Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Wrap It Up!! Keep That Incision Dry!

Providing useable hints and tips for cancer survivors and their families.  That has been the goal of my little blog.  I can blather on all the live long day, but the absolute best tips come from YOU!!!

This is a great tip from the beautiful Carol who lives by the sea in beautiful Maine!!!

Do you have a brand spanking new porta-cath?  Maybe you're dying for a shower and your doctors and nurses don't want you to get the incision wet?

Do you have a post-op surgical incision that you aren't supposed to get wet yet?

Perhaps you have a drainage device or external catheter that you don't want to get wet while showering?  Or a dressing of some kind that you need to keep dry.

Carol would like to share her favorite new product to help keep some of those things dry while showering....

That's right.  Glad Press'n Seal!!! 

As someone who never cooks, I will tell you that plastic kitchen wrap has always befuddled me.  I find that most of it doesn't stick no matter what side you try to wrap or press it on. Whenever I put it around a bowl, it just hangs there doing nothing.  It never sticks to what it is supposed to.   The only thing it seems to stick to is itself.

My sister in law has used Glad Press'n Seal and I have to say it actually grabs on to whatever you are trying to wrap up in the kitchen.

Per Carol, it also works to help keep that dressing dry.  She keeps a roll in her kitchen and now one near her shower!

Apparently it has just enough "sticky"-factor to keep it in one place while you are bathing.  Also, if you have an abdominal wound, you could just roll this right around your waist like a plastic corset!

Here you can see, it is a little cloudy and Carol says the texture is perfect and easy to grab on to.

Most importantly....it keeps everything you need to keep dry in the shower, DRY!!!


If you use Emla cream on your porta-cath (to numb it up before they access it)  and you don't have any little plastic bio-occlusive dressings left, I bet this would work perfectly.

So, there is Carol's tip!!  Cheap, easy, works great!!

Whether you are wrapping a sandwich or a wound dressing, apparently this is a great product!!

Hope it helps!!

Thank you Carol!!!

Beautiful Carol from Maine!!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

The White Blood Cell and Exercise-Anecdotal Evidence

There are plenty of studies and articles out there that support the idea that moderate exercise during cancer treatment is beneficial.  We know that it helps combat fatigue in the cancer patient.

But there are not a lot of articles out there that specifically address if exercise can increase your white blood cell counts (WBC) during treatment.   Many articles speak to the role of exercise in strengthening your "immunity", but not specifically in regards to elevating your WBC. 

So here is what we in the business call "Anecdotal Evidence".   Anecdotal evidence is when you have some information that has not been backed up by years of studies, or has only been studied in small groups or populations.   Usually in the medical world we base what we tell you on evidence from research that has already been performed.  Every article you read will refer you to a research study or supporting article on which the current article was based.  Some bibliographies in a medical journal can go on for pages and pages.

But since this is my blog and not a medical journal, I will share with you some "anecdotal evidence" from a couple of fabulous survivors that I know.

These ladies found that their chemotherapy regimens were dropping their white blood cell counts, as we all know that they do. (See my previous blog posting for information about white blood cells in general:  http://www.omgihavecancerwhatdoidonow.com/2012/04/neutropenia-and-febrile-neutropenia-huh.html).

Several times these patients had to delay having their chemo for a week until their WBC increased.

After increasing their daily exercise regimens, they noticed that they had subsequent WBC elevations and did not have to have their chemo "held" or delayed due to low WBC counts.  This happened several times.  They hadn't changed any other variable from before.

Many times as health professionals,  we might not "catch" something like this, because we don't draw blood tests daily.  We usually only draw blood once a cycle or twice a cycle depending on the drug regimen.  These women had their blood drawn a day or two after exercise increases. 

White blood cell amongst red blood cells

The moral of the story?  You can do your own search of the literature (hey, it's Sunday and I'd rather be reading something else besides the history of the WBC!!!!).  Or, you can try it yourself!

Here are some links for articles about exercise and white blood cells:









Wednesday, November 21, 2012

AZO for UTI's

If you have ever experienced a urinary tract infection (UTI), you know some of the major symptoms:

  • burning when you urinate
  • pain with urination
  • feeling like you have to urinate right away (almost like you are not going to make it to the bathroom in time, aka "urgency")
  • feeling like you have to run back to the bathroom to urinate again, even if you just urinated 2 minutes ago
  • many trips to the bathroom to urinate (frequency).  

It can be very uncomfortable.

The advice used to be drink plenty of cranberry juice until you could get to a doctor.

We have had the prescription drug Pyridium (Phenazopyridine) to treat the symptoms of a UTI for years.  But until this summer, I never knew that there was an over the counter version/strength of Pyridium available.  It's name is AZO.   Who knew???  You can buy it at any drugstore chain.

I want to be VERY clear here.  Pyridium treats the symptoms, but not the actual infection itself.  So, you still need an antibiotic to treat the actual infection itself.  You still need to get the prescription for that from your doctor.  But in real life, it might take a few days to get a doctor's appointment and AZO can help you get some relief until you get the prescription for an antibiotic.  It helps make you a little more comfortable and gets you over the hump until the antibiotic kicks in and starts doing its' thing.

Packaging says not to take it for more than 2 days.  This is pretty reasonable. You would want to start actually treating the infection within 2 days of onset of symptoms.

Be prepared...it will make your urine bright orange, so just be prepared for that.  It can stain your clothing.

If you have soft contact lenses, you should not wear them while on AZO as it can stain your contact lenses.

Don't take AZO if you have known kidney issues or allergies to Phenazopyridine.

But, it is a great short term over the counter drug to give you some relief until you can get to the doctor.

Cancer patients in active treatment?  Do not wait 2 days, you need to check your temperature and get to your doctor and start antibiotics ASAP. 

This advice is to help provide a little short term relief for those cancer survivors who are out of treatment, in follow up, who just have UTI symptoms .

Hope this helps!

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Thank You Veterans (not cancer related)

This post is not cancer related.  But hey...it's my blog so I get to decide what I post!!  : )

Because it is Veterans Day.

God only knows where we would be without the service and sacrifice of our brave veterans. To those presently in the military- stay safe and THANK YOU.

This is my favorite veteran story…

About 20 years ago, I had floated to the medical short stay unit and had a patient who was having an MRI guided procedure.  I asked him if he had any metal filings or shrapnel exposure.  It was the day before Thanksgiving, so it was ridiculously quiet and slow, and there were only a couple of patients there.  This gentleman said  “yes” he had shrapnel  exposure, started crying and “did I have time to hear about it?”.   About one and a half hours later I had heard his story of how he was at Omaha Beach/part of D-Day invasion.

He spoke of the scene, the friends he lost, the nurse who helped take care of him afterwards.  He wept intermittently throughout.  He told me that he had never told his story until that day, not to his wife, not to his grown son.   I asked him why he was telling me.  Basically because he was getting older, I had asked about the shrapnel (a standard question if you are having an MRI) and because I reminded him of his nurse post D-day.

I obviously thanked him for his service, thanked him for honoring me by sharing his story with me.  I urged him to share his story with his son, as it was an amazing and important one. 

A few weeks later he returned with his son to give me a wooden bowl that he had made for me.  He had started a dialogue with his son about his war experience.   It was one of those encounters as a nurse that you never forget, and I think of him of him every Veterans and Memorial Day (and every time I use that bowl).       

Some of my favorite veterans

Sunday, November 4, 2012

More Gifts for Cancer Patients

I was in The Container Store  www.containerstore.com today.  I bought 3 items that would be perfect to go in a cancer patient's gift basket.  The first two items (because cancer patients have a lot of pill bottles to handle) are awesome to help organize the actual pill bottles in a medicine cabinet. 

Be mindful though, as sometimes medicine cabinets are not the best place for your drugs because they can get damp, and this can affect the effectiveness of your pills.   But if you are going to store your pills in the medicine cabinet anyway, here are two awesome products to help you keep a little order in your life.

The first:  Linus™ Cabinet Organizer with Drawer.  Yes, yes, yes...it looks like any old plastic organizer you could pick up elsewhere.  Here's the thing.  It fits PERFECTLY on any medicine cabinet shelf.   This one has a little pull out drawer.  $9.99 at The Container Store.  It allows you plenty of places to put bottles and even to "stack" them on top of  a little pull out drawer for "regular" stuff. 


Linus™ Handled Cabinet Organizer:  Only $5.99 at The Container Store.  Also fits perfectly.  You can't stack with this one, but it fits many prescription bottles nicely.

The third item:   Weekly Pill Organizer

Sounds unexciting for a gift, but believe me this kind is hard to find with all the days of the week AND breakfast, lunch, dinner and bedtime compartments.   Usually I see a lot of pill cases with just breakfast, lunch and dinner as options, or "a.m." and "p.m" only.  This is the best as this is usually the schedule when most medications are prescribed.

I like how you can take out a whole days' supply in case you are just headed overnight somewhere and only want to take a one day supply of medications with you (see picture below).

I will say this one is kind of large, so it should serve as your "home base" pill organizer.  

I would suggest picking the same day that you will always fill your pill container, so that you don't forget.  I taught my 90 year old mother to fill hers every Sunday.  

Also, for an elderly friend, you might want to try taking one of each of their pills and gluing it to a sheet of paper.  Next to the pill put the drug name, what it is for,  and how many times a day they are supposed to take it.  I did this for my mom and then slid it into a plastic page protector.  Every week when she fills her pill organizer for the week she checks it against the guide I gave her.  Kind of a visual "cheat sheet".   If they give her a new pill that doesn't look like the others, she knows to call me or to ask her pharmacist about why it looks different (sometimes just a change in drug company).  Anyway, my mom really says this helps her. 

Now none of these gifts seem too exciting.  But in a gift basket with other items, I promise that the cancer patient will appreciate them!

Hope this helps.