‘It is incredibly rewarding to see how much nutrition can influence people’s health with cancer’

We speak to Liz Butler, a cancer-specific nutritionist, about the best foods to eat when you are diagnosed with cancer, and the foods you should stay far away from

cancer food nutrition

Eating the right kinds of foods before, during, and after cancer treatment can help you feel better and stay stronger. But we know it’s not that simple, is it?

There may be times during your cancer treatment when you are unable to eat as healthy as you would like. When you’re experiencing sore mouth, difficulty swallowing, and general loss of appetite, how are you supposed to keep your diet balanced and nutritious?

Good nutrition is especially important if you have cancer because both the illness and its treatment can affect your appetite. Cancer and cancer treatments can also affect your body’s ability to tolerate certain foods and use nutrients.

Here’s where Liz Butler steps in. Liz is a nutritional therapist and has been working with people with cancer for the last 17 years. 

Continue reading “‘It is incredibly rewarding to see how much nutrition can influence people’s health with cancer’”

Meet the inspiring five-time cancer survivor who competes in marathons

David Fletcher, 39, has taken part in a number of gruelling sporting activities, shocking both his doctors and family

David Fletcher cancer
Cancer survivor David Fletcher completes the Long Course Weekend Wales 2017 iron man challenge with fiancee Angela and son Lee (Photo credit: Hull Daily Mail)

An inspiring dad who has survived cancer five times in wowing his doctors with his amazing physical feats.

David Fletcher, 39, from Hull, hopes to inspire other sufferers not to give up.

He took part in an Iron Man Challenge just months after battling cancer for the fifth time, and earlier this month, completing the Long Course Weekend Wales 2017 triathlon.

The HGV driver has battled germ cell cancer twice, Hodgkin Lymphoma, skin cancer and testicular cancer over the last 18 years.

Continue reading “Meet the inspiring five-time cancer survivor who competes in marathons”

Brave mum shares intimate photo to raise awareness of rare breast cancer symptom

Sherrie Rhodes was diagnosed with breast cancer after she spotted some dimpling during a shopping trip

Sherrie Rhodes

A brave mum who was diagnosed with breast cancer just days ago has shared an intimate photo of her rare symptom to help raise awareness.

Unlike the lump most people associate with breast cancer, mother-of-three Sherrie Rhodes noticed a less well-known symptom and wants to warn others.

Continue reading “Brave mum shares intimate photo to raise awareness of rare breast cancer symptom”

Schoolgirl takes cancer hair loss into her own hands

Nine-year-old makes wigs from scratch to donate to little girls who have lost their hair from cancer

Lauren Laray wigs cancer
Lauren LaRay (Photo credit: Las Vegas Review-Journal)

A thoughtful schoolgirl is on a mission to help young cancer patients feel more beautiful and confident while undergoing chemotherapy treatment.

Nine-year-old Lauren LaRay is making wigs for young girls with cancer who’ve lost their own hair. She is making them from scratch at home after school.

Using nothing more than a crochet needle, weave cap and store-bought hair, Lauren says her goal is to make the wigs look as natural as possible.

Continue reading “Schoolgirl takes cancer hair loss into her own hands”

Best friends who both lost their husbands to cancer unite for hospital transport charity

Gina Dunn and Ann Garrett are aiming to raise a whopping £25,000 for Northeast charity Daft as a Brush

Gina Dunn cancer transport charity
Gina Dunn (Image credit: Newcastle Chronicle)

Two best friends who both lost their husbands to cancer, have teamed up to help raise money for a transport charity which supports people living with the disease..

Gina Dunn, 59, and Ann Garrett, 73, have pledged to raise £25,000 to buy a new vehicle for Daft as a Brush which now operates 25 ambulances in the North East of England and provides free transport to hospital for cancer patients to receive chemotherapy and radiotherapy treatments.

The organisation, backed by 300 volunteers, is expected to make 20,000 patient journeys this year and next year the charity hopes to offer its service to even more people.

Continue reading “Best friends who both lost their husbands to cancer unite for hospital transport charity”

Appreciating life during cancer

How Amanda Luke has remained positive after losing her job and getting diagnosed with breast cancer within two months

Amanda Luke breast cancer
Amanda Luke was diagnosed with breast cancer in April 2017

When Amanda Luke was diagnosed with breast cancer in April, she says it couldn’t have come at a worse time for her. The 42-year-old had just lost her job the month before and had started a new temporary role which she hoped would become permanent. 

Despite the life changing events, Amanda has remained positive and learning to appreciate life while living with cancer.

Continue reading “Appreciating life during cancer”

How to talk about cancer – by 500 people who have it

The Ins and Outs of Discussing Your Cancer - A Summary of 500 Real and Raw Survey Responses

Being diagnosed with cancer is confronting. It can change the way you react to the world, and how the world reacts to you. There is no right way to discuss cancer with friends or family, but there are usually a few themes or trends that develop when people are diagnosed. We wanted to gain insight into how you found discussing your cancer diagnosis with your loved ones, and to see whether we could provide useful tips or advice.

The response was overwhelming. Over 500 respondents provided honest and raw feedback, and from this, we were able to delve deeper at what you found useful and not useful when discussing cancer with your loved ones.

Your decisions are respected

Nearly 50% of respondents were open to discussing their diagnosis with anyone who seemed interested. Conversely, only a small percentage (3%) of respondents did not wish to openly discuss their diagnosis to anyone for a variety of reasons.

However, nearly 100% of respondents found that their friends and family respected their decision to discuss or not discuss their diagnosis to some degree. Additionally, a large proportion of the respondents (65%) found that their family and friends were available to talk whenever it suited them.

For some people though, it appeared that although their friends and family were open to discussing and listening, timing and availability was a limiting factor.

The Unintentionally Unhelpful

This term was coined to describe something that had been said with good intentions but missed the mark. An overwhelming 85% of respondents had something unintentionally unhelpful said to them.

Cancer elicits a wide range of emotions, all of them normal, and all of them ok to feel. Usually, a comment misses the mark when it fails to reassure your current feelings. The comment “you’re lucky to have your type of cancer,” can, for some, build confidence after the immediate shock has settled and you’re informed of your treatment options, prognosis and decisions. But people seldom feel “lucky to have cancer” and even if they have low-grade cancer, that is curable, with an easy treatment, there is no reason they need to feel lucky. It still can rock your world and make you feel exposed and vulnerable.

Our respondents found the best reply to these comments were to simply ignore them and continue with the conversation.

At the end of the day, people will continue trying to show their support how they deem appropriate; but it can be quite frustrating. Additionally, it can be even more frustrating trying to explain to a third party why the comments were unhelpful as you may be met with “they were just trying to be nice,” or “but that’s a nice thing to say, you’re taking it the wrong way.”

One phrase that seemed to pop up regularly was people informing them of other people who had the same diagnosis that had died. You may roll your eyes and think “why would anyone think that is something helpful to say?” But in difficult situations, such as discussing cancer, people may lack the experience of how to communicate. Identifying someone who they know who sadly died, is one way to demonstrate that they have something in common, and can relate and empathise to what you may be experiencing. It can be difficult replying to this type of comment, but simply saying “I’m sorry to hear that,” and continuing the conversation should suffice.

“Be Positive!”

When hearing those words do you smile and feel empowered, or do chills run down your back? Interestingly, half of the respondents found these words encouraging and inspiring, while the other half acknowledged that sometimes it is difficult to be strong and positive, and found this phrase irritating.

Why would “stay positive” be viewed as unhelpful?

Cancer is exhausting. The disease itself can manifest in a number of ways that can cause you to be in pain, feel nauseous, or simply fatigued. Its treatments can lead to skin concerns, cognitive decline and restlessness (just to name a few side effects). Sometimes people don’t want to feel strong, they just want to be able to get through the day. Having someone tell you to be positive, or stay strong can be an unnecessary conversation that the person doesn’t want to have.

If someone says to you “be positive,” but you’re really not in the mood to feel positive, it can be easy to react negatively. Taking a deep breath and counting to three can reduce any immediate actions that you may later regret. And remember: it is 100% ok to take a break from being strong, and taking a break does not equate to giving up.

Listen up!

We asked respondents “If there was one piece of advice you could give your loved ones, what would it be?” From there we formulated a word cloud to see what words recurred.

Discussing cancer can be difficult. And even if you find you are given the opportunity to talk about your cancer and are respected, it is evident that people just want to be listened to.

Have you ever just cried, or screamed about something? But immediately felt better afterwards. That purging feeling is called catharsis. Catharsis is a long fancy word used to describe the release of strong emotions, such as those felt when experiencing a cancer diagnosis, going through cancer treatment, and after a cancer diagnosis. Catharsis has been shown to have psychological benefits and can help cope with emotions. It’s also quite easy to do if there’s someone to listen. The most difficult thing about catharsis is trying to find someone who can figuratively be an emotional sponge, who just listens, provides support but most importantly, does not provide advice.

 

 

I am me (with cancer)

Finally, our report showed that many of you, are you! In fact, all of you, are still the same person you were before your diagnosis. And although the diagnosis and treatment have affected you in different ways, you still want to be spoken to and treated like you were before being diagnosed. Although it can be difficult discussing cancer with some people, finding that person whom you can vent will allow you to cope better. And if people say something that misses the mark, it does appear that they are just trying to help, but yet lack the skills to do it proficiently.

Live Better With would like to thank all respondents who took part in our survey. Your anecdotes, comments and stories were touching and real. We are currently writing our follow up article.

‘Take whatever you need to take, just leave my brain and my soul and I will be happy’

Mastectomy: What To Expect, with author Jackie Buxton

Jackie Buxton tea and chemo
Jackie Buxton is the author of Tea & Chemo

When Jackie Buxton, author of Tea & Chemo: Fighting Cancer Living Life, was diagnosed with breast cancer, she was told she would need surgery as soon as possible.

“When I was told I was going to have a mastectomy, it just went over my head,” she says. “My brain wasn’t working properly. I was in a sludge of cancer thought.” Continue reading “‘Take whatever you need to take, just leave my brain and my soul and I will be happy’”