For more than 40 years, Cancer Hope Network has been connecting cancer survivors with patients facing their own diagnosis. While our Support Volunteers will never recommend a specific doctor or treatment, they will share their personal experiences. Our volunteers’ knowledge, earned in infusion and recovery rooms across the nation, can provide helpful tips for patients and caregivers dealing with cancer. (Request a free and confidential peer match.)
Today, we’re pleased to share Phil’s suggestions.
Five years after he lost his beloved wife to colon cancer, Phil got a diagnosis of his own.
Stage IV colon cancer.
After his diagnosis, Phil called Cancer Hope Network and was matched with Norm. “It was encouraging just to know that Norm is also a survivor. After chemotherapy alone failed for him, he and his doctor added a second drug, a combination that worked. Knowing his treatment story gave me the information to speak to my doctor about options for my own treatment and we elected to begin my treatments using ‘both’ from the beginning of chemo treatment.”
Always a healthy person, Phil’s diagnosis was a call to arms, where he’s focused on preventive measures and getting to/staying in remission long enough for researchers to make the new strides in immunotherapy.
Today, at 73, he was recently declared in remission.
“I have a tendency to want to fix the world,” he admits. “I spent 12 years as a quality officer, looking for the root causes of problems and how to fix them. Simultaneous occurrence of multiple defects causes disaster. It’s not just one thing going wrong.”
After a low white blood count delayed his treatment, he began applying his quality strategy to the fight with colon cancer. He has the missionary zeal of a patient who’s found a treatment that works for him and detailed plans any engineer would be proud to call their own.
He plays tennis three times a week, takes walks on the beach with his fiancé and takes the occasional bike ride. Despite seven cycles of chemotherapy, his white blood cell count is the highest it’s ever been – something he credits to a dietitian provided by a local cancer screening company.
NOTE: Cancer Hope Network does not recommend treatments or physicians. We share Phil’s suggestions for your information and to encourage conversation with your care team. You should always speak your doctor before making dietary or exercise changes.
Phil’s Patient Tips from a Stage 4 Cancer Patient In Remission.
Surgery and Chemo are medical treatments for stage 4 cancer, but patients must also do everything they can do win their cancer fight. My “Patient Goal” is to do what is necessary to avoid delays in treatment and avoid anything that could interfere with treatment. Here are tips that have helped me meet that goal.
White Blood Count (WBC)
It is key to keep WBC up to avoid infection and to avoid delayed chemo treatments.
Protein requirement – 1 gram protein for every kilogram of weight, + 20 grams while undergoing Chemo.
For me, a 185 lb man, I require about 100 grams of protein per day while on Chemo; but I was only getting about 30 grams per day. After failing my first white blood count test and having my chemo treatment delayed, I had to significantly change my diet – see below for my high protein diet. While on this diet I did not fail another white blood count test and was able to get chemo treatments on schedule.
WBC can be “reduced” by:
- Analgesics (I stopped daily use of Nasal spray or Sinus medicine.)
WBC can be “increased” by eating more protein:
- Protein Foods: Milk, Eggs, Smoothie, Tuna, Chicken, Ensure drink, Cheese sticks, Fruit & Cottage Cheese
- Exercise At least 1 hour per day; Walk, Bicycle, Tennis or Swim.
Your doctor may prescribe medication like Zofran (Onandsetron-ODT) to help deal with nausea or other side effects of treatment. I used the (free) GoodRX app to check Zofran pricing at all pharmacies in my zip code. I was shocked to find my normal pharmacy had a price that was about 13 times more expensive than a nearby pharmacy. I only used 2 of the 90 pills in 12 weeks of Chemo treatment. Shopping around saved me more than $500.
- Carry hand sanitizer and use regularly. Do not sweat or get dirty with pump on.
- Wash hands frequently; Take Pro-biotic/ Yogurt
- Avoid Airplanes and Hospitals (Use face mask – if low WBC)
- Avoid people with colds, move away from people who are sneezing or coughing.
- Avoid hugging kids and grandchildren; they may have infections.
- Talk to your oncologist if you think you need an antibiotic.
- Eat enough protein to keep WBC up.
Cold Sensitivity Reduction:
- Be prepared for increased sensitivity to cold temperatures.
- Have a sweatshirt to deal with A.C., avoid cold iced drinks and ice cream
- 1st night after Chemo – cold feet. Use Recliner to have more blood to feet.
- Use foam support recliner for sitting up in bed to keep heart above feet.
- Use warm socks at night.
- Eat greens for Vitamin B. also spinach, sweet potato, chicken, turkey, tuna
- Avoid heavy blankets on feet at night that can cause nerve sensitivity.
Skin dryness and cracking on hands and feet and lips:
Use Udderly Body Cream on hands and feet. Chapstick on lips.
Fatigue and tiredness:
Exercise as strength allows. When possible, walk, bicycle, tennis, swim or dance at least one hour each day. Get off the couch and out of the house – do SOMETHING you enjoy. You are fighting for your life: exercise and diet are something you can do to win.
Treatment time (4 hours) stuff:
- Sipper Sweatshirt, Kindle, Book, newspapers, cell phone & charger, snack,
- Wear Button shirt to access port.
Chemo Pump tips:
- Chemo Pump is required for 48 hour chemo IV.
- Do not drop the pump.
- At night put pump in cloth bag and tie bag handles so it does not fall out.
- Record all the info needed to call for port assistance if pump stops. (Name of Pump, Serial #, 800 service number, Chemo oncologist, etc.)
- Fruits: Eat fruits that you peel – banana, cantaloupe, watermelon. No citrus, grapes, blueberries, apples.
- Drinks: No alcohol, or caffeine
- Fish: Good for protein. No sushi or any uncooked food.
- Eating out: No buffet, no salads, no tomato or lettuce on burger to avoid possible bacteria.
Protein is required to maintain white blood count for fighting infections and to maintain muscle for strength and balance. Chemo can cause weight loss and the body sheds muscle before fat.
Plus lots of water per day to flush Chemo chemicals through system and stay hydrated. 10 – 8oz glasses/day during 3 days on chemo and 8 – 8oz glasses after first 3 days. It may be easier to use 4 to 5 – 17oz water bottles of water per day, and keep bottles used on the counter until the end of day, as a water count.