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A question for cold and flu season...

Posts: 529
Joined: Nov 2007

I am 16 months out of treatment for Stage IIIA colon cancer, surgery, folfox, radition with 5FU. I was very careful during treatment about being around large groups of people, washing my hands, etc. I am currently (with a few blips) ned.

I managed to not get a cold the flu or whatever until about 6 weeks ago. I caught the cold of the moment - which hung on for about 2-1/2 weeks and now I seem to be getting another cold/flu sort of thing.

My blood counts are all pretty normal. A tad low, but nothing exciting. Does chemo cause your immune system to forget the things you were immune to and you have to start again, or is it something else?

Before cancer, I generally caught 1 cold every 7 or 8 years and have only had the common flu once.

Yes, I have had a flu shot, but that is only for true influenza which isn't what is going on.

Anyone else experienced an increase of suseptability to the common cold or flu virus after treatment.

I would be the first to admit that I haven't been as diligent about hand washing and staying out of crowds as I was, but I haven't been neligent (at least not totally). Any thoughts, suggestions, comments.


Buzzard's picture
Posts: 3073
Joined: Aug 2008

Just allowing myself to think out loud here. When I found out about my cancer of course my hopes were dashed and low and was feeling very sorry for myself. In that time my neuro-transmitters to the brain that allowed me to smile and think good thoughts shut down. It was as if someone had turned a light off. They told me that if your body does not feel good and your state of mind is at a low point your body stops producing them.I started taking a light dose of Flourextine (Prozac) and it started my body producing I assume endorphins again to allow me not to dwell on the things that made me sad. My nausea meds (Compazine) didn't work for me because it works through the neuro-transmitters that had shut down so I went to Zofran, then on to Ansemet.
In essence, your body will re-adjust itself to atone to whatever is taking place so that it acheives its goal, to take care of the human body and try to keep it in a balanced state. Just as a med for constipation works, your colon will start getting lazy and quit doing what it is suppose to do if you use the meds that make it work artificially. It simply adjusts itself to outside stimuli to balance your bodys needs.
As I age I can tell that my body is doing some different things as well. I am more susceptable to pollen than I use to be but poison ivy or oak does not bother me anymore and it use to tear me up. It may just be a kind of changing of the guards that is happening in your bodies chemical makeup that is allowing you to be more susceptable to the flu bug......

KathiM's picture
Posts: 8077
Joined: Aug 2005

I remain rather low on the WBC, even 4 years later, so I take care.

One trick I do is if I know I'm going to be in crowds, I take a dose of Oscillococcinum, a homeopathic flu symptoms medicine. Especially on my long flights to Holland, where I used to always feel bad the first 2 days after travel. No more!

This was the first year ever that I have had a flu shot. I whinned for days about my arm hurting...lol!

Even people who have never met the beast get sick easier this time of year...could be the stress....

I, being the resident Suzi Sunshine, am happy when I get sick from something 'normal' people get sick from, too...I feel like I must be well enough to get the normal stuff!!!!

Hugs, Kathi

VickiCO's picture
Posts: 934
Joined: Oct 2008

This stuff is great! I used to work for the Corporate team at Wild Oats Markets (before the Whole Foods takeover) and they offered it to the employees all the time. I don't think I was sick the whole two years I was there. And if you did feel like something was coming on, take zinc or suck on zinc lozenges along with it and a cold doesn't have a chance.


Posts: 529
Joined: Nov 2007

I am going to try the Oscillococcinum. I do wash my hands, etc. I have also thought about how much nicer it is to have a "cold" than be doing chemo.


claud1951's picture
Posts: 429
Joined: Jun 2007


I'm about the same timeline as you on surgery and chemo. I have been lucky (knocking on wood) and haven't had problems. I do wash my hands a lot. I also use that dry wash "stuff" on my hands when I use a cart at the grocery store. Also, if a clerk sneezes or caughs and then I know she is handing me money back, I'll watch to see if she puts the money in the other hand.

This may sound "anal" but...I learned all of that on Chemo and it stuck with me.

I will say that I remember getting "cold sores" on my mouth during chemo. Never did before. Thought I was getting one a few weeks ago but it went away before it broke out.

Take your vitamins and supplements!


msccolon's picture
Posts: 1956
Joined: Oct 2004

i have been on and off chemo a few times and like everybody else was double careful when on chemo to keep away from germs. I carry wipes in my purse to wipe down carts when the store doesn't provide them and always wipe my hands off when returning to my car after the trip. I rarely get sick. BUT, I have discovered that since I've been on chemo, and perhaps because I continue on Avastin, i can't leave an infection go without having it checked. I was "treating" a UTI as I always did and as they recommend online with cranberry juice and lots of liquids. It would feel better, but always spring right back up in another week. Finally I found myself very weak, running a very high fever, throwing up and in a lot of pain and had to go to the doctor's. My infection had gotten very bad and infiltrated my kidneys. Some strong antibiotics got me feeling much better, but I had learned a valuable lesson. My body is still compromised, so I have to be more vigilant. No longer do I even question whether that leftover meat in the fridge is edible. If it was cooked over 2 days ago, it goes in the trash. Anything that doesn't affect others isn't guaranteed not to bother me, so I err on the safe side. ALL fresh fruits and vegetables get washed (with antibacterial soap if the skin hasn't been broken) and I don't eat from public buffets (have you WATCHED the younguns at those?!!). Small price to pay, I'd say, to protect from germs! At church I automatically pull out the antibacterial lotion after any public hand contact, and I ask those around me if they would like some! I sit in the farthest back pew so no one is coughing on me from behind. The list is long, but I have gotten used to it! Ask your onc how he/she feels about your compromised system. Mine agreed that extra vigilance is prudent.

ldot123's picture
Posts: 276
Joined: Apr 2008

I must say that my immune system has not been up to snuff since about 20 years ago when I was treated for Hodgkins. Had chemo and radiation at that time. It has been about a year and a half since I finished chemo for cc. I have to be very careful every winter as I seem to be constantly battling what seems to be an oncoming cold or flu. I do get a flu shot every year. It is kind of weird, in one sense my immune system does seem to get rid of whatever bug but having said that it seems that I have an ongoing reaction to germs whereas pre-chemo I did not have this experience. Not sure if this is making sense but there you have it.


Posts: 529
Joined: Nov 2007

I seem to get pre-symptoms that bug me for a few days and then away it goes. Perhaps our immune systems are just a little late in reacting. Pre-chemo I hadn't had a cold in 10 years and only ever had the common flu twice (in my life).

Perhaps my immune system is just lazy these days.

Happy holidays,


Posts: 118
Joined: Jul 2008

I swear by Kleenex "Anti Viral" tissues! I've been using them in my home for over a year now and neither my wife or I have had a cold or sniffles in all that time...even with sick kids around!

KathiM's picture
Posts: 8077
Joined: Aug 2005

Blueberries, broccoli, spinach, lettuce, and onions (esp. red ones) have a flu-busting antioxident called quercetin.

Hugs, Kathi

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