It took an army of loved ones and professionals for me to navigate chemotherapy treatments when I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Along the way, I discovered you can take steps to prep for chemotherapy, even though you’re overwhelmed and scared.
There’s a lot to wrap your head around. Most of us that have gone through the cancer journey will confirm they were at times terrified, quite often confused. There’s a lot more to surviving cancer than what you see in ads during breast cancer awareness month. Here’s a list of ways to prepare for chemotherapy treatments that can help you sort it all out.
Find Your Nurse Navigator
This person is going to be your new best friend – the nurse that helps you navigate your cancer treatment plan. (you’re welcome!) Here’s a real explanation:
The Nurse Navigator is a position at the hospital usually dedicated to oncology patients. Nurse Navigators advocate for your care. My nurse navigator helped me with understand fertility treatments and explained ovarian suppression drugs for breast cancer. The nurse navigator helped complete paperwork for temporary disability leave from work. She also helped me book flights for medical travel and find a wig for chemo treatments.
I felt lost and confused going through the whole cancer treatment process. My nurse navigator was there for me every step of the way. She made phone calls and sent letters, gave me leads on cancer patient grants, answered cancer treatment questions, provided helpful hints and pointed me in the right direction for finding appointments. Literally. She helped me find my way around the hospital more than once.
Create A Community of Support
Online support groups have more than just educational resources for cancer. Many of them are platforms that let you create your own website for cancer-related needs. You can use it like a social media platform to provide updates on your treatments and create a care calendar, so your loved ones know what you need.
Reliable Online Cancer Support Groups
Give InKind – Create your own webpage for yourself or someone who has an illness and is in need of a extra care. For instance, you can organize no-contact meal schedules and create a gift card registry. Give InKind provides practical ways to help get through cancer treatments, chronic illness or surgeries.
CareCalendar – Easily create a care calendar that includes appointments, helping with meals and other needs. Create an account to coordinate to find rides to treatment, errands and other needs for cancer patients, those with chronic illness and any other life situation where you could use help with daily tasks.
LotsaHelpingHands – Is another collaborative care calendar for cancer patients, people with chronic illness or those with going through life changes like birth or death. This platform helps you create or find an existing community to get through the tough times.
These are just a few great resources for caregivers, volunteers, family and friends of cancer patients. Remember these care calendars are great resources for new mothers, those going through chronic illness and other situations – anyone who could use a little extra help!
Prep Your House For Chemo Treatments
You’re going to be in your house a lot while you go through treatment. Especially now that COVID-19 has stepped onto the scene, cancer patients have to be careful not to get sick and need time to recover from treatments.
You might as well have a clean house for chemo treatments so you can recover in a peaceful environment. Your energy levels will be unpredictable while you undergo treatment, and you might not have the energy to keep up with cleaning. So, deep clean your house before you start chemo treatments – or hire a professional.
Make A Chemical-Free Cleanser Basket
Get your house ready for recovery by placing a basket of cleaning supplies in each bathroom and near your recovery station. I also suggest stashing a bucket of Benefect Disinfectant Wipes under the sink for good measure. Here’s a list of chemical-free cleansers you should use:
Mrs. Meyer’s Cleaning Products – these products are effective, chemical-free and the fresh scents help relieve nausea. Mrs. Meyers Everyday Cleaning Solution in Basil to helped calm my stomach while I cleaned my counters.
Natural Disinfectant Wipes – Choose all-natural disinfecting wipes for quick cleaning of all your surfaces. Seventh Generation Unscented Baby Wipes won’t leave behind a smell.
Zero-Waste Paper Towels – from companies that are sustainable. You’ll be going through A LOT of paper towels, might as well be earth-friendly about it. Check out Caboo Bamboo Paper Towels for eco-friendly paper towels that work great.
Set Up A Cozy Rehab Area
Maybe you want to curl up on your couch. Maybe you want to tuck away in spare room or in a corner of the living room. Maybe you want to turn your She Shed into a Comeback Cabin and recover in style.
Wherever you want to recover, pick your spot and stock it with soft pillows and blankets. I took over the living room with a Grumpy Bear Care Bear that was gifted to me when I was diagnosed. Grumpy Bear lived in my cozy chemo rehab area – my bed. Sometimes he even came to treatments with me. It made me laugh. It made my nurses laugh. Grumpy Bear always lightened the mood and comforted me during treatments.
Create a recovery space. Find your own Grumpy Bear and stock your Chemo Rehab Area with whatever makes you feel comfortable. Make it light! Make it fun! Make it cozy!
Set Up Anti Nausea Kit
Your nurse navigator and other medical professionals you meet along your cancer journey will know how to manage nausea. Your doctor can prescribe anti-nausea medications like Zofran (Ondansetron) and others. I took Zofran occasionally when the nausea became overwhelming. But, I relied on other things to manage chemo nausea.
QueaseEASE Quick Tabs were the best at relieving chemo nausea. They are little packets of essential oils that come in a peel-open container. They last for 72 hours. I put a eucalyptus one in my shower and kept a couple lavender tabs in my purse for emergencies. I got the anti-nausea quick tabs from the nurses at my infusion center.
Make An Anti-Nausea Kit
The Ginger People Ginger Chews – Delicious, sugar-covered chews that settle an upset stomach and taste great.
QueaseEASE Aromatherapy Inhaler – Pop this in your pocket for fast nausea relief on the go!
Queasy Drops, Multi-Flavored – This is a great choice if you don’t know what smells and flavors will trigger nausea. These little packets of hard candy-type drops contain essential oils of sour raspberry, ginger, natural cola, banana and green tea with lemon.
Switch To A Clean Laundry Detergent
Ditch detergents that have perfumes and dyes during your cancer treatments. Your skin can get extra sensitive during chemotherapy and detergents can cause skin rashes, itching, irritation and further discomfort during chemo. Swap your detergent for something that is all-natural and allergen-free.
I had first-hand experience with this. I got an itchy, unfortunate rash after my husband did a load of laundry early into my cancer treatments. We switched to Arm & Hammer Free & Clear detergent. I went through a couple tubes of cortisol cream before the rash went away. Once it cleared up, though, it didn’t come back.
My Favorite All-Natural Laundry Detergents include:
Seventh Generation Unscented Detergent – Chemical-free with no perfumes or dyes. This detergent also comes concentrated, so you don’t have to buy it as often!
ECOS Hypoallergenic Detergent – No harsh chemicals, clean formula. Light, natural lavender scent promotes feelings of calmness and helps calm nausea.
Make A List Of Your Normal Routine
One thing to do before you start cancer treatments is to make a list of your normal brands, routines and errands so well-meaning family and friends can actually be of help.
On days when you’re feeling crummy, you won’t want to explain your grocery list. You won’t want to give directions to your favorite lunch spot. And there’s going to be someone who wants that info.
Make a list of your normal shampoo brands, dish and laundry soaps, medications, allergies and errands schedule. Add to that list as you see fit, but make sure you provide a picture of your normal routine. It’ll help make cancer treatments easier.
Stock Up On Claritin and Benadryl
Most cancer treatment plans involve a shot that boosts white blood cell production in your bones. It’s an injection, usually given 24 hours after chemo treatment. The result is a stronger immune system. A side effect is bone pain.
For me, the side effects from the white blood cell booster injection were the worst part of chemotherapy. The bone pain was terrible and came in pulsing waves. One of my nurses suggested I take the allergy medication Claritin. It worked wonders! I took one dose directly after every shot. I recommend you have some on hand and ask your doctor about taking it.
Claritin for chemo seems like a strange match, but the bone pain associated with the injections results from the drugs’ influence the immune system. They create histamines and that’s why antihistamines like Claritin (not Claritin-D) are sometimes recommended.
In my experience, Benadryl helps with the bone pain as well, but it made me very sleepy.
Be Prepared To Be Uncomfortable
You’re entering a brand new, super wonky and wildly uncomfortable world. It’s best to prep for that, though you’ll never be fully prepared for what’s coming next. My advice is to keep your friends close and be sure to have some people you can rely on to help you through your cancer journey. Also, take steps to prepare for chemotherapy so you can be as comfortable as possible in an uncomfortable situation.