Ideas for building strength for chemo?

My mum came home from hospital last night! They've finally sorted her infections and bladder issues and have told her to get home and start building her strength for chemo. She has a meeting with her oncologist a week on Monday and he wants to see her looking much better in his clinic.

However, it is clear from last night that she is very weak indeed - to the point where she can't get up the stairs or walk any more than a few paces. This has come about as a result of the infection, not eating for a month and obviously the nasty cancer growths and cells doing their horrible business.

How can we help her recover sufficiently to walk in to clinic and look like she will withstand treatment? Food is obviously a key issue - she is still not eating very much at all but we are on the case with supplements, smoothies etc. I feel that she could do with some form of physio to help her lose the jelly feeling in her legs. Has anyone got any tips on exercises or anything else we could try?

Thank you :-) xxx

15 Replies

  • Your poor mum. You must be worried sick about her. You're right about finding temping foods she likes to eat and gradually building up her appetite by having a number of small meals a day. Loss of appetite is quite a problem with ovarian cancer. I ended up eating meals that would have fitted on a saucer as I just couldn't face any more so lost quite a lot of weight. My mum always swore by a little glass of Mackeson to lift the spirits after an illness. It's certainly very rich in iron and folic acid and seems to me to be more fun than medical tonics.

    I'd imagine fresh air is good too but it sounds as though she is too weak to walk far. I wonder if it's possible to get hold of a wheelchair so she can take some fresh air and nice views on fine days. That always makes me feel a lot better.

    The main thing is she has obviously got a loving family around her. This must be the greatest comfort of all. Recuperation sometimes just takes time. It must be very worrying feeling you're up against the clock to get your mum looking better before her next appointment.

    Hopefully others will come up with some ideas of things to lift the spirits and restore health. Please let us know how you get on.

    Love Annie xxx

  • Hi lena,

    Glad to hear your mum is out of hospital, I too was very weak and unwell before my op (my chemo was after op) I found walking helped I would just walk a twice a day, sometimes just to a lamp post or drain, then try a tiny bit further, I didnt want to eat I went to under 8st, but I tried to eat bland easy to swallow food, hearty soups, rice puddings, cottage pie I found easy to eat with a bit gravy, you can get supplements from doc but they are very milky and I couldnt drink them, but might be worth a try.........I wish you and your mum well


    Andrea x

  • Hi lena,

    Forgot to say she is weak probably best to have someone walk with your mum wouldnt want a fall

    Take care

    Andrea x

  • Hi, Sandra was much the same back in 2010. She was so weak it was an effort to get her out of bed. We put her on these milk shakes from the chemist, Build Up or Complan are much better tasting than those supplied on prescription. When she was admiited into hospital, the doctors actually went out and purchased these milk shakes using local funds instead of using the prescription versions. Her other problem was loss of muscle tone because she was bedridden for 6 mths so if your mum could do small walks around the home will help. The district nurses will provide any aids necessary including wheelchairs. I often took Sandra round supermarkets in her wheelchair. I also moved her bed downstairs. Thankfully she recovered her strength soon enough to get married and before embarking on her 3rd line chemo in 2011. Love Paul xx

  • Hi Wiin,

    You have had some good advice about eating little but often and also small walks around the garden to build up her strength, I wouldn't push for too much excercise she is obviously very weak and this might weaken her more ...(she just might need a good rest) the key I feel is to get her looking well, the Oncologist puts a lot of importance on the way you look (my CNS told me that) sometimes I have felt as weak as a kitten, but I have always looked well and when I mention I am tired my oncologist always says you never look tired to me, so I am now on third line treatment and still look well.

    Best wishes love x G x

  • Hi Gwyn Hope you are doing OK with your chemo? Love Linda x

  • Hi Linda,

    Thank you for asking I only have one more to go, the last one is on the 25th of this month...It hasn't been easy what with a blood infection, DVT and Piccline problems plus I am on stronger antibiotics for infected cysts (already gone through a course) but not long now :-) cheers love x G x

  • So sorry you have had such a hard time of it Gwyn... sorry if I have missed your posts. Was wondering how you was going on. Love Linda xxx

  • Hi Winni,

    I can't really add to the good advice given above. When I was very weak I did find a little bit of fresh air, whether a very short,supported walk or if need be in a wheelchair helped. Little bits of food helped too. I particularly liked fresh tasting things - small pieces of melon, a few grapes, a few pieces of chopped apple (the thought of a whole one was too much effort) a few segments of satsuma.

    Sending you and your Mum my best wishes,

    Zannah x

  • Hi Winni .. I can't add to the helpful advice you've been given by our friends here but I was just re-reading your first post and your Mum has come a long way, hasn't she? You must be so relieved but wanting to be ready for the chemo challenge. Your Mum has turned a corner and looking ahead. I honestly didn't think I'd make it out of hospital and my auxiliary said I'd been in a very dark place. I really don't think many people without experience understand what this illness is like and my oncologist says that general hospitals do just what they say they do .. generalise. We're all different and this isn't one illness .. it's a number of illnesses hanging out together. One minute a person can seem ill and the next they're shopping at Debenhams. My oncologist says it's because the organs of the abdomen are so connected that if one is affected even slightly, the others follow suit. This is a yo yo journey for many and now your Mum's on the up. Sending you and your Mum my good wishes .. Love Tina x x

  • Hi Tina

    Yes, she's come a really long way since last Monday. I can't believe how hopeful things suddenly seem compared to the dark place last week! Your advice, and the advice of everyone on this has been absolutely amazing - whenever Mum's felt overwhelmed I've just read out some of the comments on here and it really has made all the difference. So much of what you say really makes sense and rings true, so even at the worst of times we've been able to draw some comfort from something someone has written on here. I really believe now that she will pull through this, and she does too. I can't tell you how grateful I am to you and to everyone.

    Thank you so much. Here's hoping with all my heart that you, and everyone on here, continue to keep well and strong xxxxx

  • Plenty of rest, plenty of good food. Your GP can give you a prescription for high calorie drinks, which can be very expensive. Ideally if your mother likes them, she should be having several a day. Also, whole organic milk with 2 tablespoonfuls of milk powder added, rich soups and stews, made with plenty of added cream/yoghurt, etc. Chocolate biscuits, taramasalata is full of calories, etc.. Whatever appeals to your mother. Many small meals through the day are a better idea that large meals at regular times - whenever she feels like eating, she needs to eat, but too much at once will make her feel ill, and she - and you - need to avoid that at all costs. Best wishes, Vxxx

  • Glad to hear your mum is out of hospital.

    When I couldn't eat properly the hospital gave me Nutrisip and Fortisip drinks, see: . They are a nutritionally complete, high energy supplement and I found them very easy to sip at when I wasn't up to eating. Each small bottle has 300 calories (equivalent of eating a sandwich so my nurse told me) and I really liked them. I was given a supply to take home and I would have two a day alongside trying to eat little bits of food at mealtimes.

    Sending you both best wishes.

  • I agree with all the above.. a little as often as possible is the best way to go. I was in hospital for almost two months and was drip-fed which left me with no muscle matter and every time I looked at food I wanted to vomit. At home I was also given the high energy drinks and was given a soft boiled egg mashed small with butter in a cup and eaten with a teaspoon along with soups and smoothies which I did not always finish. That was five years ago and three cycles of chemo since then. It takes time and I am sure your mum will soon be feeling stronger now she is home. Best wishes. LindaB xxxx

  • Such great advice - thank you all so much. Her eating is picking up a little - we've been trying not to 'bully' her and are instead trying for a bite or two of something she can manage once every 2 hours or so. She seems to love Horlicks! But is not yet enjoying savoury stuff so we're sticking to sweet things for now. And her activity is increasing slowly too - she has been walking around the house, up and down the stairs a couple of times a day and Dad is helping her in the shower and also massaging her legs. I've downloaded some great exercises off the NHS website that she can do using a chair for support. I got in trouble though, because they were 'exercises for the elderly' and she saw that and was horrified!!

    Do you know if the supplement drink Ensure should only be taken once a day? She seems to think she can only have one but I wasn't sure. She finds it quite filling and I don't think is keen on having more than one. I will also try getting hold of an alternative - Nutrisip as sharonforce suggested.

    Thanks xxxx

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