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Tips for getting through chemotherapy

Tips/Products For Getting Through Chemo

Antiemetics -I'm always shocked when I learn that not all oncology offices follow ASCO guidelines when it comes to antiemetics. AC and similar chemos are the most emetogenic (causing you know what!) out there and need big guns. According to the guidelines, everyone should be getting Emend, a steroid (dexamethasone aka decadron is the most common), and a medication like Kytril or Zofran (the Aloxi you may get in your IV at chemo is in the same family of drugs). Drugs like phenergan and compazine are NOT considered sufficient but might be used in addition to the others. No one should be throwing up from chemo these days. If you start, call your docs right away and they'll change your drugs. {stepping off my soap box}

Meds for Constipation - Constipation is pretty common from both chemo and the anti-emetics. It can be severe. Colace (docusate sodium) is an over the counter stool softener to have on hand. Senekot-S is a gentle laxative with a little Colace added in. Take it from me, do not wait too long to take these!! A little fiber (Metamucil, Benefiber, etc) never hurts either.

Ambien CR - Lots of us have trouble with sleep during chemo. I found the steroids made me very wired and it was hard to sleep more than 2-3 hours at once. Ambien CR is great because of the "CR," controlled release. It helps you fall asleep and STAY asleep. I found chemo was easier on me overall when I was able to get some sleep.

Meds for Diarrhea - Not quite as common as constipation, but some get it after the constipation and some get it instead, so having some Immodium or a similar product on hand at home is a good idea.

NSAIDs - If you are getting Neulasta to boost your WBCs, you may want to add one of these medications. I had a wonderful nurse practitioner who had chemo herself. She recommended taking Aleve (naproxyn) at least 30 min before the injection and continuing for 2-3 days afterwards to prevent the bone pain. I never had any, so maybe it worked for me. Who knows? Aleve would be an easier choice than ibuprofen bc it lasts for about 12 hrs.. less pills to remember!

Pepcid or other H2 blocker antacids (Nexium, etc)- Lots of us end up with acid reflux/acid indigestion during chemo. For me, it lasted a few weeks afterwards too. It also seemed to help a bit with that taste in your mouth that lots of us get.

Moisturizer - Never had dry skin in my whole life until chemotherapy! 4 months later, it is still dry. During chemo, you may become sensitive to odors, so you might want to stick with unscented or lightly scented products. A good rule in general.

Manicure kit - If you are going to get a manicure or pedicure during chemo, you'll want to bring your own tools (not a bad idea anytime). Even if you are not, you should probably at least have your own nail clippers or scissors at home that you do not share. Of course, after a while, your nails may not grow at all on chemo and all kinds of things can happen to them.

Hats - Of course, you already know about hats, wigs and scarves. I did not realize until a friend told me that I would want one to sleep in. A bald head or even one with inch long hair like I have now is COLD! LOL! A sleep hat with few, if any, seams is helpful. Some also find it comfortable to have a satin or silk like pillowcase.

Plastic silverware - Some people find the metallic taste from chemo accentuated by normal metal silverware.

Fluids - Drink, drink and drink some more. When you are finished, drink more still! Staying well hydrated greatly helps with the side effects. You'll want to start even before you go to to chemo.. either that day or the day before. It's hard to predict what you will or will not like bc of the change in taste that can happen. I never had an issue with water but ended up hating some of the flavors of sorbet and Italian ices we stocked up on. I also stocked up on lots of soups and lived on them during my worst days.

Biotene or Oasis products - There's a mouthwash, toothpaste and I know Biotene also makes chewing gum. These are all for dry mouth, something that is inevitable during chemotherapy to some degree. Dry mouth can lead quickly to all sorts of dental issues, so it's important not just for comfort, but for preventative reasons. BTW, I never found the chewing gum on the shelves, but most pharmacies can order it for you.

I'm sure there are a ton more tips out there. Please add your own and bump this to the top now and then.



  • melissaga
    melissaga Member Posts: 9
    edited December 2006
    See.. I told you I still had chemo brain

    If you get mouth sores, there's a little cocktail you can whip up with liquid benadryl and Maalox.

    EMLA or lidocaine cream- if you have a port, you can apply the cream to the area beforehand to numb it. You do need a prescription for this and they'll want to see that the port site is healed before you use it.
  • Lauri_S
    Lauri_S Member Posts: 7
    edited December 2006
    I'll add to the list:

    Anti-depressants - Going through all this crap is enough to depress a saint! If you are feeling down all the time, talk to you Oncologist about anti-depressants.

    Anti-anxiety meds - I was SO worried at my first A/C infusion; I was sure the second the stuff hit my veins I would start puking. Obviously I was worried for nothing but it really made my first treatment worse. If you even THINK you will be over-anxious about your first (or subsequent) treatment, ask for something to help take the edge off. Remember - Better Living Through Pharmaceuticals!

    Transportation - Don't try to drive yourself! The stuff they give you to help limit symptoms (steroids, anti-depressants, anti-anxiety meds, etc.) can really do a number on you. Besides, you deserve a little support at that moment! If you don't have a family member, friend or neighbor that can drive you ask your Oncologist if they (or the hospital) offer transportation. Contact your local American Cancer Society and ask if they have transport options.
  • mccarroll
    mccarroll Member Posts: 24
    edited December 2006
    I had a problem with thrush that started with my first AC and still hasn't completely gone away. If your tongue starts feeling "fuzzy", with a white coating, talk to the onc about a script for fluconazole. I also got a probiotic called "Yeast Away" from the health food store, pricey but really seemed to get a handle on the thrush.
    I got single knit ski hats to sleep in. Few seams to lay on, they stayed on better than chemo turbans and were warm.
    Grape juice and crangrape got me thru AC. Water was metallic and I guess the tastebuds that liked grape were all that was left.
    DH bought me a memory foam pillow after I slept so much on the couch, my ears were bruised. I hate my couch now.
    DON'T SUFFER WITH ANY SIDE EFFECTS!!! Tell the onc and the nurses everything. It might not be a common SE, but they will probably have something to help you out.
    Okay, tag, your it. Next helper up to the post! melissa, chemo brain is REAL and a real good excuse for lots of things.
    Take care, Karen
  • BMD
    BMD Member Posts: 215
    edited December 2006
    Popcicles. Sugarless or 100% juice if you like. When you can't stand the water or other drinks this might be your answer. On the days my mouth was the worst I would use these for the cold and the fluid.

    There are prescription mouth rinses that numb your mouth without leaving that awful taste. You have to ask the onc for the scrip though. It makes it easier to eat with sores.
  • sugar2u
    sugar2u Member Posts: 1
    edited December 2006
    Brenda glad you remembered popsicles. I had forgotten they helped me a lot and also made me feel like a kid getting a treat for a few minutes.
  • mikka22
    mikka22 Member Posts: 1
    edited December 2006

    The fluids are sooo important for sure! I'm working with a homeopath friend and doing a number of natural approaches. I have a "homeopathic valium" - 3-4 drops in a glass of mineral water for stress/emotions. I have "insomnia" pellets to help counter the steroids. I keep a dish of dried apricots on the kitchen counter and munch on those to prevent constipation (and also have a digestive enzyme supplement I take before meals - it works!). I've also had a bit of diarrhea around day 5 post-chemo and eat something with rice that day. I have an antibacterial toothpaste that really is working well and also have those neat breath tabs too. I put lemon or lime drops or slices into my water glass - the acid and Vitamin C has kept my mouth clear so far! I think these combinations are helping. I'm very sensitive to meds and chemicals so am always on the lookout for a more natural approach. For me, better living through pharmaceuticals needs to have some limits... chemical allergies and sensitivities, etc.

  • RoundTwoinCA
    RoundTwoinCA Member Posts: 74
    edited December 2006
    I have one - get your sleep - when you hit the wall (as some of us do) - just lie down and rest or sleep. I have a large water bottle next to me and force myself to drink every time I wake or turn over. I try to make sure that I drink enough to pee every few hours (sounds gross but it's how I know I am getting enough fluids). Popsicles help those days too!

    Sometimes it's a couple days in bed and sometimes it's a few on the sofa. At first I tried to do stuff but now I let people help and I rest those days. It helps a lot!
  • trk_koa
    trk_koa Member Posts: 3
    edited December 2006
    Fluids are also important for those on Cytoxan. You want to flush it out of your bladder to prevent toxicity. I was even told that it would be a good idea for a night or two after getting it, to set an alarm to get up in the night to relieve myself. Don't want that stuff to sit there for 8 hours.

    So it's a good thing to drink a lot and pee a lot.

  • Paula
    Paula Member Posts: 2
    edited December 2006
    Blender - get one if you havent got one already. Makes eating so much easier on those 'no appetite' days. Just blend everything together and drink! Pureed soups, smoothies, etc.
  • teacher06
    teacher06 Member Posts: 2
    edited December 2006
    Thanks for tips from all of you. This kind of support is just what we all need! I'm on day 5 after my first A/C and contrary to what I thought on day 3, I will get through this. Question: Does each treatment get worse or is it usually more of the same? After A/C I will get 4 DD of Taxotere or Taxol, not sure which yet.

    Debi D.
  • melissaga
    melissaga Member Posts: 9
    edited December 2006
    Everyone is so different! My days 3s were never bad. It was day 5 that was my worst day in any one cycle.

    Overall, each A/C treatment was a little different.

    The first one was a learning experience. For the second round, I added sleeping pills and was much more vigilant about stool softeners and laxatives (took them from the day of the infusion as recommended by the nurses and it helped). So, my second A/C was actually easier in many ways than the first. It was the easiest of all!

    For me, there were some aspects that were cumulative. That awful taste was not so back in the beginning but was quite strong in the last cycle, starting from the moment the meds were infused. The fatigue level was also cumulative.
  • [Deleted User]
    [Deleted User] Member Posts: 77
    edited December 2006
    Chemo bag : pack it up and keep it packed so on chemo day, you just grab it. I replenished it night before. I brought my book, chocolate, bottled (flavored) water or ice tea, my glasses and iPod.

    Your own blankie .... the hospital ones aren't as comfy.

    pics of your family ... Show the nurses your pics. You are a person and they need to know you and that you have a family who will wring their necks if they keep blowing your veins!!! Actually, you want them to take good care of you and give you good treatment!!

    old magazines: Have you noticed there are no current mags in the chemo clinic??? Bring your recently read People or latest paperback book and leave them so the person who forgot their reading material, or the first timers have something to read.

    Kleenex: Have you used their Kleenex??? It's that sandpaper tissue!! I like my real stuff, sometimes I love the lotioned up Kleenex.
  • Unknown
    edited December 2006
    My family wants to starting packing my chemo bag any great tips on what to bring and what works or thing to leave at home. Also what home supplies should I start stocking up on? Is a goog thermometer a must? Ihate spinning my wheels I like having my ducks in a row.
  • RoundTwoinCA
    RoundTwoinCA Member Posts: 74
    edited December 2006
    Just posted on what foods to eat a long reply to you...

  • melissaga
    melissaga Member Posts: 9
    edited January 2007

    Bumping this up for newbies.

  • Tahoe1982
    Tahoe1982 Member Posts: 1
    edited January 2007
    This was great...thanks for all the tips...
  • dash
    dash Member Posts: 173
    edited January 2007

    Wow--just found this--good tips here~!

  • melissaga
    melissaga Member Posts: 9
    edited February 2007
    Bumping this up for the newbies.

    (and waving hi to Holly!)
  • kimmymacbu
    kimmymacbu Member Posts: 1
    edited February 2007
    I didn't like the taste of our well water, so I kept a 12 pack of carbonated Canada Dry flavored water right by my bed.

    Take your anti-nausea meds before you feel nauseaous.

    I tried accupuncture for nausea, and had little "tacks" that I put on myself -- I think it helped for A/C, even if it was a placebo effect.

    Glutamine and warm baths help Taxol pain somewhat - and there is some annecdotal evidence that Claritin (OTC allergy pill) helps too. I did all this, and still had major pain, but it might work for some.

    Remember, no one has all the side effects, and some people don't get cummulative effects -- my first treatments were always the worst.

    And it does go by pretty fast -- I finished 4a/c and 4 taxol 1/31/07. Yipee!
  • refugee
    refugee Member Posts: 1
    edited March 2007

    bump- these tips are so helpful!

  • Cynthia1962
    Cynthia1962 Member Posts: 236
    edited March 2007
    Thanks for bumping this up...I was just going to start a thread asking for advice about how to prepare for chemo. These are great tips.

  • melissaga
    melissaga Member Posts: 9
    edited March 2007

    Time for another bump for our newbies.

  • playwriter
    playwriter Member Posts: 10
    edited March 2007
    sign up for
    they are a ministry where volunteers (usually cancer suriviors themseleves) will send u little notes or little gifts about every 10 days during yr chemo, totally free.
    tell yr friends about
  • playwriter
    playwriter Member Posts: 10
    edited April 2007

    the only thing i found to drink post-tx that didn't taste funky was gatorade.

  • jacqniel
    jacqniel Member Posts: 98
    edited April 2007
    Another tip - keep a squirt bottle by the toilet and rinse your self off with warm water after urinating for the first week or so. The chemo often burns on the way out, causing discomfort. I used an old water bottle and when I got this tip earlier on-line the person suggested a ketchup bottle.
    If the water rinse doesn't help - which it did help - but still got sore - take Uristat or AZO - both over the counter. These are analgesics which help with the burning and pain. But remember to have yourself checked out if you have bladder symptoms, because lowered bloodcounts can lead to bladder infections.
  • melissaga
    melissaga Member Posts: 9
    edited May 2007

    Time to bring this back to the first page for our May and June starters, a group I was part of just a year ago.

  • NarberthMom
    NarberthMom Member Posts: 382
    edited May 2007

    bump for the new chemo starters

  • QueenSansaStark
    QueenSansaStark Member Posts: 27
    edited May 2007
    Beware neutropenia! If you have a sore throat, and/or are running a fever greater than 100 - GET THEE TO THE DOCTOR STAT. Especially during your "nadir" period you are susceptible to infection. I learned this the hard way and wound up in the hospital. You want to cook or peel everything you eat, be very careful of raw foods like raw honey, wash your hands a lot, and maybe even do a Howard Hughes during the worst nadir period so you don't catch germs. BT, DT.

    Get a scarf or two in the most face-flattering color you can find. For me, that is a plum/mauve pink - I went to Crossroads consignment store and got a nice long silk scarf. I get compliments and "don't you look healthy/good!" whenever I wear it. The scarf should be silk or cotton, lightweight (because it WILL get hot as you wear it a long time), and in peach, pink, rose, bronze - something close to the color you blush. This will cast a flattering light on your complexion.

    Stock up on frozen meals. Not the healthiest, I know, but you will appreciate the savings in time when you are zapped and don't want to spend your energy on cooking.

    Steroids (and if you are on a taxane they WILL give you steroids) may wire you to kingdom come. Get a scrip for sleeping meds, and learn to meditate; meditation, visualization, and soothing music (I love Bach, myself) will help keep you from feeling like you want to jump out of your skin.
  • rosebud1962
    rosebud1962 Member Posts: 2
    edited May 2007

    Be kind to yourself, you didn't cause this to happen. Take time out of each day to try to do something you love. Try to go for walks and I guess the most important thing that has got me through this..laugh. Our time is to short here whether we are healthily or not so don't sweat the little things and hug and tell the ones you love them!

  • charkleroad
    charkleroad Member Posts: 1
    edited June 2007
    I am starting chemo (T/C) tomorrow. Find this thread very helpful. I was very nervous and called the doctor's office. Asked the nurse if there is anything I can prepare. She said"nothing". so, i have spending the past hour taking notes from all of you! Thanks!!! Christine