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.


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?


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!



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  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

    • 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.

  20. Ginnieqr. says:

    Surviving my first cycle of chemo. Feeling weak and tired. I am grateful that I can eat. Do the side effects come as the chemo cycles continue? I have 5 more cycles to go and 3 radiation. Guess I will be finished by mid January 2018. Can hardly wait. Praying for all of you.

    • My experience with chemo side-effects was that they got stronger with each cycle and my recovery was longer with each cycle. They would last about a weekish and then I’d feel a bit better, then back for another round. BUT – I was always able to live my life. Prayers go with you. Come on January!

  21. On my last round, this time. I’m a repeater.
    I also have a gastric bypass. So eating is doubly hard.
    First two days I’m Okay, the next week, I stay away from anything with grease. I trY very hard to stay hydrated. I have a protein shake every day. Chocolate is my preference. Sometimes I throw a banana in for calories and a change of flavor. I use a bullet type mixer and some ice. The bypass makes any protein tough and during chemo it’s worse.
    I cut my hair short as soon as I knew I was going into chemo. It was mid back length. Less fuss, less hair all over the place when it comes out. I love a soft bandana to cover my head when I’m in public, but I’ve gotten to the point where I don’t care very much. :). The softer the better though.

  22. Hi, my daughter of 8 was recently diagnosed with Leukimia AML it hasnt been easy for me at all since day 1 she has already finished her first round of chemo which took horrible 8 days, on and off, runny stomach,cramps,vomitting,now mouth chemo,she has appetite but her mouth is sore,its not easy for me as i feel helpless…

    • Oh, Lesedi, I am so sorry. Going through chemo ourselves is hard, but it is doubly harder watching someone you love go through it.

      My prayers go with you, your daughter and all who care for her.

  23. I had chemo #6, out of 6, 3 weeks ago. I did not have trouble with mouth sores but my tongue would feel numb, causing foods to not taste good. My husband would make me mashed potatoes. They tasted good with butter or with a light gravy. I also ate scrambled eggs, macaroni and cheese. Keep looking towards your goal and keep praying!

  24. Helen scalabrino says:

    I have had 7 chemos and 21 to go, once a week. Day 2 after chemo is really taxing and torrid
    with nausea, diarrhea and steroid cheeks. No appetite, and drink rehydrate as that us all I can keep
    down. I’m going to get up now and with my iPad as a recipe book cook up a storm of baby food.
    Helen, Cape Town,

  25. Anyone have issues with numbness in the fingers and toes? I have had it for 2 weeks after my 2nd chemo cycle.

    • Yes, it’s most likely chemo-induced neuropathy. I had it throughout my treatment and some lingers today, albeit much less than while in active treatment. B vitamins can be helpful.

      The Mayo Clinic has a list of things you can try HERE.

  26. Thank you for this it was really helpful. I have my 3rd chemo tomorrow and am dreading it. I can cope with all the side effects except for the complete lack of taste and an awful smell (Nobody else smells it)- it is so vile ..it’s s struggle to eat or drink- even water tastes stagnant . Last round all I could get down for a week was ice cold coke through a straw ( I don’t even like coke) and baked potato or boiled egg. I’m lucky I’ve not had any soreness ( touch wood) but just the thought of the smell makes me nauseas. Even toothpaste and mouthwash tastes like the smell…

    • Oh, Karen, I’m so sorry. I know this suffering all too well and my prayer is that after your FULL recovery, it will be a distant memory.

      I had an extremely hard time with brushing my teeth. My mouth wanted nothing to do with it – the smells – the tastes – the pain.

      Do the best you can at any moment. It’s all you can do.

      Hang in. You have the collective us praying.

      • Ginnie Q.R. says:

        Hi,This is for Karen. Does the smell of orange, lemon or lavendar also smell vile? Maybe a scented oil near you would help.
        Prayers to all.

      • Thank you so much for the replies and suggestions.. I bought supplies for smoothies etc but once the smell hit there was no way I could get them down. I figure I just have to eat what I can and make up for it later. Just don’t need the extra stress. Anyway this week has been a good one and I’m enjoying that and trying not to think about the next chemo on Tuesday. One day at a time. Good luck and best wishes to everyone on their journey.
        Ps Ginnie thanks for the essential
        Oil suggestion. I can’t smell them at all but have been using Peppermint oil- (can’t smell it either tho get the coolness) but have been told it should still help with a queasy tummy..

  27. I just ran across this today, thought I’d read. I’m so surprised not of these comments used a high alkaline food diet. So much available to make great juices or smoothies. You must start this before chemo. Build your body up and keep drinking! One more thing plesse… not one comment mentioned CBD cannibus oil? Such a powerful natural remedy. God put these plants on earth for our survival.

    • Mary, I WANTED to eat a healthier diet – I WAS aware that what I was eating wasn’t the absolute best, but it came down to what my mouth and body would tolerate. There was no way I could get down a smoothie.

      From diagnosis to the start of chemo was less than a week and my diet was already chock full of fruits and veggies.

      Personally, I only heard of CBD cannibus oil in the last 6 months, and I’m willing to bet many others haven’t heard of it either prior to diagnosis.

      This post was meant as a jumping-off place of ideas for those already struggling.

  28. 2 of 6 chemo. No chemo mouth yet. But I have horrible headaches and my legs are very crampy for the first week after treatment. It’s so bad I can’t walk. Nothing seems to taste very good however I do eat yogurt and flavored water. I have more constipation issues than anything else in that area. Hoping these are all the side effects and no more show up! Cancer Sucks but Chemo, sucks just as bad!

  29. I’m coming up on eight years since my diagnosis of breast cancer. I had six rounds of chemo. The best way i can describe chemo is the worst hangover imaginable coupled with the worst morning sickness imaginable for 3-4 days after each treatment. I describe my chemo diet much like my pregnancy diet: I ate what I could eat when I could eat it. Period. Water didn’t even taste good with chemo and I love water. My husband made toast one morning and the smell was unbearable. How can you not like the smell of toast? Regarding chemo mouth, I still have it. And my tongue is very sensitive to cold things like ice cream. But I still eat it.

    • I am a HUGE water drinker and I could barely tolerate it through chemo. I approached eating and drinking as a job. I didn’t like it, but I would do it.

      Thanks for sharing, Caryl. And keep on eating that ice cream!

  30. Patti
    You made me laugh hard! Thank you – I have just begun with the chemo mouth and you have allowed me to find the silver lining in all this Hell with your humor!
    Thank you and God Bless!

    • Judy – hang in. Focus on kicking the holy hell out of your cancer. Thank you for your comment. It’s a joy for me when anyone tells me I made them laugh.

      God bless you and all who care for you.

  31. John jones says:

    Going through chemo now. I rinse my mouth 3 Times a day with quarter teaspoon of baking soda and half a teaspoon of salt in 8 ounces of warm water and had no issues with mouth sores. Ask your oncologist? Mine recommended. Finished number 5 today and 4 to go! Prayers with all of you! You got this thing

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