Today for lunch for lunch, I had glazed ham, peas, corn and green beans. That might seem unremarkable to most people, but for those of us who are battling cancer, or know someone who has (or is) battling cancer, they understand just how awesome that is.
Before my surgery, as I was undergoing tests to figure out what was wrong with me (even though I knew. Believe me...I knew, I was just waiting for confirmation), I had so much fluid build up in my abdomen that it not only made it difficult for me to breathe, but it compressed my stomach so much I couldn't eat or drink much. Add to that the fact that after my surgery I was so nauseated I couldn't eat much, then having an NG tube in to help with the copious vomiting I had....it was no wonder that a month after my surgery, I still couldn't eat but a few bites at a time. Then I had my first chemo....*sigh*.
I lost weight. A lot of weight. They put me on TPN the first time because I was losing so much weight, and was getting malnourished. So I spent the next 3 months focusing on food. The cancer treatment educators encourage you to eat a few bites every hour while going through chemotherapy. And I tried to do that...but it was hard. When everything you eat or drink doesn't taste good, it's hard to eat something every hour. I did my best to choke down a tablespoon of peanut butter, or half a banana, but most everything grossed me out. My beloved Coke - the same icy cold drink that I literally dreamed about while that stupid NG tube was down my nose and throat - tasted weird. Iced tea, my second favorite drink, was too bitter for me to tolerate. I could drink apple juice, but only if it was ice cold, and even that got old after awhile. In desperation I turned to Facebook - hoping someone had an idea of what I could drink. Gatorade - of all things - was one of the most recommended and I learned I could tolerate that. But food - that was a struggle.
You know how I mentioned all those people who brought my family meals and food while I was recovering? Most of that I couldn't eat. They could bring my favorite food, but it was all gross to my tastebuds. I'll never forget how I nearly started crying when I realized that the pot roast and veggies that my sweet friend Tabbi brought me tasted too spicy and I couldn't tolerate it. I love pot roast. I had been looking forward to that pot roast - then I couldn't eat it. My family loved it. But me...I was pretty much living on Ensure those days.
My husband, bless his heart, was so worried about me that he was constantly hounding me to eat. Anything I mentioned that sounded even sorta tasty, he went and bought. I ate nothing but Kraft Mac & Cheese for a week. He bought enough for a month. I mentioned that Nacho Cheese Doritos sounded good - he brought home a huge bag. I ate a little...but a single box of Mac & Cheese lasted me 3 or 4 days.
I remember when I first started being able to tolerate regular food again. Someone had brought us a BBQ'd brisket - and for the first time, a meat didn't gag me. My mom made us chicken spaghetti, and *that* tasted ok. I tried a cherry limeade, and suddenly there was something different for me to drink. Then sweet tea became tolerable...and day by day, I added new foods to my diet. And day by day...my stomach finally stretched back out to where I could eat a full meal. When I started adding regular food, I could eat one taco. Then it built up to a taco and some rice. Then two tacos. You'll be happy to know that last week I had 3 tacos, a double order of rice, AND a tortilla.
It wasn't all at once. I had to try pizza no less than 3 times before the magic 4th time where I could finally eat it. It took months before I could drink Coke again. I couldn't eat Thanksgiving dinner, or Christmas dinner. But by golly - I ate the heck out of Easter dinner! And it was awesome.
I've lost a bit of weight since I came off the TPN the last time. But that's ok - it's not a ton, and I'm still a bit heavy for my height. I'm not worried about it. I'm just grateful for every bite of food I can enjoy. I hope y'all don't take your ability to eat whatever you want for granted. Believe me - it's a blessing. I love all types of food - and I'm so grateful I can get back to enjoying it. The only one of my favorite foods that I haven't tried yet is a steak. But it's coming. One day soon I'm going to drag my hubs out to my favorite steakhouse, and have me a steak and baked potato, french onion soup with blueberry muffins for desert. And I'll say thanks over every bite.
And if you're out there going through chemotherapy, and wondering if you'll ever be able to eat normally again - yes. Yes you will. It will take time. And some foods you'll have to try again and again. But eventually one day, you'll try that pizza - and not gag. Or not think it's too spicy to eat. You'll just think Oh My Hell this tastes good! Then you'll eat a slice or two, and say a prayer of thanks - and know that getting back to normal - or at least your new normal - is just around the corner.