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Simple solutions to Chemotherapy and Radiation Side effects
Compiled by:
Lakshmi Sabesan MA. Mphil (psychology)
Edwina Peraira Msc (nursing)
[email protected]
Director of INSA/India
[email protected]
Chemotherapy and radiation are two methods used extensively in the treatment of cancer.
These help prevent the spread of cancer cells by destroying them. While they are at it, they also
destroy some of the healthy cells of the body. This loss of healthy cells, when you are going
through these treatments can cause some side effects.
This leaflet is to address most of the common side effects and suggestions to deal with these
side effects using indigenous methods. It is not intended to provide medical treatment.
A homeopathic medicine called x-ray can be used in the 30 c potency after every exposure to
radiation. This will help managing the side effects of radiation.
Emotional? Reach for Help!
The treatment period could be a trying one which could be physically and emotionally stressful.
It is perfectly okay if you are feeling fearful or sad. Rely on your friends and family to share your
emotions and take courage that they are with you to support you by being there for you.
The reality of cancer might hit you. It is normal to be depressed and wonder, “Why me?”
feeling anger, and bargaining with God also is normal when faced with such a diagnosis. Do not
feel guilty about it.
Its tough and a bitter experience to find out either you or your dear one have cancer. But the
fact is, no matter what you feel the cancer is there. Chemotherapy and radiation are there to
help you fight the cancer. Its time for you to help the helpers too! Learn some relaxation
therapies. In the meantime focus on the positives, the happy moments. Get to know the new
you. What ever makes you happy, Do that. Meet a counselor when you feel like, or talk to your
close friends and family. Do not bottle up your feelings. Share them.
Relax into a medicated bath
Take extra good care of your skin during radiation therapy. Be gentle and do not rub, scrub, or
Epsom salt (available with chemists/medical shops), apple cedar vinegar, cooking soda are all
good for your skin. Especially Epsom salt can act as a detoxifying agent. It can pull out the toxins
from your body and also can make the skin softer and smoother.
Pour one cup or empty a sachet of Epsom salt into a tub of hot water and soak in it for
about 30 minutes. The water mixed with Epsom salt will absorb the toxins from your
body. Make sure that you drink lots of water after the bath to rehydrate.
Along with the Epsom salt, you can also add cooking soda/baking soda and apple cedar
vinegar to get an equally good effect on the skin.
Avoid using harsh soaps and creams. Use a mild soap which will be gentle on your skin.
The skin around the area where you receive the radiation might turn darker and
sometimes be a bit sore. The skin dryness can be managed by using a gentle moisturizer.
Avoid using deodorant spray, perfumes or any other chemical which could irritate your
Use a soft towel for drying your skin.
Keep yourself cool
It is extremely important that you keep your system cool.
Foods such as cucumber, mung dhal/ green gram dhal, water melon, cantaloupe will
help the system to stay cool.
Avoid meat and tea
Soak a teaspoon of fenugreek seeds (methi) in a glass of water at night. Let it soak
overnight. Drink the water first thing in the morning. This will keep your system cool.
Also it will help in better digestion.
In your drinking water, add a spoonful of cumin seeds (jeera) and use the water through
the day.
Roast a teaspoonful of cumin seeds (jeera) without oil in a frying pan and when roasted,
add 2 cups of water. Let it boil till the water reduces to one cup. Add a teaspoonful of
ghee to the water and use the water after it cools down to room temperature. Use it
once a day. This will keep your system cool.
Rehydrate by drinking fruit juices. A glass of lemon juice is especially recommended
daily when you are diagnosed to have a cancer.
Hair loss: Not a problem
Certain chemicals used for the treatment of cancer could result in complete loss of hair in your
body, including eye lashes and eye brows. If you are on radiation, you might lose hair from and
near the body parts where radiation is given. Be confident that your hair will start growing
back once you are off the treatment. It is only a temporary inconvenience that you need to put
up with.
Use very mild shampoos and perfume free natural oil for your hair. You can even try
using baby shampoo. Be gentle on your hair. Towel dry your hair, instead of using hair
dryer. Expose Your body to the rays of the warm morning or evening slanted rays of the
Do not use hair dyes, curlers or any electrical gadgets
If you are on chemotherapy, have a wig made that will be suitable for you before you go
in for chemotherapy treatment. If you do not like wigs, then prepare for some scarves or
veil to cover your head. There is no harm in choosing not to cover your head at all, if you
prefer to.
Have eye brow pencils and if you are keen, then a pair of false eye lashes, ready with
you. The use of these will give you a new look. Enjoy the new look.
Control Blood pressure
During chemotherapy, depending on the medicines used, there could be a change in the blood
pressure. Periodically check your blood pressure and alter your hypertension (high BP)
medication (if you are on medication for hypertension) after consulting your physician. Follow
the diets recommended to keep your BP in control. Check your BP if you have a nagging or
persistent headache.
Treating Mouth sores
During chemotherapy and radiation, some may get sores in the mouth on the gums, lips or
tongue which will make it difficult to eat or drink. At those times avoid acidic drinks like lemon
juice or tomato juice.
Take care of your oral health by brushing your teeth morning and night using a soft
tooth brush.
Apply honey on your mouth (all around) and leave it on. It can give a soothing effect.
Take carrot juice, 2 glasses a day.
Eat soft food like porridges and soups to avoid further damage to the mouth.
Stop using spices completely.
Certain medicated gels prescribed by your physician can help.
Make a paste of a teaspoon of poppy seeds and have it with milk. This will help in
healing the sores.
Certain herbs, like the sour greens (manathakali) can be chewed.
Handle Diarrhea
Some of the medicines used in chemotherapy and radiation can cause diarrhea. Rehydrate with
large quantity of fluids to replace the lost fluid.
Avoid solid foods when you have diarrhea.
Have low fat yogurt as often as possible
Have orange juice
Have pomegranate juice
See that salt sugar balance is maintained
Drink coconut water.
Roast fenugreek seed and take a tablespoonful (adults)/teaspoonful(children 7- 10) of
the seeds with water once every four hours.
Drink a lot of tender coconut water.
Dealing with Vomiting and nausea
Vomiting and nausea may be mild or severe based on each one’s body constitution to deal with
the chemotherapy and radiation. If it is severe, the treating physician will prescribe medicines.
Along with that, try these to lower vomiting and nausea:
Have frequent small meals. This will control the nausea and vomiting. Earlier you just
had breakfast lunch tea and dinner. Now see that you have a cup of porridge early
morning, breakfast, a snack with a citrus fruit mid morning, lunch, snack with milk or
juice at tea and an early dinner. Before bedtime have a glass of warm milk with a small
pinch of turmeric in it.
Take the drugs the doctor has prescribed for nausea and vomiting.
If the vomiting is severe, along with the prescribed medicine, take dry food: toast,
biscuits, etc.
Have grape juice and lemon juice after food.
Taking all Berries regularly will stop nausea
Keep a half cut lemon with you and keep smelling it whenever you feel nauseous.
Chew cumin seeds to stop vomiting.
If the vomiting does not stop, please inform the doctor, since you may need to be
hospitalized for rehydration.
A practical tip: Roast one part of fenugreek seeds with two parts of cumin seeds. When
roasted, powder it and keep in a container. When cool use it with most vegetables and
lentil preparations, add a quarter teaspoon of this powder. It helps the digestive system.
Dealing with Constipation
The best way to deal with constipation is, to have lots of boiled vegetables, juices together with
foods that have lots of roughage/bran.
Boil 5 grams of aniseed in a cup of water and boil it along with jaggery. Strain and have
that water as a last thing at night.
Soak raisins/dry grapes (the big variety ) in a glass of water in the night and drink that
water along with mashed raisins first thing in the morning.
Have lots of oats porudge along with its bran.
2 bananas with a glass of milk at night will relieve constipation and also will provide you
with potassium.
Improve your Immunity
The best way to help build your immunity is to have lots of fruits and vegetables in your diet.
Do not add sugar. If your appetite is poor have juices of fruits and vegetables as often as you
can. Up the Vit C level by taking juices of citrus fruits freshly prepared.
Avoid going to crowded places and eating out. Eat freshly prepared home cooked food as much
as possible.
To ensure a vegetarian diet has the essential proteins, ensure that in every meal there is either
curd, or a cereal mixed with a pulse, or mix two or three pulses for one preparation. Non
vegetarian diets could include white meats like fish.
Lowered blood counts
See that you get your blood counts done regularly. Communicate to your doctor what your
blood count is at least once a week during your therapy.
To keep your blood counts up
See that citrus food is part of your daily diet.
Ensure that you eat iron rich foods (dark green leafy vegetables are rich sources of iron.
Ragi and jaggery are rich sources too. See that every meal has green leafy vegetables in
some form. When cooking green leafy vegetables do not use a cover. The cover
damages the nutritive value of greens.
Fatigue and pains
Relax into that medicated bath.
Do some light exercise. Stretch out each part of your body gently. Walk in the slanted
rays of the sun.
The tiredness and fatigue you feel increases with rest. So spend time doing something
you like with the people you love. Sitting and chatting, playing indoor games or
watching TV with breaks in between.
Pain needs specialized management, which your doctor will prescribe. There are pain
relieving patches also available on prescription to take care of the pain.
Food: Most Important
Have foods that are rich in vitamins, minerals and fiber. Avoid fast foods.
Some of the medicines used in chemotherapy can lower the potassium level in the body.
Taking a potassium supplement under strict monitoring by the treating physician is
advised. The potassium levels in the blood need to be monitored. Foods that are rich in
potassium are safer. Foods like dark green leafy vegetables, bananas, baked potatoes
(along with skin), baked sweet potato, low fat yogurt, vegetables , mushrooms, fish and
fruits (apricots, avacadoes) are good sources of potassium.
Have only green gram dal (mung dal) and red lentil (masoor dal) which is easily
digestible. Other dals (pulses) can cause gas in the stomach.
Use garlic in your food which helps in reducing acidity.
Have orange or lemon (musambi) juice which helps in recovery while providing the
vitamin C needed to fight infection.
Use foods with less oil and less spice. Do not totally avoid the use of oil. Oil is the
medium in which Vit. A, D, E and K are absorbed by the body.
Yogurt is easy on the stomach. It gets digested fast. Use low fat yogurt on a daily basis.
Instead of huge meals, have frequent meals of lesser quantity. Have something to eat
and drink every two hours.
Flax seeds (available in departmental stores) are good source of vitamin, mineral, fibre
and omega-3 fatty acids which are needed when you are going through chemotherapy
and radiation.
Have soy foods which can replace red meat. Have soy milk too.
See that what you eat is as colorful with all the vegetables and fruits. Like the colors you
find on the Indian flag, let your food have orange ( carrots, papaya, oranges ,etc), white (
rice and other cereals ) and green ( include all green leafy vegetables ).
Have 2 glasses of carrot juice which can help in building your immunity, help you gain
weight while providing other vitamins and nutrients.
Replace your white rice with multigrain powder porridge. Use the multigrain powder to
make rotis or add it as a binding agent in soups.
(Multigrain powder: Dry roast well the following ingredients and finely powder.
Brown rice-200 grms
Wheat-200 grms
Ragi-200 grms
Sago-200 grms
Whole green gram-200 grms
Soy seeds -100 grms
Ground nuts-100 grms
Roasted gram-100grms
Flax seeds -100 grms
Badam-50 grms
A few Cardamom if you like the smell)
Remember to finely power the above. Add 2 tablespoons of this powder to a glass of
water and stir well to dissolve the lumps, and then boil it for a few minutes continuously
stirring till it gets cooked. Then add a glass of boiled milk and add little jiggery to it and
drink 2 glasses of this porridge mid morning or evening. Alternatively add this powder to
the wheat flour to make rotis. Use it to bind or thicken vegetable soups.
Make the day
From Christine K. Clifford. The writer is the Founder/CEO/President of the CANCER Club. Visit
her at E-mail her at [email protected]
This article was published in THE HINDU, August 26th 2001 under the health watch column. .
This is by Christine K. Clifford. It’s so beautiful that anyone can do. Here is the article for you:
I do not know about any of you. But I wake up every morning and think: “This is my day”. I may
never see 95, but I know this much to be true: I have today and it is mine. I hope you all found a
way to celebrate “ national cancer survivor’s day” during the month of June. I attended over a
dozen celebrations around the United States and found every one in attendance to be joyful,
grateful and happy to be alive.
Why only after three days after “ survivor’s day” , the headlines in the paper and television
blared “ almost all cancer rates are falling” for the first time in decades. That is the kind of news
that makes my day.
So if you are struck, looking for a way to make your day, here are a few simple suggestions.
Get a message. Sing in the shower. Go canoeing or sailing. Give someone a hug. Finger paint
with a child or friend. Have your fortune told or your horoscope read. Fly a kite. Skip or dance.
Roller skate or roller blade. Learn a magic trick. Whistle in public. Learn to cook something
exquisite. Play charades, sing in a choir or sing karaoke. Go camping with a tent or under the
stars. Buy a bubble gum and blow a bubble. Call into a radio show. Wear sleeveless or shorts.
Ask a friend to dinner. Do somersault or cartwheel. Ask for a raise. Jet ski or tube. Cry, laugh ,
hum on the elevator or shuttle bus. Tell a joke. Order something off the internet. Journal your
feelings for 5 minutes. Rent a convertible or drive a stick shift. Hold a baby or visit an infirm
elderly person. Write a letter to the editor. Make a list of 10 dreams and read it out to
someone. Hang out with someone not your age for a day. Go to a movie you do not think you
will like. Get your picture taken in a photo booth. Weigh yourself and tell someone. Have a
party. Sit on the floor. Stop someone at your work or place of worship and thank them. Ask
someone for their autograph. Take a meditation or yoga or tai chi class. Take a fencing or self
defense class. Ride in an airplane or helicopter. Go snorkeling or scuba diving. Tell someone
your age. While at work, close your eyes and breathe deeply for 30 seconds. Ask someone to do
you a favor. Write a letter to one of your heroes who is still living and mail it. Visit someone in
the hospital or hospice. Get a new hairdo or dye your hair or grow a mustache or beard. Tell a
truth you have been hiding. Send someone flowers. Take a bike or skate board. Talk to
someone on the elevator. Volunteer at the homeless shelter or hospice. Walk up in the rain
with your face up with no umbrella. Paint , sculpt or water color change your answering
machine message. Walk through the zoo or forest or conservatory. Put change in someone
else’s meter. Eat at a foreign restaurant you have never tried. Meet a new neighbor. Jump rope
or hopscotch. Step into a fountain feed the pigeons, sea gulls. Ask someone for the time.
Tell someone you love them.
But whatever you do, make it your day. Have a sizzling summer. 
By Christine K. Clifford
Get well soon and have an absolutely wonderful time in life!