Chemo can be very unforgiving. From nausea to skin issues to pain to hair loss, the side effects run the gamut. It’s a necessary evil, and for many, it comes at a high physical price. The bottom line is that chemo, despite its power to heal, can make you feel absolutely terrible. So, once it’s over, you’ll want to get back to feeling like your “old self” as quickly as possible.
The reality, though, is that chemo can take quite a toll. It is very hard on your body. When you’ve just finished chemo, feeling like your “old self” will likely be a little ways off. There are steps you can take to start feeling better; however, you might have to adjust to a new definition of what wellness means for you. For example, as you get back on your feet, a successful workout might be walking to the mailbox and back rather than running three miles. It’s all about perspective!
Here are a few tips to guide you in your road to recovery.
Eat smart. If you’re not quite done with chemo and continue to experience nausea and vomiting, there are steps you can take to minimize your suffering. EveryDayHealth.com interviewed a medical oncologist who recommends eating smaller meals and avoiding spicy and overly greasy foods.
Be patient and ask others to be patient. Having endured fatigue, nausea, and any number of other unpleasant side effects, following your last chemo treatment, you’ll expect your health to improve. Unfortunately, as WebMD.com explains, it takes some time to recover from the “chemobrain” and the fatigue that may have set in while you were in treatment. In the article, the doctor who created Breastcancer.org suggests that patience is the key. She notes that it usually takes the equivalent of the time between your “first ‘cancer scare’ moment to the date of your last treatment” to recover from these chemo side effects.
As the article notes, probably one of the best things you can do as you adjust to your post-chemo life, is to make sure those around you–family members, colleagues, friends, etc.–understand that you’re not going to bounce right back. You’ll need time to recover from chemo, and that’s okay.
Choose fun over practical. In the initial days following finishing your treatment, your energy will be at a premium. And that’s why the Dana-Farber Institute encourages saying “no” to certain tasks and activities when you’re on the mend. If, for example, you have the choice between doing something you enjoy—like going to a movie or walking in the park—or doing something that “needs” to be done—like a household chore—choose the activity that will bring you the most joy. And don’t feel guilty about it for a second!
Start healthy habits. As you recover from chemo, work to create new habits that will help you be healthy and well. Mayo Clinic suggests making regular exercise—which helps you feel better physically and mentally—a part of your daily routine. It also advocates for stopping smoking and only drinking alcohol in moderation.
The Post-Chemo Challenge: Set a fun fitness goal. You might not be feeling great now, but if you make self-care a priority as you rest up and recover in the not-too-distant future, you can set your sights on being back to 100 percent. A great way to stay motivated as your health improves is to have a goal. In this post, the blogger at MommyBeatsCancer.com writes about how she challenged herself after her chemo by running a 5k/obstacle course. Since exercise is such a great way to get your body and mind back in order, consider setting a goal for six months from now for a fun physical achievement you’d like to accomplish.
Chemo can be miserable, and just as you had to adjust to its terrible side effects, you may find that you’ll have to adjust your idea of what being “well” feels like as you recover. Take all the time you need. Rest up, eat well, and find ways to enjoy every day. You deserve it!