Advice From a Friend Going Through Chemo
By: Christine Hammond, LMHC
I must admit that when my friend shared she had cancer, it evoked vast amounts of fear mostly because my understanding was lacking in this area. But now with the advancement of many medications, surgical procedures, types of chemotherapy or radiation, various treatment options, and many cases of cancer survivors, many forms of cancer are no longer as intimidating.
Yet walking through this with my friend for the first time was daunting. While each experience with cancer is unique, having a base of what is nice, hard and informative to a patient is very useful. Here are a couple of tips from my friend, the conqueror.
Some nice things that happened during treatment:
- Friends and family traveled from out of town to spend time and just sit.
- The meals offered to the entire family were a huge blessing and an enormous help.
- She was fortunate enough to have a supportive spouse take on additional responsibilities and give large amounts of grace.
- The hospital staff at the cancer center was kind, respectful, informative, and constantly attentive.
- More dreams surfaced like wanting to travel on a historical vacation and plans were made to carry it out.
- Since energy is limited, essential things like visiting with family, reconnecting with friends, and even reconciling damaged relationships became more imperative.
- She spent more quality time with her children doing the things that drive their passion.
- Her priorities quickly shifted from worrying about the condition of the house to focusing on getting better.
- Many things that caused anxiety in the past become insignificant and almost silly now.
- She enjoyed being relieved of heavy or laborious work to reserve her strength.
- Family and friends were better about initiating contact and maintaining close connection during treatment.
Some hard things that happened during treatment:
- While the treatment was explained clearly, the details of the tests were not. Some of the tests took longer than thought and even caused unexpected physical pain.
- Her desire to just begin the process and get it over with was stronger than anticipated. This created unforeseen anxiety.
- She disliked all of the waiting and grew impatient on several occasions.
- Getting the port put in for the medication was surprisingly painful and took a while to recover.
- “What’s wrong with you?” was a comment an acquaintance made seeing her one day with her scarf turban. The lack of sensitivity was shocking.
- Her thoughts seemed to slow down quite a bit as she struggled on occasion to find the right word to express herself.
- The desire to stay on top of her kids to help them succeed was stronger than ever however, she lacked the strength to do all of what she wanted.
Some informative parts:
- Even in the pod (room of four people who are receiving treatment at the same time), each individual experience was very unique.
- The side effects are not similar for all patients, each medication had its’ own distinct outcome.
- She was surprisingly thirsty during the chemo treatment and found drinking the additional water to be far easier.
- During the treatment, she was tired, but was not as tired between treatments.
- Immediately prior to each chemo treatment, she experienced greater anxiety than expected. However, it did dissipate during and after the treatment.
- She would rather talk about her experience than avoid the subject.
- Caringbridge.org has been a good way to keep everyone informed about the progress.
- She hoped to lose some weight during treatment but that did not happen.