Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Recovery Status

Slowly but surely, recovery from treatment continues.

Yesterday I wrote a little about my energy level. It improves all the time, but I still have periods of feeling quite fatigued. At the end of a work day I'm pretty tired, and weekends are still usually pretty low energy affairs.

From a scientific point of view I'm fascinated by the fatigue. Physiologically, what the heck can be causing bouts of pronounced tiredness five months after treatment?

I think I've mentioned before that one answer to the fatigue issue is probably to start exercising again. Pre-cancer I was in pretty good shape from riding my bike 11 miles each way to and from work most days. These days the main exercise I get is walking. I've never been a runner but I've been thinking of taking it up since it is so convenient - just put on your shoes and head out the door.

I've been sleeping like a baby. I hardly ever get out of bed in the night lately. I wake up occasionally but am able to go back to sleep. I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that my favorite Christmas present was an electric blanket. I started sleeping better as soon as we put it on the bed. The warmth is comforting. It is a real treat to sleep well again after so many months of fitful and interrupted sleep.

Over the holiday break I had several nights where I got 10 hours of sleep. I think I made some headway on catching up.

I've noticed lately that I am adjusting to and compensating for the hearing loss. I really only notice it now when I am trying to listen to a single person in a room full of talking people or a room with moderate to loud music or TV. When I first returned to work I had a hard time hearing people in my office but I seem to have figured that out. I still have tinnitus but it has never really bothered me (some tinnitus sufferers are quite bothered by it).

My biggest remaining challenges are related to food. I still have greatly diminished taste and saliva.

While the saliva situation hasn't changed at all, I think I might be experiencing a slight improvement in taste.

Last week I had lunch at Wagamama, an Asian restaurant. I ordered a vegetarian ramen - a noodle soup. The broth was very-well seasoned and I think pretty salty. It was the first thing I've eaten that seemed to have a complex flavor, and the flavor lasted throughout the meal. Many things I eat I can only taste for the first bite or two and then it is flavorless after that.

This weekend I ate part of a blueberry muffin. It also held it's flavor longer than usual, and the sugar crystals on the top actually tasted kind of sweet. I liked it enough that I actually snacked on it at home. I never snack these days because no food is pleasant enough to eat "casually".

I bought Progeny the Elder a bar of Lindt white chocolate for her Christmas stocking. I tried a piece of it and it both tasted a little bit good and had a texture that was a little pleasant. Inexpensive chocolate like Hershey or Nestle hasn't been very enjoyable - I get hardly any flavor and the texture is chalky. I guess I need expensive chocolate!

I don't eat very much meat because it requires more saliva. I have to chew my food for a long time so that I can add liquid and make a slurry that is wet enough to swallow. With most meat, that's hard to do. With any food, I have to be careful not to end up with so much food in my mouth that I can't swallow it.

But speaking of meat, one other food that I've discovered is good is a burrito bowl (no tortilla) at Chipotle. I get it with the barbacoa, a shredded beef with a sauce that is pretty wet. I get the bowl with both sour cream and guacamole and the combination is wet and slippery enough for me to actually enjoy. Today at lunch I ate almost the whole thing, which is quite a feat for me. And the beans and meat are more protein that I usually get.

I stopped tracking my calories a long time ago but I weigh myself every morning to make sure I don't lose more weight. I've been within a pound of 155 for quite a while so I'm doing alright.

I still have a little bit of excess mucous in my upper throat. I wake up with a clump of it there and it can still take some time to clear it in the morning. But it has improved steadily and is much, much better than it was. Even after I clear it I still always have a bit of mucous in my throat. It makes my voice sound a little froggy most of the time. I also still cough and sneeze more than usual, but those are both also very much improved. For a long time I had to sneeze through my mouth because sneezing though my nose caused expansion of all the nasal spaces and it was quite painful. Now I can sneeze through my nose with only a small amount of discomfort.

One other weird after effect I have is occasional tingling in my legs. I seem to notice it most frequently at the end of my mile-long walk from the office to the train station. I'll get two or three mild electric jolts from my waist down both my legs to my feet. It's not bothersome, just weird.

So overall, with the exception of the food issues, life continues to get more and more normal.


  1. Happy to hear your status has improved so much. Its much easier to be happy when your goal is "only" to be normal. I had the same when I was recovering from my primary treatment, I just wanted to be able to back to work, eat, drink and speak normally. Now, in my present (recurrent) situation, i make up small goals that will be challenging to fulfil, for instance, I just completed a 4 day trip to Germany's Capital Berlin. Two of my doctors have raised their collective eyebrows to that - but I did it! and I and my family are very happy about it. So much so, that we have scheduled a trip to London in less than a month. Various care persons (nurses and doctors) keep telling me I can do whatever gives me energy. In Your case, I assume teaching or coaching students gives more back to you than you spend doing it. Keep up the good work along the road to normalcy. Marten

  2. Well while many treatments it happens, hearing loss (temporary) can be caused due to any ongoing treatment it may be because to drugs used in the treatment. I would prefer you to have a healthy diet which is allowed during the ongoing treatment but also helpful in improving the hearing. Although healthy diet always improve your eye sight and hearing but still including few things in diet can make big difference. One can follow below to plan a healthy diet

  3. Hi, I'm glad to hear that you're recovering...fatigue seems to be one of the main topics of discussion among survivors. I am just dropping in to inform you of a contest that the Head and Neck Cancer Alliance is funding to raise awareness and support survivors: ohancawvideochallenge2014.blogspot.com/