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What to Eat During Chemo

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Just the thought of chemotherapy sends shivers down the spines of most of us. Before I started chemo, I considered super gluing my lips shut in an all-out attempt to prevent the infamous side effect, nausea. My reasoning was nothing “in,” nothing “out.” Fortunately my chemo nurse gave me some sound advice about what to eat the morning of chemotherapy: Eat light. An egg, a piece of dry toast and a little juice. It’s better to have a little something in your stomach than nothing, but don’t overeat, and don’t eat anything greasy or fried. During chemo you may be offered juice, water or peanut butter crackers. If you begin to feel nauseated, tell your nurses. Some saltine crackers or ginger ale may help. I followed my nurse’s instructions to the letter. That’s not to say everything was always peachy keen with my stomach, but I never threw up.

When I got home from each chemo, I ate a bowl of low salt chicken or beef broth, whole wheat crackers and drank copious amounts of water. I also began taking anti-nausea drugs my oncologist prescribed. For the first few days, I continued to eat light and drink plenty of water to flush the chemo out of my body. Ginger ale or ginger tea helped if I was nauseated. Eggs became my favorite food during chemo. Scrambled eggs, omelets, hard-boiled eggs—they gave me the protein I needed, plus they were more filling than broth and crackers.

Since eggs played such a prominent role in getting me through breast cancer, I think it’s fitting that Eggland’s Best eggs has chosen me and my blog as one of their “Pink Dozen” Ambassadors during Breast Cancer Awareness Month. I am honored to be part of their campaign because Eggland’s Best eggs are produced by hens fed an all-natural, all-vegetarian diet, and this month, Eggland’s Best is donating $50,000 to Susan G Komen. Each carton, and every egg, is stamped with “EB” and Komen’s pink running ribbon logo. While I want you to know this post is sponsored by Eggland’s Best, and I have received monetary compensation for my participation, have no doubts that my review and my opinions are my own. When are they not?

Don’t go overboard with food before, during or after chemo, even if you think you can handle it, but again, a little something in your stomach is good. After chemo, add more foods to your diet as you can tolerate, but stay away from things like cheese enchiladas and chicken fried steak. Fruit smoothies—fresh or frozen blueberries, peaches and low-fat yogurt in a blender—are great ways of introducing liquids and nutrition. If you’re losing weight, don’t buy low-fat yogurt. If you’re not nauseated, but just not hungry, eat anyway. Your body needs nutritious foods to fight your cancer. You don’t want to gain a lot of weight during treatment, but you also need to take care you don’t lose weight.

Ask your oncologist to recommend a dietician who specializes in cancer and make an appointment early in your treatment. This service was provided free of charge at my cancer care center, and the dietician helped me tremendously, plus I made a friend. Registered dietician Barbra Swanson, ND, RD, LD, and Doctor of Naturopathy, not only helped me with my diet, but she wrote the nutrition section of The Breast Cancer Sisterhood, my book for newly diagnosed patients. You can also view her smart nutrition videos on the BreastCancerSisterhood.com’s website.

I’m one of those people who prefers to dot all the “i’s” and cross all the “t’s.” However, I’m equally skilled at charging a bear, armed with nothing but my grit. Chemotherapy calls for a combination of both: Have an eating plan and follow it, but if it goes astray… Get up and keep charging. Keep fighting.