As mentioned earlier, whilst you're undergoing chemotherapy, you become more likely to be unable to fight infections that your body would have normally shrugged off with out problem.
One of the less wanted actions of the chemotherapy can be to cause you to develop a problem which is called neutropenia. Whilst this is something that anyone can suffer, and some people are actually born with this blood disorder, during undergoing chemotherapy it can be extremely dangerous. This is the reason that you must take note of any feelings of illness (Flu, colds, chickenpox etc) and make sure that you contact your hospital if you have any doubts about your health.
Put basically the term neutropenia describes the situation where the number of neutrophils in the blood is too low. Neutrophils are very important in defending the body against bacterial infections, and therefore, a patient with too few neutrophils is more susceptible to bacterial infections. (For a fuller description of neutropenia click HERE)
Having become neutropenic myself and managed to contract an E-coli infection I can state from first hand knowledge that this is not something you wish to experience. I had felt quite tired which I put down to my usual mid-chemo session 'run down' feelings. However by the end of that day I was running a temperature of 39.6C/103F and I knew I was going back into hospital. PDQ, which I did. I spent time in isolation and over 48 hours on an IV drip of fluids and antibiotics.
As part of my recovery routine when I was discharged I was given a special diet regime as well as some nasty self-inject-in-my-stomach extra drugs to boost my immune system. This diet (a version of which is reproduced below) is designed to guide you away from risky foods. Not just stuff from the dodgy indian or chinese takeaway or kebab house but also to make you aware of how you should approach certain foodstuffs when on chemotherapy.
Many of you may recognise this a somewhat similar to the diet regime that is suggested to women while pregnant and it's is suggested to them for the same reason.
A neutropenic diet is sometimes referred to as a "clean diet". This basically means avoiding foods which are known to contain a higher level of bacteria. You can still follow a normal diet but the advice below should be incorporated all the time your white cell count is lower than acceptable.
MEAT, POULTRY & FISH
FRUITS AND VEGETABLES.
If you are an inpatient and are following a neutropenic diet be sure that any food stuffs brought in by visitors follow the guidelines above. If in doubt ALWAYS consult the medical staff.