- Question from Sarah: I am newly diagnosed with stage III and have not started my chemotherapy yet. Any recommendations to prepare for this journey?
- Answers - Tish Knobf I think the first thing when you're embarking on a new course of chemotherapy is to make sure that you have the information about the treatments and the predicted most likely side effects you are going to experience, so you are prepared to manage the side effects successfully. Most women with breast cancer who receive the chemotherapy before surgery react very much the same as any other chemotherapy. So, it's knowing what drugs you're on and having the information to successfully manage any potential side effects. To prevent the fatigue commonly associated with chemotherapy, it's best if you can initiate mild-to-moderate daily exercise such as walking 10-20 minutes every day. We know from research that even for patients who are on treatment, small amounts of exercise each day, like walking 20 minutes, can actually prevent fatigue.
- Diana Dyer, M.S., R.D. Nutrition is the fuel for your body and you need the proper fuel to prevent the fatigue. So you'll need a balanced diet of lean proteins, whole grains, fruits and vegetables, and healthy fats in moderate amounts to maintain your weight and keep from gaining weight during chemotherapy, which is common. There are multiple reasons that contribute to weight gain during chemotherapy. Probably thought to be the most common is the decrease in activity that is associated with the therapies and leads to the fatigue.
- Lillie Shockney, R.N., B.S., M.A.S. Oftentimes patients, and most particularly their family and friends, assume that a woman will have weight loss due to chemotherapy, which was true 30 and 40 years ago. Today, that's not the case. However, because of family and friends assuming it, you will be showered with comfort foods brought to your door -- cakes, pies, pastries -- that are lovely but very high in fat. You may feel required to eat them, because they've been given to you as a present. Family members avoid eating them because it is your present. You should send out a broadcast email saying "One of the best ways to help me is to provide me nutritional support that will be healthy for me during chemotherapy, concentrating on a well-balanced diet rather than comfort foods." That way you can head it off at the pass rather than eating and regretting later.
- Diana Dyer, M.S., R.D. What I did was to hand out healthy recipes to my friends who wanted to bring me meals, rather than making them guess what I thought would be healthy. And only in one case did I end up with a bucket of fried chicken on my front doorstep. Lean proteins in general will help, particularly lean red meats, to increase the red blood cell count. Probably the most important thing is lean proteins in general, which will help keep the white blood cell counts up too. You need a lot of proteins to actually make the blood cells and rebuilt muscle and tissues damaged in therapy.
The Ask-the-Expert Online Conference called Managing Fatigue During and After Treatment featured Diana Dyer, M.S., R.D., Tish Knobf, Ph.D., R.N., F.A.A.N., A.O.C.N., and Lillie Shockney, R.N., B.S., M.A.S. answering your questions about ways to keep up your energy, how nutrition can affect fatigue, and how exercising can help.
Editor's Note: This conference took place in January 2008.
The materials presented in these conferences do not necessarily reflect the views of Breastcancer.org. A qualified healthcare professional should be consulted before using any therapeutic product or regimen discussed. All readers should verify all information and data before employing any therapies described here.
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