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How long does it take to recover from Chemo and Radiation?

Trubrit's picture
Posts: 3895
Joined: Jan 2013

I know my Onc and Rad Onc told me that recovery could take up to a year or more, but still I thought that I would bounce right back. I didn't!

I am seven months out from treatments, and still work through several side effects. 

- Neuropathy in both hands and feet. There has been great improvement in the hands, the numbness only in the fingertips now. The feet are improving very slowly. For months they felt like they were filled with cement, but now I can actually feel my toes moving when I wiggle them. I can feel them moving together. I hold out hope for the numbness to go away, or at least be minimal. 

- The joint pain is still bad in the mornings. I have to wiggle and stretch just to get out of bed. If I sit for too long, the joints seize up. But once I get moving I have no pain and all seems well. 

- The bowel had been misbehaving up until two weeks ago. I have had to stay pretty close to the house, due to the fact that when I need to go, I need to go NOW. I had to penguin walk to the bathroom as fast as I could. I noticed about a week ago, that I can walk at a normal speed to the loo. This is a great blessing. I also go on average 5 - 7 times a day, mostly from 5 AM - 1 PM. 

- I do not know if my lapses in thought or inability to find the right word is residule fall out from chemo brain or just me being 55, but I do have problems finding words, and often use the wrong word. 

- My tongue has never recovered from the Thrush, and is white and the back is coated thickly. I would be interested to hear if anyone is experiencing the same problem. 

- My hair is all back to normal. It didn't all fall out, but most of it, and I was left looking like Gollum (Lord of the Rings). I shaved it off at that point. 

The reason I am posting this, is because when I was starting this journey I was desperate for information. I would google and that is how I came across this wonderful forum. 

I just want to be here for someone, anyone who is deseperatly looking for hope and information. 

I know you all want the same, so if you want to share how long it has taken or is taking you to recover, that would be good. 

Posts: 810
Joined: Nov 2009

Recovery is not really the word I wouuld use, learning your new normal is more like it  

I am just about 5 years out from the end of my treatment from stage 3 rectal cancer and I stll have neurapathy issues with my feet.  I am on medication to lessen the effects that I take daily, my fingertips are still slighty numb. 

My bowels still act up from time to time, and I have to be very careful about what I eat, salad is a huge no no if I am going to be away from home. 

Chemo brain is always present, but it can also be attributed to my meds for the neuropathy. 

So, the moral of my story is; it's not recovery, it's life changing, but I am alive and if this is what I have to deal with to see the sun rise another day, so be it. 

Nana b's picture
Nana b
Posts: 3045
Joined: May 2009

Let's see 5FU ended August of 2009.  In 2012 I was still having pains walking but it's gone now, since about April 2013.     Maybe you need to try some LGlutimine to help rebuild your stomach lining.  Some licorice root is also good for your stomach.  A banana a day may also help you.  The nueroapathy, every night I rub coconut cannibis oil on them and it helps.  I had to get a cannibis medical card.  B12 for energy.  D3 if you are lacking, take it with calcium.    I drink ginger tea, chamomille tea, papaya tea.  Is your bottom on fire?  The medicated talcs really work well. 




I hope you see some positive results soon.



Posts: 512
Joined: Nov 2007

I am a bit over 6 years out, I like salad, but it will never be my great friend.

RickMurtagh's picture
Posts: 579
Joined: Feb 2010

well put

Posts: 2215
Joined: Oct 2011

I am about to do radiation for the first time so I can't answer that question but I was usually over chemo within a week. I think my contant mountain biking helps that a lot but I also know that everyone is different.

Posts: 1
Joined: Mar 2014

Thank you very much for sharing your story.  You are right in that some of us are just starting this long road and are afraid.

I had surgery 3 weeks ago for colon cancer and start chemo next week.  I have no idea what to expect and having your story helps so much.  Thank you.

When I was diagnosed with stage 4, I took it like a man.  I then found myself breaking down at odd times and tearing up.  I worry about my wife and daughter so much if I do not make it through.   I am reading for the first time the stories here and the support that each of you give each other, and it helps so much.  Again, thank you.


Posts: 9
Joined: Mar 2014

Why me. 

I hear you big time. I went in for a baseline colon exam Just before Christmas.  It's now the end if March. In between then and now I had 18 " of my sigmoid Colon removed. One small tumor. One lymph node out of 24 was bad. No blood traces but did a CT scann to check and found a small spot on my liver. March 11th I had my liver spot removed about the size if a baseball.  Biopsy and margins all came back clean.  So now I had a port implanted on 3/28. Chemo will start in April for the next six months every two weeks.  I'm scared as hell. And emotional puddle. My wife is supportive but has told me she is now my roomate so no affection until who knows. My kids are worried and in just taking everything day by day.  I have my faith.  

I would love advice but don't know what to do. 

Trubrit's picture
Posts: 3895
Joined: Jan 2013

Thank you for posting. And thank you for replying to Timothy's (Why Me) post. 

We would love to get to know you and to help you as you follow the cancer path. One of our dear members, LoveKitties, has opened a new thread just for you. If you haven't already found it, here it is http://csn.cancer.org/node/269370 and the forum is here http://csn.cancer.org/forum/128

Join us all as we travel together. 

Trubrit's picture
Posts: 3895
Joined: Jan 2013

You are the reason I posted this. You and everone looking on the internet for help.

We are all here for you. I think it would be fair to say that you will find someone here who knows exactly what you are going through, especially emotionally. 

Chin up! You can do this. We can all do this together. 

annalexandria's picture
Posts: 2573
Joined: Oct 2011

to feel back to normal, but I am three years out from chemo, and I still have joint pain, neuropathy, and digestive problems.  I have the sneaking suspicion that this may be the "new normal"!  Better than the alternative, but still not very fun.

ETA welcome to Timothy!  You can create a new post if you like, to introduce yourself.  Gives people a chance to say hello!

YoVita's picture
Posts: 590
Joined: Mar 2010

The recovery took longer than I hoped but shorter than forever.  Some side effects only lasted through the treatment cycle (2 weeks), others I still struggle with - but I'm still here.  Good luck - every week gets better.  

Posts: 372
Joined: Aug 2006

The simple answer is "NEVER". Doctors will tell you a year maybe two. The truth was already stated here. You will never be you again. You will be the new normal with many adjustments and dealing with issues that you expect to bounch back from.

lp1964's picture
Posts: 1212
Joined: Jun 2013

...human body is amazing, cancer and it's treatment has a profound effect on it. When I was diagnosed but before I started treatment I had symptoms I could not explain and I am a doctor. In cancer your own cells turn against you and mess up your entire system. Then comes the mental aspect of the didease that makes it even more complicated. The treatment also interferes with the fundamental function of cancer and healthy cells: their rejuvenation and multiplication. These drugs are designed to stay in your cells for a long time so they can control the growth. That is why they have platinum in them so it is harder to get rid of them. For the same reason the side effects will take a long time to diminish too. I still get very tired very easy. Even mental work tires me out really bad.

It is really hard to accept that I will never be the same, but this is the only life I got and I'm grateful for it.


DD3's picture
Posts: 126
Joined: May 2013

to the party again... Cry


My wife is 5 months our of chemo...  Let's see...

- Nueropathy... Seems to be a our biggest battle as of now.  She is on gabapentin.  Says it helps.  We know this by the fact if she misses a dose the nueropathy ramps up.  She has it in her feet and hands.  Trying to see if we can get a consult to Nuerology.  Probably not much they can do, worth a shot.

- Bowel control - Oh boy.  She is 4 months out from her ileostomy takedown.  This is going to be a battle too.  Frequent and urgent trips to the bathroom.  She take L-Glut and Metomucil.  Help with the "bulk" but frequency is a issue.  I pray this gets better for her.

- "Chemo brain" - She tends to forget what she is doing sometimes or can find the word she might be looking for. 

Not all bad though.  She is back to the gym working out 4 times a week.  She was jogging around the block this morning as I left for work, she actually thinks walking and running helps with the neuropathy in her feet.  Hair is coming back strong.  And of course is back to work full time and enjoying her first granchild. 





Helen321's picture
Posts: 1348
Joined: May 2012

That's interesting because I just started being able to really exercise without having difficulty breathing and suddenly my feet are starting to feel better.  I wonder if it's better circulation.  I also eat a banana every day now and that stopped the cramping I was having.  I can't eat any other fruit without having bathroom issues but I can eat bananas.

thxmiker's picture
Posts: 1282
Joined: Oct 2010

The thrush  - I needed a mouth wassh and dissolve able tablets.  This treatment took about two weeks.  If I get a reoccurence it is because i have eaten to much sugar in my diet.  Now i have learned not to eat sugar and that has lept the thrush away.


I have never regained the feelings in my toes, and have dimminshed feelings in my two perferal fingers.


My sight and hearing took a little bit of a loss also.  I now use reading glasses and I am fine.  My hearing is dimminshed slightly.  I had a hearing test done and it says I am still better then average, but as a Audio Engineer I can tell it is off a little from before.


Taste and feeling warm again all came back to normal.  Taste came back quickly after chemo.  Feeling warm took two years for me to feel normal again.  I do like things sweeter then I did before chemo, and I can not eat pickles any more.  They upset my stomach.  (I used to love pickles!) 


Else, life is pretty much back to normal.  I actually move faster then I did when I started my cancer journey.  The daily walking turned in to daily jogging.  I went from walking a few blocks daily, to jogging 3-5 miles every day.   I lost 60 lbs and now I am very fit.  We eat only real food, no more fast food, no more boxed or frozen food!  We make fresh food every day for breakfast, lunch and dinner.  Life after recovering from cancer is a real good thing!

Best Always,   mike 

Helen321's picture
Posts: 1348
Joined: May 2012

Glad to hear the bathroom portion is getting back to normal.  That's a really big one.  It does get better and better over time.  I'm just starting to notice the improvements.

I'm a year and a few months out and I can't walk on bare floors although just this past week, I was able to walk two days with no pain in my heels.  I always keep bedroom slippers available.  Up until a month ago I had to wait 10 minutes to get out of bed because my feet would hurt terribly if I got up too fast.  I am suddenly able to go up and down stairs with ease most days.  I wasn't able to do that either, I'd be out of breath.  Slowly but surely some things are getting back to normal.  My hips still hurt.  I started taking vitamin D and my elbows stopped hurting, some things are not always cancer related.  Also I've been having major problems with my teeth.  It seems after one gets worked on, the next one goes.  With the ostomy, bathroom life is very good for me but I can't eat fruit or vegetables except in very small portions or I have a blowout.  That part is a downer as it's hard to eat healthy when you can't eat fruits or vegetables.  My brain is not recovering as fast as I'd like.  Words were also hard up until about a month ago and then suddenly, boom no more delay but also sometimes conversations are overwhelming, I've lost my ability to respond to jokes quickly and sometimes I just don't get that people are joking anymore.  I also find that in writing, I skip words.  I'm typing something and I'll see it later and realize I left out several words.  I'm thinking them but they never hit the page.  I talked to the doc about this and he said this is two sided physical and emotional and as time passes and I deal with the emotional side, things should get better and I'll lighten up and hopefully my brain will clear up.  I'm making more of an effort to deal with the emotional side.

lp1964's picture
Posts: 1212
Joined: Jun 2013

2 months out of treatment I'm going through changes. Before my schedule was determined by appointments and had to live day by day, now it is scarry that you have to plan and make plans, because the questiom is always in the back ofy head: am I gonna be able to to that. 

Wjen I divorced 7 years ago I made some major changes in my personality and went from shy to confident. Now I have self esteem issues again, when I met my second wife I started eating healthy first time I'm my life. Now I can't eat raw veggies and fruits just like Helen. It's ironic: life seems to put you back where you started. 

Ache's and pains are still an issue, I stlll cannot put my socks on or cross my legs. I still get tired very easy and run out of breath. 

Last week after weeks of improvements some of my chemo symptoms came back. Sore mouth, numb fingers and toes, aching joints, low energy, sore finger beds and finger tips. I think my cells are releasing the chemo. I don't know, but it ain't easy.

I have been feeling down lately. After I feel like my life has been saved, I'm gerting greedy and ask myself: what kind of life have I left with. Lots of issues and no guaranties that this dissease won't come back. 

Well, the best I can do is keep the good things in my life infront of me and deal with the bad.


Posts: 1
Joined: Mar 2016

Cancer is the disease of abnormal cells uncontrollably divide and destroy body tissue. One major treatment used to help kill the cancer cells in the body in chemotherapy, and people with cancers such as breast cancer usually have to go through a few rounds of radiation. The way doctors know how to schedule one for chemotherapy is based upon the cells and the rate that cell division occurs. Anti-neoplastic drugs are divided into classes on how the medication will kill the cancer. Since chemotherapy does not know the difference between cancerous cells and normal cells, the normal cells will grow back but there are many side effects in between that time.

According to the American Cancer Society, some people may have long term side effects while others will not. Some long term side effects include heart and/or nerve damage and fertility complications. A common effect to chemotherapy is anemia, which occurs when the body is not producing enough red blood cells, and causes the patient to feel fatigued. There are many other symptoms of anemia such as feeling cold, pale skin, being light headed, and even having difficulty thinking.  Blood count monitoring is very critical when going through chemotherapy because the patient’s red blood count could be low or the white blood count could be low.

Neutropenia is when the white blood count is low, which can cause the patient’s immune system to be weak. Along with making sure to monitor the blood count while receiving chemotherapy treatments, the patient should also be aware of what can occur in the brain. Healthline said “chemo fog” could have problems arise with memory or just difficulty thinking. These symptoms could either go away whenever the patient ends treatment or it could last for years after the last treatment.

Chemotherapy also is known for making patient’s lose their hair. Almost all patients will lose their hair a few weeks after the first chemotherapy treatment, the treatment affects the hair follicles which then results in hair lose which can occur anywhere on the body of the patient; eyebrows, head, legs, etc.. But patients have started to see hair growth weeks after the last chemotherapy treatment received.

The rate at which the body recovers depends on how strong of a treatment the patient is receiving and how often the patient is receiving that treatment. Some patients see the side effects to reduce a couple weeks after treatment. But that is not the same with every patient because depending on what all the patient’s health is like it could take a longer time to recover. Along with a longer recovery time there could also be some that affect the patient the rest of their life time.

Posts: 1
Joined: Jul 2017


  This is my first posting here, It's hard for me to write or even talk about what I've been through.

   First I pray that all of you will be blessed, have peace, joy, healing and face these things day by day.

    I enjoyed reading the comments "how long does it take" Thinking about that question it seems no one tells you because they don't know.   This could be a good thing because I can focus on the little good things going forward and ot that it's going to take so many months for this to change.....

     I'm thankful now in this moment after four months the cathater and Kidney drain are OUT - YIPEE!!!

     I have a question ad maybe someone here knows somethig about this problem.  I was on Ativan 0.5mg 3X a day and Hydrocodone 10.325 3X per day for about 4 months.  I think it has really affected my vision.  I have blurry vision at times and sparkles,swirls at different times durrig the day.  I went to the eye Dr. annd she did an exam ad said my eyes look healthy, my catracts will need to be adressed in the near future.  But over all my eyes are Healthy.

   So, the vision problems have encouraged me to taper off both meds.  I'm now down to Ativan .05 1X per day and 0.25 Hydrocodone 1X per day.  My eyes seem to be less affected than before. 

    Has anyone had any experience with these drugs and vision problems.   So here is my "HOW" long question.  How long will it take once I'm off the meds for my vision to clear up?

     I had 8 weeks of Radiation and 4 - 3 day sessions of Chemo.

     I wish you all well in your journey,





Trubrit's picture
Posts: 3895
Joined: Jan 2013

One of my old post, revisited, and I'm still alive. YAY!

Sorry Ranger, got distracted there by my own importance.

I was on a different set of meds, as you see in my earlier post, but here I am, four years out from treatment, and my eyes are horrible. Every year I go get them checked, every year the optomotrist comments on how much they have changed in that year. My next appointment is August 4th, and I have no doubt I will get yet another prescription, as I can tell they have deteriorated. 

Now, I don't mean to frighten you or anything, but just saying. For some of us, normal is never coming back; but for others (lucky beggars) all will return as before. You, may be one of them, especially if you are already seeing a change with the drop in medications. 

I wish you all the luck. Please feel free to join us by introducing yourself on our home page (here https://csn.cancer.org/forum/128) and starting your own thread. 


Posts: 1
Joined: Sep 2017

Hello all,

             I started treatment for 3 different types of cancer in December 2016. The 2 different types of lung cancer were surgerically removed with portions of the lungs. The lymphoma in my spine was going to be a secondary issue. I have been treated with Carboplastin, Toxol and Avastin chemotherapies for 5 months, radiation for 6 weeks and currently recieving a "consolidation" chemo treatment. Even though I am far past retirement age, I still go to work everyday and continue to pay off a IRS dept (totally different story).

            During the first chemo treatments, all hair was lost; but the one effect that surprised me was a peeling of skin. I lost all caluses from life long work and the "new" skin was tender in all body areas. I experienced some of the bowel distress with these treatments and the consolidation treatment put me in the ER (after something had a fight or whatever in my bowel). Several of my teeth have sheered off and other repairs have fallen out. The teeth will be addressed later as I have a blood clot on my chemo port tube in my juglar vein, therefor on blood thinners.

            I hope this information is usefull to anyone who experiences some of the same effects and God"s blessings on all who make this journey


ggatlanta's picture
Posts: 1
Joined: Oct 2017

Hi all, my first post here.

I've been down lately because of my continued fatigue and other minor issues such as chemo brain and neuropathy. My wife is a neurologist (lucky me!) and she has been such a great support, but I want to reach out to others on this journey because only we know what it's really like. While looking for answers about recovery, I came across this discussion. Now I see that there is no answer to my question, because everyone has different reactions to treatment.

I was diagnosed with nasopharyngeal cancer in March of 2016 and everything was over by late October 2016. It is a rare cancer in the US. Basically, it's in the throat region. Lots of chemo and radiation. 

My issue is that recovery a year out has been like riding a wave... sometimes I have decent energy, other times (like now) I just want to lie down all the time. The time between crest and trough is measured in weeks (one or two at most). So when I become weak, it really gets me down, like I'm back-sliding into my weakened place, not moving forward. I do a goodly (love that word) amount of exercise, but I tire easily, even when I'm feeling my best.

I wonder if anyone else is on this particular ride and can give me some insight into their experience. I'd love to hear from others who have, or still are, riding "the wave" of energy and fatigue. Have you figured out a way to manage it?


Trubrit's picture
Posts: 3895
Joined: Jan 2013

I am sorry for your diagnosis, and your continued struggles. 

I remember when I went for radiation, I talked to a man who was being treated for a form of throat cancer. We joked about how different, yet the same we were. He hurt when food went in and I hurt when food came out.  I remember thinking that I had the better end of the deal. 

So, fatigue. I know there are others here on the forum, who continue to suffer bouts of fatigue. My only thought (because I don't have fatigue any more) would be to try and do some journalling to see if there is any kind of pattern. I'm a huge believer that food is a triggering factor in many, many diseases and conditions, so I would track food intake.  But there could be other factors that sap energy. 

But then, at the end of the day it really could be the chemo meds lingering in your body and causing havoc. 

So, with a huge welcome, I guess I really haven't said much that could help. HA! 

Why not open a new thread, and introduce yourself. We would love to get to know you.


Annabelle41415's picture
Posts: 5052
Joined: Feb 2009

Sorry you are going through all that you have and I'm so glad that your wife is a great moral support and helper.  That is a big thing while going through recovery.  It might be a good thing to post about your experience seperately so that other's might be able to chime in.  Wishing you the best.


darcher's picture
Posts: 175
Joined: Jun 2017

  I wrote something in another thread about ongoing affects of chemo/radiation and mentioned this thread since it was near the top of the list when I opened the forum.  It's been just over a month since I've ended treatment and am waiting on surgery.  The affects seem to be diminishing a little bit. One thing that seems to be helping is getting good news. Today I saw the oncologist to review the post chemo pet scan.  The tumour is pretty much dead.  He went on to say if we were to wait a few months it would probably be completely gone.  However, before I could say anything he told me "You're still going to have the operation..."   I don't want to take any chances of it flaring back up from a pocket of well hidden cells somewhere so there is no argument there. There were no lymph node indicators and no other cancerous signs so that's all good.  I almost felt guilty in a weird sort of way.  So many have it far worse than I do.   

  I think a lot of the fatigue is mentally driven due to this disease being on the cusp of our thoughts 24/7.  Yes, even in my sleep it comes in and wages war.  There are good days and bad days and within each there are oscillations up and down.  On good days, like today getting positive news it's mostly on the up side.  Even with that one still wonders is there something that was missed.   A pet scan won't see a cell cluster under about a million cells so that's something that I get to consider.  

 A couple things I've found do help.  I've been taking a protein supplement in the form of a powder mixed with milk.  The picture on the can makes it look like a tasty strawberry shake but in truth it's barely drinkable.  My daughter confirmed that when she  saw it and wanted some.  I made her a small glass. She took one sip, set it down, and said, "It's yuk".  She's 3.   When I have a couple that will take the edge off the fatigue.  

  Another item is simple exercise.  Taking a walk helps but Ive noticed that it needs to be one where you can have your mind distracted.   When I posted about this last week (I think) it was because I was disappointed with how easily I got tired doing something that shouldn't have worn me out.  Looking back on it.  Maybe I was expecting too much too soon and the thought and knowledge as to why I was running out of gas made it that much worse.  

Mikenh's picture
Posts: 474
Joined: Oct 2017

I decided to set a goal of running 4 miles per day (average) for the two weeks before surgery and I've been hitting the weights pretty hard too. I don't know whether or not I can do this but I'm on track four days in. I'd say that my stamina was around 25% at the end of chemo/radiation but it came back pretty quickly. The bloodwork (RBC, WBC, H&H) showed me why I was a fraction of my former self. My body has been sore the past four days but it's a good kind of soreness and I sleep really soundly with it - though often not as long - maybe sleep is more efficient when it is sound. I've said it before but you look like an athlete in your picture so you do know how to exercise and I'd say that it can keep your mind off the bad stuff. I'm pretty busy doing the other stuff like preparing my family if I don't survive.

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