I am currently languishing in the Perth suburbs, Western Australia.
Last October, my son-in-law Steve was diagnosed with a brain tumour (glioblastoma). Very quickly, following the diagnosis, he was whisked into hospital for brain surgery. At the time we didn’t know how much after care he would need but we offered to help out and so my wife and I travelled out to Oz to provide support.
After care wasn’t the issue. Steve really recovered well after the surgery with no real pain and none of the residual weakness that would have been present following an abdominal or chest operation.
No, the follow up treatment and schedule was the real issue.
The radiotherapy was daily, Monday to Friday, for six weeks. Whilst the chemotherapy was tablet form, taken daily Monday to Sunday during the same six weeks. Following the surgery Steve was forbidden to drive for the next six to twelve months. So, to enable my daughter to carry on working, my role was to act as chauffer. Daily trips to Fiona Stanley Hospital, Perth interspersed with trips to Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital, also in Perth. As well as various trips for blood tests and scans.
As the chemo built up in his system, the expected nausea and fatigue and exhaustion also built up. Alongside all this came the loss of appetite and corruption of taste buds.
And here is the conundrum.
What do you feed someone, who has all this going on ?
Even after the initial course of chemo and radio therapies has been completed, the dietary disruption continues.
After all, it is hard enough, under normal circumstances, to cater for the normal familial likes and dislikes of
- a granddaughter who doesn’t eat meat that isn’t chicken or ham (unless its a burger or a rissole, then almost anything goes) and has a limited set of veggie likes (eats broccoli and cauliflower but not green beans or pumpkin). By the way she loves fish but won’t eat salmon.
- a wife who loves fish especially salmon, has a short list of veggies (eats cauliflower but not broccoli and no sprouts or carrots) and doesn’t eat “spicy” food or creamy food i.e. white sauces are something of a minefield. Still waiting for the clear definition of what constitutes spicy.
- a daughter who also doesn’t like “spicy” food, likes fish that isn’t salmon or trout. Not sure about tuna ??? Eats most veggies (definitely no sprouts) and all non chicken meats have to be cooked to near charcoal point i.e. no pink
Before the tumour and chemo, Steve used to pretty much eat everything. Now he finds the flavour of most foods to be too strong, overpowering.
So, bland is the order of the day. Steamed fish or chicken predominates. Or the same but simply pan fried or baked. No sauces and definitely no herbs or spices. Some meals comprise just two tenderloin chicken pieces, total weight around 60g, steamed and maybe accompanied by a couple of carrot batons and/or a small broccoli floret.
So, how do I feed Steve without overpowering his hypersensitive taste-buds ? How do I coax him to eat a bit more as his energy levels are already depleted due to the chemo ? The lack of food does nothing to boost those already depleted levels. How do I introduce a bit of variety to his diet ?
Although he completed the initial concurrent chemo / radio therapies, my son-in-law has now started a new regime. He takes a five day course of tablet form chemotherapy, one week in four.
So, the disruption to taste, appetite, stamina and energy levels will be continuing for the next six months at least, maybe even for twelve.
Any suggestions ?