Thursday, June 5, 2008

Slow Progress, Steady Gains

After hitting the two week mark after concluding radiation therapy for head and neck cancer, I have a few things to share. As readers of this blog know, my battle with head and neck cancer has been documented here from diagnosis to the surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy I underwent to eradicate cancer. The main idea I want to impart to folks battling cancer and their family and friends is that progress is slow. Sometimes maddeningly slow. It has to be measured in day-to-day increments, and sometime hourly progress. I say this because the discomfort levels due to treatment and the cancer itself can make it tough to get through the night and day. Folks who are undergoing cancer treatment will attest to the fact that the imbalances caused by chemotherapy, radiation and surgery can really affect the immune system and the overall healing process.

At the two past radiation milestone, I feel a slow return of functionality and strength. Weight gain is still slow. I started out two weeks ago at 137 lbs. but have gained a few pounds and am now hovering around 140 lbs. My natural weight is around 153 lbs. I have been walking each day since the end of radiation in the early morning to gain balance, strength and to help flush the chemicals from my body. I am up to about ¼ mile and feel fatigued afterward, but satisfied. The walking is strengthening my legs and endurance promoting better sleep and giving me a sense of purpose in my survivorship. Each day is getting slightly easier, and the walking pace is picking up a bit. Definitely recommend walking as a part of recovery. Exercising moderately will help to build muscle tone and eventually, bone marrow that will strengthen the immune system.

Still dealing with the mouth sores and dry mouth which prevents eating real food in a normal fashion. One excellent blog article on dry mouth, called xerostomia, written by Tina Radcliffe is useful in understanding the symptoms and management of dry mouth. Good tips on self care and eating foods that won't exacerbate the situation. For me, a vanilla milkshake mixed with instant breakfast works because of the added protein and the soothing coolness of fresh milk and ice cream. I can tolerate scrambled eggs pretty well and cottage cheese. I don't recommend a lot of dairy, but at this point, gaining weight and adding protein is important for my recovery. Skin care involves applying a lot of aloe-based lotion and regular skin moisturizer to the areas hit by the radiation treatment. This involves covering a larger area the lotion due to the radiation using exit points and spreading the inflammation. I use the aloe about 3 times per day. If I am going outside in the hot Atlanta summer weather, I use plenty of sunscreen. Getting a sunburn on the radiation areas is not an option and is to be avoided. Additionally, getting plenty of water and staying hydrated is important for a lot of obvious reasons.

I would be happy to answer any questions regarding radiation therapy recovery and my experience. You can post your comments and experiences here to share with others.

One Love


Blog Archive