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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Remission…Knock on Wood

Posted on February 1, 2013. Filed under: Cancer | Tags: , , , , , , , , |

WhooHoo! I had a visit with Dr. G today, my oncologist. My monthly blood work came back with “nothing to talk about,” which is code for perfecto! Nice birthday present. I enjoyed seeing a few of my favorite nurses who were so much a part of my life last summer during treatment. Anyway, Dr. G said I’d be on the monthly dose of Atra for a year. We went over the list of my side effects: fatigue, goofy dry patches of skin, low energy and shaky hands, which have all improved by about 30 percent since stretching out the doses of Atra. He also said I could mess with the schedule so I don’t have to feel like crap on vacation. WhooHoo.

I’ll also have to have another bone marrow biopsy in April and after that I get to declare myself in official remission. Right now, Dr. G says I’m probably in remission anyway, but a clear biopsy will make it official. At five years, I get to be declared “cured.” I wonder if I already put in a year?

Evading Cooties
Early in this blog, I referenced a creepy feeling that I’ve had for most of my life. The “feeling” is a notion that some major health challenge would hit me in my fifties. If I lived through it, I’d hold out for age 88. Weird, huh. Some might say the expectation created the reality, but I think not. So this 59th birthday means, if something is trying to take me out in my 50s, it now has less than a year. It’s going to have to be a piano falling on my head or blowing out a tire on a one-lane mountain highway because my body has proven its ability to blast out cooties and I’m pretty sure it can take on most anything at this point. Such is life. After 60, I’m good until 88 and maybe even longer.

Paint and Cake
Last night I stopped and bought a yummy cake on the way to art class to share with my class to celebrate my birthday. What a great combo!

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Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Posted on August 28, 2012. Filed under: Cancer | Tags: , , , , |

Well, the good news on Friday propelled me into “normal” weekend activities that I spent yesterday recovering from. Well worth it though.

Scott took me out to one of our haunts for a Thai dinner on Friday. The highlight of Saturday was going off to Foster beach by myself and taking a swim! It was awesome. I arrived about noon and have to admit that it took much longer than usual to get used to the water. With all the hot days, I expected warmer, but eventually I talked myself out of being such a wimp and jumped in. I was up to my neck, swam along the shore and I could still see the sand at the bottom. Beautiful. I even took off my hat and scarf, let my new do show. I was careful to avoid the sun by using my towel as a tent. Some of the meds I have are not sun-friendly.

Another highlight was attending the Guild Complex fundraiser in Evanston. Great to hang out with respected poets and writers!  Scott didn’t join me because he had a horrible cold. I think his system finally rebelled under the pressures. On Sunday, we took it easy.

I finally organized all the papers hiding the top of my desk. I also finished a poem based on an experience I had at Target. A few months ago, a man in Army fatigues stood in line in front of me and tried to recruit the cashier, who wasn’t old enough to check out alcohol by himself. It was creepy. Luckily, the BOY wasn’t buying and was perfectly happy to make change and bag diapers. I read the poem at the Mill Sunday night and was rewarded with extended applause. Nice. It’s great to have new work. My brother, here from Dubai, arrived late so he didn’t see me perform, but we had fun after the show when Marc teased him about being a terrorist.

Yesterday, Scott and I went for a mile and a half walk down the river and back through the park. My left heel is killing me, like I have a bone spur or something, but if I have to make one more doc appointment, I’m going to scream! Scott suggested some Dr. Scholls orthodics that you can get after standing on a machine in the drug store. Pretty weird, but he said they’re working for him. I might try that.

By late afternoon I was back in bed. Guess I pooped myself out. Today, I’m still dragging, but later am meeting the mayor of a French town I stayed in back in 2002 during a Sister Cities exchange. I look forward to returning. Then I’m babysitting my grandchildren. Meanwhile, I’m in low gear, but determined to go for another walk. I always say, “You can feel like crap and sit feeling miserable, or you can feel like crap and force yourself to do things that help you forget you feel like crap.” Take that, side effects!

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Friday, June 22, 2012

Posted on June 24, 2012. Filed under: Cancer | Tags: , , , , |

“It’s like this:

I can feel like crap and lay at home in bed,

or I can feel like crap and be out doing something

that makes me forget that I feel like crap.”

Today was a lot like yesterday. Scott came with me for treatment. Arsenic in bags on hangers. Hook me up. Unhook me. Except today I had a regular visit with the breast cancer oncologist who poked around and gave me the “all clear.” Since we had a private room, the scenarios of other patients were limited. Because it’s Friday, I’ve had about all the arsenic I could take. I went home and lay down for awhile.

Part of today’s agenda included returning a matte that I recently had cut for one of my paintings. I had sent Karen final jpgs of the works in mattes. Her Virgo love of detail noticed that one side of the matte looked smaller than the other side. I measured and sure enough, there was a 3/16th difference. Once confirmed, the difference screamed at you. So, I needed get myself together to return it and have them fix it. Since Scott had picked the work up, and noted the crabby staff, I wasn’t exactly looking forward to the exchange, but hey, it looked weird. Lucky for me, the staff person was super nice and had a guy re-cut it in five minutes. They even let me keep the old one, which I can use if I turn it sideways. No problem.

After rousting up dinner, Scott and I went for a walk. Of course, because it’s now 8 pm I’m feeling much better, and being a night owl, will probably get a second wind about 11. Tonight, Scott suggested a river walk, so we drove over to the other side of the river and a little south. There, we found a mulched path with brush trying to take over along the path. Some of the path became rather rustic and because you can barely see, and the land drops to the river, I opted for a neighborhood walk after a few blocks. We probably walked at least a mile, so even though I feel pretty energy-robbed, I’m still trudging along.

I’ve had a yearning to whip up some jewelry so when I got back, I got out the beads and knocked out four pairs of earrings in almost no time. Just the kind of relaxing activity I needed before bed.

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Thursday, June 14, 2012

Posted on June 15, 2012. Filed under: Cancer | Tags: , , , |

I’m feeling better. I started the day with an EKG that continued to show anomalies, but magnesium and potassium levels were OK, so the cardiologist said I was fit for chemo. They strung up the bags and hooked me up. This gave me a chance to catch up on my blog and return some calls. I was in a private room, so I also tried to take a nap, but I’m so shaky and achy, I really couldn’t sleep.  It was nice to close my eyes anyway even though they’re itchy and sore. The nursed brings a big, warm blanket and you can flip the chair back. I was home by two and crashed on the sofa.

Not long after that, I got a call from my leukemia mentor. They mmatched me with a 64-year old man who lives in Michigan. He also has a home in Scottsdale. He marks November as his fifth year anniversary of his diagnosis. We had a really pleasant talk. He’s intelligent and laughed at my jokes. Best of all he had exactly the same diagnosis—and is now five years out. He said he volunteers at the Mayo clinic in Scottsdale and is always stunned by the number of breast cancer survivors suffering from secondary cancers. He encouraged me to call him anytime and said he’d check in again. I look forward to hearing more from him.

Scott and I have been looking at sofas for the living room. We want a sectional that’s not too expensive. A more unconventional color would be nice. I don’t want leather because it sticks to you in the summer and is cold in the winter. We don’t want to pay an arm and a leg either. When I regrouped, I suggested we ride on over to Marjen’s furniture store to see what they had. We even parked several blocks away to get some exercise, but I have to be careful because my heart starts beating as soon as I start doing anything. Marjen’s is a family-owned, warehouse-style store.  They have great prices and fairly good furniture. I have been buying stuff from them for years. They had a couple of options that were super reasonable, but I wasn’t excited.

When we returned home, Scott made a great dinner and headed off to Home Depot. He wants to make a mister on the patio for those hot summer days. I caught up with phone messages. I also wrote some copy for an ad and sent it off. All-in-all, not a bad day. Way better than yesterday!

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

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