Paul's Heart

Life As A Dad, And A Survivor

Cancer And Food

Seems like a weird thing to write about when it comes to cancer, no?  Not really.  Of course, maintaining a healthy diet, proper calorie intake, as well as eating balanced meals is crucial when giving your body all of the nourishment it needs to go through treatments, recovery, and survival.

I will not get into specifics of diet, as I am definitely the wrong person to give advice on particular diets.  Myself, I am still learning to eat the correct way, healthy.  And I struggle because I am such a picky eater.  But I am getting better at it.

But instead, this post is about warnings and restrictions.  When going through certain therapies, whether radiation or chemotherapies, there may be restrictions that you need to be aware of.  And definitely something you should ask you doctor when undergoing treatments.

For instance, when I was undergoing my chemo, the old and currently unused MOPP-ABV regimen, I was told that I would have to avoid broccoli and cauliflower which of course was not going to be difficult for me to do as this would cause reaction with my chemo.  But, there were foods that I did eat, and drinks, that I did enjoy, and if consumed could cause some problems as well.  I was not allowed to eat anything processed, like cheese.  And I LOVE cheeses.  But, seeing how I had been following the rules with everything else the doctors had warned me not to do, I was not going to jeopardize anything.  Until…

One thing I was warned about consuming, was caffeinated products.  Now, in all seriousness, I did wait until the end of my cycle, but I was really “jonesing” for a Coke.  I did not drink it during the entire two week cycle, but my wife and I were going out to a party on the final night, so I figured it would be safe for me to have a Coke, and smile.  I ended up having the worst case of indigestion that lasted well into the next day.  Now for the record, I did have other Cokes during the “off” weeks of my treatment with no issue.  But after that one episode.  I found out the hard way, if a doctor suggests that you do not do something, you listen.

Radiation therapy had presented me with a difficult challenge.  Because I am such a picky eater, one of the things I ate constantly was pasta and pizza.  And face it, going through treatment, weight was not going to be a concern, and it should have been a good thing if I ate all those carbs.  The problem is that the acid in the tomato sauce was no good for my throat area while undergoing radiation.  It was only a month, but I did as the doctors recommended.

Finally, unlike the stereotype of cancer patients, looking emaciated, I gained fifty pounds while going through my chemo.  The prednisone, a steroid, has a side effect of increasing hunger.  Hodgkin’s patients often refer to this amongst ourselves as either “moonface” or “pumpkinface” because of the weight that we gain so quickly on that drug.  I was eating pasta and ice cream up to four times a day because I was so hungry, and because I was picky, I ended up consuming all those carbs every day.

Most cancer facilities now have a nutritionist among their staff.  Just as with other facets of treatment, diet should not necessarily be relied upon by yourself.  It may be decades later for me, but it took me all that time to realize just how good it was, to deal with someone who understood cancer and diet, because they were involved in the cancer field.

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