Chemo = throwing up, right?
Admit it, that’s what you think of when you imagine a chemotherapy patient: Someone who is super fatigued, no appetite, lying on the bathroom floor hugging the toilet, puking their guts out and then crawling to bed.
Not my idea of fun.
Here’s the good news: My dad’s oncologist said that in reality, no one he has treated has actually thrown up in years, simply because the anti-nausea drugs, administered via IV right along with the chemo and in pill form, are so darned powerful nowadays.
Some people still feel nauseous, and many lose their appetites or their taste for food changes, but the throwing up image is one of the past – which is good, because you really don’t want a chemo/cancer patient to be losing a ton of weight because they can’t keep any food down at all. (top photo source)
My Big Vocabulary Mistake
When I talked with my dad’s oncologist to check whether any of my ideas for better nutrition, fighting cancer naturally or easing chemo symptoms would interfere with his treatment, I used two bad words:
I didn’t even know I was using such colorful language in front of the good doctor when I said, “I just want to check about some ideas for helping my dad to detox from chemo, since of course it’s like putting poison right in him with the chemo meds, and I want it to do its job but then get out.” (paraphrase)
He sounded pretty passionate when he corrected me: “It’s not poison, for goodness sake! It’s medicine!” (Exclamation points included.)
He went on to say something about how we don’t want to poison a patient, if we were going to poison them we’d use arsenic, or something like that. I think we just had a semantic difference – something going in to kill something else (the cancer) which can’t hit its mark without damaging/killing other parts of the body, well…sounds close enough to “poison” to me, even if that’s not the correct technical medical term.
No matter what term we use, I wanted to know that once the chemo was finished doing its business with the cancer, what could we do to flush it from his system as quickly as possible? I surmised that when people feel poorly after chemo, and perhaps the reason folks throw up, is that their body is trying to get rid of the toxin. (Ah, that might have been a better word? Or not…)
In my world, people think like that – if there’s a toxin in your body, there are natural detoxification systems plus other ways to hurry the detox process along.
In the medical community, apparently, the liver and kidneys do everything we need them to do to get rid of toxins in our bodies, they don’t need any help, and no toxins ever build up. (I paraphrase here.)
Wondering if cancer could affect you or your family? I was pleasantly surprised with my results to this super quick quiz after my dad’s successful battle with bladder cancer!
Doc said there’s nothing anyone can do to clear the chemo from the body any faster and no such thing as detoxifying from it. He didn’t know of any proven methods for easing the side effects of chemotherapy, but different people found that different methods seemed to work for them.
The reason people would throw up isn’t the body’s way of getting rid of something, it’s because chemo causes collateral damage to other cells.
Well that’s worse than I thought! Sheesh.
In an apologetic tone, he shared that although some cancers, like breast cancer, have specified chemo meds that target only those cells in that part of the body, there are no specific bladder cancer meds that attack only the bladder cancer cells. Dad’s entire body of cells was at risk.
I don’t have a clue how to keep cells safe from attack to be honest, but I still hoped that we could lessen the side effects so my dad could continue on with his life.
And he has.
He works full days, six days a week, running his business as he has for the last five or six decades.
He kept up with his card league, and he putters around in his workshop after dinner most nights, which is actually more than he used to do when he was healthy!
He’s had very few instances of fatigue or nausea at all, praise be to God.
Side Effects of Chemotherapy
Here’s what we were going to try to avoid or at least ease:
- loss of appetite
- white blood cell count goes down.
- food may start to taste metallic
- sense of taste may change – foods the patient formerly liked may not taste as good anymore
- mouth sores
The Chemo Battle Plan
As with the dietary recommendations, I included quite a number of ideas for my parents, both for chemo detox/easing and for naturally eliminating the cancer or at least preventing it from growing further.
You can see exactly what I printed for my folks as a printable for you in the “Cancer: You Are What You Eat” post.
initial front line defense
The basics for best general, restorative health:
- Drink adequate water – half a person’s weight in ounces is often the recommendation. Filtered water, not fluoridated city water. Strong teeth are NOT a very important goal here. My parents have well water, so that wasn’t as hard as it would be for some to accomplish.
- Get good sleep. Research says it’s the best thing we can do, and it’s worth mentioning. My dad is like me, terrible at going to bed. *eye roll*
- Vitamin D deficiency can be linked to cancer, so I gave Dad some fermented cod liver oil to take, since that’s probably something we all should have regularly anyway. I also included “get some sunlight” on the list of daily recommendations. (Sources: 1, 2, 3) (FCLO is no longer irrefutably trustworthy, so do your research!)
- Probiotics. I think everyone in America needs probiotics anyway, but particularly if Dad’s immune system was going to be compromised in any way by chemo, I wanted his gut bacteria to build his immunity from there. I don’t know what to do to increase his white blood cell count, but over 80% of the immune system is in the gut, so it’s a good front line defense.
- Moderate exercise and keeping moving.
- A good attitude!
To fight cancer specifically:
- Frankincense essential oil was tested specifically against bladder cancer cells, and in a petri dish, it literally killed them, yet left the normal bladder cells alone. My dad diffuses pure Frankincense oil into the air every morning as he gets ready for work, thanks to my mom filling the diffuser for him. (Sources: 1, 2, 3 (link no longer available), 4, 5)
- No caffeine. Coffee is a diuretic as well as being caffeinated, and caffeine is generally not recommended for cancer patients. Plus, chemo drugs are very hard on the kidneys and liver (perhaps because they’re overworked trying to detoxify too much???), so anything that takes fluid from the body really needed to be avoided. My dad is drinking Red Rocks Tea from the Tea Spot, a business started by a cancer survivor. It was what she recommended for him and was already my favorite from the samples I tried a few years ago.
- Eat the right foods. You can see the top 10 cancer fighting foods everyone should be eating as well as the “yes/no/sometimes” food list I gave my dad to attempt to make his body an inhospitable place for cancer to thrive.
- Juice Plus+. I’m not really sure what category to put this one in. I sent my dad Juice Plus+ after hearing an amazing story of cancer recovery (found here). There is research and evidence that shows that cancer patients on Juice Plus+ have a better survival rate and that chemo patients on Juice Plus+ tend to weather the chemo better. We’ll never know what’s working for sure, but so far of the 6 chemo treatments, Dad’s only had one week that seemed much worse than the others. He admitted that very week that he had missed many of his afternoon capsules. (Juice Plus+ is dehydrated and powdered fruit and vegetable juice in capsule form – apparently the equivalent of 10 pounds a day of veggies!)I don’t sell JP and have no special interest in it…but it’s definitely something that makes me curious, and even though it seems very pricey, I couldn’t not get it for my dad for this stage of his life. (Sources: 1,
2(Link no longer available), 3)
- Reduce EMF exposure. I don’t know if I buy into the EMF thing, the idea that invisible waves given off by wireless devices, cell phones and more may damage our cells…but at this point, better safe than sorry. I included this on the recommendations, but I don’t think anything has been done to avoid them specifically:
Turn off Wifi at night; reduce exposure to cordless phone bases, fluorescent lights
If Cancer Makes You Feel Anxious…
Totally normal. But we know anxiety can hinder healing, so wouldn’t it be great if you could eat foods that would both nourish your body to maximize the healing process that are ALSO research-backed to reduce anxiety and depression?
Here’s a quick and easy list and fridge printable one-pager of 10 foods to fight depression and anxiety:
(Personally, I use a laptop, but I wire it in and turn the wireless off. Our router is as far from the bedrooms as we can get it, and I’m hoping to call to opt out of a “Smart Meter” for measuring gas/electric usage, since that’s just outside our bedroom window especially. I ask hubby to keep cell phones out of the bedroom while we’re sleeping. Tiny baby steps, painless ones. It’s what I can do right now.)
Chemo Detox/ease symptoms
I don’t care if doc said nothing can take chemo out of the system. It’s got to get out somehow!!! I want to ease the load on Dad’s liver and kidneys and help him to feel better, faster. The hospital staff said that the chemo does its work in the first day or two, so we feel safe doing any detox stuff after 2-3 days. Here are some strategies that can’t hurt, and might help:
- Clay detox baths or foot soaks. I sent them some Redmond Clay from Amazon (my mom called and asked, “What are all these boxes coming to my house?!”). A clay bath is supposed to draw out impurities, heavy metals, and toxins. (Why do you think people’s mouths get metallic during chemo? Random chance? My theory is that it’s a buildup of metals that the organs can’t keep up with…) To make one, just draw the hottest bath you can stand and toss a palmful (or up to 2 cups) of bentonite clay in it. A 30-minute foot soak with 3 Tbs. clay is nearly as effective for many people. Read more about it from Redmond.
- It turns out my dad is afraid of the foot bath, but since he had some weird experiences the last round of chemo with water straight from the tap (unfiltered) tasting quite metallic and ucky, maybe we can talk him into it since it may help.
- The hospital recommended a baking soda mouth rinse a few times a day to help avoid mouth sores, which my mom very faithfully mixes up and puts in front of him. Zero mouth sores and 75% of the way through the chemo regimen. (And doesn’t that sound like a lovely home remedy?!)
- All of the above. By improving Dad’s diet, particularly getting out the sugars and refined carbs, his immune system should be as strong as possible. His body should be able to handle the stress of chemo better since it’s not being forced to handle the stress of non-foods, chemical toxins, inflammatory foods, etc. – or at least not as often.
What I Hate About Natural Health
I don’t envy scientists.
To try to isolate one factor in the human body and environment seems impossible, as we are such complex beings with such diverse experiences.
It makes healing yourself and learning about natural health very difficult, in my opinion, because there’s always the question: Did what I’m trying actually work, or would X symptom have gone away on its own in the same amount of time? Was that a total failure, or would I have felt ten times worse without my attempted home remedy?
With cancer and chemo, who knows? Maybe my dad, eating his normal diet, would have kicked chemo’s butt like this no matter what, just because he’s a stubborn old Polish man with a good attitude about survival. Maybe he feels good because the cancer itself never really made him feel cruddy. Maybe the kinds of chemo he is getting are particularly low-key.
We’ll never know…but I’m really proud of my mom for keeping up on all the things she has managed to do, really proud of my dad for saying “no thanks” to bacon and desserts at the church breakfast last week, and really glad we’re doing something.
I can only hope that our “something” is doing “something” good inside him, too.
Here’s to your health!
Read the rest of the cancer week posts for everything I’ve learned so far…this is the last article for now.