Triple Whammy or How to Cope with Multiple Cancers: Part V – Smell the Roses – by HD
Even if you are all motivated and positive about your treatment plan (like I discussed here last week), it is good to try to forget for a little while that you are fighting multiple, possibly deadly, cancers.
When one receives radiation treatment it is usually for many weeks, mine was 7 weeks for the throat cancer, and then another 5 weeks for the merkel cell skin cancer. During that time I was effectively town-bound, because I had to go to my treatments every single work day. So, do plan accordingly.
If you can, schedule a nice trip or outing before your radiation starts. There are usually several weeks of healing time after any surgery before you are being radiated (you see, open and healing wounds and radiation treatment really don’t go well together. You don’t want a healing wound bombarded with photon rays).
For me our R&R trip, before my radiation started, was to California’s central coast area. We have family there, and it is a wonderful and magnificent spot to spend a few relaxing days. Sitting on a rock gazing lazily at the ocean, and listen to the waves of the Pacific crashing in, was really very soothing and relaxing.
But there was an ulterior motive too. Because I had done my homework and educated myself about the nature of my cancers and my treatments, I knew that my taste buds would be greatly impacted by the radiation to the neck. So, we decided to collect “taste memories” for me. – Not only did my dear wife cook many “comfort foods” for me, we also deliberately sampled restaurant foods on our trip to California. It was great fun to savor the tastes of the various ethnic cuisines in Monterey and the San Francisco Bay Area. There were good old American favorites, German dishes, Indian foods, Mexican delights, and Chinese delicacies (like Dim Sum and then some).
Interestingly, when my taste buds indeed decided to take a lengthy leave of absence, I could still smell what I was eating, but no longer taste what was passing my pallet. – What a weird and disturbing sensation that was.
Speaking of eating, – did you know that most diets are suspended while fighting cancer? Oh, that definitely was so in my case. Strict doctors orders!! – My radiology oncologist was indeed very worried that I would lose too much weight (ha-ha!!) while being treated for the throat cancer. He even put me and my wife in touch with a nutritionist to discuss how I will be properly nourished when my throat would no longer be able to take solid food. — Now, now – dear Ladies and Gentlemen, don’t get too overly excited. – Cancer is absolutely and most positively NOT a weight loss program that I can recommend (though I did lose about 40 pounds (18 kg) in the course of it … and later promptly gained it back).
Back to the topic at hand. – So, if you can, plan yourself a little distraction and escape to somewhere. – Please do it, you are most definitely worth it !! Go to a place where you can relax. A place you enjoy. A place you feel at peace at. – If you had something planned for a year or two out, maybe you want to pull it in and do it now instead. You are at such an important time in your life, that special arrangements should be made, if at all possible.
If a bigger trip is beyond your means, there are many things you could do instead: walk in a nice park, go to the zoo, have that romantic dinner, get a pedicure or a massage, or let your best friend take you on a day or afternoon drive to the mountains, or to the beach, or to visit that favorite aunt. And if that special concert is playing in your town (even if the tickets are more than you usually would spend on things like this), pamper yourself and go for it. You rock!!
I found it true that after cancer knocked on your door, one sees the world with slightly different eyes. I really now enjoy the splendor of nature more intensely, and the beauty of a piece of art more vividly, and the friendship of a particular person more closely. I know it sounds corny, but do take some time and smell the roses; – besides, it is absolutely free of charge.
Another great way to distract yourself is to see some movies or go to the theater or read a good book. I bought an iPod to listen to music and to hear audio books (great when you’re sitting and waiting in doctor offices). Audio books were also a great item to ask for from folks that wanted to do something for you, but who were too far away. They come usually on CDs and are easily shipped in the mail. I received some wonderful audio books from Europe that way.
We also took out a subscription to Netflix to have movie DVDs delivered to our house. Movies were a superb distraction and we watched a lot of them, but we were very careful in our selections. We mostly watched lighthearted shows and comedies, and definitely stayed away from heavy tragedies or movies that reminded us of suffering and death. I think it is important to keep that in mind, especially when watching television programs, there are definitely some shows on – that are totally unsuitable for cancer sufferers.
Humor is the spice in the soup of life! – Joking is healthy and can take the edge out of awkward situations. And humor can distract from your plight, and make it easier on you and on those around you. – Is there cancer humor? Of course there is!
For instance after a while of radiation I developed a really good looking tan. So when people asked me if I had been out in the sun, I told them about that absolutely fantastic tanning salon I discovered, the one that uses multimillion dollar equipment, and even does spot tanning. – Then I paused for a few seconds, before I explained about the cancer center and radiation treatments.
Before one gets radiation the technicians tattoo markers onto your body (to precisely aim the treating photon rays). Well, I requested a pretty and well endowed mermaid and a sailing ships to be tattooed on me, and I told them so, – but they only gave me those boring little tiny dots. Those folks have no artistic appreciation whatsoever. – Haha, and we all had a good laugh about my comment.
Of course I also told anyone who cared to listen, that as the very good and law abiding German that I am proud to be, I was obliged to contract a “Merkel” cell skin cancer, named after the current German chancellor Angela Merkel (which of course is not true at all, but a mere coincidence).
When people look at my large scars on my neck and the cancer crater on my arm, I tell them that I received those when I defended the White House in Washington D.C. against the British “red coats” in the war of 1812. – It usually takes a couple of seconds, and they start to smile or laugh (or sometimes not).
Tumor humor can be liberating. People feel awkward around cancer patients, they don’t know what to say, or how to say it. – So cracking a joke is great to break the ice and to avoid the painful pause until your conversation partner has gathered up their strength and nerve to talk to you. Yes, it is, of course, hard on the people around you too.
Maybe you have other great and tried suggestions you can share. We’re looking forward to hearing from ya!
In the next chapter we need to roll up our sleeves and go to work; I will write about the actual treatments I received, and what it means to be the “star” in your very own horror show.
Here is to your health!
HD in Oregon
Tags: before radiation therapy for cancer tips, collecting memories for things you could lose during radiation, educating yourself about the cancers you have, finding humor in multiple cancers, managing awkward situations, managing multiple cancers - smell the roses by HD, radition therapy for multiple cancers, tips to get through radiation, treating yourself before radiation therapy