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Help, please!

Who LIKES to ask for help? In many societies we are conditioned to ask for help only when we need it, like for a ride to the airport, and in doing so we may feel as though we are inconveniencing the helper. I have learned that, for the most part, people really do want to help each other out, particularily in times of crisis, but it is often up to the one struggling to be courageous enough to ask for the help they need. I want to share with you a story in which a woman reached out to me for help, and how stangers came together to lend a hand.

I had been in touch with a woman through a local on-line group, with the purpose of giving and recieving, and although I did not know her, we had previously communicated. She sent me a message last weekend saying that she was in despirate need of pants and sweaters and asked if I had any extra winter clothes. After learning what sizes she would need, I decided to post on social media the specifics of what I was looking for to help this woman. I immediately had women responding to me that they would be happy to help out. Two ladies went through their closets, one of which also purchased a new sweater, another lady went shopping and purchased several outfits, plus socks and slippers. After picking up the items, I met up with the woman who made the request, and she was thrilled to recieve so much from strangers. In the meantime, I have had others reach out to me to offer to go through their closets to see what they have to donate. When they do, I will drop off those items as well. This really is not about me, though. It’s about the bravery of asking for help, and people coming together to fill the need.

In the US there is much abundance, and much struggle. When you are struggling the easiest thing to do is to take each day as it comes and push through it. The hard thing to do is to ask others to lend a hand. It takes courage, and strength to ask for what you need and rely on the generosity of others.

I am inspired by the woman who was in need and asked for help and I’m in awe of the selfless women that came together to fill that need for a complete stranger. This is not someone they will ever meet, or know of her situation, they just did what they could, because they could. It felt very powerful knowing that we, as women, have it in us to make the difference in the lives of another person. Simply by sharing what we have. Imagine the possibilities if those who needed a hand asked for what they needed, and those who could, provided the help. I know in some cases, it’s not that simple, but it doesn’t have to be as complicated as it is either. Whether it’s a ride, clothing, food, or really, anything..imagine what we could do together. We are powerful, and together, unstopable. All it would take is the bravery to ask, and the willingness to say yes.

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Win the weight loss game!

The US weight loss market is worth billions! Why? Because most weight loss programs, do not work for the long haul, so people are going from one diet to the next, or stopping and starting over and over. If you would like to lose some weight, however, you CAN do it without investing in the weight loss industry.

There are some people that need the structure of counting calories, points, or being told what to eat, and some can be successful at these plans. But, before you put your money into these, really think about whether the changes are something you can sustain for the long haul. While some plans eliminate a whole food group, I’m not a fan of these unless you have a medical reason, or if you know that you feel better not consuming certain foods.

Don’t even get me started on diets that use meal replacement products! Be aware of what you are putting into your body!

First, let’s do away with the word, “diet.” The word itself implies a temporary weight loss program, with results that are temporary because the changes are not sustainable. I prefer the words, “food plan” or simply “nutrition.”

The people that have the most success at weight loss are mentally ready. Find your WHY. What are your reasons for wanting to loose the weight? Do you want to prevent disease? Feel better? What would loosing that weight do for you?

Once you have your reason in mind, come up with a plan that you can sustain over the long haul. I respect each person’s belief’s of what foods are right for them and work for their bodies. We are all individuals! I will encourage you, though, to eat less or no processed food, reduce sugar, drink more water, eat fruits and veggies, lean proteins (or beans/legumes/nuts and seeds) and whole grains. (See my previous blog about adding in nutrients.) When you decide what type of nutrition is right for your body, plan your meals, stick to your shopping list and prepare snacks and meals ahead of time when you can.

Enlist Support. Explain to your friends and family that you are focusing on nutrition and tell them you would appreciate their support. Then tell them HOW they can support you. Often times people want to support you in changes, but don’t know what support means to you. Perhaps your family can help by keeping processed foods out of the house. Or, maybe you ask a friend to try different restaurants when you go out.

Speaking of going out, more and more restaurants have their menus on line now, so selecting your food ahead of time is easy and will help you from straying from your plan. Menu’s can be deceiving, so don’t hesitate to ask your server how an item is prepared. Most places are happy to make adjustments to meet the needs of it’s patrons.

Fitness is an important part of a weight loss plan. Exercise helps with metabolism, is good for your heart and mind, and muscle burns more calories than fat does.

Lastly, be kind to yourself. Love yourself enough to make healthy choices, and give yourself grace when you do not. Life happens. The key is to pick yourself up and keep trying. You deserve to live a healthy, vital life, and it’s up to you to make it a reality!

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Birthdays and Survivorship

I’m feeling a bit sentimental today, and as a result, this blog will be more personal than previous posts. Last week was my birthday, my 50th! Despite the milestone and the fact that a few weeks ago I started receiving mailings from AARP, I was excited about this birthday.

I have never been into big birthday celebrations, instead having a nice family dinner was more my speed. Beyond that, I always felt it was a normal day. Even this year, at some point on my birthday I had the same thought about birthday’s that I have always had: You wake up, someone says happy birthday, and then it’s like any other day. This year, though, I had the thought because what I did on my actual birthday was cleaning and buying groceries. But, the reason I was doing those things was because I threw myself a big party over the weekend. (It was SO fun!)

In the process of getting ready for my party I began reflecting on birthdays after cancer. Because I had delayed reconstruction, for me it took several years before I felt like I was done with recovery and ready to move forward. I think, too, many survivors have to let some time pass before they move from that fear of recurrence to celebrating the years clicking by. That’s what I did this weekend, though, celebrate! I invited friends and family, and even hired a musician. Celebrating age IS different after cancer. I’m happy I’m getting older, because, let’s face it, the alternative is not a good one. Every year I age is another year I have been blessed with my friends and family.

Now that I’m in the survivorship mind-set, I also think about the quality of the years ahead. Having a can-do attitude is a huge part of survivorship, and health for anyone. Getting your mind focused on your goals and beliefs is half the battle! I strive to eat healthy the majority of the time (yes, I did have cake for my birthday), and I exercise, but not as a punishment for the times that I didn’t eat healthy. Rather, fitness is a celebration of what my body can do. Although I am a work in progress with both my nutrition and fitness, I AM making changes and improving, because I believe I can and I want to do it in order to continue quality health for years to come!

While celebrating birthdays in the survivorship years is important, daily joy is equally important. Each of us may experience daily stress with work, relationships, or finances, but that’s all the more reason to incorporate joy into our days. Maybe it’s a short, funny video, or reading, or a conversation with a friend. Whatever activity brings you joy and reduces stress, for even a short time, will in turn benefit your health.

Here’s to joy…in the small moments, and the big ones! Whether you have experienced cancer or not, I hope you, too, celebrate each day and each year that you have been given by choosing to incorporate healthy actions.

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Are you adding or subtracting?

How are your New Years resolutions going? Did you resolve to eat healthier, lose weight,  or exercise more? Being a few weeks into the New Year is when the new resolutions tend to start losing momentum, and maybe it’s time to re-group.

If your goal is to be healthier, whether or not you want to lose weight, both fitness and nutrition changes are key. Yes, doing one or the other is helpful, but to truly be healthy you need to incorporate both. Obviously when you are incorporating fitness, you are adding something to your life. It may be new to you, or you may be taking it up a notch. When it comes to nutrition, many make changes by eliminating certain foods or food groups. I encourage my clients to instead add foods. Think about all the delicious, colorful, nutritious foods, and add them in to your day.

Although salads are an easy way to incorporate a variety of vegetables, here are some other ideas to add nutrition to your day.

*Smoothies are great if you are not a big fan of greens, but want to take advantage of their nutrients. Spinach and kale make great additions to smoothies, and if paired with fruit, you’ll hardly notice them. Frozen fruit works well in smoothies and is picked and frozen at the peak of freshness, so it is full of nutrients.

*Roasted veggies are good all year, but especially in the cold weather months. Simply chop any veggie into bite sized pieces, drizzle with a little olive oil and seasoning, toss and bake in a 400 degree oven until done. Time will vary depending on the vegetable and size, so start checking at 15 minutes and go from there. Experiment with seasonings, parsley, oregano and thyme are my favorite standbys.

*Then there is soup. It may take a little time, but the rewards are so worth it! If you take the time to make a big batch of vegetable soup you will end up with several delicious and nutritious meals. If you have left over roasted vegetables from another meal, toss those in towards the end of the cooking time. Less chopping and more flavor! Add beans or quinoa to your soup for protein and variety.

If you focus on adding in more colors and nutrients, you are less likely to want the non-healthy options. Slowly, over time your taste buds will adjust and you will crave the healthier foods. Tuning in to your body is helpful too. If, for example, you find yourself wanting ice cream you can tune in to your body to decide if it’s emotional or simply that you are craving something creamy. If you are reaching for the ice cream out of stress, or some other emotion, try distracting yourself until the feeling passes. If you want that cool, creamy treat, try substituting the ice cream with a blended frozen banana with milk of choice. (I add a little cocoa powder to mine. Mmmm!) Substituting healthier options helps with the transition as your body adjusts to the changes.

Depriving yourself of unhealthy food options works, but really, who wants to go through life thinking about what you can’t have. Why not focus on the beautiful, nutritious things you can have? We are so fortunate in the USA to have access to fresh fruits and veggies! My hope is that people will become as excited to eat roasted veggies as they are about their favorite dessert. I also hope that fitness becomes something that we view as a celebration of what our bodies can do, rather than a punishment for what we have eaten. May you continue to add to your health and your life!

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Finish 2018 strong!

For many the last weeks of any year are busy and may involve parties, family gatherings and travel. Schedules are different and there is much to do. This can lead to lots of high calorie party food, drive thru’s, and ultimately, food regret. The best way to avoid the January weight loss resolution is to prepare for the pitfalls now. With a little bit of planning and self-awareness, you can close out the year feeling strong and healthy!

Whether you are running errands close to home, traveling by car, or plane it’s helpful to have snacks along. Here are my best on-the-go healthy snacks:

* Homemade trail mix. The bulk bins at grocery stores are a great source for raw, organic nuts and seeds. Purchasing them this way will save you money too! Grab a scoop of several varieties, then mix all together in a resealable bag or container. You can also add dried cranberries or raisins, just be mindful of the portion, and if possible select fruits that are low sugar. (I saw low sugar dried cranberries in a bulk bin at my local grocery store.) You can then portion your mix into snack size bags so that there is always one ready to head out the door with you. Nuts are a great source of protein and healthy fat, which will help you power through all you need to do. The oils, however, can cause them to become rancid, so store your nuts in the fridge or freezer for lasting freshness. This week I made a mix of walnuts, cashews, almonds, pistachios, pumpkins seeds and dried cranberries.

 

 

*Roasted Chickpeas are another great source for on-the-go protein and so easy to make. Simply rinse a can of chickpeas, place on a sheet pan and pat dry. Add just enough olive oil to coat, shake pan or stir, then add seasoning of your choice. (I like a few pinches of cayenne pepper.) Bake in a 400 degree oven for about 1 hour, shaking the pan a few times during the cooking. I like to cook mine until they are really crunchy.

 

 

*Apples, bananas and grapes are easy to grab and provide fiber, nutrients and a burst of energy.

 

 

*Veggies and hummus are a powerful road trip snack with protein and many nutrients. Talk about eating a rainbow! Scoop some hummus into a food storage container and stick your veggies right on top of the hummus. Carrots, celery, broccoli, cauliflower, snap peas, bell peppers, cucumber, and cherry tomatoes are all good options and if you are short on time, you can purchase some of these pre-cut.

 

 

If you are going to a party or family gathering and eating at odd times, it’s a great idea to have a healthy snack before leaving home, so you’re not over-hungry by the time the meal is served. Being mindful of your portions and drinking plenty of water will also prevent eating too much.

Just because you are surrounded by special holiday treats, or too busy to cook, doesn’t mean you need to eat everything in sight or make poor choices. With a little moderation and planning, you can go forward into 2019 feeling strong and healthy!

Happy holidays!

 

 

 

 

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Sweet dreams, my friend

How did you sleep last night? Did you get enough sleep? How was the quality?

I was so proud of myself last night because I wanted to start the week off right and I got myself to bed at a decent time, allowing myself 7 – 8 hours of rest before my alarm would wake me. Then I had horrible dreams, and although the amount of time I slept was good, the quality was poor and I got up feeling like I needed a couple more hours in bed. That got me thinking about the quantity vs quality, and what we can all do to promote a restful night.

First let’s take a step back and think about why sleep is so important.

*Sleep aides in both cognitive and physical function. I still struggle with, “chemo brain” and I notice it is worse when I am tired. However, you don’t have to have experienced chemo to struggle remembering things. We live in a fast paced world, with lots to do and remember, and it is that much harder without an adequate amount of sleep. The body’s response time is slower with less sleep. One cause of auto accidents is sleep deprivation because of the slowed mental and physical reaction of drivers. With quality sleep not only will you function better at work and home, but it also provides safety for yourself and others.

*A restful night leads to healthy decisions. When you feel rested, you are more likely to get in some exercise, or put more effort into it. When you exercise, and feel strong, you are more likely to make healthy food choices. Also, when you’re tired, it’s natural to reach for easy food solutions. Often that means package, processed, or even take-out, which are all going to leave you feeling more tired. One good habit leads to another, and I have said to my clients, it all starts the night before!

*Sleep aids the immune system. Getting an appropriate amount of quality sleep will help you fight off any germs you come into contact with and prevent illness. Although getting enough sleep during the holiday season is especially challenging, in many climates it’s also the cold and flu season, and it’s particularly important to keep your immune system in optimal condition with rest.

There are many reasons a person is fatigued from a poor night’s sleep. Let’s see if you can identify with any of these…

*You simply do not schedule enough time for sleep on a consistent basis.

*You cannot shut off your brain. I think this is one of the most common reasons for lack of sleep!

*You get up 1 or more times a night to use the restroom.

*You have a sleep condition

*Pain

Although experts say that 7 – 8 hours of sleep is ideal, there are some people who need less, and some more. Each person is different and you need to find the amount that is best for you. When it comes to the quality of sleep, people often feel helpless, but there are things that you can do to set yourself up to promote sleep.

*Create a routine prior to going to bed. Turn off devices and write down anything you need to remember the next morning. Do you need to stop at the bank or post office? Write it down and get it off your mind. Then wash your face, brush teeth and apply lotion if you choose. Do you, just create some sort of routine. The point is to clear your mind and cue your body that it’s time to get ready to sleep.

*We are know that caffeine, can leave you tossing and turning, so be aware of when you are reaching for that pick me up and consider a non-caffeinated option. (Try water! Dehydration can lead to fatigue.)

*Be mindful of how much of anything you drink as you near your bedtime or you’ll be making several bathroom trips during the night.

*I said that a good night’s sleep will aid with exercise and healthy eating, and it goes both ways! Move your body and fuel your body with healthy food throughout the day and you will sleep better. Think of young children who run around and play hard..they also sleep hard. Have you ever noticed that you experience restless sleep after eating a greasy, high fat meal? Balanced nutrition is key for over-all wellness, including sleep.

*Consider oils. Lavender is known for relaxation and peppermint can help with pain. Both can be applied topically or diffused.

*Talk to your doctor about Magnesium. Magnesium can aid in relaxation, among other things, so talk with your doctor to make sure you are getting the appropriate dosage.

*Some people have found the supplement Melatonin to be helpful, while others say that it helps them go to sleep, but not stay asleep. Again, but sure to discuss this option with your doctor.

*Breathe. Try lying on your back and placing your left hand over your belly button and your right hand over your heart. Breath in and out, focusing on the rise and fall of your belly. With practice, this can help you clear your mind and relax your body.

*If you have been told that you snore while sleeping, be sure to talk to a doctor.

*Then, of course, there is the physical environment. Create a space that promotes rest by eliminating electronics, making the room dark and cool. For more on this, see the link below.

https://www.sleepfoundation.org/sleep-topics/5-signs-your-sleep-quality-poor-and-how-fix-it

While you can’t necessarily control your dreams, there are many things you can do for a good night’s rest. (In my case, my hindsight is telling me not to watch crime tv shows before bed!)  It may take some time and experimentation, but it’s worth the effort. Sweet dreams, my friend.

 

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Stress to joy

Some say it’s the most magical time of the year. People are in the spirit of giving, celebrating and spending time with loved ones. It’s also one of the more stressful times of the year. There’s presents to buy, extra social engagements, cooking/baking, and more, all while maintaining your regular schedule. Then there is family dynamics. Whatever holiday you celebrate this time of year there is bound to be at least one family get-together, and let’s be real, not all families get along. This can lead to financial strain, less sleep, more food and lots of stress!

What can you do to go from stress to joy?

Know your limits! Financially and socially set boundaries for yourself and stick to them. Make a list of everyone you need to shop for and how much you have to spend for the season. Divide the total amount among everyone, adjusting for your relationship. Obviously allocating more for your spouse or children than a friend. Don’t forget to factor in money for those you want to show appreciation to, such as a teacher or bus driver. Now I know it’s uncomfortable to exchange gifts with someone and realize that their gift is clearly more expensive than what you are offering. However, focus on a gift being from the heart, rather than a specific dollar amount. Nobody wants to receive a gift that puts the giver in debt. By thinking of your financial limits as healthy boundaries, rather than a budget, sets you up less financial stress in December and January.

Social gatherings this time of year can be really festive, but particularly if you are an introvert, they can be very stressful. Think about your boundaries with this as well. Really think before committing. Take a look at your calendar and make sure that you have time to re-energize between social activities. If you are feeling obligated to be somewhere, perhaps you can attend a portion of the event. Now I’m not saying to not go out and enjoy the holidays, just pace yourself.

Sleep is one of the biggest challenges this time of year, with so much to do, but without sleep, you won’t have the energy to accomplish that list. Planning is key to ensure enough sleep. First start thinking about the next day..what does your day look like and how early will you have to wake up? Now get yourself to bed in time to get adequate sleep. The amount you need to sleep varies from person to person, and I’m sure you know what you need to strive for to be rested. But what if you get yourself to bed, and your mind just won’t stop and you end up tossing and turning? Some believe that Lavender essential oil is very helpful to promoting relaxation and rest. It can be diffused, inhaled, or applied in small quantities directly to your skin. Using quality essential oils, such as Young Living, is important. If you want more information or a resource, do not hesitate to reach out to me!

Another method to help you relax, either throughout your day, or to help you go to sleep, is breathing. I know..we’re breathing all the time, but I mean intentional deep breathing. There are many breathing techniques out there, but really, the key is to inhale and exhale deeply enough that your belly rises and falls. I recommend taking a few deep breaths during the day, whenever you feel tense. At night, focusing on your breathing can help clear your mind and allow you a well deserved rest.

Finally, embrace the uniqueness of the season. Perhaps its lighting candles, or driving around to look at holiday lights, or decorating, baking, or simply watching children’s excited faces. If you pause and take a break from the hustle and bustle, you just might experience less stress, more joy, and maybe even some magic.

 

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Let the eating begin!

Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday! Foods I love, family and friends, but no pressure to buy gifts. Unfortunately it’s also the beginning of 4-6 weeks of over-indulgence and temptation. How are you feeling about going into the eating season? Are you concerned about weight gain, or a sugar coma? Allow me to begin this discussion at the beginning..Thanksgiving dinner.

Some people believe in an all or nothing approach when it comes to unhealthy foods, while others believe in all things in moderation. I guess I would say, I’m a mix of the two theories. For me, deprivation leads to a binge on that item once in a while to get that fix. I actually love that I can go to a holiday party and have a few chips (get that fix), but not have any at home to continue eating. As long as I don’t buy chips, I won’t eat the whole bag! However, there are now some foods I never eat, because I have found alternatives and I no longer desire the unhealthy version, so in this sense, the “nothing” approach works. For the most part, I eat a whole food plant-based diet. But, full disclosure, I DO plan to eat turkey next week. In fact, I plan to eat anything I want, in moderation. By that I mean, I’m not planning to eat so much that I have regret the next day. So let’s talk strategies to prevent food remorse.

My family always starts out with a plate of veggies, and often a healthy dip like hummus, for people to munch on while everyone arrives and gets settled. I love this! We get in some nutrients before the meal.

If you’ll be a guest and you want to make sure to get some healthy veggies in, offer to bring them.

Water, water, water! Be sure to drink plenty of water before the big meal.

Be thoughtful of your portions. Start small, and if you are still hungry after eating everything on your plate, then think about adding more. Which brings me to: pause.

Pause and ask yourself, “Am I really still hungry, or do I just want the comfort food?” In other words, do you need more food physically, or do you want it emotionally? Or perhaps you simply want something to do with your hands. Another good question to stop and ask yourself is, “If I have another serving, will I regret it later?” If the answer is yes, then reconsider reaching for more.

Watch your alcohol intake. If you drink alcohol, remember that those are calories too. Also, drinking too much will impair your ability to be conscious of your choices.

Don’t beat yourself up. If you do eat more than you plan to, know that tomorrow is a new day. Instead of thinking of the day after Thanksgiving as black Friday, why not make it Fit Friday?! Celebrate what your body can do by getting in some exercise and making healthy food choices.

The most important tips I have for those who will be indulging in a big Thanksgiving meal, is to be thankful. There are so many in this world who go without, or do not have people to be with on the holiday. Be grateful for the full plate and the opportunity to be with others. Happy Thanksgiving!

 

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School is in session

Everybody knows that all medications come with side effects, and when you are going through cancer treatment, you end up taking a lot of medications. This is especially the case when you are going through chemo. There are the chemo drugs, and then the drugs to help with the side effects of chemo, such as to prevent nausea, and help with pain. So the drugs given to a patient to help deal with side effects, also carry with them a new set of side effects. Sometimes there are medications given long-term, and while the side effects out weigh the risk of a cancer recurrence, they are still something a person needs to learn to manage.  In my last blog I talked about neuropathy and what I do for it, and today I’m going to expand on managing the side effects of cancer.

If you happen to be in treatment or just finishing up active treatment you may be experiencing nausea, fatigue and brain fog, as these are common with chemo drugs. I still clearly recall the nausea that hit me after my first chemo treatment. I had been told it would start one to two days after the treatment, but for me, it was just a few hours. It hit hard and fast! The first treatment was the worst one, but thanks to my ongoing meds, I do still have occasional days, years later, when I am nauseated. It is now very mild, but something I am mindful of every now and then. Nausea definitely falls under the category of “if only I knew then what I know now.” Looking back I am surprised that none of my doctors or nurses talked to me about ginger to alleviate nausea. Ginger is well-known to aid in upset stomach, yet in the moment, a cancer patient doesn’t always think beyond what their providers are telling them to do. There are ginger chews, candied ginger and ginger snaps..all of which contain sugar so I don’t recommend them to be used heavily, but they are options. I have found that making ginger water or tea to be very helpful. Although I haven’t tried it myself, I know some have found acupuncture to be useful as well.

Fatigue is another common side effect of active treatment. It’s the kind of knock-down fatigue that one feels when you have the flu. I remember days when I needed to rest after taking a shower, because the simple act of showering was exhausting. The nurses told me during my treatment to get outside and walk, even just around the block. I so wish I had done more of it then I did. It sounds like an oxy-moron, but movement will give you more energy when you are fatigued. Deep breathing and simply stretching is also helpful, yet shouldn’t be too energy zapping.

Brain fog is a well know side effect of active treatment that slowly gets better over a long period of time, sometimes even years. The type of brain fog that results from chemo is different from a typical person forgetting their keys, for example. I recall looking into the face of someone I knew, yet not being able to remember their name. The best thing you can do to improve the effects of brain fog is to use your brain. It may be intellectually, with puzzles, or creatively, with drawing or painting. Your brain, like the rest of your body, needs to be exercised!

I do place much value in the care of doctors and nurses, and the medical options they provide, but I also believe that there are many lifestyle options one can try to take control of our health. Each of us is individual and not everything works for each of us, so I have many ideas and these are just some of them. If you are in treatment or post treatment and struggling with side effects, I teach a class, Managing the Side Effects of Cancer through Hopkins Community Education. My next class is November 13, 2018, with others scheduled January 9, 2019 and February 6, 2019. Here’s a link to the Hopkins Community Education page with my class description. https://hopkins.ce.eleyo.com/search?redirected_yet=true&sf[category]=221

There ARE things you can do yourself to improve your quality of life, you just have to find what works for you, and I’m here to help you do just that.

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When pain remains

One of the most common side effects of receiving chemo is neuropathy, or peripheral neuropathy. As careful as the doctors are about preventing long-term effects, some cancer patients end up with this condition that affects them long beyond when treatment has ended. The symptoms can be debilitating, and I’ll share with you what has worked for me to manage the condition.

So what exactly is peripheral neuropathy? While some people know neuropathy as a condition associated with diabetes, it can actually be caused by various diseases, infections and toxins. It is essentially nerve damage, often in hands and/or feet. It can cause numbness, tingling and pain. The degree to which a person is affected depends upon the amount of damage to the nerves. This means two people can experience symptoms of neuropathy and be affected differently and to different degrees. For example, some may feel numbness in their toes only, while other experience severe pain. A person can also experience sensitivity to touch, sensitivity to cold, and lack of coordination or falling.

When I was nearing the end of my five months of chemo my doctor and nurse practitioner closely monitored my symptoms of neuropathy, which had been increasing over time. I recall them saying they had to weigh the benefits of chemo with the long-term affects of the neuropathy. In fact there was a discussion about whether I would receive that last treatment at all. Several months after my active treatment ended, the numbness I was feeling in my toes began to improve. However, a few months later I was put on a combination of medications that are my long-term treatment, and as a result I experience neuropathy symptoms on a daily basis. (Despite the fact that neuropathy is not a documented side effect of these medications.) The way in which my neuropathy effects me now is many of the classic symptoms.  I have mild numbness in my toes, pain on the bottoms of my feet, sensitivity to touch, and sensitivity to cold. I don’t feel that the amount of numbness I have causes me lack of coordination, though some would say I’m naturally ungraceful! The amount of pain I experience varies from just a tight feeling first thing in the morning to stabbing pain waking me at night. The pain is worse after extended periods on my feet, or after wearing the wrong (aka cute) shoes. If someone touches my feet, it is the kind of sudden pain that makes me want to pull away, so pedicures are not my thing. If my feet become cold for an extended period, the result is tight, stabbing pain.

There are medications, of course, that a doctor may offer to patients, but my preference would be to use medication as a last resort.

So how do I manage long days on my feet? I have found a combination of alternative therapies and lifestyle practices to be the answer. I do all I can to keep my feet warm, I wear quality shoes the majority of the time, I try to pace myself with my activity level, and I have found acupuncture to be an essential part of my life. My chiropractor inserts needles directly into my feet, and I’m not going to lie, it doesn’t feel good. Remember, it hurts just to touch them, but when you stick a needle into a damaged nerve..well, it can really hurt. But, long-term it does help me. I find that if I get acupuncture every 3-4 weeks, I have consistently less pain and the acupuncture itself hurts less when I keep up with my appointments. Recently I have also been experimenting with essential oils, and have found it to be a helpful strategy to incorporate as well.

I am managing my pain one step at a time, and striving for less pain with each step!