February 25, 2009

The Flu and Sweating Bullets

sick-in-bed

It is flu season.  Everyone has the flu.  I don’t, but having just typed that, the tiniest threat of superstition is upon me and I’m afraid I’ve jinxed myself.

I think to many outsiders, the flu might seem like nada compared to having cancer.  In the grand scheme of things it is.  But my physical body doesn’t really live in the grand scheme of things.  Joint pain, chills, fever, and nausea happen in real time, not ‘grand scheme of things’ time.  In fact, sometimes I think having the flu is worse for me since my diagnosis because it resurrects so many bad memories.

Since cancer, I better understand the concept of post-traumatic stress disorder.  For some patients the smell of rubbing alcohol or the sound of shoes on linoleum bring back horrible memories.  Prior to my treatment, I had a three month long fever as a side effect from a preparatory drug. Having the flu careens my body back into those three months.  I feel like I am approaching the terrifying prospect of treatment.  In my mind I know I’m in present time, I’ve got the flu, I’ll recover, but my body is totally disconnected and heads straight for a five alarm panic attack.

Now, at the slightest sign of the flu – aching skin, a twinge of joint pain, sudden change in my body temperature – I don’t reach for vitamin C, Thera-flu, Echinacea, zinc, or Tylenol.  Instead I crack open my big orange bottle of xanax.

If you are a cancer patient, what is it like for you to have a common cold or flu now?  Any easier or harder than before cancer?  Does being sick make you anxious?  Do you ever feel symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder?  If so, what triggers it?

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January 27, 2009

Eight Tips To Stop Recycling The Cold-Flu


As a young adult cancer patient, I feel I have reached my quota of sickness. I don’t want more cancer, nor do I want my friends’ colds or their kids’ flus. Germs linger and it is easy to recycle colds within a household. If you, your roommate, your parents, your friends, or your kids have been sick, treat your dwelling like a New Jersey superfund clean up site.

1. Wash. Wash in hot water bed linens, towels, and the cozy throw you cuddle up with while watching TV.

2. Pillows. Launder pillows, or better yet, buy pillow protectors and launder them.

3. T-brushes. Crack out a round of new toothbrushes. (Purchase many at a time so you always have new ones on hand.)

4. Clothing. Wash scarves, jackets, or other clothing that comes in contact with your mouth or face.

5. Alcohol. Spray down knobs, remote controls, keyboards, counters, and cell phone with alcohol.

6. Pocket book. Cleanout and wipe down your purse or wallet.

7. Kleenex. Empty the mountain of Kleenex piling up in your trashcan.

8. Air. Open windows and crank a fan to get fresh air flowing. Live in a freezing climate? Air out while you are walking the dog, running to the store, or visiting your downstairs neighbors.

Do you have any other clean up tips to add to the list? Does it change your mental state to wipe away the physical grime? Do you ever avoid friends’ or family members’ homes because they don’t clean after colds?

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