Coping with cancer during the holidays can be difficult.
As we approach the holidays, what should be a joyous time of year surrounded by friends and family, can be a challenge for both people working through a cancer diagnosis and their loved ones.
There is no point in denying it, things are likely to be different. But with some thoughtful planning and a commitment to enjoying on your terms, the holiday season can be a special one if there is open and honest dialogue between everyone.
Tips for Cancer Patients
It’s time to plan your holiday strategy.
Nothing shouts out ONLINE SHOPPING more than fatigue and low immunity.
Get your list together and have at it. In the comfort of your own home tick off everyone on your list with a delivery right to your front door (or theirs!). No crowds, lots of comfort and you minimize the chance of catching a cold or flu.
Delegate, delegate, delegate! Spread out the cooking detail. Consider having a potluck dinner this year. If that’s not an option, then there are loads of places that will cater to all of your gastronomical needs.
Take the time to rest if you need it. Heck schedule naptimes so all of your guests can build the events of the day around them.
Let your people know what challenges you may be facing during the holidays. Say YES when you need to and don’t be afraid to say NO. They want to support you. They love you so let them do so.
Throw your Expectations out the Window
Forget comparing to past holidays or lamenting on what you might not be able to do. Embrace what is and try to be open to experiencing the joy of what this holiday brings.
If Someone You Love has Cancer
If your loved one has cancer understand that this can be an emotional time. You can’t change that but there are things that you can do to support them and they pretty much line up with what I have just mentioned
Offer to help
Fatigue and just not feeling well can be so prohibitive for those with cancer. Offer your time. It’s the best gift you can give. Shop, clean, cook, write Santa letters. Do whatever is needed.
Plan events around their schedule
Plan holiday events around their schedule. Be flexible and mindful about planning things around their routine, treatments and according to the overall vitality. And be understanding if some traditions have to be shelved for this year.
The holidays can be challenging when cancer is in your midst. But with a little planning and a lot of love they can continue to be a joyous time of year.
Lung cancer is one of the most common cancers in the world.
In 2015, it was estimated that approximately 26,600 Canadians would be diagnosed with lung cancer. That is more than any other type of cancer.
In addition to this, more people die from lung cancer than breast cancer, colorectal cancer and prostate cancer combined.
There are two major types of lung cancer, non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) and small cell lung cancer (SCLC).
Non-small cell lung cancer accounts for about 85 percent of lung cancers, small cell lung cancer about 15 percent.
NSCLC usually starts in glandular cells on the outer part of the lung. This type of cancer is called adenocarcinoma. Non–small cell lung cancer can also start in flat, thin cells called squamous cells. These cells line the bronchi, which are the large airways that branch off from the windpipe (trachea) into the lungs. This type of cancer is called squamous cell carcinoma of the lung. Large cell carcinoma is another type of non–small cell lung cancer, but it is less common. There are also several rare types of non–small cell lung cancer. These include sarcoma and sarcomatoid carcinoma. SCLC usually starts in cells that line the bronchi in the centre of the lungs. The main types of small cell lung cancer are small cell carcinoma and combined small cell carcinoma (mixed tumour with squamous or glandular cells).
Anatomy & Facts About Our Lungs
Did you know?
In proper anatomy our right lung is shorter and wider than our left. Our left lung is narrower and more oblong
The anterior border of the left lung is marked by a deep cardiac notch while the right lung is straight
Our left lung is smaller than our right lungbecause our heart occupies space on the left side
Our rightlung consists of 3 lobes. Our left lung has 2
Our rightlung connects to the trachea by two bronchi while the left lung connects to the trachea by a single bronchus
Possible causes of lung cancer
Cigarette smoking causes most lung cancers. Of note however many patients who are diagnosed with lung cancer have either never smoked or are former smokers.
Exposure to high levels of pollution
Exposure to radiation and asbestos may increase risk of lung cancer
Common symptoms of lung cancer
A cough that doesn’t go away and gets worse over time
Constant chest pain
Coughing up blood
Shortness of breath
Help lower your risk of lung cancer by incorporating the following tips
Smoking is responsible for the majority of lung cancers. If you are a smoker it’s never too late to quit. For those who have been diagnosed with lung cancer, by stopping your smoking habit you can make cancer treatment more effective
Limit Your Chemical Exposure:
Chemicals in the workplace and at home can contribute to lung cancer
Reduce Your Exposure to Second-Hand Smoke:
Exposure to second-hand smoke increases your chance of developing lung cancer
Consume Green Tea and Black Tea:
Studies have shown that consuming Green & Black tea are associated with a reduced lung cancer risk
As well as the above, proper sleep, exercising regularly and eating a diet rich in fruits and veggies are very important habits for cancer prevention as a whole.
Movember moustaches, campaigns and initiatives in support of raising the awareness of men’s health issues is a great opportunity to talk with your son about the warning signs of testicular cancer. It may not be a topic that you are comfortable with but it is a necessary one.
Testicular cancer is the leading cancer in men ages 15 to 44 with an estimated 1,150 Canadian men being diagnosed with it in 2019.
Who is at Risk?
Factors that can increase a man’s risk for testicular cancer include:
An undescended testicle (cryptorchidism). A man who has a testicle that hasn’t descended is at a greater risk of testicular cancer than are men whose testicles have descended normally. The risk remains elevated even if the testicle has been surgically relocated to the scrotum
If a family member has had testicular cancer, then there is an increased risk for related males
Abnormal testicle development. Conditions that cause testicles to develop abnormally may increase risk of testicular cancer
Although it can occur at any age, testicular cancer affects teens and younger men, particularly those between ages 15 and 44.
Testicular cancer is more common in white men than in black men
Important Things to Say
It is important to stress to your son that this cancer is not common and if found early is curable.
Let him know that he can come to you if he notices any changes or has any concerns or questions.
As your son reaches puberty and his body begins to change, encourage him to become familiar with his testicles. Often testicles are not symmetrical. He can only know if there is change if he knows what is his normal.
It is also important to teach your son how to perform a monthly self-exam so that he can monitor any changes that may have occurred in a testicle.
How to Perform a Monthly Testicle Self-Examinations
Have your son:
Stand in a hot shower, allowing his testicles to descend
Hold his penis out of the way and examine the skin of the scrotum
Examine each testicle. Using both hands, have him place his index and middle fingers under the testicle and his thumbs on top
Gently roll the testicle between your thumbs and fingers
What to Look for
A healthy testicle will have a soft, squishy consistency throughout.
Signs of irregularity can include hard lumps, changes in the size, shape or consistency of the testicle, tenderness or pain.
The anatomy of the testicle includes a structure called the Epididymis that your son will also need to become familiar with. It is a cordlike structure running along back of the testis. It provides for the storage, transport and maturation of sperm.
Self-care is a key piece for your son’s health. By talking to your son about testicular cancer you equip him with tools for self management and help him to understand that ultimately he is responsible for his own health.
Lymphedema is abnormal swelling that is caused by a build-up of lymph fluid. It occurs most frequently in the arms and in the legs and is commonly caused by the removal of or damage to lymph nodes as a part of cancer treatment. In this scenario, the onset of lymphedema can occur during treatments, days, months or even years after the treatment protocol is completed.
According to the World Health Organization there are over 170 million people world-wide who suffer from secondary lymphedema. It affects approximately 15% of all cancer survivors and an estimated 30% of those treated for breast cancer after surgery to remove lymph nodes.
Lymphedema is a chronic condition that, if not cared for, can lead to infection, thickening of the skin, pain and loss of proper function. But with the help of professionals in the field and by learning techniques for self-care it can be managed.
Unfortunately lymphedema is poorly understood and researched. For this reason the new book entitled:
The Complete Lymphedema Management and Nutrition Guide
is a great resource for both those suffering from lymphedema and for practitioners.
A Great Resource for those Suffering from Lymphedema and for Practitioners
Scientifically researched and thoughtfully put together, the book is divided in to four sections.
Parts 1 & 2 are authored by Ann DiMenna, PT, CDT. Parts 3 & 4 by Jean Lamantia, RD.
Part 1: Understanding Lymphedema
This section beautifully lays out the physiology and biology of the lymphatic system as well as addressing Lymphedema Risk Reduction by using an easy to understand narrative coupled with informative visuals.
Part 2: Self-Care for Lymphedema
Self-care management is vital for those with lymphedema. This section covers the key areas of skincare, self-taping, self-massage and exercise. It also covers the topic of compression garments very well.
The next 2 sections cover the importance of nutrition for lymphedema management.
Part 3: Nutrition for Lymphedema
This is a very informative section of the book that covers these important topics for lymphedema management:
The role of the lymphatics in digestion
Reducing Chronic Inflammation
Fluids, protein and sodium
Of note here as well, most of you know that I am a proponent of intermittent fasting. Included within this section is an interesting notation from Jean about her thoughts on intermittent fasting and possible benefits for managing lymphedema. She is very clear that her thoughts are speculative, not researched based, but I find the notion thought provoking at the very least.
Part 4: Recipes for Lymphedema
And to wrap it up, the book contains some wonderful recipes to help the reader implement the nutritional advise that Jean Lamantia has provided.
As a practitioner who works with patients suffering from lymphedema, I find this book to be a valuable reference. As a sufferer of lymphedema myself, I know that this book will be of great benefit for those trying to manage this condition.
Sticking to the perimeter of the grocery store is the ideal way to shop. But when the ideal meets the real and we find ourselves nose to label with packaging we need to be armed and ready.
Let’s face it, reading labels can be confusing. But it is a necessary evil when you want to eat healthy.
With a few tips however you will be able extrapolate the important information that you need to make good decisions in the grocery aisles.
First off avoid the propaganda on the front of the product and go right to the good stuff on the back. Companies can free wheel with what they say on the front of the packaging but there are real guidelines for what’s on the back. For example a label may say that a food product is reduced in fat or reduced sodium. What this means is that the amount of fat or sodium has been reduced from the original product amount. It doesn’t mean, however, that the food is low in fat or sodium.
Here are My 3 Top Things to Look For on a Product Label
1. Check out the Ingredients
Check out the ingredient list. Product ingredients are listed by quantity, from highest to lowest amount
2. Understand the serving size
It is really important that you understand that all of the nutrition information shown is based on serving size.
And don’t be deceived by this. A single serving may not be what you think. For instance, a serving size may be half a cup where as you might logically think it would be whole cup.
3. Know the Different Names for Sugar
We know by now the dangers of over consuming added sugars. With this in mind, it is very important that you become aware of the fact that there are many, many different names for sugar on a food label. Some of them end in –ose such as Sucrose, Maltose and Dextrose. Others like Barley Malt, Turinado and Molasses do not.
On the right side of a food label, you’ll see a column that lists the percent daily values (%DV). Percent daily values tell you how much of a the particular nutrient one serving will give you compared to how much you need for the entire day. It helps you gauge the percentage of a nutrient requirement met by one serving of the product.
Nutrition Facts Tables
Do you ever look at the Nutrition Facts tables? Do they help you decide which foods to buy or not? Do the numbers even make sense?
To be honest, I don’t think it’s that the most user-friendly or helpful tool. But it’s good to understand it since it’s here to stay.
Let me give you a super-quick crash course on reading the Nutrition Facts tables.
Then, try my delicious and super-easy snack recipe that’ll blow your pre-packaged granola bars out of the water.
How to Read the New Nutrition Facts Tables
The Nutrition Facts table is on the side of most packaged foods. It’s often found close to the ingredient listing.
The purpose of it is to help consumers make better nutrition decisions. When people can see the number of calories, carbs, sodium, etc. in food, they should be able to eat better, right?
Whether you like the Nutrition Facts table or not, let’s make sure you get the most out of it, since it’s here to stay!
Here’s my four-step crash course on reading the Nutrition Facts table.
Step 1: Serving Size
The absolute most important part of the Nutrition Facts table is to note the serving size. Manufacturers often strategically choose the serving size to make the rest of the table look good. Small serving = small calories/fat/carbs. So, it’s tricky.
All the information in the table rests on the amount chosen as the serving size. And, since every manufacturer chooses their own, it’s often difficult to compare two products.
In Canada, in the next few years (between 2017-2022), serving sizes will be more consistent between similar foods. This will make it easier to compare foods. The new labels will also have more realistic serving sizes to reflect the amount that people eat in one sitting, and not be artificially small.
Let’s use an example – plain, unsalted walnuts from Costco.
Right under the Nutrition Facts header is the serving size. That is a ¼ cup or 30 g. This means that all the numbers underneath it are based on this amount.
FUN EXPERIMENT: Try using a measuring cup to see exactly how much of a certain food equals one serving. You may be surprised at how small it is (imagine a ¼ cup of walnuts).
Step 2: % Daily Value
The % Daily Value (%DV) is based on the recommended daily amount of each nutrient the average adult needs. Ideally, you will get 100% DV for each nutrient every day. This is added up based on all of the foods and drinks you have throughout the day.
NOTE: Since children are smaller and have different nutritional needs if a type of food is intended solely for children under the age of 4, then those foods use a child’s average nutrition needs for the %DV.
The %DV is a guideline, not a rigid rule.
You don’t need to add all of your %DV up for everything you eat all day. Instead, think of anything 5% or less to be a little; and, anything 15% or more to be a lot.
NOTE: Not every nutrient has a %DV. You can see it’s missing for things like cholesterol, sugar, and protein. This is because there isn’t an agreed “official” %DV for that nutrient. The good news is that the new Nutrition Facts tables will include a %DV for sugar. Keep your eyes out for that.
Step 3: Middle of the table (e.g. Calories, fat, cholesterol, sodium, potassium, carbohydrates, and protein)
Calories are pretty straight forward. Here, a ¼ cup (30 g) of walnuts has 200 calories.
Fat is bolded for a reason. That 19 g of fat (29% DV) is total fat. That includes the non-bolded items underneath it. Here, 19 g of total fat includes 1.5 g saturated fat, (19 g – 1.5 g = 17.5 g) unsaturated fat, and 0 g trans fat. (Yes, unsaturated fats including mono- and poly-unsaturated are not on the label, so you need to do a quick subtraction).
Cholesterol, sodium, and potassium are all measured in mg. Ideally, aim for around 100% of potassium and sodium each day. It’s easy to overdo sodium, especially if you grab pre-made, restaurant foods, or snacks. Keep an eye on this number if sodium can be a problem for you (e.g. if your doctor mentioned it, if you have high blood pressure or kidney problems, etc.).
Carbohydrate, like fat, is bolded because it is total carbohydrates. It includes the non-bolded items underneath it like fiber, sugar, and starch (not shown). Here, 30 g of walnuts contain 3 g of carbohydrates; that 3 g are all fiber. There is no sugar or starch. And as you can see, 3 g of fiber is 12% of your daily value for fiber.
Proteins, like calories, are pretty straight forward as well. Here, a ¼ cup (30 g) of walnuts contains 5 g of protein.
Step 4: Bottom of the table (e.g. vitamins & minerals)
The vitamins and minerals listed at the bottom of the table are also straightforward. The new labels will list potassium, calcium, and iron. Yes, potassium will drop from the middle of the table to the bottom, and both vitamins A & C will become optional.
Manufacturers can add other vitamins and minerals to the bottom of their Nutrition Facts table (this is optional). And you’ll notice that some foods contain a lot more vitamins and minerals than others do.
I hope this crash course in the Nutrition Facts table was helpful because it is important to be informed about what you are eating.
Proper nutrition is a key piece of cancer prevention so understanding what you choose to put in to your shopping cart is key.
Do you have questions about it? If so, leave me a comment below.
Delicious and Super-Easy Walnut Snack Recipe
8 walnut halves
4 dates, pitted
Make a “date sandwich” by squeezing each date between two walnut halves.