Relieving the side effects of Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy is well known for having unpleasant side effects, despite more recent drugs not being as bad as in the past.

Probiotics
A constant player in the field of immune therapy is the range of probiotics. They are so clearly beneficial that doctors and naturopaths alike speak of their benefits. Even with the passage of time, probiotics have remained a popular option to ward off side effects (no more thrush from antibiotics), and to boost an immune system under strain.
They are now available in non-refridgerated options, and in fact these boast an even broader range with higher numbers of beneficial bacteria to counter-balance the death of healthy gut flora against chemotherapy.
From a personal point of view, having religiously taken probiotics for the whole of Winter as a sort of trial, I did not get a sniffle. This despite my husband getting the dreaded lurgy and coughing through-out the house, plus looking after numerous patients at work with Influenza A and B. Now I am touching wood!!

Mouth Care
Thrush and ulcers can tend to be a painful and difficult aspect of chemotherapy, especially over several cycles. The cells of the oral mucosa are particularly vulnerable to the chemotherapy as they are also fast growing like the cancer cells themselves. To reduce the impact, maintaining fastidious oral hygeine helps. Simple salt and water mouth rinses are better than commercial nicer smelling preparations, which can in fact be too strong and further upset the natural pH of the mouth. Soft tooth-brushes, gentle brushing and flossing along with drinking plenty of water all help. When your mouth gets dry from dehydration, even someone who isn’t on chemotherapy can feel uncomfortable.
Avoid any foods that cause irritation, including anything spicy, too hot, acidic, alcoholic or fizzy.

Fatigue
Because life still goes on, planning for cat naps and time out as a regular part of your day is really imperative. Even if you have to keep working, negotiate for shorter days, working at home if possible and modified duties. Many employers are open to a conversation that will help you get through this.
Deal with insomnia by taking a proactive approach to each night, taking natural sleeping preparations as discussed with your doctor, avoiding screens, food and hyperstimulation for a couple of hours before bed time. It is worth the effort. Remind the family that modified duties applies to you at home as well, and that many hands make light work.
When the fatigue is overwhelming and your efforts are not helping, you may be anaemic. The red blood cells are also particularly vulnerable to chemotherapy, so go to your doctor for a blood test. Sometimes a blood transfusion may be necessary, and it’s not your fault, just part of the journey.

Infections
If you are on chemotherapy or have completed it within a week or so, and you develop a shivery feeling like the flu coming on, check your temperature. Increase your fluid intake, have Paracetamol and ring your specialist. You may need to go to an Emergency Department or your local Dr for a blood test and to commence antibiotics.
Febrile neutrapaenia is a term describing low white cell count (the infection fighting cells) and a fever indicating infection. It is important to get treatment early. To help prevent this situation occurring, avoid time with sick children, family or friends during treatment. Put the word out that you are particularly vulnerable to infections at this time and stay away please.

Positive Approach

Chemotherapy has helped transform the impact of cancer in a positive way, saving thousands of lives, and prolonging comfort and life in those who are terminally ill. Having a positive and proactive approach will help you get through the treatment, and many people say they are surprised that it actually wasn’t as bad as they first imagined.

For help at home during chemotherapy, call Yellow Door Care.

Erica Fotineas
September 2017

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