Saturday, February 16, 2013

The War on Chemo Side Effects

I know that I'm not fat.

I'm just getting that out there before you get the wrong impression. But I will say this: I've never in my life weighed more than I have at this point. For those of you who know me, I realize I'll get little sympathy from that. But this isn't about pity, or sympathy, or any derivative of that.

This is about control.

For the last six months, I've had the conflicting forces of chemo side effects and the knowledge of good cancer-fighting food habits. They've waged a little battle inside of me. Chemo side effects won. And in the process they made it hard for me to do the two things I know I could do to watch my weight: Exercise and Eat Healthy. Among the weapons used by chemo side effects were: :

1) Steroids. My monthly dose of steroids left me both easily angered (ask my kids about the Saturday following chemo... not always pretty) and hungry. Not for rabbit food, but for manly, meaty, fat-filled food.

2) Nausea. As the steroids ran out of steam, chemo sent in reinforcements in the form of mild, nausea. And this nausea was best defeated with a combination of anti-nausea pills, and, believe it or not, eating. Whether I was hungry or not, when I felt nauseous, or thought I might be feeling nauseous, or thought that I might soon be thinking that I might be feeling nauseous, I ate.

3) Crazing Cravings. It's not that I longed for pickles and ice cream but my taste buds changed in the week or two post-chemo. In the months leading up to treatment, I tried to follow the principles of Fighting Cancer with Your Fork (see the presentation below, if you're so inclined) including 5-10 servings of fruits and vegetables a day. But for about 2-3 weeks following chemo, fruit and vegetables just didn't appeal to me -- which made the Juicer a bit irrelevant, unfortunately. No, I needed crunchy, salty, fatty foods. I could have lived on Cheetos if I thought that was possible.

4) Water, Water. Although the week post-chemo left me often dry-mouthed and thirsty (and hoarse), water tasted, well, off. I needed it very cold to make it taste good and, on top of that, I was retaining the fluids from treatment, which made for nights interrupted with three trips to the bathroom. The net result of that was I didn't drink nearly as much water as I should have.

I've said before that a lot of the anxiety surrounding a cancer diagnosis is a lack of control. For the last six months, I willingly ceded control to chemo side effects. My inner dialogue was, "Just get through treatment, then you get back on track. Now go get some tortilla chips. You deserve it. Oh, and grab a cookie or two, while you're' there."

I'm two weeks post treatment today. It feels like months. I realize that we're still waiting for my March scans and I'm not out of the woods. But screw you side effects, I'm taking control now... even if I'm not quite ready to start juicing.

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<iframe src="http://www.slideshare.net/slideshow/embed_code/12268911?rel=0" width="427" height="356" frameborder="0" marginwidth="0" marginheight="0" scrolling="no" style="border:1px solid #CCC;border-width:1px 1px 0;margin-bottom:5px" allowfullscreen webkitallowfullscreen mozallowfullscreen> </iframe> <div style="margin-bottom:5px"> <strong> <a href="http://www.slideshare.net/DanaFarber/fighting-cancer-with-your-fork" title="Fighting Cancer With Your Fork" target="_blank">Fighting Cancer With Your Fork</a> </strong> from <strong><a href="http://www.slideshare.net/DanaFarber" target="_blank">Dana-Farber Cancer Institute</a></strong> </div>