When people go into hospital for outpatient chemotherapy, particularly for the first time, they understandably have lots of questions, concerns, and fears.
The doctors will hopefully have explained the medical side of the treatment: medicines, procedures, and side effects. However chemotherapy has been around since shortly after WW2, so there is a wealth of collective wisdom from the people who have gone through treatment cycles as well as from medical professionals.
In this blog, we share some common 'non-medical' tips from this repository of knowledge, which we hope will help people to be prepared for their chemotherapy infusions and to be as comfortable as possible during the treatment period.
Being Comfortable During Chemotherapy
So here’s our compilation of the top tips offered by both patients and medical providers:
1. Wear comfortable clothes - it is likely to be a long day.
2. Don’t be bored - bring things to help you pass the time
– IE. books. tablets, Sudoku, etc. You can also download audio-books or podcasts to your devices.
3. Be sure to eat healthy and balanced meals
– this is sound advice for all of us but particularly true for cancer patients during treatment. You can find more ideas for eating during treatment here.
It should be noted that many people find they cannot eat a large meal during the period of their treatments and find the sight of a full plate off putting, so serving smaller portions or more bite-size meals such as healthy wraps can be beneficial for those people.
4. Chemotherapy drugs are known to leave people very dry. Drink lots of water or sports drinks (and avoid caffeine!) in the hours before a chemo infusion to boost fluid levels and electrolytes. Being well-hydrated is also helpful for your body as it goes through the steps of processing the chemotherapy drugs.
5. Drink after a session too, for the reason above, (unless otherwise directed by the doctor in charge of your treatment) it is a good idea to drink “little and often” for a few hours, again avoiding caffeine.
6. Bring snacks because It is not beyond the realms of possibility that the hospital food may be unappealing!
Some often recommended foods include smoothies and shakes, dried fruits and nuts, toasted cheese, avocado or peanut butter, yogurt, fruit, trail mix, muesli, cut vegetables, hummus, and crackers.
7. Dealing with the Nausea: It is well known that during Chemotherapy treatment many people feel nauseous, so be sensitive to tastes and smells. Try to seek out snacks that don’t set off nausea or make it worse. This will vary from patient to patient. Indeed, some people say they have a diminished sense of taste and smell and therefore prefer food that are more strongly flavored or have a more pungent smell.
NOTE: Patients should check with their doctor regarding any foods that you should not be eating before, during, or after your treatment.
8. Bring a support companion with you. As we have said many times throughout these blogs, the emotional support of having a friend or loved one with you cannot be overstated. And practically having a companion will help with things like driving to and from treatment, reading to you, keeping an eye out for any reactions during treatment, and fetching and carrying during that long day.
9. Plan on being tired for a day or so after treatment. The day after a first treatment leaves many people feeling very fatigued. So pre-plan that the next day will be one resting. Chemotherapy impacts every cell in a person's body so cut yourself some slack!
If you have anything to add to this list from your own or a loved one's experiences with chemotherapy please share below. You'll be helping others.