Treatment and feeling poorly

Grace was diagnosed with a tumour and had six courses of chemotherapy. In this video, she talks about the side effects of treatment and gives advice to others who have just been diagnosed. 

Your questions about treatment

What is chemo made of? 

Chemotherapy is the name used for all medicines that kill cancer cells. There are more than 50 different types. Some kids need just one medicine but other need a few at once.

Chemotherapy makes me feel really sick. Is there anything I can do to feel better?

It’s very common for people to feel sick when they have chemotherapy. It’s important to tell your doctor or nurse if you’re feeling or being sick. There are lots of medicines which can stop you being or feeling sick, but it may take a few goes to find the one that works best for you.

Don’t worry if you don’t feel like eating much. Make the most of the times when you do feel hungry, and have small snacks and drinks throughout the day if you can’t manage big meals.

I feel tired all the time and not up to doing much. What can I do when I’m tired so that I don’t get bored?

Feeling tired can be annoying, especially if you love being active! Watching a DVD with your family or friends is a good choice because it isn’t too tiring. It might sound strange, but getting a bit of exercise can help when you feel tired too. Your care team can give you some ideas if you like.

My chemotherapy treatment makes me feel so tired. What can I do?

Cancer treatment often makes people very tired, and this can make it hard to do the things you usually enjoy. Rest and sleep whenever you can and remember to have some quiet time away from computer games as this can help you sleep better. Sometimes doing a bit of exercise, like going for a walk might help you feel more energetic or think of things to do with friends and family that won’t make you feel too tired, like watching a film or doing some crafts.

My skin is really sore and itchy where I had my radiotherapy. What can I do?

Radiotherapy is like a really strong X-ray and often makes your skin sore, red and itchy, like when you have sunburn. Avoid using perfumed soap and putting sticky dressings or tape on the area, unless your radiotherapy team has told you to, and protect your skin from sun and cold wind. Your radiotherapy team can also give you advice about how to look after your skin so it’s important to talk to them if your skin gets very sore.

Why do I have to have so many blood samples taken?

Blood tests aren't much fun but they're important because they check whether you're well enough to fight off infections before you have treatment. You might also need tests to check that your medicines are working. If you feel worried about them, make sure you speak to your play specialist or another adult - there are lots of ways to make it feel a bit easier!

Can I choose how my treatment is given? Could I have liquid medicines instead of tablets or tablets instead of an injection?

This is a good question to ask your doctor. They will know all about the treatment you are having and the different ways you can have it. Some medicines come as a tablet or a liquid and you can choose which one you want. You may not always be able to have a tablet or liquid instead of an injection though, because they work in different ways. 

Why do you get "chemo brain"?

Chemo brain is when you find it hard to concentrate, think clearly or remember things. Doctors don't know exactly why it happens - it might be the cancer, or the treatment. It can be annoying to feel all fuzzy but talking to your nurse or play specialist could help. 

Why can't I go swimming while I'm on treatment?

If you have a central line or port, you probably won't be able to go swimming because you could get an infection if it gets wet. Your doctor might say that you can do some water therapy with a physiotherapist instead. They'll cover your line or port to keep it dry. You might be able to swim a bit later on - keep checking with your doctor or nurse.

Updated April 2018, next review due 2021.