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10 Things To Do Before Chemo

Updated: Dec 15, 2022


Doctor's hands on table facing cancer patient

Being told you have to have chemotherapy to treat any kind of cancer is a huge shock to the system and no one really knows how they are going to react or face this challenge.

If you or someone you love is about to head into treatment these are some tips that can help you prepare.


#1 GET HEALTHY

There are no two ways about it - chemo is hard on your body.

Give yourself the best chance by getting as healthy as possible in time you have between finding out and starting chemo. Some things to focus on before you start:

  • Water is going to be your best friend during chemo, being hydrated helps access veins for treatment and also helps to flush the drugs out of your system. Get into the habit of hydrating as soon as you can.

  • Fueling your body with nourishing food is going to help prepare it for the ravages of the chemo drugs, so make this as easy as possible by planning ahead.

  • Although it might be hard due to the stress and anxiety of your diagnosis, try to get as much sleep as possible.

  • Physical exercise has huge positive physical and mental benefits during chemo, so try to get into the habit of a daily walk or another type of gentle exercise.

  • Lastly if you smoke, now is the time to quit if you can.

#2 DISCUSS FERTILITY

Depending on the type of treatment or chemotherapy you undergo, your fertility may be impacted.

I had to have a hysterectomy to remove my ovaries as they both had tumours. I have never wanted children but treating my ovarian cancer took that choice away by making me infertile. It was too late for me to look at egg retrieval, but I did have the choice to keep my uterus incase I wanted to do surrogacy in the future. I didn't want to take any risks so decided to remove everything in one go.

I'm happy with this decision as I had no plans for children, but if you think you may want to have children in the future make sure you talk to your medical team about it early to give you as much time as possible to make decisions.


It is advisable not to get pregnant whilst you or your partner are having treatment as chemo drugs can damage sperm or eggs and cause birth defects.

Even if you are taking birth control is it good practise to use condoms as the drugs can stay in semen and vaginal fluids, these can be damaging to your partner so you should take precautions.

#3 ORGANISE HELP

Chemo is a hard slog and you are going to need help, even if you usually hate asking for it. Friends and family are going to be feeling helpless with your diagnosis, so by accepting help you are also allowing them to feel useful. It really is a win-win.

  • If you have children ask a trusted friend or family member to help you look after them whilst you have treatment.

  • I was able to drive myself to and from chemo but not everyone feels well or confident enough for this. Arrange for someone to drive you to treatment, even if it is just the first few.

  • You may not feel like cooking during your treatment. Consider making some meals ahead of time and freezing them, or ask family and friends if they are able to arrange a meal roster.

#4 PACK A CHEMO BAG

Chemo day can be filled with anxiety, I used to have my bag ready to go so it was one less thing to think about. Your bag could contain layers of clothing to help regulate your temperature during infusions, snacks, water, lip balm and something to pass the time. You can read more on my chemo bag in this in the article 'How to Chemo'.


#5 GET MENTAL HEALTH SUPPORT

As well as being physically challenging, cancer and chemo can be mentally challenging.

It is totally normal to feel anxious about having a cancer diagnosis and heading into treatment.

I was lucky enough to already be seeing a clinical psychologist who was experienced in cancer support at the time of my diagnoses. This was a HUGE help during my treatment as she was able to support me and ease some of my concerns around chemo. It also gave me a valuable outlet when I didn't feel comfortable talking to my friends or family.

The Cancer Council offer support on 13 11 20.


#6. PLAN FOR WASTE

Following treatment your body will process and remove the chemotherapy drugs from your body. The drugs will leave your body through urine, vomit, and other body fluids so it is important to keep these chemicals away from yourself and others who use the same facilities as you.

Speak to your medical team ahead of your first treatment to find out if you need to be concerned and how you should clean laundry or other items that might get dirty. You should also check if you need to take precautions around using the toilet and cleaning up any vomit.


As mentioned above in the fertility tip, chemo drugs can be passed on through sperm or vaginal fluids so check in with your team on managing intercourse during your treatment.


#7 CHECK IN WITH YOUR DENTIST

Chemo can cause damage to your gums so it is a really good idea to visit your dentist before chemotherapy begins. I booked an appointment a month before my chemo to ensure my mouth was in the best possible shape for treatment. The dentist gave me advice on protecting my teeth and gums during treatment such as only using alcohol free mouthwash and changing to a soft toothbrush.

You are more susceptible to mouth ulcers and infections during treatment and dental problems could cause a delay to your treatment schedule.


#8 TALK TO YOUR EMPLOYER

If you are employed and plan to continue working during treatment you should make your employer aware of what is happening. You will need to advise them of how much time you are likely to need off and how your treatment schedule will look. It is impossible to know how chemotherapy will affect you throughout your treatment, so it is worth discussing if it would be possible to arrange flexible hours, working from home or taking some leave.


#9 PREPARE FOR SIDE EFFECTS

Unfortunately the drugs that are used to destroy the cancer cells can also damage other cells in your body and cause uncomfortable side effects.

Before you start treatment talk to your doctor about all possible side effects and see what medication you are able to take to prevent them. Have this approved medication to hand.

I had the following side effects

  • Nose bleeds,

  • UTI,

  • 'Chemo brain',

  • Insomnia,

  • Weight gain,

  • Bowel irregularities,

  • Fatigue,

  • Irritability,

  • Hair loss,

  • Low white blood cells,

  • Low red blood cells,

  • Nausea.

If the drug you are going to be treated with is likely to cause hair loss you can look into cold capping, consider having it cut / shaved or choose a wig before you start treatment.


#10. CONSIDER YOUR BEAUTY ROUTINE

Your skin is unfortunately going to take a hammering during your treatment so it is worth planning ahead to get the right products in place before you start.


Although this may seem like a insignificant thing when you are facing such as devastating diagnosis, I wish I had had eyebrow tattoos before I started chemo.

I lost all my facial hair during treatment and really struggled with the way I looked during this time. Seeing myself without eyebrows was a reminder I was unwell every time I looked in the mirror. Other women having treatment on my chemo ward had eyebrow tattoos before treatment and this is something that helped them retain a small piece of normality. If I had done this before treatment it would have made me less self conscious in public and allowed me a little more privacy around my illness.

My skin became dry and dull as my treatment progressed so I went through a lot of different products to try to rehydrate it. Some of the products I had success with are listed below and I would recommend investing in some good quality products for sensitive skin. You can read more in the article Taking Care of Your Skin During Chemo.


A entry level facial oil with the goodness of rosehip to help your skin get it's glow back.


This is one of my all time favourite products for getting as much moisture into my chemo ravaged skin as possible.

A light and fresh moisturising balm which is suitable for sensitive skin with no added parabens or fragrance.


If you find yourself needing to talk to someone after reading this article you can call Lifeline on 13 11 14 or The Cancer Council on 13 11 20

 

Top Skin Choices


These are the products I absolutely loved during my cancer treatment.



Clinique Even Better Clinical Radical Dark Spot Corrector.

I messed up my skin (which you aren't going to do as you will ALWAYS wear sunscreen) and this cleared up the sunspots within a couple of weeks. I highly recommend for reducing blemishes & correcting skin tone and will continue to use it now I'm post chemo.


Click to purchase



Eau Thermale Avène Cicalfate+ Restorative Protective Cream

Avène Cicalfate+ Restorative Protective Cream helps repair damaged, dry, cracked, and non-oozing skin in 48 hours. Skin is immediately soothed after the first application, and the cutaneous barrier is restored


Click to purchase



Cancer Council Daywear SPF 50+ Light Tint BB Cream

As above you are going to wear sunscreen every single day from now on and this is a great option. I apply this after my moisturiser and know I'm heading out with 50+ protection on my delicate facial skin. If I'd been doing this from the start I wouldn't have needed the Clinique!


Click to purchase

Support Resources

Cancer Council Australia

CCA an organisation to support all Australians affected by cancer through support, research and prevention programs.


Ovarian Cancer Australia

OCA is an independent national not-for-profit organisation, supporting women diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Our focus is to provide care and support for those affected by ovarian cancer; and represent them by leading change. Our vision is to save lives and ensure no woman with ovarian cancer walks alone.


Breast Cancer Network Australia

BCNA Breast Cancer Network Australia (BCNA) is Australia’s leading breast cancer consumer organisation. We have worked tirelessly to ensure that all Australians who are affected by breast cancer receive the very best care, treatment and support.


Bowel Cancer Australia

BCA Peer-to-Peer Support Network connects patient’s and loved ones on a one-to-one buddy basis that enables members to give and receive advice about their bowel cancer experience in an informal and mutually beneficial way.


Leukaemia Foundation

LF is a support service for patients and supporters dealing with blood cancers.


*FU Cancer is supported by its audience. If you choose to purchase through the links on our site we may receive an affiliate commission. This goes towards paying our expenses plus a percentage of our monthly profit goes towards directly helping people with cancer. If you know someone who could do with a boost during their cancer treatment please let us know here.



*FU Cancer is supported by its audience. If you choose to purchase through the links on our site we may receive an affiliate commission. This goes towards paying our expenses plus a percentage of our monthly profit goes towards directly helping people with cancer. If you know someone who could do with a boost during their cancer treatment please let us know here.





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