Hijacked

Stories from a Life I Didn't Plan

Month: February 2016

Chemotherapy Dietary Restrictions

Before beginning treatment, I met with a physician assistant who reviewed lists of dos and don’ts, including chemotherapy dietary restrictions. I had no idea there would be so many things I would be avoiding and easing out of my life when I began this cancer detour.

Little by little I am implementing both short-term and long range dietary modifications to improve my health and overall chance of beating this disease.

Chemotherapy Dietary Restrictions: Short-term Modifications

While on chemo I try to avoid anything that would cause foodborne illness. Foods I avoid are unpasteurized or moldy dairy, unpeeled raw fruits or vegetables, undercooked meat (yes, that means sushi), and unpasteurized honey or juice. Thankfully, I have much practice with many of these measures because of the time I spent in Ecuador. In addition, I have to minimize foods containing antioxidants because these tend to promote a healthy immune system while chemotherapy is trying to undermine it, with the goal of killing cancer cells in the process. In my quirky way of trying to understand it and keep it from being something too mind-bending, I sometimes find the 1970s song, “Killing Me Softly” comes to mind.

But, seriously, if you know of anyone with a compromised immune system and would like to know more, check out the American Cancer Society Nutrition for the Person With Cancer During Treatment: A Guide for Patients and Families.

Dietary Restrictions: Long-term Changes

In addition to the short-term measures to keep me healthy while on chemo, I have taken on some major long-term dietary transformations with the goal of improving my overall health and avoiding a recurrence of this dreaded disease. The relationship between diet and cancer has been studied extensively, so if you are interested I suggest you do a search for more info. A good place to start is the American Cancer Society Guidelines on Nutrition and Physical Activity for Cancer Prevention.

My very conservative oncologist suggested I adopt a Mediterranean or Asian style diet, avoid anything out of a package, and try to simulate the ancient ways of eating. Since I do not hunt and am not yet ready for vegetarianism, I have to be more than a little creative and have come to haunt Pinterest looking for healthy recipes made from quality ingredients. One of my dietary shifts is to eat less meat, especially anything processed like deli meat, sausage, ham, or bacon; and eliminate from my diet bottom dwelling seafood, such as shrimp, oysters, scallops, etc., which are all believed to contribute to certain cancers.

As a great carbohydrate lover, leaving behind the packages of pasta and bread has proven a greater challenge than omitting so many meaty choices. Thankfully, my mother has been willing to support me in this dietary revolution and explore the offerings at the local mill to find tasty whole grains that would add healthy carbohydrates into my diet. We have had fun taste-testing some of the obscure finds like spelt, which has become a favorite with its nutty flavor and satisfying texture. A vegetable spiralizer has offered plant-based substitutions for pasta. Tasty zoodles, or zucchini noodles, have become a healthier, but scrumptious pasta alternative.

Lamentably, I have found no solution for my sweet tooth. So, I consider tasty, baked goods my chief dietary vice because the pastries and goodies I crave are definitely processed and made from packaged ingredients. Over time as I adjust to this new eating lifestyle, I hope to reduce my sugary indulgences.

Chemotherapy Dietary Restrictions: New Favorite Recipes

You may be thankful that you will not be bumping into me at a potluck bringing some strange, unappetizing dish to share, but I have pinned nearly 600 healthy, yummy-looking recipes on my Greens, Fingers, Bites, and Sides and  Hearty Dishes That Look Yummmmmy! Pinterest  boards that I am anxious to try. A few of my favorite recipes I that have tried so far are Baked Honey-Marinated Cod, Greek Marinated Chicken, Baked Teriyaki Chicken, Herb and Citrus Oven Roasted Chicken Recipe, and Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Cranberries and Balsamic ReductionI love trying the recipes and consider it an adventure in discovering new, savory foods.

What are your favorite healthy, clean eating recipes you and your family liked? I would love for you to comment below or email me using the contact link in the menu bar or on the bottom of the page. Frankly, I can use all of the creative eating ideas I can get.

While cancer may be my detour with its various short-term chemotherapy dietary restrictions, a healthy diet is an integral part of my journey of life.

 

 

 

 

Ice Cream | Chemotherapy side effects: cold sensitivity

Coffee Beans, my quiet chemo room companion.

Coffee Beans, my quiet chemo room companion.

Since I started chemotherapy, I have noticed I do many everyday things without a second thought. One of the most persistent side effects I have is cold sensitivity. If I am outside where it is cold, if I touch something cold, or if I consume something cold, I feel pinpricks where I am exposed to cold. I found that I have even been taking ice cream for granted.

Several times a day, I have to compensate for my cold sensitivity. When I wash my hands, I have to be careful to let the water warm up before putting my hands under a faucet running chilly water. If I take one of the meals my mom has made for me out of the freezer, I have to remember to put on my gloves to prevent the shooting pain from smarting my fingers. If I forget to microwave my glass of water or juice, I have an unpleasant reminder that flows down my throat with the liquid.

An oncology nurse warned me that I would have to let ice cream melt if I wanted to eat it while on chemotherapy. This was not welcome news.

One of my great loves in life is ice cream. I have happily made many dietary adjustments  to maximize my health and my chances of beating cancer. But,  ice cream or frozen yogurt are treats are hard to let go.

When I lived in Ecuador, I indulged myself in the plentiful boutique ice cream shops that offered economical and scrumptious specialty ice cream. For an incorrigible ice cream connoisseur, it was something like heaven.

While on chemo it have realized I was taking ice cream for granted. When chemo was unexpectedly pushed back for a few of weeks, I noticed my cold sensitivity disappeared and I spent the entire week trying out various local boutique ice cream shops.

Although I wish chemo had not been pushed back, I was just this side of heaven as I enjoyed different flavors of my frosty favorite.

How Are You Is a Complicated Question

A couple of weeks ago, a genuinely kind, concerned person asked me how I was. That seemingly innocuous question hurtled me into utter confusion. I found myself simply staring mutely until the moment was interrupted. Since receiving a cancer diagnosis last August, I have found that how are you is a complicated question.

Before I was diagnosed with cancer, I could easily answer when asked how I was. But, after getting the cancer diagnosis, I realized that I am not confident answering that question. Following surgery, a series of tests determined if there was any visible cancer remaining. In the meantime, I had no idea how I was. That is when I realized that for me how are you is a complicated question.

Since beginning chemotherapy, I have had no diagnostic tests. Chemotherapy obscures the results of many tests used to diagnose cancer, so I do not know if chemo is doing what we believe it will or not. I trust in my educated and experienced oncologist to make decisions he knows will result in the best outcome for me, but I still do not know how I am.

Every week or two, I have blood tests to see how my body is responding to chemo. But, in between times, I may feel perfectly well–at least well for a person on chemo–yet my blood work will show low results, which means that my body is not really doing as well as it should be.

Because I do not know the answer to how are you, recently I asked my oncologist how I am doing and explained how I had not known to answer the question when people asked me. I am grateful for his response. After telling me it was nobody’s business how I was doing, he further shared, with wisdom and economy of words, “Nobody knows how they are doing when they are on chemotherapy.” I am going to keep his response in mind when asked that so very complicated question and simply respond that I do not know, which I hope will be an improvement over a blank stare.

Doing Common Core Math Before It Was Common Core

When I was a student, my parents helped me when I had questions about my homework. My mom helped with English and writing, while my dad handled math and science. During my school career, math was taught through solving algorithms. However, my dad was doing Common Core Math before it was Common Core.

Because I spoke the language of algorithms and my dad spoke of numbers as if they made sense, I felt like we were using two different numeric systems. My dad had learned from his dad, my Pa Crowe, how to quickly add numbers by decomposing and composing them in his head. Dad could break numbers down into manageable parts or substitute more easily manipulated numbers in order to find area, sums, and all kinds of other mathematical values. Inevitably, our math conversations ended up with me frustrated because I could not follow Dad’s mental math since I had limited mastery of numeracy.

As time marched on and higher order math became an integral part of my studies, this lack of numeracy became a hindrance to me because I could not effectively manipulate numbers. I could not figure out what a reasonable mathematical solution would be and was practically incapacitated if I did not  have an algorithm to depend upon. While Dad could solve problems by understood numbers and employed diverse mathematical methods, they made little sense to me because my teachers forced me to follow algorithms and rarely gave me a chance to understand numbers.

How ironic that as a teacher I would be challenged to rethink math in order to teach my students the kind of math Pa Crowe taught my dad, and my dad, in turn, tried to pass on to me. I became grateful for the mathematical conversations engraved upon my memory, as well as the ongoing talks I have with Dad. As an adult, I have gained the sense of numeracy that escaped me as a student largely because Pa Crowe and Dad were doing Common Core Math before it was Common Core.

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