June 21, 2015: Chemo Tricks & Tips

Everyone’s adventure through chemotherapy is unique, and our treatment plans are often different. These may not all be relevant or helpful to everyone, but I hope it helps some of you. Sorry but there is no real order to this list. I just wrote as things came to me. 

If you are looking at months of chemo, get a port. Why anyone has them start an IV for every chemo treatment is beyond me. That tiny bump under your skin only bugged me for about two weeks while it healed. I hardly notice it now, and it’s way easier to get your infusions through a port, especially when you are going in every week. Add weekly fluids to that and it’s almost crazy to not get one. 

Put the cream on your port about an hour before they stick you and place SaranWrap over it. The spray was freezing cold and felt like it burnt my skin. I didn’t like it. Plus, it still hurt when they accessed my port. Maybe I’m just a wimp though. 

Cleaning my port before starting my infusion made me so nauseated I could hardly stand it. I discovered sucking on a cinnamon disk as the nurse did this process took this away. 

Smells really bothered me during treatment, especially during AC Chemo. I was given tons of home remedies. Many of them very expensive. The best one cost me just over a dollar. Put cinnamon extract from the spice department at your local grocery store in a jar lid and place it on the top of your fridge, mantel, and/or dresser in the rooms you are in the most. Cinnamon scented candles and air fresheners were too strong for me so were essential oils. I don’t know how this worked, but my mom sent me the idea. My grandma’s doctor from nearly 35 years ago had given her this tip. 

Nausea is a beast to keep at bay. My doctor worked with me. We tried several different combinations before something worked. That something that worked was a patch and 3 day pill (Amend) that cost over $900 a chemo treatment. Medical marijuana patches and pills would have been a much better and cheaper option, but it isn’t available legally in the state of Texas and there weren’t any studies being conducted at the time of my treatment. Several states now allow the use of medical marijuana and studies are done from time to time in states where it isn’t legal. If nausea is a huge issue for you, talk to your doctor about your options. 

100% organic coconut oil (found in a tub in my grocery store next to vegetable oils) took all my chemo blisters away from my bald head and face. I also believe this is what promoted my hair growth. I used it every morning and every night as soon as I got out of the shower. Now, I place it in my hair before showering. I don’t use shampoo or conditioner yet. Most are full of chemicals. Chemo and other chemicals don’t seem to mix well. 

Women, as hard as this was in the beginning, I haven’t worn makeup since I started treatment except a handful of times. Most makeup contains chemicals. Chemo contains chemicals. These often react to each other. I had heard of many women getting those pigmentation spots we often refer to as age spots on their faces. After some investigation, many believe these might have been caused by the chemicals in makeup reacting to the chemicals in the chemo. I’ve had none. In fact, I’ve had very few skin issues. I use the same coconut oil on my face each day as a moisturizer as well. 

Thrush on your tongue is awful. I call it “fuzzy tongue” because that’s what it feels like to me. If you get thrush on your tongue, drink a small Coke. Yes, I know soda is horrible, but so is a fuzzy tongue that makes you not want to eat anything. It only takes a few ounces. The acid must eat what’s on your tongue. Yogurt and probiotics still need to be taken, but it’ll take days before that fuzzy tongue feeling goes away. Trust me. I dealt with that for far too long before someone gave me the Coke trick. 

If you suffer from restless leg syndrome, talk to your doctor about the anti nausea medication they are using and don’t forget to have them check your premed cocktails too. This was so horrible for me until I told my doctor I couldn’t stand it anymore. She changed my anti nausea med in my cocktail and even though I still have some restless leg syndrome it is very mild compared to the brutal extreme kind I was suffering from. It only took us a mastectomy and 6 rounds of chemo to figure this out. 

Chew on ice. It will keep you from getting those horrible mouth sores. It helps with neuropathy too. So does sucking on Popsicles. I haven’t had problems with neuropathy in my hands and feet, but I know people who do and they soak their hands and feet in ice water during treatment to help with this. 

Avoid artificial sweeteners like the plague. My mom told me this. I did it until the day before my last chemo treatment when the waiter brought me some unsweetened tea. I put Sweet-n-Low in one glass of tea. I paid for it in mouth sores. Not worth it at all. 

If you get mouth sores, there are several rinses to try. Talk to your doctor about which one works best with your kind of chemo. 

Eat before you go to treatment. It could be your last decent meal for a few days. 

Some of the first “real” foods I could eat after my harsh rounds of chemo were fresh fruits and vegetables, especially watermelon and carrots. 

Vegetables soaked in vinegar ice water was something I could taste and would eat too. Pickles too. This was weird for me as I wasn’t a huge pickle or vinegar based anything eater before hand. 

Many people will send you ways to cure your cancer and deal with side effects. Most of these people are loving, caring individuals who truly want to help bring you comfort. Beware though, many see you as easy prey and a quick way to make a bunch of money. The people who truly believe in the products they are selling who love and care about you are the ones who give their products to you to try along with all the information to take to your doctor. Some products my doctor said to try and others I was told could potentially react to other medications I was on, so always check before using. 

I learned grapefruit could have killed me. Someone sent me the grapefruit cancer cure the very next day. Be very aware and make sure you have a great relationship with your oncologist. 

If you suffer from severe bone pain or joint pain, I’ve only found one thing that worked and it is a true miracle worker. That’s liquid Mangosteen purée. If you can’t find it, contact me and I will put you in touch with someone who can get you a bottle. One bottle last about a month. It took about a week of me using it before my pain was nearly all gone, but miss a few days in a row and it all comes screaming back at full force. Once again, check with your doctor before using. 

I cut a lot of my hair off before I started chemo. If I could go back and do it again, I would have had her cut it a lot shorter. I can’t even imagine what it would have been like to lose my long hair. 

Going bald is traumatic. I won’t lie. This was harder on me than losing my breast. Losing my hair took weeks. It was a nasty and very gross process. I held out for a few days after the majority of my hair had fallen out before I had my husband shave me bald. If I could go back in time, I would have had him shave it the night I lost the mass of my hair. Becoming bald was awful. Being bald was amazing! There was something very liberating and freeing about being bald. And having one less thing to worry about was actually a blessing in disguise. I’d do bald again in a heartbeat except growing it again is such a slow and painful ordeal. 

If I could go back in time, I wouldn’t have wasted a single dollar on a wig. I wore it two days. I hated it. I bought several hats before I lost my hair. Although I bought some I wore a lot, I also bought some I hardly ever wore because they were too big once all my hair was gone. You also look very different in hats and scarfs once all your hair is gone. If I were starting the chemo journey all over again, I’d buy one hat to get me to the wig shop. Then, I’d shop for wigs, head coverings & hats after my head was bald. 

Drink lots and lots of water and nothing else. Start 3-4 days before going in for treatment. I’ve never felt more dehydrated in my life. Water is the source of life. I drink about six 17oz bottles a day. 

Stay as active as possible during treatment. Go outside. Talk to people. Go on walks. Smile. Think positive thought. Read positive things. Dream about your future. Make plans for every tomorrow. You need something, anything, to live for every day. 

My best advice to anyone going through chemo is have a support system. My faith in God is my number one source of strength. God granted me peace I can’t explain. He provided and cared for us through each day. My husband was a great caretaker. He made me go outside and walk, or at least sit, in the sun. He’d make me come into the living room and watch a show about the ocean or something. He’d take me out to eat at some quiet place during non-peak hours, or he’d just take me for a drive. I have prayer warriors all over the country who have prayed countless prayers over me and for me. Someone in my family, my group of friends, or my network of coworkers texted me or called me every day. I never stopped living. Even on my very worst days when I could barely stay awake, I accomplished something. 

Chemo is a beast to be slain! Go be a mighty warrior and know an army is fighting with you.

About courage2conquercancer

At the age of 40, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. This is an account of my journey from my discovery and beyond.
This entry was posted in caregiver, chemo, faith, port surgery, side effects and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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