A woman wants food but her stomach refuses


Vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans, lean protein, blah, blah, blah. That’s what the experts told me to eat during chemo. What did I want to eat? Pizza and French fries. I tried very hard to eat right, and most of the time I did, but sometimes I just couldn’t. Chemo did a number on my digestive system and just one of those magical beans the experts kept pushing could cause a Mt. Vesuvius-style eruption in my stomach (and, ahem, elsewhere!).

Hard to digest foods

So this tip from a registered chemo dietician was terrific and really helped me: on the days when you can’t tolerate hard-to-digest foods, eat, within reason, what tastes good and can be tolerated. In her opinion, it was better than not eating anything at all. And there were days where I could not eat. Sometimes food just tasted weird and even water had a strange, metallic taste to it. I followed her fantastic advice.

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(Caveat: I am not a medical expert. I’m just relaying what worked for me and it was under the advice of a certified cancer nutritionist. So always check with your doctor or health provider first.)

Although I have never in my life craved pizza and French fries - not even during pregnancy when one minute I was throwing up and the next minute I was chowing down on a turkey hoagie - the curious combo became my go-to sustenance.

Healthy but still tasty

Luckily, in between treatments when I felt a bit human, I feasted on much healthier and tasty dishes my kind and generous friends and family brought me. Perfectly baked salmon with creamy mashed potatoes and fresh green beans! Homemade veggie soup, garden salads, manicotti, meatloaf; all of it delicious!

My sister brought me organic apple bread from a gourmet bakery near her house that saved me on many a night when, for some reason, during chemo, I would wake up in the middle of the night starved.

I’d get out of bed, put slices of that apple bread in the toaster and slather it with butter, its aroma filling up the house. My husband said he knew when I was up in the wee hours of the night when he could smell that bread toasting.

Doing our best

So, what’s the moral of this story? It’s okay if you don’t eat like a nutritional champ all the time during chemo. Just do your best. It’s all you can do. For me, I’m not sure if my stomach will ever be strong enough again to digest beans. In the meantime, my new go-to treat is pizza and French fries.

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