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My friend starts chemo today

graphicsgal
Posts: 3
Joined: Jul 2004

Hello everyone,

My friend Julie is undergoing her first chemo treatment today. She had a tumor removed from her colon around the first of June. There was no lymph involvement, but her cancer was staged at 2b.

She has done a little research on the web, but has found it to me more frightening than helpful. I am hoping to get a feel for what she can expect from her course of chemo. She is to have 5 daily treatments a month for 6 months, to be followed up by radiation.

All of her friends are just sick with worry for her. We don't know what to expect either, and of course, want to help in in ways that are most useful to her.

Any info or links would be appreciated.

Thanks,

GraphicsGal

kangatoo's picture
kangatoo
Posts: 2115
Joined: Feb 2004

Hiya--I am a stage 2 "survivor", now 4 months in remission.Maybe you could return with a little more info so we can help with a bit more specific info.I did 6 months chemo--5 days p/w with 3 week recovery in b/tween sessions.I had surgery to remove approx. 1/3 my colon.
I can understand the chemo she will have but the radiation treatment after that suggests to me that some cancer is in a position not able to be removed by surgery--is this correct?Usually rad. is given to shrink tumours that may be inoperable or that the surgeon needs to try and shrink the tumour/part of after surgery.This is why more info would be helpfull for any here to reply.
For example;
Where was cancer located in the colon?---ascending,transverse,descending,sigmoid, rectum or near the anus?
What type of chemo(chemicals) is she being given? I was given 5fu/leucovorin.
It is great for her to have a supportive group of friends.Your feelings are well justified but do remember that medical advances today have given us all a great deal of hope for the future--there are many here in far greater advanced stages of cancer that are living proof of that.Chemo varies greatly on its effect on cancer patients depending on the length of the course and the chemicals given.There are many side-effects but not all felt at once.Also any side effects should be reported to her clinic nurses as almost all can be controlled thru medication.
Side effects;(possible--depending on chemo given)
;;;;nausea/vomiting, diarrhea, mouth ulcers/metallic taste, skin rashes/tingles, hair loss, fatigue/tiredness--and many others.
One of the "main" side effects is definately fatigue/tiredness as the chemo really messes up the bodies blood system---that is why she will have constant blood tests to see if further chemo can be tolerated.One of the effects is to mess up the immune system which makes us all susceptible to infections.She will be told these things and given guidelines for keeping an eye on her general health.
Please return for more info--we try here to help as much as possible.
All the best for your friend---regards, kanga n Jen

graphicsgal
Posts: 3
Joined: Jul 2004

Hi Again,

Thanks for answering so quickly.

I will supply more information as I gather it, but for now, the removal of the tumor required that she have a colostomy (which they are saying is reversable), and for which she has had no complications.

Sounds like the 5x with three weeks off for six months is the schedule she will be following.

I am positive her oncologist has put radiation on the table, but then again, she is pretty freaked out right now and I could have that wrong.

She feels like her whole life has been taken away from her. All this started with a virus in mid-May. She had an umbilical hernia that got worse from coughing, so they operated on that. She was experiencing a lot of pain during the recovery from that surgery, which sent her back to the hospital. The diagnosis that time was diverticulitis. She was in the hospital a week and home about 4 days until pain drove her back to the hospital. They decided then she had a blockage and operated on that, finding the tumor at that time.

Now, I won't even go into the fact that the surgeon who operated on her for the hernia apparently missed the "mass" mentioned by the radiologist for her CAT scan, and worse yet, if he did see it, failed to mention it. Grrrr.

She has been through the wringer for the past 2 months and of course, starting chemo now is just making all that worse. She is lucky that this strange turn of events caught her cancer and we are all grateful it is not a lot worse than it is.

I am writing as much for myself as for her. All of us who love her feel so helpless and we're not even sick.

I so appreciate your answering me and , again, I will give more info as I have it.

Congrats on your own progress!

GraphicsGal

MUGGINS
Posts: 35
Joined: Apr 2004

SO SORRY TO HEAR ABOUT YOUR FRIEND. I'M IN A SIMILAR POSTION AS YOU. MY BEST FRIEND WAS DIAGNOSED FIVE MONTHS AGO WITH STAGE IV COLON CANCER. SHE ALSO SAYS INVESTIGATING THIS DISEASE IS TOO SCARY. SHE REALLY DOES WANT TO TALK ABOUT IT AT ALL. I HAVE FOUND THIS SITE ESPECIALLY HELPFUL ABOUT WHAT TO EXPECT - THE HIGHS AND LOWS AND ALL ABOUT POSITIVE ATTITUDES
AND STORIES. PLEASE HANG IN THERE AND AS YOU WILL FIND OUT MANY WILL KEEP YOUR FRIEND IN THEIR
PRAYERS.

nancyfordsarmy
Posts: 2
Joined: Jul 2004

Wow. My friend started chemo this week, and I was her researcher too cause I think it scared her. So far she's doing OK and to have something to do, all her friends have organized to do meals, housework, laundry, child cared etc. It helps us feel less out of control of this spectre called cancer. Good luck to your friend. This web site is full of great people. Go into the chat room in the evening for a lot of real time input. NFA

KrisS
Posts: 232
Joined: Apr 2003

Hi there- I am so sorry at the ordeal that your friend has gone through. You both must be so scared. It took me weeks to think things through without getting upset. It helps to keep a notebook of questions and answers that you might find from doctors, nurses or web sites. A general overview of colon cancer treatment such as on Web MD or perhaps in the resource library here may be a useful place to start.

Kanga and Jane are right in that we may be able to give more suggestions if we know more.

Although everyone responds to chemotherapy a bit differently, many people tolerate chemotherapy quite well. Different drugs have different spectra of side effects. I have been on oxaliplatin/Xeloda (an oral form of 5-FU) for 12 months with quite tolerable side effects, especially during the first 7 mths. It did take a few treatments before my doctor and I found the right combination of anti nausea medications so that I no longer felt queasy. Although I felt tired and did cut down my work hours a bit I did work most days.

Just being there to offer support is so helpful. One of my friends would come over with her silly dog. No matter how tired I was we always managed to go out for a walk, and I always felt better afterwards. Just knowing that friends and family are around if necessary was a tremendous comfort, even though I rarely needed help with driving shopping or other things.

Radiation therapy following chemotherapy is not commonly done unless it was a rectal tumor. Radiation can be used to shrink rectal tumors prior to surgery to make these tumors which are located in the narrower area of the pelvis easier to remove. It has also been used post operatively for rectal tumors. It is not commonly used for tumors higher up in the colon because radiation can damage the adjacent normal small intestine. Most of the small intestine is located outside the region of the pelvis, so this is much less of a problem when treating rectal carcinomas with radiation therapy.

Stage 2b is tumor still confined to the intestinal wall and my impression is that it has a reasonably high cure rate with resection. Chemotherapy is an additional precaution. That is an additional reason why I was wondering about radiation unless there tumor that extended to, or close to the margin of the removed segment of colon, that they are worried about the possibility of it coming back locally.

Please let your friend know that my thoughts and prayers are with her hoping that treatment goes smoothly and is sucessful.
Please let us know how things go.

Kris

neon356
Posts: 137
Joined: Mar 2004

Hi,
I was diagnosed with stage3 colorectal cancer over ten years ago, and the first 4 years were very difficult for me. But I'm here to say that it was well worth it, and today my life is pretty much as normal as anyone else's. Everyone is different, so it's hard to say what your friend may go thru with the chemo and radiation. Most of us get pretty sick at times. The chemo can cause anemia, nausea, tiredness. The radiation can cause burns, nausea, dry mouth, and many other things. You can help your friend to understand that it will all be in the past, and to try and think ahead. The symptoms will go away, her body will heal and get strong again. What she's going thru, and having faced mortality puts her into a very special group of people, whose lives have been changed forever, and that they're better for it. She'll need to keep up her strength, eat as well as she can, keep her fluids up,if necessary take pills for the side effects such as nausea. I highly reccommend the medical use of marijuana, to combat many of the side effects, and to help her appatite. Hope this helps,
Carl

graphicsgal
Posts: 3
Joined: Jul 2004

Thank you to everyone who is posting. I let Julie know I was posting on this message board; I will see to it that she has access to all your replies. Hopefully she will make use of it herself.

The first chemo session went very well. Of course, the worst thing was not knowing what would happen. Julie said that everyone was particularly kind to her, explained everything, and stressed to her that she must report side effects so they can be managed effectively. She was much comforted to have been given concrete data about what to expect, and to have a lot of the immediate unknown of chemo behind her. She has hope that the chemo will not be as horrendous as she imagined.

It is good to hear from folks like you, Carl, who are a number of years out from treatment. Julie is scheduled to retire is a few months. She is afraid that the rest of her life will be spent shuttling between one doctor and another. It will help her to know that this may not necessarily be the case.

She said they gave her 2 drugs (but I don't know what they are yet). The mediport worked well, so that is a plus, too.

Thanks again to everyone who is posting. I wish you all the very very best and will let you know how things go (and some more details as I get them).

GraphicsGal

jana11
Posts: 708
Joined: May 2004

Hi.... I'm another chemo patient. I am now stage 4 and on chemo currently. Right now I'm taking oxaliplatin & xeloda - a year back I took xeloda and CPT-11. I tolerate both treatments very well. I am only 34 years old, and quite active. I have worked full time through all treatments, but my clinic lets me slow down when needed - which is wonderful.

Chemo sucks, generally speaking - but fortunately the chemo agents used for colorectal cancer are very well tolerated.

Every person is different and will tolerate the agents differently, but I bet your friends anticipation and fear were far worse than the actual drugs. Tell her to hang in there, she is in good company.

Stage 2b has GREAT cure rates. Hopefully this will just be a spot in her history that will help her appreciate life. With time, this too shall pass.

Wish you both all the best, she is lucky to have such a caring friend!! jana

steved
Posts: 836
Joined: Apr 2004

Hi there and welcome to this site- hope you find it useful for information as well as support for both yourself and Julie. I too have what seems like stage 2 rectal cancer and am due to have it out next week (get more accurate staging after that). After that i will be starting the same regime as Julie with a week's chemo each month for 5-6 months. I had chemo and radiotherapy before surgery to shrink the tumour and it wasn't all that bad- some tiredness adn diarrhoea but that was mainly from teh the radiotherapy and it only stopped me working for the last two out of five weeks.

Julie's story doesn't sound that uncommon with the diagnosis not initially made on first presentation but it is incredibly fortuitous that it was found in the end. Stage 2 cancer has a very positive cure rate (often quoted in teh 90+% area) and she is having all the right treatmetn to give her the best chance possible. I am only 31 and certainly don't plan to spend teh rest of my life having treatments- I view it as an illness much the same as any other that I will have treatment for, get over and move on from.

Julie's reaction to some of the information on the internet is understandable- it is of an incredibly mixed quality and often difficult to interpret and understand. My wife and I are both doctors and have struggled to make sense of a lot of it ourselves. We have found this site much more useful as the knowledge and information is far more relevant and personal. I hope you have the same experience. Do try to encourage Julie to gain information and knowledge on her illness though, as it is very empowering and may give her back a sense of control over it a bit. I remember very well the initial feelings of being completely out of control adn at teh mercy of the cancer and those treating it.

Hope to hear more of her progress too as those of us still going through treatment can learn from her experience as well.
Keep in touch,
Steve

Kanort's picture
Kanort
Posts: 1275
Joined: Jan 2004

Hi,

Julie is blessed to have such wonderful, caring, and concerned friends. I, too, had a wonderful support group and it makes all the difference in the world.

One of my friends gave me a small, glass heart prior to my first chemo. I put it in a purple drawstring bag and added it the items in my "chemo bag" which was a beautiful canvas bag that one of my other friends had given me. Anyway, my little purple bag is now filled with different pocket charms (angels, glass stars, tokens with words on them like "believe, faith, hope") that I collected from friends and family. I really loved it when someone gave me a token to add to my collection. Other things that I took in my bag to chemo included a small down throw, a book to read, a journal, water bottles, sugarfree lemon drops, and socks.

Wearing seasonal or color colorful socks while being infused seemed to always make the other patients smile. I also always wore neon or brightly colored clothes. I told my oncologist that I was fighting my cancer with color. Ha!

Tell Julie that she is not alone and that a whole group of Semi-colons are sending her love, hugs, and prayers from all over the world!

Keep us posted.

Hugs,

Kay

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