“Life is uncertain, eat dessert first” should have been my senior quote in my high school year book instead of the cliche Garth Brooks quote I decided to roll with. I’ve been a firm believer in both the benefits of dessert and attempting to live in the present after my first cancer diagnosis. That’s not to say that I eat every meal at McDonald’s; however, in between my salads with sweet pea shoots and bean sprouts, I like to indulge in a good IPA and cheesy fries at my favorite Thirsty Thursday bar with my fellow MBA classmates.
But, my adherence to this quote in the literal sense dramatically changed as of this weekend due to the lasting effects of my cancer treatment. Cancer sucks for a number of reasons and if you’re lucky enough to be a survivor, it is hard to complain about the side effects, which is in and of itself a side effect termed ‘survivorship guilt.’ With that being said, the side effects suck just as much as the cancer because they prevent you from ever returning to a normal life – 21 years after my diagnosis and I live in fear that the cancer will win. So, in today’s episode of “what side effect am I dealing with now?” we’re talking about my heart.
As most of you know, I had a fully-ablative, allo bone marrow transplant in 1996 because I was fighting Acute Myeloid Leukemia. The allo part means I got my cells from someone else (my amazing brother) and the fully-ablative part means that chemo and radiation kicked my ass prior to actually receiving the stem cells. As a result of the chemo and radiation that I received, my heart is compromised in two ways: (1) some of the muscle cells in the heart were killed off and others had to enlarge to pick up the slack (this is what happens when women are pregnant and hearts have to work extra hard to pump extra blood) (2) blood vessels become sclerotic and stiff making it easier for plaque to build up and for patients to have heart attacks. Unfortunately, this isn’t a hypothetical – more and more patients like me are succumbing to massive, fatal heart attacks due to sclerotic vessels. Consequently, some of the world’s top research physicians advised me over the weekend at the annual BMT conference that I needed to commit to protecting my heart with step #1 being BECOME A (good) VEGAN!
As with most of my new adventures, I will be chronicling the ups and downs of my experiences here. Of note, occasionally I will bake and may use chocolate chips sparingly (sorry but carob ≠ chocolate). Stay tuned for more veggie love!
To donate to my Boston Marathon run and help me fight cancer by raising $23,000 click here.