The Funk Zone: Coping with Side Effects of Cancer Treatment

After my 4th round of chemotherapy, I went into what I now refer to as The Funk Zone. Right after that 4th dose, I bought myself a 2 1/2 day stay in the hospital thanks to an infection with which my nearly-non-existent immune system could contend. I remember feeling so beleaguered (not to mention haggard) that I could barely pull myself together to put two words together.

It was at this point that I entered Isolation Island with Chemo Sobby as my constant companion. There was something about that 4th round of chemo (combined with a hospital stay and returning home with a near 24-7 continuous drip of IV fluids) that made me feel as though I had finally hit the bottom of the cancer treatment barrel.

The scope and intensity of the these feelings of isolation and subsequent emotional pain fluctuated from day to day. What worried (frightened?) me was that I felt sadder and more distraught than I had ever felt in my life. I was majorly grumpy, easily irritated, and moody. I couldn’t concentrate. I couldn’t sleep despite feeling more exhausted than I had ever felt in my life.

I began to wonder whether the treatment(s) were worse than the disease itself. I literally couldn’t bear the thought of another chemo. I was sick and tired of being bald. And I didn’t want to leave the house because I was so worried about my persistent nausea and vomiting.

What helped me the most was my ability to put on my nurse’s cap (being a nurse was definitely a Silver Lining during my treatment) and assign myself some healthy coping mechanisms, including:

  1. Normalize feelings. The normalization of feelings goes a long, long way. Truly. Just the acknowledgment that feeling moody, irritable, unfocused and exhausted was normal (and to be expected during treatment) helped relieve my anxiety immensely.
  2. Articulate feelings. Even though I felt hesitant to share my Funk Zone feelings, the reality was that talking (with both friends and professionals) about what was going on inside made me feel a little less looney tunes.
  3. Exercise. Even the teeniest walk perked my body, mind and spirit.
  4. Guided meditation and restorative yoga were two of the complementary therapies that I used to help me rest, relax and rejuvenate.

An unexpected and more-than-welcome Silver Lining was the realization that being in the Funk Zone enabled me to recognize and engage inner resources that I never knew that I had. I hope that it can do the same for you.

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  1. Martha Jensen says

    Found your site as a link from Good Wishes. Your story is what I’m feeling. Thought I was alone in these feelings. Glad to know these are common reactions. The Funk-Zone is not fun for sure. I will try Silver Lining treatments. Along with my prayers with I excercise throught the day. They help. By the way I’m 84 and have had a healthy life until now. So I’ve counted my blessings. Thank you.

    • silverpen says

      Dear Martha,
      Apologies for my belated response. I am wondering how you are doing after treatment. Sending my very best wishes!

  2. Kim says

    This definetly makes me feel validated! So many times I felt as though anyone I talked to about what I was going through considered me a winer (this is likely my own perception since I really just wanted to know that someone understood). All my life I’ve been a pretty tough cookie, but was surprised at how “not myself” I truly was through treatment. Besides being sick, tired, bald, foggy and grumpy there was also fear, especially when the cancer was back 6 months after having gone through chemo and radiation. Thank you for giving me perspective.

  3. Jude Foulds says

    Hello! I have just read your “Funk Zone” post and am so pleased that I did! I have just dragged myself through EC treatment 4- despite having fewer physical symptoms by far. I think it could have been because it was the last in that chemo chapter as have now started a different drug(Taxol), but I now see it could just have been sheer tiredness with the whole thing!!! I feel recharged having read this, and other posts on your fantastic website. Many thanks, Jude

    • silverpen says

      Thank you so much, Jude! So happy to know that you are feeling recharged. This is the BEST news. Please take good care!