Top 5 Tips for supporting you through chemotherapy
By Donna Gianniotis
Embarking on the road of chemotherapy treatment for cancer can be a difficult and trying time for anyone to endure. Having been through chemotherapy and radiation for breast cancer just over 5 years ago, here are some tips that I can offer to support you through treatment.
1) Rest and relax
Your body needs to recover. There is a lot going on in the body with all of the various drugs doing their thing. The part you play in the treatment is just as important, so rest as much as you can. Don’t push yourself to do all of the things that you normally do.
If you have never nurtured yourself before, now is the time to start
You will experience fatigue from the treatment and therefore stopping and taking a break to recover is super important. Ask family and friends for support during this time to assist you in what needs to be done day-to-day (refer to point 5).
2) Listen to what you body needs at any given time, moment to moment
This point follows on from the above one. Listen to what your body is telling you. Listen to it intently and honour your body in this delicate process. If it is telling you that you are tired then rest. Listen to what it wants to eat, what it doesn’t want to eat. Notice what zaps your energy and do less of this.
As your energy levels drop due to chemotherapy, learning how to conserve the energy that you have is paramount in your healing process. This can be developed by being aware of how you are with your body and being super gentle and tender with yourself. For example, when walking, feel your legs and your hips, as you pick up a glass, feel your hands on the glass. By choosing to be with your body in a gentle way you can begin to develop a loving relationship with your body.
3) Introduce gentle exercise into your day
If you have followed the above two points, you may end up spending quite a bit of time in bed or on the couch. It is also important that when you do feel well enough to, to bring some gentle exercise into your day. Some days it may be plenty to get up and walk from room to room, other days you may make it to the mail box, other days it may be several kilometres. Listen to your body and what you are capable of on any given day.
Gentle stretching and strengthening exercises are important to support you and your body through the treatment. Seek out a qualified practitioner to help develop a program specifically for you.
4) Look after your organs
Chemotherapy not only affects the cancer cells but it also affects the good cells – which is why you can feel unwell through the treatment. Your kidneys and liver are two vital organs that have a lot of work to do whilst you are going through treatment. The kidneys are like your battery pack and your liver is what helps you to detox the chemicals.
You can assist your organs during chemotherapy by; not drinking alcohol as any drop of alcohol will give the liver even more work to do, eating nourishing food, not drinking caffeine and limiting your sugar intake.
5) Allow people to support you. You deserve it
Chemotherapy is a tough time – you don’t have to do it alone. If you have always gotten on and done things by yourself, now is the time to change this pattern. Ask family and friends for help, they will want to know how to assist you. Get in touch with what you are feeling and learn to express without holding back how they could be of useful.
If at times you don’t feel up for visitors, that’s OK too. Tell them that you prefer to have some time alone to rest but you would appreciate them dropping off a meal (which they could leave at the front door). Accept that others are there to help you if you let them – it is a win win situation. Learn to receive back from others.
Donna Gianniotis was diagnosed at the age of 33 with breast cancer in 2008 and underwent surgery, chemotherapy and radiation.
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