F is for…

Food:   There’s a lot of information out there about  what constitutes a healthy diet and how to eat to help stave off various conditions and disease.  I’m told meat and non-organic dairy are to be kept to a minimum in future so in order to get sufficient protein whilst avoiding these products,  I should eat more fish. The trouble is I’m not a big fan of fish unless its tuna or swordfish and these big fish, being carnivorous and some way up the food chain, now contain significant amounts of mercury. (So much so that pregnant women are advised not to eat them).  My future diet is looking increasingly fresh fruit and vegetable based together with quorn … I hope there are no health warnings about this fungus-based protein substitute Because it’s now a staple part of my diet.  The other food item to avoid at all costs is sugar and I’m finding this easier said than done.  Cutting out sweets, cakes and other goo isn’t a problem but sugar seems to turn up in the strangest of places. It’s in savoury foods including many sauces, soups and curries and its even in some fruit juices (why add sugar to fruit juice when it’s already full of natural fructose?). Food shopping has become a label-reading extravaganza. I’m sure some people think I have an obsessive-compulsive disorder when I read and check labels on everything I pick up and mutter under my breath when I find sugar has infiltrated something else it really doesn’t need to be part of.

Fainting:  I had a little incident at the hospital on Friday. Unfortunately most of the veins in my left hand and forearm are damaged by chemo. This means it’s becoming increasingly difficult for the nurses to find veins long enough, soft enough or unscathed enough to administer the ongoing herceptin treatments.  On Friday we encountered the challenges of more blown veins.  Normally this doesn’t affect me but over time being a human pin cushion appears to have a psychological impact. Coupled with a very warm environment this led to me losing consciousness even though I was sat in a chair! I didn’t know much about it but it gave the nurses another thing to deal with when they were already very busy. I felt sad for them because they try so hard not to cause any distress and are genuinely upset when things don’t go smoothly. It seems this situation is quite common, especially for people who’ve experienced multiple failed cannulation attempts over a prolonged period of time.  On Friday it took 4 attempts to find a useable vein. We had to revert to my right side, back of the hand (not ideal and another fail) followed by the based of my right thumb, before finding something suitable.    The issue with veins is slightly concerning – fainting every time someone comes near me with a needle means I will spend a lot of my time unconscious!

Vein System Fractal

Vein System Fractal (Photo credit: J.Gabás Esteban

Fatigue:  Until recently I’d been quite lucky on the fatigue front, but just lately  it seems to come in waves. One minute I’m fine, the next I’m feeling weary. I’m wondering if I go to sleep with  my eyes open because there are gaps when I can’t remember what I was doing during the evenings. I’ve concluded that’s either the effects of fatigue, the fact that I haven’t been out much for about 5 months so days merge into one another or maybe I’m  just plain forgetful.  Perhaps it’s a combination of all three.   I need to rebuild my strength and I’m hoping some regular work on the cross-trainer will help reduce the effects of fatigue.

Fine lines:  At my age it’s natural to have some fine lines and wrinkles. They provide that ‘lived in’ look to my skin.  The past 5 months seem to have turned fine lines into the San Andreas fault in some areas, complete with plenty of deep fault lines and flaky edges!  I think the flakiness may dissipate over time, I’m not so sure about the lines and suspect they’re here to stay. No-one tells you about this when you embark on chemotherapy. Maybe they think  it’s unimportant compared to all the other side effects but the change in skin texture and quality from head to toe is a fairly significant event and it would be nice to understand what’s permanent and what isn’t.  There’s no point in the daily application of Oil of Olay if the only solution is to drink plenty of water and rehydrate from within. 

Remarkably, the past 5 months seems to have almost cured me of using the other F word, the one that also includes k, u and c. This is very odd because there have been plenty of reasons to use it on an hourly basis. Maybe dealing with life’s big deals makes us less prone to stressing over the small stuff. Maybe it puts everything into perspective and that makes the small stuff irrelevant. Perhaps this is a lesson we should teach our kids early on so that they only get stressed over things that really matter and have some means of shrugging off everything else. It might stop them becoming regular F word users and life is definitely too short to be tangled up in the weeds every day.


19 thoughts on “F is for…

  1. As a recently diagnosed Celiac, I have found figuring out what to eat and what not to eat a challenge. I have been sitting here on my computer for well over an hour now, procrastinating because I am not sure what to have for breaky 🙂


    • I can imagine Celiacs is a challenge when gluten creeps into so many of the things we eat (a bit like my mission to hunt down concealed sugar). I must admit somedays I wonder if there’s anything ‘good’ to eat given the regular food scandals that are coming to light. I hope you manage to decide on something nutritious and tasty for breakfast. I love your blog, your photos are beautiful and good on you for following your dream 🙂


  2. I’m sorry for everything you are going through, Tracy. Sending you hugs!!!
    P.S. Have they talked about a port in lieu of ruining any more of your veins? It has been a lifesaver for me since the beginning. I didn’t want one, but I’ve been so grateful for it on so many occasions… If you ever want to talk about it, just leave me a comment or send me an email — cancerinmythirties@yahoo.com . You are in my thoughts… xoxo


    • Thank you, I’m not normally affected by these things but I suppose after so many procedures our brains might just want to block it all out. I’ve dropped you an email, thank you in advance for any advice and insight you can share. Look after yourself, I think of you often. Txxx


      • Hi Tracy,
        You are right — it’s amazing how our bodies and brains manage to withstand all that they do!
        I will look for your email. You are very welcome. I don’t know what I would have done without my port. I had about 70 chemo & Herception infusions through it — and many more infusions of antibiotics, fluids, etc., lots of labwork, and even blood transfusions through it. It really has been a lifesaver. I will look for your email after I get the boys to bed tonight… I’m sending good wishes your way in the meantime. xo


  3. To use another F-word, Tracy, nothing seems frivolous in your life. //bow// You are living in the moment without profanity. ||bow|| Your positive energy is inFECtious. Thank you for sharing your light. {{{hugs}}} Kozo


    • 🙂 🙂 🙂 I try to be good, positive and peaceful each day. I don’t always succeed but I keep on trying. I’m not sure if that makes me a slow learner, a perfectionist, a lunatic or all three 😉 You always brighten my day Kozo – thank you for being a great blogging best friend.


  4. The skin issues are weird! The problem doesn’t seem to be wrinkles exactly, more a loss of elasticity. My face looked like an ill-fitting mask made of filo pastry! With a flourish of Captain Pugwash lines running down from the corners of my mouth.
    Good news, though – 15 weeks after finishing chemo it seems to be back to normal. In fact in my case infinitely better than before because I’m taking much better care of myself with good food, green tea, swimming, saunas and moisturizer.
    Wishing you all the best.


    • I wondered if I should invest in a tub of polyfilla or some silicon sealant (if they can make boobs from it surely I could fill my wrinkles with it?) Captain Pugwash was one of my childhood favourites but perhaps not someone we want to look like. I seem to recall he had interesting dress sense too. How is your hair doing now, I still chuckle about “I’m normal, you’re too hairy” and how are you feeling in yourself? I’m glad you’re through chemo and wish you many happy times ahead.


  5. F is also for fortitude, something you have in spades. Perhaps it was awakened by your current struggle, perhaps it was there all along. No matter, it’s there. Let’s hope that your body works some magic over the next few weeks and repairs some of that damage. All the best.


  6. Eating is a challenge. It may become easier as you regain your energy. I cook on the weekends and put away food in the freezer. This works well for me and you will find an approach that works best for your life.

    I’m sorry you fainted! I’m sure you were much more distressed about this than the nurses. I imagine they see plenty of fainting. Anyway, it’s their job to take care of you and I’m sure you are already one of their favorite patients!


    • I’m going to grow my own fruits and veggies this year and boring as it may be, stick to trusted products that don’t add loads of unnecessary extras. This probably means porridge or bananas for breakfast for the foreseeable future but I can cope with that. The fainting was a bit odd – apparently I was sat with eyes like saucers and unresponsive for some time before going into the full faint. I suspect my brain is a little frazzled by everything it’s witnessed these past 10 months! I hope it doesn’t happen all the time though – it would be very inconvenient.


      • It sounds like you have lots of room for vegetable gardening and the cool weather veggies like chard, spinach, cabbage, and broccoli are supposed to be best for us. I may try to expand my vegetable garden onto the deck that my husband is building. I might have enough sun back there.


        • I’m clearing out my greenhouse ready for a treasure trove of home grown goodies this year. I’m lucky to live in an area where there’s a lot of good local produce, but having fresh fruit and veggies outside the back door whenever I want them seems like a good idea and will give me something to look forward to as Spring arrives 🙂


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