Give me a good chocolate martini and I can tell you about my twenties. Give me Taxol and Carboplatin and I can tell you about my almost mid-thirties. One is better than the other that’s for sure! *Hint it’s the chocolate martini and Nicky Blaine’s Cocktail Lounge in Indianapolis makes the best martinis!
My husband and I walked out of the oncologist office after the first appointment and I remember him uttering, “I don’t know how they made surgery and 6 rounds of chemo sound like you got off easy, but they did.” We knew it was going to be tough but we also knew that I would make it. Here you will find my ultimate guide to surviving chemo cocktails. While I wish it was a guide on how to make the best martini, this just ain’t that kind of cocktail.
Things to purchase at the store before chemo: Satin pillow case as your head will become sensitive, don’t argue with me or yourself and purchase it here. While you are on the same link I just posted order some extra bed sheets while you are at it too. I had to double wash any article of clothing I touched for 48 hours after infusion. An extra set is so needed!! Purchase and then buy some stock in toothbrushes too. You will need a fresh toothbrush at the start of each infusion and then you’ll throw it away after 48 hours from infusion. Talking about brushing your teeth, pick up Aim toothpaste as it helps with dry mouth and the awful taste that can come with lots of medication. Pick up Biotine mouth spray, it helps with dry mouth. Hand Sanitizer, because duh you’ll need to eliminate germs to keep yourself safe. We had a rule in our household, once we got in the car from being in public everyone held their hands out and we sanitized. Pick up the bigger bottles to have at home too.
During Infusion: Eat ice like it is your job!! You might be cold but suck it up buttercup and eat the ice, it prevents mouth sores! I never got them because I ATE THE ICE! My infusion room was nice enough to have flavored ice too. You’ll likely need someone to remind you they have that, thank you to my sister for remembering that. (Chemo brain is a real thing, don’t doubt that) Bring a blanket from home and some snacks, likely bland ones. I rocked animal crackers pretty hard during chemo. Infusion rooms will have warm blankets for you but I often liked having the comfort of a blanket from home. Bring someone along to chat and sit with or if that is not possible then an iPod or some good books. If you get restless legs it could be a mild reaction to Benadryl and the dosage can be turned down on your next infusion if you talk it over with your chemo nurse.
After Infusion: WATER, drink it, like it, love it. It’s your new best friend and you need to drink it like a 21 year old drinking at a bar for the first time ever! You remember those days right, you were invincible and everyone kept ordering another round. Next up comes the rest, listen to your body and rest. It’s permission to Netflix and chill, find some good series that you’ve been wanting to watch and binge. If you are like me then you’ll eventually get so bored of TV that you need to have some good books. I do recommend Sidelined by Chuck Pagano, it’s amazing and you will need a box of tissues next to you.
Hair Loss: I took my own hair, everyone is different on this, but for me it was the one thing I had control over. I listened to stories of women telling me that their hair fell out in their food and I decided that wasn’t going to be me. If you are looking for scarves head on over to Hope Scarves as they will send you a free one along with pairing you up with someone who is close in age with your same cancer. When I am done with my scarves they will be donated there, amazing organization! Next head on over to Knots of Love which will provide free hats which your head will rejoice in. Spend some time on YouTube learning how to tie a scarf on your head as well, so many videos out there and so useful! For under the scarf and for sleeping buy a chemo cap, it helps keep scarves in place and also keeps your head warm at night.
Wigs: I resisted wigs like it was a bad religion. Then I had a time where I wanted one for occasions where I thought I might need one. Now I wear one on a regular basis as my hair is growing out. Not all wig shops are created equal either. One shop would only allow patients to try three on per day so if you didn’t like one of the three you were screwed until the next day. If you are in Indiana go to Wigs and More in Martinsville. The owner is amazing, the experience is awesome, and you may learn that you can never rock bangs like me! I laughed, I smiled, and it is worth the drive! Your insurance will likely pick up the cost, just give them a call.
Food: Avoid things in a can from tomato paste to canned vegetables to soda pop. Most chemo patients find that they can taste the aluminum in the food. Some even have a sensitivity to silverware and need plastic. Live by the rule that if God made it, you can eat it. Eat fresh food and organic food. Go to farmers markets in your area, make some new friends and pick up some amazing produce. I had to avoid fresh fruit when my levels bottomed out because it’s handled by so many people at the grocery store. This is why I recommend farmers markets, less hands and open air.
Port Placement, Yes or No: For me that is a big YES! Whoever invented the port needs a gigantic hug and a Nobel Prize for the best thing ever. Seriously, you’ll get a stick at labs before each chemo, a stick at chemo, possibly sticks after if they are worried about your levels, and a stick at scans. Do yourself a favor and get a port or you may find yourself to be a tough stick towards the end.
You will find comfort in the routine of chemo, it can be hard to see at first but it’ll be there. Most of cancer is showing up and doing what they tell you to do. There is a rhythm to it and if you allow it, it will become comforting.
You will ride a storm unlike any other but it is bearable. You will have chemo dips which sometimes I referred to as chemo comas as I slept a lot. You will have good days and you’ll learn to ride those highs. The good days are really good! Find something that pushes you out of bed on the dips, for me it was basketball and soccer games for my girls. I only missed one game during both seasons, cancer didn’t win. I am living proof that you can lead a fairly normal life while going through chemo, or at least the new normal.
Periodically I will update this as I think of more, it will be a blog I continuously add to. Much love and Godspeed.