Tag Archives: Hair

Glad That’s Over

Halloween 2012 Pumpkins

The three pumpkins I carved

Hello folks …

We only handed out candy to about 20 kids on Hallowe’en, which was quite a low number. The rain was appalling early in the evening and must have kept some people close to home. My pumpkins were a success! Having so few visitors means that Alex must finish up all the remaining red and yellow “licorice” – frightful sugary, chemical stuff that bears no resemblance to real licorice at all.

On that note, you might be interested in a posting from Bill Gates about innovation in the field of sugary treats, by a firm called UNREAL Candy.

A serving of Unreal™ candy contains an average of 45 percent less sugar, 13 percent less fat, 23 percent fewer calories, 149 percent more protein and 250 percent more fiber. Impressively, all products are low GI (Glycemic Index).

Unreal™ candy is made with all real food ingredients – no corn syrup, no hydrogenated oils, and no synthetic colors, for example.

That all sounds like a good idea to me, if you are not going to eat regular dark chocolate!

Medical Update
I had the final treatment, on schedule, on Thursday Oct 25 and now I am finished! My readings were a bit low and my feet were suffering quite badly from the CIPN (chemo-induced peripheral neuropathy), so we were unsure whether the Cancer Agency would or should give me the go-ahead. After seeing my blood test results the nurse called the doctor to check. The doctor essentially shrugged her shoulders and said “It’s up to Penny”. I talked to her myself and got no further information or advice. This is not new. It is really quite unbelievable that at the end of day you feel you are directing your own treatment, using expensive, risky drugs with little knowledge as to their efficacy, short term side-effects or long-term impact. They know so little about OC (as opposed to other cancers) … it seems to be a crap shoot.

Now we are at the beginning of the end of this whole process and I will slowly be able to get my health back, regain my physical strength and shake the chemo-brain. They hand out badges for being a Cancer Survivor but I think they should hand out badges for being a Chemo Survivor. I felt fine before this all started!

While you are undergoing chemo treatments in British Columbia you can apply for a Disability tag for your car. (I didn’t bother with this because Alex was looking after me)

After initial treatments the BC Cancer Agency does not track the usual blood marker for ovarian cancer (Ca-125). Apparently elevated markers precede physical awareness of a problem by six to nine months. Research has shown that starting renewed chemo treatments when the marker goes up provides no measurable improvement in outcomes and reduces quality of life earlier than necessary. Second or third rounds of chemo start when the patient is aware of changes to her body that indicate cancer may have returned. Treatments are started after confirming the likelihood of this by reviewing the markers or through physical (surgical) examination.

I am not planning on testing this out.

It seems much longer ago than ten days since my last treatment, but I am still quite easily fatigued, shaky, etc and I have to realize that this will be a slow process. We were surprised to see, in retrospect, that I showed no improvement over the four weeks I didn’t have chemo – perhaps because the reason I was on hiatus was that I was not in good shape and that is likely the case right now. Mmmm … right!

The Outlook

  • A couple of the nurses told me it would be four to six weeks before I started feeling a bit better.
  • My hair did NOT start growing back in the four weeks off – will try for another henna job before that happens. I hope it will start showing some signs of growth in a couple of months. It was fine in the summer, but it is a bit nippy round the edges now 🙂
  • The neuropathy “usually” goes away after a year or so – a year! – but it is not clear if ignoring the burning sensation and starting back to exercise will permanently damage the nerves. It is starting to appear in my right hand as well but I hope that having no more treatments will put a stop to that. I may have to go on drugs for a period of time as the pain in my feet will get worse before it gets better, owing to the nerves re-stitching themselves.
  • Realistically, even when I feel better physically I may not be back at work for several months because of the less tangible chemo-brain side-effects.
  • I should be able to get back to vitamins and supplements a month after the final chemo treatment.

I need to take things slowly and ignore my natural inclination to charge ahead. Quite simply, despite my best efforts, that becomes two steps forward and one step back. My goal is to clear the backlog of emails, bring my office back into shape and throw out a bunch of old stuff over the next few months. It would be nice to catch up with more friends face to face rather than through emails.

I will post updates on this journey on a less frequent basis from now on. I will put together some general thoughts, to provide insight into how you might help other friends going through these treatments. Even though we were close to my ex, Velda, through the six and a half years she took her journey, we can see now that we should have been more pro-active earlier in the process. She was extremely independent and successfully hid many of the issues that arose during her chemo treatments, and we discovered too late that some additional help along the way would have made her life easier. We have seen how things can get out of hand; how one can from time to time become mentally and emotionally drained; and how a more frequent change of scene can really boost the spirits.

I am so glad to have had Alex at my side through all this. She has been a rock. Strong though she is, it has been a lonely and stressful road for her over the last eight months; she has had much to deal with for herself as well. She deserves a very big medal.

Cheers for now …


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!