30. Menus and statistics

Pub luch menu

Today I thought I might be able to give science and Medicine a rest – after yesterday’s marathon on preventative treatment. My topic today is just as important – Menus and what flows from them, inevitably data and statistics. So first, why bother? Well actually, menus and the food we eat (or can’t eat) is pretty important to us cancer patients. When you are told you are going on a 4-6 months course of chemotherapy you attend briefings for all sorts of things. One of these is given by your own assigned dietician. Mine is called S and she is marvellous, very commonly exhorting me to drink my Ensure high calorie diet drinks as often as possible, especially immediately after I have had my Chemo day’s worth of intravenous medication, the E and O (Epirubicin and Oxaliplatin) of my EOX combo cocktail. Here’s what a bottle of Ensure looks like:

Ensure Vanilla drink
Vanilla-flovoured high calorie Ensure ‘milky’ drink.

This one is vanilla flavoured and ‘milky’ to the taste buds (what’s left of them after being poisoned for about a fortnight after taking EOX). Doesn’t it look a harmless, inviting little thing? Well it’s not. Two days after you start consuming these things you become overwhelmed – they start to taste foul and sickly and the last thing you want to do is consume at least 1000-1500 calories-worth (about 4 -5 bottles). What do I do? You mean apart from skive and lie? Well now, I think I have found the answer, for me anyway. I pretend my ‘creamy’ ones are milk and then warm them up and pour the vanilla (Ensure) ‘milk’ over my Ready Brek, sprinkled randomly with Weetabix (my double blind controlled trial remember – c’mon, keep up!). Mix, et voila!, instant porridge with chemotherapeutic properties (kidding really!). But at least I get a shot of Ensure with least damage to appetite.

What else do I do? My dietician recommended I try pineapple which contains an ingredient that revives flagging taste buds. Mine flag from morning to night, let me tell you. If I’m eating pasta (in a tasty sauce, like bolognaise), with a plastic fork (to cut down on cold steel of an ordinary fork-induced cold, tingling sensational aftershocks from the side effect of Oxaliplatin), then if I ate the fork rather than a piece of pasta I wouldn’t be able to tell the difference! However, both the pineapple and plastic cutlery tips work – especially during the first 10 days of seriously bad after effects of Combo Chemo.

Effects on your partner are just as devastating. How would you feel after cooking a wonderful chicken gourmet meal in sauce with golden crispy, hand-crafted chips and beautiful freshly compiled salad and plonked it down in front of loved-one, to be then told, “I’m not keen on that smell; I’m not hungry now; could you take about two thirds of that off my plate”? You’d be pretty p****d-off, right? A small conflagration the size of the second world war might ensue, and a truce will be a long time in the offing? Am I right, am I right? Well who’s to blame – no-one, see! It’s that damned cancer again, and this time, it’s treatment with Chemo that is causing the grief. Trouble is, you can’t take it outside and give it what it’s been asking for. Nope, you both grin and bear it, and hope the other two thirds of that meal are not where the threat of being was – in the pooch’s belly (if you have one) or the back of fire (if you have one – we nearly do – a multi-fuel wood burner instead). But it does the job of being a threat alright! The rest of my menu? See below for stuff that works for me!

Wait 10 days – and all will be better with the world. Meantime, don’t weigh yourself, you will lose weight, it’s inevitable but your aim is to minimise the rate of loss. I like to think I’ll be at my last Pre-chemo body weight by about day 14 – gaining a fair bit from days 10 – 14. Weighing yourself is scary – another tip I learnt from my dietician, S. So, don’t do it – just eat what you can (and then some) whenever you can – even taking aboard another Ensure drink – this time a ‘juicy one’.

ensure stawberry drink
Strawberry -flavoured Ensure high calorie diet drink

These are marginally better than the ‘milky’ ones, in my opinion. I try them neat (Yuk!); diluted like a cordial – better; and after 10 days are up and I can start on ‘cold’ stuff again – so, I might even try a ‘frozen lolly’ variant – neat tricks eh?

I take most of my calories as soup – home made, canned, pureed meal even as I move to solids. But I really just long for the last ten days of the Chemo cycle when I can get back to ‘normal’ food as soon as possible. The one shining light I have to look forward to during this phase is that I am encouraged to eat as much chocolate as I like. Well, I do like, and I have just consumed the best treat of the last 3 months – a Cadbury’s Crème egg – courtesy of an Elaine treat on her return from her Saturday morning ‘Jazz’ exercise class. Damn -her, she’s so good and conscientious!

I think I’ll skip the statistics now – for today anyway. All this talk of food has made me feel like an early lunch! But, I’ll whet your appetites for numbers for tomorrow:

My reminder of a couple of days ago has certainly done wonders for visits to the Cancer Blog site. Yesterday (8 January) brought 21 visitors (from the UK, New Zealand, Vietnam, Australia, USA, Mexico and Spain) and 90 viewings of different blogs (an average of 4.6 per visitor). This is the second highest ever! Must be Ruthie Foster’s music, eh?

Well that’s all folks but here’s another female music artist I like a lot, Shawn Colvin. Try her early albums first and then work forwards. I’d recommend the 1992 CD “Fat City”, and the tracks 1, “Polaroids”, 3, “Tenderness On The Block, and 8, “Set The Prairie On Fire” as exemplars.

Shawn Colvin Fat City Album
Shawn Colvin, “Fat City”, 1992.

Back soon folks!









2 thoughts on “30. Menus and statistics

  1. I like the various strategies you’re adopting for food intake at different stages Colin. Revival of taste buds using pineapple is just one of the many things I’ve learnt from your latest blog.
    My favourite spaghetti bolognese recipe is the one by Gennaro Contaldo (see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jyayNr65OHc ). If you don’t like the recipe you’ll get a laugh out of Gennaro’s Ital-english!
    Peter B.


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