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How "bad" is chemo?

Jodisgoing180
Posts: 98
Joined: Feb 2016

I have stage 4 ovarian cancer*, and I start chemo on Friday.  I recovered mostly from debulking and hysterectomy (got all visible cancer).  I am eating normally, active, and besides some residual tiredness, I feel good.  I'm just trying to figure out how much of my "normal" lifestyle I can return to once I start chemo and reach 6 weeks post-surgery.  Will I be able to go back to work?  Can I run?  Can I drive myself to and from treatments?  The doctor said 1-2 days a week of feeling under the weather. To  I will be getting Carbo/taxol once every three weeks with low-dose taxol every week.

*this is a "technicality", because of the way my cancer is growing/spreading. Very small tumors growing on, but not in any organs. Severity wise I am like stage II. 

EZLiving66's picture
EZLiving66
Posts: 1479
Joined: Oct 2015

Honestly, it depends on the person.  There are ladies on this board who have worked through chemo with minimal side effect other than fatigue.  Then there are ones (me) who had to quit after three infusions because of the side effects. 

Of course, I wish you have the least side effects and just zip through it!!!  (((Jodi)))

Love,

Eldri

Sandy3185's picture
Sandy3185
Posts: 228
Joined: Oct 2013

So sorry you qualify to join our select group, but you have come to the right place for answers! Eldri is so right! Each of us reacts so differently to chemo. Personally I know I would never have been able to work while undergoing treatment, but many women on this site had few problems returning to work. You will know better after beginning chemo. Just be prepared to give yourself time to recover if you need it. it is normal to feel reactions to the chemo on the third day after treatment- extreme fatigue, lack of appetite and/or nausea, often aches and pains, sort of flulike symptoms among others. Many, but certainly not all, have developed peripheral neuralgia. The fatigue is an almost universal reaction, but everything else may or may not occur. Hopefully you will be one of the "lucky"( considering you did get cancer!) who has only mild reactions. With love and caring, Sandy

TeddyandBears_Mom's picture
TeddyandBears_Mom
Posts: 1801
Joined: Jun 2015

Agree with Sandy and Eldri. Just wanted to add.... There is a thread called 'Ladies Going Through Chemo' that is filled with information on how many of us reacted to the treatments. We documented our journey(s) for new ladies joining the chemo experience. If you have time, it may be beneficial to read that one.  Sorry for your cancer and I'm glad you found us. Feel free to ask any and all questions. Someone most likely has been through the same thing and will help you!

Love and Hugs,

Cindi

Gardena
Posts: 102
Joined: Jan 2016

Sorry you had to find this group, but what a wonderful group it is. IMHO Chemo is a very personal journey.  Your experience will be very specific to you. I just finished 6 rounds of carbo/taxil and can tell you it was the hardest thing I've done in my life. I had a great deal of pain after each infusion and alot of weakness. Chemo knocks your blood counts down and in my case I required one transfusion in order to continue my treatment.  That said, there are women on this board who continued to work thru out their treatment or who have had 30 or more rounds of chemo and have tolerated it! I guess what I want to stress to you is be kind to yourself during your treatment - there will be days when nothing resembles your "normal" life and it is upsetting and frustrating.  Your body is about to take on strong, toxic "medicine" - care for yourself with all your might. Please let us know how you're tolerating the chemo, good luck on Friday! 

Editgrl's picture
Editgrl
Posts: 903
Joined: Jun 2015

until you are doing it how it will be.  Before chemo, I cleared my work calendar, not knowing how my body would react.  As it turned out, I had relatively minor side effects, and actually did some work during treatment.  I was also able to exercise, although I did scale back quite a bit, i.e., bike on the trainer instead of out on the road.  Though my boyfriend took me to all of my appointments, I could easily have driven myself.  The side effects didn't generally show up until 3-4 days after chemo for me.  I would say be prepared for the worst, but it is totally possible that you will also have a relatively easy time of it.  I do think that if you can keep your appetite and keep eating "normally" as much as possible that it will help you weather the chemo.  I am convinced that that was one of the reasons I was able to handle chemo so well, but we really don't know why some people have severe side effects and others do not.

I do second Cindi's suggestion that you take a look at the "Ladies Going through Chemo" thread.  There is a wide range of experiences documented there.

I will make a couple of suggestions here, though.  Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate and start a few days before chemo.  Also, keep your intake of protein up.  Constipation is almost a given, so you might want to be proactive with that, starting with Miralax the day before chemo and continuing for a few days after.  Again, drink water, suck on popsicles, eat soup, whatever you can to get liquids in your system.  For me, constipation and stomach pains were the worst of my side effects.  If you can, get some exercise every day, even if it is just walking.  That also helps with the constipation.

Some women get joint and bone pain, whether from the Neulasta or Taxol.  For some women, taking Claritin helps with this.  I did not have Neulasta, but took Claritin starting the day before chemo and continuing for 3 days after chemo.  The only time I had joint pain was the one time I forgot to take the Claritin on the third day.

I was very scared of chemo, but it turned out to be not so bad.  I'm hoping you have the same experience!

Chris

 

NoTimeForCancer's picture
NoTimeForCancer
Posts: 2911
Joined: Mar 2013

Thank you, Chris.  That is a beautiful "wrap up".  Of course, you are correct, we are all different so and the fear of the unknown is probably the worst of it all.  

 

Lou Ann M's picture
Lou Ann M
Posts: 996
Joined: Feb 2015

I could tell you it was a piece of cake, but it is going to be one of the hardest things you have had to do.  But you will be able to do this.  Strength is an amazing thing and it shows up when you need it the most.  I did work for the 1st 2 years of my roller-coaster ride.  I taught school 1st and 2nd graders and I am so thankful for them.  They got me through even the bad days.  I would walk into my classroom and cancer flew out the window.  They needed me to help them with reading and math.  I learned quickly that they loved my for who I was and not the hair tthat wasn't on my head anymore.  Sometimes I think this battle was easier when I had to get up and go everyday.  It was time for me to retire though, I was 67.  Lou Ann

Kvdyson's picture
Kvdyson
Posts: 789
Joined: Jan 2016

Hi Jodi, I read that your first infusion was today so wanted to check-in to see how you are doing? All of the ladies who have already responded are spot-on with their advice so I won't repeat anything here. Just wanted you to know that we're thinking about you and hoping that it went well today.

Wishing you strength and good health,
Kim
Debulking Surgery 10.5 cm (TAH & BSO, 14 lymph nodes excised) - Sept 2015; 47 years old
Dx: Uterine carcinosarcoma (MMMT) Stage 1b, Grade 3 - Sept 2015
Frontline: Chemo (Taxol-day 1 & Ifosfamide/Mesna-days 1-3) - 6 rounds - Dec 2015 - June 2016
Radiation - external, 28 treatments over 6 weeks - Feb - Mar 2016

 

Jodisgoing180
Posts: 98
Joined: Feb 2016

It went smoothly. I don't feel great, but not horrible either. No nausea so far (knock on wood).  Plan on following the nurses advice to the letter. I'm a little sore (like I ran a race).  There are parts that feel better.  I'm not feeling yucky from surgery, and the fluid on the lungs is clearing up- productive cough, I am not feeling heaviness in my chest, and breathing is better. It taken as long as advertised-- 6 hours. 

Kvdyson's picture
Kvdyson
Posts: 789
Joined: Jan 2016

So glad to hear that it went well. Just be sure to stay hydrated and try to eat protein. The hydration helps move the meds out of your body and the protein helps build your blood cells back up. Hope you have a good weekend!

Jodisgoing180
Posts: 98
Joined: Feb 2016

Thanks you too. I'm kind of hungry right now. I been drinking from a gatoraid bottle- 32 oz. x 4 bottles. 

Lou Ann M's picture
Lou Ann M
Posts: 996
Joined: Feb 2015

I am so glad today went well for you.  You will never have to go through the 1st one again.  Try to keep a journal becuase a lot of the side effects will show up at very similar times and intensities..  Hydrate, hydrate and then drink some more.  Hugs and prayers, Lou Ann

Editgrl's picture
Editgrl
Posts: 903
Joined: Jun 2015

Glad it went well!  The first time was nerve-wracking for me, not knowing what to expect during or after.  Just take it easy and listen to your body.

Chris

Jodisgoing180
Posts: 98
Joined: Feb 2016

The only side effect is constipation and gas. I am eating ok, and drinking lots of water and gatoraid. The meds are making me sleepy. 

EZLiving66's picture
EZLiving66
Posts: 1479
Joined: Oct 2015

I always had my chemo on a Tuesday and it wasn't until Saturday that I started with the side effects.  I know everybody is different.  I'm hoping you have a really easy time of it!!!  (((Jodi)))

Love,

Eldri

Jodisgoing180
Posts: 98
Joined: Feb 2016

My chemo is scheduled for Fridays the first three, then moves to Wednesday. 

Soup52's picture
Soup52
Posts: 906
Joined: Jan 2016

I have had just one chemo so far. I felt fine the first couple of days and on the third day I had extreme pain in my knees and later on my feet and ankles. No pain med really helped, but it subsided after a couple days. On the good side I did not really have nausea, but wasn't really hungry for a couple of days. My next chemo is tomorrow and I am taking the advice of the ladies here and am taking Claritin before and several days after and of course drinking plenty of water which I did the first time. The nurse said the pain is usually worse the first go round as your body isn't used to the meds. Hopefully she is right

Anonymous user (not verified)

I'm going for my 5th chemo next week if my blood counts are holding.  I had burning pain in my right knee the first chemo, but more of an ache with the next ones.  However, the electric nerve pain has increased (if that's even possible) after each one.  Sorry, I hope you are one of the luckier ones and your nurse is right.  Hugs Nancy

NoTimeForCancer's picture
NoTimeForCancer
Posts: 2911
Joined: Mar 2013

Soup, I kind of thought what your nurse said about the pain.  I think my body thought, "what the heck are you doing??!!!" and I was fortunate the pain in my knees and hips was never as bad during the following treatments.  I did feel like an 80 year old lady though!  I always guessed there was someone out there who has it worse then me so I thought 'suck it up'.  What else can you do?   

Losing the desire to eat was a constant for me, but I forced myself.  It got old, but I had to do what I had to do.  

Hopefully you everything keeps right on track for you!!  Smile

Jodisgoing180
Posts: 98
Joined: Feb 2016

I am starting to feel the side effects. I have no appetite, just generalized aches and pains, and exhaustion. That's about it. I have an appointment with my oncologist today. Next infusion is Friday. I am doing dose dense chemo. 

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