Chemo Hints and Tips

After my first chemo session, I discovered a number of challenges I needed to resolve. I learned that no matter how well you prepare, how closely you listen to the nurses, you will encounter unique problems as your body fights to eliminate the cancer.

Here are some of the things I found very helpful. I hope that they can help someone else out there.

Smells: Like most people I became hyper-sensitive to smells. This is normal. Don’t sweat it. It hit me around day 4 after my infusion. The strongest reaction I had was to the smell of meat. Any kind of meat. Cooking meat was the worst. But let’s be real here; I can’t expect my healthy, carnivore husband to chug smoothies. He needs to eat, and I am blessed in that he was willing to cook his own food for a few meals. My Solution: I used one of those paper masks you use when you are going to be sanding furniture, or doing something that raises a lot of dust. I put a couple of drops of Lavender Oil on the mask, and let it dry. When the smells pushed my smell-o-meter off the chart, I simply put on the mask. All I smelled was the pleasant, soothing scent of lavender. I also put a couple of drops on my hand. If I wasn’t wearing the mask, I just put my hand under my nose and took a couple of breaths. Smells neutralized. Problem solved.

Solid Foods: For 2 or 3 days, I found that a meal of solids was just not sitting well. But you have to eat, and take in calories, because you have to give your body every advantage to fight on your behalf. My Solution: I purchased a Nutri Ninja. It comes with books that have lots of good concoctions! I also doubled up on protein shakes. I did find that anything sugary immediately gave me an awful taste in my mouth. So I look for protein powders with the lowest sugar content and the highest number of protein grams per scoop. Use two scoops instead of one. If you are making a fruit or veggie smoothie, add vanilla protein powder. You don’t really taste it, but you get the added punch and needed calories. The one I am using is called “Designer Whey” and I get it at Trader Joe’s. I also combine fruit and veggies as much as possible in my smoothies. Cuts down on the natural fruit sugars and gives me the added vitamin benefits of the veggies. (Shopping Tip: I ordered mine online from Bed, Bath and Beyond. The price was $159. An automatic $30 rebate was applied, and then I used the 20% off coupon that they always have available. Shipping was free. So, after tax, the cost to me was $102.)

Listen to your body: There was a lot of advice and suggestions that I got from the nurses that did not work for me. In fact, a lot of it had the opposite effect of what they meant. For example, they told me to have crackers and pretzels. I don’t normally eat that stuff anyway, because the carbs convert to sugar, and I have hypoglycemia so sugar is always an issue. But I figured I would listen to the experienced people. The day of my first infusion, I brought a baggie with pretzels. I ate them during the infusion. Kind of like a guilty pleasure. No problem. The next day, I took a handful of pretzels and from the first one I put in my mouth, I had the most awful taste and they turned my stomach. Same with Ritz crackers. I put them down and didn’t have them again. Problem solved.

Another thing I found was an opposite for me was caffeinated beverages. They told me not to drink them because they are a diuretic and would upset my stomach. Wrong. If you have been drinking coffee or tea, and you suddenly stop, you may give yourself a wicked caffeine headache. You have enough going on without giving yourself a thumping headache. Solution: I keep a bottle of water next to my coffee cup. I make sure I drink additional water to stay fully hydrated. No more headaches. I still enjoy my coffee.

Another trick I found was an alternative warm drink. Sometimes, I didn’t want the flavors from tea. I took a cup, put a generous slice of fresh lemon in, and a couple of drops of liquid stevia. (You can use honey – honey is very healthy! I don’t use honey because it makes the drink much too sweet for me.) Fill the cup with hot water, and let it cool slightly. You can sip this, get the benefits from the fresh lemon, and enjoy a warm drink without worrying about flavors that might upset your stomach.

If you are vomiting a lot, you need to be careful not to become dehydrated. Keep a bottle of Pedialyte on hand in the fridge. You can have this over ice, or add it to a fruit juice. This will help you balance your electrolytes and may be easier to keep down than plain water.

Sleep When You Are Tired: This is not the time to push yourself or dwell on those dust bunnies staring at you from under the rocking chair. When you feel tired – sleep. Pretend you are a dog. They sleep all day sometimes and are just fine. They enjoy their sleep, they surrender to it. Play puppy! Your body is working double overtime to help the chemo do it’s job and make you well. Help it along!

Dress for Success: You have been hearing that forever, right? Dress for success in the office. Dress for success when going out socially. We women invest a great deal into our appearance. Our self image is often tied up in how we look, how we are dressed. When we are wearing something that makes us feel pretty, we walk with more confidence, act in a confident manner. The same goes for when you are going for chemo. Yes, you can go in comfy clothes. There is nothing wrong with that. I find that when I am dressed in a way that makes me feel good, my attitude is one of confidence. My good friend, Peggy Nolan, said that when she went for treatments, she always wore bright lipstick and dressed nicely. There is magic in dressing well, and it is a part of our feminine identity. Next time you go for a treatment, dress like you want to look your best, feel pretty. Believe me, it translates into a happy aura that can only help in the journey!

Attitude: A positive attitude is the most powerful drug you have in your arsenal. It is more powerful than any chemotherapy and more powerful than cancer. I have done a lot of visualization and meditation. I refuse to think of the chemo as poison. That is a negative thought that your brain will instantly fight against. I think of it as liquid energy that is shooting towards the tumor, breaking it into bits. When I have fatigue or discomfort, I don’t fight it or allow fear to enter the picture. I think about how hard my body is working for me, and these symptoms are just my body saying that the fight is hard, but it’s on the job. If you must work at something, work at rejecting every single negative thought that pops into your head during this journey!!!!! You can help the meds and your body win this one!!!!!

I just had my second treatment, and one of my challenges this time around is to make sure that I take in enough calories to prevent any weight loss. I will let you know what new hints and tips I come up with to help!

Meanwhile, remember that you can make it better for yourself! Believe that you can do this! Your doctors are in charge of the medical side of the journey. You can be your own leader on the emotional/mental/spiritual front!


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Channeling the Powerpuff Girls

poerpuffallI love the Powerpuff Girls. They are bright and fun, with just enough snarky adult humor to keep your eyes from glazing over as you watch with the little ones. When I was watching Sophia one day a week, we would sit on the floor together and watch Powerpuff Girl episodes. I would stand up, put her on my left hip, raise my right fist high in the air and shout “Power”, as I was running around the living room.

powerpuff1My favorite Powerpuff Girl is Buttercup. Buttercup is the one with attitude. I immediately identified with her “take no prisoners” approach to bad guys and playground bullies. Underneath that prickly, badger-ish exterior, little Buttercup is actually a big love bug. She has  a huge soft heart, and I always thought that her outward toughness was just her way of keeping her mushy center safe.

When they put in my port last week, they gave me a whole bunch of paperwork, which I promptly put in my Women In Business tote and deposited on the desk when I got home. This morning, I was organizing my tote and I found that paperwork.

powerpuff2Guess what! I am the proud recipient of a Power Port. Not just any old port, mind you, but a real Power Port. I am sure that I could read the pamphlet, and I would know what that means. I don’t really care. I think of it as a Turbo charged port, and it immediately reminded me of Buttercup!

It is so easy to imagine that Buttercup is ready to take that powerful liquid and drag it with her, clenched fist out in front, down to the tumor where she can use her superpowers to punch, kick and smash that bad old tumor into bits! I like the thought of her big eyes watching over the process, giving it a hand in her own special style!

powerpuff3So tomorrow, when they plug in the bag of joy juice, I am going to be channeling Buttercup, and silently humming the theme song. Just one more way I am #MakingCancerMyBitchIn2015!


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Being Freed From Tyranny

BigHeadChickenI admit the title is somewhat tongue-in-cheek. I am not oppressed. I am not making light of true oppression. What I am doing is explaining how I see the next step in my journey.

For one minute, think about how much time, money and effort we spend, as women, on our hair. If it’s curly, we want it straight. If it’s straight, we want it curly. We change the color, length, and style constantly. We are never happy. We buy special shampoo. We buy cheap shampoo. We twist, frizz, grease, straighten, heat, glue and torture the tops of our heads to try to make ourselves look a certain way. And still, we are never happy.

I, for one, have spent tens of thousands of dollars in my 60 years, being a slave to fashion and hair trends. Women my age remember trying to get their hair to look like Farrah Fawcett. I had hair like Kate Jackson on a bad day, but I tried my darndest to make it flip and curl and pouf. I have been so many different colors in the 45 years I have been coloring my hair that I have no idea what the real color might be. I have gotten perms that made me look like I stuck my finger in an outlet. Even my mother used to perm my hair, and cut it with June Alyson bangs. At 8, with my pussy cat glasses and a frizz around my ears and a creepy little fringe on my forehead, I dutifully went to have the Christmas pictures taken. Yes, one of the many childhood memories I am very happy to have put in the “Dead Files” box in my mind.

So now, I am going to be losing my hair. I can look at this with dread and dismay, or I can get real about it. It’s not like I ever had some magnificent set of flowing locks. (Think Amal Clooney.) I have never been one of those people who had a thick cascade they could bunch into a ponytail and stick out the back of a baseball cap, and look sexy. I am one of the very lucky women who will not be mourning the loss of my 60 year struggle with genetics versus fashion.

I am looking at this as a fresh start. I may love the color that comes in. If not, I have a stylist who is a literal magician with goop and foils. I am told it will come in coarser and possibly even curly. Does that mean I can throw away my curling iron? No more burning my ear tips and neck? Twist my arm! I am going to be coming back a new, improved Sandi. And I am excited to see what I’m going to get!

For all you ladies out there who may be facing the same journey: Unless you had Farrah Hair to begin with, maybe you should consider this a way to spend less on hairstyles and more on shoes! For me, I am going to have a party with a few very special girlfriends, and we are going to buzz away my self-imposed slavery to my hair forever!!!!!

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Sleep and Meds

minions2I am finding that no matter how determined I am, no matter how successful my meditations, I am at the mercy of this process. I’m not complaining. It wouldn’t do any good! But all the things the nurse told me are coming to pass, and it’s tough for a badger not to be in control of simply everything!

The fatigue and nausea hit on Sunday. I took my meds faithfully, and I am so grateful that I have them! I also spent most of the day like a bump on a log, snoozing. Rich says that it is OK, because I am catching up on all the sleep I wasn’t getting. I love having permission!

Another thing that is changing is my sense of taste and smell. I remember my dear Janet telling me that shipping wraps with a dryer sheet wasn’t always a good idea, because cancer patients have their sense of smell completely whacked. She is so right!

My sense of taste is becoming it’s own little challenge. I think it was afraid I would be bored or lazy, sleeping so much. So my taste buds decided to keep me on my toes. When I’m not on my knees, praying to the Lavatory Goddess. Brings back memories of misspent nights … Good Times!

I find I am craving fruits, vegetables. My current passion is V8 juice. I had some in the garage, and I could happily set up an IV with the stuff. The most surprising change is that I can’t tolerate coffee. Me! The coffee freak from way back – I can’t do it! (I hope things go back to normal after this, because not being a coffee drinker would give me one more identity crisis at my age!)

The wonderful notes and comments from my friends in my Support Group have been better than meat and potatoes for me! So much love, so many things to help! I wish I could wrap my arms around you all and hug you like crazy!!!!!

I wish I could say that all my posts will be full of chuckles, but I don’t think even this Badger can manage that. Today’s message for anyone reading this, or getting ready to go through this is: listen to the nurses, absolutely take your meds, and don’t feel bad about dozing the days away! #LetSleepingBadgersLie #MakingCancerMyBitchIn2015

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Visualizing Minions

minionsChemo + 2 day has come and gone, and like I expected, it was full of the unexpected. “Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition” as Rich and I are so fond of quoting. By and large, it was a gentle reminder of what it could be, should I forget the lessons I have already learned.

We started out with yet another good traffic day. That meant only 10 minutes to get to the facility. Have I mentioned before how blessed I am to live exactly where I do? This may be a sidetrack in the story, but for those of you who don’t’ know me; I have spent 25 years mildly moaning about living in New Jersey. Yes, I chose to live here, and I have enjoyed all the things about the location I chose. But I always missed the hustle and bustle of New York. I missed the kindness of New Yorkers (yes, they are a lot nicer than most people realize. A lot nicer than the people I encountered where my mother used to live. ) But I have also looked for the silver lining over my head in Marlton. I have to admit, I live in a really nice place. The town is nice. We have every possible amenity right here. The schools are great. Our mayor is cool. The police department is awesome. We have modern facilities for kids to play sports; everything is here for someone looking for a close second to Beaver Cleaverville. So most of my bitching has become half-hearted.

Now, I am realizing how truly blessed I am in my location. I literally have every cutting edge medical facility and amenity within 5 miles of my house. World class treatment. The best doctors. You name it, we have it just a touch away. If I had to draw the Cancer lottery ticket, I couldn’t have been in a better place. I have been acutely aware of this since the Fall, and the sensation of gratitude just keeps growing as I add to the list of people I interact with in the medical community.

So, back to the story. We got to the facility in record time – not even enough time for the heated seats to really warm my nether regions. As soon as we walked in, I got a seat and someone was ready to give me what I called my “Booster Shot”. Actually, it is a medicine called Neulasta (I think) and its job is to make sure that my white blood cells keep producing like champs during the chemo process. Some joker had warned me that they give me the shot in my butt, and I was not really ready to drop trousers if I didn’t have to. Luckily for me, it was just a joke and the nurse was just as horrified at the concept as I was! A quick shot in the arm, a warning that I might want my anti-inflammatories the next day, and we were on our way back home!

I have become accustomed to visualizing these medicines and procedures in ways that make me smile and make sense to me. While I was walking to the car, I decided that the Neulasta droplets should look like Scrubbing Bubbles, because they have happy faces. Rich disagreed. He saw them as Minions – wearing hard hats. After all, they have to get into the bones to help them grow more white cells! I liked this picture, but had to put them in Hawaiian shirts, so they were happy and chipper. Somehow, thinking about the idea of little Minions shuffling through my bloodstream, digging and growing and harvesting white blood cells to help me stay strong appealed to my sense of humor.

This Minion Vision helped me through the rest of the day. Whatever happy juice they put in the original infusion wore off around lunch time, and I was smacked with the fatigue they warned of. So I snoozed without guilt for possibly the first time since I was in the cradle. I also started on the anti-nausea meds, which immediately kicked in and enabled me to eat a wonderful meal that Rich cooked for me. Being disinterested in eating is one thing. Turning down a meal that your beloved makes you from the heart is another!

The things that really helped me put this day in perspective and know that I am moving forward are:

  • Visualization – see things in whatever whimsical way you need to use to lift your spirits and keep your positive energy flowing.
  • Gratitude – remaining open to the blessings around you, big and small, keeps the positivity from bogging down in the fear traps.
  • Friendship – reading the support and love from my friends and family is crucial! Accepting the love and letting it wrap around you keeps the shivers away and holds you up when you might otherwise fall down in fear.
  • Love and Trust – the person who is caring for you, in my case it is my beloved husband, is your rock. They are doing this out of love, and knowing this, be sure to let them know how much you appreciate them. They may dig their toes into the tiles and act like it’s no big deal, but never let a day go by without thanking them and being present in what they do! It keeps you both strong for the fight!

I have more plans coming for the next 2 months. For right now, I am just sharing in the hopes that it can keep things light and hopeful for someone else out there. It isn’t as bad as they told me it would be. It isn’t as bad as I feared it would be. The key is to focus on the positive, continue to meditate and visualize health and healing, and get by with a little help from your friends!

I love you all, my dear friends!


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I Am Still Me

TUTTLES-8923SQUARECROPWEBSo, the journey I started two days before Thanksgiving has turned a new corner, and I am still ME.

I am learning how the word Cancer can change your life. But I am still ME.

I had my first chemo yesterday. (Only 3 more to go!) It was yet another new experience, full of empty fears and amazing people. A new room to become familiar with. New smells, new routines, and even though I get a nifty little TV with my chair, I still am challenged by technology and couldn’t find my judge shows. I guess I am on my own!

I haven’t really gone over the timeline in my blogs yet, and I probably will at some point. But right now, I want to share the things that are working for me, as the journey continues. Maybe it will help some other woman (or man) out there to see that it can be a learning challenge. And that Challenge is a much better word to use than Cancer! They both start with “C”.

Chemo Day 1:

I didn’t sleep very well. I was nervous about what I didn’t know. I was scared about all the things they tell you to expect to prepare you. I was not worried about a lot of the things they stressed. But what I didn’t know was driving me bonkers. I packed my tote bag with my Raccoon slippers, books, my Kindle with my music and meditation routines, water, pretzels, my folder with info, my iPhone and my little wallet with ID, etc. Figured I would cover all the bases. Wore comfy clothes and one of my larger comfort wraps. As I see it, this is my chance to field test my designs for my wraps. I have been making comfort wraps for years, but designing them based on word of mouth from friends and customers. Now I get to see what I have right and what I can improve! (How many designers can say That?)

We get in the car to make the 15 minute drive. It is 15 minutes because it is the end of rush hour here in town, and it can take 10 minutes just to clear the light at the intersection of Evesham Road and Route 73. No lie. But the powers are with us, and we get through in only 3 cycles of the light. It’s the coldest morning so far this season, and I remind myself to make a note to add “Heated Seats” to my list of things I am grateful for today.

We get to the facility and the hurry up and wait cycle begins. I am used to it, but it’s hard on Rich. He is torn between wanting to see me settled in this new place, and getting back home so that he can get back to work. As usual, there is a ‘critical’ problem that they need him to fix, and he is determined to show his bosses that he appreciates their kindness in letting him work from home on these days by giving them a full day. (Just one more reason I adore him!)

After a few minutes, my nurse for the day, Joan, introduces herself and we start the Newbie Information phase. She is explaining the things to me I need to know. I have heard them before, but I respect she needs to do this as part of her job. Rich can leave, so I tell him I will call him a little while before I am done. I turn and give Joan my full attention. I’m not sure if she is glad. For example: She is explaining to me that I will lose my hair starting with my next session. Yes, I reply, I know. I’m kind of excited to see what color my hair really is, after dyeing it for 45 years. I even have my “Buzz Brunch” date set with my daughter and my hairdresser (her sister in law), and perhaps I will invite a few more friends for the unveiling. Joan is not sure how to reply to this, so she continues to tell me it might grow back curly or even come in white. I couldn’t be more excited! I never had curly hair, it could be fun. And all white! Really? That would be gorgeous. Or maybe a bright silver?

Joan gives up trying to shock me and moves on to the side effects I may experience. She points out that there is a whole list of them I should read, so that if I experience them, I don’t panic. I gently mention to her that I have been working hard and focusing on only attracting positive energy at this time, so I would prefer not to read this list (again) but I will know where to look for it if I start to feel odd. The woman in the next chair chimes in and says “Don’t read it. It will only drive you crazy.” Joan is not amused. I am. I tell the woman that, in my case, that would be a putt rather than a drive, and I appreciate having permission not to read it. Joan figures I am a smart ass and pushes on. I try hard to behave. After all, this woman is going to be sticking toxic substances into me in a short while. No sense pissing her off.

Finally, we get started. IV fluids that will help spread the healing juices. I can’t find my judge shows on the new flat screen, so I jump on Facebook to see my wonderful gift for the day. My friend, Janet Powers, has made a Support Group for me! For me! And the humor and love and energy people are sharing makes me feel like I could moonwalk around the room, even dragging my pole on wheels!

This support carries me through the rest of the day. The tedious process of hand pushing the medicines into the IV because they haven’t put my port in yet. The endless fluids. By hour 4, I feel like Moby Badger wallowing in my own internal juices. Good thing I wore stretchy stuff….. Blessedly, this is the absolute worst discomfort of the day. Sloshing around when I walk.

The atmosphere in the Infusion Room is one of positive professionalism and tenderness from the staff. Tremulous hopefulness from the patients. Some people have a gaggle of guests surrounding them. Others have a faithful, loving spouse watching them sleep, wrapped in their own thoughts and prayers. I had my Support Group and “Comfortably Numb” on the Kindle… when I wasn’t jamming to the “Best of Poison”. No, I didn’t sing out loud. People are trying to feel good here – no sense assaulting their eardrums while their systems are being bathed in chemicals!

I came home to more love, more support. And my own bathroom, God be praised. I have to be careful and safeguard anyone who may come in contact with my ‘stuff’ in the bathroom, so I take it to heart and make sure I have gloves, etc. in the bathroom I use. Something useful to do is always a help. I feel like I took speed, or something. I am so energized, I want to jump around. Wisely, I fold laundry instead and finally get to commune with Judge Judy. They were right; I am not hungry. I make myself eat some homemade chicken soup around 6:30, because only eating pretzels all day is bad for my hypoglycemia, and I don’t want to wake up with THAT headache.

I have my meds lined up, just in case. But I still feel like I am flying, on top of the moon. I am not sick. No palpitations. Still bloated, but I can deal with that. Still having wonderful friends reaching out to me, and I am slurping up the love and positive energy like a thirsty girl at Happy Hour. I picture Eeyore saying “Thanks for noticing me” and I am so grateful that I want to spin around in the room, shooting hugs out to everyone! But that would freak out the dogs, and they are having enough trouble figuring out what is going on!

My first chemo day ended with me actually being awake at 10:30 at night, curling up with my beloved hubby under an extra blanket, nodding off almost immediately. I slept like a log until 2:30, when the dogs traditionally wake me up to let them out. I, loving my routines, get up, let them out, let them back in, and fall back asleep in my chair. All’s right with the world.

I woke up my usual time. I’ve been up now for 3 hours. No nausea yet, which I am super happy about. I get my booster shot this morning to keep my immune system strong. Someone told me they give it to you in your butt. I hope not. I guess I will find out in a few hours.

I truly believe that the preparation I did, thanks to my energy angel, Cindi Richard, helped me look at this in a way that is changing the experience. She had me pick up “Prepare for Surgery, Heal Faster” by Peggy Huddleston. There is a section in there about chemo, and how you visualize it in a way that helps you welcome the healing fluids, rather than thinking about the negative side. I loved that, and found myself visualizing the chemo as a beautiful liquid light, bright with pinks and golds and silvers, flowing into me and devouring the tumor. Some of the other visualization suggestions are also great, and I have been using them along with meditation routines from the CD.

Learning about attracting positive energy by following the incomparable Kathy Hadley for the past year has also been a huge help. Even before I knew these things were coming, I read her affirmations, and taught myself how to improve my own life and path by attracting what I wanted in my life. It is not easy to learn to prevent the negative energy, and there are sneaky things that trip you up. But any time you make the effort, it is worth it as it becomes easier and easier.

So now I am off to greet the routine of Day Chemo + 1. Using my learned helping routines. Closing my eyes and feeling grateful for all the people who want to be part of my Support Group. Trying to remember the little things that I think might help someone reading this.

But the most important lesson for today is a very simple one. I Am Still Me. Take THAT, Cancer! #MakingCancerMyBitchIn2015

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Cancer Haiku

I start chemo in 2 days. As I visualize success, this is how it looks to me:

Streams of liquid light

Cascade through my hopeful body

Destroying the dark

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