Facing Chemotherapy? Knowledge Is Power.

Learn the facts about cancer treatment.  By Diana Price

The prospect of chemotherapy treatment looms large for many newly diagnosed cancer patients. Maybe a relative has undergone treatment; maybe a movie or book has instilled an idea of what the experience might be like; maybe other patients have described their experiences. Patrick Cobb, MD, medical oncologist at Frontier Cancer Centers in Billings, Montana, and spokesperson for Chemotherapy: Myths or Facts campaign, says that patients he sees have a variety of concerns about chemo. “Many people are worried that if they are receiving chemotherapy, they won’t be able to care for their pets or go to the grocery store or hug their children or grandchildren,” he says. And while each patient will respond differently to treatment and have a unique set of circumstances, Dr. Cobb says that “these are generally misconceptions and are not true for most cancer patients.”

Dr. Cobb encourages all patients to get accurate information about treatment upfront from their care team to ensure that they have a realistic picture of what they can expect. “It’s really important for a patient to talk with his or her doctor to understand what types of effects chemotherapy will have,” he says. By becoming fully informed about treatment, patients can understand the treatment, learn about potential side effects, and become an empowered member of their care team.

Myth or Fact?

Test your knowledge about chemotherapy with the following statements.

You cannot eat fruit or raw vegetables when undergoing chemotherapy.


Although some patients may have to comply with restrictions to their diet, this is not true for all patients. Talk to your oncologist and nutritionist about your specific chemotherapy regimen and dietary needs during treatment.

Chemotherapy means you cannot keep doing what you enjoy.


Chemotherapy may have an impact on some of the things you enjoy, but it does not mean you must give up everything from your day-to-day life. Talk to your oncologist about your treatment and any changes you may need to make.


You should avoid interaction with other people while undergoing treatment with chemotherapy.


While you need to be careful about visiting with people who are visibly sick, you do not need to avoid everyone. It’s important to listen to your body and recognize when you’re feeling unwell. Always speak with your doctor to understand what behaviors you may need to change based on your individual needs.


A strong support system can help you keep a positive outlook while undergoing chemotherapy.


Chemotherapy can change the way you feel physically and emotionally, and some people may feel sad or depressed during treatment. It’s important to surround yourself with friends, family, and caregivers who can support you and ensure that you take care of yourself both inside and out. You should always talk openly with your doctor to fully understand your treatment and how it may affect you.


Visit www.chemomythsorfacts.com for more information.


Women talks with Breast Cancer Survivor Maura Tierney

 In 2009 actor Maura Tierney was diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer. She opted to have a skin-sparing mastectomy; and because the cancer was found to be more aggressive than her doctors had originally believed, the surgery was followed by three months of chemotherapy. Now three years past successfully completing treatment, Maura has become a spokesperson for the Chemotherapy: Myths or Facts campaign to share her own experience with cancer and to encourage patients to speak openly with their doctors to fully understand their treatment.


What were the most challenging aspects of your treatment?

Looking back at my experience, one of the main challenges I faced was that I just didn’t know what to expect from the chemotherapy my doctors told me I needed. I worried that I would be so sick I wouldn’t be able to get up or even leave the house. Fortunately, this turned out to be untrue for me.

This is partly why I teamed up with Amgen on Chemotherapy: Myths or Facts. The campaign aims to debunk some of the common myths associated with chemotherapy and encourages patients to take charge of their cancer journey by speaking with their doctors and asking as many questions as possible. Although it can be an overwhelming time, I think talking to your doctor about how chemotherapy may affect you and your daily life will help you maintain a sense of normalcy throughout the process.

Where did you seek support during treatment?

From the start I was lucky in that I had an excellent team of doctors and was able to surround myself with friends and family who were very supportive and helpful throughout the entire process.

Did your diagnosis and subsequent treatment change your perspective or teach you any lessons that remain with you today?

It’s important to get the facts early on, and I learned that you can never ask your doctor a stupid question. I asked every single question that came to mind, and I believe this helped calm my anxiety. If anything was bothering me, I would ask my doctors—even after I finished treatment.

Until recently, you have been fairly reserved in speaking about your experience with cancer. What inspired you to begin speaking publicly?

I was very nervous when I learned that I would need chemotherapy, and I wish I had known more about it before I started treatment. The Chemotherapy: Myths or Facts campaign really speaks to my own personal experiences and hopefully will encourage others to talk with doctors to get the right information and understand what their treatment might entail.

How do you believe this campaign will help other women facing cancer treatment?

I hope Chemotherapy: Myths or Facts will help other women feel confident about talking to their doctors when they have questions. I believe having all the facts can really ease the process mentally and emotionally. As part of the campaign, an interactive video booth has been traveling across the county, collecting hundreds of personal stories from those who have been touched by cancer. The hope is that the sharing of these experiences will help those who are about to embark on their own cancer journeys.

What advice would you offer other recently diagnosed women regarding coping with the physical and emotional impacts of a cancer diagnosis?

Ask questions and be sure to take the time you need to understand your treatment. Always speak with your doctors and check out chemomythsorfacts.com for additional information.  _


Questions to Ask

Your Doctor

To help you understand more about chemotherapy

What is the goal of my treatment?

What kinds of changes will I have to make while I’m going through chemotherapy?

Are there changes I should make to my diet?

Can I spend time with my pets when undergoing chemotherapy?

During chemotherapy what special precautions do I need to take when I’m around my friends and loved ones?

As a person living with cancer, what services can I find in the community?

If I need emotional or professional support, can you provide me with a list of therapists or support groups?


Reprinted with permission from chemomythsorfacts.com.