I am not a doctor not offering professional medical advice. The below is based on the experience of my late father only. I hope it helps you.
Chemotherapy destroys both healthy and diseased (or malignant) tissue. However, preparing for chemotherapy in the right manner can assist patients in dealing with these challenges.
Learn how to avoid stress and reduce disruption to your daily life before, during, and after chemo treatments.
Learn about chemotherapy treatment
Each chemo treatment works slightly differently. Before deciding if to take chemotherapy ensure you have researched the treatment and got sufficient information about it from your doctor. Remember your illness hadn’t developed in one day so ‘rushing but not rushing ‘ is the key. Don’t panic no matter how hard it is! Always wear a notepad with you to save all the information and type questions and answers. Example of questions to ask:
- What are chemotherapy treatments goals?
- Are there any chemotherapy drug alternatives, or protocols?
- Is the treatment curative or palliative? If the latter is it ‘worth it’?
- Where & when will I get the treatment?
- How long is my chemotherapy session?
- Shall I eat or fast before the chemotherapy treatments?
- What is the name of the chemo and other medications I will receive?
- Are there any medications, foods, or activities to avoid before, during or after chemotherapy?
- Is there a 24/7 emergency number in case of any chemotherapy complications?
- When should I report the treatment side effects?
- How long will the side effects last for?
- How often will you check my blood results and do the scans to monitor the illness?
Preparing for chemotherapy
Your body is super clever, so it has enormous healing capabilities. Please watch ‘Heal’ to learn more on this subject if you haven’t yet! If you decided to take chemo and have some time ahead of it use it the best you can. Try to supplement your body with immuno-modulating substances ( I mention a few in my other post) and eat nutritious food. Many people switch to a plant-based diet (Chris Karr and Chris Wark may help you here) but some go for KETO, and some do intermittent fasting (if their condition is not too advanced and no cachexia of course!). I’d suggest researching what are the main metabolic pathways your cancer thrives on and planning the diet accordingly. In most cases, a low glycemic index or low glycemic load diet will be helpful no matter the cancer type. I will share examples of ‘healthy food’ in my other article.
I wish we prepared better for dad’s treatment as we had a month ahead of chemo but sadly back then I hadn’t known all I do now. Hence this post.
Before your first chemotherapy infusion plan treatment for fertility and check your oral health.
Common Chemotherapy Side effects and prevention
Common side effects include fatigue, feeling sick (nausea, vomiting), hair loss, infections, anemia, bruising and bleeding, sore mouth, and loss of appetite.
There is not much you can do for fatigue – you simply need to take a rest and when you regain a bit of energy add some light exercise to your routine. Light to moderate exercise and physical activity is good for cancer patients.
Check with your doctors about the anti-nausea meds. I remember dad wasn’t doing as well on Ondansetron luckily they swapped it to Emend which was helping more. So if you are doing poorly always report it as soon as possible as there may be a better alternative working for you, so no reason to suffer for longer! Ginger tea may be your best friend too when you want to tackle nausea naturally!
If your temperature raises and there is a risk of infection ensure your oncologist does the test to determine if this is a bacterial infection or something else. Most of them go for administering antibiotics but really a test should determine if that is necessary before giving people with cancer any! Dad had a higher temperature for about a month and sadly the doctors didn’t test if he needs any of these 2 antibiotics given! You need to be your own advocate and minimize the meds load instead of learning what works/or doesn’t the hard way!
For oral health and mouth, sores use mouthwashes and flush the mouth with water, and keeping it clean may help. Eat soft and non-spicy food and use a straw for drinks. Once your food starts ‘ tasting metallic’ use non-metal cutlery.
As neuropathy shows ( the nerve damage to the tips of your fingers and in your toes) you may get some gloves to ensure you don’t close colder surfaces with bare hands. For feet massaging them may bring some relief depending on the nerve damage excess. I got my dad this machine and he liked and used it frequently: https://amzn.to/3dVi79T there are many models of it so you can look for a cheap one or another one with other parameters. Consider taking an acupuncture treatment alongside some herbal teas as prescribed by your holistic health practitioner as they should know what herbs you can/can’t take. Dad credited his herbal teas and was saying they helped him enjoy his food while on the treatment.
You may want to get some more tips on the treatment on the chemotherapy support groups such as this one: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1780243225573663 after all cancer patients know best what helps them and many share their experiences in a safe space like this one! I was a member of many groups like that as I always wanted to read up and prepare ahead of dad’s treatments. I think knowing more helps you to ask the right questions and allows you to mitigate some of the risks and ultimately offer better solutions quicker.
Some people want to test if the suggested chemotherapy is ‘suitable’ for their illness. There is a chemo test such as RGGC – a greek test based on blood analysis. There are many proponents and opponents to this test.
There is also a tumor analysis done by Nagourney Cancer Institute.
We did both and I have my reflections which I may describe in yet another post documenting the tests and their pros and cons…
Before the first chemotherapy
Some people boost their chemo treatment when fasting ahead and during it. Here is the latest study on resetting one’s immune system following fasting for 72 hours.
Do not fast if you are too frail/unwell or facing cachexia!
If you are not fasting during chemo take with you some healthy snacks.
The first treatment is scary, so ensure you make it as easy for you as possible. Take your favorite blanket, book, paper, puzzle, or anything which will make the treatment passing more ‘relaxing’ and distracts you. If you need to calm down instantly try the 4-7-8 breathing technique ( inhale counting to 4 and keep the air when continuing to count till 7 and then exhale when finishing the count at 8!). It does wonders when nervous and stressed. I believe some folks also go for the Wim Hof method but that one is a bit more difficult and not suitable for everyone (read up about it before you decide to try it).
Try to keep a positive mindset and imagine that chemo kills cancerous cells. Get some more encouragement from dr Carl Simonton whose brilliant book ‘Getting well again’ presents a balanced approach to cancer treatment. The book is about the power of the human mind -and the achievement you can reach with a positive mind setting, mediation, and self-strength! A great read!
The first chemo won’t affect your nerves as much as each subsequent one. The more chemo you take the more impact will be felt on the nerve endings in your fingertips and toes. You may develop neuropathy…In order to protect the nerves bring cold compresses with you/or ask your medical staff for theirs one and hold them in your palms and put your feet on some too (wrap them up in some towels and put palms/feet on them from time to time) while receiving so-called ‘platinum’ chemo! Some people suck ice cubes or sip water to avoid moth sores formation following chemo too. These drugs include cisplatin, carboplatin, oxaliplatin, nedaplatin, and lobaplatin. They are largely used in the treatment of lung, breast, ovarian, pancreatic, and colon cancers.
If you are living alone ensure you prepare some meals ahead of the treatment so that they are ready when you may feel a bit poorly or tired later on.
The Cancer-Fighting Kitchen, or Beat Cancer Kitchen may help you understand what food and when to eat best before, during, and after chemo treatment.
After the first chemotherapy
On the practical level as your doctor/nurse for administering some water infusion, it will be good for you to get more hydration following the treatment. Drink plenty of fluids when at home too!
Take the emergency line number in case you feel bad and your side effects are persistent/ do not want to subside when home later.
Ensure you do not have a busy schedule following chemo. Some people feel ‘relatively well’ and can carry on with their lives almost as normal, other however needs some more rest and absence from school/work.
Start a chemotherapy log – note down how do you feel so you can see ‘patterns’ Most people get the side effects in the first few days after treatment, then they gradually felt better until the next treatment. Some say the effects get worse with each successive treatment. Most side effects don’t persist and disappear within a few weeks after the end of treatment.
Ensure to keep your distance from others and especially ill people as your immune system will decline so you can’t catch any viruses or bacteria as consequences of that will be much more serious than for you from before the treatment!
As your blood results will most likely decline & you may develop anemia* ensure you take care of rebuilding your blood cells, check papaya leaf extract, beetroot juice etc.
*Anemia (low hemoglobin) is a common problem in cancer patients. It is a result of the disease itself and/or bone-marrow suppression resulting from chemotherapy. Hypoxia is the chief consequence of anemia, a condition where insufficient oxygen makes it to the cells and tissues in the body. This can happen even when blood flow and oxygen saturation measurements are normal. Prolonged hypoxia stimulates the formation of hypoxia-inducible factor 1-alpha (HIF-1α). Accumulation of HIF-1α initiates a whole cascade of events that causes tumor cells to proliferate, including angiogenesis (growth of new blood vessels to nourish cancer cells). Pro-oxidative, cytotoxic therapies, such as chemotherapy, radiation, and intravenous vitamin C are less effective under hypoxic conditions. Also, hypoxia can inhibit the anti-cancer activity of repurposed medicines. For example, under hypoxic conditions, metformin is unable to activate AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK) and inhibit the mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR), which then prevents the inhibitory effects of metformin on tumor growth. The vicious circle of hypoxia, disease progression and further anemia presents a challenge. NewHopeForCancer.com.Dr. Daniel Thomas ( DO, MSMount Dora, Florida) deal with this challenge by using natural compounds that have been shown to inhibit the formation of HIF-1α, even under hypoxic conditions. This results in slowed tumor cell growth and division. In cases of anemia, to sensitize tumor cells to the pro-oxidative, cytotoxic effect of intravenous vitamin C, we administer supplemental oxygen during treatment.
I wanted to take dad to a hyperbaric oxygen chamber but was struggling with finding some near where we were based… I do think that ensuring some more oxygen flowing into the body may be* *a good idea after all cancer cells really, really don’t like the oxygen so whatever it takes to kick them in the but is good! HBOT (HyperBaric Oxygen Therapy) is used to help with some side effects of cancer treatment. It is believed that it can be used to overcome hypoxia (a state in which oxygen is not available in sufficient amounts at the tissue level to maintain adequate homeostasis).
**My understanding, although limited, is that you really have to have your genetics done to know if HBOT has the possibility to be harmful to your physiology or not. If a person has a peroxynitrite pathway variant, my understanding is that oxygen-based therapies can potentially be PRO-oxidants (vs anti-oxidants) for such individuals. Potentially good to discuss it with your functional oncologist/naturopath again!
Take care of your liver – milk thistle is beneficial in detoxing your liver and improving your liver enzyme values.
If you are into a holistic approach to treating cancer ensure you get support for your chemo treatment protocol that will aid your healing and post-chemo recovery! Seeing a functional medicine doctor or naturopath may be a good idea. Dad was getting acupuncture & drank some TCM herbal teas.
You may want to check this group as well as there are many patients sharing their experiences and researching together: https://www.facebook.com/groups/healingcancerstudysupport