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Chemotherapy – The End Is Really the Beginning

About three weeks ago I finished my final chemo session, and I hope I never have to go through anything like that again. I don’t think the reality of being finished has hit me yet as I am still experiencing side effects like achiness, fatigue and the annoying numbness in my fingers and toes. My sense of taste has not recovered, but it’s getting better. Plus, I still look like I’m in treatment since I don’t have any hair.

My appearance still says cancer. I hear some side effects linger for a length of time, even permanently, but I’m not considering that possibility right now.

What I am doing is reflecting on the fact that I have come full circle from beginning to end of chemotherapy. I made it and came out in one piece, more or less anyway. 

I vividly recall the day I was advised in no uncertain terms, I needed chemo. I remember looking at the colored bar graphs depicting recurrence and survival statistics with or without chemo and right then and there, I knew I had no other option. That day was one of the worst days of my life, even worse than the day of my cancer diagnosis.

Dear Hubby and I came home from our appointment with my oncologist and I lost it. Boy, did I.  I carried on all afternoon just changing rooms while continuing my lamenting.

Now, I realize that was part of my processing.

Finally, and rightfully so, Dear Hubby told me to stop feeling sorry for myself. That was probably the one time he lost patience with me a bit.

He wasn’t being insensitive. He’s just always been better than me at seeing the big picture, better able to look beyond or further out. I tend to worry about the here and now. He reminded me over and over again chemo was something we just needed to do and we would do it together.

What is it about chemo that makes it so dreaded anyway?

Is it losing the hair or fear of nausea? Is it the fatigue factor or feeling of losing control? Do we conjure up bad memories of people we have known who have had chemo? Do we imagine unimaginable images far worse than reality?

Mostly, I think it’s the fear of the unknown.

You don’t have any idea about how your body will react. You don’t know how your loved ones will react either. You hope we do, but the reality is you don’t.

The hair is certainly a b-i-i-g-g-g-g -y, especially for women. Chemo must be a bit easier for men. (Not all chemo causes hair loss.)

Is that an unfair statement?

No. Maybe. However no one thinks it’s odd to see a bald man walking around, but a bald woman, now that’s startling.

I would probably have to say my chemo experience was not as bad as I thought it would be. That’s not to say it wasn’t bad. It was. I hated it. I didn’t want it. I felt backed into a corner. But I adapted; we all did.

Someone asked me the other day if I was going to continue blogging after finishing chemo.

Somewhat taken by surprise I answered, “Yes, of course. I’m just getting started. I still have so much to say, and now I can hopefully say it with a clearer head.”

Later I reflected a bit more on that question and what it meant.

Just because I am finished with chemo does not mean I am done with cancer. I will never be done.

It can be hard for some people to understand this, and I don’t say it to make anyone feel bad, it’s just the way it is.

I started blogging kind of in reverse anyway. I didn’t begin my blog right after my diagnosis. I wasn’t ready. As I’ve said before, I tend to take my time and mull things over. I’m not one who rushes into things much. I prefer to write retrospectively rather than in the moment, so that’s what I’ll continue doing.

Now, I’m supposed to find my so-called “new normal,” whatever the heck that is. I still have more surgeries ahead. I still have hormone therapy. I still have to worry about recurrence. 

I haven’t felt much like celebrating, but chemo is over. 

Maybe now I can write about it from the “other side” with a clear (OK clearer) head.

But one thing I know is that this “end” is really just the beginning. 

If applicable, what has been one of your greatest challenges with chemo?

How did you feel before beginning chemo?

When chemo ended, how did you feel?

If you will never be done with chemo, what helps you cope?

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Chemo, the end is really the beginning #chemotherapy #cancer #breastcancer

Post #chemo, when looking in the mirror, have you ever asked, who is that? #breastcancer #selfimage #chemotherapy
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Shannon Wulick

Wednesday 27th of December 2017

Congratulations!! I just finished my second round of chemo myself, well actually my Onco Doc cancelled my last two remaining infusions because my blood work was a train wreck! Now 26 infusions later I am finally done and headed to radiation. SO glad to have finished this leg of the journey, everything you stated in your blog is exactly how I feel! Best wishes to you, to ALL of us really! We must not forget we truly are warriors!!

Pat Jones

Saturday 4th of November 2017

When I started chemo two years ago, my oncologist wanted me to discontinue all my supplements. He said if I had any problems, he wanted to be able to point to one of the few things he's giving me rather than a huge number of things. A few weeks in, I got a twitchy eyelid and sometimes the eye. I requested a magnesium blood test (I'd had this happen before) and they said the magnesium level was normal. I started back on my magnesium capsules anyway, and the ticks went away and never returned.

Debbie

Friday 31st of March 2017

Nancy: I just stumbled across your blog and have enjoyed reading them. We have many of the same thoughts, and emotions. I just finished 6 Chemo treatments in February this year for endriometral cancer and am on an estrogen inhibitor Letrozole. It truly is a new normal to get use to. Thank you and God Bless all who are fighting the fight and their families.

sally knox

Tuesday 1st of April 2014

HI:Just found this site. I just found out this morning after seeing my ongologist, I am done with chemo. The odd thing is I started crying and feeling like a failure cause I couldn't get all eight treatments. I managed to complete 5 so my doctor was very happy with that. So why do I feel so bad. Its seems that to me the cancer will come back because I did not complete all of the treatments. Once the reality sinks in that chemo is done I hope I can celebrate. I still have 6 weeks of radiation and will be starting a hormone pill so I hope and pray that this will take care of everything. I understand exactly what all women have expressed in this blog that its; never really over, but trying to start a new beginning. its weird.

Nancy

Tuesday 1st of April 2014

Sally, You aren't a failure. It sounds like your body just couldn't tolerate more treatments and if your doctor was happy with five, well... I didn't feel like celebrating when I was done with chemo either. I got this certificate and I just wanted to tear it up. The idea of celebrating anything about chemo just seemed weird. Good luck with radiation and the hormone pill. Is it tamoxifen or one of the AIs? And no, it's never really over, but... Thanks for sharing and welcome!

Amber

Monday 22nd of July 2013

Ten days away from chemo #4 for breast cancer. Not looking forward to it. Drug change for number 5 to taxol. Found a small lump in armpit two years after bilateral mastectomy and refused the chemo and radiation then. Never thought I would do this to myself. Always eaten healthy since a teen... And even more so now. Only organic and no sugar. I am seriously wanting to stop doing this horrible thing to myself... The nausea and headaches and pain increases each time. I look and feel really sick up to about a three day window before the next infusion. I am very concerned it is only going to get worse.

Nancy

Monday 22nd of July 2013

Amber, I'm sorry to hear about all you're dealing with. I understand where you're coming from - I remember feeling much the same way when I switched drugs midway. Try not to beat yourself about things you did or didn't do. You didn't "do this" to yourself. Good luck with things. Keep me posted and thanks for reading and commenting.

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