Chemotherapy, using medicine or drugs to target cancer cells, is a common treatment for breast cancer. It helps to be prepared for chemo—potential side effects, the change in your schedule, and overall impact on your life—and we are pleased to share some words of wisdom from others who have been there.
In Their Own Words: What Really Helps During Chemo
From warm baths, music, and milkshakes to meal trains, extra-long phone chargers, and journaling, we received great advice from those going through chemo and survivors:
“Even on the bad days, I find something to make me laugh, I look for beauty in small things, and I think to myself what a strong incredible woman I am!” – Mel
“I called the chemo days my ‘rainbow’ days and pictured healing thoughts as I received my infusions. This helped me to stay positive and endure the most difficult time of my life.” – Gina
“I did a countdown of the treatments—mentally it helped me to see that number getting smaller and know the end was in sight.” – Selena
“Family, Faith, and Friends.” – Edwina
“My chemo nurses made it feel like I was hanging out with friends.” – Michelle
“Two days after my chemo treatments I went back into the chemo center for IV fluids, every week for 20 weeks. The extra fluids really helped and I recommend it to everyone if possible.” – Dena
“Friends and family who would listen to me complain endlessly without judgement, meal delivery immediately following infusions, cards from relatives sharing strength and love, and a port-accessible sweatshirt (so I didn’t have to undress for port access).” – Brandi
Top 5 Recommendations from Survivors Who Completed Chemo
We are fortunate to have an amazing community of women who have completed chemo and who are willing to share their valuable insights on the experience. To help breast cancer patients prepare for and get through chemo, we compiled a list of helpful tips from this community.
- Rest—or move
During treatment, many women share newfound passions for walking, cycling, and other activities while others note the importance of giving yourself permission to rest. This advice will vary day by day, depending on how you are feeling and what helps to boost your energy level.
- Nourish yourself
Nutrition can make a big difference in how you feel during chemo. Protein smoothies are a great option if you need nutrition on the go or are experiencing lack of appetite or mouth sores—hydration is also key. Learn more through the free “Nutrition Care for Breast Cancer Patients” eBook. Meal trains can also be a wonderful option when you’re too tired to cook. And we can’t count the number of women who recommend the healing properties of chocolate! NBCF also offers a free “Healthy Recipes for Cancer Patients” eBook with recipes for meals that are easy to prepare and safe to eat.
- Surround yourself with support
From friends and family to organized support groups, having a team on your side can make a tremendous difference before, during, and after chemo. Surround yourself with positive energy and people willing to offer a listening ear or a helping hand.
- Find something to believe in
Many turn to faith and spiritual support to provide light during challenging times. Prayer and meditation can provide solace and a sense of calm and connection.
- Cuddle up with a furry friend
Several people who responded to our query shared that they got a dog prior to chemo as a companion that could always be counted on to offer unconditional love.
A sense of humor, a good driver, camping trips, and a positive attitude also made the list. One woman shared that “Pedialyte and mashed potatoes” were a lifesaver when she felt sick or dehydrated and another recommended “plastic flatware, applesauce, and saltine crackers.” Word games, puzzles, and blankets were also appreciated by many.
Resources from NBCF
National Breast Cancer Foundation provides support to women throughout the chemo process. We are proud to offer free resources including:
- Chemo Messages: Inspiring email and video messages during treatment, Chemo Messages offer messages of care from survivors who have been there as well as helpful resources and the reassurance you need to take the next step.
- HOPE Kits: Thoughtful items that patients have told us are comforting and encouraging, HOPE Kits may include fuzzy socks, tea, unscented lotion, a journal and pen, lip balm, and more as an expression of hope and care.
- Support groups: In-person and online groups can reduce the stress and anxiety that come with a breast cancer diagnosis and provide a community of support, no matter where you live.
Join the conversation! If you’ve gone through chemotherapy, comment below what was most helpful during your experience.
National Breast Cancer Foundation is here for you and your loved ones. Whether you need support, education, or help during treatment, we have a team dedicated to get you the help you deserve.
For the full comment thread of recommendations from survivors, check our Facebook post here.