*This is mostly based on my experience of 12 sessions of ABVD Chemotherapy and other persons experiences*
Being diagnosed with cancer is shocking but embarking on the journey of Chemotherapy is even more disturbing. It's uncharted waters that you have no idea what to expect or what you will go through, apart from what you heard, which believe you me does NOT prepare you for shit. I've been asked a lot about chemo tips, so I thought I'll post it up here aswell, just incase someone needs it or knows anyone going through it and it could be of some help.
Note: Each chemotherapy is different and each patient reacts in a different way. Please check with your oncologists regarding any of the tips below, as I want to help and not harm you.
== On Treatment Day
1. It will be a long day, take a family member or friend or loved one. Someone that is strong and cheerful but NOT a parent (as the sadness you see in their eyes will make u feel worse).
2. Treatment rooms are very cold, as cancer patients always feel hot, take a shawl or loose jacket with you, as your arms will be hooked to the machines and you need to feel comfortable in it. As well wear comfortable clothing, No jeans, No heels, No shorts.
3. Take a book, iPad, laptop, whatever that helps you waste time, as you won't be in a very talkative mood even if you have company.
4. I call it Chemo Bag - pack a bag that includes a shawl, medication, coke or sprite (helps with nausea) hard candy or sweets, snack (preferably banana), filtered water, and any form of entertainment. This bag should always be ready a day before chemo day, as with time your memory will get worse and you'll forget things on short notice.
5. If you're a Muslim then please don't let a drop of chemo enter your blood stream without listening to 9orat Elbaqara. Have it on an iPod or phone and play it just as they inject you with the pre-meds.
== Dealing With Chemo
Most likely you won't feel all the side effects of chemo from your first session but each case differs, but with most, the more chemo you take the worse you feel. But that's good, as the Worse you feel the more it means chemo is doing its job by destroying the cancer.
PLEASE TELL YOUR ONCOLOGISTS ABOUT ALL YOUR SYMPTOMS AS THEY CAN HELP.
1. Nausea will be your arch enemy all throughout chemo. Doctors can give you various medications to control it and if you're lucky prevent it. Drink SMALL sips of fizzy drinks, Coke or Sprite will help settle it down. - this helped me when chemo was being administered, it made it little bit more tolerable.
2. Water. Water. Water. On the day you take chemo you should drink at least 2 or more liters of water, as it will flush out the poison aka toxins out of your system and save your kidneys from being fried. BUT water will taste like metal and will make you vomit every-time you taste it. TIP add Vimto or Squash or little juice to water. Vimto was my savior!
3. After finishing treatment and returning home you won't be able to eat solid foods. With time you will know what you will be able to eat or not. Diced mango pieces were the best for me, they were fulfilling and easily chewed. Soup is good but hot foods will feel like boiling water on your tongue, either have it warm/ cold or find some other easily digested food you like.
4. HAIR - if you're a woman it will shatter you. For both genders, before your first session, take 3/4 of its length off, and after your first or second session of chemo have a pixi cut or shave it all off. The shorter it is the less hair you will see falling, and save you many tears.
5. Your sexual drive will be non-existent or in men's case you will be unable to perform. Don't feel like a failure, this is normal.
6. Your taste buds will change, you will love and hate various foods, stick to what you like. Have smaller meals throughout the day better than fixed 3 meals a day.
7. Most get horrible mouth ulcers that prevent you from drinking and eating. Tell your oncologists ASAP as they will prescribe specific mouthwash that works like MAGIC!! Couple days later you won't feel a thing and be able to eat and drink.
"Note your immune system will drop dramatically and you must be extra careful"
1. As your skin will be extra sensitive, avoid the Sun at all costs. Wear long sleeves, hats, gloves, what ever you need to protect your skin from being exposed to the sun, or it'll literally burn within minutes and have dark patches.
2. Use only Johnson's Baby products, such as, shampoo, body wash, baby oil to moisturize your skin. As for creams I'd recommend E45. Don't use any creams with chemicals and avoid perfume on skin or it'll breakout in rashes.
3. Don't don't don't scratch your body when it itches as itching turns the skin into darker colour, and later you'd be left with dark patches all over your body. I don't know why or how but it just does.
4. Have your own plate, cups, cutlery.
5. Don't eat out, home cooking only. Usually at hospital you'd find a guide with what to eat or don't eat, as your immune system drops more foods should be avoided. No probiotic food eg. leban and yoghurt. If your immune reaches 1.1 you should avoid a lot of various foods.
6. Flowers should be kept outdoors or in a separate room away from you.
7. Do not travel. As planes are as filthy as a petri dish infested with bacteria.
8. Do not kiss people hello and goodbyes as you don't know whose sick and who's not. Try to avoid younger children.
9. Your surroundings should always be cleaned and disinfected. Everything you use should be washed. Beddings should be changed often.
10. Anyone visiting you from abroad should change their clothes and shower before visiting you.
11. Keep a lookout for blue bruises on your body, blood clots may occur as a result of chemo.
12. Try to move or walk around (accompanied by someone) for 30 minutes a day, continuous bed rest isn't good for you.
13. There are days when you cannot watch tv as it requires too much energy, on such days rest and don't push yourself.
14. Find something relaxing to do often to rest your mind from continuously thinking about cancer and chemo. I took up baking and that was extremely beneficial. Everytime I baked, I spent 3 hours without thinking of my situation, that was my only calm time.
15. Don't drink water from bottled water as they contain natural bacteria which is harmful for you. Buy jugs that are used for infants which include a filter in them. Pour your water into the filtering jug then drink it or pour it into bottles that have been thoroughly cleaned.
16. Allow yourself to ask for help, cry, and be an absolute diva! You have cancer, it's not easy. This is the time where you can be unbelievably weak and vulnerable and IT IS OKAY.
** Please ask your oncologists for more tips.
May God give all those fighting Cancer the strength to destroy it.