chemo tips

pollygoshchemo

In which I gingerly (ha) start to write my “Guide to Chemo”

So folks, with many a glitter cannon and a triumphant trumpet fanfare, I have tried to start to write (reasonable helpfully) about chemo.

Turns out I can only do it in small chunks, not sure how many it will turn in to, lets hope it’s more informative / fun to read than actual chemo.

ENJOY!

Chemo Disclaimer: If you are about to undertake Chemo perhaps have someone vet this blog post before you read it.

Actually, that’s Tip Number 1: Get yourself a buffer / learn to zone out!

Everyone has an opinion / war-wound / great Aunt Sue when it comes to Cancer and Chemo.

If one more person, who had never been through Chemo, told me “Ginger might help” I may have inflicted damage. Learn to tune people out, you are about to receive a lot of unsolicited advice. Most will not be helpful, some will be scary; the Kings and Queens of Yore had their food tasters, get yourself an advice taster. A trusted loved one to vet / veto information. Let them help you to decide if you need this particular titbit in your head right now. If a conversation has taken a turn towards scary-ville, don’t be afraid to cut people off (politely). I wish I’d been more brave about that in the beginning.

So perhaps don’t read this, at least not yet.

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Tip Number 2: Get yourself a sponsor.

We all need advice sometimes or the shoulder of someone who has been there. Sadly in this day and age you probably already know a few, a Chemo sponsor if you will; the right person is the one who, on receiving the news of your up coming treatment, will respond by giving you a hug and nothing more.

This is your guy, a warrior with all the scars and the world-weary eyes but someone who knows when to keep their mouth shut. They know you need to experience it yourself first, they know not to taint you with stories of their own battles. The amount of self control this individual will be exercising ought to be saluted, trust me.

Once you are through your first treatment and need to debrief with a comrade; this is the person you call, meet for tea or something stronger, strip off your shirts (metaphorically) and have at it with the battle-wound talk.

Tip Number 3: At some point along the path you or your body will not react in a ‘normal’ way. (This is what makes all the guidelines on Chemo so aggravatingly vague, like snowflakes, we are all unique. It’s the last thing you’ll feel like doing but try to relax and go with the very weird flow. If you are worried ring your Doctor, 9 times out of 10 they will tell you whatever it is is normal or “normal for you”.)

I’ve been trying to think if I’ve ever been more nervous/terrified than the morning of my first Chemo session. Having never jumped off a cliff, blinded folded – nope, nothing is coming to me. I think it officially the most twitchy I’ve ever been.

The day before I had to take steroids to prepare myself, I then spent the day in nervous anticipation of when I was going to start feeling all manic and jumpy, which is apparently what’s meant to happen, my Mum would clean the house at top speed while on steroids. Sadly for little flat and the ever neat A. this NEVER happened.

Turns out I’m part sloth so I was mostly just sleepy (which my Doctors found quite funny), my skin felt a bit buzzy too, if that makes sense. You know when you’re on a hot tube/subway/metro and then all of a sudden a blast of cool air hits you and whooshes round your skin? A bit like that crossed with ants running up and down your legs; which is my least favourite touch sensation. It was unsettling, is what it was.

Tip Number 4: Request a PICC Line.

I also had a line fitted the day before, I hated every moment with that darn thing in me. It was not a pleasant experience having it put in and it was a pain in the patoot in every possible way BUT I think it’s a necessary evil. I am grateful my Dad knew enough to request one for me. It makes things easier on Chemo days and protects your veins from a powerful chemical battering. Which is super important.

Perhaps have it put in a few days before the first Chemo so you can get used to it. I wanted to swim as much as I could prior to Chemo so the day before made sense but I did have to deal with an achey arm on top of everything else.

Top Number 5: Let yourself off the hook, you have enough going on.

After my first not very pleasant Chemo experience, I spent sometime beating myself up. Had I scared myself into a nasty experience by reading too much? Had I forgotten to be positive? Had I done or not done something, ANYTHING to make this whole thing harder on myself?

I’m going to tell you a secret that may keep you a little saner than me. Commit it to memory and when the dragons come try and remember to repeat it.

There are no winners or losers in Chemo. No matter what the books, experts or your neighbour Ned says; it is going to be what it is going to be and you know what? You are going to do your very best in a very crappy situation.

We can dance about this issue all we want but NOBODY has ever come out of Chemo saying “I quite enjoyed that, can I go again?”, this is no trip to the Spa. By submitting yourself to it you are already a Rock Star in my eyes.

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Who is sick of Cancer Chat? Here’s a Recipe instead – Blackberry, Cream and Cardamom Ice Pops!

So, as part of my research into all things Chemo, I’ve decided to make my own Ice Pops to take with me, to help keep nasty mouth sores away …. I’m working on a Rhubarb and Ginger one (ginger being good for nausea), and a Raspberry and Mint variety too -ooo my creative juices (gettit?) are flowing. If they work out I’ll post them on here too.

This recipe is one I worked on last summer and is adapted from the above book. I’m going to experiment with less sugar / sugar alternatives. I also remember from mum, that cream didn’t taste wonderful during chemo, I reckon you can remove it without to much faff or change it out for goats yogurt which has a shaper edge……

I’m going back to my wig research now…… deep, deep joy.

First we need to make a simple syrup – simple to make but oh how I love a bit of cardamom. Just pop the ingredients for the syrup in a pan. Let it simmer over a low heat until all the sugar is dissolved! Easy peasy.
Next we need to smoosh (yes smoosh) those berries, deeply satisfying and brings a wonderful colour …..
The syrup gets mixed with this berry mash up – don’t forget to remove those cardamom pods!
This mixture needs to be passed through a sieve or muslin. I recommend you do this quickly before you’re tempted to eat it as is. Be careful to catch all the liquid but retain the fleshy remnants in another bowl, we don’t want waste.
Stir the cream briskly into the rich,  juicy syrup, you can tell by the colour this will taste like summer (only icy). Now simply pour into moulds, leaving some room at the top for exspanding and freeze!

It might seem unbearable but leave for at least 8 hrs but more likely over night.

The remainder of the berry mess gets added to the lazily beaten remnants of  the tub double cream (about Cup would do it) as a truly scrummy syllabub. I found it made waiting for the pops to set slightly more tolerable.
 
The Recipe (People’s Pops Inspired – go buy the book peeps it’s totes worth it)
 
This made about 8 for me but really depends on your mould and how much you eat along the way!
 
4 Cups of Blackberries
2/3 Cup of Simple Cardamon Syrup
1/2 Cup of Double Cream
For the Simple Syrup
2/3 Cup of Cane Sugar
2/3 Cup of Water
3 or 4 Cardamon Pods
pollygosh_so-vain

She’s So Vain

I’m really vain, really vain. Not the easiest thing to admit to, I didn’t really realise it until I got diagnosed. Overnight I became a Vain Hypochondriac*, no mean feat.
 
What was the first thing I did post diagnoses? It was not jump on Google and find support groups, healthy eating plans (hello, cake), I did not read up on everything ‘Breast Cancer’, I most certainly did not look at survival / reoccurrence percentages. Apart from the last one – truly a waste of energy – I have started to now, I promise.
 
No, what I did, almost straight away was to start Pinteresting cool short haircuts. Though, I suspect you may also need the face of Michelle Williams, Emma Watson or Jennifer Lawrence to actually pull these off. A point, I’m studiously trying to avoid, especially as I may well be bald soon anyway.
 
I am yet to find out about my “treatment package” – I think this term sounds suitably ‘Spa’. Some radiotherapy with your pedicure? If you insist, which you do. As I’m so young (yawn), Chemo is a very real possibility – in fact I’m very lucky that there is a slither of hope that, I may not have to have it. Oh, Cancer Roller-Coaster, you are just so fun.
 
I once managed to get two different types of infection on my nose at the same time (it’s a talent), my snout was basically a big ol’ puss filled mess. I cannot tell you how self-conscious this made me. My confidence plummeted and a became a grump, I hid behind a turquoise and pink tartan baker-boy hat (there really was no excuse for making the situation worse…) for nearly 2 weeks.
 
I know how changing from the ‘norm’ can effect me.
 
I’m concerned about the bald thing too, we are shuttling along towards Summer and there is no way I can wear a cool, slouchy beanie hat in July without boiling – which may be worth it.
 
This leaves scarves, I’m not sure if you get given scarves when you start treatment but some of the ones out there are a little too out there, if you catch my drift. I’m wondering if the budget will stretch to a little vintage Hermes (or at least something that looks like it). However, the truth is, bald head under a scarf screams “I’m Having Chemo but look how well I can hide it”.
 
I hope I will be brave enough just to rock a Bald (heavily SPF’ed) head; I worry about how cute my skull shape is though. I have a feeling due to my clumsy nature and a particularly hurtful incident, riding my tricycle on a frozen duck pond (that was not a smart plan, 5 year old self) - it may well be lumpy.
 
After fretting about all of these things, I very swiftly rang my friend Miss L -1) She is a brilliant human and we are the founder members of the Motherless Duckling Club, meaning we’ve gone through some stuff together. 2) She is one awesome photographer, she’s seriously great. I wanted to document ‘me’ before this ‘me’ was changed.
I know some of these changes may well be fleeting but some are more permanent. I just wanted a record, for my future self.
 
Miss L happily agreed and soon she, her sunny personality and her wonder camera came for a visit. Not long after lunch and cake (which possibly wasn’t the smartest move, but cake is cake), I found myself *almost* starkers posing for photos. Which is not something I thought I’d ever, ever do. My training with medical professionals came in quite handy and I wasn’t as awkward as I thought…. Miss L is also very good at her job and that really helped. We laughed mostly, and realised I’d never make it as a topless model – which I’m not that unhappy about.
 
Miss L has actually Blog about this shoot on her site, link below, don’t worry all pictures are of the of the tasteful, non-explicit variety.
 
I have battle scars already, I’ll be proud of them too, eventually I hope. I find out about the rest soon. really soon. I think, with Miss L behind the camera I’ll want to document this ‘me’ too because this is the ‘me’ of now, she may be battered and not as she was but life is too unpredictable (and hopefully long) not to try to be comfortable in this ‘me’ too.
 
*more on this later……
 

Lydia Stamps Photography