The Migraine

Yesterday, for the second time in the last month, I had a migraine.  A knock you off your feet, can’t open my eyes, wavy line, sick stomach migraine.  It had hit in the middle of the night and was at it’s peak by about noon.  The weather this summer has definitely not helped but there are other contributing factors at work too.  First of all, I truly believe that my constitution has changed significantly since Kevin’s death.  Thus, the medication that I am on affects me differently now, I think it has become too strong and my stomach can’t tolerate it.

Another thing significantly different since my husband’s death, is the way I eat.  As Kevin’s disease progressed we became more and more conscious of the foods we ate.  We focused on an alkaline diet supplemented by various minerals and vitamins.  I don’t remember having migraines, despite the stress, in the last six months before Kevin died.

After his death certain things became less important, one of those was meal planning.  I just didn’t care.  Didn’t matter what I had to eat, it all tasted like nothing anyway.  Since his death I had to adjust to it being just me, so there is little impetus to make a full or a balanced meal.  It’s easier to take something premade out of the freezer (if something’s there) or just have a bowl of cereal,or crackers and milk, put something in my belly to satisfy the feeling of hunger.

I will cook if I have a reason to cook.  If I am having family or friends over then I enjoy putting a meal together, but if no one is coming over, then no biggie – likely whatever I can find that is easy is it.  This I believe is a significant part of my problem.   Physically after a death there are things that happen, grief changes a person enormously.  Lack of strength, energy, confidence all knock you down very low.  Building back up is tentative, little steps, sometimes no steps, sometimes just standing is as good as it gets.  Add on top of that not eating properly and well, it’s laying the groundwork for feeling lousy in a different way.  No one wants to feel lousy, but sometimes we can be our own worse enemies.

I got up this morning and my hands and legs are both shaky from the migraine, from the drugs.  This is not a state I care to revisit, although I know I will since I’ve experienced migraines for most of my life.  However, if ever something was underscored for me this was it – I need to remember to eat properly.  I felt good eating alkaline.  It’s time to go back to what worked.

Prednisone Withdrawal

Broken, corroded and useless ...

Broken, corroded and useless …

We are coming to the end of the treatment cycle for prednisone. My husband had started off at 12 tablets or 60 mg. We have systematically reduced the dosage by 2 tablets every 5 days. We are now at a dosage of 2 tablets or 10 mg.

The decreasing dosage continues to have impacts on my husband. The fatigue associated with it is quite overwhelming. At least we believe the two to be connected. Dark eyes and low morale and absolutely no energy have been his reality for the last couple of days. He called the family GP this morning since he needs the assurance that how he is feeling is from the drug and not the cancer.

This is the legacy of cancer – it undermines everything. A pain, an ache, a sore muscle – any of these relatively mundane complaints can send thoughts spiraling about cancer’s stealthy attack.

It’s Been One Week

A week ago we met with the Oncologist to discuss options.  We left the hospital that day with the picc line removed and the knowledge that there would be no more chemotherapy treatments for two months.

First – the removal of the picc line.  When the picc line was inserted back in July, it was done behind a screen.  My husband’s arm was extended and two individuals (not sure whether this was a nurse and technician or doctor) worked behind the screen to prep and insert the picc line.  It was inserted using local freezing and consequently pretty painless.  The first couple of weeks he was really aware of having the line in, but things became pretty routine afterwards.  Showering was no issue as we would wrap his arm in a press and seal type of cling wrap which made the whole area waterproof.  He found it a bit uncomfortable to sleep on that side (left) and so he tended to sleep more on his back.  For appointments where they needed easy access to the picc line he wore short sleeved, button up shirts.  The nurse routinely flushed the line once a week and it was not problematic in any way.  Last week they removed the line.  It surprised my husband to see how long it actually was, right up his arm into his chest.  It was a little uncomfortable coming out as it was removed without any sort of freezing – not painful, just uncomfortable.  The incision point was remarkably small.  He came away with a fairly dense area bandage which we were to remove the next day.  The incision has since healed completely with no issues.  He’s back to a full range of sleeping positions without needing to be mindful of the external hardware that had been taped to his arm.  All is good on that front.

Second – No chemotherapy for two months.  We have had a week to assimilate this information and what it can mean.  It doesn’t mean that we have lost our resources.  Certainly we can contact Oncology at any point to get some assistance.  It does mean that we can take a strong run at diet modification.  During chemo the intake of high protein meals is essential to rebuild and repair blood cells, consequently it was easy to include a lot of meat in our daily diet.  While researching an alkaline diet the focus is on reducing the amount of acidic foods in the diet and meat falls in this category.  So with the luxury of a little time we are now looking at a diet that ticks all the nourishment needs for health and wellbeing but not through reliance on meat.  It’s a learning process which we have just started.  One of the most helpful sites I have found in this regard is http://www.alkalinesisters.com/ which provides lots of information supported by a wealth of research.  We’ve also found a cookbook that has some pretty decent recipes, Eating the Alkaline Way (Corrett and Edgson).  We made the mini pizzas last night, mine was artichoke and basil with mozzarella, my husband’s was fennel, sweet potato and goat’s cheese.  We did cheat and use premade shells – it is still baby steps for us. They turned out awesome. There is so much more to learn and try.  There are so many articles written on real life experiences of people who have successfully beaten the odds using an alkaline diet.  As my hubby says – he has no choice but to try this.

Interestingly, I spoke to the pharmacist and obtained a litmus paper sample which measures pH (acidity or alkalinity) and when he tested, my husband was at 7.0  which is a good reading since anything above 7.0 is considered alkaline.  This reading is not overly surprising; since he was diagnosed with cancer my husband has started every day with a warm glass of lemon water, and throughout the day drank a homeopathic remedy of ginger/lemon/maple syrup as well as a nice Kefir/kale smoothie, and just generally added more fruit and veg to his diet.  When he was suffering from chemo effects meat had no appeal for him – it was too heavy and dense – makes you wonder.  This journey really impresses on me how forgiving the human body is.  We cut ourselves – we heal, we break a bone – it mends, we nourish our bodies appropriately – we can send some diseases packing.  There’s everything to be gained in feeding ourselves properly.

Visit Pre-Chemo #4

We will take a lesson from Oblio and focus, focus, focus.

Oblio – the mighty hunter.  Every night we have a mouseacre in our backyard!

Yesterday was blood work and consultation with the Oncologist prior to chemotherapy scheduled for today.  This would be the fourth and final session in this treatment cycle.  We attended the clinic and had the blood work drawn and then waited to meet with the Oncologist.  Previously, after the third session of chemo, the Oncologist had reviewed a CT scan taken at that time and had given my husband very positive feedback but had identified a potential infection in his lungs.  Since that time, my husband had been for repeat CT scan to see if the pleural effusion in his lungs had cleared up as a result of the antibiotics he had been prescribed.

Again, yesterday’s results and discussion with the Oncologist remained quite positive.  The pleural effusion has not cleared up completely but has reduced slightly.  This led the Oncologist to believe that perhaps what was happening in my husband’s lungs was actually a reaction to the chemotherapy.  Based on that, and on the fact that my husband’s physical response after three sessions of chemo was likely to be optimal, we considered whether a fourth session would provide any benefit, or if in fact, it could present risk.

We were presented with two options.  First, my husband could have his fourth session of chemo as scheduled (today), after which they would enrol him in a maintenance program where he would get a small infusion of chemotherapy every three weeks.  The second option was that he could stand down from his chemo treatment, with no oncology treatments for two months. At the end of this period he would have a CT scan and blood work to determine the status of the cancer in his lungs/bones, and an appointment with Oncology.  With the first option he would remain immune-compromised, however, Oncology would have close scrutiny of the status of his disease.  With the second option he would be required to self-monitor and advise Oncology if anything was presenting that could show the disease was back in action prior to his two month appointment.   Needless to say, he elected to go with option two, and consequently he was able to have his picc line removed.

For us this is a slight reprieve.  We have an opportunity to make serious modifications to lifestyle and diet.  We have two months to continue to work towards improving my husband’s health.  My goal has always been to make him “that guy.”  The one the Oncologist will reference at the discussion table when considering what the optimal outcome is.  The guy that beats the odds or pushes the boundary just that much further.  Whether he will be that guy or not remains to be seen, however, we will explore all options and research thoroughly what is available.

Our first objective – switch to an alkaline diet.

#2 – An Alkaline Diet

This is the second dietary change we considered.   Apparently cancer thrives in an acidic environment.  Changing the pH of the body can make a significant impact where cancer is concerned.  Having an alkaline diet, rich in fruits and vegetables, will assist in in creating an environment that discourages cancer cells and growth.  Again, I am not an expert on this and would suggest that those who are interested in cancer prevention search this out.

Overall this made sense to us and we made some changes to our diet.  But in our case we don’t have the luxury of time.  Since chemo is underway we need to ensure a lot of protein is included in the diet to rebuild the immune system.   However, we both now start our day with a glass of room temperature lemon water.  And of course fresh fruits and vegetables make up a significant portion of our diet as well.

Lots of good info out there on this one.  Happy researching.