A man happily biking through a field of flowers on a sunny day.

When Eating and Exercising Become Chores

You have been diagnosed with blood cancer. The shock of the diagnosis is now recent history, and you face a new world of treatment.

Looking up at all the various infusion bottles, I expected to experience the worst after-effects when I got home.

Wait for it: loss of taste

Two days passed and, other than feeling tired, I had not experienced any nausea or intestinal issues. Then it happened, a total loss of taste. Nothing was appealing.

It all looked good until I tried to take a mouthful. Eating had become a chore. So here I am, tired and not eating.

At one point after my first treatment, I was hospitalized for several days due to a bowel blockage. Not surprisingly, I met quite a few new folks.

From diagnosis to beginning treatment, I had lost well over twenty pounds. While I had met with a hospital dietitian early on after receiving a diagnosis, the overload of information offered was a bit overwhelming at the time.

By providing your email address, you are agreeing to our Privacy Policy and Terms of Use.

Nutrition tips from my nurse

One of the nurses in the hospital said I would eventually find a food combination that had some appeal. Once I found something, she encouraged me to eat as much of it and as often as I liked.

The key was to try to consume more food to avoid malnutrition. I also learned that being undernourished could impact the effectiveness of my treatments.

  • Rather than trying to eat 3 meals each day, I switched to consuming smaller quantities of food more often.
  • I also found adding Ensure, a supplement helpful.
  • Whenever possible my meals and snacks included salmon, avocados, and a sprinkle of chia seeds.

Physical activity helps

The nurse also encouraged me to keep physically active.  So, next on the agenda was getting some exercise in.

My typical week prior to diagnosis and treatment was a twenty-five-mile ride 3 to 4 days  from Connecticut to Massachusetts. Given traffic in the area I stay off public roads and keep to the paved bike trail. I still get my share of hills, woods farmland  and encounter few folks along the way. Yikes.

Again, I was not feeling great and any thoughts of getting on my bike were out of the question. I knew I needed to start slowly.

Just get moving

In addition to just getting up and walking in the house I decided to take a trip up and down the driveway. Somehow it had magically gotten longer.

A few more trips and it became more manageable. After a few days I felt much better.

One suggestion that was offered was to try yoga. Fortunately, several years earlier I had tried and liked Tai Chi. If you are not familiar with Tai Chi, it is based on a Chinese martial art. All movements are done slowly and put a lot of tension on your muscles. Basically, it is a slow moving form of meditation that improves muscle strength and mental relaxation.

Keeping active, not competing

With exercise I decided not to compete with myself, rather I focused on keeping active. I set small realistic goals and developed a routine.

I believe it is important for all of us, and cancer patients in particular, to be aware of our diet and the need to keep active no matter where you are on your journey. At this point I remain in remission. 

If you had a similar experience or have additional thoughts I hope you will feel free to share them.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The Blood-Cancer.com team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

Join the conversation

Please read our rules before commenting.