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  • Writer's pictureAlex

Cancer Survivor Shares Nutritionist's Tips for Dealing with Chemo

Updated: Nov 24, 2023


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Alex: cancer survivor

Personal story

Eating to Heal: My Journey with Cancer and Nutrition

 

The Day My Life Changed: Facing a Cancer Diagnosis


I vividly recall that November night. A persistent stomach ache haunted me throughout the day, and I was convinced it was a mere case of constipation easily resolved with an enema.


As the pain endured and enemas proved futile, I found myself in the emergency room at two o'clock in the morning, still holding onto the belief that the right medication would be administered to alleviate my transit problems.


Yet, after the palpation, the emergency room doctor's demeanour darkened.

"You need to get an abdominal X-ray right away." he said.


The radiology technician, initially cheerful, turned solemn after the examination.


"Are you okay? Is it serious?" I inquired.

"I don't comment on exams; you'll discuss it with the doctor," she replied.


Back in the examination room, the verdict was delivered: "You have a tumor."


I was devastated. My life hung in the balance, contingent on the type of cancer determining whether I could continue living.


It took a few more days to unveil the exact nature of my tumor—a diffuse large B-cell lymphoma, a cancer of white blood cells constituting the immune system.



letters writing HOPE

In my misfortune, I found somehow fortune;


It's generally a surmountable disease, especially in cases like mine, a "simple-negative" one that responds well to treatments.


I had approximately an 80% chance of survival, with statistics favoring my side. Thus, I resolved to fight and do everything possible to conquer the disease.



The role of nutrition in dealing with chemo to conquering diffuse Large B-cell Lymphoma


Chemotherapy has several consequences:


Weight and muscle loss:

This type of illness subjects the body to the rigors of chemotherapy, leading to significant weight and muscle loss due to the concurrent administration of cortisone.


Weaken the immune system:

Chemotherapy also decimates the immune system, particularly for lymphomas, as cancer cells are mutant cells of the immune system.

That’s where nutrition plays an important part.


In my case, I needed to maintain my weight while avoiding microbial infections and preventing the disease's development fuelled by the sugar it craves.


So major adjustments to my diet were necessary.



How to navigate cancer treatment with nutrition: A personal account of weight maintenance and healing


The treatment itself was complemented by a tailored nutritional regimen prescribed by a hospital nutritionist.


In case you're wondering what to eat or not to eat during chemo to maintain my weight and protect my immune system, here are key measures that applied to my situation:


- What foods to protect my immune system during chemo:


Priority to Food Safety:

Ensuring food safety became my topmost priority during treatment, given the vulnerability of my compromised immune system. In collaboration with my nutritionist, we meticulously devised a stringent dietary plan.


Pasteurized Dairy Products:

All dairy products underwent pasteurization to eliminate the risk of bacterial contamination, while still maintaining an adequate intake of calcium.



Peeled Fruits Systematically:

While fresh fruits were permitted, they required careful peeling to eliminate potential surfaces hosting microbes, crucial for infection prevention and avoiding mouth sores.



peeled apple

Frozen and Toasted Bread:

Freezing and toasting the bread became a routine practice to mitigate bacterial contamination risks during handling.


Avoiding Red Meat, Cold Cuts, and Seafood:

To guard against bacteria and microbes, my diet excluded red meat, cold cuts, and seafood.


My nutritionist skillfully balanced the meal plan with alternative protein sources such as omelette eggs, chicken, and grilled bacon.

Consequently, I found myself daydreaming about red meat and oysters for a significant portion of the few months that the treatment lasted!


Avoiding Processed Sugar:

Eliminating candies, cookies, and pastries from my diet, I prioritized naturally sweet food, such as cooked or peeled fruits, in limited quantities.

Processed sugar, known to encourage lymphoma development, was strictly avoided. In fact, I felt so unwell due to the treatment that anything sweet made me nauseous. So I would say that navigating the prohibition of certain foods wasn't the most challenging aspect;


Alcohol was also discouraged due to its notable sugar content.

A solitary sip of Champagne 🥂on New Year's resulted in a substantial headache due to treatment interactions.


Pineapple:

The complete prohibition of pineapple, given its inhibitory effect on the treatment, wasn't overly burdensome, especially when considering the potential impact on one's life.


- Nutrition tips for weight maintenance during chemo:

Working closely with my nutritionist, our focus was on preventing weight loss during chemotherapy.

My diet centered around lean meat, poultry, pasteurized dairy, potatoes, and cereals.


Despite eating three servings of fries and chicken per meal during treatment, weight loss persisted.



The role of the nutritionist in establishing tips and guidance for dealing with chemo.


Monitoring and Adjustments of my diet during chemotherapy:

Regular consultations with my nutritionist were indispensable during treatment, facilitating the ongoing monitoring of nutritional status and weight.

With the help and collaboration of a nutrition professional and a hematologist, adjustments were made to tailor the plan to my unique circumstances, with the overarching goal of minimizing weight loss or even gaining weight if necessary.


It's crucial to note the uniqueness of each patient and cancer case. Dietary adjustments were tailored to my situation. So if you wonder what to eat when doing chemo and before altering your diet during chemotherapy or any treatment, consulting your medical team and seeking a nutrition professional's advice is essential.



From diagnosis to recovery: How nutrition (and the nutritionist!) played a vital role in my cancer journey


In my case, the outcome was positive:

a loss of 12 kilos but, more importantly, a recovery from the disease.


As my immune defences returned, I resumed normal eating habits, albeit falling into the common trap of overindulging in excessive, fatty, and sweet foods.

Now, I am endeavouring to shed my belly, which led me to myfrenchdietitian.com


I hope this story will be a valuable resource for anyone facing cancer treatment or simply interested in learning more about the importance of nutrition during chemotherapy.



Alex.

 

My French Dietitian:

We don't say it enough, but food choices played a pivotal role in shaping our lives.

We extend our heartfelt gratitude to Alex for generously sharing his poignant journey and inspiring cancer narrative, for his valuable contribution and unwavering courage.

Please do not hesitate to comment below.

And feel free to guest post and share your story: https://www.myfrenchdietitian.com/contact

 

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11 Comments

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Guest
Mar 30
Rated 5 out of 5 stars.

I guess it's different for each indviduals. But thanks for sharing and hope you're feeling great now!

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Thank you!!

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Guest
Dec 05, 2023
Rated 5 out of 5 stars.

Thanks - useful. Diet during chemo is not explained enough. Hope you are doing well now.

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Thanks, let us know what kind of specific information you would like

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Guest
Nov 30, 2023
Rated 5 out of 5 stars.

💪💪

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Guest
Nov 24, 2023
Rated 5 out of 5 stars.

🙏

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Guest
Nov 23, 2023
Rated 5 out of 5 stars.

Inspiring story! Thank you for sharing!

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