Happy Magazine Reader Trina Cleary shares her top tips for chemo in today’s post.
I was diagnosed with breast cancer in early October 2018, after discovering a lump in my breast during a self-examination. I don’t recall where I heard to check myself, but I would frequently check myself in the shower and it was early February/March last year when I discovered a very small lump in my breast. I ignored it, I thought it was just a lady thing, but as time went on, the lump grew and by the time I finally got the nerve to go to the doctor and got my appointment in Waterford Hospital, Larry the Lump was 6cm in size.
I was diagnosed with invasive ductal, lobular, ER+ , PR+, HER2- breast cancer, stage 2. My treatment plan was chemotherapy first, to be followed by surgery and radiotherapy.
Chemotherapy. Probably the scariest word I have ever had to comprehend and apply to my life. The word itself though, is definitely scarier than the chemotherapy itself. For me, my only knowledge was what you see in the movies, and the reality for me really wasn’t like that at all.
I started on 28 November 2018. I was scared out of my mind, I expected to feel the drug going into and around my body instantly, when in reality I found the whole experience to be quite relaxing, not the dramatic climax I expected at all. It was all very “normal”.
I actually said to my Mam who came with me, “I feel so proud of myself for how I’ve handled this”. It felt just like a routine blood test and time flew by as I asked my nurses questions about what they were doing, not to be annoying but I wanted to know what was going on to help me understand better. I genuinely had nothing to worry about or be afraid of. I bounced out of the ward, talking 100 miles a minute and went to Tesco!
The next few days were harder, the nausea, the lack of sleep, the pains and worries – for me generally day 3-5 are my hardest days but I always tell myself, “This is temporary, these feelings will pass”, and by day 6 or 7 I’m on the road to being myself again. A positive mindset is very important.
Your first round will always be the learning curve, once you are through the first, you will know what to expect for the following rounds.
My top tips to prepare for chemo and to cope throughout are as follows:
- Take all medication as instructed by your medical team, especially anti-nausea medication. I found it was easier to prevent the nausea feeling than it was to make it go away once it was there.
- Eat before you get hungry, and eat small and often. Try to eat a balanced diet to maintain your energy, including fruit and vegetables, if you can.
- Drink plenty of water, especially before and during your chemotherapy, staying hydrated will also help maintain your energy. Try to drink 2 litres a day if you can.
- S L E E P as much as you possibly can and whenever you need to. Don’t fight the tiredness. Notice when you might need a nap and take one.
- Ask questions of your medical team. Understand why you feel a certain way, or why you need certain medication. Keep a notebook for your questions and take it to your appointments or treatments – the nurses are always happy to answer your questions or worries.
- Positivity really does help. Try focus on the positives in your day instead of letting negativity take over. The battle will be much easier with a positive mindset, even on your bad days try to remember, “This is one day I’ll never have to do again”. Don’t let the negative win.
- Keep a journal for your feelings and thoughts. For me, my social media is my online journal to share and raise awareness and also to keep my mind focussed in those first few days post-chemo.
- If you are able for physical exercise, do some regularly. Take it easy at first, increasing the amount as you feel stronger.
Just know, the “bad days” are a means to an end and the good days far outweigh the bad – don’t forget to enjoy them!
Trina is 34 and lives in Wexford with her 11 year old son Corey. Trina and Corey are keen kickboxing fans and Trina is looking forward to getting back to her kickboxing training and competing soon. If you’d like to follow Trina’s journey, you can find her on Facebook here.