7 tips to prepare for chemotherapy

If you read my previous post 'Chemotherapy - week 1', you will know that my mother, I and my sisters (I had to draft in help!) learnt a lot during the first week of chemotherapy.  I don't want what we learnt to be in vain so I'm going to share some tips that will hopefully make life that little bit easier for someone undergoing chemotherapy or caring for someone that is undergoing treatment.  I want to forewarn you that this post may be graphic and a little scary but I really wish there had been more information available online on how chemotherapy really is and preparations that I could have done beforehand.
  1. Buy the necessary equipment to alleviate some of the stress and strain.  We were emotionally prepared but boy were we under prepared in terms of tools and equipment!  My advice would be to read the side effects pertaining to the chemotherapy relevant to the person you're caring for and, as a minimum, assume that the top 5 will affect them and think about what would help to alleviate some of the stress and strain.  For example:
    • Disposable vomit bowls
    • Hypoallergenic face and body wipes that are sensitive to the skin
    • Mattress protectors 
    • Food in the fridge for that week
    • Pre-prepare simple meals and have them on stand by
  2. Clear your calender.  Obviously, my mother knew her week would be consumed by chemotherapy shortly after treatment.  In reality, it will span the course of her treatment and will consume the lives of not only the person having chemotherapy but the lives of those that they live with too.  You should make preparations to that effect.  For example, speak to your place of work openly about any changes to working patterns and as a minimum, the need for flexibility during the course of the treatment and perhaps a few weeks afterwards.  
  3. Trust your instincts.  Booklets and leaflets can only ever tell you so much - trust your instincts. Only you can know your body, what feels right and what does not feel right.  If you feel like something is not right, then phone the number which the team who administer chemotherapy advise you to.  Most likely you are right!  If you are wrong, then you will have no regrests.
  4. Ask for help from friends and relatives in advance or at any time.  You won't be able to do everything, physically or mentally.  You do not want to burn out as that will not be conducive to either you or the person you are caring for.  Ask a friend or family member to take over whilst you have a short respite.  Re-charge, get some sleep and make every second that you spend looking after the person you love, productive.  
  5. Encouragement.  Being there, with soothing words, will be more helpful than you will ever know.  We all know the feeling, at the point at which we feel like we want to vomit, we start to shake and beome scared.  This is the body's way of reacting to this foreign and uncontrollable act and being alone during this act, is not nice.  Letting someone know that they are not alone, will altogether soothe and calm a person down.  
  6. Motivation and goals.  Nobody enjoys a stay at the hospital, especially lengthy overnight admissions.  The hours are long, its boring and you just don't feel well in general.  I would recommend setting small and manageable goals to motivate both the person you're caring for and yourself.  They should be small, manageable goals that are realistic such as drinking x glasses of water or moving from the bed to a chair.  Discuss what you think is manageable together at the start of the day, nothing too strenous as you want to feel a sense of accomplishment at the end of the day and not dejected.
  7. Ask questions.  Doctor's use long words and talk easily about procedures that may worry or frightem you so when talking to your doctor, it's very easy to just leave everything to them.  I would encourage you to ask your doctor questions of anything you don't understand.  Take notes.  Guide them in their treatment of you by questioning decisions.  Ask your doctor what your care/ treatment plan is and this will drive point 6, your individual daily goals and motivation.  For example, if the doctor wants to stabilise your urine levels, ask them what the goal is and how you can assist with that, such as drinking more water.  This can alleviate some of the frustration that people often feel with hospital admissions.
Let me know if these tips are helpful in any way.  I'd also love to hear of any great ideas you ahve to help my mum and I through chemotherapy.



Popular Posts