17 Ways to Thrive During Breast Cancer Treatment

Breast cancer patients share their best tips.

Health Monitor Staff

While your healthcare team can offer lots of support during breast cancer treatment, there’s nothing like tips from women who’ve been there! Here, Jen, Andrea, Kathy and Runi share what helped them!

1. Get a new ’do
“I got my hair cut into a style that’s a bit funky, knowing that if I hate it, it will be gone in a few short weeks anyhow [because of chemo],” says Jen Hanks. “I actually love it and can’t wait to return to my short, edgy cut once my hair grows back!”

 2. Yuk it up
“During treatment, my husband, Chuck, and I found reasons to laugh,” says Kathy Revenew. “Like when we decided it would be fun to write ‘egghead’ on my bald head for the neighborhood’s annual Easter egg hunt.”

3. Try coconut oil
“…everywhere! It is a miracle lotion for dry, scaly chemo skin—especially on your hands and feet!” says Jen.

4. Forget your cancer
Whenever I could, I hopped on my bike and went for a ride. That made me really happy—I’d almost forget I was in treatment for cancer,” says Jen. “For the best benefits, I made sure to ride with friends, not my training buddies.”

5. Brush softly
“Buy a really soft toothbrush—baby soft,” says Andrea Hutton. “Hard bristles can irritate your sensitive gums. Ask your doctor for a fluoride rinse if you just can’t brush the way you’d like to.”

6. Find a designated emailer 
“I asked a friend to email updates to loved ones about my treatment,” says Runi Limary. “It made recovery easier.”

7. Carry your port ID card 
“[If you’re doing chemo and have had a port implanted], there’s a little ID card in the packet that comes with your port that lets the hospital staff know whether it’s a power port or not (which determines the kinds of things they can use it for),” says Andrea. “Put it in your wallet and keep it with you at all times.”

8. Can’t help wallowing?
“Set a time limit!” says Andrea. “I’d say to my husband, ‘Can I whine for 10 minutes?’ His job was to listen and say something like, ‘That sounds awful.’”

9. Allocate your energy
“I prioritize the activities that mean the most to me: exercise and my job. So I took advantage of a program that provides free housecleaning services to women in cancer treatment,” says Jen.

10. Open up
“When a meeting at work [on “honest communication”] began to get dull, I threw my wig on the conference room table and declared, ‘I am bald!’” remembers Kathy. “It certainly broke the ice for my new team!” 

11. Try one on for size
“If you’re not sure you’re a wig person, try a complimentary wig from the American Cancer Society,” says Runi.

12. Illustrate your medicine cabinet
“It’s hard to read the labels on some pill bottles,” says Andrea. “So I drew pictures on the bottle top to identify each medicine—like a smiley face for antianxiety meds.”

13. Suck on these
“Lemon drops!” says Kathy. “They help mask that metallic chemo aftertaste! During treatment, I kept them everywhere!”

14. Stash the silverware
“Use plastic utensils if your taste buds are really shot,” says Andrea. “It helps you avoid the metallic taste.”

15. Stay ahead of the nausea!
“Take your nausea meds as prescribed,” says Andrea. “If you wait until you feel sick, you’ll spend the next half day trying to catch up. It’s so not worth it.”

16. Bring on the caps
“I loved baseball caps,” says Kathy. “The adjustable ones worked best, since I could wear them both with hair and without.”

17. Indulge yourself
“It helps to enjoy the moment and not to think too far out. So because I love polka- dot socks, I now own more than one pair,” says Kathy. “And I dance to the Rolling Stones alone sometimes.”

November 2013