My cancer saga started when I was diagnosed at 38 with Stage 3 Invasive Ductal Carcinoma. I have a twisted sense of humor and have tried to continue that laughter and optimism on my journey...

Tips to Help Chemo

For those starting out or those in the middle or end, chemotherapy can be challenging. I have gone from Padawan to Jedi and wanted to share some interesting things that work for me...


Treatment Management Tips:

I know you have heard it a million times, but keep drinking water. I have to keep after myself, but it really does help in so many areas. Especially treatment week, I have had to learn to eat more throughout the day even though my nausea tells me not too. Small portions throughout the day.



Another main focus will be trying to avoid getting infections or sick! Washing hands, with soap, to help keep away germs is essential. I have opted to put hand sanitizer all over my house, remember I have young kids. I have a large pump at the front door and one at the top of the stairs. I also carry small travel size ones in my purse which is a live saver!!!


Overall there are crazy side effects and some that leave you confused and frustrated. Hopefully some of these tips will help.


Port

Another trial and error learning took place for me regarding my PowerPort. I eventually learned these important tips and I hope they work for you.

  • Lidocaine cream
  1. Apply at least 1 1/2 hours before appointment time.
  2. Apply generously and do not smear it in.
  3. Use Press n' Seal Saran Wrap. Cut in a square and do not push it down, except for the edges. Leave dome around cream.
          A wonderful way to numb your skin prior to being poked by the needle.
          If not used early enough, it does not work. Trust me, I need at least 1 1/2 hours.
          Don't squish it down with just saran wrap, it looses some of its numbing powers!

 
Example: Lidocaine was put over port and large Press n' Seal wrap placed over it!


Nausea

Stay ahead of it. Take medicines before you get sick - I learned the hard way. If you feel anything coming on... take the medicine that works for you.

  • Phenergran 
          Helps with general nausea.

  • Lorazepam
          Has some nausea components to it, but it mostly allowed me to sleep.

  • Sancuso patch
          Added in preventative nausea. Put patch on night before chemo.
          Keep it on a full week or at least 3 days (can cause constipation).
          The patch will want to start falling off by the next day. Keep taping edges down.



  • Zofran
          Did not work for me. Tasted funny when dissolved in mouth.
          There is a pill version. That worked better for me!


Pain

Just like nausea - stay ahead of it. I like to stew in my pain sometimes, thinking I can handle it or work through it. Hating the idea of pain medicine. However, there are times (lately there are many) that I just have to take the medicine and it usually makes me feel better. Then I scold myself for being hardheaded!

It is important to take pain meds when you feel it has reached "that point" of pain, every one's is different. Eventually you can gauge when the pain is only going to get worse. Take it before it gets BAD because once it does you know the next hour waiting for it to work may barely be tolerable! I learned that the hard way & occasionally still do.

I have also had to learn what work for me. That was pure trial and error. Taking things and hoping it work. Taking things and getting sick. Most people take a pain killer with codeine. Of course, I am going to be different! I do not have an allergy, but I do get nauseous and gas (insane, uncontrolled burping) off most codeine pills. Trust me, it was not fun or pretty. So keep trying, I eventually found one that works for me. And if you feel anything coming on... take the medicine that works for you!!

     Codeine pain meds that work for most...

          Works for most people and they like it.
           Gives me hours of endless burping & an upset stomach.

          Another goody that works for most people.
          I took this over Hydrocodone, but still gave me a nauseous stomach.
          It also will put me to sleep or keep me awake - never know which one.

     Non-codeine pain med winner is...

          Something finally worked for pain without side effects, for me.
          I can still function, I can still eat, & I can have less pain!



Constipation

Be prepared that if you take a lot of anti-nausea medicine that constipation may or will occur. If you have that issue anyway (me) then it makes it way worse than normal and can be severe.

If prone to constipation, be prepared you may have to assist yourself in ways that question your personal dignity. Meaning you may need to get some gloves handy and do things that you never thought you would. Also if severe enough, you may get a rectal tear which is painful for way longer than the day it occurs.

I am still working on finding a solution, but these things are making my life slightly less horrible.


  • Stool Softeners
          Helps to soften the stool to help avoid straining.
          An essential working part of my "good week". Take around 2 pills before bed.
          I keep taking these during my chemo week, but I often have to up the dose.

  • Milk of Magnesium
          A gentle laxative and stomach acid neutralizer.
          I have to use this during my chemo week.
          I work my way up with tablespoons, worked only for my mild constipation.

  • Miralax
          A laxative that dissolves in water.
          It takes time to build up, so don't expect an immediate reaction.
          I have used this in my past with luck sometimes and minimal luck another.
          It seems to work for a lot of people, so worth the over-the-counter try.
          Learn more about Miralax, click here or click here.

  • Metamucil or Citrucel 
          Both are high in fiber, which can created a thicker, bulky bowel movement.
          It's a bulk-forming laxative that just created a bulky poo I couldn't pass.
          Works for some people, another the over-the-counter option.
          Citrucel had a lighter taste/consistency.
          Learn more, click here.
       
  • Lactulose
          Thank goodness I used this for severe constipation, wish I had it sooner.
          When using Lactulose, a lot of the other products are unnecessary. Nice Bonus!
          It's a prescription liquid laxative that really worked for me.
          Take as prescribed & the green liquid is flavored and more drinkable.



Hand Shaking/Eye Twitching/Nervous System Issues

So, I got the crazy hand shaking. The funky left eye twitching. The annoying calf trembling. In general, the Taxotere has caused typical nervous system issues. They are annoying. They create jar opening problems. They create typing errors, or at least now I have a good excuse for typos or misspellings! So, I am now on medication to help all the potential nervous system problems.

  • Gabapentin
          Seems to work for me. Taken 3 times a day.
          When I don't take it timely, I get the twitches and shakes.
          Learn more about Gabapentin, click here


Somebody's hands are shaking...


Mouth Prevention

If you can go to the dentist before starting chemotherapy, do. I know, like you have time for that! If you can, it would be good for your health and they can give you some tips and product suggestions to help. The Oncologist is going to explain that your mouth is going to get CRAZY... possible sores, ulcers, thrush, dryness, etc. And at some point, it usually does. So, it is good to try and keep ahead of getting a painful mouth.

  • Soft toothbrush
          I know, it makes sense, be gentle on your teeth and gums.

  • Food
          You will feel the immediate mouth burn when you eat certain spicy foods.
          Avoid those spicy foods, or deal with consequences.
          Some acidic food can also be an issue, avoid if/when necessary.
          Temperature of foods may also be an issue, if so try room temperature foods.
          Also, don't forget the soft foods - sometimes it is all you can do!


  • Water
          Keep the mouth from drying out & drink water.
          Ice chips can be soothing... if you don't have a cold sensitivity.
          Have I mentioned the importance of water.

  • Mints, Gum, etc
          I hear it works for people to help, I read to use sugarless.
          It has not really worked for me, but it is good and tasty to try.


  • Non-Alcohol Mouthwash
          I use Prevention Oncology Mouth Rinse.
          If I don't use it every night, I can tell a difference fast!
          It also seems to help when I eat the spicy things I shouldn't eat.


  • Prescribed mouthwash
          If you get sores, ulcers, thrush, or similar, call the doctor for medicine.
          A Magic Mouthwash, or similar, is usually prescribed.
          It takes a few days, but it will get better... for a while!



Funky Taste Buds

More than likely there is some moment where things taste odd. Not always metallic, but the foods eaten are not exactly what you expect them to taste like. I wish there was some magic to fix it, but I do not have a cure. However, I did find an options that helps (sometimes).

  • Plastic silverware
          I know, it kinda makes sense, well kind of. However, it is worth a try! 
          Sometimes and with certain foods, the plastic makes it taste less gross. 



Nasal Funk

With the lack of hair and dryness in my nose, it was bound to happen... nasal funk. Specifically, bloody crusted boogers. They would get so impacted at night that I would have a hard time breathing past them. Ick! In the morning I would blow my nose clear, but then I would have a minor bloody nose. It was irritating and sometimes painful, until I began nasal spray.

  • Saline nasal spray
          Another making sense solution, keeping the nose wet!
          I used Ayr, but I assume any SALINE only nasal spray would work.



Neulasta Tips:


Zyrtec

So something about the antihistamines help reduce bone pain or counteract some of that pain. Of course it doesn't work for everyone, it did make it better for me.

  • Start taking the day before the shot.
  • 2 pills a day. One in the morning & One at night.
  • Continue on 2 pills for the week after the shot. Or 1 daily, if you don't hurt.
  • If you have continual soreness, keep on the Zyrtec during your "good weeks"... I had too.



Phenergran or Promethazine (generic)

Somtimes pain medicines weren't very effective for me, so I opted to try and sleep through the pain!

  • Take as recommended on the label.
  • Sleep through the pain!

Pain Medication

Once I found a pain medicines that worked, it would sometimes make the pain more tolerable. I learned that this was not the type of pain I could "push through" and get better.

  • Take the one that works for you as directed.



Health & Beauty Tips:


Eyes & Eyebrows...

Pre & During Treatment:

Brian Joesph's Lash & Brow Conditioning Gel

So far the product has worked for me. I have kept my eyelashes & brows.

  • Helps to prevent the loss of eyebrows and eyelashes during chemo
  • My lashes and brows lasted until the very end of treatment because of this!!!
  • Start before chemo (I did at least a few days before)
  • Apply at least once a day
  • Use 60 days after chemo ends



Post Treatment:

GrandeLASH - MD

I was so glad that I was given this product by my mother (who had seen positive results from her friends). My eyelashes grew in but did not grow long and my eyebrows had bald spots. I really was hoping to get those back after treatment. This is easy to use - like clear liquid eyeliner that you put on the eyelash and eyebrow areas.

  • Helps to encourage hair growth of eyebrows and eyelashes
  • This can be used on the eyebrows - a huge bonus!!! Plus, my bald patches in my eyebrow are filling in (I might even have to pluck again)
  • My eyelashes are getting longer and fuller looking
  • Not as expensive as some of the other products, especially the Latisse




Latisse

I had to ask for the prescription because I was tired of looking sick post treatment eyelashes and brows. It worked some, but not like I was hoping. The pharmacist said I could not use it on my eyebrows and that it can change your eye color (note: turn them brown - for light eyed people). So, I would not say it was my favorite product... while I did see some minimal improvement in my eyelashes it was expensive and required discipline to use it regularly.

  • Helps to encourage eyelash growth
  • Some people, especially with sensitive skin, will not be able to use it because it will irritate the eyelid (turn red). So keep that in mind.
  • Very very expensive and requires a prescription from your doctor.





Your Skin...

Udderly Smooth Lotion

Chemo can mess with your hands & feet. The product has really helped keep my skin and nails in good shape.

  • Apply at least once a day to hands and feet.
  • Try to get someone else to do it and include a massage.



Coconut Oil

Yes, I know it is for cooking, but it can be used on skin too. This tip was found post-treatment - when my OT was rubbing some on my lumpectomy scars. It really softened my skin and lightened my scar discoloration. I now use as a moisturizer!

  • Easy to find in the grocery store. Any brand will do!
  • I did not use this during treatment, but wish I had. It works as a moisturizer and smells like the beach!
  • Try to get someone else to do it and include a massage.




Hair or Lack of Hair...


Good Wishes

Good Wishes will send you one free scarf. Mine came beautifully packaged with a card signed by multiple people wishing me luck with my treatment. See picture below. I could not have been happier!
  • You can use their online form to pick out a few pattern options and one will be mailed to you.


Click here to find out more about Good Wishes.


Headwear

There are so many options of headwear to purchase, which is amazing. From the sleep cap to keep your head warm at night (which I sometimes need) to the various styles that are pre-made with some nice fabric options. However, you may have a scarf you really like and want to use or just find one that is perfect. If so, how to tie it may be an issue. How do I make a basic headwrap? Will it be secure? What options can I tie it in?

How to tie a basic headwrap (from MacMillian)

For a basic headwrap you will need a scarf at least 75cm x 75cm (29.5in x 29.5in) - for more elaborate styles it needs to be 100cm x 100 cm (39in x 39in).

Lay a square scarf flat, wrong side facing you. Fold the scarf diagonally into a triangle.
A scarf
 A scarf 


Place the scarf on your head with the folded edge about 2.5cm (1in) below your natural hairline and the points at the back.
Tying a basic headwrap - step 1
Tying a basic headwrap - step 1


Tie the ends into a double knot behind your head and over the triangle point (if you're doing more than the basic headwrap you may only need a single knot). The flap should be underneath the knot.
Tying a basic headwrap - step 2
Tying a basic headwrap - step 2


Pull any excess scarf out from under the knot.
Tying a basic headwrap - step 3
Tying a basic headwrap - step 3

Information & pics from MacMillan.


Want More Headwear Options And Looks:

Learn how to tie different types of headscarves by Clicking Here!



Nutri-Ox

Hair regrowth can be awkward. For me I had bald spots and uneven hair regrowth... it looked very mange-like. It bothered me because I was excited to see hair coming back, but it was not at all doing what I had hoped for. The product was designed to help stimulate hair growth and it really helped get my hair growing again. I noticed a difference within a week.

  • Use shampoo and conditioner in the shower. Leave conditioner on for up to 3 minutes.
  • After drying off use 3 drops from the ointment bottle and rub into scalp.
  • Really very simple! 



Additional Concerns & Tips:


House Cleaning

If you are in some form of cancer treatment and having trouble maintaining your housework then here is a good resource that may benefit you. It is an organization that helps female cancer fighters get free house cleaning services. If you apply and have a medical professional send them the proof, then they will set up 4 free house cleaning visits from a cleaning service. LOVE IT!!!!

Cleaning for a Reason - Apply Here


Fertility

For the younger ladies still wanting kids, do not forget to talk to the Oncologist & go the Ob/Gyn prior to treatment... because cancer treatment can cause menopause. It can be permanent. Guys you have options too, so make sure to talk to your doctor. For someone still considering kids after cancer, it is good to get your options to manage and preserving fertility, to learn more, click here.

On another note it is extremely important not to get pregnant during cancer treatment (and for awhile after). If you are younger (like me) you still have to know your options because you never know. I have hormone receptor positive cancer - so, I can not have any estrogen and progesterone ever again... yay! My options are pretty limited... copper IUD, hysterectomy, or hubby can have vasectomy. At least there are options! Depending on your cancer it is important to find out what prevention options are available to you!!!




Will update... as I experience more!!!

0 comments:

Post a Comment