Guest Blog: Top Tips for Getting Through Chemo

We are thrilled to have Audrey from Cancer With a Smile and former Beatson patient write her very own guest blog for us again. This time she is giving her very own top tips for getting through chemotherapy.

Ask any Cancer patient, chemotherapy is one of the hardest parts of treatment. It is a lifesaving medicine that pretty much makes you feel like you have a combination of flu and a bad hangover without any of the fun. Depending on the type of cancer you have you may even go from feeling pretty good and healthy to wanting to stay in bed for the foreseeable future. During my treatment for breast cancer I had four rounds of intravenous Docetaxel (Taxotere) and Cyclophosphamide. My nurses told me about all the different side effects I might experience and it was a pretty big and nasty list.

So here’s my top tips for getting through chemo....

1. Sleep

A lot of people find it hard to sleep during chemo. Here’s some things that helped keep me calm and get more sleep:

  • Going for a short walk.
  • Spending time outside.
  • Audio books are very relaxing and stop you going crazy with frustration.
  • Less screen time at night
  • Yoga and meditation, YouTube has lots of great videos.
  • Reading.
  • Reiki is amazing and I had regular massages.
  • If you have severe insomnia you can speak to your GP about using sleeping medication.

2. Mouth

My mouth got very dry and tasted revolting.

  • Coconut oil saved my poor mouth, google Oil pulling (swirling oil in your mouth), it’s gross at first but well worth the effort.
  • Mouth wash.
  • Suck mints or hard sweets.
  • Drink fizzy water.
  • Fresh Pineapple cleanses the mouth - juice or chunks are great.
  • Suck frozen fruit. Mango and pineapple are lovely.
  • Synthetic saliva spray. It’s weird at first but really helped me.

3. Sickness

I got off easy with this, but did feel horribly nauseous.

  • Ginger tea, tablets and biscuits.
  • Anti-sickness medication, ask your cancer nurse for different types to try.
  • Eat small amounts regularly.
  • Suck ice chips.

4. hair loss

A lot less upsetting than I expected.

  • Cold capping can help reduce hair loss with some types of chemo.
  • I wanted to take control of my hair loss so shaved my head just after my 1st chemo.
  • Head scarves, I loved these as I found wearing a wig too itchy.
  • Wigs. In the UK you get a prescription for a free wig. I went to a shop called Parrucche in Glasgow and they were lovely.
  • Hats are fab, I wore a lot of little cotton beanie hats.
  • Lashes and eyebrows can often fall out too, I used a gel called Talika Lipocils which was amazing and I didn’t lose my lashes or brows.
  • Your other body hair can fall out too, this is a bonus as you save a fortune on waxing.

5. Fatigue

This hit me hard, I spent most of the first week after chemo on the couch.

  • Don’t plan much for the week after chemo.
  • Take regular rest breaks during the day.
  • Get a little bit of very gentle exercise.
  • Drink lots of water and eat well.
  • Get some fresh air.
  • Get help, this is the one thing that made a huge difference to me.

6. Low mood and anxiety

I cried a lot during chemo but I also smiled a lot too.

  • Try to find people to connect with who have also had cancer, social media and chat rooms on sites like Breast Cancer Care are great.
  • Visits from friends and family.
  • Be careful what you read online. Use reliable websites.
  • Write a diary- this really helped calm my spinning mind.
  • Yoga, meditation, hypnosis apps or videos for tapping and breathing techniques.
  • Reiki, massage and reflexology, there are charities that offer these for free.
  • Speak to a councillor.
  • Plan nice treats to look forward to for the week before each chemo when you’re feeling at your best.

Here are some websites that were recommended to me and I found very helpful:

If you have found Audrey's tips and advice useful, you can visit her blog site Cancer With a Smile here for more inspiration and hints of going through treatment.

You can also follow her story on Instagram or Facebook.