It Took Being Told I’m Dying to Become Healthy

There is nothing like being told that you only have a small amount of time left to get you to reconsider your lifestyle choices. The day after being released from hospital we completely changed what we ate, how we thought and what our spare time consisted of. Here are some of the changes that we made, hopefully others will find this information helpful.

Dietary changes –¬†Initially we had no idea of what diet I should be on, but we made sure that I was only eating healthy, fresh and if possible organic foods. My partner made me a juice each morning which consisted of silver beet, baby spinach, beetroot tops and apples. I would drink two to two and a half cups of this each day. Breakfast was a slice of 16265347_10154389158548412_1605590938565985544_nwholegrain toast with avocado, flaxseeds and chia seeds. Then a piece of fruit and a yogurt for a snack. Lunch was generally 2 crisp bread biscuits with avocado, ricotta cheese and tinned fish (sardines, mackerel, tuna). Followed by some more fruit. Dinner was high fibre meals which did not contain red meat and only wholegrain food stuffs when having rice and pasta. Stews loaded with vegetables and fish with salad were always enjoyable. In between all of these I would also try to have three cups of green tea and two cups of hospital grade sustagen. Before running off to the shops however, I would advice talking to your doctor/surgeon about what type of diet you should be on (high or low fibre) and then work with a nutritionist and dietitian to help perfect your diet. If you are in Australia the 16427434_10154389829553412_7803588119364055823_nBowel Cancer Australia organisation offers free advise from a trained nutritionist who has been through cancer herself. This is an invaluable source of information and anyone in this situation would be silly not to use it. Also in Australia, you may be entitled to rebates via Medicare for services such as dieticians.

The diet above was given the tick of approval by both the nutritionist and dietitian as ideal for a high fibre diet for someone with bowel cancer. In all I found the high fibre diet pretty easy to follow. You could easily transform most recipes into high fibre by substituting inappropriate food items for more healthy options. These are the foods  that I changed to obtain a high fibre diet:

A summary of what I removed from my diet:

  • All red meat;
  • All processed meats and loafs;
  • Hard and heavily processed cheeses.

A summary of what I added to my diet:

  • Natural fats (avocados);
  • Soft cheeses (ricotta);
  • Sustagen (hospital grade);
  • Seeds and grains (in particular flaxseeds and chai seeds);
  • Turmeric power;
  • Raw garlic;
  • Flaxseed oil and Extra Virgin Olive Oil;
  • Chai seed crackers and crisp breads;
  • Juices (Pomegranate, Pear and all natural fruit juices);
  • Tinned fish (small fish such as mackerel, sardines and tuna).

After about a month I was then informed to change to a low fibre diet. This diet was a little trickier. It meant cutting out a lot of fruits and vegetables, nuts, seeds and changing to less fibrous foods. At first this diet felt very backwards. Eating things such as white bread, rice and pasta, cheeses and not eating broccoli and cauliflower seemed very odd. However it did help with the bowel movements. I am still getting used to this diet but so far my daily diet generally consists of half an english muffin with a poached egg for breakfast. Natural yogurt and fruit (peeled apple) for a snack. Crisp bread with avocado, ricotta and tinned fish for lunch. Crackers with a little cheese for another snack. Then dinner is normally steamed fish with salad or a light chicken pasta. I would also have three cups of green tea and a cup of hospital grade sustagen. As I was also trying to maintain my weight, the surgeon suggested a milkshake which contained full fat milk, full fat ice-cream, a banana and sustagen. This was one of the best things about the low fiber diet by far. Delicious!!!! Foods that I changed to obtain a low fibre diet:

A summary of what I removed from my diet:

  • All red meat;
  • All processed meats and loafs;
  • All fibrous vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, pea and green beans);
  • All fibrous fruits (pineapple, all berries, dried fruits);
  • Any wholegrain produces (bread, rice, pasta, cereals);
  • Yoghurts that contained berries;
  • Soups with vegetables;
  • Nuts and seeds.

A summary of what I added to my diet:

  • Natural fats (avocados);
  • Soft cheeses and a small amount of hard cheese (ricotta, cheddar);
  • Sustagen (hospital grade);
  • Turmeric power;
  • Raw garlic;
  • Flaxseed oil and Extra Virgin Olive Oil;
  • Juices (Pomegranate, Pear and all natural fruit juices);
  • Tinned fish (small fish such as mackerel, sardines and tuna);
  • White bread, rice and pasta;
  • Natural yoghurt;
  • Smooth peanut butter.

Please bare in mind that this is not a comprehensive list, but just what I personally changed within my diet and what worked for me. You should always consult your medical team for more information.

Lifestyle Changes – The biggest lifestyle change for me was physical and mindfulness exercises. Getting 30 minutes of exercise a day became a rather large deal and I took up swimming. The exercising wasn’t a matter of going to the gym and lifting weights or running non stop on a treadmill. Rather, non strenuous medium paced walks around the block or to the shops. The mindfulness was a totally new concept for me all together. I had only once undertaken meditation and that was during a work health and safety session in which I fell asleep. But I figured that it couldn’t hurt. I started out with 30 minute laying down body scans, which I fell asleep to majority of the time. I tried a few different types and downloaded a meditation app to my phone. I found a variety of short 10 to 15 minute mediation sessions which were created for people with cancer and other ailments. I found these to be the best for me and I stopped falling asleep.

 

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