Questions I frequently get asked by friends and other patients is what it does to your body and will you recover 100%. ( Be the same afterwards )
I can not speak on behalf of all Chemo patients… But, I HAVE recovered 100% and with some hard work got myself to the best shape I have ever been in my life.
Dealing with Cancer is a very much a layered cake. All I am going to go into detail about here are the effects Chemo has on your body and how long it took for me to get back to normal. I will write more on other aspects of the whole experience in other posts.
Let me start by listing what changes your body goes through from JUST the Chemo ( Not of the meds ) in little detail.
In the most basic explanation… Chemo stops anything that grows / re-generates from doing so…
- You lose your hair ( Everywhere your hair noticeably grows in your Chemo time frame )
- You lose ALL of your energy ( Partly from the drugs )
- Your stomach begins to ache non stop ( Acid reflux and Heartburn are a daily battle )
- Your skin stop regenerating ( Hyperpigmentation and paleness – Your bruises cuts do not heal )
- Your nails stop growing
- Your taste and smell go away
- Your hearing decreases and you hear constant ringing
- Your muscle goes away ( Partly from not eating as much and not being physical )
- Your saliva becomes very thick
Those are the major physical changes you will experience.
Lets start with the last day of chemo…
After 1 week – My saliva went back to normal
After 2 weeks – My taste and smell came back and all stomach related symptoms went away
After 3 weeks – My hearing normalized
After 4 weeks – My hair began to grow ( Came back blond at first )
After 5-8 weeks – My cuts started to show signs of healing
After 9 weeks – At this point I was able to start exercising and my energy started to normalize ( Not sleeping 14 hours a day ). I began to work out 5 days a week with more pain and recovery down time then I have ever experienced in the past.
After 14 weeks – The fat that I gained started to go away. My muscle started to come back slowly ( Still struggling with above normal pain ) but, was finally noticeable.
After 18 weeks – My hair was normal again. I was cutting it every 2 weeks… It started blond… Went curly… And is now 100% the same way it was before Chemo.
After 22 Weeks – I am 100% with the exception of my skin. It appears normal but, will still take another 6 months to be as resilient as before.
Me: I was 24 when I was diagnosed and went through the treatment.
Diet: Nothing special… Went to a normal diet, drank alcohol, little fast food, not on a schedule, etc… It is safe to say that if you give yourself a more strict diet you would recover faster.
Before Chemo my weight was 180lbs at 6’1″ ( Mostly muscle )
After Chemo my weight was 150lbs at 6’1″ ( Mostly fat )
After 5 months my weight is 195lbs at 6’1″ ( Less than 8% body fat )
Right before I started chemo I researched on the Internet about the long term effects it would have on my body. I found very little encouraging news and scared myself quite a bit. There where people saying “you will never be the same”, “your hair will come back different”, “your energy will never come back” etc… This was all untrue for me. Those effects where temporary and with some hard work I was 100% again. It was frustrating and slow going at times but, it was not a problem to find motivation.
I hope this answered some of your questions and if you are about to enter Chemo or just finished… Don’t stress, give it time, you WILL be normal again.
For my friends: This is not the write-up that I have promised you. This is strictly the effect of the drug on my body. I should be done with the other shortly.
The below gallery has images of me taken by Chelsea Taylor 5 months after Chemo.