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Treatment

Catherine Boulay Foundation Learn About Cancer

You are still reeling from your cancer diagnosis, but shortly you will receive a recommended treatment plan. Most folks choose some method of treatment to improve symptoms or to effect a cure. Chemothera-what? Radiathera-who? You’re gonna chop off which pieces of my anatomy?

How can you figure out what is happening when you cannot even spell the words — let alone pronounce them? This section deals with the intricacies of cancer treatment. Many cancer treatments are multi-modal and involve many different kinds of therapy. Each type of treatment has its own effects and side effects. To find out more about treatment goals, treatment types, their effects and side effects, continue reading.

Tips for Patients

  • Keep a journal – each time you go to the doctor, write down what happened, what he/she said, new medicines, test results, symptoms, what helps, what does not help – this will help you to be your own advocate and know your body.
  • Take Benadryl orally the day of chemo rather than through an IV – this makes you less tired.
  • Wear a button-down or zip-up shirt to chemo  – this provides for easy access to the port.
  • Bring relaxing things to do at chemo – listen to music, knit, read.
  • It is sometimes hard to find something that tastes good the few days after chemo – cranberry juice is a good option.
  • Yogurt and laxatives can help ease and prevent the effects of chemo.
  • Peppermint tea helps sooth an upset stomach.

Tips For Every Age

  • Give funny cards to show support and add a little humor to brighten someone’s day.
  • Simple gestures are the best – soups, easy meals that can be heated quickly.
  • The simpler the gesture, the less the patient tends to feel like a burden.
  • Gift certificates where people can get healthy food and fast are great – easy to just pick up and bring home.
  • Offer to do errands – food shopping, clean house, carpool for kids.
  • Transportation to and from treatments.
  • Make cookies.
  • Gift ideas – fun hats, tea, socks, video rental passes.
  • Give gifts with meaning. Several companies sell gifts to help inspire and support people with cancer. Companies also donate money to the cause.

Ideas

Tips for Kids

  • Know when to give space – understand that cancer patients are tired and need to rest, so it is OK to give some alone time.
  • Write your feelings down – helps release stress.
  • Realize that it is OK to be sad, angry, happy, confused – do not expect too much of yourself.
  • Get involved with the cause to show support and help you feel like you are making a difference – participate in a run/walk for cancer, fundraise or plan/help with an event to raise awareness.
  • Write notes to sneak in your mom’s bag before she goes to chemo so she has something that makes her smile during the day.
  • Go to church or some other place of worship – faith plays a huge role in feeling better.

Chemo Hair

“Joy is the best makeup.”

OK, so you got some bad news. You need chemotherapy. What is going happen to my hair?

Not all chemotherapy drugs cause hair loss. Depending on the chemotherapy drug, your hair may gradually thin or you may lose it all at once. Be assured that within a few weeks after your treatment ends, your hair will start to grow back. As your hair begins to grow, the texture will be different. It is likely to be curlier than before. It usually takes 6 months to a year for your hair to return back to normal.

The best advice is be prepared. This is where your hairdresser is key. Set up a time when the both of you can talk and review your options. No one knows your hair better than your stylist. This does not have to be devastating. You can make the best of a bad situation and have fun. This is the perfect time to explore your wild side. Think outside the box. Had you been considering a different color or a different style? Perhaps you would like to see yourself with shorter hair or a long trendy cut. This normally would take a good year to grow, but you could have a beautiful look in just a few days.

The first thing you need to do is to have your stylist measure you for your wig. Decide which style you would like to wear. You may want to keep your look and that is just fine. It is your choice. Do what is right for you. I always tell my customers to go short. Pick out a new style. It is psychologically easier to lose shorter hair. This also allows you to experience life with less hair before it succumbs to chemotherapy. Some clients prefer to take charge and have their hair shaved off. It is totally up to you. There are those that have shaving parties during which loved ones may themselves participate in the process by having their hair shaved off. Today there are countless varieties of head coverings to choose from including wigs, hats and scarves. Remember—at night your head can get cold so it is important to have something soft and warm to wear. This is all about you.

Let’s talk about wigs. Should you select natural hair or synthetic? I would opt for synthetic. These wigs are much easier to care for and easier on the wallet. Synthetic wigs require much less maintenance and look just as good. All you need to do is pick the style and have it customized for you. The beauty of these wigs is that they are wash and wear. No curlers and no irons—just shampoo and go. It is that simple, and best of all, you cannot go near any heat. That means no work in the kitchen. Take care of you. You are still you with hair or not. Bald is beautiful. Remember—this is a temporary situation.