The approach of chemotherapy is a stressful and unpleasant reality for thousands of people. Chemotherapy is one of those words, along with cancer and malignant, that is frequently used, but infrequently understood. Most people know the worst symptoms of chemotherapy, but do not know the statistics and frequencies associated with them. For this reason, there is a lot of fear regarding the unknown when it comes to Chemotherapy. The three areas that can be prepared for before chemotherapy starts correspond to three of the most problematic side-effects from chemotherapy. These are stress, gastrointestinal and nutritional problems, and the threat of infections.
After chemotherapy has begun, there is a chance that it will be very disruptive to your life. There is also a chance that it will cause minimal changes to your normal daily activities. The motto here is ‘ prepare for the worst, hope for the best’. One of the most important things a chemotherapy patient can do before the initiation of chemotherapy is to educate themselves. Try to avoid focusing too much on personal stories because every chemotherapy patient will have a different experience. Find literature on statistics, especially those related directly to the mixture of chemicals you will be taking. Knowing which symptoms you are likely to encounter will help you reduce your fear of symptoms you will probably never experience.
Once you educate yourself and know what is most likely to happen during your treatments, make appropriate preparations to deal with it. Inform friends of your schedules and have family ready and available to help you during your bad days. Make sure everyone knows ahead of time how and when you may need them. Prepare as much as possible. The less times you worry about ‘ what happens if?’ the better. Go through as many scenarios as possible beforehand, and have a plan in place.
Sleep is very important before and after chemotherapy begins. Talk to your doctors, and exercise as much as they will allow you to before chemotherapy begins. This will help you sleep better at night. Try to get into a regular sleep pattern in the days leading up to the initiation of chemotherapy, and make sure that sleep pattern will not be interrupted by your treatments.
Nutrition is vital in the weeks leading up to chemotherapy. One of the strongest side effects of chemotherapy will be to your gastrointestinal system. Your body will have a hard time digesting food and extracting nutrients and vitamins from the food it does digest. It is important to have your body fully stocked up on vitamins and protein before you begin chemotherapy. Some of the more debilitating problems with chemotherapy are the result of poor nutrition. By loading your body up with vitamins and protein beforehand, you may help yourself avoid some of the worst days.
The final area of preparation has to do with infection. While on chemotherapy, your body’s ability to defend itself is compromised. Therefore it is as important as possible to make sure you eliminate as many pathogens as possible before chemotherapy begins. Make arrangements for your children to have a place to stay if they get sick is a good way to prevent your loved ones from making your treatment harder than it needs to be. Also make sure to take a trip to the dentist a few months before chemotherapy begins. Bacteria in the mouth are a leading cause of complications in chemotherapy patients.
A lot of the fear of chemotherapy is simply the fear of the unknown. Educate yourself as well as possible. Plan for situations that are likely to occur with your treatment. Load up your body with nutrients and protein, and finally rid yourself of as many pathogens before you initiate chemotherapy. Doing all these things will help you make an unpleasant experience, a little less unpleasant.