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    From the monthly archives: July 2012

    Okay, so you’re starting chemo. It was more than five years ago for me, but I still remember. Here’s what I wish someone had told me:

    This one is the hardest, because it’s unknown. Once this one is over, you will feel so much better, because you will know what to expect for the next ones. Each one will be a little harder than the last, because the effects are cumulative. The good news is that typically they don’t change. You’ll get a sense of how it goes after this one. I was vastly relieved that I didn’t turn green or blow up. That’s the irrational fear, isn’t it? The good news is that these folks really know what they’re doing. They’ve been doing it for a long time and they have it down to a science. You are in very good hands.

    It’s great to have a buddy who’s been there. It’s not really helpful to know all the side effects that could happen, because many of them wont, or they wont be severe, or they will and you’ll deal with it then. If you have a buddy who’s been there, you can call her up and say “I feel like …..is that normal?” and get some reassurance. You probably at some point may need to whine a little. That’s totally ok. After a couple of days, it starts to lift, and you get to feel normal until the next one. My buddy told me that a Coca-cola would help me with nausea, and it did. Unfortunately I still associate Coke with comfort, alas!

    Your body may feel strange to you. That’s normal. This is something new. Chemotherapy cured me of my panic attacks. I was experiencing a racy feeling that I knew were the steroids. I knew it was chemically induced, so I didn’t panic. No panic attacks since!

    Please, take all the medications they give you to keep you comfortable. A stressed body does not have the resilience to cope as well as a comfortable, rested body. Stay comfortable!

    Do you have people to take care of you? Do you have help? Do you have plenty of comfort items available to ride out those possibly uncomfortable few days? Show yourself how much you love you, by tending to your needs the way you would your dearest friend or your child.

    Here are my notes on side effects, for my friend on TAC:

    Either the Adriamycin or the Cytoxan is a bladder irritant. Cranberry juice really helps. Have some around!

    I was terrified of the neuropathy that happens with Taxol. I’m a massage therapist and neuropathy was just too horrible to contemplate. I asked my oncologist’s assistance in desperation if there was any way to avoid it, and she told me that L-glutamine in mega-doses was helpful for some people. I found some powder that provided a gram per spoonful, and chugged it in water for 10 grams a day. My neuropathy was minimal, and not lasting. Talk to your doctor about this. I took 10 grams of L-glutamine for the five days around my infusion, and two grams a day for the rest of the time I was on Taxol.

    Get some funny movies, and keep your sense of humor! Laughing is good for you white blood cells. You may even get to cut back on the neulasta shots, as I did.

    Oh yes, don’t forget the Biotene! Magic mouthwash for sensitive mouths, keeps mouth sores at bay. Use liberally.
    Be proactive. At the first sign of any form of discomfort, head it off by taking amazing care of yourself!

    You can ride this wave, sister. Let nothing be more important than your self care, nothing. Side effects are worse with stress. Be good to you and know that you are on my heart. Sending you love this Wednesday.

    Elizabeth

    I have been in the middle of a five year crisis. I got a little off track. Fortunately, not far, just a little. I have course-corrected and I feel excited about life again.

    When I faced IBC in 2007, I felt deep in my bones that I would be all right. This wasn’t even logical, which fortunately I didn’t know. I just felt intuitively that the path to my survival was the path of total congruence. This is a loaded word for me. It means integrity, and by this I mean true. My life had to be the truest, more joyful expression of me that I could make it, or I wouldn’t make it. I felt deeply that I had to uncover all the joy in my life that I had been putting off until it was my time. In February of 2007, I knew that I might not get any more time. I had to make every piece of my world a reflection of what mattered to me. It was not only what I wanted to do, but it was what I had to do to get well.

    As I emerged from chemotherapy and surgery, I was back into my creativity full swing after having let it sleep for decades. I started making art, and had an art show at the Healing Store at the hospital where I was working. Some people bought prints. It was exhilarating.

    As I began my radiation treatments, I felt called to the stage after a 20 year absence. My daughter was doing theater that summer, and I found out that the main stage show was going to be “Narnia”. Waves of joy flooded through me and I knew I had to play the White Witch. It was glorious. The music was glorious, cackling and turning little children into stone was glorious, finding that my voice had continued to develop and mature without me paying an attention to it was glorious.

    Being fully self-expressed was my lifeline. I developed boundaries, much to the dismay of my children. I decided that if it wasn’t fun, if it didn’t make me happy, I wasn’t doing it. Most of all this applied to work.

    As the terror receded into the past, I began to realize that my commitment to self expression had waned as well. Hence, the crisis. I wasn’t bouncing out of bed happy to be alive as I did back then, just after being plucked from the lion’s jaws. In 2008, I was so happy every day that choosing the path to joy was easy.

    What if from the very beginning, each of us learned to express ourselves truthfully in every area of our lives? Would we even get sick? When I got sick, I hadn’t felt much but resignation and stress for a long time. I was a burnt-out massage therapist recovering from a soul-killing marriage and ugly divorce, with two hurting children. I didn’t see any light at the end of this dark tunnel.

    When I was told “you have cancer”, I knew I had to find it or die.

    Lately I’ve been busy writing, working at the children’s hospital, seeing private clients, and looking for the opportunities I may have been missing to be wildly creative. The book got back-burner’d for a little while as I stretched my freelancing muscles for paying clients, including some web pages for a silicon valley consulting company. Bay Area e.T.c. is doing “Narnia” again, and now my daughter is an accomplished thespian who could shine in any role she gets. She will audition for the part of Susan, and I am preparing to bring an older, wiser, slightly rounder, certainly more energetic White Witch to the stage. My husband is even planning to get in on the fun.

    A woman’s gotta do what a woman’s gotta do. What is it that you gotta do?

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