Cooking For A Cancer Patient
When a friend or family member is going through cancer treatments, you want to help. And the way a lot of us help is to cook. Meals for the patient, meals for the family. It’s a very human impulse, one that is both appreciated and makes us feel useful, even when there isn’t anything we can really do to impact the health of a person important to us.
So we cook “our specialty” and everyone feels a little more connected. That’s good. But here’s an important piece of the equation – is the meal you cooked something the patient likes, wants or can truly enjoy?
Because the treatment – as everyone knows – can be difficult, sometimes causing nausea, an upset stomach and a metallic taste. The side effects are better contained than they used to be, but they are still a reality for many patients. It leaves many patients with a Catch-22: they need to eat to keep up their strength, but they often don’t feel like eating. That means that some meals are better than others for cancer patients. If you’re committed to whipping up a dish, here are some things to keep in mind.
- No spices! You might be tempted to go for extra flavor given the typical patient symptoms during treatment, but a spicy dish is not going to be the easiest thing to digest. Back off the spices so that you’re not creating problems.
- Be clean. Cancer patients’ immune systems are under siege, so be especially careful about food safety – washing your hands, keep foods properly refrigerated, etc.
- Prepare smaller portions. A patient in the midst of treatment is much more likely to find smaller portions appetizing. A smaller meal doesn’t seem like such a monumental project; a big meal can leave them feeling like they’ve let you down.
- Don’t be offended if they don’t chow down. Appetites come and go for cancer patients. Remember – this is not about you; it’s about the patient getting their optimal calorie intake over the course of a day or a week.
If you need ideas, there are a couple of cookbooks you may want to check out. Betty Crocker's Living With Cancer Cookbook offers recipes focused on the good nutrition that cancer patients need to battle the disease. And the American Cancer Society’s What to Eat During Cancer Treatment: 100 Great-Tasting, Family-Friendly Recipes to Help You Cope is aimed at trying to help patients deal with the symptoms often associated with treatment.
For more information about Crozer-Keystone Health System Cancer Services, visit http://ckcancer.crozerkeystone.org. You can also call 1-866-695-HOPE (4673) to request an appointment with a physician who cares for cancer patients.