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Keep Well. As a chemotherapy patient you are very much aware that you need to keep as well as you possibly can whilst having treatment. Something as small as a bad cold can have you in hospital in a flash so we are warned very early on to be careful. Here are a few of my absolutes which helped me stay fit and healthy during this time.
Wash your hands regularly
This may seem really obvious but believe me it is really important.
When I was first diagnosed, I was told by one of the nurses that the best way to stay healthy is to make sure you wash your hands regularly, especially before eating. Germs are everywhere. I bought a lot of packs of antibacterial wipes, and I had them in every handbag (I have a lot of handbags) so if I was on the train or out and about, I could always clean my hands before I touched my face. I continue to have a pack of wipes always with me. It’s good practice even when you are well.
Eat as best you can
I won’t say a balanced diet as chemotherapy does some strange things to taste and cravings.
For example, I have never really been a fish eater. It’s only been over the last 10 years that I started to dabble with fish. It started with cod (I only used to have saveloy and chips from the chip shop), then I discovered monkfish, seabass, lemon sole. However, if it was a choice between any of these and a steak, well the meat would always win. The one thing I really couldn’t stomach was salmon. I found it cloying and tasteless. So, you can imagine Nick’s surprise when I announced during the first chemo session that I really wanted salmon for dinner. He nearly fell off his chair, but bless him, he went out and bought some and I loved it. Salmon became a staple during this time, which pleased him immensely as it is one of his favourites.
When I met up with my friend KW and told her this, she told me the same was true for her but in reverse. She has always been a fish lover, but she was now only wanting meat. We came to the conclusion that the body must be craving what it is lacking. There are a number of myths out there, one is about sugar.
Try to eat regularly even if it’s little and often. Food is fuel. You can’t drive a car on empty, so the same applies to the body. If you are really struggling, then do as I did and get your GP to prescribe Fortisips. These are drink cartons / bottles that contain all the nutrients you need. They are usually given to patients who are about to undergo surgery that can’t eat beforehand. They are an excellent way of keeping you nourished until you feel well enough to eat properly.
Keep Well – Keep Moving
Just before I went into hospital, the one thing I was told to do by EVERYONE was to walk as much as you can every day.
If you’ve had a hospital stay recently, you will have noticed that the nurses have you out of bed as soon as possible, usually the day after your operation. So, unless there is a real reason why you can’t get up ie. in a coma or dead – you are getting up.
Gone are the days that when you had for example a hysterectomy, you were advised not to do anything for about 3 months. Now you are actively encouraged to get out of bed, even if it’s sitting up in a chair.
There is a very good reason for this. Being active generates white cells. These white cells fight infection and basically keep you well. They are good. Moving is good.
This is also true for when you are undergoing chemotherapy. Our white cells as well as the cancer cells are being destroyed, so to help the body regenerate new white cells go for a walk.
My husband was under strict instruction (by me) to get me out of the house, even when I really didn’t want to, and do some gentle exercise. I walked pretty much every day. I’m very lucky he really enjoys walking, so we made it our lunch time thing. We have a local lake that takes about 10 minutes to get around. Initially it took me about ½ an hour to do one circuit, but everyday it got better and easier. The more you do, the easier it gets and the stronger you become.
Keep Well – Keep Positive
I know this is sometimes easier said than done, but it can help.
The brain is the most incredible thing. It keeps everything in our body working. It is a powerful tool.
The phrase ‘mind over matter’ may sound a bit of a cliché, but it really is true. Just being in a good frame of mind will work wonders.
I personally like to think that a glass is half full rather than half empty. I’m not a pessimist or an optimist, but a realist. Guess what? shit happens. How you deal with that pile of doggy doo will determine how well and how quickly you will enjoy whatever time you have left. You can’t change the diagnosis, but you can manage it.
Because, in case someone didn’t tell you, we don’t get out of this alive. Whether it’s cancer or not, at some point in time we are all going to die. End of.
I want whatever time I have left to be the best that I can make it. Don’t get me wrong, I have crap days like everyone else, but I like to think that most of them are happy ones.
If you are depressed, or feeling a bit low, talk to someone – PLEASE. There is so much help out there. Whether it be your GP, Macmillan or a friend, don’t ignore it, or pretend it’s not happening. You don’t have to do this alone.
Here’s another old cliché for you ‘a problem shared is a problem halved’.
Men – this is why women talk and why women regard their friends as sacred.
It is also probably why ¾ of suicides in the UK in 2017 were men (as recorded by Office for National Statistics Suicides in the UK:2017 registrations).
However, I don’t want to end this section on such a depressing note, so here is a quote from Dale Carnegie :-
“Today is life – the only life you are sure of. Make the most of today. Get interested in something. Shake yourself awake. Develop a hobby. Let the winds of enthusiasm sweep through you. Live today with gusto.”
Keep Well – Listen to your body
Okay, so I’ve just told you all to keep moving and to do so every day. You do however have to listen to your body. When you get tired, and you will, go for a nap. Recharge your batteries. Don’t think that it’s a sign of weakness. Your body IS weak so let it rest when it needs to.
I’ve known a few people who have pushed themselves so hard that they’ve ended up with depression. This is because the body is having to fight the chemotherapy (poison killing poison) and is running at about 60%, the host then tries to continue at their normal rate, the body then has to compensate for this and uses up more energy, it’s now at 40%. The host gets depressed about this so pushes harder, and all that happens is this ever-decreasing circle where the individual gets more and more depressed and the body gets weaker and weaker, until the brain finally shuts down everything but the absolute essentials – breathing and keeping the main organs functioning.
Be kind to yourself and know your limits.