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TUESDAY TIPS - Side Effects of Chemo... Some Tips

Posted Apr 24 2012 5:48pm
The other day, I was in the oncology office for my 6 month check up, and I picked up a magazine called Caring4Cancer.  It is FULL of very useful information.  Thought I'd share a bit of what I learned about managing side effects during cancer.  "Chemotherapy is a treatment that kills cancer cells located anywhere in the body.  It works by killing rapidly dividing cancer cells.  It also kills other rapidly growing cells, such as those in hair follicles, and the lining of the mouth, stomach, and intestine."  I know that I had many of the side effects that are listed in this article - hot flashes, mouth sores, depression, diarrhea, etc.  Here is some information on just a few side effects you may be experiencing...

Hair Loss: (mine fell out on exactly the day the nurses said it would - day 17.  I was a little surprised.  That seemed so random.)
1.  Cut your hair short before you start treatment.  It may help you manage the loss a bit better.  I didn't do this, and the shock of going from having a full head of longer hair, to pulling out clumps, and then finally shaving the whole thing - all in one day - was a little traumatic for me.
2.  Shop for a wig before your hair is gone.  I did this, and I also purchased several hats, turbans, and scarves.  I'm so glad that I did.  I had something to put on my head immediately.  It helped that I didn't have to go out in public with only a bare head.

Fatigue:  this is a very common complaint.  I was tired all of the time.  That made it difficult to deal with things like housework, driving, and taking care of my family.
1.  Exercise daily.  This might be surprising to you - exercising when you are tired.  But, it actually helps you feel less tired.  "...exercise increases your ability to expend energy and actually helps you be more active while feeling less tired."
2.  If you can't fall asleep at night, try relaxation techniques before bedtime.  "Take a hot bath, listen to music, meditate, pray, use guided imagery."

Nausea & Vomiting:  I was sick for about a week after each treatment, and I found myself on the bathroom floor numerous times, but I only threw up once during my 5 months of chemo.  I was lucky.  But, I know from experience how hard it is to feel sick to your stomach all the time.
1.  Eat small meals - frequently and slowly.
2.  Let other people cook for you.
3.  Drink lots of water (8 8-oz glasses per day)
4.  One of the things I was told, was to eat a small, light meal before your chemo treatment.  Nothing heavy - like fried foods, or spicy foods.

Diarrhea:  I hated this side effect.  The chemo made the diarrhea feel like "fire water" - a name my mother gave it.  It hurt like crazy.  Something that really helped me with this - my friends brought me a small squeeze bottle (the kind you get at the hospital, after you've had an episiotomy - after having a baby).  I used that to spray warm water in that area when I went to the bathroom. (Sorry... that's a bit graphic, but lots of things about having cancer are graphic.)
1.  Drink lots of fluids
2.  Eat low-fiber food like white bread, rice, eggs, potatoes, chicken, etc.  High fiber foods can make the diarrhea worse.
3.  Eat food that is high in potassium, like bananas and potatoes, and drink Gatorade or Pedialyte.

I've only addressed a few side effects.  If you are experiencing any others not listed here, and would like some information, please contact me at  I'd be happy to help you. And please remember to talk to your doctor and medical team about any side effects.  They need to know how the medicine is affecting you, so they can adjust things to help.


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