Sunday, October 13, 2013

Plan to survive radiation

Radiation starts Monday and I have a plan in place to hopefully help me not only survive, but to thrive over the next 5-6 weeks of daily treatment!

Radiation works by damaging the DNA of rapidly dividing cells (ie. cancer cells) hopefully resulting in cell death.  Unlike chemotherapy that is a systemic treatment targeting all rapidly dividing cells in the body; radiation therapy is a localized treatment that targets specific areas.  For me this will be my chest wall, axillary lymph nodes, and supraclavicular lymph nodes.

My two primary goals while undergoing radiation are to 1-Support the treatment in being as effective as possible and 2-Protect healthy tissue (skin & lungs) that are exposed to radiation from damage.

After consulting with my Nutritionist this week, here is some of what I learned:

General diet guidelines while undergoing radiation include:
-Double protein intake
-Maintain stable blood sugar
-Eat cooling foods
-Boost intake of spices

Other potential strategies to improve the efficacy of radiation therapy (Note: All of these strategies have some supporting research, although I am going to refrain from going into detail)

-Improve Tumor Oxygenation: This can be done through diet, supplementation, and improving circulation.  One strategy that I plan to employ to increase circulation immediately prior to my radiation treatments is exercise.   Free and effective and can easily be done by riding my bike to treatment!  Other options include a jog on the shoreline (located right behind Huntsman), running up/down the huge flight of stairs outside of Huntsmen, or even a short spin on the stationary bike in the Wellness Center which is just down the hall from the radiation wing.  Deep breathing and taking warm baths also increase circulation although deep breathing is contraindicated during the actual  radiation treatment as increasing lung volume may increase radiation exposure to lung tissue.

-Depleting Tumor Glutathione Levels:  According to my nutritionist, and backed by some research, whey protein supplementation appears to make tumors more susceptible to effects of cancer treatment (chemo AND radiation) by depleting glutathione while boosting levels of this protective nutrient in healthy cells.  Whey supplementation also helps me meet my increased protein needs during treatment.

-Sensitizing cancer cells to the cytotoxic effects of radiation:  Spices that reduce inflammation in the body may increase efficacy of radiation therapy.  Some examples include: basil, clove, curcumin, ginger, oregano, rosemary, coriander, nutmeg, parsley, turmeric, cinnamon, cumin, and licorice.

-Fostering cell death through ingesting selenium.  3-4 Brazil nuts/day provides an ample amount of selenium to meet daily therapeutic levels of selenium.

Dietary strategies I am employing to meeting my second goal of protecting healthy tissue include glutamine supplementation, licorice tea, tumeric, and 2-3 servings of organic soy daily.

Ever hear of Dal?  Well I hadn't until my nutritionist suggested I make some with Mung Beans.  
Dal is an Indian soup with loads of nutritional benefits.  Mine is made with Mung beans because Mung beans appear to reduce side effects of radiation.  I also made mine with tumeric, cumin, garlic, ginger, spinach, and some organic bone broth to boost immunity.  I am freezing these individual servings so that I can have one small bowel each day I receive radiation treatment.  

Additionally, radiation can have adverse affects on skin.  I am armed and ready with an arsenal of skin care products including Aloe Vera, Calendula lotion, Coconut Oil, and Carolla's Beeswax.

Surely one of these will be effective!

With my plan in place, I am feeling confident as I start this next phase of treatment.   Additionally, my team at Huntsman continues to blow me away with their extraordinary care.  They truly go above and beyond in working with me so that I understand and feel confident in my treatment plan.

In other news, Friday was three weeks from my final chemo treatment.  Instead of going in for an infusion, like I have been doing every three weeks since July, I underwent an echocardiogram and bloodwork to see how my body is recovering from chemo and  I received the best possible news.  My echocardiogram revealed an ejection fraction of 69.  These results indicate that my heart sustained absolutely NO acute heart damage from chemo.  What a HUGE relief!  On Saturday, instead of feeling like dirt like I would if I had chemo the day before, I rode hero dirt in Park City for three hours.  It was amazing!

 ~7500 feet in October.  Sweet!
 Rippin' Glenwild on the 429

It was raining Aspen leaves today!  


  1. Licorice and Brazil nuts are good medicine! How fortunate for you. Yum. As for dal, oh yeah, good stuff. I have a whole recipe book if you want to borrow it. Hope all that yummy food boosts your system. Congratulations on the healthy heart news!

  2. Hi Jen. I have just finished 5 months of chemo for StageIIa breast cancer and will start radiation soon. I am looking for a good nutritionist and was wondering if you would be willing to speak to me about yours. Thank you. Penny Dearborm

    1. Penny, Sure! Send me an email at and we can either talk via email or set up a telephone chat. Congrats on being done with chemo! Jen.