Thursday, August 7, 2014

Food Fight

I come from a "foodie family".  Food is love - Mom always had a good breakfast ready for us kids before school, and a warm dinner for the family in the evening.

Tommy's family on his mom's side is Italian -- if they are feeding you, they are loving you.

For those that don't have these backgrounds or a passion for cooking and creating it is hard to understand that feeling of satisfaction and completion when you present your loved ones with a good nourishing meal, and how a part of your heart goes into it.

One of the side effects of the chemotherapy is altering the way food tastes.  For a former chef like Tommy, that could be likened to maiming the hand of a master pianist.  The loss is terrible.  Some lose the ability to taste at all, others the taste is metallic, or things just don't "taste right".  It's an itch you just can't scratch when craving comfort foods and favorites.

Tommy's sense of taste has started to become altered. Metal utensils leave a metallic taste in his mouth, so we've now switched to all plastic ware. (Bonus.... fewer dishes to wash!)  The down side... I had to endure a series of  "does this taste like it's gone bad/stale" episodes.  That was a lose/lose situation there, and I have now adopted a "when in doubt, throw it out" stance. 

However, this brings the problem of getting enough nutrition in him.  Along with the not feeling good, and nausea, the food just doesn't taste right.  So there is a disappointment in the expectations and cravings that just can't be met right now.  Additionally, there are the mouth sores to deal with.  The chemo doesn't just attack the bad cancer cells; it also goes after the good cells too, and usually the lining of the mouth, esophagus and stomach take the first rounds of hits. 

Now I am NOT a nutritionist,  and won't even start with the claim that if you eat the right foods, in the right orders with the stars aligned the right way you will cure your cancer without treatment.  In my opinion, that's just foolish, dangerous and deadly. And don't even get me started on the dangerous- to- manufacture hemp oil magic elixir without some concrete, scientifically proven results.

 HOWEVER, the body needs more nutrition and more proteins to fight off the cancer, and heal against the unwanted effects of the chemo.  My goal is to be able to help him maintain a certain amount of nutrients, minimize the weight loss, and keep him feeling as strong as he can during treatment.  Food is fuel, and this fight takes a lot of fueling.

Speaking of fights.. our days usually go like this.

Me: "Have you eaten"
Him:  "No"  or "I'm not hungry"
Me:  "I didn't ask if you were hungry, you're going to eat anyway".

At which point he either gives in, or I give up for a few hours and we repeat the process. Smoothies, as long as they aren't too acidic, have been a great way to get good nutrition and calories in him when he has no appetite.  I also found a protein powder at a health food store  I can sneak into the  smoothie without him noticing.  (Shh, honey don't read that part). 

The problem remains that what tastes good to the unaltered palate,  might not work for the one affected by the chemo. Since flavors have been dulled to him, he usually piles on jalapenos and hot sauce. (We now buy each by the vat.)

There has been a good book I've found recipes that sound (and what we have tried are) tasty, and are broken down in a way you can tell if it is good for a nauseated day, or a sore mouth day, if they need more or less fiber, things that are high protein, and nutrient dense.  The book  The Cancer Fighting Kitchen has been a go-to for me for ideas, even if I don't have all the ingredients on hand, I can still switch things around enough that it tastes good to all of us.
I was told even if he didn't feel like eating - one or two bites of something - anything- every few hours is a good thing right now.  It can be applesauce, pudding, a part of a sandwich, what ever he will just take 2 bites out of.  And that is enough for now. 

~~FF's girl 

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