“I was five feet from him before he could figure out who it was. I cried, because he was a very, very good friend of mine. It seemed to confirm the fact that I was so skinny.”
– cachexia patient quote from the article Psychosocial impact of cancer cachexia
How is cachexia defined?
Cachexia was officially defined in 2011 by a group of international experts as “a multifactorial syndrome defined by an ongoing loss of skeletal muscle mass (with or without loss of fat mass) that can be partially but not entirely reversed by conventional nutritional support.”
But if you are trying to find out if you or your loved one has cachexia, or if you are wondering what to expect from cachexia, you probably feel like there’s more to understand about the wasting condition beyond its clinical definition. Some experts in the field of cachexia like Susan B. Hopkinson and Susan McClement agree. Their research has included the observation, gathering, and review of the personal experiences of patients and their family members in hopes to help other patients and healthcare professionals understand what it means to live with cachexia.
The aim of this article is to describe cachexia for patients and their loved ones. The clinical impacts of cachexia, as with many diseases, also come with emotional and social impacts that can, in turn, negatively affect a patient’s health, ability to be treated, and their quality of life. You should know that cachexia patients report a decreased sense of dignity in their experience with cachexia. Understanding, listening, and discussing the human experience surrounding cachexia helps all involved better understand cachexia from a full perspective.
Cachexia seems to fall into two modes of interpretation. In one, it is regarded as synonymous with death, from which there is no coming back. And in the other, where family members of patients usually set up camp, it is a place where the reality of cachexia must be denied and where calories must be forced into the patient at all costs in order to bring them back from the brink of death.
But what if it didn’t have to be either way? What if we told you that there was a new option, Cachexinol, that has already proven to reverse cachexia in mice with cancer, even while they still have tumors?
How Do People Describe Cachexia?
Cachexia patients describe several contributing factors responsible for their loss of dignity, but the greatest one is caused by their change in appearance.
Of course the most common symptom of cachexia is the one that is most recognizable: weight loss. This is due to muscle wasting with or without fat loss. Keep in mind, apparent weight loss is not an across the board characteristic of cachexia. Patients with cardiac cachexia sometimes appear to gain weight because a failing heart can cause your body to retain water and swell. But for many cachexia patients, like the one quoted at the beginning of this article, their bodies undergo such a change from muscle loss that they are sometimes difficult to recognize.
Cachexia causes you to look emaciated. Ancient physician and philosopher Hippocrates described a cachexia patient as having “a sharp nose, hollow eyes, sunken temples. . . .” Indeed, some of the first signs of cachexia doctors look for are changes at the temple of the head and the emergence of more prominent bone structures. You can hear this echoed in the way this patient described cachexia:
“This bony thing shows up in the mirror every morning, and my eyes fall on this creature on the other side of the mirror.”
Loss of Control
For many, cachexia means a loss of control over their lives. This is especially so for people who are otherwise independent and patients who live alone. Although, it is no doubt difficult for anyone one, as it means needing help from others. This can lead you to feel a diminished sense of dignity as well.
Cachexia is not just measured by weight loss. It’s also measured by diminished strength and performance. In a cachetic state, your body is burning energy at higher rates. Paired with other causes like pro-inflammatory conditions and reduced appetite, the patient loses muscle and fat stores. This means loss of energy and strength. Cancer therapy can cause nausea and lack of appetite. Platinum chemotherapies can cause direct muscle damage … all of these things conspire to weaken a cachexia patient.
It might start with not being able to walk the dog as far as usual. Then housework becomes challenging. Pretty soon showering and grooming are difficult. And one day, you need someone with you when you stand.
When you can no longer exercise, go to the grocery store, fix your own meals … you don’t feel in control. Being able to do for ourselves is something we as a society value and something that the cachexia patient, like this one, has to surrender:
“I don’t like being weak … frustrated, awfully frustrated about it … Sometimes I can’t even open these bottles. I haven’t the strength to open it … I’ve forgotten all about this independence.”
According to McClement who has observed many patients and their families in her research in the cachexia field, change in physical appearance is accompanied by change in social encounters and relationships.
When you have an emaciated appearance, you can’t escape the reactions of others. This can lead to a decreased sense of self and a desire to avoid others and social situations. Cachexia patients may feel like they make others uncomfortable. Also, socializing is often centered around food, and you may not be able to stomach the sight or smell of food.
The other thing that causes cachexia patients to isolate is being constantly pestered by others to eat. Incessant nagging from caring loved ones becomes unbearable, and you eventually may just prefer to avoid company altogether.
Being a Burden
Cachexia patients, especially those who were previously independent often feel like a burden to their loved ones. When you are not eating, your family is worried and might seem continuously preoccupied with your wasting. You know you are the cause of their worry, which can lead to an even more diminished sense of self by way of guilt and helplessness.
In our world, in Western culture, physical appearance relates directly to identity, worthiness, control, and self-discipline. The visible wasting of cachexia symbolizes not only a failure in health, but emotional and social failing as well.
As harsh as these realities may be, they are how cachexia patients describe living with cachexia. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
Could Cachexinol Bring Back Dignity and Quality of Life?
Cachexinol is a patent-pending curcumin-based formula that has multiple mouse studies showing mice with cancer tumor-induced cachexia live for the full length of time and regain weight.
Using a proprietary liposome technology, Cachexinol was developed by an award-winning chemist and is clinically proven to increase nutrient absorption. It bypasses digestion, and therefore can often circumvent nutritional impact symptoms, like poor appetite and nausea.
Cachexinol was developed to give patients a fighting chance against all of the dignity- and quality of life-decreasing experiences you just read above. And to give patients a fighting chance against their primary disease. The way is not force-feeding, nor is it giving in and resolving ourselves to an inevitable death sentence by cachexia. Researcher believe he way is through new approaches in treatment with next-generation options, ones like Cachexinol.
When something new like Cachexinol comes along, that packages the therapeutic benefits of a natural spice in a custom developed delivery package (liposome) and is guaranteed to get it into the bloodstream … it’s important that patients, caregivers, and their care team know and discuss it as an option moving forward.
You have the right to talk with your doctor about new options. Just like you have the right, along with our researchers, to believe that it’s possible to reverse cachexia.