Chemotherapy – my experiences.

Chemotherapy – my experiences.

When it was first suggested to me that a course (8 rounds) of chemotherapy would be beneficial to my health I was horrified.  Actually, I didn’t really comprehend what this was all about, as it still hadn’t sunk in that I might have cancer.

Chemotherapy!  How horrible is my life going to be?  What is going to happen to me?  I’m going to be very ill for the next 6 months?  I can’t sit at home and throw up for the next six months?  I can’t lose my hair?  Horrible, horrible thoughts…..all day, every day….until I met with my oncologist.  Dr Chris Jackson.  What a lovely man.

Anyway, as we were talking about chemotherapy and what I needed, and why I needed it (it was basically a “just in case” treatment to clean up any cancer cells the surgeon might have missed), I was starting to come around to the idea, but not entirely.  I needed to do my own research.

So, after a week of research, another meeting with the oncologist and numerous calls to the cancer care nurse I started chemotherapy.  I was to do 8 rounds of what is known as CAPOX.  This is a combination of 2 chemotherapy drugs, one given through an infusion over 2-3 hours at the hospital, and the other is a course of tablets, taken twice a day for 14 days.  Then a week off.  It is known as a 3 week cycle of chemotherapy.

I have written about my first week on CAPOX here, it was a pretty harrowing week.  But I got through the first week, altered my dose with the oncologist, then, quite frankly (compared to a lot of other people in the world) sailed through the next few rounds with minimal side effects.

Sure, I did have side effects, but they were all manageable.  My main one was fatigue.  Some days it was a struggle to get from my bed to the couch, and other days I had this unknown energy surge.  But, all in all, the fatigue just got worse and worse.  The week between chemo treatments is there for your body to recover from the previous two weeks, and get well enough again to start chemo the following week.  It got to the stage that my body just didn’t recover in that week off, and I was still tired and drained when starting my next round!

One of the side effects with CAPOX is the infusion, which is called Oxaliplatin, is that it attacks the nerves.  Most people get this in their hands, feet, mouth.  The tingling starts in both hands and makes it hard to touch anything cold or metal.  You need to wear gloves all day long.  Anyway, the Oxaliplatin attacked my nerves, but at the surgical points in my abdomen.  It was attacking the healing nerves from surgery, so for about 4 months of treatment I had constant pain in my abdomen from this.  Not cutey cutey!  But, it meant I could still do things with my hands, so it was one of the things I put up with.

With CAPOX, the medical professionals like you to get as far as you can through the rounds before they will consider dropping the infusion, mainly due to the side effects in imposes.  Most people make it to round 4 before the infusion is dropped.  I did round four then it was decided, due to some neuropathy that was starting to creep in, my infusion would be dropped (and I was only on a half dose) and I would just stay on the tablets.

This was such a relief, as when you have the infusion you need to take Dexamethasone, a powerful steroid that is used as a equally powerful anti-nausea medication.  It is horrible.  I was so happy, not that my infusion was dropped from my drug regime, but that I wouldn’t need to take any more steroids.  They really messed with me, my mind, and my sleep.  As well as being an anti-nausea medication, they induce insomnia.  So, while you really need as much sleep as you can so your body recovers, the medication prevents you from sleeping.  It is not very win-win.

So, all in all, I was happy I got through most of my treatment.  Some people are unlucky in that they only have one treatment and react so badly that it is better for them to not have chemotherapy as the side effects are just too horrendous.

My list of side effects included:  fatigue, pain in the left elbow, insomnia, tingling in the left hand, numbness in both feet, peeling skin on the soles of my feet, tingling at healing surgical sites, numb lips (but only in the center 3rd, not the outer parts), blurry eyesight, anxiety (this developed during chemo, never suffered beforehand).

Never once did I feel nausea.  I think this was because I followed the instructions to the tee, and always took my medication on time.  After 3 – 4 rounds, I only had the anti-nausea medication for the first few days then was fine.  I did suffer constipation regularly, as this is a side effect of one of the anti-nausea medications.

So, in a few words, that is my experience of chemotherapy.  There are much harsher drugs out there, for different cancers, that do different things to the body.  My treatment was solely for colorectal cancer (bowel cancer) and purely as a “clean up” “just in case” measure.  Sure, it was tough, and many times I thought about giving up, but it is just one of those things you have to do!

Take care everyone.

Food Review: Nice and Natural Whole Seed Bars

As most of you know I am on a journey to improve my health and wellbeing after a diagnosis of bowel cancer in 2016.  I had a pretty rough year with surgery and chemotherapy treatment, but I have come out the other end (oh, the times I thought I never would) and am now moving forward daily to improve everything I consume.

Like most of you, I like to try new things, especially food related.  So, today I bring you Nice and Natural Whole Seed Bars.  These bars are new to the market and come in 3 flavours; cranberry and raspberry, vanilla with sesame and milk chocolate, and coconut, dark chocolate with goji berry, along with all bars having the base ingredients of sunflower and pumpkin seeds.

Nice and Natural is a New Zealand company, who believe that when you are on the go and doing things, the last thing that you need to put into your body is something that isn’t nice and natural.  I love this philosophy and it is something that I am trying to change my mindset to.  No more just grabbing something that is close and handy, actually making a conscious decision about what I put into my body.

Normally I wouldn’t even consider buying muesli bars during my supermarket shop as I know they are full of sugar, and other nasty surprises, especially some of those numbers (you would be surprised where some numbers might pop up).  But, these bars are so simple, that I wouldn’t hesitate to have a box or two on hand in my pantry for those times when you can’t be bothered making something, or like at present, my oven is broken so I can’t bake (yes, it’s been 4 weeks now….and counting).

Cranberry and Raspberry Flavour.

Oh, how divine is this bar?  Out of the three this is by far my favourite.  It has such a huge hit of flavour.  Each bar in this flavour contains only 3 grams of sugar per bar!  Only 3 grams!  Less than one teaspoon!  Unheard of in the muesli bar aisle of the supermarket.

 

Vanilla Flavour, Sesame and Milk Chocolate.

Those that know me will know I’m not a huge milk chocolate fan.  Actually, I would never buy it, ever!  But, these bars are different.  I’ve had bars before, you know, the ones coated in chocolate, that I actually don’t like as there is too much milk chocolate, and it isn’t the nice type anyway.  But, these bars are beautiful.  Sure, there is milk chocolate, but before you taste the chocolate you get the beautiful taste of the vanilla and sesame seeds, along with the sunflower and pumpkin seeds.  If you couldn’t see the chocolate on the underside you wouldn’t actually know it is there.

 

Coconut, Dark Chocolate with Goji Berry.

This would have to be my second favourite.  There is a very thin layer of dark chocolate, you can’t really taste it, but the standout taste is the goji berry (and we all know how good they are!  Superfood!).  The coconut seems to taste a wee bit candied, but it is beautiful.  

 

So, next time you are contemplating in the snack aisle of the supermarket what is the best, these would be a better choice than some of the other products on the market.  By far they will have the least amount of sugar, they are a good source of fibre, and contain no artificial colours or flavours.  

Giveaway.

I have three boxes of these delicious Nice and Natural Whole Seed bars to give away to three lucky readers. There are 6 bars in each box.

To enter, head over to Renee Writes on Facebook and “like” my page, locate the Nice and Natural Whole Seed bars post and comment with “yes please, I’d love to try”.  

For an extra entry, comment on this post below.

**Giveaway closes on Thursday 30th March at 11:59pm.

**Giveaway open to New Zealand addresses only.  

**Winners will be announced on Facebook so be sure that you have liked my page

**For competition terms and conditions please see here.

 

Good luck!

Life In General.  Ups and Downs.

Life In General. Ups and Downs.

So, I thought I might start writing a wee bit of the past and bringing it to light.  This might be a bit jumbled up for a while, as I go through a few subjects I want to embrace and let you all know about.  Certain medical procedures I’ve been though, the mind games that go on, the prep involved with some things, living with a diagnosis of bowel cancer etc.

I want to bring this blog to highlight the struggles that go on for some people.  Not only me, but others as well, and also highlight how prevalent bowel cancer is in the community.  It is not just an old person’s disease anymore.  It can strike anyone, anytime.  For me, it struck me when I was 38.  I had no warning, no symptoms, no history (and that is the scary thing, most people have no history).

With having no family history, after a lot of investigation, reading, researching, talking to my surgeon (who ultimately said there was no cause, it was just bad luck), I have come to the realisation that I have to make some quite significant lifestyle changes to halt the bowl cancer in it’s tracks and make sure my body does not provide a comfortable breeding ground for it.

So, in real life, I have to change a few things.  Some things are easier than others.  With the help of my medical professionals, a naturopath, a massage therapist, and all my cheerleaders out there, I will take you on my journey to better health, better wealth, and a whole new lifestyle.

Sure, it isn’t going to be easy.  There are easy parts to it, like some basic food swaps, not drinking alcohol, not smoking (things I never did in the past), and there are a lot of hard steps, like giving up dairy, limiting my sugar intake, upping my vegetable intake, changing the quality of food that I eat, only eating red meat once a week, upping the amount of fish I eat!  And then, after all those changes there are the mindset issues that go along with this.  How am I going to live without dairy for the rest of my life?  How am I going to eat less sugar?  How am I going to only eat red meat once a week?  How?  How?  How?

Well, it’s going to be a long slow process, and recovery.  Over the years I have done a lot of damage to my body and now it is time to heal it!  Slowly!  The slow tortoise wins the race remember.  And after chemo (which is a complete brain fucker by the way (sorry for swearing but there is no other way to class it)), it has to be a slow process.  My brain doesn’t work the same anymore (I will go deeper into this in another blog post), but for now, changes have to be made slowly.  And this is also a great way to make the changes stick.  If you change everything in your life in one day, you start to get the feeling of deprivation, the feeling of overwhelm, the feeling of missing out!  Slow changes mean forever changes.

Now, that was a story and a half wasn’t it!  Right, got that all out of the brain and written down.  I’ll be back next week to let you all know about life after chemo!  It is certainly a rollercoaster if ever there was one.

Music.  My Daily Therapy.

Music. My Daily Therapy.

Music. Music is such a powerful healer. It can help to turn around depression. It can help heal the soul. It can lighten your mood. It can motivate you. Music is such a wonderful healer.  

And along with music comes singing. Daily singing, whether you are good or bad, has the ability to boost your immunity and clear your throat chakras.  

Before last Winter (when I was just at the beginning of my chemotherapy), a good friend of mine, Sarah from BodyMana Wellbeing – Pilates & Nutrition posted a video about different ways to clear your throat chakras and boost your throat immunity so you don’t suffer over winter. I truly believe that singing can help this. So, every day I sing. I’m not good at it, and no one is around when I do sing, but I sing. I am prepared to do most things to boost my immunity.

Recently I have also found a medical journal article that shows through some studies how music and singing has helped cancer patients.  It states that:

Studies have shown reductions in anxiety, improvements in mood and reductions in cardiovascular measures such as blood pressure. However, to date there has been little attention on the impacts of music interventions on biological markers of endocrine and immune function. There is nevertheless evidence to suggest that music interventions could have a combined effect on the mental health and immune function of people affected by cancer.

Most of the research I have read relates to choir singing, and singing for an hour at a time.  I, for one, am not at the moment going to join a choir, so I’ll continue to rock on to my own tunes, and probably over a day my singing equates to one hour, but not all at once.

While I definitely support the use of traditional medicine in the treatment of cancer, I am a huge advocate of natural therapies alongside traditional treatment, as long as these are discussed with your oncologist (although I’m sure that if you bring up the topic of singing every day with your oncologist, I’m sure you will get a few sideways glances and glares).  Although at present I have no cancer (that I know of) floating around, and am not undergoing any current traditional treatment, I am all for other natural therapies to help boost my immune system and increases my chances that cancer will not return, cos we all know, that once you’ve had it, you have a high chance of it returning some day.

So, as I sing every morning to boost my immunity and also help my mental health and wellbeing, I’m going to post a song. Every day, at 7.30am, a song will pop up over on my Facebook page (follow me to listen) for you all to sing along to. It will be fun. There will be some old, some new, some funky, some cool. A mixture of everything.

Who’s in for a bit of singing?

(Let me know your favourite singers, songs etc in a message below and I’ll add them to my list).

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