Sunday, August 26, 2012

Good Stuff for Tough Times

I'm a fairly practical girl. And despite what my husband may tell you about my camping abilities - I like to be prepared (forget to bring sleeping bags one time and you never hear the end of it).  I was also the obnoxious new mom who refused to give birth until every item of the recommended baby layette was safely folded and put away in the nursery.  But when I found myself with a first class ticket to the cancer train - I didn't have a clue how to pack for the trip.

Besides obvious tips such as "purchase a wig or scarf in advance of losing your hair" there's not a lot of information out there on how to get ready for something as life-changing as breast cancer - no layette I've ever run across.  And though, as it turned out, I was probably no better equipped for motherhood by possessing four infant footie pajamas instead of three - there is something to be said for being able to prepare.  So here are a few of the tried-and-trues that have made my life easier these last few months.  Whether for yourself or a friend, I hope you never find the need to refer to this list.  But it doesn't hurt to be prepared - just in case.

 The Can-Suh Layette

Diagnosis

Good luck "procedure panties"- Ok, this one might sound a little weird, but for as long as I've been participating in pap exams I've always felt compelled to somehow dress up for the event.  Thus the origin of "procedure panties".  These are just a little sexier than normal to boost self confidence and ward off bad news.  Oh it works.  It's science.  And they definitely came in handy during the month or so of diagnostic testing.

Mastectomy 

JP drains - evil.  But a necessary evil.
Mastectomy tank - Let's get one thing straight - there is nothing sexy about JP drains.  They are weird, a little ooky, and make you feel like a sea dwelling creature. They are also tricky to maneuver - like juggling a couple of water balloon sling shots (yeah there's a visual for ya).  They also necessitate a brand of apparel I once didn't even realize existed.  Post-mastectomy undergarments such as tank tops, camisoles and even shower belts come equipped with a variety of pockets, hooks and straps designed to master the slippery little bulbs.  They also have slots for "pillow boobs" if you so desire - I didn't.  And though if I had to do it over again I'd probably invest in one of the shower belts (Helpful tip:  you can also clip them to a lanyard around your neck) I couldn't see shelling out 50 bones for something I'd only be wearing for a couple of weeks. I opted for a white cotton number provided by the hospital and it suited me just fine.  

Button up shirts - This is another must to stock up on for the post-mastectomy recovery period.  You will need a couple of shirts and pajama tops maybe a size or so larger than normal so as to accommodate for the JP tank top.  Think soft, cotton and nothing that you have to slip over your head - because it's not going to happen for a while.

Chemotherapy

Altoids wintergreen mints - Chemotherapy caused the majority of my taste buds to go on an undetermined hiatus - replacing them with the alluring flavor combination of tinfoil, dish soap and graphite pencil. Thankfully these little mints pack a punch strong enough to get rid of the weird metallic aftertaste.  Kudos to you, Altoids!

Eucerin calming cream - Chemo makes skin turn three shades of dry and this stuff is about as close to a miracle cure as I've ever found.  Seriously fabulous.  Use as moisturizer, make-up remover or just to soothe what ails ya.

A really comfy favorite shirt might earn you a nap if you're lucky.

Favorite shirt - This runs along the same vein as "procedure panties" except worn during chemotherapy treatments.  My current shirt d' jour happens to be a purple Doma Coffee tee made of the softest cotton imaginable.  But because it can be a little chilly to sit for hours on end receiving refrigerated IV medications, I sometimes alternate between that and my fav Buddha shirt, a pair of yoga pants and fuzzy socks.  The take home message being you should wear comfy clothes for treatments - and be sure to consider layers.  Trust me -  you'll thank me later.

Dove Body Wash - As I may have mentioned, chemotherapy does weird things to your skin.  Mostly it just dries it out but it also cause skin to become much more sensitive or prone to break outs.  And of course there is that pesky hair loss.  My hair fell out about three weeks after my first dose which is also about the time I discovered Dove body wash.  It's hydrating enough to combat dry, sensitive skin - even on my newly naked chrome dome.  And at the risk of sounding like an infomercial it's also PH balanced.  I wouldn't use anything else - and I'd like to think my skin thanks me for it. 

Burt's Bees lip balm - Lips get dry too so be sure to stock up on your favorite lip balm.  There are plenty of brands to choose from, but to really soothe sweet lips - try Burt's Bees lip balm.  You can't go wrong with Burt's Bees but my personal favorite is pink grapefruit.  It's citrus-y, fresh and even coordinates with that whole "breast cancer chic" color scheme.  What's not to love?


General

Kindle Fire - I happen to be a strong supporter of print media.  I love the feel of flipping through pages of a book or magazine and my home is filled with shelves stacked with literature collected over the years.  So imagine my surprise when the new literary love of my life happened to be a Kindle my husband bought for me before going into surgery. Filled with back-lit digital books whose pages can be turned with the tap of a fingertip, that thing has been my constant companion during long sleepless nights.  And because you can also access internet, it has also kept me connected to all of you (as well as updated about Hollywood gossip- which weirdly makes me feel better about my own life).  So even though I'm not ready to shelve my "real" books anytime soon, I've warmed up to electronic media too - especially in times like these!

Juicer - We were recently generously gifted with a Breville Juicer.  And while (full disclosure) I probably would have never ponied up for yet-another-appliance-to-take-up-precious-counter-space,  I am so thankful for it!  With defunct taste buds and a queasy stomach, I've had a difficult time powering down fibrous fruits and veggies that my body desperately needs.  But with a juicer I can easily drink a mug of kale, celery, apples, carrot, lemon, ginger - you name it.  I feel healthier, hydrated and I've even got the kids hooked on the stuff. 



So, that's a few of the products that I think are worth the money - and have helped to ease my road so far.  I'll be sure to keep adding to the list as I discover new "gems".  And for all you warriors who have come before me - What helped you along?