My Experience with Cancer and Nutrition
Updated: Mar 15, 2022
Please note that I am not a cancer coach, this article is based on my experience.
Cancer sucks! We all know it. In 2012, my father had bowel cancer; in 2013, my mother had cervical cancer; and in 2014, my mother-in-law was diagnosed with multiple myeloma (a type of blood cancer).
My mother's cervical cancer was stage 1, it was caught early. My mother had surgery and she was cancer-free. On the other hand, my father's experience was terrible, it made him angry every time he had chemotherapy. He had no sense of taste or everything he ate tasted like metal. He was not a happy camper. He was a survivor and cancer-free.
My MIL was first diagnosed with multiple myeloma in 2014. She underwent chemotherapy at the beginning and wasn't very happy with her treatment plan. She was in pain and no longer wanted to continue with any treatment. She was not eating or sleeping due to the pain. Eventually, her doctor help with pain management and she felt much better. However, the medication gives her constipation. At first, we wanted to try natural laxatives to aid with constipation but it still wasn't enough. We added the medications as recommended by the doctor then she got diarrhea. Soon we realized it was a fine balance between the medications we needed to give and her diet.
My MIL was a picky eater. She ate nothing cold, everything was hot or warm. She ate a lot of white rice with chicken, red dates (jujube), and ginger. She loves rice, always had to eat rice with every meal even at breakfast. Red dates help with nourishing the blood. She told me once "women we need to eat more red dates to help with our blood" and she's wasn't wrong. She also used a lot of ginger in her meals. Ginger is high in antioxidants and improves heart health and digestion. The combination of white rice with chicken, red dates, and ginger was essential in her diet and she was very happy eating this daily.
In 2017, she had a bone marrow transplant and she was like a brand new woman. She was walking laps at the park, going out to see her friends, and helping watch my child while I went to work. She even help watch my second child when he was born. She was doing it all. Her treatment was working and our family was very pleased with her progress. Her doctor said she would have about 10 years of life expectancy. Soon a few years later, in January of 2021, she went downhill a bit. She ate less and she started to lose weight.
As a family, we knew something was wrong. We supplemented her diet with nutritional shakes, which she hated because of the taste. Her rice, chicken, red dates, and the ginger dish would no longer spark her interest. She didn't want to eat or drink. She stopped walking her laps at the park, stopped seeing her friends and even my kids didn't make her happy. She was hospitalized in May 2021 for 2 weeks due to renal failure. Her multiple myeloma had relapsed. Her doctor had pushed her to get dialysis but she no longer wanted treatment at this point. She knew that doing dialysis three days a week and chemotherapy 1 day a week would not give her any quality of life.
We kept her comfortable at home. We gave her food and drinks upon acceptance. In June 2021, my MIL passed. The day before my MIL passed, my husband fed her some fresh coconut and cold coconut water. This lady never ate or drank anything cold, only at this point was she willing to try something out of the ordinary. My MIL was a wise and wonderful woman. She has taught me a lot over the years, and I am very grateful to have known her.
Tips to help with nutritional intake during cancer treatment:
Bring nutritional sound foods to chemotherapy.
Avoid processed meats, salty, sugary, or oily foods.
Choose lean meats, high fiber foods, fresh fruits, and vegetables.
Allow your loved ones to pick and choose their own food choices.
Do not force them to eat or drink.
Leave water and snacks near the bedside.
Give them a hand with cutting up foods, or feeding.
Eat together as a family.
Provide meaningful conversation and touch.
Ensure your loved one is comfortable and pain-free.
As a Registered Holistic Nutritionist™, I will focus on all aspects of a person's wellbeing and life. Send me an email at BlendaRHN@gmail.com and let me help you and your loved ones.
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The entire contents of this article are based upon the opinions of Blenda Chan. Please note that Blenda Chan is not a dietitian, physician, pharmacist, or other licensed healthcare professional. The information in this article is NOT intended as medical advice, nor is it intended to replace the care of qualified health care professional. This content is not intended to diagnose or treat any diseases. Always consult with your primary care physician or licensed healthcare provider for all diagnosis and treatment of any diseases or conditions, for medications or medical advice as well as before changing your health care regimen.