Cancer Chronicles 21: Goop, Goodies, & Other Stuff.

Lots of photos with this one. I’ll explain in the captions.

The prescribed goop for malnutrition. Yeah, I know, Nestle. I'm not happy about that.

The prescribed goop for malnutrition. Yeah, I know, Nestle. I’m not happy about that.

My first goodies bag.

My first goodies bag.

When empty, a useful caddy, good for the shower.

When empty, a useful caddy, good for the shower.

Reach Program Stuff.

Reach Program Stuff.

Okay, let me start with the good stuff. Right now, this is the best I have felt in the last long seven months. My energy is great, I’m sleeping well, can’t stop stuffing my face. I gained 3 lbs, putting me at 95 lbs now! This is not to say it’s all been roses without thorns, but I will take every single good second I have, and be very happy. As far as the radiation goes, everyone is rather surprised that I’m over two weeks in, and not having any side effects. Again, I’ll take every day I get without them, and be happy about it.

I do need to correct one thing from the last chronicle. At that time, I thought the swelling I was experiencing was due to the veliparib. It’s not. Turns out that one of the less common side effects of the Xeloda (Capecitabine, oral chemo, converts to 5FU in the body) is swelling of the feet, ankles, and face. My facial swelling is limited to under my eyes, but that’s bad enough, makes me look like a bloodhound. The feet and ankle swelling, that’s a whole different matter. The swelling was getting severe, and you get numbness with it. It’s not fun to walk when you can’t feel your feet. I did accidentally find out that the longer amount of time between morning and evening doses helps to decrease the swelling. There’s nothing to do for it, except to have your dose reduced if it becomes too much. Mine is under control for the moment, and not having to take the xeloda over the weekend helps a bit too.  Another less common side effect is a runny nose, so if your nose starts inexplicably running, look no further.

Radiation makes any existing inflammation worse, if your radiation is targeting the area of inflammation. I was warned by my doc that my sciatica would be made worse, and yeah, it’s all woke and angry again.  Celecoxib (Celebrex) helps enormously, and can keep you walking around without wanting to scream. The morphine helps too, but it’s the anti-inflammatory which makes the difference.

Naturally, in the midst of all this happy “rats below, I feel…normal!” something had to intrude, enter Grimhild, who has been an absolute beast the last week or so. She’s busy trying to make a break for it yet again as I sit here typing. And what’s an unruly ostomy and abdominal pain without massive butt pain joining the party? Ugh. Shouldn’t last more than a few more days, I hope. These things come and go at intervals.

Okay, back to more fun stuff. After my radiation scan, I get a massage several times a week, which is very nice, and I’m going to miss that. My massage therapist is a lovely person, fun to talk with and with a fine sense of humour, too. Pretty much everyone at radiation has a good sense of humour, which is not one of those things you think about, but it makes one hell of a difference to your days. Last week, I met with the nutritionist, and got a lot of helpful suggestions, and a scrip for goop. It’s tasteless, and can be added to pretty much anything. When I’m at the apartment, I blend chocolate milk, boost, and ice cream with it for a shake. The goop alone is 330 calories, with added protein. Here at home, I just mix it in a tall glass of chocolate milk. My nutritionist told me I’ll have to have 2,500 calories to gain a pound, so it’s going to be a while before I get anywhere near my normal weight, but I’m working on it. If I just drink the goop once a day, it gives me a bit over 2,300 calories per seven days.

I’m also in dire need of strength training, which will aid my muscle mass and help me to keep the weight on. We’ve talked recently about joining a gym, but of course, we’ll probably only be able to attend one day a week, but that’s better than nothing. More on that in a bit. I was also very relieved when my nutritionist told me I didn’t have to pile on the meat, because I still tend toward queasy when it comes to a lot of meats. I have been craving steak lately though, and had one last night, and it went down fine, so I’ll keep eating steaks until I’m tired of them, and move on to something else. Even there, I’m fussed. The only steaks I like, regardless of cut, are those that Rick cooks. He cooks them perfectly, with the exact spice and flavours I like.

One thing which is made abundantly clear all through treatment is that you have to eat whatever you can, no matter what type of foods that might be. Early in treatment, especially during infusion chemo, don’t worry about nutrition, just eat as much of whatever you can. Also, pay attention to cravings, and give yourself whatever you end up craving. If all you can get down, for example, is ice cream and pizza, go for it. Don’t let anyone boss you around on food, either. With all the weirdness of side effects, you’re the only one who knows what you can handle and what you can’t.  Of course, your caregiver knows all this too, and make sure no one is trying to boss them around, telling them how and what to feed you. Politely or rudely, tell such people, well-intentioned or no, that it’s none of their business, and they don’t have the slightest fucking idea of what they’re talking about, so shutting up is the best option.

I also met with the person who runs the Reach Program, and she’s wonderful. Lively, and very fun to talk with, which is a good quality in a counselor. We got to talk for a bit, and she is a survivor, breast cancer in 2008. We had the same oncologist. She’s the one who gave me my goody bag, and gave me all the info on support groups and workshops. I did talk to Rick about going to the caregiver group, at least once, because it makes such a difference to talk with people who know what it’s all about. I might go to a group session or two myself. I am going to go to the ‘look good’ workshop because free cosmetics. Hundreds of dollars worth. That’s a lot of art supplies. I might even use some on my wrinkles. :D The counselor also told me about the Live Strong program at the Y, which we’re going to register for. The next one, if we get in, runs from September to December, two days a week. It’s you and one family member or friend. They have trainers who specialize in cancer patients, and all the exercises are specific to what cancer patients most need. After the class, you’re free to use the other facilities. Swimming! Hopefully, we’ll be able to get in, the classes are very limited, in this case, it’s 12 initial people, and their person. Whether we get in or not, the need for exercise is vital at this point, so one way or another, it will get done.

The one thing you can’t avoid with radiation is the fatigue. That’s the biggest side effect, and it will hit sooner or later. Just deciding that schedules and alarm clocks had to go for now has made a big difference for me. It’s more relaxing, and it lifts a pretty big burden off your shoulders, even if it didn’t feel like much of a burden before. Getting enough sleep is crucial, and even more so is that sleep is actually restful and restorative. If it isn’t, you definitely need to have a good talk with your oncologists, and find a way to resolve that problem. Whatever helps you to relax and refuel is good – whether that’s spending time in a hot tub, a spa, having a nice glass of wine or something else while watching the sunset, decadent hot chocolate with a stack of books and a pile of quilts, going canoeing, whatever, do it. Every thing you can think of which makes you feel relaxed and rested, it’s good for you, and this is the best reason you’ll find to indulge. This is very necessary to your health, so don’t go feeling all guilted out about or over any of it. It’s not just necessary for getting you through radiation, but this is restorative for the whole damn time you’ve been in treatment so far; it’s also adding needed strength for getting through the rest of treatment, whatever that might comprise. In my case, a rash of tests, a couple of surgeries, more tests, and four more cycles of infusion chemo. Just thinking about that shit is exhausting, so do what you have to do while you can.

It’s not just the physical fatigue all that will help, it will help with the mental and emotional exhaustion which is prone to hit during radiation. All of you needs rest and relaxation. Whatever is mental and emotional basketweaving, so to speak, for you is also necessary, and seriously helpful. Rick had a good time with that last week, when a couple of things came up with Harlan, needing to be fixed. He was telling me all about it, because we’ve always talked cars, and I’ve always been involved in the mechanical side, and he was having fun. It was really nice for him to have a day diving into some minor repairs which had a few challenging moments. This is important to remember too – you and your primary caregiver are two sides of a coin. I don’t know what it’s like to be a primary caregiver, and Rick doesn’t know what it’s like to be a cancer patient, but for all that, the stresses and problems you both experience have a whole lot in common, and caregivers need rest and relaxation too, just as much as you do. Having mental fun and time out is crucial for caregivers, and once more, if you happen to know someone who is a primary caregiver, please consider giving them respite in one way or another. Take them out, give them a gift certificate for a massage, or a fun time out, whatever you can manage. You’ll be doing more than you’ll ever know.

I think that’s it for now. As always, if I think of more stuff, I’ll do an ETA (Edited To Add) in the next day or three.

ETA: about the Xeloda…my chemo brain has been much worse than it ever was during infusion chemo. Naturally, I was told this was the complete opposite of most people’s experience.  If it happens to you too, at least you’ll know you aren’t alone. Rick and I came up with Chemorad Space™, which is primarily where I reside now. When I go blank, I just shrug and say “chemorad space”.


  1. jazzlet says

    Great there is so much positve stuff for both of you. Wonderful that it is Rick’s steak that you crave and that Harlan needed his attention, I hope he’ll go to the carers group. That’s some jolly fine swag and the look good workshop sounds good too. I hope you get on the Live Strong program, but that you find achievable exercise in the meantime. Grimhild SETTLE (in that authoritative voice you sometimes have to use with an over excited dog). I hope you can sleep deeply and eat massively!

  2. rq says

    Good to hear about the weight, and yummy Perfect Steak (copyright Rick ;) ). I hope you get into the Live Strong program, because it sounds like a good opportunity to use the rest of the facility. So glad to hear there is mental downtime, may there more of it and may things continue to go swimmingly! ♥

  3. Nightjar says

    So glad to hear things are that much better now, Caine, I hope radiation keeps on being Not That Bad for you, after all you can’t always have the worst of everything. It is nice that for once people are surprised about lack of side effects!

    I also second everything you said about mental fun being crucial, and it has to be done regularly. I kind of neglected that for the past two weeks or so and the results weren’t pretty, I began entering some sort of depressive spiral I’m still struggling to completely get out of. I really need to be more careful about that.

  4. KG says

    Great that you’re feeling better right now! And still contributing more wit and wisdom than just about anyone @Pharyngula!

  5. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Good to hear you’re getting enough sleep and nutrition. Mental fun is part of the balance.

  6. says

    Thank you all so much! I can’t even say how amazing it’s been to feel so normal. Cancer certainly makes you appreciate that.


    I also second everything you said about mental fun being crucial, and it has to be done regularly. I kind of neglected that for the past two weeks or so and the results weren’t pretty, I began entering some sort of depressive spiral I’m still struggling to completely get out of. I really need to be more careful about that.

    Oh no. I hope you manage to find some time just for yourself, doing something you love. I tend to do this myself, and put things off until it’s really difficult to go and do something. Usually, I end up dragging my sorry arse out with my camera, and before you know it, I’m back to feeling better, but it can be so hard to get back there after you’ve neglected yourself for a while.

  7. Ice Swimmer says

    Good to hear you’re feeling better and getting you appetite back.

    Thanks for the mental fun discussion. I think I’ve done a bit too little of the right kind of mental fun it in the last few weeks because I’ve been busy (normal things, nothing special, people moving and such) and tired.

  8. says

    Ice Swimmer:

    (Making music was the thing tonight that was the mental fun.)

    Good! I hope you get more of that in.

  9. Nightjar says


    Yeah, since Friday I’ve been trying a combination of grabbing the camera every day even if I don’t leave the garden (so many flowers!) and spending a significant part of the day with headphones on, playing whatever “comfort” music I deemed helpful in getting me to feel better this time around (Nine Inch Nails is working). It’s helping. But I need to find some time to leave the garden and go into the woods with the telephoto lens. That would help a lot more. Next weekend, I hope.

  10. dakotagreasemonkey says

    Chemorad Space is actually pronounced as ChemoRaid Space. Not KE mo Rad, with a short ‘a’. For whatever reason, this bothered me, so now its off my chest. Chemo and radiation brain space-out is the definition, if that helps,
    Steak recipe: steak, at removed from refrigerator just long enough to approach room temperature, blotted dry with paper towels, season with fresh crushed black pepper, (no salt, don’t want to pull water out of the steak, that will make it tough!) then sprinkled with finger crushed sweet basil, and rubbed into the steak.
    Finger crushed is where a finger full of good dried Basil leaves are rolled between the first two fingers and the thumb to create a powder, applied generously, then rubbed in to the steak. Both sides, and all the edges, especially if there is a good amount of fat. Now, it’s hard to find steaks with enough fat, they trim almost everything good off them!
    Let them sit, covered with a breathing towel, for about 20 to 30 minutes, at room temperature. That lets the Basil powder get deep into the steak.
    Now, a bit of a conundrum. I’m used to old school broilers, In gas fired ovens,
    ( electric cooking still baffles me, nothing cooks right, stove top, oven, broiler, Too cold, then Too hot, Too long between temperature adjustments, No fine flame((heat)) control drives me crazy!)
    being at the bottom of the oven,
    Fire the Oven Broiler, let it get to temperature, heating the broiler grill that has been lined with aluminum foil, shiny side up.
    Lay the steaks parallel with, and centered underneath the broiler flame on the grill, and sprinkle Worchestershire sauce on the top of the steaks. Just enough that it doesn’t run off the top of the steak.
    Cook for medium rare for the thickness of the steak, pull from the broiler, flip, and add Worchestershire to the second side, and cook again to your desired level of doneness.
    Super simple recipe, only 3 ingredients, the hard part is timing with everything else you”re serving.

  11. dakotagreasemonkey says

    I have joined an Olive oil club, where I get fresh pressed olive oil from around the world. After my introductory first bottle, Italian, the first full shipment was from Spain/Portugal. I have a bottle of Portuguese oil from behind the mountains region named Douro. My favorite olive oil ever. I only have a third of a bottle left, with the Spanish
    Arbequina and Picual oils at 4/5ths full.
    I have always preferred Spanish olive oil over Italian or American oils, (My mom taught me that when I cooked with her when I was a Kid, she loved Arbequina oil).
    She would hoard that oil, and only serve it on special occasions, as a condiment to a special meal. Lucky Me, she shared that with me when I was very young.
    I believe that this is my favorite olive oil.

  12. Ice Swimmer says

    Caine @ 11

    Thanks (to Nightjar* as well), I have.

    * = Hoping for the time for you to go to the woods adventure.

  13. Ice Swimmer says

    dakotagreasemonkey @ 14

    I’ve stuck with Greek olive oils for the most part (mostly from Crete), but maybe I should experiment more. Most of the cheap stuff here is Spanish which is to be expected as Spain is by far the biggest producer of olive oil in the world. I have no doubt that they produce some really good oil in Spain.

  14. Nightjar says


    I’m used to old school broilers, In gas fired ovens,

    Me too! The reason we haven’t replaced our very old and worn-out stove yet is because of the oven it has. We have the suspicion that nothing on the market these days will be as good as that oven is.

    And yes, the upper Douro region does have some high quality olive oils that are really wonderful. So does the Alentejo region, if you ever get the chance to try one from there. I use olive oil daily on basically everything I cook, so I usually buy 2 liter bottles of not-too-expensive Portuguese olive oil for most uses and once in a while a smaller bottle of a higher quality oil for special occasions. And then of course I have at least two uncles that have small olive plantations and sometimes they give us a few liters of homemade olive oil! :)

  15. Nightjar says

    Ice Swimmer,

    Thank you! I promise to show the results of said adventure if the birds decide to cooperate. :)

  16. jazzlet says

    Nightjar have a look at the French Lacanche brand if you want a seriously hot oven, the gas ovens go up to 285C. The gas rings are the best I’ve ever had too, brass burners so they don’t distort with age. Costly but absolutely fantastic, I bought one with money my Dad left me.

  17. Nightjar says


    Thanks, I’ll take a look! Sooner or later we’ll have to replace it anyway. The oven is still fine, but the gas rings are all worn-out.

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