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What does chemo feel like?

Published: 20 Dec 2016

If you’re about to start chemotherapy, chances are you’ve done a lot of online research, to try and prepare you for what lies ahead.  And when you’ve got your head around the procedures involved in treating your cancer, your next question is likely to be ‘what does chemo feel like?’

The answer is difficult to describe, because the chemotherapy experience is different for everyone.  In fact, you’ll probably go through a range of different emotions across the course of your treatment – maybe even during each of your sessions.

However, if you’re wondering how you might feel during the next few weeks, here are some of the emotions that people who have been through chemotherapy before say they have experienced:

Fear - before your first session, it’s totally fine to feel apprehensive – scared even.  It’s new, it’s unfamiliar, and it’s frightening.

 

Tiredness – you’ll be given medication through an intravenous drip, and some of the chemicals entering your body may make you feel woozy or drowsy.  You’ll be sitting for several hours during treatment, so let yourself nap if you feel the need.

Sickness – you may have a headache, or need the toilet more often, during chemotherapy.  You may start losing your hair.  You may also feel sick or lose your appetite – if not during the treatment itself, then afterwards.  Go easy on yourself; your immune system is being put under a lot of pressure, and pushing yourself too hard could result in you feeling even sicker.

Tearful – even the strongest people need to dig deep when undergoing treatment for cancer.  After all, you are literally fighting a disease.  As a result, your emotional reactions may be stronger than if you were at full health.  Just go with the flow; it’s OK to cry if you need to.

Anger – nobody deserves to get cancer.  That’s a fact.  There will be days when you feel a million miles away from your healthy self, or you miss out on things you want to do because you’re undergoing treatment, and that will understandably dampen your mood.  Like the moment you feel tearful, just ride the angry wave, and it will pass.  You may even want to practice yoga or meditation to help channel your inner peace.

Elation – just as there will be bad days, there will be good ones too.  Sometimes you will wake up with a new determination to kick this disease in the butt, or you will celebrate a treatment milestone.  And all being well, there will be that moment you’ve been waiting for, when you finish treatment and start winning the war with cancer.

The most important thing you need to know when embarking on cancer treatment is that there’s no rulebook for what chemo should feel like.  It is your own journey, and you will deal with it your way.  The best thing you can do is give yourself time to process your feelings.  Don’t be afraid to lean on others, either; friends and family are an invaluable support network, and you can seek professional support if you think sharing your emotions with a counselor will benefit you.