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Friday, August 23, 2013 - Tips to stay healthy and strong during chemotherapy

Tips to stay healthy and strong during chemotherapy

By Bhavesh Balar, M.D.

Undergoing chemotherapy affects every patient differently. Regardless of the degree to which you experience side effects, following some simple guidelines will help make the treatment cycle as comfortable as possible. Nutrition is one of the most important factors and often one of the biggest challenges patients face. The medication can play havoc with your taste buds and effect your reaction to food smells and textures (as a woman might experience as morning sickness during pregnancy).  

Food and hydration recommendations

Eating high-quality food and staying hydrated are both key to maintaining your strength. Study the food recommendation list your doctor provides and discuss it with whoever will be helping prepare meals. This list should also include specific items to avoid, such as:

  • Hot, spicy, or strong-smelling dishes
  • Fatty, greasy or fried foods
  • Very sweet, sugar-laden desserts
  • Large, heavy meals
  • Unwashed fruits and vegetables
  • Raw and undercooked meat and fish (sushi)
  • Raw milk products
  • Restaurant salad bars and buffets

Several of my patients have recommended Rebecca Katz’s cookbooks, The Cancer Fighting Kitchen and One Bite at a Time, which offer simple and healthy, chemo-friendly recipes.

Dehydration can make you feel even more tired. You should drink at least three quarts of water every day to wash the chemicals through your system. Staying hydrated also helps to minimize nausea.
Living your life during treatment

In regard to your lifestyle during chemotherapy, I recommend the following to my patients:

  • Steer clear of sick adults and children.
  • Mouth sores are a side-effect of treatment. Avoid alcohol, even mouthwashes, which can be very painful.
  • Look at your upcoming social calendar and try to arrange infusions so they don’t fall within about five days of important events.
  • Patients and family members should get the seasonal flu vaccine.
  • Hold off for a few weeks after treatment ends before going on vacation or undergoing any major changes (home renovation, extensive dental work, returning full-time to work).

Finally, if you already exercise regularly, feel free to continue during treatment, if you are up to it. It can help lessen overall side effects and boost your mental outlook. Take special caution to avoid direct sun and keep in mind that chlorinated pools may irritate skin at the treatment area.

Most assuredly, chemotherapy is a challenging period in the treatment cycle of a cancer patient, but following these guidelines will help overcome several side effects and maximize the comfort of the patient. Above all, while this time is difficult, it is not forever. This, too, shall pass, opening the door to brighter days ahead.

Award-winning comprehensive cancer care

The Cancer Center at CentraState Medical Center offers the latest diagnostic, treatment and rehabilitative services including the ProCure Proton Therapy Center, one of only 12 centers in the United States and the first in New Jersey to offer this advanced form of radiation treatment. CentraState is accredited by the American College of Surgeons (ACoS) Commission on Cancer (CoC) for quality excellence and is designated as a Community Hospital Comprehensive Cancer Program. The medical team is led by an outstanding group of board-certified physicians specializing in surgery, radiation oncology, and medical oncology.  For more information, call (855) 411-CANCER or visit www.centrastatecancercenter.com.

Dr. Bhavesh Balar is a board-certified and fellowship-trained hematologist and oncologist on staff at CentraState Medical Center in Freehold. He can be reached at Regional Cancer Care Associates by calling (732) 431-8400.