24 Survivor's Tips to Better Handle Chemo and Radiation

by GregP_WN

You have been given the three-word sentence that none of us ever wants to hear... YOU HAVE CANCER! For many of us, your head is spinning and you may not even be able to hear anything else that the Dr. tells you after that. The information starts coming at you like water out of a hose drowning you in the face. 

24 Ways Tips To Better Handle Chemo And Radiation

They will tell you the type of cancer, the location, eventually, they will tell you the stage, and maybe a plan of treatment. One common part of treatment is chemotherapy. There are hundreds of types of treatments, each specially formulated for your type of cancer and your specific diagnosis. But several things are common for cancer patients to experience during treatment. We asked our Community of over 40,000 cancer patients, survivors, caregivers, and family to give their top tips for what to do before and during chemo, and what NOT to do. Here are some of the great advice they shared.

Here are 24 Tips From Survivors to Better Handle Chemo and Radiation:

lh25, an endometrial cancer patient suggests - "Ask your oncologist about eating meat,  fruits, and veggies. I could have them if well washed. No raw meat/fish so no sushi." Due to our white blood count dropping during treatment, we are often told to not eat certain things that can cause infections or other immune problems.

Foods To Avoid During Chemo

"Another thing I was told was to stay away from litter boxes. We have 3 cats, and hubby had to take care of all the litter stuff while I was getting treated. I was also advised to avoid pedicures and manicure because of the possibility of infection I couldn't fight off as well during treatments."

Cards7Up , a lung cancer patient says to watch what you eat - "Don't eat raw meat or raw vegetables of any kind." 

BoiseB - "I was also told not to dye my hair when it grew out, get all dental work done before treatment and take good care of your mouth, use a Biotene mouthwash if not prescribed a mouthwash. Ask your dentist for other pointers, regret that I didn't have time to talk to my dentist."

Dental Care During Chemotherapy

"Even if you need no dental work, get your teeth cleaned before you start treatments. If you have anything that needs to be fixed, get it done now. They don't want you to be having dental work done during treatments as the risk of infection is very high due to low white blood counts."

msesq - said to take precautions when getting your nails done, "I was told not to have my nails done. I wear silk nails so I let them grow out rather than removing them. My manicurist used tools reserved only for me so I was able to continue manicures during chemo. I was told to avoid fruits and vegetables that couldn't be scrubbed like raspberry and strawberry. Peeled apples, bananas and the like were ok."

junie1 - "Lots of great tips here. While going thru my chemo, I was not to have nails done, only buffing them, no clipping. No nail polish, because polish does get into the skin. I was also not to dye my hair before I lost it, and after it started to grow back. It was about a year after treatments stopped that I got back into dying the hair.. and back to having my nails done."

Chemo Damaged Nails

The picture above shows nails that have been discolored from chemo. Even though you may experience this, Doctors advise to not have your nails done while having chemo treatments due to the chance of infections. 

Junie1 also said: "As for food, I was not to eat any processed foods, no packaged lunch meats, no packaged salads, no prepared foods like that. Also, I was not to go to any buffet type restaurants, Also was not to have any drinks at a restaurant. So I had to take my own drinks when going out to eat.
I will agree with everyone, Ask your Drs for the what to do and what not to do in your care..
I did fix a lot of foods at home and had protein shakes..
Good Luck to all
God Bless -junie1"

Child of God says: " I also recommend smaller meals, lots of water, and gentle exercise when you can handle it. HUGS and God bless.  The only other thing they told me was to keep drinking water because a lack of saliva would eventually lead to tooth decay and loss."

Radiation Treatment Gift Baskets for Women

Jouska shared her experiences - "I was told not to have acrylic nails, primarily because of the possibility of fungus, but chemo was so bad on my nails (they became very rigid, thin and brittle) so I think manicures/acrylics would not have been in the cards no matter what. My nails took a long time to recover - well over a year. I had no restrictions on food I could handle, wash, cook, eat. Although I have to say I made several meals that I never could eat because food didn't taste good. At certain points, I lived on peanut butter and Boost! I certainly cooked for myself when I felt good enough and ate my summer favorite of Caprese Salad, which is fresh tomatoes, fresh basil (I grew myself) and fresh mozzarella. I also traveled, by plane and by car. I don't think they were overjoyed, but it was fine - I never ran a fever throughout my chemo, although I was very weak and tired. What did I do? I always used the wipes at the grocery store, I drank lots of water and Gatorade (with real sugar). I tried to eat healthily so I cooked for myself when I felt up to it. To the extent I could, I avoided people I knew had colds or flu, but I did work about 50% of the time in the office, the rest of the time from home. I have dogs, so they gave me a reason to be up and about every day - I even showed at dog shows. I also have horses and though I gave up the chores for the most part - just too physically demanding, I did go out to the barn daily and helped as needed. I did my best to keep the good and normal parts of my life going."

BarbarainBham said: "Your oncologist and staff will tell you what they want you to know, which could be specific to the type of chemo and radiation you are given. They see you every week during radiation to check whether there are any problems, so you aren't just deserted. (I didn't have chemo, so don't know how often they see patients.) The only thing I remember is they told me not to diet or lose weight during radiation because they want you to have normal nutrients to heal and fight cancer."

Ashera, a breast cancer patient, said "I saw my dentist the week before chemo started. He was a new dentist and had treated cancer/chemo pts before. Had a super good cleaning and exam. He said to keep a bottle (I used a water bottle) beside the bathroom sink and in the kitchen that was a baking soda/water mix. Every time I ate, I was to swish my mouth out with the rinse. Also to use this rinse if I became nauseous or vomited. He gave me ultra soft tooth brushes and told me to only brush in the evenings to avoid damaging gums. I ended up getting sever thrush in my mouth 3 days after chemo day for every single round. My oncologist prescribed a 'Magic Mouthwash' as he called it but it goes by many names. Basically a combo of Mylanta, liquid Benadryl. and lidocaine that I would swish and swallow. You may not have the mouth issues as all - but the idea of using a baking soda rinse is a good one to start cause it's easy on your gums. As far as meat or raw veg/fruits - nothing said to me - but I couldn't eat any of those things during chemo anyway. I, however, strongly recommend tapioca pudding! I think I lived on that! Hope it all goes easy for you!"

Akwendi, a breast cancer patient shared some information she was given by a friend who previously went through chemo: "A friend had told me to avoid any food (especially spicy) that you really like in case you get sick from it. (She still can't stomach a spicy food that she got sick on after chemo). I love Mexican food so I avoided that all together for 12 weeks. I figured it was a small price to pay. I just kept my diet pretty bland which was easy because that's all I really felt like...a lot of bananas, cottage cheese and yogurt were my go to. Best of luck...and follow what your body says!"

Advice From Our Facebook Page

From our Facebook page, Cheryl Pretorius says: " I work for Oncologists, follow your Oncologists advice and yes stay off the internet. So much progress in oncology happy stories far outweigh the unhappy ones."

Kelly Irvin suggests: "Don't listen to some of the well meaning advice from people who have had experiences that may be different from your own. Different cancer, different medical team, different bodies. People mean well but they often add to your stress and fear and sometimes give you bad medical advice. Stick to what your doctors tell you. They're the ones with the expensive medical degrees and experience."

Linda French Heilbrun says "Don't read up on the internet and don't allow others to advise you of a new cure. Both are filled with negativity and will fill you full of doubt."

Theodore Baranowski advised: "Talk to your Oncologist. Let him or she advise you. Follow their instructions. Talk to them about your concerns and fears. If you still don't feel at ease, don't hesitate to seek a second opinion from another Oncologist."

Kim Rod says: "I agree everyone's experiences are different. I have had 7 different chemos over the last six and a half years and only vomited once- and that was nothing much. My body doesn't mind chemo at all!! Don't buy expensive wigs in advance. In Australia, they are usually too hot to wear."

Sara 1st Chemo

Above: Sarasmash getting her first chemo treatment. 

From Tammy Bailey- "Keep living your life as much as you feel like it"

As several people have suggested, all of us take chemo and radiation differently and cancer doesn't look the same on all of us. These suggestions are some of the most common things that happen or that will help most people. One of the best pieces of advice I can pass along is to always tell your oncologist or radiation oncologists everything that is happening to you. Some of the side effects will be normal but others could be serious and rare. Regardless of what it is, they have probably seen this before and will have some help for you. 

Do you have some tips to pass along about how to better handle chemo or radiation? Please share them in the comments below, you may have the one piece of information that someone needs.

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