Before chemo round 1, do these things

With many of you on my heart, I’m writing this latest post. I remember how I felt in those last few sleeps before my first chemo appointment.

It’s scary and lonely. You waffle about whether or not it’s even the right decision, often just in your own head because having to admit it out loud and then hear the people who love you try to pep talk those doubts out of you would just make things harder.

And then you try to give it to God but you’re too distracted to pray and already sick to your stomach, wondering how much of what you’ve heard will turn out to be true for you too.

I got you sis.

While I can’t take away all the icky feels, allow me to share 3 things you can do before that first appointment.

I hope it gives you a sense of calm. As always, I’m here if you have any questions about all that comes with being tethered to the poison pole.

1.) Treat yourself to a no polish manicure and pedicure.

No one told me you weren’t supposed to have nail polish on, so I showed up to that first appointment in all my OPI Feelin’ Berry Glam glory. And got mildly scolded by someone with no bedside manner whatsoever who worked there.

Side note – I made darn sure my oncologist knew not to have me cross paths with her again, and everyone lived happily ever after ;). Yes, honey, advocate for yourself. And when you do, please remember to be polite, precise, and when necessary, persistent. I’m sure this woman is lovely most of the time, but we did not click and I was in no mood for ‘tude – really any day, but especially that day.

Back to the nails. “Chemo nails” are a thing. I got these streaks and spots on mine (it took several rounds before they showed any sign of change – think bruised spots and a yellowish tint over the otherwise lovely light pink nail beds you’re likely used to). Your healthcare team will look at your nails to help gauge how you are responding to treatment. They can’t make that assessment when your nails are painted.

So pamper yourself with everything up to the point of polish, and then skip it altogether while you’re in treatment and until several months afterward (because your body will need time to rid itself of those strong medicines cycling through your system; best not to mess with your nail beds, cuticles and the like until you’ve had some distance from that last treatment.)

2.) Buy a big pack or two of chewing gum (not in your favorite flavor).

I don’t chew Extra Spearmint Gum anymore. I can’t, because it reminds me of that metallic mouth taste I endured every time the nurse flushed my chemo port. But it was a saving grace then, as I was pretty sure that without it, I would have eventually thrown up all over her.

Now I’m all about Ice Cubes – and yes, spearmint is my go-to. So at least chemo didn’t ruin that flavor profile forever.

Choose something that you enjoy just enough to get through this stretch of infusions. And buy lots of it.

Then, make fast friends with the nurse administering the port flush. If you ask her, she will tell you when she’s about to use the yucky stuff. That’s the moment when you pop a fresh stick of gum in your mouth to drown out that God awful metallic taste. It makes all the difference.

3.) Have your doctor call in an Rx of Emla Cream.

This is a lidocaine and prilocaine cream that a sister survivor recommended to me. I’d never have known it was available otherwise. And what a game changer.

I applied it one hour or so before my infusion appointment to the area of skin where my chemo port was placed. I would always use a liberal amount and then cover it as best I could with plastic wrap.

This was always an exercise in hilarity. One hand holding the sports bra out just enough to rub the cream and keep the fabric from touching it, the other hand attempting to make a clean cut of plastic wrap from the box, while managing to keep it from getting stuck to itself, and then placing it over the cream-coated area, straightening out any creases and smoothing the sports bra back down in one fell, not at all awkward or messy, swoop. Good times.

I think there was only one day when I forgot to apply the Emla cream, and when the nurse connected my chemo port, it hurt like a mother. Whatever you do, get your hands on this stuff. If you don’t have time to get a prescription filled, go for an over the counter option. I recently read that you don’t even need an Rx for Emla, so that’s even better news.

To quote the words from one of my favorite and most well-worn sweatshirts,

Beautiful Girl, You Can Do Hard Things.

Rooting for the restoration of your good health (and here for you during one of the suckiest life seasons there is).



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