During the medical treatment for nose cancer patients, it is usual for most to suffer from body mass and weight loss due to the side effects associated with the treatment. These side effects include loss of saliva and appetite, painful ulcers and dry mouth among others.
As a result after the treatment is over, it is common to see new patients with a smaller waist size (usually down 3 inches) and a weight loss of between 7 – 15kg depending on the severity of the treatment on their body.
And it is also common to find new patients struggling to eat well and put on weight and recover from the post effect of the treatment.
As a 11-year survivor I am sharing my experiences in post recovery after treatment in the hope that it will shed some light to new patients on their own attempt to recover well.
Let me start by sharing that it also took me a good number of years before I started making steady recovery progress. Like other survivors too I was also finding it difficult to regain my weigh and body mass due largely to my loss of appetite, careful eating habits (yes we now tend to be more careful about what we should eat) and emotional state of mind.
The good news is today I am back to my pre-cancer day weight of 82kg. My tummy is showing up and my waist size has gone back to its original 36 inches and a bit more.
Recently, many of my fellow survivors have commented that I look very well. Well I have to agree that I do feel very well.
So what did I do to recover?
Eating well is a sure sign of recovery. This was told to me by Prof Christopher Goh, the former head of ENT at the SGH, when I saw him during my regular medical appointment a couple of years back. When he jokingly told me that my tummy was showing then, my wife, Margaret, responded that I should go on diet. Prof Goh responded that for cancer patients putting on weight is a good sign of recovery and even encouraged me to put on more weight.
So what does eating well mean? For the man, body mass is important. To achieve this animal protein is a good source of food. Some may wish to avoid red meat for fear that it may cause cancer to return. The alternative is white meat like chicken, fish or pork which would be a good choice in the daily diet.
A combination of animal protein, carbohydrates, soy protein, fruits and vegetables would provide a good balance to our meal. A good measure would be 60% - 70% fruits and vegetables and the remaining 30% – 40% animal protein and carbohydrates.
Yes the loss or change of taste may affect our appetite especially for new patients who have just completed their treatment. But in order for the body to recover, it can only find its nutrients and nourishments in food. There is no magic answer. Just eat. And when you do so, the body will know how to take care of itself. And you will find that soon you will feel better and start putting on weight as your body recovers itself.
I personally believe this is about the best thing that has happen for me. For the past 5 years since my relapse surgery in 2008, Margaret has put me on a daily diet of vegetable juice.
Besides the fact that it contains a high dose of natural anti-oxidant, it has provided me with a good appetite and cleanses my bowel at least twice a day. I have not suffered from constipation since being on the juice.
If you are interested to give the vegetable juice a try, please click on this link to the article written on “The ABC of Vegetable Juice” by Margaret in our support group website:-
Managing the Emotional State
Like all new survivors, it is natural to be sensitive about our episode with cancer and our worry whether the cancer will return in the future. This and other mind questions will lead to worry and stress which will be detrimental in the post recovery attempt. Yes, the emotional state of mind does play an important role in our recovery.
Often I will tell new survivors that life goes on. We should learn to Accept, Adapt and Adjust to move on with our new life. The good news is that cancer today is a lifestyle illness with a very high percentage of recovery. In the 9 years of this support group existence where we have more than 400 survivors, we have so far only lost 8 survivors. It only goes to show that it is a very treatable illness.
Due to the long term damaging side effects associated with the treatment, there will be an impact to our saliva, hearing loss and other head and neck issues. Besides current medical options available, the support group of survivors is the best source of information on how to manage and cope with these side effects. Many are willingly sharing their own solutions and experiences so new survivors don’t need to have to re-invent the wheels. We are always encouraging our survivors to keep looking for new ways to manage these side effects. Only we as survivors know and understand.
Therefore, being positive and forward looking is better than being a worrier. The worrier poor mental state of mind will lead to negative and foolish thoughts. Instead, it would be better to channel the mind to discover what more can be done to make one’s life better. Many have done so and I will encourage you to do so to.
Nose cancer is not the end of the world for most of us. It is the start of a new chapter in our life. And we can make the best of this chapter by recovering and living well from our treatment. Life goes on and more importantly – Life is for Living, so Live it to the Fullest.
Finally, whatever is shared in this article is my personal experience in my successful recovery attempt. As each of our bodies is different, please use your discretion should you wish to follow any of the suggestion. Do try out a little on a small experimental scale before embarking further. Do also look for your own answers as there are many other ways to achieve the same result.
Contributed by Teo Thiam Chye (TC)
Date: 26 January 2014
Survivor since 2003
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