Sunday, February 18, 2024

Living With Someone On Chemo

Contact With Body Fluids After Treatment

A Day In The Life Of A Cancer Patient | Chemotherapy Infusion

Your body typically breaks down and passes chemotherapy drugs during the 48 to 72 hours after your treatment. Because of this, its possible for these drugs to be present in various body fluids, including urine, stool, and vomit during this time.

Because chemotherapy drugs can affect healthy cells, coming into contact with them in various body fluids can be potentially harmful to yourself or others. Thats why its a good idea to avoid contact with body fluids that may contain them.

Here are a few tips for a avoiding contact:

  • Wash your hands. Thoroughly wash and dry your hands after using the bathroom or after coming into contact with any body fluids that may contain chemotherapy drugs.
  • Flush twice. Flush the toilet twice after using the bathroom, and make sure that the lid is down to prevent splashing.
  • Wash soiled fabrics. Promptly wash any clothes or sheets that have had contact with body fluids. Wash them separately from other laundry, and use the warm setting on your washing machine and normal laundry detergent.
  • Clean after youve been sick. If you vomit, clean any containers or soiled areas with warm, soapy water and dry thoroughly.

Your doctor will know which bodily fluids may be affected by chemotherapy drugs. Be sure to ask so that you can take appropriate precautions.

Hard Acidic Or Spicy Foods

Chemotherapy can cause changes in your mouth and throat. When this happens, you can experience things like increased sensitivity and mouth sores.

During this time, its important to avoid foods that can further irritate these areas. This typically includes items that are hard, acidic, or spicy, such as:

  • carbonated beverages

Mouth And Throat Changes

Why it happens: Since chemo affects fast-growing cells, like the cells that line your entire GI tract , you may experience changes in these parts of your body.

Problems may include:

  • Changes in taste and smell
  • Infections in your gums, teeth or tongue
  • Increased sensitivity to hot or cold foods

How to handle:

  • Visit a dentist at least two weeks before starting chemo
  • Check your mouth and tongue every day, especially if you wear dentures or a partial plate
  • Keep your mouth moist by sipping water all day
  • Brush your teeth with a soft toothbrush after every meal and at bedtime
  • Do not use mouthwash that contains alcohol
  • Take small bites of food
  • Soften food with gravy, broth or other liquids
  • Suck on popsicles or ice chips.

You cancer doctor or nurse may refer you to a dietitian who can provide further education.

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Surf And Network On The Internet

Get out of the chemo room without walking awayuse your computer, e-reader, smartphone or iPad to link to the network and connect with friends. Update your blog or Caring Bridge site, email your supporters, search out your genealogy or get on a chat site and connect with other people! Organize your photo files or clean up your email inbox. If you get really absorbed in your tasks, the time may pass very quickly.

Use social media to get virtual support from other survivors.

Chemotherapy Precautions For Family Members At Home

Chemotherapy 1

If your family member is receiving chemotherapy at home, there are some important things to keep in mind to help them stay as safe and comfortable as possible. Here are some tips:1. Keep the treatment area clean and free of clutter. This will help reduce the risk of infection and make it easier for your loved one to move around.2. Make sure all surfaces in the treatment area are disinfected regularly. This includes countertops, door handles, floors, etc.3. Help your loved one avoid exposure to sick people or places where there may be a lot of germs . If you or anyone else in the household is sick, take extra precautions to avoid spreading illness to your loved one.4. Wear gloves when handling chemotherapy drugs or anything that has come into contact with them . Wash your hands thoroughly afterwards.5. Avoid preparing food for your loved one if you have any cuts or open wounds on your hands/arms.

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Friends Family And Public Places

  • Friends, Family and Public Places

Health Tip Sheet

Crowds and Public Places

When undergoing chemotherapy, if you feel up to it, it is generally fine to visit public places. Just remember your immune system is weaker than usual and it may be harder for your body to fight off infections. If you do go out, try to avoid situations where you might come into close contact with people who may be sick. For example, eating at a restaurant or going to a movie is OK, but you should try to avoid a situation where you are in a crowd. This is especially important:

  • During cold and flu season, when more people are sick.
  • During your nadir, the period of time beginning about 7-12 days after you finish each chemotherapy dose-and possibly lasting for 5-7 days-is when you may be at the greatest risk for infection.

To further protect yourself, you should wash your hands or use hand sanitizers when you return home to get rid of any germs you might have picked up.

Spending Time With Friends and Family

Your friends and family are a big part of your support system, and spending time with them is important. Keep in mind that unless a friend or family member is sick or highly contagious, most doctors and nurses agree that the benefits of spending time with your friends and family outweigh the risks.

How To Live With A Loved One On Chemo

There is no other way to put it you will need to step up. It is a big responsibility to care for someone going through chemo. The nature of your relationship with the person on chemo may change as you become more of a caregiver. Your loved one may be a spouse, partner, sibling, parent, or even friend. Regardless of who the person is in your life, your offer of support and comfort will make a significant difference in their experience.

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Side Effects Of Chemotherapy And How To Deal With Them

Story submitted by Sue Weber, RN, MEd, OCN, TriHealth Cancer Institute

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Chemotherapy affects any fast-growing cells in the body, like the ones that line your mouth and intestines, as well as the cells that make up your bone marrow and hair follicles, With chemo, normal, healthy cells should bounce back and, ideally, the cancer cells dont. Chemo may be used to:

  • Cure the cancer
  • Prevent the cancer from spreading
  • Relieve symptoms the cancer may be causing

Sue Weber, RN, MEd, OCN, of the TriHealth Cancer Institute, explains common side effects of chemo and ways to deal with each.

How Should I Plan For Chemotherapy Treatments

Cancer Treatment: Chemotherapy

There are steps you can take before treatment begins to help you cope.

Prepare for side effects. Your team will work with you to plan for side effects common to your specific treatment. These may include nausea and vomiting, fatigue, and other side effects. This can include recommendations about eating well and getting regular exercise.

Relieving physical and emotional side effects is an important part of your overall cancer treatment. This type of care is called palliative care or supportive care. Talk with your health care team about the side effects you experience and ways to manage and treat them. Learn more about the side effects of chemotherapy.

Make a caregiving plan. People receiving chemotherapy may need extra help during treatment with transportation, household chores, and other tasks. Family and friends can provide valuable support during this time, called caregiving. Ask your team what type of caregiving at home you may need during and after treatment.

Get help with finances. Cancer treatment can be costly. Before chemotherapy starts, talk with your team about the financial considerations of your treatment, including specific insurance coverage. You may want to contact organizations that can provide financial support. This could be important if your health insurance does not cover the whole cost of treatment.

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How To Prepare To Live With A Loved One On Chemo

Preparing to live with a loved one on chemo will make a significant difference in their comfort and healing. Preparation will also help maintain the integrity of your relationship. The last thing you want is more stress and strain related to a chaotic and unhealthy environment. Developing a plan will help you have the energy and focus on being an excellent caregiver.


Q: What Kinds Of Chemo Are Used To Treat Cancer

A: There are more than 100 different chemo drugs used today. Which drug someone gets depends on the type and stage of cancer, and other factors or problems a patient might have. Chemo can be given through a vein, called an infusion or IV . Chemo can also come in liquid or pill form thats swallowed, or it can be injected as a shot or rubbed onto the skin.

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Managing Symptoms And Side Effects

The person you are caring for may have different symptoms or treatment side effects. Their cancer doctor, specialist nurse or palliative care team can prescribe drugs or give advice on managing these. Always tell them if side effects or symptoms do not improve.

If the person you are caring for is having treatment, such as chemotherapy or other drugs, it is very important to follow the advice that the healthcare team gave you. For example, you may have been told to contact the hospital directly on a 24-hour number if they have a temperature or feel unwell.

We have more information about different cancer treatments and their side effects. Understanding more about this can help you support the person you are caring for.

See also

For 48 Hours After Receiving Chemotherapy Patients And Caregivers Should Follow These Precautions:

The Complications of Chemotherapy for Bowel Cancer
  • Flush toilets twice each time they are used. If possible, patients should use a separate toilet from others in the home. Always wash hands with soap and water after using the toilet.
  • Caregivers must wear gloves when handling the patients blood, urine, stool, or emesis. Dispose of the gloves after each use and wash your hands.
  • After using any devices for bodily waste, patients should thoroughly wash their hands and the devices with soap and water. Dry the devices with paper towels, and discard the towels.
  • Any sheets or clothes soiled with bodily fluids should be machine-washed twice in hot water with regular laundry detergent. Do not hand wash. If you cannot wash them right away, place them in a sealed plastic bag.
  • Absorbable undergarments should be placed in sealed plastic bags for disposal.
  • If caregivers accidentally come in contact with bodily fluids, they should wash the area of exposure several times with soapy water and inform their doctors on their next visit. A single exposure may not do much harm, but caregivers should take extra precautions to avoid repeated exposure.
  • Be sure that someone is with the patient, because more help may be needed at those times.
  • Watch for the any sign or symptom listed in the When to Call Your Doctor section on your drug sheet.

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How Chemotherapy Works

Chemotherapy medicines stop or slow the growth of breast cancer cells by destroying the cells or stopping them from dividing.

Breast cancer cells usually grow and divide very quickly in an out-of-control fashion with no order. Because the cancer cells grow and divide so quickly, they break away from the original tumor and travel to other places in the body.

Because chemotherapy travels throughout the body in the bloodstream, it works on the cancer cells in the original tumor and throughout the body.

Most healthy, normal cells grow and divide in a precise, orderly way, so they arent as affected by chemotherapy as quickly dividing cells, such as cancer cells. Still, there are some healthy cells that divide quickly, such as cells in:

So chemotherapy can harm these rapidly dividing cells, which can cause side effects such as hair loss, nail changes, mouth sores, nausea, and vomiting.

Take Care Of Yourself

Self-care as a caregiver can often take a back seat when you live with someone who is on chemo. Taking care of yourself should also be a priority, as you help support your loved one.

Here are some suggestions when thinking about self-care:

  • Ask for help if you need it. Other friends or family members can help with shopping or running errands.
  • Take some quiet time for yourself and get plenty of rest.
  • Consider caregiver blogs, and forums to give you support and care suggestions.
  • Tackle the basics like good nutrition, exercise, relaxation techniques, and hobbies to keep you centered and focused.
  • Manage your own emotions by seeking help if you need it. Dont hesitate to reach out to a counselor or therapist to discuss feelings of grief, anger, or frustration.

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First Focus Area: Your Hands

You probably dont consider your hands as part of your home. Yet, your hands touch almost everything in your house. From the moment you walk in the door, your hands can bring germs from the outside into your home. You can spread them around by touching shared items in the home, such as countertops, the remote control, screens, sink and toilet handles, and appliances.

Thats why its important to wash your hands with warm, soapy water frequently. Ask children, visitors, and home health care workers to do the same. You should also try to wipe down high-touch areas regularly, like your phone, tablets, remote controls, doorknobs, and light switches, which can be easy to forget. Most of the time, you can use regular soap and water and/or household disinfecting wipes. Follow the instructions on wipes, as some require the surface to stay wet for a full 10 minutes. Also, check out the instructions for the best way to clean your specific electronics.

Practical Hints For Hair Loss

Living with Chemo Brain
  • It is not always necessary to buy a real wig. Synthetic wigs can look as good and are less expensive, easier to care for, lighter in weight and may be more comfortable to wear.
  • Before possible hair loss, some people like to cut their hair short. The hair loss won’t be quite so shocking if there is less hair to lose.
  • Put a towel over your pillow so that clean up in the morning will be easier while you are shedding your hair.
  • Buy a drain catch for your shower. Other people choose to shave their head hair when hair loss begins.
  • Refer to our wig information sheet for places to shop near you.
  • Refer to the Friend to Friend Gift Shop or the Cancer Resource Center for more information.
  • When buying a wig, take a friend for emotional support and maybe even a laugh!

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Create A Healing Environment

A healing environment means different things to different people. Sometimes it is easy to get lost in the details of the chemo and cancer itself without thinking about the space where your loved one lives and sleeps.

Consider creating a clean and calm area. Your loved one might need to nap during the day, and having light-blocking shades can help. Ask your loved one what would make their environment calm and healing.

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Chemotherapy Is An Individual Experience

Every person experiences chemotherapy differently, both physically and emotionally. Each person experiences side effects from chemotherapy differently, and different chemotherapy drugs cause different side effects. Fortunately, as the science of cancer treatment has advanced, so has the science of managing treatment side effects.

Whatever you experience, remember there is no relationship between how the chemotherapy makes you feel and whether you derive benefit from it.

Many people feel fine for the first few hours following chemotherapy. Usually, some reaction occurs about four to six hours later. However, some people don’t react until 12 or even 24 to 48 hours after treatment. Some people experience almost all of the side effects described below, while others experience almost none.

We have many treatments to help you deal with side effects. Please let us know how you are feeling so we can address your concerns and help make you more comfortable.

Your well-being is very important to us. There is a delicate balance between the benefits of chemotherapy and the harm of possible side effects. Please tell your doctor if you feel that the harm outweighs the benefit.

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Attend To Nutrition And Hydration Needs

For someone going through chemo, loss of appetite is common. While caregiving for a loved one on a round of chemotherapy, you can do a few things to help them out in regards to their nutrition and hydration needs.

  • Offer small meals throughout the day to combat nausea and increase calorie intake.
  • Ask your loved one what seems appealing to eat. They may like something completely different than you expect.
  • Focus on protein and high-calorie foods.
  • Ask your friends to prepare a meal or two during the week to give you a break. Or, order pre-made meals for delivery.
  • Dont forget about hydration. This is especially important for someone who has nausea and vomiting.

Can Chemo Affect A Caregiver

Chemotherapy Vs. Radiation

Sitting next to Brian on the day he commenced treatment, I observed the nurses administering his chemotherapy drugs wearing purple rubber gloves and heavy aprons. The sight of that made me realize how toxic these drugs must be.

While Brian was undergoing his treatment, my only concerns were his well-being and the effects of the drugs on his body. After an interesting conversation with a nurse later that day, I learned that Brians treatment also could have a detrimental effect on my own body.

The conversation started after I observed hospital staff directing chemotherapy patients to a separate bathroom than everyone else. The door to that bathroom had a large purple sign that matched the color of the nurses gloves. It read: Toxic for the use of chemotherapy patients only.

It made me think: Would Brian need a separate toilet at home after his chemotherapy treatments? So I asked the nurse. Im glad I did, too.

She said chemotherapy drugs remain in a patients bodily fluids for up to 72 hours after therapy ends. This means the drugs are present in vomit, urine and excrement during that time.

In extreme cases, it can even lead to cancer.

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