Barbara Tako is a breast cancer survivor (2010), melanoma survivor (2014) and author of Cancer Survivorship Coping Tools—We'll Get You Through This. She is a cancer coping advocate, speaker and published writer for television, radio and other venues across the country. She lives, survives, and thrives in Minnesota with her husband, children and dog. See more at www.cancersurvivorshipcopingtools.com,or www.clutterclearingchoices.com.
Chemotherapy sessions are not just physically taxing for patients with cancer, but they’re also mentally draining. Here are five ways one cancer survivor decompressed after chemotherapy sessions.
There are different chemotherapies for different cancers, and also different people may have different reactions to chemotherapy. Always err on the side of caution and be gentle with yourself after each chemotherapy session. You can get through them.
I remember being seriously frightened by chemotherapy, but with help, I was able to get through my chemotherapy sessions. Honestly, it was not as bad as my vivid imagination was expecting and here are some of the reasons why.
Get advice from your medical team. They will be able to tell you what to expect, how to prepare, and how to recover. Quickly report unexpected symptoms or “more than expected” symptoms right away.
Your medical team will have ways to help you manage what you experience. I remember waiting longer than I should have to call about some post-chemo pain I had, and the solution turned out to be pretty simple — adding antihistamines to my medication regimen, in my particular case. Nothing that took extraordinary methods to handle quickly.
The steroids I was put on helped get me through chemotherapy but kept me up for several nights around each chemotherapy session. I learned that I could still rest even though I was not always able to sleep.
Try to line up calming, soothing activities that may help you relax. Maybe you will just put your feet up and binge watch that television series you have been meaning to watch. Or, as one chemo buddy of mine did, you might decide it is OK to weed out your closet at 2 a.m. if you feel like it.
This is very important after a chemo session as you will have limited energy, so carefully prioritize what you want to accomplish with your time. Don’t push yourself. Don’t overbook yourself, especially in the few days following a chemotherapy session. You don’t want to crash and burn.
One friend cautioned me that it is like being handed a limited number of quarters to spend each day, and once they are gone, they are gone for the day. Choose wisely how to spend your quarters.
It was always a relief to go back to my “nest” after chemotherapy.
My “nest” was my safe haven — a soft blanket and a spot on the end of my favorite couch. I remember telling myself after chemo that I was now back in my safe spot. In my safe spot, I wasn’t actively being poked at. I was safe. Create a safe place where you feel calm, protected and out of the fray for a bit.
Above all, do not do any part of cancer, including your chemotherapy, by yourself.
It can be helpful to have someone sit with you during chemotherapy. It is also helpful to have one or more in-person or online support groups where you are with people who get what you are saying and have experienced what you are experiencing. Make these connections in addition to your “regular” family, friends and faith support people.
A therapist to talk to through cancer can be extremely helpful too. I hope now you have some ideas about getting through cancer and chemotherapy. You’ve got this. Believe it.