What to do (cook?) for someone recovering from chemo?

MysteryGuest Member Posts: 2

Hello everyone! I hope I'm posting this in the right section.

Anyway, my best friend's mother has been battleing cancer (lung cancer I'm fairly certain) for some time now, and she just finished her chemo maybe a week or so ago. She actually finished one session early because the treatment was taking its toll on her (she was pretty sickly in general even before the cancer diagnosis, though she's also a real trooper). The doctors are pretty confident they got it all, though they will know for sure with a followup test they plan to do in a couple months. So a tentative hooray!

I was thinking of doing something nice for her since my family and theirs are pretty close (we carpooled with her son, my best friend, since first grade, and evacuated the city together multiple times when hurricanes threatened us). I thought maybe I could cook a meal or two for her and her husband and son to help her through the process.

I was wondering if anyone here could suggest what to cook? The internet seems to say "fruits and vegetables, plus stuff in line with a specific diet given by your doctor." Also, to further complicate things, she's got Diabetes (I seem to remember it's type I, though it might be II...I know she has insulin injections but that could be for either of them). I would prefer not to ask about the specific diet so that it's more of a surprise, but if that's a bad idea I should be able to get that info from her son.

So I'm wondering:
1) how necessary is it that I find out her specific diet in order to cook for her (or, in other words, is there any dish that can be recommended that's pretty sure to work with any chemo-recovering diabetic's diet)?
2) What else other than cooking would be a nice gesture? For those who have gone through chemo, what could have made your recovery easier?

Thanks in advance guys and gals!


  • Catholic
    Catholic Member Posts: 86
    edited March 2017 #2
    People going through

    People going through chemotherapy have no taste (at least that is what my wife told me) and they dont eat much.  I typically made fresh buns and soups and she ate that.  A nice soup and some simple bread rolls would be a great gesture.

    People going through chemotherapy sleep a lot.  My wife sleep 12-16 hours a day.  Yeah it was a lot.  Other than cooking, just talking to them or showing them photos or maybe bringing them something to do.  I bought this cross-stitch kit where you cross-stitch some picture and it had all of the thread pre-packaged.  She liked it and worked on it every day.  Some type of craft at any of those craft stores would probably be a great gift.

    I hope this helps.

  • JerzyGrrl
    JerzyGrrl Member Posts: 760 Member
    Food prep

    What a nice thing to think of doing for someone who's been special in your life. 

    Food prep can be tricky for someone with diabetes, trickier for someone who's just ended chemo, then even more so for someone with Type 1 diabetes. Where blood sugar levels might be fairly predictable on a good day -- with chemo's effects + food not tasting good -- it's a bit like juggling bowling balls. So if you want to go that route (bringing food, not juggling bowling balls -- you're on your own for that), you'll have to make it less of a surprise and ask.  

    Other things that might be nice could be the gift of soft socks, lotion (that's not too stinky), a cuddly blanket or quilt, or coupons for services (mowing the lawn, cleaning the fridge, weeding the garden, loading music on an ipod, etc).

  • MysteryGuest
    MysteryGuest Member Posts: 2

    Thanks for the suggestions guys! From what you say it seems cooking may not be the best route to go (since it's not really as special if they can't taste it). I might make some simple soup since that seems pretty easy to tailor to chemo/diabetes and I can focus on health rather than flavor, though I'm thinking now that a better gift would be a nice comfy blanket and/or some crafting supplies as you guys suggested. She is into crafting, so that might be a good route, and I got a tremendously comfy blanket from Costco myself a while back, might have to see if they still sell it. Sadly, I won't be able to juggle bowling balls for her, I can't even juggle regular balls XD

  • Ms Vick 76
    Ms Vick 76 Member Posts: 8
    edited April 2017 #5

    Being new to this with my father I've been trying to find as much information as I can - I found a site called Cook For Your Life that has different categories you can sort recipes by and it's been very helpful. 


  • SlowGardener
    SlowGardener Member Posts: 6
    Nutritionally Dense Food and flavors

    I'm going through chemo right now, and trying to support my health nutritionally.  Different people have different experiences, and what used to taste good might taste bad, and what wasn't so great before now can sometimes taste appealing.   Not good, but something I want to eat. 

    I also have to watch my blood sugars, and the corticosteroids (dexamethasone) given with the chemo does a job on the carb-sensitive body.   I try to avoid sugars and carbs, but then I was losing a lot of weight so have eaten some.  Real meat, real vegetables and soups are more appealing to me -- even if they don't taste good, they taste nourishing and sometimes I can eat more because it appeals to me in some way.

    Sometimes pickled vegetables or a hot sauce (I was never crazy about hot sauce before) or something a little different can be appealing, where it was not before chemo.    Also, eventually the person's normal sense of taste will return months after the chemotherapy ends.

    Some of the lower-sugar cookies-- like Italian cookies and toast-like biscotti - - might be a treat for someone who has no appetite.  Varying the texture with nuts might make it more interesting.

    Real egg custard (I bake them in my Insta-Pot in a closed pan under pressure, but you can cook the dishes or casserole of custard in a bigger pan used as a water bath in the oven) --  don't put too much sugar,  and thicken with extra eggs or mix powdered milk into the milk or cream to make it denser - -never flour or cornstarch which will affect blood sugar.

    Simple stew made with real meat and vegetables can be comforting.   Old-fashioned New England Boiled Dinner (with rhutabegas, turnips, parsnips instead of peas and carrots) is healthy.   A little onion and thyme with a bayleaf for flavor, or some turmeric and cumin and curry powder as in a curry -- but don't need to use a lot --  can make things a little more appetizing.  Some of the East Indian spices have medicinal value to support the immune system and stimulate the appetite,  and curries were originally a way of taking these beneficial spices every day as food.

    Soup and broth with real vegetables might be good.  If you have an Insta-Pot you can make bone-broth in an hour that normally would take all day.  Strain the broth, then add some celery, tomatoes, green beans, canned shelled beans (kidney, etc.) a little of this and that -- might be interesting.  If she's diabetic, don't put pasta, cornstarch or flour in the soup.

    Egg casseroles or quiche is a comforting food.  Use extra eggs and cream to thicken it and provide non-carb calories.  Little bits of meat and vegetables can make it look interesting and tempting.

    Some friends of mine who have their diabetes under excellent control (and have managed it for decades) tell me to focus on protein and vegetables, cut back on carbs to control sugar, and don't worry about fat at all (protein helps conserve or rebuild muscle and organ tissues, and fat gives needed calories).   This is what I try to do.   I have lost weight before and during chemo, so I'm not trying to lose weight.  I also suspect that people who gain a lot of weight on chemo were eating a lot of carbs --  which the body doesn't handle well due to all the corticosteroids they give with the chemotherapy.  JMHO.