Thursday, February 4, 2010

in which I talk about The Cancer -or, more specifically, The Chemo

If you are an alive and aware sort of person, it's likely you or someone you know has been "touched by cancer" (as they say) in one way or another. There's a lot of blather about what causes cancer and how to prevent it, and there are of course dangerous misleading criminals out there who purport to be able to "cure you," but that's not what this post is about. You can do everything right to minimize your risk and maximize your quality of life and still get walloped with The Cancer. It sucks, but it happens and it happens a lot.

Luckily, we have modern medicine (you know, the dreaded "western" kind which actually works as opposed to "traditional" or "alternative" treatments which will just empty your wallet at best and hasten your death at worst), which has greatly improved the likelihood of survival for most kinds of cancer.

Unfortunately, modern medicine treatments for cancer are often pretty brutal. Surgery, chemo and radiation totally kick your ass. It's shitty, but that's just the way it is. And for anyone crowing about "natural alternatives" to chemotherapy, may I remind you that anthrax and rattlesnakes and arsenic are all "natural." Chemotherapy, for that matter, is synthetically derived now but it was originally derived from plant alkaloids. So, yeah. Pipe that in your smoke and stick it.

That said, there are always resources and therapy groups and little tricks a chemo patient can employ in order to help combat the effects of chemotherapy and that is what this post is actually about.

I make no medical claims with this information and it is, granted, anecdotal and based on one woman's experience with chemotherapy, not any sort of peer-reviewed research. Insert "your mom joke" here, because these tips and hints are, in fact, from MY MOM.

Surviving and Thriving through Chemo
(Different chemo cocktails have different side effects, or none, but these tricks and products got me through...)

On queasy days:
bland foods (be sure to eat! Cancer patients die from malnutrition... not good, not necessary!):
* Ore-Ida frozen mashed potatoes (healthy ingredients, easy to prepare)
* white rice
* plain waffles
* whole grain white bread
* whole wheat saltines

By the bed or sofa: (in a handy basket)
* Newman's Ginger-O's
* ginger lozenges
* bottles of ginger ale (room temp.)
* individual natural apple sauce servings & spoon (room temp.)
* Archway gingerbread men

To build you up and fight cancer cells:
* almond butter
* all kinds of berries
* green tea
* Z-bec vitamins
* orange food
* dark green leafy vegetables
* Bolthouse Farms drinks (in produce section)

To soothe and sustain you:
* rose & vanilla scented oil candles
* massage oil in the bath
* lots of long hot bubble baths
* gallons of moisturizers
* drops of pure lavender oil on a tissue put between pillow & pillow case
* lavender sachets
* lots of cool fresh air (ceiling fan, if you have one above the bed, ON on rough days or nights)

Drink lots of water, especially right after chemo. If your chemo potion might cause mouth sores, rinse twice a day with very warm water & 1 tsp. salt.
If you get the YUCK! taste in your mouth, Tic-Tacs or other hard candy or mints help (in the car, purse, end tables, have some wherever they're within easy reach).

Be selfish and take care of yourself! You can make it up to people later. Don't feel guilty. Good luck!

[disclaimer: I know, I know. I'm all blahblahblah anecdotes are not data and blahblahblah "boost your immune system" doesn't actually mean anything, but none of this stuff is medicinal and should not interfere with any of your treatments except to hopefully help you feel better]

[disclaimer 2: Please talk to your doctor before embarking on any sort of complementary regimen, even those involving exercise, foods, vitamins, herbs, etc., because everyone is different and everyone's chemo experience is different and your doctor may have better or other recommendations, or reasons to avoid certain of the above suggestions. And your doctor knows best. After all, s/he went to fucking medical school for this shit.]

* American Cancer Society (
* National Cancer Institute (, part of the US National Institutes of Health
* NCI Resources for Financial Assistance
* For Rochester-area residents with breast cancer specifically: Elizabeth Wende Breast Care and Breast Cancer Coalition of Rochester and the Pluta Center (this link takes you to prosthetic, clothing, and wig resources -my mom got hers from Alternative Hair, and they were beautiful and very self-image-boosting for her)
* For all-around baloney detection: What's the Harm and Snopes.

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