Chemotherapy treatment can be the most challenging time of your life, but you aren’t alone: here are tips for finding support during chemotherapy.
There is nothing quite like hearing a cancer diagnosis. The threat of mortality, the lost possibilities, and a future filled with uncertainty are aspects that no one can ignore. Yet, we constantly see images of the stoic cancer patient in media. These characters that just sit there, somehow totally at peace with their diagnosis, are not something that you have to aspire to be. You are allowed to be scared. You are allowed to be angry. These are all normal emotions that you should feel. However, it is possible to let them consume you, which could harm your chances of reaching a full recovery.
The Complications of Chemo
Learning to recognize your negative emotions without letting them take over your life is hard enough. Chemotherapy adds an additional challenge. Depending on the type of chemotherapy and the dosage, personal experiences can vary. You might feel nauseated or fatigued. You could lose your hair or develop mouth sores. Many patients have vomiting and diarrhea. The more severe symptoms usually resolve in the first week or so after treatment, but you may still experience fatigue and some nausea 6-12 months after your treatment is complete.
These symptoms make it far more difficult to maintain your mental health, contributing to higher cases of depression in cancer patients. However, that doesn’t mean you have to be one of them. By learning to cope with chemotherapy, both mentally and physically, you can maintain a sense of control when you need it most. To get started, you’ll need to build a team of people around you. No one should ever have to fight cancer alone, so you’ll need people in your corner.
The Health Experts
Be open with the medical staff at Breast Health Institute Houston. Dr. Darlene Miltenburg is an top breast cancer surgeon in Houston and has years of experience working with cancer patients. If you are feeling overwhelmed, your doctor needs to know. From there, they can help you find the care you need, whether physical or mental.
The Support Group
One way to start finding support during chemotherapy is support groups. Support groups aren’t for everyone, but there are so many different versions now that you may find something that works for you. Support groups aren’t just for sharing how you feel. It’s an important space where you don’t have to feel alone, where your experiences are validated. It is also a space where other patients can share tips to make chemotherapy more palatable. Some women suggest carrying mints at all times. They help stimulate saliva production, preventing dry mouth, something your doctor might not always think to tell you because it’s so common sense to them at this point.
Whether your family was created by blood or by choice, having family around is the best way to cope with chemotherapy. You will want to prepare for at least a week of possible downtime after each treatment, more if you are older or have health complications. Ask family members to help you meal-prep ahead of time and make arrangements for someone to help you with transport when necessary. There is nothing wrong with leaning on your family during one of the most difficult parts of your life.
Did you know there are entire organizations dedicated to making life easier for cancer patients? The truth is that there are dozens. Cleaning for a Reason can help you have a professional clean your home while you undergo treatment. It may sound trivial at first, but it makes a huge difference, especially if you have children or pets in the home. Don’t be afraid to ask about local organizations at your support group and get the help you need.
There are dozens of tips and tricks to making chemotherapy more bearable, but at the end of the day it is the network of professionals and friends you surround yourself with that will make the greatest difference. Finding support during chemotherapy is one of the best choices you can make.