Archive | November, 2011

The Remedy

23 Nov

I have known this song from Jason Mraz for a long time but I had no idea it was a song he wrote for his friend who had cancer. Enjoy!

Chemo-Brained

20 Nov

 

 

Do you have chemo-brain? Like forgetting what you were supposed to get in the supermarket, where you left your keys or even losing what you wanted to say in a conversation when it’s your turn?

Apparently it is not a myth that cancer survivors have deficiencies in their brain performances after chemotherapy, mostly termed by survivors as “chemo-brain”. I suffer from chemo-brain right when I had chemo. It was difficult to recall things that happened a few days before, I had also problems recalling what someone has said. The failings of memory continued into my post-treatment days.

Here is a study that scientists have finally caught on about the changes in the brain after chemotherapy for breast cancer. It is an important study, in my opinion, as this means that breast cancer patients will know very well what chemotherapy does to the body before they sign into it. I for one was not aware of this side effect prior to starting chemo. But more importantly, if this is a proven fact, then there is more urgency to find a method of treatment that will prevent the deterioration of brain function and allow breast cancer survivors to lead a (close to) normal life after treatment.

Click here for the link to the study.

Happy Cancerversary!

20 Nov

It’s my cancerversary today!

Itay & I had a conversation before what cancerversary mean. Does it mean the date when I was diagnosed, or the date when I start treatment or the date that I end treatment? At first I was tempted to make the date of diagnosis my cancerversary but my better half decided that it was too sad a memory to be reminded of every year. So now we decided that cancerversary for us = the date when my treatment ended and the healing begins.

It feels very much longer than a year since my last radiation treatment. Since then I have started on my chinese medication, refurbished a friend’s apartment, went to Israel, started on another apartment job, came back to Singapore, attended two weddings and at the same time learning more and adapting to my post-cancer self. Now I look back at pictures of myself in the past with some unfamiliarity. I don’t seem to remember life before cancer… yet my relationships with my friends and family remind me everyday of the love that I have, the support that saw me through the turmulous two years.

So Happy Cancerversary to me, Itay and my friends and family. Because cancer happens not only to you, it happens to everyone you love as well. One year in remission, and I am looking forward to every year that comes after.

5 Ways to beat the post-cancer treatment blues

15 Nov

What has 30 Rock got to do with breast cancer?

After reading books and searching online for ways to overcome the inevitable blues after cancer treatment, here’s my little list of suggestions which I have found to work:

1) Exercise daily, if not, as much as you can. Find an exercise that you enjoy and set aside time for that. For me, I found swimming a great way to beat the heat in Singapore and the arm stretching also helps to prevent lymphedema. The sensation of being underwater, accompanied by the sounds of water and my own breathing is an effective way to calm my mind from random thoughts.

2) Make plans. It is easy to get stuck with an disinterest with your daily activities. I was sketching a lot more during my treatment days and now I hardly have any interest to pick up a sketch pen. Try to plan small projects which are achievable to get yourself going, and soon you’ll be getting the hang of it.

3) Meet friends. Social withdrawal is a common symptom of the blues. For many months, I mistook my social withdrawal symptoms as a preference for solitude. Buried underneath unknowingly is often a fear and a lack of confidence to meet people, having to deal with them or their reactions if they knew you have cancer. To overcome this, try to arrange meetings with people you enjoy hanging out with.

4) Eat wisely. A lot of the books that I have read point to food and nutrition as a tool to get better, emotionally as well as physically. As your body is healing itself now after the harsh regime of cancer treatment, try to stay away from foods that will kick you into mood swings. I stayed away from caffeine and sugar (only a tiny bit when I really want a snack) and substituted sweets with raisins, nuts and fruits. Those foods not only give you the nutrition that your body so badly needs, they also prevent you from getting a high, followed by an inevitable low.

5) Humour. As much as it sounds weird, it helps tremendously to laugh about something everyday. Try not to take yourself, or your situation too seriously and see the lighter side of things. When things go wrong, have a laugh… you’d be surprised by how you feel. Psychiatrists have often said that your actions determine your feelings (instead of your feelings determine your action). So to lighten up, smile to someone, tell a joke, remember funny stories. I kept a whopping 5 seasons of 30 Rock comedy in my MacBook and they’re always there whenever I need a pick-me-up.

Talk it out.

14 Nov

There is a wonderful source of help in the form of kind voices whose faces you don’t see… and they belong to the counsellors at the Singapore National Cancer Centre Helpline.

If you feel like speaking to someone but you just feel like your friends or family will not understand what you’re saying, the cancer helpline is a good source of support. Oncology nurse counsellors are on the other end of the phone and they are trained with speaking with cancer patients, whether if you are dealing with the anxieties of your diagnosis or the side effects of cancer treatment. Most of all, it is absolutely anonymous and you will not be pressured to reveal any personal details if you do not feel comfortable. I called to ask about the tightness of my right arm last week and the nurse was kind enough to mail over some illustration of physiotherapy exercises that could help.

To speak with a National Cancer Centre oncology nurse counsellor, you can call them between Monday to Friday, 8.30am to 5.30pm at (65) 6225 5655. Alternatively you can also reach them at cancerhelpline [at]nccs.com.sg

The Big C

2 Nov

Sometime during my diagnosis, coincidentally there was a drama series called “The Big C” airing on TV. Featuring Laura Linney, one of my favourite actresses, the series is about a 40-something year old woman (Linney) who is diagnosed with Stage 4 Melanoma and she does not know what to do or how to tell her husband, her son and her bi-polar brother.

For a heavy topic like the big “C”, the writers have done a great job in showing the lighter side of cancer but at the same time digging into the psyches of cancer patients – how sometimes we just want to make fun of our own situation because it just makes dealing with it easier. There is a scene which just cracks me up – someone at a store tried to cut Linney’s line by saying, ” Sorry but I’m really in a big hurry” to which Linney replied, “Excuse me, it’s not ok. I’m in a big hurry too – I have CANCER.” and proceeds to dump her purchases on the cashier.