What an ordeal the Pancreatic Cancer Diet has become! Mom loves food. She loves to cook, loves to eat, watches the Food Channel all the time, and frequents Central Market regularly. At least she used to....
Enter Pancreatic Cancer.
Life changed. And one of the hardest changes has been her love for food.
You name it: she made it and ate it!
The cancer and subsequent treatments have caused havoc with her appetite and taste buds.
The battle to keep on the weight has been almost as trying as dealing with cancer itself. One of her oncologists told her that because the pancreas is responsible for secreting the digestive enzymes, it stands to reason that a tumor in the pancreas will disrupt that process and cause digestive upset and/or weight loss.
And that's the truth. When mom was first diagnosed she was a healthy 132 lbs. Standing at 5'7" she was slender and in good shape. She is one of the lucky ones with a metabolism that has allowed her to eat well all her life with little problem of weight gain. Right now, we'd give anything if she could just gain a few pounds! It's a constant battle of finding high calorie foods that she can tolerate, plus balancing the ravaging effects of the treatments. Getting a handle on a pancreatic cancer diet has been a priority for us.
Eating has lost much of it's pleasure, but good, pancreatic cancer nutrition is a huge weapon in the fight, so we battle on. Here are a few of the ways we've navigated these dietary dilemmas.
First, expect weight loss and taste changes. We were so consumed by the cancer at first, that we didn't pay attention to mom's slow slide in the weight loss department. Also, be prepared that the pancreatic cancer diet will change as the patient goes through different treatments, i.e. surgery, radiation and chemotherapy. Be flexible with each new phase of the treatment process, and ready to change up the menu plan.
Second, get the whole family and support team on board. Everything from shopping for groceries, to cooking and cleaning up. Taking over these chores, helped mom to concentrate simply on her cancer treatment and implementing a solid pancreatic cancer diet that she could handle.
Finally, address your concerns right from the start with your oncologist and health care team. We received great support from her oncologist and nurse team. From prescribing medication for the nausea to suggesting high protein shakes to providing some great high calorie recipes for her to try, they were encouraging and supportive. Pancreatic cancer nutrition should be a priority with your doctor, right along with an aggressive treatment plan.
Now, for some specific tips on the big food fight:
* Mom's taste buds changed almost from the first chemo treatment. She developed almost a constant metal taste in her mouth. We found that using plastic utensils (forks, spoons) instead of the metal helped somewhat. And also with the taste changes, we had to give up on the high calorie desserts. Yes, we cried when she said chocolate no longer tasted good. How much more can the cancer take from us?! She had odd cravings for more sour/tart foods and we tried to accomodate. Some were easier, like wanting tart lemonade instead of her usual sweet tea. Others required some work in the kitchen. Like her desire for sauerkraut and sausage. Remember, mom is the gourmet cook. Not us! We've had a few kitchen disasters in the past months, but as a whole we've settled into a routine. If you or a loved one is suffering on this journey, just remember that the pancreatic cancer diet is as varied as the patient themselves. They need to eat, so if something sounds good, give it a try.
* To keep the nutrition level high, we've implemented 5 to 6 small meals throughout the day, rather than 3 "big" ones. And that means we had to encourage her to eat, even if she wasn't hungry. Never knew how hard that was to do. Seems that hunger pains really do make food look and taste better!
* Medication has really helped with her nausea. Her doctor prescribes Zofran during the peaks of her chemo treatments when the nausea is the worst. It does seem to subdue her rolling stomach, but on some days, just keeping fluids down has been a chore. For those days, we work on broths, fruit smoothies, jello, Ensure and Carnation Breakfast instant protein drinks.
*In the pancreatic cancer diet, mom has learned how necessary it is to include high fiber foods, as well as consistent, daily use of Mira-lax and Konsyl to keep her constipation under control. Because of the pain caused by the tumor, she is on a fairly heavy dose of opiates. And these pain medications are known for causing constipation. Really don't need to go there if we don't have to! So apples, raisins, prunes, and a variety of bran muffins are always available for snacking. She also is fairly good about including salads and vegetables as she can.
* In our research for a good diet for pancreatic cancer, we've come across several articles on the attributes for super cancer fighting foods. These are foods that some studies suggest may help slow the growth of certain cancer cells. None are directed specifically towards pancreatic cancer, but the foods are generally wholesome and so mom has adopted them into her diet as well. They include foods such as walnuts, aloe juice and cactus pears. We ran them under the "first do no harm" test and feel they are worthy of including in her diet as she can tolerate them.
Perhaps the newest nutritional advance in the field for pancreatic cancer treatment is The Ketogenic Diet. It turns everything we know about good nutrition out the door when it comes to fighting cancer cells on a biological level. Click on the link to discover more information on this newest of pancreatic cancer weapons.
Decadent Desserts in the days before Pancreatic Cancer... Those days may be over, but mom's smile is just as sweet!
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