My 9 Practical Tips for Those Starting Chemo

1. If it’s long enough, donate your hair. I read all the suggestions about cutting your hair shorter before chemo starts so it won’t be as traumatic when you lose it and I say “Baloney!” It’s going to be traumatic to lose your hair, just realize that right off the bat. But, you can either wallow in that, or make some good come out of it. The organization Locks of Love makes high-tech wigs for kids who suffer from long-term or permanent hair loss. You think it’s traumatic for you to lose your hair temporarily? Try being a permanently bald 13-year old. Wait until about a week or so after your first treatment, put your hair in ponytails, cut those puppies off and donate them. Then shave your head (Trust me, after seeing yourself with the “Look, Mommy I cut Barbie’s hair” ‘do, bald will look great) and wear the head covering of your choosing—or not.

2. Dress as you normally would, or maybe a little nicer when you go for treatment. Why? Because this fight is as much mental and emotional and it is physical. Cancer does tend to hijack your life, but you don’t have to let it steal who you are. If you dress like you’re sick, then you’re more likely to feel like you’re sick. Besides, when you dress nice, you’ll get compliments—and THAT will make you feel better.
3. If you wear make-up (or maybe even if you don’t) get yourself some Bare Escentuals Bare Minerals make-up. My mom got some of this stuff for me and it’s great for getting that natural look. The powdered foundation easily blends into your bare scalp without making you look like you’re wearing a mask. Who wants to look like Dustin Hoffman in Tootsie? Good stuff.

4. Drink as much water as you can stand—especially the day before, and the day of treatment. Not only will it help flush the poison out of your system, but it’ll make nice, juicy veins for easier sticking.

5. If you’re at chemo during lunchtime, don’t get anything to eat that you really like. Seriously. The first couple of times, I didn’t realize this would be a problem and I got stuff I really enjoyed. By the middle of my treatment, I couldn’t even stand the thought of those things. It wasn’t because I puked them—I never did get sick like that—it was simply the association between that food and the chemo drugs making me feel yucky a few days later. Really. I still don’t want that formerly yummy pizza from Bravo because the mere thought turns my stomach.

6. Get a lint roller—for your head. When your shaved off nubs start falling out, they will most likely hurt. A lint roller helps remove them so you don’t have to feel their pain anymore. I was all OCD with my lint roller for a while because I was tired of painful nubs and also tired of my patchy-looking head. I actually blew through the entire roll of sticky paper just rolling my head.

7. Keep plenty of lotion on hand and apply frequently. Your skin tends to get dry during chemo. This goes for the scalp, too. In fact, I use Skin-So-Soft bath oil on my scalp every day in the shower. Now you all know how I keep it so shiny.

8. Eat small amounts frequently. I didn’t lose weight on chemo because I kept eating even when I didn’t feel like it. When you feel queasy, you probably need to eat something. If you don’t eat, you’ll feel more nauseous and more fatigued, which will only serve to wear you down mentally. Keep things like yogurt, granola bars, and bananas on hand and eat a little every hour or two.

9. When you feel good, get out and make the most of it.