C: Radiotherapy side effects on tonsil and other oral cancers- Part 2 <– current article
The importance of nutrition
When my mom was first diagnosed and throughout, we have received all kinds of different advices. Some wanted us to try certain supplements, some had advised on going totally holistic and going organic/vegetarian.
Talking with other friends who have gone through the same experience, we all agree that it is really a tough decision- should there be a total diet change? Input from all around- friends and relatives, direct selling agents, internet, books, TV can all be overwhelming and confusing. Regardless of which decision we make, we have to live with the consequences- and the decision that brings on to deterioration can be a lifelong feeling of guilt. So the fear factor is hauntingly great.
In the case of my mom, she made her own decision. As a former nurse, she believed that nutrition is the key to built up a strong immune system- which is vital for her battle with cancer. So that includes having all types of nutrients and protein classes in her diet. Furthermore, gradually losing her ability to swallow and losing her teeth to radiotherapy makes it difficult to bite and swallow the fiber from vegetables and fruits.
Furthermore, she told me that organic food is just too expensive- with the price of one organic carrot, she can buy a whole bunch. And she knew that if the price is expensive, she would automatically try to cut down to save money- and if she did that, then where was she going to get the nutrition from? Also, my mom is the type who would suffer a great deal if denied food that she loved.
Therefore, she asked to be left alone and to be allowed to eat food that she loved and can swallow more easily- that includes meat and durian. Fortunately, she had never fancied fried or processed food, junk food, sweets or restaurant cooked food. So we mostly have simple home cooked meals.
At the same time, one of her friend’s friend came back from US for a short visit. This friend requested to be taken out to eat as much good food as she can because as a cancer sufferer, her daughter-in-law had forced her to eat a totally organic diet. This lady was miserable because she had to eat food that had no taste and detested. She had told my mom’s friend this- ‘if I die, it would be because I am slowly starving to death, and not because of the cancer.’
Even until today, my mom tells me that she always watched what she eats everyday to ensure she has enough nutrition. She drinks Ensure or Enercal everday- because these provides almost complete nutrients. When a patient is bedridden and can no longer eat, he/she can survive solely on being fed Ensure or Enercal via a tube connected to the stomach. Therefore, it is almost a complete food that provides all the essential nutrients.
She also lost all her teeth as the result of the radiotherapy- but she was fortunate because few years prior to her diagnosis, she had a partial denture made when she extracted some bad teeth. The partial dentures made it possible to bite a little but she can no longer take any hard food/ fruits for life.
Whatever food she takes will have to be broken into small pieces. Or else, vegetables have to be cooked longer so that they are more soft. As intake of fiber is important to ensure digestive wellness, replace hard fruits with blended fruits/vegetables juices (drink together with the fiber), oats and sweet potatos or yams. Sweat potatos and yams can be boiled till they are soft- these food are very nutritous and at the same time, very soft.
And the radiotherapy had wiped out her salivary glands- so she had problem swallowing food. We really take our salivary glands for granted. Without saliva to mix with our food, swallowing is tough. She adapted to this by bringing a small bottle of water wherever she goes- when she takes her food, she will flush it down with water each time. And it is handy whenever her mouth feels dry.
Or sometimes, if she takes mee or koay teow soup, she will take the food with the soup. With this little adaptable, she was able to eat a lot of the food that she had loved, except the hard food.
A person who no longer have salivary glands cannot take chilies, hot (means hot temperature) or very spicy food. Therefore when eating out, ensure that chilies are not put in the food.