Chemo Hacks – My Top 7 Helps For Managing Side Effects

GoddessHeartThe need to undergo chemotherapy is a harsh reality for many breast cancer patients, and every woman’s chemo “cocktail” will vary depending on what she’s been diagnosed with.  My doctor prescribed TCH – Taxotere, Carboplatin and Herceptin. (Herceptin is not a chemo drug itself, but a targeted therapy that produces antibodies for those who are HER2+).  Each of these medications comes with their own list of potential side effects – some of which a doctor will prescribe medication to help combat.

When you think of what is being put into the body with chemotherapy, it’s no surprise that  it basically becomes a toxic waste site.  I am doing my best to eliminate those toxins as quickly as possible to try to maintain some semblance of “health” during and after my treatment plan.  While I’ve avoided any vomiting, there are other side effects I experience with every cycle – typically starting on Day 3 (of a 21 day cycle) after a round and continuing through the first 10-14  days.

I’ve come up this Chemo Hack List of the Top 7 things I’m doing to help eliminate or minimize these uncomfortable side effects. Since I still have 2 rounds to go at the time of this posting, I’ll update this as I find more things that are helpful and well as address whether or not I escaped the more common long-term effects (like neuropathy, etc.) all together with some of the things that I’m doing.

HACK #1 – DRINK WATER: It is recommended that we drink at least 3 quarts of water a day, every day.  That is a chemo hack waterLOT of water but it is vital to help flush the toxins and medication through our systems.  When you’re not feeling great, or when water tastes like metal, it can be hard to remember to drink as much as we need to.  To help with that, I use this 4 cup measuring cup and three stretchy hair bands.  Each band represents a quart, and how many times that cup needs to be filled in order for me to have my daily requirement (4 Cups = 1 quart).  Every time I fill it, I remove one of the bands.  This way I always know how much more I have yet to drink that day.  That being said, on those days when I just can’t force down enough water without gagging, I also include other fluids I drink – hot tea, etc.

HACK #2 – TURKEY BASTER BIDET:  I know, it sure ain’t Thanksgiving! But the body chemo hack turkey basterhas to eliminate all that water and more.  What isn’t spoken much about in the way of side effects is that what comes out can burn!  So I keep a turkey baster next to the toilet in the bathroom (which, fortunately, sits right next to the sink).  Every time I eliminate, I gave myself a little Turkey Baster Bidet to rinse myself.  This helps tremendously, and I never skip this step after experiencing a very uncomfortable raw episode after my first round (which I treated with Desitin).  After each rinse and a dry, I apply Vaseline around the  general area so as to protect the sensitive skin.  With everything else going on, having burning Girly Bits isn’t going to help.  Lube and rinse.  That’s all I’m saying.  (This typically isn’t needed after Day 10-14)

HACK #3 – BAKING SODA:  It’s not just the Down Low that gets a toxic washing.  Our Rob's Red Mill Baking Sodamouths are equally as sensitive and a prime area for chemo effects because the cells there produce rapidity (the type of cells the chemo is targeting).  I haven’t gotten mouth sores, but I do have to deal with this weird all over burning sensation, a tongue that feels like I downed a scorching cup of coffee in one gulp, and burning, chapped lips.  The ACS recommends avoiding certain foods to help combat this….foods which, ironically, are the only ones I really feel like eating because I can actually taste them.  (I definitely pay for this later.)  This includes acidic, salty and spicy foods.  If you can avoid those, more power to you – you’ll be ahead of the game!  And there are prescription medications to help with sores if you get them (The OTC mouthwash Biotene is also helpful).  My chemo hack for this is to rinse my mouth several times a day with baking soda and water.  I use about 1/2 teaspoon to a cup water.  The baking soda helps alkalize the mouth and brings some fast, albeit temporary relief.  I like to use an organic  aluminum free product like Bob’s Red Mill.

HACK #4 – FRANKINCENSE:  I am a big believer in the healing qualities of good, therapeutic chemo hack frankincensegrade Essential Oils. While it was my personal choice not to ingest any EOs during treatment, you can bet I will be during the “Reconstruction” phase when I am done.  I do, however, use EO topically for different things.  One thing I do is apply Frankincense to the soles of my feet and my ankles starting on the day before a round.  I then apply it the morning of treatment, and then every day for a week following.  I’ll apply it once in the morning and once later in the day, and then wear socks.  If you decide to do this, make sure to get a good therapeutic grade oil.  I started with Young Living (being as I’m a YL distributor myself), however, theirs is VERY expensive and a bottle only lasts about 1.5 – 2 treatment cycles.  My Go-To place now is Eden’s Garden for quality, price, and speed of shipping.  I purchased it here.

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HACK #5 – CHEMO FASTING:  The history and health benefits of fasting is long and impressive.  When I heard that some people were implementing fasting around their treatments, I was immediately interested because I know that with less food in the system, everything will pass through much quicker.  It is a personal preference for how long to fast, but based on what I’ve read, I decided to fast the day of my treatment, plus or minus.  I have my rounds on Fridays, so starting that week, I try to keep from eating a lot of food that takes longer to digest, like red meat.  On Thursday, I like to go meatless all together.  On treatment day, I stick to water only, and then go back to regular eating on Saturday.  Another thing I do is take a stool softener with each round as the steroids I am required to take on Thursday and Saturday cause major constipation.  So I start taking them on Wednesday, then daily through the following Sunday or Monday.  This has proven an effective way to keep everything moving through my body as quickly as possible, with no long term back up.

HACK #6 – GINGER ALE AND PRETZELS:  A classic “Old Wives” remedy for nausea related Ginger Ale Chemo Hackto pregnancy, ginger ale works well for chemo related nausea, too, I have found.  Trying to minimize the number of drugs I’m putting into my body, I haven’t wanted to use either of the two prescription medications given to me by my oncologist.  By drinking ginger ale and eating pretzels, I have managed to move past any nausea I experience on-and-off during the week after my treatment (typically starting Day 3).  The fizzy, gingery, salty combination is a classic hack used among a lot of breast cancer patients, and one that I am happy to add to this list because it really worked for me.

HACK #7 – Chemotherapy Meditation CD I wish I had known about this CD before I started chemo, because I would have started using it right away.  The whole freak out factor I dealt with going into this thing was off the Chemo Meditation Hackcharts.  It was actually the thought of undergoing chemo – more than the cancer itself – that scared me the most.  Be that as it may, I pulled up my Big Girl Pants and did what I had to do.  But THIS is making things notably different, I can tell you for a fact, since I have the “Before” and “After” to compare.  Spoken in a very soothing voice by Belleruth Naparstek, “A Meditation To Help You With Chemotherapy” is an amazing resource to help put chemo in a positive light, reduce adverse side effects, help the body’s immune system, and encourage hope, safety and calm.  There is 20 minutes of a guided meditation and another 20 minutes of affirmations.  I use this primarily at night before I go to bed, and it helps me sleep.  (Fortunately, because it works on the subconscious level, one does not have to be awake to reap the benefits.  Win/Win!!)  I highly recommend this hack for anyone who holds a lot of stress around the subject of getting chemotherapy.  I hope it brings you as much peace as it has me.

*This post will be made a permanent page for future reference and additions*

In Rememberance of 9/11 – The Unsung Heros

Tumbling Woman”, by Eric Fischl. Officials at New York’s Rockefeller Center kept the sculpture from public display after complaints from onlookers who found the image disturbing.  Google image.

Having just dropped the kids off at school, something the guy on the radio said caught my attention.

It took a good 60 seconds before the words sunk in, and it was tone of his voice – the shock – that hit home first.  An airplane – no, TWO airplanes, had hit the World Trade Center Towers in NYC, and the top floors of the buildings were ablaze. My mind struggled to grasp words so surreal, I actually shook my head trying to get clear.

But even before the words sunk in, I could feel it.  Something bad was going down.  Something real bad.

Taking the driveway way too fast, I slammed the car in PARK, ran into the house, and yelled at my husband.  “Oh my God, come here!  Something horrible has happened!”  Together, standing barefoot in our jammies, we watched as the most horrific day in U.S. history unfolded on our TV screen in real time.  When a newscaster shouted, and the scene flashed to the Pentagon, I started to shake all over and I don’t think I stopped shaking for weeks.  The unthinkable had happened:

America was under attack.

Over the next month, I sat glued to the TV during every free moment and usually found myself weeping uncontrollably…deep gulping sobs of grief, fear and anger.  I couldn’t sleep, I didn’t want to leave the house, and I didn’t feel safe.  The sounds of a plane overhead was enough for my heart to leap through my chest, and I tried to tunnel what was going on inside of me by painting a huge “God Bless America” sign for the front yard, and participating in neighborhood vigils, and praying like I had never prayed before.

9/11 changed my life – just as it did 100s of 1000s of others lives – and changes it still.  Something deep within both my personal and our collective consciousness shifted.  My world…our world…tilted on its’ axis and has never been the same since.

It’s not my intent to commemorate the anniversary of 9/11 with my strong opinions about what’s happened to the US as a result of the “War On Terror”.  Anyone within arms reach of me – either virtually or in real time – knows I’m Pro-Peace, and believe all of the wars we’ve engaged in are illegal, immoral, and a means of profit for those who run the Military Industrial Complex.  I support the troops by being vocal about ending these wars, and advocating for more services for our Wounded Warriors.

And don’t get me started on things like Homeland Security, TSA, NSA, the Patriot Act, and Executive Orders.  The only thing I’ll say is this: we are no “safer” now, nor is the world safer, as a result of them.

Back to 9/11. Of all of the images I watched from the morning of September 11, 2001, it was the ones of people falling – or jumping – in an attempt to escape the blazing infernos that remain on the forefront.  At first, as the TV cameras caught the images in real time, my mind shied away from acknowledging what I was seeing.  But eventually, the horrible truth pierced through.  Those falling – objects –  weren’t pieces of the buildings.  They were PEOPLE.  About 200 in all, as it turns out.  These people, seared into my psyche by the branding iron called horror and disbelief, will forever be a part of me.

In remember of those unsung heroes, please watch this video.  It is a documentary based on an article by Tom Junod (Esquire 2003) about a photograph (by Richard Drew) of a man falling from the World Trade Center.

We Will Not Forget

In Memory Of Dr. Wayne Dyer

For those who were students and appreciators of Dr. Wayne Dyer and his work, his sudden and unexpected death on August 29, 2015 came as a huge shock.20150805_065656

I count myself as one of those people, and not just because he shared a strong resemblance to my father.

Coming late to the New Thought party, I didn’t hear of Dr. Dyer until sometime around 2002.  But once I had, I was hooked.  Many of his books are on my shelves.  I’ve watched untold number of PBS specials with him as the speaker, and I attribute his work for being some of the most meaningful in my life in the last decade.

As I am not quite up to writing a full post this morning, I thought I would share a fantastic article that arrived in my email this morning.  Written by Luminita Savius over at Purpose Fairy.

It’s called, “15 Life Changing Lessons To Learn From Wayne Dyer”, and you can find it HERE.

I love all 15 of Luminita’s points, but especially No. 11.  It’s one I’m practicing a lot these days….

11. No need to stress over everything.

Believe it or not, there is an invisible force who created the whole world, the whole Universe and this force becomes available to us the moment we stop trying to do it all by ourselves, the moment we decide to allow events to take their natural course and just go with the FLOW.

“Good morning, this is God. I will be handling all of your problems today. I will not need your help. So have a miraculous day.” ~ Wayne Dyer

Wishing YOU a miraculous day as well.

Weaving My Way

SpiderHere in SoCal, the long, hot days of Summer always bring out the spiders.  Seems like every time I look out the window, another bunch of webs has cropped up over night.   They’re hanging from the tree branches to the box hedges, from the post on the patio to the potted plants, from the tomato trellis to the Rosemary.   I’m constantly finding tiny bodied, long-legged creepers in the bathtub, and their bigger cousins in the window sills.   And while I don’t particularly want to share space with those that occasionally find their way into the bedroom, I know it’s just that time of year and they’re just Spider’s doing their spidery thing.

And I, without malice, do what I have to do to keep the house and yard from looking like something from the Addams Family.  Sorry, Spidey.

Anyway, I see the handiwork of these little guys even more than usual, me being a homebody these days.   Because I’ve worked in office environments for almost 40 years,  spending time in my “nest” is something I’ve grown to treasure.  Crave, even!  Oh, give me a three-day weekend and I’m all about the Staycation!  Why would I want to leave after being GONE all week?  Home is my healing place.  My sanctuary. I can’t tell you how many “sick” days were actually used for Mental Health days so I could

Just

Stay

Home

As it turns, one of the hidden gifts of this  journey that I’m on is that I now have days and days of solitude and quiet  in my home.  Even though many of them are spent not feeling that great… when  feeding myself, taking care of my body, and feeding the animals is all I can really manage…there are other days when my energy is up and I enjoy it more.   These last few months, I’ve had the time and space to create a few new daily routines and catch up on some long put-off (albeit small) projects around the house.

I’ve also taken up crocheting, of all things!  Who knew?  It all started with the thought that I wanted (needed) something to do to keep my hands busy while watching TV (something I’ve not done this much of in forever), or in the middle of the night when I can’t sleep and don’t want to wake anyone.  Sewing came to mind, but that involves noise and equipment and stuff that I may or may not have the energy to deal with long enough to actually finish something.Granny Square

But one day I started thinking about “Granny Squares”.  I’m not sure why, exactly.  Maybe the inspiration came from wearing the little crocheted cap my daughter made for me.  Turns out that once my hair fell out, my head got cold in the mornings, and I didn’t feel like Wigging Up.  (I had no idea how warm my hair really kept my head and neck!!!)

Whatever the inspiration, the idea just stuck.  Granny Squares – like a flash from my 70s past. it turns out they are the perfect hobby for me right now.   After a quick run for some yarn (not too much, in case I didn’t like it), I found a really cool YouTube channel called, “Jayden In Stitches, and learned how to make them.

Each square is like a mini project in itself…something I can complete relatively quickly, and get an instant gratification fix.  And it doesn’t matter if they aren’t “perfect”.  Depending on where I am in the chemo cycle  (a new one starts every 3 weeks), some of my squares may be a little less symmetrical, but no one will notice or care.   Things created by hand are intrinsically perfect because their imperfections.

The other morning, after getting up with a restless mind at 2 a.m., it occurred to me that crocheting is a lot like weaving a web.  I’m using a hook to connect strands of yarn this way and that to form pretty patterned squares that will eventually be connected to form one big Web.  Granted, my web isn’t for trapping unsuspecting food, but it IS trapping a whole lot of stuff right now.

Stuff like my hopes for the future, and my immediate needs for the Present.  It’s catching tears, and fear and some anger.  My hands move faster or slower, depending on the topic, as I’m working things out.  And prayers.  Oh, lots and lots of prayers are going on while I work.  I find myself talking to my Heavenly Mother quite a bit these days – much more than in times past.  I still talk daily with my Heavenly Father…It’s just that She is the one I feel the most need of right now.  I need a Mother’s soft breast to lay my head on, and to feel Her gentle hand smooth my brow and coo to me and tell me, “Everything is going to be alright.”

Turns out I might be channeling Grandmother Spider, as I sit weaving up my Granny Square webs.

“Spider Woman’s themes are magical charms and growth.  Her symbols are spiders and woven items. Spider Woman appears in the myths of the south-western Native Americans as a resourceful helper who spins magical charms and each person’s fate. No matter what problems or obstacles you face, Spider Woman creates the right network of energy to put you on the road toward accomplishment.

In metaphysical traditions, all life is seen as a network within which each individual is one strand. Spider Woman reveals the power and purpose of each strand psychically and keeps you aware of those important connections in your life. To augment this, get a Native American dream catcher, which looks like a web, and hang it over your bed so Spider Woman can reveal her lessons while you sleep. Or, carry a woven item with you today. It will strengthen your relationship with this ancient helpmate and extend positive energy for success in all you do.

 (Patricia Telesco, “365 Goddess: A Daily Guide To The Magic and Inspiration of the Goddess”.)

Here it is…my little work in progress.  I like to lay the squares out as I make them, to help me feel like I’m getting somewhere.

It’s working.

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