Cancer Survivors: How to Deal with the Effects of Chemo

Chemotherapy is so hard on the body that they say you have to be able to walk into the clinic to receive it, because it takes so much out of you that they’ll wheel you out in a wheelchair. Yet chemotherapy is essential to killing cancer that may have spread, so if you want to beat cancer, you have to deal with the effects of chemotherapy. Here are a few tips on how to deal with the effects of chemo on your health, life and appearance.

Digestive Problems

Chemo kills the fastest growing cells in your body. While the goal is to kill cancer, it also takes one’s hair and the cells in the throat and digestive tract. You may find your mouth dry from a lack of saliva. The solution is to drink a lot of water, use artificial saliva and use thickeners that make it easier to swallow food. Shift your diet to foods that are easy to eat and digest, such as soft, moist foods. Mashed potatoes with gravy, scrambled eggs, oatmeal and soups are your friend. If you have trouble swallowing, switch to soups, broths, yogurt and soft foods made softer by mixing them with gravy or sauce.

Mouth Problems

Because chemo kills many of the cells that create a soft, moist lining of the mouth, your body loses the built-in defenses for your mouth and teeth. You should visit a dentist a month before you start chemotherapy to fix any cavities and address other problems. Get those swollen gums treated before you lose your ability to fight an infection. Switch to a mouthwash that doesn’t include alcohol, and brush your teeth several times a day. Don’t forget to brush your tongue. Floss daily. Rinse your mouth several times a day with a mix of baking soda and warm water to reduce the risk of infection and bleeding. Don’t drink alcohol.

Appearance

Farah Fawcett likely died prematurely from cancer because she chose a less aggressive chemotherapy so she could keep her hair. And that is understandable, given how much we associate hair with beauty. However, chemotherapy is intended to save your life. What’s the compromise? Wigs are one option, especially if you’ve lost all your hair. If you still retain some hair, consider cheap clip in human hair extensions. Bandanas and hats are also popular options.

Fatigue Almost everyone who goes through chemotherapy suffers from fatigue. It is especially severe during and immediately after cancer treatment. The best solution is to give yourself time to rest. Arrange for someone else to take you home, do the chores, take care of the children, while you rest or take a nap after chemo. Don’t take too long a nap – 15 to 30 minutes is ideal.

Anemia

Anemia is a common side effect from chemotherapy. This may be treated with medication. It is sometimes treated with a blood transfusion. You should take care to take vitamins and, if possible, eat foods rich in iron to help fight anemia.

The Risk of Infection

It is frustrating to see so many people leave the hospital after chemo only to return within days due to an infection. The same treatment that leaves you anemic may reduce your body’s production of white blood cells, too. One solution is to require everyone who may be ill to stay away. Frequent hand washing by everyone involved is a necessity. Don’t bite your nails. Have sick pets stay somewhere else. Treat your skin with lotion so it doesn’t become dry, cracked and infected. Talk to your doctor as soon as you see any sign of infection, no matter how minor. Don’t dismiss rashes as minor problems, and if your nausea or other symptoms get worse despite taking steps to stop it, call for a doctor’s advice.

Nausea

Nausea, sometimes to the point of vomiting, is a common side effect of chemotherapy. You can reduce this through medication, acupuncture, and acupressure bands more often used for seasickness. Avoid strong flavored foods if they trigger nausea. You may have to ask someone else to cook so you don’t get ill. If you do become ill, focus first on getting hydrated instead of trying to eat something. Dehydration will compound the fatigue you’re already suffering, whereas eating may make you ill again.

Chemotherapy can be very taxing on the body, but there are some ways that you can alleviate some of the symptoms associated with it. If you follow some of the tips in this article, you should be able to reduce some of the issues that come with chemo and focus on your recovery.

Thanks to Christine Kovach

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