Who ME???

PresentC2

People with cancer are those slightly defeated looking faces on TV commercials, with happy, supportive people all around them. People with cancer are the frail humans that sad movies are made about. Not me!
Face it, when you first find out you have cancer, it doesn’t seem real. Call it denial, doesn’t matter. You are going from a life of worrying about work, family events, social schedule, home repairs to a new normal that is hyper focused on saving your life. Yes, I said it, you are saving your life. Clear your calendar delegate your duties, sounds selfish but your new focus is on you.
Why do they say it hits everyone differently? Deep sadness is a guarantee. How you pick yourself up and how long you stay in the sad phase is up to you. So, yes, that thing over there (cancer) with your name on it, is yours. You don’t have to wear it everyday, you don’t have to carry it with you everywhere, you can put it away for most of your day and focus on the people, interests and activities you enjoy.
I often laugh at myself, because even though my cancer is quite serious and some would think it is always on my mind, I will have a friend stop and ask me how my condition is. I kind of jolt for a quick second as I switch gears, as I quickly remind myself they must be asking about my cancer (not if my tennis rating will be changing, due to my super-human performance on court this year – haha, or how I’m dealing with my last child about to move out of the house…). They want to know what’s new on the cancer homefront. Oh yeah…I’ve got cancer….ummm…what tests did I just have, or what am I about to have…quick…say something so you don’t look like a complete ding dong. Honestly, it’s usually just not the first thing on my mind. Admittedly, sometimes it is, though.
I think the turning point for me was after I educated myself. Once I understood what I have, how I may have contracted it (I sure don’t like the cop-out “bad luck”), and that there is hope for me, I started to educate myself. Education moved me out of the sad phase. How about you?


Cancer VIP??

HotelPhoto

Cancer VIP – you just gotta ask. Well, they may not roll out the red carpet, but most cities have hotels that cater to cancer patients. They know you are not excited to be there. You aren’t going to rent a cabana and have bottle service by the pool. Being close to amusement parks or afterhours hot spots is not what is bringing you to town. Your needs are different.
Most cities have some hotels and apartments that offer “Medical Stay” rates. Check with your cancer center information desk, or ask the hotel or apartment office. Most are located near the cancer treatment centers and that’s a great start, but remember, you may not be feeling well and your immune system may not be 100%.
You may prefer a hotel that does not have a huge lobby or gathering place that you have to walk through as you enter and exit. You may want access to specific foods at the onsite restaurant. You probably need as much exercise as you can handle, so find a hotel or apartment with safe surroundings that you like walking in. We stayed at an older apartment complex that was in a residential area, had great local restaurants we could walk to, including a grocery store, and had a pool area that was not used much, so I didn’t have to worry about being around too many people.
Don’t be surprised if these hotels have shuttles to the cancer treatment center too. They are used to patients staying there. I also bet the restaurants are used to delivering there as well.
Pick a place you like and rest well. Your happiness is important.
TAG: hospital rate, cancer treatment tips, medical stay


Signs you are not an Olympian

OlympicRings

No, you’re not an Olympian – Yeah, yeah, yeah….you used to run 5 miles every morning, work 12 hours a day and leap small buildings with a single bound. Even Superman had a kryptonite and yours is cancer!
If you are like me, you are used to being active. Working out a couple of mornings and evenings a week and pushing yourself a little more on the weekends was your norm. Running from activity to activity was just your basic M.O. Yes, your kids are still going to want you to take them everywhere and do everything with them. Your social calendar will still have the potential to be as full as ever, if you let it. And, yes, the dentist, insurance agent, property owner’s group and others still want a slice of your valuable time.
Believe me, when I finished treatment and started getting back into my life, I was amazed at how much I normally handled. It’s like my life was coming at me at 110 miles per hour speed and all I could handle was about a 20 mile per hour pace. Sure, what’s one little cocktail party? I’ll just sit instead of standing and we will only go for 15 minutes…right 😊
Even adding a little 15 minute activity to your 20 mile per hour pace, makes an impact in your condition. How do I know? All of a sudden, all the side-effects that I thought I were over, started creeping back into my day. I would be at a restaurant and I could not get my hands or feet warm! Seriously, I was sitting on my hands and trying to sit on my feet! Hot tea in the summer seems odd, but I was ordering it frequently. The next thing I noticed was that I would have a day or half day, that I just couldn’t move. Have you ever felt like that? Your legs just feel really heavy and you can’t manage to put one foot in front of the other or even stand for very long.
There’s no gold medal for pushing yourself like you used to. Here’s the secret, your body needs to build its reserves. By sleeping, eating right, reducing the intensity of your activities, you begin building your reserves. When you over exert (?) you deplete your reserves. Simple? Not really. You must make a conscious effort to know when you are jeopardizing your reserves.
The real gold medal is seeing that you are healing. Your side-effects are diminishing. You are getting stronger! Way to go!!


Howdy! Peace be with you.

peace

Yes, He is listening! Why do we wait until something really bad happens to turn to our faith? I don’t know and it doesn’t matter, just turn. My sweet tennis team gave me a box of feel good items to help me get through all this muck. My favorite thing was a daily devotional little book called “Jesus Calling”. https://www.jesuscalling.com/
Call them tips, if you want. One of my favorite ones was about Peace. All my life, we shake people’s hands at church and say “Peace be with you”. I always thought it was basically just a churchy “Hi, how are ya” all these years. It was so easy, just turn to all the friendly faces around and give them a big Sunday howdy! Wow, was I wrong, but I’m so glad I finally figured it out.
Peace be with you means you are wishing someone peace from their worry about the future and their regret of the past. Boy can we all use this! We are in the fight for our lives. Do we really need to add regret and worry to the uniform we put on every day as we go to battle? Good grief, no!
So to all of you, Peace be with YOU.

 


It’s not that I don’t like you, it’s just my white cells are low.

Quarantine me – not just for world travelers anymore – If your white cells are low, quarantine yourself. This is another one of those things you can control and get an A++ at. Running to Walmart isn’t worth the serious virus or infection you could come home with. Go with me on this one.
Pretend you are on a Staycation. Watch all those #Netflix series you promised yourself you would watch. Try some new recipes. Start needlepointing a Christmas stocking (I did 2 of them). Stay away from hotels, stores, restaurants, schools period!
If people ask to come over, be honest, tell them you are at risk of infection. Who wants to be “that guy who made you sick”? After your numbers are up, let them come over. Just remember this does not mean partay! Any illness you get is more serious and complicated because it’s you and you don’t have much ammo to fight it with, so be careful!
So what can you do? I played tennis! I realized that I could be on one side of the net and the nearest human was over 100 feet from me! Score!!! Since I could not fly in an airplane or stay at a hotel, my husband and I drove to a friend’s condo and stayed there for a week together. We cooked, hiked, read and drove back home. All of those friends who have condos and lake houses, or friends of theirs who have condos and lake houses, or dear family members (distant or not) who have condos or lake houses, take them up on their offer to “do anything they can to help you”. As little of a trip as this sounds like, it gives you something to look forward to, prepare for and remember as your “happy place” when the tough days come.Slippers


There’s no Zagat rating for Cancer treatment centers

star

There’s no Zagat rating for Cancer treatment centers, oh no! After you swallow the big “I have cancer” gulp, choosing where to go for treatment is your biggest hurdle. Not a high jumper, you are about to become one. My best advice is to cast a wide net, but where do you start?
A dear friend gave me great advice. She said, ”make appointments everywhere, call, call, call, and then cancel the ones you don’t want later”. So, I did just that.
First, determine what you are looking for. Is your cancer common and treatable just about anywhere (lucky you)? Is an experienced surgeon key to your survival? If yes, ideally, get a doctor that only does this procedure. If there are several treatment options, go to someone with knowledge about chemo alone, chemo with immunotherapy, immunotherapy alone or something completely unique. I called teaching hospitals (affiliated with a university), regular hospitals and for-profit treatment centers that advertise on TV.
Second, start asking questions. You should be able to speak to a nurse or a patient representative who can answer some of your questions. When I say make appointments everywhere, that’s because most places want you to come see the doctor, rather than speaking over the phone. Honestly, I just told them that I needed to make my decision within 2 weeks and it was impossible to fly all over the USA going to appointments when we can just do a preliminary chat on the phone. In addition, I got on the hospital’s website and emailed doctors and nurses directly.
You will be happy to see the pieces of your puzzle starting to come together naturally. If the center does not take your type of insurance, they may not be a fit. If they can’t get you in for an appointment and won’t talk to you on the phone, they may not be a fit. If they say they don’t really specialize in your condition, they may not be a fit. If you cannot easily travel there or pick up and move there temporarily, they may not be a fit.
Pick the appointments you want to keep and cancel the others. Go meet these doctors and their team. They are your new best friends and you need to feel comfortable with them. Together with you, they will save your life.


Cancer cells are cellfish

target

Cancer cells are cellfish! Are these selfish cells cramping your Style? If it would work better for your calendar to come every 3 weeks instead of every 2, just say so. Sorry dear, it doesn’t work that way. There is a cycle to the growth of cancer cells and this is what determines how regularly you must show up for your dose of chemo.
Simply put, chemo attacks cancer cells when they are most receptive to the poison. Say a cell divides, it must grow a little bit, maybe 2 weeks, maybe 3 weeks, when it is ripe for chemo. Then ZAP, we give them a shot of chemo and they stop dividing. Mission accomplished. Wait, more are growing, wait 2 weeks and then Zap them again and so on.

Here’s where it gets complicated, you may be getting 2 types of chemo in your chemo cocktail, and one is on a 2 week zapping schedule and one on a 3 week zapping schedule. Lucky you, you get to go hang out and watch TV at the infusion center even more. Sure wish there was a punch card with a free gift at the end!

Face it, we are on cancer’s schedule. Our job is to do whatever it takes to keep ourselves strong enough to stay on schedule and annihilate as many cells as possible.

Happy shooting!


Ports are ImPORTant!

Port

Ports are ImPORTant! Just what you need, something else to add to your stressful situation. But wait, having a port can be your new best friend. All a port does is give easy, instant access to your system, rather than using your precious veins.
First, a port must be surgically inserted, and really they don’t fully knock you out for this (but you remember nothing) and it only takes 15 minutes. Most ports are inserted under the skin on the front side of your right shoulder. Even though your incision is not healed, you can begin accessing your port within days. Your skin will completely heal over the port site. There is nothing for you to take care of after it heals.
Why do you access a port? Mostly for delivery of chemo. It also is perfect for any blood draws, contrast for scans, IV antibiotics, during surgery or fluids, if you need them. Nurses love ports. It makes their job so so much easier. When the port is accessed (aka hooked up) the nurse uses a super sterile pack to clean and attach tubing for your treatment. Cream, what cream?? Be sure to ask for a prescription for Lidocaine cream. It numbs the area so you feel absolutely nothing when they access it. 30 minutes before your appointment to access your port, put a nice sized dollop on the skin that is over your port. Place a piece of Press-n-seal Saran Wrap (about 6” x 6” square or larger) over your cream and skin. This protects your clothing. Nurses will remove this and wipe the area for you. Have no fear, if you forget the cream, yes there is a slight stick, however it is nothing like getting an IV in your arm!
The good news is this saves your veins. Veins do not really like chemo. Some people say it hurts more to get chemo and fluids through your veins vs your port. This usually is because of the small size of your veins and the speed at which they have the pump set. If you do use your veins and it hurts, ask your nurse to slow down the pump speed.
Once you finish chemo, your only responsibility is to go to your infusion center or hospital and have your pump flushed with saline every 4 to 6 weeks. This kind of primes the pump, so to say, and keeps the lines clear so your port is ready to use when needed. If you are having chemo regularly, you are getting your port flushed at the end of each treatment.
Should you have your port removed when you are finished? I get asked this question all the time. My theory is I use it for scans every 3 to 6 months. Plus, in reality, I’m the only one that really knows it’s there. Yes, there is a little bump that can be seen when I wear a lightweight top or an athletic tank, but who cares? I also have visible freckles, wrinkles, graying roots and plenty of other things to keep people’s eyes busy.
Love your port. It really does make the situation much more pleasant.


I love my needles

Emoji

Most people get that teethy, stiff jaw emoji look on their face when I say I have an acupuncture appointment. Why would I want more needles? Eeeeew it hurts, doesn’t it? Actually, it’s very relaxing and it really helps!
It all started when the side effects of chemo began taking over my wardrobe choices. No matter what the temperature, or how many pairs of socks or layers of blankets, I am always cold. To combat the cold, I was not wanting to add pain relievers, muscle relaxers or any other pills to my daily diet.
Rather than cute summer sandals, my furry warm UGG boots became a daily “must have”. Believe me, they are not easy to disguise in the summer months.
My acupuncture treatments helped tone down the frost bitten feeling in my hands, legs and feet. The more you relax, the better the acupuncture treatments work. Honestly, I started looking forward to some quiet time and it made me feel good to know I was doing something that was helping my body heal. The best way I can describe it is I was asking my body to endure so many harmful treatments from chemo, radiation, scans to steroids and other medications. Acupuncture was one treatment that not only made me relax, but also had positive benefits.
Learning that there is more work to do after chemo ends, I continued my acupuncture sessions. The thought of hoping my nerve damage healed was not a gamble I wanted to take. Considering there are 36” of nerves from your spine to your fingertips and toes, and worst case, you can heal 1” per month, it was time to get busy repairing my nerves.
Ask around and look for an acupuncturist who has worked with cancer patients. You should expect to go weekly and taper off as you begin to feel like a normal human again and stop wearing your winter boots.


Thanksgiving is about the china.

China

Mine had only been used once in 30 years. It seemed so important when we were getting married, to choose the right pattern, be sure to register for the proper number of place settings and serving pieces. I almost didn’t get to see it again. So, this week, as I was washing 30 years of dust off each piece, I thought about how thankful I am for YOU.
YOU let me forget I have cancer. YOU didn’t bring it up every time you saw me. YOU sat with me while I was getting my chemo treatments and we laughed, made plans, drank coffee, took funny photos, knitted, talked about life and ate high calorie snacks. YOU invited me to lunch. YOU introduced me to friends who needed cancer advice. So just when you thought you didn’t know how to help, you were doing exactly what I needed.
My best advice to those not wanting to over step, but wanting to provide support, is to send a simple text saying, “how are you feeling”. If you want to do more, come by to sit and chat. If you don’t mind my funky hair doo, lack of make-up and me not getting up to do any hostess duties, we can have a great time! If you are running out for a coffee on a pretty day, yes, I would love to ride along. Let’s watch a movie (I will probably fall asleep). Let’s cook something (I can read the instructions and point to where ingredients are).
I don’t mind talking about cancer, however there is not really much change week to week. Honestly, I forget about it until someone brings it up. What you are doing, is waaaay more interesting! For those of us whose health is too fragile, friends and family can contribute to a food delivery service. (Wish I had invented that!)
This year, I am thankful for being here to use my china for the second time in 30 years, thankful for my doctors and most of all, thankful for all of you who prayed, supported and motivated me to fight the big fight. Thanks!