Fear of Chemotherapy
Coming to terms with the fact that I had to do chemo was emotionally hard. That's the part that I was the most scared about, but you just do it day by day and you get through it.

For many women, the news that they will need chemotherapy as part of their cancer treatment plan is almost as devastating as the initial diagnosis of breast cancer. Chemotherapy is an important weapon in the arsenal of tools used in cancer treatment, but it is also associated with a host of challenging side effects. Hair loss, nausea, fatigue and the temporary onset of menopause symptoms can be very challenging. These side effects induce fear and dread.

Even though foregoing chemo would be obviously a lot easier than going through it, I didn't feel that I was willing to take that risk that the cancer would come back years later and I would feel like I didn't do everything that I could have done at the time to make sure it didn't come back. -- Hayley A.

It is important to remember the positive effect chemotherapy can have in eradicating your cancer. Prepare mentally. Research potential side effects and prepare for them in advance. Fear can be minimized if you know what to expect. Talk to other women who have been through it, understand that your emotions and apprehensions are to be expected, and know that you are not alone.

"It was actually a really great year last year. We traveled during chemotherapy and did a lot of great stuff."
"We've got a 9 and 10 year old at home. I want to be there for that wedding. I'll go through anything it takes for six months."
"We did not think I would need chemo, but when I found out the news I was going to need chemotherapy, I just totally lost it."
"I met with the oncologist two weeks after the surgery and he told me that I came out in the moderate range. He said that's the gray area."
"In terms of the chemotherapy, I did read up everything and try to figure what was going to happen to me so I was prepared for it. That took away a big piece of the fear."
"When the pathology came back, there were no signs of cancer anymore, so in my situation, the chemotherapy worked really well."
"Even though foregoing chemotherapy would be obviously a lot easier than going through it, I didn't feel that I was willing to take that risk that the cancer would come back years later."
"I didn't feel like I had a choice. I want to be here so that's what I needed to do. I don't think that makes me brave."
Managing the Effects of Chemotherapy
When I started chemo, I felt really strong. I didn't realize how much being physically challenged by the treatments would impact my attitude. As a person, I'm pretty optimistic, so I found it pretty unfair by the end. -- Deb H.
Even though my body feels weak, I'm obviously fatigued, I just have an inner strength that I didn't have before.

We often equate cancer with the visible side effects of chemotherapy. As a woman facing breast cancer, the side effects can feel like a total assault on her femininity. For many, they have had to have their breasts removed, and if chemotherapy is part of their treatment regime, they are also losing their hair, their eyebrows and their lashes. These visible side effects alert others to her challenge and serve as a constant reminder, each time she looks in a mirror, of what she is going through.

The other side effects, while not visible, can be just as challenging. Fatigue, nausea, and “chemo brain” are formidable challenges. Many women describe feeling unlike themselves and unable to enjoy the everyday.

Side effects can be, to some degree, managed. Medications can help with nausea and fatigue, “cold caps” can help with hair loss, rest and a good diet can contribute to an overall feeling of improved resiliency and stamina. It’s helpful to talk with other women who’ve been through it and listen to their advice on how to minimize the negative effects. Most importantly, focus on one day at a time and one treatment at a time. Maintain a positive outlook and recognize that each step is a step to feeling well again.

"I was fortunate enough to find out from a good friend about cold caps. I'm here to say it works. It was a psychological thing for me."
"Chemo brain is real. You're kind of limited in the things you can think about all at one time."
"My nails had separated from the nail bed. For some reason it was that one little thing that sent me over the edge. It made me cry and cry and cry"
"They say chemotherapy is hard, but when you go through it, it really is physically exhausting on your body."
"We opted to do chemotherapy first before any more surgery. I stayed sick most of the time."
"But I didn't want the kids to miss out so we went to Disney. I wanted to prove that chemotherapy wasn't going to define who you are"
"I missed out on a lot, but it's a short period of time for long-term gain. You just do what you have to do."
"When my hair fell out, I got a rash."