Q: My sister is undergoing radiotherapy after chemotherapy. Her skin is incredibly dry – what can she use to help alleviate this? Also, do you have any suggestions for helping to build her up again once she has finished treatment?
A: There are many emollients available, both over the counter and on prescription. Pharmacist Shabir Daya recommends Botanical Therapeutics Skin Cream Plus for Extra Dry Skin (£16.95, from Victoria Health), a natural and highly effective moisturiser for face and body.
Also try homoeopathy. I know how effective this can be from friends. Helios Homoeopathy recommends applying Organic Aloe Vera Gel (£5.57, from Victoria Health) after each radiotherapy session. Your sister could also use Helios Burns Cream (from £7.65, helios.co.uk, tel: 01892 537254), which contains soothing hypericum, calendula, cantharis and arnica, three times daily during the treatment period.
Loss of appetite is common so Daya recommends a high-quality protein shake. Nature’s Plus Spiru-Tein (in chocolate or vanilla flavour, £22.15 for 17 servings) contains vitamins, mineral and amino acids. I have seen its revitalising effect on several people convalescing after serious illness. Mix a scoop with 225g skimmed or whole (organic) milk or juice.
Eat lots of fresh vegetables and fruit. If munching five to ten a day is tricky, juicing is a simple way of consuming these nutrients. The Haven Breast Cancer Support Centres emphasise the power of good nutrition, and have a website (thehaven.org.uk) that covers juicing and also sprouting seeds.
Cancer survivor Bernadette Bohan has set up a 3-day Wellness Programme, at the Grove Health Spa in County Cork, Ireland. I’ve known Bernadette since she wrote her first book, The Choice, about her two bouts with cancer, and admire her hugely. Her website, changesimply.com, has lots of helpful information.
For people undergoing treatment, Healthy Eating During Chemotherapy by Jose van Mil (Kyle Books, £12.99*) has been well-reviewed. Chemo often leads to loss of taste and texture, and also to a sore mouth. This book is specifically aimed to tempt patients at this time. NB Although it emphasises healthy eating, the recipes use some ingredients excluded on a ‘clean’ (neutropenic) diet followed by some people with weakened immune systems.
Be CO safe
Hannah Thomas-Jones, 14, was on a family camping holiday in May when she died, apparently poisoned by carbon monoxide (or CO ) fumes from a disposable barbecue brought into the tent at night. CO is a colourless, odourless but highly toxic gas, which can be released by any faulty fuel-burning appliance, including boilers, cookers or fires. Every year, at least 30 people die and many more are left brain-damaged. Continuous low-level CO emissions can lead to chronic illness. As well as installing an audible CO alarm in your home, take a mobile CO detector when travelling. Fire Angel Carbon Monoxide Alarm, £24.99 from Victoria Health, is portable, has an alarm and LED display and is powered for seven years.
Log on, zone out…
It’s not often a male reader tells me a meditation therapy is ‘transformative’, but that’s what father-of-two Nick says about Headspace Meditation (getsomeheadspace.com). Buddhist monk Andy Puddicombe, a clinical meditation consultant with the UK Healthcare Commission, offers 365 days of (nonreligious) guided meditation in bite-sized chunks via the web or as an app. Nick says: ‘I’ve been through two years of therapy, taken Prozac, done yoga and developed an affection for wine. But there is nothing that can touch Headspace for rapid results. Within ten days of meditating, my problems faded, my relationships improved and my sense of wellbeing increased dramatically. Sleep is better. I have more energy. I focus on the positive and I work far more effectively. My message is that this simple technique can achieve great things with little work.’ You can trial Headspace Meditation free for ten days, then choose from a range of subscriptions, eg, yearly at £4.99 a month.
Book of the Week
The River Book
by Tessa Wardley (Bloomsbury, £14.99)
If you love being by water, you will love this inspiring tome. And if you have children, you will do a little jig at the brilliant ideas for holiday entertainment. It delivers on its subtitle: 101 Ways to Relax, Play, Watch Wildlife and Have Adventures at the River’s Edge. It is irresistible for anyone, especially those who loved The Wind in the Willows (and still remembers what Ratty and Mole had for their picnic).