Category Archives: Chemotherapy and Breast Cancer

5 Tips to Help With Chemotherapy Side Effects

Not everyone taking chemotherapy will experience the same side effects.  Here are some tips that helped me with some of the side effects I experienced.

1.  Eat a healthy breakfast thesmoothie-865632_1280 day you receive chemo.  I usually ate a veggie omelet and toast.  Oatmeal is another fave of mine, and I usually pair it with a hard boiled egg to get in some protein.

2.  Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate – and I’m talking inside and out.  Chemotherapy dries out your skin, so I sugg
est starting a strong moisturizing routine prior to starting treatment.  Unfortunately, I did not realize this until late into my treatments.

3.  Your skin can become very delicate and sensitive during chemotherapy, like a newborn baby, especially your scalp (when you have lost your hair).  Try using an organic baby body shampoo when showering.  I got mine at the drug store – you don’t have to spend alot of money.  I also switched my face soap to Cetaphil. As I stated in my 6 Side Effects of Chemotherapy post, my face and chest became extremely flushed for several days immediately after treatment.  Using a cleanser for sensitive skin helped calm the redness.

4.  I experienced a strong metallic taste in my mouth, water-686917_1280and indulging in popsicles really helped.  Water was totally unappealling to me because of this taste, but I found
that adding plenty of lemon to the water made it more palpable.  Iced green tea with lemon became my go-to beverage.

5.  If you can afford to do so, I suggest purchasing a wig, or wigs, to wear after you have lost your hair.  They will help make you feel more “normal” and less like a cancer patient, and will keep your head warm to boot!  Go wig shopping before you start your treatments, as you may feel uncomfortable revealing your bald head to everyone in the shop. You’ll also be less distracted and have more fun trying them on.  Why not experiment with a totally different style or color?  Remember, it’s only temporary.

6 Side Effects of Chemotherapy

I will preface this post by reinstating that what I am writing about are my personal experiences, and are certainly not reflective of all cancer patients.

The major side effects of chemo that I experienced were:

  1.  Fatigue – There were two types of fatigue for me – the first being the extreme fatigue that came on a couple of days after the treatments.  As I mentioned in the Dealing with Chemotherapy post, this kept me in bed, but eventually lifted after a couple of days.  The second type was the cumulative fatigue that comes with successive treatments.  After my first treatment, I could go outside and run 3 or 4 miles.  After my second treatment, running was not possible, but I could still do my power walks.  After the third treatement, the power walks weren’t very powerful anymore, and after the fourth treatment, it was harder still.  Chemotherapy certainly affects your cardiovascular system, and I certainly felt it.  The fatigue did go away about a month or two after completing treatment.  My girlfriend who did six sessions of the same chemo drug combination, is still feeling some fatigue nine months after finishing treatment.
  2. Hair Loss – This was never a big deal for me, mainly because I knew it was only temporary.  I never completely lost my eyelashes or eyebrows, although they did thin considerably after the final treatment, but they have grown back.  I was also fortunate enough to be able to purchase a couple of wigs.  With those on, no one even knew I was a chemotherapy patient!
  3. Skin Complications – This was a big deal for me.  No one told me how dehydrating chemotherapy is and how much moisture it sucks out of your skin!  I know I have a few more wrinkles now, and few deeper ones.  Also, chemotherapy made my face and chest flush for a couple of days immediately after treatment, and it exasterbated my very mild roseaca.
  4. Watery Eyes – This side effect came on after my third treatment.  My eyes were constantly teary and I dabbed at them constantly.  It was very annoying.  Fortunately, this also went away about a month and a half after the final treatment.
  5. Muscle Pain – I really felt pain or burning in my legs when I would climb any stairs.  Again, this may have been partly due to the cardiovascular effects of the chemotherapy.  But in general, my lower body ached, especially in my thighs.
  6. Metallic Taste – UUGHHH!  I love to cook and eat.  The metallic taste in my mouth made it almost impossible to enjoy eating or drinking anything, it was so strong.  It did ease up by the time I was ready for another treatment, but it always came back after the next session.  This too, did disappear – Thank God!

Dealing with Chemotherapy for Breast Cancer

As I had early stage, hormone receptor positive breast cancer, and my MammaPrint test came back with a high probability of recurrence, I decided to go ahead with the recommended course of chemotherapy.  For me, that “C” word – chemotherapy, was much more frightening than the cancer itself.  However, I did it, I survived, and it wasn’t nearly as bad as I had imagined it would be.  I am going to share my experience and hopefully help ease your fear, anxiety and apprehension, should you be facing the same situation.  What scares us most is the unknown.

There are different types of chemotherapy treatments for different types of cancers.  All breast cancer patients do not receive the same chemotherapy, as there are different treatments for different types of breast cancers and their different stages.  I received two drugs, taxotere and cytoxan. Prior to treatment, my oncologist informed me that nausea and vomiting were typically NOT side effects of this type of chemotherapy, and I am happy to report she was right, I experienced neither.  Nor did a good friend who also took the same chemo combination.  I realize not everyone is going to have the same reactions, and I can only relate what I experienced.

I received my chemotherapy treatments on Tuesday mornings, four total, each three weeks apart.  First I was given intravenous fluids, followed by intravenous anti-nausea medicine, then the two chemotherapy drugs, one after the other.  This whole process took approximately 2-1/2 hours, and each time, I downloaded and watched a funny movie on my IPad.  I was extremely blessed to have my husband by my side for each session.  I returned to my oncologists office the next day for a shot of Neulasta.

TIP:  For some reason, it was assumed that I was to to have a port placed in my chest to receive chemotherapy.  I wondered why because I am healthy and have very good veins.  When I made the nurses examine my hands and arms and showed them my veins, it was obvious I didn’t need a port.  Lesson – always question if you don’t think something is right.

On Thursday evening, the drugs would hit me, and I would be in bed for the next three days with extreme fatigue and body aches, and an overall discomfort – similar to a bad flu (but without the nausea and vomiting).  By Monday, I would start to feel better, and over the next couple of days, my strength and feeling of health came back.  By the thrid week,  I felt pretty much back to normal.  And while the fatigue continued to build up with each successive treatment, I was still able to go to the gym and train my clients throughout the entire process.

                 Sometimes, instead of running from something scary in your life, it’s easier to learn not to be scared of it.