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How to eat healthy during breast cancer treatment

Antonia Schnaid

There are certain cancers that are equated with an unhealthy lifestyle; however, breast cancer is not one of them.

Eating healthy during
breast cancer treatment

One of the first things that people said to me when they found out I had breast cancer was, “But you are so healthy.” I decided not to dwell on the unknown and to focus on getting better as quickly as possible.

With this being said, I admit that amid all the feelings of anguish, fear and uncertainty that came with my cancer diagnosis, anger was something I felt, too. I follow a healthy diet, I exercise religiously, and I am a nutrition and wellness consultant. I had a very hard time reconciling why this happened to me.

Pink smoothie

Even though they didn’t prevent my diagnosis, as I learned more about the breast cancer treatments I was going to need, I realized that being in such good health was going to help me with my recovery.

My decision to be healthy

There are so many phases associated with a cancer diagnosis that recovery is not something that pops into one’s mind as you’re trying to absorb the shock of what is ahead. But my doctors told me that I was going to recover, and my healthy lifestyle would play a major role in a quick and easier recovery. This proved to be true after surgery.

I was up and about within a few days. Being a type-A personality, there was no other way I would have it. Probably to my detriment, I did not miss my kid’s soccer games, volleyball matches or school pick-up. Subconsciously, I was probably trying to prove to myself that I was able to do it all, despite the circumstances.

Diet and exercise during cancer

My body felt inflamed from the radiation. Even though I continued to exercise throughout the duration of my treatment, I was not able to exert myself as vigorously as I had before.

My cancer recovery smoothie: Kale, lemon, pineapple, banana, an assortment of berries, chia seeds and coconut water.

The fatigue got progressively worse as the weeks wore on. I knew that the only way to combat this fatigue was to keep exercising and maintain an extremely clean diet. I doubled my intake of antioxidants by adding a green smoothie drink every day.

I needed to counteract the inflammation with foods considered to be anti-inflammatory. To do so, I focused on a mostly vegetarian-based diet. I added fish once or twice a week, and lean chicken or ground turkey once a week, too. I did not eliminate dairy products, but I restricted my dairy intake to raw cheeses and Greek yogurt.

My diet was rich in fruits and vegetables before I started my treatment, but now I really craved them. I needed to have a smoothie and eat a salad to feel energized. Healthy fats, such as walnuts, avocados and oils, were added to my salads. I also added turmeric and ginger to my smoothies and foods, since they are both known for their anti-inflammatory properties.

Woman cooking healthy meal

Click here to read
all about the anti-inflammatory diet.

I truly believe that the diet I followed during radiation treatment was the key to being able to function well and continue with my regular day-to-day activities. While this diet worked well for me, it is important to remember that every treatment plan is as different as every cancer diagnosis. What works for one person may not necessarily work for another.

I encourage all women who are undergoing treatment for breast cancer to check with your doctor about which foods are best for you during your personalized treatment.

More about breast cancer

My diagnosis: So much to be grateful for
The scary truth about dense breast tissue
3D Science: The benefits breast cancer detection

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