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June 3rd, 2016
The period before beginning a treatment regimen is important. You may feel like nothing can make you feel ready for what is to come, but being productive is the wisest thing you can do with this time. Despite all the ways you are feeling, it’s always helpful to remember that the more prepared you are, the more confident you feel. That’s why we’ve outlined some practical steps to take when you’re just starting out:
1. Get a dental checkup before you start.
Unbeknownst to many, treatment (specifically radiation) is known to cause mouth sores and complications - from dry mouth, cavities, loss or change in sense of taste, painful mouth and gums, infections in your mouth, jaw stiffness and more. To help offset the possibility of dental issues, getting a complete dental checkup and cleaning is a wise thing to do before starting treatment. Ask about special toothpastes with fluoride to use during treatments and if you are getting radiation, ask about jaw protection.
2. Avoid very hot or very cold food and drink.
Due to some side effects that may occur right after your first session, such as neuropathy, you may get a severe scratching sensation as you swallow cold drinks. Be prepared to shift to room temperature foods and drinks to avoid this and better manage your altered tastes.
3. Bring something to chew on.
Ginger or chloraseptic lozenges and hard candies like lemon drops are just some examples of things that you may want to keep in your mouth during infusions to combat the dreaded metallic taste that many fighters experience. You can also get creative and make ones of your own- try scooping fruit (watermelon, cantaloupe) into tiny balls or cubes and freezing them!
4. Keep foods tasty and appealing.
Treatment is known to make foods and drinks taste metallic and unfavorable. Avoid these unappealing side effects by utilizing these tips when cooking yourself or pass them on to whoever cooks your meals for you. If your appetite continues to suffer, ask you doctor what types of foods are easiest to digest. And if your hospital food sucks, her's what you can do about it
5. Stay hydrated.
You will hear this one iteration from your doctors, friends, and everyone else, but it really is important. If water tastes bad to drink, try sports drinks, fruit juices, broths, and smoothies. Know what dehydration looks like- all the signs and symptoms, and remedy them quickly. If nausea is resulting in dehydration, ask your doctor if you can switch to anti-nausea medication in the form of dissolving pins, which may help you keep them down.
6. Avoid caffeine later in the day.
Consuming caffeinated drinks past 5:00pm may worsen or make the experience of trying to get a good night’s rest impossible, especially after treatment day. It’s also wise to consider the amount of caffeine you are consuming in general. Though it may help as a temporary fix for fatigue, consult with your doctor and make sure the overall amount you consume is moderate enough. There are other ways that you can fight fatigue.
7. Plan ahead to avoid boredom.
The length of chemotherapy and other treatment regimens can vary from minutes to hours depending on your schedule. There's a chance that all you will want to do after your sessions is lie in bed. Most of us get sick of "relaxing" very quickly and the desire to get up and do something can drive you crazy. To best prepare for this, put together a bag or box filled with your favorite forms of entertainment. From coloring books to crochet to queuing up your favorite movies, there are always things to do. Start that new series you’ve been hearing so much about!
8. Take it day by day.
Take a deep breath and remember, you’ve got this. Cancer can make you feel like you have no control, but by planning ahead and keeping these tips in mind, you will be able to keep hold of a little bit of control. Keep your head up, and try and talk to those who have been in your shoes. Find someone who just finished treatment and talk to them about even more things that you can expect. There’s nothing like talking to someone who really understands.
What are some other need-to-knows for someone about to start treatment? Share your ideas in the comments below.
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