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Chemotherapy (Recovery)

How can I boost my recovery after Chemotherapy?

Question

I'm now on my fifth cycle of chemotherapy for breast cancer, with one more cycle to go. The side effects, mainly digestive problems, get worse each time. is there any thing I can do to help myself through this and to put myself back on the path to good health when the treatment ends?

Answer

The goal of chemotherapy is to destroy the spread of the cancer cells in the breast tissue or lymph nodes. Although chemotherapeutic agents have a devastating effect on the cancer cells, the body pays a price: the liver, kidneys and other organs with healthy cells are severely affected too, because the chemo agents aren't able to target only the cancer cells. Up to six cycles of chemo seems to offer optimum benefit, as any more therapy would increase the toxicity in the body to an unacceptable degree. When chemotherapy is over, the body has to rebuild everything quickly – like reconstructing a house after a hurricane. The sooner the body's wellbeing is reinstated, the better chance it has of going into a remission or cure.

In my experience, there is a lot you can do to build up your physical and mental strength as soon as your cancer is diagnosed, and you should keep up this programme for the long term. Stress management is paramount you need to control emotions such as anger, frustration, fear and embarrassment. My own belief is that saying things such as, 'I'll fight it tooth and nail, care counterproductive: you can maintain your fighting spirit most effectively by staying calm. It is best to accept the condition, approach it spiritually and rectify the damage to your body and mind. If you create serenity within yourself and slow down your mind and body, this may check the spread of cancer cells. Worries, stress, financial difficulties, and so on, will always be there, but you have to learn to become 'immune' to them: doing this will help you most.

Starting to get the "feel good" factor back is a sign of your body’s innate healing power responding to the changes you've made. This force - which we take for granted to mend cuts, bruises and broken bones - can help you overcome your maladies.

Here are my suggestions:

    Diet

  • Try to eat organic foods whenever possible.
  • Regularly drink freshly juiced carrots, apples, ginger, celery and fresh mint with wheatgerm.
  • During chemotherapy, eat soft foods, such as mushy rice, mashed potatoes, soft-boiled eggs, minced chicken, grilled or poached fish, overcooked or pureed vegetables, soups, juices, porridge, lentils and fresh (non-citrus) fruits.
  • Always avoid foods that agitate the body, such as coffee, excess salt strong spices, sugar, yeast products, red meat fatty or fried foods, canned products, plus soft drinks, alcohol and cigarettes.
  • Supplements From the start of chemotherapy, take the following to support the body's functions:

  • Dr Ali's Multivitamin and Mineral or BioCare One A Day: one daily for three months.
  • Bio Liv: one twice daily for three months.
  • Stomach Formula: two twice daily for two months.
  • Relaxation

  • Try meditation, chanting prayer, creative visualisation, and singing, playing music, painting, dancing, recreational sports or games. I also recommend therapeutic iyengar yoga, which combines exercise and meditation. It incorporates Pranayama - the art of breathing, which calms and stills the mind while supplying blood and oxygen to the body's cells. (Vigorous yogas lack the peace the body needs to slow down the madness of cell division.)
  • Read my book Therapeutic Yoga, co-written with Jiwan Brar; particularly practice the corpse pose with retention breathing (breathe in for three seconds, hold for three to six seconds and breathe out for six seconds). I talk you through this on my Lifestyle DVD, and Relaxation CD, (both Integrated Health Group).
  • Massage

  • Ask someone to massage your neck, shoulders, back, calves and the soles of your feet every week, but to avoid the breasts and lymph nodes. Reflexology is excellent, too.
  • Nutritional Therapy

  • When the liver is sluggish and the appetite is poor – or there is a digestive problem, as in your case - you lack nutrients at the time you need them most.

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