Monthly Archives: November 2012

A Journey with Breast Cancer, Part 2: Chemo Hair Scare

By Jeanne Romano

When I heard I was going to have chemo, I have to be honest… one of the first things I thought about was my hair.  We all have something about ourselves that we flaunt. Our eyes, our teeth and smile, our ass… maybe it’s all of those. With me it was my naturally thick, shiny, red hair.  My whole life I was asked if it was natural. I loved that.  In fact my mom told me that when I was a kid, strangers would stop us and go on about my hair.

I am sure you don’t need me to go over all the scientific reasons why we lose our hair.  And, if you’re anything like me the last thing you want is more info from the “experts”. I have been where you are and although this is your cancer, your chemo and your hair (or lack thereof) I am hoping my experiences with what seemed to work (and what clearly didn’t) will help out during this rough time.

You probably know this drill however it really is key; exercise and eat a well-balanced diet. I know, I know it seems like eating a “well-balanced” is the answer to everything. There’s good reason for that; it is the answer to everything. Remember, just because you are taking a great multivitamin (which you should anyway, not just for your hair, but for your cancer recovery) doesn’t mean you don’t need to get all the good stuff from your food.

Fruits and vegetables are great ways to get all of the vitamins your body and needs.  And once you have these vitamins, the hair can hitch a ride making it more likely to grow.  Personally, I ate lots of beans, which are high in both iron and protein. It’s important to eat foods that contain protein and iron, because they are both essential for the hair, nails and teeth.  We’ll talk more specifically about the last two in future blogs.

Apparently prenatal vitamins are believed to work wonders for both hair and nail growth.  However, this one can be tricky because depending on other medications that you may be taking, it’s possible that you may be prohibited from taking prenatal vitamins. My doctor did not want to blend my meds.  Since everything situation is different, it won’t hurt to ask.

As for exercise, it cracked me up when I was told I needed to exercise to decrease the stress in my life – really? Ya think? We all know stress is bad for your health.  What I didn’t know it that stress might prevent hair from growing back faster after chemo. So I tried to relax.  I was tired.  The thought of exercise (no matter how beneficial it was to relive stress) sounded like torture. I needed something simple and relaxing.  Like so many, I discovered yoga.  You might also check out a community center with a pool. I swam as often as I could.

  • I used T Plus Tar Gel Dandruff Shampoo Original dandruff-shampoo. It’s thought that zinc (found in dandruff shampoo) increases hair growth. Who knew? I never had dandruff, however I still use it … I’m sorta scared to quit.

    Walgreens T Plus Tar Gel Dandruff Shampoo Original

  • Horsetail.  I used both the lotion and the supplements. My oncologists suggested this herb. It was supposed to prevent my hair from growing back brittle and dry. I had good luck with it. My hair was neither. Of course with the all the other things I was doing, it was hard to tell what was working and what was a myth.  Horsetail is pretty easy to find, it’s real easy to take and easy on the wallet. So, why not.

    Zia Skin Basics Herbal Moisture Gel with Horsetail Extract

  • I massaged virgin-olive-oil-moisturizer into my scalp every day.  It made me hungry for crusty bread.  It also made my scalp very soft.  Like the Horsetail I’m not sure if it actually helped promote quicker hair growth — it didn’t hurt either.

    Olivella All Natural Virgin Olive Oil Moisturizer For All Skin Types

  • If you want to color your hair after chemotherapy – personally – I made this mistake. I should have waited the recommended six months to a year… Let’s just say “purple” was not a good look on me.

You will probably agree that once you’ve had chemo, there is no such thing as a bad hair day.  It did grow back. It’s a bit different. Not better or worse, just different. With a few easy adjustments and readily available and holistic ingredients I learned what I could do to give my hair follicles a fighting chance and so can you!

Fitness Options for the Winter

By Leah Kaminsky

I’m an avid runner. To me, there’s nothing more rewarding than that post-run feeling, when the endorphins are still pumping high and my muscles feel that oh-so-good kind of sore. But when the weather gets cold and the sun takes its sweet time rising, there’s nothing more miserable than the thought of swapping my warm bed for the dark and cold. There’s only one way to keep that winter fitness high: get strategic.

  1. Take full advantage of the gym. Whether it’s sticking to the elliptical or checking out that spin class you’ve been meaning to take for years, now might just be the best (and warmest) time to do it.
  2. Embrace winter sports. When you open your door to find a thin sheen of snow masking half an inch of ice, running is the surest way to break an ankle. But cross country skiing, snowshoeing, and trekking in boots can be just as heart pumping, and a good way to mix up your routine.
  3. Dress warmly. Long johns, waterproof pants, thick socks, head warmers, gloves, thick jackets, whatever. Just make sure to keep it warm. Even better, dress in layers, removing your outer shell when you get too heated. This will decrease your chances of developing sweat-induced chills.
  4. Multi-task. There’s no getting around it: that initial plunge into the cold air will be disheartening no matter what. Get warm quickly by moving more than just your legs, strap weights to your arms and incorporate them into your exercise routine. Another multi-tasking trick: listen to podcasts or audiobooks to keep your mind off the cold.
  5. Have fun. Maybe it’s a skate around the rink after work, or a weekend trip to the mountains. Get your family and friends in on an active vacation or event and you’ll be much more likely to follow through.

Maintaining fitness in the winter is possible but you may have to trick yourself into it. And really, there’s no better feeling than finishing a good workout in the cold and stepping into a warm house for a steaming shower. Now that’s motivation.

How to Have a Local Thanksgiving in Non-Thanksgiving-y Places

By Leah Kaminsky

Here at the Natural Store, we like to share eco-conscious ways to decorate and throw parties during holidays like Thanksgiving. Often, we suggest looking to the surrounding environment for in-season, local solutions. This is all well and good when you live in a place where autumn leaves blush vermillion and the landscape is dotted with pinecones that leap right into wreaths, but what about if you live some place tropical, say, Southern Florida? Here are our top five tips for making that temperate climate work for you.

  1. Cook up a wintry smell. When you’re craving the scent of fall, it’s a good time to whip up a batch of mulled wine. Whether you enjoy the drink or not, there’s no holiday smell more authentic than cinnamon, sugar, ginger and orange. Potpourri is also a great way to go, as are locally made, scented organic candles.
  2. Make the most of your seasonal produce. Grapefruit, mandarins, oranges and pumpkins are available in warmer climates around this time of year. Use this produce as the base for breads and muffins or simply spice up bland recipes with a squeeze or peel of citrus.
  3. Avoid paper products. While paper plates and plastic forks make for easy clean up, they’re not the greenest solution. Instead, keep a nice set of china on hand that’s decorated for the season. Plates with wreaths, for instance, can be just what an ex-Northeasterner needs to get into the crisp, autumn spirit.
  4. Embrace your local birds. From quail to geese, swans and ducks, there are many native Florida birds that would make a great addition to your Thanksgiving table. And, if your heart is set on turkey, you should be able find a number of regional farms. Turkeys, it seems, thrive in just about any climate.
  5. Make a few compromises. At the end of the day, going for local decorations in temperate climates may require a few compromises. That coconut rind may not make for a traditional Thanksgiving look, but why can’t something so tasty make for a sumptuous cornucopia? After all, Thanksgiving is about celebrating local harvests. So make the most of yours!

Having a green, local Thanksgiving is definitely possible, no matter where you are. With a creative mindset and a can-do spirit, your Thanksgiving will be a hit with the whole family.

Eco-Friendly Hair Tips

By Leah Kaminsky

Our hair is an essential part of our mojo, and we want it to be easy to style and always looking great. But for those of us who worry about the long-term health effects from the chemicals in hair dye, getting that regular touch-up can be a scary thought. Not to worry, there’re plenty of natural options out there to help you look your best tressed.

Blondes and Red Heads

Great news for blondes: If you’ve got a scratchy throat and the need for touch-up, you can kill two birds with one stone. A weekly chamomile rinse is great for brightening dirty blonde or brown-streaked hair. In fact, any yellow-blossomed flower or herb will do, including mullein, yellow broom leaves, turmeric and quassia chips. Marigold is good for red-gold highlights, though it’s hard to get a full, rich red. To create your natural color treatment steep the flowers or herbs in a quart of boiling water for half an hour, strain and cool the mixture. Then pour it through clean, towel-dried hair at least fifteen times, leaving it in for half an hour before rinsing it out.

The downside? I’m sorry to say, my fellow greenies, but the chemicals just have the natural stuff beat when it comes to quality. Herbal dyes have to be applied progressively to get the full color you seek; even then they’re not necessarily all that accurate and they’re certainly not long-lasting.

Brunettes

If you’re a brunette, make like an Egyptian and dye your hair with henna. Buy dried henna powder and mix it with a lightener like chamomile to ensure a less brassy tone. Add the mixture to boiling water to make a thick paste, then stir in some vinegar to make it stick. Apply the cooled mixture to your hair, wrap it in a plastic bag and let it sit for thirty minutes to two hours before rinsing and allowing to air dry.

Henna is a very effective dye, the only downside here being that it’s hard to control the exact color results. A more complete guide is available here.

No matter what approach you try, always test the dye on a hidden patch of hair and also on your skin to see both the resulting color and to test for allergic reactions. And as always, have fun!

A Journey with Breast Cancer, Part1: Chemo and Radiation Rescue

By Jeanne Romano

There are many wonderful blogs and articles, even full websites, dedicated to the side effects of chemotherapy and radiation. Most of these works cover the doctor recommended remedies. Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure your doctor knows what’s what when it comes to your hair, skin, teeth, nails and even the infamous “chemo brain” fog.

Being a breast cancer (double mastectomy) survivor and being all too familiar with the side effects of chemotherapy and radiation, I’ve tried and tested many of these recommended products.

In a series of blogs I’ll go over all the major chemo and/or radiation concerns and share what’s out there (and there’s a lot) to help you heal the external you while you’re focused on the internal you. Each blog will go into detail and name names. Yes, real products that actually work, where to get them, how to use them and even how much they cost.

Jeanne and friends at a 3-day walk in support of Breast Cancer

YOUR HAIR

This is probably the most feared chemo side effect and rightfully so. It’s also the most misunderstood. While chemotherapy is different for each person – and hair loss is pretty common, it’s still an awful feeling when large clumps of hair suddenly fall out or are left on your pillow. It can be very scary, even traumatic. Not having hair (especially for women) is a constant reminder of what’s happening to your body. And isn’t funny how we all remember our hair as being our beautiful crowning glory –even if it wasn’t?

In the “Hair Blog” we’ll go over some cool things that might help speed the re-growth of your hair once your chemotherapy is complete.

YOUR SKIN

Like many of you, I experienced all sorts of skin reactions from both chemo and then again with radiation. My problems ranged from rashes and cracked skin to blisters and peeling – even some bleeding. Not pretty and often painful.

In the “Skin Blog” we’ll explore organic skin care –available products that should go a long way to protect and regenerate your skin.

YOUR TEETH & MOUTH

Chemotherapy packs quite a punch. What I learned and according to Cancer.gov, chemotherapy often plants that punch right in the mouth. Xerostomia, also known as dry mouth, is a condition of insufficient saliva. Saliva, of course, aids in cleaning, neutralizing acids, speech and alerts us that we’re thirsty. Dry mouth can lead to an unclean mouth which invites cavities.

In the “Teeth & Mouth Blog” we’ll discuss the many options designed to keep your mouth happy and healthy. And with everything else you’re going through the last thing you should be dealing with is repeated trips to the dentist.

YOUR NAILS

Not everyone experiences damage to their fingernails. However, many of you might notice superficial effects – ridges, breaking, thinning. Radiation is also a risk for nails.

In the “Nail Blog” we’ll chat about common issues of “chemo nail” and look into possible problem solvers for care and feeding (yup, vitamins are a thought) of your nails.

YOUR COSMETICS

It’s tough to feel good about your looks when your eyelashes and eyebrows are gone, you’re bald, feeling bloated and you may even have reddish dry chemo-skin. The emotional reaction can be very difficult. And contrary to common acceptance, it’s not always as simple as throwing on a wig, using make-up or applying false eyelashes.

In the “Cosmetic Blog” we’ll look into makeup and cosmetics that just might help fight the blahs – which can go a long way (it did for me) to restoring a sense of self.

YOUR BRAIN

When I first heard about “chemo brain” or brain fog I thought it was a joke. Not true. Many patients, including myself have reported being frustrated with a type of cloudiness that can occur before, during, and after their treatments.

The “Brain Blog” will be a bit different; only recently have legitimate studies been conducted to try and clear up the confusion. We’ll investigate.

YOUR PEACE OF MIND

Pampering you. While medications for nausea, diarrhea, mouth pain and other side effects are often necessary, creating a resting place with cozy sheets and pillows to make your sleep comfortable is equally important.

In the “Pamper” blog we’ll discuss resources to hopefully make it easier to let go: listen to music, journal (if that’s your thing) or just figure out simple ways to relax.