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!”