Chemotherapy: lifestyle

Many people continue with their usual activities while having chemotherapy, for example working between injections or cycles of tablets.

However, most people find that they are more tired than normal for the first few days after treatment. You may need to take life more slowly, working part-time or cutting down on social activities. Make sure that you don't overtire yourself, that you do get enough rest and that you accept offers of help with everyday tasks.

The drugs may also cause you to feel a little down. It's quite normal for this to happen at various times during your treatment. If you'd like to chat about this, contact your nurse or doctor or talk it over at your next appointment.

Fatigue

During your chemotherapy you may start to feel tired and listless. This may be general fatigue or it may be that you become tired more easily after normal activities. This is quite normal and usually occurs with all types of chemotherapy.

Once you know what makes you more tired and when this happens, you can plan ahead. Try to plan your day so that light activities are spaced between more energetic activities. Gentle exercise can be helpful. Do get enough rest and only do what you feel you can cope with.

People will often be willing to lend their support. If you get tired easily, limit your activities and do only the things that mean the most to you. Ask your family and friends to help with household chores and cooking. Work part-time or see if you can work more flexible hours. Conserve your energy for the important events in your life.

Tiredness can also be a sign of anaemia, so do tell the nurse or doctor if you are worried about how you feel.

Travel and holidays

It may be possible to adapt your chemotherapy protocol to fit in with holidays or other special occasions. Please discuss this with your doctor in advance so your treatment can be planned around your arrangements.

It is important that you inform your hospital team of any travel plans whilst you are on chemotherapy treatment. There are a number of factors you will need to consider if you are thinking of travelling outside the UK.

You may not be able to have some of the vaccinations you need to visit certain countries. For example, during chemotherapy you will not be able to have live virus vaccines. This may affect your travel destination.

There are risks associated with travelling outside the UK. If you need to use healthcare services in another country, the financial costs can quickly build up. Comprehensive travel insurance is strongly recommended. However, this is not always possible to arrange for pre-existing conditions and during treatment. It is also more difficult to arrange travel insurance to countries where healthcare is more expensive, for example the USA or Canada. You may need to consider if you are prepared to take the risk of travelling without insurance.

Airline travel is also associated with an increased risk of blood clots. Longer flights present the greatest risk although blood clots can also form after long train or car rides. Some cancers and chemotherapy drugs increase this risk; discuss this with your doctor.

You must take care of your skin when you are exposed to the sun. Some chemotherapy drugs can make your skin more sensitive and you may burn easily. Check with your doctor or specialist nurse if it is safe for you to swim.

Finally, many of the risks of chemotherapy, including an infection developing while you have a low white blood cell count, may be increased if you do not have good access to medical care.

Alcohol consumption

It will usually be all right for you to have a small amount of alcohol if you feel like it. There are one or two anti-cancer drugs which may interact with alcohol but you will be told about these.

Some people find that alcohol tastes unpleasant during chemotherapy treatment. Avoid drinking alcohol if you feel nauseous as it may make you feel worse.