Enjoying the Break

Chemotherapy_with_acral_coolingWhat should I do between chemotherapy treatments?

There are certain criteria to meet if you are going to benefit the most from your break, be it in between chemotherapy treatments, episodes of a recurring illness, stress, emotional upheaval, or even something as innocent as looking after the grandkids every afternoon. We need to make the best possible use of the time we have available. Next time the situation occurs, we will be in a better condition to handle it, and probably recover quicker too.

A few days ago, on a sweltering African afternoon, I had a game of table tennis. It’s one of those crazy commitments. Every Tuesday afternoon, a group of us get together to play regardless of the weather. That afternoon, the temperature was in the 30’s (90’s FH) and the humidity high. The hall, which had been closed for a few days, was unbearably hot. And I was dashing around hitting, or trying to hit, an elusive small white ball. When my game ended I sat watching the next couple exhaust themselves while I mopped my brow and tried to ignore the rivulets of sweat trickling down my back. Outside, squeals of laughter and splashes came from the swimming pool.

Eventually, I slipped out the door. Several folk floated lazily in the sparkling water. They all greeted me and called on me to join them. I’m not a swimmer, but oh it did look good. I sat on the edge and dangled my feet in the water. About 10-15 minutes later, someone came to call me. It was my turn at the table again. I felt rejuvinated, ready even to tackle a new game with renewed vigour–and the promise of getting my feet wet again at the end of the game. What does this have to do with the subject at hand? The need to use our break time wisely. So if you’re between chemotherapy or radiation treatments, or any other stressful situations, here are five tips to help you use the time wisely.

Eat a healthy and balanced diet. Often these times are when you reach for the fast food. You’re too tired to bother with cooking, and besides, you have no time. But your body needs nutrients now more than ever.

When I was on chemo I always felt great after treatment, thanks to the IV cortizone I received along with the cyto-toxic drugs. Round the corner from my oncologist stood a Fried Chicken fast food stop. We made it standard practice to pop in there and order lemon-and-herb fried chicken, greasy fried chips, and some soda. We would stop the car at a nearby park and sit on the lawn while we enjoyed our treat. Only after I had finished chemo, did I realise what a crazy and stupid thing that was. My poor body. As if it didn’t have enough to cope with, I was loading it with even more damaging free radicals.

Make a list of chores you absolutely have to do. Then see how many you can delegate. You’ll be surprised at the number of people who would love to help you, if you only ask.

Find a balance between rest and exercise. Nap in a comfortable chair. Lie on your bed. Doze with a blindfold. Then as soon as you are able, take a short walk, even just to the gate and back. Don’t push your body too far, but exercise not only strengthens your muscles, it helps build your self-esteem.

Exercise your mind as much as you can. Many on cancer treatment suffer from the so-called “chemo brain,” in which the simplest of mental tasks becomes complicated. Try doing puzzles, put a mind-strengthening game on your computer, learn a new craft.

Take care of your spirit. Read uplifting books or articles, watch funny movies, play the piano, listen to cheerful music, anything that will make you feel good.

Keep a record. Journal. Jot notes in a diary. This is especially helpful if you are having treatment. It really helps to be able to look back at last cycle and realise you felt just as rotten then as you do today–but that you can expect to feel more human tomorrow.

What do you do during the breaks between treatment? Is it helpful? Do you have more suggestions to add to the list above? Please share them with us under comments below.  

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