When facing a diagnosis of lymphoma, it can be difficult to know what to expect. I didn’t know how chemo would impact my life, and there was no way for me to know how chemo would affect me first-hand. Although there is lots of information available about chemo, and how to prepare for it, going through it is completely different.
Following are five things I wish someone had told me before I started chemo. I hope these five things I learned (plus one bonus!) will be insightful to anyone starting chemo.
1. Set reasonable expectations for yourself
It’s probably best that you only plan to do one or two things a day. If you exert yourself too much and do not feel well or energetic enough to fulfill other plans, don’t be hard on yourself. Your body is going through so much and the last thing you should stress about are the plans you are not able to fulfill. Take it slow. Your friends will understand completely if you would rather veg out and watch Netflix.
2. Listen to your body/report to your doctor
This a big one for me. I say this to my friends who don’t even have cancer. You should always be listening to your body. Our bodies are designed to fight for us, and they will always speak up when something isn’t right. We just have to listen close enough.
Listening to your body becomes very important because the chemo will affect our bodies in ways that we’ve never experienced. For me, most chemo weeks came with their own set of side effects.
Chest pain was the big one for me, which eventually led to being diagnosed with a pulmonary embolism (the scariest part of my treatment.) But because I listened to my body (and reported to my doctor), I was able to catch the embolism in time.
*I found it helpful to keep a journal or note of each chemo week’s side effects and then send them to my doctor, or sharing the list with him at my next appointment.
3. Playing the cancer card is OK
I always thought it was super awkward to play the card, and wasn’t sure how to even introduce the topic. Eventually, I figured it out, as I think you will, too. Sometimes you really have no other choice but to play the cancer card. And that’s okay. I believe we got dealt this card, and it’s only fair if we get to use it every now and then!
4. Give your body a fighting chance
Cravings aside, make sure that what you are putting in your body benefits you in some way. The stuff you are being injected with, although fighting the cancer cells, is not strengthening your body’s natural resources. Do what you can to consume the things your body loves and will benefit from. In contrast, I also say that by listening to your body’s cravings (my craving was Sour Patch Kids!) you are giving your body what it needs in that moment. We can talk about cravings more later.
5. Temper your expectations of your friends (and even your family)
I cover this briefly in a video on my youtube channel. I’m not sure what you can make of my tears in the video, and it’s been a while since I re-watched it, but friends are going to let you down. Family is going to let you down. Going into treatment and your cancer diagnosis, I recommend tempering your expectations of who you think will pull through and be there for you. In most cases, the people you expect to be there for you are the ones who can’t, and the people that you don’t expect at all come out of the woodwork and bring their “A game.”
I find that this filtering of the friends who didn’t stick around is a blessing in disguise, and I’m actually pretty happy about learning these things sooner rather than later.
One part I really have trouble with when it comes to the friends department post-chemo, is remembering that it’s OK for friendships to fall through with friends who were there for you during treatment.
Plan for life after cancer!
Once treatment ends, you are entering a totally “new normal.” Life as you knew it will be very much different. You probably will have different outlooks, you may be dealing with PTSD, and you will not feel like yourself. No one mentioned this to me when I was diagnosed, or started treatment.
Prepare for this. Set goals for some things you want to accomplish post-cancer. Changing your career path? That’s okay. I did, too!
Preparing for chemo won’t make it go away, but you’ll be ready for it. And that’s half the battle!
Note: Lymphoma News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Lymphoma News Today, or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to lymphoma.