- The National Cancer Institute offers a free book called “Eating Hints: Before, During, and After Cancer Treatment”. To get this free book, check out their website at www.cancer.gov/publications or 1-800-4-Cancer (1-800-422-6237). This is a very helpful resource!
- Chemotherapy can cause changes in your appetite. It is important to make healthy choices even if you have no appetite. If your appetite changes try eating small frequent meals. Every 2 to 3 hours eat something small, even if it is 2 crackers with a slice of cheese or peanut butter. Combining complex carbohydrates (whole grains, oatmeal, rice, fruits and vegetables) with proteins (meats, dairy, nuts, and eggs) helps stabilize your blood sugar, jump-start your metabolism, give you energy, and promote cell healing. When you choose small amounts of foods you’re not as likely to become overwhelmed with what you see on your plate or in your bowl. This will help you to be successful in eating the food you choose. Also try plating your food on a dessert plate or in a ramekin instead of a dinner plate or cereal bowl.
- If you enjoy shakes or smoothies try adding 1/3 cup pasteurized egg whites. Pasteurized egg whites are liquid egg whites that are safe to consume raw. This is not an egg substitute. They will not change the taste or texture of the smoothie and they add a significant amount of protein. To increase the nutritional content, add a packet of Carnation Breakfast Essentials (formerly called Carnation Instant Breakfast). There is a No Sugar Added variety if you are diabetic.
- You can also choose to supplement your calorie and protein intake by drinking Ensure, Boost or Glucerna (specifically made for diabetics) in between meals.
- If you experience a metallic taste in your mouth, try using plastic utensils. Eating with plastic can help reduce the metal taste while you are eating.
- Drinking through a straw can help reduce the amount of air that you take in with each sip. This can help reduce that full feeling in your stomach, which can lead to gas, discomfort, or indigestion. Drinking through a straw also pushes the fluid to the back of the mouth bypassing the front taste buds. This can be helpful if you have a bad taste in your mouth.
- If food odors cause you to lose your appetite, then serving food at room temperature produces fewer odors and may be better tolerated.
- Adding spices such as ginger and cinnamon can also improve food taste.
- It is extremely important that you are keeping yourself well hydrated. Drinking 1 to 2 liters of fluid (or at least 8 glasses) will help prevent dehydration. Dehydration affects your blood pressure and can result in dizziness. It also affects your kidney’s ability to filter wastes. Dehydration can be a serious problem and must be avoided.
- If you are having trouble remembering how many glasses of fluid you’re drinking everyday try putting 8 rubber bands around your cup each morning. Each time you finish 1 cup, remove 1 rubber band. This is a good visual reminder to drink. Remember, soup, popsicles and Jell-O all count as liquids too! If you are watching television, take a sip every time a commercial comes on. There are so many commercials, that you will get through your 8 glasses in no time!
- It is important to practice good oral hygiene. Use a mouthwash that does not contain alcohol. Alcohol can dry out your mouth or encourage a sore mouth.
- If you experience a very dry mouth there are products available at the pharmacy to help restore the moisture. One such product is called Biotene. The Biotene line has toothpaste, mouth rinse, and gum and denture products available.
- Timing dental procedures with your physician is very important. Do not schedule any dental procedures, including routine cleanings, without discussing it with your physician! It is important that we are able to determine if your blood counts are at a safe level.
Skin & Nail Care
- It is important to take good care of your skin. Each day you should use a moisturizer, even if you don’t bathe. Keeping your skin hydrated will help to prevent dry, cracked skin.
- If you do experience a rash, please understand that we cannot diagnose that over the phone. Please call early so that an appointment can be made for you with the physician.
- When you bathe, avoid long hot showers, which can dry out your skin. Use a mild, moisturizing soap. Pat your skin dry, don’t rub it. Apply your cream or moisturizer while your skin is still damp.
- If you are going to be outside, please use a sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher. Some treatments can make you more susceptible to sunburn. Wearing protective clothing such as a sun hat, long sleeves and pants will help. Also, remember to protect your lips from sunburn by using a lip balm with a SPF of 15.
- Some treatments can make your nails brittle. You may use a nail strengthener. Take caution when trimming your nails or cuticles. Keep your hands clean. If you notice nail tenderness or changes in color, please tell your physician or nurse.
Activity & Rest
- Unless your blood counts are low, we will not restrict your activity. It is very important to continue to do the things that you enjoy. This will improve your outlook and your quality of life.
- Some cancers and chemotherapy can cause fatigue. It is important to give your body the rest it needs. If you need to nap in the daytime, please limit your sleeping time to less than 45 minutes. Any more than that and you risk poor sleep at night. You get the best restorative and healing sleep at night.
- Despite your fatigue, it is important to get some activity each day. This will help to build your endurance slowly. But don’t overdo it…just walking a few laps around your kitchen can be enough. Slowly increase your activity level.
- If you are unable to walk, try some low impact activities while watching television. Lifting your legs, stretching, and arm lifts will still benefit you.
- If you feel great, you may continue to exercise.
- Being in pain is a common fear among patients. We will do our very best to manage any pain you are experiencing. We will often ask you many questions about your pain. These questions help us to determine the best course of treatment for the type of pain you are experiencing.
- If you are started on a prescription pain medication it may be necessary for you to start a bowel program to keep you regular. Many pain medications can cause constipation. We recommend using Miralax or Senekot S. Both are available over the counter and have a generic equivalent. Follow the directions on the package. If you are not experiencing relief, please tell the nurses so that we can make other suggestions.
- Getting a cancer diagnosis is scary. Seeking help is an important part of taking care of you and your loved ones. At some point others will want to share in their cancer story and experiences with you. Please know not all cancers and chemotherapy are the same. Each person and situation is unique. While others are just trying to offer encouragement, sometimes it can heighten your fear. Please use common sense when seeking out information. The internet is full of information, some though is not reliable. Please ask your physician or nurses first. If you still want to do some internet research, then seek out trusted sites such as:
Many hospitals have cancer support groups.
The Cancer Support Center (in Homewood & Frankfort) offers many wonderful programs and services for patients and their families. (www.cancersupportcenter.org)