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Stories from a Life I Didn't Plan

Tag: Chemotherapy Dietary Restrictions

A Year After Beginning Chemo

I couldn’t help but think of where I am a year after beginning chemo, while also remembering the beginning of that chapter in my life. Over the weekend, the anniversary of the installation of my chemo port came and went and today is the six month anniversary of the end of chemo. But, yesterday I found myself a bit melancholy thinking about how one year ago I had my first chemo infusion. I remember I was scared, my port incision was still very tender, and the sensations I experienced during that infusion were unpleasant and unfamiliar. Similarly, my emotions were somewhat raw and I wrestled with the “Why did this happen to me?” and “Oh my goodness, I had cancer and I am having chemotherapy!”

Although I may still remember with sadness and disbelief that cancer and chemotherapy were once a part of my life, today I am thankful to be looking back at the cancer detour and hoping to never find myself on such a path again.

The anxiety of my upcoming CT scan sometimes looms large in my mind, but I try to remind myself that worrying won’t change the results and that a positive outlook is good for everyone concerned. Today, I rescheduled my scan from Friday, November 11 to Monday, November 7. I was fretting that the report wouldn’t be ready for the oncologist when I saw him the following week.

So, getting rid of that worry simply took a phone call. If only all of our problems could be rectified just that easily.

I feel a bit of a hypocrite worrying, especially since I read my students a book called, What Do You Do with a Problem? In the book, the author says that problems are beautiful and hold opportunities. If that is the case, then I can honestly say that cancer and chemotherapy were opportunities I could have lived without!

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.

 

 

 

 

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