Whatever it Takes – my experience with Chemotherapy

So finally, after 6 weeks of trying hormonal therapy, our doctor suggested we go for chemotherapy to harness the skin inflammations.  

Now just the thought of chemotherapy made me palpitate. I had heard of all the side effects (some even long term) which come with this sort of treatment.

WHATEVER IT TAKES!” say it again… “WHATEVER IT TAKES

Okay. Now am a little better.

Just to understand the difference between hormonal and chemotherapy: Hormonal treatment aims at starving the cancer of its food namely estrogen. it usually takes longer than chemo to start showing impact. If there is no discomfort or visible signs of distress, this was the route recommended for me with MBC (metastatic breast cancer).

Chemo on the other hand attacks the cancer and thus acts faster (I was on Abraxane for 3 months).

So, I started doing some research and asking people on things that helped them through the treatment. One thing I DID NOT do was read on possible side effects. My way of dealing with this was just talk to people on what all worked for them. If something else happened, I would take it from there. I did not want something getting stuck in my head and then manifesting it.

So what are some of the things I started doing. (please note – this was just something that worked for me basis the treatment that was planned).

Everything listed below have been taken up as part of my long-term healing.

Nutrition:

My husband and I started reading a lot on this. Honestly, the doctors asked us to only stop alcohol, reduce red meat and avoid grapefruit. My mother had kidney trouble for 20yrs of her life, and her diet was quite extreme, and cancer supposedly had no nutrition changes. Seems strange right?

So we read and saw a lot of books/series/pages on cancer and diets to follow–

  • The C word,
  • How not to die,
  • Luke Coutinho’s page
  • www.nutritionfacts.org
  • Jason Vale’s – Super Juice me
  • Game changers
  • What the Health
  • Hungry for Change

Most said the same thing. Plant based diet is the way to go.

  1. Subtract- Dairy, meat, processed food, sugar, alcohol
  2. Add – Vegetables, Fruits, cereals, seeds etc: Eat a lot of cruciferous vegetables (e.g. kale, cauliflower, broccoli, spinach), fruits, nuts, seeds, garlic etc.
    1. Check out Dr Gregor’s Daily Dozen.
  • I have done my bit to change my diet. I pretty much have stopped all processed food (except the few times we step out for dinner/lunches). Have drastically cut my meat, poultry and fish. With tea/coffee I have almond/oats milk.
  • I follow some recipes from the How Not to Die Cookbook, Jason Vale’s app on Juicing, Luke Countinho’s page and other Vegan recipes I find online.
  • Intermittent Fasting – Have started having my dinners latest an hour after sunset and break it next day between 12-14hrs post dinner.  Do read on the Circadian Rhythm and Intermittent Fasting on Luke Coutinho’s facebook page.

Basically have gone back to the basics. Not easy, but I guess now or never right!

Exercise: Yoga and Pranayama (breathing exercises):

Everyday. It’s important to remain active during chemo; try going for walks or doing yoga.

Yoga was something recommended by a breast cancer survivor and I can’t thank her enough for it. There are several studies which suggest that people who did yoga during chemo felt less tired. https://www.healthline.com/health/cancer/yoga-poses-for-cancer

Yoga (restorative yoga) and breathing exercises do wonders to ensure you get the required energy and oxygen levels in your body to fight the side effects of chemo. Overall, it helped me stay active and improved my flexibility to a large extent.

Manage stress and emotional upheavals – this is definitely difficult but it’s good to try methods like meditation/therapy to work on them. for this I added counselling in my journey as well as meditation (I liked Headspace but you can try anything else that works)

Sleep: Get a lot of rest, since the body heals itself when we sleep.

Water: Keep drinking a lot of water (atleast 2ltrs) to get the toxins out of your body and ensure you are hydrated.

Skin products – post reading some of the harmful effects of skincare/haircare products made these days, have moved to more organic products. I ensure a check on their ingredients and if they have an www.ewg.com rating and accordingly buy. Always, always check ingredients mentioned at the back of the packages.

SIDE EFFECTS: I experienced the below side effects during the treatment.

Mouth ulcers: Gargle with baking soda and salt / Oral7 (3 to 4 times a day). I started doing this prior to my chemo, and ensured I continued every single day through my chemo. My dentist suggested I use baking soda as a toothpaste as well, since it is alkaline and good for removing plaque.

Hair Loss:

  • This is something that had me distressed for quite some time, just the thought of knowing that I would lose my hair. Hair for women is like our most important accessory. I did cut my hair short prior to the treatment and decided to try the cold cap.
  • What is cold cap – it basically is a cap which is cooled to an exceptionally low temperature. It freezes your follicles and aims to reduce hair loss by protecting the follicles from the chemotherapy drugs. Overall, you need to wear it 30mins prior to the drug being introduced into your system and 30mins post. It did give me a mild headache as soon as it used to be put on, but other than that it was fine.
  • Hair oil – I would also oil my scalp once a week with cold pressed, unrefined coconut oil and castor oil (3:1 proportion). No massaging. Just gently apply on scalp.
  • I used a gentle shampoo (100% Pure)
  • Post treatment I retained almost 60%-70% of my hair.

Skin Rashes: Daily moisturise your skin to prevent it from drying due to the chemo effect. Somehow, I still developed skin rashes close to the end of my treatment. Was given some meds to counter it and asked to moisturize twice a day.