Monday, October 21, 2013

Find What Works for You

Good Morning Cancer Patients and Caregivers;
Undergoing cancer treatment is a trying experience by any stretch of the imagination. Only another cancer patient knows the trials, tribulations, degree of discomfort and down right physical torture you  will need to endure during treatment. Modern medical science has a wealth of drugs to assist you to endure the treatment and its side effects but I have always said medicine is not an exact science and many times you will either have to just endure or be proactive and find what works for you.

For example, when I finished radiation treatment for esophageal cancer, the inside of my throat was so soar from radiation I was not able to swallow most foods. My Oncologist had directed me to go on a liquid diet or to eat foods that were soft, to allow my throat to heal for the next two weeks. I responded  I wasn't going to be able to eat ice cream for the next two weeks. His response was I was going to have to figure it out. So, Linda and I set out to find what works besides ice cream. First we made a list of every known soft food we could think of, from Ramen noodle soup to scrambled eggs. The list was longer than we thought it would be and included the protein and good calories I needed to keep my weight and strength up. The list included:
poached eggs, hot cereals, milk, tea, jello, puddings, mashed potatoes, tuna salad, ham salad, egg salad, soft meats in cream sauces or in thick meat sauces. Thick meat gravy on bread and bread and butter became staples. Soda and beer burned and foods with rougher textures scratched my throat. The temperature of the foods could not be hot, but warm to cold . The colder the foods the better they seemed to sooth. Every day the healing process got a little better until my throat was fully healed and I could return to my normal diet.

This is just one example where we needed to find what works. There were more occasions such as finding what foods I would not eat during treatment days in order to keep the effect of being sick to my stomach to a minimum. Lighter foods always did better than foods with tomato base or with higher fat count. Spicy foods were out, on days of treatment but I didn't mind because for the most part, I couldn't taste anything anyway. Finding what works was the result of the medical profession and the cancer team not having the answers to the day-to-day issues I faced while in treatment. Since they hadn't ever sat in the infusion chair, my expectation of them knowing what to do once I left the infusion chair on treatments days was too high.

There are numerous other times during my treatment process, surgery and recovery that I had to find what works. I encourage every cancer patient and caregiver not to get discouraged. You just have to figure it out as a member of your treatment team and  share what works for you with other cancer patients and your treatment team so they can share your findings with other patients.

When there aren't any answers, you can decide to suffer through it or you can find what works for you. Just the effort alone, to find what works for you, will take your mind off of it for a while and when you have found something that works for you it will be a small accomplishment that gives you assurance you are not losing.

Stay strong, keep your sense of humor and never ever give up.

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