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10 Ways to Care for Yourself Before, During, and After Chemotherapy

Topics: Cancer Treatment

September 2, 2020

Before and After Chemotherapy Treatment

Many patients have to go through chemotherapy as part of their cancer treatment program, which is extremely challenging. If your oncologist has included intravenous chemotherapy as part of your treatment plan, then you can take actions before and during your course of chemotherapy. This will make the overall experience easier on you. 

Things You Can Do Before Chemotherapy

1. Ask someone to drive you to and from your treatments.

Sometimes, chemotherapy treatments can take several hours to complete. You will likely be exhausted and you might not feel that great. It'd be ideal if you had someone who could drop you off and pick you up after your chemotherapy sessions.

It doesn't have to be the same person each time. You don't want to feel like you're burdening anyone. However, most people will volunteer to help you out in this situation.

2. Set expectations with your employer.

Make sure that you communicate with your employer about chemotherapy. If you're able to work while also undergoing chemotherapy, make sure that you let your employer know what you're going through. They should understand how long it will take, and they might be able to make adjustments in order to suit your specific needs. Plan for a couple of days off right after chemotherapy in case you need them. 

The Family Medical Leave Act offers time off, sometimes without pay, for medical care. You might have access to short-term disability insurance, which would provide you with some income during this challenging time. Make sure that you find out every detail of this law before undergoing chemotherapy. 

3. Go to the dentist.

Unfortunately, mouth sores and other dental issues are common side effects of chemotherapy, depending on which kind you receive. It's a good idea to get dental cleanings before going to your sessions. You should also ask about the best dental hygiene practices to adhere to. It's very important to use alcohol-free mouthwash and a soft toothbrush because this is a gentle way of brushing your teeth if you suffer from mouth sores.

4. Consider purchasing a wig.

Unfortunately, depending on the type of chemotherapy you receive, you might lose your hair. Consider wearing a hat or a scarf sometimes and a wig at other times. It might help to go wig shopping prior to your sessions so that the wig stylist can see your hair as you normally style it before you undergo chemotherapy. If you're looking to change things up, this could be a good time to try something new. 

5. Request help with your pets.

Your furry friends are loyal companions, but they're also quite a handful. You deserve to give yourself time to rest during this process and hire somebody else to take care of them. You'll be so glad that you did. Requesting help with your pets is also very important because chemotherapy raises your risk of contracting infections. You don't want to be picking up dog feces, or cleaning litter boxes, bird cages, and fish tanks.

6. Consider cutting your hair before undergoing chemotherapy.  

Consider cutting your hair short before undergoing chemotherapy. It's a good time to explore a different style. It will also be slightly less of a shock if you end up losing your hair as a result of your treatments. 

Things to Do During Chemotherapy 

1. Clear your schedule so that you can just go home after chemotherapy.

Don't plan any rigorous activities for a few days after chemotherapy. You'll want to relax for a while, especially after your first treatment. You deserve to.

2. Request and secure help with meals.

Chemotherapy is very intense and your body will need to time recover. This means that you should ask for assistance in other areas of your life while you're going through it. You might want to hire a housekeeper or ask a family member to help you with the dishes and the laundry so that you don't have to worry about doing household chores while you're recuperating from your sessions. 

You might have to deal with fatigue or nausea. Ask your loved ones to prepare meals for you and help you around the house. It'll be nice to have other people keep everything in order so that you don't have to deal with housework and the side effects of your treatments, which can be quite intense.

You might feel weird asking for this sort of help. You don't want to burden anyone. However, it's important to take care of yourself by directly asking for what you need so that your friends and family members can support you during this challenging time. 

3. Stock up on healthy groceries.

Make sure that you eat well and stay hydrated. Plan ahead and choose foods that have nutritional value. Doing so will help you feel better. 

Staying hydrated can ease the side effects of chemotherapy. Make sure that you have plenty of low-calorie drinks on hand. You might also want to subscribe to a meal-delivery service or purchase quite a few frozen meals.

You'll be able to heat up frozen meals quickly if you don't feel like cooking. Keep high-protein snacks on hand as well. There are many excellent options to enjoy including smoothies with your favorite fruits, hummus with soft pita bread, and cottage cheese with fruit. Make sure that you avoid foods that are rough and sharp because they can cause mouth sores. 

4. Use protection during sex. 

If you're still in your childbearing years, you might be concerned about long-term damage to your reproductive system. You can talk to your oncologist about freezing your eggs or sperm. This would not be a good time to get pregnant, due to the risks for the child, and, if you're female, for yourself.

Chemotherapy drugs can cause birth defects and damage sperm. They can stay in semen and vaginal fluids, so you should make sure that you use protection no matter what. Talk to your doctor about how long you should take this precaution for.

Don't Be Too Hard on Yourself During Chemotherapy

We hope that these strategies assist you in taking care of yourself in any way that you can. You deserve to take this time to focus on your health and any measures that you take for self-care are very important. Don't be afraid to ask for help.

Your loved ones are there to support you and will probably take care of your pets. They'll likely drive you to and from your sessions quite willingly and you'll be able to take time to relax. You'll be happy that you did. Chemotherapy will likely prolong your life if not lead to a full recovery.

Your nurse navigator at Arizona Oncology will also help guide you through your cancer treatment journey. They can help answer your questions about what to expect during chemotherapy treatment and follow-up care. 

We hope that you recover swiftly and thoroughly. Chemotherapy is intense. We hope that you remain perseverant and stay strong.

Arizona Oncology - The US Oncology Network