Preparing for Chemo
Everyone has a unique cancer diagnosis. If you're going to have chemotherapy, your doctor will determine which drug or ‘cocktail’ of drugs will be most effective for you and your type of cancer.
Unfortunately, there is no way of predicting which side effects you will experience from chemo since everyone responds differently. However, it helps to prepare yourself both mentally and physically before starting treatment.
Here are 10 ways to prepare for chemo…
1. Book a dentist appointment. Some chemo drugs can affect the inside of your mouth and teeth. While you’re receiving chemo, you should not go to the dentist as a precautionary measure to avoid infection. Your doctor or dentist will most likely advise you to wait to have your teeth cleaned for 4 weeks after you have finished treatment.
2. Stock up on healthy groceries and do some meal prepping before treatment. Since chemo tends to cause fatigue, preparing meals ahead of time while you have the energy will be extremely helpful if you are feeling tired and nauseous after treatment.
3. Prepare for hair loss. For us women, our hair is a pretty big part of our identity, so this can be quite traumatic for many of us.
If you have long hair, try cutting into a bob to begin, then gradually go shorter and shorter so that it’s not as noticeable when it does start to fall out. There are thousands of beautiful wigs and head coverings available online, some even free for people undergoing cancer treatment.
If you do decide to purchase a wig, those which are 100% pure human hair (or ‘remi hair’), will give it a more natural look.
Another option is to try 'Cold Capping'. The idea is that a Cold Cap freezes your head and narrows the blood vessels so that less of the chemo drug reaches your hair follicles. In turn, your hair is less likely to fall out.
4. Unfortunately hair loss means eyelashes and brows as well.
There are a number of products on the market that won’t keep them from falling out but will help with regrowth. Xlash and Rapid Lash are popular serums and can be purchased online or at some drugstores. Latisse is another popular lash serum, but requires a prescription to purchase. It is known to be more effective as it contains a medical ingredient which is scientifically proven to make your lashes grow thicker and longer.
5. Pack a chemo bag for your appointments. Chemo usually takes at least a few hours to administer one dose. Unless you plan on sleeping most of the time, it can get quite boring sitting in the same spot for most of the day. Bring things to do….a book, a phone charger, crossword puzzles, etc. Most people feel anxious during their first few sessions and find it helpful to bring headphones to listen to relaxing music or guided meditations. My favorite free Meditation App is called Instant Timer. There are other Apps called Headspace or Calm which are also popular.
6. Prepare for skin and nail changes as well. Chemo tends to make your skin especially dry and sensitive. It’s important that you keep your skin moisturized with an all-natural moisturizer such as Glaxal Base cream, or one that doesn’t contain any harsh additives or perfumes.
Chemo can also make your nails darken and even fall off. Some people have had success in keeping their nails, by keeping them painted with an all-natural nail polish throughout their treatments. Different brands can be purchased at Whole Foods or some Natural Food Stores. PLEASE NOTE however, that it is not advisable to visit a nail salon while you’re undergoing treatment as you will be much more susceptible to infections, and will need to be as careful as possible.
7. Prepare for nausea and changes to your taste buds. Nausea is one of the most common and unpleasant side effects of chemo. Your Oncologist can prescribe medication to make it subside, but it may also make you feel quite drowsy. It can be difficult to determine which medication works best for you, so its important to tell your healthcare team if it is not working so that you can try another.
As if nausea isn’t bad enough, many people also lose their sense of taste from chemo. Although this is only temporary, it can make it extra difficult to eat since you may no longer enjoy your favorite foods or eating in general. Even if you don’t feel like eating, it is incredibly important to consume adequate nutrients in any shape or form, in order to provide your body with the energy it needs to heal itself. Try bringing bland snacks with you to your chemo appointments such as crackers, toast, nuts, or vanilla protein shakes.
8. Accept all the help you can get! Most of us are used to being self sufficient, which makes it difficult to accept the help and support from others when they offer. However, this is a time when you will need help in any way, shape, or form…help in running errands, cleaning the house, driving you to and from treatment, and offering emotional support. Allow yourself time to rest and recover without stressing about chores. If a friend offers to let them know if you need anything, tell them exactly what you’re struggling with and that you would be grateful for help with. Setting up phone dates with friends while you’re receiving chemo can also help to pass the time.
9. I'm sure you've head this before, but keep a journal! Even if you’re not an eloquent writer, some people find that keeping track of their feelings and side effects helps them to come to terms with them. It may also be helpful if you later decide to share your journey with others in a similar position which can also be quite rewarding.
10. Last but not least, allow yourself to experience all of the feelings. Cancer treatment can bring about many challenges….emotional, physical, mental, financial, and social…along with a whole lot of fear and grief.
You don't need to be strong.
You don't need to keep your composure.
You need to allow yourself to express how you’re feeling through every stage of your journey. Seeking professional help or joining a support group can help. Meditation and daily affirmations can help. Educating yourself about how you can make healthy lifestyle changes can help. And sharing your story can help. It’s important that you try to determine which practices help you the most and incorporate them into your daily routine.
I hope these tips can provide you with some insight in what to expect during chemotherapy. Please feel free to reach out to us with any questions or concerns. We are always here to support you!