IMG_2703For my LiveLaughLearn video, I chose to focus on tips for getting through chemotherapy treatments. Although receiving chemo isn’t exactly a walk in the park, I did learn a few little tricks to make the process a bit easier.

Here are my tips for coping with chemo:

1. Comfy Chemo Outfit – Including Herceptin, a targeted therapy for people with HER 2+ breast cancer,  I had twenty-one IV treatments in total. That’s a lot of hours sitting in the chemo chair, and I quickly learned that comfort is key. My “chemo uniform” typically consisted of loose, stretchy clothes – leggings, t-shirt, and hoodie. I’d still accessorize with jewellery and fun patterns and colours, to help boost my mood a bit. But the ultimate goal was to be comfortable. You have a great excuse to wear sweatpants in public – use it

2. Numb Your Port – If you’re having a lot of treatments, or have bad veins, you will likely get a port to receive your chemo infusions. The port is a type of catheter that sits just below the skin, usually near the collarbone, and is accessed with a needle. If you’re like me, you might be nervous the first time your port is accessed and worried about the needle prick. But never fear, EMLA cream is here! EMLA cream is a numbing agent that comes in a tube that you can put on your skin to temporarily numb the area. About 90 minutes to 2 hours before your treatment, squeeze a blob of the cream over your port, using a Q-tip to apply (because you don’t want to numb your fingers, ideally). Cover the area with a Tegaderm transparent dressing (or Press ‘N Seal wrap which is much more affordable and widely available). When the nurse begins your treatment, she/he will wipe off the cream and stick you with the needle, and if all goes well, you shouldn’t feel a thing. Magic! Check with your local pharmacy to see if they carry ELMA cream and Tegaderm dressing as in my experience most do.

IMG_27113. Minty Fresh – When you have a port, it needs to be flushed before you can start your treatment (and also for blood draws). This causes a weird taste to occur in your mouth. Although it is not horrendous, it’s not the best taste either, so you might want to mask it. This can easily be done by popping a mint, candy, or piece of gum into your mouth before your nurse begins the flushing. Keep the mint pressed tight to your tongue and you shouldn’t get any of the unpleasant taste. Easy peasy.

4. Cool Your Month – Most chemo wards should have popsicles in the freezer, or at the very least, some ice cubes. Sucking on something icy while receiving your chemo is thought to reduce the likelihood of developing nasty mouth sores. I’d pop in a popsicle as soon as my treatment began and munch on ice cubes while I was receiving the drug most likely to cause mouth sores. This doesn’t work for everyone, but it did seem to help me. Worst case scenario, you end up eating a delicious popsicle. I highly recommend chocolate ones.

5. And for one last bonus tipTrash Up – Load your iPad or laptop with trashy TV shows to help make the time go by faster and give you something fun to distract your wandering mind. But don’t forget to bring your headphones – or else you might receive some angry stares from your fellow patients who don’t appreciate overhearing the trials and tribulations of the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills.

Everyone has different ways of coping and getting through chemotherapy treatments, but hopefully these tips come in handy for you, or someone you know. It’s really a “learn-as-you-go” process, so you are likely to figure out what does (and doesn’t) work for you as you go along. And before you know it, it will be over, and you’ll likely have a list of tips to share of your very own making.

Stephanie Gilman was 28 when diagnosed with breast cancer – you can read all about her experience on her blog Pass Me Another Cupcake

20 COMMENTS

  1. All the comments made by the participants in this study are interesting. I was just wishing I’d had some of the hints given [especially the ones about dealing with chemo] before I actually had to do it myself. I would like to add one additional tip to the ones given already: it helps to line your eyelids with Visine gel [or comparable product] each night before going to sleep, to keep your eyes from getting stuck shut with the chemo residue that leaks out of them. Also, if you suffer with migraine headaches, tell your oncologist before chemo starts. That will prevent two weeks of throwing up day and night.

  2. Thank you for the great tips. I will begin my 5 months of Chemo on 10/23 and any tips I can learn before then will surely help. Thanks again.

  3. i just had a partial mastectomy on october 16th and seeing oncologist on november 6th for final pathology report if im her2 positive or not and will be finding out when i start chemo. these tips will be very helpful.

    thanks

  4. Those are all great tips!!! One other thing that I found to be a must…Find your sense of humor and hold on to it for all you are worth!! There is not one thing funny about what your going to go through, and truth be told…There are going to be days when you want to give up, “DON”T”. Try to find something, anything that helps ease the heaviness. You must be able to laugh at yourself and believe that there is going to be life after the therapy. Maybe not the one you had before but make a better one! How many of us are lucky enough to remake ourselves, huh? There is a plus. And if you didn’t like the hair you had before, well here’s a chance to grow it, and start training it to style the way you want from the very start of regrowth. Please, if you feel like it becomes too much to do by yourself, or you feel as though you are doing it alone, REMEMBER, we all have a different way of dealing with things but it helps to know some others who have been there done that so to speak. There are support groups, Join them!!! Don’t ever feel lonely or alone. It’s to dark there. Reach out, someone will take your hand. I can’t promise how much longer I’ll be around, but as long as I am you can hit me up on my e~mail and know I’ll get back to as soon as I see it. I’ve been in hard core chemo 3 times and will be doing some type of it for the rest of my life. I’m not complaining though, you should see all the attention I get, lol. I wish you all a speedy recovery and Gods blessings in abundance. As Stephanie said “LIVE~ LAUGH~LEAR” and the greatest of all LOVE deeply and completely!!!
    •✞Blﻉssiᶰgs &
    ❤ ℒღѵℯ tღ yღu ✌
    ☆ *۰۪۫S:*۰۪۫M:*۰۪۫I:*۰۪۫L:*۰۪۫E:* ☆
    乇√ﻉrレastiᶰg hღpﻉ fღr thﻉ curﻉ
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  5. Hello my name is Pennie my best friend just got finished with her second round of chemo and you know what the best thing that we found out is to keep positive. Try to hold on to your sense of humor hold on tight to your own self worth because you are worth it and more. Every last one of you are beautiful. I may not walk in your shoes but I was there with my best friend (still am) I seen all that she went through. God bless you all!

  6. Thank you for this information. I sure wish I would have had numbing cream, because it hurt like hell when they entered my port and removal. Any more tips then you gave already? LOVE your Attitude! Brenda Same type of cancer as you,

  7. I so appreciate your tips as I too will be starting chemo..was wondering if anyone has tips for the radiation because I will be doing this too. I am stage 3C with the Negative 3 cancer and will be doing the ACT chemo..Thanks again

    • I am myself a breast cancer survivor, stage 3 HER2+ ER/PR-, I was treated with TCH but there is a lady I work with (we work in a chemo clinic) who is a stage 1 triple negative breast cancer and had ACT chemotherapy. She had a double mastectomy and full hysterectomy as well. She is doing great as I’m sure you will do also! Keep your chin up and find a support group for a hand to hold or shoulder to cry on, friends to laugh with, and most of all to hold each other up. Hugely important thing that I didn’t see as far as advice goes was to drink at at a lot of water/gatorade/powerade even mild juices. Not coffee or sodas. The water and such helps your body to flush the chemo out faster so the side effects last much shorter amounts of time and do less damage to the vital organs not really involved with the cancer but that have to process and remove the poison from your body. Lastly, always have a smile on your face, not really for others but for yourself because when someone sees a smiling happy person they smile back and may even start up a conversation with you. The more social outlets the better!
      I hope your treatment is going well and your Dr is listening to you and helping you along the way as well.
      Good luck and remember…..you never know how strong you are until being strong is the only choice you have. Hugs!

    • Hi Julie. So sorry you joined the Chemo club. First thing to say is get a great support group, these can be friends, family, other survivors but it helps to go to Chemo with someone who makes you laugh. Or who you make laugh just because it makes you feel good to make them laugh. I am also Triple negative. I went through 4 rounds of AC. What they don’t tell you about that is your nausea meds will wear off 2 days after your treatment. Have your doctor prescribe nausea pills and don’t be afraid to take them ahead of time. Drink lots of water!! I also drank protein shakes, figured it couldn’t hurt with the healing process. I did every 3 weeks because I didn’t want the shot the day after treatment. I am glad I did it that way for me. Keep your chin up. I didn’t have overly bad side effects but constipation. If you get that, start in with laxative & stool softener immediately, don’t wait. I am doing Taxol 12 weekly treatments. I only have 5 left. These have been harder than the AC, for me. I got bad bone pain and itchy blisters on my hands and feet and legs. Ibuprofen & pain pills have helped with the bone pain. Benadryl spray and cream had helped the blisters. My toes feel funny which happens with Taxol, they kinda feel asleep but when I poke them with a pencil I can feel it. That has spread into the bottom of my feet, however I can still walk and go up and down stairs so I think I am good. My cousin made me a chemo countdown calendar and it hangs in my kitchen. Chemo sucks, but I can get through this and you can too!
      My mom and step-mom go with me to chemo. We call it our girls day. We all get along great and there is a lot of laughter. On good days we may go shopping after or to lunch/dinner. I have only had a few times where I said I didn’t want to do something. I figured I might as well, we were out and I could always whip off my wig for some giggles and sympathy if I needed it. LOL

    • Definatley use the creams they offer. My 25 rounds of radiation ended 10/31/13 and I am still discolored. I did have some blistering as well however it was in the axillary area where 25 lymphnodes were removed and I was a bit desensitized. Good luck to you !!! <3 B~STRONG

  8. I too would like to know about the radiation tips.

    Always have a positive attitude as this is temporary and not permanent. talk to the other people getting the chemo helps and you meet a new person who can inspire you or you them.

    • Hi Linda. I was able to get a small tube of Emla (lidocaine) cream at the pharmacy where I had my treatment (it might be behind the counter, but I don’t believe you need a prescription). I found a much bigger tube at Wal-Mart though, so I upgraded to that. Hope that helps!
      -Steph

  9. Stephanie, Thank you so much for being a voice for cancer victims and giving such great tips. Most chemotherapy clinics have had a bad rep for not taking care of anything the patient may need that doesn’t involve the actually infusion of chemo drugs. It is important for people to hear this stuff from young women as well because there seems to be getting more and more of us. I am glad you made this video even though I have already been on the survivor side of things for 4 years now. I work in a chemotherapy clinic and have heard a lot of tales about others experiences….not many are good!
    Thanks for sharing!

  10. I am currently going through Chemo for the second time with Breast Cancer. I love your tips and keeping a positive attitude is so so important. Having a great support group is wonderful and they are my go to people. A sense of humor gets me through many things. Always Believe.

  11. Two weeks into my first chemo for lung cancer and I caught a cold. I cant seem to shake it. Has this happened to any one else? Any tips on how to shake a cold on chemo?

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