The Beauty of Chemotherapy

The Beauty of Chemotherapy | Sedruola Maruska

Oooooo I know the moment I begin talking about the beauty of chemotherapy I’m opening myself up to all sorts of judgements. Thing is, before I had cancer, it was easy for me to judge too. All I ask is that you take a moment and hear what I’m saying.

The Beauty of Chemotherapy | Sedruola Maruska

Going through chemotherapy is not a fun process. It requires patience, stamina and a whole lot of understand on the part of those around you. Chemotherapy is a toxic poison that anyone not going through cancer can judge all they want. Now that we’re done with that, let’s get to the beauty of chemotherapy.

My Story

On January 2, 2018 I went in for my first chemotherapy infusion. I had no idea what to expect, but it was the course I’d decided on so there I was. My husband and I went to the Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center in Waltham and started my four month journey on chemotherapy drugs. That was also the first day I met my nurse, Jennie (who would later be known around my house as ‘my Jennie’). My veins did not cooperate on this first visit. They were hard to find so several nurses came in to help ‘my Jennie’ in placing the catheter. Everyone was so kind.

At my first chemotherapy appointment my husband accompanied me. After that appointment, I had someone new with me each time. Only my mom & sister/cousin Rose came with me twice. There were specific reasons, but the most prominent was that I enjoyed having the company. I also think it helped me keep front and center the support I had. By my third infusion I began to look forward to chemotherapy. I looked forward to seeing my Jennie, my Mary (the wonderful nurse who did acupuncture & acupressure for me and relieved my nausea by her third visit) and interacting with my hero of the day.

The cancer journey can be rigorous and lonely if you allow it to be. However, mine was always filled with love, support and lots of laughter. Although I felt frustrated at times, I never felt alone or lonely. Falling in love with my nurse and nursing staff made every visit an adventure.

Read my article: Working Through Chemo a Survival Guide

The Beauty of Chemotherapy

Now for the beauty. Chemotherapy, as much as we may hate it and consider it a poison, it works. I felt my mass melt away after the first infusion so that by the 5th infusion, we could barely find it. It shrinks tumors and helps give people back their lives.

Chemotherapy brings people together. I met amazing nurses, I’m thankful for my great doctors, but mostly my friends, family and community banded together to give my family the help we needed in going through a major medical crisis. Every call, card, flower, package, meal, blanket, text etc. served to help keep our spirits high and happy. Chemo lets you know who will or will not be there for you in the end. We all need to know that information.

Finally, the thing that chemotherapy did for me, that it seems nothing else ever could, is it gave me time to take time for myself. It knocked me down so that I could take time to allow my body to fight and heal. It taught me how important self-care is no matter what and gave me time to explore what that means to me.  Taking time out for yourself is beautiful, chemotherapy taught me that.

Would love for you to follow me on Instagram

Each Decision is Personal

How someone decides to fight their battle with cancer is highly personal. For anyone to berate someone going through chemotherapy is highly ignorant, insensitive and rude. We make choices based on what works for our lives. Whatever someone decides to do, as long as it’s the best thing for them, they should be allowed to do it. Chemotherapy is scary, but if you allow it, chemo will take you to a new level of respect for your mortality. There is beauty in chemotherapy, just as there is in anything that is trying, but you can overcome. Never feel guilty for choosing life via chemo. Those who don’t understand have never stood where you stand, they can’t.

Gratitude

Thank you to Myrna, my Jennie, my Mary and all the nurses at the MGH Cancer Center for making my process one to look forward to every two weeks until we were done. To my Oncologist, Jeff, thank you for being easy to understand and relate to. Finally, to my Jenna, who took over when Jennie had to change shifts, thank you. You all hold a special place in this survivor’s heart because you helped with the battle!

The Beauty of Chemotherapy | Sedruola Maruska
Lisandra, Gail, Myrna, Rose, Dr. Jeff, My Mary — My Angels

Disclaimer

Please know that this is MY experience with chemotherapy. I am a cancer survivor who knows and understands that there are as many stories as there are people fighting cancer. My goal is help someone going through or anticipating chemotherapy treatment know that they can do it. It’s not all bad and keeping a healthy mental attitude does wonders. I’m sure you have opinions, feel free to voice them in the comments, but do so in love. 🙂



You’ve Got Breast Cancer – Survival Tips

You've Got Breast Cancer - Survival Tips | Sedruola Maruska

Before we get into my breast cancer and tips, I’ve got to give you some background as to how life was going before diagnosis.

October 2017

My gynecological wellness appointments are usually around my birthday. I went in and saw my amazing nurse practitioner, Linda, as always. Because my breasts have always been a bit “busy” we’ve been very vigilant in dealing with anything that comes up. When she said something didn’t feel right and that I should go see a breast surgeon, I didn’t argue. She gave me the number, promised to call ahead and I promised to call.

It took me a few weeks to call the surgeon, Fall is a busy time of year for us. School started, programs were needing signing up for and I lost a friend to cancer. When I finally did call she asked that I get a fresh set of scans (mammogram, ultrasound) and we’d meet a few days later.

Click here to follow my Instagram for extras

December 2017 – Breast Cancer

On Monday, December 4th I went in to get new scans. I met with the surgeon on Wednesday, December 6th. The scans were up on her screen as we spoke in the exam room. We both looked at the scans and agreed that we didn’t see anything unusual. However, when looking at my real life breasts, they clearly no longer looked like twins, let alone sisters. “I’d like to do a punch biopsy this morning if that’s okay with you” she said. Sure, I was already there and late for work so why not. She did the punch biopsy and that was that.

On December 7th I went to the Massachusetts Conference for Women, made new friends and felt ready to take on the world. It was an empowering day and the thought of having just had a biopsy never entered my mind.

On December 8th I went into the breast center to have a previously scheduled biopsy. That biopsy didn’t allow me to swiftly forget it’s presence. For two days I had pain. On the third day we went to a holiday party and again, I didn’t give much thought to my biopsies. I’d had enough biopsies in my life that they were almost routine. Remember, I’ve always had “busy breasts”.

On December 13th my husband accompanied me to the doctor’s office to get the results of both biopsies. “You have Invasive Lobular Carcinoma, Breast Cancer.” That’s what the doctor told me once we were done greeting and introducing. Those are the only words I clearly remember from that visit.

You've Got Breast Cancer - Survival Tips | Sedruola Maruska

Processing. . .

Although I suspected, I didn’t actively expect that a diagnosis of breast cancer would come my way. I imagine it’s the same with any unexpected diagnosis. Time slows down while your mind starts racing faster than ever and you can’t keep up. What does it mean? Am I going to die? Has it spread? I need to tell my parents! Will it damage them? Who will take care of my children? My children need their mom! How long have I had this? What do I do now?

By the time I was able to catch a few things said in the meeting they were positive in the whole realm of having cancer. My cancer is non-aggressive, growing at a rate of 10%, it’s estrogen & progesterone receptive and after spending Dec. 14th having a PET, CAT & MRI’s done we found it hadn’t spread to other organs.

Let me back up to diagnosis day again. After hearing the news, my surgeon’s nurse let me know I was scheduled for all my scans the following day. She also informed me that I needed to go get blood tests done right away. I left the office, sat on a bench in the hall and cried. The tears spilled for all the unanswered questions that ran through my head in the office as I spoke them out loud to my husband. For the first time in my life, I stood face-to-face with my mortality and I wasn’t ready for how it felt, so I cried.

Going Through

As I made my way to the lab to have my blood drawn I called my sister. She’s always the first person I call whenever something huge happens. As I told her about my breast cancer it felt as if I were talking about someone else. It didn’t feel like my story, even as we had to cut our conversation short so I could get blood drawn. I’m surprised at how calm I felt in telling her. I’m also surprised that only about an hour after being diagnosed I said “I don’t think this came to kill me, I think it came to teach me something I need to learn. I need to be open to the lessons.”

The next thing I did was go to my parent’s house to tell them the news. It was hard for me to tell them that their daughter had breast cancer. I felt as if I was doing something horrible to them. I cried while I told them about the meeting. They never broke down. They were stronger than I was at that moment. They’ve always been strong. They assured me this diagnosis could be beat. They gave me strength.

I don’t remember if I slept that night. I know we didn’t tell our kids (6 & 11) that day. We wanted to have as much information as possible so we could answer any questions they came up with. I woke and got myself ready to spend the day at the hospital doing scans. In-between I called vital people to let them know early on. Which brings me to tips for handling the days following diagnosis.

Tips For Sanity

  1. Breathe – It may sound simple, but consciously breathing will do wonders to calm your whole body. Take calculated and deliberate long, deep breaths so you can clear your thoughts. Do this as often as you need. You’re going to get more news, and have to deal with things changing quickly so practice breathing.
  2. Cry – It’s cleansing and necessary. If you feel the need to cry, cry. Don’t let anyone shush you or tell you not to cry. You’re going through something they will never understand (unless they go through it too) so cry when you need to. Just make sure to cry and move on. Do not cry and wallow. You have to feel and emote, then breathe and push forward.
  3. Ask questions – It’s your life, your body, your treatment and your choice. Ask as many questions as you want and need to ask. Listen, take notes and ask more questions. Feeling comfortable with the decisions you make is important. This is a very personal journey so ask away.
  4. Get a Doctor you Like & Trust – I liked my surgeon the day I met her (thankfully) because she was very clear, she wrote things down, she spoke in human speak and answered all my questions clearly. I appreciate that she never let me feel that I was in the dark. Make sure your oncologist, surgeon, plastic surgeon, radiologist etc. are all to your liking. You do not have to just accept whomever comes. When my husband and I met my oncologist for the first time we liked him too. We later found out he was good friends with one of our good friends, that was icing on the cake. Feel comfortable with your doctors. There will  be many on the journey.
  5. Allow Others to Help – This is HUGE! Once your life goes into overdrive and there are doctor’s appointments, scan appointments, sick days etc. you’re going to need a community  of people to help with everyday tasks as simple as cleaning your kitchen counters. Be open to offered help. Let the love flow. Others want to help, and you’re going to need the help so put your pride aside and allow the love and kindness to flow you’ll find your true tribe here.
  6. Be Selfish – I know how this sounds, but you’ll thank me. It’s about you right now. You can sill be the compassionate, caring, loving and giving person you’ve always been, but less. Your body, no matter how you choose to fight your fight, is going to be doing hard work. It’s going to need you to give it the food, rest and support necessary to fight. I know it’s going to be tough, I’m still in the throws of it, but it’s essential. Take care of yourself so you can be around to take care of others again.
  7. Make Yourself Heard – What you want as it pertains to your treatment and care is important. Don’t let anyone shut down your thoughts or feelings. Be open to hearing other points of view, but at the end of the day, you must be comfortable so make yourself heard.
  8. You’re Still You– The minute after you’re diagnosed, you’re still the same person you were the minute before diagnosis. Remember that. A diagnosis doesn’t change who you are it just puts you on a new path. You’re going to have the need and desire to examine yourself, do it kindly. Remember, you were an awesome being before the words came out of your doctor’s mouth so you’re still that same awesome person. If anything, you’re going to be even more awesome because you’ll be stronger from the fight. Be kind to yourself.
  9. Ignore The Negative – People will say a hundred different things that will seem offensive, insensitive and insulting, ignore them. When we don’t know what to say sometimes we say the wrong things. We don’t learn that just saying nothing is sometimes the best policy. You’ll hear opinions on what you choose to do regarding your treatments, how you brought this on with your diet, how you should get closer to God to heal, etc. Remember to take it all with a huge grain of salt and focus on what you need, what feels right for you and how you want to proceed. They don’t know or understand because if they did, they wouldn’t be hurtful. This experience will shake your tree and show you who the real troopers are in your tribe. Love them hard!

Conclusion

Any hefty diagnosis is usually blindsiding. I hope sharing of bit of my story and some tips will help you navigate the muddy waters. Do you have additional tips you’d like to share? We’d love to hear them in the comments. As you know, once diagnosed things can feel confusing and overwhelming. Sharing vital “sanity” tips is kind and helpful!



Sandlewood & Frankincense Soothing Bath Soak

Sandlewood & Frankincense Soothing Bath Soak | Sedruola Maruska

I’ve fallen in love with taking baths! I used to enjoy them before as a “once in awhile special treat” but I now that I’ve been actively fighting cancer I realize how medicinal bath soaks truly are. Taking a bath is not only for cleansing your body, but your soul. When I’m feeling tense, pain, anxiety or fatigue, especially going through chemotherapy, getting into a nice hot bath with salts and essential oils always calms my spirit and makes me feel so much better.

Dr. Teals Epsom Salt Soaking Solution Bundle – 1 Relax & Relief Eucalyptus Spearmint 3lbs and 1 Sooth & Sleep Lavender 3lbs

With Mother’s day coming quickly I wanted to share one of my favorite bath soak recipes so you can make a batch of soothing & healing bath soak for yourself and the special mom or moms in your life. This “MYO” (make your own) recipe is quick, easy and light on the wallet!

Sandlewood & Frankincense Soothing Bath Soak | Sedruola Maruska

Essential Oils

Although the essential oils are the smallest ingredient in  the bath soak, there are specific reasons I’ve chosen Sandlewood & Frankincense for this particular soak. After being diagnosed with breast cancer I began to look at essential oils and their properties. Reading into the many uses of essential oils is so enlightening.

Sandlewood

Sandlewood is a steam distilled oil that is woodsy in fragrance. The top properties of this oil are:

  • anti-inflammatory
  • anti-carcinoma
  • astringent
  • anti-depressant
  • calming
  • sedative

Besides the fact that I received it as a gift and fell in love with it’s scent, knowing and experiencing it’s properties in a bath soak on days when my pain is raging has solidified my love for sandlewood.

Shameless plug for you to follow me on Instagram

Frankincense

Frankincense blends well with Sandlewood because their properties are similar. The top properties of this oil are:

  • Immunostimulant
  • anti-carcinoma
  • anti-inflammatory
  • anti-depressant
  • restorative

Using this oil with Sandlewood makes for a potent soul soothing mix I think you’ll love.

Working Through Chemo: A Survival Guide

Bath Soak Recipe

Feel free to pre-mix your bath soak, however, it isn’t necessary. But, because I want you to enjoy this for yourself and share with someone else, I’ll give two measurements for mixing.

Individual bath recipe

  • 1/2 cup Epsom Salt
  • 1/2 cup Baking Soda
  • 8 drops Sandlewood Essential Oil
  • 8 drops Frankincense Essential Oil

As an individual soak, pour the Epsom salt and baking soda into the running water. Then put the drops of sandlewood and frankincense. Stir the bath as you get in then lie still.


Gift size recipe

  • 2 cups Epsom Salt
  • 2 cups Baking Soda
  • 10 drops Sandlewood Essential Oil
  • 10 drops Frankincense Essential Oil

As a gift size be sure to store your bath soak in a glass, air tight jar. Mix all the ingredients in a bowl until they are well mixed, then scoop into the glass jar. Be sure to use a ribbon and tag to make it look more festive.

Best Bath Practices

As a bonus to this bath soak recipe I thought I’d share some of the best bath practices that have allowed my bath time to be truly meditative and healing.

Use dim light / candles – Using calming light practices while taking a bath will help set the state for relaxation.

Play soothing music – Use music that doesn’t compel you to sing, but to relax and reflect. I usually tune my phone to my Pandora New Age Station and let the music flow.

Use water as hot as you can stand – One of the important elements of a good soak is the hot water. Don’t burn yourself, just use water hot enough to help you sweat throughout your bath for a healthy exchange of toxins.

Dry brush and/or shower right before – Before you lie in the bath for a healing soak you can do one or both of the following: dry brush, shower. Dry brushing exfoliates your skin and allows for better exchange in the bath. If you can’t dry brush, take a shower and use a washcloth to scrub your skin (what I’ve done so far). Doing either of these things prepares your skin for a nice sweat and exchange opportunity.

Soak for at least 20 minutes – Soaking for at least 20 minutes gives your body the chance to expel and absorb what it needs from the salts and oils in your bath soak.

Lie still – When you’re moving around you don’t give yourself the opportunity to enjoy the soothing nature of your bath. Lie still for the first 20 minutes allowing your body to sweat and release toxins.

I’m sure you have a special bath soak recipe you love, won’t you share? Sharing what’s worked to keep us soothed during trying times is always helpful