Chemo Tips & Tricks to Help Make Treatment a Little Better

(A beloved family member is starting their chemo journey.  I am re-posting this for him and his family in the hopes they might find some useful information.)

1. For mouth pain-Buy Biotene toothpaste and mouthwash (it’s made for dry mouth sufferers). Using these items helps the mouth pain and helps keep your mouth a little moister. Walgreen’s sells it.

2. For dry skin-Chemo dries out your body quite a bit. Switch to a moisturizing soap like Aveeno. Cetaphil lotion is non-irritating, non-greasy and quick absorbing (my dermatologist recommended these).

3. Adriamycin – The Adriamycin pretty much guarantees hair loss. Mine started falling out on day 14 after my first treatment.

4. For nosebleeds-After about 5 treatments, my mucous starting getting a little bloody, especially in the morning. My Oncologist said to use a saline spray to moisten the nasal passages, but this didn’t work very well for me. I bought a case of the small kid size Gatorades and drank one a day. Problem solved.

5. Nausea – If you get nauseated during a treatment, ask the nurse to slow down the drip (Decadron). Adding 15 minutes to the drip really reduced the discomfort. They didn’t tell me this until about treatment #9.

6. For hip pain-If you’re white cells drop and you have to get Neupogen shots, they can cause a great deal of discomfort. My hips and legs hurt so bad after the shots, Vicodin wouldn’t help. I know this sounds weird, but take an anti-histamine. The pain is caused by a histamine reaction and most of your white cells are produced in your hip region. One Zyrtec later, everything was fine.

7. Numbing Cream – If you don’t have it already, ask for Lidocaine Cream. Apply to your port area 2-3 hours before chemo and cover with Saran Wrap to allow better absorption without messing up your clothes. This numbs the injection site. Also works well for celebratory tatoo when cancer free!

8. For the ladies (Especially if you’re amply endowed) – Before having your port inserted, invest in a sports bra. The weight of your breast can cause the scar to widen because of the pulling during the healing process. I learned this the hard way. When I had my port removed, I explained this to the surgeon and he cut the scar tissue away so I could start with a fresh wound. He found it amusing, but said he had never thought of that (he looked about 20 years old). I explained to him that he only sees us lying down and wouldn’t realize they were D cups when they spread out.:-)

9. Weight Gain – If you gain >15% of your body weight and are not having difficulty with nausea, ask your doctor to decrease your Decadron a little.

10. Nausea – One of my readers used Prilosec to help alleviate nausea during treatment.

11. Tylenol – If you aren’t already given it, ask for Tylenol at the beginning of treatment.  It helps the discomfort of treatment and any headaches from chemo.

If you have any tips and tricks to share, I’d love to hear them and add them to the list. Click on the comments link below and submit them. Please let me know if you found these tips helpful.

Happy 10th Chemoversary to me!

 


Happy 10th
Chemo-versary!



I told Jerry we’d stop celebrating chemo-versary at 10 years, maybe it was getting to be a bit much.  He said we were going to keep celebrating because every chemo-versary is another year he has his wife with him. So, even after this one, we will keep celebrating.
 
To celebrate, I got my first mammogram.  Put it off for 2 years, dreaded getting
it.  Was in and out in 45 minutes and the
hardest part was trying to keep my balance when they were trying to get a
certain angle on my medi-port scars. 
This is one instance where I think big boobs are a blessing.  You just slap that girl up on the plate and
the top plate comes down, a gentle squish, 20 seconds and all done.  I think ladies with small boobies have it
rougher because there is probably some tugging involved to get the girls to
stay in place.

 

I have been fortunate in that even though my Hodgkin’s was
advanced (Stage 3B), we were able to treat successfully and I have had no recurrence.  One thing I do find peculiar is that know
that my immune system is suppressed from irreversible damage done by the
cancer, I actually get sick less.  Weird,
huh? 

 
Part of it is that I do pay more attention to people sniffling
around me, stay properly hydrated, and take vitamins religiously.  I think a larger part is that I had a very
strong immune system to begin with even though it didn’t seem like it. 

 

When I was little, I remember my mom sending me to play with
Shauna when she had the chicken pox hoping I would get them and get it over
with (it took another 7 years, damn younger brothers) and having perfect
attendance.  I just didn’t really get
sick except the occasional earache.  Fast
forward 20 years and if someone sneezed near me I got the flu!  Total reversal!  This went on for almost 8 years.  Thankfully Hodgkin’s is a slow progressing
form of Lymphoma or I might not be here today.

I look back on it now as my body was busy fighting the cancer undetected
for several years and figured,
“Hey, I’m a little busy in
here.  I’ll handle keeping these tumors
at bay, but you are gonna have to take one for the team and handle the
sinusitis. Deal?”

 

 

Dear 16-year-old-me,

With the Winter skies fading away and Spring right around the corner, I thought it was a good time to re-share this video with you as a reminder that as you head out into the sun, please remember to protect yourself now, against cancer later.

You don’t have to be in the sun everyday to develop melanoma.  Cloudy days and tanning beds can be even more dangerous because people are under the misguided belief that they are safe because they are not in the sun.

Share this with your friends and family:

In honor of Father’s Day…

I would like to wish my amazing husband Jerry a Happy, Wonderful Father’s Day on behalf of our kids, Flapjack, Cupid, Romeo and Biscuit!  Yes our kids all have fur, but their daddy goes out of his way for them all the time.

The following is an excerpt from the draft of the ‘book’ I’m working on that I felt was appropriate for this day even though I have not finished writing my book yet.

“My last contact with my father was in July 2004. 


After the months of uncertainty, it was finally determined that my liver was failing and I had just been diagnosed with Advanced Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.  My best chance to halt the liver failure prior to reaching a transplant level and to give me the highest possible chances of beating the Hodgkin’s into remission was to start chemotherapy as soon as posssible.

The one stumbling block was family medical history.  Of the 4 drugs I needed to take, one was toxic to heart muscle and while my MUGA showed my heart looked good, knowing my father had a history of heart problems so my Doctor wanted to know what he had in order to determine how much medication to give me and if I could take it at all.

At this point I had to Google my father because I had no contact information for him.  Once locating his phone number, I proceeded to leave messages for him, even going as far as to say if he didn’t want to talk to me, the least he could do was call my Dr and answer his questions.  I left all my contact info, my Doctors contact info and email addresses on his answering machine.

Almost 2 weeks later, he finally decided to call me back.  After spending an hour on the phone with him and me crying, the last thing he said to me was that he had to talk to his wife to see if it was okay if he talked to me in the future.  I never heard from him again…

With everything I was going through I was just happy to start treatment.  It wasn’t until after my treatment was finished and the odds looked good that I was going to be okay, that it dawned on me:

My father took almost 2 weeks to decide if his first born childs life was worth a phone call!

That was when I finally gave up on my father as my younger brother had done so many years ago.  I don’t know why it took me so long, maybe because I remebered more being older, I just always had hoped that things would change.  Maybe if he had sent one Get Well Soon card or even inquired once as to how my treatment was going, things would be different.

Instead of admitting he had done some things wrong and trying to start over, he used his wife as an excuse for his actions and showed how much he really “cared”.”

Advice for Chemotherapy & Cancer Patients Wanting to have Children

This advice is mainly for women as that is the point of view I am coming from.
I completed my cycle of ABVD in Jan 2005.  Prior to adopting ABVD protocols for treating Hodgkin’s Disease the standard treatment was MOPP.  While MOPP was an effective treatment, it was 100% effective in causing sterility in those patients receiving it.
With the introduction of the ABVD protocol, the chances of becoming sterile as a result from treatment went from guaranteed, to uncommon. 

While this is great news for those patients not yet finished building their family, there may still be difficult roads ahead.

My husband and I were not able to have children so this did not apply to us.  HOWEVER, in June 2011 while undergoing an ultrasound at the OBGYN’s office for other reasons, it was revealed that my left ovary had suffered shrinkage and my right ovary had been damaged to the extent that it was difficult to locate.  I have had no other illnesses or injuries other than chemotherapy that could explain what were normal ovaries a decade earlier showing this much damage other than the ABVD for my Hodgkin’s Disease.
While getting pregnant would not have been out of the question, it may have been more difficult.
So this is my advice to you…
If you are planning on continuing your family after treatment, you may want to look into having some of your eggs harvested and frozen prior to treatment.  It is a difficult time when you are diagnosed with cancer, but take the extra time to consider this if you want children after treatment.
I don’t know if the same effect can take place on the testes, but since they all start out as the same tissue I would imagine it could and as such, you may also want to consider banking some sperm. 
It is better to have it and not need it, than to need it and not have it
That’s my two cents anyway

Having a rough month…

Definately can’t wait for the brighter days that I hope are ahead.  Jerry, Flapjack and I are all having procedures this month and I am so overwhelmed it is difficult to get out of bed. 

Flapjack was diagnosed with a Stage 4 heart murmur and has been on Enalapril for 2 weeks and double dose antibiotics for one week to prepare for his skin biopsy on a very troublesome spot on his stomach that

went from non existent to the size of an irregular shaped quarter in less that a month as well as a biopsy of his Lymph Nodes which are swollen from head to tail.  The Lymph Nodes have me most concerned being a Hodgkin’s Lymphoma survivor myself.  Some people don’t understand the depth of our love for our dogs, but not having human children, they are our kids.  Because of his heart murmur and his being a senior, anesthesia is riskier.  We are also concerned about the cost of chemotherapy and don’t think we will be able to afford it.  Estimates are $800 per treatment and a minimum of 4 treatments.

After Flapjack’s procedure on the 14th comes my turn.  The next day I go in for an unplanned hysterectomy after the OBGYN found tumors on my uterus.  My last PET scan was a year ago and showed nothing so they are most lkely Uterine Fibroids. However, Hodgkin’s Disease is a Lymphoma that leaves me immuno supressed and more susceptible to other cancers.  So while it is unlikely that I have Leiomyosarcoma it is a higher possibility than in someone who has never had cancer. That makes me worry not so much for myself, but for Jerry.
Finally, towards the end of the month it is Jerry’s turn.  While he’s not having surgery per se, his procedure does involve anesthesia and is invasive.  While the reasons for his procedure and not because cancer is suspected, it can be there along with other things.
I might not feel as bad if I hadn’t suffered from Heat Exhaustion on Sunday which just drained me and left me fatigued.  We thought we were doing everything right, going out at 9 AM, coming home at 11; Staying hydrated; being in a shady area. 
However I forgot to take into consideration the anti-seizure medication I had to start taking this year.  The medicine causes your sodium levels to drop to dangerous levels and I usually compensate by having a high sodium meal, but I haven’t had much of an appetite lately do have just been eating yogurt and Jello, so this in addition to the 100-108 degree days we’ve been having (which normally don’t occur until July/August) was a recipe for trouble.  Oh and did I forget to mention I lost my car keys at the park and had to do a grid search to find them until I was ready to vomit!  Duh!
So right now I’m worried about 3 members of my nuclear family being seriously sick at the same time, all being under anesthesia in the same month which carries it’s own risks, plus the move, packing, hiring movers, finding temporary health insurance for Jerry & I, in addition to the regular day-to-day stuff.  I am definately feeling it.

Jerry is so supportive and bends over backwards to make me feel better, but I wish I had an extra set of hands around sometimes to help me sort and pack.  I just get so tired.  Of course if anyone comes back with cancer, the move is off until further notice.

Only the 3rd and June just keeps throwing the punches…

Went to the Doctor this morning because I was interested in the NovaSure procedure and upon completion of an ultrasound, he found 2 tumors on my uterus. 

So now I have to have a hysterectomy in the next few weeks.  The hardest part is waiting for the biopsy after the hysterectomy to see if I have cancer again or if the tumors are benign.  Fun!  At least I know what the pressure I’ve been feeling finally is.  When my uterus swells the tumor is putting pressure on my bladder causing the uncomfortable, pressure, bloaty feeling.

An intersting discovery during the ultrasound, chemo drastically shrank my left ovary and it just about killed my right ovary to the point the doctor could barely find it, so menopause is probably not far away, though it’s hard to know exactly how long. 
I am not looking forward to menopause again!  The nightsweats were terrible and it’s not fair that cancer patients have to go through it twice!  Haven’t we been through enough?

At the same time, Flapjacks bloodwork came back pretty good and the only abnormality in his Xrays was his enlarged heart.  So his lymph node biopsy will be a week from Monday so we’ll find out if he has cancer in about 2 weeks.

It’s non-stop party at our house!
On the brighter side, I now have readers in 15 countries!  I can’t believe there are people out there with as much time on their hands as I have!