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What NOT To Do On Chemo: Dos and Dont's of Chemotherapy

Updated on March 10, 2010

When you receive a diagnosis of cancer that requires chemotherapy, it can be a shock to your very core.  There's so much medical information to digest and so much of it can be very difficult for a layman to understand.  The doctors will tell you what to do, sure, that's what they're there for.  But what is there not to do? What should I avoid?  They can't possibly cover every conceivable mistake you could make, right?

Well, no.  But no one expects them to.  However, for those worried or just looking for a little bit of friendly guidance from someone who has been through it, here are a few idea of what not do do when on chemo.

eat healthy, not fad diets
eat healthy, not fad diets

Don't Trust "Well Meaning" Advice

As soon as you receive any type of diagnosis, especially of cancer, it seems that everyone and their brother will be coming out of the woodwork to give you their own special cures and tips.  We should all consider ourselves blessed to have so many people who want to help us out, but Aunt Eloise's special diet is probably not going to cure your cancer. Your chemotherapy will.

One of the major don'ts of chemotherapy is to make major life changes that you don't need to.  Most doctors will recommend keeping to a fairly regular diet with some additions or subtractions as necessary.  For instance, when I started chemo my doctor strongly warned me off of fad diets involving anti-oxidants as they could interfere with my treatment.

It can be hard enough to keep your life together with all the changes you'll be going through.  Don't change your diet to some kooky fad just because an acquaintance read an article somewhere one time.   Discuss all dietary changes with a doctor and a nutritionist before and during your treatment.

Don't Compare Your Treatment To Others

There are a million different variations of cancer and no single person's treatment will be the same.  If your neighbor has the exact same type of cancer in the exact same place, chances are they need a slightly different mix of drugs due to body weight, medical history, or doctor preference.  One of the things not to do on chemotherapy is to compare your treatment cycle to those around you.  It will only lead to pointless guessing and comparing.

In this battle you are on your own.  You have support: your friends, family, doctors, nurses, and millions of other things, but it is still just one person fighting.  Don't get caught up in trying to compare someone else's war to your own.

Do Not Miss Treatments

This one can not be said enough. One of the major don't of chemo is to miss a treatment! Just don't do it! Oncologists will specially plan out weeks and months of treatment down to the last day to make sure your body is getting the full amount of healthy drugs it can handle with the proper amount of rest in between. In my case, even a single missed day was shown to have negative effects on the overall outcome of the treatment.

For this reason, make it your number one priority to attend every chemotherapy infusion session. If you are too ill, transportation can be provided to ensure you arrive on time. If weather is bad and makes travel difficult, a hospital stay may be required to ensure that the chemo arrives on time.

A lot of pain and suffering can be avoided by attending your chemotherapy appointments on time.  Of course, staying motivated can be an issue... which brings us to-

Don't Mope!

Everyone is going to tell you that you're the bravest warrior in the whole wide world, but the truth is you're just a regular person with a disease trying to get through it and move on with their lives. That doesn't mean there won't be down days. Being sick is difficult and some of the treatments will feel worse than you did before the diagnosis. This is all part of getting better. Listen to your doctor and stay well.

The biggest "Do Not" for chemotherapy is to just give up, to start moping. Enjoy yourself. Listen to your body. Do you feel well for the first time all week? Skip the fruits and veggies and have a big ol' cheesesteak. Whatever it is that picks you up in the day, go ahead and do it and don't feel guilty about it.  It could mean the difference between staying strong when you need it and making a mistake.


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    • profile image


      7 years ago

      I went through chemotherapy last Summer and agree that you can't compare notes with other people. I did my own research and made my own choices after weighing all the information.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      I was diagnosed with her2 breast cancer stage 3 in Dec Was I scared never more in my life I have seen family members with cancer and chemo Well chemo isn"t fun but I am here to complain I have picked one person to be my sounding board to cry with talk to Everyone else I have a normal relation ship with I have found this really has helped me I don"t want to be sick to everyone poor sister I have dumped on but I would do it for her

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      One small oversight - don't eat your very favorite food while taking chemo - it will NEVER taste the same again! That was what my doctor told me and I thought he was kidding. He wasn't. Of course, if flavor is my only complaint after surviving stage IIIc carcinoma, I think I'm okay! Good luck and Godspeed to all who are survivors!

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      I love this article. Yes you are right, chemotherapy have do's and don'ts. Chemotherapy will kill your cancer cells and normal cells. Side effects are abundant at these times. So the cancer patients should really be careful. Thanks for the additional information.

    • rwelton profile image


      9 years ago from Sacramento CA

      Len- good hub - in 2008 I had 35 radiation treatments - 5 days a week for 7 weeks and 3 chemo infusions. The chemo was the easy part. Because all of my treatments were in the head and neck area (Tonsil Cancer) a lot of my treatments symptoms were in the throat area. Don't know what it would have been like otherwise. I surrounded myself with positive quotes (posted everywhere in my house) and upbeat music (a lot of reggae)and was fortunate enough to have a wonderful spouse that chased away the inevitable blues. Good post.


    • profile image


      9 years ago

      Been there, done that. Chemotherapy worked for me. Did I feel bad? Sometimes. Did I throw up a lot? No - there is a drug called Zofran that did away with that for me, without the cramps caused by Emetrol (which did NOT work for me). I actually did okay while taking radiation and chemotherapy. The day of my last treatment, when I realized that there was nothing left to do but wait and pray, I lost it a little, but that was 8 years ago! I have a motto, "If I am here to whine about it, I am okay," that gets me through the tough days. My cancer was very advanced and I am one of few who survived it (at that stage), so I do still have tired days and weak days, but I also have days of joy with my family. Good luck, all of you, with your own trials. You are not alone. May God bless you all!

    • gmann46 profile image


      9 years ago from Phx., Az.

      Thanks for sharing your experience. My brother starts chemo next week and will be going thru it for the next 30 days. He is trying to journal his experience to share with others as you have. Thanks for the strength.

    • wierdlywonderful profile image


      9 years ago from Lutz, Florida

      I am a beast cancer survivor who's treatment included chemo and radiation. This is a personal decision and no one should be criticized for their thoughts or opinions. We are all in control of the treatment we choose and it is the physician's duty to provide all of your options. Yes, it is very overwhelming and it seems that our brains go into overload. But a doc who truly cares for his/her patients will make sure that all of the patients questions are answered. There are very few studies done on holistic treatments compared to the pharmiceutical studies. It's not fair to post here negatively. There are people going through this now and they are looking for support and encouragement. My ritual was to go to chemo and then directly to Hooters for wings and a beer then a stop at the bakery for carrot cake. My treatment would hit me the next day and then I didn't want to eat for days. I actually gained weight. Now I am a firm believer in a vegetarian diet.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      This article is biased. Do you work for big pharma? You choose your words loosely. "Aunt Eloise's special diet is probably not going to cure your cancer. Your chemotherapy will"

      Chemo doesn't cure cancer. Your doctor will NEVER use those words, and neither should you. Chemotherapy is a business. That's the first thing you have to remember, so if profit is the main concern here, then the humanity of dying and providing a real social service of healing and well being falls behind. Doctors and oncologists will all sway people away from herbal and dietary remedies because it means they don't get paid...and your money goes elsewhere.

    • carrie450 profile image


      9 years ago from Winnipeg, Canada

      Thank you for these helpful hints as I will be starting Chemo this month and have been anxious about it. This hub has relieved a bit of it for me.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      No matter what the treatment, there are always some will be helped and some who will not be helped. So there is always a danger risk with pharmaceuticals, read the warnings. Then read my article on the pharmacist who recently died from handling chemotherapy drugs. No she didn't put them in her body, just dispensed them.

      Ask your doctor the question "If he/she had cancer would they take chemo? Take the answer with a grain of salt.

      During my research I turned up an interesting tidbit. Approxiamately 77% of all doctors polled in a study said they would not take chemotherapy if they contracted cancer!!! I doubt very seriously if there were oncologist in the study.. Those happy survivors are looking at a longevity of around 5 years only. of course some will make it longer and God Bless them. But I want to hear from the other 90% who didn't make it??/?/

      Now I rule out chemo but I don't rule out going to the doctor only as a last resort.

      Face it Holistic is not batting a 100% either but with 80% beating the 5 year mark, you do the math. Pro is that a lot of people are coming to holistic (late in the game)as a last resort. They are then saying Holistic didn't help them, duhh traditional did not help you!

    • mesotheliomatips profile image


      9 years ago from California,USA

      The side effects of chemotherapy can be unpleasant. But it can help to try to see the problems in relation to the benefits of the treatment. Chemotherapy does not cause side effects in everyone. It causes different reactions in different people. Remember - almost all side effects are temporary. They will slowly disappear once treatment stops.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      Chemo is not scary as what people perceived to be! Hi. Im a cancer survivor, 10months post chemo. Doing well and back to work.

    • urba profile image


      9 years ago from Vilnius, Lithuania

      So what to do if not chemo? It depends on situation, but some clever nutrition between chemotherapies is possible despite million faces of cancer becouse more than 50 percent cancers deal with p53 and DLC1 genes. They could be normalised ysing some food rich of Apigenin etc (I'm publishing this)

    • AndreaGerak profile image


      9 years ago from Stockholm/Budapest

      Don't do chemo...


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