay “ahead” of the nausea. Since then, I’ve been able to partake in more activities. I can make my family dinner, go to outdoor concerts, fundraisers and my son’s baseball games without living in fear of throwing up. My husband, who has seen it’s positive impact on me, believes it’s improving my quality of life. So do I. FYI, my husband is total white bread. Now the one side effect that it really doesn’t help me with is exhaustion.  When I’m tired, I’m tired. Sleep and rest is really the only way to deal with it.

I’m handling my consumption of medical cannabis delicately and cautiously, just as one should when taking any medication. The last thing I want is to be a stoner with red droopy eyes saying, “Ya man. This stuff is bad ass bro.”

Recently, I’ve started learning about different strains of cannabis and how they can be used for different symptoms. There is also an entire world of ways to inhale/ingest.  Who knew? I’ll soon be trying a new form of medical cannabis with low THC that won’t give me the “high” effect but will hopefully still help with the my symptoms.  Right now I am taking such low doses that it almost isn’t enough to even feel or act high, although occasionally I do.

I know medical marijuana can be a controversial subject and everyone has an opinion (or three!) about it. The last thing I want to do is push my agenda on you. Although I’m studying and reading about the many benefits this plant has, I’m definitely taking all the claims people make about it with a grain of salt.  That is to say, cautiously.  But I can speak to my experience.  And I can say without a shadow of a doubt that medical cannabis is helping me with my quality of life, and I’m glad that New Mexico law allows for its use.

PS – If you were wondering if I had “been under the influence” the last time you saw me.  The answer is yes.  I take it everyday.  Bet you wouldn’t have known, huh?  Since I started the new regiment last night, I am going to lean on the cannabis since nausea and vomiting are the biggest side effects.  Because the chemo is taken orally in pill form, keeping the meds down is the most important.  Throwing them up does do me much good.  Although I’ve enjoyed sharing this part of my journey with you.  I will jump this ship and head right over to my mini Walgreen’s home pharmacy of anti-nasuea meds if my Mary Jane fails me.  I think I am up to five different types prescriptions.  Not that MMJ isn’t, that is absolutely how I am handling it.

PPS – Please don’t ask me if I can “hook you up.”  The answer is, “No way, Jose!”

PPPS – It’s awesome stuff man!

Lorigami

If you have been on Facebook recently, you might be wondering what the deal is with all of the cranes people are folding and posting to my wall with the hashtag #CranesForLori.  After my Boston trip, I started to vaguely remember reading a book in grade school about a girl who was sick and folded one thousand paper cranes.

After doing some research I found the story of Sadako, a little girl who lived in Hiroshima, Japan in the 1940s and ’50s. She was a toddler when the United States dropped the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima to help end World War II. Due to radiation exposure, she developed leukemia. Sadako believed in a Japanese legend which holds that one who folds 1,000 paper cranes would be granted a wish to get well. Although she didn’t finish folding the cranes before she passed, her community came together and finished them for her.  The act of folding 1,000 paper cranes is now thought of as a symbol wishing luck and happiness in Japanese culture.  The book Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes is now used in international peace education.

Since I am such a crafty person, a 1,000 crane project felt like it would be the perfect way to pass some time and create some hope. From what I understand, when a person starts this project many people come around to fold these cranes in groups.  It’s a time to chat, reflect, and work towards a common goal. When I started, I was expecting a few friends would come over a few nights a week, and over a cold drink and gossip we would knock out fifteen cranes each.  What I did not expect was how competitive and intense some folks have gotten.  I also did not expect that my friends that aren’t in my everyday life would jump on the bandwagon via social media.

My friend from high school, Kathy Brooks, is a gifted and talented photographer. I had already arranged a photo sitting with her. Well, she had also noticed the cranes on social media and asked for me to bring one to our session. I couldn’t decide what color would go best so I took tons of them.  I am so glad that I did.  Isn’t her work awesome? Thank you Kathy.


0034(Photo courtesy Brooks Photography)

After just a few weeks of folding, we are already close to 350 cranes, and that’s just at my house.  It feels like with the support of friends, getting to 1,000 isn’t going to be all that hard.  So if we hit 1,000 and still have the motivation to keep going, why stop?  We will keep on a goin’.  Thank you friends, near and far.

I’m starting a new round of chemotherapy tomorrow. Like all the others, I’m expecting it to be difficult. Fold a crane for me. Share it with everyone on Facebook using the tag #CranesForLori.

Much love to you all.

#TeamLori Bracelets

I’m sure everyone is familiar with the yellow Live Strong bracelets Lance Armstrong popularized years ago. A friend of mine, Tamera, came up with the idea of creating custom rubber bracelets for me and my friends right after I got diagnosed. They read “Team Lori” and “I Believe,” after my blog post of the same name. It took a while for them to get here and then distributed. But once they did, I was very surprised at how many people were interested in them. So interested, we ran out!

#TeamLori bracelet
(Photo courtesy Brooks Photography)

My NMSU boys (more on them later), Jeremiah’s sports teams (Cobras and Gators families) as well as many others have vowed to wear them every day. I hope those who have sworn to wear them are planning for a looooong time, because I plan on sticking around for a while! 🙂

Quick side story, my son’s baseball coach and our friend Gabe went to watch a country band at Inn of the Mountain Gods in Ruidoso. He thought that it would be cool if he got a picture of the band wearing the bracelet. Long story short, he ended up getting banned for the Inn for 30 days because he snuck passed security. The security team didn’t think it was nearly as good an idea as he did, but I think it’s awesome. Thank you Gabe and Crystal!

Some friends are planning on placing a new order of bracelets in adult and child sizes soon. If you are interested in getting your hands on one and joining #TeamLori, please contact my girlfriend (since age 12!) Jessica Doak via Facebook or at jldoak@hotmail.com.

Thank you Tamera, Jessica and everyone else for your love and support. It means the world to me.

Pictures from Boston

Ok friends – I am not going to lie… I was down in the dumps for about 10 days after getting back from Boston.  One day after seemingly small encounters with people that I hardly know; I decided that I still have a lot to offer.  I have been talking the talk but it was time to start walking the walk.  So, I pulled myself up from the bootstraps and started decided to start living like I was living rather than dying.  I have more memories to make and happiness to share.

Although the entire reason for our trip to Boston was to seek medical advice, we got to take in some of the city and I wanted to share.  We had no idea how cool Boston really is.  Come along with us…

Boston 1Boston 2

These pictures were taken because I could help but laugh at the resemblance between my head and the state capital building of Massachusetts.

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For those if you that don’t know what a duck is you can check out the picture above.  You can also click their website http://bostonducktours.com for more information.  It’s a World War II vehicle that can drive on the road like a bus or in the water like a boat.  Funny little factoid about my life, my Dad was a duck driver in Wisconsin Dells after high school.

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A bridge that we drove over and then floated under.

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The Boston skyline as the duck turned around.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Friendly group of kayakers waiting for our boat to turn around.

After the duck adventure we decided to take our next stop on the tour to the ocean.  We went on a whale watching tour.  This time of year there are humpback whales in this part of the world.  Who knew?  Not me, but I do now.

 

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Don’t we make a cute couple?

 

So truth be known the boat we were on had three decks and four hundred people.  FOUR HUNDRED!  I did in fact get some pretty good video, but most of my pictures looks like this one.

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In focus, a picture of a head. Back in the distance is a fuzzy image that might be a whale tail 🙂

Below are some pictures of our favorite meals.  Brandon said that he wanted to leave Boston sick of seafood.  Although I don’t believe that statement could ever be true, we got close.

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Restaurant: Ostra Dish: Beef Carpaccio

 

Food 2

Restaurant: Ostra Dish: Asparagus with tiny purple flowers as garnish

Food 1

Restaurant: Ostra Dish: Paella “Valenciana style”

Food 3

Restarant: Ostra Dish: Chocolate Hazelnut Cremeux.

Restaurant: Avana Sushi Dish:  Sweet Girl Maki

Restaurant: Avana Sushi  Dish: Sweet Girl Maki

food 5

Restaurant: Legal Seafood Dish: If the LobSTAH ain’t fresh… it’s ain’t legal

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And then there was Fenway.

Once I got my final appointment at Dana Farber, we both looked at the Red Sox schedule.  Just so happened that they were home AND they were playing the Cubs.  Thanks to the Gomez influence, I’ve now been cheering on the Cubbies for some time now.  The game was right after my doctor’s appointment.  Like RIGHT after.  There were quite a few emotions that we had to deal with and we almost decided to skip the baseball game, but I am so glad we didn’t.  To experience Fenway park was pretty dang cool.  We got to see and feel (trust me those seats aren’t very comfortable) the park.  I’m so glad we went and we “almost” saw a no hitter.  Oh, and one more detail… THE CUBS WON.  That right there is Christmas miracle enough!

Fenway 1

Don’t iphone cameras rock! Love this pic of the old seats.

Pic from our seats

Pic from our seats

I ran into a my friend Dana from Las Cruces. Wha????

At the very back of the park, the Green Monstah is to my left.

At the very back of the park, the Green Monstah is to my left.

The only downside was riding the T back to our hotel.  It was just "a little tight".

The only downside was riding the T back to our hotel. It was just a “little tight”.

Thank you Boston for making what could have been a miserable trip quite nice.  #bostonstrong

 

Hope vs. Reality

Friends, I have been generous in sharing our story with you. Before you continue reading, I’m asking you two very big favors.

First, If you have a child that has any remote possibility of being around Jeremiah, please keep this information to yourself and in adult-only conversations. We haven’t decided how to approach this with Jeremiah.  I’m sure there is a book on how to tell your child you are at some vague stage of dying, but I’ve never been one to read those types of books. Just like we potty trained Jeremiah through song and dance, we will think of a special way to have this serious conversation with him.

Second, please try and respect my reason for sharing this story with you via a blog post. Frankly, it’s easier to tell my story to many of you this way, rather than in person or on the phone. I want my friends and family to be informed about what’s going on, and not just so they have the information. Some of my stories carry great emotional weight. It’s hard to re-live these emotions with each update and re-telling of details. I’m telling my stories this way because I don’t want to have to deal with all those emotions every single day. I love and appreciate all the support you send my way, but please know I might not want to dive in to these details when we next meet.

On my trip home from Boston, I started to wonder, how does one walk the line between realism and hope?  Can one feel both?  Or do they reside at two ends of a spectrum?

After Brandon and I met with the nation’s ‘experts,’ they recommended two oral meds for my next round of chemotherapy.  In one month I will take 5 pills, one everyday.  Simultaneously, I will take another pill for 14 days.  This will be considered a single “round” of chemo. After the 30 days, I will start another cycle or “round.”  After two rounds, I’ll undergo a scan to see what effect the therapy had on my tumors.

Even though this is a new therapy for me, ultimately, it isn’t a cure. There is no cure for my type of cancer.  At this point, target-directed therapies aren’t an option for me. Nor is surgery. Nor is a transplant. Due to the extent of the disease in my liver, the doctors are hopeful the new chemotherapy will shrink those tumors. But essentially, it’s just buying me time. Time for the meds to work.  Time for a miracle. Maybe enough time for medicine to advance enough to find a cure. Because no physician has a crystal ball, no one has really given me my expiration date.  I very candidly talked with my doctor about being on medical disability and/or pulling out some life insurance money.  I haven’t been classified as “terminal,” but her thoughts are I will live over six months but not more than five years.

So back to my initial thought: how can one be hopeful and realistic and the same time?  Does making “plans” mean I’m cashing in my chips?  In all honesty, I want to make some of these decisions while I still can. I want to take as much burden off of my family as possible. No one deserves to deal with this shit. Particularly my husband who really, really doesn’t deserve this.

Believe it or not, I do still believe. I believe that I was put on this Earth for a reason.
Maybe it’s to beat the odds with the chips stacked way against me. Maybe it’s to provide inspiration to others, as so many kind people have told me.

It’s becoming quite clear that there are a few things I won’t be able to do, like take over Ellen DeGeneres’ show once she retires. I’m fairly certain I am a better dancer than her, but I’m also fairly certain she is much funnier than me. When I watch her show I always wonder, “What would I be doing if it were my show?” I would love to know what it feels to bring so many people happiness. To be generous to so many people in need. To laugh and tell jokes and get paid for it!  It’s silly, I know, but true.

I will not be the amazing 40-year-old Olympic athlete representing the good ol’ US of A that I still fantasize to be. Every single time I watch the Olympics, I aspire to do something and be someone great; to work a whole life for a single moment when your entire country is cheering you on. I love those Olympic stories because most of the athletes participating don’t have NFL-style agents or huge endorsement deals. I just love watching someone fulfill their passionate dreams. It makes me so very happy. Technically, I have no athletic ability (aside from a penchant for dance) but it doesn’t keep a girl from dreaming.  Couldn’t you hear the commentators? “One afternoon Lori picked up a pair of old figure skates, drove 300 miles for a ice rink and landed a perfect toe loop.  Now she’s representing our nation at a whopping 40 years of age and killing this performance!”  This should be particularly funny to my friends that have seen me try to throw a ball, ski, ice stake or run for any distance… Ummmm, it’s not pretty.

I’ll never host my own cooking show on the Food Network. I believe I was put on this earth to share my love for food and wine. So maybe I don’t have impeccable knife skills and couldn’t pick out a ’90s Bordeaux from a line up, but what I lack in knowledge I make up in enthusiasm. And, I LOVE me some good food and good vino!

I won’t be a back up dancer for Beyoncé.  Now I have to admit this one is a bit of a stretch of my imagination (like the other three aren’t).  But, if you have ever been any kind of dancer, you understand.  I just wanna be one of the three that flip my extension-laden hair and then prance around telling him to “Put a Ring on It”.

But, what I do have is some time. How many people actually have the opportunity to honestly live like they’re dying?  I’ve always cared about how others feel about me and made every attempt to please people. Now, I’m not a total kiss ass, but I like a nice harmonious life. But suddenly, small people and things just don’t matter. I don’t care how someone might interpret one of my comments. Sure, I’d prefer a nice boring life, with 2.3 kids, a dog and a SUV.  I thought I was on that path, steering my life away from drama and the negative distractions, and I was ready to reap those rewards. But that’s not what’s happened.

This disease isn’t fair and doesn’t make any sense.  I continue to believe. I believe that I am loved. I also believe that the number that has been given to me is an average. I’ve never been average my whole entire life. Why start now?