What to expect with chemo and radiation?

Posted by fastrategizer @fastrategizer, Jul 14, 2021

I have T2N1a rectal cancer. In March I had an endoscopic procedure to remove the tumor which perforated the rectal wall. In June I had a Low Anterior Resection surgery which resulted in a temporary colostomy bag; the tumor was also regrowing. I meet with the Oncologist on 7/19 to determine the chemo & radiation regiment.

I have 2 little ones (3 &5) and my hubby is turning 40 in Sept. I want to try my best to keep life somewhat normal for my kids and also for me. I’m planning a birthday bash for my husband and I’m getting a lot of grief about it because I’ll be going through treatment. For me it’s a great way to distract myself from this terrible all consuming disease.

Does anyone have advice on actively going through chemo/radiation?

Interested in more discussions like this? Go to the Cancer group.

Hi @fastrategizer Welcome to Mayo Clinic Connect. In this community based forum, we’re not medical professionals so we can’t diagnose health problems or prescribe treatments. We’re members just like you who share personal experiences and insights to help find answers, give suggestions and offer encouragement.

For a young mom you sure have some unneeded stress thrown at you! I’m sorry you’re having to deal with the cancer issues. While I’ve not had your particular cancer I did go through my share of Chemo and all it’s illustrious side effects, though no radiation. But I have come out on the other side, cancer free, energetic with a full head of hair again!

It’s really frustrating that you’re getting grief from the outside for decisions which are personal to you. This is your journey and though you have people in your life, they will not be the one going through the mental and physical changes that might take place. You get to be in control of this and don’t be afraid to speak up. If you feel you’re up to planning the party then keep plugging along. Just set some realistic goals and be prepared to have those shift and make a Plan B or C. Don’t be afraid to ask for help!
Listen to your body! If it tells you to rest, do it! You won’t always have the energy to take on big projects and you might ask for some help from friends or loved ones to help with your little ones. You will get tired.

Will this be your first experience with Chemo and radiation? Both can have some side effects that slow you down significantly. But it shouldn’t stop you from always focusing on the future! Being positive and staying active are key elements to launching a successful battle! So keep walking and drink plenty of water daily.
I’m sharing some information with you but keep in mind you may NOT experience all the same symptoms. Everyone is different though these are pretty common.

While on chemotherapy, your immune system will be compromised as it will kill off white blood cells and cause your body to become more susceptible to infection with what is called neutropenia. It is generally temporary and when your blood regenerates you’ll feel less tired again. But you’ll have to be vigilant to avoid illness with everything from food borne illnesses to exposure of disease from contact with people.

You might experience some nausea. Ginger candy helps and if that fails, talk to your oncologist /nurse practitioner. There are meds you can be given which help significantly.

And of course the white elephant in the room….unfortunately a side effect from both can be hair loss. You may not have that but if you do, It’s temporary! I dealt with with it head on…pun intended. I had my head shaved and rocked that look! It was liberating. But I also had cool hats and a wig when I felt the need. Now I have to deal with styling hair again daily.

When you speak to your oncologist regarding the new regimen, you should be given informational guidelines as to diet, how to avoid infections and how to stay healthy. If you have questions I’m sure I can find all my guidelines for avoiding germs. A few are; hand washing, washing bananas and all fruit before eating. There’s no 5-second rule for dropping food and eating it!! Don’t do it! Avoid deli meats, bagged lettuce, artisan cheeses, that type of thing. Any foods that aren’t pasteurized.

I know I’ve tossed a lot of information at you. Do you have any specific questions?
https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/chemotherapy/in-depth/get-ready-for-possible-side-effects-of-chemotherapy/art-20111159
https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/radiation-therapy/about/pac-20385162
https://www.cdc.gov/cancer/preventinfections/neutropenia.htm

REPLY

Good for you for going ahead with birthday party! Try to maintain a normal life (if possible). One thing I felt during treatment was my lost of identity. I felt like people saw me as "Laurie with CANCER". I was still the same person I was before.

Ask for help with party and during treatment. It is OK not to be superwomen, you will have only so much energy, so prioritize what is important in your life and the rest will take care of itself. I considered myself a strong independent women and was one of the hardest thing was for me to ask for help. I still tried to do everything myself and it was exhausting.

If you can afford it, get a maid service while going thru treatment, accept offers of meals, babysitting, etc… You will need rest.

You might want to check Mayo website for dealing with Cancer & Cancer treatment symptoms:
https://cancersymptoms.mayoclinic.org/
Laurie

REPLY
@loribmt

Hi @fastrategizer Welcome to Mayo Clinic Connect. In this community based forum, we’re not medical professionals so we can’t diagnose health problems or prescribe treatments. We’re members just like you who share personal experiences and insights to help find answers, give suggestions and offer encouragement.

For a young mom you sure have some unneeded stress thrown at you! I’m sorry you’re having to deal with the cancer issues. While I’ve not had your particular cancer I did go through my share of Chemo and all it’s illustrious side effects, though no radiation. But I have come out on the other side, cancer free, energetic with a full head of hair again!

It’s really frustrating that you’re getting grief from the outside for decisions which are personal to you. This is your journey and though you have people in your life, they will not be the one going through the mental and physical changes that might take place. You get to be in control of this and don’t be afraid to speak up. If you feel you’re up to planning the party then keep plugging along. Just set some realistic goals and be prepared to have those shift and make a Plan B or C. Don’t be afraid to ask for help!
Listen to your body! If it tells you to rest, do it! You won’t always have the energy to take on big projects and you might ask for some help from friends or loved ones to help with your little ones. You will get tired.

Will this be your first experience with Chemo and radiation? Both can have some side effects that slow you down significantly. But it shouldn’t stop you from always focusing on the future! Being positive and staying active are key elements to launching a successful battle! So keep walking and drink plenty of water daily.
I’m sharing some information with you but keep in mind you may NOT experience all the same symptoms. Everyone is different though these are pretty common.

While on chemotherapy, your immune system will be compromised as it will kill off white blood cells and cause your body to become more susceptible to infection with what is called neutropenia. It is generally temporary and when your blood regenerates you’ll feel less tired again. But you’ll have to be vigilant to avoid illness with everything from food borne illnesses to exposure of disease from contact with people.

You might experience some nausea. Ginger candy helps and if that fails, talk to your oncologist /nurse practitioner. There are meds you can be given which help significantly.

And of course the white elephant in the room….unfortunately a side effect from both can be hair loss. You may not have that but if you do, It’s temporary! I dealt with with it head on…pun intended. I had my head shaved and rocked that look! It was liberating. But I also had cool hats and a wig when I felt the need. Now I have to deal with styling hair again daily.

When you speak to your oncologist regarding the new regimen, you should be given informational guidelines as to diet, how to avoid infections and how to stay healthy. If you have questions I’m sure I can find all my guidelines for avoiding germs. A few are; hand washing, washing bananas and all fruit before eating. There’s no 5-second rule for dropping food and eating it!! Don’t do it! Avoid deli meats, bagged lettuce, artisan cheeses, that type of thing. Any foods that aren’t pasteurized.

I know I’ve tossed a lot of information at you. Do you have any specific questions?
https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/chemotherapy/in-depth/get-ready-for-possible-side-effects-of-chemotherapy/art-20111159
https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/radiation-therapy/about/pac-20385162
https://www.cdc.gov/cancer/preventinfections/neutropenia.htm

Jump to this post

Thank you! This is my first experience with chemo/radiation.
I’m also planning to shave my head. Having my hair fall out in clumps would be very upsetting for me but shaving it myself will provide some control.

REPLY
@fastrategizer

Thank you! This is my first experience with chemo/radiation.
I’m also planning to shave my head. Having my hair fall out in clumps would be very upsetting for me but shaving it myself will provide some control.

Jump to this post

Your @name…fastrategizer says a lot about you and your attitude towards keeping control and shaping the world around you! I love your positivity! It will have a huge impact towards your successful treatment and outcome!!
You’re strong and motivated! You’ve got this!!! ☺️

REPLY
@roch

Good for you for going ahead with birthday party! Try to maintain a normal life (if possible). One thing I felt during treatment was my lost of identity. I felt like people saw me as "Laurie with CANCER". I was still the same person I was before.

Ask for help with party and during treatment. It is OK not to be superwomen, you will have only so much energy, so prioritize what is important in your life and the rest will take care of itself. I considered myself a strong independent women and was one of the hardest thing was for me to ask for help. I still tried to do everything myself and it was exhausting.

If you can afford it, get a maid service while going thru treatment, accept offers of meals, babysitting, etc… You will need rest.

You might want to check Mayo website for dealing with Cancer & Cancer treatment symptoms:
https://cancersymptoms.mayoclinic.org/
Laurie

Jump to this post

Definitely looking into a maid service. That way I won’t waste energy on less important things.

REPLY
@fastrategizer

Thank you! This is my first experience with chemo/radiation.
I’m also planning to shave my head. Having my hair fall out in clumps would be very upsetting for me but shaving it myself will provide some control.

Jump to this post

Some great advice on here and only thing about the hair is you may not lose it. I had my hair cut as short as I could but then after couple of days of chemo the nurse said don't think you are going to lose your hair and I did not. Lost hair on rest of body but not hair. Go figure. HA. Rest is main as body only has so much energy and chemo drains it. We are not superwomen so take care of your self and be good to you. I pray all goes well for you and keep the positive attitude as cancer does not like a positive attitude.

REPLY
@fastrategizer

Thank you! This is my first experience with chemo/radiation.
I’m also planning to shave my head. Having my hair fall out in clumps would be very upsetting for me but shaving it myself will provide some control.

Jump to this post

About hair, not everyone losses hair. Mine was after 2nd chemo treatment, and I immediately went in and had head shaved. If I was going to loss it, I wanted it gone now. Everyone is different about losing hair. It did not bother me, I just joked that saved money on haircuts, shampoo, coloring, etc… and loved fact I did not have to shave my legs!

My insurance covered cost of wig if oncologist wrote prescription, I got one and only wore once. I got wig similar to my own hair and now wish would of went little wild and bought a long curly wig just for fun. Amazon has great selection of hair beanies. Sometimes I would accessories with pins and at the holidays I tied a Christmas ribbon around my beanie when I went to chemo. .

I also invested in nice wool hats. I live in MN and without hair I needed a hat to keep warm. And if in sun, be careful do not burn your head.

Once lost hair it was informal way of letting everyone know about the cancer. Up to that point only my immediately family knew.

Funny story, my sister also had chemo and lost her hair. My young niece about 5 year old asked the family if they would shave their head if Angie asked, I joked that my brother already had, he has been bald for years. Everyone laughed and it broke a awkward silence.

Laurie

REPLY
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