The After Effects of Cancer and Chemotherapy

I had no idea how I would fare after going through chemotherapy. I had heard about different side effects and also had read about many of those effects. I was hoping and praying that I would fare O.K. after all of the treatments were over. Unfortunately, I was in for a rude awakening! I had no idea what the after effects of Cancer and Chemotherapy were going to do to me?


One of the first side effects of Chemotherapy, when you are going through treatment, is what is referred to as “CHEMO BRAIN”. Basically, all of those toxic drugs can adversely affect the brain during chemo and even after chemo. While I was going through treatment, I really struggled with this condition. Within days of my first treatment, I had already started to see the difference. My husband also noticed a huge difference. I could no longer even tell you what day it was. I lost all track of time. I could not remember things that had happened just hours before. I could not remember if I had taken my medications or if I had even eaten. I even had trouble remembering names of friends and family. I was very troubled by this sequence of events. One other thing that happened was that I would get words mixed up or a series of words would come out all tangled up. As sad as this was, we got some good laughs out of some of the things I said. I cannot remember any of those particular incidences, but I do remember laughing about it several times.


Another side effect of Chemotherapy is extremely dry skin. My skin had always been pretty hydrated and even at 60 years old, my skin was still pretty taut and almost flawless. During the course of the Chemotherapy, my skin became extremely dry and even more flabby than it had originally been. I developed white spots all over my body, which have never gone away. My skin also looks very thin and very wrinkled. Nothing helps with the wrinkles, the splotches or even the dryness.

One of the things I most regret is that I did not pay more attention to my skin while going through Chemo. I think if I had started treating my skin with special moisturizers from the beginning, many of the symptoms I now have may not have developed. I did eventually ask my doctor what to do for all of these problems. He suggested I use CereVae cream. I did start using it, but I believe I waited too long. It does seem to hydrate my skin to some degree, but it has not helped with the thinness or the excess wrinkles. I was pretty distraught in the beginning. I have always had beautiful skin and had hoped, even in old age, that my skin would maintain its beauty. My Mom and my aunt had skin that looked pretty decent all of their lives, even in old age. My Mom passed at 76 and my aunt passed at 98. I was so surprised at how good their skin looked even at those ages. Unfortunately for me,Cancer and Chemo destroyed my skin. So I am really trying to make peace with that. Regardless of how my skin looks, I know I am very fortunate to still be alive. So I guess I can’t complain very much!


I am also struggling with getting my life back. It has been 2 1/2 years since I finished Chemo. But for some reason, I seem to catch every single bug out there. I am constantly sick and have had one thing or another almost constantly since I finished Chemo. My body is really having a difficult time fighting off infections or even the common cold. I believe this is due to the fact that my body is still not producing enough white blood cells to fight off anything.


You would think that after 2 1/2 years of recovery that I would be able to function on a normal amount of sleep. This just is not the case for me. I still require 12 to 13 hours of sleep each night. I sometimes can get by on less, but only for a day or two. After the second day, I am almost completely wiped out again. And then I have to go back to 12 or 13 hours of sleep. Needless to say, all, or most, of my doctor appointments are always set up after 1:00 P.M. I have always been a night owl, and that has not changed. I just cannot go to bed before 11:30 P.M. So that means, in order to get the 12 or 13 hours that I require, I do not get up before noon or sometimes 1:00 P.M. I miss the entire morning! I used to love to get up early and listen to the birds chirping. I also enjoyed watering first thing in the morn before it got too hot. I have repeatedly brought this up to my doctors, but they do not seem to be alarmed by it. They just tell me to get the sleep I need. I keep hoping things will change, but that does not seem to be in the cards in the near future.


I still struggle with exhaustion. I am sure you are wondering how one can be exhausted after getting 12 hours of sleep. But for me, that is my reality. Once I get up, I function fine for about 3 or 4 hours. If we happen to go to the beach, or run errands for more than 3 or 4 hours, I am completely worn out by the time we get home. But here is the catch. If I lay down, I will go to sleep within minutes. And I can sleep for 4 or 5 hours straight. But if I do that, then I am not sleepy at bedtime and I end up being up till the wee hours of the morning. So I have to try to force myself to stay up until bedtime. It can be very difficult at times.

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