• chemo

    Asked by study411 on Friday, February 15, 2013


    I have mastectomy 2 weeks ago, just had the drains removed yesterday. what a relief. oncologist appt end of the month, anticipate chemotherapy, as trace amount of cancer found in lymph node. I am stage IIA. sounds like chemo is going to be worse than the surgery. anyone can tell me how's chemo going to be ? thanks

    11 Answers from the Community

    11 answers
    • AlizaMLS's Avatar

      Dear Study,

      I'm not the best person to tell you about chemo from the personal perspective because I don't need it. I had an Oncotype test which ruled it out for me-in a good way (I was a Stage I breast cancer). I did have a unilateral mastectomy.

      But I'm a trained Medical Librarian, and as such can convey information and referrals (not medical advice). The information I want to give you is to tell you to wait (hard to do) until you see your Oncologist before leaping to any conclusions (unless your breast surgeon indicated something to you re you having to have chemo). The referral I'm going to give you in case you need chemo is for a book called "I Word Lipstick to My Mastectomy" by Geralyn Lucase. It was written at least 10 years ago so you'll find it on Amazon or other booksellers fairly inexpensively if you buy a used copy. Geralyn had breast cancer at age 27 or 28 and she chronicles her experiences with chemo. Chemo is a highly personalized experience, i.e., it's different for everyone in the same way that injections or childbirth is different for everyone. Some people are not so affected, others very much so. You'll have to wait and see (if your oncologist decides this is the route for you) until your first chemo treatment to see how it goes. Remember they have fairly good drugs now to help control side effects so be sure to let your doc know what side effects you had following your first treatment when/if they happen.

      Hope my advice helps a little. No one can tell you how chemo's going to be for you because it's different for everyone! But I wish you lots of strength, health, beauty and humor while you're going through this.


      over 3 years ago
    • nancyjac's Avatar

      I think most people will tell you that chemo is harder than surgery because it lasts longer and the side effect occur with each chemo cycle. I had chemo before surgery and radiation after surgery and even though I had to have multiple surgeries to get clean margins, I still found it easier than chemo. However, a lot of it depends on the individual's overall health going into chemo, what drugs are used, and in what dosage, duration, and frequency.

      On a related note, I think one of the big advantages I had was that my primary physician for cancer was a medical oncologist that orchestrated my long term treatment plan including chemo, surgery, and radiation. In some cases, mine being one of them, chemo is most effective before, rather than after, surgery. When you start out going to a surgeon after diagnosis and don't see a medical oncologist until after surgery, that option has already been taken away. There is also a greater sense of calm and determination that comes from knowing the full long term treatment plan up front rather than repeatedly and separately going though the anxiety of waiting to find out the plan for surgery, and then again for chemo, and then again for radiation, and then again for any targeted or hormonal therapy.

      over 3 years ago
    • SueRae1's Avatar

      A lot depends on what cocktail they give you and how you react. I had more problems with the medications they gave me to mitigate the side effects of the treatment, then with the chemo itself. Steroids are the worst. You may also get radiation. Surgery takes a day and then you recuperate. Both Chemo and Radiation are administered for for a longer period of time, so that you become fatigued and stay that way for longer. Chemo itself is not painful, at for me. I had issues with inserting the IV but then got a port and that took care of it. I had radiation daily for 6+ weeks-by the end there were issues with burning my the center was super good about giving me the right treatments and suggestions on what to wear

      over 3 years ago
    • Nomadicme's Avatar

      For me, long term, the surgery was worse. Chemo left some remainders, like going into menopause early and losing hair, but hair is growing and given time my age cohort will catch up with me re menopause.

      Now, the mastectomy and resconstruction, that doesn't go away. It's wonderful to have something resembling breasts, but it's not the same.

      Like you I had early stage BC, stage IIb, and had 8 cycles of dose dense chemo. It wasn't the best time, but given all the supportive care drugs I was given, it wasn't so bad. I waited with baited breath for my sentence to end. The hardest thing about chemo was losing my hair, and then how long it took to grow.

      Do take time to enjoy life while you're going through treatment. And remember you're not alone. Best wishes.

      over 3 years ago
    • Nancebeth's Avatar

      Wow. That's a tough question. I was Stage IA, Grade 2. I had a bilateral mastectomy with immediate reconstruction. I had to take 8 weeks off work, which turned into 9 when I decided to get a port implanted. The recovery from my surgery was very uncomfortable. I was in pain and I was not too mobile and it was really annoying.
      However, with chemo, I worked during the treatments. I got treatments with CMF cocktail on Friday afternoon and would be back at work (running a summer camp) on Monday. The side effects from the chemo were pretty bad for me. While I was able to do a lot more while I was on chemo than right after my surgery, I felt worse day to day while undergoing chemo.
      I did need to have my left implant replaced and some fat grafting but that surgery wasn't too bad at all.
      I did end up with some long term effects from chemo. I have GI issues, migraines, chemo brain, dry skin, lens opacity in my left eye. I need a partial knee replacement because the chemo caused necrosis.
      I write a blog about my experiences: nancebeth.bogspot.com

      over 3 years ago
    • gwendolyn's Avatar

      Shortly after diagnosis, my surgeon said to me that surgery was the worst, then chemo, and then radiation. In my personal experience, he was right. (I am just finishing up radiation.) I have much more have "collateral damage" from the surgery and I'm not sure I'll ever fully recover. As I went through the treatment phases I was always terrified to start the next phase. It was a matter of fearing the devil I didn't know more than the one I did.

      over 3 years ago
    • JennyMiller's Avatar

      Chemotherapy is "doable" -- everyone is different -- but I tolerated it and moved on. I had no nausea thanks to the meds. Af first I had a nagging cough which went away -- then some pain in the wall of my throat -- some mouth sores -- bowel issues -- etc. I had organized a basket in advance with supplies that I thought I might need for side effects --Biotene for dry mouth, Ora-Jel Rinse for mouth and throat sores, Saline Spray for nose, Tylenol, etc.I adjusted to the routine that the 2nd and 3rd day would be "couch days". I learned that the "fatigue" required more "rest periods". I would remind myself that Chemo is NOT the enemy-- Cancer is the enemy. Chemo is a powerful weapon that will seek out that one little elusive cell that wandered off and zap it-- so, actually, Chemo was my Friend and ally in my battle. It really helped to look at it that way. Good Luck!

      over 3 years ago
    • jad's Avatar

      Highly, highly individual. Depends on drugs in your mix, your response etc.
      I spent more money than I'm used to at the drug store for various OTC products - like the Biotene mouth rinse, stool softeners, creams like Aquaphor etc. Ask if your doctor has samples to give you.

      Also, keep a daily journal - general feeling, amount of fatigue, what hurts/bothers you, what doesn't, Notes about BMs, fevers (100.4+ or 100.5+ ......I've seen both listed). Be very very nice to the oncology nurses. Mine were nice, and incredibly helpful. And I stayed in CLOSE touch with them.

      If any of your side effects are severe, your oncologist can alter your course to make any side effects more manageable.

      For me the fear was worse than the actual treatment, including side effects. Our bodies heal - maybe not as fast or completely as we would like. But surely that is better than the alternative.

      My advice (which could be for anyone): Eat well, drink the 64 oz water a day, get your rest/sleep, pay attention to what your body tells you. And by all means: If you don't already have a sense of humor - develop one quickly.....that's as important as eating/drinking/resting properly. Do whatever you can to keep your emotional calm - meditation, prayer etc. and stay in touch with people.

      over 3 years ago
    • SusanK's Avatar

      Everyone tolerates chemo differently and of course the kind of chemo varies depending on the cancer. I had triple negative bc, stage I; chemo followed my bi-lateral mastectomy. I had no radiation. Chemo was hard combined with ongoing reconstruction, but somehow I managed. My husband and friends were a great help getting me to and from the many appointments and making sure we had good meals a few times each week. You will find your chemo nurses knowledgeable and helpful should you develop side effects. I did not have nausea thanks to the drugs administered during the chemo, but I had many other issues, from allergic reactions to finger nail issues and everything in between. There seemed to be a remedy for just about everything. It can be overwhelming some days and it can be an emotional roller coaster, but try to remember chemo is your weapon against the cancer. I crossed the days off my calendar as I progressed through my six treatments, one every three weeks. While your life seems on hold for a while, time doesn't stop...soon your chemo will be behind you. Hold on to the knowledge that you are actively fighting something horrible, chemo is necessary to beat your cancer. It's hard but you can do it!

      over 3 years ago
    • debco148's Avatar

      I was the same as you, some trace in one lymph, mastectomy on left breast. I was so scared and did not know what to expect either. But, I got through and finished last August. I tried to visualize the chemo killing any sneaky bad cells floating around. We are all different and have different experiences. The key is to keep a little log of your side effects so you can remember them clearly and be specific when you talk to your onc team. The nurses are great and they help you. The side effects only lasted a few days for me and most of them were from the adjunct meds they give you like steroids (gave me hot flashes), anti nausea (constipation). But, I did not get sick or low blood counts. Just make sure your nutrition is good, drink lots of fluids, and listen to what they tell you to do. I also managed to do Zumba classes when I felt up to it.. not as intense as I normally would, but the exercise was so good for me and seemed to help me sweat out the chemicals and meds and left me feeling physically better and mentally more clear! It seems so scary right now, but here I am, the scarey cat of all , telling you that you will get through it!

      over 3 years ago
    • karen1956's Avatar

      Chemo is hard...but its doable!!! I had lots of GI side effects, so onc put me on Nexium....Drink lots of water....eat foods that you enjoy....I lost weight on chemo and onc wanted me to drink boost or one of those other drinks and I refused, but I enjoyed smoothies.....Side effects from chemo vary with the chemo regimine and the person.....Not everyone has a horrible time.....I worked full time during Tx....chemo was on Thursdays and I went to work on Mondays...my chemo was every 3 weeks and I had 2 good weeks in between each chemo....

      over 3 years ago

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