Surviving Chemo Tips

Bird feeder tray.
Bird feeder tray.

Yesterday I fed the birds TWICE and then I looked out the window and saw that the feeder tray was again empty. So I filled my small repurposed coffee container with seed from the larger repurposed kitty litter buckets in which I keep the bird seed, and I went out to refill the tray for the third time. Once I stepped off the front porch, I was hit by a very strong wind and I realized that the wind was blowing away all the seed. It was no use trying to refill the tray if the wind was going to immediately sweep it all away so I turned around and went back into the house. This morning the wind had died down a little (although it’s still a bit windy) so I went out and refilled the tray…and later I refilled some of the feeders again. We are getting more bird visitors and they are feasting from our feeders.

I keep a bird book nearby so that I can learn to identify the birds coming to our feeders, but I think it’s almost hopeless. I see a bird that I want to identify so I open the bird book and I find many birds that look very much like the bird at my feeder. The differences are so subtle that I find it difficult to figure out which bird is “mine.” I finally find the one that looks most like “my” bird, only to discover that it’s only found in New Mexico. I think I might, maybe, have more success if I find a book that is specific to my state. Even though I fail at bird identification, I enjoy watching the birds visiting the feeder, and I enjoy watching my cats watching the birds.

Yesterday the wind blew and blew. This morning local FB friends reported large snow drifts preventing them from leaving their homes. Local news also reported drifts making roads impassable and several accidents shutting down roads. I am glad that EJ doesn’t have to work this weekend and that we have no place to go today. We are enjoying a quiet morning at home, warmed by our cozy wood stove and cats.

We plan to do nothing today except rest and enjoy. Well, I did make awesome scrambled eggs for breakfast this morning. I fried a few tater tots and added diced bell peppers, onions, and all-beef bologna. We no longer eat pork so the bologna is a good substitute. I also made toast from the Dakota bread we bought at the bakery yesterday. JJ is a night owl and was sleeping during this tasty breakfast so at his request after he woke I made him a bologna and cheese sandwich on Challah Bread. EJ is currently making a yummy chili. Other than that, we are totally not doing anything today. We need this day of complete rest after busy days running to the Cancer Center, or lab, or stores.

As we engage in this battle with cancer, I find there are things that have been very helpful to me. Some things I learned by trial and error and others were ideas that I just thought up. I thought I’d share some of these “surviving Chemo” tips for others who might find them useful:

After discovering that I was too low on anti-nausea pills to make it through the weekend, making frantic calls to find an open pharmacy, and sending hubby out into a snowstorm to pick up the medicine, I learned to get ahead on prescription refills.

We learned this last week that nausea can hit unexpectedly and violently and it’s very unpleasant to arrive at the Cancer Center splattered and smelling of vomit. So we now have an emergency vomit kit in the car. It is filled with a “barf bag,” a change of clothing, paper towels to clean up the mess, and so on.

I marked the primary anti-nausea med bottle with green marker.
I marked the lid of the primary anti-nausea med bottle with green marker for quick and easy identification.

JJ was given two different anti-nausea pills–a primary med he had to take every eight hours during Chemo without fail and a secondary med for “breakthrough” nausea, meaning he takes it if he still feels nauseous after taking the first pill. I do not have a mind that remembers names of medicines, and I was concerned that I would get the meds mixed up, especially when I had to give JJ his meds in the middle of the night when I was tired and blurry eyed.  So I marked the bottle of the primary med with a marker so I could easily identify it at a glance. It’s been very helpful.

The cell phone alarm is useful as reminder for meds.
The cell phone alarm is useful as reminder for meds.

The antibiotic my son has to take for infected mouth sores is very big so we learned to cut them into small pieces that are easily swallowed. I put the pieces in a small medicine cup that comes with over-the-counter medicines like NyQuil to keep them together.

Because we have so much to remember and do, it’s easy to lose track of time. So I set my cell phone alarms to remind me of when JJ needs to take his medicines. I can set several different alarms times so it’s very handy. Also, I always keep my phone nearby, so I’m never without my medication alarms.

We found styrofoam cups with lids and straws to be very convenient. Not only did we not have to worry about running out of clean glasses, but there was no danger of the cats drinking from JJ’s cups and getting sick from the Chemo. We bought them from a GFS Marketplace store.

We bought medical gloves suitable for use in handling Chemo from Amazon. I wear them while doing JJ’s laundry or cleaning up vomit. We also bought medical masks in case EJ or I get sick. So far we haven’t had to use the masks so I’m not sure if they are a necessity or not, but I suppose we have them if we need them.

Funky orange hair
Funky orange hair

We learned that when a cancer patient loses his hair, his head is very sensitive to pain and cold. A very soft, light hat is comforting. And if the hat is funky, it provides an opportunity to laugh.

I put restaurant menus in my purse so if we are extremely tired after a long day at the Cancer Center, or just want a treat, we can call ahead for takeout at our favorite restaurants and pick up the food on our way home.

I believe that mental health is an essential part of caregiving, so we try to include things in our lives that we enjoy. Obviously, our lives our restricted somewhat by the disease, but we enjoy birds so I bought a bird feeding station and installed it outside our living room window. I also subscribed to Netflix and Amazon Prime because we love watching movies. Our individual laptops have also been a source of connection with friends, and learning, and entertainment during this time. Furthermore, even though cancer is a serious illness, we try to look at our situation with humor because laughter is a powerful medicine.

I have shared our journey with others because I have found that people are a valuable part of this battle. They can be so totally awesome if you let them share your journey. I have found both friend and stranger to be an immense support. We wouldn’t be so strong without them….without you.

Finally, and most importantly, we could not have made it without God. He is the One filling us with hope and strength for each day.

Yesterday I wrote about my friend Cris in my post Bread, Soap, and a Mouse. She makes and sells beautiful handcrafted soaps through her website, A Touch of Eden. This morning in her own blog, she wrote a post titled Battlegrounds of Life. Mentioning  JJ (and others with cancer), Cris wrote:

I wanted to do something that would show I care about people in my life. I know that many chemo patients struggle with skin sensitivities. I sent a bar of castile soap to the young man, a gentle soap for someone dealing with sensitivities. What else could I do? I created two bars of soap, pink of course as is the color of the breast cancer ribbons, and named them after my two friends dealing with this type of cancer. I have more plans to continue this trend. They will be limited editions, with the person I am honoring receiving the first bar as a personal gift. Once they have received their gift I will photograph the remaining soaps and put them up on the webpage and Facebook. I will be taking a portion of the sales and setting it aside to be used to help someone who is struggling. Not necessarily via a cancer research project but more on a personal level and most likely sent privately and anonymously. 

I think that is an awesome and caring thing to do. I know we deeply appreciate her loving gift of beautiful soap. If you’d like to support her, please make sure to visit her site.

And now, it’s time to go eat EJ’s wonderful chili…

3 Comments on “Surviving Chemo Tips

  1. Thank you Teri for writing so much about the way to handle things and how you all live the life with cancer and treatment. I’m thankful that I’m by your blogs are a part of it and you are really near to my heart. Have today a cozy day inside again and give JJ a hug and let him give you and EJ one….You all deserve that. Love you ❤


    • Love you too, Simone, and praying that all goes well for you. I know you have your challenges too. ❤


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