My Hodgegirl is now on her second cycle of chemotherapy. Unfortunately, it’s never a straightforward road but here are a few things that worked for us along the way:
1. IV site pain and warm compress
During Ri’s first hospitalization, we had a number of IV insertions simply because we thought the slightest pain was a sign of her veins being clogged. Although she, undoubtedly, has thin veins, they’re actually not as sensitive as we perceived them to be. When the IV infusion was too fast (flushing), that’s when she would feel some pain and discomfort. But without any redness, swelling, or physical changes, we’ve discovered that applying warm compress on the affected vein eases and, eventually, takes away the pain. This is a good sign since she has decided against a Portacath.
2. Nausea and Liniment
Day 1 of chemo is usually the worst in terms of nausea but we’ve discovered that aside from antiemetics that our doctors prescribe, the smell of liniments such as Omega Pain Killer and Human Nature Balm wards off that nauseous feeling. We were told that orange or lemon peels also do wonders but I guess each person is different. Try to find the scent that works for you.
3. Hair Loss and Head Gear
No matter how adequately warned you are, nothing can prepare you for when hair actually starts to fall off. It happens between the second and third weeks after chemo. Before then, cut the hair short (and lessen the trauma of seeing hairs on your pillow). When friends ask what they can get you, ask for scarves, hats, bandanas, beanies, or whatever headgear you prefer. Even before the hair is gone, start considering and searching for a wig.
4. IV/extraction sites/skin abrasion and HandeBalm
Ri is a gymnast and HandeBalm was made for gymnasts who suffer a lot of skin rips. Following her procedure for biopsy and to drain the pericardial effusion, we’ve discovered that HandeBalm also helps with her stitches and scars. It even helps with pain on IV and blood extraction sites.
5. G-CSF and syringe/needle size
Right after chemo, our oncologists usually prescribe the injection of G-CSF or Granulocyte Colony Stimulating Factor which stimulates the bone marrow to produce granulocytes and stem cell. This is to make up for the patient being immunocompromised from the cancer and/or the chemo. This shot can be done in a hospital, clinic, or home. For Ri’s convenience and comfort, I opted to learn how to do this subcutaneous injection. Initially, I used a pre-filled syringe with a 1cc capacity. This took longer to administer because the cylinder was thin and long. The last few days, though, I tried using a 3cc syringe with the same small needle and discovered that it works better for Ri. The 1cc of G-CSF in a 3cc syringe meant that the push was shorter and, therefore, quicker.
6. Mouth sores and Pyralvex or Albothyl
Another side effect of chemo is mouth sores. Fortunately, Ri has discovered that using her old Pyralvex Solution which the dentist prescribed when she had something fixed helped relieve the sores really well. Another “magic treatment” is Albothyl Solution which is supposedly for the treatment of Cervical Cancer but works really well with sores. (Dab some solution with a cotton swab.) Fortunately, we live in the Philippines where drugs are very easily dispensed. If you live in one of those countries with strict dispensing rules, you might need your doctor to support you on this and give a prescription.
7. Munching on SkyFlakes
Because a chemo patient’s appetite is almost non-existent, Ri makes it a point to eat crackers (SkyFlakes) every so often. It may not be on top in terms of nutrition but it definitely ensures her stomach is never empty.
Additionally, mealtimes are never complete without vinegar or soy sauce.
8. Vitals morning routine
I guess there is much sense in those hospital nurses taking a patient’s vitals periodically. After a bout with dizziness and fainting following the first chemo cycle, we have now established a routine where I go to Ri’s room every morning to take her temperature, blood pressure, pulse, oxidation, and bring her breakfast. By the time she sets foot outside that room, she would have already been “cleared” for the day. Makes for a much better and surer start to our day!
*note: Although not meant to be an endorsement, these specific items have worked for Hodgegirl. It may or may not work for someone else. It is best to consult your Healthcare provider for advice.