Tag Archives: Chemo Side Effects

Henna Hat and Update

Hello everyone …

Henna Hat
A couple of weeks ago Alex and two other friends separately suggested I get a henna tattoo done on my head (thanks Lynne and Lorie). Alex was leery of a complete “henna hat” and thought I should have a small saying inscribed at the back of the head. I decided to go with the full Monty and the pictures below show how it turned out (click for larger images).

The concept is based on the mehndi designs of the South Asian community and I went to the Little India section of Vancouver to get it done. Traditional patterns include floral and decorative abstract designs. It was a little thoughtless of me to wear a white, collared shirt that day! The process involves free-form painting on the scalp, using small tubes of henna, which goes on very dark and dries over a few hours. Of course, you can’t touch your head over this time, which is surprisingly difficult if you drive a car or wear glasses (you can see how tight the design is to my glasses)! When it has fully dried you rub off the hardened bits to reveal the design, which darkens over the first couple of days. With the right care the whole thing can last two to three weeks.

I was pretty pleased and wished I had thought of it sooner. I’ve had many compliments on it and as many men as women ask questions. Men are particularly interested in it if they naturally have little or no hair. Bald is beautiful these days but clearly there is an interest in mixing it up a bit. The “do” was also met with great interest at the Cancer Agency, where very few women bare their heads. I think this would be a fun service for both men and women going through the treatments.

Not sure what can be done about the eyelashes – of which I now have only five on each eye!

Health Update
I only have three treatments left to go now, but the rubber is finally hitting the road and I have been extremely fatigued between recent chemos. The bone marrow is getting hit harder with each treatment and taking longer to recover. This leads to the fatigue and being quite short of breath because not enough oxygen is getting into the blood. Other side effects that are causing some nuisance include being cold most of the time (another bone marrow side effect), not being able to taste things properly, sore gums and very sore feet. The gums are a function of the chemo affecting fast-growing cells and the foot problems are symptoms of nerve damage caused by the Taxol chemo I am receiving. These should all end a few months after the treatments stop (October 19).

Having said that, I’ve been doing quite well otherwise and Alex and I were able to go to the wedding of friends on Vancouver Island this past weekend. The weather has continued to be lovely for the last two months and we had only one very short shower last Friday. The sun has been shining and the days are still pleasantly warm. It is always nice to take these short breaks and the ferry ride to Vancouver Island makes it feel like you are really going away on a holiday, reminding me of the Hull/Rotterdam ferry to Europe as a child.

I recently finished Just My Type, a very interesting and illuminating book on fonts: history, creators, uses, best, worst, etc. A very easy read, with visual examples of almost all the fonts discussed.

I’ve been interested in this subject since my parents were publishers in the 1960’s and we had lots of technical and design documents lying around the office. Their business spanned a time of enormous changes in the world of printing, moving from hot metal to computers. My parents installed the very first computer typesetting in Scotland – a venture frustrated by the unions of the time, to the point where they sold the printing arm of the business and kept the publishing side. One of their weekly classified advertising publications was still in existence 40 years later, but appears to have recently bitten the dust just as most print advertising has.

I will post again in a couple of weeks, as I come to the end of the chemo. Whoo hoo!



Hair Today, More Tomorrow

Hello everyone …

I’ve been really enjoying the shaved head look this summer! Small children are puzzled by me but just stare quietly. I am sure I would have asked my parents, but in the ’60s a bare head of any kind was cause for comment! Grown-ups ignore it.

Sometimes it really doesn’t feel any cooler than when I had hair, but when the breeze comes it is nice and refreshing. Now that we are getting cooler evenings I am back to wearing baseball caps and other head gear to keep me protected. Never a very warm-bodied person I find I am generally a bit colder, even on warm, sunny days. This is probably because the blood cells are working overtime and can’t be doing everything they should.

Here is what I looked like before all this started.
Current Look
This is how I look now. Yes, that is Glenlivet in the glass – OK for the period between chemo Cycles.

Apparently hair often comes back curly, with a different texture and with a touch of some other colour – commonly a lilac/purple tint!

I am into Cycle 4 now (just over the half way mark) and starting to feel a lot more fatigued. This is a bit frustrating as I have generally felt around 80% normal so far. I stopped the steroids, which I believed was a good thing, but the substitute anti-nausea drug had some unpleasant side-effects so I may revert back. There are a few more chemo related things kicking in which are a bit boring – sore gums, kind of a bad taste in my mouth and some nerve damage in my feet. However, I suspect from the questions I am asked that things could be a lot worse.

It is now indisputably apparent that while some people are as inquisitive as I am about the process, the illness, the treatment etc others very much take a head-in-the-sand approach. Neither side understands the other. The nurses have to sound out each patient before giving information, so that they answer questions appropriately for the person involved. I think that most of the nurses, as a result of their training, are of my mindset but they are conscious that many patients need to be protected on the knowledge front. My sense is that despite being asked direct questions the doctors themselves hold back information or try to sugar-coat it from habit. This is frustrating in the extreme and I have had to do a lot of my own research.

Travel and Reading
We had a lovely visit with our friends Janet and Chris a couple of weekends ago. They live about three hours east of Vancouver in Merritt, a small town where the pace is slow and the weather very enjoyable. I was delighted to find that Chris had been struggling through Thinking Fast and Slow and has obviously picked up much more from it than I have. He had all sorts of things to discuss about it but admitted that it was heavy going. I understand President Obama has also read it – would love to hear his views but don’t want to distract him from other more pressing matters at hand!

We normally have one ant hill location in our garden but this year we had at least two others as well. I understand from a friend in Perthshire that the ants have been particularly bad there as well. Something is up!

On the two nights after chemo I sleep in the spare room as I am totally wired with the drugs, don’t sleep well and am up often! The other night I heard a lot of banging around and it sounded as if someone was trying to break in either to our house or a neighbour’s house. I looked out of the window to see two baby racoons and a mother racoon (well, it might have been a father – it is 2012 after all) playing on my hammock! They were having a ball and causing it to swing around and bang the cross bars against the frame. Their hearing is very keen. I only pulled back the curtain but they noticed me watching, but figuring I was no danger they just kept playing.

Thanks for the flowers and gifts and encouraging emails. It always great to hear from you but particularly so these days.