After Cancer Treatment

Going through cancer treatment is a genuinely awful experience but you’re NOT DONE yet. I think most of us focus on just getting through treatment and don’t pay much attention to the realities of post-cancer treatment. I know I’ve had a really rough time adjusting my expectations that once treatment was over I’d heal for a few weeks and then be right back to normal.

Uh. No.

Lingering side-effects:

  • Fatigue and lack of stamina
  • Brain fog (chemo brain)
  • Photo-sensitivity
  • Taste changes
  • Nerve damage
  • Inflammation

As of this writing I am 10 weeks post-treatment, I’ll update over time. I’m continuing to take Beta Glucan regularly. Dose: 1,000 mg daily taken with 400 mg of vitamin C.


The fatigue is crippling at times, I’ve had to give up maintaining my yard and doing any activities that physically strain my body. Getting back into an exercise routine has been maddeningly hard and I’ve ended up making a choice to get exercise at the cost of doing just about anything else physically.

Chemo Brain

At 10 weeks out I have lots of brain fog problems, my work has given me extra staffing support because I can’t multitask at all, it takes me twice as long to do complex tasks like managing a budget, and my short-term memory is gone (if I don’t write it down, it ain’t happening). I have no idea how much of this is from chemo damage and how much can be attributed to menopause (the radiation roasted my ovaries). I’m praying to every deity out there that it goes away in a few months….


In most cases the photo-sensitivity ends shortly after the chemo drugs have left the system, in my case it lingers on. And on. And on. More than anything else the photoallergy is making my life and recovery more difficult. I literally cannot be in the sun for more than 20 seconds without blistering. I’ve had to buy a new wardrobe of UPF clothing, including a wide brim UPF hat, UPF gloves, and I carry around an anti-UVA umbrella.  If someone made a UPF burqa I’d probably be a customer, that’s how sensitive I am to sun.

Things I’ve had to do because of photo sensitivity:

  • After a set of nasty burns I had to have the passenger side windows of my car tinted with UV protective film (your windshield is probably fine but the side windows won’t be…)
  • After getting another set of burns I discovered that even being in the shade isn’t protection – UV rays bounce off concrete, roofs, and house siding
  • And then after getting still more burns I realized that leaving the back door to my house open during the day was allowing UV rays to bounce into the kitchen and burn me
  • Even keeping the kitchen door closed I realized (after more burns) that the window in the door was allowing enough UV rays through to hit my legs, so I put film on the door window

Nerve Damage

As is typical, I have occasional tingling and numbness in my hands and feet. I don’t notice it very often but it’s definitely there. The rest of my skin also feels a bit rubbery.

I feel somewhat blessed that I didn’t lose any bladder or bowel function after having all that radiation. I do still have some inflammation of the vagina and bowel and the skin over my tailbone where the radiation beam was entering my body continues to be dry and irritable.

Post-Cancer Treatment Diet

I adopted the diet recommendations for post-cancer treatment even before I started treatment.

  • Eliminate dairy (except for yogurt and some cheese)
  • Limit red meat to no more than once per week
  • Limit fried food to no more than twice a month
  • 5 servings daily of fruits and vegetables