What I Learned From My Breast Cancer Care Team

Get tips from the professionals who always have your back.

Health Monitor Staff

As you proceed along your journey, don’t forget to tap the wisdom of the special team at your side—oncology nurses, social workers, chemo infusion nurses and others. That’s what these chemo patients did, and it made their journeys so much easier. If you’d like to try any of their tips, be sure to get your oncologist’s okay.

Oncology nurse
“Soothe mouth sores”

“I had trouble with mouth sores, and my oncology nurse recommended Biotene as a moisturizing mouth rinse, and also a lidocaine spray to numb the areas that were particularly painful,” says a grateful Deb Merrifield, a breast cancer survivor from Buffalo. “She would listen to anything, look at anything I asked—no complaint, no question was too small.”

Oncology nutritionist
“Get clearance for any supplements you take”
“My cancer center’s nutritionist advised me that some common supplements, like vitamin C and CoQ10, could interfere with my chemo combo,” says Cheryl Solimini, a Milford, PA, endometrial cancer survivor. “She did say I could continue taking calcium and vitamin D3 for bone health, and add B6 to reduce or prevent nerve damage.”

“Ease chemo after-effects with glutamine”
“After my treatments were over, I visited the nutritionist about my lingering side effects,” says Cheryl. “She suggested glutamine, a naturally occurring amino acid that treatment can deplete. Within a week, I felt remarkably better—I had more energy, a calmer tummy, less numbness in my hands and feet, even my brain seemed more focused.”

“Quell nausea with ginger”
“My nutritionist suggested that ginger was a good, natural antinausea supplement,” says Jake Bouma, a Hodgkin’s lymphoma survivor in Des Moines. “We purchased ginger snaps and my wife, Libby, found a recipe for ginger chicken-noodle soup, which became a staple of my diet throughout treatment.”   

Breast cancer support service retreat
“Restorative yoga works wonders!”

Barbara Gallagher discovered Breast Cancer Options, a nonprofit group near her home in Florida, NY, and signed on for a free retreat for people with metastatic breast cancer. “The weekend was incredible, with discussions and workshops, including one on restorative yoga, a series of relaxing, supported movements. Afterward, a friend gave me a bolster pillow and I bought a yoga DVD. I now do it 15 minutes in the morning and for an hour every night. It works wonders to ease my back pain.”

Social worker
“There is financial help out there!”

“I lost my job and benefits just before I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer,” says Debra Musolino, a fitness instructor in Manalapan, NJ. “That my cancer was caught early was a fluke: My dog jumped on my stomach—something he’d never done before—and the pain I felt turned out to be the tumor. But now I was looking at four months of chemotherapy and no way to pay for it. I also couldn’t afford to delay treatment. The social worker at the hospital steered me toward programs that could help and taught me how to bargain with the billing department. I learned about a local organization, Raising Hope for Others, that contributed $20,000 toward my medical expenses.”

May 2013