Near the end of her radiation therapy, a friend of mine felt so sick that she stopped eating solid food altogether. Two weeks later, she still could not get back on a solid diet.
Many of us have been there after chemotherapy, radiation, or both. A combination of nausea and vomiting, along with absence of taste and appetite and negative psychological factors, can simply make it impossible to eat.
For me, the worst period was when I was hospitalized after my fourth bone marrow transplant; the sores in my mouth and throat made it so difficult to swallow that I was put on a feeding tube.
After the tube came out, a protein shake was delivered on my tray at every meal. It was made with Lactaid milk, vanilla ice cream, and whey protein powder. Although dairy foods are not usually recommended after cancer treatment, a little ice cream can go a long way, and mixing with Lactaid milk made it easier on my stomach.
Ginger tea or combinations of ginger with lemon or lemon balm provide relief from nausea, ultimately making it easier to eat. A regular teabag in half a cup of ginger ale worked very well for me.
Soft foods like applesauce and pudding help pave the way to eating solid food. It’s easy to make your own applesauce. Or, better yet, try making a fruit compote along the lines of what my mother and I concocted. Slice an apple, strawberries, and grapes (or whatever meets your taste), put them in a pot, add a small amount of water and a slice of lemon, and simmer until the whole thing is soft. You won’t be sorry.
It is generally recommended to eat snacks throughout the day after cancer treatment, rather than limiting yourself to three square meals. It’s also suggested that you eat foods low in fiber, fat, and lactose, as well as avoiding fried and spicy foods.
And this isn’t the time to time to worry about your weight. In fact, after treatment most people are trying to gain weight. So have that cookie or piece of cake.
Drinking at least eight 8 oz. glasses of water a day is also important. To make water more palatable, I added a slice of lemon.
For some general guidelines on diet for cancer treatment side effects, visit the UCSF Medical Center
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