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Surgery, now Chemo

jsabol's picture
Posts: 1156
Joined: Dec 2003

Hi to all. I have just found the courage to look for this site. Had a "baseline" colonoscopy in November at age 53, no symptoms, good overall health. 1 small polyp, positive biopsy, colectomy in December (surgery went very well, good recovery!), with a 1 cm polyp and 1 positive node, hence on to chemo. Chemo starts Friday, with 5 FU and leukovorin. As the day approaches, my usually upbeat attitude is giving way to a lot of nervousness. I am hopeful that this will not be debilitating, but I'm seeing wide variation in personal responses to chemo. I'd appreciate any kind and positive words from chemo recipients. I am hoping to return to my 4 day/wk work schedule in a few weeks and continue to have a life despite 26 wks of chemo. I have an 18 yr old dghtr, 17 yr old son and a very concerned husband. Sure has given me a lot to be thankful for.Thanks in advance for your help, J

Anonymous user (not verified)

Hello "J" and welcome. Sorry you have to be here, but you couldn't have picked a greater group of people to be with, so again, welcome!!

To get right to your question, the most important thing that you need to remember is that each individual is just that, an individual, and how one may react to chemo is not exactly how another will react. You may have absolutely no side effects...you may have more than one. It's a crap shoot and just hold your breath and hope for the best.

I am caregiver to my husband Bert, age 51, who was diagnosed stage III 7/3, right colon resection with total cancer removal but four positive nodes...hence, chemo starting shortly after surgery. He has just finished his 18 week regime of 1000mg 5FU/1000mg Leucavorin, but will probably be getting two more months of Oxaliplatin when we start with his new oncologist January 8.....just to give him a little added advantage and because his HMO Insurance covered chemo cycle was not really long enough according to the new oncologist.

I have to honestly tell you that considering the high dose that Bert started off with, he completed his first cycle of six weeks like a champ. The second cycle caused problems....mainly diarrhea, and had to be cut short (only four treatments). His last cycle remained at 1000 mg 5FU, but the Leucavorin was reduced drastically, and he was stilled plagued with diarrhea. But that was really the only "bad" side effect that he had from the chemo, besides very dry skin, which we just lotioned to death.

Throughout all of it, with the exception of a week or two, Bert went to work every single day. Yes, he was tired, but that is not unusual, and for the most part, his quality of life wasn't too bad.

I am also caregiver to my mom who has inoperable lung cancer. She too went on chemo as well as radiation (much, much stronger stuff than Bert) and with the exception of hair loss and fatigue, came through like a champ. I expected Bert to do better than my mom because her chemo was so strong, and Bert is about 18 years younger than her, but actually it was the other way around...which reinforces my point made above...each person is an individual and will respond differently.

Try not to worry to much about it...you'll make yourself sick over it. Go do it with an open mind, positive attitude, and know that whatever side effects you may have (if any) are temporary and will go away. Mind over matter is a powerful tool and I strongly believe that if you approach treatment with preconceived ideas of how you will react and with negativity, it will be so. You know, it's kind of like if you think long enough about being nauseous, you will get nauseous. And also remember, there are medications out there that can help with many of the chemo symptoms.

There are also other alternatives to fighting cancer and I'm sure you'll be hearing from Emily about these. I am not familiar in this area, but she is great.

Final words, my humble opinion, go for it and go for it with a vengence because this disease knows no other way. You will get through this.


Posts: 102
Joined: Nov 2003

Judith, the main thing is not be nervous. You are going to have the chemo anyway, so what does it help? Depak Chopra said in his "Soul of heealing" lecture that there was a study done on people who receive chemo, they discovered that the white blood cells go down before the chemo, when the patient starts thinking about it. Your mind is a partner in this fight, use it wisely.

I started with 1,000 5FU, but after couple of weeks had to go down to 800, as I continued working. Looking bad it wasn't so bad, I took campazine for nausea, I was noxious for couple of days, that's all. Though everyone reacts differently, there is a lot of things you can do to help yourself. Make sure you communicate with your onc really well, he can help a lot too. Good luck with it, if you are religeous, I will pray for you. Please visit here and let us know how you are doing. Tina

Posts: 232
Joined: Apr 2003

Judith- as Monika and Tina have said, everyone is an individual, but for me, chemo with 5-FU/CPT 11 was not bad, with the exception of diarrhea due to CPT 11 (but I worked anyway, with slightly reduced hours).

I had 5-FU Leukovorin along with oxaliplatin and managed to pretty well work through all of that too.

The 5-FU (as well as the Xeloda which I am now on) makes my hands a bit red and sore for a few days, and I get a bit tired.

There are a number of antinausea medications that are available to try if that becomes a problem. If one doesn't work or makes you tired etc. they can try others. It is important to communicate with your oncologist and the nurses. As Tina has said, they can help a lot.

I am glad to hear your surgery went smoothly... I am sure you were nervous about that too. Keep a positive attitude and you will get through this too.

Best wishes,


StacyGleaso's picture
Posts: 1249
Joined: Mar 2003

Hi Judith!

As a veteran in this arena, I can give you a few pointers. First of all, drink tons of water before and after your treatment. If you don't have a port-a-cath, you might want to look into it. I did, and it was really a blessing. I was a stage 4 patient, and today a stage 4 survivor. My chemo gave me absolutely no side effects. I got my treatment on Tuesdays, and was at work Wednesday morning on time. My kids were little when all of mine took place 2 yrs ago...they were my motivation. I was 33 at the time. Make it a situation of mind over matter. If you tell yourself that you'll be sick, you'll talk yourself into it. For some reason peanut butter was one thing I remember eating afterwards which was just the trick to combat nausea. You can also ask for campozine which is a prescription for nausea. I got my prescription filled, but never took a pill.

Ok, now here's the pep talk:

You can get through this. Failure is NOT an option. Too many people depend on you, and your job is to be here for your kids. The diagnosis and treatment is not the end of the world. Unfortunately, you are just a tough cookie who God feels can handle a whole bunch of obstacles. So be brave, and work on staying positive.

Did that help? Please let me know if I can help in any way.

Keep us posted,


nanuk's picture
Posts: 1362
Joined: Dec 2003

Judiths: Remember that the only disability in life is a bad attitude. I was a bad patient during my adjuvant therapy, but the attitude improved because of the attitude of my wonderful friends who became my family during that difficult time, and refused to let me do it alone. You are fortunate to have your family; let them support you. Best wishes, Bud

nanuk's picture
Posts: 1362
Joined: Dec 2003

Recommended reading (although dissimilar cancer) "It's Not The Bike" by Lance Armstrong - the true story of his battle with cancer.

2bhealed's picture
Posts: 2085
Joined: Dec 2001

Just finished EVERY SECOND COUNTS...his second book....last night. After you put yourself into the 'survivor' catagory read that too. Life after cancer is a new experience requiring life adjustments as well for some of us.

peace, emily

goldfinch's picture
Posts: 737
Joined: Oct 2003

Hi Judith. I was diagnosed with rectal ca in Aug (47 year old female). Went through chemo (5fu) and radiation together. That was difficult-severe diarrhea. Oncologist blamed radiation, radiation oncologist blamed chemo. I'm sure it was the combo. I had surgery for removal of the rectum and now have chemo to look forward to til Sept (1 time per week for 6 weeks, then 2 weeks off. do that 6 times). I've had 2 treatments so far and haven't had any problems except a little diarrhea. I have a temporary ileostomy though and it's hard to tell if the diarrhea is relatied to the chemo or the ileostomy since i was having some difficulty with that anyway.
I agree with all those who say that attitude is important. I choose to believe that chemo is saving my life, so i will put up with whatever effects it brings.
Regarding working. I can't answer that yet as i've been out because of the surgery. i return Jan 5 and, as of now, don't anticipate any problems as my energy seems to be back to normal (despite chemo).
Every one's response is different. Here's hoping things go smoothly for you, but if you have problems, believe you can deal with them.
Good luck! Keep thinking positive thoughts!

spongebob's picture
Posts: 2598
Joined: Apr 2003

Ahoy, judiths -

Lots of great advice here from folks who have been there, done that, and gotten their commemorative tee-shirts. One thing I didn't see anyone mention was to be sure to drink something cold or suck ice chips as they push the chemo bolus - it will help reduce the incidence of mouth sores that often accompany 5FU/Leucovorin treatments.

No reason to fear the chemo. It's there to help you get better. I am an active duty military person. I worked a 60 hour work week during my chemo, plus I was going through a nasty divorce and had to get a part-time job to make ends meet. This isn't to say that I didn't get really tired or that I didn't have side-effects, you may or may not have the same experience, what I am saying is that many people continue working and dealing with the life-bumps along the way. You will get through this and there are a bunch of people here who will be happy to lend you a hand as you make your journey.

Do it for your family. Do it for yourself. Remember this: your attitude is the most potent weapon you have in your cancer-fighting arsenal.

Be well

- SpongeBob

Posts: 176
Joined: Mar 2003

Hi Judiths
Like evryone has said we all react to it differntly, I had no problems to speak of didn't even lose my hair, was just tired and had some nausea that I controlled with a rx, I am getting ready to go through another round of treatments and don't know what to expect but I will get through it. I did return to work during my treatments and other than being tired did ok.
keep postive.

mrslacsr's picture
Posts: 30
Joined: Apr 2002

I know that it has been a year but I was wondering how you were doing this holiday season? I had an ileostomy in January 02; still doing follow-ups every three months. Write back and let me know. I don't get many send backs. Have a good holiday. Michele

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