Here are some helpful chemo support hints followed by my usual chemo diary:
1. BEING A CHEMO SUPPORT PERSON
My friend Gillian has written a helpful summary of How to be a Chemo Support Person. I hope that it will be of help to others. Thanks Gill!
I have had the privilege of being Andrea’s support person when she was having Chemotherapy and Herceptin treatment so just wanted to share some ideas that may help someone else that has been asked to take on this role. Just be aware this is only from my experience and it could be totally different for someone else and the person you are providing support for may require totally different support. This experience gave me a small insight in to what my friend was experiencing and gave me a practical way to be able to help, so if you are offered this opportunity I would encourage you to take it.
- Offer to pick them up and take them home and to stay as long as they need you. If you are unable to stay make sure they have someone with them for that night.
- Arrive on time, the person may already be feeling anxious so you don’t want to be the source of additional stress.
- Have the whole day free so you aren’t having to check the time, often it will take longer than expected.
- Pop into a cafe for a hot drink or even get a takeaway to sip on while you are waiting, if you get there early.
- Try to be as relaxed as possible and just be yourself, most probably the reason they have asked you is because they feel comfortable around you, well either that or you’re a great joke teller like myself :).
- Have some good jokes for use as distraction (such as when the needle is being inserted but perhaps not a naff knock knock joke from your childhood J
- Take something with you that you can do if the person wants to rest or doesn’t feel like talking, crossword, book, magazine, joke book (this is your opportunity to learn some better jokes :)) etc.
- Offer to go and get snacks and drinks; also you should try and drink and snack yourself as it can be a long day. Lots of little treats may help to make the person you are supporting feel better but they may also not feel like eating.
- Go off for a walk if you need to as it’s good to get some fresh air and the person may want some time alone (yes by now she is sick of my jokes).
- If the person needs to go the bathroom or for a walk, offer to go with them as they will need to trail the treatment stand behind them and may feel weak. Then just wait outside in case they should need you. However remember always to allow them to keep their dignity so whatever feels right for them is OK with you.
- If the person starts to feel nauseous, ask the nurse for assistance as they may be able to have an anti-nausea medication.
- Try to talk about interesting things apart from the treatment although not to the point where you are pretending it is not happening. You may be able to do some pre-planning on topics of interest and then can chat about that or even have some activities to do. We did some colouring in of pre-drawn images, which was actually quite fun and really relaxing.
- Ask if they want you to go to see Oncologist etc. as it is good to have two ears there and you may also be able to take notes.
- When you get home it’s good to debrief with another person as there is quite a lot to take in.
- And last but not least ASK if you aren’t sure.
2. Chemo Diary: Herceptin and Hormones
Hormones are everywhere. I suspect that I’m having a not-great reaction to Exemestane, the hormone therapy I am taking. Sometimes, I am physically shaking, nervy and anxious (a feeling of low blood sugar when I don’t have low blood sugar) plus little things seem very big. It is not pleasant. My Oncologist told me to try taking the medication in the evening instead of the morning; then stop it if I didn’t feel better. Well, I’m not feeling better yet. But perhaps Christmas isn’t helping with a turbo pace around me.
My last Herceptin treatment went really well on Thursday:
Nicky picked me up at 11am and I had just taken 1 x anti-anxiety pill plus 1 x anti-nausea pill. We went to the Recovery Room opposite the hospital and had zucchini and carrot fritters (very nice). Then in to the hospital at 1pm.
It was good as there weren’t many people in the ward. The nurse got the needle/cannula in easily and it didn’t hurt. She took a blood test and then started with a bit of saline, then the Herceptin.
The nurse was lovely and we had a good chat about Wales. That was fun as I had just been in Cardiff in April so we were talking about the great shopping there and that I saw the XFactor concert while I was there.
Nicky had bought a Frankie magazine and had found articles and inspiring stories so was reading those.
I had asked for the Oncologist to come and see me. Kate came over and just chatted to me in the ward. I have been having this new kind of low blood sugar thing (sometimes after exercise) and numb hands. She said to take my hormone pill in the evening instead of the morning and then stop it if this continues.
Then…as the Herceptin finished, they gave me a little packet/ homemade Xmas cake which was nice. I also talked to a nurse about the possibility of having a private room (as going into the hospital makes me feel a bit sick e.g. hospital smells, looking at other people having treatment etc.). She said that they do have two rooms like that and she will write that on my file so I can one room unless it’s busy. I’m really happy about that as I didn’t want to be a pushy patient.
It all went well and I felt fine…a little dreamy from the drugs but fine. I got home just before 5pm.
On Friday, I felt tired and had a dull headache but was okay. I still feel that I am only able to do one thing a day e.g. one outing or activity. If I do more than one thing, I need to recover not just rest.
My work has told me that there is no assured part time role for me. That has made me a little anxious but I guess I can’t tell them an exact day that I will be feeling better. It is still hard to know when I will feel 100% again but my GP has advised me to start part time work gradually and not to work full time for at least a year. For example, start with four hours per week and then increase to eight hours when I am used to that.
I have an appointment with the Breast Surgeon tomorrow so another hospital day (not the whole day but it takes over two hours driving to get to the hospital and back).
I am struggling a bit with my own expectations that I should start work soon fighting against the reality that I am not feeling healthy enough to do that.
What has been going well:
– Exercise routine – apart from Xmas activities taking centre stage, I have been maintaining a good exercise schedule with mostly, biking.
– Herceptin treatment – this one went a lot better plus I have been told that I may have a private room next time.
– Lots of rest and cancelling appointments if I feel tired.
– Talking to supportive family and friends. Having good support at medical appointments.
– Talking to my GP, Oncology Nurse and Oncologist regularly. I am lucky that I can email my Oncologist.