If I have to have cancer, please let it make me skinny.
If there has to be any upside to this dreadful disease, could it at least be that? I’m sure there are many women diagnosed with breast cancer who have thought this.
If I have to go through the indignity of losing my breast/s and hair, could I also at least lose weight too?
Sadly, most women don’t lose weight. In fact, most women gain weight during breast cancer treatment for a number of reasons.
During chemotherapy treatment, you are usually given steroids intravenously before the chemo because it helps control the nausea. Those steroids have a lovely side effect of making you hungry and giving you a plump, round face.
While you are encouraged to stay active and walk for at least 30 minutes a day to help fight fatigue, some days it’s enough just to get through to the end of the day. Survival is stronger than ensuring you’ve exercised. You get tired on chemo. It’s hard to go the extra mile sometimes. You will probably move less.
Some people who get bad nausea find that eating more regularly can help control it. I think it’s a little like pregnancy nausea where it can be helpful to snack on crackers and salty things to keep that nausea at bay.
My oncologists in Sydney were very encouraging of not making major dietary changes as you embark on chemo. As my medical oncologist told me, ‘This is not the time to start on a crazy calorie-controlled diet and start having coffee enemas. You need to have the energy to look after yourself.’
When I started chemo in Brisbane, I went to an education session at the hospital where they recommended patients follow a ‘pregnancy diet’ with no sushi, soft cheeses and avoiding salad bars and chicken that was cooked a while ago. I guess it makes sense that they want you to avoid getting salmonella as it will make you very sick and your immunity is compromised by the chemo. But they can pry the soft cheeses from my cold, dead hands! If I want a slice of brie or camembert, I’m having it.
I luckily haven’t encountered the metallic mouth taste that many people get from chemo. The one strange taste change I had during my first lot of chemo was that anything spicy tasted like dirt. I did try my favourite Indian take-away a few times and was sorely disappointed.
During my first rounds of chemo, I found I just craved eating bread. I would go to my deli down the street and buy a Sonoma sourdough loaf, some ham and cheese and I would live on toast for breakfast and toasted ham and cheese sandwiches for lunch and dinner for days on end.
I did manage to lose weight on one chemotherapy – Eribulin – as it just completely took away my appetite. I felt full all the time and had little interest in eating while I was on it. I had it for about three months and in that time I lost … let’s do this Biggest Loser percentage style because if I told you the number in kilograms, you’d probably find it unbelievable. I lost eight per cent of my body mass in three months doing nothing at all, and that time includes Christmas.
Look, it’s probably not the best weight loss plan for you … but sometimes you’ve got to look for the silver lining.
I managed to lose about another four cent of my body mass towards the start of the year when I moved back to Queensland and put some effort into exercising more while I had the energy after finishing up on Eribulin. But then came the steroids and the next lot of chemo and I’ve been in a bit of a holding pattern since then.
I was planning on getting back into going to the gym again, but now I can’t drive. I’ve looked at bus options and sure, I can do a 30 minute round trip on the bus to get to the gym and back, for what would normally be a five minute drive there and five minutes back, and I know that I’m going to find that hard to motivate myself to make the bus trip. Not to mention the dodgy eyes and terrible balance I have at the moment. Makes it a bit challenging just walking around, let alone trying to go to the gym.
I suppose I could eat less dessert … what?? No thanks. You can pry the soft cheeses and the dessert from my cold, dead hands.