When most people hear the word “Cancer” they automatically think death sentence! Cancer is something no one wants to experience, but you can’t help but see cancer everywhere you look. Most people have had some encounter with this terrible disease. Whether it’s with a family member, a close friend or even a co-worker, cancer is hard to escape.
Over the past decade, there have been many advances and cutting-edge research to help patients live longer and have a better quality of life. In my work as an oncology nurse, I have seen cancer up close and personal. Chemotherapy is one of the most common ways used to treat cancer.
This can be scary for patients who don’t know what to expect. I want to share with you exactly what to expect while you or a family member are going through treatment. I would also like to share with you a few self-care tips to make the process a little easier.
Chemotherapy will most likely disrupt your normal routine and family life. In between chemotherapy treatments, labs, scans and oncology visits, you will have a pretty tight schedule. This is where a good strong support system comes in.
If you have children, this would be a good time to arrange for someone to pick up the kids or help with homework in case you don’t feel well. Also, make sure you give yourself a couple of hours in the clinic if you are receiving chemotherapy infusion. Some infusions can take as long as 5 or 6 hours especially if you are just starting treatments.
Write it down
When you are going through chemotherapy it’s important to keep track of what you may be experiencing. I educate my patients to write down their side effects, symptoms, or any questions they want to ask the doctor in between treatments.
This is important because the oncologist and the oncology nurse will want to keep note of what symptoms you are having. Your healthcare team may need to adjust the dose of the medications if your symptoms are not manageable.
If you don’t say anything this can be harmful and detrimental to your progress. For example, If you notice after you receive the treatment you have tingling in your hands and feet, make sure the physician is aware, so they can proceed accordingly.
Labs are important
Chemotherapy works systemically. This means that chemotherapy not only kills cancer cells but also kills other healthy rapid dividing cells as well. Rapid dividing cells in our body include your intestines, the lining of your mouth, the cells on your scalp, and your blood cells. Therefore, having labs taken are extremely important.
The oncologist will have labs drawn before chemotherapy treatments to make sure you