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  • Clare Reed CBT Therapist

Weird Things They Don't Tell You During Cancer Treatment

Weird Things They Don't Tell You During Cancer Treatment
Weird Things They Don't Tell You During Cancer Treatment

I was relating all the weird things to a client, who asked me about any strange experiences that have happened to me during the last 2 years of Cancer treatment, and I thought I would share them with you too.

As all Cancer patients are different and respond differently to the same treatment, these are not necessarily going to happen to you too. So keep an open mind while reading! 😊

Hair loss can be a positive thing

I know you may be losing your hair to chemo and are horrified by this statement, but hear me out. I had long blonde hair when I got diagnosed. To say I prided myself on having lovely long blonde locks would be an understatement! As a child, I was not allowed to grow my hair long, until 15 years of age. So, I rocked a short haired Princess Di look through the 1980’s, which was very frustrating. But my Dad always swore that it suited me.

When I started treatment I was 42. When my hair fell out, I thought my time was up in the looks department. Yes, I am sure many of us over 40 can attest to the usual angst at reaching this decade, when all things slowly but surely head South. Adding my hair to the list of things to fall was another challenge! But, and I can’t believe I am saying this, as my hair grew back it was a revelation. I could see my face again. The angles on my face were more pronounced, my eyes appeared larger too. In fact, I loved having my fast returning 'Pixie' non-styled hair. It was a breeze to wash and literally a breeze to dry.

When the time came for my first hair cut and style, I chose to chop my hair off, which was already curling below my shoulders at the back. I am embracing the short hair look again on my own terms and I love it. Everyone says it makes me look younger too. What’s not to love about that. And to think that it took chemo to get me to be brave and embracing of change!

Water Fasting
Water Fasting

Fasting is Easy

I am sure you are aware of all the trendy fasting diets, which seemed to be very timely for my Cancer treatment diet. Dr. Longo published research on this topic, a few years back, about how fasting could be beneficial through Chemo. I did further reading on the matter and spoke to my Oncologist who knew all about it. With his blessing, I set about fasting the day before Chemo the day of, and the day after chemo. Only drinking water and a couple of herbal teas during the three days.

The first day is actually the toughest. Because my body was used to getting fed regularly it went into protest mode, grumbling by lunch time and not giving up the grumbles until I went to sleep. However, the second day was easier and the third day I had more energy and it became easy. By some weird chance, I got to experience a 4 day fast too, due to heavy snow blocking the roads, I had to miss my chemo and go in the next day. I think I can confidently say I could have done more than 4 days. But, I love food, and cooking, so that is not going to happen.

The other good thing is through all this fasting and changing to a 95% plant based diet I lost nearly 2 stone. Weight I had to lose as I was slightly overweight, which is not good for TNBC and may have been a contributing trigger to getting it in the first place. I have since gone up ½ stone and seem to have plateaued at this weight for the last 4 months. But I know I don’t have to eat as much, and missing the odd meal doesn’t panic me at all.

Embracing a Plant Based Diet
Embracing a Plant Based Diet

Embracing a Plant Based Diet

The plant based diet has been written about by Cancer experts and dieticians around the world. As luck may have it, 4 months before the diagnosis, and directly after my earlier mis-diagnosis, which was the wake up call, I changed my diet.

We cut down on meat, which we ate about eight times a week, to just three meals a week. I bought a lot of plant based cook books, and started cooking from scratch all our meals using recipes. Each week, we plotted out every meal and bought all the ingredients to make the recipes. It was amazing. We had so much variety in our diet and we both started to feel more energised during the day. Best of all, the recipes we chose, all worked and tasted divine.

When I was officially diagnosed with TNBC we took our diet to another level and now only eat one meat dish a week, normally a roast on Sunday, as a treat. I don’t think I would have got through all the chemo and rads, in such good shape, if I had eaten more meat and processed foods. I also cut back hugely on sugar, and alcohol became two glasses of wine per week, with meals only. The weight loss and my skin condition was incredible. I don’t think I have aged a day in 2 years!

Added bonus, our shopping bill has reduced dramatically. Before, we were spending about €40 on meat for two people per week. Yes, we have increased our vegetables and we have only bought mostly organic veg, but that only amounts to about €10 per week more. I think it’s about €30 per week in savings.

What's not to love about a mostly plant based diet!

Steroids a Love/Hate relationship

When I was in hospital last year, I was put on a high dose of Prednisone and Dexamethasone, two very toxic potent steroids. I am writing this with caution, as I understand steroid addiction is easy and I don’t doubt it. The cons of these types of steroids far outweigh the pros in my mind. However, sometimes they are a necessity with hospital and chemo treatment.

The only good thing is they give you an amazing surge of energy like having 10 cups of strong coffee. If you have to get work done in a hospital setting you can. I found I couldn’t stop talking! It was explained to me as being like taking the drug ‘Speed’, which I have never taken. I just could not stop talking or coming up with ideas. My brain was on fire!

This was a good time to write too, and I found that a breeze. Everything becomes super sharp. Driving was like driving on a skalextric track, it was all too easy.

Fortunately, the bad side effects are bad. Not sleeping for more than 2-3 hours per night was the worst experience of all. But, I think worse is to come with Osteoporosis. We, who do chemo, rads and the associated steroids, let alone after Cancer treatment like Tamoxifen, are more likely to get osteoporosis. I wasn’t told about that at all. I am due to have an x-ray on my hip for suspected Osteoporosis in the next 2 weeks. At 44, I can honestly say I actually am more scared of getting Osteoporosis than I was when I had Cancer. Vitamin D and Calcium are being explored at the moment to help reduce this, but check with your diet nutritionist first before modifying your diet in this area.

Furthermore, my skin has become very thin due to the erosion of collagen too, due to Steroid use. Which is not good for those on alert for Lymphodema, as even a light scratch can bleed.

There are other quirky things too, that I will write about another day.

What are the weird and wonderful things that you have experienced on your Cancer journey? I would love to know, please write in with a comment.

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