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Should someone take supplements while they are being treated with chemotherapy?

Typically the medical community says do not use supplements and antioxidants if you are undergoing chemotherapy as it will interfere with the effectiveness of the treatment. This never made sense to me. Nutrients are essential for all bodily functions and, of course, are what the body needs to stay strong and healthy in general….it would seem that MORE nutrients would be needed when the body is being assaulted by chemicals…not less.

Many of you read my last post about Melanie’s situation (https://www.toddburrier.com/family-health/a-cancer-inspiration/). This article is a follow-up to give you some insight to this topic based on Mel’s experience.  We were blessed to have access to some of the top forward thinking minds in the the Cancer world. In addition to diet modification and exercise, Melanie was on high amounts of supplements (as many as 120 a day) all the way through her treatments. They were integral in her bodies ability to bounce back during her course of treatment and after she was finished. Here are some of the details:

The typical patient is given chemotherapy every three weeks. Often the effects of the treatments are so devastating on the body that it takes this long to recover enough to be able to get the next treatment (if blood counts don’t recover they are at risk of not getting the next treatment). Melanie was on a schedule that was every two weeks (this is called “dose-dense”). She was also on a course of drugs that is so potent that many people spend substantial time in the hospital during the treatment period. In addition, it is recommended to limit the amount of time in public because the immune system is so suppressed that it is easy to get sick.

In Mel’s case, she was able to tolerate the treatments unusually well. As I mentioned in the previous post she was able to exercise most days between treatments. Her days of treatment consisted of getting up at  five o’clock a.m. to make it to the train station in Baltimore for the two and a half hour train ride to New York city (she is blessed with amazing friends who accompanied her on each trip). She then had to walk the crowded streets of Manhattan to the treatment center where she had up to seven hours of treatment before turning around and making her way back, arriving home after eleven in the evening. She never had as much as the sniffles throughout the process despite being exposed to all manor of travel germs.

Her last treatment was July 10th and then she had her port removal surgery in late July. Some of you know that she ran the Osprey Sprint Triathlon the first week of October. This was less than three months after her final treatment.  A week later she went to New York for her first follow up with the Oncologist. This picture was taken with our daughter Allie at the celebration of the conclusion of her treatments, the day after the port removal surgery.


In the follow-up her blood was checked as part of the routine. Due to the intense battle the body has during treatment and the potency of the chemicals, it typically takes a woman’s blood 9-12 months to return to normal range, with the soonest being about six months. They told her at her three month follow-up that her blood was “better than normal.”

Melanie is not super human (she is a super wife though:-). She has amazing faith in God and she did everything that was suggested for her to do. All tests come back cancer-free (including a PET scan last week). I am not saying that supplements cure cancer. I am saying that they (the right supplements) are an important part of helping the body during the battle, and they make an incredible difference in the recovery.

I told this story recently at an event and a woman came up to me afterwards and shared that she had also just come through the breast cancer battle, that she supplemented heavily during the process, and that she had a similar experience. Feel free to share this with others if you’d like. The more people that can be helped the better. For questions email me at tburrier@gmail.com


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