31 Mar 2012

Creating Your Own Spa

Chemotherapy not only creates havoc internally but is really punishing to your skin.  Being the largest organ of your body, it stands to reason that it too would suffer.  The problems include dehydration, discolouration, sensitivity to sunlight, infections, difficulty healing and rashes to name a few.

Some people suffer from chronic skin conditions which chemotherapy often exacerbates.  Sadly and painfully, due to adverse reactions and complications, these patients are usually denied any skin condition meds while undergoing chemo.

There now exist spas which have specially trained clinicians to treat cancer patients.  This is truly remarkable however, there is a lot a patient can do at home to create their own spa experience and improve their overall skin condition.

A spa considers most of the senses starting with pristinely clean linens, scent and soft music.  In choosing the scent - or aromatherapy - try sweet orange or grapefruit - they are known to reduce nausea.  Put one drop of either essential oil in enough warm water to soak ten facecloths.

Cleansing is the first step to babying your skin.  Set up a comfy chair in your bathroom and begin placing the warm scented cloths on your face, neck and chest, changing them as they cool.  Use half of them for this stage.

Step two usually involves exfoliation.  Depending on how tender or damaged your skin is, you should exercise extreme care.  One of nature's greatest, most natural exfoliants is raw honey.  It is not only a topical antiseptic, it has anti-viral, anti-bacterial and anti-fungal qualities. It's packed full of antioxidants and has been shown to reduce inflammation.  A perfect food.

Gently massage the honey all over your face, neck and chest area - if you have a port, take care not to come near it with products.

Remove the honey with the remaining set of impeccably clean, warm facecloths.

This leads to an interesting step - pat the entire area with warm, diluted green tea - use a ratio of about 10:1.  Yes tea.  It's a powerful antioxidant and the skin is extremely porous and absorbent. 
As a final step, moisturise with a Vitamin C serum.

Ahhhhhhhhhh, nice.
But you're not finished...

Put yourself to bed for a half hour - but prepare it first.  Use lots of pillows to raise your legs above your heart level, dot the pillows with a scent which will soothe and restore.  The smell receptors in your nose are said to trigger chemical messages along nerve pathways to the brain's limbic system which affects your moods and emotions. Tried and true essential oils include: chamomile, geranium, lavender, tea tree, bergamot and cedarwood.  Turn on some relaxing music.  You may also want to place a warm, tea-soaked cloth over your eyes.

A word to women experiencing menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes, substitute "cool" for "warm" throughout the treatment.


25 Mar 2012

Smarty Pants

Just when you confidently think you have enough experience to go through another CT scan with ease, they throw you a curve.
At 10:00am this past Thursday, I had what was probably my 12th CT scan in four years.  I was told to fast beforehand - that's nothing new - but what makes that instruction difficult is that I am an early riser and always hungry in the morning.  Never mind, it was only for a few hours.
Upon arriving at the hospital, they gave me contrast liquid to drink - a litre plus of foul tasting fluid that they flavour with crystals of some sort.  Having had the orange and peach flavour on previous occasions, I boldly asked that no flavouring be put in it - just give me the old-fashioned chemical tasting cocktail.  Surprised, they accommodated my request and it went down a lot easier than the flavoured versions...albeit still nauseatingly bad.
After an hour of sipping, they inserted an IV into my arm which transports the dye into your veins, which in turn illuminates the contrast liquid now efficiently flowing throughout your entire body.
Next I was placed comfortably on a gurney which is attached to the CT scanner.  This gurney can go up, down, in and out of the machine by remote control.  The machine instructs you to "breathe" and "hold your breath" while it takes the pictures.  You must be calm.  You must be still.  So, as the technician was setting me up, I was letting my meditation mantra float through my mind and was perfectly at peace.  She left the room and the machine took over.
Then, unexpectedly, the technician reappeared and said she had a surprise for me.  Disturbed from my serene state, I opened my eyes and there she was with a cup and a spoon in her hand telling me that I was now - after all of that putrid contrast fluid - going to be asked to ingest a cup of "barium pudding"!  What??  Barium pudding.  O.M.G.  OK.  It is a new offering supposed to light up the inside of your esophagal/stomach area.  The only thing I knew about barium was when it was injected in the "other end".  She said - you've never had a CT scan at this hospital before and as we're part of the University, a teaching hospital, we're more thorough. 
So gaggingly, I got it down.  As for taste, imagine a chemical-tasting chalk mixed with a cheap, commercial vanilla pudding.  Needless to say, the mantra had to be switched into high gear as I concentrated on not up-chucking the paste.
The CT scan got done.  I await the results next week. I've been reminded that when you least expect it, life throws you a curve.  Just desserts.

15 Mar 2012

UK Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month

March is Ovarian Cancer Awareness month in the UK.  Their OvCa patient treatment problems are very similar to ours on this side of the pond.  They struggle with drug shortages, entry into clinical trials and much like the US, a two-tiered health system.  They have universal health care, but also have a fast-track elite system for those with private medical insurance.
The care seems to differ from one "country" to another within the UK.  Scotland's system differs from Wales and Wales from Northern Ireland and England.  My parents-in-law live in Scotland.  In that part of the world, they try in every way to keep people with illnesses in their own homes rather than institutionalising them.  As an example, my mother-in-law now requires constant oxygen and nebulisers, my father-in-law has gained the status of "care-giver" and is entitled to an additional stipend because of it!

Initial ovarian cancer treatment follows international protocols with surgery and chemo followup but the UK system is increasingly reluctant to offer novel treatments, adjunctive care and homoeopathy - all budget related no doubt.  We've recently read of "sisters" who are going to other countries within the EU to try to get the latest surgical techniques - HIVAC - heated chemo - and integrative care.  Thank heavens for international forums like http://www.inspire.com/ where women from all over the world can share treatment options, regimes and where to find them.
Last month, I read a post from a girl in England who was having great difficulties getting her mother's ovca case dealt with.  Through a previous contact, I was able to connect her with another "sister" who lives within walking distance of the poster's place of work.  Such a small world.  The two girls are now hot on the trail of seeing that the mother gets proper care.

There should be no quality of care issues ever, anywhere - as it is said, so you treat the least of your people is how you shall be judged.

13 Mar 2012

The Gift MD Sponsors Run for Ovarian Cancer!

Republished on behalf of The Gift MD:

This year, Sunday May 13 marks the 10th anniversary of the Run for Ovarian Cancer in London, Ontario.

All funds raised during this event are dedicated to research focused on advanced disease and to discovering a cure for ovarian cancer, going directly toward the Translational Ovarian Cancer Research Program at the London Health Sciences Centre. Since 2003, this run generates the largest amount of funding for LHSC of any non-profit organization in London with only a one-day event!

Once again, our sister site, SunflowerSisters.ca, has entered a team of family and friends to participate in this event and we are committed to not only meeting, but to surpassing last year's fundraising efforts.

To show support for this worthy cause The Gift MD is pleased to announce that:

We will donate 100% of ALL royalties earned on ALL sales in our Zazzle store through TheGiftMD.com for the next 2 months! 

You read that right! From March 13 until May 13, 2012 (run day), ALL royalties earned on purchases of The Gift MD awareness products will go directly to sponsor Team Sunflower Sisters in the Run for Ovarian Cancer.

Please pass this good news on to family, friends, co-workers.... and to complete strangers for that matter! Raise awareness for your favourite cause while supporting research for a cure for ovarian cancer - the deadliest of all gynaecological cancers.

If you are in the area and wish to join our team, or if you would like to make a cash donation towards this cause, please visit the Sunflower Sisters Team Page.

Remember, if US$ is not your home currency, visit TheGiftMD.com and click on the links to any of our international sites. Royalties earned at our international sites will also count towards this campaign.

Thank you for your support!
The Gift MD

5 Mar 2012

Closing The Door

Last Wednesday, we closed the door on a chapter in our lives.  We moved.  We've always maintained that moving is for the better, for an improved quality of life, and exciting.  We don't feel stressed about packing things up - it's a new beginning.  The stress is the realisation of one's excesses - the collections, the curios and the colossal piles of junk.  It's a shock to count the number of sets of pyjamas one has - how many pairs of shoes - how many cake pans - how many kitchen gadgets - how many cords one keeps to equipment that was obsolete 20 years ago.
There were three piles made upon unpacking - keep, cottage and goodwill.  Which one do you think won?  Imagine paying all that money to have things moved only to put it in the trunk of the car and give it away!  It's a relief though, clutter is chaotic, minimising is freedom.
Just a few weeks earlier, my brother-in-law had the same but opposite problem.  He closed the door on a 24 year old business location which was jammed to the rafters, only to re-open in a much bigger, nicer and more  convenient building. Hooray!  In his case, expansion was the order of the day - relief from a dysfunctional setup.
Ultimately, we both ended up in the same position though, someone had to put the key in the door for the final time.  It was my sister who ended up locking the door of her husband's building.  In my case, I was the last one there and had quite a lump in my throat.  We had moved to that location because of my illness, lost two of our beloved dogs there and savoured every panoramic sunrise and sunset. 
We're now on terra firma complete with a back yard for our puppy to enjoy and for me to launch an earth garden as opposed to the garden-in-the-sky that I had previously constructed. 
It makes you really think...closing the door and coming back down to earth...two truly profound and fitting metaphors.