02
May
10

Paging Dr. Fine, Dr. Howard, Dr. Fine. . .

In reality, this post is a tribute to Dr. Awesome, a naturopath whom I met last Thursday for the first time.

Well, she’d come up behind me the week before and touched my hat, asking if everybody wanted to pet it? Truly, the hat I was wearing at the time, yes, people do want to pet it. It’s made with mohair and poly eyelash yarn and is extremely soft and feels good both to the hand and the bald skull beneath; with short-row shaping so it swirls; and instead of weaving in the ends, I braided them together so it has a little tail, too. Lovely hat in shades of maroon and purple, but getting too warm to wear much any more.

Of course at the time, I didn’t know this mystery petter was Dr. Awesome, but it tickled me that she was so willing to feel up a complete stranger’s hat in the middle of the doctor’s office.

My main goal for Thursday’s doctor appointment was originally nutrition, with a side of stress relief, and pain management for dessert. That was, at the time I made the appointment, the order I was most interested in covering the subjects. As it turned out, after talking to Dr. Awesome for 5 minutes, we rearranged it to pain management, nutrition, and stress relief.

For those of you who read this who have been through cancer treatment, you may understand immediately what I mean when I say it is a relief to talk to someone who “gets it”, particularly a doctor who not only understands but who validates what you’re going through and provides immediate, concrete solutions to some of the problems. You can talk to fellow sufferers all day and it’s good to hear that they have had the same problem and what they did for it, and in many cases, it will be of help to you when you encounter the same problem – never diminish the power of what experience can do for you.

But I at least tend to dig into the depths of my head and don’t even bring up problems in group, not because I don’t want answers, but because the group isn’t all about *me*, nor should it be. There are probably 12 – 16 regulars, and for any of them to get enough of a chance to talk, we often have to limit the number of speakers, and sometimes the depth of the discussion.

So having a medical authority validate that what I’m going through is real, is normal for cancer patients on chemo, and most important, isn’t just in my head, and doesn’t *have* to be dealt with just in my head makes me feel whole heaps better.

Pain Management: make sure I take the pain medications *regularly*, not sporadically; and take the smallest dose I can get away with. This might mean taking a higher dose in the morning than I think I really need, because for the pain to be worse in the evening means that I’m not giving it enough attention during the day. Also, hot baths with Dead Sea Salts are good, massage is good, and possibly acupuncture in the future.

Nutrition: Now, we all know the “Big C” is the cancer, right? Well, once you have cancer, there are other contenders for the title. Chemo might be considered the “Middle C”, since it is at one and the same time the treatment for the “Big C”, and the cause of the “Low C” (back into euphemism territory, here). I still think of the “Low C” as being the “Big C”, because it is much more immediate and pressing than cancer, and can make life pretty miserable. The pre-chemo drugs, the steroids and anti-nausea drugs they give you, and the pain medications I’m on all contrive to keep me from moving on. So Dr. Awesome prescribed something a lot less virulent than the clean-out liquid used for colonoscopy preparation, although she gave me that option if I wanted fast results. I chose the non-fireworks route. So now I’m thoroughly revising my menu, making sure I get lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, lots of whole grains and fiber, coffee (yay!) and supplementing with this product that makes moves smoother than an Italian gigolo.

And finally, Stress Relief: Exercise is a component of all of the three topics I initiated with Dr. Awesome. Exercise can reduce pain, if not overdone; it can help the diet and supplements do their nutritive acting; and it can help with stress relief. But for chemo patients, taking the dog for a walk even around one block may not be possible except when you’re at the end of a two-week break. Especially shortly after chemo, exercise may mean getting out of your chair and walking around the house once, or making that trip upstairs to get the medication bottle. And some days, it may mean standing up out of the chair for a minute or two. One’s body is under attack, and while it’s good to push the boundaries a little bit, pushing them too far, or having too high of expectations about what your body can do when it’s just out of chemo is bound to create a feedback loop that eventually immobilizes you by trying to do what you were able to do two days ago, when you were on your 2-week break, but since you just had chemo, there’s no physical way you can do it.

I’ve been beating myself up because my focus is so bad, and I have always had great powers of concentration. I’ve been taking it as a personal failure that I am not able to keep my mind on something for more than 15 minutes. With one sweep of her hand, Dr. Awesome pushed that self-blame out the door, and helped me see that I can live with it, and even manipulate it to my advantage. It isn’t a solution that is going to allow me to be able to work better, as that still demands unbroken sweeps of time to focus on a particular project; but it means that I don’t *have* to focus on anything for longer than 15 minutes. Pick up my knitting, and if my hands are cooperating right then, work until I feel the focus slipping. Then put it down and read a book, or play a game on my phone. Write a blog for a while, and if I feel like it, do some beading or quilting. As soon as I feel the attention slip, set whatever it is down. And try just resting instead of sleeping. Sometimes, just sitting thinking rather than sleeping is enough rest to let my body recoup the energy for my next couple rounds of knitting or reading or whatever.

Brian was there for this appointment, and although he has never indicated that he thought I was being a drama queen or exaggerating my symptoms, Dr. Awesome’s immediate understanding and recommendations of solutions tailored to my specific case made him understand just how difficult it can be to look physically well on the outside, and yet to feel like crap on the inside.

So all hail Dr. Awesome! She has empowered me to quit being my own worst enemy, and feel much more like a human being than a lump of bruised potatoes.

Truly, I have the fortune to be surrounded by so many wonderful, caring, knowledgeable doctors and nurses that I just wish everyone with cancer could be so lucky as to work with my team. I would not hesitate to recommend a single one of them.

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4 Responses to “Paging Dr. Fine, Dr. Howard, Dr. Fine. . .”


  1. 1 margaret Stonich
    May 2, 2010 at 1:54 pm

    Yeah for Dr. Awesome!!! I am so happy you found someone who can speak to you in a manner that makes sense and takes away the self blame.

  2. 2 Cathy Walquist
    May 3, 2010 at 11:33 am

    Its about time you went out of you head. I went a long time ago. So now there is the meeting of the minds. Woo Hoo.

  3. 3 Kevin
    May 5, 2010 at 7:06 am

    Hi Julie,

    Dr. Awesome sounds…well, AWESOME. Someone to have in the rolodex fer sure!

    They say that memory is the second thing to go, and I cannot remember the first, so let’s just keep it at that!

    Love you, and hope you are having a good day. If not, you can always start over. It’s what I’ve been doing lately, when the crap hits the fan, I take a moment adjust my attitude (which is usually putting on cheap, dark, sunglasses) and proceed as if I just woke up!

    Works most of the time 🙂 But repeat until desired day begins…

    Buh bai for now…..

  4. May 5, 2010 at 12:42 pm

    You wrote quite a coherent blog here, so your concentration isn’t totally shot! Nice to hear a voice of authority telling to to take it easy on yourself. That’s important even in the best of times.


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