Cure Discussion - General Discussions

Seven Chemo Pro Tips

By Tori Tomalia - 9:07 AM, Tue July 7, 2015
General Discussions - Cure Discussion
4 replies
Thanks to my awesome targeted medicine, a pill that I take twice a day, it has been almost two years since I have been on IV chemo. While my scans still look great, my hemoglobin is low so I am having several weeks of iron infusions. I am so out of practice with IV medicine that I had forgotten all the hints I picked up during my time in the chair. I couldn't believe all the newbie mistakes I made, so I am writing down some tips here to help myself and you, my lovely readers.

1) Hydrate
Fluids, fluids, fluids. Drink as much as you can the night before and the morning of your infusion. This will make it easier to find a vein for the IV, and it will help to flush the chemo out. I was kicking myself that I forgot about this when I went in for my infusion. After the third failed attempt at starting an IV I realized that the half-glass of apple juice I had had that morning just wasn’t going to cut it.

2) Pass the Salt
This goes along with no. 1, but I would always have a salty dinner the night before chemo to help keep me nice and thirsty. (Note – I have low blood pressure naturally, so salt is my pal. If you have blood pressure issues, go easy with this.)

3) Get Hot
I mean this is the most literal sense. I used to wear long sleeves and a sweater, and would sometimes even leave my coat on in the waiting area to keep my body temperature up. This helped my veins to dilate, and become nice and visible to the people starting the IV.

4) Distractions
I foolishly showed up for my 10 a.m. infusion with nothing to occupy my time, thinking I would be in and out quickly. HA! When they finally started the IV an hour and a half later, my phone battery was just about gone and I was left twiddling my thumbs for the next hour or so. When I was going through chemo, I would always bring a tablet, headphones, and a charger and would settle in for a nice movie festival during the long wait and infusion. My husband and I would turn it into a bizarre date night. Hey, you gotta make your fun where you can.

5) Snacks
Infusion days tend to be very long, so pack a couple of easy-to-eat snacks. I find that an empty stomach is an upset stomach, so keep something in your belly to stay ahead of the hunger. Many cancer centers also have a snack room, so have a poke around there and see what takes your fancy.

6) Germs
Your doctor should be able to predict how many days after your infusion your immune system will weaken. I managed to go through four months of chemo with a kindergartener and two toddlers in the house without getting sick. It is possible! During my low white blood cell count days, I would wash my hands very frequently (some might say obsessively), and I would avoid touching my face. I never realized how often I would scratch my nose or rub my eyes until my physician's assistant explained that this is how most viruses get passed between people. Try it, you will be amazed how often you touch your face in a day.

7) Meds
Chemo is notorious for causing a whole host of side effects; some of the most common are nausea, diarrhea and constipation. Talk to your doctor about these possibilities before your infusion so you can have the medications on hand when the side effects hit.

Now it's your turn. What tips have you learned from your time in the chair?


Tori Tomalia is many things: a mom, a wife, a theatre artist, a mediocre cook, a Buffy fan, a stinky cheese aficionado. She is also, unfortunately, a repeat visitor to CancerLand. Stay tuned for her continued adventures.
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By Toria
9:07 AM, Tue July 7, 2015
The best advice I got was to " bring a chatty friend"! Once I got my pre-meds, I couldn't concentrate well enought to read, watch a movie or listen to a podcast. I could barely put a sentence together...so a chatty friend really helped pass the time until I fell asleep. And it is a good way to catch up with friends that we were always meaning to get together with, but never seemed to find the time. Silver linings...:)
By VickiTX
9:07 AM, Tue July 7, 2015
Our treatment room is great for conversations. I just finished week 13 of an 18 week treatment/NHL. We have our treatments and our great conversations amongst the patients make it like a therapy group all in one. When it is quiet I always have my magazines to catch up on. Now they don't stack up. Or I have a book to read or a puzzle book or kick back and close the eyes (which doesn't happen often with me). Our oncologist keeps the small fridge stocked with a wide variety of drinks and Ensure and crackers and animal crackers. Sometimes patients bring in snacks to share. Head wear is donated by patients and a volunteer group for us baldies. It is really a great place if you have to be there.
By Sb4
9:07 AM, Tue July 7, 2015
My wife got a central line port, accessed near the collarbone and she thinks it really improved her quality of life. No more iv vein worries and can be used for blood draws sometimes (RN can do it). She has a "powerport" model, which has more wide usage. She recommends it for the long haul. She also believes in fitness and hikes a lot. Exercise is one of the holistic things you can do that really does show up in many studies to improve outcomes and also QOL. She is an 8 year ovarian cancer survivor stage 3C. We also seek 2nd and 3rd opinions when choosing options and try to see the smartest oncologists we can. I try to keep up with biology and cutting edge developments so we can better understand the differences in treatment options and look for any trials that might make sense for her. She tries to eat well which is tricky with chemo I know. She does try some alternative options too such as curcumin with the oncologist's approval. She tries to minimize carbs in
By muffet
9:07 AM, Tue July 7, 2015
Plan a treat for yourself to enjoy after every chemo. You might buy yourself a bouquet of flowers, plan to visit a spot of natural beauty, or watch an enjoyable movie. It needn't be big, but it gives you a small pat on the back. I also created a pocket sized photo album of people and places I love. This album reminded me of why I was doing this. I chose my favorite images of these people, not necessarily the best images, and often I would just flip through the album and smile. Another tip was to daydream about what you hoped to be doing in six months. Chemo seemed like such a giant hurdle that for a while I had trouble remembering that for many there is life after chemo. Focusing on the future was a cheerful practice.
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