Sunday, January 25, 2015

Ask Ashley: Managing Side Effects of Chemo

I'm sitting here watching Sex & The City series final tearing up like a total idiot even though I've seen it about 10 times. Training for the trip is going well. My calves are sore from my 92 story stair climbing the other day. I might go out for a 3 mile run this afternoon.

I wanted to write a small entry about chemotherapy side effects. Even 3 1/2 years after my diagnosis I still get questions about every other month or so from a friend who unfortunately knows someone who is going through a hard time managing their side effects. They often want to know what they can do to help or if they can pass along any tips that I found helpful. I will first say, everyone is completely different so what worked for me doesn't always help another.

By far the most common question. Medication truly is the only thing that actually prevented me from being ill. But other things I have found help were:

  • My top favorite was raw ginger slices, sometimes I'd boil them in water and then put it in a pitcher of water in my fridge. I recently discovered ginger candy called Gin-Gins. I wish I knew of them sooner!
  • Peppermint tea - caffeine free because for a while I had to avoid caffeine due to meds
  • Sugar-free lollipops or mints - only once or twice I got a metal taste in my mouth but this helped. Some people I know have had an ongoing issue with that metallic taste
  • Basic foods like oatmeal, toast, crackers which is kind of less-than desirable in the nutrition area, but when you're that ill I think you get a hall pass.

Mouth Sores
I sometimes forget but this was one of the most painful and dare I say one of the more debilitating side effects at times. It hurt to eat, swallow and at the lowest of the low, talk. I even had them up into my nasal cavity. The reason you get them is because chemo kills off rapidly growing cells in the body including your good ones and your mouth has a lot of turnover on those cells.

  • Magic mouth wash: it's a mix of ingredients you can get at a pharmacy through a RX or even make it at home. It contains an antihistamine, antacid, etc. It works for about 20 mins or so at a time.
  • Straws
  • Yogurt
  • Medication...always more medication it seems

Regardless of if I needed blood or platelet transfusions I always seemed to have needed a bag or two of saline due to dehydration.

  • Huge bottle of water - aim to drink at least 3 a day
  • Sip water often and not in big gulps
  • I was ok with straight water, but some people like flavoring. Like I said before I enjoyed ginger water and still do. 
  • Teas, Caffeine-free coffee, gatorade (sometimes too salty and hurt my mouth sores)

There are about a dozen more uncomfortable and embarrassing topics I have given advise on. It's nice to be able to laugh a little about some of them finally. Maybe another day when I am feeling a little daring to write about them I will write a Part II.

Off to be semi-productive...102 days until the trip!

Monday, January 5, 2015

New Year

Training for the trip is underway! I have been in the gym and outside working on cardio, incline and strength training. The new year has certainly ushered in a more focused and planned workout schedule, which is exciting and something I am ready for. On any given week I am doing a mixture of 3-4 fitness classes (hour with splits of interval run or walk/rowing/weights/body weight), 1-2 days stair climbing and a long walk with boots. The stairs and long walks are becoming more of the December/New Year focus as I mostly worked building back up my base fitness level in the fall. Building up my base was a bit difficult mostly due to being a piece of shit for a year post-treatment eating and drinking whatever I wanted.
Sea Level Walking - Go ahead & judge
Like many of you I caught this year's cold that has been rampant. I had a pretty nasty cough for 3 weeks which definitely put me out solid for a week and a half combined with a fever for a day or two. I feel back to normal finally! For the holiday my parents came in town and my mom got the flu and bronchitis on Christmas day so her and I were not much in the mood for food or entertaining which was kind of a bummer because it was my first Christmas to host in our home. Oh, and my family had 2 emergency room visits in one day over Christmas two cities. Don't ask me how that is possible LOL.. And my brother has pneumonia. Oh you catch my drift, the holiday's were just slightly more dramatic for my/anyone's liking.

The best part about Christmas was watching my niece lose her mind laughing about a plastic bag. I love the joy that babies and kids bring over the simple things in life. Plus it's fun to see them dressed ridiculously for any occasion.
Christmas Babe-sicle
Back to Everest Base Camp...We booked our flights and got travel insurance recently. We had to book for higher insurance due to the elevation and evacuations considerations. All in all it wasn't too bad on cost. Booking our flight was really exciting though. We will be traveling into the middle east on our way there with a half day layover in United Arab Emirates. I am SUPER stoked about getting a small window to check out the city even if it is just a cab ride around.

Currently I am immersed in all things Everest...still. I am reading a book my dad bought me a couple years ago I found while unpacking called, The Conquest of Everest by Sir John Hunt. So far I am very impressed with the logistical planning of that summit.
Book Club material
 If you ever are in the mood for a good, newer documentary I would also recommend Beyond The Edge (linked to movie trailer) available on Netflix. It is also about the exact story of the successful summit of Hillary and Norgay, but told in a docu-drama way.

Well off to bed early I am switching this week to morning workouts because the 8 pm ones were torture. But 6:15 am might be the same! Wish me luck!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014


I am not even sure how to begin this blog, there does that work!? I removed myself from blogging for a year to feel normal again. So much of my life for years was wrapped up in my cancer and treatment, it felt like that was the sole part of my identity. Almost immediately after our wedding (one week) I went through my last round of chemo. 

I had to include a fake laugh photo
It was not originally supposed to be the last, but I suffered incredibly uncharacteristic mood changes and yet again walked around in a complete fog due to all the mixes of medications. I remember calling one of my best friends crying because I felt so low like someone else's brain had taken over me. I wouldn't remember doing things or going somewhere, which rightfully scared the hell out Mike when I'd try to argue that that I drove somewhere weeks ago when it was just a day prior. I am sure coming off the happiest time in my life back to a harsh reality of pills, headaches and the expected fogginess also did not help. I didn't think my mental health and general forgetfulness was worth risking for an additional round of pills so I told my doc I was DONE-ZO! And I haven't looked back or regretted that decision.

It has been a welcomed release to be with friends, eat, drink, be merry, be lazy! I still embrace what I went through but it's not the primary focus of my life anymore. I feel a tad guilty about it too because so many people still deal with it. 

So what is new?
In January I went back to work full time which has been going very well. For the first time in 3 years I got my mental stride back. 

Took our delayed honeymoon (due to chemo/Mike's work schedule). Christmas in Costa Rica!
Why do I like jumping photos so much?
Turned 30 years old - I welcomed it! Maybe because  my mom always reminisced as being 30 positively. Thanks Mom, for that little gift!
Weeeee!!! Happy Sweet 16....oh shit, wait.
 My niece was born! This has by far been the highlight of the year/my life. Life makes sense when you witness the birth and growth of a child. It's so special and I'm totally thrilled she's here with us all. It is also a total mind trip to see your sibling have a kid. I mean what happened to the sister who used to get into the dresser and grab a pair of underwear and put it on her head and run around the house to make you laugh?! And that was just last week, JK!
Hello Miss Viv!
Volunteering. I still sit on the Patient and Family Advisory Council. I got the opportunity to be the key speaker at a health and wellness fair for adolescents and young adults with cancer. 
Matt Foley Protege
    Originally they were going to pay a young cancer survivor who wrote a book to come and speak, but then they realized I'm cheap free! So that worked out well for them. I told my story which was a surreal/awesome experience! I really felt proud of myself for the first time in a while about what I had gone through. A group of my best friends came to watch and I got chance to meet new and old patient buddies.

Now that I have taken you on a visual experience of my life the past 10 months, which no doubt has blown your mind. I have other exciting news to share. We are hiking to the base of Mt. Everest next year.
Your mountain is waiting, so get on your way!
Gahhh! I am still in a tad bit of shock we're actually doing it! I am going to complete the biggest bucket list itemI have ever thought of! I jumped up and down all over my living room when I put the deposit down on the trip. Now that would have been a great jumping photo to capture. 

The Mt. Everest trip is the main reason I am reviving my Girl With The Swirl blog, so I can share training and general thought updates over the next year as I prepare for this trip. It's kind of nice to think of this blog could serve another purpose too. 

Life after cancer - It's pretty swell!