Favorite Netflix Shows to Watch During Chemo

I am so stoked to be part of the Netflix #StreamTeam! I learned last month that I was hand selected to join their exclusive blogger network to help share the awesomeness that is Netflix. Disclosure: Netflix provided me with a device and a year long subscription to stream content. All opinions are 100% my own.

This month on the blog we’ve talked a lot about breast cancer and it’s been an awesome month of takeaways despite the heavy subject matter. While October has historically been a difficult month for me because it marks the anniversary of my own cancer diagnosis, I do rejoice in the milestones it brings. On October 23, I checked off another year of being disease free and I am feeling extremely grateful for my health!

So to keep with the theme of my 2014 October breast cancer series (best tips and advice from survivors), I asked my friends in the cancer community (and those who just really like great television, too!) to tell me the absolute best television series to stream during those long hours receiving chemotherapy.

Need some suggestions on what to watch during those long hours of chemotherapy? Check out this list of my favorite series available to stream on Netflix.

Back in 2008, my oncologist’s office didn’t have wifi so I was streaming zero things. I read magazines and listened to music until I dozed off from the Benadryl. But there is something great about falling asleep to the lull of conversation and banter, don’t you think?

Favorite Series To Stream on Netflix During Chemotherapy

Once Upon a Time
Damages
Arrested Development
Sons of Anarchy
The Tudors
Chuck
Psych
The West Wing
Fraiser
Cheers
LOST
Call the Midwife
Sherlock
Luther
The Office

Need some suggestions on what to watch during those long hours of chemotherapy? Check out this list of my favorite series available to stream on Netflix.
30 Rock
Parks and Recreation

Need some suggestions on what to watch during those long hours of chemotherapy? Check out this list of my favorite series available to stream on Netflix.
Portlandia
Pretty Little Liars
One Tree Hill
Gilmore Girls
Greek
Freaks and Geeks
CSI: Miami and New York
Criminal Minds

The following list of shows contain cancer story lines which always isn’t the best idea when you’re trying to escape reality. However, these series are excellent!

Brothers and Sisters
Parenthood

Need some suggestions on what to watch during those long hours of chemotherapy? Check out this list of my favorite series available to stream on Netflix.
Breaking Bad
Desperate Housewives
Sex and the City

Several of these series have multiple seasons so there are plenty of episodes to watch during those long chemo sessions.

So tell me, what’s missing from this list? More comedy? More mystery or thrills? How about shows like House Hunters? I personally like something suspenseful with a cliffhanger that will make me want to watch the next ep, like, immediately. My top choice from the list above? Pretty Little Liars. Trust me.

Parenthood Addressing the Less Obvious Aspects of Breast Cancer

What can I say about Parenthood?  Man, they are so totally getting it right — at least compared to my experience with breast cancer.  Parenthood is brilliantly addressing some of the less obvious aspects of breast cancer and that makes this girl happy.

Last week, I had almost forgotten to watch but luckily only missed the first few minutes after snuggling in for the night.  Kristina had completed her first round of chemo in the episode before and I’m guessing this episode was supposed to be the next day.  The girl was sick off her ass until Adam got his hands on some “high powered genetically modified ganja.”

Here’s the crazy irony of this episode: it aired four years to the day that I underwent my first round of chemo.

From the stick of the needle to the overwhelming feeling of nausea, my first time was awful.  The nurse struggled getting the I.V. into the stupid catheter embedded below my collarbone that afternoon.  My anxiety was already sky-high and to have things go wrong only amplified my fear of what the chemo was going to do to me.  I broke down in tears, naturally.  That night, the nausea hit me like a ton of bricks.  I learned quickly to stay on top of my medications.  Chemo made me feel as if everything in my body came to a grinding halt.  A fight between good and evil.

Last night’s episode we see Kristina start to fear what she might miss.  This is where I think Parenthood is getting the story so right.  See, before being diagnosed, I never thought about dying.  Well, of course I did.  But, it was always this “thing” that hangs out there on the fringe of reality.  However, when you are presented with your own mortality – you bet your ass you think about it.  What sucks though is that you aren’t allowed to talk about it.  You’re challenged to stay positive and optimistic – you know, “Livestrong” –  and the topic is often brushed off at the mere mention of it.

I loved Adam’s reaction to Kristina’s wishes to see Max go to the dance.  It says so much about the character and how he’d do anything for Kristina.  I’m worried about Adam though.  I think he’s trying to hard to keep it together that we’re going to see him break.  This could potentially be a really interesting dynamic I hope the writers explore.

My love for Parenthood is in full bloom.  Not only am I so pleased with Kristina’s breast cancer storyline, I’m really loving the complex relationship budding between Amber and the former Dillon Panther and what about the previews for next week?  Sarah and Ray Romano?  I never really thought Jason Ritter’s character was right for Sarah but I certainly don’t think Hank is any better.  Lorelai and Luke forever.  Ok, now I’m just mixing real names with old shows.  But you get me, right?

So, here’s the question: are we going to see Kristina lose her hair or what?

Photo by: Danny Feld/NBC

How to Help a Friend Going Through Treatment for Cancer

Do you need ideas on how to help a friend going through cancer treatment?

what can i do for a friend going through cancer treatment

 

Do you need ideas on how to help a friend going through treatment for cancer?  I’ve put together a list of things that helped me while I underwent treatment for breast cancer.

Babysitting

Knowing that your child is well taken care of in your absence is worth its weight in gold.  When I was going through radiation treatment, I had to be at the hospital daily for a matter of twenty minutes.  I’d get undressed, get zapped, get dressed, and go home.  But, I couldn’t take my daughter with me to my appointment.  She couldn’t be in the treatment room and I obviously couldn’t leave her alone in the waiting room.  Offer up your babysitting services!

Food Delivery

Meals are important.  I wasn’t so concerned with what I was eating but I worried about my husband and daughter going without a proper meal.  There are so many awesome options, such as: 1) dropping off prepared meals from places like Dream Dinner that can be frozen and served later in the week or month.  2) recruit other friends and family to bring over homemade meals – including breakfast and snacks.  Care Calendar is a great web-based system to help organize this effort.  3) grab a couple of extra pre-made salads, ingredients for simple dishes, fresh fruit and veggies, and some kid friendly snacks at your next grocery store trip and drop them on her porch.

Care Packages

It is really important to stay hydrated during chemotherapy treatment.  I gulped down drinks like Gatorade and bottled water mixed with Emergen-C.  A cute care package with a reusable bottle and a box of Emergen-C is a great gift idea. Throw in some trashy tabloid magazines – if that’s her thing – and you’re golden. Note: chemotherapy wrecks a person’s taste buds and certain thing – even bottled water – can taste really awful.  You might ask first if your friend has any specific aversions.

House Chores

Both chemotherapy and radiation treatment can seriously wipe out a person physically. Walking up the stairs in my own home was extremely trying somedays. Offer up your services to vacuum their house, do a couple loads of laundry, walk the family dog, take their kids to the park, or take out the trash cans. Everyday chores can become quite overwhelming – don’t let them be.

Write it Out

A simple, well-written card is always appreciated.  But what do you say?   Tell her she is strong, that she is a fighter, and that her hair coming out means the drugs are working!  Encourage her to believe in her treatments and the education of their doctors.  Remind her of the support system she has and the love that surrounds them.  Cheer her on, especially as she get closer to finishing treatment.  Tell her that having a positive mental attitude makes a difference.  These simple words work wonders!  Still tongue-tied?  Hallmark stores have cancer specific cards.  Serious, religious, and funny ones.  Believe it or not, there is one that suits your needs.

Expect Less and Don’t be Offended

Lower your expectations – at least temporarily.  I was hardly myself going through treatment for cancer.  The chemotherapy drugs zap all your brain power.  It’s a phenomenon called “chemo brain” and it’s very real.  I didn’t care about anything other than surviving until my next treatment.  Try not to be offended if your friend doesn’t make the effort they once did.

Be a Friend

Offer to go to her chemo sessions – and do it.  I didn’t always engage in conversation during treatment but it was always great to know I had someone there by my side.  Especially the first time because it was the scariest and definitely the last because it should be a celebration!

Encourage them to find a support group of patients also being treated for the same cancer.  There are so many fantastic online support groups and many hospitals offer group services.  It helps immensely to discuss thoughts, feelings, and experiences with someone also going through the same thing.  Twitter is another fantastic source for finding current patients and survivors.  I highly recommend the weekly #BCSM Twitter chat on Monday at 6pm/PST.

A simple phone call, voicemail, or email just letting them know you are thinking of them.  A potted plant, flowers, or a homemade card left on their porch step is always a sweet surprise.

On a very personal note:  While I was going through treatment I insisted to everyone, including my closest friends, my parents, and other loved ones, that everything was fine and that I was managing.  This was not always true.  I didn’t want to burden others with my needs.  I didn’t want to make them feel uncomfortable with my disease.  I wanted to ease their worries and fears and pretend all was fine.  Really pay attention, she might need your help but is afraid or uncomfortable to ask for it.

From this cancer survivor’s perspective, you just want to feel like you aren’t alone.  Like you haven’t been forgotten.  Cancer and its treatment can be very isolating because your peers aren’t experiencing the same thing.  If you have any questions or worry about what may or may not be acceptable – please email me  at wendy@wendy-nielsen.com.

If you think this post on how to help a friend going through treatment for cancer is pin-worthy, I’d be most appreciative if you pinned it!  xo

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How to Quit Effexor | Anti-depressants

A little back story to how I got hooked on Effexor XR. I started getting crazy hot flashes after I started chemotherapy treatment back in 2008. In addition to chemo, I was also receiving monthly injections of a drug called Zoladex in an effort to preserve my ovaries. My body was in chemotherapy-induced medical menopause. Hot flashes come with the territory so my oncologist prescribed Effexor XR to combat my wacky body temperature. Effexor XR is an anti-depressant but has been proven to reduce hot flashes by about 50% in women with breast cancer according to a study done by Dr. Charles Loprinzi at the Mayo Clinic (breast cancer.org). I was willing to try anything that would ease the hot flashes I was having so I ran down to the local Walgreens and filled that sucker. I’ve been trying now for at least a year-and-a-half to kick Effexor XR and it’s nearly impossible.

quitting-effexor-antidepressant-drugs

The highest dosage of Effexor XR I’ve taken was 75mg. At this dosage I felt numb. I was completely void of emotion. I didn’t cry. I didn’t laugh out loud. I was pretty much a zombie. But I didn’t have any hot flashes either. When I complained about how I felt my doctor lowered the dosage to 37.5mg – the lowest dosage available. Coming off of the 75mg to the 37.5mg wasn’t that hard. I was advised to continue the 37.5mg for two weeks and then take it every other day. The days I didn’t take Effexor I would feel awful. Dizzy, nauseous, and blurry vision. It’s like the flu on steroids and hangover all mixed in together. So, for months and months I stayed at the 37.5mg daily. Eventually, I was able to get to an every other day regimen but nothing else beyond that. I’m stuck.

I brought it up to my doctor again at my last visit. Her response was less than what I expected. She suggested I just stay on the Effexor if it’s so hard to stop taking it. What? Continue taking a pharmaceutical drug that I do not need just because she doesn’t have a discontinue solution. Ridiculous. Thank goodness there’s Google.

By the way, I still occasionally have hot flashes but I know what triggers them for me (coffee, wine, and sugar). Additionally, research is showing that a higher total dose of 75mg daily is needed to get significant relief from hot flashes. So there is absolutely no point in taking the 37.5mg of Effexor.

I’m not alone.

Back to Google. Forums and message boards are flooded with people asking advice on how to effectively wean from Effexor. I found that many of us are stuck at 37.5mg. The side effects from discontinuing this drug are horrible. I’m lucky because some people have extreme withdrawal symptoms – brain zaps, shakes, and chattering teeth.

But, I think I’ve found two options on how to finally get off of Effexor. I can either white knuckle it – hunker down in bed for at least three days and deal with what’s thrown at me. Or I can pursue the Prozac bridge.

What’s the Prozac bridge? I’ll explain later this week!

I’d love to hear if you’ve taken Effexor XR and successfully discontinued the drug. Tell me what worked and what didn’t work.


Updated: I finally quit Effexor.  Read here how I quit Effexor without the withdrawals!

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Bald Barbie | A Good Idea?

Barbie is blowing up these days. Have you noticed or is it just because I have an almost four-year-old who is all consumed with Barbie’s cute outfits and bouncy ponytail? It was a Barbie Christmas around these parts. And while some of my mom counterparts may object to what Barbie represents, I am completely and 100% ok with letting my daughter play with Barbie.

But, this isn’t a fem post about whether or not Barbie dolls are acceptable toys for girls. I don’t get that worked up – over much – and certainly not about perfectly sculpted dolls.

barbie and friends

And now there has been a huge Facebook petition to get Mattel to create a bald Barbie doll. I’ve read a couple of articles on the matter and I stand conflicted.

bald-barbie-doll

I want to be on the “we need a bald Barbie” train but here I sit shrugging my shoulders and wondering what the big deal is. I think children suffering from hair loss should at the very least have a toy they can identify with. When I went through chemotherapy, I felt like an outsider. I was going through something that none of my friends had or were experiencing. It was completely isolating and lonely. So, from this perspective I think a child suffering from hair loss might benefit from a doll like a bald Barbie.

But…

When you’re bald, at least in my personal experience, it’s the last thing you want to be reminded of. Really. On the flip side though, I can completely understand how a young girl suffering from hair loss who played with a regular Barbie doll might feel some resentment towards the “image” Barbie represents and in turn develop a worse self-image of herself.

Is a bald Barbie the answer?

I don’t know. I wish there was an easy answer. I guess I’m leaning toward the idea that creating an environment of understanding and acceptance is better than a toy. I’d rather see a series of books written for children with these special afflictions. Or children and tween programs regularly featuring a child who is bald. I believe that an image of a bald child in mainstream media would make children suffering from the same disease feel less isolated.

rally-for-a-cure

Have you liked the “Beautiful and Bald Barbie” Facebook page or do you think there is a better alternative? Comment and tell me what you think!

photo source here and here