Cancer talkReal Talk

Anticipatory nausea and vomiting – What is it?

By November 14, 2018 One Comment

When I was undergoing chemotherapy I suffered from all the side effects you would imagine. Nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, hair loss, sore mouth etc. But as I got deeper into it, something started happening that I wasn’t aware of. It hadn’t been explained to me that this could happen to some patients.

Before any hospital appointments and especially on the day of treatment I would start to feel really nauseous which I couldn’t control. It would just come on either before we left the house or on the way. I would walk into the chemo room, sit in my assigned chair and my mood would just go flat. Then I would start feeling really sick like I could actually vomit! Anything would trigger it – the sight of the chemo room and seeing other people getting their treatment. The smells of everything¬†such as the stuff they would use to clean around my chest before accessing my port-a-cath and the alcohol swabs and the hand sanitsier they would use. Just hospital smells in general that probably wouldn’t bother anyone else. Before and after treatment the nurses have to flush the port-a-cath tube with normal saline (salt and water). At the hospital I go to they have these pre filled ones which must have some kind of preservative in them. When they use them on me I actually vomit. I get this taste in my mouth that probably wouldn’t bother anyone but boy does it bother me!

I honestly started to think I was going crazy! Why did this happen every time? The nurses told me that some patients would put an essential oil on their hand and would keep smelling it whilst in the chemo room. I tried to prevent or even just manage these feelings before leaving mine by taking some lorazepam (anti anxiety tablet) and some anti nausea.

I just wanted to put a name to whatever I was feeling and understand it more. All I knew was that this was just a result of anything related to chemotherapy. It wasn’t until I went down to the Royal Woman’s Brisbane Hospital that I was telling a nurse about what happens. She comes out with “anticipatory nausea”. Sorry what? Can you repeat that again, and very slowly? “An-tic-ipa-tory nausea”. And VOILA! I got on my phone and I researched about it.

Okay gals and guys, if you are going through chemotherapy treatment and you’re experiencing these shitty feelings and you’re seriously tripping out, let me tell you what fun facts I discovered from Dr. Google…

Fun fact:

  1. Anticipatory nausea and vomiting is a psychological process. Meaning you start relating everything around you in the hospital or the treatment room which were previously “normal” things with a feeling of nausea. Sights, smells or sounds.
  2. It becomes a learned response and then a pattern. It’s so interesting what our bodies do!
  3. They say that one in three patients experience anticipatory nausea where as one in ten patients will actually experience the vomiting. I was a one in ten!

If you are experiencing this and like the nurses told me to do (and I ignored for a little bit) is to just put some kind of essential oil on your hand or on a tissue and keep smelling it. I didn’t do this for soo long and I don’t even know why! Until last week, mum brought me in a Gardenia flower and I smelt that when the nurses brought anything near me. It worked!! So obviously instead of my mother always having to pick me flowers (which I’m not complaining about that, it was super sweet!) I’m going to start putting a Doterra essential oil on either my hand or a tissue to smell whilst I’m in the hospital! You can also try and prevent this from happening by taking some form of anti anxiety and nausea tablets if it’s getting really bad. Which I did for a while there. But I find the oils are so soothing and calming that I don’t think I’m going to need the medication! ( I will keep you posted). It’s a really sucky feeling and it seriously does not help on top of everything else you’re about to go through!


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