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How long does chemo stay in your system

Burni's picture
Burni
Posts: 14
Joined: Aug 2020

I really felt like I dodged a bullet when I didn't experience fatigue or chemo brain during my chemo treatments.I now am back at work and by Thursday or Friday I'm fatigued.It is hard for people to understand that it doesn't matter how much extra sleep you get it doesn't always help.One of the hardest is mental for me. I don't look like myself, I don't feel like myself, I don't act like myself, I don't think like myself.My last chemo was Nov 11th and my scan in Dec said NED. For that I am thankful!Knowing everyone is different Im wondering about some other people's experiences getting back into a normal(pe-COVID)life and how long it took.

ShadyGuy
Posts: 628
Joined: Jan 2017

as the effects it has on your body. The actual chemo drugs do get flushed out of your body within weeks to months. However the changes they make remain. Many of the common side effects such a fatigue and neuropathy still trouble me 2.5 years after my most recent infusion. Most troubling can be chemo brain effects including, in my case at least, the inability to sleep well. The "experts" say you can't go back to what you were before. The old you is gone. A cancer patient must seek and define a "new normal" and accept it and adapt to it. Life is still good, just different.

Max Former Hodgkins Stage 3's picture
Max Former Hodg...
Posts: 3602
Joined: May 2012

Burni,

No one would disagree with Shady's observations.  While I would do chemo again with a moment's notice, the process is one of essentially poisoning the body, in a controlled manner.  The first-ever chemo was Mustargen, derived from WW II mustard gas, which is still in use today against blood cancers (Mustargen began use in 1942, on Army personnel with lymphoma).   The drug is tightly controlled, since it is related to internation Chemical Weapons protocols....  Mustargen is one of the drugs in MOPP, and other combos.  You get the idea.

When I went back to work following 9 months out for treatment, many of my coworkers honestly did not recognize me initially.   I did not realize it, but I was told that I was gray colored, and gaunt.  I honestly noticed that three coworkers staggered in shock when first seeing me again.  I could tell that they were thinking someting like "DAMN !"  This does not happen to everyone, but long-term fatigue, sometimes even permanent, is not uncommon.   I have it severely, ten years later.   I have tried supplements, diet, etc etc.  I drink at least 5 to 7 cups of coffee a day, just to stay awake and function at all.  But, at diagnosis with the disease ten years ago, I was easily drinking a gallon of strong coffee daily.

Virtually everyone does come back somewhat.  And, you are only three months out of treatment, a VERY short time.   It may very easily take a year or more for you to begin to know what your new normal will be.   There is reasonable cause to believe that you will feel improvement at some point.   I have long said that, personally, ' I'd rather have side-effects than have cancer.'  Another regular here likes to say that 'To have problems, you have to be alive.'    And I also submit that  'There is no quality of life, if you're dead.'

We give thanks for what benefit we have received, and do our best.   I've had two cancers now, currently have an odd autoimmune disorder, and was crushed essentially to death in an auto crash with ejection decades ago.   I was found down the street, with 18 fractures and was not expected to live for the first three weeks in ICU.   Two years later, I could walk with out a cane.  But I hope to make it to 100.

po18guy's picture
po18guy
Posts: 1156
Joined: Nov 2011

In virtually all forms of treatment, your bone marrow takes a hit. With anti-lymphoma drugs, it can be substantially damaged. It takes time to heal and may never be what it was before. I view treatment as an accelerated aging process. But...all of this must be balanced against the cancer, which is an accelerated end of life process. Treatment is a war and all wars have casualties - the "walking wounded", and that is what we are. Yet, I see this as the "cost of living." As to cognitive impairment, the more it is studied, the more "chemo-brain" or "chemo-fog" appear to be related to PTSD. Several things may come into play here:

1. The shock and stress of diagnosis.

2. Hearing the most feared word "cancer."

3. Fear of "chemo" which is probably the second most feared word.

4. Fear of and possible preoccupation with death and dying.

5. The physical and financial stress of treatment.

6. Re-entering life post-cancer (or living life with cancer)

There is treatment also for PTSD if it is involved. The above and many more factors may enter into our subsequent "self." I have never wanted to go back to my old self or old life - as that old life had cancer in its future. Rather, I pick up the pieces, focus on love and relationships and move on to my new life. It is difficult, but striving to develop a sense of gratitude also helps. 

ShadyGuy
Posts: 628
Joined: Jan 2017

With anything you are saying. But ...... I find many of your opinions expressed online as worrisome. In your online profile (testimonial) statement of your background you state that if you had the chance to live life over and could choose whether or not to have  cancer you would choose to have it. That is very disturbing to me. 
https://www.tcllfoundation.org/testimonials/4/james-ferrell

po18guy's picture
po18guy
Posts: 1156
Joined: Nov 2011

I have explained that the cancers that I had have greatly broadened my horizons, taken me places, established friendships, experiences, opportunities which I would never have had before. It is all a matter of perspective. Plus world view, which shapes that perspective. I believe that suffering has both a temporal and eternal purpose. This is a belief system that is two milennia old. Without it, suffering remains just that relentless, oppressive, seemingly meaningless pain.

I have not once asked "why me?"

ShadyGuy
Posts: 628
Joined: Jan 2017

your accomplishments are very impressive.  Still I cannot imagine choosing to have cancer. Making the best of it - yes. Choosing to have it - no. Since no one actually chooses cancer (it just happens) it is a purely academic point of view. Almost sounds like self flaggelation. Keep up the good work. I read all your posts.

po18guy's picture
po18guy
Posts: 1156
Joined: Nov 2011

Belief. Beliefs about life and death can make life or death situations much easier to face. They place things into perspective.

Evarista's picture
Evarista
Posts: 313
Joined: May 2017

As will things that you can do to help yourself: regular exercise, healthy eating, brain-training.  I am 4 years out now from R-EPOCH and, while I still have some residual issues, I feel as though I continue to improve.  I have found it extremely important to not over-exert physically lest I tip over into fatigue,  Which is NOT the same as "tired", as you note.  At two years from chemo, I was better than at one year.  At 3 years, even better, and now only experience occasional episodes of fatigue and neuropathy (they go together for me).  I have even regained my math skills, which I had lost for quite a while. Hang in there.

ShadyGuy
Posts: 628
Joined: Jan 2017

And you state it so well. After almost 4 years of NED I had pushed cancer to the back of my mind. I thought iit was gone and things could continue as they were pre-cancer. Being an avid adventure traveler I scheduled a caribou hunt in the Brooks range in extreme northern Alaska. The two of us (a young ex marine. we were introduced bythe outfitter and never knew each other) were literally dumped  out on a bog 157 miles north of the nearest town (Kotzebue) with a tent and food. We never saw another human for 8 days when the plane returned. It was grueling - cold, windy, short days and no wood to build fires. I was exhausted but kept on keeping on. My GPS showed I hiked 57 miles in 7 days over very steep rough terrain while carrying a gun and backpack. To shorten this story lets say I extremely overdid it. I fell 3 times, once into a gravel bar (creek of melting permafrost). On the last day I could hardly carry my bags up the slight grade to the plane. I crashed on the plane out of Anchorage and spent 4 hours in the United lounge at O'hare. I was really sick and finally went back to my onc who ordered a CT. A month after returning I got the call - its back and chemo was required. So I urge folks to be physically active but not onverdo it. I am convinced over exertion was a big factor in my relapse. No one to blame but me. And I didn't even see a caribou! Only bears, musk ox and moose. 

Burni's picture
Burni
Posts: 14
Joined: Aug 2020

Thanks for your comments.I have to stop looking back!Ihave to stop Mourning my old self!My emotions are on the edge and I've never been like that.Depression at times and Fatigue are creeping in.I tell you because you understand,and I need that.I am having a full blood work port flush and CAT scan this month,maybe I'm low in bloodwork. Again Very Thankful for the NED result in Dec.

po18guy's picture
po18guy
Posts: 1156
Joined: Nov 2011

I do not want to get back to my "old life" or my "former life" or especially my former self. Why is this? Was I not healthier? Physically, yes. But let's consider: roll the calendar back to the year before you were diagnosed. Now look forward. What is looming large in your future? That's right: cancer!

Rather, since we cannot reverse the clock in any event, best to pick up the pieces, develop a sense of gratitude and move forward with the new lease on life we have been given. We are semtimental beings and love to remember the past. Yet, we risk lasping into maudlin, which defeats our new purpose in life. 

You are too young to remember this, but the rock group Boston sang a very popular song entitled "Don't Look Back."

Excellent advice.

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