Ask Lillie

Normal Life on Chemo?
Q Will my life be pretty much on hold through chemo?
A Years ago it was nearly impossible to do anything but stay at home and feel awful between chemo sessions. Today, it’s very different. In fact, most patients are able to continue working! There are excellent medications to prevent side effects like nausea, and if you regularly exercise (like power-walking for 30 minutes a day), you can keep fatigue to a minimum. Talk with your doctor about what you can do so that you can keep doing all the things you enjoy.

Alternative Help
Q I want to try some complementary therapies while receiving chemo. How do I decide which to try?

A First of all, let your doctor know. Many, like yoga and prayer, are safe to use along with traditional treatment, but it may not be a good idea to combine other alternative approaches with chemo. So review any literature you have found with your doctor. And be clear about what you are trying to accomplish (e.g., “I’d like to feel more alert and energetic.”)—he may be able to suggest other options that are more appropriate and effective.

A Goal Every Cancer Patient Should Set!
Q Ever since my cancer diagnosis, I’m not sure how to think about my future. What do you recommend?

A Think about your life goals. What are—or, perhaps, were—you looking forward to? If you’re dealing with metastatic cancer, making long-term plans can be complicated and possibly frustrating. There is one life goal I recommend that all cancer patients, including those with metastatic disease, add to their list of things to achieve: That’s to outlive their medical oncologist! And many have! (Part of the key to achieving it, however, is probably not to tell your doctor!) 

Talk to your oncology nurse navigator—she can help you process paperwork, get financial assistance, locate a translator and more.

Lillie Shockney, RN, BS, MAS, is administrative director of the Johns Hopkins Breast Center and associate professor, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

Published April 2014

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Ask Lillie