I don’t know about you. I HATE it when somebody tells me to “stay positive” about my Breast Cancer treatment. I want to slap them. I’ve not found anyone who has been through chemotherapy who has said those words to me. The people who have been through chemo use words like “endure” “strength” “courage” and “you can do it”. They don’t flip off a “stay positive” statement.
But being positive helps. You just don’t want it to come from someone who has not been there. It is too trite, too simple, and too painless. But since I’m enduring it with all my strength and all my God-given courage, you can hear it from me. But I will try and explain it in a different way.
I try not to listen to the negative. That’s how I deal with being positive. I would even caution you to be careful about what former chemo patients you listen to because often, although they mean very well, they put images of side effects in your head that you may never have. So when someone has been “down the AC Breast Cancer Road”, I listen, but I have my little blockers up and don’t listen to everything they tell me.
My chemo is a “dense dose” of chemotherapy which means that I have it every 2 weeks. Yours may be every 3 weeks or even 4 weeks. I don’t have much recovery time before it comes around again. So I have learned quickly what I need to do.
So with a start like that, how do I give you any chemo tips for home? I’m not sure, but I’ll give it a go!
1) Listen to YOUR BODY – no one else’s. Especially when it comes to food. I’ve never heard of one person where food isn’t an issue with chemo. It is. But your needs will be different than mine. I know what I can eat. Don’t put any pressure on yourself. Eat what you can eat and try to get protein in it. For example, I can eat mashed potatoes. I mix cottage cheese in the mashed potatoes and whip it up. You can’t taste it, but it boosts the protein by alot and gives me strength.
During the first 5 to 7 days after Chemo, my food is very limited. But my body has clearly told me what I can eat. When I follow my body’s rules, I have had no trouble. Some days I eat the exact same thing for all 3 meals. Want to know what it is? Cereal with peanut butter on it! My body says, “okay, you can eat it” and I do.
2) Your friends and family mean well. They want you to eat. They want to talk about food and push your limits about what you can eat. Nicely say to them, “I just can’t talk about food.” They will listen and stop talking. Do not be afraid to put your boundary in place. And don’t watch food on TV. Be easy on yourself.
3) Your Oncologist will load you up on nausea medicine during Chemo and give you some prescriptions for home. Take it. My Oncologist said, “This is no time for heroism. If this doesn’t work, it is the tip of the iceberg in medicine. Call me for something else. I have something that will work.”
4) Drink water, water, water, and if you can’t drink all water, I found that Frozen Fruit Bars work really, really well. There is something about the cold that helps your stomach and you get liquid in. They are usually only about 80 calories. If you need to eat alot of them, do it.
5) I don’t know what side effects you may have. Yours are different from mine. But mine don’t last very long. A day or two then it is on to the next thing. Yours may be altogether different. If it makes you afraid, call your Oncologist. If it seems like “no big deal”, it probably isn’t. Case in point. My teeth hurt for a few days. It’s a “no big deal” kind of feeling. Yours may never hurt. I use a soft bristle brush during those days and brush my teeth with Baking Soda. Baking Soda prevents mouth sores, too. I’ve not had any sores. The Baking Soda helps my teeth and my mouth.
6) The first time I got out of breath it scared me. But I learned that the red blood cells carry the oxygen. The chemo depletes the oxygen in the red blood cells, thus out of breath. So what does that mean? It means, do not push yourself. Your body is speaking. LISTEN to your body! Rest. Remember, you are already a heroine enduring this treatment. Your body is speaking. You will know when your red blood cells start coming back! Oxygen will increase and you can feel it!
7) You will feel misunderstood. No one, and I mean no one, can understand what it is like to be on this road, no matter how close they are to you, unless they have been here. They can be the most understanding person in the world, but there is no way you can adequately describe what is going on. Accept that this is a lonely road, and reach out to a few people that have been down the path – either on the internet, a friend who has been there, or a support group. Do what YOU NEED to find the support you cherish!!
8) When people tell you that you look good, have a response! As a woman, you always want to look good. But let’s face it. We don’t feel good. I think God gives women a special glow when they are going through cancer treatment. People have told me I have it. But so often, people look at the surface of someone. Sometimes when someone tells me “I look good” I feel REALLY angry! But I don’t want them to tell me “wow, you look bad!” Other women going through Breast Cancer treatment have told me the same thing about angry feelings. So have a response ready. My response has been, “Thank you. I appreciate the kind words. Would you like to know how I feel?”
9) Know the ebb and flow of your body. For me, I have alot of energy in the morning and little or no nausea. So I try to schedule things or clean in the morning while I have energy. And I have always hated to take naps. Guess what? I’m taking a few more these days. They aren’t so bad. If my body says, “take a nap”, I do it.
10) On the days you have energy, plan something FUN! You need to do something that you can totally forget everything you are going through. And plan some things ahead that are fun for you. I’ve had to change my habits and now am going to a 24 hour mega store very early in the morning before all the germs arrive! That is fun for me! Since it is winter, I can’t garden. But I LOVE flowers. I have been buying and arranging flowers, growing seeds, and looking at flower pictures because I need to feel happy. Make it a priority!!