Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Too Young to Die, Too Old to Worry and Why I hope to Die at 75

This past week I saw two articles with the above titles and was intrigued.  “Too Young to Die, Too Old to Worry” was in The New York Times and the “Why I Hope to Die at 75” was in The Atlantic. 

They both had similar themes:

“Once you get older, 80 in the first article, 75 in the second, perhaps one should spend less time on preventative medicine and more time enjoying the more pleasurable things in life.”

“Doubtless, death is a loss. But here is a simple truth that many of us seem to resist: living too long is also a loss. It renders many of us, if not disabled, then faltering and declining, a state that may not be worse than death but is nonetheless deprived.”

“At older ages, we desire to not to simply pursue life, but happiness, and that medicine is important, but it’s not the only means to this happiness.” 

“Americans seem to be obsessed with exercising, doing mental puzzles, consuming various juice and protein concoctions, sticking to strict diets, and popping vitamins and supplements, all in a valiant effort to cheat death and prolong life as long as possible. I think this manic desperation to endlessly extend life is misguided and potentially destructive. For many reasons, 75 is a pretty good age to aim to stop.”

“Since 1960, increases in longevity have been achieved mainly by extending the lives of people over 60. Rather than saving more young people, we are stretching out old age. Over the past 50 years, health care hasn’t slowed the aging process so much as it has slowed the dying process. And, the contemporary dying process has been elongated.”

Both articles focus on how after certain ages, the benefits of prevention are not worth the hassles of testing, surgeries and medications. 

I agree with the basic premises of these articles and can only hope to be alive at 75 or 80.  The links to the articles are below:

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Long Time No Update

It’s been a while since I last updated my blog.  I guess there is not too much going on in my cancer life – everything is reasonably stable.  I am scheduled for scans, 5-HIAA and other tests in early October and I’m hoping I’m still stable.  Last month I marked the 4 year anniversary of my diagnosis.   This coming week marks the one year anniversary of my de-bulking surgery.  A few days ago, this blog reached its 100,000th pageview!  These are some serious milestones.

I am feeling less stressed out since my retirement a few months ago.  I thought that stopping work would help my bowel issues tremendously but it has only helped incrementally.  I still need to be near a restroom and every day is an adventure as to bowel frequency, consistency and color.  I do have some days where I only have one  bowel movement and this makes me reminisce about my pre-surgery days.  

My second NETest showed an increase from  in my score from 3 to 4.  The range of scores is 1-8 and 1-4 is considered low or “residual disease”.  I still have one test to go in a few months and I hope it remains in the same range.

I am doing a better job on eating appropriately now that I am not working.  I don’t digest fat very well so I take CREON, a pancreatic enzyme 3x a day.  My doctor told me that I should eat more soluble fiber and take metamucil or benefiber daily.   Soluble fiber attracts water and forms a gel, which slows down digestion and can help stop diarrhea. Sources of soluble fiber include oatmeal, oat cereal, lentils, apples, oranges, pears, oat bran, strawberries, nuts, flaxseeds, beans, dried peas, blueberries, psyllium, cucumbers, celery, and carrots.  Since I have been eating more soluble fiber, my bowel movements have improved but are still not “normal”.  I have also been eating 4 smaller meals a day and trying to eat softer foods.  

Some of the foods that work for me are below:
  • eggs (scrambled, soft/hard boiled, omelettes, deviled or egg salad-with light mayonnaise)
  • roasted turkey or grilled/rotisserie chicken
  • any grilled, baked or broiled fish
  • tuna fish sandwiches made with light mayonnaise - sometimes with reduced fat cheese for a tuna melt
  • soups that are not cream based - I try to make my own soups rather than eating canned.
  • creamy peanut butter and jelly/marshmallow fluff/fig butter (pick one) sandwiches
  • crackers with laughing cow light or other low-fat cheese
  • fat free feta cheese in my omelette or on my (small) salad
  • greek yogurt

I stay away from celery, corn, nuts, seeds and popcorn. I don't intentionally put these into anything I eat. When I make a salad, I chop it up into small pieces and chew thoroughly.  I’m sure that eating better and more frequently plus the reduction of stress in my life has helped with the slight improvement in symptoms.  I’ve also not had another full bowel obstruction since my emergency room visit in April.  I did have a “bowel kink” or perhaps a partial obstruction in July but it cleared before I needed to see a doctor or go to the ER. 

Finally, I read an interesting article in “The New Yorker” titled “The Transformation  Is it possible to control cancer without killing it?”  It’s about the new treatments that are being tested and used now. The intent is not to cure cancer, but to keep patients alive with a higher quality of life for longer.  The link is below: