How Normal will life be when chemo starts?

Hi- I am about to start chemo and wondering how normal my life will be, i have read alot on here and even before chemo life not exactly been normal with appts check ups, finances to sort, pain, coping emotions etc. so when the chemo starts and all is in place will life be quite normal again. I am going to be working from homne as adv by onc and bcn but will go to office sometimes but what about just going to town, out shopping girlie days, romantic weekends etc, how much will the chemo affect daily life… I m gathering that the side effects are so diff with everyone, some i have heard are quite daunting - will i smell bad of chemicals, lose my nails… already taken care of the hair, having it cut for charity, breast cancer care that we are on now, gettng my hair sponsored! Just would welcome any advice and fellow travellers to share with me?
Shar xxxxxx

Hi Shar,

have only had 1 lot myself 2nd lot due tomorrow but all going well so far & have continued as normal with work, nights out,weekends away etc etc am hoping this will continue with tomorrows & next 4 so am crossing fingers but also know that with chemo you just take everything a step at a time, am also aware that chemo seems to affect everyone differently.
Good luck with yours, when do you start ?


Hiya. Life won’t be ‘normal’, but it won’t all be ‘chemo’ either. Everyone reacts differently, but as a baseline, most people don’t feel right for the first week following FEC, and anything up to ten or eleven days following TAX. This doesn’t necessarily mean confined to bed/sofa bad… it could just be not quite firing on all cylinders. The second week is low immunity time, so be a little careful about who you mix with - you don’t want to sit for hours with a friend who has a streaming cold, for example… but most of us still do supermarket shops/coffee in town etc etc. Third week is pretty much as normal as it can get - just counting down to next dose.

Life doesn’t stop on chemo, it really doesn’t. You may have to think ahead a little more when scheduling a weekend away, figure out how it will fit in as to where you in treatment, but that’s all. Working from home is a really good idea - so long as work are understanding that you simply may not be up to putting in eight hour days monday to friday. There will def. be days when you are up to going into the office - but there will def. be days when you aren’t.

Expect the fatigue to increase through chemo - we feel like we are back to normal by week three, but in fact, we don’t quite reach the energy levels we had, and that happens each time - I’ve now done four lots, and am very aware that the tiredness is constant - not to the point where I can’t do anything, but def. aware of how tired I am after doing the most simple jobs.

The best advice I can give you is - Listen to your body. If you feel fine, then make the most of every second. If you’re tired, rest. If you feel dreadful, take a duvet day. Or two. Don’t try to struggle on regardless, it’s not a competition, and do come on here and share how you feel/ask questions/rant/laugh/whatever. Because that really helps.

Sophie xxx

Hi Shar

Everyone reacts differently so its hard to predict how it will be.

I suppose the thing to do is make people aware that you don’t know how you’re going to feel and that you’ll have to take things one day at a time.

How you feel can also fluctuate depending on where you are in the chemo cycle. You may want to avoid going out so much when you’re at the nadir (when your white cells are at their lowest - you will be told when this is) and arrange to go out towards the end of the cycle.

I do hope all goes well for you.
take care, Elinda x

Hi there. I’m having FEC-T and just had number 4 and just wanted to agree with what has been said already. Everyone seems to have different side effects and to different degrees. I had horrendous sickness and nausea on FEC, but some people don’t have any and so far I’ve found TAX easier but it seems to be taking longer to feel back to ‘normal’ and not so woolly-headed.

Make sure you get quick help with any side effects you have - I kept a diary of how I felt so I didn’t forget to tell the doctors what SE meds I would need.

Chemo hasn’t stopped me doing things really just slowed things down a tad. I just write off the first week after chemo and I always have a day to myself when I’m feeling good, before I go back to work, to really indulge myself doing something nice. I’m not back at work full-time though, I have an excellent employer happy for me to do what I want when I want. I am also able to work from home, which is great and keeps my mind active and for 5 mins I am thinking of something else rather than this inconvenient BC lark.

Hope this helps. Good luck. I am amazed at how quickly the time has gone.


hi shar, i tried my best to live life normal, i worked throughout and just pushed myself to be as normal as i could, there were times when i was in hospital cos blood count was too low and high temp so could never plan a weekend away, the sickness was controlled after a while so wasnt too bad, hair came out after 2nd dose, the last lot (tax) i found much better for me! i did ache like an old lady and i did push myself to get out of bed but once out i carried on as normal, chemo for me was hard but i got through it and its now a distant memory, everyone is diff i met ppl that found it pretty easy so everyone is different take a day at a time and take it easy when u need to .
kaz xxx

I had fec and tax and managed to work as an electrician’s mate throughout apart from a couple of days off every chemo week. I didnt have many side effects on fec apart from a metallic taste in my mouth and mouth ulcers, on tax I did get increasingly more and more tired and by my last one just felt like cuddling up under the duvet for a week! I told no one except my immediate family and best friend. That way people treated me as normal - and that helped me no end! We all react and get by differently and there was no one more surprised than me at how well I sailed though…good luck xx ps.It did help to be working in the family business!

Hi everyone this is a great post i go on wed 2 march to my chemo appointment tofind out how many i will have its the 1st appointment with my chemo doctor if that makes sence not sure what you mean about fec and tax good luck to all the ladies with chemo

Hi madmax,

Fec & Tax are 2 of the chemo regimes used in the treatment of Bc.

Its my understanding that Fec alone is often used when there is no lymphnode or vasculour invasion involved or if people have bad reactions to Tax then Fec alone may be used too. I believe a combination of Fec & Tax may also be used before surgery to sometimes shrink tumours.

I am having 6 lots of Fec as back up for a grade 3 tumour that was removed by lumpectomy but thankfully as i had no lymphnode involvement i do not need the Tax part but then everyone seems to be treated slightly different & i think the Doctors take in a whole host of factors when making decisions.

Good luck with your appointment

Hiya Shar,

Good luck to you and let us know when you start treatment.

I’ve had one FEC75, which is 75% of “full-fat” FEC, and had gone back to work, but I’ve now been told I’ve got v low WBC which was something of a shock to me as I felt great!
I’d not had much nausea or other se’s like huge appetite but hair definitely coming out now.

As everyone else has said the SE’s vary so much from person to person I’ve found it a lot easier just to go with the flow!

I hope you are OK and SE’s are minimal, but as any Chemo formula is mixed according to your Oncologist’s instruction on the day treatment is given you won’t be exactly the same as any one else.

Hope this helps and thinking of you and all others having treatment for the first time soon.

Lots of love
Helen xx

Hi Shar

It’s a long time since I did it, but I remember clearly that most of the time I felt fine, and life was surprisingly normal. Although there were some days when I was quite tired etc, I reminded myself I have felt worse with a bad cold or flu!
Working helps keep things in perspective, so do try to do some most days. As for holidays, I asked my onc and she said’ holidays are recommended!'. I even went sailing, and went to parties, just took it gently and did not quite as much as I would normally,
Make sure they sort out good anti sick meds, if they dont work initially don’t panic as there are lots of options. They had to change my prescription after a couple of days (just ring your bcn), but once they did I was fine and could go out for meals etc as normal.
all the best

I should have said shar…no nasty chemical smells cling to you or come from you [unless you get the dreaded…er…chemo wind!!]
Life will go on as near normal as it can be you will soon learn what you can and cannot do.I would try to avoid mixing with large groups of people as you have to be careful of infections.
just think all you starters-in a few months you will be looking back on this as if it was a nightmare.
take Care

Hi Shar, I found two weeks out of three were “normal” even though had to have dose reduced to 75% and WCC not recovering in time for each cycle. BB

hi, i had chemo 3 years ago. everyone is different i think,however,i found it very manageable. i would be sick a few hours afterwards and feel tired. i felt more normal after 5 days. you mention nails, mine didnt fall out. you can certainly have girlie days out ect. i experienced a lack of confidence, however in time this returns. i met some remarkable people in the chemo unit it can be a strangly uplifting place.

HI I did chemo back in 2004 I honestly found it ok I was never sick thanks to anti sickness meds and ate really well through the treatment. My hair thinned out but I decided to shave it as it looked better than in clumps. Everyone different so just take it as it comes drink plenty of fluids and dry skin cream comes in handy. Mine has returned now and I will prob have to do it all over again… good luck and keep your chin up xx

Hi Shar thing is to listen to your body, it depends on what chemo and how often , i was on a fortnightly regime and had only read about three weekly pre chemo so it took me by surprise when i didn’t recover between sessions. Don’t plan too much but if you feel like it do it. Some side effects are a pain in the arse , but can be managed ie heartburn, constipation, aches and pains, sickness. Make sure you as your chemo team if you are suffering usually there is something they can do to help.

take care and good luck rhi x

Hi Shar,
I have just finished my chemotherapy and, like other posters, found that life was pretty normal for most of the time. I was scared also before starting. The registrar Oncologist didn’t tell me that side effects wear off and I thought I would have them for four months! The reality was far different and I went to work, every time, by day 12. I haven’t had surgery yet so time off was not necessary beforehand. As has been said, listen to your body and take it easy. I kept a diary throughout and found my nadir ( the lowest point) each time was the same ( day 9&10). After this thigs picked up really quickly.
Best of luck, I’m sure you will be just fine.

After my hair fell out on the taxol I wore a great wig I’d bought on e-bay. It was so like my own hair no one noticed the difference, and when the wig started to go thin on top I popped a ‘beanie’ on. It was high summer and very hot but you’d be surprised at the rastas who came on to me that year! I still went to the pub on a sat night for a couple of pints of guinness, I thought I’d overdone it at the end of chemo when my liver count came back abnormaly high - had to wait for the results of some tests to find out it was a reaction to the tax!!
Josie x

My life has been very normal just a little less work and exercise. You will be fine im sure. Thoughts are the scary thing keep the mind occupied.