How do I help my sister cope with chemo?

Mona68 asked...

My sister has started chemo. She is very tired and has no self-esteem.  She has already lost her hair and has called herself a monster.  What can I do to help her with fatigue?

Expert Answer

Senior Editor Melanie Haiken, who is responsible for's coverage of cancer, general health, and family finance, discovered how important it is to provide accurate, targeted, usable health information to people facing difficult decisions.

While your sister's undergoing chemotherapy, she's going to be coping with a lot of unpleasant side effects from the treatment. These  occur because the chemotherapy drugs kill all fast-growing cells in your body, not just the cancer cells. The cells that make up hair follicles, bone marrow, skin, and the lining of the intestines are some of the fastest-growing, and that's why the most common side effects are hair loss, low blood cell counts, neuropathy, and nausea.

What you can do is help her do the things she's too tired or sick to do, like running errands, helping around the house, and cooking. Help her go wig shopping or buy her some cute "chemo caps." If she has kids, offer to help with the kids as much as possible. She also might like you to go to the doctor with her and take notes, or keep her company while she has chemotherapy infusions. Just keep showing up and asking what you can do to take something off her plate.