Medically Reviewed by Dr. K on 28 April 2021
Table of contents
While a chemotherapy session may only last a few hours, you could experience side effects for several days or weeks following. Think about how you’ll look after yourself at home before you head in for treatment to make your recovery smoother and more comfortable.
1. Ask someone to drive you to and from treatments.
After a session, you might feel alright, or you might feel exhausted and unsafe behind the wheel. Having a friend or family member with you for emotional support is beneficial.
2. Talk with your employer.
Some people plan chemotherapy treatments around their work schedules, and others feel that they need time off both for treatment and in the days and weeks following. Be sure you’re aware of your choices and rights. Many companies are required by law to provide time off for chemotherapy. Check with your boss and see how they can be flexible with you until you have a clearer sense of how you will feel.
3. Clear your schedule.
In the hours after chemo, avoid going to gatherings or participating in activities. You might want to go home and sleep or rest. You may feel exhausted the day after a session.
4. Arrange for help with meals and child care.
If you’re struggling with side effects of fatigue or nausea, it may be difficult to prepare dinner or care for the kids. Cooking and freezing food for the family ahead of time, helping to babysit, running errands, or even offering a hand around the house are ways that loved ones can be of assistance.
5. Learn how to handle the waste.
Small amounts of chemotherapy medications will exit the body via urine, vomit, and other bodily fluids in the 48 hours after treatment. It’s important to keep these contaminants out of reach from yourself and those in your household. Ask your doctor ahead of time how you can handle dirty laundry and other items. Inquire on what steps you can take while using the restroom or if you become ill.
6. Visit the dentist.
Since mouth sores are a common side effect, getting dental work or cleanings before starting your sessions is a good idea. You can also inquire about proper oral care during chemotherapy, such as brushing with a soft toothbrush and gargling with an alcohol-free mouthwash.
7. Stock up on healthy groceries.
Any side effects may be minimised by staying hydrated. So have a supply of low-calorie beverages on hand. For days where you don’t feel like cooking, consider purchasing prepared meals or signing up for a meal delivery service. Have a variety of fruits, vegetables, and high-protein snacks such as yogurt, on hand.
8. Consider buying head coverings.
It’s possible that you may lose your hair, so you should consider whether you might want to wear a wig, a hat, or a scarf before it grows back. You’ll have more energy if you shop for a wig before beginning treatments. You’ll even be able to better match the shade and texture of your natural hair. You could also cut your hair before starting chemo. Losing short hair could be less of a shock, and these styles will grow back faster.
9. Plan for pet care.
Since certain drugs increase the risk of infection, you should avoid picking up dog feces or cleaning litter boxes, birdcages, or fish tanks. Consult your doctor for advice about how to keep yourself safe around your pets, and wash your hands after coming into contact with any animals.
10. Plan for safe sex.
Chemotherapy treatments can affect sperm and cause birth defects, so you and your partner should avoid getting pregnant when you’re receiving treatment. Condoms should be used even if you are taking birth control medication as the drugs will remain in the sperm and vaginal fluids. Consult your doctor to determine the length of time for which you should take precautions.
Referenced on 20/4/2021
- Joan Kramer, MD, medical editor, American Cancer Society.
- National Cancer Institute: “Chemotherapy and You."
- University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center: “After Chemotherapy."
- National Cancer Institute: “Eating Hints Before, During, and After Cancer Treatment."
- BreastCancer.org: “Wigs."
- University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics: “Chemotherapy: What Can Be Done About Side Effects?"
- MD Anderson Cancer Center: “Sexuality & Cancer."