Sunday, July 28, 2013

Life with cancer is seldom predictable

After taking my husband out for dinner on Father’s Day, I noticed that my right hand and arm were swollen.  The left hand and arm appeared to be normal.  I called Hospice when we arrived home from the restaurant, and they said a nurse would come to check on me.

When the nurse first checked the swelling in my arm, she noticed that my fingernails were completely white, and the palms of my hands were red.  My feet were purple, but would change back to their normal color every few minutes, before changing to purple again.

According to the nurse, the most logical explanation for the swelling seemed to be lymphedema.  Lymphedema is caused by a blockage in the lymphatic system, which prevents the lymphatic fluid from flowing as it should.

I would need to keep my right arm elevated as much as possible so that the lymphatic fluid wouldn’t pool in my hands or arms.  The fluid  can impact circulation, which was probably the cause of my purplish feet and my white nails. My vital signs were all strong and I seemed to be in good health, other than the minor swelling issue.

A friend of mine who is a massage therapist offered to do a lymphatic drainage massage if the nurses and my doctor approved.  She said it was a very light massage that would help the lymphatic fluid drain out of my arms and eventually to my kidneys, which would be able to eliminate it.  The doctor approved, and I had the massage.  It felt wonderful.  I didn’t notice much difference in the swelling, but there might have been a slight reduction.

Occasionally, I become very irritable.   The nurses explained that the lymphatic system is responsible for transporting hormones throughout the body, and that when the lymphatic system is compromised, it can play havoc with the hormones, which is what causes me to become irritable or have hot flashes (something I had never experienced before).  Everything that happens in my body seems to affect one or more other things, causing a chain reaction that is unbelievable.

Many foods that I loved, now taste terrible to me.  Most breads, pastas, fried foods and many salads are as appealing as having a mouthful of cardboard.   Fresh fruit still tastes good, and so does peanut butter on lettuce, celery, carrots or apples.  

A month ago, I was ravenously hungry all the time, now I am seldom hungry, and often feel too full, even if I haven’t eaten.  That change worried me, and I asked the nurse about it.  

She said she would have medicine sent over to relieve the feeling of fullness.  She didn’t seem concerned about it, but I was concerned.  She checked my blood pressure, which was nearly double my usual reading, which worried me even more.  The nurse assured me that my fears about the lymphedema, and the feeling of constant fullness were what caused my blood pressure to spike.  I relaxed a bit.

She told me she would be back to check on me the following day.   

This time, instead of my normal blood pressure reading, it was 48 over 41.  Very low.  I nearly panicked again.  I couldn’t understand how I could even be sitting up with a blood pressure that low.  

The nurse asked “have you been drinking water.”  

I told her that I usually drink water all the time, but that morning I hadn’t had any water yet.  She said, “That’s what I thought.  You’re dehydrated.”  

I got my bottle of water and began to drink.  After about 15 minutes, she checked my blood pressure again, and it was exactly where it should be.  What a relief!  According to the nurse, low blood pressure is frequently caused by dehydration.  Who knew?  Not me.

I’ve been battling thrush, a yeast infection found in the mouth, and have found that the medicine prescribed to treat thrush can lose its effectiveness if used too frequently.  One of my friends brought me a jar of organic coconut oil, and said that she learned that swishing a tablespoon of coconut oil in your mouth, for 20 minutes each morning, can control or eliminate thrush.  I was willing to give it a try, and it’s working!  I’ve read that additional benefits of swishing coconut oil is that it cleans and whitens your teeth.  How about that!

I didn’t realize that once the jar of coconut oil was opened, the oil would turn into a hard white substance, similar to lard...  I wasn’t sure I could put a spoonful of that in my mouth, but I did, and I didn’t gag.  In only a few seconds, it returned to liquid form.  

Because it goes to solid form, when it’s stored at room temperature, it’s important to not spit the oil into your sink drain.  I usually get rid of it in a paper cup.  If I let the cup set out on the counter for an hour or so, the oil is hardened and can be tossed in the trash.

It’s been a few days since I’ve noticed any changes in my body.  I’m hoping there won’t be any.  If there are, I will deal with them as they arise.   

Life with cancer is seldom predictable.


  1. I'm so sorry to hear about your struggles Ruth. You are so bravely moving forward with every issue that comes your way. Sending you hugs and admiring your bravery dear friend.

    1. Thank you, Crystal! The struggles are not severe, so I am doing well. I find it so interesting how everything seems to be affected by everything else. And I am grateful for all the natural healing methods, and for the support of good friends like you!

  2. "Everything that happens in my body seems to affect one or more other things, causing a chain reaction that is unbelievable." You've really said it all, even your mood affected your blood pressure!

    One quality I've always noticed, in everything you write or do, is that you remain curious. Even going through this, your wonder and fascination are ongoing. You amaze me.

    1. It really is fascinating, Laura. I would never have imagined that not drinking water would cause my blood pressure to drop. Or that my tumor could make my skin red and itchy. I always think there must be something I can learn from this that will help me to overcome it. I hope so!