Problem #2, Nausea: Some of the drugs used in colon cancer treatment can set off a series of reactions in your brain, ultimately triggering the section that controls nausea and vomiting. Along with taking your anti-nausea medications (hint: your doctor gave them to you for a reason), use these tactics to combat that queasy feeling:
Problem #3, Neuropathy: You may experience pain, numbness, tingling, swelling and muscle weakness (“neuropathy”) as a result of one of the common colon-cancer-fighting drugs, oxaliplatin. Hands and feet are most often affected, but you may also sense it in your mouth and throat, which can make eating, chewing and swallowing difficult. Avoid very cold food, which can exacerbate the tingling feeling in the throat. And if neuropathy is making it difficult to stand on your feet to buy and prepare food, ask family and friends to help you shop and make healthy meals.
Problem #4, Colostomy: Often, colon cancer treatment involves removal of the diseased section of the large intestine. Sometimes before the two healthy ends are reattached, a colostomy — the rerouting of waste through an opening in your abdomen (kind of like a detour on a highway under construction) — is necessary to give the colon time to heal.
For the first six to eight weeks, patients with colostomies will have very liquid stool (the waste is now bypassing the portion of the intestine where liquids and electrolytes used to be reabsorbed). Avoid insoluble fibers, consume more soluble fibers and make sure to drink 8 to 12 glasses of fluids per day. If you’ve had an ileostomy (where the entire colon is bypassed and the waste is diverted out through the small intestine), you’ll need even more fluids. After your intestine adapts, you’ll be able to go back to a normal diet.
Guard Against Recurrence
Once you’ve made it successfully through treatment, eating healthfully remains a priority. A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that those who ate healthfully during and after treatment were less likely to have a recurrence. Researchers found patients who had a diet high in red and processed meats, fat, refined grains and sugary desserts were three times more likely to see cancer rear its ugly head again than those who followed a healthier meal plan.
Focus on including lean proteins (like seafood), whole grains, beans and other legumes, and plenty of fruits and vegetables in your diet so you can enjoy the rest of your life in good health. Saldivar also recommends working with a registered dietitian (RD) to help determine a healthy eating plan, which will make sure you get enough calories, help you deal with treatment side effects and help reduce recurrence.
—by Leslie Pepper
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