The Side Effects Of Chemotherapy And How To Manage Them

When you are diagnosed with cancer, it can be a frightening, confusing time. There are so many opinions and ideas given to you and so many thoughts and worries floating through your head that it can be hard to focus. Something that will certainly come up in conversation with your doctor and oncologist is chemotherapy. It is the most common way to fight the disease, and it can help to reduce or eliminate the tumor.

However, as with many medications, there are side effects associated with chemotherapy, and some of them are extremely unpleasant. These side effects shouldn’t mean you don’t accept the treatment if it is recommended and offered to you, but it is important to be aware of how you might feel afterward and how to deal with these side effects efficiently. Here are some ideas.

Nausea And Vomiting

Nausea and vomiting are perhaps the most common of all chemotherapy side effects. They occur because your body is rejecting the chemicals that have been put into it, even though they are helping in the long term. To reduce these feelings, you will need to change your eating patterns. One way to do this effectively is to eat more frequently throughout the day, but with smaller amounts of food on your plate, rather than two or three large meals, try five or six smaller ones.

When you prepare your meal make sure there are no strong smelling foods included as this can make you feel more unwell, and don’t eat fried, fatty foods or too much sweet food either. If you have a drink an hour before you eat, this can help to settle your stomach. Stay away from carbonated drinks and stick to fresh tea, flat ginger ale, or apple juice instead.

It is also important not to rush your food, to take your time over your meal and to rest afterward rather than rushing off to do the next thing on your list.

If you are feeling extremely nauseated, then your doctor may prescribe you some medication to help you. It may take a while and some experimentation to find the right drug that helps you, but if you need to go down this route, then it is worth taking the time to find something that works.

There are alternative medicines that can assist in reducing the illness you will feel after a session of chemotherapy too. Medicinal cannabis from Cheeba's can also help and again, you will need a prescription for this. Acupuncture is a popular way to stop feeling so unwell after chemo as it can relieve nausea and vomiting effectively.

Taste Changes

You may find that after you have been through chemotherapy food and drink tastes different. Red meat often gains a metallic flavor, and if this is the case, you can try to substitute it for poultry or fish instead, for example. Another hint is to stop using metal utensils and switch to plastic or wood. It may not be the food that tastes strange but the tools you use to eat it with.

If you find that foods you used to love now taste unpleasant or have no taste at all, don’t keep trying to eat them until after your chemotherapy course has finished and you are feeling more like yourself again. If you continue, you may find that you develop a distaste for them for the long term.

Fatigue

Feeling extremely tired after going through chemotherapy is usual and if you don’t have to go anywhere and do anything then resting is the best course of action. However, if you do have things to do, perhaps you have children to look after, or you simply want to get out of the house for a while, then try to rest as much as possible and take short naps where you can. It will make those times when you need to be more active a lot easier. In fact, in some cases, a little exercise such as a short walk can even increase energy levels but be careful not to overdo it and feel worse than you did before.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help from friends and family when you need it. If you have chores to do, but you can’t manage to get out of bed, ask someone else to help you out. If the chores can wait, leave them! It’s far more important for you to get well than to clean the bathroom, for example.

If the feeling of being exhausted doesn’t go away, then it’s a good idea to check in with a medical professional because you might be suffering from anemia which can be treated with iron.

Confusion

Some people find that having chemotherapy leaves them confused and feeling ‘foggy.’ This is given the nickname ‘chemo brain’ and is perfectly normal, if unpleasant and unwanted. If you do find that you suffer from this short-term mental confusion and you want to be able to stay on top of things, then you can use a daily planner to help you manage any appointments you may need to attend. It is also a great place to write down names and phone numbers and anything else that might be useful to you.

You can also combat chemo brain by taking a class in something. If you’re not feeling up to going out, you can try something online. If you do want to go out, then there will be many different evening classes for adults in your local area. Keeping your brain active before and after chemotherapy can reduce the feelings of confusion and fogginess massively.

Hair Loss

Although you may assume that you are going to lose your hair when going through chemo that’s not necessarily the case; only some chemotherapy treatments have this side effect. If you do find that you are losing your hair, you should switch to using soft bristled brushes and not use any hair products that contain chemicals including hair dyes and some shampoos.

You may want to cut your hair short if it starts to fall out as this can give the impression that it is thicker than it really is. If you decide to wear a wig, then the best advice is to buy it before you lose your hair as it will be easier to match it up.