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Is Chemo Withdrawals A Thing?

cocfan's picture
Posts: 7
Joined: Oct 2015

I finished my sixth and last chemo treatment on Nov 4th (yay), three weeks ago yesterday. However, instead of feeling better like I expected,  I am feeling worse. I did call the Dr. at the beginning of the week, was sent for labs,  was told I was slightly anemic and to take iron, which I have already been doing.  So, basically, no help at all and no other suggestions. 

Today,  I could barely function,  slept all day until it was time to go to Thanksgiving Dinner,  couldn't even muster the energy to shower and was light headed and dizzy the entire time,  could barely eat. This is the worst day I've had since my last treatment when I was expecting to feel a lot better by now. 

My sister actually suggested that I could be going through withdrawals since normally I would have treatments every three weeks and yesterday was the weeks.  Could this be true? As bad as I feel it makes sense,  but I cannot find any medical documentation online to support chemo withdrawals add real. 

I really feel bad to the point that I'm crying frequently because I don't know what to do. 

God Bless



Sten's picture
Posts: 162
Joined: Apr 2013

Hi cocfan,

I do not think that there is such a thing as chemo withdrawal symptom. You had better talk to your doctor again or to another doctor about this. 

Good luck!


Max Former Hodgkins Stage 3's picture
Max Former Hodg...
Posts: 3647
Joined: May 2012


Like Sten, I do not think there is any such thing as "withdrawal" from chemo, if for no other reason than that none of the drugs are addictive or narcotic.

It can take months, or in severe cases even years, to get over long term, heavy chemo.  Some things return to normal rapidly (hair is usually back within two months, for instance) but others (if you have them at all) can linger: Neuropathy and chemo fog, for instance, can last a year, or forever (I have bad neuropathy six years after ending chemo, for instance).

The fatigue is normal, but also like Sten, I say calling the doc is never a bad idea.  But most likely it will be some time before you feel "good" again.  I have not felt "well" in 29 years, following being run over by a car.  Chemo, too, can "keep on giving."  But I am thankful for health. As I say, I would rather have side-effects than have cancer.

Be active and eat well is probably as much as one can do...


lindary's picture
Posts: 707
Joined: Mar 2015

I agree in that there is 'withdrawal' like there is when you stop smoking or using additctive drugs. You symptoms do seem to be part of the "after effects" of chemo. I know it took me longer to recover from my 6th R-Chop than the first one. 

That said, I do think it is possible to have a type of mental 'withdrawal'. You get into a routine of chemo, dealing with the after effect, recovery and now it is over. A big part of that routine is that day of chemo. Being taken care of by nurses who are checking on you every 30 mins or so, making sure you are comfortable, etc. 

I did not have a feeling of withdrawal after my 6 R-Chops. About 2 months after they were over I had to do 3 cycles of RICE. That involved almost 4 days of being in the hospital, getting chemo and having nurses in almost every 30 mins plus getting my meals brought to me.After the last one many counts were down and I had to focus on eating properly to re-build myself.  I will admit that 3 weeks after the last one I was feeling down for a few days. At first I thought it was because my counts were still a little low plus I was having a hard time eating like I should. The only reason I could figure out for the feeling was "missing" all of the attention I received at the hospital. Once I acknowledged that as a  possible cause I did start to feel better. 

So is there what may be called a clinical withdrawal, I doubt it. But I think we can have an emotional withdrawal because if the type of pampering we get during chemo. 


cocfan's picture
Posts: 7
Joined: Oct 2015

Thankyou for your responses. It always helps to sound off on other people who have cancer.

God Bless you all!

Posts: 1
Joined: Jul 2017

This is my first post. I too do not feel good at all, my last treatment was 2 weeks ago. I dont know what it is but believe my body has to clear itself of all the chemicals etc. But it also makes sense about missing the special care and help the nurses provide on your treatment days, I do miss that but never admitted sometimes I actually looked forward to my chemo days! Don't know what to do for myself anymore. I'm praying it all clears up soon. Take care.

Evarista's picture
Posts: 316
Joined: May 2017

This is a real thing...You can google "cancer related fatigue" or "chemo related fatigue" to learn more about it.  The ACS says "Fatigue is the most common side effect of cancer treatment, and it often hits without warning. Everyday activities – talking on the phone, shopping for groceries, even lifting a fork to eat – can be overwhelming tasks."

It can last for a while, depending on your chemo and overall health status.  I'm 10 weeks out from my last round of R-EPOCH and still quite fatigued.  But I was in severe bone marrow failure at the outset, so physical status was pretty bad.  But strength is returning and I can now walk 2+ miles a day.  9 weeks ago, I could barely walk to the bathroom.  The Mayo Clinic has a useful set of guidelines for dealing with this:  http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/cancer/in-depth/cancer-fatigue/art-20047709 

lindary's picture
Posts: 707
Joined: Mar 2015


My last chemo was Oct 2015. Since then I have been getting Rituxan maintenance every 8 weeks. that will end next year. Except for treatment day I worked during the chemo cycles. Like you I looked forward to treatent day because it meant a day of no responsibilities and be taken care of.  When I have the RICE treatments I was in the hospital for 3 days for each of the 3 cycles. I didn't like being in the hospital but I did look forward to it since I was not sitting around the house.

Once it was over I was at a loss of what to do with myself, outside of stuff for my job. I had no energy to do anything around the house. I needed to walk more but it was winter by then so I couldn't go outside. When spring came around I did start walking outside and started feeling a little more like "me".  Some people think that once chemo is over a person can just go back to living their life. Reality is that there is another process to go through. You need to rebuild your body and, in a way, your mind. It takes time. 

Posts: 1
Joined: Jun 2018

I finished chemo 3 weeks ago, and I am feeling the same things you were. Just wondering what ever came of it?

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