Today, as I reached the office of my oncologist, a girl approached me (as if she knew me well.) even though we were meeting for the first time. She informed me that her mother has been diagnosed with breast cancer, stage two, and is having issues with food. I told her, I’m going to write my next post on food. This is one of the major concerns. I’m sure my daughters have done more home work in this field than I have. I’ll tell you how I’ve been at it, and the laboratory results have shown me the success of it all. My oncologist Dr. Farrukh, would be happy with my blood test results. So, while it is all about taking the right treatment, with it, you need to be eating right foods.
Remember, right now, I’m being aided with the right medications for fighting cancer. Once the medications are over, then it is only through our food intake and lifestyle, that we shall be fighting this disease. If it can come into my life, once, it can happen again. I’ve got to be extremely mindful about my habits for rest of my life.
After the treatments are over and done with, it will be your own lifestyle changes – specially in food intake – which will prevent cancer from re-entering your body. Now, the real battle begins. I know, this is every patient’s biggest fear, too. Well, it is also the fear of every human being on earth today, even the ones who has never had this disease.
So, lets see what we can do about it.
Basic food formula:
- Stop taking all sugars, replace with it with honey, agave, stevia, shakkar or brown sugar or avoid sugar completely. You can satisfy your urge for sweet things by taking dates, raisins and other fruits.
- Take vegetables like spinach, carrots, potatoes, peas, broccoli, cabbage (take as much as you can), cauliflower, radish, green beans – you know what I mean. Having garlic, ginger and turmeric (preferably fresh and chopped,) otherwise in powder form is also great. You can sprinkle turmeric on yogurt and have it neat, or in milkshakes. Have ginger and turmeric in green tea, with lemon. Freeze lemons and grate (with peel) and leave in freezer to sprinkle on almost all foods before having it.
- Fruits are highly recommended. Take a large bowl of mixed cut fruit daily. When you feel hungry between meals, have a carrot, mixed nuts, bananas, kiwi, oranges, grapefruit etc. Citrus fruits are great and should be had daily, as these have a lot of vitamin C.
- Avoid taking meats, which includes, beef, mutton and chicken.
- Also, avoid gluten. This means reduction in taking wheat, which means bread, roties made with wheat. So, have makkai ki roti, or bajra roti. You can take rice too, but on the lessor side.
- Your meals need to be made up of lots of daals or legumes and beans.
- Stop cooking your food in cooking oils, get back to using butter, desi ghee, and vegetable ghee instead.
- Try to take all organic foods, free of fertilizers etc. Home grown vegetables and fruits are best. Having desi chicken, and desi eggs is perfect.
- Avoid Dairy products, especially milk. You can take more yogurt instead.
- Dry fruits are also very good foods. Taking a handful of mixed nuts daily is a good option as a snack.
- Have lots of soups and broth. Have chicken corn soup, yakhni or clear mutton or vegetable soup.
- Fruit juices are good too, though I prefer blended fruits so you do not throw away the good stuff in it. One of the most highly recommended juices are the ABC drink made up of apple, beetroot and carrot drink.
- Stop taking any bakery products. Make these at home with better ingredients. I found that white flour made our of corn flour is also good.
- Avoid taking any product which has a long shelf-life. Also items that come to you in plastic bottles etc. (I know, it feels as if it is impossible. But soon we can try …)
- Salt intake has to be with pink salt of Himalayas, Pakistan. This is the best salt, and harmless. Other salt is also considered to be a poison.
More notes on food:
Of course, it isn’t possible to avoid meats or other mentioned items, altogether. But you can reduce the quantities of intake:
Just take one bite of a halwa or chocolate occasionally, do not have more of it. Enjoy the flavor and taste of it slowly. Anything made with sugar isn’t good for you. Learn to make gluten-free cakes, and sugar-free sweet dishes for yourself, with shakkar, and alternative sweeteners. You can have one cheat day in the week, when you have your favorite foods, but that too in less quantities. You need to understand that sugar is food for cancer.
During treatment, especially chemo, I found that taking any raw fruit or vegetable was out of the question. I would immediately get diarrhea. It was after my chemo cycles were completed, that I began taking raw salads, fruits and vegetables. So, just listen to your body, and go accordingly. Otherwise, I would take steamed fruits, even in case of mangoes or guavas. However, I could take bananas and oranges.
For diarrhea, taking a khichri which is made a bit liquid, is best for you. My friend Munazza Qasim made it for me, and it was delicious. Then, my cook would make it in yakhni with little bits of desi chicken meat in it also. It would be very nourishing and wholesome. You can have it with yogurt.
Since you get very weak during and after treatment, I found that having panjeeri is very good. In Islamabad, it is something that mothers make to give to their daughters, who have just delivered a child, for regaining one’s strength. So, now I found it very useful for patients too. After all, we too are trying to regain our strength. I’ve found that Jamil Sweets offer a bottle of panjeeri which is very good. If you can make it yourself, that would be even better. Make it using shakkar. You can take two dessert spoons of panjeeri daily.
For weakness, you can have a glass of water with a teaspoon of Ensure and a tea spoon of Premium Resource in it. It is very strengthening. You can have a glass or cup in morning and evening, or just once a day.
A wholesome broth made with beef, carrots, potatoes, peas, broccoli in it. You can first cook the beef with its bone for around eight hours on slow fire, towards the end, add the vegetables. Then remove all bones and liquidize it all.
When I found my hemoglobin getting low, I’d have liver – whether it is chicken or goat liver.
During chemo, you find it very hard to eat anything. Then have small meals every two hours. Take something you like, which is as liquid as possible, (as your mouth is sore.) Try to have something different every time, so you get more nutrition inside your body. Tell yourself, it is okay if you can’t taste it. As long as you are able to swallow wholesome food which you know is good for you.
By the way, you also cannot take any chilies, I still can’t. So, get the food made without chilies. The whole family will also get used to it.
So, these are the ways in which I’ve been having food these last eight months. Many times it wasn’t possible to get desi eggs or chicken, then I had the usual ones. It is okay, as you can only do so much.
My friend Riffat said, just pray to Allah to heal you with whatever food you are having. Ask for His blessings, and eat food with a good feeling of being nourished with it.
While taking any food think of healing and well-being. Avoid all negative thoughts. I know, your taste buds aren’t normal now, but it is okay. Think that you are getting healed, and this is just a small side effect of it. Find your own alternatives to whatever you are having, or can’t have. Help yourself heal well, by helping your helpers in helping you.
Many times this would happen…
Many times, I’d have a strong urge to eat something, my cook would make it with great care, and after the first bite, I just didn’t want to have it! This happened many times. It is okay. You aren’t well. It happens. Also, if your food is getting wasted, that too is okay. Try to have it after a while. Things may improve. If they don’t, that too is fine.
Loss of weight:
Be kind to yourself. Stop feeling bad about it. Alhamdolillah, I was able to lose twelve kilograms in my eight months. So, through the struggles of this illness, I was able to achieve a goal of mine, which I was struggling with for several years! 😉
So, I was quite thrilled. I’m feeling like my real self now. All my life, I had normal weight. I was never over weight, as I had become during my last ten years. So, just enjoy the fact that you are losing weight. But if you are losing more than required, then make an effort to keep it as normal as possible.
You know, you can do it! 😊
Stay in-charge of your food intake:
Just remember, we Pakistanis are quite crazy about food. Enjoy making wholesome food for yourself and your family. Perhaps, through you, your family too can avoid this terrible illness. Let the whole family enjoy these foods which are good for you.
Stay blessed and protected, my dear brave Reader.