General Chemo Tips

  • Drink plenty of water- it helps flush your system and it helps the blood technician find your veins for blood tests.
  • Eat popsicles while they are pumping in Adriamycin and Cytoxan- it can help prevent cold sores in your mouth.
  • If you’re prone to cold sores in your mouth, talk to your Doctor about having medication on hand in case the chemotherapy causes you to have an outbreak.
  • Check in with your dentist and let them know you will be undergoing chemotherapy and see if they have any suggestions.  My dentist suggested Act mouthwash and Sensodyne Pro-enamel. Chemo can do a number on your teeth.
  • Eat what appeals to you, but try not to eat your favorite foods during chemo- it can ruin your love for them later in life.
  • Have easy to prepare things on hand at home, like canned soup, fruit cup, jello / pudding cups, bread, rotisserie chicken. Things that are easy to digest and do not have strong smells.
  • If you have a metallic taste in your mouth due to chemo, try lemon drops.
  • Consult with a nutritionist if you’re having trouble finding foods that you can stomach. Try foods with more flavor than you normally like if the chemotherapy is dulling your taste buds.
  • While undergoing chemo you may have a really intense sense of smell, try to inform the people you live with that cooking smells and perfumes may be overpowering to you. One survivor’s husband made lamb chops the day of her chemo treatment- not the smell you want to come home to.
  • Bring a friend, spouse or family member with you to chemo. Make sure it’s someone who can sit for many hours and be supportive. They may need to wait on you a bit, so make sure it’s a person who doesn’t need to be waited on themselves. This is your time.
  • Tell the person your bringing to chemo with you- what to expect; how long it will take, how it works, how you might need to take a nap. It will help them relax and know what to expect.
  • You may develop chemo or radiation buddies that you see at every appointment. That can be tremendously comforting or if the other patients are negative, a real downer.  I found keeping myself busy with my craft projects, listening to music or talking with the people who came with me really helped keep it as positive as possible.
  • It’s a myth that you will definitely lose weight on chemotherapy. ( I hate to be the bearer of bad news)It’s normal to have some weight gain for a variety of reasons. Check with your Doctor.


What to bring to Chemo

  • Blank Notebook to write questions down for the doctor
  • Handirecord, so you don’t have to think what you are allergic to and when your next appointment is.
  • Snacks/lunch (sometimes the food in the hospital is not appetizing)
  • Hard Candy /Queasy Drops (for nausea and to remove bad tastes from your mouth)
  • Lip Balm
  • Lap Blanket (those chemo rooms can be chilly!)
  • Hat/Scarf
  • Water bottle
  • Crafts to keep you busy
  • Playing cards or small games
  • an iPod/MP3 player- listen to music
  • DVD player/ iPad- watch a movie, surf the internet


Blood Tests

  • Drink plenty of water beforehand-, it helps the technician find a vein.
  • If there is a technician that can find your vein quickly and doesn’t cause you pain, go to that person every single time.  As in all jobs, some people are better than others.


Getting a Portacath

Portacath (or Port) is a small medical appliance that is installed beneath the skin. A catheter connects the port to a vein. Under the skin, the port has a septum through which drugs can be injected and blood samples can be drawn many times, usually with less discomfort for the patient than a more typical “needle stick”.  The port is usually inserted in the upper chest, just below the clavicle or collar bone, leaving the patient’s hands free. (definition from

  • A tip that I learned from Laser hair removal helped me with my port-a-cath.  If you have a port-a-cath and the doctor will give you lydocaine cream to numb the skin on top of the port-a-cath for pain-free access to the port. You can place a big piece of saran wrap over the cream – it will help the skin absorb the lydocaine and keep it from rubbing off on your clothes until you get to the doctor’s office.
  • Ask the surgeon installing your port-a-cath if you could have the incision made vertically on your chest. I found this out the hard way. A plastic surgeon told me after the fact that the skin heals with less of a scar if a patient is cut vertically for the port-a-cath. Most port-a-caths are installed on your chest and it’s hard to hide that scar later! Due your own research on this to make sure this tip is appropriate for you.
  • When they flushed my portacath at chemo with saline- it instantly gave me an awful taste in my mouth, put a hard candy in your mouth before they do this.
  • Wear a shirt that snaps or buttons up in the front- so the nurses can access your port easily.


Hair loss

  • Get your wig BEFORE you lose your hair –so the stylist can style the wig to match your current haircut and color.
  • If you don’t already have short hair- Cut your hair short so you can get used to your reflection. But don’t spend a lot on that haircut!
  • If you have long hair- consider donating it to a non-profit. American Cancer Society suggests Wigs for Kids and Pantene Beautiful Lengths: Have something good come out of losing your long locks of hair.
  • Check out Look Good, Feel Better a nationwide program through The American Cancer Society.  This program is run by volunteers who will help you through the temporary appearance changes you will experience. For instance; how to style your wig, tie a scarf, apply makeup and draw in eyebrows. It will help you look better and feel better about yourself.
  • Consider shaving your head once it starts falling out. From personal experience it is more traumatic to have your hair falling out in your hands slowly then to just have it gone. It is a way you can take some control over what is happening to you.
  • It’s a very personal thing but some survivors have thrown themselves- Shaving their Head parties. This is your time to try all the different hairstyles you were ever curious about! Mohawk anyone?


This is a friend of mine who had a Shaving Her Head Party and she gave me permission to show you a picture.

  • Or if you’re a little scared about how you will react (who can blame you) put some time aside to shave your head with your spouse or close friend.  Get a game plan though, and consult a friend who regularly shaves their head.
  • When you’re wearing your wig, be careful when opening the oven door, you can singe your bangs right off your head! It’s happened to 3 survivors I know. And that’s it for that wig!
  • Your eyebrows and eyelashes may be the last thing you lose, but don’t worry they come back really fast.
  • Once your hair starts growing back in, (AND IT WILL!) buy yourself some “transition” looks- like cute caps and baseball caps. Or just go Sinead O’Connor short, that’s what I did! I was so happy to have hair again and I wanted to show it off as soon as possible.



  • Queasy drops and anything with real ginger helps; ginger beer, ginger gum, candied ginger, ginger chews. Ginger ale does not have enough real ginger in it to help.
  • I found having a hard candy or an animal cracker in my mouth at all times helped keep it at bay.
  • Take your anti-nausea (antiemetics) religiously. Make a calendar if your chemo nurses don’t do it for you- what you take and when.  A piece of paper is all you need but if you’re technology savvy or if someone is offering to help you who is technology savvy you can use this free medication calendar at
  • Believe it or not, watching the Food Channel really helped with the nausea. I can’t explain this, but I am not the only one that this has worked for. The nausea you have is not the same nausea you get when you have the stomach flu.


Chemo Brain

  • It’s a real thing.  My boss thought I was making this up. I had to show her an article in a book!
  • Keep a notebook and pen with you so you can write things down.
  • Occupational therapy can help.  Exercise your brain, play memory games.
  • Know that you are not alone and that eventually over time and the further you are away from Chemo the better it will be.


Bone Pain

  • The shots they gave me the day after chemo to increase my white blood cell count also gave me bone pain. I felt like I was growing bones from the inside out. I found a hot water bottle or heating pad and a warm blanket helped.
  • Take a hot bath or shower


Neuropathy (Peripheral neuropathy) Can be caused by chemotherapy.

Seek medical care right away if you notice any unusual tingling, weakness or pain in your hands or feet. Early diagnosis and treatment offers the best chance for controlling your symptoms and preventing further damage to your peripheral nerves. 

What is Neuropathy? Peripheral neuropathy, a result of nerve damage, often causes numbness and pain in your hands and feet. People typically describe the pain of peripheral neuropathy as tingling or burning, while they may compare the loss of sensation to the feeling of wearing a thin stocking or glove.  Other symptoms can be; Gradual onset of numbness and tingling in your feet or hands, which may spread upward into your legs and arms. 

In many cases, peripheral neuropathy symptoms improve with time — especially if the condition is caused by an underlying condition that can be treated. A number of medications are often used to reduce the painful symptoms of peripheral neuropathy. (Neuropathy information provided by

  • If you have some kind friends or spouse, have them gently rub your hands or feet.


Nail Loss

Some chemos can really do a number on your nails. Here is some advice from a survivor who lost her nails due to a whole lot of Taxol, a chemo for breast cancer.

  • Use Vicks Vapor Rub to help numb them and the cooling sensation also helps.
  • Soak your nails (fingers or toes) in white vinegar and warm water to fight off infection.
  • Hang in there, they will grow back! shares the things that survivors, including myself, learned while being treated for cancer. We are not medical professionals and everyone is different, so please consult your physician about anything you read on this site or on any other site. Your health is important and you should make all medical decisions in consultation with your doctor.