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Let’s talk practicalities!


I’m not known for my planning and preparation – I’m more of a last minute, wing it kinda gal! However, knowing that the journey I was about to embark on would be demanding, given the treatment commitments and how my body would respond in terms of fatigue, I decided to seek out and take the advice of others who have had the unfortunate experience of cancer treatment. And I thought I’d share what has worked for me, in the hope of helping others who face a similar journey themselves; or, indeed, to help those who have friends/family facing chemo.


So first up is food. This advice came from my sister, who last year had a brain tumour with 6 months of treatment following surgery, so I was all ears when she shared with me her tips for coping. She recommended I do some batch-cooking of my favourite meals before starting treatment, based on her experience of being too fatigued to prepare and cook fresh meals, particularly on the days of scans and treatment. These meals can then be frozen and re-heated on days when one is too tired to cook. I took her advice and made 24 portions of my favourites: stuffed vegetables, cottage pie, chicken curry, chili con carne and Cornish Pasties. I purchased food containers with lids from Lakeland, making sure that they are both microwavable and dishwasher safe. The cooking marathon took me 2 days, but once I was finished, I had a freezer full of delicious nosh (well, I like my own cooking, luckily!). I also got in a cupboardful of healthy snacks like nuts, dried fruit, rice cakes and popcorn, because my sister explained that sometimes she didn’t feel like eating a whole meal, but with medications required to support the body through treatment, many can only be taken after food, so not eating at all is not an option. Again, like my ready meals, having these snacks available has been really useful. And finally, on the subject of food, I was more than happy to follow the advice of my Nurse Specialist, namely, to eat what I enjoy without guilt! This wasn’t permission to gorge on unlimited crisps and chocolate (boo!), but more to ensure that I didn’t deprive myself of small pleasures whilst undergoing a tough regime. Fortunately, my good friends have supplied me with many sweet and savoury treats, so there’s always something I can get my hands on when I get the munchies!


Next up is what to take to treatment appointments. I arrived at my first infusion with very little understanding of what it would entail and how long I would be ‘hooked up’ to the pump administering the life-saving nectar, so only took my handbag and a book. I soon realized that my treatments would be several hours, which is much longer than chemotherapy treatment for most other cancers; this in itself wasn’t an issue but sitting very still for 6 or 7 hours was going to require me to go well prepared to future appointments – I’m a Type A fidgety-bottom! So, for my next appointment, I dug out a large beach bag and filled it with everything I thought would support me through the day. Therefore, based on my experience, here’s a list of things which you (or someone you support) might find helpful…

  • Healthy snacks or even unhealthy snacks! I chose a banana and some mixed nuts & dried fruits.

  • A power bank for my phone and a phone charging cable

  • A journal, so I could make notes to help me with this blog (and a pen)

  • A file with all my medical notes and letters

  • A scarf for when I got chilly and a hand-held fan for when I got too hot

  • A pair of slippers so I felt comfortable and relaxed

  • A puzzle book, novel and a couple of magazines

  • A neck pillow

  • Lemon boiled sweets as the infusions can give you a strange, metallic taste

Other useful items are provided by the treatment ward: tissues, regular coffees and water, biscuits, a light lunch of sandwich and jelly/yoghurt.

In terms of other practicalities, there are many booklets available either from the cancer charities (I have found Macmillan and Blood Cancer UK most relevant) and also look out for notices and pamphlets in the department waiting room. Whilst it can be daunting to read so much literature at the beginning, it is useful to have to hand as questions emerge; I also bookmark the websites I find most helpful.




Also essential to have at home are…

  • A digital thermometer (this is required to ensure that your temperature doesn’t go above 37.5 C, because when it does, you need to call the 24-hour number of your treatment ward)

  • A pulse oximeter (to check oxygen levels and pulse)

  • Printed details of all the telephone numbers you need and an extra couple of copies to give to family/friends who are supporting you

  • A wall calendar or dedicated electronic calendar to record your appointments and transport details

  • Lateral Flow Tests for the days you receive treatment as this is a still a requirement of the hospital before you can be admitted

I’m sure I’ve forgotten a few things and I’d be incredibly grateful if you have any things you would recommend adding to the list – please comment below. Obviously, one hopes never to have to prepare for chemotherapy, but I have learned that good preparation and taking the advice of others can make a tough experience a little easier!



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About Me

Angela.jpg

Hi, I'm Angela, also known as 'Space Angel ‘, on Twitter and 'Snakey' to my family (both monikers require a long story to explain!). I'm 58 and the proud mum of Charlie, my 26-year-old son. I live alone in my cottage in Llanrhaeadr Ym Mochnant, a beautiful village in the Tanat Valley in North Wales, and the location of the tallest waterfall in Wales.

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