Tag: coping with cancer

No Saliva: A Side Effect of Head & Throat Cancer

There are a few people in my circle who have or had throat and neck cancers.  As these are more rare forms of cancer, help and support is often not readily available.

By knowing these people, I have come to understand some of their challenges.  One of the main problems as a result of treatment is no saliva and the resulting issues around eating – even the enjoyment of eating such as lack of taste.

Saliva is something we take for granted in the eating process. When it is absent, food is not easily chewed, absorbed or transported.  It needs to be soft, wet and a milky consistency in order to facilitate swallowing.  Even exercise is a challenge as dry mouth sets in.  Having a ready water supply is absolutely necessary.

Dry mouth products are available to help counter some of these problems. Although not inspirational gifts for cancer patients with head and throat cancer, a gift basket of these products for dry mouth might be a very welcome and helpful gesture of caring and concern.


Peace, Calm and Strength Can Be Yours

In the cancer journey, there can be peace, calm and strength as you move through treatment and beyond.  Most of this comes from the realization that healing comes from within.  It is the work of joining body, mind and spirit – pulling together all of our resources – not just one.

To the general public, cancer often looks like a physical disease.  One that once you have undergone surgery, chemotherapy and/or radiation, you are better and ready to resume your life as before.  Well, NO.  Yes, there is the physical healing, but just as important or even more important, is the internal work one does.

I found this part of the cancer healing journey both daunting and exciting.  It called me to learn, reshape my priorities, embrace my authentic self, and heal many aspects of my life that were not working.

During that time, I focused on inspirational poems and stories by people who had gone through tough times and survived.  I absorbed the life lessons they shared and gained insight into the work I needed to do for myself in order to be whole again.  It has been and still is an amazing journey.

Overcome Challenging Side Effects of Cancer Treatment

Going through cancer treatment – surgery, chemotherapy and radiation – is a challenge in and of itself.  What is often not known upfront are some of the side effects that accompany these treatments.  Preparing ahead of time can help you create coping strategies and reduce the stress.

1. Lymphedema – this can happen after node dissection – either upper body or lower body.  Once lymph nodes are removed, the lymph transit system is impaired causing a backlog of fluid which creates uncomfortable swelling.  Taking precautions to reduce your risk of getting lymphedema are critical as there is no cure – only management.

2. Early Menopause – this can be triggered by chemotherapy.  For some, regular periods come back, but for most, they do not.  Since hormone replacement therapy is not advised for breast cancer patients, finding suitable herbal solutions can help.  Also, look for wicking clothing – wicking nightwear and daywear – to alleviate some of the discomfort of sweating with the accompanying chill afterwards.

3.  Fatigue – exercise is the antidote.  As strange as it may sound, exercising will help you increase oxygen uptake, increase blood flow, reduce your risk of lymphedema and elevate self-esteem.  Something as simple as a brisk walk.  Or, join an exercise class with a group that understands your cancer needs – Healthy-Steps. Find a buddy to join you, especially for the days you don’t feel like getting out there.

You will get through this time much easier with some thought to coping with cancer ahead of time.

A Quiet Walk in Nature for Healing

Throughout my life, a walk in nature has always been what I needed to restore balance and calm when life got too busy or overwhelming.  No matter what city I lived in, I would always gravitate to the green areas or water.

I recall one instance while I was going through radiation treatment when I set out to take a Tai Chi class, couldn’t find the studio, and ended up at the ocean.  It was obvious to me that was where I was supposed to be. Even the night sweats were more bearable that day.

Walking along the shoreline, my thoughts were soothed by the quiet sound and rhythm of the waves breaking on the shore . . . the rhythm of the universe.  Worries washed away, fear abated, and I felt becalmed in the midst of the cancer drama that had become my life.  Being close to nature affirmed that there was a bigger picture, a universal presence which I call God and a knowing that healing and help was available to me if I asked.

Now, many years later (since the fall of 1990), I am still here.  I am still walking in nature to find peace and calm.  The steady rhythm of my stride, the swing of my arms, my breathing, all create the essence of a walking meditation – away from distraction allowing inner thoughts to be heard – thoughts and insights that are often drowned out in the roar of modern society.

Hope Comes in Many Forms

Hope is one of the many words that come to mind when one is diagnosed with cancer.  Cancer does strike fear into the heart and for a time, can immobilize thought and action.  I remember well.

Finding programs, resources, people, organizations, etc. that will guide you on a healing journey through this difficult time is critical to inspire hope – the will to live – and the evidence that it is possible.  There are many of us who have moved beyond cancer – myself included, living well and healthy after a Stage 3, Breast Cancer diagnosis in the Fall of 1990.

One such resource is the Healing and Cancer Foundation, created and led by Drs. Rob Rutledge and Timothy Walker.  Having attended as a facilitator at their workshops here in Calgary, Alberta, I know firsthand what a wonderful job they do in walking a person hand in hand through the healing process.  They have made their work available online for all to access.

What Do You Give Someone Going Through Cancer?

I hear this question all the time. People want to help their loved one, family member and/or friend, but don’t really understand what might be helpful and appropriate.

Here are some suggestions, both practical and inspirational?

  1. Create a ‘food network’ to supply food on a rotating schedule. Treatment creates fatigue. Those going through cancer have enough trouble getting through the day without having to then think of what to either make for themselves or their family. Soups, stews, muffins, etc. – all excellent. The are easy to heat up and/or nourishing when the appetite is low.
  2.  A journal, books, meditation CDs/DVDs always work.
  3. Inspirational Gifts; by way of gift baskets with a few items specially chosen for cancer patients. This way you don’t have to think about what to include. That part is done for you by somneone who has the knowledge.
  4. Time – your time – to take their children for a half day, to drive them to appointments, to go for a walk, coffee, whatever and listen.

There are many more ways depending on the individual. Just the fact that you are there for them is a gift. They will feel your caring and love – much needed at this time.

What About a Wig During Chemotherapy?

Losing one’s hair is one of the side effects of chemotherapy.  Where you live – warm or cold climate – factors into your decision of what to wear on your head.  Could be protection from the sun or warmth for a bald head.

Many women choose chemo hats and scarves as an everyday solution.  However, chemo hats and scarves definitely send the message ‘I am going through cancer’.  This brings up the issue of wigs for cancer patients. Wilshire Wigs have an excellent selection for special occasions, those times when you don’t want to broadcast your health situation, and when you need that boost of self-confidence to carry the day.

There are many beautiful wigs available these days at different price points.  They can be synthetic or real hair or a mix of both.  Some women opt for a totally different look – a look they’ve always wanted to have but it didn’t suit their hair.  Other women like to match their regular style as close as possible.  You can do either.

Here are a few tips:

  1. Make sure that the wig is comfortable.  The inside should be smooth and not scratchy as the underside of the wig will be directly on top of your skin – no protection.
  2. If you live in a warmer climate, there are wigs that are also breathable making them cooler to wear.
  3. If you haven’t lost your hair just yet, now is a good time to match the color.

Looking good while going through treatment helps keep your spirits up.  This is for you.  When you look in the mirror, it will reflect back the person you know yourself to be.  Give yourself a hug and boost even on the days when it is difficult.  Every little action counts.


Music to Heal the Soul During Cancer

As a dancer, music was and is a huge part of my life.

Life was busy when I was young – dance classes, singing lessons, school & homework, teaching dance classes, being in productions – and when I had time, a social life.  Overwhelm used to hit me often so to relax and de-stress, I used to head to our basement rec room, put on a stack of classical records and lie down.  An hour later, the world looked right again.

When I was diagnosed with cancer, healing music and meditation once again became a key element of my healing journey.  I’d don earphones and transport myself to another plane on the waves of healing music during chemotherapy.  In the dark of night when my fears and uncertainties slipped out, I would put on my earphones and listen to calm my soul.

There is much research into the healing benefits of music and/or sound.  Have you ever had chills run up your spine when you listened to music that you loved.  That’s energy – healing energy.  It is a physical reaction that will also stir emotional responses in your body which in turn facilitates healing.

Music for Healingand meditation make a wonderful addition to your books resources for cancer patients – and can be a special gift that will make someone’s day.  When I was going through treatment, friends and family would frequently send me CD’s of music they knew would lift my spirit.  They were special treasures!

What to Gift Someone Going Through Cancer

This question often comes up when I speak with those who have a family member or friend going through cancer.  They just aren’t sure what will be helpful at this time.  Where the person is on the cancer journey also matters.  What is appropriate?

Consider a gift basket with inspirational gifts for cancer patients.  These healing baskets save you the work of trying to figure out what would be helpful, have different themes, are focused for gender, age and/or specific issue, etc..

And, if you live distant from the person you want to support, what a wonderful way to say ‘I Care’, ‘I’m Here For You’.

Healing Baskets provides gifts to comfort and support the broken hearted. From sympathy, and loss to cancer, get well, divorce and caregiving. Our gifts encourage, comfort and inspire.

Skin Care During and After Cancer Treatments

Skin is a barometer of how we are feeling, what we are or are not eating, is susceptible to climate changes, and often erupts with rashes, itching, etc. due to drug interactions.  Going through radiation and chemotherapy treatments for cancer definitely affects our skin.

It is so important to find Organic Skin and Hair Care Products to use during this time.  Our skin is more sensitive to harmful and harsh ingredients while going through treatment and needs to be pampered with safe and natural skin care.  Perfume and/or scent is often not tolerated.  Our Wellspring cancer center has signs up asking members to please not wear perfume. For many, this is an issue no matter what their situation – certainly is for me.

Be aware, read the list of ingredients, choose skin care products that have few if any chemicals and watch your skin benefit.  I’ve had to do this for years as I have sensitive skin which was complicated by all the heavy makeup I wore when I was in the theatre.  Going through chemotherapy and radiation made me doubly aware of what I put on my body.

Be kind to yourself and your skin.  It pays to not only eat right and radiate from the inside out, but to also make sure you are protecting your skin from the outside in.