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Coping Tips For Daily Life During Chemotherapy


Following are some tips to help you during chemotherapy: 

Do not expect immediate results. 

  • Standard practice is to wait two full cycles before looking for any response to chemotherapy. This can take 2 to 3 months. 
  • Response is checked by repeating the same tests that originally diagnosed the cancer.

Before each chemotherapy treatment, do the following:

  • Eat. It is often difficult to eat after the treatment.  
  • Drink plenty of water.
  • Take something to snack on in case you have to wait for the treatment.

Patients have reported that sucking on ice chips or popsicles immediately before chemo or when the solution first enters your veins helps to eliminate mouth sores.

Spread the word among your friends that cooking may be difficult for you.

  • People want to help. Preparing meals for you is an easy way for them to feel useful - and to do something you need.
  • Home cooked meals provided by friends have been said to have the taste of love in them.
  • For a free online tool to help organize meals, offsite link

Check everything you consume other than food with your doctor.

  • Do not take vitamins, minerals, herbs, antioxidants or other dietary supplements without first asking your doctor, nurse or dietitian whether it is okay. Some of these substances can be harmful when mixed with chemotherapy. Some may reduce the effectiveness of the chemotherapy.
  • If medical personnel suggest or allow you to take vitamins, minerals, herbs, antioxidants or other dietary supplements, do not take more than is recommended without first checking with medical personnel.

Pamper yourself.

  • Take a hot bath, with or without bubbles. 
  • Get a massage. 
  • Go to a movie.
  • Take it easy.

Use stress reducing techniques.

  • For instance, keep a journal. It doesn't have to be a formal diary or contain a lot of detail. Writing your thoughts can help.
  • For other suggestions, see the documents in "To Learn More."

Do not be surprised if you have difficulty sleeping.

Sleep disturbances often accompany chemotherapy. For tips for getting the sleep you need, click here.

Consider getting a pet.

A pet does not have to be a dog or a cat to have beneficial emotional and physical effects. 

Get emotional support.  For instance, consider:

  • Joining a support group or self help group of people who have been in a similar situation.
  • Reach out to a person who is currently going through the same type of treatment. 
  • Seeking professional one-on-one help. 

Eat nutritiously. See: Chemotherapy and Nutrition

Try to stay positive, even if things get difficult. (The key word is "try" - it is close to impossible to stay positive all the time.)

  • The document in "To Learn More" describes techniques to help you keep a positive attitude.
  • One technique is to keep you treatment goals in mind.
  • Another technique is to learn as much as you want to know about the treatment. It can help you feel in control.
Keep track of your side effects and of questions for your medical team.
  • Survivorship A to Z provides a Symptoms Diary in which you can keep track of side effects so you can be accurate in your description to your medical team. If you include steps you take to lessen the effects, you can look back if the effects occur again at a later date and see what worked and what didn't.
  • Survivorship A to Z provides a prioritizer offsite linkto help keep track of questions. Before going to the doctor, a push of a button will change the order of the questions to your priority.
Take it easy. You may not have as much energy as usual, so try to get as much rest as you can. Let the "small stuff" slide, and only do the things that are most important to you. Try new hobbies and learn new skills.   

Exercise if you can and if your doctor approves.

  • Using your body can make you feel better about yourself, help you get rid of tension or anger, and build your appetite. 


  • For information about exercise, click here.


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