Tag: Taxol


Thin Skin Begins

In an earlier post I mentioned how the killing off of cells in the esophagus and stomach can result in heartburn. Turns out that there are more cells in the gastrointestinal tract that are affected. I’m sure you’ve heard of the mucous membrane. It lines all body passages that communicate with the air, such as the respiratory tract, and have cells and glands that secrete mucus. Makes sense.

When you have chemo, the mucous membrane is affected. Bad things happen. Smart people call it mucositis. 



The part of this lining that covers the mouth (oral mucosa, go figure), is one of the most sensitive parts of the body and is particularly vulnerable to chemotherapy. You don’t want oral mucositis. Open sores, bleeding gums, pain, pain, discomfort, hard to eat, yuck. So I’ve decided to pass on that side effect. 

An ounce of prevention … 

I’m doing some simple things, like:

  • changing to a soft toothbrush
  • using a less harsh toothpaste 
  • swishing twice / day with flat soda water (you can also use baking soda and water, but YUCK!!)
  • avoiding foods that would irritate the mouth (spicy, acidic, you know all about it…)

I’m also doing something called “oil pulling”. It’s an Ayurvedic practice that is simple and boasts very positive results for oral hygiene. I’ve been doing it since Christmas when my big brother told me about it – and I have already noticed a difference in how my teeth feel. 

How to oil pull: put up to 1 tablespoon of an oil such as sesame, sunflower or coconut in to your mouth (ok, I use about 1 teaspoon) and actively swish it / pull it through your teeth for 20 minutes. No swallowing! Then you spit it out (not in the sink or toilet as it will harden) and rinse with warm water, spit that out (not in sink or toilet), and then brush and floss (gently in my case). I use coconut oil because it also has lauric acid in it, which is apparently very good. Plus it tastes better (not that you taste it, to be honest, but I imagine that it tastes better). 

I am too lazy to warm it up in the morning so I take a teaspoon of it in its solid state and chew it / let it melt in my mouth. Kinda gaggy, but you get over it. Or you can not be lazy and warm it up.

At first I could only do 5 minutes. But I worked up a few minutes each day and now I have no problem with 20 minutes each morning. And it’s amazing how much I can get done while I’m swishing … light the furnace, chop some wood, make the bed, … 

So far my gums are healthy and I have no indications of any sores developing. I’m sticking with it! 


My nose, however, is starting to suffer. The skin cells are not reproducing any more, the hairs that normally trap the mucous are disappearing, and the membranes are thinning. This results in:

  • dry, crusty nose – feels like there are scabs in there ALL THE TIME
  • bloody bits and smears and chunks in the mucous coming out of my nose (I have a photo, but it’s just too gross)
  • sniffling 
  • did I mention that it feels really dry? 

So I’m working at increasing the humidity in the house – water on the woodstove, vaporisor by my bed. And I LIBERALLY coat the inside of my nose with Vaseline. 

Where did this even come from? Kroger mystery. Is there a shelf life on Vaseline? So many questions. 

Apparently, if my nose does start to bleed, it may take a while to stop, since my platelets are affected by chemo. So NO NOSE PICKING! 

Butt wait, there’s more!

On a related note, remember how I was talking about how toxic I am?  The other day I search the Drug Monograph for Paclitaxel in order to see if there are contraindications for the use of essential oils and medical marijuana (that’s for another post, so sorry). There is a section called “elimination” that breaks down exactly how the Paclitaxel is getting out of my body. It says that there are “high concentrations found in bile; 71% excreted in feces in 120 hours”. OK NO WONDER MY ASS WAS ON FIRE!! 

This drug monograph is 14 pages long. Very informative.

And so you can understand why this mug is my companion, and why I send poop emojis to Annie so that she can be updated. (She loves it. Really.) 

poop mug and me
Sometimes there are fireworks.

Meanwhile, my head is feeling a bit numb / tingly. I think my next post will be about alopecia. Just a guess.


Heartburn Doth Strike

Heartburn appeared pretty much as soon as the cocktail of “pre-meds” wore off (one of which was a dose of Zantac). I felt really good on treatment day (apart from being high as a kite from the Benedryl), and the next day too. Then after a fab dinner of chili, Liam and I went to his Grade 9 Open House where I proceeded to SUFFER. 

As a consequence I am now armed with heartburn information and meds. Here are the highlights:

What is heartburn?

It’s often called Acid Reflux. Basically it’s when acid from your stomach that is there to digest your food goes starts to hurt you. Generally speaking, the acid in your stomach splashes up into your esophagus (food tube). There might be too much of it, your stomach might be too full or the muscle that acts as an elastic band between the stomach and esophagus might be too weak.

The official name for it is GERD (Gastroesophageal reflux disease) which is a disease that affects the muscle I was talking about. The official name is the Lower Esophageal Sphincter (there is more than one, sphincter! Ha!). As I mentioned, the LES is between the stomach and esophagus – it’s a band of muscle. GERD can also happen to pregnant women since the LES is more relaxed due to all of the hormones. Also, the baby pushes up against the stomach which drives food up through the LES. (I ate a lot of Tums.) Other folks who have a hiatal hernia can get GERD. That’s where part of the stomach and esophagus get pushed up into the chest wall where it doesn’t belong. 

Here’s a diagram that I drew for you (including my recent incisions and my portacath too). It  shows you where things are:

Should have put the diaphragm in. Forgot that. 

Why does heartburn affect people on chemo? 

Chemo targets cells that divide at a really fast rate because that’s what cancer cells do, they multiply and take over and wreak havoc in the body. So any other cells in my body that also rapidly divide will be KILLED by the chemo. And the cells in the lining of my stomach and esophagus, which protect my digestive organs from acidic stomach acid are in the list of fast growing cells.

So basically, during chemo any stomach acid in my digestive system is going to hurt me because the protective coating (cells) are being killed off. I don’t have GERD per se, but during chemo I will have the same symptoms as GERD. Make sense?

What can I take for heartburn?

This is interesting! There are 4 different ways to go:

  • Tums, Rolaids: These are acid neutralizers that contain calcium and act as a buffer between you and the acid – but they can actually cause more acid to be produced once the barrier is gone (called acid rebound). Use occasionally. 
  • Gavisgon: This contains alginates (derived from algae) that also act as a barrier (coats the stomach). Very cool. Makes a “raft” and prevents the acid from getting up and out of the stomach. I think I will try the raft. 
  • Zantac: H2 receptor blockers (such as ratinidine) that reduces the amount of acid from building up but increase the risk of cardiovascular problems and osteoporosis – GAH! And I bought this! 
  • Nexium, Prevacid: Getting stronger now – prescription strength! These are “Proton Pump Inhibitors” that also prevent acid from forming – they seem to be like Zantac but are stronger, and not for occasional heartburn. These are for people who suffer badly from GERD and their esophagus is getting damaged. Lots of side effects. Avoid avoid! 

What can I do to avoid heartburn? 

Being a person who likes to avoid taking drugs, I am aiming to prevent heartburn rather than having to take the medications listed above. (Of course I WILL take it if I have to – I’m not into any extra suffering at this point!)

Prevention tips 1 and 2:

  • eat smaller amounts at a time
  • eat more regularly (this is a LOT harder than it seems)

Most importantly though, I have to stop ingesting:

  • caffeinated tea and dark chocolate – ok, anything with caffeine
  • wine / alcohol
  • oily / fatty foods (don’t even talk to me about this category, I can barely manage the first two)
  • citrus
  • tomato based foods
  • spicy foods
  • garlic & onion
  • more good stuff
  • more good stuff 
  • more good stuff

Basically, I’m going to eat BLAND food, very regularly, with lots of water. Oh boy. 

What is the silver lining? 

Let’s just be clear. When people mention the “silver lining” to a shitty situation, it’s akin to saying “there are plenty of fish in the sea”. Just shut up already. But if I had to pick the silver lining for this one, it’s 

Ok I can’t think of one.