Positive steps to dealing with chemo/radio?



sorry if this post pops up twice but have had problems posting (just me I think).  Am due to start treatment 8/11 and wanted to aske for some practical tips for dealing with this.  Have had some tips already sent to me around skincare and protection of bowel and bladder but want to draw on real life experiences quite broadly.  Have also connected with a lovely lady who is going through treatment at the same time as myself so we can swap tips too.

I have had so many offers to pm ladies but I wanted to post here so that the info is available to all and can help others going through similar.  I'm approaching this as I would any other major life project as this helps me cope and I want to ensure the info is as meaningful as possible - hence asking the wonderful ladies here.

My main worry is not that I wont beat this but that I could be left with lasting damage from the treatment so want to be prepared as much as I can.  I also worry about my appearance not so much from a vanity point of view but dont want to worry my boys.

Any tips regarding how to approach this would be sooooo welcome right now!


Thanks for reading, Andrea



Hi Andrea. Was great to read your positive attitude towards your forthcoming treatment. Keep it up!!

I can only offer you my personal experience. I also have children, 2 girls 9 & 7 & a son 2 yrs old at the time of my surgery/treatment. I was also worried about how I would look and how it would impact on what I could do for my children as they didn't know (and still dont) that I had cancer.

My treatment involved 5wks daily Radiotherapy/5xChemo(Cisplatain) & 1 Brachy. My apprearance never changed during the treatment at all and thankfully the type of Chemo they use for cc doesn't make you lose your hair (except in v.rare cases) The only external change was a small darkening of my skin at the base of my spine from the Radiation. Plus I lost all my pubic hair (not such a problem) but it did come back! I didn't much like having to use simple soap during treatment but I continued to use my normal washing products on the other areas of my body. I also defied them by continuing to shave and bath during treatment although I didn't soak for long. Within a week you will be completely used to the Radiotherapy and you will be in and out of the actual treatment without much thought. The machine can get warm and is really noisy but its really quick too and there are beautiful light pictures on the ceiling to look at!

Wear lose clothing which is easy to get on and off and slip on shoes, it just means you dont have to hang around any longer than necessary!!

I asked for my appointments to be booked around lunch time so I could get the children to school and get back before they finished and apart from a couple of days this was possible. The only down side with this is that it ties up your entire day. One thing to consider is that on most days there are delays with the machines and I often had over an hour wait for my 10 min appointment!

I started treatment being very healthy and eating well. By week 2 I was craving chocolate. My clinical onc told me to go with whatever I felt like during treatment. At this stage in the game its all about just getting through the treatment and out the other side however you can. As it turned out I really suffered with bowel issues and cramping due to radiation and so I had to adopt a low fibre diet which is quite common so the fruit and veg was out anyway!

Im not too needle phobic so the chemo was 'ok' although by the end I was fed up with being pricked. Make sure they soak your arm in warm water first to bring up your viens as some nurses didn't do this and it makes it harder to find a good vein as the weeks go on. Week 5 took them 4 attempts and they ended up using the underside of my wrist! Also ask for a heat pad to put on your arm as the drips make your hands go really cold. Bring a lose cardi or shawl to put over your arm too and slippers if you really want to chill out! This keeps it much more comfortable. Plus just to warn you (as I wasn't) there are 4 bags used for the chemo, 1 fluid which usually takes an hour then a short 10 min drip which is AGONY. Aparantly its because the molecules are quite large so they hurt going through your veins. Thankfully it is only for 10 mins. You then have the Chemo drip followed by another hour of fluid. Make sure you drink loads as they cant give you your Chemo drip until you have measured some substantial fluid 'output'.

As life with 3 young children is hectic I actually found having Chemo days a good opportunity to relax. Also up to the point of treatment it was such a whirlwind of worry and stress that it gave me time just to chill out and process things. I intended on reading up and catching up on the piles of MacMillan books I had been given at diagnosis which had sat in the bottom of my bag! In truth I induldged in a pile of trashy magazines and just let myself do nothing for a while. I would recommend you give the Radiation book a quick glance over though and another really good book I found was The Cancer Journey by Polly Noble. She also has a good website. It is a really practical self help book for getting through treatment and was written by 3 cancer patients who have all gone through it. 

Overall I would say it isn't that bad and its really towards the end that I started with quite bad radiation blisters which made going to the toilet is excrutiating. But then I also had a radical hysterectomy 4 wks prior to the start of treatment so I think I had the worst of both. They do help you deal with any side effects and can give you all sorts to dont be afraid to make a nuisance of yourself and ask ask and ask again if you dont get help first time. I personally didn't get any sickness at all and didn't have to take my anti-sickness pills during the week but everyone is different. 

Practically I would get as much help around the house as possible and sleep as much as possible. I have never asked for help before so I found it really difficult but the way I saw it, I had to give the treatment the best chance of working as I needed to be well for my children. So I took everything I could get and essentially put my feet up for the next few months. I was lucky as my mother in law took early redundancy when I was diagnosed. She basically stepped straight into my shoes and I had to let her. She arrived every monring at 7am and got the kids to school, did all the housework, cooking, shopping, drove me to the hospital every day, picked the kids up, did homework, did dinner then left at 7pm once they were in bed. She was amazing and all I had to do was get through it and get well. This also meant that my husband (who is self employed) could just get on with his work and looking after me. I know that not everyone may have a mother in law like me (practically perfect in every way) but you will be surprised who is there for you when you need them most so dont be afraid to ask. I would also recommend planning things for the weekends with the family. It is heaven on a Saturday and Sunday to have a break in treatment and it helps if you have things to look forward to, even if it is just going for a walk or to visit friends. Just keep a focus on something you enjoy doing as some days will inevitably be mentally tough. Also get into a good t.v series. I think you can hire entire series from Blockbusters these days and good knows you will need some escapism most days or nights. Gavin & Stacey kept me company through the night on most nights as I couldn't sleep. The trouble with resting when you need to is that your sleep pattern is all over the place. Plus the obvious long term worries tend to stop your brain from switching off when the house is all quiet and there is nothing or no-one left to occupy you!

The other thing my Clinic Onc recommended to get me through treatment was to take up Yoga. Before diagnosis, I did ballet twice a week, was running 30k a week in training for a half marathon and swam most days but surgery and treatment meant I wasn't doing anything. I wish I had listened to him! I am now so stiff with the Radiotherapy that just getting up and down out of my chair makes me feel like im 90yrs old! It has left me really really stiff and I cant do a lot of things now like kneel on the floor with my kids or sit with crossed legs as my hips and joints ache. I dont know if it is the same for everyone but I wish I had kept myself supple. My oncologist said that there were studies to prove that patients who use yoga do increase their recovery rates and do get through treatment a lot better. The only other exercise he said I could do was walking which is also good for your head. My treatment was during the winter as is yours, so going outside itsn't always possible if the weather is horrible but he suggested walking around a big indoor shopping mall instead. Aparantly its all the rage in America where people do laps!!

Lastly, as treatment can cause bladder problems like cistitus (?) etc, try and drink cranberry juice or I hear cherry juice is good plus lots of water to keep your bladder healthy during treatment.

Anyway, am probably boring you stupid with all this rambling so I will leave it there. I hope that you find maybe one thing helpful but if not then someone else on the forum may be able to add something or offer an alternative experience to mine which may help you.

Good luck & give it all you've got. You sound very strong and positive and we are all here for you for when you're not.

Take care, Lu.x

Hi Lu Lu

thankyou for such a detailed and informative reply - I have just ordered the book online and have got out my yoga book and blocks and started a few gentle poses today and hope to build this into my routine as much as I can.  I have also ran until recently as back pain started to be problematic and general lethargy  (i used to do about 15k a week, very much at my own pace!).  I have aready noticed a few pounds creep on so neet to re-introduce maybe some brisk walking and the yoga will really help I think (especially for opening out pelvis etc) so thanks for re-affirming that in my mind.  I'll keep going back to your post/print off the comments.

I cant thank you enough for your time and info - it means a lot and its only because of inspirational ladies like yourself that I have been able to adopt this positive approach and I aim to keep it up!!

Watch this space!!!




Hi Andrea, I'm almost 3 weeks into chemo/rad and did debate about posting as my experience so far not so positive! I did feel that however it's sometimes nice to hear other stories so you know what can happen.  Certainly every single person is different and some will get very little effects.  Before treatment I was very positive and thought I would breeze through without any  effects. This actually floored me as the evening following chemo I was plagued with nausea which has remained.   There are however loads of different anti sickness tablets you can try I've just been started on a 3 day course  of ones specifically used for cispatin so fingers crossed.  For me eating small amounts every couple of hours helps.  I've had odd cravings which I've gone with and have gone off loads of other foods due to changes to taste buds.  I always have mints and lemon sherbets in my pocket which helps!I also wear sea bands on my wrist as am willing to try anything.  I am tired most of the time and have now learnt to just go with it! I just want to get through this treatment and start living again.  It does feel like my life is on hold at the moment and I am trying to get in a positive mind frame. Family and friends have been incredible! I have a rota of people who take me to radio each day. I'm sure I could take myself however they wanted to and  I have to say it has been lovely having different company and supprt.  I'm usually very stubborn and independent, yet I've decided to let others help me as they want to.  So far radiotherapy has been fine, just tiring going daily.  The girls are friendly and upbeat.  There is usually music blaring out at mine so I lie here close my eyes  and sing along in my head.  I have aqueous cream which I use on my pelvis and 'down below' each day.  So far skin is fine but I know that may change in the coming weeks.  I've just started tonight with some diarrhoea so will see how that goes.  They ask every day how you are in radio and I feel they genuinely want to know. They will then address symptoms as and when they crop up.  My big worry before agreeing to treatment was the long term damage I may get from the radio.  I decided in the end however that for me I just wanted to give myself the best chance possible.  If I do get long term problems I will just have to deal with them and learn to live/adapt to them.  There are some amazing ladies on this forum who are doing just that and who inspired me to just go for it. I hope I haven't been too negative, it's hard sometimes when your in the middle of things. I'm sure when I out the other side I will view my experience differently.  Although I do feel awful mainly because of the nausea I tell myself every day that im lucky as there are  many women who are having much worse symptoms than mine and it could always be worse. I'm ticking those days off and then will look forward to getting rid of 2012 and enjoying my new life in 2013.  I wish you well with your treatment Andrea, you can do this and will do this. X

Hi Strawberry,

so sorry you are feeling so poorly at the moment and I really, really appreciate your honest response.  No point in going into this without knowing the full picture.  I know its by no means a "one size fits all" scenario but I think if I can go into this in a positive frame of mind whilst still being appreciative of the potential worst effects then I at least feel prepared to some extent. I've already bought aqueous cream and aloe vera lotion so just hope I have enough!  Am going to the hospital today for my planning scan so will hopefully get lots of info and tips today too.

Well done you for getting through this and thanks so much for your support!  Hope you come out the other side soon.

Sending you hugs and best wishes - you are an inspiration!



Hi Andrea

Just wanted to wish you good luck for your forthcoming treatment.  I'm now 3 months post chemorad for stage 2b and just thinking of returning to work part time. I ditto what others have said that the treatment is 'doable' and the weeks do tick by quite quickly.  I think its great to get other ladies' experiences, however we are all different.  I personally didn't get any radiation burns but I did use the yucky Simple soap religiously in the areas being treated and used aqueous cream on those areas too.  Towards the end of the 5 weeks, my skin started to get a bit 'hot' so kept my cream in the fridge.  One of my chemo nurses suggested having a bath in lavender oil as a treat at the weekend which also soothes the skin post radiotherapy.  This I did, and had showers during the week.  I did have some nausea but was never actually sick. I had some diarrhoea but it was controllable with imodium.  I went off a lot of foods and had mainly cold food by week 4.  I had cravings for icecream or a bowl of cornflakes with ice cold milk! Go with what you fancy though.  I had a nasty metallic taste in my mouth and fruit pastilles seemed to help.  I lost about 10 lbs during my treatment but have put it all back on!  I wish I had known the tip about yoga, I have been suffering with stiff joints for a couple of months.  My hosp said it was due to the menopause and wonder if others have the same problem?

best wishes Angi

Hi Andrea,

I am 6 months post treatment now (like Lu Lu) and can relate to a lot of the comments above.  I had 5 weeks of chemo/rads 6 weeks after my radical hysterectomy which gave me plenty of time to recover inbetween as my surgery was laproscopic.  It's interesting hearing other peoples experiences and what they were told as some of the information is new to me!!

In regards to the radiation:I had absolutely no skin problems with the radiation and I continued to have baths throughout and didn't have to use any cream.  After a couple of weeks I had a little nausea but I used the pills given to me for the chemo and that worked fine. I had absolutley no appetite though so lost a fair bit of weight (I saw that as a positive thing!!).  Bowel issues kicked in about week 2, but I've always had problems in that area so was already well acquainted with immodium and found that it was nothing I couldn't deal with.  My big issue was my bladder!  The first three weeks were fine and then I started getting cystitis.  They initially thought that this was radiation cystitis (ie. due to the treatment and nothing to worry about) but it got worse and worse over the week and finally they tested for an infection which came back posive.  On my way to collect the prescription I was in extreme pain and I physically couldnt pee so my boyfriend rushed me to A&E where they put in a catheter and I very gratefully passed over a litre of urine - ouch that hurt!!  Anyway, I was in hospital over the weekend when they tried, unsucessfully, to take the catheter out, so I had to go home with it and had it in for my last 3 treatments.  As soon as the antibiotics kicked in they took it out no problem and within 3 days all was back to normal.

In regards to chemo: I actually really enjoyed my chemo days (relatively speaking!!), as LuLu says, there's a lot of bags of liquid and a lot of toilet visits and it's a long day! I had no pain with any of them going in, apart from the anti-sickness steroid which gives a horrid hot tingling feeling for about 1 minute when they inject it.  Other than that I had a good appetite on these days and I chatted away to lots of amazing people and even got a free foot massage each week.  I didn't get on well with the anti-sickness steroids that they sent me home with the first week, they worked a treat but made me manic (I was marching round the block at 10pm and couldn't sit still) so I stopped them after a day and dealt with the nausea instead (I was never sick). The next week I was given different pills and they were great, so don't be afraid to ask to change if you have problems.

I was never told anything about exercise or keeping supple which is a shame as I too now have problems with aches and joints.  I was never the fittest person in the first place but I could move well and I also now feel like I'm about 80!! I'm hoping the HRT will improve this over time.

I was fairly lucky in that I didn't experience much tiredness.  I was fully expecting to sleep my way through the 5 weeks (as I was signed off work and don't have any children I could relax in the knowledge that I could do this guilt-free!) but actually I didn't often need any day time dozes.  I went back to work full time 4 weeks after my treatment and managed fine, although even now if I have a really busy day on my feet or rushing around I am quite exhausted by the evening.  I have also noticed that I can't manage the marathon shopping extravanganzas that I used to do, 3 hours and I'm pooped!! When I got back to work everyone commented on how well I looked (I think they expected me to look horrendous) and even during my treatment I don't think anyone would have known what was going on (except maybe when I had the pee bag attached - not a great accessory!)

I treated myself to a lot of new clothes (2 sizes smaller due to weight loss!) to keep myself cheered up and like many ladies on here I saw myself through with a fabulous partner, family, friends and a great deal of humour.  Laughing about it was, and is, my way of coping.

You seem to have a great attitude and a lot of fight so I have no doubt you will be fine. As an aside my tumour was also an adenosquamous, I haven't seen that many of us.

I hope that helps