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Tips from a survivor – guide

Tips from a survivor

Tips from Jeanene Smith, Colorado Ovarian Cancer Alliance Associate Director, a 20+ year ovarian cancer survivor

Pre-surgery/Pre-chemo tips

Set up a phone tree of people who need to know how you're doing and or a service such as mylifeline.org to keep people informed without having to make a multitude of calls.

Plan ahead! Before you have surgery or chemo, take care of things that you might not have the energy to do after chemo begins:

Take your children and or pets in for checkups. Get your car serviced.

Go to the dentist BEFORE you begin chemo. Most doctors will advise AGAINST going to the dentist while you are in chemo due to risk of infection.

Get a pedicure and manicure before chemo begins.

Stock your pantry and refrigerator with easy to prepare food and snacks.

Consider buying items that are a bit blander. Your taste buds may change during chemo.

Cook a few meals ahead (or ask family and friends to help) for the freezer. There will be days you won't feel like cooking.

Purchase any heavy or bulky items (pet food, paper products, etc.)

Make it easy on yourself and buy a big pill box to manage any medications that you might be given to combat side effects.

Consider purchasing (or borrowing) a comfortable reclining chair - very beneficial as you recover from surgery. Make sure caregivers have keys to your home.

Make a checklist of bills you regularly pay and when they are due, so you don't miss any payments.

Post-surgery/Post-chemo tips

Doctor visits:

Write any questions down in advance of your appointment

Always take someone with you to take notes and ask questions that you might forget.

Don’t be afraid to question your doctor, (it is your health, your life, and you are the customer) but remember, your doctor is your best ally.

It's OK to seek a second opinion. Keep medical records.

Consider keeping a 3-ring binder to house your doctor visit notes, questions for the doctor, blood test results, CT scan reports, and a journal where you track daily how you are feeling physically and emotionally.

Listen to your body: If you’re tired, rest.

If you are in pain, report it to your doctor. Do NOT try to tough it out. If you are in pain, you can’t heal.

If you are nauseous, ask your doctor for medications to help, and take those medications at the very first sign of nausea.

Watch for patterns of side-effects as you move through each round of chemo. Keep a daily journal of how you are feeling physically and mentally. If you can determine a pattern of when you feel side-effects, you’ll be able to anticipate and deal with them.

Here are a few tips.

Anticipate constipation and diarrhea. Talk to your doctor about in operating a stool softener, laxative, or anti-diarrheal medicine into your daily routine. A simple stool softener or anti-diarrheal pill once a day can. make all the difference.

You might notice that regular eating utensils taste awful and leave a metallic taste in your mouth. Using plastic utensils help.

Fatigue - Keep track of your lowest days and plan to rest as much as possible. Don’t push yourself. Your body is fighting a battle, and it needs rest.

Depression – chemotherapy can affect brain chemistry. It’s a smart move to talk to your doctor about an antidepressant or anti-anxiety medicine and start it sooner rather than later in your treatment cycle.

Feeling good days - You WILL have days when you feel good, typically right before your next treatment. Use these days for house cleaning, errand running, and preparing for your next round of chemotherapy.

Feeling bad days - If you notice days during your treatment cycle that are worse than others (emotionally and/or physically), ask someone to stay with you on those days to help.

Welcome assistance from family, friends, neighbors, and professionals. You do NOT get extra points for toughing it out. People want to help but don’t know how to help. Allow them to show you that they care.

Ask for help.

Attend a support group.