First of all, kudos to you! It may seem like an odd word to hear in this circumstance, but it is well deserved. Why? Because you’re here, reading this, looking for ways to keep fighting and stay strong, you’re focusing on the solution and we’re very happy to help you.
Chemo, Radiation and other Cancer Treatments all have side-effects that can weigh you down physically and emotionally. These side effects may test your strength both physically and emotionally, but there are ways to take control. One way you can help your body cope is through proper nutrition and diet. To help you help your body cope, we’ve gathered important tips and reminders that will help keep your energy up throughout the treatment.
1. Drink 10-12 Glasses of Fluids Daily.
You’ll notice that doctors always prepare their patients for treatment with IV fluids. They anticipate the side-effects of treatment and give your body the strength to receive it.
But the effects of chemo and other cancer treatments aren’t always immediate. They stay in the body’s system for a while and continue to impact it for days and even months long. Cancer treatment can cause cancer-induced diarrhea or cancer-induced nausea and vomiting both of which can lead to dehydration.
Your inability to stay hydrated due to these side effects is one of the reasons you feel fatigue during treatment and post treatment. In addition, not only do you lose fluids, you are also losing electrolytes such as sodium and potassium. Electrolytes are essential to a number of physiological functions in the body and so it is important to address the electrolyte imbalance.
In a healthy state a person is expected to drink 8-10 glasses of water per day, assume that a patient undergoing treatment should drink at least 10-12 glasses per day. Don’t wait for symptoms of dehydration to occur – if you do you, you will likely experience severe levels of dehydration that may necessitate a need for IV fluid replacement. If your dehydration persists despite drinking adequate fluids, ask your healthcare provider to recommend a sugar free electrolyte hydration solution to help you relieve you. Also, be conscious about symptoms that may lead to dehydration and speak with your doctor about managing symptoms to avoid dehydration.
2. Keep your Vitamin D levels in check:
Cancer treatment or not, most people will experience Vitamin D deficiency at some point in their life. It is one of the nutrients that are often overlooked when it comes to nutrition, however, has a significant impact one’s body.
Addressing and preventing Vitamin D deficiency is very important for a lot of reasons. For one, it can cause depression (one of the major side effects of one’s cancer journey) and second it inhibits calcium absorption, which is needed for your system to combat other side effects of cancer therapy. Vitamin D deficiency is also related to bone pain, fatigue, weakness, and high blood pressure.
You may feel that you have no choice as treatment often means you have to limit sun exposure. But the reality is, exposure to the sun isn’t even enough to provide you with the proper amount of Vitamin D.
You can consult your doctor about taking supplements along with your medication or even replacement strategies depending on your Vitamin D level.
3. Playing with tastes and textures until you find out what food and drinks you can tolerate.
People around you will tell you that you have to eat healthy – that you need more calories to fuel your body with the energy it needs to fight both cancer and the side effects of cancer treatment. That is all true and important -you need it -but how do you eat when everything seems tasteless and your body wants to reject whatever you take in?
Start with the foods and drinks that you can already tolerate. Sometimes it may mean eating pudding all day and for others all they can tolerate is broth – whatever it is, take what you can and as much of it as you can, then try to explore other sources of protein and nutrients that you can tolerate. You can follow these tips to find the right solution for you:
• If plain water tastes like metal, try flavoring water with lemon or try a refreshing drink like enterade® which is available in vanilla or orange flavor
• Turn pureed fruits and vegetables into popsicles (they help keep you hydrated and provide relief for mouth sores)
• Small and frequent nibs of fortified cereal, crackers, or granola bars
Using these tips with some trial and error, hopefully there’s something you can tolerate and even enjoy eating – find it and keep in check how you are able to provide your body the calories it needs to function and control the side effects of cancer treatment.
4. Be Cautious of Your Blood Iron Levels
Some treatment plans and chemo drugs can cause anemia, and anemia causes fatigue and weakness.
It’s good to make sure you have enough iron in your diet but it is still best to have it checked. You can discuss taking iron supplements or multivitamins alongside treatment with your doctor.
5. Surround yourself with positivity
When we began I commended your attitude towards your cancer journey. It is good to keep focusing on the solution.
There is plenty of inspiration around you in the form of people, stories, videos, books and much more, to help you feel motivated throughout your journey with cancer. The important thing to do with abundance of resources is to engage with the ones which you can relate to.
Inspiration doesn’t have to be only cancer related – it can be simple things that make you laugh or just enjoying the beauty around you in its many forms.
Exercising is essential for everyone, not only cancer patients. Exercise provides many benefits towards one’s physical, mental, and emotional health. It doesn’t have to be hardcore exercise – it can be a walk in the park, simply walking up and down the stairs in your house, or walking around your garden. If you need some help moving around or even just the motivation to move around regularly, ask a friend to partner with you in your commitment to exercise or consult your doctor about joining a rehabilitation program for a personalized plan that fits your needs.
Exercise makes your body release endorphins -a chemical in your body that naturally makes you happier and energetic – which helps you fight stress in addition to other benefits like improved oxygen consumption, improved body mass, and better metabolism.
7.Get a dose of mother nature
Filling your lungs with the fresh ocean breeze, or the scene and scent of lush trees and beautiful flowers, or touching the trunk of an old tree, keeping a leaf in your palm and wearing a flower on your hair…
There’s an energy that flows in nature… You don’t need to be a nature enthusiast to appreciate the beauty that’s around us or scientific studies to prove the energy that flows in nature – when you’re there you can feel the energy yourself.
8.Charge your batteries with enough sleep
When I talk about sleep, I mean the kind that you wake up from and feel rested and recharged – not the kind of sleep where you feel like you just closed your eyes for a short while. If you want to have to the energy to take control through your cancer journey, you can’t be running on empty.
Unfortunately, this is easier said than done. Sometimes sleep can be so elusive when you have so many things on your mind like pain and stress. Don’t get used to it. Find out what you can do to improve it. Your doctor can prescribe medication for pain or stress but here are some simple things you can do to influence better sleep:
- Avoiding stimulants before bedtime
- Having a good bedtime routine to train your body clock
- Keep your bed free of stress. That means if your mind is getting busy, get up and lay it all out elsewhere.
- Engage in relaxing activities to prepare yourself for bedtime and turn off the noise like: listening to music, reading a good book, getting a dose of your positivity, singing or playing music- anything that draws your mind, heart, and attention away from stressful thoughts
Disclosure: These are recommendations only. If your side effects are affecting your hydration and nutrition, it is important to talk with members of your healthcare team.