Health Library

Categories > Cancer > Living with cancer

Home is where the heart (and the care) is

Not surprisingly, many people being treated for cancer agree there’s no place like home. After all, home offers the comfort of familiar surroundings as well as the nearness of family members or friends. If you are undergoing cancer treatment at home, several strategies will help your care proceed smoothly.

Before you begin cancer treatment, ask your physician for important information about:

  • Your medication. For each drug your doctor prescribes, ask these questions: What is it for? When should you take it? How long should you take it? Is there any special way you should take it (for example, with food or plenty of water)? What are the side effects and what can you do to control them? For instance, if a pill may cause nausea, your doctor can tell you if it’s best to take it before or after meals.

If you have trouble remembering your medication, set an alarm clock, create a medication calendar or devise some other method to make sure you don’t skip any doses.

  • Emergencies. Ask your doctor for a list of emergency symptoms and keep a list of emergency numbers near the telephone, including a number where your doctor can be reached when his or her office is closed.
  • Administering treatments. You may arrange for a home-care nurse to come regularly to give treatments such as intravenous (IV) medication and monitor your condition. If you plan to self-administer or have a family member perform any other tests or treatments, such as subcutaneous (under the skin) medication therapy, ask the nurse to show you exactly how this is done.

Remember your needs …

  • Eat frequent, small, nutritious meals and try to drink three quarts of fluid a day. A frozen citrus bar or Popsicle also can help keep you hydrated between meals.
  • Let your doctor know if you are feeling fatigued. Often, underlying medical reasons for fatigue can be easily treated.
  • Rest when you need to. You may find it helpful to take several catnaps a day.
  • Exercise when you can. Being active will boost your energy. Start slowly and work up to a routine you feel comfortable with.
  • Delegate tasks. Ask family and friends to share household chores and paperwork.
  • Create a daily relaxation ritual. Listen to your favorite CD or perform yoga or guided imagery. A warm bath can also soothe your muscles before you go to bed.

Call your doctor if:

  • you accidentally skip a dose of medication
  • your prescription will soon need to be refilled
  • you misplace or spill your medication
  • you notice redness, drainage, swelling or pain at the injection site
  • your temperature is above 100.5°F
  • you are having uncomfortable side effects such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea or pain