Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Nutrition and Chemo - Fiber

My beloved Dad endured 3 years of chemotherapy. He passed away about 2 weeks before I started mine. I remember clearly one conversation I had with him several months before I was diagnosed. I had asked him how he felt, and he told me the constipation was so bad it was unbearable. Without a second thought I told him "Dad, you just need to eat some more fiber! Have some high fiber bread and it will fix it."
This line came back to haunt me and I will forever regret what I said that day. Chalk it up to if you haven't been thru it you don't understand, but now I understand. Constipation was one of my worst side effects of chemo. I tried everything. More fiber, more water, no cheese, exercise, even teas and coffee's. Yet most nights I would get out of bed in horrible pain, and head to the bathroom to sit for an hour. By the third round of chemo I would be bleeding it was so bad. And the pain was sometimes unbearable. I cried, I remembered what I had said to Dad, and I cried to him to help me. What made it worse is that this is the thing you don't talk about - right? So when people ask how you feel you don't complain about blood in your stool because you are so constipated. So I grinned and bared it.
I finally got to the end of my rope and said something to the nurse. She prescribed Senokot-S, and that proved to be the only thing that would help me. And eventually it became less painful.
So, two lessons learned, first if you haven't been thru it you might not understand, and second, speak up and ask for help from the doctors and nurses. Even if it's embarrassing.
This picture is of Dad and his favorite chemo nurse.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Nutrition and Chemo - How not to gain weight - Part 5

One of the best pieces of advise my Dad gave me about cancer was to pick Tuesdays as your chemo days, this way he told me, you'll feel better by the weekend. Excellent advise!

When I was getting chemo I typically felt pretty good the night of chemo and the next day. Probably because of all of the drugs that they give you to help with side effects. It was when all of those drugs wore off that I would start to feel tired, nauseous, tired, achy, tired... :0) So Fridays were the hardest days for me to not lay on the sofa all day and eat mac and cheese. One really great food that I found that helped was Vitamuffins. Check them out, they taste like a warm chocolate cookie, only they are really good for you! They fill you up, and really taste like a true comfort food. If you like to cook or have someone who wants to cook for you I will also recommend these muffins (I've had this recipe forever but loved it during chemo):

Marvelous Muffins

1 c flour
1 c whole wheat flour
1 3/4 c oat bran
3/4 c packed brown sugar
1/3 c nonfat dry milk
1/4 c flaxseed
4 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 c shredded carrot
2 c chopped granny smith apple
1 c raisins
1 c fat free milk
1/4 c canola oil
2 tsp vanilla extract
3 large egg whites
1 thin skinned orange unpeeled and quartered

1. Preheat oven to 375
2. Combine all dry ingredients and stir with whisk. Stir in carrot, apple, and raisins.
3. Combine milk, oil, vanilla, egg whites, and orange in blender, process until smooth. Stir into other ingredients just until moist.
4. Spoon into 28 muffin cups pre coated with cooking spray. Bake for 20 mins. Remove from pan immediately and place on wire rack to cool.

Calories 114
Fat 2.8
Protein 3.5
Fiber 3
Iron 1.1 mg
Sodium 188 mg
Calcium 61mg


Thursday, February 18, 2010

Nutrition and Chemo - Part Four

By my second round of Adriamycin I had lost most of my ability to taste. Instead I seemed to have a permanent mouth of metal. Food had to have a strong flavor for me to be able to taste it at all, and so I turned to pickles. Pickles were one of my favorite things during this time, they were strong enough I could taste them, they were cold and refreshing, and they were not spicy enough to upset my stomach.
I also found it hard to drink plain water. I am a fan of sweet, not sour, but my girlfriends mother recommend Crystal Lite Lemonade during this phase of chemo. I am not a lemonade fan, but this stuff was amazing. I could taste it, and I drank tons of it, I could not get enough of it. If you are not a fan of making it yourself, I can also tell you Chick-fil-a also sells it on the fountain. Delicious! Give it a try, you might be surprised.

One last tip that was passed to me, that gratefully I never needed, was for mouth sores. If you chew on ice during your chemo treatment you won't get mouth sores. My Dad had horrible mouth sores until he tried this and it worked! The doctors where he received chemo were so impressed they had an ice maker installed in the chemo room!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

How to not gain weight during chemo - Part 3

One of the best things you can do for yourself before, during, and after chemo is drink fluids. Lots and lots of fluids. The more you can drink the better. I know when I was going through chemo the smell of the chemicals really got to me. It's overwhelming at times. Your sweat smells like it, and of course your urine smells like it. But I found the more water I drank the better I felt and the weaker the smell.
Chemo is going directly into your blood, and your blood is 60% water. Water flushes toxins out of vital organs, carries nutrients to your cells and provides a moist environment for ear, nose and throat tissues.
Lack of water can lead to dehydration, a condition that occurs when you don't have enough water in your body to carry out normal functions. Even mild dehydration can drain your energy and make you tired. As per the Mayo Clinic you should drink: Drink eight 8-ounce glasses of fluid a day.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Nutrition and Chemo - How not to gain weight - Part Two

Before my first chemo session I typically was eating a lot of salads. So on day one I came home from chemo feeling fine and made myself a big salad to eat, and I ate every bite of it. Huge mistake. I got so sick that night that I couldn't even look at a salad for several weeks.
Chemo was a different kind of sickness for me. I did not constantly feel like I was going to throw up. Instead I constantly felt like I had just eaten a huge meal and I was stuffed full. But then my stomach would growl. So I would feel full and yet hungry all at the same time. And it's true that when you feel like this you want to curl up with some mac and cheese. But other things can help and are much healthier for you. My top five picks are:

Baked potato
Grilled Chicken

It's important to keep nutrients going into the body. The chemo is killing everything, and so food is one of the best ways to keep your body humming. If you eat bad foods with no nutrients, you are just going to feel even worse. A whole sleeve of saltines has very little nutrients, but a banana sliced into some oatmeal has a lot of nutrients! And oatmeal has a lot less calories.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Nutrition and Chemo - How not to gain weight - Part One

One of the things that became abundantly clear to me during chemo was the effect that food and drink can have on your body. When I started chemo in October of 2007 I had been following the Weight Watchers Online program, and had lost about 15 pounds. I felt great, and was proud of my weight loss. The more I read on the web about chemo and the side effects the more depressed I became as so many message boards discussed the inevitable weight gain. I was determined not to let this happen to me. I was convinced that I could over come the odds and not gain all of my weight back. And as I faced loosing all of my hair, which, let's face it is one of the most self depreciating things that can happen to you, I was determined I would not add to this the fact that I had gained weight. I wanted to continue to feel like a woman. I wanted to continue to feel that I had life in me, that I had hope, and that I would overcome this. This was the first step for me. Once I had made up my mind that I was not going to gain weight, and that I was going to continue to follow the Weight Watchers Program I felt better. My diet and exercise regimens became, over the next 6 months, the only thing in my life that I had any control over.
This picture was taken before I joined Weight Watchers, before I had cancer, many many pounds ago!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

PC Issues

My PC died! But I am back on track now with a new one. Sorry for the delay in writing! My mammogram was CLEAR yeah!! And I also went in for my second appointment with the oncologist. Again a full physical, as well as blood work, and a computer survey. Then I was sent home with orders for an Echo cardiogram, EKG, and two bottles of pills. I have no side effects to this point. Apparently one I was not watching for but should be is skin rash. So now I am also watching for that.

When I went for my mammogram the lady working the desk in the office told me that she was also a HER2 positive breast cancer survivor of 5 years. She, like me, had also taken herceptyn, and was very interested to hear there was a trial for another drug to follow it. I told her everything I knew, and wrote down all of the information I had on it. She was going to call her oncologist and see if she could also take part in the study. What a great feeling, first of all to meet someone that has been in my shoes, and is now healthy and strong, and then to be able to tell her about the new drug study that I am in and give her information that might help her to get involved. :0)

Hip Hip Hurray on the clean mammogram!

Monday, February 1, 2010

Trial Name

I realized I've never given you the official title of the trial:

A randomized Double-Blind Placebo Controlled Trial of Neratinib After Trastuzumab in Women with Early Stage HER-2 Over expressed Amplified Breast Cancer

The nausea went away, so I think maybe it was a bug. So far I have no side effects from the trial drug. I have a mammogram later this week. So far so good!