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!


Teenage Mutant Ninja Cells

SmartSelectImage_2017-11-05-20-23-20So, how do we get cancer? After asking and asking…here is what I have pieced together. First, we all have cancer in our bodies. A properly working immune system sees the properly identified bad cells as “bad” and gets rid of them, like it is supposed to.
Here is where is gets complicated, when your immune system sees bad cells as “good” it allows them to grow and we call these constantly multiplying cells cancer. Where do these tricky demon cells come from? So, we all have DNA, follow me so far? (that was the easiest part of this explanation) Apparently, our DNA gets damaged or mutated, either from an illness, stress, an injury, hereditary, from birth, environmental, from something we injested or somewhere else. This occurrence leaves a mutated gene in our DNA. So when something appears in our body that this gene was supposed to identify as bad, gets identified as good, it slips the system and is allowed to find a home somewhere in our body. An analogy I was given, is that these cells are kind of thrown out like grass seed and they try to find a place to stick. Once they find that place, they thrive and become unwanted cancer.
So how do we avoid having our good cells behaving badly? Simple, avoid stress, never get sick, never get injured, don’t eat anything, don’t breathe anything, it’s easy!


Spiral up or Spiral down

….you pick. You have a choice. Cancer is fighting against you and what type of cancer patient you become is up to you. You can either spiral up or spiral down. If you push yourself to eat good sized meals, you have energy. If you have energy, you feel like being active. If you are active, you get hungry. If you get hungry, you eat! This is the upward spiral.
What’s the other option look like? Don’t eat much, and don’t have much energy. Don’t have much energy, and don’t have much activity. Don’t have much activity, and you are not hungry. This is the downward spiral.
Is it easy? No. Are there tricks? Yes. Wear a fitness tracker and see your daily step count. After treatment, when you still have steroids in your system, be active! Play golf, play tennis, walk, clean a closet, go shopping for something to do when your low-energy days hit. Eat! Make some fattening brownies, add chocolate chips. Make cinnamon rolls and eat the whole pan. Put a pecan on top of each bite.
Do what you can do. Be conscious of what you could easily do and what you would call pushing yourself. If you can push yourself to eat more or be more active, do it and spiral UP!


It’s not the fair, it’s the Cancer rollercoaster.

Get strapped in and let’s go for the ride. The day you get your diagnosis, you are at the bottom of the incline. There is no describing this day to anyone and there is nothing, not even a new puppy, that can make you feel any better. Come on Bright Side, I’m ready for you. Then it comes, you learn about the success rate with a particular treatment and you get temporary comfort from your team. Then you begin treatment or have surgery, or both…weeeeee and we are back down again. Surgery is over, treatment is starting and it’s tolerable. Up, down, up, down, then you finish treatment. Yay, back up again! Three months later, you walk back into the hospital for your scans and your stomach has that queasy feeling as you drop straight down from your temporary high. Scans come back clear! Yessss! We are up again! Then you feel something odd…oh no, could it be back? Great, it was just a temporary feeling. Time for scans again…oh no, this might be something. Yes, it is. You try to ease your mind, no treatment is necessary now, but what if….. Scan again in 3 more months, and yes, it is something. More treatment. Yay, you are clear again! Not so fast, someone calls you about a friend who was just diagnosed and they need to know how to start the battle. Yup, there it is again. You get off the phone and feel great because someone could benefit from all this knowledge you have stored. So, right, it’s not useless information after all.
And the ride goes on. The best advice is not to let yourself experience deep lows or extreme highs. Try to stay as neutral as possible. Let the others around you carry the burden of the emotional lows and highs for you. They asked you “what can I do for you”, right?


Have you educated yourself?

Yeah, yeah, the internet can be a scary place, however it may have just the answers you need to give yourself the best shot possible. Don’t get too bogged down on the statistics and research results. Medicine moves at the speed of light, just like new cell phone technology. Many of the statistics you see online are from several years ago, are based on an age group you are not in or don’t know how determined you are to be head of the class.
Read everything you can read. Make a list of questions for your doctor and get a handle on your cancer. Your cancer may reside in your lymph glands, breast, stomach, colon etc. but what type is it? What are the specific proteins yours has? Is it an adenocarcinoma? Small cell? HER2 positive? BRACA positive? Yadda yadda yadda… All this matters. These are the indicators that match you to a chemo or immunotherapy that could result in the best outcome.
Connect. Make connections to cancer centers that may have a trial or other treatment. You and your doctor can collaborate with this distant cancer center and give you more information. Reach out to someone in your shoes. Knowledge is power and power is what you need now. Allow yourself to connect with others across the country. Even though you don’t know them, you will find yourself checking in on them. Believe me, they need a pat on the back just as much as you do!


That tingly feeling – aka Neuropathy

No, it’s not that love is in the air. Though that warm loving feeling is just what you need when you feel the tingling from neuropathy as you open the refrigerator door, drink a cold soft drink or walk into an over air-conditioned room.
From slight tingling in your fingertips and toes, to thinking you are being stabbed with a fork, to feeling paralyzed from your knees or elbows down, certain chemos ending in “-platin” have a side-effect that affects your nerve endings. It usually is temporary, however it can become permanent the longer you are on a -platin chemo. Always tell your doctor if you have any mild or severe numbness. They can reduce the level of -platin chemo by a percentage or even discontinue it completely, if absolutely necessary.
I first felt neuropathy the evening of one of my chemo sessions when I was texting and my thumbs would not bend to type my message! I tried my index fingers and they would not bend either. When I got up to walk, I almost fell over because my legs from the knees down had frozen. Also feeling cold, I wrapped up my legs and hands, went outside in the warm air and started to thaw out.
Now, 5 months after chemo ended, I am doing acupuncture to repair the nerves and restore normal feeling. Yes, cold still bothers me so I basically dress around the shoes that will keep my feet warm and carry a sweater or wrap with me always. Yes, it does feel odd to carry a sweater in 90 degree weather, but no one has ever looked at me sideways.
I bought those hot packets that hunters and skiiers use in their boots and gloves and they sure help. It’s just they are hard to find in the summer. Another thing I tried was the ThemaCare heat pads that come for your feet, back, neck, The work great, just know you can’t cut them to fit in your shoes. Electric blankets are the bee’s knees! Keep one at your office, in your bedroom and in your family room. There are even ones that are small like a shawl size, which is perfect for wrapping around your feet under your desk 😊.

So when someone say, “you must be hot”. Say, “I know” and smile.


cancer low white cell hospital mask

What do Chemo & Halloween have in common? Masks!

Who cares, if you need one, wear it! Bring out the inner child in you and rock a self-drawn smile on front. I noticed that I tended to look away when I almost encountered someone wearing a mask. My thought was that they probably are not at their best and surely don’t want to be looked at. Then, I had to wear one and I could not stand the way people diverted their eyes when I approached! What the HEY! So before my treatment one day, I took a black #Sharpie and drew a simple smile on the front of my oh so not fancy yellow mask. It worked! People in the elevator smiled at me. Doctors said they needed one! #newbusinessideathatIwishIhadtimefor Post pictures of your happy mask!
Best practices….don’t reuse your mask if you can. These are disposable and in our condition, we need to have things as clean as ultimately possible. Buy a box, ask your doc for a handful or grab one when you enter your treatment center. Many have them right at the entrance to the facility. Just have your sharpie in your pocket!
Remember, if your white cells are low, you need a mask anytime you are away from your house.

Which superhero do you want to pretend to be?


What’s that thing over there with my name on it?

It surely isn’t mine…but why is my name on it? 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?