Cancer Survivors Share Their Best Advice

We asked our Facebook followers a simple question:

best advice someone starting chemotherapy cancer survivorsbest advice someone starting chemotherapy cancer survivors

We were touched by how much was shared. What follows is the advice given by cancer survivors from all walks of life. We believe that the best advice comes from those who have been there. Without further adieu, here's what the experts had to say:

  • “Absolutely know you will be okay. Get up each day, get dressed (no hanging around in PJ's), put make up on and a pretty headcover. Walk tall. I took more care with my appearance when I was having chemo, than every before. It paid off - it actually made me feel better. You will get through this - and be better for it." ~Jo-Ann M.


  • “Remember you are number one. Keep your attitude positive. Trust in your faith (GOD). family and friends. Get plenty of rest and eat healthy.” ~ Corinne S.


  • “When your hair starts to fall out, get it buzzed but then be sure to wear a cap of some sort because all of those short hairs are still going to come out, and they itch like you had a haircut without a cape...” ~Laurie D.


  • “Have a fun wig. Mine was red and named it Trixie, she only went to chemo. Have a soft fleece sleep cap to sleep in. I still find comfort in it.” ~Suzette C.


  • “It's okay to feel sad or scared but remember that you can turn to family, friends and the breast cancer site for encouragement. Good luck and blessings on your journey…and if you need coverings for your head, I recommend, they rock the hats and scarves.” ~ Kathleen R.


  • “Resolve to get through it. Take it one day at a time. Don't look at it as 6 mo. Or whatever length you need. Ask questions. Research. Be good to yourself. Have faith and God bless you.” ~Ernestine W.


  • “It probably won't be easy and there are times when you want to give up. But remember you have the power to overcome and I am sure you will.” ~Ann S.


  • “Remember the journey may seem uphill at times, but keep that light at the end of the tunnel in sight.” ~Vickie H.


  • “Drink plenty of fluids, get lots of rest. You will go thru days where you feel like you have had enough, but just push thru! Cry and scream if you need to just remember it will be over in no time! Keep smiling!” ~Cathy S.


  • “Take care of yourself and don't worry about anyone else.” ~Chris B.


  • “The one thing I tell folks getting ready to start chemo is the one thing I never expected. Losing my hair was one of the MOST painful experiences I had. Not because I was afraid of losing my hair and what I would look like, but because it was really painful. I thought at first there was something wrong with me, until one day while staying at a Hope Lodge I found a small book that shared everything I was experiencing. Just knowing I was "normal" at a time when everyday was so far from that, made losing my hair suddenly less scary. I haven't met anyone else who had a similar experience, but I do share mine whenever asked, "What was it like?"’ ~Jeannette G.


  • “Keep a positive attitude, listen to what your oncology team advises and keep in prayer. I had chemo once a week for 12 weeks and God was very gracious. Except for some tummy issues and losing my hair, I really had no horrible side effects. I have wonderful friends and family who saw me through this part of this unexpected journey and throughout treatment I never lost my smile or sense of humor. I'm here and alive and plan on being around for many years to come!!” ~Ellen F.


  • “I divided my treatment times in half in my mind. I needed 16 treatments so getting to 8 meant I was halfway, 4 was a quarter of the way etc. It made the time go by more quickly for me. Be kind to yourself and reward yourself with something as a treat every now and again.” ~Lisa W.


  • “All of the advise given here is right on target. Please make sure to drink plenty of fluids. I could not and ended up having to go back and get iv fluids to get hydrated. And that's ok too but let them know. You need to flush the chemo out with lots if fluids. If you need to take Neulasta the day after chemo as I did (to keep your white blood cell count up), you may have bone pain after the shot. Many women I know took Claritin after the shot and it helped them but it did not help me. Hot baths or a heating pad helped me. Be sure to ALWAYS ask your Onc if you can take ANYTHING! Good luck to you. It goes by really fast warrior. I had breast cancer and I joined a site / group and it saved my emotional life. Reach out to someone who has been there and done that. Nobody else can understand it except those who have experienced it first hand. Sending you warm heartfelt healing prayers. You got this!” ~Roseanne P.


  • “Preparation helps; if finances allow, get the house ready with items you may need. If you have internet, etc you may want to open an account with grocery delivery, open a pay pal account for secure online shopping. You may want to change your pharmacy to one closest to your home, preferably one that offers delivery. Ask trusted neighbors if they know of reliable, affordable pet care services in case of emergency; preferably someone your neighbors may have used. Get your haircut shorter before you start chemo to transition and ease shock before you lose hair. Depending on insurance plan you may be entitled to a free wig but some excellent wigs are reasonably priced. If possible, choose one before you begin treatment. Best wishes to you!" ~Jen G.


  • “I don't know how anybody does this without Jesus. Our relationship with Him really carried us through those 7 months. Good nutrition; plenty of rest; exercise was key to burning off stress and anxiety in addition to staying strong; and KEEP IT POSITIVE. KLOVE radio is great for fostering that positive focus! was a BLESSING! My daughter felt more attractive again. I pulled up the website, sat her down, and said, "Go shopping. Get whatever you want." She loved that she could shop through a zillion choices to match all of her college fashions! And other women at the treatment clinic were raving about how pretty she looked and asked for the website. The next treatment day, multiple women were sporting beautiful new scarves! was AMAZING with customer service and returns.” ~Peach F.


  • “For me hats feel better ! Even without hair Your still you... just do what feels best for you and live each day to its fullest. Have fun with it.” ~Phyllis S.


  • “Faith, family and friends! Drink plenty of water to flush your system of the chemo drugs. I took a prescribed anti-nausea drug, helped immensely...that being said, it caused other tummy woes so, be aware. Get lots of rest, stay positive, eat healthy and live! Cancer is not a death sentence, it's just a bump in the road.” ~Gay S.


  • “Take care of you. Rest. Don't give up. The bad days will get better. If you work keep working. STAY POSITIVE!!! And God will be with you every step of the way.” ~Cindy K.


  • "If GOD brings you to it, HE will see you through it. Listen to your body. It will require lots of rest and whatever nutrition you can tolerate. Real ginger is a natural remedy for nausea and acid reflux. Canada Dry ginger ale only one with real ginger. I found the taste better from the cans but poured into a plastic cup. Don’t eat or drink from any metal to avoid metallic taste. Talk to your doctor about ANY side effects. They're not mind readers. My bloodwork never indicated I was in treatments. My body said differently. They have a pharmacy at their disposal and can help with anything. I'm 4 months post-chemo (24 treatments over 26 weeks) and the joint pain is my biggest complaint. It may never go away. 
    And yes is awesome. I have every color of the knit caps that tie behind the head. I can reuse them under my motorcycle helmet!
    God bless. Be strong you're not alone!" ~Kimberly P.


  • “Just starting my second go 'round with chemo. Things I learned to do this time: 1. Have a dr you trust and treats your cancer specifically. My first onc had never seen an ERMS care, My new onc treats 3-6 a year. Trusting your Dr is vital.  2. Call your dr office if ANYTHING is unusual or if you have questions. That is why they are there. Constipation, diarrhea, severe anxiety, pain.....they need to know. Don't wait for your next appt, CALL. 3. As soon as I knew I was getting chemo I cut my mid back length curly hair down to stubble. I wanted something to control and my hair was it. I also involved my kids in the process.  4. I have three styles of headcovers. The first is a crocheted hat my mom made without a pattern. Any color I wanted, she made. Second, I have three tie-back syles from I love them. Third, handmade scrub hats from a friend so I could have a Michigan State one as I treat at U of M. LOL. Do what's right for your head. I'm not a wig or scarf person.  5. Drink fluids!!!! My last session of my first round landed me in the hospital even with hydration. Listen to your body.  6. Ask for help. Beating cancer is your new super hero job. Everything else can be done by someone else. I struggle with this a lot. But I've learned to let go a little at a time." ~Andrea S. 


  • “Don't try to do it on your own. Reach out to your friends and family. Scarves are amazing. Remember u r still beautiful.” ~ Penny D.


  • “My doctors told me to stay hydrated with lots of water to flush the chemo out. However, due to the nausea, they said eat whatever I could tolerate. Lots of crackers, health boost shakes from any local juice places like Jamba Juice. As much protein and veggies as you can. Whole Foods has ginger candies that are my lifeline still and my last chemo was in March.” ~Penny C.


  • “Give it to God.” ~Elaine H.


  • “Have lots of fun with hats. Put on make up and show a beautiful face to the world. Let them know you're a cancer fighter, not a cancer victim! (And follow the advice above as well, particularly about calling your doctor for any symptoms and keeping hydrated.)" ~Suzanne M.


  • “Get a second opinion and be sure you have a good oncologist. My first oncologist nearly cost me my life. Didn't pay attention to my PET scan that instead of just having Stage 1 lung cancer I actually have stage 4 metastatic lung cancer to the colon. I lived with this for 6 months before I switched Dr's and she found it right away. Yes I was told had I not had a healthy heart I would have/should have died. I was thrilled to finally start chemo and kill the cancer! Be ok with your bald self... you are saving your life. Embrace it!” ~Jacqueline T.


  • “Ignore all the well meaning stupid stuff people are going to say to you. Don't push yourself, rest, and continue with light exercise.” ~Lauren B.


  • “My mom found that using plastic silverware instead of metal helped her food not have a metallic/distorted taste.” ~Nicole B.


  • “Look into a raw vegetable diet. I've had 4 family members on my and my husband's side of the family survived cancer with this diet. They was also observed by a cancer specialist that promoted the diet.” ~Erica H.


  • “Being with my daughter, as she bravely went through her journey of radiation and chemo, all the previous suggestions are spot on. Find something to focus your attention on, be it music, a show, books on tape, or whatever you're interested in. It helps. Try, as hard as it might be, to stay hydrated, it's very important, along with letting others do things for you. It's not a sign of weakness, for many, it takes much strength to allow others to help us. Your friends/family need to help. You need to conserve energy. It works out, later, when you're better, you can help them with something!” ~Nancy P.


  • “Rest when you need to, but move when you can. Drink all the time.” ~Patty M.


  • “Smile…it helps you feel pops also.” ~Sylvia N.


  • “A lot of very good advise here. Reaching out to survivors and others that are where you are now is so important. I did not know anyone that had been there. I didn't realize how many wonderful women there are willing to talk and help you. So all I had was my family and only a few of them. Of course you want your family but they had no idea what I was going thru. When the chemo got me clear down, no energy, could not eat then I didn't bother to call friends because I didn't have the energy to care so talk to your friends before you start to ask them to come see you no matter how you feel. My sister came every week. Those were wonderful highlights. She always brightened up my day.” ~Teresa G.


  • “Stay positive take care of yourself eat as clean as you possibly can trust me when I say that losing hair will be the very least of your concerns have faith surround yourself with positive people get rid of all and any negativity in your life. As a survivor, I had to be my own advocate. A strong support system helps. There ARE good days ahead.” ~Lauren M.


  • “No matter how bad and hard it seems, you will get through it when you have hope!” ~Fabiola L.


  • “When you start you should have a positive attitude. Also ask God for strength and that his will to be done. Then you need to have an input in all your treatment. Make you own decisions on all things from treatment to what to wear if you lose your hair. Everyone is different.” ~Theresa M.


  • “Rest, stay hydrated, eat what your body will tolerate, have someone you can talk to (or see about a therapist) cause you will have those days where you just want to give up and seems like you can't go on, cry, laugh, for a while I was so angry thinking why me what did I do. Just know in the end you will get through this it's just a chapter in your life you will be able to look back and say I did this. It's tough but you'll be ok.” ~Leslie M.


  • “Have faith stay positive eat right rest often. Get your hair cut. I did the Molly Cyrus look. Shaved it all except the top. Less devastating than having it fall out around third treatment. Pray a lot. Have real friends with real support. Good luck.” ~Teresa P.


  • “I agree on head covers. Most cancer centers have free wigs and baby soft beanies. Or you can go completely without. Just take special care if you're out in the sun. Also take special care of your mouth. Good luck and many prayers coming your way.” ~Brenda O.


  • “Start taking nausea meds asap! Take them every 4 to 6 hours. Set your alarm. Sure helped me get through it! Best of everything to you!” ~Dell S.


  • “Even though it is hard, looking at your hair falling out, it is a good means that those chemotherapy drugs are working!! They are killing those bad fast multiplying cells (cancer cells) but your hair is also a fast multiplying cell. It is just collateral damage on the way to healing you. It is the one physical sign that you can see that the drugs are doing what they should. Hang in will come back.” ~Becky M.


  • “A lot of great advice! Faith has carried me through my 1st and 2nd round of cancer. I don't mind being bald but the period of time when it was falling out (2 wks after 1st treatment) was the rough time for both me and my family. I've embraced bald now and made it fun. I do cope a lot with humour. One piece of advice...being bald tends to make a person colder than usual so be prepared with some type of head covering. Pretty, funky or whatever you enjoy, have fun being creative. Also, my head was and somewhat still is sensitive so use baby shampoo and gentle things on your head. It’s not uncommon to develop irritations during chemo so ask Dr's advice. I had problems with my heels and doc said to use Bag Balm on my feet.” ~Dian Q.


  • “I recommend you cut it very very short or even clipper cut it when it starts to fall out. I got tired of having to unplug the shower drain and I even tried all those different strainer/covers for the drain.” ~Louise J.


  • “ There's so much good advice here. Mine is take it one day at a time. It's very daunting and frightening to think of weeks or months of treatment. Just take it one day...some will be better than others. Allow friends and family to help you. It is a blessing to the giver and to you. Be proactive regarding your care. Research, ask questions, be sure you have a doctor you like and trust. Every day brings you closer to the completion of treatment. Cut your hair and be mentally prepared when the rest comes out. It's will grow back. I loved the scarves from Headcovers. Keep the will survive this and you WILL live to enjoy life again! I am 5 years out so I know! Blessings to you.” ~Ernestine W.