Last updated: March 2020
Chemotherapy is an often-essential cancer treatment, attacking cells that divide quickly and helping stop cancer's advance. But, what makes chemotherapy effective against cancer also can make it toxic to healthy cells, leading to side effects such as hair loss, nausea, loss of appetite, dry mouth, and fatigue.
1. Take one day at a time
Few things can counteract the side effects of chemotherapy. That said, however, always keep a positive attitude, taking one day at a time. “In my case, I would remind myself all day "this will end today." Sometimes it was a number of days, but my mental positive attitude helped me deal with it.
2. Use your imagination to help food taste good
Eating is difficult for many people during cancer treatment, so try to play mind tricks on yourself. Eat foods with color. Maybe use extra seasoning. Colorful foods have the highest nutrients. If you have a metal taste in your mouth from platinum based chemotherapy, use plastic forks.
3. Let yourself take a break
Treatment can be tiring and you may feel quite fatigued. Listen to your body. If you are tired/sleepy, lay down. Don't try to over do it.
4. Lean on your family and friends
Your family and friends will be your biggest supporters. Do not be afraid to ask for help. Sometimes people want to help but simply do not know what they can do. How about setting up a meal calendar. Ask family and friends to provide meals on the day of and day after of each treatment. It is one less thing you need to worry about.
5. Be your own advocate
Always, Always, Always. Is the medication to prevent nausea helping? If not, speak up - tell your health care team. When your doctor suggests a test that you are not familiar with, ask questions - What is this? What will it tell you?
The bottom line is, chemotherapy is hard. Some people have mild side effects, some people have more serious effects. YOU know what feels right to you. Do not feel afraid to ask your doctor/nurse any questions that start with, "is it normal that I..."
Editor’s Note: We are extremely saddened to say that on January 28, 2020, Jennifer Toth passed away. Jennifer was a passionate advocate for the Lung Cancer community. She will be deeply missed.
Happy Lung Cancer Awareness Month! What does self-advocacy mean to you?