I’ve had my last chemo session, and have been pretty good throughout.
I’ve had to wait until now to share my tips of handling chemo side effects, because it seemed like tempting fate to do it earlier; the minute I put it down in blog form I would doubtless get hit with the full works of side effects.
I’m also aware that I’ve had a good ride because I’m lucky enough to be retired, and therefore can live a life without deadlines and duties. It must be so much harder fitting this illness and treatment around family and job commitments. Also, I’m sure there are more vicious chemo combinations than the FEC that I’ve been through.
So, here are my tips for handling chemo side effects… the Vic ‘DLL Plan‘!
The acronym stands for Dettol, Linseed and Liver:
Dettol. This is a disinfectant that can be used for both odd jobs around the house, and personal hygiene. (It’s not available worldwide, but perhaps ‘Lysol’ is an equivalent in the US?). I’ve had a bath every night with a couple of cap fulls of Dettol added. I’ve had a good old soak, making sure I wash my nostrils and breathing in the lovely, disinfectanty fumes, generally making sure that I cleanse away all the lurking germs of the day. I use ‘Simple’ soap products, and apply a body lotion.
I haven’t limited my socialising particularly. I still run my art group, have been on flights and in hotels, and bumped into some pretty germy folk without succumbing to the dreaded ‘neutropenic sepsis’, and I credit the ‘Dettol bath’ with being responsible for this.
Linseed (Flaxseed elsewhere in the world). I’ve been trying to include a couple of tablespoons full a day. It’s quite easy to incorporate it by grinding it up a bit with some pumpkin/sunflower seeds and using it as a sprinkle on fruit and yoghourt, soups and salads. There are also lots of marvellous cracker and biscuit recipes that include it on the Rawmazing web site.
Linseed may possibly help deter estrogen-sensitive tumours, but its really big plus factor is… erm… keeping the bowels regular. And that can be a REAL problem for the few days following the chemo infusion.
YOU MUST DRINK LOADS OF WATER WITH IT! I soaked some seeds for a Rawmazing cracker recipe, and was surprised when I went to drain it that it had turned to a gel, and I couldn’t get any fluid out of it! This is obviously how it works in our digestive system, absorbing lots of water and keeping stools soft and bulky. Great stuff!
Liver. Any old liver will do, but I do enjoy pig’s liver and it does have the highest concentration of iron out of the available types. I make sure I have a good meal of it a couple of days before blood work, and haven’t needed a blood transfusion. In fact, my blood results were commented on as ‘very good’ for my last chemo! I try to have it at every opportunity, perhaps choosing the liver pate as a starter if we go out for a meal, and opting for calves’ liver in posh restaurants! (our new hobby!)
Apart from the liver fixation, my diet is mainly plant-based, aiming at 10 fruits and veg a day, as little salt and sugar as possible, no alcohol and lots of green tea and water. I limit myself to a couple of cups of fairly weak coffee in the morning. I don’t want to give it up because I find it certainly helps with the old ‘digestive transit’ issues which can really make life a misery.
The great thing about forcing all these fruit and veg, linseed, green tea and liver into your diet is that you simply can’t fit anything naughty in! I’ve lost 56lbs in 8 months, and – apart from the twinging bad back caused by the cancer itself – feel better than I have for years. I sleep well, my skin is healthy and smooth, and I haven’t had any infections.
I hope this helps any fellow chemo sufferers out there. It doesn’t have to be that bad.