To everyone who recommended I eat more blueberries or take vitamin C supplements: You were being helpful. I appreciate your support and I bask in my gratitude for your caring intentions but I’ll shelve the advice.
Thanks to manufacturers of health supplements with big marketing budgets, it seems just about everyone knows that antioxidants are good cancer-fighting soldiers. They’re correct… except when you’re undergoing chemo. Then they’re just plain dangerous. Here’s what I’ve learned.
While I was healthy –
With our modern diet, lifestyle and environmental factors, we have ever-increasing amounts of free radicals floating around in our bodies that cause strain on our systems and in some cases, cancer. Antioxidants are the powerful critters that destroy these free radicals, keeping their effects in check. They’re found in high levels in fruits and vegetables, particularly the brightly coloured ones, as well as in some spices. For a comprehensive list, go to wikipedia.
While I’m undergoing chemo –
Chemotherapy induces free radicals and has an oxidation effect on cancer cells. The fact that the drugs cannot discern between healthy and cancerous cells is what makes the treatment so destructive but that’s another story. If I were to introduce high amounts of antioxidants into my system via diet or supplements, I’d be cancelling the effect of the chemotherapy and thus protecting the cancer cells.
I still need antioxidants to keep my system healthy which I get through a careful, balanced diet. It’s the supplementing with high doses that’s detrimental.
Eating as a cancer patient is seemingly counter-intuitive but totally logical. It’s about being aware of what I’m ingesting and often a process of re-learning about what’s “good” for me.