After talking to and hearing many horror stories from people going through chemo and suffering from the “normal” side effects of hair loss, decreased white blood cell counts, nausea, vomiting, fatigue, etc., I decided to share my chemo routine. I am not sharing as someone that have come through the other end and healed completely. Quite the contrary, I am sharing as a stage 4 cancer patient in the trenches going through active chemo treatments every 3 weeks (possibly for the rest of my life).
It has been a little over a year since my initial diagnoses as of this writing. I have been under chemo treatments for the last 5 months. What I learned on this journey is that even though I can’t change the cards I am dealt with, I can learn to play the best game in my life! In order to play this game well, I need to have the tools/knowledge, know the strategies I will take, and be totally prepared.
As a result, after 5 months (and counting) of chemo treatments, I am happy to say I still have all my hair. My doctor told me I would lose my hair but I never did. I have good energy (except a few days after chemo). My blood cell count stayed at about the same level as before chemo. I rarely need to take any nausea medication. I feel stronger and healthier after every cycle. People that don’t know what I am going through are often shocked when they find out I am undergoing active chemo treatments on a regular basis.
For those of you don’t know me, I have zero background in medical training. What I share here I learned from life. I was born and raised in the Chinese culture by a grandmother that believed food is medicine. I have over a decade of tai chi practice prior to cancer diagnosis. My approach is very much about food and energy healing. As “sick” as I am medically, I still believe my body has what it takes to heal itself. It needs help (yes, chemo is part of it) and all the support and compassion I could give it. Here is my personal routine. I am not sharing this to other cancer patients going through chemo as the magic bullet for all. I am sharing my routine with the hope that it will inspire you to find your own routine that works for you. You don’t have to suffer through the side effects of chemo. We live in the information age, knowledge is power.
Day Before Chemo
I do a water fasting all day. I read a lot of studies on intermittent fasting. Most people use it as a strategy for weight loss. I have been skinny most of my life, lost even more weight due to cancer. At first I was very hesitant to try this since I really didn’t want to lose more weight, but frrom everything I read, there is a critical difference between healthy cells and cancer cells. Healthy cells know how to protect itself during a period of fasting while cancer cells don’t. It exposes the cancer cells to chemo treatments and reduces the side effects. The first time I did it, it was hard for me. I never knew I had food attachment issues!! 😄 After I did it for the first time, I felt triumphant like I have climbed my personal Mt. Everest. I have kept up the routine and happy to say I did not lose weight as I feared. In fact, I gained 20+ lbs overall during the initial (3 months) heavy dose of chemo!
Day of Chemo
I showed up on day 1 of my chemo treatments, I said to my nurse, “Could I ask a very weird request?” She said, of course. I asked her to allow me to hold my medicine in my hands before she put them into my veins. When I hold my medicine, I chant the Medicine Buddha chant to the medicine and I connect with the medicine on an energetic level. I feel the medicine “sync” with my body from the outside to the inside and will it to find and destroy cancer cells and cancer cells only.
I get a different nurse every time. After a few rounds, they pretty much all know my “weird” request and remember me, so I don’t even have to ask these days. One of my nurses ask me, do you pray for the people give you the medicine too? I said, great idea! From then on, I added a prayer at the end to the doctors, nurses, and all the patients in the chemo room with me that day. The more chemo I do, the more reasons I have to pray for people!
I drink a lot of water starting when I am in the chemo chair. Water helps flush everything out as fast as possible. I eat a light snack just because I am usually too hungry to starve myself any longer. 😛
After I get home from chemo, I eat small meals rather than big meals. I find that I am more nauseous and more prone to vomiting with a full stomach. If I don’t feel safe keeping down a meal, my default is celery rice. I learned it from a healer friend of a friend, you can follow the recipe on her website. It really helps to settle my stomach. I know if I could get a few meals down, my system has a good chance of recovering.
Days After Chemo
Chemo drugs only need to stay in my system for 24 hours to do its job, so the day after chemo, I start detoxing my body as fast as possible. The sooner I could get the toxins out of my system, the less I am affected by it. I also use alternative treatments to help mitigate the side effects.
There are 2 special food that I make for chemo days, detox bone broth and blood nourishing herbal tea.
My detox bone broth consists of beef (or chicken) bones, ginger, onions, and kombu seaweed. After chemo, many cells are killed, protein is depleted through use of steroids, bone broth is the best way to replenish the body. Seaweed not only has great nutrients, they are also great at helping the body detox because that’s what seaweeds do at the bottom of the ocean, they sit and absorb the toxins. They can do the same for us. They absorb and hold toxins until they get out of our system. Ginger helps with nausea as well as good for the digestive system.
The blood cell nourishing herbal tea consists of red dates and astragalus. Red dates are often consumed in the Chinese culture to nourish the blood. Astragalus has a lot of the same benefits as ginseng but without the antioxidant effect. It boosts the energy level, improves the immune, and helps with the recovery process. Try to find the best quality astragalus possible. Unfortunately it’s not a cheap herb.
There are 2 main alternative treatments I do after each chemo, chi nei tsang massage and acupuncture. They are expensive and they are not covered by insurance, but they are essential in my recovery process.
Chi nei tsang massage is also called internal organs massage or abdominal massage. It’s not a very well known practice and practitioners are not available in all areas. I am lucky in that regard. It’s basically a massage of the internal organs. After chemo treatments, the internal organs (especially the liver) are under tremendous amount of stress. Organs hold tension just like our muscles hold tension. When they are tensed up, they don’t perform as well. All of our digestion and elimination are depended on the health of our internal organs. I do this about once a week to give them the support they need.
The other treatment I find very helpful especially for nausea is acupuncture. I try to get in the first treatment the day after chemo, then twice a week for another week or two depending on how I feel.
Financially speaking, if you add up all the treatments and frequencies, it’s not hard to tell I spend a small fortune on these treatments on a monthly basis… equivalent of a mortgage payment on a small house. (Ouch! Yes, I know, at a time I am not working much.) I have never spent this much money on myself for any sustained length of time. I will do it as long as I could afford it. If it is not in your budget, please don’t do it because the financial stress could easily outweigh the benefits received from these treatments. I consider both of these treatments as energetic treatments, meaning someone opens your energy gates for you from the outside. You are the one that could shut those gates from the inside through stress and tension. If they stress you out, then there is no point in doing them at all, so please consider that door closed. When one door closes, another door opens. Please find something that you could do easily and effortlessly. After my initial heavy dose of chemo for 3 months, my oncologist put me on maintenance chemo which is a lot easier on my body. Nausea is rarely a problem for me any more so I decided to drop my acupuncture treatments to save some money.
I am lucky to be able to take time off from work to focus on my health so I do a lot of things that are therapeutic and enjoyable. Enjoyment is really the key. It doesn’t matter how beneficial something might be, if I don’t enjoy it, it’s not for me. I don’t know how much time I have left in my life, I am done making myself do things I don’t enjoy. Here is the list of things that occupies a lot of my time the days immediately following chemo:
- Tai chi practice. Very gentle movements just enough to get the stiffness out. If tai chi practice is not already in your life, apply the tai chi principle of gentle movements any way you like. The goal is to prevent any tightness in the body. Tension equals to energy stagnation and blockages.
- Steam sauna to help further detox the body. I love the warmth and the circulation. Plus it has the added benefits to my skin.
- Walking outside to get fresh air. Mother nature is very calming to me. In the summer time, I would lay on the grass and let earth “compose” me, I mentally give earth all my death and decay and let mother earth renew me.
- Epsom salt bath or foot bath before bedtime and follow by a foot massage. In Chinese medicine, our feet have the most acupuncture points and they are all related to the internal organs. Foot massage, aka reflexology, help relax all the organs.
- Sleep as much as it feels good to my body. Many people have told me to fight the fatigue. I am the opposite. I feel the fatigue and let it take me to sleep. It’s not unusual for me to take a 2-hour nap during the day and then sleep for 12 hours at night. I think sleep is the body’s way of healing itself. When I am done sleeping, I do all the above. After a few days, my body is done with the need to sleep for long periods of time. I feel the energy coming back in.
- Supplement with probiotics daily. Chemo kills a lot of everything, gut bacteria included, so I buy the best probiotics I can afford.
- Coffee enema as needed. OK, this one is not fun nor enjoyable while I am doing it, but generally feel great a couple of hours after especially if I am constipated or feeling heavy and sluggish. Constipation is totally unacceptable after chemo because your body will begin to reabsorb the waste and make you very sick. Coffee enema detoxes the liver, stimulates the bile duck to open and release the toxins in and gets all the junk out in 12 min! If your system is too toxic, you would have a hard time holding through the full 12 minutes. It’s important to note it’s best not to push yourself. Only hold it for the length of time that’s comfortable for you. There is a reason our liver holds onto the toxins because it thinks the body is not ready to handle it. Therefore, it’s important not to push your body too hard. In that case, try a half strength coffee enema that’s half coffee and half camomile tea. Do it once a day for a few days to allow your body to gradually let go of what needs to be let go of without pushing yourself over the edge.
It takes about 5 days after chemo for me to feel like myself completely. I have about 2 weeks that I more or less live a normal life, then the cycle begins again. I pretty much live from cycle to cycle according to my chemo schedule. I don’t like what I am going through one bit, but I LOVE the person I am becoming through the process. I learn to truly appreciate life and how precious time and energy really are.
I hope this helps you on your cancer journey, many blessings from my heart to your heart! 🙏💕