Chemo Hair Keto

I have not had a hair cut in over three years.

During the summer of 2016 I had my long hair cut to shoulder length. As the summer progressed and more information was discovered about my cancer diagnosis, staging and treatment plan, I decided to have my hair cut very short in September. I had always wanted to know what I would look like with short hair…and now I know.

It was not pretty.

I started chemotherapy at the end of September 2016, and after about three or four weeks of weekly treatments my hair began to fall out more and more. It was thinning and balding in places, so my husband and I decided it was time to shave my head.

 I am thankful my identity wasn’t really wrapped up in my looks. I was never really into beauty products nor hair products. I didn’t know how to do fancy hairstyles; it was up in a “ponytail” most of the time.  However, it was still traumatizing to have my hair falling out in handfuls when I would wash it in the shower. It was sad and fascinating at the same time. I did cry about it a few times, but I did not allow myself to dwell on it too long. I would remind myself that it was only temporary.

Flash forward to 2019 and I receive a metastatic disease diagnosis. The treatment plan suggested was more chemotherapy followed by a hormone blocker. We decided to follow the standard of care again, and I would endure four rounds of a different chemotherapy drug. It was another one known to cause hair loss.

This time I decided not to cut my hair short because I knew that it was not a good look for me. My hair was finally long enough that it looked good again.

 Throughout treatment my hair continued to thin but it did not fall out like the first time. My husband would continue to provide encouragement that my hair was not bad enough to warrant a short haircut or shaving. It was just a bit thinner than before.

So, why was my hair reacting differently?

I think it was due to the fact that we had adopted a low carbohydrate, whole food diet. We stopped eating processed “foods” and began to really research nutrition.  This change goes back to my brother and sister-in-law introducing us to the ketogenic concept that I talked about in my previous post. I also, inadvertently, ended up fasting a day or two after treatment due to severe nausea and vomiting that had to be controlled with potent anti-nausea medications. I did not know at the time that there was information out there about the protective effects of fasting during chemotherapy.

One might argue that the difference was in the chemotherapy drugs that I received. He or she might be right. However, this last chemotherapy caused more nausea, vomiting, electrolyte wasting, neuropathy, tinnitus, and taste changes than the first set of drugs ever “thought” to cause. I was only supposed to be in the clinic every three weeks for treatment, but I would end up back in the clinic a few days after treatment for magnesium and potassium infusions because the levels were too low.

Now, as some would say, here’s “the rub.” If the ketogenic lifestyle and/or fasting can have a protective effect during chemotherapy, why isn’t anyone talking about it? Why is it only now starting to see a little bit of light in the media? The research and information have been out there for a while now.

The ketogenic nutritional, dietary advice was not given to me by any of the medical professionals taking care of me. It was all information that I had to find and search out on my own.

Here are some links to information I found in a recent Google search about chemotherapy, hair loss, and the ketogenic lifestyle:

https://healthybodyhack.com/can-ketogenic-diet-help-cancer-patients-reduce-chemo-side-effects/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5842847/#!po=20.8333

https://news.usc.edu/118758/

https://www.dietdoctor.com/cancer-patients-tolerate-chemotherapy-better-fasting-ketosis (video)

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2815756/

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZCjm7Kk-Ods

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_lcOj0RYzPY

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SZMDu1TXWjQ

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_vueb9k3DiA

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fd0xVYEpESk

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JBGYRGSpQ44

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7203648/ (This one is about alopecia in a child.)

 

God Provides the Healing

Last week I chose health and healing as the words of the week on my Facebook page. I always thought I was fairly healthy. I followed a typical western diet and tried to exercise when I could fit it into my schedule. I have never smoked and never really drank much alcohol. I am also still fairly young.

I didn’t buy into the organic foods for quite a while. I couldn’t see that it made any difference in my friends’ lives, and organic produce can be pretty expensive. (I would later change my mind on the organic front after doing more nutritional research.)

My world was rocked in 2016 with my first breast cancer diagnosis. Serious health diagnoses can be scary, especially for a young mother. I got through the treatment stages and still didn’t change my eating habits. I had no idea. Nutrition was never really brought up during treatment. The medical staff were only concerned that I kept my appetite and didn’t lose weight.

One thing I did change nutritionally during this time was that I stopped drinking as much soda. Some brands would make my stomach hurt, so I just couldn’t drink them anymore due to the pain and discomfort; not so much from any nutritional viewpoint. (Yes, I knew soda was not good for me, but I hadn’t really thought about how toxic it really was for my body.)

My world was turned upside down when I received the metastatic diagnosis in 2019. Around this time, one of my brothers and his wife introduced me to the ketogenic diet. They had been low carb, ketogenic, for a couple of months and we had some conversations about it over the holidays. My husband and I started counting our carbohydrates and limiting them a few weeks before I heard the words metastatic cancer.

It didn’t take me very long to start researching and going down the “rabbit hole” to find the proper human diet. The more I looked, the more lies and misinformation I found. This can be very upsetting for people who, like me, have a chronic (or multiple) illness. I don’t know the number of times I cried when I learned the truth.

I am only a little over a year out from my metastatic diagnosis and conventional treatment. It’s still too early to tell if I have helped improve my prognosis. However, I don’t dwell on thoughts like this very often nor for very long.

I look back and see God’s providence intertwined in my life. I believe the low carb, ketogenic diets were introduced to me as tools for me to use to aid in the healing of my body.

Back in February I explained it to a friend by comparing it to 1 Corinthians 3:6-9:

“I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor. For we are God’s fellow workers. You are God’s field, God’s building.”

My brother and sister-in-law were like Paul because they introduced, or “planted,” the idea of the ketogenic diet and nutrition in my mind.

I am like Apollos as I “water” my health, my life, by following a meat heavy ketogenic lifestyle and continue to research ways to optimize my health.

Only God can provide the healing.

I feel well, I am hopeful, and I know it is all in God’s hands. He is in control and can see all things and how it will work out in the end. He is mighty, faithful, just, merciful and gracious.

I will continue to share my testimony and go where He sends me.

Right after first cancer diagnosis but before treatment.

Last fall, after following a ketogenic lifestyle for several months.