Mom’s 6 Tips: Staying Well During Cancer Treatment

by Angie GiallourakisMarch 5, 2019View more posts from Angie Giallourakis

We know that a cancer diagnoses is incredibly stressful and frightening. A person’s emotions are usually over the top – and yet, we know that in order to survive this horrible ordeal the patient needs physical and emotional nourishment while in treatment.

People who undergo cancer treatment need to feel as good as possible. Chemotherapy and radiation messes with one’s energy level, bodily functions, and emotions. Radiation can alter the composition of the skin by causing a burning sensation and/or swelling. Surgery means some part of the body was cut into – not pleasant to think about, but a reality.

In order to remain strong enough to endure treatments individuals should seriously consider maintaining a healthy diet, do some type of physical exercise, and get emotional support.

I am not suggesting your start a new diet or a new exercise program. But I do recommend you consider the following suggestions:

Eating Healthy Food

  • Talk to you doctor and medical team about any dietary limitations before you add any new foods or supplements to your diet.
    • Eat plenty of vegetables and fruit whenever possible.
    • Drink easily digestible beverages as well as soothing meat or vegetable broths.
    • Check out “Cook For Your Life’s “ recipes on-line. Ann provides a whole host of suggestions that address problems you might be experiencing during treatment.
    • Eat Good Food!!!!!

Eat Fruits and Vegetables

  • Fruits and vegetables should be first on the grocery list.
    • What fruit do you like?
    • Don’t be afraid to try something new
  • If you can’t swallow or just don’t feel like eating – try a smoothie. Smoothies are refreshing and easy to consume; and a great way to get nutrients (like fruits and vegetables) into the body.
    • Stock up on your favorite yogurt (fresh or frozen), frozen or fresh fruit like blueberries, strawberries, mangos, peaches, bananas, (I think you get the picture) and your favorite juice or milk. Other possible additions to a smoothie are peanut butter, almond butter, cocoa powder, spinach or kale. If you are not fond of green vegetables consider this an opportunity to try some spinach blended up with strawberries, frozen vanilla yogurt and apple juice. You just might be surprised.
    • Smoothies go down easy. Smoothies with fresh vegetables and fruit can give you a blast of energy and help you stay strong.
    • Smoothies are a great and easy way to consume a reasonable amount of healthy food in a virtually effortless manner.
    • Can you tell I like smoothies?
    • Get a blender. What? don’t have one? Ask your friends and family to pitch in and buy one for you.
    • Or better yet, visit Vitamix.com and learn about how you can receive a free refurbished machine through your hospital.

Get Some Exercise.

Watch Out for Fad Diets and Well-Intentioned Recommendations from Relatives or Friends

  • Make sure you check with your doctor before taking vitamins.
  • There may be some type of drug interaction between your cancer treatment and certain vitamins or herbs – and you could end up in the hospital. That would be no fun.
  • Remember your oncologist has your best interest in mind – and is a trained professional.

Mind-Body Relaxation

  • There should be someone on your medical team familiar with mind-body relaxation techniques.
  • Mind-Body meditation can help you learn to relax in order to reduce stress and anxiety.
    • A mind-body meditation often includes the following steps:
      • Establishing a relaxed state of mind by finding a comfortable position, and an intention or a purpose for the meditation such as
        • “I am relaxed and will sleep soundly”
      • Learn Body Sensing. This is a step by step process of becoming aware of how your body feels, using your senses to explore physical feelings and through awareness building the individual becomes relaxed.
      • Learn Breath Sensing through practicing breath techniques.
        • Starting with the most fundamental actions of deep inhales and exhales. Learning to control breath can help the individual relax.
      • Research has shown that the regular practice of a Mind -Body meditation can reduce physical and emotional stress and promote a better night’s sleep.
      • Resources: https://nccih.nih.gov/health/meditation/overview.htm, https://www.irest.org/irest-research

Emotional Support

  • Getting emotional support means different things to different people. For some people it means spending quality time with friends and family who understand you and allow you to talk about your experiences.
  • If you feel that friends and family are not helping – and you have concerns – consider talking with your doctor or nurse about getting a counselor, psychologist, or clergy person to help you.
  • Sometimes talking with an objective person outside your friends or family circle can provide relief.

Concluding Thoughts

Managing and completing cancer treatment is a test of emotional, spiritual, and physical endurance. The examples presented here are suggestions to consider as a means to improve ones’ quality of life during treatment. A good quality of life can help with survivorship. These suggestions are based upon research. But as mentioned above it is vital that you communicate with your oncologist and medical team.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help! You have a right to learn about the best ways to behave and feel during cancer treatment.

Angie Giallourakis, Ph.D. (aka Mom)

Angie is a former rehabilitation counselor, college professor, researcher turned cancer advocate and mother to a two time cancer survivor. Over the past ten years she has sought to learn about the best ways to survive cancer treatment. As a result of this research she has become trained in the following fields:

  • iRest Yoga Nidra Meditation Teacher – (A research-based program designed to work with people who have experienced trauma in their life time.
  • Integrative Nutrition Health Coach – (Institute for Integrative Nutrition, NYC, NY)
  • Integrative Oncology Navigator – (Smith Center for the Arts, Washington DC)
  • Yoga4Cancer Teacher – (Program established by Tari Prinster, Certified Yoga Teacher, Breast Cancer Survivor)