Chemotherapy……continuing the conversation

A warm welcome to our community of caregivers,

I want to continue the conversation regarding supporting those we care about who will be undergoing chemotherapy. This support is critical emotionally, nutritionally and physically. As I shared in my last post, I was extremely fearful of Larry starting chemotherapy. I had heard only horrible stories from those who had undergone treatment; severe nausea; incredible fatigue; skin disorders; hearing loss; and so much more. I was so scared for the man that I love, however, I had to remain strong and positive.  Knowing that each person who begins chemotherapy will have a different reaction, I can only talk about our experience and hope that the positive effects that Larry had will be the outcome for many.

Together we prepared, emotionally knowing that starting treatment was critical in that his Mantle Cell Lymphoma was progressing to the point that the “Wait and See” period had ended. Alternative treatments (acupuncture and Chinese herbs) were no longer effective as his MCL had become more aggressive, tumors growing throughout his body. The time had come to begin the protocol  that our bone marrow doctor at Stanford had designed and instructed our oncologist at Kaiser to use. My fear rose to a new level when I learned that our oncologists had never used this protocol before and our Stanford doctor was thousands of miles away!! I knew that I had to trust in our doctors and the amazing nurses that we had who administered and instructed us each step of the way.

With the scheduling of the first round of chemotherapy, my next step was to learn as much as I could about the process which included the nutrition that was necessary to build his body to help with the healing.  A dear friend of ours gave us a copy of the book entitled, “The Cancer-Fighting Kitchen” written by Rebecca Katz with Mat Edelson, which I highly recommend. Not only was this book an excellent resource that explained the importance of preparing foods that would be nourishing and have big flavors for the patients undergoing chemo whose taste buds are compromised, but it served as a support to explain the many side effects that Larry may experience.

Each weekend, I prepared soups that could be ready for his lunch each day through the week, easy to reheat and filled with great nutrition.  For days after his chemo treatments he would feel exhausted and have a hard time getting off the sofa to even think about eating. Ensuring that there were ready to go meals that would be comforting to enjoy worked well. I would be sure to stock the refrigerator with snacks and drinks that would keep him nourished until I returned from work each day.

We had also read of the importance of exercise following chemo treatments. Exercise helps to build the immune system and assisted in his body recovering more quickly from each round of chemo.  Because of the concern with the amount of tumors that were in his stomach and intestines, he was in the hospital for the first two rounds of chemo. The day after he returned home each time, he and I kept up our routine of our daily walks, completing 2-3 miles.  His body responded extremely well to the chemo with his visible tumors disappearing and his body gaining weight for the first time in years.

I would encourage each of you who will be caring for a person undergoing chemotherapy, continue to research recipes, learn more about the side effects in order to be informed and proactive, gain your strength as a “cheerleader” and adopt the mantra, “The good news is”, so that each baby step in the healing process becomes a celebration.

Until next time… strong and positive!



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