Let's Talk About Chemo and Side Effects

Last updated: November 2022

After 12 years of fighting cancer and doing countless treatments, I think I've earned my blackbelt. My husband (A.K.A., “The Fallible Caregiver” on this site) and I recently needed a copy of my medical records for something and when we got it it was over 200 pages! Maybe I have two black belts!

There are over 100 types of chemotherapy, each one designed for certain types of cancer (there are over 100 types of cancer) and certain situations. I've tried and been on a myriad of these chemos.

My unwanted resume

To bolster my resume, I've also done 15 rounds of full brain radiation as well as targeted radiation on my brain and spine. I've had surgery on my hip to remove cancer. I've done a clinical trial at the City of Hope called CAR-T Cell Therapy. That's where they put a catheter into my brain and injected me with millions of genetically modified T-cells from my spinal fluid. I know, crazy stuff. I've also had full brain surgery to remove two little tumors. Oh gosh, and don't get me started on all the medications!

So I hope all that gives me enough creds to talk about getting through chemotherapy.

A surprising perspective

I wish I could tell you that I found the silver bullet to all this, you know that secret solution that makes all this cancer crap a breeze. It's just not the case. But here's what I've learned. Ease and comfort don't produce badasses. This is one of the hidden blessings of tragedy. It forces us into a situation where we have to make a choice. Do I shrink back, give up, and choose to see myself as a helpless victim or do I push forward, step up, and choose to see myself as the brave hero of my story? Badasses are forged in life-or-death battles, not in luxury spas.

It may surprise you, but in many ways, I'm thankful for this difficult journey. I'm NOT thankful for cancer, but I am thankful for what it's taught me, who it's made me into, and the life I (we) have developed as a result. My purpose in life is just to love and help others. The primary cause of this type of thinking is my faith in God. Knowing that my heavenly Father is there with me every step of the way, that He loves me, and that He still intends good for me makes all the difference in my life. I don't think I'd be here without my relationship with God, or at least I would not be the person I am today.

Let's talk chemo

Your cancer treatment may look similar to mine or it may look very different. Each type of cancer calls for its own unique treatment regimen. There are a lot of chemos and chemo "cocktails" available.

One thing, however, most chemo-doers have in common are sucky side effects. I've found different chemo cocktails bring on different side effects. Some people have little to no side effects while others get hit hard. One thing I know well, unfortunately, is crummy side effects!

In a few articles to follow this one, I want to talk about 17 chemo side effects I have experienced or am still experiencing, and then I want to share with you the practical things that help me alleviate these discomforts. Some of these may be new ideas for you. Some may work, and some may not. If I can help alleviate some of your sucky side effects, then we both win.

And if you've discovered an awesome idea or help for any of these, please comment below for others to see–including me! Actually, we can get the conversation started now! If you know or have used any prescription, over-the-counter, or home remedies to help reduce your chemo side effects, go ahead and share about it below.

Two final thoughts about chemo, treatments, and home remedies. First, always check with your doctor(s) about the side effects you're experiencing and any ideas you're thinking of doing to help with those. Your medical team acts as your generals overseeing the overall War. I don’t intend to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.

This includes dry skin, flushing, hyperpigmentation, nail changes, photosensitivity, radiation recall, and rash. Various chemos and meds (and radiation) have at times given me rashes, flushing, itchiness, and especially, dry skin.

Things that help me

  • Staying hydrated!
  • Use non-perfumed body washes and avoid cheap soaps. I like Aveeno, Olay, and Dove.
  • I love Eminence Organic skincare products.
  • Mild laundry detergents designed for sensitive skin.
  • I like Aquaphor and Mary Kay lotions for hands, feet, & head
  • Liquid vitamin E on my face after my shower for moisture.
  • Wear soft, loose, cozy clothes.
  • I apply a little Neosporin inside my nose because it gets raw and hurts.
  • Aluminum/Paraben-free deodorant.

Share below what you do to help with any of these issues. Right now, the inside of my nose is dry and raw and nothing seems to help. I’m still looking for ideas, so please share your own remedies below.

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The AdvancedBreastCancer.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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