Sniffles and Songs

Posted on May 31, 2013. Filed under: Cancer, Family, Just fun! | Tags: , , , , , , , , |

Antihistamines and Cancer

In my last post, I mentioned that I wanted to research the possibility of antihistamines being linked to cancer.  While I found studies that negated the correlation, I was pretty surprised at how many pros were asking the same question. More disturbingly, one study found a link to a type of brain tumor. And who financed the other studies???

I read enough to quit the 24-hour Allegra I have been on for four years. Originally, I was having about four annual sinus infections that required antibiotics. Allergy tests revealed a bunch of foods and environmental factors that I was mildly sensitive to, but nothing was serious. Together, they “put me under” with the changing seasons. I’d tried everything—neti pots, saline washes…Scott even came up with using a massager behind my ear, which seemed to easily release a bunch of clogging junk.

Since I was taking a natural mushroom extract to boost my immune system, along with the Allegra, an antihistamine to squelch my immune system’s allergic response, I wondered if they canceled each other out????  Plus, leukemia treatment was described to me as resetting the immune system, so I was curious to see how my new immune system would behave if I quit Allegra. And I was also in the throws of a rebounding sinus infection, I had about six weeks ago, which was treated with antibiotics. I had nothing to lose.

Did we run out of tissues already?

Did we run out of tissues already?

The first week without Allegra was hell. I felt really sick and my nose was a waterfall. I was coughing and relied on quarter dose of imitation NyQuil to sleep. Yes, it did contain an antihistamine. After seven days, my sinus infection was gone! That was five days ago and I feel way better. I still sneeze a few times a day—and I haven’t sneezed since I started Allegra, but somehow sneezing seems like a healthy response. I also pop a Halls cough drop here and there. I think the old-school menthol helps keep my head clear.

Here are some links I found if you’re interested.

http://cebp.aacrjournals.org/content/17/5/1277.full

http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/ijc.11240/pdf

http://jnci.oxfordjournals.org/content/86/15/1172.extract

Natural remedies for allergies:

http://www.livestrong.com/article/146553-natural-alternatives-for-antihistamines/

It’s always nice to have a natural alternative, but sometimes natural stuff can be as fraught with downsides as anything else. As a matter of fact, after writing so much healthcare copy for years, I always wonder about the downside of some new miracle food, drug, herb or exercise. There are no golden solutions!

Surviving a Taste of My Old Mojo

My friend, L celebrated her 50th birthday a couple weeks ago. I was invited and have to admit I was a little nervous about my energy level for a night on the town.  In addition, L and her crowd is roughly a decade younger with party know-how and I don’t think any of them have chemo pills on their calendars. AND, I love L for her classy taste in debauchery and unadulterated wit.

BUT, I was two days from starting chemo drugs so I was at my best energy level of the month. And, it wasn’t like we were going rollerblading or jogging along the lake. The plan included theater and karaoke, so I could sit for most of it—not exactly strenuous.  I geared up with a rest in the afternoon and left with my thoughtful gift of vitamins for 50+ women, some handmade earrings and other carefully selected odds and ends that must not have been spectacular because I can’t recall what they were.

We started at Mary’s Attic, a small theater above Hamburger Mary’s restaurant, for a Hell in a Handbag Production that parodied a sort of Mommy Dearest theme, but used Lana Turner. Best line: The star, a man in drag, hustles to her daughter’s aid shouting, “What’s wrong, honey. I came as fast as I wanted to.” I can think of many uses for that line.  We had a great time.

World's Best Partiers & No Injuries!

World’s Best Partiers & No Injuries!

From there we went down the street to a bar where we united with a few more people before most of them got in a cab and went up Lincoln Avenue for Korean Karaoke. Because I didn’t think I’d last much longer, I drove and chauffeured a couple other people. I suspected my suburban passengers, even with alcohol in them, were a bit nervous when the only parking space was in front of a parkway tree with a man standing against it clearly in vertical passed-out mode. As a lifelong Chicagoan with a keen sense of danger, I assured them he was harmless although I prayed that if he needed to vomit, he’d turn around and avoid my car.

We hustled into Lincoln Karaoke, which was divided up into private rooms. The perimeter was lined with stain-resistant seating and a stage that doubled as a coffee table or vice versa was in the center. Flat screens were on each wall with the “word ball” bouncing along the lyrics and beautiful nature scenes, which made NO sense in the background. In walking to our room at the end of the hall, I wondered what went on in the other rooms that are rented by the hour. Then I decided not to wonder.

A pleasant Asian woman entered, distributed four microphones and demonstrated how to select a song from the binder listings, which were arranged by title. The first half of the book was in Korean. The second half was in English.

We leafed through the plastic-covered pages and ordered beer. Given my deadline with a week of Trentenoin/ATRA pills, I did not indulge. It wasn’t long before the coffee table was designated as a stage and the one male in the group had to sacrifice his running shoe. One of the partiers had filled it with beer and passed it among us. This didn’t make being on the wagon very difficult and I don’t need alcohol to make a fool of myself.

I LOVE to sing. Sometimes I can sing well. Other times I can’t. Usually if I open my lungs, I get better. The variety of songs was hilarious, and anyone who wanted to sing was welcome to join in. My highlight was bellowing Gloria Gaynor’s, “I Will Survive,” which sort of sent me to my own little place in the room unaware of everyone. I guess it ended up being a “Fuck yourself, cancer” moment.

Although it was one-thirty when I got home, I was hyped knowing I still got it in me to do things like survive getting home at one-thirty—even though I don’t really plan on doing that again. Maybe when I hit 60 in January???  May we all be able to retain our party souls into our 8Os.

L, we LOVE you. Have a great year.

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Duck the Halls

Posted on December 2, 2012. Filed under: Cancer, Family, Just fun! | Tags: , , , , , , |

There’s a nifty path on the east side of the Chicago River between Montrose and Irving Park. It’s not easy to find, but once20121201_223130 you’re there, you forget that you’re in the Chicago. A thin path of mulch lines the ridge and dips to the river’s edge in several spots. Grasses stand three feet high on both sides of the path and are dotted with a rainbow of colors in the summer. Trees lean into the water. Some of their branches touch the surface. Walking along the river, you are apt to spot a crested white duck comfortably hanging out with the mallards. Wikipedia says it is a mutant mallard.

On a whim, Saturday we invited the grandkids and my mother-in-law to come over and help us decorate our Christmas tree, but the balmy fall day was so nice we added a walk along the river with the grandkids to the day’s agenda. When we returned, we finished decorating the tree. I’m a sucker for Christmas. It was great.

crested white duckAlyssa got in trouble with me for suggesting the duck’s headdress looked like a grandma due to its bonnet. While that’s quite true, I would be lucky to have such a hairdo, and I don’t easily identify with the stereotypical grandma. Alyssa qualified her comment by referencing a cartoon grandma. Enough said. The afternoon gave their mom and dad an opportunity to do a little holiday shopping. Fun.

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Thursday, June 8, 2012

Posted on June 9, 2012. Filed under: Cancer | Tags: , , |

The coolest event of the day was that I found out the Atlantic published my brother’s article and photos of Iran. Check it out.  http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2012/06/the-iran-we-dont-see-a-tour-of-the-country-where-people-love-americans/258166/

He teaches creative writing in Dubai and traveled all over the Middle East—all over the world for that matter. On several trips to Iran, once during their big conflict last year, he noted how friendly most Iranians felt toward the U.S. His article describes the everyday openness of the people, as opposed to their regime. Another segment shows photos he took while visiting Iran. http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2012/06/photos-from-the-iran-you-dont-see-on-tv/258117/.

In terms of my personal conflict with leukemia cooties, today was going to be one of those long days at the hospital. First there’s the EKG. Then the blood draw. Then I meet with Dr. G. I brought Scott for that part because he always thinks of more questions than I do. A lot of those questions, I just figure what the doc will say, so I skip it. Sometimes I’m right. Sometimes I’m not. After all of that, my IV of arsenic flanked by saline solutions and heparin to clean out the line arrives. We started there at 11 and got home at 3-ish. Not too bad.

I spent the rest of the afternoon resting. I was super-tired.

In the evening, our friends came by with a tasty pasta dinner. Meanwhile, it was a beautiful evening so we all sat out on the patio until it became too chilly.Image I must add that the flowers planted a couple of weeks ago are looking good. This little one is absolutely showing off.

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    A writer and cancer survivor chronicles her renewed dedication to art and words..

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