How long to feel well again after treatment?


Question from Sassy: How long after treatment (chemo, radiation, now tamoxifen) does it usually take before you feel well again?
Answers - Anne McTiernan, M.D., Ph.D. In our studies where we follow women with breast cancer, we find that it's extremely varied. Some women feel just fine throughout treatment, and some women take a couple of years to feel like they're back to where they were before being diagnosed. So it's very individual.
Marisa Weiss, M.D. My general rule of thumb—which is not at all scientific—is that the time it takes to feel like yourself again is the same as the length of time between the first scare prior to diagnosis (feeling the lump) to the last day of treatment.

For example, if the period of time between finding the lump and finishing all your therapy, not including the five years of tamoxifen, is eight months it's going to take about eight months before you start feeling more like yourself again. However, long-term hormonal therapy can certainly influence how you feel.

Of course, many other things can also influence the way you feel. For example, if you've gained weight or if you have persistent pain and discomfort following surgery, or if you lost your hair and it's taking longer than you expected for it to grow in again, or if you were thrown into premature menopause, then it's likely that you're going to feel different than you did before you were diagnosed.

Also, as time passes during and after treatment, all of us are growing older. So we become more aware of the effects of aging that can make us feel different than we did before. The main thing is that you want to keep moving in the right direction, recovering your precious energy, your sense of fun, and to preserve the things in your life that gave you meaning so that you can build a new kind of normal for yourself. What that 'new normal' is going to be like and how long it takes to get there—as Dr. McTiernan said—does vary a great deal from woman to woman.

The fact is, there is only one of you, and how you handle this and how all these things affect you will be unique to you. But you can still learn a lot from other women who've been there before and who may have a lot of advice, guidance and support to share. The Discussion Boards at Breastcancer.org are a great place to go to tap into a lot of this essential information and support.

Finally, remember that getting better involves having good days and bad days. Don't expect to feel progress every day. There will be times when you feel you're making good progress and other days when you may feel that you're slipping back. Hang on for the ride and keep yourself headed forward whenever you can.

On Wednesday, May 21, 2003, our Ask-the-Expert Online Conference was called Taking Care of YourselfAnne McTiernan, M.D., Ph.D. and Marisa Weiss, M.D. answered your questions about exercise and nutrition, and other things you can do to nurture your body, along with strategies for finding emotional support, boosting your mood, and feeling good again.

The materials presented in these conferences do not necessarily reflect the views of Breastcancer.org. A qualified healthcare professional should be consulted before using any therapeutic product or regimen discussed. All readers should verify all information and data before employing any therapies described here.

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Copyright 2010. All rights reserved.

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