Ask any Cancer patient, chemotherapy is one of the hardest parts of treatment, it is a lifesaving medicine that pretty much makes you feel like you have a combination of flu and a bad hangover without any of the fun. Depending on the type of cancer you have you may even go from feeling pretty good and healthy to wanting to stay in bed for the foreseeable future. There are a huge amount of different kinds of chemo some given in pill form and others through a drip. They can also cause a variety of pretty horrid side effects depending on which type you are given. During my treatment for breast cancer I had 4 rounds of intravenous Docetaxel (Taxotere) and Cyclophosphamide. Most breast cancer patients are given at least 6 rounds of chemo, 1 every 3 weeks, but because I had a small lump (12mm) which hadn’t spread to my lymph nodes and my Oncotype test score was just over low risk at 18, my oncologist recommended 4 chemotherapy treatments.
My nurses told me about all the different side effects I might experience and it was a pretty big and nasty list, they also explained that I was likely to feel worse with each round as my body would get worn out. However I found my side effects got easier each time, almost like my body knew what to expect and how to handle it, I do wonder if this would have been different if I’d had more doses of chemo.
So here’s my top tips for getting through chemo…..
1. SLEEP – a lot of people find it hard to sleep during chemo due to the steroids and anxiety. I took a reaction to my anti-sickness tablets which gave me horrible insomnia, I had to take temazepam for a week to get through this, here’s some other things that helped keep me calm and get more sleep.
- Sleep well hypnosis app
- Going for a short walk
- Spending time outside
- Audio books are very relaxing and stop you going crazy with frustration
- Less screen time at night
- Yoga and meditation, youtube has lots of great videos
- Reiki is amazing and I had regular massages
- MOUTH – my mouth got very dry and tasted revolting, it really bothered me.
- Coconut oil saved my poor mouth, google Oil pulling (swirling oil in your mouth), it’s grose at first but well worth the effort.
- Mouth wash
- Suck mints or hard sweets
- Drink fizzy water
- Fresh Pineapple cleanses the mouth – juice or chunks are great
- Suck frozen fruit. Mango and pineapple are lovely
- Synthetic saliva spray. It’s weird at first but really helped me.
- Use a soft tooth brush
2. SICKNESS – I got off easy with this but did feel horribly nauseas.
- Ginger tea, tablets and biscuits
- Anti-sickness medication, ask for different types to try
- Eat small amounts regularly
- Suck ice chips
3. HAIR LOSS – a lot less upsetting than I expected.
- Cold capping can help reduce hair loss with some types of chemo.
- I wanted to take control of my hair loss so shaved my head just after my 1st chemo
- Head scarves, I loved these as I found wearing a wig too itchy
- Wigs. In the UK you get a prescription for a free wig and can pick pretty much any style you like. I went to a shop call Parrucche in Glasgow and they were lovely.
- Hats are fab, I wore a lot of little cotton beanie hats which I bought on Ebay.
- Leashes and Eyebrows can often fall out too, I used a gel called Talika Lipocils which was amazing and I didn’t lose my lashes or brows.
- Your other body hair can fall out too, this is a bonus as you save a fortune on waxing.
4. FATIGUE – This hit me hard, I spent most of the first week after chemo on the couch or in bed.
- Don’t plan much for the week after chemo
- Take regular rest breaks during the day
- Get a little bit of exercise, a gentle walk or some yoga
- Drink lots of water and eat well
- Get some fresh air
- Get as much help as possible
5. LOW MOOD AND ANXIETY – I cried a lot during chemo but I also smiled a lot too, the length of time all my treatment took really got me down.
- Try to find people to connect with who have also had cancer, social media and chat rooms on sites like Breast Cancer Care are great.
- Visits from friends and family
- Be careful what you read online use reliable websites
- Write a diary this really helped calm my spinning mind
- Yoga, meditation, hypnosis apps or videos for tapping and breathing techniques
- Reiki, massage, reflexology, there are charities that offer these for free.
- Speak to a councillor
- Plan nice treats to look forward to for the week before each chemo when you’re feeling at your best.
- A little bit of retail therapy cheered me up and online shopping is a great distraction but be careful you don’t max your credit card.
Here are some websites that were recommended to me and I found very helpful :
I’d really love for you to share your chemo tips and experiences in the comments to help fellow fighters.