Following our recent Chemo For Beginners – The Survey we are asked our lovely customers, friends and social media followers what would be the one piece of advice you would share with someone starting chemo. The response was amazing with so many words of encouragement and support as well as practical advice. Here are just a few we wish to share with you.
One important piece of advice that came up again and again was about being kind to yourself and listening to your body. Something we at Not Another Bunch Of Flowers can relate to, although we know this isn’t always easy.
“Make sure you listen to your body. Rest when your body tells you.”
“Take each day in turn. Keep going. Accept help and love.”
“You are fighting cancer, not fighting treatment. If you need to, rest.”
“Just do what you are able to each day. If you’re tired then rest. Needing to stop for a bit is not failure it’s a necessity.”
“It is different for everyone. Side effects vary so much from person to person that you just have to take each day as it comes and decide how you feel not how you’re supposed to feel. Just be kind to yourself.”
We also received lots of comments from people advising you to accept help from friends and family. This can be one of the hardest things to do, but people genuinely want to help – and just remember, if the tables were turned you would want to help your loved one.
“Be kind to yourself. Take help from friends and family they need to feel useful too. On your good days or semi good days get out of the house for a walk or an activity you enjoy. It will help you deal with the bad days.”
“Accept help when it is offered. Even if you don’t use it, save it for later. You never know when you might need it.”
“Let others know what help you need and when you need it – be as specific as you can be, allocate tasks to those offering help.”
"Try to delegate out to friends and family ... household chores, cooking, childcare. Take help when offered."
"Ask for help let people do stuff for you. You don't have to be wonder woman, it's OK to struggle."
Whilst friends and family are so important during this challenging time, many also sought help and advice from a wider support network. It was felt that speaking to others who had similar experiences was really helpful, allowing them to feel less alone and isolated.
“Find a peer support group – its invaluable for support and advice from people who understand.”
“Chemo can be daunting but when you go it’s like being part of a big family. Everyone is in the same boat and it’s nice to speak to others who understand what you are going through.”
“Make sure you talk about how you feel as it’s a roller-coaster journey. Whether it’s a counsellor, family member, friend or online support group. Remember you are not alone and no less valued or loved just because you are going through this terrible time.”
Join an online forum or support group with people going through same stage – nobody ‘gets it’ unless they’ve experienced it and the information shared re side effects and treatments etc is invaluable.”
Possible side effects play on most people minds before or during treatment. Hairloss and nausea being the most feared. Although everyone reacts differently to treatment, we have selected some tips and words of advice on what helped others get through their side effects.
“Try the coldcap to keep your hair! I used it and maybe only lost a quarter of my hair. It was bad enough having to lose my breast so at least the coldcap gave me the choice to keep my hair!”.
“Decide whether you want a wig and get proper advice in this area if hairloss is going to be an issue for you.”
"It's not vain or silly to be concerned about losing your hair. Your femininity is so important and all of a sudden it's such a visible indication to everyone that you are seriously ill."
“You can do this. Being bald isn’t all bad!”
“Don’t be afraid to ask for different medication to help with the side effects. My first round I was very sick. I thought it was just something had to put up with but when I got different anti sickness medication I felt so much better”.
“Think about a pic line, it made having chemo and giving blood a whole lot easier for me. Research and see if it’s for you.”
“Water, water and more water!.”
“Use Iglu for mouth ulcers.”
"I always took strongly flavoured sweets to suck on during treatment as it helps get rid of the smell of hospital/the chemo and helps with the weird tastes you get during treatment."
Lots of people commented that they experienced both good and bad days both physically and mentally. Therefore it was important to keep a diary/notepad to jot down questions, worries and fears. Not only does it mean you can use this to jog your memory during hospital appointments but more importantly it helps in ensuring you ask questions that are weighing on your mind.
“Keep a diary of any side effects to discuss with your oncologist, there are things they can do to help.”
“Write questions down before going to the hospital because I felt I forgot to ask half of what I wanted to.”
“Don’t be scared to ask question to help alleviate your worries.”
For some their attitude and approach to the situation is really important. Many wished to share words of positivity and hope to those who are starting or undergoing chemotherapy treatment.
“Don’t focus on the length of time until all treatments are finished – break it down and celebrate the little milestones.”
“Try to find something beautiful in each and every day.”
“I loved getting regular messages of love and support, knowing that people I care about were thinking of me was better than anything else.”
“There will be good days and bad. It is not all horrid. There can be some fun times. You will learn what is important and what is not. Make the most of the good days and learn to ride out the bad days in the best way you know how.”
"Be patient with and kind to yourself."
“When you feel well physically you must do ‘well’ things that you previously or now want to enjoy; going out, meeting friends, gossip, having a glass of something, getting a blow dry. You are still you and these things are not trivial, enjoy them if you desire. Don’t be hard on yourself."
"Deal with things as they happen rather than worrying about things that might not happen."
“You can’t control the waves, but you can learn to surf them. The storm will pass.”