Diet and Lifestyle

Diet

This was the hardest part for me when I got diagnosed as I’m no cancer specialist and had no experience or knowledge of cancer before my own diagnosis.  I’ve always experienced cancer as a quagmire of incohesive information – so many different points of view, some proven (or not?) and some still in the balance. Where does one go and who does one listen to?  I received advice from all corners! And careful what you read on the internet…

There are debates about the causes of cancer, environmental factors for sure, but there is a strong link to diet. I always thought I ate relatively healthy but  with my stewed fruit, fruit yoghurts, sandwiches to work (note that all carbs turn to sugar) plus many cups of coffee with two sugars, I realised that I’ve been taking in a helluva lot of sugar every day.

Initially in hospital there is not much to do but eat what one gets.

My daughter Michaela has a Diploma in Herbal Medicines and is a keen supporter of the natural way.  She advised me to go onto a raw greens diet but it was mid-winter and I needed comfort food.  She suggested that I stop having coffee and that I eat my body into an alkaline state.  I just couldn’t bear so many dietary changes all at once.

My sister’s doctor immediately suggested the Ketogenic diet (which is a lot like banting) but this time cutting out all sugars and carbs and increasing natural oils (coconut, olive, double cream plain yoghurts). I started my days with fried eggs, bacon and mushrooms.  I had to give up my daily dose of muesli (the oats turn to sugar) and this was the hardest thing for me to do plus drinking herbal teas instead of coffee!

I tried this for some time but the change was probably too quick because I only lasted on this diet for a few weeks before it became nauseating.

I then decided well if I’m terminally ill I may as well enjoy myself and not make my last days a misery (one of my big mistakes – the mindshift change only came later) and I went on to eat anything I desired, including all the old home puddings I remember as a child! (Both of the below were made by me!) In conjunction with cortisone tablets, I just expanded at a rapid rate.

Eventually I ended up feeling so ill and as if I was on my way to dying, I just had to turn my life around and find direction.  That came in the form of a referral to Dr Herman Spies.  Dr Spies put me back on the ketogenic diet in combination with Dr D’Adamo’s blood group diet.  He made me feel so much better physically that I’m still maintaining this diet today. I just feel the oncologists (and my physician I was assigned to at hospital) placed very little or no emphasis on diet or nutrition.

I have gone back to coffee, this time with no sugar (jeez after giving up cigarettes I needed some stimulation!) but follow a very simple diet:
Breakfast: a small bowl of double cream yoghurt, a tablespoon of cold-pressed flax seed oil and sprinkled with a tablespoon of mixed seeds (linseed, sunflower mainly).
Lunch: Greek salad
Dinner: Loads of cooked up veg plus a small piece of protein.
In between: Banting seed crackers from the Gluten Free Gurus or nuts (especially walnuts mixed with dried pumpkin seed).  (There are plenty recipes on the net for banting seed crackers.) If push comes to shove I may snack on droewors (dried sausage, a South African delicacy) as well.

A note on vegetables: avoid carbs e.g. peas, potatoes, beans, sweet potatoes and vegetables high in sugar e.g. carrots, beets and butternut.  My range of allowable vegetables are quite simple: squash, a little pumpkin, leeks, spinach, mushrooms, cauliflower.

I still find it hard not to feel deprived and sometimes after a week of maintaining my diet 100% I allow myself a small treat or a normal meal selected off a restaurant menu.

Exercise

So important especially for lung cancer patients I feel.  Expand the chest, get some oxygen flowing through the veins!  I’ve always been a keen walker.  Nowadays it’s a short 10 minute walk at my own pace but I do it every day. It gives me that opportunity to feel free. All the time I was in hospital it was my biggest wish just to be “out there” and walking freely like before.  I used to admire all the early morning walkers and the ease of their movements.  That desire helped me to get out of hospital when I was at my worse.

Bianca, who lives close by, came round every day after work to help carry my oxygen and take me for my daily walk.  I have gradually managed to wean myself off oxygen and can walk around freely once more.  I only use oxygen at night when I sleep or when I want to fill my lungs with some good air.

I try to do the breathing exercises I got taught in the hospital in the mornings. Taking nice deep breaths of oxygen from my tank, keeping it in for a few seconds and breathing out deeply.  Or inhale, hold, sniff, and blow out forcibly. Keep a towel wrapped under the arms and inhale against it.  Use a blow bottle (available from physiotherapists, these bottles are used to assist patients with lung problems in hospital).  They have thick plastic straws through which one blows so that the water bubbles in the bottle.

Because my cancer has spread to the brain I feel it’s important to keep my mind active and challenged. I am very glad that I still have the opportunity to work for my old company from home (long distance) and to help my daughter with her doctoral degree.

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