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Neuropathy – the unknown condition-Cancer Survivorship

Winter aggravates this side effect

winter landscape with beautiful reflection in the water
Neuropathy causes hands and feet to feel numb, tingly and painful, especially in winter.
In the summer, my legs can just give up!

A few years ago, I lived with the hope that peripheral neuropathy would disappear over time. Although I knew I was developing the condition and was careful to inform both my doctor and the nurses about how the tingling was developing, I downplayed the seriousness of the situation because at that time the hospital where I was being treated was in denial that this condition existed.  But thanks to print-outs from the MD Anderson website, eventually the hospital acknowleged the condition.

So, now I live with this and while I have had prescriptions for gabapentin issued, this didn’t work for me.  I am still trying to find better treatment.

Cold  Cold weather is especially brutal for those living with this side effect. Bottomline, commonsense steps can help maintain comfort during cold weather. I can’t claim to have found the solution but I do know some good tips for cold-weather management:

Move Although movement is not a cure, it does help relieve stiff and numb hands and feet. watching a friend clench and unclench his hands. This movement can provide immediate help by warming hands (and toes, clench those as well) by getting circulation moving when it is not possible to take other steps. Full-body exercise also works to improve overall circulation, so include that as well if you are able.

Keep feet dry One of the problems is that it’s hard to know what your fingers and feet are actually feeling. There have been times when I’ve kept on shoes after being outside only to find, after I finally notice that my feet are more uncomfortable than usual, that my socks are damp. I’ve learned to remove my shoes as soon as I come inside, even if my feet feel OK, and switch to a new pair of socks after checking to make sure my feet are not damp. It’s a commonsense move that is easy to forget.

Gloves and socks. Even the warmest coverings aren’t going to stop acting up in cold weather, but it is much worse if I decide to go without gloves, for instance, because that’s what I could do before cancer. Just put on the warm gloves and socks (and keep them dry). Tip.  I live alone, so keep my warm socks on when I go to bed!

Wear a warm coat you might have noticed that if you become cold by wearing unsuitable clothes, the degree of pain or numbness in your peripheral areas becomes worse. That happens because circulation isn’t being maintained and it can become more difficult to move your fingers (or toes). For hands, it’s particularly helpful to make sure even your forearms remain warm.  N.B.  Fleeces are generally made from artificial materials. I reckon that’s why ‘hoodies’ go around hunched up as they are cold!  Try and find garment made of genuine wool or natural fibres. Look out for the sales, when you can often find a bargain made of cashmere or merino.  If you buy a ‘puffa’ coat, again make sure it is stuffed with real feathers as artificial ones don’t trap the air.

Walk safely I’ve fallen enough times, both in cold weather and warm, to want to stay upright. Leave the heels or slippery flats at home or in your bag to switch into once inside. Instead, wear shoes or boots with traction that might help prevent you from sliding into a fall and keep hands out of pockets (wear gloves or mittens!), which not only gives you a chance to catch yourself if you start to fall, but can also help to prevent fingers from cramping or “freezing” into a bent position.

Use caution outdoors While I used to love going dog sledding (mushing) for hours, I know that cold can slow circulation to hands and feet, and may cause additional nerve damage. I’m not going to give up the things that I enjoy, but I will do what I can to prevent further nerve damage. So, I try to keep an extra pair of socks and gloves with me when I go out to minimize the chance that I’ll be in damp or cold clothing for too long and I take breaks indoors or in a warm car.

Pamper yourself I’ve found that while it can sometimes hurt to have my feet touched, gently massaging lotion onto them (and my hands) does wonders. It increases circulation, gives me a chance to notice if I’ve hurt my feet anywhere, and also puts my hands to work. These moments of indulgence matter and are good for movement and warmth

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