How to Prepare for Chemotherapy

How to Prepare for Chemotherapy

Sarah
Author
Sarah
Author

Sarah Kown

20 days ago at 1:58 PM

Chemotherapy can be daunting. These top ten ways on how to prepare for chemotherapy treatment, sourced from OneVillage community members, will make your time in chemo more comfortable.

Everyone has a unique cancer diagnosis and treatment. What should you expect during chemo treatment? If you're going to have chemotherapy, your doctor will determine which drug or ‘cocktail’ of drugs to use for you and your type of cancer.

Unfortunately, chemotherapy side effects come in a variety of shapes and sizes. There are some side effects most people get like nausea, but there are also others that are unique to each person. If you prepare yourself mentally and physically before starting chemotherapy treatment, you can have a better experience.

Ways to Prepare for Chemotherapy Treatment

Book a dentist appointment. Some chemotherapy drugs can affect the inside of your mouth and teeth. While you’re receiving chemo, your doctor or dentist will most likely advise you to wait to have your teeth cleaned for four weeks after you have finished treatment. For more information on how to manage dental hygiene when you have cancer, refer to this Dental Provider’s Oncology Pocket Guide.

Stock up on healthy groceries and meal prep before treatment. Since chemo tends to cause fatigue, preparing meals ahead of time while you have the energy will be extremely helpful if you are feeling tired and nauseous after treatment. TikTok creators like @veganchefnet have great whole food nutritious meal preparation ideas. If that feels too hard, there are many services available that do this hard work for you like our partner Sunbasket.

It’s also helpful to get some tasty electrolyte-rich beverages like LMNT to drink before chemotherapy. Some chemo regimens require the patient to be well hydrated before they start. You can accomplish this through the IV, but if you come pre-hydrated and ready to go, there’s a chance you might save some treatment time. It could even be 30 minutes to an hour!

Prepare for hair loss. For women, hair can be a big part of identity, and it can be quite traumatic to watch it fall out. If you have long hair, try cutting into a bob to begin, then gradually go shorter so that it’s not as noticeable when it does start to fall out. There are thousands of beautiful wigs and head coverings available online, some free for people undergoing cancer treatment. For more information, check out our article on how to choose and wear a wig.

Hair loss means lashes and brows as well. Along with your locks, you will most likely lose your eyelashes and brows as well from chemo. Our partner SurvivorEyes provides brow style kits that allow you to have the perfect eyebrows while you’re waiting for the hair to regrow.

There are also a number of other products on the market that won’t keep them from falling out but will help with regrowth. Xlash and Rapid Lashare popular serums and can be purchased online or at some drugstores. Latisse is another popular lash serum, but requires a prescription to purchase. It is known to be more effective as it contains a medical ingredient which is scientifically proven to make your lashes grow thicker and longer.

Pack a chemo bag for your appointments. Chemotherapy usually takes at least a few hours to administer one dose. Unless you plan on sleeping through the appointment, it can get quite boring sitting still for most of the day. Bring things to do: a book, a phone charger, crossword puzzles, or other tangible games like a deck of cards. Try also adding nausea-reducing snacks to the appointments such as crackers, toast, nuts, vanilla protein shakes, or nausea lollipops like our partners Three Lollies so you can stay full without getting sick.

Prepare for skin changes. Chemotherapy tends to make your skin especially dry and sensitive. It’s important that you keep your skin moisturized with an all-natural moisturizer such as the creams our partner Happy 2nd Birthday creates. Their vegan products are made by a cancer survivor that knows what you need during and after treatment.

Prepare for nail changes. Chemo can also make your nails darken and at times, fall off. Some people have successfully kept their nails strong with an all-natural nail polish like this one throughout their treatments. Different brands can be purchased at Whole Foods or some Natural Food Stores.

PLEASE NOTE, however, that it is not advisable to visit a nail salon while you’re undergoing treatment as you will be much more susceptible to infections.

Find ways to meditate or relax during chemo. Most people feel anxious during their first few sessions and find it helpful to bring headphones to listen to relaxing music or guided meditations. My favorite free Meditation App is called Instant Timer. There are other Apps called Headspace or Calm which are also popular.

Prepare for nausea and changes to your taste buds. Nausea is one of the most common and unpleasant side effects of chemo. Your oncologist can prescribe medication to make it subside, but it may also make you feel quite drowsy.

Don’t eat your favorite dishes during your first chemotherapy session. Some people won’t ever want to eat that dish again. Whether it’s conscious or unconscious, we know a few people who have avoided a specific dish for over a decade because it was the meal they ate on the first day of chemo. As if nausea isn’t bad enough, many people also lose their sense of taste from chemo. Although it’s only temporary, losing your sense of taste can make it extra difficult to keep up your weight since you may no longer enjoy your favorite foods or eating in general. Even if you don’t feel like eating, it is incredibly important to consume adequate nutrients to help your recovering body. We talk about this more in-depth in our article “Getting the Right Nutrition and Meal Delivery Services for Cancer Patients

Get a planner. Writing down the appointments with various doctors can be an easy way to remember all you have to do when you’re low on energy and time. Our partner Mighty + Bright is a great resource for this if you’re a parent and need a visual calendar to help your children cope with the changes the family undergoes throughout treatment.

Journal about your experiences. Journaling about your feelings is an effective tool for managing stress and anxiety. It can also help you better understand the side effects of each individual treatments and medications so you can provide that information to doctors throughout your cancer treatment. We also have various tools that help you track your symptoms.

Accept all the help you can get! It can be hard to ask for assistance, but allow yourself to accept the help that comes your way and the subsequent time to rest and recover. Be clear and specific with those in your life about what you need so if they offer to help, you can lean on them. Setting up phone dates with friends while you’re receiving chemo can also help to pass the time.

If you’re still anxious about asking for help, there are so many online resources to help you with the chores around your house. Care.com can help you find caretakers, personal assistants, and dog sitters. Thumbtack or TaskRabbit can match you to local handymen. There are many options that exist to help you feel more control in this challenging time of your life.

Learn More About Own Your Cancer Coaching

Sarah Kown and Christine Squires created Own Your Cancer Coaching to help people throughout their cancer journey by providing them with the knowledge and tools they will need to optimize control of their health. Sarah, a Medical Physicist and Radiation Oncology Therapist, and Christine, a Behavioral Health Counselor, are working together to create guided course content that will help patients make transformative change in unique and practical ways.

Learn More About Preparing for Chemotherapy

OneVillage is the first online wishlist, planning tool, and specialty product retailer for cancer patients and their supporters. A cancer diagnosis is worrying enough - you should feel confident that there are resources out there to help. Whatever your questions or concerns are, OneVillage is here to support you.

5 comments

Last activity by Janet Cuccio

Maria
Maria Johnson

I wish I had this to read before I started chemotherapy, this is some great advice.

Elizabeth
Elizabeth Cleveland

This is great advice, clear and concise. I would add that finding a good meditation app or videos to do during treatment was really helpful for me because I had so much anxiety. Journalling helps too so I'm glad they mentioned that.

Anni
Anni Xu

Sarah Kown is a fantastic teacher and leader in the cancer community, you can also follow her on Instagram at @cancerspecialist!

M
Melanie Jones

This answered so many questions, thanks for posting!

J
Janet Cuccio

I really wish I'd had a roadmap like this to go to during my chemo. I did mine during COVID and it was very isolating.

Anonymous

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