What I Ate During Chemo

Cancer Cancer Cancer!  Omgosh, it hasn’t even been that long since my diagnosis and even I’m tired of hearing about it.

~snort~

Chances are if you know someone going through chemo, you know someone who is having a hard time eating.  My dearly departed Aunt Mimi and my FIL ascribed/ascribe to the philosophy that if you can eat, even when sick, you’re going to be okay.

What I Ate During Chemo

So what should a chemo patient eat?  What did I eat?

ANYTHING I WANTED!

Well, that’s partially true.  While nutrition is important for overcoming chemo and offering the fuel to repair cells, sometimes, a chemo patient simply needs calories.

Casseroles and huge meals are fine for caregivers and family, but chemo patients need something altogether different.

For the first couple of days after my first chemo treatment, I was good.  Eating, napping, hydrating.  Repeat.  Then came chemo mouth.  Let’s see if I can adequately describe it.

* When my mouth was empty, it was sore and tender to the touch, but not horrible.

* When I drank water, my mouth let me know that I best trod carefully.  Don’t be swilling stuff willy-nilly, yo.

* When I ate anything from tiny oyster crackers, that dissolved quickly, to mashed bananas and applesauce, my mouth protested by throwing kerosene around and lighting a match while running around knifing all the raw surfaces.

Yep, like that.

So what the hell to you feed someone going through chemo?

How I approached it:

#1: Everything that went in my mouth had to be nutrient-packed fuel to build new cells. Period.

#2: When #1 failed, I went with high calorie, soothing, foods.  Cause calories are as needed as fuel to make sure my body had the energy to heal from chemo.

My running list of foods that were not only helpful for me, that fed my body, but also fed my soul:

* Strawberry smoothies. These smoothies could also have added nut butters or anything else, including other fruits, as long as there were no chunks or even the hint of a chunk.  Chunk = pain.  No chunks.  Using frozen strawberries ensured nutrition and much needed fiber.  If you are lactose intolerant, use almond milk.

* Mashed bananas covered in cold applesauce.  Hello, baby food!  If you know me, you know I despise a ripe banana.  I like ’em on the green side.  So in order to eat a banana, and partake of its nutritional goodness, I had to let it get spots before mashing.  Still.  I looked at it in the bowl and thought I’d hurk, so I covered it in cold applesauce. While not particularly delish, it worked.  I got it all down.

* Naan. Yes, this flies in the face of “it needs to be mush” before I can eat it. Yet, the softness of Naan allowed me to chew very small bites at the front of my mouth, before I swallowed.  It did produce a fiery pain, but it was worth the carbs!

* Prunes, when I could stand them.  Fiber is so important and prunes got the job done.

* Pudding.  Some folks will develop an aversion to sweets while on chemo.  If they don’t: pudding!  Or Jello, which I can’t stand regardless of chemo. With lots of whipped cream!

* Milk. Has easy protein. Protein is essential for building cells.

* Scrambled eggs.  These were my BFFs during chemo mouth.  Easy to digest.  Easy to make.  No chewing required.  If your patient can stand it, throw a bit of cheese in the mix, or some milk.

* Oatmeal. High in fiber. Throw in fruit puree. Comforting for body and soul (if you’re an oatmeal lover).

* Ice cream bucket and one spoon.

* Pureed soups.

* Veggies pureed into soups.

* Mac and cheese.

* Ensure or Boost supplement drinks.  Vanilla is least offensive.  Cold.  Very cold.  While my docs and I were on the same page about supplement drinks (eat real food first), if you’re not getting your nutritional needs met, have a can.

* Nothing acidic, like the Cuties I love so much.  You think your mouth is trying to kill you now, throw in some salad dressing or BBQ sauce and see what the hell happens.  Yep, speaking from personal experience.

* Plain baked potatoes, cut into small bite-sized pieces.  You can try butter or sour cream, if you’re feeling bold.

Eating through chemo mouth proved to be difficult.  I lost weight because I simply couldn’t tolerate anything in my mouth.  I tried to eat something every two hours and every two hours I fought with myself to EAT.  Cause you know, if I ate, everything was gonna be okay. I wanted to be okay, so I tortured myself to EAT.

Obviously, this list is not exhaustive and is only based on my experience. I know some of you probably have great suggestions to add to this list.  Get to it!

Tell us!

#thefightison

 

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Comments

  1. What a bummer; I never heard of “chemo-mouth” before. And still your writing is upbeat and funny. You are SOMETHING, Lady. Hope you are back to eating whatever you want really soon.

    • BOB! Thanks, bud. I feel like if the funny ever leaves me, then you best get out the funeral dress. There have some spectacularly funny cancer moments, but this ain’t one of them. Thankfully, this side-effect lasts for about a week after chemo, so I have two weeks of catching up on my eating before the next round. 4 down, 2 to go.

  2. I’m just glad it’s almost over for you! I think you have helped a lot of people with your tips and great humor. Long after this has gone away and becomes just an unpleasant memory, people who need your advice and support (who knows? maybe even me!) will come here to read about what to expect and take comfort from it all.

  3. So sorry for you having to go thru this. 3 yrs ago my husband was dx with head/neck cancer. at base of tongue so he had radiation..directly into mouth..with a little chemo served on the side. You describe the mouth issues perfectly. We tried all of the exact things you list too. To him, the chemo made everything taste like metal so I cooked only in my Dutch ovens or skillets with porcelain inside and used only plastic silverware & utensils. That helped a lot. Scrambled eggs were his easiest dish to eat also. For about a month he wanted sausage gravy or homemade creamed chicken (only tiny pieces of chicken…no biscuits to go with it! LOL) His oncologist had never heard of that before but wanted him to get all of the calories he could so he liked the idea. After 2 months of trying so many things every day, he had to have a feeding tube for 6 months. I am so happy to say it seems to be gone from every place. Scans are all clear but we count our blessings everyday and are so apprehensive when the PET scans are due. Wishing the best to you & I truly believe positive attitudes help so much. You certainly have this. Our philosophy for each day was to LISTEN TO YOUR BODY and TREAT THE SYMPTOMS FOR THAT DAY. One day at a time.

    • I’ve been fortunate in the fact that my mouth issues only last about 7-10 days after chemo. Your poor husband. I’m glad you also included the fact that’s he’s through the worse. One day at a time!

  4. I read a book earlier this year with a character who is a chef for chemo patients. It was really thought-provoking! Glad you’re more than halfway through your treatments, Patti. High five!

  5. Just a note to say hello, and so glad to hear you have already conquered 4 rounds of chemo. Amazing Patti!! This post was so interesting – I had not heard of chemo mouth. It sounds really rough, and I’m so sorry you are experiencing it. As Joyce said above, I think you are helping a lot of people with your tips and sense of humor. Keep it coming Patti!

    • 5 rounds, with the last being next week! So nice to see you here, Haeley. We’ve gotten a handle on the chemo mouth issue, thank goodness. Thanks for the good thoughts!

  6. Janice Sly says:

    Just starting this journey but a lot of comments made already ring bells! So far, for me, scrambled eggs and ice cream (not together!) work but not much else stays down. Still working through the pros & cons. Just coming up to my 2nd round of chemo so time yet to get to grips with the right stuff for me!

    • Oh, Janice, I’m so sorry to read this. I’ll add you to my prayer book as you make this journey.

      I love fruits and veggies and I just couldn’t eat them (much) during chemo. Too rough on the mouth. I needed very soft and easy to digest protein.

      I hope you find what works for you. Hydrate and protein, momma!

  7. susan ecroyd says:

    did you have shingles as a form of the side effect of the chemo treaments? my sister has been having this

  8. Going for round 2 of chemo tomorrow… thank you for the advice… I too had a hard time with the mouth… they got me l-yisine… not sure of the spelling… and a mouth rinse that has niacin and a numming agent… that really helped!!! Thanks for the good food tips… eating was tough for me bc it went right thru me which was also painful… that’s when I got the probiotics and medicated aloe wipes that I carried with me everywhere!!!! All from from my Naturopathic doctor… I’ve also had itching issues… my legs were itching so bad… I couldn’t stop… I would put lotion on top of lotion. They actually felt bruised from scratching… So we will see what happens now on round two!!! Keep up the good work… sharing is definitely caring!!!

    • Asking for God’s grace and protection for you, Tammy. Adding probiotics to my routine was a huge help; I’m glad you’ve found them. Thank you for the love. Keep focused on killing the beast within and the good days ahead.

  9. Chicken noodle soup!

  10. Hi Patti thanks for this! Starting my first of 4 rounds of chemo in the a.m. Steroids are keeping me awake so I decided to Pinterest! Learned a lot do’s & don’t from your post and from the others posting as well! Christ’s blessing on you and your journey!

    • Debi – May God bless you and keep you on your journey. May his hand be on all who treat and love you. IF there is anything I can help you with, please ask.

      If you’re doc allows, start a good probiotic today. I should have done it from day one, but I was stubborn. Helped tremendously.

      Now, go kick cancer in the keester.

  11. Cathy Young says:

    I begin chemo next week. Got a wig had it and my hair styled similarly. Then I saw a video about losing eyelashes and brows, still seeking a few items, NOW SEVERE
    ITCHING, CHEMO MOUTH…DIARRHEA. IS IT WORTH IT????

    • I’m so sorry that you’re suffering, Cathy. All my hair, eyelashes and brows grew back, so that is temporary. I used a probiotic for diarrhea, and that worked wonders. Ask your doc if that is something you can try.

      The only person who can answer your question, is you. I pray you strength and peace.

      • Hi Cathy, I’m between rounds 3 & 4 of chemo for breast cancer,. It is not fun however it is necessary. Hair will grow back, mouth sore get better, and all the other side effects will go away! I think of it as a bump in the road of my life, and this too shall pass! The Lord peace I pray for u as well! Stay strong!!!

  12. Denise Salazar says:

    Thank you for your information. I got tomorrow for my port to be put in and will start chemo next week! I am more worried about the side effect of chemo then the chemo its self but I know it is necessary to kick cancers butt. I am working on my shopping list of must haves for my husband to have on hand when I start!

    • My prayers go with you in this journey, Denise.

      When I was going to chemo, have a warm, yet light blanket helped, as did having a light snack and a good book. Lots of people slept or used ipads or their phones, so the time spent in the chair wasn’t entirely objectionable.

  13. Cindy Smith says:

    One food I found most palatable during chemo mouth was Egg Custard. It might be thought of as a pudding, but to me it was silky protein. Find recipe for Easy Egg Custard on the Epicurious webste. I added one extra egg yolk and made five ramekins instead of six.

  14. Tammy Tubbs says:

    Hi there! I am in between chemo #1 and #2. I am so glad to have been able to read all the comments because that’s EXACTLY how I feel! Thank you for the tips and food suggestions! I have 5 more treatments and wonder if I’ll make it through. So I’ll get off my pity bus and get on the “you’re not the only one” bus!! Again thanks!

    • Hang in, Tammy. All of us wondered at some point if we would make it. It’s a tough road for sure, but it sounds like you have fight in you.

      I appreciate your comment and pray you renewed good health.

  15. I’ve got mouth issues from radiation to my neck ( breast cancer that moved to my cervical spine). My throat is on fire! I’m trying not to get discouraged. I’ve tried many of the foods you’ve suggested and they do help. Any cream-based soup works really well for me. I’m done with radiation (hopefully) and I’ll start chemo pills in 10 days. I don’t know what to expect, but I won’t be surprised if it’s more of the same for my mouth. Thank you for your suggestions!

  16. I have finished round #4 of chemo, and have the opposite side effect – cold sensitivity. If I touch anything cold, or Dear Lord try to drink anything cold, I feel thousands of tiny needles invading my hands, face, mouth, throat, etc. Try washing your hands in a public bathroom where warm, much less bot water is non existent. Thank goodness for the moist towelettes. I live in the Midwest where the temperatures forecasted for this 3rd week of July will be in the high 90’s to low 100’s. I have never liked coffee, and love iced tea. Oh, and those protein shakes are best tolerated ice cold. I spend 10 days at least with every chemo treatment trying to get enough liquid in me to stay properly hydrated. I have 8 more treatments to go. I’m planning on fighting this wicked disease with everything I’ve got. Cancer will be sorry it picked me to invade.

    • The treatment can be as harsh as the disease. I’m so sorry for your pain. I got used to using alcohol swipes in bathrooms, and still carry them with me.

      Thanks for popping in. Now, go kick cancer’s ass.

  17. Susan Ostrander says:

    I ate bowls of Chili with lots of cheddar cheese. I ate Healthy Choice Steamers. More Chili! Lemonade, water and more water. Tapioca pudding, rice pudding. Yes a whole year and a half on these foods. I was always real good with my numbers. I’m glad that part is over. Now if I can just get through this tomoxifen.

    • Chili! Gave me the shivers thinking about it – there would have been no way I could have tolerated it, but I LOVE that you did! I pray you strength for the rest of the journey.

  18. Ginnie Q.R. says:

    Just got home from surgery. Looking at post-opt appt. in two weeks. After that, chemo may be in my future. Didn’t know about chemo mouth. Thanks everyone for the information. Did anyone try yogurt or kefir?

  19. I have round 4 of 6 next week of my breast cancer chemo and I’ve had chemo mouth tne whole time. No sores, little pain but nothing and I mean nothing tastes right. Everything has a texture of corn meal or sand and sweet things are very bitter. I’m going to try eating ice chips during my next chemo and see if that helps. I’ll try the plastic utensils tomorrow. I’m living on tomato soup and oatmeal, tne only things tolerable right now. I try to eat some Greek yogurt for protein. i can only eat small amounts but I need to eat every 2 hours. They say this will all end after chemo. Let’s hope so 🙂

    • I’m so sorry. On the bright side, you will (most likely) get your taste buds back, and what a glorious day that will be!

      Scrambled eggs were my go-to for protein. I resigned myself to the fact that nothing would taste good, so I tried like hell to eat the most nutrient-packed foods my mouth would allow.

      Hang in, Laura. We’ll pray you through.

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