In This Together: Chemo and Radiation


Guide for families, friends, and cancer patients undergoing chemo and/or radiationThe Advocacy Networking Group presents this compilation of actual experiences of patients, friends and caregivers from Gilda’s Club South Jersey.

Chemo - the general stuff:

  • If you already work, continue to do so if possible. Working through chemo may help keep you focused and positive.
  • OR, give yourself a break — you have a good reason to take time off.
  • It IS all about you right now.
  • To keep your mind busy during infusions, carry a “chemo bag” filled with puzzles, games, music, knitting, etc. Your thoughts will be diverted and time will fly.

Chemo - the stuff that might make you feel better:

  • Have those nasty mouth sores? Try popsicles after every chemo treatment. Frozen juice, flavorless ice chips, Pedialyte pops, Magic Mouthwash. Ask for a prescription.
  • When you tummy is upset try eating carbohydrates such as pasta and bagels, sherbets, applesauce, mashed potatoes, yogurt, scrambled or soft-boiled eggs, light toast, oatmeal, Ensure shakes with ice cream.
  • When you are able to eat, small, frequent meals and lots of fluids might be helpful.
  • Using plastic tableware helps alleviate the metallic taste.
  • Prepare and freeze meals prior to surgery and/or treatment.
  • There are many drugs that help relieve nausea — ask your doctor for them.
  • Homemade chicken soup when nothing else works!
  • A soft toothbrush, alcohol-free mouthwash and lip balm were a must.
  • Keep these handy: pure aloe vera gel, Cetaphil cream, sugar-free mints, loose cotton clothing, sodium fluoride toothpaste (not the gel kind.)

Radiation — stuff that might help

  • If you experience burns, try aloe, vitamin E, or ask radiation oncologist for a script.
  • Grow your own aloe plant!
  • Remember, fatigue can last for months after radiation has ended.
  • Becoming more active helps.

Hair we go again...

  • If and when your hair begins to fall out, many choose to just shave it off. You might feel better and be less emotionally drained than watching it fall out day by day.
  • Get a satin pillow cover or sleeping cap — your scalp will be sensitive.
  • Losing your hair is not losing YOU.
  • Without hair, you always have a “good hair day.”
  • Having no hair saves a lot of time in the morning.
  • Buy a wig cap. Your wig will be more comfortable.
  • Synthetic wigs are less expensive than human hair, but can’t be styled with products or hot irons.
  • Try different wig colors and styles, cool soft hats and scarves. It’s OK to have fun.
  • Be sure to protect your scalp with sunscreen.
  • Think of your bald head as a badge of survival.

Communication — with health care professionals & others

  • Keep notes to ask your doctor. Write down your questions as you think of them. Write the answers in red ink.
  • Always bring another “pair of ears” to your appointments to take notes. If you must go alone, take a recorder — your doctor will understand.
  • Keep a notebook of doctor visits — each visit gets a new page.
  • If you are not sure what to ask, use the many internet resources available.
  • There are NO stupid questions. ASK. ASK. ASK.
  • You cannot listen if you are not silent. Listen and silent are the same word rearranged!
  • You have the right to make your own choices.
  • Stay informed. Feel free to get other opinions.
  • Express yourself honestly and request the same in return.
  • Solicit compassion and sympathy because cancer does suck!

Use what works. Add what you need.

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