Do You Enjoy Pushing Yourself?

Dr. Kate Master Swim Meet - Breast Cancer Survivor StoryWhat did you do this last weekend? I spent the whole weekend at a Masters swim meet. Sounds super fun doesn’t it. NOT.

I almost didn’t go, but my husband was going to be away, and I figured instead of a weekend at home, my daughter and I could take a trip to Boston. She could play with her cousin, and I could go to the meet. Even still, multiple times I wondered why I bothered to drive to Boston, arrange childcare for the whole weekend, and then spend my precious days off in a pool room.

Truthfully, I have thought about going to this meet for years, but it never worked out for me to go. Or I never wanted to commit to three days away from my family to do it.

I consider myself a swimmer. Swam in high school and college. I dabbled in master’s swimming as an adult. Enjoyed the practices, went to a few meets about ten years ago. Then the practice times changed, and it was harder for me to get there. And, as I mentioned, with a young child, it never seemed to make sense to take the time to go to any meets.

Last fall I decided to focus more on swimming. I have had some issues with fitness and overtraining. Of all sports or fitness programs, swimming is what I know best. I thought it would be a good place to start as I tried to figure out what kind of fitness regimen was going to work for me.

I planned to swim at least three times a week and entered some meets. It was more than a little depressing to see how much slower my times were, even from ten years ago. But I wanted to have some gauge of where I was at and something to shoot for.

I decided to enter a regional meet in Worcester, MA last December. I thought I had been swimming enough and that my fitness had recovered enough so I could expect to improve on my times.Dr. Kate Regional Swim Meet - Breast Cancer Survivor Story

I was wrong. I performed terribly. More importantly, I felt tired and worn out. I was gasping for air on virtually all of my races. It was so disappointing. I wondered if my breast cancer medication (tamoxifen) was interfering with my ability to improve. Or, in addition to forcing menopause upon me, did chemotherapy do some damage to my heart and that’s why I was so winded.

Not that I could do anything about those things. So I stopped thinking about the things I could not control and instead considered what I could do differently. I decided to make some changes. I did not have more time for working out. Instead, I needed to work out smarter.

I changed my swim workouts a little and added more consistent strength and conditioning (CrossFit). Seems to have worked. In fact, I think I spent less time working out in the last few months. Another reminder that more is not always better.

I know I spent less time swimming which was another reason I almost didn’t go to the meet. I figured how could I expect to swim faster when I haven’t been swimming much. I didn’t want another example of my aging body and declining fitness.

But then I decided I’ll never know if the changes I made are making a difference if I don’t test it. If I wait until I know I’m in great shape to go to another meet, I’ll never go. So I signed up. Not right away, but within a few days, I started to regret my decision, started doubting myself.

Why am I doing this? I kept asking myself that question, without a good answer. When I arrived at the meet on Saturday morning, I sat in my car for a few minutes to wrap my head around swimming and the meet; and, to try to answer why I am doing this.Dr. Kate's Breast Cancer Survivor Exercise Story

It’s supposed to be fun, right? Yes. Pushing yourself is fun. Get out of your comfort zone. See what you can do. And it was fun, because I did well. For this meet, I felt strong. I wasn’t winded. I performed well in all of my events.

So different from the meet in December. However, it is because of the meet in December, and my crappy, disappointing results, that I made changes which produced better results. If I didn’t go to the first meet, I wouldn’t have known I needed to do things differently, and if I didn’t go to the second meet, I wouldn’t know that it worked.

So that’s why I compete. Pushing yourself is fun. It’s fun to see positive results. Clearly not all results are positive, though. But better things can come from disappointing results. Poor or mediocre results are not that fun, but are useful nonetheless and can be the reason for success down the road.

Put yourself out there. Be a little (or even a lot) uncomfortable. If you fail, learn from it, make a change and come back to try again. You’ll either enjoy the ride or learn something, and that’s a win-win.

Dr. Kate KilloranDr. Kate Killoran is a board-certified OB/GYN with 15+ years of clinical experience and a breast cancer survivor. Medical school, residency, and clinical practice educated her thoroughly about disease. What her medical education failed to teach her was how to be healthy and well. This she learned from her breast cancer diagnosis.

She practices what she preaches using her knowledge of health, wellness, and disease to help other women be healthy, happy, and well. She sees patients both in her office in beautiful Camden, Maine as well as online at

For more information or if you’d like to contact Dr. Kate, please visit

Is a Neutropenic Diet Necessary for Cancer Patients?

Is a Neutropenic Diet Necessary for Cancer Patients?By: By: Dr. Michael Greger, Director of Public Health and Animal Agriculture at the Humane Society of the United States.

Back in the 1960s, a patient isolator unit was developed for cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy. Because our immune system cells are often caught in the friendly fire, up to 50% of cancer patients died of infections before they could even complete the chemo, because their immune systems had become so compromised. So, they developed this bubble boy contraption where they shave you, dip you in disinfectant, rinse you off with alcohol, antibiotic ointment in every orifice, and a rotating regimen of a dozen of the most powerful antibiotics we had. Procedures were performed through plastic sleeves and everything in and out had to be sterilized and pass through airlocks, and so, no fresh fruits and vegetables.

People went crazy cooped up in the things, with 38% of people starting to hallucinate. Fifteen years later the results were in; it simply didn’t work. People were still dying at the same rate, so the whole thing was scrapped, except the diet. The air locks and alcohol baths were abandoned, but they continued to make sure no one got to eat a salad. Neutrophils are our front line of defense white blood cells, and when we don’t have enough, we’re called neutropenic, immunocompromised, so we’re put on a neutropenic diet, no fresh fruits and vegetables. The only thing is that there’s a striking lack of evidence that such a diet actually helps.

Ironically, the neutropenic diet is the one component that’s still practiced, yet has the least evidence supporting its use. Their rationale was like look, there’s bacteria on salads, bacteria cause infections, immunocompromised patients are at risk for infections and so no salad, and we’re glad there’s no studies on it because it could be way too risky to give a cancer patient a salad. So its continued use seems to be based on a ‘‘better safe than sorry’’ philosophy.

The problem is kids diagnosed with cancer come in already low in dietary antioxidants, the last thing you’d think you’d want to say is no fresh fruit. So in addition to the lack of clinical evidence for this diet, there may be some drawbacks—maybe restriction of fruits and vegetables may increase the risk of infection, compromise their nutritional status.

So are neutropenic diets for cancer patients reasonable prudence or clinical superstition? A resurgence of research started during the 90s, when the need to support clinical practice with, wait for it, evidence, became increasingly important—what a concept.

In other words, you don’t know until you put it to the test. Three randomized controlled trials were published, and none supported the neutropenic diet. This was the biggest—an all cooked diet versus one that allowed raw fruit and veggies, and there was no difference in infection and death rates.

As a result of the study, the principal investigator at the MD Anderson Cancer Center described how their practice has changed and now everyone is allowed to eat their vegetables, a far cry from “please don’t eat the salads” 31 years earlier.

Today, neither the FDA nor the CDC support the neutropenic diet nor does the American Cancer Society. The real dangers are the pathologic food poisoning bacteria like Campylobacter, salmonella, E. coli. So you still have to keep people away from risky foods like undercooked eggs, meat, dairy and sprouts. Maybe there’s no longer even a debate, yet many institutions continue to tell cancer patients they shouldn’t eat fresh fruits and veggies. According to the latest survey, more than half of pediatric cancer doctors continue to prescribe these diets, though it’s quite variable even among those at the same institution.

Why are doctors still reluctant to move away from the neutropenic diet? There are several reasons why doctors may be hesitant to incorporate evidence-based medicine into the practice. They have limited time to review the literature. They’d like to dig deep into studies but they simply don’t have the time to look into the evidence. That’s what is for.

Bone marrow transplants are the final frontier. Sometimes it’s your immune system itself that is cancerous—leukemia, lymphoma, and so the immune system is wiped out on purpose to rebuild from scratch, and so inherent in the procedure is a profound immunodeficiency for which a neutropenic diet is often recommended, but had never been tested, until now. Not only did it not work, a strict neutropenic diet was actually associated with an increased risk for infection, maybe because you didn’t have the good bugs from fruits and vegetables crowding out the bad guys in the gut. Not only was the neutropenic diet not beneficial but there was a suggestion that it could be potentially harmful. It would not be the first time that an intervention strategy made good theoretical sense, but ultimately was ineffective when put to the test.

Michael Greger M.D.About Michael Greger M.D. – Michael Greger, M.D., is a physician, author, and internationally recognized professional speaker on a number of important public health issues. Dr. Greger has lectured at the Conference on World Affairs, the National Institutes of Health, and the International Bird Flu Summit, testified before Congress, appeared on The Dr. Oz Show and The Colbert Report, and was invited as an expert witness in defense of Oprah Winfrey at the infamous “meat defamation” trial. Currently Dr. Greger proudly serves as the Director of Public Health and Animal Agriculture at the Humane Society of the United States.

Photo Source: MedicalNewsToday

%d bloggers like this: