Friday, February 5, 2010

in which I talk about knocked-uppery

Yes, I am child-free but yes, I'm still going to talk about pregnancy and babies, just a wee bit. Mostly, how bullshit weaves its way into pregnancy and what you can do to ensure you're getting accurate information.

If you are an alive person, chances are you know someone who had to deal with THE CANCER. Chances are, too, that someone you know is or has been or will be pregnant. Now, I have no interest in having children myself, but I do have a vested interest in knowing that future generations are wanted, loved, cared for and provided with appropriate education and health care. The best time to start in on that is before you know you're pregnant, of course, so if you're of "child-bearing age," unless you know you don't want kids, you should probably be taking folic acid. And if you're actually trying to get pregnant or think you might want to soon, quit. fucking. smoking. Actually, you should quit smoking now, regardless, but specifically if you're going to be pregnant. And talk to your doctor about any meds you are on that might affect your ability to conceive or bring a pregnancy to term.

That's basic common sense. But you will get mad crazy advice about everything from everyone, most annoyingly from people like me who have never had babies but still know exactly what you should be doing about everything. Because, let's face it, what's more American than spouting off about shit about which we know nothing?

In this case, though, while I may not have any practical womb-on experience, I do have some resources and some recommendations -and what else is a blog nobody reads for, if not for linking to junk you think is important for everyone to read?

Enough rhetorical questions. On to the meat of the matter! (mmmm, meat)

Like I said, everyone will be giving you advice and anecdotes but in reality I have no advice other than this: don't take any shit from anyone. You'll know what's right for you and if you want info, ask ask ask, but don't be afraid to tell people to shut the hell up.

Just keep in mind, there's a lot of crazy out there on the internet so try not to panic and check with your doctor before worrying about things! Actually, that holds true for everything, not just knocked-uppery.

Certainly, depending on your situation and risk factors it might make sense to stay away from certain foods and beverages for the duration -but that's something you learn from your doctor.

Books you might like:
A Child Is Born by Lennart Nilsson (reviewed by a friend of mine as "very interesting and informative"
Girlfriends Guide to Pregnancy by Vicki Iovine, reviewed as "a cute light read"
What to Expect When You're Expecting, the basic 'bible' to pregnancy, by Heidi and Sharon Mazel, reviewed as "good to answer all the neurotic questions" [EDIT 9/09/11: ACK!! I take it back! I take it back! Too much CAM!!]
And might I also recommend another viewpoint? What to Expect When You're Expected: A Fetus's Guide to the First Three Trimesters by David Javerbaum

Internet resources (yes, much of this is science- and reality-slanted, because that's the only thing that makes sense to me):
BabyCenter, where you can sign up and receive weekly updates on how baby is developing.
My Labor Nurse, practical, evidence-based information about birth from a labor and delivery nurse
Skepdad, one man’s thoughts, opinions, and ideas about bringing up kids to be critical thinking adults in a world filled with superstition, mysticism, and pseudoscience
Science-Based Parenting, promoting quality science and refuting different types of speculative claims such as the supernatural, pseudoscience, alternative medicine, and any other extraordinary claim that contradicts facts established by science and/or reasoning (see especially the page on vaccine resources)
Parenting Beyond Belief, on raising ethical, caring kids without religion

Also, Skepchick is a blog of no-bullshit (mostly) women, some of whom are pregnant from time to time and post entries debunking many myths and nonsense around pregnancy. Specifically and recently,
What Pregnant Women Won't Tell You -warning: if you're wavering on the kid-fence, this post might push you over to the no-way-in-hell!!! side...

Oh and PS... I'm sure people will give you some recommendations and advice for "sure-fire cures" or "natural health care" or what-have-you and some of it may be fine and harmless and may even work, but keep in mind that herbs and supplements are drugs, too, and can interfere and interact with other substances but are not regulated by the FDA in the same way as more conventional medicine so you want to check with your doctor about that stuff -but if you want to get some fact-based information from the internet on something that may have been recommended or suggested, might I recommend my two "sure-fire cures" ;) for bullshit?
Snopes and What's the Harm.
These are good for every day baloney-detection, but if someone tells you acupuncture or chiropractic (or what-have-you) will cure your morning sickness, you can check out the dangers or ineffectiveness of such treatments.

Remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. And if it sounds like bullshit, it probably is, too.

Talk to your doctors, people.

Oh yeah, and: vaccinate the shit out of those kids!!

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.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

good news for the reality-based community

We don't have it often enough, but here's some: Andrew Wakefield was found by the British General Medical Council to have acted "dishonestly and irresponsibly" in doing his research, and The Lancet has (finally) retracted that bloody paper that started the hysteria in the first place.

For a great write-up -with links- explaining further, I send you to the inestimable and brilliant Phil Plait, from Bad Astronomy.

Yes, autism is tragic and yes, we need to find the answers, but blaming and scapegoating vaccines when every peer-review study clearly shows no link is irresponsible and dangerous, and only leads to more injury and death when diseases like polio and measles and whooping cough come back.