During treatment, use the following advice to help you stay healthy – mentally and physically:
- Make sure to drink plenty of fluids. Use tap filtered or distilled water. Stay away from alcohol and limit caffeine intake.
- Eat small meals often and keep snacks like dried fruits handy. Kid-friendly foods like applesauce and pudding can be very helpful.
- Try juicing fruits and vegetables. Use soups, stews, pureed and blended foods as meals. Nutritional supplements are a great option, too.
- Read food labels and choose healthy foods like fruits, vegetables, nuts, whole grains, seeds, olive oils, milk, cheese, yogurts, dark chocolate, etc. Limit red meat intake and never eat charred meat. Use a food thermometer when cooking meat.
- Wash all fruits and vegetables before eating. Avoid all unpasteurized food.
- If you are neutropenic ask your nurse and doctor for specific guidance.
- Stay active, be proactive in your treatment process and set reasonable goals.
- Get up, move, walk, stretch and engage in physical activities. Talk to your nurse and doctor before resuming vigorous exercise regime.
- Practice stress management. Meditation, deep breathing, massages, yoga and stretching are all helpful.
- Aim for 7 to 8 hours of sleep each night. Keep daytime naps short (20 minutes). Sleep in a relaxing place or dark room and turn off electronic devices.
- Avoid toxins from direct cigarette smoking, second hand smoke, paint, etc. Use chemical-free household cleaners and limit UV light exposure to 10 minutes, three times a day.
While receiving cancer treatment:
- Eat small, frequent meals (5-6 meals and snacks daily). Drink plenty of fluids minimum of 1.5L daily.
- Eat more fiber, fruits and vegetables, and eat high calorie and high protein foods.
- Observe food safety – i.e. Wash hands before eating, cook food to appropriate temperature, keep food covered, refrigerated or frozen.
- Speak with your nurse and doctor about nutritional supplements.
- Dining with others can help your appetite.
- Discuss any nutritional concerns with your nurse and doctor.
To help with nausea and vomiting during treatment:
- Take anti-nausea medication as directed.
- Take small food bites and chew food well.
- Eat in a relaxed calm setting and wear loose clothing.
- Eat in an upright position and remain upright for 45 minutes after your meal.
- Cool or cold temperature foods like ice chips can be helpful. Try popsicles, gelatin, crackers, dry and bland foods.
- Avoid greasy, fried, fatty foods as they may take longer to digest.
- Rinse your mouth frequently.
If you have altered taste:
- Prepare foods with a variety of colors and textures.
- Avoid foods that taste off and retry these foods at another time.
- Try cold temperature dairy products and salads.
- Try adding sugar to savory food and salt to sweet foods.
- Try citrusy (lime, lemon) or tangy flavors (relish, cranberry).
- Drink cold beverages unless contraindicated (during treatment with the drug Oxaliplatin). Try drinking with a straw.
If you have a poor appetite:
- Eat something even when you do not feel like it.
- Eat small meals frequently. Do not go more than four hours without eating.
- Keep snacks in plain view and within reach.
- Going for a walk outside or sitting by an open window may help.
- Discuss appetite concerns with your nurse and doctor as there are appetite stimulating medications that can be prescribed.
If you experience “heartburn” or indigestion:
- Avoid acidic foods like citrus fruits, tomato products (including sauces), raw onion, vinegar, pineapple, alcohol, coffee and tea (Decaf or caffeinated).
- Eat small meals and drink/sip fluids often (at least every 4 hours).
- Talk to your nurse and doctor, to discuss medications that can help. You may also require evaluation for acid reflux or a condition called GERD (Gastroesophageal reflux disease).
Tips for Combating Fatigue
Do you feel very, very tired and unable to do the things you usually do like talk on the phone, eat or sleep? This tiredness is not made better by rest. You may be experiencing fatigue and only you can identify and report the presence of this condition. Cancer treatment-related fatigue will slowly go away when treatment is completed.
- Signs and symptoms may include: Feeling like you have no energy, feeling tired even after sleeping, sleeping a lot, not being able to or wanting to carry out normal activity, not caring about the way you look or having trouble thinking.
- Steps that can help with fatigue include: Resting between activities, stay as active as you can, spread your activities throughout the day and carry out most important ones first, ask family and friends to assist, talk about how you are feeling, eat well and make your doctor and nurse aware of how you are feeling.
Infection Prevention Tips
- Keep hands clean. Wash with water and soap before meals and after visiting the restroom. Remind caregivers, families and friends to wash their hands.
- Shower or bathe daily with non-drying soap. Keep skin moisturized and nails trimmed.
- Brush teeth with bristled toothbrush and change toothbrush every 3 months. Monitor your mouth for any blisters, sores, white coating and bleeding. Avoid alcohol based mouthwashes.
- Discourage friends and relatives with contagious disease from visiting. If someone in your home is ill limit contact with the individual.
- Avoid contact with anyone who has received a life vaccine for at least 30 days after they have been vaccinated.
- Keep your home clean and avoid any renovations or construction in your home, avoid using humidifiers in your home, avoid wet paint, cleaning solvents, fertilizers, pesticides, and gasoline fumes. These agents could be toxic to bone marrow.
- Avoid being around pets if possible or limit contact with them. Ask family or friends for help with cleaning out the pet's space. Wash hands after contact with your pet.
- Wear mask when outdoors, in crowded areas, or near construction sites. Avoid zoos, parks, and areas heavily populated with birds. Avoid yard work, gardening and mowing grass when you can.
- Avoid touching or cleaning sandboxes. Avoid swimming and hot tubs. Avoid exposure to the sun. Wear protective clothing and apply sunscreen with SPF 30 or greater.