Monday, January 17, 2011

The Two Faces of Cancer and Nutrition

I’d like to start out by thanking everyone that commented on my first post.  I appreciate your attention and time.  ‘The Space Between’ contest is still on for a bit.  Any other thoughts on that title are welcome.
The other day I started using Picasa.  It’s a photo editing tool from Google.  You can do a lot of fun stuff with your digital pictures.  You can organize, label, make collages, make web albums for sharing and many other fun features that I’m sure I’m not even aware of yet.  The first time I used it, I noticed it was scanning my computer for images to group into folders.  One of the cool things it does when it finds pictures is scan all the faces on those pictures, then it groups them in a special place for you to label.  It’s pretty cool to see a grouping of pictures of one person’s face.  The different expressions they have, how they may change over time and so on.  So I was looking at the face pictures of me and two of them were side by side.  One was pre-cancer and one was post-cancer.  There was quite a difference.  The obvious loss of weight made me think  about my struggle to get and keep good nutrients in my body while I was going through Chemo and Radiation.  First have a look at the pictures.

 A picture is worth a thousand words, right?  The cancer I had was in a tonsil.  The standard course of treatment for this type of cancer is Chemotherapy and Radiation, at least at the Cleveland Clinic where I was treated.  People react differently to the different treatments.  For me the chemotherapy made me throw up and the radiation (which was aimed at my neck) made a wreck of my entire mouth and neck.  Not only couldn’t I chew or swallow because of the radiation, but the chemo made me throw up anything I did take in. 
The first thing Dana and I noticed when we walked in the radiation station is that a lot of patients who had been there a while had to use feeding tubes.  That first day I said to Dana, one of my goals during  these treatments  is to stay away from the feeding tube.  Well I didn’t need a feeding tube, but looking back in retrospect, it was more a mental challenge for me to stay away from the feeding tube than anything else.  I mean, I got to the point where most of my nutrition was from cans of high-calorie liquid anyway.  Having a tube may have been the logical choice to get the food in but keeping away from it may have mentally helped me get through the treatments.
Radiation and chemo destroy good cells along with cancer cells.  Let’s think about what someone’s body is going through in a time like this.  The body is fighting off the cancer cells as it is trying to repair the healthy cells that are getting damaged from the treatment.  Your body expends a lot of energy to accomplish this almost conflicting goal. Fight and Save, Fight and Save. Good nutrition is necessary for the body to create the energy to accomplish all it had to do.  I had to consciously remind myself of this throughout my treatments.  Even with all this effort to get nutrition in my body, I was losing weight at an alarming rate.  If I had to endure another few weeks of treatment, I’m not sure I could have kept up the nutrition part without the help of a feeding tube.
Besides the obvious advantage of getting rid of the cancer I did have a few other good things happen as a result of the treatments.  I am more aware and can appreciate good nutrition.  Every day I pack my lunch for work, the main part of it is fruits and vegetables.  It’s the same with my breakfast.  I’m more aware of what we give to our kids to eat too.  Convenience is nice but rarely the healthiest choice.  We cook at home almost all nights.  Lastly, I got off my blood pressure medicine.  Probably because the weight drop, but it’s like I’ve been given a second chance to keep my body healthy.  I’m not going to waste that chance.
Think of nutrition like your financial emergency fund.  You don’t know when you’ll need it so build up while you can.  You don’t know when you are going to put your body though the ringer, so keep it healthy now.


  1. As strange as it sounds I became friends with your treatments. Like one of those, "good things as a result of treatments" that you speak of. After losing Mom to her cancer & watching the chemo slowly killing while it extended her life I didn't want that for you (obviously).
    I saw you as a healthy strong guy never imagining that this evil thing would touch YOU. So, to hear that chemo was needed to kill it & cure you scared me to death.
    I remember sitting in the "safe zone" waiting area while the roar of the super tanning bed - radiation machine to the doctors, one of the 37 days and actually being comfortable with what had to happen to you. It was one of the days where you had to walk from the chemo building to the radiation building pulling your chemo pole with you by the way. My relationship with the treatments was like teammates in a sport, soccer of course. We were there as a team to play the meanest team that always won. Like a really tough game where you push yourself so hard to play your best & when the game is over all the pain of the hits, falls & wayward balls kicks in. Like treatments you would be "fine" during but after you were cooked (literally & figuratively)! Our goal the whole time was to get through this day & then the next & the end result was that the cancer would be gone. This peace with chemo & radiation was a strange gift that I didn't expect to get.
    Looking at you before cancer & treatments is like looking at a super hero MY super hero who couldn't be touched by this disease. Looking at you afterward is knowing that you really are a SUPER HERO....Eradicate Man right!

  2. Nutrition absolutely plays a part in every body situation! It has such a profound effect on the body. My cholesterol level goes up and down depending on how I eat. And I have read lots and lots of stuff about sugar actually "causing" cancer. I'm not sure if I believe it causes it, but from what I've read, I can believe that it "feeds" it. I have several books on foods to eat and not eat to help with cancer. I'm sure you read your fair share as you went through this. God Bless you for making it through!!

  3. I agree Michelle. There is a tendancy, for whatever reason, for nutrition to be overlooked by some. We need to keep it up front. Thanks for the comment.