11 Tips to Get Through Chemo
To raise awareness about this rare form of cancer, Jennifer has been blogging about her journey and the remarkable lessons she has learned along the way. She's offering 11 tips to help women deal with chemotherapy—from someone who as been there, done that and is now officially cancer-free.
2. Get your wigs now—find a really cute, fun one or two and go with your girlfriends before you start losing your hair. Have fun with it—no one in Hollywood wears their own hair—they are ALL wigs! I am a redhead right now and never was before and love it. I don't know about the drugs you are taking, but the typical chemo drugs cause your hair to fall out on day 14 to 17. Shave it off before it starts falling out —it's much more empowering that way. Invite your girlfriends to do it with you. Plan to have lunch somewhere fun afterward. Embrace it. Bald is very powerful, but remember to get a hat —a fuzzy fleece one—because bald is also breezy and you will catch drafts that you didn't even know existed. You need to sleep in the fuzzy hat all the time. I like to wear cute knit hats over the wigs because they look a little less wiggy and a little more young. (Let your friends throw a hat party for you—like a baby shower but with hats.)
3. Get some nice body lotion and lip balm because the chemo dries out your skin. (On the flip side, chemo is better than Botox and takes all the toxins out of your skin. Suddenly, your face is as smooth as a baby's butt.)
5. Get some clothes that are your "chemo uniform." I went to Max Mara and got comfy leggings, long, cozy, sleek sweaters, furry boots (like Uggs)—cashmere everything. Anything to make you feel cozy and sporty. All easy to throw on so you just reach in your closet and grab your uniform—taking all the stress out of what to wear.
6. Immediately order from Amazon two cookbooks by Rebecca Katz (a San Francisco chef), The Cancer Fighting Kitchen and One Bite at a Time. Tell your friends about them so they can cook healthy things for you that help with the chemo side effects and not bring you doughnuts and cakes to make you feel better. I remember at the first group session at my hospital, the women were all going around introducing themselves and consistently they talked about having gained weight through chemo. One woman said she had gained 70 pounds. The drugs and the steroids can cause havoc to your metabolism, so it's best to try to find a reasonable but pretty strict eating regime to give your body and immune system the strength it needs to fight and bounce back. Your mouth will feel like Chernobyl pretty quickly and your taste buds die, so there are tricks in Rebecca Katz's books to make food still taste appealing and to stimulate your appetite so you can stay strong. Certain foods definitely boost your immune system.
8. I drink only water, bubbly water and green tea (I don't want the sugars in the other drinks). I put lemon in and on everything—it cuts through the chemical taste and you need 3 quarts of water a day to wash the chemicals through your system. Staying hydrated also keeps you from being nauseated. They recommend three to six mugs of green tea a day to get maximum benefit from the antioxidants in the tea. Start eating all organic. Check out Jane Plant (British geologist's book) on how she survived breast cancer by giving up dairy.
9. Don't touch any milk, eggs or meat that have any hormones in them. I still eat eggs and fish— but only wild-caught fish, like salmon and white fish. I don't want the swordfish and other things that are higher up the food chain because they have a lot of mercury.
10. Eat a lot of cabbage. Cancer hates cabbage! When you are eating this clean, detoxed diet filled with superfoods, you are going to be as strong as you can be to counter the tsunami-like effects of the weekly, biweekly or tri-weekly chemo treatments. It's like girding yourself to take each wave head-on—like body surfing. And even those days when you don't feel great, go out for a walk. Don't miss your exercise—the oxygen and endorphins will help so so much. And eat like a pregnant woman overcoming morning sickness—small meals five times a day. Don't let your stomach get empty; it helps counter the nausea. Sleep with a banana by the side of your bed and a pitcher of water. Hydrate all night long and have the banana in case you are feeling a little queasy first thing in the morning. Demand that your doctor give you a wonder drug called Emend—best anti-nausea drug on the market. Insist on it. Look into getting chia seeds from your health food store or online. They are flax on steroids. They are wonderful on your oatmeal in the morning and have all the omega-3s you need, plus fiber and calcium.
11. Ginger is the best natural anti-nausea food. Chop fresh ginger into everything. Eat it raw. Make tea from it. It got so desperate the other day I went straight from the gym to a nearby sushi restaurant to eat a mound of pickled ginger because it was the only thing I could think of to settle my stomach.
Have you or someone you know gone through chemotherapy? Share your story below.
To learn more about Jennifer's story, vist her blog.
The breast cancer nobody is talking about
Protect yourself from the cancer a mammogram can't detect
Christina Applegate's breast cancer battle