CSN Login
Members Online: 18

My husband will not eat

arndog64's picture
arndog64
Posts: 536
Joined: Mar 2011

My husband has no desire to eat. He amy eat a few bites of dinner and that is it for the entire day. He is drinking water. I have ensure and Carnation breakfast shakes. But, all he wants to do is sleep. I know he needs the rest. But, he needs to eat as well. No feeding tube at this time.. Is this normal.

Pam M's picture
Pam M
Posts: 2194
Joined: Nov 2009

It's all too common. Makes sense. Most of us lose the desire to eat. Add in the fact that for most, food is tasteless, or tastes weird or awful. Add in the fact that for most of us, it's anywhere from kinda painful to excruciatingly, impossibly painful to eat.

The more he sleeps without eating, the more his body will want to sleep. He won't have the energy or strength he needs to be getting up and around. The longer he takes in inadequate amounts, the worse he'll feel. Some folks have to be hospitalized for just this reason.

I noticed that I felt much better when I took in adequate calories and water. Many folks here will tell you that they were at their worst when undernourished and/or dehydrated. Problem is, you don't think to drink, and don't want to eat. That's where my PEG served me well, even though I didn't want to even do those feedings. I had to develop an attitude about food and water (and later, PEG feedings) that it was just another prescription - I didn't skip my anti nausea meds - I was not allowed to skip a meal, smoothie or tube feeding.

Maybe if you track what he takes in, and show him the difference between what he's been drinking and eating and what docs recommend, he'll make more of an effort. You guys should really let his docs know if this lasts. They may have some ideas other than a feeding tube (if you all are against the idea of a tube).

He REALLY needs to eat and drink (well, by eat, I mean get in calories - lots of my meals were smoothies or canned liquid nutrition that I drank). It helped me to start a calorie and water intake log - if I didn't track it, I felt I ate and drank more than I actually did. Funny - when I used to diet and didn't track, I felt I ate less than I did. Hmmmm

Good luck to you all - and push that nutrition. Keep up the good work.

Kent Cass's picture
Kent Cass
Posts: 1746
Joined: Nov 2009

He has to get Nutrition into him. Bottom-line, which all agree with. It's the ammo the body needs to fight this fight. On Monday- #1 Priority is for you to make this an issue with your C med team. You don't have anything on your Profile page as to the specifics of his C treatment, etc., but I see he is getting rads twice/day, and I have the impression he is early in treatment. If such is the case- then you and he must correct this ASAP, as this is a critical matter. Whatever the reason for his not eating/lack of intake- he either has to force it into his mouth and throat, or get a PEG. Lot of us here consider PEGs as essential, and am very thankful we had our's. Might seem like a major deal by getting one installed, but it sure wasn't for me, and the benefit was priceless.

kcass

adventurebob's picture
adventurebob
Posts: 690
Joined: Jun 2010

It's gonna get worse if he doesn't eat. Do whatever you gotta do but do it fast because even a day without nutrition can cause some problems. There are drugs that stimulate the appetite. Ask your doc. I recommend marijuana because it's legal and can be prescribed and is just a plant. That's in California but also some other states. All the old rules about not using drugs need to go out the window in the face of cancer. Cancer fights dirty; thus no rules anymore. Most cancer patients don't finish the recommended treatment because of complications from malnutrition. Gotta get the calories in. Through a feeding tube or through an IV or down the hatch like normal but they gotta go in or the treatment is just a horrible nightmare waste of time.

Bob

DrMary's picture
DrMary
Posts: 527
Joined: Nov 2010

Doug went almost 3 weeks with little food - that was during his worst nausea. I don't recommend it, but he recovered. It might help to read some anorexia sites, as he is probably experiencing some food avoidance issues, as well as just lack of appetite.

Appetite stimulants are a good idea, but also make sure there are no mechanical reasons for him to not want to eat (constipation, acid reflux, gas, etc.).

I kept track of everything Doug ate in the beginning (I used a website called Caloriecount, but there are many - they have huge food databases). We started with simple goals, such as adding in 200 calories more per day every few days.

Go for nutrition density - Boost plus or Ensure plus (the ones with 360 calories/bottle) rather than regular. If you are making milkshakes and he can tolerate fat, throw some whipping cream in (50 calories per tablespoon and it helps retain fat-soluble vitamins).

Try to get him to exercise a little - a short walk (with Boost Plus or a milkshake waiting when he gets back) can help the appetite.

If you are trying to feed him "dinner" or other meals, stop trying so hard. He will not be eating normally for a while. Focus on trying for about 300 calories every hour as a goal - even if he is sleeping 14 hours per day, he'll still get 3000 calories in that way. Unless he can swallow very well, I'd stick to the Boost plus or milkshakes for these. Doug got to the point where he was getting about 2800 calories in that way every day and then started to add in bites of food at our meals (I tried to make these high calorie as well - mashed potatoes and gravy, egg salad, cream of vegetable soup).

Be prepared for some resentful glares as you approach with the hourly cup of nutritional drink - being that kind of a nag is a tough job, but someone has to do it.

Kent Cass's picture
Kent Cass
Posts: 1746
Joined: Nov 2009

I see by going back to page #2 that on 3/31 you told of his C- base of tongue w/numerous lymphs involved. This leads me to think his throat is taking more of a hit than his mouth, which is the opposite of me (NPC, unknown Primary). And, it means he's likely still very early in the chemo and rads. With me, just putting anything in my mouth became impossible, with the exception of MM, ice and Morph, thanks to the sores all over my mouth and scalding of my tongue. As I've stated, and I am not alone- I wasn't given an option on whether or not to get a PEG, and was told it had to be before treatment began. The common sense of a PEG to eliminate the Nutrition struggle just seems obvious to me. And, yes, if the body is only getting water and the chemo poison(s) and rads for the system and blood- does not seem like one is helping oneself as good as one could.

If he is not eating because of only the taste issue, then I would agree with Dr. Mary, however. If it is because the physical pain in his throat is too great, then that makes it another matter. Maybe it is not time to panic, but at his stage in treatment it would seem logical that dragging one's heels on an issue that is not likely to correct itself, and which may lead to unnecessary complications due to malnutrition- I have problems trying to figure-out why one would do that. PEGs are not that big of a deal, at least to me and some others here.

I must stress that only you and your husband know what is exactly going-on with him, and how he is dealing with not eating. I usually find a lot of positives from Dr. Mary, but do find the "three weeks" that she said of her hubby's lack of Nutrition as kinda troubling. In the worst of times I could only ingest about half of what was suggested for me thru my PEG, and I still ended-up spending 4 nights in the hospital in week #6, and lost 18% of my body weight.

I hope what I have written in the post is taken as it is meant. I am not here to offend- only to try to help w/advice gained by my experience. We are all together in the battle against the dreaded H&N C foe.

kcass

arndog64's picture
arndog64
Posts: 536
Joined: Mar 2011

He says it hurts to eat. He has been sleeping the entire weekend. He is resting his body for next weeks radiation sessions. This morning he ate 1/4 of a pancake and had a glass of milk. Other that that nothing else all day. They never mentioned a peg tube. I asked him if they offered one and he said no. Can they still put in the feeding tube while he is receiving rads and chemo?

sweetblood22's picture
sweetblood22
Posts: 3230
Joined: Jan 2010

They can put it in now. My dr wasn't happy when I first refused it before treatment, because I didn't have weight to lose. He said if I lost 10 lbs he would put one in. I decided to just get one before while I was still strong and doing ok. I decided I'd rather be pro active vs reactive. I am also a person who loses her appetite easily. In times of stress I lose weight. Some people over eat. I cannot eat.

Everyone who is a regular here knows I am pro peg. Some people don't have a lot of weight to lose!!! It's not ok to go with out eating. I agree with kentcass.

I don't comprehend torturing yourself trying to get in nutrition when the tube is available. With the amount of pain I was in and with what happened to my mouth, there was no way I could eat by mouth. Period. The pain and sickness of rads was enough torture.

It's not ok for him to go without food - water for too long. I don't care what any one else has to say. I can tell you that losing 30% of my body weight and being 87 lbs SUCKED. I would have died without my tube.

I would talk to your hubby and talk to his doctors. We are all individuals and not everyone can go without a feed tube. I have to tell you I get really pissed off at those who say, "we toughed it out'. Like some of us were to weak to do it. I want to see them eat when their mouth is constantly bleeding and they just spit out the entire roof of their mouth in a napkin. Sorry if I'm cranky. I think I'm fired up tonight.

Without adequate food and water his pain will be worse, side effects will be worse, and he will heal more slowly. Too many HNC patients die of malnutrition.

arndog64's picture
arndog64
Posts: 536
Joined: Mar 2011

I hear you sweetblood. I am in tears now. He has hardly had any food since Wednesday and I am really scared. He just threw up the sip of water he took. I just called his oncologist to see what kind of medicine ha can take for an upset stomach. They gave hine some to take for the first three days after chemo.. But did not givce him anything for after the three days. This is all new to me and I know nothing about treating a cancer patient. I am learing from experience and you wonderful people on this board. So, thank you all for your advice. And I am going to check out getting him the PEG..

sweetblood22's picture
sweetblood22
Posts: 3230
Joined: Jan 2010

Now I'm crying. None of us knows what to do in these situations, and it is all new and overwhelming, we just do our best. Don't panic. Just voice your concern to his docs and discuss the peg tube with them and hubby. I'm glad your hubby has you beside him. I didn't have a caregiver and it was hard. I know this cannot be easy for you either!

Hang in there, sweetie. I know it's tough.

adventurebob's picture
adventurebob
Posts: 690
Joined: Jun 2010

Gotta agree with Kent and Sweet. Panic is never good but not eating is a BIG deal. PEG would be the obvious solution here with better pain meds. 1/4 pancake and a glass of milk is 200-300 calories max. Not sure what he weighs but I can't imagine his body needing less than 2000/day right now. Bad things start happening fast with malnutrition. If you can get more calories in today, any calories, that would be fantastic. Tomorrow should really be PEG installation day. I am not a fan of the Ensure or any of the instant corn syrup drinks but that would be so much better than nothing. There is a product called Orgain that is sold at health food stores like Whole Foods that packs 250 calories + 100% of daily vitamins in a 12 ounce package. It tastes like vanilla milk and is organic and healthy. If he's drinking milk he might like this. Also, a tablespoon of olive oil is 120 calories and can be snuck in to almost any beverage. Prune juice is 170 calories per cup and helps with constipation. Sorry you're having these issues right now. The PEG really would be the best solution. Mine was required prior to starting rads. Wouldn't have made it without.

Bob

Kent Cass's picture
Kent Cass
Posts: 1746
Joined: Nov 2009

Also, if you can cut-up a multivitamin and he can wash it down with water, preferably also with as much pancake and/or Ensure as he can stomach- perhaps that'd be good.

Compazine is what I was prescribed for nausea, and comes in both pill and suppository. There was a recent thread from "Ron49" with his wife, Robyn, in the same boat as you, though his problem was also his inability to keep anything down. Many had great suggestions, and Ron and Robyn have turned it around, last I heard. Might be a good thread for you to read.

Bob has a lotta good suggestions with his post (though I disagree about Ensure, because I'm too lazy to explore alternatives beyond Ensure and Produce!). And Sweet- you can PM her thru the "CSN Email" in the upper-left corner, if you need to. She's here to help- bigtime.

kcass

Noellesmom
Posts: 1270
Joined: Aug 2010

make sure you get in touch with his doctor about this. Not eating is a serious thing which can land him in the hospital and exposed to many things for which is immune system is suppressed.

And heer's the other thing. I realize this is distressing for you to watch but try to turn that into positive energy by being the stern wife at this point.

Nutrition is not an option: it is a requirement. PEG tube insertion or learning to tolerate it orally, he MUST have hydration and nutrition.

I know this is so hard - hang in there.

And please get with his health team for support on this very inportant issue.

timreichhart
Posts: 195
Joined: Aug 2010

I can agree with everybody saying that he needs to eat something because I was the same way when I started my cancer treatments. When I had chemo I only wanted to eat soft foods like peas,corn,mash potatoes,chicken and chicken noodle soup. But once I started radiation I didnt eat anything for 7 weeks straight (because everything tasted like crap) and I went from 205 down to like 130-135 in 7 weeks. I was told by my chemo doctor if I didnt start eating food he was going to order a PEG tube and When I met with my radiation doctor he wasnt worried about the weight he just told me I will gain about 10-15 lbs in couple months and this was when I had all my treatments done. So as of today I am at 145-155 lbs.

We can not stress enough about eating during cancer treatments its your life line. Try to figure out what you husband can and like to eat. If he doesn't want to eat force him eat or get something in his body because cancer treatments will take out alot of nutrition from the body. Also try some protein shakes or something like that.

HAWVET's picture
HAWVET
Posts: 318
Joined: Apr 2006

There are similarities of my situation as timreichhart. After two sessions of chemo and about a month after radiation, my appetite slowly was disappearing. I also was very sick and like your husband, I only got up to go for my radiation treatment. The last three weeks, I just stayed in bed and slept.

I had quit chemo treatment after the second session. I started at close to 180 pounds and went down to about 140. My radiation oncologist monitored my weight and that weekly blood count. My oncologist talked of a peg tube if I lost too much weight.

At the last phases of treatment, I could not eat. At the end of treatment, I was down to one can of ensure a DAY.

My advice is talk it over with the oncologist and may be the answer is the Peg tube. In the meantime, have your husband try Boost plus too. I found the taste more tolerable. Drink it with a straw to minimize the liquid touching sore spots in the mouth (if any).

I weigh now at between 150-155. I am only 5-8 so it is an okay weight for me.

Stay strong and remain positive. The good will return. God Bless.

Hondo's picture
Hondo
Posts: 5604
Joined: Apr 2009

If he can’t eat because of the pain he needs to get the PEG, he needs to be eating in order for his body to keep strong and keep healthy.

Hondo

ToBeGolden's picture
ToBeGolden
Posts: 697
Joined: Aug 2010

Although I was lucky enough not to need a PEG for my radiation therapy, several of my friends and family members had PEGs. I think the PEGs saved their lives. I would certainly have one put in if I needed it.

Whether using a PEG or trying to eat by mouth, timing is essential. I took a shorter acting pain medication every four hours, around the clock. I could eat from 20 minutes to 60 minutes after the pain med. And it took me the 40 minutes to get down a carton of yogurt, or some of that sort. But I did eat something around the clock.

Everyone is different. What I'm trying to suggest is that it might be impossible to get all the needed nutrition in the conventional 2 or 3 meals/day. I had 8 very small meals. Also there might be some period in which it would be easier to eat, either by PEG or by mouth. Maybe offer food before the chemo? I didn't have chemo, so I'm not a good person to make this kind of suggestion.

I really don't know if this advice will work in your husband's case. I am a little hesitant to post it. I do hope something helps. And certainly, you should talk very frankly with your husbands professional caregivers.

Subscribe with RSS
About Cancer Society

The content on this site is for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice. Do not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease without consulting with a qualified healthcare provider. Please consult your healthcare provider with any questions or concerns you may have regarding your condition. Use of this online service is subject to the disclaimer and the terms and conditions.

Copyright 2000-2014 © Cancer Survivors Network