Tag Archive | pink post

How to Deal with Chemotherapy

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Go ahead, introduce me to this ‘cancer’ fella…

Together, with our combined forces of hope, perseverance, positive thinking

and butt-kicking skills…

We can beat this thing

INTO SUBMISSION!

I mean…remission.

I endured ACT chemo back in 2002 ~ 8 rounds given once every 3 weeks.  So for me, I was feeling yucky for the first 2 weeks but the 3rd week was my ‘party week” as much as you can ‘party’ while dealing with breast cancer.  Party for me meant that I got out of the house, perhaps lunch with a friend or if I had the energy, a bit of window shopping.  My friends and family made sure that the last week before my next round of chemo was for fun so that when I was knocked down the following week, I had some fun memories in my back pocket and then I also had something to look forward to 3 weeks ahead!

I met with a nurse who had endured chemo at my oncologist office and she gave me a few tips which I pass on whenever I hear of someone who will be having chemo.   There’s also a few things you should know about what this chemo does to you.  So hold my hand…and I’ll help if I can.  Please know that these are simply suggestions based on my experience.  As you know, I”m not a doctor so please check with your own physician and nurses.

PORT:  I had a port, which I loved because it meant that I only had one needle.  Of course, that needle still pinched when it went in, but because my veins weren’t very hardy, it was easier and safer for me to have my chemo directly inserted into my veins through my port.  Ports don’t hurt and you hardly know they are there in case you are thinking of getting one.  I do suggest that you wear a front buttoning shirt or zippered jacket so that the nurse can access the port easily and you can stay covered as chemo takes awhile and you will be there for a few hours.

NEVER EVER EAT YOUR FAVORITE MEAL THE NIGHT BEFORE CHEMO!  That was a rule I was given before I had my first session and it’s stayed with me.  Do you know why?  Because if you throw it up after chemo, it will never be your favorite meal again!  It was a cardinal rule for me and even though I only threw up the first night of my first chemo session, I never chanced it.

The night before chemo and the first few days after your chemotherapy, eat bland foods and nothing greasy.  You do not want to aggravate your stomach any more than it will already be with the chemo drugs, so take it easy.  I remember I came home from my first chemo session and I wanted mashed potatoes.  Listen to your body and it will steer you in the right direction.  Bland, non-greasy foods are always good for you during chemo as you may feel nauseous afterwards and greasy foods will aggravate your stomach.  Also, make sure you take your anti-nausea pills on time and as prescribed even if you are not nauseous.  For once you get that nausea feeling, it’s hard to shake it.  An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!

What to Wear:  For chemo sessions, I suggest wearing something comfy as you will be there for a few hours.  There’s nothing like being in something stretchy and warm so that if you are given a recliner, you can relax while you have your chemo.  Also, you will be weighed every time, so it’s easier if are wearing the same type of clothing so you can monitor your weight better.  Not that it really matters, that was my own hangup as I did gain weight on chemo due to steroids etc.

What to Bring:  Because every oncology office is different, you may be able to have your loved one with you while you are there, but some offices, like the one I was at, didn’t allow family in the chemo room.  So, I used to bring a book to read which honestly, I don’t think I ever really read more than once.  You see, sometimes you start chatting with the patients around you as you are all in the same boat, all receiving chemotherapy.  Because your sessions are usually the same day, same time, you get to know the others who are receiving their chemo treatments on a similar schedule as yours and you begin to bond with them.  It always amazed me how we made almost instantaneous friendships at chemo.  I was blessed that the oncology nurses I had were such kind-hearted people who were so loving towards us.  It made it ‘almost’ fun to hang out there (ok, you know I don’t mean it) but it was the people, the nurses, the doctors who made the chemo easier to handle.  I hope that you are as blessed as I was…

Food:  Because you are there for hours, we were usually given ginger ale (which helps with nausea), water or apple juice and sometimes even ice pops.  I liked to snack on cheez its which aren’t very nutritious, but they were bland and a little crunchy and for some reason, they helped me with nausea.  See what your doctor and nurses recommend.  Stay hydrated.  Eat small meals which help with nausea as well.

ACT Chemo HAIR LOSS:  2-3 weeks after your first chemo, you will lose your hair.  All of your hair.  The hair on your head, your eyelashes, eyebrows, the hair in your nose, the hair on your legs (yup, no shaving them for awhile!), the hair under your arms and (Rated Mature:  you will even have that popular Brazilian waxed look without ever having to endure the pain of being waxed!)  So you will need to deal with your hair coming out which for some women in particular, is a hard piece of the chemo trauma.  For me, I knew I had to do something when my hair began coming out in clumps in my hands when I was in the shower.  It was mind-blowing for me.  It struck me in my gut in the most awful way.  So my husband and I took matters into our own hands. You can read about it here.

American Cancer Society has a great program called Look Good Feel Better click here to find more info  which is a great way to learn some make up tips on how to draw on eyebrows etc and make yourself feel prettier with new makeup all for free!  While you are there, you can even bond with other women who are fighting cancer as well.  There are also opportunities to be fitted with a great-looking wig for free with your local American Cancer Society.  You can also purchase turbans and scarves to keep your head warm in the cold winter months because quite frankly, a bald head gets chilly at night!  And if you should need breast forms and even stick on nipples while you are awaiting reconstruction, you can get those there as well.  ACS is a great resource.  You can even ask to talk with a Reach to Recovery volunteer who will be hand-picked for you.  This woman understands what you are dealing with because she’s been there already.  ACS will try to match you with someone who is most like you ~ age, marital status, children, stage of cancer, type of surgeries, chemo, radiation etc.  For years I was a Reach to Recovery Volunteer.  It makes a difference to know someone understands what you are going through without having to explain.

I hope this list helps you as you are dealing with cancer, chemotherapy and all the rest of the mess that encompasses fighting the disease.  You can do this ~ believe me, I am/was the wimpiest girl ever who endured breast cancer!  I still feel faint at the sight of any needle, but I know that…

You can do this.  I will help you.  I believe in you.

So reach out,  take hold of my hand.  You’ve got a friend in me. 

I’m always here for you with a smile and with understanding.

Shine On!

xo

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The Right To Fight Like A Girl

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Keep Calm and Fight Like A Girl

I wasn’t sure if I was going to enter the fray this morning, but I can’t help it.  I’m drawn, like a moth to flame today.  My heartfelt thanks to my dear friend Florence who wrote The Right To Fight as it has spurred me on to write as well.  For you see, it’s a touchy subject and although I’m not one to pursue it too much, I must today so please allow me to go on or you can choose to simply pass me by ~ it’s ok.  The post will be read by those for whom it is intended.

Death is a subject that is controversial as you can see by Bill Keller’s recent article in the New York Times click here to read.   It’s personal ~ the way each individual reacts to it and deals with it.  For breast cancer survivors (I, myself being a 12 year survivor), it’s emotionally charged when we read an article about how an individual deals with her diagnosis, her treatment and how she reacts to her disease.  Florence has written a great post which I will not repeat.  Please make sure you read how she has reacted to the recent article by Mr. Keller.

Instead, I prefer to focus on Lisa Adams click here to visit her site.   For when I read her About Page  I was stunned by our similarities:  we shared Memorial Sloan Kettering as our hospital, how our original diagnosis’ were much the same (although I had 6 lymph nodes with cancer) and it was my right breast and her left one which had the cancer.  We endured the same chemotherapy treatments ACT, yet back in 2002, my treatments were every 3 weeks and not every 2 weeks.  I endured 6 weeks of radiation, where she had 1 week less.  We both lost and regained our menstruation cycles after chemotherapy as we were young when diagnosed.  I was diagnosed at  34 years old;  Lisa was 37 years.  We both had salpingo oophorectomies (ovaries surgically removed) which of course, plunges young women, including Lisa and me, headlong into menopause ~ speaking for myself, since I’d already endured menopause as a side effect of the chemotherapy, only to have my period return which was hormonally hard to deal with let alone physically, mentally and emotionally, what was one more final round of menopause?  Heck, I’d already lost my hair, my dignity and my figure let alone my breasts.  What was harmful in losing one more thing that could be affecting my cancer prognosis?

But Lisa’s cancer, for whatever reason, came back and metastasized.  Mine didn’t.  It’s not that I still don’t have that possibility in the back of my mind because I’d be lying if I said that I don’t think about it.  Every 6 months when I’m tested at my oncologist’s, I’m reminded that cancer can still be lurking inside my body.  It doesn’t help when there are aches and pains which happen occasionally either as they tend to wither my resolve to stand firm in my thinking that I will live forever cancer-free.

Lisa’s public journey through metastasized breast cancer is new to me as I had never met her before nor visited her website.  But I highly applaud her perseverance, her integrity and her drive to lift the veil and to share what’s really going on behind the pink-ribboned spectacle of breast cancer.  Much talk is about prevention and early detection, but rarely do we read/hear about the women in the trenches who are battling death daily.  My friend Jenn was such a warrior who lost her battle a few years ago.  It was Jenn who told me through a medium that one must know her limits at the end of her life and to make sure that I knew what I wanted.  I never forgot that message nor the one that told me that my scans were clear, clear, clear and that I now walked for 2 ~ me and you.

I believe we all have a right to choose how we deal with our imminent death (if we are given such a gift) ~ we can choose like Keller’s father-in-law to go peacefully or we can choose like Jenn and Lisa to battle with a fierceness known only to few.  Whatever you choose, I stand for you and I fully defend your individual right to choose.  There is no right or wrong way to die, it’s a personal matter.   I heartily applaud Lisa’s courage in sharing her journey with us.  My heart holds a heaviness for all she is enduring as well as her family and all the others out there in our great big world who are dealing with dis-ease and the ending of life as we know it here.

Shine On!

xo

P.S.  See below for posts about Jenn…Happy Birthday Jenn (Jan 13 she would have turned 38)

Bonding-with-strangers

Spirits-and-Music

I-walk-for-two

Treating a Person…

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You treat a disease, you win, you lose. You treat a person,

I guarantee you, you’ll win, no matter what the outcome. – Hunter Patch Adams

I wanted to entitle this a Pink Post, but I think it’s more than that ~ it’s more than how the patient feels treated by the doctor, it’s about how we treat all people in every step of our life’s path.  Treating a person, as a person, is what we should do.  Sometimes I think we get caught up in what we believe is right, how we believe this person ought to be and we smother the uniqueness of the individual.

As a breast cancer patient, I’ve been treated in all different manners by all different physicians and staff.  I’ve been whittled down to just another set of boobs, I’ve been treated like a statistic and I’ve been looked at as a physical body which needs repair.

And then, I’ve been treated like a person, a woman who has endured 15 surgeries, who has feelings, who is hurting and doing the best she can, who has a family that she takes care of and is the matriarch of, a woman who juggles being a wife, mom, daughter, caregiver, who’s taken over after her dad passed away all that needs to be done, careerwoman and friend, all in the same day, many times, juggling all those balls in the air at the same moment.

It is in those precious moments, those special connections, when someone looks me in the eye asking, “How are you?”  and I know I can trust them to actually listen for the answer ~ or the non-answer as it may be.  To me, that is a priceless feeling which cannot be ignored.

So whether you are a physician or staff, friend or family, take a moment past the “I’m fine” answer of the patient to hear all that she/he isn’t saying as well.  If you look closely, you may see the wince of pain, the tiny tremble in their chin and know that a little bit of care will go a long way in healing.  Reach out to hold the hand offered and to really look in their eyes.  That special moment of treating them as a real person goes a long way.

As patients, we realize that you deal with many different people who are hurting all day and we can sympathize with you that we are just one of the many for you.  But, aside from your job, treating a person as a person, no matter how busy you are, makes all the difference in the world ~ to you and to the person with whom you are interacting.

Our world would be such a brighter place if we all could do this ~ treat a person as a person.

Shine On!

xo