September 22, 2014
5 tips for dealing with chemotherapy
BY Carissa Lucas
As a 25-year-old athlete with an almost perfect health history, my lymphoma diagnosis was a crushing blow. It happened so quickly that I almost didn't have time to process what was happening to me, until I found myself sitting in an infusion room a week later receiving my first round of chemotherapy.
I won't deny it: chemotherapy is tough. However, I found some strategies that helped me cope.
Though everyone responds to treatment differently, I hope at least one of these strategies makes chemo a little easier for you.
Get some candy or mints
I actually didn't have a problem with the chemo drugs themselves, but the saline and heparin flushes at the end of every treatment left a terrible taste in my mouth. I always kept a few of my favorite hard candies and a few mints in my bag. They're very useful to mask the terrible taste on chemo days.
I don't know about you, but I have something going on all the time. When I was diagnosed with lymphoma, I had just started nursing school. I kept going to classes for the first six months of treatment, and it actually did me a lot of good. It gave me something to focus on that wasn't cancer-related. Working during cancer treatment may not be an option for everyone, but even small things -- like running errands or reading a new book -- can keep your mind occupied
Don't be afraid to ask for help
I'm a pretty independent person. I like to be self-sufficient, and I even used to go so far as to not talk about my feelings because I didn't want to burden others with my problems. After my lymphoma diagnosis, I quickly realized that I could no longer do that. It's OK to ask for help, and it's good to talk openly about your feelings. I have a couple of close friends that I talk to about everything. I've even met with the pastor of my church a few times to discuss my fears and my beliefs with him. It's been immensely helpful for me.
I've been an athlete since I was 10 years old. When I was diagnosed with lymphoma, I was attending a CrossFit gym three times a week and coaching a volleyball team. For the first two chemo treatments, I took a break to figure out how my body would respond, but as soon as I was able, I was back at the CrossFit gym. I continued to attend classes for seven months until I started a new chemo regimen that was much harder on me. Now, to keep myself moving, I walk my dog daily, and I've just started experimenting with yoga. The key is to just keep moving, even if you're going on a short walk each day. Remember to talk to your doctor about what's best for you before exercising during cancer treatment.
Sleep is critical, especially during chemo. There are days that I go to bed at 7 p.m. and sleep until 8 the next morning. There's no shame in sleeping as much as possible. If you're having trouble sleeping, talk to your doctor. There's nothing worse than feeling terrible and not being able to sleep on top of it all.
Remember, you'll have good days and bad days during cancer treatment. By figuring out what worked for me, I've been able to have more good days than bad. Hopefully, these strategies can do the same for you.
By figuring out what worked for me, I've been able to have more good days than bad.