Medical advancement has put the taboo associated with chemotherapy to rest. Proper planning and knowing what to expect at the end of your chemo sessionduring your cancer treatment can make the process a little simpler to handle. If you or someone you love needs chemotherapy, plan everything beforehand and go with a positive frame of mind. Remember, you could make a lot of difference with a positive approach to the whole treatment.
There are many things to do before chemotherapy begins. Some may be too technical and would require an expert’s opinion. But for others, you could always be prepared and make this journey as smooth as possible. Let’s look at how to prepare for chemotherapy.
10 Things to Know About Chemotherapy Procedure
1. What is Chemotherapy
Chemotherapy can be administered through various ways. In some cases, chemotherapy is given through a needle into a vein, also called intravenous or IV chemotherapy. It could also be administered through pills that you take orally called as oral chemotherapy or given as a medication on your skin called topical chemotherapy. It is always better to discuss with your doctor the type of chemo treatment you would receive.
2. Signs and Symptoms of Infection
Keep a note of all the signs and symptoms of infection you might get during the chemo treatment. It is always advisable to call the doctor whenever you feel any sort of uneasiness such as chills and sweats, changing cough or a new cough, sore throat or a new mouth sore, shortness of breath, and other discomforts.
3. Common Side Effects of Chemotherapy
Discuss with your doctor what side effects to expect during and after chemotherapy. Not all patients are alike, and similarly not all drugs administered are the same. Side effects vary from aches and pains, nausea and vomiting, diarrhea, hair loss, reproductive concerns, loss of appetite, mouth ulcers and many other issues. Based on the side effects of your chemotherapy, you could make appropriate arrangements.
4. Infection During Chemotherapy
By now you are aware that chemotherapy not only kills the cancer cells, but also kills healthy cells such as white cells, which reduces body’s capability to fight germs. After 7 to 12 days of each session, your body has the least number of white cells. Start having a healthy balanced diet especially rich in protein as it is the basic building block used by your immune system to prevent and fight infections. Also maintain personal hygiene. Keep your room and surroundings clean as your immunity gets lower during and after chemotherapy; some patients even fumigate their rooms to avoid any chances of infections.
5. Sort Out Your Financial Concerns
Chemotherapy treatment not only takes a toll on your health, it could also impact your financial status. Get your insurance in place. And if it does not cover the complete cost of your chemotherapy, look for organisations that could provide financial assistance. The National Cancer Society and Cancer Patients Aid Association in India have joined hands with insurance organisations to formulate critical illness cover for breast cancer patients and other cancer patients. These cancer specific insurance policies cover you against cancer, both at the early and advanced stages.
Many drug manufacturers also offer a hefty discount if you manage to directly buy from the distributors. Tap your network or ask you doctor and someone might lead you to a wholesaler or distributor and you may even get a 20% - 30% discount!
6. Arrange for Help at Home and Work
Though chemotherapy does not require you to be admitted in a hospital, your body might not be physically strong to carry on with your day-to-day activities. Therefore, get an alternative resource at your workplace who would keep the work moving. There is no harm in asking someone to help you with your household chores such as cleaning, grocery shopping, and cooking. Your loved ones would happily help you with your fight against cancer. With the new advancement in chemotherapy drugs, the side effects are getting lesser by the day. We have personally seen a lot of women resuming work even in between two chemotherapy cycles!
7. Discuss Cancer Diet With Your Doctor
Food is an integral part for recovering from any illness. So, talk to your doctor and make a proper chemo diet restrictions chart. Avoid the intake of undercooked or raw meat/eggs. Stay away from raw and unpasteurised food items such as dairy products and fruit juices as they contain bacteria that may cause you to fall ill. Always wash fruits and vegetables before consumption. Also, avoid alcohol as your liver needs no more toxins.
8. First Chemotherapy Treatment
Getting your friend or family member on the first chemotherapy treatment is a good decision. Though people can drive before and after a chemotherapy session, you really do not know what side effects it will cause. Feeling sleepy or other side effects may make it difficult to drive. Additionally, he/she can help remember information and understand what the doctor has to say. Carry a book, a mp3 player, or anything that can help you pass time or help you manage your feelings.
9. Good Personal Hygiene
Some medication could cause dry skin and irritation. This could lead to cracked skin leading to germs setting in and causing infection. Also, your body is weak thus it loses energy to fight cold and flu. Therefore, maintaining good personal hygiene is a must. Wash your hands regularly and do not shy from asking visitors and doctors to do the same.
10. Enjoy What You Love to do
Whether it is going for shopping or picnic, caring for your pet, or dirtying your hands while gardening, do not stop yourself from doing what you love. Simple tips like staying away from people who could be sick and washing hands after meeting others is recommended. Protect your skin from direct contact with pet waste, and wash wounds immediately with soap and water if you get bitten or scratched by your pet. Wear a gardening gloves and protect your skin from cuts and scratches and wash hands with soap and water after gardening. In a nutshell, take precautions and enjoy your life.
Valuable Tip: Join a support group such as yoddhas; discussions with others with similar issues is known to improve the quality of life and easing of anxiety and depression.
It’s a different journey for everyone. What helped someone else, might not be useful to you. Therefore, always have an open discussion with your doctor and loved ones and do not hesitate to go for counseling if need be.