Sunday, June 30, 2013
....... reflections and preparation......
.... for this week that feels like it is moving fast-forward. I am not able to sleep comfortably some nights with the lump jabbing into my neck. I have to sleep on my left side with my left arm up and a pillow shoved strategically under my head so that there is a pocket of space to accommodate the lump. My head has not shut off sufficiently enough to warrant a good night sleep. So, I get up early, drag myself downstairs for a coffee and read the blog from my first journey.
I make a mental note after reading about the first three rounds to ask for medications that control the acid reflux, create a diet high in fibre with no sugar, keep my iPad close for making notes to reduce the stress of chemo induced brain fog and walk, walk, walk to keep the bowel moving interspersed with the necessary naps. I am also aware to make sure all household issues are dealt with before the first round of chemo. I am reminded to continue to keep accurate records and to upkeep the blog which has become a wealth of information to guide me into the next journey.
This particular chemo cocktail affects the fast growing cells in the body such as the epithelial cells in the mouth and in the intestines. This leaves the digestive tract open to infections and food sensitivities. The steroids that are administered prior to the chemo are done to reduce any opportunity for an allergic reaction to occur. Steroids cause a number of unpleasant side effects such as; weight gain due to increased appetite and moodiness. The chemo itself caused me immeasurable agony in the form of constipation. It took 3 weeks and multiple doses of intestinal 'draino' to clear the impaction.
I have been preparing myself for this first round by drinking large quantities of water infused with liquid chlorophyll, Oregano Oil and liquid vitamin D. The chlorophyll is used to remove toxins from the body and to clear the bowel naturally. The Oregano Oil, while completely obnoxious, is used to kill bacteria in the mouth and intestines and my sinuses, to reduce any chance of infection when the immune system goes offline for a few days. The vitamin D is something everyone should be getting and especially in North America. Most people who slather themselves with head-to-toe sunscreen are not aware that the body, specifically the skin, requires vitamin D to be absorbed from the sun. Without access to the skin, people do not receive the life supporting vitamin that is so critical to our good health. Common sense would dictate that you do not burn, so with my children, they have learned to be safe outside by not 'baking' by the pool. I rarely use sunscreen but I will have to because of the effects of the chemo making skin, eyes etc vulnerable to injury by a bright sunny day. I am getting my doses now via liquid means. I am also using a natural healing balm for my neck and shoulders to reduce some of the discomfort and swelling and it seems to be working so far. I have ordered a natural bug spray and burn balm from the same company.
I will be on 'Fever Watch' for the duration of chemo. I am given a fever card with emergency contact information and my oncology patient number. It is a life-threatening complication of a body unable to protect itself and it informs emergency staff to expedite treatments. Next time you are waiting in ER, you might see someone walk in and be taken into care immediately..... be patient and understand that they might have a pressing emergency which is prioritized. Victoria Hospital has a specialized cancer unit in tower B specifically for these emergencies but sometimes, there is no bed to be had. I was in ER being treated via IV for a scratch that got out of control. It is imperative that wounds or infections be dealt with as you would any emergency - immediately. It cannot wait even a day and must be attended to without delay. I have stocked up my first aid kit with an antiseptic spray to be taken with me in my purse everywhere. I made sure my tetanus shot was updated a week ago. It feels like I am packing for a trip and in a way I am. You make sure when you head out to an unknown destination, that you have planned for every situation possible..... plan for the worst and hope for the best!!! While I bathe every day, it is essential to wash every inch and attending to any scratches using a topical antibiotic cream. Not cutting the nails during 'down times' in the immune system or shaving (that will not be a problem after the second week- all hair will be gone by then) and keeping the mouth as clean as possible are key to staying on top of things. Taking good care of yourself and letting others help in their own way is the best approach.
This week I have asked a friend to clean my house. She has her own cleaning company and has graciously offered to clean my house for free. I do not normally accept such a generous offer but I need to look after my family. I will also bring the dogs to get bathed and clipped - the chemo makes the olfactory system kick into high gear and dog smells are unpleasant at the best of times. Speaking about dogs and my wonderful cat Kajen.... they have not left my side for too long.. they sense something in their world has changed and it seems they know it is me.
Dr. Annette, sat with me for a few hours on Friday afternoon. We talked about life.... why I am strong and sometimes misunderstood..... and why I always look out for others..... why I am here for a second time.... so many deep philosophical questions. She, like myself are always inquisitive about why people are the way they are and how some can go through life content to wear blinders while others take it all in from a distance while some are in the mix and are content to just be what others expect them to be. Nature vs. Nurture..... we all have a choice in life to continue to perpetuate the life we grew up in and to excuse our behaviors as the fault of others or to honestly own who we are and to take responsibility for what we do and how we are. This is another opportunity to grow the soul and to reflect on the past 4 years. I wouldn't change much and what I would change helped me to grow anyway. I have a tremendous support system in the way of family and friends.... why I let one person ruin some of the joy I felt at attending University was solely because of the bad feelings I had towards myself and why some people are just not worth the effort of trying so hard to be accepted by. Life is too short to not be real with yourself. I will spend far less time with those who do not deserve the moments I have to share. We could all take a page out of this experience...... xoxo