43rd Post – Ways to Make the Day of Someone With Cancer 20.09.2014

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This list on Huffington Post has good and practical suggestions for helping out a friend who has cancer or who is going through cancer treatment.

If you say to your friend “Call me if you need anything”, that is really not going to happen. Your friend is too overwhelmed / busy / exhausted / forgetful / uncertain / feeling unsocial / or feeling too much like a burden to do that.

Another common one is, “Why don’t you come visit me?” That also is really not going to happen. It’s cancer, not a vacation / staycation. Why don’t YOU come visit ME? And your cancer friend is not really capable of organizing a visit or outing, so please just take the initiative if you want to see them.

If I ever had enough energy in a day after feeding myself, taking medications/vitamins on time (about 30 tablets a day), sleeping, resting, keeping on top of my many side effects and treating them immediately (they could begin and run amok within 2 hours), and making sure that I was pooping regularly, one of the first things I would do would be to bathe or do laundry (if I didn’t have a doc appointment to go to). And that would be really difficult to have enough leftover energy to do both luxuries, so it was usually only one. And then I’d be too tired the next day to think about doing that second luxurious activity.

But usually, I was busy spending my non-existent energy on going to appointments. Even if I felt at my worst, I still had to get myself into the city for the appointment. I recently counted up my appointments last year, and not counting the ER visits and others that I forgot to write down in my day planner, I had 79 appointments. And most of them took place between mid May to the end of the calendar year. That’s a hell of a lot. [And none of those are even counting the Radiation treatment days – of those I had 24 appts] Most often just any one of those appointments are more emotionally draining and terrifying than what a normal person goes through in a year.

Most people are stumped when it comes to helping a friend who has cancer/is doing cancer treatments. Most likely, we won’t call you to ask you for a certain favour. If you haven’t run for the high hills from your [cancer] friend in their time of need, and want to help out but don’t know how, here are several suggestions.

#17 talks about flowers being bad for a cancer treatment person. I only heard about this one after I had finished all my treatments. Many people sent me flowers after my operation (the op that removed cancer, and it was before I began chemo or radiation) and I loved it. Maybe it wouldn’t have been healthy for me if I had been in chemo treatment at the time, but I wasn’t, so it was totally fine. It was really nice to wake up to beautiful flowers, and have them nearby to look at during the times I was immobile and not able to get outside.

And #44 – Hugs. Hugs were the best. I wanted to be hugged always and constantly. Obviously this isn’t possible. And hugs are a rarity while on chemo. During chemo I would still hug certain people who I knew weren’t sick (like family and close friends, and my awesome oncologist), because I just couldn’t do without the hugging.

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44 Ways to Make the Day of Someone With Cancer
by Elana Miller, MD
Posted: 08/12/2014


When a person first gets a cancer diagnosis, they’re often so overwhelmed they have no idea how to ask for help or what to ask for — but they sure need it. If you have a friend or family member with cancer you want to help, don’t make the mistake of making a vague, questionably-sincere offer “Well, call me when you need me!” (they won’t).

Instead, make your friend’s life easier by anticipating his or her needs and giving tangible, much-needed support. Here is a list of the top favors people did for me that made my day (and made my life much easier!) after my cancer diagnosis.

1. Deliver a meal. Make sure to ask in advance if they have any dietary restrictions or are following any guidelines. Stay for a visit, or just drop off the food if they’re not up for it (a cooler left outside the front door is perfect for this).

2. Deliver a Tupperware of several pre-made meals your friend can heat up as needed. Use Tupperware you don’t need returned.

3. Send a quick email, text, or message saying you’re thinking of them.

4. Add “No need to respond” to the end of your message — they’ll appreciate hearing from you without feeling the need to do anything in return.

5. Add “Feel free to take me up on this offer whenever” when you offer help — they’ll know the offer will still be sincere whenever they need it (in a week, a month, a year).

6. Set a calendar alert reminding you to check in with a quick hello or offer of help on a regular basis.

7. Send a text the next time you’re at the grocery store and ask if they’d like you to pick anything up.

8. Send a text the next time you’re at the drugstore to see if they need any toiletries.

9. Send a housekeeper to clean up their place. Take care of the details so they just need to be there to open the door.

10. Send a text the next time you’re at the pharmacy to see if they need any prescriptions picked up.

11. Send a mobile masseuse for a gift massage.

12. Offer to take them out for a coffee or lunch date.

13. Offer to visit. Check that they’re feeling up for it.

14. Offer to take them out to a movie. If they’re too tired, come by with a rental.

15. Offer a ride to chemo and keep them company during the treatment. Even better, commit to giving a ride on a regular basis throughout their treatments.

16. Let them know you’re “on call” for emergencies. Mean it.

17. Send a flower delivery. However, make sure the person isn’t on neutropenic precautions first; fresh flowers can be an infection risk for cancer patients with weakened immune systems. Sadly, I had to give away the many wonderful flower deliveries I got right after my diagnosis. Or, consider silk flowers (no worries about causing infection, and they last longer).

18. Order take-out and have it delivered. Ask if they have a favorite restaurant. If they seem too overwhelmed to make any decisions, just get a sense of their dietary preferences and pick out a nice meal to send.

19. Gift a magazine or newspaper subscription.

20. Gift a good book.

21. Tell them you love and care about them. Even if they don’t have the energy to respond, your message means a lot.

22. For your lady cancer friend, take her out to a nice beauty treatment. Think: manicure/pedicure, facial, makeup application, etc. It may be the first time she’s splurged on her appearance in a while.

23. Send a card. Make sure it’s legible — cancer eyes are tired eyes 🙂

24. Gift an Uber or Lyft gift certificate if you’re not available to offer a ride. I’m a huge fan of Uber.

25. If you’re a close friend or family member to the cancer patient, offer to be a “point person” where you screen and accept/decline others’ visit and help offers. Right after a diagnosis there are many who want to help and visit and call, but the person with cancer is probably extremely overwhelmed at this time and may prefer some space.

26. Understand that a cancer patient is likely too overwhelmed to ask what they need; take the initiative by offering specifics, instead of saying, “Let me know if there’s anything I can do for you.”

27. Remember to still be there a few months after the diagnosis, when it’s not so new anymore. The fanfare will have died down, but your friend will still be struggling and needing logistical and emotional help.

28. Offer to be the “communication person” that updates others about your friend’s state of health; it can get difficult to have to share the details over and over.

29. On that note, when you check in, don’t always ask for all the details about the current state of your friend’s health.

30. Does your friend have a dog? Offer to come by and take them for a walk or to the groomers.

31. Does your friend have kids? Offer to babysit, do a school pick-up, or have them over for a sleepover.

32. Say, “Give me a task.” Maybe it will be laundry, or an errand, or picking up groceries. Be in and out. No socializing needed.

33. Does your friend have a garden? Offer to come by and do some watering and care. Even better, commit to taking over the watering regularly.

34. Text or email a silly joke or photo.

35. Offer to help your friend sift through and respond to emails; after a cancer diagnosis the number of emails can be overwhelming and important ones can get lost in the shuffle.

36. Offer to create and manage a schedule for the person: for meal deliveries, rides to chemo, visits from friends, etc. Websites like takethemameal.com and lotsahelpinghands.com can help.

37. If you can, and your friend feels comfortable accepting it, give some cash — between hospital bills and the loss of income if one can’t work, cancer can be a huge financial hit.

38. Donate money to cover paid-time-off hours for the patient or close family members (some employers allow this).

39. Buy a monthly parking pass for family members when the patient has a prolonged hospitalization — hospital parking gets expensive!

40. Gift a hat, wig, or scarf if your friend will lose her hair with treatment.

41. Gift a super comfy blanket. This was one of my favorite and most-used gifts (good for couch lounging or trips to chemo).

42. Just listen. Don’t give advice, don’t try to be cheery — just listen and let your buddy talk.

43. Ask what they need from you most right now… and then do it.

44. Cancer isn’t contagious — give your friend a hug to let them know you’re on their side.

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List was written by Elana Miller, MD, for the Huffington Post.
Link to the original article: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/elana-miller-md/living-with-cancer_b_5660514.html

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42nd Post – Period Cramps = Pure Bliss 02.09.2014

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My period piece goes as follows.

Perma Meno / Faux Meno / Full Flo / Faux Flo

My last solid period was a few days after I was diagnosed with breast cancer. When my period commenced that last time, it was also the cue to start with the drugs for IVF (fertility) treatment. With that period, I knew that it would probably be my last one in a long time, and also could very well be the last full flo I would ever have. I didn’t want that period to stop. I was so happy every day that I had my period that time, and then so sad when it stopped the next week. I cried every time I changed a tampon. [Sorry if you’re squeamish about details, but I assume anyone who reads on this blog and knows me, is used to it by now.]

Shortly after my eggs were extracted and frozen, I began having a monthly injection of Depot Lupron. The purpose of Depot Lupron was to put my ovaries “to sleep” during chemo so that the chemo wouldn’t attack them and put me into a permanent menopause. Basically, Depot Lupron was my new best friend. One shot into the ass muscle once a month at the fertility clinic. I’m a total pro at ass injections now. I’m a pro at a lot of things. The side effect of Depot Lupron (DL) was menopause, but a fake menopause. Faux Meno. It sounds a bit chic. My body was expected to and did go through all the many regular symptoms of menopause. My period stopped of course. I did have a mini period in June 2013, right after I started DL, but it only lasted 1 or 2 days and was basically only spotting. [Faux Flo].

The first 4 months of faux meno were the worst, but then the symptoms slowly got less intense. However, even with being on Depot Lupron, there is still about a 25% chance of this “menopause” I’ve been experiencing for more than the past year, to be real and permanent. Perma Meno. A one in 4 chance of never getting my period again. If the menopause ends up being permanent, it would be because of the chemo. But at the moment, we don’t know if it’s perma or faux meno. We kind of just assume (but not get our hopes up) that it’s faux until we know for sure.

At the end of February this year, when I finished radiation, I began taking Tamoxifen. Tamoxifen is an estrogen blocker. [The cancer I had was estrogen-fed]. I’ll be taking the Tamoxifen pill every day for 5 years. Tamoxifen’s side effects are like those from the Depot Lupron….menopause symptoms. I continued taking Depot Lupron in conjunction with Tamoxifen until I came to the 1 year mark (~mid June) of having been on DL. Then I went off of DL . If on DL for more than a year, the higher the chance of the faux meno turning into a perma meno is. So the two drugs met each other and overlapped for a while. Supposedly having them overlap for a while is really good (in terms of cancer ass-kicking), that’s why my doc had me do it. By mid June this year, my body had pissed out (figuratively) the remaining Depot, and now I am only on Tamoxifen.

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My periods were expected to stop once I started DL, which is what happened. Though if I had been only on Tamoxifen and not DL, then it would have been quite likely that they wouldn’t stop [not taking chemo into consideration]. But with starting out on DL and then adding Tamoxifen to the mix, it would be harder for my body to start my periods back up again during the 5 years that I’m going to be on Tamox. Though just because I don’t get my period over the next 5 years, that doesn’t mean that I’m in perma meno. It’s if my period doesn’t start back up after the 5 years’ Tamox, that means that the DL wasn’t successful in safeguarding my ovaries against the chemo and that the chemo has pushed me into permanent menopause (that’s the 25% risk).

We weren’t actually expecting to find out if I’m in perma mode until after I stop taking Tamox in 5 years’ time and wait for my period to start, although they told me that there could be a small possibility that I would start getting my period again over the course of the 5 years while on Tamox. To regain periods in this 5 year window is more common the younger the patient is, but the doctors downplayed it and said not to expect it. So I didn’t expect it. In fact, I gave away all my tampons to my friends. Because there is no point in lugging those babies around for the next five years. I just gave away the last of them this summer. Then I started getting period cramps.

The cramps started about 2 months ago. They started slowly. I was sitting there one evening, and I felt them. It’s like hearing an alien knocking at your front door. You’re amazed that it’s happening and aren’t quite sure what it means. I thought that maybe I’ll just experience weird things like that for the next 5 years. After all, cramps are kind of the least intrusive pain I’ve experienced in the last 16 months. So really, no big deal and the docs said not to expect a period. Then, 2 weeks later I got cramps again. Ooooh, a bit intriguing. Then again about a week after that. And then another week after. And another. Then a few times a week.

Then I had a follow up appointment with my lovely doc. He’s the bee’s knees. At these follow up appts, I just have to tell him if there’s anything new happening, side effects, concerns, physical progression, etc. I nearly forgot to mention the period cramps, because I was just telling myself that it didn’t matter. But he does need to know these things.

And he told me that it was great. It was great that I was having period cramps. He says that I should expect to get my period again at any time. And if I get my period, that means that I have only been in faux meno. It also means that physically, I could get knocked up. Whoa! That’s pretty mind blowing, considering all of my assumptions from this entire health roller coaster. But I cannot get knocked up while on Tamoxifen because the drug isn’t healthy for producing a baby. But physically, my body would be able to get pregnant. Amazeballs.

My doc is going to send me for a blood test sometime this fall that can verify if my ovaries are “asleep” still, or “awake”. It’s hard to not get my hopes up too much about this, and I try not to assume that I’ll soon be categorizing myself as Faux Meno / Full Flo lady. But it’s only me who is telling me not to get my hopes up, and I am now having cramps almost every day. My doc reassured me that even if I start getting my period again soon, it isn’t bad for my health in terms of hormones and estrogen. So I need not worry about that. I guess the Tamoxifen guards me against any (or most) estrogen that my body will produce. My doc was happy about my cramping news, so that makes me feel relaxed about it all, and also very excited. Every time I get cramps now, I almost squeal with delight. Actually, sometimes I do. And I cried when I went and bought a new box of tampons.

P.S. I am looking for a job. Anyone want to hire me?