Daily Inspiration

Chemo Hacks – My Top 7 Helps For Managing Side Effects


GoddessHeartThe need to undergo chemotherapy is a harsh reality for many breast cancer patients, and every woman’s chemo “cocktail” will vary depending on what she’s been diagnosed with.  My doctor prescribed TCH – Taxotere, Carboplatin and Herceptin. (Herceptin is not a chemo drug itself, but a targeted therapy that produces antibodies for those who are HER2+).  Each of these medications comes with their own list of potential side effects – some of which a doctor will prescribe medication to help combat.

When you think of what is being put into the body with chemotherapy, it’s no surprise that  it basically becomes a toxic waste site.  I am doing my best to eliminate those toxins as quickly as possible to try to maintain some semblance of “health” during and after my treatment plan.  While I’ve avoided any vomiting, there are other side effects I experience with every cycle – typically starting on Day 3 (of a 21 day cycle) after a round and continuing through the first 10-14  days.

I’ve come up this Chemo Hack List of the Top 7 things I’m doing to help eliminate or minimize these uncomfortable side effects. Since I still have 2 rounds to go at the time of this posting, I’ll update this as I find more things that are helpful and well as address whether or not I escaped the more common long-term effects (like neuropathy, etc.) all together with some of the things that I’m doing.

HACK #1 – DRINK WATER: It is recommended that we drink at least 3 quarts of water a day, every day.  That is a chemo hack waterLOT of water but it is vital to help flush the toxins and medication through our systems.  When you’re not feeling great, or when water tastes like metal, it can be hard to remember to drink as much as we need to.  To help with that, I use this 4 cup measuring cup and three stretchy hair bands.  Each band represents a quart, and how many times that cup needs to be filled in order for me to have my daily requirement (4 Cups = 1 quart).  Every time I fill it, I remove one of the bands.  This way I always know how much more I have yet to drink that day.  That being said, on those days when I just can’t force down enough water without gagging, I also include other fluids I drink – hot tea, etc.

HACK #2 – TURKEY BASTER BIDET:  I know, it sure ain’t Thanksgiving! But the body chemo hack turkey basterhas to eliminate all that water and more.  What isn’t spoken much about in the way of side effects is that what comes out can burn!  So I keep a turkey baster next to the toilet in the bathroom (which, fortunately, sits right next to the sink).  Every time I eliminate, I gave myself a little Turkey Baster Bidet to rinse myself.  This helps tremendously, and I never skip this step after experiencing a very uncomfortable raw episode after my first round (which I treated with Desitin).  After each rinse and a dry, I apply Vaseline around the  general area so as to protect the sensitive skin.  With everything else going on, having burning Girly Bits isn’t going to help.  Lube and rinse.  That’s all I’m saying.  (This typically isn’t needed after Day 10-14)

HACK #3 – BAKING SODA:  It’s not just the Down Low that gets a toxic washing.  Our Rob's Red Mill Baking Sodamouths are equally as sensitive and a prime area for chemo effects because the cells there produce rapidity (the type of cells the chemo is targeting).  I haven’t gotten mouth sores, but I do have to deal with this weird all over burning sensation, a tongue that feels like I downed a scorching cup of coffee in one gulp, and burning, chapped lips.  The ACS recommends avoiding certain foods to help combat this….foods which, ironically, are the only ones I really feel like eating because I can actually taste them.  (I definitely pay for this later.)  This includes acidic, salty and spicy foods.  If you can avoid those, more power to you – you’ll be ahead of the game!  And there are prescription medications to help with sores if you get them (The OTC mouthwash Biotene is also helpful).  My chemo hack for this is to rinse my mouth several times a day with baking soda and water.  I use about 1/2 teaspoon to a cup water.  The baking soda helps alkalize the mouth and brings some fast, albeit temporary relief.  I like to use an organic  aluminum free product like Bob’s Red Mill.

HACK #4 – FRANKINCENSE:  I am a big believer in the healing qualities of good, therapeutic chemo hack frankincensegrade Essential Oils. While it was my personal choice not to ingest any EOs during treatment, you can bet I will be during the “Reconstruction” phase when I am done.  I do, however, use EO topically for different things.  One thing I do is apply Frankincense to the soles of my feet and my ankles starting on the day before a round.  I then apply it the morning of treatment, and then every day for a week following.  I’ll apply it once in the morning and once later in the day, and then wear socks.  If you decide to do this, make sure to get a good therapeutic grade oil.  I started with Young Living (being as I’m a YL distributor myself), however, theirs is VERY expensive and a bottle only lasts about 1.5 – 2 treatment cycles.  My Go-To place now is Eden’s Garden for quality, price, and speed of shipping.  I purchased it here.

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HACK #5 – CHEMO FASTING:  The history and health benefits of fasting is long and impressive.  When I heard that some people were implementing fasting around their treatments, I was immediately interested because I know that with less food in the system, everything will pass through much quicker.  It is a personal preference for how long to fast, but based on what I’ve read, I decided to fast the day of my treatment, plus or minus.  I have my rounds on Fridays, so starting that week, I try to keep from eating a lot of food that takes longer to digest, like red meat.  On Thursday, I like to go meatless all together.  On treatment day, I stick to water only, and then go back to regular eating on Saturday.  Another thing I do is take a stool softener with each round as the steroids I am required to take on Thursday and Saturday cause major constipation.  So I start taking them on Wednesday, then daily through the following Sunday or Monday.  This has proven an effective way to keep everything moving through my body as quickly as possible, with no long term back up.

HACK #6 – GINGER ALE AND PRETZELS:  A classic “Old Wives” remedy for nausea related Ginger Ale Chemo Hackto pregnancy, ginger ale works well for chemo related nausea, too, I have found.  Trying to minimize the number of drugs I’m putting into my body, I haven’t wanted to use either of the two prescription medications given to me by my oncologist.  By drinking ginger ale and eating pretzels, I have managed to move past any nausea I experience on-and-off during the week after my treatment (typically starting Day 3).  The fizzy, gingery, salty combination is a classic hack used among a lot of breast cancer patients, and one that I am happy to add to this list because it really worked for me.

HACK #7 – Chemotherapy Meditation CD I wish I had known about this CD before I started chemo, because I would have started using it right away.  The whole freak out factor I dealt with going into this thing was off the Chemo Meditation Hackcharts.  It was actually the thought of undergoing chemo – more than the cancer itself – that scared me the most.  Be that as it may, I pulled up my Big Girl Pants and did what I had to do.  But THIS is making things notably different, I can tell you for a fact, since I have the “Before” and “After” to compare.  Spoken in a very soothing voice by Belleruth Naparstek, “A Meditation To Help You With Chemotherapy” is an amazing resource to help put chemo in a positive light, reduce adverse side effects, help the body’s immune system, and encourage hope, safety and calm.  There is 20 minutes of a guided meditation and another 20 minutes of affirmations.  I use this primarily at night before I go to bed, and it helps me sleep.  (Fortunately, because it works on the subconscious level, one does not have to be awake to reap the benefits.  Win/Win!!)  I highly recommend this hack for anyone who holds a lot of stress around the subject of getting chemotherapy.  I hope it brings you as much peace as it has me.

*This post will be made a permanent page for future reference and additions*

9 thoughts on “Chemo Hacks – My Top 7 Helps For Managing Side Effects”

  1. Love this!! I especially find the water and hair band trick helpful, since I’m trying to get up on my water. When I started with methotrexate, I started having side effects almost immediately. My “metho” day is Sunday, and I’ll be putting some of these to use to see how they work. One question: What is the Frankinsence oil for? Now that I know your chemo days are on Friday, I’ll do my damnedest to send you a note to let you know I’m thinking of you.

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    1. So happy you found something you can use yourself! I’m using the Frankincense after reading testimonials from people who did this and didn’t suffer any adverse side effects! There are many health benefits to the oil. Go here to look http://articles.mercola.com/herbal-oils/frankincense-oil.aspx. Notice that RA is on the list :) Yes, not every Friday – it’s every 3rd Friday. So I had my last round week before yesterday. (what?? LOL) hugs to you and hope you are feeling better today!! Let me know if you decide to use the oil, too!!

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    1. Oh, I hope you NEVER have to either, Jen! Yes, I know that it’s not likely the majority of current readers here can use this for themselves…but you never know who might stumble in here and find this useful for themselves or someone they love! Thank you so much. Feeling pretty decent today. I have rounds every 3 Fridays, so it was a week ago that I had the last one. This is when I start to feel better…about a week afterward :) Hope you are feeling great and staying cool in this awful heat!

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  2. Both of my parents have been through this. My father’s was pretty miserable – Though a happy chemo treatment is an oxymoron – and my mother seems almost unaffected except for feeling tired. Thanks for being transparent about your treatment.

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    1. Thank you for visiting and taking the time to comment even though this isn’t effecting you personally. Sounds like Mom is currently in treatment? Hope it remains smooth sailing for her. It’s funny…the 5 days or so before my next round, I feel almost “Normal”…whatever that is, and in spite of the bald thing. My hope is that when I’m done, it won’t take too long to get back to feeling myself 100% of the time. I’ve got some work to do to rebuild, but oh man – SO much better than the tear down part. :)

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  3. Dear Grace, I so love all of your ‘Hacks’ and wish I had had you around when my sister was going through her chemo.. She had terrible mouth ulcers and severe side effects.. Luckily there has been huge strides forward in the chemical cocktail since the early 90’s when she was 36 going through all of the above…
    I know all of these measures and state of mind will see you back in perfect health in no time at all..
    You are once amazing lady dear Grace xxx <3

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    1. Sue, I am so happy that your sister made it through her fiery trial, and came out of it to go on to live a healthy life. Yes, there have been strides made, thank God. And each type of BC is treated differently, with different chemicals. A friend of mine had something called “Red Devil” back about 7 years ago. It was hideous for her. Makes me feel bad for even mentioning times when I’m not feeling well, as I know I am one of the “lucky” ones. Thank you for your kind words. I am anxiously waiting for the day when these treatments are over and I am in the Restoration and Rebuilding stage. Hugs and love to you, Sue

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      1. Yes great strides now have been made, and I know all will go well with you Grace.. You have so much on your side with your positive attitude and the things you are putting into place to help self healing.. Big warm hugs your way xxx <3
        My sister is fine and now 53, and enjoying all her grandchildren.. For she was a young Mum of 4 when she was struck with BC.

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