Everyone who has to go through chemotherapy will have a different experience; it will be theirs, it will be personal and it will be unique.
Mine happened to be fairly awful, worse than some but not as bad as others. However it affects you, be it mild or major, there are things that can make it more bearable. Here are a few bits and bobs that helped ease me through my chemo:
Bendy straws – These flexible friends enable you to drink while lying down. I found them invaluable for keeping up my fluid intake on the days when I was unable to get up, or even sit up in bed.
Fluids are essential for flushing the chemo through one’s system, as well as slaking the endless thirst that many experience while on chemo.
Teddy Bear Pillowcase – This was a great find and quickly became my new best friend. One side is made of the softest, comfiest furry fabric you can imagine. The other is micro-fibre which is cool to the touch.
After my hair fell out, lying down on a cotton pillowcase was a horrible cold shock to my bald head. However lying down on a teddy bear pillow was a comforting, warm sensation that helped me relax and get some sleep.
Conversely, like many chemo patients, I suffered from hot flushes during the night. So a quick flip of the pillow and I had a cool, refreshing sensation which brought instant relief.
Don’t worry – no teddy bears were harmed in the manufacturing of the pillow cases! I got mine from Dunelm. Find out more here
Hot water with lemon – Chemo can affect your mouth quite dramatically. Some people get mouth ulcers, but fortunately this was one side effect I escaped.
However I did wake up most days with a foul taste in my mouth and my tongue coated in… well, I don’t know what. This was far worse than the usual ‘morning mouth’ feeling.
One is advised not to brush teeth hard or use an electric toothbrush during chemo, as your gums and tooth enamel are very vulnerable to damage.
A small glass of boiled, filtered water with a couple of slices of lemon popped into it really cut through the oral gunk and funk and helped freshen my mouth. Just stick to one small glass though, as too much acid from the lemon could erode the tooth enamel.
‘In Transit No Traces’ cleansing pads by This Works – These little pads are wonderful for cleansing and refreshing chemo-tired skin. On days when I was too poorly to think about my usual face cleansing routine, one swipe with one of these was all I needed to cool, cleanse and soothe my skin.
These may be pricier than many facial wipes, but they are so deliciously lovely to use, I felt it was worth treating myself and my skin to them. We all need a little luxury during a testing time like chemo, don’t you think?
Find out more here
Rice cakes – One of the most persistent side effects for me was nausea. I was only physically sick once but the nausea, accompanied by agonising heartburn, seemed unending.
I found that grazing on food really helped keep the feeling at bay, when even the prescribed anti-sickness drugs failed. After some experimentation, rice cakes emerged as the best remedy, either unadorned or smeared with a little bit of…
Marmite – Love it or hate it? I love it and always have. During chemo my taste buds went on strike and all food and drink tasted of absolutely nothing. It was a very strange sensation. I resigned myself simply to appreciating the texture and temperature of food.
Marmite came to my rescue, and proved to be the only flavour my mouth could register. Thus a rice cake with a smear of the sticky brown elixir became my favourite treat.
Elastic waists – Forget style and fashion; your watchword during the chemo experience should be comfort. Chemo can play havoc with your digestive system (either way, if you know what I mean!), leading to much discomfort. The drugs themselves can also lead to severe bloating, for which someone coined the descriptive phrase ‘chemo swell’. My tummy was so puffy that I wasn’t able to wear my usual jeans or trousers at all during the whole of my chemo treatment, so elastic waists were the way to go.
I spent much of my time at home in pyjamas, of course, but on the days when I was able to go out, a pair of elastic waist, soft linen-mix trousers were my go-to item of clothing. Comfy, comfy, comfy.
Those are my chemo survival tips. Please feel free to share your in the comments below.