Chemo Side Effects: Weight Changes, Fatigue, and Skin Issues
Last updated: October 2023
I want to emphasize two things. First, these strategies work for me. You likely have or will have your own. I hope you can find some new ideas here though. Second, I have a lot of side effects I want to talk about, but space only allows me to talk about four here.
As you probably know there are a lot more! But I've experienced (and still do) most all of the chemo side effects after being on various chemos for seven years straight.
Just the overall experience of feeling like crap after chemotherapy. I've learned different chemos bring on different side effects at different times. Some chemos make me feel crappy the same day and the feelings last a few days. The chemo I'm on now doesn't affect me (negatively) until about three days after! I always know that feeling crappy is on the way because it's always preceded by my cheeks turning red! They're like my canary in the coal mine.
Things that help me with chemo side effects
- I love soup and bread from Panera after chemo.
- Rest! During these few days, I allow myself to rest and don't push it too much. I let the TV do the work!
- Sleep! I take a nap during the day and try to get 8+ hours at night.
- Some OTC meds can help like Tylenol, Pepto, and Prilosec.
- I try to stay hydrated and eat small snack-size meals.
- Hot mint tea helps.
Various chemo and cancer meds can cause unwanted weight gain, loss, or bloating. I've experienced both weight gain and loss over the years because of different chemo and different meds. Steroids, for example, can cause weight gain and bloat. Currently, I'm trying to put weight back on because often I'm just not hungry.
Tips to manage weight gain
- Stay active. Do stuff. Move more. Walk. Exercise. Do a deep clean in your house, yards, garden, walk the dog, etc.
- Try to eat healthier, low-carb, protein-rich foods.
- Stay hydrated. I always have a water bottle with me.
Tips to manage weight loss
- Try to eat more but smaller meals and snacks.
- I like protein bars like Luna Bars and shakes with protein powder.
- I enjoy eating Sun Chips and vegetables with hummus.
- Talk to a dietitian at your hospital or cancer center.
Chemo fatigue is an unusual or excessive whole-body tiredness, not relieved by sleep. Fatigue from chemo is difficult for most people (not doing chemo) to understand. It's just an overall sluggishness and lack of energy. I can get a full eight hours of sleep and often still feel little energy to do things. You also get wiped out quickly from simple tasks. It sucks! Chemo-related fatigue (CRF) is one of the most common side effects of chemotherapy. I know this one well!
Things that help me with fatigue
- Make sure I do still get 7-8 hours of sleep (or try to!).
- I like coffee!
- I do things in spurts then rest. If I feel wiped out, I give myself permission to rest.
- But I do also try to push myself to move more and get out.
- When feeling fatigued, I like to wear cozy clothes.
- I'm guilty of loving long, hot showers. But they can wipe me out so I try to vary days of long/short/long/short.
- I take daily multi-vitamins and try to drink water all day.
- I try to eat small, protein-rich snacks throughout the day.
- When I can, I delegate tasks and ask for help.
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 with skin issues
- 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.
Have you been successful in getting financial assistance to help with your medical costs?