I am a couple of weeks into my diagnosis now, and as you are reading this, I have begun my chemotherapy treatments. To say that I hadn’t pictured myself doing this a year ago (or ever) would be the gross understatement of the year. But my official “campaign slogan” is #worktheproblem, and I have every intention of doing that. Not giving into the drama, just focusing all of myself on getting past this. Needless to say this situation has basically upended every part of my life, especially now that chemotherapy is involved. The biggest change is physical, and in turn that means that one of the foundations of my daily life – my diet – will be changing also. Unfortunately I’m having to play it somewhat by ear, but I at least have a small idea of how my personal “menu” is going to be changing and what I need to do to make these next several months a little easier on my body.
Spicy Food – this is not only to handle the inevitable nausea situation, but also for the sake of my mouth itself. For those of you unfamiliar with chemo and its litany of side effects, one of the potential ones is mouth sores. If you have ever had a canker sore, imagine having several and then attempting to eat anything spicy. Yeah, no thanks. Due to my already-existing acid reflux, I had to be very particular about my spice consumption anyway, so this won’t be much of a stretch. And while I don’t know (yet) if I’ll be experiencing these mouth sores, why take chances? Especially if it’s something that I won’t really miss from my diet anyway.
Crunchy Food – now this kind of goes back to the mouth sores thing, but it also lends a bit toward my digestive system in general. Obviously crunchy, hard foods or heavily seeded foods – crackers, bagels, pretzels, etc. – will not be pleasant for me to eat. It will also be a little less work on my digestive tract to break that stuff down. I am a pretty big fan of all those items, but I also enjoy other sources of fiber that won’t be so tough on my body, like oatmeal, whole grain breads and beans, which are not only a great fiber source, but also will give you a good shot of protein as well. While I have read multiple sources that claim red beans – kidney, etc. – are the most potent cancer fighters, I can’t get over my (un?)healthy attachment to black beans. I am a true blue hard core black beans and rice fan, and because my own recipe contains other great cancer-fighting ingredients like tomatoes and garlic, I think it’s safe to assume I will be downing many a bowl of my old Latin-inspired friend. I am also looking forward to consuming bean-based soups, like pasta e fagioli and minestrone. And what better to accompany them than delicious, fresh-out-of-the-oven bread. Team Fiber ftw! And if you’re interested in any resources for all the super cancer-fighting foods, a great place to start is at Eat To Beat, a top-notch site with lists upon lists of all the tasty stuff you should be grubbing on if you’re in the same boat as me. Or even if you’re not – this stuff is great at cancer prevention too, people!
Portion Control – Here I am talking about all this food I’m going to consume, when in fact I’m not sure how much of it my body will be able to handle. With chemo, you generally get a day or so before you start to really feel the effects – I call them the “Bad Days – although personally I found that wasn’t 100% true, but that’s another post. I have discovered in these early days that my portions are having to be cut much farther back than to what I am accustomed, at least during the Bad Days. It is recommended by healthcare professionals that you have a grazing diet during this time, i.e., lots of small meals throughout the day as opposed to three main ones. And while my body has pretty much allowed anything other than grazing, for someone who was previously a “healthy” eater, who loves eating in general, it’s been a bit of an adjustment, and not without it’s, shall we say, “digestive complaints.”
Water – I do not have the words to explain how much my water intake has changed in the past ten days. Before, I always did my best to drink water, although I knew I fell short of what most health professionals recommended, as do most people. Since my first chemo treatment however, water has become my new best friend. It’s somewhat amusing to me that I haven’t had to force myself to drink more; my body wants the water, it doesn’t want any other liquids more often than not. It legitimately tastes good, in fact it tastes amazing, which has resulted in my water intake basically tripling what it was before. As to other beverages, I still enjoy tea and occasionally some ginger ale, but the big shock of all of this is that I seem to be losing my taste for coffee. Perhaps not losing my taste so much as being able to literally stomach it – after attempting a half a cup one morning, I determined that it was just going to be too strong, even being swirled up in the homemade-mocha-creamer cocktail I have had religiously for years now.
I’m sure I’ll have a lot more to say regarding my diet as my treatments continue. Thankfully I haven’t (yet) had to deal with too much nausea, which I feel like is the cornerstone topic when talking about chemo. However it is still very early in the game, and I know the worst is yet to come. I’m very interested to hear about dietary changes that you or even someone you know may have experienced during cancer treatment, and if you have any tips on being able to somewhat maintain a similar diet to what you had before.