Cancer and Chemotherapy – Top Tips

After I learned that I had breast cancer, they indicated I may not have to have chemotherapy. I was so thrilled that is all I focused on: get the surgery, do radiation and puff – I am done with cancer and can go back to regular life. Easy breezy! I had convinced myself that in three months’ time life would be back to normal.

Well, sometimes things don’t work out as you planned. The Oncologist team highly recommended I complete four rounds of chemo, because I had the aggressive form of cancer, but it did not spread into my lymph nodes. To be preventive they recommended chemo. I cried like a baby because I knew I would lose my hair and it would be months or years for recovery.

My doctor recommended four treatment sessions with Taxotere and Cytoxan medication. Taxotere is the one that causes hair loss. Once I knew what they recommended, I did all my research to build a plan. My sister in law, Lynn had just finished her chemo treatments and had the same meds so she helped me tremendously! Below are my lessons learned as I managed through chemotherapy:

1.Do your research on the drugs they will be giving you. It’s a regiment and you will want to plan appropriately to get through this hard time. I am not going to lie, chemo truly sucks but you can get through it. I don’t want to scare you but I want to be honest. So keep a journal and keep track of all your body changes and mental changes. Chemo effects every part of your body. It’s poison to kill all mutation cells in your body.

2. Drinks lots and lots of water – seriously this will flush the poison out of your system. Drink Green tea too, it helps your body. The chemo meds really dry your body out.

3. Eat bland foods and take your medicine as you need it.

4. Don’t be shy on the medicine because it does help so much! Every cancer patient has a drug of choice that works best for them, mine was Xanax, it relaxed me enough to rest. So ask if you need it and don’t take it if you don’t!

5. Your first day of chemo is so humbling, be kind to yourself and have someone with you (each time). It’s important. Because chemo does things to your body that you don’t even know!

6. Lynn coached me on the days to have chemo so my schedule was this:

a. Wednesday, chemo treatment – bring snacks, socks, books, iPad, computer and water with you. I had a bag with all of these items. Be prepared you will be there for several hours and you will need to keep yourself busy.
b. Thursday, work and medicine if needed
c. Friday, work ½ day and then I started feeling bad (from the neulasta mostly) Neulasta helps your white blood count (take 27 days after chemo) but it made me feel like every bone in my body was broken (like I was hit by a bus) and my bones/body were healing. It was the most excoriating pain I have ever felt in my life!
d. Saturday, just did what I could to survive the pain usually I took a pain pill and Xanax to relax my body.
e. Sunday, just did want I could to survive the pain, but by the afternoon I was feeling a little better.
f. Monday, back at work but still in pain but better. Sometimes I would make it all day, sometimes not.

7. I had lots of medicine with me at all times:

a. Xanax to help me relax
b. Pain pills – if it became unbearable. But pain pills cause constipation so I used over the counter meds as much as possible.
c. Miracle mouthwash – because after the first chemo treatment I had thrush and it stayed with me for over a year! Miracle mouthwash does wonders.
d. Nausea pills – I had one that didn’t make me drowsy and the one that knocked me out. Nausea can mess you up so have these pills available at all times.
e. Sugar free candy – to help with your dry mouth

8. Let others help you!

  • My sister went with me or stayed with me as much as I needed. My husband had to work too so they alternated taking care of me. My sweet friend Scheree, had organized a food drive for the days I had chemo and all the amazing people helped me, I truly can’t thank them enough.

9. The power of pray is truly a wonderful site to behold. I am blessed by all the prayers and they helped me so very much!

10. The last day of chemo you get to ring the bell that you are done, it made me cry, I was so happy to be done. Little did I know the journey of dealing with chemo was just starting!

Two years later, I am healthy and I feel great BUT over the last two years I have battled with the chemo side effects. Don’t be hard on yourself but know that these side effects will go away and to be patient. I still deal with neuropathy in my feet and most likely always will. However, the neuropathy went away in my hands (super thrilled about that). I am on a hormone blocker – Tamoxifen and it was not that harsh but it makes me have some serious hot flashes. But I can manage that versus the joint pain that other blockers give us.

I am a survivor and you can be too! Be strong, think positively through the entire process and let others help you. But most of all be prepared! Plan and research all that you will be facing and pray. Chemo sucks but it’s manageable! God bless to all cancer patients and survivors!