When Will I Start to Feel Better After Breast Cancer Treatment?

This question is asked of me quite often, and I have hesitated to answer it until I  had some solid proof about when you will really start feeling better.    I have an internet support group of about 20 women who keep in touch regularly through a Facebook group.   We met on  a breast cancer discussion group as we all started chemotherapy within four weeks of each other in January, 2012.  Some had surgery before chemo, some had surgery after chemo, most had radiation.   We all helped each other get through the tough times. These amazing women range in age from 30s to 70s and live all over the USA, Australia, and Israel.

One interesting thing occurrred, however.  We all started feeling better this month!  Not just a little better. Noticeably better.  Enough to write about it.  Enough to say, “Wow, my stamina is coming back.”  “I am able to travel again.”  “I can keep up with my toddlers again.”  “I am the top salesperson  in my company once again.”   “I am starting to dance again.”   “I am feeling pretty darn good, not my old self, but good.”   “Suddenly, I feel better than I have since breast cancer.”   These are the comments that appeared on our Facebook page this month!

The common denominator is we all had  Chemotherapy (AC and Taxol).  A few had Herceptin for a year.  Thirteen months after Chemo ended we all started to feel better simultaneously.  It did not matter our age, how we made a living, what stage our cancer was, or if we had a lumpectomy or mastectomy.

So from now on when I get asked, “How long before I start feeling better after treatment?”  my answer will be 13 months after Chemo ends!   For those of you in the midst of Chemo, this probably sounds like so much time to wait.  But it is a gradual thing.  The energy comes back little by little and one day you realize – “wow, I cleaned the house, walked around the park, watched the babies, and stayed up until 11 pm all in one day!”   That is a far cry from not even being able to go to the grocery store or stand up long enough to load the dishwasher!

Of course, there are always exceptions to the 13 month rule, but I feel confident that it does take at least this amount of time to start feeling better.  If you have just ended Chemo, don’t be too hard on yourself.  It is a process.  Don’t worry that family and friends think you should be better than you are.  Just tell them, “It will take at least 13 months or more!”

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16 comments

  1. Thanks! This was very helpful! I still have to figure out how to join a group on your site who are going through chemo now. I started the end if May.

    • Doreen….I just completed my last of 4 a/c treatments and will start the next series of 4 taxol treatments in 2 weeks. This is a bad day for me. Totally wiped out and am on the couch all day.

  2. Great News–13 is a Lucky Number after all. My last chemo Valentine’s Day so I am on my way!!! So as I understand it, I can start there and not the last day of the radiation? I like it 🙂 Thanks to all those ladies that made this discovery-Now the rest of us have a clear vision of what to really look forward to. Denise-THANK YOU SO MUCH!!!!

  3. So glad to hear you’re all feeling better, Denise! Just in case anyone yet to go through it is worried that 13 months is a looonnnng time, you’ll be pleased to know I felt much better much sooner, I.e. a couple of months after chemo ended, so I’m sure it’s different for everyone! Much love and I hope the good feeling continues!

  4. Hi Denise, I’m new to your site and appreciate the updates, and this new info on the 13 month breakthrough helps me adjust to my new timeline that absorbs my present mind set. I was diagnosed with BC 15Apr13, have had a lumpectomy and 18 lymph nodes removed 30Apr, no clear margins on tumour and 1 sentinel node affected, so then a mastectomy 3 weeks later..exhausting recovery…then AC chemo began 6 June, 2nd round down now as well just 2 days ago, so I am knew to all this too. Will do 2 more rounds of AC (fortnightly), then weekly Taxol for 12 weeks..so hopefully finish appx end of Oct? Then 5 weeks radiation takes me pretty much to Chrissy. Ugh..nothing like crossing off the rest of 2013 😦 looking forward to a 3 day cruise off east coast of Australia with my soccer team on 7feb14…is not the 13 month mark, but hoping to feel somewhat better by then 🙂 ive no doubt that yours and your other followers blogs will assist my headspace greatly. Thanks for being you ❤

    • Hi Kelly – thanks for sharing your journey with us! You will
      definitely feel better for that cruise next February! Keep on
      with just one day at a time. An old cliche, but it is so true!
      You will get through this!

  5. Hi Denise I like your article – people ask me how I feel all the time I finished chemo a/c and taxol Feb 20 2013 and then did 33 rads finished May 3rd – getting there – when asked how I feel I tell them and the Drs. that I feel good it is just a NEW NORMAL – feeling better each and every day! hope everyone is doing well and enjoying their summer Barb Murie

  6. How do I find Denises whole journey when taking her chemo treatments. I found the first one but I would like to find the rest of her info. That first visit to start chemo was very informative.

  7. This is a very helpful post. I’m back to work; my last chemo treatment was about a month ago. I had to get another drain, but once that’s out I start radiation treatments. When I mention that I’m feeling better but still get tired, people say, “But I thought you were done with chemo. I hear radiation is a piece of cake compared to that.” I’m already getting calls to fill in for other people at work, and I’m worried I’ll be so tired I won’t be able to do anything but work and sleep. Saying “I’m tired” seems like such a cop-out, but it’s not a lie. I tire very easily, and only time will take care of that.

    • I am very sorry people are already expecting you to have normal energy levels.
      That is SO UNREALISTIC. My Oncologists told me it can take up to 2 years for
      some people. Radiation does make you tired, but if you have been through chemo,
      it is not nearly as difficult. But it takes yet another huge toll on your body.
      I’m 14 months past Chemo and still have to pace myself… Please do not put any
      guilt or let anyone else put guilt upon you. You have a long way to go to
      recuperate….blessings your way. Denise

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