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what are we to expect with radiation and chemo

SamanthaBrophy
Posts: 24
Joined: May 2011

my mother in law is going to have chemo and radiation, im wondering beside vimmiting what are we to expect from both.. if anyone has pointers, or suggestions, please let us know..
thanks so much
Samantha

Ex_Rock_n_Roller's picture
Ex_Rock_n_Roller
Posts: 273
Joined: Mar 2011

I think it depends a lot on the person and the chemo agents. With the radiation, a lot is dependent on what's being irradiated.

I had concurrent Cisplatin and Etoposide with 30-some days of radiation, and I really had nil for side effects from the chemo, apart from hair loss with the second round of Etoposide. I had no nausea worthy of the name. I think I might have taken maybe 4 pills just on a hint of nausea; my one and only prescription of Compazine pills sits 95% unused in the cabinet. Compared to what I thought, it actually pretty much was a day at the beach; I cruised.

With the radiation, it's a pretty safe bet you're going to feel like you're carrying around a grand piano on your back by halfway through (grinding fatigue). A lot of rest is called for. A "sunburn" is also pretty much guaranteed. Beyond that, if the pattern overlaps your esophagus or other sensitive area, it won't be a whole lot of fun as you approach the end of your course. By being really careful even before I had to, I was able to delay the effects somewhat, but the last 1.5 weeks were pretty tough (even lukewarm water hurt going down).

Really, given decent health other than the cancer, following all instructions to the letter, and a little luck, I would say it's not unreasonable to expect getting through it in pretty decent shape.

SamanthaBrophy
Posts: 24
Joined: May 2011

my mother in law is actually already having trouble swallowing anything and shes already really weak. she hasnt starting the rad or chemo yet, i was just wondering how you were careful, like what she can do now and continue to do so its not so hard on her???? thanks so much for your responses....

Sincerely Samantha

joeline12
Posts: 53
Joined: Jan 2011

hi samantha

i facing the same problem with you. 5 years ago my dad had nose cancer and when he go for treatment, he unable to eat. unfortunaly now he facing another battle on lung cancer, he refuse to go for chemo n radi because he worry about the side effect. is he able to eat during treatment? if no, then how can he mantain his weight? he already very skinny... wat should we do? hope someone can enlighten us
thanks!!

Ex_Rock_n_Roller's picture
Ex_Rock_n_Roller
Posts: 273
Joined: Mar 2011

Samantha,

I really don't know that I'm qualified to comment on somebody else's case, but being careful for me consisted in eating pretty sloppy and slippery stuff while I was still feeling close to 100% normal (throat wise). I probably should have started even sooner. Otherwise, it was just getting a lot of rest and staying way clear of anybody I could catch anything from, which is more an infection precaution than anything to do with preparing for treatment.

I was probably a poster child for a good short-term outcome because I was a fitness nut right up until diagnosis, with my only symptoms being wheezing, repeat cases of "bronchitis," and way too much success in keeping off weight (I didn't lose any, but I could eat like a fool and not gain an ounce). I had to get on the 24/7 cheeseburger in paradise plan in order to bulk up before treatment, which they told me could be crucial for success (especially if you crash near the end).

In other words, I wasn't very compromised.

Re. your mother in law, if her swallowing problems aren't due to irritation (what will happen if the esophagus is in the radiation path), they could actually get better under treatment. That benefit happened to me separate from the radiation damage, and I didn't even recognize it until after the fact. I had progressively developed problems swallowing pills, and wrote it off to who knows what else (I should have raised a flag). After treatment, I found myself able to swallow big old horse pills that would have stuck before. The tumor must have been impinging on my esophagus, is all I can figure.

So I guess the answer is, "It depends."

SamanthaBrophy
Posts: 24
Joined: May 2011

thankyou so much for getting back to me. thats what i figured. im just worried because some people say start eating healthy cancer fighting foods and some people say put on as much weight as possible.

Ex_Rock_n_Roller's picture
Ex_Rock_n_Roller
Posts: 273
Joined: Mar 2011

As I pointedly opined in another thread, if there were any real evidence that "cancer-fighting foods" would help you in any material way once you have cancer, somebody would probably have a Nobel prize for the discovery. The whole idea is probably largely a construct of people who are trying to sell diet supplements, books, or both.

That's not an argument against eating healthy, but there is no difference of opinion regarding whether you need to have a reserve built up before treatment: you just do. My doctors were perfectly clear: forget EVERYTHING about healthy eating and pile on the pounds. Your MIL should check with her own docs, but if they say anything different (assuming she doesn't have some metabolic problem, like diabetes), you can knock me over with a feather.

Best of luck!

SamanthaBrophy
Posts: 24
Joined: May 2011

Ive been with her son for about 7 years now and in that time i have never seen her this thin. She was never the type to be overweight, always lean but healthy looking and in pictures from before i was around she was the same as ive known her or a little bigger. shes like 5,7 and shes weighing at like 110p she looks ill you know but shes having a hard time swallowing, if she can swallow it you say eat mcdonalds and potatoes and all tht stuff that makes you gain weight right??????????

Ex_Rock_n_Roller's picture
Ex_Rock_n_Roller
Posts: 273
Joined: Mar 2011

She should definitely see her doc on this. They told me to pack in any delicious evil stuff I could manage, but that was just me. I had a friend at work with Kidney cancer come to me for advice, because his docs were telling him he was in desparate need of gaining weight, and he could see that I had succeeded in adding a good roll. Unfortunately, what worked for me did not work for him, no doubt due to the type of disease (mine had nothing to do with metabolism) and his overall condition (he had already been hammered pretty hard by previous treatments), and things just went downhill for him before he could put on a pound.

Everybody is different, but I don't think anybody's going to tell you that being underweight correlates with good outcomes. Quite the opposite.

Your mother in law needs to see her team about this. They will know more about what she can manage.

mikebaker's picture
mikebaker
Posts: 3
Joined: May 2011

I've only had my first chemo cycle with Cisplatin and Alimta. I had nausea and vomiting on days 4-6 otherwise nothing too serious apart from runny nose and watery eyes and some fatigue. Still able to go out and ride a bicycle and keep working.
As for food, I personally am finding it beneficial to eat healthy foods (lots of raw or stir-fried vegetables, salads, and freshly made juices) and my appetite has grown not diminished.

Ex_Rock_n_Roller's picture
Ex_Rock_n_Roller
Posts: 273
Joined: Mar 2011

"As for food, I personally am finding it beneficial to eat healthy foods (lots of raw or stir-fried vegetables, salads, and freshly made juices) and my appetite has grown not diminished."

I should clarify my "all garbage / all the time" diet plan comments: That only applied when I was trying to bulk up before treatment. During treatment, I completely agree with Mike. For one thing, that healthy stuff goes down better. I also never lost my appetite, although during the last couple weeks, I did lose the willingness, owing to esophageal roasting. Luckily, I had put on about 10-15 lbs pre-treatment, so I was still above my previous base weight at the end of the course.

Unfortunately, the post-treatment weight maintenance plan has worked a tad too well. I'm typically logging in at 25-30 lbs. over previous baseline, which is putting a hurtin' on my blood sugar and BP (both typically borderline high). Should be about +15, probably.

Hang in there, all!

ridethetrail
Posts: 1
Joined: May 2011

As you know, we all react differently. I began treatment 11/2010; 15 radiation, followed by chemo. I never had nausea; do get tired for a few days after last of 3 day treatment; a few times lost my appetite, but made myself eat. Have lost the hair on my head and my face. My attitude is that of a tough little terrier...the consequences of treatment are a small price to pay for getting rid of the cancer. What had one lung "shut down" and having me on oxygen 24/7 plus two inhalation therapies morning and night, are now history! The lung is almost clear! Through it all, I'm still going out and trail riding on my horse. For me, it's very healing.

I give a huge amount of credit to my husband - my caregiver. He is an angel on earth. Patient, caring, loving, and gives endless hugs. After 35 years of marriage, I now know I picked the right guy! Seriously...I now know what the words I said during our wedding, really meant..."in sickness and in health..." He is taking care of himself, as well as taking care of me. He has always done all the cooking, so you can imagine how my diet has been - perfect.

I am grateful for all the medications and procedures the medical profession has given me, and to have the resources, oncologists, etc. taking care of me. I am grateful for my husband, family, and friends, and for all the people who are praying for me.

Samantha, I hope you have gained some insight into what we patients are experiencing, knowing that your MIL is unique in her experiences she faces. Bottom line...hang tough, keep a good attitude, and keep moving forward...one day at a time.

ButterflyLake's picture
ButterflyLake
Posts: 44
Joined: May 2011

Hey Samantha: Everyone reacts differently.

I saw below that your MIL is having trouble swallowing; see if you can get a therapist for that to give her some exercises. Also, there is a product called Thick-It you can pick up at the drugstore. It's tasteless and can be added to water and food. Applesauce, pudding, and ice cream are also good to help with swallowing pills.

Keep an eye on digestive issues (diarrhea/constipation) and dehydration.

And just expect that she will be tired, tired, tired. I think that's a given.

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