While chemotherapy is a life saving treatment, the side effects can be unpredictable and strenuous on your body, mind, and spirit. Thankfully, there are things you can do to make your chemo experience more bearable. We’ve compiled a list of chemocare tips to help you out!
Chemocare Tip #1: You Are What You Eat
So many side effects of chemo are stomach related—diarrhea, nausea, constipation, and more—so it makes sense that what you eat is very important during chemo treatments. Chemo is notorious for not only decreasing your appetite, but also making once delicious foods taste funky (and not in a good way). Some foods can even intensify chemo side effects. In a nutshell, it can be hard to find foods that sound appealing.
Additionally, certain foods are off limits to chemo patients; as a rule thumb, don't eat anything you wouldn't give to a baby or a pregnant woman. If its raw (unless its a fruit or a vegetable), its usually best to avoid it.
Chemo might eliminate your appetite, but it is important to still eat. Try eating small meals and snacks throughout the day. You can also try putting on the TV while you eat to distract yourself from negative side effects you may be feeling. Learn more here.
Chemocare Tip #2: Track Your Side Effects
This applies to both foods and medications. Once you start working other foods into your diet, we recommend keeping a journal to log your meals and any side effects that follow. You may find certain ingredients or foods in general do not agree with your stomach. Additionally, keep up with side effects of your medications to mention to your doctor and make sure your body is reacting normally.
Chemocare Tip #3: Control the Nausea
Nausea is a major side effect of chemotherapy. What helps combat nausea for one person may be different from the next. Avoid greasy fried foods and spicy foods. Consider keeping ginger chews or hard candy (such as mints) on hand. Many individuals have experienced positive results with CBD oil as well.
Chemocare Tip #4: Manage Constipation
Constipation is a common (and frustrating) side effect of chemotherapy. To end the cycle of constipation we recommend:
- Increasing your fiber intake. Eat more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
- Drink plenty of water.
Be sure to keep your doctor in the know, too!
Chemocare Tip #5: Stay Hydrated
Chemotherapy side effects such as vomiting, diarrhea, and fever may cause dehydration. Remember: Water is your best friend! Drink plenty of water (add a little cucumber or sliced fruit to enhance the flavor) and limit soft drinks and drinks with excessive amounts of sugar.
Chemocare Tip #6: Alleviate Dry Mouth
Chemo can leave your mouth feeling ultra mega dry. Try sucking on hard candy or chewing gum to keep your mouth moist. Swishing and spitting a warm salt water mixture several times a day can also be helpful. Be sure to continue your regular brushing routine, but avoid products with alcohol such as mouthwash. Read more tips here.
Chemocare Tip #7: Prepare Yourself for Potential Hair Loss
Not everyone loses their hair during chemo, however, it’s good to know your options. Wigs are one route to take - there are thousands upon thousands of style and color combinations available. We recommend getting acquainted with the many aspects of wigs prior to making a purchase. Others prefer hats and scarves as they are easy to throw on in a pinch and you can mix and match them with different outfits. We recommending getting a sleep cap, a basic turban cap, and a head scarf to start with.
Chemocare Tip #8: Get Your Rest
Your body is being put through a ton of stress. You may feel more drained than usual, especially the day of or day after chemotherapy. This is your time to rest up! The best prescription: Find a cozy area of your home and take a looong nap.
Chemocare Tip #9: Workout
We’re not saying you should run a 5K (after all, this would completely negate #8 on our list) but low impact exercise such as walking or yoga can be beneficial to both your mental and physical health. Take it slow, don’t push yourself, and (again) stay hydrated.
Chemocare Tip #10: Feel your Feelings
You may be experiencing sadness, grief, loss, disbelief and fear among other feelings. It is very important to embrace the emotions you are feeling; try joining a cancer support group to talk through your feelings. You can also try journaling your emotions, coloring, and crafting to manage stress. Maintaining a positive outlook can make a huge difference, but you should also find healthy ways to cope with the negative emotions you are feeling.
Surround yourself with items that bring you joy, watch your favorite shows, read a good book, and make time for upbeat friends and family.
Symptoms to Be Aware Of
Some days may feel unpredictable where your body is concerned, but some symptoms are not normal and require immediate medical attention. If you experience any of the below symptoms be sure to contact a physician immediately:
- A fever of 100.5°F or greater (taken by mouth)
- Severe chills
- Persistent diarrhea or vomiting
- Shortness of breath or trouble breathing (Call 911 if you are experiencing any breathing issues)
- Swelling of the mouth or throat, severe itching, or trouble swallowing
- Bleeding or unexplained bruising
- Extreme pain, including intense headaches
- Blood in urine or in stool
- Pain or soreness at the chemo injection or catheter site
While some days are worse than others, we hope these tips provide comfort on even your worst days. What tips have helped you through your chemo treatments? Share your advice in the comments below!