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Getting Past the Fear: A Guide to Help You Mentally Prepare for Chemotherapy

Getting Past the Fear: A Guide to Help You Mentally Prepare for Chemotherapy, Turns Two

My first book, Getting Past the Fear:  A Guide to Help You Mentally Prepare for Chemotherapy is now two years old – the print version that is. The original ebook version has now been around for almost four years. Wow, four years! If I were to write this book today, I’d probably change a few things, but for the most part, I’m still pleased with how it turned out. What I am most proud of is how well it’s been received by those who’ve read it. 

As I shared in my memoir, when I was preparing for chemo, dear hubby and I found ourselves meandering down rows and rows of books in our local bookstore searching for books that might help us get ready. I struggled to find what I was looking for. We both did.

I wanted to know how to prepare for the fear part because I was feeling pretty darn terrified. I had recently witnessed my mother go through chemo, so maybe this made me even more afraid. I knew what to expect and yet I didn’t have a clue.

I definitely was not feeling brave, strong or anything remotely close to those things.

I also distinctly remember feeling intimidated and yes, even embarrassed to walk up to the counter to pay for the one book we did find to purchase that day. I have thought about this many times since that warm summer day.

Why did I feel feel embarrassed or even ashamed to be buying a book about chemo?

Was I embarrassed or even ashamed to have cancer too?

I think I was. Maybe I still am sometimes.

Interesting, right?

I couldn’t bring myself to buy the darn book that day. Rather I “forced” dear hubby to do the purchasing for me.

I hate that there is still a certain amount of stigma around cancer. I hate that there are others feeling so afraid and alone following their cancer diagnosis. I hate that there are so many others continuing to face chemo for the first time. I hate that so many will be doing chemo from here on out.

Mostly, I hate cancer. 

This is why every time a copy of my book makes its way into a chemo newbie’s hands, I feel gratified because I am hopeful I am helping someone else facing chemo for the first time feel just a little less afraid and little more prepared.

 If applicable, did you have chemo or are you having it now?

What frightened (or frightens) you the most about chemo?

What tip do you have to help a chemo newbie face the fear of chemo?

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8 thoughts to “Getting Past the Fear: A Guide to Help You Mentally Prepare for Chemotherapy, Turns Two”

  1. Nancy,

    Your book is helping many people. Being diagnosed with cancer is, well, hell, as we both unfortunately know. This book would’ve been great for me to read when I was a chemo newbie.

    And I hate cancer, too.

  2. Nancy, you are right. It was hard for me to find books that would focus on the fear part of chemo. I found your book to be helpful and it would make a great gift for any patient who is about to start chemo. Thank you for writing it.

    My worst fear was vomiting. I just hate it. The first treatment was the worst for me because I did not know what to expect, even after others told me all the possible scenarios that could happen. Chemo was no picnic for me but I found it to be doable after my first day (and did I have a choice?). I too felt some shame about my diagnosis, probably related to blaming myself. But eventually that feeling went away. It’s not our fault we got sick.

    Here are some tips I’d like to share:

    1) DRINK, DRINK, DRINK! You must drink at least 8 glasses of water a day to help flush out the chemicals from your body.
    2) During the infusion, chew on ice chips to help prevent mouth sores (it worked for me).
    3) If feeling anxious, request a medication for anxiety, such as Ativan, to help calm the nerves. Ativan also helps with nausea.
    4) Wash everything before you eat it. For veggies, try steaming or keep in water with apple cider vinegar for 15-20 minutes, then rinse with water.
    5) Listen to your body. REST whenever you feel tired. Don’t push yourself too hard.
    6) Call your doctor right away about any symptoms you might be experiencing.

    I wish cancer didn’t exist.

    1. Rebecca, Interesting your worst fear was vomiting. Mine was definitely losing my hair. I agree about the first treatment being the worst because as you said, a person just has no idea what to expect. Thank you for sharing your tips. They are great ones. And yes, I wish cancer didn’t exist too. Thank you for reading and sharing.

  3. Honestly, I don’t want to remember chemo time! I didn’t know I felt this way until reading this blog. OVERWHELMED – that was my overall feeling. Like you, Nancy, I wanted to do chemo “right”. There is so much we need to know, so much info, so much advice, so much out of our control – I had memories of the horror if 1973 chemo my mom suffered – it was overwhelming. Your book, Nancy, helped me and I love having it to hand to anyone joining this chemo sisterhood. From you I learned there was no right way, there was my way, and I just did what I had to, day by day. Rebecca, great list! ✌️❤️Linda

    1. Linda, Chemo is overwhelming. Cancer is overwhelming. It’s all overwhelming. When we have those memories of our loved ones, it only adds to the fear and horror. I’m glad to hear my book helped you. And yes, day by day, your way. Thank you for reading and sharing.

  4. No one has mentioned this, perhaps you do in the book… I had DCIS, twice, over 6 years. I’ve had surgery several time, radiation once, and chemo never. My kind of cancer has increased chances of recurrence from year 6 to your final breath. My recurrence happened on year 6. It can come back… whenever. So I just keep reading about stage 4 breast cancer and treatments. Here’s my concern about chemo if I should ever need it: how do you get past the fear of knowing you are poisoning yourself, that the trick is to hope the chemo over-poisons the cancer before it damages the rest of you. But you KNOW that it does damage good cells, that if you don’t have the side effects immediately, they can begin years later. Chemo is poison and will leave its negative effects no matter what, right? Hopefully it also finishes off the cancer cells completely too. I’m really skiddish since surgery and radiation did not get all my cancer the first time.

    1. Connie, Everyone who faces chemo likely feels skiddish for the same reasons you mentioned and more. Funneling a poison into your body that you know kills cancer cells but also kills healthy cells is unsettling to put it mildly. At some point, you have to have trust in your medical team and your own instincts, too, of course. We all do what we have to do based on the information we have available. Thank you for sharing your concerns. My best to you.

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