April 22, 2010

getting ready for chemo

i am spending the week seriously preparing for monday's chemo. you wouldn't believe the number of things that must be done before they shoot you up with the meds.

many chemos cause mouth sores and dental issues, so it's important to take care of dental business before starting treatment. thankfully i had an appointment last week and saw both the hygienist to have my teeth cleaned and the dentist. otherwise i'd be hoping they could squeeze me in at the last minute.

almost every chemo causes alopecia, or hair loss. chemotherapy destroys rapidly-dividing cells; tumors as well as hair and intestinal flora.

somehow women seem more impacted by this side effect, perhaps because it's more socially acceptable for a man to be bald, even under a hat or cap. you also lose your eyebrows, eyelashes and other body hair.

so on tuesday i managed to see my hairdresser, who did exactly what i asked: she gave me a haircut that is overall only about one inch long. i remember from the radiation to my skull that it felt less traumatic to lose short hair than long hair. i think i look like jamie lee curtis (without the grey).

of course you can cover your bald head with scarves, caps and hats, but sometimes you just want to look as though you have hair. i went for a wig fitting to a place that only makes human hair wigs for (gasp!) $700. the owner is a lovely guy but didn't have a sample for me to try on and i can't envision spending that kind of money on any product sight unseen. it's unclear if my health insurance will cover a wig since it's not deemed to be "medically necessary." maybe if i get the doctor to call it a cranial prosthesis for chemotherapy hair loss pacificare will cover it.

tomorrow i hope to go to the local american cancer society office to see what they have. acs has an online catalog too, and friends who are long out of treatment are searching through their boxes for some caps etc. i can borrow. if i'm going to be bald indefinitely, i want a wide selection of head coverings.

i also saw my great naturopathic doctor at nw natural health who i asked for advice and support in keeping me strong during chemotherapy. since we have no way to know how i will respond to the chemo, or how long i will take it, dr. bufi is a very important part of the process. (for some reason i never saw him before taking the 5fu last year. if i had, i might not have ended up in the hospital for two weeks.)

after an hour of conversation and a look at my recent blood work and scalp mets tumor pathology report, dr. b prescribed several new supplements --
a digestive enzyme with each meal to make sure i get the most benefit from my food
l-glutamine powder (2 teaspoons twice a day mixed in water) to counteract and minimize the potential for peripheral neuropathy from the abraxane
b6 complex (for the same reason)
stress arrest (don't you love that name?) to reduce my level of general anxiety
i will continue on multivitamins and calcium magnesium 3:1 for bone health. he stopped the vitamin d supplement since the recent blood work showed a good level of vit. d in my system and the days are getting longer, meaning more sunshine.

of course they sell these items in their office, which is the one thing i don't care for about seeing a naturopath: they almost always prescribe items they sell, thus making a profit on the sales as well as on seeing patient. but all naturopaths seem to do this. i am fortunate that pacificare does cover the services of my naturopath.

other stuff
i am still seeing both the lymphedema therapist and the elbow therapist, although i hope to combine both treatments with one provider. dr. w the orthood approved the lymphedema therapist to treat my elbow but didn't tell his therapy staff. hopefully that will all get worked out today and i can save on at least one copay.

sadly i haven't been able to get to my gilda's club support group in recent weeks. i've had to schedule too many appointments for the same day and time, plus i feel awkward asking for a ride to a two-hour meeting. but if i feel well next week, i have a ride lined up from a friend who was heading in that direction at that day/time anyway.

on top of all this i needed a pedicure. this is the one area of personal care that rik can't quite manage for me, and i certainly can't reach my own toenails with my left arm in a brace. so i went to a local nail salon where for $27 pus a tip they spent about 45 minutes pampering me with a warm foot soak, toenail and cuticle trim, pumice rub on calluses, lotion and foot massage.

now i have lovely orange-peach colored toenails! if only it would get warm enough outside to wear sandals.


  1. May your thorough preparation be abundantly blessed.
    Will say prayers for the upcoming event and surrounding activity.

  2. Love your smile. The TLC catalog is great. I got 4 from them. Monofiliment are a bit better in quality, but they all looked good, and I was happy with them. Hang in there.........Betty

  3. I love your new haircut - I may have some hair thinning, so I just had my hair cut short, too! It's fun - and yes, you do look like Jamie Lee. : )

    I'll send you some strong energy to help you through your first treatment on Monday. Also, I read another blog by Liz Kreger at Literally Liz - she's been on Abraxane and the angiogenesis drug for 8 months now, I think. It's apparently working. Her blog is a fun one to read . . .