I had no idea what to call this blog, but I know listicles are always easy to read. And since I really wanted you to read this, I listicled it. Kinda.
As you can probably guess, being diagnosed with cancer and requiring chemotherapy in the time of Covid, means that I spend a lot of time at home. I don't just mean the odd day. I mean 99% of my time is spent at home. I'm only leaving to go to Chemo, see my specialists or go for a walk. I'm keeping my whanau and I as safe as possible, so that we can try to avoid Covid and not delay treatment or my mastectomy surgery in June.
Luckily, I like my house, we only moved in a month before lockdown last year, and I am forever grateful that we did. So being at home, avoiding covid, means that I've got a lot of time to think. One of the thinking things I thought about was how Cancer, even the word, can be scary for the one diagnosed and for their loved ones. There's a lot about cancer that is in the dark for many people, because until you need too, you don't really think about it. And then it's suddenly all you think about and then there's a flurry of activity, preparing your mind, body and fridge for what's to come.
Long story short, I thought it could be helpful for others going through treatment or about to start, to share what I have found helpful, delightful and soothing during chemotherapy.
1. Meal Train
Having a meal train (a roster of meals made by friends and family) has by far, been the most helpful and stress-reducing help we have received. It ensures you don't get in undated with lasagnes and people can sign up to it and help out when it suits them. Some of my oldest, dearest girlfriends whipped it into being back in December for my first surgery and it came back and is our number one support while I'm doing Chemotherapy.
If you're the main cook in your house and you're reading this and you're in chemo and people keep asking you how they can help - this is the business. Share this idea with a close friend and have them manage it. My friend who is the chief organiser on this even messages me the list for the week, saving me from even having to go into the website. I'm also grateful that I have a record of people to thank in future, because chemo brain is real team and I forget a lot of the time to thank people.
Not having to worry about sorting a meal each night is something I am so grateful for. My energy is really low, the desire to cook even lower and my taste buds have left the building or repel many types of food, so having meals ready for my boys, means the world to me. I'm even able to delete or block out dates we don't need a meal. It's incredible. I have listed two websites at the end of the blog, that offer this service.
2. Mindless TV Series
My TV watching has increased exponentially and I seem to be drawn to shows that aren't based in our current times. I am loving The Marvellous Mrs Maisel, The Gilded Age & Bridgerton. The costumes alone keep me happy and the storylines and mostly non-violent plots, appeal hugely to my chemo addled brain.
Helpful for when you need a break, are on your own or you just need to think of something other than yourself and Cancer. I found these hugely helpful when I was first diagnosed, as they calmed me down when I felt panicky. I haven't worked on them much during chemo as brain power feels lacking, but I keep meaning to try. I have a few now to solve and I love that I can share them with friends once finished.
4. Canteen & Cancer Society Counselling
5. At home facials/Skin Care/lip balm
One thing I have really noticed is how much my skin has changed since I have had surgery and started on chemo meds. The big dry is an understatement. I consulted my skincare bible by Caroline Hirons as soon as I was told I needed chemo, to get a bit of intel on what I should be using during this time. Basically, taking out any 'actives' from my skincare regime was the goal. So now I have simplified my routine and am all about hydration. My current go to products are:
Emma Lewisham Skin Reset + Moisturiser
Conviction Skin Care Queen B Serum (this was kindly gifted to me and I am loving it).
I've also become a fan of at home facials, using what I have on hand but turning it into more of an experience, perhaps even while having a bubble bath. It's all about taking the time and if having Cancer in the time of Covid means we got more time to ourselves, then this is one way to at least enjoy it. Turn it into a ritual for yourself, once a week. The trick is to take each stage slowly, let the products sink in and enjoy. Just remember HYDRATION and you'll be on the right path.
6. Crying & Gratitude
I'm a hap-hazard journal writer, but I'm turning to the practice more and more as I progress on my cancer journey. It helps, a lot to write what you're grateful for. It doesn't have to be lofty, for instance this morning I was grateful for having no hair, because it means my lipgloss doesn't get stuck in it.
Then there's the crying. I have done a lot of it and some days it doesn't feel like I can stop. I'm learning that this is ok, it's ok to have a good howl, it's ok to feel sorry for yourself, this is big, this is huge, this will have life-long implications, so crying it out makes sense. My plan is to now do more of it, more often.
7. The power of makeup
I've always prioritised hair over makeup. But now I don't have any hair, it turns out I have more time to do my makeup. Thanks to the incredible Look Good Feel Better course I did, my interest has been piqued and now I'm just a little obsessed with giving my hydrated skin some extra love and a glow up. I've kind of turned it into a hobby and trying new tricks each day. Eye makeup has always been my nemesis, but I'm coming around to the fact that it really helps make me feel more alert and less beige when I pop more than mascara on. I highly recommend doing a Look Good Feel Better course - even if online, they pack a lot of learning into an hour long zoom call. It's worth it.
8. A Shakti Mat
It's an acupressure mat. Mine is second hand from my mum and over 5 years old, it's been ignored for most of that time too. But since being diagnosed I've been using it nightly. For 10 minutes at a time I lie on it in bed, just before sleep. I have no idea if it's doing what it's supposed to do, but there is a lovely feeling after I come off it and it helps me to relax. Plus the longer I use it, the more I am trying to be mindful of 'reading' my body while I'm lying still - being aware of where it hurts the most, or if any points feel more sore than others. It's a gem of a ritual and I look forward to bedtime now.
Helpful websites & resources
Pink Ribbon NZ - a helpful read on having Breast Cancer during Covid
Cancer Society - an incredible resource for all Cancer patients, who also offer free counselling to patients.
Canteen - a terrific support for 12-24 year olds going through cancer or with parents who have cancer
Look Good Feel Better - a charity that supports Cancer patients with makeup and skincare classes
Thanks for coming to my Ted talk. While I can't do any major fundraising or awareness events right now, I fully intend to embrace it next year. If you get the chance, consider hosting a breakfast or lunch to raise money for Breast Cancer cure. And finally, please do get your annual check-ups booked in. It's always the right time for your health.
Photo credit: Photographer Jessie Casson