Ways to help recover from chemo and how long it takes

Plan on about two months of recovery time for every one month of treatment, says oncologist

woman receiving chemotherapy

It is your last chemotherapy infusion or radiation treatment. Your family and friends are celebrating with you, you ring the bell, and then you move on with your life.

If only it were that easy!

One of the hardest things I see people struggling with is “recovery time,” particularly as it relates to fatigue from cancer treatment.

The rule of thumb I usually tell my patients is that it takes about two months of recovery time for every one month of treatment before energy will return to a baseline. Everyone is different but at least this gives you a ballpark. This is a lot longer than most people assume.

Rightfully so, people want to resume their “old life,” their “pre-cancer” life, and feel like they should get back to everything they were doing before cancer. What makes it more difficult is that people around you — your boss, co-workers, family and friends — may think this too.

These unrealistic expectations can be very stressful on you (which may even steal more of your energy).

Things to consider:

  • Educate your family, friends, and co-workers. Even though you may appear to be “back to normal,” make sure they understand the impact fatigue is having on your daily life and what your limitations are. Tell them things like: “My oncologist expects that it will be at least 6, 9, 12 months for my energy to really improve.”
  • Set priorities. What are your priorities now? Maybe a perfectly clean house doesn’t matter much right now. Do the things that bring you joy and don’t worry about the non-essential.
  • Modify your daily activities. Even though you may feel you have a ton of energy on certain days, avoid overdoing it and then suffering worse fatigue for the next two days.
  • Be realistic. Let your family and friends help you when they offer, and continue to accept this help beyond treatment.

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Posted In Cancer, Cancer Treatments, Symptom Management