Everybody knows that all medications come with side effects, and when you are going through cancer treatment, you end up taking a lot of medications. This is especially the case when you are going through chemo. There are the chemo drugs, and then the drugs to help with the side effects of chemo, such as to prevent nausea, and help with pain. So the drugs given to a patient to help deal with side effects, also carry with them a new set of side effects. Sometimes there are medications given long-term, and while the side effects out weigh the risk of a cancer recurrence, they are still something a person needs to learn to manage. In my last blog I talked about neuropathy and what I do for it, and today I’m going to expand on managing the side effects of cancer.
If you happen to be in treatment or just finishing up active treatment you may be experiencing nausea, fatigue and brain fog, as these are common with chemo drugs. I still clearly recall the nausea that hit me after my first chemo treatment. I had been told it would start one to two days after the treatment, but for me, it was just a few hours. It hit hard and fast! The first treatment was the worst one, but thanks to my ongoing meds, I do still have occasional days, years later, when I am nauseated. It is now very mild, but something I am mindful of every now and then. Nausea definitely falls under the category of “if only I knew then what I know now.” Looking back I am surprised that none of my doctors or nurses talked to me about ginger to alleviate nausea. Ginger is well-known to aid in upset stomach, yet in the moment, a cancer patient doesn’t always think beyond what their providers are telling them to do. There are ginger chews, candied ginger and ginger snaps..all of which contain sugar so I don’t recommend them to be used heavily, but they are options. I have found that making ginger water or tea to be very helpful. Although I haven’t tried it myself, I know some have found acupuncture to be useful as well.
Fatigue is another common side effect of active treatment. It’s the kind of knock-down fatigue that one feels when you have the flu. I remember days when I needed to rest after taking a shower, because the simple act of showering was exhausting. The nurses told me during my treatment to get outside and walk, even just around the block. I so wish I had done more of it then I did. It sounds like an oxy-moron, but movement will give you more energy when you are fatigued. Deep breathing and simply stretching is also helpful, yet shouldn’t be too energy zapping.
Brain fog is a well know side effect of active treatment that slowly gets better over a long period of time, sometimes even years. The type of brain fog that results from chemo is different from a typical person forgetting their keys, for example. I recall looking into the face of someone I knew, yet not being able to remember their name. The best thing you can do to improve the effects of brain fog is to use your brain. It may be intellectually, with puzzles, or creatively, with drawing or painting. Your brain, like the rest of your body, needs to be exercised!
I do place much value in the care of doctors and nurses, and the medical options they provide, but I also believe that there are many lifestyle options one can try to take control of our health. Each of us is individual and not everything works for each of us, so I have many ideas and these are just some of them. If you are in treatment or post treatment and struggling with side effects, I teach a class, Managing the Side Effects of Cancer through Hopkins Community Education. My next class is November 13, 2018, with others scheduled January 9, 2019 and February 6, 2019. Here’s a link to the Hopkins Community Education page with my class description. https://hopkins.ce.eleyo.com/search?redirected_yet=true&sf[category]=221
There ARE things you can do yourself to improve your quality of life, you just have to find what works for you, and I’m here to help you do just that.