|Pacific Yew (Taxus Brevifolia )|
After much thought and consideration I have decided to share with you what I wrote recently in my personal journal.
The reason I’m sharing this is because although I really am doing well, I want to be realistic with you…I am well in spite of the very real challenges that I am facing right now…Every one who reads this will be able to relate to how life can challenge us at times, though your challenges may be different than mine are, we serve the same awesome God…who gives us strength to overcome it all!
Tuesday, February 25, 2014
As a chronic pain sufferer, when you ask me if I have had any pain, I may answer "no", I usually mean no NEW pain, but it can also mean that I do not register pain like someone else may...I have built up a tolerance to it, it is either regarded as a small discomfort felt either too seldom, or not severe enough to be considered pain to me.
But...Lately If you asked me the question, I would have to answer yes, that some days I am in constant pain.
It feels like I am being struck by lightening in various parts of my body...some are faster, more fleeting...while others linger for several seconds longer...this hits constantly all over, so random and without pattern...I do not know where it will hit next but that does not matter because by the time it is felt it is usually felt someplace else...like neurons firing ...lightening striking.
Meanwhile the duller throbbing pain that is my constant continues in the background...a baseline...like the deep rhythmic pulses of a symphony orchestra's base drum...
And then there is the neuropathy which is its own brand of pain....while the ovaries chime in as they squeeze out their last bit of life...they are dying and I can feel it.
I am either tired but my body will not let me sleep, or I am wide awake and my body wants to sleep...This is night and day for me now...I know not how to bridge the widening gap between them...body and mind.
I am so grateful that I have not suffered from any intestinal maladies as a result of the chemotherapy...aside from a bout with mouth sores last time...it was short-lived.
My taste buds remain intact as well and I am gaining weight.
My hair has fallen out, and my skin is sensitive...especially my fingertips...I cannot tolerate heat or cold.
I am emotional.
My mind remains sharp although there are some dull edges.
I have decided that I will make more of an effort to be an expert on me....Instead of leaving it all up to the experts in the field of oncology...Though I need their guidance and care...I am better able to focus solely on my own case...The greatest obstacle I have in this is to let go of the tendency to not want to complain too much to anyone...I feel a sense of bravado when I am able to tolerate and maintain a state of relative normalcy in the face of this daunting disease...of which I am resistant to accept its inevitable symptoms as a reality at all!
So now begins a journal of that reality...
That sense of bravado that I described, is the mask I hide behind. It feels safer, less vulnerable than putting my true thoughts and feelings out there…But, truth should never be hidden.
For one thing…Someone reading this might find comfort in knowing that when (not if) they face a pain in their life that seems unbearable at the anticipation of it…The reality of it is God really will never give us more than we can bear…and we do not bear it alone…Jesus lends His strength to us…comes up beside us and carries us through.
Another thing…As I experience this pain, I am reminded that the Savior bore all our pain on the cross…and also before as he was beaten and abused…He understands how we feel, and He is willing to give us hope, joy, and peace in the midst of the storm…When I feel the lightening strike…I am held by the Light of the world who comforts me, and calms my body and mind …He is the connection (the bridge) between the two. He is both the Great Physician (of the body) and Wonderful Counselor (of the mind)!
I also want to share with people what (besides prayer) is working to either alleviate some of the symptoms I am experiencing, or to avoid having some other common side effects…
Keep in mind that everyone is different, what works for me may not work for you…there are too many variables.
First of all, I started out pretty healthy. My pre chemo blood work, chest x-rays, and echocardiogram bore witness to the benefits of living a healthy lifestyle. All my doctors have shook their heads in disbelief after going over all the tests…I was THAT healthy!
But, nobody’s perfect … (Except JESUS!)
As most of you know, I have suffered from osteoarthritis in my back for several years…with a severe form of degenerative disk disease, resulting in chronic sciatica and sclerosis of the facet joints (misshaped joints in the spine)…I have always had a healthy immune system, and aside from borderline high blood pressure and cholesterol, no other diseases or physical disorders.
I was relatively active, always preferred to eat healthy foods and maintained a good weight until the cancer showed up and I started losing weight.
So, with a pretty decent start…This is what I do to help with my side effects of chemo:
Bone, joint, and muscle pain: (the chemo drugs and the Neulasta shot can all cause this pain as well as the pre-existing arthritis).
I move my body….Something I learned through the arthritis is that no matter how much I hurt…I mustn’t allow myself to stop moving…The result is losing more mobility because of stiff joints and weakened muscles. This also helps with the fatigue from being anemic. (the chemo lowers the red blood cells and platelets causing anemia…This gets worse with each treatment)
This is what I take to relieve pain: Tramadol (Ultram) A narcotic-like prescription drug that acts by changing the way the mind perceives pain. I do not take narcotic drugs…Not because I think they are bad, but because I have a low tolerance for them.
For skin and nails: (the chemo drugs I use can damage them)
I use Johnson's Baby wash and Aveeno Baby Lotion on my skin. I avoid using anything with alcohol or other drying agents in it. I avoid hot showers and gently dab at my skin to dry it instead of rubbing, and I wear gloves to wash dishes and clean. I keep my nails trimmed and soak them in olive oil and wear latex gloves for an hour afterwards and then polish them with a clear nail hardener to protect them from damage. (per advise from my oncology nurse)
I am meticulous about keeping my hands clean. I always wear gloves when its cold outside, and never go barefoot or wear tight shoes to protect my feet from sores and damage to the toenails. *I wear slippers around the house because Buddy and Sasha sometimes step on my feet and dig me with their claws! I have to be careful of sun exposure, as the skin is sensitive and can burn easily. ( though not a worry yet at this time of year!)
For oral care: (Chemo severely dries out the mouth…and can affect the entire digestive system beginning with mucus membranes by killing off the healthy bacteria that lines our digestive tract)
I had my teeth cleaned before chemo. I use Biotene toothpaste and mouthwash which is formulated to restore the p h balance for dry mouth. (I brush several times a day with a child’s soft toothbrush). I floss, being very careful to not cut into the gums, I drink a lot of water and rinse often with a solution of baking soda and water to help with mouth sores which can lead to infections. I eat yogurt with active cultures every single day. I use a lot of chap stick and lip gloss. (careful to keep these clean and replace often as they can harbor bacteria)
For eyes and nose: (Chemo causes changes in vision and also dries out the tear ducts, and you lose the hair inside your nose which helps to filter stuff).
I’m due for a vision test, but will have to postpone it until after treatment as it can (and has) changed my vision. I have to use artificial tears to help with dry eyes. I have a dry stuffy nose, but am told that I may soon develop a chronic runny nose as one possible side effect…I met a woman on this same regimen who is further along in treatment who has this problem. I use a humidifier at night, and have nasal spray which I have not used yet. I carry tissues all the time as my nose sometimes bleeds.
And most important: At the advice of my oncologist as well as other patients…I stay hydrated…Especially the day before, the day of, and the day following chemo…My doc told me to drink sports drinks during those three days to help flush the toxins from my system and reduce side effects. I also eat popsicles before and during chemo…So far I have not suffered from problems with my taste buds, nor do I have a metallic taste in my mouth which is associated with chemo. (but I do not know if keeping my mouth cold during treatment is helping or not…The idea is that just as some people wear a cold cap to keep their scalp cold in order to save the hair follicles from being targeted by the chemo drugs…or keeping hands and feet in ice to protect the nails…Keeping the tongue cold can have some success as well.)
I am also given drugs before, during, and the day after chemo to help eliminate or at least minimize the side effects. These drugs include a steroid (which among other things I am told will help reduce tissue damage especially to the hands and feet…known as hand and foot syndrome), Benadryl (given during chemo)…to help reduce any possible allergic reaction, and Zophran…an anti-nausea drug. (I also get Emend another anti-nausea drug in my IV) Good stuff that works really well.
As far as the neuropathy is concerned, I am told there is nothing that can be done about this…I must notify the doc if it gets too bad, as it is reversible unless it becomes too severe and causes permanent nerve damage. (This too gets worse with each treatment)
Of course I also take quite a few supplements recommended by my doctors…This includes a daily multi-vitamin and a Carnation Breakfast Drink every morning with my breakfast.
And now for the second part of my post...
You know me...I need to know how things work...It's a geek thing!
In him was life; and the life was the light of men. John 1:1-4
Praise the Lord for modern medicine and for the minds that discover these things, the hands that make and administer them…And the hearts that care enough to learn how to use medicine in order to help people…All these are gifts from God who created everything.
Speaking of God’s creation…here are some interesting facts about the chemo drugs that I am taking…In fact one drug has only been around since the early nineties and was found quite randomly: Link: The discovery of a major cancer fighting agent
Chemo: (My Friend & Foe)
The story of Taxotere
The Yew :
(Taxus Brevifolia )
Also known as: Chinwood, common yew, Pacific yew, taxus.
Potential uses: The drug Taxol (chemical name: paclitaxel) is made from the bark of Pacific yew trees. The drug Taxotere (chemical name: docetaxel) is made from the needles of European yew trees. Taxol and Taxotere are approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to treat breast and other cancers. Yew should not be taken as a supplement.
Link: The Pacific Yew
Basically, the needles from this tree are used to make turpentine...which is what my doctor says is being pumped into my body in order to kill any unseen cancer cells that may be forming inside me. Turpentine has been widely used for medicinal purposes for centuries....One of the most common side effects of it is skin irritation. This is why I need to take the steroids when I get chemo.
Carboplatin is a platinum chemotherapy drug that acts like an alkylating agent. It stops the growth of cancer cells, causing the cells to die.
Platinum is a precious metal.
So there you have it, I am full of turpentine and platinum!
I told my doctor that I do love pine trees, but the thought of turpentine coursing through my body?
I also told him that I could think of better things to do with platinum!
Saving my life, I guess is the best use for it right now.
To be honest, it does help me to know that the chemo drugs that I am on do come straight from nature...(Even though nowadays Taxotere is a synthetic material created in a lab) God does provide... first the substances needed, and then the knowledge of how to harvest (synthesize) and administer them.
~Blessings & Love~
and remember, we are...