1. Avoid raw fish. Chemotherapy can decrease your body's ability to fight even everyday bacteria, so avoid raw fish, soft cheeses, and undercooked meat or eggs.
2. Be aware of the side effects of steroids. Steroids (usually used to prevent a reaction to the chemotherapy) can make you feel unbalanced. It took two cycles for me to discover that withdrawal from the steroids was causing me to feel extreme irritability , . If you feel any crazy emotions, discuss them with your doctor. My doctor lowered my dosage, which reduced some of the withdrawal symptoms.
3.Use a safe mouthwash. I used Biotene mouthwash many times a day and brushed and flossed regularly. Biotene is specially formulated to reduce "dry mouth". It is important to minimize any bacteria in the mouth to avoid mouth sores, which can be extremely painful and difficult to heal during chemo. Use raw honey to swab your mouth to rid or reduce chances of mouth sores. Check out www.soothease.com for candies that help ease mouth pain and awful tastes during chemo.
4. Consider fasting. Side effects result when chemotherapy kills healthy cells along with the cancer cells. After my first session, I found a study indicating that fasting before, during, and after chemotherapy can reduce the effects of chemo on healthy cells, without reducing it's effectiveness against cancer cells. The basic idea is that healthy, normal cells listen to your body's instructions to slow down growth due to the fasting, but cancer cells continue growing normally. Even now the results of the study are not yet released and research is still being conducted at the Mayo Clinic. My doctor advised against fasting, mainly because studies had not been completed, but I did it anyway. I feel like fasting was one of the main reasons I got through chemo without any serious side effects (other than hair loss).
5. Avoid public places. Avoid public places as much as possible, especially doctors' offices and places with large crowds.
6. Compensate for nutritional deficiencies. Find out what nutritional deficiencies can result from your type of chemotherapy, and research what foods can be used to compensate. For example, my type of chemotherapy resulted in the loss of magnesium so I ate spinach, beans, and nuts to compensate. I also was terrified of neuropathy because a high percentage of people developed it temporarily or permanently . I ate foods rich in Vitamin B and protein such as beans, chicken, and whole grain bread to compensate. I heard nurses giving people bags of magnesium at the end of treatment if their blood tests showed they were depleted, but I always tested fine in my magnesium levels. I never once heard a doctor or a nurse advising the patients to supplement their diet, which I never understood. Why not at least inform people of food choices that might be beneficial and let them decide? I also used an acupuncturist that I swear eased all my side effects. One Chinese medicine doctor working at Johns Hopkins Integrative Cancer Center said via a webinar earlier this year that having acupuncture sessions, which must begin at the inception of chemotherapy to have the most effectiveness, was proving to be quite helpful.
7. Accept help. Don't hesitate to accept help when friends offer, but make sure it is help that will be beneficial for you. I turned down some offers that would have been more of an effort for me than a benefit. This isn't the time to worry about offending people or following society's rules. This is a time to focus on your health and safety, so you can ultimately be there for those that you care about.
8. Exercise! Try to exercise to minimize fatigue. Exercise can be a walk with a friend or yoga at home. Before chemotherapy I was able to get to the gym most days but after my surgery and during treatment I could do lighter workouts like walking and yoga and could only work out for 20 minutes. It is important to lower your expectations and accept that some exercise is better than none, rather than having unrealistic goals.
9. Use a cold cap. Consider using Cold Caps to avoid hair loss. They work on a similar philosophy to fasting, basically by slowing down the growth of hair follicles to they don't absorb the chemicals during treatment. They were still very new, and not approved by my doctor at the time I went through treatment. Furthermore, I didn't hear about them until after my first session, so it would have been too late for me to save my hair. But recently I have noticed brochures in the doctors' offices.
10. Buy only one wig. Take a friend or spouse with you when shopping for a wig and buy it before you lose your hair. Buy only one wig so you have time to see if you will use it at all. Don't be manipulated by people who want to make money knowing you are in shock and vulnerable.
11. Massage or Reiki – get some bodywork regularly. It makes a huge difference in how you feel when going through chemotherapy.
12. Meditation & Positive Thinking - the first thing I had to do was to quit thinking about the chemotherapy in a negative light – like it was something to be afraid of. I envisioned the drugs entering my system as being a healing golden or white light (use a color that
works for you personally) that moved through my entire body and eradicated any little weakling of a cancer cell (also important to think of the cancer cells as weak and easily overcome by the chemotherapy). This was a very calming thing to do and helped with anxiety.
13. Juicing of Organic Fruit & Vegetables – I juiced in the morning before my chemotherapy appointments (and every morning afterward too) and took the juice with me in a stainless steel thermos. I sipped it once I’d finished my meditation. My favorite was a combination of carrot, beet (a potent anti-cancer veggie), apple and ginger. Fresh ginger helps a lot with nausea and adds a spicy zest to the juice. You don’t need too much, just about a 1″ knob of it.
14. Glutamine – this is an amino acid that helps to reduce the side effects of chemotherapy, especially the mucosal lining of the mouth and gut. Since these cells grow rapidly (and that’s what the chemotherapy is targeting), they take a big hit during treatment and you can get mouth sores and heartburn problems. Glutamine really helps – I took about 2,000 mg per day, but someone else might need more or less.
15. Yoga and Walking – it is so important to keep moving! If you’re tired, just slow down and do what you can. Movement therapy helps you to detox, it helps your state of mind, it even helps constipation.
16. Vitamin C and Bioflavonoids – help on so many different levels and side effects I can’t list them all here. I took 1000-5000 mg daily and found it really helped. Each person will have to play around with the dosage though to find the one right for them.
17. The Power of Prayer – don’t underestimate this! Tell your friends when you’re going for each dose of chemotherapy and have them spend 5 minutes actively saying a prayer for you to coincide with your appointment time. You will be amazed at how uplifted you feel. Powerful stuff. I did this prior to surgery too.
18. Laughter – Its true….laughter is the best medicine! Watch a comedy (Elf gets me every time!),
The combination of these things got me through 5 months of chemotherapy with a minimum of side effects and problems. I hope this helps you!