Nausea and Chemo

Author: Shannon Miller

Yes, we’re talking about nausea once again. This and fatigue are among the most common side effects of chemotherapy.

I’ve always felt like I could take pain over nausea any day of the week. You feel absolutely helpless and out of control when it hits. So let’s get on board and prevent it before it strikes!

Many of us are on completely different chemo “cocktails” and for varying lengths of time. However, one thing we can all agree on is that preventing nausea can truly give you the motivation and attitude to succeed. I’m so thankful that there are so many ways to combat the side effects of chemo, although, there never seems to be enough. I haven’t resigned myself to “being sick” and  hope that I can hold out even during these most difficult (5 day in a row) weeks.

I’m finding out quickly that it’s all about the game plan, primarily preventing the nausea and dehydration that can go hand in hand. You have to think 5 steps ahead so you can be prepared to spring into action if you start sliding down the wrong path. Don’t wait until you’re really sick to call your physician or nurse’s hotline. And don’t be bashful about how you feel.

A rough weekend had me back in the hospital for some IV fluids when I simply could not keep down water. It can quickly become a downward spiral if you continue to get dehydrated. And I was headed down that rocky road.

My Olympic coach, Steve Nunno, would always tell people “Yes, Shannon makes a lot of mistakes, she falls quite often…but she never makes the same mistake twice. That is how she will ultimately succeed” I sure hated falling but I learned a great lesson in getting back up. If you are going through this with me you can learn from my mistakes and avoid making them yourself.

However, do not fear, it seems to be true that even the rough days only last a day or two. And, for most, the nausea is easily treatable. If something isn’t working, don’t be afraid to ask your doctor or nurse if you can try something else. And believe me, there is always something new they can try. We talked about acupuncture and will continue to highlight other forms of relief that may or may not have to do with another medication.

  • Sometimes just getting out in the fresh air and taking a short walk can help.
  • Massage therapy is a dream and forces you to relax.

Make sure you are writing down the medications and therapies you have been given and whether or not they worked.

This log will come in handy if you have an issue. You will be able to give your doctor specific information about what you are taking (include anything herbal, vitamins and other supplements) and how it has worked for you.

Some extra fluids and a fancy new arm patch and I’m ready to take on the world (or at least feel somewhat human again)!

Here are some wonderful tips from the National Cancer Institute that can help you or your loved one along this journey:

  • Prevent Nausea: One way to prevent vomiting is to prevent nausea, Try having bland, easy-to-digest foods and drinks that do not upset your stomach. These include plain crackers, toast, and gelatin.
  • Plan when it’s best for you to eat and drink. Some people feel better when they eat a light meal or snack before chemotherapy. Others feel better when they have chemotherapy on an empty stomach (nothing to eat or drink for 2-3 hours before treatment). After treatment, wait at least 1 hour before you eat or drink.
  • Eat small frequent meals and snacks. Instead of 3 large meals each day, you might feel better if you eat 5 or 6 small meals and snacks. Do not drink a lot before or during meals. Also, do not lie down right after you eat.
  • Have foods and drinks that are warm or cool (not hot or cold). Give hot foods and drinks time to cool down, or make them colder by adding ice. You can warm up cold foods by taking them out of the refrigerator 1 hour before you eat or warming them slightly in a microwave. Drink cola or ginger ale that is warm and has lost its fizz.

For more information about managing the side effects of chemotherapy, please visit

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