Tuesday, March 27, 2012

How to Feed a Cancer Patient

My Background:
Anyone who knows me well knows that I'm a little diabolical when it comes to food.  Yes, my recipe blog is filled with evil dessert recipes and cheese filled pasta dishes, but did you also know that I rarely use white flour, love to hide spinach in foods, almost always buy brown rice, whole-grain pasta, and whole wheat tortillas, and far too occasionally for my family's taste cook with red meat?  I guess I'm of the ilk that if we're going to enjoy sinfully delicious desserts in our house, then I'm going to try my darnedest to balance it out with healthy choices for most everything else. 

 I also happen to be one of those stubborn moms who refuses to coddle to her children's food fetishes.  If they don't like what we're having for dinner, then too bad for them.  They need to eat at least a couple bites and then fill whatever hunger pangs are still left with leftovers and/or any fruit or vegetable they can find.  No one ever leaves the table hungry, but no one gets a made-to-order substitute meal either....not even a PB&J.   It may sound harsh, but it works for us.  The kids know the rules and we only very rarely have any dinner-time stress at our house. 

Spencer's Background:
Despite having grown up with whole grain foods as a regular part of his diet and the aforementioned dinner-time rules, Spence has always been one of my pickiest eaters.  He is the only one in our family who disliked when I started the recipe blog, since it meant we were trying new recipes several times a week, instead of sticking to the same rotation of 20 recipes.  He's also the only kid who has a meal that he absolutely refuses to even take a bite of....fajitas.  He still doesn't get a substitute meal, but I gave up years ago trying to get him to take a bite of them. 

Despite all his pickiness though, when presented the right foods, Spence's appetite historically has lived up to the teen boy reputation in every way.   Bags of chips have had to be hidden, frozen treats of any kind are devoured, and baked goods are lucky to make it even 24 hours when he's around.  Before his diagnosis with leukemia however, I noticed that his appetite was not as robust as it had been.  Spence being my first-born though, I chalked it up to the fact that  perhaps he just wasn't growing as quickly as he had been.  We had a big "aha moment" when we discovered that he had leukemia.

Now he's in his 3rd round of chemo and has steadily lost weight over the course of his treatment.  He's now 5'9" tall and barely weighs 120 lbs.  The docs really, really wanted him to beef up while he still felt okay between rounds.    They prescribed appetite stimulants, gave him doctor's orders to eat fatty foods, and basically told him to stuff himself silly with whatever foods he felt like eating.    But it's not working.

Currently he feels okay and yet is still eating like a bird.   Nothing sounds good, especially hospital food and now he's even getting sick of most fast foods.   We're running out of ideas to get him to eat and know that he's likely to start feeling cruddy any day now as the side effects of the chemo kick into high gear. 

Our Solution on How to Feed a Cancer Patient: 

Throw any and all food ideals out the window and bow to his every whim and fancy. 

He wants me to make him Turkey Wafflewiches ...again?  Fine! 

He wants me to drive all the way to Dairy Queen and buy him another Butterfinger blizzard?  Great! 

He wants us to stop at yet another fast food restaurant on the way to the hospital?  Yay!

He utterly refuses to eat a bite of his salad?  Okay. (I guess)

He wants us to hike to the top of Mount Everest and make all his food into cute happy faces?      My pleasure!  


Food He Actually Still Likes
Eggo Waffles
Hard-boiled eggs
Pizza--especially homemade
Candy (this one is waning though)
Chocolate milk
Turkey Wafflewiches
Butterfinger blizzards
Fast food (when he's in the mood)


  • Apparently Spencer's rash is lasting long enough without letting up that the docs are now convinced that it actually IS due to a medicinal allergy.  So how do you figure out which of the gazillions of meds he's been receiving is the one he's allergic to?  By process of elimination, they've determined that the likeliest culprit at this point is the Bactrim, which is an antibiotic given to him every Saturday and Sunday as a preventative measure against infection.  He's been receiving it the entire course of his treatment, but they say it's not unusual for it to take time to build up enough in his bloodstream to start causing issues.  They'll replace the Bactrim with another antibiotic which will be administered intravenously once a month.    Spence is sure hoping that the Bactrim leaves his system soon.  He's tired of being red and itchy. 
  • With three different meds that he's now allergic to (penicillin, ketamine, and now Bactrim), he's definitely going to need a medical alert bracelet when his treatment is done! 
  • Ellie's stayed home from school today and yesterday while she recovers from a nasty cold.  We're keeping her far, far away from the hospital in the meantime. 

I thought a good food quote would be perfect for tonight's post: 

"If you ate pasta and antipasto, would you still be hungry?" 
                                                                                                        ~Author Unknown


K said...

I just thought of the best gift to send. Thanks for the idea!

I am not allergic to bactrim, but I swore I would never take it again after last time.

Hope his rash goes away soon!

R said...

Not a long list of food that he likes. No wonder he's losing weight.

Sure hope his rash goes away quickly, and he doesn't develop any more allergies. I am also allergic to bactrim.

Hope Ellie gets better quick.

Trisha said...

Still hanging on to your every word. We love the updates and they help us know what to pray for specifically!

The McArthur Family said...

I've been exercising restraint in dropping off treats (as I remember you requesting that dessert not be brought with drop-off dinners), but if Spencer likes cookies and can still eat them, then I would LOVE to keep him supplied. :) Can I drop them by the house or do I need to take them directly to the hospital? What are Spencer's favorite kinds? And, if homemade cookies are not his thing, are there store-bought kinds he likes (i.e. Oreos, Nilla Wafers, etc.).

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