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Topic: How to get strength back post chemo

Forum: Chemotherapy - Before, During and After — Regimens, side effects, and support from others going through chemo.

Posted on: Apr 10, 2012 07:59PM

JoanQuilts wrote:

I had my 4th chemo of 6 a week ago and it is starting to whip my butt.  I'm still tired and since I know the effects are cumulative, I figure the fatigue will just get worse with #s 5 and 6. 

What are the best ways to regain my strength after chemo - suggestions for eating, sleeping, exercising, vitamins?

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Posts 1 - 19 (19 total)

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Apr 10, 2012 08:06PM Racy wrote:

I found that my muscle strength was depleted, which, I was told, is a common side effect of chemo. I saw a physical therapist at the hospital and was prescribed a gentle muscle strengthening exercise program. It helped to get the tailored program.

Dx 2010, ILC, 2cm, Stage IIa, Grade 3, 0/22 nodes, ER+/PR+, HER2-
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Apr 10, 2012 08:06PM, edited Apr 10, 2012 08:07PM by Titan

You said it right there...eat, sleep, vitamins, exercise...it's so exciting to be DONE..but don't try to take to your life back too quickly..take it easy for awhile..you have been through alot...your strength will come back, the aches/pains will go away.and your hair will be coming in..it's an exciting time..people will assume that you are back to normal because you are done..not true...but it IS so much better than taking chemo...sooo much better...enjoy.

Hey...you are triple n..just like me! 

Dx 3/18/2009, IDC, 1cm, Stage I, Grade 3, 0/5 nodes, ER-/PR-, HER2-
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Apr 10, 2012 08:15PM JoanQuilts wrote:

Racy - that's interesting about the muscle strength.  I wasn't in great shape before I started chemo, but I consider myself a very young 53 and now when I climb the stairs in my house I feel like I'm 90 or 100.  It's depressing.

 Titan - thank you - I'm not finished yet!  I had felt really well through treatments 1-3 and still don't feel sick, just very, very, very (very!) tired.

Diagnosed 10/92, lumpectomy, CMF. Diagnosed with second primary 12/11 (19 years later!). . BMX with TEs to implants; 6 rounds of TC.

Dx 12/6/2011, IDC, <1cm, Stage I, Grade 3, 0/0 nodes, ER-/PR-, HER2-Surgery 01/06/2012 Mastectomy (Both); Reconstruction: Tissue expander placement, Breast implants (permanent) (Both)Chemotherapy 02/06/2012 Cytoxan, Taxotere
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Apr 10, 2012 08:18PM ruthbru wrote:

Check out the "Lets Post Our Daily Exercise' thread. Lots of neat ladies in all stages of treatment and beyond.

"Invisible threads are the strongest ties." Friedrich Nietzsche

Dx 2/2007, Stage IIa, Grade 3, 0/11 nodes, ER+/PR-, HER2-
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Apr 10, 2012 08:23PM borntosurvive wrote:

I just finished my chemo and had DD ACT every other week for 8 rounds.  At the half way mark I was exhausted and could not even climb the stairs without feeling out of breathe and needing to lie down.  I'm 33 years old and worked out every day so it was very frustrating.  My red blood counts ended up being REALLY low and I had a blood transfusion.  I instantly felt better and had no other issues since.  I am tired now after my last dose and agree that it's cumulative but I sleep when I can and try to nap on the couch or somewhere other then my bed or I find I can't fall asleep at night.  Fresh fruit smoothies with protein helped in the mornings to make me feel some kind of energy.  I just kept telling myself it's all temporary.  Good luck!!

Dx 11/11/2011, IDC, 3cm, Stage IIa, Grade 3, 0/4 nodes, ER-/PR-, HER2-Surgery 11/22/2011 Mastectomy (Both); Lymph Node Removal: Sentinel Lymph Node Dissection (Left)Chemotherapy 12/30/2011 Adriamycin, Taxol
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Apr 10, 2012 10:48PM Gayle56 wrote:

Joan you must have been reading my mind today. I finished my last TC 3 weeks ago.  I did some housework today and I literally had to lie down and take a 2 hour nap. 

Gayle

TC 1/17, 2/7, 2/28, 3/20

Dx 11/2011, IDC, <1cm, Stage Ia, Grade 3, 0/2 nodes, ER+/PR+, HER2-Radiation Therapy 04/16/2012 External
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Apr 11, 2012 07:29AM JoanQuilts wrote:

Ladies - do any foods in particular help?  Proteins?  Iron-rich foods to build up the red blood cells?  I haven't had my blood checked yet this round, but it has been at very good levels throughout.  It is the stair-climbing htat reminds me how tired I am.

Diagnosed 10/92, lumpectomy, CMF. Diagnosed with second primary 12/11 (19 years later!). . BMX with TEs to implants; 6 rounds of TC.

Dx 12/6/2011, IDC, <1cm, Stage I, Grade 3, 0/0 nodes, ER-/PR-, HER2-Surgery 01/06/2012 Mastectomy (Both); Reconstruction: Tissue expander placement, Breast implants (permanent) (Both)Chemotherapy 02/06/2012 Cytoxan, Taxotere
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Apr 11, 2012 08:02AM, edited Apr 11, 2012 04:47PM by Janet_M

I swear by Restorative Yoga. In a nutshell, it's a series of very gentle poses that are all fully supported by either props, pillows, or the floor. So relaxing.  My cancer centre recommends stretching, and said the those who did light exercise seemed to fare better. Sometimes I feel like I have little traffic jams all through my body, but restorative opens everything up and clears the roads. For me, psychologically, I feel like the pain and strength are all more evenly distributed and help each other out. Plus I sleep better. 

Also - and Im sure you've heard this a million times - water. Drink as much as you can and flush as much crap as you can out of your system. Coconut water is good too ( but no rum) because it's super hydrating. 

My personal new favorite foods are oatmeal (for breakfast) and Kale. Oatmeal because it keeps me full, longer and I don't like feeling hungry. And Kale because it's so good for you. Kale Chips are a fun thing too have to if your feeling snack-ish. Not as fun as Miss Vicki's, but still pretty tasty.

Also - be really kind to yourself. Don't push too hard, don't deprive yourself of comfort, and never second guess having a nap.Your strength will return.

Janet  

PS Stairs are the worst! Even on good days the thought of going up the stairs tired me out so much that I wanted to move to a bungalow.

balderdish.blogspot.ca/ Just because you're having a meltdown doesn't mean you're not coping.

Dx 7/7/2011, IDC, 2cm, Stage II, 2/16 nodes, ER+
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Apr 11, 2012 08:09AM JoanQuilts wrote:

Thank you for saying that about the stairs, Janet_M.  It is depressing, on top of everything else, to feel like I'm 100 years old when I try to do the stairs.  Not just depressing, really scary, as though there's something very physically wrong with me.

I am having trouble with water as it tastes like CRAP post chemo.  I'm mixing it with lemonade and that helps somewhat.  

Maybe I should see a nutritionist?

Diagnosed 10/92, lumpectomy, CMF. Diagnosed with second primary 12/11 (19 years later!). . BMX with TEs to implants; 6 rounds of TC.

Dx 12/6/2011, IDC, <1cm, Stage I, Grade 3, 0/0 nodes, ER-/PR-, HER2-Surgery 01/06/2012 Mastectomy (Both); Reconstruction: Tissue expander placement, Breast implants (permanent) (Both)Chemotherapy 02/06/2012 Cytoxan, Taxotere
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Apr 11, 2012 09:48AM, edited Apr 11, 2012 09:53AM by dlb823

Joan, the lack of strength you're describing is entirely normal and does get better once chemo ends, although it will take a few months.  About 6 weeks after my last chemo infusion, we were in Las Vegas and I had to climb a huge number of steps to a seat high up in a large arena.  It was incredibly difficult for me, and I remember sitting there watching people in their 70s bound up the stairs and I seriously wondered if chemo had propelled me into old age. I was so scared and it was hard to imagine ever feeling energetic again.  But a year later, I was able to hike up the same stairs without any difficulty and stay up past 9:00 (another thing I couldn't do the year before), and alI I could think was, "What a difference a year makes!" 

One thing I started doing as soon as I finished rads was to start walking every morning -- starting with around 2 miles, and eventually working up to 5+ miles a day.  Then I started going to the gym and working with a trainer and weights, and I can honestly tell you that today I am stronger and in much better shape than pre-bc.  

After I had that very depressing experience in LV, I told my sister, a 2x bc-survivor, about it, and she was able to find and share an old email she'd written several years ago that described identical feelings.  Seeing that helped me know I'd get better, as you will too.  

Oh, and for the water...  you might try mixing Perrier or another sparkling water (I actually detested Perrier during chemo but could drink a couple of others I found @ Trader Joes that were "softer" to the taste) with a bit of apple juice.  Towards the end of chemo, I hated water so much I was even adding chocolate syrup and a bit of milk to mineral water (like an old fashion egg cream) to make it somewhat palatable.  So just continue to experiment until you find ways to keep downing it!     (((Hugs))) and hang in there!  A year from now, this will all be a distant memory...  Deanna 

"The soul would have no rainbow if the eyes had no tears" Native American proverb

Dx 2/1/2008, 1cm, Stage IIa, Grade 3, 1/16 nodes, ER+/PR+, HER2-Dx 1/3/2014, Stage IV
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Apr 11, 2012 10:06AM JoanQuilts wrote:

Thank you for saying that it is entirely normal, dlb823.  That makes me feel better.  I have actually been through chemo once before - 19 years ago.  At the time, I remember getting into bed at 8 and watching sitcoms because I was tired through the second half of my chemo and for a couple of months after.  Then one evening, I was lying in bed....and realized that I was no longer tired.  I guess that is when my strength came back!

I don't complain a lot and I haven't had a lot of bad side effects like nausea and pain so I AM lucky that way.  So when I do feel something, I get very concerned.  I am going to try to listen to my body and just coddle myself for a while.  

Diagnosed 10/92, lumpectomy, CMF. Diagnosed with second primary 12/11 (19 years later!). . BMX with TEs to implants; 6 rounds of TC.

Dx 12/6/2011, IDC, <1cm, Stage I, Grade 3, 0/0 nodes, ER-/PR-, HER2-Surgery 01/06/2012 Mastectomy (Both); Reconstruction: Tissue expander placement, Breast implants (permanent) (Both)Chemotherapy 02/06/2012 Cytoxan, Taxotere
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Apr 11, 2012 10:14AM Claire_in_Seattle wrote:

Hi Joan,

I am trying to think back and remember what helped.  I had a different protocol, so everything may not apply.

The first thing is that I exercised every day during chemo.  I realize that everyone isn't able to do this, but the extent to which you can do a daily walk will really help with fatigue.  I found that I got oxygen into my system, and that I slept soundly.  These really helped with fatigue.

Some days, I really had to drag myself around the mile and do my weights/crunches in sections, but I always felt better afterwards.  My take is that I might as well be exercised and dragging as opposed to just dragging.

Protein.....read up on this.  You need more, and will for quite some time.  I found I didn't have energy reserves, and extra protein really helped.

Everyone has covered water.

I drank a lot of chai lattes, as they were wet and had sugar in them.  Reward for my bicycle rides.

Iron.....your levels will rise as you recover.  There is nothing you can do to hasten this process.  If you try, your body just stores it upstream in the form of ferratin.  I already tried this experiment, and don't go there.  You just have to wait.

Food when you are done.....well, it will be SUMMER, so take advantage of all the local produce.  We make this far too complicated.  The good news is that the "post cancer" diet is the one you should be eating anyway minus soy, and plus extra protein.  I used this as an excuse to eat extra steak.  But made with a ton of veggies.

I didn't lose that much muscle tone, but I did lose strength and stamina.  I found that my normal cycling activities worked just fine for rebuilding.  But it did take about six months to get there.  I was fit enough though to do a major cycling event within six weeks of finishing radiation.  I needed a lot of extra energy potions to get there.  Six months later, I was much faster and stronger.

Good luck.  As Deanna says, one year from now, this will be just a bad patch in an otherwise fantastic life.  And you really will be loving your food once again. - Claire

Completed all active treatment (AC +T, lumpectomy, and radiation). Now on to the rest of my life. So much to celebrate.

Dx 8/2009, IDC, 2cm, Stage IIb, Grade 3, 1/21 nodes, ER+/PR-, HER2-
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Apr 11, 2012 10:16AM dlm217 wrote:

I feel the same way.  I finished Chemo a week ago today. But have been feeling this way since 1/2 way through.  My legs are so weak.  I wasn't in great shape before but going up stairs is difficult and depressing.  Glad to hear it is normal and that it will get better.  I have been back at work since 2/21 and have 3 children.  I am in bed by 8 some nights and struggle to stay awake.  I hope it starts to get better soon.

Dx 9/26/2011, IDC, 2cm, Stage IIIa, Grade 2, 7/26 nodes, ER+/PR+, HER2-
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Apr 11, 2012 10:27AM JoanQuilts wrote:

All of you - this is so, so helpful.  Just knowing that this is normal and it will pass.  Thank you.

Diagnosed 10/92, lumpectomy, CMF. Diagnosed with second primary 12/11 (19 years later!). . BMX with TEs to implants; 6 rounds of TC.

Dx 12/6/2011, IDC, <1cm, Stage I, Grade 3, 0/0 nodes, ER-/PR-, HER2-Surgery 01/06/2012 Mastectomy (Both); Reconstruction: Tissue expander placement, Breast implants (permanent) (Both)Chemotherapy 02/06/2012 Cytoxan, Taxotere
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Apr 11, 2012 02:18PM candie1971 wrote:

I will be celebrating 6 years soon. I did 12 tx of CMF and I couldn't even walk near the end. I did drag myself to work everyday. It took nearly a year  and a half to be back to some kind of normal but I did get there.

I think walking is a great idea , lots of water and fruits and veggies....lots of luck.

hugs

Good friends are like stars....you don't always see them but you know they are always there.

Dx 5/26/2006, IDC, 2cm, Stage II, Grade 2, 0/1 nodes, ER+/PR+, HER2-
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Apr 17, 2012 12:01PM cfdr wrote:

I'm 2.5 months post chemo and still dealing with fatigue. One thing I discovered is that I had to be careful not to OVERdo it. I exercised as much as I could during chemo, and immediately afterwards started really ramping up the exercise. I ended up setting myself back and getting MORE fatigued. So now I've been trying to do two light workouts a day, either walking or some sort of active chores (vacuuming, yard work). I also try to balance sedentary rest with non-sedentary activities that aren't quite exercise...cooking, playing pool. Also doing twice daily stretching, one session specifically targeted towards lymphedema.

Is it working? Not as well as I'd like. I still have bad days, and a good day is not as good as I'd like. One of the onc nurses told me it can take 6 months to a year to feel "normal" again. I don't even remember what normal feels like at this point!

That said, I'm no longer out of breath going up and down stairs, and my arms don't ache from folding laundry. My onc said that taking iron doesn't help with the anemia (it's a lack of red cells, not a lack of iron in the cells that are there), and that a lot of the shortness of breath was just from the chemo in general and not necessarily the low red cell count. So although I'm not where I want to be yet, it is MUCH better than it was actually during chemo. Also, not worrying about exposing myself to germs means I can get out and enjoy life more, even if I do have to conserve my energy.

Dx 5/23/2011, IDC, 1cm, Stage I, Grade 2, 0/6 nodes, ER+/PR+, HER2-Surgery 06/08/2011 Lumpectomy (Left)Surgery 06/29/2011 Lumpectomy (Left)Radiation Therapy 07/26/2011 ExternalChemotherapy 10/07/2011 Cytoxan, TaxotereHormonal Therapy 01/03/2012 Femara
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Apr 17, 2012 12:13PM, edited Apr 17, 2012 12:13PM by mamabee

I finished chemo 3 weeks ago. I had been taking fish oil and vitamin D before I was diagnosed but, following my MO's directions, I didn't take any vitamins or supplements during chemo. So what vitamins does everyone take? Anything in particular to help my body recover?

Invasive ductal carcinoma with lobular features, non-inflammatory skin involvement

Dx 11/2011, ILC, 3cm, Stage IIIb, Grade 2, 2/7 nodes, ER+/PR+, HER2-Chemotherapy 12/16/2011 Adriamycin, Cytoxan, TaxotereSurgery 04/23/2012 Mastectomy (Left); Lymph Node Removal: Sentinel Lymph Node Dissection, Axillary Lymph Node Dissection (Left)Radiation Therapy 06/11/2012 ExternalHormonal Therapy 08/27/2012 Tamoxifen
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Apr 17, 2012 03:47PM ruthbru wrote:

I went to a very interesting speaker about a year ago. The presentor was a doctor, nutrition specialist, and an eleven year breast cancer survivor. Here are some of her tips for staying healthy:

1. We all know we should eat more fruits & veggies, whole grains, less red meat, processed food etc. so I am not going to go into any of that.

2. EVERYONE should be taking a multi-vitamin. Make sure it says ‘Complete' on the label. Make sure it contains iodine, Vitamin K, selenium and folic acid along with all the other good stuff. Interesting facts about why multi-vitamins are important:

* older women with the lowest levels of vitamin B-12 were at the greatest risk for breast cancer

* taking acid-blocking medications make you less able to absorb B-12

* she recommends 400 mcg of folic acid a day. It works with the B-12 (studies have found that folates may help to make chemo more effective and decrease side effects)

* B 6 is important in lowering the risk of breast and colon cancer

* she recommends 90 mg of vitamin C

* 30 iu of E

3. Omega 3.....either eat oily fish twice a week or use fish-oil supplements (make sure it says EPA and DHA approved) 1000 mg a day. It's associated with decreased risk of cancer, heart disease, inflammatory disease, depression and more.

4. Vitamin D....a big deal.....she recommends getting it tested (should be between 40-50 ng/dL). She recommends 2000 iu a day to maintain a good level. Many, many conditions are associated with low vitamin D; heart attack, cancers, rheumatoid arthritis, muscle weakness, asthma, diabetics, multiple sclerosis etc. etc. etc. There are over 200 different body tissues that have been identified so far that have receptors for the vitamin D hormone and they need it to work properly.

* adequate Vitamin D levels has been shown to reduce the side effects of taxol based chemotherapy

* Adequate Vitamin D has shown to reduce the side effects of aromatase inhibitors

* start with a multi-vitamin, drink milk, eat yogurt (check and make sure it has vitamin D added), and most people will also need a supplement to keep that high of levels

5. Vitamin K, should get 100 mcg a day. Check your multi-vitamin, not all of them have it added. Inadequacy leads to an increased risk of various cancers, heart disease, osteoporosis and kidney problems.

"Invisible threads are the strongest ties." Friedrich Nietzsche

Dx 2/2007, Stage IIa, Grade 3, 0/11 nodes, ER+/PR-, HER2-
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Apr 20, 2012 04:42PM JoanQuilts wrote:

I saw my doctor today prior to my 5th chemo and told him about how tired I've been feeling.  He said that I'm slightly anemic, as would be expected from the chemo, and the out-of-breath feeling I've been having when I walk up the stairs is the result of this.  No need for a blood transfusion (and my insurance won't pay for Procit because I'm not anemic enough!). 

So I feel better just knowing that my blood levels are good, there is nothing seriously wrong, it's all to be expected.  I've been trying to exercise more and eat lots of protein - if nothing else, it's a psychological boost.  I made myself a pot of chicken soup (Jewish penicillin) last night before chemo because it's one of the few things that tastes good and have been trying to up my liquid intake. 

Thanks for all your input and tips.  This forum is such a great place to be!

Joan

Diagnosed 10/92, lumpectomy, CMF. Diagnosed with second primary 12/11 (19 years later!). . BMX with TEs to implants; 6 rounds of TC.

Dx 12/6/2011, IDC, <1cm, Stage I, Grade 3, 0/0 nodes, ER-/PR-, HER2-Surgery 01/06/2012 Mastectomy (Both); Reconstruction: Tissue expander placement, Breast implants (permanent) (Both)Chemotherapy 02/06/2012 Cytoxan, Taxotere