The upside of chemo was the consistency. The first three days after each treatment I’d be manic from the steroids. This is when I would typically go shopping. (I could distract myself and keep moving – perfect, no?) And if I was going to get nauseous, the nausea would hit sometime during this period. But thanks to a drug called Emend, it never really did. Days Four through Seven I’d be in what I like to call “The Chemo Crush.” It’s like a really bad, seriously aching, awful bout of the flu. It sucked. Dark, dark days. Day Seven was the day I could expect a little bone pain from the Neulasta shot (used to keep your white blood cell count high). Oddly enough, Claritan helped prevent bone pain – and worked! So mine was never too bad.
And by Day Eight I would start to feel miraculously better. On Day Eight, I knew I would be…ok. I could even joke. Gosh, I loved that Day Eight.
But when I woke up on the morning of Day Nine – each of the four times I had chemo – my face would be covered in what looked like horrible, teenage acne.
Welcome to the Day Nine Chemo Rash.
The doctors think the rash may be caused by the steroids you take along with your chemo drugs. And the good news is that this is a rash, not acne, despite it’s appearance. I say ‘good news’ because it means that roughly five days later…the rash is gone. Every. Time.
The chemo rash that popped out after my first treatment was the worst. It was the most red, the most widespread, and actually hurt – it felt like I had been slapped on both cheeks. Oh goody – I have a pic:
After that first treatment, I was able to reduce the severity somewhat by having my docs reduce the steroids and by giving my skincare routine an overhaul. The main thing when going through chemo? Hydration. Drink water* and slather on cream.
*With the taste bud changes and fear of nausea, I found drinking water really hard. So I started getting an IV of fluids before each chemo and again when I’d go in the following day for a neulasta shot. It really, really helped.
Hopefully, no one you know will ever need this list. But sadly, I’ve received enough emails from mamas in the last few months to know that this won’t be falling on deaf ears. And heck – some of these products are so fabulous for beating dry skin in general that I plan to keep using them.
If you do nothing else, get this mask. This mask is intended to be used for 10 minutes, then washed off. However, my esthetician recommended sleeping in this mask and rinsing it off in the morning. It made a world of difference. I still do this from time-to-time when my skin is dry. One of my new favs.
This is the only cleanser that didn’t further irritate my rash. It’s perfect for when water feels too harsh. You just wet your fingertips, then massage this on to your dry face. I’d gently wipe off with cotton balls.
This is the impossibly creamy skin cream I’d use every night. Pevonia does have a cream that’s formulated for sensitive skin, but I actually found this balancing cream to be more soothing. When I first showed up at the estician’s office in tears – my stinging face covered in chemo rash – she spent 10 minutes gently massaging this product onto my cheeks. Sting gone.
This product is cheap and amazing. It even rivaled the Pevonia Balancing Skin Cream, above. However, it’s much lighter. So on days I used this cream instead of the Pevonia, I would need to apply multiple layers before my thirsty, irritated skin would calm down. Also fantastic for my dry, cracked hands. I’m still using it whenever I feel a little irritated, and it’s worked miracles on Raines’ perpetually wind-burned cheeks.
I ended up using a toner to remove some residual makeup since my skin was too sensitive to rub. And this toner also helped cool and soothe my itchy, chemo-burned arm.
Best. Lip Balm. Ever. My lips were epically chapped during chemo. I tried everything. EVERYTHING. Like, really seriously freaking everything. The only thing that worked was this unassuming little pot ‘o gold from Korres. Nothing else was even close. Shocking, right? It was the pot that came for free in a set that I bought for the other color. Go figure.
These products were the only things that were able to successfully camouflage my chemo rash without causing more irritation. BUT: The first time I tried the BB Cream, I looked like a mime. Correct application is key (watch the video on proper technique). I managed to shortcut this whole thing by mixing a pea-sized amount of primer and BB cream together, which is what I’m still using for foundation now. This product is astonishing, actually. Here are a few un-retouched photos of the BB Cream/Primer in action:
10 days after my Second chemo treatment (right in the thick of the chemo rash period)
Now – With a wig and fake eyelashes but HEY my skin looks alright.
So there you have it. What doesn’t kill you….right? You know the rest.
“Having had cancer, one important thing to know is you’re still the same person at the end. You’re stripped down to near zero. But most people come out the other end feeling more like themselves than ever before.”
— Kylie Minogue