Over the past year eating food has been a bit of a challenge.
Last June and July I was in chemo & radiation (yes, at the same time). With radiation treatment I had to stay away from certain foods, like blueberries in large quantities because of their antioxidant qualities. The chemotherapy just made me want to stay away from certain foods that would possibly upset my tummy. I did not have the “everything tastes like cardboard” problem that happens to most chemo patients. I did stay far away from spicy foods, in hopes to keep my belly as calm as possible.
After about 6 weeks of radiation treatment I started showing significant signs of esophagus & throat burning. Eating food of any kind became painful. I drank numbing mouthwash before eating and drinking, even water. I also took vicodin regularly to make eating tolerable. It was no longer about staying away from foods that interacted with my treatment, it was about consuming anything to get calories. I was able to force down scrambled eggs, fried rice, and mac & cheese. I was limited to water and milk to drink. (I would put protein powder in my milk.)
I was under the impression that immediately after the last radiation treatment I would begin to show signs of healing. I was wrong. I did not hit rock bottom until about 2 weeks after radiation was finished (mid-August). I would try to get by with liquids all day until dinner time. Then, I’d get as drugged up as possible to get some solid food in my system for dinner. Often, I would do this crying.
At the end of August I spent 5 days in the hospital with pneumonia & stomach flu. The only upside to this, besides not dying at home, was getting IV fluids. I did not eat or drink anything for a few days. My insides finally got some relief from daily ingesting. I was no longer causing damage by trying to swallow, I could focus on healing the already damaged area.
Slowly, when I got home from the hospital I was able to introduce some foods back into my diet. I started with adding things like fish and veggies. I could eat things that could be chewed up to about 1/4 teaspoon. Then I could swallow this amount- while taking the numbing medicine and vicodin.
In October I began taking the oral chemotherapy pill Crizotinib. I had just been able to introduce mild fruit like cantaloupe back into my diet. (Even bananas burn when you have a throat injury.) After taking the pill for just over a week, I swallowed a pill incorrectly and it got stuck in my throat. I ulcerated my throat 10-inches behind my teeth- UGH!
This burn put me immediately to square 1 in eating and drinking. I went right back to the vicodin & numbing medicine. This time, I was unable to eat any solid foods. I drank water, milk, carnation instant breakfast, and pureed soups. I was told to stop taking the chemotherapy pill until my throat healed.
In the end of October I was instructed to start the chemotherapy pill once again. I was still using “aids” to eat and drink but I was getting by. I did not notice significant improvement in my eating until December when I added things like tomato sauces and crusty breads.
I still have some difficulty eating and drinking. I am not sure if this is because of the damage caused by radiation, swallowing the pill wrong, or from having procedures with instruments down my throat. Regardless, I put forth an effort to take small bites of food and to chew thoroughly- things all of us should do anyway.
This week was a big deal for me in eating. I ate one of my favorite dishes, that I was unable to eat last year, Blueberry Crisp. I used this recipe from Williams Sonoma. I encourage you to give it a shot. Keep in mind if you are going through radiation your doctor will not want you eating this many blueberries!