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I am getting chemotherapy, but I have so many questions..

NAUSEA:

It has been known for many years that nausea is the chief side-effect of chemotherapy. However, the new medication on the market, and in use, reduces the chances of nausea dramatically.   Should you, however, experience nausea, please ensure that you are taking your medication as it was prescribed to you. If you then continue to experience nausea, you can try one of the following remedies:

 

  • Eat small meals more frequently so that you receive enough nutrition
  • Avoid drinking water with your meals; it will only fill you unnecessarily and increase the chances of experiencing nausea
  • Avoid fatty and rich foods
  • Eat ginger sweets or biscuits.
  • Grate a piece of fresh ginger. Add to a glass of hot water and drink
  • Eat gherkins
  • Drink lemon-infused water
  • Try to avoid odours that cause nausea e.g. cooked food
  • Don’t lie down after a meal. Sit up for at least 2 hours after your meal.
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CONSTIPATION:

Constipation can in some cases produce a worse side effect than even the nausea. Monitor your stools carefully. Should you go more than 3 days without a stool, you may suspect that something is wrong in your gut. You can use anything which has worked for you in the past to relieve the situation; however, we recommend you try the following:

 

  • Drink enough liquids because this will soften the stool
  • Stewed fruit
  • Bran which you can add to your porridge
  • Dried fruit
  • Raw vegetables and
  • Fresh fruit, preferably with the skins (where applicable).

 

We further recommend the following medication which you can purchase over the counter:

 

  • Movicol
  • Senekot
  • Lacson, Sorbitol or Duphulac (the same ingredient, just different brand names)
  • Dulcolax (pills or suppositories)
  • Glycerine suppositories.
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DIARRHOEA:

Diarrhoea can cause you to feel very tired and sick. You should therefore start treatment before it becomes too debilitating. Please note that more than 6 loose stools per day is classified as diarrhoea. Ensure that you drink a glass of water or Rehydrate after each loose stool. We would not like you to dehydrate in the process, as this will only make you feel worse.

 

We further recommend the following:

 

  • Eat small meals more often so that you absorb enough nutritional value
  • Avoid foods which are high in fibre, such as bread, cereal, seeds and nuts and dried fruits
  • Grate an apple, allow it to stand until brown and then eat it
  • Maizena porridge (2 Tablespoons in a cup full of boiled water)
  • Eat marshmellows.
  • Eat ripe bananas
  • Be careful of milk and milk products.

We can also recommend the following medication which may be purchased over the counter:

 

  • Gastron, Prodium or Imodium (the same medication but different brand names)
  • Smecta
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MOUTH SORES:

Some chemotherapies may cause a very dry and irritated mouth which can lead to mouth sores.

 

We recommend the following:

 

  • Brush your teeth and gums with a soft brush after every meal and rinse your toothbrush thoroughly after use
  • Use Sensodyne or Colgate sensitive pro-relief toothpaste
  • Rinse your mouth with a teaspoon each of salt and bicarbonate of soda in a glass of lukewarm water
  • If the sores are white in colour, use Nystacid
  • If the sores are red, use Andolex C
  • Should your mouth be so sore that you cannot eat or drink, you can use Mucaine before each meal
  • Apply lip-ice to your lips to keep them soft
  • Drink enough fluids
  • Eat soft, soothing products, such as:
    • Ice cream
    • Milkshakes
    • Eggs
  • Avoid the following:
  • Tomatoes
  • Lemons or grapefruit
  • Spicy foods
  • Hard and dry foods, such as granola.
  • You can use any of the Hepilor products (Can order through Takealot as well)
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LOSS OF APPETITE:

Loss of appetite occurs frequently and has a variety of causes. You can try the following:

 

  • Eat small meals more often; you won’t feel full so quickly and stop eating
  • Avoid drinking liquids with your meals; this could contribute to you feeling full too quickly
  • Try different foods and also try to incorporate a variety of colours to avoid a dull and uninteresting plate of food.
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HAND-FOOT SYNDROME:

Hand-Foot syndrome is a side effect of some chemotherapy drugs. You could experience dryness, redness, tenderness and peeling skin on your hands and feet. Small blisters may also form. You could also experience loss of sensation or tingling. These symptoms may be exacerbated by touching hot surfaces or by friction. It is, therefore, important to avoid certain activities, such as washing the dishes, taking long hot showers or baths, running or walking long distances. Cold may decrease the symptoms so it is suggested that you place your hands on a cold, wet towel for 15 minutes. Never place ice directly on your skin. Apply a moisturising cream carefully to your hands and feet and drink Vitamin B6 tablets to improve the symptoms.

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SKIN AND NAIL CHANGES:

Chemotherapy may cause very dry skin which may itch or peel. This necessitates the use of a moisturiser. Avoid the use of fragranced soaps which can dry out the skin even further. Some forms of chemotherapy can cause the skin to blister when exposed to direct sunlight. Protect your face with a hat and always wear a blouse or shirt. You can also apply a sunscreen with SPF 50 to your skin. Some forms of chemotherapy have a greater impact on your nails. They can discolour, start to lift or become very brittle. Dark nail polish can be used to hide the discolouration.

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HAIR LOSS:

Hair loss is possible with most chemotherapy regimens. Some forms of chemotherapy do not, however, result in hair loss. The hair follicles in which the hair is formed possess cells which divide constantly. These cells are damaged by the chemotherapy and the hair falls out. The rate at which hair is lost differs from person to person and so each person’s hair may fall out at a different time. Usually hair loss occurs between 2 weeks after the first chemotherapy session and 2 weeks after the second session.

 

Avoid colouring your hair during treatment. Do not use elastics in your hair as this will increase the stress on the hair follicles. Try not to brush or comb your hair too often. Don’t dry your hair at the hottest setting but rather choose a lukewarm setting on your blowdryer. You could look for a wig while you still have your hair to ensure that you find a suitable style. However, most people opt for a light head covering such as a beanie or scarf because wigs tend to be quite hot. The choice is yours, however, as to how you want to deal with your hair loss.

 

Your hair will start to grow again after your chemotherapy is finished. Should you have lost all of your hair, you could rub the following into your scalp to encourage regrowth:

  • 200ml Bayrum; 100ml Bergemot essence and 3 ampules of placenta
  • Mix half of the Bergemot and Bayrum plus 2 ampules of placenta and work into the hair or scalp and allow to dry
  • You could use the other half of the Bergemot and Bayrum plus 1 ampule of placenta with your shampoo and wash your hair as usual.

 

There is another product that helps the hair to grow quicker.  It is available in the large Hair salons (Like Toscan in Paarl Mall).

Revita CBD  Antioxidant Hair Density Shampoo

Revita CBD  Antioxidant Hair Density Conditioner

Spectral CBD  Redensifying hair therapy

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JOINT PAIN:

Some chemotherapy can cause severe joint pains.  The best to use is an old “boere raad”.  Take a large pot of Incrams’s campher cream (The green menthol one).  Add 10 packets of Grandpa powders to it and mix well.  Rub that mixture in all the joints when painful.  You can also use Ice-man (It has a horse on the bottle) – you buy it from the Vet’s.  You may use any anti-inflammatories ag. Gen-Payne or Mypaid if the pain persist.

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HANDLING OF BODILY FLUIDS:

Chemotherapy is excreted through urine, vomitus, blood, sweat and sexual fluid. Most chemotherapy medication will be out of your system within 48 hours.  When going to the toilet, men should sit down when urinating and the toilet lid should be closed before flushing the toilet.

 

If you use a commode, bedpan, urinal or a basin for vomiting, wear gloves when emptying the waste, rinse the container with water and clean it at least once a day with soap and water. If you do not have control of your bladder or bowels, use a disposable, plastic-backed pad, diaper or sheet to soak up urine and stool. When it becomes soiled, change right away and wash the skin with soap and water. Diapers, pads and gloves soiled with body wastes should be placed in a securely fastened leak-proof plastic bag, then double bagged and placed in your regular trash. If you have an ostomy, wear gloves when emptying and changing the appliance for 48 hours.

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MAY I DRINK VITAMINS?

Many people feel that they need to take a supplement during their chemotherapy. This could, however, have a negative effect on your chemotherapy. We recommend the following:

  • DS 24
  • Centrum

Avoid any products containing Omega.

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WHAT ABOUT MEDICATION?

May I drink pain tablets?

Should you experience pain during any stage of your chemotherapy, whether muscle pain or headaches, you may use any medication which has worked for you in the past.

Can I use my chronic medication as in the past?

You can continue with your chronic medication as you have been doing. You must carry on with your medication as previously even if you are coming in for chemotherapy that day.

May I receive the flu injection?

During the time you are undergoing chemotherapy and for a further 6 weeks afterward, you may not receive the flu injection. Once you have been declared to be “healthy”, you can have it administered again.

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MAY I COLOUR MY HAIR?

The side effects of the chemotherapy may cause your hair to absorb more or less colour. We, therefore, recommend that you wait until 6 months after completion of your chemotherapy sessions to colour your hair.

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MAY I VISIT THE DENTIST?

There is an increased risk of infections and bleeding and we do not, therefore, recommend that you have any work done to your teeth during this time. Also, avoid having any teeth removed. Should you need a filling, please be sure to inform your dentist that you are undergoing chemotherapy. In some cases, it may be necessary to do a blood test to ensure that your blood count is not too low. This would greatly increase the risk of having your tooth filled.

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WHAT DO I DO IF I EXPERIENCE FLU SYMPTOMS?

It is of the utmost importance that you avoid large gatherings of people or people with colds during your chemotherapy. Wash your hands regularly. Should you experience a sore throat, chills, fever, night sweats, headache and sore body, you probably have contracted an infection. The best thing to do then is to visit your GP as soon as possible so that he/she can prescribe an antibiotic. In order to ensure that you are treated timeously, it is important to start treatment for your infection as soon as possible.
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This content was written by: Clinic Sister Karin Mouton

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