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Chemo or not to Chemo

Steve Z's picture
Steve Z
Posts: 51
Joined: Sep 2009

I'm 3 1/2 weeks post op. Stage 2 in my ascending no lymph node involvement 0 for 37, but there were cells in the lymph channel. I'm 39 year old and my cousin (a colon rectal surgeon) thinks I should definitely have chemo. I had my first oncologist appointment and he's not sure. The Onco believes the data says chemo has little statistical impact on reoccurrence for stage 2, but wants a Pet scan and post op blood work before making a decision. Any thoughts?

Go Phils!

thready's picture
Posts: 475
Joined: Sep 2009

Steve Z, I am a recently diagnosed IIIB, just found out all scans were clear so I don't move up to Stage 4 (YEA), I am sure you will hear from people who are more knowledgeable than I am, but I have done a bit of research. There is a concern that Stage 2b has more recurrences than Stage IIIA and it is thought it is because Stage 2B does not get the chemo as often as IIIA. (Since I am IIIB I really don't have much choice I will have to have chemo.) I would get a couple of opinions and I would do a little research about Stage 2 cancer recurrences.

My surgeon told me in our pre op visit that if I would have Stage 2 or beyond because of my age, and I am older then you, that I would be having chemo.

Understand this is just info from a newbie, I am sure there are more on this board that can give you better info!

grammadebbie's picture
Posts: 464
Joined: Jun 2009

What stage do they use Oxy? I had someone with Stage IIIa tell me they were on oxy. Just wanted to know. Thanks

Blessings to all

Debbie, (gramma)

nudgie's picture
Posts: 1482
Joined: Sep 2006

In 2006 I was DX with Stage 11 Colon Cancer by emergency surgery. I had not lymph node involvement or signs of spreading. My Oncologist stated that industry standard was Adjuant Chemotherapy with FLOFOX to make sure that if there were any microscope cancer cells that the chemotherapy would get them; Moasic study.

It was my decision so I spoke to husband, family and friends and decided to do the chemo. My opinion is it is always better to be safe than sorry.

I would speak with your care team, primary care doctor, surgeon, & oncologist to get their professional opinions, but ultimately, the decision is yours and it has to be one that you are comfortable with and will not regret down the road.

Chemo treatments are not easy and do play a role on your emotions as well as your body, but if you have a GOOD care team, they will walk you through every step as well as THIS GREAT BOARD.

Please keep us up to date on your decision and your journey.

Posts: 148
Joined: Sep 2009

Hi Steve,
I suspect that your Oncologist is basing his opinion on the types of cells that caused your cancer and the conventional protocol generally followed by the medical Field.
I personally believe that if there's any chance of the Chemo preventing a recurrance, then I would undergo the treatments. Sometimes recurring cancers show up in a body part that we can't get along without, so anything I can do to prevent it from coming back, I'm determined to do.
I would talk to the Oncologist some more and try to pin him down and learn what his best guess thoughts are and whether Chemo would, or rather, even could, increase my odds at all. Then make a decision based on the facts.
Chemo can be very difficult to go through, but then again, a recurrance of cancer can be fatal.
It's hard to make a decision to Zig when perhaps Zagging would have been better, but this cancer fight is a game we play for keeps. I still 2nd guess myself on whether I should have undergone the BMT since I very nearly didn't survive it and to this day wonder if it was the wisest decision I could have made. I guess the proof is in the pudding and I'm still here to think about it at least.

PhillieG's picture
Posts: 4912
Joined: May 2005

I was Dx at Stage IV so I really didn't have to make that decision since I had already decided to fight it aggressively. IF I were in your shoes, I'd most definitely go for the chemo to be on the safe side. If it ever cam back w/o you having done the chemo you'd likely be kicking yourself.
That's my opinion, I'm sure there will be other ones
Best of luck

lisa42's picture
Posts: 3661
Joined: Jul 2008

Hi Steve,

I'm sure this isn't what you're hoping to hear, but I echo the sentiments of others- better safe than sorry. Maybe you'd be fine, but if you ever did have a recurrence and hadn't done the chemo, I'm sure you'd definitely be regretting the decision to have skipped the chemo. PET scans are not foolproof- there has to be a large number of cancer cells clumped together in order for a scan to pick them up- there definitely could be smaller clumps or loose cancer cells that could be missed. Know that this kind of cancer can also spread directly through the bloodstream, even bypassing the lymphatic system. I don't ever hear that talked about, but it's what happened to me. Everything in my lymph nodes looked clear, but I still ended up with stage IV (spread to liver and both lungs).
Do all you can now- take the chemo, then be diligent with follow up tests for a few years afterwards. I'm sure this sounds very overwhelming right now, but my opinion is it's the better thing to do. If you choose not to do the chemo (or even if you do), there are also dietary changes and supplements to add in. I honestly don't know if they would help or not, but don't think they could hurt. Emily on this board (aka the "2bhealed") is very into juicing and she never did the chemo- just juicing plus other supplements, I believe. Maybe she'll chime in here on this thread. I don't remember if she was diagnosed as stage II or III.

Do take care-

PGLGreg's picture
Posts: 741
Joined: Jul 2006

Your oncologist has more information about your test results than your cousin, so I'd go with the oncologist's advice. After the PET scan and blood work, if your oncologist still thinks chemo would not be a clear benefit for you, suggest this to him: start you on chemo, but if you start to be seriously bothered by side effects, stop the chemo before you've gone the whole course.


Mchapp's picture
Posts: 96
Joined: Jul 2009

I am stage ll also - dx June 4, 2009 ( you can read my story)...I have completed 6 rounds of Folfox and have 2 more to go until I get a small break from chemo - and head to radiation for 4 weeks - then will have the additional 4 chemo's post radiation....I would do tx...I work for the American Cancer Society - and with over 21 oncoligists in WV and PA (for work)...they have all seen my results and tests....and all suggested Folfox as "mop-up" and to treat me as a 20 year old vs. a 44 year old...
You can always get a second opinion with another oncologist -
As others have stated - chemo is no picnic....but I wanted to increase my survival rate and live many more years cancer free....

Keep in mind chemotherapy will cause fatigue and travel will be a big deal for you. Besides the chemo/radiation treatments themselves, you will need lab and radiologic follow up frequently to identify disease response to the treatments. I would ask questions directly related to the medications and how they will be given, side effects etc. You may also research your insurance coverage (these medications and support medications run in the thousands of dollars) to be prepared to any copayments and to find assistance programs if needed. You could ask about statical survivial rates, the Colaris genetic test if not already offered, and home health nursing to reduce travel.
My best on your decision...do what you think is right...

P_I_T_A's picture
Posts: 133
Joined: Oct 2009

I just posted a similar post a few days ago. I'm 40yo, stage IIIA with 1 positive lymph node. I've opted to go ahead and do it. Better to be safe than sorry I always say. In fact, on my initial oncologist visit he mentioned to me he just consulted someone that was stage II and suggested they do the chemo as well, which helped me make my decision. Just got my port put in this morning actually. Even though it feels like someone is pounding a sledge hammer into my collarbone right now, it's still all worth it. That's what Percocet is for! Yeah colon cancer is a P(ain)_I(n)_T(he)_A(ss). But, it's a temporary inconvienence for a long term goal. My take is why leave anything on the table? Ultimately, it's your own decision on what you're willing to endure. Good luck with your decision either way!


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

Oh surprise everyone. HA! :-)

Back in 2001 when I was dx'ed with Stage III sigmoid colon cancer, lymph pos/zero mets, adjuvant chemo of 5-FU and leucovorin was advised for only Stage III not Stage II at the Mayo Clinic which is a world renowned cancer research and treatment center. My own oncologist had StageII colon cancer and did not do any chemo. Granted, this was more than 5 years ago and things change.

Nowadays it looks like they bring out the big guns from the get go and personally I don't have any experience with taking the chemo since I opted to do CHEMIA instead (juice of the plant) and healed from cancer post surgery by diet--vegan macrobiotic diet and juicing, Traditional Chinese Medicine (herbs, acupuncture, massage, counseling etc) and many supplements under the guidance of a Naturopathic doctor.

I will tell you that I do NOT regret my decision--never! And I'll tell you why.

Because I did not do any chemo I did not experience:

1) any secondary cancers popping up somewhere else from the chemo
2) permanent heart and/or kidney damage from the chemo
3) peripheral neuropathy from the chemo
4) nausea, diarrhea, or dehydration from the chemo
5) mouth sores from the chemo
6) Erbitux rash from the chemo
7) leukemia from the chemo
8) losing my hair from the chemo
9) extreme fatigue from the chemo
10) hospitalizations due to chemo side affects

Because I did the CHEMIA + lifestyle CHANGE this is what I experienced:

1) increased energy
2) 20 pound weight loss of fat not muscle
3) no recurrences or spread of the cancer
4) remaining cancer free for over 8 years
5) healthier skin
6) needing to sell our farm due to debt incurred since insurance did not pay a dime towards my cure....but they would have spent 100s of thousands of dollars if I had done chemo--go figure!**

** I add this because it is the reality of embarking on a lifestyle change and taking charge of ones own health.

Not doing any chemo does NOT have to equate not doing anything. I did a TON of stuff and healing (curing) my cancer post surgery was a FULL TIME JOB!

There ARE other options out there besides the chemo and people on here will weigh in with their opinions, and I'm here to say there is a different path you can take IF IT'S RIGHT FOR YOU! Chemo is not for everyone. I am living breathing proof that you can do it differently and live to tell. I'm one of the "oldies" on these boards.

Hope this helps.

peace, emily the juice chick

ps. not to offend anyone or anything, but chemo is not "safe" and potentially opens one up to many health hazards down the road. Either way, you could be "sorry" you took the path you did. The important thing is to believe in what you're doing whole heartedly. For me, chemo made no sense since it does not line up with my healing philosophy and how the body responds to disease. Cancer is a SYMPTOM of a deeper issue and if one does not address that root problem, then one is only throwing cytotoxic chemicals on it.

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Shayenne's picture
Posts: 2370
Joined: Jan 2009

.. I had the guts to stop chemo altogether, but being Stage 4, I think it would kill me faster if I stopped fighting with it, and need it to keep the tumors in my liver at bay, I can't wait to start juicing, and hopefully see some results, but so scared to just stop something that's been keeping the cancer from spreading. It may be too late for me, but I will still try it, and hope for the best!! You are so lucky to not have to do chemo, it just plain sucks, and I hate the thought of it killing my organs also, but it's also helped to shrink them as well.


John23's picture
Posts: 2140
Joined: Jan 2007

Like "2bhealed", I did not get Chemo. I was a 3c, three years ago.

They told me that since my surgical wounds didn't heal until
six months post-op, the chemical therapy probably would have
only a slim chance of working.

I took the Traditional Chinese Medicine route, and am still
here, three years after initial surgery.

Yes, there are alternatives, and they're safer than the overrated
chemicals that they sell you in the "system".

With 3c colon cancer, 26% live five years or more without
further treatment beyond surgery. Of those that do "chemo",
28% survive five years or more. That's a 2% advantage, if
you do not take into account those that die of the "second cancers"
that are due to the carcinogenic effects of the chemo treatments,
or the permanent neurological damage of those treatments.

Don't be too quick to be sold on what doesn't work.

If you don't do "chemo", try something else.

Look into Traditional Chinese Medicine. It's been around
a few thousand years, and it does appear to work.

dianetavegia's picture
Posts: 1953
Joined: Mar 2009

John23, Stats for Stage IIIB as of Feb. 09 were 48% Stage III are alive and well at 5 years with surgery alone. Another 20% are alive and well, disease free, at five years with 5FU. I wouldn't think B and C would change by such a huge percentage. Also, my stats were based on 58 yr old woman with 'fair' health and 'unknown weight'. They rose drastically when excellent health and weight were figured in.

Maybe aggression factor, depth of your tumor, etc. factored in for such low stats. Hmmm

trish07's picture
Posts: 141
Joined: Jul 2009

Chemo or not?? Chemo

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