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Side effects of chemo and radiation?


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My mom went for chemo and radiation for the first time today. I am wondering if all those horrible stories about chemo are true. Do people really get very sick and weak? Also my mom is already tiny losing weight may not be to good any suggestions on how to help her to keep her weight up? What are other side effects can chemo and radiation have? Any advice that a cancer patient has to help me to help my mother and not "annoy" her will be helpful. What should I expect?

She has 5 weeks radiation and chemo treatment weeks 1 and 5.

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My dad started 5x/ week radiation and weekly chemo almost 5 weeks ago. He had already had one large chemo dose, so his reactions might be different. In general, my dad is doing well. The radiation makes him *very* tired, and the chemo has really hurt his immune system - his white cell count is very low. BUT, he only has mild burning in his esophagus, and he has a decent appetite.

Since the beginning of treatment, my dad has lost about 25 pounds - and we do everything we can to keep him eating. On our first day of chemo, we met with a nutritionist who offered lots of suggestions and literature. I would suggest setting up a meeting with an oncological nutritionist as well. In order to keep up his caloric intake, he has been drinking yogurt smoothies (pre-mixed, by Dannon etc.). They are about 300 calories a pop, and very easy to get down. Dad wasn't terribly fond of the Boost or Ensure the nutritionist suggested, and these seem to be doing the trick.

And, here is some helpful news: last week, the radiologist did some preliminary imaging tests to see if the cancer was responding to the radiation. We were so happy to learn that halfway through his 7-week regimen, my dad's tumor has already shrunk by about 40 - 50%. Unfortunately, it will never be operable due to its location... but we are hopeful, and know that all of the symptoms brought on by the treatment are worth it!!

Stay strong and good luck!

Happy Christmas,


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Everyone's experience with treatment is different. Some people are fine and continue as if nothing is going on, then there are people like me who react to everything. I was told to expect to be tired from radiation. I got tired towards the end.

Just try to be there for her and listen and provide support. She could be one of those people who has no side affects at all!

Good luck!

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Yep, everyone's response is different, but it seems like most people don't have the horrible nausea that used to be fairly standard. They have wonderful drugs for that now. Fatigue seems to be a pretty common factor.

The weight loss can be an issue. The doctor told us to give Steve whatever he would eat. Also, there are some good cancer cookbooks available that give hints on how to cope with side effects that can alter one's appetite. Keep an eye out for acid reflux too. The symptoms, at least in Steve's case were not at all what you might expect. Once Steve started on medication for it, his weight problem really improved.

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Dear Calintay,

I too was a Stage IIIA-B when I was dx.d way back in 1995. I had my left lung removed and then went through 36 sessions of radiation and 4 sessions of chemo. I did NOT have any major side effects nor did I lose any weight. I know of many people that have even put on some pounds doing chemo. Everyone reacts so differently to treatments. Try to remain positive and up beat during this time and you may be surprised how well it will help your mom's attitude toward her treatments. Try not to think of all the BAD stories you may have heard. Try and think of the good ones. Mind over matter DOES matter!

Good luck and best wishes.

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