Friday, November 2, 2012

A Year Of Living Through Cancer Treatment

Cancer and Food

Part 2/2 in a series on Cancer, Food and Exercise

Read also:  Part I on Exercise and Cancer

Mom had just received her diagnosis.  She had Stage 4 Metastatic Melanoma.  Skin cancer had spread from her nose and/or head to her upper left lung.  A short surgery removed the spot and we now sat around the nurse's table, discussing her options.  She was eligible for a randomized study to receive a new drug, or, the standard of care, interferon.  She received interferon:  a year long treatment with one month of intensive IV treatment and 11 months of self injections.  

As we sat around the table, I mentioned that Mom could help fight cancer by eating a lot of leafy green and colorful vegetables, protein and antioxidant fresh fruits.

The nurse discouraged eating "fresh" fruits and vegetables (mostly raw vegetables and salad) because of the risk of infection from unclean food preparation.  Okay, I understand the "unclean food prep" part, so I acquiesced to the nurse on the "raw" vegetables.  But, you can and should wash your fresh fruits and vegetables anyway.  However, I still insisted to Mom that she eat lots of cooked green vegetables and fruits with a solid dose of protein to rebuild muscles lost, perhaps, to treatment.

And so it went, month after month.  Mom was losing weight at the rate of two pounds a month. So the nurses encouraged her to eat anything that was palatable, which for Mom included everything that was starchy, sugary, salty, or fatty.  (We call those hyperpalatable foods - see my article on Cravings:  The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly.)  Those are Mom's comfort foods.  She ate pie, ice cream, cookies, chips;  because the nurse said, "Eat anything, eat calories, eat pie, eat ice cream!"  

My stomach churned.  I know that these foods contain calories, but I know that they contain very little nutritional content and do very little to fight disease and rebuild muscle mass.  These foods, in fact, can actually make you fatigued, depressed, and sluggish, all symptoms Mom said she felt.  Whether it was treatment, her food choices, or a combination of both, we will never know.  At one point in this year-long battle, I yelled at her, "Congratulations!  You will beat cancer, but at the end of this year, you'll have diabetes!  Is that what you want?"  Of course, I said it with frustration and love, and I urged Mom to get some more protein and vegetables, even if it was through the frozen convenience food aisle at the grocery store.  Eventually, she picked up a few frozen beef tips, but her regular stop became Boston Market, where she picked up a chicken meal with all the fixings (except anything green).

We know that certain foods fight cancer.  

  • The American Institute for Cancer Research has released a list of foods that have strong connections to protecting the body against and fighting cancer.  These foods include apples, berries, green leafy vegetables, cherries, tomatoes and more.  For a list of foods, being updated all the time, go to the AICR.  
  • Several weeks ago, I blogged about and wrote an article on How Colorful Foods Beat Disease.  Take a look...there's lots of great information on how adding just a couple colorful foods to your current diet may help fight disease, cancer included.
  • Dr. Oz has something to say about what you can buy right at your grocery store to help prevent and fight cancer.
In the end, Mom lost almost 25 pounds and I congratulate her that she didn't lose more.  After all...who feels like eating when your mouth and throat are full of sores and hurt all the time?  I empathize with everyone out there who just doesn't feel like eating healthy during cancer treatment.  It sucks.  But, when the mouth sores go away and your energy resumes, it'll be time to eat healthy again...lots of fruits and vegetables and protein, because getting through cancer treatment is just half the battle.  We're ready for the next half of the battle:  rebuilding strength and stamina, and for that, we'll need good food!

Living and eating 365fitt!

1 comment:

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