It’s happened. You’ve been diagnosed, and the second opinion confirmed it: Breast cancer. Once your treatment is about to begin, it can be hard to know what, exactly, to expect. What should you do before starting chemotherapy? In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, we asked our Facebook fans, including many cancer survivors themselves, what advice they’d give a breast cancer patient who was preparing to start chemotherapy. Check out their insightful, caring responses below, then share your own thoughts in the comments.
1. As a nurse and a breast cancer survivor (8 years), [my advice is] do not go to the appointment alone, take someone that you are comfortable with, that you have discussed treatment with, and who’s not afraid to ask the difficult questions for you. Write all the questions down, and don’t be afraid to ask, nothing is trivial. Then begin preparing yourself and others around you for expected and unexpected changes, such as nausea, hair loss, sensitivity to odors, food, etc. Expect the tears, anger denial and bargaining.
—Anna Anderson Crabtree
2. As a nurse and a multiple myeloma/ stem cell transplant survivor of almost three years…I tell patients we all are warriors. Take each day and do not get bummed by what everyone else goes through….keep your spirit high!
3. Get proactive and tell chemotherapy that you are in charge. First, cut your hair short and when it starts to fall out, you ask someone to shave it for you. Get yourself a juicing machine and when you do not feel like eating, just juice your fruits and vegetables. My special juice was beet, carrots, green apples, celery, papaya with a little lemon juice. I told cancer and chemotherapy I WAS IN CHARGE!
—Sandra Abdull Lawrence
4. Eat as much as you can, load up and enjoy the food around you. Once you’ve started with chemo, you might lose your appetite.
5. Pray! Prepare yourself psychologically! Have faith! It’s gonna be real tough, so eat all your favorite foods. Relax and spend time with friends. Always ask your doctor and don’t forget the Dos and Don’ts during treatment.
6. I am a nurse and a breast cancer survivor. I went through chemotherapy two years again. The most important thing for me was to drink plenty of water to help excrete the nasty toxins. I also went to acupuncture. The acupuncture helped with the nausea and boost energy levels.
—Jeanette M. Sole Fanelli
7. Having a support system in place before starting treatment will help minimize stress once side effects kick in. Whether it’s your spouse or a loyal friend, or a whole team of friends, family and coworkers. People will ask what they can do to help–take advantage, give them something! Light grocery shopping or picking up meds, a load of laundry, a hot meal, or a ride to the doctors are small jobs for them, but a huge help for you!
— Malinda Seymour
8. I went through chemo last year and the hair loss was very traumatic for me. I would recommend buying a wig and/or scarves before you start chemo so you have those items available when it does fall out. I was in my last semester of nursing school last year when my hair starting falling out. A big patch came out in the middle of the night right at my hairline by my forehead. I did have some things available, but it did not feel comfortable at all.
9. I am a registered nurse, as well as a survivor. Before chemo day, study up on nutrition and tips for meeting your caloric needs during this period. Study up on non-medicinal ways of treating nausea, because sometimes the medicines that are provided do not work. On my chemo day, I would take a tote bag filled with goodies to keep my mind occupied. I took my MP3 player, multiple types of magazines, crocheting projects and crossword puzzles.
10. A positive support system is the biggest thing to get together. Other than that, comfort things–snuggly blanket, magazines, iPad/iPod, throat lozenges/hard candy, comfort snacks, Bible, great attitude and a willingness to fight.
—Wendi Fisher Venable
What advice would you give patients, family members or friends who are preparing to start chemotherapy?