Losing Your Fingernails to Chemo

Did you know chemotherapy can make your fingernails turn black and fall off? As if a diagnosis of breast cancer isn’t bad enough, my oncologist gave me that gruesome tidbit the morning of my second chemotherapy. He also warned me not to cut my cuticles and hangnails and not to floss my teeth until after I was finished with chemo. In addition, he suggested I avoid manicures, pedicures and the use of artificial nails all together.

Because our immune system is compromised more than usual during treatment, defending us from both the cancer and the chemotherapy, any nick or cut especially on our fingers and in our mouths, could result in a serious infection requiring antibiotics and/or hospitalization. By the way, “Lilly,” who is battling ovarian cancer on The Young & The Restless, was given the same cautionary fingernail warning by her “doctor.” Yes, I watch The Young & The Restless. There! I’ve said it, and I feel better now.

Before chemo, my nails had a tendency to split, and I was prone to have hangnails. The thought of them getting worse during treatment and not being able to do anything about it became a huge concern. Somehow I got the idea to buy cuticle cream. What magic stuff. Everyday after my second chemotherapy, I rubbed cuticle cream into my nails and cuticles and everyday, my ragged hangnails visibly improved and my nails got stronger.

At every subsequent doctor’s appointment my oncologist would inspect my nails and say, “Maybe next time,” implying that between now and my next chemo, my fingernails might give birth to Swamp Thing and begin to fall off. And at every appointment thereafter, he was amazed my nails looked better and better.  

I’ve sometimes wondered if the nightly massaging with the cream not only repaired my cuticles and nails but increased blood flow to my nail bed as well, thus keeping them from falling off. There are several cuticle creams on the market. If you’re going through chemo, pick the one with the least fragrance so it lessens your chance of becoming nauseated by the smell.  Cuticle cream is one of the best things I discovered during chemo and is something I continue to use, and my nails look great.

Back to that Young & The Restless thing… Since I’m generally a couple of weeks behind, please, don’t anyone tell me how Sharon learns the terrible truth about Adam.