Sunday, January 10, 2016

Mouthing Off

This has been a really great weekend, and I am so thankful for that!!!  I got some acupuncture and biofeedback last week that helped me enjoy the weekend.  I got to spend time with family and my two best friends, eat lots of pasta (tortellini alfredo is one of my favorite dishes, and it's one that still has some flavor for me during chemo), snuggle up with my kitty and watch football, and I even got to go was a dream weekend for this girl!!!  I found a ton of great scarves to wear this spring and summer at Charming Charlie's for $1-$4!  They were on major clearance, and they are BOGO half off right now!  They are lightweight and will be perfect for wearing on my head.  Their semi-annual sale is AMAZING!!!  I highly recommend checking it out!  

Also just FYI, I have no clue why the background of the text is different in various places on this post...formatting is something way over my head!!!  So please forgive the eyesore that that is, thank you!  :)  [UPDATE: Formatting has been fixed!!!  Thank you Dad!!! :D]  Now on to my topic for today...

Ohhhh the beloved chemo mouth! Out of all the chemo side effects, the digestive tract (for me) has the broadest range of symptoms. For this post, I will be focusing only on the first part of the digestive system: the mouth.

While the mouth seems a simple body part, it's actually quite complex. From practical purposes to pleasure, our lips, teeth, and tongue are essential to many daily functions. Several years in the dental field have taught me the importance of teeth for chewing and obtaining adequate nutrition throughout our lives, and there are so many different things that can go wrong with them (and it seems just as many different fixes). The tongue is also important in the chewing process, and is essential for swallowing and talking. Lips provider a barrier for the mouth, and is also important in chewing and talking.

Normally, all these surfaces are covered in our dear friend saliva. All that lovely drool is actually very important! Saliva provides the first step in the digestive process, helps prevent tooth decay, keeps your mouth wet and comfy, and fights germs and bad breath. Now, if you take that lovely substance away, as often happens with chemo patients, you end up with a whole host of problems (the least of which is a cranky patient).

Ok enough with the biology lesson, on to the whining! The corners of my mouth are constantly cracking (you can kind of see it in the picture, red and irritated spots). This would be fine if 1. I didn't like to eat, and 2. I didn't like to smile a lot. My mouth is so dry at moments I feel like sandpaper would be wetter! And it's amazing to me how my tongue can feel bloated, yet desiccated. This of course makes it difficult to eat (I won't go into the loss of taste buds function again), but it also makes it difficult to talk and breathe. Now, you're probably thinking, "Well silly, just close your mouth and breathe through your nose!" At times, this solution works wonders! Other times you embark on a lovely back-and-forth journey of what's the worst of two evils: dry winter air running over a dry, ulcerated tongue, or dry winter air running through a very dry (except the 3-5 times per day when it's bleeding) nasal cavity?

And yes, I have a humidifier :)

Then there's the mouth sores...I haven't had these too bad thankfully! Mostly on the tongue. I've circled them in red on the picture, just in case you couldn't find them.  LOL.  I'm glad my tongue is not on my face!
But, it's only for one year. And there are only a few bad days each cycle! And the Chiefs won!!! 😀

Ok well now that I've whined enough, here are some things that have helped (for anyone who may be reading this and experiencing similar fun times):

  • Humidifier - I don't know for sure that it's helped, because I have used it every day and night since before I started chemo, but I am assuming it is helping and would not want to attempt NOT using it.
  • Magic mouthwash - This. Stuff. Is. MAGIC!!! Literally it's magical...with a numbing agent that works very well and two other magical ingredients (I don't remember what they are or what they do), this stuff helps coat the mouth and tongue and makes you feel like you want to live again! It also helps heal up those fun little mouth sores.
  • Mentholatum - Another winner! When you've been battling internal nosebleeds and causing so much friction to your nostrils that they start to bleed too, this stuff helps restore some moisture to those guys. I tried to put it on frequently BEFORE wiping my nose, to help prevent more irritation, but of course if your nose is having a bloody Ebola-like moment, ain't nobody got time for that!!! I've also found that, while recommended for external use only, putting a bit of Vaseline up in my nose a bit helps coat those bone dry passages, making breathing more comfortable.

  • Burt's Bees, EOS, Softlips, Chapstick, our dental office lip balm, it all helps those dry lips and cracked mouth corners!
  • Saline nasal spray - good for helping to lower the frequency of nosebleeds. 
  • Extra-fluoride toothpaste - With the increased risk of tooth decay, it's important to help the enamel stay strong! 
  • Ice cream - yes!  Even without flavor, the cold and texture feels GREAT on a sore mouth!!!
  • Protein/nutrition shakes - Gotta keep that nutrition up, and when it hurts to eat actual food, shakes go down easy. And with no taste buds tasting, flavor ain't an issue! All mushy foods (mashed potatoes, yogurt, etc) are all wonderful too.  My mom ***correction: Dad!*** found these (pictured below) at the grocery store, and they are pretty darn yummy!!!  I tried the sweet potato and beet ones also, and they were good too.  You can't see him in the picture here, but there is an adorable bunny on the package too (Peter Rabbit)!  

  • Most importantly, remember it's only temporary. It's all a sign that the chemo is working!  We'll be back to tasting kale and cupcakes in no time!!! 😉Here's to a great couple of weeks, getting ready for Round 3 on the 22nd!❤❤❤❤❤

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