Chemo Side Effects: Bleeding, Bruising, Runny Nose and Sleep Issues
Last updated: September 2023
Let’s just jump right into it here. I want to talk about a few chemo side effects I regularly experience and some of the ways I’ve learned to find relief and help. If you know any insider secrets to help with either of these issues, please share!
Not dangerous, just annoying
Bleeding, bruising, red dots or a runny nose are common side-effects from chemotherapy and cancer related treatments and issues.
Okay, here we go. I've dealt with all those issues over the years and still do today! Thankfully, at least for me, they are all mild and more annoying or embarrassing than they are dangerous.
Even though for me these issues are not dangerous, I still show and tell my oncologist about them. If you experience bleeding that does not stop after a few minutes, or new, unexplained bruising you should let your doctor know asap.
Bruising and bleeding
I bruise way easier than I did before chemo! It's a running joke with Joel and me that people probably think my husband beats me. Since I've been doing chemo for years now, my skin is thinner and just bruises easily. We've also discussed possible anemia issues with my doctors after looking at my labs. Sometimes I get bloody noses. Thankfully, that's the only bleeding issue I have!
Now this is an annoying and embarrassing one I deal with every day! Chemo causes me to often have a runny nose. It’s even worse with Enhertu now. My nose will just drip and I'm not even aware of it. It’s so embarrassing when I’m talking with someone and my nose just drips! Joel is really good at noticing it (before I do) and he’ll do a quick swipe of my nose with his finger.
Things that help me deal with bleeding, bruising and dripping
- My doctor prescribed iron pills to help with bruising. You can buy iron over the counter but always check with your doctor before pounding down a bunch of iron.
- Again, staying hydrated can help with bruising and bloody noses.
- I always carry small tissue packs in my purse.
- Eat foods high in iron: meat, poultry, and fish (though I hate fish). Fruits, vegetables, nuts, (including peanut butter) legumes (including lima, chili, pinto, and kidney beans). Thankfully, Joel loves peanut butter and beans (not together!), so we always have a lot of those in the house.
Difficulty staying awake through the day and sleeping at night
I definitely know this one and finding a consistent well balanced sleep pattern is like an old nice memory for me. Sometimes I'm up all day and sleep fine all night. Most of the time, though, I fall asleep midday and then can't sleep at night or I wake back up around 1:00 a.m. and then I can't fall back asleep until morning (when I should be getting up!). My sleep patterns are the worst when I know I have scans coming up.
Fatigue—real, energy-crushing fatigue—is one of the primary side effects from chemo and this plays a ginormous role in messed up sleep patterns. I hate it. Joel and I are always thinking of ways to help me sleep better.
Things that help me with my sleep issues
- I try not to fall asleep during the day or if I do, I try to just take brief naps. If needed, you can set alarms on your phone, so you don’t sleep the day away.
- I try to get into bed around 8:00-9:00 at night.
- I try to be productive during the day so I'm tired at night.
- Sometimes I will use diphenhydramine (Benadryl®) or Melatonin. Melatonin does little for me though.
- If I’m really anxious (like before scans) I’ll take an Ativan and that usually chills me out enough to sleep.
- In those late hours when I can’t sleep, I’m terrible at staying off my phone or turning the laptop (our “bed-TV”) off. I sit there with all the lights off staring at the screen for hours. Joel is on me all the time to at least turn a little light on somewhere to protect my eyes. He even bought me a small flexible bedside lamp for this purpose. It’s a struggle, because if I just turn off all electronics, I just lay there in the dark with my thoughts for hours.
- I’ve tried a couple sleep apps and also tried natural background effects (like rain or the ocean) on YouTube. Those help sometimes, but not always.
Remember to always chat with your healthcare team about new medications.
Please share any tips or helps you use to find relief from bruising, bleeding, runny noses, and sleep issues.
Have you been successful in getting financial assistance to help with your medical costs?