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Undo the mundane chemo daycare regime

Image credit — New Yorker / Google Images

Chemotherapy, despite being one of the most rigorous medical treatments, demands a pretty simple administration regime. More often than not, cancer patients spend a few hours at the hospital’s daycare, get the chemo drugs through intravenous catheters, and are then discharged. Most side effects of chemotherapy show after a couple of days, if at all.

Those few hours at the chemo ward might be short, but they are nonetheless boring. And why wouldn’t they be? You lie on a bed, as the nursing staff administers the doses, while one of your arm gets the fluid, and you basically want to doze off the entire time.

So how can one alter that routine? Through my experience of sitting with Dad through his chemo sessions, I’ve come up with a few pointers:

  1. Always carry the day’s newspaper with you. More often than not, the newspaper can be an important diversion from the sanitised medical environment, and some news can become a talking point for an interesting discussion.
  2. Get into the habit of talking to the attending nurse. I cannot emphasise enough how important it is to nurture an open dialogue with the attending staff. Nurses usually work in a silence mode, following doctor’s orders and ticking off required details on their charts. Having a conversation with them, giving them extra details about the patient, thanking them for their work, smiling as you see them in the corridor, eases the patient. He/she feels more relaxed in the presence of someone familiar, and maybe the prick of the needle is less painful.
  3. If you have a TV, tune to the infotainment section. Let’s be honest, watching news on corruption, pollution or crime while getting your chemo is irritating (for lack of a better word). If a chemotherapy ward has a television, switch to Discovery or Animal Planet channels. There’s no one who would dislike watching the wildlife. Dad’s interest peeks the most when it he watches tigers and cheetahs hunt their prey.
  4. Talk to the fellow patients and attendants. We’re all social animals as much as we might hate to admit it. And in a chemo ward, everyone is hoping to understand the disease and find alternatives to a quicker recovery. And I’m reiterating here again, that having a comforting conversation with someone going through a similar issue, really calms one’s mind.

Today, I had a chat with a middle-aged woman whose husband is a pancreatic cancer patient and she was asking me about Dad’s problem, plus where else could she find an opinion about her husband’s treatment. Another woman whose son is sick, came on to check on Dad. Encounters like these made today’s daycare regime seem less isolated. As Dad was leaving the room, he waved to the Uncle opposite his bed, passing a solidarity smile and bowed his head in respect to the Aunty sitting with her ailing son. I smiled at them both, wishing a speedy recovery, and resilient times ahead.

Hi, I’m Mariyam, thank you for reading my post. This is part of my series on finding positivity and decoding the ‘be positive’ attitude as my father fights through aggressive oral cancer.

If you liked it, you can read other posts on

You can also follow me on twitter @MariyamRaza for more. Much love 🙂

Mariyam Raza Haider

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A journalist by training, Mariyam Haider is a writer and performance poet in Singapore.
She is the researcher of the book The Billionaire Raj: A Journey Through India’s New Gilded Age written by James Crabtree.
Her writing has appeared in Hindustan Times, Livemint, Feminism In India, New Asian Writing and Kitaab.

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