Post-chemo thoughts

Allicat's picture

I finished chemo 3 weeks ago. When I started 4 months seemed like forever but now it is over. I am relieved but not as relieved as I thought I would be. I guess that is because I still have some side effects and also I am going to have a mastectomy in the next few weeks so now I am starting to worry about that. I had put off thinking about that until chemo was done.

I was so scared before I started chemo. I remember a quote in one of the cancer guidebooks (which was meant to be encouraging) was about how you could sometimes still go out the movies with your friends during chemo. This made me worried as it had not previously occurred to me that I might be too sick to go to the movies.

Lots of the books encouraged exercise during chemo but being a runner I knew they weren't allowing for the amount of exercise I was used to. I was happy when I found a place which mentioned people who were used to 'strenuous exercise' - it said that was ok to continue but maybe just make it a little gentler. That was good but then it said "for example, instead of running you could try tai chi". This made me annoyed - it makes me annoyed again now.

Chemo was not as bad as I worried it might be. There were only a few days when I felt really sick and a few when I was falling asleep the whole day. I was able to keep running throughout - the distance & speed gradually reducing but mainly still going ok.

The main side effects I still have are a bad taste in my mouth and trouble concentrating/thinking, as well as a general tiredness. These do not sound very bad when I type them & they are not really very bad - it's just the constant slight unwell feeling gets on my nerves and I wish it would stop. I have a vague headache most of the time when I'm by myself - when I have other people around it helps me feel better.

I am looking forward to my hair growing back although it is not a great problem not having any hair. There are some advantages - my legs are lovely and smooth and it saves time not having to wash & dry my hair. The thing I will miss most when my hair grows back is after a run when I change my sweaty headtube for a fresh clean cap - it feels wonderful.

At the moment I don't set my alarm - I just get up when I wake up and then go to work. I also leave work early if I feel like it. I really like not setting the alarm. I feel nervous about when they will expect me to be able to go back to working proper 9 to 5 days everyday. But, I guess that's not for a while yet - I still have to have surgery and recover from that as well as continuing to recover from chemo.


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samex's picture

Re: Post-chemo thoughts

The counselling is a good idea. I waited for too long and just expected evrything to be the same when I finished treatment. Silly me!
Take each day at a time.


Allicat's picture

Re: Post-chemo thoughts

Thanks Samex,

It is comforting to know others understand how I am feeling. It seems like the physical & emotional recovery from treatment is a lot longer than I had first realised.

While I was having chemo I was only ever looking as far ahead as the next chemo cycle. Now I am looking further ahead and it is all a bit scary.

I have started going to counselling whch I think is helpful, and I like this site as well.


samex's picture

Re: Post-chemo thoughts

I have been out of treatment coming up for 3 years. I have returned to teaching full time this year (for a variety of reasons) and really miss the days I have had off from work in recent times. I struggle with the deadlines and the constancy of teacjing but have pondered whether that was any diffeent before cancer.
I know that I look at many things differently these days and that impacts on how I approach the many extra-curricular activities I do. I am quite happy to allow others to do them. I know that I am no longer defined by what I do for a living.I still work too hard and still put others first and this can have a dire effect on my emotional well being rather than my physical.But this is soemthing I have to learn for myself.
Like Harker, I have "mulled over" a number of issues that I believe were brought to a head with my cancer and to soem extent exacerbated by facing our mortality.Unlike Harker, I haven't any answers yet - at least not for myself.
While your boss is being kind - go with it. Work on projects that your mushy brain can cope with and let others do the rest. Again as Harker said, you still have surgery and all that that entails to deal with yet.

Take care and take heart that many of us seem to have discovered the dilemmas.


harker's picture

Re: Post-chemo thoughts

Hi Allicat

I'm pretty much doing the same thing as you and it has been going on for a few years now.

The adjustments to be made post treatment are pretty extensive and I've realised that lots of them are not to do with recovering from treatment at all. Other parts of life are affected whislt treatment is going on and eventually they stop providing the 'holding pattern'.

Things like intimate relationships, work, dreams and family all require attention on their own terms. By that I mean they either fit in with what you need to do from now on or they don't. The very idea of 'going back to work' is a misnomer in a way. Rather it is a question of 'do I want to work in the future' and if so then plan for that here and now and for the future, not as a 'going back'.

I have felt nervous about the workplaces expectations for four years and it is only just now coming to a point of resolution for me - and them. I thought I would metion that as a supprotive thing for you at the moment. This is not going to go away, believe me, so back your judgment and go with how you actually feel about it all. For example, the not setting your alarm thing is possibly an indicator that you need to let your body determine what you are able to do, not outside expectations. Therefore, the question is "Does a rigorous work routine fit in with what i need to be dong at the moment". The answer sounds like "No" for you. That's how it was for me for two, maybe three years.

Even so, I am finding more and more that the expectations I have had re all of that have been placed on myself by none other than - me! The anxiety and nervousness has pretty much been self-inflicted.

This is being said from a bit more of a retrospective point of view than you have available to you at the moment, I know. I just noticed that you are thinking about the same things I have been mulling over for a long long time so I thought I would mention where I am at with those things. For what they're worth.

And you have surgery and recovery to come. Throw the bloody alarm clock away!


Allicat's picture

Re: Post-chemo thoughts

Thanks Harker,

I go back-and-forth on whether I should push myself to do things such as setting the alarm or just take it easy. Because I have always hated getting up when the alarm rings, so sometimes I wonder I am just using this as an excuse?

The day after I was diagnosed I went to work and used the diagnosis as an excuse to get out of something I didn't want to do anyway. Was it an excuse, or was it a valid reason? It probably was best for me to be taken off that particular task as it was going to take a while and I had have surgery the following week and we didn't know what was going to happen next. So, maybe it was just a reason not an excuse but because I was glad to get out of it I felt a bit naughty.

Yesterday I was still having a similar issue - I was finding the project I was working on confusing & annoying and I wanted to go home - but I already found it confusing & annoying before I got cancer. How much is due to chemo and/or stress and how much is due to the normal genuine confusingness of the project? Does it matter?

I might as well keep sleeping in as there is no point trying to force myself to do more than I can. One day I got up when the alarm went off when I didn't want to but I thought I should. I walked to the train station, sat there for a while, decided I was too tired to get anything done, caught the bus back home & went back to bed.

The boss has been very kind about me missing as much work as I like so maybe it is just me who is putting pressure on myself. It is interesting that lots of things that are just habit have to get re-thought.


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