Before embarking on this blog, covering this particular side effect of chemotherapy, I put out feelers to all my friends who have been there, done that, worn the t-shirt and yes, even one wrote the book! To my bewilderment, all but one, had suffered sensitivity to cold. What? How is that possible? I sell blankets and socks on my website for this reason? Am I missing something? Oh yes, I most certainly was. I’ll keep this short & sweet. Well maybe not so much sweet, but you might take away a little nugget of chemo information that like me, you didn’t know.
What is Chemotherapy?
Chemotherapy is the broad name for a drug that destroys active cancer cells, either by killing them or dividing them. However under its umbrella are at least 100 different drugs, all designed to target that particular cancer or strain of. You can be treated with just one of these drugs or a mixture of, known as, combination chemotherapy. If one of these drugs goes by the name of Oxaliplatin, get out the thermals, because this is the fella that can cause sensitivity to everything cold, from touching cold metals to drinking and eating cold foods. In extreme cases the condition is called cold dysesthesia. This drug is mainly used to treat Bowel, Stomach, Pancreatic Cancer and Cancer of the Oesophagus.
One exception are those who suffer from Thyroid Cancer. As someone who has thyroid issues, I know a little bit about this. I am a cold person. I own more undergarments than outer garments, my toes go numb in the fridge sections of the supermarket and if I had a cent for every time someone mentioned my cold hands, I’d be currently warming my bones on a tropical island. Add chemotherapy to this and it raises the bar tenfold. Anyone whose cancer has ‘gifted’ them with this unpleasantness is going to be thinking thermals, cashmere, wool, heated pads, hot water bottles, blankets and you can be sure of, going to a tropical island!
Neuropathy & Raynaud’s Disease
There are another cohort of people who are largely affected by cold conditions. Neuropathy is nerve damage and it can be caused by a number of different conditions, kidney disease, autoimmune diseases, diabetes and chemotherapy to name but a few. Rather than being a single health problem it’s a term used to describe a range of problems and the symptoms of those issues. So wide a range, that its deserving of its own blog.
In some’s cases the nerve damage is temporary and can be recovered, for others, relieving the symptoms to prevent further damage is key. And what can cause more damage? Yes, our friend the cold. Prolonged exposure to cold, triggers our bodies into preserving the body’s core temperature and in order to do this, its slows the blood flow to the hands and feet, what it determines to be the less needy areas of our anatomy. As noble as this is of our brains, the reduced blood flow can intensify neuropathy symptoms and cause further damage.
Raynaud’s Disease is a another condition that remains a phenomenon, so this will be a short chapter! What is known, is that it is an extremity of poor blood circulation affecting mostly the fingers and toes. So extreme, that the affected areas will turn white and become numb. It’s not a dangerous condition but can be uncomfortable and painful and requires one to have a stock pile of thermal socks and gloves come winter time…..or indeed just walking down the fridge section of the supermarket like me!
Chemotherapy and Blankets
The people I interviewed did say, that regards of the cold, blankets and cosy socks always seemed to feature everywhere. Everyone in the treatment rooms had one. There are charities that crochet blankets, handing them out free to patients. Blankets & socks just seemed to be the order of the day.
So it does appear that some extra level of coldness is felt by all chemo patients be it physical or psychological. Undergoing chemotherapy treatment can be a frightening experience and leaves one feeling anxious, nauseous and tired. All this coupled with a low immune system will make you feel colder than usual. Curling up with a warm blanket, fluffy socks, just feeling warm and cosy in general is always a comforting feeling. So if they are not suffering from the ‘cold dysesthesia’ cold or a ‘thyroid induced’ cold, then it could very well be ‘I need a blanket hug’ cold.
To conclude, what this opened up my eyes to, is the fact that you can’t put all chemotherapy patients in the one box. As I type, I can just hear my quick-witted friends saying "Oi, excuse me, but we don’t want to be put in a box of any shape or form!” At least not yet anyway. Suffices to say, we’ll all end up in one sooner or later but let’s keep warm until then. One of the reasons we supply Heat Holders® thermal slipper socks and blankets, is because their products actually work and help to combat all the aforementioned problems. They retain heat and keep the coldest of body parts warm. To read some amazing reviews from
- Chemotherapy patients click here
- Neuropathy sufferers click here
- Raynaud Disease sufferers click here
We are always looking to add products or tips that will help the next person, so if you want to recommend something you found beneficial, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us. We’d love to hear from you.
My thanks to the following for their input: Niamh Stenson, Diane Chambers Dowman, Maria Ryan, Kathryn Dolphin Griffin and Debbie Sheehy McAuliffe