Coping with side effects and how to avoid looking and feeling like a complete corpse.
Apologies for my tardiness of late with posts, I didn’t anticipate just how tired radiotherapy would make me which has affected my ability to sit in front of a screen and type! Anyways, I meant to post this last week but never got round to it, better late than never eh?!
There is no sugar coating it... chemo wreaks havoc with your absolute everything. Your hair, your skin, your nails, your body... EVERYTHING.
Quite obviously, there is no magic potion out there that will stop you looking and feeling more than a little bit crap, but there are a number of things I discovered while going through treatment that might help. I covered off most of the side effects I experienced in my last post HERE so I won’t go over most of them in much detail, but I just wanted to share what I have found in the hope it might help someone else.
My eyes went quite dry early on in treatment and when my eyelashes came out they became even more irritated. Invest in some decent eye drops like THESE
Some of my friends also bought me THESE amazing masks which felt wonderful on my sore eyes, I would definitely recommend getting some as a little treat.
My skin changed massively when I started treatment so I had to change my skincare regime to match. I went from having combination skin to it being dehydrated, dry and sensitive while at the same time being oily and suffering quite bad breakouts.
Obviously skin is such an individual thing that everyone will have completely different experiences, and what worked for me might not work for you, but I would recommend investing in some good quality, natural skincare. The more natural ingredients the better, and if you can, try and get a regular facial.
A friend recommended Kiehls to me, so I went for consultation and went with their recommendations. I don’t know if it is the same across all kiehls stores and outlets, but the one I went to in House of Fraser offered a full refund if it didn’t get on with my skin. These are the products I have been using and I can’t rave about them enough, particularly the cannabis sativa seed range (if you decide to purchase check out feelunique.com for stock first as they quite often have discount codes available)
The skin around my eyes also became quite dry, and my eyebags are 50 shades of black, so I did a lot of research and bought THIS which is a really lovely eye cream and I think it has genuinely helped (again, if purchasing, check out lookfantastic.com before buying as they stock it and quite often have discount codes available)
With all the hormonal changes from treatment as well as chemo, the skin on my back and shoulders all of a sudden developed almost acne like spots. Your skin changes quite a bit from chemo and can be quite sensitive and easily irritated. I found as soon as I switched my shower gel to a Simple hypoallergenic unscented body wash, it cleared up straight away.
I also switched my normal body moisturiser to Aveeno to avoid any uneccesary irritation.
HANDS AND FEET
I was warned my palms and the soles of my feet could get really sore and start peeling but luckily that didn’t happen. My skin just went super dry so I would suggest getting some really nice hand and foot cream and using it regularly.
For my hands I use THIS which smells absolutely DIVINE. I use their Sakura body wash and moisturiser when my skin’s not having a meltdown.
For my feet, I was bought THIS for my birthday after moaning about the sorry state of my soles and it is amazing. Smells divine and you can see the difference from the minute you first apply it.
A few people told me to wear dark nails whilst going through treatment as apparently it helps prevent some of the damage from chemo. I’m not sure how true it is, but it did seem to work for the most part. I wore the darkest gel throughout my entire course of treatment and the nail damage didn’t really start to appear till my last round, and it’s not as bad as some I’ve seen so I’m marking that one down as a win.
The damage isn’t completely unavoidable however, so I am using a couple of great products which have really helped make a difference. The first is THIS which was actually my hero product of the month in May as it’s that good. You just apply it a few times a day and it pretty much gets to work immediately.
The second product is Bio Sculpture Ethos lavender base (can’t find it online to buy) which was sent to me by a lovely nail technician after she saw one of my instagram stores and my manky nails! You put it on as you would nail varnish and remove/ reapply every few days. For removal, avoid a harsh polish remover and go for something like THIS which will avoid drying out your nails too much.
Hair loss is a big thing, and most people going through chemotherapy will experience it. I prepared myself for this and shaved it off, but what I wasn’t prepared for, was how sensitive and sore my scalp would be when it started coming out. You will want something really gentle and soothing to wash your head with each day (yes, even without hair you still need to wash!) I used THIS shampoo from aveeno, and I also bought THIS body lotion to rub in when it was dry and sore.
For a little treat, I used THIS once a week as well. It is so luxurious and really helped soothe my scalp when it was sensitive.
When I say hair loss, I don’t just mean the hair on your head. ALL of it goes. Even your inner nostril hair (permanent runny nose anyone?!) whilst this is a blessing for the most part (yessssss to no shaving for 6 months!) it can also be pretty soul destroying.
I was most worried about my eyebrows and my eyelashes as I wasn’t sure how I was going to be able to hide the fact they were missing. Luckily, as I was voicing my concerns to a friend over lunch one time, she recommended getting my brows tattood. I hadn’t even thought about that, but it was probably one of the best things I did pre-treatment, and something I will actually continue doing even now they are starting to grow back!
Lashes aren’t so easy. Invest in a good liquid eyeliner and get practising your wing liner skills, there isn’t much else you can do. I have tried a lot of liquid eyeliners this last few months and my favourite by far has been THIS it is a lovely consistency, goes on really easily, and the nib on the applicator is the perfect size and holds its shape well. I also tried a pair of magnetic eyelashes from HERE and I actually thought they were great. You apply liquid eyeliner and the lashes stick to that, and they actually bloody worked (much to my astonishment!) the only downside is they are a bit of a faff to do, and so they were far too much effort for me every day.
The best bit about losing my hair has been able to have some fun experimenting with different wigs and hairstyles. I get asked a LOT about my wigs, and it took me absolutely bloody ages to find them. Everything I looked at was so unlike any hairstyle I would ever have, and definitely aimed more at the older generation. I was getting so frustrated and so worried that I wasn’t going to be able to find anything I liked, when I finally stumbled on Nuola Wigs Eniola is a master craftsperson and her work is incredible, I cannot recommend her wigs enough. I loved my first one so much I bought a second, and as soon as I can, I will probably order a third.
If a real hair wig is out of your budget, if you are happy with synthetic, or just want extra options to be able to play around a bit, then check out Lulla Bellz I tried a lot of different synthetic wigs from different places and for the price, range, and quality these guys came out tops. My pink wig came from here (the Peachie) and it was less than fifty quid. Bargain.
My lips went really dry, and my normal lip balm tasted disgusting once my tastebuds went into meltdown, so I would say you need to get a decent lip moisturiser, and something without much of a flavour. THIS one is really good to carry round with you for for everyday use but if you are looking for something a bit more luxe, I have recently discovered Nars Afterglow lip balms and quite honestly, now can’t live without them!
Oral hygiene is really important while you’re going through chemo but you have to be very gentle with your mouth and gums as they take a battering. You will need to get a alcohol free, gentle mouthwash that tastes nice… mint flavoured ones were too strong for the lining of my mouth and made it peel so THIS one which was a gift, was perfect.
You will need a soft toothbrush, and get a few as they don’t last long and you will be brushing your teeth frequently every day. I used THESE TePe special care brushes, but you should be able to ask your dentist for recommendations.
Other things to consider -
Your sleep will be disrupted, your body will ache, and you will need to make time for yourself. Having a bath really helped with some of my aches and pains, although I used to have my water hot enough to peel skin which is not good with hot flushes so a hot bath turned into a tepid one, but was still nice all the same. THIS muscle soak was amazing, as well as THIS which was lovely in a bedtime bath.
If you are a stubborn mule like me and refused a PICC line or port, your veins are probably going to BATTER from the damage of chemotherapy (I don’t know if this still affects you if you have something like a PICC or other chemo drugs might not be as vicious) but anyways, a couple of things I found help to soothe my poor aching arms… VOLTAROL applied regularly (you want the muscle relief, not joint) plus a heat pad like THIS one which I just used to lay on my forearm while I was sat down
Apart from anti sickness meds and indulging in your favourite comfort foods, queasy pops might help, find them HERE
Get a handheld fan! My girls bought me one and it was literally the best gift EVER. Also, taking evening primrose oil might help. It hasn’t got rid of them completely for me but they definitely seem to have calmed down, it takes about 2 months to get in your system and start working though so don’t give up when they don’t make a difference straight away!
I tried all sorts of products to help ease my side effects and these were the best I found for me. Obviously everyone responds so differently to treatment that what works for one might not work for another but if, like me, you will give ANYTHING a go, they might help.
Keep your eye on my instagram page over the next few weeks as I will be doing a giveaway for a chemo care pack with lots of these products included!
Until next time, check your boobs