During treatment a body needs a good nutritious healthy diet in order to prepare for the onslaught of surgery, radiotherapy and cytotoxic drugs. Recent research suggests that the Mediterranean diet seems to be beneficial to people with triple negative breast cancer. That diet comprises of plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes and olive oil. Another characteristic of the diet favours low fat options such as fish and poultry over red meat, which contains more saturated fat.
I’m not a dietician, haven’t undertaken any courses on nutrition so therefore can’t claim to be an expert on food and diet, especially in relation to cancer. All I can offer is my experience of living with the disease for nearly eighteen years. When first diagnosed a person’s body is highly stressed and the last thing it needs is to be deprived of good wholesome food. I can’t claim to have not fallen victim to various anti-cancer diets, especially when I was first diagnosed feeling desperate to find an answer as to why I got cancer in the first place. Reflecting on my diet I felt that I was probably eating the wrong foods. I can’t recall how many books on cancer diets I read and tried to follow and ended up feeling even more desperate because I could not adhere to any of the recommendations. I even gave up dairy for a full year, went on a vegan diet and lost a lot of weight in the process. So much so family and friends were concerned. I then realised that it was not sustainable and slowly returned to a normal diet. Even to this day I don’t like dairy milk in my tea!
At a time when we are most vulnerable it is very difficult not to be susceptible to any claims of guaranteed good health again. On my second episode, common sense prevailed and I concentrated on eating healthy foods in order to prepare my body for chemotherapy again. Around that time I met a lovely lady who also was just diagnosed with a recurrence but had a very short period of only months since her primary diagnosis. She told me that she had changed her diet radically, everything was organic and was attending a course for cancer patients. I watched her eyes as she explained what the course entailed and what I saw was hope, she seemed convinced that this diet was the answer to curing her cancer. Out of curiosity, I checked out the course later and was shocked to see how much people were being charged to attend this course. Do the people providing these courses believe that the product they are selling is valid and that their claims are true? If not, how can they look a person in the eye and take their money off them?
The only advice I can give is to eat little or no processed foods. Go back to basics and try to make your food from scratch. Check the provenance of the food that you buy. Stick with local producers and try to buy your fruit and vegetables in season. As much as your household budget will allow, opt for organic simply because there are less preservatives and additives added but don’t get too obsessed about it. If you are in the midst of treatment and struggling to maintain a healthy weight, the best person to consult is a registered dietician. Most oncology wards have a referral system in place and a dietician will arrange to see you on your next visit.
What I have found was when you cook your own meals you know exactly what has gone into them. I do like my treats but now mostly I bake myself and can then adjust the amount of sugar I use. I eat healthily during the week and as a family we have treat night on a Friday night where we can cut loose a little and enjoy whatever takes our fancy. I have noticed that whereas in the past I would easily have finished a bar of chocolate in one sitting I now eat only a few squares and that is enough to satisfy me. Believe me, I am no angel and do enjoy junk food as much as anyone else. Nowadays, I am not a slave to any diet or feel guilty when I do have my treats.
Check out these recipes from other posts that satisfy even the most finicky younger members of my family…
Saturday bakes.. – healthy brown bread recipe that kids love.
Saturday bakes continued.. – not quite healthy but yummy!