Thursday, May 31, 2012

When Its Not Over,Yet

Good Morning Cancer Survivors;
There is nothing more discouraging than finding out It's Back. It's like a bad dream that keeps returning.  Wham.... bad news.You're getting close to finishing treatment and you think the treatment is working and you can begin the recovery process, Wham... bad news. During a routine follow-up check with your oncologist, the damn thing pops up some where else or treatment and surgery didn't get it all. Damn... it's not over yet. These and many other occurrence of the dreaded bad news have a way of distorting your courage and discouraging you.

After I completed surgery I was informed by the surgeon while I was getting ready to check out of the hospital, the pathology report showed no signs of the tumor in my esophagus but microscopic cancer in several of the lymph nodes. The good news.... treatment worked at destroying the cancerous tumer....the bad news.... you need to start the chemo treatment again to destroy any residual microscopic cancer cells that may not have been removed with surgery. So after recovering from surgery for 10 weeks I started the treatment regime again - 5 days a week in an infusion chair for 5 hours a round, every four weeks, for six sessions.

Just when I thought the worst was over, the journey made a bad u-turn to renewed treatment. It took me a while to reconcile the bad news which consumed more energy than I should have allowed it to but I was extremely disappointed. It took me about three weeks to regain my inner-strength and decide to go down the chemo treatment path again. Given the choice, I would have much rather stabbed my hand with an ice pick than start treatment again. Although I did have a choice. I could elect not to go through treatment again but I figured I would rather not get down that road and find out latter it's back. I chose to be aggressive and start treatment again. This was an extremely hard decision that was made easier when I thought through my choices and their consequences.

I found with cancer you shouldn't underestimate its resolve to continue infecting you. It is a disease that works 24-7's to kill you, making your battle with it, the worst battle of your life and for your life. It's easy to become discouraged and distraught over the bad news, which makes it more difficult to dig down into your inner strength to buck-up. But thinking through the alternatives and the choices you have, helps deal with the anguish and your ability to buck-up.

When the news is not good, causing the journey to go on longer, I encourage you to get through the discouragement cycle quickly. There are choices and decisions to be made that require a clear mind. Consider instead, there are more cancer patients surviving cancer today and living with cancer today than ever before, and you are one of the survivors. Don't give up, stay strong and keep your sense of humor.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Summer Sun and Cancer Treatment

Good Morning Cancer Patients and Caregivers;
As warmer weather begins and the warm sunny days get longer, its always beneficial to get out in the sun and soak up the vitamin D from the sun rays. When I was deep in chemo treatment and radiation I found  just sitting in the warm sun was a way of escaping the side effects and burning from the radiation. However, I also found  I needed to be careful in the sun because your skin becomes very sensitized to the sun from the chem treatment. In addition, I needed to be careful not to become dehydrated. I spent the summer in chemo treatment of 5 days in treatment for 5 hours a day and 3 weeks off, then do it again. The last month in treatment was to carry a 24 hour chemo pack and take radiation 5 days a week for a month. Great way to spend the summer but I didn't let it interfere with summer activities we had planned. I just had to be more careful in the sun.

The first thing I noticed was I didn't sweat much. Prior to cancer treatment I sweat like a race horse but now I didn't. The chemo treatment had changed my ability to deal with the heat and although I was careful  not to get too much sun or get sun burned, I didn't drink enough fluids which caused dehydration. I thought I could drink enough beer to keep from getting dehydrated but I underestimated the effects of treatment.

I spent the time in the sun all greased up and it reminded me of when my mother would coat baking potatoes with bacon grease to bake them in the oven. About every hour or so I would add more sun block.

The two things to be cautious of when in the sun and going through treatment are to protect your skin with the strongest sun block lotion available, and drink more fluids than you think you should drink. When I was being treated for dehydration I was informed by my Oncologist that beer is not a very good liquid to keep you hydrated. He recommended mass quantities of water or one of the athletic drinks.

So I encourage you to spend time this summer in the sun and be overly protective of your skin because the treatment makes it very dry. Drink more fluids than you think you need to when in the sun, as well as when you are in treatment to avoid getting dehydrated. The cure for dehydration is sitting in an infusion chair having large bottles of fluids pumped into you until your hydration level is normal. The test to see if you are dehydrated is to pinch about an inch of skin on your arm close to your wrist and if the skin stays standing and pinched when you release it, you are dehydrated.

Don't let enjoying the sun and summer be taken away from you because of cancer treatment and the fear of getting sun burned or dehydrated. Just be careful and enjoy the summer.

Stay stong, keep your sense of humor and never give up.