My mom had 6 rounds of chemo, 33 rounds of radiation, and 26 rounds of herceptin. She was in her mid-60s during that time and she's 70 now. As far as physical capabilities, it feels like I'm taking care of a 90 year old rather than a 70 year old.

She seemed to somewhat bounce back in a limited fashion, but started to take steps back a couple of years ago. She struggles with her energy, unable to find a successful way to keep it up and manage it properly. She needs help getting her legs on and off the bed. She's gone to where she's out of bed only once a week.

Idk if it's bad habits coming back to haunt her, cancer coming back, or her body taking a ridiculously long time to get past the effects of the treatments.

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In previous posts, you mention mom's weight problem due to poor eating habits which is contributing to her having issues lifting her legs on/off the bed. I'd put her on a restricted calorie diet for weight loss, get that out of the way, and THEN start pointing fingers at chemo and asking questions about what it's done to her, after she loses enough weight to move her own legs on/off the bed. Process of elimination works best when you don't have medical answers to these kinds of questions.
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I agree that there likely are issues here that are unrelated to the cancer treatments. Even though these treatments can and do produce temporary and sometimes permanent problems.

I was treated for a metastatic cancer almost forty years ago and, since I'm still here to talk about it, have little to complain about. Nonetheless, because I was considered "young and otherwise healthy" I received the max chemo I could tolerate, and it left behind some permanent (but not serious) disabilities.

Since your mom is much older than I was I doubt they'd dose her as heavily as she could not be expected to have the same physical resources a young person can call on. But for the same reason, the treatments would affect her more severely.

For all that, these sound like effects that were not expected, and I think a reasonable course would be to find a physician willing to follow up to determine the cause.

I would not speculate on what that cause might be, but after such heavy-duty treatment she may well have electrolyte imbalances or other issues that may prevent re-establishing a healthy homeostasis.

And as much as I hate to bring it up, cancer can persist and not infrequently returns and it, too, can produce all matter of physical symptoms, depending on what bodily functions are being compromised.

I also had two sequences of radiation as the cancer recurred one and then two years after the initial treatment. My memory is that both the chemo and the radiation produced (as expected) substantial fatigue. Although in time this resolved.
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Been there and done that. So yes, cancer treatments can whip the tar out of the body.
And cancer can return.
And chemo and radiation have long term effects on the body.
It is, however, interesting to hear you say Mom was for some time improved; was that for some months or some years?
I had treatment for cancer in my late 40s, similar in nature except for my refusal of radiation. That was 35 years ago and there have been no long term affects. Every body is different.
I think you cannot know. I think you should discuss with her, encourage a full and thorough head to toe checkup to rule out any spread or return. Perhaps consider a slow progressing PT referral program of guided exercises stress on walking (so good for our bones and every other system).
Know that any lack of getting up, getting out, moving, walking, will take the body down more quickly than just about anything else including cancer treatment. When I was a young RN they did an experiment with Army personnel, young, healthy volunteers. They put them in a bed for one month, measured blood, bone density, etc. following the experiment. The changes in the body were profound. More than a few had almost to be retrained to walk. They got fuzzy thinking. Appetites and digestion deteriorated, and etc. Blood draws showed profound chemistry changes.
So you are correct. It could be any of the above.
Have a frank discussion with Mom. Then suggest that she start with head to toe exams including for any depression. Cancer leaves you with years of fear. First year I was scared of anything. Pain in shin meant in my bones, word search meant in my brain. Year two I was less afraid. Year three I wasn't much afraid but was afraid that I wasn't afraid and therefore it would catch me unaware. So in exams be sure to have Mom talk with a therapist a few times to rule out depression, to be able to voice what she can't share with family. Cancer survivors feel a good deal of inappropriate "guilt" that they have already burdened family enough. Along with that Mom should see MD for a THOROUGH wellness check and recommend a path forward.
Some changes from cancer treatment side effects include OTHER cancers far into the future, sadly enough, including the blood cancers. Some cancer treatments include profound changes to the brain. Some people skid by relatively unscathed. You just can't know.
So you are right. While it isn't comforting to think on, it could be "anything". I wish you the best of luck.
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BB, with respect, you seem to be doing a lot of guessing and assuming.

Have you been to the doctor with your mom and asked:

1 . Why she needs assistance getting her legs off the bed? Can the doctor script a PT assessment?
2. Why she has so little energy?
3. What diet her doctor recommends for?
4. Can she remain at home without your help and can the doctor recommend a social worker to work with you to get mom the care she needs?
5. Ask for a cognitive assessment to see if mom's appreciation of her situation is limited by cognitive decline.
6. Since mom declined further cancer treatment, can there be an assessment of whether she is truly cancer-free?
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There are long lasting side effects. A woman I worked with had breast cancer. She was told the side effects but the one effecting her legs was very rare. The side effect she got...yep her legs. Same with my GFs husband after colon cancer, effected his legs.

33 rounds of radiation! I can't imagine. Your Mom went thru a lot.
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Chemo is literally poison and radiation is burning body parts. You don't just bounce back from intentionally poisoning and frying your body.

Why people think chemo and radiation is like taking an aspirin to make a headache go away, I'll never know.
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Blickbob, cancer can do more than age, cause energy depletion, and wear a person down. That's just the physical aspect. The emotional aspect can be just as destructive.

Recovery is dependent on the individual, age, health, type of cancer, stage of cancer, treatment, and other issues. There's really no guideline. Medication can have side effects, chemo wears person down and requires additional rest, and radiation also can drain a person's energy. Treatment can definitely "wear" someone down.

I hate to write this, but depending on a lot of factors you haven't mentioned, your mother may not recover to the state she was in before treatment. She may not deteriorate, but it sounds as if she's had a long battle, and that wears down not only her body, but her emotions, strength and stamina.

I get the impression that you think your mother might be able to recover and "get past the effects of the treatments." This doesn't always happen. It depends on the type of cancer, stage, health of the person, support, mental strength and more factors.

What kind of cancer did she have? Did it metastasize? That can make a big difference as well.

My sister was a runner, taught exercise classes to elders, and was diagnosed at age 52. UP to that time, she was otherwise in good health. Despite 4 -5 (or maybe more) different (about 6 months each) treatment periods of chemo, then together with whole brain rads and meds which I don't remember, she still gradually became weaker and couldn't recover after the 4th round of chemo.

I don't think I've seen such weakness in someone. When she told me that she was letting her dogs out by crawling on the floor, I quit work and moved in with her. She continued to decline, gradually being unable to stand without assistance.

Try to put yourself in your mother's place and imagine how you would (if you could) manage cancer.

You might also peruse CURE online and read some of the articles by others who have had cancer, and the challenges they faced.
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blickbob Apr 12, 2022
It was stage 1 breast cancer. She is cancer free. However, she hasn't had a mammogram since she did the treatments. It's assumed she's cancer free and we both hope she is.

If me and my mom traded places and I was in her position, I would put in a lot more effort to exercise, be up and out of bed more often, and try to recover. I would try to do things on my own rather than dump her with nearly all the responsibilities as time went on. I would be more motivated to get up and get better. I would stick with exercises on a regular basis, rather than do them one or two times and not do them for a few months, if not ever again. I would be more willing to let her bring in extra help if it was needed, as well as accept help from others offering it.

And there's zero chance she would condone me being inactive and only being out of bed just once a week for such a long period of time if the roles were reversed. She wouldn't have condoned me being bed-ridden for 4 months, let alone 4 years. I can really see her getting on me to be more active if I was guilty of being lazy. She wouldn't have viewed me needing leg help, say, 8 out of 10 times in a 24 hour span as a sign things were improving. It would be like saying I got 2 out of 10 questions right on a test and wanting her to throw a pizza party to celebrate. She wouldn't have let that fly. She would've had me get a new bed after forming a dip in the current one. She wouldn't have called me needing help getting my legs in and out of the shower and me somewhat needing help with my clothes as a shower that was successful. She would've ignored my request to keep the heater going and turned off the heater in the rather warm room I was sitting in during springtime and would've rightfully told me it's warmer in that room than outside.

I should also add she would reject the idea of me relying on junk food to get better. She would have me get healthy food and shoot down the idea I rely on things like cookies or donuts for energy sources.
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blickbob, cancer surgery and/or treatments can make a person feel like they were hit by a Mack truck.

I am a cancer survivor. Prior to the illness I was a gym rat with a ton of energy. Afterwards, whole different story. It's been 12 years since I had cancer, I am now 75, and I never did get back to being my prior self. The side effects from the treatments and any meds your Mom is now taking can have a major toll.
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blickbob Apr 11, 2022
Outside of regular vitamins, she's not on any meds.

So she could be the way she is for some time? The treatments ended over 3 years ago in 2018. She decided not to take any cancer pills.
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