In Memorial

My cousin died yesterday. 

I got the news last night, as sketchy as it was, when my brother called.  When I saw his name on the caller I.D., I had a feeling it wasn’t going to be good.  When he asked, “Have you talked to Mom?”, my suspicions were confirmed.

Over the years, Mom has shared snippets of information about my cousin’s health challenges.  A life-long chain smoker, she had been battling cancer for many years in different ways and in different parts of her body. Apparently, enough was enough.  Sometime recently, she decided against more chemo.

I don’t blame her.

After several attempts in reaching K. were unsuccessful, and after receiving an random email from someone she didn’t know, Mom had a feeling something was wrong.  My mother and cousin shared regular phone calls – many in the middle of the night – as well as many many challenges over the course of their lives.  They were more like peers, even though K. called my Mom “Auntie”.   So when she didn’t receive any call backs, Mom reached out to one of my cousin’s friends, who hadn’t heard a thing either.  More calls were made and, unfortunately, the sad news was relayed.  K. passed away in a care facility up in Los Angeles somewhere at around 11:30 a.m.   She was 75.

I keep wondering if she was alone when she left this Earth, or if her husband or mom or my father were there to greet her.  Childless and a widow, we are some of her only blood family.  I’ll phone Mom later  to see how she is doing.  Personally, while my heart is heavy, I haven’t shed a tear…which is weird, I suppose.   Maybe I will psychoanalyze that later, but it won’t change anything.  I simply haven’t cried.  Yet.

My first memories of my cousin are of a young woman, fresh from a small town in Illinois, who came to California in the early 60’s to live with my family while she got settled.  Dixie (her birth name) was the only daughter of my father’s sister.  Dixie came to California with a dream in her heart and never a look back: she wanted to be a star! 

15 years apart, K. (a stage name she took and used religiously for the rest of her life) was everything I wanted to be.  Beautiful. Glamorous.  Brave. “IN”.

I can remember sitting on the toilet in our little bathroom with the pink and gray tile, fascinated as she applied makeup like an expert.  Sometimes she would swipe lipstick against my own little mouth, or brushed my eyelids with color. It made me feel beautiful, like her.  K. had a natural beauty only enhanced with color and contour, her most striking feature being her  blue “cat eyes” – a feature she would exploit to her best advantage with smoky artisanship throughout her life and career.

Because YES, as it turns out, her dream came true!  K. DID become an actress, playing many roles in movies and TV shows, as well as in live stage productions.  It was always exciting to go see her work, or to see her on a TV show.  Dynasty…Dallas….Happy Texas.  A sculptress as well, K. had an amazing voice that was at once classy, sexy and deep, with an infectious laugh.   Therefore, she was a perfect fit for the voice over work she also did. 

Over the years, K. and her husband B. (himself a famous stuntman/actor and one of the original cast of legendary TV show, “High Chaparral”) spent a lot of time with my family …. Birthdays, holidays, weddings.  B. and my father were contemporaries and loved to sit, share war stories and just “shoot the shit” over cigars and beer.  I have a collection of photos of us all together.  K. was the big sister I never had, B. and I  had birthdays 4 days apart, and while we lived very different lives, we all adored each other.

As often happens over time, we lost touch.  It began when my father died in January 2000.  Big Al was the glue that kept much of my family’s “togetherness” together, as it turns out.  After over 40 years of marriage, Mom was never the same after his passing, and family gatherings shifted to my home or my brothers …. the “next” generation taking over the traditions as happens with many families, I suppose. 

After a few more years, B. got very sick and passed away.  K. herself got sick, and, well, somehow the months turned in to years and the Christmas cards stop coming.

Life – and death – happened.  The last time we spoke was several years ago.

Turns out K. didn’t wish there to be any services, recluse that she had become.  That makes me sad, but I respect her decision.  I imagine that after a lifetime of making your living and your life around your “looks”, it would be extra difficult to face aging and illness – and to put that face in the public eye.  She was so very gorgeous, too.  This is how I will remember her.  img001

So as I go through family pictures, and talk with my mom, I will hold a little heart-shaped memorial by myself, in her honor.  Her passing has, once again, put the stark reality of my own mortality square in my sites.  None of us gets out of here alive.  Every day – every moment – is an important one, especially when you reach the age where the years left in front of you are, statistically, less than the years left behind.

Each moment is to be appreciated.  The sound of the rain falling.  The smell of baking cookies.  The laughter of a child.  These are the important things, the simple pleasures in life, that are to be valued.  We are given only so many days here on earth, and in the wink of an eye – like a wisp of smoke – they are gone.

My cousin, may she rest in eternal peace and beauty, reminds me of these things.  Her death compels me to make sure the people in my life know that I love them while I still have the chance.  I am encouraged to follow my own dreams (because even at 60, I still have some), and – most importantly – do everything I can to make the most of what a day brings.

Because it might be my last.

(Note:  I actually wrote this last Sunday the 11th.  Since then, I have cried – a lot and at unexpected and private moments.  Other than that, the rest remains the same.)

Journaling – A Journey With Soul

Last week I was asked to write a guest post on journal writing by a wonderful woman who is an internationally known author, singer, and creative mentor who uses and teaches journal writing as a healing modality.  My post will be published on December 13th, but because it will be under my real name – and I write Anonymously here – I won’t be linking up.  However,  I can publish it here and now.  Because it had to be 600 words or less, I edited quite a bit out.  Maybe in the future I’ll expand on my own journal practice in future posts.

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20161129_054136_resizedIn 1969, for my 12th birthday, I received my first “Diary”.  A hard-bound book covered in daisies, it contained pages of blank lined paper and,  most importantly, a lock and tiny key.

Diaries! That place where your secrets were kept, secrets needing to be protected from the watchful eyes of parents and snoopy little brothers.  I can still see myself laying on the bed, my bedroom door closed, filling pages with big loopy lettering made in No. 2 pencil. I wrote about other girls, first periods and first bras.  I poured out my heart when I wasn’t invited to a party.  I chronicled my parents fights, and that night I accidentally discovered them naked in the pool.

I wrote about boys.  A LOT!

There was something exciting about each new diary started.  They whispered of POSSIBILITIES. NEW BEGINNINGS.  FRESH STARTS.

I’m not sure when diaries became ‘journals’.  Little hard-bound books were eventually replaced by steno pads and spiral notebooks.  It didn’t matter what they were called, though.   That FRESH START feeling didn’t change.

In the 70’s, I wrote out all the angst and longing of a teenager that didn’t feel like she fit in and so desperately wanted to.  In the 80’s, my journal absorbed the crazy-hot desire of a single 20something trying to make her way in the world, where I often waxed poetic.  Words poured out of me, filling empty hours and a deep-rooted need for self-expression.  I wrote about other girls, who was dating who and the heartbreak of not being invited to a party.  I chronicled the liberation of not living under my parents’ roof.

And I wrote about boys.  A LOT!

It was after my first child was born in 1986 that my “Morning Time” was also born.  Working full-time, I found it easier to stay awake after his 5 am feeding than to go back to bed for an hour.  It didn’t take long before I discovered the treasures to be found in the quiet solitude of Predawn.  I would sit at the dining table with my coffee and journal, gazing out the window while body and mind awoke.  I watched the changing seasons of my life reflected in the big Maple tree in our backyard, and I wrote and prayed.  Intentions were set for the new day, my head and my heart purged, and blessings counted.  During the brief periods when I didn’t practice it, I felt the difference – and not in a good way.

30 years later, I can still be found in the wee hours with my journal and coffee although, thanks to menopause, it’s more like 3 a.m.  (I wrote through THAT, too!).   While the hour and view has changed, my journaling journey hasn’t.  It’s still the best friend ready to listen without judgment, the husband who never zones out, the psychiatrist who doesn’t requirement payment or an appointment. And perhaps, most profoundly, it’s the Ear of God that’s always Present.

After nearly 50 years, I’ve journaled my way through marriages, divorces, births, deaths, and more sorrows and joys than I can count. Most recently I wrote my way through a breast cancer diagnosis and 18 months of treatment.  Frankly, I don’t know how I would’ve survived without it.  Writing is healing.  It’s cathartic.  It’s revelatory.  It’s doesn’t care if I’m happy or scared, strong or weak, or blonde, bald or gray (smiling).

A journal is unconditional in its acceptance of all the Flawesomeness of my life.  All I have to do is show up – authentically and faithfully – to reap it’s magic:

The Alchemy of my Soul.

I Can See Clearly Now

New HaircutIt’s funny how life can change in a moment.

One moment you’re minding your own business at work, and suddenly, Mr. Right offers to fix your car and you’re married within the year….

Or you’re all set to start the New Year with a diet and exercise routine, prepping for your son’s wedding, when you get a cancer diagnosis…..

Or you’re talking with your daughter, listening to her dreams about moving out of state, when you realize it’s the same location you and your husband were talking about moving to last year.

In ways both big and small, life is a series of changes.

I’m a planner by nature.  My husband teases me about it, but I don’t care. He benefits from it and he knows it (smiling).  Personal and professional “planning” is in my DNA – everything from what food to buy for meals all week to corporate parties for over 700 people.  Planning stuff is like a having a road map.  Without it, we end up ‘anywhere’.  With it, we tend to get to where we want to go.  In my world, anyway.

Back in February of ’15, I knew I had 18 months of treatments to undergo and “planning” my life pretty much took a hike.  I didn’t know who or how I’d be when I finished with those treatments.  I didn’t know what I would look like, how I would feel, or what I could or could not do, and it sucked.  BIG time.

I also didn’t know that my girl, 28 and a single mom, would be laid off twice in a year – the second time in March, just a week after I was “laid off”. Since the day we found out she was pregnant, I knew one of my biggest “purposes” in life was to partner with her in raising my grandson.  A big piece of that has been additional financial support.

Like many others in the Middle Class, particularly in SoCal where housing takes 50% of income and incomes have been flat, or moving backward, for almost a decade, being a single income family is nearly impossible. So it’s been a draining 18 months where money is concerned, as we’ve helped to support them as well as ourselves through these challenging times.

That being said, the funds we’ve needed have been there, and we haven’t had to tap our credit cards.  We all have a roof over our heads, food on the table, clothes on our backs, and so much more to be grateful for.

Anyway, she landed a fabulous new job within her local school district a month ago, replete with all kinds of amazing benefits and opportunities for a life long career, should she choose.  The only “down side”, it included a significant cut in pay that made the already difficult task of living on her own impossible.  So, a week ago when she asked about moving in with us once her lease is up come September, we agreed.

Not only will having them live here significantly stop the financial bleeding, it will help all of us in different ways.  Having my 7 year old grandson around is like having a partner in crime….we make serious magic together.

It wasn’t an easy decision.  Big, life altering ones usually aren’t.  We’re all adults and all of us would like our own space – especially my girl.   She has her way of doing “house” and I have mine. But, like many MANY other families across America, we’re doing what we need to do to keep life and limb together and, I believe, actually get ahead.

And I’m good with that.  Because now….we got ourselves a plan.

OREGON

20150623_170311_resizedOregon! Last year, when I came back from my road trip up to Seattle, it was all I could talk about.  First, it’s gorgeous up there.  Rolling green hills, spectacular vistas, water filled rivers…..And we would be so much closer to my son and daughter-in-law, who begged me to move up that way so I would be closer to them when they start their own family in a year or so.  A 3 hour drive is MUCH better than an 18 hour one. (I don’t fly….)

And, as it turns out, my husband’s company has offices in Portland!  For years we’ve dreamed of owning our own home again, on a small piece of land in a place where there is space, natural beauty, safety, and a reasonable cost of living. We don’t need posh.  We’re simple people who enjoy simple comforts and could give a rat’s ass about impressing anyone with our “lifestyle”.

So when my daughter told me her own dream to move to Oregon, where she could afford a little house of her own and could put down roots for she and her son,  BOOM!  There it was!

Just like that, for the first time in a long time, I have a vision for the ‘future’.  I have something to point my prayers and intentions towards.  Something to work for.  I have…

A PLAN.

Sure, it’s all in the hands of the Divine.  Things might change as we go along.  And it will definitely take an Act of God to pull this all together.  A handful of Miracles, even.  But in THIS moment, I feel hope.  I feel more determined, more energized – more ALIVE – than I have in a long long LONG time.

OREGON.

Where the state motto is: Alis Volat Propriis, “She Flies With Her Own Wings”.

Sounds like my kinda place.

“Where there is no vision, the people perish”. – Proverbs 29:18

Interview With An Alien

conference room

I’ve been around for awhile.  I’ve gone a few places, done a few things, met a lot of people. Hundreds of 1000s over the course of my lifetime, probably.  I’m a real people person, and one of my favorite things is to connect with people who are different from me.

For example, I spent almost 20 years combined in the aerospace and semiconductor industries.  These years afforded me the opportunity to speak with and work with people from all over the world:  Spain.  Ireland.  France.  Germany.  Italy.  Various countries in Asia.

These were lengthy F2F interactions, not truncated virtual ones like experienced on Social Media.  Some of my all-time favorite occasions were the meals.  Potlucks and business lunches, client dinners and corporate parties.  There’s something about breaking bread and raising glasses together that really helps you get to know the people you hang with.

My favorite drinking buddies were from the UK.  The ones best for my ego were the handsome, flirty dudes from Italy.  (Bella!)  I loved smoking cigs and chatting with the French, but for some reason, they tended to have the worst body odor  which even the smoke couldn’t cover up.  My time with them was usually kept at a minimum…or a distance.

And then there were the Germans.  Ah, the Germans. Ich liebe dich, meine Freunde! We looked liked each other.  We shared the same temperament, the same sense of humor.  Occasionally, the same hair.

Einstein_laughing
Albert Einstein (Photo Credit: Unknown)

But professional experience aside, I’m an avid people watcher. Not just the kind done while sitting outside, maybe enjoying a coffee with a friend, talking smack and keeping an eye on the passerbys.

I mean, I WATCH people.  I observe them, carefully, like I would a creature under the microscope, or if I was a detective on a case.  I do this even with people I’ve known for years.

Humans are pretty fascinating, and I often wonder if most of them know just how revealing they are.  How much information they put out.  Not just by what they say, but by what they do.  Their body language.  The words they choose, and the words they don’t.   Sometimes I think it’s what people don’t say…what they don’t do…that speaks the loudest about who they are.

And then, there are the eyes.  The proverbial “windows to the soul”.

My Eyes
My Eyes

Eyes are amazing, and can reveal so much about someone.  They show emotion.  They speak of intellect. Interest.  Shadiness.  Illness.  Deceit.

Ever talk to someone who didn’t look you in the eye when you were speaking?  It’s SO annoying.  Makes me wonder what they are hiding, or hiding from. Eyes give clues.  If you know what to look for, you can – with a high degree of accuracy – determine if someone is being dishonest, or  tapping into a memory, or accessing their feelings.

And really, there’s nothing better than having a great conversation with someone who looks at you straight on. It lets you know that they are engaged and listening. To listen, you have to be Present and being Present IS a gift.

Which brings me to the reason I’m writing today.

This past Monday, I spent 45 minutes with a young woman who, I swear, was one of the most unusual human beings I’ve ever met.  So unusual, in fact, that it was hard to keep focused on our conversation because I was so busy watching her watch me.  I kept thinking, “This is weird.  Her eyes.  They don’t move.  They don’t quiver, even when she speaks.  Why does she look at me like that, like…like… an alien.”

Seriously! I used that word: ALIEN. And I wasn’t on medication or anything!

Tall, lean, and pretty – with long blond hair parted on the side – her name was Shannon.  I’m guessing in her late 20s, Shannon was articulate, professional and thorough.  I was there to interview for a volunteer position that sounded smack in my wheel house:  12-15 hours a week handling social media, blogging, taking photographs for their online resale store, doing event marketing….

Since I haven’t landed a new paying job yet, I thought perhaps volunteering might be the direction to go.  The opportunity certainly read like something I’d enjoy doing, and for a non-profit organization I have a lot of respect for.

Anyway, Shannon greeted me in the lobby and escorted me to a simply furnished conference room.  We sat down and I decided to pick the chair closest to her, on the end. The first thing I noticed about her was her physical energy.  She moved with a level of stillness I’m not accustomed to, as if no effort were being exerted. A dichotomy, right?  Still motion?  And quiet.  Her whole being exuded quiet and calm.  She barely moved and when she spoke, her voice was pleasant, well modulated and measured.  Almost robotic in it’s lack of certain inflections.

But it was her eyes that captivated me.  Large, bright blue irises ringed with a darker color and fringed with thick lashes, there were several occasions when I found myself checking to make sure she was blinking. I have to be honest, it was slightly unnerving and I don’t unnerve easily.  In all my life, with all of the conversations I’ve had, I’ve never met anyone – especially someone so young – who displayed such absolute, intent focus.  It was like she was looking into me, as well as at me.  Not in a hostile or threatening way.  She just sat so motionless, and spoke, and looked. Watching.  Like “staring”, without any  rudeness.

I literally breathed a sigh of relief when she finally blinked, and even  laughed a little.  And when she took her eyes off of me a time or too, I thought, OK….maybe she’s a human after all.  But then, BOOM! She’d be right back with her lazer beams on me again.   A female Spock in a t-shirt, cardigan and jeans.

When it came time to leave, I was graciously led back to the lobby in that still-motion kinda way.   We shook hands.  She said she appreciated my time and talents, still had others to interview, and told me that I’d hear later this week if I got the gig.

Several days later and my meeting Shannon is still haunts me.  Not a big “alien abduction” type,  I do believe there must be life “out there” from a purely “mathematical probability” standpoint, if nothing else. And why wouldn’t our beautiful Blue Planet be a likely destination location for some of them?  I’ve read the stories, and some theories…..conspiracy and otherwise…. of Off-Worlders cohabitating with us human types.  Hell, some of them are reported to be working with and in our own government, if Cory Goode can be believed.

The idea of alien life forms fascinates me and has been part of my consciousness forever.  I am of the generation of the original Star Trek and Lost In Space TV shows.  I stood in line for hours up in Hollywood to see the first Star Wars movie in 1977 (with a major crush on Hans Solo).  And yeah, I’ll admit it.  There have been times when, late at night or early predawn hours, I’ve stared up at the stars – wondering who was out there and secretly longing to meet them.

The Good Guys, that is.

Could it true?  Did I’ve finally meet one?   Did I experience First Contact? Shannon certainly fit the bill physically for a race called the Pleiadians, and her vibe was the most unusual I’ve ever encountered.  She beamed all good things – peace, awareness, altruism.  Even her name means, “Ancient Wise One”.

Whew!  Lots to think about….

I gotta go now.  I got hooked on a show I discovered last week on Amazon Prime and I’m pretty  obsessed with it – staying up late into the wee hours to watch episode after episode until I’m blurry-eyed.  With only a few more episodes to watch of the last season, the storyline is a real cliff hanger:  A post-apocalyptic epic where the Human Race is fighting for their very existence and for Lexi_Alexis_Glass-Mason_S4Planet Earth.  Falling Skies, it’s called.  One of the characters, Alexis, just gave her life to save her family.  Well, her human family.  She was a blonde haired, bright blue eyed half-breed with superpowers…The biological product of an multi-species take over agenda by some real Bad Dudes.

Those eyes….they look a lot like those of my girl, Shannon.

I Chose Me

il_570xN.557874558_aln1When I walked into The Boss’ office yesterday morning to pick up my pay, I could see he was down. I had called him Tuesday morning, after much angst, deliberation and a quick phone call to the Husband, and told him I wouldn’t be back.

So much for The New Job.

Turns out, after everything I’ve been through – after all of those months of seeking Divine Guidance and Strength –  I really just couldn’t wrap my head around the idea that this New Job was where I was supposed to be.  The Old Woman had convinced me – by her very presence, if not by her words – that there was something more….something better….waiting for me.

Had I forgotten everything I went through last year?  Everything I learned? One of the main issues in my life – the one that manifested itself as a breast cancer last year – was my life long tendency to sacrifice myself to make others more comfortable, to make others feel good.  To make things easier for them.

I’ll never forget one morning shortly after the diagnosis.  I was sitting in bed reading “Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom” by Dr. Christiane Northrup when I read that as far back as the 1800s, the medical literature has noted associations between breast cancer and women with an “overdeveloped nurturance gland”.  (check!)  They have a tendency toward self sacrifice (check!), and are more apt to have a coping strategy characterized by engaging with the problem, confronting it, focusing on it, working on a plan, and lobbying for emotional support in the process. (check! check! CHECK!)

In other words…ME!

It was a huge ass Aha! Moment, and I broke down wept.  Like the woman in the book, I realized that I didn’t have to “get sick or to die in order to rest”.  Right then and there, I promised myself that I wouldn’t do that again.  I would live in balance.  I would take care of me…REALLY care for me.  And I would stop trying to Save The World.

And yet, here I was!  Faced with a job that was FAR from something  soul satisfying and fulfilling, it did meet my financial needs but that was it.  Sure, I could go in and  Save The Day.  I could see that I could have a huge impact for the better, and alleviate a lot of The Boss’ problems (if the Old Woman “let” me.)  But at what cost to me?

So HAD I really gotten it? Or this was a test to see if I had actually made the internal shift needed to so I could go to the next level of my destiny?

Isn’t that what I had been promised over and over again this past year?

I just couldn’t do it.  My head, my heart and my gut wouldn’t let me. So I picked up the phone and called my husband, telling him what was on my heart.  If it were just about money – I would go.  But not for long and not because I wanted to.  That seemed unfair to The Boss, as well, paying me to be a short timer.

He totally got it.  So I hung up, made one more call and chose ME.

When I went to see The Boss yesterday to pick up my pay, The Old Woman wasn’t there and we had a chance to talk.  It sounds like my decision was a disappointment to her as well, and maybe – just maybe – she’s feeling guilty about things.  The Boss admitted he didn’t tell his mom all the reasons why I wasn’t coming back, so I encouraged him to do so – in a nice way, at the right time.  She needs to know that her actions and her words were not only why I didn’t want to come back, but  were jeopardizing her son’s business as well.

Speaking our truth, in a loving manner, may hurt someone’s feelings but we can’t let that stop us.  Not when we know deep in our heart that a change for the good must be made.  I feel for him.  She’s his Mom.  But she is also an employee – one that really isn’t doing her job the way it needs to be done, and it’s taking him down. She’s 80.  It should be okay for him to ‘retire’ her.

We agreed that we would keep the communication lines open,  and who knows? There might be something there for me down the road AFTER The Old Woman has her moment of enlightenment. And maybe – just maybe – The Boss will chose himself and the welfare of his business over protecting his mother’s feelings.

I’ve felt good – GREAT – ever since.  I feel energized again.  Full of hope and anticipation.  I let go of What Was – and an entire old way of being in the world –  so that Something New has space in my life.  And it’s possible that by deciding not to sacrifice myself and my dreams, by putting my well-being at the front of the line, I actually did fulfill my purpose there.

I chose me.

Now, maybe the nice Boss Man will to do the same.

Chemo Hacks – My Top 7 Helps For Managing Side Effects

GoddessHeartThe need to undergo chemotherapy is a harsh reality for many breast cancer patients, and every woman’s chemo “cocktail” will vary depending on what she’s been diagnosed with.  My doctor prescribed TCH – Taxotere, Carboplatin and Herceptin. (Herceptin is not a chemo drug itself, but a targeted therapy that produces antibodies for those who are HER2+).  Each of these medications comes with their own list of potential side effects – some of which a doctor will prescribe medication to help combat.

When you think of what is being put into the body with chemotherapy, it’s no surprise that  it basically becomes a toxic waste site.  I am doing my best to eliminate those toxins as quickly as possible to try to maintain some semblance of “health” during and after my treatment plan.  While I’ve avoided any vomiting, there are other side effects I experience with every cycle – typically starting on Day 3 (of a 21 day cycle) after a round and continuing through the first 10-14  days.

I’ve come up this Chemo Hack List of the Top 7 things I’m doing to help eliminate or minimize these uncomfortable side effects. Since I still have 2 rounds to go at the time of this posting, I’ll update this as I find more things that are helpful and well as address whether or not I escaped the more common long-term effects (like neuropathy, etc.) all together with some of the things that I’m doing.

HACK #1 – DRINK WATER: It is recommended that we drink at least 3 quarts of water a day, every day.  That is a chemo hack waterLOT of water but it is vital to help flush the toxins and medication through our systems.  When you’re not feeling great, or when water tastes like metal, it can be hard to remember to drink as much as we need to.  To help with that, I use this 4 cup measuring cup and three stretchy hair bands.  Each band represents a quart, and how many times that cup needs to be filled in order for me to have my daily requirement (4 Cups = 1 quart).  Every time I fill it, I remove one of the bands.  This way I always know how much more I have yet to drink that day.  That being said, on those days when I just can’t force down enough water without gagging, I also include other fluids I drink – hot tea, etc.

HACK #2 – TURKEY BASTER BIDET:  I know, it sure ain’t Thanksgiving! But the body chemo hack turkey basterhas to eliminate all that water and more.  What isn’t spoken much about in the way of side effects is that what comes out can burn!  So I keep a turkey baster next to the toilet in the bathroom (which, fortunately, sits right next to the sink).  Every time I eliminate, I gave myself a little Turkey Baster Bidet to rinse myself.  This helps tremendously, and I never skip this step after experiencing a very uncomfortable raw episode after my first round (which I treated with Desitin).  After each rinse and a dry, I apply Vaseline around the  general area so as to protect the sensitive skin.  With everything else going on, having burning Girly Bits isn’t going to help.  Lube and rinse.  That’s all I’m saying.  (This typically isn’t needed after Day 10-14)

HACK #3 – BAKING SODA:  It’s not just the Down Low that gets a toxic washing.  Our Rob's Red Mill Baking Sodamouths are equally as sensitive and a prime area for chemo effects because the cells there produce rapidity (the type of cells the chemo is targeting).  I haven’t gotten mouth sores, but I do have to deal with this weird all over burning sensation, a tongue that feels like I downed a scorching cup of coffee in one gulp, and burning, chapped lips.  The ACS recommends avoiding certain foods to help combat this….foods which, ironically, are the only ones I really feel like eating because I can actually taste them.  (I definitely pay for this later.)  This includes acidic, salty and spicy foods.  If you can avoid those, more power to you – you’ll be ahead of the game!  And there are prescription medications to help with sores if you get them (The OTC mouthwash Biotene is also helpful).  My chemo hack for this is to rinse my mouth several times a day with baking soda and water.  I use about 1/2 teaspoon to a cup water.  The baking soda helps alkalize the mouth and brings some fast, albeit temporary relief.  I like to use an organic  aluminum free product like Bob’s Red Mill.

HACK #4 – FRANKINCENSE:  I am a big believer in the healing qualities of good, therapeutic chemo hack frankincensegrade Essential Oils. While it was my personal choice not to ingest any EOs during treatment, you can bet I will be during the “Reconstruction” phase when I am done.  I do, however, use EO topically for different things.  One thing I do is apply Frankincense to the soles of my feet and my ankles starting on the day before a round.  I then apply it the morning of treatment, and then every day for a week following.  I’ll apply it once in the morning and once later in the day, and then wear socks.  If you decide to do this, make sure to get a good therapeutic grade oil.  I started with Young Living (being as I’m a YL distributor myself), however, theirs is VERY expensive and a bottle only lasts about 1.5 – 2 treatment cycles.  My Go-To place now is Eden’s Garden for quality, price, and speed of shipping.  I purchased it here.

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HACK #5 – CHEMO FASTING:  The history and health benefits of fasting is long and impressive.  When I heard that some people were implementing fasting around their treatments, I was immediately interested because I know that with less food in the system, everything will pass through much quicker.  It is a personal preference for how long to fast, but based on what I’ve read, I decided to fast the day of my treatment, plus or minus.  I have my rounds on Fridays, so starting that week, I try to keep from eating a lot of food that takes longer to digest, like red meat.  On Thursday, I like to go meatless all together.  On treatment day, I stick to water only, and then go back to regular eating on Saturday.  Another thing I do is take a stool softener with each round as the steroids I am required to take on Thursday and Saturday cause major constipation.  So I start taking them on Wednesday, then daily through the following Sunday or Monday.  This has proven an effective way to keep everything moving through my body as quickly as possible, with no long term back up.

HACK #6 – GINGER ALE AND PRETZELS:  A classic “Old Wives” remedy for nausea related Ginger Ale Chemo Hackto pregnancy, ginger ale works well for chemo related nausea, too, I have found.  Trying to minimize the number of drugs I’m putting into my body, I haven’t wanted to use either of the two prescription medications given to me by my oncologist.  By drinking ginger ale and eating pretzels, I have managed to move past any nausea I experience on-and-off during the week after my treatment (typically starting Day 3).  The fizzy, gingery, salty combination is a classic hack used among a lot of breast cancer patients, and one that I am happy to add to this list because it really worked for me.

HACK #7 – Chemotherapy Meditation CD I wish I had known about this CD before I started chemo, because I would have started using it right away.  The whole freak out factor I dealt with going into this thing was off the Chemo Meditation Hackcharts.  It was actually the thought of undergoing chemo – more than the cancer itself – that scared me the most.  Be that as it may, I pulled up my Big Girl Pants and did what I had to do.  But THIS is making things notably different, I can tell you for a fact, since I have the “Before” and “After” to compare.  Spoken in a very soothing voice by Belleruth Naparstek, “A Meditation To Help You With Chemotherapy” is an amazing resource to help put chemo in a positive light, reduce adverse side effects, help the body’s immune system, and encourage hope, safety and calm.  There is 20 minutes of a guided meditation and another 20 minutes of affirmations.  I use this primarily at night before I go to bed, and it helps me sleep.  (Fortunately, because it works on the subconscious level, one does not have to be awake to reap the benefits.  Win/Win!!)  I highly recommend this hack for anyone who holds a lot of stress around the subject of getting chemotherapy.  I hope it brings you as much peace as it has me.

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