Chemo Brain

Warning: Blogger suffers from chemo brain-The struggle is real, y'all!

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Diet and Nutrition Management During Cancer Treatment

Hi, Y'all!

Time to focus on fuel for my fight!

When I was first diagnosed with breast cancer, I was talking with my surgeon and mentioned that I am a runner/marathoner, but that I had gained quite a bit of weight over the past few years and was feeling really out of shape. He looked at me and said, "PLEASE do not lose any weight over the next few months while undergoing your chemo treatments-your weight is fine (nice man didn't want to make me feel worse than I was already feeling!), but if you think you need to lose weight, just PLEASE wait until we get you through chemo and surgery."

Since I've been struggling with the weight issue for a while now, it seemed really crazy the first time I stepped on the scale after losing 7 pounds in a week and yelling, "Oh $hit-I've lost weight!!" Normally, I would have been rejoicing over a 7-pound loss!

My treatment plan called for adjuvant chemotherapy in the form of 4 treatments of a combination of drugs-Doxorubicin and Cytoxin. Doxorubicin was fondly referred to as "The Red Devil" by the nurses at my Cancer Center. I was to receive these treatments every other week and then begin a new regimen of a drug called Taxol, which I would get weekly for 12 weeks. By my third chemo treatment, I had lost a total of 14 pounds. I was trying to eat and maintain my weight. The day of my treatment and the following day I was able to eat pretty regularly, but on the third day I would start to lose my appetite, get nauseous, have horrible acid reflux and just want to sleep all day--for DAYS! My white blood count would drop extremely low also.

During that first phase of my chemotherapy, the only foods that I could handle the majority of the time were applesauce, grits, grilled cheese sandwiches (occasionally) and Carnation Breakfast shakes. 

After my third visit with "The Red Devil," my doctor decided that we should do a follow-up mammogram and ultrasound to see if there had yet been any change to the tumors before proceeding with the 4th treatment.  Those tests showed that the main tumor had decreased in size quite a bit (YAY!), that the smaller ones were pretty much the same, but that none of them had increased in size. My oncologist said that he thought we should skip the 4th treatment and get started with the Taxol treatments. He said that the old RD was just kicking my butt and that the Taxol would not (hopefully) cause such adverse side effects.

I just received my third Taxol treatment, and I have to say that thankfully, the side effects are much milder-just as my doctor predicted! My white blood count did drop pretty low following the second treatment, but I was given a shot to help restore the white blood cells and overnight my white blood count went from 1.4 to 10.0!

TIME TO FOCUS ON THE IMPORTANCE OF DIET AND NUTRITION MANAGMENT

Now that I'm no longer dealing with nausea and other side effects that were preventing me from eating, I have gained back most of the weight that I lost previously. I know that my doctor is happy with this, and told me that I should eat whenever and whatever I would like, but I feel that it's time to start thinking more about getting the proper nutrition needed to fight this battle, instead of simply trying to keep my weight steady.

When I was so sick, I was very limited as to what I could keep down, so I didn't spend a lot of time thinking about the quality of the fuel I was putting into my body. My only goal was to get SOME food down and to keep it down, but now it's time to put more thought into consuming the healthiest fuel possible! 

I believe that following a nutritionally sound diet is essential for anyone, but especially someone who is battling a disease such as cancer. Diet and nutrition won't cure my cancer, but I'm convinced that proper nutrition can strengthen my body's immune system and prevent malnutrition, weight loss or even weight gain during treatment and after.


HYDRATION

Staying well hydrated is very important while undergoing cancer treatment.  Hydration is essential for properly flushing those nasty toxins from our system that chemotherapy puts into our bodies. 

Staying hydrated can also help ward off dizziness, chemo brain (YES, it's a REAL thing!), nausea and that very, very, dry skin that goes along with chemo!

PROTEIN

I know that my body is building new healthy cells to replace the ones damaged by chemo and that it is essential to get adequate amounts of protein.

I am trying to make a habit of choosing lean meats, turkey, poultry, fish, eggs, cheese, yogurt, beans, and nuts, regularly for optimal nutritional intake. Peanut butter or almond butter are good choices as well.

FRUITS & VEGETABLES

I am also trying to focus on making my meals much more colorful by adding foods that are packed full of vitamins and phytochemicals. Lot's of red, yellow and orange vegetables, dark leafy greens and some colorful fruits providing important anti-oxidants and vitamins A, C, and E, along with beta-carotene.

FATS

We hear a lot about the dangers of consuming too much fat in our diets, but fat is a necessary component of organs, nerves, cells and tissues that our bodies need to function properly. We do, however, need to choose more unsaturated fats and fewer saturated fats.

Omega-3 fatty acids actually help promote heart health by decreasing inflammation in our bodies which can protect us against cardiovascular disease and cancer. Some good examples of unsaturated fats include olive oil, flaxseed oil, canola oil and fatty fish. 

Saturated fats such as butter, lard, coconut oil, cheese and fatty meats can increase serum cholesterol and are more likely to lead to the buildup of LDL.

Trans fats are a definite no-no, as they not only increase LDL (bad) cholesterol but also decrease HDL (good) cholesterol.

FIBER

Since constipation has been a big issue for me during chemo, I try to incorporate high fiber foods into my daily diet. Some of the higher fiber foods I am eating are kidney beans, black beans, fresh fruit, whole grain bread and pasta. I did also try drinking prune juice a couple of weeks ago! All I can say is, "NO FREAKIN' WAY!! EWWWWW!!!"

Hoping that some of this info helps someone, but please remember that I am NOT a medical professional! I am simply sharing MY journey to survivorship!

If you or a loved one is going through, or have gone through chemotherapy and have some tips to share, please do so.




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