When I tell people how difficult it is to gain weight, a fair number of them say, "Lucky you." Then, I explain that it's not so great.Medical Scale

We cancer patients with this issue have a lot of associated challenges. We wonder if we are getting proper nutrition. Do we have a condition called malabsorption? Malabsorption can include sugars, fats, proteins, minerals and vitamins.

Those of us diagnosed with pancreatic cancer are often also diabetic, and in addition, have trouble digesting fats. We know that you are unlikely to be able to maintain or gain with just a focus on protein … that's a diet to lose weight!

Among the too-few survivors I have met, there is often a "skinny" look. Many of us take pancreatic enzymes to replace the pancreatic enzymes we lost. Our intestines cannot adequately absorb nutrients. We tinker to balance our diet, get enough calories, to prevent stomach rumbles and intestinal cramps. Imodium is near at hand.

For me, bad days are usually confined to mornings, so I refrain from some activities early in the day. Recently, taking more enzymes helped my system stabilize. On the mission to gain weight, we can do several things:

  • Drink some of those boost-type drinks. I don't do this because it reminds me of the liquid that was in my feeding tube for over five months, and I still could taste it constantly.
  • So, other remedies. For example, I drink V-8 every day for extra vitamins, and it's a low-sugar drink.
  • Eat a lot of small meals. I went on a short cruise recently. Perfect. I went to the breakfast buffet twice, the lunch buffet twice, early dinner buffet, and formal dinner later. I gained a whopping two pounds in 5 days.

Diabetic strategies may help. I go in and out of the need to take pills or insulin, watching my blood sugar. I learned that you can generally eat more calories in the sugar-starch realm by taking insulin, compared to pills (check with your own doctor). Apparently, after my operation, what was left of my pancreas began to function fairly well again. Studying things like low glycemic index foods where sugars are absorbed slowly helps. Making your own baked goods with certain sugar substitutes and types of flour is another option. And a key factor in moderating high blood sugar is exercise.

Being thin has its upside for me — wearing small sizes now. Some days, I drop off those too-big clothes at charities and look for sales of items that fit. After my Capri pants fell to my knees a couple times, I also bought some belts. I'm back to my high school weight now, and OK, it's not distributed quite the same.

Actually, I appreciate whatever weight I am at … I am still here, aren't I?

Share Your Thoughts

Have you had a problem with gaining weight after cancer? What strategies have you tried? What worked? Share your comments below.

About the Author

Born in Dubuque, Iowa, Susan Stansbury was raised in Michigan's Upper Peninsula where her little bedroom window overlooked Little Bay de Noc off of Lake Michigan. After working in Chicago for a couple of years out of college, Susan moved back to Wisconsin. "Little did I realize this would mean a career in industry," she says. She joined some companies where she was the first woman in marketing management. She often worked on medical disposable products such as transdermal patches and antibacterial wet wipes. In 2002, Susan left the corporate world to work for herself helping small businesses with marketing needs from business plans, to research, photography and promotions. She gave speeches to industry groups in the United States and occasionally in Europe about topics like sustainability and packaging. With her clients' participation, she developed a manufacturers' expo, which she recently sold, at Green Bay's Lambeau Field Atrium. She writes an occasional article for industry magazines. Increasingly, however, her writing and photography are personal projects. Susan was diagnosed in 2014 with pancreatic cancer.

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