In cancer management as in the rest of life, it’s the little things that can really make a difference. When a cancer diagnosis comes it’s natural for our thoughts to turn to the big picture – it’s only human to focus on the treatment itself and not give much though to how to support and nurture ourselves in order to get through it. There is a great deal of research that shows that maintaining a positive, upbeat attitude and feeling loved and supported while undergoing treatment can speed healing and improve your tolerance of challenging side effects.
Patients who undergo chemotherapy sessions are often stuck in the infusion center for hours at at time. These centers usually provide Wi-Fi for patient use, as well as televisions to watch and comfortable chairs to rest in, but that doesn’t eliminate the sense of being trapped and bored. Whether you are a person who has been diagnosed with cancer who is preparing for chemotherapy or a friend or family member looking for a way to provide support, there are a number of little things that can make a big impact. Here are the top five items every cancer patient needs to help make going through chemotherapy a much happier experience.
Though most chemotherapy infusion centers will provide a snack machine, as well as inexpensive snacks such as saltines or pretzels, cancer patients are much better served by having easy access to nutritious, calorie-rich snacks that will soothe nausea while at the same time providing them with nourishment that counts. Purchase an insulated bag with state-of-the-art freezer packs that will keep snacks cool for hours, and then pack it with items such as low-fat string cheese or Greek yogurt, whole fruit or single-serving fruit and vegetable pouches, a variety of nuts that provide healthy fats and protein, and tasty ways to stay hydrated such as green tea or flavored water. If you can find ginger cookies that are made with molasses, they will prove a real help in the face of nausea.
Not only do chemotherapy infusion centers generally kept their thermostats set to cooler temperatures, but the effect of the chemotherapy may make you vulnerable to chills. Having a soft blanket or sweater provides both warmth and comfort, and is especially valuable if it has been made for the purpose with love and care.
Whether you listen to music on your smart phone, an MP3 player or any other source, it has been established that music therapy can have a real impact on nausea and vomiting caused by chemotherapy. Not only that, music has been shown to diminish the impact of pain, depression and insomnia. Though the American Cancer Society recommends that calming instrumentals and soothing rhythms are most effective, the truth is that anything that makes the patient feels good is appropriate and helpful.
Just sitting in one spot for several hours can feel like a colossal waste of time, but using the opportunity to get something done is a great way to counter that. Books are an easy option that can help pass the time, but if you want to be particularly productive then take along art materials such as paper and pastels, some knitting needles and yarn, or even wood for whittling. Many patients take the time to collect their old photos and memory items to work on scrapbooks while waiting to be released from treatment. Anything that the patient can focus on for an extended period and makes them feel that they have accomplished something is a plus.
– Aromatherapy has been shown to be a big help for those suffering from the nausea, fatigue and anxiety that often accompanies chemotherapy. Different oils can be packed in a cosmetic or valet bag and used for different purposes, with peppermint oil being appropriate for nausea and vomiting issues, lavender for problems with sleep, thyme or tea tree oils for diarrhea or constipation, and frankincense for stress. Just a few drops on the wrist can make a very big difference.
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