WHAT TO EXPECT: Gary had quite a problem with nausea, retching, and poor appetite in the months after treatment. He had virtually none of this with his first chemo, so some combination of the surgery and the second round of chemo left him with these problems.
It distressed Anne every time Gary retched, although he said it was not so bad. His appetite would sometimes disappear suddenly. Like the time about four months after treatment when we went out to dinner, hoping our life was returning to normal, and then Gary was only able to eat a few bites.
WORDS OF ENCOURAGEMENT: Trumpets and drum-roll, Gary now has none of the above problems! We hope your experience is better than ours. But if not, keep the faith. It won’t always be like this. These problems go away!
TIPS AND TRICKS:
Hypnosis: This was amazingly helpful.
Gary’s hypnotist was a clinical psychologist/psychiatric nurse practitioner with a cancer specialty. Gary went in for two sessions, both of which his hypnotist recorded on CDs. The hypnotic suggestions focused on taking him back to very specific, pleasurable eating experiences pre-cancer. Our insurance covered these visits as a mental health benefit.
Gary relaxed in his recliner after lunch and listened to his CDs nearly every day for probably a year. He always felt better after. He continued to use the CDs for several more months whenever he was having significant problems. We highly recommend a visit to a hypnotist with a medical or psychology background.
Acupuncture: Acupuncture is sometimes used both to treat nausea and to stimulate appetite. Gary had weekly acupuncture treatments for several months after treatment and continues to get them every two to three weeks.
Motion-sickness wrist band: These wristbands, available at your pharmacy, have a button that stimulates the acupressure point which controls nausea. They were originally designed for motion sickness, thus the name. People find them useful for morning sickness and chemo nausea as well, Gary did not think it helped him, but it’s certainly worth a try. Actually, everything is worth a try. You never know what might work.
You can also learn to stop nausea with acupressure by stimulating the same acupressure points using your fingers.
Peppermint and ginger: Peppermint and ginger are two ancient herbal remedies for nausea. Unfortunately, Gary has never really care for either flavor and did not find them helpful. However, you might.
Try ginger or peppermint herbal teas or eat a few gingersnaps or suck on peppermints. There are also special lozenges called Queasy Drops to help with nausea caused by chemo which you might find helpful.
Discuss discontinuing Lorazepam with your doctor: Lorazepam was one of the drugs prescribed to help control Gary’s nausea during his second nine weeks of chemo.
Gary discontinued using Lorazepam during the day as soon as he was finished with his chemo because he didn’t like how it muddled his thinking. However, he did continue taking a tablet at bedtime as it just plain made him feel better.
Unfortunately, no one ever told us this drug was habit-forming.
We also didn’t know that side effects of being on Lorazepam (the generic version of Ativan) can include appetite loss and nausea. And we didn’t know going off it too quickly can cause pretty much the same problems.
We’ll never know if Lorazapam and his first try at discontinuing it contributed to Gary’s nausea and appetite problems. However if you are on this drug and have finished your chemo, know that it is habit-forming and could be contributing to your digestive problems.
Talk to your doctor about how to gradually discontinue using it.