Cooking for Chemo Patients

Bento-ing from: › USA
Joined: 12 Aug 2009
User offline. Last seen 7 years 43 weeks ago.

I know some of our members have experience cooking for chemotherapy patients. What kind of food oddities have you encountered? A mentor of mine completely lost her sense of taste while on radiation therapy for cancer.

I recently finished a much milder form of chemo, but I was on it for a year, so while I didn't lose my sense of taste, I noticed that food tasted weird. (I should note that I had no food restrictions, save not to drink alcohol, and I have never been a picky eater.) Here are the things I couldn't eat, not because they weren't allowed, but just because I couldn't stand the taste anymore:

-raw vegetables
-spicy foods (they hurt too much, though the flavor was nice)
-big, dry foods (meat cutlets that were dry when cooked, big pieces of bread)
-bitter foods (vegetables slowly became less tolerable, with broccoli leading the way)
-cheese (save the occasional slice of really high-quality cheese on a cracker)
-chicken soup

To deal with it, I cooked meat that was bite-sized and in sauce so I could have moist protein, or I ate vegetable protein. I ate only cooked vegetables, and when I couldn't even stand those, I ate plenty of fruit, which my doctor said was a good thing to do. In retrospect, none of this is really a big deal since I could still have lots of good food, but it was distressing at the time. I got through it with no problems from the change in diet. I couldn't go to Italian restaurants (everything had either raw vegetables or cheese), but I found that I could always eat mild Korean food (never figured out why). Now that everything is over, my sense of taste has returned to normal and I can enjoy salads again.

Any other interesting experiences? I hear that loss of appetite and changes in taste are quite normal when going through any severe medical treatment.

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Re: Cooking for Chemo Patients

I admit that I've never cooked for a chemo patient, but while I was in Intro Psychology, my professor mentioned that many people try to tempt their appetite-less chemo patients by making their favourite foods. This can backfire, however, because the nausea that chemo patients experience can lead to an aversion to those favourite foods; the mind links the smell of 'yay, favourite food' with 'augh, nausea'. Since smell is such an enduring sense, these aversions can last a long time.

However, I haven't seen this in action, and I don't think it's kind to subject chemo patients to all-bland-all-the-time.

Did you experience any of this, Another Amanda?

Bento-ing from: › USA
Joined: 12 Aug 2009
User offline. Last seen 7 years 43 weeks ago.
Re: Cooking for Chemo Patients

I wasn't able to eat some of my favorite foods while I was on chemo, but I didn't have any lingering aversions once my sense of taste returned to normal. Once I realized that my old favorites didn't taste the same, I just didn't bother with them for the rest of the year. I had to work out a new set of favorite foods for a while, but I certainly didn't have to be subjected to bland food.

Soy sauce became my new best friend that went on EVERYTHING, which is probably why Korean food appealed to me so much. I was obsessed with apples for 2 months. In a search for new ways to cook tasty vegetables, I found several new recipes that I can't believe I never tried before.

Sometimes, gross food was tolerable if I just made it smaller, like hamburgers. Full-size hamburger? No way. Too dry, too many raw vegetables. Homemade mini-burger on a soft roll with one slice of tomato and plenty of avocado? Yay!

Luckily, I had no aversion to chocolate (thank goodness!), so even when I couldn't stand to eat much at all, I could still have chocolate-flavored protein shakes/meal replacements.

The Fat Lady
Re: Cooking for Chemo Patients

I've been hospitalized alongside many chemo patients, and the weirdest thing I noticed was that every single one of them--I mean, dozens and dozens--could eat regular old tomato soup (I'm sure the cafeteria was just sending up reconstituted canned soup) even when they couldn't keep down anything else. Even the nurses thought this was weird, though they said it was very common.

On other occasions, I've been the main cook for a couple of chemo patients, and they ate and came to crave a pineapple sheet cake I brought over now and then. I've always supposed it was the tartness of the cake, and its moistness, which made it palatable.

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