What Does Chemotherapy Feel Like?

What Does Chemo Do To You?

Ok, this one might be a little too much information for you. But if there’s somebody out there that will be going through all this, you should read this. Or maybe you shouldn’t. People ask me on the bad days what chemotherapy is like, and although I consider myself articulate, I have a really difficult time explaining it. Its difficult to describe the forest from the trees, right? But I figure I’ll try to describe it a bit here. Careful reading this.

Chemotherapy side effects are worse than cancer, that’s for sure. With cancer, most of the time you’d hardly know it if some doctor didn’t tell you. I mean, I was pretty hard up by the time they found it in me, but sometimes cancer can go all the way to stage IV and you’d never know it.

Chemo, on the other hand, you can never forget that. Not for a second. There’s no ignoring chemotherapy. It invades every cell by the end of it. You spend months marinating in a stew of toxic wastes that are out to kill you. And I don’t think that’s overly-dramatic. You try it sometime and see if I’m not right.

Well, I’ll tell you what I can about chemo. I’ll go day-by-day.

I’ll start on Sunday, the day before chemo. Remember when you were a kid and you dreaded Sunday night because it meant that you had to go to school early the next morning? And maybe you hadn’t done your homework yet, and basically, your fun was just over? Or maybe its still like that for you, where you get to Sunday night and you start to dread the coming work week, and what hassles are going to happen this time, etc., etc. Well, its a little like that, but I think I can, without hesitation, claim that my Mondays are worse than yours.

The dread of chemotherapy now starts much earlier than Sunday. At first it did start on Sunday, but then I realized how bad it was, so I moved the freaking out back a few days to Friday. Then Wednesday. I knew it was bad when the dreading would start on Friday, 9 days before my chemo treatment – before I’d even recovered from the last one. But now I dread it all the time. I get no rest from the dread of chemo now, because I know it gets worse every time and, save a few surprises, I know just what’s going to happen to me.

And I suppose I should feel good that I only have 2 more treatments. That’s what people keep saying, at least, “Hey – only 2 more, right? That’s gotta feel good.” It doesn’t. And people hate that answer. If I’ve learned anything from the progressive side-effects of chemotherapy treatments, its that the last treatments will be the worst. I don’t look forward to them, and knowing that they are coming doesn’t make me feel any better, even if completing them means its all over.

I try to distract myself on Sundays, and thankfully, I think everyone around me tries to do the same. The only thing you can do is try not to think about it. The doctor gave me anti-anxiety pills to calm down, but I don’t like taking them. So I just try not to let my mind rest on it.

I sleep as late as I can on Mondays. I don’t want to get up any earlier than I have to, because I know if I have time to think, I will. I take a shower and put together a bag of stuff. I usually bring my computer, my iPod, my headphones, maybe a book. I usually never use any of the stuff because the Benedryl knocks me out, but I bring it anyway. It makes me feel better holding onto something.

Chemotherapy is about a 4 hour process. They take your blood and start your IV right away. They fill you with steroids, saline and Benedryl to get your body ready, and they wait for the chemo drugs to be brought up from the pharmacy in the bright green zip-lock bag they come in.

I have a mental reaction to the smell of the alcohol swabs and taste of saline now. They use a lot of alcohol swabs during the whole process. They wipe down your port with alcohol, they swab the ends of the IV before they insert the vial for your blood, or the syringes full of chemicals. I can’t smell or taste the chemo itself, so I guess my mind has just decided that the bad stuff must smell like alcohol and taste like saline. The reality, of course, is that the saline and alcohol are the only things that are good for me in the whole process, but that doesn’t stop me from wincing whenever I smell or taste them. I know what’s coming when they are around. Sometimes when I’m not at chemo I’ll remember the smell of the swabs or the taste of the saline and I’ll jerk my head to the side and try not to puke. I really freak out sometimes.

You don’t really start to feel anything until an hour after you’ve been given the drugs. First you go to the bathroom and pee red. Maybe that’s too personal to tell everybody, but I’m telling you anyway. It freaks me out every time. I always forget its going to happen. It’s from the Andreomyacin, which is a red chemical, and the first drug in the chemo. Some people pee red for days.

The heat starts about then. The heat comes from inside me, from my chest I guess, and radiates into my face. By Tuesday I’m flush red all over, and my face is puffy and hot. My skin starts to feel softer than usual, I don’t know why.

A heated, sharp indigestion starts about the same time that the hiccups start. My nurse thinks the two are related. I think its all the same thing. The hiccups last for two days. They are double hiccups, where your diaphragm pulses twice most times and really shakes your body.

The nausea sets in immediately, despite all the drugs they give me. It’s a sharp nausea, like someone is stabbing you in the stomach, and trying to pull your throat out by reaching in through your mouth.

But, despite the nausea, and despite the fact that eating just makes it worse, you are ravishingly hungry. You would eat rice cakes willingly, you are so hungry. You eat until the nausea takes you over in a big wave, and you lay down and cry and wait for it to pass, and then you eat again, until the wave of nausea comes again, etc., etc. Its awful.

But the effects of chemo aren’t just in your stomach, chest, or throat, they are all over. Your eyelids droop and the muscles in your thighs twitch, and your abdomen expands with all the food your body won’t digest (go get some ex-lax and fiber bro, its going to be a long week…).

By Wednesday my legs are usually dog meat, but the hiccups are gone. The heat is still around, but its second to the sheer exhaustion. I mean, absolute EXHAUSTION. Not like “I’ve had a long week and I haven’t slept much,” or “I just lifted weights” kind of exhausted. Its much more powerful than that.

Last time, I woke up with three fingers numb on Thursday. The doc says that’s nerve damage from the Vinblastin. I say that’s some really nasty stuff for pianist. He’ll cut out the Vinblastin if it happens again this time.

I don’t really know when it happens. Not right away. But sometime between Wednesday and Friday my mind starts to fall apart. It lasts for 4 or 5 days. I can’t remember people, or conversations, or I’ll stop sentences halfway because I can’t think of the word. It goes away, though. I think.

By Saturday and Sunday I’m recovering, and I’m usually ok by Monday. Then I have one good week to run around like a mostly normal person, but with more dread, until I get hit again. The exhaustion never totally leaves me, and I can’t stand very long, but its not as bad during what I facetiously refer to as my “good” week.

203 Responses to “What Does Chemotherapy Feel Like?”


  • Thank you, I was wondering because I want to know what my mother is feeling but I will never know.

  • I hope you survive it.

    Keep on fighting and never give up.

    May God be with you.

    • Thanks Max – I feel great these days. Click on the “About” page to learn more about me. I’m happy and healthy and living in NYC these days. I’ve been out of chemo for 4 years now!

      • After reading your ordeal, tears welled up in my eyes knowing that you are OK now. I am so happy for you. May you stay in good health forever.

  • Wow! Thank you for being such an inspirational person! It takes someone with a lot of drive and will power to relive all those aweful moments and publish them in the hope to help other people. Why did you do it?

  • Hi David! I really appreciate this blog and this write up about chemo. I am in the same boat that you were in all those years ago! I am getting my port Wednesday and will get my Chemo Thursday or Friday. I really appreciate your knowledge and you telling it like it is so we getting ready to go through it will know what to expect!! Bless you!! You are an inspiration!!!

  • you are going to beat this I just sense it

  • David-
    I’m a fellow Hodgkin’s survivor, from IL also! I’m so addicted to cancer blogs, and when I cam across yours, I couldn’t stop reading. It’s like a book I can’t put down. The way you describe everything brings back the exact feelings and emotions I had when I was going through treatment- which is scary as hell, but comforting knowing there are other people out there like me. I think that this blog is amazing, you have a lot of talent. Just wanted to say hi, and let you know you’ve touched my life with your story- and congrats, I know it’s super belated, on kicking cancer’s ass. Survivorship is an amazing thing- and really, hearing stories like yours make me realize that other people out there “get me”, or just get it- thanks for sharing,

    Kate

  • your blog is very well-written and very inspiring. i read all 14 pages in one sitting which made it easy for me to see you shift from being cocky about chemo and dreading it. this is a good glimpse of the psychology of a cancer patient/survivor.

    p.s.
    i really enjoyed the humor in your writing.

  • This was an amazing read- you were on point with everything. I experienced pretty much the same effects especially with nausea. You described it so right. Its a horrible thing to go through.

  • Hello David, Im inspired to read your blogs about hodgkin’s lymphoma, I am a fellow cancer survivor for more than 10 years to be exact around 14 years ago, got diagnosed of Hodgkin’s Lymphoma on May of 1997 and had recurrence on 2000, underwent chemotherapy and radiation treatment and since then fully recovered from the battle, Im now enjoying a quality of life and life has been favorable again for me, and I thank my family, relatives and friends and the medical team who took care of me and who has been very supportive and most of all their fervent prayers, it was a miracle, I thank God for the gift of life. Im sharing this to inspire everyone that cancer is not the end of the world, there’s still hope and life after the disease. Let me share this that life is too short without living a life of meaning so let’s continue to reach others, touch their lives and make a difference who knows, we just changed a persons life. Just always remember to stay strong and keep fighting…God Loves Us…
    God Bless Everyone…Charmion from Cebu City, Philippines

  • you’re always welcome and anytime David, we’re all here to share our battle in overcoming the disease and our painful experiences that makes us who we are now…being defiant in our fight…it gives us the opportunity to realize and put things in order to make life even better and more meaningful. Most of all the courage we gained all throughout the ordeal that made us stronger. Also, God Healed Us for a Purpose and so fellow patients and survivors let’s give a shout that indeed we are “OVERCOMERS”. Praise God. Amen.

  • I have stomach cancer, I start chemo tomorrow and I am terrified!!!! After I read ur blog im still scared but more aware of what to expect, thank you so much..

  • I have testicular cancer and I’m only 18 years old and am active duty in the marine corps. I start chemotherapy on Monday I had no idea what to expect till know. Thank you alot.

  • You described it very well. I was searching the web to print something out for my brother to read so he could understand better and I think I found it. I have an uncurable autoimmune disease that they are treating with chemo to give me “extended time”. This is my second round and I am living with my twnety year old brother who just doesn’t quite get it. Thanks for being such an inspiration. God Bless.

  • terrified in Colorado

    i just found out i have breast cancer on June 7, 2010. i will have my surgery soon to put my port in to start chemo. i have seen so many specialists and they have begun to sound like “blah blah blah” to me. i keep asking how is chemo going to make me feel and they keep giving me the side effects but for once after reading your blog i hear it from someone that actually went through it. I am terrified but at least now know what is waiting for me. God help me. Thank you for your courage.

  • Hi David, You are very brave and I will pray for you. Be Blessed

  • ive just been diagnosed with follicular limphoma and am due to start chemo in sept …after reading ur blog i now know a little of what to expect …the specialists dont understand your worries and fears properly although they explain the treatments and what happens they dont know the effects the sufferer has to go through so ur being really brave doing this whilst you are suffering yourself …you are an inspiration so thank you and god bless and hope you have a wonderful recovery xx

  • Hey David, Good to hear you are kicking it cancer free, must be five years going fifty now-2011. My close freind is doing chemo and we could not talk about what he is going thro’ cos he just tells me- ‘don’t go there’, or ‘today is one of the better days’, but now i can actually visualize and empathize, and will hopefully be a more responsive friend. God bless.

  • This was a great idea. I’m glad you shared this with everyone. I’m sure you’ve helped more people than you’ll ever know by sharing this.

    Glad to hear it worked and you’re healthy!

  • Hi David -

    My dad was diagnosed 2 days ago with Stage 4 lung cancer that has spread and they began cheomo therapy today, so I was looking for information on what to expect. Thank you for the detailed information – its beautifully written. I am glad you have shared your experience.

    Nice to hear chemo worked and you are well again. God bless.

  • I was googling what to say to my brother the night before he starts his first chemo treatment, I am so scared and feel so bad for him. I an touched by your courage and your happiness and to know that there is happiness in my brother’s future after this whole terrible thing is over with. I thank you for being able to read this experience; although, it is almost an “ignorance is bliss” type of situation. I want to know, but I don’t. Congrats and god bless to all that have beaten cancer and remain positive and love life today. It gives me hope and makes me a little less sad for my brother and my family. Thank you.

  • Hi David

    My mother has been diagnosed with breast cancer and I am dead scared especially after I just read your blog–which I found out about after typing in: what is chemo like? especially the part about nausea and getting stabbed and eating and exhaustion. Don’t laugh but I actually punched myself in the stomach a couple of times to try to get a sense of how that feels. I am so scared for her. Is it not better for her to be dead than go through this? I’m her only kid and she is a single mother. Dad passed away recently.

    I am prone to panic attacks myself and at worst time a few years ago, I went through a period of two weeks when I had dozens of panic attacks a day and kept feeling nauseous sitting by the toilet and kept crying. Reading the blog just made me have a major panic attack. That whole sense of helplessness and wishing for anything but this, for death, came back to me in a rush.

    My mother is a sensitive person, has talked with doctors who assure her the process will not be as horrible as some make it to be and the anti-nausea meds do work and so forth. Yes, that she will get exhausted, somewhat nauseous, etc, but that it is not the worst thing in the world. But reading your description has me dead scared and I’m supposed to be her rock. Big laugh, right? Sensitive guy in his 20s with panic attacks, being her rock!

    Is there anything you can tell me about the process being worth it, about life being worth it, about being able to get through it, as one human being to another?

    I really really really appreciate it.

    God, world is a scary place.

    • Dear John D

      I read your post and felt compelled to reply. I have lymphoma, like David did, and have just started chemotherapy. I hope by now your mother will have had a few chemo sessions herself and you will have seen her experience. We are all different and all react to chemo differently. David’s experience is not the only one – your mum’s will most likely be different (not least because she will probably be on different drugs for breast cancer, as opposed to lymphoma).

      I was extremely tired after my first session and had a bad and painful infection, but then the week after I felt like a normal person again, give or take two wobbly legs. I can’t say I won’t feel worse next time, or the time after that, but all I can do is look forward to the end of the next 6 months of treatment where I can go back to living a normal life. I can wholeheartedly say that living in our day and age where research and development means that there is an increased chance of healthy survival is a godsend. It’s definitely worth it. Life is worth it.

      I think you’re really brave and I think it’s fantastic that you’re trying to feel something of what she feels. You may suffer from panic attacks but make sure you remain positive and hopeful for the best outcome for your mum – and for yourself too. If she sees you as her rock then that’s what you’ll be in her eyes – and your sensitivity probably helps her in that respect. My physician consultant tells me that staying positive will definitely help me get better.

      I hope everything goes well for you and your mum. Chin up – this is but a blip in your life, a bump in the road, and it will soon be over.

  • Hi, my mom was recently diagnosed with stage IV cancer and she has finish 10 sessions of radiation but she doesn’t want to do chemo. At first she said she wasn’t afraid and now she says she is in so much pain she doesn’t want to continue like that. I don’t know what to do I am devastated. By the way she is only 42 years old.

    • Hi, Karla,
      If you read this, please tell your mom not to give up because I have a friend who had stage 4 cancer at same age 42. She was heavy, she went through everything and said she went through some awful times and wasn’t herself, but now 7 years later (she was cancer free after 1 year) she has lost 70 lbs, says she feels 20 again and has a great real estate job and looks fabulous! So just tell your mom that chemo is different than radiation and she needs to give herself the chance to see the end of her cancer, and to celebrate with you when that happens! God bless!!

  • I was just diagnosed with Hodgkins and am glad I found your blog. While I am not looking forward to the road ahead, I now have an idea of a few of the obstacles and feel I can better prepare mentally for my journey. Fingers crossed, I will be in a similar place as you in five years. Thank you!

  • Thank you for telling us this. My Mom just started chemo today. They say she had to be on it for a year or so. She is playing it light with me, but I felt I needed to know. God bless you, and good luck to you.

  • It was nice to hear and sad to hear what u or anyone has to go thru my mother just found out she has stage 2 lymphoma cancer and got a go thru chemotherapy . I or we don’t know what to expect and were terriified. She always getting news bout her health and she is healthy person but now the bad news has arrived I reall y hope she beats this and i really hope her body can handle it. Thank u for explaining to us about treatments. God bless

  • Hi David,

    I am and 15 year old girl going through Chemotherapy now for Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and I cannot tell you how much this blog relates to me right now. The day before Chemo, I hardly want to do anything. All day long I try to forget that tomorrow is the day the side effects will come back. Your completely right, the sheer smell of saline around the house makes me run for the bathroom to vomit.

    I only have one more treatment left, and people keep asking me how excited I am, and I feel terrible to say that I’m actually not excited at all and I am just dreading that last treatment because I can’t go through the side effects again.

    The hardest part for me during this whole experience are my “friends” who pass off what I am going through. I know that someone who has never experienced cancer will never truly know how it makes you feel but I can’t help but hate these people who don’t understand. However, this blog explains it perfectly and I can’t thank you enough for putting my feelings into words for me.

    Shana

  • Ebenezer( must read)

    Hi guys Im glad I ran into this blog. Like you all I’m in a similar situation as well. Although I had never fully grasped the extent and pain that cancer brings on into the lives of people such as yourselves, I am finally living through it myself. I knew it instinctively the first time I noticed my swollen inguinal lymph node a year ago after a new years eve bout of partying alcohol consumption brought about the first of what would be a year of many agonizing bone aches, headaches and back pains. Throughout that painful year I was struggling, not only to bear the unbearable pain that increased as time went on and my swollen lymphnodes increased in number with my steadily spreading cancer, but I was also grappling with surviving through life making my rounds from one relatives house to the other working two jobs under the table as a waiter and an underpaid sales man, I had no American identity; I had nothing that showed who I was and I barely had money to get by let alone seek treatment, I was a burden to my family, both the ones here in the US and my actual mom and dad: I am their an only child of two great parents that recently fell on hard times losing both their jobs, my father barely surviving a heartattack that arose as a complication of cholesteol buildup through a miraculous experimental stent procedure he underwent some six months ago. So I waited till about last september
    until the pain became over the top and I started getting blackouts due to the inflamed lymphnodes all over my neck and on the back of my head and as the golf sized first Lymphnode that ever appeared
    made it impossible for me to stand or walk for long periods of time. I got checked out and the first doc diagnosed me with adenopathy and recommend me to another doc who actually knew what he was doing and immediately ordered a lymphnode biopsy realizing what was going on. At this time I was still in denial, hoping that my illness was a result of some viral or bactirial infection and that the swelling were some sort of auto immune response by my lyPhatic system. Anyways to kinda speed things up a bit iI was diagnosed with stage 4 Hodgkins lymphoma, I finally let my adoptive parents know, they were devastated(the hardest part for me was the telling the parents and friends part), it hurt me more than the two bone marrow biopsies I went through as my doctor couldn’t retrieve any marrow from my dried up cancer infested marrow tissue and telling my actual biological mom was the worst thing ive ever been through. She loves me to death, I’m the only son she has and I was conceived after she had lost so many babies during her pregnancy. I was a child promised to god when my mom knelt at some obscure church on a hill top and prayed and promised to feed his poor once a year on that day if he blessed her with a baby( I kid you not, me n her n dad used to go up there and to various other churches on that day every year to feed the poor and needy with the food my mother made. I can’t tell you or explain to you anguished my mother was but it was so painful and my chemo side effects were relatively so insignificant,the whole thing has been a painful rollercoaster. Even-though im in the middle of this emotional and physical turmoil, i have found solace spiritually. I found myself again, I had strayed from religion, gave away the bible my mom had gifted me on the last days before I left home for the states as I was a science major deeply entrenched in the biology of creation rather than the advents of creationism. I found myself when I really began to see that despite all the pain that surrounds us, even through all the unfairness of life, the crazy desparity of living beings, the many numerous incongruences that bewilder even the best of is; there is more good In this world than evil and wrong. I still have cancer, but I don’t have the burden of pain, nor the want of care; neither do I lack money for my treatment nor courage to face the unknown fear ahead of me. I have nodoubt felt the healing touch of unconditional love from my mother first and foremost and my best friend who both ignorantly offered me their body parts hoping to save me;) I have received forgiveness from my adoptive parents who I was estranged from and who have without hesitation took me back into their protective hold bearing the full burden of my treatment and vowing to do so till I was cured even if they had to sell their house, even if it means using up their laborer savings that they put aside for their autistic daughter, I have been graced with the loving and dotting care of many beautiful nurses and doctors who have given me hope, held my hands, embraced me with love as if I was of their flesh and blood and guided me through the maze of befuddling info. Even more so I think that the one thing that’s really saving me is my faith. I am a tenor Christian orthodox. I kneel before the picture of Mary, Jesus and st. Micheal every night and I pray in simple words, I reach out to the god I had forsaken and I believe he hears me. I know he hears me because ever since I started my chemo treatment, which consists of ABVD every two week, I have yet to feel nausea, I have yet to feel exhaustion, my swollen lymph nodes have dissolved on the very next morning after my first treatment, the pain is all but gone( except some throat and mouth pains that i sustained with four days of prescription Magic mouth wash, I eat ok and I have yet to lose weight, my blood count has yet to decrease and im off my neulasta shots (which are WBC enhancing shots) which did used to cause some soreness relative to a crick workout, and my hair is still growing fully thick, unruly and as black as ever(I actually tug on it half the time, bad habit) anyways the point I’m trying to make is the same as everyone else’s, I thought it was hopeless, I nearly succumbed to defeat and drowned in my sorrow and alcohol and ciraretts and weed, I had no hope what so ever of getting treatment; I was a nobody in the states. I managed to pull through atleast enough to get treatment because of some unexpected events that seemed to have been faithfully destined, even willed to happen. In the short year since I first discovered my painful swollen ailments I got married to my beautiful brstfriend who I had known all my life, had temporarily separated when she moved to us at a young age and reconnected after I moved here as well. Upon my marriage to her I was able to get state and work permut Ida as well as a social security which inturn allowed me to get emoyment(legally and fairly this time) and even better I was able to get
    insurance under my adoptive parents by some miracle even though I am 24 years old.
    So what I’m trying to say is the best thing I ever did in my situation was to turn to family, friends and god. I believe that the tears of all the people that love me and the salvation and forgiveness I prayed for are the healing,soothing touches that have allowed me to withstand the sideeffects you guys describe In this blog. I have felt nothing and it’s a miracle, even my doctors dumbfounded, after all it is stage four I had everywhere, even on my head, behind my ear every part of my neck on my back near my groin, it all disappeared after my first chemo, I don’t know about the ones in my abdomen or the cancer in my marrow yet I still have one cycle before I get scanned, but I can feel the healing already, I know I’ll be alright. And when I’ve overcame this mountain on my path I shall stand tall at the very peak and look on to the next obstacle, I will survive.

    • I LOVED reading this.
      I was diagnosed with Hodkins on September 13th (Friday the 13th of all days) and, like you, I had been ignoring strange symptoms for years…looking for any other reason to explain the feeling of “fading away” and total lack of energy. I had finally come to the conclusion that I was just incredibly lazy, and that my laziness had decided to surface at 37 years old. Everything else I blamed on anxiety, maybe a dash of depression, and a general “maybe I’m just crazy.”
      I started chemo October 4th…AVBD…and I have been asked many times to describe what it feels like. I figured that people didn’t really want to hear the long answer, so I simply told them, “It feels like I just drank a gallon of gasoline laced with arsenic.”
      Thank you for describing the whole experience in a way that validates how horrible it really is.
      Yes, I am so grateful to be alive…grateful that there is a cure for this disease and not just a death sentence. But, the cure is pretty painful, and it feels like I’m not being grateful when I even think about complaining.
      I have been fantasizing about not showing up for my treatment on Tuesday, but after reading your post (and most people would assume reading all of that would have scared me) I have decided to stick it out.
      It helps to know that I’m not the only one.
      And it felt good to read that you are past this, and back to your life again.
      Like my Grandmother always said, “This, too, will pass.”
      And it will. And I’ll be stronger for experiencing it.
      Grandmas know best, right?

  • My best friend is having the same symptoms. I am taking her to treatment #2. I dread the next week for her. I hate this sh#$!!! It makes no sense. My heart goes out to you, anyone that has cancer, or anyone that loves someone that is going through this. Lord bless us all with your healing strength! Send your Angels to guard & protect.

  • Thanx for this info, we have someone in our family who recently got diagnosed with cancer. Even though we try to stay positive things really look bad now. I saw her after the chemo and now I have a idea what she suffers trough. We are visiting her tomorrow at the clinic to say high but a lot of people says we are saying goodbye. I will keep on praying for her and wish you all the best for the future.

  • Dear David,

    Thanks for writing down your feelings about the Chemotherapy treatment it was very helpful to both my wife and I. 

    Jan was diagnosed with breast cancer last October 2011, to say it came as a shock to us all, we have two daughters, was an understatement!  My description of the whole process to date is like we have all been placed in a large jam jar and have been shook violently, only now are things beginning to slow down.

    As her carer I have felt very helpless when she is made ill by both the Chemo and the side effects. It is very upsetting to see her so low and suffering the symptoms you so accurately described in your blog. I did not hold up very well in fact I was signed off with stress by my doctor. I was also given counselling from a local cancer charity “Jane Scarff House in Romsey, UK. They are brilliant and have helped both Jan and I deal with situation. I’m now back at work.

    Jan now has a Hickman line fitted and the delivery of the Chemo is less stressful. I must say thank you to Winchester Hospital, the staff and Jan’s colleagues who are all absolutely fantastic!

    Jan has just completed her third Chemo, she has had some awful side effects: Cellulitus, Gastritis and collapsed veins. Our Oncologist said Jan has had a bad introduction to Chemo. The third session was really bad and knocked the stuffing out of her. She was looking on the web and found your blog she said you had really captured the feelings she was experiencing. It also helped me to understand what she is going through. 

     Thanks keep up the great work.

    Baz and Jan Reilly 
    Andover, Hampshire, UK.

    • Hi Baz – I’m so sorry to hear that you and Jan have to go through this mess, but I’m so glad if I’ve been able to help you in any way. Thanks for writing.

  • Heres my story. I’m a very recent hodgkins survivor. :) Brittanygeorge.blogspot.com

  • Wow! I have been sitting up ALL night here with my 17 month old son, kai, who receives chemotherapy for an inoperable brain tumor. I am constantly struggling to know how to help him, how he is feeling, what meds. To give – pain meds, anti anxiety, anti nausea. Its so hard because he is so young he can’t tell me. People often think I under medicate and after reading this post maybe I do! Thanks for sharing. Reading some of your other posts I find it so interesting how much I can identify with what you are saying, feeling, and going through even though I am not the one actually getting chemo. I have many of the same anxieties associated with treatment I guess because Kai can’t express it I take it on myself. I don’t know. I do know it is 5 am Sunday morning and I am trying to decide if we will spent he day with friends like planned or in the ER… I do know that on our weeks off (or as I like to call it our ‘chemo vacation) I am constantly thinking about the next treatment or tat something is wrong.
    Anyway, thanks for writing this. I hope you sleep late this Sunday morning then do something really fun all day. You will be In our thoughts.
    Chemo sucks!

  • WOW!!!!! are you in my head or what. everything you said is so true and I can’t believe you’ve hit the nail on the head, anyone who has not experienced this, could never understand. your discription of sitting in a stew of poison is such a great one. your wording is so clear. but… we do make it through, wanting to live beats the side effects most of the time. but other times I have said, just give me a gun. it became a joke because my husband said, ” you can have the gun, but the bullets you can’t have.”
    Ive been done for 3 months now. would i do it again? ask me in another 3 months.
    the saying what doesn’t kill you makes you strong is very true because I thought that crap was gonna kill me.

  • Hey im 16 and i have testicular cancer and it spread and i have to go through chemo next week and im terrified about needles and i wish i could avoid it but i cant im so scared :(

  • I’m so glad that you’re better and living a full healthy life. Nobody should have to go through this… but I guess its necessary to survive. But as a fellow pianist I bet the numb fingers is excruciating! It’d be like playing piano with no fingers. Oh and you’re a fabulous writer by the way:) Thanks for helping me understand chemo and cancer! xoxo

  • I was wonder if you can recall when you still have Chemo Session. Do you have Special Diet?

  • Thank you for the info on the chemo. I’ve been diagnosed with classical Hodgkin’s Stage IVA (I’m 38) and will be starting ABVD soon. I’m glad I read about the red pee; I would have been freaking out if I didn’t read about it prior to experiencing it.

  • Hi David~!

    I cried while reading this post….I can seriously tell you that you are such a brave person. I’m sure you inspired a lot of people in the world. Today is a Sunday night, and after reading your post, it is ridiculous that I’ve ever even thought of dreading Mondays! I have no reason to. Thank you so much for sharing your experiences here. I wish you all the best! STAY STRONG EVERY DAY~ ^__^

  • I just completed #6 and have 6 more to go (and no, knowing I am half way done doesn’t make me feel any better). Today is day 2 after chemo and is one of my really bad days. My husband asked what it felt like and all I could come up with is it is similar to the worse hangover X10 that you have ever had. Thank you for taking the time to put it out there in a relational way. Best of luck to you!

  • I am sitting in a waiting room while my dad gets his first treatment. Thanks for your honesty. It is helpful to know what to expect.

  • Dear David, thank you for being so transparent. My dear friend is going through chemo (3rd treatment so far), and last Sat her husband called me to tell me that she wanted to end her life. As it turned out she was extremely dehydrated. So, from Sunday thru Wed she has been to the emergency twice, and twice to the doctors all for an IV. Now, as it turns out, tomorrow they’ve set her up for a blood transfusion?! I’m scared for her. My friend never took an aspirin a day in her life, and now she’s having all this poison filling her tiny body.

    I’m relieved to hear you have been cancer FREE for five years, all the best to you! I pray I will be able to say the same for my friend in 2 yrs!

    • Wow, my heart goes out to your friend. I’m sorry to hear that she’s having such a rough time of it. I’ve heard it said, though, that taking your life is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. I hope she starts to feel better. Feel free to download the PDF of my story (click on eBook) above and bring it to her. Maybe it would give her some consolation to hear of someone else that went through the hell of chemotherapy.

  • Thanks for sharing this, David. My mom starts chemo tomorrow for ovarian cancer. I cried reading your posts. Cancer sucks. We got side-cocked by it as well. At least now I have a better idea of what she’ll be experiencing.

    My best to you and your continued health.

  • Sarah Kupiecki

    My mom is going through this right now….

  • I wish there was something better out there for you. I appreciate everything you have to say. It could be any of us.

  • Thanks for the information – my daughter just had chemo on Thursday for ovarian cancer – stage 3C and it is good to know how other people experience chemo the good the bad and the ugly. Constipation is one of side effects is that why she is feeling the pain in her stomach?

  • terry tirabassi

    its amazing to find someone who can describe the way i feel im one week after my fifth treatment and feel like it would be better off if i were dead. i hate cancer and i hate the chemo even worse.

  • thank you for explaining your expierience. my gfs mom is going to go through chemo for the first time tomorrow and im scared for her and want to know what shes going to go through. i was really hoping to find something good to tell her but i dont think chemo is neseserilly anything good (besides the faact its tring to cure you.) good luck i hope your last to treatments go by very quickly and your cancer goes away.

  • Thank you for sharing. I feel the same way. I have stage 3 breast cancer. Just had my first aggressive chemo treatment. I thought I was crazy til I saw your post and your symptoms. God bless you.

  • aww that sucks thank you for sharing this my best friend has cancer and i really wanted to understand what she is experiencing. i wish you luck as well

  • I couldn’t read through this. Having had the “pleasure” of experiencing this first-hand, I did not have courage to revisit this experience. Chemo is the worst thing I have ever experienced in my life. I prayed more than once to die. Just because of chemo. BUT I BEAT THAT SHIT. and I quit chemo.

  • Thank you for sharing your experiences. My Mom is right now recovering from having a port put in. Chemo starts next week. You’ve helped me to be able to try and understand what she may go through.God Bless and my Best to you.

  • Thank you so much for sharing this. I’m so sorry you’ve had to endure this horrible trauma. My best friend just began chemo a few days ago and I want to understand what she’s going through. Your clear description of your pain has really helped me.

  • My dad’s going through chemo at the moment for a mesothelioma. What you’ve written has really helped us understand what he’s suffering. It’s fairly difficult as he’s always been a stroppy git anyway and is trying to carry on as if nothing is wrong.

  • I am writing a book and one of my characters has cancer, I have been scouring the internet for peoples experiences and found yours, although I have known many people that have gone through Chemo they have never had words to describe it or haven’t wanted to. Reading your account of it has touched me, left me reeling a bit. I wish you well. x

  • Thank you for sharing this. My mother starts Chemo soon for Pancreatic Cancer. I want to be there for her, but the truth is I’ve never had to deal with anything like this. It worries me that I won’t be able to help her like I want to. This helped a lot with knowing what exactly she will be going through.

  • Thanks for sharing that exactly how I feel. I started chemo on February and I have to go until October. I work 45 hours a week at a public job and Im on my feet all day. I take two days off work for each treatment, then back to work. Most of the time I have I cant focus on what I should be doing, but I cant afford to take off work. I will be glade when its over.

  • Well, I just had my second of six rounds of Taxotre, Carboplatin and Herceptin. I had a stage 1 breast tumor just over 1 cm and only 1 of 9 lymph node that was positive but it was a grade 3 which made it agressive. From the start I was iffy about the chemo but my surgeon explained that this would be a cure not a treatment. Like you I slept through the treatment and was fine the next day. By the second day, everything I drank or ate tasted like plastic. So unfortunately, I didn’t drink enough and became really dehydrated. That Monday night, I ask God to take me before I would ever do chemo again. With the help of my sister who is a nurse practitioner, we planned to get better again of it on the next round. I also talked with the oncologist and lowered the levels. Well round 2 came and I did try drinking fruit juice and V-8 fusion and lots of tea. So I did stay better hydrated this time. Unfortunately, both times come day 8, my white cell count hits bottom and the fever kicks in. I actually went to the ER yesterday and of course by the time I got there my fever broke. I am hoping that next week is a good one. I wish you good luck with future treatments.

  • Thank u so much for sharing. Ill be starting chemo either the end of this week or next week its so hard dealing with this. I’m a mother of 2 and was told I have hodgkins lymphoma. I’m so scared to go thru chemo I don’t know what to expect. Well now I have an idea thanks to u. I hope u beat ur cancer and that u never have to go thru this again.

  • I can empathize. I am going through chemo now and I HATE it. They say that it is effective though and I am too young to just give up. I think that even if I was older I would probably go through it.

    I really loved the analogy about Sunday nights and dreading Monday. I feel this way, too. It must be the way we all feel right before the next cycle.

    Thanks for the post, it helps to know that we are not alone in our journey.

  • Thank you for sharing. My 2 year old just started chemo 3 weeks ago and since he can’t explain to me how he’s feeling, this gives me a good idea. I’ve definitely seen the hunger/nausea in him. It’s a terrible inner battle in him and it’s painful to watch.

    • I’m so sad to hear about your 2 year old. a friends little boy was diagnosed as a 2 year old and I remember his mum telling me that the children coped with the treatment better than most adults do.

  • I am also in the process of getting chemo treatments. I was diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer that spread to my lungs. Fortunately, they were able to remove the cancer with surgeries. However, I am on treatment number 7 out of 12. I go in for chemo every other Wednesday. I am in ther for about 4 hours and then I have to bring it home with me for two days and then get disconnected on Friday. I always feel like people just don’t understand how awful chemo is. It was so great reading your blog. You said exactly word for word how I feel. From the freaking out before treatments to the smells of alcohol. It was so refreshing being able to read exactly how I was feeling. Thank you for posting this. I will keep you in my thoughts.

  • Thank you for posting this. You are brave

  • Thanks for this. My friend is starting chemo today and wanted to learn a little more so I could try to understand what he is going through. I’ll find out how it went tomorrow :\

  • My girlfriend has Multiple Myeloma, and is tired of talking about it, so im learning everything i can on my own. Thanks

  • Thank you for your blog. My 83 year old mother just learned she has a very malignant form of endometrial cancer and is scheduled to begin chemo soon. Reading your description, I wonder if it is the right path for her. She has been so ill for so long already, I don’t know if she can survive this additional level of suffering. Might it be better to let the disease run its course?Her doctor says she would recommend chemo for her own mother, but I am having doubts. I welcome any guidance you might offer, based on your experience with how chemo feels.
    I am very glad to know that you survived and flourished after your ordeal. – Jean

    • Hi Jean –

      Boy, I really wish I could give you a good answer. I imagine it would bring you some comfort to hear a concrete opinion from someone who’s gone through this. But the problem is that everyone response to chemo differently, so it’s hard to have concrete answers.

      I think it really depends on what she wants. I could understand letting nature run it’s course and skip the drugs. But if she is a fighter and wants to make it to 100, then I bet she could.

      This might make you feel better – you could try chemo for a few treatments and see how it goes. Chemo has a cumulative effect – the serious side effects for me didn’t show up until I was about 3 months into the treatments. Sometimes the first few treatments aren’t so bad. So you could just try the chemo and see how your mother responds.

      • I am so thankful I know my mom’s wishes if she had to make a decision about chemo or radiation. She just turned 84. She’s said she’s lived a full life and absolutely wouldn’t go thru chemo or radiation. She’s extremely religious and goes to Mass every day. About 8 years ago she was diagnosed with cancer of the inner ear. Her doc said he was going to have to cut a good portion of her ear and jaw away to remove cancer. She told her doctor she wouldn’t have surgery & would try her own treatment: prayer. She’s a great believer in St Padre Pio. For her, the prayer worked. 3 months later, the cancer disappeared. Her Jewish doctor was astonished but said he was glad she stuck to her choice. He also said it was miraculous the cancer disappeared. He had no medical way to explain her cure. My dad didn’t fare so well. Back in Oct 2010 he got sick; blood in his urine. He went through one misdiagnosis after another and was in agony. He was diagnosed correctly 6 months later with angiosarcoma. I prayed for God to take dad because his cancer was incurable and basically untreatable. My mom prayed & prayed for him. She didn’t want to believe he wouldn’t survive. A month later, dad passed away. That was April 2011. She misses him more than words can describe and only wants to go be with him. I can empathize with her wishes. She lost her husband & best friend of 51 years. I will always respect her wishes. Mom told our family a week before Mother’s Day when she had been diagnosed years ago. She read a letter to all of us and said at that time she would not seek treatment because she had lived a great life up until then. My brother & sister in law fought with her saying she had to be treated for the sake of her grandchildren. Even at that time, I respected her wishes because they were hers, not ours. She has such faith & is not afraid to die, esp now that dad is gone. Every time she says she wants to go be with him, I say “I know you do, Mom”. I don’t fight her. Her love is up in Heaven & that’s where she wants to be. I asked if she was mad that God didn’t cure dad. She said no because there are many disappointments in life and we just keep praying to get through them & gain greater faith. I will miss her tremendously when her time comes but I know she’ll be happy with dad in Heaven. My dad was only 77 when he passed. I lost my faith for many years but am happy to say I’m back on the road to living it again. This is due to my Dad’s death and someone I love – 55 years old – who’s battling multiple myeloma since 8/21/12. I’ve never prayed so hard these past few years. Even though I miss my dad like crazy, I know he’s with me & watching over me every day. I’m sorry to say it, but I can’t imagine an 83 year old person being put through the horrors of chemo. Just my opinion. I will pray for your loved one.

  • Seema Nasreddin

    GOOD LUCK!!!!! Chemotherapy sucks. I’m doing a study about it for class. Lets just hope that your strong enough to survive.

  • Brianna Johnson

    Wow my mom’s cousin (which is like an Aunt to me) has this and I couldnt imagine having that type of pain. Well I hope you feel better and the cancer just leaves you and you dont relapse.

  • caitlyn hellner

    Wow its like you pulled every thought and feeling out of my head instead of yours. Its been a couple years since my own chemo hell and now im doin it again. :/ this time might be even rougher than the last and ill have quite a long hospital stay at the end for a stem cell transplant so that should be a whole new horrifying experience. We shall see. But it was awesome seeing how closely our feelings were. The sunday dread that crept up into the week, knowing that the worst is still ahead of you no.matter how far youve come and the saline…uugh the saline…i swear i couldnt even smell hand sanitizer for two years after my chemo without getting nauseus. Well said sir <3<3

  • hi david..i have lymphoma.stage 3..jus finished 3 cycles n my pet scans show positive results..the doctors want me to go for surgery n then i hve another 6 weeks of radiation and more chemo…what u described is exactly it..no one around me cud undestand whn i said i smell chemicals..I had decieded that i will not go back for more chemo and i have found a doctor who has prescribed some medication and has told me i will be ok..so for everyone out there please google ” banerji protocols”….Im gonna try it and hey we will beat this cancer..stay strong my brave friends out there…:)

  • Wow :’( this is terrible.
    My Best Friend was diagnosed with Multiple Mylemia stage 3 and he’s gonna have to go through all of this :(
    He is going to start soon.. It kills me knowing he has to go through this but he is a fighter and I know that he is going to make it like you did.

    To all the mothers that have their little babies going through this, God Bless You All… I have a 2 year old and I can’t even imagine her going through this.. I think It will be more painful to watch a baby going through this than me having to go through it my self because a baby has no idea of what’s going on or why it is happening :’( God bless all you babies.. <3

  • Hello david..thanku for ths very informative site. In march I was diagnosed wth breast cancer which wouldn’t b such a big deal except the type of cancer & the aggressiveness. It has led 2 tumor remlval, radiation & now chemo. I feel that sometimes people get very caught up in the relays & pink ribbons, which I am in no way belittling. Its just hard to express realistlicly wat I’m going thru…and u hav done this. I now hav 2 treatments left & get the “oh u shld b happy yr almost done” statement too (bt I thnk they r tryng 2 n supportive) however I feel thoug it will always be with me…but also know this can not dominate my life. Last year at ths time r family wz dealing wth my 22 year old son being shot thru the heart during a robbery which he survived….just seems overwhelming sometime & it helps when u see yr really not all alone….thanku

  • Hi I’m 13 and I’ve been diagnosed with stage two cancer and I was just wondering could you recommend anything to get my mind off chemo as I’m starting next week ?

    • That’s a tough question. I found myself escaping through a lot of different things – friends, food, music, TV shows, movies, hobbies. Anything to get my mind off of it. I also was in therapy – like, with a shrink – during most of my time in chemo. I found it helped an enormous amount. I definitely recommend that – there are often cancer centers that offer things like therapy and massage for free to chemo patients (there’s where I went). Good luck. Come back and let us know how it goes.

  • hi i’m a wife w/ a.husband who have lung cancer whenever i hear his sister want him to do chemo therapy i like to knock his head so that she might be awakend to know about the chemo thing is i don’t know if she know the effect of chemo to your body.am i wrong if i reject about the chemo treatment ?thank you…

    • I understand the debate, but I think you’re wrong. Chemo does horrible things to the body, but not as bad as the things cancer does to it.

      If it will save his life, take the treatment.

  • my husband will have chemotherapy next week.am i wrong if i reject it?need your advice . thank you…

  • sorry my internet signal is too slow i’m just worry about the effect of it and i’m tired looking him in pain .will there be pain if he have chemo coz as i read ,hear to others who had chemo that they feel pain in some part of their body?

  • He will definitely be uncomfortable, no doubt about that. But what else can you do? If cancer goes untreated it will kill him, right? What’s worse? Pain and discomfort, or death? I’m afraid we cancer patients/survivors don’t have many options. It’s lousy.

  • hi, my dad’s dignosed with lung cancer, he hd undergoned radiation and its nt a good sight to see him, docters suggested he undergo radiation he ws hellbent tht he wud nt have it, its a scary sight seeing him die everyday,he is a fighter and he’s my real hero, God bless my dad, i don not knw how many days i wud see him..bt i do not wnt him to go.thts for sure…….

  • JERICA CARSBERG

    I want to quit chemo. My logic says that putting poison in my body is a very bad thing. It seems to me that a lifestyle change of more exercise, better nutrition and freedom from stress would be a healthier treatment and would prolong my life with much better quality than chemo and all the side effects.

    My cancer was stage 3B colon cancer. I have severe neuropathy in hands and feet so the regular chemo can’t be used or I would be permanently in a wheelchair, so they reduced the strength, but it is still bad. After 2 treatments I have sore throat, mouth sores, exhaustion, headaches and depression. It’s also spiking my blood sugar. If I go for 12 treatments I think I’ll be dead!

    Do they really know what they are doing? Or is it just “hope?”

    I feel my chances are equal if I take or do not take any more chemo. Am I crazy?

    • I wish I had something smart to say. I know how bad it is. But given the choice, even after my own 12 treatments, I’d choose chemo over the alternative (in my case it would have been death). It was 7 years ago now. I’ve had a great life since then. Traveled, worked fun jobs, met my future wife. I hated it – I had neuropathy, mouth sores, and everything else – but I’m glad I did it.

      • JERICA CARSBERG

        I guess I’m not as strong as you are. I’m 63 years old, and I have no doubts about where I’m going (to be with my Lord Jesus). How do you know the chemo is what saved you from certain death?

        I’m told attitude is all important and if I just don’t believe in it will it really help, or hurt? I’ve been told by those who minister to cancer patients that if you’re lucky the chemo will keep cancer at bay for awhile, but it will get you in the end in some form or another.

        I’ve seen this with the two people I’ve been close to who had one kind of cancer, went 5-15 years without recurrence only to come down with a different kind of cancer. One died since the chemo killed her immune system and her own body infected her liver. The other is undergoing chemo for the 3rd time this time it’s lymphoma, the other two were colon cancer.

        If I were young, or had children maybe I’d feel different. I am married and love my husband, but he’s 10 years older and experiencing kidney problems.

        We’re also losing our house to deed in lieu (forclosure) AND WERE HOPING TO MOVE ONTO OUR 30′ SAILBOAT AND LIVE IN SAN DIEGO WHERE THERE WOULD BE SUN AND FREEDOM FROM STRESS AND GOOD SALT AIR. All of which sounds better than 6 months of misery.

  • Hi-
    I’m so sorry to hear everyone’s tragic stories with Chemo. I just can’t imagine, but you all are so brave to help others with your stories.

    My sister in law just had her second treatment, i visit with her often, but can anyone recommend a good gift for her that will help ease her suffering?

    Thank you,

    • The best gift I can think of is something to look forward to after the chemo is over. A trip, an event or a big family reunion — whatever will give the most joy and hope to look forward to.

      Everyone is different. Some are scared, some resigned. Some are fighters, others give up. Some treatments are invasive, some milder, but all have side effects. But most all side effects are treatable. Make the doctor listen to your complaints and do something about them.

  • I was diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer 1 1/2 years ago. I had surgery to remove it and found it had spread to my lymph nodes. I had 10 nodes removed in a second surgery. I chose not to have chemo or radiation or the hormone therapy that was recommended. Being a scientific researcher, I discovered that cancer cells cannot survive in an oxygenated environment.

    So I dramatically changed my lifestyle with the help of a wonderful personal trainer that I happened to meet 3 weeks after my surgery. I have been working out 6 days/week and altered my diet to a 75% raw food diet with no red meat. Basically, the raw food diet is an alkaline diet. I no longer drink any alcohol either.

    I get tested regularly and my doctor said that my recovery has been quite remarkable. In fact, he wanted to know exactly what I was doing to achieve these results.

    In addition, I started running in February and have completed 3 marathons to date (2 – 10 milers and 1- 13.3 mile).

    Anyone who is being faced with these decisions should realize that you have choices and chemo is a huge money maker for these medical professionals. You are putting poison in your body, I would check out all other options before allowing anyone to put something so toxic into my body.

    I’d be happy to chat with anyone facing these decisions.

    I feel better than I’ve felt in 30 years.

    • I just had a mastectomy…and do NOT want the upcoming chemo… How can I contact you,please…? JC

    • My husband had part stomach removed now spread to liver .offered chemo to help but not cure .now giving him beetroot tablets .he,s not lost weight still walks dog and do a bit of garden and look after pigeons .do not think chemo good for him will take away quality of life .he,s seventy six. Trying my best to give things to help sheila

    • I was diagnosed breast cancer stage IIb three weeks ago. Had surgery remove the tumor. Being a scientific researcher, I have extreme bad feeling about chemo. however, before I found cancer, I maintain a very healthy life style, 6 days/week workout, healthy diet (veg, fruit, limited red meat) I am asked to take chemo next week. I am very confused, worried and scared for the next several months I am going to undergoing.

  • Wow. Now I feel like a jerk for telling my mom, just a few more treatments! Also, she has the same thing where she forgets things or stops in the middle of a sentence (and, being an impatient person, it gets on my nerves because I work at a place where people do it all the time to me) and now I feel more like a jerk.

    They say only 46% of women with Ovarian Cancer make it past five years. I keep telling myself I should start making those years count but then that means I’d be losing my mom, and I can’t make myself think that way.

  • I didnt get the burning in my throat u mentioned….but that can be from different chemo used. I was on three and my sessions lasted 5 hours every day for a week…followed by two weeks of chemo one day per week…then the 5hr/day all week rotated again.
    In my case I lost hearing due to the cysplatin I was on and went from perfect hearing to 95% in my right and 65%in my left. Additionally I got blisters on my feet and hands from the chemo and my gums were nearly burned out of my head. (No one told me NOT to use regular mouthwash while on chemo until the damage was done. Additionally…food does taste like crap but using plastic utensils helps. White blood count was always low meaning it took forever to heal from my hysterectomy (ovarian cancer stage 3). And low red blood count made it hard for me to breathe. Walking from bedroom to the kitchen was a marathon
    Chemo is noooo joke.

  • Wow… My husband is going through this now. My prayers ae with you. Hang in there….

  • My 18 year old mentally challenged son was just diagnosed with nodular sclerosis Hodgkin lymphoma two days ago. I came across your blog while researching what chemo would be like for him. You have made me cry and laugh. He is just starting the process and will be seeing the oncologist on October 9 for the first time. I assume from everything that I’ve read, that the first step will be staging. He does have the cough, very bad, he is constantly coughing, I wince every time, he also has the itch, his feet are ripped up from scratching, he has had the night sweats, though not consistently, he is 6 feet tall and weighed 155, he now weighs 140,. I have to admit, I am scared and not looking forward to the treatment process. He knows he has cancer, I don’t think he knows what it really means or what the treatment is. I don’t want to tell him, he doesn’t need to stress out until his doctor tells him what he needs to do. Reading your story has helped me know what to expect and maybe I will be able to help him because of it, I sure hope so. Bless you for sharing your experience with those of us in need.

  • Thanks for bravely sharing this. Very sad…very inspirational.

  • Dear David,

    I am a mother of an 11 year old with brain stem tumor. She was diagnors at 2010, had 3 months of rediotherapy , tumor shrink, she’s on meds that made hr put on lots of weight. Tumor has grown again cos it can’t be operated on. Anyway she had a port put in on Wednesday and started chemo same day. She has been crying since. i was googling to know how she’s feeling and came across Ur blog, thank for writing this and congratulations. All the stories here have giving me hope, so Hopefully my baby will see the light at the end of the tannel.
    Thanks everyone.

    Thanks
    Cyndi

  • To know what to expect is good but scary for an 11 year old girl, but hopefully we’ll get thru it

  • Wow, how can I even start to complain, I’m on low-dose chemo for arteritis (inflammation of the aorta) and I feel terrible from it, but reading your post I’m sorry I even complain. I winced at your description of smelling and tasting alcohol/saline; I feel like I can smell and taste it too. UGH. That exhaustion you talk about, for me, I feel like it’s a ‘my head is so light I feel like I haven’t slept in days and I’m hallucinating’ type of exhaustion, and I just feel like clawing at some imaginary God to save me – mentally and physically exhausted, that’s what it is. We can make it through though, I know you and I are on very different levels of treatment (mine less frightening and shorter) but regardless, for both of us it’s kind of the only ‘life saving medicine’ left out there so we have to fight right? All my prayers and support, and thanks for writing this, I don’t know why but I’m glad someone spit the horrible truth out on the internet.

  • Thank you for sharing your story. I was diagnosed in September 2012 with Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. I have endured two chemo treatments and have four more to go. I completely understand everything you described. In addition to the chemo drugs, the doctor also has me taking 100mg of Prednisone for five days- beginning the first day of treatment. My treatments fall on Thursday, and on Friday I go in for the Neulasta shot. I too cannot stand the smell/taste of the alcohol and saline. Just the thought of going to the cancer center makes me nauseated. During the first five days I live in a chemo hole. I can hardly get out of bed, but because of the Prednisone, I don’t rest. In fact, my nerves are constantly jumping 24/7. I take my last dose of Prednisone on Monday, and on Tuesday, I begin to crash. On Wednesday, I have a complete melt down from the effects of the steroids and chemo. On Thursday, one week after treatment, my stomach goes into spasms and diarrhea sets in. I stay like this for about a week. During this whole time, I have extreme weak spells. For example, one minute I can be standing in my kitchen and immediately feel as though I am going to wipe out. I just have to give in and go to bed. Finally, I reach the third week and begin to feel a little normal- minus the hair. But now the anxiety sets in because I begin counting down the days. The next treatment is only 6 days….5 days…4 days away. On Tuesday I begin the anti-nausea pills to get them in my system. On Wednesday I begin prepping for the Neulasta shot by taking Claritan and Ibuprofen. I also pack a bag, but seldom use any of the stuff. I would rather sleep and wake up when it’s done. I have been a Christian for most of my life, but this has showed me that I needed a deeper faith, and I have to fully rely on God daily. This is just too much for people to endure at times. When people have asked me to describe chemo, I reply, “It is a terrible blessing.” When the nurse begins giving me the red devil, I say, “Let the poisoning begin,” because that is just how I feel.

  • I am going through the same thing…I am in a clinical study at NIH bethesda for non hodgkins lymphoma. I just finished my 5th cycle of 4 days of 24/7 chemo EPOCH VR. This recount of what chemo is like is spot on….for me the only difference is the numbness in the fingers…..it bas been here since cycle 1. The thing is the farther you go in your treatment the shorter your “GOOD” week gets, the worst part is knowing that you only have so many days until the pain starts again…for me my body still hasn’t gone out of homeostasis so my drs keep upping the chemo by 20% every treatment. So every single cycle I know my symptoms are going to get 20% worse. Knowing that the end is near is almost worse than the day you were told you have cancer…..stay strong my brothers and sisters of chemotherapy…God Bless and Semper Fidelis

  • Congratulations to you for being cancer free for many years now. Life is good. Thank you x a million for sharing your horror story. I’m thinking of becoming a child life specialist and can’t really decide for sure but after reading what chemotherapy is like, I want to help comfort children in these horrendous times. My heart goes out to you and I think your story is truly inspirational not only to those going through this but those who know nothing about it. It reminds me not to take a single day for granted.

  • I HAVE PUT OFF 4 APPT. TO HAVE THIS DAMN PORT PUT IN…..U KNOW WHEN I FOUND OUT I HAD 2 LUMPS IN EACH BREAST IT WAS O.K.,,,,,,TAKE THEM…..THEY GOT IT BUT I HAD TWO TYPES OF CANCER,,,, SO TO MAKE SURE IT DOESNT COME BACK I MUST DO CEMO,,, ITS FREAKING ME OUT CAUSE IT SEEMS SO PERM. AND IVE NEVER NOT BEEN ABLE TO DO FOR MYSELF AND DEAL WITH NOT FEELING GOOD… THIS IS REALLY GOING TO MESS ME UP.. THEY ALSO FOUND SOMETHING ON MY BRAIN AND LIVER ,,, AND IM SCARED.AND EVEYONES USED TO ME DEALING WITH STUFF SO IM HERE ALONE AT THE COMPUTER CRYING MY BUTT OFF …SUPERWOMAN THEY THINK.???????????

  • hi. thanks for your story… My 3 year old son is just about to start chemo next week and im dreading it. i have been reaading up on stuff and i came accross it can cause hearing problems. have you had any effects? We alreaady have hearing issues in the family and i am worried that after treatment he does not get hearing loss. I dont think i will be able to bear that as well as i alredy have a son who is death..

  • Thank you very much. I just finished head cancer — two surgeries, then 45 days of radiation to the old noggin. It’s no big thrill either. My best out of bed breakfast buddy was just diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer, and his 2nd chemo treatment is today. He’s being a brave warrior, and going by himself. I’m hoping he’ll allow/accept us loving him, and let us be there for him. I love him so. It’s hard to see him go through this. Once the cummulative effects start hitting, I think he will let those of us who love him be his rock. THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR SHARING THIS EXPERIENCE. I know I’ll be going through chemo in the not too distant future.

  • My best friend is going through this. Thank you for explaining this as I am trying to understand what my friend is going through. I hope you are strong. Thank you for writing this blog.

    Regards,
    Monica

  • Hello I wanted to thank you for this, I have been trying to find a good personal view of what chemo feels like. I am 30 years old and have been diagnosed with esophageal cancer which has spread to my lymph system and thankfully because of my age they are going to be doing radiation and chemo starting after Christmas…I am FREAKING OUT! However just wanted it raw and real. They are talking a possible surgery also! So I am scared however I have 4 kids that I am more scared to leave…thank you for giving me this huge heads up! Glad to hear you are doing great now God Bless and stay strong!

  • Thank you for sharing your experience :) I feel the same. The dreading before the next chemo starts. I’ve just finished round 4 of chemo and have 2 more Left, but even still I feel really depressed, sad and tearful. I can’t seem to stop crying. I am 31 years old and have stage 3 invasive breast cancer. My masectomy is planned for march 2013. And I am scared about that too! No one ever really prepares you for the blow chemo is going to give you. It’s the worst thing I have ever experienced. I want to thank you for sharing how you feel, it makes me think I am not the only one and feeling this low is normal. Il keep you posted on how it goes.

  • Thank you, I wanted to know what my grandfather, friend, and now Aunt is going through during chemo so I can be there for them any way I can. All the best & be blessed..

  • I appreciate the insight, its good to know that a lot of what Im feeling is being felt by someone else makes me feel not so alone (stage 3 non hodgkins lymphoma, chemo once every 3 weeks with 2 more treatments left)

  • THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR SHARING YOUR EXPERIENCE AND INSIGHTS.
    MY TWIN SISTER HAS BEEN DIAGNOSED WITH UTERINE CANCER, STAGE 1A.

    HER PROBLEMS BEGAN IN OCT- VAGINAL BLEEDING, POST-MENOPAUSAL, A ‘NO-NO’, PAIN IN HER LOWER ABDOMEN AND BACK, FORMER HISTORY OF POLYPS ON THE OVARIES, AND HAD NEVER GIVEN BIRTH,( NOW AGE 58.) SO THESE WERE THE WARNING SIGNS OR PREDISPOSITION OF GETTING THIS TYPE OF CANCER.

    FAST FORWARD WITH A VERY PROACTIVE SISTER AND OBE-GYNE,A FULL HYSTERECTOMY IN EARLY DEC.

    MORE TESTS AND CT SCANS…

    RECOMMENDATION FROM HER ONCOLOGIST TO HAVE CHEMO FOR 4 1/2 MOS, TO RADICATE BAD CELLS AND AVOID TRAVELING TO THE LYMPH NODES AND/OR OTHER ORGANS.

    NOW, SHE BEGINS HER FIRST CHEMO IN TWO DAYS.
    WE ARE BOTH GETTING ANXIOUS. I CAN HEAR IT IN HER VOICE. SHE SAYS SHE IS BEGINNING TO FEEL OVERWHELMED . AND I WAS JUST TOLD, I MAY NOT BE ABLE TO SIT WITH HER SINCE I AM RECOVERING FROM RECONSTRUCTIVE SURGERY. HENCE, I MAY CATCH SOMETHING OR VICE VERSA.

    I AM CALLIND MY PLASTIC SURGEON ASAP TO WRITE A QUICK NOTE OF PERMISSION. POST HASTE.

    MY QUESTION IS THIS: HOW CAN I BEST HELP IN THE PRESENCE OF HER AND OTHERS GOING THROUGH THIS? IN WHAT THOUGHTFUL WAY CAN I HELP?

    I WAS TOLD FROM MY SISTER-IN-LAW, THAT GINGER CHEWS OR ANYTHING WITH GINGER MIGHT HELP FOR NAUSEA. I AM WILLING TO MAKE GINGER ANYTHING TO BRING WITH ME ON FRIDAY.

    HYDRATION SEEMS TO BE A RE-OCCURING CONCERN. TINY BOTTLES OF GATORADE, POSSIBLY?

    PLEASE TELL ME, THOSE OF YOU WHO HAVE GONE THROUGH THIS, HOW I MIGHT HELP OUT BEST. AND MAY GOD BE WITH YOU.I WILL KEEP ALL OF YOU IN MY PRAYERS, AND I WILL HUG MY 5 CHILDREN JUST A LITTLE HARDER TONIGHT. GOD BLESS,
    CATHERINE MCKENZIE

  • Hey, I’m truly sorry to hear about what your going through. But to me this sounds a little bit like a dramatization. I mean if your really in such physical and emotional pain you need to talk to your doctor about pain meds.
    I don’t currently have cancer but I used to be a heroine addict and have gone through withdrawal many times. Going through something like that is really tough but I had no medical help from any doctors and you would think with your amount of pain that the doctor could prescribe opiates for the mental and physical pain.
    I’m not saying that your your making up how much chemo must suck but I hope you wouldn’t exaggerate how bad it is because there are other people out there with cancer that might read this and become scared.

  • Kian – You have no idea what you’re talking about. This is exactly what it was like for me and I’m glad I’m able to communicate it to the people that might one day have to go through it. Better they know.

    I mean this with all the compassion I can muster and on behalf of all the chemo patients who’s experience you just tried to invalidate: go f*#k yourself.

  • Kian must not have read the part about “What Not To Say To a Cancer Patient”.

    Anyway, I just wanted to thank you for this entire blog. It was just what I needed. My Dad was diagnosed with stage 3C colon cancer on December 31st, had surgery 3 weeks ago, and will be undergoing 6 months of chemo starting next week. I needed to know what to expect, what he’ll be going through. I found that all here.
    As a side note, I had a tumor removed from my mouth last week that had to be sent to Brown University because the pathologists didn’t know what it was. The oral surgeon used the words “rare” and “quite weird”. Great. Even though I may or may not be dealing with cancer personally, so much of what you wrote is helpful for anyone going through a scary health crisis. Thanks again.

  • HELLO, KIAN YOU SHOW NO EMPATHY. ARE YOU ‘FOR REAL’, I WONDER.

    I AM ABOUT TO STAY WITH MY SISTER DURING ROUND TWO OF CHEMO.
    IF ONE EVER HAD CANCER, SOUTHLAND ONCOLOGICAL IN MOKENA,IL IS THE BEST. IT SEEMS LIKE THEY HAVE THOUGHT OF EVERYTHING, PUTTING THE PATIENT AND HER COMFORT, FIRST AND CENTER. \

    IT SEEMS LIKE MAKING WISHES FOR MY SISTER’S FUTURE SEEMED TO HELP DURING OUR LAST SESSION.TIME FLEW BY. THINGS THAT WERE POSITIVE, AND FORWARD THINKING HELPED GET HER MIND OFF OF THE ‘WHAT IFS’.

    I CAME HOME AND ORDERED HER GINGER FLAVORED GUM FROM AMAZON, AND THEN GINGER TEA, BOTH FOR NAUSEA, WHICH SHE HAD A HARD TIME WITH.

    I ALSO DOWNLOADED PATTERNS OFF THE WEB, TO SEW CHEMO CAPS FOR THE WOMEN THAT GO THERE, I HAD A DRESSER FILLED WITH FABRIC FROM FORMER SEWING DAYS, WHY NOT PUT IT TO GOOD USE, AND MAKE SOMEONE HAPPY…

    AND THEN I BAKED MINI LOAVES OF BLUEBERRY BREAD FOR FRIENDS THAT WERE HELPING OUT WITH CARPOOLING, ETC.FOR MY SISTER TO HAND OUT.

    IF ANYONE OUT THERE CAN THINK OF OTHER WAYS TO BE HELPFUL, PLEASE LET ME KNOW.

    I’LL CHANGE IT UP A BIT, AS CIRCUMSTANCES DICTATE AND ALLOW.

    I WILL KEEP ALL OF YOU IN MY PRAYERS. THANK YOU.

  • Did you ever try using marijuana to combat the negative effects of chemotherapy? I’m interested in knowing if it really does help some people and how much if so. If you prefer not to answer I understand, just curious.

    Either way, you’re an amazing person for fighting and publishing this so that other patients know what to expect. I cannot imagine what you have gone through with your treatments but I know if I had cancer I would feel better reading a true depiction of the effects of chemo written by someone going through them. I’m sure nothing can truly prepare you but knowing a little bit of the true nature involved has to be slightly comforting at least.

    And Kian is an idiot. Pain medication is known to cause nausea and does not take all pain away. Just because you were addicted to heroin and didn’t feel anything while experiencing little to no pain doesn’t mean that it will take all the pain away from someone suffering from a chronic illness whose pain is widely known to be excruciating (at least, the pain from the treatments). People who claim to know the pain of others when they haven’t been in a similar situation make me sick.

  • Hi David

    I don’t know if you even check this any more, but i want to say that I’m glad you are doing well now and are cancer free. I’m in the midst of toxic chemo treatments and I understand many of the side effects of which you spoke. I think your honesty and your ability to verbalize your feelings and thoughts will be very helpful to many chemo patients. Many blessings!

  • I have been ovarian cancer free for eight years, I was never able to put into words what it felt like. You did a good job, I had no vomiting but many other symptoms, it did get worse each time . A best fried is doing chemo for pancreatic cancer, after eight months the effects are really kicking in.

    • It’s alway nice to come back here to read, I alway pick something that will help my daughter. After five months of chemo, all the nasty side effects she’s getting them, ( she’s in pain, dizzy and vomiting all the time). For an 11 year old girl to go through chemo is not easy, I feel for her for dont know what ease to do, while her friend are thing of dresses, shoe etc she always in and out if hospitals. Will try the ginger as well. Thanks

      • HELLO, CYNDI!
        I READ THAT ANYTHING WITH GINGER MIGHT HELP. AND IT DID. WHEN MY SISTER WAS NAUSEOUS MANY DAYS, THE GINGER GUM I ORDERED FROM AMAZON SEEMED TO REALLY HELP. I ALSO GAVE HER GINGER, AND THEN MINT TEA. SHE WAS NOT THAT FOND OF THE GINGER TEA, BUT THE MINT TEA, AND SURPRISINGLY ‘TANG’ DILUTED IN LOTS OF WATER, SEEMED TO HELP. THE TANG ORANGE DRINK WAS HARD TO FIND, FINALLY FOUND AT ”DOMINICK’S’/ I HOPE THIS HELPS.

        CHIN UP TO THAT LOVELY, BRAVE DAUGHTER OF YOURS. MY PRAYERS ARE WITH YOU BOTH.
        CATHERINE M.

        • Thanks Catherine m, will try all to see. Still in hospital cos the doctor don’t know what’s happening to her. She’s having lots of unexplained episode. She Had MRI , CT and having EEG now, hopefully we get to the bottom soon.

          Will update soon. Good luck to you all and Ur lived once.

          Thanks
          Cyndi

  • I am a testicular stage 2/3 survivor. I had five cycles. You nailed it with the sheer exhaustion. No tiredness from people who have never went through it will match what chemo does. I slept many hours. I also will never forget the smell of the swabs, I had no port…. I was probably stuck over 300 times, easily. Sometimes it hurt so bad iI just thought of my family, my friends, my wife. I told myself it had to get better. What still lingers now is the worst neuropathy in my feet from the Cisplatin. But………. I survived. It is all done.

  • kian can go suck a c@$k. f@#$ off.

  • I’m glad to see you back, Cyndi. Did you download the PDF? You might find that an easier way to read more of the blog. I’m sorry to hear about your daughters side effects. Sounds like a tough girl. And you sound like a tough lady! http://www.chroniclesofacancerpatient.com/ebook/

    • Thanks David, its nice being back. she has been admitted to the hospital this evening, we’ll know more after the CT scan in the morning. Will update u in the morning.

  • Is anyone on carboplatin chemo drug?

  • I just finished my last round of chemo after being diagnosed with breast cancer, and having a double masectomy with reconstructive surgery following immedietly. I still have the expanders in wich hurt like i cannot explain and thanks to having to go through chemo, i cannot go for the exchange till April. On the note of chemo, bottom line it SUCKS!!!!!!!!!!!! It has been the worse experience i have ever had, I am hoping it was all worth it. i had 4 rounds of 5 hours for three months. Every time i felt better i knew it was coming back again, as im sitting here typing this, i am 3 days done with my last chemo, and i cannot even begin to explain how horrible I am feeling….energy none…pain……tons……naseau…..all the time…….mouth soars yup got that too……….No ONE can phathom how horrid it is unless you are doing it. Oh and you get the great bonus of loosing all your hair, and your skin looking like crap. If anyone is in the same place or just wants to chat as life sucks as your sitting here unable to do anything and the world revolves around you im here, just through a shout out. And if i hear one more time this will pass i will scream , oh wait i cant do that either cause i loose my voice too

    • I had chemo 3 years ago now. to be honest looking back it was not that bad….except for fear of the unknown. i felt very tired and weak but stayed at home a lot and tried to eat healthy. the worst part i guess is feeling so down because of whats happened to you

      i had chemo 3 years ago now. looking back it wasnt that bad just total fear of unknown. the nurses were excellent ,had 6 cycles felt very weak and tired. i am fine now and would like to say that the worst part was feeling so down because of what had happened. i was very sad most of the time but the hardest part of all i found was acceptance. once i accepted my diagnosis i found things a lot easier. i say stay strong to everyone and you will get there you also need to be very patient take care Erica

      i

  • Julie Ann Duenas

    Thank you so much for sharing this info. I truly appreciate it..I wil be goi
    through my share of chemotherapy with radiation this month March. 22, 2013
    And I am just freaked out about the whole ordeal..I hear from people who experinced
    it and there opinion is it will make you so weak and you will lose your hair..that I have
    to make sure thay someone is with me at all times. .I’ve been diagnosed with breast cancer.
    I had my surgery and now I have to go through chemotherapy/radiation. ..

  • Thank you, I was wondering what I was getting into, I recently learned I had cancer and I just wanted know what chemo would feel like, I’m fifteen… And now I’m really scared

  • Thank you for publishing this. Although, it really is not for the faint hearted. I am about to start with my chemo tomorrow and I guess your information helped in some way. Got me a bit scared, but it’s better knowing what to expect.

  • Oh wow… I am so glad to have the opportunity to read your description of chemo. A very good freind of mine is about to start on Thursday and I just wanted to have a “feeling” of how difficult chemo will be for her. Thank you for offering the “feeling” to me… it truely is a gift. Lis

  • March 29, 2013 will be my first chemo. I read your blog. Thank you. Right now I am trying my best to play naive for the few days I have left of normal for awhile. I know I am going to be going through some nasty stuff but my mind is focused on what I am going to do after I am finished with chemo and how I am going to get my body back into kick ass mode. I’m taking pictures of myself with a big smile and my long hair to keep as a reminder of what I want to be like after chemo. I am not ready to give up. I still have things to do. I know this is a small detour that some of us go through. My favorite part is hearing that you are OK now that there is actually life after chemo.
    God speed to us all. Thank you David for putting your experience out there for us. A little information from a patient point of view seems more realistic than the papers the doctors gave me to read. I am a 50 year young art teacher, stage 1, triple negative breast cancer patient who is going to kick the shit out of this cancer so I can get out on the ocean on my stand up paddle board and appreciate this world before I go anywhere!!! Diet, exercise, ph balancing, meditation, prayer, homeopathy, kineisiology, acupuncture, chemo and radiation is all on my list of GET BEHIND ME CANCER!!! THANKS DAVID!! Lori

  • March 29, 2013 will be my first chemo. I read your blog. THANK YOU! Right now I am trying my best to play name or the few days I have left of normal for awhile. I know I am going to be going through some nasty stuff but my mind is focused on what I am going to do after I am finished with Chemo and how I am going to get my body back into KICK *@@ MODE. I’m taking pictures of myself with a big smile and my long hair to keep as a reminder of what I want to be like after chemo. I am not ready to give up. I still had things to do. I know this is a small detour that some of us go through. My favorite part of this blog is hearing that you are OK now and that there is actually life after chemo. I cannot hear enough of those stories. God speed to us all. Thank you David for putting your experience out there for us. A little information from a patients point of view seems more realist than the papers the doctors gave me to read. I am a 50 year young art teacher, stage 1, triple negative breast cancer (lumpectomy already complete) patient who is going to kick the *#$$ out of this cancer so I can get out on the ocean on my stand up paddle board and appreciate this world before I go anywhere!! Diet, exercise, ph balancing, meditation, prayer, homeopathy, kineisiology, acupuncture, chemo and radiation is all on my list of GET BEHIND ME CANCER!!! THANKS DAVID!! This is really what I needed! Lori

  • Akhila Naseer

    Thank you so much for sharing your experience.
    My husband has throat cancer and had first chemo
    last week and he was so weak that he cannot
    even explain to me what he was going through
    And it was more hard for him as he was already
    weak and he has GTube and breathing tube.
    I was not able to see his pain and your information was helpful
    and he has the same side effects like hiccup and nausea.
    I would like to be on this blog and share each
    other experience that will give us more courage to get
    Ourselves prepared for the treatment.
    Akhila

  • Kristen Hamilton

    I’m so scared. My first experience of chemo will be a clinical trial, because there is no cure or treatment for me. So there are no guarantees, but I have to at least try.

  • Hi. My friend is going in for chemo today. I’m scared for her. She has lymphoma and only I and a few others from my school know. Idk what I can do to comfort her or make we be happy but she is always so postitive and I don’t want to see it fade away..

  • Thank goodness you talked about the saline, I am five years out and if I eat warm food my sinus’ start running like they did during chemo. The saline taste will always be part of me I think. I tried to explain it people and they just don’t get it. By 3rd chemo, I barely made it back to work to be sick and 4th chemo I was sick at the hospital. Remember people they have lots of meds for nausea, I guess I was embarrassed or didn’t know how to ask for something different, but there was a pharmacist right on the treatment floor and he just shook his head, he was so kind, he made me my own special cocktail and I felt better. Chemo also does so much harm, I now have cirrhosis of the liver, I don’t drink, but have to change my whole lifestyle to live and stay alive. No salt, no carbs, no sugar, low protein, Hurray for yogurt, my new best friend. Just remember people, what cancer cannot do, it cannot conquer the spirit.
    I am a survivor, a warrior and a fighter and no one can take that away from me. Peg

  • Anthony Rienzo

    Hey,

    I’m not sure how this makes me sound, but I’m actually reading this to get a better understanding of cancer and everything that comes with it so I can write a story (a fanfiction mind you) about it. I have a question that might sound offensive, but I’m really curious.

    Do kids pick on other kids for having cancer? I’m pretty sure most kids don’t, but if there are some who do, what kind of things would they make fun of you / said cancer patient for?

    I know someone who has cance. She never gets picked on, and even with the loss of hair, it quite obvious she is a girl and everything. She’s even quite popular, but it made me curious if others have gotten picked on. I’ve read before one cancer patient who said “they don’t know who is and isn’t their friend.” I’m curious as to what they meant by that.

    Thanks :)

  • I am a 42 year olld female that was just diagnosed with single cell lung cancer with metastasis to the brain. I start my radiation and chemo treatments this week. Just want to thank you for your blog am trying to get as informed as I can.

  • Thank you so much for pouring your heart out like that. Tomorrow my Mother starts chemo and it will help me to understand what she is going to go through. Not only is she having chemo but in 4 weeks will have Radiation too. I pray that she will make it through and heal well. I don’t live with her, but I will live with her while she goes through this. Whatever she needs, I will be there. Thank you again. God Bless you.

  • Hi all,
    you all have great advice, inspiring stories & I love hearing it like it is! thank you,
    I have a friend I haven’t known for long, but one of those great ppl that are instantly a good friend, that has recently been diagnosed with stomach cancer. He is only young too & had his first dose of chemo today. I am very concerned for him & the hard time he has ahead. I will be trying my best providing support & help, hopefully without getting in the way & being annoying & fussing too much, Any extra tips in helping a friend through this would be much appreciated,
    I’ve read lots of info on this, keeping in mind ppl react differently to treatment.

  • Thank all of you for your post. I have two friends with cancer. One will start chemo tomorrow and the other will have brest surgery on May 1st. I wanted to find out what chemo is like and I found David blog!
    Thank you David for starting your blog it has been so helpful. I was wondering if i should send it to both friends now? I don’t want to scare them anymore then they are….

  • Thank all of you for your post. I have two friends with cancer. One will start chemo tomorrow and the other will have brest surgery on May 1st. I wanted to find out what chemo is like and I found David blog!
    Thank you David for starting your blog it has been so helpful. I was wondering if i should send it to both friends now? I don’t want to scare them anymore then they are….

  • Thank you, David. My younger sister’s husband has been diagnosed with cancer of the liver, lungs, bone and brain and after a straight 10 day radiation therapy, he goes for chemo on Monday, May 6th. I just wanted to understand what he would go through and how best to be able to support both him and my sister. Reading your blog made me realise it is going to be harder than I thought it would but at least now I know what to expect.

    I am glad you have crossed your 5th year mark and I am hoping soon I can say the same for my brother-in-law.

    Cheers,
    Dee

  • Elizabeth Wright

    I’m a 70 year old grandmother who has breast cancer stage 3, I’ve had surgery to remove the cancer an now have to take chemo for a year,my treatments start in the morring ,my question is ? I really donot want to start, I’ve heard an read so much about it and it sounds just like I thought, since I’m this old do I really want to start? no I do not,so I’ve got to the point I’ may tell the doctor I will not take it, wouldn’t you/

  • I feel sevsre pain and weakness in my legs and feet due to
    chemo stomatch lynphoma

  • Wow… a friend of my moms had chemo, I always assumed it was like some one hour process where take some pills and then your outa there….. but for goodness sakes now I feel her pain….

    I am currently writing a story from the point of veiw of a cancer patient. This was helpful thank you.

  • Hi,
    I just wanted to say thanks for this personal description, it was a good read and very informative. I was curious as to what my younger sister is going through and it brings tears to me that it is such a brutal disease, and treatment. Im happy to hear it cured you and hope you stay healthy, as well as everyone else fighting this awful disease with a brutal treatment.
    Cheers

  • I know that your description of chemo must be true. I just spent months with my son while he went through the grueling treatments. I have never seen anyone so sick & weak.
    I am wondering about post chemo. He finished his chemo about 3 months ago. At first he was excited about getting his hair back and his strength is slowly returning. He told me last night that recently he has been remembering how awful it as and how terrible he felt for so long that he just starts crying. Any ideas or input to the post chemo? Most people think that he should just be over it after 3 months. I’m not so sure they are right. Any ideas on how to help him?

  • Hi, fellow chemo,s. my experience was 10,5 years ago but yesterday in my memory bank. I just wanted to extended deep felt sister and brotherly appreciation and respect for everyone who has to go through this experience. The fear fades and hope slowly replaces doubt. Chemo brain still rears its head and sensitivity to chemicals whether smelling or injgesting is real! I had triple negative breast cancer,no nodes, high grade and had my first chemo treatment on my 41st. Birthday. Just incase I would ever forget the date :) your body isamazing and has more strength and recuperative powers then we know but it does take quite a long time to get back. Four years to really recover but I must say I don,t have the same energy I had, could be a combo of chemical induced menopause and age, but when the tanks empty it’s empty. I tell people who are curious about what it feels like to live with cancer it’s like having a lion tied up in the backyard on a shoestring. I could relate to the movie Life of Pie. Not spelt that way but I know a lot of you will appreciate what I am saying. I also would like to say that my experience left me feeling like I was somehow separated by an invisible glass from friends and family like we could see each but somehow I wasn’t,t in the same place as them anymore. I wish everyone peace in your hearts and minds.

  • I think it is very important to know that there are different types of chemo used. I had it 12 yrs ago for breast cancer and other than losing my hair, fatigue is the only side effect that I remember. I would have my treatment on Friday and go back to work on Monday. The experience documented here is pretty scarey in my opinion. Of course everyone’s experience can be different, but not ALL people will get ALL the side effects. I will be starting chemo again on Friday. This time for uterine cancer. I am going in with the attitude that things will go as well as the last time. If the experience noted here was all the experience I had with the treatments I probably wouldn’t even go!

  • How is David doing now? Any updates? I tried looking but couldn’t seem to find any update. I hope he is well.

    • I’m good, Lila! It’s been almost 8 years since I went through chemo. In that time I became a conductor and pianist on Broadway, met my fiance, retired from music and moved to San Francisco. We run the family business out here and I go surfing every day. My fiance is a cancer survivor as well. There is life after chemo!

      I don’t update this site anymore, but I do keep it up for others to read. It seems to help caretakers, especially, understand what their loved ones are going through – and I think it helps patients know that they aren’t alone.

      • It’s so good to see you’re doing well eight years later. I have 4 abvd treatments left (out of 12) and I can’t wait to be done. Going through all this I can’t help but worry about life after chemo…like all the time, but it’s reassuring to see you doing well and living life.

        • Thanks Stephanie. It was a shock for me when I left chemo. I remember feeling like all my support suddenly dropped away. It was a confusing feeling (certainly I didn’t want to go BACK into treatment). I think this part of chemo isn’t talked about much – it feels inappropriate to people, maybe – but it’s worth bracing for.

          I wrote about it here:

          Somehow I Miss Chemotherapy?

          But once I got past that, thought, life eventually got back to “normal”. I talked about the cancer experience non-stop for probably a year afterwards. It’s all I thought about. But eventually other life events and interests started to become more important to me. Now when I think about myself as a cancer survivor…it just feels so long ago. Like that happened to someone else.

      • Hi,

        Your story has given me great strength and insight in dealing with my son’s HD stage 4B. He has just finished 6 cycles of ABVD and will start radiation therapy soon.

        Did you have any shortness of breath, pain with deep inhalation and / or feeling of heaviness on the chest – as a result of the Bleo?

        If so, how did your doctor tell you to deal with it? Here they tell us to bear with it. We are in Pakistan so cancer treatment choices are somewhat limited.

        Thanks – not sure if you still respond to queries, but taking a chance anyway.

  • Cancer scared the hell out of me the first time when my father went to the doctor thinking he had a bad cold/bug. One week later he was gone, it was pancreatic cancer, age 58. Fast forward 15 years and I wake up in pain that put me on my knees. A trip to the ER announces to me you aren’t leaving the hospital, you have colon cancer. Surgery removes the tumor that closed off my intestines. Ok I am alive with a lovely 18″ scar great. Or at least it was till chemo started.I didn’t even make it out the hospital door when TMJ hit me. Telling the doctor was like talking to a wall, she never heard of such a thing. A 5 minute web search told me about 5% get it. It passed, for awhile. the Monday mornings laying in the hospital by yourself knowing they are going to poison you again runs through your head. The nausea, the weakness,you just want it to stop. About half way through treatment my hands feel dead one morning upon waking. Doctor takes me of one of the chemo drugs because as she says if I continue it will paralyze me. Great. I finish chemo under the new regime. Hands and feet now are numb, tingling, and painful.As a veteran i start going to the VA where they say I have peripheral neuropathy but it should go away. It didn’t over two years out still have it and its in both limbs from the knees and elbows down. Now also being monitored for lymphoma and thyroid cancer. Yep if you have chemo you have a higher chance of getting another cancer. Yes chemo helps some people yet it injures and kills more people. Remember its poison they are sticking in you, in my case it was the platinum that did the most damage. Why did I get cancer, who knows, maybe it was from the burn pits in Kosovo, or the depleted uranium, or maybe just plain bad luck, who knows. I, like so many people who get cancer just want to live. Once you get cancer you will never be the same. Feel depressed, seek help… its natural,…you are fighting for your life and being scared is normal. I guess one of the most important things I could say is love. Tell the people you care about how you feel, don’t wait hug them and cherish them. All that crap you worry about before you get cancer becomes less important. It boils down to the joy of another sunrise,a smile from a child, the cat on your lap, or a kiss form your spouse. Don’t give up, fight….live.

    • Dear Walt, Hope you are talking to any of your children about having colon tests? One of the reasons I started with genealogy years ago. Finding Cancer early really increases your chances of recovery. Colon Cancer is one of the ones that colonoscopies can really help. Same thing as finding breast cancer early.

  • Hi I know what your going through Im on chemo and hate it… I know what you mean the days after wards are hard… my body feels like it been run over by a truck and at times I have been running low fevers… my fingers feel like pins sticking them and at time I have to force my self to eat…..Keep your head up high and god bless you…..Patti

  • Linda Freedman

    Thanks for this, my mum is 85 and starts on chemo on Monday here in the UK, I wanted to know what to expect her to feel like, I can empathise with her now.
    I’m sure in some ways she would like to just pass away and avoid treatment but unfortunately some cancers don’t give you a choice. If she doesn’t have chemo her white blood cells will literelly eat her bones until they crumble on the other hand she is at such a vulnerable age the chemo might kill her…but it’s better than the alternative.
    If it were me I’d imagine my body as a ‘war zone’ between my soul and the grim reaper.

  • kathryn hallett

    wonderful account of chemo effects
    but do not forget for some of us it is also fuzzy eyes
    so thank god we have audio books now!

    the legs feeling cement are reallllly bad as you get to six and
    seven and i agree that the effects of chemo are such that if
    this toxic stuff does not kill you get to live
    so my oncologist announced to my shock I am cured already!!!!
    I am trying to get my hands around this new info i never heard
    the word cured with cancer with three drips to go i am out of
    here and so is my port which i hate but love,too. So friends
    you hang in and you will hear the words CURED done.,

  • kathryn hallett

    just remember
    you have a choice
    chemo or die so its an easy choice
    and, also remember to tell your doc if anything is bad
    like neuropathy and they will adjust your drugs give them
    feedback and they fix it today they do nt want you to be
    in pain, honestly,

  • Hi,

    My dad was recently diagnosed with terminal lung cancer, and starts his chemo tomorrow. I want to be fully prepared for whatever he’s going to go through, and just wanted to thank you for sharing your experience. It is horrible to read about, especially since I know my dad may experience any/all of these side effects … but I’m sure it’s nothing compared to actually going through it. I can only hope this helps me over the coming weeks … thanks again.

    Lorraine xx

  • my grandmother from dad side passed away because of Cancer. she had intenstine cancer and had to give her food through pipe and seeing her suffering was horrible. I have this extreme feeling to study about cancer and find remedies and medicine to treat cancer in a very non-painful way just like how you treat tuberclosis with medicine. I hope i can do it with help of God. Thankyou for this article to help me understand the pain that people go through.

  • I had a similar experience a few years back. I’m not completely sure what was given to me, but the symptoms were the same. In my case, I even had big sores on my mouth. What’s different, I guess, is that you look normal by your pictures. I aged 30 years physically in two hours, and it’s noticeable.

    It was a good read. Thanks for writing.

    PS I’m glad you included the part about your body feeling like burning from the inside. If you look at other websites, they don’t describe that at all (probably in an attempt to make chemotherapy seem harmless).

    Thanks…

  • I am choosing to do radiation only and IV vitamin C. My dad died from his first dose of chemotherapy. I have heard wonderful things about it, and it has no side effects like chemo. Also it does not cause another cancer! I may get another cancer from the radiation, but they said like 2%, versus you will get some years and have to fight yet another cancer! I finally nailed my doctor down, and it is the RADIATION that gets the cancer, the chemo only offers another 2% to survival anyway, and I dont want all the side effects. I will beat this with the radiation, IV vitamin C AND a GREAt attitude. Have gotten yelled at by Drs etc, but read up yourself, not from quackery sites but established web sites. Medical research from major universities. THEN make your decision. Chemo is highly toxic and does often cause an unrelated cancer.

  • Radiotherapy is the way to go, my daughter has had radiotherapy for 3 years now, she was fine until she started chemo, she had very nasty reaction with it, and ended up with trachiostomy and died after 3 weeks. My previous 11 year old daughter died a month ago. May her sold rest in peace.

  • Thank you for explaining and not sugarcoating the way Chemo made you feel. My daughter is 5 and was diagnosed with a bone-marrow failure disease when she was 7 months old (Shwachman-Diamond Syndrome). She has been on Neupogen her whole life and we are very familiar with transfusions, blood issues, etc.

    We always knew her bone marrow would fail or she would develop leukemia. I thought I was mentally prepared; but I wasn’t. I know that she will need a transplant eventually. Being proactive and reading how you felt can help me understand when she has to endure it herself. Your thoughts will help me understand how she feels if she can’t express it herself.

    Thank you.

  • Thank you for the honest info, although very scary to read, almost like a horror story, I needed to hear it. I had one run through with chemo in July this year 2013, but quit after one month, my family do not know that I quit, I am a coward, what can I say……but it is nice to know that other people are scared as well, they don’t quit, but its nice to know I am not alone in being so scared. Cheers

  • Thank you for telling me. My aunt died of cancer and I’m doing a research project on cancer treatments and how science has affected these treatments. I’m sorry that you had to go through that, and I hope that you are doing and feeling better. I love you!

  • Thank you for sharing, in-depth concise account – I’m on day seven after 3rd round of chemo, it’s 2am and even after double dose if sleeping pills – still can’t sleep! Don’t even think a horse tranquilizer would not me out! Be calm my racing mind. Only 3 cycles left, can I do it?

  • Ps – I’m in Australia, thus the time diff :-)

  • Not exactly what I was expecting to read, but I appreciate the fact that you didn’t sugarcoat it. My mom’s starting chemo tomorrow back in Argentina and she’s not one to complain about anything so I will never hear from her how she’s feeling and how freaking much she’s hurting and suffering through it. Thank you for being candid about it; I didn’t want to read how much it sucks being that I can’t be there for her, but at least I know.

  • Thank you for writing this. A close friend was diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer, refuses to discuss it, and we are not allowed to ask about it, or even say the C word. Now I understand a little better. I’m glad you are doing well!

  • I am not sure how old some of these threads are but I was recently diagnosed with breast cancer Oct 13 and am currently going through chemo. I came across your blog and your description of what it is like to go through chemo is spot on. I thought that maybe I was being a wimp or something after only having two treatments so at least I know that I am not insane and am not the only one that is having or had these experiences. Thank you for sharing and I applaud you for your recovery and achievements since your diagnosis, you are an inspiration

    • MRS. CATHERINE MCKENZIE

      I WANT TO WISH YOU THE BEST. I HAVE AN AUNT, NOW 85, HAS HAD BREAST CANCER FOR 20+ YEARS. IT IS POSSIBLE TO LIVE A GREAT LIFE, JUST WANTED TO GIVE YOU HOPE.

      MY TWIN, 1.5 YEARS AGO WAS DIAGNOSED WITH UTERINE CANCER. AFTER MANY RADIATION AND CHEMO TREATMENTS, SHE THOUGHT SHE COULD HAVE SOME TIME TO HEAL AND GET STRONGER. JUST LAST MONTH, AFTER A ROUTINE COLONOSCOPY, THEY FOUND LESIONS(CANCER) IN HER RECTUM. SURGERY IS COMING UP. DRS. ARE HOPEFUL. SO AM I. SHE HAS SUCH A GREAT OUTLOOK, GREAT MDS., GREAT FAMILY, AND GREAT FAITH, I CAN ONLY IMAGINE THAT BOTH OF YOU WILL BE ALRIGHT.
      I HAVE YOU BOTH ON MY PRAYER LIST FOR THIS EVENING.
      I AM SO SORRY FOR THE PAIN AND THE WORRY THAT THIS CAUSES GOOD PEOPLE.
      GOD BLESS.

  • I think it’s worth bearing in mind that whilst there appears to be a similar reaction from many cancer sufferers to chemo it’s not always as bad for some people…maybe it’s the doses I’m not sure??? My mum was diagnosed and died of cancer within three months so only had one treatment. However, a work colleague more than 40 years younger than my mum was diagnosed with the exact same cancer (multiple myeloma) within weeks of my mothers death. I was so shocked and so concerned for her. She has sailed through chemo, she had to leave work early on just two occasions, she took no time off sick and she works 12 hour nights plus overtime as she is desperate to pay off much of her mortgage as she is the main breadwinner in a three generation family living in the same house. No doubt she is utterly steely and determined but I don’t think that in itself could overcome the kind of symptoms some people are experiencing. I don’t doubt the horrors felt by some sufferers (as if cancer wasn’t enough) and I’m entirely sympathetic but I don’t think everyone has the same experiences perhaps it is the level of chemo they give you as well? Or what kind of cancer you have?

  • Finding this blog helped me not feel so alone. I hear about people who just go on with life like nothing is happening to them. All I can do is move from the chair to the couch and then to bed. This is my second type of cancer treatment in less than 5 years. People say well at least it isn’t as bad as last time. How the heck do they know that? Severe pain, severe nausea and major anxiety. I keep thinking if I could just be stronger!!
    I an so thankful for you that you are cancer free!!
    Thanks for giving me a place where I can share my pain!!

  • I was perfectly OK for the first and second days after chemo that contained Taxol and Carboplatin. This a pretty rough chemo cocktail. The third day I felt like I was getting a stomach bug and progressed to aches and pains in my joints like a flu bug. Eventualy an indescribable exhaustion set in after the 4th treatment. I agree that the drugs didn’t help but my mother’s old fashioned remedies of saltine crackers and lemon lime soda did. I carried pepermints with me at all times since peppermint is a natural aid for nausea. Everything smells bad and tastes bad during chemo. I learned quickly to listen to my body and meet it’s needs by drinking a lot of water. I ate only the things I craved or those that smelled OK and tasted OK. I sucked on ice the night after my treatment to combat the burned feeling in my mouth that started around my third treatment. As long as I was listening to my body I did well …except the exhaustion. There was no way to combat that except sleep. All in all, I missed one day of work in 9 months. Not bad for a real estate agent showing property in the July heat in Las Vegas. Since then I wrote a 3 page guide to dealing with chemo and all of it is common sense, natural stuff you have around the house. No strange herbs or potions and I’m willing share it with anyone who is about to start chemo. Chemo does have it’s own level of suck but for better or worse, we are a community and we need to help each other.

  • Thank you for publishing this. I just finished my last chemo and it is by far the WORST! I totally relate to everything you say. It makes me feel not as alone. What is going on in this world that there is so much cancer? Thank you again for this blog.

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