I’ve always believed that failing to prepare is preparing to fail… But what do you need when preparing to start chemotherapy? I think I have mentioned in some of my other blog posts about my slight control-freak nature, which combined with a major propensity for shopoholicism, meant this was one of the first questions I asked when confronted with the prospect of chemotherapy treatment.
When the going gets tough, the tough go shopping! But it is really hard to know where to begin when you don’t know what to expect. So what do you actually need to help you through chemo?
- Visit a dentist to get your teeth checked – whilst undergoing chemotherapy you won’t be able to have any procedures done so it is worth getting your teeth checked for any problems before you begin if you can fit it in.
- If you have the time and the money, I would strongly recommend getting your eyebrows micro-bladed/semi-permanent tattooed. Most places will require a letter from your medical team, but my team were happy to oblige, and I felt that always having my eyebrows “on” really helped my mental well-being (if only they could have done the same for my eyelashes!)
- Decide what you are doing about your hair – not all chemo regimes will cause hair loss, but the vast majority do. Whilst your decision is not set in
stone,and can be changed, you will still need to prepare. If you are not going to cold-cap (or even if you are) it is worth making sure that you have at least one wig/hat/scarf at the ready. Trust me, you may not want to be running around getting this sorted once you have begun treatment
At home recovery
- Ginger – tea, sweets, biscuits. Ginger is a known natural remedy for fighting nausea and can really help when the queasiness strikes
- Peppermint – tea or oil. Peppermint can help with bloating and a bad stomach. I drank it by the bucket-load along with the next item on my list…
- Manuka Honey – this is a brilliant natural immune system booster. I would pop a teaspoon in my tea for a bit of sweetness and give my immunity a leg up
- Water – chemo leaves you as dry as the desert. I cannot stress enough how important it is to drink water by the bucket-load. Whilst the double-walled metal water bottles are great at keeping water cold, you may find that a good travel plastic water bottle is better if you get a metallic taste in your mouth during chemo. Infuser bottles are great because you can add slices of lemon to infuse your water and give you an extra boost of vitamin C whilst you hydrate
- Anti-bacterial handwash/Travel sized hand
santiserfor when you are out & about – human beings are generally pretty filthy beings, and your immune system will be low. You will need to wash/sanitise your hands regularly to protect from germs
- Hand-cream – between the effects of chemo and all the hand washing/
sanitising, you are going to want a good quality hand cream – ideally, one that is not heavily perfumed as your stomach may be a bit sensitive to smells (I was like a blood-hound whilst having chemotherapy)
- Natural body lotion – your skin will be sensitive, dry and at times even scaly – regular application of body lotion (ideally natural to minimise the chance of bad reactions whilst your skin is ultra-sensitive) can help reduce this
- Tissues – It never really occurred to me that my nose hairs have a function until I lost them during chemo (because yes, it really does take ALL your hair) and realised that one of their primary functions is to hold the snot IN your nose. Several embarrassing nose-drips later, I learnt to ALWAYS have tissues or a hanky to hand
- Lip balm – petrolatum-free. Your mouth will get very dry and this can help to keep ulcers and painful cracked lips at bay
- Boiled sweets – these can help with “weird tastes” and also dry mouth which is very common post-chemo
- Soft Toothbrush – your gums and mouth are extremely sensitive during chemo, and as such, you should switch to a soft toothbrush
- Alcohol-free mouthwash – to help dry mouth and keep infections/ulcers at bay
- A heat pad / hot water bottle – these can be useful to help you relax, but also more importantly can offer relief from aching, sore joints. A wheat bag pillow (like the ones sold on this site) are great because you can drape/wrap them around your body as
- Suncream – chemo can make you very sun-sensitive and it is important to protect your skin, as you skin is likely to be very sensitive/reactive generally, it is probably better to use a natural, toxin-free sunscreen to help
I will go into more depth about managing the various side effects in more depth in other posts, and there are lots of highly effective natural remedies around but the following are also well worth keeping in the house…
- Thermometer – ideally a decent digital one. You will need to regularly take your temperature through the day to keep a check for neutropenia. This is an essential item!
- Painkillers – high strength
- Laxatives – try natural Senna which has been clinically proven to help with constipation
Diarrhoeatablets – because unfortunately you can suffer from both constipation AND diarrhoea(sometimes in the same day!) whilst having chemotherapy treatment
- Probiotics – These help with both constipation and
diarrhoea(see above) and are really helpful when your gut is “under attack”
- Eye drops – when you lose your lashes, your eyes can get quite dry and itchy. Eye drops can help.
- Anti-histamine – allergic reactions are very common after chemo, it is worth keeping some anti-histamine to hand in case you need it (although please also be running any abnormal symptoms by your medical team!)
- Condoms – if you plan on having sex within 48 hours of chemo then you (apart from being made of much sturdier stuff than I ever was) will also need to use a condom/femidom as you will be “chemo-toxic”.
So that is my list of essentials, there are many more things that can help with specific side effects and situations but this list will give you a good “foundation kit” as you embark on your chemotherapy journey.
My final note is that everyone will tell you that you need a kick-ass positive mental attitude… you will notice I haven’t included that on the list. Whilst there is no doubt that a positive mental attitude will help you deal with the tough times ahead, and more able to take what chemo and cancer
Sometimes I even worried that if I wasn’t positive enough, then I wouldn’t win the fight. If you are having a tough day, remember that it is okay if your roar is more of a
Good luck with the journey that lies ahead of you. If you have any questions, or would like more information on any of the above, then please comment below or contact us directly.