For those of you who Bullet Journal, there are things you definitely need to keep track of during your chemo treatment. I didn’t bullet journal back then, but I did keep track of everything in a small 5″ x 8″ binder. It may be a bit tedious, but your doctor will thank you. So will all the nurses. If you can keep track of certain things during your chemo treatment, it will truly help you in the long-run.
If chemo brain sets in, you may not remember when you took certain medications, when you ate last, how much water you’ve had, etc. Things you may think are not important are, in fact, extremely vital, especially for your overall comfort during treatment. If you can present a log of this nature every time you go to the doctor’s office, you’re guaranteed to become their favorite patient. You help yourself by helping them. Here are nine things you should keep track of during your chemo treatment:
I get asked every time I see the doctor how I’m feeling: depressed, anxious, fatigued. While a certain level of depression and anxiety are normal (you’re fighting cancer, for crying out loud), you want to track these to see if there’s any change. If you notice you’re becoming extremely depressed, you need to make sure you tell your doctor right away.
You need to keep track of the calories you’re eating during the day, when you ate it, and any side-effects that occur as a result of something you eat. I noticed after keeping a food log that tea, coffee, and sugar gave me horrible heartburn! It was so painful, and there was nothing that I could really take to make it go away. Keep track of things like that so you know what to stay away from. It will also help your caregiver make sure you’re eating enough to sustain you through treatment.
This is relatively easy to track in a bullet journal. Tracking your water intake is important: you need to make sure you’re drinking enough water during chemo to help your body flush out the drugs. According to my doctor, the drugs get to your tissues and do their job, but if they just sit there (especially in your kidneys), they can start to do damage. Drinking enough water will also help with nausea because, again, your body flushes out the extra chemo.
This one is extremely important. You want to make sure you’re keeping track each medication, how much, when you take it, and any side effects that follow. “Not working” is a side-effect. For medical purposes, vitamins and over the counter medicines count, too. If you’re taking the maximum amount of Tums, and your heartburn doesn’t go away, you have a written record that you tried Tums and it failed (as it did with me). If you can present a written record, it will make you far more believable to your doctor. Too many patients say they take their medicine on time, only to admit they forgot it the last couple days. Keeping track of your medicines will make you your doctor’s favorite patient. And it will make it easier on your doctor to help figure out what to give you.
For example: Doctors don’t like you to take Advil during chemo because it can thin your blood. However, after my Neulasta or Granix shots, I was so sore in my bones and the back of my head that Tylenol did nothing for me. I was able to keep this all written down and, under my doctor’s watchful eye, I was told to take Advil for my pain. I was also told to monitor my activities and stay away from anything that would cause me to bruise or draw blood. I finally had relief from my symptoms after two weeks of bone pain. If I hadn’t connected the two and logged that I had tried Tylenol first, I don’t know if the doctor would have recommended me taking Advil.
Okay, I know this sounds ridiculous, but I can’t tell you enough how important this one is. Warning: TMI coming your way – While I was going through chemo, I had nurses tell me to take stool softeners to help with chemo-related constipation. They didn’t work. I eventually became so backed up after three days that I ended up with a Minor Anal Fissure. Yes, you read that right. I was bleeding and in pain. I would save you from going through the same experience if I can, because it was absolutely no fun.
You need to keep track of how many you’ve had in a day. If you go one day without a BM reach for the MiraLax. No joke! Your doctor also needs to know if you’re having severe bouts of diarrhea. If you are, you can go into your cancer care center and get saline bags to help you re-hydrate. Again, being able to prove, in writing, that you’ve done what you can (tracked your water, tracked your stool softeners under “medication”, recorded food intake) helps doctors treat your side-effects much more efficiently.
This one is SUPER important! If your temperature reaches 101°F, you need to get into the doctor right away. You cannot receive your chemo medications if you’re running a fever, and a fever can delay your treatment. I tracked my temperature every day and noticed it started to climb, indicating I had a slight fever, and I was able to take Tylenol to keep my fever at bay. I still ended up with a cold. However, tracking my temperature allowed me to take action before I ended up with a full-blown fever that would delay my chemo treatment.
Track these for your overall comfort. It will also help your caretaker help you if they know what you can deal with and what things they need to avoid all-together. My mother would take me grocery shopping to get me out and walking around for short periods of time. However, I noticed that I could only go for about 20 minutes before I got heartburn or worn out. I also couldn’t walk past certain sections in the grocery store that had heavy or perfumed scents.
- Foods – did something give you heartburn? Make you nauseous? Doesn’t taste right?
- Medications – did you get severe headaches? Is one not working? Does one make your joints hurt or give you bone pain?
- Activities – does the cold increase your bloody noses? Did you receive bruises or injuries that require attention? How is your energy level after certain activities? Does walking pass the fish section in the grocery store make you want to vomit?
- Chemo Treatment – how are you doing after you receive your infusions? Are you sensitive to light? Do you get motion sickness in car rides? Are you sweating through your sheets at night (and therefore require more water)?
This is one that seriously surprised me. According to the chemo paperwork, I could literally bleed to death from a bloody nose. Your body cannot make platelets after an infusion, so it’s more possible than one would realize. You need to keep track of how many you have and how long they last. I would get 5 in a day, and they took about 5 minutes each to stop bleeding. I would even have random bloody noses when I was sleeping. Tracking when they occurred, where I was and what I was doing, as well as how long each took to clot was a big deal for my doctor. And keeping a humidifier next to my bed helped ease the bloody noses. 😊
It absolutely sucks to get out of the house when you feel like your stomach is about to jump ship. However, it helps to get your blood circulating. It helps you fight against depression and anxiety. If you can log it, you can say “hey! I walked a mile yesterday! Maybe I should try for 1.5 today”. It can help you fend of the weight gain that comes with steroid infusions as a part of your chemo treatment. And it helps you track what you do in case you end up with mystery bruises that a doctor might need an explanation for. Also, I’ve notice it helps with chemo brain. I feel more alert after I’ve had some form of exercise than if I didn’t, and it overall improves my mood, which is a big deal when you’re fighting cancer.
Anyway, those are my recommendations. Do you have some other things you would track during treatment?
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