Keeping Your Mouth Healthy

keep_healthy_mouthimage credit: Good Search

Cancer treatment can be rough on your body, including a side effect of dry mouth. The very best thing you can do is take steps to prevent and reduce dry mouth as much as possible. Here are some tips for managing dry mouth, and mouth sores:

If you can, see your dentist before cancer treatment begins, especially for a cleaning and fluoride treatment to help avoid cavities. After treatment, see your dentist on a regular basis. Tell your dentist when you’ll begin treatment, and what type of treatment (chemo, radiation) you’ll have. If you wear dentures, see your prosthodontist for issues related to proper fitting.

Avoid tobacco, alcohol, and products like most mouth washes that contain alcohol. (Biotene is an alcohol-free mouthwash made especially for dry mouth. They also make a mouth moistening gel.)

Use a soft bristle toothbrush. Run the bristle under hot water to make them even softer. Make sure you’re changing your toothbrush every three months, or if it falls on the floor, touches something dirty, etc. Oral sponges may an option if your mouth is extra sensitive.

Floss, but do it gently.

Drink plenty of fluids.  Water is best. Avoid all types of carbonated drinks. If you drink fruit juice, water it down. During mouth sores, the juice may be too intense, and by watering it down, it will be easier on your mouth, and better for your teeth. Sip drinks throughout the day. Fluids are extremely important not only for dry mouth, but for any cancer treatment. They’ve done the job, now flush them out of your system.

Rinse your mouth out several times a day with one-quarter teaspoon of baking soda and one-eighth teaspoon of salt dissolved in one cup of warm water. In the midst of mouth sores, I did this every hour, and took medicated mouthwash three or four times a day. My mouth sores where minor, and gone relatively quickly. I caught them right away—when I thought they may be mouth sores, but not sure. .  . . I called my oncologist and immediately began taking prescribed mouthwash, and rinsing with baking soda, salt and warm water.

Avoid breathing through your mouth. It dries out the mouth. Breath through your nose if you can.

Talk to your doctor about a zinc supplement. If you have a funny taste in your mouth, zinc may help. Ask your doctor first, to make sure it doesn’t interfere with your treatment.

For more on Dry mouth, see the post: Dry Mouth During Cancer


Stress Reduction for Cancer Patients

deep_breath image credit: Good Search

Cancer. A positive attitude will help, but don’t put an added weight on your shoulders by expecting always be happy, chipper and having the energy, or body of Wonder Woman. It’ll just add to the stress of it all.

Knowing stress-reducing activities can help. Find activities you enjoy. I requested people to pick up comedy and travel DVDs from the library that I could watch while on the couch. I also listened to CDs of music and books, and downloads of hypnosis for pain reduction, to which I’d often drift off to sleep. I’d also drift off during meditation, or prayer.

If you don’t know how to meditate, but think it may help you, don’t make a big deal about it. Try breathing deep, slow breaths when you’re lying down, trying to fall asleep. For me, It would help to say a positive affirmation or short prayer—one word with each inhale. It means a short phrase will take a long time, and you may forget the next word, or get tired enough from the deep breathing that you’ll fall asleep during the process. If you choose to do short affirmations, it may go something like this:

Lower your shoulders. Even when we’re lying down, we have them raised, which is a state of stress, not relaxation. Deeply inhale in as you mentally say, “I.” When you fully inhale, there’ll be a moment where you pause into the nothingness—neither inhaling or exhaling, without holding your breath. Your body will know when to begin the exhale. After completely exhaling, there’ll be another moment where you pause into the nothingness—neither inhaling or exhaling, and not forcing your breath out. Your body will know when to inhale, and as you inhale, mentally say, “Am.” On your next inhale, you might mentally say, “Health” or “Peace” or “Comfort”—Whatever comes to you. If “Watermelon” comes to you, allow it, and continue with your breathing. It’s about release, not control or judgement. You can begin with “I” on the next inhale.

When I used a prayer, I almost always fell asleep around the tenth word, which was what I used on purpose to help me fall asleep—and I believe falling asleep to a peaceful mind is setting the stage for healing during sleep. I also believe some of us sleep to heal. Anytime I’ve gotten sick, if I could get sleep, I recovered pretty quickly. I figure my healing Guides get me out-of-the-way so they can do the healing.


Gentle Exercise

gentle exerciseimage credit: Good Search

Energy = A body in motion stays in motion. During cancer treatment you’ll hear, “Stay active.” You may not feel like being active, and you may argue, “I can’t”, “I’m tired!” I hear you. Prior to cancer, I was active. During cancer, my oncologist would tell me to exercise. I’d go on short walks—ten minutes max. When I completed treatment, I was willing to push myself, but during treatment I was at the end of my rope, hanging on, tying a knot so I didn’t slip off. If this sounds like you, I suggest a real honest talk with your oncologist and yourself. If you’re “tired” —well, that’s part of the deal, isn’t it? But can you push it a bit without getting sick? Know your body. Respect your body. Sometimes that means moving it. Sometimes it means resting it. It’s a delicate balance.

If you’re not walking 20 minute walks, are you walking to the mailbox 1-2 times a day? Is a neighbor a few doors down whom you’d like to visit? Can that neighbor come get you and join you for a 10 minute walk? It’s not about being the athlete. I remember mopping the floor for the first time after treatment. I was so weak I couldn’t squeeze the water out of the mop sponge! So, I used my leg to brace the mop and was able to wring it a bit. My floor was sopping wet—but clean! At this point, exercise is more about circulating blood, counter swelling, and brightening moods. You may even sleep even more, which was my concern, because I was sleeping 19-21 hours a day. Indeed, I did sleep more when I exercised, but eventually, my strength allowed me to do more in my waking hours, and sleep like a champ.

Do some gentle stretching, and short walks. It’s like making a deposit of energy and strength into your health account. You can bank on it!

Don’t Worry

attitude Image credit: Good Search

Years ago I read this and every now and then it pops up as a reminder: If you worry, pray. If you pray, don’t worry. Change is inevitable. Sometimes the change is fast and incomprehensible. How we respond is our choice. We’re never alone. We can feel alone. We can push aside our spiritual beliefs, or refuse to believe in a Higher Power. Even that doesn’t work. The Higher Power is within us, and through us. It is always for us.

Whatever’s going on, it’s not about a Higher Power dissing you. It can give us nudges, signs, and put helpful people and things in front of us. Even with arrows pointing the way, we must figure out what’s helpful, and what to do when “the sign” is presented before us.

We’re the ones who direct the flow of Infinite Intelligence. Where’s your attention? If it’s on sickness, the Universal Flow brings you more. If your attention is on healing, It’s on its way. See the difference? It’s like focusing on loneliness when you want friends. Why would you focus on loneliness? Don’t. Focus on what you want to experience. Friends, laughter, good times. See a loving couple enjoying each other’s company in the store? Say, “That’s for me!”

Whatever we’re affirming, we’re directing Infinite Intelligence to work in that direction for us (and in some cases, against us.) The more aware and more allowing we are of It’s work, the more our receptivity to It continues to increase. The better we know how to work with It, the happier we are.

Food Meditation

Mindful eating image credit: Google

Before you eat, do you bless your food? Do you think of all the ways the food before you supports your existence? From the sunshine and water, to the farmers, truckers, store clerks, and if it has a wrapper on it, the designer of the package and the person who bought, prepared, and about to eat the food? We could even go out further to prove to ourself the support of all the universe by including our dishes, the chair on which we sit, the drink we’re about to have with the meal. . .

Can you eat in total silence? So many people eat fast. They don’t even know what’s in their mouth at any given point. Try this: Eat with someone and out of the blue ask: What’s in your mouth right now? Describe the taste, and texture. Some people have to stop and think what food is in their mouth! And their hard pressed to describe it.

Appreciating the food we eat doesn’t just mean, “Thank you”. It’s about being aware. Here’s are two links about mindful eating.

This is about Thich Nhat Hanh’s meditation center in southern France. If you’re in southern California, there is a Buddhist monastery that allows the public to join the monks on certain days for mindful eating. (Deer Park Monastery, Escondido, California.)

Pain Management

Feet, hands, back, arms. Got pain? Post surgery; post treatment. The pain seems like it will never go away, but it usually does at least lessen. One-third of cancer patients continue to experience long-term pain after cancer treatment. The degree of pain can vary from mild to severe, and may last months to years.

Complimentary treatment can help ease the pain. Things like hypnosis, reiki, or massage can help — although it may be best to have lymphatic massage instead of a deep tissue one. Since cancer, I’ve stopped getting acupressure, but have found relief with acupuncture. Yoga can help, too, but again, be careful. If it’s too much for your lymphatic system, it’s not in your best interest. Soon after completion of treatment, a friend and I set out in our head scarves for our first and only yoga class. I sat through most the class as it was beyond my endurance level at the time. That night, my friend’s  arm puffed up due to her stressing her lymph system during the “modified” yoga class. Just as when you go to the doctor, you must be your own advocate with complimentary treatments. Just because everyone else can do it, or is willing to listen to the teacher and not their own body, doesn’t mean your body is ready or willing to do certain things anymore. Pay attention.

I would get down with the pain because it never seemed to lift. I’d have treatment, then surgery—another treatment—another surgery . . . this went on for quite a while. As soon as I felt I was ready to get back into life, pain would set in—or another treatment, or surgery.

Be patient. Be loving to yourself. Be hopeful. I was one of those who a year out looked back and said, “I did all that for this level of living? No!” —And had what could be considered moments of regret, and depression—fear for the unknown lifestyle I had before me. I’ve learned not to compare with what was, or the person next to me at the gym. I am a miracle just by waking up each day. (The truth is, we all are – with or without cancer!) So, if you wouldn’t give your best friend grief about how far they’ve come, lighten up. Get off your own case. Move forward. Here’s a link re: chronic pain after cancer treatment.




Active After Cancer

Active after cancer

A few months after I completed chemo, my friend was diagnosed with diabetes. He called me in a panic, “Send me some salt substitute! Pop in the mail tomorrow!” He wasn’t joking. His diet of bread, wine and candy—and to cover all food with salt—was crashing in. In our relationship, I was the healthy, active one—the “let’s take the stairs” person. He preferred the couch when he wasn’t working evenings and weekends.

A few days ago I got an email from this friend. I now read his emails shaking my head at how tunes can change. In his recent correspondence, he mentioned his now playing tennis, going to the gym, and taking vigorous walks. Who was this man? He knew the States where on holiday, but made mention of my going to the gym, and how much progress I’m making after three years of cancer treatment.

I responded saying, “Yes, I’m back at the gym. Last month I made it there once a week—for fifteen minutes each time. Front desk staff must think I swing-in to use the restroom! Last week I went to the gym for forty-five minutes! It felt like it, too. For twenty minutes I biked three miles with resistance, then lifted three and five pounds, and worked on my balance.”

My friend responded, thrilled at the jump of endurance from fifteen to forty-five minutes, adding, “I know you’re on holiday, but I know you’ll get to the gym this week.” He and I were both amazed. His amazement is more uplifting than mine. . . It’s an honor to have people believe in you when you can’t believe how far south you’ve moved from what you used to call the norm.

I got his email Friday night. I decided the pressure of his faith in me was good for me, and Saturday I headed to the gym. Again, I worked-out, solid forty-five minutes. Elliptical machine fifteen minutes with decent resistance, chest machines (clearly not ready for this—it hurt, pulled/stretched my new implants that drag under my pec muscles whenever I move my arms in big motions – think sand paper.) Again I lifted three and five pound hand weights for biceps and triceps, then worked on my balance.

Saturday 7:30 p.m. WHAMM-O! I couldn’t keep my eyes open. I gave in and went to bed. Waking-up Sunday 9:30 a.m., I felt every muscle in my body was sore. Roll call: Advil? Here. Alpha Lipoic Acid? Here. Arnica? Here.

Today the day is cold and cloudy.  A good day for cozying-in, and maybe a few toe-touches (putting on socks and shoes, that is.)

Some are able to walk the walk, or get on the bike and ride after cancer. Some aren’t. Get off the comparisons. Physically, it can be hard to see where you were then, with where you are now. This is when practicing being present really helps. You’re doing the best you can. Focus on the here and now. This is the moment that matters.

Breathe in.

Rest in the holy instant between breaths.

Breathe out.

Rest in the holy instant between breaths.



Quiz: Are you active enough?