The survivors guide to chemo - The Funny Thing About Cancer
 
I know this might seem a little late, but I often entertained myself by coming up with little bits of wisdom that people should know before going for chemo treatments.

I thought I'd share them with you... mostly just because they're kinda funny and not so intuitive :)

1. Ladies, show your cleavage!  What?  You didn't think my first (and most important) piece of advice would involve showing cleavage?  Well, here is why.  You see this? 
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THIS is the location of my port.  You'll notice in my current semi-low cut shirt, it is easily accessible.  If I were to wear a crew cut T-shirt or turtle neck... it would be VERY difficult for the nurses to access.  It involves either destroying the neck of your shirt, or closing the curtain and having you lift up your shirt.  The 2nd option isn't that bad (I've done it before) but I think the nurses prefer to simply have easy access.  Plus, a closed curtain isn't helpful when people watching... you can see some very, ummmm, interesting people in an infusion room.

Thus, my first piece of advice is to wear something low cut and show off those beautiful ta-tas!  Or if you're a little more conservative, just wear a button down :)

2. FOOOOOOOD!  Many people think that chemo induces lots of nausea.  And therefore would not take any food with them to the chemo room.  While the nausea thing USED to hold true (a nurse told me that when he started 15-20 years ago, almost everyone would vomit whilst receiving chemo), this is no longer the case.  Now they have awesome anti-nausea meds.  And, generally speaking, from the time I got to the hospital to when I left, it was between 4-6 hours total. 

So while you probably won't get nauseous, you WILL most likely get hungry.  So bring food.  Or bring someone that can go get you lunch.  OR make sure you have the number to a take out place that delivers to the infusion room (Jimmy John's anyone?).  And if you're like me and totally lose your appetite the next day, you want to eat as much as you can in the days prior to having NO appetite.  Long story short, make sure to consider how you're going to get fed while spending all that time at the hospital.

3. Bring along some way to amuse yourself.  As I stated above, you will be at the hospital for between 4-6 hours.  Some of that is in the waiting room, some is waiting to talk to your doctor, and lots is in the actual infusion chair.  And, to be 100% honest, sometimes the waiting/infusion rooms are not exactly jovial, happy places.  I once listened to a guy loudly complain about every aspect of his life.  He made awful jokes about dying (although judging from mobility and whatnot, I'd guess he had months if not years of life left).  He complained about the price of gas and groceries and his job and any/everything else.  It was just depressing. 

And once you start to dread chemo because of stuff like this... it becomes even HARDER to get yourself there.

So figure out a way to find a little zen during your chemo time.  If you have a love for crossword puzzles, bring along a book of puzzles.  If music relaxes you, be sure to bring your iPod.  Like video games?  Bring along that Nintendo DS.  Just do something so that chemo has some element of "fun" to it.  Trust me, it'll help keep your head in a positive place.

4. Bring your blankie.  I don't actually have a blankie from childhood.  But I did have several beautiful quilts that were made for me after diagnosis.  I brought them along to cheer me up with their bright colors and cover myself in prayer (some were prayer quilts).  AND they keep you warm too.  Infusion rooms are cold.  Infusions make you colder.  And while both infusion rooms that I've gone to have blankets that are kept in a heater, they're thin and cool off quickly.  So bring along something that is thick and warm and will hopefully brighten up an otherwise drab space. 

5. Be silly.  I know I already said this, but chemo can be depressing.  First, you know that you're probably not going to feel so great in the days after treatment.  Second, infusion rooms aren't exactly filled with beautiful, young, vibrant people all chatting and having a good time.  Third, not all infusion rooms are places filled with sunlight... some are downright dark and gloomy.  In short, it's an easy place to hate.

So, if you can, try to be silly.  One day, I wore a "Making Cancer my Bitch" t-shirt a friend sent me.  I was the belle of the ball!  It made the nurses laugh.  It made other cancer patients chuckle and several of them asked me where to get one of their own.  Just wearing a silly (and only mildly offensive T-shirt) improved the attitudes of at least 6-8 people in that room.  And doing that made me happy.

I personally love being silly.  It makes me feel lighter inside.  So if you have a silly side, try to find a way to let it out.  Do your best to turn that icky infusion room into a place that holds a little laughter.

Those are my 5 tips for surviving chemo.  If you're a cancer survivor and have any tips/tricks for making it through your regular trips to the infusion room, please add to the list in the comments section!
Megan
6/22/2011 07:47:08 pm

I LOVE THESE TIPS!! :) They really are great for those first undergoing chemo, or scared to enter it! You have had a remarkable journey - and what a wonderful attitude - thank you thank you for this, and improving the attitude of those around you - attitude- it's half the battle I say! I gave this website to a coworker who was recently diagnosed.. I hope she gets some engcouragement and laughs throughout your posts! These tips are great for me to share too with some of my patients! Thanks for all your words of wisdom! PS... the blankets do SUCK :-P... home blankets are soo much warmer!

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