Today's blog is a guest post by Penni - we're taking another deep dive into chemotherapy and the things that might help us or our loved ones through this journey. In Penni's words:
I have said many times over the years that I wish I could just have some time off. I wanted to travel, garden, do something inspiring and meet new friends. Be careful what you wish for because I did get my wish, but not exactly how I had envisioned it. My travels were limited to chemo, radiation, blood test, and echocardiogram appointments, as well as a blood transfusion and many treatments for dehydration. My new best friends became my bed, the toilet and my beloved bathtub. We really got to spend a lot of time together.
No one ever wants to hear the words, ‘’you have cancer.’’ It will shake your world like nothing else. You really have to fight hard to not focus on all the worst case scenarios, and try to turn your thoughts to the best outcome possible. Putting your future in the hands of your oncologist is a great leap of faith, but you just have to believe that they know what they are doing. I was diagnosed with a three centimeter breast cancer tumor that was Her2 +. What that means is that my tumor was very aggressive and has a high likelihood of recurrence. So I got the full meal deal: lumpectomy, chemotherapy, targeted treatment, radiation and a ten year prescription for tamoxifen.
They give you a handy dandy booklet on what to expect when going through cancer treatment. It does have some great information in it, but I still wasn’t prepared for the great struggle that chemotherapy was. I’m not claiming that it’s horrible for everyone, I’m simply recounting my experience in the hopes to help others be better prepared for things that may happen.
I decided to write this post for The Green Goddess blog to help anyone going through this all too common experience and disclose some tricks that helped along the way. It is not my intention to make this a plug for the amazing products this company distributes, but there are many products that helped me immensely along the journey.
Let’s bypass surgery and go right to chemotherapy. I was blessed with an elixir of four powerful drugs. A big leap for someone like me who doesn’t even like to take Advil or Tylenol. It is wise to get a chemo bag together and get Netflix or Disney Plus on your phone because some appointments can take up to six hours. In my chemo bag I packed a cozy blanket, a small pillow, snacks, lots of fluids, chapstick, earbuds, a book and some nourishing body butter. My hands and feet were wrapped in ice for an hour during the administration of one of the chemo drugs, so the relief of the body butter was a true blessing afterwards. After the first treatment I was so tired and got well acquainted with my bathroom. I’m serious, your bowels will ride a definite rollercoaster of too much and not enough for weeks. Be ready with a soothing lotion for your delicate bottom.
Then came the day that was truly heartbreaking: the first time you run your fingers through your hair and out comes a clump. Honestly this day was almost as hard as the day of my diagnosis. Over time my scalp got sore and developed little red bumps. I didn’t know what to treat these bumps with, and while the doctors would have given me yet another prescription, I wanted to stay as natural as I could. I believe had I thought of The Green Goddesses Cocoa Butter Bars, I may have healed that situation up a lot more quickly.
But the loss of the hair on my head wasn’t the worst of it. You actually lose the little hairs in your nose and that causes it to flow like a river. This constant flow of fluids caused my nose to become very sore and develop crusty bumps in and around my nostrils. I recently tried out The Green Goddess’s Diaper Salve and that has been a game changer. It only took three applications and my nose began to clear up. I’m almost a year from my last chemo appointment, and three months from my last treatment, and I finally got this situation under control and it has made all the difference.
Another thing I didn’t anticipate was the smell of chemo. It literally radiates through your pores and makes your bedding smell. No one else could smell me, well that is what they claimed, but I could. It is hard to stay on top of washing your sheets often when all you want to do is lie down so a quick spritz of The Green Goddess’s Magic Monster spray or even the Goddess on Fire spray and my body and bed felt refreshed.
I have always been an avid bather and let me tell you, the bath tub became my therapist. Not only does a good bath sooth you and warm you up, it is also the place I went to to cry, question and rage. I didn’t want to burden my family with my sadness so I spent a lot of time in the bathtub. It holds all my tears, secrets, bitterness and fear. Bath products were a staple. A soothing smelling natural bubble bath or bath salts really made me feel safe and lifted my spirits so much. I spent so much time in the bathtub that I decided to write a book about my cancer experience and call it The Bathtub Chronicles. I am working on it and hope to have it completed before the fall.
Along with my hot bath, trust me, I got the chills a lot, I would pour myself a cup of Red Death tea. I know that Sarah created this amazing tea to help combat the crappy feeling of menstruation, but it sure did help settle my stomach, give me comfort and ward off the cramps of having a body that no longer had a period, but still had all the other symptoms of menstruation. I can’t say if this glorious event stops for all women, but for me at 47, it did and that was at least a small blessing.
Lastly, taste. The booklet said that I could expect to get a metal taste in my mouth and that some foods would not taste good. What it didn’t say was that I would eat only apples, cucumbers and fluids for two months. Everything tasted bad. Like, horrible. Natural flavored teas helped and I did drink some of those meal replacement drinks for a while, until eventually I became so repulsed by them. The grocery store and pharmacies don’t sell the lime peach Ensure product, but if you can’t eat, ask for it at your cancer center. They will give you cases of it. It is really the only thing that will remotely cut through the disgusting taste in your mouth.
If you are fortunate and have to endure radiation therapy, insert sarcasm here, they give you a long list of creams to use to try and ward off burning, itch and peeling. I did use Glaxal Base and Eucerin, as recommended, and got away with no burning, just some redness, minor itch and no peeling. It wasn’t until after healing that I dared to look at the ingredient list in those creams. I really wasn’t thinking about it because I was so happy to be done with chemotherapy and scared of the horror stories I heard and read about in regards to what radiation does to your skin. Let me just say, the ingredient list isn’t desirable. I don’t want to do it over, but I can’t help but wonder if the Green Goddess’s Diaper Salve or Plantain Salve would have worked as well. They sure helped my head and nose, so it is very possible.
I really hope this post helps anyone going through breast cancer treatment, or any form of cancer treatment. It isn’t a fun journey but if you find the right products, it can make the experience a lot easier. I deeply believe that a positive attitude makes all the difference. It is hard to get past the fact that something grew in your body and was trying to kill you, but if you treat it as a learning experience and a time to stop and focus on yourself, the benefits may just outweigh the bad.
Try journaling, start a gratitude journal, or just write down all your frustrations. It helps to get them out. After treatment it is amazing how fast all the pain and struggle falls into the past. The experience will change you, and hopefully lead you on a new journey to nourish your soul, make better health choices and truly live. The mental health part of recovery is something truly worth focusing on. Surround yourself with great smelling products that do as much for your emotions and wellbeing, as they do for the environment and our beautiful world.
Yours in learning and positivity,