Preparing For Chemo

If it isn’t already obvious, I’m a bit of a control freak. I like to feel prepared and have as much organisation done before an event takes place as possible. That’s why preparing for chemotherapy was such a vital part of my cancer fight so far. Obviously this isn’t an exhaustive list, so feel free to message me with any contributions or suggestions!

Questions I Asked My Medical Team

  • What type of chemotherapy will I be having, and where can I read about it in a way that is accessible rather than unintelligible medical jargon?
  • What will my chemotherapy cycle look like?
  • How will having chemotherapy affect my fertility? Do I need to see a fertility specialist and, if so, will this delay my treatment?
  • Will any of my current medications cause problems for my chemotherapy, or vice versa?
  • Are there any vitamins or supplements I should be taking to help?
  • Can I use weed to mitigate some of the side effects?
  • Will I lose my hair? What other effects will chemotherapy have on my body?
  • Who should I call if I have a problem?  Daytime number?  Nighttime number?
  • What other resources are there to help me through this? Who can I talk to about finances, transport, childcare (well, if I had kids I would have asked the latter!)?

Practical Preparation Steps

  • Go to the dentist (if your oncologist says it’s okay!) because chemotherapy can be pretty tough on your teeth. Annoyingly I was too close to chemo to go for an appointment, BUT I was able to ask my dentist to prescribe me fluoride toothpaste to help protect my gnashers through treatment.
  • Book your ‘flu jab, and ask that the people you see most often do the same. Getting sick when it’s avoidable is annoying at the best of times, but once chemo starts it can be life threatening.
  • Get some wigs/headscarves/hats in preparation for losing your hair (if your type of chemotherapy causes this). I already had a minor wig collection going (I am very queer, and very into experimenting with gender expression), but as soon as I got my diagnosis I bought a couple of practical and exciting wigs from Lush Wigs.  I also bought some head scarves from this cute little Etsy shop and a couple of cosy beanie hats from Urban Outfitters. Check out this website’s ‘Fashion and Beauty‘ section for more on this sort of stuff.
  • Give microblading a shot (if your oncologist says it’s okay, and if you can afford it). For some reason losing my head hair doesn’t really phase me, but the thought of having no eyebrows because an upsetting fixation. Thankfully there are new techniques that can help with this (from stick-on eyebrows through to tattooing), including something called ‘microblading’. Microblading is a form of semi-permanent makeup, and I managed to get it done a a couple of weeks ahead of chemotherapy.
  • Do some meal prep and freeze some ready-to-go meals ahead of time, because once chemotherapy starts you might not have the energy to do as much fresh cooking as usual. I’ve heard that those undergoing chemotherapy can become sensitive to spicy or particularly rich dishes, so try and steer clear.
  • Stay hydrated and hygenic. Drink as much water as you can from today onwards (at least two litres a day!) and carry hand sanitiser with you everywhere you go. You’ll want to avoid catching something before starting treatment as your immune system will be weakened a lot by chemo.
  • Get your house ready by giving it a deep clean if you’re able, or asking someone to lend a hand. This is not only useful because once you’ve started chemotherapy your immune system will take a knock, but also good for your mental health. Being exhausted and surrounded by mess isn’t good for anyone.
  • Be upfront with work and your boss about treatment. Ask for details on flexible working policy, sick leave and sick pay. See if there’s anything Human Resources can offer to support you in this time. Do a little bit of research and familiarise yourself with your rights at work as someone with cancer.
  • Don’t ignore your finances, even though they might be the last thing you want to think about right now. Start by checking out Macmillan’s amazing Finance Support Tool.
  • Invest in some comfy and loose clothing before your chemo gets underway. You’ll be sitting around for hours at a time, so make sure you’ll be warm. Ensure that there is easy access to your central line, if you have one. For example, a PICC Line in your arm will require the nurse to have access to your upper arm, so tight long sleeves might be more of a hassle than they’re worth.
  • Put together a ‘Chemo Box‘ in preparation. This can include anything and everything, from lip balm for those dehydrated smackers, a warm blanket to snuggle up in while receiving treatment through to the latest copy of your favourite magazine and snacks to help combat ‘metal mouth’. Here’s a look at what’s in my own chemo box.

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