Only a cancer patient can understand how it feels to live a life where hope and hopelessness come together. If this moment you get a ray of hope as a promise of your survival, next moment you get to know something which loosens your grip on that precious ray. The daring expedition which starts from diagnosis of disease continues till after your treatment demanding for huge changes in your lifestyle, food habits, physical activity and everything. Chemotherapy, as the most known treatment for cancer, transforms your life entirely leaving behind a completely different personality with a new vision towards life. You have gone through a long process of treatment and now you have to follow a new routine with no space for MISTAKES. Yes!! mistake is the word.
Let’s try to understand the things in a better way so that those who are fighting with cancer and have gone through the long lingering painful process of chemotherapy can get a little help in their battle with the disease.
Side effects of Chemotherapy
This is the first thing one should know. Sometimes chemotherapy causes side effects too.
But why does it happen??
Actually, chemotherapy works on active cells and cancer cells are active but there are some active healthy cells also. And they are in your mouth, blood, hair follicles and digestive systems. When chemotherapy destroys these healthy cells, side effects occurs.
What are the side effects??
When it is about side effects, every individual has a different experience, but still, there are many common side-effects which can be seen in patients after chemotherapy. Here is a list of some commonly occurred side effects with their possible solutions.
1. Fatigue –
Without doing any physical hard-work the patient feels exhausted and tired almost all the time. Cancer-related fatigue is not similar to normal tiredness. It is a constant feeling of emotional, physical and mental tiredness. Besides, black clouds of hopelessness frequently visit the mind and soul of the patient leaving him/her in a great depression.
In order to cure fatigue, few things can be tried such as staying active can be one of the solutions. Gradually increasing your activity levels will be of great use. Walking is the usually recommended thing to the patients. Small but a regular habit of walking will improve the things. Besides, talking to a counsellor or therapist can also help a lot because the long tiring and painful journey of treatment leave the patient shattered with a low self-confidence, higher frustration and annoyance of uncertainties. A counsellor or therapist specially trained for cancer survivors can help you regain your lost strength. You will be able to see life in an optimistic way. Taking adequate sleep can be another punch in the face of constantly annoying fatigue. Although it’s a challenge as continuous pain, stress and worry keep you awake. You crave to have a good sleep but you don’t get it. At times you may feel drowsy and it’s good to take a sleep but besides that also try to make a routine to sleep and stick to it even you fail to sleep properly. Do anything that makes you feel good and relaxed. It may help you in getting a better sleep lowering the level of stress.
2 Pain –
The patient feel a constant pain in various parts of the body like –
- Stomach pain
- Muscle pain
- Pain in fingers and toes
- Mouth and throat sores
Besides pain from nerve damage like burning, shooting pains, numbness is among other symptoms. In some cases, the pain gets less but in the case of a permanent nerve damage the pain can remain for months or even years after the treatment. Just like other side-effects medicines are given to control pain also. Different pain relievers work in different ways. Some painkillers treat the source of the pin, while some pills increase the tolerance power of your body and some work by interfering with the pain signals that are sent to the brain. Additional ways of managing pain include
Acupuncture – An ancient form in which special needles are inserted into specific parts of the body to get relief. But be sure to approach only an experienced practitioner.
Biofeedback – Painless sensors are placed on the skin to gather information about body’s processes. After gathering this data the biofeedback therapist helps you to make some adjustments or changes to your body to get desired results.
Meditation/Breathing Exercise – An extremely simple but an effective way that helps in fighting numerous diseases. The gentle breathing exercises can help reduce tension, pain and enhance relaxation.
Distraction – It’s about doing anything that can help you distract your mind from the pain. Such as –
- A) Reading a book.
- B) Doing needlework.
- C) Taking a warm bath.
- E) Watching television or listening music.
- F) Writing
Or anything under the sky that can make you forget your pain.
3. Diarrhea –
Some chemotherapy causes watery or loose bowel movements increasing the risk of getting dehydrated. The disease can be of different grades like –
Grade 1 diarrhea – Less than 4 stools a day.
Grade 2 diarrhea – 4 to 6 stools a day.
Grade 3 diarrhea – 7 or more stools a day and the patient may not be able to control bowel movements.
You may need to go and stay in the hospital until you recover to a satisfactory level.
Grade 4 –
A life-threatening stage that requires immediate intensive care.
To cure the disease eat small, frequent meals. Take the food that is easy to digest. Avoid alcohol, orange juice, spicy food, fat, caffeine. Drink as much water as you can. The scarcity in required amount of liquid will worsen the situation. Give your doctor the exact detail of the diseases to get an immediate effective medication.
4 Constipation –
In contradiction to diarrhea some people may face the problem of constipation after chemotherapy. Although taking medications to relieve pain can also cause constipations.Drink more liquids and doctor’s advice to change or stop the medicines that are causing constipation.
5. Nausea and vomiting –
A very common but very annoying side effect of chemotherapy. It leaves you feeling restless, helpless and frustrated. In fact, this problem starts during the treatment and continues after that for long period. The usual prevention given to patients are medicines that can cure vomiting and nausea too.
6 Blood Disorders –
There are spongy tissues in our bones that make new blood cells and are known as bone marrow. Chemotherapy affects the process of producing new blood cells causing blood disorders. Few tests are used to detect the presence of any such disorder. Such as –
Platelet count –
A test to count platelets in the blood. Platelets are the cells that help to stop bleeding. Not having adequate platelets can cause a condition called thrombocytopenia which in turn can cause severe and even fatal bleeding, if not treated on time.
Complete Blood Count Test – Abbreviated as CBC, this test reveals the level of white blood cells and red blood cells in the body.
7 . Mouth and throat sores –
This side-effect happens usually after 5-14 days of treatment. This condition is called mucositis. Taking a healthy diet and keeping your teeth and mouth clean will help you in lowering the risk of mouth sores.
8. Nervous System effects –
some drugs may cause nerve damage showing following muscle or nerve symptoms.
– Numbness or weakness in feet, hands or both.
– Loss of balance etc.
Things like physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, pain medication etc. can be tried. Doctor’s consultation is the first thing you need to get immediate results.
9. Sexual and reproductive issues –
Chemotherapy can affect the fertility of patient. In women, it is about the ability to conceive a baby and for the man, it is about the potential and ability to make a woman pregnant. Besides, pain during sex or loss of sexual desire is among other side-effects of chemotherapy. Talk to your doctor as soon as you can so that due treatment can be started on time. There are treatments to cope with the sexual problems too. Besides, there are few precautions which should be followed by the patient.
For Men – due to chemotherapy the side-effects chemotherapy can in the semen for 48 to maximum 72 hours. So, it’s better to use a condom to keep your partner safe from the exposure.
For Women – Uneasiness during sex is the basic side-effect .Use vaginal moisturizer or lubricants to improve vaginal health and enhance comfort during sex is the first and basic thing to do.
But be cautious, in place of doing any over confident experiment or trying any other treatment rely on your doctor only. He/She will be the only person who can give you a right solution.
You just need to remember one thing that no matter how much difficulty you face in coping with the side-effects of chemotherapy but you have already won the toughest part of the battle and you are already a winner. Fighting with the treatment side effects is like you just need last few efforts to raise the flag and announce your victory. And certainly, you are ready for it. Right???