Non-Medical Advice from a Breast Cancer Survivor
Before starting chemotherapy, my oncology nurse practitioner went over the medical information on what I needed to do and expect during my chemotherapy treatments. She also gave me an extensive list of every possible side effect that might occur during and after receiving treatments.
That day, I walked away from her office feeling more informed but also overwhelmed and scared of this new treatment phase I was entering.
And, I left with even more questions than I originally had before my appointment. These were the non-medical questions the oncology nurse didn’t cover during the chemotherapy training session.
Thankfully, I received answers to these questions from friends who had gone through chemotherapy treatments and were willing to share their experiences with me.
So, now I’d like to share what I’ve learned with you.
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Non-Medical Tips You Need to Know Before Beginning Chemotherapy Treatments.
Don’t Worry About Possible Side Effects
The list of possible side effects is just that – Possible side effects. You will have some, but you won’t have them all. And you won’t know which ones you will have until you begin your infusions. So don’t borrow trouble by stressing about it beforehand.
Worrying about them ahead of time creates anxiety. Worrying could even cause you to have side effects you wouldn’t otherwise experience. An oncology nurse and breast cancer survivor friend told me she noticed that patients who were afraid of having nausea often had more nausea than those who weren’t worried about it.
Your doctor can prescribe medicines that reduce or eliminate any pain or certain side effects, like nausea. So, don’t worry about the side effects. If you have any, you and your medical team will find a way to make them manageable.
Keep a Positive Attitude
You may not feel like it, but you need to keep a positive attitude because your outlook will directly affect how you feel. I know it’s not always easy, but staying optimistic is vital in your healing process.
I don’t mean to sound like a Pollyanna, and I do know how tough this is. It sucks! It’s difficult to be upbeat when going through treatments but smiling and laughing are good for the body, mind, and soul.
The happier you can be during this time, the healthier you will be through your treatments. If you need a little help staying positive during this time, check out Positive Actions that Promote Healing.
Try to Stay on a Schedule
I felt like I was in the ‘Twilight Zone’ while on Chemo treatments. Time seemed to shift, and life felt surreal. Nothing felt normal. It’s hard to explain precisely how I felt during that time, but other friends say they had the same experience.
What helped me was sticking to a regular schedule or routine – waking, eating, sleeping, etc. There were, of course, days when I didn’t feel like doing it. Days when I slept more, and that was okay. I needed the rest. But those days were the exceptions. I found it was better to wake up, get dressed (even if it was only in loungewear), and put on makeup (if I felt like it).
Don’t Overdo It
As women, It can be difficult not to overdo it. Our lives are busy. Especially if you’re working, have children at home, or have other responsibilities that require your time and attention.
But it’s essential to your health that you don’t. Trying to do too much during this time can make it harder for you to get through chemo.
During chemotherapy, your energy level decreases, and fatigue is a problem. The best way to deal with this is to eliminate everything you don’t have to do and focus only on the priorities in your life. In addition, try to pass on as many responsibilities as you can to others.
Remember, your number one responsibility right now is to get rid of this cancer. And to do that you have to take care of yourself!
Pamper Yourself During Chemotherapy Treatments
One of the best ways to take care of yourself is by taking time to rest, relax and pamper yourself.
I found taking bubble baths with Dr. Teals Foaming Bath with Pure Epsom Salt, Soothe and Sleep with Lavender lavender, and Epsom salt was calming and helped with the pain and achiness I felt after treatments.
Other ways to relax are reading a good book, watching a feel-good movie, or doing whatever makes you happy and comfortable.
And if you’re having trouble with “chemo fog” or “chemo brain,” try some mind-stimulating activities like word puzzles, jigsaw puzzles, online games, etc. They can help. And don’t worry; your memory and alertness will return to normal after your finish your infusions.
Talk to Your Doctor if Something Bothers You
Chemotherapy can cause all kinds of minor aches and pains. Let your doctor or nurse know if something is uncomfortable. Often, they can do something to address the discomfort.
I remember having problems with stinging during one of my infusions. It felt like ants in my pants. It wasn’t unbearable, but definitely uncomfortable. I mentioned it to my nurse, who immediately knew what to do. She was able to dilute and slow down the speed of the medicine that was causing it, and I never had the stinging sensation again.
So, there’s no need to suffer through something, even if it’s something little or seems too silly to mention. Let your doctor or nurse know. They’ve heard just about every side effect there is and will probably have a solution for you.
Stay Ahead of the Pain or Discomfort
If your doctor has given you medicine for pain or nausea, don’t wait until you feel bad to take it. If you take it before or as soon as the symptom starts, you have a better chance of the pain going away or being milder.
Your oncologist has prescribed these medicines for a reason. They are to keep you feeling the best you can during chemotherapy.
Pack a “Chemo Bag”
Chemotherapy treatments can take several hours, so bring a bag of things to help entertain yourself and stay comfortable.
Here is what I included in my Chemo Bag that you may want to bring:
One last thing to remember!
Chemotherapy is tough. But you are tougher! Stay strong! This is only for a season, and it will pass. You can do it!
And if you need someone to talk to, please feel free to email me. I can’t give you any medical advice, but I can listen, encourage and pray for you. You can also leave me a comment below. I’d love to hear from you.
Lisa Webb says
Thankyou for the helpful tips I shall use your site as a point of reference as I start breast cancer fight . thankyou for inspiring me to stay strong 💪. I got this
Hi! I found your blog to be very very helpful and motivating. I was diagnosed with breast cancer about a week ago. I never ever thought I’d experience anything like this. I never worried what I had to eat,drink or watch my weight. I always came back healthy after my physical check up. Now my body is my temple. I have completely changed my way of eating. I pay so much attention to what i put in my body and I exercise everyday. I Don’t know what stage I am but i was told it’s curable and aggressive. So far the plan is chemo, mastectomy (right breast only) and possible radiation. Very soon I will be meeting with my oncologist for the first time to find out when I will start chemo. I’m nervous but I’m ready for this long journey and I’m ready to fight this.
Kimberly Mendez says
Thank you SO much!
I just had surgery Jun 1, and have consults for oncology & radiation oncology next week and around mid-July should start chemo & radiation.
Tumors from left breast were removed and margins are clear.. but 6 lymph nodes all came back cancerous, so now I need chemo & radiation.
Recovering and just waiting on my appt
Kimberly, I’m so glad it helped. I’m so sorry you are having to go through chemo and radiation but am thankful your oncology team is doing what’s needed to remove the cancer. I am praying for strength during your treatments and healing. Feel free to message me on FB or email me anytime. I would love to know how you’re doing. 💗🙏
Thank you for your post. Its so helpful for me, tomorrow I will start my chemos and I feel so nervous and your information give me so many tips to do this more soft. I love to found your blog and read about your experience as a cancer Survivor. Greetings from Mx.
I’m so glad the post helped and hope your first treatment went well today. Feel free to email or message me on FB anytime, I’d love to know how you are doing. Praying for you! 💗🙏
Hi Jelane, thank you for your informative post. I have not started anything yet, I am gathering information of what all I may need. I was recently diagnosed with stage 3 colon cancer. I will be going through chemo and radiation therapy, then surgery. Thanks for all your information. It’s very helpful.
Hi Bambi. I’m glad the information helped. Praying for strength, wisdom, peace, and healing as you go through your cancer journey.
Hi Jelane! thank you for your great advice and encouraging words! I will be starting chemo this Thursday. The tips were great and I am somewhat relieved actually after reading your post!
Have a blessed day!
I’m so glad these tips helped. Praying that your cancer treatments go well for you.
This past year has been an absolute whirlwind for me. At the end of 2020 I began to have pain in my wrist and believed it to be carpal tunnel. Fast toward to March when I finally got an MRI to find out I’ve got a tumor. Many many sleepless nights later it’s removed …I began to apply to kindergarten teaching jobs for the fall. I accepted one. I went to my follow up from the surgery and found out the tumor was cancerous. It was a 2% chance of this happening. I have a really rare form of cancer. I still took the job despite all of this and the possibility of having cancer in my legs. I said oh no not happening and sure enough at the time there wasn’t. A few weeks later I found out there was still a lot of cancer left in my arm and they may have to amputate it. I got another scan and turns out that was left over inflammation from the surgery. Seven weeks of radiation and I’ve been on leave for quite a while. My legs are in pain and my arm is healing from radiation. I’m getting a CT scan to make sure it hasn’t spread there plus an MRI on my spine because of the leg pain. Everything has hit me at once. It would help if my school was what I thought it was but …it’s not. I love teaching and I love my students but the school is more about rigor and testing then fun and the playful environment I feel the students truly need. I feel kind of lost right now. I won’t find out until March if I’ve still have cancer in my arm. At this point the worst is not knowing. Not knowing if I have to have more treatments or surgery that’s the worst. The suspense the feeling that I have no control.
I’ll just use this time to work on my children’s books maybe that’ll take off…
Cali, thanks for commenting. WOW! Your year has been a huge whirlwind. I think the not knowing and the feeling of no control are the hardest parts of cancer. Hang in there! I know you feel in limbo right now but am so glad you are using this time to work on something for you. I’m praying that this time of waiting will be an opportunity for you to discover your passions and purpose in life. I’m also praying for healing and comfort for you. Please email me or message me on Facebook anytime. I’d love to hear how you are doing.
Hello, my name is Jackie, I’m 56, I am going through neoaduvant therapy first. I feel that after chemo, 1st round day 1 wasn’t too bad. Now I’m in day 4 and I feel horrible. I have a long 5 months ahead of me….. thanks for the advice. I hope I can be able to go to work on in 3 days from now. I’m gonna try.
Be sure to let the doctor and nurses know what’s bothering you. They may be able to help you with some of the problems you’re experiencing. And, most of all, get plenty of rest and take good care of yourself. I am keeping you in my prayers and would love to know how you are doing. Send me an email anytime or message me on Facebook.
Remember this is only for a season! Stay Strong!
Love & Prayers,
Thank you for you post. It was really helpful… I will be starting chemo on July 3 and I’m really nervous.
Hola agradesco mucho tus consejos
Tenia muchos nervios, miedo y preocupación por las quimio.
En enero me sometí a una mastectomia radical, y aun estoy batallando con el dolor del brazo, ahora me han agregado 4 quimios, y al terminar seguiré con un tratamiento de una pastilla x 5 años.
Te felicito x ser una mujer guerrera y vencedora.
Voy tras de ti y muchas mas que estamos en esto, resguardando sus espaldas para vencer este Cáncer.
Saludos y abrazos.
Excelente tu publicación te doy un 💯 y que viva la vida de las pelonas sexys 🌹🎀🙏🏻💝
Sol, thanks for commenting. I’m so glad this post was helpful. I think the fear we have before we receive chemo can be more daunting than having the chemo treatments. Just stay strong and keep your positive attitude. You’ve come so far already in this cancer journey. Keep moving forward day-by-day and before you know it, your chemo will be finished, your hair will be growing back, and you’ll be on your way to healing! Please email me or message me on Facebook anytime. I’d love to know how you are doing.
Love & Prayers!
Thank you so much, your writing is calming and practical. I am week 3 from bilateral mastectomies and just learned chemo is being added in 2 weeks. I am ready to kick cancers teeth so I can live long enough to spend my children’s inheritance. 💕
Linda, I hate you have to go through chemo after what you’ve already gone through in the past month. But the chemo will work on getting rid of any remaining cancer cells. It sounds like you are entering this with a positive attitude and sense of humor. That truly makes a difference in how well you do during your treatments. Please email me or message me on Facebook and let me know how you are doing. Stay strong!
Love & Prayers,
Joanne Simpson says
Hello and thank you for the article.
Just found out that I have to go through everything after having my lumpectomy a month ago. It is a shock as I thought I would just have radiation. So… being the strong women that we are, have to power through this. I am 68 and this was my very first surgery!
Thanks again for your support❣️
Joanne, I’m so sorry. I remember how it feels to have chemo added to the list of things you have to do. It’s so overwhelming, but you can do it. Just take it one day at a time and be extra kind and caring to yourself. This is your time to heal and the chemo meds and radiation are going to help you do that by killing off any remaining cancer cells. I will be praying for you. Please email me or message me on Facebook if you need to talk.
Love & Prayers,
Thanks for the advice. Just starting chemo and I’ve been a nervous wreck.
I’m glad you found it helpful. Please feel free to email me anytime you have questions or need someone to talk with.
Love & Prayers,
Thank you. This made me feel better because I have been a nervous wreck about starting chemo. Now 66, I spent most of my life not taking medication at all and I am going to be bombarded with it. Chemo, Herceptin, and five years of tamoxifen. Also radiation. When I write this and say these words I can’t believe that coming out of my mouth and that it’s true! The whole thing frightens me because I react so strangely to some medicationsI have taken in the past.
I’m glad this post was able to help. I know how frightening and stressful it is. If you look at the total treatment, it can be overwhelming. Just take it one step at a time, one day at a time.
It sounds like you are having the same treatment as mine so if you have any questions or just want to talk about things, please email me. I’d love to chat with you.
Love and Prayers.