Penny’s Blog

Excitement and uncertainty and food

Posted on: February 1, 2009

The end is in sight: Wednesday will be my last chemo treatment. Thursday will be my last day-after-chemo day, the weekend will be my last can’t-get-off-the-couch weekend, Monday will be my last post-Prednisone-crash day. I feel about it the way I felt about Barack Obama getting sworn in:  I know it’s on the calendar, I’m hopeful and excited—but I’m scared something untoward is going to happen to prevent it, so I’m not allowing myself any unbridled glee.

At the pre-chemo doctor’s visit we’ll probably talk about What Happens Next. Radiation, or just regular followup visits? And now that we’re talking life after chemo, I want statistics: What are my odds of a relapse, or of developing a secondary cancer? (Mind you, I want the statistics only if they’re encouraging.)

I had been telling myself that the doctors would be unlikely to recommend radiation, or that it would be optional. But Friday night I talked with a friend who had Non-Hodgkin’s similar to mine, and in her case, 6 weeks after ending chemo she had to get radiotherapy every weekday for 3 weeks.  She said that radiation treatments are not so bad—visits take just 15-20 minutes, and you don’t feel clobbered afterward the way you do with chemo.  Still, I’m impatient to be a non-patient. I hope the zapping won’t be required.

After chemo #5 I started experiencing stomach problems, and in a moment of clarity was finally able to make the decision to start eating healthier foods.  One sleep-disrupted night at 3:30 I performed a very satisfying kitchen purge. As in the traditional kitchen purge, I pulled out and tossed stuff like the 5-year-old fish sauce, the weird undrinkable herb tea, and the jelly of indeterminate age.  But this time I got rid of edible/fresher foods, too:  Butter, bags of shredded cheese, frozen lasagna and other no-nos were given to the needy (just kidding, Sol).  My friend Susan Neulist has agreed to help me with the transition to a new way of eating.  Susan teaches Food for Life cooking classes, and has been eating a healthy vegan diet for about 15 years—and is just a nice person to spend time with, besides.

It’s hard to talk about philosophies of food without sounding like an evangelist or  militant or  airhead, so I’ll just say if you’re curious about where I’m heading with this and why, you can check out The Cancer Project site—and watch video of educational talks—or The McDougall Program site. Or check out books by John McDougall, T. Colin Campbell, Joel Fuhrman, Michael Anderson (they differ on some specifics but share the same general philosophy).

(Even for those of you who plan to keep your butter and bags of cheese, I recommend checking out the Food for Life class the next time you see it offered in your community—e.g., at Whole Foods.  It’s free, and you get nutrition info, recipes, cooking demonstration, and a meal.)

Enough for now.  I’ll let you know how things go on Wednesday and what the doctor says.


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  • dswope: I just happened by after my I received an email from a close colegue that he was headig for IVPalooza. All I knew was that it was a form of chemo.
  • Brian: Hi Penny; When I was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma I found your site. Reading about what you went through was incredibly helpful to me. Tha
  • Tricia: Still here; still caring; still rooting you on!


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