What should I expect when someone starts Chemotherapy

My father has recently been diagnosed with liver cancer and will soon be starting chemotherapy. I was just wondering what I should expect. By that I meen what is it going to do to my father? Is he going to be in a lot of pain from the treatment? Will he lose his hair? Basically I want to know if I am going to have to watch my Dad deterirate before my eyes? I really need to know b/c over the last week since I returned home to see him the hardest thing seems to be seeing my Dad in pain. He has always been a very strong, independet and proud man, but over the last few days he hasn’t been able to do much b/c of the pain and the medication he takes for it. If his condition is going to get worse when he starts chemo. I would like to know so I can attempt to prepare myself. I certainly wasn’t prepared when I came home this week and I don’t want to go through that agian. Thanks.

IANAD. It depends on the chemo that he’s given. Different drugs and different combinations can cause different side effects. If you can, schedule an appointment with his doctor to discuss the specifics.

It is possible that your dad will seem worse once he’s started treatment. However, his doctor will be keeping a close eye on the side effects, and can adjust the dosage if they’re bad. There are also medications that can be given to help ease the side effects, such as anti-nausea drugs.

Another thing I can suggest is that you find a good cancer support group. Most cities have them, and they can often work wonders.


My mom had colon cancer that moved to her liver. She took some chemo, but it didn’t help. There were no horrid side effects, i.e., no loss of hair, vomiting, etc. But she died within weeks anyway. Sorry your dad is sick. I hope the treatment will prove to be effective.

IANAD far from it, but I’ve been there with my dad (ex-army officer, different cancer, otherwise sounds a lot like your dad) for the last 3 years.

He took the hair loss from his first chemotherapy with a sense of humour, but when he asked me to shave his head because he was “tracking hair all over the house like a shedding dog” I did get a bit emotional. The most difficult for my dad is exactly what you’re talking about: a proud strong independent man has to start asking for help. Perhaps you’re more prepared than you think, you’re certainly asking the right questions.

Feel free to e-mail me, even just to kvetch.

My best friend went through chemo when she was 15 for CML - she was told to shave her head before she started chemo, because it’s worse to (her words) “watch it fall out in clumps”. Sorry, that’s hard to read, but it’s true. She lost a lot of weight (didn’t have much to begin with) and looked as weak as she likely was, but for the most part had no major side effects. Her nurses called her “the girl who forgot to get sick”. Because of leukemia, she was isolated for 6 months, and she was out-of-province, so I didn’t really watch the progression. I wished I could have seen her, but they didnt let minors into the ward (I was 15/16 too).

You father sounds like a strong man. If anything, I hope this makes him stronger. Kris is now studying to be a nurse because of her experiences, and as terrible a thing as cancer is, sometimes there is a silver lining.

…I suppose I didn’t answer you questions really, but I am so proud of my friend, and care about her so much…I just want to let you know that it’s not always as terrible as it may seem…

Different types of chemo do different things to people. My mom had 5 chemo sessions for her lung cancer. She had a bit of a problem with nausea, but it wasn’t that bad. She did lose here hair—ALL OF IT, if you know what I mean. The biggest affect it had was that she was just completely wiped out, she would spend almost the entire day on the couch. One problem was that one of the drugs she was taking made her really wifty and affected her short term memory so she couldn’t read anything or really watch tv.

Her cancer went into remission for about 2 months, but then it came back stronger then ever. She died at 9:00 AM March 12.

After she lost her hair, she didn’t get a wig or wear a hat or a scarf, which was really cool.

After she stopped chemo and her hair started growing back she asked me to shave her head. I asked why, and she said that I had experience at it, (I’ve been shaving my head for nearly 5 years now) but that her head was feeling funny when it rubbed agaisnt the pillow at night.

My mom just had her first chemotherapy treatment today. In April she was diagnosed with breast cancer, and will be having surgery at a later date. Her Doc wants to use the chemo to shrink the tumors as much as he can before removing them, and she will have 3 or maybe 4 three-week rounds of chemo before then.

First, let me say that this is my first experience with chemo, and I am sure there are lots of good folks here that are better informed and can tell you more about this. But I thought it might interest you to hear from someone at about the same stage as you currently are.

When we learned that chemo was a definite thing, I hit the web looking for information. The best place so far has been the American Cancer Society. The site is full of good, reliable info like what cancer is, what types of cancer there are, how different cancers are treated, etc. Plus, there is a huge amount of information on coping with treatment, finding support for both the chemo patient and their caregivers, even advice on telling kids about cancer. The site is a little hard to navigate, but is definitely worth the effort. They even have online support groups, if you are unable to hook up with a live one.

I took Mom to the Oncologist office at 9:00 am. The nicest nurse gave her the treatment. We were led to a large sunny room with a big window across the top of one wall. There were several ‘cubicles’ there, each with a comfy recliner and an extra chair for ‘spectators’, lol, and a little privacy screen. It was not a scary place at all. After Mom got settled, the nurse came in with her little Cart-o-Chemo[sup]TM[/sup] and hung a bag of saline, which she connected to the PortoCath mom had installed last week. Mom said that it was not any more painful than any other needle stick. Then the nurse gave her two different anti-nausea medications by injecting them into the line to the PortoCath. She and mom chatted for a few minutes (I think to let the anti-nausea stuff have a chance to start working) and then she injected the first chemo drug into the line the same way. The nurse left for maybe 15 minutes while she helped another patient, and then gave the second chemo drug the same way. After letting the entire saline bag finish, Mom was hooked up to a pump which is slowly pushing the third chemo drug. She will be disconnected from the pump tomorrow morning. We were out of the office and home by 10:30 or so.
As of right now 11:24 PM Central, Mom has had no nausea. She had tunafish for lunch, and talked me into baking a chocolate cake this afternoon. She had spaghetti for supper, went to my youngest’s baseball game for an hour, and had a sno-cone.
The only complaint so far has been feeling kind of foggy headed. Doing a word search earlier, 2 of the words were ‘apple’ and ‘basin’. Somehow she put them together and spent 10 minutes looking for ‘cider’ instead, lol.

I know that things can get much worse, and that today is no indication of how chemo three months from now will be, but we were both reassured by the experience today. I can’t say that your Dad will have it this easy, heck, I can’t even tell whether my Mom will. It could all go south in the morning for all I know. But I thought you might appreciate a first hand account of a first day chemo experience. It was definitely not as scary as we thought it would be.

Hope that helps and best of luck to your dad,

IANAD, but both my mother and father fought cancer (my mother unsuccessfully). My mother went through chemotherapy before entering surgery.

I can’t say much on the physical effects of chemo (my mother even didn’t lose her hair), but I can vouch for the mental effects. Expect your father to be a different man. The nausea will get to him. He won’t be strong. He’ll be sore. He won’t be independent. He’ll be shackled to a treatment routine. His pride will be hurt.

Or maybe he’s a saint. Maybe he’ll grin and bear it. Suck up the punishment and work through it. Repress the anger and bitterness and the fucking unfairness of it all. But if he’s like any normal person, he’s gonna be grouchy and irritable and perhaps even a little bitter. Cancer is painful. Cancer is unfair. It’s in all of us to feel a little (or even a lot!) angry at the injustice of having to suffer. I bet you can already appreciate the unfairness of it all. Well, your dad is feeling it too, plus some. He’s a man under an immense amount of stress. He’s in pain. He’s probably more than a little scared.

So there will be times when he’s gonna act unreasonably, even cruelly. He may be impatient or rude or short-tempered or just plain pissed off. Cancer treatment will test the strongest of patients. It will also test the patient’s family. There may be times when you’ll feel angry at him for his short-temperedness or unreasonableness. Maybe you’ll have good reason to lose your temper. But you’re gonna have to try, try and try again to be patient with him. Grin and bear it. Suck up the punishment for him. He may not be able to bear it all by himself.

Best wishes to you and your father, novacaine.

My sister has terminal breast cancer. She made it through round one of the chemo with hair loss and a fair bit of nausea. She just started a second round of a different kind of chemo and the effects are worse this time as far as nausea, headaches, etc.

Mentally she has held strong with some exceptions. Support from those who love them is one of the best things a cancer patient can receive. Feeling normal with the people around them, when things are not normal can be such a positive thing.

Many positive wishes coming your and your father’s way.

I’m sending positive vibes your way too.

My mom is a breast cancer survivor and she was only given a 15% chance for survival— that was 15 years ago, so don’t give up at any cost. Pls keep us posted, ok?