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Tips for people starting cervical cancer treatment, from people who have finished theirs

Posted on: Wednesday, 2nd September 2020 by Jo's Voices members and Forum users

Treatment for cervical cancer depends on lots of things including the stage of the cancer, potential side effects, and the general health and preferences of the person affected. Going through treatment can be really difficult. One thing our community often say would have made it easier is if they had known what to expect beforehand. So we asked them for their tips!

Don’t forget that we are here for you at every stage. You can connect with others on our Forum who might be going through the same as you, you can call our Helpline, or use our Ask the Expert service to get confidential support and answers. No question is too big or too small.

Looking after your mental health

  • “Be kind to yourself - there's that phrase 'It's OK to be scared, being scared means you are about to do something really, really brave'. Take each day as it comes, some will be great and others will be harder but whatever you feel, it is all temporary and keep reminding yourself how far you have come (even if it doesn't feel like that).”
  • “Recognise you are not superwoman and if you have a partner or family, prompt them to get emotional support of their own” 
  • “Come to Jo’s forum if you want advice or a rant and connect with others who are going through the same things”
  • “You may be overwhelmed by visitors, or people who want to get in touch. Be selfish and see who you want to see, when it is convenient for you. Let them know that it is OK to talk to you about other things, if you do want to.”

  • “Assign someone to be your spokesperson if telling everyone what's going on gets exhausting - people will message to see how you are. This is lovely but it can be exhausting to keep up with. If you have one or two people you can speak to about what's going on, they can then tell others.”

Physical wellbeing 

  • “Your immune system will be weaker after [chemotherapy] treatment, meaning you could pick up other illnesses more easily. Restrict your movements and keep friends at bay during this time. Again, if you need a spokesperson to help you communicate this, that’s one way to deal with it.”
  • “If you have any symptoms or side effects, report them. Do not suffer in silence.”

  • “After chemotherapy, you might not feel like eating or you might only crave really 'naughty' food. Go with it. Keep your energy up with whatever you have to. You may struggle with your tummy, speak to the hospital dietician and get advice on what to avoid but whatever you do, keep eating and keep your fluids up.”
  • “Exercise if you can – even if it’s small, or a walk or you might want to try yoga. It can be a fantastic coping strategy both mentally and physically – but don’t be hard on yourself if it’s too hard some days.”
  • “Try to remember that side effects from [chemotherapy] treatment should stop, and you should feel better once it is over. If you don’t, do speak up.”

Changes to your appearance due to chemotherapy

  • “If you dye your hair, you’re not advised to dye your hair during or after treatment so you might want to get this done before you start.”
  • “If your treatment is likely to dry your skin out, it’s worth getting a good moisturiser. You can also get overnight gloves to moisturise your hands.”
  • “Treatment may weaken your nails, so get manicures if possible, or invest in some nail strengthening polish.”

  • “If your treatment is going to make you lose your hair, this includes your eyebrows. Colour-match them with pencils before, as once they’re gone it will be harder to know which colour you need. You might consider getting your eyebrows tattooed. If you want to do so, it’s not advisable to do so after you start treatment due to the risk of infection, so get it done before you begin. You may also want to get them micro-bladed.”
  • “If you lose your hair, remember to put sun cream on your head!” 
  • “As your hair grows back, you may want to use a sleep hat as stubble on the pillowcase can be really uncomfortable. It can also grow back a bit fuzzy, and so regular trims can help the hair to grow back quicker.”

General tips

  • “Buy a new notebook. Use this to note down the main points of all your appointments. I found it useful to also write down all the questions I would think of in between seeing consultants/nurses and I could refer back to it during appointments. This is also useful as a diary - this is important for your symptoms but for your mood too, and will help you learn what works and what doesn’t. My memory was terrible and there was so much to remember so it really helped.”
  • “Treat yourself to some comfy clothes, if you will be sitting in the chemotherapy room for a long time. I found ponchos were quite good (my treatment was in winter) as I could have the cannulas put in but keep cosy. I ended up getting rid of them all after so don't spend too much but treat yourself a little.” 
  • “Be vocal and speak up if something is bothering you – for example, if you don’t get on with your oncologist, ask for another or to speak to someone you do like. Also when they ask you how you are feeling, be honest. Sometimes they can do things to help, be that medications or complimentary therapies.”

  • “Even if you don't feel like it, try to get some fresh air every day. Even if it's just sitting with the window open while you have a cup of tea.”
  • “If your treatment will last a while, keep a calendar with all your treatment on and each time you have a treatment, tick it off. I had radiotherapy every day and it was so satisfying to cross each one off and on days where I found it hard, I could see how many I had completed.” 

 

Thank you to all the members of our Forum and of Jo’s Voices who contributed their invaluable tips to this blog post.

If you have had a cervical cancer diagnosis, we're here for you. Here's how we can support you >

Categories: cervical cancer

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