Alternative and Other Remedies
Ever since my sister-in-law Lisa told me that selenium might help me keep my hair through chemotherapy, I have been exploring some alternatives to conventional medicine for dealing with the side-effects of cancer treatment.
I took the selenium before chemotherapy started and for several months after stopping chemotherapy. Then I switched from selenium supplements to biotin. I still take the biotin daily. I never lost enough hair to warrant shaving my head. Moreover, I did not lose all that much hair until after chemotherapy had been over for several months. My hair came back pretty well, too. I have been getting it cut every month for about a year. I still don’t have much hair on my arms and legs and what is there is baby fine and snowy white, but the hair on my head is thicker, wavy (rather than as straight as it was before treatment), darker, and less gray than it was before. I have more and darker eyebrows and longer eyelashes.
My doctor advised me not to take probiotics during chemotherapy because they are bacteria and chemotherapy lowers immunity to infection. She felt that the probiotics could cause problems but had no problems with yogurt. About a month after I finished chemotherapy, I started drinking kefir. Then I added probiotics. I stopped that after a month.
I drank two gallon jugs of aloe vera juice mixed with other juices during chemotherapy and radiation. The taste? Blah. But I have read this is good for easing bowel problems and is anti-inflammatory. It did not hurt and my doctor had no objection to it.
It took quite a few months before my bowel, which was treated with radiation, was up to the challenge of meat, vegetables, and nuts. I still go easy on nuts, but I can tell that there has been healing. Dominique brought me aloe vera juice to drink during chemotherapy. I mixed it with apple juice and spearmint tea. I don’t know if it helped, but it did not hurt. I never threw up once during chemotherapy.
I drank ginger ale during chemotherapy if I longed for something fizzy. I also overcame my distaste for it and drank Gatorade and Pedialyte when going through chemotherapy. I tried a ginger tea, but could not tolerate the taste of it. I found spearmint tea much better than that. I drank it hot and cold every day.
My tongue looked terrible for nearly a year. It had yellow marks on the sides and was very sensitive to the touch. The probiotics seemed to help, but I finally tried acidophilus and at last saw those marks disappear.
During chemotherapy the backs of my hands developed calluses as if I worked hard with my hands. I scrubbed them with a nail brush in an effort to wear away the thickened skin, but it was unrelenting. I tried several types of lotion in an effort to fight the calluses. Eventually, I tried Cackleberry Apiary Facial Night Crème applied several times daily. My friend Dominique got it for me from a farm in Wisconsin. The website is cackleberryapiary.com. My calluses are gone. I now use the crème on my neck. It smells a little like honey. I have switched to using a hand cream that my former student Joelle brought me from Israel. It’s called Sea of Spa. I know, it seems like the words are out of order, but the lotion feels fantastic.
My fingernails have been a nightmare to look at it when bare. There were ridges and white marks. For many months there were yellow bubbles that looked like orange juice stains deep in the nail bed. On several occasions the markings grew out only to return. In addition, my nails peeled sometimes until they seemed ready to peel off. I soaked them in water. I scrubbed them with a paste of hydrogen peroxide and baking soda. When they were thick enough to withstand it, I lightly buffed the surface off of them in an effort to get past the markings. Every month the markings came back. There were divots, too, unexplainable really. I have kept them sealed under nail polish all of the time. I was starting to think that there might be an infection in my nails when I read about someone treating infections with 100% tea tree oil. I started brushing it onto clean nails before using nail polish. It did not seem to be helping until this month. I am down to one nail that still shows signs of white marks and one nail with a single divot left in it. Those marks appear to be very close to growing out.
I had open, red burns on my hips, flanks, and stomach from radiation burns. Ugh. They were raw and painful. When I was in the hospital in December of 2011, one of the nurses covered them with Coloplast Citric-Aid Skin Paste. It is used to form a thick paste barrier over severe skin irritation from incontinence. It was wonderful. One of my sister’s friends sent me a topical cream by Align Pharmaceutical called Xclair cream. It is for radiation dermatitis symptom relief. I think it helped the burns to heal. I can no longer see the marks.
I take supplements now: a multivitamin for women over 50 years of age now that my iron level seems back to normal, fish oil, cranberry, Reservatrol, green tea, biotin, tumeric, and lots of cinnamon. Every couple of months I switch things up a bit, reduce some of the supplements to three times a week and introduce something new.
I have been taking Oxybutynin for incontinence brought on by radiation cystitis. It has been about three months since I developed red spots all over. One theory is that the medicine caused the spots. They are no longer forming big, strawberry-colored splotches, but they are still there. Nevertheless, I have no intention of stopping the medicine at this time. It has made a tremendous difference to the quality of my life. I may have to deal with radiation cystitis for the rest of my life, but I no longer live in fear of that loss of self-control that had me running to the bathroom every few minutes for almost three months.
I have tinnitus now. I never had it before. I have read that it can be a side-effect of chemotherapy, too. If anyone has had any luck in treating it, I would appreciate knowing what worked for you.
There are plenty of cookbooks for people who have had cancer. I have bought a few and have realized kind of late in the game just how bad it might be that I have eaten so much yogurt, cottage cheese, and hard cheese this past year. It seems like it spurs hormones that have been associated with breast cancer and ovarian cancer. My cancer was uterine, but research indicates that uterine cancer also may be stimulated by hormones. It is not a stretch, I think, to be concerned about the hormones in dairy products for my form of the disease, too. I plan to reduce my consumption of dairy foods. I try to eat some apples, cauliflower, broccoli, or cabbage every day.
I am steering clear of sugar except for the occasional celebration. It seems as if all cancers feed on sugar.
The veins in my hands were used every time I received chemotherapy. Some of them look sort of gnarly even after fifteen months. I am not sure what, if anything, can be done to help them heal.
If you have benefited from any type of alternative or other treatment for the side-effects of chemotherapy or radiation treatment I would appreciate hearing about it. My oncologist is excellent, but I do not get any type of advice or support for going forward at my county hospital. I am very interested in hearing what things other people are trying.